Mormon deity doctrine versus ‘state of blessedness in the presence of God’ forever

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.

 

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33 Responses to Mormon deity doctrine versus ‘state of blessedness in the presence of God’ forever

  1. Gregory A. Clark says:

    Money quote, with emphases added: “reading of the essay does *not* dismiss the Mormon doctrine of an afterlife in which resurrected persons eventually create new worlds.”

    Quite so. And thank you for saying so, directly. Plausibly, the essay has generated more confusion than it alleviated. Euphemisms obscure, rather than clarify.

    ====
    My FAQ take-away messages, derived from the LDS essay

    Q: Can TBMs make/obtain/get a planet in the afterlife?
    A: Yes.

    Q: Can TMBs be a god, too?
    A: Yes. This is not a metaphor. In fact, you can be “equal” to God. But being a god is not being…”God.” In heaven as in “Animal Farm,” some gods are more equal than others.

    Q: Is that polytheism?
    A: Yes. (As usually defined, anyway. With the cop-out that all gods think alike. Beehive mind-meld.)

    Q: Do I have to pay 10% to LDS, Inc. in this life to get to the highest heaven and be a god in the next?
    A: Yes. (Perhaps some exceptions apply?)

    Corrections welcomed. Educate me. I refer here to what I interpret Mormon theology to be–which is distinct from whether or not that theology is correct. ;)

    • Ron Goodman says:

      TBM??

      • trytoseeitmyway says:

        Ron, “TBM” is intended to be an acronym for “true believing Mormons.” The phrase, and particularly the acronym, is intended to be a snide, disparaging and in-crowd way of referring to sincere and faithful members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and therefore slyly to assert the self-imagined intellectual superiority over them by the one who uses the phrase. The use of the phrase has a positive aspect, though – it is one of the quickest ways to know that the writer is trying to be unpleasant.

  2. Doug Gibson says:

    It’s difficult to engage with you, Greg, because you are not sincere in your questioning on this topic. I read enough of you, including your “testimony” last night on Facebook, to know that you are not interested in sharing ideas when it comes to religion. You thoroughly despise and hate beliefs I hold. You regard them as amoral.
    On the other hand, you can be kind in other regards and that’s why I say no requests from others to limit your participation. I tell them that you are a fine fellow. My essay stands. I’d only add that I’m not aware of tithing as being a ticket to heaven. Perhaps we have distinct sources on these issues, however.

  3. Gregory A. Clark says:

    Doug,

    1) “Bear Your Testimony” isn’t a request to engage in dialogue, is it? No, it is not.

    2) It’s off topic for your post here, but the truth is, Doug: In contrast with your claim that I “thoroughly despise and hate beliefs [you, Doug] hold, instead you probably agree with many of my assessments. Feel free to correct me.

    I don’t support or justify wholesale drowning of babies, or willfully slaughtering firstborns, to punish their parents. Yes, I *do* consider that immoral. I bet you do, too.

    Feel free to correct me–as a simple statement of what you believe–not whether that belief is correct or incorrect.

    So, if you are going to claim that I despise the beliefs you hold, be clear about what those beliefs really are. For the record:

    * Was God justified in drowning all the babies on earth? Yes, or no?

    * Was God justified in willfully hardening the Pharaoh’s heart–then willfully slaughtering all the Egyptian firstborns as punishment? Yes, or no?

    * Was God justified in commanding that all gay lovers be killed? Yes, or no?

  4. Gregory A. Clark says:

    BTW: My answers to all three questions, for the record: No. No. And No.

    (Of course, God is imaginary, so we are assessing a fictional character here. But that’s a different story.)

    • Dan Maloy says:

      Greg –

      Based on this one statement alone, it is obvious that you have no real / sincere intention to develop or find an honest faith in God. Good luck, because without God in your life, you’re gonna need it.

  5. Gregory A. Clark says:

    To return to the topic of Doug’s post: The LDS essay.

