Just like heaven (or not)

October 13, 2005    By: Geoff J @ 6:06 pm   Category: Eternal Progression,Scriptures

The comments in a recent post at BCC reminded me of all of the unsubstantiated beliefs that float around this church regarding the afterlife. In the following series of posts I will talk about some of them.

In this first post I want to discuss the following assumption that many Mormons make: The Kingdoms of Glory described in section 76 are separate physical places.

I have already dealt with this notion in a previous post call Planet of the Terrestrials – I recommend you check that post and discussion out. The basic idea is pretty simple. We are all going to have resurrected physical bodies. Those bodies need to live in this universe. That means they will either have to float through space or live on a planet. Yet the idea of billions of immortals living forever on a “Telestial” planet where they want to murder each other but can’t is like a bad episode of Star Trek of something. (And can you imagine the “outer darkness” Planet?) In other words, it is absurd. We’ll talk about where our resurrected bodies might live if not stuck eternally on immortal planets later. (In other words, in this post I’ll poke holes in the traditional model and in my next post I’ll talk about what I think is the only viable model.)

I think the notion that there are discreet holding places for those who attain various kingdoms of glory is an idea that we inherited from creedal Christianity. (You know, old traditions mingled with scripture…) Most Christians see the afterlife as dividing into two places – heaven and hell. A major problem with the classic heaven and hell model is that there must necessarily be a dividing line where the wickedest guy in heaven makes it by the skin of his teeth while next to him the most righteous guy in Hell just misses the cut. The injustice of it all makes it pretty clear that a just God would never stand for such a thing.

So along comes The Vision recorded in D&C section 76 showing that there is much more gradation in the afterlife than the classic heaven and hell model describes. Instead of two choices, now there are four. (Oh yeah, we even have pictures. See here, here, here, and here.) And further, the idea of temporary heaven and hell (sometime called paradise and prison) prior to the final judgment and resurrection allows for the wicked to pay for their sins themselves and end up in some kingdom of glory. So we then have a model with Celestial, Terrestrial, Telestial kingdoms of glory which anecdotally are prepared for all but a handful of people. That other handful gets Outer Darkness which we usually like to think of as creedal Christian eternal hell.

So everything is hunky dory, right?

Wrong.

Even with twice as many choices, we still have the classic creedal Christian problems as listed above (in addition to the Planet of the Terrestrials problem I already brought up). What I mean is that if there are only three discreet versions of heaven then the wickedest guy in the Terrestrial Kingdom makes it by the skin of his teeth while next to him the most righteous guy in the Telestial Kingdom just misses the cut. It is the same problem with injustice that the heaven/hell model has! That just won’t do.

A better solution

The evidence in the scriptures indicates to me that the just as the Heaven and Hell dichotomy is a simplified version of the afterlife, the section 76 model is a more nuanced but still simplified model of reality. I think our most nuanced version of the afterlife comes from Abraham chapter 3 where all intelligences are described as varying in glory from the dimmenst of glory to God who is “more intelligent than they all”. In other words, the oft repeated Sun, Moon, Stars designation in the scriptures is symbolic of a continuum of glory and intelligence – NOT a literal description of three discreet tiers of glory where people are thrust together.

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Next time we’ll talk about the evidence showing that Celestial, Terrestrial, and Telestial people live together on the same planets and who the noble and great ones Abraham saw are…

55 Comments »

  1. While there might not be distinct planets for each of use don’t you think there are distinct (for the lack of a better word) spheres? What I mean is, let’s say God is 0 (0 being the best), Joseph is 5, you and I are 100 & 101. Joseph is able to get within 5 units of God (a sphere of 5), you are able to get within 100 units of God and I within 101 units of God. All of us can interact within the sphere of glory that we obtain (and can minister to those in the outer spheres), but can not bear to be any closer to God than the sphere in which we inhabit.

    This makes sense in my head, but I’m afraid I’m not getting the words out correctly. I hope you understand.

    Comment by Daylan — October 13, 2005 @ 6:59 pm

  2. The heaven and hell notion does work if you take into account the grace of God through faith. Either you have Jesus’ atonement working for you or you don’t. No need for skin and teeth. That’s the Protestant model anyway. Degrees of righteousness are irrelevant-you are either saved or you ain’t.

    Comment by Ronan — October 13, 2005 @ 7:17 pm

  3. Ronan – Good point — that is the standard protestant explanation. (Of course that explanation raises more questions than it answers about justice and mercy of God, etc. We Mormons have a long history of pointing out those flaws in that model.) Obviously the protestant explanation doesn’t really work for us. We know there is gradation, we just don’t seem to be willing to take it all the way. That leaves of with some popular notions that just don’t make sense.

    Daylan – That model you describe is very similar to what we learn in Abraham 3. It works great to describe intelligences in proximity to God figuratively but it completely fall apart if we try to apply it to our physical situation after this life. Anyway, we can have those spheres of glory/intelligence right here on this planet to begin with.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 13, 2005 @ 7:41 pm

  4. While I tend to agree that there are many, many degrees and that the idea that there are just three is erroneous, I’m not sure I buy your view of the “just by the hair of their chin” sort of separation between kingdoms. It may well be that once the veil is lifted and test sufficiently given that God uses experience to show everyone what they want. It may well be that there is something fundamentally different between telestial and terrestrial glory such that it isn’t just a matter of degree. (i.e. the lowest of the terrestrial isn’t continuous with the highest of the telestial) Rather there may be a fundamental difference in kind.

