Taking Joseph’s Ring Analogy Seriously

March 4, 2007    By: Geoff J @ 6:29 pm   Category: King Follett Discourse,Theology

Infinite time is a headache-inducing concept. No matter how far back we can conceive of an event happening there is always an infinite amount of time that preceded it. Philosophers have wrestled with this issue of infinite time and beginninglessness for thousands of years. Since Mormonism rejects creation ex nihilo we don’t even have the luxury of believing that only God is beginningless; we also must try to wrap our minds around the idea that all matter (including spirit matter) has no beginning.

Joseph famously commented on beginnings and endings in the April 1844 funeral sermon known as the King Follet Discourse (KFD). Here are a few accounts of those comments:

The learned says God made it in the beginning, but it is not so, I know better God has told me so… God was a self exhisting being, man exhists upon the same principle. God made a tabernacle & put a spirit in it and it became a Human soul, man exhisted in spirit & mind coequal with God himself, … I am dwelling on the immutibility of the spirit of man, is it logic to say the spirit of man had a begining & yet had no end, it does not have a begining or end, my ring is like the Exhistanc of man it has no begining or end, if cut into their would be a begining & end, so with man if it had a begining it will have an end, if I am right I might say God never had power to create the spirit of man, God himself could not create himself. Intelligence is Eternal & it is self exhisting
(Wilford Woodruff Diary)

the mind of man—the mind of man is as immortal as God himself … the SP of man I take my ring from my finger and liken it unto the mind of man, the im[mor]t. Sp. bec. it has no beging. Suppose you cut it into but as the D[evil] lives there wod. be an end all the fools & wise men from the beging. of creation who say that man had begin—they must have an end & then the doc of annihilitn. wod. be true—but if I am right I mit. with boldness proclaim from the housetop that God never had power to create the Sp of Man at all—it is ne God himself cod. not create himself—intelligence is self existent it is a sp. from age to end & there is no creatn abt. it
(Thomas Bullock Report)

We say that God was self—existant who told you so? It’s correct enough but how did it get into your heads—who told you that man did not exist upon the same principle (refer to the bible) …The mind of man—the intelligent part is coequal with God himself. I know that my testimony is true. … Is it logic to say that a spirit is immortal and yet have a beginning because if a spirit have a beginning it will have an end—good logic—illustrated by his ring. All the fools learned & wise men that comes and tells that man has a beginning proves that he must have an end and if that doctrine is true then the doctrine of annihilation is true. But if I am right then I might be bold to say that God never did have power to create the spirit of man at all. He could not create himself—Intelligence exists upon a selfexistent principle —is a spirit from age to age & no creation about it
(William Clayton Report)

Now lest you think this was an anomalous comment by Joseph in 1844, he made a very similar comment three years earlier:

The elements are eternal. That which has a beginning will surely have an end. Take a ring, it is without beginning or end; cut it for a beginning place, and at the same time you will have an ending place.
(5 January 1841- William Clayton’s Private Book)

The concept is very clear and quite simple: Anything that has a beginning must have an end.

The problem is that most Mormons just don’t believe Joseph on this one. We have good reasons to object to this teaching though: Our marriages and families here on earth have beginnings so if Joseph is correct then they must one day end as well. That doesn’t jibe well with our concept of eternal families.

The standard way to deal with this tension among most members of the church who are aware of this teaching of Joseph is to simply dismiss the ring example as an analogy gone awry. “Surely”, members tell themselves, “Joseph didn’t really mean that”. But what if he really did mean it?

Eternal Recursion

The basic idea of eternal recursion or eternal return has been around for many thousands of years and in found in various forms in places ranging from ancient Egypt and ancient Greece to most Dharmic religions (the image to the right is of the Ouroboros). The wiki entry on eternal return says this:

Eternal return (also known as “eternal recurrence”) is a concept which posits that the universe has been recurring, and will continue to recur in the exact same self-similar form an incomprehensible and unfathomable number of times. The concept has roots in ancient Egypt, and was subsequently taken up by the Pythagoreans and Stoics. With the decline of antiquity and the spread of Christianity, the concept fell into disuse, though Friedrich Nietzsche briefly resurrected it.

In addition, the philosophical concept of eternal recurrence was addressed by Arthur Schopenhauer. It is a purely physical concept, involving no “reincarnation,” but the return of beings in the same bodies. Time is viewed as being not linear but cyclical.

The basic premise is that the universe is limited in extent and contains a finite amount of matter, while time is viewed as being infinite. The universe has no starting or ending state, while the matter comprising it is constantly changing its state. The number of possible changes is finite, and so sooner or later the same state will recur.

I won’t go into great detail in this post on the concept of eternal recursion but will say that this concept that Joseph was teaching with his ring analogy is found all over the world and could very well predate Abraham. In other words, this is no new-fangled concept that Joseph was teaching for the last several years of his life.

But there are a few questions that are open for debate still. Among them are these:

1. Did Joseph mean it when he implicitly taught this idea of eternal recursion?

Joseph was no philosopher so perhaps he did not know what the implications of his preaching and ring analogy really were. Then again, Joseph was a thinker and it is no stretch to argue that he knew just what the implications were. I am leaning toward the latter right now.

2. Does the idea of eternal recursion even make sense — particularly in the context of Mormon theology?

This is certainly open for debate too but I would argue that the answer to this question it yes. Here are some reasons why:

Joseph taught consistently that the mind of man = the spirit of man = the intelligence of man. He emphatically preached that our mind/spirit/intelligence is beginningless. This creates all sorts of difficult problems I think; I posted on them here. But if some form of eternal recursion holds true then I can see a model that makes sense. The basic idea is that at some point even divine persons can and do choose to empty themselves and return to lower forms of existence. Lest you think this is unfounded, this concept does resonate with the well documented(1) notion of Michael condescending to become Adam on this earth — especially since Adam became Adam and Eve and represents all of us us in the narratives.

So how would you answer my questions 1 and 2 and why?

———————————–
(1) Here is just one example of this concept being taught: “The first man placed upon the earth was a perfect being, a son of God. He was Michael, the Archangel, who had reached great distinction and power before he ever came to this earth; and who helped to frame this earth while he was yet a spirit, just as our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was a spirit before he was born in Bethlehem.” (Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 1, pg 90)

72 Comments »

  1. Geoff: A simple concept of no beginning and no end in a linear sense can fully explain Joseph’s analogy. I don’t see a shred of evidence that for Joseph Smith it all comes around again in a Nietzchean eternal recurrence.

    Comment by Blake — March 4, 2007 @ 6:37 pm

  2. Blake,

    What do you make of the teaching that everything that has a beginning must have an end? Do you simply reject it as I described in the post?

    Comment by Geoff J — March 4, 2007 @ 6:39 pm

  3. No, if a thing (like a mortal life) has a beginning it has an end. It is just that life without beginning can be a linear process of never ending progression forward or upward without any idea of recurrence at all.

    Comment by Blake — March 4, 2007 @ 6:56 pm

  4. I’ve always been fascinated by Joseph’s ring analogy. I’ve heard it used to argue eternal progression as well. It goes like this—if man’s separation from God had a beginning (i.e. birth) then it must also have an ending. Therefore we can never be permanently cast off but will all eventually return to our Father’s presence, (although it may take eons of slow progression). I think it was B.H. Roberts who said that he could conceive of no purpose for the ministering of higher kingdoms to the lower ones other than eternal progression between kingdoms. Personally, I think that the no beginning or ending philosophy make more sense in regards to physical things like matter and element than in spiritual matters. After all, there would be no purpose to any kind of spiritual transformation if it was self-limiting.

    Comment by matt — March 4, 2007 @ 7:11 pm

  5. Why does a thing have to have an end because it has a beginning? Things of matter may have to– a mortal life, the cycles of a star– but I see no reason to assume that more intangible things– like marriage and deep relationships– must end.

    Comment by Proud Daughter of Eve — March 4, 2007 @ 7:31 pm

  6. Eve: I think that you are right. Material things are simply subject to corruptibility and dissolution. I think what Joseph meant was that it is possible for such things to end; not that they must. Good point.

