At this pace the whole earth should be converted in just 180,000 years

October 22, 2010    By: Geoff J @ 9:31 am   Category: Mormon Culture/Practices

In hard numbers The Church is growing at a pretty healthy pace. But how is the growth rate relative to the population of the earth? Here are some back-of-the-envelope numbers:

Number of people on earth: Approximately 6 billion
Number of “active” Mormons: Roughly 6 million (I think there are about 14 million Mormons on record so I cut that a little more than half to make things clean here)
Active Mormons as a percentage of the population: 0.1% (Thus 99.9% of humans are not active Mormons)
Age of the church: 180 years

So at a growth pace of 0.1 % of the population per 180 years we should hit 100% in just under 180,000 years. (999×180).

Yes I know these are nonsense projections. But the fact that restoration has made such a tiny dent in the population of the earth is food for thought. It seems to me that for 99%+ of the population there is no significant religious difference between living now vs living in the “Great Apostasy”.

What say you?

103 Comments »

  1. The goal is not for everyone to become an “active Mormon” (though that would be wonderful) but simply to make sure that everyone hears the gospel. It’s a given that not everyone will even accept it, let alone become an active participant.

    It’s hard enough to just make sure that we meet the goal of preaching the gospel to everyone. Let’s not make it worse.

    Comment by MCQ — October 22, 2010 @ 9:57 am

  2. Of course, Armageddon will improve the active mormon to general population ratio, which should cut down that projection to a more manageable 1000 years or so.

    But kidding aside, has there been any dispensation where the ratio was better? Outside of Noah and his family, when else have we seen anything approaching 1 percent of the population?

    I would venture, however, that there has never been a time where the true religion has had the impact that we have now. Membership numbers only tell a portion of the story, national and international media attention, general awareness, etc. is at an all time high.

    Comment by Mike — October 22, 2010 @ 10:11 am

  3. What’s the percentage of salt in a batch of bread dough?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — October 22, 2010 @ 10:25 am

  4. Hehe. I suppose if the goal were to convert loaves of bread into large blocks of salt that analogy could work Ardis.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 22, 2010 @ 10:28 am

  5. Geoff,

    I’d adjust your computation with the current world population stats http://bit.ly/a2JJsW.

    We’re at 6.6 billion so far. Or were you rounding down for simplicity’s sake? ;-)

    Comment by Tod Robbins — October 22, 2010 @ 10:42 am

  6. Indeed I was Tod. There is only so much space on the back of the proverbial envelope. (That is a cool link though. Oh Google, what can’t you do?)

    Comment by Geoff J — October 22, 2010 @ 10:45 am

  7. They can’t drive there own cars. They have to rely on robots now. LAZY.

    Comment by Tod Robbins — October 22, 2010 @ 11:01 am

  8. Has the fact that the religion we happen to belong to (by birth, or chance meeting with missionary) has such a small number of adherents ever make you wonder if maybe everyone thinks their own religion is the true one?

    Comment by Dave — October 22, 2010 @ 11:07 am

  9. I assume you are being Captain Obvious on purpose right Dave?

    Comment by Geoff J — October 22, 2010 @ 11:15 am

  10. It’s just that when I ponder the numbers, the argument that I am simply experiencing a really strong confirmation bias illusion seems more plausible, somehow.

    Comment by Dave — October 22, 2010 @ 11:41 am

  11. Gotcha. Well Mormonism does leave the door open to variations on the universalism theme so it may not be all that important in the eternal scheme of things.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 22, 2010 @ 11:54 am

  12. I was just going to make a comment about your (and my) creeping universalism, but you brought it up first. The fact that so, so few people ever even learn that the church exists is a strong argument that this life cannot possibly merit a definitive eternal judgment, in my humbly opinion.

    Comment by Jacob S — October 22, 2010 @ 12:41 pm

  13. Jacob S- Of course this life doesn’t merit a definitive eternal judgment. Why else would we spend so much time doing temple work.

    Comment by Matt W. — October 22, 2010 @ 12:55 pm

  14. The fact that so few people receive the gospel meshes very well with LDS doctrine of the redemption of the dead. Missionary work in the Spirit World (and proxy work in the temples) is a very big deal.

    Most people get a chance to prove themselves in this life according to the light and truth that they possess, but their opportunities are definitely not equal. I trust that the work going on the Spirit World and in temples will fix that in the end. I believe in this form of Mormon universalism.

    Comment by Tom D — October 22, 2010 @ 1:03 pm

  15. I understand the teachings on the importance of ordinances and in this view can see the need for the “active LDS to total population ratio” to increase over time. But if all ordinances will be completed during the millennium to ensure everyone’s equal opportunity for exaltation, does it matter what the ratio is? I guess it does from the Church’s point of view, but maybe not from God’s. I believe there is very little difference between living now and living prior to 1820. In fact, I don’t think we will sense much of a difference until Christ returns.

    Comment by GDiddy — October 22, 2010 @ 1:24 pm

  16. Whether we punt the problem to the future or not is somewhat irrevelant. In reality, it doesn’t really matter if you’re LDS in mortality. Assuming that God is only 10% “successful” and 90% of His children don’t make it back to the Celestial Kingdom, that means that only 1 person in 100 that makes it back to God was actually LDS in mortality anyway.

    And if not living up to the LDS version of the commandments consigns you to a “lesser kingdom” (ie, greater knowledge, etc), perhaps your chance of making to the Celestial Kingdom is actually BETTER if you were NOT LDS in mortality.

    Comment by Mike S — October 22, 2010 @ 1:25 pm

  17. Matt, I agree completely, of course. But even beyond temple work, I find the fact that so few people ever encounter the gospel as a strong argument in favor of this life being more for gaining a body (and thus being able to, eventually, perform saving ordinances) and gaining mortal experiences than being a test of ultimately how “good” or “bad” a person is. Maybe this is a distinction I’m not explaining very well, but I perhaps put much less emphasis on the importance of this life than others, even accounting for temple work, Spirit World missionary efforts, and the work of the Millennium. Does that make sense?

    Comment by Jacob S — October 22, 2010 @ 1:37 pm

  18. Mike S: Whether we punt the problem to the future or not is somewhat irrevelant. In reality, it doesn’t really matter if you’re LDS in mortality.

    That is the logical conclusion isn’t it? Of course that logical conclusion does not jibe well with the strong missionary leanings of Mormonism.

    Therein lies the problem with universalism — it can really kill motivation.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 22, 2010 @ 2:46 pm

  19. Geoff, this post raises an interesting question about how we think of church growth. Are we a stone which will eventually fill the earth, or are we like salt, where a small amount does the trick?

