Is there such a thing as spirit birth or not?

June 18, 2006    By: Geoff J @ 6:37 pm   Category: Eternal Progression,MMP,spirit birth,Spirits/Intelligences,Theology

An interesting side discussion popped up in a recent post on the topic of spirit birth. In that thread I mentioned: “I think the evidence against some kind of literal spirit birth (especially a viviparous birth like our mortal birth) is much stronger than any evidence for it.” Since the answer to this question has major implications about the nature of the Father, Jesus Christ, and even us I think it is worth looking at. In this post I will discuss the evidence I am aware of against the idea of literal/viviparous spirit birth, the evidence in favor, and since today is Father’s Day I will also mention some of the implications of this question concerning the “fatherhood” of the members of the Godhead.

Against spirit birth

Perhaps the best authoritative argument against literal spirit birth is that Joseph Smith never taught it and indeed taught many things that are specifically contrary to the notion of a literal spirit birth. Blake made a tremendous comment yesterday that outlines many of these statements and also points out that Joseph spoke of intelligences and spirits as the same thing. The extensive quotes below can reportedly all be found in Ehat and Cook’s The Words of Joseph Smith:

My view that spirit birth is not literal is easy to lay out. JS repeatedly stated that spirit and intelligences are eternal, without creation and no beginning. Let’s look at a few:

Willard Richards pocket companion 8 August 1839: “The Priesthood is an everlasting principle & Existed with God from Eternity & will to Eternity, without beginning of days or end of years. the Keys have to be brought from heaven whenever the Gospel is sent…. The Spirit of Man is not a created being; it existed from Eternity & will exist to eternity. Anything created cannot be Eternal. & earth, water &c-all these had their existence in an elementary State from Eternity.”

JS taught two truths here: (1) the spirit is not created; (2) whatever is eternal is not created. It is vastly clear that “eternal spirit” means an uncreated spirit that had no beginning-ever.

5 Feb. 1840 JS speech: I believe that God is eternal. That He had no beginning, and can have no end. Eternity means that which is without beginning or end. I believe that the soul is eternal; and had no beginning; it can have no end. Here he entered into some explanations, which were so brief that I could not perfectly comprehend him. But the idea seemed to be that the soul of man, the spirit, had existed from eternity in the bosom of Divinity; and so far as he was intelligible to me, must ultimately return from whence it came. He said very little of rewards and punishments; but one conclusion, from what he did say, was irresistible-he contended throughout, that everything which had a beginning must have an ending 2 ; and consequently if the punishment of man commenced in the next world, it must, according to his logic and belief have an end.”

Here JS repeated and emphasized several statements: (1) he uses spirit and soul interchangeably; (2) he again reaffirms that God is eternal and clearly states that means that God had no beginning; (3) in context it is clear that “God” means both the Father and the Son; (4) the spirit is “eternal” in the sense that it is uncreated and cannot have a beginning.

28 March 1841: “he says the spirit or the intelligence of men are self Existent principles before the foundation this Earth-& quotes the Lords question to Job where wast thou when I laid the foundation of the Earth” Evidence that Job was in Existing somewhere at that time 1 he says God is Good & all his acts is for the benefit of inferior intelligences-God saw that those intelligences had Not power to Defend themselves against those that had a tabernacle therefore the Lord Calls them together in Counsel & agrees to form them tabernacles so that he might Gender the Spirit & the tabernacle together so as to create sympathy for their fellowman.”

Here there are several significant points: (1) JS uses spirit and intelligence as synonyms; (2) they are self-existent; (3) God genders the spirit (gender is not eternal because God “genders” the spirit).

27 August 1843: “Joseph also said that the Holy Ghost is now in a state of Probation which if he should perform in righteousness he may pass through the same or a similar course of things that the Son has.” Here it is clear that though divine, the HG will one day become enfleshed “in a course similar to the Son.”

I point this out to show that the statement made in the Sermon in the Grove is a pattern of how the Father was fully divine, became enfleshed just like the Son (or the Son just like him). It is the same with all divine beings.

7 April 1844 “KFD” Bullock report: “the soul the inner Spirit-of God man says created in the beginning the very idea lessens man in my idea-I don’t believe the doctrine hear it all ye Ends of the World for God has told me so I am going to tell of things more noble-we say that God himself is a selfexisting God, who told you so, how did it get it into your head who told you that man did not exist in like manner-how does it read in the Hebrews that God made man & put into it Adam’s Spirit & so became a living Spirit-the mind of man-the mind of man is as immortal as God himself.”

7 April 1844 Richards Diary: “The head one called the Gods together in grand council – to bring forth the world… In Greek, Hebrew. German. Latin. – In the beginning the head of the gods called a council of Gods-and concocted a scheme to create the world … Elements – nothing can destroy. no beginning no end. – The soul. God created in the beginning – he never the character of man. don’t believe it. – who told you God was self existent? correct enough. – in hebrew put into him his spirt – which was created before. Mind of man coequal with God himself … If man had a beginning he must have an end-might proclaim God never had powr to create the spirit of man. Inteligence exist upon a self existent principle no creation about it.”

Once again JS clearly states that: (1) the spirit, soul or intelligence are the same thing; (2) the spirit is uncreated and is just as eternal as God; (3) previously JS stated that the purpose of the KFD sermon was to come to teach us to know “the only true God” who is the Father of Jesus, and this one true God is just as eternal as the uncreated spirit.

The Book of Abraham: “18 Howbeit that he made the greater star; as, also, if there be two spirits, and one shall be more intelligent than the other, yet these two spirits, notwithstanding one is more intelligent than the other, have no beginning; they existed before, they shall have no end, they shall exist after, for they are gnolaum, or eternal. 19 And the Lord said unto me: These two facts do exist, that there are two spirits, one being more intelligent than the other; there shall be another more intelligent than they; I am the Lord thy God, I am more intelligent than they all.”

Once again: (1) there is a Most High God who is more intelligent than all other intelligences; (2) intelligences/spirits are eternal and uncreated.

BTW for those interested, I believe that the before 8 August 1839 sermon by JS led to BY’s misunderstanding re: Adam God. JS said: “The Priesthood was first given to Adam: he obtained the first Presidency & held the Keys of it, from generation to Generation; he obtained it in the creation before the world was formed as in Gen. 1, 26:28,-he had dominion given him over every living Creature. He is Michael, the Archangel, spoken of in the Scriptures … The Priesthood is an everlasting principle & Existed with God from Eternity & will to Eternity, without beginning of days or end of years. the Keys have to be brought from heaven whenever the Gospel is sent. When they are revealed from Heaven it is by Adams Authority … Dan VII Speaks of the Ancient of days, he means the oldest man, our Father Adam, Michael; he will call his children together, & hold a council with them to prepare them for the coming of the Son of Man. He, (Adam) is the Father of the human family & presides over the Spirits of all men, & all that have had the Keys must stand before him in this great Council. This may take place before some of us leave this stage of action. The Son of Man stands before him & there is given him glory & dominion.-Adam delivers up his Stewardship to Christ, that which was delivered to him as holding the Keys of the Universe, but retains his standing as head of the human family.”

So I conclude that spirits/intelligences are uncreated. If there is spirit birth, spirits are created. Thus, literal spirit birth cannot be what JS had in mind. There is no source whatsoever from JS’s lifetime asserting that JS ever taught about a mother in heaven or spirit birth. “Eternal increase” in JS’s vocabulary meant to progress in greater intelligence and glory forever. We can have eternal increase by forever progressing together with our families, so the notion of “eternal increase” doesn’t entail ovoviviparous birth of new spirits -and such new existence of spirits is contrary to JS’s teachings and to our scriptures. I’m not just being a curmudgeon, I’ve thought about it a bit.

In addition to strong authoritative arguments like these that Blake quoted there are also difficult practical issues to deal with. Among these are the amount of time that would be required to birth billions of spirit babies. What kind of gestation period would we be talking about to bear, say, ten billion spirit children to populate a planet like earth? Well, about seven billion years if we are talking about one at a time and a nine month gestation period. Even if there were one spirit baby born per day it would take more than 27 million years to get there. I know some have speculated that there is plural marriage in the Celestial spheres but I don’t believe that for a second and frankly find the notion disrespectful to women. As Jacob hinted at in the Book of Mormon, plural marriage might have been expedient for practical earthly reasons in many instances but I do not believe it will be so among exalted persons.

Another problem is answering the question of how parents with resurrected physical bodies could literally bear children with only spirit bodies. Whatever ever happened to multiplying after ones own kind? And another piece of evidence against literal spirit birth is that we are also commanded to become the children of Christ on earth.

Last, we’ve talked at length here with the problems related to separate batches of children for each of the innumerable previous planets.

As I said, the evidence against literal spirit birth seems pretty convincing to me.

For spirit birth

The support for spirit birth is mostly found in 19th century Utah teachings of church leaders (starting with Brigham and going on from there.) While I am unaware of any specific revelations supporting the concept, preaching of the era was replete with the assumption of literal spirit birth. I think the logic went something like this: a) We are all children of God. b) Since God is an exalted man he must be sealed to an exalted woman. c) Since we are their children they must have borne our spirits in the same fashion our earthly parents bore us here on earth.

The scriptures are clear that that we are children of God in a very real sense. We Mormons really mean it when we sing “I Am a Child of God”. The natural inclination of many people is to assume that we cannot be God’s real child unless we experienced viviparous spirit birth as well.

Another piece of evidence I have seen cited in favor of literal spirit birth is D&C 131:

IN the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees; And in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this border of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage]; And if he does not, he cannot obtain it. He may enter into the other, but that is the end of his kingdom; he cannot have an increase.

Some have assumed that “having an increase” must mean bearing spirit children. Of course, while that is one possible reading, it certainly isn’t the only plausible meaning of that verse.

I have clearly not done justice to the pro spirit birth side of this question so those of you who believe in a literal spirit birth please chime in and describe the strong arguments I have missed here. Also, I am interested in hearing from those who believe that spirits are not the same as intelligences since I have difficulty seeing much evidence to defend that position either.

Some Father’s Day implications and sticky theological questions

If there is no such thing as spirit birth then some interesting questions arise. One is whether the (male) members of the Godhead can ever experience fatherhood in the way I experience it now. This question also applies to every male who has ever died without experiencing fatherhood in mortality. Is this current mortal life the only time in all of the eternities that we have to experience parenthood from conceptions through birth and on from there? Those who think eternal progression/retrogression consists of multiple mortal probations answer that with a resounding “no”. But those who believe each spirit gets one chance at a mortality in all of the eternities would seemingly have to say “yes”. If that is the case then what about Jesus Christ himself? The Christology implications are intriguing. If there is no spirit birth will he never be a parent in the way we can be? Does this sort of reasoning lead some people down DaVinci Code roads with Christ quietly married and even with children? Certainly adoption counts as real and full-fledged parenthood of course, and that applies here on earth; but if all spirits/intelligences are beginningless then wouldn’t “adopting” one another in some place other than a mortal probation be sort of like adopting someone your own age?

The definitive answers to these questions have not been revealed of course. But questions like these are part of the reason I am partial to the multiple probations model that Brigham and Heber C. and friends believed and taught (even though they clearly believed in viviparous spirit birth as well.) The good news is that one can have firm faith in Jesus Christ without finding or even caring about answers to such mysteries. But if you have thought about such questions I am interested in the conclusions that y’all have drawn on these things. In other words, sound off. What do you think?

163 Comments »

  1. I should say that I am uncertain about the doctrine of a literal spirit birth, but I am hesistant to rule it out. That said, a couple of responses may get the ball rolling. The line in the post that made me laugh the most was:

    Perhaps the best authoritative argument against literal spirit birth is that Joseph Smith never taught it

    First of all, Joseph Smith not teaching something can hardly be considered authoritative evidence against it. The logical fallacy is obvious. Blake points to Joseph’s teaching that the mind of man is self-existent as evidence that Joseph did not believe in spirit birth. Mark articulated a very reasonable way (here)of interpreting all the quotes Blake lists that would not rule out spirit birth. So what we have is: Joseph Smith never addressed the issue directly, and virtually every prophet from then till now has believed in a literal spirit birth. This doctrine has also worked its way into quasi-official statements of church doctrine like the famous 1909 statement of the first presidency and the more recent proclamation to the world on the family. Those statements don’t settle the matter, but let’s not just toss out a deeply ingrained doctrine of the church if the strongest evidence against it is that Joseph Smith never specifically taught it.

    Comment by Jacob — June 18, 2006 @ 9:54 pm

  2. I know some have speculated that there is plural marriage in the Celestial spheres but I don’t believe that for a second and frankly find the notion disrespectful to women. As Jacob hinted at in the Book of Mormon, plural marriage might have been expedient for practical earthly reasons in many instances but I do not believe it will be so among exalted persons.

    A very interesting post, though I do hold to the literal viviparous birth doctrine. I also agree with the point made by Jacob (comment #1).

    However, the above quote is something with which I must take issue. I certainly have no desire to practice polygamy, but to say it is not practiced in Celestial realms is obviously false. Harold B. Lee is a fine example, though certainly not the only one (Brigham Young being far more prominent, for instance). Harold B. Lee was sealed to a wife who died. He later remarried and was sealed to this second wife, while still remaining sealed to his first. He wrote this little poem in honor of both of his wives:

    My lovely Joan was sent to me;
    So Joan joins Fern
    That three might be, more fitted for eternity.
    “O Heavenly Father, my thanks to thee”

    I don’t believe plural marriage is a requirement of the Celestial Kingdom (despite some comments from Brigham Young, the exact meaning of which can be debated), but it certainly will exist there.

    But again, I really like this post.

    Comment by Jonathan R. — June 18, 2006 @ 10:43 pm

  3. Come on Jacob, the sentence in the post reads: “Perhaps the best authoritative argument against literal spirit birth is that Joseph Smith never taught it and indeed taught many things that are specifically contrary to the notion of a literal spirit birth.” One can try to creatively interpret what Joseph meant (we all do this at times) but it is hard to deny that he said spirits have no beginning.

    I certainly agree with Mark that there are aspects or parts of our spirits/intelligences that are not beginningless and I have shown on several occasions that our current personal identity is fleeting, but I think you will have a very difficult time defending this assertion: “virtually every prophet from then till now has believed in a literal spirit birth.” I will look forward to you to backing that one up — especially with prophets in the last 100 years. Statements about “heavenly parents” are not sufficient to defend literal viviparous spirit birth in my opinion. We can have literal heavenly parents without celestial labor pains after all.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 18, 2006 @ 11:22 pm

  4. Jonathan,

    I can see that this subject (plural marriage or not among exalted persons) would likely lead to a major threadjack so I’ll leave alone here. Look for posts and papers related to that subject in the future though. I want us to stay on the subject of literal spirit birth in this thread.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 18, 2006 @ 11:29 pm

  5. Geoff,

    Sorry, I didn’t intend to pull a fast one by citing only half of your sentence, but I can see why you would be upset. I took your sentence to be two separate arguments (1) Joseph never taught that there was a spriti birth, (2) Joseph taught things contrary to spirit birth. I addressed these as two arguments, but this may have misrepresented your view.

    I think the fact that Joseph never taught it is a weak argument, as I said. The second half of that argument–that Joseph taught things contrary to the notion of a literal spirit birth–is hardly clear. Mark’s comment (which I linked to) offers a very reasonable way of interpreting the statement of Joseph you offer as evidence that he did not believe in spirit birth. Thus, your “best authoritative argument” consisting of (1) and (2) does not seem to pack much punch for me.

    I will put off defending my statement that ‘virtually every prophet since Joseph has believed in spirit birth’ for a later comment. Frankly, I am surprised you disagree. However, it is possible that research will lead me to recant.

    In the mean time, let me say something about your statement that Joseph certainly said spirits have no beginning:

    In the first quote, Joseph is reported to have said: The Spirit of Man is not a created being; it existed from Eternity & will exist to eternity. Anything created cannot be Eternal. & earth, water &c-all these had their existence in an elementary State from Eternity.” The part I italicized shows Joseph himself making room for a distinction between an “eternal” part of the spirit and a spirit body.

    In another, he is reported to have said: “the mind of man-the mind of man is as immortal as God himself.” The idea that the “mind” is the self-existent part, and not the spirit body, is exactly what a person believing in spirit birth is likely to argue, and here Joseph speaks in precisely this language. Other KFD accounts back up that language.

    So, while I admit that I am trying to understand Joseph’s meaning, I don’t find these quotes definitive as to Joseph’s position, and saying that he “indeed taught many things that are specifically contrary” seems like a bit of a stretch. Of course, I don’t discount Blake’s argument.

    Comment by Jacob — June 19, 2006 @ 12:03 am

  6. This may not be something we want to go into in this thread, but I am much more concerned with the idea of have 100 billion first generation children who then go on to form a completely new family structure with 6 to 8 first generation children each, than the precise mechanics of how a person gets a spirit body. Switching back and forth between a fan-out of 100 billion and a fan-out of 10 on an eternal pedigree chart looks more than a little inelegant to me.

    The second more relevant issue is why does it make sense to have two fathers and two mothers in the long run. It seems to me that our spiritual father will generally yield to our earthly father, and spiritual mother to our earthly mother. Otherwise the doctrine of sealings seems rather without purpose.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 19, 2006 @ 12:04 am

  7. That should be “descendancy chart”

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 19, 2006 @ 1:17 am

  8. I’m sorry to have to do it, but Geoff (in #3) threw down the gauntlet and dared me to back my assertion that “virtually every prophet from then till now has believed in a literal spirit birth” (#1). I went ahead and added an entry for Joseph Smith, just for fun:

    Joseph Smith — “But if one or either of the ten virgins, after she is espoused, shall be with another man, she has committed adultery, and shall be destroyed; for they are given unto him to multiply and replenish the earth, according to my commandment, and to fulfil the promise which was given by my Father before the foundation of the world, and for their exaltation in the eternal worlds, that they may bear the souls of men; for herein is the work of my Father continued, that he may be glorified.” (D&C 132:63, emphasis mine)

    Now, just what does this phrase “bear the souls of men” mean? I’ll be very interested to see how you interpret this.

    “Several of the Prophet’s associates did not hesitate later to attribute their knowledge of premortal spirit birth to his teachings. Parley P. Pratt, for instance, later recollected that in the latter part of 1839 he spent several days with Joseph Smith in which he learned “many great and glorious principles concerning God and the heavenly order of eternity.” Reflecting back on his impressions received during these conversations with the Prophet, Pratt wrote, “I felt that God was my Heavenly Father indeed, that Jesus was my brother.” Benjamin F. Johnson wrote late in life of Joseph Smith, “He taught us that God was the great head of human procreation–was really and truly the father of both our spirits and our bodies.” (The Development of the Doctrine of Preexistence, 1830-1844 by Charles R. Harrell Fn, BYU Studies, vol. 28 (1988), Number 2 – Spring 1988 89.)

    Brigham Young – As if it’s necessary: “I tell you, when you see your Father in heaven, you will see Adam; when you see your mother that bore your spirit, you will see mother Eve.” (Manuscript Addresses of Brigham Young, Oct. 8, 1854)

    John Taylor — A “hymn written also for the dedication by John Taylor eulogized Joseph Smith in these words: Of noble seed–of heavenly birth” (The Development of the Doctrine of Preexistence, 1830-1844 by Charles R. Harrell Fn, BYU Studies, vol. 28 (1988), Number 2 – Spring 1988 89.)

    Wilford Woodruff — I have nothing for Wilford.

    Lorenzo Snow — We were born in the image of God our Father; He begot us like unto Himself. There is the nature of deity in the composition of our spiritual organization; in our spiritual birth our Father transmitted to us the capabilities, powers and faculties which He Himself possessed-as much so as the child on its mother’s bosom possesses, although in an undeveloped state, the faculties, powers, and susceptibilities of its parent. (14 January 1872, JD, 14:302.)

    Joseph F. Smith – In a statement of the First Presidency: “man, as a spirit, was begotten and born of heavenly parents, and reared to maturity in the eternal mansions of the Father,”

    Heber J. Grant — I don’t have a Teachings of Heber J. Grant in my GospelLink.

    George Albert Smith – “Children are the offspring of God, their spirits were begotten in the holy heavens of our Father, and they are given to us for our blessing.” (Conference Reports, October 1907, p. 36.)

    David O McKay — Again, no Teachings of David O. McKay on my GospelLink.

    Joseph Fielding Smith – “If we are his offspring, then how did we become such, if we had no mother to give us spirit birth?” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, 5 vols. [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1957-1966], 3: 143.)

    Harold B. Lee – “That great hymn “O My Father” puts it correctly when Eliza R. Snow wrote, “In the heav’ns are parents single? No, the thought makes reason stare! Truth is reason; truth eternal tells me I’ve a mother there.” Born of a Heavenly Mother, sired by a Heavenly Father, we knew Him, we were in His house” (Harold B. Lee, The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, edited by Clyde J. Williams [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996], 22.)

    Spencer W. Kimball – For this one, I do have a Teachings of Specer W. Kimball, and the best it has is: “You [women] are daughters of God. You are precious. You are made in the image of our heavenly Mother.” (Spencer W. Kimball, The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, edited by Edward L. Kimball [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1982], 25.)

    Ezra Taft Benson – “It is a fundamental of our religion that we had a pre-earthly existence. That we are the literal offspring of God has been a cardinal teaching of the Lord’s prophets in all ages.” (Ezra Taft Benson, The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988], 23 – 24.)

    Howard W. Hunter – “The brotherhood of man is literal. We are all of one blood and the literal spirit offspring of our eternal Heavenly Father.” (Howard W. Hunter, The Teachings of Howard W. Hunter, edited by Clyde J. Williams [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1997], 10.)

    Gordon B. Hinkley – In a statement of the First Presidency “The Family”: “Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny.”

    Comment by Jacob — June 19, 2006 @ 1:28 am

  9. I think Jacob wins. I don’t have the time to research it right now, but statements regarding literal spirit birth seem to abound.

    Comment by Eric — June 19, 2006 @ 5:46 am

  10. Look at Joseph’s statements again. I don’t believe that they are ambiguous on the eternity of the spirit:

    “The Spirit of Man is not a created being; it existed from Eternity & will exist to eternity” — “But the idea seemed to be that the soul of man, the spirit, had existed from eternity in the bosom of Divinity” — “the spirit or the intelligence of men are self Existent principles before the foundation this Earth” — -“the soul the inner Spirit-of God man says created in the beginning the very idea lessens man in my idea-I don’t believe the doctrine hear it all ye Ends of the World for God has told me so I am going to tell of things more noble-we say that God himself is a selfexisting God, who told you so, how did it get it into your head who told you that man did not exist in like manner-how does it read in the Hebrews that God made man & put into it Adam’s Spirit & so became a living Spirit-the mind of man-the mind of man is as immortal as God himself

    Joseph could hardly have been clearer. The spirit is uncreated and exists on self-existent principles. Mark’s assertion that the Spirit cannot have a bodily form unless it is spiritually begotten (that Jacob accepts as an argument) is a non-sequitur. I would like to see the argument to support that assertion rather than merely assuming it cannot be so.

    I acknowledge that some latter-day prophets have assumed the notion of a mother in heaven. However, in doing so they are taking Eliza Snow as their prophet rather than Joseph. Look again at the quote from BY in #8. It arises from his adoption of the Adam-God theory. Eliza Snow’s doctrine of a Mother in Heaven viewed Eve as this mother in heaven and Adam as the Father of our spirits. If that is the basis of the doctrine, as I believe the historical documents amply support, then it is not merely contrary to what JS taught, it is also contrary to what those latter-day prophets believed and taught.

    I believe the idea arises from a misunderstanding of JS’s statement in the before 8 August 1839 statement: “He, (Adam) is the Father of the human family & presides over the Spirits of all men, & all that have had the Keys must stand before him in this great Council.”

    So I view the notion of the mother in heaven as originating in a cultural overbelief (a mere ball that got rolling with a misunderstanding of an authoritative statement), was first elucidated as part of BY’s and Eliza’s Adam God doctrine, and then got baptized by Joseph F. Smith. The statement in D&C 132 to which Mark refers only refers to mortal birth in which spirits enter bodies thru being begotten into this world.

    Where is the revelation to support this amazingly new doctrine that contradicts Joseph’s statements that the spirit is uncreated and exists on self-existing principles? Without revelation, the people stumble and walk in darkness. Without revelation, the notion has no more status than a cultural overbelief that got adopted by latter-day prophets who thought that earlier prophets had received a revelation about it when they hadn’t. I acknowledge that Benjamin Johnson claimed that JS taught him such a notion — but his recollections are late and contain many other ideas that are demonstrably later than JS but which are still arributred to him. Johnson has conflated the times he learned doctrines and loaded his later understanding into his very late reminiscenses.

    That said, none of Geoff’s other arguments are cogent for me. In eternity there is plenty of time for begetting if that were what happened.

    Comment by Blake — June 19, 2006 @ 8:03 am

  11. I think it wasn’t clear because the comment I linked to had more than one argument. The part of Mark’s argument I am recommending is this part:

    Whether I say “soul”, “spirit”, “being”, or “intelligence” the essential part, the sine qua non, is always the same, an eternal, uncreated personal identity.
    So if I say, the “eternal spirit”, one has to take me to mean the eternal part of the spirit, the part without which a spirit wouldn’t be a spirit. Same with “eternal soul”, “person”, “identity”, and so on. Given the scriptural record, I believe we have to read Joseph Smith the same way, with the proviso that he may have believed that a spirit body was an essential part of spiritual identity, and not a contingent part as I do.

    Comment by Jacob — June 19, 2006 @ 8:31 am

  12. Some of this gets back to what is ‘revelation’. Just for example, what would make something like the KFD more of a revelation than the Poclamation on the Family? Are most of the subsequent prophets out of step on this issue, and Joseph the only one who gets it?

