What Joseph believed about Spirit bodies.

April 16, 2009    By: Matt W. @ 5:59 am   Category: spirit birth,Spirits/Intelligences,Theology

Jacob J and I have been l somewhat half-heartedly putting together this post for over a month now. Seeing J. Stapley’s excellent post over at BCC, I thought I’d dust it off a bit and post it. The scope of this post is not to put forth any foundational doctrine or all encompassing concept of theology, but it is merely our hope to establish a few concepts regarding Joseph’s beliefs regarding spirits, and specifically his understanding that pre-mortal human spirits were in human form, which some would term a spirit body. We readily acknowledge that Joseph’s thoughts on this matter are disputed and the sources we have are ambiguous enough to support multiple readings.

With that in mind, it seems prudent to survey as many quotes as possible and look for points on which they seem to converge. While one, two, or even three quotes may be disputed, we believe the combined evidence of these statements puts forward a strong case for what Joseph may have believed on the subject. We provide or reference all the statements and sermons we think are pertinent to the subject below. Please feel free to add to these in the comments, if you know of any statements on the subject (for or against) that we may have missed.

First, for the sake of context, it is important to establish Joseph’s belief in the eternal nature of man. Joseph put forth the following revelation:

…these two spirits, notwithstanding one is more intelligent than the other, have no beginning; they existed before, they shall have no end, they shall exist after, for they are gnolaum, or eternal. (Abraham3:18 -1835, with revisions in 1842)

Joseph would go on to teach up to his death the eternal nature of spirits, and further linking theses eternal spirits with God by saying:

God who sits in yonder heavens is a man like yourselves

-Joseph Smith, April 7, 1844, as recorded in the Wilford Woodruff Journal

These two ideas, that man’s spirit is without beginning or end, and that we are of the same kind as God, are essential to understanding Joseph’s belief in spirits. Linking this with the above stated thesis, Joseph taught that even members of the Godhead were “personages” of spirit with “spiritual bodies”

The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit. Were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell in us (D&C 130:22 -1843)

But the holy ghost is yet a Spiritual body and waiting to take to himself a body. as the Savior did or as god did or the gods before them took bodies for the Saviour Says the work that my father did do i also & those are the works he took himself a body & then laid down his life that he might take it up again

-Joseph Smith, June 16 1844, as recorded in the George Laub Journal (emphasis added)

[Joseph] said was the provence of the Father to preside as the Chief or President–Jesus as the Mediator & Holy Ghost as the testator or witness– the Son had a Tabernicle & so had the father But the Holy Ghost is a personage of spirit without tabernicle

-Joseph Smith, March 9, 1841 McIntire Minute Book

The meaning of “personage” is certainly ambiguous, but we have some evidence as to what Joseph Smith meant by the term “personage.”[1] When commenting on the scripture which refers to the Holy Ghost descending in “the form of a dove,” he said:

Holy Ghost is a personage in the form of a personage–does not confine itself to form of a dove–but in sign of a dove. (JS Diary)

The Holy Ghost cannot be transformed into a Dove but the sign of a Dove was given to John to signify the Truth of the Deed as the Dove was an emblem or Token of Truth (Franklin D. Richards “Scriptural Items”)

Here is a case where spirit “shape shifting” would be an easy and obvious reading but Joseph Smith goes out of his way to teach that it is, in fact, impossible for the Holy Ghost to take the form of a dove given that he is a personage. For Joseph the word “personage” implies a form.

It is impossible to escape the anthropomorphic language used by Joseph Smith whenever he speaks of heavenly beings. We have the Spirit of the Lord coming to Nephi who is “in the form of man” (1 Ne. 11:11). We have him seeing two personages in his first vision, one pointing to the other, and we have this:

Behold, this body, which ye now behold, is the body of my spirit; and man have I created after the body of my spirit; and even as I appear unto thee to be in the spirit will I appear unto my people in the flesh. (Ether 3:16)

This is Jesus Christ talking, as “the Father and the Son” (Ether 3:14) and noting that his spirit has a body and men are made in the image of his spirit body. I have seen it argued that this could be an example of a special case, being representative of only Christ’s spirit, and not all spirits, and that his reference to man being created after his body is only to physical man. It could also put forth the idea of a pre-mortal spirit that was in the image and likeness of a human form being normative. It seems that the idea of two different deified beings having the shape of human form pre-mortally must point to one of these options. This brings us to a few more statements from Smith, like the following description of creation from Moses:

And I, the Lord God, had created all the children of men; and not yet a man to till the ground; for in heaven created I them; and there was not yet flesh upon the earth, neither in the water, neither in the air …out of the ground made I, the Lord God, to grow every tree, naturally, that is pleasant to the sight of man; and man could behold it. And it became also a living soul. For it was spiritual in the day that I created it; for it remaineth in the sphere in which I, God, created it, yea, even all things which I prepared for the use of man; and man saw that it was good for food. And I, the Lord God, planted the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and also the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Moses 3:5,9, emphasis added -1830)

This revealed insertion into the book of Genesis shows that Joseph took the creation that was present in Moses 2 to be pre-mortal spiritual creation, and here in vs 9 we show that it remained spiritual as a creation while the events of the fall came about. Thus these spirit beings, who are said to be in the image and likeness of God in this same narative, and as referenced in Ether (“man have I created after the body of my spirit” Ether 3:16) were personages with spiritual bodies. This pushes away from th idea of Christ and the Holy Ghost being special cases, and, in my view, leans toward a concept of the physical descriptions used by Joseph for Pre-mortal beings applicable to Humans as well. This idea of our pre-mortal spirits having a body like form is no more clearly taught in scripture than when in 1832, Joseph received the following:

