Preexistence- An overview

July 7, 2011    By: Matt W. @ 11:24 pm   Category: spirit birth,Spirits/Intelligences

Inspired by aquinas’ excellent post over at FPR, I thought it may be worthwhile to attempt to put in one place some of our many many many many many discussions on the preexistence and spirits.

There are currently, so far as I can tell, five distinctive models in LDS thought for our pre-existent state.

1.- Eternal Spirits in an eternal relationship with God and eternally of the same essence as God. – Sometimes attributed to Joseph Smith and championed by Blake Ostler, this notion is that we have always existed and have always been in the relationship we are now in with the Godhead. This concept faces the challenge of eternity and progression, ie- why did it take us so long to get to this life on earth? It also is commonly challenged by the spiritual creation narrative from the Book of Moses, though this is often dismissed by claims of doctrinal supersession. Some, like Geoff J, have used concepts like Multiple Mortal Probations to alleviate this challenge. In terms of Spirit Birth, there is no beginning, so no birth.

2. Eternal Spirits in a Non-eternal relationship with God but eternally of the same essence as God.- Also attributed to Joseph Smith, this concept was once speculated by Truman Madsen (When he wasn’t championing BH Roberts). It speculates that the Godhead was formed at a specific point in time via covenant for the purpose of bringing about God’s plan. By extension, just as the relationships of the Godhead had a beginning, so also do our relationships with God. While this sidesteps the challenge of eternity and progression, it does not completely eliminate it, and it also brings up the question of Joseph’s Ring Analogy (If there was a beginning, there must be an end). Another major challenge is that it has never been popularized by a prominent LDS leader or teacher. In terms of Spirit Birth, Spirit Birth is limited to merely being the adoptive change of state we go through via accepting our relationship with God the Father.

3. Eternal Spirits called Intelligences in a Non-eternal relationship with God and not eternally of the same essence as God (lacking a spirit body)- Here we have the concept championed by BH Roberts, and popularized by Truman Madsen. The main difference between this and #2 above is that it attempts to harmonize #2 with concepts and statements put forth by Brigham Young or the Pratts which called for Spirit Birth, as well as ideas like those found in the Book of Moses (spirit creation) with statements from Joseph Smith in the King Follet Discourse and in the Book of Abraham revelation. (spirits without beginning or end). This plan merely divides the pre-mortal state into segments, moving from amorphous intelligence to spirit body. Challenges to this concept include it being initially derided by higher general authorities, it’s having been intellectually thoughr out, rather than arrived upon via official revelation, and its common (though unnecessary) connection with spiritual vivaporous birth. This is one of the primary areas of spirit birth, though there is a range of belief as to how literal this birth is, going from a literal sexual act where spirit seed fertilizes spirit eggs, through less literal views up to something closely resembling #2 above.

4.Non-Eternal Spirits formed from unintelligent matter called intelligence and not eternally of the same essence as God (lacking a spirit body)- Championed by Brigham Young, this notion, it is argued, comes from the early apostles missing out (due to missionary work) on the later sermons of Joseph Smith, which were not verified nor widely available until BH Roberts published History of the Church. (or possibly until JFSII abridged it to TOPJS). Here we have something fundamentally similar to creation ex-nihilo, where God as creator takes the chaos of eternal matter, forming it so that our spirits may emerge naturally or supernaturally from within. Good spirits go on to greatness, while the bad ones face eventual obliteration, decomposing back to the raw material from which they came. Being like ex nihilo, it faces the challenges therein. Whether it escapes the problem of determinism depends on whether you feel life is naturally emergent from formed intelligence or if you believe God supernaturally made it so. However, naturally emergent life comes with its own set of challenges, primarily the lack of need for a creator. Sprit Birth here is typically of the sexual variety, though again, not really out of necessity. It could just as well be a chemistry set.

5. Non-Eternal Spirits formed from intelligent Matter called intelligence and not eternally of the same essence as God (lacking a spirit body)- Here we have Pratt and Pratt’s concept of spiritual atomism, with intelligent subparts coming together and forming, via synergy with God, a being greater than the sum of their parts. I always fail at describing this one correctly, having not been interested enough to dig through the seer and gaining most of what I know about it from the letter in which it is repudiated. So I’ll leave this one to more capable hands

So which Model do you prefer? Why?

108 Comments »

  1. Disclosure: I consider myself a proponent of #2 above, though I’m open to being wrong.

    Comment by Matt W. — July 7, 2011 @ 11:28 pm

  2. I prefer the creatio ex nihilo, creatio ex materia, and creatio ex deo model. See first here and then here. Make sure you read the comments, too, which expand the model significantly.

    Comment by LDS Anarchist — July 8, 2011 @ 1:57 am

  3. Uh, if the comments in the second link above about stewards and concerns is confusing, I recommend that you read this post and more especially the comments that follow it so that you understand what we were talking about.

    Comment by LDS Anarchist — July 8, 2011 @ 2:20 am

  4. I prefer #3, because I feel it brings the best harmony. It also feels good to me.

    I might quibble about the ‘not eternally of the same essense as God’ that you go out of your way to point out. I think there are some who would assume that even God was without a spirit body at one point. This way we would be eternally of the same essense as God.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — July 8, 2011 @ 4:03 am

  5. I’m down with either 1, 2 or 3, but my historical prejudice is in favor of 3. I just like the way it came about. Moreover, it represents the kind of fusion that was typical of JS. And like Eric, I have to say it feels good to me. The commonalities of 1,2,3 are a matter of faith with me, otherwise I have no hard commitment. And for some reason, I never mind returning to think about this again. Besides, Matrix Revolutions appealed to KFD. (grin)

    Comment by WVS — July 8, 2011 @ 8:47 am

  6. Matt: I’ve never been a fan of the term “Pre- Existence”, i.e. prior to existing. Premortal Existence is typically what people are thinking of. Is there such a thing as preexistence? A bit like science examining what took place before the Big Bang.

    Comment by larryco_ — July 8, 2011 @ 12:36 pm

  7. My guess is that when the congregation sings “I Am A Child Of God” they think of something like this:

    1) The most “elemental” form of matter (the invisible matter spoken of in the D&C) which is called intelligence (also from the D&C) – which is eternal – goes through a birth process involving God The Father and God The Mother.
    2) The result of this birthing process is a premortal spirit child of God – a God in spiritual embryo – who will now go through a learning and developing period of time which is called The First Estate.
    3) A time will then come when this spiritual being, who is in the image of God, will come to earth and take on a mortal body which is also in the image of God. This is the Second Estate.

    Comment by larryco_ — July 8, 2011 @ 1:09 pm

  8. Amendment to point #2: a “potential” God in spiritual embryo.

    Comment by larryco_ — July 8, 2011 @ 1:14 pm

  9. Eric- I thought of that just after I published this. If you’d like I’m willing to change the terminology. Maybe something like ‘not eternally in the express image of God?”

    Comment by Matt W. — July 8, 2011 @ 1:54 pm

  10. larryco_,

    Why do you think the word “birth” invokes the idea of matter becoming a person given that this is not our understanding of what happens at physical birth. It is true that in the case of physical birth matter is combined to create a physical body, but that physical body is animated by a pre-existing (this is a proper use of that term, I think) spirit. Wouldn’t the most obvious and intuitive understanding of spiritual birth be that Gods the Father and Mother create a spirit body which is then animated by a pre-existing intelligent being? (Perhaps we could call it an “intelligence” as a shorthand.)

    Comment by Jacob J — July 8, 2011 @ 2:11 pm

  11. Jacob J, I think that you have identified the best analogy. Why do you think that we don’t also talk about a father and mother according to intelligence?

    Comment by J. Stapley — July 8, 2011 @ 2:33 pm

  12. “Why do you think the word “birth” invokes the idea of matter becoming a person given that this is not our understanding of what happens at physical birth?”

    Actually, it is, with the sperm and egg joining and cells duplicating, but I understand your point.

    But my main point is that since the process is never spelled out by the powers-to-be (as is evidenced by your article here), the average member is left to put together pieces from various scripture. Take a little of section 76 here, some 130 (or 131, whichever is the one that talks about no such thing as immaterial matter) there, a smidge of 88; and try and figure out how a personal spirit is both eternal and “begotten”. You throw in the idea of a Mother in Heaven (implying a birthing process so that both become our literal spiritual parents) and many members come up with the idea that our spirits are made up of eternal intelligences that are begotten in Heaven. I think that I Am A Child Of God implies a “procreated” spiritual childbirth, as opposed to either a “created” spirit or a eternally being “coequal” and coeternal with God. Just my take. Yes, this is not King Follett.

    You mention Truman Madsen. I remember buying Eternal Man when I got home from my mission hoping that it would clarify such questions and, even though I enjoyed it, it kind of muddied the waters a bit.

    Comment by larryco_ — July 8, 2011 @ 3:18 pm

  13. Hi Jonathan, Can you clarify your question? I was going to hazard a guess at what you are asking but I decided I am not confident enough.

    Comment by Jacob J — July 8, 2011 @ 3:38 pm

  14. Sorry about that Jacob. I meant that it seems interesting to me that with the pattern/analogy/projection/whatever of procreative birth being cosmologically normative, it is sort of surprising (except the fact that they aren’t mentioned anywhere) that no one has suggested a father and mother for our pre-spirit entity.

    Comment by J. Stapley — July 8, 2011 @ 4:16 pm

  15. larryco_,

    I think I understand your points and I agree that we are left to speculate but I am still unsure why you think I Am a Child of God implies first-time creation of a person rather than clothing a person with a new kind of body. You restated your feeling but I still am not sure of your reasoning.

    Comment by Jacob J — July 8, 2011 @ 4:43 pm

  16. Ah, gotcha, glad I asked for clarification. To me it is not at all surprising because if we understand birth to be clothing a person with a new kind of body there is no reason to think there would have been a birth to create the person in the first place. Furthermore, there is no other kind of body (apart from spirit body and physical body) to be accounted for. So there are only two births and hence only two sets of parents (one heavenly, one eartly) to look for. To look for another set of parents who gave birth to the original “intelligence” doesn’t make any sense given this view of birth.

    The reason I am strongly not in the Brigham or Orson camps (4 and 5 from the post) is that I think there are big philosophical problems with scooping up a spoonful of matter (intelligent or otherwise) and creating a single autonomous person. Consciousness seems very singular, especially so when disembodied. To me the Joseph Smith explanation (according to Clayton report of KFD) that “The mind of man–the intelligent part is coequal with God himself” along with D&C 93:29 fit nicely here because they claim that intelligence itself cannot be created. Creation is about organizing matter and birth is the creation (organization) of a new body.

    Comment by Jacob J — July 8, 2011 @ 4:59 pm

  17. Ah, I see. It is all about the body. That really clarifies for me, your position.

    The question of emergence is an interesting one. It seems to me that uncreated intelligence must naturally be emergent of the universe in some way, though.

    Comment by J. Stapley — July 8, 2011 @ 5:19 pm

  18. Why must intelligence be emergent rather than co-eternal with the universe (e.g. like matter is co-eternal)? Or do you have in mind reconciliation with big bang theory and our scientific understanding of the word “universe”?

