Replies to Thomas

Category: justice and mercy

A House Better Left Desolate

Dear Joseph,

The missionaries who have visited shared an analogy which I had no trouble accepting, and which I thought was actually pretty accurate all things considered. They said:

“Imagine a string that stretches from one end of this town to the other. Now draw the smallest dot you possibly can in the middle of that string. That dot represents your time here on Earth. The string before that dot is your pre-existence and the string after that dot is your time after your life on Earth.”

They brought it up to demonstrate how relatively insignificant all of our strife and struggles in this life ultimately are, but your mention of mansions gives me a thought. Here is what you said:

“For those who have seen a glimpse of their mansion prepared above, any sacrifice would be worth it just to spend some time there again. For some, their mansion contains their family.”

If our families are fostered during our time on Earth, just how significant, really, will they be once that veil of forgetfulness is lifted? Once you and your wife return to the full awareness of your individual existences, isn’t it possible that you could find yourselves as little more than blips on each other’s screens? I mean, Soul Mates 4-Eva is something I truly wish for the both of you, so let’s say it’s two hypothetical people. Might they not give two figs whether they spend eternity together once they recall all they once knew?

Also, I asked what the Mormon perspective on reincarnation is and they said nope. Not a thing. Absolutely not. It only now occurred to me to wonder… why not? What if it takes a fellow more than one trip to Earth to get all the experience he wants/needs before making a suitable candidate for ascension to God’s state of being?

—Thomas

P.S.

I want to say that your style of writing is so great that I went through and reread everything out loud just to hear it. Your sentence structure is especially appealing to my particular tastes.


Dear Thomas,

I want to begin this missive by addressing the analogy the missionaries shared with you about the string, and your resultant questions, particularly this one:

“Once you and your wife return to the full awareness of your individual existences, isn’t it possible that you could find yourselves as little more than blips on each other’s screens?”

I must admit that I have never thought about the hypothetical issue of what effect having temporary amnesia lifted might have on an eternal being. However, this is my take on it: much of our training before this life was to lead up to our eternal union with another of God’s children. Being sealed together for time and eternity is very much a crowning ordinance of this life.

Now, before I go on, and in case you haven’t been taught what the sealing ordinance is yet, let me sum it up for you:

Being a married couple, man and woman, is key to exaltation—and what we call a sealing (like the term hermetic sealing we find in mystical traditions throughout history [appendages of the true way, you see]) is a couple that has been joined together for eternity. It is to be married by God’s true and authorized servants (those who hold the keys of the kingdom) so that it may have binding power beyond the grave. In other words:

“…Shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be [bound as] one flesh;”
“[And by] the keys of the kingdom of heaven:… whatsoever [is bound] on earth shall be bound in heaven” (Genesis 2:24Matthew 16:19).

Again, Adam and Eve serve as great archetypes for this truth. They were sealed together in the Garden of Eden by one holding the keys and authority to do so (God Himself), as the scripture I quoted above from Genesis refers to. As also this verse: “And Adam said, This[, Eve,] is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh” (Genesis 2:23). Adam is here using covenant language to describe how He has become sealed to his wife, as we are also to do (remember that the rib is not literal, but sacred symbolism of deeper truths).

As a professor from China once shared with me, a sublime symbol of the sanctity of the family unit is that of a home. In a home with, let’s say, five beds in it, four of the beds are singly occupied by persons who all share the same blood (the children), but in one bed—the most important bed—sleeps two persons of differing blood. Why should this be? Because the union of man and woman is the sacred bond without which the house would become desolate. Hence, when these two are sealed together—when they become ‘bone of [their] bones, and flesh of [their] flesh’—the work of creation is allowed to continue, or in other words, the house can be built (and thence the town, which turns into a citadel, which turns into a whole kingdom, etc., ad infinitum). Is it no wonder, then, that we sometimes call this earth a home? (It may be of interest for you to know that this earth will become the Celestial Kingdom, truly the eternal home of the righteous who inherit it.)

