One of the most prominent and appealing concepts throughout our religion is that of continual eternal progression. Another important concept in our religion is the eternal nature of matter as opposed to ex nihilo creation. I would venture to say that these two concepts are widely agreed upon among all my co-religionists.
Some other concepts donâ€™t merit such unanimous support. Sometimes, this is due to the slippery nature of the language weâ€™ve given ourselves. For example, there is the question of what eternal means in these scenarios. Is it never ending progression, or is it Progression like God? Is matter never beginning and never ending or is it Godâ€™s matter? Is there a distinction between these two or isnâ€™t there? Is there sometimes a distinction and sometimes no distinction?
Another issue is the relevant question of Manâ€™s nature in this scenario. While our religion strictly adheres to a concept of pre-mortal and post-mortal existence, there is a lack of clarity or agreement on either of these fronts.
First, as to our pre-mortal state, there are different models of thought as to what that entailed. Where we spirits in the likeness and image of our physical selves? Were we always such or did we progress to that point from something else? If we did progress to that point, did we cause that progression our selves, or did some external force (like God) act upon us which caused our progression. If we go back far enough, do we get to a point where we really didnâ€™t exist, because the sub components that make us ourselves were not fully together, or are the components of us that are unique and constant, making us who we are? Of course, even if there are such components (say some form of eternal concept of gender), are these things relevant to the self aware beings we are now, or are they more like building block components from which we were built and formed? In other words, what of us is the ultimate true eternal â€œusâ€, and what is learned or acquired through the process? Is all we are ultimately in our true ultimate eternal â€œusâ€ merely a speck of libertarian free will riding on the back of a quark?
Secondly, what, if anything, did our pre-mortal state have to do with our current condition? We are taught that we were born for a purpose, and that happiness is the object and design of our existence. We even go so far as to say that having a physical body is essential to the plan of God. But what about our spirit makes us a human, and not a dog or a rock or a blade of grass? Why were we born to a well to do family in North America, and not to a poor woman in a 3rd world country? Why were we born in a time of prosperity and not a time of great difficulty? Why in our lives did we have the opportunity to accept the Gospel? Do we somehow have more agency in this life than we did before we was born?
Finally, Questions can and should be asked about our post-mortal state. We are taught that by keeping the commandments we can become like our Father in Heaven. In what way do we become like him? What is he like? How does loving one another as we were loved by Christ lead us to access to omnipotence or omniscience? Does everything that has a beginning really have an ending? What is Heaven? What is it like? We are taught there are three degrees of glory, and that some go to each kingdom, depending on certain criteria. How much do faith, understanding, determinism, accountability, works, and intent play into these criteria?
It seems to me there arenâ€™t really clear answers to these questions, but that if we want to understand our religion, whether something deep and important like the atonement, or something simple and temporal like the word of wisdom, we need to understand these eternal things, and more time and effort for revelation or reasoned theology in these areas is needed. In order for either of these two to occur, more dialogue is surely needed, whether between men, or between God and man.