In the Southeast part of Las Vegas where I live, there are some foothills that are within walking distance from my home. Occasionally I will hike up to a certain spot and look out over the city at sunrise.
From my vantage point I can see everything, Mt. Charleston, the Strip, the Las Vegas temple and hundreds of thousands of homes. There are millions of people out there, sleeping, eating, loving, fighting, happy, depressed, comforted, confused, and on and on. I ponder the variety of lives and circumstances and all the minds with their own unique perspectives on life.
Then I ponder my unique perspective. I think about the millions in this city and the billions around the world, the billions who have lived and died and will live after I am gone. Each person views the world through their own eyes and in their own minds, just like me. What makes my view more important? What makes one grain of sand more valuable than another on a beach?
My own little perspective isn’t really that important to the whole. It will have about as much impact as a small stone in the ocean. The ripples will fade into the waves and it will be as if they were never there to begin with. That doesn’t mean I am unimportant though, because if that is the case, then everyone is equally as unimportant. We are each our own little cosmos, and our minds, our consciousness is the center point of that microverse.
All these billions of minds experiencing life, seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, feeling, thinking, pondering, discovering, wondering, in infinite contexts, spread all over the world and throughout time. Such a variety of experience is truly remarkable, and how valuable to the collective human family when we are able to share it all one day.
A Latter-day Saint might think they are better off than a non-denominational Christian, but how does a Latter-day Saint stack up to a translated member of the city of Enoch? No, we too have a long, long way to go.
Knowledge of the atonement and the plan of salvation isn’t really necessary for the plan itself to work during a person’s mortal life. If it was, then billions are out of luck, but fortunately that isn’t the case.
I think that God expects people to live true to the best of their knowledge, whatever it is and however it came to them, including Latter-day Saints.
We all possess little nuggets of truth, some larger or smaller, but what really matters is what we do with what we have. As Latter-day Saints we have some precious things, some significant and essential duties to carry out, but we don’t have it all – not yet. Alma 29:8 says:
“For behold, the Lord doth grant unto all nations, of their own nation and tongue, to teach his word, yea, in wisdom, all that he seeth fit that they should have;”
You could read this and assume that he’s talking about “all those other people” but I believe that Latter-day Saints are included in the mix of those who only get what the Lord sees fit that they should have. 1 Nephi 13:34 says:
“I will be merciful unto the Gentiles in that day, insomuch that I will bring forth unto them, in mine own power, much of my gospel, which shall be plain and precious, saith the Lamb.”
Note that it doesn’t say “all” of the gospel, just “much” of it. Who are the Gentiles? Well, we as Latter-day Saints are included among them according to Joseph Smith:
“Now these words, O Lord, we have spoken before thee, concerning the revelations and commandments which thou hast given unto us, who are identified with the Gentiles.” (D&C 109:60)
The Lord even tells us that he’s kept stuff back from us on account of our wickedness:
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, that there are records which contain much of my gospel, which have been kept back because of the wickedness of the people;” (D&C 6:26)
If we go back and read Alma 29:8 again, the Lord gives to everyone all that he sees fit that they should have. We all have an obligation to pursue what is true, to be honest with God and ourselves. Some people find themselves in and out of religions, seeking and searching.
Some have truth in this life and never use it, others seek fervently and never find it, but God knows our hearts, like the parable of the talents I believe that he holds us accountable for what he saw fit to give us and what we do with it.
Joseph Smith taught very plainly how God will judge the nations:
“But while one portion of the human race is judging and condemning the other without mercy, the Great Parent of the universe looks upon the whole of the human family with a fatherly care and paternal regard; He views them as His offspring, and without any of those contracted feelings that influence the children of men, causes “His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” He holds the reins of judgment in His hands; He is a wise Lawgiver, and will judge all men, not according to the narrow, contracted notions of men, but, “according to the deeds done in the body whether they be good or evil,” or whether these deeds were done in England, America, Spain, Turkey, or India. He will judge them, “not according to what they have not, but according to what they have,” those who have lived without law, will be judged without law, and those who have a law, will be judged by that law. We need not doubt the wisdom and intelligence of the Great Jehovah; He will award judgment or mercy to all nations according to their several deserts, their means of obtaining intelligence, the laws by which they are governed, the facilities afforded them of obtaining correct information, and His inscrutable designs in relation to the human family; and when the designs of God shall be made manifest, and the curtain of futurity be withdrawn, we shall all of us eventually have to confess that the Judge of all the earth has done right.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 218)
It is certainly important for us to preach the gospel because we have been specifically given that commission and duty, it is part of our ‘talent’. Others have been given great wisdom and inspiration from God and they will be judged on how they applied what they had.
We get so upset when some little thing isn’t done just the way we think it should be at church. Yes, maybe it really is wrong, but I guarantee that you do several other things just as wrong, you just don’t realize it. Thankfully, God is not as impatient with us as we are with others.
We’re all being tested in this life, we are all proving ourselves based on the unique positions in which we find ourselves. We can all feel frustrated when people don’t agree with us and our personal perspectives. Take a deep breath and remember that God is just, everyone doesn’t need to agree with you right now at this very minute. Take some advice from Joseph Smith:
“If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way.” History of the Church, 5:498–99; from a discourse given by Joseph Smith on July 9, 1843, in Nauvoo, Illinois; reported by Willard Richards; see also appendix, page 562, item 3.
We’re all just trying to figure things out. We can err in doctrine, we can misapply principles and blend our philosophies with scripture, but we can’t go wrong with love. We can all do that, so why not start there and if things get a little difficult, we can always turn back to love.
“Note that it doesn’t say “all” of the gospel, just “much” of it.”
I’d even go as far to say that we only have a glimpse of it, and that most LDS people haven’t even begun to LIVE the glimpse that we already have. I suppose I fall into this category too. Most of us don’t realize or appreciate what we DO have right now.
Despite our wickedness, the Lord has been very good to the LDS people. He has given us fountains of knowledge. The trouble is we don’t realize it. We don’t take advantage of it. We don’t drink from these fountains of knowledge regularly. And thus, most of us don’t begin to realize the depth of what we have or the capacity we have to live and go about doing good. I’ve met several non-LDS scholars who have said things like, “Your people have no idea what you have. You don’t even begin to comprehend it. You have the entire Kingdom before you. If you all lived faithful to your religion then I’d be impressed to join, but in reality, I live the gospel you preach more than you do!” It’s like Mother Teresa said, “Most Christians are not willing to live their religion, and this is the primary reason why people won’t believe.”
Amen. Well said, it helps to give us some perspective doesn’t it?