Some Meandering Theological Musings

July 16, 2008    By: Geoff J @ 12:33 am   Category: Spirits/Intelligences,Theology

Which Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are one God, infinite and eternal, without end. Amen. (D&C 28:10)

thus becoming the Father and Son— And they are one God, yea, the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth. (Mosiah 15: 3-4)

There isn’t much question that our scriptures, both ancient and modern, speak of multiple divine persons unifying to make up the great One God. So if two or three divine person can unify to make up the One God what is the maximum number? Seems to me that there is none…

I have been thinking about the implications of Joseph Smith insisting that we as individuals are co-eternal with God. Joseph used the terms “spirits” and “intelligences” interchangeably. Lots of effort has been spent by Mormon thinkers and leaders since then to undo or explain away Joseph’s thoughts on that. I think that is because the idea of us having “whole cloth” beginningless spirits as opposed to having some kind of a beginning is both hard to comprehend and damaging to a lot of our traditional theological assumptions. I wrote a post about some of those problems here. There are several theological theories in Mormonism that assume we do indeed have a beginning. There is the whole viviparous spirit birth theory that nowadays usually tracks to the tri-partite intelligence->spirit->physical body model introduced by BH Roberts. Before that Brigham Young and Orson Pratt liked the spirit particles model. (See our previous Spirit/Intelligences discussions here) The Young/Pratt version assumes just our parts are eternal, not our current spirits. The Roberts model assumes our spirits are not eternal but we have an eternal “intelligence” that powers our spirit body that powers our physical body.

Anyway, if we assume for this post that Joseph meant it when he called spirits eternal and that he never intended to say there is a difference between spirits and intelligences, we have interesting theological possibilities we are left with. It makes me think of the well known verse of scripture:

Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? (John 10: 34)

So here is my meandering end to a meandering post: What do you think beginningless spirits would do to provide some variety to their endless life and stay diverted and busy forever? I must admit that I have been wondering recently if boredom alleviation is an eternal principle …


  1. My first reaction is that beginningless, complete spirits probably take away from the idea of variety and progress. I may be missing some things, but if you want a dynamic preexistence I think you are barking up the wrong tree.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — July 16, 2008 @ 4:17 am

  2. I see things as Orson Pratt and Blake Ostler do. We have always existed as matter in some form or another. Intelligence is the abilities of a material entity (atom, molecule, element, human, plant, etc)at that point in its organized development.
    When hydrogen and oxygen molecules are combined, they form a new, higher level of intelligence, with greater abilities than before (as water). When our spirits are combined with a physical body, it becomes a greater organization that allows for more experience, etc.

    I agree with Blake that gods are tuned into each other and the universe as a whole, through the light of Christ. To experience all things as they occur, would not be a boring thing at all.

    Joseph Smith and other prophets have discussed the progression of gods, as they become grandparent gods, etc., they gain greater glory and abilities. There may be other ways in which they progress, perhaps to higher forms of godhood, which we are not aware of yet. Just how long would it take us to get to where God the Father is currently at in his progression? And where will he have progressed to in that amount of time?

    There is no beginning to the parts that we are made of. But can we not see from our current state that we are going through beginnings that lead us to higher organization? Just moving from spirit to mortal and then to resurrection should show us a pattern of how this all works. Do we look at resurrection as a beginning that could have an end, or do we just view it as another step in a continual progression? I prefer the latter over the former.

    Comment by Gerald Smith — July 16, 2008 @ 6:08 am

  3. What do you think beginningless spirits would do to provide some variety to their endless life and stay diverted and busy forever?

    Certainly there will be no three-hour block meetings in the eternal worlds…

    Comment by Bored in Vernal — July 16, 2008 @ 6:27 am

  4. When I was young, I read a book about a God who did nothing all eternity but practice swordfighting, and he got infinitely better at it. As cheap as it may be to look to fantasy books for answers, I’ve always sort of thought of that. There are things we can and always be able to +1.

    I think when you get past the American achiever syndrome, Jeff G was right a long time ago when he high lighted a certain existentialist concept within Mormonism.

    It seems to me that if we have a good foundation of enjoying the journey and not worrying about the ends so much as the means, enjoying who we are with more than what we get done, we will have a much better eternity.

    Wow, I am so screwed in eternity.

    Comment by Matt W. — July 16, 2008 @ 7:01 am

  5. The blocks will be a lot longer BiV…

    Comment by Matt W. — July 16, 2008 @ 7:02 am

  6. I think that it is important to note that Pratt was a bit different than Young and was completely different than Ostler.

    I also think it is important to note that many prominant 20th century leaders followed the Young model, notably McConkie et al.

    Comment by J. Stapley — July 16, 2008 @ 9:11 am

  7. Good point J.

    All — here is the quick guide to the basic models as I remember them:

    Joseph Smith: Spirits and Intelligences are the same thing. They are beginningless and basically whole.

    Orson Pratt:
    Intelligences/spirits are reducible to independent particles. Those particles can freely choose to unite and form higher order beings. (He thought this happened through transmigration of spirits and spirit birth) The goal is for us to unite our parts with God entirely in his model.

    Brigham Young: We are composed of eternal spirit atoms/particles but those particles are not independent thinkers and actors (contra Orson). Rather it is like spirit dust that God used to form us (or something). He assumed viviparous spirit birth as the spirit creation method. Our minds apparently emerge from those beginningless atoms/particles.

    BH Roberts: We have beginningless “intelligences” that constitute our eternal mind. Those intelligences move into the spirit bodies created by God (through viviparous spirit birth I presume). So the BH Roberts model (which is very popular even today) is a compromise between the Smith model and the Young model.

    Feel free to chime in and clean any of that up if you see something inaccurate.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 16, 2008 @ 9:24 am

  8. Gerald,

    As Stapley noted Blake is actually firmly in the JS camp on this subject. He has clearly rejected the Pratt model and does not believe in viviparous spirit birth so Young and Roberts are out too with him.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 16, 2008 @ 10:05 am

  9. I’ve heard that Blake recently did a “revisioning” of Pratt’s theology for a presentation (can’t remember where I saw it) Perhaps it is this that Gerald refers to?

    Comment by Matt W. — July 16, 2008 @ 11:00 am

  10. I don’t believe BH roberts must entail spirit birth, but rather that it simply does entail a change of state from not having a spirit body to having a spirit body. If I recall correctly, Ostler as quasi rejected the need for a spirit body (in a discussion with J., who also rejects spirit bodies as he rejects the spiritual creation recorded in Moses.)

    I am in a rush, so no links, sorry.

