The tragic vision of Mormon Christianity has four dimensions.

The first tragedy is that growth can only come through suffering and death.

The second tragedy is that free will means people can choose with finality to reject God and damn themselves.

The third tragedy is the tragedy that those we love can only grow through suffering and death and sometimes choose not to grow. Love holds us hostage to them, and it has to, or else it wouldn’t be love.

The fourth tragedy is that people miss out on growth that they are capable of, because they refuse to take the steps that would get them there. And perhaps nothing can be done about this.


That fourth tragedy deserves a little explanation.


Here is one model for how it could work. Agency is character-forming, because every choice creates feedback. That which is acted upon acts on the agent. That’s part of the first tragedy. God can’t just tell us or make us be better. We have to act and experience and be changed by our experience. Experiences build on each other.


We are all familiar with the idea that some people can and probably will reject God with finality in something or other, damning themselves to a lesser kingdom in the process. These people have experienced all the growth that they are capable of, and that’s it. They have exhausted the limits of who they are.




But since growth builds on itself, some people may be damned even if they are theoretically capable of more, simply because they won’t take the intermediate steps to get there. Imagine some pre-existence spirit. This spirit has a lot of potential. On earth, this incarnated spirit would learn grace through suffering and experience and grow into exaltation. But the spirit refuses to be born. If the spirit’s refusal is final, and if spirits cannot be fleshed against their will, that’s it. The spirit is damned.

Or imagine that in the afterlife you cling to one little sin. If you would let go of insisting on it, even for a little while, you would have growth and experience, even to the point where eventually you would first desire to get rid of that sin and ultimately come back to that sin and let it go for good. But since you insist on the sin . . . .

Whoever is unjust, let him be unjust still. Whoever is righteous, let him be righteous still. Whoever is filthy, let him be filthy still.

It’s easy to see how one little sin could hold us back when the sin is a refusal to grow. Refusing to be born, refusing to marry, refusing to love, refusing whatever challenges God may assign us in the hereafter, those are all sins that could easily prevent growth one was otherwise capable of. Other sins seem more like the kind that we could grow around.


But we may not be as able to grow around sins in the afterlife. Conditions are different there.


It sounds strange to say, but there is a valid point of view from which exaltation isn’t about becoming godlike. Becoming godlike is a means to an end.  Consider God, for example, whose purpose is not being all-powerful but whose purpose is to raise children to join Him in eternal life. Exaltation means participating in the divine community as a peer.


In other words, exaltation means full communion. That is probably what judgement means and is too. Judgement is when we meet God—when we are introduced into His community, and He into ours.


What happens when a member of the community openly defies the norms of that community? The community breaks. There is no choice about it. Either one of two things happen. The community either does nothing, which de facto accepts the new norm, so the community breaks with its past. Or else the community effectively expels the defiant member, or the defiant member expels himself. Defying the norms is different from breaking the norms, of course. A member of a community could openly break the norms without defying them, if they admit wrongdoing and ask forgiveness. Or a member of the community could break the norms secretly.


In the hereafter, some of those options for sin are not available. We can’t hide our sins from God. We can’t hide our sins from each other. We can’t insist that the divine community change its norms to accommodate us. Consider the following:









Insisting on sin means breaking communion with God and the exalted.


No one can remain in the community of the exalted who hasn’t rejected each and every sin. Rejection doesn’t mean having fully overcome it. It could be an admission that the sin is a sin and a determination to overcome it though it takes aeons of time. That would be enough to allow the unit of meaning to not be sinful and not contrary to participation in the community.

On the other hand, the sinner who in the future would grow to a desire to overcome his sin and then would overcome it, but who doesn’t will to end it now, cannot be in communion.

The thing is, the sinner may need that communion. We all know, even in trivial things, that without our friends coaxing us, there are things we never would have done and liked. Like the song says, sometimes we’ll walk the line for other people when we wouldn’t walk it for ourselves.

Perhaps the defiant sinner can be put in another community where he can grow to that desire. But perhaps not. Perhaps he is so constituted that it is only in the company of the people he cannot now be in company with that he would grow. Such a person would be damned, and it could be said of them without qualification that this life was the time to prepare to meet God.

The only alternative would be something like re-incarnation. Even then, I have the intuition that the reincarnation would not allow them to retain or eventually recover the loves and friendships of their past life.  If your past life weren’t cut off, you would end up being just a highwayman again.

So the original life must ended, judged, damned. It is gone.

The important insight of this line of thought is probably not anything it says about post-mortal life. The important insight is that the possibility of private vice may be one of the most important aspects of mortality. The ability to associate with each other on a basis other than sin may be what makes it possible for us to break out of our sin.

If ripping off the mask of mortality makes it harder to grow, why would God do it? Most of us have sins that we probably won’t abandon until then.

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