I just went to mormon.org
where you can chat live with a Mormon missionary, and I had the most interesting conversation with a nice girl named Melody. I thought you might be interested in listening in...
Agent [Melody] is ready to assist you.
Melody: Hi, I'm Melody
Melody: How are you today?
Me: Hi Melody.
Me: Sorry, I was looking at a different web page.
Melody: no worries. :)
Melody: how can I help?
Me: Okay, I got a visit from a couple of missionaries a couple of days ago...
Me: And I've been thinking about some of the things we talked about.
Me: And it has raised a question for me.
Melody: great! I'd love to help. :)
Me: When we were talking, I was asking them what distinguished them from other people who consider themselves Christians but who are not Mormons.
Me: I was wanting to know what advantage there was to becoming a Mormon instead of just remaining a Christian, assuming that Mormonism is true.
Me: One of them started talking about different levels of glory.
Me: He showed me a book with an illustration of the Celstial Kingdom, the Terrestrial kingdom, and the Telestial kingdom.
Me: So my question is about the Celestial kingdom.
Me: Although I don't remember what all was said, I remember getting the impression that becoming a Mormon would be the first step toward eternal progression--becoming more like the Father.
Me: So my first question is this: Do you have to become a Mormon before you can enter the Celestial Kingdom?
Melody: that's a good question. A person has to believe in and live (the best they can) the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is taught in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints (mormon) and which church has been given authority from God to perform ordinances such as baptism.
Melody: Many people who are members of the church, but who aren't fully committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ won't enter the celestial kingdom,
Me: So, becoming a Mormon is part of living the fullness of the gospel?
Me: So it's possible to be a Mormon, but NOT enter the Celestial kingdom. Is that right?
Melody: "Mormon" is a nickname for members of the Church of Jesus christ of Latter-day saints.
Me: Yes, I understand that. That's how I'm using the word.
Melody: right, but that term would not have applied to the first Christians during Jesus's time, or the faithful members of God's church in Old testament times. That's why I feel like stressing that it is the part about obeying the fulness of the gospel, rather than being a "mormon".
Me: I like your name, by the way. I used to know a girl named Harmony. Wouldn't it be funny to have twin girls and name them Melody and Harmony?
Melody: :) good times.
Me: Oh, I see your point.
Melody: we believe that it's the same church, though
Me: Okay, wel for the sake of discussions, let's just assume that when we use the word "Mormon," we're referring to people who faithfully live out the gospel.
Me: That'll just make the dissuasion more simple, I think.
Melody: and we also believe that God will give all of His children the opportunity to learn the gospel, the fulness of the gospel and have the chance to accept or reject it before they are judged. So there are many people who will enter the celestial kingdom who didn't have the opportunity to join the church during their lifetimes.
Melody: sounds good. :)
Me: Yeah, we talked about that. They read me a passage in the Book of MOrmon that basically said if you hear the gospel int his life, you won't get a second chance in the after life. But if you never hear in this life, you'll get a chance in the after life. So everybody gets a chance, but they don't get two chances.
Melody: God will be fair. and He will judge our desires and our actions. :)
Me: But anyway, we're straying a little bit from where I wanted to go. Lemme ask you another question.
Me: So, a person must live consistently with the fullness of the gospel to get to the Celestial kingdom...And only Mormons (though not all Mormons) live consistently with the fullness of the gospel (since only the LDS Church has the priesthood authority, etc.)...So, it seems to follow that you must convert to Mormonism (either in this life or the next) before you can go to the Celestial kingdom.
Me: Is that right so far?
Melody: I'd say that sounds pretty accurate. :)
Me: Hold on, I have to get my train of thought back. LOL I'm a little skater-brained.
Melody: no worries. take your time. :)
Me: Oh yeah. So, is going to the Celestial kingdom necessary for eternal progression? I other words, it is possible to go to one of the lesser kingdoms and still continue to progress in the afterlife?
Me: Scatter-brained, I meant.
Me: Or however you spell "Scatter"
Melody: hmm...that's a good question. I imagine that people in the lesser kingdoms will still be able to learn and grow in some ways, but they will be limited. They will not inherit a fulness of God's glory, so they won't be able to eternally progress.
Melody: no worries.
Me: I wish I knew a little more about what it means to eternally progress, but that would get us into a long discussion, probably. The way the missionaries put it, progression is all about becoming more and more like the Father.
Melody: exactly. let me see if I can find a verse that may help.
Me: Okay, so let's say that people in any kingdom can progress, but you have to go to the Celestial kingdom before you can progress all the way and become JUST LIKE the Father. Is that right?
