One God

November 28, 2008    By: Geoff J @ 8:09 pm   Category: Theology

Our scriptures tell us that there is only one God.

32 And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he:
33 And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.
34 And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God. (Mark 12: 32-34)

For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus (1 Tim. 2: 5)

But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him. (1 Cor. 8: 6)

for there is one God and one Shepherd over all the earth. (1 Ne. 13: 41)

And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end. Amen. (2 Ne. 31: 21)

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

28 Now Zeezrom said: Is there more than one God?
29 And he answered, No. (Alma 11: 28-29)

the Father, and unto the Son, and unto the Holy Ghost, which are one God (Morm. 7: 7)

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

Now I know there have been plenty of attempts in Mormonism to explain away the idea that there is only one God in existence, but lately I don’t find them persuasive. (You know to claims — “there is only one God for this planet” etc.) I am more persuaded by those, like Blake Ostler, who argue that the notion of multiple non-unified potentially competing Gods in existence is not in harmony with the revelations we have from God. In fact, I am becoming partial to the “Divine Chorus” (to borrow the phrase from Mark D) notion of the one God. The basic concept is that the one God is a grand chorus of perfectly unified exalted beings. It is essentially a Celestial version of Zion or a greatly expanded version of the perfectly unified Godhead. I used to somewhat mockingly refer to this idea as “Team God” but I am liking it more and more over time.

What do you think? Is there only one God in existence or not? If there is one God in existence is that one God a great “Divine Chorus” of unified exalted persons or is it a single person or something in between?

106 Comments »

  1. “God” is not clearly defined. As such, assumptions concerning a single entity or an entire pantheon, whether in or out of time (as Augustine would elucidate), cannot be fully investigated.

    I think the answer lies in the identity of the “Holy Ghost.” Is this the spirits of loved ones departed or yet to be born? Perhaps Heavenly Mother? Or Mothers? Perhaps simply a spirit that serves a purpose until the time comes for him or her to receive a body? Or perhaps another plan for exaltation for the soul?

    Truth be told, we see through the glass darkly, and only have the barest hints and most fragile understanding of the organization, character, and processes that will exist when we pass beyond this mortal coil into the “next life.”

    A Divine Chorus doesn’t really make sense–we know, because Christ came down as God, and submitted His will to the will of the Father, that divine beings have separate and independent thought and action. Further, we know that Christ communicated with His Father through prayer in order to become more in tune with what His Father wanted. However, a Chorus implies that everyone already knows all the words and the lines involved. Christ, we recognize from the above examples, didn’t know the lines and the words. Yet He was also God. This is of course assuming that godhood is a static state, not a dynamic state, i.e. that His abilities and knowledge did not change after having all power given him of the Father.

    Now, an individual, three-headed monster that is the commonly understood form of the trinity doesn’t make sense either, since we have latter-day prophetic testimony otherwise.

    Could it be that we probably won’t ever really know in this life?

    Comment by Tom Rod — November 28, 2008 @ 9:46 pm

  2. Tom: whether in or out of time

    We have discussed that issue at length here in the past. I think the arguments in favor of God being in time are overwhelming. (See the entire foreknowledge category here)

    A Divine Chorus doesn’t really make sense–we know, because Christ came down as God, and submitted His will to the will of the Father, that divine beings have separate and independent thought and action.

    I’m afraid I disagree — I think it could make sense. We already have scriptures that say that “the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth” is a title for a unity of multiple divine persons. I quoted this in the post:

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

    Yet Jesus retains “separate and independent thought and action” even though he is undeniably part of a complete unity composed of at least three divine persons. If that unity can work for three I see no evidence it doesn’t work for many more.

    Christ, we recognize from the above examples, didn’t know the lines and the words.

    First, we don’t really know how connected the mortal Jesus was with God but we do know he was more connected than any of us are. Second, whatever limitations mortality placed on Jesus in terms of connectivity with the other members of the Godhead would not apply beyond mortality so this argument of yours doesn’t make a dent in the idea that “God” might be a Divine Chorus.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 28, 2008 @ 10:46 pm

  3. Geoff,

    Wasn’t it Mark Butler who came up with “divine chorus”?

    That idea has always resonated with me–I like it. And yet somehow there’s got to be room (in my thinking) for a God who is also an individual–a person (and I think this is what the Savior is all about). Otherwise I feel a disconnect with His virtues: empathy, love, etc.

    Comment by Jack — November 28, 2008 @ 11:27 pm

  4. The term I prefer is “divine concert”. “Divine chorus” works just as well though.

    [Jack: I am the same guy. I switched to avoid confusion with another poster with the same name.]

    Comment by Mark D. — November 29, 2008 @ 1:08 am

  5. Geoff, this idea meshes pretty well with the idea of being sealed to one another—one giant family under Adam, etc. In other words, when the scriptures/modern revelation discuss the Celestial, it’s usually in terms of a Zion society and not in terms of the individual.

    Mark, “I switched to avoid confusion with another poster with the same name.” Wait—which of you switched? {grin}

    Comment by BrianJ — November 29, 2008 @ 2:11 am

  6. The part that becomes confusing to me in this is whether the idea of a divine concert leaves room for their to be “one more intelligent than they all” who appeared with Jesus Christ to Joseph Smith and had all the qualifications to say “This is my beloved son, hear him”.

    This is why I tend to hedge on this subjet, as I guess it depends on the details. After all, a divine concert can be anywhere from the Trinity to an entire hegemony.

    Comment by Matt W. — November 29, 2008 @ 6:44 am

  7. I have no problem with a Divine Chorus of perfectly unified exalted beings who retain separate and independent thought and action. This fits with my conception of Enoch’s city of Zion, and also makes room for the Divine Feminine.

    I continue to hold fast to the idea that the term Elohim is a title, and plural, rather than a proper name. Jesus provides an instructive example of one of the group, who retained personal characteristics while perfectly able to submit his will to the “Elohim.” He was the “sent” or “manifested” Jehovah, the malakh YHWH.

    Comment by Bored in Vernal — November 29, 2008 @ 9:16 am

  8. Good comments all.

    Jack: there’s got to be room (in my thinking) for a God who is also an individual–a person (and I think this is what the Savior is all about).

    I agree that could very well be what having Jesus come here is all about if this concept proves true to one degree or another. Jesus gives us all an individual person to emulate and helps us focus our minds when we think of God.

    Mark: The term I prefer is “divine concert”

    Ooh cool. Then I can use Divine Chorus and not be a complete phrase thief!

    BrianJ: this idea meshes pretty well with…

    Exactly — that is largely why I have become more of a fan of it over time. The other ingredient that has added to my leaning more toward it is that I have now become more and more partial to the idea that our individual spirits/intelligences/minds are indeed beginningless and irreducible and co-eternal with God as Joseph Smith began to teach near the end of his life. (As opposed to the idea that our spirits have a beginning as most church leaders implicitly or explicitly taught after Joseph died — see this category of posts on that subject.) When you combine that with the notion that we have the same potential as God or Jesus the Divine Chorus idea makes even more sense I think.

    Matt: The part that becomes confusing to me in this is whether the idea of a divine concert leaves room for their to be “one more intelligent than they all”

    Good question. One could either assume that the one more intelligent than they all is the Divine Chorus or One God itself. That is the “whole is greater than the sum of the parts” approach. Of course to to explain the personage of the Father appearing to Joseph Smith a measure of D&C 19 style “I let you believe that even though it wasn’t exactly accurate” special sauce might have to be employed.

    Or I suppose one could go along with Blake and assume there just is one beginningless spirit that is and always has been better and smarter and greater than all the rest of us.

    BIV: and also makes room for the Divine Feminine … the term Elohim is a title, and plural, rather than a proper name. Jesus provides an instructive example of one of the group, who retained personal characteristics while perfectly able to submit his will to the “Elohim.”

    Amen

    Comment by Geoff J — November 29, 2008 @ 9:51 am

  9. I just really don’t think it is that complicated. There are any number of individuals, each separate in substance, that compromise one God. One in purpose, as we say, one in understanding and in any number of other qualifiers.

    The alternate to this one God is a more pagan polytheism, where gods are not only multiple but have no unifying personality traits. You could pray to Hera, for instance, and maybe expect to be heard. But the end result might be an enraged Zeus getting your wife pregnant and turning you into a tree.

    Contemplating that might reveal just how essential the insight into oneness is. :) ~

    Comment by Thomas Parkin — November 29, 2008 @ 10:18 am

  10. It may not be complicated but it is potentially quite theologically radical Thomas. As Matt notes, it very possibly could mean that when we pray to “Heavenly Father” our prayer is being heard and responded to by the specific person in the Divine Chorus caring for us personally rather than all of our prayers being heard and responded to by a single divine person. (And our specific divine person(s) need not be male to hear and answer as an authorized representative of the one God). Or perhaps we are heard by all members of the Divine Chorus together — who knows? It potentially replaces a single Monarch with the a Grand Union of exalted beings. It potentially takes the “guardian angel” concept to dizzying new levels.

