Chapter 1 – Council in Heaven

March 10, 2009    By: Kent (MC) @ 1:47 pm   Category: Plan of Salvation

Okay, so here is the first chapter of my children’s book (to be illustrated by my wife). See my two earlier posts (here and here) if you don’t know what this series is all about and the table of contents.

Chapter 1: Council in Heaven

Before we were born on this earth, we lived as spirits with our Heavenly Father. We learned a lot as spirits and Heavenly Father told us He had a plan that would help us learn more so we could be even happier. Heavenly Father explained that He has a fullness of joy, which means He is full of love and gratitude, and that He loves being our Father.

Heavenly Father’s plan would help us all be full of joy like He is. We call His plan the Plan of Salvation, or the Plan of Happiness. Heavenly Father was a spirit like we were, but He also had a body and tremendous glory. As we learned, we were also gaining glory, and having glory made us happy, but we couldn’t receive more glory and have a more intimate relationship with our Father without coming to this world.

In His plan, a world would be created where our spirits could have bodies. We would be born and leave behind our glory and memory of our spirit life with God. We would have the veil which made us forget everything before this life. The veil would allow us to freely choose goodness for its own sake rather than because we knew God was watching us. We would continue to have agency, which meant we could make our own choices about what kind of people we wanted to be. Heavenly Father said this was important because if we chose a loving relationship with Him, we would become a complete person like He is, and be able to freely share ourselves with others. We would be reunited with our bodies by being resurrected and share more of God’s glory and love than we ever could have as just spirits.

Being in a body would make it hard to always do the right things, we would have to trust God (and His Spirit) instead of just our bodily senses, and often they would directly contradict each other (especially because the senses teach fear and scarcity). Proper use of our bodies to demonstrate love to others would make us happy and give us glory again. If God could trust us to make right choices and be obedient, we could be trusted with more knowledge, glory, power, and responsibilities.

There are lots of important things we can learn on Earth and some of them we will also have to learn after we die. Some of the things we are to learn are to: control our bodies, love others selflessly, experience pain and sadness, appreciate heaven by experiencing hell, gain wisdom through life’s experiences, learn to serve others, make good choices, exercise faith, prize goodness, find out about ourselves through trials and testing, learn about the consequences of our actions, repent and forgive, develop relationships, learn to trust God’s Spirit, choose to be in a relationship with God, and to become more like God is.

Even after death, spirits can still learn a lot of these things because they still have the veil which keeps them from remembering life before they were born. The spirits of dead people still live on this earth and can remember how nice it was to have a body. After we die we even learn to appreciate the bodies we had in life! We were excited to come to earth and have the opportunity to become like our Heavenly Father and we told Him that we wanted to follow His plan for us. However, not everyone liked God’s plan.

(Did you see how I teased the next chapter in the last sentence? I saw it in a book once.) I’m mainly interested in anything that seems to hit you as strange or incomplete in the portrayal (pats on the back are also appreciated, but not quite as helpful). I hope you feel comfortable challenging me and asking for further clarification on any of the concepts I promote.

32 Comments »

  1. The spirits of dead people still live on this earth and can remember how nice it was to have a body.
    Creepy.

    Comment by Hal — March 10, 2009 @ 1:57 pm

  2. You should see the illustrations!

    Comment by Kent (MC) — March 10, 2009 @ 2:02 pm

  3. “The spirits of dead people still live on this earth and can remember how nice it was to have a body.”

    While I agree with this based on Brigham Young’s teachings, I don’t see that the spirits staying on earth is generally taught in the church. Much like anything else we believe.

    Comment by Gilgamesh — March 10, 2009 @ 3:14 pm

  4. Okay, good point! The question of where dead spirits live is really unimportant and can be easily removed. Thanks!

    Comment by Kent (MC) — March 10, 2009 @ 4:04 pm

  5. “I don’t see that the spirits staying on earth is generally taught in the church.”