    Comment by Jacob J — July 8, 2011 @ 5:58 pm

  19. I not sure your (4) was actually promoted by Brigham Young. It’s hard to figure Brigham Young’s view of intelligences out. (He really doesn’t care about philosophy) I think it’s somewhat idealist but complicated. It’s definitely different from the Pratt’s and Roberts but primarily because Young doesn’t care about substances at all but ways of being and capabilities. In that context it’s hard to call the “parts” unintelligent though.

    I also am a bit uncomfortable when you talk about us as having a different essence in terms of the way you put it. Those who take the KFD seriously (an issue you don’t raise in the above) think God goes through the same process. So a spirit body might be essential to the role of God it isn’t essential to the person of God.

    I confess I don’t see how (4) is similar to creation ex nihilo either.

    As for my own view, I don’t really have much by way of a strong view here. If I were forced to pick I’d probably go for (4) although as I said I’m not sure I agree with the way you’ve presented it.

    Comment by Clark — July 8, 2011 @ 10:20 pm

  20. Jacob (16) I don’t quite understand your objection to Pratt. Ultimately I find Pratt horribly muddled because he knows just enough philosophy to be dangerous and is very much caught up in thinking through theology in terms of substances. So while I appreciate Pratt I fall more in the camp of Young’s pragmatism.

    So when you start talking about how singular consciousness is though it seems to me you really are following through Pratt. Pratt just thinks that this singularness has to be cast into a discussion of substances. So he takes D&C 131’s comment on spirits and matter to imply consciousness/spirits must as well.

    If we cast off the idea that we have to think in terms of substances then most of Pratt’s reasoning falls apart. (Although honestly, his classics of Mormon thought such as the Absurdities of Immaterialism really are just horrible – I love reading Pratt but let’s be honest about his logic) Young’s discussion of intelligence and so forth likewise become much more sensible if we don’t take him to be doing a metaphysics of substance but more an anthropology of experiences and ways of being. (i.e. more Heidegger to Pratt’s Leibniz)

    Comment by Clark — July 8, 2011 @ 10:29 pm

  21. larryco_ #6 asked,

    “Is there such a thing as preexistence?”

    All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence. (D&C 93: 30)

    So, yes, there is such a thing as preexistence. Agency is what allows us to exist. The Lord gave us our agency, therefore, before He gave us our agency, we did not exist, and if we ever lose our agency, we will cease to exist, per the above scripture.

    Comment by LDS Anarchist — July 8, 2011 @ 10:57 pm

  22. I guess we could posit that it is, Jacob. As I understand it, matter/energy necessitates spacetime. And here is the danger of bridging the speculative cosmology and science: we just have no similar was of saying that spacetime necessitates intelligent beings. In the context of speculative cosmology, perhaps an assertion based on belief is sufficient.

    One of these days, I’d like to read your interpretation of intelligence in Section 93 as indicating eternal entity.

    Comment by J. Stapley — July 8, 2011 @ 11:05 pm

  23. 21. That is silly.

    Comment by J. Stapley — July 8, 2011 @ 11:06 pm

  24. Here is another scripture also talking about a state of non-existence in which there is no agency:

    And if ye shall say there is no law, ye shall also say there is no sin. If ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness. And if there be no righteousness there be no happiness. And if there be no righteousness nor happiness there be no punishment nor misery. And if these things are not there is no God. And if there is no God we are not, neither the earth; for there could have been no creation of things, neither to act nor to be acted upon [no agency]; wherefore, all things must have vanished away [non-existence]. (2 Ne. 2: 13)

    The scriptures speak of real things, not imaginary things, therefore the reality of this state of non-existence, or of our pre-existence, is a truth.

    Comment by LDS Anarchist — July 8, 2011 @ 11:09 pm

  25. LDS Anarchist,

    Creatio ex nihilo is a complete non-starter for Mormons. Joseph Smith explicitly repudiated it and said matter cannot be created.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 8, 2011 @ 11:20 pm

  26. Matt,

    Nice post. I see strengths and weaknesses in all of the models you present.

    One thing that seems to bother me more than most people about any beginningless mind/intelligence/spirit model (like 1-3) is that I think they don’t jibe well with progression. Specifically they don’t jibe well with the idea that we are somehow progressing to heights we have never reached before. The problem is that those models assume we have lived an infinite amount of time already so they necessarily assume an infinite amount of thumb-twiddling prior to the events leading up to our appearance here on earth. The spirit atom models don’t have that issue.

    An eternal recursion model (along with MMP in all likelihood) could account for what indestructible minds have been doing forever I suppose. Especially when we take into account the idea of amnesia (aka veil of forgetfulness). But then that probably leads us down the road to radical universalism in the end.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 8, 2011 @ 11:30 pm

  27. Number 3.

    I share something like Geoff’s discomfort with the idea of eternal (meaning without beginning … note that this is not the way “eternal” is usually used) progression. If all beings have had an unlimted amount of time then all beings would have progressed to their absolute limit – assuming co-equal with God means co-equal both in capacity and in disposition to progress. At any given time we would have all ‘intelligences’ at their maximum potential, since there is no limit on time, capacity or disposition to reach that end.

    This seems to me to require an additional step that happens in ‘generations.’ As soon as you put a time limit on the progression then you can have different end point of progression. Hence a Spirit Birth. A being only just now, so to speak, able to progress to new heights.

    It could be that the birth from intelligence to spirit is actually the beginning of consciousness. (I was recently toying with the idea that consciousness is a matter of the brain, but this, finally, didn’t seem to jibe with the kind of decisions we seem to have been making just before our birth here.) It could be that the very disposition to progress is a product of the self-awareness created by spirit birth: that before having that kind of body an intelligence exists individually, perhaps even has a kind of freedom within that ‘sphere’, in that it is not acted upon, but that sphere does not contain the kind of awareness necesarry to learning as we think of it. It exists as an individual being and even may contain some element of uniqueness, but in a real sense … only as potential. Nothing about it can be realized; it lacks the desire as it lacks awareness of itself as a thing capable of progress. The new sphere of awareness enabled by the spirit body makes, for instance, choosing between light and dark a possibilty, advancing past a previously maximized point in understanding. Much, of course, in the way that we assume our sphere is expanded by physical birth.

    Comment by Thomas Parkin — July 9, 2011 @ 3:17 am

  28. TP:

    I like your 27, but does not the book of Abraham suggest a difference in capacities?

    I also wonder per you and GeoffJ if there is not something missing with the assumption that an eternal past must mean a static present.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — July 9, 2011 @ 6:13 am

  29. Or endless cycles.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — July 9, 2011 @ 6:14 am

  30. Eric,

    I don’t think so. I think Abraham suggets difference in results … which is the thing I don’t think is possible as long as we have identical capacity to reach the same end and infinite time. The difference in results is only possible if time is limited.

    Groovy.

    Comment by Thomas Parkin — July 9, 2011 @ 6:34 am

  31. hmmm. I have always read that as different capacities.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — July 9, 2011 @ 6:49 am

  32. I wouldn’t parse the positions the way that Matt does; but I think we can work with them. It seems to me that the primary reason for adopting pre-mortal existence as a belief is that it was revealed and taught by Joseph Smith. I believe it is fairly clear that #1 (my preferred view of course) was Joseph Smith’s position and what was revealed (and I think J. Stapley sees it the same tho I could be mistaken). That gives #1 a priority and basis that the others are critically lacking. In fact, given that revelation is the reason for accepting such views, what other basis would one have to accept the other views?

    However, I have urged openness to views 1-3 (though I don’t believe 2 was actually taught by Truman — since I discussed the matter with him at some length — and Joseph viewed the Godhead as eternal without beginning). However, views 4-5 have three really big problems: (1) they are contra-scriptural; (2) they make God responsible the differences in our capacities and level of progression (which is unacceptable in my view); and (3) just what the process of creating an intelligence from Intelligence is supposed to be is confusing at best.

    I understand the notion that given an eternity we should all be further alone; I just don’t believe it is is sound. First, “should” does not = “is.” Second, it is just logically fallacious that given eternity we must be further progressed. Remember that discomfort with an idea is an invitation to stretch our minds and not to shut down thinking. Finally, it fails to note the premium on the value of new experiences in Joseph’s revelations. There is no end to the kinds and value of experiences we can have. Further, the notion of eternal progression seems to me to entail that God is constantly progressing through new horizons and beyond prior kinds of experiential knowledge to new kinds and invites us to do the same once he does so. In other words, God is constantly creating new possible horizons for experience that were not possible for us prior to that. We are in the midst of God’s creation of the horizon of experience of entering into complete unity with the persons of the Godhead in order to have the same glory and experience of all reality that they do.

    What such a view leads to is not radical universalism, but radical free will and self-determination to choose to have new kinds of experiences — without end. While I don’t agree with MMP because it contradicts Alma 40’s statements regarding resurrection, I accept a close cousin of that idea that we are always entering new phases of ability to experience. I don’t accept reincarnation, but I do believe that we are always increasing our capacity to have new kinds of experiences and that kind of capacity can increase for eternity because there is no upper limit to it. So we would naturally prefer that kind of existence because new experience is so rewarding and valuable.

    Finally, with respect to the eternity of the Godhead, I don’t claim that we are always in the same relation with the Godhead (contra Matt’s description of #1) since the entire purpose of our mortal lives is to learn to love as they do precisely so that we can change about ability to be in a new kind of relationship with them. Our entire purpose is to increase our capacities for love so that we can enjoy the same unity and relationship of fulfillment in indwelling love that they do as one God. I believe that any other view simply fails to account for the plethora of scriptural assertions that there is a God consisting of Father, Son and HG which has no beginning or end and the same God from all eternity to all eternity without beginning or end. If one rejects the scriptural basis for these beliefs, I cannot think of any reason to accept any of these views. But that entails that the non-scriptural and non-revealed views hold no water as I see it.

    Finally, it is very clear to me that the Book of Abraham 3:

    18 Howbeit that he made the greater star; as, also, if there be two spirits, and one shall be more intelligent than the other, yet these two spirits, notwithstanding one is more intelligent than the other, have no beginning; they existed before, they shall have no end, they shall exist after, for they are gnolaum, or eternal.

    19 And the Lord said unto me: These two facts do exist, that there are two spirits, one being more intelligent than the other; there shall be another more intelligent than they; I am the Lord thy God, I am more intelligent than they all.

    Comment by Blake — July 9, 2011 @ 10:50 am

  33. Let me correct the end of #32. It is very clear to me that the Book of Abraham 3 teaches that the intelligences eternally just have differing capacities that are not created by God:

    18 Howbeit that he made the greater star; as, also, if there be two spirits, and one shall be more intelligent than the other, yet these two spirits, notwithstanding one is more intelligent than the other, have no beginning; they existed before, they shall have no end, they shall exist after, for they are gnolaum, or eternal.

    19 And the Lord said unto me: These two facts do exist, that there are two spirits, one being more intelligent than the other; there shall be another more intelligent than they; I am the Lord thy God, I am more intelligent than they all.

