After the two presentations today, I couldn’t help but compare the beliefs and practices of the United Methodist Church to the beliefs and practices of the Mormon church, because really, the sheer differences in how they view God is really fascinating. The differences in their concept of salvation, for example, interested me because even though the Methodist ideology is definitely different from Baptist’s, the general idea of Christ being the Savior and sole “pathway” to heaven is something I am used to hearing. Hearing the Mormon belief of who Christ is right after hearing the presentation on the United Methodist, however, got me thinking on the stark contrasts in beliefs that these two sects of Christianity have. The one thing that most fascinated me, however, was the differences (and similarities) in the concept of the afterlife.
I had a couple of Mormon friends in high school, so I do know a bit about their general ideas of how the afterlife works. As we learned in class, there is, first of all, Paradise and the Spirit Prison. Paradise is where those who believe and embrace the teachings of Jesus Christ go to after they die. Here, Christ spends his time teaching them so that they can reach those who have not yet heard the Gospel (which of course, correlates back to the fact that Mormonism is, in many ways, mission-driven). Spirit Prison, on the other hand, is more like a temporary state of being than an actual place. Those who died without knowing about the Gospels go there, as well as those who died after rejecting them (though this may mean they suffer more). However, they ARE presented with the notions of the Gospels, and those who do accept them are able to move onto Paradise. There’s also the concept of Outer Darkness, which could either be interpreted as another word for the Spirit Prison, or as a permanent place of torment (though far more Faustian than literal, as is, I have noticed, the Spirit Prison) where those who committed the unforgivable crime of sinning against the Holy Ghost go to.
These particular destinations, however, are considered temporary. After the Resurrection, these spirits are then transported to three different “kingdoms” (or degrees of glory). There is the Celestial Kingdom, where the most faithful and righteous will coexist with Christ and the Father. There is also the Terrestrial Kingdom, where those who either received Christ after death or did not receive him fully during their lifetimes go to. I remember my friend telling me that this is also where those who didn’t receive Jesus Christ, but lived respectable lives go to, though I may be wrong. The Telestial Kingdom is the lowest of them all, and is basically inhabited by those who did not receive Christ at all, and those who were in Spirit Prison and did not go to Paradise. While the Terrestrial Kingdom does get the presence of Christ, this one does not get that at all. However, they do receive the Holy Spirit, and it’s not so much hell as it is a more distanced relationship with God.
This way of thinking is definitely different from the more “mainstream” line of beliefs of Heaven and Hell; however, there are themes that are actually similar. The idea of believing in Christ’s teachings as a way to Paradise is not that different from the idea of trusting Jesus in order to go to Heaven. And while the idea of Hell is far more psychological than literal fire and brimstone, the idea of suffering because of one’s sins is still there.
Just my thoughts.