    Comment by Blake — March 4, 2007 @ 7:47 pm

  7. Geoff,

    I don’t think divine condescension, like Christ coming to earth, is a very good analog to the idea that God someday gets so bored with his existence that he disassembles himself into constituent parts which become parts of new identities. All of the divine condescension we know about is for the purpose of bringing about the salvation/exaltation of others. It has a purpose. What is the purpose of God disorganizing himself? Why would he do that?

    As to your questions: (1) I don’t think that Joseph meant what you think he meant. (2) No.

    More on my answer to (1). Even in the quotes you use in your post, Joseph is clearly arguing for the immortality of spirits. So, how do you square that with your idea that God disassembles. (I keep thinking of Short Circuit, I’m surprised you didn’t work this picture into the post).

    Comment by Jacob J — March 4, 2007 @ 9:46 pm

  8. Ok Blake and PDoE,

    Let me ask a few more questions then. Do you think it is safe to say that God’s mission is eternal and unchanging? If so, do you think it is safe to say that God has eternally been working at the process of “bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of man”?

    I submit that if God has been working on that process an infinity of time then there already must be an infinite number of exalted persons who are one with God in the “extended godhead”. I mean even if the pace was only one person being exalted every billion years there would still be an infinite number of exalted persons already since it has been going on for an infinite amount of time. Further, we’d have to assume that there are an infinite number of premortal spirits still waiting to have their one mortal probation right? If not then God would have sent all of the beginningless spirits to their one and only mortal probation over the infinite amount of time that has already passed. And I suppose there has been an infinite number of inhabited worlds already too…

    Is any of this objectionable to you?

    I find it all impossible to swallow. I happen to think there are a finite number of beginningless spirits/intelligences/minds to go along with a finite amount of beginningless matter and space. If my assumption is right then Joseph’s ring analogy really is right on target I think.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 4, 2007 @ 9:49 pm

  9. Jacob: (2) No.

    Why?

    So, how do you square that with your idea that God disassembles.

    I don’t think God disassembles — your assumption is simply false here. I think rather that divine persons can choose to leave the divine unity by passing through veils and basically wiping the hard drive clean. I think the narratives of a divine “Michael” passing through the veil and becoming Adam and Eve are evidence of this idea.

    (While I entertained Orson Pratt’s atomism for a while I no longer lean toward his ideas at all. I think each of us has a single mind/spirit/intelligence.)

    Last, I am interested in your response to my #8 as well.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 4, 2007 @ 10:00 pm

  10. Geoff, thanks for sharing your idea of a linkage between Joseph’s analogy and the eternal return. This is fascinating.

    Comment by cadams — March 4, 2007 @ 10:22 pm

  11. It is interesting that one way of reading Nietzsche isn’t as advocating a true eternal recurrence ala the Stoics. That is it wasn’t pure repetition but merely the selection of more powerful forces. I’ve always read Joseph’s ring analogy as akin to that reading of Nietzsche.

    Comment by clark — March 4, 2007 @ 10:24 pm

  12. Here’s an interesting English hermetic poem:

    Old Sages by the Figure of the Snake
    Encircled thus did oft expression make
    Of Annual-Revolutions; and of things,
    Which wheele about in everlasting-rings;
    There ending, where they first of all begun ..
    …These Roundells, help to shew the Mystery
    of that immense and blest Eternitie,
    From whence the CREATURE sprung, and into whom
    It shall again, with full perfection come …

    In “They Knew the Prophet”, a book of first hand recollections of Prophet Joseph, it is said he compared existence to a wheel – be nice to those on the bottom when you’re on top, because as the wheel turn round you may be on the bottom again, and they on top.

    Could Ouroboros be related to Leviathan, discussed in Job 41?

    Comment by cadams — March 5, 2007 @ 12:03 am

  13. Geoff,

    Thanks for the clarification. I see you have updated your view somewhat since rejecting Orson Pratt’s atomism. Updating my questions accordingly, they become:

    What is the purpose of God “wiping his hard drive clean”? Why would he do that?

    The main reason I think this idea does not make sense in the context of Mormon theology is that I can’t conceive of an answer to those questions. It seems to me that the whole basis of Mormon theology is built on the importance and intrinsic value of progression and becoming–of fullfilling our potential. The plan of salvation is built on the idea that we have greater happiness in unity, which is only possible if we develop our character over many years and through difficult experience. To take a being who has great knowledge, power, and happiness; and who brings happiness to everyone around and intentionally throw away all the fruits of hard won progression by wiping the hard drive clean seems utterly untenable to me in a Mormon context.

    In current Mormon theology, Michael is seen as a pre-mortal spirit like ourselves who, although he was noble and great, needed to experience a mortal probation as part of his own progression. Thus, his passage through the veil does not seem anything like your idea of God wiping the hard drive clean. Perhaps I am missing the reasoning behind why God would format his hard drive.

    About #8: It seems your argument rests on the fact that you don’t like infinites. It so happens that I am not as offended by infinites (most probably from conditioning), but also I have come to believe that by rejecting an infinite number of spirits and an infinite amount of matter, you end up accepting something equally ridiculous. Thus, any argument that takes its strength from the ridiculousness of the alternative should be examined closely. Your #8 seems to fall in this category for me.

    But I am curions, why do you allow some infinities and not others. You accept that time stretches back infinitely, but why? It is no less ridiculous than there being an infinite amount of matter. You allow for spirits which have existed infinitely, but why? It is no less ridiculous than the idea of a infinite number of beginingless spirits. It seems to me you have pondered one specific infinity and let your displeasure with infinity cause you to reject it. But if you really threw out all infinities, each one of which has the same headache inducing properties which cause you to reject infinite matter, you would be left with very little.

    Comment by Jacob J — March 5, 2007 @ 1:25 am

  14. “Things of matter may have to– a mortal life, the cycles of a star– but I see no reason to assume that more intangible things– like marriage and deep relationships– must end.”

    Yes. And there is something more. If God’s godhood had a beginning then it must also have an end. (God couldn’t have once been as man, because that denotes a beginning to his godhood which, following the logic, would have an end and therefore be imperfect.) An achieved or aquired perfection cannot (and need not) end any more than an inherent perfection, because in order to have an end it has to contain the element that brings it to an end, which is an imperfection. (Same, by the way, with ‘eternal’ marriage – it can only be eternal if it doesn’t contain any element that would, over the course of an eternity, bring it to an end. Hence all marriages are of temporary duration unless they are perfected.) (Of course, neither we individually nor, lordy, as husbands and wives achieve anything like perfection – but we can be cleansed by the blood of the Lamb, through our faithfulness.)

    I really like the way you have just simply shifted the conversation to a place where Joseph’s seemingly absolute statement is contained in the area where the principle might rightly reside. If he had another ten years, we might have had scripture that fleshed these nascent doctrines out – and we could see them more clearly.

    I think it’s all fine, and more or less interesting and good for us to speculate. And just so you know I’ve always hated when people do to me what I’m about to do, but … on the other hand; Heb 13:9 … “Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein.”

    ~

    Comment by Thomas Parkin — March 5, 2007 @ 3:46 am

  15. The general problem about relying on the record we have of many of Joseph Smith’s sermons is that he never had a chance to edit them himself. Sections of the Doctrine and Covenants are significantly different from the same sections in the Book of Commandments (so much so that some, notably David Whitmer, left the Church over it) and the general explanation is that he edited them for consistency as his understanding grew and deepened.

    So I am a little skeptical of attempts to make a whole cosmology depend on tiny fragments of the second hand notes of a sermon that was delivered extemporaneously in the first place.

    That said, I think the basic idea of a eternal recurrence is contrary to the very idea of morality because it is essentially fatalistic – as in nothing we do will make a difference one way or another so why bother?

    Comment by Mark Butler — March 5, 2007 @ 9:06 am

  16. cadams – Thanks for the insights.

    Mark – There are many variations on this recursion idea. Fatalism is not a necessary component of the concept — there cold be many now fatalistic variations on the theme.