    To the contrary, this seems like common “knowledge” in the classes I have participated in.

    Comment by rick — March 10, 2009 @ 7:54 pm

  6. Kent, when it comes to stuff like this, I am a hardcore parser – and there are multiple things here that I think are speculative or assumptive in nature. I agree with most of them, but I still think they are speculative or assumptive and shouldn’t be called “doctrine”.

    If you have a disclaimer, you’re covered. *grin*

    Comment by Ray — March 10, 2009 @ 8:03 pm

  7. Sorry, I forgot to add a question – that you might have answered previously. I’m too lazy to look.

    What is the age group to which this is targeted?

    Comment by Ray — March 10, 2009 @ 8:05 pm

  8. I agree with Ray. I’m not sure why you focus so much on the veil and how it helps us have agency.

    Also, why do our senses teach fear and scarcity? Our senses help us learn and create curiosity and wonder.

    I also think it is scary to write “our bodies help us to experience heaven by experiencing hell.” Earth is not “hell.”

    I would also very much like to know the target age range. I am also very critical of children’s books in general, so I hope this is constructive criticism.

    But kudos to you for attempting to write one! It is fun!

    I don’t know if you are near completion or just starting out but it might be good to write from a perspective of one “spirit” who goes to Earth and through the Plan, instead of just an educational religious book.

    Comment by Merkat — March 10, 2009 @ 8:33 pm

  9. Nice work Kent.

    This one was interesting to me:

    Some of the things we are to learn are to: control our bodies, love others selflessly, experience pain and sadness, appreciate heaven by experiencing hell, gain wisdom through life’s experiences, learn to serve others, make good choices, exercise faith, prize goodness, find out about ourselves through trials and testing, learn about the consequences of our actions, repent and forgive, develop relationships, learn to trust God’s Spirit, choose to be in a relationship with God, and to become more like God is.

    It seems to me that we could learn how to do all of those things without a physical body (except perhaps “control our bodies”).

    Comment by Geoff J — March 10, 2009 @ 9:25 pm

  10. As I see it, the biggest problem is that you are attempting to share your worldview with your children but you limit your presentation of that worldview to your spiritual views only. It is going to be near impossible to satisfy Leo Apostel’s 7 tenets of a worldview if you abrogate your dependence in your worldview of all knowledge not touched on by your outline of a faith understanding. Your outline seems to say that only tenets of faith and the practice of religion should constitute the whole of a worldview. I don’t think you believe that. I know I don’t believe that. When I hear statements like: “That which is demonstrated, we accept with joy; but vain philosophy, human theory and mere speculations of men, we do not accept nor do we adopt anything contrary to divine revelation or good common sense.”

    I have to digest that in the context of my worldview. That worldview is more informed by my experience, what I have seen in the world, than what I have been told by others. I think that statement, internalized is a powerful foundation for shaping a growing understanding. But it’s messy because with that statement digested I look at everything from speeches made across a pulpit to postulates in journals with the same litmus test: Does it harmonize with sound morality and increase my faith in Deity? or in my words, Is it practical without being overly simplistic and fundamentalist in nature? In every case I will toss ideology which precludes a mutual belief and knowledge based on faith and observation. In conversations with my children I would start a general sharing of “all important knowledge” with something like:

    “Something cool we’ve been able to see is that part of you and me and everything around us is super strong, it cannot be destroyed. That basic stuff is like energy or light. We sometimes call that basic energy intelligence because we were more than just a spark or a light bulb, something about us has always been us. Knowing that makes me feel safe and strong, even though I don’t know exactly how to explain it. Everyone is made of the same basic stuff, you, me, rocks, plants, the earth, the sun, and God. But some of us are more alike. Like you and me are more alike than either of us is like a rock. And God and us are more alike than say us and a planet. Because we are alike in many ways God wants us to experience and have the same joys that he has. …”

    If you don’t interweave all you know then it’s not your worldview.

