Mormon Heaven is Just Hell by Another Name

I read “9 Reasons to Stop Being Afraid of Mormons” a few days ago, more out of curiosity than anything else and, honestly, I didn’t think much of it. Its author, Brittany Mullen, attempts to explain some of the “weird things” that people have heard about Mormons and why those things shouldn’t prevent people from thinking that Mormons are “cool”. She attempts to placate and inform non-Mormons without saying much at all, telling half-truths and skirting around issues so as to avoid too many questions that would no doubt expose her as being the last person on earth who should be explaining Mormon doctrine. Judging by the comments at the end of her blog entry the only people she really impresses are Mormons themselves. This is understandable because Mormons like hearing other Mormons mirroring their own beliefs, as it somehow miraculously validates them.

1. We Don’t Think You’re Going to Hell

Now I had initially intended to address all 9 of Brittany’s reasons, and I may well do so eventually, but I found that I had a lot to say about her first reason to stop being afraid of Mormons, more than enough to create a satisfactory blog entry.

She actually says very little about Mormon hell, choosing instead to link to an article by Elder B. Renato Maldonado that explains the three degrees of glory, but what she does say caused an emotional reaction in me, which I put down to my strong dislike for the topic, built up over years as an active Mormon. She writes:

…unlike many other churches, we don’t think that means that everyone who doesn’t believe the things we do is going to Hell.

This is one of my very favorite elements of the LDS church, actually. Our view of heaven is one of the most inclusive, merciful concepts of the afterlife I’ve ever come across. …

Amazingly, this is all she says. I’m not sure why, but I can hazard a guess that the sum total of her inner-most ponderings on the subject are just as few as the words she’s using to explain why certain individuals who don’t believe as she does are not going to end up in hell. I invite her to correct me on this. It’s staggering that she thinks that her few words – oh, and an article! – will explain what she views as simply a misunderstanding of doctrine and will make her look cool. It’s actually insulting that she thinks such an important topic warrants so little, and she does herself few favours by linking to Maldonado’s article because all that says to me is she doesn’t have a mind of her own – this is what a male LDS leader says, so she happily concurs. I would have preferred to read her thoughts and reasoning on the subject. After all, she claims in her entry that she is able to “unequivocally dispel” incorrect ideas about Mormons, but, in this instance, she lets somebody else try to do it.

I couldn’t disagree with her statement that the Mormon “view of heaven is one of the most inclusive, merciful concepts of the afterlife” more strongly if I tried. Her declaration irked me a lot, as it touched on a nerve. I spent quite a bit of time thinking about the afterlife as a Mormon and I ended up concluding that spending an eternity in any of the three kingdoms of glory would be a hellish nightmare. Of course, I tried to ignore my dissident thoughts, but it was very difficult to do so. On the surface I can understand why she would view Mormon heaven as “most inclusive” and “merciful” but it’s evident that she hasn’t thought much about it. In typical Mormon fashion she instead chooses to enthusiastically receive the sales jargon that silkily spills from the mouths of LDS prophets and apostles without question. There are ramifications to Brittany’s beliefs that I’m confident she hasn’t thought about. I seriously think that my own complete annihilation is preferable to inheriting any kingdom of glory. Let me try and explain my line of reasoning, and why I would think such an awful thing.

Mormons conveniently believe that humankind is under a God-given veil of forgetfulness that blocks people’s memories of their pre-mortal existence. This veil enables people to exercise faith in Heavenly Father because it takes away any and all memories of Him and Heavenly Mother. If people had memories of their lives with their Heavenly Parents before they came to earth, there would be no test or trial in the here and now. But eventually, this temporary veil will be lifted and our memories will come flooding back, and we will find that we can perfectly remember our pre-earth life and everything that entailed. Including the great love and devotion that we, as eternal sons and daughters, had for our Heavenly Parents and each other, and there’s the rub that would turn an inheritance of a lesser unimaginable glory into a living hell.

Most people won’t be able to return to live in the presence of the Father and Mother, because they will have done something while on earth that negates them from ever living in Their presence again. Drinking coffee, maybe. They will be judged as undeserving and cast out of the celestial kingdom and so will be assigned to live forever in a lower kingdom, which appears mightily ironic to me. Because while God demands that we treat each other with love and respect in mortality, at His judgement seat He is willing to forgo love, forgiveness and mercy, preferring to damn and crush His own spirit offspring with an eternal weight of punishment for something they did or didn’t do while in mortality. Nothing, absolutely nothing, we could ever do while on the earth could justifiably merit an eternal punishment. This is not justice, this is monstrosity.