…that which is spiritual being in the likeness of that which is temporal; and that which is temporal in the likeness of that which is spiritual; the spirit of man in the likeness of his person, as also the spirit of the beast, and every other creature which God has created (D&C 77:2- 1832)

Now it may be argued that Joseph left behind the idea of created spirits, abandoning them for the later taught concept of eternal spirits, and along with the created state, he also abandoned any notions of a spirit body. However this seems improbable in light of the following from the Joseph Smith Diary:

Case of the woman & 7 husbands Luke 20-29 &c

Those who keep no eternal Law in this life or make no eternal contract are single & alone in the eternal world (Luke 20-35) and are only made Angels to minister to those who shall be heirs of Salvation never becoming Sons of God having never kept the Law of God ie eternal Law

The earthly is the image of the Heavenly shows that is by the multiplication of Lives that the eternal worlds are created and occupied

that which is born of the flesh is flesh that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit

-Joseph Smith, July 16, 1843, Joseph Smith Diary, Willard Richards as scribe (emphasis and formatting added)

Here again we see that the earthly is still, in Joseph’s view, in the image of the heavenly precursor, and connoting that our Spirits, which he now taught were Eternal, still went through a form of Spirit Birth. (We will not argue what this spirit birth specifically entails here.). The quote about “that which is born of the spirit” being spirit is all the more striking in the context of the larger quote.

The language here is clearly related to the ideas expressed in D&C 132, the context being marriage and the continuation of lives being possible only for those who are eternally married. Based on this context, any idea that this reference to being born of spirit is an allusion to the meaning put behind the same phrase in John 3:6 seems unconvincing at best. It is much more likely that Joseph is doing what he often does, and taking a normal phrase from the scripture and filling it with new meaning.

Also, before this we have Joseph Smith speaking on a subject regard a body like form to spirits in 1841

Brethren be not deceived an nor doubtful of this fact a spirit of a good man or an angell from heaven who has not a body will never undertake to shake hands with you for he knows you cannot perceive his touch and never will extend his hand but any spirit or body that is attended by a dove you may know to be a pure spirit Thus you may in some measure detect them the spirits who may come unto you (Martha Coray Notebook, March 21, 1841)

This concept of an intangible spirit having hands one can or cannot shake was repeatedly taught from 1839 to 1843 (see footnote one here.), and further reinforces the idea of Joseph teaching the idea of pre-mortal persons being in the form and likeness of human beings.

In conclusion, Joseph Smith arguably believed throughout his life that the pre-mortal spirit was in the image and likeness of man (or woman or God or Goddess) prior to his or her birth in a mortal tabernacle, and was in the image and likeness of the same after death.

[1] This next argument was edited into the post after it was first published based on comment #9.

end note: The question of whether these spirit beings were actually visible to the human eye or if they were only visible to the minds eye is beyond the scope of this post.

69 Comments »

  1. I agree with the post. I think that pre-mortal spirits were/are in bodily form, but I don’t think that they were in such form for all past eternity. At some point I think that there was a spirit birth (whatever that means).

    Comment by Nate J — April 16, 2009 @ 6:52 am

  2. Hey Matt,

    Could you go back and add dates to the scriptures you are citing as well? I think the chronology of the quotes is a vital part of this discussion.

    Comment by Geoff J — April 16, 2009 @ 8:05 am

  3. Now it may be argued that Joseph left behind the idea of created spirits, abandoning them for the later taught concept of eternal spirits, and along with the created state, he also abandoned any notions of a spirit body.

    Why have you mashed these two seperate ideas into one sentence?

    It seems pretty clear to me that Joseph did teach spirits are uncreated in the later years. In fact you haven’t made a very compelling case that he ever taught anything directly to the contrary.

    I don’t see why we should assume he ever abandoned a notion of spirit bodies either. It seems to me he simply believes “spirit bodies” (if that is what we insist on calling spirits) are eternal and uncreated.

    Comment by Geoff J — April 16, 2009 @ 8:15 am

  4. Geoff #3, that is how it seems to me as well. Note that in some previous discussions we have uncovered thorny issues with evolution and the mind-body problem if the spirit body is in human form eternally.

    Comment by Jacob J — April 16, 2009 @ 8:25 am

  5. Well we can get around that by claiming spirit bodies are not in a fixed, static form, right?

    Comment by Geoff J — April 16, 2009 @ 8:29 am

  6. This is an impressive collection of quotes, and I do think it makes a compelling case for spirit bodies. Nicely done.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — April 16, 2009 @ 8:48 am

  7. Geoff: I’d be happy to. It’ll have to wait until after work.

    Re:#3- I think I was trying to do too many things with that single sentence. Let me try to be more clear. In the past, here and at Splendid Sun, we have argued that there is no such thing as a spirit body. It is abundantly clear that Joseph taught uncreated spirits, and I am not making any sort of case here that he didn’t, hence I start with quotes talking about uncreated spirits. What I am conceding is that yes, he did stop talking about the spiritual creation as his thinking moved forward, but he did not abandon the idea of a spirit shaped like a human.