Melody: 55 They are they into whose hands the Father has given aall things—
Me: What is this a verse from?
58 Wherefore, as it is written, they are agods, even the bsons of cGod—
59 Wherefore, aall things are theirs, whether life or death, or things present, or things to come, all are theirs and they are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.
60 And they shall aovercome all things.
61 Wherefore, let no man aglory in man, but rather let him bglory in God, who shall csubdue all enemies under his feet.
62 These shall adwell in the bpresence of God and his Christ forever and ever.
Melody: 69 These are they who are ajust men made bperfect through Jesus the mediator of the new ccovenant, who wrought out this perfect datonement through the shedding of his own eblood.
70 These are they whose bodies are acelestial, whose bglory is that of the csun, even the glory of God, the dhighest of all, whose glory the sun of the firmament is written of as being typical.
Melody: It's from Doctrine and Covenants section76
Melody: it's part of a revelation received by the prophet Joseph Smith
Me: Okay. I'll have a look at that later. I sometimes have to read things more than once before they sink in. But I have a copy of the D&C, so I can look at it.
Melody: I like analogies a lot, they help me to understand the concepts better. The kingdoms of Glory are compared to the Sun, the moon and the stars
Me: So, what other requirements are necessary to enter the Celestial Kingdom? Is it just living the full gospel? Or is there more?
Melody: and in 1 corinthians 15 we learn that we will be resurrected to different kinds of glory
Melody: I use this analogy to help correlate the two
Melody: when we are living the fulness of the gospel, our souls become full of light
Melody: but when we sin, or reject our faith, our souls can't hold as much light
Me: Yeah, I've heard the 1 corinthians 15 connection, but that isn't where this doctrine comes from, is it? I mean Paul talks there about celestial bodies and terrestrial bodies, but there's no mention of telestial bodies. So the Telestial kingdom must come from some other source.
Melody: not exactly. I don't know why Paul doesn't mention it. It is possible that consequent transcribers made a mistake and left it out, or that Paul had other reasons
Melody: but he does mention sun, moon and stars, as an analogy for the "brightness" of different kingdoms
Me: But is there another source in LDS scriptures that talks about this? I'm assuming there's a D&C somewhere that talks about these three separate kingdoms. I mean Paul doesn't even mention kingdoms. It sounds like he's just making an analogy between different heavenly bodies and the resurrection bodies.
Melody: right, because there is a correlation between the two. The judgment is not arbitrary. our actions have a direct consequence on the state of our souls, which consequences will be made obvious in our resurrected bodies
Melody: we are the greatest record of our lives
Melody: you know how sometimes you meet a person
Melody: and they are so good, you can just tell by looking at them?
Me: You mentioned earlier that baptism was part of living the fullness of the gospel and that there are other ordinances. Can you mention what other ordinances there are? You don't have to mention all of them if there are a lot. I'm just curious what a few others might be.
Melody: they shine a little
Me: I don't know if I can tell by LOOKING at somebody who good they are. I mean people thought Ted Bundy was a pretty swell chap. But you can tell by observing the way they behave. Is that what you mean?
Melody: I don't necessarily mean literally, and of course, people aren't perfect
Melody: I mean that some people seem to glow a little. They know who they are. they are confident, and happy. They have joy in their lives, even when things are hard.
Me: Yes, I've met people like that.
Melody: its kindof like that.
Melody: and people who have had rough lives, who have committed all kinds of sin, they can seem like they are clouded by darkness
Melody: or a hardness
Me: Yeah, I see what you mean.
Me: It's like some people have an aura about them that you can sense when you're around them.
Melody: exactly. We will be the same person after we die--and I think that we'll still carry that "aura" with us.
Melody: does that make sense in terms of the resurrection and judgement?
Me: A little. It does raise a question, though. Are you saying the different kingdoms aren't actually different places or domains, but that they just represent different groupings of people--people who have different kinds of "aura's"?
Me: That's something else I've wondered about. Do people in different kingdoms mingle with each other? Do they all get to experience the presence of Christ? Or are they isolated from each other?
Melody: I think it's both. No unclean thing can dwell with God, so there will be a physical separation between God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Ghost, and those who have rejected them. (That is why Christ can visit the terrestrial kingdom and the Holy Ghost can visit the telestial kingdom).
Me: When you say they can visit the kingdoms, it makes it sound like the kingdoms actually ARE different places, and not just a way of talking about different states of being.
Melody: that's why I said it was both. :)
Me: Okay. Did you see the question I asked about ordinances?