    Also, I think one wold be hard pressed to claim Joseph did not preach what he preached (as recorded in the post). Those who disagree with him are likely going to be left claiming he was simply wrong on this point. But as you said, he was wrong from time to time and changed his mind so I don’t think making that claim is such a big deal on something like this.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 5, 2007 @ 9:32 am

  17. Jacob: But I am curious, why do you allow some infinities and not others.

    Well I could answer this in several ways. First, I think the scriptures insist on infinite time but not on other infinities. Other reasons to accept infinite time but reject an infinite number of spirits include the notion that such a scheme make God a failure — or at least mediocre at his job. If his work and his glory is to bring to pass the immortality of man then one could argue he if not very good at it. He has been working at it forever and while there are apparently an infinite number of spirits he still hasn’t gotten around to yet. Another problem is that it seem like a cruel metaphysic to me to assume that there is always an infinite number of beginningless and self-aware spirits left out in the cold, always waiting for their “turn on an earth”. I could go on and on with the problems I see with the other infinities but you get the idea. Basically, I think that without some limits the entire notion is like a kite without a string — it just doesn’t fly.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 5, 2007 @ 9:46 am

  18. Jacob: What is the purpose of God “wiping his hard drive clean”? Why would he do that?

    I can only make guesses on that. But my current best guess is because the all of existence is about becoming (rather than a static metaphysic of being). I agree with you when you say “the whole basis of Mormon theology is built on the importance and intrinsic value of progression and becoming–of fullfilling our potential”. The problem is that the metaphysic you are defending seem mostly to be one of stasis — not one of becoming. It envisions on one side an infinite number of sentient premortal spirits who have been been short of their potential oneness with God for an infinite amount of time. On the other side it has an extended Godhead (or whatever) with an infinite number of exalted souls looking back at those poor schleps who weren’t lucky enough to get called up by the My Turn On Earth draft board yet even though they have already been waiting an infinity of time. (I guess infinity plus one will do the job for them…) The only real becoming portion is apparently in the middle ground between the two here on earth in that model. Suffice it to say, I believe that just doesn’t work.

    But in a recursion model we might assume that joy is the goal and joy is had in the journey and not the static destination. But joy occurs both in our own progress and in the progress of others. It occurs both in serving and in being served. So in this metaphysic the reason to go back is to provide joy both for ourselves (to be served and serve) and for those in the divine unity (to serve and help humankind). I think such an idea works well in the metaphysic of becoming that Joseph clearly was preaching.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 5, 2007 @ 9:59 am

  19. Geoff:

    1) probably not

    2) I don’t know.

    One of the problems I have with this is the resurrected body. It will have a beginning, but my understanding is that it will have no end. So I can not accept the ring analogy in all cases.

    Then there is the business of multiple eternities, and eternal lives (plural). Even Bruce R. McKonkie once calculated eternity as being 2,555,000,000 years. One source of this is the seven deadly herisies talk.

    I think the calculation goes like this: 1000 years on earth is like one day to God, and the earths existence will be about 7000 years so 7000 X 365 X 1000, and you get how long eternity is.

    I don’t think I buy it though.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — March 5, 2007 @ 10:08 am

  20. Eric,

    The 2,555,000,000 years thing was Phelp’s calculation of how long this earth had been around based on the day-is-equal-to-a-year stuff taken literally (just as your calculation suggests). It has nothing to do with how long an “eternity” is, as far as I can tell.

    Comment by Jacob J — March 5, 2007 @ 10:33 am

  21. To be clear, are you speculating here that HF and all other divine beings will eventually reboot? If so, I would say you are so loosly using the terms beginning and end so as to have no meaning…

    Comment by Matt W. — March 5, 2007 @ 11:58 am

  22. I think that the problem here is that we’re using physical analogies to describe non-physical things (i.e., those relating to “spirits” or “intelligences”). My thought is that those exist in dimensions outside of space and time. If something exists outside time, that would mean that it is infinite or “endless”, wouldn’t it?

    Our brains, on the other hand, are stuck in mostly three-dimensional thinking, since they are 3-dimensional entities themselves. (You could include the fourth dimension, time, but we perceive it mostly as a unidirectional “flowing” sort of thing, rather than the way we see 3-D objects.)

    My thought is that in ressurection/translation, our physical, 3-D bodies are somehow elevated to a higher plane or more perfectly joined with our “timeless” or “eternal” selves, thus making our “eternal souls” complete (spirit + body = soul)

    Comment by Rick — March 5, 2007 @ 12:26 pm

  23. Jacob J:

    Thanks for the source. But I do not think that is how McKonkie used the figure. Maybe I am misreading it.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — March 5, 2007 @ 12:39 pm

  24. Eric,

    For some reason McConkie was enamored with this piece of trivia. I am not sure why. This is a bit off topic, but Geoff is nice so he will probably indulge me.

    I heard about this first many years ago as a teenager (back when I thought this sort of thing was interesting), and I have perked up whenever I have heard it mentioned since. The following footnote seems like it matches what I have heard before, and it is available and online, and it has references that can be checked, so here it is for what its worth:

    William W. Phelps stated that the papyri implied that the solar system’s age according to the Egyptians was 2,555,000,000 years (Times and Seasons 1844, 5: 758) and William Lee Stokes, a geology professor at the U. of Utah, pointed out that that number equals 7 periods of 365,000,000 years, or 7 days of creations, each of which was 1,000 years of the Lord, each of which is 365 days of the Lord, each of which is 1000 earth years (2 Peter 3:8) (Juvenile Instructor June 1965, p. 233). Modern dating of the solar system is about 4,700,000,000 years. (See footnote 11 on this page)

    It appears that Phelp’s actual statement in Times and Seasons said nothing to imply that he calculated the value; rather, it seems at first glance as though he was saying the Egyptian manuscript happened to have the exact age of the solar system. This is how I heard it first as a kid. William Stokes (see quote above) points out that 2,555,000,000 is exactly 7 x 1000 x 365 x 1000, which makes it seem pretty clear that Phelps was just reading what we have as the Book of Abraham and doing the calculation above to get “the age” of the solar system.

    I don’t know what McConkie believed about the significance of the number, but I and suspicious that he may not have known it was the result of the calculation above. That is pure speculation, but this is what he said in Seven Deadly Heresies, speaking about the “heresy” that God does not progress in knowledge:

    Why anyone should suppose that an infinite and eternal being who has presided in our universe for almost 2,555,000,000 years, who made the sidereal heavens, whose creations are more numerous than the particles of the earth, and who is aware of the fall of every sparrow-why anyone would suppose that such a being has more to learn and new truths to discover in the laboratories of eternity is totally beyond my- comprehension. (emphasis mine, see here)

    So, it seems to have nothing to add to his point, I have no idea why he would have added it except to add flair, or maybe because he believed it to be accurate and liked to make people aware of it. Even in SDH above, it does not appear to be the length of an “eternity” though.

    As a person who rejects the idea that creation literally took 7 “days” of 1000 years each, the 2,555,000,000 number has no significance whatsoever, other than as evidence that W.W. Phelps read the creation story more literally than I do.

    Comment by Jacob J — March 5, 2007 @ 2:43 pm

  25. Geoff,

    How can eternal recurrence (i.e. history repeating itself an infinite number of times) not be fatalistic?

    Comment by Mark Butler — March 5, 2007 @ 3:07 pm

  26. Dear Eric,
    Thanks for your insight. To find the truth we must live righteously, read the scriptures and pray. We must read the best books and apply our knowledge. Seven times 365 million would accord to Genesis and agrees with an apostle who could have learned from the source directly. Carbon dating has been found to be inexact.
    Eternal reoccurrence is like reincarnation and is false. There is eternal progression when new gods create new worlds and their exalted children then follow on and do the same. There is a geneiology of worlds.
    Joseph was explaining that if we continued to live as spirits and did not come here the ring would not be cut. When we come here we remember little of our past life and have different experience outwith the presence of eternal beings so that we could form own special relationships away from our Parents;i.e. get married and have children and work to keep them opposed by Satan finding out in the process how difficult that would be.We would also find out about death but would be taught about the way to overcome it.