    Our answer to that question has implications for the way we think of ourselves and our interactions with others. Richard Bushman said some really interesting things on this topic at a conference at UVU. (It’s towards the end of the video, but the whole thing is worthwhile.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cXfkYvYRkSU

    Comment by Mark Brown — October 22, 2010 @ 2:59 pm

  20. This makes me wonder what is the point then? One reason it is hard for me to do missionary work is because becoming a member makes life harder in so many ways – so many expectations and responsibilities. I sometimes envy other religions for being able to go to church, worship without feeling like they need to be doing more in genealolgy, temple work, ward callings, etc etc. Just try your best to be a Christlike person then accept the gospel on the other side. Why work so hard to convert here?

    Comment by Sara — October 22, 2010 @ 3:16 pm

  21. My relatively uninformed opinion is that everything is progression (it’s all ball bearings these days!), and that progression we make here counts extra because we don’t have the presence of HF and Jesus themselves. So we should make some serious effort to get as far as we can in this life to get a head start on the eternities. Pure speculation.

    Comment by Jacob S — October 22, 2010 @ 3:23 pm

  22. Mark,

    Thanks for the link. I do like Bushman’s take on the subject. So far we have mostly used the “stone cut without hands filling the whole earth” model where the goal is to sweep the whole earth with the restored gospel. But we aren’t really making significant progress on that front. So if we shift gears to a “salt of the earth” model where we are not trying as hard to bring everyone into the church anymore (like, say, Judaism) what does that do to the missionary focus of the church? Seems like missionary work falls apart without full commitment to it.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 22, 2010 @ 4:28 pm

  23. Sara #20,

    Your comment is a fine example of what I was talking about when I said

    Therein lies the problem with universalism — it can really kill motivation.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 22, 2010 @ 4:29 pm

  24. Except that by then, the world’s population will be much, much, MUCH bigger. So you’ll have to adjust the numbers for population growth.

    Comment by Olive — October 22, 2010 @ 5:52 pm

  25. But the fact that restoration has made such a tiny dent in the population of the earth is food for thought. It seems to me that for 99%+ of the population there is no significant religious difference between living now vs living in the “Great Apostasy”.

    That point right there is probably your most important. It puts things into greater perspective when we talk about what God seeks out of His children. He seems to be pretty tolerant of quite a lot of diversity, messiness, “sin”, and well, everything else in this life.

    Olive’s point in #24 is also key. How is the rate of growth of our membership in relation to the net rate of people born into the world? If we cannot keep up with that rate, then we’re losing ground, not gaining.

    Comment by Dan — October 22, 2010 @ 6:51 pm

  26. I think Geoff is just looking for a good excuse not to get his food storage together.

    Comment by Matt W.'s wife — October 22, 2010 @ 8:11 pm

  27. Jacob is the one who has a beef with food storage.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 22, 2010 @ 8:52 pm

  28. Olive has an interesting point. I wonder what the graph would look like of Mormons/World Population since 1820.

    Comment by ed42 — October 22, 2010 @ 10:24 pm

  29. Additional information: In the past, the number of converts as a percentage of membership was in the 3-4% range. Over the past 10-20 years, this has been gradually decreasing and is now around 2%, or roughly half of what it was. There also seems to be a gradual increase in people “leaving” the Church, although whether this is due to actually “leaving” vs “deaths” vs ??? is unclear

    Granted, projections are always an inexact science and there are always unforeseen confounding variables, but if you trend rates forward (ie. converts/BIC/leaving/etc), the growth in the Church’s membership gradually slows down to where the total membership stabilizes around 17-19 million. At this point, there is an equilibrium where BIC/converts match people leaving. As the population of the earth continues to rise, our percentage will obviously decrease.

    So, in reality, unless there is a “game changer” such as the Second Coming or an archeological find “proving” the existance of Nephites and Lamanites in the Americas or ???, we will never really “fill the earth”.

    Comment by Mike S — October 22, 2010 @ 10:29 pm

  30. Also, if there is a “game changer” like the Second Coming, we would also have to assume that we are on the “winning” side of that “game changer”. There are tens of millions (if not more) of Evangelicals who ALSO look forward to the Second Coming, and who are perfectly convinced that we are wrong.

    Comment by Mike S — October 22, 2010 @ 10:32 pm

  31. progression we make here counts extra because we don’t have the presence of HF and Jesus themselves.

    And because we have bodies.

    I think Pres. Packer gives us some perspective that there’s more to this than just numbers:

    “It has been over 180 years since the priesthood was restored. We now number nearly 14 million members. Even so, we are a tiny fraction when compared to the billions of people on earth. But we are who we are, and we know what we know, and we are to go forth and preach the gospel.

    “The Book of Mormon makes it clear that we never will dominate by numbers. But we have the power of the priesthood.”

    I think we might ponder more what that means and how and why that matters. I don’t think we fully understand what it means to be the salt and leaven of the earth. It’s been prophesied that our numbers will be few. So what is the purpose of missionary work if numbers will never really measure success? Worth thinking about, imo.

    Comment by michelle — October 22, 2010 @ 10:52 pm

  32. With median estimates for world population growth approaching zero in a hundred years or so, maybe we can shorten up the time a little. We haven’t made much of a dent in the 100 billion(?) or so in the spirit world though, roughly 2 tenths of a percent? Say we get up to doing 20m/year. 5000 years? But maybe we’ll get up to 5 or 10 times that many. That would bring it down to 1000 years. That’s a lot of temple work. Then, how efficient is missionary work in the spirit world? If only the baptized can officiate, that would limit the number of missionary “bodies” over there.

    Comment by WVS — October 23, 2010 @ 12:42 am

  33. Another thing to consider is the secularization of worldviews. God is quickly being replaced in the hearts and minds of people. 120 years ago, or even 50 years ago, this was not so much the case. If the theology of post-life conversion is true, many people who may not have had the opportunity to accept the Gospel in this life may not have the desire to accept it in the life to come. Why? Because they have become so tainted by the world that their choice of a different outcome, even in light of greater proof, may preclude them from accepting God (or the Gospel). They simply choose the path of least resistance because that’s what they’ve grown accustomed to doing. They are happy with what they’ve become or believe there is little hope in changing who they are. To preempt this from happening, God has given us the charge to share what we know.

    Comment by GDiddy — October 23, 2010 @ 7:06 am

  34. Oops. I meant 180 years. I had both 180 years and the year 1820 in mind and it came out as 120 years….

    Comment by Gdiddy — October 23, 2010 @ 9:39 am

  35. Giddy,

    Another thing to consider is the secularization of worldviews. God is quickly being replaced in the hearts and minds of people. 120 years ago, or even 50 years ago, this was not so much the case.

    ugh. you ought to blame the Founding Fathers, dude. After all, they created a highly influential secular, multi-cultural, multi-religious state. I mean, what was Benjamin Franklin thinking creating University of Pennsylvania? How dare he not tie university learning to a religion?

