Archive for the ‘Afterlife’ Category

This is an email exchange I had today with my work colleague.

[MollyMormon]:

A completely unofficial inquiry:

In the exchange between Governor Romney and Congressman Gingrich reported in this piece, the governor is reported to have said he would be thankful at the news that Fidel Castro had “returned to his maker,” at which the Gingrich quipped that he believed Castro was “going to the other place.”

This was a bit of otherwise playful sparring over a point on which they agree, namely that Fidel Castro is a truly horrible figure and that the US embargo and other long-standing Cuba policies should be maintained, all of which I agree with most wholeheartedly.

My question is whether Governor Romney’s response was shaped by LDS theology about what happens to the soul at death.  Why did he chose the phrase “return to his maker”?

[Colleague]

My reply:

[Colleague]:

Good question. I was watching that debate and knew the reference to which Romney was referring.

Latter-day Saints believe when we die we go to the spirit world to await resurrection. There’s a partial judgment there because the presence of God is so strong, people who have a great deal of sin are tormented by their awareness of it, but God isn’t necessarily physically there. He may be at times, but if He were to come to the spirit world physically, it would probably only be among the righteous. After resurrection there’s a final judgment where you physically stand before God and Christ will be on the Father’s right hand advocating for those who chose to receive His Atonement He freely offered.

An ancient American prophet named Alma described the spirit world as going “home to that God who gave them life.” That was the scripture to which Romney was referring.

Here are some excerpts from that chapter:

“There must needs be a space betwixt the time of death and the time of the resurrection.” (Alma 40:6

“Now concerning the state of the soul between death and the resurrection—Behold, it has been made known unto me by an angel, that the spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from this mortal body, yea, the spirits of all men, whether they be good or evil, are taken home to that God who gave them life.” (v.11)

“And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise, a state of rest, a state of peace, where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care and sorrow.” (v. 12)

“And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of the wicked, yea, who are evil—for behold, they have no part nor portion of the Spirit of the Lord; for behold, they chose evil works rather than good; therefore the spirit of the devil did enter into them, and take possession of their house—and these shall be cast out into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and wailing, and gnashing of teeth, and this because of their own iniquity, being led captive by the will of the devil.” (v 13)

“Now this is the state of the souls of the wicked, yea, in darkness, and a state of awful, fearful looking for the fiery indignation of the wrath of God upon them; thus they remain in this state, as well as the righteous in paradise, until the time of their resurrection.” (v. 14)

(v.11-14 link)

As we’ve talked about before, Latter-day Saints believe that God makes the gospel available to everyone, though they may not have had the opportunity in mortality. It is in the spirit world where people may accept the gospel and accept proxy baptism performed on their behalf in Temples, such as the one off the beltway. (The “gospel” is faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism by immersion by God’s authority, the reception of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands and faithfulness the best you can thereafter.)  It’s up to the deceased to accept or reject this.  We are responsible to perform the ordinances since we don’t know who will accept or not (you only do these for your ancestors, if they’re not your ancestors, you need a family members’ permission). Those who lived without the fullness of the gospel are judged according to the knowledge they had in the flesh in addition to their decision to receive a greater portion of the Atonement once they knew more about it. In my view, this shows how God can be just and require a very narrow gate for salvation, but is also merciful by making sure everyone has the opportunity to enter the gate if they choose.

All things are finalized at resurrection; there is no post-resurrection acceptance of the gospel. In my opinion, the option to accept the gospel after this life is available only for those at peace enough to hear it and decide upon it. People like Fidel Castro would be so racked with torment (I judge him to be bound for the prison portion of the spirit world) would likely not be open to hearing the gospel, but that’s just my own inference.

You could read the chapter on the 1918 revelation where Christ bridged the division between spirit paradise and prison during the three days after His crucifixion at http://www.lds.org/scriptures/dc-testament/dc/138?lang=eng. It was then He commissioned missionaries to teach the gospel to those in prison. This came when the then prophet was pondering these scriptures after the death of his daughter– (1 Peter 3:18-19, 1 Peter 4:6).

