Adam Miller: Living in Christ Before We Die
A quote by Marcus Aurelius, a scripture in Jarom, and the writings of Paul led Adam Miller to ponder the question of what life would look like if we chose to die in Christ now and experience “an early resurrection.” This week, we look at how turning our lives over to Christ before death has the potential to change everything.
You know how it is when you’re so absorbed in doing what you’re doing? When you so love what you’re doing, when you’ve so lost yourself in caring for whatever the task is, or whoever the person is you’re with, that you just lose all track of time and simultaneously lose all track of yourself and feel in the end, enlivened and empowered? That’s it. That’s life in Christ. And the trick is to learn how to do that, not just every once in a while but to live our lives like that from dawn until dusk in Christ.
2:58- Setting the Stage
6:59- An Early Resurrection
8:35- Why Ordinances Matter
13:14- What does "Living in Christ" look like?
19:25- Love and Law
28:12- The Bible and the Book of Mormon
30:26- Grateful to be a Latter-day Saint
32:47- Spirit as a Down Payment
34:10- Moby Dick and Turning Our Time Over To God
43:57- What Does It Mean To Be "All In" The Gospel of Jesus Christ?
This episode originally aired on October 2, 2019.
Morgan Jones: A few months ago, I read these words penned by Adam Miller. "Something changes when you are in love. It's not just that a new person is added to your life, one person among many, it's that this new person changes for you what it means to be alive. Life is no longer just lived. Now life is lived in love, you may keep the same job, have the same friends and eat the same food. But something basic about why you do these things or even how you do them will have changed. In love, life as a whole feels different. You see what you didn't use to see, you hear what you didn't use to hear, you care for things you'd ignored. You become capable of doing things that last week you weren't able to do. Life in Christ is like this. In Christ, the way I live, my manner of living, is changed from the inside out. Like being in love living in Christ changes what it means to be alive." As soon as I read this, quote, I was immediately intrigued and ended up devouring the book the quote came from. In the book, "An Early Resurrection," Adam Miller introduces readers to a way of living that I believe, if adopted, could change our lives. Adam S. Miller is a professor of philosophy at Collin College in McKinney, Texas. He earned a bachelor's degree in comparative literature from Brigham Young University and a Masters and Ph.D. in philosophy from Villanova University. He and his wife, Gwen Miller, have three children, and he is the author of many books, including "Letters to a Young Mormon," "Future Mormon: Essays in Mormon Theology," "Grace Is Not God's Backup Plan," and "The Gospel According to David Foster Wallace." This is "All In," and LDS Living podcast where we ask the question, "What does it really mean to be all in the Gospel of Jesus Christ?" I'm Morgan Jones, and I am honored to have Adam Miller on the line with me today, Adam, welcome.
Adam Miller: My pleasure. Thanks for inviting me.
MJ: Well, I have to tell you, I'm a little bit intimidated coming into this interview just because I, first of all, am a fan of everything that you write. But secondly, last time we talked, it was about Letters to a Young Mormon, and I feel like that's kind of where my level of intelligence is at. I feel like, I'm like a young Mormon. But this time, we're going to be talking about your book, An Early Resurrection. And I'll be completely honest with you and say that this book blew my mind. So we'll see how able I am to articulate my thoughts about it, but I'm sure you'll pick up my slack.
AM: I think you'll do just fine.
MJ: Well, first of all, Adam, you based this book off of a few things. The first is a quote by Marcus Aurelius, which says, "Think of yourself as dead. You've lived your life, now take what's left and live it properly." And then second, there's a scripture in Jarom in the Book of Mormon, which I love that your book is based so heavily on this quote or this scripture, because I loved this scripture on my mission. And it says that the prophets at the time were persuading the people to "look forward unto the Messiah and believe in Him to come as though He already was. And after this manner did they teach them." And then third, you also base it on scriptures in the New Testament that were written by Paul and over 150 scriptures, which speak of living a life which is in Christ. Starting very simply, so that we can kind of try to create a foundation to build on this episode. You're a philosophy professor, and so you think deeper than many of us. But what inspired you to initially start working on this book? And when did you start to think about the correlation between these three different things?
