Zelophehad’s Daughters

The University of Heaven

Posted by Kiskilili

I’ve never been to heaven, and will likely never go. I imagine my application will be consigned to the dumpster outside the Pearly Gates without much ado; my letters of recommendation are hardly stellar, my scores on the Holiness Records Examination are rather lackluster, and my statement of purpose is unfocused and tentative.

Even so, I like to speculate that heaven houses the grandest of all universities (and I mean that in a fairly literal sense).

Given the number of years I’ve spent in school, it astonishes me how little I actually know, about anything. (“Sometimes I amaze even myself.”) It’s rather embarrassing, actually. Frequently I wish I could start over. And work harder. And learn something of substance this time around.

But I’m not always sure I want to be eternally enrolled in real courses, at an earthly university, where producing papers on time sometimes requires all-night stints over packages of chocolate chips, and bothersome and often painful debt is often the only feasible route to earning a degree. This in turn means that finishing the program becomes imperative (as opposed to lollygagging around several fields, which I infinitely prefer).

The University of Lollygag, that’s what I hope to find in the hereafter. Featuring a low-pressure environment lacking any time restraints whatsoever. The university in which the performance element of education has been abolished.

I don’t want to wake up on the Other Side and be able to speak Georgian, without expending any effort. Nor do I want to have lost interest in speaking Georgian or other earthly affairs. I want the process of learning–temporal learning–to still be available, but with infinitely more resources and possibilities.

The only way I can avoid weeping over my school’s catalogue is to hope that, in some way, I’m ensconced in eternity, and that possibilities will open up there that have never been available here. Visions of beatific choirs of angels praising God unceasingly for eternity leave me vaguely uneasy, as nice as they sound. Sometimes I worry that nothing interesting will matter anymore once we’re dead.

I think I want a heaven where discussions can still be had, discoveries can still be made, and art of some kind can still be created because the platonic ideal is yet out of reach.

28 Responses to “The University of Heaven”

  1. 1.

    Of course it will be like that. I think life is like that. I always feel like I have learned important things each day. Real life may not have papers to turn in but the performance element is there and I think it is a good thing. Why not use Georgian if you’ve learned it? And isn’t it in the process of using it that you improve it?
    I think that when I die I will still have plenty more to learn and I look forward to it. I think it will be fun.
    I sincerely doubt that we’ll sit around singing all day if we don’t really want to. I think we’ll have all the fun of learning and working without all the pain mortal life can bring. I just don’t see God putting us on earth to have these experiences just so we can die and be completely bored.

  2. 2.

    You’re interested in learning to speak Georgian, K.? Here’s a very short dictionary. How to say good-bye in Georgian:

    “Y’all come back now, hear?”

  3. 3.

    Oh, and —

    “I like to speculate that heaven houses the grandest of all universities.”

    Me too, K. If it didn’t, it wouldn’t be so heavenly, would it? I’ll bet the library kicks butt, too.

    A corrollary is that I hope there’s at least a decent branch library (and perhaps an okay selection of online courses) in other portions of the netherworld. You know — just in case . . . ;)

  4. 4.

    This in turn means that finishing the program becomes imperative (as opposed to lollygagging around several fields, which I infinitely prefer).

    I love the statement, and totally agree with it. I am also waiting to attend the University of Lollygag in the hereafter. I used to plan what I was going to do in the millenium — like learn how to build really awesome old wooden sailing ships (like the Constitution), and build one and sail it. I figured if I have a thousand years, I could do that, along with a number of other things. I think my DH was a little horrified when I told him about my plans. I think he thinks we’re going to spend the entire thousand years in the temple or some such thing. But I can’t imagine a heaven where I don’t get to learn (and get some experience with) all these things I’ve always wanted to know.

  5. 5.

    Kiskilili, the University of Lollygag sounds like a fabulous University. Maybe there will be different universities for different personality types? Like the University of Heaven–Lollygag, the University of Heaven–High Performance, etc.

    Vada, your comment made me laugh so hard (the whole millenium plan and DH reaction) that I nearly spit out my mint. :)

  6. 6.

