Sunday, November 22, 2009

Is there life after death?

e was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. (from the Bible, Luke 16:19-25)

Now, concerning the state of the soul between death and the resurrection—Behold, it has been made known unto me by an angel, that the spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from this mortal body, yea, the spirits of all men, whether they be good or evil, are taken home to that God who gave them life. And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise, a state of rest, a state of peace, where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow. And then shall it come to pass, that the spirits of the wicked, yea, who are evil—for behold, they have no part nor portion of the Spirit of the Lord; for behold, they chose evil works rather than good; therefore the spirit of the devil did enter into them, and take possession of their house—and these shall be cast out into outer darkness; there shall be weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth, and this because of their own iniquity, being led captive by the will of the devil. Now this is the state of the souls of the wicked, yea, in darkness, and a state of awful, fearful looking for the fiery indignation of the wrath of God upon them; thus they remain in this state, as well as the righteous in paradise, until the time of their resurrection. (from the Book of Mormon, Alma 40:11-14)

Many are paralyzed by the fear of dying, the fear of the unknown. Some justify wickedness, cruelty, and selfishness because they believe that when a man is dead, he ceases to exist. Christ's parable as recorded in Luke and the prophet Alma's teaching as recorded in the Book of Mormon make clear several points about what happens after death: 1) Immediately after a person dies, his or her soul lives on and is consigned to one of two distinct states of being: happiness or misery. 2) A state of happiness is enjoyed by those who were righteous during their lives, and a state of misery is experienced by those who were wicked and impenitent. 3) These states of being are temporary, lasting only until the resurrection of all mankind.

From childhood I have been taught by loving parents, teachers, leaders and the scriptures themselves that there is life after death. I have been taught that my thoughts, words, and actions in this life have a great and lasting effect on what I will experience after I die. This vital truth, taught clearly in both the Bible and the Book of Mormon, has given hope and purpose to my life. I do not fear death any more than I fear pain and separation. I know that if I strive to do what is right, I will receive peace, happiness, and joy while I await my resurrection. I also know that I will yet be reunited with those I love who have gone before me. Because of my knowledge regarding the state of mankind after death, I have experienced peace in this life that cannot be felt by those who believe that death is the ultimate end.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Why does God allow evil and suffering to occur?

Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse; A blessing, if ye obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you this day: And a curse, if ye will not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside out of the way which I command you this day, to go after other gods, which ye have not known. (from the Bible, Deuteronomy 11:26-28)

And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. (from the Bible, Matthew 26:39)

Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given unto them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself. (from the Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 2:27)

And now remember, remember, my brethren, that whosever perisheth, perisheth unto himself; and whosever doeth iniquity, doeth it unto himself; for behold, ye are free; ye are permitted to act for yourselves; for behold, God hath given unto you a knowledge and he hath made you free. He hath given unto you that ye might know good from evil; and he hath given unto you that ye might choose life or death; and ye can do good and be restored unto that which is good, or have that which is good restored unto you; or ye can do evil, and have that which is evil restored unto you. (from the Book of Mormon, Helaman 14:30-31)

Many have based their disbelief in God on the faulty logic that if there truly is a God, especially a loving God, then there would be no suffering or sadness in the world. A basic understanding of the principle of agency - the God-given ability of man to choose good or evil - reveals the simple, yet powerfully sublime answer to one of the greatest mysteries in theology: why does God allow suffering and evil to occur?

God possesses all things in the universe. Yet he has, in His infinite wisdom, given man the ability to choose for himself, including the ability to choose to obey Him and receive eternal reward or disobey Him and reap the punishment justice demands. God will never take the precious gift of agency from any person, no matter how evil or deplorable their choices may be. At times, He may enforce the consequences of people's choices according to His laws and justice, but He loves His children too much to take away their agency outright.

My personal understanding of the principle of agency has enabled me to view the suffering and sadness in the world as evidence of God's love, evidence of His willingness to maintain and preserve the agency of man, rather than evidence of his neglect or nonexistence. I have also learned that my agency is the only thing I possess that does not ultimately belong to God. My life has been truly blessed when I have followed the example of Jesus Christ in giving up my agency (or will) to the will of the Father. The consequences for doing so are as rich and sweet as the consequences for not doing so are bitter and painful.

Prophets in the Book of Mormon taught plainly and often about the vital role of agency in God's plan for our salvation. The Bible also contains a few references to man's ability to choose, and the principle is exemplified by righteous men and women throughout the Old and New Testaments. The Book of Mormon and Bible thus stand together in establishing the essential, yet often overlooked, doctrine of agency.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Is there a God?

And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou has sent. (from the Bible, John 17:3)

And now Korihor said unto Alma: If thou wilt show me a sign, that I may be convinced that there is a God, yea, show unto me that he hath power, and then will I be convinced of the truth of thy words. But Alma said unto him: Thou hast had signs enough; will ye tempt your God? Will ye say, Show unto me a sign, when ye have the testimony of all these thy brethren, and also all the holy prophets? The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator. (from the Book of Mormon, Alma 30:43-44)

The Book of Mormon stands together with the Bible in declaring strong testimony of the reality of God's existence. I know that there is a God. As I have sought Him in prayer and as I have tried to keep his commandments, my life has been richly blessed. A knowledge of God's existence has given my life sweetness and purpose. I am confident God desires that we come to know Him and understand His character and attributes, that we might become more like Him.