AM: Well, for me, the burning question is always the same. And it's a pretty straightforward question: Is redemption possible? What does that look like? And if it's possible, how do you do it? Not later, not in the next life? Right now, how do you do it? Is it possible to undergo the kind of mighty change that fundamentally transforms your experience of the world? That's what I want to know. And I think one way of describing that kind of fundamental change that occurred to me is in terms of the way that it's possible to undergo a fundamental change in how we experience time, how it's possible for God to fold our future redemption into our present experience, at the same time as he's redeeming our past.
MJ: I love that because I think it makes so much sense that time, or it resonates in my heart, that time is something that is kind of ours to experience here on earth, and maybe not so much a godly principle. And this is something that you kind of talk about in the book is this idea of time and God's ability to experience time. You say, you invite us to think of time differently by thinking of the future as though it's already happened, while also inviting us to be more present within the time that we're in. Can you kind of explain to those listening what that means or what that looks like?
AM: Well, I think it's a really basic level, life is just a made out of time. And I suspect that that's probably true, not just in this world, but in the next world. I don't know what a world without time would look like, I don't know how it would be possible to have meaning or relationships without time. Life is just made out of time. And if we're going to, if we're going to redeem our lives, if our lives are going to be changed in a fundamental way by our relationship to God, then that's going to have to involve, I think, a fundamental change in how we experience time, and the way that we relate to our past and the way that we relate to our future and whether or not we're capable of showing up in the present moment, grounded and attentive and loving. I think it's possible to describe sin itself as a kind of mishandling of time. And I think it makes a lot of sense, then in response, to understand redemption as a kind of recovery as the kind of redemption of the way that we experience and handle time.
MJ: So the whole idea of this book, Adam, is that we can die in Christ now. We don't have to wait for our mortality to be over and experience resurrection now. Can you explain that idea for listeners, and then we'll kind of try to build off of it from there?
Well, it's borrowed from an image that Paul uses, but that image is pretty straightforwardly grounded in the symbolism that structures baptism. When we talk about baptism to eight-year-olds, we always talk about baptism in terms of kind of washing, or cleansing. But that's not the image that gets used in scriptures. And that's not the image that gets used, especially by Paul and his description of what baptism symbolizes. Baptism is meant to symbolize by way of immersion, the kind of death and burial. And then we come up out of that watery grave resurrected into a new life in Christ. So it's possible to live your whole life, postponing your death, postponing the loss of your own life, clinging to the things that you think are yours. And as a result, postponing the next life and postponing your redemption and postponing your resurrection. But baptism offers us a way to by way of ritual to stop postponing our death. Let go of our own lives right now. turn them over to God, and then get started on the next life before we've even left this world. That I think is the basic symbolism at the heart of our most important ritual as Christians.
MJ: Yeah. You talk in the book a lot about ordinances and in our church that includes baptism, the sacrament, and even temple worship. I wondered for you, Adam, as you worked on this book, how did it cultivate gratitude for the ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ for you?
AM: Well, the ordinances turn out to be, as we've always said, really important, because if, for me, the basic question is, is redemption possible? And if so, how do you do it? The ordinances are the way that you do it, they're the way that you here and now, inact, by way of these symbolic gestures, the very thing that you're hoping to bring into your life. And in that way, the ordinances I think, are a kind of a powerful door that opens onto a kind of new life that's filled with spirit and the presence of God.
MJ: I love that. And I love how in the book, you say, "baptism turns death into a door." And the invitation in this book is to live in Christ by passing through that door, we've made covenants with God, we've been baptized, and now it's time to enter in through that door and live in Christ. You talk a lot about "types" in this book, it talks about, you know, living in Christ as though he's already come and dying in Christ so that we can live in him, and how different aspects of the gospel play a role in that. But first of all, you kind of have to establish this groundwork of types. We talked about types and shadows in the church, can you explain what a type is within the context of what we'll be talking about today?