    In other words, this is not a little idea we are touching on here. It is potentially deeply radical on lot of levels.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 29, 2008 @ 12:55 pm

  11. “t very possibly could mean that when we pray to “Heavenly Father” our prayer is being heard and responded to by the specific person in the Divine Chorus caring for us personally rather than all of our prayers being heard and responded to by a single divine person.”

    Aye. I’ve said I believe something like this a few times on this blog. Only, I’d back off some and back into the scriptures as we have them. I’m not sure that it even needs to be an exalted being – and in fact probably isn’t an exalted being that hears our prayers. (the only exalted being we are told about are the Father, the Son, in one place it says that Abraham has already received his exaltation … ) Only someone “clothed with authority.” We have so many instances in the scriptures of this, where God gets done _what He gets done_ by sending messengers.

    Recall the Endowment. I’ll be watching and listening much closer when I go this week.

    I’m also always taken by this from D&C 138:

    “…his ministry among those who were dead was limited to the brief time intervening between the crucifixion and his resurrection … how it was possible for him to preach to those spirits and perform the necessary labor among them in so short a time.
    29 And as I wondered, my eyes were opened, and my understanding quickened, and I perceived that the Lord went not in person among the wicked and the disobedient who had rejected the truth, to teach them;
    30 But behold, from among the righteous, he organized his forces and appointed messengers, clothed with power and authority …”

    I suppose you might ask how can we have faith our prayers are receiving a godly answer if they aren’t directly heard and answered by the Father. My answer would be that angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost, and therefore speak the words of Christ, which are the words of the Father. And also that whether it comes from His mouth or the mouths of His servants, it is the same.

    “It potentially takes the “guardian angel” concept to dizzying new levels. ”

    Yes. It turns angels into gods. I don’t think that is quite necessary. As I’ve said one other time, I prefer the idea of ‘God’s team’ to the ‘Team God’ implied by the Divine Chorus. But I am certainly not offended by the idea, and think it is hitting in the right ballpark.

    All thoughts tentative and and subject to alteration pending further light and knowledge. :) ~

    Comment by Thomas Parkin — November 29, 2008 @ 6:28 pm

  12. Thomas: As I’ve said one other time, I prefer the idea of ‘God’s team’ to the ‘Team God’ implied by the Divine Chorus.

    I don’t have any problem with that variation on the theme. In fact it is probably the least radical version. I will note however that you are assuming that there is a single divine person that bears the label “The Father”. As I noted earlier, that assumption isn’t a given. It seems possible that “The Father” = the One God and if the One God is a Divine Chorus there might not be a single person in that role at all.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 29, 2008 @ 6:47 pm

  13. Geoff: Look again at the scriptures you cite:

    (1) For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus (1 Tim. 2: 5)

    Note: carefully that in this scripture the One God is the Father — and it doesn’t include Jesus who is the mediator between the one God and humans.

    (2) But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him. (1 Cor. 8: 6)

    Note: Here the one God is expressly the Father.

    (3) The only true God and Jesus Christ whom he has sent (John 17:3)

    Note: Once again the one God is the Father.

    (4) 32 And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he.

    Note: Here again, the one God is the Father.

    Also note very carefully that the passages you cite in the Book of Mormon and D&C that refers to the “one God” all speak of essentially the three divine persons — not a chorus of all divine persons which would include the deities in the counsel of gods. There is one Godhead.

    I suppose we could speak of the counsel of gods as one God, but in the sense that they always do the bidding of the High God, the “eternal God of all other gods” as D&C 121 puts it. Thus it is better to say divine persons united as one will and sovereign power rather than “one God.”

    Comment by Blake — November 29, 2008 @ 9:10 pm

  14. BTW, I would suggest reading the posts on this, particularly parts 6-7 which essentially agree with what I have written in volume 3. See here: http://trinities.org/blog/

    Comment by Blake — November 29, 2008 @ 9:13 pm

  15. I don’t have any objections to the model you prefer Blake. I am just saying that none of the verses we have quoted preclude the possibility that The Father is not exclusively a single divine person at all but rather the title for the Divine Chorus, aka the One God.

    Now even in your model there would most likely be more than three persons making up the One God. If we assume:

    A. All exalted beings become at one with God
    B. There have been “worlds without number and the inhabitants thereof” that have come and gone already (including the world the divine person Joseph Smith was calling Father in the KFD)
    C. That many (innumerable?) persons have been exalted and have become at one with the One God through those worlds

    Then it stands to reason that there are already innumerable persons that are at one with (and thus help make up) the One God.

    Again, the question is what the term “The Father” means. That verse in Mosiah opens up the definition to say The Father can in fact be a title for a union of divine persons.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 29, 2008 @ 11:02 pm

  16. Geoff: I take the verse in Mosiah to say rather straightforwardly that the Son becomes the Father and the Son, the very Eternal God” because he willingly subordinates his will to the will of the Father, and thus there is a single will expressed in Christ’s life — the will of the Father. There are still two distinct wills in fact, but only one will in act.

    I believe that you are correct that my view entails that all divine persons are one in several respects: (1) the Father alone is the one true God; (2) the Son and the Father are one in the sense that the Son has perfectly reflected the Father’s will; (3) the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are one in the sense that they have entered into a covenant of agreement such that if one becomes mortal the other two reign and restore the divinity of the divine person who becomes mortal; (4) there is a unity of will in the council of gods such that the will of the Most High God is always done — and thus there is one will expressed in all of these unities: the will of the Father.

    Comment by Blake — November 30, 2008 @ 12:15 am

  17. If I can be so bold, I see four acceptable methods:

    1. The Divine Concert as you’ve set it forth

    2. The Blake Ostler Heavy Ontological Gap “God always God” model

    3. An infinite regress of Gods where one of the concert is assigned to be Heavenly Father for this section of the Universe Major

    4. A “soft” Ontological Gap where “Elohim was always Elohim” (same as us, but just the best of us)

    I’d say all four of these are legitimate. Is that fair? (I’m not rejecting any of them, just trying to define all the acceptable alternatives that meet all doctrinal criteria)

    Comment by Matt W. — November 30, 2008 @ 7:51 am

  18. Matt W. (#17),

    The term “Gods” (with an uppercase G) is a direct contradiction of all the scriptures Geoff J quoted in the original post. In addition, it is a metaphysical absurdity that contradicts the very idea of an uppercase G God – the supreme power in the universe, at a minimum.

    So however common, I think (3) as expressed is out. If more than one being is referred to (or refers to himself) as “God” it can only be by divine investiture of the whole.

    I might add that I think the very idea of “the Eternal Father” is an explicit reference to the divine concert. D&C 19:10 states, “For behold, I am endless, … Endless is my name”. The next two verses draw an explicit parallel between “Endless” and “Eternal”.

    Comment by Mark D. — November 30, 2008 @ 9:47 am

  19. Mark D.:

    So the issue with (3) as expressed is a semantical issue based on capitalization? I don’t have an issue with the divine investiture concept you have expressed. I think I just said it in a way that was less technical.

    I see (3) and (4) as softer more flexible versions of (1) and (2). For example, (3) is a way to think in terms of (1) without having to deny the first vision or the teaching of the Church that the Father has a body (not a lot of bodies) of flesh and bones.

    Comment by Matt W. — November 30, 2008 @ 2:17 pm

  20. Matt W:

    No such denial required. One simply takes the position that “the Father” that we know is “The Eternal Father” by divine investiture. Same deal with the title uppercase G “God”.

    The key issue here is not one of terminology or semantics as such. It is rather whether it makes any sense, theological or otherwise, to suppose that there are multiple uppercase G “Gods” in the universe, that each have the the classical attributes of an uppercase G God independent of any other being.

    I think that is ridiculous. The idea that there is only one true God is theologically fundamental. There is no possible way that there can be two independent uppercase G Gods in the universe. If they have a dispute, who wins?

    If it is impossible for them to disagree, they aren’t independent. If they aren’t independent and there is a dispute, whose side should you choose? If you do choose a side, aren’t you really saying that at least one of the sides neither is God nor represents Him?

    So the only way that two or more god-like beings can possibly have any claim to be God or to represent God is to form a unified concert that has the last word on all things divine, and is righteous enough to dominate all other powers in the universe, not by force but rather by due acclamation.

    Comment by Mark D. — November 30, 2008 @ 3:14 pm

  21. Matt W. — what to you mean by heavy “ontological gap”? I deny any ontological gap at all.

    Comment by Blake — November 30, 2008 @ 4:21 pm

  22. I think for the One of the unity of the gods to be One God it must be more than the sum of its personal parts. That is it is insufficient for it to be merely a collection of people in an unity of aims and knowledge.

    Comment by Clark — November 30, 2008 @ 6:01 pm

  23. Matt,

    I think you would need to lay down some assumptions before jumping into the taxonomy you are trying in #17. For instance, I think the assumptions about the nature of human spirits — specifically whether they have a beginning or not — needs to be dealt with first.

    Also, I could have told you that Blake doesn’t like to be accused of preaching an ontological gap but he beat me to it.

