As we have discussed in the past, Mormonism embraces at least a quasi-universalism in its teaching that hardly any of the inhabitants of the earth face an eternal hell after this life. And if it turns out that there is progression between kingdoms (an idea that has had both detractors and supporters among Church leaders over the years) then an even more robust form of universalism exists.
But as we have also discussed, it is not clear that it is useful to Mormonism (or to God for that matter) for all Mormons to embrace a more robust universalism even if it turns out to accurately represent reality. That is because universalism tends to kill motivation to repent and to work hard in the church. Why? Well to use the old “carrot and stick” motivation analogy (where the stick = negative consequences for actions and the carrot = positive consequences) universalism completely removes the “stick” when it comes to religious motivations.
On an individual basis, no longer fearing damnation, or at least not fearing being stuck forever in a lower kingdom as a single person without your family, isn’t a bad deal. I mean, who wouldn’t want to fear a little less? In fact it seems to be that sincerely believing in a more robust Mormon universalism could do a world of good for some of the especially-angst-ridden folks in the bloggernacle. If we all can progress between kingdoms in the eternities to come some of the things people anguish over concerning feminism or church history or the way things are run in the church or whatever might not seem like such emotional burdens any more. Being a universalist makes it a lot easier to say “meh” and just roll with the punches sometimes.
But this all reminds me of the theory called The Paradox of Thrift:
The paradox of thrift (or paradox of saving) is a paradox of economics, popularized by John Maynard Keynes, … The paradox states that if everyone tries to save more money during times of recession, then aggregate demand will fall and will in turn lower total savings in the population because of the decrease in consumption and economic growth.
To put it another way, the theory is that while saving money is good for the individual, if everybody saved a lot more of their money it would hurt the overall economy. It seems to me that the same thing applies to believing in a robust universalism (if universalism were true). Being a universalist probably could be good for the emotional well being and happiness of some individual Mormons. But if we all became robust universalists it could be detrimental to the organization. That is because the fear of the judgment bar motivates Mormons in ways that just couldn’t be replaced. And in an all volunteer organizations motivation is at a premium.
Of course while there are benefits of being a universalist Mormon there are risks too. The primary risk is that there really is no progression between kingdoms and the universalist will be slothful. It seems to me that the way to hedge ones bet as a universalist Mormon is to continue to keep the commandments, stay temple worthy, and generally stay the course in terms of practices (orthopraxy).
But perhaps in Mormonism being motivated by the carrot of greater access to God here and now is not enough to help one stay the course in the absence of the stick that is the fear of eternal judgments. Who knows…