God, His Counsel, and His Councils
The story of the blind man and his haunting adversary was very interesting to me. Because of my reluctance to share my story (frankly, most people would say I was dreaming or in a lucid dream state—which I most definitely was not), I haven’t come across others who have had similar experiences in whom I could trust as being as honest as I am about it all. So thank you for helping me feel a little less alone in the world.
But I have a nagging question I want to ask. Whenever pain and suffering or even death are present in our lives, we are told that this life is a mere moment compared to what awaits us after we leave it. It is, in essence, insignificant in the grand scheme. So then why, I would like to know, do the choices and actions we make and perform during this fleeting inconsequential blip in our existence have eternal consequences? This life is either important or it is not. It cannot be both.
When I asked this question to the missionaries, I used the book of Job as an example. God put out a hit on Job’s entire family just to win a bar bet with Satan. Oh, but he got another, bigger and better family after the whole terrifyingly callous affair was over. But Job will be with his family, both old and new, in Heaven. So no harm no foul.
No! Foul, I say. Exceedingly foul. Forcing Job to demonstrate his devotion to God in his life on Earth was so important it was worth murdering an entire family, while those people who were murdered for Job’s sake—their very lives—were not worth preserving?
There is one particular point you must recognize: though a blip, this life is not insignificant. As you said, “either life is important or it’s not. It cannot be both.” And you’re right, it cannot be both; and it is, in fact, the former: important. (I wrote to you somewhat on this point already).
So you ask, “then why… do the choices and actions we make and perform during this fleeting [totally consequential] blip in our existence have eternal consequences?”
You, as an eternal being, have spent eons preparing to come to this earth to go through the experience of mortality. There was no sugar coating on the concept of mortality either; you knew full and well that this life was going to be fraught with all manner of difficulty; you were fully aware that your bread would come by the sweat of your brow; and, as I once wrote to you about supporting Christ before this life, you even understood and accepted that not every soul would be saved that would go through this experience. Despite all of that, you made the choice to come here and go through with it all. Why? Because you knew it would be worth it—worth giving mortality a shot in order to progress. Remember that in eternity there is no existence without opposition, and there is no progression without overcoming that opposition, and where it is overcome there is faith.
Do not doubt it: you and I and Christ and every other person came here to face and overcome opposition—to go from grace to grace in faith.
If you overcome it, if you prize the good of life, you will be crowned with glory hereafter with Christ. The general vicissitudes of life are inherent by the nature of our fallen bodies and so we all will face opposition, an opposition that is common to all mankind (1 Corinthians 10:13), and even Christ—the only perfect one of us—was not exempt from this opposition because He—just like us—was born into the weakness of mortality:
“[…] Inasmuch as… children are conceived in sin, even so when they begin to grow up, sin conceiveth in their hearts, and they taste the bitter, that they may know to prize the good.
“And it is given unto them to know good from evil; wherefore they are agents unto themselves…” (Moses 6:55-56).
As C.S. Lewis so eloquently put it:
“[…] You find out the strength of the German army by fighting against it, not by giving in. You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down. A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later…. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means—the only complete realist.”
So, this life is full of imperfections and weaknesses that we must struggle with and ultimately overcome if we are to inherit “bodies celestial” (1 Corinthians 15:40). As you stand against the winds of life, and though your body perisheth away, your spirit will increase in glory. And it is precisely that glory—the glory that quickens your spirit—that will determine what body you will receive in the resurrection and what kingdom you will inherit (see Doctrine and Covenants 88:28-29).
Can you begin to see why the choices in this life are of great consequence eternally? When someone tells you that pain and death a suffering are but a brief moment in eternity, it is not meant to de-emphasize the importance of this life; it is meant to give hope that things will not always be this brutal; they are reminding you that this life takes place in the Telestial state—the bottom of the eternal bucket (as I have written before).
You said another interesting thing that I want to address:
“God put out a hit on Job’s entire family just to win a bar bet with Satan…. [So] forcing Job to demonstrate his devotion to God in his life on Earth was so important it was worth murdering an entire family, while those people who were murdered for Job’s sake—their very lives—were not worth preserving?”
For the sake of time, I am simply going to lay down a few principles to help you better understand Job. I do this with the full expectation that you may very well have more questions to ask when I’m through here.
First of all, God was not having a bar bet with Satan (though I recognize that you put a bit of intentional humor in there). What is happening is a very sacred event that often precedes the testing of a called individual.
“Testing?” you may ask. “Isn’t this life already a test by itself?”
