Confessing God’s hand in all things

January 31, 2008    By: Jacob J @ 12:01 pm   Category: Scriptures

I can’t get any of my real posts to the point where I am willing to pull the trigger, so I will settle today with a quick question about an interesting scripture:

21 And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments. (D&C 59:21)

The idea that God’s wrath is kindled against those who don’t confess his hand in all things is often used to argue that God is sticking his fingers is way more things than some of us have supposed. For example, Blake used this scripture in that way here, which got me thinking about it again. Earlier in that thread, I said that I reject the “everything happens for a purpose” way of thinking. I don’t think God is micro-managing everything that happens. I don’t feel compelled to attribute every good thing that happens to some form of divine intervention.

Of course, I don’t believe God is totally hands off either. I am not a Deist. I believe in a God who can answer prayers and perform miracles, but I think these must be considered to be the exception rather than the rule if we have in mind everything that happens. So I can’t sign on to Blake’s reading of this verse. There are several other possible readings; I am not overly committed to any of them and I am interested in your take.

Suggested reading 1: I’ll use this to refer to Blake’s reading as cited above, and further defined on this thread in which Blake argued that God guarantees that all the children who die were celestial before coming to earth and anyone who was not celestial is protected from the possibility of death in infancy. This is the kind of systematic intervention I don’t believe in at all, and I described many of my reasons in my discussion with Blake on that thread just linked to.

Suggested reading 2: One possible reading (which is supported by the verses preceding, if you ask me) is that God has given us this earth and we should confess our dependence on him as the creator. In this spirit, we might note that God “maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” We should confess God’s hand in the blessing of a sunny day or the rain on our crops, but this does not require us to believe that God personally intervenes to cause each rain storm and each sunrise. Acknowledging God’s hand in all things, then, does not mean acknowledging that God is perpetually tweaking every situation and sticking his fingers in all sorts of things where no one asked him to intervene.

Suggested reading 3: Another reading which I confess to liking is that we usually do not know which things were done by God and which were not. In the spirit of epistemological humility, we should confess that God’s hand might well have been in any particular thing. I don’t think we should be quick to discount divine intervention the way non-believers do, betraying a distrust of miracles per se.

So, what do you think this verse means? Feel free to add some new suggested readings.

170 Comments »

  1. God’s wrath is kindled against people who exhibit two characteristics (not one). THese characteristics are not confessing his hand in all things AND not obeying the commandments. I think this combination is important. I would guess that the commandments part is by far the biggest part of the equation.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — January 31, 2008 @ 1:02 pm

  2. There is nothing in this world that comes from any other source than that of God the Eternal Father.

    Comment by Dan — January 31, 2008 @ 2:26 pm

  3. Eric, Good point.

    Dan, What about all the things that I create through the free excercise of my own will? I posted on that question here. I would contend that if you give God the credit for everything that happens than you must give him the blame for it as well, which makes for a difficult theodicy.

    Comment by Jacob J — January 31, 2008 @ 2:33 pm

  4. Hi Jacob,

    While in the mission field, I read something by BY that shaped the way I used to see the world. He said, (or something like this) “When the truth is known, every pain or sickness we have, there was an evil spirit there causing it.” I am not sure I still believe this to be true, but of course it could be true.

    So I believed, and still do to some extent, that there are only two forces that govern the universe. The force of good and the force of evil. If that is true, then if something is not caused by one force, then it must have been caused by the other.

    So I have no problem with the idea that God’s hand is in all things. If God can set this world into motion with natural/physical laws that govern everything in it, why is it so hard to believe that God can have spiritual laws that govern everything we do in relation to our future lives in heaven?

    For instance, if I drop something, I do not believe God is in heaven watching me, to make sure it falls, anymore than I believe when I pray, that I have God’s undivided attention to answer my prayer. When I say, our Father in heaven, I am taping into spiritual laws that automatically take control and make sure that certain things happen in accordance with what is in my best interest and God’s plan.

    Needless to say, this leaves a lot of questions unanswered or at best, difficult to answer.

    Comment by CEF — January 31, 2008 @ 2:58 pm

  5. Seems to me that “confessing his hand in all things” could simply mean we admit he is aware of everything on our planet and able to intervene any time he chooses. We dealt with this general subject in my recent theodicy post. I submit that a major part of faith in God is trusting his judgment when it comes to intervening or not.

    Comment by Geoff J — January 31, 2008 @ 3:13 pm

  6. CEF,

    When I say, our Father in heaven, I am taping into spiritual laws that automatically take control and make sure that certain things happen in accordance with what is in my best interest and God’s plan.

    Okay, you have me curious. What in the world do you mean by this? Are you saying that your prayers are not addressed in a personal way, but through some sort of spiritual automation? What sort of spiritual laws do you have in mind here?

    Geoff,

    I’m not sure I can go along with God’s awareness of all things being called his hand in all things, but “able to intervene any time he chooses” sounds pretty close to my third reading. At any rate, I think we are on the same page on this topic. I agree with your point about trusting God’s judgment.

    Comment by Jacob J — January 31, 2008 @ 3:59 pm

  7. Jacob,
    In answer to your question to Dan, God created you, your agency is a gift and part of a plan for which a war in heaven was fought, so your use of agency and creation are still fruits in which he had a (rather big) hand in. Gratitude does not undermine agency. Certainly many are angry with God because he seems to have given us leeway to royally screw the world up. They are correct he had a hand in that, the question is, is Satan’s plan better?

    Comment by Doc — January 31, 2008 @ 4:37 pm

  8. PS.
    Notice how God can have a hand in things without micromanaging.

    Comment by Doc — January 31, 2008 @ 4:40 pm

  9. Doc,

    Your comments seem to fall under suggested reading 2 from the post I think (no?). I can get on board with the idea that God has a hand in everything if we mean that he enables everything at some level. If that is what you mean then I agree.

    On the topic of Dan’s comment, he said that nothing in this world comes from any other source than God, which is a much stronger statement than the one you are making. I am with you, but I’m not sure I am with Dan unless he clarifies his position a bit more.

    Comment by Jacob J — January 31, 2008 @ 4:51 pm

  10. Jacob: I can get on board with the idea that God has a hand in everything if we mean that he enables everything at some level.

    If God enables everything that occurs, then I suppose you could agree that God concurs in every event as I outlined in ch. 3 of vol. 1? If that is the case, then nothing occurs without either enabling it or permitting it and I don’t see how that view differs from 1, for in that event no one dies without God concurring. If he concurs in every death, then why is it so problematic that he must concur in the death of infants who are celestial?

    My biggest problem is that you simply reject outright very clear language:

    D&C 137:10 And I also beheld that all children who die before they arrive at the years of accountability are saved in the celestial kingdom of heaven.

    How much clearer does it have to get for you?

    Comment by Blake — January 31, 2008 @ 5:21 pm

  11. I’ve never interpreted that passage (D&C 59:21) to mean that God micromanages and/or is responsible for all things (which would lead us back into serious issues of agency and theodicy). Instead, I’ve always seen it as a corollary to King Benjamin’s address, particularly in Mosiah 4. The whole chapter applies, but in particular the passage:

    9 Believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend.

    10 And again, believe that ye must repent of your sins and forsake them, and humble yourselves before God; and ask in sincerity of heart that he would forgive you; and now, if you believe all these things see that ye do them.

    I think that sums up “confess[ing] the hand of God in all things.” ..bruce..

    Comment by bfwebster — January 31, 2008 @ 6:32 pm

  12. Blake,

    As you know, I provided a detailed analysis (here) of why I don’t think D&C 137 is as cut-and-dried as you make it out to be above. But, as you often point out, we don’t just have to live with our positions, but with all that those positions entail. I simply cannot bring myself to believe that God ensures the deaths of all children who were celestial in the pre-existence and guarantees that all non-celestial children cannot be killed. Your view entails that there is nothing wrong, per se, with killing children.

    As to enabling everything that occurs, I will have to read ch. 3 again to be able to say if I sign up for your view of God’s concurrence. I will say, however, that it is obvious that God allows lots of things to happen that he disapproves of. Thus, his allowing children to die is obviously different than his ensuring that they die.

    Comment by Jacob J — January 31, 2008 @ 6:36 pm

  13. bfwebster,

    Verse 9 is a good match, thanks. It actually seems to have the key elements of readings 2 and 3, actually. Interesting.

    Comment by Jacob J — January 31, 2008 @ 6:39 pm

  14. I sort of assumed God’s hand in all things simply acknowledged his creator(organizer) role “in the beginning” of all things, and thus his right to impose commandments, based on his mastery of all things.

    Comment by Matt W. — January 31, 2008 @ 9:16 pm

  15. Jacob: I know that you have addressed the issue. I remember. I disagreed. Remember?

    Jacob: Thus, his allowing children to die is obviously different than his ensuring that they die.

    Really? How is God less responsible for one than the other? Merely allowing something to happen that you could stop without any effort or danger to yourself is morally equivalent it seems to me. So why do you have such heartburn that God would have a plan that those assured of celestial glory die, say of cancer, when he could surely prevent the death any time he wanted? How come one gives you heartburn and the other not?

    Matt: I sort of assumed God’s hand in all things simply acknowledged his creator(organizer) role “in the beginning” of all things, and thus his right to impose commandments, based on his mastery of all things.

    Actually, what you propose is merely a deistic view where God gets it rolling and stands back and watches. How is that somehow having his “hand in all things”?

    Comment by Blake — January 31, 2008 @ 9:36 pm

  16. Contextually, it says:

    “And it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things unto man; for unto this end were they made” (preceding vs)

    I do not claim that God does not ever intervene. I think we have all experienced those moments of interventionin our lives. However, I think when “God’s hand in all things” is mentioned, it is more of a reminder that all things belong to God, having been made by God, and thus we must be grateful to God.

    Comment by Matt W. — January 31, 2008 @ 10:53 pm

  17. Matt: In what sense are all things made by God? Did he make the present state of the world? Did he make the ward that you’re in? Did he make the shirt you’re wearing? Or did he just organize the particles that make everything up?

    I see God’s hand in all things. With very few exceptions, God could have virtually everything that occurs different if he wanted. So I see God’s hand in all things because it unfolds according to his plan and his specific choices to either cause it or leave it alone to do what he hasn’t prevented from occurring.

    Comment by Blake — January 31, 2008 @ 11:14 pm

  18. Jacob: Let me revisit your exegesis of Section 137. This is your solution:

    The doctrine of automatic salvation for those without law was replaced by the doctrine of so-called “middle knowledge,” or the knowledge of what “would have been.”

    7 Thus came the voice of the Lord unto me, saying: All who have died without a knowledge of this gospel, who would have received it if they had been permitted to tarry, shall be heirs of the celestial kingdom of God; (D&C 137)

    The important thing to notice is that this is not the full doctrine of salvation for the dead. In fact, we no longer believe that God judges those without law based on what they “would have done.” Instead, we believe that they are presented with the gospel in the spirit world and are given a chance to respond to the gospel in the same sense that people on earth were given that chance. Notice that in D&C 137:10, Joseph was shown that little children were also saved in the celestial kingdom. The two groups are still showing up together.

    However, I don’t believe that this scripture ever adopted middle knowledge. It could be and has been at times read that way. However, I believe it was always foreshadowing baptism for the dead. Those who would have accepted the gospel are known to God when they actually accept the gospel thru work for the dead.

    The important point, however, is that the statement regarding little children is not counterfactual. Your argument amounts to the logical fallacy of supposed guilt by association. That is, 137:10 must be rejected because 137:7-8 must be rejected because it adopts middle knowledge. That is just a logical fallacy. 137:10 doesn’t adopt middle knowledge because it is not a counterfactual and therefore your supposed reason for rejecting 7-8 doesn’t apply to 137:10. More importantly, I don’t believe that 137:7-8 ever adopted middle knowledge, so I don’t reject it; I just interpret it in the context of the later practice of baptism for the dead as the way that God knows who would have accepted the gospel in this life.

    Equally importantly, baptism for the dead cannot be the explanation of how little children are saved in the celestial kingdom. They don’t need baptism. We don’t perform baptisms for children who die at less than 8 years of age. Thus, their exaltation must be based on something else. What else could it be? Having progressed to the point where they had already achieved celestial glory except for taking a body immediately comes to mind. Moreover, it solves the problem. You reject that because you think that everyone must have the same goals and challenges in life to be fair. That just isn’t the case. It is obvious that life’s challenges are vastly different for everyone. The best explanation for this fact in my view is that life has been designed as a place where we face challenges that give us the opportunity to learn what we agreed before this life to learn if we so choose.

    That is why I don’t think that your drastic surgery on D&C 137 is necessary or even desirable. I believe there is a better solution.

    Comment by Blake — February 1, 2008 @ 7:53 am

  19. Jacob,

    Dan, What about all the things that I create through the free excercise of my own will? I posted on that question here. I would contend that if you give God the credit for everything that happens than you must give him the blame for it as well, which makes for a difficult theodicy.

    Like Doc answered you, God created your abilities to create. You may have an ability to create something new, but that ability comes from God. The acknowledgment statement doesn’t say we should acknowledge God IN all things, but that his “hand” is in all things.

    Comment by Dan — February 1, 2008 @ 9:55 am

  20. Can we agree on an answer as to what “all things” means? Peter preached about the “restitution of all things.” (Acts 3:21) How is that “all things” different from the “all things” in D&C 59, which, according to the verses preceding our verse 21 now in question, speaks of the fulness of the earth – those things created by God for the use of man. Are we expanding the term beyond what we should?

    Comment by mondo cool — February 1, 2008 @ 9:59 am

  21. Jacob, I got the idea form a talk I heard in the mission field by BRM. So the concept is not mine. I believe he used D&C 130 to make his points about receiving any blessing form God was due to our living the law for that blessing. And that it was automatic, we could rest assured it would happen the same as we could expect something to fall if we dropped it.

    It was also his suggestion that when we pray, God is not necessarily paying attention to us, as in having His undivided attention. Is this impersonal? I do not think so. I understand that the Holy Ghost works through the light of Christ which is everywhere. So I would not consider this to be impersonal at all. Just a very efficient, multitasking way of running the universe.

    So yes, I think there are laws that are in play, behind the scenes so to speak, that work automatically if we do what is required to put those laws into affect for our individual lives. For instance, if I wish to be forgiven, I must learn how to forgive others, etc. I hope this helps.

    Comment by CEF — February 1, 2008 @ 10:48 am

  22. CEF: It was also his suggestion that when we pray, God is not necessarily paying attention to us, as in having His undivided attention. Is this impersonal?

    Yes it is. It means that God could turn answering prayers over to a computer — and what is more impersonal than spam?

    Comment by Blake — February 1, 2008 @ 11:08 am

  23. Dan: Like Doc answered you, God created your abilities to create

    What do you mean by this Dan? We have existed forever according to Joseph Smith. I believe we have had free will forever (D&C 93:30 says “All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence.”) If you are saying God created our free will at some point I simply disagree.

    My problem is that you seem to be using the term “create” in a very creedal-Christian (read: creation ex nihilo) kind of way. I am probably not reading you right but perhaps you could help me understand that better…

    Comment by Geoff J — February 1, 2008 @ 11:18 am

  24. Geoff,

    Please reread what I said. God created our abilities to create, not our free will. I think our abilities to create (or better said reorganize) things, such as music, or art, or architecture, etc., come from the bodies that God has created for us. Our free will comes from us, the individuals, that God did not create. However, without the bodies God created for us, we would not be able to express the talents that come with those bodies.

    Comment by Dan — February 1, 2008 @ 11:43 am

  25. Blake (#15),

    Merely allowing something to happen that you could stop without any effort or danger to yourself is morally equivalent it seems to me.

    So, in your view, when a child is raped, God is as morally culpable for that rape as the rapist. Do I have that right?

    Comment by Jacob J — February 1, 2008 @ 11:53 am

  26. Blake (#18),

    Thanks for taking on my argument in a substantive and specific way. First, I have never rejected D&C 137, I just think that when viewed in historical perspective and understanding that salvation for the dead was revealed piece by piece, we should not interpret it as though it was revealed to us today given our current understanding.

    I will readily acknowledge your reading as a possible one, but hopefully you will acknowledge that there is some ambiguity in what “would have done” refers to. You are saying that what they “would have done” is determined by how they react in the spirit world when presented with the gospel. Although this idea of the language “foreshadowing” the full doctrine is one possible way of reading it, I think we will both agree that this is not the way Joseph would have understood it when it was revealed to him. Furthermore, I am not sure that I believe you can tell what I “would have done” by looking at what I do today. People change with each passing day, and I don’t think it is tenable, if we hold to LFW and an open future, to say that by seeing if I accept the gospel today you can tell if I would have accepted it 20 years ago. This is the main reason I don’t agree with your reading.

    Now to the most important part of my response: It seems to me you are missing the main thrust of my argument in the previous post. Your “guilt by association” comments indicate to me that you are not correctly understanding my point in bringing up the coupling of those without knowledge and little children. I am not trying slyly apply the counterfactual over to children where it was not used. My point is that we have an example of a group for which the plan of salvation was not revealed. We can see what God said when the BofM prophets didn’t know anything about salvation for the dead. We can see what God said when Joseph Smith started to get the first pieces of that doctrine revealed. We can see that they were told some things at the beginning which they had no way to make sense of other than to have faith that there would be a way to sort it out.

    I am arguing that we have the same situation with regard to the salvation of little children. We have some promises which we have no way to explain. Well, I take that back, we can adopt your view that God systematically prevents the deaths of any children who were not celestial in the pre-existence. However, I find it much, much more acceptable to believe that the plan of salvation for little children is, in the end, very similar to the plan for everyone else. Just as we found out that salvation for the ignorant is very similar to the regular plan, even though at first it was revealed as though they received automatic salvation without condition.

    Comment by Jacob J — February 1, 2008 @ 12:10 pm

  27. Dan: God created our abilities to create, not our free will

    I think free will is the ability to create (at least in the sense of organizing and creating thoughts, art, ideas, etc.). Also, are you claiming that there is no music, art, or architecture created by free willed persons in the spirit world?

    Comment by Geoff J — February 1, 2008 @ 12:33 pm

  28. Jacob: So, in your view, when a child is raped, God is as morally culpable for that rape as the rapist. Do I have that right?

    I’ll take your question as a reductio because you believe that it leads to unacceptable consequences. However, you ignored what I said about moral parity. I didn’t say that God is just as responsible as a rapist; I stated that God is responsible for not preventing what occurs when he can stop it. So God is responsible whether he stops something from occurring or allowing it to occur if it is within the scope of his power to bring it about or prevent it. That is what you have to address. Do you disagree with that?

    Jacob: However, I find it much, much more acceptable to believe that the plan of salvation for little children is, in the end, very similar to the plan for everyone else.

    I take it that the entire point of D&C 138 is that little children are not similarly situated to those who live to an age of accountability. I believe that it is perfectly reasonable to accept that God prevents all kinds of deaths and allows others. In that respect little children are not different except that God prevents the deaths of all those who had not already progressed to a certain point. So the distinction you are drawing doesn’t work for me. Indeed, it is a distinction without a difference.

    Further, you haven’t dealt with the logical fallacy that I pointed out or the fact that little children are not in fact baptized even for the dead. Your attempt to tie the fate of little children who die in infancy with those who will hear and be baptized in the hereafter is therefore ill considered in my view. I acknowledge and appreciate the care and thought that has gone into your solution to what you believe is a problem. I don’t believe that there is a problem. What if we would all be snuffed out daily except for God’s intervention and God intervenes rather regularly to make sure that those of us who still have something to learn from mortal life that is important for our exaltation are not snuffed out? Why would that bother you? It seems to me that you are going to accept that God sometimes intervenes to prevent deaths — even of little children. Thus, if you believe such intervention is problematic, you still have this problem.

    Comment by Blake — February 1, 2008 @ 12:35 pm

  29. Matt (#14), I agree. (#16), this post which I link to in response to Dan was my argument that everything does not belong to God.

    Comment by Jacob J — February 1, 2008 @ 12:59 pm

  30. Blake – I know that if you go in for a temple recommend interview, and you see one of the councilors instead of the SP, you do not feel that somehow the interview was impersonal. I know I do not see it that way. Or if one of the GAs speaks at our Stake Conference instead of the Prophet, that we are slighted in some way. So why would you think that the Holy Ghost working through the light of Christ in behalf of the Father, would somehow be less that God Himself answering your prayer?

    I believe very few things today that I learned in the mission field, but because I have learned nothing that would replace this idea from BRM, I still believe it could be true. Do you have a way to explain how God could be talking directly to Joseph Smith and still hear and answer the prayers that surely must have been said at that very same time? I suppose He could, but it just seems more likely to me that there is some other way He does things.

    Comment by CEF — February 1, 2008 @ 1:04 pm

  31. Blake,

    I didn’t say that God is just as responsible as a rapist; I stated that God is responsible for not preventing what occurs when he can stop it.

    No, you said that not preventing it was the “moral equivalent” of doing it. Moral equivalency seems to imply exactly what I stated, I was reading your response carefully.

    Further, you haven’t dealt with the logical fallacy that I pointed out or the fact that little children are not in fact baptized even for the dead.