    Comment by Dan — October 23, 2010 @ 10:33 am

  36. Dan,
    Nice catch. The word ‘secularization’ is misplaced. There are many people who consider themselves ‘secular’, yet live higher standards than those who consider themselves ‘spiritual’ or ‘religious’. What I meant to say was, the world is fast moving away from God and adopting life styles that are at complete odds with what is ideally gospel-living. An interesting quote to consider is by CS Lewis:

    “Hell is the greatest monument to human freedom…..All that are in Hell choose it. Without that self-choice it wouldn’t be Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it.”

    True, people in the end will get what they choose. My point in making the case for the importance of sharing what we know (rather than later) is to help people choose God in this life so as to preclude them from choosing Hell (whatever that may look like). Thanks for keeping me honest.

    Comment by Gdiddy — October 23, 2010 @ 1:30 pm

  37. Gdiddy: What I meant to say was, the world is fast moving away from God

    Tell that to the many billions of devout Muslims, Christians, Bhuddists, and Hindus in the developing world. We Americans tend to project what we see around us onto “the world”. It usually doesn’t work very well.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 23, 2010 @ 5:03 pm

  38. Aside from Buddhists who don’t believe in God and Hindus who believe in a plurality of gods, I think that most devout Muslims and Christians would agree with my assessment. The key word is “devout”.

    Comment by Gdiddy — October 23, 2010 @ 5:27 pm

  39. Meh, theism is theism. I question your general claim that theism (or “belief in God” as you put it) is in decline in the world. I don’t think that is true.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 23, 2010 @ 5:31 pm

  40. According to a 2008 Gallup poll, belief in God among Americans is in decline. However, when I make the claim that people are fast moving away from God, I’m not saying that people are moving away from a belief in God as much as I’m saying that people have become more flippant about living the standards God has set. As of 2008, close to 8 in 10 Americans believe in God but that’s not the same thing as living the commandments God has established. Postmodern thinking has become so dominant within society that moral living has become an archaic notion (even among people who have a belief in God). This type of relative thinking is easily countered when one understands the scriptures which is why I believe that sharing the Gospel now, rather than later, is critical.

    Comment by Gdiddy — October 23, 2010 @ 5:55 pm

  41. Again, the problem is you are using stats about Americans and then projecting them on to the world. Americans make up only about 5% of the world human population.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 23, 2010 @ 5:59 pm

  42. Gdiddy,

    You’re original statement is that you believe God is “quickly” being replaced in the hearts and minds of the people. There’s no way to actually quantify that. Thus it frees you to generalize as much as you want. My “ugh” comment was in reply to the generalization which has little basis in actual fact. The sad thing is that even Apostles fall to this particular phrase, that either America or the world is leaving God behind or something. It’s not a well reasoned position. And just maybe, people might be turning from God because of the actions and beliefs religions take that do not jibe with the evidences we see around us. Should anyone be surprised that Europeans are turning away from the Catholic church in droves? I’m not. I would leave too if I learned that our prophet had not only attempted to suppress evidence of child sexual abuse, but rewarded the abusers with more positions of authority over other children. I’d be hella pissed at God for allowing such stuff in HIS church. Maybe, just maybe, people might actually have good reasons to turn away from God, and it isn’t because their “wicked and perverse” generation.

    Comment by Dan — October 23, 2010 @ 6:23 pm

  43. Okay then, how about Europe and Australia, where no more than half of the residents profess belief in God. Europe in particular is known to be “post-Christian”. Does this help?

    Comment by Gdiddy — October 23, 2010 @ 6:26 pm

  44. In support of Gdiddy, a literature review was published last year at U of Chicago that delves into this question about worldwide secularization trends. Here are some relevant quotations:

    “Basic secularization theory posits that as societies develop they inevitably turn away from religion and adopt a more rational, modern, and secular world view…. Most studies of countries’ level of development and the level of religiousness show a negative relationship.” The review goes on to note that most Muslim and Catholic countries are more religious than expected.

    http://news.uchicago.edu/files/religionsurvey_20091023.pdf

    A key question is how the studies measure “religious.” I don’t know about others, but my experience in Catholic countries in Europe and South America suggests large percentages are “religious” more in a cultural/social/family sense of belonging than in a personal devotion/belief/obedience sense.

    Maybe that’s a distinction Geoff was getting at by focusing on the key word “devout.” And yet, where in the world are people becoming more devout in the sense of living gospel principles? I think the rising levels of religious animosity in Pakistan and India, for example, are evidence of increasing “devotion,” but the devotion is to one’s tribe, not to God or gospel principles (whether framed as Muslim, Hindu, Christian, or other traditions).

    I’m with Gdiddy on this point. Which means we might be able to say that the LDS proportion of the world’s inhabitants who believe in God and modify their lifestyles accordingly (live the Gospel) is actually increasing, even though the percentage of LDS in the total population is decreasing.

    Comment by Jonathan N — October 23, 2010 @ 6:29 pm

  45. Gdiddy,

    Can you show your reference for “no more than half of the residents profess belief in God” in Europe and Australia?

    Comment by Dan — October 23, 2010 @ 6:55 pm

  46. Jonathan,

    I think the rising levels of religious animosity in Pakistan and India, for example, are evidence of increasing “devotion,” but the devotion is to one’s tribe, not to God or gospel principles (whether framed as Muslim, Hindu, Christian, or other traditions).

    I would not discount the sincerity of the devotion Muslims and Hindus in South Asia say they have toward deity. There may be tribalism involved, but I personally would not doubt their sincerity in devotion to the actual deity they believe in, even if that deity is defined through their tribe. Their religious beliefs are not politically motivated.

    Comment by Dan — October 23, 2010 @ 7:00 pm

  47. Dan,

    “Postchristianity[1] is the decline of Christianity, particularly in Europe and Australia, in the 20th century, considered in terms of postmodernism. It may include personal world views, ideologies, religious movements or societies that are no longer rooted in the language and assumptions of Christianity, though it had previously been in an environment of ubiquitous Christianity (i.e., Christendom).

    Thus defined, a post-Christian world is one where Christianity is no longer the dominant civil religion, but one that has, gradually over extended periods of time, assumed values, culture, and worldviews that are not necessarily Christian (and further may not necessarily reflect any world religion’s standpoint). This situation applies to much of Europe, in particular in Central and Northern Europe,[citation needed] where no more than half of the residents in those lands profess belief in a transcendent, personal and monotheistically-conceived deity.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Postchristianity

    Also see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_the_European_Union

    I was wrong with respect to Australia.