    Comment by David G.Hogg — March 5, 2007 @ 5:54 pm

  27. David G.Hogg,

    You seem to be long on authoritative-sounding claims and short on arguments or evidence in defense of your claims. Saying something is so does not make it so.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 5, 2007 @ 6:17 pm

  28. Mark: How can eternal recurrence (i.e. history repeating itself an infinite number of times) not be fatalistic?

    The variation I am thinking of is not an inevitable recurrence of exact events in some exact order. I do believe in libertarian free will after all. Rather, I am envisioning a finite number of spirits with an infinite amount of time. In such a situation if there were not beings condescending from a higher existence to a lower existence (as I believe the narratives of Michael becoming Adam and Eve depict) then the supply of beginningless human spirits for God to help would have dried up infinity of time past. I think Joseph explains the situation quite coherently through with his ring analogy. The problem is that no one seems to believe him…

    Comment by Geoff J — March 5, 2007 @ 6:23 pm

  29. All,

    I see no one has stepped up to defend the idea that there is an infinite number of beginningless spirits in existence… (Not that I am surprised of course — I think the idea is a dud if I ever heard one.)

    Comment by Geoff J — March 5, 2007 @ 6:25 pm

  30. Geoff,

    I will step up and defend the idea of an infinite number of beginningless spirits, as I hinted at in #13. I don’t think you’ve done anything to back up your charge of this being a dud idea. All you have offered is a series of flawed arguments about how much can be done in an infinite time. All of your arguments suffer from treating infinities as very large numbers rather than infinities, or of trying to make the concept of an infinity sound ridiculous. #17 is riddled with this problem. For example, you say that God could be accused (under my model) of not being very good at his job since he has had an infinite amount of time and there are still an infinite number of spirits he hasn’t gotten to. Except, he can’t be accused of being bad at his job unless you are working under the false assumption that an infinite time would allow you to exalt an infinite number of spirits. What it really comes down to is that you think an infinite amount of something is intrinsically ridiculous. As I mentioned in #13, I might just as well say that it is ridiculous to think time can go on forever. I mean, it has to stop somewhere. After an infinite amount of time, it should have run out of time, right?

    (#18)

    I’m glad you finally tried to answer this question about “why would God do this?” but I find your answer less than compelling. First, I don’t envision a system of stasis, but one of infinite progression. Remember, it is you, not me, that thinks earth life is the only place where progression can take place. The idea that God can only continue having joy if he erases his memory and starts out tabula rasa is incomprehesible to me. Maybe this whole disagreement really rests on the fact that you see God as being in a static joyless existence and I don’t.

    Comment by Jacob J — March 5, 2007 @ 8:17 pm

  31. I agree with Geoff with almost everything, but I agree with #30 here. I see an infinity of beginningless spirits, and the circle getting bigger and bigger. I see intelligences like yeast, or a zipped folder. The loaf of bread gets bigger, and if you keep on clicking on a zipper folder, it just opens up more and more zipped files. I think infinity goes outwards and inwards, ad infinitum.

    Comment by cadams — March 5, 2007 @ 9:32 pm

  32. Jacob: Except, he can’t be accused of being bad at his job unless you are working under the false assumption that an infinite time would allow you to exalt an infinite number of spirits.

    Why do you say this is a false assumption?

    Comment by Geoff J — March 5, 2007 @ 9:46 pm

  33. Jacob: What it really comes down to is that you think an infinite amount of something is intrinsically ridiculous.

    Not exactly. I think an infinite amount of time makes sense. My experience with time and my trust in the scriptures lead me to believe this.

    I think an infinite amount of matter is intrinsically ridiculous though. I certainly think an infinite number of beginningless spirits is ridiculous. Nothing in my experience or in scriptures lead me to believe otherwise about those things

    Comment by Geoff J — March 5, 2007 @ 9:49 pm

  34. Jacob: I don’t envision a system of stasis

    Ok, what do you expect to be doing for an infinity of time as just one of an infinite number of completely unified exalted beings?

    Comment by Geoff J — March 5, 2007 @ 9:53 pm

  35. Geoff J: I feel neglected :( (#21)

    I can be with Jacob on the infinte amount of Matter and beginningless spirits option. While I don’t want to steal Jacob’s Thunder, re #32- After an Infinite amount of time had passed, there would be an infinite number of spirits exalted, but there would also be an infinite number of spirits left to save and an infinite amount of time left. It’s sort of a trick question in that infinity / infinity = infinity.

    Comment by Matt W. — March 5, 2007 @ 10:22 pm

  36. Matt: It’s sort of a trick question in that infinity / infinity = infinity.

    My position is that it’s worse than tricky — in this case I think it’s nonsense. But since I probably can’t prove it’s nonsense, I can at least ask you if you think it is objectionable to think that the Godhead might already consist of a unity of an infinite number of exalted resurrected persons? Or do you find it objectionable that there might be an infinite number of poor spirits who never got called up by the mortality draft board yet? Jacob seems to be trying to dismiss these legitimate complaints without addressing them at all so far…

    BTW – I didn’t really understand what you were trying to get at in #21 so i didn’t respond.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 5, 2007 @ 10:41 pm

  37. Geoff,

    Why do you say this is a false assumption? (#32)

    Because it is based on faulty reasoning concerning infinities as Matt points out.

    Not exactly. I think an infinite amount of time makes sense. My experience with time and my trust in the scriptures lead me to believe this. (#33)

    Where do the scriputes assure you that time is infinite? What in your experience tells you that time is infinite? If infinite time makes sense to you, but not infinite matter, I ask you to illuminate the conceptual difference for me.

    My position is that it’s worse than tricky — in this case I think it’s nonsense. But since I probably can’t prove it’s nonsense (#36)

    Here’s the problem. You can’t show that it is nonsense because it is not. It is mathematically sound. It is logically sound. There is nothing intrinsically ridiculous about an infinite amount of matter. Conceptually, infinite time and infinite space have the same problems. If time ends, what comes after? If space ends, what is on the other side of the line where it ends? Infinite matter is only a problem if there is not infinite space. So, tell me what is ridiculous about infinite matter?

    For all these questions about infinities, you have three options. (1) You can say it is not infinite and it starts at some arbitrary point (think big bang), (2) you can say that it is infinite and circular, (3) you can say that it is infinite and linear. Incidentally, these same categories apply to logical argument. All arguments either (1) start at some unsupported premise, (2) become circular, (3) lead to an infinite regress.

    You have an interesting combo where you have time being infinite-and-linear, matter being finite, and history being infinite-and-circular. I think that every one of the options (finite, circular, infinite) is conceptually mind bending if you ponder it for awhile. I happen to naturally recoil at circularities, but I don’t think they are intrinsically any more ridiculous than linear infinities. You have yet to demonstrate that one is more ridiculous, you just keep asserting that one is, but only for some things (infinite matter, but not infinite time).

    The problem is that I don’t see how eternal progression can fit into the framework you have described, so I think it is unworkable in a Mormon context. What you are suggesting is an eternal cycle of progression and regression, which is quite obviously different than eternal progression.

    Comment by Jacob J — March 6, 2007 @ 1:20 am

  38. Re my #21- If there is “Eternal Recursion”, does that mean that If I am exalted, it won’t matter, because I will eventually be not exalted again? If we take the ring analogy too seriously, we eventually come full circle and end up back at a state where we are unembodied spirits again, even though we have been exalted beings. Thus I asked if you think that Heavenly Father will reach this point where he is an unembodied spirit again.

    Personally, to me, Joseph in the ring analogy says this is false, because to draw such a line on the ring and say one side of the line is unembodied spirt and the other side is exalted being is essentially to cut the ring. Thus I can assume the ring analogy does not refer to those aspects of our changeable state of being, but only to those parts of our state of being which ar unchangeable. We are only bound to the ring analogy in those aspects which are constant throughout all time and space.

    Comment by Matt W. — March 6, 2007 @ 8:20 am

  39. I can at least ask you if you think it is objectionable to think that the Godhead might already consist of a unity of an infinite number of exalted resurrected persons? Or do you find it objectionable that there might be an infinite number of poor spirits who never got called up by the mortality draft board yet?

    We know doctrinally that the Godhead consits of an finite number 3. I don’t think our potential to become like our Father in Heaven means we have potential to Join the Godhead. I’ve never seen any scripture to back such an idea up. But that is tangential, I believe to your point.

    You Question, if I understand you correctly is “Do you find it objectionable that there are an infinite number of spirits who will NEVER have an opportunity to be exalted?” (Because Infinite work to do – Infinite work done = Infinite work to do)

    There are two alternatives I could take on this, depending on the foundation I want to build on. These alternative foundations affect the rest.

