Following my first meeting with the missionaries, I went to the bookstore to get myself some Mormon related books. I got “Mormonism for Dummies” And a book called “Mormon America”, which I still haven’t read. So I started to read those. The sister missionaries gave me some scripture passages to read before our next appointment, which was a few weeks away. They stopped by occasionally to see if I had any questions. I felt bad because I really didn’t yet. I had just read a part of my book that said Joseph Smith was killed by a mob, and I wasn’t entirely sure if that meant a mob of people, or the mafia , but that was about it.
The second meeting was fairly uneventful, I don’t really remember anything specifically about it at this point. I know at the moment I felt pretty overwhelmed by all of the Churches scriptures, doctrine, and overall lifestyle. There was a lot to learn, accept and understand at once. It took a while to really wrap my brain around it. But I was reading my “Mormonism for Dummies” book, reading the Book of Mormon they gave me, and just pondering what I was reading about.
Our third meeting, several weeks later was the real game changer. The topic of that lesson was the “Plan of Salvation” This is the Mormon doctrine on who we were before this life, what our goal is for earth life, and what happens to us when we die. I will summarize it briefly, but a full version can be found at http://mormon.org/plan-of-happiness
We are all spiritual children of a loving Heavenly Father and Mother. He knew us personally, and we were nurtured at his side. But we were still just spirits. Like any earthly parent, our heavenly parents want us to have what they have. So we were created in Gods own image, and given bodies here on earth. We have left our home, off to prove ourselves in the world, and to make the most of our talents and prove our ability to handle responsibility and the challenges earth life throws at us. Satan also has the power to tempt and to wound us here. If earth life was always easy, it wouldn’t be a test. One place we break with some other Christian religions on is the subject of Adam and Eve. We don’t believe we are punished for their original sin. Without childbirth, which was one of their punishments, none of us would be here, so we don’t look at the fall of the Garden of Eden as being entirely a bad thing, but a necessary part of Gods plan.
Another area where we disagree with other churches is the notion of salvation. We believe that every human alive on earth is a child of the same Heavenly Father. And like earthly parents, he doesn’t love any of us less. Mistakes are part of the growing process. We are expected to strive to lead a Christ-like life, but he knows we will not be perfect. God is also not going to punish a child who dies before they are able to be baptised. Someone who grows up in India, and is a devoted Hindu, and has never even heard of Jesus Christ is not going to be punished for all eternity. God loves us all, and his plan is fair.
Our heaven is a tiered one. The bottom level is what most people think of when they picture heaven. A world free of sin and evil. Paradise. And that’s just the bottom level. There are people who made mistakes in earth life. People who never accepted the Gospel, they go here. The only way that you don’t make it into heaven is if God himself reveals himself to you, and you deny him anyway, knowing he is your Heavenly Father.
We believe that your opportunities for advancement are not limited to this life. Who we were in premortal life was not entirely lost, and it does affect us here on earth. Our opportunity to grow in Christ does not end at death. For those who uphold God’s rules, and are faithful members of the Church, your reward is an eternal family, one that can live together forever, and you can have a spiritual family of your own. I was engaged at the time, and we all know traditional marriage ceremonies have the line “Till death do us part” meaning the couple is separated by death. With eternal marriage, that does not happen.
I was surprised by two things about this lesson. How much I knew it made sense, and how much I had known it was true before I was even taught it. As a Catholic, this is not what we were taught, but I think I always knew that God’s plan for us was more like this, instead of what the Catholic and other churches teach. This filled me with a passion to continue to learn more.