On one other occasion Romney has used an LDS phrase in the debates. In SC when Newt was pressing him to release his taxes, he said he would not apologize for being successful, but he didn’t have anything to hide. “I’m honest in my business dealings” he said. This is a phrase from a Temple interview question, which is an interview where a LDS declares their life is aligned with the gospel’s teachings and can enter “the House of the Lord.” The question asks “Are you honest in your business dealings and with your fellow man?”

I hope that will suffice. Thanks for asking the question. I’m happy to respond to any curiosity I can.

Best,

[MollyMormon]

Last night I was frustrated.

It all started on my metro ride home when I was thinking about the things I needed to do for the evening. Before I could get to them, I thought, I need to address unresolved tasks for my Church calling (responsibility) that I had worked on tying up on Sunday, but couldn’t connect with the people I needed. I’d called them several times since. I also emailed them. I hadn’t heard back.

As I walked home, calling one back and again reaching only a voicemail, I was getting more miffed.

They had approached me at Church for something they needed my help with so they could fulfill their calling.  I went through the work of doing just what they asked for and now they weren’t returning my calls? I know you love your smart phone, show it some love and use it to call me.  It feels like such a waste to keep trying and not getting results for the same issue. Everyone’s busy, I know, but couldn’t they take 30 seconds and compose a text, at least? Go ahead, I have unlimited texting. If it was more of a priority for them, they’d respond to me. These thoughts all ran through my head.

Then this morning I was listening to this talk as I was getting ready for the day (there’s nothing like listening to a modern prophet’s voice while doing your make-up). This talk was directed to priesthood holders and their responsibility for service, but like most of the time, the content of the talk sometimes isn’t what does it, but it’s seeking to learn more of God through that scripture puts my mind in the state to receive messages from Him through the Holy Ghost.

“You don’t always call me back, either, you know,” was the thought that came into my mind (I might have been putting on eye-liner at the time).

I stopped.

What?

Then I made the connection.

I had felt sorry for myself for too much of the previous evening because people wouldn’t call me back. But there are lots of times I get promptings from God through the Holy Ghost and I don’t respond to Him.

For example, almost nightly recently, I’ve had the idea I should improve my prayers, specifically through not kneeling on my bed and doing a face plant into my pillow. There have been times when my prayers are so filled with the Spirit that I feel in communion with Him, times I cherish. In my mind and heart, I feel like He’s very close by and I know something of His will.

Recently, not so much.

Because of this, I may even sometimes mix up requests and ask my family to be blessed before I eat them. I excuse myself because of my fatigue, but I know I’d be much more attentive if I wasn’t snuggled up in bed where I’ve trained myself like one of Pavlov’s dog to soon slip into slumber.

The constant recurrent thought to stop doing this before I pray is the kind of pressing thought that I know it’s from the Spirit. I’m not sure how long it’s been, a few weeks? A month? That’s a long time not to respond to Heavenly Father’s calls. It’d only been a few days for my complaint and they probably had a good reason. Me, I was just being lame and lazy.

I decided to change my frustration with my lack of immediate gratification in call-backs. After feeling remorseful for my poor attitude, I spoke with Heavenly Father in prayer about it. I thanked Him for the perspective, and asked for forgiveness and the chance to be a little more like Him in how I fulfilled my calling. And oh yeah, about that face-plant-prayer-thing, I’ll get on that, too.

