I was watching a short video and heard a comment that got my attention. The man said that nothing in this life is as difficult to endure as loneliness, and not feeling connected to anyone else. My first thought was about all the references in the scriptures about unity among God’s people. This article is being written more as a reflective journal entry than as something prestudied and planned.
The pains of mortality
I wonder – what is more difficult for most people to endure, physical/emotional pain or loneliness in this life?
Might physical/emotional suffering be more tolerable if we are surrounded by those who love us, or is the pain unchanged by any support structure we might have around us?
What about loneliness? Is loneliness changed in any way by feeling like we are surrounded by love, or is loneliness equally as poisonous to our soul whether or not we have others around us who are trying to help us feel connected and supported?
It seems like society in this generation is always pushing us to be free and unfettered from the constraints and obligations that being connected to others seems to bring with that connection. We have a whole bevy of heroes, on and off the court, on and off the silver screen, and in stories, and in politics that make it look like going life alone, without any imposed obligations is the preferred way to live. And those in all these arenas who do seek companionship or relationships are always fraught with difficulties and heartbreak.
There seems to be fear built into the idea of revealing to others who we really are, and how we really feel about certain things. Do you think life would be easier and happier if we didn’t have to deal with the burdens of other’s secrets or other’s weaknesses? Would we be happier in the end if we could go through life without having to worry about getting so close to another person that our own secrets and weaknesses would have to be dealt with on an intimate relationship level?
Every question I have asked to this point has a latticework of pain attached to the possible answers. It can hurt when we have to reveal ourselves, our true selves to another person. It can be painful to have to confess our weaknesses and shortcomings to someone else. And heaven forbid anyone close to us should discover those weaknesses we have worked so hard to hide. There is so often rejection at the end of that road. Wouldn’t it just be easier for us to try to be as emotionally independent as possible?
Is pain important?
Why do we continue to try to connect with others when those connections bring us so much pain?
Is the pain of connecting with others unavoidable or can such connections be made that doesn’t end in insufferable pain? My Mom once told me that sooner or later every human will disappoint us. We can’t help it. It is unavoidable. God is the only one who will never let us down. I have pondered that idea for many years. On a scale of 1-100 how true is that idea?
Do we need the pain that comes from relationships?
Does pain in relationships teach us anything of an eternal or essential/valuable nature? If so, what?
God’s continued efforts to bring us together
As I sit thinking about the whole of sacred writ, I keep coming up with more and more examples of how the Lord keeps trying to bring us together as a united whole. Without getting into exact verses, there are references to being good Samaritans to each other, being each other’s neighbor, loving our neighbor as we love God, forgiving others seventy times seven (in other words, an unlimited number of times), putting our houses in order and teaching our children to be kind to each other, obey the commandments, and to serve one another. The list seems almost endless.
Even the scripture stories we love to tell each other surround our connection with each other. Adam and Eve were told to cleave to each other as man and wife. Cain was punished for killing his brother because of selfishness and jealousy. The stories of the wives and sons of Israel are full of lessons to learn about how to live together as a family unit. In the Book of Mormon we learn about the love Alma had for his wayward son, Alma the Younger. We read about Nephi’s attempts to salvage his relationship with his brothers, and how much trouble there was in his life because he wanted to obey the Lord and they resented being reminded of their covenants to God (let alone their need to live those covenants). Even in the Doctrine and Covenants we read about the Lord’s concern that the leaders of the Church learn to set their affairs in order and care properly for their families. The Lord was also concerned about Joseph’s relationship with his wife, Emma.
We read in the Pearl of Great Price about Enoch and his city who became so unified in their obedience and worship of the Lord that love reigned supreme and the entire city, buildings and all, were taken up into heaven, with the promise that when the Lord comes to reign personally on the earth that city will return to live among us once again. And in the Book of Abraham we read again about the plan of salvation where God organized the whole universe for the purpose of exalting his children to be like He is.
