Do You Want to Go to the Celestial Kingdom?


Do you want to go to the Celestial Kingdom?
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I have to admit that I’ve never been all that enthusiastic about the Celestial Kingdom. As a kid, I think I imagined it being like church all the time–not exactly an inspirational thought. And I find the scriptural descriptions of it to be rather off-putting. Streets of gold? Glory, thrones, and dominions? If a sign-up sheet describing a field trip to such a locale came around Relief Society, I’d probably decline.

I do realize that I shouldn’t read such descriptions too literally, that they’re an effort to describe the indescribable. However, that’s not my only concern. There’s the elephant in the room, of course—if polygamy’s being practiced in the next life, we all know in which kingdom it’s located. And if the patriarchal order is the highest law, is it possible that lower kingdoms might have a “lower law” of egalitarianism?

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.

Then there’s the problem of eternal relationships (currently being discussed over at New Cool Thang). I really like the idea of relationships that last beyond this life; I think it’s one of the most appealing aspect of LDS teachings. But what do you do if the people whom you most want to see in the next life are planning to be elsewhere? If you want to be a forever family, but not all of your family wants to be in the Celestial Kingdom, would it be better to strive to be in the Terrestrial Kingdom together?

A recent comment at FMH wondered about the attractiveness of a Celestial Kingdom full of Mormons, as opposed to a lower kingdom with more diversity. I must confess to having had similar thoughts at times. True, it’s certainly not the case that only Mormons will make it there—but the question remains: will they have to turn into Mormons to get in? I’ve met my share of spiritually ambitious church members who saw themselves as being on the Celestial Fast Track, and all I can say is that I think I’d prefer to spend eternity with a different demographic.

It also seems to me that too much of a concern with getting to the Celestial Kingdom can suck any enjoyment out of this life. I see it as somewhat akin to being in a class in which your overriding aim is to earn an A. If that’s where your focus is, it’s difficult to appreciate the experience of being there, or even to really learn anything. You have to constantly wonder if you’re making the cut-off, passing the test of mortality.

But then I wonder–what if it turns out that cats, being the divine creatures that they are, only roam the celestial realms? Or that chocolate is an exclusively celestial pleasure? Or that the Celestial Library has a much more extensive collection than those of the lesser kingdoms? If that’s the case, I might at least have to apply for a visit.


  1. You’re confusing the Celestial Kingdom with Paradise.

    It is in Paradise – that temporary place we go to before the final judgment – that “missionary work” is being done.

    All the folklore says nothing of such things being done in the Celestial Kingdom.

    Besides, the Celestial Kingdom isn’t really so much a place as a state of being. It is a place where we are one with the mind and heart of God and consequently, one with the universe. It is where humanity “transcends” and moves on to the next higher state. It is probably closer to that freaky Star Child stuff in 2001 Space Odyssey than it is to pearly gates and golden streets.

  2. My wife and I really want to be in the CK, and are striving for it, but we don’t honestly care if our siblings make it there.

  3. If I will be happy there, then I want to go there. If I won’t be happy there, then that’s not where I’ll be.

    I think I’m not celestial material.

  4. ed42,

    That’s exactly the relationship God is trying to have with us.

    Nothing is ever truly yours until you are willing to cast it upon the waters and see if it will return to you. That is what God has done with us.

  5. Good point, Seth; I did kind of conflate the two. I should get my folklore straight–popular Mormon mythology speaks of those in the CK as going on to create and populate their own worlds, rather than continuing the labor of missionary work. So maybe instead I should be worrying about the prospect of giving birth to billions of spirit children. (Though due to my failure to get married I would presumably be relegated to ministering angel status, so perhaps that shouldn’t be a concern. Unless I’m invited to join a heavenly harem. 😉 )

  6. I have no desire to be a ‘king’, to have subjects, to be worshipped, etc. I want equals. I want to be with those who truly “love your neighbor”. I don’t want to be around control freaks.

  7. Ahh…Cats??? MY Celestial Kingdom will have NO ANIMALS! Yeah, I have some reservations about the whole deal…

  8. It was very liberating for me to realize that I no longer desired the celestial kingdom. At the same time I don’t begrudge the people who are so eager to get there.

  9. Let me just say that I want to be in the CK if only for the purpose of keeping all of my parts.
    In case you’re wondering, there’s this rumor of TK Smoothies that makes me think that I won’t be “whole” in any other kingdom. 😉
    Aside from that, though, is the polygamy thing and I’m not so sure about that. Perhaps just a simple, “you’ll be happy” is the best description.
    Great post!

  10. Yes.

    I have a strange faith. My faith changes from moment to moment, from passionate and beautiful and sustaining, to virtually nonexistent. My testimony is kind of like that slippery jello that someone is trying to nail to the wall.

    In times of doubt and despair, I have a mantra that I repeat over and over: “God is good. He knows everything and he is good. God is good. I don’t know everything, but he does. And he is good.” When I come across something that seems to portray him as arbitrary and power-hungry and discriminatory, I sometimes believe it, which leads me to a really, really bad place emotionally and spiritually.

    When I’m at that awful place, I just keep reminding myself that our knowledge is limited, but that He is good. If the celestial kingdom sounds miserable, if God sounds like a sexist tyrant, etc., then I have to assume that our perceptions are wrong. The reality is good. I don’t claim to know any details, but I believe that God is good, that he loves us, and that an eternity with him will be good. Very, very good.

    I have felt the Spirit, and it is beautiful. It is loving. It is good. I just can’t believe that behind that Spirit is a Father who would consign me to an eternity of misery, if I really try my best here on earth to follow and love and serve him. I can only worship and love a God that I believe has my best interest at heart. If I can’t make that concept jive with any particular LDS teaching, I think it’s the teaching (or my understanding of that teaching) that must be wrong. I have to cling to the core belief that God is good and loves me. That is my testimony, as gelatinous as it is.

    I hope I make it to the celestial kingdom, and I hope you all do, and we have an eternity to live in God’s love, to feel exquisite joy, to continue learning and growing, and to be wonderful friends.

  11. Lynette, this post is AWESOME!!! I just had a very funny discussion with my father-in-law on this very thing. He just flat out says he wants to go to the telestial kingdom, cuz maybe there’ll be trucks there. His wife hates him saying that, so his comeback is that she can still go to the CK as one of Joseph Smith’s wives (which she is secretly thrilled about).

    The other gripe my father in law has with Celestiality is the requirement to give agency to all your creations. In his world, he often says, if a guy even thinks about hurting a kid — poof — he is outa there (he was a LA county sheriff for 35 years, so…). “I don’t know how Jesus does it,” he says.

    As for me, I know that celestial means “heavenly” and terestrial means “earthly” but I’m still trying to figure out what “telestial” means — and especially where it came from. I looked in 1 corinthians 15. It certainly didn’t come from there.

  12. After too many lessons at church that my husband will have more than one wife and I will have children there, no, I don’t. I guess I look at it and don’t see that as something I want to do for eternity.

  13. I don’t think that everyone in the celestrial kingdom will have to be in a polygamous relationship. The reasons I think this is that 1-God wants us to be happy (I don’t there are many people who think, “What I really, truly want when I die is to be in a polygamous relationship.”) 2-With all the emphasis on agency I think that God will let us choose who we will be married to. People often frame this discussion by thinking about the fact that they don’t want their husband to also be married to someone else. I do think about myself and how much I would hate it, but I also think about the potential second spouse. Doesn’t she deserve better? Who would want to be a “second wife” forever? Wouldn’t she rather have her own husband and wouldn’t God want her to have that too? Also our temple president has told on a number of occasions that one of the requisits for being married forever is wanting to be with that person. I think that even in monogomous relationships if we die and don’t want to be with the person who we are sealed to we won’t have to be. I don’t think that God is going to say, “Too bad, you have to be with this person forever.” or “Ok, but if you give up this marriage you will have to go to the Telestial Kingdom.” That just doesn’t make sense to me or fit in with how I veiw God.