    Comment by David — March 10, 2009 @ 10:40 pm

  11. Ray,

    The age group is for 8-12 year olds. I agree that anytime you try and “explain” or synthesize the scriptures or words of the prophets you end up being assumptive (and sometimes speculating). I recognize that others can have different views about lots of things I present as part of the plan. I’m not so much interested in passing on “orthodoxy” as I am a worldview that helps them find room for God in their lives. That being said, I really do think that all of the ideas I present have considerable support in the scriptures and the modern prophets. I’m very interested in those ideas that you think may be unsubstantiated though. That would be very helpful!

    Comment by Kent (MC) — March 11, 2009 @ 8:00 am

  12. Merkat, thank you for finding specific examples for us to discuss. I really appreciate your criticism.

    The concept of the veil of forgetfulness is actually not found in the scriptures, but it is found in talks by modern prophets quite abundantly. How that veil works with agency is inferred by the need for the veil at all. In other words, if the veil wasn’t needed for our “testing,” why do we have it? As said in Alma 32:

    18 Now I ask, is this faith? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for if a man knoweth a thing he hath no cause to believe, for he knoweth it.
    19 And now, how much more cursed is he that knoweth the will of God and doeth it not, than he that only believeth, or only hath cause to believe, and falleth into transgression?

    Perhaps agency is the wrong word here, but I think the way we use the word agency gives the connotation that we are able to choose without compulsion; and in this case choose a relationship with God without being overawed by his majesty and glory.

    On your next question, about how I emphasize that our senses teach fear and scarcity (rather than positive things), I was thinking a couple of things. I’m focusing on those aspects of our nature that can’t be experienced without a mortal body. Love, curiosity, wonder, joy all appear to me to be part of our eternal nature. Fear and scarcity are part of the animal kingdom and the world in which we now live (but should not be a part of eternity). I really don’t know what more I can do to illustrate this point besides pointing to a biological food chain. Scarcity of food and other resources just seems to be a given. I propose that mortality is actually quite hellish for most of us mortals, with brutality and using people as objects being the norm, rather than the exception. I want my kids to expect pain from life and be surprised by kindness, at least intellectually.

    Doing a narrative may be helpful, I’ll talk about it with my wife.

    Comment by Kent (MC) — March 11, 2009 @ 9:09 am

  13. Geoff, you are absolutely right that all of those things can be learned without a body. As I see it, the benefit of a body is that it allows us to respond to each others needs and show love since those needs are so readily apparent. Without the immediacy of needing to feed and keep our bodies alive, without the pain of this life, of giving and taking perceived scarce resources, would we have the desire or impetus to change in a world of abundance (Eden)? The external influences of this life provide us with people who have real needs and challenges that we can respond to, that we feel a desire to respond to, and thus we are able form a character. The sign of love is sacrifice, but how do you sacrifice something in a world without need? I think this is the disadvantage of the dead to the living: change takes a lot longer.

    Comment by Kent (MC) — March 11, 2009 @ 9:22 am

  14. David, your post made me smile! How can I disagree with you on this? My worldview includes how to do business in this world, how to take care of the body, the value of the scientific method, philosophy of government, etc. I appreciate your challenge for me to engage my children in more ways than just the spiritual.

    This book would not nearly be what I want it to be if, as a result, my children didn’t engage me in conversation as a result. I can see myself reading this to them and having them ask questions as we read. Just the other night my kids were trying to deal with the paradox of always existing in some form or another, fun stuff! I guess I look at imparting a worldview like constructing a building, without pouring strong footings and a good foundation, the rest of the building is suspect. I want to provide materials they can use to build for earthquakes (as an analogy). First things first and all.

    Comment by Kent (MC) — March 11, 2009 @ 9:36 am

  15. I want to make sure I understand what you are trying to teach your kids here. Basically, If I understand correctly, you are trying to answer the question of “why did heavenly father have a plan?” And “what was the purpose of the plan?” Is that correct?