He is the one who put the God-damned veil of forgetfulness over us in the first place, so surely He has to take the blame for us not believing in Him, choosing the wrong church, being sceptical about His very existence because of a lack of evidence and even forsaking Him when trials come and He offers no obvious support or relief, etc. The veil is a mitigating circumstance that demands that we be found not guilty. If He truly wanted us to return to His presence then He shouldn’t have placed such a huge impediment in our way, and to make matters even worse, He’s blessed us with brains that are designed to use reason and logic and not faith as a tool for understanding. Yet faith is how we supposedly find Him. None of this makes any sense whatsoever. Is it any wonder that I’m now an atheist?

Anyway, I can’t help but wonder how glorious it will be for those who are condemned to live forever in the terrestrial and telestial worlds, especially whilst remembering again the deep love they had for Father and Mother only to be rejected by Them outright. It’s difficult to imagine anything more painful and heart-wrenching, and even if you manage to find yourself in the second lowest kingdom your Heavenly Parents will never, ever visit you there. But Jesus will. Also, you haven’t just lost your Parents but many, many close familial relationships. Now where is the glory in this? Is the Mormon view of heaven still “the most inclusive, merciful concepts of the afterlife”, Brittany? Or is this actually hell? This is all hugely ironic considering the LDS Church touts the concept of forever families.

I really detest all of this talk about how glorious the lower kingdoms will be. Seriously, I doubt any amount of glory will counterbalance the colossal amount of loss that lower kingdom individuals will be feeling now that the veil of forgetfulness is gone, nor the huge regret of not doing things differently while on earth. I’m sorry, but I find it immensely difficult to see the glory here, neither the mercy of an all-loving Father. I see cruelty in its worst form. There is no glory where Parents and children are completely separated for all eternity.

I said earlier that I thought that all three kingdoms of glory would be a hellish nightmare, so I just want to clarify this statement. Obviously, I don’t like the idea of ending up in the celestial kingdom either, where everybody will eventually be a perfect clone of everybody else. Mormons are taught that they need to be on the road that will eventually lead to being as perfect as their Heavenly Parents. Perfection is a destination that I would never want to arrive at. Give me the journey any day. Perfection in heaven seems to be nothing more than the discontinuation of challenges, learning, individuality, progress, fun, wonder and amazement, discovery, excitement, among many, many other things. In short, being perfect would bring to an end everything that makes me feel truly alive. In my opinion, Mormon heaven – all three degrees of it! – is just hell by another name.

Mo’ Bugger

Being an Individual in “the Lord’s Only True Church”

As a serious convert to Mormonism I consumed every bit of information about the beliefs and practices of the LDS Church that I could lay my hands on. I thoroughly believed that I had become a member of God’s only true church on the earth and, after considering the amount of churches there are in the world, this was something that I found amazing. I was actually humbled by this realisation. So I wanted to know everything I could about the Church and understand how my newly-found faith would impact on my life. I was a brand, spanking new “golden” convert, an empty vessel, and I needed filling. Also, feeling somewhat inferior to other church members in my ward, I wanted to attain the same level of gospel knowledge and understanding that they had. I guess I thought that that would somehow cause me to feel less ignorant when I was around them. I wanted to fit in, and increasing in gospel knowledge was a good way of achieving that, I believed. It was very exciting and somewhat daunting all at the same time.

This is what I would later think of as my honeymoon period. It seemed to last for quite a while. I was as happy as I thought I could be. I was serving in callings, got married in the temple and served in more callings. But, somewhere inside me, I knew that my relationship with the Church couldn’t feel new and exciting forever. It had to end sometime. So the monotony of church life finally got the better of me, and I was suddenly in quite a predicament.

I was like everybody else in my ward, entirely consumed by life within the Church. But I didn’t like it. I had no idea that my efforts to harmonise with other members would come with unwanted consequences. It was not at all what I had expected. Though, if I’m honest, I’m not sure what I was expecting. Perhaps I thought that it would just feel right, considering I was trying to fit in and be an active part of God’s church.