  14. Outstanding, Lynnette.

    Right now, I’m very much enjoying reading Good Omens:The Nice and Accurage Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch. The plot is about an angel and a demon who have been assigned to earth to influence humans in the direction of either heaven or hell, but who have both come to feel at home with humans and their failings. When the word comes that Armageddon is about to happen, they conspire to prevent it, so earth can continue. The book is really, really funny, like when the angel and the demon argue over whether heaven or hell is best. The finally agree that hell has better music because it has Beethoven and Mozart, while all that heaven can offer is Sir Edward Elgar. But there are some insightful parts, too, like when Crowley the demon concludes that the hell humans put each other through is so much worse than anything he can devise, but that they are also capable of a sort of breathtaking grace that heaven can scarcely imagine. And often the same person is involved in both. He chalks it up to “that blasted free will the Maker gave them”.

    I guess I’m saying that the very Mormon way of looking at the next life as an extension of this one makes a lot of sense to me.

  15. Mark, I second the recommendation of Good Omens. It is, as you said, alternately hilarious and thought-provoking.

    I think you raise interesting questions Lynnette, most centrally this one: But what do you do if the people whom you most want to see in the next life are planning to be elsewhere? There’s a tension between our focus on family relationships in the Church and our subdivided afterlife. As you so well ask, when getting into the best subdivision conflicts with getting in the one with people you like, what do you do? I suspect most Christians don’t have this problem given their less explicit doctrine about continuing family relationships in the next life and their dichotomous afterlife.

    For myself, I think I would rather go where the people I love go, wherever that may be. Given the rumor I heard that Joseph Smith said that the Telestial Kingdom was so great that if we saw it we would kill ourselves to get there 🙂 (anyone else heard that one?), I suspect I would be happiest where most of my family and friends were.

  16. Given the rumor I heard that Joseph Smith said that the Telestial Kingdom was so great that if we saw it we would kill ourselves to get there (anyone else heard that one?),

    Yes, many times. Once even from Lisa and Bart on The Simpsons (although if memory serves they were talking about hell and how scary it is).

    Wouldn’t complete anihilation be the most merciful afterlife? To just stop — rest — be done — no suffering — no retribution. Not trying to be a Nehor here or anything, I’m just saying…

  17. What an absolutely awesome and interesting post! It wasn’t until about a year ago that I wondered if all this striving for the CK was really what I wanted. And now I wonder if I would be happy in the CK. I just have never been super Mormon-y– and I’ve grown up in the church, BIC, etc etc. Yet I’ve always felt oddly enough not part of it as much as I’ve tried and sometimes think I’d like to (life would be so simple if I just followed and knew that the church held all the answers). The culture of the church just completely blows me away. I don’t fit there at all. So… I’m thinking that the next kingdom is more for me…? So, if God is reading this, I’m not begging to be in a lower kingdom per se. I’ll just try to be mostly good here (with my few weaknesses that I just don’t want to give up– i.e. I refuse to wear garments, sometimes enjoy a good latte, and can swear like a truck driver) and I guess He’ll put me where I should be. But if there is polygamy and endless work in the CK, I’ll opt for something else.

  18. I kind of view my choices thusly:

    CK … endless progression. If I can “get in” and then have an endless choice of options for my future, that’s my numero uno goal.

    The other two kingdoms … there may be some progression, but eventually the options would come to an end. I see them as ‘limiting’ kingdoms.

    But with all that said, I’d love to hear more about our post-mortal life options. We don’t often hear about the three degrees in General Conference. When will the prophet expound more on this subject (or any subject for that matter)? I’d love to hear more juicy details about this topic in April or October.

  19. “Given the rumor I heard that Joseph Smith said that the Telestial Kingdom was so great that if we saw it we would kill ourselves to get there (anyone else heard that one?),”

    Yeah, that’s pretty-much just a rumor. He never said that.

    I think there is a lot of low self esteem going on here.

    Come on guys. The good news of Christ and His Atonement is that ANYONE is potentially “Celestial material.”

    The Atonement works at giving all resurrection and glory in the afterlife (at some degree or another). But it ALSO works to make you “Celestial material” each and every day.

    It’s not like the Atonement was a one-time resurrection ticket and now you’ll have to work for anything extra you get.

  20. I envision a place where we are completely free to be ourselves, no macking, no sarcasm, no looking down, no fear of others but a place where we can truly just be ourselves.. That alone makes it a place I want to be. I envision a place where we can be united, a community one in purpose, with all things common. Competition will be replaced with cooperation, sharing, and true rejoicing, even glorying in the accomplishments of others. I can’t imagine anything more beautiful.
    And the best part of all is the promise of the atonement, that as long as this kind of state is something we are striving for, we will make it. Christ will transform us into something Celestial, comfortable, beautiful. I think all these things are what draws me to Christ, to Christianity. It’s the teachings. The church may not always be a fun place now, but can you just imagine what it would be if we all lived what Christ taught. This isn’t something to be feared, but embraced..

  21. Yeah, that’s pretty-much just a rumor. He never said that.

    Thanks for the debunking, Seth. Perhaps I wasn’t clear enough that I was kind of laughing about it. See this comment at New Cool Thang for a more complete statement on it.

    I think you’re misreading several of us if you think considering not wanting to go to the CK is a self-esteem issue.

  22. No macking, Doc? Then what are we going to be doing with all those wives?

    Sorry, don’t hate, but I find this funny — no sarcasm, we can all truly be ourselves, united with one purpose.

    Bad news for the sarcastic people, right? They can be themselves somewhere else I suppose.

    Guess that’s where I’ll be.

  23. The good news of Christ and His Atonement is that ANYONE is potentially “Celestial material.”

    Yeah, that’s pretty much just a rumor.

    I think there is a lot of overly high self-esteem going on here. 😉

  24. Todd, for what it’s worth, Mormons think that those in the Terrestrial Kingdom also get the presence of Christ, so those who aren’t sure about the CK haven’t necessarily given up on Jesus. 😉

    Thinking about this actually makes me realize–despite my various heretical views–how very Mormon I am in some of my assumptions. I believe that relationships with other human beings have significance in and of themselves; they’re more than means for developing Christlike attributes or practicing charity or building one’s relationship with God or what-not. So I’d be dissatisfied with any notion of the next life in which those relationships didn’t continue in a meaningful way, in which (as some traditional Christians believe), heaven is only about your relationship with God.

    Of course, that gets me back to one of my original problems, which Ziff also mentioned in 16–what if the existence of different kingdoms is what poses the ultimate threat to those relationships?

  25. Seth, I’m very much in sympathy with the point you’re making. I’m pretty big on the whole grace thing; I don’t believe in “exaltation by works,” so to speak. No one, as I read LDS theology, is going to be in the CK without the transformative power of Christ, and that power is available to everyone. (If there’s a bit of LDS folklore that I really dislike, it’s the idea that we were already celestial, terrestrial, or telestial, and we’re just on earth to find that out for ourselves. Yeesh.)

    That said, I deliberately didn’t make this a poll about “do you think you’ll qualify for the CK.” My interest here is in whether people find the idea of being there to be an appealing one. One might actually think that excessive high self-esteem was being displayed by those who say no, since we seem to think we know better than God what constitutes eternal happiness. 😉

  26. The problem of describing heaven in a way that makes it sound appealling has been around for a long time. While wearing togas all the time sounds pretty good, playing harps and signing in choirs for eternity doesn’t do it for most people (no matter what the streets are paved with).

    As you said, most people have figured out that these descriptions are efforts to describe the indescribable. You seem to suggest that your other concerns are not covered by that observation, but I think they are. Is being worried that there will be polygamy in heaven all that different than being worried that you don’t like harp playing? In the end, we are just trusting God to help us be as happy as possible.

