When I was young someone told me it was important to gain an eternal perspective. I didn’t know what that meant. It took years to figure out on my own what an eternal perspective is, how to get one, and the difference it can make in a person’s life to have it.
Your perspective is your point of view. It is how you see the world you live in. Your priorities in life are decided upon by your perspective of what is right or wrong, and what is important, and what is of no worth. The perspective, or view makes all the difference.
Think about how someone behaves and thinks if their view of life begins with birth and ends with death. This view can only extend from the womb to the grave, nowhere else. All beliefs, priorities, emotions, dreams, and desires must be circumscribed within the time frame of birth and death. This doesn’t leave much time to get things done.
The world lives and operates within this perspective. All advertising and businesses operate within it. Surrounding us in mortality is an atmosphere of urgency, because whatever you are going to get to get ahead or to make life better for yourself has to be gotten now, today. Life becomes one long extended competition to see who can get more, achieve more, hold onto more. What is important is based on how much money, fame, influence, prestige, or honor you can acquire before you bite the bullet and die. Life in mortality is stewing, brimming, and teaming with a sense of urgency to gain these things.
Since life only lasts for 60-90 years for most of us, the drive to enjoy is behind most everything we are told we need to do. There are vacations to take, movies to watch, foundations to create and a name to be made for oneself. How we look, for whatever reason, seems to really matter. We base people’s value and worth on how beautiful they are or how they can contribute to our own sense of worth. People spend countless hours in gyms, on hiking trails, in pilates or spin classes, in weight-loss classes, and buying clothing, makeup, and accessories to make ourselves look better and feel younger.
In the mortal view there is a genuine fear of being old and aging. Getting old is the prelude to our losing everything we have come to consider most important about living at all. Old age is viewed as tantamount to defeat in this life. As a result, you have women who dye their hair into their 90’s, both men and women who get lifts, tucks, transplants, anything to make themselves look and think they are actually “still in the game.”
The idea of having to leave our short time on earth causes tremendous sorrow and angst. We shop for the elegant caskets, fuss over which cemetary plot has the best view (like you will actually care at that point), and we grasp what wealth we have obtained and keep it close to the vest, because we want to have as much money as possible to keep us in our elevated lifestyle till our dying day. We even worry and fret over who will get our personal effects when we die. We certainly don’t want someone to have control over something we value if they don’t really plan on putting the same value on our “stuff” that we do.
Where does it come from? The gospel teaches us that we lived with God, our Father, before we came to earth. He made this earth because we are eternal beings. We have always lived in one form or another. The furthest back we have record of our being is as intelligences. God took us from that state, whatever that entailed, and gave us spirit bodies.
Intelligences to spirit bodies As intelligences we were eternal, as eternal as God, Himself. We have always existed. It is the intelligence that makes the spirit an eternal being as well. Clothed with a spirit body we have an identity as a male or female child of God. Gaining a spirit body was one step in our progress to becoming a god ourselves.
Our goal in taking on a spirit body and going down this road of progression is to become like God is, and to be able to go through eternity living the kind of life He lives. We progressed for a long time as spirits, until we grew enough that we were prepared for the next step in our development.
Mortality In order for us to obtain the kind of body God has we must first obtain a physical body. God’s kind of body is a mortal body that was resurrected and glorified. Mortality is a way point, a stopover, a temporary passage from one form to the next. As short a period of time as mortality is in the scheme of eternity, it is also a critical time. Mortality is the time we have to try out a more complex body that comes with its own desires and needs.
It is in mortality that we make the decision to pursue the desires of the flesh or learn to control our earthly desires because we are more interested in what God’s life has to offer. The two lives – carnal desires vs. godly desires – are on opposite ends of the scale. So our Father gave us the ability to make moral choices, promising us that no one would be able to hamper our ability to make those moral choices, unless we gave our ability to someone else, namely Satan.
This life, this short time we are here became a proving ground to see which voice we really want to follow. Are we going to listen to Satan and our body and pursue all things physical in nature, or are we going to choose to follow God’s chosen servants in mortality and keep the commandments they give us from our Father.