    Comment by Matt W. — April 16, 2009 @ 9:03 am

  8. Geoff (#6),

    There are multiple ways to “get around that,” sure. Yours is a reasonable solution. But, spirits not having a fixed static form has as little basis in the teachings of JS as the idea of a spirit body having a separate existence from the spirit, or the mind of man. My point is that the questions that arise are not answered by Joseph Smith and all attempts to reconcile them require you to add something or interpret beyond what is definitively claimed by JS himself.

    The point of this post is, in a sense, to investigate the plausibility of your idea with respect to what Joseph believed. While we can’t be sure, the evidence above suggests that Joseph believed spirits have definite human form. We’re not trying to put too much weight on any one proof text, but gather statements from many sources over a long period of time all of which seem to take for granted the human form of the spirit. In the face of this, the idea that spirits don’t have a definite form appears ad hoc to me. (This is not to say that it is wrong.)

    Comment by Jacob J — April 16, 2009 @ 9:04 am

  9. Might I add, your case would be helped if we could find any example of Joseph implying that spirits could shape shift in some way. I am not aware of such a statement. In fact, even in places where he could have gone that direction he goes the other way. For example, the Holy Ghost is said to have descended in the form of a dove. Joseph gives this commentary:

    Holy Ghost is a personage in the form of a personage–does not confine itself to form of a dove–but in sign of a dove. (JS Diary)

    The Holy Ghost cannot be transformed into a Dove but the sign of a Dove was given to John to signify the Truth of the Deed as the Dove was an emblem or Token of Truth (Franklin D. Richards “Scriptural Items”)

    So here is a case where the opportunity to accept shape shifting is there for the taking and Joseph goes out of his way to teach that it is, in fact, impossible for the Holy Ghost to take the form of a dove given that he is a personage. In fact, this argument might deserve a spot in the post itself the more I think about it because it helps answer the question of what Joseph meant by the ambiguous term “personage.”

    Comment by Jacob J — April 16, 2009 @ 9:12 am

  10. You are right that my #5 is ad hoc Jacob. It looks like you have provided a much stronger support for me though:

    Holy Ghost is a personage in the form of a personage–does not confine itself to form of a dove–but in sign of a dove. (JS Diary)

    The key word here is “confine”. If the HG does not confine itself to the form of a dove that seems to mean he can be that form temporarily. That seems like pretty good evidence against any one static form (whether we call that form a body or not).

    Comment by Geoff J — April 16, 2009 @ 9:23 am

  11. Nice write-up. I think it is important to take a critical look at some of these source, but in general, I agree that JS believed that premortal spirits were in the form a humans. Now as to the spirit’s ability to change form, does anyone here believe that the premortal spirit form and post-mortal spirit form are identical?

    Comment by J. Stapley — April 16, 2009 @ 9:45 am

  12. Is shape-shifting just a unique ability of the Holy Ghost? Do we have anything from Joseph that suggests we are the same “species” as the Holy Ghost? Certainly the quotes above have us being like God, but like the Holy Ghost…?

    Comment by BrianJ — April 16, 2009 @ 9:50 am

  13. Geoff,

    Might I respectfully suggest that what you call “pretty good evidence” in #10 is exactly the opposite. You are pinning your hopes on an extrapolation from a single word “confine” while the larger message of the statement is that the Holy Ghost cannot take a different form.

    BrianJ,

    We do have some statements from Joseph Smith that put the Holy Ghost on the same path as Jesus, so there the transitive property suggests that all of us (people, HG, Jesus, God) are of the same “species.”

    Comment by Jacob J — April 16, 2009 @ 10:15 am

  14. does anyone here believe that the premortal spirit form and post-mortal spirit form are identical?

    I think that’s a fair point. I don’t think they are identical in form, which means I already accept some degree a malleability. I also think a spirit can fit inside a baby’s body, so there’s that. (Orson Pratt thought the cramming of an adult size spirit into a baby is why we lose memory of the spirit world, which I think is funny.)

    However, once again, my reasons for not thinking they look exactly alike are based on logically working through consequences of various points of doctrine, not on anything Joseph Smith said directly. So as I continue to argue, all positions are ad hoc, not just the tripartite position. If we could ever agree on that we could move on to discussing the various theories on their merits rather than having a contest about who believes Joseph Smith.

    Comment by Jacob J — April 16, 2009 @ 10:20 am

  15. Jacob, to your point, I would be very interested in you explaining the ambiguity you see in what Joseph Smith viewed as a spirit. In you comment at BCC you say:

    Since JS was not clear about what a “spirit” was (does he mean mind, spirit body, both?) his insistence that the spirit is uncreated remains ambiguous. The statement itself is rock solid, he did claim spirits are uncreated, but if the words that make up the statement are contested then that clouds the whole thing.

    Comment by J. Stapley — April 16, 2009 @ 10:30 am

  16. Jacob J: thanks. If you ever get a chance to post those quotes, then THANKS!

    If we could ever agree…rather than having a contest about who believes Joseph Smith.

    Could we also agree that Joseph wasn’t 100% right 100% of the time?

    Comment by BrianJ — April 16, 2009 @ 10:31 am

  17. Stapley, see, for example, this post.

    The original divide seemed to be between mind and matter. D&C 131:7 simply divides matter into two kinds (spirit matter and regular matter), thus leaving us with some statements equating mind and spirit and others putting an ontological divide between them.

