Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Difference Between Heaven and Hell

I've heard some version of this little story before but it's been a long time since I thought about it so it was a nice reminder at Church today...

A man died and was greeted by Heaven's gate keeper who offered to show him both Heaven and Hell. The man agreed and was led into a room where there was a large round table with several pots of the most delicious soup he'd ever imagined.  At each place around the table a person was seated.  And each person had a large long-handled spoon strapped to their wrist.  Each person could dip up a spoonful of this delectable soup but they couldn't maneuver it to their lips because their arms were too short or the handle was too long or some combination of those problems.  So they sat there miserable and hungry and very much wanting the soup that was right in front of them.  When the man turned to his heavenly guide with a confused look, the guide said "This is Hell."

And then he led the man away to another room.  Walking in it was identical.  There was a big round table with several pots of that same delicious smelling soup and people seated all around the table with those long-handled spoons strapped to their wrists.  But these people were happy!  Each dipped up a spoonful of soup and turned to the person side of him (or her) and brought the spoon to their lips.  Everyone was well fed and enjoying the soup.  The guide explained, "This is Heaven."

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The gist of the talk was that focus on self leads to misery and we create a heavenly environment by serving each other... that we get farther faster when carrying each other's burdens than if each person has to carry all of his own problems by himself.  Sometimes service doesn't have to be a grand gesture; it can be as simple as a friendly smile of welcome when you greet someone.

I think it's a great and valid point.  Service changes perspective. In my own life, I've seen it get my mind off my own problems and feeling sorry for myself because of them.  Years ago my Mom had a heart attack and was in the hospital for several days.  It was a bad one and things were not certain and at one point one of the doctors, a young man finishing his residency, urged me to pull life support right now and be done with it.  A visibly upset nurse advised me to wait until morning when the cardiologist came around.  I waited and things got back to what was our 'normal' at the time, but leaving the hospital that night I met another woman.  She was crying and wanted someone, anyone, to talk to.  I wasn't sure I wanted to be that person but not seeing much chance of a polite escape, I sat down with her and listened.  I'm glad I did.  Her husband had been shot in a street brawl.  And he woke up from surgery angrier than a hungry bear.  He wanted out to go seek revenge.  And he wanted out NOW.  And death to anyone who tried to stop him...  She signed the order for the hospital security to restrain him knowing the threat to kill her for doing it, when he did get out, was real.  Suddenly my problems didn't seem so terrible.  My perspective was changed.

In the Book of Mormon when King Mosiah has called his people together and he addresses the fairness, equity and spirituality of his reign as their leader, he exhorts them to be good to one another.  In part he says "And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.  And behold also, if I, whom ye call your king, who has spent his days in your service, and yet has been in the service of God, do merit any thanks from you, O how you ought to thank your heavenly King!" (Mosiah 2:17,19)

That phrase "when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God" is a hallmark of my personal faith.  The best way I can say thank you for all that I enjoy, and ever hope to enjoy, is to share it with those around me.  Someday I'd love it if my gravestone could honestly be engraved with she went about doing good.

Now isn't that a powerful possibility?

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