Questions about The Church, including qualifying for salvation, and the role of sexual intimacy
List of questions:
- Why would you go to heaven and not me? I’m a good religious person.
- What about those who never got a passport but were good people? Can they enter God’s city?
- If I am a good person just not a member of the church, why would I have to live with murderers in the next life?
- Why does the church ban the use of alcohol?
- Why can’t we have sex before marriage? Doesn’t Utah have a big problem with pornography and divorce because of this? I need to have sex with someone to determine long term compatibility.
For a related essay, “10 reasons the Latter-day Saints are known for marrying young”, see http://richardsonstudies.com/2019/05/11/10-reasons-latter-day-saints-are-known-for-marrying-young/
Why would you (an active member of the church) go to heaven and not me (not a member of the church / not an active member of the church)? I’m a good religious person.
It’s about covenants. Covenants are “business contracts” which must be entered into to enter the “city” of God. There is a government there, and without a “green card/passport”, you can’t get in. There is no illegal border crossing!
Also, what do you mean by heaven? If you mean a state of happiness in the next life, yes, all good people will go there, no matter what religion!
If by heaven you mean living in close contact with God and having the same level of knowledge joy and stewardship’s as God, remaining in a married condition with the continued ability to procreate, then that part of heaven, yes you need permission to get in. That permission is via baptism into the true church.
What about those who never got a passport but were good people? Can they enter God’s city?
Answer: Not until they get a passport. God will offer everyone passports. Death is the doorway to the next phase of life, and if you didn’t get a passport here, one will be offered you there.
If you get offered a passport here (baptism into the restored church of Jesus Christ), study it out carefully to determine if it is correct. Do not let your fears of what the truth may have in store for you stop you for making the courageous steps toward aligning your life with truth. Prepare to meet God, and if you’ve found the church to be true, joint the church, as it will help you prepare to meet God, and we could all use help preparing for that.
If you cannot determine that the church is true, continue searching. Don’t move forward until you believe that your move is correct. That’s called faith. If you obtain faith in the church being true, then join. Until then, continue searching for truth, and act on your convictions and your beliefs. God knows your mind and your heart. If you know the church is true, you can’t lie to God and avoid it pretending that you don’t know it’s true. If you truly don’t know if it is true, then God will understand the reason you’re choosing to continue your search rather than joining. God wants you to use your mind and act in the best way you can with it. Find answers to any questions you have, and use reliable sources as you search. The most reliable source is going to God himself, this is done by kneeing on the ground and asking God what the truth is. He will whisper it to you, and guide you toward it. If for some reason you or your loved ones are unable to determine what is truth, you will be sent messengers, even if in the next life, to explain to you in a way you can understand and believe wholeheartedly. Brigham Young himself took a few years of studying the Book of Mormon before joining the church, but others are given the gift of believing in even less time. The amount of evidence a person will need to gain conviction varies from person to person. It is a spiritual gift to be able to see and accept truth, pray for that gift. One cannot determine spiritual truth by merely appealing to physical research methods.
If a person choses to not participate in the gospel of Jesus Christ, there are happy rewards for them still available in the lower kingdoms of God. God doesn’t wish to damn us all, he wishes to save us all. He can only exalt those who deliberately seek it, but he can at least save everyone else to some degree of glory in his kingdom, even if a lower degree. Thanks be to God for sending Jesus Christ, whose sacrifice made both death and hell to be temporary conditions. Everyone will be saved from death (in the resurrection when bodies are reunited to spirits), and everyone will be saved from hell (the wicked will be delivered from hell after 1000 years, the righteous will be delivered from hell as soon as they chose to repent of their sins so they can avoid going to hell altogether, they will spend that thousand years celebrating on earth with Jesus Christ throughout the remainder of this millennium).
If we persist in making bad choices, disregarding God and God’s laws, our hears will become hardened toward the truth, and we will begin losing the desire to go to heaven. Truly, we chose weather we will go to heaven or hell, and we chose to which kingdom of glory to reside. Beware the power of sin to curve your desires toward less glory.
If there were no passport, just anyone would come in, and that would negatively change the culture he wants to have there in his city. Historically, whenever people have been let into a nation, they change the culture there, and eventually, the government is changed because the people want it changed. The government in God’s kingdom will never change, and those who will not conform to it will have to find residence somewhere else. When Lucifer (Satan) proposed major alterations to God’s government, God said “Get out.” God’s kingdom is maintained by the rule of law, and to maintain that rule, he must have strict policies on who is and is not allowed to enter.