    BrianJ, sorry, I was just lazy. Here is the quote I have in mind:

    Joseph also said that the Holy Ghost is now in a state of Probation which if he should perform in righteousness he may pass through the same or a similar course of things that the Son has. (Franklin D. Richards “Scriptural Items,”)

    And yes, I’ll agree that JS wasn’t right all the time.

    Comment by Jacob J — April 16, 2009 @ 10:46 am

  18. BrianJ:

    See the George Laub Quote above in the post, and this:

    Joseph also said that the Holy Ghost is now in a state of Probation which if he should perform in righteousness he may pass through the same or a similar course of things that the Son has.

    -Franklin D. Richards Sunday August 27, 1843

    Comment by Matt W. — April 16, 2009 @ 10:46 am

  19. Someone send an email to BHodges. He is going to come by in a week and complain that he missed the discussion.

    Comment by Jacob J — April 16, 2009 @ 10:48 am

  20. Jacob, I honestly don’t follow.

    Comment by J. Stapley — April 16, 2009 @ 10:51 am

  21. Geoff: (2)- I added dates.

    Jacob is doing such a good job, I am going to get back to work and catch up tonight.

    Comment by Matt W. — April 16, 2009 @ 11:30 am

  22. Jacob: You are pinning your hopes on an extrapolation from a single word “confine” while the larger message of the statement is that the Holy Ghost cannot take a different form.

    Hehe. The “larger message”? That’s a pretty short sentence. It seems to me that you are pinning your hopes on the us ignoring the word confine in it.

    On a more general question: In your defense of the tripartite model is it your contention that Joseph Smith believed it and just didn’t clearly articulate it or that Joseph just never thought through the implications of his various beliefs and Roberts later made the harmonizing connection? (Or are you contending something else entirely?)

    Comment by Geoff J — April 16, 2009 @ 11:31 am

  23. Hehe. The “larger message”? That’s a pretty short sentence.

    Geoff, look at #9 and you will see I included a separate account of the same address. This helps to mitigate against the unreliability of a single word in a single account to give us a reliable idea of what idea Joseph Smith taught on that occasion. In the other account, he is quoted as saying “The Holy Ghost cannot be transformed into a Dove.” That is why I am not pinning my hopes on ignoring anything. I am pinning them on responsible exegesis.

    On a more general question:

    My contention is that I can’t tell if Joseph Smith thought through the implications of his various beliefs on this or not. Since he didn’t seem to mention any of the problems, my wild guess would be that he didn’t fully think through them all. I regard all positions on this to be attempts at harmonizing his views.

    Comment by Jacob J — April 16, 2009 @ 12:25 pm

  24. J. (#20),

    I believe you. I also know that it is beyond my power to string together words in such a way that you can see what I am trying to say.

    Comment by Jacob J — April 16, 2009 @ 12:28 pm

  25. Ah, I see where you got that quote from now Jacob. That makes more sense and your argument is solid on that front.

    Comment by Geoff J — April 16, 2009 @ 12:36 pm

  26. Sorry, I should have been more clear originally that those were two accounts of the same statement.

    Comment by Jacob J — April 16, 2009 @ 12:39 pm

  27. Thanks guys. I should have remembered the quote from Laub. The Richards quote is new to me though. I don’t want to sidetrack this thread, but what the heck does “Holy Ghost in a state of Probation” mean?!

    No, on second thought, that really is too big of a threadjack.

    Comment by BrianJ — April 16, 2009 @ 1:07 pm

  28. I don’t really believe in threadjacks anymore other than out-and-out trolling, so I’m happy to respond. The meaning of this statement is obviously disputed and will depend somewhat (in my experience) on what you think Joseph meant in the KFD/SitG when he talked about the Son doing what he saw the Father do. This is especially true with respect to the idea that the Holy Ghost could end up following the same course as Jesus did. But, does this mean he will be a Savior on a world, or does it just mean he will be born to receive a physical body after first being divine, or something else? I don’t know.

    As to the idea that the Holy Ghost is in a state of probation, it definitely strikes me as fitting with JS’s ideas of eternal progression and suggesting part of the progression for the Holy Ghost is to serve faithfully in his/her current role. The BOAP has a footnote on that entry where someone has written: “The word ‘probationary’ referring to all who have not received the resurrection.” I guess it could meant that too.

    Comment by Jacob J — April 16, 2009 @ 2:38 pm

  29. But, does this mean he will be a Savior on a world, or does it just mean he will be born to receive a physical body after first being divine

    Or both in successive mortal probations…

    Comment by Geoff J — April 16, 2009 @ 3:07 pm

  30. “Probation” just strikes me as a problematic term to apply to any member of the Godhead. Would Joseph say that Jesus was in a probationary state premortally? I don’t think so. That’s not to deny the idea of progression for both of them, of course, just to point to a difference I think exists in how Joseph (and we) talk about premortal Jesus and premortal Holy Ghost.

    As for the Holy Ghost eventually living on another world, I can see the attractiveness of viewing him as a Savior there—then he follows exactly the same path as Jesus and we can avoid viewing a member of our current Godhead as something less than God. (Obviously, it does create problems for a universal atonement, so there is that.) On the other hand, if the Holy Ghost will go to another earth but will not be a Savior there…that gets me wondering what his earthly role would be, and that gets me wondering whether we don’t already have such beings on our earth today.

    Oh, and since you don’t believe in threadjacks, can you also tell me why Mormons wear magic underwear and eat babies?