    Sorry, I thought my approach to this would be obvious, but I should have stated it directly. I have suggested that God has not yet fully revealed his plan for the salvation of little children, and that when he does, it will look very much like salvation for those who die in ignorance. Let’s assume for a moment that I am correct. Unless and until God reveals the plan, we should operate temples with the same sort of faith exercised by BofM prophets that God will take care of little children. The policy not to baptize little children for the dead is not some sort of additional revelation about what is needed for the salvation of children, it is a reflection of our current understanding. I totally agree with our current policy and would expect nothing different.

    I don’t believe that there is a problem.

    Yes, I think this is at the heart of things. I am trying to solve a problem you don’t think exists, so we diverge on this one early on.

    It seems to me that you are going to accept that God sometimes intervenes to prevent deaths — even of little children. Thus, if you believe such intervention is problematic, you still have this problem.

    This is similar to the discussion I was having on the theodicy thread recently. I think there is a very big difference between the idea that God sometimes intervenes (I believe he does, although almost always as a response to faithful petitions) and the idea that God systematically intervenes. The kind of intervention you are suggesting is actually quite intrusive. With millions of children born who cannot be killed by any method until they turn eight, I would think we’d eventually notice this fact about one of them. You, of course, will say that God is very crafty in covering his tracks, which really requires that he pull all kinds of strings all over the place to make sure that none of these non-celestial children end up in a situation that we will notice their invincibility. I am not saying it is logically flawed, it is just beyond me to convince myself that God is doing this. However, the idea that God can respond to prayers of faith does not present me with the same problem.

    Comment by Jacob J — February 1, 2008 @ 1:17 pm

  32. CEF,

    Thanks for your explanation in #21. I think it is when you start talking about prayers being answered as a matter of law that it becomes straightfowardly impersonal. If you want to suggest God has a lot of angels helping him listen to and answer prayers, then I wouldn’t call this impersonal.

    Comment by Jacob J — February 1, 2008 @ 1:20 pm

  33. CEF: Do you have a way to explain how God could be talking directly to Joseph Smith and still hear and answer the prayers that surely must have been said at that very same time?

    Sure, God is even better than a multi-tasking supercomputer with a billion microchips, he can hear us all at once. He is, after all, maximally knowledgeable.

    The scriptures state very clearly that God hears and answers our prayers. He can clearly have his minions answer prayers at his command; what he cannot delegate is the interpersonal relaionship that is created through prayer. If you wanted to have intimacies with your wife and she sent the maid, I suspect that you’d see fairly quickly that in interpersonal relationships, only direct and interpersonal contact with the beloved will be acceptable.

    Comment by Blake — February 1, 2008 @ 1:22 pm

  34. Jacob: No, you said that not preventing [rape] was the “moral equivalent” of doing it. Moral equivalency seems to imply exactly what I stated, I was reading your response carefully.

    Actually, I couldn’t have said any such thing since you’re the one who brought up rape. Further, let me clarify if I was unclear (since I’m not dead yet), I believe that God is morally responsible for allowing what he could stop–tho less so than if he were the one actually perpetrating it and causing it. However, less morally responsible doesn’t mean not morally responsible.

    I have suggested that God has not yet fully revealed his plan for the salvation of little children, and that when he does, it will look very much like salvation for those who die in ignorance.

    Well, he has revealed a good deal about the salvation of little children and you don’t seem to like it. However, speculating that God’s answer is going to align with your speculations and arguments — well, I guess I’m a little out of breath.

    The policy not to baptize little children for the dead is not some sort of additional revelation about what is needed for the salvation of children, it is a reflection of our current understanding. I totally agree with our current policy and would expect nothing different.

    I would have expected you to be teaching us that we should be baptizing all of those who died in infancy — pace Mormon and D&C 138:10. After all, the implication of your view is that they need baptism because the need the same kinds of experiences, right?

    I think there is a very big difference between the idea that God sometimes intervenes (I believe he does, although almost always as a response to faithful petitions) and the idea that God systematically intervenes. The kind of intervention you are suggesting is actually quite intrusive.

    So here is your real problem, you think that constant intervention is more problematic than occasional intervention because it is “more intrusive”. Well, just how just how much intrusion it too much for you? You have exactly the same problem if God only occasionally intrudes, except you have to explain why he intrudes only occasionally in addition to explaining why he intrudes at all.

    You, of course, will say that God is very crafty in covering his tracks,

    Chaah! Of course God is crafty. Can you point to anything that an atheist would accept as evidence of divine intervention? God is not only very wise on my view, but also omnicompitent. That pretty well makes this a non-issue for me.

    which really requires that he pull all kinds of strings all over the place to make sure that none of these non-celestial children end up in a situation that we will notice their invincibility. I am not saying it is logically flawed, it is just beyond me to convince myself that God is doing this. However, the idea that God can respond to prayers of faith does not present me with the same problem.

    You mean God would have to be really active in this world that loves? God forbid! Seriously, your complaint comes down to — “it’s just hard for me to believe.” Doesn’t it? Further, the idea that God can respond to prayers may not present the same psychological problem for you, but I fail to see any logical difference.

    I still want to emphasize that I appreciate your careful thought on this issue.

    Comment by Blake — February 1, 2008 @ 2:16 pm

  35. Jacob – Thank you, I suppose if BRM had been asked these questions, he might have very well said something more in line with what you and Blake are saying. I had never heard anything like that before or since that time. But I do tend to cling to things that I can understand over things that I cannot understand. But to be fair to BRM, it has been a very long time ago, and I might have gotten something wrong by now.

    Maybe I just misunderstood what he was teaching. I suppose there would/could be more than one way to understand what he said. But is sure did seem clear at the time. :)

    Blake – I suppose what “maximally knowledgeable” is would be the question. As I said, I suppose it is possible for God to do that, and it certainly is scriptural, I just have a hard time understanding it.

    As far as the maid taking the place of my wife as analogous to the oneness of the Godhead, well, I fail to see that as the same thing. But as I said to Jacob, I could have just misunderstood what BRM was saying.

    Comment by CEF — February 1, 2008 @ 2:38 pm

  36. Blake,

    I believe that God is morally responsible for allowing what he could stop–tho less so than if he were the one actually perpetrating it and causing it.

    I’m glad you’re not dead yet and I welcome your clarification. Does this mean you no longer take issue with my original statement from #12 that “[God’s] allowing children to die is obviously different than his ensuring that they die”? (It seems like this is in harmony with your most recent statement above.)

    I would have expected you to be teaching us that we should be baptizing all of those who died in infancy

    I acknowledge that vicarious work for dead infants follows from my position, but I would not suggest we act (as a matter of church policy) beyond what God has revealed. I don’t feel bad throwing out a bit of speculation on a blog about the salvation of little children. Changing church policy based on that speculation would be dumb. If God is content not to reveal any more at the current time, I am content to follow the prophet happily.

    So here is your real problem, you think that constant intervention is more problematic than occasional intervention because it is “more intrusive”. Well, just how just how much intrusion it too much for you?

    It is not simply a certain amount of intrusion that bothers me. It is that God seems to intrude (according to what he has said) based on faithful petitions. I see way too much evil in the world to believe the God is intruding constantly without being asked to. I think the purpose of God’s intrusions are to build our relationship with him as he responds to our requests and interacts with us as a person.

    On top of all of that, your whole proposal just seems implausible. We know that the majority of children live past age eight, which means that the majority of children (according to your theory) cannot be killed in infancy. So, to plan for an atom bomb being dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, God had to send a whole boat load of celestial spirits in advance to those places, or else, when the bomb dropped, all the kids at ground zero would have lived. But, whether we dropped the bomb when we did, or where we did, is partly determined by free choices which had not yet played out. If we had decided NOT to drop the second bomb, God would need to go make sure that all the children who would have been at ground zero die in childhood for some other reason. But he has to make sure we never catch on that something strange is happening. Given all the possible disasters of every kind, adding free will to the mix makes this seem quite impossible. This problem multiplies itself a billion times over every day.

    Comment by Jacob J — February 1, 2008 @ 6:46 pm

  37. Jacob: I’m glad you’re not dead yet and I welcome your clarification. Does this mean you no longer take issue with my original statement from #12 that “[God’s] allowing children to die is obviously different than his ensuring that they die”?

    I guess I’m confused. The fact that allowing children to die is less culpable than causing them to die still leaves you with the same problem: God is responsible for those who die. Why? Because he could stop virtually every death.

    It is not simply a certain amount of intrusion that bothers me. It is that God seems to intrude (according to what he has said) based on faithful petitions

    Whoa Nellie. Are you saying that God doesn’t respond to faithful petition? That would be a major overhall of not only the LDS tradition, but virtually every Western theistic tradition, and certainly contrary to what Jesus taught. Why would you be bothered that God answers prayers? I would have thought that God’s not answering prayers would the problem.

    I think the purpose of God’s intrusions are to build our relationship with him as he responds to our requests and interacts with us as a person

    Are you saying that God’s “intrusions” (I would have called it “loving persuasion and intervention”) are limited to this sole purpose? That seems way drastic to me. What about prayers for others? Are you saying that we ought not prayer for others — since that seems to be the implication of your position?

    But, whether we dropped the bomb when we did, or where we did, is partly determined by free choices which had not yet played out. If we had decided NOT to drop the second bomb, God would need to go make sure that all the children who would have been at ground zero die in childhood for some other reason. But he has to make sure we never catch on that something strange is happening. Given all the possible disasters of every kind, adding free will to the mix makes this seem quite impossible. This problem multiplies itself a billion times over every day.

    It seems to me that you are claiming way more than you could possibly know. I acknowledge that God’s wisdom and competence must be far beyond what is possible given our grasp of things. But then, to allow the kinds of experiences and evils that we experience, that would have to be the case in any event.

    I think that the real difference between us is that you just have a hard time comprehending how God pulls it all off. Join the large crowd. But then, God has told us not to expect to be able to understand how or why he does what he does, and our limited epistemic grasp counsels vast humility in the face of God’s greater competence and grasp of how the world is governed in divine providence. Note that I am not advocating sheer incoherence or just saying that God is exempt from moral demands (since you know that I would endorse neither). However, as you admit, you haven’t shown any incoherence and it boils down to your inability to believe that God is that resourceful. That’s not much of an argument in my book — especially in the face of a very clear statement by Joseph Smith that “I also beheld that all children who die before they arrive at the years of accountability are saved in the celestial kingdom of heaven.”

    Comment by Blake — February 1, 2008 @ 10:29 pm

  38. Blake,

    Whoa Nellie. Are you saying that God doesn’t respond to faithful petition?

    How in the world did you get this from my comment, which was saying specifically that he DOES respond to faithful petition? I am saying that faithful petition is the primary impetus for divine intervention. That includes prayers for ourselves as well as prayers offered on behalf of others. Frankly I am not sure how you could mistake me for saying I don’t think God answers prayers. You know me better than that.

    I think that the real difference between us is that you just have a hard time comprehending how God pulls it all off.

    It is true that I don’t know how God would pull off what you have suggested. More than that, though, my example of Hiroshima and Nagasaki demonstrates why I don’t think it is feasible for God to do what you are suggesting that he does (given the constraints of libertarian free will and an open future).

    Comment by Jacob J — February 2, 2008 @ 12:20 am

  39. Jacob (#29) good catch, “belong to” is incorrect. “comes from” wold have been better in my #16…

    Comment by Matt W. — February 2, 2008 @ 9:16 am

  40. Jacob: I asked the question precisely because I know you better than that. It was a genuine question — not a rhetorical point. I think if you read what you wrote you can see how I pulled that message out: You state that it isn’t only the number of intrusions that bother you, but also that God intrudes based on specific petitions. Now I’m glad for the clarification. But why do you think of God’s action in the world as “an intrusion”? I guess I was thrown by this very negative view — God is an intruder if he acts in the world on your view. In my view, God is a loving Father interacting in the world.

    What? You don’t think that God has enough power and pays enough attention to the world that he can’t make a triggering mechanism on an atomic bomb misfire? That’s not feasible on your view?

    Now I admit that arranging it so that all those who are younger than 8 years in Nagasaki fit the picture of those who have progressed enough that they are celestial may be hard to imagine. I don’t have the resources to pull it off. But saying that God doesn’t in light of the fact that we are each born into a place and time that he controls is just a bit of an epistemic leap on your part. Look at it this way. God’s grasp of the entire sociological patterns and factors is complete. Moreover, while engaging in procreative acts is a matter of free will, where a spirit is born, when it is born, and whether the pregnancy is brought to term are all acts within God’s control completely. Do you imagine that God just throws us into countries, into dysfunctional families with their histories, to a single mother likely to abandon her child at birth or into a loving family, that all of that is just happenstance? I don’t.

    I believe that God places us in circumstances that are conducive to assisting us to learn the lessons that we agreed to take on in this life. I believe that God places us in circumstances that will challenge us where we need it to grow and progress. I believe that specific events occur in our lives every day that are designed to give us opportunities to see his hand, to become kinder, to be inspired and so forth. I don’t believe that God is micromanaging, I believe that he is facilitating. I don’t believe that evils have meaning unless we give them meaning — by doing what we can to alleviate them, to soften the blow of them, by learning to repent and to love. I don’t live in world that is micromanaged and where God intrudes as I believe that you see it; I live in a world where God is present and intimately involved in my life, speaking and guiding every moment that I am open to listen and let him in.

    Comment by Blake — February 2, 2008 @ 9:18 am

  41. Blake,

    I used the word “intrude” only because I was carrying on the discussion that started from me saying that a certain kind of involvement seemed “intrusive” to me. But, of course, I don’t consider God an intruder when he decides to act. I can see why the word could send the wrong message.

    You admit that it is hard to imagine how God could make sure all the children in Nagasaki were celestial, but then you try to mitigate with three suggestions (1) that God gets to choose which spirits go where to be born and (2) that “God’s grasp of the entire sociological patterns and factors is complete” and (3) that God can “make a triggering mechanism on an atomic bomb misfire” if he wants.

    Choosing where children are born (number 1 above) does not account for the fact that people move and travel. So especially when we consider something like the holocaust in Germany, the fact that certain spirits were born in a general vacinity does not account for the actual complexity that exists in the world. It doesn’t really account for every child who was in Nagasaki when the bomb dropped either. On (2), you will be the first to point out that sociological patters and factors are not determinitive, so however well God can guess at certain outcomes, he cannot predict them with certainty. Thus, your answer (3) seems to be the one that is most crucial, which is that God doesn’t really leave events like the ones we are discussing up to freely made decisions of humans. He rigs the switches on their atomic bombs based on whether he decided to send the city 100% celestial spirits starting from eight years prior. But, then, it seems that God is making the decision, not President Truman.

    Further, when we consider more chaotic mass killings in the holocaust or Darfur, there is no single switch on an atomic bomb. God must send a predominance of celestial spirits (counter to his usual mix of mostly non-celestial spirits) several years ahead of time and then make sure that only those spirits are killed in the random and chaotic genocides while a small percentage of children in the vacinity make it through to adulthood. Given how much divine intervention is required to accomplish this, it seems to me God is going to be bumping into free will all over the place. In the end, it seems like you are relying on a general trust in God’s supreme craftiness, which doesn’t seem sufficiently explanatory to assuage my doubts. I conceed that it may simply be my lack of faith, but I would love to put this to some sort of poll to see how many people share my concern (of course, we may all be faithless, but it would interesting none the less).

    Comment by Jacob J — February 2, 2008 @ 10:24 am

  42. Blake,

    Jacob made his position about God’s willingness to intervene crystal clear several times in this thread. For instance in #31 he said:

    I think there is a very big difference between the idea that God sometimes intervenes (I believe he does, although almost always as a response to faithful petitions) and the idea that God systematically intervenes. The kind of intervention you are suggesting is actually quite intrusive.

    Your “whoa Nellie” comment comes off as pretty strange in light of Jacob’s clear statements on that subject.

    I think Jacob has a much better point than you are giving him credit for. Saying “God is just that resourceful” is doesn’t really solve this problem that Jacob brings up. The problem is that you are claiming that their are billions of children who were/are unkillable on this planet despite your belief in libertarian free will and an open future.

    His Hiroshima example is a good one. A lot of tampering with the free choices of adults would have been required to ensure that 100% of the children who died in those bombings were premortal Celestials. All the parents who had non-Celestial kids would have to get their kids out of town as caused?/directed?/compelled? by God too. I think his point that a scheme like the one you are proposing would require compulsion on too many people. Either that or it would require foreknowledge. Neither of those solutions are compatible with our shared views on LFW and an open future.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 2, 2008 @ 10:36 am

  43. Jacob: Thus, your answer (3) seems to be the one that is most crucial, which is that God doesn’t really leave events like the ones we are discussing up to freely made decisions of humans. He rigs the switches on their atomic bombs based on whether he decided to send the city 100% celestial spirits starting from eight years prior. But, then, it seems that God is making the decision, not President Truman.

    See, here is where I am confused Jacob. Are you saying that God doesn’t have power or doesn’t really care whether an atomic bomb goes off? You cannot really be saying that — although it follows implicitly from what you do say.

    If I have understood you, you in fact believe that God could and would, if he wanted to, stop the firing mechanism of the atomic bomb from firing. WE have agreed that there is a moral distinction between causing and allowing, but there is still moral responsibility for allowing. If you believe that the premises I gave lead to it seeming that the decision is made by God, not President Truman, the actual answer on both of our positions is that it was both God and President Truman. Truman authorized it, God didn’t stop it from occurring when he could have. Thus, I think that you’re avoiding the implications of your own commitments here my friend.

    With children who die — are you suggesting that God didn’t have enough power and wasn’t resourceful enough to avoid the death of every single one of them? If we take them individually (not en masse) then certainly in every instance God could have avoided the death in question. That means that he could have acted individually to avoid every single one of these deaths. Now that makes the task of theodicy harder — but trying to avoid this problem by saying that God merely allows children to die and doesn’t cause it isn’t a logical distinction that will hold on your beliefs or mine with respect to whether God is responsible for its occurrence. What I am saying is that you think you avoid a problem with your position that you don’t.

    You also appear to believe that all deaths are random and God just watched. If not, then you have to agree that God sometimes intervenes to avert death and other times allows it to take its course. I believe it boils down to the fact that I just believe that God is that competent and resourceful, and you just cannot imagine how that could be so that you don’t. I suggest that we start a poll asking how many believe that little children who die in infancy are assured exaltation. Now it may not be exaltation instantly but only after they have experienced certain things in the after life or millenium, but assured they are according to Joseph Smith and the vision he had.

    What is wrong with an entire nation of people who have children who are celestial but for a body? What is wrong with insuring that virtually every child born in Europe and Asia in 1920-1948 is celestial? I suggest that the number of celestial persons is far greater and the rule and not the exception. So it isn’t a predominance of celestial persons; it is all of them! Only those who are saved from death are those who have something more to learn and gain from mortality — and they are by far the exception. So I see it vastly differently than you do.

    Comment by Blake — February 2, 2008 @ 10:48 am

  44. Blake,

    The problem with leaning heavily on the “where they are born” explanation for you position is it does not take into account the fact that where children live in the first eight years of their lives is dependent on the free choices of their parents/guardians. That leaves you with a major problem still. Even if “virtually every child born in Europe and Asia in 1920-1948 is celestial” there is the problem with parents freely choosing to moving in and out of Europe and Asia after children are born. Unless you want to say God has foreknowledge or that he controls over the choices of the parents you are still in the same sticky situation with this position of yours.

    Off the top of my head I can think of other ways to reconcile LFW with the statement in D&C 137. One is to simply assume that the verse is at least incomplete (as Jacob suggests). Another is to assume that “saved in the celestial kingdom” as mentioned in that verse is not the same as exalted. Another might to simply assume to that no kingdom is permanent.

    Any of those seem at least as good if not better than the solution you are defending to me.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 2, 2008 @ 11:57 am

  45. Geoff: I am not suggesting that any of my suggestions (which is all that they are, since I don’t know and neither do you) must be the one and only answer. I believe that Joseph Smith was fairly clear in 1836 what celestial kingdom meant — it meant the highest of the three degrees of glory, tho it doesn’t entail exaltation. Further, you know that I believe that no kingdom is necessarily permanent. Nevertheless, Jacob hasn’t made a logical case; he admits it is possible for God to do what he just has a hard time believing. That isn’t an argument, it’s just an expression of incredulity.

    Further, at least until recently, populations were much less mobile than they are now. Born in china, staying in China. Further, I believe that when life is on the line (certainly with respect to atomic weapons) God is aware and cares whether it goes off – don’t you? There are thousands upon millions who can tell stories about how their lives were preserved even in the worst disasters and wars. Don’t you believe that God is active in that way? If so, then why not with little children?

    Comment by Blake — February 2, 2008 @ 12:10 pm

  46. I think the precept that all little children who die are automatically saved in celestial glory is theological nonsense. It is basically first rate Calvinism.

    The idea that God foreknew that all these souls were celestial has several problems:

    First, if they were all so wonderful, it would be far better if they lived longer, in order to help the rest of us. Joseph Smith taught that we have more power with a body than without.

    Second, it violates the no respecter of persons principle and the explanation for why Jesus was baptized.

    Third, it violates the principle that if possible, getting married and having earthly posterity is better than not having one.

    Fourth, it places God in the quasi-Calvinistic position of not just allowing these deaths, but rather counting on them (if not causing them) in advance.