    Comment by Gdiddy — October 23, 2010 @ 7:22 pm

  48. Looking at the second link, the % of people who believe in God is actually a little over 50% in EU countries according to the 2005 Eurobarometer Poll.

    Comment by Gdiddy — October 23, 2010 @ 7:25 pm

  49. Gdiddy,

    I think you’re wrong in respect to Europe too. The Eurobarometer of 2005 indicates that 52% of Europeans believe in God, and another 27% believe in some form of deity.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_Europe

    That would be 79% of Europeans that have some belief in God. Furthermore, your point in #47 is that Christianity is in decline in Europe, while supplanted by non-Christian religion. Must one believe in the Christian God to be considered a believer in God?

    I’m not going to press this point further. I don’t see evidence of the “quick” decline of religiousness in America or in the world. And where there is evidence of “decline” it tends to have a rational reason. In Europe, the Catholic church is embroiled in numerous countries (Ireland, Belgium, Germany, to name a few) where priests sexually abused children, and were protected by their bishops and cardinals. That’s going to have a severe negative effect upon one’s belief in God.

    Comment by Dan — October 23, 2010 @ 7:28 pm

  50. Ok getting back on track…

    Michelle (#31) — Yeah I remember Elder Packer siding with the salt of the earth model. Maybe that is a sign of things to come. The “salt of the earth paradigm” is largely incompatible with “roll forth to fill the earth” model. The former is not really all that conducive to being an aggressive missionary church.

    So the logical conclusion would be that the missionary zeal of the church would fade over time as we more and more embrace the salt of the earth paradigm. But then again, Mormons have shown a remarkable ability to embrace opposing paradigms at the same time. Look no further than our jumbled smorgasbord approach to atonement theories as an example of that.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 23, 2010 @ 8:27 pm

  51. Gdiddy (#33): Another thing to consider is the secularization of worldviews. God is quickly being replaced in the hearts and minds of people.

    Even if your highly questionable premise here were true it is probably moot. The larger point is that God doesn’t seem to care that much whether people believe in Him in mortality. He certainly doesn’t seem to care that much if people get the restored gospel in mortality.

    To deal with this issue Mormonism relies on a quasi-universalism with work for the dead and the assumption and its assumption of second chances in the spirit world. Plus Mormonism leaves open the possibility of an even more robust universalism by not having an official opinion on the question of progression between kingdoms.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 23, 2010 @ 8:33 pm

  52. #46. It’s difficult to say religious beliefs are not politically motivated when the law requires you to believe a certain way (i.e., conversion is a capital offense). I don’t mean to doubt their sincerity; I’ve worked in India and I know devout Hindus who are quite spiritual (in fact, some time it would be interesting to discuss Lord Swaminaraya and the Akshardham temple, with their close parallels to both Joseph Smith and Temple Square). In fact, they are engaged in missionary work similar to what we’re doing.

    #50. I don’t think the paradigms are incompatible. The phrase “salt of the earth” could mean a lot of things, but most commonly it’s the metaphor for salt preserving meat. To preserve meat, the salt must cover the entire surface and dissolve into the meat. (It’s interesting that if left too long, the salt ruins the meat.) The phrase “fill the earth” always struck me as strange; how can you fill something that isn’t empty? Other translations render this as “cover the earth,” which both makes more sense and is the same metaphor as the salt of the earth. I think this is also how LDS thought interprets it. E.g., http://www.deseretnews.com/article/600137732/LDS-fulfilling-prophecy-to-fill-the-whole-Earth.html

    Under either metaphor, there would be no reason for missionary zeal to diminish, unless the salt “lost its savor,” which usually is interpreted to mean becomes impure or foolish.

    #51. I strongly disagree with your conclusion that God doesn’t care much about what happens in mortality. Moses 7:28 is a pretty clear description of how he feels about it.

    Comment by Jonathan N — October 24, 2010 @ 4:49 am

  53. Geoff J
    “The larger point is that God doesn’t seem to care that much whether people believe in Him in mortality”.
    The idea that God doesn’t care much about whether people believe in Him in mortality creates a moral hazard. While it is true that there are many people who don’t believe in God yet live ethical lives, it is also true that, there is a proclivity in all of us to maximize personal pleasure and gain (okay Dan, this is probably another generalization although I believe there is plenty of experiential evidence for this). This tendency may lead us to act in ways that are immoral (even though they may not necessarily be unethical). Without the belief in an absolute moral God, how can I give credibility to ANY of the commandments outlined in scripture? I believe that God doesn’t want us to just live ethical lives. He wants us to know Him and live His standards.
    “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” John 17:3.

    Comment by Gdiddy — October 24, 2010 @ 6:23 am

  54. Geoff J,

    Although I believe God is merciful and will give everyone the opportunity AT SOME POINT to accept or reject Him, I believe that our choices define who we are. If I choose to worship the god of “promiscuous sex” in this life, I have actively chosen a god different from the true God and I will be that much further from knowing God. I may not even desire God after this life because I will be the same person when I die.
    “Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis, that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world” (Alma 34:34).
    There is a reason why Jesus commanded his disciples to teach and baptize all nations (Matt 28:19). There seems to be a sense of urgency behind this call and others throughout the scriptures. Maybe it’s easier to accept the Gospel in the “here and now” rather than later? Maybe we become slaves to our appetites and carry those with us into the next life? Who knows? Regardless, it seems pretty clear that God wants us to share His Gospel.

    Comment by Gdiddy — October 24, 2010 @ 6:57 am

  55. Gdiddy,

    #53,

    You’re still not acknowledging that some, if not most, people are turning away from God for reasons other than “wickedness” or selfishness.

    Comment by Dan — October 24, 2010 @ 7:41 am

  56. Dan,
    Agreed.

    “The good as well as the wicked rebel against God, for they cannot reconcile themselves to the existence of evil. Atheism may spring from good motives and not solely from evil ones.”
    -Nicolas Berdyaev

    Comment by Riley — October 24, 2010 @ 7:58 am

  57. Dan,
    I would agree that people become disaffected with God for reasons other than “wickedness” or “selfishness”. Your example of the response to sexual abuse within the Catholic Church is clear evidence of this. People who have put their faith in God into action (they know Him) will more easily ride the storm than those who have simply accepted that God exists but have not put forth any effort to know Him.

    Comment by Gdiddy — October 24, 2010 @ 9:39 am

  58. Jonathan N (#52): your conclusion that God doesn’t care much about what happens in mortality

    I never said this.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 24, 2010 @ 11:49 am

  59. Gdiddy (#53): Without the belief in an absolute moral God, how can I give credibility to ANY of the commandments outlined in scripture?