    Comment by Matt W. — July 16, 2008 @ 11:03 am

  11. Matt:

    I think Roberts was leaning pretty strong toward spirit birth. From Immortality of Man:

    These intelligences in the many kingdoms of God, and before the “beginning” of that earth-order of things, with which we are now connected, were begotten spirits. That is to say, a spirit body was provided for them, of which God is the Father; for he is called in the scriptures “the father of the spirits of men,” hence our “Father in heaven.” I use the term “begotten” above instead of “created,” advisedly; and because I believe we are warranted in believing that the “begetting” of spirit-bodies for “intelligences” is an act of generation rather than of creation. The distinction is well stated by one of the early Christian fathers, Athanasius, as follows: “Let it be repeated that a created thing is external to the nature of the being who creates; but a generation (a begetting, as a father begets a son,) is the proper offspring of the nature.” That is to say, through generation the father imparts of his own nature to his offspring; so that intelligences when begotten spirits have added to their own native, underived, inherent qualities somewhat of the father’s nature also, and are veritably sons of God

    Comment by Eric Nielson — July 16, 2008 @ 11:40 am

  12. Eric, I think you are correct. Though a tripartite model doesn’t require viviparous spirit birth, I think that Robert’s did champion it.

    Matt, it is not that I reject the creation account in Moses; it is just that I believe like Joseph that spirits are not created (and I also don’t believe that the earth has a spirit, which was in need of creating or not). As to whether spirits have bodies, that is a game of semantics. I would imagine that we both believe spirits are material and capable of changing their appearance.

    Comment by J. Stapley — July 16, 2008 @ 11:57 am

  13. Eric:

    God adding his own nature to our nature via generation or ‘begetting’ is somewhat different from implying heavenly mother birthing heavenly babies, IMO

    Comment by Matt W. — July 16, 2008 @ 12:01 pm

  14. J. thanks for the correction on your POV. rejecting was too strong of a term, perhaps. Further, the idea of a spirit body is very slippery indeed. I wasn’t thinking of appearance so much as state, meaning that I think there was a point where we experienced a change of state by being adopted into God’s family. Perhaps this is a very distant cousin of tripartite creation….

    At any rate, what do you mean you do not believe the earth has a spirit? Do you mean collectively, or rather do you mean you don’t think there is a spirit in a tree, a dog, a rock? (vegetable, Animal, Mineral) I have to say I take the idea of God “creating” everything spiritually first at different levels, depending on the situation. Sometimes it is more like “Logos” where everything existed conceptually, sometimes it is more like Eden.

    So, as always, I am theologically undecided.

    Comment by Matt W. — July 16, 2008 @ 12:11 pm

  15. Matt,

    If Joseph is right then this whole “adopted into God’s family” thing you mention doesn’t make much sense. If we are the same age and same kind as God why would we ever need to be adopted into a family. Seems to me that we would be a family of sorts by our very nature.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 16, 2008 @ 12:21 pm

  16. Geoff:

    You and I are of about the same age and kind, but we aren’t family. I’d gladly adopt you as a brother if you needed it, but it ain’t happened just by nature.

    Comment by Matt W. — July 16, 2008 @ 12:34 pm

  17. Ah but we are brothers in the family of humankind. Since we have a beginning here on earth smaller pods of families makes sense here. With beginningless “gods” it doesn’t. Smaller units looks mostly like exclusion in that context.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 16, 2008 @ 12:35 pm

  18. Brothers denotes a sort of equality, a parent child relationship does not. The Gospel calls for exclusion. Are we not adopting as joint-heirs with Christ as we keep the commandments and perform the ordinances?

    Comment by Matt W. — July 16, 2008 @ 12:47 pm

  19. Brothers denotes a sort of equality, a parent child relationship does not.

    That is one of the like unintended consequences of the model Joseph pushed isn’t it? It makes the Father-Child relationship less coherent (or even incoherent) in the eternal perspective (though a temporary Father-Child type of relationship makes sense for people who pass through a veil like we do here on earth.) I think that is partially why Brigham, Orson, and Roberts rejected Joseph’s model. They realized the problems it caused to traditional theological ideas (as I mentioned in the post).

    Comment by Geoff J — July 16, 2008 @ 1:19 pm

  20. One thing for sure . . .

    If elohim become bored and don’t pay attention to the one, true Yahweh, they will die.

    And the Scripture cannot be set aside on this fact.

    Thanks for the John 10:34 reference, Geoff. My mind has been on the text for many days now.

    Comment by Todd Wood — July 16, 2008 @ 1:41 pm

  21. Geoff:

    I like to think they didn’t reject the model so much as didn’t understand it. Roberts was definitely not rejecting it, but rather making an attempt to connect the two disconnected concepts. In many ways Roberts was a huge proponent for, rather than against the idea of an immortal mind.

    I do not see how Joseph’s model makes the Father- Child relationship inchoerant. God, being more intelligent then us all, saw we needed him, and instituted a means whereby we could become like him. In my view, at that moment we accepted his offer, we became his children and entered into a relationship with him, and our state changed, allowing us to progress and become like him, which we could not have otherwise done, and this is a long run on sentence….

    Comment by Matt W. — July 16, 2008 @ 2:00 pm

  22. Matt: I like to think they didn’t reject the model so much as didn’t understand it.

    Hmmm. That’s an odd claim…

    So you are saying that if Orson and Brigham had only understood what Joseph meant they would not have contradicted him on this subject?

    If that is the case then why would we need the BH Roberts model at all? Why not just go with Joseph on this?

    I do not see how Joseph’s model makes the Father- Child relationship inchoerant.

    It seems pretty obvious to me. If a group of orphans the same age grew up in an orphanage would it make sense for the smartest one to become the parent of the others when they were grown? Sure, I can see one being the leader of the group but it makes no sense for a Father-Child relationship there.

    On top of that, if all of us had equal potential then over an infinite amount of time it seems like a pretty good bet we could reached whatever potential we were moving toward no matter haw slowly we moved that way. I think you are still leaning on assumptions that really only work well if we have a beginning.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 16, 2008 @ 2:24 pm

  23. Here’s my question of the day, as I’m taking in the commentors. Why don’t they have this discussion, over and over again, at Mormon Mommy Wars?

    *runs away*


    Comment by Thomas Parkin — July 16, 2008 @ 2:33 pm

  24. Geoff, I think Blake answers this quite well – God was always God because he chose to be. I would add that he also had the capacity to be (which bugs you to no end). There has to be a coherent reason that God is God and we are not. I would think that free will would appeal to you. To take your orphanage example, just look at how the law of adoption was applied in 1846! Grown men becoming the adopted sons of righteous men?!

    Matt: I wasn’t thinking of appearance so much as state, meaning that I think there was a point where we experienced a change of state by being adopted into God’s family. Perhaps this is a very distant cousin of tripartite creation….

    It is not a distant cousin. It is tripartite existence, and what besides just making it up do you have to support it?

    Matt: At any rate, what do you mean you do not believe the earth has a spirit? Do you mean collectively, or rather do you mean you don’t think there is a spirit in a tree, a dog, a rock? (vegetable, Animal, Mineral) I have to say I take the idea of God “creating” everything spiritually first at different levels, depending on the situation. Sometimes it is more like “Logos” where everything existed conceptually, sometimes it is more like Eden.