But it appeared that the Church resembled a huge black hole that swallowed up any and all individual enterprise. I felt utterly oppressed by the “follow the prophet” meme because I resented being bulldozed into capitulation. The immense pressure to conform was suffocating. No one had a voice of their own, but repeated what they’d been told in the correlated lesson materials and at General Conference, or in the Ensign. I found myself pondering, more and more, whether or not God wanted lemmings for followers and, if so, I wasn’t at all comfortable with it. It was very disconcerting, and I began using my testimony of the Church to bolster my allegiance to it. For a time my feelings and thoughts of dissension ceased. But my testimony had gone from being a peaceful confirmation of a divine truth to being an irritant that imposed a combination of rewards and punishments to extort customary church-behaviour from me.

I again immersed myself in church living, but the one-size-fits-all model that the Church provided continued to be hugely problematic. I still found it very difficult to match my attitudes, my beliefs, and my behaviour to group norms. But I was convinced that the Church was true and so I began to constantly berate myself for valuing my individualism more than giving up my whole self for something that just didn’t sit well with my personality. Uncomfortably, I admitted to myself that I needed to follow the President of the Church as he was God’s mouthpiece and be obedient to my local leaders. I concluded that obedience was the key.

So I made a concerted effort to homogenise, telling myself firmly that it was for the greater good. But as soon as I felt my individuality slipping and literally being lost in religion, I would retreat and resist. It seemed that I had issues with fully committing to the Church. I became increasingly annoyed with myself. Looking for a reason to explain my attitude, I became convinced that it was all the devil’s doing, so I sought God’s help through prayer and repented of what I believed was my prideful nature. I thrust myself back into church work, magnifying callings, regularly visiting the temple, researching my family history and so on. It was a very difficult and emotional time for me, but I was committed to getting through it. I wasn’t going to be beaten by a trial of faith.

But, deep down, I did feel like I was being beaten. Well and truly. The frustration that I felt because of my unwillingness to entirely commit to group dynamics soon turned to bouts of depression. I was at a low point. I became moody and short-tempered, which affected my relationship with my wife. For a time, it seemed like we were arguing constantly. Before long I hated myself for what I had become and for what I wasn’t. I couldn’t measure up and be a model Mormon, someone my wife could look up to. I was making her unhappy, and I despised myself for it.

I think she told me at one point that I was being excessively serious about the Church. I gave that a lot of thought, concluding that she was probably correct. But I couldn’t shake the thought that where I’d be in the afterlife and who I would share that with depended on what I did with my church membership in the here and now. That seemed pretty serious to me.

Because I completely believed that the LDS Church was the only church on the face of the earth with which the Lord was “well pleased”, you’d think that that would be enough of a reason to completely give in to Mormonism, sacrificing all and anything that held me back, but no. I honestly didn’t want to give up on what made me unique as a person, namely the totality of qualities and traits that make me who I am, and become identical to other members at church. I sometimes wondered how the truth could possibly set me free when I wasn’t free to be my true self. The Church wanted to expunge me and replace me with a member-clone. I couldn’t help but think that the Church wanted too much of me and thus began the cognitive dissonance that would plague me for the rest of my church life.

I eventually faced up to what I think I knew all along, I truly didn’t want to become another cookie-cutter Mormon. I thought that I would be much the poorer for it, even though I felt that I was going against an important tenet of the Church – becoming one with the Saints. I would often reason with myself and say that I could get by with a semblance of balance, but, in all honesty, I couldn’t. Without the real thing I would forever be conflicted within and faced with choices that I didn’t want to make.

When I think back on my church life, it’s easy for me to see that it consisted of a lot of yo-yoing between blind faith and reason. It was a battle, and reason appeared to be winning. I was certain that I was on the losing side because my “natural man” was unwilling to meet the demands of the Church. Consequently, I had become an enemy to God, and the thought of damnation in the afterlife was very real in my mind. So was the thought of losing my wife. There seemed to be no escaping the tremendous guilt-trip that was always before me.

Despite all of this I stuck with the Church and the dull repetitiousness that characterises the LDS lifestyle. I hadn’t lost my thirst for learning or my awe that I was a member of the True Church. Incredibly, I still believed. My testimony of the truthfulness of the Church wasn’t something I had a problem with. The only thing that had changed since my conversion was my wish to be like my fellow ward members. I just didn’t have it in me to sacrifice my personality for a lemming mentality. I hoped that God would have mercy on me in the hereafter.

My determination to remain an individual was the first rung on the ladder that would eventually lead to my apostasy. It highlighted a part of me that refused to get in step with accepted church standards or norms. It gave emphasis to a lingering niggle in my head that even though I was on the inside of the Church, and appeared to be in every way a member, I felt like an outsider.

Mo’ Bugger