    The other alternative, that these deaths incidentally lead to celestial glory also violates the no respecter of persons principle, creates an enormous moral hazard, trivializes the very idea of sanctification through work and sacrifice, and raises the question of why God doesn’t smite as many little children as possible and what the purpose of this earthly tenure is anyway.

    Comment by Mark D. — February 2, 2008 @ 5:16 pm

  47. Mark: You are simply forgetting about the pre-mortal life. God could easily know that those who die as children have already progressed sufficiently that they are celestial. Problem one solved – totally and decisively.

    Second problem: we all have different challenges and lives and your notion of what it means for God to be a respecter of persons cannot mean that we don’t have different life challenges. I just don’t see what explanation for Jesus being baptized you mean — but if you mean to “fulfill all righteousness” you might want to read Mormon’s take on those who think that little children need baptism. I agree with Joseph Smith and Mormon.

    Third, what principle says that anyone has to be married for celestial glory? Further, the notion that there is some principle that the purpose of everyone’s existence must be marriage, then why do little children die before marriage? I think that this so-called principle ain’t one.

    Fourth, how is it quasi-Calvinistic? Little children die. That’s a fact. You can’t pretend that they don’t to fit your preconceived notion. Therefore, it must be that little children made choices in the pre-mortal life sufficient for them to already have developed a celestial character and glory.

    The last paragraph is full of assertions that I’m just not sure why or what you mean.

    However, I suggest that before you call one of Joseph’s visions nonsense you adopt a wider theological view that will accommodate his vision rather than your theology. Also this is the first time anyone has had the gonads to call me a Calvinist. I know a bit about Calvinism. It ain’t Calvinism.

    Comment by Blake — February 2, 2008 @ 5:38 pm

  48. Blake: What is wrong with an entire nation of people who have children who are celestial but for a body?

    Nothing I guess.

    Actually, I think your case is easier to defend if we assume that not only children who die were already celestial souls before arriving here. For instance, if we assume that all of the “noble and great” spirits spoken of in the book of Abraham were already celestial-grade spirits (whatever that means) before coming here then perhaps you are right that large percentages of us or even entire nations were celestial beings before coming here. Some of those premortal celestial people die as infants, some live on. This works ok if we assume that no kingdom is permanent because free will has no end. They might lose their celestial status through their choices here but they could lose that through choices there too so presumably no additional risk is placed on them for not dying as children.

    More problems arise if we assume that 100% of premortal celestial spirits (except Jesus) must die as children. I don’t think Blake’s notion about un-killable non-celestial children and must-die celestial children jibes with free will and an open future at all in the absence of something like the idea I mentioned above.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 2, 2008 @ 5:58 pm

  49. Geoff: Actually I just assumed that everyone knows that I believe that the spirits who come here were gods in the council of gods and we are divine persons having a mortal experience.

    Why would a celestial child have to die? If they die, they are celestial; but it doesn’t follow that if they are celestial that they must die as children. Why are celestial children un-killable? If there were non-celestial children, then God simply insures survival; but I believe that there are no non-celestial children.

    Comment by Blake — February 2, 2008 @ 6:08 pm

  50. Blake: Why are celestial children un-killable?

    I actually said “un-killable non-celestial children”.

    So I am a little confused by your comment. Are you saying in your “council of the gods” comment that all of human-kind were celestial before coming here and thus any child could die and be assured salvation in the celestial kingdom? Your first sentence implies that but later you said “If there were non-celestial children”. I can’t tell what you mean here.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 2, 2008 @ 6:29 pm

  51. Blake,

    I didn’t call you a Calvinist. I said that the doctrine was Calvinist. I did not neglect the pre-mortal life.

    I. The first set of objections are predicated on the view that all little children that actually die do so because God foreknows that they are celestial individuals.

    Your response to problem one doesn’t address it at all. The problem is that Joseph Smith taught that power consists of having a body. Therefore these individuals could (in aggregate) do far more good helping the rest of us here on earth than in the spirit world. I mean we have thousands of years as spirits, but only a short time as mortals. Shortening it on purpose has no rational explanation.

    Problem 2: Nothing to do with baptism per se, but rather the principle that even perfect people should ‘pass the test’ – e.g. Christ’s temptations, suffering, etc.

    Problem 3: You are putting words in my mouth. I said nothing about a requirement for marriage. I said that the principle is that earthly marriage and posterity are better than not.

    Problem 4: It is quasi-Calvinistic because God pre-destines a set of pre-qualified individuals to an early death. Certainly no non-celestial individuals are allowed to die as little children in this view. God has to know who the celestial ones are and then reliably arrange that only they die as little children. As a matter of economy, this is kind of silly.

    II. The second set of objections are predicated on the view that the celestial salvation of little children who die is incidental, i.e. not based on pre-mortal qualification.

    A) This violates the no respecter of persons principle – God is celestializing individuals automatically, without a comparable test to others.

    B) This violates the principle that celestial sanctification requires long term work and sacrifice. Apparently, God can sanctify anybody without them lifting a finger.

    C) This also leaves us with no plausible explanation for this earthly tenure. Same reason as B.

    D) This then raises the question of why God doesn’t smite as many little children as possible to take them directly into celestial glory, saving every one a lifetime of mortal suffering.

    E) It also creates a severe moral hazard in favor of abortion and infanticide.

    Comment by Mark D. — February 2, 2008 @ 9:20 pm

  52. Mark: Therefore these individuals could (in aggregate) do far more good helping the rest of us here on earth than in the spirit world. I mean we have thousands of years as spirits, but only a short time as mortals. Shortening it on purpose has no rational explanation.

    Really? How do you know? Apparently God disagrees with you because they die in infancy. Moreover, your foreknowledge objection doesn’t work. God can know that they are celestial because it is a present fact. Thus, the celestial status of little children does not create a problem for foreknowledge since it only requires present knowledge.

    Problem 2: Why should anyone have to pass a meaningless test? Little children die without such experiences. What that means is that they could become celestial without such “tests.” I would add that Christ was not merely celestial before he was born, but fully divine without such tests and so is the Holy Ghost right now. Your supposed principle of “passing the test” as a condition to being celestial is mistaken.

    3. Earthly marriage is better than not? Then why do people die without marrying? Perhaps they get the opportunity later to marry by proxy or other means, but it is obvious beyond dispute that not all celestial persons must be married. Thus, your argument is fallacious.

    4. God doesn’t predestine anyone. Those who had already progressed before coming here made free choices in a libertarian sense that made them celestial just as we do here. That is hardly Calvinism. Your perspective is way too limited and geocentric. Moreover, if all children are celestial as they are, it follows that only the celestial die as children. How hard is that?

    I would reject all of your II arguments because they assume no pre-mortal qualification and therefore simply ignore and deny the obvious. If little children are celestial, then it is based on pre-mortal qualification. Why should anyone spend any time answering such notions who believes in a pre-mortal life?

    Now Mark, what is you explanation for this obvious language: “And I also beheld that all children who die before they arrive at the years of accountability are saved in the celestial kingdom of heaven.” I don’t give a fig for the arguments you give until they make sense in good faith of this vision. You trust your theology more than Joseph’s visions. I trust Joseph’s visions more than your theological arguments — which I don’t find persuasive.

    Geoff: If all children are celestial, then only the celestial die as children. It doesn’t follow that all children who are celestial must die. However, by reaching the age of accountability, we risk making responsible choices that could forfeit our celestial status for the opportunity to grow into a peer relationship with God and exaltation. Since it is the only way to achieve exaltation, it is worth it. Little children will receive that possibility later, but they don’t risk in this life losing their celestial status. Little children are celestial because they are innocent and they never lose that innocence. They are celestial like Adam was. Remember, being celestial doesn’t entail being exalted.

    Comment by Blake — February 2, 2008 @ 11:14 pm

  53. Blake,

    I assume here that you are defending position I – celestial glory based on pre-qualification. I agree foreknowledge isn’t necessary here.

    1) “Apparently God disagrees with you” – This is petitio principi. You have not addressed the import of Joseph Smith’s teaching that power comes in having a body, or the obvious point that our life here on earth is limited compared to our tenure as spirits, and the principle that there is an enormous work to be performed that can only be done or done effectively by mortals. The doctrine amounts to a wholesale devaluation of earthly life, marriage, family, and so on.

    2) Here you assume that a test is meaningless simply because a person is amply qualified to pass it. You also imply that there is not any benefit to others in the process. Otherwise how could it be “meaningless”? In any case, your explanation makes earthly life more test-like precisely because you imply it has no other purpose. I rather disagree.

    I must also state that in LDS terms the idea that either Jesus in his pre-resurrected state or the Holy Ghost are “fully divine” in the same sense as the Father is exceedingly dubious. It is equivalent to the assertion that there is no benefit to a glorified resurrected body whatsoever. Why not dispense with the resurrection completely?

    3) Here you are implying that the doctrine that one should get married and have children is of no spiritual consequence. I am not arguing that earthly marriage is required, merely that it is good(!). It is hard to think of a more direct contravention of a fundamental LDS principle than the idea that marriage and family are spiritually inconsequential. If you are not asserting that, my point stands.

    4) I did not argue in favor of predestination to a certain kingdom, but rather effective predestination to an early death (or a late death) as the case may be. It is like – Middle ages: child mortality is very high now, let’s get with the program and send overwhelmingly large percentages of celestial individuals now, and we will intervene to preserve only the lives of the non-celestial.

    Implies that earthly probation is the exception not the rule and that either modern efforts to reduce child mortality perpetuate meaningless suffering for some definite class of celestial individuals who are denied the blessing of dying young or God just doesn’t send very many celestial souls any more.

    II. You are just repeating the definition of why those objections belong in class II. If you defend (I), these do not apply to you.

    III. [New argument] Children are automatically celestial because they have never committed a sin they are accountable for. (I believe this was probably Joseph Smith’s original understanding.)

    Similar objections as before:

    i) Trivializes the purpose of earthly tenure
    ii) Trivializes marriage and family
    iii) Discounts the idea of true (adult) sanctification through service and sacrifice
    iv) Implies that sin is a feature of earth life only

    IV. [Possible Explanation] Joseph Smith did enormous editing of the D&C as his understanding deepened. D&C 137 was not canonized until 1976. It is certainly plausible that he would have clarified verse ten had he lived longer, or actually revisited it for canonization. The fact that he left it out of the Nauvoo edition is perhaps telling.

    I recognize that D&C 137’s canonical status is more than adequate reason to adopt verse ten vertabim. That doesn’t diminish the enormous difficulties and acrobatics that such a precept implies, however.

    In my opinion, the thrust of Joseph Smith’s other teachings gives ample reason to suspect that either we read him differently than he intended, or that there is more to the story than is apparent. How does one behold (rather than be told) such a categorical assertion anyway?

    Comment by Mark D. — February 3, 2008 @ 1:32 am

  54. Mark,

    I think you are missing Blake’s point in your response 4). Blake is saying that 100% of humans are celestial spirits upon arriving here. So there are no non-celestials that come here at all. Therefore he believes any child who dies is already celestial. The idea is that other opportunities to become exalted (or to lose celestial status) will be available in the future for those spirits.

    So yes, that approach does reduce the emphasis on this particular world, but I think that is probably a good thing on lots of levels — especially regarding the problem on evil. I am largely on board with that part of his general approach (de-emphasizing this life in the eternal scheme) as well.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 3, 2008 @ 9:22 am

  55. I should note that the problem with assuming that 100% of us were already celestial-grade (or whatever) spirits is that the scriptures like section 76 indicate that a small percentage of people who live to adulthood leave this life as celestial people. So it would seem that there is great spiritual disadvantage to living past childhood in Blake’s suggested model. In other words, the odds of us even breaking even seem very slim.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 3, 2008 @ 10:05 am

  56. Geoff,

    My first four objections only apply to position I -the essential feature of which is extraordinary pre-qualification. Saying that everyone who comes here is celestial as an answer to objection 4 is equivocating on the definition of “celestial individual”. Either these folks were unusually valiant in the pre-mortal life or they weren’t.

    Asserting the latter amounts to an abandonment of position I and an adoption of position III. They are mutually exclusive – one cannot simultaneously argue that God only allows certain pre-mortally qualified individuals to die as children (position I) and also that all children are celestial (position III).

    If Blake wants to defend the latter position instead, different objections naturally apply.

    Comment by Mark D. — February 3, 2008 @ 10:31 am

  57. Geoff and Mark: You are both missing what is occurring in D&C 137. Little children are celestial because they are innocent and cannot sin. They are not exalted. Thus, the status of little children is based on the fact that all pre-earth spirits are celestial gods who have taken a risk to come to earth. You don’t like the risk, but we already fought a battle over whether to take that risk and you and I chose to come here.

    Geoff, how to do you know that only a small percentage will receive celestial glory? There are liars and cheaters and adulterers and murderers in the telestial kingdom. There are those who are fooled by the craftiness of men and who refuse to receive the gospel in the hereafter in the terrestrial kingdom. But according to D&C 138:38 there is a vast congregation of the celestial who receive the gospel after this life. According to D&C 137 and 138, those who accept the gospel in the hereafter are celestial. How do you know that the vast majority, even to the point where those who are not celestial are (numerically speaking) de minimus? If your only problem is that only a few will be celestial, then I disagree again. There will be vastly more celestial than either of the other kingdoms — and given eternal perspective, I believe no one is left in lower kingdom except sons of perdition who have no kingdom of glory. Add to that fact what we both agree upon, that there is progression between kingdom, and over time the number of celestial spirits is vast indeed. So the odds of “breaking even” (whatever that means) in terms of gaining glory through our experiences is about 99.999999%!

    Add to this the fact that any person who has a body has a gained an advantage in terms of being able to grow through further experience (whether on earth or afterward), and it adds up to an easy decision — take on mortal life! So I think that your math is off and is way too pessimistic.

    Mark: You have not addressed the import of Joseph Smith’s teaching that power comes in having a body,

    Yes I have. Even children who die in infancy get a body and receiving a body both justifies the entry into mortal experience and it may be all that is necessary for further progression for these particular individuals. I don’t see any problem here.

    Here you assume that a test is meaningless simply because a person is amply qualified to pass it.

    No I don’t. It is obvious that children sometimes die. So they don’t have to face any supposed tests in this life. It is that simple. Otherwise, God’s plan is frustrated by the death of small children because they don’t get to face some arbitrary test that you think they must.

    I must also state that in LDS terms the idea that either Jesus in his pre-resurrected state or the Holy Ghost are “fully divine” in the same sense as the Father is exceedingly dubious. It is equivalent to the assertion that there is no benefit to a glorified resurrected body whatsoever. Why not dispense with the resurrection completely?

    Mark, it is simply LDS doctrine that Jesus was already fully divine as the God of the Old Testament before being born. Your error is in assuming that being “fully divine” means that there is no further progression. That is false, being “fully divine” means progressing eternally. Further, the Holy Ghost is God. Do I really need to cite the statements in the Book of Mormon and D&C t show it? Oh, I forget — grin — if it doesn’t fit with your theology the scriptures can be discounted or ignored.

    On 3, we now agree that marriage isn’t required for celestial glory — it is just good [for exaltation].

    Re: 4. You’re right Mark, my view entails “predestination to an earthly death.” Grin — earth to Mark: we’re all going to die. However, nothing in my view requires anyone to die at a particular point in time. Your argument is fallacious.

    In my view what Joseph beheld in vision reported in D&C 138 is crystal clear regarding whether little children who die in infancy receive celestial glory. All of these attempts to explain it away are the mental gymnastic and acrobatics of those who don’t have any decisive logical arguments, but just have misgivings about accepting the revelation. Be careful, you could slip a spiritual disc attempting such gymnastics.

    Comment by Blake — February 3, 2008 @ 12:14 pm

  58. Blake,

    Your first paragraph amounts to a wholesale shift in position from position I to position III. If true, that makes much of the rest of what you say (about my objections to position I) moot.

    Regardless:

    a) You rely on the assumption that spirits receive a present blessing from having had a body in the past. This contradicts D&C 138:50 which states: “For the dead had looked upon the long absence of their spirits from their bodies as a bondage.”

    Joseph Smith said that:

    “The great principle of happiness consists in having a body. The devil has no body, and herein is his punishment…All beings who have bodies have power over those who have not. The devil has no power over us only as we permit him” (TPJS 206).

    Clearly a spirit has no body in the same sense that the devil has no body. D&C 129 is ample support of that.

    c) I didn’t invent the term “probationary state”, which is where the idea of life as a test comes from. My point is that life is much more than a test.

    d) “Fully divine” is not a term in the LDS doctrinal lexicon. “Divine” itself rarely appears, and then only in the senses of divination and pertaining to God. The idea of divine as a unitary predicate is rather foreign to Mormonism, and indeed primitive Christianity. Suffused with divinity is more like it.

    e) If you want to defend scriptural inerrancy you are going to have an uphill battle. The scriptures say all sorts of stupid and contradictory things all over the place. e.g. “shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done it?” (Amos 3:6)

    f) You misquoted me – I did not say predestination to an “earthly” death. I said “effective predestination to an early death (or a late death) as the case may be” (emphasis added).

    If you are serious about your conversion to position III (all children are celestial), nearly all of this is moot. Please make up your mind.

    Comment by Mark D. — February 3, 2008 @ 1:33 pm

  59. Mark: a) I haven’t shifted. How is the notion that all little children who die in infancy had progressed to celestial glory before this life inconsistent with the view that all little children are celestial because they are innocent? In fact, one is logically the subset of the other.

    b) Nothing I have said contradicts anything about the importance of having a body. In fact, infants may become mortal solely to obtain a body – and that makes it of unique importance for the purpose of life. Nothing I have said detracts at all for the importance of a body. That a spirit doesn’t have a body is clear — that a spirit cannot be celestial is a false conclusion that you draw from that notion of the importance of having a body and is a simple non sequitur and obviously false in LDS theology. So let’s get clear Mark: Are you saying that Christ wasn’t fully divine before he became mortal? Are you asserting that the Holy Ghost is not fully divine, or possesses all of the properties necessary to be divine and be called “God”?

    c) Are you suggesting that little children who die in infancy must somehow have a probationary state before they are saved or celestial? If so, you simply deny Mormon and D&C 138. Further, it doesn’t follow at all that one must pass thru a probationary state before being celestial.

    d) Fully divine is a term that I define at length in my books — it means having all of the properties necessary to be divine. Look again at Colossians, Ephesians and D&C 93 which speak of having a fullness — and thus a fullness is a scriptural term.

    e) Who is defending scriptural inerrancy? You appear to think that the only alternative to scriptural inerrancy is scriptural impotence. The problem is that this scripture reports a vision and a very clear statement about what Joseph learned in vision. If you think that your know better in your theology than what Joseph learned gazing into heaven, then I suggest you rethink it. I don’t find your theological arguments to be at all persuasive and I find Joseph’s vision very clear and persuasive. I emphasize again: you are placing your mental machinations and gyrations over Joseph’s clear statements of what he learned in a heavenly vision. Guess which I trust more?

    f) I know Mark, I gave you the benefit of the doubt because nothing I have said entails that celestial persons must die in infancy. It does entail that if they die in infancy they are celestial — just As Joseph said. So your bare assertion that I have somehow adopted a view that necessitates an early death is bassackwards and a non-sequitur.

    Please note before you spout off: I have maintained that all children are celestial since I began to discuss this issue with Jacob’s first post, so it isn’t a matter of me making up my mind but of you reading perhaps a bit more carefully. So here is your challenge: show that the view that all children are celestial because they progressed so far in the pre-mortal existence is somehow inconsistent with the view that all children are celestial because they are innocent and haven’t yet sinned.

    Comment by Blake — February 3, 2008 @ 4:02 pm

  60. Blake,

    I am getting tired of this because you never seem to respond directly, but rather specialize in misdirection, red herrings, side issues, and other unpleasantries. I am not making a personal attack, so quit acting like it.

    a) Position I naturally excludes the proposition that all children were extraordinarily valiant in the pre-mortal life. The mechanics of divine intervention and mortal purpose are completely different. That is why I added position III.

    b) You appear to have missed the point here. I quote myself: “The problem is that Joseph Smith taught that power consists of having a body. Therefore these individuals could (in aggregate) do far more good helping the rest of us here on earth than in the spirit world. I mean we have thousands of years as spirits, but only a short time as mortals. Shortening it on purpose has no rational explanation.”

    d) As far as this ridiculous tangent about unitary divinity is concerned, I do not believe that the Son could have a fulness without the Father and refer you to D&C 93:17 in support of that proposition. But that is irrelevant.

    e) Ad hominem rhetoric from beginning to end.

    f) I made no such assertion. I was criticizing position I, not your personal beliefs.

    Comment by Mark D. — February 3, 2008 @ 5:08 pm

  61. Objections in response to position III (all children are inherently celestial).

    1) Trivializes the value of an earthly existence beyond the day of birth. Suggests that the best possible plan is where a small breeding class that produces children and immediately kills the majority of them off, so that they are assured of a spot in celestial glory. Or alternatively, that the living conditions of the middle ages were more spiritually beneficial due to the high natural rate of child mortality.

    2) Implies that no collective net forward spiritual progress is made through the process of life on earth. The vast majority lose their celestial status and never regain it during their mortal lives.

    3) Trivializes the spiritual significance of maturity and the character traits of adulthood. Maturity is a step backward on this view. Better to be innocent, incompetent, and celestial.