    I don’t believe that a rock has a spirit. If you want to call spirit creation an ideation or mind creation, that is fine. I think there is a lot of support for that view (to which I am also sympathetic). Still, if you don’t accept uncreated spirits, then you are stuck with what is essentially creation ex nihilio of the soul.

    Comment by J. Stapley — July 16, 2008 @ 3:21 pm

  25. Stapley: God was always God because he chose to be. I would add that he also had the capacity to be (which bugs you to no end)

    I’m not sure why you think any of that would bug me. I think Joseph made it clear that we all have the capacity to choose to be Godlike. Also, I suppose peers adopting each other could happen but it doesn’t sound like the kind of parent-child relationships I usually think of.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 16, 2008 @ 3:57 pm

  26. Hiya, Head Thang!

    Just out of curiosity, what role is that quotation Jesus uses in John 10:34 playing in your analysis?

    And would it make much difference to your approach if I suggested that a very literal approach to the word “God” would not have been part of a 1st century response?


    Comment by Mogget — July 16, 2008 @ 5:37 pm

  27. Geoff:

    Yes I think BY didn’t understand KFD, and why would he? He, if I recall correctly, wasn’t there when it was preached, and notes, while available to us, were not as available to him. Or Orson Pratt for that Matter.

    So they evolved there theology out of what they did understand (this is all my hypothesizing) When the sermons were introduced to them, they were skeptical of it because it did not match what line of reasoning they were currently on.

    BH Roberts, whp went back and made the history of Joseph Smith and began collecting all his sermons, came accross the very important tracts, checked the multiple instances he had, and knew they were accurate. I think his tripartite method serves two purposes. One as a synthesis of Moses’s Spiritual creation first model with Abraham’s eternal spirits model, and second as a way to bring Joseph’s sermons back into our church.
    My interest in the BH Roberts model is mainly for the former reason, but I will admit I see no important difference between it and the Josephian Model. The doctrinal points around it are all seemingly the same.

    I consider my Father now a peer, and yet still my father…

    Comment by Matt W. — July 16, 2008 @ 6:53 pm

  28. J.,

    So do you think we were never adopted by God, and we were always his children? Our relationship with God changed. It will change again as we truly become his peers. We are not now his peers. The best we can now to be are his children. At one point, I speculate (ie I have no evidence) we were not his children, thus a change of state and tripartite existence.

    Do you speculate differently?

    I have to go review the spirit creation concept. It is somewhat fuzzy to me at the moment.

    Comment by Matt W. — July 16, 2008 @ 6:58 pm

  29. Hi Moggs,

    Welcome back. That verse mostly came to mind because I think the idea that the One God can be made up of a great divine chorus of persons, combined with the notion that each of us is co-eternal with God, intersects with the scriptural idea that humans are all referred to as “gods” by Jesus (at least in a quote). I am not really ready to connect a lot of dots on any of that so I decided to just meander in this post.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 16, 2008 @ 8:17 pm

  30. Matt,

    I’m fine with the idea that Brigham didn’t know what JS taught on this subject. I mostly wanted to know which of them you think was right. If you choose Joseph then there is a problem with also choosing Roberts because Roberts adds all kinds of stuff Joseph never taught (presumably to reconcile Brigham and Joseph). I simply think you are wrong in claiming that Roberts synthesizes the Moses account and Joseph’s clear opinions. Joseph gave us the book of Moses so I don’t think he needs a Seventy to synthesize for him nearly 100 years later. Either Joseph was right in 1844 or he wasn’t.

    Also, this Father/Peer thing is getting no where so I won’t comment further on it.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 16, 2008 @ 8:22 pm

  31. Matt,

    BY wasn’t in Nauvoo during the KFD and neither was OP, but Wilford Woodruff was. While it may not be possible to prove, one would think that Wilford or even William Clayton would have shared that information with BY.

    I still think that their idea of eternal progession and spiritual birth was still evolving, but the KFD as recounted by WW must have been taken into consideration.

    If I recall correctly, was not the doctrine of etneral progression really pronounced by Lorenzo Snow? This would indicate to me the the the idea was still evolving beyond what Joseph was able to teach before his death and what BY taught.

    Comment by Hans — July 16, 2008 @ 8:25 pm

  32. Mogget, are you implying the Jews understood elohim in not quite the literal sense of all the attributes as LDS do? And that perhaps Jesus is working from even a lesser title? So why all the fuss exhibited by his audience in John 10?

    Comment by Todd Wood — July 16, 2008 @ 10:13 pm

  33. Geoff:

    Joseph did a lot of things partially. He is just another man, albeit a prophet, and a great one. I think we sometimes make a mistake by seperating Jospeh from the rest of the prophets. If Brigham Young was a prophet, then BH Roberts efforts have their important place.

    You seem to have conceded the point on the father peer thing to J., so I’ll happily drop it.

    Comment by Matt W. — July 17, 2008 @ 6:47 am

  34. Matt: So do you think we were never adopted by God, and we were always his children? Our relationship with God changed. It will change again as we truly become his peers. We are not now his peers. The best we can now to be are his children. At one point, I speculate (ie I have no evidence) we were not his children, thus a change of state and tripartite existence.

    Do you speculate differently?

    Well, the idea that we are children of God has grown up in the Church. Though I don’t think that there is any real scriptural or revelatory support, there is a tremendous amount of prophetic support (see the Proclamation on the Family). So I accept that we are in some way children of God by default. We all except that there was some sort of premortal covenant organization. That is what I typically associate with becoming children of God.

    I don’t really think that there is any evidence in Joseph’s thought that we can be God’s true peers. Now, with Brigham, there is tons of evidence.

    Comment by J. Stapley — July 17, 2008 @ 8:24 am

  35. Matt,

    I just dropped the peer/parent point because we were at an impasse. I didn’t concede. I think that the being co-eternal guts the notion of parent-children in the absence of a veil/mortality. I concede that some peers have tried to “adopt” each other over time but to me that is just peers still.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 17, 2008 @ 8:30 am

  36. Geoff: Impasse works too. I just don’t fundamentally see how length of time in existence guts the parent child relationship. I am willing to say I may be missing something, but it may be nothing more than our definitions of the parent\child relationship are different. No worries.

    I think there is quite a bit of scriptural support for it. (Deut 14:1, D&C 76:24, etc. )

    Anyway, I guess I also accept we are children of GOd “by default”. I think that entering a premortal covenant relationship with God consists of a change of state, which is what I was getting at in my tripartite thoughts above.

    I waffle on whether we can be God’s “true” peers, I have to admit. Some days, sure, others, no way. I mean, it seems that no matter what, he will always have some level of referent power we do not have. But, it does seem that he does want us to come up to a level where we can have a relationship of equals with him. So I waffle.

    I almost want to request a blog post on the differnece between revelatory, scriptural, and prophetic support.

    Comment by Matt W. — July 17, 2008 @ 8:58 am

  37. Matt,

    If my orphanage example didn’t do the job for you I don’t know what will. If a group of same-aged, same-capacity persons grew up together it seems to me that they would call each other brothers and sisters. Even if they covenanted with one of their siblings as the leader that is not what I usually would call a parent-child relationship.