    However I’d caution that we just don’t have much revealed about what happens after judgement. It’s hard to even speculate much given what little has been revealed. There is that tradition though about the different kinds of resurrection being fundamentally different. (And yes, I also recognize the tradition that says there are progressions within kingdoms, and even the tradition that the telestial kingdom is pretty much like this world)

    Comment by Clark — October 13, 2005 @ 9:06 pm

  5. Clark,

    You know my preference for the Heber C. Kimball model of eternal progression. I am taking a harder line approach in this post against all other models based on our physical resurrections. I think Heber had the answer to where we live next. Since you think his model is wrong, then where in this universe will all mankind live forever? (And don’t leave out the Sons of Perdition) My current feeling is that Heber and friends had the only good answer to this question.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 13, 2005 @ 10:26 pm

  6. Geoff, the “Protestant model” actually contains a wide range of different theological accounts–and I bet any particular objection you might raise is not an issue for at least one such account. The grace of God through the Atonement of Christ is my preferred answer to the entire dilemma of sharp boundaries that you discuss; people receive as much as they’re willing to get.

    Comment by RoastedTomatoes — October 13, 2005 @ 11:06 pm

  7. Geoff, I have many problems with this post, the biggest being that you give no good reason for your theory.

    There is simply more data than you are accounting for. As I see it, the Kingdoms are not awarded, they are results of relatioinships. We know the Telestial folk are where they are, because they paid for their own sins. Well, that is an easy delineation. No teeth skin there.

    The Celestial kingdom is surrounded by a gate of ordinances. Either you do or you don’t keep covenants. The Teeth skin argument is simply irrelevent (so there goes this post)

    Your argument against immortal telestial planets could be equally leveraged against immortal celestial planets. Where does God live right now? Hard not to say on a celestial planet, eh? If celestial planets then why not other kinds as well? Where was the council in heaven?

    Comment by J. Stapley — October 13, 2005 @ 11:47 pm

  8. For those who have attended the temple, on your next visit there you might ponder whether the physical “cutoff” between resurrected beings and kingdoms or realms will be directly related to whether you have achieved (or the Lord has helped you achieve) unquestioned obedience to certain of those special covenants. And, this might be most effective after reading and pondering Elder Bednar’s talk in the Priesthood session of this most recent General Conference. Of course, I also recommend that we keep things discreet and NOT get involved in a detailed discussion of Temple teachings in this forum.

    -Brent

    Comment by Brent — October 14, 2005 @ 5:56 am

  9. Whenever I read discussions like these, I get the distinct impression that I won’t understand anything about Mormon theology until I actually recieve my endowment.

    Geoff, where can I read about Heber C. Kimball’s model of eternal progression?

    Comment by Crystal — October 14, 2005 @ 7:34 am

  10. Geoff,
    I am more and more inclined to believe that the existence of a terrestrial and telestial existence are mostly rhetorical. I don’t know that gradations of righteousness really do matter and I find arguments that they do unconvincing. If we rely wholly on Christ’s grace for salvation, whether or not we are 99% or 1% pure, what does the difference mean eternally? Certainly, you will have a better time here the earlier you convert, but I don’t know how much we should expect this to dominate eternal salvation.

    Comment by John C. — October 14, 2005 @ 8:19 am

  11. J Stapley: Since you think his model is wrong, then where in this universe will all mankind live forever?

    Well I’m not at all convinced we’ll necessarily live within this universe. But if we do, I think it’ll be here. (i.e. on earth) As for the rest (i.e. non-celestial) it would take only a few planets. So this seems an odd complaint.

    But in any case, I don’t think it’s a particular strong objection to a model to point out it can’t answer every question. That’s true of most models. But in particular in this case no one knows much about what happens after the resurrection.

    Comment by Clark — October 14, 2005 @ 8:39 am

  12. Crap. How is this possible that Clark uber-intellect can conuse Geoff with J. (though both are strikingly handsome)? The question you were anwering there, Clark, was Geoff’s.

    Comment by J. Stapley — October 14, 2005 @ 9:27 am

  13. J,

    I think the skin of the teeth argument does work. If in the last day there are 1 billion people that get assigned to the Terrestrial Kingdom, one of those people will barely squeak in and escape the Telestial Kingdom. Now some will point to the parable of the laborers to say “yep, that’s how it is” but I think that is an incorrect application of that parable. I think the “kingdoms” are purely symbolic and to try to force literal places onto them is naive.

    We know the Telestial folk are where they are, because they paid for their own sins.

    This is true. But why are we all in a physically Telestial world now? Did we pay for our pre-mortal sins and get sent here? My point is that the “kingdoms” refer to the nature of the person – not to the nature of the planet they live on.

    I’ll talk about it more in the next post, but I must again point out that Celestial people can live on a Telestial world. Jesus is a perfect example. Adam and other great and nobles are surely other examples I believe. We should not conflate “kingdom” ad “planet”.

    Your argument against immortal Telestial planets could be equally leveraged against immortal celestial planets.