AM: Yeah, so I think it's the case that everyone's going to die, right? We're all going to die. That's not optional for any of us. I don't want to spoil the ending for any of your listeners. That's how every life is going to turn out. And the question here, with respect to the gospel, turns on whether I'm going to do that willingly or unwillingly, whether I'll take my death as an occasion to turn my life over to God, or whether I will only go kicking and screaming and reluctantly let go of my life and turn it back to him. Our ordinances give us a chance to do willingly what we will have to eventually do inevitably, right? Baptism gives me a chance to say, "Look, I know I'm going to have to die someday. But I'm going to not wait for that. I'm going to willingly give my life back to God right now before I'm even dead." It gives me a chance to practice dying. And it's easy to see the way in which, for instance, something like the endowment ceremony gives me the same chance on a larger scale, on a bigger kind of symbolic/ritual canvas, the endowment ceremony gives me a chance to practice passing through the veil of death and entering back into the presence of God before I leave this world. Alright, so I think the ordinances tend to be really important in that way, and they give me a chance to turn what would just be a loss into a willing sacrifice. And it's the business of turning our inevitable losses into willing sacrifices that I think is at the heart of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. Now, the ordinances turn out to be an important part of this because they function, as Paul says, or as the Book of Mormon describes it sometimes, they function as types and types are a special kind of symbol that allow things that are absent, temporally, that allow an absent future, for instance, to show up in the present moment. As you indicated, the Book of Mormon often describes types as shadows of things to come, I guess kind of symbols that represent in the present something that hasn't actually happened yet but that allow us in the present to have a kind of relationship to the future nonetheless. And so our ordinances, the symbols involved in those ordinances, they functions as types that allow Jesus Christ, or at least a shadow of his presence, to show up here and now in the present moment and kick off our redemption instead of having to wait for the next life and the next world for those things to begin to take hold.
MJ: Yeah, it's kind of this idea of doing it on your terms. And I think that there is something to be said, for turning our lives over to God, right now, because we want to and that changes the way that we live, it changes the joy that we experience. And that's kind of what I loved about this book. Because sometimes I feel like, as members of the Church, we get caught up in the things that we're supposed to do, and we lose sight of the joy of living in Christ. And so I kind of want to dig into this idea of living in Christ. In the Book of Mormon, we find the Nephites rejoicing and living in Christ and finding happiness in His coming even though He hadn't come yet. In terms of the application of this to us, you write in this book, "The temptation is to think that Christ does not belong in the present, but a past or future Christ is not enough. To be Christian, I have to learn how to share my life with Christ in the present." Adam, how does living as though Christ has already come change the way we live our lives on a day-to-day basis?
AM: Well, it prevents us from postponing the kind of joy that we thought we were only going to get later on. Right? If you and I have a responsibility as disciples of Christ, if we have a job, our job is to experience joy in Christ. That's the job, right? It's not as if there are all these other things that we're supposed to do, and that if we do all those other things, then maybe eventually, someday we'll get to experience joy in Christ. No, the job itself is to experience joy in Christ. The trick is to recognize the way that that joy is something that arrives only when I stopped living my life for me, and let it end and turn it over to Him. And when I let my own life end early, or as you quoted Marcus Aurelius earlier, right, if I'm willing to think of myself as dead, and then take what's left of my life and live it properly, as something that belongs to God rather than to me, then all the things that I end up doing in the time that remains in my life, I end up doing them for the sake of themselves. All the things that used to just be means to an end, all the things that were kind of slog and a chore that I had to get through in order to finally get the reward that I was hoping would arrive, finally in the end, they become things that are worth doing just for their own sakes. And I learn how to love doing them for the sake of themselves. And it's when we learn how to love other people and serve other people and keep the commandments, not for the sake of a reward but for the sake of themselves, that we find right now the joy in them that we were looking for eventually as a reward. The joy it turns out that we're looking for can't be given as a reward, it's not a thing that shows up because you did X, Y, or Z. It's the thing that shows up in your doing of X, Y, or Z. And in doing them in a way that manifests the fact that you love them for their own sake, not just because you hope they can get you someplace else. So this is, it's a quite liberating experience, I think, to find your relationship to love and service and the commandments to be about joy and to find them to be things that you do because you love them, or at least try to do because you love them, not because they're the kind of chore you have to manage to get through to arrive someplace else.