Me: If you didn't see it, I can ask again.
Melody: yes. Baptism is the first ordinance, along with receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. Men are ordained to the priesthood. Temple ordinances follow in time, ceremonies called the initiatory, and the endowment. the sealing ordinance is the final ordinance, which seals a couple together for eternity, and their children to them so they can be a family unit in the eternities
Melody: (Also in the temple)
Me: Are these ordinances part of what it means to "live the fullness of the gospel"?
Me: So eternal marriage is part of living the fullness of the gospel?
Melody: right. However, God also understands the circumstances that we are in. Marriage is not always an opportunity for some people. Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, all things that are unfair about our mortal lives may be made right. God will not deny eternal opportunities for those who sincerely follow Him.
Melody: basically, that means that if we dont' have the opportunity to get married in this life, God will give us the opportunity
Melody: to be sealed
Me: I'm not sure I'm following you. Are you saying that if a person lacks an opportunity to fulfill one of the ordinances of the gospel, that they can enter the Celestial kingdom even without living the fullness of the gospel?
Me: Oh, so you're saying that after death, we still have an opportunity to get married?
Melody: the ordinances of the gospel are step by step, line upon line. A person must be baptized to get the priesthood, and must have those before going to the temple.
Melody: God will make all things that are unfair about life fair in the eternities
Me: Does a person have to go through ALL of the ordinances before you can say they lived "the fullness of the gospel"? Or only some of the ordinances required?
Melody: that's a good question. It goes back to the fairness of God. He will judge us according to our faithfulness and the opportunities we were given. For example, suppose a young woman dies when she is 17. She has been baptized, and has been as faithful as she can be. She loves the Lord and desires to follow Him.
Melody: but she hasn't been through the temple because she's too young
Melody: God will make it fair for her
Melody: I don't know all of what that means,
Melody: but I do know that god will deny none of His children who love Him and want to be faithful
Melody: and he will provide a way
Me: When you say God will make it fair for her, does that mean God will treat her as if she had gone through all the ordinances, or does that mean God will give her the chances to perform the ordinances in the afterlife?
Me: Okay, I'm with you.
Melody: or provide a way for those who are on earth to do the work vicariously for her
Melody: that is why we do work for the dead
Me: Well, let me ask you another hypothetical question, and if you need to speculate, that's okay. Or if you just want to say, "I don't know," that's okay, too.
Me: Let's say you're a Mormon, and you go to a church where there aren't a lot of other singles...
Me: But there's one single girl who really digs you, but you don't dig her that much.
Me: And let's say that this girl would marry you if she had the chance. That means YOU have the opportunity to get married. But you choose not to.
Me: Would that satisfy God's fairness? If you don't marry this girl, and if she was your only chance, does that mean you won't enter the celestial kingdom? After all, at that point, God could say, "I gave you the chance to get married, and you chose not to."
Melody: that's a good question. It all goes back to the Atonement of Jesus Christ. We are to do our best, and He will make the "rest" possible. As for this hypothetical young man and woman, it depends. Did he try? Did he seek the Lord's counsel through prayer and scripture study on the subject? Did he choose to not pursue a relationship with this woman because he honestly felt that he couldn't honestly have a relationship with her? or did he not because he just didn't really feel like it? There is a bit of a difference between someone who never finds the right person, and those who let opportunities pass by.
Melody: God teaches us to be honest in our dealings with our fellow men. I think it would have been much worse if the young man had married her dishonestly, saying that he loved and was committed to her when his heart wasn't in it
Me: In this scenario, let's say there's nothing really wrong with the girl. She's a descent person, a faithful Mormon, etc. The guy just isn't the least bit interested in her. Either he's not attracted to her, or he's gay, or he prefers being single, or whatever.
Melody: And again, God understands our hearts and our limitations.
Me: Does that mean God will treat the person as if he had gotten married and let him go to the Celestial kingdom?
Melody: Not exactly, because God is not a hypocrite. He teaches honesty because He is perfectly honest. But through the atonement of Jesus Christ, He can provide opportunities to His children to reconcile themselves
Me: Or does it mean that some way or some how, God will see to it that you will meet somebody you WOULD want to marry and who WOULD want to marry you, either this life or the next?
Melody: I'm not really sure how it works, but I imagine that it would be something akin to the latter.
Me: So, if a person decided to join the Mormon church, was beginning to get old, and was beginning to despair that he'd never find somebody suitable to marry, he shouldn't suffer any anxiety about not making it to the Celestial kingdom since God will give that person more opportunity in the afterlife?