    The University of Lollygag, that’s what I hope to find in the hereafter. Featuring a low-pressure environment lacking any time restraints whatsoever. The university in which the performance element of education has been abolished.

    This reminds me of a funny Dilbert cartoon. I can’t find it online so I can’t link to it, so please bear with the description:

    First panel, Catbert speaking to boss with horns:
    “I’d like a job where I can telecommute every day.”

    Second Panel, Catbert continues:
    “It should be high paying, yet have goals which can’t be measured.”

    Third Panel, boss to Catbert:
    “So, you’d just stay home and we’d mail you checks?”

    Fourth Panel, Catbert replies:
    “Well, I was hoping for direct deposit.”

  7. 7.

    The notion of a Celestial Studies program has its appeal, but how do we fit that in with 1 Corinthians 13? It says that knowledge itself will pass away, along with prophecies and tongues (v. 8 ). But even more mysterious is the comparison between present and future knowledge made in v. 12:

    For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

    I think none of us will deny the darkness of our current knowledge (particularly those of us who’ve been in school most of our lives), but what of this acquired divine knowledge? How is imparted? Will it be immediate, as with the change from mortal to immortal (1 Cor 15:51-53)? Or is this the promise of theosis only after a lengthy enrollment in the School of Higher Learning?

  8. 8.

    I just don’t see God putting us on earth to have these experiences just so we can die and be completely bored.

    Beautiful, JKS.

    That’s too funny, Mark. That sums up my ideal job quite nicely. On separate occasions I’ve seen one sister search for a job as a professional poetry reader and another as a mattress tester. Alas, neither was successful in landing her dream job.

    Kaimi, I do hope heaven’s amazing library has interlibrary-loan privileges with hell’s library (and, most importantly, vice versa!). Maybe some of the heavenly courses are cross-listed in hell, too. Maybe there’s even an opportunity for Endangered Scholars in the program in hell to study abroad for a semester . . .

    I “reckon” I’ll be “real proud” if we can study both American Georgian (y’all come back to the next shindig, y’hear?) and Caucasian Georgian (ყოველი საიდუმლოჲ ამას ენასა შინა დამარხულ არს“ – იოანე-ზოსიმე) at the same time. Or maybe the published heavenly catalogue will fail to clarify, and it will be a surprise to all who sign up which language is actually taught. :)

    I love it, Vada! Definitely the program should include fun hands-on projects we don’t all have the opportunity to learn here, like building and sailing wooden ships and learning to do full-twisting double backs off a balance beam.

    Good idea, Seraphine.

  9. 9.

    Oh, Kiskilili, I want to enroll in the University of Lollygag. I’m having the worst semester of my life in my university here on earth. At the moment I don’t feel in love with my program so much as enmeshed with it. I’m exhausted, sick of it all, nodding off in class, plagued by almost pornographically vivid fantasies of sleep, warm beds, and soft pillows.

    Yet I’m also high from pulling all-nighter after all-nighter and reading and writing at the very limit of my sanity. And no degree of present misery can kill that hope of the wonderful next semester or the weeping over the catalogue. It’s painful how many fascinating fields there are that I’ll never even get a peek at.

    Vada, I’d love to sail around the world in the next life, but unless I have some serious influx of talent and interest, you may have to be the Nephi who builds the ship. I promise I won’t laugh and jeer at you if you promise not to shock me with your divine power. I would even do helpful things like bringing you piles of building materials.

    Blasphemy to follow: I cannot imagine spending 1,000 years on family history and temple work. Bleach. Clearly I too am unfit for heaven.

  10. 10.

    That’s exactly what worries me, Septentrionalist. And what about this passage?

    Zephaniah 3:9 For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the LORD, to serve him with one consent.

    Are there still different languages after death? Do we even communicate in an “imperfect” medium like language anymore? I for one would miss it. I don’t want to be twinkled instantaneously up into heavenly knowledge. I worry that in the presence of absolute Truth, there will be nothing left to say. I don’t want to lose interest in “falsehood,” so to speak.

    (Maybe God is creating imperfect planets to keep himself entertained, because perfection is so boring?)