    Comment by BrianJ — April 16, 2009 @ 3:32 pm

  31. I dont know where your going, but seems like your trying to lay some groundwork for something else.

    But if I follow you correctly…

    A spirit looks like a man. Granted 1 Ne 11:11

    There are many terms that have been used to describe spirits and bodies and because these terms are non-descriptive it has led to confusion in my opinion. For example, personage of spirit, spiritual body, spirit body, in the form of a man…

    I wish that the terms were more solid. Terms I like are:
    Spirit – unembodied, or disembodied
    Body of Flesh and Blood – mortal bodies like you and I
    Body of Flesh and Bone – immortal body like the one that Jesus Christ displayed to the Nephites

    In Ether 3 it appears that the body that Jehovah displayed to Mahonri was actually a Body of Flesh and Bone. And, I totally reject the idea that Jehovah was speaking as “the Father and the Son” in Ether 3:14

    Comment by Mike M — April 16, 2009 @ 3:37 pm

  32. Geoff, sure do love ya.

    BrianJ, I actually would have guessed that Joseph would describe the pre-mortal Jesus as being in a state of probation. Why don’t you think so?

    As to threadjacks, I did say I believe in trolls. But to answer your questions, we wear magic underwear for their magical properties and we eat babies because they taste so good. Obviously.

    Comment by Jacob J — April 16, 2009 @ 3:37 pm

  33. Mike M,

    As to where we are going, there have been lots of discussions in the past about the nature of spirits, whether or not there is a viviparous spirit birth, and whether the popular notion of intelligences existing independent of a spirit body have any basis in the teachings of Joseph Smith. Along the way, one issue that comes us in these discussions has to do with what Joseph Smith believed about the form of spirits. This post is an attempt to go back and look more closely at that one issue to help us make progress within the larger debates mentioned above.

    As to the terms you like, where is your term for a spirit body, and is there such a thing as a spirit with no spirit body?

    Comment by Jacob J — April 16, 2009 @ 3:41 pm

  34. Jacob J,

    I listed spirit body as a non-descriptive term.
    It implies 2 things and is in and of itself ambigious.

    Is there such a thing as a spirit with no spirit body?

    You will have to re-phrase this question. As I am unsure as to what you mean by spirit body…

    Im my mind, a spirit is a spirit. Nephi saw the Holy Ghost and understood what it was. He did not seem confused.

    The pathway of progression seems to be:

    Intelligence – light perhaps a gathering of photons no corporeal form
    Spirit – no material substance that modern science can identify. But the spirits that Elohim created indeed have the form or outward appearance of a man or woman.
    Mortal body of Flesh and Blood
    Immortal body of Flesh and Bone

    Of course there are unembodied spirits, disembodied spirits, Transfigured or Translated souls, and different levels of Immortals (terrestrial, telestial, celestial).

    And interestingly. From the Garden of Eden revelation we know that Mortal and Immortal bodies can transform back and forth without difficulty.

    Comment by Mike M — April 16, 2009 @ 3:59 pm

  35. Joseph would describe the pre-mortal Jesus as being in a state of probation. Why don’t you think so?

    I’m probably getting hung up on the negative connotations of “probation,” as in “you were bad” or “you’re not quite ready/good enough yet.”

    Comment by BrianJ — April 16, 2009 @ 4:05 pm

  36. The idea that the Holy Ghost can appear as a dove is a misconception.

    Matthew 3:16
    And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:

    D&C 93:15
    And I, John, bear record, and lo, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Ghost descended upon him in the form of a dove, and sat upon him, and there came a voice out of heaven saying: This is my beloved Son.

    If you look at the Facsimile from the Book of Abraham No. 2, Figure 7 you can see what the Sign of the Dove actually is…

    You have to turn the facsimile upside down to see it properly but you see a seated man with his left arm at his side with the forearm extended, and with his right arm to the square.

    This is the sign of the dove. When the Holy Ghost descended out of the heaven and witnessed the baptism of Jesus Christ, he was holding his spirit in this position. He was not a dove.

    Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith p. 276
    “The sign of the dove was instituted before the creation of the world, a witness for the Holy Ghost, and the devil cannot come in the sign of a a dove. The Holy Ghost is a personage, and is in the form of a personage. It does not confine itself to the form of the dove, but in sign of the dove. The Holy Ghost cannot be transformed into a dove; but the sign of a dove was given to John to signify the truth of the deed, as the dove is an emblem or token of truth and innocence.”

    And NOT incidentally, the officiator of a true baptism holds his body in this position. He also has his left hand cupped so he can receive the right wrist of the person being baptized. I believe that the cupping position of the left hand is not coincidental.

    Comment by Mike M — April 16, 2009 @ 4:05 pm

  37. Mike,

    We don’t quote TPJS around these parts anymore. It is an amalgamation of a bunch of different primary texts and because of the amalgamation process it is not reliable enough for my tastes. See comment #9 for better source materials for that sermon you are referring to and this link.

    Comment by Geoff J — April 16, 2009 @ 4:19 pm

  38. Sorry about the TPJS quote Ill try to be more concrete in the future

    Smith Diary —
    “Sign of the Dove – Book of Abraham Facsimile 2

    instituted before the creation Devil could not come in sign of a dove.–Holy Ghost is a personage in the form of a personage–does not confine itself to form of a dove–but in sign of a dove.”