Before this life, we looked forward to this moment with raptured attention because we knew that although a blip, a short time of suffering, this life was also to be the staging ground of the most important decisions we would make in eternity (including the decision to be sealed by authority). The missionaries’ analogy, I believe, was meant to emphasize how truly brief our trials would seem on the eternal scale; it was not, however, meant to imply any insignificance of the decisions made in this life. I would add to their analogy that at the blip the string bends or pivots upward in differing degrees depending on the choices made at the blip. Thus, in the eternal scale, the greater the angle with which one’s string is pivoted at this point, the greater the heights that string will ever attain to compared to the others.

The sealing ordinance is key to attaining the highest trajectory, for we cannot inherit God’s creative powers, which He seeks to bestow upon us, without it—we would not be able to create functional worlds as He does. Allow me to briefly touch upon a sacred doctrine: it would be folly for a man, who grows up to become a God, to create a world singly, for “the house would become desolate.” As the prophet wrote:

“Behold, the Lord hath created the earth that it should be inhabited; and he hath created his children that they should possess it” (1 Nephi 17:36).

When my wife and I come out of our “deep sleep” as it were, and awaken to the reality of our eternal preexistence, I believe that we will be more in love than ever before, partly because we will realize just how lasting and meaningful the things we did on this earth really were, and just how profound an impact our choice to be sealed together will have had in our eternal trajectory. And we will have the eternities to allow this love to continue to blossom.

“So the Gods went down to organize man in their own image, in the image of the Gods to form they him, male and female to form they them” (Abraham 4:27).

Now, on to your other question:

“Why not [have reincarnation]? What if it takes a fellow more than one trip to Earth to get all the experience he wants/needs before making a suitable candidate for ascension to God’s state of being?”

I will say that according to the principles of the plan of salvation, a person is supposed to gain their body as an eternal piece of their identity, not something that gets swapped around or reinvented in another womb. “So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption” (1 Corinthians 15:42), meaning, our bodies are ‘sown’ or planted or birthed in a fallen state, but in the ‘resurrection of the dead,’ they will finally be ‘raised’ or reaped or finalized in perfection. So your body is organized once in the womb and then again in the resurrection, though the second time it is merely a perfected form of that which you before received. Reincarnation then seems to run against that grain.

With that said, I’m sure that you are aware of some historical or news-worthy instances of what appear to be reincarnation in the sense of someone being reborn into mortality. I am also aware of such cases, but they have always been superficial, meaning that there’s been room enough for someone to have been pulling an elaborate ruse. There may have even been cases of mild possession by a spirit. Given said superficiality, I would not hold such cases as proof of something that runs against revelation: your spirit inhabits one unique mortal frame and then goes on to the spirit world until the resurrection reunites your spirit with your body, no more to be separated.

Reincarnation also cannot be a true principle because it flies in the face of the sanctity of the family unit. When a mother in the sealing covenant begets a child, that child belongs to that mother for ever. The opportunity for a family to be sealed is offered to all through missionary work in this world and proxy ordinance work in the temples for those who have died without a chance to hear the Gospel who are now in the spirit world (have the missionaries taught you this yet?). As I wrote before, ALL will have the opportunity to accept or reject the message in faith.

If all may be sealed—parents to children and children to parents—all the way back to Adam and Eve, then to what family would a spirit who inhabited two mortal tabernacles be sealed? It is an indivisible division and it leads to disorganization. The kingdom of heaven is not messy but perfectly orderly, and you will not find such a headache arise in its arrangement. Your body is an eternal part of your identity when you come into it at birth, and the atonement of Jesus Christ was wrought that you might keep it so.

And if you are wondering about the millions of children who have died as infants who did not get to experience the full test of mortality, I have somewhat to write about that (so much so that we may need to keep it to another letter). Suffice it for now to say that we must also consider their millions of mothers, who have wept millions of tears at not being able to raise their children. If the child was reincarnated into another family, would that not be injustice to the mother who suffered the loss? Alas, the plan of salvation is perfect in its preparation and completeness thanks to Jesus Christ.

