Carving Heaven out of Hell
In Ether 10, Morianton was the dispossessed heir of a despot. His forefather, Riplakish, had oppressed the people until they'd rebelled and executed him. Yet, many years later, despite new leadership, they were still oppressed. That's when Morianton gathered an army of outcasts, conducted an extended campaign, and eventually installed himself as king.
Then he did what no-one expected. He eased the burden of his people. He restored order and justice and won their hearts so that they anointed him as king. What follows is a tragic statement by his descendant, Ether. "And he did do justice unto the people, but not unto himself, because of his many whoredoms, wherefore he was cut off from the presence of the Lord."
I used to read that as Morianton being punished for his whoredoms. This week, I read it differently. I read it as the Lord feeling pleased by Morianton's unselfish service to the people and wanting to draw him closer. Morianton was a great man and the Lord would have liked to have brought him back into His presence, like the Brother of Jared and Coriantum (Ether 9:22). But Morianton's whoredom's stood in the way. So he remained "cut off from the presence of the Lord."
Is it possible that the penalty of sin is not that we will go to hell, but rather, that we cannot leave it? That it's not a terrifying eternal future that we have to fear, but rather, a dismal present we've been called to overcome? That hell is where fallen man already is?
Consider this: when the Devil and his angels were cast out of Heaven, they came here: to Earth. And we exist in a sphere where Lucifer has dominion because of the Fall.
But we didn't come here to be his subjects. We came into enemy territory as part of the army of the Lord to help liberate all that the Devil has taken captive.
Could it be that everywhere that we keep covenants and consecrate our property to the Lord, those places become part of His dominion? That the temples are like embassies, spaces carved out on this Earth where God alone is sovereign and the Devil has no power?
Joseph Smith once said that if the Saints "go to hell, we will turn the devil out of doors and make a heaven of it."
Is it possible that our commission is to be doing exactly that, right now?