The difference between the two perspectives
As I mentioned earlier, the mortal perspective sees and believes nothing outside of the confines of our time we are alive on earth. Nothing else concerns us. The eternal perspective comes when we believe the plan of salvation taught to us by prophets sent from God, and through the scriptures they have written. Jesus constantly tried to get people to look beyond mortality and to think of this life in terms of where it fits in eternity.
This means we learn to make our decisions in life based on values that are eternal in nature. This translates into such sentiments as love your enemy, do good to them who despitefully use you, forgive your neighbor, etc. All these values do us some good in this life, but they are not meant to be solely for this life. All the teachings of God’s prophets, and His Son, Jesus Christ, are meant to teach us how God, Himself lives. The point is, if we decide we want to live like Him someday, we must begin to make those changes this day, today.
This is part of our trial, the probationary nature of our earthly lives. Are we willing to look beyond the limits of what we can actually see and comprehend, and exercise faith in promises that after this life we will be rewarded with blessings and powers we can’t even imagine yet? It is this eye on eternity that enables us stay the course and remain obedient to the commandments and lifestyle the prophets teach us about. Hebrews 12:2 demonstrates the power of the eternal perspective.
2 Looking unto Jesus the and our faith; who for the joy that was set before him the cross, despising the , and is set down at the right hand of the of God.
Have you ever wondered what gave Jesus the drive and ability to keep on being obedient, to suffer as he did, to love as he did, and stay on course to the very end of his life? This is what Hebrews 12:2 is about. Jesus looked forward in the future to the joy he was promised by God if he remained faithful. This is the same promise we are given. God has promised to give us all He has if we will just be faithful to His commandments while we are in mortality.
Thinking as an eternal being
This means we must learn to think as someone who is here on a visit only. This earth life is only a temporary stop on our way to bigger and better things. Those with an eternal perspective see earth life and accept that it isn’t easy. There are trials and unimaginable times of suffering. But when we keep our focus on the future, that day when we are judged worthy by Christ for our obedience in this life, we will be rewarded with joy everlasting. To those who keep their eye on eternity, there will be glory, power, and exaltation beyond reckoning or imagination in the here and now. This is what it means to have an eternal perspective.
Gaining an eternal perspective
Learning to think beyond our physical confines of mortal life takes practice. I suggest you try to gain it the only way I know how to get it – pray for it. Make it a matter that you constantly ask for in your prayers. Ask the Lord to help you learn to think outside of the mortal box and to see things from His perspective. For God truly does have that eternal perspective we all need. If you want to learn to think like God thinks, and act like God acts then you need for Him to help you begin to see things from His perspective.
It took me years to notice that my perspective had begun to change. When I lost my material possessions because of a financial setback, I realized it was okay. I could give them up, because they weren’t the reason I was alive. I could always start over. And if I didn’t get back to where I was before, financially, that was also okay, because what had become even more important to me was whether or not the Lord was pleased with my behaviors and attitudes. This is what allows us to lose all that is valuable in mortality and still look for ways to serve others. This is what teaches us that the most valuable things in this life are relationships, not things. It is the eternal perspective that places attendance at the Temple and Church meetings over attendance at the game.
What the gospel of Christ offers us is eternal joy and happiness. Both joy and happiness, no matter how you define them, are available here in mortality. And it doesn’t matter what is happening in our life at the time. Look at Joseph Smith in the depths of his suffering in Liberty Jail. Joseph had suffered more than at any time in his life. He felt he was at the end of his rope and was worried the Lord had abandoned him and the Saints.
Remember Hebrews 12:2? God showed Jesus the glories and rewards He would give him for his faithful obedience. Look at what the Lord is telling His son, Joseph, and by extension all of His children, for what He promises to one He promises to all. Doctrine and Covenants 121:7-32. As you read these verses, recognize that these are promises made to you and to every Saint ever to make covenants with God, our Father.
