Spirits/Intelligences: An infinite number of them or not?

June 7, 2009    By: Geoff J @ 9:40 pm   Category: Eternal Progression,MMP,Theology

I finally started reading that copy of Truman Madsen’s Eternal Man that has been sitting on my bookshelf for the last couple of years. Eternal Man is an interesting little set of short theology and philosophy essays aimed at laymen. It was published in 1966. In the second chapter of the book Madsen makes the following assertions about the minds/souls/intelligences/spirits of all people:

The quantity of souls is fixed and infinite.
There is no beginning to us.
Mind has no birthday.
No one is older or younger than anyone else.
We have always been separate from, and coexistent with other intelligences.
Creation is never totally original.
Immortality is not conditional — it is inevitable and universal.
Death does not destroy the self.
Suicide is just a change of scenery.
No self can change completely into another thing.
No one will ever lose their mind or consciousness.
Nothing is something we never were and never will be.


I agree with most of his assertions here. But in this post I want to delve into Madsen’s first assertion that “The quantity of souls is fixed and infinite“.

As for the assertion that the quantity of souls/spirits/intelligences is fixed I think Madsen is on solid ground in Mormonism. There is no disputing that Joseph Smith taught that the spirits of humans have no beginning, are co-eternal with God, and cannot be created or destroyed. Therefore it follows that the number of spirits is indeed fixed. In the William Clayton account of the King Follett discourse we get this:

God never did have power to create the spirit of man at all. He could not create himself — Intelligence exists upon a selfexistent principle — is a spirit from age to age & no creation about it

Whether spirits themselves are eternal or if pre-spirit intelligences/minds gain spirit bodies is not relevant to the discussion I wish to have in this post. Both camps in that debate can agree that Joseph Smith taught that intelligences have no beginning. I’ll refer to these beginningless minds/intelligences/spirits simply as spirits in this post to keep things simple.

But is there an infinite supply or a finite quantity of spirits? The revelations don’t tell us clearly. Nevertheless the answer to this question has important metaphysical and theological implications.

Implications of an infinite number of spirits

It is certainly logically possible that there are an infinite number of spirits. The problems I see with the notion that there are an infinite number of spirits are more logistical that logical. Namely, if we accept that there are an infinite number of spirits waiting to get a body then we must accept that we already waited an infinite amount of time to get our bodies here. We would also have to accept that there are an infinite number of our “brothers and sisters” that will have to continue to wait an infinite amount of time before getting the chance to get a body. And of course for all eternity there will always be an infinite number of spirits just… waiting. This model portrays God as inefficient at best and as utterly inept at worst. That eternal thumb-twiddling reality associated with the assumption of an infinite supply of spirits just waiting ever waiting for their chance to get a body and progress doesn’t work for me. If there are an infinite number of spirits why doesn’t God organize an infinite number of inhabitable planets for all of them at once? Well even then we are in trouble because infinity isn’t a number. (Maybe this is the problem with playing fast and loose with the concept of infinity.)

Implications of a finite number of spirits

So what happens if we assume a finite number of beginningless immortal spirits? Well if we assume that we end up with a very different looking universe. I wrote a thought experiment post on this very subject a few months ago. My conclusion then is my conclusion now — given an infinite amount of time and assuming our finite number of eternal spirits are eternally rational and free-willed, we all would have been exalted and part of the extended Godhead prior to this earth being created. We all would have been part of the One God eternally already.

This is obviously a radical theological idea that I would expect most people to recoil from. Not that there aren’t potential passages that one could point to in loose support of the general idea that we all condescended to come to earth:

Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. (Matt 25:40)

when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God. (Mosiah 2:17)

In such a universe these scriptures are much more literal than we imagine.

Of course I am not presenting any of this as truth. Rather the idea is offered only as one of the many possibilities that exists in the absence of clear revelations on some of these issues.

I must admit though that eternal thumb-twiddling waiting for My Turn On Earth sounds like an eternity of hell to me. I personally find that notion much more disconcerting than the suggestion that we might all be slumming here on earth. That is why I prefer the finite number of spirits model. Or at least this month I do. I reserve the right to be talked out of any such opinions at any time.

136 Comments »

  1. Linear time is screwing you up. Ditch that one foolish western notion and this isn’t nearly so troubling.

    Comment by Owen — June 7, 2009 @ 10:43 pm

  2. Give me a convincing argument against linear time Owen. (And if you are going to lean on the “God is timeless” nonsense take your response to this post where that argument is appropriately obliterated.)

    Comment by Geoff J — June 7, 2009 @ 10:59 pm

  3. Even if there were a finite quantity of spirits, the spirits themselves are still infinite. This could mean that some portion of them still do have to “twiddle their thumbs” (or more than likely, demonstrate faithfulness) for potentially an eternity until they are ready to take part in the plan.

    It’s like looking at a grain of sand on the beach and documenting its progress on its way toward being refined into use on a computer chip. Even though there are finite amounts of sand on this planet, it might still take an eternity for that particular grain to make it to the chip factory. It might not ever make it at all.

    Secondly, there may be some sort of “you-don’t-know-what-you’re-missing” principle at play here. A spirit who is waiting for an eternity for a shot at exaltation may still have peace and happiness in its current sphere while waiting. This is true for either finite or infinite numbers of spirits.

    Comment by britain — June 7, 2009 @ 11:47 pm

  4. Britain: the spirits themselves are still infinite

    I don’t know what you mean by this. Could you explain?

    Also I am not sure what you mean by “an eternity”. Do you mean an infinite amount of time? Or perhaps a really long but finite amount of time? The problem is that if we assume with Brother Madsen (and Joseph Smith) that no spirit has more rational capacity or free will or time than another spirit then the idea that it might take some spirit another trillion years of thumb-twiddling to figure out that wickedness never was happiness simply doesn’t make any sense.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 7, 2009 @ 11:59 pm

  5. I don’t have a position per se on whether the number of spirit/intelligences is finite or non-finite. What I do have a position on is that that the mean spatial density of eternal spirits is finite – i.e. there aren’t an infinite number of them in any finite measure of space.

    In other words, if there is an infinite amount of space, there is an infinite number of spirits, or finite space -> finite number of spirits, with some finite ratio either way.

    As far as the competence question is concerned, my position is that the plan of salvation is proceeding roughly in parallel for all spirits together.

    Comment by Mark D. — June 8, 2009 @ 1:13 am

  6. I don’t know that there are an infinite number of spirits. Spirits as we understand them are intelligences whaich have been given spirit bodies by our Heavenly Parents. Thus, wouldn’t we have had a spirit birthday? Our Heavenly Parents held the pre-mortal council with a finite number of spirits, otherwise it wouldn’t have been a third of the spirits that followed Satan, but a small infinity of spirits.

    Unfortunately, we don’t know much about intelligences. Are they some basic unit of self-awareness, much as an atom is a basic unit of matter?

    We also don’t know if our Heavenly Parents have been through the council/creation/wrapping-up process just this once, or multiple times. After all the process should be finite(?). Satan will be cast into the pit, thereby marking an end to the tempting process. At least for this group of campers in mortality.

    My opinion is that there is infinite mass, infinite intelligence, and infinite space. Everything else remains to be seen. Unless it to is infinite, it which case it would be inprossible to see. ;^)

    Comment by Floyd the Wonderdog — June 8, 2009 @ 4:22 am

  7. My bad. The pre-mortal council was held with intelligences, not spirits.

    Comment by Floyd the Wonderdog — June 8, 2009 @ 4:25 am

  8. Geoff: “And of course for all eternity there will always be an infinite number of spirits just… waiting.”

    Nope. Just waiting for what? Not to exist. To experience morality? Nope. An infinite number at once could experience mortality on an infinite number of worlds as you suggest. Or perhaps infinite numbers can be accommodated on a planets or planets with an infinite number of dimensions or fractal spaces.

    Geoff: “Well even then we are in trouble because infinity isn’t a number.”

    Yes, it is. It is an order of transfinite number. Such numbers don’t have the same property as finite numbers, that doesn’t make it a number. To recognize that such numbers have different properties than finite numbers, it is appropriate to recognize since Cantor that there are transfinite numbers of different orders that also behave differently from on another. That they act differently doesn’t make them not numbers — irrational numbers also have different properties than rational numbers.

    Geoff: “given an infinite amount of time and assuming our finite number of eternal spirits are eternally rational and free-willed, we all would have been exalted and part of the extended Godhead prior to this earth being created. We all would have been part of the One God eternally already.”

    This is just a nonsequitur. All that follows is that is any given intelligence will be at whatever stage of progression it has freely to accept. You are making a modal logical error. That an intelligence could be exalted doesn’t entail that it must be exalted.

    Haven’t we been over this several times before? You see, your own intransigence and refusal to accept the mathematics of infinities is an example of someone who could get it and move on, but freely chooses not to do so. You’ll be stuck in mathematics hell of infinities forever simply because you freely choose not to move on. Can u give me an argument for why such eternal intransigence isn’t possible?

    And like others . . . I have no position on whether the number of spirits is finite or infinite — but it is a number either way.

    Comment by Blake — June 8, 2009 @ 6:06 am

  9. “given an infinite amount of time and assuming our finite number of eternal spirits are eternally rational and free-willed, we all would have been exalted and part of the extended Godhead prior to this earth being created. We all would have been part of the One God eternally already.”

    There are processes that take a semi-infinite amount of time to arrive at some specified quantity. An exponential function (y = e^x) is typical.

    However, I agree if we were always essentially as we are now, then explaining what we were doing for a semi-infinite amount of time is difficult.

    Comment by Mark D. — June 8, 2009 @ 7:36 am

  10. Thank you Mark D. and Blake for bringing some mathematical sense.

    I don’t comment here very often but ironically, a post/topic very similar to this one is what brought me to this blog and if I remember correctly, my first comment was to complain that the poster was playing fast and loose with the concept of infinity. I can’t find that original post or comment now but I have the same complaint.

    I absolutely agree with Mark D.’s finite density and particularly its corollary: there are an infinite number of spirits ONLY IF there is an infinite amount of space to hold.

    Blake is correct that there are numbers which can be treated as numbers in some contexts but are still infinite (such as Cantor’s transfinite numbers). At the same time, Geoff was most likely saying that infinity is not an ‘algebraic’ number, i.e. one that you can perform algebraic operations on like all the numbers that we are used to dealing with (including funny ones like pi). But your entire section on the implications of infinite spirits seems to depend a lot on being able to define ‘infinity – infinity = X’ which just isn’t going to be definable no matter how hard you try.

    I also think that you’re making a several major logical fallacies in going from infinite time + finite spirits = infinite progression of all spirits. First of all, I don’t see any point at which you couldn’t also say infinite time + infinitely many spirits = infinite progression of infinitely many spirits = infinite progression of (nearly) all spirits (which I also don’t agree with). Secondly, Blake is dead on when he questions the idea that we would have progressed that much simply because we had the time to do so.

    I’m pretty sure that if you applied the pidgeon hole principle to your logic and tossed in the idea that there are only a finite number of actions we can take that we would have committed every such action an infinite number of times which doesn’t seem likely.

