While listening to the Semi-annual General Conference talks this afternoon I began to ponder the purpose of our Earthly experience, the role of the Church, and what happens to those who do not receive the Gospel in their lifetimes. Thus came the analogy of unrefined metal and wandering magnets.
All of mankind, as children of God, are nuggets of iron ore; and the purpose of mortal life is for us to become the cleanest, most pure chunks of metal that we can be. Taking a turn through the “Refiner’s Fire” as it were. And God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ, in this scenario, are like magnets.
Our divine destiny is to return to God. Iron is typically drawn toward magnetic fields, but not if it is oxidized (rusted) or separated from the field by some kind of insulator like rock or dirt. Often times matters of this world bury us beneath layers of stress or complacency. “I don’t have enough time to start something new,” “I’m happy with my life right now,” or “I’ve heard too many different ideas I don’t know who to believe” are all examples of such layers that can accumulate over the course of our lives and prevent even pure cores of iron from recognizing the magnetic pull of the Gospel. These layers, however, are often fleeting and circumstantial and can easily be washed or shaken off by a moment of revelation, whether in this life or the next.
It is another matter when there is rust or impurities within the iron. The degree to which the metal is tainted often weakens its magnetic attraction. Likewise, sin makes us less perceptive to God’s influence. But iron-oxide, aka rust, can be converted back into pure form by smelting it in a fire; and “being purified by fire” is a phrase often used to describe repentance and cleansing by the Holy Spirit. (If you wanted to get even deeper into the topic we could point out that smelting “rust” into Iron requires a catalyst which takes the Oxygen away from the Iron and binds it to itself… but I’ll move on.)
But if the Iron is clean and is in contact with a magnet that is strong enough for long enough, something interesting happens; the raw Iron develops a magnetic charge itself. It now becomes a carrier of the power of the “parent” magnet. If you’ve ever been around someone who has undergone such a spiritual conversion, then you likely understand what I’m talking about. These are those who spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ to others, either passively through their example or actively through proselytizing.
Now, as I stated in the beginning, the purpose of our earthly experience is for us to become as purified as possible.Should we be fortunate to come across a “wandering” magnet when we are in a receptive state, we will likely be drawing to it and have an opportunity to be connected in this mortal life to God’s power. But whether or not we cross paths with such a magnet is not entirely up to us. It may be God’s plan that certain of his children do not fully “connect” with Him until after they enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
So that’s my analogy. It nicely sums up my feelings on the purpose of life, the reason He has an organized church and the eternal fate of good men and women who live and die without the Gospel. I wish I had made this analogy back when I was serving my mission. I know I could have used it a time or two when attempting to help address similar thoughts posed by those I taught.