Let me write for you a couple quotes to put your mind at ease concerning the issue:

“…Little children need no repentance, neither baptism. Behold, baptism is unto repentance to the fulfilling the commandments unto the remission of sins.
“But little children are alive in Christ, even from the foundation of the world; if not so, God is a partial God, and also a changeable God, and a respecter to persons; for how many little children have died without baptism!…
“For awful is the wickedness to suppose that God saveth one child because of baptism, and the other must perish because he hath no baptism.
“Little children cannot repent; wherefore, it is awful wickedness to deny the pure mercies of God unto them, for they are all alive in him because of his mercy.
“And he that saith that little children need baptism denieth the mercies of Christ, and setteth at naught the atonement of him and the power of his redemption” (Moroni 8:11-12, 15, 19-20)

“This world is a very wicked world; and it … grows more wicked and corrupt. … The Lord takes many away, even in infancy, that they may escape the envy of man, and the sorrows and evils of this present world; they were too pure, too lovely, to live on earth; therefore, if rightly considered, instead of mourning we have reason to rejoice as they are delivered from evil, and we shall soon have them again….
“A question may be asked—‘Will mothers have their children in eternity?’ Yes! Yes! Mothers, you shall have your children; for they shall have eternal life, for their debt is paid….
“Children… must rise just as they died; we can there hail our lovely infants with the same glory—the same loveliness in the celestial glory.”

Joseph Smith

Can you not see, Thomas, that God’s house is ordered, fair, and just? Without those principles, which God Himself embodies, this world would be a house better left desolate.

—Joseph

P.S.

“…Your style of writing is so great….”

Thank you for the compliment! I value good use of language and see it as a mark of intelligence in others. So if you think my language is pleasing to the eye or ear, then I am humbled indeed.

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Five-hundred Miles Per Hour at Thirty-thousand Feet

Dear Joseph,

I want to return to the subject of information missing from scripture. Even including The Book of Mormon, there’s still a big chunk of really important stuff missing, confused, contradicted, and inaccurate. I understand humans are responsible for the current state of scripture, and we’re supposed to have free-will and all, but you’d think God would draw the line at messing with the one and only means we have of knowing what He wants out of us. Unrestricted freewill itself strikes me as a foolish notion anyway. That’s just bad parenting! I don’t let my kids do whatever they want, consequences be damned and the kids too. There’s a degree of responsibility God seems to be neglecting here.

—Thomas

P.S.

One of the things I’ve learned since my last missive is that in the 1970’s a manuscript dating back to around 400 AD was found, which was itself a translation of another manuscript from 200 AD. In 2006 National Geographic did a cover story on it. I’m guessing it was because the translation had just been finished, but I don’t know; it seems like a long time to wait around for that. Anyway, the writing is what would have been the Gospel of Judas IF the powers that be (or were) had decided to include it. So now I’m very interested in tracking a copy of this down to see what is has to say.


Dear Thomas,

“…Humans are responsible for the current state of scripture….”

I’m glad we seem to share the belief that the word of God, or scripture, as we have received it is subject to the failings of mortal men. I know many who profess that the Bible is word for word exactly what God spoke. My questions then are, to whom? And for what purpose? I’m not asking to destroy faith, of course, but to bring up realistic questions concerning the origin of scripture. With that said, you’re exactly right that there are holes and contradictions, etc., that make the scriptures imperfect. Though the Book of Mormon stands out for claiming to contain the whole of the Gospel of Christ (and it does), you’re also right in saying that there is other information that is just not there—questions that are not answered.

“[Scriptures are] the one and only means we have of knowing what He wants out of us.”

To most Christians, humanity is consigned to deal with what scanty direction the scriptures provide. But unique among Christians, Mormons believe in modern revelation, that each person has a right and a responsibility to seek after the revelations of God for his or herself, and we believe that God will answer each person’s honest seeking.

