First of all, I like knowing what is going on in people's lives. I like keeping in touch with people I care about. I do not like talking on the phone. As much as I love talking with my friends, I really avoid the telephone as much as possible. I don't know why. I have always been that way. Letters and email have always been a more appealing form of communication for me. (after face-to-face of course!) But who has time to write letters anymore?
Letter-writing requires time, effort, consistency and a certain level of organization. When I was in college I wrote many letters to friends all over the country. I had a system for keeping track of who I had written to and who I hadn't. Over time, I got further and further behind. I regretted losing track of my friends and missed our brief communications.
Email became a much easier and faster way to keep in touch. I still like email because I can keep the "letters" without cluttering up the place. The problem with email is the same as letter writing: time. More than once I think "Didn't So-n-so have a baby recently?" When I look it up I realize it was 8 months ago! Well, never mind sending my congratulations now.
Admittedly, I sometimes have similar problems with Facebook. Sometimes there is too much going on with too many people. Other times, I miss that one status update that explains everything and I have no idea what the person is talking about until I go back and check it out. The good news is that I can do that. I can check up on people if I haven't heard from them in a while. (Yes, I am SPYING on all of you!) In all seriousness, I like knowing what is going on in the lives of people I care about and I like being able to share my life with them.
While I am sincere, that reason for using Facebook is sort of...superficial. Yes, it is fun and informative and entertaining. But really, it is not always about really connecting with people on a personal level. So, why bother?
My answer comes from something my dad said. He told me that he had never really felt the need to stay in touch with people outside of the family. He said "If we stay true to the faith, we will see each other again. If we don't, we won't want to see each other." I thought about that a lot. I tried to imagine what it would be like in the Celestial Kingdom. What would it be like to look for someone and not find them? What would the reunion be like if we were there together?
There is a beautiful scene in the Book of Mormon that illustrates a taste of that experience. Alma and his friends, the sons of Mosiah, had been terribly rebellious and caused all kinds of trouble. An angel appeared to them, commanding them to stop harassing the people of God. After that they were all converted and went their separate ways, trying to make up for their mistakes and bring others unto Christ. After 14 years, they are unexpectedly reunited. ( Alma 17:2, 27:17-18)
Now these sons of Mosiah were with Alma at the time the angel first appeared unto him; therefore Alma did rejoice exceedingly to see his brethren; and what added more to his joy, they were still his brethren in the Lord; yea, and they had waxed strong in the knowledge of the truth; for they were men of a sound understanding and they had searched the scriptures diligently, that they might know the word of God.
Now the joy of Ammon was so great even that he was full; yea, he was swallowed up in the joy of his God, even to the exhausting of his strength; and he fell again to the earth. Now was not this exceeding joy? Behold, this is joy which none receiveth save it be the truly penitent and humble seeker of happiness.
What has always touched me about this story is that they weren't just happy to see each other because they were old friends. They were happy because they had stayed true to the commandments. They had grown and changed for the better. They were happy to see the men that they had become.
Now, you might be wondering what this has to do with Facebook. I will explain. In the past year or so, I have reconnected with people I haven't' seen or heard from in as much as 20 years. (Can I really be old enough to say that?) More than once I have sat at my computer reading over someone's Info and found myself crying tears of joy as I read. Sometimes it is because they were teetering on the edge when I last saw them and are now firmly on the right path. Other times it is just knowing that they are still doing what they should be doing. One of my friends has joined the church. I wept when I saw that.
Other times I have felt sadness. I have friends who are no longer active members of the church. There are those who have struggled with substance abuse, divorce, health problems, death of loved ones, the list goes on. Sometimes I am amazed at how they have handled themselves and take strength from their example. Other times I am frustrated and disappointed. A few I would like to give a good smack in the head!
It isn't that I am judging them or turning up my nose at them. I feel sad for them. I have often thought What if this was it? What if today, right now, we were all judged and given our reward or punishment according to the choices we are making right now? Where would we be? Would some of my friends be lost to me? Or would we rejoice together, as Alma and his friends did?
This might seem like a depressing line of thought but it isn't. I see it more like watching a Marathon. Some are doing fine and you know they will make it. You have plans to meet at the finish-line and you know they will be there. Others are struggling and need some encouragement. You worry that they might drop out. If they do, you know they will miss out. They will regret it. The race isn't over yet. There is plenty of time to make it to the finish line. There is no "winning" in this race, only finishing.
I have been told that (if we make it) we will be so happy in the Celestial Kingdom that we won't even notice the people who are missing. I don't believe that. Not completely. I think we will know that God's judgment is fair but I think we will know that some of our loved ones didn't make the right choices and we will feel... something. Sad, disappointed, we will miss them.
President David O. McKay explained,
Whenever any person dies, the virtue of love will persist, and if any inquirer believes in the immortality of the soul, or in the persistence of personality after death, he must admit that love will also persist. The injunction of the Savior [is] to love our neighbor as ourselves. But if earthly things are typical of heavenly things, in the spirit world we shall recognize our loved ones there and know them as we loved them here.
To me, this means that our feelings won't change just because we have died. We will probably hang out with the same people there as we do here. We will want to be with the same people. If someone is missing, what will we say to each other? "Remember What's-His-Name? He had such a great sense of humor. I really liked him. Oh, well, too bad for him." I know, we all have to choose for ourselves. We are accountable for our own choices. But who would you want there with you? And who would you miss?