    That seems really clear to me — tho I am always surprised at the ambiguity I sometimes see after thinking something is clear. if God created these different capacities, then he would be responsible for any differences and deficits in intelligence and abilities. That is a big problem for the resolution of the problem of evil as I see it. (I have 3 chapters in my next volume of Exploring Mormon Thought addressing the problem ans using the idea of pre-mortal existence as a major insight into God’s permission of evil in this life — I’m shooting to have it out by November).

    I also think that Jacob J’s reasons for rejecting the BY and Orson Pratt views are compelling. I can see why one would read the KFJ to teach that our Father has not always been one in the Godhead (tho I don’t believe it is the best reading of the text). However, even on that view there is an eternal Diety consisting of the council of Gods that has been involved in an eternal process or organizing worlds [pocket universes in our more modern cosmology(?)].

    Comment by Blake — July 9, 2011 @ 11:02 am

  34. Light and truth merge together to become intelligence. Intelligence becomes Spirit. Spirits gain the glove that is a body and become souls.

    The light that proceeds out from God through Christ is also the light that forms the bedrock of Intelligence.

    So, eternally of the same essential light, but progressing or perhaps in multiple states.

    Comment by Stephen M (Ethesis) — July 9, 2011 @ 3:26 pm

  35. That makes for a nice poem Stephen but doesn’t work very well as a theory. I mean, what on earth is “Light and truth merge together to become intelligence” supposed to really mean?

    Comment by Geoff J — July 9, 2011 @ 3:51 pm

  36. Geoff, who said I know what it means. It is the first breath.

    Comment by Stephen M (Ethesis) — July 9, 2011 @ 6:30 pm

  37. Blake, fantastic comment- and duly noted on the statement regarding #1. Is it fair to say we are in an “eternal though perpetually changing relationship with God”. I am interested in editing the post to make it as accurately as possible represent each of the views.

    As for whether Truman taught this notion, I tend to think Truman taught across notions 1-3, not linearly in time, but in different things he wrote. I’ve never met him, but I am taking all of this from an article he wrote called “the suffering servant”. He said:

    “An Everlasting covenant was made between three personages before the organization of this earth and relates to their dispensation of things to men on the earth. These personages according to Abraham’s record are called God the first, the Creator; God the second, the Redeemer; and God the third, the Witness or Testator” [Quoting Joseph Smith, Extracts from Wm Clayton's Private Book, 10-11, Nuttall collection, BYU Library]

    I am quoting this from my notes, so am lacking contest at the moment, but this is what I was talking about in terms of a covenant being made which binds the Godhead together. I think, Blake, you would argue that the everlasting nature of this Godhead is just as without beginning as it is without end, and frankly I can’t argue much with that, beyond that my finite mind is incapable of comprehending it.

    Clark:#20- How would you more accurately characterize BY’s theory. Where have I gone wrong? Correct me, and I will edit the original.

    Comment by Matt W. — July 9, 2011 @ 7:17 pm

  38. Geoff J. The infinite backward is not a problem, assuming you are willing to go with a progression that consists of smaller increments, the further back you go (this is modeled by human history rather well). A bigger question is the storage problem (I know its been discussed here).

    Comment by WVS — July 9, 2011 @ 7:56 pm

  39. Matt: Re: our relation to the Godhead. What I claim is that our isolated individualism as intelligences, our alienation and voluntary separateness entail a vastly different kind of life that the kind of eternal life lived by members of the Godhead as one God. In their lives, there is no isolation or loneliness and though distinct beings they are not separated. Further, because they share all knowledge and always agree in will, it is appropriate in this sense to say that they share a common experience of all reality and a single mind (to that extent). Our status is thus vastly different because we don’t participate in the same shared indwelling life and glory, power and knowledge, unity and intelligence that they share as one. Thus, our existence as alienated individuals is vastly different from theirs — as are our capacities for experience. Thus although we have the possibility to share and be everything that they are in virtue of our divine nature (which we share in common with them as members of the same species), these capacities have not been actuated in our lives and being yet. What it takes to actuate these capacities is the choice to love in interpenetrating and totally transparent life that they live as a result of their indwelling love as one in each other.

    I don’t know if that clears it up. But if we are the same species and nature as God, then we must be eternal like God (logically ruling out views 4 and 5 and creating a tension for views 2 and 3).

    Comment by Blake — July 9, 2011 @ 8:41 pm

  40. What is the storage problem that WVS is referring? Can someone provide a link to any of the previous discussions on the subject?

    Comment by CJ — July 9, 2011 @ 10:02 pm

  41. A little bit of math would not hurt when thinking about infinite timescales. What I am suggesting, is that if our progression was exponential, then on one hand of the curve, we would grow fantastically fast, but on the earlier side, we would fantastically slow. Exponential growth is the fastest sustainable growth possible.

    It is entirely possible to have existed forever, to have multiplied our growth by some factor, say 2, every given time period. It just means we started off really close to zero.

    Otherwise, on topic, I am not sure how literal to understand motherhood and fatherhood as far as spirits go. Christ is spiritually our father, in a way, and that spiritual birth had nothing to do with a physical birth… perhaps this is something similar. But without knowing exactly what a spirit is, (or an intelligence) we are shooting in the dark.

    Not that that should stop us!

    Comment by Zen — July 9, 2011 @ 11:28 pm

  42. I’ve been a lurker at this blog for about a year now (awesome blog by the way), so I’m familiar with Geoff’s concern with regard to the problem of our spirits not having a beginning.

    I do see where Geoff is coming from – with an infinite amount of time shouldn’t our spirits have progressed more than they have? (Geoff please correct me if I’ve misrepresented your point of view.)

    But I’ve come to appreciate Blake’s point of view for a number of reasons:

    1. There’s no reason to believe that spirits/intelligences always have had – I wanted to say started with but that doesn’t really work with always-existing-intelligences does it? – a minimum level of progression. Perhaps the continuum of any intelligence’s level of progression is infinite. From this point of view, the growth of our spirits/intelligences may be much more substantial than we typically give ourselves credit for.

    2. It’s possible many spirits/intelligences have regressed.

    3. Perhaps there are spirits/intelligences who have advanced more than we have. We just don’t know much of anything about them because they have already had their mortal probation.

    4. It may be erroneous for us to use the Godhead (or their current level of progression) as a measuring stick for our growth because it’s possible the gap between the Godhead and us has always been about the same.

    Comment by CJ — July 10, 2011 @ 12:35 am

  43. Interesting discussion, Matt. I read Madsen’s Eternal Man way back when, so I am permanently imprinted with #3 as my working model of the LDS view of “what happened back in the Preexistence.” But I now regard the Preexistence as a dangerous doctrine, one that is best avoided whenever possible.

    There are two primary approaches to speculation about the LDS view of the Preexistence, and both of them are unreliable.

    (1) Reasoning from LDS texts, both scriptural (D&C) and nonscriptural (KFD). They are not necessarily consistent, so you can either bend inconvenient texts to fit your desired model, or else ignore the texts you dislike. And basing systematic theology on narratives is always a perilous undertaking.

    (2) Reasoning by analogy. A regular but unreliable LDS approach to reasoning about the heavens, whether pre- or post-mortal. More and more, LDS thinking seems to base its theology on an analogy from the American nuclear family model circa 1950. It’s Ozzie and Harriet theology.

    So I view the Preexistence much like a politician views Social Security — there are so many pitfalls it is always better to simply avoid the subject. LDS folk doctrine about the priesthood ban is a good example, which in the absence of official doctrine became accepted doctrine. The Preexistence explains too many things, especially given the faulty ways Mormons reason about such things. That’s why it is so dangerous.

    Comment by Dave — July 10, 2011 @ 7:32 am

  44. Blake- I struggle to intellectually comprehend that the Godhead have always had indwelling unity, because they have always chosen to, but on the other hand, we can do that, but just never have. We have had this conversation before though.

    Would you say that Christ’s mortal life was his voluntarily separating himself from that indwelling unity so he could show us how to get into it?

    CJ- if we have been spirits forever, we’d each have an infinite set of memories. The question WVS alludes to, I believe, is where would we store those memories? And thanks for Delurking! great comments so far.

    Zen- check this out.

    Dave- Danger is my middle name. The pre-mortal life is my vomit, and I’m the dog that can’t stop coming back to it. In all seriousness, this is one reaso, when discussing premortal life, I try to give all the possible options.

    Comment by Matt W. — July 10, 2011 @ 2:06 pm

  45. Matt-
    I took a look at the post you’ve referred Zen to. What I was trying to describe in my previous post (42.1) was Option 3 (y=x). Thanks for pointing that out – it will give me a lot to think about.

    Comment by CJ — July 10, 2011 @ 7:37 pm

  46. Certainly the simplest model is of eternal, personal spirit-intelligences of the sort described in the Book of Abraham, and by Joseph Smith in the KFD. However, there are a number of serious, unanswered questions with that view. Joseph Smith was very clear about the necessity and value of getting a body.

    If our Heavenly Father has a material body, it goes without saying in our theology that he needs one to be who he is unless he is a member of a different species. I quote the Apostle Paul:

    For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself. (Philip. 3:21)

    If God doesn’t need a material body, there is no serious way to explain the significance of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. It would be some sort of theological errata, a footnote of no particular significance whatsoever. But that is not what Paul said. In 1 Cor 15 Paul is adamant that if Christ is not risen from the dead, not only our our sins not forgiven, but our faith is in vain. As D&C 88 has it, the resurrection of the dead is the redemption of the soul.

    Issue one is that God has a material body, and not only that, according to D&C 129, there are only two kinds of beings in heaven – those with resurrected bodies of flesh and bone, and the embodied spirits of just men made perfect, who have not yet been resurrected.

    If we take these passages seriously, they implies that not only does God the Father have a body, but that it is a resurrected body, and that in a very real sense he was not God as we understand him prior to this event. The Lord Jesus Christ also.

    Scriptural arguments aside, however, there are numerous reasons why the idea of self-existent, personal intelligences is a problematic concept. The basic reason is that it defies the principle of sufficient reason and Ockham’s rule to postulate that the sophistications of personality, let alone the human form are some sort of uncreated, Platonic ideal.

    That is reason enough to reject the idea of eternal, personal intelligences with necessary, human like extended forms. But if you are just a “point” intelligence or some sort of undivided mist, is it reasonable to jointly conclude that (a) you are a person, (b) you need a body, and (c) you actually need a brain to do any thinking?

    If personal intelligences are self existent, I fail to see the point of having a brain at all, and thus, though I disagree with Brigham Young on the necessity of viviparous spirit birth, and dissent from the characterization here of amorphous, impersonal intelligence as “unintelligent”, I largely agree (somewhat reluctantly) with his view of personality as a semi-eternal, strictly speaking contingent form. Contingent meaning that the second death, the death of personal identity, is a logical possibility.

    Last of all, what are we to make of Moses 1:39?

    For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.

    If personality is self-existent, is mortality a meaningful concept in any real sense?

    Comment by Mark D. — July 10, 2011 @ 10:02 pm

  47. And is “infinite” a code term for “really big” or is it a true infinite? What kind of meaning does it have outside of time?