    I agree. I’ll do that in this series as well.

    Where does God live right now?

    I’ll speculate on that later. I do know that “eternal burnings” is in out history though…

    Hard not to say on a celestial planet, eh?

    Nope — pretty easy. Not a celestial planet.

    Where was the council in heaven?

    Same place as the war in heaven — we’re in the midst of it. More on this later.

    My real question of this post is “where is this Universe does entropy not apply?” What physical things (as we understand them) are eternal? I think that none of them are. I’m not a hardcore science guy or anything, but I do lean on an assumption (along with theologians like Widtsoe) that God works within our universe and its laws. If so, then I believe the type of matter that is not subject to entropy is not the type planets or our bodies are made of.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 14, 2005 @ 9:28 am

  14. Brent – Thank you for being discreet. The problem is you have been so discreet that I don’t know what you are talking about.

    Crystal – The endowment is wonderful, but it is purely symbolic and I’m afraid it does not clearly answer any of the questions we are discussing here. If it did we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

    As for the view that Heber C. Kimball and many of his contemporaries had of eternal progression, see this post. Not many Mormons are aware of this model, and not all that many that are aware think he had it right — but I do.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 14, 2005 @ 9:46 am

  15. Clark,

    J is right — I’m not him… (though being him ain’t bad)

    Well I’m not at all convinced we’ll necessarily live within this universe. But if we do, I think it’ll be here. (i.e. on earth)

    So you envision another universe with different laws than this one? One where planets don’t expire? Why would there be different rules if the ones we have here work just fine? And based on the assumption that ours work just fine, do you really envision this planet just plugging along a trillion years from now? Something has to give.

    As for the rest (i.e. non-celestial) it would take only a few planets. So this seems an odd complaint.

    I’m surprised you are missing the point. If Telestials are all as immortals on a planet similar to us, what do they do? How long until they use up their planet? How long until they develop a space program and start exploring space looking for other inhabitable planets? Since no one dies it then the greatest minds would always be there… Do you really think that could last for millions of years?

    I am not saying that we know exactly what happens after the resurrection. I am saying that the popular notions we hold of the afterlife just do not work. Either we need to reject our form of materialism or we need to rethink the model. As I said, Heber C. and friends have provided the only model that makes any sense at all to me.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 14, 2005 @ 10:00 am

  16. Kind of hard to argue with “I’ll tell you later”, so I’ll wait I guess.

    But back to the skin of your teeth argument. As far as the Telestial Terrestrial schism goes, I believe you are mistaken. Either you pay for your own sins or you don’t. There is no, “Well, I almost didn’t pay for my own sins.” No grey area there.

    Comment by J. Stapley — October 14, 2005 @ 10:33 am

  17. Come on J, I only said I’ll flesh a couple of ideas out more later. On the vast majority I did respond. Is you silence on those a concession of some kind?

    As for the line you are trying to draw between Telestials and Terrestrials I’m not at all sure it is nearly so cut and dry. Are you saying Telestials pay for all of their own sins and Terrestrials pay for none of theirs? I don’t buy it and I don’t think the scriptures support it. Further, I’m not even sure what “pay for your own sins” exactly means. Heber C. implied that people paid by getting behind the 8-ball in their future attempts at progression.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 14, 2005 @ 10:51 am

  18. There has been a lot of discussion of “paying for your sins” as the telestial route. Unfortunately you can’t pay for your sins. You can’t wipe clean your own record, it can only be wiped clean via atonement. At the end of the road, every knee will bow and every tongue confess, and eventually salvation will be granted to them (if they don’t accept it they can “go somewhere else” where God’s presence is absent). But before that time, the degree of salvation inherited will merited (probably not the best verb to use here) based on the faith manifest during the “extended probation” (earth life through the final judgment). In other words, at what point are you going to show your allegiance to the Savior and accept his plan? The amount of time it takes for you to make up your mind on that question determines the level of salvation you will inherit. Just my thoughts but I think they’re scripturally sound.

    Comment by Mark Simmons — October 14, 2005 @ 11:02 am

  19. Unfortunately you can’t pay for your sins.

    Interesting assertion, Mark. What do you back it up with?

    BTW – Heber C. Kimball and friends might say that there are more probations to come in the eternities and that we pay by being put in less desirable situations there as a result of our sins here (at least less desirable spiritually if not physically).

    Comment by Geoff J — October 14, 2005 @ 11:20 am

  20. Whoops sorry about that. Perils of reading and writing fast.

    Do I envision a “world” with different laws. Yes, I tend to accept that and I’m not convinced the laws here work just fine if there will be a heat death in this universe.

    I’m not saying this is necessarily so. However it seems a natural reading of D&C 88 to assume that there are different laws. Why that wouldn’t entail physical laws also isn’t clear to me. Once again very speculative, but certainly a natural way of reading both scripture as well as current physical theory. Even in the mbrane view of superstring theory you can have multiple universes floating in multidimensional space. Those universes naturally tend to have 3 or 5 dimensions but each have different emergent laws. Once again that’s fairly speculative (i.e. non-empirical) but mainstream physics.

    Regarding “using up the planet” exactly why would that happen and why do you assume God wouldn’t simply intervene? It seems your criticisms only work if one invokes several unstated and questionable assumptions.

