An Insider's Look at Mormon Culture

Posts tagged ‘Heaven’

In Praise of Mark Twain

Yesterday’s First Unitarian service commemorated the centennial year of Mark Twain’s death—and the publication of his autobiography.Twain who famously said, “Faith is believing something you know ain’t true,” is not an author one expects to hear quoted in church—but Unitarians do not attend church to hear the kinds of authors quoted in more conservative denominations.

George, who doesn’t usually follow my excursions from Mormon chapels, was offended by quotes from Twain’s critique of the Book of Mormon—“chloroform in print” and “Whenever he [Joseph Smith] found his speech growing too modern — which was about every sentence or two — he ladled in a few such scriptural phrases as ‘exceeding sore,’ ‘and it came to pass,’ etc., and made things satisfactory again.  ‘And it came to pass’ was his pet. If he had left that out, his Bible would have been only a pamphlet.”

Mormons unfamiliar with the Book of Mormon prior to the 1979 edition, will not appreciate the validity of Twain’s quip about “And it came to pass.” While Mormons might not enjoy Twain’s satire on a book they consider sacred, most will have to admit they find it less than a fascinating read. Church leaders continually admonish the faithful to read the book, something I’m sure would be unnecessary if said book were a real page turner.

Mark Twain was an equal opportunity satirist. In Letters from the Earth, Satan (writing to the archangels Michael and Gabriel) describes the curious human creatures who inhabit the earth—the only creatures God created which possess malice and nasty minds. Twain satirizes the traditional Christian view of heaven as a place lacking the most important activity for human males—sexual intercourse—and full of activities men dislike on earth: singing, playing the harp, praying, and church meetings that go on forever.

Twain would have loved the Mormon concept of sex in heaven and eternal procreation. He could have gone to his grave with greater hope if only he had studied Mormonism more thoroughly.

See You in Heaven

Mitch Albom has written about the possibility of reuniting with choice people in heaven. I love the idea, but I’m not sure it’s going to happen. My mind entertains the possibility that Richard Dawkins, a vocal atheist, is right and there is no heaven. Or, that if heaven does exist, only the elect or the righteous will gain admittance. For those reasons, I’ve decided I’d better spend time with friends and loved ones while we’re still here.

A phone call last week announcing the death of a friend I’d been meaning to call jolted me with the consequences of procrastination. And while it’s nice to think I might get a second chance to tell her how much I care about her in heaven, that event is less than certain. What is certain is that I could have called her a couple of weeks earlier—and I didn’t.

George and I each lost aunts whom we didn’t take the time to visit when they were hospitalized. Of course, we’d have made the time if we’d known for sure this was their last illness—but we didn’t. An opportunity in heaven to make up for failure to visit, console, and express love to a person before they’ve left this life appeals to me. And don’t you think apologizing will be easier in heaven? Surely nobody’s going to hold a grudge beyond the pearly gates. Maybe the key to admittance to heaven is the realization of the long list of people to whom we should make amends. Maybe hell is finding out there is no opportunity to make amends beyond this life.

I think it’s time I went on People Finder to locate some long-lost friends. I’d like to meet them in heaven, but it’s risky to wait .And, assuming there is a heaven, the person I’d most like to meet there is Richard Dawkins—just to see the shock on his face.

Families Can Be Together Forever–But Is That Really a Good Idea?

As a kid, my concept of heaven was a sort of Star Wars eternal battle against good and evil. I visualized myself serving God as a sort of messenger (i.e. ministering angel). The notion of becoming a god myself seemed arrogant—besides, I was a girl.

I’ve always been an independent person who needs solitude to replenish my spiritual and emotional well-being. Growing up, I valued home and family, and I wanted to be with my mother who died when I was ten. But my desire for a temple marriage didn’t surface until I had a houseful of kids. I adored my children and wanted to be with them forever. I even half wished they could remain innocent, young kids in our nuclear family—although I knew that wouldn’t have been fair to them.

With my children grown, I realize the notion of mothering my little brood of children for eternity is a myth. They are all capable adults caring for families and responsibilities of their own. Their idea of eternal family is being with their own children and having Granny and Granddad visit occasionally. Eternal family life, unless you factor in eternal procreation, is really eternal marriage. Here again I have a problem. Wife is a subordinate, care-giving role.

Another problem is that parent and child roles evolve throughout life. My mother died when she was younger than my youngest daughter. I can’t visualize a mother-daughter relationship with her. While my mother’s life was too short, my dad’s life was too long. Our roles reversed as I became his caregiver. While I would like to see my parents in heaven, I really can’t imagine myself as a child in their nuclear family. And where would George fit? How do we live with my family and his family and our kids and their families and their spouses’ families? I picture a sort of golden ant hill—with no place to hide.

The notion of eternal procreation makes the situation even worse. For several years the entrance to the women’s dressing room at the Jordan River Temple had a painting of Heavenly Mother surrounded by numberless offspring. The painting was removed several years ago—probably because of comments that Heavenly Mother’s face, which was intended, I’m sure, to radiate peace and joy in her posterity, actually resembled a woman who was stoned out of her skull and in great need for a room of her own— far from a multitude of little voices trilling, “Mom!”

Don’t get me wrong. I dearly love every member of my immediate family, most of my extended family, and even some of my in-laws. It’s not the people I have trouble with; it’s the relationships. I don’t really want to be anybody’s wife or mother or daughter forever and ever. Now, sister, I could handle. My brothers make few demands. For my money, being friends with George, our adult children, and our parents and other relatives is enough. Trying to restructure hierarchical family relationships sounds like a good way to turn heaven into hell.

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