    Comment by Stephen M (Ethesis) — July 11, 2011 @ 4:36 am

  48. Getting to comments (in reverse order)

    Stephen (47). I think infinite may mean for some an actual infinity (typically people pointing to an infinite regression of gods into the past) or merely a large number with a potential infinity (those pointing to God the Father as the first head God with infinity pointing only forward).

    Mark (46) One problem in LDS theology is that it has not done a good job explaining why we need a physical body nor the difference between a spirit body and physical body. A lot of the various strains of theology end up with a spirit body very analogous to a physical body but never ask the obvious question of why on earth a physical body would then be needed if the spirit body is pretty much the same thing. (Note this is different from the idea of a fall being necessary)

    I do agree that there is a presumption that “intelligences” are the source of personality and so forth. I’m not sure this is a Platonic conception but rather a folk remnant of the old Cartesian dualism between mind and body. The problem is that we’ve found out so much that used to be in the mind category is now in the brain category including much of our personality. This ought cause a lot of problems to folk views. I think the revision of this is to see “intelligence” not as a real person but more as a kind of primordial will.

    The issue of spirit brains is an interesting one but so too is the question of how we could make choices or decide freely to come to earth if we didn’t have something like a brain.

    Dave (43) I think the danger of pre-existence theology arising out of pushing analogy of our family life here too far is a big one. (I mentioned that at the FPR post) That said it does seem like it’d have to be analogous in some form – the question is how analogous it really is.

    Matt (37) I don’t think BY really had a theory. I think he pushed an anthropology of human existing and said a little about it prior to our birth. But honestly I think he consciously avoided most of the metaphysical issues. (Wisely I think) To the degree there’s philosophy it’s more tied to ethics and epistemology rather than metaphysics.

    Blake (33) I don’t think Abr 3 teaches anything one way or an other about the origin of the nature of these intelligences. It just makes a judgement about God being the most intelligent and there being a gradation. It’s very easy to read it merely as a description of the range of intelligences at the time of the council in heaven. I see nothing in it speaking on creation itself. It talks about organizing of intelligences and probably should be read in terms of Joseph’s conception at the time of creation as organization.

    I do agree that there’s an inherent problem with justice if God creates everything from scratch. I think there are a lot of reasons to reject creation ex nihlo. I don’t think there’s anything in this text that really addresses this though.

    Blake (32) I think we should make a distinction between God the concrete individual and God the role or organization. Otherwise making claims about an ontological difference is trivial much as there is an obvious ontological difference between President Obama and the presidency.

    Comment by Clark — July 11, 2011 @ 8:46 am

  49. To add to my comment about BY. I think it is very easy to read BY as having many features of neoPlatonism. I just don’t think one should push an interpretation of BY as adopting the metaphysics of this. However the neoPlatonic features of Young’s comments are always interesting. I just don’t think you get too far reading them deeply. (At one point I thought otherwise but I’ve really come around to seeing BY as a pragmatist just concerned with anthropological theology rather than a kind of philosophical theology)

    Comment by Clark — July 11, 2011 @ 9:15 am

  50. Clark: Jacob (16) I don’t quite understand your objection to Pratt.

    You and I discussed this a long time ago in the first 50 or so comments of this thread. You cited Leibniz but then conceded that his model would be unworkable in a non-deterministic context. I described my objections there as well as I am likely to do it here so I will leave it at that, but feel free to grab a quote and tell me where I have gone wrong.

    Stapley,

    As I understand it, matter/energy necessitates spacetime.

    Right, the reconciliation of Joseph’s theology with the current science of cosmology is difficult indeed. Joseph Smith was clear about his view that matter has no beginning but this conflicts with some prominent interpretations of the big bang. Since we don’t really understand the big bang I don’t worry about it too much, which is to say I that I don’t let science in this area dictate my theology and (vice versa) I don’t let my theology dictate my understanding of the big bang.

    One of these days, I’d like to read your interpretation of intelligence in Section 93 as indicating eternal entity.

    D&C 93 is obviously difficult to interpret with confidence in some places. I try to read D&C 93 in the interpretive light of the other sermons given by Joseph Smith. The impression I get when I read Joseph Smith trying to explicate his views in the KFD and elsewhere is that he saw a dualism between matter and mind. We see this in the “things to act” and “things to be acted upon.” We see it in his contrasts of element and intelligence or between matter and spirit. We see it as he tries to find a way to describe the essential part of man which has always existed. He uses different terms, but the least ambiguous ones (in my view) are when he narrows in on the “intelligent part.” For this reason, I see D&C 93 references to “intelligence” as being related to this uncreated, essence of mankind. D&C 93 talks about the man(kind) being independent, active, uncreated, accountable, and capable of being connected with matter/element as a tabernacle.

    When I do a thought experiment about what things are required for “intelligence” to exist, I come to the conclusion that it requires consciousness and thought, which seems related to the independence and active nature of intelligence. I can’t imagine how these can exist without some entity, which is why I see D&C 93 inidicating eternal entity. This is by no means the only interpretation of D&C 93, it is simply the one that seems most compelling to me in the larger context of Joseph Smith’s theology. I’d be interested if you wanted to describe your own approach to the same issue.

    Comment by Jacob J — July 11, 2011 @ 1:26 pm

  51. What kind of meaning does it have outside of time?

    Not much of this means anything at all if it is outside of time. Luckily time is assumed and even an explicit assumption in pretty much all Mormon theology.

    Comment by Jacob J — July 11, 2011 @ 1:44 pm

  52. Jacob (50). OK. I just wasn’t clear that was what you were objecting to. I do think Pratt’s atoms are fairly Leibnizean or Spinozist. But the issue of determinism is a big one although there certainly are variations on Leibniz/Spinoza with indeterminism. (Whitehead or the recent OOO movement being two obvious examples)

    Glancing through the thread you linked to it seems like your main objection is the issue of a master “atom.” I think Pratt’s solution is to have all in agreement within a specific range of views but different in others. As I said in that thread I’m not convinced it works but it ends up being a bit more subtle in why. (i.e. I don’t think he’s obviously wrong on this point although I think his view has problems)

    Regarding the big bang, it’s a minority view within physics that the big bang was an absolute beginning. The most prominent view right now is String theory where you have multiple branes floating in multidimensional space and our universe is just one of these. Of course there’s a big backlash against string theory at the moment but I think it’s sufficient to suggest Joseph’s view isn’t problematic at the moment.

    Comment by Clark — July 11, 2011 @ 1:56 pm

  53. Clark, my main objection to Pratt is his suggestion that you can take a bunch of individual wills and glue them together to make one person with a single will. I don’t think that is a workable theory. His “master atom” idea seems woefully inadequate in solving the issues and I don’t see any promising directions for a good solution. As to the big bang, your point is right in line with what I was trying to say, which is that there is nothing definite enough on either side (science/theology) that we should get concerned about conflicts at this point.

    Comment by Jacob J — July 11, 2011 @ 4:51 pm

  54. Mark: “If our Heavenly Father has a material body, it goes without saying in our theology that he needs one to be who he is unless he is a member of a different species.”

    This seems to me to be false. The Father didn’t have a material (of the resurrected kind) until after he resurrection. Ditto the Son. Ditto the HG some day. They clearly exist as individuals before and independently of a resurrected body. This is so obvious I suspect that I am missing something of what you see as the problem here. If you mean that the Father has to have a material body of some sort to be an individual (e.g., a spirit body — whatever that is), I just don’t see why that is necessary. Maybe it is so, I just don’t see anything to support the supposition.

    Mark: “Issue one is that God has a material body, and not only that, according to D&C 129, there are only two kinds of beings in heaven – those with resurrected bodies of flesh and bone, and the embodied spirits of just men made perfect, who have not yet been resurrected.”

    D&C 29 speaks only of 2 kinds that

    reveal themselves

    , not only to kinds that are ontologically possible or in existence as I read it.

    Mark: “The basic reason is that it defies the principle of sufficient reason and Ockham’s rule to postulate that the sophistications of personality, let alone the human form are some sort of uncreated, Platonic ideal.”

    If it is the nature of intelligences to exist, then their sufficient explanation is in their nature. They are just the kinds of things that exist eternally — like quanta in naturalism. Now we could talk about all of the problems with PSR — and I would need to know which version of PSR you have in mind to discuss this issue further. So which version of PSR do you have in mind?

    Mark: “If personality is self-existent, is mortality a meaningful concept in any real sense.”

    Of course it is. There is an urgency to our lives in mortality that doesn’t exist in eternity knowing that they are limited in duration and we only have a finite time to get done what we must while in this mortal existence. I suspect that I missing your real issue here too.

    Clark: “I think we should make a distinction between God the concrete individual and God the role or organization. Otherwise making claims about an ontological difference is trivial much as there is an obvious ontological difference between President Obama and the presidency.”

    I admit I just don’t get your argument. This isn’t either/or, but both/and. God the F, S and HG are concrete individuals. As one united will, mind and power, they are one Godhead. The individuals are deified by their relationship of unity analogous to the way a piece of metal is magnetized by being in a magnetic field or a stone is warmed by the sun. I don’t see anything particularly difficult about it or how it fails to make the very distinction you’re seem to be aiming at. But let me make clear that I am not making an ontological distinction (I don’t know how many times I’ve said that on this blog). The difference is one of realized potential.

    Comment by Blake — July 11, 2011 @ 7:39 pm

  55. Clark: “I don’t think Abr 3 teaches anything one way or an other about the origin of the nature of these intelligences. It just makes a judgement [sic] about God being the most intelligent and there being a gradation. It’s very easy to read it merely as a description of the range of intelligences at the time of the council in heaven. I see nothing in it speaking on creation itself. It talks about organizing of intelligences and probably should be read in terms of Joseph’s conception at the time of creation as organization.”

    Well, I suggest reading a bit closer. Note:

    3:18 Howbeit that he made the greater star; as, also, if there be two spirits, and one shall be more intelligent than the other, yet these two spirits, notwithstanding one is more intelligent than the other, have no beginning; they existed before, they shall have no end, they shall exist after, for they are gnolaum, or eternal.

    This passage entails: (a) the spirits have different gradations intelligence; (b) they have no beginning because they are eternal. Read earlier in the chapter where it speaks of the range of intelligences as they compare to the range of stars in reckoning of time. Here is how JS interpreted it in the Sermon in the Grove: “I learned a testimony concerning Abraham, and he reasoned concerning the God of heaven. “In order to do that,” said he, “suppose we have two facts: that supposes another fact may exist — two men on the earth, one wise than the other, would logically show that another who is wiser than the wisest may exist. Intelligences exist one above another, so that there is no end to them.” (DHC version)

    Comment by Blake — July 11, 2011 @ 7:46 pm

  56. Clark: “The problem is that we’ve found out so much that used to be in the mind category is now in the brain category including much of our personality.”

    You have a very different take on the mind/body problem than I do. While we need a functioning bring to mediate the personality in bodily expression; it hardly follows that the personality is just the brain. I hope that isn’t what you’re saying.

    Comment by Blake — July 11, 2011 @ 7:50 pm

  57. Thanks for the shout-out Matt. I’d like to unpack some of the models you are outlining. It seems to me that each of your models contains a statement on 1) the ontology of spirits and 2) nature of our relationship to God. I don’t know that every thinker has spent as much time elaborating on one versus the other. However, my view is that these two views are most often than not going to compliment each other and fit together as a system of thought.

