I wish someone would start a project of taking members aside individually and asking them to describe their thoughts of what the next life will be like, then write an essay with the findings. A favorite LDS cartoon of mine (by Bagley or Grondahl, I can’t remember which) shows a husband and wife in the clouds of the celestial kingdom; the man with his feet up in a La-Z-Boy reading the newspaper, the woman ironing white robes. She says, “I dunno… I thought it was going to be, you know, different.”
While most Saints would probably admit they have no idea what it’s going to be like (although a few will give you an unsettling big smile and say, without a hint of thorazine, “It will be glorious!”), that doesn’t stop some of us from taking stabs at pet ideas. I’d like to think there’ll be amazing colors– I have difficulty grasping onto the idea that all will be bright white, like an Oxy-Clean commercial. And those robes. Will distinguishing garb suddenly not mean anything? Can we at least salvage our humor and get together Friday nights to chant, “To-ga! To-ga! To-ga!”? What kind of music will we listen to? Can I sneak in my Jethro Tull and Pink Floyd tapes? If we’re perfected bodies of flesh and bone does that mean there won’t be a thing left in the mansion to snack on?
When I think of heaven, rather than a holy homogenized environment, I think of a place full of personalized joys and sensual pleasures and heart-aching love demonstrated by a plethora of tokens. Then I step back and look at my perceptions, and an old hillbilly version of “Big Rock Candy Mountain” plays in my head. And I inexplicably sigh a sob, and then laugh at myself.
I did double-duty Temple Prep last Sunday, teaching one couple Lessons 1-3 at 4pm, and then just Lesson 3 to the regular class at 6pm. The first couple is so eager and excited to get their recommends, I could have told them the celestial kingdom is like a Fellini film and they would have happily nodded along. On the other hand, there’s a couple in the second group who agreed to take the class on the condition that it didn’t mean they had to have their recommend interviews afterward. The wife had a problem with sharing her husband after a helpful class visitor (and temple worker) volunteered that there would be more righteous women than men in the highest kingdom, and since everyone there would be married… She was like, “Wait a minute!” This sort of situation is annoying to me (even beyond the fact that I wouldn’t have shared that golden nugget of thought). The woman knows the Church is true, goes every week, pays the tithing, yadda yadda yadda– and she objects to some quasi-doctrinal blurb like it’s a stipulation in a timeshare contract. I was like, “Hello! This is heaven! We have no idea what it’s going to be like, but we do know we’ll be happy beyond our wildest imaginations, and consider this– this earth life is a blip in our overall existence. Our priorities and values have been shaped and formed by a corrupt world, and they will be so adjusted, so different when we get back, the things we find important now will become utterly silly and insignificant (as I shot daggers at said helpful member).
What is heaven going to be like?
Does it matter?