  11. 11.

    Sign me up! I would love to attend the University of Heaven. I’ve always been immensely comforted by the possibility of eternal learning; it’s made it a somewhat less bitter pill to swallow that there are all these classes here on earth that I’m simply never going to have the chance to take.

    I do sometimes wonder, though, what a theologian might study in such a place. Will we be obsolete, gone the way of heart surgeons and morticians? Or will theology be more central than ever, as we contemplate the divine mysteries?

    I’m also excited about the heavenly library. Do you think it will be like the library in Robin McKinley’s Beauty, and include books which haven’t yet been written?

  12. 12.

    You are SOOO Mormon…

  13. 13.

    I checked the Hebrew on Zeph 3:9, and the “pure language” is literally “purified lip(s)” [שפה ברורה], probably referring to the ability to speak God’s praises rightly, though at certain times I wouldn’t mind having a purified form of Hebrew downloaded into my head. Back in seminary, we were told that we’ll all be speaking Hebrew in heaven anyhow, but that guy was kind of odd.

    For my part, I find it kind of disappointing when the song in Revelation 7:10 by “a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues” comes out in Greek (η σωτηρία τω θεώ ημών τω καθημένω επί τω θρόνω και τω αρνίω). I don’t want to hear everyone speaking Greek! Why can’t we have a repeat of Pentecost with everyone speaking their own language? Of course we know that everything in Revelation is meant to be read in a crassly literal sense.

  14. 14.


    Interesting question on books not yet written. I hope so. Then I’ll be able to read Harry Potter 7, before it comes out. And the third Eragon book. (No mocking over Eragon!) And find out what happens after the Dune series. And, I suppose, learn whether the Wheel of Time series ever really ends, or whether it just grows by one more book, a half dozen minor characters, and four new subplots biannually.

  15. 15.


    That’s a very good question about the Wheel of Time. There are currently so many characters and plots that “if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.” ;) It may indeed require a heavenly library.

  16. 16.

    Maybe we’re each writing the story of our lives into the heavenly library. I like some of the plot twists in mine, but I must say that I thought it would have gone somewhere by now. Many hundreds of chapters in, the story still doesn’t seem to have got off the ground properly. =)

  17. 17.

    Regarding the interlibrary loan privileges in the afterlife, I suspect that it works this way: In the Celestial Kingdom, you can get any book directly. In the Terrestrial, you can get any book, but you might have to wait a while and you can only keep it for three weeks. In the Telestial, you have to wait even longer, and you can only keep it for a day. In outer darkness, you can’t even get the books themselves. All you can hope for is blurry photocopies that have been run through a fax a few times so that it makes your head hurt just to look at them.

  18. 18.


    I don’t want to wake up on the Other Side and be able to speak Georgian, without expending any effort. Nor do I want to have lost interest in speaking Georgian

    That would have come in handy, though, at a deposition I took this week of a native Georgian speaker. We finally had to settle for a Russian translator when we couldn’t find a Georgian.


    I’ve actually written Jordan over the Wheel of Time series, and he has realized what he was doing and promised to get it under control and end it. He has already closed some plot lines off, so there is hope he will keep his promise. At least he still has the same conclusion in mind as he had when he started the series.

    Maybe I’ll read Eragon after all.


    I think the scripture has more to do with our ability to perceive, as a reflection of being purified, and the knowledge that comes from that experience, not suddenly having all knowledge.

    Life here gives us a framework to learn against. The afterlife is a place to integrate and learn, not a place where we no longer need to. Consider missionary work, for example, or why we all have to study theology in the next life.

  19. 19.

    I watched the baseball movieBull Durham again last night and had to laugh at the coaches temper tantrum in the locker room after yet another tough loss:

    “You guys…you lollygag the ball around the infield. You lollygag your way down to first. You lollygag in and out of the dugout. You know what that makes you? Lollygaggers!”

  20. 20.

    I’ve never been to heaven, and will likely never go.

    I think that is the best line I’ve read in a thread in a while.

  21. 21.

    “I have always imagined that Paradise will be a sort of library.” Jorge Luis Borges

  22. 22.

