31 October 2016

The Limitless Potential of a Celestial Labor

In the previous installments of this series of posts on the Plan of Happiness and the different "glories" to which one can aspire, each had a short descriptor: the telestial was a state of "no consequences" and the terrestrial had "no responsibilities". Now, I will attempt to describe the highest or "celestial" reward which I have chosen the phrase "no limits".

I can't find a cute description or picture for the celestial reward - there is very little recorded about it. It is compared with the light from the sun as compared to the light from the moon (representing the middle reward). Brighter! Warmer! Bring sunblock?
As I have described each reward, one may have noticed that the lower and middle rewards constitute a freedom "from" something: a condition where something that was undesirable in mortality is no longer present. The telestial glory eliminates culpability for actions. The terrestrial eliminates the need for further toil. These are often portrayed as the most unwanted elements of life on earth and, in the biblical creation story, were described as the major features of existence after our first parents were cast out of the Garden of Eden.

The celestial realm is, at its very heart, open-ended and definitively earns the title "no limits". Although it also provides the better circumstances of the other glories, such as an impervious body and a lack of physical wants, it also features the continuation of the liberating aspects of mortality. The celestial people can continue to learn and to grow, access limitless materials and form them as they desire, and develop as was possible on earth. The pinnacle of this endless growth is the ability to spend one's eternity parenting and nurturing other souls toward the same abilities.

It is difficult to imagine what a celestial existence will be like, which makes it quite different from the other rewards. In many ways, it will be a refinement of the life celestial-oriented people live now - in whatever form that takes. As broad and deep as human experience can be in mortality, celestial people will have similar circumstances, though both more broad and more deep in scope. It will really be without the disabilities that limit one's capability to reach their potential in life.

In the lower glories, one essentially trades continuing development for a claim to some exemption from it. For many people who focused attention on the trials of mortality in a "glass-half-empty" way, the conditions of the lower kingdoms are a wonderful prospect. If one was constantly worried at the prospect of "getting caught" doing some forbidden activity, the telestial is a permanent exemption from this - nothing is forbidden in a circumstance where everything regenerates and one has no access to tools or ability that cause harm to others and their environment - the proverbial "rubber room". For terrestrial folk, the trade-off involves the acquisition of an eternity of leisure without guilt over not doing more. In both the lower and middle glories, each person's focus is on oneself and the selfish desire to make their own life more carefree at some point.

The celestial person chooses to continue activities begun on earth in a grander arena, in a "glass-half-full" manner that seeks to ultimately fill all cups to overflowing. Christ and his prophets alluded to this often in their pleas to put other people's needs ahead of one's own. The act of helping another to develop to their potential is the ultimate Godly labor.  It is definitely work, though a most satisfying and worthy expenditure! It constitutes a depth of effort and a breadth of love that the best we can do in life can only serve as a prelude. Celestial glory is a desirable eternity for those who did what they could in life and show promise and a longing toward doing so much more once the limitations of mortality are lifted. The old adage is true: the reward for hard work is more work - celestial types actually find this concept appealing!

In a subsequent post, it will be interesting to think about the idea of "Judgement" which can often be viewed as unpleasant. As expected, my personal view of this might be different than most. Stay tuned!

23 October 2016

The Gated Retirement Community of Carefree Terrestrial Rest

My maternal grandmother (Gran) was a good Christian woman. She believed that her afterlife would be filled with harp-playing and quietly praising Jesus while floating in a cloudy heaven, protected from the riff-raff by an ever-vigilant Saint Peter who ran a portal called the "Pearly Gates". It was her Christian duty to denounce The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) (to which her daughter and grandchildren had converted) and to fib to her friends and family that my mother and her children (including me) actually went to another congregation of Gran's chosen non-LDS denomination because of Sunday timing preferences.

Again, Gran was a good woman and accustomed to hard work, likely a product of her upbringing in the highly religious and relatively hard-pan frontier of west Texas and eastern New Mexico. She never thought much of her progeny's religious choices, but she was kindly and loving regardless. I knew her primarily in her retirement, where she was an industrious cook, always had a nice car, a nice home, a big TV, and had resources enough to eat in restaurants regularly. My early view of what constituted a proper conclusion, and hoped-for afterlife, was something along the lines of what my grandmother enjoyed in her latter years.

In this promised continuation (previous post here) of philosophical visits to different levels of "glory" or "kingdoms" that one might aspire to for an afterlife, which I interpret from the Mormon Plan of Salvation, I now consider the middle or "terrestrial" reward. (Please understand that what follows is my personal concept of the afterlife and doesn't necessarily reflect the doctrines of the LDS Church.)