    But even if we assume that human spirits are irreducible and beginningless I am not even sure what you #4 means. When you say “Elohim” are you referring to a single person or a divine chorus? It could mean either.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 30, 2008 @ 6:33 pm

  24. Blake- Geoff, as I understand him, believes your conception of God as always being God requires a “two track” theology where there is an eternal difference between man and God. Surely you recall those discussions?

    Clark, don’t we call that synergy?

    Mark D. I don’t see any reason to believe two people could not independently come to positive solutions to the same problems in a set universe. I think you make a lot of assumptions here.

    Comment by Matt W. — November 30, 2008 @ 6:35 pm

  25. I agree with Clark (as I understand his comment at least). The way Blake describes things in #16 it sounds like there is one Person who is God and all other persons (including Jesus) have the chance to sort of become his apprentice at best. That is a perfectly acceptable theological position but it loses a lot of the theological appeal and advantages of a Divine Chorus model when it comes to explaining how there can be many exalted/divine persons but only one “God”.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 30, 2008 @ 6:40 pm

  26. Geoff: good point, by Elohim, I was referring to the “name” of a single being, as mormon culture has popularly adopted.

    I am a believer in the eternal man, but I understand why the nature of spirits matters. I follow Widtsoe mostly on this(I’m on the blackberry, otherwise I’d link in my posts on his rational theology)

    Comment by Matt W. — November 30, 2008 @ 7:27 pm

  27. Matt synergy is multiple entities working as one. I’m suggesting more is needed than just a community working together.

    Comment by Clark — November 30, 2008 @ 7:27 pm

  28. As I have written at length, there is a distinction between God and mere mortals. We’re not fully divine. The Father, Son and HG have eternally been divine. We could have been eternally divine if we had freely chosen to accept the relationship offered by them jointly to us. But unlike them, we made a different choice.

    So the difference is one of choice. That is also the difference between you and me. I have made different choices and thus we are at different places in our spiritual development (you may be more advanced). There is no ontological, species or category difference of any type.

    I also agree with Clark — divinity is an emergent more than the sum of the parts reality. I’ve written about it at length (at least 4 chapters in vol. 3). We are more in unity with the divine persons than we ever could be alone. That doesn’t make us a different ontological type.

    I asked what you meant by “ontological difference” and what you say is that somehow I must mean that we cannot truly become what the Father is. That is just not so. There is no “two track” anything on my view — there are just different choices freely made that account for both our differences (between individual humans) and the differences between us and what God now is. We can make different choices and be everything that God is.

    Comment by Blake — November 30, 2008 @ 9:53 pm

  29. Blake: We could have been eternally divine if we had freely chosen to accept the relationship offered by them jointly to us. But unlike them, we made a different choice.

    I have heard you make statements like this before but this claim seems to be incoherent to me. A choice is by definition a temporal event. We come to a crossroads in time and make a choice. So if time is infinite there either was a time before this choice to accept an offer from the Father was made or it is not really a choice at all, but rather a beginningless state of being.

    Now I suppose you could argue that there is an ongoing choice made to remain in the Godhead but that still doesn’t change the problem that in the theology you are presenting the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost eternally not like the rest of us. They are beginninglessly different in a very significant way in your theology, right?

    Comment by Geoff J — December 1, 2008 @ 12:03 am

  30. Geoff articulated my reaction very well. Also, synergy by definition is when the relationship of two beings causes something greater than the sum of the parts.

    Anyway, if there is no ontological difference between us and the Godhead (which I agree with), but only a difference of choice, then the members of the Godhead had to have a point in time where they made that choice and a reason for making that Choice. I believe that would have been the moment they made a pact to allow us to advance to the state the Father was in. Relevent citations are in this post.

    Comment by Matt W. — December 1, 2008 @ 7:13 am

  31. Geoff (and Matt): We have been over the logical errors regarding past eternity on your part several times and they are still logical errors. Let me explain why your statement makes no sense at all: “So if time is infinite there either was a time before this choice to accept an offer from the Father was made or it is not really a choice at all, but rather a beginningless state of being.” That of course is not only a false dichotomy but also a non-sequitur. It is ironic that you charge my view with incoherence when it is your assertions that commit the logical fallacies and are incoherent — as I will now demonstrate once again.

    Look, you believe in a past eternity. Whatever incoherence you charge me with, you would also have to accept since there has been a beginningless eternity of existence on either of our views. WE both accept that we have had an eternity to make choices (assuming the view of eternally free and conscious intelligences that I believe we both adopt). So it logically follows that for every choice, there is a time before the choice was made — on both of our views. It is simple and straightforward.

    Further, in every moment it is logically possible that we could freely choose not to accept fully the relationship offered — since the choice is a free one. That we means would could accept the relationship offered, or reject it freely. Both are actually possible to choose in each moment. It is also logically possible in each moment that we freely choose to freely choose not to accept the relationship. Whether there is a beginning or a beginningless eternity, we have that choice in each moment that we are free to choose. We have made that choice and chosen not to accept the relationship fully in each moment that we could make that choice. We have had that choice in every moment of a beggingnless eternity — on both of our views.

    Further, it doesn’t follow that we either chose to fully accept the Father or it was no choice at all. That assertion is a non-sequitur since in each moment that we were free to choose, we were free to choose not to accept the Father’s offer of relationship fully. It does not follow from the the fact of a beginningless state that there is no choice. Further, the dichotomy is false since the choice could never be between having a choice in some finite time with a beginning or a choice in a time without beginning. We didn’t have that choice. It is not up to us whether we exist for eternity. In each moment of past eternity we had a choice and we made a choice not to accept fully the Father. The Son and Holy Ghost chose to fully accept the offer of relationship. Thus, they enjoy the fullness of divinity that comes from being in such a relationship and we don’t — yet. It’s that simple.

    This statement is also flat out false: “They are beginninglessly different in a very significant way in your theology, right? ” No, not the case. It is possible that in each moment that the Father, Son and Holy Ghost had the choice, that they have made the choice to love each other. In fact, our scriptures affirm that they have done so. They are one eternal God, from all eternity to all eternity, the same unchangeable God — as both the Book of Mormon and D&C and Lectures on Faith repeatedly state. In each moment that they had the choice, they made the choice to love each other fully. There is a beginningless reality and in each moment of that eternal reality they have made the choice to love. We have not made that choice.

    Thus, the difference boils down to a difference in choice, not a difference in kind of being or ontological status. We are just as beginningless as they are. We had the same choice to make that they did. We made a different choice.

    We’ve been over this a few times and I have pointed out similar logical errors. Logical errors ought to be grasped and learned from. Logical errors ought not be repeated ad nauseum or accepted by others.

    Comment by Blake — December 1, 2008 @ 7:41 am

  32. Matt: You make the same logical error as Geoff: It doesn’t follow from the fact that there is a free choice that there must be some first moment when that choice is made for the first time. That assumes a beginning. It is possible that in each moment, the divine persons made a free choice to love. In every moment of past eternity, it is logically possible that they chose to love each other. Thus, it logically follows that your assertion is logically erroneous when you assert that: “then the members of the Godhead had to have a point in time where they made that choice and a reason for making that Choice.” I assume that you mean by “a point in time” that they had to make that choice at some first moment in time. But there is no first moment in time. There is no first moment in time when they had to make this choice without having the same choice before that time. So your reasoning is flawed.

    Comment by Blake — December 1, 2008 @ 7:46 am

  33. Blake: can you provide any sort of logical proof for your assumption that a choice can be made that always has been made? If I choose in a moment to love my wife, must I continue to choose in every moment there after to love my wife? Or is my choice changed to a choice to continue with my prior choice and a choice of how to act on my prior choice?

    Further, I would assert that the divine persons could not in each moment make a free choice to love, but could only in each moment make a free choice to continue to love. Maybe you’d say this is a distinction without difference.

    If we are required to choose to begin to love, and there was never a point in time where the divine triad needed to begin to love, there is a difference. The question becomes if that difference matters.

    Comment by Matt W. — December 1, 2008 @ 8:15 am

  34. Blake,

    Thanks for the response. I don’t have any real problem with your claim that there is no ontological difference between us and the three known members of the Godhead.

    Here is the specific claim I found misleading:

    But unlike them, we made a different choice.

    The way you said this makes it sound like at some point they made a choice to begin to love one another in perfect unity and we made the choice to reject that unity. But as Matt noted, in your theology there was never a choice to begin to love for them — rather you hold that loving in perfect unity is their default/eternal way of acting.

    We come with a different default setting. Now you may argue that “default settings” are inconsequential but in terms of results it seems like the consequences are massive. For instance, it seems to me that in your theology we can never really be part of the Godhead because that would ruin the claim, as you understand it, that the Godhead “are one eternal God, from all eternity to all eternity, the same unchangeable God”. So one of the upshots of your theological claims is that all of us and all exalted beings can at best be something like ministering angels to the unchangeable Godhead but never full participating members of the Godhead. I think it is a coherent position but it is not one I personally believe nor do I think it really jibes with the beliefs of Joseph Smith at the end of his life. But we have argued that at length in the past.

    Another question I have is about this comment of yours in #16:

    (4) there is a unity of will in the council of gods such that the will of the Most High God is always done — and thus there is one will expressed in all of these unities: the will of the Father.

