The Atonement as Theodicy

September 12, 2008    By: Matt W. @ 8:29 pm   Category: Atonement & Soteriology

This post was an experiment in whether concentrating on the issues in my previous post would enable me to better put forth a discussion of the atonement. Your input and thoughts are greatly appreciated.

First to give context, I recently read a blog post about a “Reductio ad Hitlerum” film put on by BBC regarding the problem of Evil [1]. At the same time, I was listening to the Book of Job on my commute to work, slowly working my way through the Old Testament for the first time. As I dealt with these two items simultaneously, it renewed my interest in the way the church has dealt with the problem of suffering and evil. It is my opinion that the Church uses its particular theological tenants regarding the Atonement and the way things are as our own theodicy, and that this theodicy is strong.

Now perhaps theodicy is the wrong word, some may argue, but here I am taking theodicy to simply mean a defense of God’s goodness and justice in the face of the existence of evil [2]. And again, perhaps atonement is the wrong word, as this can sometimes be construed to mean everything between the act in Gethsemane and the entirety of the Plan of Salvation. [3] For my purposes here I am going to initially begin by framing the problem in the whole of the plan and hopefully drill down to examine the event in Gethsemane in context of that plan.

If we are going to be dealing with suffering, we need to first put it in the context of our LDS cosmology. An essential detail is the eternal nature of matter. [4] Ultimately as John A. Widtsoe put it; this confines all things to an unending (in both space and time) material universe that is ruled by eternal laws. [5] As Sterling McMurrin has pointed out in his writings; this means the rules of nature that mandate our suffering were not created by God, but where in existence all along. [6] Further alleviating God’s culpability is the nature of man, which Mormonism teaches there was a pre-existent state of. While there is some disagreement as to what and what all was involved [7], the primary ideas of most theories either point back to Joseph Smith teaching that our “mind”(spirit, will or what have you) has always existed and can neither be created or destroyed or on a concept that Brigham Young experimented with where the mind is a natural result of God organizing matter in such a way as to bring us forth. [8] Either way, God is not morally responsible for the organizational methodology or moral behavior of man. They are free to choose for themselves, governed by either their eternal or naturally existent mind. [9] This leaves God not culpable for the creation of all “evil” but only responsible for his actions, which would have unduly caused it or which would have failed to alleviate it when he had an opportunity.

So, when God sees us suffering, does he do what he can to alleviate our suffering? Have God’s actions been evil towards us? An important point to look at in our religion is our pre-mortal state. God was with our spirits and dwelt “In the midst of them all”. In the King Follett Sermon, Joseph Smith Teaches that:

God himself, finding he was in the midst of spirits and glory, because he was more intelligent, saw proper to institute laws whereby the rest could have a privilege to advance like himself. The relationship we have with God places us in a situation to advance in knowledge. [10]

On an Earlier Date Joseph Taught:

Before foundation of the Earth in the Grand Counsel that the Spirits of all Men ware subject to oppression & the express purpose of God in Giving it a tabernacle was to arm it against the power of Darkness [11]

And Finally, Joseph taught, “God saw that those intelligences had not power to defend themselves”[12] So, in our worldview where the universe has always existed, we were suffering before we were born, oppressed by powers of darkness, unable to defend ourselves. God acted to alleviate our suffering, calling us together, and setting forth, as we have been taught all of our lives as Latter-Day Saints, a plan of salvation which we freely chose. We had always suffered, and there would always be opposition, but God was giving us the tools to overcome that opposition and thus decrease our suffering. It’s like in the Book of Job, Elihu poetically says that in the suffering of this life, God is saving us from a greater suffering [13] So God, though bound by the eternal nature of the universe we already discussed, acted in our behalf to lessen our suffering.

This brings us to the atonement. David L. Paulsen taught:

…There are apparently states of affair that even God, though omnipotent cannot bring about. Man is that he might have joy, but even God cannot bring about joy without moral righteousness, moral righteousness without moral freedom, or moral freedom without an opposition in all things. With moral freedom as an essential variable in the divine equation for man, two consequences stand out saliently: (i) the inevitability of moral evil; and (ii) our need for a Redeemer. [14]

I would add that the undisputed reality of natural evil in our daily lives also points to the need for a Redeemer as well. After all if those who deal with the consequences of freely made choices, how much more so those who must deal with consequences beyond anyone’s control? So from the beginning the Atonement had to have been the pinnacle of the plan of salvation, and not just an addition to fix some miscreant fruit nibbling. In fact, in a religion where we praise the “fall forward” of Eve, we know that any and all of the pains we associate with the risks inherent in this life are necessary to our eventual ability to experience a cessation of suffering. [15]

So we need help. We can’t overcome the obstacles that cause our suffering on our own. God is good, and steps in to help us by providing the means for us to improve if we want to use them. But that isn’t enough and God knows it. However, in our imperfect state God could not approach us without causing more suffering. [16] So he selected one who was unique among us, one who was good enough to intimately approach God. This was Jesus Christ, who volunteered willingly for this assignment. And Jesus Christ, as we know, succeeded in his mission for God and wrought the atonement. While we do not understand all the details of the atonement [17], we do believe that it enables God to condescend to be in our imperfect presence, and us to transcend and come to his presence. (Overcoming spiritual death, as we call it) We do believe it enables our physical natures to be joined with our spiritual natures without end. (Overcoming physical death) Through these things, we can see that the atonement enables us to be yoked up with others greater than ourselves who enable us to have greater capacities and overcome the opposition, which causes our suffering. Further, the moral example of the atonement teaches us that suffering is something we must all face and gives us the strength and courage to withstand those challenges that come. Also, the example of Christ shows that just as we can’t make it without the help of Christ, we need to help and be helped by one another as well. Lastly, I believe that Christ, in his atonement put forth something more than his example, but distilled a presence upon us all that enables us to have greater peace, hope, joy and love in this life now, as we turn to that light. [18]

To Conclude, the Atonement shows that God is doing all he can to alleviate our suffering within the confines of the natural system. Further he is not intentionally seeking to harm us, but is allowing the natural course of nature to hold sway, as he must. Thus God is Just and Good, despite the existence of evil.

Song for this Post:
fxYZHOkcL4I

End Notes:
_________________________________________________________________________________
1. The film is well crafted and performed, and is extremely challenging. Ronan discusses it here.
2. Princeton defines it that way, so I am on good grounds I think.
3. For more on the issue of the confusing nature of our usage of the word atonement, see Geoff J’s discussion here.
4. The Scriptures teach this in D&C 93:33
5. For a Review of Widtsoe’s teachings on these items, see my posts here and here. This is not just WIdtsoe on his Own, Smith taught of “laws of eternal and self-existent principles” in TOPJS pg 181.
6. McMurrin puts for this point of view in his “Theological Foundations” Eric Nielsen has a great review of this here.
7. For discussion of different models theorized for what our pre-mortal existence was like, see here. For the record, Abraham 3:18 points to spirits having no beginning or end
8. Smith’s teachings are most prominent taught in the King Follet sermon and the Sermon in the Grove. Young’s is perhaps best put forth by Scholar Jonathon Stapley.
9. For the sake of this discussion, I am assuming some form of Independent Free Will. For more on Free Will see here.
10. Abraham vaguesly covers this topic here but the quote is from the King Follet sermon. (See Note 8 for a link.)
11. From the Mcintire Minute Book, Jan 19 1841
12. Also from the Mcintire Minute Book, March 28, 1841. Lest I be accused of cherry picking from a longer more bizarre quote, it says in full “God saw that those inteligences had Not power to Defend themselves against those that had a tabernicle therefore the Lord Calls them togather in Counsel & agrees to form them tabernicles so that he might Gender the Spirit & the tabernicle togather so as to create sympathy for their fellowman”
13. Job 33-36
14. For the full text, see here. It is important to note that some may find the word “omnipotent” distracting here. Paulsen uses B.H. Roberts definition, which “proposed that God’s omnipotence be understood as the power to bring about any state of affairs consistent with the natures of eternal existences”
15. For an overview of the General Church Stance on this, see here.
16. The scriptures describe our imperfect state in the afterlife as causing us to shrink from God’s presence, suffering guilt, anguish, pain, and torment (Mosiah 2:38 ) In the Old Testament Moses was taught by God that no sinful man can see God’s face and live. (JST Exodus 33:20 ) It is thus not unreasonable to speculate that our imperfect pre-mortal natures would have impacted our ability to be in God’s presence as well. In fact, Abraham 3:23 notes that while he dwelt among all the spirits, It only mentions his being able to stand in the midst of the noble and great ones. In any event, LDS theologians like James Talmage have long taught that the requirement for a mediator was someone who was both of God and of Man, and God was unable to cross this gap for whatever reason. I hope this speculation does not become a distraction to the overall post.
17. Many excellent discussions of details regarding the atonement can be read here.
18. This idea borrows heavily from this article by Jacob Morgan, though slightly modified.

108 Comments »

  1. Interesting. This paradigm of premortal oppression brings an added depth to the Buddhist concept that suffering is an inevitable part of existence until we break from cycles of suffering by achieving Enlightenment. It draws enhanced parallels, as well, between several Eastern-borne trajectories of a soul’s journey toward a state of Enlightened being and the LDS pursuit to become increasingly God-like, if our state of oppression and suffering is one we were born into even from our earliest primordial spiritual nascence. New doctrines for me–thanks for sharing.

    Comment by loverevolutionnyc — September 13, 2008 @ 8:34 am

  2. loverevolutionnyc: I actually discuss Hinduisms take on this concept here (from which some say Buddhism is derived). In summary I surmised that the major difference is that the Eastern Religions have us doing it all on our own, while we believe we simply can not do it on our own, and acknowledge our need for the assistance of Christ.

    Comment by Matt W. — September 13, 2008 @ 9:39 am

  3. Yes, this is similar to Buddhist thinking. But I wonder if we actually understood that we were oppressed; the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not.

    Maybe it was more like ignorance or naiveté.

    Comment by Howard — September 13, 2008 @ 10:53 am

  4. Perhaps Howard, but in anycase, we were certainly willing to accept our Father’s plan, despite the challenges it presented, in order to escape our sufferings.Maybe we only understood that we suffered seperation from our Father, but I believe God certainly allowed us to understand enough to make an intelligent decision.

    Comment by Matt W. — September 13, 2008 @ 11:10 am

  5. Sure, the war in heaven was about agency, not suffering. Are you equating the two?

    Comment by Howard — September 13, 2008 @ 11:36 am

  6. nope.