    Comment by Matt W. — March 11, 2009 @ 10:10 am

  16. Matt, I think I’m mainly focused on the questions “why am I here?”, “why is life the way it is?”, “how can I be happy?”, and “what can I expect from the future?” I think that in order to answer those questions I need to try and explain those other two questions you just referenced. So go ahead and ask your next question.

    Comment by Kent (MC) — March 11, 2009 @ 10:15 am

  17. I guess I would start with some basic things like:

    There is a Universe, everything in it has always been in it, including you, but you weren’t happy. Your Father in heaven saw that you weren’t happy and…

    Maybe that is imposing too much of my worldview on the scenario though, but I think the eternal nature of everything plays into understanding why life is the way it is.

    Comment by Matt W. — March 11, 2009 @ 1:03 pm

  18. but you weren’t happy

    Maybe go with “but you weren’t as happy as you could be” ?

    Comment by Geoff J — March 11, 2009 @ 1:43 pm

  19. Matt and Geoff: I actually believe that we were happy before this life, in a “Dollhouse” (Joss Whedon) kind of way. Mortality brought deeper compassion and depth. I’m okay with working in the idea that we’ve always existed.

    Comment by Kent (MC) — March 11, 2009 @ 2:18 pm

  20. Fwiw, I think we were as “happy” as we could have been at the time. The way I define “happy”, I’m not convinced mortality adds to happiness. (Obviously, I’m not a huge fan of the phrase, “Plan of Happiness”. I like “Plan of Progression” – but . . .)

    Kent, the following are what I see as speculative or assumptive – as well as my personal wording suggestions. I’m not saying I disbelieve them – just that I’m not sure they can be classified as “doctrine” in the highest sense of that word.

    1) Heavenly Father told us He had a plan that would help us learn more so we could be even happier. (I would say something like “more fully like Him”.)

    2) Heavenly Father explained that He has a fullness of joy, which means He is full of love and gratitude, and that He loves being our Father. (I probably would leave out the definition. I think “fullness of joy” is so comprehensive that it should be left without qualifying definition.)

    3) Heavenly Father was [I would say "had"] a spirit like we were ["had"], but He also had a body and tremendous glory.

    4) As we learned, we were also gaining glory, and having glory made us happy, but we couldn’t receive more glory and have a more intimate relationship with our Father without coming to this world. (I’m not sure “intimate relationship” is clear enough.)

    5) Heavenly Father said this was important because if we chose a loving relationship with Him, we would become a complete person like He is, and be able to freely share ourselves with others. (I’m not sure how I would re-word this, but it just doesn’t sound like something that most 8-12-year-olds would understand. I’m not sure I understand the last phrase. Perhaps I would leave it simply as “we would become a complete person like He is”.)

    6) (especially because the senses teach fear and scarcity). (??? – What do you mean? That was my initial reaction, and I think you need to re-word it to reflect what you said in clarification. I think “experience pain and sadness” later might address what you are trying to say. Perhaps by adding “fear and the need to prioritize because of scarcity” – or something like that – you could make this part clearer.)

    7) The spirits of dead people still live on this earth and can remember how nice it was to have a body. (Right or not, I’m not sure why this is necessary in a summary children’s book. I think it’s speculative.)

    8) After we die we even learn to appreciate the bodies we had in life! (I think that’s one of the purposes of THIS life, not something that happens after death. Actually, I can see quite a few possible negative results of internalizing the idea that we will appreciate our bodies after we die.)

    Comment by Ray — March 11, 2009 @ 2:31 pm

  21. Kent, I like the chapter, but what about the council? It’s the chapter title, but then the chapter doesn’t mention it other than by implication.

    Comment by Eric Russell — March 11, 2009 @ 2:41 pm

  22. Ray, you are a gem. Thank you for your feedback! The distinction between joy and happiness is definitely something worth pointing out to my kids, especially since they are constantly praying to “have a good time.” I’ll definitely reword most all of your suggestions.