    I can’t tell if you see any meaningful distinction between exalted resurrected beings and premortal spirits in the “council of gods”. Can you elaborate on that? If exalted resurrected beings never become full-fledged members of the Godhead/One God what is the difference in this council between the exalted and premortal persons on your view?

    Comment by Geoff J — December 1, 2008 @ 9:13 am

  35. Matt: “can you provide any sort of logical proof for your assumption that a choice can be made that always has been made?” Of course not! A choice that is made doesn’t need to be made. Your questions assumes a false premise: “if a choice is made at t10, a choice cannot be made again at t12.” In each moment since I was married I had the choice to love my wife — or not. I have freely chosen to love her (in most moments) since.

    You assert that a choice to “continue to love” is not a choice to love. I believe you are making a distinction without a difference. If I choose to “continue to love” (meaning that I chose to love previously) I still choose to love or not in the next moment.

    Matt: “If we are required to choose to begin to love, and there was never a point in time where the divine triad needed to begin to love, there is a difference. The question becomes if that difference matters.”

    Yeah, I already said there was a difference. We made a different choice. That is the difference. Look, you began by asserting that there was “a Heavy Ontological Gap” between the Father and his children (including us) on my view. I have demonstrated that the only difference is one of choice. There is a difference — the same kind of difference between me and you. I have made different choice and have a different personal history than you do. But there isn’t a “Heavy Ontological Gap” between us. The same differences exist between the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. In each moment that they had the choice to choose into a loving relationship with each other, they have chosen to do so. We haven’t. They have had an eternity of moments in which to make that choice — and in each moment they have chosen love. You and I haven’t — but there are more moments in which to choose and we are here to learn to love as they love each other in perichoretic and indwelling unity of life. There type of life is different because the synergy or emergent shared life that they live gives them a qualitatively different kind of life. We can share this life — but we can’t share it all alone just living as isolated ontologically necessary beings that have never been created. WE must choose to love just as they do and always have.

    Comment by Blake — December 1, 2008 @ 9:16 am

  36. Geoff: There are no default settings for free choices. Even you must accept that. Thus, your comment is based on a false assumption. Further, there is no initial default setting as you assume because there is no first or initial moment. You continue to think as if there were an absolute beginning to choices and existence. Not so.

    You are correct that we are different in that the divine persons have always chosen freely to love each other and we haven’t — that just repeats what I said. However, your assertion that such a view entails that we can only be ministering angels is another non-sequitur. It doesn’t follows that we cannot begin to be and share everything that the Father is. The Godhead will always be what it is == and in the past it has changed with respect to the divine persons who were fully divine at a given time (e.g., during the time the Father became mortal and again when the Son became mortal). So the existence and eternal nature of the Godhead doesn’t change just because those who constitute the Godhead change. Another non-sequitur.

    Geoff: “If exalted resurrected beings never become full-fledged members of the Godhead/One God what is the difference in this council between the exalted and premortal persons on your view?”

    The degree of experiential knowledge and ability to succor those who stand in need of succor are the difference. Those who have experienced mortality have grown in experiential knowledge and thus in ability to be compassionate and to share life as one.

    Comment by Blake — December 1, 2008 @ 9:22 am

  37. Geoff: ““If exalted resurrected beings never become full-fledged members of the Godhead/One God what is the difference in this council between the exalted and premortal persons on your view?”

    I should have pointed out that your questions contains a false assumption. Resurrected beings can and do become full-fledged members of the Godhead/one with God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost. However, we will always be indebted to them in a way that they are not indebted to us because they acted to bring us to their level, to exalt us when they were already fully divine and we were not. We owe a debt of gratitude that they do not owe to us.

    Comment by Blake — December 1, 2008 @ 9:27 am

  38. Blake, you seem to be saying we have always been in a relationship with God, whether loving or not. Is this correct?

    If so, doesn’t that play into Geoff’s complaint of an innefficient God?

    Comment by Matt W. — December 1, 2008 @ 9:45 am

  39. Blake,

    Before I respond to other parts I want to flesh this comment out better:

    Resurrected beings can and do become full-fledged members of the Godhead

    This is a different position than I thought you held so I want to be sure I understand your point.

    Do you agree that it is very safe to assume that innumerable people have been exalted throughout the eternities as a result of their mortalities on the inhabited worlds that have come and gone before this one? If so, and if as you say exalted people become full-fledged members of the Godhead, the Godhead must presently consist of innumerable members, right? (I thought you insisted that the Godhead always has and always will consist of only three members)

    Comment by Geoff J — December 1, 2008 @ 9:47 am

  40. Matt: Your (and Geoff’s) complaint of an inefficient God works only if you’re a Calvinist — that is, God must be able to save anyone he pleases. Given free will, the problem isn’t God’s but ours.

    Geoff: My view is that Christ opened up new opportunities for growth — remember, there is no end to growth in exaltation. The divine unity, like Zion, consists of numerous individuals. However, the pre-eminent position of honor and debt of gratitude are owed to the three divine persons and preeminently to the Father.

    Comment by Blake — December 1, 2008 @ 9:59 am

  41. Blake,

    Forgive me, but I’m confused by your last response. Do you think the Godhead currently consists of more than three persons (based on the logic in #39) or not?

    Comment by Geoff J — December 1, 2008 @ 10:06 am

  42. Just a note on Blake’s #28. While Blake and I are actually more similar than not there is one big ontological difference. I’m very skeptical of his notion of ontological emergence (or the process theology twist he gives that notion). Thus to me if there is an excess it can’t merely be that the parts generate an excess beyond their function as parts. There must be something more.

    Over at my blog in response to Blake’s book I’d mentioned Pratt and Widstoe’s notion of the Spirit that is separate as a part from any of the persons but essential to the function of the Godhead. While I’m also pretty skeptical of the physicalist twist Pratt and to a lesser degree Widstoe give it (as well as Pratt’s giving it personal attributes) I do think “something” in excess is necessary for the divine to act as divine.

    Blake’s model entails a single head God who is head throughout all creations rather than just our creation (as in the traditional reading of the KFD). What excess isn’t generated ontologically by the unity of the persons is simply had by this head God.

    My view (which I’ll admit I’m not terribly committed to) is that there (a) there is an infinite regress of gods and (b) there is an excess called The Spirit or The Light which is in addition to the gods which is essential for the One God.

    Comment by Clark — December 1, 2008 @ 10:27 am

  43. Matt – synergy is where you have something greater than the sum of its parts. But there is a missing part: the laws of physics, which enables that “something greater.” In other words you don’t end up with something greater than the sum of its parts plus the laws. The idea is that organization provides something the parts couldn’t do on its own.

    Blake’s sense is much more than this and entails that you can get a new quasi-substance that can’t be explained by the parts or their context.

    Geoff, I agree there are some odd temporal problems in Blake’s model. I’ve not entirely thought through them although I’ve mentioned them at time when discussing his prior books. Good call on bringing this out though.

    Comment by Clark — December 1, 2008 @ 10:35 am

  44. Matt (#38). Note that once you deal with infinite sets that the properties become a tad odd. So don’t assume that conclusions that are true with finite sets (i.e. a finite number of people in relations) hold for an infinite number. This is a common charge of inefficiencies and there are actually arguments made about an infinite past in this way. But typically they just get their theory of transfinite sets completely wrong. Infinities are difficult counter-intuitive things.

    Comment by Clark — December 1, 2008 @ 10:44 am

  45. Geoff: I’m not sure that I’d call the unity shared by the divine persons the “Godhead” since that term has a very definite scriptural meaning of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost as one united divine life/power/light/intelligence. However, I affirm unequivocally that there are more than just the three divine persons in the divine unity or family which share all of the essential attributes of full divinity.

    Clark: I don’t believe that my view entails at all that the emergent reality is a new substance. In fact, given my process view of reality, the extra is definitely not a substance but an energy or process that is not fully explained by the sum of the parts or the operations of the parts. I believe that your view entails a determinism that is incompatible with free will.

    Perhaps you could explain how your view escapes a straightforward determinism in which the operations of the parts (most basic physical realities) don’t entail a thoroughgoing micro-determinism.

    However, you are entirely correct that once we deal with infinite sets the rules of inference that apply to finite sets are no longer applicable. All of Geoff’s and Matt’s criticisms assume a beginning that applies only to finite sets and so their arguments are faulty.

    Clark: “What excess isn’t generated ontologically by the unity of the persons is simply had by this head God.”

    I admit that I am not sure what you are addressing here or what I say that gives rise to such a comment. Could you fill me in?

    Comment by Blake — December 1, 2008 @ 3:03 pm

  46. Blake: I’m not sure that I’d call the unity shared by the divine persons the “Godhead”

    Ok. Would you call it the “one God”?