    Well atheists clearly don’t believe most of the stories scriptures (of any tradition). But that does not mean atheists can’t recognize moral principles and follow them. Religion is not prerequisites for morality. Neither is theism for that matter.

    Now as for what God wants… If God wants more theists in the world he can solve that problem himself very easily. All he needs to do is reveal himself to more people on earth (either through the Holy Spirit or through visions or more concrete methods). He has done that in the past right?

    #54 — If I choose to worship the god of “promiscuous sex” in this life

    Well because of the law of the harvest you would also reap the consequences of that choice. That generally means you would forgo the significant blessings associated with obeying the law of chastity.

    So it seems to me that there is a decent argument could be made that the commandments are mostly directions to happiness here. Disobeying the commandments results in missing out of the sustainable happiness the commandments provide.

    Nevertheless, one need not actually be a theist to sow the behaviors that allow them to reap happiness in this life.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 24, 2010 @ 12:07 pm

  60. #40: Gdiddy: “…However, when I make the claim that people are fast moving away from God, I’m not saying that people are moving away from a belief in God as much as I’m saying that people have become more flippant about living the standards God has set…”

    Many European countries have much less discrepancy between rich and poor than the US and better social nets – showing that the “Godless” Europeans can still have good values. And there was another study done comparing families in the US (involving marriage) and families in Sweden (involving cohabitation). Looking at the percentage of children who actually live in a household with BOTH biological parents, the Swedes won. So family stability also doesn’t seem to be related to marriage.

    I would also argue that Buddhists (with no definition of a belief in God) have been involved with much less violence than Christians, and are much more caring of their fellowman, as Christ taught us (but also Buddha).

    Comment by Mike S — October 24, 2010 @ 10:15 pm

  61. #59 Geoff J
    “Well atheists clearly don’t believe most of the stories scriptures (of any tradition). But that does not mean atheists can’t recognize moral principles and follow them. Religion is not prerequisites for morality. Neither is theism for that matter.”

    There is a difference between ethics and moral principles. Ask an atheist “what is moral?” and you’ll get laughed at.

    “Now as for what God wants… If God wants more theists in the world he can solve that problem himself very easily. All he needs to do is reveal himself to more people on earth (either through the Holy Spirit or through visions or more concrete methods). He has done that in the past right?”

    Good point.

    Comment by Gdiddy — October 25, 2010 @ 6:14 am

  62. Gdiddy,

    There is a difference between ethics and moral principles. Ask an atheist “what is moral?” and you’ll get laughed at.

    Just curious. When was the last time you talked to an actual atheist?

    Comment by Dan — October 25, 2010 @ 7:59 am

  63. Gdiddy:

    Ask an atheist “what is moral?” and you’ll get laughed at.

    That is complete rubbish. I also seriously wonder if you have ever talked with an actual atheist.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 25, 2010 @ 8:29 am

  64. Gdiddy:

    Many Buddhists are considered “atheists”, although technically God is not defined in Buddhism as opposed to formally saying that He doesn’t exist. Are you truly suggesting that the 350-450 million Buddhists in the world don’t believe in “morals”, or that they will “laugh at” you when you want to talk about morals? I dare say that Buddhists have a very HIGH sense of morality, independent of a belief in God. And in many ways, I would argue that their sense of morality is HIGHER than that in the LDS faith (ie. they don’t believe in violence, they don’t believe in professions where you make money unethically, etc.)

    Comment by Mike S — October 25, 2010 @ 8:57 am

  65. #64 Mike S

    Point well taken.

    Comment by Gdiddy — October 25, 2010 @ 9:50 am

  66. “Fill the earth” doesn’t necessarily equate to “convert everyone”. It may merely mean there is a ward or branch covering (or local to) all inhabited locations, and that everyone has at least heard of the gospel/church, or knows someone who is a member.

    100 billion souls in the spirit world is a good estimate, and in the order of magnitude that I’ve read elsewhere, that 60 billion have been born since Adam and Eve.

    I worked it out, with the 60 billion number (with hours/endowment, hours/week, average size temple, etc), and at a constant rate of temple-building, it would take 1500 total temples built by the midpoint of the Millennium; and 3000 total by the end; for all 60 billion, plus all born from now on, to get their temple work done. That’s building only 3 temples/year in the Millennium; and now the church is announcing something like 6 to 10 temples/year, so the number/rate will be skewed towards the front end, and less than 3000 will likely be needed.

    .1% isn’t really that bad of a number. If a member gives out 2 pass-along cards/week, he/she can contact/influence 100 people/year, or 1,000 in ten years. The issue/challenge is concentration, and how to reach the 1.1 billion people in India, and 1.3 billion people in China.

    But the church is finally learning/implementing some mass marketing/advertising techniques. So when India gets a dozen stakes and a temple, and China opens up, I think there will be lots of new avenues of proselyting and “marketing” the gospel.

    Comment by Bookslinger — October 25, 2010 @ 1:14 pm

  67. When I was a missionary almost 15 years ago our mission president stressed that we were there to find the elect, those who were ready to hear the gospel.

    The church (the organization) is going to roll throughout the earth, even if the point of the missionary work is to find the ‘salt’ (elect minority individuals) of the earth.

    Comment by britain — October 25, 2010 @ 1:17 pm

  68. Britain,

    It sounds like you are adding to the votes for the “salt of the earth” model. That is fine. But that model does bolster the position that God doesn’t care that much if most people receive the gospel in mortality.

    Also, if the true church is always going to be the tiniest of population minorities how exactly are we “salting” the earth again? When one goes with the salt of the earth model what exactly are the assuming we Salty-Ones are doing for all of our non-elect fellow travelers here on earth? I’m asking in all sincerity.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 25, 2010 @ 1:55 pm

  69. Bookslinger #66,

    Yes the multi-level-marketing model looks good on paper but in practice it isn’t really working. The church has the same number of converts (or fewer) every year now with more than 60,000 full-time missionaries as it had when I was one of 40,000 missionaries 20 years ago. The numbers you describe require exponential growth. In the last few decades we aren’t even in the same ballpark as that.

    Obviously God hasn’t intervened to change any of that. So we are left to speculate why.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 25, 2010 @ 2:00 pm

  70. So, if we’re the “salt” and “0.1% isn’t really that bad of a number”, what exactly do you mean?

    If God is a 50% successful God, meaning that 50% of His children will ultimately return to live with him in exaltation, and if only 0.1% of them were LDS in mortality, that implies that only 1 out of 500 people who return to God were LDS in mortality.