    Again I invite anyone to correct my interpretation of what the essay is claiming is Mormon theology. This is a different matter from whether that theology is right or wrong.

    The only point of mine about which Doug explicitly raised concerns was the following:

    Q: Do I [meant to imply TBM] have to pay 10% to LDS, Inc. in this life to get to the highest heaven and be a god in the next?
    A: Yes. (Perhaps some exceptions apply?)

    Doug’s reply: “I’d only add that I’m not aware of tithing as being a ticket to heaven.”
    ====
    “Necessary” does not imply “sufficient,” of course. Tithing by itself wasn’t implied to be a “ticket to heaven.” The question is, What happens if you DON’T tithe?

    My understanding is that for TBMs to get to the highest heaven, they must comport with certain activities here on earth that require a temple recommend. Is this true, or not?

    It’s my informal understanding that, in overwhelming practice, if a TBM refuses to pay tithing, s/he will not receive a temple recommend. Is this true, or not?

    If both statements are true, then in practice the only way, or nearly only way, for a TBM to reach the highest heaven is to pay tithing while on earth. Is this true, or not?

  6. Jeff Schrade says:

    Well written as usual Doug. Sadly, I suspect the frequent flyer who keeps posting here probably discourages others from posting thoughtful comments.

  7. Zen Wordsmith says:

    Self Mortification is by far, thee prime means in living in the
    presence of an sanguinary [Heavenly Father]. This while still
    alive in the body with mind, spirit and soule still intact.
    Our [home] sanctuary is “only the cup that holds the tea”.
    Alas after our work on earth {tellestial} is finished, and the
    tea cup is shattered, the ™ Celestial Seasonings take on a
    new dimension of our eternal quest. A rest. {teirrestial}
    Once our [vaste] interiority kingdom has atoned, revitalized and
    refurbished; the “crutch of a cross” we bear subsides.
    Then if our [celebacy] is of any consequence, our lower-bodily
    needs are replaced. Bestowed upon us is a “higher-love”.
    Outside of the [act of procreation], we deduce that in the
    long haul; What is [sex] but a [second-hand] emotion?

    May God Bless.

    • trytoseeitmyway says:

      May God bless AND improve spelling and other communication skills.

      • Bob Becker says:

        Since there are reportedly 41k self-proclaimed individual “Christian” churches, denominations, sects etc around the globe, it seems the person/entity who most needs to brush up on His Communication 101 skills is the Christian god. Whatever it us you thought you were saying, Sir, it seems nearly all of your followers are hearing something different.

        • Zen Wordsmith says:

          Bob. Don’t cling to my “brainwash”. Adhere
          to the callings of your heart. To every
          season and reason “under heaven”.

          To the protocol set forth in this and all of
          [Doug's] OP/ED’s, including your comm-
          unication 101 skills; May I resound with
          general applause and the sound of
          “one hand clapping”.

          Best regards on the 407k earnings.
          Remember. “Whiskey is Riskey”.

          • Ephriam Scribe says:

            Then the twelve said to [Jesus of
            Galileian] “…Shall we then being as
            little children enter the Kingdom ?”
            …And Jesus said to them, “when you
            make the two one, and you make the
            inner as the outer, and the outer as
            the inner, and the above as the below,
            and when you make the male into the female, so the male will not be male,
            and the female not be female, then
            shall you enter the kingdom of [God]…”

            “The Mustard Seed”
            {Sayings of Primitive Apostle Tom}
            In convocation: {circa’ 02 CE}
            [ (tm) Bhagwan-Osho ]

  8. Gregory A. Clark says:

    Jeff Schrade’s whining aside, the deeper reason that people can’t pose “thoughtful comments” about Doug’s complaints—which Doug raised here, regarding FB posts–is that “thought” and “Mormonism” are so often mutually exclusive.

    Whereas whining and Mormonism are so often synonymous.