    Comment by Geoff J — December 1, 2008 @ 3:33 pm

  47. The use of “the one God” also has a well-established scriptural meaning: the Father. If we take out the definite article “the” and just refer to the three divine persons as “one God,” then we have a similar established scriptural usage that these three are one God. However, I affirm that the divine persons are all fully divine and they are one in the sense that there is a single sovereign and fully divine power that governs all that is — and there cannot be more than one such power for reasons I explain at length in the 3rd volume. There is also only one singe store of knowledge of all that is. There is also but one will express among the plurality of divine wills quoad nos or in relation to us. Does that answer it?

    Comment by Blake — December 1, 2008 @ 3:42 pm

  48. I have another, maybe related question. If Heavenly Father is a personage of “flesh and bone,” then why are his children “spirit children” instead of flesh and blood?

    Comment by V the K — December 2, 2008 @ 9:35 am

  49. Good discussion so far, guys. I did a blog post which I believe resonates with Blake’s arguments in a fruitful but unsophisticated way. Here is a condensed version of that post:

    Commenting on a particular sermon by Brigham I argue that he emphasized that our future would never surpass that or be separate from God our Heavenly Father, and the only way to fully “progress” was to actually become one with Him. Without an eye single to the glory of God, there will be no fulness; we have “no other interest” in time or eternity.

    If I have an interest in any object, but should not live to enjoy that object, you can perceive that it is cut off from me, and that my interest and my hopes are gone, so far as worldly things are concerned. If anyone has an interest in an object that is changeable, in anything of an earthly nature, and is separated from it, it can be of but little use to him, and should cease to be an object of great care or desire. Any object or interest that we have, aside from our Father in heaven, will be taken from us, and though we may seem to enjoy it here, in eternity we shall be deprived of it.

    (Cf. Matt. 6:19-21).

    In becoming gods, all interests must be one in eternity. Brigham didn’t teach of countless gods doing their own thing in countless universes, each out for their own concerns. According to Brigham, there will be no such separate kingdoms of personal power “to yourself, by yourself, and for yourself, regardless of every other creature.”

    Brigham:

    But the truth is, you are not going to have a separate kingdom; I am not going to have a separate kingdom; it is not our prerogative to have it on this earth. If you have a kingdom and a dominion here, it must be concentrated in the head; if we are ever prepared for an eternal exaltation, we must be concentrated in the head of the eternal Godhead. Why? Because everything else is opposed to that kingdom, and the heir of that kingdom will keep up the warfare with that opposing power until death is destroyed, and him that hath the power of it; not annihilated, but sent back to native element.[4] He will never cease to contend with the opposite power, with that power that contends against the heir of this earth; consequently, if we fancy that we have an independent interest here and in the world to come, we shall fail in getting any of it.

    Your interest must be concentrated in the head on the earth, and all of our interest must center in the Godhead in eternity, and there is no durable interest in any other channel.

    See JD 4:26-28 and my blog post here.

    Comment by BHodges — December 2, 2008 @ 12:36 pm

  50. “What do you think? Is there only one God in existence or not? If there is one God in existence is that one God a great “Divine Chorus” of unified exalted persons or is it a single person or something in between?”

    If any one of the ‘unified exalted persons’ is all-powerful, all-knowing, etc., then what is the purpose of the other ‘unified exalted persons’? Is redundancy required? Will there eventually be an infinite number of “return and report” discussions?

    Comment by ed42 — December 2, 2008 @ 3:39 pm

  51. I don’t believe that my view entails at all that the emergent reality is a new substance.

    That’s why I said, “the process theology twist he gives that notion.” I recognize it’s not substance per se but I think you’d agree it has many similarities to ontological emergence ala say O’Conner or Clarke. Figuring out the differences is non-trivial even to someone well read on philosophy. So I was trying to communicate the idea without getting into the nitty gritty.

    I believe that your view entails a determinism that is incompatible with free will.

    I think it undeniable that the kind of free will you demand requires ontological emergence of some sort. I think it incorrect to say what I asserted is incompatible with your sense of free will let alone entails determinism. But to the degree I reject ontological emergence then certainly my skepticism follows to free will as you define it.

    But that’s no shock to anyone who’s read my comments over the years.

    Perhaps you could explain how your view escapes a straightforward determinism in which the operations of the parts (most basic physical realities) don’t entail a thoroughgoing micro-determinism.

    Because the operations of the parts are underdetermined by the prior state of the universe (including physical laws). My own view is probably closest to Kane’s (who of course calls himself a Libertarian Free Will proponent). However I’m actually interested in a range of possibilities in terms of free will and am not particularly committed to any one. I just suspect a variation of Kane’s view is probably closest to what I deem likely.

    I admit that I am not sure what you are addressing here or what I say that gives rise to such a comment. Could you fill me in?

    Any property not held by the divine persons other than the Father isn’t to be found in any other substance but to be found in the Father and what might be unique in him.

    I don’t have time for more than this but the obvious place of problem is that of communication. This was a huge flaw in Pratt’s view. (i.e. how is communication possible) It even is in many other views. If the other divine beings are able to communicate and the Father is able to know then what produces this power?

    Comment by Clark — December 2, 2008 @ 3:47 pm

  52. Brigham didn’t teach of countless gods doing their own thing in countless universes, each out for their own concerns.

    For the record I don’t think anyone has taught that. Even those who advocate each person being a Father with our own Creation would never advocate that it is “doing our own thing.”

    Now I personally don’t tend to buy the idea that we’ll each be Fathers of our own universe but rather than we’ll contribute to new creations together in some sense. However I can understand the opposing view as well and think either is equally possible based upon the knowledge we have now.

    Comment by Clark — December 2, 2008 @ 4:03 pm

  53. the term Elohim is a title

    Sure seems that way in Old Testament usage.

    Though there may very well be only one mask of God.

    not a substance but an energy or process

    As well described as the light that proceeds out from God in the D&C. The Godhead is of one light.

    Comment by Stephen M (Ethesis)e — December 2, 2008 @ 7:39 pm

  54. Clark: the caricature of people off doing their own thing typically comes from critics rather than believing members of the church.

    Comment by BHodges — December 3, 2008 @ 10:28 am

  55. The idea of this “devine chorus” reminds me of Tolkien’s “The Silmarillion”. In it a group of gods create the universe by singing together and at the end of it the souls of men are permitted to join in for the last creation.

    Personally, I don’t like the idea. It creates far more questions for me than it answers.

    Comment by Dave Something — December 3, 2008 @ 8:21 pm

  56. I believe that the concept of _scope_ can be applied to the scriptures. What applies to this solar system/galaxy/universe, does not necessarily apply to other galaxies or other universes (in a Stephen Hawkings-like “multiverse”.)

    Therefore, Heavenly Grandfather is a god, but He’s not our God. Heavenly Uncles are gods, but they’re not our Gods. They’re off with their own galaxies or universes doing with their own spirit children.

    Comment by Bookslinger — December 25, 2008 @ 11:40 am

  57. Yeah that’s a pretty popular line of thinking among Mormons Bookslinger.

    Of course it has a few problems. One is that it requires one to dismiss Joseph Smith’s teaching that spirits are beginningless and replace it with the idea that spirits do have a beginning. But if one is going to dismiss that idea at least one is in good company with many church leaders having done the same over the years.

    I think the nature of spirits/intelligences is a crucial theological question that remains largely unanswered. I have argued both side of that coin here in the past. I used to prefer the “spirit particles” idea wherein only the components of spirits are beginningless but have come around to the idea that “whole cloth” spirits are beginningless after all. Each foundation has major theological implications though.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 25, 2008 @ 4:00 pm

  58. Geoff: The vocabulary of eternal things was a bit more fluid in Joseph’s day. Joseph may indeed have been referring to (what we now call) “intelligences” when he said they were beginningless.

    Like ancient prophets, there was likely a lot that Joseph saw in his visions that he was not allowed to repeat. And what he was allowed to describe in verbal sermons, he had to use vocabulary that was understandable to the audiences.

    You mentioned in the other posts that Joseph used both “spirits” and “intelligences” interchangeabley. But I don’t think he meant that they were the same identical thing. I think it was more because of imprecision, or because he was tailoring his words to his audience. I think he knew the difference between “intelligence” and “spirit person/body”

    “Soul” is another such word. Which in some instances can mean the spirit body, and in some mean the spirit body + physical body together.

    I don’t find it hard to reconcile Joseph’s teachings with the tri-partite nature, intelligence (clothed in a) spirit-body (clothed in a) physical body, that seems to be commonly described by the current GA’s. I’m specifically thinking of Elder Packer’s comments about Elohim taking intelligences, and “clothing” them in spirit bodies.

    In non-precise vernacular, when trying to convey these things to those for whom even a pre-mortal existence is a stretch, Joseph may have just used a short-cut in referring to an “intelligence” as a “spirit (person)”.

    In the scenario that I have in my mind, both the Young/Pratt model (spirit body made of spirit particles that were assembled into a body) and the BH Roberts tri-partite model co-exist: Elohim somehow wove spirit particles into a spirit body, and used that to clothe an intelligence.

    Another example of non-precise usage were early latter-day saints’ use of “Jehovah” to refer to Heavenly Father, whereas now we are more precise in our usage and understanding that Jehovah was the pre-mortal Jesus, who frequently spoke with “divine investiture” as if he were the Father.

