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!