    I think the suggestion that the telestial is egalitarian and more desirable for those of us with modern sensibilities than the oppressive patriarchy of the celestial is somewhat bizarre. If you are making the point that patriarchy and polygamy don’t sound very “heavenly” to you, then I understand that fully and sympathize. If you are worried that in the end, when all is revealed, you actually will not want to be with God in the celestial kingdom, then it seems such a worry is rooted in an unspoken distrust of God and his ultimate goodness. To genuinely be worried about this there seems to be a underlying concern that God is a misogynist, not just from our limited perspective, but when all things are revealed and we see as we are seen, and know as we are known. I have a hard time understanding that concern.

  27. I appreciate all the responses–I always find it interesting to hear how people conceptualize the next life.

    Jane, thanks for a moving comment. On my less cynical days, that’s my hope as well.

    ed42, I too have little interest in being some kind of heavenly monarch. And I don’t know what to make of it that of all the images one might choose to describe the next life, things like “thrones” are so often invoked in the scriptures, with their connotations of ruling over people.

    Jana, thanks for your perspective; I can very much see how it could feel liberating to have that realization. I think in some ways I’m in a similar place. One of the questions I’m wrestling with is how to make the idea of heaven a positive, rather than a grim, “this life determines your eternal fate so you’d better not mess it up” sort of approach.

    Myka, heh, I thought someone might object to my glib assertion that cats will be in the CK. But I stand by it! Though lesser animals like mosquitoes may well be assigned to lower realms.

    queuno, your comment raises a question I’ve wondered about–is it possible to be in the CK and not want everyone else to be there with you?

    jessaway, yikes, I’d forgotten about the TK smoothies–a teaching I actually learned in seminary. (Freud would have had a field day with that one!)

    Ann, I’ve often heard that we’ll end up where we’re the happiest–e.g., those in the TerK wouldn’t be happy living a celestial law so it won’t be forced upon them. I’m still sorting out my thoughts on that; my concern is that it too easily slides into the deterministic, people are innately Cel/Ter/Tel, problem that I mentioned above.

    Really, I don’t get the three kingdoms thing. Why three, and not seven, or a hundred? I suppose it corresponds nicely with the Trinity. But can all of humanity really be neatly split into one of three general types? Here’s one of my pet heresies: I kind of wonder if D&C 76 isn’t more of an attempt to convey the diverse nature of heaven than to give a literal roadmap of all the possibilities.

  28. I guess for me the Celestial Kingdom means I want to be who Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ want me to be, with my wife and children there with me. I want to be in an open loving happy relationship with them where we are all happy with and trust each other.

    That’s all it really means to me, and I do want that. That’s the way it was put forth, I believe, in the missionary discussions as what is centrally important and true, and so the rest either fits that image or is false, in my view.

  29. Lynnette, There are only 3 kingdoms, but many varying degrees within them according to the scriptures, the CK itself has 3 “heavens or degrees” within it and Joseph Smith described the glory of the Telestial kingdom as varying as one star to another.

    The word “telestial” may have greek roots in teleos or telos, which have reference to the words “last” and “disciple”.

    I believe that this post may be missing the point a little bit. Heavenly Father is the being that loves you the very most. He wants you to return to him and has promised eternal joy to those that do. The place to return to is the CK. I believe that Separation from the Father would be torment, as Todd said above. As we find ultimate faith in God’s goodness I believe it is possible to believe that we can go, and feel truly joyful in the Celestial Kingdom. We want to be where we are loved most, and there is no doubt (at least in my mind) that we would have the most love in our lives there.

    Questions of Patriarchy, Polygamy, Power, Position etc. do not really deal with the issue at hand, (mentioned above) do we believe God is omnipotent and loving enough to create a place where we will be comfortable and truly happy? He claims to want us all to return to him and join him in that eternal abode.

  30. “We want to be where we are loved most”

    This reminds me of that news report of a study that said people preferred winning or having less money overall, as long as they had more in comparison to the people around them. For example most people would rather be the only person to win 200 dollars rather than win 500 dollars while the guy next to them won 600.

    I think that might be part of the worries about patriarchy & polygamy in the CK, I’m really not quite convinced that God loves me as a woman as much as he loves men. Do I want to be loved equally, or I do I want to be loved more? Could I be happy being loved a whole lot while my husband is being loved a whole lot more? Or would I rather be a little less loved overall, but loved the same as everyone around me?

  31. I believe that relationships with other human beings have significance in and of themselves; they’re more than means for developing Christlike attributes or practicing charity or building one’s relationship with God or what-not.

    Exactly. The doctrine of sealing, however elusive or however incompletely we understand, places our relationships with others, with our families and with the whole Human family right up to Heavenly Parents, at the center of our soteriology. Those relationships are ends in themselves and not just means. And although we know very little about what the respective kingdoms are actually like (a void we fill with speculative folklore), my own suspicion is that the relationships we most value and, indeed, all human relationships reach full fruition only in a celestial context. God’s glory consists not in His patriarchal elevation above His innumerable creations or in His infinite superiority; it consists primarily in His ability to elevate less-superior beings to His level–to bring to pass their exaltation. That’s a definition of divine glory utterly inimical to earthly inversions or perversions of notions of power, exaltation, glory, dominion, etc. But to the extent that we superimpose our hierarchized and power-saturated, this-worldly visions of glory onto the CK, it sounds like an utterly abysmal place. The good news is that such a place would never be frequented, much less celebrated, by the Savior.

  32. If you are worried that in the end, when all is revealed, you actually will not want to be with God in the celestial kingdom, then it seems such a worry is rooted in an unspoken distrust of God and his ultimate goodness. To genuinely be worried about this there seems to be a underlying concern that God is a misogynist, not just from our limited perspective, but when all things are revealed and we see as we are seen, and know as we are known.

    Yep! Pretty much sums up my view, anyway. Except that my distrust of God is spoken, rather than unspoken. If we take our doctrine seriously we have plenty of reason to suspect God is a misogynist.

    I don’t necessarily want more love from God than other people, but I want to be loved as an agent and a subject rather than a tool and an object.

  33. I’m another who tends to think the three degrees of glory are symbolic of the infinite degrees of glory that is to come upon us in the next life. The highest, most celestial degree of glory being one in which are hearts are genuinely pure.

  34. Not only do I think that the three degrees are simply an attempt to convey the diversity of the afterlife, I think that D&C 76 describes not the final resting places of different classes of people, but starting places from which we will all go on to seek our exaltation, enriched with whatever knowledge and insight we pick up in this life.

  35. Seems to me that the first principle of the gospel, “Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ” come very much into play here. Can we trust Jesus when he says we will really, really like being Celestial beings or not? Some people do trust him, others don’t.

  36. These are all really interesting comments, but my favorite so far is from Jacob J:

    I think the suggestion that the telestial is egalitarian and more desirable for those of us with modern sensibilities than the oppressive patriarchy of the celestial is somewhat bizarre.

    I think that nails it. We can only understand these things through our current filters — our “modern sensibilities” — well put.

    TrevorM, if “telestial’ comes from Teleos or wherever, what is the significant implication for the naming of this degree of glory? And why are we associating “terestrial” with moon? It means “earthly.”

    Geoff J, I agree with the importance of faith and trust in Jesus, but first you have to have faith and trust in our LDS leaders — modern and historical — that they are actually conveying the true gospel of Jesus, and that can trip people up, too.

  37. Glenn (re #11), ha! Thanks for a comment that made me laugh. I hadn’t ever pondered in which kingdom the trucks might be located. Does this mean that the telestial kingdom might be the venue for Monster Truck Rallies?

    Tanya Sue and Beatrice, I’m not sure what I think about the polygamy thing. I don’t know what to make of the fact that it’s one of those issues where church teachings have really changed over the years; many nineteenth-century church leaders saw the practice as being absolutely essential for exaltation. These days, of course, we’re much more likely to talk about it as optional—if it’s even there at all. So were they completely off base, or are we? I would personally like to go with Eugene England’s view (polygamy was an earthly deal only); I remember being thrilled when I came across his essay on the subject when I was a teenager. But I will confess to some lingering doubts. The fact that we still practice “polygamy for the dead,” so to speak, isn’t terribly reassuring.

