Note: The following was originally printed in the May/June 2018 edition of Mormonism Researched. To request a free subscription, please visit here.
Ask just about any New Testament Christian what they look forward to after this brief life is over, and they will tell you of the anticipation of being in the presence of a personal savior who unselfishly bore their sin and punishment on a cruel Roman cross.
Christians who understand the New Testament concept of grace see their forgiveness resting entirely on Christ’s works, not their own. I think that is why Christians long to be in Christ’s presence, forever basking in the glory of His remarkable love. Do Mormons have the same desire? I even remember being told by one Mormon that an eternity “praising Jesus” would be boring to him. I have to assume he was not acquainted with Mormon 7:7 in the Book of Mormon. This passage says those in God’s presence will “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.” Though I am sure there are exceptions to the rule, most Mormons I have talked to rarely ever mention a longing to be with Jesus. Instead, when I ask a Mormon what they look forward to in the next life, the most common response is, “To be with my family.”
Lest you think such an answer can’t possibly be the norm, pay close attention to what James E. Faust, a member of the First Presidency, said in a conference message in 1998. “The Savior’s supernal gift to mankind gave us the opportunity for eternal life, but eternal life without our loved ones would be bleak” (“Eternity Lies before Us,” Ensign, May 1997, 19).
A similar notion is echoed in a short video clip that I have seen on numerous occasions when visiting a Mormon temple open house, including the South Jordan temple that was recently open to the pubic after being remodeled. Here, Mormon Apostle Jeffrey R. Holland says, “I don’t know how to speak about heaven in the traditional, lovely, paradisaical, beauty that we speak of heaven – I wouldn’t know how to speak of heaven without my wife, my children. It would, it would not be heaven for me.” It wouldn’t be heaven for him? Though I personally hope that all of my friends and loved ones will be with me in eternity, I can’t imagine heaven being bleak, or any less a heaven, as long as Jesus is there. If a Mormon can’t share that expectation, it could be that they don’t have the same relationship we as Christians have with our Savior.
It seems that if heavenly happiness is predicated on the presence of another human, a Mormon could be in for a disappointing hereafter. What if their spouse or loved one didn’t meet the high bar of “celestial law” due to some secret or unconfessed sin, or inability to be “truly repentant” as defined by Mormonism? In such cases the loved one would be assigned, not to the celestial kingdom where they are promised to be united with family members, but rather to a lower level, such as the terrestrial or telestial kingdom where family togetherness is not at all promised within a Mormon context.
And what about spouses who were married to men like current President Russell M. Nelson and his counselor Dallin H. Oaks? After the deaths of their first wives, both men were sealed for eternity to other women. A Mormon may assume that the deceased Dantzel White Nelson and June Dixon Oaks might not find this troubling, but can we be sure that other Mormon women in the same situation would be so accommodating? Will “heaven be heaven” if they must move over and share their spouse with another woman for eternity?
False religions do tend to distort what God originally intended.