    They are:
    1. Our Father in Heaven has a Father in Heaven.
    2. Our Father in Heaven does not have a Father in Heaven.

    I am hoping that the foundations speak towards there own implications. If not, I will give you more later.

    Comment by Matt W. — March 6, 2007 @ 8:30 am

  40. Jacob,

    You are right that I can’t show that an infinite number of spirits in existence is nonsense but I can show why I think the idea is objectionable. And as I said, the idea of an infinite number of exalted and resurrected persons in the extended Godhead already plus an infinite number of premortal spirits who have never received a body is objectionable to me. But it is worse than that… If we assume the My Turn on Earth model of progression on this planet and all inhabited planets then we must also assume an infinite number of spirits have inherited Outer Darkness. Plus we must assume there are an infinite number of resurrected people in the Telestial and Terrestrial kingdoms as well.

    You keep saying this is faulty reasoning but you still have not demonstrated why. If the infinite number of spirits are broken up as I said in the above categories what else can I call the number of each if not infinite as well? Is there a name for the number that is infinity/6? I thought infinity/6 still equals infinity…

    As for infinite space or matter, you are also right that one could argue for it. For the reasons above I argue against it. Here is an interesting paragraph I came across on that from the infinity wiki:

    An intriguing question is whether actual infinity exists in our physical universe: Are there infinitely many stars? Does the universe have infinite volume? Does space “go on forever”? This is an important open question of cosmology. Note that the question of being infinite is logically separate from the question of having boundaries. The two-dimensional surface of the Earth, for example, is finite, yet has no edge. By walking/sailing/driving straight long enough, you’ll return to the exact spot you started from. The universe, at least in principle, might have a similar topology; if you fly your space ship straight ahead long enough, perhaps you would eventually revisit your starting point. If, however, the universe is ever expanding then you could never get back to your starting point even on an infinite time scale.

    What you are suggesting is an eternal cycle of progression and regression, which is quite obviously different than eternal progression.

    Wait… you don’t think the possibility of spiritual regression (I assume this means the same thing as retrogression) is likely? Whatever happened to “opposition in all things”? If we can only move forward then won’t everyone eventually be exalted? (assuming progression between kingdoms as I think you do…)

    Comment by Geoff J — March 6, 2007 @ 8:34 am

  41. Matt (#39): I don’t think our potential to become like our Father in Heaven means we have potential to Join the Godhead.

    Fine. But we still have the issue of an infinite number of resurrected exalted persons in existence now. Whether you think they are one with God or if they form their own Godheads or whatever is not really the issue here.

    Your Question, if I understand you correctly is “Do you find it objectionable that there are an infinite number of spirits who will NEVER have an opportunity to be exalted?”

    I avoided that wording because it isn’t exactly accurate I don’t think. I ask the question to point out the paradox: In infinite time in theory there would be a chance for all spirits to come to a mortality. But if there are an infinite number of spirits there is no “all” of them so there will always be more who have not had that chance. It’s an ugly paradox associated with this idea.

    As for whether the Father has a Father, see my post on that here.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 6, 2007 @ 8:55 am

  42. Matt (#38): Thus I asked if you think that Heavenly Father will reach this point where he is an unembodied spirit again.

    I am opining that perhaps any exalted being can choose to condescend in such a manner. We know God can pass through the veil too (see Jesus) and we have at least some evidence that all of us arrived at our current place in existence through something along those lines too (see Michael being the spirit that became Adam and Eve).

    Personally, to me, Joseph in the ring analogy says this is false, because to draw such a line on the ring and say one side of the line is unembodied spirt and the other side is exalted being is essentially to cut the ring.

    I don’t see this at all. What do you base this on?

    Comment by Geoff J — March 6, 2007 @ 9:03 am

  43. Geoff: (#40)

    If we can only move forward then won’t everyone eventually be exalted? (assuming progression between kingdoms as I think you do…)

    No because exaltation is being in unity with or like our HF and he is also always progressing, and even if we continually progress, we will not progress at a rate fast enough to surpass his rate and thus be exalted.

    (#41)It will take some time to get through the Father of HF post, it had 200 plus comments! That is somewhat daunting..

    But we still have the issue of an infinite number of resurrected exalted persons in existence now. Whether you think they are one with God or if they form their own Godheads or whatever is not really the issue here.

    This is what depends on HF being the beginning or having a Father. If he is the starting point, then we have a finite number of resurrected exalted persons, if he is not the starting point, then there is an infinite number. I am personally undecided on this. I have decided however, that since HF is our Father in Heaven, that even if there are other HF, they do nt apply to us, so there are only a finite number of resurrected exalted persons that apply to us.

    I avoided that wording because it isn’t exactly accurate I don’t think. I ask the question to point out the paradox: In infinite time in theory there would be a chance for all spirits to come to a mortality. But if there are an infinite number of spirits there is no “all” of them so there will always be more who have not had that chance. It’s an ugly paradox with associated with this idea.
    What’s not accurate about my wording? Is it not exactly what you are saying, in the strongest sense possible? What is paradoxical about this? It makes me think of the old Starfish on the beach analogy rather than Sisyphus.

    (#42)

    I am opining that perhaps any exalted being can choose to condescend in such a manner. We know God can pass through the veil too (see Jesus) and we have at least some evidence that all of us arrived at our current place in existence through something along those lines too (see Michael being the spirit that became Adam and Eve).

    We do not have any solid exidence that Jesus was God in the same since that HF was God. There is strong evidence to the contrary actually, in Mormon theology: If Jesus was God in the same sense that HF was God, why did Jesus come and atone for our sins in this life and not HF? Our only option is that HF could not and that Jesus could, which means there was a fundamental difference between the two. Further, if Jesus was God before he went through the veil, are you saying he was no longer God on this side of the veil, via his condesencion? This is false, according to our teachings. I will ignore the Michael comment, as I believe you are implying Adam-God Theory…

    Another Argument on this is, what being would choose to go from an exalted state to a premortal state and why?

    What do you base this on?

    I base this on the idea that any change in state either has a beginning and an end, or a point of recurrance, which is fundamentally the same as a beginning and an end.

    Another Argument just entered my head on this. If there is a recurrance, why would God give us commandments at all, since whether we obey the commandments or not, we will eventually all end up at point X on the circle, one way or another…

    Comment by Matt W. — March 6, 2007 @ 9:58 am

  44. Matt: even if we continually progress, we will not progress at a rate fast enough to surpass his rate and thus be exalted

    If you think that exaltation=surpassing or even “catching up” with Jesus or the Father then we aren’t on the same page at all. As far as I’m concerned Progress=growing closer to God. We are not trying to catch up with him as much as we are trying to be one with Him.

    This is what depends on HF being the beginning or having a Father.

    I don’t think so. If Blake is right and there is a single beginningless Divine Monarch or if others are right that there has always been a regress of Fathers and Sons the principle still holds. The issue is that over an infinite amount of time an infinite number of persons would have already been resurrected and exalted (if we assume there are an infinite number of spirits in existence). Where do you think they live and what are they doing?

    What’s not accurate about my wording?

    We could never pinpoint a single individual that would never receive a mortality. The issue is that there would have to be an inexhaustible supply of spirits to draft into mortality. No matter how many get drafted there would always be an infinite number who have never had the chance… (not just a huge number — an infinite number)

    We do not have any solid exidence that Jesus was God in the same since that HF was God.

    I only said he was God before coming here. I never said he was God in the same sense his Father was before his ministry here. There are obviously different levels of exaltation (see here).

    I will ignore the Michael comment, as I believe you are implying Adam-God Theory…

    I’m not, but I agree we should shelve that point for now.

    what being would choose to go from an exalted state to a premortal state and why?

    I can think of two reasons love for others and love for self. The latter might be related to sheer boredom — if the joy is in the journey and not the destination this might make sense. (Forever is, well, forever after all). The former might be to simply keep the cycle going to provide joy for others. I obviously don’t know though so I can only guess.

    we will eventually all end up at point X on the circle, one way or another…

    You are arguing against something I am not suggesting here.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 6, 2007 @ 10:37 am

  45. Wait… you don’t think the possibility of spiritual regression (I assume this means the same thing as retrogression) is likely? Whatever happened to “opposition in all things”?