    But go ahead, peeps. Prove me wrong. Step right up. Share your “thoughtful” testimony of how one reads the history of the Americas by shoving your face into a hat, and reading from a rock.

    In a way that the same claim couldn’t be made equally well for, say, shoving your head into a farm field, and reading from a pile of cow-poo.

    Go.

  9. P Myshkin says:

    I’m neither Mormon or Protestant, but the issue of heaven is intriguing to me. What strikes me as curious in this statement:
    “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” is that it seems to ignore the point of heaven. Isn’t the answer God. Heaven is the Beatific vision, and I would imagine that if there are angels in heaven who have spent millenia captivated by God and adoring Him with every moment of their existence, exclaiming his holiness with their every breath, then I too, if Our Lord should consider me a good and faithful servant, could spend eternity captivated by the eternal, ineffable, and forever lovely Divine face. Consider Martha and Mary; Mary chose better, and that would be my answer to the next six months.
    Peace,
    Myshkin

    • trytoseeitmyway says:

      Myshkin, I am a Mormon although I started out Evangelical Protestant. The question of what Heaven is like (or, even, what are the heavens like?) relates in my mind to the question of what are we FOR, which is another way of asking why are we here? I don’t want to put words in anyone’s mouth, but from my memory of my early religious (non-LDS) education, the answer was as fluffy as the Protestant answer (and your answer) about what heaven is to be. “Fluffy” in the sense of, well, we’ll have joy adoring God forever. The purpose for existence, as I think I was told, is to glorify God. Even in my Protestant years, I sort of wondered about a God Who would particularly be motivated by glorification. You seem to be saying, too, that we are created and brought to heaven (when that happens) to engage in adoration and exclamations. Is that really why we were created?

      I like the Mormon answer. We are created as children of a Heavenly Father. Just as with earthly fathers (the admirable ones anyway) He desires for us … progress. Growth. Fulfillment of potential. We’re created by Him so that we will do those things, which incidentally does glorify Him, but the purpose is the purpose of any righteous Father. To bring forth sons and daughters who are ready and capable of the same joy and happiness that He experiences.

      Does that make sense?

      • P Myshkin says:

        A thousand times over I would say yes, yes, yes, that is exactly why we were created, to love and glorify God. Now, your answer does make sense, but I still think it underestimates the truth of who God is. Now, there is nothing wrong whatsoever with a view of heaven that is active like you describe, but what you have termed as fluffy is not quite so tame. Consider again the descriptions of the angels, nowhere in sacred scripture do they come across as fluffy, in fact David says we were made a little lower than they, yet still they are captivated by God; there’s nothing in scripture to imply that they have to stand their and proclaim God’s holiness, no they exist for eons enchanted by God. There’s nowhere else they’d rather be. Now, when you say ” To bring forth sons and daughters who are ready and capable of the same joy and happiness that He experiences” I would argue that the joy and happiness God experiences is directly tied to the Triune nature of the Godhead and that the ultimate joy is to enter into that intimate bond. In the end, I don’t find that boring; rather it feels exhilerating.

        • trytoseeitmyway says:

          I like the part about “enter[ing] into that intimate bond.” Reading that phrase, I think of 2 Pet. 1:4 (“partakers of the divine nature”). I wonder whether the difference between your conception and mine is more superficial than substantive, and that we will (or may) find out in experience some day how akin entering into that bond, and loving and glorifying God, is to becoming ourselves divine. Rom. 8:17.

          God – Heavenly Father – is perfect, but we know from His example that perfection and passivity are not at all the same things. He is engaged in Creating and Doing and Loving and Redeeming.

          Existence, for Him, is an action verb, yes? So we think it will be for us, and maybe you could even agree. It would be my pleasure to be there with you, brother.

  10. charles cosimano says:

    Well, one cannot speak for all Protestants, but the impression I have is that Heaven involves a very large hot tub, a seriously well-stocked bar, a few lakes turned into wine and a huge IMAX screen on which we can watch our relatives burn in Hell.