    Comment by Eric — June 19, 2006 @ 8:34 am

  13. Blake, I most definitely *did not* make the argument that one must have been begotten (vivaparously) of heavenly parents. If you read my comments in the last thread and elsewhere, you will see that is a possibility I hold open under certain conditions (self-existent intelligence, small number of first generation children per heavenly couple / *lots* of fathers/mothers sharing the same world to send their spirit children to), but that I am inclined in the other direction, towards heavenly parenthood in the pre-mortal life as an adopted spiritual relationship, that we came to this earth to *enter* into family relationships as we know them, and that those relationships will generally preempt whatever familial relationships we may have had prior to this life.

    In short, I believe heavenly fatherhood (and motherhood) is first a matter of presidency legitimized by suffering sacrifice, and only second and as a practical necessity a matter of procreation. Righteous adoptive parents embody more of the essence of parenthood than biological parents who give their children up.

    Is sounds more odd to say of women, “are ye not all mothers?”, but we have been saying that of men, since time immemorial. Fatherhood has always been more of contingent, indirect, and almost purely spiritual relationship than motherhood, which is much more materially obvious.

    And indeed, if one can gain a spirit body, through a quasi-resurrective process, I consider that a rather more likely possibility than spiritual procreation for a variety of reasons, but as I said, I do not consider the mechanism the primary concern, but rather cardinality and structure.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 19, 2006 @ 9:04 am

  14. Jacob,

    I appreciate your valiant attempt in #8. Of the quotes you found I think only the Joseph Fielding Smith and Harold B. Lee quotes imply a belief in viviparous spirit birth. The quotes from the prophets after that are too vague to reveal the nature of our child-parent relationship with deity. The Brigham and Parley quotes seem strongly slanted in the Adam-God direction to me. Based on A/G it is a given that we are literal “children” of God here on earth in the sense that we all have descended from Adam and Eve and Brigham assumed that they also bore our spirits prior to arriving here. So I think Blake’s argument that the entire viviparous spirit birth concept is a cultural overbelief related to the A/G misunderstanding makes a lot of sense.

    Having said that; even though I think Blake’s arguments against literal/viviparous spirit birth are convincing I am anything but in lock step with Blake on the other conclusions he is drawing surrounding this general subject. For instance I think we do have heavenly parents and that the evidence is strong that God the Father of Jesus is united as One with his wife and that all fully divine persons must be so. (Our heated discussion over the Sermon in the Grove covered the qualms I have with some of Blake’s conclusions.) But having heavenly parents does not mean there must be viviparous spirit birth.

    Blake is right that the “it would take a really long time” argument is pretty weak. Mark used it earlier I only mentioned it because I think it is a practical concern. But the objection that a physically resurrected and embodied divine couple could not literally bear children with no physical body at all is strong in my opinion. How does anyone account for that major problem?

    Comment by Geoff J — June 19, 2006 @ 9:17 am

  15. Blake said: Eliza Snow’s doctrine of a Mother in Heaven viewed Eve as this mother in heaven and Adam as the Father of our spirits. If that is the basis of the doctrine, as I believe the historical documents amply support, then it is not merely contrary to what JS taught, it is also contrary to what those latter-day prophets believed and taught.

    I do not agree that the hirstorical documents amply support your conclusion. O My Father was published in 1845, way before Brigham started teaching Adam-God. The section for Joseph Smith in #8 mentions that in the later part of 1839 Parley Pratt says he was learning from Joseph that there was a spirit birth. About the same time, we have rumblings from other close associates of Joseph Smith that they learned from him that there is a mother in heaven. One of Joseph’s wives purportedly learned this doctrine from Joseph in 1839, and Eliza R. Snow (also a plural wife of Joseph) told David O. McKay that she learned the doctrine from the “Prophets teachings” and her role was merely to put it into poetry (See Wilcox, Linda P. “The Mormon Concept of a Mother in Heaven.” In Sisters in Spirit, ed. Maureen U. Beecher and Lavina F. Anderson. Urbana, Ill., 1987.) So, according to Eliza, the people who credit her as being the prophetess in this matter are mistaken.

    Now, I readily concede that none of this is proof that Joseph taught it, but there is evidence that reasonably supports the idea that Joseph was the origin of the doctrine and not Brigham. If you couple the things above with a straightforward reading of D&C 132:63 and D&C 131:4, it adds even more plausibility to the several accounts that Joseph was teaching of spirit birth and mother in heaven as early as 1839.

    Comment by Jacob — June 19, 2006 @ 9:22 am

  16. Geoff said: I appreciate your valiant attempt in #8. Of the quotes you found I think only the Joseph Fielding Smith and Harold B. Lee quotes imply a belief in viviparous spirit birth.

    Just what do you think “literal offspring of God” is intended to communicate? How many times does a person have to use the word “literal” when talking about God’s parenthood before you accept their clear meaning. The quotes by Ezra Taft Benson and Howard W. Hunter are rock solid despite your refusal to acknowldge it. Especially when these quotes are taken in the context of the well established doctrinal point here. I find your response remarkable.

    Also, no one, yet, has attempted to interpert D&C 132:63 for me.

    Comment by Jacob — June 19, 2006 @ 9:33 am

  17. Jacob, Not all of those quotes support your position, because of the way the scriptures overload the terms “parent”, “father”, “birth”, and “begotten”, Have ye been born of God? Have ye become spiritually begotten sons and daughters unto Christ?

    Indeed, as the scriptures use the adoptive, contingent spiritual sense of divine sonship and spiritual birth *far* more than anything that implies viviparous spiritual birth, the burden of proof, canonically speaking is on the advocates of the latter to demonstrate that is what the scriptural authors really had in mind. Viviparous spiritual birth is a possibility that there is almost no scriptural evidence for. The New Testament and the Book of Mormon teach a rather different conception.

    The closest term is “offspring”, in Acts, and I am not sure that is necessarily viviparous either, given everything else the scriptures say on the subject, and indeed offspring does not entail a direct relationship, but rather leaves wide open the type of relationship we have with Adam or Abraham, or in general any of our righteous ancestors. Heber J. Grant once said that if you cannot be a heavenly father to your own descendants, than who can you be a heavenly father too?

    So even if viviparous spiritual birth is the order of the day, that does not conclude the question of heavenly parenthood. I have three hundred or so good candidates for the father that currently presides over me, to whom I am a direct report, and indeed they might switch things around from time to time, according to who is best suited at any given time. The author of the collected works of Orson Pratt had a strong impression to that effect which he mentions in the preface, literally that the latter person was allowed to become his temporary heavenly father of sorts, in order to aid him with its completion.

    Now on to the first quote:

    D&C 132:63 does not support the idea that women bear the souls of men in the eternal worlds, only that bearing the souls of men is a necessary foundation for exaltation in the eternities, generally speaking. We can hardly enter into family relationships as we know them without a physical body, the means for getting one is apparent, and no doubt there is great purpose behind the standard means of becoming a child who is genetically related to his own father and mother, and the bond procreation creates between mother and child in particular. Indeed the fact that we do not pray to our heavenly mother, or any of our heavenly mothers, is a pretty good indication that this bond is unprecedented – on earth almost any child will approach his mother before his father. She is the mediator between them, as a rule.

    Now this mother-child relationship of a necessity will be more fully realized in the next life. That is what I see as the purpose of being a mother and a father here and now – to set the foundation of parenthood and presidency over ones posterity in the eternities. The standard model of heavenly parenthood pretty much discards the relationship of a mother to her earthly begotten and adopted children in favor of a bunch of new spirits.

    I don’t think that is right – an earthly mothers and a fathers first responsibility is to the children they already have, not an impractical horde in the next life. If they preside over a nation, it will be as Abraham and Sarah, and not as Brigham Young imagined. Patriarchs and Matriarchs, Kings and Queens, Priests and Priestesses, where familial responsibility is shared across the generations, not an eternal nursery school, where the responsibility for umpteen billion unruly kids is born by a single mother.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 19, 2006 @ 9:33 am

  18. Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t the spirit vs intelligence distinction viewed as particularly bizarre by Harold Bloom in _The American Religion_. Why would the LDS Church espouse both a “intelligences have always existed” doctrine AND a “we are literal spirit children of our heavenly parents” line. I had never thought of the two as duplicative of each other before reading Bloom, which suggests that when you grow up hearing all of this stuff, it often doesn’t occur to you to see the superfluities.

    Aaron B

    Comment by Aaron Brown — June 19, 2006 @ 9:38 am

  19. Phelps was the first person to teach Mother in Heaven publicly, not Eliza, as he wrote a song that mentioned her and was sung at the dedication of the 70’s hall in Dec. 1844.

    The thing is that folks like Orson Pratt, who rejected A/G, had their own concepts of spirit birth. There are second hand accounts of Joseph teaching. That said, the literalist fervor which was adopted is foundationless.

    I have argued elsewhere that there are three parent-child relationships initiated between humans and God. Two are obviously not vivaporous in nature: when we become children of Christ through the atonement and when we become heirs to exaltation. The other, our unconditional relationship with the Father in this life (though I imagine that it is conditional for perdition). This pattern coupled with Joseph’s teaching on the eternality of spirits makes the case for non-vivaporous birth quite compelling.

    Comment by J. Stapley — June 19, 2006 @ 9:47 am

  20. “Literal” by the way, is much misused term in this context. “Literal” means according to the letter, or in other words according to the baseline semantics of a term. The opposite of literal would be “symbolic” or “metaphorical”.

    Now I have argued that the *primary* scriptural sense of fatherhood, parenthood, birth, and even begotten has little or nothing to do with mechanism, but rather with relationship. Otherwise adoptive parent would be an oxymoron. So far as scriptures are concerned that is the literal and proper meaning of those terms.

    Motherhood, however is not overloaded that way in the scriptures, and so we may more easily conclude that there is a special quiddity or je ne sais quois about earthly motherhood that is not precedented prior to this earth life, and indeed that accounts for the asymmetry between motherhood and priesthood as we know it.

    Now the John Taylor hymn is not explicit enough to conclude non-transitive fatherhood. We can be of the seed of Abraham both by inheritance and by adoption. Paul says this explicitly. No genetic relationship required. That is why we have child-parent sealings and the law of adoption.

    Lorenzo Snow’s statement is also not explicit enough to give evidence for viviparous spirit birth, although it implies something event-like of a sort, and not an adoptive process. Transmission does not have to be an event, however. Discipleship is all about transmission.

    Joseph F. Smith’s, Harold B. Lee’s, and Joseph Fielding Smith’s statements all seem to explicitly indicate viviparous (or at least heterosexual) spirit birth, although the latter’s argument is faulty, because it neglects Heber J. Grant style parenthood.

    Spencer W. Kimball’s statement is not evidence for VSB (viviparous spirit birth) either, although it implies (in my opinion incorrectly) that there is only one mother in heaven. We should say IMO our mothers who art in heaven. Heavenly Mother makes much less sense as a particular individual than Heavenly Father does. I think there is a reason why the term is absent in scripture, and that it is because motherhood is much more closely associated with procreation than fatherhood is. The difference between a father and a priesthood leader is not that big, biological fatherhood is an asterisk in a man’s life, where it is a *really* big deal in the life of a mother.

    President Benson’s, Hunter’s, and the family proclamation statements are not explicit enough to exclude a Heber J. Grant conception of spiritual parenthood via transitive descendancy.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 19, 2006 @ 10:12 am

  21. Our relationship with our heavenly father in terms of his responsibility to save us may be unconditional, but the the scriptures testify abundantly that we choose who our father is by our own actions. If we are not righteous the blessings of that relationship are inactive. We can come back, like the prodigal son, and indeed our father searches us out, but the contingency of the relationship is ever present. Draw near unto me, and I will draw near unto you. The necessity of the relationship is only in terms of or father’s willingness to accept us on condition of repentance – he is no respecter of persons, but he is of fidelity.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 19, 2006 @ 10:21 am

  22. So if you ask the question is our Heavenly Father’s love for us conditional or unconditional, the answer is yes.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 19, 2006 @ 10:23 am

  23. His loving concern is unconditional, but that concern may be manifested more in terms of what the scriptures call anger, what we would call “tough love”, than in close intimacy, and that indeed his chastening is a necessary pre-requisite for intimacy. No unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of God, nor does he look upon sin with the least degree of allowance. Fire from heaven is the ultimate manifestation of tough love – love that we might more readily interpret as hate, if we did not understand the purpose behind it.

    In short, love cannot be love, unless it is conditional in fundamental respects. A dynamic, patient, emergent unity of cooperation and intimacy, not unconditional acquiesence in the other as they stand. God wants to *change* us. If we are not willing to change, we do not really love him or respect what he stands for at all.

    And indeed God cannot change us except through our willing submission to the discipline he prescribes. If we are stubborn, that is the end of love, or rather it sets a bound on our intimacy with him – we draw a line in the sand and say no further. Our relationship with God is not as with an equal, his perfections do not let him abandon his character to move very far in our imperfect direction. We must journey in his.

    And so how much we *feel* God’s love depends on our orientation towards him – if we move in his direction he smiles upon us, if we move away the light dims, and if we actively hinder the progress of others, we may feel the heat of his anger. Both unconditionally fixed as in stone, or a lodestar, and also rather dynamic and conditional.

    Or in short “love” is not a *thing*, it is a phenomena. Speaking about love as if it has properties that do not vary according to context is silly talk – surely 2400 years after Aristotle we could advance a little. The Hebrews never seemed to have this kind of silliness – didn’t bother them that God’s mercy and justice were dynamic and conditional according to context. We just have the dumbest kind of Greek metaphysics polluting our very thought on the most fundamental of topics.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 19, 2006 @ 10:39 am

  24. Aaron (#17) – I agree that most of the tripartite models (intelligence->spirit->body) I’ve heard include seemingly useless redundancies.

    Jonathan (#18) – Thanks for that link. I knew you posted on this subject already but I could not remember when or even where.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 19, 2006 @ 11:03 am

  25. Not much to say beyond that I think everyone argues on these issues with a paucity of evidence. We just have far too little regarding Nauvoo teachings: especially those behind closed doors. I think that the fact almost everyone in the Utah period accepted a spirit birth to be significant as well. That’s not to say it is necessarily correct. Just that I doubt it was imagined out of pure aether. There almost certainly was some reason even wildly disparate theologies adopted this as a teaching of Joseph.

    Comment by clark — June 19, 2006 @ 11:08 am

  26. J. — Eliza Snow’s doctrine of a Mother in Heaven was merely part of her Adam-God theology: The following words may be found in the work “Women of Mormondom” at the pages indicated in the section of the book on Eliza R. Snow Smith. “Adam is our Father and God. He is the God of the earth.” (p. 179) “Adam is the great Archangel of this creation. He is Michael. He is the Ancient of Days. He is the father of our elder brother, Jesus Christ–the father of him who shall also come as Messiah to reign. He is the father of the spirits as well as the tabernacles of the sons and daughters of man–Adam!” “Michael is one of the grand mystical names in the works of creations; redemptions and resurrections.””Michael was a celestial, resurrected being, of another world.” ” ‘In the beginning,’ the Gods created the heavens and the earths. In their councils they said, ‘Let us make man in our own image.’ So, in the likeness of the Fathers, and the Mothers–the Gods–created they man-male and female. When this earth was prepared for mankind, Michael, as Adam, came down. He brought with him one of his wives, and he called her name Eve.””Adam and Eve are the names of the fathers and mothers of worlds.”

    “The grand patriarchal economy, with Adam, as a resurrected being, who brought his wife Eve from another world has been very finely elaborated by Brigham from the patriarchal genesis which Joseph conceived.” (p. 181)

    “Brightest among these spirits, and nearest in the circle to our Father and Mother in heaven (the Father being Adam), were Seth, Enoch, Noah, and Abraham, Moses, David, and Jesus Christ-” (p. 191)”These are the sons and daughters of Adam-the Ancient of Days-the Father and God of the whole human family. These are the sons and daughters of Michael, who is Adam, the father of the spirits of all our race. These are the sons and daughters of Eve, the Mother of a world.”

    “When Brigham Young proclaimed to the nations that Adam was our Father and God, and Eve, his partner, the Mother of a world-both in a mortal and celestial sense-he made the most important revelation ever oracled to the race since the days of Adam himself. This grand patriarchal revelation is the very key-stone of the ‘New Creation’ of the heavens and the earth. It gives new meaning to the whole system of theology-” (p. 196)

    Further quotes of Eliza R. Snow Smith from other sources identifying Adam or Michael as our Father in Heaven: “Adam, your God, like you on earth, has been Subject to sorrow in a world of sin: Through long gradation he arose to be Cloth’d with the Godhead’s might and majesty.
    And what to him in his probative sphere,Whether a Bishop, Deacon, Priest, or Seer? Whate’er his offices and callings were, He magnified them with assiduous care: By his obedience he obtain’d the place Of God and Father of this human race. “Obedience will the same bright garland weave, As it has done for your great mother, Eve, For all her daughters on the earth, who will All my requirements sacredly fulfill. And what to Eve, though in her mortal life, She’d been the first, the tenth, or fiftieth wife? What did she care, when in her lowest sate, Whether by fools, consider’d small, or great? ‘Twas all the same with her-she’d proved her worth- She’s now the Goddess and Queen of Earth. “Life’s ultimatum, unto those that live As Saints of God, and all my pow’rs receive; Is still the onward, upward course to tread-To stand as Adam and as Eve, the head Of an inheritance, a new-form’d earth, And to their spirit-race, give mortal birth- Give them experience in a world like this; Then lead them forth to everlasting bliss, Crown’d with salvation and eternal joy Where full perfection dwells, without alloy”
    (Eliza R. Snow, An Immortal, pp. 188-189; Poems of Eliza R. Snow 2:8-9)

    “Father Adam, our God, let all Israel extol, And Jesus, our Brother, who died for us all.” (Eliza R. Snow, Mill. Star 17:320)

    “Zion’s Poetess,” Eliza R. Snow: “Very different is Mormon Theology! The Mormons exalt the grand parents of our race. Not even is the name of Christ more sacred to them than the names of Adam and Eve. It was to them the poetess and high priestess addressed her hymn of invocation; and Brigham’s proclamation that Adam is our Father and God is like a hallelujah chorus to their everlasting names. The very earth shall yet take it up; all the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve shall yet shout it for joy, to the ends of the earth, in every tongue!” (Women of Mormondom, p. 180)

    You are of course correct that Phelps also taught of a Heavenly Mother in a song he wrote in Dec. 1844. However, it is unclear whether it is anything more than poetic license. Moreover, the doctrine was not accepted because Phelps sang it. It was accepted because of Eliza’s poems and BY’s theology.

    Comment by Blake — June 19, 2006 @ 11:24 am

  27. I am familiar with Eliza’s Adam-God beliefs and agree that it was the Eliza-Brigham couplet that popularized the belief. This doesn’t, however, change the fact that Orson Pratt, who went to the mat in opposition to Adam-God believed in spirit birth just as adamantly.

    Comment by J. Stapley — June 19, 2006 @ 12:49 pm

  28. Re Blake (#26)

    It is true that Eliza bought into the Adam-God doctrine whole-heartedly. It is obvious that having done so, she would incorporate her belief in spirit birth / heavenly mother into her new theology. However, it is not at all clear that Adam-God was the source of the spirit birth doctrine for her. In point of fact, she published the O My Father poem in 1845, long before she became steeped in Adam-God theology. Thus, your conclusion (that the heavenly Mother / spirit birth concepts originate with Adam-God) does not follow from the quotes you provide. I think it is noteworthy that Pratt says he learned about spirit birth from Joseph Smith at about the same time others report the same thing. All of it predates Adam-God, which seems to undermine your claim rather directly.

    Comment by Jacob — June 19, 2006 @ 1:11 pm

  29. Aaron: wasn’t the spirit vs intelligence distinction viewed as particularly bizarre by Harold Bloom

    I don’t see it as any more bizarre than saying we have a self-existent part (the “mind of man” according to Joseph Smith) and also a physical body. There is no categorical difference. If I can exist without a physical body, and I can progress by obtaining a physical body, why is it implausible that the same could be true of a spirit body?

    Comment by Jacob — June 19, 2006 @ 1:15 pm

  30. Jacob: Eliza didn’t begin with one view of a MinH and then later adopt AG; rather, her view was that Eve was the MinH. Just when do you claim that she became “steeped” in AG theology?

    Comment by Blake — June 19, 2006 @ 1:50 pm

  31. Blake,

    The AG theology was not advanced by Brigham until the 1850s. O My Father was published in 1845. What am I missing?

    Comment by Jacob — June 19, 2006 @ 2:39 pm

  32. I have seen enough evidence to suggest that Joseph Smith believed that Adam or Michael does indeed *preside* over us in the heavens, as the head of the human family. However, I have not seen anything to suggest that Joseph Smith believed that Adam was the “biological” father of our spirits. The whole doctrine about the status of Adam and Eve seems rather to be a parallel with Abraham and Sarah, presidency by descendancy, not presidency by pro-creation.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 19, 2006 @ 3:05 pm

  33. One more radical idea – on the collective progression model, perhaps once the worthy of the current “generation” are all exalted, there will be no more mortal child birth, but rather childre born into immortal, celestialized bodies from then on. Perhaps this world is *in part* a dry run for celestial society, including procreation of bodies of the same order as their parents.

    Then in that generation, celestial birth would not be the ultimate reward, but rather the beginning of learning and progression to an inheritance in the next higher order of kingdoms, the plan for which is still on the drawing board (cf. D&C 130:10)

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 19, 2006 @ 3:16 pm

  34. Jacob: what you’re missing is that Eliza Snow’s doctrine of the MinH didn’t change. She always considered Eve to be the MinH.

    Comment by Blake — June 19, 2006 @ 3:47 pm

  35. Blake,

    I am unaware of any evidence to support your claim that Eliza Snow considered Eve to be the MinH back in 1845. Maybe you can hook me up with the dates for the quotes in #26. Where those said before Brigham started advancing AG in the 50s? Do you have anything to back your claim that Eliza Snow had already adopted AG in 1845?

    Comment by Jacob — June 19, 2006 @ 4:24 pm

  36. Mark (Re: #33): That is a radical idea indeed.

    BTW, I am not ignoring your comments from earlier today, I just don’t have time to respond yet.

    Comment by Jacob — June 19, 2006 @ 4:29 pm

  37. Aaron and Geoff (17&24):

    For me, maintaining a difference between intelligenses and spirits is very useful for just this sort of thing. As you are aware I kinda like having my cake and eating it too.

    Uncreated intelligences (which may or may not have had matter associated with them) that have always existed, that at some point in time were provided with spirit bodies through some process, allows for both an eternal uncreated essence, and also a necessary parent/child relationship of the spirit body with heavenly parents. What could be a cleaner explanation?

    I think most of this is a forced either/or which is entirely unnecessary.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — June 19, 2006 @ 6:31 pm

  38. Jacob (#16): Just what do you think “literal offspring of God” is intended to communicate?

    It is interesting to see the various responses to this question. Mark holds that “literal” should not be taken to be synonymous with “biological” (in the spiritual sense I suppose) and that adoptive parents are literal parents too. I think that is a pretty solid answer. Blake basically calls the whole notion a cultural overbelief that has been transmitted from one church leader to another starting with Brigham. I think this approach is less desirable than Mark’s but these two approaches could be used in tandem as well I suppose. Another answer is MMP. If we were also inhabitants of former worlds in our eternal progression then we could very well have been literal biological descendants of the Father there. I think this is the cleanest solution but MMP is not a model you go for.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 19, 2006 @ 7:01 pm

  39. I should add that a reason to call adoptive Celestial parents literal parents in this case would be to show that there really is no ontological or species gap between us and God. It is to show that we are not the pets of God (as most of creedal Christianity seems to believe) but actual children of God who are of the same “kind” as God and who can “grow up” to be just like God.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 19, 2006 @ 7:09 pm

  40. Eric,

    I think the model you are describing is probably the dominant one in the church today. In fact, I was in a seminary classroom recently and was dismayed to see it displayed on the wall. But the concept doesn’t make much sense to me. Maybe you can answer some of my questions:

    Do these beginningless intelligences pass through a veil of forgetfulness when they are born into spirit bodies? If not then it would be like birthing ancient adults into baby bodies. If so, then what becomes of the personal identity they crafted by living forever before this transformation? Is their old self destroyed forever? What about their friends and loved ones and perhaps even families? They lived forever after all so they had forever to develop personal relationships. Are those ties cut forever more and lost to the amnesia of a veil? Christian Cardall once opined that pre-spirit intelligences might actually be in some “dormant” state. Does anyone else go for that idea or was it just his personal idea? Further, how are pre-spirit intelligences chosen to get spirit bodies? Is it random? Do they get chosen based on some kind of merit system? Was there some pre-spirit birth counsel in pre-heaven for them too?

    Part of me feels like the tripartite model is Mormonism displaying a bit of creation ex nihilo envy. What I mean is that beginningless is a difficult concept to think about so we create a beginning with this concept of spirit birth. Doing so lets us simply take creedal Christian ideas and simply push them back one step to a pre-mortal beginning. But as the author Aaron mentioned points out — spirit birth only places another step between us here and the beginningless forever that we have existed.

    Do you see why I don’t see the value or appeal of this tripartite model as commonly described? Can any of y’all tripartite model believers help me out here?

    Comment by Geoff J — June 19, 2006 @ 7:35 pm

  41. Jacob, I think you are pushing the right button with Blake by pressing the question about a belief is a Mother in Heaven pre-dating Adam-God notions. I also think Stapley is right to point out the fact that Orson Pratt was convinced about the existence of a MiH too and yet he openly rejected Brigham’s A-G teachings so the two concepts are not inextricably connected. Of course they all also believed in literal spirit birth so that presents an extraction process for those of us who doubt that part in any case… It is interesting to see how those of us who talk about these things take different positions on many of these individual questions.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 19, 2006 @ 9:21 pm

  42. Q: What if our Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother begat spirit children while THEY were still in THEIR pre-mortal existence? Then, would we be their “Spirit Children”?

    A: _____________ (a simple: Yes/No)

    If no, please explain…

    Comment by Simple-Simon — June 19, 2006 @ 9:21 pm

  43. Mark, (Re: #17)

    I hope you are not misunderstanding the point of all the quotes in #8. I am not trying to prove VSP by citing a bunch of prophets. Your paragraph about the “burden of proof” misconstrues my purpose, which is merely to illustrate that the doctrine of VSP has been taught consistently latter-day prophets over many decades.