    Ugh.

    I think the possibility of regression is there. I don’t think that God chooses to regress. I think choosing to regress is contrary to the nature of godliness unless it serves some important purpose (live saving humankind). I think the idea that God chooses to regress is infinitely [wink] more unacceptable than the idea that there are an infinite number of spirits.

    If we can only move forward then won’t everyone eventually be exalted?

    I never said that everyone only moves forward. I said that our goal is eternal progression, that eternal progression is logically possible (contra you), and that some beings are eternally progressing (e.g. God). That is what I said. However, even if everyone was only moving forward, it would not follow that eventually everyone would be exalted, because infinity is not simply a large number. It is possible that there are always more spirits who have not yet progressed to exaltation.

    All of your arguments about there being more spirits who have not yet been born are just illustrating what we mean by “infinite” (i.e. that there are always more), thus I don’t find them very interesting or troubling. I can spin up similarly unintereting “paradoxes” with your model. For example, don’t you think it is strange that in your view, there has never been a time when everything hadn’t already happened an infinite number of times? I mean, that is just ridiculous on its face. If you are not persuaded against your view by this, perhaps it will help you feel the way I do when I read your “paradoxes” about poor spirits left out in the cold.

    Your stuff in #40 about there being an infinite number who have gone to outer darkness and an infinite number in the telestial kingdom etc. is simply an obvious consequence of this MToE process going on for an infinite time. There is nothing troubling about it to me. On your model, we have all gone to outer darkness an infinite number of times. Does this disturb you? We can all play your game if you want. My goal has been to show you why the game you are playing is pointless. You continue to act like I must take your game very seriously and answer your questions as though they are meaningful and troubling or I am avoiding the question. I am not avoiding it, I am showing you why they are bad questions and not paradoxical.

    By the way, what was I supposed to get out of the wiki quote in #40? It seems to be pointing out the same thing I said in #37, which is that space could be infinite-and-circular. Was there something else in there I missed, not sure I got your point.

    Comment by Jacob J — March 6, 2007 @ 10:46 am

  46. Jacob: I think the possibility of regression is there.

    Ok, that makes more sense to me.

    For example, don’t you think it is strange that in your view, there has never been a time when everything hadn’t already happened an infinite number of times?

    No, not particularly. Because if memory capacity is not infinite then anything that happens again is always new to the participants. I don’t find that objectionable because no one is left out in the cold as they are in the model you are defending. To me that is a massive difference.

    On your model, we have all gone to outer darkness an infinite number of times.

    Probably. But I would simply define “outer darkness” under such a model as a sort of hard reboot — A total erasing of memory to give a beginningless spirit another fresh start to progress and have joy. (This is very much like the way Brigham and his contemporaries saw OD.) If motion (rather than stasis) really is the foundation of all reality seems to work well. It certainly work far better for me than the alternative you seem to be presenting where beginningless sentient beings must rot for an infinite time in a place called outer darkness — all for screwing up in the blink of an eye that was their single turn on earth.

    My goal has been to show you why the game you are playing is pointless.

    And mine is to show that it is not pointless. I think that the recursion model has compassionate answers to questions that the infinite number of spirits model miserably fails at. Perhaps though you can show me some “uninteresting paradoxes” that show where I am wrong. I don’t think you’ve done that so far.

    what was I supposed to get out of the wiki quote in #40

    I was simply agreeing with you that there could be infinite time with infinite space or infinite time with non-infinite space. The quote allowed for both.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 6, 2007 @ 11:13 am

  47. I don’t find that objectionable because no one is left out in the cold as they are in the model you are defending.

    You have re-defined outer darkness to be a hard reboot, do you similarly have a re-definition of hell where the wicked go and suffer for a time in the kind of excruciating pain Jesus underwent in Gethsemane?

    Your model says that we have all been in such a state an infinite number of times. Each instance went on for a non-zero duration, so that means we have all been in hellfire an infinite amount of time, and we’ll be spending an infinite amount of time in the future in this hellfire. This is surely worse than being “left out in the cold,” is it not? On your model, we have already, and will in the future spend infinite time suffering in a way we cannot even fathom. Isn’t this fun?

    Comment by Jacob J — March 6, 2007 @ 11:23 am

  48. If you think that exaltation=surpassing or even “catching up” with Jesus or the Father then we aren’t on the same page at all. As far as I’m concerned Progress=growing closer to God. We are not trying to catch up with him as much as we are trying to be one with Him.

    If progression = growing closer to God, then how can God progress? Can God grow closer to himself? If your response is that God’s objective is to grow closer to his Father of some other reality, allow me to cut you off by saying we would be better off then to try to get closer to our father’s father, then to our father then, so that we are not the cat chasing it’s tale.

    I don’t think so. If Blake is right and there is a single beginningless Divine Monarch or if others are right that there has always been a regress of Fathers and Sons the principle still holds. The issue is that over an infinite amount of time an infinite number of persons would have already been resurrected and exalted (if we assume there are an infinite number of spirits in existence). Where do you think they live and what are they doing?

    Does Blake hold that the beginninless Monarch has always had the capacity to exalt us? If so I guess that is another option I had not considered in my prior listing. I was assuming the notion that HF, by his own means, came to the state he is in now.

    No matter, for the sake of this discussion. I am not sure why it matters what this infinite number of exalted beings has to do with me. If they exist, I would guess they are doing what the scriptures say I will be doing when I achieve my exaltation. (D & C 76, D & C 132)

    I only said he was God before coming here. I never said he was God in the same sense his Father was before his ministry here.
    Then the fact that Jesus did this has no bearing on whether HF can do this. You initially said: I am opining that perhaps any exalted being can choose to condescend in such a manner. We know God can pass through the veil too (see Jesus) and since Jesus is not the same as HF, do you still opine that HF can do this? I would say that if HF did do this, he would cease to be HF, and thus would end (cutting the ring)

    I can think of two reasons love for others and love for self. The latter might be related to sheer boredom — if the joy is in the journey and not the destination this might make sense. (Forever is, well, forever after all). The former might be to simply keep the cycle going to provide joy for others. I obviously don’t know though so I can only guess.

    Love for Others- This doesn’t work out as it contradicts what has been said before. God would give up being God for us, but our whole purpose in becoming God is to be with God as God, but he would cease to be God so we would not be with him, so his ceasing to be God would be a lack of love for others.

    Love for Self- This runs into the other problem I already stated that God would cease to be God, and further, what if God became bored today and decided to quit while I am hear trying to come to him. What if you became bored of your spouse? Your children? This simply does not seem to be a christian option.

    You are arguing against something I am not suggesting here. Am I really? If someone fails their MMP, then you say they go one way on the circle, but if they succeed in their MMP, then you say they go the other way on the circle. However, neither is progress to you since God is also on the circle and what I want to do is be close to God, and thus I have three trategies to get to Father, who is moving about on the circle as well, move forward, backward or stand still. I progress when I get closer to God, and the easiest way to get around the circle is in the negative direction, I am actually closer to my FH at spirit child than I am at human child, since I am closer to him on the circle (since you opine he could just make that jump out of boredom at any second.) I would be better of holding to Lucifer’s plan and not moving on the circle at all, so when HF makes the jump, I will be absolutly closer to him.

    This is just not workable.

    Comment by Matt W. — March 6, 2007 @ 11:37 am

  49. Geoff-
    Headache inducing as they are :-), your theories have made me think about things and in ways I never have before. I’m thankful for that! And it’s more than a little possible that I really don’t understand what you are saying at all… But anyway, my problem is that your take on the ring analogy and MMP’s seems to be so flexible as to be almost meaningless. You’ve got infinite time, but finite matter. Those who die as infants because they were born so good in a previous MP that they only need to come again briefly and what– get one more body because why?? Infinite Gods and finite numbers of individuals going around and around.
    In your theory, everything can happen. That does make it easier to argue though, if you can have everything all ways.
    Maybe there are an infinity of parallel universes where everything has/is/will happened, but my problem with that is that has always been the most convincing argument to me of no God needed at all, for creation or any other purpose.