    4) Implies that sin (or responsibility for sin) is non-existent in post-mortal life. If you die as a child, nothing you can do thereafter disqualifies you from celestial glory while numerous honorable god-fearing adults get left behind in the terrestrial.

    Comment by Mark D. — February 3, 2008 @ 5:29 pm

  62. Mark, I’m pretty sure that we’re not going to make any headway here. Thanks for the conversation.

    Comment by Blake — February 3, 2008 @ 6:15 pm

  63. Blake (#57): Little children are celestial because they are innocent and cannot sin. They are not exalted.

    Ok, so your approach is to say everyone was “celestial” before coming here so dying before becoming accountable means one “breaks even” and remains celestial. You make a major distinction between being celestial and being exalted.

    In your view what must a celestial soul do to become exalted?

    So the odds of “breaking even” (whatever that means) in terms of gaining glory through our experiences is about 99.999999%!

    Here it appears you are taking a universalist approach and basically saying that even the most vile miscreant who must go to hell and then to the telestial kingdom as a result of choices in this life will eventually progress to the Celestial kingdom. Am I reading you right there?

    So do you also think that 99.999999% of the inhabitants of the world will end up exalted? If not, why?

    Comment by Geoff J — February 3, 2008 @ 8:15 pm

  64. Geoff: In your view what must a celestial soul do to become exalted?

    Read D&C 76:51-58 and 132:19-21 which define real clearly what has to be done for exaltation.

    So do you also think that 99.999999% of the inhabitants of the world will end up exalted? If not, why?

    I don’t know if 99% will be exalted, but the God I believe in will never give up, He is very persuasive, and He has all eternity to work on it. That adds up to really good odds on my view. I am darn near universalist. However, not even God can guaranty that everyone will freely choose to enter into relationship of indwelling unity or that once they do they will continue to do so. However, it is the only rational course in life and I believe that sooner or later He’ll get thru to everyone but those so hardened that we cannot get to them and they will not let us in, so it is for all intents and purposes as if they live in their own private universe without any contact outside the hell of their own demented minds.

    Comment by Blake — February 3, 2008 @ 9:14 pm

  65. Wow, I was gone for awhile and things got lively without me. Good discussion.

    We’ve had some important developments. Blake has committed himself to the position that all children are celestial. On the previous thread I tried (here) to get a straight answer on this and Geoff followed up to re-ask the question (here) when it didn’t get answered, but in the end, the answer from Blake was “I don’t know.” So, that is progress as far as I am concerned.

    But, with the clarity on this point comes a number of new questions. Let me bring up the first few for me.

    Blake,

    You said that:

    Little children are celestial because they are innocent and they never lose that innocence. They are celestial like Adam was. (#52)

    I want to be very clear on how Adam was celestial in your view because this is am important point. When you say children are celestial, do you merely mean they were innocent in this life because they never came to understand right and wrong? This is far different than the traditional explanation that they were so righteous in the pre-existence that they did not require a mortal probation having already become celestial in the sense of having progressed to being able to live by a celestial law. In the quote above, you seem to use celestial as a synonym for innocent which is very unusual in Mormon thought.

    Next. In the same paragraph as the quote above, you said:

    However, by reaching the age of accountability, we risk making responsible choices that could forfeit our celestial status for the opportunity to grow into a peer relationship with God and exaltation. Since it is the only way to achieve exaltation, it is worth it. Little children will receive that possibility later, but they don’t risk in this life losing their celestial status. (#52)”

    I am confused, so I need clarification on this one. In the first statement you say that reaching the age of accountability “is the only way to achieve exaltation” which makes it sound as though little children who die are precluded from the possibility of exaltation. But, then you say that they will receive this opportunity later.

    Will they receive this opportunity later through another chance at a mortal probation, or was your previous statement about a mortal probation being “the only way” an exaggeration?

    Comment by Jacob J — February 3, 2008 @ 9:14 pm

  66. Thanks for the response Blake. That helps me understand your position better.

    Jacob has asked some of the questions I still have about your position as well. Since you believe that 100% of the spirits were celestial spirits already before arriving here, my question is: What does the term “celestial spirit” mean to you? Have they always been celestial spirits on your view? Or did they (we) progress through telestial and terrestrial stages to attain celestial status in the eternities prior to this world?

    Comment by Geoff J — February 3, 2008 @ 10:24 pm

  67. Jake: Here is how I see it — and have for some time. Before coming to earth we have a glory that Adam possessed in the garden — the ability and glory to be in God’s direct presence. We can be in God’s presence only if we share a certain glory — a celestial glory. When we become mortal, we forfeit the immediate presence but we do not forfeit our celestial status unless and until we begin to make morally accountable choices that create alienation from God. Little children are innocent before God. Note what Mormon had to say:

    8:10 Behold I say unto you that this thing shall ye teach—repentance and baptism unto those who are accountable and capable of committing sin; yea, teach parents that they must repent and be baptized, and humble themselves as their little children, and they shall all be saved with their little children.
    11 And their little children need no repentance, neither baptism. Behold, baptism is unto repentance to the fulfilling the commandments unto the remission of sins.
    12 But little children are alive in Christ, even from the foundation of the world; if not so, God is a partial God, and also a changeable God, and a respecter to persons; for how many little children have died without baptism!
    13 Wherefore, if little children could not be saved without baptism, these must have gone to an endless hell.
    14 Behold I say unto you, that he that supposeth that little children need baptism is in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity; for he hath neither faith, hope, nor charity; wherefore, should he be cut off while in the thought, he must go down to hell.
    15 For awful is the wickedness to suppose that God saveth one child because of baptism, and the other must perish because he hath no baptism.
    16 Wo be unto them that shall pervert the ways of the Lord after this manner, for they shall perish except they repent. Behold, I speak with boldness, having authority from God; and I fear not what man can do; for perfect love casteth out all fear.
    17 And I am filled with charity, which is everlasting love; wherefore, all children are alike unto me; wherefore, I love little children with a perfect love; and they are all alike and partakers of salvation.
    18 For I know that God is not a partial God, neither a changeable being; but he is unchangeable from ball eternity to all eternity.
    19 Little children cannot repent; wherefore, it is awful wickedness to deny the pure mercies of God unto them, for they are all alive in him because of his mercy.
    20 And he that saith that little children need baptism denieth the mercies of Christ, and setteth at naught the atonement of him and the power of his redemption.

    Mormon doesn’t mince words for those who say little children need baptism. We must all become as little children according to Mosiah, and all children are born innocent according to D&C 93:

    38 Every spirit of man was innocent in the beginning; and God having redeemed man from the fall, men became again, in their infant state, innocent before God.
    39 And that wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth, through disobedience, from the children of men, and because of the tradition of their fathers.

    So it isn’t until children begin to grow and lose the light thru disobedience and tradition that they lose the innocence of their redeemed status before God. They are like Adam in the garden before the fall (see 2 Ne. 2) — innocent and pure before God. Once they reach the age of accountability and begin to make choices, they are as Adam when he made the choice to become alienated from God represented by the story of eating the forbidden fruit. They enter the world of moral decision and moral growth through encountering challenges and opposition in all things. Little children who die in infancy and mentally challenged don’t encounter these moral challenges in this life.

    So here is how it falls out. The spirits who choose to come here have not engaged in the sins that alienate them from God until they reach the age of accountability. Before that, they are celestial in the sense that they are able to be in God’s immediate presence without wishing rocks would fall on them and hide them from God. As children grow to accountability, they choose to become alienated and will not willingly enter into God’s presence unless they accept the atonement. However, they also receive that degree of light that they are willing to accept.

    If little children die before the age of accountability, then they receive a body that allows them to continue to progress — but they don’t need another mortal experience. They are resurrected never to die again — according to Alma 40. However, they can still have vicarious ordinances such as marriage and sealing to families performed for them. If they are celestial, they never stop progressing if that is what they choose. I don’t believe that they are destined to remain ministering angels for all eternity.

    When a child dies, that child dies innocent and celestial or fit for God’s immediate presence and quickened by the celestial glory in the resurrection. The body that they have received open the door for further progression.

    At least, as I put together Joseph Smith’s revelations, this is the picture that falls out for me. I believe that it is a comforting and inspiring picture and it is certainly correct that little children have not sinned and don’t deserve to be cast out of God’s presence for anything that they have done.

    Comment by Blake — February 3, 2008 @ 10:39 pm

  68. Blake,

    If I am reading you correctly, some of the points Mark brought up in #61, especially his first point, are relevant. It seems that the best thing for God to do is to give us a physical body and skip the “mortal probation” part of the plan.

    Additionally, my old question about what is wrong with killing children rears its ugly head again. Our last exchange on this was your reponse (here) where you said it doesn’t matter because I couldn’t bring myself to kill a child. I responded (here) saying that there are people who do kill children, so the morality of such actions most definitely has pragmatic value. A theology which says children are better off being killed in infancy is a big problem in my opinion. I brought it up again in #12 of this thread but I don’t think it has gotten a response here.

    Comment by Jacob J — February 3, 2008 @ 11:06 pm

  69. By the way, I don’t want to get sidetracked with the quote from Moroni 8, but also don’t want to let it go without any comment. One of the verses you quote above says:

    13 Wherefore, if little children could not be saved without baptism, these must have gone to an endless hell.

    This is flatly incorrect and betrays Mormon’s lack of knowledge about salvation for the dead including vicarious ordinances. Given Mormon’s understanding of the plan, his position makes very good sense as does his strong stand against people preaching the necessity of baptism for children. However, given that God has seen fit to reveal more of the plan to us, it would be foolish to apply all of Mormon’s reasoning in places where we now know it to be lacking in understanding. This has been my whole point all along. God has revealed this doctrine of salvation for the dead piece by piece, it is not a stretch to suggest that there are a couple of pieces even we have not been given.

    Comment by Jacob J — February 3, 2008 @ 11:21 pm

  70. I have to agree with Jacob and Mark on this one Blake. If the universe really worked the way you are describing it it seems to me that we all would be vastly better off dying as children than living to adulthood. If the Celestial kingdom is a place nearly everyone will progress to exaltation over times and the lower kingdoms are mostly temporary (and perhaps painful) setbacks to people getting into to the celestial kingdom why is God wasting his energy letting so many of us live to maturity here? Especially if we were all “celestial spirits” before we got here to begin with. Seems mighty inefficient to me if God’s work and glory is to help all of us become exalted.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 3, 2008 @ 11:30 pm

  71. Jacob: It is better for children to live because then they can progress now and enjoy the benefits of growth now in this life, learning and moving toward exaltation without being stunted in their joy and happiness by having to wait. Frankly, I’m not clear how you arrive at the view that it is better to kill children — you don’t give an argument you just assert it just like Mark did. Further, if you factor in the fact that you will forfeit your own glory and thus will have damned yourself for a very long time (possibly forever), and will have also stunted the temporal chance at progression of a child toward exaltation, it becomes a no-brainer. Of course, if you don’t wish to have a shot at growth but wish to wait around for eternity without an exalting relationship with God, then what you say could possibly make sense. It made sense to Satan and his minions apparently according to Joseph Smith.

    Now show me a single person who has ever suggested that killing children is better who believed in the doctrine of celestial glory for little children. I repeat our earlier discussion: not only does it not follow from the view that Joseph Smith taught, it isn’t something that anyone could take seriously. That is why the I don’t take it seriously because it cannot be asserted in good faith.

    This is getting real interesting. You not only flatly reject D&C 138:10, you also now say that Mormon is just flat wrong and I suppose so is the Church in the way it conducts baptisms for the dead without performing them for children who die in infancy because of Joseph’s revelations and Mormon’s clear statements. Isn’t all of this rejection of visions and revelations getting uncomfortable by now? What are your criteria for accepting scripture? It seems that it must be that they must square with your theology and beliefs rather than the other way around. I suppose that you’ll say that Joseph later pronouncements require rejecting celestial glory of little children — but they don’t. You haven’t come close to showing that Joseph’s later views entail any such thing. This response is not an ad hominem as Mark labeled it to avoid it; rather, it a part of the cost of adopting your position. And it is a very large cost indeed. Now instead of scripture and revelation being the basis for your theology, any scripture that doesn’t fit your theology is just “flat wrong.” You see, I accept celestial glory of little children because Joseph had a vision and said so. It fits with virtually everything revealed to him. Frankly, I would not have guessed that I need to defend what are obviously sound principles, such as the innocence of little children, the fact that pre-mortal spirits are celestial in the sense that they are able to be within God’s immediate presence as was Adam, and sheer non-sense that small children who die in infancy somehow forfeited that glory to be in God’s immediate presence just by taking on them a body.

    Mormon is not flat incorrect about baptism for little children. We don’t baptize them. Baptism only applies to those who stand in need of repentance. What do little children need to repent of in your view? It is as I suggest that given your stance, you should be preaching that we ought to baptize little children — and then I believe Mormon’s condemnations accurately apply to your view “standing in the gall of bitterness” nonetheless. So are you going to get consistent and real and start telling us that the Church and Mormon are wrong and you’ve got it all figured out? As for me, I believe that Mormon is not only correct, but plainly correct. Why do little children need baptism on your view?

    Geoff: I’m surprise to hear such agreement from you based on your MMP stance where arguably it doesn’t matter if we kill anybody we’ll all get another shot anyway. How is the argument you now make different from the MMP that makes completely unimportant whether we do good or evil except for the temporal immediacy I suggested above in response to Jacob?

    Comment by Blake — February 3, 2008 @ 11:50 pm

  72. Blake,

    Frankly, I’m not clear how you arrive at the view that it is better to kill children — you don’t give an argument you just assert it.

    Actually, the argument has been expressed by several people already. In your view, a person is assured a place in the celestial kingdom if they die in childhood and they are virtually assured that they will continue on to exaltation. By contrast, lots of those who grow into adulthood fit the descriptions in D&C 76 for either telestial or terrestrial glory in the resurrection. Everyone automatically going to the celestial rather than the telestial/terrestrial seems to be obviously preferable.

    Further, if you factor in the fact that you will forfeit your own glory and thus will have damned yourself for a very long time

    At the very worst, I will go to the telestial for awhile, but then on to exaltation according to you #57. But more importantly, in order for you to say I will forfeit my own glory, you must assume the very point under debate, which is that killing children is morally wrong. I ask why it is wrong and you answer that it is wrong because if I do it I will be punished for doing something wrong. This is perfectly circular.

    Further, Mormon is not flat incorrect about baptism for little children.

    I went out of my way to quote the exact verse I was claiming to be incorrect, so please don’t recklessly apply that statement to something different in the chapter (as you do in the quote above). Verse 13 is unquestionably incorrect and your response avoids the substantive point I made in #69.

    Comment by Jacob J — February 4, 2008 @ 12:15 am

  73. Jacob: and they are virtually assured that they will continue on to exaltation.

    OK, now I think I see why you think that it is better to kill little children if they will surely be celestial. However, you argument is based on a non-sequitur and a false assumption. You believe that on balance having everyone in the celestial kingdom is better than having some in lower kingdoms. Of course it is. But it doesn’t follow if taking the risk to progress toward exaltation is worth the risk. You falsely assume that I assert that everyone is “virtually assured” that they will be exalted. I don’t state or claim that it is inevitable or assured that anyone will progress to exaltation — just that God will never give up. Don’t you believe too? Yes, we face a risk in coming to mortality that we might not return to our Father — ever. We risk that we might commit such acts that we are telestial or terrestrial — without the doors to higher kingdoms being slammed. Whether we progress is up to us. That depends on the state of our hearts as D&C 138 states. The chance at exaltation makes it worth while — even if we forfeit our status to be in God’s immediate presence because it is the only way forward into an exalting relationship. We must have bodies and at some time have a choice to enter into relationship.

    At the very worst, I will go to the telestial for awhile, but then on to exaltation according to you #57.

    Really, I must have missed the part that you will surely go on to exaltation. Killing little children is wrong because the chance to experience this life is valuable and it ain’t your call — you take away what God has given. Now are you serious? It is contrary to the law of love to murder little children and if you pre-meditate doing so then growing beyond a telestial glory will be nigh unto impossible. Sheesh. Do I really have to argue that killing little children is wrong? Why on your view is it wrong to murder little children?

    Here is the verse from Mormon that you say is wrong: 13 Wherefore, if little children could not be saved without baptism, these must have gone to an endless hell.

    First, I guess you’re not making Mark’s argument that little children need baptism? However, Mormon is absolutely correct. Remember that to be saved in both the BofM and D&C 76 means to be redeemed from hell. If little children must be baptized while alive and they die without it, and if they cannot be redeemed from hell without baptism, it follows that they will remain in hell without baptism. That is Mormon’s argument. It is absolutely correct.

    Now I suppose that if you want to take his argument out of context, you could argue that little children will not remain in hell because they need to be baptized vicariously. For what? What sins have they committed for which they stand in need of vicarious baptism for remission of sins? Mormon’s argument is that little children are pure and cannot repent, so they don’t need baptism. That also is correct. I’m not being reckless when I assert that you are rejecting Mormon’s statements and reasoning am I?

    Comment by Blake — February 4, 2008 @ 12:27 am

  74. Jacob said: and they are virtually assured that they will continue on to exaltation.

    Blake said: This is flat out false. Where did you get that from what I said when I have repeatedly stated otherwise?

    I’m reading carefully and trying not to misrepresent you, so I am open to your correction. I drew my conclusion from the fact that earlier in the thread Geoff asked you if you believed 99.99999% of people (from all kingdoms telestial/terrestrial/celestial) would be exalted. You replied:

    I don’t know if 99% will be exalted, but the God I believe in will never give up, He is very persuasive, and He has all eternity to work on it. That adds up to really good odds on my view. I am darn near universalist.

    If that is your response when considering everyone on the earth (including Geoff’s “vile miscreants”), then I thought I was on safe ground suggesting that virtually all of the celestial spirits who were so righteous as not to need a mortal probation would go on to exaltation. That is where I drew my conclusion from.

    Yes, we face a risk in coming to mortality that we might not return to our Father. That is Mormonism 101. The chance at exaltation makes it worth while

    The last line is the crucial one. In Mormonism 101, this probation is an essential step toward exalation which makes the risk worth it. In the view you have described, that risk is entirely unnecessary and can very simply be avoided by dying in infancy.

    If little children must be baptized while alive and they die without it, and if they cannot be redeemed from hell without baptism, it follows that they will remain in hell without baptism. That is Mormon’s argument.

    You have inserted something into Mormon’s argument, namely the condition “while alive,” which is the precise point on which my argument hangs, so it can hardly be an accident. Mormon’s actual argument is that if little children could not be saved without baptism, they must go to hell. This is incorrect because if it turned out that little children did need baptism, they could receive that ordinance vicariously while in the spirit world and avoid going to hell for even one instant. Mormon didn’t know that because God chose not to reveal the full doctrine of salvation for the dead to him.

    Remember that to be saved in both the BofM and D&C 76 means to be redeemed from hell.

    Well, you may or may not remember that we had a long thread on this topic in which I disagreed with that view and made a case for an alternate view (that BofM prophets usually use the term salvation synonymously with exaltation). I was eventually able to get the following concession out of you on account of my scriptural counter-example from Alma 5: “my view is that the BofM is generally consistent in its use of terms like “redemption” and “savlation” — but not entirely so (I wouldn’t expect it to be because it wasn’t written by analytic philosophers)” (here).

    I’m not being reckless when I assert that you are rejecting Mormon’s statements and reasoning am I?

    I am only rejecting the parts of his argument that rest on holes in his understanding which have been filled in by modern revelation. His statement is fine if viewed in the context of his understanding of the plan of salvation, but it is very problematic if read as though he understood everything we do today.

    Comment by Jacob J — February 4, 2008 @ 1:19 am

  75. Jacob: First I am going to tackle what is going on with Mormon. Mormon is making an argument based on a view that little children must be baptized in mortality or they are damned. His argument is aimed against that belief. That is why when I parsed his argument, I did so in terms of the dialectic he was working with (baptized in this life or damned) — and given that dialectic, my parsing of his argument was accurate and the argument is valid. Your way of parsing the argument misconstrues Mormon to be addressing an issue he is not addressing. Would you agree with me that given Mormon’s real concern, infant baptism and damnation for those who aren’t baptized in infancy, that Mormon’s argument is entirely valid and sound?

    Next I addressed the argument as I assumed you meant it — factoring in the possibility of baptism for the dead. On that view Mormon’s reasoning applies differently but also validly. Baptism is for the purpose of remission of sins. Little children have not committed sins. Thus, they don’t need vicarious baptism for the dead. That was my response.

    However, I think that you believe that there is another factor at play in infant baptism and why it is improper. Baptism must be a free and cognizant choice of which little children are incapable. However, they can make that decision in the afterlife when they are capable. Thus, given baptism for the dead, little children could fulfill another reason for baptism – by doing so they could signify that they freely choose to accept Christ by accepting the vicarious ordinance when it is performed for them. It think that is the implicit argument that you and Mark are making — tho not explicitly. I’m guessing that you believe — as Mark apparently does — that baptism is essential to salvation and so this second reason makes Mormon wrong twice over. He is wrong that little children don’t need baptism and he is wrong that baptism must be performed in this life. Have I got that accurate?