    Comment by Matt W. — September 13, 2008 @ 11:48 am

  7. Matt,
    You are a convert. Did you always know that you were suffering spiritually?

    Comment by Howard — September 13, 2008 @ 11:51 am

  8. Most of my like was spent outside of the church. By the world’s standards I was having a great time. Looking back after embracing the light I realize that I was indeed suffering.

    Comment by Howard — September 13, 2008 @ 12:00 pm

  9. Howard excellent points and very true. I knew I wasn’t happy before I was a member, but I didn’t know why I wasn’t happy. I think it was God coming in and teaching me the right and then ministering to me that made me realize exactly what some of my issues were. (I still have some things I need to learn)

    Comment by Matt W. — September 13, 2008 @ 1:27 pm

  10. So, we were helpless and subject to oppression. We may or may not have been aware of our condition but God was clearly aware of our condition and he acted to save us by clothing our spirits in a body to protect them.

    It might be argued that we have already been saved by grace. Is it any wonder we are now expected to show what we are capable of through works?

    Comment by Howard — September 13, 2008 @ 6:34 pm

  11. Great post, Matt.

    Comment by Mark D. — September 14, 2008 @ 3:17 am

  12. Most sin takes place between us, not between yourself and God. (see 12 previous post) So atonement amounts to balancing the books between us.

    Basically there are three ways to atone. The first is the Old Testament way. Without Christ in our lives we owe and we are expected to balance the books ourselves by paying for our own sins even an eye for an eye.

    The second way is Christianity, a mix of owing and not owing. We repent, do all we can do to provide restitution (owe) and Christ makes up the difference (not owe). Christ comforts the wronged person if they will come to him and he compensates them in the next estate for their sufferings here.

    The third way I will call Christianity plus, it is Mormon doctrine. We have already thoroughly repented for our own sins, thoroughly forgiven others for their sins and our hearts have been changed to the extent that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually. We have become Christ-like. We no longer owe because we have repented and we are no longer sinning. When someone wrongs us they do not owe us because we follow Christ’s example; Father, forgive them; for they know not. We do not seek compensation because we understand that we are all evolving from darkness to light, sinning is a necessary lesson, and the rewards that await us dwarf any compensation we might receive. We now understand what means to love thy neighbor.

    Atonement is not magic; the three methods simply represent different levels of enlightenment.

    Comment by Howard — September 14, 2008 @ 7:24 am

  13. Mark D. thanks, I’ve always valued your input.

    Howard: I was trying to keep the scope of this post on the concept of atonement as theodicy. I am sure there will be futureposts where we can further flesh out these ideas.

    Comment by Matt W. — September 14, 2008 @ 10:37 am

  14. Good thoughts Matt. I like the way you framed the problem in a pre-plan-of-salvation context. This “LDS cosmology,” as you put it, is one of the most compelling parts of Mormon theology in my opinion. You’ve laid it out nicely.

    Comment by Jacob J — September 14, 2008 @ 1:37 pm

  15. Thanks Jacob, I hope you didn’t mind my borrowing of your dialogue talk as I did.

    Comment by Matt W. — September 14, 2008 @ 5:35 pm

  16. Matt: So, in our worldview where the universe has always existed, we were suffering before we were born, oppressed by powers of darkness, unable to defend ourselves.

    Hmmm… I don’t know what you are talking about here. What was this power of darkness that allegedly oppressed us all before we came here? Why would we be unable to defend ourselves? Or more specifically, if we couldn’t defend ourselves then why can we defend ourselves now?

    Comment by Geoff J — September 14, 2008 @ 6:10 pm

  17. Geoff: Taking Joseph in context, I think the powers of darkness, generally speaking, are “evil”. When Joseph speaks of being unable to defend ourselves he says there were beings with “tabernacle” which had power over us, and so he gave us physical bodies to protect us. More generically, we couldn’t defend ourselves then, but can now because God is helping us.

    Comment by Matt W. — September 14, 2008 @ 7:23 pm

  18. That doesn’t help much for me Matt. Are you talking about some kind of all-evil god that is co-eternal with us? Maybe some disembodied evil mist in the universe that is beginningless? What is this nebulous evil supposed to be?

    And how do persons with a “tabernacle” have power over spirits? We have “tabernacles” here but we can’t control spirits after all… and if spirits are indestructible what sort of self defense did we need?

    I just don’t buy this “we couldn’t defend ourselves there” line. It makes no sense at all as far as I can tell. (I know it is a JS quote but not everything Joseph Smith said was revelation — he’d be the first to admit that)

    Comment by Geoff J — September 14, 2008 @ 8:41 pm

  19. Okay, where’s the reference to those having physical bodies always having more power over those who only have a spirit body? Isn’t that what the Prophet taught?

    I’ve understood that JS quote and the one above (i.e., the powers of darkness, unable to defend ourselves) to mean that as pre-mortal intelligences and spirits we were more susceptible to error than those who have a physical body. And, if left to ourselves, we would become “devilish.”

    The reason we are so prone to “evil” now is because of 1) the veil of forgetfulness (necessary for most of us to live by faith) and 2) the corruptibleness of our natural bodies. Again, if left to ourselves, we would become “devilish.” Both of these, I believe are addressed in the scope of the Atonement.

    In our pre-mortal state, we needed a plan to prevent an eternal staticism, if you will; just as we need that plan in our mortal state. The Atonement allows us an eternal dynamism.

    Comment by mondo cool — September 14, 2008 @ 9:19 pm

  20. Mondo: pre-mortal intelligences and spirits we were more susceptible to error than those who have a physical body

    Well that is an interesting speculation, but it has problems. Let’s assume that “evil” is defined as not loving God and not loving others (since the first and second great commandments are to do those things and all other commandments reportedly hang on those two). How would not having a physical body make us more prone to stop loving God or each other?

    In our pre-mortal state, we needed a plan to prevent an eternal staticism

    Well we have a problem here if Joseph Smith was right about our spirits being beginningless. I mean, if we are beginningless we existed there for a infinite amount of time so the the problem of some sort of static state is unavoidable I think.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 14, 2008 @ 9:48 pm

  21. I freely admit to speculation w/ inherent problems.

    I don’t know if I can take your assumption because I do not completely equate evil with error. Not having a physical body would mean we were static, or damned. It would mean we would not be able to be with Him and others of our fellows in Celestial glory. Not having a physical body would make us more prone to be incapable of loving God or each other as much as would be required for one to dwell in God’s presence, in my view. My take is that we need a physical body in order to love God and others in a manner sufficient to merit Celestial glory. The resurrection part of the Atonement provides us with that eternal, physical body. Our faithfulness, our love of God and others in mortality, determines the status of our resurrection.

    Celestial glory allows us to become creators, like our Eternal Father, of worlds without end. I guess you are free to see that as “some sort of static state.”

    Comment by mondo cool — September 14, 2008 @ 10:28 pm

  22. because I do not completely equate evil with error

    I don’t know what you mean by this. Does it have something to do with my last comment?

    Not having a physical body would mean we were static, or damned.

    If not having a body means one is damned how was Jesus already God before coming here on your view? And how did the Father ever progress and get a body to begin with on your view? I am not discerning a coherent theology at all in the comments you are making so far.

    It would mean we would not be able to be with Him and others of our fellows in Celestial glory… My take is that we need a physical body in order to love God and others in a manner sufficient to merit Celestial glory.

    So then you don’t believe we lived with God before this life? (Since you say spirits are not capable to live with our embodied God in Celestial glory and all)

    Comment by Geoff J — September 14, 2008 @ 10:39 pm

  23. Geoff J. (#22):
    To your 3 questions:

    1) JS said: “…subject to oppression…”
    I said: “…more susceptible to error…”
    You said: “…assume that ‘evil’ is designed as…”

    I feel that one may transgress a law of God and not be “evil.”

    2) Not ever having a physical body would mean that we were static, or damned.

    3) Given an opportunity at some point in eternity to make a choice to progress and refusing that opportunity would disqualify us for the blessing of being obedient to the eternal principle(s) associated with that choice. Spirits can live with God before this life, but not afterwards if those spirits have refused to do what is necessary to merit Celestial glory. The Atonement makes it possible to overcome our individual sins, errors, incapacities, etc.

    Comment by mondo cool — September 15, 2008 @ 3:56 am

  24. Excellent post Matt. Thank you for the kind words and the link.

    Also, I think Mondo cool is on to something in his comments, and Geoff is asking great questions about it.

    Not enough time for more than this.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — September 15, 2008 @ 5:46 am

  25. Geoff:

    Are you talking about some kind of all-evil god that is co-eternal with us? Maybe some disembodied evil mist in the universe that is beginningless? What is this nebulous evil supposed to be?

    Going back to my post, the nebulous evil are those things naturally inherent in the universe which Cause evil. I am not talking about an evil mist or an evil God, I’m talking about things like when Hot air and Cold air collide over Water, it can cause a Hurricane. Random uncreated opposition.

    And how do persons with a “tabernacle” have power over spirits? We have “tabernacles” here but we can’t control spirits after all… I’m not necassarily beholden to this idea as you put it forth. I can only speculate on it’s intent.

    and if spirits are indestructible what sort of self defense did we need?
    One can suffer without being destroyed. There are other kinds of suffering in life than Death. Therefore, there would be other kinds of suffering in eternity than disolution (whether you believe that is a possibility or not).

    Comment by Matt W. — September 15, 2008 @ 6:26 am

  26. Mondo: (19) You say error, I say suffering. I don’t necassarily see a major divide there. Suffering would cause error, error would bring about suffering. Basically, I agree that we were stuck in that state without a capacity of our own to get beyond it, and thus there was inteverntion by a loving God to aid us.

    Comment by Matt W. — September 15, 2008 @ 6:30 am

  27. again, by evil I do not mean willfully doing bad, but those things which cause suffering, whether it is emotional, physical, mental, or otherwise.

    Comment by Matt W. — September 15, 2008 @ 6:31 am

  28. Mondo,

    I am still not getting what this error/evil connection is but I’ll let that go for now.

    2) Not ever having a physical body would mean that we were static, or damned.

    By this definition Jesus was damned before coming here for all eternity. Yet Jesus was God. Seems to me you have a problem there with a theology that is talking of damned Gods. (And the Holy Ghost is presumably currently damned on your view as well right?)

    Spirits can live with God before this life, but not afterwards if those spirits have refused to do what is necessary to merit Celestial glory.

