Lost, Latter Day Saints and Eternal Families
I am an avid Lost fan and watched the series finale with great anticipation. I feel somewhat cheated by the ending. In a way, I think that the creators did a great job of tying together thematically the sixth season. However, most of the answers we received were to questions that were raised only in the past 20 episodes or so. Many of the shows unknowns remain unknown. The finale was driven by tear jerking character moments but lacked the same spark of genius contained in previous season endings.
Yet, I found the last twenty minutes of the show fascinating for its significant spiritual connection to our Latter Day Saint conception of the afterlife. Spoilers will follow—You have been warned:
In the end, the flash ‘sideways’ universe actually represented a purgatory or waiting room for the losties. Each of the characters remained stuck in this place. Many of the characters were in a very comfortable place, better of than in their pre-island life, but blind to their ultimate state of being. Desmond was an ultimately enlightened individual that spread the knowledge that something was amiss and not quite right in this parallel place.
I often wonder if this is what the spirit prison is like for those inside of it. If the spirit prison is an awful place, then everyone would convert in mass and there would be no need for the continued missionary efforts. Instead, it seems to me that the spiritual world must be a sort of matrix like deception in which individuals are given assurances of their salvation and the comfortable position of their eternal rest. Desmond had to continually beat, often literally, the truth into the heart’s of those he encountered.
I am reminded of the 138 section of the Doctrine and Covenants:
57 I beheld that the faithful aelders of this dispensation, when they depart from mortal life, continue their labors in the bpreaching of the cgospel of repentance and redemption, through the sacrifice of the Only Begotten Son of God, among those who are in darkness and under the bondage of sin in the great world of the dspirits of the dead.
The Lost version of purgatory is also one in which redemption is meaningfully possible. Thus, Ben is able to actually be a mentor and guide to Alex in a way that he could not in the ‘real’ world. Sayid likewise is able to find a measure of redemption even as his soul continues to darken. Might the spirit prison likewise be a place where souls can work out their salvation and continue to conquer their flaws? Yet, in the end of the episodes, some people also do not make it into the redemptive light. Despite his efforts of redemption, Ben Linus comes up to the church but does not enter into it. I thought about the connections to our concept of kingdoms of glory. Just as we have a concept of eternal progression, however, Ben suggests that he is not ready ‘yet’ implying that he may one day yet join the eternal reunion. He is able to gain some degree of forgiveness but has not yet found his full redemption.
In the 76th Chapter of the Doctrine and Covenants we read about the telestial kingdom.
86 These are they who receive not of his fulness in the eternal world, but of the Holy Spirit through the ministration of the terrestrial;
The Lost version of eternity also brings out several nagging questions I’ve had about the LDS concept of heaven.
Firstly, in the purgatorial sideways world, several characters are pregnant. These include Jin and Sun as well as Claire. These are characters that in the Island World never really were able to interact with their children. Thus, in the final episode we see an ultra sound of Jin and Sun’s child as well as Claire giving birth. Yet, in the final moments of the episode we discover that several of the castaways including Claire actually escape the Island and likely return to the real world. There, they live out their lives only later joining the deceased on the Island. Thus, they were likely to have spent time with their real and growing children. It is unlikely that their children died immediately or without being able to grow. Yet, in this paradisiacal world they are again infants.
The soul shall be restored to the body, and the body to the soul; yea, and every limb and joint shall be restored to its body; yea, even a hair of the head shall not be lost; but all things shall be restored to their proper and perfect frame. (Alma 40:23)
I was reminded of this beautiful post in The Millennial Star on Stillborn babies
What about the memories of Ji Yeon as he grow from infancy to maturity. What about his friends and loved one? Are these less important than the longing of a mother to raise her child? Lost places motherhood on an elevated plateau as we often do in the church. Kate is taken off the list of Candidates because she is a mother to Aaaron, for instance. Yet, it seems that our theology and the show both may forget that these babies are not just vessels for their mothers but unique individuals in and of themselves.
A resurrected Christian Shepard tells Jack that their spirits were not ready to move on without one another. Thus, the Lost heaven is like the LDS heaven in that it is a place of communal salvation. Individuals are not awakened in isolation. Throughout the episode and season, characters receive knowledge and light because of the actions of others.
Yet, for me, this heaven was notable for those that were absent. Several characters such as Michael and Walt did not arrive at the heavenly gates. Moreover, many characters of incredible importance in the series simply were not mentioned. Penny is able to be there even though she had never spent time on the Island, but what about Eloise Hawking, Charles Widmore or Jacob for that matter. What about past loves such as Nadia or Helen? How could these individuals be ‘saved’ without them.
This relates to a question I’ve always had about the plan of salvation and the focus on families. Certainly, our family members are central to our lives, but heaven would not be heaven for me without all of my friends and even without the people that daily make me smile.
Robert Hales wrote in a talk on The Eternal Family
“It is not enough just to save ourselves. It is equally important that parents, brothers, and sisters are saved in our families. If we return home alone to our Heavenly Father, we will be asked, “Where is the rest of the family?” This is why we teach that families are forever. The eternal nature of an individual becomes the eternal nature of the family.”
Yet, Lost suggests that family is not just those we are born to and from whom we can trace or genealogy, but also those that we love and that make us who we are.
All of the research on sealings in the Early Church suggest to me that we’ve lost something of this divine concept in our focus on the nuclear family.
Brigham Young, in a talk given February 16th 1868, proclaimed, “The ordinance of sealing must be performed here man to man, and woman to man, and children to parents, etc., until the chain of generation is made perfect in the sealing ordinances back to father Adam … until the earth is sanctified and prepared for the residence of God and angels.” (Journal of Discourses, Vol.12, p.165).
We will each of us be linked back in a chain to each other going back to our initial parents Adam and Eve. We are all literally brothers and an extended family and sons and daughters of a father in heaven. The Lost concept of heaven is both more limiting than the glory promised by our theology, and more expansive than our unfortunately limited focus on the isolated small family.
I love that the ending of one of my favorite shows can make me reflect on our concept of heaven and see its strength and also some of its flaws.