    However, Mormon has another response. Baptism is an outward symbol and not the intrinsic decision to accept Christ and so baptism isn’t necessary to accept Christ. Little children who die can accept Christ by choosing to do so and they don’t need an outward ordinance that symbolizes repentance and remission of sins because they don’t need repentance and haven’t committed any sins.

    So on both ways of construing the argument, I believe Mormon has the better argument (or at least the resources to answer the second argument). Add to that that he was a prophet whose words God saw fit to preserve for thousands of years and I think we can add revelatory authority to the soundness of his argument.

    I’m headed to work, so I’ll address the rest later.

    Comment by Blake — February 4, 2008 @ 7:48 am

  76. Blake (#73): Really, I must have missed the part that you will surely go on to exaltation.

    That is basically what you told me when I asked you about it Blake. What changed since your #64?

    So the practical approach is pretty simple. If children who die are virtually assured of progressing to exaltation in their new resurrected bodies in the celestial kingdom, then what would be the advantage of living to adulthood here? It seems to me that there is none at all on your view. What can be accomplished for adults here that cannot be accomplished for them as resurrected beings in the celestial kingdom on your view?

    Comment by Geoff J — February 4, 2008 @ 8:56 am

  77. Let me address the “let’s all kill little children because it is in their best interest” argument. In fact, doesn’t stating it refute it?

    Let me first state that not even God knows who or how many will finally be exalted. Anyone who believes in LFW as I do agrees that guaranteeing that any given individual will choose to be exalted is logically impossible and that prediction is even more tenuous for populations. I am not retracting, it is what I said before but, as is the common tendency, you want to totalise and generalize in a way that is unwarranted.

    Next let’s do a parity parody argument. First parody parity: If I have understood, ya’ll believe that a person is forgiven of sins at baptism. It is for the remission of sins. So a person would be better off waiting until they are very old and then getting baptized and then we should kill them — even on your view (if you argument is valid). In fact, we should allow children to be baptized and then let’s kill them because they are perfect and they have lived long enough to make moral decisions. Second parody parity: Or no one should get baptized in this life because baptism is for remission of sins. If we wait until we are dead and then accept baptism, then we are freed of sin and since we are spirits who will be celestial in the resurrection, we are assured a celestial glory and thus should not get baptized in this life at all. Third parody parity: It doesn’t really matter because there is no urgency. Their are numerous mortal probations and whether in this life or some other we’ll get baptized, and we’ll all eventually make it, so it doesn’t matter whether it is there or here, work will be done for the dead and we’ll all be celestial.

    Now have I misunderstood you Jacob? Don’t you believe in movement between kingdoms? If so, then you have the same MMP problem since a fourth parody parity applies: it doesn’t matter whether it is here or there, since we can move between kingdoms and work for the dead will have been done for everyone that can be accepted at any time, it doesn’t matter whether we are baptize here or there or ever since we have forever.

    Now I will respond later to why there is urgency here and now and yet it is always wrong and sinful to kill little children. But first I want a response to the parity arguments.

    Comment by Blake — February 4, 2008 @ 9:14 am

  78. Blake (#75),

    Mormon is making an argument based on a view that little children must be baptized in mortality or they are damned. His argument is aimed against that belief.

    Well, the only reason you can confidently add “in mortality” above is that Mormon and his contemporaries had no conception that there was any other option (i.e. vicarious ordinances for the dead). So, in confidently adding “in mortality,” you make my point that they were working on an incomplete understanding of the plan. Furthermore, even if I grant your “in mortality, notice that the argument described above is NOT my argument (i.e. I have not argued that children must be baptized in mortality). Thus, when you bring it to bear on my argument, I must point out that Mormon is not addressing me.

    Mormon is absolutely correct when he says that little children don’t have sins to remit and are not mentally capable of making the sort of commitment symbolized by baptism. My point is: if they go to the spirit world and have the plan presented to them and are given a chance to live according to God in the spirit so that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, then the purposes of baptism become entirely appropriate.

    The very same thing that is said about little children (that they are guaranteed eternal life) was said previously about those who die in ignorance of Christ and his gosepl:

    And these are those who have part in the first resurrection; and these are they that have died before Christ came, in their ignorance, not having salvation declared unto them. And thus the Lord bringeth about the restoration of these; and they have a part in the first resurrection, or have eternal life, being redeemed by the Lord. And little children also have eternal life. (Mosiah 15:24-25)

    And yet, we know that dying in ignorance of the gospel does not actually guarantee someone eternal life. So, in summary, I don’t disagree with what Mormon is saying; his comments entirely avoid the topic I am bringing up because he was addressing a completely different argument without an understaning of the framework in which my argument exists.

    Comment by Jacob J — February 4, 2008 @ 11:19 am

  79. Blake (#77),

    Next let’s do a parity parody argument.

    You have not captured my view in any of these parodies. The problem is that you are assuming in them that the way we qualify for eternal life is by being sinless and that baptism washes away our sins. I have a fundamentally different view which is that the way we qualify for eternal life is by progressing into the ability to abide by celestial law. In your parody you say: “we should allow children to be baptized and then let’s kill them because they are perfect.” That is fundamentally missing the point of perfection. Children are not “perfect” by virtue of having their sins remitted in baptism. They must become holy through sanctification which is a long arduous process of character building in the face of opposition.

    The character flaws we must overcome predate our birth and are the very reason for the plan in the first place. The point of the plan was to give us the opportunity to build our characters through choice and accountability. This is why I found it strange when you used “celestial” as a synonym for “innocent” earlier in the thread. An innocent person is not necessarily celestial. To be celestial we must be able to abide celestial law even in the face of opposition, the way Christ did when he was on the earth. None of us can do that. The babies who live on to adulthood cannot do this either, so I find it problematic to refer to them as “celestial.” They don’t meet the scriptural criteria laid out in D&C 88.

    Don’t you believe in movement between kingdoms? If so, then you have the same MMP problem since a fourth parody parity applies: it doesn’t matter whether it is here or there, since we can move between kingdoms and work for the dead will have been done for everyone that can be accepted at any time, it doesn’t matter whether we are baptize here or there or ever since we have forever.

    I do believe in movement between kingdoms, but the forth parody parity does not apply. In MMP, we trade one life for an identical one, so your argument applies that neither is to be preferred over the other. However, in my view, there are some clear and compelling reasons to repent here rather than going the telestial route. First, wickedness never was happiness and the sooner the repent the sooner you can start being happy. Second, those who go the telestial suffer for a thousand years in hell and I recommend against doing that (a trip to the dentist is enough hell for me). Third, I never said that continued opportunity to repent ensures that we will all eventually make it (as your forth parody claims). Forth, becoming celestial is fundamentally the same process no matter where you do it (here or in the spirit world or in hell->telestial->terrestrial). So, there is urgency because I urgently want to stop being miserable and this requires me to overcome sin.

    Comment by Jacob J — February 4, 2008 @ 11:40 am

  80. Jacob: So I guess that you’ll agree that Mormon isn’t “flatly incorrect” in v. 13 as you said in in # 69?

    With respect to those who don’t have the gospel in this life, there is important difference that you’re overlooking. They have need of redemption; little children don’t. They have sinned if they lived to accountability; little children haven’t. Thus, they need baptism; little children don’t. As Mormon said in Moroni ch. 8:

    8:10 Behold I say unto you that this thing shall ye teach—repentance and baptism unto those who are accountable and capable of committing sin; yea, teach parents that they must repent and be baptized, and humble themselves as their little children, and they shall all be saved with their little children.
    11 And their little children need no repentance, neither baptism. Behold, baptism is unto repentance to the fulfilling the commandments unto the remission of sins.

    So you are still advocating that little children should be baptized in our baptisms for the dead and the Church is wrong not to do so. However, I suspect that we both know why it isn’t done and never has been — little children don’t stand in need of baptism according to Mormon.

    So baptism for the dead doesn’t change things. We preach that those who stand in need of repentance must be baptized; those who don’t like little children and mentally challenged don’t need baptism. So while those who don’t hear of Christ in this life will get a chance to do so in the hereafter and will be redeemed to eternal life, only those who have need of repentance need to be baptized.

    But note that those who never hear in this life come forth in the first resurrection (and that is also backed up by D&C 76 and 88 as well as Mosiah 15 and2 Ne. 9)– and I suppose you’ll argue that we all ought to wait for the afterlife before accepting the gospel because then we are guaranteed eternal life and redemption? Darn it would have been better to preach to them in the hereafter where our chances are better, so there goes missionary work in this life. Or is it your position that all of these scriptures are just wrong?

    Comment by Blake — February 4, 2008 @ 11:43 am

  81. Jacob: First, wickedness never was happiness and the sooner the repent the sooner you can start being happy. Second, those who go the telestial suffer for a thousand years in hell and I recommend against doing that (a trip to the dentist is enough hell for me). Third, I never said that continued opportunity to repent ensures that we will all eventually make it (as your forth parody claims). Forth, becoming celestial is fundamentally the same process no matter where you do it (here or in the spirit world or in hell->telestial->terrestrial). So, there is urgency because I urgently want to stop being miserable and this requires me to overcome sin.

    Yup, that’s what I thought you would say. Now how is it different for little children in your “let’s kill them all now” parody? The sooner little children are able to make the choice to progress in the context of opposition in all things, the faster they can grow toward consummate joy. That means, dying in infancy deprives them of the ability to grow now in this life and not to wait to be able to move toward exaltation. Children will gain by progressing now and will realize the joy and happiness that comes from such progress toward exaltation now by continuing in mortal life. Yes, there is a risk that they won’t return to God’s presence if they live and can make choices in the context of opposition in all things; but that is more than off-set by the chance to progress now into an exalting relationship. If it’s a good reason for you, its good for me. So there is urgency so that they can begin now to experience the joy that only comes from facing opposition in all things. That is why we don’t kill little babies, in addition to the fact that God commands against it, it is depraved, we assume the position of Satan to determine their eternal destiny by refusing to confront any risk and it damns us to hell for 1,000 years. In other words, we become like the Son of Perdition in making that kind of judgment and so it is possibly an eternal loss for both us and inhibits their growth by depriving them of choices. That ought to be reason enough, don’t you think?

    Now in a sense we are talking past each other because I accept the more scriptural terms — celestial means fit for God presence and thus having a glory that makes us fit to be in his presence. That is what it means I believe in D&C 138:10 that you reject. It means pure and without sin. You are using celestial as if it is synonymous with exaltation — and that is clearly not correct in LDS thought. Those who are in the celestial glory are not necessarily exalted according to D&C 130. Thus, your mistake seems to me to be equating celestial glory with exaltation.

    In D&C 88 “celestial” means that in the resurrection our bodies will be quickened by the celestial degree of light — nothing more. According to D&C 76, the celestial degree of light makes us fit for God’s presence, the terrestrial for Christ’s presence and telestial only for the presence of the Holy Ghost — if I properly understand D&C 76. However, it is a degree which already we possessed before coming here. That is why Christ asked for his pre-earth glory to be restored to him in John 17.

    So let’s do a thought experiment. Let’s say that a small child dies and it is innocent and has only the glory of an innocent child. Which glory do these children go to according D&C 76? They don’t go to the terrestrial kingdom because they have not been blinded by the craftiness of men. They don’t go to the telestial kingdom because they have not committed murders, whoredoms and so forth. The only glory that could possibly characterize them in the schema of the three degrees of glory is a celestial glory. They go to the celestial glory. Nothing has changed for them because they have not made choices that alienate them from God. They are still fit for God’s presence. Do you also reject the schema of section 76? Have I accurately captured your view?

    Comment by Blake — February 4, 2008 @ 12:23 pm

  82. Jacob (#79): In MMP, we trade one life for an identical one, so your argument applies that neither is to be preferred over the other.

    Not to get off track, but I needed to point out that you are wrong here. In MMP each probation is the result of a previous probation. The idea is that each probation should give as good of an opportunity to change character for the better as possible. Each probation is anything but “identical” so I have no idea where you get that idea. Rather, the various probations provide, as you put it, “long arduous process of character building in the face of opposition.”

    That ongoing opposition aspect is the glaring weakness of both your and Blake’s views on eternal progression in my opinion (though it is a bigger problem for Blake than for you with his forever-celestial spirits).

    Comment by Geoff J — February 4, 2008 @ 7:36 pm

  83. Geoff,

    Assuming your version of MMP: Based on my previous probation I am born into certain circumstances, however, I die during childbirth. In your view, don’t I get sent on my next probation to essentially the same circumstances? I mean, it is not like my previous probation can be used to set my next one if I don’t make it past my first day in that probation, can it? I assumed in that case the last “real” probation would be what matters. That is why I said we trade the one where we died in childbirth for an identical one. I didn’t mean “identical” to mean “exactly the same in every way,” but rather that it would be identical in kind (another mortal probation) and that it would be a similar starting point. Given that explanation am I still way off base?

    Comment by Jacob J — February 4, 2008 @ 7:47 pm

  84. Blake (#81): The sooner little children are able to make the choice to progress in the context of opposition in all things, the faster they can grow toward consummate joy.

    Herein lies the baffling part about your position. When do the little children who die face opposition in all things in your model? They are presumably “celestial” from all eternity on your model and never cease to leave a celestial state, right? (You never answered my question about that in #66 so I will assume your position until then.) So as I understand your model, you have spirits who have always been celestial (100% of the spirits who are born on earth), some die as little children so remain celestial on your view, they go to the celestial kingdom in their never-sinned state. But where is the opposition they face? When do they ever get opposition like we adults on earth get? So one argument is that the celestial kingdom is basically devoid of the kind of opposition required for one to progress to exaltation so your model (celestial spirits who get to skip this life but will still progress to be exalted) simply doesn’t work. (See a post related to this subject here.)

    Now on the flip side of that argument, if the celestial kingdom is basically a place devoid of the opposition and trials but still a place where an eternally celestial spirit can progress to exaltation then this difficult mortality is totally unnecessary and a waste of all of our time. We would all be better off dying as babies if that were the case. So your model doesn’t make sense on that side of the coin either.

    celestial means fit for God presence and thus having a glory that makes us fit to be in his presence

    So here is another major weakness of your claim that we were all already “celestial” before coming here. Celestial means that our very characters are fit for God’s presence. How so we know if we are that? We live a Celestial law in the face of the intense opposition we live with in mortality. So you claim that we were all celestial beings (had celestial-grade characters) is not at all backed up by human behavior in general on this planet.

    That is why Christ asked for his pre-earth glory to be restored to him in John 17.

    Christ’s pre-earth glory is hardly a useful comparison to the rest of us in this conversation.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 4, 2008 @ 8:05 pm

  85. I better understand your point now Jacob. That is possible that a do-over is given to those children. Of course that sort of undermines the idea in 137:10. But I am with you and Mark in being a little skeptical of theological tenability of that verse as traditionally read.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 4, 2008 @ 8:11 pm

  86. Blake (#80),

    So I guess that you’ll agree that Mormon isn’t “flatly incorrect” in v. 13 as you said in in # 69?

    When considered in the context of his limited understanding of the plan, it is correct. When considered in the context of the plan as we understand it, his statement is not correct. When I say I agree with what Mormon is saying I mean that his statement makes sense in its own context. I maintain that his context was lacking in understanding and that his statement is, therefore, ultimately incorrect.

    So you are still advocating that little children should be baptized in our baptisms for the dead and the Church is wrong not to do so.

    I have not advocated that one single time. Additionally, I have clarified my position twice (both in #31 and again in #36). Upon what basis do you accuse me of “still advocating” a position that I’ve never once advocated and explicitely rejected twice on this thread?

    Or is it your position that all of these scriptures are just wrong?

    Of course that is my position, didn’t you read my post that we are discussing? The whole point was that these scriptures given before the revelation of salvation for the dead (every one of your examples falls into this category) did not give the correct story of how the plan works for the ignorant. Seriously, this is so basic to my position I am wondering if my ideas are penetrating.

    Comment by Jacob J — February 4, 2008 @ 8:30 pm

  87. Geoff: But where is the opposition they face?

    And after all of that it appears that you have misunderstood me [sigh]. That’s just it Geoff, they are deprived of facing this opposition if they are killed in infancy so that they cannot progress toward exaltation. Remember: exaltation is not the same thing as being celestial. They are robbed of the chance to progress toward exaltation and must wait for whatever new plan our Father comes up with to give them such opportunities. That is one reason why it is not good to kill the little babies.

    So you claim that we were all celestial beings (had celestial-grade characters) is not at all backed up by human behavior in general on this planet

    Of course the prior celestial glory isn’t “backed up” by our behavior because as children grow they choose alienation and evil. See ch. ch. 5 of vol. 2! Here is how Joseph’s revelations explain it:

    D&C 93:38 Every spirit of man was innocent in the beginning; and God having redeemed man from the fall, men became again, in their infant state, innocent before God.
    39 And that wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth, through disobedience, from the children of men, and because of the tradition of their fathers.

    So even though we come here innocent and full of celestial light, that light is “taken away” thru disobedience and traditions if children grow and lived long enough. It turns out that this is a strength of my position and not a weakness.

    Jacob: From now on when I ask you a rhetorical question I’ll mark it RQ so that you don’t miss it, OK? So no need to get huffy. I’m just pointing out that it has become a regular practice of rejecting not just D&C 138:10; but at least 6 other scriptures. I disagree with you. BTW.

    What the heck about my thought experiment? What glory do you say little children who die infancy have on your view?

    Are you backing off of the claim that somehow it makes sense to kill little babies on my view?

    Comment by Blake — February 4, 2008 @ 8:59 pm

  88. Blake: They are robbed of the chance to progress toward exaltation and must wait for whatever new plan our Father comes up with to give them such opportunities

    What sort of opportunity might that be? Another mortal probation? If not, what do you have in mind here?

    Of course the prior celestial glory isn’t “backed up” by our behavior because as children grow they choose alienation and evil.

    Jesus definitely had celestial glory before coming here and he did not choose alienation and evil. Why should we accept your assertion that we all were celestial beings (ie had developed celestial characters) prior to coming here? Being innocent is not the same as being celestial after all. Being innocent certainly doesn’t mean one has developed a celestial character.

    BTW — I think Jacob’s point is that little children who die receive their probation in the spirit world rather than here.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 4, 2008 @ 9:21 pm

  89. Geoff: Jesus definitely had celestial glory before coming here and he did not choose alienation and evil. Why should we accept your assertion that we all were celestial beings (ie had developed celestial characters) prior to coming here? Being innocent is not the same as being celestial after all. Being innocent certainly doesn’t mean one has developed a celestial character.

    And Geoff answers Geoff: Christ’s pre-earth glory is hardly a useful comparison to the rest of us in this conversation.

    Geoff yet again: I think Jacob’s point is that little children who die receive their probation in the spirit world rather than here.

    How can one have probation without opposition that is introduced in this world?

    Geoff: What sort of opportunity might that be? Another mortal probation? If not, what do you have in mind here?

    I don’t know. But it won’t be another mortal probation because that contradicts Alma 40.

    Comment by Blake — February 4, 2008 @ 9:41 pm

  90. Blake,

    I’ll let Jacob answer for himself. He’s got knots of his own to untangle in the absence of MMP.

    It is my suspicion that passing through veils of forgetfulness and experiencing mortal probations like this one is the the primary (if not only) way we are tested and experience the opposition needed to work toward exaltation. God had to populate those innumerable previous planets with some people after all. If not us then who?

    I don’t think your explanation of how the forever-celestials progress to exaltation is at all feasible so far. You agree that real opposition is required for such progress but as we understand the celestial kingdom there is no chance that those children could experience the kinds of testing and opposition there in those circumstances that we experience here in mortality. So either they leave the celestial kingdom to be tested (as I believe) or the celestial kingdom is not as nice as our scriptures and traditions teach it to be.

    Also, can you confirm that you believe we were eternally “celestial” spirits prior to this probation?

    Comment by Geoff J — February 5, 2008 @ 8:47 am

  91. Geoff: I don’t know about eternally “celestial” spirits. Now answer my question about where a child will go in the three kingdoms. Here is what I said:

    So let’s do a thought experiment. Let’s say that a small child dies and it is innocent and has only the glory of an innocent child. Which glory do these children go to according D&C 76? They don’t go to the terrestrial kingdom because they have not been blinded by the craftiness of men. They don’t go to the telestial kingdom because they have not committed murders, whoredoms and so forth. The only glory that could possibly characterize them in the schema of the three degrees of glory is a celestial glory. They go to the celestial glory. Nothing has changed for them because they have not made choices that alienate them from God. They are still fit for God’s presence.

    So where do you say that this little child goes if they stay exactly as they are, having never sinned and they remain as they are without further progression. Which kingdom do you put them in.

    Finally, your problem is the same as Jacob’s. You conflate exaltation and eternal progression with celestial glory. However, to be celestial is not the same as being exalted and being able to progress without end. How many times have I said that now? Here is what D&C 131 says about it as I’m sure you’re well aware already:

    1 In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees;
    2 And in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this border of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of emarriage];
    3 And if he does not, he cannot obtain it.

    So there are three degrees within the celestial glory. What are they and who are they? I suggest that there is one glory for those who are innocent and have not sinned and done nothing to be alienated from God. They are in the Father’s presence but don’t enjoy a fullness (as that term is used in D&C 93). Only those in the highest of the three degrees within the celestial glory have to face opposition, be baptized, married and so forth. It is this facet of the celestial glory that I believe you and Jacob and Mark are overlooking.