    It just isn’t at all clear to me which of our conceptions of the resurrection don’t work and why. If you’re criticism is simply that telestial beings left to their own devices can develop advanced technology, that’s fair. However it assumes that telestial beings are just material like us within this universe and that all others are within this universe and that there are no restrictions. That’s the assumption I just don’t buy.

    Comment by Clark — October 14, 2005 @ 11:33 am

  21. Just to clarify my position. I think one can argue that the three kingdoms are different physical places without claiming they are merely worlds within this universe with the same laws and restrictions.

    Comment by Clark — October 14, 2005 @ 11:34 am

  22. Many of those beliefs may not be formal doctrines of the church, but the majority of them have sources in teachings of prominent leaders in the church. For example Joseph Smith taught:

    “Many have supposed that the doctrine of translation was a doctrine whereby men were taken immediately into the presence of God, and into an eternal fullness, but this is a mistaken idea. Their place of habitation is that of the terrestrial order, and a place prepared for such characters He held in reserve to be ministering angels unto many planets, and who as yet have not entered into so great a fullness as those who are resurrected from the dead.” (TPJS, p. 170)

    Joseph F. Smith taught that the inhabitants of the different kingdoms would have different kinds of bodies, which is a pretty straightforward interpretation of D&C 76:70,78. Melvin J. Ballard taught as follows:

    “Again, those who come forth in the celestial glory with celestial bodies have a body that is more refined. It is different. The very fibre and texture of the celestial body is more pure and holy than a telestial or terrestrial body, and a celestial body alone can endure celestial glory, I am impressed with this because I recall when a child at school I learned that if an icicle a mile square were dropped into the sun it would melt in an instant, and when I learned how intense the heat of that orb is and that our sun is a celestial world, I did not know whether I wanted to live in a celestial world or not if it that hot. But when I come to understand, if I have a body suitable to dwell in eternal burnings then I think I would like it. Fishes can live in the water and have bodies suited to that element but entirely unsuitable to a life outside of the water. When we have a celestial body it will be suited to the celestial conditions and a telestial body could not endure celestial glory. It would be torment and affliction to them. I have not read in the scripture where there will be another resurrection where we can obtain a celestial body for a terrestrial body. What we receive in the resurrection will be ours forever and forever.” (Ogden Tabernacle, September 22, 1922)

    I am partial to the possibility of inter-kingdom progression, but given the record (notably D&C 76:96-98) it sounds like it would require an event much more like a translation or transfiguration than a subtle day to day change.

    Comment by Mark Butler — October 14, 2005 @ 12:24 pm

  23. As far as qualifying for the telestial kingdom is concerned, Brigham Young had an interesting perspective:

    “I will now tell you something that ought to comfort every man and woman on the face of the earth. Joseph Smith, junior, will again be on this earth dictating plans and calling forth his brethren to be baptized for the very characters who wish this was not so, in order to bring them into a kingdom to enjoy, perhaps, the presence of angels or the spirits of good men, if they cannot endure the presence of the Father and the Son; and he will never cease his operations, under the directions of the Son of God, until the last ones of the children of men are saved that can be, from Adam till now.” (Brigham Young, [JD 7:289])

    Comment by Mark Butler — October 14, 2005 @ 1:10 pm

  24. I venture to say that baptism is a requirement to inheriting the telestial kingdom (since it is a kingdom of HEAVEN and baptism is a requirement for an inheritance in heaven). As Mark Butler’s quote from Brigham Young shows, everyone who has likely lived on the earth and was accountable will have this ordinance either performed in person or in their behalf.

    Comment by Mark Simmons — October 14, 2005 @ 3:38 pm

  25. Clark: Yes, I tend to accept that and I’m not convinced the laws here work just fine if there will be a heat death in this universe.

    Alright, but you have said yourself that there is no evidence of the possiblility of communication between universes even if the multiverse concept is true. Have you changed your opinion on that? If not, how do resurrected beings communicate (like the Father) communicate with us?

    Regarding “using up the planet” exactly why would that happen and why do you assume God wouldn’t simply intervene?

    Maybe he would. That doesn’t change the fact that you have a planet of immortal Telestials. Remember, these include all the murderers, liars, aldulterers, etc. And what about their space program?

    It seems your criticisms only work if one invokes several unstated and questionable assumptions.

    This is true. I am assuming that most Mormons think we will have bodies of physical flesh and bones in the resurrection.

    THERE are two kinds of beings in heaven, namely: Angels, who are resurrected personages, having bodies of flesh and bones-
    (D&C 129:1)

    I am further assuming there is only one Universe that we deal with. I certainly see no scriptural evidence to refute those ideas.

    Regarding the other assumptions you don’t buy about resurrected beings — what assumptions do you buy?

    Comment by Geoff J — October 14, 2005 @ 6:25 pm

  26. I think one can argue that the three kingdoms are different physical places without claiming they are merely worlds within this universe with the same laws and restrictions.

    I guess one could make that argument… But I can’t see any reason why someone would want to — unless it was to defend an old tradition. What good is that idea? Why is it likely or even desirable to us or God? After all his stated mission is to bring about our eternal life — how does separating us physically help that? Wouldn’t it be better to put us together so the strong can help the weak just like God and Christ do for us?