    In Mormon theology there have been innumerable worlds that have come and gone before this one. On your view, why is it ok for spirits to live forever in the presence of God (I would presume they are happy over that infinity of time but maybe you disagree?) but then after they come to an earth spirits are no longer able to be in God’s presense? The whole concept you are floating seems incoherent to me.

    Further, why did some of our beginningless peers go to mortalities an infinity of time before us if none of us have a beginning? Who are the beginningless spirits that are supposed to inhabit future planets? I’ve said it before but it bears repeating: Taking Joseph seriously about the idea that spirits are beginningless seriously screws up traditional Mormon theological assumptions. I suspect your theological framework would work a LOT better if you simply agreed with Brigham Young and friends and went with the idea that spirits do have a beginning after all.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 15, 2008 @ 8:21 am

  29. Matt: by evil I do not mean willfully doing bad, but those things which cause suffering

    Seems to me you still have no legs to stand on with this. Even if we assume that spirits don’t have any physical suffering (no variation on physical pain, hunger, fatigue, etc) they are still free willed beings in Mormon theology who have interpersonal relationships right? If so then they have the ability to love and hate and envy and do all the things that cause us emotional pain right? So this nebulous “evil” you are talking about sounds like the inevitable consequence of being sentient social persons to me. The problem is that there is still nothing in that which fits the bill of something we would need “protection” from and certainly nothing that getting a physical body would protect us from.

    In other words, I am not hearing any explanations of this that make any sense at all yet.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 15, 2008 @ 8:27 am

  30. Well, it is clear that the spirit and the body, inserparably connect bring a fullness of joy (like Matt quoted). So even if we don’t know the details, the idea is there.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — September 15, 2008 @ 9:31 am

  31. On your view, why is it ok for spirits to live forever in the presence of God (I would presume they are happy over that infinity of time but maybe you disagree?)

    For my part, I don’t assume that spirits in the pre-existence lived in the presence of God from all eternity.

    Comment by Jacob J — September 15, 2008 @ 10:16 am

  32. Interesting comment Jacob. How long do you assume they lived in the presence of God then?

    Comment by Geoff J — September 15, 2008 @ 10:22 am

  33. Actually, I am not sure I believe we lived with God for any substantial period of time before birth. Certainly not in what could be called a celestial existence. As quoted in the post above, the whole point of the plan was to help us advance from a weak state God “found” us in to a state like God’s. All the scriptural references I can think of refer to our participation in heavenly councils, but we know virtually nothing about our day-to-day existence before this life. It simply makes no sense to me that we were sent here to grow and be “proven” if we could already live a celestial law before we were born.

    I think it was Parley Pratt who suggested we might have been sent as spirits to live on the earth after its spiritual creation (I’ll have to dig up that quote) as a precursor to the earth being created physically and our taking physical bodies here. There is an interesting phrase in Alma 13 that seems to say we were “left to choose good and evil” while still in the pre-existence.

    3 And this is the manner after which they were ordained—being called and prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God, on account of their exceeding faith and good works; in the first place being left to choose good or evil; therefore they having chosen good, and exercising exceedingly great faith, are called with a holy calling, yea, with that holy calling which was prepared with, and according to, a preparatory redemption for such. (Alma 13)

    I can’t think of any text that binds me to the idea that we actually lived for any period of time in the direct presence of God, unless we assume from the idea of heavenly councils that we lived with God all the time. I don’t assume that. Can anyone think of a scripture or statement I’m forgetting?

    Comment by Jacob J — September 15, 2008 @ 3:54 pm

  34. Jacob: Actually, I am not sure I believe we lived with God for any substantial period of time before birth.

    It sounds like you mean we didn’t live with God at all before we came here. Rather you seem to be saying that we were part of a council but that is it (because we couldn’t live the Celestial law for some unknown reason). Is that right?

    If that is right why did it take literally forever to get our turn on an earth on your view? Doesn’t that theology paint God as dreadfully inefficient and inept?

    I’ll say it again — I think these sorts of theological musings almost demand an assumption that our spirits/minds have a beginning. All you have to do is adopt spirit atomism with Brigham (or creatio ex nihilo with Augustine) and the rest of these theological ideas start becoming much more internally coherent in my opinion.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 15, 2008 @ 4:53 pm

  35. Geoff,

    Yes, you are correct. I am saying that we did not live in God’s presence before birth, but I’m trying to be careful to say that we could have been in his presence for councils or on other occassions. Sort of like how Adam and Eve were thrust out of God’s presence when they were expelled from the Garden of Eden, but when you look at the Garden of Eden story, it seems clear from the story that they were not living in God’s presence while in Eden. I don’t know if that will cause more confusion than not, but that is similar to my take on the pre-mortal world. We talk about it as though we were in God’s presence, but I don’t think day-to-day we lived in the celestial kingdom.

    Now,

    Why do you think atomism or creation ex nihilo solve the problem? Can’t I just as easily ask why it took God so long to create me from nothing? or from pre-existent particles?

    It seems to me the only way to solve your problem of “why did it take so long” is to have a beginning to time (as opposed to a beginning to me).

    Comment by Jacob J — September 15, 2008 @ 5:42 pm

  36. Why do you think atomism or creation ex nihilo solve the problem?

    It solves the problem because if God created your spirit out of existing particles then you are lucky to exist at all, whereas if our spirits are co-eternal with God we are the unlucky victims of an inept bureaucrat of a God who literally kept us waiting forever for a chance at happiness in some interminable pre-mortal waiting room.

    If there was no “us” at all then the very existence of our spirit is jsut the fortunate result of the free choice of a free-willed God. It wouldn’t matter that he lived forever before that because we are new.

    The other upside of such a theological view is that one can escape universalism too if one wishes by simply asserting that the destruction of the soul is a literal deconstruction of our spirit as Brigham and others taught.

    Now granted, this all might work better if one adopts a two-track model of eternity where there is an ontological gap between us and God but those are details that could be worked through no doubt.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 15, 2008 @ 6:02 pm

  37. Well, we have certainly run into this difference before. Your intuitions about eternity are just different than mine. I wouldn’t say that we are victims of an inept bureaucrat of a God, but that things take time, even if an eternity of time exists. The fact that God can’t do everything instantaneously is built-in to my notion of God. To me, the idea that God waited around “forever” before deciding to create me is just as strange as the idea that he waited forever before he sent me to earth.

    The downside to having God create us is that it seems to place responsibility for the way we are on God (classic problem of evil). On a personal note, as a person who thinks annihilation sounds pretty good, I would have to wonder why God created me at all. As it is I just have to accept that I have always existed. If I could have never existed at all, I might hold it against God for creating me. (The ontological gap could be solved by simply positing that God was created originally too. This would be the analog to the infinite regress model but in a paradigm where spirits are not eternal).

    Comment by Jacob J — September 15, 2008 @ 6:24 pm

  38. I wouldn’t say that we are victims of an inept bureaucrat of a God, but that things take time

    I can buy that things take time. But we are not just talking about time here — we are talking about _an infinite amount_ of time. Waiting an infinite amount of time to get to our lone mortality is bureaucratic ineptitude taken to an infinite extreme in my opinion. (And I thought waiting in line at the DMV took too long…)

    The downside to having God create us is that it seems to place responsibility for the way we are on God

    Nah. We have to retain the idea of libertarian free will for humans if the other parts of Mormonism are to survive (despite Clark’s anemic protests to the contrary). So it seems to me that we would have to assume something like God simply assembling the hardware for our spirits but our free-willed minds radically emerging from that hardware. That way we remain morally responsible beings and God is off the hook for our choices.

    BTW — You are of course right about the infinite regress idea so I will leave that aside in this conversation.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 15, 2008 @ 7:03 pm

  39. Geoff:
    this nebulous “evil” you are talking about sounds like the inevitable consequence of being sentient social persons to me. The problem is that there is still nothing in that which fits the bill of something we would need “protection” from and certainly nothing that getting a physical body would protect us from

    Hmm, if everything is matter and Spirit is finer matter, it stands to reason that larger matter, being blown about by randomness and chaos would have the capacity to push and disrupt smaller matter, as a basic principle of physics. Nobody likes being pushed around. So we are built up to give us more control of what we now understand as material matter. I think one mistake you make is in assuming some sort of ability of pre-mortal beings which we have no evidence of. The example you fall back on is Christ, which we’ve been taught wielded power via divine investiture of authority. Do you have any evidence that Christ had power in and of himself to do things pre-mortally?

    The First Presidency and the Twelve wrote:

    “In all His dealings with the human family Jesus the Son has represented and yet represents Elohim His Father in power and authority. … The Father placed His name upon the Son; and Jesus Christ spoke and ministered in and through the Father’s name; and so far as power, authority, and Godship are concerned His words and acts were and are those of the Father” AoF 471

    Now let me read your and Jacob’s discussion and catch up

    Comment by Matt W. — September 15, 2008 @ 7:29 pm

  40. Geoff J. (#28):

    Sorry, I am not able to express myself in a clear enough manner for you to understand. Please allow me to try again.

    Do you agree that baptism is necessary for entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven? Do you agree that a person will not be able to receive a specified set of blessings if s/he has an opportunity for baptism and rejects it?

    The reason a spirit would not be able to be in God’s presence after this mortality would be if that Spirit had been disobedient to what God wanted when given the opportunity.

    Comment by mondo cool — September 15, 2008 @ 7:30 pm

  41. If that is right why did it take literally forever to get our turn on an earth on your view? Doesn’t that theology paint God as dreadfully inefficient and inept?

    There are a few options out of this one.

    1A- God was not always God, so didn’t take forever to get our turn. Infinite Regress of God had a God had a God.
    1B- God was not always God, so didn’t take forever to get our turn. God, being more intelligent than us all, pulled himself up by his bootstraps over a really long period of time (infinite – 1 or something) and when he came to the position he was in, he took to helping us, and has been for a finite subset of infinite time.

    Unless Intelligence can be considered an ontological gap, neither require it.

    2A- God has always been God but there is a finite amount of capacity available in him, so in an infinite number of spirits, he gets to us when he gets to us.
    2B- God has always been God but has not always been aware of us, so has only been aware of us for a finite amount of time, and thus only helped us in that time.

    the 2 group assumes an ontological gap.

    3-We exist on self-existant principles in that when matter is combined in a certain way we come into being. God, makes us someway and puts us into being.