One might consider someone like Ghandi. A good person who didn’t know about / understand the passport system (baptism into the true church of Jesus Christ). Ghandi and others like him who lived good lives then died are at a place called “the spirit world”. In that world, he is being taught by missionaries to the extent that he will fully understand the passport system of the 1 true God of the universe. He will then decide if he wants to enter God’s celestial kingdom (means he would need to keep the rules of that kingdom), or if he wants to enter God’s terrestrial kingdom (he would have to abide the rules of that kingdom), or if he wants to enter the telestial kingdom (a set of laws there too). Depending on what level of law he was willing to abide, he could choose to enter even the highest (celestial) kingdom, where he could advance to become like God his father.
No one is pushed to join the church. Everyone is encouraged to stand by their convictions regarding what is wrong and what is right. If a person discovers that the church is true, it is their opportunity to then join the church, and look forward to the opportunities found therein. The Book of Mormon is the evidence God has provided to show that this is the true church.
Is the restored gospel of Jesus Christ as found in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints true? Make a serious study of it! Deeply investigate, come to know for yourself! If it is true, glory hallelujah, you’ve found a source of pure truth which will bring you great joy! If it is not true, then return to your search, and never stop searching until you have found the truth! Settle for nothing less than the truth! Follow the combined action of your heart and mind and the promptings of the Holy Spirit of God which will like a dew from heaven from time to time touch upon your soul almost imperceptably, and you can follow the directions it prompts you to guide your life.
As Joseph Smith said, when you are ready to come to God, he is ready to come to you: “When we understand the character of God, and know how to come to Him, he begins to unfold the heavens to us, and to tell us all about it. When we are ready to come to him, he is ready to come to us.”
If I am a good person just not a member of the church, why would I have to live with murderers in the next life?
You won’t have to. Murderers spend 1000 years in hell, then they get their bodies back and make permanent residence in a lower kingdom of God called “the telestial kingdom”. There are 3 levels in the kingdom of God, each having their own planets to reside on. Telestial is the lowest, and is for wicked people after they’ve done their time paying for their crimes in hell 1000 years.
The next level is “the terrestrial kingdom”. This place is where the honorable people of the world go. They were honest and fair, but they denied the contract God offered them to enter God’s kingdom. They weren’t willing to adhere to the policies of the government of God’s highest kingdom, so they remain in this lower kingdom, whose laws they are willing to abide.
The highest level is the celestial kingdom. Not all church members go there, just those who honor the contracts / covenants they have made with God. In this kingdom, marriage can exist forever, and people become Gods in the full sense of the word.
Why does the church ban the use of alcohol?
I don’t know. I think it is a temporary ban. Historically, alcohol has not been banned in God’s kingdom. Christ even told his apostles that when he returns in glory, he will again drink the fruit of the vine with them. I think alcohol is prohibited currently because our culture associate’s alcohol use with scandalous activities. Perhaps the pressure on youth to be stupid with alcohol is so great, that God is saying “just don’t even mess with it right now”. It could also have to do with toxins that could be added into these drinks. The ban on coffee could be for a similar reason, to avoid the harmful additives. Though these are minor policies, choosing to obey them means choosing to be allowed to “cross the border” into God’s kingdom. For example, if you want to ride an airplane, you can’t bring toothpaste. One would wonder why toothpaste is forbidden, since we enjoy and find benefits in using toothpaste. But it is a temporary policy to protect us, given that there are many evil people on earth today. The revelation about God’s standards for health in the Doctrine and Covenants specifically mentions the reason of banning certain substances to be for the reason of avoiding the plans of evil scheming men among us. There are some temporary inconveniences associated with compliance to gaining access to God’s kingdom, but we can endure these minor trials as we focus on the great blessings in store. (The chapter with the revelation to not use alcohol etc. is D&C 89, at this link https://www.lds.org/scriptures/dc-testament/dc/89)
Why can’t we have sex before marriage? Doesn’t Utah have a big problem with pornography and divorce because of this? I need to have sex with someone to determine long term compatibility.
Social scientists have shown that the predictor of long term marriage, including sexual satisfaction, is based not in “sexual chemistry”, but in the level to which the 2 persons unite their entire lives in a long term commitment to each other, vowing honesty and transparency to one another. Getting to know someone for their personality is far greater a predictor of marital happiness than getting to know their genitals.