    Comment by Rob V. — June 8, 2009 @ 7:37 am

  11. Mark (#5) — I do currently assume finite space and thus I assume a finite number of spirits.

    Floyd (#6) — As mentioned in the post, we are calling eternal minds spirits so the implications of the tripartite model of spirits are moot.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 8, 2009 @ 7:51 am

  12. Blake,

    I tried to make it clear that I realize that it is logically possible that one could freely reject happiness through oneness with the Godhead over an infinite amount of time. You repeatedly hammer on the fact that these things are logically possible when this subject comes up and I repeatedly agree with you.

    But of course to accept that we would have to reject one of the other assumptions like the assumption that we are all beginninglessly rational I think. That is I assume a rational being would reject misery and seek peace and happiness. I also accept the idea that greatest peace and happiness is found in oneness with the Godhead. So it seems to me that freely and perpetually choosing misery is not a particularly rational choice for spirits to make over infinite time.

    Just waiting for what? Not to exist. To experience morality? Nope.

    The forever waiting in the Madsen and most popular assumption is forever waiting for a body. Are you of the opinion that a time will come when ALL of the fixed number of spirits will have finally received a body and experienced mortality? If so that puts you in the finite spirits camp with me I suppose.

    Yes, it is. It is an order of transfinite number.

    Duly noted.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 8, 2009 @ 8:01 am

  13. Mark — However, I agree if we were always essentially as we are now, then explaining what we were doing for a semi-infinite amount of time is difficult.

    Exactly.

    Rob V — I agree that the “infinity – infinity = X” thing is impossible to define. I tried to indicate that in the post. But either ALL spirits eventually will get a body or they won’t right? If they all will we can call the fixed number of them finite right?

    Last, it seems to me that the implication people like to fall back on is that beginningless spirits might have essentially different levels of rationality or even intelligence. If those differences are essential and beginningless at what point do we call them an ontological divide?

    Comment by Geoff J — June 8, 2009 @ 8:08 am

  14. “Assuming our finite number of eternal spirits are eternally rational and free-willed”

    Free-willed, yes. Eternally rational? Heck no. Why do you believe this???

    Comment by brady — June 8, 2009 @ 10:12 am

  15. Brady,

    Do you have any evidence that suggests that the eternal mind of man (and God) is irrational or a-rational? I think that the fact there is a God and we are reportedly of the same species/kind as God is plenty of evidence to support the assumption of essential rationality. Further, most irrationality we witness here could be attributed to “the flesh” or our mortal weaknesses.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 8, 2009 @ 10:31 am

  16. Do you think it was rational for Lucifer and Crew to boot themselves from God’s presence? Please explain how that episode fits in to your account.

    I’ll turn the table: what evidence do you have that “most irrationality we witness here could be attributed to “the flesh” or our mortal weaknesses”? Sure, it could be- but I’m not sure why one would be more willing to believe that than the alternative. I guess at root, I’m not really sure how you’re defining rational.

    Your logic that:
    God has A
    We are of same kind as God
    We therefore have essential A

    does not sit well with me. Does it necessarily follow that because an adult member of ‘species/kind’ has a characteristic, the juveniles must also have that characteristic? I’d argue that we possess the seed or potential for A, but not developed A. And if not developed A, then there is no reason to believe we currently act rationally or even that we acted (exclusively) rationally in premortality.

    I hope my tone isn’t perceived as contrarian, snide, or disagreeable. This is a genuinely interesting topic, and I appreciate your thoughts. Just not sure I agree with all of them. I am also open to change my mind.

    Comment by brady — June 8, 2009 @ 10:54 am

  17. Please explain how that episode fits in to your account.

    I don’t take it literally like I don’t take most of the stylized pre-earth narratives literally.

    what evidence do you have that “most irrationality we witness here could be attributed to “the flesh” or our mortal weaknesses”

    All mental illness and deficiencies can easily be attributed to the flesh (unless you argue that there are eternally idiotic people at which point the ontological gap between us and God issue arises again).

    You have my logic wrong as well. It is more like this:

    God is A
    We are of same kind as God
    We therefore be essentially A

    That is perfectly logical.

    Does it necessarily follow that because an adult member of ’species/kind’ has a characteristic, the juveniles must also have that characteristic?

    No, but according to the co-eternal model God is not older than any of us so the adult vs. juvenile analogy fails. As Madsen states “Mind has no birthday” and “No one is older or younger than anyone else”.

    I’d argue that we possess the seed or potential for A, but not developed A.

    What exactly does “A” represent for you? Further how much time would it reasonably take for a mind to gravitate toward greater peace and happiness? Whatever amount of time you name we’ve already had it. As I said it is technically logically possible that we haven’t but hardly feasible from a practical standpoint.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 8, 2009 @ 11:10 am

  18. My question stands whether or not you believe in a literal or figurative reading. Unless you completely discard that narrative as a whole.

    Irrationality/arationality = mental illness or deficiency?? You’ve lost me.

    ‘A’ represents any Godly characteristic (in this case, Reason).

    I’m arguing that no amount of time may be enough for a mind to gravitate toward ultimate peace and happiness. Even if you assume that all intelligence has the same initial start value, there is no reason to assume that rates of change across intelligences are equivalent or linear. Peace and/or happiness is not only a function of time that is maximized as time increases. Again, just because we may be coeternal with God does not mean that we ‘be’ what he ‘is’.

    Comment by brady — June 8, 2009 @ 11:28 am

  19. And FWIW, I’m not quite convinced that I have a problem with an ontological divide between us and God (although that’s not what I’m currently arguing for).

    Comment by brady — June 8, 2009 @ 11:31 am

  20. Irrationality/arationality = mental illness or deficiency?? You’ve lost me.

    I don’t know what you mean by this. Are you wondering what the definitions of those words are?

    ‘A’ represents any Godly characteristic (in this case, Reason).

    By reason I simply mean a desire to avoid pain and misery. That is certainly not something that only God has but an insane person might lack it. If a desire to avoid pain and misery is an essential part of our minds then I contend we are essentially rational. If “wickedness never was happiness” is an eternal principle as I believe then it make very good sense to assume over enough time we all would have figured out that wickedness is not a good way to avoid misery. If we are eternal we have had enough time. I contend one would have to be at core insane to not seek to avoid misery in the long term.

    Of course if you you are fine with the idea that there is an an ontological divide between God and us — an unbridgable gap between the species that God belongs to and our species — then we are at an impasse. I simply disagree with that assumption of yours.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 8, 2009 @ 11:41 am

  21. Nice writeup and discussion all.

    I am not sure that we can assume all intelligences are equal to each other – Abraham 3 suggest that they are not.

    I think that eternal peace and happiness is not always the easy route – especially in the short run. There may well be intelligences that will choose to procrastinate because it is easier. I think many of us are not as ‘good’ as we should be – given what we know. We may all have the tendency to choose not to progress, which is not evidence of an inept God.

    Free will of intelligences might suggest the ability to progress, and digress, and progress again, and digress again…on and on. God may simply not force us to prgress if we don’t want to.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — June 8, 2009 @ 11:44 am

  22. Of course I know what the definitions of those words are. I disagree with your claim of equality. Irrationality/arationality =/= mental illness or deficiency.

    I also stated that I wasn’t arguing for that assumption (i.e., an ont. gap). That assumption has no current bearing on what I’m trying to get at here.

    You still have not explained how exactly you do account for any sort of reading of Lucifer (literal or figurative). Unless you deny the existence of Satan, I’d be interested in hearing it.

    I still don’t think you have argued well enough for why just because there is an eternal principle that beings across an infinite time will come to embody it. Time is not the end of the story.

    Comment by brady — June 8, 2009 @ 11:49 am

  23. Brady,

    As for the definition of rationality I gave you my working definition for this discussion in comment #20. Based on that definition do you object to the idea that we are all essentially rational?

    The ontological gap issue is very important because unless we reject it there is no reason to even care about these other details.

    As for Lucifer — I am not at all convinced there is an actual individual spirit by that name. See a post on that here.

    I still don’t think you have argued well enough for why just because there is an eternal principle that beings across an infinite time will come to embody it.

    My argument is that peace and happiness for our species is only found in unity with God. I further that the One God or Godhead is infact a unified community of many individuals (see here for that). Therefore I contend that for our species peace and happiness is only found in unity with the one God in the eternities. If we are all essentially rational (by the simple definition I am using in #20 of uniformly wanting to avoid misery) then it stands to reason that given enough time we would figure out that unity with the rest of our peers in the Godhead and thus avoid the misery and pain of separation from the One God.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 8, 2009 @ 12:21 pm

  24. Eric: We may all have the tendency to choose not to progress, which is not evidence of an inept God.

    This argument works to a point. But the idea of procrastination assumes that we eventually will choose happiness and eternal life (unless we are not sane and rational). Well how long until eventually comes around? Whatever finite number we choose, no matter how large, we have already passed that that length of time.

    God may simply not force us to prgress if we don’t want to.

    Again we bump up against the long term happiness vs long term misery problem here. If we are essentially sane then it stands to reason we would want to avoid misery in the long term.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 8, 2009 @ 12:37 pm

  25. Does ‘essentially rational’ mean that one can only act rationally, that one has the capacity to act rationally, or that one acts rationally more often than not?

    Was Christ irrational in taking on the pain inherent in the Atonement?

    What role exactly does the Atonement play in your theory if rational intelligences will necessarily ‘gravitate’ towards this unity over time?

    Comment by brady — June 8, 2009 @ 12:37 pm

  26. Geoff: I’ve been watching this all day with interest. We already had this out back here, so I am pretty sure I can’t add anything, but I will say I personally think we could not eventually choose happiness without the atonement/plan of salvation, in that the atonement was a singular event which allowed us to choose happiness, and without it we would have perpetually been unable to eventually choose happiness. We didn’t know how to do it without Heavenly Father, and we were not always in a relationship with him. (This is in response to your response to Eric in #24)

    Comment by Matt W. — June 8, 2009 @ 1:20 pm

  27. Matt,

    If one were to fully accepted this radical theological notion I have mentioned (which I am not advocating) then one would probably assume that we have all eternally been part of the Godhead and that we are simply here without our memories as a way to add variety and excitement to an otherwise dull and perfect life over eons. Under those assumptions I imagine a moral exemplar model of atonement for Jesus would be the only atonement theory that would make sense. I imagine the assumption would that there was never a time when we beginningless spirits had no relationship with each other whatsoever so there was never a time when we weren’t part of the One God.

    It is a radical variety of universalism to be sure. The upside is that it might provide such radically different metaphysical assumptions that the problem of evil might be solved under those assumptions.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 8, 2009 @ 1:32 pm

  28. Brady,

    By “essentially rational” I mean that basic rationality is essential and irreducible and indestructible in our eternal minds. In other words if one strips away all that can be stripped away from the core of us, there is still a mind that is us that has free will, consciousness, and is rational enough to wish to avoid misery.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 8, 2009 @ 1:35 pm

  29. Well, maybe eternity is just 2,555,000,000 years, and after that time we all start the cycle over again. (You know, just to add some variety).