    This was meant to be Brigham Youngish

    4- God makes us via procreation and only found a companion a finite amount of time ago.

    I kid, I kid.

    Comment by Matt W. — September 15, 2008 @ 7:46 pm

  42. Mondo: I assume you are talking in terms of potentiality. ie- Jesus was not damned because he had the future potential to go through life at his alotted time and place. Before God intervened, we did not have such potential and thus were static. Am I understanding you correctly?

    Comment by Matt W. — September 15, 2008 @ 7:49 pm

  43. Jacob J: I basically agree on all points, but am trying not to show my cards and committ to one side or the other in how it would take God a long time, as that sort of speculation might bog down the potential usefulness of the theodicy. And I agree with the pre-existent presence of God bit as well, as I said in my footnotes above.

    Comment by Matt W. — September 15, 2008 @ 7:54 pm

  44. Matt (#39),

    I’m afraid I can’t tell what your point was in this comment. Maybe something about spirit bullies that used to beat up our bodies or something? And something in there about God the Son not being powerless before he came here maybe?

    Comment by Geoff J — September 15, 2008 @ 7:56 pm

  45. Eric: Joseph definitely mentioned the bodies connectivity to Joy enough times to bear further analysis, at any rate.

    For that matter, connecting a couple of thoughts from above together, if we only had an immaterial body, and God had a material body, I don’t think we could really be in God’s presence in a significant way without some form of assistance from God. But that is purely speculation on my part and neither here not there.

    Comment by Matt W. — September 15, 2008 @ 7:58 pm

  46. Mondo: The reason a spirit would not be able to be in God’s presence after this mortality

    I’m not sure what your point here is. Our doctrine teaches that we all will be resurrected so the question of spirits after mortality is entirely moot isn’t it? My point was mostly in reaction to your overreaching comments about spirits being damned without bodies. Look back at my #28 again. When you said spirits without bodies are damned I countered that the fact the Jesus was God before coming here along with the fact that the Holy Spirit is God disproves your assertion.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 15, 2008 @ 8:02 pm

  47. Geoff (44) not at all. I’m not even sure how you could get that from what I said. No spirit bullies, merely natural law as it applies to matter acting upon us as immaterial beings. Christ, before he came here, did have divine investiture of authority and did not have power in and of himself.

    Comment by Matt W. — September 15, 2008 @ 8:09 pm

  48. Matt (#41),

    Regarding 1A — Whether God the Father of Jesus was always God or not is really beside the point if there is an infinite regress of Gods and we are beginningless. This solution just makes the entire regress inept.

    Re 1B — I suppose this could work. The problem is how did the God end up on a planet with no God before him to organize it? This solution delivers more problems than I think you want.

    Re 2A — Yep this describes the inept God I was referring to nicely. “The infinitely sucky DMV” (has a nice ring to it , no?)

    Re 2B — Hehe. This one cracks me up. God is dimwitted and oblivious in this “solution”

    3 and 4 are goofy but no worse than some of your others I think. Overall I like the attempts though.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 15, 2008 @ 8:19 pm

  49. Matt (#47): merely natural law as it applies to matter acting upon us as immaterial beings

    Act on us in what way? Ways that make us not love God and not love each other? How would they do that? Or do yo mean in ways that gave our spirit bodies aches and pains and other various and sundry injuries and boo-boos?

    Comment by Geoff J — September 15, 2008 @ 8:22 pm

  50. Matt (#42):

    Yes.

    Comment by mondo cool — September 15, 2008 @ 8:27 pm

  51. Matt,

    And I agree with the pre-existent presence of God bit as well, as I said in my footnotes above.

    Cool. I had missed that footnote, thanks for pointing it out.

    Geoff,

    Waiting an infinite amount of time to get to our lone mortality is bureaucratic ineptitude taken to an infinite extreme in my opinion.Waiting an infinite amount of time to get to our lone mortality is bureaucratic ineptitude taken to an infinite extreme in my opinion.

    You seem to be missing the point that this is identical to my waiting an infinite amount of time to be created. “Well,” you say, “it is different because in one model you exist to wait and in the other you aren’t waiting because you don’t exist.” This response only addresses part of the problem. It addresses the problem of how mad we might be at waiting for an infinite amount of time for God to come help us out.

    However, it does not address the problem of why God took such a long time to do whatever it was he did with me. If you are accepting the idea that it took God that long either to create me or to come help me, then the fundamental reason for the wait is left totally unexplained, and you are simply saying that you would prefer to not exist while the waiting takes place. But, this preference doesn’t provide any reason whatsoever to suppose that we did or didn’t exist from all eternity, it simply expresses your dislike for waiting.

    What if God has no control over the fact that we have always existed (co-eternal) and it simply is that way despite your preference that it not be. Do you require that God get it done earlier for him not to be inept? How much earlier would he need to do it for you to be happy? That’s right, an infinite amount of time ealier. Otherwise, the problem remains. See, this is where I think your logic regarding infinities simply breaks down and is ultimately incoherent. To satisfy your concern, either God would have needed to exalt us all at the beginning of time (which didn’t exist!) or else there was an infinite amount of time prior to his exalting us and your charge can be leveled.

    Now, I’m tempted to offer another option to Matt’s list in #41 and I should know better, but another option is that God has been working with us from all eternity and it has simply taken us this long to get to where we are. I can anticipate your reponse to this option, and it is going to demonstrate once again that there is really nothing that you’d be happy with going on for all eternity. The concept of infinite time really pisses you off, I know. Which is why, once again, it seems to me that the only solution to the fundamental concern you have is for time itself to have a beginning.

    Comment by Jacob J — September 15, 2008 @ 8:36 pm

  52. Jacob: However, it does not address the problem of why God took such a long time to do whatever it was he did with me.

    I don’t get why this is a problem. Why not just assume with our creedal neighbors that God just created your spirit hardware when he felt like it. It is no skin off of your spirit nose that way. But if we are God’s beginningless peers (as in same capacity, same kind, same “age”) then his waiting forever to help us out shows either that he is just rude or that he is at least inefficient.

    Look — What I am really angling for here is some semblance of a coherent theology. We Mormons have this awful habit of cafeteria style theology where we borrow liberally from our creedal Christian neighbors and then mix in stuff from Joseph Smith and his successors. The result tends to be a totally incoherent theological hodgepodge. I find that annoying in these discussions.

    If we are going to insist on beginningless spirits for all of us then we have to think through all that entails. We are stuck with it all if we don’t want to give up beginningless whole-cloth spirits.

    Do you require that God get it done earlier for him not to be inept?

    Yes. Or at least I require some explanation of how such an assertion makes sense in light of the common assumptions about God that most of us share.

    How much earlier would he need to do it for you to be happy?

    Depends on what you mean by God. Are you saying that there is single divine person who has never not been divine (a la Blake) or do you think God came to be God a la JS in the KFD? A lot of groundwork needs to be set for me to answer that. Again — I am hoping for a coherent theology and all the loosey goosey crap is frustrating.

    To satisfy your concern, either God would have needed to exalt us all at the beginning of time

    There are all sorts of ways around this. One is to assume that we have always been exalted like God and this life is really a vacation. Another is to assume that only our parts are eternal and we are not eternal at all. Etc. etc. I can see coherent theologies based on those sorts of things. But nobody here has yet laid down the foundational assumptions so none of this is very enlightening.

    I can anticipate your response to this option, and it is going to demonstrate once again that there is really nothing that you’d be happy with going on for all eternity.

    Not so. But I think it requires a more radical change from the run-of-the-mill assumptions we are used to in order to make sense on a grand scale. See my comment above.

    The concept of infinite time really pisses you off, I know.

    Not so. It is actually incoherent Mormon theology (and our propensity toward it) that is pissing me off tonight.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 15, 2008 @ 10:34 pm

  53. Geoff,

    I am not sure what I said to earn a lecture about borrowing from creedal Christians cafeteria style and putting forward hodgepodge incoherent theologies without laying any framework. I thought my #51 was a fairly cogent response to the argument you’ve been making vis a vis an eternity of waiting showing God to be inept. Your reponse leads me to believe you didn’t fully engage my point since you suggest a solution (only our parts are eternal) which fails to address the problem in precisely the manner I explained at the beginning of #51.

    If you really think my suggestions here are loosey goosey crap theology as opposed to the compelling and coherent theology you’ve suggested that “we have always been exalted like God and this life is really a vacation,” then I honestly don’t where to begin.

    Comment by Jacob J — September 15, 2008 @ 11:52 pm

  54. It really wasn’t a lecture directed at you Jacob. Sorry I gave you the wrong impression. It was more an expression of my recent frustration regarding Mormon theology in general. This post and discussion have reminded me of that frustration.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 16, 2008 @ 12:08 am

  55. BTW — The “vacation” comment was intended as an example of what one possible theological consequences might be if we held fast to the beginningless spirit/mind idea.

    I ought to post on this all but I don’t have the energy right now.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 16, 2008 @ 12:13 am

  56. Geoff: Hmm, to begin, I am not sure your complaints directly relate to my post any longer.

    If I can enumerate your issues:
    1. God as presented here is inept because he waited forever to become involved with us.
    This doesn’t have anything to do with the atonement as theodicy. I tried to demonstrate that the post stands as is for numerous different possible versions of this. We could even throw in MMP, and that would work. We were suffering, we were given opportunities to improve ourselves and lessen that suffering. We took those opportunities until we eventually advanced with the help of Christ.
    Also, an infinite amount of time, an infinite amount of space, and an infinite amount of spirits does not mean there is ineptitude when one has waited infinity. Infinity is not just a really long time. God may have a Sisyphean task, it could be argued, but no one can say he is performing that task with ineptitude.
    Your next two arguments, I can see where they were more on topic, as they both challenged my concept of suffering.
    2. you said spirits without bodies are damned I countered that the fact the Jesus was God before coming here along with the fact that the Holy Spirit is God disproves your assertion.
    You are basically saying my premise that we were suffering or in some other way deficient before in our pre-mortal state and that God gave us this opportunity so we could improve, progress, or lesson suffering is incorrect. You use Christ and the HG as an example of pre-existent beings where everything seemed great for them. I brought up that using them as a measure is somewhat artificial, since there power comes from divine investiture of authority, and not anything intrinsic to themselves. Further, there are no scriptures that show that the members of the Godhead do not suffer. In fact, the entire life of Christ shows that they do suffer. In my post I am not saying God gets rid of suffering because he cannot. Rather I am saying he is doing all he can to lesson our suffering by giving us mechanisms with which to cope.
    3. Act on us in what way? Ways that make us not love God and not love each other? How would they do that? Or do you mean in ways that gave our spirit bodies aches and pains and other various and sundry injuries and boo-boos?
    I can’t tell if you are asking a question or just being satirical. I am assuming satire. While there are quite a few references for Smith that I can draw on, and did draw on in the post, to point out a belief in pre-mortal suffering, we both know an appeal to authority isn’t going to work here. I am contemplating a post of a more speculative nature of all the ways we could pre-mortally suffer. I won’t have time to really get to it until next Sunday though, if you are really interested, and not just being satirical. For now it sufficeth me to say there is more to it than the two alternatives you bring up, I believe.

