Mormon Discussion

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The Spirit World and Choice vs. Sure Knowledge

Lately I've been mulling over work for the dead.

It was my understanding, unless I'm incorrect on this (which very well may be, because I'm often incorrect or misunderstood something), that each person that comes to earth will at some point be afforded a chance to hear the gospel. Whether that means while the person is on the earth, or after that person has died, there will be an opportunity for that particular person to accept or reject the gospel.

So here's where my confusion comes in. We do work for people who have had the opportunity to accept the gospel and rejected it in life. For example, I have a friend who's family members were not members, and in fact, did not even like the church. When they did, my friend's parets died all their work for them, so they could accept it posthumously if they so chose. This, to me, seems a bit silly. If they've already chosen to reject the gospel on earth, then haven't they exhausted their chance?

There is an argument to be said that people usually have numerous chances to accept or reject the gospel and, in fact, many members go through stages of rejection and coming back to church. It's basically not over until the fat lady sings (aka the Second Coming). So, even after you die, you still have time to decide yes or no.

But, my question comes in here--when people who have previously rejected the gospel die and are in the spirit "prison" (which I hate as a term). After you die, isn't it pretty obvious what happens "after you die?" The elusive question that puzzles humans so much on earth is no longer a question at all--you're there! You know! And, if you were explained the Plan of Salvation and heard about the prison and the paradise, isn't it pretty self-evident that it wasn't a crock of bs and in fact, the church is true, because it's happening to you? So, how is it then a "choice" on whether or not to accept the gospel?

"Faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true." -Alma 32:21

So, in this scripture, we know that faith is hoping for things which aren't seen. Faith is not to have a sure knowledge of something. Knowledge and faith are seperate. Faith can be very strong, no doubt, but it is still not a perfect knowledge. For example, do I have a perfect knowledge of gravity? No. I have never seen gravity. I have never even seen the formula or law that supports gravity. But, do I have faith in gravity? Yes. I have a very strong faith in gravity. I have seen it work in my life. I have seen it work in the lives of others. I have experienced its power (sounds like a testimony, eh?). So, I have faith in gravity. The same idea for atoms. Have I ever seen atoms? No. In fact, unless it's been done within the last 5 years, I remember learning in physics class that no human has ever actually seen an atom. So, if that is still accurate, then no human has a sure knowledge of an atom. But, we can have faith in the atom, due to seeing its work and interactions with things in the world. Again, this is a very strong faith. But, still, faith nonetheless.

So faith is seperate from a sure knowledge of something. Joseph Smith did not need faith in the Lord because he had a sure knowledge of the Lord. The Lord physically appeared to him and Joseph's faith became a sure knowledge. Sure knowledge is a step above faith. Faith requires belief. Faith requires someone to have not ever seen the thing they hope for. Faith requires hope.

With that definition in mind, the distinction of faith and a sure knowledge, we go back to the issue of those in the spirit prison. Since they are dead, they are arguably in a situation where they no longer need faith. You are already dead and there. You know what happens after we die. Everything in the church is really just an answer to "what happens after we die?" We base everything that we do in life on what happens after we die. We want to live with HF and JC in the celestial kingdom, so we pattern our lives after Christ in order to be with him in the next life. We set our sights on what comes next. We do not know for sure that there is a celestial kingdom, or even a JC, since almost no one has seen either one of these things (barring the prophets, etc.). We believe in these things. We hope for these things. But we cannot know these things yet. It is for the next life to come that we know these things.

The choice to believe in these things comes from having faith. It comes from exercising this faith. It comes from choosing whether to follow the church's teachings or not. We choose in this life to prepare for the next life. We have to choose, because we are not sure. We do not know 100%. We choose to believe 100% or to not believe. Because of this lack of knowledge, we have a choice. The same way we make other choices in our life. I am going to law school in the fall. Do I know for a fact I will do well? Do I know I will enjoy it? Do I even know for sure that I really want to be a lawyer? Do I know that in 5-10 years I will still be as passionate about law as I am currently? No. I have a choice because of all these unknowns. I can choose to move forward and continue with law school, believing that I will do well, that I will want to keep doing this, that I will enjoy this career, and that I will always love the law. Or I can choose to not believe those things, to believe something else. To believe that I will hate it and do terribly. To believe I'm wasting a lot of money. I can choose not to go.

But the choice is there because of the unknowns. I have the choice in this life to practice my faith in the Lord and His plan because I don't know yet what happens. But, for those folks that have rejected the gospel in this life and then die and then they look around them and say, "Hey, this is exactly what I was told it would be like by my Mormon friends!" do they have a choice anymore? Or has it become a sure knowledge? Has it moved from a faith in (or a lack of faith in) the Plan of Salvation to a sure knowledge of the Plan of Salvation? And if it has moved from faith to a sure knowledge, then, arguably, they know longer have a choice. When we are confronted with something and have a sure knowledge of it, we can no longer deny it. At least not with any credibility. If I tell someone I have a Corvette, and they don't believe me, once I show them the Corvette and the title in my name, do they have a choice on whether to believe me or not? Not really. It's hard to choose to believe something when it's been plainly shown to you. So, arguably, these people in the spirit prison no longer have a choice. They have to accept it (or else, they are massively in denial...similar to folks who STILL deny the earth is round despite being shown photos of a round earth) because it is no longer a faith issue.