    Comment by Blake — February 5, 2008 @ 9:28 am

  92. Blake: Let’s say that a small child dies and it is innocent and has only the glory of an innocent child. Which glory do these children go to according D&C 76?

    Well in an MMP model I suspect the spirit would remain at whatever glory she had before her non-probation here. One must be able to live the law of the celestial kingdom to be a celestial being after all.

    22 For he who is not able to abide the law of a celestial kingdom cannot abide a celestial glory. (D&C 88: 22)

    So the spirit moves on to further probations as needed to move to exaltation in the MMP model. I think it is certainly possible that spirits who had progressed to celestial status before this world could come here too of course. But I think the three kingdoms are symbolic of an actual continuum anyway rather than three separate places.

    So where do you say that this little child goes if they stay exactly as they are, having never sinned

    Just because the spirit never sinned in her two years here on earth _does not_ mean she never sinned in the infinity of time prior to her getting a body here. She had forged a character prior to coming here and since she had no chance to make real choices in the face of real opposition here her spirit remained essentially unchanged as a result of this probation.

    You conflate exaltation and eternal progression with celestial glory

    No, I don’t think I do. I think being celestial is a description of one’s core — one’s character as forged through the fires of temptation and adversity over a long long time. But I also think that exaltation is the upper end of that progression process.

    You seem to think that not sinning even when one does not have the capacity to sin = celestial. In other words, you seem to be conflating innocence with being celestial. I disagree with that idea.

    So there are three degrees within the celestial glory. What are they and who are they? I suggest that there is one glory for those who are innocent and have not sinned and done nothing to be alienated from God.

    I suggest that no free willed spirit in existence has “never sinned” (meaning, never caused alienation from the Godhead and others through free choices). I think this idea of gobs of spirits who never sinned is just not true. If we have always had free will then we have always dealt with some level of alienation through our choices. We didn’t need this planet to be able to sin.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 5, 2008 @ 11:05 am

  93. So which degree of glory do they go to — or are you saying that the reference to “celestial” is just meaningless for you because you can’t draw some line and therefore you reject the way that Section 76 discusses it (along with D&C 138:10, Mormon 8, Mosiah 15 and 2 Ne. 9)?

    Comment by Blake — February 5, 2008 @ 11:23 am

  94. Section 76 does not discuss little children who never get a chance to endure real soul-altering choices at all so I think your question is misguided to begin with. The information about which kingdom one receives in section 76 deals entirely with accountable individuals as far as I can tell. Joseph gained more information later on the details of what becomes of those who never are accountable in this life (as Jacob pointed out in his post).

    Comment by Geoff J — February 5, 2008 @ 11:32 am

  95. Geoff: You’re just dodging. I asked about the framework of different glories that are spelled out with clarity in D&C 76,a and I would ad 88, and I asked if you rejected the framework of kingdoms and glories. I didn’t ask if it works for little children.

    It also appears that you rejet D&C 93:

    38 Every spirit of man was innocent in the beginning; and God having redeemed man from the fall, men became again, in their infant state, innocent before God.
    39 And that wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth, through disobedience, from the children of men, and because of the tradition of their fathers.

    Do you believe that every spirit was innocent “in the beginning” (which I take to be a general reference to the time before this pre-earth life)? Do you accept that wickedness arises because of the loss of light through the traditions of men? Can yo point where Joseph rejected this view? Just saying Joseph learned more later won’t do it. You have to show that what he learned somehow requires rejection of what God stated to him earlier.

    Comment by Blake — February 5, 2008 @ 11:55 am

  96. This topic has led me to question why it is harder to repent in the next life, since why would I have a physical addiction after I die? I think that though the book “Return from Tomorrow” may say that you continue to seek your drug as a spirit, the issue is deeper than physical “need” since the addiction is a symptom of our inability to relate with others in a positive way. Without the immediacy of needing to feed and keep our bodies alive, without the pain of this life of giving and taking perceived scarce resources, would we have the desire or impetus to change in a world of perceived abundance?

    The external influences of this life provide us with people who have real needs and challenges that we can respond to, that we feel a desire to respond to, and thus we are able form a character. It is better in my opinion to focus on my ability to be trusted with what I have been given so that God will trust me with his work in the next life.

    I see inheriting different kingdoms and responsibilities after resurrection being strictly determined by our abilities and our prior faithfulness with other tasks. If someone has an ability to accomplish something and God feels he can trust them, he will give them that responsibility. In this sense works play a huge role, not that we get “rewarded” and let into heaven as a result of our works; but the idea that prior faithfulness is a prerequisite to future tasks. I believe that there is no reward outside of purposeful work that is being described in D&C.

    How does this relate to little children? Well, the purpose of their life was to experience alienation (the veil) from God so that they have the space to choose a relationship. The Spirit World is not necessarily much different in the challenges it presents us to learn to love each other selflessly. It may be more difficult for those who die as little children to know how to relate to and love others in the next life, but they will continue to grow and develop that capacity.

    My question to all of you is what is so important to “learn” in this life that can’t be “learned” in the Spirit World prior to resurrection? We will still have the veil when we die, won’t little children as well? The fact that they haven’t sinned doesn’t mean that all their glory will immediately return to them, just that they are not “cut off” from the presence of God. I propose that this earth life is not nearly as important as we think it is to getting maximum value out of our sojourn. The spirit world is just as real as this world, with choices to love and serve, why wouldn’t little children learn there as they do here?

    Comment by Kent — February 5, 2008 @ 12:21 pm

  97. Blake,

    I don’t reject that passage in D&C 93. I do reject your interpretation that of “Every spirit of man was innocent in the beginning” wherein “the beginning” means exactly prior to our spirits coming to this world though. As you may remember, I am inclined to believe that Joseph actually meant what he said when he used his ring analogy and that our eternal spirits probably do have voluntary “resets” over the infinity of time we have and will exist. So I take “the beginning” in that verse to mean the beginning of any given cycle for a spirit — not the beginning of this planet.

    I find that metaphysical view much more satisfying than assuming that we have all been “celestial” forever (read: infinity of time with innumerable inhabited planets coming and going without us participating) and have sat around not progressing in any significant way throughout all eternity past as your model would require.

    Do you accept that wickedness arises because of the loss of light through the traditions of men?

    Yep. But men and traditions existed before this planet so this becomes rather useless information in this conversation.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 5, 2008 @ 12:22 pm

  98. Geoff: I suppose it won’t surprise you that your unsupported speculations don’t hold much water for me. You’re piling inference on inference to avoid what I consider to be a fairly evident reading of the texts. However, at this point y’all are rejecting so many texts that I suppose it doesn’t much matter. However, let me say that I don’t believe there is a shred of support of the “beginning of a cycle of spirit” and even less for saying that D&C 93 somehow has such a speculation in mind.

    So here are the epicycles on epicycles in your view. We all sin for all eternity, but somehow we all get to start all over again as innocents from time to time (making me wonder what the point is). I wonder how such a thing could be consistent with personal culpability that you believe we always have except when it mysteriously get wiped clean — like being into this world for example. I wonder why you arbitrarily suppose that D&C 93 even has such a wipe of prior culpability in mind when it reads rather clearly to the contrary in my view.

    I don’t know if all spirits have been celestial forever, I take it that LDS scripture establishes that little children are innocent when they enter the world and if they die in infancy they remain in this state of innocence which I believe qualifies for one of the gradients in the celestial glory.

    Just how could traditions of men make it from world world to another and survive a memory wipe when we enter each new mortal probation on your view?

    Kent: I have the same questions. But it seems to me that little children will learn in the spirit world. However, what they cannot do is be tempted by bodily passions and the sensuous experience that comes from having bodily senses. That makes up a lot of mortal experiences and accounts for a lot sins.

    Comment by Blake — February 5, 2008 @ 1:21 pm

  99. Well Blake, I didn’t say you should agree with the metaphysical notion I have suggested. I only said I find the idea that we have always been progressing (even if it must necessarily be in “one eternal round”) much more satisfying than the notion of eternal stagnation prior to this short mortal that your views eventually entail.

    What do you think we were doing *forever* as all those planets came and went? Were we just sitting on the sidelines twiddling our spirit-thumbs for all eternity? I think your total lack of answers to these kinds of questions is the most gaping hole in your otherwise impressive Mormon theology. If we have lived forever as Joseph taught then I believe an LDS theologian should not just sweep the infinite amount of time prior to this probation under the rug and pretend it isn’t all that important of an issue.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 5, 2008 @ 1:50 pm

  100. Blake, the only reason I can think of that we need to master our bodies is so that we are able to love others and serve them. It is the act of sacrificing one’s carnal desires that opens up the space for love. I love that which I sacrifice for. What need do I have to be tempted by my flesh so that I can prove myself more “trustworthy” with a resurrected body?

    I think it is silly to think that getting a resurrected body is like getting a driver’s license after showing that you are a “safe driver” (not that you or anyone else is asserting this) because you have shown that you can treat your body right.

    A better view of the benefit of being tempted and not indulging in the temptation is that it improves my relationships with God and others because I am a less selfish person. Getting a physical body offers more sensory possibilities than a spirit body, which leads to increased joy due to increased awareness, not much more in my opinion. What benefits do you see from being tempted by the flesh that translate into “lessons learned” that you can carry with you into the eternities?

    Comment by Kent — February 5, 2008 @ 1:52 pm

  101. Geoff: We could be progressing in a lot of ways that don’t entail moral progression. We could be learning about all kinds of things and growing in knowledge without having opposition. Since no one has asked the ways we can progress as spirits, I hardly fail to see how I have failed to answer your non-questions. On your view isn’t it possible that we regress eternally rather than progress?

    Kent: I take it that when D&C 137 says that the spirits look upon their bodies with a sense of loss they are unable to repent of sins that require a body to master — like learning to control passions of the flesh. The body gives us access to an entire dimension that spirits cannot access and manipulate. Thus, there is reason to take upon ourselves a body. However, there is a risk inherent in taking a body that a spirit doesn’t have — the risk that the spirit will be overwhelmed by the needs, passions, desires and sensuous experience.

    Comment by Blake — February 5, 2008 @ 2:06 pm

  102. Blake (#87),

    What the heck about my thought experiment?

    I am only caught up in my responses to your #80, I haven’t had time to tackle #81 yet. (I haven’t even gotten a chance to catch up on reading all the comments from today yet.)

    So no need to get huffy.

    Well, I read my response again and it doesn’t strike me as huffy. It’s fine if you want to mark your rhetorical questions with RQ, but the sentence I took issue with was a statement and not a question. It doesn’t seem fair to make “rhetorical statements” claiming that I am advocating something I have said I am not advocating. I know you don’t appreciate this when it is done to you.

    I’m just pointing out that it has become a regular practice of rejecting not just D&C 138:10; but at least 6 other scriptures.

    My original post goes through a whole series of scriptures and argues in a straightforward manner that they were all incorrect about how the plan of salvation really works for those who die in ignorance. So, I was the first to point out that I am questioning several scriptures. I don’t mind you pointing it out; I tried to be very clear about it from the getgo.

    Comment by Jacob J — February 5, 2008 @ 2:35 pm

  103. Blake, here are the only verses that talk about missing the body:

    D&C 45:17

    For as ye have looked upon the long absence of your spirits from your bodies to be a bondage, I will show unto you how the day of redemption shall come, and also the restoration of the scattered Israel.

    D&C 138:50

    50 For the dead had looked upon the long absence of their spirits from their bodies as a bondage.
    51 These the Lord taught, and gave them power to come forth, after his resurrection from the dead, to enter into his Father’s kingdom, there to be crowned with bimmortality and eternal life,
    52 And continue thenceforth their labor as had been promised by the Lord, and be partakers of all blessings which were held in reserve for them that love him.

    Blake, I think you are reading far more into the verses than is there. I take it to mean they experienced greater sensations with a body than without a body, which would lead them to have greater joy. I don’t get the sense that spirits have a hard time repenting without a body and that’s why they miss their bodies.

    I think that we may have a harder time learning to love without the needs, weaknesses, and loneliness inherent in a Telestial body. If learning to master a body is so important, why isn’t living past the age of 8 more important to God and how will he help those spirits learn something that can only be experienced with a body?

    One additional piece of speculation: As I understand it, during the Millennium death will not be part of the mortal experience (being twinkled will be en vogue), nor will sickness or other physical ailments (addictions, mental illness, etc.). How is that different than the Spirit World right now, excepting the physical body allowing procreation? If many, many spirits will be born into a world of abundance without physical challenges and they will apparently all enjoy a virtually sinless state, doesn’t your idea about the importance of mastering the body break down somewhat?

    Jacob, Geoff, Blake, others, please show how my view, which diminishes “lessons learned” specifically and only with a body is more tenable than the idea that it isn’t the mastery of the body per se that is most important, but rather that the body allows us to experience more because of additional sensations allowed as well as allowing a veil.

    Comment by Kent — February 5, 2008 @ 2:52 pm

  104. Alright Blake, since no one asked I’ll give it a whirl: What are the ways we can progress as spirits that don’t entail moral progression? How long would it take to make that progress? Where is the “starting point” for such progress if we are beginningless beings? In short, what have we been doing forever on your view?

    My view provides answers to all of these questions (even if you don’t like the answers). I don’t think you have explained a view that provides answers to any of them yet…

    And in answer to your question, yes one can retrogress eternally as a result of free will on my view . Perdition is the stopping point on the low end of the “eternal progression” continuum just as exaltation is the stopping point on the high end.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 5, 2008 @ 2:56 pm

  105. Kent,

    My question to all of you is what is so important to “learn” in this life that can’t be “learned” in the Spirit World prior to resurrection?

    It sounds to me like you are suggesting the exact same thing my original post suggested, which is that little children can be presented with the plan in the spirit world and have the same chance as everyone else to accept it there. The catch is that I believe this opportunity requires that they also have the chance to reject the plan (and thus they would not be guaranteed eternal life as the scriptures state). Can they have the same experience we have here without the risk? You can’t have both the guarantee of celestial glory and the probation where that glory is in question. I opt for the idea that they will have a real probation and no guarantee of celestial glory.

    I am arguing that those who hold fast to the guarantee of celestial glory cannot claim that children also get the same test that we do unless they are ready to say that God could have used that same plan for us and avoided a lot of risk and pain for everyone.

    Comment by Jacob J — February 5, 2008 @ 3:11 pm

  106. Geoff: I already answered. We can learn about the universe in all of its non-moral aspects and grow in knowledge. Anyone in a science class can do the same even now and ethical eliminativist believe that this life doesn’t entail any moral reality at all.

    I don’t view exaltation as an absolute upper limit and I don’t believe that progression ever ceases. I don’t believe that the notion of and end to “eternal progression” is even coherent.

    Comment by Blake — February 5, 2008 @ 3:24 pm

  107. So you answered one of my questions Blake, but not the others. How long would it take to learn that stuff? A thousand years? A millions years? A 100 million years?

    And where as the starting point of our knowledge regarding all this science? Did we start a zero knowledge or something?

    Comment by Geoff J — February 5, 2008 @ 3:40 pm

  108. Jacob, I only know that little children who die continue to progress. That they need to be tempted to sin in order to progress seems unnecessary to me.

    Comment by Kent — February 5, 2008 @ 3:58 pm

  109. Geoff: Why would you expect anyone to know or speculate about how long it takes? I suspect you’re worried about your fallacious infinity argument.

    Comment by Blake — February 5, 2008 @ 4:13 pm

  110. Blake,

    Nope, I’m not worried about a infinity argument you are referring to (ie that anything that can have happened would have happened already). Rather I am thinking of a very practical infinity argument — no matter how you slice it, your model entails our spirits twiddling their thumbs on the sidelines for an infinity of time prior to coming here. That is a problem you like to pretend doesn’t exist but it still does for you (and many others) when you insist that spirits are beginningless.

    One solution is to simply go with the “spirits/intelligences have a beginning after all” theme like some Mormon thinkers like Orson Pratt did. Of course Orson had to outright reject Joseph’s teaching on beginningless spirits. The Roberts tripartite model doesn’t really solve this problem at all — it just adds another state in which we twiddled our thumbs forever as “intelligences”.

    As I mentioned, Joseph’s ring analogy solves this problem if we take it seriously. I was curious if you had another solution. Sounds like you don’t.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 5, 2008 @ 5:33 pm

  111. Geoff, there is a simple solution which is also supported by scripture. How about the idea that intelligences were somewhat self aware (kind of like apes maybe?), but slower in growth before the Father created spirit bodies for them which led to greater growth and then the opportunity to come here. Eternal “essence”, relatively newer spirit body.

    Comment by Kent — February 5, 2008 @ 5:44 pm

  112. Right Kent, that is the tripartite model that Roberts made up (though it is not really in scriptures). It is basically the notion that “intelligences” were basically dormant forever until they were plucked from wherever they hung out forever and put into a spirit body. I’m not sure how putting them in a spirit body is supposed to make them sentient/aware/cogent (spirit brain?) but that is the general under-developed story.

    The problem is that this idea does not really jibe with Joseph’s teachings that spirits are eternal along with the mind of man. Plus it still has the twiddling thumbs forever aspect — the twist is that it assume the intelligences are so dumb they don’t mind.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 5, 2008 @ 6:16 pm

  113. Geoff: no matter how you slice it, your model entails our spirits twiddling their thumbs on the sidelines for an infinity of time prior to coming here.

    Goeff, that’s really just so much BS. Haven’t you read what I said about learning? So here is my challenge: Show that all learning about non-moral issues and facts requires a body or opposition or the ability to sin.

    I fail to see how Joseph’s ring analogy solves anything. It just leaves us with anomoly of culpable spirits somehow getting the slate wiped clean. Can you explain how you think that is supposed to happen and any authority, any at all, for this proposition?

    Further, Roberts’ view isn’t that intelligences are dormant forever; it is rather that there is no logical upper limit to growth and intelligences have been growing in ways that we do not fully know about for all eternity.

    Comment by Blake — February 5, 2008 @ 6:30 pm

  114. Blake,

    The issue is pretty simple. Even if it took our spirits 100 trillion years to learn the these nebulous “non-moral issues” there would still be an eternity of time that they weren’t doing that learning in addition to that 100 trillion years. Such is the nature of infinite time.

    Joseph’s ring analogy gives us a way that we could be actually doing something forever. The idea that slates might get wiped clean has a long history in Mormonism BTW. The notion that sons of perdition get recycled is pretty well known.

    Regarding the idea that “intelligences have been growing in ways that we do not fully know about for all eternity” — that “in ways we don’t fully know about” bit is a convenient bit of hokum if I ever heard it.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 5, 2008 @ 6:53 pm

  115. Geoff: This is just another version of your fallacious infinity argument. There is no upper limit to learning from experience or otherwise. I challenge you to prove that there is some upper limit to learning non-moral or otherwise. So far you’re long on assertion and waaay short on demonstration. There isno sitting around twiddling thumbs on my view (unless they so choose). What you pontificate is “nature of infinite time” is simply and clearly wrong.

    Your notion of wiping the slate clean is ridiculous on its face. Why bother? We’ll just all get to get wiped and start again. So show me this long history of wiping slates clean to wipe out all the gains that have been made and start at ground zero. Show me from some source that has a shred of credibility.

    Further, saying that I don’t know what spirits have been doing is “hokum” (whatever “hokum” is) is simply a failure to appreciate what has and what has not been revealed — and what it is possible to know given our epistemic condition. Usually you’re that far off off, but this time you’re not merely way out there, you out there with no credible basis and contrary to express scriptural statements.

    Comment by Blake — February 5, 2008 @ 7:33 pm

  116. Look Blake, if you find “Ummm, we were learning an infinite amount of non-moral stuff about the universe I guess” to be a satisfactory answer to the question of what our beginningless spirits have been doing forever prior to coming here then knock yerself with that bro. It is certainly not a satisfactory answer to me.

    Also, the idea of recycling sons of perdition is pretty well known. That is the recycling I was specifically referring to in my last comment.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 5, 2008 @ 8:00 pm

  117. Geoff, the idea that the Father is the Father of our Spirits is scriptural. The idea that gender is a part of our identity is part of the statements by the Brethren. The reason why I point this out is because the idea that we were somehow eternally children of the Father makes no sense if there are other intelligences that inhabit the bodies of animals for example, he would be their Father too in the same way, which he obviously isn’t. I believe that just having a mind doesn’t make one a son of God. Just as we chose to receive physical bodies, we could have chosen to receive spiritual bodies. The idea isn’t explicit in scripture, but it is easily supported by scripture.

    Comment by Kent — February 5, 2008 @ 9:34 pm

  118. Kent are you advocating viviparous spirit birth? If so that subject has been discussed at great length here in the past. See this category of posts.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 5, 2008 @ 9:55 pm

  119. No, I’m not advocating that. Being “birthed” as a spirit doesn’t have to be a part of it. Why not a simple “possession” of a spirit body? Regardless, what is the purpose of this thread again?

    Comment by Kent — February 5, 2008 @ 10:58 pm

  120. Geoff: Also, the idea of recycling sons of perdition is pretty well known. That is the recycling I was specifically referring to in my last comment.

    That’s not much of an answer the question I asked. I asked: Show that all learning about non-moral issues and facts requires a body or opposition or the ability to sin.