    D&C 132:63 does not support the idea that women bear the souls of men in the eternal worlds, only that bearing the souls of men is a necessary foundation for exaltation in the eternities, generally speaking.

    I am glad someone took a stab at offering an alternate interpretation of D&C 132:63. The verse does say “that they [the ten virgins] may bear the souls of men.” I can’t tell what you think this bearing of the souls of men refers to.

    (#20) “Literal” by the way, is much misused term in this context.

    This statement, and the line of reasoning following it, seems to be more concerned with parsing words than ascertaining the meaning of the speakers. In traditional Christian theology, the fatherhood of God is understood to be figurative. The addition of the word “literal” (as in Howard W. Hunter’s quote: “The brotherhood of man is literal. We are all of one blood and the literal spirit offspring of our eternal Heavenly Father.”) is clearly intended to communicate that the parenthood is not figurative.

    Comment by Jacob — June 19, 2006 @ 9:25 pm

  44. Geoff (#39)

    I think you make a good point here. The most important doctrinal implication of God being our father may be that we have the potential to become like God. I suppose another important implication is that this gives us a basis from which to understand God’s love for us (those of us who are parents understand the love of a parent for a child).

    Comment by Jacob — June 19, 2006 @ 9:51 pm

  45. Mark, I should say that I agree with you that a parent who adopts a child is the “literal” parent of that child. It is just that I don’t think the speakers thought of that when they used the word literal. So, I guess that means I have to agree with you further on your point that they are misusing the word literal.

    Comment by Jacob — June 19, 2006 @ 10:15 pm

  46. Jacob: The notion of spirit birth is not necessary to sustain the view that we have god-like potential or are of the same species as God. If we are uncreated like God, then it is inherent in the very notion of being uncreated that we are ontologically the same kind as God, so some literal spirital begetting is superfluous.

    Further, you are of course correct that the notion of a MinH can logically be separated from the AG thesis. However, I believe that in fact they are tied together in historical origin. Can you show me where Eliza Snow adopted the notionof AG and then integrated it into the view that the MinH is Eve? It seems most plausible that she viewed the MinH as Eve throughout. Of course it is logically possible that she added that accretion of thought later; but there is no evidence of such a change in her views.

    Now for the dodge that you have ducked long enough. Where is the revelation to ground the doctrine of a MinH even among prophets after JS? Do we just accept it because Eliza Snow taught it? I suppose that it can be argued that if we are like our Father, and we must be married to be exalted, then God too must have been married. However, that seems to take things rather too far. Christ was God before having a body — and the ordinances of marriage are performed only for those embodied and/or who have passed from mortality. What Christ and the HG show is that it is not necessary to be married to be fully exalted and fully divine. So this argument to support the MinH fails.

    Further, I’m still waiting for an even half-way decent explanation of how the spirit can begin at spirit birth and yet be uncreated and exist on self-existing principles as JS stated.

    Comment by Blake — June 19, 2006 @ 10:28 pm

  47. Simple-Simon (#42),

    If there were such a thing as a fully divine and already married pre-mortal “spirit couple” then it would make logical sense to claim they could procreate and create spirit children.

    But if that couple were fully divine already why would their children not be also fully divine already too? Further, if they then came to a mortality via mortal birth like we do they would not be a couple any more in that mortality — they would just be babies — so what would keep them from getting sealed to someone else? (Even Brigham assumed Adam and Eve arrived here with exalted resurrected bodies after all.) Further, since all of us on earth are not fully divine yet and we will have resurrected bodies after this life your suggestion would preclude all of us from ever bearing spirit children in the eternities to begin with. Further, your hypothetical divine spirit couple would also be unable to bear spirit children again after a mortality.

    So basically, your question/suggestion has all kinds of problems. What did you have in mind with it?

    Comment by Geoff J — June 19, 2006 @ 11:52 pm

  48. Geoff (#40), there are fundamental theological reasons for maintaining the eternality of souls – they are the locus of free will, moral responsibility, and eternal identity in particular. If we get rid of self-existent intelligences, a very large can of worms opens up. In particular it becomes nigh unto impossible to distinguish a person from a machine, it makes it possible to clone a person, soul and all an arbitrary number of times, it is hard to account for God’s original existence in the first place if he is not a necessary being, and on and on.

    On the other hand it is radically untenable to believe that two eyes and ten fingers are a law of nature, a self existent Platonic form. So the whole problem is how do we get from the bare minimum element of personality/identity/perception/free will to a spirit body.

    Now in my opinion, I don’t think a plain intelligence is very smart, very perceptive, or very capable – in the beginning more like living in a dream, and that the intelligences who became the first members of the heavenly council probably went through an eternity of *creative*, free will based development, gradually developing language in particular, before acquiring the capacity to design the first spirit body as we know it today, that the first spirit body was created of the dust of a “spiritual world”, and the first intelligence, with whatever proto-body it may have had, entered in and became the first living soul.

    I further hold that the original creation account, i.e. prior to the fall, is descriptive of this creation of a spiritual body, and the entering in of the soul of Adam. Then we have the garden account, which is a gloss for a very long period of heavenly history where most everyone else acquired spirit bodies, whether in the same manner or possibly by procreation, and a whole slew of conflicts and disputes descriptive of the classic “human” condition.

    Then to more fully remedy this condition, ensure greater happiness and stability, etc., the next (second) estate was planned, which is this earthly life, we have perhaps a few hundred million years of additional directed evolution with “physical” bodies for a variety of life forms, developed using a combination of engineering and a modicum of natural selection / testing. That finally, at last the first human-like spirits are sent down perhaps 60,000 years ago, and Adam and Eve are presumably born, translated, quasi-resurrected or whatever some 4,000 years ago.

    Or in other words that Adam (the original Adam) was the first to have a spirit body, and may or may not be the Adam/Michael that we know here on our world. I generally read the name Adam as “First Man”, or “First Father”.

    Spiritual procreation doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, because I believe this estate was designed to cure ills of the last one, and I believe generally in the collective progression model, not the endless cycle model, celestial beings having spirit children seems like a strange feedback loop – why not give an intelligence the best kind of body we can manage?

    Right now that is a physical body – though mutable and sorrowful, God has a method to his apparent madness – our bodies are fundamentally more capable than ordinary spirit bodies, if not yet coupled with eternal glory, however that is done. VSB makes little sense to me because I believe that entering into a true family relationship preferably genetically based ones for obvious reasons (similarity of course) is nearly the *whole* purpose of this estate.

    Perhaps a life like this one is a necessity for all spirits, but a couple of precepts of LDS doctrine suggest otherwise. Growth and progression with a terrestrial or celestial body, from infancy, seems to be a real possibility.

    There is also the possibility that only some pre-mortal intelligences had spirit bodies and participated fully in heavenly civilization, and that the others are born directly into physical bodies. I have a really hard time picturing a council in heaven without spirit bodies, of course.

    That is my very speculative quasi-theory at this point.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 20, 2006 @ 12:52 am

  49. I will leave open the idea of spirits entering into an unknown number of different *spiritual* body types before settling on the human form. The whole problem of course is switching from one body to the next without getting lost or losing ones capacity. I imagine a bit of social cooperation could manage the scheme – however it seems *highly* likely that a change of body for an *intelligence* entails a loss of memory. Scary indeed – great trust in ones transferrors required.

    We might well consider that physical birth entails discarding one’s spirit body (if any), and that is the reason for the loss of memory, aka the veil. But death does not – the spirit body retains its form and structure, and of course all memories.

    Resurrection is much different than birth because the spiritual form is preserved – no need to discard it to become an embryo again. I don’t think the idea of squeezing a full size spiritual body down onto an tiny human body is all that tenable.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 20, 2006 @ 1:02 am

  50. Jacob (#43), Let’s discuss the D&C scripture:

    But if one or either of the ten virgins, after she is espoused, shall be with another man, she has committed adultery, and shall be destroyed; for they are given unto him to multiply and replenish the earth, according to my commandment, and to fulfil the promise which was given by my Father before the foundation of the world, and for their exaltation in the eternal worlds, that they may bear the souls of men; for herein is the work of my Father continued, that he may be glorified.
    (D&C 132:63)

    Notice why the virgins are “given” unto him – to multiply and replenish the earth. The soul bearing is going on here, *for* their exaltation, this is the way the work of the Father is continued. Classic Heber J. Grant style exaltation scheme – exaltation no over VSB children, but eternal descendancy – a descendancy whose living edge is here on earth, not in heaven. As I said, I see no reason why an intelligence cannot be born straight into a physical body, making VSB superfluous, if it happens at all. Celestial children born (VCB) to celestial parents makes much more sense than spirit children born VSB to celestial parents. I generally think that VEB however is the order of the day, not VSB or VCB.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 20, 2006 @ 1:15 am

  51. One thing that I don’t understand, is how anything can be considered eternal. How can something have no beginning or no end. That makes no sense. Even it (some eternal entity) had to be created at some point to exist in the first place.

    The whole spirit birth thing never made much sense to me either. Concieving, gestating and giving birth to a spirit? Especially with the parents having tangible bodies?

    Perhaps everything does have a beginning and an end. When we die that is the end of our mortal existance, and when (if) we are resurrected, that is the beginning of our eternal existance.

    If you take 2 elements (in this case intelligence and spirit body) and somehow join them together, aren’t you, in essense, creating something?

    I certainly don’t have all (any) of the answers. I just know what does and doesn’t make sense to me.

    Comment by Bishop Rick — June 20, 2006 @ 7:48 am

  52. How does 1 man and 10 virgins multiply and replenish the earth better than 10 men and 10 virgins? Truth is it doesn’t. That argument for polygamy doesn’t hold water. The only argument for polygamy that does hold water is that it is needed for a God to be able to create enough children to populate a planet. Only problem there is that this reasoning props up man to the status of godhood, and lowers woman to the status of cattle, whose only function is procreate once every year. There can be no bigger insult placed on woman.

    Comment by Bishop Rick — June 20, 2006 @ 7:55 am

  53. Rick: The mere fact that something doesn’t make sense to you isn’t any reason for doubting it. Whatis the basis of your lack of comfort of a beginningless intelligence other than it boggles your mind? Relativity and quantum mechanics boggle my mind, but I accept them for other good and sufficient reasons.

    As for polygamy — the only reason to practice it is that God asks someone to do so or one’s culture sanctions it. You’re not really a bishop are you? Why would you adopt a position that you don’t have?

    Comment by Blake — June 20, 2006 @ 8:07 am

  54. Blake,
    No I’m not a bishop. I just liked the play on words. I’m not saying that I doubt it, I just want to understand it, and right now I don’t. I’m just not satisfied with accepting something I don’t understand.

    Regarding polygamy, I agree with your assessment, but God would have to ask me personally. Simply having a man tell me that God is asking me isn’t good enough for something that monumental. Don’t take this wrong, but faith is not sufficient reason to blindly follow any man. There are too many men making statements requesting people to blindly follow them, and their followers have all received personal witness that these men are inspired or annointed. Then many of them end up dead drinking koolaid or blowing themselves up, killing innocent people in the name of jihad. Sorry, but I need more than just faith to follow a doctrine. It has to make sense to me. I hope you can understand where I am coming from.

    Comment by Bishop Rick — June 20, 2006 @ 8:46 am

  55. Geoff (#40)

    Most of your questions there seem to stem from not likeing the idea of a veil of forgetfulness. It seems quite evident that we are in the midst of that now. What difference does it make whether or not we went through a similar step in a previous transition? It seem one has the same problems either way – so why would this be a strike against the intelligence->spirit->body progression?

    You asked if I thought there might be an intelligence merit system involved in deciding who gets a spirit body. In general I would say yes. Perhaps that explains why Jehova was so advanced. I also feel there is a merit system between spirit and mortal body transition as well.

    I think you fail to see how either case is just as eternal as the other. Just because I think I have a spirit birthday does not mean that the intelligences are not real and eternal. The tripartite(?) model is the most clean way to reconsile eternal beings (intelligences) that match certain teachings by JS, with literal child of God doctrine of the church overall. The only reason to reject it is if you take an extreme stance on some statements of JS and ignore the teachings of other prophets. Why do that? The intelligence->spirit->body progression seems so clean to me.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — June 20, 2006 @ 8:51 am

  56. Rick (#52)

    I am sensitive to your concern about describing exaltation in a way that is an insult to women. In fact, when we first started this discussion, it was the very first point I made (here).

    Comment by Jacob — June 20, 2006 @ 9:23 am

  57. Mark (#50)

    But if one or either of the ten virgins, after she is espoused, shall be with another man, she has committed adultery, and shall be destroyed; for they are given unto him to multiply and replenish the earth, according to my commandment, and to fulfil the promise which was given by my Father before the foundation of the world, and for their exaltation in the eternal worlds, that they may bear the souls of men; for herein is the work of my Father continued, that he may be glorified. (D&C 132:63)

    Notice that linguistically the “ands” divide up parallel statements and the “that” ties the “they may bear the souls of men” to the phrase “for their exaltation in the eternal worlds”. Thus, I reject your interpretation suggesting that the bearing of the souls of men happens here. The wording doesn’t support your conclusion.

    Comment by Jacob — June 20, 2006 @ 9:28 am

  58. Jacob (#56)
    I read your initial comment and agree with you. Just failed to acknowledge it. I’m with you brother.

    Comment by Bishop Rick — June 20, 2006 @ 9:32 am

  59. Jacob: Let’s just admit that D&C 132:63 is at the very least ambiguous. It seems to me that it does address bearing children in mortality and it is a real stretch to get it to refer to spiritually begetting children (especially be exalted beings that have ressurected bodies). I suggest that only someone reading the text with theological beliefs that developed (or were elucidated) later would give it the interpretation you do. But that is what revelation sometimes does — it foreshadows, so that view cannot be ruled out on the basis of the text. What is certain is that it isn’t very convincing evidence for someone like me who doesn’t believe that JS every conceived of spiritual conception.

    Comment by Blake — June 20, 2006 @ 9:39 am

  60. Jacob (#57),

    I beg to differ. “that” connects not to any of the and clauses, but to the original verb of the sub-sentence, which is “given”.

    In other words, if we leave out the middle part the sentence reads,

    “…for they are given unto him that they may bear the souls of men; for herein is the work of my Father continued, that he may be glorified.”.

    Now the prepositional phrases I left out, also give purpose to the original verb

    “given” …
    (1) to multiply and replenish the earth, according to my commandment
    (2) to fulfil the promise which was given by my Father before the foundation of the world
    (3) for their exaltation in the eternal worlds
    “that they may bear the souls of men”

    You are trying to attach “that they may bear the souls of men” to a clause that doesn’t have a verb. I think that is contrary to the rules of grammar, generally speaking. Even if the grammar was ambiguous the “multiply and replenish the earth part” gives a nearly definitive indication that we are talking about birth down here (VEB), and not in the eternal worlds (VSB / VCB).

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 20, 2006 @ 9:50 am

  61. Regarding 132:63 – I think Blake is right to say that the text is ambiguous enough to allow for either reading. That ambiguity leaves the door open for those who believe in VSB but is ineffective as a proof text in favor of it.

    Eric (#55) – No I don’t have a problem with veils in general. Remember that I’m a fan of the MMP model of eternity after all. But there is a major difference between the veil we now have over our memories and the alleged/hypothetical veil intelligences would have to pass through at a spirit birth. That crucial difference is that our current veil is conceived of temporary and our former memories are reportedly going to be restored to us after we die. But spirits never die so a spirit-birth veil would be eternally permanent. It would be the equivalent of permanently erasing/deleting the associations and memories and personal identity we created as “intelligences” in the forever prior to spirit birth. That seems highly problematic to me.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 20, 2006 @ 10:01 am

  62. Mark, I agree with you — but revelations can be ungrammatical.

    Comment by Blake — June 20, 2006 @ 10:10 am

  63. Christian Cardall once opined that pre-spirit intelligences might actually be in some “dormant” state. Does anyone else go for that idea or was it just his personal idea?

    There is no question that 20th century leaders had deep problems with the teachings in the King Follet Discourse, mostly because it was so iconoclastic to the post Brigham theology that was popular. Joseph Fielding Smith was, perhaps, the greatest detractor of the KFD (and Sermon in the Grove). My favorite commentary that echos Christian assertion is by the Joseph Fielding McConkie in Answers: Straightforward Answers to Tough Gospel Questions:

    QUESTION
    Did we have existence (entity and agency) before our birth as spirits?

    ANSWER
    This is a question to which we simply don’t have an answer. It is one of those matters on which good people differ and perhaps with good reasons. The idea that the spirits had entity and agency before their spirit birth is not a doctrine of the Church and should not be taught as such.

    I think I am going to write a book and see if I can come up with a more presumptuous title than those penned by this family.

    Comment by J. Stapley — June 20, 2006 @ 10:24 am

  64. Blake (#46)

    The notion of spirit birth is not necessary to sustain the view that we have god-like potential

    I agree with you on this. If this were not true, I would not entertain the possibility of no spirit birth. As I said in #1, I remain uncertain about the idea of spirit birth.

    Further, you are of course correct that the notion of a MinH can logically be separated from the AG thesis. However, I believe that in fact they are tied together in historical origin.

    I have been arguing that they are not, in fact, tied together in historical origin (see #15). Stapley (#19) and Clark (#25) have also offered arguments to that effect.

    I flatly disagree with your assertion that “It seems most plausible that she viewed the MinH as Eve throughout.” It seems most plausible that she learned of a MinH from Joseph sometime between 1839-1844 when he was reportedly teaching others the same concept. Ten years later, when Brigham introduced the AG doctrine, it is totally plausible (and indeed what I would expect) that she would integrate her belief in a MinH with Brigham’s teachings that this MinH was Eve. To accept what you are saying, I would have to believe (contra any evidence I am aware of), that Eliza Snow had developed the AG doctrine as early as 1845, which does not seem plausible by any standard of plausibility.

    Now for the dodge that you have ducked long enough. Where is the revelation to ground the doctrine of a MinH even among prophets after JS? Do we just accept it because Eliza Snow taught it? I suppose that it can be argued that if we are like our Father, and we must be married to be exalted, then God too must have been married.

    I wish I’d known I was dodging/ducking this earlier so I could have conceded the point then. I will readily concede that there is no clear revelatory ground for the doctrine of MinH. I am hasty to add that there are many other doctrines given to use by Joseph Smith (some in the D&C) for which we have no clear revelation. Not long ago, Geoff called D&C 130:4-8 into question on just this ground. Of course, we have *much* better reason to believe Joseph really taught the stuff in D&C 130 than we do to believe he taught the concept of MinH to someone, but it is a fact that we have several doctrines from Joseph Smith which we accept as prophetic despite the fact we are unaware of the time or manner in which they were revealed.

    Further, I’m still waiting for an even half-way decent explanation of how the spirit can begin at spirit birth and yet be uncreated and exist on self-existing principles as JS stated.

    I offered one in #29 and Eric said it better than I did in his last paragraph of #55.

    Comment by Jacob — June 20, 2006 @ 10:24 am

  65. Blake, Mark,

    I will concede that D&C 132:63 is ambiguous, and Mark’s analysis in #60 is pretty reasonable way to interpret the verse as well. You win, I will stop badgering you about 132:63.

    Stapley said: I think I am going to write a book and see if I can come up with a more presumptuous title than those penned by this family. — LOL

    Comment by Jacob — June 20, 2006 @ 10:52 am

  66. Geoff (#61)

    I do not necessarily believe that there is a veil between intelligence and spirit births. That is more an assumption on your part. Perhaps there is no such thing temporary or permanent.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — June 20, 2006 @ 2:05 pm

  67. I thought it was extraordinarily remarkable when a BYU student commented commented here that Joseph Fielding McConkie came out *against* free will theism. How can you be against free will theism unless you are a Calvinist? Mormon Calvinism is a strange breed indeed.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 20, 2006 @ 4:32 pm

  68. It was on Times and Seasons, actually. Here:

    http://www.timesandseasons.org/index.php?p=795 (Comment #58)

    I think a Mormon version of Methodist Arminianism going so far as total inability is reasonable, but Calvinist determinism is beyond the pale. Are we to take the Westminster Confession more seriously than the teachings of the prophet Joseph Smith? (Or even worse a scientific determinism where even God lacks free discretion? Not that JFM would advocate such a thing)

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 20, 2006 @ 4:43 pm

  69. Geoff J (#47)
    [So basically, your question/suggestion has all kinds of problems. What did you have in mind with it?]

    Thank you for stating your opinion about “all kinds of problems.”
    I will consider your reponse.

    But, in all honesty – it really was a simple Yes or No question.

    Now, you asked what I have in mind….
    The gospel is simple enough a child should understand it.
    The Savior taught the deepest of doctrine in such a way Children understand it.

    The Universe is one eternal pattern.
    The same models or patterns repeat themselves over and over again.
    Planets, Stars, Galaxies – even Families are forever and ever.
    [From generation to generation.]

    I have also always been taught that we are Spirit Children of Heavenly Parents.

    Please stop for a moment, leave any pre-conceived notions behind….take a deep breath, and think about this one for awhile:
    —————–
    If we were Spirit children before being Mortal children,
    Could we also have been Spirit Parents BEFORE being a Mortal Parents?

    A:_________ (yes / no)

    This may help reconcile the 60 something postings of Eternal Physical Parents trying to then bare dis-embodied Spirit children – AFTER the fact.

    Stones anyone???

    Comment by Simple-Simon — June 20, 2006 @ 5:29 pm

  70. Jacob Re #64: With all due respect, the tripartite model does not answer the problem of an eternal spirit for the simple reason that the spirit is not eternal on that model. It has a beginning, it is created through a provess of birth and it is dependent for existence as such on spirit birth. Thus, on such a view the spirit is not self-existent and uncreated as Joseph repeatedly stated.

    Comment by Blake — June 20, 2006 @ 5:35 pm

  71. Blake,

    Sorry, I misunderstood you before, but I think I’m with you now. You are asking how a spirit birth can be squared with Joseph Smith’s clear statement that the spirit is self-existent.

    You have been making the point that Joseph Smith and Abraham 3 use several terms interchangably (spirit, intelligence, soul). One way to interpret that (as you have) is to conclude that all of these terms actually refer to the same thing.

    Mark’s way of interpreting that (#11) was to say that the terms are often used interchangably when referring to the essential part they all share, the sine qua non, which is the eternal uncreated personal identity. I think this is a reasonable way of interpreting these statements of Joseph Smith. We must be a bit cautious of assuming that Joseph Smith always spoke with the precision of a metaphysician. When I look at the quotes, I get the impression that this sort of latitude is appropriate.

    Geoff’s original post quotes a big comment from you where you list out several quotes of Joseph Smith. In the first one, Joseph is reported to have said: “The Spirit of Man is not a created being; it existed from Eternity & will exist to eternity. Anything created cannot be Eternal. & earth, water &c-all these had their existence in an elementary State from Eternity.” The part I italicized shows Joseph himself making room for a distinction between an “eternal” part of the spirit and a spirit body.

    In other of the quotes, Joseph Smith seems to zero in more specifically on what the eternal part is: “the mind of man-the mind of man is as immortal as God himself.” The idea that the “mind” is the self-existent part, and not the spirit body, is exactly what a person believing in spirit birth is likely to argue, and here Joseph speaks in precisely this language. Other KFD accounts back up that language.

    So, I don’t want to pin too much doctrinal significance on the wording of one account, when other accounts say that he said it is the mind of man which is self-existent.

    In another report: “he says the spirit or the intelligence of men are self Existent principles before the foundation this Earth.” You take the “or the intelligence” part as evidence that he uses the terms interchangably, but it is quite possible that it is actually a clarification. As in: “the spirit, or more correctly the intelligence, of men are self-existent.”

    Comment by Jacob — June 20, 2006 @ 7:04 pm

  72. Jacob: Once again I think your interpretation of “spirit” is a real stretch, but I suppose it is not beyond the realm of logical possibility (tho mermaids are also logically possible). In any event, I hadn’t understood your prior statements and this last statement is much clearer. I’ll go with the repeated and plain statement and if JS mistated, well then he misled me.

    Comment by Blake — June 20, 2006 @ 7:17 pm

  73. Geoff J (#1)
    …Another problem is answering the question of how parents with resurrected physical bodies could literally bear children with only spirit bodies. Whatever ever happened to multiplying after ones own kind? And another piece of evidence against literal spirit birth is that we are also commanded to become the children of Christ on earth.

    ===========================

    Simple-Simon says —-

    The timing as to who, what, when, where and how beings are born is the key to be examined here.

    —–

    …Fathers of our flesh….Father of Spirits. Heb 12:9

    I see a simple pattern here:

    IF – Spiritual Parents beget Spiritual children
    And, Mortal Parents beget mortal children

    Then,
    Q: What kind of bodies do Celestial Beings beget?

    A:________________ (hint: it starts with a “C”)

    ———–
    A: “When Father Adam came into the garden of Eden, he came into it with a CELESTIAL BODY…” JD 1:50 [side note: it never states "resurrected" nor "exalted"]

    ================

    Q: Could Adam and Eve be the immortal Celestial off-spring of Celestial Beings? (Y/N)

    A:__________________ (a simple Y/N will do, thank you.)

    ================

    Comment by Simple-Simon — June 20, 2006 @ 8:23 pm

  74. If: And, Physical creations are patterned after Spiritual creations…
    Then: “Cells” are to the physical body, as “Intelligences” are to the Spiritual body.

    Think about it, the lights might come on.

    Comment by Simple-Simon — June 20, 2006 @ 8:28 pm

  75. Jacob I agree that is important. While I think Joseph’s discourse is inherently vague I also think it is a kind of vagueness that allows the latter ideas to be read into it. What I see as error is in treating Joseph’s vagueness as if it were determinate ideas.

    Comment by clark — June 20, 2006 @ 10:53 pm

  76. Simple-Simon: But, in all honesty – it really was a simple Yes or No question.

    In all honesty – I was just trying to be polite by responding to you at all. I’m beginning to regret that now.

