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Eternity is Now

I have wanted to write this blog post for a while now, but have refrained from doing so because I feel it would be a very short thought to make. It is so straightforward but also so overlooked.

A few times now I have written about how our gospel vernacular is largely borrowed from our Protestant friends and how, sometimes, that causes us to miss crucial points that the scriptures and the brethren are making. This is largely due to our cultural and historical circumstances, but it also reflects the way we understand the gospel. Elder L. Tom Perry once said:
"Our speech reflects the kind of person we are, exposing our background and our way of life. It describes our thinking as well as our inner feelings." (1)
How many times do we say things similar to the following:

"We will understand things better in the next life."
"Heaven will be..."
"This life is the time for man to prepare to meet God in the next life."

There are many more examples in our speech that reflects our protestant inheritance and understanding of heaven and eternity. For those who believe in the continuing restoration, our speech should reflect with accuracy the reality of heaven and eternity.

For starters, above I quoted Alma 34:32 which many read out of context and unintentionally project their protestant language and understanding onto the verse. We often insert, in some form, the idea that the time to meet God is in the next life if we remain true and faithful in this one. If you read the verse for what it says, it says nothing about the next life. In fact, the context of this verse is made very plain in the previous verse:
"Yea, I would that ye would come forth and harden not your hearts any longer; for behold, now is the time and the day of your salvation; and therefore, if ye will repent and harden not your hearts, immediately shall the great plan of redemption be brought about unto you." (Alma 34:31)
Notice the very 'here and now' terms. Notice how the day of our salvation occurs in the very present 'now'. Notice how the great plan of redemption is intended to be brought about 'immediately; another very present term. This is reflected in a beautiful phrase often used by Elder Neal A. Maxwell. He often called the present, "the Holy Present".

What does this all mean?

For me, when I speak in such a way that puts eternity in some future distant day I unintentionally forget the concept of Zion; I unintentionally forget the divine design of the temple ordinances:
"Joseph Smith's revelations of the Nauvoo Temple liturgy in 1842 and 1843 required an expanded cosmology in which kinship, priesthood, government, and heaven all became synonymous. This heaven was not a future reward for the faithful or the elect; it was the material heaven on earth, constructed welding link by welding link on the anvil of the temple altar... The Mormon priest materialized heaven at this altar, sealing wife to husband and child to parent. Where these linkages did not exist, there was simply no heaven; where they did exist, so did heaven. And this heaven persevered." - Jonathan A. Stapley (The Power of Godliness: Mormon Liturgy and Cosmology, p. 17)
When we speak in such a way that puts salvation in some future distant day we unintentionally limit the power of the Savior's grace in our lives:
"My job is to live, right now, as if I had already passed through death’s veil and into the presence of God. My job is to live my promised redemption in the present tense. . . .
Living in Christ changes what it means to be alive. Living in Christ, I carry myself differently. I desire differently. I love differently. I greet pain and loss differently. I fail differently. I succeed differently. . . . Rather than just storing up salvation for the future, life in Christ saves my life as I’m living it. In Christ, the veil grows thin and eternity starts to bleed into time. The next life, a life lived in the presence of God, gets underway before I’ve even died. Living in Christ, I experience a kind of early resurrection." - Adam Miller (2)
To really drive this point home, here are a collection of quotes from the Brethren and scriptures that make this point quite plain:
"When Satan is bound in a single home—when Satan is bound in a single life—the Millennium has already begun in that home, in that life." (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 172)
“... it is the design and intent and purpose of the Lord to redeem men spiritually while they yet remain in the flesh." - Bruce R. McConkie (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, p. 120)
"Reunion with Father in Heaven is the essence of lasting love and eternal purpose. We must make the connection with Him now to learn what really matters, to love as He loves, and to grow to be like Him." - Neill F. Marriott (bold added for emphasis, 3)
"We must not wrest the scriptures and suppose that the promises of seeing the Lord refer to some future day, either a Millennial or a celestial day, days in which as we all know, the Lord will be present. The promises apply to this mortal sphere in which we now live. This is clearly set forth in the Vision of the Degrees of Glory. After Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon had seen the Father and the Son, concourses of angels, and the wonders of each kingdom of glory, and after they had written the account thereof their continuing language says: "Great and marvelous are the works of the Lord and the mysteries of his kingdom which he showed unto us, which surpass all understanding in glory, and in might, and in dominion which he commanded us we should not write while we were yet in the Spirit, and are not lawful for man to utter neither is man capable to make them known, for they are only to be seen and understood by the power of the Holy Spirit, which God bestows on those who love him, and purify themselves before him to whom he grants this privilege of seeing and knowing for themselves that through the power and manifestation of the Spirit, while in the flesh, they may be able to bear his presence in the world of glory." (D&C 76:114-118.) While in the flesh! For those who "purify themselves before him," this is the time and the day and the hour when they have power to see their God!" - Bruce R. McConkie (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith)
"[The Great Jehovah] knows the situation of both the living and the dead, and has made ample provision for their redemption, according to their several circumstances, and the laws of the kingdom of God, whether in this world, or in the world to come." - Joseph Smith (bold added for emphasis, TPJS, p. 220)
With this understanding, the words of prophets and scripture should take on increased meaning. We do not do kind things for our neighbor because it is a good point on the scales of 'the next life'. We serve others because eternity is now. We serve others because, for those of us who have received the ordinances of the temple, we are endowed with the power to transform hearts and minds to build heaven upon the earth (i.e. Zion).

We do not try to be Christ-like in order to be worthy of exaltation. We try to be Christ-like because that is how to unlock the power to make things on earth as they are in heaven (see Matthew 6:10 compared to 3 Nephi 13:10).


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