Lacking Celestial Motivation

Before leaving on my mission I spent several evenings teaming up with the missionaries in our ward to see how they taught and to gain a general feel for mission life. I still recall teaching one investigator a lesson on the role of Jesus Christ, part of which included a discussion on the resurrection–how it was a free gift and that we would gain a perfect body, etc. There wasn’t anything special about the lesson that still keeps it in my mind today; rather it was the investigators reaction and the lack of a compelling response on the part of the missionaries that I’m occasionally reminded of. When asked about how she felt about the resurrection, she replied that she found it extremely disconcerting. The prospect of having a resurrected body–something she felt would be useless in the next life–bothered her.

My purpose here isn’t to raise issues about a bodily resurrection; rather, I’d like to pose the question of how we handle situations where our LDS world-view is not particularly inspiring. I think we have a series of answers for situations where  those involved in seeking after the rewards of an LDS lifestyle want it but lack the strength to seek after it–they should pray, read, come to church, etc. But what happens when people simply do not want those rewards? What happens, for instance, when celestial glory does not seem so “glorious”? Or an eternal family does not seem so enticing?

How do we respond when those investigating our faith are simply not motivated by what we have to offer? And, perhaps more importantly, how do we cope with situations where we may not be especially motivated to seek after the eternal rewards of Mormonism?

14 Replies to “Lacking Celestial Motivation”

  1. “Or an eternal family does not seem so enticing?”

    Reminds me of the scene in God’s Army where the missionaries tell the male investigator that his family can be together forever. In the background, the kids are screaming and making mayhem. He stops the Elders and lets them know that he really is not interested.

    The message is not always as exciting as we think it might be.

  2. I think the question is a good one. I think it is important to understand that not everyone is motivated in the same way. Even within the Church, some people are motivated by teachings that others do not find particularly appealing. Some people are motivated by an after-life and others are not. I think the best approach is to sincerely listen and make further inquiries to gain a better understanding of their perspective. Sometimes this provides an important opportunity for us reconsider and reflect on our understanding of the doctrine.

  3. I joined the church at age 17 and it was the gospel basics and the good moral values that attracted me to the church. I’ve been a member for 12 years now and so I am thoroughly Mormon-ized but I find myself annoyed when our Elder’s quorum discussion has morphed into a discourse on the end of the world and the granular details of what is going to happen in the afterlife, etc. Maybe this person you were teaching is sort of like me and just feels overwhelmed by all that stuff.

    My advice is to focus on the basics of church teachings. The fact this person is listening in the first place is a good sign, so try and find out what they are looking for, what is missing in their life? Try and figure out what part of the church teachings can fill that void and focus on it.

  4. How do we respond when those investigating our faith are simply not motivated by what we have to offer?

    Continue to be friends with them and wishing them a fruitful life.

    And, perhaps more importantly, how do we cope with situations where we may not be especially motivated to seek after the eternal rewards of Mormonism?

    You need to ask yourself whether you’re in it for the long haul or not. You cannot expect anything to always be rosy. The analogy to the seasons is very apt. For every warm beautiful summer, we get a cold dreary winter. Just keep at it.

  5. Its an excellent question and one that I think speaks to whether or not the ideals we are promoting are attractive in particular cultural situations wherein they are expected. I can’t imagine, for instance, that the resurrection is a particularly appealing option to a Buddhist, and to the extent that we teach these principles without contextualizing them to the audience, perhaps we miss some opportunities to teach the gospel.

  6. Very interesting approach. It reminds me of a conversation I had long ago with a missionary companion that has since left the church. We were in Spanish speaking mission and most of our investigators had a Catholic background and some had an Evangelical background.

    We decided that their belief systems are pretty accurate within their scope. Their idea of “Heaven” or “salvation” is that they will be able to live forever in peace, resting from the hurdles and problems of this life, free from the physical pains and limitations of the mortal body, being able to enjoy the company of God (Jesus Christ). One could conflate this view of salvation with the Terrestial Kingdom. Even if these people were to reject repeatedly the gospel, and not get baptized, most of them would still, provided they strived to keep the commandments and live good lives, achieve their very own vision of salvation, our vision of the Terrestial Kingdom.

    We then furthered our conversation with the endless possibilities (and with our endless speculation of course) of what attaining eternal life in the Celestial Kingdom would be like. Some of the things we include about this mysterious place include class divisions. Those who did not marry will not be the same as those who married for time and eternity. Those who married will become gods, but those who didn’t are ministering angels. Some have suggested that in a nutshell, happily married gods will rule over single servants. How this can possibly translate into happiness for these “servants” is something that baffles me.

