The True Church — It’s Not For Everyone

August 29, 2005    By: Geoff J @ 2:50 pm   Category: Eternal Progression,Mormon Culture/Practices,Scriptures

In my last post, the second in this series on our nearly exclusive focus on helping everyone become “active” members of the Church, I explained why I think that simply meeting the basic requirements to be considered an active member and staying that way until death is not sufficient for exaltation. (It was a pretty good post, actually. If it weren’t so long maybe more people would have read it.) The idea was that over reliance on Grace is dangerous because it can lead those with the proverbial “five talents” to become satisfied with their five talents and not double them. Expanding on that analogy, let’s say that becoming an active member of the church and staying that way is the equivalent of two talents. For those born into this world with one talent, turning that into two talents would indeed warrant those desired words from God “well done thou good and faithful servant”. But what of those that arrive here with 2-5 talents? What must they do to receive that commendation from the Lord? If just meeting the minimum requirements to be called an active Mormon is not enough, what then? Is the church providing the needed assistance to these folks to double their talents in this life?

Independence to Interdependence

I am a fan of Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits. If you are not familiar with them, the first three habits are called the independence habits and the second three are called the interdependence habits (the seventh is a rejuvenation habit). To apply that model to this discussion, I would say that getting oneself permanently active in the church matches up with the independence habits. They are the habits where you take care of your own business in life. You take responsibility for yourself. But after you have gotten yourself squared away, the next portion is working with others to create something better together than you could ever have created apart.

We without them cannot be perfected…

So it seems likely to me that the way the church helps those who come into this world with 2-5 talents is by taking them from being purely sheep, and putting them into the additional role of shepherd. That means that the way they double their talents is by focusing their time, talents and energies on helping those with one talent turn that into two. In other words, they spend all of their time in the Christ-like shepherding tasks of help non-members become members of the Lord’s church and by helping lost sheep (inactive members) return to the fold (full activity). I believe the same principle that applies to our dead applies to those who are not active members of the church as well:

And now, my dearly beloved brethren and sisters, let me assure you that these are principles in relation to the dead and the living that cannot be lightly passed over, as pertaining to our salvation. For their salvation is necessary and essential to our salvation, as Paul says concerning the fathers-that they without us cannot be made perfect-neither can we without our dead be made perfect.
(D&C 128:15, emphasis mine)

Of course it makes sense. If we are to become like our exemplar, our Savior, we must becomes saviors ourselves.

The implications

This model illuminates some interesting implications. One is that God never intended everyone to be an active member of His true church in this probation. The true church is apparently not for everyone. This is a factoid that speaks strongly in favor of continued progression after this life, I think. It illustrates the differing levels of progression before this life as well.

The final question I have for you is, what will the people do to progress when the Lord reigns personally on the earth and there are no more inactive members or non-members left? Is it daily genealogy and temple work only? (Yikes – sounds sort of tedious…)

11 Comments »

  1. Good question. Maybe we’ll be busy with earth making classes, or universe exploring, or advanced human behavior classes…you know kind of a giant temple prep class, only it would be a God prep class instead.

    I really don’t know, but daily genalogy and temple work sound worse than just tedious!

    Comment by don — August 29, 2005 @ 6:06 pm

  2. “I really don’t know, but daily genalogy and temple work sound worse than just tedious!” – don

    Perhaps the Mormons are wrong and my Baptists friends are correct that the Mormons will go to hell. The irony being that the Mormons would be in hell doing daily genealogy and temple work for eternity while believing that they were living in the Millenium!

    Comment by Speaking Up — September 6, 2005 @ 12:57 pm

  3. Ha!! That is a hilarious comment SU… (The Morms are all in hell doing genealogy while the folks in real heaven are partying… That mental image made me laugh out.)

    Comment by Geoff J — September 6, 2005 @ 9:49 pm

  4. This is a factoid that speaks strongly in favor of continued progression after this life

    That’s an interesting assumption. I understand that in the church we are entirely focused on “eternal progression”, but where in the scriptures do you ever see this term? If it’s such a fundamental principle of existence in the beyond, then wouldn’t the scriptures be replete with such a powerful combination of terms?

    What would you say to the idea that our inherent presuppositions of rational, linear progression stem not from the scriptures but from modern and enlightenment philosophy? Why is God so satisfied with this world that he can create worlds without number. Last time I checked, this place was pretty f’d up, pardon the french. Why more if this one is not perfect? When is enough enough?

    Comment by Jason S. — September 7, 2005 @ 8:07 pm

  5. Jason,

    First I’m glad to see someone checked this poor neglected post out.

    Second, we hear the term “eternal progression” a lot in the church but what the term means is anything but settled. Some of us believe that there will be ongoing chances for progression (or regression) after this life and others don’t believe this. (See the discussion at my progression between kingdoms post).

