Guest Post: When God is Love, there is no Sad Heaven
By Jody England Hansen
My life as a Mormon does not include a fear of Sad Heaven.
It does include hearing from many who struggle with seeing something that is beyond their own current paradigm. I remember, as early as the 1960s when I would listen to conference with my parents, hearing very different messages from different speakers. My parents and grandparents would talk about what spoke to their heart, and what didn’t. The discussion could be passionate and personal at times, but I saw that the views and doctrines taught were as individual as the people teaching them. Conflicting messages were heard within the same meeting, sometimes within the same talk. I saw that I was responsible for my journey in seeking and finding God in the world, and in me. I saw examples of how powerful and limiting bias, or closely held and protected view that certain truth could be.
But that is not a Mormon thing. That is a human thing, and one that I have to constantly confront in myself. I need to catch myself when I expect or demand that someone see and shift their own paradigm. I need to remember how difficult, frightening, or even painful it is for me to confront my own thinking, and step into uncertainty and willingness to live a new life of seeing differently. I also learned that I did not need to wait from others to be teachable, or confront their bias, before I did. I did not need to wait for a message over the pulpit in order to know how to seek my God.
Owning my Mormon journey has deeply informed this practice. Learning the complexities of my faith community from its earliest beginnings has taught me all my life.
Mormonism began even before Joseph Smith asked a question of God.
It began when he was troubled by the teachings of churches that said he would never see his deceased loved ones again, because they had not received the right official blessings.
It began because Joseph sensed that the God who he felt drawn to would not keep loved ones away from each other.
It began because he was willing to open himself up to greater light and knowledge, and to consider that eternal connection, and the love of God is so much greater than anything that has yet been imagined.
It began when Joseph was willing to listen for revelation of Eternal Life that was beyond comprehension, of a radically loving and inclusive God who never stops inviting and reaching out, no matter how long it takes, because there is no time limit on God’s love. He was willing to see a God who weeps, not because They fear we are lost, but because we, Their children, hurt each other and have not yet learned the power of unconditional, transforming love. And even as They weep, They continue to love and reach out.
Mormonism began with a seeking for the complex, inspiring revealing of a God who loves all unconditionally, intimately and individually. This love is the only power capable of turning hearts to each other across time and space, the only power that can save the earth from being wasted by the curse of exclusion, barriers, and the human need to look for reasons to deny love for all.
The message from God when Joseph prayed and sought with open heart still speaks to me – “Don’t seek answers from those who do not speak of the God of Love. We are here. We love you. You are precious. You belong.”
I think some of the great interactions with the divine that are described in our narratives share the message that President Eyring shared at the end of his talk on Saturday. He was concerned in the past about whether he would be able to see family members beyond this life, who were not on the same path he was. He was told “You are worrying about the wrong problem.” Paraphrasing from my view, the message is that he needed to make himself the person who loves as God loves, and trust that our connections would be more wonderful than anything we can imagine.
I hope, as Mormons of every kind, or as humans of an endless family, we will remember the best part of our history.
I hope we will listen for the message of transforming love.
I hope we will not give energy to the wrong problem, but instead focus on sitting with each other in love. It is the only thing that will overcome all.
I hope we will let go of needing some “right” answer to questions that don’t fit our paradigm, and instead be willing to shift to a greater view.
I hope we will be open to connections, now and forever, that are greater than anything we can imagine or have language for.
I hope we will learn to be the people we say we want to be.
Followers of a loving God.
When God is Love, heaven is here, Eternal Life is now. And forever.
Jody England Hansen is a writer, speaker, activist, advocate, suicide prevention trainer, and mixed media artist. She lives in Salt Lake City with Mike, near their kids, who have taught her more about love and mercy than she thought possible. She finds inspiration in the many conversations that are happening now as so many people show up and speak up in powerful and courageous ways. She is finding more places where greater diversity of people are speaking love into the face of dogma, removing barriers of bias, and connecting hearts instead of building walls.