Claim I Wish Matthew Chapman and A.C. Grayling Addressed in the Intelligence Squared Debate

This isn’t a rare occasion. I get corrected like this all the time. As I seek the Holy Spirit more diligently and I’m willing to respond to its pressings, it happens more frequently. I consider it part of my lifetime transformation to become more holy through using Christ’s Atonement by repentance. The beginning of this transformation was a one time event. Evangelical Christians call this “being saved” when you “let Jesus into your heart.”   I believe that beginning experience, which I wrote about in the post “I’m Mormon: Enlightened or Brainwashed,” began a life long process of sanctification for me. I was relieved of the guilt of my sins (forgiven), but now I need to be changed from its effects. I have to choose to yield indivdiual shortcomings and missteps to God (repentance).  The more I seek Christ’s forgiveness as I recognize my missteps, I receive a greater portion of His grace.

This process makes me a better person. As a result, I’m slow to be angry in traffic. I’m slow to think others are incompetent when their customer service isn’t what I expect. I’m slow to be rude. I’m motivated to serve my community. I am more thoughtful in my relationships with my family and friends. I attribute all these polishing aspirations to this process of conversion I’m living. It’s gradual and subtle. I could have missed it this morning, but I was putting myself in a state of mind to hear God’s gentle nudging and I chose to respond.

This brings me to the claim I wish Matthew Chapman and A.C. Grayling addressed in the recent debate hosted by Intelligence Squared. Intelligence Squared poses a motion and invites renowned representatives to debate it. Their most recent motion was “The World Would Be Better Without Religion.” The evening begins with the audience casting a vote for or against the motion and the winner is determined by influencing the greatest amount of change in the audience’s opinions. I was surprised that the audience chose the side for the motion, not just because I’m pro-religion in society. Those advocating for it, meaning arguing the world would be better without religion, frequently cherry picked random scriptures to demonstrate religion’s silliness. These scriptures hardly applied to the religious experience of anyone.  The opponents used rational facts and statistics to justify their claims that religion makes the world a better place.

I wish those wanting to eliminate religion from the world discussed not whether religious belief was delusional, but that it’s possible to participate in an ennobling process equivalent or better to what I’ve described (and is a common narrative among religious people) without these alleged delusions about God. In my mind, when discussing God in the public forum, it doesn’t matter if there’s really a God. What matters is how those who claim belief in a God behave as a result of it. I wish they were able to come up with some explanation that there is a substitute for the drive for spirituality that would move me to change my attitude in the way I’ve described. It was such a slight error, but because what I believe was the Holy Ghost corrected me, I became remorseful and redirected. I changed and I changed for the better. This influence of the Holy Ghost diminishes the likelihood of repeating the error. Though I likely will repeat the error in different forms, I believe these errors will come  less often.  Because of these small course corrections, the possibility of being uncivil to others in my community is increasingly unlikely.

I’m convinced I wouldn’t be so teachable without what I believe is influencing me, the Holy Ghost. If I didn’t believe I was receiving messages from God to make daily decisions to change and if I didn’t believe God was giving me grace to change my heart and make me more like Him, I see no other source in my life to direct me to become ennobled. The messages I receive from media outlets seek to persuade me to consume more and more because I deserve it.  Chapman and Grayling had scoffing tones. Should I model this behavior?

In Rabbi David Wolpe’s closing remarks, he spoke of his grandfather as a boy in Auschwitz who questioned his grandfather about using butter to light a menorah. When the boy questioned him for using the scarce ration for this purpose, the grandfather told him that they have learned they could go three weeks without eating, but they could not go one day without hope.  Through my spiritual changing process I have hope, not just hope for heaven. (Those critical of religion often focus on what they see as a self-interested pursuit of  a post-mortal reward. So let’s just focus on this life for now.) As I enjoy and respond to what I believe is God’s calling, I’m more teachable, I’m more patient, I’m more loving, I’m slow to overreact, my mind is sharper and I remember things more quickly. My joys are deeper and my life is a more fulfilling experience. I see the wonder of the world around me and value the individual worth of every person. Is there any secular substitute for my pursuit to respond to God’s call and change into who I believe He wants me to be?  That is the hope that is within me, which I cannot live one day without.

