RS/MP Lesson 7: “The Immortality of the Soul” (George Albert Smith Manual)
Posted by Robert C. on April 8, 2012
In sports, sometimes a team is said to be playing not to lose, rather than playing to win. What does that mean, and how can it be applied to thinking about immortality?
I don’t think immortality in this lesson is referring just to the absence of death, as we usually think of it. Rather, I think it’s about death’s power. The way that fears, in a larger sense, distract us from actually living.
Pres. Smith writes:
If those who have passed on could speak to us, they would say, “Press on, press on, for the goal that will bring us eternal happiness together.” Do the things the Lord would have you do, and you will not miss anything that is worth while; but on the contrary you will be continually laying up treasures in heaven where moth and rust cannot corrupt or thieves break through and steal. [See Matthew 6:19–20.]
What is the implication of resurrection? That now, in this life, rather than worrying about ways we can stave off death, ways that we can get ahead in this life for a little bit longer, ways that we can die better, we should be doing things that are of eternal worth.
In the scriptural passage referred to, Matthew 6, there are a handful of related passages regarding the nature of discipleship. These other passages help clarify the meaning of this phrase “laying up treasure in heaven.”
For the sake of mixing things up a bit, to help instill new thoughts and insights to the underlying scriptural passage here, consider the following translation of the next several verses (Matt 6:25-34):
With this in view, then, I say to you: Do not be filled with anxiety about your life, concerning, for example, what you will eat [or drink], or how you will clothe your body. Is not life more significant than nourishment and the body more significant than clothing?
Consider well the birds of the sky: they neither sow, nor reap, nor gather crops into a storehouse, yet your heavenly Father provides them with food. Are you not worth much more than they?
Besides, who of you, by being anxious about it, can add to his or her life even one hour? And why are you anxious about clothing? Learn a lesson from how the flowers of the field grow: they neither labor nor toil, but I tell you not even Solomon in all his splendor could match such clothing!
Now since God clothes the grass of the field like this grass which is alive one day, but on the next is used as fuel for the oven will he not much more clothe you, you who have so little faith?
Therefore do not be full of anxiety, saying: What are we to eat? or What are we to drink? or What are we to wear? For the Gentiles are the ones who earnestly seek after precisely all these things. But your heavenly Father is well aware that you need all of these things.
So keep seeking above all else the kingdom [of God] and the righteousness he demands, and all of these things will also be yours. Do not then be filled with anxiety about tomorrow, for tomorrow will have its own share of anxiety. For each day has its own quite sufficient supply of evil.
[Hagner, Donald A.: Word Biblical Commentary : Matthew 1-13. Dallas : Word, Incorporated, 2002 (Word Biblical Commentary 33A), S., p. 160]
(For a great discussion of these verses, see Adam Miller’s thoughts here.)
This phrase in verse 32, which in the KJV read, “For after all these things do the Gentiles seek” (referring to clothing and food and drink), is significant context for understanding this lesson. That is, to put the matter differently, we live in Babylon. Babylon is where people are so caught up in the daily grind, of working harder and faster to get ahead, and to stay ahead, worrying so much about laying up more treasure, that there’s not time for enjoying the graces that God has so bounteously blessed us with.
That, I believe, is the meaning of the resurrection. This constant, nagging fear and anxiety that most of us live with, to a greater or lesser extent, is not something we have to pay attention to. Christ has risen, truly risen! And because of that, we can quit worrying. Period.
The scriptural term for this worry is fear. Sometimes it’s anxiety. We also call it stress. It’s what preoccupies us instead of rejoicing in the gift of our own life, instead of playing with our kids while we still can, instead of reading the scriptures, or having a meaningful discussion with our spouse, or friend (“Treasure these things up in your hearts, and let the solemnities of eternity rest upon your minds,” D&C 43:34).
My prayer is that we will live throughout the year, not just with a knowledge of the resurrection, but in a manner that is faithful to the resurrection.