    If God and spirits have always existed, then they share the same attribute of being uncreated and eternal, but nothing demands that this requires a relationship between God and spirits. My reading of Joseph Smith is that God extends an invitation to enter into a relationship and spirits have the freedom to accept the invitation.

    If God creates spirits, then spirits have not always existed, and spirits are always in a relationship with God of some kind, and no invitation needs to be extended because by default God unilaterally chose to create the spirit before the spirit’s existence and without the spirit’s consent. One never becomes a son or daughter of God by an act of freewill, because this is decided in the moment of their creation.

    Should we decide we want to acknowledge an uncreated and created part within a spirit, this in no way allows us to escape the above predicament, we merely have to answer for it on both counts.

    If we take the view that a spirit body is clothing that covers an intelligence, then the spirit body must have some function or purpose otherwise it is meaningless. If we say the function is form, then God determines all sexual unions because mortal form is a function of genetics. If we say the form doesn’t matter, then we must explain what function a spirit body has other than form. If an intelligence has all the attributes that Joseph Smith described spirits having, then the spirit body is an empty phrase. If on the other than, a spirit body determines capacity or intelligence, or ability, or gender, then God again has determined something about the spirit beyond the spirit’s consent or choice and we again are faced with some kind of determinism. In my opinion, these are some of the main philosophical challenges.

    Comment by aquinas — July 11, 2011 @ 8:13 pm

  58. Blake: They clearly exist as individuals before and independently of a resurrected body.

    I agree. My point is that they cannot consistently be considered to be exalted, or have the powers associated with exalted persons prior to the acquisition of a glorified, resurrected body unless they are members of a different species – i.e. a species for whom a glorified resurrected body is useless appendage. We would further have to conclude that nearly everything Paul said about the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the nature of his resurrected body was wrong.

    Blake: reveal themselves

    Unless I am entirely mistaken, this phrase does not occur anywhere in D&C 129. What D&C 129:1-3 states is:

    There are two kinds of beings in heaven, namely: Angels, who are resurrected personages, having bodies of flesh and bones — For instance, Jesus said: Handle me and see, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. Secondly: the spirits of just men made perfect, they who are not resurrected, but inherit the same glory.

    I believe we have to assume this scripture is referring to those in post-mortality, so I do not quote it in favor of any proposition about pre-mortal spirits. I quote it rather in favor of the proposition that God the Father has a resurrected body, in support of a further proposition that, like the Lord Jesus Christ, he would not be fully divine without it, or something like it (cf. Philip. 3:21).

    I take it as one of the most fundamental principles of the Christian faith that we belong to the same basic species as the Lord Jesus Christ, both here and in eternity, and find much of the New Testament incomprehensible, if not borderline irrelevant without that supposition. So if we want to ask a question about how we may become divine, we may legitimately assume that Jesus Christ was and remains exalted according to the same basic principles, in this case a glorified resurrected body.

    Comment by Mark D. — July 11, 2011 @ 8:24 pm

  59. Blake (56) I’m not saying personality is just the brain. Indeed I don’t think it could be and make sense of the council in heaven. However neither do I think personality is the spirit isolated from the body. My point is we can’t put personality in the spirit instead of the brain.

    Jacob (53) I agree Pratt isn’t persuasive, but it’s important to keep in mind that his view is that there is a true unity of the minds. (Indeed he thinks the unity of the parts of the body is the way God and man become unified) I confess that sort of unity just doesn’t make sense to me. But it’s not something I can logically dismiss out of hand. Especially since I’m never sure how strong to take our unity with God such that we are of the same will and same mind.

    Blake (55) That doesn’t entail that he created them as that intelligence independent of choice. So I think you are taking my claim about not knowing origin as a claim against their co-eternal nature. I’m not. I’m saying it’s such a vague claim as to not say much at all. i.e. was the ordering always the same? Does everyone always progress at the same rate? Is intelligence innate and immutable?

    Comment by Clark — July 11, 2011 @ 8:35 pm

  60. Blake: If it is the nature of intelligences to exist, then their sufficient explanation is in their nature.

    I grant that it is entirely possible for personal intelligences to self-exist, but that all else being equal the proposition that personal intelligences do not self-exist is more likely. Dropping the PSR, it is Ockham’s Razor or the law of parsimony, i.e. unless we have a compelling reason to do so, we should not multiply entities beyond necessity, more especially complex, self-existent ones. That is perhaps one of the most successful laws of thought of all time.

    So in this case, I suggest that if we can make sense of personality as a composite form of entities radically more simple than “a person”, we should do so, and furthermore, the very existence, and apparent necessity of a physical brain in order for us to be a functioning individual begs the question of how anything without a brain be a person at all. Why have a brain if we can think, postulate, infer, remember, analyze, compose, etc. without one?

    Comment by Mark D. — July 11, 2011 @ 8:41 pm

  61. Mark: “My point is that they cannot consistently be considered to be exalted, or have the powers associated with exalted persons prior to the acquisition of a glorified, resurrected body unless they are members of a different species.”

    Why? If their glory arises not from a body but from indwelling unity then the problem is solved. Given LDS scripture, as you note, we cannot consistently maintain that resurrection is necessary for exalted status. Where do you get the notion that Jesus was divine only in virtue of a resurrected body?

    Clark: I think we’re in agreement on the issue of vagueness. However, the “why have a brain” if we can think without one is rather easy to resolve. We cannot function in a material dimension like we inhabit without a fully functioning brain from which the soul emerges; we can function in the spiritual dimension just fine without one. Am I missing something?

    Comment by Blake — July 11, 2011 @ 8:56 pm

  62. Blake, I thought the spiritual dimension was physical. You’re sounding a bit Thomist there.

    Comment by Clark — July 11, 2011 @ 8:58 pm

  63. Mark: “unless we have a compelling reason to do so, we should not multiply entities beyond necessity, more especially complex, self-existent ones. That is perhaps one of the most successful laws of thought of all time.”

    I think it is the most useless “law” of all time — really just a supposition. William James famously asked why we should prefer monism to pluralism and I still haven’t seen a cogent response that doesn’t just totally beg the question. Why not a multiplicity of basic realities? What is so much better about the number 1 as opposed to the number 1 to the 4 trillionth gogoplex?

    Comment by Blake — July 11, 2011 @ 9:00 pm

  64. Clark: “unless we have a compelling reason to do so, we should not multiply entities beyond necessity, more especially complex, self-existent ones. That is perhaps one of the most successful laws of thought of all time.”

    I’d say two things. One, we don’t know if intelligences are material realities. If they are material realities, we have no idea what delimits the meaning of “spirit matter” and do it is nothing but a place-holder.

    Comment by Blake — July 11, 2011 @ 9:04 pm

  65. Clark, I obviously meant Mark. Why the &&^% did you guys have to have names so close?

    Comment by Blake — July 11, 2011 @ 9:13 pm

  66. Let me try it again:

    Clark: “Blake, I thought the spiritual dimension was physical. You’re sounding a bit Thomist there.

    I’d say two things. One, we don’t know if intelligences are material realities. If they are material realities, we have no idea what delimits the meaning of “spirit matter” and do it is nothing but a place-holder.

    Comment by Blake — July 11, 2011 @ 9:17 pm

  67. I agree we don’t know if intelligences are. (That’s rather the point of the tripartite view) However it seems spirits are. I think you’ve argued in the past that Abr 3 shouldn’t be read as implying a tripartite ontology but that the intelligences there are also spirits. (As I said at one time I attributed that tripartite view to Roberts but I no longer think that correct)

    In any case it’s not at all clear to me we can have intelligences without some material out of which they emerge. (Indeed I’m amazingly skeptical of Platonic, Thomist, or Cartesian conceptions of disembodied minds/spirits) Is that something you still agree with me on or have you shifted your view somewhat?

    Comment by Clark — July 11, 2011 @ 9:37 pm

  68. Given LDS scripture, as you note, we cannot consistently maintain that resurrection is necessary for exalted status

    On the contrary, we most certainly can, and we practically must. The only easy way out of that conclusion is to assume that one or more members of the Godhead are members of a different species – a species that needs no body, no redemption, no resurrection (or anything like it) to have the same properties as persons exalted through the ordinary process.

    Do you discount Philippians 3:21? Do you argue that the resurrection of Jesus Christ has nothing to do with his exalted status, that it has no causal effect on the salvation of anyone? If so why did Paul say that if Christ is not risen, our faith is in vain (1 Cor 15:14)?

    Why does D&C 88 equate resurrection with “the redemption of the soul”? Why is it necessary for us to be resurrected to be redeemed? If it is necessary for us to be resurrected to be redeemed, how can Jesus Christ be fully redeemed unless he also is resurrected?

    And what did Paul mean when he stated, concerning the resurrection of the dead:

    So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body (1 Cor 15:42)

    Incorruption, power, and glory – attributes of a resurrected body. So if Christ does not need a resurrected body or something like it to be fully divine, why does he have one at all? Is he just slumming? Kabuki dance? Shadow play?

    I might further ask how we are to make sense of just about any of the statements of Joseph Smith on the body quoted in the following post:

    http://www.juvenileinstructor.org/joseph-smith-and-the-body-some-thoughts/

    “There is no other God in heaven but that God who has flesh and bones”
    “that which is without body or parts is nothing”
    “no…person can have this Salvation except through a tabernacle.”
    “All men have power to resist the devil” because “they who have tabernacles have power over those who have not.”

    This is entirely consistent with the writings of Paul on the subject of the resurrection and the body, and in particular the resurrected body of the Lord Jesus Christ. So I don’t know what kind of theology one can construct where bodies, and in particular resurrected bodies are inconsequential to the members of the Godhead unless all three are members of a different species, i.e. exceptions to every rule, where most of what Paul said on the topic was wrong, and where everything we believe about the bodies of the members of the Godhead is irrelevant and inconsequential in every substantial respect.

    We might as well just make them back into unembodied abstractions without body, parts, or passions because presumably it would serve them just as well. The doctrine that God has a body, and that he needs one, is a cardinal principle of Mormonism, and nothing about the doctrine of the resurrection makes sense unless that is the case – in Mormonism or any other form of Christianity.

    Comment by Mark D. — July 11, 2011 @ 9:45 pm

  69. Let us never criticize the Creed for being too mysterious or incomprehensible or incoherent compared to Mormon thought. If the above thread does not indicate a mysterious, mind bending, and muddled theology, then I don’t know what does.

    Comment by sl — July 12, 2011 @ 8:25 am

  70. “While I don’t agree with MMP because it contradicts Alma 40?s statements regarding resurrection, I accept a close cousin of that idea that we are always entering new phases of ability to experience.”

    Blake, is Alma 40 your only grounds for objecting to MMP or reincarnation, or do you also find it objectionable philosophically? Given your belief that we continue to enter new phases of ability and experience, and presumably other levels of embodiment, isn’t is possible that this earth life isn’t our first round of embodiment, whether on this or another planet?

