Jesus made the steps to inheriting eternal life seem pretty simple.
And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou? And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live. (Luke 10: 25-28)
Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matt 22: 35-40, see also Mark 12)
What could be more simple? Love God and love each other; all other commandments flow from these two laws and if we keep these two commandments we inherit eternal life.
The problem is that determining how to best love God and our neighbors is not as easy as it might seem.
This is where philosophical/theological assumptions loom large in all of our lives.
Here are just a couple of examples off the top of my head:
A. Let’s assume you are a Mormon who believes that there is no progressions between kingdoms after this life and that anything but exaltation will be somewhat hellish (BRM pushed a theology along these lines). Now let’s assume you have a family member who used to be very active in the church but now doesn’t have interest in praying, going to church, or practicing Mormonism at all. How would you best love that family member? Would a live and let live approach be the most loving approach to take if the universe really worked that way? Probably not. Time here is short after all and if it is largely a “now or never” deal on earth then procrastinating just won’t work. Wouldn’t a much more aggressive approach to this loved one be called for? In other words, if your assumptions about this life being the only good time for this beloved family member to repent were true, wouldn’t “tough love” be called for? Wouldn’t all sorts of drastic means (use your imagination) to get your loved one to repent here and now be the most loving approach to take?
B. Now let’s assume you are an evangelical Christian who is convinced that only believing evangelicals will be saved from burning alive forever in an everlasting hell. You see millions of Mormons out there who are totally unpersuaded by the virtues and tenets of your religion. Wouldn’t a tough love approach be the the most loving approach for you to take? By tough love I mean devote yourself to showing Mormons the evils of their religion and the follies and presumed lies of their current and former leaders. And when they called you a hateful anti-Mormon wouldn’t you know in your heart that you are truly the loving one?
Angels dancing on the head of a pin?
A very common criticism of Mormons who spend time studying Mormon theology is that they are wasting their time on useless trivia. The accusation is that digging into issues like whether progression between kingdoms occurs or not is as useless as digging into a question about “how many angels can dance on the head of a needle”. But correct behavior follows correct belief. How can we know how to best love and serve each other if we misunderstand the nature of humankind, of God, and of the universe? The evangelical anti-Mormon in my example above believes he is loving and serving Mormons by viciously and relentlessly attacking their beliefs, rites, ordinances, scriptures, and prophets. Bad behavior follows bad beliefs.
So is holding a “live and let live” attitude the most loving way to be in this life? Is closely monitoring the behavior of others to be sure they are living their lives in accordance with our understanding of the commandments of God the most loving way to be? What do you think? How do we best love God and love our neighbors?