I wish they’d addressed that claim. It is after all, a common claim among most religious people. Yeah, there are those crazies who use God to justify murder and other outlier business, but what would the world be like if the millions of people who are living a process like I am lost their directing system? Would the world be a better place? What would replace it to compensate for this loss? That would have made for a much more sound debate (rather than quoting Old Testament scripture about women grabbing at men who are in conflict with their husbands).

Interested in the debate? Here  it ’tis:

Debate: The World Would Be Better Off Without Religion from Intelligence Squared U.S. Debates on FORA.tv

The United States honors its armed services personnel on the anniversary of the close of World War I, November 11, now called Veterans’ Day. This year, I attended the ceremony in the amphitheater in Arlington National Cemetery hosted by the Veteran Affairs office of the federal government.

Before arriving at the amphitheater, my friend, Afton, and I visited a soldier resting in the Afghanistan War section; a man who her close friend misses deeply. As we laid the yellow and red bouquet of roses before the white headstone, we reflected on the resurrection and the eternal course of our lives.  She told me that last Easter Sunday she came to Arlington for much of the afternoon, bringing devotional addresses that taught of the Savior’s many roles.  I thought it was the perfect place to be on that sacred day. (I made a mental note to copy her every move next Easter.) When contemplating our mortality and its brevity, Christ‘s responsibility as the first fruits of the resurrection seems to me the most important.

Afton later visited the Vietnam Memorial in remembrance of her mother’s cousin.

Many of my peers at Georgetown are highly suspicious of patriotic expression, which leaves me much of the time playing my intense American nationalism close to the vest. In this environment, I frequently question this aspect of myself so that I’m not a blind follower of stupid ideas delivered in the form of propaganda.  At the conclusion of these frequent reassessments, I always resettle on the side that America is worthy of my devotion. I don’t love America just because my family and friends live here, I love it as a nation state. I willingly offer my loyalty to a nation founded on the idea that humans have an inherent desire for freedom and as that liberty is ordered by self government, its people enjoy the greatest amount of peace and protection of their rights (that are also inherent). Isn’t that a beautiful idea?

I was proud that day. I was proud of so many people willing to risk their lives because of commitment to that idea. And I was proud of President Obama who called the post-9/11 veterans a “great generation.” There’s a sense, it seems to me, in the current political landscape that the veterans of WWII were the last great generation. Theirs was a clean fight between good and evil when subsequent “conflicts” are mired in partisan bickering. I say, if the commander-in-chief of the US armed forces decides to send in troops and they respond to the call, they deserve the nation’s respect and appreciation, regardless of policy issues of the conflict. Their responsibility is to fight and win our nation’s wars, not decide whether to enter the theater. They deserve respect and appreciation, regardless of policy issues of the conflict, for fulfilling their constitutional responsibilities.

President Obama received the most rousing applause of his address when he announced that soldiers would be coming home. In that moment I realized it was true that no one wants peace more than a solider and a solder’s family; respect and appreciation, regardless of policy issues of the conflict.

The most moving message for me came not from the commander-in-chief, but from the U.S. Army Band’s Pershing’s Own singing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” In their smooth and pure male tones, they sang,

Jesus died to make men holy, let us die to make men free.”

This phrase caught me because in the Latter-day Saint hymn book the words are,

Jesus died to make men holy, let us live to make men free,”

and I’ve often reflected on those words and my responsibility to live in demonstration of the freedom that comes through Christ Jesus. Being at Arlington on Veterans’ Day, hearing this rendition, forever changed this song for me.  As I seek to live to make men and women free from sin through Jesus Christ, I feel deep gratitude for those willing to die for freedom.

May their sacrifice always be reverenced as worth the offering. May we as a nation cherish freedom, always and throughout the eternal course of our lives.

(Next post within the week will be “American Exceptionalism in Mormon Thought”)

This post responds to Leah’s comment on this post.

