Vision? Realization? Speculation? Whatever it was, it came to me one morning and answered a question that had been on my mind. Namely, if Heavenly Father knew that Saul would convert, why not have his conversion earlier and prevent him from being complicit to Stephen’s death at the hands of a mob?
I saw in my mind – imagined, if that’s a more comfortable word – all of Saul/Paul’s life and where it intersected not only with Stephen, but other people. Basically, things and people had to be in the right places for that conversion experience to work out for the best. It happened when it did because it couldn’t happen at another time and be as effective. And as for Stephen, well, his death is not his end. I saw much more of his continuing existence, so much of it that it made his time in mortality seem a short, intense flash that could be summed up in two words, “It hurt.”
And then I saw how so many people only focus on a single spiritual dimension in getting closer to God. There is benefit to doing good things, expressing faith, and living within moral and ethical bounds, but focusing on one to the neglect of others only moves one closer in that dimension. The distance remains in the others. This vast experience of existence of which mortality is a part is critical for us to show which directions we choose to go. We can move as we choose and there is no punishment for doing wrong so much as there is an inability to reach for an awaiting reward of being able to manifest eternal love.
Heaven is proximity to Heavenly Father; Hell is distance. Even as we experience pains, diseases, hungers, grievings, sadnesses, depressions, agonies, injuries, injustices, mockings, assaults, damages, and, ultimately, death, we can nevertheless choose to continue to move our souls heaven-ward.
And so, it matters not when one dies. What we do in life can be left raw and sinful, or it can be amended, repented of, and made sanctified. When do we die? is a question whose answer is nowhere near as important as that of How did we choose to live?