Eternal Regression

February 3, 2005    By: Geoff J @ 4:52 am   Category: Eternal Progression,MMP,Theology

The concept of eternal progression is well established in Mormonism. While the nitty gritty details are still among the “mysteries”, the basic idea of man having the potential to progress to be like God is a fundamental doctrine of the Restoration. But what about moving backwards? If in this life we can progress to attain more light and intelligence and thus be more like God, can we regress by losing light and intelligence and thus become less like God than we started? Logic and the scriptures seem to say yes.

First I appeal to the teaching of Lehi:

For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my first-born in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility. (2 Nep. 2:11)

Alma agreed:

Now, repentance could not come unto men except there were a punishment, which also was eternal as the life of the soul should be, affixed opposite to the plan of happiness, which was as eternal also as the life of the soul. (Alma 42:16)

The basic idea is that there is a potential mirror image to our progression in this life. For all the heights we can attain there are mirroring depths we can attain.

The concept progressing and increasing in light and intelligence is taught in the D&C:

For intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence; wisdom receiveth wisdom; truth embraceth truth; virtue loveth virtue; light cleaveth unto light; mercy hath compassion on mercy and claimeth her own; justice continueth its course and claimeth its own; judgment goeth before the face of him who sitteth upon the throne and governeth and executeth all things. (D&C 88:40)

That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day. (D&C 50:24)

In the Book of Mormon we are taught the idea of light and truth being taken away if we reject it:

For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.(2 Nep. 28:30)

And now behold, I tell you by the spirit of prophecy, that if ye transgress the commandments of God, behold, these things which are sacred shall be taken away from you by the power of God, and ye shall be delivered up unto Satan, that he may sift you as chaff before the wind. (Alma 37: 15)

The possibility of eternal regression seems pretty obvious to me. Am I missing something? If not, does the idea never seem to be taught in the church?

Update April ’05:
I just found this interesting quote on eternal regression of spirits —

Through the exercise of their free wills they grew, or remained passive, or perhaps even retrograded, for with living things motion in any direction is possible. (Widtsoe, Rational Theology, p. 17)


  1. I personally have a different perspective than what you allude to, though there are some similarities. However, there is no question that Satan is now worse off than he was pre council. That is to say, that he regressed. Moreover, in consideration of the primacy of agency in our theology, no one can make us progress. I surmise that everyone in the celestial kingdom will have the right intentions and consequently progress. I don?t know about the volition outside that kingdom.

    B. Young did speculated once on the fate of Perdition that would tie in well with you?re take on things. 

    Posted by J. Stapley

    Comment by Anonymous — February 3, 2005 @ 4:21 pm

  2. I’m curious about what your different perspective is on this. Considering your apparent leaning toward the parts that make up our spirits being eternal rather than our spirits as they now exist being eternal, I would think this would be right up your alley, J.

    I’m finding myself agreeing with Brother Brigham on a lot of theological and doctrinal things (but not all). Since he personally knew Joseph so well that is somewhat comforting. 

    Posted by Geoff Johnston

    Comment by Anonymous — February 3, 2005 @ 5:11 pm

  3. A couple of quotes on this subject from Brigham Young:

    To live as I am, without progress, is not life, in fact we may say that is impossible. There is no such principle in existence, neither can there be. All organized existence is in progress, either to an endless advancement in eternal perfections, or back to dissolution. You may explore all the eternities that have been, were it possible, then come to that which we now understand according to the principles of natural philosophy, and where is there an element, an individual living thing, an organized body, of whatever nature, that continues as it is? IT CAN NOT BE FOUND. All things that have come within the bounds of man’s limited knowledge-the things he naturally understands, teach him, that there is no period, in all the eternities, wherein organized existence will become stationary, that it cannot advance in knowledge, wisdom, power, and glory.

    If a man could ever arrive at the point that would put an end to the accumulation of life-the point at which he could increase no more, and advance no further, we should naturally say he commenced to decrease at the same point. Again, when he has gained the zenith of knowledge, wisdom and power, it is the point at which he begins to retrograde; his natural abilities will begin to contract, and so he will continue to decrease, until all he knew is lost in the chaos of forgetfulness. As we understand naturally, this is the conclusion we must come to, if a termination to the increase of life and the acquisition of knowledge is true.

    Because of the weakness of human nature, it must crumble to the dust. But in all the revolutions and changes in the existence of men in the eternal world which they inhabit, and in the knowledge they have obtained as people on the earth, there is no such thing as principle, power, wisdom, knowledge, life, position, or anything that can be imagined, that remains stationary-they must increase or decrease.