Hi there – I have found your last two posts interesting. I’m a woman who was raised mormon and now consider myself a secular humanist/naturalist/whatever non-religious term you want to use. I was at the Shermer lecture and before you said you were Mormon – I leaned to my husband and said “she’s Mormon”. Mormon-dar? It’s a thing I guess. :) I can see a lot of the old me in your thinking in your posts, so it’s very interesting. I wondered about your comments above, you say that you have had answers to your prayers. You have probably had this question before, and I present it to you as I once presented it to myself – you have had answers to your prayers, you have had spiritual experiences, but what about those prayers that were not answered? Or just coincidences? Why does God answer YOUR prayer about finding your driver’s license but doesn’t answer the prayer about finding the missing child before she is murdered? Ok, I went extreme there, but I think you get my point. What about people who pray and get answers that a different church is true? What about Mother Theresa?! These were questions that hurt my brain and I’d be interested to hear your response. I’m not a great writer, so I apologize for the choppiness of my thoughts here. I also thought of this blog recently when I was watching this:   I think Chris puts a lot of my own thoughts into words and if you ever feel like giving it a watch and response I’d be really interested in that as well – particularly about his “water” example about 10 min. in. Oh, one more thought – how do you explain people like myself, or Chris in the video, who are happier and feel more “ourselves” and love this world and planet and human beings and  life more than ever AFTER leaving what is supposed to be the one true church and greatest happiness? Are you ever curious about that? Do you not think it’s genuine? That is one thing I never considered when I was Mormon (that people actually cared MORE about families and life and this earth AFTER leaving) so I don’t know what a “Mormon Insider” would say to that. :) Thanks!

 

Dear Leah,

I’m so glad you dropped in. I was amused by you pegging me as a Latter-day Saint at the lecture before I announced it. It could have been the soft glint of my gold CTR ring, but it was likely the impish grin I shot back to my friend when Shermer started razzing on polygamists and called them Mormons.

Your questions are sending me in several different directions. I need to be brief tonight and will respond more fully another time about Chris’ video. I’ve watched it in full and read most of the comments.

Your questions about my view of prayer would make this post very long, so I’ll save it for another day. Stay tuned.

What about Mother Theresa?

From this question, it seems to me you’re asking how I make sense of religious people outside of what I claim to be Christ’s restored Church. I think there are lots of people who were placed in circumstances to influence God’s purpose for mankind, but their life situation did not include access to the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ (meaning seeking to fully receive the Atonement of Jesus Christ by living in a priesthood covenant relationship with God). Martin Luther King comes to mind.  He wouldn’t have been effective if he was LDS. People don’t really care for Mormons, much. As a Protestant preacher, he was able to appeal to a broad audience and was powerfully able to draw on legitimacy higher than the state for rights claims. His leadership eventually influenced the potential  ordination of every faithful man in the Church. The great reformer, Martin Luther, also comes to mind as a man of God who fulfilled a great purpose in God’s plan of salvation, but did not have the fullness of the gospel in mortality.

The 138th section of the Doctrine and Covenants describes how those who did not have the opportunity to hear and live the fullness of the gospel will get the chance to accept it in the Spirit World. The Spirit World is the place where all departed spirits go before resurrection and judgment.  God holds us accountable to knowledge we have; if He did otherwise, it would not be just.

As a tremendous woman of God, I’d expect Mother Theresa will continue to seek to do God’s will, even while she awaits resurrection in the Spirit World.  I’d say for people like her, accepting the fullness of the gospel there will be seamless.

 

- how do you explain people like myself, or Chris in the video, who are happier and feel more “ourselves” and love this world and planet and human beings and  life more than ever AFTER leaving what is supposed to be the one true church and greatest happiness? Are you ever curious about that? Do you not think it’s genuine?

