I want to clarify that I didn’t mean to say in my last missive that God is or isn’t doing something he should or shouldn’t be doing. I’m talking about our skewed perceptions of God; perceptions which are not Biblically supported and which are preached as fact anyway.
”Once we theologically replace the threat of ‘do this or else I’ll destroy you’ with ‘do this or suffer the natural consequences’ in God’s intentions, He becomes far less extortionate in nature.”
I would agree with that up until we account for the fact that God created all of nature from nothing. He designed those consequences deliberately, meaning God has stacked the deck against us since before we had flesh. There’s less of a difference between “I’ll destroy you” and “natural consequences” when the one doing the destroying CHOSE to make THAT the natural consequence.
I see what you mean about the natural consequences argument, and I would have to agree according to the way I laid things out. But that does bring up another important part of Mormon doctrine, which is that God did not make the universe out of nothing. Instead, we believe that the creation took place as an organization of unorganized matter. I don’t know the scientific details by any means, but we hold that “creatio ex nihilo,” as a manmade doctrine, is only an attempt to explain where everything came from. We believe that it has always existed (the matter of things, that is) and that God commanded the pre-mortal Jesus Christ who then organized the matter into its present system. How does that organization take place? I don’t know, apparently through accretion disks and gravitational collapse over billions of years; suffice it to say that at one point there was light, which was good, and then there was dry land, waters, etc. (referencing Genesis), which were all good.
Now, what does that have to do with anything?
I think it’s important to understand what the “natural consequence,” of which I previously wrote, actually is. God’s design from ‘before the flesh’ is not to consign us to misery and destruction. We will all be rewarded for choosing Christ as our redeemer in the council held in the pre-existence, and that reward is forthcoming for us all. But for those who again (but this time through faith in this life [as opposed to direct knowledge when we lived in his presence]) choose to follow Christ, an even greater reward is at hand.
In other words, this life is an opportunity to once again choose Christ, but it is a harder choice than the last time we did so. Through modern revelation, we know that Heaven has a general division of three different kingdoms or “degrees of glory.” Paul hinted at it when he said, “There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars” (1 Corinthians 15:40-41). They are not all preserved in his description, but he mentions the celestial glory, the terrestrial glory, but there is also the telestial glory (correlating to the glory of the sun, the moon, and the stars in relative brightness from the perspective of the earth).
We believe that a person must be punished for his/her own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression, so we are someday judged for only those things we did or didn’t do in this life despite being born as a fallen being. Each of us then are not doomed to “hell” for no reason, but will achieve differing degrees of glory. For those whose sins are “forgiven” through the atonement of Christ and have entered into the covenant of baptism, the celestial kingdom will be their reward. For all others, the other two kingdoms will be their reward. The thing is, even the telestial kingdom (the lowest kingdom, its glory being compared to the brightness of a tiny, twinkling star in the night sky as opposed to the blazing glory of the sun) is far beyond our ability to comprehend in its splendor and overall awesomeness. If the lowest is better than what we can now imagine, what will the highest glory be like? One important distinction between the kingdoms is that our Heavenly Father only resides in the highest kingdom.
So the take home message is that God isn’t saying “do this or I’ll destroy you” but “do this or suffer the natural consequences, which is to inherit a kingdom of glory consumate to how awesome you actually are and which will blow your mind, but not a place where we can be together.” If we will follow Christ, we can be “joint heirs” with Him in the celestial kingdom, but it’s always up to us. If that still seems extortionate in nature, then think of it more like what a loving father would say to a son who was about to spend his college savings on a shiny car: “If you buy that car you’ll never amount to anything!” Will that son amount to something eventually? Yes, and the father knows it, but he could have amounted to much more and bought an airplane if he would have saved his money. (This analogy only works if we exclude hypotheticals in that path, such as not finding a job after college or dying early, etc..)
If you’re really interested, I could tell you more about the “Heaven and Hell” dichotomy that exists in the spirit world, an interim stage between this life and the eventual resurrection, and how that relates to classic Christian theology of eternal suffering and fire and brimstone, etc., but I won’t just throw that in right now.