    Stapley of course would dispute the same-capacity part of that. Others dispute the same-age part of that. But if we were to accept both I think the the parent-child thing gets a little dicey in the absence of veils/mortalities.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 17, 2008 @ 9:14 am

  38. Thanks, Geoff.

    #32 Todd,

    I’m not sure that in context “elohim ever means quite the same thing that we use it for. I think folks here are following a line of reasoning laid down by JS, et. al., not h-c approaches to Biblical theology.

    I’m working on several things, but this is the central issue. Jesus is quoting Ps 82:6 “I say, you are gods, sons of the Most High.”

    In their original context in the Psalter, the “gods” and “sons of the Most High” are some unrighteous human judges. The author of the psalm is interested in motivating them to higher standards and he’s alluding to Deut 1:17, which makes it clear that judgment belongs to God.

    So now, what is John doing with that line? Is he doing a parody of the hermeneutical practices of the time? Or is the argument from the lesser to the greater? If the judges could be called “god” because they were vehicles of the word of God and did his business, then how much more so Jesus?

    It’s a tough call, and more so because it looks a bit dodgey from a modern perspective. Somewhere out there, though, is the distinction between Jesus’ assertation that what he was God had made him, and the viewpoint of his opponents, which was that he made himself out to be God [god].

    Very interesting, don’t you think?


    Comment by Mogget — July 17, 2008 @ 10:36 am

  39. Matt, did you notice that D&C 76:24 is talking about being begotten sons and daughters by Christ.

    Comment by J. Stapley — July 17, 2008 @ 10:42 am

  40. Sorry – I was traveling and missed this thread. Just a few musing comments as I read through what everyone wrote.

    (7) Geoff, I’m not aware that Pratt believed in the transmigration of souls (i.e. reincarnation). I’m willing to be wrong there as I may have just missed it. Clearly his approach could be used but most of the folks accepting that theory I’m familiar with used Young’s theology more.

    Brigham Young’s theory is a little unclear but I don’t think he proposed a Pratt like atomistic view. I think he’s probably an idealist closer to someone like Emerson. That is intelligence as idea is independent and shared. So intelligences are collections of intelligence which ultimately comes from God.

    Robert’s view is explicitly Cartesian dualism. It’s not really a half way point. I’m not sure how he came to this but he references lots of major figures who held to variations of this including William James. My guess is that he came to it more from reading philosophy rather than for purely theological readings.

    (19) While I think it’s incorrect to attribute the “spirit birth” model to Joseph I think we should instead say his teachings were vague. Saying Pratt and Young rejected Smith seems too strong – especially since we don’t know what other teachings they were encountering. Going primarily by two sermons as to what Joseph believed seems dangerous.

    I prefer to see both Young and Pratt as pushing and evolving Joseph’s ideas rather than rejecting them. I’m very confident that if you were to ask them they’d be aghast to have someone think they weren’t following Joseph’s teachings here. (Whether correct or not)

    (21) Matt, like you I don’t see what in Joseph makes a father/son relationship incoherent. Even if one loses the parentage aspect (and I’m not convinced we ought) it seems to pop up in terms of organizational power and social relation.

    (22) Geoff, I think you’re making a distinction between leader and father that is unfair. A father simply implies a loving relationship that a leader doesn’t. Even orphans can have adopted fathers and that father relationship is quite unlike a leadership.

    The orphanage example is bad for your analogy since it’s quite conceivable that in an orphanage there is one child older and more capable than the others who becomes an adopted father to the rest were they to go off on their own.

    Comment by Clark — July 17, 2008 @ 10:42 am

  41. J., that’s debateable, but perhaps too much of a threadjack to go down here. Christ definitely made the worlds in that verse, which were inhabitted by the begotten sons and daughters of God.

    But to your Point, when the scriptures say sons and daughters of God, I guess it is debatable by who they mean by God, Christ or Heavenly Father. So that leaves us with the Father by Default anyway. Since we both accept that and accept this as adoptive, do we not both accept this as a change of state for man? Is this change of state significant enough to be considered tripartite?

    Comment by Matt W. — July 17, 2008 @ 10:55 am

  42. Clark,

    I used the terms transmigration rather loosely regarding Pratt. What I meant is he envisioned things like groups of intelligences combining to form spirit flies and then spirit frogs might eat that spirit fly and and the two would merge, etc. In other words, in his view I get the impression that all “minds” higher than a single spirit atom were somewhat fluid/transient. He seemed to think that the mind of any higher order spirit (higher than a single particle) emerged from the individual spirit-particle-minds sort of melding or something. (Is it any wonder this stuff never really caught on?)

    Second, I think your criticism of my orphanage analogy in #22 is fair. I clarified the parameters in #37 to add that the orphans were the same age and had the same capacity. That is a scenario where these parent-child issues become sticky.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 17, 2008 @ 11:04 am

  43. Moggs, I reread Briggs and some others and yet remain unsatisfied about a heathen judges context for Ps. 82.

    What about some of the rabbinic interpretations implying Israel and Mt. Sinai – the Word of God which came to them and the exalted position this would entail.

    Ps. 82 and John 10:34, etc. have me riveted with keen interest.


    Comment by Todd Wood — July 17, 2008 @ 11:11 am

  44. #43 Todd

    At risk of incurring Geoff’s wrath with a threadjacking, two points suggest that we’re talking about humans. First, they die in v. 7 and second, BDB (Brown Driver Briggs) para 438a glosses “elohim” with “human rulers or judges.” In this category are actually quite a number of other verses as well.

    For sure, these folks did occupy an exalted position. But rabbinic exegesis has its own challenges so it’s obviously part of the reception history of a passage but may not be much help otherwise.

    I’m at home now, but when I get somewhere with better OT resources I will take another look.


    Comment by Mogget — July 17, 2008 @ 11:35 am

  45. Geoff (42) I’m not sure that’s a fair view of Pratt’s view. Rather he felt that by communication spirits could unify and then act such that all of them had the same dispositions. There are still some real problems with this view but it ends up being pretty similar if not identical to how Stoics thought through the issue. (Which is why I’ve long wondered if Pratt was exposed to Stoic thought beyond ethics)

    Roughly he thinks the Aether (now known to be non-existent but a big deal in 19th century physics) was The Spirit and that it was communicating with all spirits and getting them to behave in certain ways. This entailed a kind of nominalism where all laws were actually due to mental ideas and the free obedience to those ideas.

    God develops animals by organizing them up in this nominalistic way.

    So what you describe really isn’t Pratt’s view.

