Tuesday, January 12, 2016

This Is the Street That Never Ends

Several years ago, I became aware of the books of a particular Mormon writer. I think his books have a lot of wisdom in them, but they're not the pronouncements of church leaders speaking in a leadership capacity, so one should take care to treat them accordingly. I think the writer himself totally got that, but some of his fans make me wonder.

More recently, I became aware of this writer's blog. The writer has since died, and his blog transitioned to posting older writings he'd done. When that source was exhausted, a spin-off blog began for his fans to post their work of a similar mien. Some of these things are helpful, but some of them seem too hagiographical for my taste. The writer's no longer here to say, "Stop it, dudes, you're getting weird," so some of the fans' weirdness has increased.

It's tricky criticizing the fans' writing because it is mostly very personal thoughts and experiences about their interactions with the Spirit of the Lord. I'm not saying anything they relate isn't true; I'm just saying there are times when I think, "I'm not sure you should have shared that."

Anyway, recently I read a blog post from a man sharing his family's experiences with having some of their children die. In that post, he shared some thoughts of post-mortal missionary work (see 1 Peter 4:6). This man said it was his opinion that one of his children died in part to provide additional labor in the missionary effort among the dead ancestors whose names he had submitted for temple work.

This got me thinking about the nature of post-mortal missionary work, because his assumption of how it operates was so different from my own. He seems to think there's a backlog of work to do in the spirit world. I wasn't so sure. First, I thought, we are told that whatever temperament you obtain in this life will be your spiritual temperament in the next life (see Alma 34:34). This leads me to believe that missionary work among the dead is no more and no less successful than missionary work among the living. However, I think the credibility of the philosophies of men will take a big hit when you open your eyes after death and see that most of them were wrong. Honorable people who had been blinded by the craftiness of men (see D&C 76:75) no longer will be. That should mean a large increase in missionary effectiveness. So I guess the deciding factor in which way I lean in this would be whether I feel large amounts of my temple work has been efficacious. I have never really had that feeling. That could be as large a condemnation of me as it is an indication of my ancestors' receptiveness (probably a larger condemnation of me, actually).

Anyway, I came to the conclusion, as with so many other things in life, I'm projecting into the post-mortal life my understanding of the conditions of mortality. It makes sense; I have no other frame of reference, so I have to bring it back to the things I know. It's like telling a child that an airplane is a big car that goes in the sky; an aeronautical engineer would be aghast, but it communicates to the child the essential elements of what's happening when you're in a plane.

So I'm projecting my earthly experiences, and my earthly experiences with missionary work lead me to believe that post-mortal missionary work is an eternal string of broken appointments and tracting. So, so much tracting. Imagine tracting a street that never ends. That's how most streets on my mission felt, but now we're talking about how it will actually be.

Other people had different experiences on their missions (they're the ones who go around saying actionable untruths such as "the best two years"), and so they will project a different picture. Which of us is right? Well, I'm almost never right, so you should bet on the other dude.

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