What Lies Beyond the Grave? [Excerpts]
Differing theologies abounded when representatives of 10 different faiths shared their views of the afterlife at Brigham Young University, but that was the point at a conference titled "Beyond the Grave: Christian Interfaith Perspectives."
"Enlightening. Challenging. Provocative," said Thomas Oord, professor of theology and philosophy at Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa, Idaho. "What stood out is that interpretation can be diverse and that those who honor and believe scripture is authoritative can have different interpretations of it, especially on the subject of life after death."
Joseph Smith had a near-death experience and Brigham Young had at least two, said Brent Top, BYU's dean of Religious Education. Latter-day Saints enjoy a rich heritage of such stories, which have been shared at the pulpit in general conferences, in Sunday School classes and in church magazines. Hundreds of near-death experiences are found in the archives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Mormons are drawn to near-death accounts of family reunions because they seem to confirm the LDS belief in eternal families and are faith-affirming and life-enriching, said Top, who wrote "Glimpses Beyond Death's Door," with his wife, Wendy....
"Death is in fact the enemy to the Christian," said Richard Mouw, professor of faith and public life at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. Calvinist and evangelical faiths put a premium on the body and spirit together, while death separates them.
For Seventh-Day Adventist general vice president Ella Simmons, we sleep in our graves after we die, a belief shared by Martin Luther. That is a consoling teaching for her. "If I were in heaven and conscious of all that is happening on earth," she said, "that would be hell for me, because all is not well with my family."
Harvard University Episcopal pastor and chaplain Luther Zeigler said the Anglican view of the Christian hope in the afterlife is for a new age when heaven and earth merge in a newly created and embodied life. "God will reframe the cosmos," Zeigler said. "We're not just mere bystanders in this re-creation but collaborators to make the kingdom real. Our job is to now become kingdom-bearers."
"It was amazing to hear so many different perspectives and what they cling to to help them get through the difficulties of this life," said Colette Steele, a mom who has returned to BYU as an English literature major with a minor in Russian. "To find out what people believe is essential to knowing who they really are."..."There was no contention," she said, "even though there were so many different opinions."
Mouw got a big laugh when he said his secretary recently briefed him on two upcoming trips. "'Your second trip,' she said, 'is "Beyond the Grave,"' which was a bit of a shock to my system," he joked. "Even more shocking for an evangelical was to find out the first stop beyond the grave was at Brigham Young University," which he called the great intellectual center of Mormonism.
Oord expected that kind of collegiality, but he found it rewarding.
"These kinds of gatherings are crucial for overcoming the temptation to be suspicious," he said.
(Tad Walch, Deseret News Online, 3/20/16)
[TBC: Nazarene professor Thomas Oord was heartened "that those who honor and believe scripture is authoritative can have different interpretations of it." Mormons profess to honor Scripture but proclaim a "gospel" contrary to the Scriptures. Indeed, Mormonism fails to honor or believe scripture is authoritative. Where it is contrary to the Book of Mormon, the Bible is judged to be in error. Mormons may not be as blunt, but say something like "The Book of Mormon helps us interpret the Bible." In view of the claims of Joseph Smith, it doesn't take a great deal of interpretation to recognize that Galatians:1:8 tells us (for just one example), "But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed."]