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One Heaven? One Truth?

Heaven


Is there really only one heaven? One afterlife for everyone in the world to fit in? If that is the case, how could everyone be happy?

Is there really only one truth? One truth for everyone in the world to accept? If that is the case, how could everyone be happy?

Is Christianity, as I know it, the only truth? Most Christians seem to believe this idea. They believe that the world needs to be converted to Jesus as much as the Muslim believes that the Christian needs to be converted to Muhammad. Christians also claim that in the afterlife people will be taught the “truth” and decide whether or not to “accept” it. But, these same Christians also believe that we are the same person once we die. So, if that is the case, then, honestly, not many Muslims or Jews are going to be “saved” according to Christian standards. How sane is it to believe that everyone is going to have to convert to Christianity AND be happy about it? …especially if they are the same person in heaven that they were on earth? If you die, and were then taught that some other faith had it all right, and you were wrong– could you then so easily forget about your relationship with your Savior?

As the world exists right now, the current religious breakdown is:
Christians 33.32% (of which Roman Catholics 16.99%, Protestants 5.78%, Orthodox 3.53%, Anglicans 1.25%), Muslims 21.01%, Hindus 13.26%, Buddhists 5.84%, Sikhs 0.35%, Jews 0.23%, Baha’is 0.12%, other religions 11.78%, non-religious 11.77%, atheists 2.32% (2007 est.)…..so really, all of these people are supposed to find joy (understanding that my premise for the afterlife is that there might be some semblance of joy and contentment…otherwise, it’s hell, and let’s not go into what I think about that right now!) ….ahem, as I was saying, all of these people are supposed to find joy in the exact same Kingdom as this white girl from Utah might? Hmmmm, I just don’t think so anymore…it seems a bit absurd.

I recently finished The Hundred Secret Senses by Amy Tan. It was a beautiful tale of spirituality, awakening, life and afterlife. The Chinese afterlife is so different from mine, and so lovely. Tan created an unforgettable character in Kwan.

“My sister Kwan believes she has Yin eyes. She sees those who have died and now dwell in the World of Yin…It was Kwan who taught me, if people we love die, then they are lost only to our ordinary senses. If we remember, we can find them anytime with our hundred secret senses.” When Kwan is asked by her sister about the afterlife, she gives such a beautiful explanation that resonated with me. She explains that all those who love Jesus, will be with Jesus. Those who love Allah will go to “Allahland” (as Kwan called it!), and everyone will be where their truth resides, and it will be heaven for them.

So, my question–can heaven be as diverse as earth? Or, to truly be heaven, must we all be alike? I rather relish in differences, so I kind of hope it’s the former…just maybe in heaven we will all learn how to love each other for our differences, instead of trying to change everyone to see the truth as we see it.

When you google” “heaven”…here are some of the images that come up. I love the variations.

Heaven 1Heaven 3

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  1. Joanne says:

    I don’t know what heaven will be like, but I like the attitude of this passage from the Qur’an about Muslims, Christians, and Jews. I picture us all turning toward the God of our understanding, who is in the center, but we are coming from different points around the edge of a circle: “We have assigned a law and a path to each of you. If God had so willed, He would have made you one community, but He wanted to test you through that which He has given you, so race to do good: you will all return to God and He will make clear to you the matters you differed about.” 5:48

  2. Deborah says:

    My spiritually hopeful personality believes that all of this is farm grander and more complex than we can possibly imagine — and maybe that’s why I never really bought into getting “worried” about getting into the Celestial Kingdom (or, per a recent post by Bored in Vernal, dreading it — all that eternal parenthood and work and stuff). As for that multiple heaven musing . . . well, there is this passage in John, “In my Father’s house are many mansions if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” I didn’t love the movie “What Dreams May Come,” but was completely fascinated by it’s depiction of heaven. Ditto for “The Lovely Bones” and Cynthia Rylant’s “Heavenly Village.”

    D’Arcy — what would your heaven look like, if you could create it given who you are here in mortality?

  3. Jessawhy says:

    Sorry about the picture thing. I guess linking to a picture isn’t the smartest idea 🙁
    Carry on with the great discussion!

  4. Caroline says:

    I don’t have strong or well formed beliefs on this subject, but I kind of hope that we’ll all be together – Jews, Muslims, Mormons, etc. – and that we’ll all be learning the great and unique truths of these various religious traditions.

    I have no problem thinking that I have a lot to learn spiritually from Buddhists or Native Americans. I think it would be great up in heaven if we could acknowledge the portion of light we have and expand on that light by learning from others from different faiths.

  5. SilverRain says:

    That is what the doctrine of the three kingdoms is about, isn’t it? There are different heavens for different people, depending on how much of the Father’s plan they are willing to accept.

    I think recently, many Mormons treat the Celestial Kingdom as heaven and the others as various degrees of hell. That couldn’t be further from the actual doctrine.