    Comment by Clark — July 17, 2008 @ 11:42 am

  46. Clark,

    Pratt may have contradicted himself at times, but he did in fact teach the things I just mentioned. Here is a money quote on that:

    Can we suppose that particles, possessed of the power to move themselves, would not have exerted that power, during the endless duration preceding their organization? If they were once organized in the vegetable kingdom, and then disorganized by becoming the food of celestial animals, and then again re-organized in the form of the spirits of animals which is a higher sphere of being, then, is it unreasonable to suppose that the seine particles have, from all eternity, been passing through an endless chain of unions and disunions, organizations and disorganizations, until at length they are permitted to enter into the highest and most exalted sphere of organization in the image and likeness of God? A transmigration of the same particles of spirits from a lower to a higher organization, is demonstrated from the fact that the same particles exist in a diffused scattered state, mingled with other matter; next, they exist in a united form, growing out of the earth in the shape of grass, herbs, and trees; and after this, these vegetables become food for celestial animals, and these same particles are organized into their offspring, and thus form the spirits of animals. Here, then, is apparently a transmigration of the same particles of spirit from an inferior to a superior organization, wherein their condition is improved, and their sphere of action enlarged. Who shall set any bounds to this upward tendency of spirit? Who shall prescribe limits to its progression? If it abide the laws and conditions of its several states of existence, who shall say that it will not progress until it shall gain the very summit of perfection, and exist in all the glorious beauty of the image of God?

    (Orson Pratt, “The Pre-Existence of Man”, The Seer, 102-103. 1853)

    Comment by Geoff J — July 17, 2008 @ 11:48 am

  47. Right, but how he is taking this isn’t how you are. He’s talking about everything being spirit and thus when I eat wheat I’m eating the spirits of the wheat. But in death they lose the unity they once had. (Those unified dispositions) So they go back to being the less organized items.

    Life thus is a series of unions and disunions.

    As I eat wheat part of that wheat becomes part of my body entering into the cells. (We have to remember that at the time biological science was amazingly primitive so our molecular knowledge wasn’t had)

    But he’s not saying that these unions are done in some odd fashion. He’s more just taking the common scientific understanding of the era and explaining that it entails spirits entering into unities.

    Comment by Clark — July 17, 2008 @ 12:15 pm

  48. Clark, I don’t generally disagree with what you are saying. I don’t see how any of that makes my earlier points inaccurate though. OP is talking about your premortal spirit eating premortal spirit wheat in this passage I think. His point seems to be that when an independent particle joins an organism they create a new unified mind together. How exactly do you think I am incorrect in my earlier assessments?

    Comment by Geoff J — July 17, 2008 @ 12:39 pm

  49. Mogget (and Todd),

    I don’t mean to jump into your thread-jack, but I thought I might supply a few additional comments regarding the proper interpretation of Psalm 82 since I do not believe that in its original context this Psalm referred to human rulers or judges, whether Israelite or otherwise.

    First, verse 1 clearly gives the overall context or setting of the Psalm: the ʿădat ʾēl. This is the “council of El” or the “Council of God”. Furthermore, the additional context or setting of the Psalm seems to be that of the assignment of the gods (who are members of God’s heavenly council) to each nation as overseers, a theme also seen in other biblical texts such as Deut. 32. 8-9 which unambiguously mentions the members of God’s heavenly council. Additionally, the theme of rebellion and condemnation of the gods, as well as the theme of the rise of a high god over the council (vividly portrayed here), are themes found in other important literary texts in ancient near eastern literature. Thus the punishment or condemnation offered is that these heavenly beings are to “die like men”. This simile is fatal to the view that mere humans are being addressed in this Psalm. Had these beings already been human rulers or judges who will eventually die no matter what anyway, this could hardly be taken as a serious punishment.

    In connection with all of the above, the crucial discoveries of ancient Ugarit additionally confirm that “bÉ™nê ʾĕlōhîm” or the “ʾĕlōhîm” when mentioned in the biblical texts are the gods who surround the (most high) God (for the Canaanites this would have been ‘El). In this case, we see that the “gods” of Psalm 82 are also described in parallel usage as “sons of the Highest/Most High”. I am unaware of humans ever being addressed as “sons of the most high” elsewhere in biblical literature. Additionally, I think it is worthy of note that the exact same term–ʾĕlōhîm–is used both for God and those to whom he is speaking. This is also important because there is little, if any, support from the biblical texts that the Hebrew word ʾĕlōhîm ever directly refers to humans, even if they are rulers or judges. Most texts in which such an interpretation has been offered in the past are quite suspect, and can just as easily (and usually much more adequately) be interpreted as referring to God or the gods (e.g., ).

    Overall I agree with the overwhelming scholarly consensus that humans are not being addressed here.

    Having said all this, perhaps I have just misread your prior post(s) and I am jumping into the middle of a discussion in which my comments are out of place or irrelevant. Nevertheless, I hope they are worth the time they take to read!

    Best wishes,


    Comment by The Yellow Dart — July 17, 2008 @ 1:11 pm

  50. The scriptural references I forgot to supply are Exodus 21.6 and 22.8–9. My apologies.

    Comment by The Yellow Dart — July 17, 2008 @ 1:14 pm

  51. Threadjack #6, Nice, chaste Mogget-kisses to everyone who wants to kill us about now.

    #49 TYD

    No, you’re in sync. And come to think of it, I have heard about the work with divine councils in the OT. Moreover,HALOT, which is newer than BDB, does gloss it as “gods” rather than human rulers.

    Very interesting. It may do strange things to the argument in John. The thing to see is how 1st century Jews understood that Psalm. It’s harder to explain why Jesus’ enemies went beserko if there was a widespread understanding of multiple gods in a divine council in the 1st century. Very interesting, though.


    Comment by Mogget — July 17, 2008 @ 4:13 pm

  52. I don’t mind the meandering Moggs. This is a meandering post aferall…

    Comment by Geoff J — July 17, 2008 @ 4:15 pm

  53. Hey Mogget,

    I think you might like to browse this article by Dan Peterson:

    Ye Are Gods: Psalm 82 and John 10 as Witnesses to the Divine Nature of Humankind

    Best wishes,


    Comment by The Yellow Dart — July 18, 2008 @ 4:35 am

  54. The problem Geoff is the idea that they become part of your unified mind. I just don’t think Pratt says that. I think he’d say that with respect to certain dispositions they are in a unity. But it’s not really a unified mind as such. I’m pretty such he discusses this as one problem of mortality: that we aren’t unified.

    I’ll admit it’s been quite a few years since I last read Pratt though. So if you give me some time I’ll find the quotes. My books are at home though.

    Comment by Clark — July 18, 2008 @ 9:50 am

  55. Moggs and Todd: I address both Psalm 82 and John 10 at great length in my my vol. 3. I agree with Yellow Dart that Psalm 82 scarcely allows a reading of human judges and requires a reading of gods in the council of El. I argue this understanding of a council of gods is still present in Second Temple Judaism as we can see from the Melchizedek scroll among the Dead Sea Scrolls which provides an interpretation of Psalm 82 and asserts essentially that Mechizedek is the chief among the gods in the council of El and as such is considered as El himself.

