Neo-pragmatism (at least as Richard Rorty understands it) is committed to the position that, in some sense, the earth did not exist until there was a community of people to conceptualize and categorize it as such. To be sure, there are obviously ways of reading this which do not do justice to the neo-pragmatists. The main point at issue lies in the question, “In what sense did the earth not exist until relatively recently?” I think this question is especially interesting within the context of a Mormon worldview that – in some sense – believes in a very young earth. In this post I want to sketch out some (very) rough interpretations and possibilities of how neo-pragmatism might(!) link up with LDS claims. (Warning: rampant speculation ahead!) (more…)
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?
Among the most radical teachings of Joseph Smith was his flat rejection of creatio ex nihilo — the idea that a beginningless God created all else that exists out of nothing. By rejecting creatio ex nihilo Joseph opened a world of theological and cosmological possibilities that are precluded from the creedal Christians who accept creation out of nothing as a foundational believe. One of the the theoretical possibilities is an idea I am labeling “radical universalism”.
Here are some of the theological assumptions that would underlie a radically universalistic cosmology:
A. God is beginningless
The scriptures that support the idea of a beginningless God plentiful so one might think that this is an uncontroversial assumption. However in some of our past discussions Mark D. and others have argued that while the rudimentary parts of God are beginningless it is possible that there was a time before there was a fully formed God. While I entertained this idea in the past I currently believe the scriptural support for the claim there never was a time before God is stronger.
B. The One God is a union of multiple divine persons
Next year’s manual for Relief Society/Priesthood will be Gospel Principles, and chapter 2 begins with the following quote:
“All men and women are .Â .Â . literally the sons and daughters of Deity.Â .Â .Â . Man, as a spirit, was begotten and born of heavenly parents, and reared to maturity in the eternal mansions of the Father, prior to coming upon the earth in a temporal [physical] body” 
Jacob J and I have been l somewhat half-heartedly putting together this post for over a month now. Seeing J. Stapley’s excellent post over at BCC, I thought I’d dust it off a bit and post it. The scope of this post is not to put forth any foundational doctrine or all encompassing concept of theology, but it is merely our hope to establish a few concepts regarding Joseph’s beliefs regarding spirits, and specifically his understanding that pre-mortal human spirits were in human form, which some would term a spirit body. We readily acknowledge that Joseph’s thoughts on this matter are disputed and the sources we have are ambiguous enough to support multiple readings.
With that in mind, it seems prudent to survey as many quotes as possible and look for points on which they seem to converge. While one, two, or even three quotes may be disputed, we believe the combined evidence of these statements puts forward a strong case for what Joseph may have believed on the subject. We provide or reference all the statements and sermons we think are pertinent to the subject below. Please feel free to add to these in the comments, if you know of any statements on the subject (for or against) that we may have missed. (more…)
What is a spirit? Joseph Smith talked a good deal about spirits and minds, but he never clearly articulated his view of what constitutes a spirit. This leaves us in an unfortunate position of trying to piece together what he must have believed about spirits from other things he said. On one hand, he was clear and consistent in asserting that spirits are co-eternal with God and have existed from all eternity. On the other hand, he used language that suggests an ontological dualism in which mind is a different sort of thing than matter. (more…)
“I Am a Child of God” is a classic Mormon hymn and it teaches a fundamental Mormon doctrine — all people are children of God. The problem is that most Mormons seem to assume they are only children of God the Father. Not so. Our scriptures clearly teach that all of the faithful are also children of God the Son. Here are some of the relevant passages.
We are the children of Christ:
7 And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters. (Mosiah 5:7)
An interesting side discussion popped up in a recent post on the topic of spirit birth. In that thread I mentioned: “I think the evidence against some kind of literal spirit birth (especially a viviparous birth like our mortal birth) is much stronger than any evidence for it.” Since the answer to this question has major implications about the nature of the Father, Jesus Christ, and even us I think it is worth looking at. In this post I will discuss the evidence I am aware of against the idea of literal/viviparous spirit birth, the evidence in favor, and since today is Father’s Day I will also mention some of the implications of this question concerning the “fatherhood” of the members of the Godhead. (more…)