The more I become an adult, the more I begin to understand the doctrine of my church more and more. Being a teacher, and now being a mother, has opened up my eyes and allowed me to glimpse at what it must be like for our loving Heavenly Father. And, the more and more I feel for Him, but the more and more I am so grateful for such a hopeful church.
I have been Mormon all my life, as you know. Throughout my life, I have heard from friends, Internet, articles, history, school, literature, etc. of heaven vs. hell. I have read and heard of ministers preaching brimstone and fire. I have seen and learned of religious men and women who have the fear—terror (not the fear-respect) of God. I have felt for my friends and characters who mourn lost ones who failed to join their religion because they believe they won’t end in heaven.
What a relief for me in what I and my religion believes. We have a more hopeful outlook in the afterlife.
Christ died so that we may live. Through His Atonement, He gave the greatest gift to mankind–GRACE and the hope of eternal life. In the LDS Church, we believe that after the say all and end all, after the end of the world, the Millennium, the Judgement, and the ultimate success and triumph of Christ and Heavenly Father over Satan, there is a wonderful plan for us. (Click here to read more about the Mormon view of the afterlife and the 3 degrees of heaven.) We don’t believe in “heaven” and “hell” in a traditional sense. But, we do believe in 3 kingdoms of glory. The highest is where God and Christ have domain and where the most righteous of His followers will live forever after. Then, two lower degrees, both of which are still better than any life known here on Earth. Even the sinner, the murderers, the bad guys have a chance to repent and accept Christ as their Savior and the only Way in the after life.
This is because if we mess up, if we sin, and of course we will-we are mortal men, we have the opportunity to repent and to receive His grace and forgiveness. There is no limit to the amount of times we can repent and use His Grace. How hopeful is that!?!
God is our loving Father. We truly believe that He is our literal father and we are His literal children. Because of this, He cares so deeply for us. He is not truly a vengeful God. Yes, the Old Testament describes Him as such, but do you really think that God would change between the Old Testament and the New Testament? God does not change. But, our understanding of Him does. He knew that we would fail constantly to our carnal and mortal weaknesses, and because He loved us so much, He sent His only Begotten Son, Christ, to atone for us. God loves us as children because we ARE His children. Therefore, although He may be very, very exasperated at us, He still loves us and desperately wants us to succeed and return to Him.
I am coming to understand this more and more with each passing year. Being a teacher to junior high students really opened my eyes to this characteristic of a long-suffering, disappointed, but still ever-loving God. Teaching is all I ever wanted to do when I grew up. It was (and still is) my passion in life. I immediately formed a loving, caring bond for each and every one of my students. My goal was to help them succeed. And, as a teacher, after getting to know them and see their work, I could tell what their potential was. I knew what their abilities were. I knew what they were capable of achieving. Of course, God knows that about all of us–He created us!
But, alas. I taught 12-14 year old kids. Of course many of them didn’t care about school work. Of course many of them weren’t living up to their potential or ability. It exasperated me. I wanted so badly for them to succeed because 1) I knew they could, 2) I knew it would relieve them and make them happier. I would tell my students that I knew they could do better. I told them how much I wanted them to succeed. I explained to them that I didn’t like their current grades, it twisted my stomach. But, that their current grades going home on report cards should be a lesson. Tomorrow was a fresh start. Tomorrow they could try again. Tomorrow we could forget about yesterday’s failed test or forgotten homework, or misbehavior. Tomorrow we could and would do better. Many times, I’d give them a second chance–I’d extend deadlines, I’d allow them to correct tests for points back. I would always plead with them to take the opportunities I was giving them. However, I never forced them. It was their decision. They already knew what was expected, and they had their agency. Many never did, even though in class they would promise to do better, they would promise to submit a paper, promise to do corrections, promise to get a parent signature. A few did, a few would apologize even though they did everything I ever asked and more. I knew there were some who really did struggle but always went above and beyond in their effort. Those were the few that I really cherished. I used them as examples. I wanted them to help lift up and encourage their peers. There were times I’d be very passionate in my lectures about wanting them to do better, about their potential, about giving them second chances. Many times I would warn it was the last time I was going to give them this opportunity. But, I’d still offer it on other assignments. It hurt when they didn’t try, but I never gave up being hopeful.
Can you see how I believe I am beginning to understand my Father in Heaven better? He has given us all agency. He has given us all commandments and expectations. Sometimes we fall short. He asks us to repent and to change. We promise to do better. But, then fall short again. He admonishes us to do better and forgives us again. We promise to do better and then fail again. He warns us to repent and change. We do…for a short amount of time. But, I cannot emphasize enough the amount that He loves us. He loves us so much that He has already given us the knowledge that He will triumph. That we have a hopeful future. That we can always ask forgiveness, receive Grace, and try again and become better. That we will be with Him afterwards.
What a hopeful church I belong to!