I’m getting to the point where I don’t like long threads anymore. Too many useful and thought-provoking comments end up buried and nearly impossible to find in those 100+ comment threads. Therefore, this post is picking up on the discussion that has been taking place on my last (rather controversial) post. I should note that that post has also spawned several others worth reading as well (See here, here, and (sorta) here so far.)
First, I’ll note that Nate T. has been using several arguments in an attempt to show that the multiple mortal probations (MMP) model of eternity is untenable. The problem is that his arguments attacking MMP also end up attacking the single mortal probation model and the arguments he uses to support the single mortal probation model support MMP as well. Here are some quotes:
The single probation model positions the veil so we can develop faith in this life, something that would be impossible if we had an absolute knowledge of God from our premortal life. There is no such rational for forgetting previous lives, because one was operating by faith then, so will it be in the next probationary state.
If a veil one time can help us develop faith then it could more than once too, right? Further, if we already had an “absolute knowledge of God” then why would we need to “develop faith in this life”? His entire assumption about “absolute knowldege” is off base here I think.
He continues: There is no way to progress in such a system [MMP] unless you can take something of the previous experence with you.
If this is the case then how could we progress in a single mortal probation without taking any of our previous experience with us? I think the answer is that we come here with a blank memory and receive a new body but we bring with us a fundamental character as well. It is that fundamental “intelligence” or spiritual character that we are trying to mold here. If we can improve (or degrade) that character by losing all of our memory once then why couldn’t it happen many times? The principle works the same every time.
Blake then picked up the same vein of thought though with a slightly different and more nuanced approach. He said:
I don’t think that a single probation model suffers from the problem of identity that Nate has identified. Look, if there is another person on another planet who doesn’t have any of my memories, has a different body, has a different family and genetic make-up and so forth, and yet you call this person the same person as “me”, then I am at a loss to know what identifies me with that person.
I agree with Blake here – there is a real dilemma regarding personal identity and veils of forgetfulness. But as with the arguments Nate used, the dilemma applies to the single mortal probation model as much as the MMP model. I posted on this very subject not long ago (I liked that post – I recommend it…) The gist of that post is that memories are what make up most of my personal identity as I know it. Even in the single mortal probation model the fact is that if we lived forever (or at least for eons) prior to coming here we had a personality and personal identity for all of that time. But upon being born here that personal identity was lost with the amnesia we got upon arriving here. So the person I am now is a different person that I was then. The problem is that if and when all of my former memories are restored the person I am now, or the personal identity I have now, will be forever obliterated and subsumed in the tidal wave of the former “me” that rushes back. (See my thought experiment in that post for more on this). So this personal identity thing is equally perplexing no matter how many times we pass through a veil of forgetfulness.
Again, I think the only good answer is that something more fundamental than our memories or personal identity is being molded in the process of a mortal probation — something that we might label our character. In other words, whatever it is that is fundamental to what we are is transforming here. But this works no matter how many mortal probations we experience (one or many).
Blake acknowledges this line of thought in his comment:
Now if I am on a different planet and have a different body and no memories, but I have the same personality due to the fact that I have the advantage of the moral advances I made in prior experiences and my character manifests itself, then I suppose that we could say that is person is morally-relevantly-similar to me.
He then wonders why MMP is needed if we have an immortal body after one probation: Why not begin in whatever new experiences present themselves with the benefit of the body the immortal body that I had before?
The problem I see with this model is that it provides no explanations of how one could possibly continue to progress toward oneness with God after this life. Paul indicated that we are resurrected into bodies of varying degrees of glory. Those of Telestial character receive the least glorified resurrected bodies and the “My Turn of Earth” model assumes they go and live in a Telestial place. That brings up this idea of a planet full of non-aging immortal former reprobates (murderers, rapists, child abusers, etc.) somewhere in our Universe. Not only one planet though, but presumably innumerable such planets (filled with other “batches” of God’s children no less) because our scriptures seem to indicate that there have been innumerable worlds just like ours before this one and if we assume the My Turn on Earth model then each of those would have to result in Telestial and Terrestrial holding planets of some kind where immortals hang around in their non-Celestial but immortal physical bodies forever. So my question is how does one progress in that situation? How does one become one with God when he is outfitted with an immortal Telestial body and lives on a Telestial planet? Does an immortal Telestial body change for the better or worse? Even if that were the case how would the person get off of the Telestial planet? Is there some cutoff when they earn a ticket on a shuttle to the neighboring Terrestrial planet?
I know I am being a bit flippant here, but I think these questions are worth asking. MMP provides a much, much cleaner solution to these problems than single probation models I think. In an MMP model there is only one “batch” of God’s children and he works with us eternally, trying to help us freely choose to become one with Him. There is no need to envision a universe full of largely “penal planets” of Telestials who have been largely abandoned by their Father in Heaven because all those who are not exalted in any given inhabited mortal planet are sent to live on a later mortal planet. Their station and opportunities in each life are determined by their choices in the previous life. Those who come closest to fulfilling the measure of their creation are given more “talents” in each succeeding life and those who waste their “talents” are given fewer in the next life. Those who are exalted find themselves one with God and one with their spouse and for them the mortal probation are over. The MMP model provides a very clean explanation of the eternities as far as I can tell and it escapes the issues I keep bringing up
a) “Penal Planets” throughout our universe filled with immortal former reprobates, and
b) Innumerable batches of God’s children (our siblings?) who are all given one change and then most are sent away to these planets filled with immortals forever while God moves on to the next batch.
So while there are other things I could mention, I am throwing the challenge out for anyone to show me the error of my ways and present an alternative model that resolves my a) and b) issues.