This being said, it causes me to wonder if some people are let off more easily than others. For example, if I am not a member of the church and I reject it here on earth, I get to go do whatever I want. I am not restrained by anything. Then, I die and I end up in the spirit prison. I know have a sure knowledge of what happens after death and I also know that if I accept the gospel, I will be able to live with HF and JC again. So, I do so because I have a sure knowledge of life after death. Say we have another girl, a faithful member, who has to make many sacrifices during this life. She loses her friends in junior high because she won't drink/smoke/do drugs, she is made fun of for her religious affiliation, she is made a spectacle at her workplace because of her refusal to work on Sundays, she loses boyfriends who want to push her further than she is willing to go...in short, she makes many sacrifices in her life. Then, she dies and goes to the Sprit Paradise and knows that her sacrifices have not been in vain. She knows she can go live with her HF and JC again. Either way, both these people are going to the same place. But, the one had to make very few sacrifices whereas the other had to make many. Of course, the one may have not have had the blessings of a reltionship with her HF on earth, whereas the other did, but I know many people who are not members of the church who are very happy and content with their lives. So, a lack of the church in a person's life is not always a recipe for a miserable and awful life.

The apparent lack of choice is the cause of my question. Is it that people in the spirit world have a sure knowledge? If so, then where is their choice? If there is no choice, then is it really the Plan of Salvation, since HF wanted us to all have the choice to follow him, and Satan wanted us to have no choice at all? And if it is a sure knowledge, isn't that then a free pass to do whatever you want in this life, as long as you die before the Second Coming and have a chance to accept it then? (Of course, the drawback is that no one knows when that is, so you might get screwed if you follow that route to the celestial kingdom, but I think the point is still made...)

Of course, this is probably one of those issues that no one will really know the answer to until we die, but I still wonder about it. What happens to those that reject the gospel now and then die? Is there a sure knowledge? If so, then what becomes of choice?

5 Comments:

  • It is a complicated issue. I refer to the teachings of Joseph Smith and the writings of C.S. Lewis.

    From what I understand and have studied, spirit world is a lot like the general versions of heaven or valhalla, etc. So while you know that life after death exists, it won't be any different than here - each faith will claim that they were correct. Jesus only moves among those that were faithful in this life - who already made the choice (your faithful LDS chica, if we're right ;0) while the others are attended to by ministering angels - who will not seem much different from everyone else. (This from Teachings of J.S. - but I don't have my copy on hand, so sorry I can't reference.)

    Then comes the judgment. According to C.S. Lewis and supported by scripture, most of our "judgment" will be self-inflicted. I think we all know that we can "handle" different amounts of ligh - for example, when i was allowing the marijuana junkie grunge band guy to feel me up regularly, I wasn't very comfortable in the temple. Once I fixed that, I love being there. Same with judgment - if you don't want to live the laws, you won't want to be in the Kingdom. And if you chose the world's laws/modes, then you will be happiest in the telestial world where those will be the governing forces.

    At least, that's my understanding. I'm no sage, but like you said, I really think about doctrine before accepting it - and you have hit on another troublesome one that's taken a bit of study.

    By Blogger Glo, at 9:49 PM  

  • hmm, good points.

    my only question then is if, as you say, you would be happiest in the telestial world, then why strive for the celestial world? if a person would prefer live out eternity with marijuana grunge boy feeling them up (which, by the way, I loved hearing--too funny the way you described him), then what's the bonus for NOT doing that and being in the celestial kingdom? i have always thought that it would be a situation where those in the lower kingdoms would WANT to be in the higher kingdoms, but now they couldn't because of their choices. but, if you are content with your choices and will be happiest at a lower level, then what's your motivation for wanting to do better in this life? i mean, let's not mince words--sex, drugs, smoking, drinking...people do those because they feel good. really good, or else, they wouldn't be such vices in the world. so, arguably, you could be very happy in a world that was governed by the current world's laws, which is do whatever you want. and if there is no longing for something better if you end up in a lower level, or the realization that you could be HAPPIER in a higher level, then does it matter what you do in this life? Should I repent of serious things I do, or just be content with the knowledge that I will be in a level of heaven that is similar to how I am and thus, I would be happy continuing on my choice-path? If either way I'll be happiest, what's my motivation for being in the celestial kingdom?

    By Blogger mellancollyeyes, at 10:09 PM  

  • Yeah. So that totally sounded weird religious. Will get over that. You don't need me to quote sources. You have a good handle on your life.

    Sorry. Reason #2 for which I behave so flighty. More appropriate and less annoying.

    By Blogger Glo, at 10:10 PM  

  • Sorry I don't have time to comment on that very lengthy and I'm sure intellectual post... I'm on my way out. I just wanted to say this, concerning your last post:

    The Bible mentions homosexuality 4 times. It mentions Love hundreds of thousands. Frankly, I find that many "Christian values" are about the farthest for the fact as I can see, and that's a sad notion for those of us who wish they weren't.

    By Blogger Demosthenes, at 3:51 PM  

  • Homosexuality is a primal sin and cannot be repented of. those who commit homosexual acts commit themselves to level 13 of outer darkness. I still cant believe this site...you guys need saving.
    The Church of Jesus Christ of Even More Latter Day Saints

    By Blogger Elohimus Maximus, at 6:13 PM  

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