    Comment by Geoff J — October 14, 2005 @ 6:30 pm

  27. Mark B,

    Good quotes. I think there is something to this notion of a major change in exalted people. Of course, exalted beings may very well live in our universe. Many in the 19th century felt that they were literally connectd with light and lived in literal eternal burnings (stars). I’m not sure what to make of that idea…

    But I still think that the only viable solution I have heard for non-exalted beings is Heber C. Kimball’s model where we go to other mortal probations and become the inhabitants of those other worlds without number.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 14, 2005 @ 6:45 pm

  28. Mark S: I venture to say that baptism is a requirement to inheriting the telestial kingdom (since it is a kingdom of HEAVEN and baptism is a requirement for an inheritance in heaven).

    I’m afraid section 76 says otherwise. It may be true that proxy work will be done for all but not all will accept. Either way, if they don’t end up Telestial they will only have outer darkness left and that idea has no scriptural support.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 14, 2005 @ 7:32 pm

  29. Geoff G., my “baptism requirement for telestial glory” post was a venture to “test the waters”. Indeed, you are correct. According to Joseph F. Smith baptism is only a requirement for celestial heirs: “We are going to do temple work for those who are entitled, through their faith and their repentance to enter into the celestial kingdom … Will those who enter the terrestrial and telestial kingdoms have to have the ordinance of baptism? No! Baptism is the door to the celestial kingdom … We are not preaching a salvation for the inhabitants of the terrestrial and telestial kingdoms” (Doctrines of Salvation, Vol. 11, pp. 191, 329). How’s the heir up there?

    Comment by Mark Simmons — October 14, 2005 @ 9:05 pm

  30. There is always the possibility of remaining in the spirit world until one is ready to abide by a telestial law. How could the telestial kingdom be a degree of glory otherwise? The denizens thereof are supposed to be “heirs of salvation” and “servants of the Most High”, which sounds like a serious repentance requirement to me.

    One might also consider how the possibility that D&C 131 has been misinterpreted and the celestial kingdom has only one degree of glory (D&C 76:96) might affect our view of the other two.

    Comment by Mark Butler — October 14, 2005 @ 9:48 pm

  31. Geoff, as far as anyone has been able to demonstrate, entropy is not a physical law at all, it is a rule governing ignorance, a constraint on perception. Heat is just a convenient statistical fuzz for representing the state of systems where we lack sufficiently detailed information.

    One can model the Sun as a system of particles interacting at absolute zero. 15,000 K or whatever is just the macroscopic perspective. With sufficient information, you can make what looks like heat to an outside observer flow uphill, what looks like entropy decrease, and so on. Of course acquiring that much information (or constructing a system to achieve the same effect) is a bit of a trick, but certainly within the realm of possibility.

    Comment by Mark Butler — October 14, 2005 @ 11:19 pm

  32. Briefly – then I’ll get to the many other comments later.

    Alright, but you have said yourself that there is no evidence of the possiblility of communication between universes even if the multiverse concept is true.

    Clearly what is discussed right now in theoretical physics isn’t sufficient. But the discussion of communication between universes is in Linde’s model. I believe in the brane model of superstring theory it is possible – although I’ll confess I’m not up on the details enough to say. (And to be honest I’m not sure they’re worked out that much)

    That doesn’t change the fact that you have a planet of immortal Telestials. Remember, these include all the murderers, liars, aldulterers, etc. And what about their space program?

    So they go to multiple planets. So what?

    And that assumes they are placed somewhere that has the resources to provide a space program. Say God places them in a dyson sphere made of neutronium with a light dusting of soil above. In that case there are no metals to produce a space program. You also assume that they are left to their own devices, which appears not to be the case given that beings of a higher order can visit. So why not have some angels guard things to ensure nothing bad happens. Not terribly difficult if Celestial beings are even largely omniscient.

    It seems these objections are much ado about nothing.

    Comment by Clark — October 15, 2005 @ 11:43 am

  33. Mark B. – I certainly am no expert on thermodynamics. But I do think it is hard to imagine a planet where there is no death or decay in this physical universe… I bring this up to question the idea that our resurrected bodies will be tangible in the way our mortal ones are and also to question the idea that we will never separate from them again.

    Clark – It seems these objections are much ado about nothing.

    I’m surprised it is not obvious to you what I’m doing here… Just to be clear: I am questioning traditional (and I believe incorrect) ideas about our post mortal life to show that they are more difficult to accept and swallow than the alternative I prefer. That alternative is the model taught and believed by Heber C. Kimball and lots of other 19th Century church leaders — mulitple mortal probations. My underlying idea is that MMP is a better model for the next life than the poorly thought through idea of permanent resurrections and people living with physical bodies in three separate places somewhere in this Universe.

    I am only pointing out all of the serious problems that are resolved by the MMP model but left completely unresolved in the half-baked notions that often float around the church.

    So yes murderers are here with us, but that does not hinder me or you from becoming more like God. In fact, the opposition seems to be necessary for that progress.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 15, 2005 @ 5:19 pm

  34. So, Geoff. Tell me about Angels. If God lives in some, as yet unspecified celestial burning, where do all the angels live? And if there is MMP, like you are suggesting, why are there angels anyway? Why don’t they keep going forward to the next round? Why the revelation:

    16 Therefore, when they are out of the world they neither marry nor are given in marriage; but are appointed angels in heaven, which angels are ministering cservants, to minister for those who are worthy of a far more, and an exceeding, and an eternal weight of glory.