MJ: Yeah, I want to give people a little taste of, first of all, just because I think the way that you articulate things is amazing. But just to give people a little taste of kind of what we're talking about here. In the book, you talk about being full of love, and that when we're full of love, you die while you're still alive and you write, "To love, I have to be willing to die, I have to be willing to let go of my life and give myself to caring for the lives of others. And then to continually live in love. I have to be willing to die every day, every hour in ways that are big and small again and again. I yield on the freeway, I bite my tongue when I want to criticize, I put down what I'm doing and read to my kids, I stay up late and finish the dishes, I get up early and drive my daughter to seminary, I grade the next paper I put on my running shoes, I exhale, I surrender my life crucified with Christ. I practice surrendering all day long. Until my days are filled with the rest of the Lord, I practice dying as a way of life and I keep practicing until I find the kind of rest that comes only from living my life in the form of a thousand daily deaths." And so this is something...parts of this book reminded me of we've had several episodes recently of this podcast about mindfulness and of intentionally practicing, and it seems to me like this effort to die and live in Christ. And to experience this early resurrection requires a certain amount of mindfulness and being present to the moment and then practicing continually dying in Christ. Would you agree with that Adam?
AM: I would agree with that. I would agree with that entirely. Dying is the key, right? Letting go of yourself and your own concerns, that's the key to loving other people. And as a practical matter, loving other people boils down to paying attention to them, to seeing them, to seeing what it is that they need, to forgetting yourself and being absorbed and caring for them and responding to whatever it is that they need from you. And that's just a matter of attention in the end. It's just a matter of being mindful and paying attention. It's not complicated but it is not easy.
MJ: Yeah. I want to touch on this idea of the kind of the interplay between love and law. And so first of all, I want to make sure that we're on the same page as far as the definition of law as it pertains to this book, when you say law, Adam, are you referring to keeping the commandments? Or would you define that differently?
AM: Yeah, I think that's good. My way of talking about in the book is largely grounded in Paul's letters. And Paul often uses the term "Law" just to kind of shorthand for the commandments in general.
MJ: Okay. Can you speak to kind of what we see in terms of the interplay between those two things law, keeping the commandments, and love?
AM: As Paul describes it, and I think he's right about this, a basic problem at the heart of human experience has to do with how you and I relate to the law, whether we treat the law as a guide to how to love or whether we treat the law as a means to attaining some and for ourselves. Right, it's a question of whether or not the law is oriented toward us, or whether it's oriented toward serving and loving other people. When the law is oriented toward ourselves, toward judging ourselves, what we do or don't deserve, or towards judging what other people do or don't deserve, then the law as Paul describes it ends up being a kind of trap, it ends up being a kind of prison-house, both for us and for the people that we're using the law to judge. But if in Christ, we can learn to relate to the law, not as our master, but as a servant of love's project, then the law gets liberated, both from the work of being our master and we get liberated from the business of being slaves to the law and we end up finding ourselves liberated and empowered to fulfill the law by way of love in a way that we weren't when we thought that we lived under the law and the law was our master instead of Christ. That's a kind of a highly compressed description of what Paul is after. But I think it's a really important point to make. In Romans, for instance, Paul describes how we often use the law to divide the world up into winners and losers, right? We use the law as a way of saying, Look, they are the people that don't keep the law and they're the losers, and they'll end up in some version of hell. And there are the people who do keep the law and they're the winners and they're the people who will end up getting the reward that they wanted, that they were looking for. But that way of using the law, using the law to divide the world up into winners and losers, using the world to decide what people do or don't deserve, ends up being a kind of trap that prevents us from fulfilling the law, because it prevents us from loving other people, and often prevents us from loving ourselves. And it turns out that in the end, the only way to fulfill the law is by way of love. Which means that part of what happens in Christ is that your relationship to the law changes such that you start to use the law to answer a very different kind of question. Instead of trying to use the law to answer the question what people do or don't deserve yourself included, you start to use the law instead in Christ to answer the question, what do people need? What do I need? What do they need? What is needed right here and now? And if you use the law to answer the question, what is needed here and now by me or by other people, then the law becomes a kind of guide, a kind of thumbnail sketch, about how best to love other people, instead of becoming a kind of trap that divides the world up into winners and losers and prevents us actually from loving other people.