    Hey, it’s as good a version as any.

  11. c k weaver says:

    Since nobody knows heaven is, I would suggest it is the same for all Protestants including Mormons, and the Catholics, Hindus, and Taoists. Some even think we will have a human body in heaven. Who knows? Some think there are levels of heaven. Who knows? What we all have in common is we hope to go there rather than whatever the alternative is.

    • Bob Becker says:

      Most sensible thing I know of written on the general topic of “heaven” is this:

      “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp…. or what’s a heaven for?” —- Robert Browning

    • Dan says:

      There will be no Mormons, no Hindus, no Taoists, no Muslims in eternal life with God. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by me” (John 14:6). If you don’t believe this, your argument is not with me, but with the Word of God.

      • Brother Florence says:

        Simple Simon Dan. Coming to the [Father] means
        abiding by principals set forth in ALL the Son of
        Man’s precepts.
        “… [but] he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the
        Father also…” -John 02:23-LDS Bible

        May God Bless.

  12. Dan says:

    What will Christians do in their eternal life with God? The Bible gives a few concrete answers and more than a few hints. First, no one should disparage or think that we will become bored with worshipping and adoring God forever. This idea, like most opinions about heaven or God, is based upon human conceptions, and is not accurate. The apostle Paul wrote, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (I Corinthians 2:9). In the new creation, we will be very different; worshipping our Heavenly Father will be our greatest joy, and will never become boring – hard as that might be to imagine in human terms. Jesus gave us some insight into eternal life in His parable of the talents: those who have more faithfully served Him in this life will be rewarded with more responsibility and authority in eternal life. In Revelation 21 we are told that the kings of earth “bring their glory and honor into” New Jerusalem. Where there are kings, there are kingdoms and subjects – reflecting Jesus’ teaching of the talents. And “glory and honor” to be brought into New Jerusalem suggest that these kingdoms are producing something of value – we will do productive work in heaven. What kind? I don’t know – “Eye hath not seen …” We also have a hint in the account of Adam and Eve. What did they do before the fall? They cared for the garden God had given them. I think that in some ways the work we do in eternal life will be similar to what we enjoy now, but also in many ways better: “there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain” (Revelation 21:4). In the final analysis, I know that He loves me more than I deserve or can comprehend, and that what He has planned for me will be better than I could imagine: “neither hath it entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”

  13. Hunt Garner says:

    I have a hard time believing that God raised us up, created this Earth for us, and otherwise allowed us to go through this experience of mortality just to create an army of eternal sycophants. He probably has an impeccably good self-image. He has no need of our praise. When I worship Him, it is because it fulfills a need that I have. It helps draw me honor the to the commandment to “be ye therefore perfect”–to become more like Him. I suspect that God has a higher purpose in mind for all of us than to merely sing his praises for eternity.

  14. Dan Maloy says:

    An EXCELENT reply, Mr. Hunt Garner! Long, long before I read this article it was obvious to me that God did not, in any way, shape, or purpose, “need” us to worship Him, or in other words, to ‘only’ worship and endlessly shower Him with love and affection for all eternity. Rubbish!, for such a being would be nothing more than a selfish narcissist….the very same thing, in essence, that Jesus Christ commanded us repeatedly NOT to be.

    No, rather God doesn’t “demand” or “compel” our worship and adoration, but rather, our worship of Him fullfills a deep longing that WE have to honor and respect beauty and goodness in any “good” thing, and in this case, the glory and beauty that God possesses.

    Well said!

  15. Zen Wordsmith says:

    Surely we can read the letter {Epistle} of [James] in
    new testament times to discover that “Pure and Undefiled”
    religion before God and the father is.

    {See NKJV 1611} [Thomas/Nelson] trans. study guide.

    The adage of a “here after” in these parts, comes from
    [Johnny Lee]:
    “… Heaven does not only wait, for only those who congregate…”
    See you in Gospel Doctrine Class.

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