What you think is ‘sexual chemistry’ by how you feel when you sleep with them is really a measure of how much that person is a kind person who cares about you and putting your needs above their own, vs how much that person is a self-centered prude. It has almost nothing to do with how your bodies interact. It has everything to do with how your spirits interact. Having a body isn’t unique, all bodies, except the rare exception of the crippled body, can function just fine in sexual intimacy. So basing the choice on a body is really quite silly, especially considering that in the resurrection, all bodies will be made more beautiful, stronger, and enhanced beyond comprehension compared to our current standings. It is preferable to marry the stalwart cripple who makes you feel at home who is disadvantaged in the physical activities rather than marrying the person who excells in physical activity yet is a shallow whelp who won’t last a New York minute traveling through the refining fires of life with you. Chose someone who can measure up to your moral expectations before worrying about physical expectations. As Jesus said, “seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto you.”
Some claim that they feel more comfortable having sex with some persons verses other persons, and that this comfort or lack thereof helps them make their marriage selection. What they were feeling wasn’t a product of one’s body, but a product of the amount of trust they felt toward that person. A product of the amount of safety they felt with them. A product of how much they felt they could openly share their feelings with that person. Having sex on a first date is a Russian roulette – you don’t know anything about them, and you’re trying to unite with them. Is it any wonder that uniting with a stranger can be a negative experience? Or perhaps even a fun experience, but after which one finds it difficult to build a strong relationship?
Our grandmothers called sex before marriage “putting the cart before the horse” meaning that a cart can’t be pulled unless the horse is in front of it, pulling it. This is wise when we consider that sexual satisfaction is a result of uniting one’s self with the other person in every way, financially, in goals, in support, in trials, in everything. These things add depth and meaning (and thus happiness) to the experience of sexual intimacy. Sure, sex with a stranger can be fun, but it doesn’t come close to comparing with sex with one’s spouse. In a marriage, you will eventually get to know each other sexually, and learn each other’s sexual preferences, and in time, you will be sexually compatible. Great reading on this topic can be found from one of my professors at BYU, Dr. Jason Carroll, “Sexual Wholeness in Marriage”, found at Amazon, Deseret Book, etc.
Expecting sex with a relative stranger to be fully satisfying is like a rookie trying his hand at a new sport with which he has no skill. Only after years of practice will the athlete find mastery of the sport. Further, only after playing with a companion for years will the athlete find greatest compatibility. A team can’t just show up and expect to play well together. It takes a long time of working together to find symmetry.
The thing about marriage is that sex isn’t the core of it. If sex is like athleticism, and marriage like baseball, we must understand that athleticism isn’t the key factor. The willpower and desire to play is the key factor. There are many strong people who are terrible at baseball. In other words, just because someone is good at sex doesn’t mean they will be good at marriage.
In fact, if you were to choose to participate in pre-marital sexual relations in the name of seeing of a person would be good to marry, you’ll find this ironic result. The person who is “good at” sex and yet unmarried is the person who has failed to “play baseball”. There is only so much talent and skill involved in sexual intimacy: the vast majority of sexual satisfaction resides in the commitment factor, the other before self factor, the long term union factor. The person who jumps from partner to partner who has some supposed sexual skill reveals that he is “athletic” but terrible at the overall sport of relationships. He shows that he is so disagreeable, that the many who have volunteered themselves at the altar of his passion have went away sorrowing, having sought goodness in him, and having not found it. He proves that by having practiced with so many different partners that he is not a team player. He shows that he is not capable of getting along with another person when it comes to anything other than the simple component of sexual intimacy. The best person to marry is thus the virgin, or the person who has completely repented of their scandalous lifestyle, having learned that it was never a good idea, having found deep respect for those who understand the true nature of sexual intimacy. Someone who has reserved their intimacy for a team they could be committed to for the long term (even the forever-term). The person who reserves intimacy for marriage is the person who recognizes that life is not to be lived in isolation, and understands the nature of human beings, their longing and need for permanent attachment.
Marriage is a much broader topic than sex. Sex is something that happens in marriage, but marriage isn’t the same thing as sex. Marriage is a cup, and sex is one of the drops of water which fill that cup. Sex cannot fill the entire cup. Nor should we judge the beverage by one ingredient or expect the presence of one ingredient to sustain the entire mix. The sexual ingredient of marriage will be abundant if the other ingredients are not lacking.