    Comment by Eric Nielson — June 8, 2009 @ 2:04 pm

  30. I have always thought that 0 is not the infinite and therefore not the realm of God in the sense that Plato/Aristotle have put it. Meaning out of space and time.
    Joseph Smith therefore was bigger than Plato (using Truman´s analogy) because he rectified this small huge mistake by putting God/ and all of the transcend world back to the matter. By doing so did he (JS) destroy the 0 at all?….
    Roman and indian numerology don´t have 0 at also. This is something I believe came from the greeks. Being so can we still think about infinite? I think yes, and the way I see it is that the platform of matter is infinite in a sense that the “termimus” the end number would be something like 1.99999999999 and we as souls live in this realm like 1,999999 also. In another worlds we are infinite in a matter way and not in an imaginary infinite as transcribed by plato and his followers….
    please discard some english mistakes as I am a portuguese native speaker.

    I am hoping that my explanation make some sense.

    Comment by Sérgio — June 8, 2009 @ 2:40 pm

  31. Geoff: “is rational enough wish to avoid misery.”

    Well, of course it is rational to avoid misery. It is always irrational to choose to be miserable when one could be happy. It so happens that people irrationally make this choice all the time. People are sometimes just irrational — and sometimes they are hell-bent and committed to their irrationality. Sometimes they don’t see or get their irrationality. Sometimes, they choose their misery because they are so damned stupid (literally). Sometimes, they would choose differently if they just knew how or knew how miserable they are. Most of the time, it seems that miserable people have no idea just how much happier they could be if they just stopped being irrationally stupid and such asshats.

    Comment by Blake — June 8, 2009 @ 3:22 pm

  32. I agree with you Blake that humans do behave irrationally on a regular basis and in fits of irrationality humans make choices that lead to their own misery.

    However over time it is my observation that cooler heads prevail, that passions subside, and in the end people yearn for peace. Perhaps some people manage to be asshats for their entire 72.6 years here and choose misery the whole time. But how long can a rational prodigal son or daughter eat corn husks with pigs before he or she says “enough!” and decides to move toward the peace and happiness of a loving Father? Is it 72 years? 150 years? 1000 years? More? I contend that eventually all rational prodigals would have their fill of asshatness and seek a way out of misery. So no matter what finite length of time we choose there was more than enough time before this earth to work through it.

    This is on top of the fact that we presumably were not saddled with the flesh prior to this life and its genetic predispositions. Plus we did not have that pesky veil that made it unclear whether this 72.6 years is all there is to us or not.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 8, 2009 @ 3:48 pm

  33. Geoff-
    If I grant your ‘eternally rational’ assumption for the sake of argument, what if our environmental conditions were such that we could not ‘work through it’ even given infinite time? Isn’t it possible that environmental context precluded any such progression???

    Comment by brady — June 8, 2009 @ 4:06 pm

  34. I’m not opposed to an environmental influences argument Brady. What about our premortal environment do you think would influence us to choose to spurn a relationship with the one God?

    Do you think we had a veil of forgetfulness there? Perhaps we were perpetually mortals on other inhabited planets or something so we had the same challenges we face here? What do you have in mind?

    Comment by Geoff J — June 8, 2009 @ 4:15 pm

  35. Geoff, I think that we didn’t spurn a relationship with God in the pre-mortal life as much as we weren’t able to fully accept Him (or the Godhead) in a peer relationship. Like the prince and the commoner woman, the woman can only see the prince as an object, not as a person. I think God’s majesty was so overpowering as to keep us from Him as peers.

    Comment by Kent (MC) — June 8, 2009 @ 4:38 pm

  36. Geoff: “But how long can a rational prodigal son or daughter eat corn husks with pigs before he or she says “enough!””

    Well, I’d say that in light of God’s love for them that leaves them free to decide whether to be asshats, some can do it about forever. I hope you’re right and all of God’s children wake up and get it. I’m committed to that proposition and will do what I can to bring it about. But like Kent sez, how many are ready to accept their true glory and inheritance? I fear that some are just hell-bent asshats.

    Comment by Blake — June 8, 2009 @ 4:44 pm

  37. Blake said:

    You see, your own intransigence and refusal to accept the mathematics of infinities is an example of someone who could get it and move on, but freely chooses not to do so.

    haha ouch. The Ostler rebuke! I have to say, Blake, with me the problem is simple mathematical incompetence. I rejoiced when I passed my Math 1030 class last semester. I am worthless in math matters even though I try. I’m glad I have infinity to figure it out. Maybe I can keep putting it off.

    Comment by BHodges — June 8, 2009 @ 6:19 pm

  38. Blake:

    I’m committed to that proposition and will do what I can to bring it about. But like Kent sez, how many are ready to accept their true glory and inheritance? I fear that some are just hell-bent asshats.

    Sounds like a hope and a fear seeking resolution. Interesting way to frame it, considering Geoff’s thoughts. Is that the best response we have for the “we’ve already had a gazillion years to repent and return to God, so we already would have” thing Geoff keeps repeating?

    Comment by BHodges — June 8, 2009 @ 6:40 pm

  39. Kent (#35),

    The problem with the idea that we weren’t fully able to accept God in the premortal world (and by God you are assuming a single divine person right?) is that there is not much explanation why this possibly would be. Remember, as Madsen put it “No one is older or younger than anyone else”. So in a real sense the “eternal man” model makes every person a peer with every other person (including Jesus and his Father) by default. That is, there are no adults vs. adolescents in this model. No “older brothers”. And arguably there is no spirit that has more potential than any other spirit.

    Therefore analogies like parents and children or princes and commoners are ultimately inaccurate and misleading in the eternities (though they are probably useful with us here behind the veil). More appropriate would be calling us all gazillion-tuplets.

    So if you think one of our eternal peers has majesty that is so overwhelming that the rest of us can’t treat him as a peer we should examine what the difference between us is. I would say that if we are all eternal and all have the same capacity the radical model I outlined (where we are all part of the One God and just visiting here) sounds pretty feasible.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 8, 2009 @ 7:37 pm

  40. Blake: that leaves them free to decide whether to be asshats, some can do it about forever

    I can’t deny that this is logically possible. But that doesn’t make it at all likely.

    But like Kent sez, how many are ready to accept their true glory and inheritance?

    I contend that if they are remotely rational then the answer would be 100% would reject misery and accept joy. A spirit choosing misery for a all eternity would be overwhelming evidence that that spirit is insane.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 8, 2009 @ 7:41 pm

  41. BHodges: Is that the best response we have for the “we’ve already had a gazillion years to repent and return to God, so we already would have” thing Geoff keeps repeating?

    As far as I can tell yes. It is a shockingly anemic defense in the face the logic I am presenting don’t you think? Blake’s ever repeated defense is “it’s logically possible”. It is also logically possible that monkeys will fly out of my butt but that doesn’t make it remotely likely or feasible.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 8, 2009 @ 7:45 pm

  42. Geoff #27:
    - Regarding:

    this radical theological notion I have mentioned (which I am not advocating

    It’s good to know you don’t really advocate this idea and you are just bringing it up because you think it is ridiculously stupid (?). Seriously, you are advocating this idea. Just own it bro.

    Regarding:

    The upside is that it might provide such radically different metaphysical assumptions that the problem of evil might be solved under those assumptions.

    What? I’m sorry, I’ll take “Life is hard because Suffering is self-existent and I am willing to take the hard to get to somewhere better” over “I allow myself to be hurt to alleviate boredom”.

    I’m still holding to the best possible answer being We were not in a relationship with God except for a finite period, and only a finite number of us are (currently) in a relationship with God, and the atonement/plan of salvation is what gives us the freedom to choose happiness, which we otherwise would not have been able to do. It’s not a matter of not being ready to accept their true glory and inheritance, it is a matter of fundamentally being unable to do it without the transforming power of the atonement of Christ. He and we together cause the synergy needed to lift us up.

    Comment by Matt W. — June 8, 2009 @ 8:33 pm

  43. Matt I’m clearly saying it is within the pantheon of possibilities and I’m saying it makes more sense than the popular head-in-the-sand approach taken to the simple question “what were we doing for all eternity”. What I am not doing is presenting it as the truth because I really don’t know.

    I’ll take “Life is hard because Suffering is self-existent and I am willing to take the hard to get to somewhere better” over “I allow myself to be hurt to alleviate boredom”.

    If everyone who suffered in this life did so because that suffering helped them get somewhere better this might make sense. But our theology tell us that babies that die get somewhere better but the poor women tortured and murdered by the Taliban or who die painful and slow deaths from diseases don’t necessarily have a leg up on getting somewhere better than an upper middle class American who lives a long and prosperous life in our theology. Further, the more importance we place on this life the more difficult it becomes to explain God’s occasional intervention vs his normal non-intervention. If this life is mostly an adventure that we all sign up for and roll the dice on the problem of evil is shifted pretty dramatically.

    I don’t begrudge you wanting to defend the traditional models. Who knows — they may be true. I am still waiting for an decent attack on the arguments I have presented. Plus I have never once heard anyone give a reasonable answer to the question of what we have been doing forever. This model (along with an assumption of reincarnation/MMP) provides the only feasible answer to that question I have encountered.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 8, 2009 @ 8:58 pm

  44. As usual, there are lots of alternatives here. To begin with, I am inclined to think there was a time before any individual could be considered divine, in any comprehensive sense.

    I don’t think anyone has ever been saved by themselves or even in a small group. Spirituality and salvation to me seem to be inherently group enterprises. So to me, the question is not when this person or that decided to live by superior principles and somehow became quasi-exalted. The question is when enough individuals did so together – enough to make heaven a reality.

    Needless to say, the level of agreement and moral discipline necessary for a large group of individuals to form a heavenly society is far greater than that required to be a monk in a cave, and in practice the formation and reformation of a heavenly host worthy of the name requires far more time than that for any individual to follow a prescribed practice of personal morality.

    We have no idea how many incremental plans of salvation necessary to bring heavenly civilization to the next level preceded this one. In my opinion, I don’t think the capacities we associate with human-class character, rationality, language, spirituality, etc. were developed in a fortnight. I don’t think they are random evolutionary accidents either.

    I simply take it as an empirical fact that the process that lead to the current state of heavenly civilization (and its mortal auxiliaries) took as long as it did to reach the point where we are now.

    The alternative is to adopt the position that there is no net forward progress in the world, that we are all just twiddling our thumbs, and that struggle and exertion in the cause of right are of no eternal consequence. That sounds to me more like the downside of Taoism than the upside of Christianity.

    Comment by Mark D. — June 8, 2009 @ 10:05 pm

  45. Geoff, I didn’t have much time to read through the comments, so I apologize if someone has already caught this, but…

    You do realize that your arguments for a fixed quantity of intelligences are really no different from William Lane Craig’s argument for creation ex nihilo based on the impossibility of infinite regress of causes right?

    I mean, Craig pulls out the old Kalam Infinity argument and says that if there is a an infinite regress of causes in the universe, we could never arrive at “now.” Which is why there had to be a finite beginning to the universe.

    Now you are arguing essentially the same line of reasoning and saying that since an infinite number of spirits would man an infinite waiting period for “my turn” I could never arrive.

    Surely you realize that the logic behind one argument necessarily demands the other, right?

    So, I guess my question is – do you believe in creation ex nihilo and a finite universe?

    Comment by Seth R. — June 8, 2009 @ 11:54 pm

  46. I recommend you read the comments so you don’t look silly next time Seth. Blake and I have gone over that issue numerous times in the past here.