The Book of Mormon describes what state that the heart of such an one ought to be like in order to receive revelation. Not surprisingly it’s not just wanting it or waiting for something to hit you in the head. It requires humility, belief, and a true heart—a willingness to live up to what you receive—among other things. Through personal revelation, and revelation for the world through the prophet and the apostles, the holes in our understanding of God can be filled. This might sound idealistic—that God may speak to man in our day—but it’s true! You’re hearing it from someone who knows His voice.

“Unrestricted freewill itself strikes me as a foolish notion anyway…. There’s a degree of responsibility God seems to be neglecting here.”

Why does God allow us to do anything we want, let alone tamper with His revealed word so that generations of people are walking in darkness? Why does he grant us freewill and free agency? It is because He loves us and honors our value, which value He esteems as equal with His. (You read that right: equal!) He is giving us the absolute choice to have what He has but never through force. The principles of revelation outlined in the above paragraph means that we can access Him directly. His answer will most likely not be a pillar of light we see with our eyes, but one we feel with our hearts. His answer may take the form of placing others in our path so that we have contact with the truth (hint, hint). Perhaps if you have recently even prayed in your heart to know more about God and His will for you, I have been prompted by His Holy Spirit to speak thusly with you. Whatever the form—even silence—He listens and knows how to answer us in the best way possible. (And remember, we who measure time with wristwatches don’t know anything more about good timing than He who uses galactic clocks and planetary cycles.)

But if scripture has left many in the dark for generations of time, why would God allow His children to wade without light for so long? I think it is partially an action of mercy on His part. “What? Denying people the word of God as mercy? What kind of blasphemy is this?” My favorite kind: truth. Or in other words, blasphemy against false doctrine (I thought that the former sounded cool though).

First of all, remember how I said that the lowest station a soul can reach in the final judgement is still way better than our current one (the telestial kingdom)? Well there’s that. But also, we believe that mankind will be judged according to the light they received in this life. If some middle-of-nowhere, yak-herding child dies without ever hearing the word of God, is he damned? If so, that’s what I call bad parenting, reprimanding a child for doing something he didn’t know was wrong.

I heard a story once of a mother who severely scolded her boy for going past the corner of the block one day, and in the midst of the boy’s sobs and anguish he said, “Mom, what’s a corner?” God, our perfect Father, will never be guilty of such a cold action. If we see Him this way in scripture, we are missing an important element of the true story, and so the emphasis is on our need to seek out revelation to learn who the whole truth of who He is and what He is like. He will not punish the African child who knew no law, but He will give the child a glorious resurrection and eternal life in the Kingdom of God. The same is true for all who possess any degree of truth: if you have been told that lying is bad but fighting is good, your sins will be composed of the lies you told and not the fights you started (this would be a brilliant place to bring up the doctrine of the Light of Christ, by the way).

So when generations have wandered without the whole truth of God, they are in some ways being shown mercy in that they will not be held responsible for the greater light they may otherwise have sinned against. Those who have the greater light revealed to them, accept and understand it, and then reject it have a fate much worse than those who never knew it. That is why the unpardonable sin is called “the sin against the Holy Ghost” and not “the sin against Dave” (where ‘Dave’ is someone that everyone knows).

If knowing something can potentially be worse than not knowing, why would God teach us anything at all? Isn’t that bad parenting if He is to judge us accordingly? No, because to become as He is and enjoy the life He enjoys requires us to be clean and keep certain laws no matter the light received. Just as an airplane has safety protocols and operating instructions specific to its proper usage and prior to its enjoyment that are more thorough than those of an automobile, even so entering the highest degree of glory in the celestial kingdom requires a specific knowledge and lifestyle prior to entering and inheriting it.

So back to the yak-herding child who dies without the law, he will be held guiltless before God at the last day and counted worthy to enter the Celestial kingdom IF he chooses to observe the “safety protocols and operating instructions.” Again, no compulsion, for if he would be happier not knowing those things, then he will not be forced to know them, BUT he will never know the thrill of flying at 500 MPH at 30,000 FT next to driving a nice sports car. Likewise, though we will be judged by the light we receive or didn’t receive in this life, the truest happiness—the happiness that our Heavenly Father knows—can only come to us if we obey Him, and we will all have this choice.

—Joseph