As a strong advocate of religious freedom, I’m committed to respecting others’ free exercise of conscience, especially if the decision is not to believe. I read a book recently by a Georgetown professor who worked for the  State Department in the International Religious Freedom commission. While making the case that religious liberty is an inherent right, he wrote the following:

An undersecretary of state once told me that his most powerful existential questions had to do with his tennis swing, not the existence of God. This was a cordial but pointed jest, designed to refute my argument that the search for transcendence is universal. It reflected a point of view that should not be trivialized, much less ignored

(Thomas F. Farr World of Faith and Freedom p. 22).

I don’t trivialize or ignore your decision to walk away from belief in God. I’m happy that you have found happiness and contentment in your life. For me, I enjoy lots of things that are seemingly apart from a faith experience. I enjoy my work, I like to exercise, I enjoy my friends and family and other things. However, I have experienced the greatest amount of joy through accessing God. I want Him to mentor me. I want to  know Him better and discover His will and pursue it. It’s what is most important to me. The more I understand about Him, the more insatiable my motivation to seek after Him becomes. But as Dr. Farr invites his readers to recognize, not everyone views life as a search for transcendence. Some are happy thinking about the beauty of their tennis swing.

Because there are these different shades to which people are interested in God, it makes sense to me that heaven has multiple levels, as described in the  76th section of the Doctrine and Covenants. Heaven is organized to accommodate the level to which people were interested in internalizing the gospel of Jesus Christ. For those insatiably seeking to know God, their level of heaven would be living with Him and continuing to know Him throughout eternity. For those who weren’t interested in such a venture, they ultimately settle in a comfortable place that reflects the degree of God’s glory they pursued.

Have you ever wondered if there is a God, why would He put mankind through a mortal experience where He cryptically remains hidden from proof of His existence?  I’ve wondered that and since I saw Harry Potter this weekend, can describe it best in this way. [spoiler alert!]

After Voldemort kills Harry, he ends up at the railroad station King’s Cross where he speaks with Dumbledore.

 

Harry: “I’ve got to go back, haven’t I?”

Dumbledore: “That’s up to you.”

Harry: “I’ve got a choice?

Dumbledore: “Oh yes,” Dumbledore smiled at him. “We are in King’s Cross, you say? I think that if you decided not to go back, you would be able to. . .let’s say. . .board a train.

Harry: “And where would it take me?

Dumbledore: “On,” said Dumbledore simply.”

(Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows p.722)

For those who choose to live life according to the gospel of Jesus Christ, including God’s commandments, they always go “on.”  This is why God created the earth- life experience and gave His Son. It is by the development of faith in Jesus Christ that we increase in spiritual power and we go “on.”  Going “on” includes changing to gain holiness more like God’s. We become more holy through the exercise of faith in Christ. If God wasn’t so cryptic, we would miss out on the development of faith and trust in this power greater than ourselves. God wanted to provide all His children the opportunity to go “on.” Good people who are disinterested in the gospel ultimately live in a place like Harry’s King’s Cross.  Harry’s at peace (p. 712) and it’s a pleasant place, but that’s the end. No trains will be coming to take these residents “on.” They don’t change beyond what the were like when they arrived.

The joy we receive in this life and in the next is directly proportional to the degree we choose to receive the Atonement of Jesus Christ.   We access the power of the Atonement through trusting in it, or exercising faith.

I absolutely consider your claims to happiness as genuine, but your happiness would not be my happiness.

I hope that wasn’t incredibly dissatisfying for you.  And I hope it won’t be interpreted as self righteous. It’s really more of an attitude of may we all receive the desires of our hearts, in this life and into life’s later phases.

Thanks again for your questions. My life is a little crazy right now, so I will respond to prayer questions and Chris’ video another time.  Thanks for giving me writing prompts!

 

Life’s purpose is to increase in spiritual power by the cultivation of faith in God.