    I don’t have the problem you mention because I readily admit that an infinite number of spirits and an infinite amount of space is logically possible. In fact I believe I even mention that in the post.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 9, 2009 @ 12:06 am

  47. Geoff, a simple “we already covered that” would have sufficed.

    Comment by Seth R. — June 9, 2009 @ 12:24 am

  48. Hehe. Yes but that would not have properly conveyed my annoyance with the tone/wording of your comment…

    Comment by Geoff J — June 9, 2009 @ 12:48 am

  49. If everyone who suffered in this life did so because that suffering helped them get somewhere better this might make sense

    Good, I’m glad it makes sense because the Church teaches we went from a pre-mortal lesser state to a mortal higher state. (Body = Happiness and all that) So this life, with any suffering involved, is involved in getting somewhere better, no matter what degree of suffering is involved. Just look to ye old “We all Jumped for Joy to participate in the plan” bit that has been in every general conference for a long time.

    And the “What were we doing for all eternity” options I see are “needing help” or “entertaining ourselves”. Neither really seems to be a head in the sand approach and both, from the available information (ie none or at least very little), seem reasonable. I don’t see the amusement park model of life as inconceivable, I just think the majority of evidence points toward life being a bit more meaningful. (and by evidence, I mean scriptures, personal feelings, conjecture, hoping, wishful thinking, quotes taken out of context, etc.)

    Comment by Matt W. — June 9, 2009 @ 6:17 am

  50. Geoff, I guess the question you are really asking is why God is God and why aren’t/weren’t we part of that Godhead if all things were equal “in the beginning”. If the meta-universe didn’t have a beginning how do we even approach that question? We have no framework to discuss it. Blake argues that there wasn’t a time without God in the universe, the indwelling love between members of the Godhead has always existed. I’m open to that idea as well as the idea that intelligence was emergent and God just “woke up” before the others, but how do you reconcile that with eternity?

    I take my position on God’s glory being overpowering based on our present situation being the most compelling explanation. I am agnostic as to how God’s glory became overpowering to us. Just spreading the ignorance and taking up space with this one.

    Comment by Kent (MC) — June 9, 2009 @ 8:32 am

  51. Geoff:

    Maybe I am not understanding, but I don’t think your model answers the problem. If we think about eternity, why would beginningless and endless cycles be more entertaining/less boring that a beginningless and endless single process? Especially if you include free will and variation within the single process?

    As far as what we did for eternity, could we not consider an infinite variety of options?

    Infinte space
    Infinte intelligences
    eternal past
    Infinite spirit relationships
    Infinte amount to learn
    Infinte options

    They all seem about the same to me. So maybe we just did whatever we chose to do within our capabilities – and we liked it!

    Comment by Eric Nielson — June 9, 2009 @ 8:48 am

  52. Matt — Yep, you do have the “getting a body at any cost is worth it” argument to lean on. But you still have the problem of explaining gratuitous evil. The formulation might be: “If God only wanted us to get a body why not do so in a way that did not include so much gratuitous pain and suffering for some while sparing others almost entirely?”

    Kent — I am saying that if it is feasible that three eternal persons have always unified to make up the One God it is also feasible that all of us eternal persons have always unified to make up the One God. Of course there are a lot of possibilities. Mark had some interesting ideas on the subject in #44 if one prefers the idea that there was a time before the One God became God.

    Eric — The boredom is alleviated by MMP. We are living the exciting part right now in the model I’m assuming. I suppose you could argue for an infinity of concurrent planets to populate too if you wanted… But since we believe in God with some limits (particularly the limits associated with a finite and physical body) you will likely run into problems of claiming God can keep track of a universe with all the infinities you are describing in #51. In other words I don’t think all those infinities you mention work when you throw a physically finite God into the mix.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 9, 2009 @ 9:07 am

  53. If this is the exciting part…..

    And, it would not be the first time we have seen some advantages to a finite view of God.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — June 9, 2009 @ 9:33 am

  54. I assume you meant to say “disadvantages to a finite view of God” right?

    Comment by Geoff J — June 9, 2009 @ 9:38 am

  55. To me, the idea that some small handful of individuals started out divine while every other self-existent individual started out otherwise is a proposition that cannot be explained.

    Even if that small handful were ontologically distinct the relative number would be arbitrary, and if as most Mormons believe there is no ontological distinction, the divinity of the first handful is a contingent fact and for them to start out that way would be a metaphysical accident on the order of the world spontaneously springing into existence last Thursday.

    Comment by Mark D. — June 9, 2009 @ 10:01 am

  56. I agree with you Mark.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 9, 2009 @ 10:06 am

  57. Yeah, but when there is no beginning Mark, there is no beginning.

    Comment by Kent (MC) — June 9, 2009 @ 10:13 am

  58. I of course disagree with Mark. According to the BofA, there is a continuum of intelligences of various degrees and God is the most intelligent. Necessarily, in any array of intelligences of varied intelligence, there will be a most intelligence.

    That there would be a most intelligent or some who are most intelligent and equally intelligent with each other seems to be quite logically necessary given an array of varied degrees of intelligence. Those who were most intelligent could see that love and agreeing with each other in each moment would be most happiness inducing also seems quite rationally necessary.

    For the umpteenth million time, could you please define what you mean by “ontologically different,” since it clearly doesn’t mean for you what it means in usual philosophical discourse. That A is more intelligent than B, even in each moment of reality, is not an ontological difference. That A, B and C agree with each other perfectly and, as a result, share an emergent property inherent in the kind of being that they are, and D who is the same kind as A-C but has not made the same choice, is not an ontological difference — as long as D would have the same emergent properties as A-C if D made the same choices.

    Divinity is a contingent fact for A-C, but how you conclude that A-C agree with each other perfectly in each moment is a “metaphysical accident” (whatever that means) on the order of spontaneous world existence is just a mystery to me. It seems to be just an unsupported assertion based on a term that has no real meaning.

    Comment by Blake — June 9, 2009 @ 10:21 am

  59. Kent, When I say “start out”, I mean in the limit as the time t approaches minus infinity. It is a metaphysical accident either way.

    For a variety of reasons, infinite backward recursion in Mormonism approaches hard Platonism. Take the ordinance of baptism for example. Who decided that baptism was a necessary step in the plan of salvation? Nobody? Saying nobody decided how the plan of salvation should operate is equivalent to saying that either (1) the ordinance of baptism is an accident, or (2) the ordinance of baptism is a metaphysical necessity (i.e. a law of nature). Either way no God or gods had anything to do with it.

    The idea of divinity is so all encompassing that the same argument follows in spades, to the degree that Orson Pratt on at least one occasion identified divine attributes (i.e. divinity) as the one true God, a higher God than God. There is some point to that perspective in the abstract, but if you take it to the point where you have a plan of salvation that no one actually authored, one is essentially saying that God is just a functionary carrying out the dictates of an impersonal abstraction no one has ever met.

    Comment by Mark D. — June 9, 2009 @ 10:47 am

  60. Blake, I don’t have a problem with the idea that at any given time t there is a spectrum of intelligences. What I disagree with is the implication that whoever ranks the highest is God by definition.

    I don’t believe it makes sense to even bestow the title on the most intelligent person until he is sustained to a position of leadership by the majority of all other righteous individuals. In other words, I don’t think any individual or small handful of individuals can be God all by themselves. In particular I maintain that divine power is more a function of common consent than superior intelligence per se.

    I also disagree with the general idea that some small number of individuals started out with vastly superior intelligence due to no particular action or discipline on their part. It makes sense that such a broad spectrum might develop over time, but the idea that one individual “starts out” with immeasurably higher intelligence than virtually all others implies among other things that a high level of intelligence is the sort of thing that nature can bestow by accident, or is in and of itself a independent Platonic reality.

    I completely reject the idea that any superiority of human character or intelligence is some sort of independent, self-existent Platonic reality that no will or wills had anything to do with developing. And in particular I think the idea of morality cannot exist prior to will, so the idea that some start out with superior moral character (i.e. divinity) prior to any willing action or experience on their part doesn’t make any sense.

    Comment by Mark D. — June 9, 2009 @ 11:10 am

  61. Geoff (54)

    No, I meant advantages. No absolute foreknowledge for example.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — June 9, 2009 @ 11:37 am

  62. Oh, and I kinda like Mark D’s recent comments so far, fwiw.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — June 9, 2009 @ 11:39 am

  63. Geoff 52:
    “If God[We, the divine concert] only wanted us to [alleviate boredom] why not do so in a way that did not include so much gratuitous pain and suffering for some while sparing others almost entirely?”

    Sorry, as far as I can tell, we are on equal footing on that one.

    Comment by Matt W. — June 9, 2009 @ 11:46 am

  64. Now that I have room to answer Blake’s question:

    I mean “ontologically different” in the standard sense of an unbridgeable metaphysical distinction, such that X and Y are ontologically different if they belong to non-overlapping species or classes A and B such that there is no metaphysical possibility of transforming any member of class A into a member of class B or vice versa.

    Starting out with vastly superior intelligence is does not imply an ontological distinction. Not being able to lose that vastly superior intelligence, even in principle, most definitely would.

    In any case, I don’t think Blake’s position revolves around ontological distinctions the way J. Stapley’s does, and it was the latter’s position to which I was referring in passing.

    Comment by Mark D. — June 9, 2009 @ 12:02 pm

  65. Interesting opening post I believe LDS thought implies an infinite supply of intelligences. Now I present the following with the caveat I am by no means an expert in transfinite math so it is always possible I screwing up in some fashion.

    If my understanding of the LDS view is correct this earth is just one in a infinite chain of prexisting “earths”. In which God or a God takes existing intelligences and helps them progress by creating a world providing a body etc. If indeed the chain of “earths” is eternal both back in time and forward in time. This then requires that at each time point t there exists an infinite supply of intelligences to be transformed into Gods. If at any time point t there was a finite number of intelligences than at some time point t+x the supply of intelligences would run out and the great chain of “earths” would end (given that intelligences are continually being consumed undergoing mortality and an infinite amount of time). But if at any time point t there is an infinite amount of intelligences this therefore means the supply of intelligences is inexhaustible and infinite.

    Of course there is a number of other possibilities one of which is outlined by Geoff. And that is there is a finite supply of spirits but each spirit is used multiple times. That is a given spirit will undergo many rounds of being born experiencing mortality and death.

    The other possibility is that the great chain of “earths” is not endless and infinite but has a finite length. Which strongly implies if not requires some king of “beginning” point which I understand is not compatible with LDS theology.

    Also if indeed the first model is correct (i.e. infinite earths/infinite intelligences) this implies there will be an infinite number of intelligences that will never get a body and experience mortality. And if a mortal experience is necessary in some sense for further progression then they will be “damned” (i.e. blocked in further progression).

    Consider an infinite number of earths has already passed therefore an infinite number of intelligences have already gotten a body and experienced mortality. But an infinite number of intelligences have not gotten a body and experienced mortality. Given at any time point t there is an infinite supply of intelligences. It necessarily follows at any time point t there is an infinity number of intelligences that have not gotten a body and experienced mortality and are “blocked” in further progression. Of course it also means at any time point t there is an infinite number of intelligences that have gotten a body and progressed to Godhood.

