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Kirby: When afterlife is anything but celestial

By Robert Kirby

| The Salt Lake Tribune

First Published Mar 26 2014 06:53 pm • Last Updated Mar 28 2014 07:52 pm

Despite speculation to the contrary, I am not a son of perdition. You might be, but I’m not. I’m actually a telestial spirit, a condition of which I’m rather proud. It took me a long time to get here.

This refers to the LDS concept of the afterlife, where people are rewarded — based on how faithful they were on Earth — with one of three degrees or kingdoms of glory.

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In descending order they are: celestial, terrestrial and telestial kingdoms. There’s also a place of utter nonglory referred to as "outer darkness." People sent there are referred to as sons of perdition.

Note: There’s no reference in LDS doctrine to daughters of perdition. Perhaps LDS women who want the priesthood should consider that. Hmm?

I used to worry about how things shook out in the next life. Was I good enough? Had I behaved myself? Did I do all the right things? Despite everything, would I manage to squeak into heaven?

Some people say they don’t worry about this, that Jesus loves everyone and it’s ridiculous to even consider that his grace won’t save any wretch who humbles himself.

I say that only works if Jesus is actually in charge. What if it’s Baal, Quetzalcoatl, Thor, Shiva, Mithra, Neptune or some other god you’ve been blithely ignoring?

My guess is that everyone worries about this. It’s probably a major reason we look both ways when we cross the street. Regardless of how positive we are that it will be so totally wonderful, few reasonable people seem in a hurry to get there.

I worried about it until one of the most genuinely unspiritual people I know pointed out a basic truth. We were way out in the desert instead of at church.

Me: "Do you think there are cannons in heaven?"

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Sonny: "What do you care? You aren’t going."

I hate it when Sonny uses my church’s own doctrine on me. I don’t know how he does it. He’s not Mormon. Other than the occasional inclination to cut people open on a stone altar, he’s not even religious.

Right then I realized the beauty of the three degrees of glory. I didn’t have to be church-approved valiant. I just had to be comfortable with myself and where I’m going.

Once you admit your telestial nature, things get so much easier. It’s almost impossible to feel guilty about not measuring up to someone else’s expectation when you no longer have to bother.

For example, people who want to go to the celestial kingdom have to stay for Sunday school. Telestial spirits can go home and eat leftover pizza.

Celestial spirits have to accept church callings no matter how onerous. Not telestial spirits. We can say (and I have), "No, not no, but hell no I’m not teaching Primary."

Celestial spirits have to concern themselves with having a spouse and kids for eternity. After we’re dead, telestial spirits are free to stay out as late as we want. And we don’t have to get up and go to work.

Telestial spirits cannot be threatened or coerced into certain behavior because — and this is an important point — we’re already fine with what we got coming to us.

But the coolest point of being comfortable with your telestialism is the part where you start doing good things because you want to instead of having to. It’s so liberating that it’s almost…well, heaven.

Robert Kirby can be reached at rkirby@sltrib.com or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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