Sexual compatibility, like love, isn’t something you find somewhere, not something that happens, but is rather something you build, something you cultivate, something you work at for a long time, until at last, you have built something magnificent! Similarly, you don’t “fall” in love, you chose love. You don’t marry your soul mate, you make the person you marry into someone with whom you chose to forever mate your soul. The world says that divorce is because you “chose the wrong person”, as if people were the problem. The Lord teaches that every soul is of great worth, and that marriages are usually from a lack of maintenance rather than a poor selection. Prophets have taught that any two people living the gospel can be compatible for marriage. Marriage isn’t about finding, it’s about building.
Studies show that the more sexual partners you have before marriage, the lesser chance you have of having a long-term marriage. Those with higher number of pre-marital sexual partners have a direct correlation to a higher divorce rate. (for example, see this study https://ifstudies.org/blog/counterintuitive-trends-in-the-link-between-premarital-sex-and-marital-stability)
Sex is a symbol of uniting souls, and souls were meant to be united forever. Our bodies, however beautiful and healthy, are still imperfect. Physical dysfunction of the body should not be a barrier when one understands that in the resurrection, all bodies will be healed to an optimally functioning state. Marriage is intended to last forever. God is married, and participates in all the joys of marriage, including sexual intimacy. Things on earth are a likeness of how they are in heaven. Make no mistake about it, in heaven, people have bodies, and so do God and his wife. Remember, after 3 days Jesus rose from the tomb with his body again! So will we too rise someday soon when Jesus Christ returns to earth. Marriage and sex are a foresight of what life can be at its best. If we are righteous, we will be allowed to keep our marriages and the sex that goes with them. If we are not righteous, we will lose our partner, and the privileges we once had with them. Sex functions in marriage for 2 things: bonding/fun, and reproduction. We are not expected to reproduce every time we mate, God allows sexual union to be a source of happiness to strengthen marriages. Sex outside of marriage often leads to separation, which brings more sorrow than we need to endure. To give one’s body is to give the entire self, and such a gift should only be given to someone with whom you agree to share every other part of life with. Animals have sex with anyone recreationally, but we are not animals, but are the Lords of animals, to rule over them, because our ways are higher than their ways. If you wish to read an excellent speech on the spiritual meaning of sex, read this talk “Of Souls, Symbols, and Sacraments” (https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/jeffrey-r-holland_souls-symbols-sacraments/).
The speaker Elder Holland identifies sex as a symbolic action which represents obtaining the power of God to create life. He teaches of God’s great future plans for marriages, and why sex is designed for marriage and marriage alone. God has designed many symbols to teach us with, and sex is certainly one of the foremost of those.
Christ said that our bodies are temples. With the understanding of why some can enter and some cannot into the temples, we will also understand why we shouldn’t offer our bodies to others freely. The terms are specific.
As I wrote in my essay “Can Heaven Be Better Than Marriage?” (http://richardsonstudies.com/2019/02/15/can-heaven-be-better-than-marriage/), trailing thoughts from Truman Madsen’s writings, “Some have thought that a temple marriage simply makes a marriage valid to last forever. This is true, but the deeper event that takes place in a temple marriage is that a relationship is formed and refined across the years with the added companionship and cleansing effect of the Holy Ghost, which gives that marriage character of such a union that it’s worth staying together forever. We’re not just getting permission to stay together forever, we’re getting help to make something worth lasting forever.”
As for divorce: the statistics of Utah divorce are significantly lower than the national average. However, as the national divorce rate climbs, so does the rate of divorce in Utah. Similarly, the national average of children born to a family is lower than the average of Utah children born, and as that national average goes down, that of the church follows in that direction. We can’t help but be impacted by the society we live in.
Cor-law.com for example says “Utah’s divorce rate is half of that at 15.9%. The national average for divorce still wanes between 40-50%.” (https://www.cor-law.com/blog/why-utah-has-the-lowest-divorce-rate-and-become-the-happiest-state-in-the-u-s.html)
On plots that show Utah to be similar to or even worse than national averages on divorce, they are likely not taking into account the fact that many more people in Utah get married in the first place than do outside of Utah. Given the higher marriage rate, it would follow that the divorce number would be higher, even though the percentage of divorces is lower in Utah than nationally.