    Franklin D. Richards ‘Scriptural Items’ —
    “Christ is Jehovah? Holy Ghost as a Dove

    The Holy Ghost cannot be transformed into a Dove but the sign of a Dove was given to John to signify the Truth of the Deed as the Dove was an emblem or Token of Truth.”

    Comment by Mike M — April 16, 2009 @ 4:32 pm

  39. So perhaps a follow-up question would be: “Who is the probation officer for the Holy Ghost?”

    Comment by Jacob J — April 16, 2009 @ 4:58 pm

  40. Mike, what I see in Fac 2 #7 is a man with his LEFT arm to the square. Why are you calling it his right arm?

    Comment by Hal — April 16, 2009 @ 5:33 pm

  41. Hal,

    Your right, my bad. It’s Left arm to square and Right arm extended. It does mirror image the officiator of the baptism ordiance though.

    I think that this sign has some symbolic meaning concerning the role of the Holy Ghost in the Baptism or re-birth of Jesus Christ though.

    Comment by Mike M — April 16, 2009 @ 5:58 pm

  42. Mike, what we do with our left hand isn’t part of the baptismal ritual. Also, for a translation of Fascimile 2 or “Joseph Smith Hypocephalus” see here.

    Comment by J. Stapley — April 16, 2009 @ 6:25 pm

  43. J. Stapley

    Thanks for the Hypocephalus link.

    Perhaps we have been positioning our left arm in the extended position to accept the right arm of the baptised person for convience and safety only… It is still an accurate reflection of the Sign of the Dove.

    Comment by Mike M — April 16, 2009 @ 6:57 pm

  44. I think it is feasible that spirits are not in the exact likeness of the body they inhabit, or rather when they do not inhabit a body, their “visual” characteristics may change.

    There are so many unanswered questions about this: 1) Do spirits take on the characteristics of the genetic parents of the body they inhabit (children looking like their parents) – does this mean that a given spirit is fated to enter a body it resembles? 2) Can the human form really be the universal ideal (and I mean truly universal)?

    Although speculative, I’ve often wondered if the appearance of “non-mortal beings” to a human, be it in spirit form (Christ to brother of Jared) or physical manifestation (First Vision), are anthropic by design – a “shadow”, if you will, of a being whose most basic manifestation is literally beyond our ken. Just as the shadow of a cube is a square, could the visions we see of heavenly messengers be the shadows from a higher spiritual dimension?

    I know this flies in the face of many doctrinal statements (or does it?), and has nothing to do with my testimony, but I find it an interesting thought experiment.

    Comment by sparsile — April 16, 2009 @ 7:33 pm

  45. Yeesh, I get a little busy at work and this is what happens while I’m not looking?

    In any case, I did find one outlyer Joseph Smith statement in which a spirit is not explicitly described in an anthropomorphic form.

    So, never let it be said I correlate my data:

    n answer to a question asked by a Sectarian priest namely. How is that you Mormons hold that God is an omnipresent being when at the same time he is a personage of Tabernacle.

    ¶ After God had created the Heavens and the Earth. He came down and on the sixth day said let us make man in our own image. In whose image. ln the image of Gods created they them. Male and female: innocent harmless and spotless bearing the same character and the same image as the Gods. And when man fell he did not lose his image but his character still retaining the image of his maker Christ who is the image of man is also the express image of his fathers person so says Paul. For in him Christ dwelt the fulness of the Godhead bodily. Why because He was the brightness of his glory; and the express image of his person. Ques. What person Gods person. Hebrews 1st chap 3 verse And through the atonement of Christ and the resurrection and obediance in the Gospel we shall again be conformed to the image of his Son Jesus Christ, then we shall have attained to the image glory and character of God. What part of God is omnipresent read the 37 chap of Ezekel. It is the Spirit of god which proceeds from him consequently God is in the four winds of Heaven and when man receives intelligence is it not by the spirit of God J S Prophet

    -Burgess notebook, July 9, 1843

    So God’s Spirit proceeds forth from him and is omnipresent, but:

    the Holy Ghost is a personage of spirit.–and a person cannot have the personage of the H G in his heart he may receive the gift of the holy Ghost. it may descend upon him but not to tarry with him

    -Joseph Smith Diary April 2, 1843

    So Personages of spirit cannot into the heart of man, but:

    Devils punishment, should not have a habitation like other men. Devils retaliation come into this world bind up mens bodies. & occupy himself. authorities come alone and eject him from a stolen habitation

    -Smith Diary May 21, 1843

    So the Devil can occupy men’s bodies, the Holy Ghost can not, and Heavenly Father is Omnipresent via his spirit, while all spirits are in the image and likeness of Heavenly Father and Jesus, and spirts are shaped like humans, and are eternal.

    See J, there’s ambiguity in Joseph’s teachings regarding spirits.

    Comment by Matt W. — April 16, 2009 @ 7:40 pm

  46. Matt

    I don’t think those latest quotes add much because they are referring to “the Spirit of God” which seems to be pretty obviously to be talking about the Holy Ghost and its workings and is categorized differently than the spirits that we are taught inhabit our present bodies.

    Have you found any evidence in the quotes you think support the idea that Joseph thought our spirits were something different than our intelligences/minds? That is the key issue for tripartite or not tripartite debate I think.