    I want to parse with you on #3, because the scriptures plainly teach that God is a spirit (John 4:24), who just happens to have a body too. I’m not sure how God “posesses” or “had” a spirit since that is what we believe is our core identity. I don’t know how I “had” a spirit, I think I just was a spirit and now I’ve been added upon. How do you see this?

    Also, on numbers 7 & 8, I was thinking of D&C 138:50: “For the dead had looked upon the long absence of their spirits from their bodies as a bondage.” The underlying message I want to give my children is that the material world is a very good thing and that our bodies are special and beneficial to us (and perhaps among the main reasons we came to earth). I think that I will just come out and say that then instead of trying to squeeze the meaning I get from that verse into some trite statements.

    Comment by Kent (MC) — March 11, 2009 @ 2:48 pm

  23. Ha! Eric, you get the gold star. I’m surprised nobody else mentioned it earlier. I actually had previously written some ideas about the council of the gods and the presentation of the plan, but since I was trying to distill it I left it out and now it sounds more like a family council; “So we’re thinking of moving to Milwaukee, kids. Trust us, it’ll be great!” How would you describe it in one or two sentences?

    Comment by Kent (MC) — March 11, 2009 @ 2:56 pm

  24. Kent, I agree with the spirit message, but I think “God was a spirit” simply is a loaded statement in the overall arena of religious discussion. You do a great job of adding the next phrase to contextualize it, so it’s just a personal bias.

    Comment by Ray — March 11, 2009 @ 3:01 pm

  25. Geoff #18, you are correct. I typed too quick on that one.

    Comment by Matt W. — March 11, 2009 @ 6:08 pm

  26. I’d make it look like the council in The Lord of the Rings, except Boromir is Satan, Gandalf is Jesus, Aragorn is the Holy Ghost, Elrond is Heavenly Father, and Legolas is Heavenly Mother. Frodo represents all of us. He says, “I’ll go to earth, though…I do not know the way,” and Jesus says, “I will help you bear this burden.” Then the Holy Ghost kneels and says, “If I can protect you, I will. You will have my spirit.”

    Comment by Eric Russell — March 11, 2009 @ 8:50 pm

  27. Eric, that is perhaps the best thing I’ve read in a long time. Thank you.

    Comment by aquinas — March 11, 2009 @ 9:28 pm

  28. Legolas is Heavenly Mother.

    Abso-freaking-lutely brilliant – the whole thing, but that especially.

    Comment by Ray — March 11, 2009 @ 10:54 pm

  29. Eric, no way would Boromir work as Satan. I like your other suggestions though. Any ideas on Star Wars tie-ins?

    Comment by Kent (MC) — March 12, 2009 @ 7:54 am

  30. (26.)

    Truly a great moment in Mormon blog commenting history.

    Comment by Scott — March 12, 2009 @ 10:50 am

  31. Hey honey, I finally read this post! Not that anyone is still reading the comments here, but let me clarify a point. We are not trying to teach our children the doctrine of the gospel…in this book. We approached this book with the question, “If we were both to die before our children were raised, what message would we want to leave them? What would be most important for them to understand?” So yes, there is plenty of speculation–and I don’t agree whole-heartedly with all of the statements Kent included, but marriage is about compromise, right?–but we never claimed that this was all doctrinely sound. This is a book to convey our understanding of what is most important to our children. Maybe we should add a preface to the front of the book to clarify that.

    I love Merkat’s idea of a story rather than a lesson book format. With all the content, I think a children’s novel with a central character would be compelling and would bring the lessons back to their remembrance through their (my children’s) childhood. So basically, this book is never going to be finished. Maybe we’ll just direct them to this blog instead.

    Comment by Mary White — April 7, 2009 @ 4:18 pm

  32. Then Brother Brigham adds, “And my ax!”

    Comment by Nathan E. Rasmussen — May 13, 2010 @ 11:50 am

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