Monday, August 26, 2013

How far away is Heaven?

As my work schedule has changed my luck has run out and now I work Sunday's on a regular basis for the first time in my life.  To still have the day mean something a bit more to me I've been taking books on religious subjects with me to read between calls.  Today I read a passage in which the author asserted that God's presence is always within us and that our belief that God wasn't present was a major block to being able to tell He was there.  The author argued that to really commune with God on a regular basis is more like always being ready to open the door to Jesus who is standing at the door knocking.  And that there is nothing really hard about opening a door.

One thing that struck me was how simple the idea was.  I grew up understanding that my ability to have God's spirit with me was based on performing rituals and living righteously.  Once these were accomplished, the Holy Ghost's presence would be so typical in my every moment that I probably would never notice it was there unless I was excommunicated and lost that access completely.  Since this presence was so hard to detect, I was to learn to communicate with it by watching for impulses that weren't evil in nature and experiment with not controlling them until I learned how to identify a specific reverent feeling that was supposed to go with the correct impulses to follow.  Figuring out which feeling was supposed to indicate God's will and which were just random could be kind of chancy at first.  I've done some kind of random things as a result.

The other thing that struck me was that the author didn't suggest that any predetermined level of righteousness was required, only an attitude of humble reverent listening.  I've always been told that just like how I feel uncomfortable being around people who aren't doing the right things, God doesn't like spending time with people who were preoccupied with sin and would therefore refuse to spend any more time than necessary with them unless they were meeting some general requirements first.  Some sins were supposed to be so bad that I was taught that it would be impossible for me to enjoy the Holy Ghost unless those sins were gone first.  I heard repeatedly from missionaries that I associated with that they could always tell which investigators were committing sexual transgressions because those were the people who couldn't feel the spirit at all and who wouldn't feel the spirit unless they repented first.

In other words, the God who spent his time ministering to the spiritually sick, who was criticized for spending time with drunks and prostitutes, and who let a woman-so deep in sin that the Pharisee thought it would be wrong to be touched by her-wash his feet with her tears and hair thinks that the Holy Ghost is so skittish about being around sinners that the Holy Ghost only ministers to the spiritually clean who don't need a spiritual physician very badly?

I think I'm going to have to say this is a concept that makes no sense to me.  If Christ ministered to the most vile of sinners and sought to inspire them to repentance but kind of ignored the already righteous and attacked the self righteous, then I should expect the Holy Ghost to also spend its time ministering to any vile sinner who will listen humbly, ignore the already righteous, and attack the confidence of the self righteous.  In my own life I've felt the Holy Ghost in response to when I've been penitent and humble and listening, no matter what stage of righteousness I was in at the time.  At times when I've felt condemned by my sins I've felt the most gracious senses of forgiveness and love even if I hadn't completely mastered the rejection of the sins yet.

A prolonged attitude of penitence and humble listening that create intimacy with God should also help to produce righteousness.  But I think it is a mistake to assume that the Holy Ghost only spends time with the already righteous who only need mild repentence.  Those who are well don't need a physician.  The belief that the spirit of God shuns us if we sin will indeed create a mental roadblock.  If you don't have faith that God wishes to spend time with you why would you reach out to open the door to Christ's spirit knocking on the doors of your heart?

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