    Comment by C Jones — March 6, 2007 @ 11:57 am

  50. Jacob: This is surely worse than being “left out in the cold,” is it not?

    The primary difference between the models is that I think the recursion model Joseph either intentionally or inadvertantly hinted at works well with a metaphysic of becoming whereas the model you are defending does not. Yes, there is pain involved along the way in such a metaphysic of becoming and yes over an infinity of time there would be an infinity of pain to go with the infinity of pure joy and everything in between. As they say — that’s life. But the model you are defending does not really seem to be based on a metaphysic of becoming at all. What is a beginningless spirit becoming in the infinity of time before its one turn on earth? What is God or a god becoming in the infinity of time as as an exalted person? If joy (or pain) is in becoming I don’t think the model you are supporting has enough becoming to work. It seems to me that most all of the becoming happens in a relatively short time surrounding our turn on earth in this model you are backing.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 6, 2007 @ 12:29 pm

  51. C Jones: your theories have made me think about things and in ways I never have before. I’m thankful for that! And it’s more than a little possible that I really don’t understand what you are saying at all…

    Thanks and I think you are right… (grin) I don’t think I have been proposing an “anything goes” model at all. I suspect you are misunderstanding my position if that is what you are gathering from it.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 6, 2007 @ 12:31 pm

  52. Matt: then how can God progress?

    Good question. What is your answer?

    Does Blake hold that the beginninless Monarch has always had the capacity to exalt us?

    Yes.(You gotta get caught up on your reading…)

    I would say that if HF did do this, he would cease to be HF, and thus would end (cutting the ring)

    Right. As Joseph said, anything that has a beginning has an end. (Of course the term God need not apply to a single divine person but rather a unity of divine persons — individual divine persons can leave that unity while God still remains God… This flexibility of the term God is important in dealing with your other complaints.)

    Comment by Geoff J — March 6, 2007 @ 12:40 pm

  53. If the answer “As they say — that’s life.” is adequate to respond to the idea that we have already (and will again) sufferer for an infinite amount of time, then why is it not adequate to respond to the poor spirits left out in the cold for an infinite amount of time waiting for their turn on earth.

    I believe that a long continuum of progression was possible before earth life, and that a long continuum of progression is possible after earth life, so my model supports progression and becoming just fine. You only think that it does not because you are committed to the idea that the only place where progress is possible is on earth. In the end, I suspect this committment of yours is one of the main reasons you are led to ideas like MMP and eternal recurrance. Since I hold to the idea that progress is possible in many other environments, I am led a different direction. You think that the only way to have becoming is to have an equal amount of unbecoming. I disagree.

    But, I’m glad to see that infinities of suffering don’t seem too troubling to, whereas, infinities of waiting do seem troubling [grin].

    Comment by Jacob J — March 6, 2007 @ 12:50 pm

  54. Jacob,

    It is an apples and oranges comparison you are making. I am saying that in the cycles/recursion model there is always joy mixed in with some sorrow/pain along the road. So while technically there could be said to be an infinite of pain in an infinite amount of time that is mixed with an infinite amount of joy as well.

    I believe that a long continuum of progression was possible before earth life, and that a long continuum of progression is possible after earth life

    Not just long; infinite. That is what your model requires. And that is the problem still — are you saying the draft board is not random then? That spirits earn the right to their turn on earth? How long might that take? Spirits have never not existed so it must not be an issue of slow progress right?

    I don’t think that earth is the only place where progress is possible — but I do think that claiming we progressed before we got here (and that progress is what earned our ticket here) has logical problems. It has the old “infinity plus 1” issue if we have always been time bound. If we are only moving in one direction (with no recursion) we have already had an infinity of time to work at it — the model you are supporting holds that it will take us “infinity and beyond” to achieve that goal. I think that doesn’t work and there are two ways around it: Either assume with Brigham and Orson Pratt and (partially) BH Roberts that we have a beginning at spirit birth or take Joseph’s words at face value that spirits are beginningless and that anything that does have a beginninging has an end (including godhood).

    Comment by Geoff J — March 6, 2007 @ 1:14 pm

  55. Geoff (52)

    1: Progress equals working towards being the best I can be where “the best” is very loose and includes my loving relationship with all around me. God progresses because he continues to become the best he can be and continues to help bring all around him to be the best they can be.

    2: My reading has had all kinds of problems. I have put aside Blake Book 2 to finish the SWK biography, and I am also reading the World of the NT book, and then I need to get back to Blake Book 1, and such. I love Blake’s work, but I must admit that it is challenging for me, so I tend to put it down after just a few pages. Don’t feel too bad, I haven’t yet finished the OT yet either and I’ve been reading it for about 6 years now… Does Blake address this in book 1 or 2 (If in Book 2, which Chapter, and I will go strait too it.) I’ll have to plan a future post to probe Blake’s idea on this, unless he’d prefer to address it here.

    3. I’ll have to plan a future post on this concept of possible definitions of God. But I would like to point out that the ring analogy was not pointing, in any case, to the office of God, but rather to the existence of spirits, the elements, and man. (I could also point out that none of these factors become an issue for a God who is outside of time.)

    Comment by Matt W. — March 6, 2007 @ 1:29 pm

  56. BTW – Just in case anyone had forgotten, our scriptures do repeatedly say that the course of the Lord is one eternal round. It is no proof text for this idea but it is an interesting text nonetheless…

    I should also note that it is in the very same sermon (the KFD) where Joseph preached that our God came to be God that he used the ring analogy where he said anything that has a beginning must have an end. Now one can assume that Joseph was just naive and didn’t realize that he was inadvertently saying that God (at least God the divine person who Jesus called Father) had a beginning in that role so must have an end in that role too. But I am not so quick to assume Joseph was that hapless. This is the same Joseph through whom the Book of Mormon was translated and lest we forget the BoM is the place that in more than one place refers to the idea that God could indeed cease to be God.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 6, 2007 @ 1:35 pm

  57. This is a fun exercise of looking beyond the mark, but interesting none the less. Is there something wrong with people like us? :)

    It would seem BY was interested in something called “One Eternal Round.” I never have been sure just what he meant by that.

    Geoff, a person in this life does not become a sentient being until a sperm and an egg get together to form life as we know it. Why could not something like that happen in a world where Celestial beings exist? I am not suggesting sex in heaven, all though I used to believe in such things, but some kind of process brought about by God that takes existing matter of two different kinds (sperm and egg) and bring about a spiritual person. Would this not satisfy your concern about waiting for an infinite period of time for ones time on earth thing?

    I really do not think a rock waits around, anxiously looking forward, to a time it can become a rock in some distant world. So whatever elements exist prior to becoming a spirit person, are not self aware and therefore unhappy. At least that is how I have always understood things. Of course I could be wrong on all counts.

    Comment by CEF — March 6, 2007 @ 1:55 pm

  58. CEF,

    Yup, assuming we have a beginning as spirits/minds/intelligences short circuits the problems discussed in this post and thread from the get-go. As I said, BY, OP, JFSII, BRM and to a lesser degree BH Roberts all went that route.

    But Joseph seemed to think that spirits are beginningless so if we buy that then the kind of metaphysical discussions we are having here are likely to happen. The idea I am pitching here is that Joseph meant really meant it when he said that spirits were beginningless and he had in mind a model of eternity that was indeed one eternal round to account for it.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 6, 2007 @ 2:04 pm

  59. Geoff,

    I am saying that in the cycles/recursion model there is always joy mixed in with some sorrow/pain along the road.

    What about the time in hell I was talking about? Is that a mix of joy and sorrow, or is that primarily sorrow and pain? Do you reject the scriptural idea that there is a time when some spirits suffer in hell?

    As the “infinity plus 1″ argument, Blake must have debunked the logic of that argument ten times on this site. I’m surprised he has been able to refrain himself this time.

    lest we forget the BoM is the place that in more than one place refers to the idea that God could indeed cease to be God.

    22 …the law inflicteth the punishment; if not so, the works of justice would be destroyed, and God would cease to be God.
    23 But God ceaseth not to be God (Alma 42)

    if so he would cease to be God; and he ceaseth not to be God (Morm 9:19)

    The BoM authors were using an argument which first demonstrates that a certain idea leads to an absurdity (the absurdity being that God ceaseth to be God) and then uses that fact to prove their point (the law inflicteth the punishment). Notice, in both cases, the BoM authors are very clear that God does not cease to be God. These authors view this as obviously absurd. So, I reject your reading of these verses.