Melody: exactly. let me quote one of our current apostles on the subject:
Melody: But what of the many mature members of the Church who are not married? Through no failing of their own, they deal with the trials of life alone. Be we all reminded that, in the Lord’s own way and time, no blessings will be withheld from His faithful Saints.32 The Lord will judge and reward each individual according to heartfelt desire as well as deed
Me: That makes it sound like marriage isn't even necessary to go to the Celestial kingdom, unless I'm misunderstanding him.
Melody: I think you're misunderstanding him. :)
Melody: it's because they are not married "through no failing of their own"
Me: Melody, let's say a faithful Mormon dies single, and he has to find somebody in the afterlife to marry if he wants to eternally progress...
Me: Between the time he dies and the time he marries, will he be able to hang out in the Celestial kingdom, or must he stay in one of the other kingdoms until he finds said wife and gets married?
Melody: neither. When we die, our spirits go to a place called "the spirit world." it is like a waiting room for the resurrection. All such things will be resolved before the resurrection. Again, I don't know how it works, because God hasn't revealed all things to us, but we do believe that sometime in the future, when we need to know, He will teach us.
Me: So all the ordinances have to take place while in the spirit world before the resurrection?
Melody: right. the final judgment is final
Melody: and that happens after we are resurrected
Me: That's why you have proxy baptisms?
Me: Is there such a thing as a proxy marriage?
Melody: yes. we do perform proxy sealings
Me: Does a couple have to be married here on earth before they can have a proxy sealing?
Me: Like say two people get engaged, and one of them goes off to war and dies in battle. Can they be sealed?
Melody: that is typically how it works--we seal deceased married couples. If there are exceptions, they have to be approved by church leaders.
Me: Or what if only one of them has died?
Melody: I'm not sure
Melody: I think it would still require special permission
Me: That's an interesting question because what if there's a Mormon couple, and one of them wants to be sealed for eternity, and the other doesn't. The one who doesn't, dies. Then, the one who does has a proxy sealing. So the one who doesn't, doesn't have a choice. LOL
Me: It's like an eternal shotgun wedding.
Melody: oh, there's always a choice. work that is done for the dead can be accepted or rejected by the individuals that it is done for. :)
Me: Oh, I see. I'm sure that's a relief for some people.
Melody: I'm sure it is! haha...
Me: Give me a second to think. I think you've answered all my questions, but give me a second.
Melody: no worries. I'm in no rush.
Me: Okay, so let's say Jesus is going to return tomorrow, and I still haven't found somebody to marry. And I get in a car accident and die today. That leaves me one night in the afterlife to find somebody to marry for eternity, because once Jesus returns and the resurrection happens, my chance is over. Does mean if I don't married within that short amount of time, I have no chance of ever going to the Celestial Kingdom and becoming just like the Father?
Melody: not exactly. You are right that there will be many who are resurrected when christ comes again, however, not all people are resurrected at the same time. If God is merciful and just, He will give His children what they need.
Me: Oh, I see! That is very interesting.
Me: So, God could leave us in the spirit world indefinitely to give us time to perform the ordinances, right?
Me: Which means there is no one judgment day. There's different judgement days for different people depending on when they are resurrected.
Melody: not indefinitely, since ordinances (and proxy ones) require living people who have bodies
Melody: God will give you what you need
Me: Body those who are resurrected are living people with bodies, right?
Me: Body = but
Melody: yes, however, while God is fair, there aren't loopholes
Me: I'm curious if people who have been resurrected and who live in the Celestial kingdom are able to perform proxy ordinances on those who are still in the spirit world and haven't been resurrected yet.
Melody: I don't think so
Me: OKay, well this has been really interesting, Melody, and I appreciate your time.
Melody: I'm glad we were able to chat today! you had some tough questions!
Me: In case you're interested, the reason I'm asking these questions is because I'm wondering if it's worth it to even look into Mormonism.
Melody: what do you mean?
Me: Okay, lemme explain.
Me: Let's say that Mormonism is true in everything it asserts.
Me: And let's say that I never get married.
Me: That would mean that if I convert to Mormonism, I'm really no better off than if I don't convert to Mormonism. Because from what I understand, as long as somebody is a fairly decent person (especially if they're a Christian attempting to follow Christ), then they will probably go to the Terrestrial Kingdom. But that's exactly where I'd go if I became a faithful Mormon and never got married. So if I'm never going to get married,it doesn't really matter for all practical purposes whether I ever convert to Mormonism or not. And if it doesn't matter, there's no point in expending a lot of effort in trying to find out if Mormonism is true.