    I do believe in a linear progression of time and thus the potential linear progression of intelligences (though I believe along with Elder Widtsoe that intelligences can move backward as well). I think that these non-linear theories of time just don’t hold up (Assuming that’s what you are referring to — I follow Blake Ostler’s lead on that opinion.) I don’t think that God is at all dissatisfied with this world. I think it is completely fulfilling the measure of its creation. To me that means it is providing a perfect probationary state to allow all intelligences to exercise their agency to either become more intelligent or less intelligent — more like God or less like him. Everything is going exactly as desired and thus organizing worlds without end in the future makes perfect sense to me…

    Comment by Geoff J — September 7, 2005 @ 9:01 pm

  6. I do believe in a linear progression of time

    The progression I was referring to has more to do with the aquisitional morality that we subscribe to as Americans, ethically as well as materially. More, more, and more. Really though, my critique is more inline with the continental philosophers who see that rational and empirical philosophers mistake progression to be the end, not the means. In the west, we are so consumed with progressing for progression’s sake that we forget exactly why we started the progression in the first place. Mormons fall right inline with this philosophy. They ask themselves what’s next after Godhood, because surely we must progress beyond that; it’s “eternal progression!”

    The reason I asked for the scripture quote is because to me, it seems that we project our preconceptions of progressive existence onto the scriptures. “Be ye therefore perfect” means perfectly continued and gradually increasing adherence to an abstract codified ethic, not a perfect wholeness. We don’t reveal ourselves, we recreate ourselves into an abstract understanding of Christ, line upon line. Then we see God as creating worlds without number, continually progressing in knowledge, many wives and millions of children, and everything gives him glory. If I didn’t know better, I’d say that’s just an extension of the American ‘can do’ philosophy. God’s just another Christian suburbanite to the ‘enth degree. Of course, I’m being very sloppy with these ideas, and I’m throwing a lot of terms around, but it’s interesting to me how many of our ideas and understandings of God parallel our current westernized interpretation of reality.

    Everything is going exactly as desired And this is why God weeps?

    Comment by Jason S. — September 7, 2005 @ 10:38 pm

  7. I agree that your comments are hard to respond to with such broad and “sloppy” strokes you seem to be painting. I can say that it is a mistake to assume that correlation is causation as you seem to imply with comments like this

    If I didn’t know better, I’d say that’s just an extension of the American ‘can do’ philosophy… it’s interesting to me how many of our ideas and understandings of God parallel our current westernized interpretation of reality.

    Further, you seem to be implying that there is some sort of agreed upon set of beliefs in Mormonism on several doctrinal issues that are far from agreed upon. For example you said:

    Then we see God as creating worlds without number, continually progressing in knowledge, many wives and millions of children, and everything gives him glory.

    God creating worlds without number is clearly spelled out in our canonized scriptures. However whether God continues in knowledge or not has been hotly disputed since Brigham Young and Orson Pratt debated it. It still remains unsettled. (For what it’s worth I side with Brigham that God does progress still). These questions God’s marital situation and the existence of actual spirit births or not are purely unsettled and speculative matters as well.

    I also don’t think God’s weeping over the wickedness of his free children serves as any indication that he is displeased with the earth and the overall probationary project. Rather I see it as strong evidence that humankind is of the same kind or species as God himself — that there is no ontological gap between us and him. We are in a very real way his children and thus he weeps over us as any loving parent weeps over the mistakes and pain of their children. The weeping is also excellent evidence against the classic concept of an immutable God.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 7, 2005 @ 11:30 pm

  8. I can say that it is a mistake to assume that correlation is causation as you seem to imply with comments like this

    Obviously we cannot conflate two independent variables and project causation; however, I think you’d have to assume that a theology created by individual is an independent variable in order for your fallacy to have merit, but this is not the case; theology is dependent upon the train of thought of an individual, namely Smith. So, the ideas of causation is not implausible, because the theology in question is a direct extension of the context of the current thought in Smith’s contemporaries.

    Let me just ask you this, does God give us knowledge in a vacuum? That is, when Joseph understood and ‘saw’ god, did he do it in a state of tabula rasa? If not, then what was the context of Smith’s state of mind? What were the major philosophical thoughts and presuppositions in that era? What if there are major problems with those ideas in Smith’s time? Would it mean a reexamination of Smith’s projections that included those ideas? If not, why not?

    I know this would be rather difficult, because you would have to examine your train of thought outside of your current paradigm: white, middle-class, chrisitan, american, pragmatic philosophy. But, the effort would be worthwhile, at least I think so.

    Rather I see it as strong evidence that humankind is of the same kind or species as God himself

    This may be the case, but it is beside the point. Your premise was that this world was everything was going “exactly as desired”, which does not seem to refute my point. So let me put it this way, if you had a family and everything was in the right place, everything was going exactly as desired, and then you’re kids found you one day weeping in your office; weeping. Would it be safe to assume then that all was well?