    Look mate, we “delight in plainness” here at the Thang. Or in other words I prefer straight talk; and frankly your comments are coming off like a bad rerun of Kung Fu. If you have something to say or a model to share, please just spit it out.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 20, 2006 @ 11:11 pm

  77. Jacob (#71),

    Nice comment. I too think it is necessary to assume that spirits/intelligences do change. There is an essential and irreducible part to us but there are also added parts to our spirits/intelligences/minds. If that were not true it seems hard to imagine that progress is actually possible to me.

    Having said that, I do think those quotes from Joseph along with the logical problems (like the idea of physical couples having spirit babies (though that would make labor easier I guess… [ducks])) come down pretty hard against viviparous spirit birth. Whatever progress spirits/intelligences made prior to coming here it seems highly unlikely it included a viviparous birth into a spirit body.

    Let me add another knock against viviparous spirit birth while I’m at it: If human spirits are created by being born viviparously to Celestial parents then where do animal spirits come from? Is there some Celestial giraffe couple that procreates and convert intelligences into giraffe spirit bodies? If no then it appears that not all spirit bodies are created in the exact same pattern as mortal bodies so why assume that human spirits must be created in the earthly pattern?

    Comment by Geoff J — June 20, 2006 @ 11:31 pm

  78. Blake,

    In your opinion do spirits have two eyes and ten fingers?

    If yes, was the human form designed or self existent?

    If not, what do you make of D&C 129?

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 21, 2006 @ 12:26 am

  79. Mark: It seems to me that spirits can take different forms — and appear differently from time to time as well. My view is that spirits are eternal and they are different from our material bodies here because they are made of pure and refined matter that has different properties than crass matter that we experience in physics. Beyond that I cannot say.

    Comment by Blake — June 21, 2006 @ 5:35 am

  80. Mark (#78),

    Good question, I have been wondering about this as well. Geoff’s giraffe comment (#77) brings up the same sort of question Kent Condie brought up in the previous issue of Dialogue (his article is available online here). We have had a long standing tradition of saying that the the spirit looks like the body, which raises interesting theological questions. If evolution is real (as I suspect most people here accept), then it leads to various strange looking animals, most of which become extinct, or change form over time. If the human form is a product of evolution, then why do we look like God?

    So, it seems to me that Geoff’s question about whether there are celestial giraffes having giraffe spirit children raises issues even larger than those of spirit birth. Do spirits need to be relatively indeterminate in form to account for evolution? Does such and idea make the doctrine of spirit birth obsolete?

    Comment by Jacob — June 21, 2006 @ 9:41 am

  81. Jacob (80)
    Interesting questions. Regarding evolution, homo sapiens have always looked pretty much the same (i.e. as you put it, 10 fingers and 2 eyes). As we have evolved, we have achieved better posture, larger brains (up for debate) and have become more attractive (also up for debate) among other things, but I think our form would be consistent enough not to make the doctrine of spirit birth obsolete.

    I still struggle with this doctrine however, for other reasons mentioned on the topic by other posters.

    Comment by Bishop Rick — June 21, 2006 @ 10:08 am

  82. Do spirits need to be relatively indeterminate in form to account for evolution? Does such and idea make the doctrine of spirit birth obsolete?

    I don’t know. But if I had to guess I would say yes and yes.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 21, 2006 @ 10:10 am

  83. I don’t believe in spirit birth. But if it were accepted it could easily account for evolution. The birth could happen in such a way God simply directs both thru divine power and determines the the form of the body to be like the spirit. So I don’t see that spirit birth is the problem. If the spirit is not an “appearance” such that it is sensible to eyes, then what does it mean to have a form? What does it mean to say that the spirit is like the body? I take it to mean that God can assume the form of a body in spirit — but he can also appear as mere light, or glory, or in the form of a burning bush or dove.

    Comment by Blake — June 21, 2006 @ 10:25 am

  84. We had two discussions last summer that I think are relevant to this subject. One was a post called “Our Celestial Media Player” in which I suggested that the key component to revelation is the transfer of intelligence and that the audio/visual portion is tailored to maximize that goal. That was related to the post I wrote called “whether in the body or out I cannot tell” where I noted that visions and revelations need not utilize our natural senses and indeed may almost never do so.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 21, 2006 @ 10:56 am

  85. Blake (83)

    I thought God had a ressurected celestial body. Would that not prohibit him from changing his form? Wasn’t it the holy ghost that made the alter appearances? I could be wrong here. Didn’t look up before posting.

    So is it safe to assume that spirits would also be short, tall, fat, and skinny if they take the shape of human body? At least the tall/short part.

    Comment by Bishop Rick — June 21, 2006 @ 12:03 pm

  86. I outlined a pretty elaborate theory of all this in #48 and #49 that no one has commented on.

    The key ideas are:

    1) Intelligences are minimally simple, indivisible, of no particular form, but susceptible to improvement

    2) Body radically expands the capacity of intelligence, brain in particular. Indeed *body* (brain) is the primary place where the improvement happens – habits, memories, skills, abilities, instinct, etc.

    3) By and large memory is held not in the intelligence, but in the material configuration of the spirit brain.

    4) Spirit bodies are composed of inanimate spirit material particles bound together, not rubbery, non particulate stuff.

    5) Spirit bodies are not infinitely compressible, perhaps only 10-20%, for roughly the same reason that ordinary matter is not highly compressible – spiritual QM leads to a preferred covalent bond length between spirit particles.

    6) In order to be born viviparously, one must discard the previous spirit body, because it is several orders of magnitude too large to occupy an embryo.

    7) That results in a loss of memory, language ability, and so forth. A child reacquires all habits, language ability, etc from scratch, according to the genetic and cultural inheritance. Generally speaking, only rather stable, and mostly inherent aspects of the intelligence itself are preserved. Additional aspects may possibly be manifested genetically in a three part combination rather than a two part combination, where the third part influences chromosomal mapping of the first two.

    8) As an embryo develops, the intelligence re-acquires a spiritual body overlaid with the physical body, including any large scale abnormalities, etc. (whether an amputee has a spirit arm is an interesting question)

    9) Upon death the spirit and material bodies separate, and all memories are preserved in the spirit brain. The intelligence of course sticks with the spirit body.

    10) Separated from the physical body, the spirit body rapidly heals into proper form, large scale abnormalities “dissapear”, in a fast version of what happens in an effective spiritual blessing of healing – fast because lumbering crude matter does not need to be effected. The ultimate quickening by the spirit.

    11) In resurrection, the healed spirit body, which looks like the body we acquired in this life, minus obvious undesirable features, is re-clothed with tangible spirituo-physical matter matching the defect free condition of the spirit, and habits, knowledge, memories etc acquired during the earthly and post-mortal life, essentially magnifying whatever character we had acquired.

    12) As such, one may be born spiritually either once or twice, though probably not more than that due to loss of memory. Many intelligences may not have had spirit bodies prior to this life at all. Dropping your acquired spirit body and everything that goes along with it to be born anew and learn everything from scratch from earthly parents is an ultimate act of faith – laying down your life, so that you might gain a better one.

    13) The human form was designed by some iterative means over who knows how long. The fossil record gives some pretty strong indication that this earth is a very special place, so far as this process is concerned – the spiritual and physical design appear to either have been done in parallel, or more likely the physical design tweaked over eons to match the spiritual design, where physical == pertaining to crude matter and spiritual == pertaining to fine matter.

    14) There probably was a spiritual “evolution” / iterative design process for the structure of the human spirit long before physical “evolution” / design started. This was trickier and took a *lot* longer, perhaps an eternity, because intelligences would not have had a capable body to work from, i.e. God had to bootstrap his way into a spirit body, which is quite the trick.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 21, 2006 @ 5:26 pm

  87. The irony of the similarity of what I described with MMP has not escaped me. One might consider my theory a 2MP with an option for a 1MP, and possibly even a zero MP (ZMP) – celestial birth.

    As a rule, I do not consider the idea of a body that *cannot* be divided to be metaphysically tenable – the scripture says “never more *to be* divided”. The abstract possibility is there, if it serves some purpose. However I think the idea is to stick with iterations of the (spirit) body we have now, including all habits and memories, not discard them again. So future transformations are more like resurrections and translations and not embryonic births. And indeed that is why I do not see a pre-mortal life with a spiritual body as *necessary*, even if at a minimum the great and noble ones had them or something like them.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 21, 2006 @ 5:34 pm

  88. “in the body or out of the body I cannot tell” should probably be written, as “in the physical body or in the spiritual body I cannot tell”, or even better “with the physical senses, the spiritual senses, or manifestation of pure intelligence, I cannot tell”.

    One can certainly see with spiritual eyes – read the account of Enoch, also spirits can certainly see where they are going. It is a lot easier to be translated up to “a high mountain” (i.e. heaven) if only your spirit goes along for the ride.

    The possibility of direct intelligence modulation after the manner of mapping between intelligence and spirit brain cannot be completely discarded. However, like language, the mapping *must* be the one the intelligence is used to interpret, indeed the idea of intelligence doing any sort of sophisticated interpretation requires bi-directional communication, which would amount to a spirit brain simulator. So why do that at all – just modulate the spirit visual cortex directly, or even more likely translate the spirit to a place where the image is visible or projected. All three of the latter are likely – can’t possibly “see” a future that doesn’t exist, one has to “dream” it, but one could be translated and see what heaven is like, or possibly be shown a presentation, even a recorded presentation of the *plan* for the future.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 21, 2006 @ 5:46 pm

  89. Mark (86-88)

    Very interesting proposal. I think what you have outlined might just work. I do have a couple of questions however:

    1. Would Jesus have been born of Mary with his spirit body intact, thus preserving his memories?

    2. How do you account for translation where the body is changed in the twinkling of an eye, or quickened if you will? Would the physical body die with the spirit body rising as you put it, or would the physical body actually be transfigured, and if so what is the process?

    Sorry if you covered this in a previous post. I have not read them all.

    Comment by Bishop Rick — June 21, 2006 @ 9:49 pm

  90. Rick (sorry I cannot call you bishop),

    1) Yes. Christ would have lost his memories as much as anyone else – see D&C 93 about his progression from grace to grace, and the fidelity of the pattern / example he set for us. Docetism is a disaster.

    2) I believe that we now have a spirit body overlaid on top of our physical body (actually vice versa). Technically, a body does not die, without an intelligence or intelligence + spirit body in it, it is already dead. Now of course the heart might beat, autonomous functions may proceed for several minutes, having a great bearing on the spirits ability to re-enter the body, but the body is nothing without the spirit, and a spirit body is nothing without the intelligence, just a generally unsustainable machine.

    Now as to translation, presumably the cruder matter is transformed in place to a more durable spirituo-physical form, what we might call the “tertium quid”, after the manner of the Apollinarians.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 21, 2006 @ 10:32 pm

  91. I am dissapointed that no one thinks my theory is worth commenting on, for good or for evil.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 22, 2006 @ 3:17 pm

  92. No one except Rick, of course.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 22, 2006 @ 3:17 pm

  93. Hehe. Well I’m not sure what to make of your model Mark. It is certainly is creative. But you have not grounded the pieces in scriptures or words of prophets so it is hard not to treat it like some creative writing as presented. Why should I treat it differently than (Mormon theological) sci-fi? I don’t doubt there are good reasons, but I would like to hear them from you…

    Comment by Geoff J — June 22, 2006 @ 4:29 pm

  94. Geoff, you asked for a “model” to discuss and share….OK then, I’ll throw out this pearl.

    ============================
    Proverbs 23:7 – For as a man thinketh, so is he.
    …and
    Moses 3:5 – For I, the Lord God, created all things, of which I have spoken, spiritually, before they were naturally upon the face of the earth.

    ============================

    I’ll use a metaphor:

    By profession, I’m an engineer at a very large aerospace company in Seattle.

    For me, the creative process begins (out of nowhere) from a sort of SPARK of intuition or an idea that comes into my mind.

    These non-tangible thoughts or DREAMS can be added upon and moved around and rearranged in my head infinitely until an firm IMAGE is created and defined in my mind’s eye.

    I’ll then spend days, weeks, months…even years (depending on complexity) trying to communicate these thoughts to extreme detail – through verbal explanations, sketches on paper, computer images etc.
    So others can understand precisely what it is I have in mind.

    From those communicated drawings, a PHYSICAL object can then be fabricated or brought into the physical world.

    The final step is stamp of “Engineering Approval”.
    I “see that it is good” and validate it is exactly how I dreamed it would be.

    Maybe you’ve seen some of “my” creations.

    —————————

    This same “model” can apply to creative activity.
    A house, gardening, even software development.
    Doesn’t the artist have an idea before he puts brush to canvas?

    At the beginning of any project, somebody has a plan or idea of what the outcome should be.

    ========================

    …thoughts, comments, stones???

    Comment by Simple-Simon — June 22, 2006 @ 4:32 pm

  95. Geoff, It should be obvious that most of the aspects of the model are grounded in the scriptures. If you see any internal inconsistencies, inconsistencies between the model and the scriptures, inconsistencies between the model and the best available science, please point them out.

    Now of course one cannot prove this kind of thing, so the value of such a theory depends a lot on *explanatory power*. i.e. what theological problems does this solve? I submit that it solves a lot of problems – indeed it solves problems no one has ever presented a theory of, so far as I know, and it does it in a way that is compatible with what we know about physics and information theory – knowledge that was unavailable to Orson Pratt in particular.

    One of these problems is the fact that certain genetic mutations lead to strange things like legs growing out of the side of a creatures head. Are we to imagine that the spirit leg internally twists and morphs to match the genetic deformation, as opposed to growing in paralell with it? I have yet to hear a plausible theory for that. The silly putty theory of spirit is incompatible with everything we know about the general properties of matter, and indeed with D&C 129 and other scriptures that talk about spirit bodies, resurrected bodies, transfigured bodies, and so on.

    So unless someone here wants to propose or refer to a diffent theory of how a spirit/intelligence enters a body, losing memory the first time, but not the second, or in the resurrection, I submit my theory is superior for lack of challengers and on the basis of explanatory power.

    Now, there is a death which is called a temporal death; and the death of Christ shall loose the bands of this temporal death, that all shall be raised from this temporal death. The spirit and the body shall be reunited again in its perfect form; both limb and joint shall be restored to its proper frame, even as we now are at this time; and we shall be brought to stand before God, knowing even as we know now, and have a bright recollection of all our guilt.

    Now, this restoration shall come to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, both the wicked and the righteous; and even there shall not so much as a hair of their heads be lost; but every thing shall be restored to its perfect frame, as it is now, or in the body, and shall be brought and be arraigned before the bar of Christ the Son, and God the Father, and the Holy Spirit, which is one Eternal God, to be judged according to their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil.

    Now, behold, I have spoken unto you concerning the death of the mortal body, and also concerning the resurrection of the mortal body. I say unto you that this mortal body is raised to an immortal body, that is from death, even from the first death unto life, that they can die no more; their spirits uniting with their bodies, never to be divided; thus the whole becoming spiritual and immortal, that they can no more see corruption.
    (Alma 11:42-45)

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 22, 2006 @ 5:55 pm

  96. Evidence for the idea that Christ also lost his memories in mortal birth:

    And I, John, bear record that I beheld his glory, as the glory of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, even the Spirit of truth, which came and dwelt in the flesh, and dwelt among us. And I, John, saw that he received not of the fulness at the first, but received grace for grace; And he received not of the fulness at first, but continued from grace to grace, until he received a fulness; And thus he was called the Son of God, because he received not of the fulness at the first.

    And I, John, bear record, and lo, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Ghost descended upon him in the form of a dove, and sat upon him, and there came a voice out of heaven saying: This is my beloved Son. And I, John, bear record that he received a fulness of the glory of the Father; And he received all power, both in heaven and on earth, and the glory of the Father was with him, for he dwelt in him.

    And it shall come to pass, that if you are faithful you shall receive the fulness of the record of John. I give unto you these sayings that you may understand and know how to worship, and know what you worship, that you may come unto the Father in my name, and in due time receive of his fulness.
    (D&C 93:11-19)

    Also Luke:

    And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.

    And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.
    (Luke 2:40,52)

    Likewise we are the sons of God, because we receive not of the fulness at first, but grace for grace. Not only that, the standard means God has provided to receive of his fulness is through family life, our entering into a branch of the House of Israel, and inheriting the language and culture of our parents. Our loss of memory greatly aids this objective – can you imagine adopting and trying to “convert” a bunch of adults?

    One more thing – if you can’t tell the difference between this theory and science fiction enough to be able to criticize it the way scientists criticize such theories, then perhaps I am wasting my time. The whole purpose of scientific, philosophical, and theological training is to be able to evaluate the merit of any idea according to a wide variety of rational and evidentiary considerations. Saying Not Proven is pointless. Nothing in theology, and little in science is proven. What about merit, explantory power, and coherence?

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 22, 2006 @ 6:12 pm

  97. In other words, I am not going to write a dissertation on the subject. Raise some issues and I will try to defend my thesis, Geoff.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 22, 2006 @ 6:14 pm

  98. I should also say that the whole reason I was unconvinced about MMP is that the time we were discussing it you were focusing on what was wrong with the standard model, a model with *lots* of scriptural support, and never seemed to explain what problems MMP would solve, instead of attacking a particularly naive straw man “MToE” version of the standard model. My problem with MMP is that is seems to to me to create more problems than it solves, with multiple memory loss in particular.

    A scriptural argument against my theory would be the best, barring that a complaint about perceived weaknesses or superfluities in the model as suggested, complaints that it doesn’t solve the problems I say it does, complaints that it is awkward, counter-aesthetic, contrary to sound science, and so on. If we can’t talk in those terms, we should quit talking about deep theology at all, because no amount of proof texts are going to resolve the issues we are raising here.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 22, 2006 @ 6:23 pm

  99. The thing is, I can make extensive arguments for all of my points, but I don’t want to waste my time or your attention if no one is interested. What I described is an *outline* or summary of my theory, not creative writing. And if no one has anything good or bad to say about it at a summary level, then arguably nothing worthwhile can be said about this topic at all.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 22, 2006 @ 6:51 pm

  100. Mark,

    You are apparently trying to solve a problem that nobody else here seems to consider a problem. This objection you make to “the silly putty theory of spirit” is the issue at hand. To me the notion that an adult spirit cannot “fit” into the body of an infant is silly. So spirit matter is refined and pure enough to be all around us but not detectable and yet a human spirit cannot fit into an infant body? On what grounds do you conclude that “Spirit bodies are not infinitely compressible, perhaps only 10-20%”? What do you know about spirit matter that justifies this conclusion?

    Comment by Geoff J — June 22, 2006 @ 6:51 pm

  101. Geoff, I am not talking about the body of an infant, but rather an embryo of perhaps a dozen cells, maybe less.

    Setting that aside, we have to go to to only realistic theory as to why composite material assemblies take up space at all. Now you may remember that Orson Pratt (and Charles Darwin, and others) believed in the particulate jello theory of matter, taking it as a first principle of metaphysics that two things could not be in the same place at the same time. With the advent of Quantum Mechanics, we know that was naive – that particiles did not generally take up space, or have extent at all, that a “solid” was mostly empty space, that even an atom was mostly empty space with a very tiny core – Ernest Rutherford won a Nobel Prize in 1908 for demonstrating that.

    So the big question of the time was why was matter stable at all? Why didn’t the orbiting electrons radiate away their energy like other acclerating charges and spiral down into the nucleus? Why did atoms stick together with the most amazing strength? Electromagnetism did not provide any kind of answer – ultimately quantum mechanics did, and the answer QM provided to this question is known as covalent bonding theory.

    Skipping the detailed mathematics, it turns out that electrons occupy quantized energy levels around an atom, such that when multiple reasonably similar atoms are placed next to eachother, the higher energy levels broaden into bands (not bonds, but energy ranges) such that the electrons in an energy band are shared by all the associated atoms.

    And the curious properties of fermion exchange degeneracy (electrons are fermions, photons are bosons), cause electrons to balance the electrodynamic and Pauli-exclusive repulsion with an exchange based attraction. This gives a local minimum energy on a energy vs bond length diagram. And just like a marble in rolling terrain, the bond length settles down into a valley, and energy minimum. And that is the only reason why matter sticks together without collapsing into a pile of particles or drifting apart like a liquid or a gas.

    And related principles related to Pauli exclusion of electrons – not wanting to be in the same state or same energy level simulataneously, accounts for the circumstances where materials do not naturally stick together, which is a good thing for us, because life in a sticky world would get old in a hurry.

    Now the first relevant scriptural principle is that spirit is material. Now what does “material” mean? In the most common and long standing definition, it means having location or non-uniform distribution across space and time, and also generally being divisible, or at least having parts with distinguishing features, locations, etc of their own.

    Now we know that God did not create spirit out of nothing, instead he organized primal matter. So the issue is what form is this primal matter? Is it continuous and diaphonous like Jello, all the way down, as Darwin apparently thought? Is it a bunch of tiny spaghetti strings that are tied up into knots? Or is it atomic or particulate, with some sort of bonding scheme.

    Particles are the simplest possibility for something that has a location, having a model in quantum mechanics that can be used to construct virutally any other structure with great flexibility.

    In addition, all evidence we have indicates that pre-earth immortal bodies are extremely similar in appearance and structure to earthly mortal bodies – that similarity gives enormous weight to analogous physics at the particulate level. And the kicker is the resurrection, where the scripture (Alma 11) says that we will be restored to immortal bodies of *spirit* – yet tangible enough to eat fish. Paul also describes a resurrected body as a *spiritual* body in 1 Cor 15.

    So how can a resurrected body be a spiritual body, as both Alma and Paul say, unless spirit matter is capable of existing in a state as tangible as our current mortal bodies?

    Suppose we have one of these glorified tangible spirit bodies and eat a fish? How can we even pick it up unless there is Pauli exchange degeneracy between the particles of our tangible spirit hand and the electrons in the fish? Or chew, or digest, etc.? The best evidence we have demonstrates that spiritual bodies are composed of matter that is compatible with, and interacts with ordinary matter was we no it.

    That means that far and away the best candidate for the structural integrity of composite spiritual material is covalent bonding similar to what we are familiar with. The reason why we, or presumably a spirit, do not puddle on the floor or evaporate into a gas are those bonds, bonds which have a strongly preferred bond length, the strength of the preference (inverse slope of the valley) being the compressibility.

    Now suppose that I drop a spirit heavyweight, 1000 tons or so, on a resurrected spirit person. Is the person going to get crushed? Flattened? Powdered? I think not. And why? Because of the properties of the bond between spirit material particles. Someone I suppose could believe that spirit is 1000 times more compressible than rubber, that a tangible spirit would be flattened, then slide out from under the weight like a sheet of paper, then pop back into place, but I say that is extraordinarily naive, in terms of physics and quantum mechanics, and every scriptural indication of what spirit bodies are like, whether we are talking about less-tangible un-resurrected spirits or highly tangible resurrected spirts.

    We have no accounts of spirits as puddles on the floor, or super silly putty. We have some accounts of spiritual influence as fire and wind, but the scriptures say that God was not in the fire or in the wind (1 Kings 19:12), he doesn’t morph from shape to shape. If we meet Moroni by chance, he looks like Moroni. He doesn’t shape-shift to appear like someone else – it would be a lot easier to create the impression if necessary, but that would be deceptive.

    So the fact that a person with a resurrected tangible body of spirit can walk around without falling through the ground, eat ordinary food, shake hands, have others touch him, and so on, and yet be translated through walls and ceilings like Moroni on occasion, is extremely strong evidence that spirit matter and ordinary matter are compatible, and share properties of relative incompressibility. Remember even silly putty does not *compress* it only stretches, and when it stretches it gets a lot thinner.

    So if we want to take a 6’3″ spirit and compress it down to the size of a half a dozen cells of an embryo, all the evidence we have for the properties of various forms of spirit matter make that exceedingly problematic.

    And that is not even the half of it – we have a *severe* morphology problem, and that is that our mortal body structure is largely determined by our inherited genetics, modified by contigency. including sometimes serious morphological defects. So how is a 6′ spirit supposed to be crunched down and mapped onto the growing embryo? If cell division were directed to match the micro-form of the spirit, these most serious genetic defects would not occur, and indeed even without defects, the embryo would grow up to look like the original spirit body, and *not* a genetic hybrid of his or her parents. That is a very serious problem, to me much more serious than the bonding / compressibility issue.

    Ultimately though, the final consideration is, if we do not retain our memories, what good is keeping our spirit body? It is superfluous, irrelevant, of no apparent consequence. So I invoke Ockham rule about not multiplying entities unnecessarily and conclude that an embryo does not have a 1,000,000x compressed version of the original spirit body, just an intelligence that gradually forms a new spirit body and mortal body in parallel.

    Comments?

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 22, 2006 @ 9:03 pm

  102. That should be inverse strength of the preference (and inverse slope of the valley) being the compressibility.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 22, 2006 @ 10:34 pm

  103. Mark, (#86)

    Sorry, I have been swamped with work over the past couple of days and didn’t have a chance to respond to your theory. Some parts of your theory venture into territory where I have no opinion. In general, I started out in agreement and it goes steadily downhill. I am pretty much with you for 1) 2) 3) 9) and 11). 13) and 14) are off into the weeds of speculation where I don’t have an opinion and don’t really want to adopt one because it is simply too uncertain.

    The most interesting part of the theory, to me, is your idea that we lose our spirit body when we are born. It is an interesting way to account for the loss of memory. (Was it Orson Pratt who said we lost our memory because our spirits were highly compressed to get into our baby bodies?) I have toyed with the idea that the loss of memory is due to the spirit hooking up with an empty physical brain where the physical brain is now dominant. Beyone that, I hadn’t worked out anything too elaborate. As I read your theory I saw a few places I might poke at:

    (1) What is the point of getting a spirit body if we shed it when we are born? Given that your theory stores everything interesting in the body, what useful things can a person take into mortality from the spirit world? I am having a hard time seeing what point there would be to the premortal existence or how anything of use could be carried into mortality.

    You certainly seem to have thought through this since you suggest some intelligences may have come straight to mortality without ever getting a spirit body previously. This seems like a big problem to me. We have scriptures which say there were noble and great ones who were called before mortality to do things here. How is that possible if they start from scratch on everything by being born?

