The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, continuing a trend of more transparency in its history and non-traditional doctrines, last week published “Becoming Like God” (read) which focuses on the Mormon doctrine of exaltation. The Salt Lake Tribune’s Matthew Piper did an excellent work of reporting on the essay (here).
The idea of worthy Mormons receiving planets to rule in the afterlife was dismissed as “cartoonish” and compared to the idea of Christians playing harps on their own clouds. Nevertheless, reading of the essay does not dismiss the Mormon doctrine of an afterlife in which resurrected persons eventually create new worlds. In the LDS scripture, The Pearl of Great Price, Moses sees worlds and their inhabitants, and God tells Moses that he has created “worlds without number.” (Read)
The LDS belief that humans can become deity has been mocked, condemned, and otherwise analyzed in words without number. I’d like to address a different take, sans another argument in favor of the Mormon deity belief. Speaking to those who believe in God, and an afterlife, and an eternal heaven, here’s a question: In your view, what exactly goes on in an eternal heaven forever, other than “a state of blessedness in the presence of God.” (Read) Wouldn’t that get tiresome after a while?
Anecdote time: In 1983, a month or so before my LDS mission to Peru, I was invited by a friend to speak to his Christian youth group. I thought I was to be the only speaker. When I arrived, I discovered I was a “Mormon missionary” who was there to debate a Christian pastor who specialized in dissecting the “cult of Mormonism.” I was annoyed but also intrigued, so I went along, only insisting to the packed crowd that I wasn’t a missionary or an official representative of my religion.
It was a surprisingly pleasant debate. I probably lost on points but the audience — all disapproving of Mormonism — was respectful. They stared at me with that mixture of concern and frustration that I likely have unconsciously adapted today when I look at my siblings’ children who have left Mormonism.
One portion of that evening I have never forgotten. I asked the pastor (can’t recall if it was during the debate or afterward) what exactly goes on in Protestant heaven forever. Are there any future assignments beyond eternal rest? His answer was that we’d be able to do things that seemed wild and impossible to us today. For example, he added, we’d be able to fly from location to location and go as fast as we wanted.
“OK, but what about the next six months,” I wondered silently.
The late journalist Christopher Hitchens, an atheist, has quite reasonably defined the “false promise of eternity,” which is that an eternity in a heaven worshiping, resting and adoring God will eventually turn into a monotony of idleness. (watch)
Readers may mock the LDS beliefs (found in The Pearl of Great Price) of Kolob and God overseeing planets (Read) to their hearts’ content. But the question of what’s going to keep the faithful in heaven occupied for the next 10 trillion years-plus is a worthy question to address, if you are a believer of heaven.