    At some point you started believing in this infinite recursion doctrine, right? So, by your interpretation of Joseph’s logic, you will stop believing in it at some point, right? So, maybe I will just hold out until then and we can have a good laugh.

    Comment by Jacob J — March 6, 2007 @ 2:45 pm

  60. Jacob,

    Blake’s retort was consistently against my claim that the idea that one could progress after “infinity plus 1″ years was illogical. He says it is perfectly logical. This time around I am not saying it is not logically possible anymore, I am just saying it is a ridiculous notion.

    These authors view this as obviously absurd. So, I reject your reading of these verses.

    It reads like a pretty simple if/then claim to me. The if hasn’t happened so the then didn’t happen either. I am simply saying they saw the “if” as a real possibility even if it was not a practical reality under those circumstances.

    At some point you started believing in this infinite recursion doctrine, right? So, by your interpretation of Joseph’s logic, you will stop believing in it at some point, right?

    Of course I will — even if it is true. That’s because even if it is true I’d eventually willingly pass through a veil in the eternities to come and forget I started believing it in the first place… (assuming I eventually end up exalted of course which is no slam dunk.) That is the point I’m making here to begin with — one eternal round. (Grin)

    Comment by Geoff J — March 6, 2007 @ 3:32 pm

  61. Geoff (#56) “Now one can assume that Joseph was just naive and didn’t realize that he was inadvertently saying that God (at least God the divine person who Jesus called Father) had a beginning in that role so must have an end in that role too.”

    One should consider the possibility that the “end” of God’s (Jesus’ Father) status as “God” could be “higher up” rather than back down (ceasing to be God). Consider D&C 130:10-11, which together seem to imply that there are kingdoms higher than the Celestial Kingdom. Perhaps the message is that God continues to advance and progress. In the same ring sermon, Joseph also teaches that Jesus will take his Father’s throne and his Father will advance to a higher level.

    And the reason we should continue to worship the Son and the Father (rather than their Father, or His Father, ad infinitum) is because they are the ones who are ministering and entering into covenant with us. They are actively our Gods and we needn’t worry about potential Gods above them. Indeed, this is why we worship the Son, even knowing the Father – because the Son condesended to minister unto us. And to lift us up with Him.

    Short version – the end of our celestial resurrection need not be back down in an eternal recurrence, but could be higher up.

    That being said, I come back to Joseph’s ring analogy a lot and wonder how to take it. So thanks for this.

    Also, not fully formulated, but I don’t think that we should let the idea of infinite time make us assume the cycle (or that God isn’t failing for not exalting infinite beings given infinite time.) If existence is eternal but in a process of eternal progression, we could look backwards over infinite time to lower and lower states and forwards to infinite higher and higher ones. But we still exist in time. So while we are not exalted yet, we are perhaps more progressed than we have ever been in our infinite past. And perhaps compared to a really distant past, we would already consider ourselves exalted. If exaltation is not a static resting place, but an eternal process of growth, there will never be a time in which all beings will be “exalted”. Even after we are exalted, perhaps we will be striving for a higher exaltation. And so on.

    Comment by Ignorant Sage — March 20, 2007 @ 1:35 am

  62. Ignorant Sage, John Widtsoe, from what I’ve read, agrees with you.

    Comment by Matt W. — March 20, 2007 @ 4:59 am

  63. The number 2,555,000,000 having been mentioned earlier at this site, I haven’t yet read here at this site where it really came from among those who have posted comments. It came from Joseph Smith who said that he had it by revelation that the preexistent age span of our Lord was 2,555,000,000 earth years.

    If you do the math, it means that the preexistent age span of our Lord was 7000 Kolob or Celestial years.

    Comment by Lee — April 29, 2007 @ 11:05 pm

  64. To be more specific, 2,555,000,000 divided by 365,000 equals 7.

    Comment by Lee — April 29, 2007 @ 11:07 pm

  65. Uhhh… Do you have any sources to cite on that Lee? (Sorry but I’m skeptical.)

    Comment by Geoff J — April 29, 2007 @ 11:08 pm

  66. Having looked into this myself some years ago, I believe W.W. Phelps was the source of this, and some have done the old nose tap and said “And you know where he got it from…” Of course, everything from Spirit Birth, to Heavenly Mother, to Zelph falls into this category as well, so who’s to say…

    Comment by Matt W. — April 30, 2007 @ 8:36 am

  67. I haven’t yet read here at this site where it really came from among those who have posted comments.

    Um, Lee (and Geoff and Matt I guess), try comment #24 on this very thread for more info.

    Comment by Jacob J — April 30, 2007 @ 10:23 am

  68. That was my point Jacob — I knew about those sources (thanks largely to your #24) but Lee was claiming something directly from Joseph himself as well and I wanted to see if he could back that claim up.

    Comment by Geoff J — April 30, 2007 @ 10:36 am

  69. I see. Perhaps Lee is the expert I mentioned in #24 who can jump in to correct. Good point. Lee??

    Comment by Jacob J — April 30, 2007 @ 10:54 am

  70. A few comments about everything. I’ve gotten a bit confused about who said what here, but here’s my thoughts on the subject:

    Joseph Smith talked about his ring being a symbol of the eternal. Could we not think of it as an ‘eternal ring’? Meaning, could it not be a ring with a radius of infinity? The ring part could represent time, but if you plot one point on it and go forward, you’d never get back to where you started.

    Is God therefore not at the center of the ring?

    Also, saying that there is finite spirit or matter is irreconcilable with LDS doctrine. First of all, all infinite spirits or intelligences in existence don’t belong to our God… we’re supposed to organize some of them as our own spirit children, right? And wouldn’t it make sense that not all spirits are on the same level of progression, and therefore are not ready for mortality at the same time, just as not all are ready for Godhood at the same time?

    They do not live in a state of time, so saying that they’re waiting for mortality and upset about it would be misleading. ‘Wait’ is an effect of experiencing time passing.

    I think what Joseph Smith was saying that God didn’t create intelligences. It is a well-founded doctrine of the LDS Church that we are spirit children of God, therefore there must have been some kind of coming as spirits from intelligence (not that we know how that is done).

    And here we are with mortal brains living in linear time. God does not live in linear time, (He is in the Great Now as C.S. Lewis called it). We do not comprehend all that God can comprehend.

    Comment by Jen M — October 9, 2007 @ 1:42 am

  71. Intelligence -> spirit being -> mortal being -> resurrected being with fullness of joy -> ?

    First death = death of mortal body (as seen from our mortal frame of reference)

    second death = death of spirit (return to intelligence) or dissolution. This applies to the 1/3rd of the hosts of heaven who chose to not obtain mortality and sons of perdition. They return to that great pool of intelligence or intelligences. Not sure if intelligence exists individually or not. Seems like there is some form of individuality and agency.

    Some intelligences choose to become sons and daughters of an exalted being. Some chose to become other forms of life – from elemental to animal. Are they doomed to exist in this form of life forever and ever? Hardly. The Lord’s course is one eternal round. Why should some intelligences not have a chance to pursue the road to exaltation? Perhaps, that rock was your friend when you were an intelligence. :) Perhaps, for an eternity, each intelligence pursues existence in a chosen form. Perhaps, some forms are not limited to the eternity boundary and can cycle more often.

    The idea that this system has been in existence for 2,555,000,000 years did not originate with Phelps or Joseph Smith. They quoted Egyptian text:

    … eternity, agreeably to the records found in the catacombs of Egypt, has been going on in this system (not the world) almost two thousand five hundred and fifty five millions of years… Times & Seasons 5 no. 24 (1 Jan. 1844), 758 (emphasis added).

    Comment by littlejon — December 15, 2007 @ 12:28 am

  72. littlejon,

    Welcome.

    The idea that this system has been in existence for 2,555,000,000 years did not originate with Phelps or Joseph Smith. They quoted Egyptian text

    Please refer to comment #24 on this thread which debunks your claim above. Phelps was working with nothing more than we have in our current Book of Abraham and simply doing a calculation based on a literalistic reading of 2 Peter 3:8.

    Comment by Jacob J — December 15, 2007 @ 10:25 am

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