Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A Letter to Believers

In the course of losing my faith, there were, it seems, some who wanted to continue to correspond with me to try and convince me otherwise. I have pretty much lost interest in attempting to communicate with these people much anymore. However, I do understand the need to have information shared by others in a similar situation when one is going through this enormous paradigm shift. Sometimes it can seem like you are all alone, especially when surrounded mostly by those who seek to maintain their faith at all costs – even to the destroying of the individual who is questioning their faith.

In this spirit, I present a response to a true believer that I came up with when I was more inclined to do so. I had gone over much with this person and this was the latest round of attempts to reason with this person that I sought to share;

So, if the church is completely true as I understand it, then the church claims to have the answers to the question, "What is the purpose of life?" Correct?

The Sunday school answers I was given to this question is that our purpose is two-fold. One purpose was to come to earth to receive a physical body. As far as why this is important, we are told it is because we need a physical body to be able to become like God who has a body of flesh and bone. The other purpose of our mortal existence, we are told, is to see if we will do all things whatsoever the Lord has commanded us. In other words, we are being tested on our faithfulness and diligence in keeping the commandments of God.

So my question is, if a purpose of our existence is to be tried and tested, then we should be able to assume we will all receive a grade of some sort depending on our individual performance in these tests administered while in mortality? Is that a fair assumption? Otherwise, why say we are being “tried and tested”? Both of these have meaning to us here. To be tried implies that there may be some sort of trial to determine guilt or innocence. If guilty, then a punishment is affixed. If innocent, than freedom and advancement are presumed to be the consequence. Tests are also something we are very familiar with from school. Tests imply being asked questions, we give our answers to see if we have retained the knowledge previously given in lectures or readings. If that is true, then is it also safe to assume that some people will fare better in these tests/trials than others?

If that is true, can we also assume that the significance of these tests is pretty heavy as far as it relates to our standing in the eternities and that our performance here on earth may have eternal (and possibly unchangeable) consequences as far as our reward (or punishment) in the eternities is concerned? Now, I admit, this may be a pretty big assumption, but the alternative is that this life is actually pretty unimportant in the grand scheme of things, which seems to go contrary to everything leaders of the church have to share when discussing such things. The message seems to be that this life is of paramount importance.

This is my understanding and a reason that I used to believe that I had to do everything in my power to make sure I was passing the tests (keeping all the commandments possible, including all of my church duties and assignments and callings, etc.) so that I could assure a standing in the eternities that would allow me to have the greatest opportunities afforded me in the eternal hereafter. I really believed that if I wasn't doing everything in my power to try and achieve obedience (and thus pass the tests) that I could fail and end up in eternal misery and damnation (i.e. being cut off from eternal progression, stuck forever as an angel or ministering servant in heaven). I certainly did not want to end up in eternal misery. That would suck.

So if all this is true (at least as far as I understand it), then there is a very real chance that people will end up separated from each other in the eternities due to their performance in this life. Is that a correct understanding? Is there anywhere that I am off so far?

If it is true that people will end up in different "kingdoms" due to their performance in this life, is it not also possible that people from the same families will end up in different places? Including being in kingdoms where one family member will be prohibited from going and seeing other family members (in higher kingdoms) because they are stuck in a lower kingdom? If that is true, then how can the church preach the significance of being with your family for eternity when that will not be the case for everyone?

When I asked one person this sort of question, the response was that we do not know how everyone will be judged. Their feeling was that we cannot say with any degree of certainty where someone will end up in the hereafter, because none of us is entitled to judge anyone else. However, if the church is true as I understand it, should I not be concerned about what I have been taught that I WILL be judged on? The fact remains that I WILL be judged at some point. Just because you can’t say how I will be judged, I HAVE TO make sure that I perform in the areas that I am surely going to be judged on (as does, according to what the church teaches, everyone else who has the same understanding). I think that is a fair assumption. So even though this person, nor anyone else, will condemn me (or, at least, they are told not to) and sentence me to eternal misery (except The Lord, of course, and possibly my Bishop), I WILL be held accountable for what I have been taught (and decided to ignore or deny or whatever) and the consequences for which WILL BE very real to me.

