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.