    I also don’t think a concept of Heavenly Grandfathers and Heavenly Uncles necessarily requires dismissing anything Joseph said about the beginningless-ness of spirits (or intelligences if he was merely being imprecise, or using a verbal shortcut for the sake of his audience.)

    If the children of Elohim can go on to exaltation, and if as Joseph said, we can go on to exaltation in the same manner as Elohim did, then we could logically extrapolate backwards and forwards: that Elohim had a mortal existence, had a Heavenly Father, had a Savior (or was the Savior of his generation); and forwards that: those of our generation will go on to be Heavenly Parents, that we will have spirit children, provide planets for them, provide mortal physical bodies for them, our firstborn in the spirit will be the savior for the rest of our spirit children, etc.

    Another concept is that in the eternal sense, “creation” is more along the lines of “organization”. There isn’t anything that is created out of nothingness. Things are merely organized or re-organized or recycled.

    The recycling aspect is mentioned in Revelation (of St John) in which at some point (long) after beginning of the celestial kingdom (ie, long after the end of the Millennium), that those heavens will also “pass away”. As in, that top third of the CK eventually go on to full exaltation, planet/galaxy/universe building, and they likely have to leave Elohim’s Earth-turned-into-a-CK if each couple eventually gets their own galaxy/universe and establishes their own headquarters for that galaxy/universe.

    That idea came to mind as I watched a History Channel show on cosmology that included black holes and white holes. That a whole galaxy could get sucked into a black hole, and a whole galaxy could be produced from a white hole.

    Couple that with Stephen Hawking’s universe/multiverse theories, wherein a universe is a finite bubble in a bigger (“more infinite”) multiverse (and according to the History Channel shows, it does seem like our observable “universe” is finite, ie, it looks like it’s only been X-billion years since this universe’s Big Bang), and the creation and collapse of those bubbles might correspond to scriptures about how the heavens can “come into being” and then “pass away”.

    So it’s possible that the “Big Bang” which our scientists talk about isn’t associated with the creation spoken of in Genesis, but rather is the beginning of Elohim getting his new (or newly recycled) universe-bubble in the multiverse, and the Genesis/Abraham account is merely the story of our particular batch of his children assigned to this particular planet of this particular galaxy.

    Comment by Bookslinger — December 26, 2008 @ 3:39 pm

  59. I certainly don’t begrudge you believing those things Bookslinger. In fact I think you’d get a lot of Mormons agreeing with most of what you said. I hope you don’t begrudge me not finding those positions persuasive though.

    I particularly find the popular tripartite model of spirits/intelligences unpersuasive. To my eyes it is a compromise between two blatantly contradictory teachings from Mormonism’s two first presidents. Joseph Smith taught that the mind/spirit/intelligence of human beings has no beginning. Brigham taught that the spirits/minds of humans have a distinct beginning at a spirit birth. (I strongly suspect Brigham was not all that aware of Joseph’s teachings on the subject late in his ministry actually). BH Roberts, in an attempt to reconcile these contradictions came up with the tripartite model where something he calls “intelligences” apparently sit in an eternal hibernation of some kind until they are randomly plucked to fill the newly created spirit body that results from the sexual union of two physically embodied exalted persons. (I find the idea of viviparous spirit birth to be even less persuasive than the tripartite model btw).

    Anyway, I think it was admirable for Roberts to try to find a compromise. The problem for me is that I see no reason to believe his compromise represents the way things really are. On theological issues, if Brigham and Joseph disagree I think it is a safe bet to side with Joseph 99% of the time.

    We discussed the nature of spirits at great length here. That discussion was the tipping point for me to start leaning toward the JS camp on this. I had argued against it in several previous threads (here, here, here, and here)

    Comment by Geoff J — December 26, 2008 @ 4:36 pm

  60. Geoff: Tripartitism (Intelligence, Spirit, Body) is more of a compromise between Moses and Abraham than Brigham and Joseph.If anything, tyhe idea of Tripartism is more or less much more in the Joseph Camp. In any case, I have yet to see a theological model that worked for one and not equally well with the other. I think it really creates a distinction without a difference, to be honest. If we are claiming our selves are eternal, it doesn’t matter if we call that eternal self spirit, intelligence, or banana, the concept is still the same.

    Comment by Matt W. — December 27, 2008 @ 9:17 am

  61. And yes, I probably am repeating myself.

    Comment by Matt W. — December 27, 2008 @ 9:18 am

  62. Tripartitism (Intelligence, Spirit, Body) is more of a compromise between Moses and Abraham than Brigham and Joseph.

    What leads you to this conclusion Matt?

    Comment by Geoff J — December 27, 2008 @ 11:43 am

  63. @60: dont see difference b/n brigham and joseph camp or between spirit and intelligence? i think you mean the later but i want to be clear.

    if what i understand from what you wrote over on splend sun and my blog, i can see how trpartism is compatible with joseph but in no way with brigham (cause of the whole spirit disintegration/destruction thing).

    (sorry for bad typing: hurt back and have to type one-handed)

    Comment by BrianJ — December 27, 2008 @ 11:44 am

  64. I read Matt to mean he sees no substantive difference between the tripartite model (Roberts) and the beginningless spirits model.

    Of course to arrive at that conclusions Matt must be assuming that there is no substantive difference between an “intelligence” being clothed in a spirit body or not. I suspect others would object to that assumption.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 27, 2008 @ 1:03 pm

  65. yes, whether tripart works with joseph really depends on what we mean by an intelligence being ‘clothed’. the only way i cam reconcile it with joseph is if this ‘clothing’ is more figurativce—like a boy being clothed with the priesthood when he turns 12; or being born ‘under’ the covenant…

    Comment by BrianJ — December 27, 2008 @ 3:29 pm

  66. Geoff J: Roberts mentions Abraham and Moses in his discussions of this topic, but never that I have known makes mention of Brigham’s model vs. Joseph’s. Widtsoe, whom is often considered to be one of the two wing men with Roberts in shaping Mormon thought at the time, follows a very similar pattern in his writings, if leaning more to the Abraham side of the equation.

    Brian J: I definitely meant I see no real difference in whether an “Intelligence” got a “spirit body” or not, and not between the Young and Smith models. If we’ve always existed as self-aware progressing beings, it doesn’t really seem to have a significant impact if at some point in our progression we either did or did not get “clothed” spiritually, relatively speaking.

    Of course, I am thinking linearly on this, as opposed to in “an eternal round”, but I don’t think that makes much difference either, all things considered.

    Comment by Matt W. — December 29, 2008 @ 9:13 am

  67. Matt: Roberts mentions Abraham and Moses in his discussions of this topic, but never that I have known makes mention of Brigham’s model vs. Joseph’s.

    That isn’t compelling evidence. Roberts was intimately aware of the teachings of BY and JS on this subject. He knew they contradicted. He just used interpretations of revelations found in the Books of Moses and Abraham as support/justification for his hybrid model.

    I should also note that the Roberts tripartite interpretation of those two books contradicts Joseph Smiths interpretation of those two books when it comes to spirits/intelligences. And since Joseph was the one who gave us the PoGP it seems like a no-brainer that we should go with Joseph’s late-ministry beliefs on the subject.

    If we’ve always existed as self-aware progressing beings

    And there’s the rub. If intelligences are beginningless then we are largely forced to assume they really don’t “progress” until they get a spirit body in the tripartite model. In fact lots of people seem to assume they simply hibernate or something. (This of course gets back to the messy problem with infinite time and progress that we always bog down in.)

    Comment by Geoff J — December 29, 2008 @ 9:25 am

  68. Geoff,

    That isn’t compelling evidence.

    I know you and Stapley think B.H. Roberts was reconciling Joseph and Brigham, but I can’t remember your compelling evidence that should persuade me to believe that over Matt’s suggestion. Can you refresh me?

    If intelligences are beginningless then we are largely forced to assume they really don’t “progress” until they get a spirit body in the tripartite model.

    It seems to me you have the same problem with either spirits or intelligences. I don’t see why the triparte model introduces anything new to the problem of beginninglessness. In the beginningless spirit model, are we “largely forced” to assume they don’t really progress until they are taken under their wing by God as their adoptive father?

    Comment by Jacob J — December 29, 2008 @ 10:40 am

  69. I’ll respond in reverse order Jacob.

    In the beginningless spirit model, are we “largely forced” to assume they don’t really progress…

    I agree. I have come to the conclusion that the beginningless spirits model actually largely forces an overall metaphysic of “being” on us rather than the metaphysic of “becoming” we normally assume. In other words, it seems to me that if spirits are beginningless a case could be made that change is the illusion. We talked about this general subject in one of my McMurrin reading posts. I’ll likely post on it again though.

    I can’t remember your compelling evidence that should persuade me to believe that over Matt’s suggestion. Can you refresh me?

    All the parts I have in mind are already in the response I gave to Matt.

    - JS more than anyone knew the contents of the books of Moses and Abraham
    - JS taught spirits are beginningless even so
    - BY taught spirits have a beginning
    - Roberts knew what JS and BY taught. He knowingly interpreted Moses and Abraham differently than JS did.