    Given this, what is the point of being LDS in mortality? The majority of heaven will be populated with “good” people who weren’t LDS. What is different or unique enough about the faith that someone “must” join here on earth? Isn’t it enough to just be a good person?

    Comment by Mike S — October 25, 2010 @ 5:15 pm

  71. what does “the elect” mean? I mean, yeah, we can claim those who decide to convert are “elect” but who is to judge that? I find that those who flock to our religion tend to be the downtrodden, downcast, poor, generally uneducated. Not all that ‘elect’ unless we destroy the current meaning of elect and make up our own. We call the converts who aren’t just poor uneducated folk, but rather well to dos in our various societies the “golden baptism” or “golden family”; the one that would eventually be the backbone of the branch or ward to keep the rest afloat or something. What about members who leave (for whatever reason). Are they no longer “elect?” If that is so, then “elect” is simply another word for membership in the church, and thus is a useless term.

    Comment by Dan — October 25, 2010 @ 7:34 pm

  72. Britain/Geoff: I think the Lord wants everyone to hear the gospel, not just the elect.

    Mike S: “Given this, what is the point of being LDS in mortality? The majority of heaven will be populated with “good” people who weren’t LDS. What is different or unique enough about the faith that someone “must” join here on earth? Isn’t it enough to just be a good person?”

    The problem there is that those questions sound like, excuse me, whining as if the gospel is a burden.

    In a sense, yes, the gospel is a burden, because now we have to live up to it. If greater light = greater responsibility, then there’s more chance of condemnation for having received the light.

    Why is the light given to some but not others? I don’t know. I don’t think anyone in mortality really knows.

    I think it was Bruce Webster (bfwebster) who said something like: “The church is just an ‘outpost’ here in mortality.”

    I often suppose that the faithful members who endure to the end here in mortality are some kind of leaders or movers-and-shakers in the spirit world. LDS are being _trained_ here in order to do some “real work” in the spirit world. Every challenge, every “character building” episode here in motrality is training for what is to come.

    Why did the Lord choose certain individuals to receive the gospel (or have it presented to them) here in mortality, but not others? I dunno. Most speculation in the past by GA’s has now been designated under the overall heading of “folklore.” But, I don’t think we all come here purely as “tabula rasa”.

    How we handle whatever truth/light that we are given is part of the test, and part of the training.

    Geoff: also, I might argue the definition of “working”. If the goal is to offer the gospel to as many people as possible, then yes, the MLM paradigm works, or can work where implemented. Converting/Baptizing everyone in mortality is not the goal; offering everyone the opportunity is.

    Technically, everyone (except Sons of Perdition) _will_ eventually accept the gospel by the end of the millennium, even those bound for the telestial kingdom, and even those who spend their whole post-mortal existence up until judgement day in spirit prison. (The big “Judgement Day” being the last day of the millennium.)

    Comment by Bookslinger — October 25, 2010 @ 9:04 pm

  73. Bookslinger: those questions sound like, excuse me, whining as if the gospel is a burden

    Huh? How is asking legitimate philosophical questions whining? Do you have an answer to his question or are you just going to sidestep it?

    (For the record: I have an answer to his question that works for me. I plan to post on it soon)

    Comment by Geoff J — October 25, 2010 @ 10:15 pm

  74. Bookslinger: Converting/Baptizing everyone in mortality is not the goal; offering everyone the opportunity is.

    Interesting speculation. Why is “offering everyone the opportunity” the goal? What is the endgame of that intermediate goal?

    Comment by Geoff J — October 25, 2010 @ 10:18 pm

  75. “Roll to Fill the Whole Earth” comes from Daniel and it is a reference to political domination. Of course there are the symbolic meanings, but we cannot divorce what it utterly means from the image. Trend analysis and prophecy run into each other at some point. A turn of events that increases the church’s political clout in turn provides a safe haven for those fleeing others systems. For example, if America fell into squabbling tribes (red vs. blue) regionalism would establish the Mountain West with a system that would dominate similar to that of Brigham Young. If other systems could not care for their own, a refugee circumstance would provide for more converts than the typical door knocking approach we now have. This would affect North and South America more-so than other areas of the earth, but it’s a view of the future that is possible and prophesied.

    Comment by Peter — October 25, 2010 @ 11:54 pm

  76. Maybe that is a sign of things to come. The “salt of the earth paradigm” is largely incompatible with “roll forth to fill the earth” model. The former is not really all that conducive to being an aggressive missionary church.

    Actually, I’m not sure I agree with this. I don’t think we should assume that missionary work is only about *them* — for me, anyway, my mission was as much about converting myself as anything. I think as we share the gospel, we become more rooted in it, and that is one thing that can help unleash the power of the priesthood, imo, that Pres. Packer talked about to be unleashed more. The numbers relate to the authority, but I don’t think power is necessarily tied to numbers.

    Of course, what do I know? And certainly if there was a tension between ideas or models or whatever, as you say, it wouldn’t be the first time. Tensions are, imo, part of the journey of figuring out how to live by the Spirit and exercise our agency.

    Comment by michelle — October 26, 2010 @ 2:33 am

  77. Bookslinger: Converting/Baptizing everyone in mortality is not the goal; offering everyone the opportunity is.

    Interesting speculation. Why is “offering everyone the opportunity” the goal? What is the endgame of that intermediate goal?

    The endgame is a just final judgement on Judgement Day, and the fitting-and-proper “assignment” to a degree of glory.

    I think we disagree about the scope of the Lord’s foreknowledge of who ends up in which kingdom. My belief is that the Lord already knows, and that our experiences here in mortality (plus experiences in the spirit world) are to illustrate to _us_ where we justly belong.

    Comment by Bookslinger — October 26, 2010 @ 5:39 am

  78. Bookslinger: those questions sound like, excuse me, whining as if the gospel is a burden

    Huh? How is asking legitimate philosophical questions whining? Do you have an answer to his question or are you just going to sidestep it?

    It’s a legitimate question. But the implication of the question is “So why bother?” or “So what’s the use?” as if the questioner doesn’t want the responsibility or the work.

    I have to admit that I’m in that boat myself. I most often try to slide by and avoid responsibility.

    —-

    The “salt of the earth” and “fill the earth” are talking about two different things, two separate analogies, and are not essentially at odds. They only appear so on the surface.

    Kind of like “Out of sight, out of mind” versus “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” One is about the mind, the other is about the heart.

