Have you ever split something like a chocolate chip cookie between 4-year-olds? The first thing they will do is look at the size of the OTHER half of the cookie. Once they establish that the half they have is equal to or greater than the cookie their friend has they will settle in content to eat it, right up until the point that the 4-year-old next them says “Hey, her cookies is bigger than mine.” or “Hey, her cookie has more chocolate chips than mine.” If the situation isn’t resolved in the mind of the 4-year-old that feels slighted he or she will demand justice at the feet of the caregiver and if they don’t get it they will walk away from the table and not eat the cookie at all. Meanwhile the other child will be munching away, swinging their legs, humming a tune and even watch the other child throw a fit while they sit calmly eating the cookie. All of this because one child felt someone else unfairly received more than they deserved.
There is a scripture in Doctrine and Covenants Section 88 that talks about all of God’s children being happy regardless of the kingdom they inherit. It first covers celestial then terrestrial and finally in verse 31 it reads:
“and also they who are quickened by a portion of the telestial glory shall then receive of the same EVEN A FULLNESS.
32) And they who remain shall also be quickened; nevertheless, they shall return again to their own place, to enjoy that which they are willing to receive, because they were not willing to enjoy that which they might have received.
33) For what does it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receives not the gift? Behold, he rejoices not in that which is given unto him, neither rejoices in him who is the giver of the gift.
Most of my life has been spent in a church forcing me into the highest kingdom. There is no room for individuality in this plan. You are a child of God and “entitled” to this highest kingdom. Anything that convinces you otherwise is Satan leading you astray. You are not Gay, you can’t be single, if you don’t have a spouse in this life one will be appointed to you in the next like it or not, and once you and your husband make it into the highest kingdom, he will probably be given more wives, but don’t worry you’re numero uno!
I have been told how to act, how to pray, what to wear, what to eat, what not to drink, who I should and should not socialize with, what to say and what special knowledge I will need to take with me in order to receive the gift of the Celestial Kingdom. A gift that I have also been told I am not worthy to open on my own, I must have a husband do it for me. As I have made a mental exit from Mormonism I have realized this is a gift I have never wanted. From everything I have been told about the Celestial Kingdom it does not fit my personality. I believe with all my heart that I am capable of attaining the Celestial Kingdom. I also know with all my heart that I will not be happy while doing it. It fits me about as well as draping RuPaul across the arm of Boyd k. Packer like a fashion accessory as he enters the tabernacle of the next general conference. Simply put I could not enjoy the gift that would be given to me.
What I find interesting is that there are millions of people who will enjoy it and amongst those are some of my friends who I am pretty sure will only enjoy it if those in other kingdoms are miserable. I honestly believe that they will not be able to focus on the gift that is in front of them if people like me are just as happy as they are while spending eternity in a “lesser” kingdom.
I have encountered many LDS members who share the belief that you can’t possibly be happy in any other kingdom other than the Celestial Kingdom because you will always be painfully aware of what you could have had. Well I could have had liver for dinner last night but I chose chicken instead- I prefer it. Others are quick to point out that those who are not quite as valiant as they are can still be happy, but will be so as servants to them. They strip away all family ties and even like taking away anyone’s sexuality who fails to make the highest degree of heaven. It doesn’t matter to them that Joseph Smith once remarked that if you could see even the lowest kingdom you would want to die to get there as soon as you could. Some are quick to tell anyone who has left the church that they are now destined for outer darkness. When I ask them why it would bother them if other people could be just as happy as they are but living in “lesser” kingdoms a common response is “Why should I have to sacrifice so much and you so little for us both to end up just as happy?” This is a very telling response. If they were truly happy living the gospel, it just wouldn’t feel like that big of a sacrifice. Makes me wonder how happy they will actually be living with their hard fought eternal reward.
This desire for others to suffer if they don’t follow the straight and narrow path is not unique to Mormonism. I have born again friends who without a flinch in their conscience will tell me that I along with millions of others am going to hell unless we all believe as they do. Who needs Christ as a judge when we have so many experts among us?
What makes the human family so unique is our diversity. What makes one person happy doesn’t make everyone happy. We may all have the potential to be a successful businessman but not all of us want to be. Take the guy who is the CEO of Fortune 500 company. He is happy, rich, doesn’t really want for anything. Does this mean we should all want to be the CEO of Fortune 500 company and if we don’t we will be miserable? Well, maybe as far as the CEO is concerned everyone who doesn’t have what he has seems unhappy to him. But what about the guy/girl who wakes up every morning, hits waves as the sun is coming up, shares an apartment with a few great friends, works enough hours at the local restaurant to pay the rent and on a good day can hit the waves before the sun sets again. From the perspective of the surfer, the CEO’s life is a corporate prison.
So I have to ask myself, what gift am I willing to enjoy? None of us know what comes after death. At best we hope life goes on. And if it does I want to be comfortable in my own skin for eternity. To do that, I think it’s pretty important that I know what makes me comfortable in my own skin here and now. And that is really all I can do right now. I don’t know what the afterlife is all about, but in the meantime I can explore the depths of my own humanity and learn as much as I can while I’m here. In most Christian teachings including Mormonism to be placed anywhere other than where God is has been seen as punishment. But in Mormonism it stands to reason that having several kingdoms allows God to show tremendous love and compassion by taking the individual and placing him or her where that person will be the most happy for eternity, not sentence them to an eternity of pining away for the things they could have had.
I think there will be some pretty unhappy people in heaven, angry that I and others like me can be so happy with the gift that we were willing to receive. And while they throw themselves at the feet of the judge and demand that you and I and all other apostates suffer, I will be sitting in my place, swinging my legs, humming a happy tune all while enjoying the gift that I was willing to receive. Who knows, maybe you and I can peacefully share a chocolate chip cookie, you know, like adults.