If you think of what my grandmother believed about heaven and her life as I perceived it as described above, I think that is an apt concept of what the middle reward will be like. I will go on a limb here and estimate that most Christians aspire to this middle glory as their version of "Heaven". This concept goes approximately as follows:

Picture in your mind a very upscale retirement community. People play golf, they grill and pursue pleasant hobbies, the place is maintained perfectly, and you don't have to lift a finger to make it happen. You worked all through a good life and this is your reward - not having to work anymore! Alternately, you can think of an never-ending tour on a cruise ship - everything is already paid for and you can just relax and recreate forever.  To people who toiled away for most of their lives, a pleasant retirement in their autumn years and an eternity at rest sounds just divine, doesn't it? Where the catchprase for the telestial (lower) reward was "no consequences", a simple description for the terrestrial (middle) reward might be "no responsibilities".

There was an entertaining display of genteel and light-hearted Christianity in the original VeggieTales video series. The following snippet showcases my perception that the terrestrial glory would be very familiar to residents of gated retirement communities.

I don't want to make anyone who achieves a terrestrial glory feel bad about it - It is a very good reward that follows a life of basically doing good. Of course, I have alluded to the fact that there are three basic glories to which one can aspire alongside God's marvelous grace. The highest "kingdom", known as the celestial, has a description and posting of its own that is soon to come.

16 October 2016

An Eternal Groundhog Day of Telestial Hedonism

You remember that funny and touching Harold Ramis movie Groundhog Day? Phil Conners, played by Bill Murray, lives through countless renditions of the same day. Philosophers, theologians, and psychologists have cheered the movie and its message (intended or not by Ramis and Company) for all sorts of reasons, from the idea that we should "live in the day" to the benefits of the concept of reincarnation.  In that grand tradition, I offer my own take on the premise of the movie and how my wonderful wife helped me see such things in a wider context.

Mormons believe that God has a plan for us, often called the Plan of Salvation.  The official plan from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is HERE and my own interesting adaptation can be found HERE. (Please understand that what follows is my personal concept of the afterlife and doesn't necessarily reflect the doctrines of the LDS Church.) At the distant "end" of this salvation process, every person is sent to a "kingdom" or "glory" that they earned through their thoughts and doings while on Earth, combined with the grace of Christ. There are three basic glories - The telestial, terrestrial, and celestial. I am going to reserve any comment on the high (celestial) or middle (terrestrial) kingdoms for now and focus our attention on the low (telestial) one.

The telestial kingdom is the catchment glory for people who don't merit a better kingdom - the bulk of the population of the Earth throughout time will end up there because they didn't put forth much effort toward getting a better reward. Every kind of low-life and scum will be there alongside the lazy and those who never got around to being particularly decent.

Can you see the character of Phil Conners in that description?  I'm not talking about the one at the end of the film who had finished his development program in piano and tire-changing.  I am talking about the guy who, in the company of Ralph and Gus, made this realization early on:
Driving with a Phil unconcerned by consequences

Phil: What if there were no tomorrow?
Gus: No tomorrow? That would mean there would be no consequences, there would be no hangovers. We could do whatever we wanted!
Phil: That's true. We could do whatever we want.

Behold!  The ruling attribute of the lowest glory! From the most powerful ruler to the most powerless serf, the telestial man has the same desire - they want an existence where they can do whatever they please and suffer no consequences.  Like the Groundhog Day movie, these people want to wake up to each new day as if the gluttony, pleasures, and pillaging of the nights before never happened.

LDS teachings also say that every person will be resurrected after their mortal life ends with a glorious body that has no pain or sickness and will never die again. Likewise, I believe these "kingdoms of glory" that I spoke of before will be similarly indestructible, worlds that cannot be ruined or destroyed.

Imagine the possibilities! Your rotten neighbor steals all the apples from off your trees every night, but you don't care because the apples are regenerated every morning. You can go to the mountains and burn down the forest that surrounds you and no one bats an eye because it will be regrown in the blink of that eye! No consequences. It will be a dream-world for those who choose to practice no self-control - the telestial people.

Of course, God will not be trusting anything he truly values to such people, so there will likely be nothing particularly worthwhile on such worlds. For instance, God will not trust such people with treasures like children so he simply removes their ability to procreate, leaving a favorite activity from mortality (unbridled sexual pleasure) without any of the responsibility (parenthood). Again, such an afterlife is a "heaven" for those who love their vices more than anything else but hate the aftermath.

Please remember that this is the lowest glory that God offers. There are better glories to be sought for, but a person needs to be able to forgo a future of telestial hedonism to have them.

Coming up, I will describe my take on that middle or terrestrial glory.  Stay tuned!