MJ: Yeah, I want to go back to one thing you said initially, this is something that I've thought about a lot is that, you know, we think we have this idea in our minds of like hierarchy of sin. And I often think, you know, we don't actually know what that looks like, and what God places more, what disappoints Him more, but my guess is being judgmental or filled with hate, or looking down on other people, being bigoted, those are probably things that He really dislikes. And so I just think we have to be careful sometimes in our judgment of other people and recognizing that we actually don't know where in the hierarchy of sin, any one thing is.
AM: If we understand the kind of hierarchy of sin as a kind of description of the degrees to which people need a certain kind of help from us, then I think that's alright. If we understand that kind of hierarchy of sins, in terms of their seriousness, as a description of how little people do or don't deserve our love then, then we've missed the whole point of the law.
MJ: Yeah. So my next question in relation to this idea, I think this is something that we often kind of...I think that this is something that people struggle with a lot today is that sometimes we feel a tension between the commandments and our view of love. Sometimes we may feel like we can't have one without the other, I mean we can't have one and have the other. So what would you say, Adam, that we do in those situations? Or what would you suggest that we do? And how do we fight the feeling or the inclination to rationalize dismissing laws or commandments, when we believe that a commandment is not loving? Is there such a thing as a commandment that's not loving?
AM: I think there is such a thing as a way of using commandments in a way that isn't loving. It's entirely possible and in fact, perhaps common for us to use of the law as a kind of weapon, both against other people and often against ourselves. That's a pretty common scenario. In fact, as Paul describes it, that's the very scenario that describes sinfulness itself, not just the kind of breaking of the law, but it kind of repurposing of the law as a weapon I kind of uncoupling of the law from the work of love in a way that makes the law goes sour and ruins things rather than making them better. Is it possible for the demands of love to sometimes at least appear to conflict with the particular requirements of the law? I think we see that kind of thing all the time in the life of Jesus Christ, right in his life, the perpetual point of conflict between him and his religious contemporaries is their attempt to use the law to decide what people do or don't deserve. And his continual insistence that the law has to be used instead to decide what people need. And if it's the case that what people need is, is a certain kind of service on the Sabbath day that breaks the law then Jesus is going to, quote, unquote, break the law for the sake of offering that service, in order to provide for them what it is that they need. The law, I think, is an absolutely essential guide to the work of love. You can't love in the end effectively without the law but the love has to be running the show, not the law. The law has to be answering the question what is needed? Not answering the question, what is deserved? As best I can tell, God, himself never uses the law to decide what people do or don't deserve. He only uses the law to decide what people do or don't need.
MJ: Interesting. I love that. Do you think, Adam, that there's a place for obeying commandments, even when we don't see or maybe at the time can't see how they're related to love?
AM: Yeah, my willing submission to a commandment that I do not understand could very well be an expression than my love for God who gave that commandment? I think that's certainly the case. Yeah.
MJ: Thank you, I want to kind of shift a little bit away from this idea of law and love. Although we could talk about that all day long, I think, to kind of one thing that impressed me about this book, having read Letters to a Young Mormon, which I absolutely loved, but then coming to An Early Resurrection, I was struck by how knowledgeable you are about the scriptures, and specifically how in this book, you beautifully married the Book of Mormon, and the Bible, the New Testament, primarily, but the Bible in general, how did working on this book, strengthen your testimony of the Book of Mormon and the Bible working hand in hand?