    Comment by Uncertain — June 9, 2009 @ 12:31 pm

  66. Mark: “What I disagree with is the implication that whoever ranks the highest is God by definition.”

    It isn’t a matte of “rank” as in some artificially contrived ranking of military order. It has to do with a way of being — and a matter of the greatest possible. At any given time, the divine persons are one in the sense of unifying and deifying indwelling oneness. Any divine person who participates in this unity is a participant in the fullness of divine knowledge and power — the most that can be possessed. Thus, there is, at any given time, a greatest possible sharing of divine being. In the next moment, the scope of the divine knowledge and divine power will expand and increase, but no being could know more or have more power. No individual or isolated being could even approach this kind of power and knowledge.

    It follows that those who participate in the indwelling divine glory spoken of by Jesus in John 17 are one God and there cannot be any more knowledgeable or more powerful being.

    Comment by Blake — June 9, 2009 @ 2:34 pm

  67. Perhaps Bro. Madsen simply got a few things wrong.

    I have come to see things more in the light of; if evolution is true, then it would seem that a first god evolved (actually a whole race of gods) and since then, they organize the way things are now. Of course only within the realm of existing natural laws. Needless to say, we do not understand all of those natural laws.

    Anyway, it seems hard to me to explain evolution without something along these lines.

    Just my two cents worth. ;)

    Comment by CEF — June 9, 2009 @ 3:02 pm

  68. Any divine person who participates in this unity is a participant in the fullness of divine knowledge and power — the most that can be possessed

    I generally agree here. My departure is that I maintain that divine power and glory is and can be only a consequence of the effective unity of a very large number of divine individuals, and that the quality and glory of that unity increases with the number of participants.

    So if one is strictly speaking about a handful (two or three or ten) of individuals, I maintain that the glory of such a union would necessarily be but a pale shadow of that of a union of a much larger number.

    Furthermore I maintain that the power and glory of this divine concert is ever increasing, such that one in perfect union with the whole does indeed have the most glory that can be experienced at that time, but in no way the most than can be experienced in any absolute terms.

    At one time, perhaps a disciplined council of three was the greatest unity that could be had. But I don’t see any reason to say that they exercised divine power and glory by virtue of the unity and moral superiority of a mere three individuals. In my opinion a very great deal of the glory of God is due to the spiritual concurrence of a host of individuals who haven’t yet arrived anywhere near the same state.

    Comment by Mark D. — June 9, 2009 @ 5:08 pm

  69. Matt: If God[We, the divine concert] only wanted us to [alleviate boredom] why not do so in a way that did not include so much gratuitous pain and suffering for some while sparing others almost entirely?

    Because in that model the real risk of real pain and suffering and fear is a large part of what makes our mortal lives non-boring. (Maybe think of it like improvising live in an action/drama/thriller tale)

    Comment by Geoff J — June 9, 2009 @ 7:46 pm

  70. Mark #59,

    Some good points all around there. The idea that just three divine persons have eternally been One leads to problems with the Plan of Salvation. Was there a point in time where it dawned on them that inviting others to join the union was a good idea and that became the plan of salvation? If so then we should note that there was an infinity of time before they figured that out. And what was the pitch they initially made? They could not point to a time when they decided to join together because according to Blake’s model there was never a time when they weren’t One. So they could never set an example of choosing to join the Godhead in that model. Maybe the great examplar would be spirit #4 who signed on to that oneness…

    Now I will say that the model where all human spirits have always been part of the one God solves some of the issues you mention. That model is basically radical universalism so concerns about ordinances and plans of salvation sort of lose their bite in that model.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 9, 2009 @ 8:07 pm

  71. Uncertain (#65): Also if indeed the first model is correct (i.e. infinite earths/infinite intelligences) this implies there will be an infinite number of intelligences that will never get a body and experience mortality

    This is technically not true. See Seth’s #45. While it would take spirits an infinite amount of time before they experienced mortality in that model it is not correct to say any would “never” experience one.

    But you seem to be seeing the problem I see with the infinite spirits idea. I think ultimately the finite God if Mormonism is really what sinks the idea of an infinite number of Spirits.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 9, 2009 @ 8:16 pm

  72. Maybe you get to be a mosquito while you wait your chance to become a mortal man.

    Comment by Patrick — June 9, 2009 @ 9:09 pm

  73. Geoff J, If I understand you correctly, your position is that all individuals are eternally one in the sense we are discussing here. That has clear advantages in symmetry of course. All else being equal, the a priori probability of initial symmetry is always higher than anything with radical (i.e. non uniformly distributed) asymmetry.

    The problem is I see the Fall as pretty much a return to the natural condition of mankind, and the point of the plan of salvation (if not civilization itself) is to work together to overcome that natural condition such that that accomplishment becomes second nature, both to us as individuals and as a society.

    In particular, I don’t think that divine nature is natural – not in the full sense of the word ‘divine’, nor in the primary sense of the word ‘natural’. That is the thrust of my argument here – it simply isn’t natural for anyone or any group of individuals to start out in a divine state, because divinity is much more subtle than anything that can happen by accident (or by nature).

    Or in other words, I don’t see divinity in the full sense of the term as any more natural of a condition than civilization. Both happen, but in my view neither happens by nature – not by first nature at any rate – but rather by dint of will, effort, experience, and creativity on the part of a very large number of individuals.

    Comment by Mark D. — June 9, 2009 @ 9:21 pm

  74. Mark,

    I agree with those things you say regarding humans here on earth. But what comes natural to mortal humans behind veils here on earth has little bearing on what is beginningless and essential in eternal human spirits. As I said, the model I am exploring is probably best described as “Radical Universalism”. It simply takes the idea of universal exaltation and applies eternally backward and forward. I doubt the idea will ever catch on but it does have some theological strengths when it comes to the big challenges like the problem of evil in my opinion.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 9, 2009 @ 9:38 pm

  75. (Geoff #71)
    >This is technically not true. See Seth’s #45. >While it would take spirits an infinite amount >of time before they experienced mortality in that
    >model it is not correct to say any would “never” >experience one.

    Hi Geoff

    I looked over my post and I was not clear hopefully I can clarify. I am not arguing that a given intelligence will never experience mortality or that an actual infinite set is impossible. Any given intelligence has a possibility of coming to a earth getting a body and experiencing mortality. What I am arguing is there is an infinite number of intelligences that will not get the chance to come to a earth and get a body.

    If the infinite regression/progression of earths is correct and if a given intelligence only experiences mortality once. It therefore follows the number of intelligences is infinite and inexhaustible. If the number of intelligences was finite then eventually you would run out of intelligences and infinite regression/progression of earths would be impossible because there would be no intelligences to populate those earths they would already have been used up.

    If the supply of intelligences is inexhaustible and infinite that means at any time point t there is still an infinite supply of intelligences that need to come to a earth and get a body.

    Possibly and example would prove helpful. Suppose every second I select a unique random real number. Now suppose I have been doing this for an infinite amount of time up to this point t. I have selected and infinite number of real numbers but there is still and infinite amount of real numbers I have not yet selected. At any point t+x in the future I will have already selected an infinite amount of real numbers but I can continue to randomly select real numbers for an infinite amount of time in the future. Because there is still an infinite amount of real numbers I have not yet selected. Any given real number has a possibility of being selected. But there is still and infinite number of real numbers that is not selected. And there will be an infinite number of real numbers not selected at any point t in the future.

    Similarly if there is an infinite regression of earths each populated by a unique population of spirits. An infinite amount of spirits have already been selected to experience mortality but there is still and infinite amount of spirits that have not been selected and there will be an infinite amount of spirits unselected for any time point t in the future.

    Again this does not mean “no” intelligences will be selected indeed and infinite number will be. It just means there is still and infinite number that have not been selected and this will hold true for all eternity.

    Comment by Uncertain — June 10, 2009 @ 8:07 am

  76. Geoff J: but in that model, it is only real temporary risk. and further, doesn’t that seem sort of masochistic? We choose to alleviate boredom by exposing ourself to suffering? In any case, why is it a better solution that we allow the risk of horrible suffering because we think it could be fun over our allowing the risk of horrible suffering because we believe It will help us be better in the long run by giving us an opportunity to be like God?

    I am not sure how the finite God of Mormonism sinks the idea of an infinite number of spirits. It may sink the idea of all spirits being God’s children, but I don’t think Mormonism seriously holds that idea to begin with.

    Comment by Matt W. — June 10, 2009 @ 9:18 am

  77. I think the solution to the problem of evil is simple. God isn’t omnipotent (yet) in the way everyone would like him to be. There is a war between good and evil and the good is making progress as fast as reasonably possible without violating the very principles that sustain it – namely agency, economy, and consent.

    As far as I can tell, it is simply impossible to think rationally about the level of divine intervention (especially in natural evils) without some idea that God is pushing the limits already – we have a promise and a hope of salvation, but it won’t happen overnight, and the whole thing is run on a much more delicate and spiritual basis than we might otherwise prefer.

    Comment by Mark D. — June 10, 2009 @ 9:27 am

  78. Matt: doesn’t that seem sort of masochistic?

    No more than riding a fast rollercoaster or bungy jumping or going for any other adrenaline rush is masochistic I’d say.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 10, 2009 @ 9:58 am

  79. Uncertain,

    You are right that we would have to conclude that throughout all eternity we would never reach the final spirit. That is a messy thing. Playing with the concept of infinity always leads to these kinds of messes in my experience.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 10, 2009 @ 10:09 am

  80. I have been reading all your threads with a tremendous passion and vigour. Our immortal pasts must have been filled with great learning. Perhaps we have been through endless mortal probations, each a progressive one or a regressive one, until we learn all the principles necessary to be exalted. That would explain our never ending immortal past. I guess that we just cant understand divine concepts regarding eternity, since we are all subject to our small mortal undestanding. Who is to say weather king David will be given another chance to grab his exaltation? Who knows? I dont. Who is to say that hitler had to regress to progress? What about saddam hussein, crawling like a poor worm from his hole in the desert, having to face up to his punishment. I think that to advance, some have to learn the hard way.

    Comment by Lieutenant Rodriguez — June 10, 2009 @ 11:32 am

  81. Mark,

    I agree that solving the logical problem of evil is easy. Solving the lesser problem of God’s intervention vs. non intervention on earth — as in exonerating God of sins of omission — is not quite as simple. One way to deal with it is to simply exercise faith that God knows more than we do and that God is intervening as much as he can to create the best possible world for progress (I used that argument in this post actually). Robust Mormon universalism (assuming all will eventually choose exaltation) is another way to deal with that lesser problem because it paints this life as a blink of an eye on the way to better things. I think radical universalism (extending exaltation eternally forward and backward) is even a more robust solution than one-way universalism because it makes our time here non-mandatory.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 10, 2009 @ 11:48 am

  82. Regarding Uncertain’s post #75: Let’s tackle this by swapping time with space.

    What if there were an infinite amount of earths hosting an infinite amount of intelligent spirits simultaneously?

    We wouldn’t have a problem of an intelligence waiting an infinite amount of time for their turn. Their turn is happening right now, just somewhere further away.

    Comment by britain — June 10, 2009 @ 10:00 pm

  83. britain,

    Your comments highlights the problem with playing with infinities like this. Are you saying there would be a time when ALL spirits had experienced a mortality? If that ever were to happen then the number of spirits would not have been infinite. If there is a last spirit is line the the number is finite.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 10, 2009 @ 10:36 pm

  84. Geoff, The way I answer that issue is that there is a divine economy and all available resources are used to a practical limit, such that there is an essentially economic tradeoff between and among potential interventions and other critical activities.