    Comment by Bookslinger — October 26, 2010 @ 5:47 am

  79. Dan,
    Great point…It’s difficult to know what “elect” means. It’s tempting to use universal language to support specific beliefs. For instance, the Bible uses the terms “elect” and “election” often and many Christians who believe in predestination will argue that the “elect” are only those predestined to be saved. Mormons will use this term in support of their beliefs that those who convert to the “Gospel” are “elect” – (“Gospel” being another universal term). Most definitely, many Christians, especially of the born again variety, will argue that people who convert to Mormonism are not part of the “elect” and visa versa. It gets pretty circular and silly, actually, becoming nothing more than a language game.
    I think a pretty good, yet very vague definition of “elect” would be those who are “pure in heart”, regardless of religion. I think the ultimate litmus test is this: If Christ was to come back this instant, who would be saved and who wouldn’t? Certainly it will not be only members of the Mormon Church. And certainly it will not be only those who believe in Christ as their god.

    Comment by Gdiddy — October 26, 2010 @ 5:52 am

  80. Peter #75,

    Again, using American examples is thinking provincially. Americans only make up about 5% of the population of the world.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 26, 2010 @ 9:27 am

  81. Michelle,

    I agree that missionary work helps deepen the conviction and zeal of the missionaries. However, deepening the commitment levels of the missionaries is usually considered a secondary benefit of the missionary program, not the primary purpose.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 26, 2010 @ 9:31 am

  82. Bookslinger: I think we disagree about the scope of the Lord’s foreknowledge of who ends up in which kingdom.

    Well since I am completely convinced that foreknowledge is completely incompatible with free will/agency; yes, we disagree if you believe God already knows the actual future (rather than the possibilities).

    Also, it sounds like you land in the no-progression-between-kingdoms camp. Believing that helps with missionary motivation too. (Even though I think it is metaphysically incorrect.)

    two separate analogies, and are not essentially at odds. They only appear so on the surface

    While I see you asserting this, I haven’t seen you demonstrate why this is the case yet. One model has a clear goal of converting all people in mortality. The other model does not have that goal. That means the goals are indeed at odds. This is not hard to see at all.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 26, 2010 @ 9:42 am

  83. Peter,

    #75,

    For example, if America fell into squabbling tribes (red vs. blue) regionalism would establish the Mountain West with a system that would dominate similar to that of Brigham Young.

    What does that even mean? Squabbling tribes? What are those “tribes” based on? Political parties? The glue of political cleavages are not even close to as strong as, say, religion and ethnicity. And seeing that America is such a mobile country, so free in motion, how exactly do you foresee Americans splitting apart? Few states have such a disparity in political thought (and frankly, ethnic lack of diversity) than Utah. I can see Utah breaking away, but I can’t see how any other state will have the capacity to break away. Not Texas. Not Massachusetts. Not South Carolina. Not California…well, except if the right earthquake struck, then yeah, California will literally break away…. ;)

    Secondly, not sure exactly what you mean by “dominate similar to that of Brigham Young.” In which way was Brigham Young’s rule over the Mountain West dominant? Did someone in China know of Brigham Young and cower at the very mention of him? Hate to burst your bubble, but Brigham Young was only dominant in the Mountain West. No one else took him seriously.

    Finally, not sure how the mountain west could provide a refuge for those wishing to escape the squabbling tribalism that you are talking about. Just look at how immersed members of the church from Utah and the rest of the Mountain West are with the Red tribe. As a member of the Blue tribe, I find no refuge in Utah. I’ll hang out here in one of the stakes away from the center. At least Blue tribal members are tolerated out here.

    Comment by Dan — October 26, 2010 @ 10:25 am

  84. Here are some questions I’ve asked myself as I’ve reasoned through our small minority and the goals of this life according to our doctrine.

    Ultimate goal of this life? Exaltation.
    Is it necessary to be a member of the church in your earthly life to achieve exaltation? – No

    Is it necessary for exaltation to be exposed to the learning the good from the evil and being able to choose properly it when presented to you? – Yes (so if the church-choice is available it -may most likely- be crucial to make for that specific individual in this life)

    Will the learning and work continue after this life in the spirit world and when we are resurrected? – Yes.

    Will most not have been members of the church in the flesh? – Yes

    Does that render their knowledge/progression nil? No, the knowledge and experiences/wisdom is the one thing they can take.

    So in the world of spirits and in the resurrection, I see that most of the world will have their eyes opened to a large extent. Then they will be able to look back upon their life and experiences and place everything in its proper perspective and recognize where there was true growth as an individual.

    Those who have been members of the church/endowed may or may not be climbing higher on that ladder of exaltation. That is up to what they make of their own choices and time given to them.

    But I think Mormonism is one of the unique faiths that can really answer the “how can your church be true when there are so many faiths?” questions in a way that is equitable and just for all of God’s children.

    Comment by cew — October 26, 2010 @ 1:55 pm

  85. Bookslinger #75

    My belief is that the Lord already knows, and that our experiences here in mortality (plus experiences in the spirit world) are to illustrate to _us_ where we justly belong.

    Sounds like an awful lot of trouble if the end purpose is just for God to prove (Illustrate to us) a point. Makes life seem rather meaningless. Had I known that the purpose of life is for God to prove a point, I would have opted to let God put me where he knows I should end up and just take his word on it.

    Comment by Paul — October 26, 2010 @ 2:53 pm

  86. Geoff,

    It’s been far too long since you stirred the pot (or at least riled me up a bit) with a good old fashioned 400 comment theology post.

    Comment by Jeff G — October 26, 2010 @ 6:29 pm

  87. Hehe. We’re only at 87 comments so far here though Jeff. I can’t tell if you are lamenting this post or if you like the fact that we have at least mustered 80+ comments.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 26, 2010 @ 6:57 pm

  88. cew (#84): Is it necessary for exaltation to be exposed to the learning the good from the evil and being able to choose properly it when presented to you? – Yes

    I don’t think so. At least mortality is not required to learn those things. Not if you accept the doctrine that infants who die inherit the Celestial Kingdom and can be exalted. That would indicate mortality is hardly necessary at all.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 26, 2010 @ 7:00 pm

  89. Geoff J (#88)

    Not if you accept the doctrine that infants who die inherit the Celestial Kingdom and can be exalted

    I have a really hard time with that doctrine. I was running it though a sanity check one morning over a bowl of cereal. I asked myself some questions similar to the following: If dying before reaching the age of accountability is a guarantee into the Celestial Kingdom, why, being the loving father that I am, did I ever allow my kids to reach the age of accountability, knowing that their chance of reaching the Celestial kingdom would be seriously Jeopardised? Why would my parents have allowed me to reach the age of accountability? Now I’m pretty much screwed. If they just assured my death before age 8, I would be guaranteed eternal happiness, right? If someone killed off Hitler at age 6 or 7, Hitler would also be guaranteed exaltation? I personally believe that when something is true, it makes sense. To me, that doctrine makes about as much sense as the more common Christian believe that if you die before being baptised, you will go to hell. Something tells me that doctrine is at best, a major oversimplification of the truth.

