Life is a pretty amazing thing, even without attaching any philosophies or religions to it. The mere fact that we are all alive, even if for only a short time, is miraculous beyond our ability to grasp its significance. But add various belief systems to the self-existence of life, and we have something that will easily blow one’s mind. Let’s look at three philosophies that exist today and talk about what they offer and promise to those who choose to believe in them: the atheist, the traditional Christian, and those who believe in the restoration of Christ’s gospel.
Even your garden variety atheist has to admit that we are alive. Many will say that we evolved to the point of becoming sentient beings, which is as much a pot of magic as anything ever cooked up in Hogwarts school of witchcraft and wizardry. To believe that a random cluster of elements can combine into purposeful and evolving groups of elements that eventually create such complex combinations that their new combinations exhibit traits of life, is miraculous in the extreme.
To take that belief structure of the atheist and compound the complexity of random elemental results until consistency becomes common enough that replication can take place, leaves me speechless. At this point consistency rules the random mutations, allowing ever more sophisticated combinations to accidentally happen, creating actual organisms that somehow develop, all by themselves, the ability to have purpose and specific function in their short time before they replicate themselves and cease to operate. Now that is amazing!
Eventually, these random mutations, created by genetic code that invented and created itself, evolved into creatures of such complexity that sentience came into being. We now have something approaching the level of our own complexity that is aware of its own existence, and is able to direct itself and have a will. I can’t even wrap my mind around such a random series that would create such a marvelous and miraculous creature such as humanity in this way. Unfortunately, this amazing thing that created itself dissipates into oblivion once it ceases to function when we stop breathing. There is no hope in anything beyond our last breath. Bummer.
Christians skip all the unexplainable part of how things were created and just choose to believe that there is a self-existent God who created everything from nothing, and we are created when the thought of our existence enters his head. This, of course, requires that humanity take up all his time so he is constantly thinking up new children to be born into the world. But if this is true then we must be very important to him, as he was willing to create a whole world just to exist as a staging ground for us to live out our lives.
This God created us for the primary purpose of giving him glory and worshiping him. According to the scriptures found in the Old and New Testaments, he is both jealous, angry, loving, and merciful. He is a difficult being to understand, primarily because he has three manifestations of himself (itself?), as a Father, a Son, and a Spirit. Yet all three are incorporeal, intangible, incomprehensible, yet all powerful and actually just one being known to us as God.
One of the main features of God is his love for mankind. Unfortunately, for many people his penchant for damning us to eternal hell fire and seemingly at random promising paradise to others, makes Christianity a real exercise in belief. Parts of it ring so true, while other parts don’t make any sense at all. Why would a loving God damn for eternity babies who never had the opportunity to learn of him and worship him? Why would those who were never taught of his existence burn eternally in hell if he is the one who placed them on earth in a place knowing they would never know about him?
Christianity promises love everlasting, peace eternal, and depending on the preacher, job security paving streets of gold forever or as a singer in a heavenly choir. But this is where their promises end, as the scriptures don’t really discuss any better options. If you accept Christianity, you also accept that there is much that must be believed in without any proof or knowledge. They call this faith, the belief in that for which you have no proof.
Accepting this philosophy gives a lot of meaning to our short time in this life. Because Jesus taught us in the New Testament to love one another, to feed the hungry, treat others with kindness, to care for the downtrodden, and to care for the poor, we can all have a much better quality of life while we are yet alive. And because of the promises that we have a spirit within us that will live forever, because it was created when God thought of us as an individual, we can consider having an eternal reward or punishment after this life. Believing that life goes on after our body gives out gives us hope that we have something to look forward to. And to be able to live with a being such as God, who loves us, can motivate us to do what Jesus taught us we should do.
Identity as taught by the restored gospel of Christ
The gospel or teachings of Jesus the Christ were, according to the prophet Joseph Smith, stripped away, and largely misunderstood in the centuries after Christ’s ascension into heaven. Because there was an apostasy, much truth was lost. These truths, and many more, were restored through Joseph Smith. What his teachings paint for us is a picture of a grand design for humanity that leaves all other philosophies and beliefs in the dust.
