Monday, July 27, 2009

Bridging the Gap Between Heaven and Hell

It has been said that there is an Eternal divide between the sinners and the righteous in the afterlife. Specifically, there is a division between the Sons of Perdition - those cast into outer darkness - and the righteous ones of the Celestial Kingdom.

The question that arises in my head is this: is the division between those two groups one of choice, or one of immutable law, or one of inherent necessity.

I think a bit of all three.

I think that those who find themselves in Outer Darkness, the ultimate and most radical example of Spiritual Death, have no recourse but to remain in that awful place where there is "weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth" (Mosiah 16:12). Of COURSE they cannot leave in any sense:

1) MENTAL - they have trained themselves to be this way by the choices made in their lives.

2) EMOTIONAL - per Joseph Smith, they could not emotionally abide the fiery glory of the kingdom of God.

3) PHYSICAL - they simply do not have the power to walk "up the mountain" as it were. They are physically restrained to the actual, geographical LOCATION to which they are damned. They can no more leave their place of final judgment than can a lobster in a trap.

But what, then, of the righteous? Are they RESTRAINED from going to Outer Darkness? After all, those in the highest level of the Celestial Kingdom are joint heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17). This means they either ARE as God is (as we know that Abraham and several other prophets have attained to this status), or are training to become such. God, we know, is all-powerful: if it is possible, God can do it.* So would it not stand to reason that those in the Celestial Kingdom could, if they wished, travel to Outer Darkness? After all, we know that those in the terrestrial kingdom receive the personal ministrations of Jesus Christ, and those in the telestial kingdom are ministered unto by the Holy Ghost, so we clearly see that there MUST be SOME kind of "vertical" mobility - a movement between the different classes of glory and ignominy.

However, in that answer, we have the answer to our greater question. We have already seen that the Sons of Perdition are confined without recourse - they have no power to leave their assigned state or location.

And the righteous of the Celestial Kingdom? They most certainly have the POWER: God organized the kingdoms, and having done so, He certainly must have the power to visit. But having the power to do so does not mean it will ever happen.

The damned cannot visit the upper kingdoms of Grace, for they have decided not to, and sealed their fates by the choices made in their lives.

And the Glorious, the Saved, those who have tasted of Christ's Atonement and received His Grace... they have the power to travel where they will. So to say that they do not go to the planes of perdition is not to say that they canNOT do it.

It is simply saying that, like all righteous, they are anxiously engaged in good works. There are no good works in Outer Darkness, and so the Saved do not travel to Hell, not because the canNOT, but simply because there are always better things for them to do.

* There is a statement that is commonly batted about in Christendom that with God, nothing is impossible. This brings up a whole host of OTHER discussions, and will be the subject of another post.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The First Principles and Ordinances...

"We believe the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immerion for the remission of sins; fourth; Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost."
Pearl of Great Price
Fourth Article of Faith

I was thinking about this today during Sunday School, and it struck me that implicit in the language of this verse is the idea that there are LATER principles and ordinances of the Gospel.

Following close on that thought came another: if this is an appropriate unit of principles and ordinances (i.e., these four things are the "first" group), is there a second unit? A third?

Of course, almost immediately I realized that the "second" unit of principles and ordinances would be those taught and practiced in the holy temple. There, we learn more of God's plan for us and of the grand possibilities that lay before us, as well as being able to participate in further covenants that more closely bind us to His path.

Then, I asked myself, what - if any - would the next "unit" of principles and ordinances be?

Well, we believe in eternal progression... so are the temple principles and ordinances the last that we will ever participate in? The answer seems like it must be no. There must be more. After this mortal life, those who HAVE done what they should, have followed the Lord's path and taken advantage of the blessings of the Atonement (critical), will be permitted to take advantage of further ordinances and learn greater principles in the Celestial Kingdom.

This is, of course, not doctrine of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Just my own thoughts on the subject. But I rather like it: we begin with faith and baptism, we progress to the actual learning portion of our progression at the temple, and then we finally practice what we have learned in the hereafter, when (if we are faithful) we are made joint heirs with Christ and given all that He has: learning ever-greater principles, participating in ever-holier ordinances, and finally coming to the finality of Grace and the Perfection that Jesus has commanded us to attain.