As we have discussed in the past two columns, it is wonderful that the restored gospel can be taught with such simplicity to children. But at some point, our kids need the “meat” to go with the “milk.” If they never get the full depth and curiosity-satisfying elements of the plan of salvation and other aspects of eternity and of justice and of mercy, they may be more susceptible to critics who disparage The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on pseudo-intellectual grounds.
Sometimes, once we are “inside” the church, it is easy to start taking things for granted and lose our sense of awe for how deeply profound the restored truths of the gospel are.
Imagine for a moment that you do not have the church or know of its precepts, and imagine that someone were to ask you some stimulating “what-if” questions. Imagine how excited you might be if you were hearing of these possibilities and insights for the first time:
What if we, each of us, lived before this life, not as another person or as something else but in another place as ourselves? What if our deja vu and sense that we have deeper and older selves are accurate? What if we were spirit individuals before we were born? What if spirit is matter more refined, with form and recognizability?
What if the fatherhood of God is more than a metaphor? What if we are his spiritual children and he is an all-powerful being of spirit and body and we are his offspring, in his image?
What if this earth was designed and created for us — a limitless-option school where experience can expand and enhance our awareness, our potential and our joy, allowing us to become more like our Heavenly Father in comprehension and in capacity? What if his “commandments” are the happiest ways to live — loving counsel from a wise Father?
What if we are here on earth not so much to find comfort or fulfillment as to learn? What if mortality is part of a much longer journey and first-time experiences like a physical body and parenthood to our spirit brothers and sisters are part of our eternal education and part of God’s eternal plan? What if families, formed here, will become the basis of God’s eternal government? What if circumstances that may appear arbitrary and unfair will make more sense in an eternal perspective?
What if, as spirits within bodies, we are still capable of receiving light and insight but with specific memory of our premortal life blotted out so agency and choice can exist? What if, through prophets, the church and individual inspiration, spiritual answers are available, but only as we ask and listen?
What if, as spirits within physical bodies, we are still close to the spiritual world and it is close to us? What if other spirits who have departed this life or not yet come can sometimes be felt nearby, and what if our Heavenly Father’s Spirit guides our lives and answers our prayers?
What if relationships and what we have learned (and become) are the two things we can take with us into the afterlife — an afterlife where we will judge ourselves and be with God if we are comfortable in his presence? What if those who have no opportunity to hear of this eternal plan receive that chance in the spirit world that follows so that all have a fair and equal opportunity to accept and follow it or to reject it?
What if our eldest spiritual sibling helped create this world with his Father (and our Father), guided its destiny as the God of the Old Testament, and came to live on this earth and redeem its people as Jesus Christ?
What if the spirit and the body constitute the complete soul of man? And what if physical bodies enhance our joy and increase our ability to comprehend and benefit from the temporal universe and grow to be more like our Father?
What if God’s word and will come to this earth through prophets, but, in deference to our agency and mortality’s purpose (of growth and self-determination), are not required or enforced? What if, when truth is lost or distorted by apostasy or misinterpretation, God restores it through new prophets so that truth seekers, if they are diligent and prayerful, can always find it?
Whenever we hear of someone rejecting the church on “intellectual grounds,” we wonder if he or she has ever pondered these questions or thought about the Restoration’s answers. And we wonder why we all don’t try harder to teach both to our children.