    Thanks for the recommendation, Mark IV! I think either Ziff or his wife mentioned that book to me as well; I’ll have to give it a try.

    Glenn (re #17), I’m actually kind of with you on annihilation maybe being the best deal of all. I’ve had moments of thinking that the LDS notion of intelligences being eternal (and therefore presumably indestructible) was the most horrifying doctrine possible. 😉

    Lulubelle, your sense of not fitting in is something I can very much identify with. And while on the one hand, I’m aware of the dangers of projecting mortality onto our notions of eternity, we also have teachings like Joseph Smith’s comment about the “same sociality” which suggest that there is some real continuity between this life and the next one. So I worry that if I struggle to get along with particular people here, there’s a good chance that things won’t be much different in the hereafter. (Though on a more positive note, maybe there will be more places to hide!)

  38. Apollo, I also like the idea of eternal progression. I’m not completely convinced that the lower kingdoms place eternal limits on such progression—but I realize that’s a debatable (and debated!) subject.

    Doc, thanks for your thoughts. I’m particularly struck by your comment about being able to be ourselves; it reminds me of something a Catholic-turned-UU acquaintance said to me once about the next life and what he hoped to find in it, something along the idea of being truly known. I think there’s something powerful in that.

    (Though I do have questions about how that works, because it seems to me that being ourselves here on earth is often what contributes to friction and lack of unity. And I’m not sure that can entirely be chalked up to sin or selfishness. Hmm.)

    Trevor, that’s true that there are teachings which indicate the existence of levels or diversity within the three kingdoms. But I’m still wondering what it means to classify all human beings into one of exactly three general classifications.

    Matt W, Brad, Eric, Rob, thanks for your thoughts on what this might look like. And Brad, for all my questions about the doctrine of sealing, that’s the aspect of it that I really like.

  39. I agree Glenn (#38). Non-Mormon Christians certainly deal with these kinds of issues too and faith in Christ (as in trusting him that “heaven” really is a desirable place to be) is surely what gets them by as well.

  40. I think Jacob J, TrevorM, and Geoff J all touch on a similar question–namely, if God loves all of us and wants our happiness, what is there to worry about? Why not trust him to bring that about?

    I started writing a long digression on the problem of female exaltation, but I think I’ll save it for a future post–especially as I didn’t mean for this one to be all that serious! But I think Starfoxy and Kiskilili raise some good questions about what it means to appeal to God’s love. And I’ll add this. In this life, males are given privileged access to God (e.g., they are given the power to act in his name, and their relationship with him isn’t mediated through their spouses.) How could a loving God exclude his daughters in that way? That’s not a question I have an answer for. But if a God who is said to love all his children and desire their happiness can implement such a system on earth—despite the pain it causes some of them—it seems eminently plausible that he could implement a similar system in the celestial realms. In other words, if the unhappiness of some isn’t preventing God from doing things a particular way here in mortality, why would things be different in the next life?

  41. Lynnette
    Good points about polygomy. It is confusing that teachings about this have changed a lot over the years. “Polygomy for the dead” is disconcerting, but we have to remember that these individuals freely choose to go through with the practice. What about the dead spouse? I don’t think that God will force her to be in a relationship afterwards that she had no choice in.
    I just used to think about a lot of scenarios where after you die God comes to you and commands you to enter in a polygomous marriage. I just don’t see this happening. If you make it to the celestial kingdom I think that reflects on your ability to choose wisely for yourself and I don’t think that God is going to be commanding you to do things all the time.

  42. Also, another thing that I just thought of that hasn’t entered this discussion yet is how gay members of the church feel about the celestial kingdom. Their options are to be with a member of the opposite sex or be with no one forever.

  43. It seems a good thing to think of marriage and family relationships as eternal because it causes Mormons invest more in those relationships. But it can also drive a wedge between family members who have celestial expectations and those who don’t. When I began distancing myself from the church I know much of my family’s sadness was that I would no longer qualify to be in the CK with them.

    In the meantime I’ve acquired many “terrestrial” friends and I’m feeling that if there’s an afterlife I might just have more fun hanging out with them anyways.

  44. Lynnette (#42): e.g., they are given the power to act in his name, and their relationship with him isn’t mediated through their spouses

    Oh good grief. Are you really going to trot those ridiculous arguments out again?

    Are you saying that women can’t have a relationship with God except through a spouse? So no single women have relationships with God? We all know that is poppycock.

    Further, other than a few ordinances in the church, what really useful ways of acting in God’s name are excluded from women? All of the gifts of the spirit are available to women including healing, prophesying, revelations, tongues, mighty miracles, etc. It seems to me that all of the good stuff is available and only a few administrative things are not currently available.

    This “whoa is me because I’m a girl” stuff doesn’t fly.

    (And yes, maybe I am trying to ignite another set of 200+ comment threads…)

  45. Geoff, I think you’re quite seriously misconstruing Lynnette here. The sentence you quote from her isn’t even an argument, let alone a “ridiculous” argument; it’s simply a pair of factual observations. Men do have the power to act in God’s name; women don’t in the same way (whatever you think of their priesthood status in the endowment, for instance, women don’t exercise the Aaronic and Melchesedik priesthoods as men do). And our ritual does construct a hierarchical marriage in which a woman’s access to God is mediated through her husband. In both cases, there are other mediating factors, to which I suspect you’re alluding, such as women’s and men’s access to God through prayer or personal revelation through priesthood blessings. However, the more troubling aspects of our doctrine and practice coexist with the more comforting aspects, and I think part of Lynnette’s point is that it’s somewhat arbitrary to project only those aspects of the gospel we find comforting onto the eternities.

    Nowhere does Lynnette say that “no single women have relationships with God”–so denouncing the suggestion as “poppycock” would seem to amount to knocking down a fairly transparent straw man of your own construction (or in this case, a straw woman).

    You’re certainly entitled to your views of God, the gospel, gender, and the eternities, and in the spirit of Voltaire we’ll vigorously defend your right to express those views. But to call others’ views “ridiculous” and “poppycock” is unwarranted. We’d politely ask that you couch your perspectives in more respectful language.

    Thanks for playing. Come back soon!

  46. Geoff, I was simply making the points that 1) women don’t hold the priesthood, and 2) men and women don’t make the same covenants. I realize we disagree about what those things mean, but I don’t really want to re-hash that argument here. My only point was that a system said to be implemented by a loving God for our happiness here is something I’ve experienced as painful–and that’s why the argument that a loving God will ensure our happiness in the next life isn’t necessarily reassuring.

    (Also, your tone in the above comment is over the line. Please cool it.)

  47. Sorry about the tone. I will indeed cool it.

    Eve — You are right that I was reading into Lynnette’s statement in my response. When she said men are given authority to act in God’s name I took that to imply that women aren’t given authority to act in God’s name and responded to that. Should I assume we all agree that women and men are given authority to act in God’s name?

    And when she said men’s “relationship with [God] isn’t mediated through their spouses” I took that to mean that the same isn’t true for women. I responded to that. So you think she meant something much less sweeping than that right?

    If it is any consolation to you, if I misunderstood Lynnette’s intent then I wasn’t calling her actual views poppycock and ridiculous, rather I was calling the arguments I assumed she was making poppycock and ridiculous.

  48. “and their relationship with him isn’t mediated through their spouses”

    Eve and Lynnette, this has been discussed thoroughly before, so surely you are aware of the offensiveness of such a claim. There’s a single covenant that is mediated through the husband, but it does not follow from that that women’s relationships with God are mediated through their husbands. There are no logical grounds for coming to such a conclusion from the covenant, much less from anything else in the gospel.