    Comment by Geoff J — April 16, 2009 @ 11:44 pm

  47. Geoff: It depends on what you specifically mean be tripartite. If you mean “a system which divides the pre-mortal existence into two states specifically called intelligences and spirits” no such thing exists. Joseph’s Vocabulary used these words interchangeably and it is silly to get hung up on semantics around that. We can not tell what Joseph thought one way or another on this, except that the evidence seems to indicate he hadn’t really thought about it.

    If you mean, is there any evidence for there being multiple states pre-mortally, there are some pretty good quotes to indicate we went from being eternal spirits who were not children of God to being eternal spirits who were children of God.

    This post isn’t really focused on fighting for and in behalf of tripartite theology, but is rather a simple shot at establishing definitely that Joseph believed that a spirit is in the image and likeness of Heavenly Father, and this means being human shaped. The only reference I’ve seen which would go beyond this human shape is the reference where smith notes that HF is omnipresent via his spirit, where one could argue an omnipresent spirit can not be personage shaped.

    The reason for arguing this is that in our previous post, Someone (too lazy to look it up) vehemently argued that there was no “Spirit Body” state. I think we can say indefatigably that the evidence suggests otherwise, in JS beliefs. Now whether a spirit body state points toward tripartite existence or not, is beyond the point here.

    I think Jacob made one excellent point above. The argument for or against a tripartite model can not be won or lost with Joseph Smith Quotes. For a group of people who often poo-poo “appeal to authority” quoting, we sure go gaga over JS quotes, no?

    Comment by Matt W. — April 17, 2009 @ 8:29 am

  48. Well it is certainly useful to have those quotes in one place.

    As you note the problem remains that there is little if any evidence to support the idea of a spirit body vs pre spirit body existence in the teaching of JSJ. There isn’t much precluding the malleability of spirits either even with the quotes here.

    I suppose that is why all of this is still up for debate…

    Comment by Geoff J — April 17, 2009 @ 9:03 am

  49. When the Holy Ghost appeared at Jesus’ baptism, the reference to a “dove” was symbolic of its physical movement:

    “And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him.” (Luke 3:22)

    Consistent with JS’s words, the Holy Ghost does not “confine” itself to the form of a dove. Instead, the Holy Ghost retains “a bodily shape” that is capable of descending like a dove would; i.e., slowly, gracefully, or even magnificently in the right context.

    Comment by Jeremy — April 17, 2009 @ 1:29 pm

  50. So back to the Dove.

    The intrepretations that we have so far are:

    1) Actual bird
    2) Symbolism of physical movement, descending slowly gracefully, magnificently
    3) Specific positioning of the body, and emblem or token

    Book of Abraham
    Facsimile No. 2 Figure 7 Explanation – Represents God sitting upon his throne, revealing through the heavens the grand Key-words of the Priesthood; as, also, the sign of the Holy Ghost unto Abraham, in the form of a dove.
    God in his throne has his arms in a certain position, it is possible that this is the form of a dove. Or you could argue that the bird in front of him is the form of a dove. Is it a coincidence that the only time the form of a dove is mentioned in the scripture is when the Holy Ghost performs it during Christ’s baptism? (Matt 3:16, Mark 1:10, Luke 3:22, John 1:32, 1 Ne 11:27, 2 Ne 31:8, D&C 93:15) And that the officiator of a true baptism holds his body in a similar fashion?

    The following are some of Joseph Smiths comments on the Dove.

    Martha Coray Notebook 21 March 1841
    “Detecting Spirits – Angels
    Brethren be not deceived an nor doubtful of this fact a spirit of a good man or an angell from heaven who has not a body will never undertake to shake hands with you for he knows you cannot perceive his touch and never will extend his hand but any spirit or body that is attended by a dove you may know to be a pure spirit Thus you may in some measure detect them the spirits who may come unto you.”

    Smith Diary 29 January 1843
    “2d. He was trusted & it was required at his hands to baptize the son of Man. Who ever did that? who had so great a privilege & glory?–son of God into the waters of baptism & beholding the Holy Ghost–in in the sign the form of a dove–with the sign of the dove.
    Sign of the Dove – Book of Abraham Facsimile 2
    instituted before the creation Devil could not come in sign of a dove.–Holy Ghost is a personage in the form of a personage–does not confine itself to form of a dove–but in sign of a dove.”

    To me it seems that the sign or form of a dove is not a bird or symbolism of physical movement.

    Of course there may be other interpretations.

    How do I make links in a post btw?

    Comment by Mike M — April 17, 2009 @ 11:07 pm

  51. When I was a missionary, Elder Jay Jensen spoke at a conference and said, “If our spirit were to leave our bodies, it would look identical to our bodies that we have now.” I remember being taken back by how firm he was in that statement that I wrote it down.

    But, in the premortal existence, I can’t believe that our spirits there looked like we do now. If the above is true, then my spirit looks like it does now because of my inherited genes (and it would indicate that it is malleable). If the premortal spirit looks the same, then it would indicate a level of generational predetermination that our church does not espouse…

    at least I don’t think it does…

    Comment by Hayes — April 21, 2009 @ 12:48 am

  52. Hayes, the Church does not espouse that type of predetermination – nor does it have an official teaching about the exact appearance of the spirit after death. I’m glad that’s the case.

    Comment by Ray — April 21, 2009 @ 3:49 am

  53. The whole thing is pre planned, fools. Everyone gets given a job to do in this life which essentially mirrors what they did in the pre existence. Why hitler? why hussein? why stalin? Yes, you guessed it, they were near misses in the war in heaven, and barely managed to attain the priveledge of mortal birth. Free agency existed before the world, and people arrive in this sphere with the attitude that had been developed in the eternity before…….