    There is the possibility that as gods, those who married will experience the same things God experiences, including pain, suffering, the loss of some of their children, witnessing how their children treat each other, destroy each other, demean each other and the opposites (love each other, help each other, build each other up) as they journey through their experience of probation.

    If the experience as a whole would be a painting, it would be a chiaroscuro. Areas of dense and unforgiving darkness highly contrasted with areas where the light reveals exquisite beauty.

    Yet to some of us, especially right after a punishing stride of scarring experiences in life, peace is all we can hope for and for some others, all that is needed.

  7. Or an eternal family does not seem so enticing?

    yup, that was me – and still is even after 10 years as a member lol. and as I recall, the missionaries didn`t really have an answer for me when I said I didn`t want to spend time and all enternity with “d”h

  8. I mean, does anyone really find the idea of becoming a god appealing? Being responsible for billions of spirit children, sending them down to an earth where many of them will suffer greatly and die from war, disease, and other disasters? Not me. Give me a harp and a cloud to myself – plus ESPN and The History Channel – and I’ll be a happy camper.

  9. The whole celestial thing worries me when I am feeling burned out in busy church callings. Sounds like it would be spending eternity pretty much being a bishop or RS president and I would be ready for a release after just a few years in those callings. Sometimes the CK just makes me tired thinking about it…

  10. Great post.

    When I left the church, I did so still believing in the LDS concept of heaven (degrees of glory) but recognizing that I really didn’t desire the promises and possibilities of the celestial.

    This was difficult for my friends/family to understand. As humans we’re naturally ethnocentric. It’s difficult to comprehend that what seems like heaven to us wouldn’t seem like heaven to everyone else. But the truth is, part of what makes us US is our diversity. We each have our own unique set of values and desires. LDS theology accounts for that, with a variable reward system appropriate to each individual. Yet, to the degree that LDS culture must needs be perpetuated by ethnocentricity and a shared desire for celestial glory, members will continue to struggle to comprehend that human desire might really be so variable.

  11. We fail to teach correct principles in my opinion. The tiered system of heaven we have created is a misleading ( in my humble opinion) doctrine that can and does have severe consequences. Many who investigate and really apply logic to the tiered system see the fallacy right off- that perhaps they will just never be good enought o merit a post-mortal family relationship and so they reject mormonism from the get-go and find other religions that aren’t biased in heaven. It gets old after time to really honestly believe that in some cases Fathers would be separated from mothers, and mothers from children and yet still be saved through the atonement into heaven. It’s like being saved into the very pit of hoplessness and despair- the very jaws of hell! Every knowledgable person hopes they will be united with their friends, family members, and especially their spouses in the hereafter.

    A tiered heaven only leads to tierd problems and perhaps it is a letdown for investigators to invest time into a belief that may in the end not give them the hope they are looking for- not that there may be a better alternative out there.

  12. This is an interesting topic to bring up and I think a legitimate concern for many people.

    As a convert I’ve had a hard time adjusting from the idea of heaven as a place of rest and happiness where we praise God for eternity to a place of great work where we may experience great heartache and sorrow. I honestly have zero desire to have billions of spirit babies and rule and reign over another planet. “Eternal increase” doesn’t motivate me in the least. I know Mormons say that the Christian idea of sitting on a cloud playing a harp would get boring, but in a place without time, or at least a radically different conception of time, I don’t think boredom as we know it could exist.

    In some ways the terrestrial kingdom does sound more like heaven to me. But while I do not wish to have my own world, what keeps me motivated is the idea of being with husband for eternity. I am willing to do almost anything for that possibility. So to return to the initial question, I think we can helps alleviate converts’ concerns by finding the aspects of the CK that will appeal to them. My husband did this for me by telling me we wouldn’t have to rule over a world if we didn’t want to, and that it simply meant we’d always be together and could progress in light and truth and knowledge.

  13. I am so grateful for this post. I’ve been raised LDS, but for the past year or more I have really struggled with the afterlife. Frankly, the idea of eternity scares me. Everything would eventually become excruciatingly tedious. I’m scared that there does not seem to be any kind of “escape mechanism”. If there was a way that I could cause my eternal soul to cease to exist, I would have much more peace.

    That probably sounds weird. I’m not suicidal. I love my life as a grad student with an awesome husband that I’ve been sealed to. I just don’t want to live forever.

  14. I’ve concluded that after I am dead I’ll have plenty of time to learn all there is to know about eternity. All I care about is how to be happy while I am still alive.

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