Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Pearly Gates

For most religions, I'd say the afterlife for their sinners, heretics, and skeptics is almost as unimaginative as it is horrifying. There's not much to eternity for souls on, say, a Baptist's naughty list. It's just a mass of people--Muslims, Hindus, Mormons, Catholics, gays--all writhing right along with the murderers and rapists. People gnash teeth at each other in regret impossible to fathom, and in pitch black hell fire.

Motivating, sure, but really? You can only take Pascal's wager so far in manipulating people before the extreme threats make its faulty logic apparent.

Of course, the earliest versions of a human afterlife were even more mundane, if not more humane. Hades' underworld, for example, wasn't as much tortuous as it was boring and gloomy and it took all comers. Similarly early Judaism just had the one, Sheol. But, when aiming for believers, the value of splitting up an afterlife into eternal punishment or reward was irresistible and now most successful religions use it. Everyone from Buddhist to Scientologists offer escape from torment.

To the LDS faith's credit, they've done a good deal of work to make their afterlife more humane for it's sinners and skeptics. Though the supernatural claims don't mean much to me, I am grateful. It's easier for some other religions to devalue the life and rights of their beloved sinners in this life when an eternity in hell fire is what they have coming, and, hey, they'll never see them again.

Nevertheless, the LDS afterlife can have some funny quirks. We were having dinner with my parents, and started talking about my mom's history for some reason and we got on the topic of her first husband. It was a marriage arranged by my grandmother to an older man, a friend of the family well regarded and a leader in their church. My mom did what she was told was her duty back then and they were married in the temple. Anyway, long story short, my mom's first husband quickly became abusive and she, going through medical problems, almost going blind, didn't feel she could leave him. Fortunately, for her (and my existence, a couple decades later) my dad saved her from that marriage long ago. Funny, I owe my existence to divorce, I guess, but it wasn't much of a marriage.

Now we still see this guy today off and on. He's remarried. The woman he married, just so you get the picture, told everyone her son died in the World Trade Center on 9/11, when he was actually in prison (guess she never considered the fact that he would be let out and resurrected, in effect). She also, after she met my family at some function, went on and on at her table about how horrible it was that we had children, telling her table that they should be taken away before we teach them to sleep with each other. Yeah, a repugnant human being, one not many people can stand for an hour, let along eternity.

So we're talking, joking about my mom's ex and his wife--to be clear, my mom finds the humor in it too nowadays--and I realized she never got her temple marriage dissolved and my parents were never sealed in the temple. "Mom, do you realize that if the LDS church is right, you'll be spending eternity with that man as one of his two wives?" Now, I'm not sure if the LDS leaders would back that position today, but it got a good laugh. There's been a running joke competition in my family over who is closest to me, and so we spent the rest of the evening, my dad and I, planning out our days in the terrestrial kingdom while my mom was stuck helping her nauseating sister-wife attend to her husband in the celestial.

Seems one person's heaven can be another's hell :-).

9 comments:

Kengo Biddles said...

It's funny how that comes into play for those that have been involved in the LDS faith. Miki and I had to reconcile ourselves to the idea that we'd be stuck with Helga on the other side if she never re-married.

FWIW, though...technically, she'd be able to choose whether or not she'd be with him in the eternities, just as much as he could choose whether or not he'd ask her to "come forth" to be with him.

If he was abusive to her (and probably his first wife) I don't know that he'll be calling ANYONE forward, and he may be with you and your dad in the Terrestrial Kingdom.

MohoInTx said...

"She also, after she met my family at some function, went on and on at her table about how horrible it was that we had children, telling her table that they should be taken away before we teach them to sleep with each other."

That makes me sick! Ugh.

Anyways, I do love the LDS version of heaven moreso than any other religion. I think having different kingdoms makes sense, and according to what I have been taught, even the telestial kingdom is better than the Baptist's version of heaven (don't ask me how that was proven).

I also learned in institute that we will be happy with wherever we are put in heaven. If we are in the terrestial, we may wish we could have done better, but at our current state, we will not want to be in the celestial, if that makes any sense. I don't know how much truth there is to that though...

Dichotomy said...

These questions of eternal familial relationships are interesting to me. We often have similar discussions in my family. My mom died when I was 13 and my dad remarried. Both he and my stepmom are sealed to their first spouses, and are married to each other only "for time".