Yes, it is. But the nature of this test is that as you climb the ladder of spiritual glory (recall standing ‘against the winds of life’), the test intensifies—greater and greater sacrifices are required as greater and greater glory is obtained, going from grace to grace (I wrote briefly on these “levels” in my last letter to you; also, see Doctrine and Covenants 93:11-14,19-20). And the things that such a person will be called to pass through could aptly be called a test within the test of life itself.
Hence life itself is hard by the nature of our desire to gain a body to become more like God and what that takes, but life gets harder (for lack of a better term) the closer you want to be to God in his glory. This is why when Jesus was upon the Earth, He was bitterly opposed by Satan and men. It is also why when Joseph Smith restored the Gospel in its fulness, he was bitterly persecuted in like manner. It is how you can identify the truth upon this wicked world—it is despised.
You may notice this yourself as you have been approached with the truth of the Gospel: greater joy than you have before known is offered you but it requires a sacrifice at your hands to obtain it. It may be the sacrifice of the respect of your family members who disapprove of your choice to become a Mormon. It may be the sacrifice of keeping the commandments such as obtaining from your favorite alcohols and not working on Sundays resulting in a pay cut, etc. After joining the church, you will want to be sealed to your family for eternity and the journey to get your family to the point where you can all go to the temple may require additional sacrifice and the overcoming of additional opposition. (Often times, though those things are put on the personal altar of sacrifice, they are returned to us in a better form: new found refreshment from water, a more understanding family, a better paying job, etc.) But again, it all comes down to overcoming opposition. As Joseph Smith taught:
“It is in vain for persons to fancy to themselves that they are heirs with those, or can be heirs with them, who have offered their all in sacrifice… unless they in like manner offer unto him the same sacrifice…” (Lectures on Faith 6:8).
So good old Job desired greater blessings of salvation and exaltation. When such a things happens, God calls together a heavenly council to discuss the progression of the individual and how his desire should be proved. In this case, as the meeting was being held Old Scratch came along to add his two cents and the council let him speak. As with any test of this life, God’s purpose in testing Job was to prove that Job would do all things that God had or would command (see Abraham 3:25), and so the devil’s role became one of the destroying angel sent to afflict Job to the bounds God had modified for the test (go read again for yourself; the council and all of this is fairly plain to read in Job 1:6-12).
(You see, Satan is usually bound in such a manner so as to not be able to afflict us beyond that which our cursings allow, those things that naturally stem from sin, but for the purpose of Job’s progression God changed the bounds.)
But an issue here is that Job’s family perished in the course of this test. That seems to disregard their tests of mortality, or at the very least puts theirs below Job’s in terms of importance. But this is simply a conclusion drawn of incomplete facts. When we have things that are true that appear to be contrary, we are simply missing a third truth. If it is true that this life is a test for each of us, and it is true that some people die to fulfill the measure of another’s test, then by what truth can we conclude that the testing of those who had prematurely perished was completed to the degree they desired or required?
I wrote to you already about those who are taken from us early in life, how they are purer than we are, but do you recall where that purity came from? The preexistence. There were those of us who made covenants and had the faith at that stage to forego the full vicissitudes of mortal life. And yet the fact that they were given a tabernacle of flesh and bone by a mother and a father means that they will come forth in the resurrection of the dead, clothed in glory immortal as our Heavenly Father now has. In other words, they stood against the wind of opposition to a degree many did not and had their spirits quickened before this life was and their covenants did not include having to perform a mission on this earth with their physical presence (there are other pure ones who have a mission to fulfill; Christ was the purest of all, yet He had a mission he had to fulfill physically).
So in the case of Job’s family, “what shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid” (Romans 9:14). They were either pure enough to be through with the test or sufficiently tested themselves according to their desires. Probably most importantly, they were sealed to the man who himself proved faithful to the end who would go on to receive his exaltation with God, exalting his family with him.
So your citation of Job as an example of someone who just had to be patient in order to wait out the troubles of this short life, which resulted in receiving a bigger and better family, is incorrect. Job’s life as a whole is not a story with a simple moral about the insignificance of the suffering life puts us through; it is the story of a man called of God to offer a sacrifice in righteousness made up of his own will and fortune that he might give his family more eternally. it is archetypical of the the wind of opposition which all the joint-heirs of Christ must pass through to be crowned with the highest of Celestial glory.
I believe that you can put it down as a principle: when a man or woman is obedient and true to God, and the winds of opposition are whipped up about them, there is a purpose and a progression to be had if they are faithful to God, His Counsel, and His councils. And it is only after you have passed or failed the council’s test that its true nature may be revealed, for, as the scripture says, “ye receive no witness until after the trial of your [faithfulness]” (Ether 12:6, emphasis added).