|Portrait of Niccolò Machiavelli by Santi di Tito|
Niccolò Machiavelli (1489-1527) was an influential politician and writer from Florence at the peak of the Italian Renaissance. His work The Prince is so notoriously self-serving and unscrupulous, that it spawned the whole concept of Machiavellian ethics. Not surprisingly, he didn’t exactly have the reputation of a pious saint.
I recently read an account of “Machiavelli’s dream” which reminded me of a similar passage written by Moroni. Failing in health, Niccolò’s doctors could do nothing more for him and encouraged him to make peace with God. Shortly before his death, while surrounded by his friends, he recounted the details of a dream he had. Maurizio Virol’s biography of Machiavelli (Niccolò’s Smile) describes his dream thus:
In his dream, he had seen a band of poorly dressed men, ragged and miserable in appearance. He asked them who they were. They replied, “We are the saintly and the blessed; we are on our way to Heaven.” Then he saw a crowd of solemnly attired men, noble and grave in appearance, speaking seriously of important political matters. In their midst he recognized the great philosophers and historians of antiquity who had written fundamental works on politics and the state, such as Plato, Plutarch, and Tacitus. Again, he asked them who they were and where they were going. “We are the damned of Hell” was their answer. After telling his friends of his dream, Machiavelli remarked that he would be far happier in Hell, where he could discuss politics with the great men of the ancient world, than in Heaven, where he would languish in boredom among the blessed and the saintly.
Machiavelli was also credited with this brutally honest admission:
I desire to go to Hell, not to Heaven. In Hell I shall enjoy the company of popes, kings and princes, but in Heaven are only beggars, monks, hermits and apostles.
It would seem that Moroni foretold such sentiments 1100 years earlier. And, like Niccolò, was brutally honest about it:
Behold, I say unto you that ye would be more miserable to dwell with a holy and just God, under a consciousness of your filthiness before him, than ye would to dwell with the damned souls in hell. (Mormon 9:4)
Intuitively, one thinks they would obviously be happy in heaven and miserable in hell. Were we asked to let our wishes be known, everyone but the most Machiavellian among us would desire heaven. Yet, sometimes people’s actions speak louder than their wishful thinking. It’s somewhat sobering to ask yourself where you’d be happier. If you were the fly on your life’s wall . . . what would the evidence say?
I think that on judgment day there will be no surprises. We’ll pretty much judge ourselves. Either we’ll be thrilled to be in the presence of the Lord (D&C 121:45), or we’ll be dying to get to hell.