Time magazine (16 Apr 2012) has a recent cover story by Jon Meacham (unfortunately you have to pay to read it online) titled: “Rethinking Heaven.” The author states that, even in the wake of the Enlightenment and the scientific revolution, the vast majority of Americans (according to Gallup) believe that heaven is an important part of their belief structure. But many Christians, including some conservatives, are becoming increasing dissatisfied with standard descriptions of the hereafter . . . causing the concept to evolve (and hopefully mature).
Many are uneasy with the idea of:
- floating around with little wings playing harps
- paradise in the sky
- singing (without wings) in the choir
- streets paved with gold
- afterlives filled with eternal bliss
- a glorious Disney World
- a place where the righteous are dying to get in (pun intended)
Or, in the words of Billy Graham, heaven “is far more glorious than anything we can imagine. Heaven is the most perfect and beautiful place we can conceive–only more so.”
But Marc Herbert in Time’s “Mail” (30 Apr 2012) writes:
Your story says 85% of Americans believe in heaven. That’s incredible. They think of heaven as quiet and peaceful, with no need to do anything. Sounds pretty dull to me. What do you do with all of that free time? And it goes on forever and ever!
In this doctrinal fuzziness about what is heaven, Mormonism presents a useful alternative. The Time article mentions one LDS attribute of heaven: “families [are] bonded for all eternity.” But there are others that also worth considering:
- We can take the knowledge and experience gained in this life into the hereafter.
- Faith without works is dead (think service to the poor, the sick, the enslaved and the oppressed).
- Respect for the earth . . . it’s going to play an important role in our eternal future.
- Deification as the ultimate goal of our eternal progression.
Unfortunately, the LDS Church has chosen not to emphasize some of the heavenly beliefs listed above. Instead we emphasize the more mundane procedural and structural aspects of the hereafter. This makes for bizarre journalism and satirical flowcharts. This is truly regrettable given what a wonderful belief structure the 4 items listed above present: the importance of loving our fellow man, the importance of education and experience, and the importance of being good stewards of the earth. Heaven is what we make it.
Christian Piatt, writing for patheos.com, wonders:
Maybe [heaven] is not about a better time and place. Maybe it’s not about being rescued. Maybe it’s more about making peace with what is. Maybe it’s about a collective orientation, rather than a change of scenery. Maybe it can’t fully be realized during this life, but perhaps we can achieve faint glimpses of it by striving to make peace with all that binds us, and by helping other to do likewise.
The title of Meacham’s article is: “Heaven Can’t Wait: Why rethinking the hereafter could make the world a better place.”
Perhaps John Lennon said it best: “Image there’s no heaven/It’s easy if you try/No hell below us/Above us only sky/Imagine all the people living for today”