    (2) You are assuming a spirit can’t compress too much, which you explained pretty well in #101. I am less certain than you seem to be that QM tells me a lot about spirit matter, but I think the fact that spirit matter seems to interact with regular matter does give some level of plausibility to what you are saying.

    Your argument that a spirit body cannot fit into an embryo assumes that a spirit has to fit into an embryo, which I am not at all certain about. When does the spirit enter the body? I am not sure. The only scriptural evidence I can think of is Jesus appearing to Nephi the night before he was born.

    Of course, your theory says that the spirit doesn’t ever enter the body, a new one grows with the body. So, when someone chops off my arm, they chop off the arm of my spirit too. Luckily, my spirit arm will grow back, but ostensibly only after I die (else, where would I put it). So, the theory seems to put the spirit and body in a very tight union on one hand (spirit has to grow cell by cell with the body), but on the other hand, they are totally separable and the spirit can grow super quickly when not slowed down by the lumbering crude matter.

    Comment by Jacob — June 23, 2006 @ 12:59 am

  104. Mark,

    You are making an awful lot of assumptions here. Some are impossible to prove and others seem to be just wrong to me:

    I am not talking about the body of an infant, but rather an embryo of perhaps a dozen cells, maybe less.

    Here you are assuming that a spirit enters an embryo extremely early on. That is an interesting topic but we have no revelation that tells us when a spirit enters a body.

    Now what does “material” mean?

    In the sense that spirit is matter we have no idea. Your theory that spirit matter might work like particulate matter seems plausible to me but since we have no scientific method to recognize spirit matter it is all pure speculation/guessing. I’m ok with guessing, but a guess is a pretty sandy foundation to build loads of other guesses on.

    And the kicker is the resurrection, where the scripture (Alma 11) says that we will be restored to immortal bodies of spirit – yet tangible enough to eat fish. Paul also describes a resurrected body as a spiritual body in 1 Cor 15.

    You are plain wrong on this one. Alma 11 does not say we will have a body “of spirit” but rather that our spirit and body will be reunited. A spirit body can’t eat a physical fish and Christ made that abundantly clear when he said: Handle me and see, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. Section 129 goes into this issue in some detail too. We learn there that a mortal cannot touch or feel a spirit. Therefore all of your points about flattening spirits and whatnot seem to miss the mark.

    If we meet Moroni by chance, he looks like Moroni. He doesn’t shape-shift to appear like someone else – it would be a lot easier to create the impression if necessary, but that would be deceptive.

    I think you are making a lot of unsupportable assumptions here too. First, if we were to see Moroni it would probably be in a vision or dream. Therefore, we could easily envision him in many different ways and it wouldn’t really matter nor would it be deceptive if the message and intelligence we were intended to receive was delivered. We would probably understand him to be speaking English too — and that would also not be “deceptive” either. See my celestial media player post for more on that.

    It seems to me that spirits and intelligences are the same thing and that they are primarily “minds” and not necessarily confined to the bodily shapes we have as mortals. Sure, when people have visions of the dead they see them in there mortal form but that could be how the message is conveyed to our minds.

    if we do not retain our memories, what good is keeping our spirit body? It is superfluous, irrelevant, of no apparent consequence.

    I agree. This is a good argument against spirit bodies actually being permanently like mortal bodies.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 23, 2006 @ 1:17 am

  105. Geoff,

    At some point you have to make educated guesses to have any sort of opinion at all – we cannot prove this stuff deductively – abduction is the order of the day. So we test by coherence, negative implications, etc. and see if there are alternatives that have comparable explanatory power. Granted this is rather speculative, I think worth examining.

    Now you say, I am assuming – well not quite – I have an argument for that as well, I just cannot fit all the arguments in a single post, they would fill a book. That is what systematic theology is all about. Can’t prove anything worthwhile in half a dozen lines. The value of systematic theology is the test of the consistency of the whole system with scriptures, not just one point here or one point there, allowing one to expand into points that the scriptures to not address directly, nor provide a foundation for a clean deductive argument. If you have noticed, science *never* proceeds deductively, well systematic theology is the same way, except with different tests.

    Now a simple argument for the spirit entering at the embryonic stage:

    If a spirit leaves a mortal body, the body dies. So how can we expect a an embryo to grow and develop properly unless there is a spirit (and intelligence) in there? The only alternative is for the mother’s spirit to expand to cover the developing infant, but that is bizarre – it would tend to imply among other things mixing of memories, and shared perception.

    The mother’s nervous system is not connected to the infant’s nervous system, so why should the mother’s spirit be hardwired to cover the whole body of the developing child? Why doesn’t the mother feel everything that happens internally to the fetus? If the baby kicks she feels the impact, not the impulse to do so right? The idea that the baby is unconscious during the whole process seems ridiculous. Why play classical music for the baby if it is a mass of cells without a spirit?

    Now, arguendo, if the spirit did not enter until birth, the morphological problem would still be as severe. In particular we know from modern physiology that individual nerve cells are involved in functions like sight, sound, and perception. Now suppose the incidents of conciousness are similarly distributed throughout the spirit brain – an intelligence has a body for a purpose right – a pinhead will not do, nor, presumably, is a spirit brain filled with straw.

    So we have a spirit brain composed of some amazingly detailed structure, and now we want to shrink it down to map perfectly onto a infant brain much smaller. One can be certain that the nerve cells do not map one for one, and one can be further certain that all sorts of genetic idiosyncrasies do not map either, so for a spirit to occupy a body it was not designed for, cell by cell or at least feature by feature, some rather serious mechanics would need to be done, mechanics that cast doubt on the value of having a spirit body with a certain structure in the first place, notably because all memories are lost anyway.

    Now, re spirit as matter. I am referring to standard definitions of the time. Otherwise the scripture is meaningless. And in terms of interpretation of what Joseph Smith meant, I take the joint commentaries of Orson and Parley Pratt with regard to what “matter” entails as definitive – we are talking about *particles* here. There is little question that the two Pratts discussed the issue with Joseph – probably prompting the statement, and its eventual canonization to begin with. I made a pretty strong argument re compatibility of mortal and immortal matter.

    Now in regard to the semantics of the term “spirit”, the scriptures use this term inconsistently, and we have to distinguish the senses properly.
    Normally we use the term spirit to mean an intangible, or less tangible spirit, e.g. as in D&C 129 and the New Testament account you quoted.

    However let me quote the scriptures speaking of tangible spirit:

    Now, behold, I have spoken unto you concerning the death of the mortal body, and also concerning the resurrection of the mortal body. I say unto you that this mortal body is raised to an immortal body, that is from death, even from the first death unto life, that they can die no more; their spirits uniting with their bodies, never to be divided; thus the whole becoming spiritual and immortal, that they can no more see corruption.
    (Alma 11:45)

    I don’t think you read the last part. It says that the spirit unites with the body, *the whole* becoming *spiritual* and immortal. That is pretty explicit. And guess what, the Apostle Paul uses the same language:

    All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds.

    There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory.

    So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.
    (1 Corinthians 15:39-44)

    Now what is Paul telling us here? He is telling us the same thing as Alma, that we will inherit a *spiritual* body in the resurrection, an incorruptible, fleshly spirit body. The scriptures are telling us that we need to drop our unfounded convention, and speak of two different kinds of spirit bodies, even if we preserve the term “spirit” for the souls who have the less tangible variety.

    This also resolves the puzzle where John says that “God is a Spirit”, by the way. Perfectly consistent with 1 Cor 15, it is just a confusing nomenclature to us, because we really need three different terms. That is why I speak of resurrected persons as being a “tertium quid” or third variety of matter.

    We know Moroni has a resurrected body. That means he can appear as a normal man. We have an account of that – from a witness who in broad daylight met Moroni and did not realize who he was until after the fact. We also have Joseph Smith’s accounts, which are not dream like *at all*. Theophany theory is unsupportable and irrational, why spiritualize away tangible beings except out of a Greek-inherited contempt for place, time, and matter?

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 23, 2006 @ 3:03 am

  106. Jacob,

    The answer to your question is to back away to a global perspective, we have a large group of noble and great ones, and some not so noble, who developed a heavenly civilization over umpteen million years, and their personal knowledge is stored in their brains, but if one had amnesia, he could relearn it from others. One’s works, service, contributions, etc would not be in vain, even if he had to recover his identity by reading from old journals.

    Now remember the importance of keeping records in the Church? If you know you are about to lose your memory, what do you do? Why write as much relevant stuff down as possible, so you remember where you are when you “wake” up.

    Well heavenly civilization is like that too, no doubt in heaven their are libraries full of records, symbolized by the “Book of Life” in the scriptures, and these records contain the accumulated knowledge of celestial civilization. And of course the knowledge is also contained in the heads of all those who have not yet “passed through the veil”. So everything you did in the pre-mortal life is worthwhile, your pre-mortal journal might even be in the Genealogical Library in heaven. You will probably get a chance to read it someday, or perhaps be told by someone who was resurrected a long time ago. Records are better than recollection of course.

    So while I allow for the possibility of bringing some aspects of a developed character to this life, I don’t think bringing very much is possible. We talk about eternal progression and usually think of individuals – well I think of the progression of celestial civilization as a whole, and on that account your earthly *heritage* is what you get from your mother and father, that most everything you learned in the pre-mortal life you will have to read out of your journal someday, but that it doesn’t matter right now, because of your contribution to heavenly civilization follows after you in the worlds above.

    And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.
    (Revelation 14:13)

    For those that live shall inherit the earth, and those that die shall rest from all their labors, and their works shall follow them; and they shall receive a crown in the mansions of my Father, which I have prepared for them.
    (D&C 59:2)

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 23, 2006 @ 3:24 am

  107. Mark,

    It seems to me that there is such a paucity of data for us to draw on here that the arguments you are making are not compelling to me. Maybe spirits do enter embryos early, maybe they don’t. The idea that an embryo can’t grow without a spirit is not very convincing to me though. Does a sperm need a spirit/intelligence to do its job? I highly doubt it. Why couldn’t one assume that embryos grow via deterministic mechanisms at first and intelligences/spirits enter them at some point prior to birth? Jacob already mentioned the revelation from Jesus to Nephi just before his birth as counter evidence. I just think we are missing most of the puzzle pieces on this particular subject. (This certainly has bearing on the abortion subject though and yet God has not revealed these things to the world anyway.)

    The argument you make about “spiritual body” being synonymous with spirit body seems pretty strained too. I think there could be something to the idea that resurrected physical bodies are composed of similar matter to spirit bodies since glorified resurrected bodies glow like the sun and can live in “eternal burnings” and all. But the scriptures do make it clear that spirits and resurrected persons are very different. Again, there is hardly any data to work with on this subject.

    Theophany theory is unsupportable and irrational

    I wrote a post making a pretty strong argument that the visions Joseph had from God were indeed visions. If you disagree then perhaps you can reignite that thread with new evidence to the contrary.

    I actually do find your speculation about journal writing to be interesting food for thought though.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 23, 2006 @ 4:00 pm

  108. New model to the same discussion –

    What if:
    Pre-Spirits (or intelligences) are 1 dimensional entities (straight lines or strings on a Cartesian Coordinate System; X)

    Spirits are 2 dimensional (an image on a flat screen; X,Y)

    Mortals are 3 dimensional (here and now; X,Y,Z)

    and Immortals beings are 4 dimensional beings (tetrasphere; X,Y,Z,W)
    Since time is no longer relevant to them. 3D + 1D = TIME

    axis vectors – direction
    x left, right
    y down, up
    z backward, forward
    w kata, delta, zant, ana, upsilon, & wint

    [I threw in the mathematical definition of dimensional un-folding (90 degrees to the square), to illustrate my thought that "the Square" could be directly functional to the powers of the priesthood. Both the Aaronic and Melchezidek priesthoods operate using the square. The ordinances of the Aaronic priesthood pertain to things from our past (Baptism, Sacrament, Bishops are all Aaronic P.) The ordinances of the Melchezidek pertain to future events (Patriarchical blessings, Celestial Marriage, Temple Rites, Baby Name and Blessings, Sick & Afflicted...]

    Since we progress from Lower to Higher “Orders”
    1st Estate – 2nd Estate – etc., etc.
    We keep our former estate and simply add another.

    With each Ascension, we arrive with a totally new and previously inconceivable perspective of everything.

    Moving forward and backward, and up and down in time and space also allows for things such as transmigration, seeing all things – past, present and future and being everywhere past, present and future.

    If stand on the roof and talk, my friend looks to the right and to the left, but by not knowing to look UP, he doesn’t know where the voice is coming from.

    A voice calling DOWN from heaven invokes the same connotation.

    Much like a 3D Sphere passing through a 2D world.
    Imagine a 4D being passing through our 3D world:
    A pillar or shaft of light, flattens out fills the space then and a physical being appears.

    If I had video-graphics, it could look such like the transporter from Star Trek.

    This could also help reconcile why higher order beings can descend to any former lower level, but those in the lower estates cannot go (or are damned) to the higher estates.

    Comment by Simple-Simon — June 23, 2006 @ 7:43 pm

  109. Geoff, I don’t expect it to be compelling. Proof is for alcohol and mathematicians. I think you (and many) are relying on an unnecessary perfectionism – that if we do not know something perfectly that we do not know anything about it at all. Theories are useful not as doctrine, but as likelihoods. In other words, often they are the best we can do. We do not have to divide the world up into perfection and worthlessness.

    Now a spermatazoan is like just about any other kind of cell, it is not self sustaining – it will die in short order, minutes to hours depending on the conditions, and even if it lives it is more like a plant than a person. It might have spirit matter in it, but probably not a “spirit” (i.e. intelligence + spirit body). I believe that it only makes sense to speak of one intelligence per person, and since it takes a sperm cell and an ovum to make a person, I have a hard time giving credit to the idea that an intelligence is present before the moment of conception.

    However, you have ignored pretty much all the reasons I gave for why an intelligence enters then. Let me start with another argument. Arguendo, what reason have we to suppose that an intelligence enters at time of birth? Perhaps it is God’s plan not to send an intelligence into a baby’s body until he or she is six months old? How would we tell?

    How do we tell when a baby is alive? has a soul? Is kicking and screaming enough? Unborn babies kick. Why is abortion any less a sin than infanticide? Is it not because we believe that unborn babies do actual have souls? Are not just some clump of matter growing inside a woman, something more like a bacterial infection, than a living soul? If a growing embryo past a few hours or days at any rate is not a living soul, how can we tell that *anyone* is a living soul? Perhaps half the population of the world is wandering around without them.

    Of course ordinary spirits and the spiritual bodies of resurrected persons are very different. That doesn’t mean they aren’t made out of the same type of incorruptible material, just constructed a different way. The only thing that is strained about my argument is that Mormons don’t like to think that way, because we have been indoctrinated with a naive medieval realism such that all terms can only have *one* sense.

    John say “God is a Spirit”, and we cry “evil and designing men!” No imagination to consider what John, or Paul, or Amulek actually meant. In other words, I have the scriptures on my side to demonstrate that there are two kinds of spiritual bodies, less tangible spiritual bodies, and resurrected, tangible spiritual bodies, and you are going to have a hard time taking the words out of the mouth of three different scriptural witnesses.

    Mortal bodies are corruptible. Spiritual bodies are not. The semantics are that simple – there is no law that says there cannot be more than one kind of spiritual body – that is Paul’s whole point.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 23, 2006 @ 11:49 pm

  110. This subject is very near to my heart. I’ve been going through some really amazing permutations of comprehension in regards to literal spirit birth vs. adoptive spirit child-parent relationships. Pertinent to this discussion, I think, is the interpretation of some of the Book of Mormon, which I introduced on my own blog in the articles “Multiple Mortal Probations in the Book of Mormon” :

    http://mormon-gnostics.blogspot.com/2006/05/multiple-mortal-probations-in-book-of.html

    And perhaps more importantly, the topic of “dissolving spirits”, or the idea that Spirits can become disorganized back into their natural element. I have gathered quite a collection of quotes on this subject, here:

    http://mormon-gnostics.blogspot.com/2006/05/dissolving-spirits.html

    Read that (rather lengthy) selection of quotes, and then take it in light of Joseph’s concept that anything with a beginning must have an end, etc.

    I’m currently really mixed and undecided on this. I think Eve calling Elohim “Father” (in the Tempple) is an indicator of something. I think Lucifer also speaking of “Father” and acting as though he’s been around for quite some time is another good indicator that some adoptive parenting is going on.

    If it was a great adoptive cycle, that would solve part of the issues of the infinite vs. finite concept of energy, as well.

    I tend to be a finite energy person, and having a separate batch of children every cycle seems to create huge unresolved issues which boggle the mind, especially, how every worthy person ever manages to get their turn as Savior, if only one from each world (of billions of new spirits) gets to serve in this position. It would be like the most evil pyramid scheme ever, and … Perhaps the best argument against literal spirit birth, is Heber C. Kimball’s MMP statement about laying down to rest and waking up again the next day. If we believe that ALL beings on this earth are the Spirit Sons and Daughters of Adam and Eve, that would leave no room for Adam and Eve’s siblings, or people from previous planets to “awaken” here again, unless they are ‘adopted’ by Adam and Eve.

    Comment by Jeff Day — June 24, 2006 @ 1:50 am

  111. Jeff D.,

    I don’t thing Heber C. Kimball’s statement is very good support for MMP at all. The analogy of this life as the day to perform our labors is common, especially in the book of Mormon – we have no reason to believe that there will be more than one *night*, indeed our concept of night is that we will be fully conscious throughout, more an apparent sleep from a mortal perspective, than any kind of sleep for the person concerned. More like a continuation of this probation in another venue.

    In addition as a rule, I have a contempt for the type of “theology” that goes and digs up bizarre beliefs by some ancient or modern quasi-authority but gives no evidence of why they believed what they beleived. Without an argument we have no reason to conclude that their speculation is any more reliable than ours is. Indeed as we have the advantage of modern science and other scholarship, we might reasonable expect that our speculation is *more* reliable than theirs, when we put the same effort into it.

    If the quality of arguments that Brigham Young sometimes put forth is any indication, the theological bar in those days was very low indeed. The strength of Joseph Smith was that he was a very good ponderer – we ofttimes think of revelation as some sort of brain download, no coherent thought required, and then rational thought as secondary. The scriptures teach the opposite – that we should start with rational thought (pondering) and once we have carefully thought out all the reasonable alternatives that the Spirit will be able to guide us as to which is correct. The key aspect of that process is that we will know *why* a certain proposition is correct. If we do not know why, if we are not able to explain the reason for our belief, then arguably we were never inspired at all. We may not be able to *prove* it, but inspiration is all about *reason*, as a rule. If it is only about comfort, that is an indication that we are not diligent enough to pursue the reasons, or that the answers to a certain question are beyond our current ken, and we need to study and get answers to first things first. Line upon line, precept upon precept, according to our current understanding.

    Some of the principles we learn may simply be stop gap approximations to greater and surprising levels of detail later. I think the Atonement is that way for example, and part of the answer to the problem that MMP ties to solve is that we do not need to be a first class Savior to an entire world, because Jesus Christ (as a person) is not a first class Savior to an entire world, that the whole subtext of the New Testament and the Book of Mormon is that the Atonement is distributed – that all Christians and true disciples of Christ participate in the suffering sacrifice that makes the grace of God possible, both here and in the next life, and that is the very reason for the *law* of sacrifice, the baptismal covenants, and so on.

    Remember how Paul said that we may be joint heirs with Christ if we suffer *with* him? The untold story of the New Testament is just that – the distribution of divine Son-ship to all true followers – those that have faith in the *name* of Jesus Christ, the name that the Lord puts upon them as anointed sons and daughters unto God. That is what Mosiah 5 is all about. That is what the sealing ordinances of the temple are all about. That is what the Priesthood is all about – distributed divinity and the service that makes it possible.

    The problem with MMP is that it is radically individualist and radically Pelagian – it implies that the plan of salvation is all about me, instead of all about us – it implies that our family relationships are inconsequential temporary expedients, that for all practical purposes each of us will be a different person many times over – that salvation is something that happens to a person as they practically lift themselves up by their own bootstraps, salvations as a matter of individual learning and character development, instead of a radically cooperative enterprise. MMP is Mormon Pelagianism, basically, and the most serious problem of Pelagianism is that it denies the At-one-ment, who cares about anyone else, exaltation is like getting a degree at a university. That is not what D&C 121 and 132 teach about exaltation – rather the latter is all about *family* and social relationships to the nth degree. Exaltation is not primarily a matter of intellectual *learning*, although that is a practical requirement, it is primarily a matter of learning to love and serve another, to come together in a unity of the faith, forming a family structure that will extend into the eternities.

    If we go through ten mortal lives, family is meaningless – why should the last father, the last mother, the last husband, the last wife have any more claim upon our affections than anyone else?

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 24, 2006 @ 10:13 am

  112. So I would say the fundamental problem with both A/G and MMP is that they are trying to solve a problem which does not exist, betraying a rather complete misunderstanding of the doctrine of Christ, trying to shoe-horn the higher law of discipleship into an entry level absolutism.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 24, 2006 @ 10:32 am

  113. Mark (#112),

    I have no idea what you are talking about here. Whether MMP is true or not, it does provide fairly clean answers to all sorts of questions that do exist like what we have been doing forever, how progress of intelligences/spirits is accomplished throughout eternity, how we can become like God, how God (our Father and Christ and the Holy Ghost) attained the status they currently hold; not to mention the excellent solution it provides to problems like theodicy.

    I don’t thing Heber C. Kimball’s statement is very good support for MMP at all(#111)

    I must assume you haven’t looked at the Heber C. Kimball quote closely because you are shockingly out to lunch in your analysis of it. The point is that just like we can make a little progress toward our earthly goals one day after another, so can we make progress toward our eternal goals one mortal probation after another. Now he admittedly may have been wrong, but your comments betray a fundamental misunderstanding of what he said.

    we have no reason to believe that there will be more than one night

    Why would there need to be one “night” (veil) at all? If we need one night why not many?

    that the whole subtext of the New Testament and the Book of Mormon is that the Atonement is distributed

    I know this is your pet theory and I agree that there may be something to the general idea. But I don’t see it as exclusive of MMP either. We might all be saviors on mount zion but there is strong evidence from Joseph that the Son was a Savior in exactly the same way his Father was before and from there it is easy to see that if any of us are to become like them then we must tread in their path too. A variation on your pet theory could complement MMP I think.

    The problem with MMP is that it is radically individualist and radically Pelagian – it implies that the plan of salvation is all about me, instead of all about us

    You’re talking about your own conception of MMP not mine. This is a weak straw man argument.

    If we go through ten mortal lives, family is meaningless – why should the last father, the last mother, the last husband, the last wife have any more claim upon our affections than anyone else?

    If we are all co-eternal then family relationships have very different meanings than our mortal conception anyway. We are to love one another as Christ loves us all and we are to all be family in the Celestial order. MMP could easily allow for variations on the “distributed atonement” idea you have been promoting anyway. We know very little about the role of Holly Ghost for instance. Who is to say that it is not a distributed and delegated role to many exalted persons and that the Holy Spirit we each specifically have contact with is not an exalted ancestor from here OR an exalted loved one from a previous probation? You are thinking far too narrowly on this subject in my opinion. Simply because you have come up with a good idea does not mean it is mutually exclusive of all other good ideas. They might complement each other rather than necessarily compete as you seem to assume.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 24, 2006 @ 11:43 am

  114. Mark,

    I see MMP as an expression of Love and higher Family bonds. To me, it is not trying to solve any problem – it is merely the natural extension to Joseph Smith’s teachings about Exaltation. God is literally our Father, and he lovingly creates after his own kind, giving us the full potential to do exactly what he does. If each of us are destined to become an Adam, or an Eve of our own world, well: that is a Multiple Mortal Probation right there, in its most simplistic form. (Mortal after our fall, our decelestializing) This seems to be a very basic concept apparent in Mormon theology.

    The next very natural step, is to realize that on these future planets, our Spirit Children will require a Savior. And the selfish “It’s all about me” attitude would be to think that our Savior here is the only one ever — because that would mean we are in some chosen Planet amongst the aeons, that our planet is more special than any other, ever. That is nonsense, except in that ours is the most special one yet. To the contrary, the idea of being a Savior is the most selfless, loving act. It is a descent to hell, enduring suffering and bleedings and taking all sins upon yourself for all of your brothers and sisters, (who by adoption seem to become your children.)

    Why does it follow that all must be Saviors? Because Christ could do nothing he did not see his Father before him do. Or, as I’ve heard some leader of old say (Cannot remember who) I would not ask anyone to do something that I would not do myself.

    I will be the first to admit that Adam-God taken alone tends to be un-Christian feeling, but when combined with the idea of MMP, it becomes intensely Christian, a very literal following in Christ’s footsteps, seeking to become like him, to emulate him in all ways.

    Just for fun, I will throw a statement by sci-fi writer and potential madman, L. Ron Hubbard in here (although I am certainly not endorsing him as a credible source of anything), “The man on the Cross. There was no Christ. But the man on the cross is shown as Everyman.”

    So, it seems that human thought or at least speech has occasionally veered toward this truth when permitted to do so.

    Removing Christ from where he never desired to place himself, recognizing him for who he truly was, and what he did for us, and then following his teachings is the best way to “Know” Christ, to fulfill the second part of “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”

    It is amazing that the process of knowing Jesus Christ, and knowing the only true God, also seems to involve becoming their counterparts in a future world. But, what better way to prepare to become such a counterpart, than to learn the Mind of the one you are emulating?

    ~Jeff

    Comment by Jeff Day — June 24, 2006 @ 11:58 am

  115. Jeff D,

    I agree with you that there seems to be far too much clear evidence that spirits can be deconstructed or dissolved to be ignored. Too many prophets have taught it for us to dismiss the idea. For that reason I have leaned toward the spirit-particles model in the past.