    17 For these angels did not abide my law; therefore, they cannot be enlarged, but remain separately and singly, without exaltation, in their saved condition, to all eternity; and from henceforth are not gods, but are angels of God forever and ever.

    Comment by J. Stapley — October 15, 2005 @ 8:48 pm

  35. J,

    This post is only pointing out where and how I think resurrected beings won’t live… Where angels currently do live is another question entirely. It think there are lots of portential answers to that question. I like Brigham’s teaching that the spirit world is here on the earth — just that we cannot see or discern that world. I think that answers your question for the most part.

    As to your why question about delaying the “next round” I guess that is the same as asking why wait until the end of the world for judgment. I don’t know why God waits to judge and assign us to our next estate, but the scriptures seem to say he does. Do you have any ideas why?

    Those verses you quote from section 132 talk about “angels” but seem to be using that word to describe all non-exalted people after this life.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 15, 2005 @ 10:47 pm

  36. Arthur C. Clarke said that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”. Given that even our existing bodies do not violate any known thermodynamic constraints and show potential for continually extended life spans, why might not terrestrial bodies be able to heal themselves indefinitely?

    We might also wonder what makes spirits so durable. If a spirit can last indefinitely without degradation, presumably similar principles might operate in more concrete form.

    Comment by Mark Butler — October 16, 2005 @ 11:23 pm

  37. Geoff, I guess my point is, I don’t see there being any problem with traditional beliefs.

    Comment by Clark — October 17, 2005 @ 9:53 am

  38. Clark,

    Then where do those non-exalted resurrected bodies live forever? Is it on a planet? If so how do you avoid the problems I have noted?

    Comment by Geoff J — October 17, 2005 @ 9:56 am

  39. Mark B,

    I can buy that there is a logical possibility that resurrected bodies could rejenerate themselves indefinitely, but I still think the question of where they live in our universe FOREVER is a good one. I pose the same questions to you as I did to Clark in #38.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 17, 2005 @ 10:16 am

  40. Geoff, I just don’t see the problem. If there is inter-universe communication then entropy problems don’t apply. So where’s the problem?

    Comment by Clark — October 17, 2005 @ 10:24 am

  41. The penal planet of immortal Telestials is the problem. Even if it were so, how is that not an eternal hell? (Remember that 80s movie Escape From New York where they made the island of Manhattan a repository for all the criminals and murderers, etc? That is what this concept sounds like to me, except there is no escaping even via death…)

    Comment by Geoff J — October 17, 2005 @ 10:36 am

  42. I’m not quite following Geoff. Presumably the character of even murderers and the like will be different when the veil of forgetfulness is removed and some of the limits of our brain are changed. So I think the resurrected body will be different. I think assuming that everyone will be fallen in the Escape From New York analogy is flawed.

    It seems that your complaint reduces to “there is no escape” but that’s the fundamental issue between MMP and the traditional view. I think the argument is for most is that there ought be no escape. If we bring up objections that really are just this fundamental issue in new guises I’m not sure we’ve added much to the debate. Either one accepts a final judgment or one doesn’t.

    Comment by Clark — October 17, 2005 @ 11:12 am

  43. Fair enough. I am partially railing against the “no progression between kingdoms” notion. However, you seem to be leaning on an assumption that a change in bodies will mean a change in character. Why should we believe that? If our bodies are the cause of our current character then we are not responsible for our character. If our characters remain intact despite our bodies then a murderous, lying, cheating person would presumably remain such even with a new body.

    Further, even with the veil of forgetfulness removed, what disincentive would there be for a person that has a lying, cheating, adulterous, murderous character to act in character there? If they remain in that state forever then why would you assume they would be fundamentaly different people than they are here? (I understand this also could be seen as and argument for progression between kingdoms, but it is still a fair question I think.)

    Comment by Geoff J — October 17, 2005 @ 11:26 am

  44. Why should we believe that? Well, because much of our character is due to our brain. If God overcomes the effects of the fall, then that applies to telestial beings as well.

    But that’s really not central to my argument. The point you are making is that this is a problem. But you’ve not established that there is a problem yet. At least I’ve reread the thread a few times and I honestly can’t quite see the central objection beyond “there is no escape.” My sense was that you were trying to argue that there would be a technological escape, but I don’t see that either for reasons I outlined.

    I guess I still don’t see the problem.

    Comment by Clark — October 17, 2005 @ 12:14 pm

  45. Well, because much of our character is due to our brain. If God overcomes the effects of the fall, then that applies to telestial beings as well.

    You still have the classic responsibility problem to deal with, Clark. Since we are not responsible for the physical brains we receive here how acan we be justly judged based on the characters we develop or not if those brains are the primary determining factor in our characters? Something that is us must transcend our bodies I think. If our physical bodies overrule our lasting characters then why even bother with this probation? (I can understand why you would not want to make this central thought because it is you most vulnerable point.)

