I have always marveled at how people’s faith and theology can guide and influence their lives. More specifically, I am amazed at how hard so many people try to, essentially, “get to heaven.” They are willing to dedicate so much, and sacrifice so much to get there.
The reason that I marvel at this, is because, if you really stop and think about it, we know precious little about what things will be like for the eternities. What will “heaven” look like? What will we be doing? Will we have cake? I have absolutely no idea. No one really does, except those rare prophets who get a peek. Fortunately, we as Latter-day Saints some of that prophetic knowledge about the afterlife – more than most religions. Blunt, but true.
A few years back I had a online conversation with a gentleman who was coming down hard on the LDS belief that we can become like our Heavenly Father. I asked him a seemingly simple, honest question:
“So, what do you think you will spend eternity doing?”
“That’s easy,” he answered, “Singing praises to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
I replied, “That is noble and worthy, but I’ve gotta ask…don’t you think that after the first thousand years it might get a little…well…boring?”
He blocked me and I never heard from him again.
I’m not trying to be sacrilegious, but it is a legitimate question. Through our theology and modern revelation we understand very little about the eternities, but still a lot more than most. For example, our theology dispels the idea that we might end up in a lake of fire and brimstone forever. Instead, there is glory to be had by all, in different degrees. (Except a choice few) That is a joyful teaching, in a world that anticipates burning forever with Satan stoking the fire.
Personally, I don’t don’t know what “eternity” looks like. I anticipate that it will exceed what I cam capable of imagining or processing in this mortal state. That said, I still want to get there. Desperately.
Yesterday, Chrissie and I went with our son and his family to see the new Pixar movie “Onward.” (Don’t worry – no spoilers.) We really enjoyed it.
The basic premise of the movie is that two boys have a magical opportunity to bring their departed dad back to life for a single day. One of the sons had never met him, the other had only a few memories, so they went on a quest to make it happen.
A simple concept, no?
Admission: It left me bawling like a baby. I was emotionally wrecked. I didn’t look around too much, but I am pretty sure that it hit me harder than most of the people in the theater. When speaking with my son, afterwards, I was still wiping my eyes. He made the astute observation that it was “probably tougher to watch for someone who has lost their dad.”
It think that is true. There is also a significant sub-plot about the importance of brotherhood, which didn’t help my composure.
You see, I lost my dad to cancer 17 years ago, and my brother 16 years ago.
I miss them terribly. I also feel like I never really got to know the real person my brother was/is, because we were limited by his mental and physical disabilities.
So why am I talking about a cartoon? Because the themes spoke to me, and reinforced what I have believed for a long time: My secondary motivation to succeed in achieving exaltation is to see my father and brother again. And my mother (20 years gone) and all four of my grandparents – two of which I’ve never met. My primary motivation is to be, eternally, with my Chrissie and our kids, and their kids, and their kids, etc.
My EC feels much the same way, having lost a sister, and both parents, and all four grandparents, years ago.
The desire to be reunited with all of my loved ones is a driving force in all I do. Of course I want to please God and be reunited with Him and Christ, but I’m guessing they’ll be pretty busy. Who I really want to hang with are my loved ones that I spent this epic journey with. (Sorry if this sounds heretical…)
I have written about hope several times already this year, partially because I am focused on it a lot, but I also feel like the world is in a crisis of hopelessness.
The hope of reunification is very real, because those relationships are very real. My familial relationships are at the core of who I am. (If I write too much about my wife, kids and grandkids, you’ll have to hit Costco for me and grab a pallet of Kleenex.)
I believe that the desire to be with our loved ones forever tugs at the heart of most people in the world – religious or not – who are fortunate enough to have those kind of relationships worth preserving.
Here’s the tragedy: Most of the world would like to know that they can be reunited with their loved ones in the hereafter, but precious few know that there is actually a way for it to happen. It isn’t a magic spell, like in the movie, but a real, doable plan, created by God himself.
It requires an Atonement, Priesthood Keys, Temple Ordinances, obedience, and copious amounts of love. All things provided by the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
I have always felt that if the world truly understood what is possible, the lights at the temple would be burning 24/7, and the lines awaiting entry would dwarf any sporting event, concert or gathering ever seen since the Children of Israel entered the Promised Land.
But the world hasn’t heard. And if they have, they don’t believe. Many simply accept the impossibly cruel phrase, “‘Til death do us part.”
There is more than that. There must be. Being reunited is possible. It is a driving force for weathering the storms, fighting the adversary and striving onward.
This hope also keeps me in check when I start worrying about evolving church policies, the inconsistencies of history, and the opinions and temptations of mankind. To some, those things are the end-all of their existence, and they cloud the hope of the bigger picture. Am I gonna let that happen? Fat chance.
That hope, alone, is enough for me.
But the icing on the eternal cake is that by living the Gospel, by participating in theAtonement, and by loving and serving others while I’m still here, triggers a better life, a truckload of blessings, and even more hope and faith.
I’ve said it before that the idea of eternity without Chrissie doesn’t sound much like heaven at all.
So, if you go to the movie, and you see some old guy sobbing, he might just be catching a glimpse of eternity.