    But to simply take the path pointed out in the Gospel, by those who have given us the plan of salvation, is to take the path that leads to life, to eternal increase; it is to pursue that course wherein we shall NEVER, NEVER lose what we obtain, but continue to collect, to gather together, to increase, to spread abroad, and extend to an endless duration. Those persons who strive to gain ETERNAL LIFE, gain that which will produce the increase their hearts will be satisfied with. Nothing less than the privilege of increasing eternally, in every sense of the word can satisfy the immortal spirit. If the endless stream of knowledge from the eternal fountain could all be drunk in by organized intelligences, so sure immortality would come to an end, and all eternity be thrown upon the retrograde path.

    (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 1, pp. 349-350, July 10, 1853)

    We might ask, when shall we cease to learn? I will give you my opinion about it; never, never. If we continue to learn all that we can, pertaining to the salvation which is purchased and presented to us through the Son of God, is there a time when a person will cease to learn? Yes, when he has sinned against God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and the Holy Ghost-God’s minister; when he has denied the Lord, defied Him and committed the sin that in the Bible is termed the unpardonable sin-the sin against the Holy Ghost. That is the time when a person will cease to learn, and from that time forth, will descend in ignorance, forgetting that which they formerly knew, and decreasing until they return to the native element, whether it be one thousand or in one million years, or during as many eternities as you can count. They will cease to increase, but must decrease, until they return to the native element. These are the only characters who will ever cease to learn, both in time and eternity.

    We shall never cease to learn, unless we apostatize from the religion of Jesus Christ. Then we shall cease to increase, and will continue to decrease and decompose, until we return to our native element. Can you understand that? It is a subject worthy the attention of the eminent divines of Christendom, and they may search into it until they are tired, and still know comparatively little about it, while I preach it to you in a few words.

    (JD 3:203, February 17, 1856)

    Comment by Christopher Bradford (Grasshopper) — April 1, 2005 @ 11:29 am

  4. Niiiiice! You rock, Grasshopper. How do you dig this stuff up? There is so much to sift through… I usually end up just using logic and the standard works to support these kind of principles like I did with this post. This kind of quote sure helps to show my conclusions aren’t unique to me. Any tricks to finding gems like these quotes in Gospel Link or something?

    Comment by Geoff Johnston — April 1, 2005 @ 11:57 am

  5. It takes a certain facility with search keywords. For this one, I used terms like “retrograde”, “increase”, “decrease”. You can also restrict your searches to the Journal of Discourses by checking the boxes next to them (viewing the titles by sets helps).

    That said, for the Journal of Discourses, I use an infobase from that includes the ability to search by speaker.

    Comment by Christopher Bradford (Grasshopper) — April 1, 2005 @ 12:21 pm

  6. […] truly beloved children of our God and we are given as many chances as we need to progress or regress as individuals. Rather than a system with external barriers to our progress, the only barrier we face t […]

    Pingback by New Cool Thang » Who were the inhabitants of all those other worlds? — April 10, 2005 @ 12:35 am

  7. There are many dualities.
    Mortality exists only in duality.
    God will know the proper sequence.
    Multiverse memory is a spiritual gift.
    Multiple dualities means multi-universe.
    Such shall be the end of life as you know it.
    Multiverse memory is also physically impossible.
    The laws of physics are particular to this mortality.
    Spiritual prison is the experience of an eternal regression.
    Paradisical glory is the experience of an eternal progression.
    If you are not progressing in life, you are regressing in immortality.
    You took part in the counsel to decide whether or not to come to this duality.
    This mortality has had a deep history prepared long before your birth into this world.
    Other multiple mortalities are outside of this time, outside of this space, and out of this sequence.
    You were in full control of all the laws of physics in this duality and you have chosen to accept them.
    A higher power, whom we shall call God, can deliver you from this chaos and lead you into the light.
    Each mortality may become part of your regression toward your spiritual prison, if you should choose it.
    Each mortality you experience is an essential and important part of your progression toward your paradisical glory.
    Your spirit has a certain knowledge that taking control of the laws of physics in this universe prematurely shall result in the eternal downward spiral.
    If you can one day become spiritually satisfied with your progression, you will give yourself the permission to control the laws of physics in this duality.
    Yet it is essential in your spiritual progression that in at least one duality or another that you shall experience the level of enlightenment capable of satisfying your spirit.
    Such unification of your own duality could be the start of something more wonderful than anything within the human imagination,
    something more horrible than anything within the human imagination,
    or both.

    Comment by Nonvirtual — November 22, 2007 @ 10:19 pm