Here is the briefest of recaps of the plan of salvation as taught by the latter-day prophets, and through all the scriptures combined. All of us are eternal beings. In one form or another we have always existed. At some point, another, more powerful being, offered us a body of spirit. He became our father, in that he set us on a course where we could advance to become like him someday. We worship him, and only him.
It is our Father who raised us in the eternal world and taught us his plan for our exaltation. He created and taught us all the laws that we would have to learn and live by in order to become like him. He gave us moral agency that would allow us to choose between moral choices that would change our natures from what we were into what he is. Either that or we would change ourselves through our choices into the opposite of what God is. That is the destiny of our use of the agency we have been given. We will either become like God or become his enemy.
Our Father had many children, but the first son was the most powerful and perfect of all his children. We know him by many titles, and a few names. He went by Jehovah in the Old Testament times, and Jesus in the New Testament times. He is the Redeemer, the Savior, the Son of God. It was he, under the direction of our Father who created all the universe as we know it. He not only created everything we know about, but all the rest of the universe we don’t yet know about. Before he created the earth upon which we live he created all the systems in the universe that would serve as our places of reward or punishment depending on how we use our moral agency.
The crowning achievements
The progression God promised to all his children could only happen if we left his presence and learned to be obedient and exercise faith, which is not blind belief, but an eternal principle of power. Until we learn how to exercise our faith in Christ and our Father in Heaven we won’t be able to become like God. But we needed someone to pay a price for us that we could not pay for ourselves. Christ loves us as much as our Father does, and he was willing to come to earth and pay that price.
Through his sacrifice in the garden of Gethsemane, and his death and resurrection, Jesus was able to open the doors and allow us to return to the presence of God, clean and whole again. Through the work Christ performed in our behalf, we are able to be cleansed from the sins we commit in mortality. Through our faith in Christ’s teachings we can receive forgiveness for those things we have done in disobedience and rebellion. We can become clean as Christ is clean, and pure as he is pure. But this requires a few things for this to happen.
First we must make covenants with God through an ordinance called baptism, by one holding the authority to act for God on the earth. Then we must receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, the companionship of the third member of the Godhead. The purpose and function of the Holy Ghost (Holy Spirit) is to instruct us in all things pertaining to righteousness and perfection. He teaches us, opens our mind to spiritual truths that those without the gift cannot comprehend, and he teaches us how to act, feel, and behave like God. This fulfills God’s promise to us that we can become like him. But it takes all three members of the Godhead, and our cooperation in order for it to happen.
How much are you willing to accept?
I have presented abbreviated versions of three philosophies that exist in today’s society. Only you can answer the question as to what you are willing to accept. Each philosophy offers a different degree of joy and hope. Atheists have no hope of anything beyond their last breath. Their lives have no guiding principles except those they choose to follow. I suppose in the short term that offers an apparent freedom to do as one wishes as long as life lasts, which isn’t very long. Christians have a code of ethics given them by Jesus Christ, but their beliefs allow only for peace for eternity in the presence of their Redeemer. For many, they cannot imagine anyone wanting more than this.
Only in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, as given through the latter-day prophets and scriptures, is there hope of much, much more. The gospel as revealed in the latter-days promises godhood to those who make covenants through God’s priesthood authority then live honorable lives according to the promises they have made in those covenants. We have the promise of eternal increase, meaning posterity that goes on forever. We have the promise of exaltation, to become gods with our spouse, like our Father in Heaven is a God. We are promised that we will live in their presence and have the power to rule over kingdoms, and principalities. The power of not only creation, but procreation will be ours. Only Gods live in families and have children. Only Gods create planets, galaxies, and so much more.
The question is this, are you willing to accept such a promise? Are you willing to make the required covenants and do it the way God has spelled out? Are you then willing to live your life in strict obedience to the commandments and laws God has given us that will teach us to become like him? In the first two philosophies I described, this final outcome is not even a possibility. In the gospel as restored in the latter-days, becoming like God is what it is all about, if we are willing to accept the possibilities that are promised us.