Except now my stepmom has been married to my dad for longer than she was married to her first husband, and in a few years the same will be true for my dad. And they've probably got a good thirty plus years left in them too. They love each other every bit as much as they love their first spouses.

Officially, of course, dad will be with mom and stepmom will be with her first husband throughout eternity, but that seems to make the beautiful relationship they they will have spent a significant portion of their lives on earth building seem somewhat... meaningless.

When these sorts of questions come up, my dad just says that he believes that God is loving and merciful, and that ordinance or no ordinance He will work things out to the benefit of everyone involved.

So that's the testimony that I've always had of eternal relationships--that a loving Father in Heaven will "work things out". I'm comfortable with the idea that even nontraditional families with structures that most members of the Church "disapprove" of have the potential to be "forever families".

Beck said...

There are some very interesting situations that arise as you look at temple marriages.

I know of a 22 year old widow who found herself needing to receive a "temple divorce" of her dead husband so that she could marry again to a husband never married before. Instead of living a "married for time only", she "divorced" her husband that she loved in order to marry again. So, now what happens to her dead husband in the afterlife? Sure, you can say that he can find someone else and it will all work out, but as I look at it - it's a mess!

Sometimes the rules we make do create situations that aren't tidy. I would hope there is a place for "working out later" the family ties you share today with your husband and beautiful kids!

[kɹeɪ̯ɡ̊] said...

While the Mormons might be a little nicer in their hell concept, I think they are far, far too liberal (HA!) with the amount of people they assign to it. It's pretty offensive to me that any religion decides that pretty much anyone who is different from them (which is mostly everyone, ever) isn't going to go to "heaven" - that God loves them more, better, best than everyone else, ever.

Scot said...

Kengo: "he may be with you and your dad in the Terrestrial Kingdom."

Well that's not as funny. :-)

MoHoInTx: "I don't know how much truth there is to that though..."

I remember something similar told to me though. In Sunday school I was told that if we ever merely saw the terrestrial kingdom, we'd kill ourselves just to get there.

Thank you for that perspective dichotomy; I'd not considered that situation.

"When these sorts of questions come up, my dad just says that he believes that God is loving and merciful, and that ordinance or no ordinance He will work things out to the benefit of everyone involved."

That is exactly how my in-laws have expressed their comfort with our family. My Mother in-law says she just knows it will all work out and that our family was what was meant for us all. It's a big step from the day I met them, almost 15 years ago now, one for which I'm grateful.

"So, now what happens to her dead husband in the afterlife? Sure, you can say that he can find someone else and it will all work out, but as I look at it - it's a mess!"

Wow, it sure can be. Of course, I'll regard such quite a bit differently than a believer but I don't think these are God-made rules; they are well-intentioned human attempts at regulation which may approximate a God's law or not.

And thank you Beck. If it could be right for me to take ideas about an afterlife and a good God on faith, I have no worry for my union or my family.

Craig: "It's pretty offensive to me that any religion decides that pretty much anyone who is different from them (which is mostly everyone, ever) isn't going to go to "heaven""

I hear ya, but my problem is we're dealing with a meme much bigger than any one individual. How would it survive to be passed on to the next generation if it did not cut a line down humanity? If it cannot promise the best only to people who conform, no one will be in their pews, no one will listen.

Don't get me wrong, I'm conflicted here. Some religions hurt my family (not to mention women and minority religions), but some people literally do rely on whatever their religion is to act morally. Add to that that, to survive, most religions need to cut such lines of in the club and out, and it is a complicated mess.

[kɹeɪ̯ɡ̊] said...


I hear ya, but my problem is we're dealing with a meme much bigger than any one individual. How would it survive to be passed on to the next generation if it did not cut a line down humanity? If it cannot promise the best only to people who conform, no one will be in their pews, no one will listen.


True, and this is why I think religion is kinda all messed up.

santorio said...

in an occasional irreverent mood, i sometimes think, would i rather spend an eternity with boyd k packer, mitt romney, and a certain bishop who refused to let my wife and i give talks when he found out that she kept her maiden name... or with, well you get the idea.

Scot said...

Ah santorio, we'd keep you and your rebelliously last-named wife company.

Let's set something up. Party at my cloud or cave on, say, December 31st, 2100 (We'll all be passed on by then, right? :-)). Please RSVP for food assignments, and BYOB.