    All of that adds up to evidence to me that either Roberts was trying to find middle ground between JS and BY or he was trying to find an excuse to dismiss the beginningless spirit idea of JS and just happened to agree with BY on it.

    A fruitful strategy for a tripartite supporter is to try to show that JS didn’t actually think spirits are beginningless. But that has proven a very tall order based on the records. The other strategy would be to simply assert that JS was wrong on that point.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 29, 2008 @ 10:58 am

  70. Matt: “makes no difference…” I don’t follow. If the “clothing” is in the form of a new kind of body, how is that not just as significant as gaining a physical body? On the other hand, if the “clothing” is more allegorical as in being clothed with the priesthood, how is that not still very significant?

    Geoff: “…infinite time and progress that we always bog down in.” There’s a smooth irony in that statement, if you stand back and look at it. {smile}

    Comment by BrianJ — December 29, 2008 @ 11:56 am

  71. Geoff: JS used words like spirit/intelligence/soul interchangeably. (He also used words like Jehovah/God/Lord/Father/Elohim interchangeably.) We all agree that Roberts invented the intelligence/spirit distinct as a means of referring to when a spirit gets it’s spirit body, which is much more in agreement with the idea in Moses that all things were created spiritually before they were created physically. Abraham explicitly says spirits are Eternal. I am aware that J. Stapley feels this indicates a superceding of earlier doctrine with later doctrine. I believe that Roberts and most others don’t feel this way, but instead tried to make both doctrines true. In Brigham Young’s time the POGP was not scripture (Cannonized 3 years after his death.) and so was not of as much interest. So BH Roberts was writing with reference to more materials than BY had, and with the challenge that Abraham and Moses were both Canonical. Further, BH Roberts had championed the validation of the King Follet discourse, which had been somewhat skeptically viewed as potential unauthentic by BY. So for you to say that BH Roberts was arguing for Young and against Smith seems totally contrary to the history or to Roberts writings.

    BrianJ: It is significant, just not significant theologically. I don’t see how it changes the atonement, eternal progression, or any other major theological point.

    Comment by Matt W. — December 29, 2008 @ 12:52 pm

  72. Matt,

    Does the Book of Moses say spirits have a beginning? I don’t know which section you are alluding to.

    As I mentioned, Roberts may not have been intentionally arguing for BY but he definitely was arguing against eternal spirits. So that leaves Roberts with the task of either claiming JS didn’t really believe in them or that JS was wrong.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 29, 2008 @ 1:01 pm

  73. Matt: putting aside the exact nature of the “clothing,” there seems to be some theological significance to distinguishing between an intelligence (defined for now as a “pre-decision to be a follower of God”) and a spirit (defined for now as a “decided to follow God”). Couldn’t that be the basic meaning of “the first estate” which some kept and some did not? Thus, Satan and his followers are no longer “spirits,” rejecting that “clothing” and are back to being “intelligences.” (I guess we could argue whether “first estate” is a major theological point….)

    (and if I use “quotes” one more time I’m going to join them in outer darkness!)

    And I should point out that I’m not exactly arguing for this model because I’m skeptical whether Joseph would buy into it at all.

    Comment by BrianJ — December 29, 2008 @ 1:23 pm

  74. Geoff: Here is where Moses discusses spirits being created spiritually first, then physically. There is room for interpretation in this, of course, as it could be anywhere from Johanine “Logos” creation to literal creation.

    Also, since Roberts himself says “Reference to the context quoted will show that “spirits” and “intelligences” are used interchangeably” when discussing the immortality of the same, I see it more as him promoting JS as right than pushing him down as wrong.

    Comment by Matt W. — December 29, 2008 @ 1:40 pm

  75. BrianJ: I guess I normally think of the “first estate” as anything and everything prior to this the second estate. You do introduce an interesting concept, in that I do openly hold more to the idea that there was a time when we were adopted into the family of God. I agree it is an interesting question of whether Satan’s rebellion has removed him from God’s family. Is Satan (or any son of perdition) no Longer a Child of God?

    I have no idea, but that is a very interesting and cool question.

    Comment by Matt W. — December 29, 2008 @ 1:47 pm

  76. I agree with Matt that Roberts saw in Joseph’s writings the basis for his triparte model. Matt makes a very important point about Roberts being a champion of the KFD. Look at his notes on the KFD and this is where he pulls his “intelligence” doctrine from, more than anywhere else. Truman Madsen followed him on this and cites the KFD as the strongest evidence for the doctrine (see quote in this comment). The point of debate for them was primarily about whether individuality and identity were eternal or not. They both side with Joseph in saying that it was eternal. However, we are now splitting a finer hair by arguing about which of these models Joseph had in mind when he argued for eternal identity.

    Geoff: So that leaves Roberts with the task of either claiming JS didn’t really believe in them or that JS was wrong.

    I believe Roberts (were he here) would try to show that all of Joseph’s thoughts are best captured by a tripartite model. Given that Joseph didn’t fill in all the details and left some ambiguities, that is the sort of argument you are making as well, only you think all of his thoughts are best explained by eternal spirit bodies.

    BrianJ: an intelligence (defined for now as a “pre-decision to be a follower of God”) and a spirit (defined for now as a “decided to follow God”).

    You lost me with these definitions. Where do we get a hint that this is the defintition of an “intelligence” and a “spirit”?

    Comment by Jacob J — December 29, 2008 @ 2:19 pm

  77. Here is how I suspect the tripartite model came to be:

    - Joseph Smith taught that spirits were eternal and did so fairly explicitly near the end of his life.
    - Then JS died and the church had to move forward under BY’s leadership
    - The teachings of the KFD were largely lost in the shuffle with no wide dispersal of the sermons for many decades
    - For the remainder of the 19th century all sorts of other doctrines gained footing in the church, including a widespread acceptance of the notion of viviparous spirit birth
    - Decades later BH Roberts started taking the KFD seriously and those texts began to become more widespread
    - Roberts came into his reading of the KFD taking things like viviparous spirit birth (VSB) as a given
    - When he realized that beginningless spirits don’t jibe with VSB he read into the texts a compromise position
    - Thus the tripartite model was born

    I certainly don’t think that the passage Matt linked to in Moses points toward spirts having a beginning. Rather it looks like it is an expansion on the Genesis creation account and the whole point seems to be that there was a premortal existence for spirits.

    Frankly the tripartite model seems like a cheap parlor trick to me. It tries to escape the consequences of beginninglessness by pushing it back one level. I don’t think it works at all.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 29, 2008 @ 2:41 pm

  78. Geoff,

    A theory about how a doctrine could have come to be only gets you so far. I can craft a similar scenario for how your belief came to be and you would be about as impressed with it as I am with your scenario above.

    Comment by Jacob J — December 29, 2008 @ 3:17 pm

  79. It works better when the author is dead.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 29, 2008 @ 3:29 pm

  80. Har!

    Comment by Jacob J — December 29, 2008 @ 4:13 pm

  81. Jacob J: I’m pulling those definitions in #73 out of thin air, not pinning them on anyone (or any text). I thought they were useful for discussing the implications of the most benign version of tripartism I could think of. Let me know if I’m still “out there.”

    Comment by BrianJ — December 29, 2008 @ 4:24 pm

  82. Geoff (77)

    My version goes:
    - Joseph Smith taught that spirits were eternal and that we are children of God..

    And then would focus on BH Roberts filling in the blanks.

    For example, on June 16, 1844 in the “Sermon in the Grove”, Joseph taught:

    the Spirit itself bears witness with our Spirits that we are the children of god & if children then heirs and Joint heirs with Jesus Christ if So be that we Suffer with him in the flesh that we may be also glorified together.

    I freely admit that I see this as more of an adoption than a creation, but the implication to me is that 1)there is a time we were not children of God in our eternal existance and 2) there is an entity other than ourselves which is God that we can be children of.

    My take is that we were adopted by God (I do not know if we had a choice in the matter or not) and that that God was not inclusive of us at that point.

    If there is really a tripartite doctrine, our change from intelligence to spirit is, in my mind, fundamentally the change of becoming affiliated with God as his Child, and all that might entail. (which to me doesn’t mean vivaporous spirit birth, but that is just my opinion)

    Comment by Matt W. — December 29, 2008 @ 5:57 pm

  83. I don’t see your addition making any real change to my comment 77 Matt. Also, that SitG quote you used is just JS quoting Romans 8:16-17.

    You bring up an interesting issue relating to a time in our premortal lives before God considered us his children. I can’t off the top of my head think of any scriptures that confirms the existence of such a time. Are there any that you know of?

    Comment by Geoff J — December 29, 2008 @ 8:40 pm

  84. I do not know if we had a choice in the matter or not

    Dammit Matt—I mean, thank you, Matt, for raising so clearly the question I tried so miserably to ask three months ago!

    Geoff, If Matt is right (that there was a time when we existed but not as God’s children) then tripartism seems like more than just a cheap parlor trick.

    Comment by BrianJ — December 29, 2008 @ 10:11 pm

  85. BrianJ: If Matt is right (that there was a time when we existed but not as God’s children) then tripartism seems like more than just a cheap parlor trick.

