A good friend of mine recently announced his 60th birthday on social media. He posted in a letter format, starting by saying, “I don’t like growing older. I understand one can’t have a good life without growing older in the process. It is life.”
I suppose anyone would agree with his feelings. But later on he wrote, “I freely admit that I don’t want to die. I don’t worry about what comes after death—I am not a “spiritual person” in the slightest. When I die I expect nothing but nothing. Life will be over. That is what I dread. I can’t imagine saying goodbye to life and all the things in it that mean something to me, especially to the people I love.”
I know my friend is an avowed atheist. Several times we have had discussions about God and life after death. He simply believes he is right and sees no logic in believing otherwise. To him, there is no God in heaven, no Christ, no Redeemer, nor anything after this life but a void and emptiness. Everything will be as blank and empty then as before his first memories.
Why Do People Fail to Pursue Spiritual Knowledge?
I find it so sad that he is willing to give up on life after death without even examining the alternatives. I have often asked myself, “Why do so many of God’s children give up so easily in the pursuit of the knowledge that leads to immortality and eternal life? What is the harm of pursuing this hope with every last bit of strength we have? What can be of more worth than living in God’s kingdom for time and all eternity and seeking exaltation?”
Yet, for various reason, many of God’s children would rather remain in darkness and ignorance than humble themselves and learn of Him and of His unconditional love for each of us—love that provides us with eternal life and exaltation after this life if we work to accept it.
My friend is a good man in all respects. He is a good family man raising several wonderful children and caring for his dear wife with love and kindness. He contributes his time and efforts to the community. But he will have nothing to do with religion either formally or informally.
What are some of the possible reasons for him and so many like him to follow this hopeless route in life? I offer here a few thoughts that might shed some light on the subject.
1. No Religion in the Home
Some people live without God and religion simply because they never heard of it in their homes while growing up. Children most often follow the ways of their parents, whether they know it or not. Look at how children tend to follow their parents’ political persuasions. More often than not, democrats follow democrats and republicans become republicans.
There is no truer example of this trend than in The Book of Mormon. The Lamanites followed the traditions of their fathers and were a godless people and, as such, were almost constantly in ignorance of Christ and his teachings. This verse sums it up: “And that wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth, through disobedience, from the children of men, and because of the tradition of their fathers.”
Because of these false traditions, generations of Lamanite children grew up in ignorance of Christ and His teachings. This conflicts with the happier outcome when children are under the teachings and influence of parents who teach the powerful truths of the Spirit of Christ. These faithful parents produce generations of men and women who believe in Christ, follow His teachings, and live by correct principles, having hope in eternal life and exaltation.
2. The Joseph Smith Dilemma: Which Church is Right?
Another possible reason for being uninvolved with religion comes down to sheer numbers. With so many churches and religions in the world today, each preaching different doctrines, one can easily become so frustrated that it becomes too confusing to find a satisfactory doctrine to follow. For almost 2,000 years, the true church of Christ was not on the earth. It all but perished with the death of the original apostles. That means that all churches founded during those millennium were the churches of men, following their interpretation of religion rather than God’s.
After the First Vision, Joseph declared about this dilemma:
“. . .I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong)—and which I should join.
I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof” (Joseph Smith—History 1:19).
3. Losing Faith in God
Now we come to one of the hardest traits of man to understand. I speak of losing all faith in God (and His love for His children) and replacing it with the science of men. How many have turned their backs on a belief in God because His existence can’t be “proven by science.” They purport that science has all the answers and that it has no room for God. In reality, they know so very little of God and His worlds, yet they think they know enough to disprove His existence.
We should remember Moses as he spoke to God face to face. When finished seeing all of God’s creations, Moses fell to the earth and lost his strength “for the space of many hours” so great were the works of God. It left Moses saying, “Now, for this cause I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed.” The vastness of God’s creations cannot be comprehended by us even in the slightest, yet with our myopic view, we dismiss Him completely from our lives.
It is like the the age-old story of leading a blind man to the side of an elephant, then letting him touch the trunk and asking him to describe the whole beast. There is so much he does not see nor comprehend without his vision. He cannot do describe the elephant as a whole with any accuracy. The scriptures tell us, “O how marvelous are the works of the Lord, and how long doth he suffer his people; yea, how blind and impenetrable are the understandings of the children of men, for they will not seek wisdom, neither do they desire that she should rule over them.”
4. Our Own Agency
Another reason for refusing to accept the teachings of life after death and the existence of God is that we all have the right to do so. We can make choices to abandon God of our own free will for various shortsighted reasons. This is the improper application of “free,” or better yet, “moral” agency. God will never force anyone to accept and worship him. We read in the scriptures, “For remember, remember, my brethren, that whosoever perisheth, perisheth unto himself; and whosoever doeth iniquity, doeth it unto himself; for behold, ye are free; ye are permitted to act for yourselves; for behold, God hath given unto you a knowledge and he hath made you free.”
Many are the traps set by Satin to entice us into misusing our free agency. The Book of Ephesians best sums up the pit into which we can fall into by improper use of our agency: “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the slight of men, and the cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive . . .”
The list of idols that man has to choose from rather than God’s way are many. He can freely choose the praise of man, power, pride, vanity, excessive wealth, immorality in all its facets, intellectualism, and a multitude of other vices that trap and starve us spiritually.
The height to which men will go to in choosing unholy objects and objectives was best brought to my attention a few years ago when I was looking at the large and expensive luxury yachts anchored in a South Florida marina. As I passed a huge new boat several hundred feet in length, my host said to me that it costs the owner over $1,000,000 a year just to berth and maintain this one yacht!
As I looked up at the stern of this boat to see what its name was I was appalled. It was christened “NEVER ENOUGH.” It just proved to me that without God in our lives, our appetites become unquenchable. Without Him, we would never make the time nor effort to live Christlike lives. It would not take long for mankind to fall into the abyss described by Alma about the people of Ammonihah. In a state of apostasy, the Ammonihah-ites became a hard-hearted and a stiffnecked people; a lost and fallen people who would be visited with utter destruction as a judgment from God.
Lastly (and sadly), what holds so many from seeking out a testimony of immortality and eternal life is apathy. Many are just too busy or lazy to be bothered at this time. As Elder L. Tom Perry said, “A major problem we face in preaching the gospel in the world is general apathy toward religion, toward things spiritual. Too many are very comfortable with their present lifestyle and feel no need to do more than “eat, drink and be merry” (Luke 12:19). They are not interested in anything but themselves—here and now.”
Until we can convince man to stop and take time to explore the true nature of God and His eternal love for us, then many of his children will walk in their own way and after the image of their own god.
Their likeness will be a reflection of the image of the world. There is so much more to be gained by following Christ. This, then, should be our great goal in life—to be missionaries with the wholesome goal to teach the plan of salvation until all believe.
George Domm was born and raised in upstate New York around historical LDS sites such as the Hill Cumorah and Palmyra. He was very familiar with the Church long before he was baptized in 1959. Soon after joining, he found himself serving a full-time mission for the Church in Berlin, Germany. That was his first of four missions! George currently lives in American Fork, UT with his wife, Margaret, and busies himself trying to keep up with their 11 children and 42 grandchildren. He loves to do family history and play golf with "all the old men in our neighborhood." His goal is to one day shoot his age, 74.