    Jesus’s argument in John is essentially that he is one with God and that is not blasphemy because the Jews accepted that the sons of El (divine sons of God in the council of El), who are gods, became mortal. Thus, they cannot charge him with blasphemy by claiming that he is one with God and God’s very son who has come to earth to die as a mortal just as the sons of God in the council of God did.

    Comment by Blake — July 18, 2008 @ 9:58 am

  56. Clark,

    I don’t know how one could possibly avoid then unified mind conclusion with Pratt. He clearly taught that individual mini-minds, or particles of independently thinking and acting intelligence, unify to form higher order spirits like our human spirits. So in such a scenario the mind of any human spirit is the combination of innumerable individual irreducible mini-minds unifying perfectly together.

    See many of the relevant Pratt quotes backing this up here (both the thread and the comments)

    Comment by Geoff J — July 18, 2008 @ 10:17 am

  57. Clark,

    See this quote specifically. It clearly shows that Pratt did teach this unified mind thing.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 18, 2008 @ 10:23 am

  58. Well yes, that’s true that they form human minds. The question is whether the corn I just ate and that is in my intestine fits the bill or if only some do. That is does Pratt think every atom in my body is unified. Some of the quotes you offer even argue against the interpretation you are giving since it suggests this is done perfectly only in the heavenly world.

    Comment by Clark — July 18, 2008 @ 2:04 pm

  59. Clark,

    You are talking about physical bodies and I am talking about spirits and spirit bodies. I think it is clear that Pratt was talking about spirits as well.

    But you are right — Pratt leaves a lot of important details and questions unanswered.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 18, 2008 @ 2:46 pm

  60. I still need to get Blake’s book–but amazon just sent me an e-mail saying that they cannot acquire it. Hopefully more will become available from independent sellers soon.


    Comment by The Yellow Dart — July 18, 2008 @ 4:59 pm

  61. Hmmm. . . Blake there is a huge difference between men who make themselves God and God who makes himself a man, and also the thought of God who cannot perish and gods who can perish very swiftly.

    Powerful distinctions are made in biblical scripture between God and gods. I do need to get your last book, hoping to see these nuances.

    YTD and Blake, so you guys agree with the Qumran interpretations on Ps. 82?

    Comment by Todd Wood — July 18, 2008 @ 7:02 pm

  62. And Moggs, Blake, and YTD, sometime it would be interesting to read three separate posts from you three on the last phrase of John 10:34.

    (Or perhaps Geoff could just post an open thread on John 10:34.)

    Have a good weekend, all.

    Comment by Todd Wood — July 18, 2008 @ 7:13 pm

  63. Todd: You are right that there is a big difference between men who are themselves gods and those who make themselves gods. However, your thought of a God who cannot perish is interesting — remember that Christ died. He had an immortal spirit that did not die; and it is the same with humans. Christ resurrected and so will we. So you’re going to have to get much clearer on your distinctions before they are meaningful.

    I don’t accept the Dead Sea Scrolls as scripture — but they are a good source of beliefs among some Jews in the first century during Christ’s life. In fact, they are the only interpretation of Ps. 82 contemporaneous with the creation of John 10 that we have! In fact, it appears that Jesus may have been particularly open to the kind of beliefs accepted at Qumran because it appears that John the Baptist was active in an area close to Qumran and his practices reflect beliefs close to those we know were also practiced at Qumran.

    Let me state emphatically that the view that Ps. 82 refers to gods who became human and the council of gods who are convened in judgment before the God Elyon is the vastly overwhelming consensus among non-evangelical biblical scholars. In fact, given the Ugaritic linguistic background, any other view is more an attempt to avoid a particular theological implication than a reading of the text.

    John 10 is a different time and place and the question is whether Jesus is accurately reflecting this ancient (even in his time) understanding or adopts some new view. However, he is defending the assertion that he is one with God in a sense that makes him a God and that is why the Jews in his time (if this account is historical events or reflects a memory of some such events) respond that he asserts blasphemy. Christ reminds them that this Psalm teaches that the sons of God became mortal according to Ps. 82. That is the import of the “ye are gods” statement. So he is merely claiming what scriptures affirm — sons of God become mortal and die just as he has become mortal and will die.

    I would add that even if the account in John 10 isn’t historical in the sense that Jesus actually had this conversation, that at the very least a first century writer familiar with Jewish culture provided the text.

    Comment by Blake — July 19, 2008 @ 8:09 am

  64. I remember reading a while ago about the genesis story and how when it says that, in the beginning, the the spirit of the Lord was above the waters, the word ‘waters’ was something very similar to the concept or word for ‘chaos’ or disorder. I always found this interesting, and I somehow see the work of God as a creative, organizing force. I guess you could see it as the work of the custodian who keeps chaos at bay. Remember that the assumed fate of the universe is chaos, or complete entropy, the Heat Death of the Universe as stated by the second law of thermodynamics. Systems, if left undisturbed, always become less and less orderly until their matter or elements are completely random. But somehow, against the odds, there is inexplicable order in nature, and however improbable, the conditions for life to exists and flourish are present. The work and glory of God is to bring about our immortality and eternal life of man, in other words to help us change from one level of organization into a higher, more refined one in order to reach our full potential.

    If you look at matter at the quantum level, it is fascinating to see how it behaves. I’m sure some of you have heard about the experiments shooting particles down a tube than is then split in two, and how a picture is then taken of one of the paths chosen at random. The particle is always on the path where the observation is made, which basically means the particle is being somehow affected by the observer. Matter somehow ‘obeys’ (I don’t know if that’s the right word…) the observer at a fundamental level. So we could say matter at the most basic or ‘refined’ level does exhibit a sort of intelligence, however rudimentary it may be. – whether this implies life or not however we may define it, i don’t know, although we don’t even know for sure what is the line that constitutes life in nature… – I’ve also always found interesting how God or Jehovah refers to himself as the great I AM. I think that could be referring to Him being the first intelligence, or matter (or energy?) in the universe to progress to the state of being self aware, thus the title, “I AM” And His role or purpose is to organize matter and create more and more order out of the chaos out there.

    I’ve been reading a great book by Lyall Watson called ‘Dark Nature’ which talks about good and evil as forces in the natural world rather than moral constructions. The central idea in the book is that evil is whatever force pulls a particular system into chaos, or disrupts the fragile equilibrium of nature. I think this puts into a clearer context the roles of God and the adversary in the plan and the concepts of good and evil.

    Anyways, I think to summarize this rambling post, I think the idea of viviparous spirit birth is pretty unlikely and it’s propably the result of our limited understanding and need to make sense of things by pulling for our closest experience. I think God’s process in creating us is more of an organizational one, where He helps us reach that level where we become self aware. And as for the using of the words begotten rather that created, I think that’s a non-issue. After all, we become begotten of Christ, and He becomes our father because of the atonement, as He allows us to escape spiritual death and live with the Father. He isn’t actually giving us life but He is helping us attain a higher state. As for the role of the Father, being organized from non-sentient matter into self-aware intelligences or spirits IS in a sense, creating life. We are made of matter that always existed but not always had an identity. In that sense, yes, the earth and the rocks have spirits and all matter are intelligences and we are all co-eternal with God. I hope this kinda makes some sense. It’s all ideas that have been rattling inside my head for some time now… In any case, sorry for the long post!