    Comment by Mark D. — June 11, 2009 @ 12:11 am

  85. My father in law had a theory about animals that became extinct. He thought in some cases that meant that the spirits for that animal were all used up.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — June 11, 2009 @ 8:41 am

  86. Hi britain,

    The problem is not the number of earths currently hosting spirits. The problem is an infinite regression/progression of earths with unique spirits for each. For example assuming this model is correct. This earth is just the latest in a chain of earths infinitely long. That means an infinite number of spirits have already had the chance to come to an earth and experience mortality. And yet given an infinite amount of time and earths there are still intelligences that have not gained a body or experienced mortality. This earth is not the last earth but simply the latest in a chain of earths.And there will be an infinite progression of earths into the future. If this model is correct then it necessarily follows the supply of intelligences will never run out. If it did run out then eventually the chain of earths would end and it would be impossible to have an infinite regression/progression of earths. It doesn’t matter how many earths are concurrently in time hosting spirits in mortality it could be one, ten or an infinite amount. What matters is that there is an infinite progression/regression of earths in time.And if the supply of intelligences is infinite and inexhaustible then it necessarily follows there will be an infinite supply of intelligences that will never presumably for no fault of their own experience mortality and gain a body. Which is problematic if gaining a body and experiencing mortality is beneficial in some fashion.

    This issue at least for me makes the infinite progression/regression of earths model problematic. I tend to lean toward some version of multiple mortal probation’s although perhaps not as most LDS would formulate it.

    Comment by Uncertain — June 11, 2009 @ 9:51 am

  87. Uncertain,

    As you probably know — a finite spirits model and MMP is what I lean toward as well.

    This post simply follows that trail farther down its logical end. That is, IF a finite number of spirits exist, and IF we have lived forever already, and IF all will eventually come around to be exalted due to our combination of rationality and free will; THEN it makes sense to assume we were all exalted prior to this earth. In this post I posit the possibility that we never have not been exalted but there are many other possibilities beyond that.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 11, 2009 @ 10:16 am

  88. Mark D — Your assumptions seem plausible enough if we assume we have never been exalted in the eternities past. I just question that assumption.

    Eric — Your FIL’s theory has some appeal I think.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 11, 2009 @ 10:18 am

  89. @83 & 87

    If there are an infinite amount of earths, there could still be an infinite number of spirits; there would be no ‘last in line’ spirit. In fact, this scenario seems to get to exactly where you want to go, Geoff (everybody becoming exalted) while permitting an infinite rather than a finite spirit count.

    How is it that if there are an infinite number of spirits, some never get a chance at exaltation? If I have an infinitely long river, there will never be a case where, traveling from negative infinity to positive infinity, Water Molecule A does not travel past Point X. Please help me see where I’m wrong on this one. I’m happy to change my mind on this, as it’s one of my biggest sticking points to this idea.

    I still don’t think that you’ve effectively argued for your third proposition in 87 (“all will eventually come around to be exalted due to our combination of rationality and free will”), but perhaps I should just leave that alone at this point.

    Comment by brady — June 11, 2009 @ 12:37 pm

  90. Hi Brady,

    Thank you for your thoughts. I think there may be some confusion on this point. Doubtless fed by my convoluted and confusing explanations :). It is not the fact there is an infinite number of intelligences that is problematic. I am satisfied it is possible to transverse an actual infinite. Which means it would be possible for an infinite number of spirits to experience mortality.

    The problem is a never ending chain of earths both back and forward in time. Consider this earth it is at the end of an infinite chain of earths so an actual infinite amount of earths have come and gone in an infinite amount of time and an infinite amount of spirits have experienced mortality correct? And yet have “all” intelligences even in an infinite amount of time and earths experienced mortality? clearly no. If that were the case this earth would be the last one in the chain and there would be no more earths after this one. Because all the intelligences would have been used up. In other words we already have an example of an infinite amount of time passing and yet even given and infinite amount of time there are still intelligences that have not experienced mortality (assuming of course the infinite progression/regression model is correct). If there really is a never ending chain of earths both back in time and forward in time each earth populated by a unique population of intelligences. Then it logically follows you need a never ending supply of intelligences to populate those earths. But by definition of never ending it is logically required that there will be intelligences that will never inhabit a earth. If all intelligences did inhabit a earth then at some point the chain of earths would come to an end because all intelligences have experienced mortality and gained a body and there are no more left and the chain of earths would not be never ending after all. It does not matter how many earths are concurrently in time hosting spirits what matters is the never ending chain of earths progressing forward in time.

    Take the set of all odd numbers this is an infinite amount of real numbers and yet it is not the set of all real numbers. There is still an infinite amount of real numbers not included in the set of odd numbers. So it is possible to have selected an infinite amount of something (i.e. real numbers) and not selected all of that something. Even an infinite amount of odd numbers does not include all real numbers. Similarly an infinite amount of intelligences may very well have come to an earth and gotten a body it does not mean “all” intelligences have done so.

    So to sum it all up in one quick statement (I should have done this at the beginning :) ). A never ending chain of earths requires a never ending supply of intelligences and a never ending supply of intelligences by definition is inexhaustible and not stopping (i.e. some intelligences will never experience mortality and earth life).

    All the Best.

    Comment by Uncertain — June 11, 2009 @ 2:06 pm

  91. Wow. That is a really long answer Uncertain.

    Brady — if we ever got to the last spirit throughout all eternity then there is not an infinite number of them. It is that simple.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 11, 2009 @ 2:11 pm

  92. Hi Geoff,

    As you can no doubt tell I have a real tendency to be long winded. I am a graduate student in the sciences and have written a number of scientific manuscripts and my boss is constantly telling me to be more concise. Clearly I have not yet mastered this particular skill.

    Comment by Uncertain — June 11, 2009 @ 2:17 pm

  93. Geoff and Uncertain-

    I completely agree with Geoff’s statement here: “if we ever got to the last spirit throughout all eternity then there is not an infinite number of them”.
    I also agree with Uncertain’s statement that: “[a] never ending supply of intelligences by definition is inexhaustible and not stopping”. However, it does not follow that “i.e. some intelligences will never experience mortality and earth life)”

    An endless supply of intelligences does not entail that there will always be some sort of eternal static surplus that just never gets a shot; we’re talking about a dynamic system! It is true that at any given point in eternity there will be an infinite number of intelligences ‘waiting’ for a chance to play. However, because that infinite supply is moving through time, if each intelligence is considered individually then over time each individual intelligence will have a turn. It’s just that there’s just no end to the supply ‘behind’ that individual intelligence. Please probe if I’m not being clear.

    Comment by brady — June 11, 2009 @ 2:39 pm

  94. Think about it in these terms… Say you’re working on a great cosmic conveyor belt, and have fed more intelligences through the system than you can ever hope to remember. Now you’re down to your last two. Finally, you’re done! However, just as you’re down to your last one, another one pops into existence. In these terms, it’s easier to think about seeing an individual intelligence that may have had to wait literally an eternity to go through the system, but eventually it makes it through. But just as it does, there’s another one behind it. We watch that one go through, but then there’s another one behind it. Every single one gets to go through (over time), it’s just that process never ever stops.

    Of course I’m not arguing for the continual and/or spontaneous creation of intelligences (they are all co-eternal)- I’m just using this as an illustrative device.

    Comment by brady — June 11, 2009 @ 2:53 pm

  95. Not forgetting, in the equation, assuming that an infinite amount of pre existences are going on right now, one third of every pre existence dont get a body since an infinite number of `lucifers#` persuaded them to follow a different game. Ive heard that these castaways, plus the flesh and bone sons of perdition, are described as the `balance`……. what does that mean? Balancing what?

    Comment by Colonel Ferdinand — June 11, 2009 @ 3:34 pm

  96. Do people get at least a personal flashlight as a parting gift from god prior to going to outer darkness? Maybe some night vision goggles?

    Comment by Colonel Ferdinand — June 11, 2009 @ 3:36 pm

  97. Brady,

    “Of course I’m not arguing for the continual and/or spontaneous creation of intelligences (they are all co-eternal)- I’m just using this as an illustrative device.”

    Frankly it seems to me you are arguing for spontaneous creation. Take your example of a cosmic conveyor belt. Yes there may be a line of intelligences right behind the one currently going through. But in order to be inexhaustible this line must never end there must never be a point in time in which there is a “last” intelligence in line. If indeed intelligences can never be created and if indeed the supply of intelligences is inexhaustible then it logically must follow there will be intelligences who never experience morality. If all currently existing intelligences will at some point experience mortality than the supply is not inexhaustible after all. Because at some point all of them will come to a earth.

    The only way your convey belt example will work is if intelligences are being created to replace the ones used.

    Now one possible solution is that intelligences are not sentient they are the equivalent of floating rocks. In which case God or a God in the process of creating spirits introduces sentience. In which case it does not matter that all intelligences won’t get used because they just don’t care they don’t have a mind to care with. I am reluctant to accept this solution because I think it causes problems when dealing the Problem of Evil but other peoples mileage may vary.

    Comment by Uncertain — June 11, 2009 @ 4:10 pm

  98. I have to agree with Uncertain that the “pops into existence” part of your analogy is totally untenable. More appropriate would be that the line is infinitely long and no matter how fast the line moved it would always remain infinitely long.

    I still think that Uncertain oversteps by using the word “never” though because that technically should not be true for any individual spirit. (It’s a paradox I suppose.) Perhaps a more precise way of saying it is that there will never be a time when the line isn’t infinitely long.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 11, 2009 @ 4:18 pm

  99. Geoff- I’m happy with your last paragraph in 98. My only point has been that *every* individual spirit will come through and have an opportunity for exaltation, even though there never will be a time without an infinite number waiting in the wings. It seems we’re finally in agreement there. Yes?

    If you accept this point, though, I’m not sure how you can still hold to the claims you were making in the OP regarding the implications of Infinite Intelligences versus Finite Intelligences. Given the points we’ve agreed on above, if everybody eventually gets a shot in the Infinite Intelligence model, what’s the problem?? From a group level, it seems there will always be some intelligences that engage in eternal thumb-twiddling, but from an individual level, we see that eventually each individual has an opportunity. And what’s wrong with waiting for an eternity after someone else gets their shot if you’ve already waited an eternity??? Is there a difference?

    Comment by brady — June 11, 2009 @ 4:49 pm

  100. Uncertain- You are committing something called the ecological fallacy by claiming that the following is logical: “If indeed intelligences can never be created and if indeed the supply of intelligences is inexhaustible then it logically must follow there will be intelligences who never experience morality”

    If something is true for the group, it does *not* mean that it is true for the individual.
    So, if even if there is always an infinity of intelligence (i.e., an infinite group) waiting across all eternity, it does not follow that a given individual will also have to wait across all eternity.

    And lastly (sorry this has been a lot at once)…

    Regarding that part of the analogy being untenable, you guys are taking it too far and not respecting the boundaries I imposed when suggesting it. The conveyor belt was just an attempt to make infinity a manageable concept. I was implying that there is indeed an infinite line, but that we were only attending to a small subset of it. There are no new intelligences being created, just new intelligences being attended to by us as we try to make sense of this. If you don’t like simplifying that way, then rather than reading “another one pops into existence”, read “then you notice that there are more”. Of course, an infinite line is also an inadequate concept, as there are also an infinite number of belts.