    I didn’t see any other objections. Were there any? I don’t want to have missed any.
    Sorry to hear you are so frustrated with the theological issues. If it helps, that is why I have sort of decided to wipe the slate clean and start over. This post was an effort in that direction.

    Comment by Matt W. — September 16, 2008 @ 7:35 am

  57. I’ll get back more on this specific topic Matt.

    We were suffering, we were given opportunities to improve ourselves and lessen that suffering.

    You have not described the outline of what you think the pre-mortal life looked like at all. You have simply claimed that we were suffering there. I want to know more about this alleged suffering or I can’t take this post and general idea very seriously at all. Why did we suffer on your view? Was there a time before the atonement on your view? Why did God wait for ever to enact it? What do you even mean when you say “God” — a single divine person? A divine chorus? A person or chorus who became God or or one that never wasn’t God? Something else?

    My problem with this post is that it seems to me that you are trying to install the windows and doors on a theological house that doesn’t have the foundation or framework in place yet.

    since there power comes from divine investiture of authority, and not anything intrinsic to themselves

    Once again you are making a massive assumptive leap here. What evidence do you have that the Son and Holy Ghost only reflect power from the Father (and have no power in themselves while in heaven as part of the Godhead)? Are you implying that all power in the universe emanates from a single person? If so you should make that part of your structure and clearly spell it out before you get ahead of yourself like this.

    I can’t tell if you are asking a question or just being satirical. I am assuming satire.

    Nope, I was serious. Just because Joseph made some opaque references to suffering before we got here does not wipe away the mystery here. Again, if you want to move on to the details you need to lay down your foundational theological assumptions first.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 16, 2008 @ 8:39 am

  58. My problem with this post is that it seems to me that you are trying to install the windows and doors on a theological house that doesn’t have the foundation or framework in place yet.

    This is a legitimate complaint, in that my response to the issue of certain speculative issues (which is a major reason the atonement is so hard to discuss from my last post) was to try to leave them open for any possibility in so far as they don’t matter to the point of the post. In other words, rather than worry about what is doctrinally unclear, I am trying to focus on what is clear and look at the implications of those things which can be made. For example in the post, I tried to leave it open and show that it didn’t matter to the question of the problem of evil as to whether our spirits were eternal or not, so long as matter, law, and the universe were eternal.

    You have not described the outline of what you think the pre-mortal life looked like at all.

    For the sake of this post, I don’t feel I need every detail of what pre-mortal life was like, in fact. I only really need to establish there was suffering there and in greater degree than is here. I don’t even need to establish all the details of that suffer, so long as I can establish it’s existence. I did this via an appeal to Joseph Smith’s teaching in multiple sermons as well as pointing to the theodicy of Elihu in the Old Testament. This in combination that suffering is a natural effect of self-existent matter and the self-existent laws governing matter seemed sufficient, as well as the logical imperitive that God offered the plan to us for our betterment.

    Why did we suffer on your view?
    We suffered because we were free for an infinite amount of time making an infinite amount of choices which left us with an infintie amount of consequences, and being that we were not born to parents to guide us, we needed a way to escape those consequences and start out fresh. That is my logical reasoning behind the veil. It wipes the slate clean and gives us a new beginning. Also, we gain a physical body, which Joseph repeatedly taughr and has been repeatedly taught after that point has advantages over a non-physical body. One of those advantages may be being able to be physical in the presence of God, who also has a physical body. Another advantage may be the corporal ability of physical experience. To be able to see, and hear, and touch, and taste and smell, etc. Another possibility is we suffered a lack of control, being made of “finer matter” and thus as material matter interacted with us, it was able to block us and disable us. In any case, the specifics do not really matter to me so much as the actuality that it is reasonable to believe we suffered before our birth, whether it be physical limitations, or loneliness, or lack of control, or lack of equal presence, or consequences of a millenium of action. In any case, I’d say the onus is on you to prove we did not suffer before we were born.

    Was there a time before the atonement on your view?

    Yes, in that the atonement is a component of the plan of salvation and the plan of salvation was created by God and thus did have a beginning.

    Why did God wait for ever to enact it?
    He didn’t. If he had waited forever it would not now be enacted, and being that it is now enacted, he could nat have waited forever to have done such.

    What do you even mean when you say “God” — a single divine person? A divine chorus? A person or chorus who became God or or one that never wasn’t God? Something else?
    I actually was intentionally vague in the post on this, and made a choice to use the term “God” and not “Heavenly Father” in an effort to not be exclusive to any of the above options. I don’t personally believe it makes a difference. Is there some reason you can proove it makes a difference?

    What evidence do you have that the Son and Holy Ghost only reflect power from the Father (and have no power in themselves while in heaven as part of the Godhead)?

    For one, this idea of divine investiture of authority isn’t new an is commonly taught in the LDS church. In fact it is uniquely LDS because of it’s non-trinitarian nature. For another, I alreayd quoted a FP letter as saying “so far as power, authority, and Godship are concerned His words and acts were and are those of the Father” and not of himself. At that point I asked you if you had any appeal to authority or logic which said the opposite, do you? I’m will to see the other side if there is another side. Finally, Christ himself said “The Son can do nothing of himself” (John 5).

    Are you implying that all power in the universe emanates from a single person?

    Nope, since the universe itself has power intrinisic to itself being itself eternal and bound by natural laws.

    I am wondering if maybe we have a different understanding of what Power is in this situation. In what way are you defining “power”?

    At anyrate, I don’t really see this as a main issue in my post in that it really only ties to my post as an objection to the content thereto. (We didn’t suffer before we were born, Look at Jesus!) this whole objection can be much more easily remedied by acknowledging that for whatever reason, we weren’t the equivilant of Jesus.(Perhaps I’ll go more in depth on that in another post.)

    Just because Joseph made some opaque references to suffering before we got here does not wipe away the mystery here.

    This is true, but it does wipe away some of the mystery, enough to write this post, especially since there is no logic which would indicate lack of suffering without also holding to lack of existence.

    I’m out of time. Hope this concession that I was avoiding the unkown and trying to stick to the observable helps.

    Comment by Matt W. — September 16, 2008 @ 8:42 pm

  59. Matt: In any case, I’d say the onus is on you to prove we did not suffer before we were born.

    I don’t think we didn’t suffer before we came here. It is well documented that I am partial to the idea of MMP so we suffered before we came here exactly in the the same we suffer here. But since you seem to be leaning more toward a My Turn On Earth model of the pre-existence I was trying to figure what kind of suffering you thought we endured. I am now coming to the conclusion that you don’t really have much of a theory about that yet.

    Yes, in that the atonement is a component of the plan of salvation and the plan of salvation was created by God and thus did have a beginning.

    Do you think “the atonement” (not really defined well in this discussion) started with this planet? Since there were inumerable inhabited planets before this one did they all have a savior and an atonement on your view?

    And if we weren’t the inhabitants of those planets were we observers envying the lucky souls who got there on your view? For instance, let’s consider the inhabited planet that came and went 100 planets before this one — what do you suspect you and I were doing while those spirits were getting a mortality? And who do you suppose was their savior? This notion of “a time before the atonement” raises that sort of question for me.

    He didn’t. If he had waited forever it would not now be enacted, and being that it is now enacted

    Hehe. Well isn’t an infinity of time forever? Hasn’t an infinity of time already passed? If so then God did wait literally forever to create this planet.

    Nope, since the universe itself has power intrinisic to itself being itself eternal and bound by natural laws.

    So who or what invests the authority in Jesus on your view? Is it a person or the universe itself?

    I’m not against this post Matt and I’m not trying to attack you. Sorry if I am being too combative here. I just am not seeing a solid set of theological assumptions upon which to build this sort of discussion yet.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 17, 2008 @ 12:10 am

  60. I want to jump in here but forgive me because I intend to ignore at least 95% of the comments so far.

    I’m trying to figure out what seems like a contradiction in my own belief/understanding.

    I have always taken it for granted that we had free will/agency before mortality. But I also always took Alma literally: this is a “… probationary time, a time to repent…”. If that free will implies accountability (which it doesn’t necessarily), the two don’t seem to mesh.

    When you mentioned our suffering in your post, and especially when you mentioned our suffering as a consequence of our actions, do you mean we suffered as we do now because we knew we were doing wrong or something more akin to the way a child suffers because they recognize their parents’ anger/disappointment but don’t yet understand the reasons?

    If we could do wrong and we understood those actions sufficiently to be held responsible for them, then we must also have been able to repent, correct? Certainly an infinite atonement that applied pre-Getsemane should apply pre-mortality. But then, if you take in to account our common belief about the celestial reward of children who die young, we must have fully 100% repented of our sins before this life (assuming we needed to). (I suppose alternatively, you might attempt to claim that children who die young had done so (repented) and the rest of us had not, but I see many holes in that idea, at the very least a level of micro-management I’m not inclined to agree with).

    A literal interpretation of Alma 34:32, 2 Nephi 2:21, etc would seem to counter the idea that we had any need to repent before this “probationary state” (which I think translates better as “proving ground”, without the modern prison-related connotation that you already did something wrong).

    So were we in a state of innocence before this life or was that innocence imposed on us by the veil? And if we could sin, does that imply that we have already fully repented of those sins? It seems like the kinds of sins we could commit would be more limited (maybe just in terms of faithfulness and personal relationships?) but still exist.

    And would pre-mortality sin imply that the decision we made at the council in heaven was really the culmination of lots of smaller acts of repentance (slightly analogous to baptism)? I’ll admit that seems appealing as the severity of the consequence of failing that one decision has always bothered me.

    P.S. I never realized the Bouncing Souls could so seamlessly integrate into gospel discussion. I sure hope my Elder’s Quorum president feels the same way during my next lesson….

