Reasoning from the scriptures with humility

August 4, 2009    By: Jacob J @ 11:03 am   Category: Scriptures

The other night I was reading from the scriptures and I found a passage that didn’t make sense to me. Here are the verses:

18 For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:
19 By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;
20 Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. (1 Pet 3:18-20)

6 For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit. (1 Pet 4:6)

When I read this, I marveled because I know that Jesus spent about three years preaching repentance during his mortal ministry and even though he performed a bunch of amazing miracles he was only able to convince a relatively small number of people to repent and follow him.

By contrast, his ministry among the dead was limited to the very short time between the crucifixion and his resurrection–only a few days. I sat there wondering how Peter could be correct that Jesus was able in those few days to preach to all the spirits in prison which included a vast multitude of people going all the way back to those who were disobedient in the days of Noah.

It was at this point that my understanding was opened and I realized my arrogance in assuming that I could apply human experience and logic to what happens in the spirit world. After all, the Book of Mormon clearly teaches us that “all is as one day with God, and time only is measured unto men” (Alma 40:8). Further, I knew from my study of General Relativity that in a block universe such as ours, time is twisted up with space so that my perception of time is fundamentally flawed and incorrect. Since God lives outside of time, I realized that it was foolishness to apply my limited human experience to these scriptures.

The eyes of my understanding were opened and I realized that if Peter said Jesus preached to all the spirits in prison in a few days then that’s the way it was. Who am I to question and “make sense” of that which has been revealed and given to me in the canonized revelations of the Bible?

So for a change I exercised a bit of humility, I accepted that this story probably can’t make sense in this mortal sphere but that some day it will make sense when I can reason using God’s logic with an understanding of God’s time. I went to sleep, happy to know that for once I could just accept things the way they really are.

Historian’s note: Best I can tell, this was in part a response to this post and its aftermath.


  1. Hehe.

    What a great example of humility you are to us all Jacob. I’m glad you are not like those arrogant people who are always looking for explanations that make sense.

    Comment by Geoff J — August 4, 2009 @ 11:34 am

  2. Jacob, where does it state in the scriptures that God is outside of time? What are you talking abo….ooohh I get it. Yeah, take that you anti-thinker-dinkers.

    Comment by Kent (MC) — August 4, 2009 @ 12:00 pm

  3. Sarcastic Presentists.

    Comment by Matt W. — August 4, 2009 @ 12:10 pm

  4. I sat there wondering how Peter could be correct that Jesus was able in those few days to preach to all the spirits in prison which included a vast multitude of people going all the way back to those who were disobedient in the days of Noah.

    He easily could have transmitted or “broadcast” the message conference style without any resort to warping time or space.

    Comment by A. Davis — August 4, 2009 @ 12:13 pm

  5. Kent,

    If you would just read the post I already cited the scripture in there: Alma 40:8. Add to that scriptures like D&C 38:2 and Moses 1:6.

    A. Davis,

    Good point. Good point. That would probably work. Come to think of it, this could be a good solution to the whole “take the gospel to all the world” thing. We have been going about that in a massively inefficient way when compared to your broadcast idea.

    Comment by Jacob J — August 4, 2009 @ 1:02 pm

  6. Hi Jacob – I get your point and it is well made, but just for the record, (not that I think you do not know this) it does not say that Christ taught the gospel to *all* the spirits in prison. So I think we believe that Christ set up a missionary program just like He did here.

    Comment by CEF — August 4, 2009 @ 1:15 pm

  7. Yeah, but he skipped the bad discussions we had to give in the 90’s and went straight to “Preach My Gospel”.

    Comment by Kent (MC) — August 4, 2009 @ 1:19 pm

  8. Does a post count as satire if most people can’t tell it is satire?

    Comment by Geoff J — August 4, 2009 @ 1:29 pm

  9. This is satire? Jacob said it, I believe it, that settles it.

    Comment by Mark Brown — August 4, 2009 @ 1:47 pm

  10. I’m with Mark #9.

    Comment by Jacob J — August 4, 2009 @ 1:48 pm

  11. Oh, goodness.

    Comment by Ben Pratt — August 4, 2009 @ 2:25 pm

  12. When my kids act like this, I make them say 3 nice things.

    Comment by C Jones — August 4, 2009 @ 2:46 pm

  13. CEF, The whole point here (as I understand it) is that President Joseph F. Smith may not have received the revelation now recorded in D&C 138 unless he carefully pondered what really happened, rather than accepting the idea (of Jesus personally persuading everyone in three days) as an article of faith and moving on.

    Comment by Mark D. — August 4, 2009 @ 3:19 pm

  14. Jacob,

    I’m glad you too have seen the folly in “reasoning thus”. Now I hope this doesn’t turn your humility into pride, but so far you’re doing better than Abraham

    Comment by Riley — August 4, 2009 @ 3:46 pm

  15. Thank you Mark. By the way, it is good to talk to you agian.

    Comment by CEF — August 5, 2009 @ 9:01 am

  16. Always a pleasure, CEF.

    Comment by Mark D. — August 5, 2009 @ 10:34 am

  17. Thanks for pointing us back to D&C 138 — I happen to love that Revelation.

    Comment by john f. — August 6, 2009 @ 8:22 am

  18. Time is merely the counting of periodic movement – the vibration of a crystal, the oscillation of a weight, the turn of a gear – to claim that God is outside of time makes no sense.

    Comment by ed42 — August 9, 2009 @ 1:49 pm