  6. Seth R. says:

    I’m not sure this is really an issue. Here’s why.

    LDS symbolic descriptions of the Celestial Kingdom locate it right here on a glorified planet earth. Some scriptures speak of each of we who reach the Celestial Kingdom being given a personal Urimm and Thummim. Other scriptures speak of the entire earth being transformed into one big Urimm and Thummim.

    Personally, I think these verses are largely symbolic in value. The person who imagines wandering around on a massive ball of glass has missed the point. The Urimm and Thummim is merely a device for seeing that which is hidden.

    The way I see it, your surroundings, as an exalted being, will be whatever you desire. Whatever is in your heart can be revealed to you constantly.

    So nothing says you need be surrounded by white marble pillars floating in the stars. You could be surrounded with mountains or streams, or whatever you wished. But even trying to link this with physical imagery probably misses the point anyway. You might even be surrounded by feelings of those you care for. Certainly, there will be a concern for the universe you are now connected to more fully than we can now comprehend.

    In short, who is to say Amy Tan’s version isn’t the Mormon version? Mormon symbols give more leeway for variations than I think you are giving them credit for.

  7. Zenaida says:

    I can see a loving Heavenly Father providing different views of the same place for His different children, but I think the crux of the issue is not one of imagery, but of the proscription that all people must accept one view.

  8. Athena II says:

    Might all of these religions be paths to the same Divine; One so glorious, and terrible, that it defies our mortal mythological might? In other words, could we all, who choose to do good and seek peace be working towards one end, and, by means of our limited understanding have created these many paths, each one right for our own gait?

  9. Alisa says:

    Deborah, I never thought about the many mansions and “I go to prepare a place for you” as a pluralistic scripture, but I love it! Thanks for the wonderful thought.

  10. D'Arcy says:

    Joanne: Thank you for quoting the Qur’an, I remember reading it in college and marveling at it’s beauty. I need to revisit it now, I think, especially since I am in such a different place than I was as an undergrad at BYU.

    Deborah: I have been thinking a lot about it, my pop culture me would say “Star’s Hollow” from the Gilmore Girls, because that seems to me a beautiful heaven. The other part of me keeps going back to Phillippians 4:8-9. And another part of me likes the idea one of my friends had. It’s a little long to put here, but if you go to my blog and read about it. He basically thinks that maybe we are already in “heaven”.

    Caroline: I know I have a lot to learn from others and it makes me excited to delve in!

    SilverRain: I still have a problem with thinking that people who won’t accept Jesus may not get into the “highest” degree of “heaven”. It just doesn’t sit well with me.

    Seth R: the mormon version still places emphasis on accepting Jesus and that brings me back to my original point.

    Z: yes!

    Athena II: Maybe, as I always say, God is a Big God.

    Alisa: I had never thought of it either, but I love interpreting that scripture that way!

    Thanks all!

  11. SilverRain says:

    D’Arcy – I don’t understand why that is a problem, when even the lower heaven is far more glorious than this earth. It is a degree of glory! It is a heaven! I doubt that those worthy to be there will have any cause to complain.

    I find it far more disturbing to assume that those who are not willing to work and to change by humbling themselves before Christ would get the same reward as those who have been tempered and cleansed in the refining fire of the Spirit. They call it fire because it hurts and it is hard. It is a narrow way because not many are willing to take it. I find it wondrous that God has prepared a place of glory and beauty even for the laziest and most prideful of us.

  12. Seth R. says:

    D’arcy,

    Maybe I’m just being dense, but I fail to see what the need to accept Jesus has to do with the issue.

  13. Athena II says:

    D’Arcy, I once sat by someone, who very close to the veil, said to me she now knew that heaven had been right here all along for us to partake of as fully as we wished. Most of us, she said, in the midst of this strenous mortal life, just never see it. And so we create our own hell, or purgatory.
    So your friend might have something there.
    Along the same lines, doesn’t Hindu philosophy believe in reincarnation as the system of refinement until ultimately loosing oneself and uniting with the Divine? Can we see this as walking the path of heaven (or hell) right here?

  14. Mormons, of all people, should not believe there is one heaven. I think D&C 76 and 88 clearly point to a plurality of heavens, in which all of God’s children receive a heaven according to their desires, all according to the nature of the laws they desire to follow and the type of salvation they seek.

    Only those who refuse any of the many heavens (as numerous as the stars) will receive no salvation/heaven at all. That being said, while I am confident all the faiths we know will continue in the millenium (as Brigham Young also taught), when we pass into the kingdoms of glory I expect all of our visions will change.

  1. August 4, 2008

    […] I saw this post on my friend, D’Arcy’s blog and asked if I could use it as a guest post. I love her writing and confidence in her choices. She’s posted with us before here. […]

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