February 24-March 1
2 Nephi 29:3 “And because my words shall hiss forth-many of the Gentiles shall say: A Bible! We have got a Bible, and there cannot be any more Bible.”
Two weeks ago, I ran into this for the first time since my mission. We have two good friends who recently moved from the east coast to Utah. They are incredible people who are very devoted to Jesus Christ, and I commend them for that. They adore, read, and know their bible. This wasn’t the first time we had a religious conversation with them, but it was the first time I directly asked them if they thought we were going to hell.
They responded with, “Yes. We believe that if you were to die right now, you would go to hell.”
It’s interesting because I’ve heard that plenty of times before, but this was the first time it really bothered me. Before I go on, let me explain what exactly bothered me.
1) It didn’t bother me that a friend believed I was going to hell. They were sincere, and they also wanted us to find the truth (or what they believe to be the truth). They didn’t want us to go to hell. They just believed that’s where we were headed.
2) It didn’t bother me that they feel like we believe in a different Jesus. We believe in very similar things about Jesus (born to a virgin, performed miracles, accomplished Atonement, died on a cross, was resurrected), but we also believe different things (Christ is a very separate Being from God, He visited many countries around the world after He was resurrected, He continues to call prophets today).
What really and truly and sincerely and deeply bothered me was the picture it painted of the God I know.
I’m going to write a couple of facts that many people believe about Jesus Christ and members of my church, and I want to ask you, in all sincerity, if you truly believe that they can coexist.
- God loves us more than we can comprehend. That means more than a husband loves a wife or a parent loves a child. We don’t even begin to understand how He loves us. That’s how deep His love is.
- God is perfectly just and perfectly merciful. Perfectly. He doesn’t make mistakes when He is judging because He knows us perfectly too.
- I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have worked my entire life to serve Him the best I could. I can assure you I have made plenty of mistakes that still haunt me sometimes, but I worked really hard to love Him, teach about Him, and live like Him.
- I am going to spend an eternity living in a pit of fire known as hell.
Can these statements truly coexist? Not in my mind. It literally doesn’t make sense. I may not have perfect judgement like God, but I can tell you right now that sending your child to live in fire because they didn’t know all of Your characteristics is very NOT just.
If I get to the other side, and God tells me that I got it all wrong, I will jump on board with what’s right. That’s all it would take. I’d be game. Perhaps I am ignorant, but I am not rebellious.
My friends cited Romans 1 to justify their claims. They believe that babies are not held accountable (we can agree on the fact that babies shouldn’t get sent to hell). They also believe that anyone (even someone in the middle of Africa who has never heard of Christ) can look around and see God’s creations, pray, and receive revelation about who He is. I’ll give them that because I believe that too. I believe anyone can learn about God and Jesus Christ by praying.
But I still can’t comprehend a loving God that would send His well-meaning children to live in fire. That can’t coexist in my mind with mercy, justice, and all-encompassing love. They might argue that I had my chance to get revelation about the truth, but that still doesn’t work in my mind. I pray multiple times a day. I have read from the scriptures (including the bible!) every day from the time I was fourteen. Maybe I do have everything wrong, but can you really believe that God would punish me after I’ve given my all to know Him?
I know my own heart. I know how hard I’ve tried to come to know Him and serve Him. I sincerely believe that this is enough for Him. However, if I’m wrong, if He is truly willing to send me to live in hell when I’ve given my best, then I guess I stand with Joseph Smith when he said, “…therefore, let me be resurrected with the Saints, whether I ascend to heaven or descend to hell, or go to any other place. And if we go to hell, we will turn the devils out of doors and make a heaven of it. Where this people are, there is good society.”
I do not wish to be with a God that would send me to hell anyway. Don’t mistake that sentence for what it is not. If I am sinning, if I am not trying my best and repenting, then God SHOULD send me away. However, I rely on the Atonement and do my best to follow Him. I have loved Him, and I have done my best to do right. I can’t really give more than that, and so what more can be done? I want to live with a God who sees His children and teaches them when they don’t have everything right. That’s perfect love, mercy, and justice to me. I want to live with that God or no God at all.