AM: My experience with the Book of Mormon and the Bible is that the deeper I go into them, the clearer their joint description becomes of what a life in Christ looks like, and the clearer their joint description of how to do it becomes. I think that's partly a question, that's partly a function, not just of my reading more and more carefully and seriously. But it's also partly a question of asking the right kinds of questions when I'm reading, right? If I go into my study of the Book of Mormon, for instance, always asking questions about how the Book of Mormon fits into Mesoamerican history, then I'll have a certain kind of probably frustrating experience of the Book of Mormon. But if I go into the Book of Mormon, asking a certain kind of question about whether redemption is possible, and how it is that you do it, then you have a very different kind of experience. And the book opens up in a very different kind of way. And I think it reveals a kind of convincing power that can show you what you're looking for, and can simultaneously as you pointed out, draw all kinds of perhaps not obvious connections, between the things that you were reading in the Book of Mormon and the things that you were reading in the Bible, because you're not just reading them now at the level of the words or the images, or even of the history. You're reading them now in terms of the kind of underlying power that they're both manifesting. And that power is a power that they share.
MJ: Yeah, I was struck in reading this book, I think, and part of this I feel like is almost a little bit selfish. But I feel like sometimes people look at members of our Church, and they kind of look down on us or make us feel like we're naive. And one thing for me that was very testimony affirming and strengthening about this book was seeing how there were all these elements that are part of the gospel of Jesus Christ as we believe it with the covenants and ordinances, and the Book of Mormon and seeing someone who I think is a lot smarter than myself, showing how important these things are, and how they help us live a life that's based in Christ. And so first of all, I just wanted to say thank you for that. But secondly, Adam, why are you grateful, as an academic, as someone who has studied philosophy, why are you grateful to be a member of this Church?
AM: It's the blood in my veins. It's the air that I breathe. Some people have the experience of living their lives without the Church and, and becoming a Latter-day Saint later on. And they experience the Church and their religion, and their religious decisions as a kind of choice. For me, that's largely not, and largely mercifully, not been the case. I was born into the covenant, it's the air I breathe from, from the day that I was born. I recognized early on that, that it was making certain kinds of very real, very practical promises to me about the kind of life that could be lived, about the kind of freedom and transformation that could be experienced. And as best I can tell, those promises have been and are being fulfilled. And I couldn't be more grateful for the way that our Church, our religion, our tradition, has opened onto an experience of God.
MJ: Thank you so much for sharing that. Another point that I love in the book you make is that the gift of having the Spirit or having the Holy Ghost with us is "Christ's down payment for what we will eventually receive by choosing to live in Christ"? Can you kind of expound upon that or explain that thought to those listening?
AM: Well, that's Paul's idea. That's from 2 Corinthians chapter one. In fact, that's in the curriculum here...
MJ: Come, Follow Me this week, right?
AM: As you and I are talking. I don't know when people will listen to it. 2 Corinthians chapter one. Yeah, Paul tosses out that image there and he describes the Spirit as God's earnest payment, right? As this kind of down payment on the experience of salvation, such that it's not something that you that enter into a contract with God now and then eventually, later on, you'll get some taste of it. But that is possible to experience the presence of God right here and now in this life by way of the Spirit. That the presence of the Spirit is the presence of God and the presence of God is what defines eternal life. And to that agree that it's possible to experience that future saved eternal life right here and now as we live in the present and experience the presence of the Spirit.
MJ: That is such a beautiful description to me of, you know, God wouldn't want to leave us here with nothing. And He would want us to know how grateful He is for our decision to live in Christ. And so naturally to me, it makes sense that He would give us something now that we can feel and that aids us in our desire to live in Christ. The most fascinating part of this book, or my favorite part of the book was this postscript in which you talk about the story of Moby Dick. And how coming close to death made a difference in the hero's life in that book. And I think that's something we see, even today, we hear about people that have had near-death experiences and how those change the way that people live their lives from that point on. But can you share with listeners how this idea of if we come close to death, if we turn our lives over, how that relates to this idea of early resurrection?