    But after the long thread we recently had on the nature of intelligences I also have to concede that the particles model has fatal flaws of its own (mostly because it does so much violence to the notion of personal identity). It seems to me that another variation wherein intelligences and spirits are essentially shells with unlimited potential in their irreducible form works better. Perhaps irreducible intelligences/spirits can upgrade continually (I compared them to a computer in this comment though I’m not sure how good that analogy is). This variation allows for something like a “dissolvable” notion of spirits in that an intelligence can upgrade or downgrade over time. That also avoids the problems of swallowed personal identities that are associated with the Orson Pratt model.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 24, 2006 @ 12:02 pm

  116. Geoff, the problem with your last response is that you didn’t make any counter arguments, you didn’t explain why I was wrong, you just said I was. That is not very helpful, it does not help me (or anyone) understand your position any better nor clear up any mistakes of our own.

    My previous argument is that the night after this life is not a night at all – we don’t lose our memories, just continue this life in a different venue. Our mortal birth is the only event we know of as being like a night where we go to sleep and wake up a new person without a memory of our former lives.

    I am saying that in general, losing memory is a *bad* thing, a necessary evil for certain purposes, which purpose I previously explained as entering into a family structure, the advantages of being genetically, linguistically, and culturally related to ones parents, and their ability to raise you from birth – of heritage in other words.

    Now that we have a family, why in the world would we want to get rid of it? All of temple and family history work, most of perfecting the saints is about being saved as eternal families – strengthening the bonds of matrimony and parenthood, and being sealed so we can live together forever. The problem with MMP is it makes temple work and family history inconsequential – instead of salvation as an ordered society, it dumps family and society for a new one, over and over again, making the doctrine of sealings a cruel joke.

    I dare say, that if anyone ever gets to the celestial kingdom, as a rule it will be through learning to get along with the family they had in this life. Why are sealings performed down here and not in heaven? Is it not because this is the proper venue? That what happened here is the prototype for the order in the celestial world? That as a rule the purpose of temple work is to preserve families as they are, and not re-make them from scratch whenever we feel like it. Why is divorce generally a sin, for example, if not for the value of preserving a marriage relationship *forever*?

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 24, 2006 @ 12:17 pm

  117. All the prophets except Joseph Smith, who with regard to *intelligence* taught rather the opposite. Spirit particles are fine, as long as personal identity doesn’t come into play.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 24, 2006 @ 12:19 pm

  118. Mark,

    I don’t understand where you are getting this idea of less permanent Eternal Families involved in conjunction with MMP. The sealing power is real. It determines who will be your Eve (or Eves). The way I see it, you are sealed here. If you are not sealed and perhaps if you do not have offspring, you rise again, and do become able to fulfill this, eventually (perhaps with the same spouse), then you are a Christ, then you are an Adam with your Eve (or each of your Eve’s, on a separate planet, perhaps). Then, you proceed into Elohim-Jehovahhood, which we know less about, but you get to be with your eternal family forever (which, as an extended family, includes all of the righteous human family). MMP in no way minimizes this concept. Sealing to spouse and children are essential to MMP, and eternal love exists strong and well.

    Comment by Jeff Day — June 24, 2006 @ 12:31 pm

  119. Jeff D., decelestializing is only a basic concept in Brigham Young’s theology – it was rejected as Mormon (LDS) theology from day one precisely because it conflicts with numerous scriptural accounts. In fact there is no scriptural evidence for it at all. Same problem with MMP. One often gets the impression that many of these early leaders didn’t bother to read the scriptures very much, or considered them a thing of naught, and instead tried to imagine a plan of salvation without reference to the scripture at all – notably with very little reference to Christ or the atonement, and the doctine of grace – they constructed grand theologies where the atonement was almost an afterthought, sort of a mechanical necessity, not the unifying principle of the gospel.

    They look radically Pelagian, because not only do they rarely talk about the role of Jesus Christ, his example for us, the principles of discipleship, they rarely talk about inter-personal relations at all. That is what I mean by the “its all about me” attitude – the perspective that salvation is all a matter of personal character development, and not about relationships with others. So we can throw away our family at any time, divorce as a matter of convenience, because we won’t have to deal with them in the next life anyway.

    Salvation is not primarily personal, it is collective. They can not be saved without us, neither we without them, etc. We should get away from the radical Pelagian individualism that infected too much of late nineteenth century LDS thought, and focus on the doctrine of eternal family relationships. MMP may have had prominent Mormon advocates, but as far as I can tell they didn’t think through the first principles of the temple or the Abrahamic covenant. So until someone can give me an idea of how to reconcile what we do in the temple with MMP I will consider it as having all the evidence weighing heavily against it, so ill informed it is not genuinely Mormon at all.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 24, 2006 @ 12:36 pm

  120. Jeff D., If you want to talk about Adam/God you should say so. A/G is not an MMP really, it is generally a 1.5MP, where the second probation really isn’t a probation, just a resolution of a boundary condition so a new world can get started. Being sealed to ones spouse is of limited value if your earthly children and your earthly parents are nowhere to be found. Same problem with theories that speak of one universe per exalted couple.

    We are supposed to live together as families, or properly speaking as one large exalted family, and that doesn’t work very well if parent-child relationships are immaterial or inconsequential.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 24, 2006 @ 12:41 pm

  121. Geoff,

    I just read your comment comparing it to computers, and I think the questions you posed underscore what I was attempting to say with words such as “Premortal Brain” and “Essence”, etc… which I attempted to express in this comment in “The Father has a Father” thread.

    I haven’t ever been dissolutioned of the Particles model in a significant way. I feel that the natural reading of Joseph’s statements is that spirit is a substance, and that that subtance itself is eternal, but that it can be manipulated, organized… I think we often forget that ALL things were organized spiritually before temporally, and that even trees, furniture and automobiles have “spirit” in them. This does not mean that their Spirit *identity* is eternal. I believe these “lesser objects”, and indeed, all matter, must follow the same rules as we do. It is unscientific in the extreme to suggest that the type of matter composing a human body is fundamentally different than the type of matter forming an animal body, or a plant body, or dirt.

    Comment by Jeff Day — June 24, 2006 @ 1:20 pm

  122. Mark,

    I wonder if you have a painfully naive view of Celestial societies. You seem to envision a Celestial sphere where there are massive families like great family reunions with elderly grandparents bouncing babies and toddlers on their knees. The problem is that there will be no old folks and no babies among the exalted. There will only be exalted persons who are all beginningless. Why wouldn’t it be more like a married student ward where there are no little children and every wife is 28 and beautiful and every husband is 28 and dashing? If Sarah and Stephanie are doing something together why will it matter if Sarah is Stephanie’s 482nd Great grandmother? They are both beginningless and they are both exalted and One with the Godhead — the only difference is that Sarah got sent to earth before Stephanie. Will 28-year-old-looking-but-really-beginningless Lisa be constantly turning to 28-year-old-looking-but-really-beginningless Elizabeth, her earthly mother or grandmother, for advice in this society you envision or something?

    Look, I don’t think that is a real picture of exaltation but it is more likely than this family reunion idea that permeates much of LDS thought and that you seem to be heavily leaning on.

    That is what I mean by the “its all about me” attitude – the perspective that salvation is all a matter of personal character development, and not about relationships with others

    This is an utterly ridiculous accusation. Name one 19th century apostle or prophet who taught that we should focus on ourselves to the exclusion of our relationships with other people. The entire idea is an oxymoron and another example of the laughable straw men you keep pulling out in this conversation.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 24, 2006 @ 1:22 pm

  123. Mark: If you want to talk about Adam/God you should say so. A/G is not an MMP really

    Good point Mark. I would like to keep discussions of the merits or lack thereof of MMP separate from A/G discussions. I happen to think Brigham was mistaken with regard to A/G but perhaps not so with MMP.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 24, 2006 @ 1:30 pm

  124. “One often gets the impression that many of these early leaders didn’t bother to read the scriptures very much, or considered them a thing of naught, and instead tried to imagine a plan of salvation without reference to the scripture at all”

    What a horrid sin indeed, that when the strength and wisdom of man failed, they would turn to that inexhaustible supply above, yielded to us through the power of prayer, rather than turn to the largely misunderstood and long debated pages of the books of antiquity.

    Joseph himself said, “for the teachers of religion of the different sects understood the same passages of scripture so differently as to destroy all confidence in settling the question by an appeal to the Bible” and the Book of Mormon warns us that “many of the Gentiles shall say: A Bible! A Bible! We have got a Bible, and there cannot be any more Bible.” Well, where do you expect that more Bible comes from?

    If revelation is given by God to the Prophet, and taught to the people, and if the Spirit of God validates this teaching to them, there is nothing written in any book that can subvert its truth. The people may reject it, they may choose to do whatever they please, so far as their mortal body permits them to, but truth remains truth with or without their support. The argument that “it was rejected as Mormon (LDS) theology from day one precisely because it conflicts with numerous scriptural accounts” is a dangerous argument, and Brigham said:

    “Some one may ask me for the proof for my statements, and may enquire whether it is in the Bible; yes, every word of it. I could prove it every word from that book, but I do not need to go to the Bible, my scripture is within me.”

    Comment by Jeff Day — June 24, 2006 @ 1:32 pm

  125. Jeff: I think the questions you posed underscore what I was attempting to say with words such as “Premortal Brain” and “Essence”, etc… which I attempted to express in this comment in “The Father has a Father” thread.

    Yes, I remember that comment. I think you were hitting on some important questions there.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 24, 2006 @ 1:33 pm

  126. Geoff, Now you are making unnecessary stereotypes again – I do think heaven is organized according the patriarchal order, but that doesn’t mean it is a day at the park. I have the whole thrust of scripture and temple ordinance with me.

    Let us start with Adam, the one the scriptures tell us about. It is always worth remembering that scripture ranks higher than sermon, even for Joseph Smith himself – he spent years making sure the revelations were recorded just right, correcting some of his own mistakes sometimes. Most of Joseph Smith’s revelations were prompted from studying the scriptures and his understanding of them grew as time went on, where Brigham Young thought very little of them. Joseph Smith could hardly open his mouth without a paraphase of scripture coming out, where Brigham Young was not that way at all. Joseph Smith is still the gold standard for prophecy, even in his unedited speeches, where Brigham Young has a reputation for being a loose cannon, one whose words cannot be reconciled with the scriptures that Joseph Smith restored. A Prophet from whom not a scrap of revelation was ever canonized, who practically created the neo-orthodox reaction singlehandedly.

    If scripture wasn’t important we would not have a Book of Mormon or a Doctrine and Covenants – in fact a bunch of early members were opposed to having the D&C printed for that very reason – they wanted to have as little binding revelation as possible.

    Now here is what Joseph Smith tells us about Adam and the Patriarchal Priesthood:

    It is the duty of the Twelve, in all large branches of the church, to ordain evangelical ministers, as they shall be designated unto them by revelation- The order of this priesthood was confirmed to be handed down from father to son, and rightly belongs to the literal descendants of the chosen seed, to whom the promises were made.

    This order was instituted in the days of Adam, and came down by lineage in the following manner: From Adam to Seth, who was ordained by Adam at the age of sixty-nine years, and was blessed by him three years previous to his (Adam’s) death, and received the promise of God by his father, that his posterity should be the chosen of the Lord, and that they should be preserved unto the end of the earth; Because he (Seth) was a perfect man, and his likeness was the express likeness of his father, insomuch that he seemed to be like unto his father in all things, and could be distinguished from him only by his age. Enos was ordained at the age of one hundred and thirty-four years and four months, by the hand of Adam.

    God called upon Cainan in the wilderness in the fortieth year of his age; and he met Adam in journeying to the place Shedolamak. He was eighty-seven years old when he received his ordination. Mahalaleel was four hundred and ninety-six years and seven days old when he was ordained by the hand of Adam, who also blessed him. Jared was two hundred years old when he was ordained under the hand of Adam, who also blessed him.

    Enoch was twenty-five years old when he was ordained under the hand of Adam; and he was sixty-five and Adam blessed him. And he saw the Lord, and he walked with him, and was before his face continually; and he walked with God three hundred and sixty-five years, making him four hundred and thirty years old when he was translated. Methuselah was one hundred years old when he was ordained under the hand of Adam. Lamech was thirty-two years old when he was ordained under the hand of Seth. Noah was ten years old when he was ordained under the hand of Methuselah.

    Three years previous to the death of Adam, he called Seth, Enos, Cainan, Mahalaleel, Jared, Enoch, and Methuselah, who were all high priests, with the residue of his posterity who were righteous, into the valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman, and there bestowed upon them his last blessing.

    And the Lord appeared unto them, and they rose up and blessed Adam, and called him Michael, the prince, the archangel. And the Lord administered comfort unto Adam, and said unto him: I have set thee to be at the head; a multitude of nations shall come of thee, and thou art a prince over them forever.

    And Adam stood up in the midst of the congregation; and, notwithstanding he was bowed down with age, being full of the Holy Ghost, predicted whatsoever should befall his posterity unto the latest generation. These things were all written in the book of Enoch, and are to be testified of in due time.
    (D&C 107:39-57)

    Now the first obvious thing about this priesthood is naturally fathers preside over their descendants, down through the generations – it properly belongs to the chosen see, unto whom the promises were made, i.e. just like the Abrahamic Covenant. Remember Elijah, who shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made unto the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers, and if were not so the whole earth should be utterly wasted at his coming.

    Sounds like those parent child relationships going back to Adam are pretty important to me, without the earth will be wasted. Sounds like the primary purpose of this life is to form and preserve those family relationships.

    Now just before Adam died, and several times before he blessed various of his children, in fact most of the primary line from Seth to Enoch to Noah and Methusaleh. We have Patriarchs do the same thing now, usually on a Stake basis. Patriarchs also, just like Adam, can give patriarchal blessings to their own lineal descendants.

    My grandfather was a Patriarch in a different state, but he was able to give me and most of my brothers and sisters their patriarchal blessings. If Adam, or Abraham, or Isaac, or Jacob were here they could have done it, assuming the were not swamped with requests, because their patriarchal priesthood extends over their lineal and adopted descendants in the same way.

    Now notice that all the faithful descendants of Adam and Eve gathered in a grand *family reunion* at Adam-ondi-ahman just before Adam died, and he bestowed on them his last blessing and prophesied concerning their future down to the latest generation. That is the Patriarchal order.

    And his descendants rose up and called him Michael, the prince, the archangel. Michael = one who is like unto God, prince = son of royal blood, the archangel = head angel. Curious how they did not confuse him with Heavenly Father, or pray to him, or anything like that. They respected him as the Ancient of Days, their patriarch, the first among equals, the father with the highest seniority who presided over them all by the patrilineal line.

    Skipping to the Pearl of Great Price, notice that the Lord promised unto Enoch that a remnant of the seed of Noah (and hence Enoch’s seed) would be found among all nations while the earth should stand – and Noah wasn’t even born yet. Why should Enoch care? Why does it matter whether he has *descendants* on the earth or not?

    Methusaleh likewise prophesied that from his loins should spring all the nations of the earth (through Noah) and took glory unto himself? Why should he care?

    And of course the flood came, and at least that part of the earth was wiped out, and the chosen seed, eight people, Noah, his three sons, and their wives were saved.

    So along comes Abraham, and what does he want? To receive the blessings given unto the fathers, to be a greater follower of righteousness, and to possess a greater knowledge, to be a *father* of many nations, and a prince of peace, a rightful heir, and a High Priest.

    Notice Abraham’s conception of the priesthood – first of all to be a rightful *heir*, i.e. a *prince*, to possess a greater knowledge (e.g. the endowment), to be a High Priest – a servant of others, and to be a *father* of many nations, i.e. a Patriarch.

    And of course as he is proven faithful he is promised all these things – notably that his seed (sound familiar?) will be *multiplied* as the stars of the heaven and the sands on the seashore, that they will come to possess the gate of their enemies, and through them all the nations of the earth will be blessed. And of course the he would eventually inherit the land of Canaan.

    Now Sarah understood this too, and she understood that the choicest blessings were made through her, the proper wife, and that is why she was so jealous for Isaac.

    And of course we get Isaac, and Jacob, and the Twelve tribes of Israel, and the promised blessings made unto them, notably Joseph who received the birthright even though he was the second youngest son (actually not only because he was righteous, but because he was the first son of the wife Jacob thought he marrying the first time(Rachael)).

    And notice the words of his blessing:

    Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall: The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him:

    But his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob; (from thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel:) Even by the God of thy father, who shall help thee; and by the Almighty, who shall bless thee with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lieth under, blessings of the breasts, and of the womb:

    The blessings of thy father have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills: they shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him that was separate from his brethren.
    (Genesis 50:22-26)

    Now notice where Joseph gets his blessings – he inherits them from his father, and his father Jacob’s blessings have “prevailed above the blessings of [his] progenitors”. Now if you remember traditionally the birthright son gets a double inheritance, well Joseph’s was a little more than that. His two sons (Ephraim and Manasseh) inherited the whole new world, through their descendants – truly a fruitful bow that crossed over a wall.

    And we have people working night and day in the temple to preserve this patriarchal priesthood, aware of the promises made unto the fathers, and turning their hearts unto the fathers, performing proxy sealing ordinances, so that they can gain a rightful inheritance in the Kingdom of God, and so the Patriarchal priesthood of their fathers may be
    preserved in the world to come.

    Therefore, thus saith the Lord unto you, with whom the priesthood hath continued through the lineage of your fathers- For ye are lawful heirs, according to the flesh, and have been hid from the world with Christ in God-

    Therefore your life and the priesthood have remained, and must needs remain through you and your lineage until the restoration of all things spoken by the mouths of all the holy prophets since the world began.

    Therefore, blessed are ye if ye continue in my goodness, a light unto the Gentiles, and through this priesthood, a savior unto my people Israel. The Lord hath said it. Amen.
    (D&C 86:8-11)

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 24, 2006 @ 5:29 pm

  127. My mistake – I forgot about D&C 136, the Camp of Israel revelation. I still think, like the Church authorities since Joseph F. Smith, that the Adam-God thing was a horrible mistake. It didn’t even make it into the Journal of Discourses in Brigham Young’s own time, even though the speech was delivered in General Conference on October 8, 1854. Brigham Young never published it separately either. Sad, sad story.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 24, 2006 @ 5:38 pm

  128. Mark: The problem with MMP is it makes temple work and family history inconsequential – instead of salvation as an ordered society, it dumps family and society for a new one, over and over again, making the doctrine of sealings a cruel joke.

    No it doesn’t. There is space between death and resurrection and the work in the temple is for those who missed the earthly ordinances to accept them in the spirit world prior to judgment/resurrection. No one enters Celestial glory without first living a Celestial law after all — no one. Even the sealing of parents to children cannot change that. Lehi being sealed to Laman will not exalt Laman so I am not sure what you are hoping such sealings will do. Even in the MToE model there is no continuation of that familial relationship for the members of families who are not exalted.

    One possibility I have considered if MMP is accurate though is that when someone is exalted they are finished with regular mortal probations. Yet they remain sealed to non-exalted persons. Therefore the non-exalted persons would enter another probation with the level of opportunities there based on their probation here but the exalted family members would not be part of the extended Godhead. The mortal would have no memory of their former life but the exalted person would remember their loved one who failed to live the Celestial law. It seems inevitable that the exalted ones would pay special attention to their loved ones in the new probation and do anything they could as part of the extended Godhead to encourage, persuade, strengthen, and prompt the mortal to come unto Christ and be perfected in him. That means if MMP is accurate we are likely already sealed to members of the extended Godhead and perhaps they are acting as guardian angels of sorts for us — or even as the specific delegates from God that we personally know as “the Spirit”.

    It’s all speculation, I know. But I find it a comforting and plausible type of speculation. And it is actually somewhat in line with your views on “distributed atonement” I think.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 24, 2006 @ 5:40 pm

  129. Mark,

    I kept assuming you would be making a point related to my position in your comment #126 but I don’t think you ever did. What does the fact that Adam or Enoch or Abraham passed priesthood and blessings on to their descendants have to do with the society of exalted persons?

    The primary purpose and mission of individuals on earth is to come unto Christ and be perfected in him. That means exaltation requires us to live the law of the Celestial kingdom (including the law of consecration). The primary purpose and mission of parents in life is to teach and inspire their children to do the same. As I mentioned in #128, being sealed to someone who is exalted will not exalt anyone. I bring this up because you seem to think our extended families here are some eternal end rather than means to our exaltation. I think you are wrong in that assumption.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 24, 2006 @ 6:23 pm

  130. Geoff, No I definitely do not believe in irresistable grace of any kind, notably that related to sealings. That is a bit of a heresy in the Church, one President Faust was trying to clear up recently.

    I am suggesting however, that among other things, if people who inherit the telestial and terrestial kingdoms ever make it to the celestial they will do it (in general) sealed by proxy to the persons they were married to or children of in this life. A family is a terrible thing to waste.

    Now the purpose behind quoting all those scriptures is to give support for oft discussed idea that the kingdom of heaven is organized according to the patriarchal order. What that means in practice, is that one cannot be exalted until the person one is sealed to as a child is exalted, and so on back to Adam. This is the order of the resurrection, among other things. Now of course Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob have entered into their exaltations, so we can safely conclude that their fathers and mothers going back to Adam and Eve have been resurrected and exalted as well.

    The reason is that Jacob’s place in the kingdom of heaven, is as Isaac’s son, and Isaac’s place or inheritance, is as Abraham’s son, and so on back to Adam, who is an (adopted?) son of God. Remember the part about the earth being wasted if temple work is not done?

    Well the reason is that no one can be resurrected properly until their righteous forebears have been resurrected. Their place in the celestial kingdom, their eternal inheritance, their birthright *literally* comes through the line of their fathers (or husband and husband’s fathers in the case of a married woman). No birthright, no authority, no exaltation. Nearly all the work in the temple (beyond baptism for the dead and gift of the Holy Ghost) is to establish that celestial family organization, so that in the resurrection we may be lawful heirs according to the promise given to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Unless we are sealed to them we cannot inherit that promise.

    Some gaps will be closed by adoption of course, but ultimately all priesthood authority, all divine authority will come down the patriarchal line. That is why Abraham and Sarah are a King and Queen, because they preside over us, and we rise up to acknowledge them as our father and mother. The way we say we are serious of course is to do the sealing ordinances establishing that chain of inheritance, so that the family of Abraham here will be preserved there. Same with all our patrilineal ancestors going back to Adam, and Adam by adoption to God.

    Now have you ever wondered where Christ fits in this picture? Well there are a few possibilities. Adam may be sealed to Jesus Christ, or Jesus Christ may possibly have his own independent descendancy. However the doctrine of Christ is that he is the exemplar of ever person in the whole chart, that when we take upon ourselves his name, we enter into the pattern of the eternities, as anointed sons and daughters of God. First generation sons and daughters? No, but sons and daughters according to the promise, receiving our blessings in the eternities through the Abrahamic covenant. Thus we cannot be exalted without them (our fathers and mothers), nor they without us.

    So have you ever wondered why Elder McConkie was so adamant that we not pray to Jesus Christ, nor establish a personal relationship with him? I suggest the answer is that Jesus of Nazareth is not our Heavenly Father, that when we pray we do it in the *name* of Christ (i.e. anointed one), and address our Heavenly Father, a role that changes as our patrilineal fathers get exalted, until at the last someday our earthly father will *be* our Heavenly Father, representing the Eternal Father(s) by corporate investiture, unto us and the rest of his patrilineal descendants. That is what the temple and everything we know about the patriarchal priesthood strongly suggests.

    Let me quote a few scriptures:

    For whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods of which I have spoken, and the magnifying their calling, are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies.

    They become the sons of Moses and of Aaron and the seed of Abraham, and the church and kingdom, and the elect of God.
    (D&C 84:33-34)

    Therefore, thus saith the Lord unto you, with whom the priesthood hath continued through the lineage of your fathers- For ye are lawful heirs, according to the flesh, and have been hid from the world with Christ in God-

    Therefore your life and the priesthood have remained, and must needs remain through you and your lineage until the restoration of all things spoken by the mouths of all the holy prophets since the world began.

    Therefore, blessed are ye if ye continue in my goodness, a light unto the Gentiles, and through this priesthood, a savior unto my people Israel. The Lord hath said it. Amen.
    (D&C 86:8-11)

    What is meant by the command in Isaiah, 52d chapter, 1st verse, which saith: Put on thy strength, O Zion-and what people had Isaiah reference to?

    He had reference to those whom God should call in the last days, who should hold the power of priesthood to bring again Zion, and the redemption of Israel; and to put on her strength is to put on the authority of the priesthood, which she, Zion, has a right to by lineage; also to return to that power which she had lost.
    (D&C 113:7-8)

    When the Savior shall appear we shall see him as he is. We shall see that he is a man like ourselves. And that same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there, only it will be coupled with eternal glory, which glory we do not now enjoy.
    (D&C 130:1-2)

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 24, 2006 @ 7:51 pm

  131. Mark: I am suggesting however, that among other things, if people who inherit the telestial and terrestial kingdoms ever make it to the celestial they will do it (in general) sealed by proxy to the persons they were married to or children of in this life. A family is a terrible thing to waste.

    As I mentioned in #128 & 129, MMP is simply way to flesh out the method by which progress between kingdoms is accomplished in the eternities. That is why I said it can be seen as a complement to some of your theories rather than competition.

    Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob have entered into their exaltations, so we can safely conclude that their fathers and mothers going back to Adam and Eve have been resurrected and exalted as well.

    This is an odd thing to say. We can’t safely conclude that. In fact the records show Terah to be a wicked idolater so the odds of him being exalted are very low. That could very well apply to several other generations before Terah. Your insistence that one must be sealed to an exalted mortal forebear to be exalted seems unfounded to me. Where does it say such a sealing is required? Unless you are talking about the long term plan of sealing all of the families of earth I don’t think this assertion holds any water.

    Jacob’s place in the kingdom of heaven, is as Isaac’s son, and Isaac’s place or inheritance, is as Abraham’s son

    Says who? I mean are you getting back to the family reunion thing where beginningless exalted persons have to call each other dad and grandpa and whatnot because one got sent to earth before the other? I think it is more likely that we will all call God the Father our father and recognize one another as brothers and sisters whom we deeply love.

    Well the reason is that no one can be resurrected properly until their righteous forebears have been resurrected.