    Comment by JPL — July 12, 2011 @ 9:31 am

  71. sl, there is a difference between logical contradictions and a multitude of theories springing up in the absence of information. There is plenty in the creeds which is reasonable and plenty that Mormons can readily agree with, but historically the criticisms of creeds have been that they contain blatant logical contradictions. That may or may not be a fair criticism, maybe the doctrine of the Trinity turns out to be totally coherent, but regardless of whether the criticism is correct it is important to acknowledge the thrust of the complaint. If it is finally shown that it is coherent for God to be both nowhere and nowhen yet simultaneously (ha!) a participant in history, then Mormons will hold their tongues and stop criticising that doctrine. Point me to anyone in the thread above promoting something which is on its face a logical contradiction and I’ll grant your comparison.

    Comment by Jacob J — July 12, 2011 @ 9:35 am

  72. SL, I think the difference is that most Mormons are fine saying we just don’t know the answers to much of the pre-existence beyond it not being that different from here. Further I think the nature of pre-mortal life isn’t seen as something one needs to believe.

    Contrast this with the creeds where logical contradictory things must be confessed and if you don’t you’re not considered Christian. I think it’s a big difference.

    I think everyone in this thread would fully agree that worrying too much about the above would be silly. However few mainstream Christians are willing to say the formal creeds of Christianity are silly and not worth worrying about.

    Comment by Clark — July 12, 2011 @ 3:27 pm

  73. Clark, I agree that confessing a creed or setting it up as the test of being a Christian is ridiculous. And to the extent Mormons say “We just don’t know” I’m fully on board.

    Jacob J: I’m not saying the Creed is the best thing on the market; just that Mormon theology isn’t nearly as tidy as we make it sound in Sunday School (Some make it sound like the first vision and KFD blows the creed out of the water and answers all the questions). We have many competing models, each with their problems and speculative claims regarding concepts that are entirely outside our human experience. We are speaking of extremely abstract things. What is spirit matter? What is intelligence? To what extent do these “things” exist in space and time as we currently conceive of those concepts?

    I find myself coming to the broad, generic conclusion that there is an aspect of God that is immaterial (at least not the same kind of matter we experience …call it spirit matter or intelligent energy if you will) and there is an aspect of God that is embodied and material—that stands upon a planet with feet. In coming to this conclusion, am I saying something heretical in Mormon theology? And am I all that far off from the Creeds? I don’t think so. The church fathers were trying to reconcile the logical necessity of an eternal and disembodied God (the Father) with a God who does indeed participate in history (Jesus). I think what they came up with deserves some respect, philosophically, and I’m not sure that it is radically different from the gist of what many on this thread are getting at.

    But in either Creedal Christianity or Mormon theology, you don’t have to ask the questions of “why” and “how” very long before you come up against the wall of mystery.

    Comment by sl — July 12, 2011 @ 4:47 pm

  74. sl, ask any question of why and you come up against mystery pretty quick. Speaking as a physicist.

    Comment by Clark — July 12, 2011 @ 6:02 pm

  75. sl, I agree that there are people who naively presume that Mormonism has all the answers. Few of them hang out here.

    Comment by Jacob J — July 12, 2011 @ 6:48 pm

  76. Frankly, I think the problem with most creeds is that they give too many of the answers, and more often than not, the wrong ones.

    Comment by Mark D. — July 12, 2011 @ 8:31 pm

  77. Mark: I believe that resurrection added to Jesus’s glory and exaltation. I deny, as we must, that Jesus’s resurrection is essential to his full deity. The Holy Ghost is a divine person — but not resurrected. The Son qua Yahweh or debar or Word of God in pre-earth glory was already fully divine without being resurrected. These are simply irrefutable counter-examples to your claim that a person must be resurrected to be fully divine. However, a person can be fully divine and yet increase in glory — it is your (mistaken) assumption to the contrary that is the problem.

    Comment by Blake — July 12, 2011 @ 9:38 pm

  78. Clark: I don’t know that intelligences are material. I believe that spirit qua post-mortal-life spirits are material. I don’t know that we know whether the uncreated part of persons, the mind or intelligence (in JS’s terms) are material in some respects. Further, I don’t believe that spirit matter is continuous in meaning with “matter” as it is used in physics. And I’m really sure that physics cannot define what matter is either.

    Comment by Blake — July 12, 2011 @ 9:41 pm

  79. The problem with the creeds is that they all depart from the assumption that God is what I call the Platonic template: essentially immutable, impassible, immaterial, and a se. Any view that begins with these assumptions is going to wind up with a static principle that is more like a logical construct than a person, more sub-personal than personal.

    Comment by Blake — July 12, 2011 @ 9:48 pm

  80. Blake, thank for addressing the Creed issue. Do I understand you correctly that you reject an eternal regression of gods model and would also posit God as not possessing a bodily form (spirit or otherwise) at some point in the past? I’m just trying to piece together some of your various comments in different threads.

    Because those are conclusions I’ve come to: I can’t accept an eternal regression of a god who had a father who had a father ad infinitum. I also believe that God, if now embodied, was not always so (nor was begotten by a father-god). So that’s where I am: With a God that is primarily an immaterial intelligence(a la comment 78) and secondarily a bodily form that is emergent from his creating/organizing activities.

    I feel like this puts me closer to traditional Christianity and away from a (folk?) Mormonism that exhalts bodily form itself as an essential and beginning-less characteristic of the gods.

    I know this is probably a worn out topic for Blake and others of you, but as I’m somewhat new to blogging about this any replies are appreciated.

    Comment by sl — July 12, 2011 @ 10:19 pm

  81. sl — I could accept an eternal regression of gods on logical grounds. I just don’t believe that it comports with scripture. Neither do I believe that such a view is the best reading of the King Follett Discourse and the Sermon in the Grove that are the usual starting point for such views. I’m clear that Brigham Young did believe in an eternal progression.

    I’m still in the question about whether intelligences must be material in some sense. I am not opposed to such a view on either logical or scriptural grounds — I just don’t believe that it has been squarely addressed and so it remains an open question. I have no problem with a complex material substrate that is always self-organizing as a basis for an eternal intelligence. What is most basic on such a view is not matter but the self-organizing activity of the intelligence. I am open to that view. I am also open to the view that spirit matter is so different from what physics calls matter that it is a mis-nomer to call it matter at all.

    I am crystal clear that God has not always had a resurrected body. One has to have a body, die and then resurrect to have such a body and I take it as obvious that such cannot be an eternal state of affairs.

    Comment by Blake — July 12, 2011 @ 10:39 pm

  82. JPL: I reject MMP because the notion of reincarnation and coming back to this life would be a regression. Progression is forward, not back to where we’ve been. We have our shot and then we move on to greater glory and challenges. I am also against MMP on logical grounds. If we resurrect then we take on a body to never be separated from it again according to Alma. It gives us capacities for experience that otherwise we lack. How would we slough off such a body? Why would we?

    Comment by Blake — July 12, 2011 @ 10:50 pm

  83. “I am crystal clear that God has not always had a resurrected body. One has to have a body, die and then resurrect to have such a body and I take it as obvious that such cannot be an eternal state of affairs.”

    True, regarding a resurrected body. But what about a premortal “body of spirit” like Jesus’ in the Bro. of Jared account? Did God the father possess such a body of spirit before entering his mortal experience? It makes sense to me than an amorphous intelligence would require embodiment to even assume a bodily form in spirit, and therforee God would not have possessed even a spirit body that resembled human form prior to his mortality. Yet this creates problems with the Bro. of Jared account, since Jesus was seen as a spirit body. Then is seems (unfortunately) that we’re right back to a spirit birth/embodiment in the premortal life.

    Comment by sl — July 12, 2011 @ 11:31 pm

  84. sl — there are numerous possibilities. Spirits just are organized bodies perhaps. Perhaps intelligences can assume forms temporarily. Perhaps spirits are the result of some spirit birth process. Perhaps intelligences aren’t amorphous. There are other possibilities like just the ability to make us perceive what they want to project to us without actually having such a form.

    Comment by Blake — July 12, 2011 @ 11:53 pm

  85. Blake, of course one can just make up a definition of “fully divine” to suit one’s purposes. That doesn’t matter here. What matters is explaining why in the world anyone needs to be resurrected.

    If we can be exalted without a resurrected body, the resurrection seems a little pointless, no? Not to belabor the point, it means that Paul was wrong about nearly everything he said on the subject.

    The idea that the pre-mortal Christ was equivalent in every way to the post-mortal, resurrected Christ is contradicted in numerous places in the New Testament. It is more or less a later trinitarian invention, from the debates about Arianism.

    For example, take this passage from Hebrews:

    But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.
    For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings (Heb 2:9-10)

    This scripture clearly indicates that Christ was not perfect prior to his atoning sacrifice. Along the same lines take this passage:

    Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him (Heb 5:8-9)

    The idea that Jesus Christ was exalted in every way prior to his earthly tenure is an idea almost completely foreign to the New Testament. As far as I can tell, it is completely foreign to the rest of the scriptures as well. To the degree we believe it at all, it is just because we have been influenced by the inventions of classical trinitarian doctrine.

    The whole idea makes the concept of Jesus Christ as a model for us to follow almost meaningless, which destroys the core message of the New Testament – namely that we can become a joint heir with Christ by following in his footsteps. The word “heir” here is important. If Christ never actually became exalted or perfected at a later date than his Father did, the term “heir” is misleading.

    And this is indeed precisely what John states, as recorded in D&C 93:

    And I, John, saw that he received not of the fulness at the first, but received grace for grace; And he received not of the fulness at first, but continued from grace to grace, until he received a fulness; And thus he was called the Son of God, because he received not of the fulness at the first (D&C 93:12-14)

    This idea that Christ had a fulness, or was fully divine, or was fully exalted, or was fully perfected at all points infinitely far into the past, or received no glory and power as a consequence of receiving a resurrected body is contrary to the scriptures as we know them.

    Comment by Mark D. — July 13, 2011 @ 5:51 am

  86. Mark: “The idea that Jesus Christ was exalted in every way prior to his earthly tenure is an idea almost completely foreign to the New Testament. As far as I can tell, it is completely foreign to the rest of the scriptures as well. To the degree we believe it at all, it is just because we have been influenced by the inventions of classical trinitarian doctrine.”

    I suggest that you re-read John 1:1 (“… and the Word was God”) and 17 (Christ prays for his pre-earth glory to be restored to him) and Hebrews (where Christ is recognized as superior to all of the angels). The notion that Christ partook of the fullness of pre-existent glory is also taught in 3 Ne. where Christ reveals that he was the one who delivered the Law and Ether 3 where he appears to the Brother of Jared. This is so obvious that again I think I must be missing something — but the more you write the more convinced I am that you are not catching on to the fact that fully divine persons can progress in many respects and add to their glory even though fully divine. Fully divine persons add to their glory by becoming embodied and then later by being resurrected.

    I am not claiming that Christ didn’t gain or progress by gaining a resurrected body. It is just that fully divine persons can progress. No one is claiming (least of me) that he was “equivalent in every way to the post-mortal, resurrected Christ….” Resurrection added to his glory no doubt. But that is not inconsistent with the view that Christ was fully divine before becoming mortal. This is the entire point of a kenotic Christology pursuant to which Christ empties himself of a fullness of deity and then regains it — grace for grace as D&C 93 says.