    Comment by Paul — October 26, 2010 @ 10:24 pm

  90. I agree Paul. The idea is a mess theologically. Jacob published up a pretty good post on the that concept a couple of years ago.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 26, 2010 @ 10:31 pm

  91. Paul,

    I don’t see problems with the doctrine that little children are saved prior to the age of accountability (whatever that might be). If Hitler died prior to that age, he most certainly would be in God’s presence just like any other child.

    “Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” Matt 9:14

    The fact that Hitler was Hitler does not dictate the outcome. Rather, Hitler made a series of choices that made him who he was, the sum of which, will determine his outcome.

    Comment by Gdiddy — October 27, 2010 @ 7:14 am

  92. Geoff J,

    I agree. Jacob did a pretty thorough job discussing the topic. In the end, he referred to what I call the default answer. In traditional Christianity, where continual revelation is not acknowledged, the default answer is “God is so complex, we will never be able to understand him.” In the LDS religion, we believe in continual revelation so our default answer to things that don’t make sense is something like: “I guess that just has not yet been revealed to us yet.” In my mind, when dealing with key issues of salvation, as I believe this is, this answer seems to directly conflict with the doctrine of us having the full and complete gospel.

    Comment by Paul — October 27, 2010 @ 7:59 am

  93. Gdiddy,

    If you don’t see the problems with the doctrine that little children are saved prior to the age of accountability I submit that you aren’t thinking about it hard enough. See the link in #90.

    Comment by Geoff J — October 27, 2010 @ 8:46 am

  94. Geoff J

    Maybe you are thinking about it a little too hard.

    Comment by Gdiddy — October 27, 2010 @ 10:17 am

  95. Lol

    Comment by Geoff J — October 27, 2010 @ 10:23 am

  96. So here’s where it gets tricky for me. On earth we have a veil and we are cut off from the presence of HF and Jesus and we are subject to temptation from Satan and all things that make mortal life hard and, thus, capable of allowing our progression.

    How is this sort of perfect storm of elements that allow us to progress recreated in the afterlife? Obviously we don’t know, but this troubles me a little. Is there another veil after death? Is Satan allowed into the afterlife to tempt us? Does progression just take exponentially longer than it would on earth? I guess I lean towards that last one, but it isn’t clear to me at all.

    Comment by Jacob S — October 27, 2010 @ 11:06 am

  97. Jacob, (#96)
    I think progression is the key here. Here goes a philosophical tangent. Who we are determines the choices that we make. The choices we make determine the outcome (consequence, payout, etc). The outcome result in judgment about the original choices and the judgment changes who we are. Who we are, as I see it, will ultimately determine the outcome of this life as well as the next. As my mission president once said: “Repentence is change”

    Let’s take for example someone who is greedy. Because of greed, this person chooses (is tempted) to embezzle money from his work. This person is caught, fired, convicted, imprisoned and left behind by his family. This person may conclude greed causes great misery and then chooses to be a charitable person (Repents).

    In this case, the temptation is a blessing in that it assisted in the progression of the individual. This progression would have been more difficult in a non mortal environment where pain, financial status, careers, etc are not present. This pain also could have been avoided if this person paid attention to his primary teacher 30 years earlier. Temptation, I believe is a blessing and an integral part of life’s purpose of blessing us via allowing expedited progression.

    As far as the afterlife goes, I think there is a reason that we don’t understand what is really going on. That reason, I believe is that we are not supposed to know. I assume the lack of understanding regarding afterlife, provided by the veil, is also some sort of a blessing that allows for better progression on earth. I’ve resigned to do the best I can with what I have in this sandbox called Earth and assume that is the way the good Lord intended.

    Comment by Paul — October 27, 2010 @ 12:55 pm

  98. Paul, I agree completely. Which leaves us, I think, with an uncomfortable conundrum. On the one hand, this life is supremely important because it gives us the challenges and resistance needed for true progression, like you described. On the other hand, it is short (more short for some than others) and arbitrary and doesn’t seem to lend itself to creating a record big enough to make real definitive decisions about a person’s eternal progression and potential.

    As much as I resist it and resist, it almost seems like Geoff’s MMP, or something like it, is the only way to make sense of it all.

    Comment by Jacob S — October 27, 2010 @ 1:45 pm

  99. Yes, quite the conundrum. The possible short life issue (some extremely short) and things like the possible need to experience both death as an infant and the need to experience having a family. There are countless experience that are a one or the other situation. I would think that some would need to experience things both ways. The only possible explanation I can think of to make sense of these things, which lies way outside of LDS theology, is the idea of reincarnation. That is an area I do not claim any particular beliefs or knowledge of. I also guess it is outside the scope of this blog. By the way, what is meant by “Geoff’s MMP?” (Don’t know what MMP stands for)

    Comment by Paul — October 27, 2010 @ 2:31 pm

  100. MMP stands for multiple mortal probations Paul. Read all about it here or at the MMP category here. It is not my idea though. It is a old Mormon variation on the reincarnation theme (though presumably incarnations spread out over innumerable worlds over the eternities).

    Comment by Geoff J — October 27, 2010 @ 4:24 pm

  101. Geoff J,
    Thanks for the reference to MMP. Fascinating stuff. Can’t say if MMP represents any degree of reality but it absolutely seems to fit as the missing piece of a lot of puzzles in religious doctrine! I thought my idea of reincarnation was way out there and somewhat original. Looks like I am a little farther behind the power curve than I thought.

    Comment by Paul — October 27, 2010 @ 6:21 pm

  102. I don’t know about MMP, but the idea that sin would be non-existent without Satan to tempt us, or that it would be non-existent if there were no veil is untenable for a variety of reasons.

    (1) Who tempted Satan?
    (2) How did Satan and his followers sin when there was no veil?
    (3) Are we so incapable of doing wrong all by ourselves?
    (4) The whole idea gives new meaning to the claim “the devil made me do it”.
    (5) James practically contradicts it:

    Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. (James 1:13-14)

    (6) The whole thing sounds like Manichaeism, where the devil is the metaphysical ground of all evil. Can we not do good or evil of our own accord? Do we really need the devil’s help?

    (7) It is like an inversion of the doctrine of total depravity. We are all incapable of sin, except to the the degree that the devil works on our hearts?

    Comment by Mark D. — November 7, 2010 @ 3:31 pm

  103. I concur Mark.

    Comment by Geoff J — November 8, 2010 @ 1:37 am

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