We are back to the slowish days once more. We've been dendoing and teaching plenty, but nothing outstanding has arisen as of the last week. With that in mind, I will be sending some more study thoughts as substitution for this email. Do enjoy, and have a good week everyone!
While reading in the book of Alma, I found myself reflecting on a conversation I had with a young man from Idaho while I was in Iwamizawa. We had been talking about the afterlife when he disclosed his belief in "personalized heavens", or the belief that each person goes to an afterlife tailored to be whatever would make them happiest. His reasoning for this was that he wouldn't be happy in a place filled with clouds and harps and nothing but righteousness (as the stereotypical image of heaven goes), but rather in a place where swearing would be permissible, likely among other differences that went unmentioned. We believe in the similar concept of different degrees of "heaven" and that each person will be most comfortable in the place they end up, but there is one point that we diverge on: the idea that the happiness in each "heaven" is the same.
Please consider the following: there are two people. The one finds joy in helping others around them and abounding in good works. The other prefers to tear others down, to beat others according to their pleasure. One day, the two of them each do the things they most enjoy. At this point, as one might guess, their enjoyment is at least nigh unto equivalent. However, afterward, they spend a whole year without another chance to do what they each like. By the end of that year, are they equally happy? Additionally, once that time is finally spent, they each get to do what they like one more time. How does their current happiness compare to the end of the break, or to the first time they did what they liked? Though they were about equally "happy" in the first situation, after the year of inactivity, the one who was good looked back satisfied in what they'd done the year before, while the one who was wicked looked back dissatisfied and hoping to be able to relive the thrill again. Furthermore, once they do get their second chances, while the wicked one was momentarily restored to their previous pleasure, the good one found his joy inflated.
That's the interesting thing about it all. The happiness produced by goodness is of a lasting, growing variety, while the pleasure from wickedness is of limited and transient nature. While it is possible to enjoy a place where wickedness is permissible, only so much joy can be found in it, which joy must be constantly maintained rather than increased. Yes, each person will be most comfortable in whatever degree of glory they end up in. However, should they end up in a lower degree, they will not be able to be as happy as they would've been had they changed themselves to be worthy of a higher degree. Therefore, brothers and sisters, let us all become the kinds of people who are worthy to live with our Father in Heaven, together in the highest and happiest of the glories for all eternity.
A Wicked Purpose
While reading the outline of the 3rd lesson in the PMG, I once again found myself pondering over an experience I had in Iwamizawa. My companion and I were out proselytizing when we knocked on the door of a certain individual's home. I hadn't understood the conversation at the time, but my companion informed me afterward that they had told us that not only did they not believe in God, but that their life purpose was to let others know that there is no God. As usual, I shall proceed to my thoughts on this matter.
First off, the idea that this person didn't simply disbelieve in God, but rather claimed to know that God did not exist, for that is what they implied, if not outright stated. If I had a chance to speak with this person again, I would like to ask them something like this: "Have you checked your attic? Perhaps He's been hiding in there. Or maybe He's in your neighbor's house and they just haven't told you yet. Could He be in a nearby city? Who knows, He just may be on a vacation in Hawaii right now. Oh, perhaps He's on the bottom of the ocean helping some scientists with their work. Have you looked for Him on the moon? Or maybe he's on Pluto and will be coming to visit in a few weeks. What about the Andromeda galaxy? Have you checked there? And who knows, maybe He moved to the first place you looked just as you left." As many of you probably already caught on, here lies the issue in claiming you know that pretty much any one thing doesn't exist. More particularly, God is a uniquely difficult one to disprove, since to know whether He exists or not, one would have to be able to simultaneously observe every single point of time-space in the entire universe, a feat which would require the doer to essentially be a god, and would render the whole inquery self-defeated. On the other hand, to know whether any given thing exists or not, a person needs only one affirmative encounter to prove it true. As representatives of the church, we can say for a surety that we have witnessed evidences of God in our own lives, and we invite others to obtain their own personal witnesses to the truth of our message.
The second issue I have is that this person said that sharing their "knowledge" of this is their life purpose. There is nothing preventing someone from making that their purpose, and my thoughts aren't directed to claiming otherwise. I would however like to discuss how I view such a self-constructed purpose. What that message is, in all essentiality, is a message of sadness, of hopelessness, and of destruction. Trying to convert others to that belief is not a positive effort. It is to remove the comfort of belief in a loving creator, to dash the hope another has that they can be saved from a dark fate, to take the dreams of fragile hearts and call them pointless and empty. Even if such a thing was true, that there was no God nor ever would be, what good would it do to tear others down for the sake of knowing such a sorrowful thing? I say unto you, it would be better to let them live on dreaming in a temporary mote of happiness than to wound them with such an awful belief. If someone really does believe that to be their purpose, I plead with them for the sake of all things good in the world that they do not attempt to follow it, for it is no purpose worth accomplishing. I make an end.