Questions like this one don’t create any anxiety for me these days. I blame it on my creeping universalism.
By creeping universalism I mean this: I just can’t bring myself to believe in permanent divine punishment anymore. I know some people believe in it and I don’t begrudge them their beliefs — I just think they are wrong. Don’t misunderstand — I believe in divine justice. That is largely why I don’t believe in permanent punishment. If our souls are eternal I just don’t think there is anything we could do in 70 years here that would warrant infinite punishment. So I think people pay in some fashion for every sin they refuse to repent of; I just think that process won’t take forever. So when someone asks if I will end up in the highest kingdom of heaven (whatever that means) I feel confident in saying “yup”. I just think y’all will end up in the same condition too. (Heck, I now vaguely suspect we may have always been in that condition before our sojourn here on this planet as well…) That is what I mean by my creeping universalism.
Now for the bad parts about universalism. It can be really bad for motivation. People who think they can procrastinate being good (and by being good I basically mean loving God and loving our neighbors as ourselves) pretty much do procrastinate being good. We humans are generally more motivated by sticks than carrots; more motivated by fear of pain than hope for joy/peace. So universalism tends to take the fear out of being an awful, selfish, unloving person. Now this can be mitigated by believing in the temporary hell of Mormonism (aka spirit prison) but for whatever reason the prospects of a millennium suffering for our own sins doesn’t have the same motivational power for a lot of people as the prospects of eternal damnation. So even if my suspicions about universalism are true, it may be that God knows that not everything that is true is useful in the end (and not everything that is useful is true). In fact I suspect we have evidence of that in our scriptures.
Now for the good parts of universalism. There is really something to be said for lightening up, mellowing out, and simply enjoying our lives and relationships and the simple joys of life here on earth. As my personal leanings toward universalism increase the less judgmental I feel about my fellow travelers here on earth. While my creeping universalism is not particularly helpful to my missionary zeal, it seems that I can appreciate people better now regardless of their beliefs. It turns out that when you are no longer worried that someone is going to permanent hell for his/her choices it makes a real friendship a lot more natural.
One of my favorite movie characters ever is Crush, the sea turtle in Finding Nemo. I want to be more like Crush. There is something really right about his attitude toward life. I think my creeping universalism is making me more like Crush — more mellow, more accepting, more loving, less anxious in general. I think that is a good thing so I am not fighting it these days.