    Comment by Robert V. — September 17, 2008 @ 12:12 am

  61. Three roles are played out in the atonement; trespasser, trespassed against and Savior. The basic dynamics of these roles are described by the Karpman drama triangle . Each of us trespasses (persecutor) and are we trespassed against (victim).

    For now Jesus is the Savior (rescuer) but as we progress we may eventually find ourselves acting as a savior as well.

    Comment by Howard — September 17, 2008 @ 9:27 am

  62. Darkness and matter have always existed. Physics tells us that matter can be converted to energy and light. D&C tells us that all spirit is matter and it equates light, Spirit, truth and the word of the Lord. This powerful information plus an infinite amount of time makes it possible for God to have evolved from darkness and matter. The details of each step are not important, if it was possible to God to do it, we can to.

    God does not suffer. We suffer because we have not yet reached his level. God relieves suffering by facilitating our efforts to become like him.

    Comment by Howard — September 17, 2008 @ 1:03 pm

  63. Howard: God does not suffer..

    Hmmm… I think you have some ‘splainin to do

    Comment by Geoff J — September 17, 2008 @ 2:42 pm

  64. Geoff,
    Moses 7:28, God wept. There is no indication that he suffered.

    suffer: To undergo or feel pain or distress. To endure pain, disability, death, etc., patiently or willingly.

    wept: to express grief, sorrow, or any overpowering emotion by shedding tears; shed tears; cry: to weep for joy; to weep with rage.

    Comment by Howard — September 17, 2008 @ 4:28 pm

  65. Hehe. So you read that passage and assume God is weeping with joy? That’s odd — it looks to me like God is weeping with sorrow, pain and distress and that is, by even your definition, suffering.

    The revealed God of Mormonism suffers. It is the God of the creeds that is without passions (or body or parts).

    Comment by Geoff J — September 17, 2008 @ 5:44 pm

  66. Howard, I actually Agree with this Geoff here. While God can defintiely manage his trials and has greater capacity to overcome them, the nature of having a relationship with us leaves him willingly open to whatever suffering we put him through, it would seem. His distress may be vicarious through, us but it is still distress. I agree with your general sentiment, I just don’t think we get to escape risk in this natural universe. We instead, just get better resources for dealing with it.

    Geoff: I don’t mind you being Combative. I wouldn’t post here if I didn’t want criticism. The point of taking ideas public is to see if we can find some theological points that are workable with other people who like to think on these things.

    Now to your points.

    But since you seem to be leaning more toward a My Turn On Earth model of the pre-existence I was trying to figure what kind of suffering you thought we endured. I am now coming to the conclusion that you don’t really have much of a theory about that yet.

    A linear infinity of time vs an infinite loop need not regress us to My Turn on Earth theology. I want to encourage you to stop packaging things in labels, as I think when you throw out a label there is a lot of baggage that goes with the label. For example “My Turn on Earth” model of pre-existence to me sounds like “Juvenile Bull Crap” so it’s better to avoid the label. That said, I listed a whole list of theories in the previous post which you didn’t address, so I have several theories, but let me throw out some base assumptions.

    1. God wouldn’t put forth a plan for us if it didn’t help us and make us better.
    2. We suffer a lot in life, and it can really suck.
    3. Life is part of God’s plan of salvation.
    So
    4. God wouldn’t put us in a bad situation without taking us out of a worse situation (overall) or without that situation having some way to improve our situation in the long run.

    That’s no matter how bad life is, the premortal life was worse.

    It’s like Elihu said to Job (again) Paraphrasing: “Job, your life has been really sucky. Think about how much worse it would be if God hadn’t intervened. Don’t be mad at God because he has saved your butt from a far worse fate.”

    Or like Joseph Smith taught: (paraphrasing) “In the pre-existence, God saw how bad it sucked to be us, so he did something about it and made things better.”

    This could be an MMP suffering. Maybe we suffered from boredom or something? (Haven’t you said the same before?)

    The idea of the plan of salvation being a plan which saves us from something, I think is fairly universal across all theological kinds of Mormonism. (That was a joke.)

    Do you think “the atonement” (not really defined well in this discussion) started with this planet?

    I think there is some confusion as to when we say the atonement is infinite, and what way we mean that. After all, if the atonement is 1)an act of God which allows us to be “at one” with him. and 2)God has not always been God. then 3) the atonement could not always have been happening.

    So I believe the atonement for us was an act performed by Jesus Christ, and the benefits of the atonement I went over in the post above. I believe this act began when Jesus accepted his position in the Grand Council in Heaven, and will end those who want to be are all at one with Christ and Heavenly Father.

    Since there were inumerable inhabited planets before this one did they all have a savior and an atonement on your view? This is outside the scope of what I was hoping to discuss here. Whether there were or were not innumerable inhabited planets with saviors and atonements and other Gods, etc, I do not believe they pertain to our God and his atonement and the scope of the plan of salvation as I currently understand it. I am willing to be taught otherwise, but I currently have no evidence as such.

    And if we weren’t the inhabitants of those planets were we observers envying the lucky souls who got there on your view? If there were other planets, I think we were not within proximate space to be part of the ongoings there, else we would have been part of the ongoings. It does raise the question of whether an infinite number of beings fill an infinite amount of space. I’d say no, since the space will always have plenty of room, being infinite.

    For instance, let’s consider the inhabited planet that came and went 100 planets before this one — what do you suspect you and I were doing while those spirits were getting a mortality?

    Playing dodgeball. Only kidding. I suspect we were wandering in space, being sentient spirits, yet I suspect we were rather alone and unable to see those others around us (as I hinted at in our previous post). Or alternatively, perhaps we were regretting having rejected that other one above all’s invitation to be adopted as his child.

    And who do you suppose was their savior? This notion of “a time before the atonement” raises that sort of question for me.
    These sorts of questions come from an assumption that a time before the atonement and plan of salvation had planets and life that was compatible with our spiritual needs as well as being in a space proximate to the space we occupy. It also seems to assume that there is more than one being who is more intelligent than all beings. I guess this is sustainable in a system were the one above all has the ability to let go of his aboveness, but otherwise it isn’t workable. I t may also be sustainable if we think of all as a relative term. At last, it is food for thought, at any rate. There does seem to be more than one workable theory though.

    Well isn’t an infinity of time forever? Hasn’t an infinity of time already passed? If so then God did wait literally forever to create this planet.

    That’s the problem with infinity. No matter how much you slice it, it’s still infinity unless you cut it in 2 places, a beginning and an end. Thus if something happens in an infinite amount of time as a pinpoint in that time, we can’t say it took forever to happen because it’s happening clear had a beginning and an end and due to the infinite nature of time, there are no other telligible morings upon which to base it’s happening except to note when it was conceived to have happened, and I see no evidence to show that God conceived to create this planet an infinite amount of time ago, as that would mean that God had always conceived to bring about this planet, which would mean God does not have the freedom to not conceive of bringing about this planet, which would imply lack of libertarian free will, and is thus false.

    So who or what invests the authority in Jesus on your view? Is it a person or the universe itself? I believe that God invests Jesus with the power of the universe which God has control over by means not available to Jesus or any other being in Jesus’ State.

    I just am not seeing a solid set of theological assumptions upon which to build this sort of discussion yet.

    Again, don’t worry about it. The Hypothesis I was trying out in this post was the possibility of whether there was a way to put forth some fundemental aspects of the atonement without committing to other theological assumptions. You were actually spot on for noticing those lacunae and for calling me on them. Now the question remains on whether we can come to anything workable as a hypothesis in our theology while those lacunae exist. Not to fill in those gaps, but instead to say, despite those things I don’t know, these are things I do know. I think I am close with this, but hopefully we can brush it up and polish it some.

    Comment by Matt W. — September 17, 2008 @ 6:56 pm

  67. Robert V.- I am actualy quite tired after my Response to Geoff. I think I answered some of your question in my response to him. If you could see if that helps, let me know. Otherwise, I will respond to you best I can tomorrow.

    And the BOuncing Souls are my favorite band. Some day I’ll have to dig up the great debate I had with my wife through mission letters over how I feel the spirit more listening to them than to motab.

    Comment by Matt W. — September 17, 2008 @ 7:00 pm

  68. Geoff & Matt,
    Boy, aren’t we powerful?

    You guys actually believe we have the power to “put God through” suffering? This is an arrogant position. I do not believe this.

    God may be open to sharing our experiences, even our pain. He is certainly available to comfort us if we will embrace him. But all of this including his weeping does not have to result in his suffering. I know emotionally mature mortals who can do this without suffering.

    It appears you are projecting your feelings on to God. Please provide evidence for your position.

    Comment by Howard — September 17, 2008 @ 7:43 pm

  69. Howard: By God entering into a relationship with us, he is willing to mourn with us as we mourn and bear our burdens. When we reject him, he is sad. When we abuse one another and the world, he is sad. Christ, in the express image of his father suffered pains, sicknesses, afflictions so he could succor us. Does not his father do the same. It is not that we are powerful, but rather that he condescends to give himself over to us, he willingly suffers with us.

    On another level I think we are dealing with different meanings for the word suffer. By my def. Suffering and feeling pain are the same.

    Comment by Matt W. — September 17, 2008 @ 8:34 pm

  70. Matt,

    I think you would do well to give your definition of “God”. I am trying to read between the lines and figure out your take on God.

    2)God has not always been God. then 3) the atonement could not always have been happening.

    From this I gather that you are assuming “God” means a single person and not a divine chorus. Further you are assuming that there was a time before this God was God.

    So my question is do you think this divine person had a God before he became God or are you saying there is a time before any God existed at all?

    Whether there were or were not innumerable inhabited planets with saviors and atonements and other Gods, etc, I do not believe they pertain to our God

    From this I gather you believe in a polytheistic universe where there are multiple Gods in existence who are not completely “at one” with each other (and thus forming the One God together).

    It also seems to assume that there is more than one being who is more intelligent than all beings. I guess this is sustainable in a system were the one above all has the ability to let go of his aboveness, but otherwise it isn’t workable.

    I’m not sure what you mean here… Do you think there is one of these Gods in this polytheistic system that is above all others or not? If so where do you think the Father of Jesus falls in the hierarchy? (Sort of related to the question of if our Father has a Heavenly Father).

    Comment by Geoff J — September 17, 2008 @ 8:43 pm

  71. A couple of other comments regarding #66 Matt.

    For example “My Turn on Earth” model of pre-existence to me sounds like “Juvenile Bull Crap” so it’s better to avoid the label.