    Well that is an important “if”. I’m wondering if there are scriptures someone will come up with that will provide evidence that there was a time in our premortal existence before we were children of God.

    Even if we find compelling evidence to support that theory I think Matt is in an odd position with his claims. He seems to be saying that this alleged “spirit body” we got has no practical value or purpose. I’m wondering: What’s the point of it?

    Comment by Geoff J — December 29, 2008 @ 10:21 pm

  86. Geoff J: Would it be speculation if I had quotes? You know all my JS quotes already. If I had a scripture, we’d probably just argue that it doesn’t say what I interpret it to say or that it was figurative.

    Brian J: I remember that thread. I never did go back and respond to Joe about Romans.

    Comment by Matt W. — December 30, 2008 @ 7:12 am

  87. The reason I asked if there is any evidence of a time our spirits were not considered children of God is because:

    1) I couldn’t think of any
    2) A cursory search didn’t bring any up and I was too lazy to dig deeper
    3) I have always just assumed it was so before now so it is a bit surprising that there isn’t support for that assumption in the canon

    That works in favor of the extreme position this post could lead to — namely that we all have always been in the One God and we just come here for a change of pace.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 30, 2008 @ 1:30 pm

  88. It occurred to me that those who believe creation ex nihilo have a similar problem: finding scriptures that describe a time before we were made. I don’t know what scriptures they use (and obviously I don’t believe in ex nihilo), but it might be a place for us to look.

    Comment by BrianJ — December 30, 2008 @ 3:48 pm

  89. Geoff: But if we are going to reject the concept of God as a literal single being as figurative in favor of a group, why worry about the “oneness” at all?

    The change of pace concept makes me think of Pullman’s Immortal beings in his “Dark Materials” Trilogy.

    Brian J: I’m fairly certain no such scriptures exist in the bible.

    Comment by Matt W. — December 30, 2008 @ 4:18 pm

  90. why worry about the “oneness” at all

    Because the scriptures call the unity of divine persons “one God”. I’m not sure we are worried about it but it does seem to be a topic worth exploring.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 30, 2008 @ 6:02 pm

  91. Sorry. I didn’t notice this thread resurrecting.

    On B. H. Roberts I think one need consider three additional influences. One was his influence by philosophy and especially people who accepted Cartesian dualism. Roberts needed an intelligence/spirit duality because he couldn’t see the mind as material but spirits were said by Joseph to be material. Thus a tripartite model.

    Add in the fact that Pratt’s influence was rising. While Roberts doesn’t adopt Pratt’s views he’s clearly influenced by them against Young. And what does Pratt have? The intelligence atom, a spirit body which is organized atoms but loosely so, and then our bodies which are the uniting of this spirit organization with the material organization. But once again it’s a tripartite model. The only difference from Pratt is that Roberts rejects intelligences as atoms and moves from property dualism to substance dualism.

    Finally by the time Roberts enters the scene the notion of a spirit birth analogous to our mortal birth is pretty accepted mainstream doctrine. Indeed many one say that the LDS notion of marriage that had developed by this time makes very little sense unless there is a reason for the marriage in terms of creation. Which naturally leads to sexual thinking.

    Comment by clark — December 30, 2008 @ 7:10 pm

  92. A few other notes.

    First regarding the JST of Gen 1 & 2 in Moses. To be created spiritually is not necessarily to be created as a spirit.

    Regarding eternal spirits. The question becomes what we were prior to spirit birth if one accepts that. One can say that we are essentially uncreated and material (i.e. rejecting eternal disembodied Cartesian minds ala Roberts) while believing that there was a “birth” which was a certain kind of organization of the spirit. (Much like we were a fetus before being a child — I think an analogous situation for spirit is quite compelling) In that case one can have ones cake and eat it too.

    Regarding Joseph I think too much is made of terminology in his sermons and notes and not enough about the structuralism therein. That is I think one is assuming that the words are being used in a clearly defined unequivocal fashion which just seems incorrect. Indeed folks have noted equivocal uses which suggests the terminological approach is problematic.

    Comment by clark — December 30, 2008 @ 7:16 pm

  93. Because the scriptures call the unity of divine persons “one God”

    The Scriptures also saw God the Father has body of Flesh and Blood. They also say Moses saw the one God face to face. They also say we were created in the one God’s image. If we are going to take the “Oneness” seriously, should we not take the rest with it? Does that make sense?

    Comment by Matt W. — December 30, 2008 @ 8:39 pm

  94. Regarding eternal spirits. The question becomes what we were prior to spirit birth if one accepts that.

    Wouldn’t the Roberts answer be “Eternal Spirits that are not yet children of God”, if we keep in mind the original quote by Roberts before he was required to make the intelligence/spirit distinction.

    Here, then, stands the truth so far as it may be gathered from God’s word and the nature of things: There is in man an eternal, uncreated, self existing entity, call it “intelligence,” “mind,” “spirit,” “soul”–what you will, so long as you recognize it, and regard its nature as eternal. There came a time when in the progress of things, (which is only another way of saying in the “nature of things”) an earth-career, or earth existence, because of the things it has to teach, was necessary to the enlargement, to the advancement of these ‘intelligences,” these “spirits,” “souls.” Hence an earth is prepared; and one sufficiently advanced and able, by the nature of him, is chosen, through whom this earth-existence may be brought to pass.

    Comment by Matt W. — December 30, 2008 @ 8:51 pm

  95. Matt,

    Nobody, including me, is refuting the idea that it is appropriate to refer to certain individual divine persons as “God”. And yet we are told in the revelations that there is only one God. So while it may be appropriate to refer to individuals as “God” only the unity of divine persons, the divine concert of divine persons, are the “One God”. In other words a divine individual might represent the One God but that doesn’t mean any single divine person is the One God.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 30, 2008 @ 8:55 pm

  96. Geoff: To be clear then,in your view, Heavenly Father is HF by divine investiture of authority from the totality of all divine beings. It is like a missionary being sent to labor in a certain area, and HF was sent to this area to labor among us?

    Comment by Matt W. — December 30, 2008 @ 11:05 pm

  97. I think it is entirely possible that when Jesus referred to his Father he wasn’t talking about any individual but rather the One God (read: the great divine concert).

    Having said that, we know that individual divine beings can be referred to as “God” even though they aren’t the One God by themselves. For instance we get this verse:

    34 Have they not said that God himself should come down among the children of men, and take upon him the form of man, and go forth in mighty power upon the face of the earth?

    So I don’t think it is a problem that in the vision JS had in 1820 he saw two personages. This divine investiture notion could be employed to bridge that gap as you mentioned.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 30, 2008 @ 11:16 pm

  98. I should mention that the Cartesian dualism thing Clark brought up is an interesting point about Roberts. Joseph had pushed hard toward a materialism but Roberts did an end run around the “there is no immaterial matter” talk with his idea of totally immaterial floating minds called “intelligences”.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 30, 2008 @ 11:19 pm

  99. I happen to think the difference between Christ’s references to “my Father” and “the Father” are significant – in that the former probably refers more particularly to his Father and the latter more particularly to the divine concert as a whole.

    Comment by Mark D. — December 30, 2008 @ 11:29 pm

  100. he couldn’t see the mind as material

    Clark, can you give me a reference on this?

    Comment by Matt W. — December 31, 2008 @ 8:32 am

  101. Matt, he says this in the 70′s Course a few places. There was a discussion of this and his use of William James (whom I vaguely recall him getting his argument from) over at JI earlier this year.

    I’ll see if I can’t look it up when I get back from Idaho.

    Comment by clark — January 2, 2009 @ 9:12 am

  102. Thanks Clark, I’d really appreciate it. I will try and get to a computer that has Gospellink on it and dig up the 70s manuals.

    Comment by Matt W. — January 4, 2009 @ 7:38 am

  103. Tom: whether in or out of time

    There is no physical time in which God exists. Time is just a parameter of change. There is no physical past and future. No arrow of time. Only the ever changing present.

    God uses the expressions of “time” in the scriptures which is what we call as historical time (tau coordinate in physics-an evolution parameter)to map out our historical sense and “future” events. In other words, time is an abstract measurement of change. In the fundamental level of things, it’s all particles, their properties and their interactions-the rest, perceptual illusions. Nobody has observed time because simply there is no physical time.

    Comment by Randy Ugay — May 22, 2009 @ 3:12 am

  104. Randy Ugay,

    You are long on assertions and short on supporting evidence. I wouldn’t mind so much if you weren’t wrong in your assertions. God does live in time if God has a body. See a post on that subject here.

    Comment by Geoff J — May 22, 2009 @ 8:38 am

  105. Actually, Geoff, isn’t Randy basically agreeing with the idea of a non-time travelling God(or non-timeless God) by saying there is no past or future for anyone? Isn’t Rany basically saying only that time travel is impossible as then either does not yet exist or no longer exists, and we are stuck in “one eternal now”?

    Comment by Matt W. — May 22, 2009 @ 8:48 am

  106. Hmmm… I think you might be right Matt.

    Comment by Geoff J — May 22, 2009 @ 9:03 am

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