    The point of my post is to take some common assumptions among the saints about the afterlife to a few probable ends. Since those ends end up being absurd, we then can re-evaluate the assumptions. The assumption that I don’t believe include the idea that the is no progression/regression after this life and that this is the only mortal probation we ever have or will experience throughout eternity.

    The problem is that there is no viable model that I have ever seen to defend the idea that there is no progression/regression after this life. Nor have I seen a viable model for the fate of those permanently resurrected into Telestial or Terrestrial physical bodies like ours in this universe. (I can imagine that exalted bodies living in “eternal burnings” could be so different than ours that we can’t even yet understand their existence, but Telestial and Terrestrial resurrected bodies are commonly conceived of as being very similar to our mortal bodies. The difference is that they are immortal.) I think these two problems are inextricably connected and so while claiming they live in abother universe might buy you a little room, it is wholly unsupported as far as I can tell and sounds mostly like a cop-out. Further, it only deals with a portion of the whole connected problem.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 17, 2005 @ 1:23 pm

  46. I don’t mind them being the primary cause of our actions. It’s what is left over that seems relevant. I trust that God can do that discernment of what is left when environment and structure are removed. Indeed I think that necessity for judgment to be just. I can’t see any judgement that doesn’t take into consideration the role of the brain as being just.

    Yet I also think that there is some influence of our spirit on our soul. Thus I don’t think one could ever reduce our choices to the brain.

    We have to beware of false dichotomies. (i.e. that we are free with only a few insignificant and rare flaws or that we are fully determined by our body)

    As for the justification you seek – thanks for putting it that way. I think that makes more sense. Really you’re not looking for problems in the default view. You’re just looking for positive evidence beyond the scriptures for the view. I think what I sketched out above (responsibility in the residue of who we are) is the best answer. If there is this residue that escapes the physical determinism of the body, then we can roughly call that what is essential about us. And it seems reasonable that this essence determines our ultimate character and where we’d be happiest.

    Now if you seek empirical evidence for this, then I acknowledge a problem. But of course at that point there are bigger problems…

    Comment by Clark — October 17, 2005 @ 3:39 pm

  47. Just to expand – I think the core difference between the traditional view and the MMP view is over whether there is something “essential” to us. (And I’ll leave that “essence” vague so as to not imply the kind of determinism that some see spirit or souls offering)

    Comment by Clark — October 17, 2005 @ 3:40 pm

  48. I think we are in agreement that the body matters but that it is not all that we are. A good question is how much our physical bodies influence our thoughts and actions as opposed to the spiritual “us”. In any case I agree with you that in the final judgment the influences of our bodies on us will be justly accounted for. Indeed the scriptures seem to indicate this idea in several places like the parable of the talents and “Unto him to whom much is given, much is required.”

    You’re just looking for positive evidence beyond the scriptures for the (default) view.

    This is true. But it is because I don’t think the default view is actually in the scriptures, even if other people read that view into them.

    I think what I sketched out above (responsibility in the residue of who we are) is the best answer.

    Ok, so let me restate the version of the “traditional model” you have outlined: Everyone is judged based on their thoughts, words, and deeds in this life; but the judgment is leveled and equalized by taking the effects of the mortal body out of the equation. After that leveled and equalized Judgment, everyone is resurrected into permanent bodies and placed on some planet in a different universe FOREVER. (And they presumably cannot advance in technology enough to create a space program even though there knowledge from here rises with them in the resurrection and they live forever.) In the immortal Telestial world(s) the people have good bodies so there is no desire to lie, cheat, murder, or commit adultery even though these were the people that loved that stuff here. (I guess their bodies made them do it?) So there they live, for all eternity with no chance for spiritual progress.

    Is that about right?

    Can you see why I think the whole thing is poppycock? It is contrary to my view of how a loving God would treat his own Children. Indeed, I believe the message the scriptures teach is that there will never be a time throughout all eternity when we cannot freely choose to repent and return to our God. (Though I think there is point at which we are no longer the same person we once were either through progression or regression).

    I think the core difference between the traditional view and the MMP view is over whether there is something “essential” to us.

    Yes! I agree. The problem is that the traditional model does not jibe well with the view that there is something that is essential to us and the MMP works wonderfully with that idea. But most members want to hold to the traditional model and the idea that there is something essential to us.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 17, 2005 @ 8:01 pm

  49. I would disagree with the “no chance for spiritual progress.” I’d rather say “limited in the kinds of spiritual progress.” I believe in eternal progress for all three kingdoms. But by analogy, even an eternally progressing dog can’t become a cat, so too I think there are fundamental differences that divide the people. Partially because of the resurrected bodies, but partially because of that “excess.”

    Why do you say that the traditional view doesn’t fit there being something “essential” to us? It seems that’s fairly key to the traditional view. I guess I have to ask again what you see the problem being? It seems to me that the traditional view sees mortality as a way of illustrating to us what that “excess” that is us actually is. We see it, acknowledge God’s judgments as just, and go to where our happiness is maximized.

    It would seem to me that the MMP is the system with a problem of there being an essence, because the MMP typically (but not always) endorses a view that there isn’t anything that can’t be changed. Thus judgements go on in a kharma-like cycle where we repeat experiences until we finally are transformed. That is, there is no essence to keep us from our final destination of exhaltation. All can and will be exalted.

