“Two Degrees off Center” is a monthly blog by Rich Keys about the personal struggles, issues, and topics that speak to the LDS/LGBT experience. Sometimes it will be serious, sometimes humorous, but will always approach things from a slightly different perspective.
by Rich Key
I’m writing this just after watching the opening session of last month’s gen con. On one end, there was the announcement of the reduction of church block time from 3 hours to 2 hours, and the shifting of emphasis on teaching the gospel, its doctrines, and commandments to the home as the primary source and the church as a support. On the other end, there was Dallin H. Oaks being Dallin H. Oaks.
All other Christian churches teach how to get to heaven, but this church is the only one that teaches three degrees of glory and how to get to the highest, the celestial kingdom. It doesn’t teach how to get to the terrestrial kingdom or to the telestial kingdom. The only focus of all its doctrine and teachings and programs and support is to get its members to the celestial kingdom. There are 41,995 verses in our scriptures, yet fewer than 20 verses that teach about the terrestrial kingdom, fewer than 20 that teach about the telestial kingdom. It’s all celestial.
After listening to the opening session of conference, it seems the church is closing ranks even more, focusing on the active members, the covenant keepers, the faithful families, and ignoring even the inactives or others who don’t exactly fit the mold. If you’re made to feel like an outsider, a second-class citizen in the Kingdom of God, and you’re starting to wonder whether you’d be happier in one of the other kingdoms, there are plenty of other churches out there that will teach you how to get there. Don’t fit in the core faithful? Not to worry. You’d make a great Baptist, or Methodist, or whatever church is closest to your home, and they’ll all help you and other honorable men and women get to heaven. Even if you’re a whoremonger and don’t even go to a church, you’ll get to heaven. That’s the beauty of the plan of salvation. We don’t have to worry whether you feel welcome or comfortable or like one of us. There are plenty of other churches to satisfy your needs. We’re only focused on those who will fit in the celestial kingdom with us.
I remember Elder Neal A. Maxwell’s description of new converts and others bringing what little they have with them, along with their weaknesses, differences, habits, and so forth; and as the church train pulls into the station and we see them board, we should ask ourselves whether we’re ready to accept them as they are. I’m starting to feel like the church train is passing by, no longer stopping, and leaving me and many others behind, alone at the station. When President Nelson was officially named as the next prophet, Elder Oaks was promoted and Elder Uchtdorf was demoted. I know we’re not supposed to think in those terms, but I hear a lot more talks now from President Oaks, and a lot fewer airplane stories from Elder Uchtdorf, and I shudder to think of my mansion in heaven being on the same block as Elder Oaks, and having him for a neighbor for the rest of eternity. Our meetinghouses have a sign in front stating, “Visitors Welcome,” but more and more also have a locked security fence around the entire building or property, sending the more subtle message, “Keep Out.” The scriptures tell us, “Choose you this day,” and I choose to get on the train. Why won’t it stop for me?
If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out all posts in the Two Degrees off Center blog series.