    Comment by brady — June 11, 2009 @ 4:51 pm

  101. We’re close but not quite there brady. I think if you are willing to drop the word “every” we’ll be there. The problem is that every means 100% and of course 100% cannot logically happen. So because of the paradoxes involved here we have to be careful with the language to as to avoid fallacies.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 11, 2009 @ 4:57 pm

  102. Is 100% of infinity really logical? 100% seems pretty discrete (i.e., finite) to me.

    Comment by brady — June 11, 2009 @ 5:04 pm

  103. That is sort of my point. 100% doesn’t jibe with infinity so using the word “every” doesn’t work either.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 11, 2009 @ 5:10 pm

  104. Say I’ve got a curve (e.g., y=arctan(x), which is an s-curve with two horizontal asymptotes- somewhat symbolic of our current issue).

    I can talk about a specific point on that line (e.g., it’s y intercept) even though there are an infinite number of points on the line. If I was to travel up that curve for eternity, it is not possible that I could never reach a particular x-value. I’d never finish traveling up the ‘whole’ curve (because there’s not really such a thing- it goes forever), but you could never name a *specific* x-value that I could not reach.

    Even though my supply of intelligences never runs out, I can never select a specific one that would not get passed through the conveyor belt.

    Comment by brady — June 11, 2009 @ 5:26 pm

  105. I like that better. Just drop “every” and say “you would never find a spirit that would never experience mortality” and we would be fine.

    Again — I think the whole thing is a paradox. That is why I prefer the finite space and matter model.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 11, 2009 @ 5:34 pm

  106. I’m not sure I understand what the paradox is though. If you’re fine with the statement “you would never find a spirit that would never experience mortality”, where’s the paradox? One can either find a specific case or not. If not, then the only problem is with conceptualizing the selection of discrete entities from among an infinite set. Just because something is difficult doesn’t make it paradoxical. It’s sort of like Uncertain’s selection of all odd numbers from the infinite set of real numbers, in that it’s tricky to think about but not paradoxical.

    Anyway, in your OP you said that your problem with the Infinite Intelligence stance was of a logistical nature, not of a paradoxical nature. I can handle your taking the Finite stance if you’ve changed your reasoning for doing so. :)

    Comment by brady — June 11, 2009 @ 6:04 pm

  107. The paradox is that while it seems like we can safely claim that some spirits will *never* experience mortality we technically can’t. On the flipside while it seems like we can safely claim that *all* spirits will eventually experience a mortality we technically can’t.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 12, 2009 @ 12:23 am

  108. Hi Brady,

    I am not sure I am committing the ecological fallacy. I fully accept each and every intelligence has the possibility of coming to an earth. But not each and every intelligence “will” come to an earth. If every intelligence did come to an earth than the supply is not inexhaustible after all. So no it is not possible to pick those intelligences that will not experience mortality. But it is possible to state there will be intelligences that never experience mortality although we do not know who they are. Again if every intelligence currently in existence experienced mortality than eventually we would run out of intelligences and the great chain of earths would end. Yes I would be committing the ecological fallacy if intelligences can be created. In which case an inexhaustible supply of intelligences does not mean there will be a group of intelligences that will never experience mortality. But if the supply of intelligences cannot be increased and if it is inexhaustible then it “must” be the case that some of those intelligences will never experience mortality.

    Suppose I select a random number between 1 and 1000 every number has the possibility of being selected. But only one number will be selected. Similarly every intelligence has the possibility of coming to an earth and experiencing mortality but this does not mean each and every intelligence will come to an earth and experience mortality.

    Take your curve example. You are 100% correct that it is not possible to name a specific x value you cannot reach. But it is also not possible to reach all x-values. It must be the case no matter how long you travel on the curve there is still an infinite number of x-values you have still not reached. You could travel for an infinite amount of time and still have an infinite amount of x-values untouched. So yes it is impossible to name a specific x-value that is not touchable. However it is logically required that not all x-values will be touched. As you move along the curve there will always be “one more” value that is not yet touched hence there will always be “one more” intelligence that has not experienced mortality and this will hold true no matter how much time has passed (i.e. no matter how long you move along the curve). Hence it is logically required no matter how much time as passed there will still be intelligences that have not experienced mortality.

    Again we already have an example of this there has already been an infinite amount of time and earths. And yet there still are intelligences that have not experienced mortality. Indeed there is an infinite supply of them.

    So yes it is something of a paradox. It is impossible to name a given spirit and say it will never experience mortality. But at the same time it is logically required that there will be intelligences that will never experience mortality there will always be “one more” in line no matter how much time has passed. This is what happens when you mess around with infinity.

    Comment by Uncertain — June 12, 2009 @ 8:21 am

  109. Your statistical analogy is curious. We’re not talking about making a single selection. There are infinite selections. You’re implying that the only reason why the other 999 aren’t selected is because either a) there is a finite sampling procedure or b) some subset are not fit for selection. Are you arguing that from among an infinite number of intelligences, only a finite number have the opportunity to experience mortality?

    By concluding that “it is logically required that there will be intelligences that will never experience mortality”, you are claiming that there is a distinct set of intelligences that can never be selected- which you denied is a possibility by claiming that “it is not possible to name a specific x value you cannot reach”.

    An infinite supply does not entail that there are some that will never be reached. There will always be an infinite set of intelligences that have *not yet* experienced mortality, but it is not correct to say that they *never will* experience mortality. Saying that the selection process is never complete is not the same as saying that some will never be selected. The former entails the concept of ‘infinite’, while the latter denies it.

    Comment by brady — June 12, 2009 @ 9:42 am

  110. Hi brady,

    Well the point of the statistical analogy was simply to demonstrate something may be possibly but not actually happen.

    “By concluding that “it is logically required that there will be intelligences that will never experience mortality”, you are claiming that there is a distinct set of intelligences that can never be selected- which you denied is a possibility by claiming that “it is not possible to name a specific x value you cannot reach”. ”

    I am not arguing there is a distinct set of intelligences that never have the possibility of being selected I am arguing there will be a set of intelligences that will never be selected. And yes it is a paradox but I see no way to avoid it. Look if there is always “one more” intelligence in line no matter how much time has passed. And if intelligences cannot be created then it must follow there will be some intelligences that will never experience mortality. How can it be otherwise? If all intelligences will eventually experience mortality then there will come a point when there will not be “one more” in line.

    Your example of the curve is a perfect illustration of this. I can move along the curve for eternity but never reach the end because it *has* no end. Similarly intelligences can be consumed for all eternity but if there is no end to the supply of intelligences then some of them will not experience mortality because there is *no end* to the number of intelligences. And by definition no end means all of them will never be used up. There will be for all eternity some intelligences that have not experienced mortality.

    If there will always be an infinite set of intelligences that have *not yet* experienced mortality for any amount of time gone by even an infinite amount of time. Then there will always be a set of intelligences that will *never* experience mortality. How can it be otherwise? I see no way to avoid this if indeed intelligences can never be created. I do understand your position but it depends on the ability to create new intelligences to replace the ones used.

    In any case I feel I am repeating myself. It may be we just need to agree to disagree and let the readers decide who they find more convincing. I have very much enjoyed the discussion.

    All the Best,

    Comment by Uncertain — June 12, 2009 @ 10:16 am

  111. Uncertain- I think the only thing I have left to say on this is that my position does not require the creation of new intelligences. Rather, we just need to agree to disagree regarding whether *never* follows from *not yet* for an infinite, coeternal set. And definitely, the discussion has been enjoyable.

    On a different note- what exactly is your overall position on the OP? I can’t quite gather it from your comments.

    Do you buy into Geoff’s assumptions that given time, rationality, and free will, all intelligences will have emerged as God? I still think there are major problems with that stance (which may at least partially be explained by my less-than-full understanding of his MMP model) which have not yet been fully discussed in this thread.

    Comment by brady — June 12, 2009 @ 10:41 am

  112. I believe that gods will is fundamentally heretical, and that it is possible that even god could fall from grace if his ego permitted.

    Comment by Sir Dasturdly — June 14, 2009 @ 12:13 pm

  113. Brady and Geoff: “I completely agree with Geoff’s statement here: “if we ever got to the last spirit throughout all eternity then there is not an infinite number of them”.”

    This assertion is false. “All” does not mean the same thing when discussing infinite sets as it does when speaking of finite sets. It is quite possible that “all” (the entire infinite set of spirits) will have experienced a mortality at some point and then “all” will have experienced it — “every last one.” The problem is that in infinite sets the term “last one” does not mean the same thing either. Every one of the spirits is the last one to experience it because all have if there is an infinite set of spirits.

    Uncertain: “I fully accept each and every intelligence has the possibility of coming to an earth. But not each and every intelligence “will” come to an earth.”

    How could you possibly know that not every spirit will come to an earth? After all, if it is a possibility, how do you know that this possibility hasn’t in fact obtained?

    Comment by Blake — June 14, 2009 @ 3:00 pm

  114. Geoff: “They could not point to a time when they decided to join together because according to Blake’s model there was never a time when they weren’t One. So they could never set an example of choosing to join the Godhead in that model.”

    This is just false. It may be that there was no “first” moment when they chose to be one if they have chosen in each moment of eternity one without beginning precisely because there is no first moment to an infinite series of this nature. However, it doesn’t follow that they don’t freely choose to be in this relationship. They could freely choose it anew in each moment that they exist.

    The term “there was never a time that they weren’t one” sounds like there is no time in which to choose to be one. However, what it means is merely that “there was no first time they chose.” But so what? Saying that they have eternally made this choice in each new moment is merely to deny that there is such a first time.

    It is of course nonsensical that in an infinite, beginningless expanse of time there isn’t enough time in which to freely choose to be one. But that is the sense in which you assert that there is no time time which to choose to be one. It is perhaps the greatest possible absurdity — in an infinite amount of time there isn’t time to choose to be one. To the contrary, there are plenty of times in which to make such a free choice to be one – in fact, an infinite number of times.

    You continue to use terms that apply to finite sets as if they had the same meaning in infinite sets. They don’t.

    Comment by Blake — June 14, 2009 @ 3:10 pm

  115. Blake #113,

    I suspect you are using sleight of hand in comment #113.

    If a finite number of planets (no matter how massive that number may be) exist at any given time then a finite number of spirits may pass through them at any time. Under such circumstances we would never reach the time throughout all eternity when there was anything other than an infinite number of spirits still waiting.

    Now I will have to think about the implications of and infinite number of planets inhabited planets coming into existence. If we match the infinite set of inhabited planets and the infinite set of human spirits wouldn’t there be a 1-1 ratio? (I am thinking that an infinite set of positive integers would directly correlate to these…) Maybe some mathematicians among us could comment on that question.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 14, 2009 @ 5:42 pm

  116. Blake @113:
    I hope the rest of my comments indicate that by agreeing with Geoff’s quote there, I was essentially saying “If this weren’t an absurd statement, I’d be ok with it”.

    Geoff- Why does it matter what the ratio is? Also, is there good reason to think that there will not be an infinite number of inhabited planets- even in your model?

