The following was originally printed in the Nov-Dec 2012 edition of Mormonism Researched. To request a free subscription, please visit here.
When speaking of the hereafter, Mormons are much more inclined to anticipate spending eternity with family members. Rarely will Latter-day Saints speak of an excitement to be in the presence of God. Take, for instance, the following statement from Mormon Apostle Jeffrey R. Holland in a video shown at numerous public Mormon temple openings: “I don’t know how to speak about heaven in the traditional, lovely, paradisiacal beauty that we speak of heaven – I wouldn’t know how to speak of heaven without my wife, my children. It would not be heaven for me.”
No doubt many Latter-day Saints listening to this probably think to themselves, “Ah, he loves his family. Isn’t that nice?” And while I am sure that everyone would like to see loved ones in heaven, to say it would not be heaven if they were not there exposes a huge theological problem.
Many Latter-day Saints have verbally stated that being in the presence of God and worshiping Him forever seems dull and unattractive. It is not uncommon to hear a Mormon complain about an eternity “simply praising Jesus.”
When you hear a Mormon make a comment like that, there are a couple of ways you can respond. One, you could explain that being in the presence of Jesus may not be appealing because they may not share the same love and admiration for Jesus that you do. Christians tend to have a deep appreciation for the gift of salvation because they realize that despite their personal offenses perpetrated against God, He has graciously and mercifully forgiven them of their sins. Like the woman in Luke 7:37ff who bathed Jesus’ feet with her tears and anointed His head with oil, we love Jesus much because we appreciate the fact that He has forgiven much.
Two, you might explain that the Book of Mormon never speaks of eternal family units similar to what we have here on earth, but it does speak of the redeemed giving endless praise to God. Mormon 7:7 says, “And he hath brought to pass the redemption of the world, whereby he that is found guiltless before him at the judgment day hath it given unto him to dwell in the presence of God in his kingdom, to sing ceaseless praises with the choirs above, unto the Father, and unto the Son, and unto the Holy Ghost, which are one God, in a state of happiness which hath no end.”
To paraphrase Jeffrey Holland, for those Mormons who would be bored offering endless praise to Jesus, the heaven described in the Book of Mormon “would not be heaven for them.”