    Really though, I think our desire to have ‘happiness’ necessitate a certain disconnect with actual reality. We want it so bad we perceive the senseless, mindless, crass, brutal suffering of reality to be a ‘good thing’. Which in my mind, I find quite an unappealing position. But let me ask you this: is suffering necessary for joy? If it is, shouldn’t we pray for suffering?

    Comment by Jason S. — September 8, 2005 @ 2:55 pm

  9. Re: The possible environmental influences on Joseph’s theology and on theology in general —

    Ok, I see where you are coming from better now. You make some interesting points on environmental influences (and I agree with you I think).

    What you haven’t said is if you think there is anything wrong with Mormon theology as a result of the fact that environment influences prophets. Do you see a problem with Mormon theology as a result of these influences? Also, all prophets in all ages have dealt with similar environmental influences; do you see problems with their theology as a result of those influences as well? I’m just not sure where you are trying to go with this still…

    Re: The weeping of God –

    I think we are looking at the problem at different levels. I did not mean to say God was pleased with all of the choices his children make. He is saddened by them enough to even weep on occasion. Using your example, I might be found weeping for unwise choices of my children some day too (though I hope not). But if that is ever the case I don’t think it will be for regret over bringing them into the world. It won’t be for regret that I did not compel them to obey. I will be in empathetic and loving sorrow for the sorrow they have chosen to bring upon themselves through unwise but free choices. The same applies to God, I think.

    But let me ask you this: is suffering necessary for joy?

    Lehi taught that the possibility of suffering was necessary for joy. (See 2 Nephi 2)

    ///

    I must admit that I’m a bit lost in this overall exchange. I’m not sure what you are getting at — it seems interesting, though. Perhaps you could help me out a bit by explaining where your comments are heading more explicitly for me…

    Comment by Geoff J — September 8, 2005 @ 3:39 pm

  10. My explication arises from this statement made by the poster: This is a factoid that speaks strongly in favor of continued progression after this life

    I tried to show that the idea of ‘continued progression’ is something that might not be as strong as you posit. It’s a deep rooted presupposition created by modern philosophy, which we have appropriated into our own understanding of reality.

    What you haven’t said is if you think there is anything wrong with Mormon theology as a result of the fact that environment influences prophets. Do you see a problem with Mormon theology as a result of these influences?

    Yes, I think there are far too many arguments that we take at face value in the church: eternal progression, to name one of them. I think reality is far more complex than we understand it to be. I think it is nearly impossible for one person to see and adequately understand all that is heaven. Essentially, my position is similar to a tenet in vedantic philosophy: we focus too narrowly on a particular and mistake this particular for the whole. Then, we cut ourselves off from any other understanding because it does not fall in line with our inherent biases of our own particular reality.

    You can give me lip service about embracing all truth, but try quoting Husserl or Kung-fu Tzu in your next elders quorum and see how many comments of ‘this isn’t in the manual,’ you get.

    I don’t want to thread-jack your post, so if you’d like to know more of how I interpret Mormon theology, you can reference the blog where I post: http://www.bubbleboys.blogspot.com Or just let me know, and I’d love to talk about it more, but I don’t want to impose on your blog :-)

    Comment by Jason S. — September 12, 2005 @ 8:58 pm

  11. It’s a deep rooted presupposition created by modern philosophy, which we have appropriated into our own understanding of reality.

    I can certainly buy that progression is ubiquitous in modern western society but do you have any evidence that this progression idea we embrace was “created by modern philosophy”? What evidence is there that this basic view of man and the eternities was not embraced by prophets of ancient times (from Adam on)?

    but try quoting Husserl or Kung-fu Tzu in your next elders quorum and see how many comments of ‘this isn’t in the manual,’ you get.

    Alas, you are right. But that is largely a community problem, not a theology or doctrine issue. When we buy into the community we get the bad with the good (though keeping EQ discussions on levels that do not lose the less educated may not actually be a bad thing…)

    As for reality being more complex than we think, I’m with you. However, I firmly believe that we have a right to revelation — even constant revelation from God himself all of the time as members of the restored Church. I have posted extensively on this subject here — that we should all be prophets, seers, and revelators; that the church should in fact be a nation of prophets; that if we are not receiving regular revelation from God we are wasting our Mormonism; etc. I’m all for studying every relevant earthly thinker I can as well, but since I have direct access to the God of the Universe as a Mormon I make my dialogue with Him my top priority.

    As for threadjacking — don’t worry, this thread is dead except for our conversation. I occasionally do check out the Bubbleboy blog. It is occasionally a bit “College Guys Thinking Epic Thoughts and Cussing for Dramatic Effect” for my tastes but I have been impressed with the fact that y’all are in fact thinking important thoughts.

    BTW — as a philosophy major you should check out Mormon Metaphysics if you haven’t done so yet. Clark is very good at what he does.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 12, 2005 @ 9:36 pm

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