I make sense of the purpose of life through the framework of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  One of its tenets includes the pre-mortal existence of mankind in the presence of God, “For I, the Lord God, created all things, of which I have spoken, spiritually, before they were naturally upon the face of the earth…for in heaven created I them[1]. In this state, we had a consciousness of the goodness of God and accepted the transition to a mortal existence. Since early Sunday School, children learn that the purpose of life is to come to earth to get a natural body and gain experience by
learning and growth. I have heard this narrative so many times it is now trite and serves me little in trying to make sense of life’s purpose. Therefore, I emphasize different aspects of revealed teachings to create my own guide. I center it in the development of faith in Jesus Christ. Joseph Smith, who I accept as a prophet equivalent to Abraham, Noah, Moses or Peter, taught that faith is a principle of power, “But faith is not only the principle of action, but of power also, in all intelligent beings, whether in heaven or on earth”.[2] I believe for those God first created spiritually to increase in power, He designed an environment for them to exercise faith.

My own efforts to develop faith independent of my parents began as a teenager.  After months and months of spiritual searching in prayer and scripture study, I received a powerful spiritual experience through the Holy Ghost that confirmed to me the existence of God and His awareness and concern for me. It increased my confidence to continue to outreach to Him and I not infrequently received further assurances.  As a full time missionary for almost two years, my faith expanded as I received immediate answers to my prayers. As my faith in Jesus Christ swelled, I felt the spiritual power of which Joseph Smith spoke and had a strong sense of the purpose of life. Then, at some undetected point, I entered a new phase of a development of faith.

God turned Deist on me, or at least He seemed to deal with me more like a clockmaker who set His world in motion and declines to intervene in its happenings. Without deviating from my usual efforts of prayer, scripture study and meaningful worship, I sometimes feel like God leaves me alone.  I am sure of His existence and do not believe His concern for me has changed, but He has provided fewer and less immediate assurances to me of His involvement. At this same time, I have become more mindful of life’s inequalities and tragedies. Often the self absorbed enjoy the comforts of marriage and family when the best swallow the pains of loneliness and neglect. Sometimes the promiscuous produce unwanted children when committed married couples taste the emptiness of infertility. Some inattentive parents overlook their children when involved parents bury theirs. The Mississippi overcomes homes, tornados demolish an Alabama town when tsunamis engulf and kill thousands in Japan. And some of the most admirable people in my life suffer with cancer when others live superficially, seeking to be incessantly entertained. Where is God? Is He still far removed?

This is the wrestling phase of my faith’s development and I see it as key in the purpose of my life; the cultivation of faith and the increase of spiritual power. This is where I have come to better know God.[3] My faith is not irrational. Every day it is a decision. I analyze the evidence available to me and  form a conclusion. Though I may feel little or no reciprocation from Him, I choose to piece together many past assurances from Him and choose to continue in trust.  Life’s purpose is to increase in spiritual power by the cultivation of faith in God. This comes not in the instant gratification to prayer requests or in knowing that every life question has a direct answer.  It is also not in the perfectly equivalent servings of blessings based on faithfulness.  Faith and therefore spiritual power comes by wrestling before God. It is in having just as many reasons to withdraw my reach to Him and walk away, but in choosing to increase confidence in Him, even when I feel He leaves me alone. The purpose of life is to have the opportunity and the right to walk away and the deliberate choice to stay. In that, there is spiritual power.

Life’s purpose is to change from selfishness to godliness.

By faith, I participate in the process of exterminating the rats within me.  C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity, “If there are rats in a cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly.  But the suddenness does not create the rats:  it only prevents them from hiding.” In the times of my life when God has been very quick to answer me, I was less aware of the existence of any rats. They were easily hid when I decided to open the cellar. When I have felt God leave me alone is when the cellar door has been thrown open. It has been then I can see my impatience, sense of entitlement or my self-pity.  The purpose of life is to access the power of God by faith to change these rats to their inverse form, patience, gratitude and humility.  The purpose of life is to provide me with the opportunity to use the power of God to diminish my ego and to have repeated opportunity to avoid re-inflating it. The purpose of life is to draw on God’s power by faith to have the secret imaginations of my heart be infused with virtue and integrity, rather than self-aggrandizement or pride.  As I increase in faith in God, I feel empowered to be open, authentic, discerning and giving and I welcome God’s all-searching eye to pierce my heart.