    You think that if Christ could learn from experience then he wasn’t fully divine before that experience. That is just false as I see it. There is always more to be learned from experience no matter how much experiential knowledge one already has.

    Comment by Blake — July 13, 2011 @ 11:17 pm

  87. Blake, you are using the term “fully divine” in a manner that seems incomprehensible to me. I am using it in the sense of “exalted”, with all the attributes necessary to be considered a true peer of God the Father in every way.

    I am not sure what happened to John 1:1, but it is incomprehensible. God the Father figures where, exactly? the “Word was with God” – that makes sense. The “Word was God”, literally understood, is nonsense.

    Which Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are one God, infinite and eternal, without end (D&C 20:28)

    I don’t doubt that Christ ranked higher than all the other angels before he came to this earth, and played a key role in who knows how many events, and represented the Father on numerous occasions, was God by divine investiture, and so on.

    The issue here is the necessity and implications of a glorified resurrected body in terms of exaltation and divine power. There is also a key subsidiary relationship here that must be understood as preceding Christ’s earthly tenure unless the scriptures are to be made meaningless.

    Namely Christ is glorified in the Father, that he received a fulness from the Father, and so on. Whatever happened here on earth has to be understood as a reprise of that process long before, otherwise the term “the Son of God” is inconsequential, as is the whole idea that we pray to the Father and not to the Son, and so on.

    That is a separate topic perhaps, but my point is that the doctrine of exaltation resolves around the proposition that the Son of God was the Son of God, i.e. his exaltation, elevation etc were and are subsequent to that of his Father. If that is not the case we can’t ever be understood to be peers of Jesus Christ in any way, and everything he went through is more or less superficial, or at least having no parallel with the salvation and exaltation of anyone else. D&C 93:20 states:

    I give unto you these sayings that you may understand and know how to worship, and know what you worship, that you may come unto the Father in my name, and in due time receive of his fulness.

    What do we worship? So far as Christ is concerned, (and presumably his Father as well), someone who “received not of the fulness at first”, but proceeded “grace for grace” from the very beginning. Or in Joseph Smith’s terms an “exalted man”, not someone who was always exalted, and just dropped the pretense for a while so we could learn how not to become like him.

    Comment by Mark D. — July 14, 2011 @ 6:25 am

  88. Sorry, but I just gotta.
    Also, appologize for the late horning in, but I was at Scout Camp.

    I have 6 children. They are made, in the ultimate sense, from the elements of my body, and my wife’s, comingled and charged thereafter with the elements of the earth to become what they are. This is a simple idea that we are surrounded by:

    They are my offspring.

    However, in all senses, we are ontologically equivalent – they are my children, not my creations. They are, in essence, the same as me, my peers, made of the same stuff – my stuff – but imbued now with the full qualities of humanity, and will yet become adults, my peers not my creatures.

    It seems that an option might be, then, that we are God’s offspring. Someone said that once.

    So maybe, like offspring, we are made from God’s stuff (“the first principles of man are co-equal with God himself”, someone said). In the ultimate sense, from intelligence, “that light which proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space— The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things (D&C 83).”
    The glory of God – the light that extends from His personal presence – is Intelligence – His stuff. We are Intelligence.

    Joseph Smith (or someone taking notes from the KFD) said:
    “Man existed in spirit; the mind of man—the intelligent part— is as immortal as, and is coequal with, God Himself.”

    Our stuff did not start to be, because it is God’s stuff, which does not ever start. One way to read “co-equal” is “the same as.”

    Again: “The first principles of man are self-existent with God.”

    Seems to me that another option in thinking about the origin of spirits would be that we are God’s offspring, made of the same Eternal stuff that He is because it is His stuff. “We read that the worlds were made by, through, and of Him”. What if we really were made of Him?

    Rather than intelligence floating out there coming from nowhere, or intelligences swimming around in the effluvium finally getting scooped up by God and shoved into spirit bodies, how about us just being made from God?

    I know that sounds crazy, new fully autonomous, free equals coming from pre-existing persons. It only happens all the time here on Earth.

    Comment by Mark A. Clifford — July 14, 2011 @ 1:57 pm

  89. Mark A, I think that falls under Matt’s option #4 from the original post. My biggest problem with your reasoning is that you are focusing on an analogy to physical birth, but you are not correctly representing what happens at physical birth from the standpoint of Mormon theology. You left out the part about a spirit coming from heaven to inhabit the body created by you and your wife. That piece is critical if we are going to translate the whole process into the spiritual realm by analogy.

    Comment by Jacob J — July 15, 2011 @ 11:59 am

  90. Jacob:
    Not quite.
    Option 4 specifies:
    “Non-Eternal Spirits formed from unintelligent matter called intelligence and not eternally of the same essence as God (lacking a spirit body)-”

    Many arguments have hinged on the definition of “essence”. However, what I intended to propose is that we do share God’s “essence”, being made out of His personal glory, “the light that proceeds forth from His presence to fill the immensity of space.” I am proposing an emanationist view. Some will object that this is not compatible with JS supposed teaching that “it is a spirit from age to age” to which I would respond that that hinges on the construal of the Joseph Smith term, “co-equal.”

    BH Roberts saw that as so non straightforward that he changed it to “co-eternal” (as old as) when co-equal might mean something more like, “the same as”. The KFD at least allows the possibility that “the rays of the sun have no beginning” because the emanate from the Sun, as we emanate from God.

    I would futher argue that what happens on earth (that is, my children being my offspring) is in actual fact the analogy of what happens in heaven, rather than the other way around.

    What seems to happen in childbirth, irrespective of what one holds about spirits indwelling persons, is that I and my wife togher make a new person. My thought would be that this is intended to provide us with the primary creative experience as God lives it:

    That He expands Himself to become a multitude;
    That he bears the same relationship (parent to child) that we do to our offspring.

    This makes our mortal lives a fit training for what God and the Gods do, rather than an irrelevancy of biology. We do here what He does there, after our order.

    As far as God needing to reach back to find some spiritual thing, or intelligency thing, to pour into the physical/more fine physical/spiritual thing that He begets, is, in my view, an irrelevancy. He is the Life of men. There is no more ultimate cause of Being. Some will argue (as they often will with emanationist views) that then God can only make little Gods. But, as the Mormons know, God is two people: Heavenly Father and His Spouse, our Hevenly Cultural Overbelief. It is not for no reason that culture overbelieved Her.

    At least one of the great geniuses of Mormonism however construed (although, at least some of the options discussed here seem to dis-construe it)is that it refashions mortality into part of, and into the pattern of, eternal life.

    I do not have my family for no reason. I am not married for only temporary ends. I am being fashioned into the life of God. This is His life.

    He is a married man
    He has children
    He bears an analagous relationship to His offspring as I do to mine

    The only exception that I would forsee is that He is the ultimate (being the fount from which both the material and spiritual creation come from) rather than the proximate cause of our existance.

    This, however, would tend to intensify, rather than diffuse, His moral obligation to engage His children (that is, you and me) and the Creation (which, as material, is also in some sense emanated from Him)lovingly.

    The other options, which make us either eternally seperate from God and adopted by Him, or made out of self existing effluvium, do not make it clear at all how it is that:

    Mortal life (marriage, children)is in any way in the form of the divine;
    We can be construed as the offspring of God in any meaningful sense;
    Why He might want to have anything at all to do with us;
    How we become obligated to obey Him in any fillial sense at all;
    Why it is straightforward that we should have potential to become what God is;
    How it might be that we are related kinds of things.

    Mormonism, as I experience it, is a variety of Christianity that is able to make sense out of here. I come to see my pattern of life as fitting the pattern of God’s life. If God is just scooping us up, or taking us hostage and embodying us, or adopting us, the relevance is dilluted to the point of irrelevance. I think to miss that is to miss the appeal of the system to some degree. Now, that observation (though most certainly true in my view) does not bear on how true emanationist readings of scripture and founding sermons are. But, it is significant in terms of interpreting the overall gesture of the restoriation. JS seemed to want to sacralize our experience, to reveal that God is a Man, and that Men (and Women) are gods. Not that God is any kind of wholly other thing.

    Comment by Mark A. Clifford — July 15, 2011 @ 12:48 pm

  91. Mark A Clifford,

    I understand what you are saying about essence, but I think you are reading more into the word essence than Matt intended. I understood him to explain himself in the parenthesis “not eternally of the same essence as God (lacking a spirit body).” You are reading into this other philosophical implications of the word essence, which is understandable, but I’m just trying to explain the source of our disagreement about whether your theory falls under #4 or not. Probably doesn’t matter either way, I get what you are saying.

    What seems to happen in childbirth, irrespective of what one holds about spirits indwelling persons, is that I and my wife togher make a new person.

    This is the crux of our disagreement. I maintain that in Mormonism your statement is simply false. The person who inhabits the physical body existed before you and your wife were born and you did not make them. Your response to this is that it is in your view “an irrelevancy.” I don’t see how it can be considered irrelevant since it speaks directly to the substance of your statement and shows it to be in error.

    Comment by Jacob J — July 18, 2011 @ 10:10 am

  92. Sorry, I’ve been unable to give this the attention it deserves. Jacob is doing a smashing job though, so I’m more than happy. I’m still back on aquinas’s excellent #57, so expect me to catch up by spetember…

    aquinas: (#57)- in this regard (the spirit body needing a purpose) this spirit body is a lot like eternal gender. In fact, I’d wager the two have the exact same challenge/problem.

    Comment by Matt W. — July 18, 2011 @ 11:45 am

  93. Jacob J:
    I think I get it, too.
    I resist the implication, also (maybe I am reading wrong) in option 4 that “Here we have something fundamentally similar to creation ex-nihilo, where God as creator takes the chaos of eternal matter…”
    Typically creation ex nihilo is concieved of as being out of nothing, not out of God’s Self. What is made from , or an “emanation” from God, would also share in being self-existent, eternal, being of the same species (essence)with God: making “essence” an ess-ential word (hah!). Creations made out of nothing but Divine Will, or “the chaos of eternal matter” would be creations, or creatures, hard not to understand as ontologically dependent on God. Children individuated out of God (‘emanated’) are co-equal with God and cannot be destroyed (like, I cannot kill my children just cause I made ‘em!). There is no “creation” about them, as they are begotten (in whatever sense, not necessarily sexually) from God’s own self rather than made out of non-God stuff, things on hand, or what have you.
    We do not often refer to our children as our “creatures” or our “creations” and this, I think, speaks to a reason why we have that habit of mind.

    Comment by Mark A. Clifford — July 18, 2011 @ 2:17 pm

  94. I mean, I could kill them, but we recognize that there is something different about that than say, breaking a pot I made. You get me.

    Comment by Mark A. Clifford — July 18, 2011 @ 2:22 pm

  95. It is difficult to come up with a widely held theological concept more contrary to the general tenor of Mormonism than Creatio ex nihilo.

    The whole idea is the creation of Greek philosophers several centuries B.C. and was largely adopted to make a grand synthesis of Christianity and Platonist philosophy, but at some considerable cost.

