Sunday, August 14, 2011

This life is the time!

Today during my elder's quorum meeting, we discussed the post-mortal spirit world. Upon arriving at the topic of baptisms for the dead, we were posed a question, that I have been posed many times before. Why, if people will get an opportunity to hear the gospel in the spirit world, is it necessary for us to do missionary work in this life? Well my internal cogs started working, just as they had every other time this question had been posed to me. Every time anyone had asked me this question before, I was content to state, "Because repentance is easier in this life, while we have a physical body, than it will be in the spirit world, when we have no physical body." This answer had been sufficient to me for most of my life, but today it felt like it was lacking, like there must be something more. So after sharing these thoughts, I continued to ponder on the subject and a bit of greater understanding came to me.

Firstly, we know that those who have passed on from this life will have the same passions, appetites, and attitudes that they possessed in this life. We will be the same people we are on this earth. Those who are addicted to cigarettes or alcohol will still crave such when they pass from this life, however they will be unable to satisfy their cravings. This understanding of the post-mortal existence is not specific to members of the LDS faith, as is very elegantly illustrated by Dante's "Inferno", but in our day and age, it is a widely discredited view of the next life, particularly among people of my generation. Those of us who do understand this, however, recognize that there will still be need for repentance after this life if it is not achieved during our time on earth. Again, however, the question resounds, why must it be this life?

In order for us to understand the idea of repentance in the life after this, let us examine the process of repentance as it occurs in this life. Ultimately, repentance can be initiated for a number of reasons. A person could be repenting because they were discovered in their sins and are compelled to go through a repentace process. Perhaps a person fears the wrath of God befalling them. Perhaps they are concerned that they will be condemned to a lesser glory after this life if they do not do the things that are required. All of these are valid motivations for repentance, but are these motives catalysts for true, sincere, and complete repentance? The subjects of King Benjamin, in the book of Mosiah, chapter 5 verse 2, state that they have had a mighty change wrought within their hearts that they "have no more disposition to do evil but to do good continually". True repentance will yield these results. Would repentance under the above addressed motives be considered true repentance? Of course, repentance of any kind will bring us closer to God and can eventually lead to true repentance and ultimately sanctification, as the people of King Benjamin experience. However, the truest form of repentance grows out of a desire to serve God and to follow His will out of sincere love for Him and all that He has given us.

So operating with this understanding of repentance, we see that true repentance is coincident with absolute obedience, a principle that very few are capable of living, but all are capable of achieving if we so wish. But ultimately, if we are to succeed at this, we must DECIDE to be obedient. We must CHOOSE to follow God, no matter what. So this brings us to a deeper understanding of what people will go through after they have passed from this life. When people have passed on, they will have the same desires and attitudes they had in this life. Therefore, those who have cultivated and attitude of obedience to God and a desire to serve Him, will be received into His rest. Consequently, those who have cultivated an attitude of rebellion, or a desire to do wickedness, will still continue in opposition to God, despite being assured of His existence and His will.

In Chapter 46 of the Gospel Principles manual, it states that even during the millennial reign, people will continue to practice their religions of other faiths. How could people, knowing the truth, still continue to put faith in a religion that they have practiced their whole lives, when the Savior of the world stands before them as their supreme ruler? It has been said that people will ask God, during the millennium, if they can continue to practice their own religion. Why would this be so? Because the attitude that they cultivated was not an attitude of total obedience to the Lord. If their attitude was total obedience, they would forsake all their sins and incorrect interpretations and cling to the Rock of Salvation. Even among members of this church, there will be countless concourses who will remain in their stubborn ways and choose to cling to some of their sins.

Let us consider, for a moment, a statement made by the prophet Amulek in the book of Alma, chapter 34 verse 32. "For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold, the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors." What are our preparations? What are our labors? When we meet God, what will we need to be prepared for? When we come to see the face of God and stand to be judged, what are we to have performed with our labors? Of course, good works will be weighted against bad. But again, those who have repented shall have their bad works washed clean and the Lord will remember them no more. However, are good deeds that are performed under unrighteous motivations still considered good deeds? We can't be the judges of such. But one thing we can be sure of, if our hearts are one with God, then we, having been sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, will be received into His presence to dwell there for all eternity. And if our heart is not one with God, despite any good intentions and motivations, we are still in rebellion to His will, because we seek to follow our own will, or to become a law unto ourselves instead of following His law. And the turning of our will to God begins with an attitude of obedience. Therefore, our labors in this life, our preparations, must be to cultivate an attitude of total obedience to the Lord and His commandments.

So, why is it important for us to perform missionary work in this life if an opportunity for repentance will be given after we have passed on? Because this life is the time for us to learn to turn our will to God. We all need to be seeking in this life to turn our will to God's. Because when we are no longer possessed of a body, how are we to perform the things that are necessary to humble ourselves and turn our lives to Him? How can we choose to seek for things that are not of the world, when we are unable to partake of the things of the world? How can we exercise agency over physical appetites when we have no ability to succumb to physical appetites? And how can we choose to accept God if we chose to reject Him in this life?

Chapter 41 of Gospel Principles, the chapter about the post-mortal spirit world, begins by explaining that we will dwell in the spirit world until "...our mortal bodies will once more unite with our spirits, and we will receive the degree of glory that we prepared for." PREPARED for! Not the degree of glory that we earned, or that we deserve, but the degree of glory that we PREPARED for! That we CHOSE to obtain, by our actions, by our faith, by our obedience!

This life is the time for us to choose where we want to be, to perform the necessary labors for such, and to prepare to receive the glory that we chose to attain to! We have been given this life as a grounds for such preparation, and so have those of our friends who have not heard the gospel! They just don't know it yet! This is why missionary work is so important in this life! Let us all help our friends to prepare for the glorious day of the coming of the Lord, so that they, hopefully alongside us, will be able to stand before God and by their attitude of total dedication to the will of the Lord, enter into His rest, to receive the blessings of eternity that God seeks to give all of us! 

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