    Comment by brady — June 14, 2009 @ 6:06 pm

  117. Brady: Why does it matter what the ratio is?

    I don’t think I ever claimed the ratio mattered much.

    Also if a finite number of inhabited planets exist at any given time then there will never be an infinite number of them as far as I can tell.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 14, 2009 @ 6:32 pm

  118. Geoff- I’m not sure I understand what you mean in your last statement (regarding finite planets). Could you explain a little more? Are you saying that a finite set at any given time point necessarily excludes the possibility of infinite growth in the future?

    Also- if I haven’t already mentioned it- thanks for the great blog. I’m new to it, and have really enjoyed the current discussion as well as previous posts I’ve gotten through.

    Comment by brady — June 14, 2009 @ 6:57 pm

  119. I’m glad you are enjoying the discussions here brady.

    My argument in #117 is the same argument I used in #115. That is:

    If a finite number of planets (no matter how massive that number may be) exist at any given time then a finite number of spirits may pass through them at any time. Under such circumstances we would never reach the time throughout all eternity when there was anything other than an infinite number of spirits still waiting.

    So let me ask you — what did you mean when you said “is there good reason to think that there will not be an infinite number of inhabited planets”? Are you saying that eventually the number of planets will reach “inifnity”? That is obviously not true. If a finite number of planets exist at any given time then there never will be an infinite number of inhabited planets. If not, what did you have in mind there?

    Comment by Geoff J — June 14, 2009 @ 7:11 pm

  120. Geoff: “If a finite number of planets (no matter how massive that number may be) exist at any given time then a finite number of spirits may pass through them at any time. Under such circumstances we would never reach the time throughout all eternity when there was anything other than an infinite number of spirits still waiting.”

    This statement is nonsensical because it begins on the assumption of a finite number of spirits and then states that “under such circumstances” we wind up with an infinite number of spirits. I don’t know what you intended to state, but it clearly cannot be this statement. A finite never becomes an infinite by extension.

    Comment by Blake — June 14, 2009 @ 8:05 pm

  121. No I think you have my statement backward Blake. It doesn’t assume a finite number of spirits in existence. It assumes an infinite number of spirits exist but a finite number of inhabited planets exist at any given time. Your point is my point — we could go forever with that scenario and there would still be an infinite number of spirits waiting.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 14, 2009 @ 8:22 pm

  122. Geoff- “Are you saying that eventually the number of planets will reach “inifnity”? That is obviously not true.”

    The reasons for why that is obviously not true are unclear to me. I have a hard time eliminating the idea that there could be an infinite number of inhabitable worlds (across eternity). Please make this stance more obvious to me.

    I should clarify that ‘reaching infinity’ sounds like arriving at some definite endstate- which I don’t think is accurate. See again Blake’s 113, as that sums up a number of the criticisms I have about your take on infinity.

    Comment by brady — June 15, 2009 @ 4:48 am

  123. Hi Brady- re #111

    With regards to Geoffs model. If one accepts his premises I think the conclusion is logical. If you have a rational intelligence. And the most rational course of action is union with God. Then given an infinite amount of time it seems reasonable to me that the given intelligence will eventually make the most rational choice and chose union. Now this assumes the given intelligence has enough information to make a rational decision. I am well aware rational individuals do not always make rational choices. But given an infinite amount of time I think it is reasonable to expect the “curve” of decision making to approach the asymptote of optimal choices given a rational being. :)

    Comment by Uncertain — June 15, 2009 @ 8:25 am

  124. brady #122,

    Blake answered your question in #120 when he accurately said “A finite never becomes an infinite by extension”. That is, either it is a whole infinite set to begin with or a finite set, but you can never extend a finite number enough to make it infinite. So if a finite number of planets exist at any given time the line of spirits will never become shorter than infinitely long.

    I suppose the only way around this problem is to claim there are not now, but that eventually there will be an infinite number of inhabitable planets concurrently in existence. I am not sure how that would be accomplished without creatio ex nihilo but it may be logically possible I suppose…

    Comment by Geoff J — June 15, 2009 @ 8:53 am

  125. Hi Blake- re #113

    Blake -”How could you possibly know that not every spirit will come to an earth? After all, if it is a possibility, how do you know that this possibility hasn’t in fact obtained?”

    Well maybe if I put my argument in a more systematic form it would be easier to see.

    1. There exists an infinite and never ending chain(s) of earths progressing forward in time one after the other.

    2. Each earth is populated by a unique set of intelligences (i.e. no repeats)

    3. Intelligences can not be created.

    4. From 1, 2 and 3 there never exists a time t such that there is a finite number of intelligences that have never come to an earth.
    If at any time t there was a finite number of intelligences left. Then the great forward progression of earths in time would eventually end and 1 would be false.

    4. If 4 obtains then there will *never* be a time t such that all intelligences have come to an earth.

    Therefore by 4 there will *never* be a time t in which all intelligences have experienced mortality. Indeed there will be an infinite number of intelligences that have not done so for any time point t.

    Take my previous example of counting real numbers.

    Suppose every second I select a unique random real number. Now suppose I have been doing this for an infinite amount of time up to this point t. I have selected and infinite number of real numbers but there is still and infinite amount of real numbers I have not yet selected. At any point t+x in the future I will have already selected an infinite amount of real numbers but I can continue to randomly select real numbers for an infinite amount of time in the future. Because there is still an infinite amount of real numbers I have not yet selected. Any given real number has a possibility of being selected. But there is still and infinite number of real numbers that is not selected. And there will be an infinite number of real numbers not selected at any point t+x in the future.

    So any real number has the possibility of being selected. I cannot point to number 1 trillion 300 hundred and two and say it will never get randomly selected. But what I can say is at *any* time t no matter what t is I will still have real numbers not selected. Indeed there is an infinite number unselected. Any given real number may be selected but also there will always be an infinite number of real numbers that has not yet been selected and this will hold true for any amount of time. Selection from an uncountable infinite set will never select *all* the members of that set.

    Comment by Uncertain — June 15, 2009 @ 8:53 am

  126. Doesn’t the output of a perfectly rational decision depend on the input of knowledge? In other words, if I possessed the faculty to be perfectly reasonable and were required to make a particular decision, that decision would likely be different based on what information I was acting on. More or less information could change the output of the decision even if the reasoning mechanism was perfect in either case.

    Thinking about a curve of decision-making is odd. In order for that curve to approach that asymptote, you’re talking about over time somebody either a) becoming more or less rational or b)gaining more or less knowledge. If the former, then it can’t be said that they are fully rational from the get-go (which I take as one of Geoff’s assumptions). If the latter, then this argument is confounding reason with knowledge- which we both admit are not equivalent, and is a problem which was ignored in the opening argument and hasn’t yet been addressed in this thread (or at least, I haven’t recognized it).

    Comment by brady — June 15, 2009 @ 9:45 am

  127. @124:
    OK, your stance makes more sense to me now. Do you hold that there is also finite matter in existence (it seems to me like you do)? If so, then I understand your creatio ex nihilo comment. Otherwise, I don’t.

    To be honest, I don’t think I really know what ‘concurrent’ means in terms of infinite time.

    Comment by brady — June 15, 2009 @ 10:02 am

  128. Hi Brady,

    I agree the output of a rational decision is based on the input of knowledge. This is why I included in my response that the intelligence has enough information to make a rational choice. That is the intelligence has enough information to rationally choose Mormonism as the path to union over other competing paths.

    “Thinking about a curve of decision-making is odd. In order for that curve to approach that asymptote, you’re talking about over time somebody either a) becoming more or less rational or b)gaining more or less knowledge.”

    Well the reason I choose this example. Is I do not believe we are perfectly rational beings. In other words we are not emotionless thinking machines. But to some extent our decisions may be influenced by irrantional factors. For example maybe I was offended by person B so I leave religion A. Clearly being offended by a member of a given religion is not necessarily a rational reason to think the given religion is not true. So I think of the decision making curve as in a sense very “noisy” we may stray far from what is really best for us. But if at the core we are more or less rational beings eventually we will all converge at that which benefits us the most. Again assuming we have enough information such that we know (or strongly suspect) what is best for

    Comment by Uncertain — June 15, 2009 @ 10:15 am

  129. Uncertain- Sure. But my point is that Geoff assumes in the OP that we are “eternally rational”. And the assumption about having enough information is a big one, especially when considering Geoff’s argument for why we should have already become part of the One God before showing up here on earth.

    From Comment 3: “the problem is that if we assume… that no spirit has more rational capacity or free will or time than another spirit then the idea that it might take some spirit another trillion years of thumb-twiddling to figure out that wickedness never was happiness simply doesn’t make any sense” This sort of thinking also assumes that all knowledge is possessed by all intelligences.

    Comment by brady — June 15, 2009 @ 10:34 am

  130. Brady- Well I do agree the assumption about enough information is a big one. I think Geoffs model does require that all intelligences do have sufficient information to make the rational decision and this may not be the case.

    To All- I just noticed I mislabeled some of my points the second “4″ in post 125 should really be 5.

    Comment by Uncertain — June 15, 2009 @ 10:48 am

  131. Brady #126: Doesn’t the output of a perfectly rational decision depend on the input of knowledge?

    I remind you of the minimal definition of rational we are using in this conversation. I mentioned it back in comment #28 and limit it simply to being a wish to avoid misery. So choosing anything that avoids misery is “perfectly rational”.

    Geoff assumes in the OP that we are “eternally rational”. And the assumption about having enough information is a big one

    No it isn’t a big assumption. It assumes we are conscious and have a certain irreducible level of intelligence and it assumes we use those two to avoid prolonged misery. That is no stretch at all in my opinion.

    This sort of thinking also assumes that all knowledge is possessed by all intelligences.

    Not at all. It simply assumes that spirits interact with each other rather than existing in completely isolated vacuums. Through interaction we would figure out what leads to misery and what leads to happiness given enough time. And if we have existed an infinite amount of time already that is clearly “enough time”.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 15, 2009 @ 6:51 pm

  132. I agree with you geoff.

    Comment by Colonel rodriguez — June 16, 2009 @ 11:53 am

  133. I think that we are told and told again that we only have this life to pressure us into making the correct choices,when,in true reality, that is not the case.

    Comment by Colonel rodriguez — June 16, 2009 @ 11:55 am

  134. “Best LDS-themed blog on the web.”

    -BHodges

    Comment by BHodges — June 17, 2009 @ 6:28 pm

  135. It’s funny how you try to rationalize and use logic on a matter that is so irrational to begin with. Where are these thought processes when it comes to the basis of this belief system in the first place?

    Where is your rationalization applied to the “authority” of Joseph Smith?…how dare we question that one – as it is “rational” to believe that if we pray to get a “feeling” (burning) that it must be so… how rational is that?? Our feelings couldn’t possibly be wrong, could they? How dare we question such tradition, as held by our fathers? Like questioning the Pope. How dare we get rational?

    Comment by pvgardens — June 24, 2009 @ 9:37 am

  136. pvgardens,

    These sort of discussions are based on If/Then reasoning. Obviously if you reject the “If” then there is no reason to spend much time on the “Then”. In other words if you reject the premise there is no need to discuss the various implications of that premise.

    In such cases where you reject the premise of the discussion your time is better spent reading and commenting elsewhere.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 24, 2009 @ 11:23 am

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