Melody: ok. let me explain something to you really quick. because it doesn't seem like you've been understanding
Melody: 23 For we labor diligently to write, to apersuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by bgrace that we are saved, after all we can cdo.
Melody: if you accept the fulness of the gospel, and live it to the best of your ability, you will enter the celestial kingdom. period.
Melody: marriage in this life or not
Melody: the point is that you have to do the best you can
Me: Melody, i question whether anybody, Mormon or not, ever lives the fullness of the gospel to the best of their ability. We're all lazy from time to time. We all slack off.
Melody: yes, and then we can repent of our sins and be forgiven
Melody: that is why we need Jesus christ
Melody: Don't make the mistake that so many christians and mormons make in underestimating or undervaluing the saving power of JEsus Christ
Me: But if you must live to the best of your ability, then a person who slacks off can't go to the celestial kingdom simply because they haven't met the requirement. They actually have NOT lived to the best of their ability.
Melody: no. the best of your ability means that you do the best you can, and when you mess up, you do your best to repent and move forward
Melody: we aren't going to be perfect
Me: So you don't think anybody has the ability to be perfect?
Melody: Jesus christ was the only person to live a sinless life
Me: Let me back up. You said earlier: "if you accept the fullness of the gospel, and live it to the best of your ability, you will enter the celestial kingdom. period. marriage in this life or not. the point is that you have to do the best you can."
Me: But you're not saying here that a person who tries but fails to get married will still be able to enter the celestial kingdom, are you?
Melody: I'm not sure I understand the question
Me: AFter all, I'm sure I could be trying a lot harder. I could be proposing to every woman I met. I could be breaking out the charm. So I'm not giving my best effort. I'm not doing all I can do.
Melody: haha. I don't think that's what it means. :)
Me: Well, you said as long as we do our best, we'll make it to the celestial kingdom. My question is: What if I do my best to get married, but fail. Will i make it to the celestial kingdom anyway?
Melody: ok. let me simplify everything that I've already said.
Melody: we are on this earth to do our best
Melody: we have to have faith in God and in Jesus Christ
Melody: we must desire to follow them above all else
Melody: "We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel." Articles of Faith
Me: Melody, can you hang on? I've got to use the bathroom. I'll be right back.
Melody: "We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost." Articles of Faith
Melody: ok. sounds good.
Melody: just read what I'm writing in the meantime
Me: Okay, I'm back.
Me: Thanks for waiting.
Melody: basically, that means that living the gospel means that we have Faith in Jesus Christ and His atonement, we continually repent of our sins, receive the ordinances of baptism, and the gift of the holy ghost. this is what it takes to enter the celestial kingdom. We can do that much. If we create excuses for ourselves, then we are lying to ourselves.
Melody: Now, there is something else that you should know. There are levels, or degrees of the celestial kingdom. Those individuals who are faithful, but reject the opportunity to become married, (in the spirit world or whatever) will enter into the celestial kingdom, but will not progress eternally with their spouse.
1 In the acelestial glory there are three bheavens or degrees;
2 And in order to obtain the ahighest, a man must enter into this border of the cpriesthood [meaning the new and deverlasting covenant of emarriage];
3 And if he does not, he cannot obtain it.
4 He may enter into the other, but that is the end of his kingdom; he cannot have an aincrease. (doctrine and covenants 131)
Me: Intersting. I hadn't heard that before.
Melody: that's because we're getting into deeper doctrine, that we don't typically go into on mormon.org
Melody: we like to keep things simple
Me: Is it possible to be married in the Celestial kingdom and for one person to progress but not the other?
Melody: no. after the resurrection, everything is final. all such issues will be resolved before
Me: Progression isn't automatic, though, is it? I mean isn't there more a person has to do while in the Celstial kingdom to progress?
Melody: I would encourage you to start at the basics, and work up, this is really deep, and too much speculation on deep topics without an understanding of the basics is dangerous because it leads people to "look beyond the mark"
Me: Okay. Well thanks, Melody. Is there anything else you want to talk about before we go?
Melody: if you are interested in learning more about eternal marriage, I would encourage you to check out the link I gave earlier, for the quote by Elder Nelson
Melody: or visit lds.org
Melody: I hope that helps!
Me: Okay. Well, hopefully the missionaries will come back. I gave them my number.
Me: You've been very helpful. Thank you very much.
Melody: that's great! I hope they come by soon!
Melody: sure thing! I've really enjoyed chatting with you!
Me: Have a nice day, and Merry Christmas!
Melody: Merry Christmas to you too!