    Comment by AD — July 19, 2008 @ 11:36 pm

  65. Blake, there is not the seamless continuity as you suggest. For even Jesus is making distinction between those “unto whom the word of God came” and the One “sanctified and sent into the world.”

    Comment by Todd Wood — July 20, 2008 @ 6:08 pm

  66. #62: Todd, don’t you have a blog? Why don’t you host the discussion?

    Comment by Ugly Mahana — July 20, 2008 @ 8:17 pm

  67. Todd: Those to whom the word of God came are the very Jews to whom he is talking. He is the word of God. So the distinction you think is so clear just ain’t so clear. Further, even if there is distinction between the one sent and those to whom he has been sent, it isn’t really relevant to a distinction between those who are gods because they are sons of God and the Son of God.

    Comment by Blake — July 20, 2008 @ 10:08 pm

  68. Mogget,

    I think Blake’s interpretations of Psalm 82 and the council of the gods are worth considering in your analysis. When I said that I was unaware of humans ever being called “sons of the most high” elsewhere in biblical literature, I was referring specifically to the texts of the Hebrew Bible and not the New Testament. My point was not that there cannot be a blurring between the human (earthly) and divine (heavenly) worlds (Jesus’ discussion in John 10.34 clearly establishes, in my judgment, that there indeed is no “ontological gap” between the two) as it might have seemed to imply, but that such terminology only makes full sense in the context of the divine council and simply cannot be resolved by designating the “elohim” as “mere” human judges or rulers. (Jesus’ argument in John 10.34 would fall to pieces if we adhered to this interpretation, I might add.) I add this note because clearly Jesus is addressed in biblical literature (the NT obviously) as “son of the most high”, and this is precisely what is significant about this passage in John 10.34–it can only be properly understood in light of the knowledge of the divine council that surrounds the God of Israel. I think Blake’s suggestions for interpretation resolve many of the questions John 10.34 raises, but I won’t recapitulate his arguments here. As he suggested above, you can read his treatment elsewhere in his third volume of Exploring Mormon Thought (which I haven’t read yet myself, but I hope to find a copy soon!).

    Comment by The Yellow Dart — July 25, 2008 @ 5:31 am

  69. Alright, seeing that this post is mostly dead and all I guess I will tentatively connect a few dots.

    These are the dots we have discussed here:

    1. The One God can easily consist of a vast number of unified divine persons
    2. Jesus and other scriptures indicated that we were divine persons before coming here
    3. Joseph Smith indicated that all of our spirits are without beginning like Jesus

    Seems to me that these factors taken together could open the possibility that we were all already part of the One God (aka elohim) before coming here. If there were any truth to that radical idea it would bring new meaning to concepts like Jesus (as a mouthpiece for the One God) saying “inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren ye have done it unto me”. And it makes the connection between the first and second great commandments (love God; love each other) even more concrete. I should note that my “boredom alleviation as an eternal principle” quip in the original post was related to this general theoretical possibility.

    No, I’m not preaching this as some kind of truth. I am just meandering theologically here. But I think it is interesting. I can see why so many of our theologians prefer to disagree with Joseph and simply claim we really do have a beginning. That move largely closes off these kinds of theological possibilities.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 25, 2008 @ 7:16 pm

  70. Geoff (#69),

    Your 2. is the most suspicious to me. What scriptures indicate that we were divine persons before coming here? I have been extremely busy of late so just point me to the relevant comment if this was discussed earlier in the thread (I tried to find it but couldn’t).

    I side with Matt earlier in the thread in his comments about peers/parents. I don’t think the fact of our having existed forever makes us a peer of God. There are plenty of people I work with who are older than me in earthly years who are not my peers in our work environment (they are subordinate).

    I really am not buying that we could have been part of the One God before coming here simply because we don’t behave like divine beings and there seems to be very little point to the plan of salvation if we were already divine before coming to earth. All the “prove them now herewith” doesn’t make a lot of sense in your speculative position here, as far as I can tell.

    Comment by Jacob J — July 27, 2008 @ 9:23 pm

  71. Jacob: What scriptures indicate that we were divine persons before coming here?

    The two “ye are gods” verses in the Bible. See comments 49-53, 63, 67-68 in this thread related to that.

    about peers/parents

    See my comment #37

    I really am not buying that we could have been part of the One God before coming here

    I’m not really selling it. I am more floating it as a possibility (or perhaps even a strong possibility) if we reject all the theologies claiming our spirits do indeed have a beginning.

    there seems to be very little point to the plan of salvation if we were already divine before coming to earth

    Thus my “boredom alleviation” crack in the post

    All the “prove them now herewith” doesn’t make a lot of sense in your speculative position here

    There may be really powerful arguments against this idea but the whole “proving them now herewith” thing probably isn’t one of them. “Proving” need not be a one time thing and I could see someone arguing it is all part of the eternal process of diversion for immortals.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 27, 2008 @ 10:02 pm

  72. The two “ye are gods” verses in the Bible.

    Ah, I did follow that coversation, thanks.

    I’m not really selling it.

    Yea, I suppose not, but I suspect you’ll be linking back to this thread in the future without so many reservations. You took a similar tentative approach on your one flesh post but then you referenced it elsewhere much more like your committed opinion than like a speculation. You say it is a strong possibility if we accept beginingless spirits, but it doesn’t seem like a strong possibility to me. I’ll give you possibility, but I’ll not grant the strong. The idea that this is a vacation spot for gods doesn’t really seem particularly compelling to me.

    See my comment #37

    Yea, I read #37. You say they are same-capacity, but I think you are confusing capacity with potential. I don’t believe we had the same capacity as God does when we were in the premortal world. Capacity is something which grows and shrinks. Just because we have always had the potential to become like God, it does not mean that we had the same-capacity as God. For someone who has inherited all that the Father hath, I can see using the word peer, but that does not seem to be the case for any of us in the premortal realm, Ps. 82 not withstanding.

    Comment by Jacob J — July 27, 2008 @ 11:39 pm

  73. How long was the pre-existence? How long is a piece of string?

    Comment by Martin K — July 28, 2008 @ 8:30 am

  74. Well Jacob, since this theory directly contradicts the theory presented in the One Flesh post I think that example actually bolsters my claim that this is just a theory being floated.

    These various approaches are just taking a premise to a possible theological conclusion. Both of these contradicting theories (this concept and the literal fusion of spirits concept in the One Flesh post) have some benefits and drawbacks.

    The benefits of this idea include the notion that we get to hang on to individuality forever. That means that families really are forever because they already had been together forever (as an extended family) before we visit this Matrix-like existence. It means we have no reason to fear eternal separation from anyone we have known or loved on earth. This is not near-universalism, it is full fledged universalism so that can be seen as either positive or negative depending on one’s perspective. The other thing it does is give us a solution to the question of we have been doing over an infinity of time and what immortals do over an infinity of time. It also leaves all sorts of room open for explanations of the role women play in the eternities. We could simply assume that this happens to be a patriarchal planet but others are matriarchal. One could easily imagine that the One God is really a vast divine chorus of male and female equals.