I am of the feeling that as it pertains to me individually and my overall accountability for my behavior and ultimate judgment, I have come to the conclusion that any judgment of my behavior or belief (or lack thereof) would not be suitable based on the limited amount of knowledge I have been given thus far in my life (as far as the certainty of, or ability to know for certain in the secular sense of obtaining knowledge) as to whether or not what the church teaches contains all the answers I need to be be adequately judged in the hereafter. Therefore personally, I can rest soundly at night knowing that if I die, and if it is true that I will be judged based on my behavior, that I will be able to confidently say that since I was placed in a world where I was introduced to tangible matter and concrete logic and reasoning, with no memory of any former existence, that I did the best I could with the information that I was able to obtain within the realm of reality that I knew existed for certain. I will also be able to confidently say that if I chose not to follow the dictates of a religion, it was because evidence for its truthfulness was not able to be obtained according to a sufficient measure of truthfulness within the sphere of reality I was familiar with in the circumstances I knew to be real (and verifiable) in mortality.

The problem with this, of course, is that even though I can rest at night (even if I choose to ignore what the church teaches and not go and not concern myself with all of it) members of my family and loved ones are not so fortunate. They continually are kept up at night worrying (even though it may not manifest itself in everyday communication, the reality of it is certainly extant) about me and whether or not I will be allowed to be with them in the eternities. According to the church, if I maintain my present course and beliefs (or lack of) than I will be sentenced to eternal misery in a lower kingdom and they will have to figure out how to go on without me around. How does this worry allow people to get on with life and enjoy all that life has to offer? I don’t think it is possible for family members to be sufficiently assuaged in their grief over my possible eternal circumstances. That’s why mothers of wayward children say they feel like a failure. That’s why believing spouses and children look on apostates with sadness and sorrow when they don’t accompany them to church and I think this is the ultimate reason that many, many couples that marry in the church (or temple mostly) who experience a spouse that questions, and ultimately leaves the church, end in divorce. The value of endeavoring to maintain a lasting relationship with the person that is loved becomes irrelevant and meaningless when one’s eternal prospect for a lasting relationship is possibly in jeopardy. Some believing spouses cling to the hope that what Paul said in 1 Corinthians (7:10-16) is really true that the non-believing spouse is sanctified by the believing spouse and that they will somehow be able to give their spouse a hall pass (because of their faithfulness and performance in the mortal tests and church adherence) to be able to enter their kingdom of reward with their spouse. However, it seems to me that this as a source of hope can tend to wane in the face of all the other things being said by church leaders. The ramifications of non-belief are extremely hard to ignore. Those that can choose to ignore them ought to be highly regarded, but the non-believing spouse may have a hard time believing that the eternal consequences of their behavior actually can be ignored by the believer.

Sometimes the non-believing spouse can’t help but wonder what will happen when the believing spouse decides to stop ignoring the possible ramifications? What about the children of such relationships? I know people that love me will never really give up on me, but the thought has to occur to people at some point, “What if Facsimilogos never changes his ways and never decides that the church is where it’s at?” People who face this sort of question find discomfort in it and tend to largely ignore it. But the question remains, nevertheless. What answer can the believing spouse come up with?

I think most believers simply choose not to answer this question. Instead choosing to say “I don’t know” or “who can really say what will happen in the hereafter?”. But, if pressed, how should people really answer this question? I think it is just too painful to think that someone you care about will not be around in the hereafter. Which is funny to me because the church is supposed to provide so much comfort through answers to life’s difficult questions. Unfortunately, however, where it is supposed to provide the ultimate comfort, it falls flat on its face. I think that’s why you get general authorities saying over the pulpit that wayward children WILL come back into the fold at some point (if not in this life, then most assuredly in the hereafter). My question is, what is their scriptural basis for that teaching?

I guess D&C 76: 110 could be used to justify that because it says that everyone who only achieved a telestial reward, after they have suffered eternal torment, will all bow their knee and confess that Jesus is for real. Isn’t that special? After your loved one has suffered for what seems like an eternity (or possibly for all eternity...not sure which one), they will eventually decide that the suffering just isn’t worth it anymore and then decide to come around. It seems to me that our eternal reward is just that, eternal.

I gather from D&C 76 (verse 33 for sons of perdition and verse 105 for the not so valiant or ignorant) about the assignment of kingdoms that there WILL NOT be any upgrades. No matter what the situation, no matter how much weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth occurs, you will not be eligible for eternal bliss if that is not what you are entitled to based on the grade you get for your performance on the tests administered during mortality. I wonder why those who believe sometimes don’t seem to take things more seriously? It really is that serious, isn’t it? If so, this is what continues to keep me from being able to believe in it.

Anyway, I look forward to your thoughts. Thanks for your ongoing concern and consideration for me and my situation. You have been very kind where others have not and I do sincerely appreciate your kindness and efforts to keep lines of communication open. You certainly deserve to be commended for that.