    To that you answered: Joseph’s ring analogy gives us a way that we could be actually doing something forever. The idea that slates might get wiped clean has a long history in Mormonism BTW. The notion that sons of perdition get recycled is pretty well known.

    So the answer is just non-responsive. It applies only to the tiniest fraction of sons of perdition and doesn’t explain anything about the vast, vast majority. What were the rest doing? And how does God get thru to the Sons of Perdition to wipe them clean? I guess he just destroys them and starts again — but that smacks of creation ex nihilo and destroying what not even God can destroy, a free will. Finally, Joseph’s ring analogy was used merely to show that something could be eternal without beginning and without end; he never used it to discuss even remotely the doctrine of eternal recurrence.

    And yes, learning non-moral facts for eternity is quite a satisfactory answer for me, thank you very much. All you have done is sneer at this answer without providing anything substantive since it is clearly possible to learn forever, time without end, even about non-moral matters. Just why you think that if learning is done forever, that fact makes it somehow less possible, remains a mystery. However, an expression of disbelief ain’t an argument.

    Comment by Blake — February 6, 2008 @ 7:18 am

  121. Kent: Blake, I think you are reading far more into the verses than is there. I take it to mean they experienced greater sensations with a body than without a body, which would lead them to have greater joy. I don’t get the sense that spirits have a hard time repenting without a body and that’s why they miss their bodies.

    I don’t think that D&C 137 talks merely about assisting us to feel joy, but about a bondage: “50 For the dead had looked upon the long absence of their spirits from their bodies as a bondage.” Why a bondage? I believe it is because without a body we are shackled in our opportunity to repent of and overcome bodily habits that nevertheless persist with the spirit. The spirit may have a sex addiction but no way to satisfy that addiction, an addiction for alcohol without a way to satiate the thirst. Addictions are not merely problems of he body, but mental and spiritual addictions that cannot be addressed merely in the spirit. At least that is what I have mind.

    Comment by Blake — February 6, 2008 @ 7:26 am

  122. Kent: # 119 — Oh yeah, this thread was about the meaning of “acknowledge God’s hand in all things.”

    Comment by Blake — February 6, 2008 @ 8:21 am

  123. Blake,

    Your main point in #120 seems to be that you prefer your preferences to my preferences on this matter. I’m fine with you doing that. No, I can’t prove that Joseph meant it when he repeatedly used the ring analogy. Neither can I prove he meant it when he said repeatedly that spirits are beginningless. I am simply inclined to believe both.

    I asked: Show that all learning about non-moral issues and facts requires a body or opposition or the ability to sin.

    I never asserted that so I am not interested in defending it.

    since it is clearly possible to learn forever, time without end, even about non-moral matters

    Can you defend this assertion? As I mentioned in that other thread, I am of the opinion that the universe is finite in terms of space and matter (but not time). How do you know there is an infinite amount of non-moral data to learn about it?

    Just why you think that if learning is done forever, that fact makes it somehow less possible, remains a mystery

    You’ve misread me again. I never claimed it is impossible. Rather, I claimed I personally find the idea of twiddling our thumbs forever in some physical science class — while innumerable worlds are being built and inhabited without us out on the playground — to be both unlikely and highly unpalatable. You are right that it is mostly a metaphysical preference for me to assume the action in the forever before we got here has been hotter than sitting in science class. The action is pretty hot here after all and it I suspect that we have moved through eternal round after eternal round within larger eternal rounds in similar ways prior to this world. Luckily the same prophet who gave us the notion of beginningless spirits also gave us the notion of “one eternal round” and the ring analogy, so my preferences for an eternity with a little more action than yours provides remains theologically in play until further notice.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 6, 2008 @ 9:28 am

  124. Geoff: Just why you think that if learning is done forever, that fact makes it somehow less possible, remains a mystery

    You’re missing the dialectic of your own argument. You claimed that my view entailed that eternal spirits could not have anything worth while to do for an eternity because they are not challenged. I responded that it’s not true because they could be engaged in a program of learning non-moral facts without opposition. So all I have to show is that it is possible — and there being no contradiction in the assertion, it is. However, you have to prove that it isn’t possible to back up the argument. You asserted, therefore, you have the burden. Of course, you can now back off of your claim and admit that spirits could possibly progress for eternity even without making morally evil choices.

    Comment by Blake — February 6, 2008 @ 10:39 am

  125. Blake: You claimed that my view entailed that eternal spirits could not have anything worth while to do for an eternity because they are not challenged.

    Really? Where did I make that claim? I thought I simply said I think it would have been hellishly boring if your model is true. And isn’t determining if we had “anything worthwhile to do” entirely subjective to begin with?

    Of course, you can now back off of your claim and admit that spirits could possibly progress for eternity even without making morally evil choices.

    Again you’ll need to point out where asserted it isn’t possible. I’m pretty sure I just asserted that it would totally suck if your model were true because your model entails what I consider sitting around for all eternity twiddling our thumbs in science class while all the action was happening on the inhabited planets that came and went without us. As I said in my last comment — it is logically possible that your model is right. I just don’t believe it is so.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 6, 2008 @ 12:59 pm

  126. Geoff: Maybe you would twiddle your thumbs in science class, I love it. I guess that explains why you’re where you are and I am celestial after all [grin].

    Comment by Blake — February 6, 2008 @ 3:20 pm

  127. Hehehe.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 6, 2008 @ 3:35 pm

  128. Blake (#81),

    Okay, I am finally able to respond.

    If it’s a good reason for you, its good for me.

    The reason it is not a good reason for you is that in your view there is considerably more risk associated with living to adulthood as opposed to dying in infancy (thus, it is better to die in infancy). In my view, it is the same risk either way (thus, no preference toward dying in infancy).

    Now in a sense we are talking past each other because I accept the more scriptural terms

    Har!

    In D&C 88 “celestial” means that in the resurrection our bodies will be quickened by the celestial degree of light — nothing more.

    Profoundly incorrect. Compare your view above with this from D&C 88:

    22 For he who is not able to abide the law of a celestial kingdom cannot abide a celestial glory. (D&C 88)

    Thus, celestial means much more than innocent, and it means much more than being quickened by the celestial degree of light. To abide a celestial glory requires an ability to abide by celestial law. You are suggesting that all people could abide by celestial law before being born but I don’t know of a single shred of evidence for such a view. In fact, do you have any scriptural support for the idea that we were celestial before coming to earth?

    So let’s do a thought experiment. …Which glory do these children go to according D&C 76?

    As you well know, when a child dies, it does not go directly to a kingdom of glory but to the spirit world. So the question ignores the fact that there is a time between the death and the resurrection as Alma learned through much prayer. The most similar group to little children mentioned by D&C 76 is the group of those who died without law:

    And again, we saw the terrestrial world, …Behold, these are they who died without law; (D&C 76:71-72)

    So, if I had to speculate based on D&C 76 alone, I would have to guess that little children go to the terrestrial. However, in D&C 138 we learn that:

    32 Thus was the gospel preached to those who had died in their sins, without a knowledge of the truth…
    33 These were taught faith in God, repentance from sin, vicarious baptism for the remission of sins, the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands,
    34 And all other principles of the gospel that were necessary for them to know in order to qualify themselves that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.

    From the verses above and from a number of other revelations on salvation for the dead, we learn that those who died without law do NOT go to the terrestrial kingdom as it says in D&C 76 above. Instead, they are taught in the spirit world and given a chance to go to the celestial kingdom if they are willing to “live according to God in the spirit.” If we cannot completely rely on the D&C 76 placement of that group, I am not sure how valuable your speculation about little children in D&C 76 is.

    However, at this point y’all are rejecting so many texts that I suppose it doesn’t much matter.

    You keep responding as though I have a reckless disregard for the scriptures, as though I am just rejecting things willy-nilly whenever something disagrees with me. I really don’t think I am demonstrating that kind of disregard. Am I really coming off that way to you?

    Comment by Jacob J — February 6, 2008 @ 8:59 pm

  129. Just going back and re-reading some of the stuff I missed when it was happening and I see that Geoff nailed it in #94 and with many fewer words. Nicely done.

    Comment by Jacob J — February 6, 2008 @ 11:14 pm

  130. Jacob: The reason it is not a good reason for you is that in your view there is considerably more risk associated with living to adulthood as opposed to dying in infancy (thus, it is better to die in infancy). In my view, it is the same risk either way (thus, no preference toward dying in infancy).

    Jacob, I acknowledge that there is risk to coming to earth and living to adulthood — and there is a risk that those who live adulthood face that those who die in infancy don’t. However, having “more risk” is hardly a reason to reject the clear scriptural language. There is also a cost paid by those who don’t live beyond infancy — they have to wait longer for the opportunity to progress to exaltation. So? I don’t see how it is ultimately unfair at all, which was your argument. The fact is that we all have different life experiences and different opportunities for growth, some riskier than others. If that is unfair in your book, then so what, it is simply a fact of our human experience. If you reject a scripture because it is unfair in the short run, then it will fail because unfairness in the short run is just the way it is.

    Jacob: Thus, celestial means much more than innocent, and it means much more than being quickened by the celestial degree of light. To abide a celestial glory requires an ability to abide by celestial law.

    You are reading a great deal into “abiding a celestial law” as if it requires some form of jumping through performance hoops before it is achieved. However, the earth abides a celestial law according D&C 88. It doesn’t have to be born and challenged and accept the gospel. Further, abiding a celestial law is surely something that Christ did before he was embodied and born as a mortal. On your view it is impossible to do unless he was already incarnated and resurrected. So Christ is a counterexample to what you propose.

    We are also counterexamples to your view that little children must be terrestrial. We all lived in God’s immediate presence before this life. According to section 76, those who enjoy God’s immediate presence are celestial. D&C 76:62. However, those in the terrestrial glory only enjoy the presence of the Son but not of the Father. D&C 76:77.

    This is important. Your entire argument rests on a supposed analogy between those who “die without the law” and babies who die in infancy. However, they are different. You have ignored and failed to respond to the fact that those who receive the gospel after this have done acts that alienate them from God. Indeed, look at the very scripture you quote in # 128 from D&C 138– “32 Thus was the gospel preached to those who had died in their sins, without a knowledge of the truth…” That hardly applies to little children since they didn’t die in their sins. Thus, analogizing little children to those who die in their sins is a false analogy at the most crucial point of comparison.

    Thus, under section 76, little children who don’t die in their sins could only fit in the celestial glory.

    I respond as if you have reckless disregard for scripture because you reject very clear scriptural statements of direct revelation without an adequate reason. Now I know that you are doing your best to make sense of the scriptures and have regard for scriptures. It shows in your wrestling with these scriptures and what you regard as problems (and I don’t). But your arguments that there is a problem are not persuasive to me so, as I see it, you create a problem that isn’t there and then reject scriptural statements that are crystal clear to solve the non-problem.

    Comment by Blake — February 7, 2008 @ 10:37 am

  131. Jacob and Geoff: I believe that it is important to grasp what Joseph Smith’s revelations mean when they use the term “celestial”. Look again at the language in D&C 88:

    17 And the redemption of the soul is through him that quickeneth all things, in whose bosom it is decreed that the poor and the meek of the earth shall inherit it.
    18 Therefore, it must needs be sanctified from all unrighteousness, that it may be prepared for the celestial glory;
    19 For after it hath filled the measure of its creation, it shall be crowned with glory, even with the presence of God the Father;
    20 That bodies who are of the celestial kingdom may possess it forever and ever; for, for this intent was it made and created, and for this intent are they sanctified.
    21 And they who are not sanctified through the law which I have given unto you, even the law of Christ, must inherit another kingdom, even that of a terrestrial kingdom, or that of a telestial kingdom.
    22 For he who is not able to abide the law of a celestial kingdom cannot abide a celestial glory.
    23 And he who cannot abide the law of a terrestrial kingdom cannot abide a terrestrial glory.
    24 And he who cannot abide the law of a telestial kingdom cannot abide a telestial cglory; therefore he is not meet for a kingdom of glory. Therefore he must abide a kingdom which is not a kingdom of glory.
    25 And again, verily I say unto you, the earth abideth the law of a celestial kingdom, for it filleth the measure of its creation, and transgresseth not the law—
    26 Wherefore, it shall be sanctified; yea, notwithstanding it shall die, it shall be quickened again, and shall abide the power by which it is quickened, and the righteous shall inherit it.
    27 For notwithstanding they die, they also shall arise again, a spiritual body.
    28 They who are of a celestial spirit shall receive the same body which was a natural body; even ye shall receive your bodies, and your glory shall be that glory by which your bodies are quickened.

    Now in the foregoing, there are several important points. To be celestial is to: (1) fulfill the measure of one’s creation and (2) doesn’t transgress. As a result, those who enjoy a celestial law “shall be crowned with glory, even with the presence of God the Father.” Thus, those who are in the Father’s presence must enjoy a celestial glory. Now a thing need not be morally accountable to be celestial — the earth is celestial and will be sanctified by celestial glory. I presume you’ll accept that the earth isn’t a morally accountable. Further, there are “celestial spirits,” which appears to me to be impossible on your view. Only those who are resurrected with a celestial body can be celestial on your view if I understand it. However, a person can be “of a celestial spirit” even before the resurrection. I believe that this usage demonstrates the semantic range of “celestial glory” — and it quite clearly can include little children and pre-mortal spirits.

    Comment by Blake — February 7, 2008 @ 10:58 am

  132. Blake (#130),

    There is also a cost paid by those who don’t live beyond infancy — they have to wait longer for the opportunity to progress to exaltation.

    Why do you say this? I am not sure where the waiting occurs or why you believe they have to wait longer.

    You are reading a great deal into “abiding a celestial law” as if it requires some form of jumping through performance hoops before it is achieved.

    I don’t think I am reading anything more into it than is stated fairly explicitly in the revelation. Let us take my previous verse in a bit more context since you are disputing my reading:

    18 Therefore, it must needs be sanctified from all unrighteousness, that it may be prepared for the celestial glory;
    19 For after it hath filled the measure of its creation, it shall be crowned with glory, even with the presence of God the Father;
    20 That bodies who are of the celestial kingdom may possess it forever and ever; for, for this intent was it made and created, and for this intent are they sanctified.
    21 And they who are not sanctified through the law which I have given unto you, even the law of Christ, must inherit another kingdom, even that of a terrestrial kingdom, or that of a telestial kingdom.
    22 For he who is not able to abide the law of a celestial kingdom cannot abide a celestial glory.

    Notice that the theme throughout these verses (and it continues on in D&C 88) is sanctification. They must be sanctified so that they can abide a celestial glory. It says this three or four different ways. Then in verse 21 it says if they are not sanctified they have to go to a different kingdom, all of this leading to verse 22 saying that those who cannot abide a celestial law cannot abide a celestial glory. So, these verses could not be more clear and I am reading in nothing that is not stated directly. Rather, you seem to be ignoring this clear language because you want “celestial” to a synonym of “innocent.”

    We all lived in God’s immediate presence before this life.

    Remind me where it says that in the scriptures. It may be obvious but I am blanking.

    According to section 76, those who enjoy God’s immediate presence are celestial. D&C 76:62.

    If you are going to cherry pick one verse out of a cluster of verses describing celestial glory, I must point out the ones you are strategically leaving out. Following the logic of your use of verse 62, consider these verses from the same description:

    55 They are they into whose hands the Father has given all things—
    56 They are they who are priests and kings, who have received of his fulness, and of his glory;
    57 And are priests of the Most High, after the order of Melchizedek, which was after the order of Enoch, which was after the order of the Only Begotten Son.
    58 Wherefore, as it is written, they are gods, even the sons of God—

    So, by your logic, you are required to maintain that every person in the pre-existence (since they were all celestial and these verses describe celestial beings) were gods, priests after the order of Melchizedek, who had received all things from the Father, of his fulness and of his glory. Do you really maintain that? If not, I don’t see how you can justify cherry picking verse 62 as though there are no verses that come before it.

    Now I know that you are doing your best to make sense of the scriptures and have regard for scriptures.

    Thank you. I know you are doing the same in good faith.

    Comment by Jacob J — February 7, 2008 @ 11:12 am

  133. Jacob: Why do you say this? I am not sure where the waiting occurs or why you believe they have to wait longer.

    All along you have failed to attend to the distinction between exaltation and having a celestial glory. To progress, one must be exalted. Children are delayed in their progression because They are not exalted, they are in one of the other two heavens of the celestial kingdom but cannot have an increase. That is why I say that.

    Jacob: They must be sanctified so that they can abide a celestial glory.

    Fine, they have to be sanctified. What does that mean — that they must live to an age of accountability before they can be sanctified with a celestial glory? Not! As I suspected, you ignored my point that Christ was celestial before becoming mortal. He was sanctified because he lived the measure of his creation and did not transgress the law. How did he do that on your view? Don’t ignore this point.

    Jacob: We all lived in God’s immediate presence before this life.

    Try Book of Abraham ch. 3 and D&C 93.

    Jacob: So, by your logic, you are required to maintain that every person in the pre-existence (since they were all celestial and these verses describe celestial beings) were gods, priests after the order of Melchizedek, who had received all things from the Father, of his fulness and of his glory.

    No I’m not. This refers to those who are exalted after receiving the gospel — it doesn’t exhaustly describe all those who are celestial in glory. Do you maintain that Christ did all of this before he was born? You left some of the scripture out. Why? Do you maintain that Christ was baptized, received the Holy Ghost and was cleansed of his sins before he was born? Note carefully:

    50 And again we bear record—for we saw and heard, and this is the testimony of the gospel of Christ concerning them who shall come forth in the resurrection of the just—
    51 They are they who received the testimony of Jesus, and believed on his name and were baptized after the manner of his burial, being buried in the water in his name, and this according to the commandment which he has given—
    52 That by keeping the commandments they might be washed and cleansed from all their sins, and receive the Holy Spirit by the laying on of the hands of him who is ordained and sealed unto this power;
    53 And who overcome by faith, and are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, which the Father sheds forth upon all those who are just and true.

    Thus, this scripture refers only to those who have lived on the earth and are baptized after reaching the age of accountability. It doesn’t expressly address those who die in infancy or who are exalted before this life. It is true as far as it goes.

    Comment by Blake — February 7, 2008 @ 11:48 am

  134. All along you have failed to attend to the distinction between exaltation and having a celestial glory.

    No, I am not failing to attend to that distinction.

    Children are delayed in their progression because They are not exalted, they are in one of the other two heavens of the celestial kingdom but cannot have an increase.

    Yes, but the people who live to adulthood are not exalted immediately either, so where is the extra delay for little children when you said “they have to wait longer for the opportunity to progress to exaltation.” Your answer fails to address the question.

    Try Book of Abraham ch. 3 and D&C 93.

    Sorry, Abraham 3 talks about a specific council in heaven, it says nothing about where we all resided on a permanent basis. Similar thing for D&C 93. I assume you are thinking specifically of verse 29, but the meaning of “was also in the beginning with God” is pretty hotly contested and is a pretty weak for a proof text of where we lived on an ongoing basis as spirits.

    No I’m not. This refers to those who are exalted after receiving the gospel — it doesn’t exhaustly describe all those who are celestial in glory.

    If these verses refer only to those who are exalted, then why are you using verse 62 (one of them) in #130 to prove something about people who are not exalted. In #130 you used verse 62 as a general statement about being celestial but suddenly you recognize that the verse is much more targetted as soon as I use the preceding verses in the same way you suggested we do in #130. Interesting.

    The reason you are doing this, I believe, is that you bring to this text an idea about little children being celestial but not exalted and then you impose your understanding on this text, using it as though your distinctions are present in the text when they are not. This is eisegesis pure and simple.

    As I suspected, you ignored my point that Christ was celestial before becoming mortal.

    I only ignored this point because it has been addressed so many times above and you keep bringing it up. I am not saying it is logically impossible to become celestial before becoming mortal (I have never suggested this). But your example of Christ as celestial before birth is irrelevant unless you are going to say that little children were celestial in a similar way. Christ was celestial before birth in the ways described by D&C 88 and D&C 76, little children were not. That is why I ignored this red herring of a point.

    Comment by Jacob J — February 7, 2008 @ 12:09 pm

  135. This is actually an excellent interchange. I posit that the use of hypothetical situations (“should we kill little children”, etc.) has only muddled the core concepts. I am very much enjoying these last few posts, keep it up!

    Comment by Kent — February 7, 2008 @ 12:18 pm

  136. Jacob: How did Christ become exalted? You claim over and over that only those who have specific experiences and accept the ordinances can be celestial. It is the basis of your argument. Yet Christ shows that your argument is just false.

    Comment by Blake — February 7, 2008 @ 1:56 pm

  137. Blake,

    You are misstating what I have “said over and over again.” What I have claimed consistently is that to be celestial entails the development of a certain strength of character, an ability to abide by celestial law.† The D&C has some other things to say about celestial law (i.e. D&C 105:4-5). So, the fact that Christ was celestial in his pre-mortal life does not show my argument to be false at all. All it means is that Christ already had the kind of character we are trying to develop through a long arduous process of sanctification.

    † Notice that this is perfectly compatible with being a spirit. I am not sure why your #131 suggests a celestial spirit is impossible on my view.