    Dude, now you’re just making this stuff up aren’t you?

    Unless we are sealed to them (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) we cannot inherit that promise.

    When are we sealed to them? I think we are promised their blessings if we keep the same covenants they are asked to keep and as such we figuratively become their sons but I don’t recall us being specifically “sealed” to them like we are to our direct earthly forbears.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 24, 2006 @ 9:46 pm

  132. Geoff: As I mentioned in #128 & 129, MMP is simply way to flesh out the method by which progress between kingdoms is accomplished in the eternities.

    We have gone back and forth on this point several times, but I don’t know if I’ve ever explained very clearly why your explanation on this does not seem compelling to me. The problem for me is that your MMP model implies rather directly that reaching exaltation requires a lot of mortal probations. After all, this model helps you explain “what we have been doing forever,” by which you seem to mean that we have been going through mortal probations for a long long time.

    Now, that view leads inevitably to the idea that we have had millions of mortal probations. Now, if that is true, then the following conclusion also seems inevitable: the likelyhood that one of us will break the cycle by gaining exaltation on the same mortal probation that our wife and kids (from that probation) is infinitesimally small.

    Now, you are arguing that this is okay because the person who is exalted will continue to “look after” his family who has not yet gained exaltation. The problem is that there are millions of such families.
    By the time we all become exalted, we will all have been sealed to each other in some relationship or another, at some time or another, and there is no reason to think any of these relationships is more relevant than any other (hence, Mark’s last sentence of #111). This seems to me to undermine the importance of the family as the organization of heaven in a very direct way.

    I cannot see, on your model, why we would want to spend untold effort sealing the whole human family together when that organization will be essentially irrelevant in the eternities. If you want to say there are two or three mortal probations, your explanation is possible, but if this is what we’ve been doing “forever” then I don’t think your response helps much at all.

    Comment by Jacob — June 24, 2006 @ 10:21 pm

  133. Geoff,

    By the way, doesn’t MMP fall prey to the same argument you always use against the standard model as far as “what we have been doing forever”? You always complain that if we have existed forever, then why have we not progressed already, or why is eternity plus 70 years just enough time to become exalted. If I have been going round in mortal probations “forever” (#113), then why have I not made it yet, or why is an eternity of mortal probations plus one more “just right”?

    Of course, I think your argument is bad in the first place, but your argument works equally well against MMP as anything else.

    Comment by Jacob — June 24, 2006 @ 10:36 pm

  134. If Terah did not repent sufficiently in the spirit world before Jesus Christ was resurrected ~2000 years later, then Abraham would have been adopted by someone else, perhaps Melchizedek, to whom Abraham paid tithes.

    Says Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, the Law of Adoption, the Old Testament, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the temple ordinances, if you pay attention. I will dig up a few more quotes – this was widely discussed from the Nauvoo period all the way to roughly the presidency of Wilford Woodruff.

    Brigham Young talked about the order of resurrection in particular, the only interesting part is the way Joseph Smith was placed as dispensation leader, and then lots of other men had themselves sealed to Joseph Smith or Brigham Young, as sons. Wilford Woodruff was inspired to put a stop to abuses of the law of adoption in favor of being sealed to ones regular parents, known faithful or not.

    We are not directly sealed to Abraham, we are *transitively* sealed to Abraham, through the patrilineal line. And of course on back to Adam. And if any of those fathers or mothers are not worthy they will fall from their exaltation, like David, and another will be called and sealed in their place, either by skipping a generation or some other form of grafting in – Jesus says I am the vine and ye are the branches – the metaphor is all over the Old Testament – if someone is wicked they are plucked and cast into the fire, and a righteous branch is grafted into their place.

    And a branch consists not of a single person, but rather of a whole family. The sins of the fathers are visited upon the heads of the children because they corrupt their descendants through their bad example and false traditions. Note that Jesus Christ is known as the “stem of Jesse”, others (possibly Christ in some cases) are known as the “rod” (stick), “root of Jesse”, “the Branch”, and so on.

    The ultimate punishment in the Old Testament is to be cut off (i.e. pruned) leaving neither root nor branch, i.e. neither father nor descendants. Note that Lucifer was cast down into the pit like an “abominable branch”, the rest of the branch signifying those who followed him, who effectively adopted him as their Father, as the Savior said.

    Note the judgment that Malachi prophesies upon the wicked, in the very same chapter that he prophesies of the return of Elijah to turn the hearts of the children to their fathers, so the whole earth will not be wasted at his coming:

    For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.

    But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall. And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the LORD of hosts.

    Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.
    Malachi 4:1-3,5-6)

    So how will the wicked be “ashes” under our feet in that day? Will it not because their kingdom (families) will be thrown down? That their branches will be cut off and cast into the fire to be burned? And righteous branches grafted in their place?

    Listen to the words of Paul, Apostle unto the Gentiles:

    For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches. And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in.

    Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee.

    Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to graff them in again.

    For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree?

    For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.
    And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:
    (Romans 11:16-26)

    Now realistically, how do you think these grafts happen, except by marriage and adoption, ultimately sealed in the Holy Temple?

    This scripture in Exodus refers to the instruction in Israel to have their first born sons dedicated to God:

    Thou shalt not delay to offer the first of thy ripe fruits, and of thy liquors: the firstborn of thy sons shalt thou give unto me.
    (Exodus 22:29)

    Remember Samuel? Of course the ultimate example is Jesus Christ, who is also the first fruits of the resurrection. Now where do fruits grow on a branch? At the tips of a branch or sub-branch / twig right? So the first born son, the heir to the birthright of whatever branch he is on, is the first fruits of the extended family, heir to the throne, the prince. Of course Jesus Christ is first because he is the Only Begotten of the Father, and so he is resurrected *first*, and then Adam, and a bunch of others, definitely including Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob, Leah, and Rachel.

    Brigham Young taught that resurrection is an ordinance, i.e. you need someone to come resurrect you, and that generally wives are resurrected by their husbands, and then the husband resurrects his sons, unmarried daughters and the pattern continues according to the patriarchal order. He also said that no one from this dispensation would get resurrected without Joseph Smith’s permission – consider it a recommend to perform a “living” ordinance.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 24, 2006 @ 10:52 pm

  135. Mark #127, you said “it didn’t even make it into the Journal of Discourses during Brigham Young’s own time”, (it meaning Adam-God). I do not understand your meaning here? The publication date of Volume 1 was in 1854. The sermon was delivered in 1852. At one point I carefully figured it out, and I found Adam-God referenced in some way or another in at least the first Seven volumes of the Journal, or so. (I could do this research again and cite if requested.) “During Brigham Young’s own time” is up to August 29, 1877, which means “Adam-God” was “in print” for twenty three years of his life. Am I missing something here?

    Comment by Jeff Day — June 24, 2006 @ 11:15 pm

  136. Jacob: The problem is that there are millions of such families.

    I’m not sure why this would be a problem even if it were true. No one is exalted without being filled with charity after all and charity means being filled with the pure love of Christ for all humankind to begin with. But I doubt that such would be the case anyway. It seems likely to me that we only end up sealed to our families in mortality after we have progressed to the point where we accept the fullness of the gospel in mortality anyway — after we have merited being called noble and great ones. So it is not like we would be sealed to huge numbers of people in any case.

    This seems to me to undermine the importance of the family as the organization of heaven in a very direct way.

    You read my #122 right? Other than our marriage sealing how do you envision “family as the organization of heaven” working? How do those who were forever our peers and siblings suddenly become our parents or grandparents when we already have a Heavenly Father we both acknowledge? And why would being born first make one of us superior to another in some patriarchal hierarchy there?

    Also, I have already spent a lot of time shooting down the MToE version of progression between kingdoms you have loosely held to. Do you have a better explanation of the mechanics of that yet? — One that works better than MMP at least?

    why we would want to spend untold effort sealing the whole human family together when that organization will be essentially irrelevant in the eternities.

    It is not irrelevant in the eternities. It seems to me that such previous sealings combined with personal righteousness in the pre-mortal spheres probably combined to affect the time and place and circumstance each of us was born in here.

    And it is possible that there are only a few probations for some or a lot for all — I don’t know for sure if any of this model is even accurate after all. I just feel that it is the best of the models I have heard.

    doesn’t MMP fall prey to the same argument you always use against the standard model as far as “what we have been doing forever”?

    You are right that MMP does not solve the problems associated with comprehending eternity. That is a separate issue that plagues us all I think and therefore I should not have worded things that way. But MMP does do a better job of explaining what we have been doing leading up to this life and what the kingdoms of glory will probably be like after this life than any of the other models I am aware of.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 24, 2006 @ 11:19 pm

  137. Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.

    And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

    The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.
    (Psalm 1:1-6)

    The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.

    Those that be planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing;
    (Psalm 92:12-14)

    For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant: and he looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry.
    (Isaiah 5:7)

    Shall the axe boast itself against him that heweth therewith? or shall the saw magnify itself against him that shaketh it? as if the rod should shake itself against them that lift it up, or as if the staff should lift up itself, as if it were no wood.

    Therefore shall the Lord, the Lord of hosts, send among his fat ones leanness; and under his glory he shall kindle a burning like the burning of a fire.

    And the light of Israel shall be for a fire, and his Holy One for a flame: and it shall burn and devour his thorns and his briers in one day;

    And shall consume the glory of his forest, and of his fruitful field, both soul and body: and they shall be as when a standardbearer fainteth. And the rest of the trees of his forest shall be few, that a child may write them.

    Behold, the Lord, the LORD of hosts, shall lop the bough with terror: and the high ones of stature shall be hewn down, and the haughty shall be humbled. And he shall cut down the thickets of the forest with iron, and Lebanon shall fall by a mighty one.
    (Isaiah 10:15-19,33-34)

    And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD;
    (Isaiah 11:1-2)

    And in that day it shall come to pass, that the glory of Jacob shall be made thin, and the fatness of his flesh shall wax lean.

    And it shall be as when the harvestman gathereth the corn, and reapeth the ears with his arm; and it shall be as he that gathereth ears in the valley of Rephaim.

    Yet gleaning grapes shall be left in it, as the shaking of an olive tree, two or three berries in the top of the uppermost bough, four or five in the outmost fruitful branches thereof, saith the LORD God of Israel.
    (Isaiah 17:4-6)

    Remember these, O Jacob and Israel; for thou art my servant: I have formed thee; thou art my servant: O Israel, thou shalt not be forgotten of me. I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins: return unto me; for I have redeemed thee.

    Sing, O ye heavens; for the LORD hath done it: shout, ye lower parts of the earth: break forth into singing, ye mountains, O forest, and every tree therein: for the LORD hath redeemed Jacob, and glorified himself in Israel.
    (Isaiah 44:21-23)

    For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

    Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree: and it shall be to the LORD for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.
    (Isaiah 55:12-13)

    And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the LORD. As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the LORD; My spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, saith the LORD, from henceforth and for ever.
    (Isaiah 59:20-21)

    Thy sun shall no more go down; neither shall thy moon withdraw itself: for the LORD shall be thine everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended.

    Thy people also shall be all righteous: they shall inherit the land for ever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I may be glorified. A little one shall become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation: I the LORD will hasten it in his time.
    (Isaiah 60:20-22)

    The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;

    To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.
    (Isaiah 61:1-3)

    Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud, thou that didst not travail with child: for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, saith the LORD.

    Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations: spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes; For thou shalt break forth on the right hand and on the left; and thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles, and make the desolate cities to be inhabited.
    (Isaiah 54:1-3)

    That should be adequate to establish the semantics of plants, vines, trees, roots, thorns, briers, cedars, and so on. This is all about *family* – that is why the symbol was chosen, you have righteous branches, thorny branches, proud branches, and so on. The cedars (proud families) are humbled, the thorny branches (wicked families) are burnt up – reducing them to ashes (individuals), the sap flows along family lines, Christ is the stem of Jesse, the vine through whom the spirit flows, as well as a symbol of all righteous stems, and so on.

    The righteous are fruitful branches – i.e. they have righteous children (sub branches, who produce good fruit unto the season, sometimes the children apostasize, *ripen* in inquity and the whole nation (branch) is cut off and cast into the fire.

    The righteous branches are preserved, the wicked are burned – i.e. they lose their kingdom and inheritance, because their family relationships (and other improper relationships) are destroyed.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 24, 2006 @ 11:40 pm

  138. Jeff D., The *locus classicus* for Adam-God is an extremely detailed (and unpublished) sermon Brigham Young delivered in General Conference on October 8, 1854. Here is a link:

    http://www.xmission.com/~country/by/100854_2.htm

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 24, 2006 @ 11:43 pm

  139. Mark (#134): Wilford Woodruff was inspired to put a stop to abuses of the law of adoption in favor of being sealed to ones regular parents, known faithful or not.

    And yet you are here trying to resurrect this doctrine… I suspect it was stopped because it is a bunch of baloney. I further suspect that the practice was driven by the hope that being sealed to an exalted “father” would somehow improve their chances of being exalted too. As we have both agreed — that is a false doctrine. One must live the Celestial law before inheriting Celestial glory.

    Look, we become the sons of Christ by following him. We do that by making and keeping the covenants he has revealed. I take it by your silence on me calling you out on saying “no one can be resurrected properly until their righteous forebears have been resurrected” that you really were just making that up. You are trying to make the adoption some crucial part of our exaltation and it doesn’t work. Christ mocked such attitudes when he said he could turn stones into the seed of Abraham. It is the righteous who he appreciates and blesses and only those who live the Celestial law are exalted. They are exalted because of living that law not because they were assigned an exalted adopted parent — any “adoption” is secondary and largely symbolic in my opinion. I think you are seriously putting the cart before the horse in your theology on this one Mark.

    Now realistically, how do you think these grafts happen, except by marriage and adoption, ultimately sealed in the Holy Temple?

    The grafting happens when we exercise faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repent, are baptized by one with the proper authority, and receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost. The grafting remains viable as we endure to the end.

    Brigham Young taught that…

    You have spent most of this thread calling Brigham an unreliable “loose cannon” who never read his scriptures. The irony of you running to him when you think it suits you is rich.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 24, 2006 @ 11:47 pm

  140. Modern day commentary on the Patriarchal Order, from a paper by Robert L. Millet:

    The Patriarchal Order Anciently

    From the days of Adam, the Melchizedek Priesthood was administered under the patriarchal order. Elder Bruce R. McConkie has written: “Adam, our father, the first man, is the presiding high priest over the earth for all ages. The government the Lord gave him was patriarchal, and from the expulsion from Eden to the cleansing of the earth by water in the day of Noah, the righteous portion of mankind were blessed and governed by a patriarchal theocracy.

    “This theocratic system, patterned after the order and system that prevailed in heaven, was the government of God. He himself, though dwelling in heaven, was the Lawgiver, Judge, and King. He gave direction in all things both civil and ecclesiastical; there was no separation of church and state as we know it. All governmental affairs were directed, controlled, and regulated from on high. The Lord’s legal administrators on earth served by virtue of their callings and ordinations in the Holy Priesthood and as they were guided by the power of the Holy Ghost.”(13)

    Elder Erastus Snow further noted that “Adam was the first man appointed of God as the ruler of the earth; to him it was said, Thou shalt have dominion over the earth and over the things therein. And as he began to multiply and replenish the earth, and as his children and their families increased in the land, there was a right of dominion given; it was called the birth-right, and it belongs to the first-born of the sons. And this seems to have been an order existing in the heavens even before Adam. For it is written of Jesus, the Lamb of God, that he was the first-born of many brethren. Moreover, his rights of dominion as the first-born continued with him because he loved righteousness and hated iniquity.”

    President Ezra Taft Benson, in an address delivered at the Logan Temple Centennial in May of 1984, said: “The temple is a sacred place, and the ordinances in the temple are of a sacred character. Because of its sacredness we are sometimes reluctant to say anything about the temple to our children and grandchildren. As a consequence, many do not develop a real desire to go to the temple, or when they go there, they do so without much background to prepare them for the obligations and covenants they enter into. I believe a proper understanding or background will immeasurably help prepare our youth for the temple. This understanding, I believe, will foster within them a desire to seek their priesthood blessings just as Abraham sought his

    To enter into the order of the Son of God is the equivalent today of entering into the fulness of the Melchizedek Priesthood, which is only received in the house of the Lord. Because Adam and Eve had complied with these requirements, God said to them, ‘Thou art after the order of him who was without beginning of days or end of years, from all eternity to all eternity’ (Moses 6:67).(8) Jehovah spoke to the Ancient of Days: ‘I have set thee to be at the head; a multitude of nations shall come of thee, and thou art a prince over them forever’ (D&C 107:55). Truly, as John Taylor proclaimed, ‘Adam was the natural father of his posterity, who were his family and over whom he presided as patriarch, prophet, priest, and king.'”(9)
    [End ETB quote]

    Robert L. Millet, Restoring the Patriarchal Order, BYU Family Expo, 1998, italics added.
    (http://ce.byu.edu/cw/cwfamily/archives/1998/Robert.L.Millet.pdf)

    Convinced yet?

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 24, 2006 @ 11:59 pm

  141. Even loose cannons shoot straight much of the time. Brigham Young was wildly uneven. Where he is most reliable is what he learned from Joseph Smith directly. If what he says does not have a precedent in Joseph Smith, it is rarely echoed by later prophets.

    If you read Brigham Young’s talks you will notice that his reference to the scriptures is relatively rare, a striking difference from Joseph Smith and John Taylor. He specifically said he thought very little of the Bible. We have the opposite opinion today, because we understand it better – Joseph Smith certainly had little problem with it.

    In short, Brigham Young appears to be operating on borrowed light – and in most respects he did a good job of it. But what can you say about the only President of the Church to have his most cherished doctrines ignored, denied, denounced, and overturned by later Presidents of the Church from Joseph F. Smith onward, who practically ignored his own Council of the Twelve?

    It is practically Church *doctrine* that Brigham Young was *wrong* in a big way on Adam-God, blood atonement, Blacks and the priesthood, and half a dozen other things that are cherished by ‘fundamentalist’ spin off groups.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 25, 2006 @ 12:11 am

  142. One more quote from Robert Millet, same source:

    And so with the coming of heavenly messengers to the Kirtland Temple, the ancient order of things was restored to earth. The order in which Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah were a part, even those keys and powers and rights are once again available to men and women. The Prophet Joseph once spoke of “patriarchal authority.” He said: “Go to and finish temple, and God will fill it with power, and you will then receive more knowledge concerning this priesthood.”(27)

    Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught: “I went to the temple, and I took my with me, and we kneeled at the altar. There on that occasion we entered, the two of us, into ‘order of the priesthood.’ When we did it, we had sealed upon us, on a conditional basis, every blessing that God promised Father Abraham-the blessings of exaltation and eternal increase. The name of that order of priesthood, which is patriarchal in nature, because Abraham was natural patriarch to his posterity, is the New and Everlasting Covenant of Marriage.”(28)

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 25, 2006 @ 12:30 am

  143. Another from Elder McConkie:

    Patriarchal Chain

    Those who shall hereafter rule and reign in eternity as exalted beings will form a patriarchal chain which will begin with Father Adam and spread out until every exalted person is linked in. Exaltation consists in the continuation of the family unit in eternity, and every family which so continues will find its proper place in the eternal organizational framework which the Almighty has ordained. None will be forgotten. Unworthy mortal links will be dropped in eternity, for there is no family in which all generations will attain exaltation; later generations of worthy families will be welded into the links formed by their ancestors who became worthy of a like exaltation with them. All those after the day of Abraham (of whatever literal lineage they may be) who so live as to be worthy of a place in this great patriarchal chain will be welded into Abraham’s lineage and shall rise up and bless him as their father. (Abra. 2:9-11.)

    (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 558)

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 25, 2006 @ 12:41 am

  144. Geoff,

    Like most things, grafting has more than one level of inspired meaning. If grafting did not refer to family structure, then a “tree” would be a poorly chosen symbol. I have quoted numerous scriptures from the Old Testament the clearly demonstrate the use of trees, grafting, roots and branches to refer to family descendancies and the patriarchal order, which still largely prevailed among the Israelites – indeed it is the origin of the royal system of government as well, although often abused.

    I have quoted several latter day authorities relative to the Patriarchal order and how it is the governmental system that prevails in the heavens. There are a lot more where that comes from.

    One does not need to be bipolar about the law of Adoption. Brigham Young did not invent it, Joseph Smith taught it during the Nauvoo period, taking the hint from Paul, no doubt. The Saints just got carried away with it, the same way they were carried away with the importance of polygamy and so on. Elder McConkie clearly indicates why it is necessary in limited circumstances. Indeed we practice it all the time when an adopted child is sealed to his or her parents, whether live or by proxy.

    This is what researcher Gordon Irving had to say in BYU Studies:

    God, according to Mormon belief, had joined Adam and Eve for eternity as husband and wife and placed them at the head of the human family. Since their union was effected by the authority of God, their children were natural “heirs of the priesthood’ and were “born in the covenant” and recognized by God as legitimate members of his family and legal heirs to his kingdom.11 As each new family came into being, it became another link in the chain of families stretching back to Adam, who was linked to God. Thus the “family of God” became more than metaphor.

    Exaltation depended on being part of that chain. While one could reach the celestial kingdom by being baptized and enduring to the end, one had to be sealed to enter the highest level of heaven. Still, though the Prophet taught his followers that he had received power to seal men and women and parents and children, the newly sealed families would not automatically be part of the priesthood-joined chain of families extending back to Father Adam since links had been added to the chain for more than a thousand years. Inasmuch as the priesthood had been lost through apostasy, a new and higher law of adoption was presented whereby Mormons could be “grafted” into the patriarchal order, thus becoming “legal heirs,” and acquiring the “fathers in the priesthood” necessary to link each one to the chain of families built up in the days of the patriarchs. Adoption in this sense can be seen as an important part of the enlarged vision of the Kingdom of God on earth that came to Joseph Smith during the Nauvoo period

    The Law of Adoption at Nauvoo, 1842-1846

    No consensus exists with regard to the date when the first adoptions were performed; any conclusions as to whether the ordinance was practiced during Joseph Smith’s lifetime must be viewed as tentative.13 It is certainly possible, perhaps probable, that Joseph Smith did initiate certain trusted leaders into the adoptionary order as early as 1842.

    The history of adoption following Joseph Smith’s death is less a mystery. In late 1845 it was decided that the temple then under construction in Nauvoo was sufficiently complete to permit the administration of its ordinances to as many of the faithful as time would permit. Although adoptions were performed there for nearly a month, the forced departure of the Church leaders from Nauvoo prevented the general membership from being adopted or having their own children sealed to them.

    It would appear that while some prominent older men in the Church were allowed to have persons adopted to them, adoption was mainly restricted to those holding the apostleship. Seventy-four percent of those adopted, excluding natural children and relatives, were linked to Apostles Heber C. Kimball, Willard Richards, John Taylor, or Brigham Young. The majority were young couples in their twenties and thirties although there was also a significant number of persons in their forties. Some of the adopted would become well-known Saints, but only one or two ever occupied positions of the first rank in the Church. The rest were apparently ordinary members of the Church.

    Here is Brigham Young again:

    I said some men were afraid they would lose glory if they were sealed to one of the Twelve, and did not stand alone and have others sealed to them. A Saint’s kingdom consisted of his own posterity, and to be sealed to one of the Twelve did not diminish him, but only connected him according to the law of God by that perfect chain and order of Heaven, that will bind righteous from Adam to the last Saint
    (Brigham Young, Manuscript History, p. 505, January 1847)

    Irving continued:

    Adoption in Full Flower, 1877-1894

    The sealing rooms of the St. George Temple were dedicated in January, 1877; and Wilford Woodruff, president of the temple, then recorded on March 22 that he had that day adopted two couples to President Brigham Young.44 Thousands of persons were thereafter adopted at St. George as well as in temples subsequently constructed. With the beginning of adoption on such a scale, it became necessary to establish policies to govern the practice. The principal rules under which adoptions were performed are here summarized.

    1. Sealing or Adoption. Church policy directed that children of faithful members of the Church not “born in the covenant” be sealed to their natural parents, whether any or all of those involved were living or not. If natural parents had not been baptized Mormons during life or had apostatized from the Church, their children were to be adopted to someone else. The sealing of a person to a dead non-Mormon was seen as being risky since the departed parent might not accept the gospel in the spirit world. Such uncertainty about one’s position in the next life was unacceptable, especially to converts whose parents ha d been strongly opposed to Mormonism during life.
    (Gordon Irving, “The Law of Adoption: One Phase of the Development of the Mormon Concept of Salvation, 1830-1900″, BYU Studies, 1974)

    [continued]

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 25, 2006 @ 9:02 am

  145. Mark (#140): Convinced yet?

    What point are you hoping all of these quotes will prove?

    I have never expressed doubt that there is a patriarchal order here on earth or that God uses it to help us make and keep covenants with him. (See the mission of parents in #129.) I do think the extremes you want to take the notion are untenable though. (See #131) Those extremes include some vague and undefined version an eternal Celestial family reunion among exalted people, a claim that anyone who is exalted “must have” had all of their forbears exalted too (but adoption makes this rather moot I think), and the completely speculative notion that resurrection necessarily happens via a domino effect starting with Adam (who resurrects Terrestrials and Telestials then?).

    Are you trying to avoid dealing with the actual issues by providing massive block quotes? Is this some sort of distraction tactic? Further, didn’t this start as some weak attempt to attack the viability of MMP as a model?