As for pornography, I have not researched this topic, but if it’s true that Utah citizens use more pornography, perhaps one reason could be that the taller they stand the harder they fall. Perhaps many do feel they have failed and allow themselves to “go all out” in their debauchery from a feeling that they have “lost everything”. Hopefully users of pornography who disregard the sacredness of life can learn that they can be forgiven of their sins and again become worthy of exaltation in the celestial kingdom.
I can say that generally speaking, it’s fairly common for church members to be known as people who avoid things like pornography. Many make fun of them for their family centered faith. Church members in Utah confront peer pressure from not only outside of the church, but inside it, to do stupid things. Wayward youth in the church say things like “but I’m a member too, and I do it!”. This type of peer pressure is not found nearly as much in places like Georgia, where church members are fewer, and they have an easier time saying, “I can’t I’m a member of The Church of Jesus Christ”. I have been very impressed when visiting other states to see the strength of the youth in the church there.
Surely Satan is attacking Utah and launches much of his propaganda toward this the “lifeforce/heart” of the church. For example, one professional (Anne Tracy president of drugawareness.org) claims that a higher use of antidepressants in Utah can be tied to a conspiracy of drug companies who want to tear down the family values in Utah as a “last stand” state who still believes in strong family values; those values being a great thing in the way of them more fully taking power in their industry, a thing that stands in the way of more people needing their product. Thus, much of their advertisements, their peddlers etc., focus on Utah.
Prophets have said that Utah will be known as a place where both the most righteous and the most evil people of the whole earth can be found.
Here is an excerpt from an essay I wrote to a friend on this subject of divine and eternal sexuality (the article this comes from “Revealed Social Principles found in the gospel of Jesus Christ can be found at this link http://richardsonstudies.com/2018/01/17/gentle-introduction-mormonism/):
“…yes I believe that in heaven married persons will continue to have sex together, but with heightened pleasure; that is, unless they have been vicious with it’s use here on earth, then the privilege may be revoked; I also believe that people in heaven continue to have babies; I believe God is the father of our spirits, I believe God is married (heterosexual), and that is how he has us his children, by having sex. I believe sex is an eternal and divine thing that is a grand system of humanity; I believe that in heaven, married people have spirit babies with each other and send them to earths (which they have the power and pleasure of creating and governing to ensure justice and mercy are balanced in the end) so they their children can get bodies LIKE THEM and the experience needed to also become Gods. I also believe we get to keep our bodies in heaven, they are wonderful and bring much pleasure and are beautiful and good. Some think Adam and Eve sinned in having sex. No way! Sex is good. The Adam and Eve story? I think Eve is amazing! She helped Adam learn about how it’s worth it to go through pain in order to have joy! I believe we EVERY HUMAN ON EARTH will come out of their graves and be made perfect, impervious to disease and aging. Getting our bodies back is a free gift from out kind God whom made us. That’s a big part of the Jesus story, that he, the Son of God, “broke the bands of death”, and is responsible for giving everyone their body back. Some say you’ll be more free without a body. But meditation shows that we are quite capable of having larger than life experiences WHILE having bodies. So I think bodies are good. Just because we have a body in heaven doesn’t mean we can’t fly and teleport and move mountains; we just haven’t learned how to do that stuff yet, it will come. So this little rant can show you a bit more about why I think marriage and children is so important… because it’s the order of the universe… the great cycle; it is also like you said, that friendship holds up the universe, yes! The selflessness embodied in a true friend is so fundamental to anything that is good and pure enough to withstand the elements!”
“…I will be blunt with you: I think a man whom uses a woman for sex then leaves without marrying her is selfish and tyrannical. Ignorant and debase. Sex is the symbol that says “I will unite with you in all things, even my flesh itself will witness to you that WE ARE ONE.” And that means forever. Just like how the body of a person has several parts which work together to help it survive, so can be man and woman; the combination of male and female, them being one, is necessary for the survival of the human race.”
and from that same article a note about how temples effect marriages,
“… I don’t blame others for not believing in the temple thing, it’s a long story, and hard to believe. I wouldn’t believe in it were it not for deep feelings in my heart which lead me to it. Also there are many whom say bad things about temples, again, rumor exists, and it’s too long to discuss here. Just because people marry in a temple doesn’t mean they are good people, or that they will have a successful marriage, hah what a thought! As if the place of your ceremony would do that. That would be akin to assuming that a person whom has money is by default going to spend it wisely.”