    What I can tell from living with the people around me is that they are not celestial. They do not exhibit the perfection of character that Christ exhibited when he lived here on earth. They are not able to live in the kind of union required by the celestial kingdom. Thus, I can safely conclude that they were not like Christ in the pre-existence, so it does not make sense that they would go straight to the celestial kingdom as Christ could do.

    Getting back on track:

    Let me see if I can get us back to what I see as the central issue. Your view is that little children who die are guaranteed celestial glory, as it says in D&C 137:10. The standard argument (which I thought you were advancing early on) is that they were specially righteous or advanced in the pre-existence such that they did not need anything from this life but a body. When we started talking about some of the problems associated with this view, we got hung up on whether they are “celestial” because avoiding the Hiroshima/Nagasaki problem led you to argue that ALL children are celestial before coming to earth (not just a special group who die in childhood).

    For the sake of argument, let me accept your argument that every spirit was celestial (by your definition) in the pre-existence. If this is true, doesn’t it mean that there is no reason for God to intervene to prevent any child from dying? Previously you were arguing that God makes sure certain babies cannot be killed, but I don’t see why he needs to do this if every spirit was celestial in the pre-existence.

    You are now saying that everyone was celestial, which seems to imply that any one of us could have been killed in childhood and would have been guaranteed salvation in the celestial kingdom if that had happened. Am I understanding your position correctly?

    Comment by Jacob J — February 7, 2008 @ 4:18 pm

  138. Jacob: Christ already had the kind of character we are trying to develop through a long arduous process of sanctification.

    Really? Where and when could have Christ gone through this long and arduous process of character development? How did he do it without a body? How could a spirit be celestial? Whatever the answer to your questions, it will be the same for all spirits beforehand. What this establishes by your own admission is that spirits can be celestial, they can be celestial prior to this life, they don’t require a mortal body to be celestial and they don’t have to be baptized to be celestial — all contrary to your claims. If Christ is celestial under such pre-mortal circumstances, then so can others, even all others.

    The fact that celestial spirits begin innocent and have their light taken away has already been explained and documented by citing D&C 93. Thus, you may not be running into celestial people, but every child you meet is a celestial spirit whose innocence has not been forfeited yet. It so happens that we have been given our freedom to choose between good and evil and we can choose evil!

    Jacob: You are now saying that everyone was celestial, which seems to imply that any one of us could have been killed in childhood and would have been guaranteed salvation in the celestial kingdom if that had happened.

    No that is not what I am now saying; I have been saying it all along.

    Now for the killer question: What if Christ had died as an infant? What glory would he have?

    Comment by Blake — February 7, 2008 @ 4:31 pm

  139. God has instructed us to serve without fanfare, to not let the right hand know what the left does, etc. I figure if anyone is good that doing that, God is.

    That being said, I’m also of the mind that “time and chance happen to all men” as Joseph Smith was wont to quote.

    Comment by BHodges — February 7, 2008 @ 5:02 pm

  140. Blake: What this establishes by your own admission is that spirits can be celestial, they can be celestial prior to this life, they don’t require a mortal body to be celestial and they don’t have to be baptized to be celestial — all contrary to your claims.

    Can be Celestial is not the same as are Celestial. The principle you are talking about also establishes that spirits can be exalted before coming here (see Jesus and the Holy Spirit). I suspect that you aren’t claiming that we were all exalted be fore we came here…

    So the fact that a spirit can be celestial or exalted before coming here is no argument at all that all spirits were celestial (or exalted) before coming here.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 7, 2008 @ 6:05 pm

  141. What this establishes by your own admission is that spirits can be celestial, they can be celestial prior to this life, they don’t require a mortal body to be celestial and they don’t have to be baptized to be celestial — all contrary to your claims.

    The number of supposed claims of mine seem to be multiplying like tribbles. I just said in #137 (the comment you are supposedly responding to!) that the existence of celestial spirits is entirely compatible with my view and I explained why.

    No that is not what I am now saying; I have been saying it all along.

    If that is what you have been saying all along, then why would God need to insure that some babies can’t be killed before they become accountable? You seem to have ignored the entire second half of my #137 where I already asked this question.

    Comment by Jacob J — February 7, 2008 @ 7:05 pm

  142. BHodges,

    Is that a random musing? I can’t tell what it has to do with either the post or the current discussion, help me out.

    Comment by Jacob J — February 7, 2008 @ 7:07 pm

  143. Geoff: You’re missing the point. The argument has been that without a long period of challenges and opposition, and complying with the ordinances of the work of work for the dead, spirits simply cannot be celestial. It is now admitted that they can be. Not only that, as I have parsed the way that “celestial” is used, for those who are innocent, fulfill the measure of their creation, and dwell in God’s presence, the pre-earth spirits are celestial. They need not be exalted like Christ and the Holy Ghost to be celestial.

    Without an argument showing that it is just impossible that spirits could be celestial before coming, there is no good reason to reject the very clear language of D&C 137:10. Further, it means that the kinds of concerns that have been raised by you and Jacob must be dealt with in any event. Now that it is admitted that spirits could be celestial, you have to account for the risk such spirits take by becoming mortal and living to have morally significant free will. According to the Books of Moses and of Abraham, that is what a significant disagreement was about — and I guess we can now see why it was such a battle.

    Comment by Blake — February 7, 2008 @ 7:09 pm

  144. Jacob: For the sake of argument, let me accept your argument that every spirit was celestial (by your definition) in the pre-existence. If this is true, doesn’t it mean that there is no reason for God to intervene to prevent any child from dying? Previously you were arguing that God makes sure certain babies cannot be killed, but I don’t see why he needs to do this if every spirit was celestial in the pre-existence.

    First let me explain that I have a book coming out in a few weeks that argues that humans are all divine before coming to this earth — so I haven’t changed views (unless you think I have re-written the book since this thread started — hardee har har).

    God doesn’t have to intervene — he is not obligated to (and I have never claimed otherwise). However, God could intervene to insure that small children don’t die because that is what they agreed to before this life. In other words, they have fulfilled what they came here to do and that is all that they chose to do. Now I have repeatedly said that I don’t know why God sometimes intervenes and doesn’t other times — these are just possibilities and that is all that a theodicy can be asked to address.

    Comment by Blake — February 7, 2008 @ 7:14 pm

  145. I am happy to know that the book should be coming out soon Blake. A few weeks, you say?

    Comment by The Yellow Dart — February 7, 2008 @ 8:43 pm

  146. Blake,

    so I haven’t changed views (unless you think I have re-written the book since this thread started — hardee har har).

    I believe you when you say you haven’t changed views, but it puts me at a loss to explain why you did not mention this on the previous thread when we were having a long discussion about non-Celestial children who could not be killed. I went back to read the previous thread to see if I was just out to lunch and missed what you were saying, but I was able to convince myself I was reading carefully as I always try my best to do.

    To explain how it is fair for some children to get an automatic pass to exaltation, you said:

    First, there is no unfairness in the sense that someone gets a free ride because our spirits progressed to a point before this life such that those who die in infancy did not need the probation of a mortal life to be exalted. They had already progressed that far. (Blake, here)

    To which I responded:

    This explanation seems completely untenable to me. Are you really suggesting that God uses his sovereign power to guarantee that all spirits not already celestial before being born will live to the age of accountability? If that is the case, then it is literally impossible to kill a large percentage of the children on earth (since God would protect them). (Jacob, here)

    My response was actually much longer, but you responded with:

    Jake, we already have a Savior and we don’t need another. And yup, I believe that God is intimately involved in who lives and dies and who gets what lessons to learn. (Blake, here)

    Then Geoff chimed in to say:

    I have to say that I think Jacob is right that your ideas imply that non-Celestial little children cannot be killed regardless of the free will of adults on the earth. (Geoff, here)

    Despite our clear misunderstanding which led us to believe you were saying there were some celestial spirits and some non-celestial spirits, I can’t find anywhere that you corrected us. Later on you said:

    Those who die in infancy were destined to be exalted because they already were before coming here. Not much mystery in that, now, is there? (Blake, here)

    Hopefully you can see why your current view looks to me like a change in position when I compare it to that statement. It seemed clear to me you were saying some spirits were exalted before coming here which explains why they die in infancy. Using the idea of certain spirits being exalted before coming to earth as an explanation for why certain people die in childhood seems to rely on the existence of non-pre-exalted spirits for its explanatory power.

    Comment by Jacob J — February 7, 2008 @ 10:20 pm

  147. Blake (#130): We all lived in God’s immediate presence before this life.

    Do you have any scriptural support for this assertion? Sounds like unsupportable speculation to me. And your case rests very heavily on this speculation so it is a very important point in this debate. I will also note that Jacob is right — there is nothing in Abraham 3 or in D&C 93 that indicates we were in God’s immediate presence for anything but a temporary “council” prior to this life.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 7, 2008 @ 10:41 pm

  148. I will also note that I have much easier to answers to many of Blake’s challenges than Jacob has because of my fondness for the idea of MMP. In that model Jesus did have to become celestial and exalted in the very same way we have to over a long and arduous road. He is our exemplar in that way as well.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 7, 2008 @ 10:44 pm

  149. Jacob: believe you when you say you haven’t changed views, but it puts me at a loss to explain why you did not mention this on the previous thread when we were having a long discussion about non-Celestial children who could not be killed.

    I was simply adopting the argument from your assumptions and perspective. Not that it matters — since I’m still alive I could change perspectives if I so choose. However, it so happens that I haven’t changed personal perspective (see my book!). I have, however, changed dialectic stance. I’m no longer accepting your assumptions.

    Geoff: First, the spirits were in council with God in Abraham 3 — and we were these spirits. D&C 138 establishes that there were noble and great ones in this council who were humans coming to this earth.

    I believe that MMP does make one aspect of this argument easier for you — you can argue that Christ became a god at some first moment, that he doesn’t really have an eternal priesthood, that he really didn’t resurrect as the first fruits of resurrection but others had been resurrected long before he ever was, that he was really baptized and confirmed and exalted and died and reborn many times, so it is possible that he still became celestial. On your view, however, the same applies to small children — we could have all become celestial material before this life in the same way. So it really doesn’t cut against celestial spirits but for it. The problem: MMP is wildly contra-scriptural with not a shred of revelation to support it.

    Comment by Blake — February 8, 2008 @ 9:12 am

  150. Blake,

    We have debated the MMP thing at great length elsewhere so I don’t want to veer into that again here. I fully realize it is just speculation that tries to bridge some theological gaps that arise from the late teaching of Joseph. I only noted it because many of your points directed at Jacob are not a problem at all in the MMP model. Although I will note that even in MMP the priesthood is still eternal and Jesus is still the first fruits of the resurrection here on earth. (Even your model requires resurrection prior to this planet else how would the Father have a body?) But an MMP model certainly does allow for some pre-mortal spirits to have progressed to celestial status and even exaltation before this world. And it seems feasible that some already-celestial spirits come to this mortality too for whatever reason (perhaps to be God’s leaders as Abraham hints at?)

    But none of that solves your problem. You have claimed that ALL human spirits held celestial status before coming to this planet. (Although you keep evading the question of how they got that status — have they always been celestial or did they progress to celestial status? This is an important question still…) As I noted, you have zero compelling support for that rather wild speculation as far as I can tell. It is widely recognized that all of us were in the presence of the Father prior to this world for a “council in heaven” of some kind — but that fact is no evidence whatsoever to support your speculation that 100% of us could dwell permanently in the Father’s presence before this world. That is a keystone of your arguments in this thread and you have no good support for that claim.

    Now don’t get me wrong — I am not against you believing that speculation as a leap of faith. I obviously have my own speculations to do the same thing. But it is important to point out that this claim about 100% of us being celestial before this world is just that — unsupportable speculation.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 8, 2008 @ 10:26 am

  151. Geoff: It is widely recognized that all of us were in the presence of the Father prior to this world for a “council in heaven” of some kind — but that fact is no evidence whatsoever to support your speculation that 100% of us could dwell permanently in the Father’s presence before this world. That is a keystone of your arguments in this thread and you have no good support for that claim.

    Aaahem. The keystone of my argument is the very clear scriptural statement in D&C 137:10 and the fact that Joseph learned it in vision. Further, I have given ample evidence that the word “celestial” functions as those who are in God’s immediate presence and now you have conceded (as you must) that all spirits were in God’s presence prior to this existence on earth based on Abraham 3. So the difference is that my views aren’t just wild, contrascriptural views, but are based on scripture and reasoning based on what I take scripture to mean. On the other, MMP clearly runs afowl of Alma 40.

    Comment by Blake — February 8, 2008 @ 11:00 am

  152. Further, I have given ample evidence that the word “celestial” functions as those who are in God’s immediate presence

    It seems likely we are not going to make any more headway on this, but I refuted your use of D&C 76 on this point. I got you to state that the description you were trying to leverage as a general description of what it means to be celestial is actually referring “only to those who have lived on the earth and are baptized after reaching the age of accountability” (#133). So by your own concession in #133, your use of D&C 76:62 in #130 was invalid.

    For D&C 88, I have shown in #132 that being celestial is inextricably tied to sanctification in that text. Your analysis of D&C 88 (in #131) skipped those verses (18-22).

    So I don’t think you have given the ample evidence for your point that you suggest. People can be pulled into God’s presence for short periods of time without becoming celestial, as Joseph Smith was in the First Vision or Moses on Mt. Sinai. Showing that we were in God’s presence for a council in heaven does not prove that we were all able to live on a permanent basis in the celestial kingdom.

    Comment by Jacob J — February 8, 2008 @ 11:21 am

  153. Jacob: I agree that we will not make any more headway. I believe that I have shown that the scriptures don’t use the world “celestial” in the way you assume as the basis for your argument. I have made a case that is quite satisfactory for me regarding that fact that those who are in God’s presence must be celestial, but if it doesn’t work for you that’s fine for me. What doesn’t work for me is rejecting scriptures that are crystal clear without a sufficient foundation.

    Comment by Blake — February 8, 2008 @ 11:58 am

  154. Blake,

    You have not shown that temporarily being in the presence of the Father means a person is “celestial”. That is the key sticking point here. Joseph Smith was temporarily in the presence of the Father here on earth. That does not mean he was celestial on an ongoing basis in his life at all.

    So you have not given good evidence that we all were celestial and continually living in the presence of the Father before this life at all yet. You have simply asserted that it is so. That is why I call it unsupported speculation.

    It looks to me like you have taken D&C 137:10 and tried to fill in a ton of blanks to make it theologically fit. Like I said, I have no problem with trying to do that. I just think your solution doesn’t work because it relies on this notion that all premortal human spirits are already appropriately labeled celestial beings. That notion doesn’t really have any support.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 8, 2008 @ 1:41 pm

  155. Given Mormon’s understanding of the plan, his position makes very good sense as does his strong stand against people preaching the necessity of baptism for children. However, given that God has seen fit to reveal more of the plan to us, it would be foolish to apply all of Mormon’s reasoning in places where we now know it to be lacking in understanding. This has been my whole point all along. God has revealed this doctrine of salvation for the dead piece by piece, it is not a stretch to suggest that there are a couple of pieces even we have not been given.

    As of comment 69 I am with Jacob, Mark and Geoff on this one so far. Mark brought up the revelation in context of the unfolding of doctrine. (Think of JS seeing Alvin in the CK pre-baptism for the dead, for example.)

    Comment by BHodges — September 23, 2008 @ 4:11 pm

  156. BHodges,

    Glad to have you on board. Your updates to old threads has been fun because it keeps sucking me into reading them again. Good times.

    Comment by Jacob J — September 24, 2008 @ 1:39 pm

  157. LOL I forgot I had read this OP back in Feb. I noted that God is very good at having his hands in things of which we likely are not aware, given the scripture that talks about us serving without fanfare. I must admit to not reading ANY of the previous comments before making my brief comment. You responded:

    Is that a random musing? I can’t tell what it has to do with either the post or the current discussion, help me out.
    Comment by Jacob J — February 7, 2008 @ 7:07 pm

    Well, as I was revisiting this topic (I bookmarked it back in Feb and am now just getting to read all the comments) I was reading along only to see some weirdo pipe in with a comment about the left hand and right hand of God, and I think to myself “what on earth is this guy talking about,” then I see my name signed to it! I remember exactly what I meant, but now I see it was so far afield of the ongoing comments…oops!

    Jacob J, are you in the SMPT by chance? I need some contact info for the leadership there as I paid some dues a few weeks ago and never heard back.

    Comment by BHodges — September 24, 2008 @ 9:03 pm

  158. and I think to myself “what on earth is this guy talking about,” then I see my name signed to it!

    Ha!

    Jacob J, are you in the SMPT by chance?

    I’m not in SMPT, but it’s likely I could get your comment in the right hands. Have you tried their regular contact email address already (secretary@smpt.org)?

    Comment by Jacob J — September 25, 2008 @ 10:45 am

  159. Yeah I tried that one a week or so ago. I’ll just try emailing ben huff directly.

    It was very humbling to see myself question my past self. And fun!

    Comment by BHodges — September 25, 2008 @ 1:50 pm

  160. If God’s hand is in all things, maybe we should be grateful for all things. Even those things which do not appear good for us.

    Comment by Steve Graham — September 25, 2008 @ 2:37 pm

  161. Steve,

    I am on board with the idea that we should try to make the most out of anything that happens, but I can’t accept the idea that everything is a blessing whether we realize it or not. To do so, in my opinion, amounts to a rejection of the idea that real evil exists in the world. If I am maimed by a bigot for having the wrong color skin, should I really conclude that God’s hand was in this and I should be grateful, or should I conclude that people do evil things which cause us (and God) great sorrow? I choose to believe the later, which means there are plenty of things in the world that I don’t think I should be grateful for.

    Comment by Jacob J — September 25, 2008 @ 5:39 pm

  162. Jacob,

    I admit that this idea is not a “natural” one and we typically rebel at it. Evil exists and it is important that we experience it so that we may treasure the good over the evil. Perhaps this is why the above scripture is clear that we offend God when we don’t acknowledge His hand in all things and obey His commandments.

    In the last days the anti-Christ (like the Assyrians before him) will wreak much havoc. And he will not realize that he is merely executing the will of the Most High.

    As I see it.

    Comment by Steve Graham — September 26, 2008 @ 12:19 pm

  163. In the last days the anti-Christ (like the Assyrians before him) will wreak much havoc. And he will not realize that he is merely executing the will of the Most High.

    Kook alarm bells ringing wildly. Just so you know.

    Comment by Jacob J — September 26, 2008 @ 2:09 pm

  164. Jacob,

    Don’t call names. Just state what you find objectionable. We’re adults here, right?

    Has God used kings before to execute their will, when they simply thought they were adding to their domains? Do you think He will not be using the anti-Christ in a similar fashion?

    Do we really have anything to fight about in this topic?

    Steve

    Comment by Steve Graham — September 26, 2008 @ 4:05 pm

  165. Steve,

    It’s not name-calling, it’s just the name of my alarm bells.

    Do you think He will not be using the anti-Christ in a similar fashion?

    Correct. I think he will *not* be using “the anti-Christ” in such a fashion. I suspect you and I have very different ways of reading the book of Revelation.

    Comment by Jacob J — September 26, 2008 @ 4:41 pm

  166. Okay. Actually I was thinking about the passage in Isaiah where the king of Assyria is thinking that he’s doing all of this himself, where he is actually the axe in the hand of the Lord.

    Steve

    Comment by Steve Graham — September 26, 2008 @ 8:10 pm

  167. Here is the passage. I could wish we would not see such a thing, but it seems we must go through affliction before seeing the blessing:

    Isaiah 10
    5 ¶ O Assyrian, the rod of mine anger, and the staff in their hand is mine indignation.
    6 I will send him against an hypocritical nation, and against the people of my wrath will I give him a charge, to take the spoil, and to take the prey, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets.
    7 Howbeit he meaneth not so, neither doth his heart think so; but it is in his heart to destroy and cut off nations not a few.
    8 For he saith, Are not my princes altogether kings?
    9 Is not Calno as Carchemish? is not Hamath as Arpad? is not Samaria as Damascus?
    10 As my hand hath found the kingdoms of the idols, and whose graven images did excel them of Jerusalem and of Samaria;
    11 Shall I not, as I have done unto Samaria and her idols, so do to Jerusalem and her idols?
    12 Wherefore it shall come to pass, that when the Lord hath performed his whole work upon mount Zion and on Jerusalem, I will punish the fruit of the stout heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his high looks.
    13 For he saith, By the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my wisdom; for I am prudent: and I have removed the bounds of the people, and have robbed their treasures, and I have put down the inhabitants like a valiant man:
    14 And my hand hath found as a nest the riches of the people: and as one gathereth eggs that are left, have I gathered all the earth; and there was none that moved the wing, or opened the mouth, or peeped.
    15 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.

    Comment by Steve Graham — September 27, 2008 @ 11:54 am

  168. Yea, I was with you on the Isaiah reference. It was the part about the anti-Christ of the last days that I assumed you were getting from Revelation.

    Comment by Jacob J — September 27, 2008 @ 2:25 pm

  169. Okay.

    I am of the opinion that most of Isaiah was written for us and he uses motifs that with which he is familiar to show what will happen to us.

    Comment by Steve Graham — September 27, 2008 @ 3:12 pm

  170. Of course Isaiah was written for this dispensation.Look around and you can feel the world sinking.

    Comment by Leonardo Mcgalabadini — September 29, 2008 @ 6:55 am

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