  49. Oh, good grief, Geoff. Are you really going to trot out those ridiculous arguments again?

    Are you saying no women really believe God doesn’t view them as fully human–since all people secretly think like you do there’s no point in civil interaction with people who “claim” to see things differently? We all know that is poppycock.

    This “nobody has a problem ’cause I don’t have a problem” stuff really doesn’t fly.

    You obviously don’t have to accept other people’s conclusions. But is it really too much to ask that you exercise faith that other people have genuinely and honestly reached different conclusions from you?

  50. Eric, this has been discussed thoroughly before, so surely you’re aware of the offensiveness of trivializing such a concern. Women are priestesses to their husbands, not to God. Women covenant to their husbands. God doesn’t actually ask Eve personally to covenant with Adam, he asks Adam that “she” (Eve) covenant. God stands in front of Eve and refuses to address her directly. God is male; there are no indications Heavenly Mother is part of the godhead. And this is all completely insignificant to our view of God and gender because . . . ?

  51. Thanks, Geoff. I do realize that LDS teachings about gender and power and access to God are quite complex, especially in the realm of actual on-the-ground practice. There are elements that I see as tremendously positive (e.g., personal revelation is available to everyone) as well as aspects I find deeply troubling (the aforementioned hierarchical marriage model embedded in our ritual). I don’t know how it all fits together; thus my ambivalence. But as I said, my only intent in raising the issues here was to try to answer the excellent question raised by several people of how someone could think that heaven might not be desirable.

    We can certainly do another round of “sexism in LDS theology”–I’ve got several posts in the queue, in fact, which could spark that. 😉 But my interest in this post was really more with how people think about the next life generally. (You might notice my restraint in limiting feminist issues to a single paragraph!) I’m actually quite interested in other questions as well, such as what sealing means, and which kingdom has the best library.

  52. Okay, given that the tone has become a bit heated, and we’ve now heard multiple arguments on both sides regarding the classic problem of what particular church practices and teachings mean about the eternal status of women, I’m going to ask people to drop that particular topic, at least for this thread, and stick to (other) wild speculation about the next life. If you have a brilliant argument to make about the feminist questions, no fear–I can guarantee that the topic will come up again in future posts here!

    [Edit: Actually, I think we’ve gotten sufficiently derailed that at least for the moment, I’m going to close comments. Thanks for your participation, everyone!]

  53. All right, anyone out there who felt deprived of the opportunity to add their two cents to this conversation–comments are now open again. But I will happily delete any attempts to continue the above argument. And a gentle reminder to all (including myself): our comment policy requests that you focus on your own experience and ideas (as opposed to what’s wrong with the other people in the discussion), and that you keep disagreements respectful.

    (This may simply reflect my current frazzled state of mind, but at the moment my biggest concern with the CK isn’t really with the patriarchy stuff. It’s more the fear of neverending activities. Will there be a kind of quiet neighborhood for the low-energy? The idea of eternal progression toward godhood actually sounds rather exhausting to me. In the next life, I think I aspire to the life of a cat–sleep 16 hours a day, with brief periods for waking up and snacking. 🙂 )

  54. Wow, I thought I was commenting on a dead thread. I just want to respond to Kiskilili’s #34 since it was a response to me and I think my comments will be within bounds (feel free to delete if you disagree Lynnette).

    There seems to be somewhat of a logical order in which theological problems must be addressed. The question of whether there is a God or not, and if so, whether God is Good or not, are very legitimate and foundational questions. I didn’t mean to trivialize them or belittle anyone struggling with them. It is just that the answers to those questions are logically prior to the concerns raised in the post. So, if the topic is whether we will like the CK, but we haven’t established whether God is Good, it seems to me that this post boils down to the old question about God’s nature even though it is dressed up in a different costume this time. I think that’s worth pointing out if that is, indeed, the situation.


    I think it shows an amazing degree of humility to seriously entertain the idea that God views you as a second class citizen. I am far too prideful for that and would probably reject my religion, or the scriptures, or God himself before going there. I am impressed by your humility in that regard.

  55. Thanks, Jacob!! I really appreciate your comment. Your approach makes a lot of sense to me, although I think God’s goodness is implicated in whether the Celestial Kingdom will be a pleasant experience. But I apologize to Lynnette and everyone else for derailing the thread toward feminist issues–I obviously have a serious temper problem that would likely bar fom heaven even if I were interested! I shouldn’t have been snappish.

    I can assure you it’s not humility I’m showing–more like obstinacy? 😈 But I really do appreciate your willingness to validate my concerns, even if we disagree.

  56. Jacob, I agree with Glenn that your #28 (and as you reiterated in #56) is an excellent comment. The question of whether we want to be in the CK does seem to boil down to whether God is good.

    I wonder if to conclude that we would enjoy the CK most doesn’t also require that we assume that God (1) has power to make the CK what he wants it to be, and (2) knows us well enough to make it a place we’ll actually want to be. I realize that these are both typically taken as axioms. I mention them because in examining my own thinking, I wonder if there isn’t some other point where I doubt some such fundamental principle. And now that I think about it, I wonder if for me, it isn’t doubting whether God knows me well enough to make the CK a place I’ll want to be. I may be reading too much into other comments, but I think some of them might be read in this light–if God thinks such a place is where I want to be, he clearly doesn’t really know me.

  57. LOL Kiskilili.

    I was just going to start arguing with Lynnette and get myself banned over whether dogs or cats are the most divine creatures. If the question is: Do you want to go to the CK? My answer is: Will they allow me to play frisbee with my dog?

    For my part, I appreciate the way you consistently try to describe your experience honestly without giving gratuitous offense.

  58. I think the TK will be more fun anyway. Kiskilili’s temper means that she’ll be there (as she notes above). Presumably, at least a few misogynist louts will end up there, too. At some point, said louts will make loud remarks about womens roles; K then will respond with nunchucks.

    Really, who would want to miss those kinds of fireworks?

  59. Jacob, thanks for reviving the thread with a good question, and especially for expressing it in such a calm and thoughtful way. You’re certainly within bounds; I was mostly trying to avoid a situation in which people (including me) recited the same arguments about the same feminist questions at each other for hundreds of comments until the thread boiled over. (Not that such a thing would ever happen here on ZD . . . 😉 )

    I agree that there are some fundamental theological questions behind this. I was actually reading an article this morning on salvation, and I was kind of amused when I happened across this observation, which seems strikingly relevant to this thread:

    “If salvation is a reality on the order of magnitude that we believe it to be, then it ought to strain the boundaries of our imaginations and the frontiers of our knowledge . . . It is a serious theological question to ask what is interesting and attractive about heaven.” (Mark Heim, “Salvation as Communion,” Theology Today 61 (2004): 322-3)

    The question of what exactly salvation (or Mormon exaltation means), and why it might be seen as attractive (or not) is one that really interests me. I think it’s fundamentally linked to questions of theological anthropology, of what it means to be human. Can we posit the existence of some basic universal human desire/aspiration that means that salvation (or, to put it another way, heaven) will–in some sense–consist of the same basic thing for everyone, and will be equally appealing to everyone? What kind of diversity might exist within that?

    But this is a bit of a tangent from your comment. I (for the most part, at least) believe that God is good, though I’m not unsympathetic to my sister’s concerns. But I’m still wrestling with the question of just what it means to say that– especially if God’s goodness isn’t exactly the same as mortal understandings of “goodness.” And that is likely at least part of the source of what unease I might have about the next life–so I’d agree with you about this being at least partly a question about the nature of God.

  60. In the Telestial Kingdom when Mark’s dog and my cat get in a fight, maybe we’ll even be allowed to joust on dragonback using devils’ tridents. (That is, unless Mark, the dog, and the cat are enjoying heaven’s tranquility.) Best not to go to heaven where I might not even be able to spar with the misogynist louts when they make their dang misogynistic remarks; that could cause smoke to come out my nostrils. No halo for me! Give me horns and a tail and leave me to my mischief!