AM: I love Moby Dick. Have you? Have you read Moby Dick?
MJ: I haven't. I haven't. And actually, it'd be great if you could kind of give a little bit of a synopsis for other fellow readers who have not read Moby Dick. I feel like I need to add it to my list.
AM: Here is your assignment to read Moby Dick and you will love it too. It is not nearly as intimidating as people make it out to be, it's pretty, pretty accessible and a pretty phenomenal read. Let me give you just that little bit of that passage from the postscript.
AM: And we'll Melville have a word here, have a say.
MJ: That sounds great. Welcome Herman Melville to "All In."
AM: Now you're rocking it. You got some serious guests on the show.
MJ: There you go!
AM: Here's how I introduced that passage I say, in Moby Dick, Ishmael, who is the hero of the story, "barely survives his first encounter with a whale. And now having come so close to death, his life looks different. It looks more alive. He decides, as a result, to take action and stop waiting for death. He drafts the last will and testament and takes Queequeg to be his witness. Then Ishmael says with his children and his life sealed quote, 'I felt all the easier. The stone was rolled away from my heart. Besides all the days I should now live would be as good as the day that Lazarus lived after his resurrection. A supplementary clean gain of so many months or weeks as the case might be. I survived myself. My death and burial were locked up in my chest. I looked around me tranquilly and contentedly, like a quiet ghost with a clean conscience, sitting inside the bars of a snug family vault.'" End quote. And I say "Ishmael preempts death, and he gets an early start on his next life. A stone rolls away from his heart. He sits like a quiet ghost with a clean conscience. He lives like Lazarus. he survives himself. And the time that remains is for him a clean supplementary gain, a grace alive in Christ, I survive myself." That's a pretty good, pretty clear, pretty powerful description I think of what it looks like to deliver the gospel of Jesus Christ tonight, just in theory, but in practice.
MJ: Right. And I love that description of "In Christ, I survive myself," I think that sometimes we can become so overwhelmed by this mortal experience and it does feel like we're just trying to survive and trying to survive our weaknesses and infirmities that we may face, but it's in Christ, that we are able to do that. And I think that that's a really beautiful thought. I wanted to share one other part from this book and I wanted to see if you have any, any final thoughts on this before we get to our last question, toward the end of the book, you talk about how we have to "hand our lives over to Christ, consecrate the whole of it and that we have to do so while remaining alive and embedded in time" and so we touched earlier on this idea of time and it's still something thing that is just so hard to wrap my head around but then you write "In Christ, I'm dead. Whatever future remains is not mine, it's His. Whatever life is left to me is not mine, it's His. My talents, his. My money, His. My life, His. Everything He's given me, His. Even my time? Yes, please my time. In the temple, I promise to consecrate everything to God. Part of this promise is financial. I promise, for instance, to consecrate all my money but in the end, the law of consecration isn't about money. It's about time. By working I convert my time into money. Money is just time made..." Oh man, I can't even say this word. Is it fungible?
AM: Yeah, fungible.
MJ: Okay. "Made fungible. In the end, the only thing I have to give is my time, if I cling to it, time will ruin me. If I think of my time as my own, then even unchosen obligation will feel like theft, every call to give my time will feel like I'm being robbed of what ought to have been mine. I'll roll out of bed in the morning expecting to do as I please, instead of looking to serve, occasions for care will look like failures to succeed, quiet moments will look like boredom, ordinary work will look like a waste of time, the only way to be saved from this ruin is to return this time to Christ, the only way to care for time is to give it away." And so as we talk, kind of coming full circle in this conversation about this idea of, you know, living an early resurrection, being present in the time that we have, by caring for others, and extending love, and then consecrating our time and giving it to Christ. What does all of this teach us, Adam about time?