    Now as I said not all MMP people endorse that. But in my experience they often endorse something close. And I’ve never quite seen an MMP proponent explain why everyone won’t be exalted eventually given infinite time.

    Comment by Clark — October 17, 2005 @ 10:35 pm

  50. But by analogy, even an eternally progressing dog can’t become a cat

    Come on Clark — that’s just too easy. An eternally progressing dog could become the greatest thing a dog can become. An eternally progressing human can become the best thing possible for humanity. Since the best possible thing for a human to become is a full-fledged God, this analogy works for my position and against yours.

    Why do you say that the traditional view doesn’t fit there being something “essential” to us?

    I suppose that wasn’t exactly what I meant. However if we are eternal and our spirits have been in present form forever already (see my post on that) I think we have a problem explaining how there is any progress at all. Isn’t FOREVER long enough to become perfect if we are ever going to? Does it require infinity plus 1 to achieve that goal for us?

    I lean more to the Orson Pratt model where it is the intelligence “particles” (whatever that really means) that make up our spirits/intelligences that are eternal. The thing that is “me” emerges from that core of combined intelligent stuff. In other words I think our parts are eternal but we are the whole that is greater than the sum of the parts. As a result, there really is a possibility for the destruction of the soul as Alma preached. (So that answers your question about everyone being destined for exaltation in an MMP model — where there can be progression there can also be regression.) But there is also the possibility of growing and transcending our current state and becoming an entirely new creature — one that is like God.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 18, 2005 @ 10:20 am

  51. But Geoff, it isn’t too easy. Your argument presupposes what you’re arguing for. If the three kinds of bodies in the resurrection are literally three kinds, then humanness has bifurcated. That’s the whole point in the traditional view.

    Your second argument (which is basically a variant of the Kalaam arguments) is much more interesting. I may address that separately. The short answer is that if there is something essential to us but requires *outside* intervention (i.e. God giving us a mortal birth and physical birth) then no, infinity isn’t long enough because of the problem of natural kinds. (Basically the same issue as the first argument) The problem is that the MMP rejects this line of reasoning, saying there aren’t natural kinds.

    So your line of reasoning only works if you reject MMP it seems to me.

    (I can restate that in a numbered argument if you want for clarity – but the basic point is that MMP presupposes all humanity is the same in a fundamental way, whereas the traditional view rejects that)

    Orson Pratt’s model also has issues over the problem of infinity (among many other things). I’ll hold off on that. But I don’t think Pratt’s ontology is a good one for either MMP or traditionalists to rest arguments on. It’s helpful as a first approximation but many problems quickly arise in even the simple modifications of Pratt.

    Comment by Clark — October 18, 2005 @ 10:54 am

  52. You are apparently assuming some things that I have never even considered then Clark — That when a person get a Telestial body they are no longer human as we define humans. It must be that because if they are still human then why can’t they progress to be like the ultimate of our species over eternity? I think that idea is a difficult one to defend for you though.

    Kalam (??? ?????) in Arabic means speech or discourse and refers to the Islamic tradition of seeking theological principles through dialectic.

    I this what you meant about my arguments being a variation on the Kalaam arguments?

    Further, I don’t understand your paragraph that follows. I do not believe in a spirit birth if that is what you mean.

    I can restate that in a numbered argument if you want for clarity

    Yes please do.

    As for Pratt, I only glean parts of his model not all of it. I do like the idea of intelligence particles joining togther to create a new emergent beings that is greater than the sum of the parts, though.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 18, 2005 @ 1:15 pm

  53. The Kalam arguments are old arguments regarding infinities. Blake Ostler’s written on them relative to some attack on LDS notions of an infinite past. Sorry about assuming familiarity with them. I had discussed them at my blog several times and assumed familiarity with them. Mea culpa. Sticking my foot in my mouth once again. Anyway, your rejoinder about how the complaint about reaching exaltation in infinite time parallels some of the arguments.

    Regarding spirit birth, I recognize that you probably don’t accept it. (I don’t think one has to take it as a birth, just a transformation of kind that couldn’t happen on its own) The point is that there are absolute limits to what our choices can provide for us that can only be transcended by an outside entity – God. So we as intelligences never could organize a mortal body. I don’t think Pratt’s ontology would allow this kind of distinction. At least from what I can see I don’t see any logical reason why God would be necessary.

    What I was doing was extending this to the resurrection. That is, telestially resurrected beings simply never can make the choices necessary to move to an other kingdom. Now one can debate about whether than is just. But that’s a different matter.

    I’ll get to the numbered argument a little later. (Perhaps at my blog – I need a few more LDS topics this week)

    Regarding resurrected beings and humanity. I certainly don’t think any resurrected being is human the way we typically use human in regular speech. Now there are different senses where it can apply. But I think the assumption that humanity is a single kind is problematic if we do expand the notion. i.e. it seems to me that the argument rests upon what is our kind.

    Comment by Clark — October 19, 2005 @ 11:10 am

  54. Consider this:

    One of my kids decided to join me in converting to the church. The other did not.

    The one who didn’t said if we’re right and he’s wrong, we can convert him when he’s in spiritual prison.

    Do with it what you wish.

    Comment by V the K — October 23, 2005 @ 4:35 pm

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