    I wonder whether the people in hell provide entertainment for heaven’s denizens so they don’t get bored?

  61. Kiskilili, you know I love you more than my luggage. Obstinacy and all. But to be fair, I’m also complicit in where the thread went; I should know better than to make drive-by feminist assertions and then be surprised when they spark heated discussions. 🙂

    And thanks for the link! Even if it is clearly false doctrine. (Will there be pit bulls in heaven? I’m just not seeing that.)

    Mark, you could indeed be dangerously close to being banned if you’re planning to make the inflammatory assertion that dogs are more divine than cats. O be wise, what can I say more?

  62. “Will there be pitbulls in heaven?'” If Cesar Milan has anything to say about it, there will be. 🙂

    My point is this: heaven (or Paradise, or the CK) is not small. It’s not some teeny little place where 5 perfect people are forced to live together. It’s vast, eternal, limitless. And you can live there with your cats and let Cesar live there with his dogs and you never, ever have to talk to each other. But if you want to talk to each other, go to it.

    Agency will be alive and well.

    And I truly think there will be more fluidity between kingdoms than is generally discussed. Maybe when you died, you were at a telestial level, and will be most comfortable there, but as you come to accept the atonement more, you can progress from there. I don’t think anyone is ever ‘doomed.” Infinite atonement flies in the face of that idea.

    (I also have never heard that we were all telestial/terrestial/celestial from the start, and we’re just here to prove it. That’s just appalling.)

  63. Lynnette,

    I have to object to the anti-feminist assumptions inherent in the idea that women should ensure that threads do not go in the wrong direction. That seems dangerously close to the old notion of banishing women to the cellar with a spinning wheel, or its more recent cousins like the Beckian view that women should do all of the ironing. (What is ironing, really, if not keeping threads from veering off in the wrong direction?)

    It is the vanguard of hierarchy and patriarchy that would link women to the keeping of threads, cloth, and the sartorial. I urge you to defy those patriarchal norms, Lynnette, and boldly refuse to wear your traditional (neatly pressed) feminine mantle as straightener of the threads.

  64. Well kaimi, this man has some experience with thread. I used to cross-stich to bide my time when I answered phones as a reservationist for United Airlines. I made small bed-sized pillows for my in-laws one year for Christmas. One side was embroidered “tonight” — the other was embroidered “not tonight.” But anyway…

    It’s such an interesting discussion to ponder what people actually do in the afterlife, especially when all we can do is base it one what we think is “fun” or fulfilling or however we want to look at it from our current life experiences.

    Will I be required to do hometeaching in heaven? If so, is it really heaven?

    Will I have to go to church for three hours and be bored out of my mind, listening to the same reasons hashed and rehashed over and over again that prove why our church is true and other churches are not?

    Will I be able to laugh and joke around in heaven?

    Will I be able to play practical jokes and write April-fools blogs?

    Will I have to defend myself against people who are offended by my sense of humor — people who think that my sarcasm and mockery means I don’t feel love for the objects of my humor?

    Will I be able to remake the Star Wars prequels the way they should have been made, and get even more extended versions of LOTR on my DVDs?

    Will I be able to watch new episodes of Lost and The Office every night, and not have to worry about season hiatuses or writers strikes?

    Will I be able to fly, or turn invisible, or time travel to anywhere and anytime I want?

    Am I going to have to do missionary work, and invite my non-celestial-kingdom friends to dinner to meet the missionaries?

    Will I be able to keep the “tonight” pillow face-up on the bed all the time?

    Someone quick — write a letter to the GA’s — I really gotta know.

  65. Ziff (#58),

    That’s interesting. I have never thought of it that way. Rather than thinking of the CK as being tailored by God to make me happy (requiring him to know me perfectly and have the ability to make the CK be for us whatever he needs to make it) , I have always considered it to be someplace that is a certain way, but that all of us are sure to like if we can make it there.

    This lines up exactly with what Lynnette was ruminating about in the second to last paragraph of #62. I have posted several times at NCT about how I am committed to the idea of diversity in the celestial kingdom, so I think the question raised by Lynnette there is a very interesting one which I will have to think on more.

    In the last paragraph of #62 there is the mention of whether God’s goodness is the same as our goodness. I feel like there are some fundamental aspects of our sense of goodness which are non-negotiable, which if God tried to tell me I was wrong about I would just reject the goodness of God. For example, if goodness really turned out to mean taking pleasure in the suffering of others or creating certain humans in an evil way so as to delight in their eternal torment, I would just as soon conclude there is no God as try to augment my view of goodness. However, it is fully expected that we will have to change to become celestial and this will inevitably require us to learn and gain perspective which could alter our view of some things. That said, I am at a loss to define a criteria upon which I can distinguish between deal breaker aspects of goodness and those I am open to adjusting.

  66. Kiskilili,

    Jacob mentioned in #57 how truly unusual your perspective is. I wanted to ask you about it.

    Most people I have encountered who see logical problems with the assertion that God is all loving fall into two categories:

    1) Those who have personal spiritual/mystical experiences with God and come away saying basically “I can’t explain why this that or the other thing happens here on earth but the being experienced is all loving and all competent”.

    2) Those who don’t have personal experiences with God (or at least no recent experiences and old ones become doubted) who eventually say: “If there is a God then why is there all this evil/inequity I see? I just can’t buy that there is a God at all.”

    And thus the two sides look across the fence at each other with some sense of peace about their position. The theists lean on their experiences with a certain confidence that there is a God and that God loves them and is highly competent. The atheists/agnostics feel a certain confidence that they are simply following the evidence and have thrown off the shackles of ancient superstition. But both sides often have a measure of peace in their beliefs.

    But yours is an odd position. You seem committed to the idea that there is a God. But also committed to the idea that God must be relatively sexist and evil. So in a sense get all the angst and none of the peace that either of the camps I mentioned above enjoy.

    So my question is what makes you so sure there is a God? Have you had undeniable experiences with divinity? If so, was there no assurance in those personal experiences that God is both all loving and all competent?

    As I mentioned, your position is really foreign to me and I would love to understand it better. (Maybe here or in a post if you wanted…)

  67. Kiskilili, I don’t think it’s such an odd position. And my guess is that you don’t think God is sexist or evil (who build that straw man?) but you think the man-made structure around the gospel is. The insinuation is that if our doctrinal history is misogynistic and we don’t believe that God Himself is misogynistic, then there is a dissonance we are not adequately cognating. 🙂 That’s how I read it, at least.

    My bishop said something last week that I really liked. He pictures the gospel as the glorious insides of a building and the church as the rickety scaffolding around the outside of it. I want to take that analogy a few steps farther. We do the best we can with that scaffolding, but it is manmade, and imperfect, and sometimes it cracks and breaks — sometimes it can even be so rigid that it blocks the very doors and windows it is supposed to provide access to. But if you love what’s inside that building — if you have felt it to some degree and want further confirmation — then you can put up with the rickety scaffolding and all its failings.

    It is definitely possible to believe in a loving God, and have personal spritiual experiences to affirm that belief, and still have concerns and questions and doubts, and thus come away with a sense of angst instead of peace — the angst of wanting something to be true, of excersizing faith, but doubting at the same time. That is my experience, at least.

    Will we have blogs in the celestial kingdom?

    Will Apple manufacture the personal Urim and Thummim we all carry around that shows us everything that ever was or ever will be?

    (they could call it the iMim and Thummim — can I get that tradmarked now?)

  68. Is it wrong that I have typically looked at the three degrees as figurative rather than literal locations? (representing spiritual “distance” from our heavenly Father)

    I’ve always thought of it in relation to the amount of light produced, like being next to a light bulb, 20 feet away, or a mile away…

    That’s just me though…

  69. I believe Kiskilili is able to describe her own positions without you jumping in to answer for her so I’ll await her response.