AM: I think it teaches us that the experience of being liberated from an ordinary experience of time is a pretty common thing that everybody is familiar with. This experience of a new life in Christ of an early resurrection, is the kind of thing that shows up every day in our ordinary circumstances, when for moments at a time or minutes at a time, or hours at a time, we forget ourselves, and we lose track of time. You know how it is when you're so absorbed in doing what you're doing? When you so love what you're doing, when you've so lost yourself in caring for whatever the task is, or whoever the person is you're with, that you just lose all track of time and simultaneously lose all track of yourself and feel in the end, enlivened and empowered? That's it. That's life in Christ. And the trick is to learn how to do that not just every once in a while, but to live our lives like that from dawn until dusk in Christ.
MJ: Yeah, I think that's the thing that I loved the most, Adam, about this book, is that I think that it kind of resonated with me in a way that very few things have, just because I think I've always felt so much joy, as a result of trying to just be used by God, trying to turn my life over to Him, and I definitely am not perfect at it. And there are plenty of aspects of my life that I could do a better job of giving to Him and and dying each day. But I do think that there's so much happiness and joy to be had in that. And I think you did a beautiful job of capturing the essence of that. For you, how does living in this way, just in your personal life, bring you joy?
AM: Well it's liberating. There's nothing worse than trying to live your life as if it were about you. Right, that's stifling. It's imprisoning. It's disempowering, it's miserable. Because in the end, it's not true. Your life isn't yours and your life can't be about you, no matter how hard you try to make it be. And to put down that burden. And to forget yourself, to put down that burden and forget myself, and to find myself alive and awake and plugged into the present moment. That's it. I mean, that's spirit. That's life. That's salvation. That's redemption. That's an early resurrection.
MJ: Yeah, I felt like your book taught me a little bit...so the whole idea of this podcast is about being all in. And I think this idea of living in Christ is so much of what it means to be all in and I'm about to ask you. So hopefully, I'm not like ruining your answer. But I couldn't help but think when I read this one passage, that this is what it means to be all in. It says, "Living in Christ, I carry myself differently. I desire differently, I love differently, I greet pain and loss differently. I fail differently, I succeed differently. I part with the past differently, I respond to the present differently, I look to the future differently. In Christ, I hold time itself in a very different way. In the end, this last difference is the biggest. Life is made out of time. To live a different kind of life in Christ is to live time itself in a different way. Living in Christ, I discover a new way of being in time. In Christ, I repent." And so for you, Adam, what does it mean to you to be all in the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
AM: Well, that was pretty good.
MJ: I mean it was your words, you wrote it, I just stole them.
AM: I'm also reminded of a passage from 1 Corinthians 15, where Paul says, "When all things are subjected to Him (to Christ,) then the Son Himself will be subjected to the One who subjected everything to Him. So that God may be all in all." That's a beautiful, that's a beautiful phrase there from Paul. In the end, God's aim is to be all in all. And I think that's a pretty good description of what the Atonement does. It gathers all in, right? It circumscribes the whole world into one great whole, it makes us all in all, in the Gospel it's an invitation to participate in God's work of being all in all. And the only way you can do that, of course, the only way you can participate in being, all in all, is if you're all in and that's the work. Die early, put all your chips in, go all in.
MJ: I love it. Well, Adam, I cannot thank you enough for sharing your thoughts with me. I feel like I cannot even hold a candle to all that you know, but I appreciate your patience with me and for entertaining me today.
AM: That's kind. I enjoyed the conversation.
MJ: We appreciate so much Adam Miller joining us on this week's episode, you can find "An Early Resurrection," as well as "Letters to a Young Mormon," in Deseret Bookstores now. Thank you so much for listening. If you're enjoying "All In," your homework assignment for this week is to share this podcast with someone you love. We don't care how you do it. But please just continue to help us spread the word and if you already have been, thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Until next week, it has been an absolute pleasure being with you.