    “This theocratic system, patterned after the order and system that prevailed in heaven, was the government of God… And this seems to have been an order existing in the heavens even before Adam. “

    These sound like a votes in favor of MMP to me. If MMP is accurate then the way spiritual things work on this planet are the same as the way they worked on the world where we used to live.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 25, 2006 @ 9:15 am

  146. Well after a while members started to become concerned about how their non-member ancestors would fit into this scheme, and the breaking of the relationship that being sealed by adoption to a Church authority implied. President Woodruff had a revelation on this subject as Irving describes:

    Even the general authorities were troubled, as is indicated by their desire to modify policies governing sealings to non-Mormon parents and work for distant ancestors. Their feelings in this regard led to authorization for several members of the Church to be sealed to parents who had not been Mormons. In other cases adoptions already performed were canceled so that those involved could be sealed to their parents. Apostle Marriner W. Merrill noted in his journal in July, 1893, that it had been decided that temple presidents were to use their own judgment with regard to some of the policies governing sealing work. In essence this meant the Church was hesitating midway between two positions.54

    The problem was solved for the Church by President Wilford Woodruff’s announcement in the April general conference of 1894 that he had received a revelation on adoption. Rather than proclaiming the change in policy as a new departure, he was careful to point out that the revelation was based on the foundation laid by Joseph Smith. He began his discourse by having George Q. Cannon read Section 128 of the Doctrine and Covenants, in which the Prophet teaches the need for a “welding link” between the generations of the human family. Having so prepared the people to receive what he might say, the president went on:

    You have acted up to all the light and knowledge that you have had; but you have now something more to do than what you have done. We have not fully carried out those principles in fulfillment of the revelations of God to us, in sealing the hearts of the fathers to the children and the children to the fathers. I have not felt satisfied, neither did President Taylor, neither has any man since the Prophet Joseph who has attended to the ordinance of adoption in the temples of our God. We have felt that there was more to be revealed upon this subject than we had received . . . and the duty that I want every man who presides over a Temple to see performed from this day henceforth and forever, unless the Lord Almighty commands otherwise, is, let every man be adopted to his father. . . . That is the will of God to this people. . . . I say let every man be adopted to his father; and then you will do exactly what God said when he declared He would send Elijah the prophet in the last days . . . . We want the Latter-day Saints from this time to trace their genealogies as far as they can, and to be sealed to their fathers and mothers. Have children sealed to their parents, and run their chain through as far as you can get it. When you get to the end, let the last man be adopted to Joseph Smith, who stands at the head of this dispensation. This is the will of the Lord to this people, and I think when you come to reflect upon it you will find it to be true.55

    President Woodruff was declaring publicly that not only should the Saints be sealed to their own parents but that henceforth they had to be sealed to them if they were to be sealed at all. Inasmuch as previous Church policy had been based on the fear that many of the dead would not accept the gospel, President Woodruff in announcing his revelation also broadened the Latter-day Saint conception of the preaching of the gospel in the spirit world. Referring to Joseph Smith’s teaching that all who would have received the gospel had they heard it would go to the celestial kingdom, he added, “So will it be with your fathers. There will be very few, if any, who will not accept the Gospel.”56

    The president went to some pains to assure the people that being sealed to one’s parents rather than to one of the apostles did not lower one at all. Indeed, as President George Q. Cannon said when he spoke following President Woodruff, the new revelation was seen as protecting the Church from being “divided into tribes and clans, each man having his own following. . . .”

    Wilford Woodruff made this announcement in 1894. The Utah Genealogical Society was founded in that same year. Joseph Fielding Smith – then eighteen years of age – became an Apostle at age thirty four, and went on to become the Church’s leading expert on genealogy and temple work. That is one of the reasons Elder McConkie, his son in law, became an expert on the subject as well.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 25, 2006 @ 9:14 am

  147. Geoff,

    You have perfectly illustrated the problem with your thinking on this topic with this statement:

    It seems likely to me that we only end up sealed to our families in mortality after we have progressed to the point where we accept the fullness of the gospel in mortality anyway-after we have merited being called noble and great ones. So it is not like we would be sealed to huge numbers of people in any case. (#136)

    This is exactly the sort of reasoning I would expect you to employ given the MMP model, however, it is totally invalidated by temple work. According to your logic above, all the people who have not yet become noble and great ones and who don’t accept the gospel are destined for another probation, so they don’t need to be sealed to anyone. In stark contrast to that logic, we are spending tons of effort digging up names and relatives of people who did not accept the fullness of the gospel in mortality so that we can seal them to their spouses and their parents and their children. There is absolutely no reason to do all of this if they are just going to go back for another MP.

    Falling back on the standard model by saying it is so they can accept the gospel in the spirit world (as you did in #128) is quite a strain. As long as we are going through countless MPs, why should we have a missionary effort in the spirit world at all? Just send them back on another MP. After a million MPs a person hasn’t yet accepted the gospel and now in the spirit world they are going to accept it and become exalted without ever living the gospel in mortality? The MMP model stresses performance in mortality in a way the traditional model does not, making it hard to reconcile with the standard doctrine of the spirit world. Given only one MP, the standard model needs some way to account for the unfairness toward those who never had a chance to hear the gospel (etc), but the MMP model solves that same problem by saying there are plenty more opportunities in MPs to come. Thus the “spirit world” argument doesn’t fit well in the MMP model.

    You read my #122 right?

    I only comment myself when I have read everyone else’s comments, so yes. What you call a “painfully naive view of Celestial societies” is, in fact, the basis of the patriarchal priesthood. Your caricature with grandma bouncing the babies on her knee is just the sort of straw man you usually complain about.

    I know it is pointless to argue with you about MMP, because either (a) I have never figured out how the whole model fits together in your mind so I can’t argue fairly in the first place OR (b) you choose to remain willfully ignorant of the problems created by MMP so that you can continue to claim it solves all the problems of the gospel “cleanly.” I hold open the possibility of (a) quite genuinely, do not misunderstake that for sarcasm, please.

    Comment by Jacob — June 25, 2006 @ 10:18 am

  148. Jacob: According to your logic above, all the people who have not yet become noble and great ones and who don’t accept the gospel are destined for another probation,

    It’s more than that — all who are not exalted have another probation ahead of them in the model I envision. Being called “noble and great” before this earth doesn’t do the trick. Only freely choosing to live the Celestial law and become One with God does it.

    There is absolutely no reason to do all of this if they are just going to go back for another MP.

    What are you talking about? The temple work, including sealing, is for use by post-mortal spirits prior to resurrection and judgment. If someone does not choose to be One with God and live the Celestial law prior to resurrection and judgment do you still think the vicarious sealing will “stick”? Are you preaching some form of irresistible grace associated with sealings here?

    As long as we are going through countless MPs, why should we have a missionary effort in the spirit world at all?

    This is a bit of a silly question I think. It’s like asking why we need to sleep every night since we wake up every day. I don’t know why that is the order of the world I just recognize that it is.

    Your caricature with grandma bouncing the babies on her knee is just the sort of straw man you usually complain about.

    Indeed, and I said as much in that comment. But no one but me has presented an alternative to that caricature. My alternative was the “young married ward” version which also sounds like a caricature. Please explain a better model to me because I honestly cannot imagine what you are talking about.

    I am not sure that MMP solves “all the problems of the gospel” — I simply find it to be the best model I have encountered so far. I will happily drop it as soon as I find a better model.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 25, 2006 @ 10:52 am

  149. Geoff,

    The majority of the quotes I pulled out describe temple sealings, the Abrahamic Covenant, etc., as establishing an *eternal* Patriarchal order in heaven. The Old Testament scriptures speak of an *everlasting* inheritance an everlasting posterity. Nearly all the modern quotes address the question directly. It doesn’t appear that you read them at all. Either that or you think that not a single prophet was wrong, but rather that they all are.

    D&C 130:2 says that the society we have here will prevail in heaven, only coupled with eternal glory. That indicates that the burden of evidence is to establish that promises made regarding posterity on this earth will be upheld everlastingly in the eternities. You seem to want to believe that Adam or Abraham, or Isaac, or Jacob have no eternal relationship to us, that the scriptures and the modern day prophets are all wrong.

    The Lord promised Adam that of him would come a multitude of nations, and that he would be a prince *over* them forever (D&C 107:55). How much more obvious does it get?

    The Lord promised Abraham that the covenant he established with him was an *everlasting* covenant, that among other things the land of Canaan would be an *everlasting* possession. That implies that when the world is celestialized we can expect that the land of Israel will be occupied primarily be descendants of Abraham. Indeed the descendants of Abraham are the only ones fighting over it now.

    You seem to want to think that the order established here on this earth is temporal to an amazing extreme, no matter what authority it is established by. The leaders of the Church on the other hand speak of the ordinances of the temple as being established specifically to preserve this family order into the eternities. The quote from Elder McConkie about the “Patriarchal *chain*” has been the common understanding of the Church leadership since Joseph Smith. What is hard to understand is how *anyone* familiar with Joseph’s teachings regarding the patriarchal order and temple sealings could fit a MMP scheme into their mental picture of the eternities.

    Heber J. Grant once said that if you could not be a heavenly father to your own (earthly) posterity, who could you be a heavenly father to? The only way A/G makes sense is as a grand reconciliation scheme of patriarchal leadership in the eternities over both ones earthly patriarchal posterity and ones VSB spiritual posterity.

    The more contemporary leaders of the Church have rejected the details of A/G (Adam being the VSB father of our spirits), but as a rule adhere to a system that is very similar. The eternal patriarchal order in the heavens hasn’t gone anywhere, and neither, as a rule, has massive VSB. If you combine the two in the eternities, one is bound to get a scheme (priesthood topology) that differs from A/G in incidentals, namely the status of Adam on this earth.

    Now I think limited VSB makes perfect sense, much more sense than massive VSB, and I also think the patriarchal order in the heavens makes perfect sense. God is not the author of confusion, which he would be if there was no order or governmental system for the various eternal families. I am not talking about despotism here of course. I think that the government of heaven is run like a republic at its top most levels. That is what concilarism (rule by councils) is all about. The goal of heaven is to raise people up to be equals, but with enough order to prevent confusion. People have a problem with the priesthood here on earth and can’t imagine how it contributes to equality in the heavens. I say that righteous leadership is all about promoting true representative government, not some sort of dictatorial feudalism.

    And of course Joseph Smith created the Council of Fifty with these types of problems in mind. In Joseph’s Smith’s vision there appear to be three modes of government – patriarchal, ecclesiastical, and representative. A pure patriarchy is too unwieldy due to the number of generations, but appears to be the most ancient and original mode of government in the heavens. Ecclesiastical is a lot like the executive mode of government, where the presiding authorities call local authorities to administer the laws – not much in the way of representation there, as is wildy apparent here on earth. Representative is the legislative mode of government – Council in heaven, to a limited degree councils and quorums here on earth, the Council of Fifty / Anointed Quorum, and of course the inspired U.S. Constitution. We might also speak of Bishops as the common judges, or much of the judicial mode of heavenly government.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 25, 2006 @ 2:52 pm

  150. One of the best talks on this subject was delivered by Ezra Taft Benson at the Logan Temple Centennial in 1984. It was printed in the August 1985 Ensign.

    Ezra Taft Benson, What I Hope You Will Teach Your Children about the Temple, Logan Temple Centennial, 17 May 1984, Ensign, August 1985.

    This is revelant enough to excerpt at length:

    I would like to direct my remarks to you parents and grandparents. I would like to share with you what I would hope you would teach your children about the temple.

    The temple is a sacred place, and the ordinances in the temple are of a sacred character. Because of its sacredness we are sometimes reluctant to say anything about the temple to our children and grandchildren.

    As a consequence, many do not develop a real desire to go to the temple, or when they go there, they do so without much background to prepare them for the obligations and covenants they enter into.

    I believe a proper understanding or background will immeasurably help prepare our youth for the temple. This understanding, I believe, will foster within them a desire to seek their priesthood blessings just as Abraham sought his.

    When our Heavenly Father placed Adam and Eve on this earth, He did so with the purpose in mind of teaching them how to regain His presence. Our Father promised a Savior to redeem them from their fallen condition. He gave to them the plan of salvation and told them to teach their children faith in Jesus Christ and repentance. Further, Adam and his posterity were commanded by God to be baptized, to receive the Holy Ghost, and to enter into the order of the Son of God.

    To enter into the order of the Son of God is the equivalent today of entering into the fullness of the Melchizedek Priesthood, which is only received in the house of the Lord.

    Because Adam and Eve had complied with these requirements, God said to them, “Thou art after the order of him who was without beginning of days or end of years, from all eternity to all eternity.” (Moses 6:67.)

    Three years before Adam’s death, a great event occurred. He took his son Seth, his grandson Enos, and other high priests who were his direct-line descendants, with others of his righteous posterity, into a valley called Adam-ondi-Ahman. There Adam gave to these righteous descendants his last blessing.

    The Lord then appeared to them.

    The vast congregation rose up and blessed Adam and called him Michael, the prince and archangel. The Lord himself declared Adam to be a prince forever over his own posterity.

    Then Adam in his aged condition rose up and, being filled with the spirit of prophecy, predicted “whatsoever should befall his posterity unto the latest generation.” All this is recorded in section 107 of the Doctrine and Covenants (verses 53-56) [D&C 107:53-56].

    The Prophet Joseph Smith said that Adam blessed his posterity because “he wanted to bring them into the presence of God.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1938, p. 159.)

    Here is an illuminating passage from Section 107 of the Doctrine and Covenants which tells us how Adam was able to bring himself and his righteous posterity into God’s presence:

    The order of this priesthood was confirmed to be handed down from father to son, and rightly belongs to the literal descendants of the chosen seed, to whom the promises were made.

    “This order was instituted in the days of Adam, and came down by lineage in [order] … that his posterity should be the chosen of the Lord, and that they should be preserved unto the end of the earth.” (D&C 107:40-42; italics added.)

    How did Adam bring his descendants into the presence of the Lord?

    The answer: Adam and his descendants entered into the priesthood order of God. Today we would say they went to the House of the Lord and received their blessings.

    The order of priesthood spoken of in the scriptures is sometimes referred to as the patriarchal order because it came down from father to son.

    But this order is otherwise described in modern revelation as an order of family government where a man and woman enter into a covenant with God-just as did Adam and Eve-to be sealed for eternity, to have posterity, and to do the will and work of God throughout their mortality.

    If a couple are true to their covenants, they are entitled to the blessing of the highest degree of the celestial kingdom. These covenants today can only be entered into by going to the House of the Lord.

    Adam followed this order and brought his posterity into the presence of God. He is the great example for us to follow.

    Enoch followed this pattern and brought the Saints of his day into the presence of God.

    Noah and his son Shem likewise followed the same pattern after the flood.

    Abraham, a righteous servant of God, desiring as he said, “to be a greater follower of righteousness,” sought for these same blessings. Speaking of the order of the priesthood, he said: “It was conferred upon me from the fathers; it came down from the fathers, from the beginning of time … even the right of the firstborn, or the first man, who is Adam, our first father, through the fathers unto me.” (Abr. 1:2-3.)

    So Abraham declared: “I sought for mine appointment unto the Priesthood according to the appointment of God unto the fathers.” (Abr. 1:4.)

    Moses taught this order of priesthood to his people and “sought diligently to sanctify his people that they might behold the face of God;

    “But they hardened their hearts and could not endure his presence; therefore, the Lord in his wrath, for his anger was kindled against them, swore that they should not enter into his rest while in the wilderness, which rest is the fulness of his glory.

    “Therefore, he took Moses out of their midst, and the Holy Priesthood also.” (D&C 84:23-25.)

    We learn through the Joseph Smith Translation that the Lord further instructed Moses: “I will take away the priesthood out of their midst; therefore my holy order, and the ordinances thereof.” (JST, Ex. 34:1; italics added.)

    This higher priesthood, with its attendant ordinances, was taken from Israel till the time of Jesus Christ.

    My purpose in citing this background is to illustrate that this order of priesthood has been on the earth since the beginning, and it is the only means by which we can one day see the face of God and live. (See D&C 84:22.)

    Between Moses and Christ only certain prophets possessed the right to the higher priesthood and the blessings that could bring men into the presence of God. One of these prophets was Elijah.

    Elijah held the keys of the sealing power and did many mighty miracles in his day. He had power to seal the heavens, raise the dead, relieve the drought-stricken land, and call down fire from heaven.

    He was the last prophet to hold the keys of the priesthood, according to the Prophet Joseph Smith. He was subsequently translated and taken up into heaven without tasting death.

    He, as a translated being, restored the keys of this priesthood to the Savior’s chief Apostles-Peter, James, and John-on the Mount of Transfiguration. But within a generation, the Church was destroyed by a major apostasy, and the blessings of the priesthood were removed from the earth.

    It took a new dispensation from heaven to restore this blessing to our day.

    It is significant that the first revelation given in 1823, recorded as section 2 of the Doctrine and Covenants, gave this promise about the priesthood:

    “Behold, I will reveal unto you the Priesthood, by the hand of Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.

    And he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers.

    “If it were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming.” (D&C 2:1-3.)

    What priesthood was Elijah to reveal? John the Baptist restored the keys to the Aaronic Priesthood. Peter, James, and John restored the keys of the kingdom of God. Why send Elijah?

    “Because he holds the keys of the authority to administer in all the ordinances of the priesthood,” or the sealing power. (Teachings, p. 172; ) So said the Prophet Joseph Smith!

    The Prophet Joseph said further that these keys were “the revelations, ordinances, oracles, powers and endowments of the fulness of the Melchizedek Priesthood and of the kingdom of God on the earth.” (Teachings, p. 337; )

    Even though the Aaronic Priesthood and Melchizedek Priesthood had been restored to the earth, the Lord urged the Saints to build a temple to receive the keys by which this order of priesthood could be administered on the earth again, “for there [was] not a place found on earth that he may come to and restore again that which was lost … even the fulness of the priesthood.” (D&C 124:28; )

    Again the Prophet Joseph said: “If a man gets a fullness of the priesthood of God he has to get it in the same way that Jesus Christ obtained it, and that was by keeping all the commandments and obeying all the ordinances of the house of the Lord.” (Teachings, p. 308.)

    So the Kirtland Temple was completed at great sacrifice to the Saints.

    Then, on 3 April 1836, the Lord Jesus Christ and three other heavenly beings appeared in this holy edifice. One of these heavenly messengers was Elijah, to whom the Lord said he had “committed the keys of the power of turning the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to the fathers, that the whole earth may not be smitten with a curse.” (D&C 27:9.)

    Elijah brought the keys of sealing powers-that power which seals a man to a woman and seals their posterity to them endlessly, that which seals their forefathers to them all the way back to Adam. This is the power and order that Elijah revealed-that same order of priesthood which God gave to Adam and to all the ancient patriarchs which followed after him.

    And this is why the Lord said to the Prophet Joseph Smith, “For verily I say unto you, the keys of the dispensation, which ye have received, have come down from the fathers, and last of all, being sent down from heaven unto you.” (D&C 112:32.)

    In a later revelation the Lord explained:

    “In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees;

    “And in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage];

    “And if he does not, he cannot obtain it.

    “He may enter into the other, but that is the end of his kingdom; he cannot have an increase.” (D&C 131:1-4; italics added.)

    When our children obey the Lord and go to the temple to receive their blessings and enter into the marriage covenant, they enter into the same order of the priesthood that God instituted in the very beginning with father Adam.

    This order entitles them to the same blessings of Abraham, of whom the Lord said that he “hath entered into his exaltation and sitteth upon his throne.” (D&C 132:29.)

    Then He significantly added: “This promise is yours also, because ye are of Abraham.” (D&C 132:31.)

    I hope you would teach this truth about the temple to your children and your grandchildren. Go to the temple-our Father’s house-to receive the blessings of your fathers that you may be entitled to the highest blessings of the priesthood. “For without this no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live.” (D&C 84:22.)

    Our Father’s house is a house of order. We go to His house to enter into that order of priesthood which will entitle us to all that the Father hath, if we are faithful. For as the Lord has revealed in modern times, Abraham’s seed are “lawful heirs” to the priesthood. (See D&C 86:8-11.)
    (Op. Cit, italics added)

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 25, 2006 @ 4:19 pm

  151. A more recent, not quite as relevant talk is from Elder Oaks, in the October 2005 General Conference:

    Dallin H. Oaks, “Priesthood Authority in the Family and the Church”, Ensign, November 2005

    http://www.lds.org/conference/talk/display/0,5232,49-1-559-8,00.html

    Since I have a direct link, I will only quote a few statements:


    Duration. Church callings are always temporary, but family relationships are permanent.

    The theology of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints centers on the family. Our relationship to God and the purpose of earth life are explained in terms of the family. We are the spirit children of heavenly parents. The gospel plan is implemented through earthly families, and our highest aspiration is to perpetuate those family relationships throughout eternity. The ultimate mission of our Savior’s Church is to help us achieve exaltation in the celestial kingdom, and that can only be accomplished in a family relationship.
    (op cit, italics added)

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 25, 2006 @ 4:37 pm

  152. Sheesh Mark. First let me share 4 words with you:

    Brevity. Is. A. Virtue.

    Your comments have been so long I can’t even remember what we were talking about.

    So I’m gathering that your main point is that families can be together forever. You are preaching to the choir on that point. I’ll email you a few questions about your comment #149 though.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 25, 2006 @ 7:35 pm

  153. The problem is brevity doesn’t work very well with systematic theology. And when one disputes what I had known as standard LDS doctrine (transitive sealing in a patriarchal chain going back to Adam) growing up, it sometimes takes lots of evidence to make one’s case. I don’t really like the standard of “proof” – systematic examination (read: pondering) of various comprehensive schemas is much more fruitful in my experience. The axiomatic mode of theology is horribly limited – it leads to theology of mystery, and I do not believe there fundamentally is such a thing.

    Mystery is a good sign something has either gone wrong or is a major approximation. We like to talk in terms of last word in the Church, and yet we often axiomatize in the same way that leads to conventional orthodoxy. At some point one has to step back and say, no these principles are stand ins for something much more sophisticated, given according to our understanding.

    In any case, if you didn’t demand proof, I wouldn’t have to find so much evidence, for the simplest points.

    Comment by Mark Butler — June 26, 2006 @ 3:08 am

  154. Just a quibble–

    Geoff said: “I have shown on several occasions that our current personal identity is fleeting…”

    That “fleeting” identity (imo) must be present and accounted for at the veil. It is an indespensible component of the total composit creature.

    Comment by Jack — July 11, 2006 @ 6:22 pm

  155. “fleeting identity” is an oxymoron.

    Comment by Mark Butler — July 11, 2006 @ 11:43 pm

  156. Mark,

    It is only an oxymoron if you make personal identity synonymous with what I think is more appropriately called “essence”. Most people seem to assume personal identity consists of all sorts of qualities that are fleeting over time. What do you think identity consists of?

    Comment by Geoff J — July 12, 2006 @ 8:21 am

  157. Identity is that formal property of a thing that makes it makes its instantiation in a different time or place have something irrevocably identical with its instantiation in any other time or place, i.e. they literally are the same thing.

    In the case of a particular, we often call this formal property by the Scotist name of “haeccity”, or this-ness, that which guarantees the distinguishibility of two otherwise identical objects.

    In Quantum Mechanics this is a big deal, having massive thermodynamic and structural consequences. We know by those consequences that all bosons and fermions are indeed equal – i.e. one can swap identities of any pair of electrons or photons, and the difference is immaterial and non-existent to an exceedingly high degree of precision. Otherwise all of modern physics wouldn’t work.

    Now an intelligence cannot work that way, otherwise there would be no locus for moral responsibility, blameworthiness, or reward. The intelligence at the locus of perception could simply swap places with any other intelligence, and the latter would be punished for no reason.

    Without moral action as a consequence of the free will of a distinguishable agent, there is no basis for justice, mercy, repentance, and so on, either. Everything becomes either an accident or a necessity or something inbetween, but not a morally significant decision to act according to or in contravenience from the light one has been given.

    Now I say that “fleeting identity” is an effective oxymoron, because that which is fleeting is momentary or ephemeral, and identity is literally that and only that which is preserved unalterably over time.

    Properties and qualities and configuration may change, but unless there is something metaphysically in common between the state of the object or person at times A and B, identity is more fictive, or conventional than real.

    The plan of salvation requires real identity to make any sense. For Pratt that was the identity of each particle of intelligence. That is not particularly realistic anymore, but something must have metaphysical identity to be a morally responsible agent at all. That something is what Joseph Smith calls an intelligence, or sometimes the “eternal spirit”.

    Comment by Mark Butler — July 12, 2006 @ 2:36 pm

  158. I am suffering from NCT withdrawal. The other web logs are soooo boring.

    Comment by Mark Butler — July 14, 2006 @ 12:13 pm

  159. Most of them, anyway.

    Comment by Mark Butler — July 14, 2006 @ 12:14 pm

  160. You might want to reconsider the implications of the use of Gender in the original post (28 March 1841).

    From the 1828 dictionary:

    GEN’DER, v.t. To beget; but engender is more generally used.

    GEN’DER, v.i. To copulate; to breed. Levit. 19.

    [substituting Beget for Gender]

    From the cite:

    “God is Good & all his acts is for the benefit of inferior intelligences-God saw that those intelligences had Not power to Defend themselves against those that had a tabernacle therefore the Lord Calls them together in Counsel & agrees to form them tabernacles so that he might [beget] the Spirit & the tabernacle together so as to create sympathy for their fellowman.”

    The issue is not CREATING A PERSON OF SEX from a non-sexed spirit to “create sympathy” and help out inferior intelligences — but sending a spirit (that already is inherently one of the sexes) into the world to help out inferior intelligences.

    Scott

    Comment by Scott Vanatter — April 10, 2007 @ 9:15 am

  161. Scott,

    You make a good point. That said, the sentence is still a bit awkward when you replace “engender” with “beget,” so it remains a bit unclear if that is what was meant.

    You might be interested to read some of the discussion that came up previously about this same point on a different thread starting here. My take on it followed that comment here.

    Comment by Jacob J — April 10, 2007 @ 9:51 am

  162. Wow, Mark really got into some different stuff in this one, aye?

    Comment by BHodges — January 6, 2009 @ 4:22 pm

  163. My position on the matter is that spirits are organized intelligence. The intelligences are eternal but the bringing together has created a creature. I can understand that various authors have used the terms, spirit, intelligences etc and sometimes referring to the same or different entities. Regarding the “birth” of a spirit, yes I believe it to be the same type of process as with mortals. But I believe that pre-mortal spirits were married and had spirit children. These spirits were “begotten” by God. Otherwise, they must have had little time left for anything else then birthing. Makes no sense to me.

    Comment by robert — August 31, 2009 @ 10:25 pm

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