  70. Friendly warning: I’ve already removed a couple of things that violate our comment policy, and I’m being trigger-happy with the delete button. Any and all commenters engaging in personal feuds or launching accusations at each other will be sentenced to jousts on dragonback, along the lines of #63.

  71. You’re right, Geoff, I do seem to be the only one in my personal theological camp! In a nutshell: I absolutely believe in God, as a result of religious experience, both positive and negative. And for the same reason, I believe God is involved in the Church. But I don’t see any solid reason to believe women have souls in the sense that women are full agents whose experience is worth validating. People who say they love you don’t necessarily behave in a loving manner, which is horribly emotionally confusing–they might be manipulating you. So I no longer have any desire to hear from God that he “loves” me unless he’s ready to put his money where his mouth is.

    Framing it crudely in the interests of concision: given the data that (a) God claims to be loving and (b) God apparently inspires things that look suspiciously like disdain, there are a few options: one might trust in God that this apparent disdain is actually a blessing and we’ll all be happy somehow in the end, even if it involves a lobotomy or a reformulation of what love or goodness means. Or one might privilege God’s love and suppose the disdain is uninspired/misunderstood. Or one might privilege the disdain and suppose that the love is uninspired/misunderstood.

    One rational reason for choosing the latter is that it protects you from being betrayed. I’m not going to be betrayed by God again because I’m not going to trust him.

    If you don’t think these are the data, then that’s another issue.

    Hope that sums it up nicely! And now back to the general topic of heaven before the Bouncer throws me out on my ear from contributing to a threadjack . . .

  72. Glenn, I definitely hope you’re in my kingdom! (Come over to the dark side!) Maybe we’ll be able to play practical jokes on the angels–maybe we’ll even be able to steal their halos to use as frisbees to play fetch with Mark’s dog . . .

  73. Thanks Kiskilili. That does help.

    I actually think this gets to the heart of the topic at hand too. If God can’t really be trusted then why should we trust we’ll like the Celestial kingdom? (Whatever “going to the Celestial kingdom” ends up really meaning).

    Now that I think about it, I suppose it is not really unusual in the history of the earth to not trust ones god(s). The Greeks and Romans reportedly didn’t really think their gods were all loving at all. It is just not that common these days I guess.

  74. The Wiz, I confess that I had to google Cesar Milan. Obviously I’m just not up on things; I didn’t know there was such a thing as a Dog Whisperer! But that actually reminds me of something I’ve often been curious about–will we be able to communicate with animals more clearly in the world to come? (And will that lead to some, umm, recriminations? One of my sisters wonders whether in the next life, we’ll have to crawl on the floor and beg for food while the cats sit at the table and don’t allow us to join them. 🙂 )

    Kaimi, alas, I truly am unqualified to direct a thread, given that I failed to nurture my feminine gifts and didn’t even take sewing in eighth grade. (I took wood shop instead, which was a terrible idea. Who in their right mind would give 13-year-olds access to band saws?)

  75. That’s what I love about the Babylonians! Their gods can be pretty belligerent. Maybe I should add another post to our ridiculously long queue on this topic. 😉

  76. Re #76, as Kiskilili and I have often discussed, the problem of evil is really only a problem if you’re a monotheist. Honestly, the complexity and often confusing nature of human encounters with the divine makes me think at times that polytheism would much more plausibly account for what’s going on. (Why did this particular religious event or experience go all wacky? Oh, that’s just because one of the wackier gods got involved in it.)

  77. For a truly enlightening look at hell, may I recommend Robert Kirby’s essay from Pat & Kirby Go to Hell, which warns of some dire possibilities:

    “It turned out that hell had religious freedom. Sacrament meeting, Mass, and Bible study lasted seven hours every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. On Saturday, there was a rodeo, but it consisted only of drunks taking turns riding Rush Limbaugh. Every Sunday, Satan bore witness the entire day as to the truthfulness of “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.”

  78. The talking to animals in heaven question is a great one. What about plants and tree? They are living and have spirits, right? Will we be able to talk to them too? (well — will they talk back to us, I mean). And I had such a fun debate with my wife when we were newly married and figuring out more about eachother’s idiosyncratic beliefs. She hate bugs — any creepy crawly insect. WIl they be resurecated, too? WIll there be celestial flies? Celestial mosquitoes? I always argued “yes” — since God loves all his creations — but since that is now ilegitimately in doubt, maybe she’s off the hook. 🙂

  79. I’m too tired to make a really good comment. (and even when I’m not tired my comments aren’t really that good)
    But, I am enjoying the thread, ironed or not 🙂

    I was thinking about Greek and Roman gods the other day and how much more sense it makes to believe that gods are like us with good and bad emotions.
    What was the Greek/Roman view of the afterlife? Did they get to live with their favorite god or goddess?

    I went to a viewing tonight for my friend whose wife died. This idea of what happens in the next life is very meaningful for me right now. The luxury of wondering if heaven is good or bad kinda flies away when you know someone just passed over and you’ve gotta believe that they’re happy and that you’ll be with them soon.

  80. I know someone who feels the same way Kiskilili feels, and sometimes I’ve felt that way, too. It’s a horribly painful thing, to have a big picture view of the universe in which you’re a second-class, less loved, less valued child of God. And that conclusion is by no means illogical; the evidence for it is in our scriptures, our temple rituals, and our discourse.

    I just have to keep my reminding myself of those moments of divine contact. Like Kaimi said, those moments convinced me that God is good. Which by definition, in my mind, means he is not sexist or arbitrary. He is loving and merciful, we are his children and he loves us each with an infinite and beautiful love.

    When church doctrines and practices contradict this view, I have to, based on personal revelation, and in order to keep some teeny semblance of sanity and peace, reject those currently taught doctrines and practices. Don’t reject God for the mistakes of fallible men. Fallible people have written scriptures, created rituals, preached sermons, and so forth. I’m not saying there’s no divine component to those things. But they have come to us mediated by imperfect people. The sexism we find in the church is the dross; God’s love is the gold. The refining process is underway, and will continue. I have to believe this.

    Thank you so much, Kiskilili, Eve, and Lynnette for this blog. I really love you guys.

  81. Lynette,

    You may be happy to know that this post (or elements of it, at least) became dinner-conversation last night with my wife and kids. My oldest daughter (11) brought up a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon she saw once.

    Hobbes: “Do you think there will be tigers in heaven?”

    Calvin: “It wouldn’t be heaven without tigers.”

    Sweet, huh. Of course then he asks,

    Calvin: “Do you think Tigers will still eat people in heaven?”

    Hobbes: “It wouldn’t be heaven if we couldn’t eat people.”


    (and my daughter is awesome)

  82. I have always thought that getting to the CK was something that was available to certain kinds of people. Not that people “are” that way, but that they “become” that way. I’m not celestial material because I just don’t have it in me to work that hard. I’m almost 50. I get depressed pretty regularly. I’m tired. I just want to sit on the porch and have a glass of iced tea and listen to the crickets. That’s no way to get to the celestial kingdom.

    Furthermore, some of the descriptions of the celestial kingdom are pretty appalling. A patriarch over his domain, creating and managing and presiding, with a host of ever-pregnant wives, of which I will be one if I get there.

    No thanks.

  83. Matt W., I’m also curious about that question of whether the kingdoms are best understood as geographical locations or states of being, especially for what that might mean for communication between those in different kingdoms.

    Thanks for the kind words, Jane. I think there’s a lot to be said for relying on those individual encounters with God that give you hope.

    Jessawhy, I’m sorry to hear about your friend’s wife. And I think you make a really good point. It’s sometimes easy to contemplate and argue about this stuff in the abstract; dealing with some of the concrete realities of life (and death) can really give you a different perspective.

    Glenn, that is a fabulous exchange!! I totally love it. It’s the classic problem of how can it be heaven for everyone, if some people’s (or tiger’s, as the case may be) requirements for happiness might, umm, infringe on the well-being of others.