Obviously being united as a people is important to the Lord. Think through your experience with the scriptures. Can you think of even one example where the Lord told anyone to stay away from someone else? His directive for Israel to not have interactions with the countries they lived among doesn’t count, because he was trying to build up a covenant people who were united and solid in their faithfulness to Him. They usually failed Him, but He tried, and tried, and tried. I can’t think of one person or people the Lord ever told to do everything on their own.
What about covenants?
Interestingly, even the covenants we make are designed to bless others around us. We don’t make a single covenant with God that blesses just us, by ourself. Our covenants of baptism make us responsible to be Christlike to all those around us wherever we are and at all times. Even the covenant of Chastity is designed to make us more pure so our relationship with our spouse and family is more holy and elevated in nature. All of the work done in family history, the Temple, and in missionary work is designed to bring others together and create bonds of love.
What about things like the Word of Wisdom and the law of Tithing? Well, tithing is used to build the physical kingdom of God, and serves to make us less selfish, and more selfless. The Word of Wisdom makes us healthier and is meant to prolong our lives, not so we can do what we want in a self-serving way, but to serve God longer by being without spouse longer and our children longer, and doing the Lord’s work on earth longer and better. It is certainly easier to serve others when we are healthy than when we are severely crippled by illness or disease. Have I missed any commandment that even remotely looks self serving in nature?
I can only come to one conclusion from this line of thinking. The Lord doesn’t want us to think only of ourselves. He wants our focus and attention to be on the welfare of others, just as His focus and attention is on our welfare, not His. The Lord has set up the whole plan of salvation for His family in such a way that we cannot be saved (exalted) singly. We must, and can only be exalted in the end by working selflessly to bring about the exaltation of others as well. Does the scripture say something about we not being able to be saved without our kindred dead, and they cannot be saved without us? God seems to require that we find a way to be united as a family in order to return to His presence.
Even the actual work of salvation cannot be done as an individual. Christ performed a vicarious work for the whole family of God through his atoning sacrifice. He did something for us that we could not do for ourselves. There is no salvation without his sacrifice. And just as critically, we must perform the saving ordinances for our kindred dead so they can be saved. If we do not then neither we, nor our family members beyond the veil can be saved, and the entire plan of salvation will be a bust, wasted. This is where we get the term about becoming saviors on Mt. Zion. In the latter days it is the responsibility of every member of the Lord’s kingdom to become saviors with our Savior to provide salvation to the rest of the human family.
Do you suppose … ?
I’m just casting about in the dark here, but do you think it is even a possibility that we, as eternal beings, need each other to survive and be happy? God is a celestial being, and His entire plan for our salvation hinges on our ability to learn to work with each other, serve each other, accept each other, support one another, and to love one another unconditionally, and without judgment. Those who can learn how to do this are those who will return to live with Him and become celestial beings as well.
It seems to me that the pain we experience in learning to live with each other is what the whole plan of salvation is all about. We need to learn those celestial qualities of forgiveness, tolerance, generosity of spirit, support, and charity or unconditional love. These are what we are learning to develop as we keep the commandments and make our covenants.
We all make mistakes. We are all weak. We all have secrets, and things about ourselves we hope will never be revealed. But learning to love someone else without judgment, without condemnation, and accept them, “warts and all” is what the Savior’s example demonstrated for us. In our Sunday School class today we talked about how the Savior chose weak men as his apostles. He loved them, despite their weaknesses. Why? Because he looked beyond where they were that day and saw them as they could be, glorified and perfect. He sees this potential in all of us. He wants us to learn to see this in each other.
So yes, it is difficult to have pain in this life, but I personally think that it is more difficult to be alone. It is against the nature of our species as eternal beings to be alone. We are meant to live in a community filled with love and acceptance. That is the nature of our kind. This life is our proving ground to see who can learn the lessons needed to return to live with God and who will have to live elsewhere. The greatest happiness known in the universe is only had WITH other people and between other people. Being alone is not the pathway to eternal bliss.