7 My son, be unto thy soul; thine and thine afflictions shall be but a moment;
8 And then, if thou it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy .
9 Thy do stand by thee, and they shall hail thee again with warm hearts and friendly hands.
10 Thou art not yet as Job; thy do not contend against thee, neither charge thee with transgression, as they did Job.
11 And they who do charge thee with transgression, their hope shall be blasted, and their prospects shall away as the hoar frost melteth before the burning rays of the rising sun;
12 And also that God hath set his hand and seal to change the and seasons, and to blind their , that they may not understand his ; that he may them also and take them in their own craftiness;
13 Also because their hearts are corrupted, and the things which they are willing to bring upon others, and love to have others suffer, may come upon to the very uttermost;
14 That they may be also, and their hopes may be cut off;
15 And not many years hence, that they and their shall be from under heaven, saith God, that not one of them is left to stand by the wall.
16 are all those that shall lift up the against mine , saith the Lord, and cry they have when they have not sinned before me, saith the Lord, but have done that which was meet in mine eyes, and which I commanded them.
17 But who cry transgression do it because they are the servants of sin, and are the of disobedience themselves.
18 And those who against my servants, that they might bring them into bondage and death—
19 Wo unto them; because they have my little ones they shall be severed from the of mine house.
20 Their shall not be full, their houses and their barns shall perish, and they themselves shall be by those that flattered them.
21 They shall not have right to the , nor their posterity after them from generation to generation.
22 It had been for them that a millstone had been hanged about their necks, and they drowned in the depth of the sea.
23 Wo unto all those that my people, and drive, and , and testify against them, saith the Lord of Hosts; a of vipers shall not escape the damnation of hell.
24 Behold, mine eyes and know all their works, and I have in reserve a swift in the season thereof, for them all;
25 For there is a for every man, according as his shall be.
26 God shall give unto you by his , yea, by the unspeakable of the Holy Ghost, that has not been since the world was until now;
27 Which our forefathers have awaited with expectation to be revealed in the last times, which their minds were pointed to by the angels, as held in reserve for the fulness of their glory;
28 A time to come in the which shall be withheld, whether there be or many , they shall be manifest.
29 All thrones and dominions, principalities and powers, shall be and set forth upon all who have endured for the gospel of Jesus Christ.
30 And also, if there be set to the heavens or to the seas, or to the dry land, or to the sun, moon, or stars—
31 All the times of their revolutions, all the appointed days, months, and years, and all the days of their days, months, and years, and all their , laws, and set times, shall be revealed in the days of the of the fulness of times—
32 According to that which was in the midst of the of the Eternal of all other gods before this was, that should be reserved unto the finishing and the end thereof, when every man shall enter into his eternal and into his immortal .
Our everyday behavior and attitudes, our thoughts and beliefs, form the character we will live with in eternity. We need to accept that mortality is just a brief stopover in our eternal progression. You know those wicked people the Lord was referring to in the verses quoted from Doctrine and Covenants 121? Those people are trapped in their mortal perspective. The joy God promises His children can only be had by those who learn to exercise faith in God’s promises of eternal happiness and see this life as He sees it, as a time of growth and improvement, and very temporary in duration.
The lessons of mortality only become easier when they have a purpose behind them. Gaining the ability to see and think with an eternal perspective gives them that purpose. They become training moments and opportunities to teach us godly attitudes. Our joy is not found in earthly comfort, but in our hopes for eternal rest from the trials this final test pushes upon us. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning” (Psalms 30:5).
Don’t get me wrong. Everything we learn here can, in one way or another help us here, today. But much of what the Spirit will reveal to us in this life will also be useful to us in the next life. To develop an eternal perspective is to gain a perspective on life that embraces both the here and now, as well as our life in eternity.
As we minister to one another, try to see the people you serve as God sees them. They aren’t who they are today, but who God can help them become if they will but obey His counsel. The same is true of each of us. We learn to see others from God’s perspective as we serve them. The Spirit will open the eyes of our understanding and show us why God loves them.