    Well I’m impressed that is not lost on you. (grin)

    God wouldn’t put forth a plan

    You seem to take the idea of a plan and council in heaven very literally. I don’t. I think they are figurative.

    If there were other planets

    This isn’t an “if” according to our scriptures:

    35 But only an account of this earth, and the inhabitants thereof, give I unto you. For behold, there are many worlds that have passed away by the word of my power. And there are many that now stand, and innumerable are they unto man; but all things are numbered unto me, for they are mine and I know them.

    38 And as one earth shall pass away, and the heavens thereof even so shall another come; and there is no end to my works, neither to my words. (Moses 1:33-35, 38)

    24 That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God.
    (D&C 76: 24)

    I suspect we were wandering in space, being sentient spirits, yet I suspect we were rather alone and unable to see those others around us (as I hinted at in our previous post).

    Holy crap…

    (I have no further commentary to add on that at this time)

    Comment by Geoff J — September 17, 2008 @ 8:55 pm

  72. Howard (#68): You guys actually believe we have the power to “put God through” suffering?

    Of course I do. It’s right there in our scriptures (read that whole passage in Moses 7 again). It’s part of being the same type and kind as God and part of literally being his children. Our children can cause us suffering here and modern scriptures make it crystal clear that God’s children cause him real suffering as well. If he didn’t love us so much he wouldn’t suffer with and for us.

    This is an arrogant position. I do not believe this.

    I’m sure there are plenty of evangelicals, particularly Calvinists, who would high five you over that position of yours. Of course you are free to believe in such a God without passions. Your main problem is that your belief is at odds with the knowledge we have about God as restored through Joseph Smith.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 17, 2008 @ 9:01 pm

  73. Matt,
    JC was half mortal, HF is immortal and they have different roles, I’m not sure they are comparable in this example.

    There is a significant difference between expressing emotion (weeping) and suffering. One does not compel the other.

    I can mourn, express grief and sorrow by weeping without personally suffering (or feeling pain) and I am aware of others who can do the same.

    We simply do not have the power to compel another mortal let alone a God to feel in a certain way. Our power is limited to presenting a stimulus and the other person chooses if or how they will respond to it.

    Wouldn’t you expect HF to be more emotionally mature that we are? If emotionally mature mortals can respond without personal suffering I’m sure God can to.

    Comment by Howard — September 17, 2008 @ 9:05 pm

  74. Geoff,
    It’s part of being the same type and kind as God and part of literally being his children.
    Sorry Geoff but the Lord didn’t go along with you on that one. No tears, he just flooded them out with hot displeasure.

    No, not a passionless God, an autonomous God. The difference is emotional maturity.

    Comment by Howard — September 17, 2008 @ 9:21 pm

  75. Autonomy – New World Encyclopedia

    Psychology
    To be autonomous is to be directed by considerations, desires, conditions, and characteristics that are not imposed from without but are part of what can somehow be considered one’s authentic self. It implies a conscious intention to act in a certain way, and to take responsibility for any consequences of those actions.

    Degrees of personal autonomy
    Basic autonomy is the status of being responsible, independent and able to speak for oneself. It implies that any adult who is not politically oppressed or restricted, and who is not physically impaired in a way that interferes with his independence, is autonomous.

    An ideal state of autonomy serves as a standard of evaluation but is a goal which few, if any, humans achieve; it would involve not only material independence and complete physical and political freedom, but freedom from psychological influences and a total intellectual understanding of truth.

    Human autonomy and God
    In the Judeo-Christian tradition, autonomy has basically been understood to be a gift of God, thus not being contradictory to, nor independent of, God. Human beings, created in the image of God, are endowed with autonomy by which to freely accept to realize God’s plan as his moral and spiritual co-workers.

    The more autonomous people are, the closer they become to God.

    Comment by Howard — September 17, 2008 @ 10:57 pm

  76. Howard: I can mourn, express grief and sorrow by weeping without personally suffering (or feeling pain)

    Oh really? So when your child is suffering you just “express grief and sorrow” but you don’t actually suffer empathetically with her? Look, either you really feel grief and sorrow or you don’t. I don’t know what this “express” business is about. It sounds like you mean you put up a facade of real grief and sorrow and suffering but inside you don’t really suffer a thing. I don’t believe that is true about you and I certainly don’t believe it about God. That is not “emotional maturity” that is reprehensible deceitfulness. God certainly has more integrity than that.

    You seem to be defining the word “suffer” in secret Howard language where pain and sorrow and grief are somehow not forms of suffering. The disconnect is that Matt and I have been using the English definition of the word.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 17, 2008 @ 11:34 pm

  77. to express emotion – give verbal or other expression to one’s feelings, produce laughter, shed tears because of sadness or rage, etc.

    suffer – to endure death, pain, or distress, to sustain loss or damage, to be subject to disability or handicap

    Look, either you really feel grief and sorrow or you don’t…It sounds like you mean you put up a facade of real grief and sorrow and suffering but inside you don’t really suffer a thing… That is not “emotional maturity” that is reprehensible deceitfulness.

    There is no façade, no masking or dulling of feelings and no deceitfulness. Feeling and expressing emotion is simply different than enduring suffering.

    Are you conflating the two?

    Emotional maturity is knowing the difference and being able to keep them separated if one chooses.

    So when your child is suffering you just “express grief and sorrow” but you don’t actually suffer empathetically with her?
    No, how did you arrive at this erroneous conclusion?

    Comment by Howard — September 18, 2008 @ 6:37 am

  78. Howard: grief is suffering. Grief is pain.

    I believe God does have a greater capacity to COPE with and get through his trials and suffering. I believe God has the option to completely avoid suffering if he chooses too. I believe God chooses not too, but condescends to have an open relationship with us without enslaving our free will. I believe God offers to us those same things God has learned which would allow us to cope and have a greater capacity to get through our trials. Emotional Maturity does not equal having no trials or suffering, but being able to Cope and handle those trials well. God could choose not to be in an open relationship with us, but his love and goodness mean he is willing to be in a relationship with even me. even me, despite how much my rebellion and cruelty may offend his goodness and love.

    Comment by Matt W. — September 18, 2008 @ 6:53 am

  79. Geoff: I’ll get back to you after work. Sorry for the delay.

    One quick thought though is I am wondering how God’s having a plan can be figurative, but I’ll get more into that later. Either the concert/person/regress/flying spaghetti monster (or God) had a plan or didn’t.

    Comment by Matt W. — September 18, 2008 @ 6:56 am

  80. Matt,
    Grief is typically an emotional response to loss but it also has physical, cognitive, behavioral, social, and philosophical dimensions including pain. Pain and suffering are not synonymous.

    Suffering is an emotional and psychological condition often experienced even when there is no pain; it is commonly experienced as fear, anxiety, depression, hopelessness, dread, and fearful anticipation.

    These are NOT emotions we would expect God to experience.

    I believe God has the option to completely avoid suffering if he chooses too. I believe God chooses not too, but condescends to have an open relationship with us without enslaving our free will.

    Good point, I basically agree. If God suffers it is because he chooses to, but we suffer because we do not yet know how to avoid it.

    Comment by Howard — September 18, 2008 @ 7:26 am

  81. Howard: Pain and suffering are not synonymous.

    There you go again using “secret Howard language” definitions of words instead of English. Your self-contradiction in this conversation is so blatant that I wonder if you are just yanking our chains now. Here are the definitions of suffering YOU have given in this thread:

    - to endure death, pain, or distress, to sustain loss or damage

    - To undergo or feel pain or distress.

    Pain and suffering are indeed synonymous.

    If God suffers it is because he chooses to

    Wait — you have finally admitted God can and does suffer? Well this is a massive step forward for you Howard. Congratulations on swallowing your pride on that.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 18, 2008 @ 7:59 am

  82. Your self-contradiction in this conversation is so blatant that I wonder if you are just yanking our chains now…Congratulations on swallowing your pride

    This is pretty condescending Geoff. Apparently you are not familiar with psychology or autonomy.

    Pain and suffering are indeed synonymous.

    Well, the law certainly recognizes that pain and suffering are different, that’s way they call it pain AND suffering, take a look at a legal dictionary.

    This essay might help you; Suffering vs. Pain

    Wait — you have finally admitted God can and does suffer?
    No, I said IF God suffers it is because he chooses to.

    The essay explains that pain is consciously felt but suffering is the (psychological) manipulation of that hurt into drama.

    We make our own drama by turning our pain into unrelated fear, anxiety, depression, hopelessness, dread etc. and labeling these unrelated emotions “suffering”.

    What does God have to be anxious about? To be depressed about? To feel hopeless about? To dread?

    IF God suffers, I don’t believe he suffers in the same way we do. IF God suffers I believe it is optional.

    Comment by Howard — September 18, 2008 @ 8:57 am

  83. Geoff,
    Psychological manipulation of feelings can be conscious or unconscious.

    For example, it is common to cover feelings we believe to be socially unacceptable with feelings we believe are more socially acceptable.

    So, men tend to cover the socially unacceptable fear they are feeling by displaying more socially acceptable anger and visa versa for women.

    Comment by Howard — September 18, 2008 @ 9:38 am

  84. I should know better than to feed trolls but I’m feeling just the right level of grouchy right now to respond…

    Howard: This is pretty condescending Geoff

    Thank you. I’m glad you noticed.

    take a look at a legal dictionary

    Atta boy. When caught in blatant self-contradiction regarding the dictionary definitions you brought into this discussion, just change dictionaries. I am learning more about the rules of “secret Howard language” all the time.

    IF God suffers, I don’t believe he suffers in the same way we do. IF God suffers I believe it is optional

    Uh huh.

    Well alrightee then.

    Well let me be the first to congratulate you on your glorious debate victory here. Way to win friends and influence people. Not only are we all deeply persuaded by your completely relevant arguments; we don’t think you are a total tool in the least. Well done.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 18, 2008 @ 10:14 am

  85. Matt & Geoff,
    If we are finished with; God does not suffer., I would be interested in your critique of the rest of 62.

    Comment by Howard — September 18, 2008 @ 10:51 am

  86. Howard, the rest of what you said outside of that is pretty in line with the main thrust of my post, I think.

    Comment by Matt W. — September 18, 2008 @ 12:40 pm

  87. Thanks Matt.

    Comment by Howard — September 18, 2008 @ 1:49 pm

  88. So Geoff:

    Ok, so I think I am going to try and do another post on defining God at a later date.