    Ann, I think I’m with you in wanting to sit on the porch; as I mentioned earlier, the CK sounds like an awful lot of work. You know how they put you in different reading groups as a kid? Maybe there could be a group for those of us on the slow track to celestiality. 🙂

    (Since the gender issue is clearly relevant to this question, even though I’ve been trying to keep this thread from getting too sidetracked by it, I’ve attempted to pull together some of my thoughts on female exaltation in a separate post–anyone who wants to continue the discussion of whether women are second-class citizens in the CK, God is a misogynist, patriarchy is eternal, and all that good stuff, please come chime in there.)

    I’ve enjoyed this discussion–thanks for all the fun comments, everyone! Glenn asked in an earlier comment whether there would be blogs in the CK. Maybe celestial blogging involves blogging without that nagging guilt about the work you’re neglecting.

  84. At I have a question that relates to my desire to go to the Celestial Kingdom. I have never heard anyone else address it, and I would be interested in others’ comments. We have been told that there will be procreation and the Celestial Kingdom which I think would be great as I love children. For me, there would be no heaven without babies. However if the Celestial Kingdom has sex, as we know it you’re on earth, then perhaps I’m not as excited about that destination. It is not that I am anti-sex, I’ve had a satisfying relationship with my wife and have always been moral. It is just that sex builds so many barriers between non-married members of the opposite sex. For example, before I was married I had many friends of both sexes whom I loved in the manner one loves a relative or dear friend. After marriage, continuing these friendships with the friends that were female was impossible. One female buddy I knew from junior high school, had a husband who thought I must be in love with his wife. I was happy that he loved her so much that he believed that everybody, given the chance, would love her romantically. I didn’t, but his fears and suspicions precluded any kind of association even though the association was between couples, and not individuals. I like hugs. I like expressing verbal appreciation and affection for people, even when they belong to the opposite sex. If I could live in a world where everyone was kind and loving and supportive to everyone but only because there was no sex, as opposed to a Celestial world that resembled the one in which we live (especially within the church), where any friendship or admiration or even non-romantic love is viewed as sin, or a precursor to sin, and I would choose the kingdom where there was no sex. This assumes, of course at the same jealousies, temptations, and would exist in a sexual Celestial Kingdom that exist on this earth. In summary, heaven for me would be living in a world where we loved everyone in the same way that Christ loves us, a world where one could be kind and loving to everyone without having others raise their eyebrows and suspicion. I’m not sure that is the type of Celestial Kingdom that many of the patriarchal brethren in my High Priests Quorum picture, however, and unfortunately maybe they are right. Perhaps I’m just terrestrial material.

  85. Emer, I sympathize with a lot of what you are saying. But honestly, I’ve never been a real fan of the “Celestial sex” theory that’s been floating around the Church. I’m not entirely sure it’s even doctrinal.

  86. Emer son of omer. Interesting comments. I think that this is relatated to church rhetoric that we used to hear about why women shouldn’t be in the work force which is that if men and women work together there will be more affairs. I have always found this view really puzzling. So it is impossible for men and women to work together without having an affair? What about men and women in the church working together? What about becoming Zion and all working together toward a common goal? I have seen people who will barely interact with anyone of the opposite sex once they get married. I think that this is a bit ridiculous and a bit extreme. We should be able to work together, be friends with, and learn from members of the opposite sex and still be faithful to our spouses.

  87. Emer, but we already know how God procreates, don’t we? Start with some red clay, wait for a rib… fire it all in a kiln with the light of intelligence… you could have all your male and female friends involved at the same time without any of the weirdness our limited mortal procreation exersizes entail — it would just be like a fun group pottery class.

  88. RE: Are the kingdoms separate places, or something else

    One of my BYU religion professors (admittedly, not always the best source of doctrine) was fond of saying that what makes the (celestial, terrestrial, telestial) kingdom the (c, t, t) kingdom is the people you are with and the kinds of relationships you can have with them.

    Just a thought. I don’t know whether I agree or not.

  89. Emer, that’s such an interesting point! I’m with you–I really don’t see much appeal in a heaven where we’re so paired off we can’t associate emotinally with beings other than our spouse(s).

  90. I love my husband, but we have many differences in terms of what we find interesting to think about and talk about. I would find this life and heaven a drag if I could enjoy conversations with people I find interesting. (Regardless of sex or marital status.)

    At this point in my life, I find the CK highly unappealing if it is anything like its been described in church. I love my daughter but the pregnancy process was challenging. No way would I want to be endlessly pregnant. Plus, I think it would demean intimacy to have millions of children. I’d rather have fewer kids (limited to this life) but know and understand them on a really deep and intimate level.

    I guess what everyone needs in the next life in order to be happy is a little bit different, but there’s also some sameness too (love, kindness, understanding, safety, etc). So, I believe God is big and loving enough to have room for the diversity of our children.

    But…I will say this. I despise polygamy and always have. The very thought of it makes me feel diminished as a woman. I’d like to be with my husband for eternity. But if heaven required polygamy, I’d leave immediately and spend eternity picking figs with my grandfather. And that would be that.

  91. Oops: I left out something in the first paragraph. Let me resubmit.

    I love my husband, but we have many differences in terms of what we find interesting to think about and talk about. I would find this life and heaven a drag if I couldn’t enjoy conversations with people I find interesting. (Regardless of sex or marital status.) We all need to connect with like-minded people from time to time.

  92. A few months ago, I started dating a Mormon woman who lived in my apartment complex. I came to love her dearly, and still do. After imagining spending my life with her and raising a happy family together, she told me that there was no longevity in our relationship because of religious differences. She didn’t want there to be any “friction” in her family. I now understand why it is important for her to maintain religious cohesion in any family she might have, but at that time, I felt like she might as well have said that we couldn’t be together because I’m Scotch-Irish and she’s a German Swede. I was devastated. I have come to believe that the biggest concern was her desire for a Celestial marriage in the temple. Obviously I couldn’t be in the picture unless I converted. If we couldn’t be together forever, we couldn’t be together temporarily on Earth either.

    It was a two-way street though; I think it always is in this life.
    Having been brought up in a Church that often espoused anti-Mormonist rhetoric, I have been conditioned to manufacture poorly constructed arguments against their beliefs and, having had a potential spouse at stake, my fervor to defeat the forces keeping us apart was increased tenfold. My strategy, attempting to apostate her so we could be together, was fundamentally and morally flawed. If I had been more tactical, I would’ve known that the people in my life are more important than their beliefs. I would’ve happily done whatever necessary to gain the Priesthood and enter the Temple with her. I would’ve known that the idea of being together forever is a beautiful thing, not a wrong thing. Now she very well may be lost from my life forever because of the offenses I have committed.

    I think a lot of different religious and nonreligious people have similar ideas about the nature of the afterlife. I tend to agree with Seth R. in that we will be recycled into some kind of eternal continuum with God. It’s not a good feeling to be rejected by someone you love based on these ideas though.

    This is an awesome website and I’d like to send an e-mail to you if I could!

  93. Corey,

    Welcome! Thanks for sharing your experience. I’m sorry it turned out badly. Religious differences can be so difficult to navigate, particularly I guess with Mormons since so many people have strong feelings, both positive and negative, about Mormonism.

    I’m glad you like the site. If you want to email any of us, our addresses are on the “about us” page.

  94. Beatrice,

    In the Celestial Kingdom there will be no jealousy and ill-will towards plural marriage. Jealousy and ill-will are Satan’s tools and he won’t be there.

    One other thing: There will also be no intimate “relations”. God does not have intimate “relations”. All of God’s children in the heavens are in spirit form. A Celestial being cannot produce a body of flesh and blood. It takes an earth-bound being to create a body of flesh and blood. God’s spirit children are conceived the same way Jesus Christ was conceived: No physical contact. Remember–Mary, the mother of Jesus, was a virgin AFTER the birth of Jesus Christ and did not lose her virginity until she was intimate with Joseph, her husband.



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