    Comment by Lord reaver — April 21, 2009 @ 5:54 am

  54. Lord Reaver:
    One Word: Assinine. As in that concept is…

    Hayes:
    While Joseph always uses anthropomorphic language, I don’t think we can draw any conclusions from that as to the exact image of a spirit. Jay Jensen probably was referring to where Joseph Smith said that small children will be raised from the dead in the exact stage of physical development which they lay down in. There are all sorts of theological issues around this though, as we are also taught that people who have had limb loss will regain their physical parts, and those who are born with disabilities will get perfect bodies, etc etc.

    Comment by Matt W. — April 21, 2009 @ 6:39 am

  55. As I said, I was struck by Elder Jensen’s comments. And, he was not referring to children. He even stated, “if my spirit were to leave my body and stand next to me, you could not tell a difference. It would look exactly as I do now.”

    I remember absolutely nothing else from his talk that day. And, that was over 13 years ago…

    Lord Reaver…I read somewhere that i was a general in heaven or something (because I was held back for the latter days). I am sure I have heard that somewhere…never repudiated, of course.

    Comment by Hayes — April 21, 2009 @ 6:44 am

  56. Matt, take it easy on Lord Reaver. He’s just doing the job he had in the premortal life which was: to propagate false doctrine about our previous life.

    Comment by BrianJ — April 21, 2009 @ 8:46 am

  57. Mike #50,
    A couple of questions:
    1) Is it merely coincidence to you that there is a bird in fac #2? and,
    2) If the sign of the dove is actually a person making a sign, why is it called the sign of the dove? and,
    3)are you basing your conclusions on Josephs fac 2 explanation about item #7, or is there something else you have? and,
    4)are you suggesting that everytime someone performs a baptism that they are making the sign of a dove, thereby witnessing the presence of the holy ghost?
    Just trying to understand what your saying.

    Comment by Hal — April 21, 2009 @ 10:39 am

  58. Well as i understand, every prophet that has ever lived has been foreordained to the job. That, to my mind, is contrary to free agency, in that they have no choice.

    Comment by Lord reaver — April 21, 2009 @ 1:13 pm

  59. Being foreordained is a slippery concept in Mormonism to be sure. The one thing that is universally taught though is that it does not mean predetermined or predestined. Maybe there are thousands or millions of people “foreordained” to be prophets for every one that actually gets the job on earth…

    Comment by Geoff J — April 21, 2009 @ 2:07 pm

  60. “I read somewhere that i was a general in heaven or something (because I was held back for the latter days). I am sure I have heard that somewhere…never repudiated, of course.”

    Hayes, that statement has been repudiated multiple times over the years – directly and openly.

    Comment by Ray — April 21, 2009 @ 5:56 pm

  61. I think Hayes was saying that tongue-in-cheek

    Comment by Geoff J — April 21, 2009 @ 6:44 pm

  62. OK. I hope so.

    Comment by Ray — April 21, 2009 @ 7:55 pm

  63. 1.Hal #57,

    [A bunch of stuff edited]

    Of course this is all speculation. But I like it.

    Posted twice cuz the first post didnt take.

    Comment by Mike M — April 21, 2009 @ 8:27 pm

  64. Sorry Mike — we edited your comment. Too much temple stuff and too much totally bizarre crap in it for our tastes.

    Comment by Geoff J — April 21, 2009 @ 8:52 pm

  65. Thanks for the heads up.

    Comment by Mike M — April 21, 2009 @ 9:10 pm

  66. Whoa, I like the surprise ending about the “bizarre crap”!

    Nicely done, folks.

    The reason I like this post is because it is critical to get an idea of what JS meant when he was talking about spirit. This ties into the concepts of intelligences, potential vivaporous spirit birth, what it means to be uncreated, what our eternal future looks like, etc. So way to get things to the brass tacks. For the time being I am with Jacob J in saying for the time being it looks as though the scattered quotes and questionable provenance of many of them leaves us with the possibility that we don’t have JS’s final or clearest thoughts on the matter. That should get us away from the politics of whether or not a person “believes Joseph Smith” or not, and on to the issues themselves.

    Bravo.

    Has anyone looked at Cleon Skousen’s little appendix to one of his thousand year books about intelligences? I have the feeling it is a quote-miners paradise, though, considering how bad Skousen’s 5 Thousand Year Heap is.

    Comment by BHodges — April 24, 2009 @ 3:18 pm

  67. Weird. I forgot to post this first, it was open in another tab. Pretend this post precedes the one above it:

    Ah crap. I’m late again. School, work, and my current project are killing my blogavailability.

    And why didn’t anyone listen to Jacob J, #19? He specifically requested that someone email me to alert me to this stuff.

    Comment by BHodges — April 24, 2009 @ 3:19 pm

  68. Ill try to stay out of the bizarre realm.

    I’ve been trying to get up to speed with some of the topics in conversation here at the Thang. Most of you have been discussing these topics for years. I hope that you would have a little patience with me.

    Comment by Mike M — April 24, 2009 @ 5:35 pm

  69. No problem Mike. I moved your comment about that other thread over there since that thread is still open. See here.

    Comment by Geoff J — April 24, 2009 @ 9:52 pm

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