    For ths post I am assuming the “Whether there is one God or Many…To us there is but one God” line of reasoning. In effect, I am limiting myself to a sigle being, who had flesh and bones and is more intelligent than us all, who is God when our pre-mortal relationship with him began, and saying that is the starting point. What came before that for him is irrelevent to this post. I think this post can be workable for a divine concert as well, or for an infinite regress, or for a self-existant God who has always been divine. I don’t see what the problem is on that front in regards to this post.

    Sorry for the confusion that brought on in comment #70. I was being double minded because I was trying to show that it didn’t matter where we go with the concept of God here.

    You seem to take the idea of a plan and council in heaven very literally. I don’t. I think they are figurative.

    See my prior question on whether God had a plan. Either he cares about us and wants to help us and has an intelligent means of doings such or he doesn’t. What’s to be figurative?

    This isn’t an “if” according to our scriptures

    You seem to take the idea of life on multiple planets quite literally. I am more undecided on how literal to take such. I don’t think it changes much for this post.


    Holy crap…

    Well that’s a better reaction that “bull crap” at any rate…

    Comment by Matt W. — September 18, 2008 @ 5:28 pm

  89. Matt: I am wondering how God’s having a plan can be figurative

    If God had a Father and there is an endless regress of Gods then the “plan” isn’t really a plan in the sense of “Hey I just noticed a problem that isn’t solved — let’s get together a council and solve this problem”; rather it is what he inherited and presumably it is simply what Gods do and have always done.

    This is true if there are always been a God in any sense. It only would not be true if you claim there was a time in our Universe when there there was no God at all.

    who is God when our pre-mortal relationship with him began

    If we are all beginningless why do you assume our relationship with him ever had a beginning? I don’t think that is likely.

    What came before that for him is irrelevent to this post

    See my response above. I don’t think it is irrelevant.

    You seem to take the idea of life on multiple planets quite literally. I am more undecided on how literal to take such.

    Well you will need to throw out the KFD as well as those scriptures then because Joseph clearly taught that the Father of Jesus was once a man who lived on a planet prior to the creation of this planet.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 18, 2008 @ 5:53 pm

  90. If God had a Father and there is an endless regress of Gods then the “plan” isn’t really a plan in the sense of “Hey I just noticed a problem that isn’t solved — let’s get together a council and solve this problem”; rather it is what he inherited and presumably it is simply what Gods do and have always done.

    This is true if there are always been a God in any sense. It only would not be true if you claim there was a time in our Universe when there there was no God at all.

    To me It’s still a plan if God saw there was a problem, new how to solve the problem, decided to solve the problem, then acted on that decision. It doesn’t matter so much to me if he knew how to solve that problem from an infinite regress of God’s before him, or of his superior understanding of the laws of the universe, or via personal experience. Whether the plan is original isn’t as important as whether Heavenly Father made it his plan. I am assuming he had free will and could have chosen not to follow the plan, whatever it’s origin.

    I’ll give you the planet one. I’m sure Blake and You and I and Jacob have gone round enough on that in the past to show that it can fit into multiple theological frameworks.

    Comment by Matt W. — September 18, 2008 @ 6:53 pm

  91. if God saw there was a problem, new how to solve the problem, decided to solve the problem, then acted on that decision

    I would argue that there was never a time before the “plan”. So it is not really a plan in the sense we use the word. Rather it was simply the way of the universe.

    In any case, the God you are describing came to be God so that individual likely didn’t invent or create any “plan” at all.

    Whether the plan is original isn’t as important as whether Heavenly Father made it his plan.

    I suppose this is semantics. I would argue that had he not acted Godlike then he would have ceased to be God and that Gods always atone.

    But maybe we agree on that.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 18, 2008 @ 8:27 pm

  92. This is pretty condescending Geoff… I’m feeling…grouchy right now… So, when you are feeling grouchy you feel justified in being condescending? My daughter does the same thing.

    Well let me be the first to congratulate you on your glorious debate victory here…you are a total tool… You see these conversations as competitive intellectual masturbation? It makes you grouchy to loose, so you respond by calling me a dick in code?

    It seems to aggravate you when I can’t articulate my argument completely in a couple of posts so that you can quickly eviscerate it. Sorry but tool measuring is not what I stopped by for. We enjoy open canon. We have at our disposal the inspired words of our modern Prophets and GAs. Combining this with our four standard works and our own ability to study it out in our minds we should be able to work together as brothers, as saints to arrive at much better conclusions than who has the biggest intellectual tool or the sharpest tongue.

    Comment by Howard — September 19, 2008 @ 4:30 am

  93. What happens to sons of perdition? im confused?

    Comment by mark w — September 19, 2008 @ 7:05 am

  94. is it like going into a rehab?

    Comment by mark w — September 19, 2008 @ 7:06 am

  95. Im well aware that their fate has not been revealed, but i just want your opinions please.

    Comment by mark w — September 19, 2008 @ 7:07 am

  96. Howard: I apologize if We seem a little impatient. None of us are perfect, and we all have bad days, and I really enjoyed your participation on the thread.

    Geoff: I think we can agree on those points, with the caveat that I am totally unsettled on whether there is or is not an infinite regress.

    That said, can we agree on the premise that the plan and atonement are factors/events which take us from a state of more suffering to less suffering in the sense that we gain greater coping mechanisms and ability to overcome?

    mark w: that’s a bit on a non-sequiter, friend. I am not prepared to discuss this at the time, but I would recommend these other threads at NCT where it has been brought up.

    Comment by Matt W. — September 19, 2008 @ 7:28 am

  97. Matt,
    What do you mean by we gain greater coping mechanisms? My view is that we gain more light, better understanding. What mechanisms did you have in mind?

    Comment by Howard — September 19, 2008 @ 8:07 am

  98. understanding and light can be those coping mechanisms, Howard. I’m cool with that. I’m just not that tied down to what that capacity includes. I mean, it could also include an indestructible perfected body, for example.

    Comment by Matt W. — September 19, 2008 @ 8:28 am

  99. Howard (#92): So, when you are feeling grouchy you feel justified in being condescending?

    If it makes you feel better — I only act condescendingly to you because I suspect I’m smarter, better looking, and better smelling than you. Oh and I think I have better manners at other people’s blogs than you do as well. But other than that I have no good reasons to condescend.

    My daughter does the same thing.

    Well it might be because she is smarter, better looking, and better smelling than you too, no? I’ll bet she has better manners than you when she comments at blogs at least.

    It makes you grouchy to loose, so you respond by calling me a dick in code?

    A) The word you are looking for is “lose”, not “loose”. And since I didn’t lose anything (I was being sarcastic when I made comment #84 — you obviously lost the actual argument about God suffering) this part doesn’t apply to me.

    B) I didn’t call you a dick, I called you a tool. Since you love dictionaries, here is the definition of a tool from the urban dictionary:

    One who lacks the mental capacity to know he is being used. A fool. A cretin. Characterized by low intelligence and/or self-steem.

    C) Now that you mention it — yeah you do seem like kind of a dick too. Thanks for pointing that out.

    And all this brings me to my final point. You have repeatedly proven to have atrocious blog manners. That makes you a minor troll in my eyes. Yes, sometimes you have not acted trollishly, but you have acted like a troll too many times for my tastes. This is my blog and I require my guests here to not act like trolls. Therefore, I’m dropping all of your comments into moderation for a while. Perhaps you can improve your manners and eventually find yourself out of Thang probation.

    Comment by Geoff J — September 19, 2008 @ 9:15 am

  100. Geoff:

    As I recall, a major hanging point for you here was how I define pre-mortal suffering, or rather, my lack of defining pre-mortal suffering. Sorry, to come back to it so late, but I’d like to define pre-mortal suffering here as I did in my post about Hinduism. This understanding of eternal suffering is also extant in Buddhism. To paraphrase, Suffering comes from selfishness, and individuals are selfish as a state of being. But the Third noble truth of Buddhism is that this suffering can be alleviated by alleviating selfishness. I believe that where Mormonism and Buddhism differ is that the 4th Noble Truth of Buddhism outlines a path of self-effort which leads to the cessation of suffering, whereas our Faith points to Christ and a community of interdependent beings relying on Christ and each other to come to the same cessation.

    Comment by Matt W. — March 4, 2009 @ 8:27 am

  101. Suffering comes from selfishness

    These seems demonstrably wrong to me (at least in the near term)

    Comment by Geoff J — March 4, 2009 @ 9:50 am

  102. How so?

    Comment by Matt W. — March 4, 2009 @ 11:22 am

  103. Matt, I believe Christ suffers because of his generosity and desire to be at-one with us. If my suffering is environmental (physical pain), I don’t know how it could come from selfishness.

    Comment by Kent (MC) — March 4, 2009 @ 11:25 am

  104. How so?

    It is pretty self evident Matt. We are usually selfish to avoid our own short term suffering. We fail to share our good stuff because we want more of it ourselves.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 4, 2009 @ 11:42 am

  105. Selfishness may be the wrong word. Maybe we could say that suffering in the premortal sense is directly connected to greed, pride and appetite?

    Comment by Matt W. — March 4, 2009 @ 11:47 am

  106. Kent: I don’t know that Christ suffers in the sense I am thinking of here. If I expand to the idea of suffering in general, then I fall back to coping abilities, like Geoff and I discussed in this thread before Howard took it over. Geoff and I agreed on the premise that the plan of salvation and atonement are factors/events which take us from a state of more suffering to less suffering in the sense that we gain greater coping mechanisms and ability to overcome. It’s a question of what sort of suffering a pre-mortal spirit has. I am positing that this form suffering comes from the severed relationships and personal dissonance (self-deception and spiritual anguish) we have as conscious beings when we seek to define ourselves in terms of self, rather than as part of the interdependent community.

    I’m no expert on Buddhism or Hinduism, and I am surely putting words into the mouths here, but I just find this model extremely appealing, where you are a one life, one shot or MMP person. I’ll try to through a post together on it eventually.

    Comment by Matt W. — March 4, 2009 @ 12:06 pm

  107. Matt W., I fundamentally agree with the position you have established in this post. Well said.

    Comment by Mark D. — March 4, 2009 @ 10:31 pm

  108. I cleaned up the post. It seems wordpress has taken all of our old posts and converts quote marks to garbage. I am afraid I haven’t the time to clean up all the comments.

    Comment by Matt W. — March 19, 2011 @ 11:24 am

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