This process is both deeply inward looking and interdependent on the people around me. If I were to withdraw from the world into a lonely cave, I may be able to dig out the rats of the dark secrets of my own heart, but how will I have opportunity to develop compassion, patience and kindness?  How will I share in the grief of a close friend who lost their brother or help relieve the burden of someone devastated by a natural disaster?  The purpose of life is to draw on the power of God by faith to turn from selfishness to godliness.  I cannot accomplish such a tremendous change. It only comes as I consistently outreach to God to endow me with such power. The power to change comes by faith.

Life’s purpose is to build eternal relationships.

I was beginning to ponder the meaning of life when I was assigned “sealings” on my bimonthly shift at the Washington, D.C. Temple.  Because of the belief that each person on the earth must receive gospel ordinances administered by God’s priesthood authority, Latter-day Saints perform proxy ordinances in the Temple for the deceased, which will take effect only if accepted on the other side by the person passed away. Unique to Latter-day Saint belief is that God intended marriage to endure beyond the grave and this authority to “bind on earth and binds in heaven” has been restored in our time.[4] I was not paying close attention to those in the sealing room as we administered the sealing ordinance for deceased people, but one fellow Temple worker joked about the meaning of life.  My attention turned quickly to him, thinking it was curious this topic would come up when I was deeply considering it. He had asked the question in jest and another Temple worker responded with a playful point. Then the responder became serious saying, “I think the meaning of life is embedded in this ordinance.” It took me back because it opened my mind to a thought I had yet to consider. The best way to increase in the power of faith is to live in a covenant relationship with God, which happens when two people agree to live in marriage.  In marriage, there could be  many reasons to withdraw and walk away, but when they choose to increase in confidence and trust in each other and in God, even when they feel left alone, they deepen in their commitment and are positioned to see an increase in faith and power. In building a marriage that will last beyond the grave, each person has to draw on the power of God by faith to change selfishness to godliness because their weaknesses are heightened as they deeply affect another person. Sacrifice in marriage inherently invites the increase of power by faith to become more like God.  In this way, we can better know Him. We are brought closer to Him as we become more like Him in the sharing of His power by faith.  The purpose of life is to build eternal relationships.

The purpose of life is to wrestle with God, become more like Him and create and nourish relationships that extend through the plains of eternity.  I want to live my life aligned with these purposes so that I can live with peace.  It first starts with my mind and my heart.

What do you think?  Does life have a purpose? If so, how do you view and explain it?

 


[1] Moses 3:5 in the Pearl of Great Price, found in canonized scripture of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

[2] Joseph Smith, Lectures on Faith (American Fork: Covenant Communications, 2000), 2.

[3] “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom thou has sent” (John 17:3).

[4] “It may seem to some to be a very bold doctrine that we talk of—a power which records or binds on earth and binds in heaven. Nevertheless, in all ages of the world, whenever the Lord has given a dispensation of the priesthood to any man by actual revelation, or any set of men, this power has always been given. Hence, whatsoever those men did in authority, in the name of the Lord, and did it truly and faithfully, and kept a proper and faithful record of the same, it became a law on earth and in heaven, and could not be annulled, according to the decrees of the great Jehovah. This is a faithful saying. Who can hear it?” (Doctrine & Covenants 128:9)

 

Last night via social media I saw that some friends of mine were joining the swelling crowd in front of the White House celebrating the death of Osama bin Laden.  I was glad to see the reports myself. Th

 

Well, I spent a great deal of time writing this up last night. Today I edited some of the wording and the borrowed computer I’m using had difficulty connecting to the Internet during the update. It only saved 2 lines. That’s unfortunate. Maybe I’ll re-write it from memory, but not any time soon. Sorry folks.