    The drawbacks however are palpable and obvious. This idea sort of makes our life here seem deeply trivial. That is probably reason enough for most of us to reject this notion outright.

    The One Flesh idea has an entirely different set of benefits and drawbacks that we discussed somewhat over there.

    As for your distinction between capacity and potential — I think you are overstating they difference. They can be seen as synonyms. It seems to me that you want equate capacity with “current ability” and I think that is a bigger stretch.

    If you are going to claim that a single beginningless spirit like, say, the spirit of Jesus, has always been smarter and more good than all the other beginningless spirits then you find yourself flirting dangerously with an ontological gap problem I think. Blake has the same issue and Stapley (who goes for the ontological gap idea) is continually frustrated by Blake’s insistence that he is free of that charge based on some semantic technicality.

    SO if there is no ontological gap between our spirit and the spirit of Jesus, and Joseph is right that we are all equal potential/capacity and all equally beginningless then I think there is a decent argument for us all reaching our potential over an infinity of time.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 28, 2008 @ 9:23 am

  75. Geoff,

    I didn’t realize you considered this notion as being incompatible with your one flesh idea. I’ll take your word for it that you are just exploring possibilities.

    I am willing to use whatever words you want wrt capacity/potential as long as we can agree on words to describe the two different things: current ability vs. potential ability. Ontological gaps have to do with ways of being. Two beings with different potentials for what they can become may be said to have an ontological gap, but two beings with different abilities cannot. Everything we have from the scriptures and modern revelation indicates to me that we have always had the potential to become like God but that we did not have the same current-ability as he had. Even if someone has always had a greater current-ability than someone else, it does not indicate an ontological gap.

    However, I have not made any claim about how things have always been, just that within the timeframe that we have been told about via scriptures/revelation the picture is pretty consistently painted as one where we have equal potential but inferior current-ability.

    An infinity of time only leads to equal ability if we are constantly progressing and if there is some limit to the growth possible.

    Comment by Jacob J — July 29, 2008 @ 10:32 am

  76. I often wonder what it must have been like in our last moments of pre existence prior to becoming “flesh”.Maybe we were placed in little pods of forgetfulness? Either way, it must have been a bizzare transition.What a test though! Mortality is like nothing else…….

    Comment by Martin k — July 30, 2008 @ 7:24 am

  77. I think as long as there is college football and In-n-Out, beginningless and eternal existence won’t be boring.

    Comment by Darin W — August 30, 2008 @ 2:25 am

  78. Darin,
    I think as long as there is college football and In-n-Out, beginningless and eternal existence won’t be boring.
    Which implies that California is truly Zion since that is where USC and IN-N-OUT can be found.

    Comment by Hal — August 30, 2008 @ 6:52 am

  79. You’re making a mountain out of a mole hill. When Joseph Smith said that spirits had no beginning, that they were eternal, he had reference to birth into THIS world. In other words, spirits were not created at birth into THIS world: they existed in pre-existence where they did have a beginning!

    Comment by Samuel Wattles — December 10, 2008 @ 5:00 pm

  80. Samuel, I see no evidence for reference to this world only. The primary texts for the idea of eternal spirits are Abraham 3, the Sermon in the Grove, and the King Follet Sermon. This idea has also been in the teachings of B.H. Roberts, James E. Talmage, John Widtsoe, Richard G. Scott, and Truman Madsen, to name a few.

    Comment by Matt W. — December 10, 2008 @ 7:14 pm

  81. When Joseph Smith said that spirits had no beginning, that they were eternal, he had reference to birth into THIS world.

    Nice theory. Too bad the actual words of Joseph Smith don’t really support it.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 10, 2008 @ 8:13 pm

  82. Sorry, Greoff, but Joseph’s actual words don’t say what you say they do either.

    Comment by Samuel Wattles — December 10, 2008 @ 9:26 pm

  83. Look, Sramuel — if you want to engage the actual texts in question as well as the 80 comments that have already been written here you are welcome. If you intend to just spout your personal opinions as if they were facts I’ll just save us all the trouble and assume you are just a drive-by troll and ban you.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 10, 2008 @ 9:29 pm

  84. Look, I don’t mean to offend you, Geoff, but I’m serious; because we read a comment by some LDS author, or authority, that doesn’t make it any more fact than my own opinion. How about us starting over? I know you feel that progression between kingdoms of glory must be. Would I be proving anything if I looked up a quote or two to the contrary. I don’t think so, but there’s no need to ban me. I will go willingly. I have spent several hours reading through all your data and haven’t focused entirely on this one subject. For that I appologize. Which comment specifically would you like me to focus oon? By the way, I’m impressed with your typing speed. I’m not really a typist. Never have been, and at age 80 next March doesn’t help. Chuckling at myself.

    Comment by Samuel Wattles — December 10, 2008 @ 9:39 pm

  85. Thanks for the explanation Samuel. You are welcome here. As you might be aware, on the internet it is not uncommon for new people to show up and intentionally try to cause trouble or be rude. I was afraid that was your intent but based on your last few comments I am less inclined to be worried about that. I suspect that if you will simply caveat opinions as opinions (that is what I always do) we won’t have any troubles.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 10, 2008 @ 9:49 pm

  86. I Thank you, Geoff. I will do so, but I would think that all expressions were opinions. I can’t imagine someone espousing a point of view that was not his peronal opinion. I’ve never been awed by someone who simply quotes such and such, unless he’s quoting scriptures. I repect the man who has thought things over and come to his own conclusions under the inspiration of the Spirit. Take the doctrine sometimes published that Jesus is the Savior of ALL God’s worlds. Such a doctrine cannot be true without destroying much other doctrine. Let me site (by memory) a few doctrines that clash with the doctrine that there is but one Savior: A world cannot pass away without work for its dead being completed. Jesus didn’t establish ordiance work for the dead until after he entered the spirit world and bridged the gap between the righteous and unrighteous. Worlds without number were created BEFORE Jesus even entered into OUR world. Jesus was the FIRST to rise from the dead. Other worlds have passed on to their glory before Jesus atoned for sin.
    On what basis did inhabitants of other worlds rise from the dead. Their worlds passed away BEFORE Jesus came into OUR world and paid the debt for sin. The spirits of these folks could not wait in the spitit world for Jesus to establish work for the dead. If they did, it would be too late to save their dead, because there worlds had already passed away and work for the dead has to be done by mortals!
    For quotes I would recommend Doctrines of Salvation, by Joseph Fielding Smith. I speak these quotes from memory.

    Comment by Samuel Wattles — December 10, 2008 @ 10:23 pm

  87. I agree with your conclusions about each world having a savior. We discussed that in this post.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 10, 2008 @ 10:27 pm