    To begin with, the Greeks who invented this idea were strict monotheists who didn’t believe God was a person at all. And it Christianity, not only is God the Father a person, but the Son, and the Holy Ghost too.

    So you have the setup for centuries of debates in Christianity about how to glue these two approaches together in a way the philosophers will find respectable. So they ended up with a timeless God, that mysteriously contained three persons, without body, parts, or passions. Essentially the God of Aristotle with a few minor footnotes.

    In terms of taking over the intellectual world, this was a resounding success. In terms of scriptural fidelity, not so much. You can probably consistently adopt this approach if you are an Arian, i.e. where God the Father and his son Jesus Christ are of two entirely different natures, one embodied, impassioned, and temporal and one unembodied, passion free, and timeless.

    I find it reasonably easy to read Paul that way, but generally speaking it is an approach not only foreign to Mormonism, but much of the Old Testament, and much of the New Testament as well.

    The overwhelming testimony of the scriptures is that God the Father is personal. How can you possibly be a person if you are the God of the Philosophers: timeless, unembodied, an un-impassioned?

    You get the impression that either God the Father is this timeless quasi-personal abstraction and Jesus Christ is sitting up in heaven on a throne all by himself, or Jesus himself was emanated sometime before his birth, did his thing, was resurrected, and then promptly discarded his resurrected body for all time. The former is vaguely consistent with the scriptures, the latter is let’s just ignore anything we find inconvenient.

    You can be a good Mormon even if you don’t believe God the Father has a body, but theologically speaking, the whole idea is about as foreign to Mormonism (and scriptural Judaism and Christianity) as Aristotle is.

    The rub is that there are several critical theological issues for which there is no consensus resolution if God has a body: divine power and divine origin are the big ones. Saying that you don’t need a body to be a person is just a shortcut to avoiding them.

    Comment by Mark D. — July 18, 2011 @ 5:44 pm

  96. So, if I am following, we have three options for where our stuff comes from:

    Creation Ex Nihilo, where our stuff comes from nothing, and God just wills us into existence out of nothing;

    Eternalism, where our stuff has either always been hanging around, or we have always been hanging around, and God just makes us into something else;

    Emanationism, where our stuff is made out of God.

    Seems to me that options 1 and 3 are absolutely as unlike each other as possible, as in option 1 we are made from the most nothing-y nothing, and in option 3 we are made from God Himself.

    As I intend it, this does not mean that God is not (are not) embodied, rather that those bodies have the quality of radiating intelligence (glory, shekinah, whatever) that is the God stuff. Not nothing:

    “(D&C 93:10) The worlds were made by him; men were made by him; all things were made by him, and through him, and of him.”

    Of? Huh.

    Comment by Mark A. Clifford — July 18, 2011 @ 6:42 pm

  97. Clifford, It also says Jesus was a lamb (or was he a vine or a light…). Scriptural literalism paints some beautiful pictures – much like Lewis Carroll does with his storys about Alice.

    Comment by Riley — July 18, 2011 @ 8:46 pm

  98. I suggest that the only way “of him” can make any sense is if you consider the “nature” or “form” of something in a quasi-material sense.

    For example, if someone takes a software program, and makes a derivative program that contains or is derived from the same source or pattern, one might well say he or she has made program B “out of” program A.

    Hylomorphism aside, I have a problem with the mental picture of a God existing in a universe all by himself with some unorganized matter out there, who then decides to create some people to keep him company.

    There are two problems here – one is there is no a priori reason why the universe should start out with only one god. It is far more likely that the universe would “start out” with an arbitrary number of them.

    The second problem is the plan of salvation – if God created us out of himself, it begs the following questions: (1) why did he do such a poor job (2) why did he create his own enemies (3) why have a plan of salvation at all?

    In my opinion, the only really respectable answer is that there was a time prior to the exaltation of every divine person and all divine persons. Opening the scene with someone who is already exalted in some sense – someone who has every refinement of culture, language, intelligence, sentiment, and morality – that sort of thing is pure laziness. Why should the universe come with a supply of one or more exalted beings?

    Comment by Mark D. — July 18, 2011 @ 9:06 pm

  99. 53 —

    my main objection to Pratt is his suggestion that you can take a bunch of individual wills and glue them together to make one person with a single will

    Except that is pretty much what your mind is. Many people notice that their personality is different when they are gardening, or driving a car, or playing basketball, or angry. Their mind is composed of a number of subsystems, each of which surfaces for the focal point.

    Much of maturing is the blending of these. Much of what causes problems is when people form so-called watertight compartments — going to church on Sunday, dispossessing widows and orphans on Monday.

    96 — there are blends of eternalism and emanationism where the Light emanates from God, the truth is caught up in it and has been hanging around forever, the two together become intelligence and that is born, through God as spirit. Our spirits enter into this life as souls and rise in the resurrection as completed beings.

    88 — that is a fun thought.

    64 — the thought that the terms are placeholders for concepts we lack the proper context to understand is an excellent one.

    77 — fully divine is not required to be divine … I think you are conflating the two and agree with the post at 87.

    Comment by Stephen M (Ethesis) — July 19, 2011 @ 5:02 am

  100. 98 —

    Why should the universe come with a supply of one or more exalted beings?

    An excellent question. If you have Ex Nihilo, then the universe requires exalted beings in order to exist. But once you abandon that, you get the other question.

    Comment by Stephen M (Ethesis) — July 19, 2011 @ 5:04 am

  101. Steven M (Ethesis):

    “…there are blends of eternalism and emanationism where the Light emanates from God, the truth is caught up in it and has been hanging around forever, the two together become intelligence.”

    That is neeto.

    What is so likeable about it is that it is so akin to what happens in real life (our real lives on Earth). Since I am a physician type, I cannot help but be impressed by real life, which is as fantastic as anything. And, in real life, we do pretty much the same thing when we create children from the elements of our own bodies plus the elements of the earth (what we eat, breathe, excetera). The co-creation of real people out of us and the earth is the striking thing.

    Right now someone (Jacob J) is objecting “but what about the Spirit?” which is a good point, but to which I would add, “isn’t our uncertainty about what spirits are part of the reason for this post,” and “if that were so straightforward why are we talking about it,” and finally “our experience on Earth may be crafted to bear witness of the eternal” and probably a few other things.

    Mark D:
    Now back to the point of #98: “…there is no a priori reason why the universe should start out with only one god. It is far more likely that the universe would “start out” with an arbitrary number of them.”

    Not certain why that would be at all.

    A question I would pose is: “are we the same kind of thing as God, or not? And, if there is more than one of these Gods, are they of the same kind, or not? And, if they are of the same kind, does not then suggest that they are of the same kind, that is, species, nature, and type? And if so, do they not then need to bear some kind of relationship to each other? It seems non-obvious to me why in a plural universe (one that starts out with multiple Gods) why they would necessarily be of the same kind, or related to each other in any way at all. We would then have a universe with God, Starfruit, SeaMonkey, and Hot Water Bad Dieties who bear little relationship to each other, other than that they are facts of life.

    I think that most traditions, even (particularly) Eastern ones, tend toward monistic universes rather than plural ones (in terms of the kinds of existing things) for this very reason. If evolution has taught us anything (and we are good Mormons, so we learn from evolutionary therory, yes we do!) then it is that “life coheres”. We share a nature, an ancestry, and a source, because life begets life and nothing comes from nothing. And nothing comes from several somethings. Or so it seems to me.

    Good game everyone.

    Comment by Mark A. Clifford — July 19, 2011 @ 11:16 am

  102. Oh, and I meant, “God of Hot Water Bottles.” First time ever typed in English, phrase come out wrong.

    Comment by Mark A. Clifford — July 19, 2011 @ 11:25 am

  103. My personal belief, is that there would be a whole race of gods. And maybe even, multiple planets where they would exist. Assuming evolution is true, and an infinite past.

    A question; is it possible to progress on a planet of chaos, hate and envy? If not, then I would suggest that all gods would come about because of goodness and love.

    Comment by CEF — July 19, 2011 @ 1:34 pm

  104. Mark A. Clifford,

    Right now someone (Jacob J) is objecting “but what about the Spirit?” which is a good point, but to which I would add, “isn’t our uncertainty about what spirits are part of the reason for this post,” and “if that were so straightforward why are we talking about it,”

    The fact that we are uncertain about some things does not mean that we are uncertain about all things. There are some facts about spirits which are basic to Mormon theology. Of course everyone is free to challenge anything they want, I am not one to discourage that, but I think we should be clear about speculations which fit easily within the mainstream of Mormon theology and when we are turning over the apple cart. I am arguing that the following are well established anchors in Mormon theology:

    1. We existed as spirits before coming to earth
    2. As spirits, we had identity and autonomy, we made decisions
    3. Sometime in the vacinity of conception/birth our pre-existing spirit entered our mortal body

    Each of these has strong scriptural support and uniform support from all of the modern prophets. I don’t think any of these can be persuasively challenged based on the fact that there are uncertainties surrounding the nature of spirits.

    Comment by Jacob J — July 19, 2011 @ 2:15 pm

  105. And I wouldn’t!
    My argument is one of analogy, not of identity;
    my point is about where these spirits come from (God, or God and Truth Stuff) not that there aren’t such things as spirits.
    It seems to me that you are into the idea of God capturing pre-pre-existant intelligence monsters and putting them into Spirit bodies so much that you are therefore obligated to overdo it, and I am into God being the source of spirtis that I am obligated to overdo it
    Good game

    Comment by Mark A. Clifford — July 19, 2011 @ 3:33 pm

  106. Huh? You claimed that earthly parents create a new person. I pointed out that the person already existed, which undermines the point you were making with your analogy. I still have yet to see a cogent response my point.

    Your counter in #101 that we don’t really know that much about spirits fails because of the reasons outlined in #104. My point relied only on the things that we DO know about spirits.

    By the way, I am not in any way committed to the idea I have been defending on this thread. My only intent is to deflate poorly reasoned or illogical objections to the Roberts view so that its strengths and weaknesses can be fairly evaluated.

    Comment by Jacob J — July 19, 2011 @ 4:52 pm

  107. I would actually like a model where eternity isn’t understood as an infinite stretch of past time but more of a timeless or atemporal state. Each of us would have always existed as a sort of Platonic form or something.

    Unfortunately this is impossible to reconcile with scripture and the teachings of the prophets, specifically on the premortal council and the war in heaven. So . . . to rescue the theory you have to apply to intelligences and have spirits that were created in time to house the intelligences and you end up in #3, most likely

    Comment by Adam G. — August 2, 2011 @ 3:29 pm

  108. One problem in LDS theology is that it has not done a good job explaining why we need a physical body nor the difference between a spirit body and physical body.

    Once you accept that physical matter has always been around in some sense, than it makes sense that you need a physical body to enjoy a full range of experience/to have a relationship with physical matter/to be acted upon by physical matter. Once you accept that experience and relationship are goods, the need for a physical body follows.

    I like the Mark A. Clifford/Stephen Ethesis stuff on emanation. Its good poetry, which is probably the best you can get out of these sorts of speculations.

    Comment by Adam G. — August 2, 2011 @ 3:53 pm

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