    The Univeristy of Lollygag sounds like my kinda school. Where do I sign up . . . er wait a sec . . .

  23. 23.

    I think you’ll be just fine- and Heaven is personal, by my reckoning- we get what we need… I second what JKS said:

    I just don’t see God putting us on earth to have these experiences just so we can die and be completely bored.

    Who wants to float around in perfection anyway? I’ll be at Lollygag U right along with you, and probably a good many others. Heaven without art? No thanks!

  24. 24.

    Ziff, with some work we might get that included in D&C. :)

    Stephen M, I’m still not convinced that the future acquisition of knowledge is not, in fact, a sudden thing. There’s a sense in which the divine encounters we have recorded in Scripture tend to put an end to questions rather than opening new paths of inquiry. Think of the end of Job, where he stands before God after listening to a few chapters of “Where were you when…?”, and his only response is, “I place my hand over my mouth.” Or think of the end of C. S. Lewis’s Till We Have Faces where Psyche says:

    I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer. You are yourself the answer. Before your face questions die away. What other answer would suffice? (p. 308)

    It’s almost as Kiskilili feared previously, that the desire for certain forms of learning may no longer be present. I can only believe, though, that God would not cut off from us something we currently find so delightful unless he were to replace it with something unspeakably better.

  25. 25.

    Hermeneutical sidenote: I personally don’t accept something as “true” just because it appears in a sacred text (Lewis is not part of my personal canon, though I recognize many Mormons have virtually canonized him), so I’m still unconvinced we can rely on isolated scriptural passages to develop an adequate model of post mortem epistemology or communication.

    Obviously, “lip” is one well established way of referring to language in biblical Hebrew (a usage continuing right into Modern Hebrew). But why exactly does God “(over)turn” the language–is the author referencing pre-Babel speech? We post-structuralists can only flinch reflexively at the notion that language is anything but a construct; what exactly could make one language (arbitrary symbolic system) “purer” (okay, fine, “more purified”) than another?

    And what does God’s answer to Job mean? Every scholar understands it differently; it raises more questions by far than it resolves. It’s ironic if divine encounters in scripture shut down inquiry, considering that these very passages are opening up so many fruitful avenues of inquiry for earthly readers. Having no more questions sounds suspiciously similar to lobotomization, in my opinion.

  26. 26.

    Bruce R. McConkie’s Seven Deadly Heresies notwithstanding, I’ve always been attracted to the idea that even God is still progressing in knowledge. (For those who like to play GA ping-pong, I believe that Brigham Young taught that–though as we all know, BY taught a lot of things.) I read scriptures such as the one in Job as conveying our inability to fully express the divine in human language, not as silencing all further questions. I actually imagine that such a transformative encounter would enhance our ability to learn. (For this reason, I’m delaying my study of several fields, such as quantum mechanics, until I reach Lollygag University. ;))

  27. 27.

    In junior high I told a few of my friends what I am going to do “on the other side” (haven’t really thought about it for years, but hey it still sounds fun!)–build a moon rocket from scratch! You know, hit rocks together to make fire, roast some charcoal, dig ore from mountainside, smelt ore, make tongs, hammer, files, etc.,–it’s a bit of work from there up to a drill press or a band saw, and a bit of work from there to the electronics one needs. I would need to build an oil refinery for kerosene, a truck or two to haul the fuel, etc. I figured it would take me, oh, a thousand years or so? Launch was tentatively scheduled for March, AD 3082 I believe. There would be room for a few passengers. A little bit more ambitious than refurbishing my friend’s MG . . .

  28. 28.

    [...] And what are the people in the Celestial Kingdom doing, exactly? Rumor has it that they’re busy as bees. No contemplative heaven for Mormons; there is always more work to be done. Missionary work, in particular—which, truth to tell, I’m not very fond of here on earth. (Though I will admit to some curiosity about what it looks like in the next life. Will there be atheists in the world to come?) But in the lower kingdoms perhaps you can be more of a slacker, can hang out and catch up on all the books and movies you didn’t get to in this life, perhaps even take a class or two at The University of Heaven. [...]

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