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What are intelligences?

June 1, 2006 By: Geoff J @ 3:55 pm Category: Eternal Progression,Spirits/Intelligences,Theology

Joseph Smith introduced the idea of intelligences in both modern scripture and in non-canonized sermons.
In this post I want to explore what exactly it is that intelligences are. I dont expect to come up with
definitive answers because I dont think enough has been revealed to find such, but I do hope that a fruitful
discussion will ensue that helps us all sort out the various ideas that relate to the concept of intelligences.

Intelligences (plural) are not the same as intelligence (singular)

One of the problems with the whole notions of intelligences is that intelligences (plural) are reportedly
things usually thought of as proto-spirits, or essences, or sometimes as another name for spirits. Intelligence
(singular) is usually referred to in the more traditional meaning of the word and is synonymous with
knowledge of truth.

Here are some examples from the LDS canon.

Intelligence as knowledge of truth:

The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth. (D&C 93: 36)

Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the
resurrection. And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his
diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come.
(D&C 130: 18-19)

Accordingly, as I had been commanded, I went at the end of each year, and at each time I found
the same messenger there, and received instruction and intelligence from him at each of our
interviews, respecting what the Lord was going to do, and how and in what manner his kingdom
was to be conducted in the last days. (JS-H 1: 54)

Intelligence as autonomous proto-spirit or spirit:

Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or
made, neither indeed can be. 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: 29-30)

21 I dwell in the midst of them all; I now, therefore, have come down unto thee to declare unto
thee the works which my hands have made, wherein my wisdom excelleth them all, for I rule in
the heavens above, and in the earth beneath, in all wisdom and prudence, over all the
intelligences thine eyes have seen from the beginning; I came down in the beginning in the midst
of all the intelligences thou hast seen.
22 Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the
world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones;
23 And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said:
These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they
were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou
wast born. (Abr. 3: 21-23)

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Intelligence used in a way that could mean either of the above (though seems more like the knowledge usage
in context):

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)

There are two main models that LDS thinkers have come up with regarding intelligences. One is the
intelligence particles model as first described by Orson Pratt and the other assumes that each person (or
animal or plant?) is powered by a single beginningless intelligence.

The intelligence particles model

When describing the particles model Orson Pratt wrote:

If the human spirit be nearly the same form and magnitude as the fleshly tabernacle in which it
dwells, it must be composed of an immense number of particles, each of which is susceptible of
almost an infinite variety of thoughts, emotions, and feelings. Whence originated these
susceptibilities? Are they the results of organization? Did each particle obtain its susceptibilities
by being united with others? This would be impossible; for if a particle were entirely destitute of
the capacity of thinking and feeling, no possible organization could impart to it that power. The
power to think and feel, is not, nor can not be derived from any arrangement of particles. If they
have not this power before organization, they can never have it afterwards. It follows then, that if
ever there were a time when the particles of the human spirit existed in a disorganized state, each
particle so existing, must have had all the susceptibilities of feeling and thought that it now has;
and, consequently, each particle must have been a separate independent being of itself.
Therefore, under such circumstances, one particle would have been no more affected with the
state or condition of others, than one man is affected with the pleasures or pains of others with
whom he is not associated.
(Orson Pratt, Absurdities of Immaterialism, Liverpool, 1848)

Preceding that period there was an endless duration, and each particle of our spirits had an
eternal existence, and was in possession of eternal capacities. Now can it be supposed, for one
moment, that these particles were inactive and dormant from all eternity until they received their
organization in the form of the infant spirit? Can we suppose that particles, possessed of the
power to move themselves, would not have exerted that power, during the endless duration
preceding their organization? If they were once organized in the vegetable kingdom, and then
disorganized by becoming the food of celestial animals, and then again re-organized in the form
of the spirits of animals which is a higher sphere of being, then, is it unreasonable to suppose that
the seine particles have, from all eternity, been passing through an endless chain of unions and
disunions, organizations and disorganizations, until at length they are permitted to enter into the
highest and most exalted sphere of organization in the image and likeness of God? A
transmigration of the same particles of spirits from a lower to a higher organization, is
demonstrated from the fact that the same particles exist in a diffused scattered state, mingled
with other matter; next, they exist in a united form, growing out of the earth in the shape of grass,
herbs, and trees; and after this, these vegetables become food for celestial animals, and these
same particles are organized into their offspring, and thus form the spirits of animals. Here, then,
is apparently a transmigration of the same particles of spirit from an inferior to a superior

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organization, wherein their condition is improved, and their sphere of action enlarged. Who shall
set any bounds to this upward tendency of spirit? Who shall prescribe limits to its progression? If
it abide the laws and conditions of its several states of existence, who shall say that it will not
progress until it shall gain the very summit of perfection, and exist in all the glorious beauty of
the image of God?
When therefore, the infant spirit is first born in the heavenly world, that is not a commencement
of its capacities. Each particle eternally existed prior to the organization; each was enabled to
perceive its own existence; each had the power of self-motion; each was an intelligent, living
being of itself, having no knowledge of the particular thoughts, feelings, and emotions of other
particles with which it never had been in union. Each particle was as independent of every other
particle as on individual person is of another. In this independent separate condition, it would be
capable of being governed by laws, adapted to the amount of knowledge and experience it had
gained during its past eternal existence.
(Orson Pratt, The Pre-Existence of Man, The Seer, 102-103. 1853)

The single intelligence model

This model assumes that there is a single intelligence that powers (or is the same as) all spirits. Some assume
that uncreated intelligences are limited in their potential, so for instance a dog-level intelligence can never
progress beyond the level of dog. Others seem to think that each intelligence is beginningless as something
like a blank slate and that each has infinite growth potential. (If anyone else has something to add here please
chime in!)

Both of these models have some strengths and some weaknesses. I am not firmly in one camp or the other,
but of the two I lean toward the particles model currently. It may be that neither of these models is correct
though. One question I am interested in with both models is if intelligences vary in degree of glory in their
most fundamental, beginningless and irreducible states or not. If anyone has an opinion one way or the other
about this question please share. So sound off friends what is your theory of intelligences?

(See my previous related posts here and here.)

[Associated radio.blog song: The Waterboys Spirit]

Comments (123)

123 Comments
1. I think the particles model is the most fruitful, and goes along with the idea of spirit being purer matter.
My vote is on particles, and I have always felt that was what Joseph meant from the beginning with this
notion, and never viewed it any other way until hearing about it as a synonym for an entire spirit here.

Comment by Jeff Day June 1, 2006 @ 4:47 pm

2. Intelligences are discussed primarily in three places: D&C 88, 93, and Abraham 3.

In Abraham 3, it tells us that spirits are organized intelligences. That suggests that prior to becoming
spirits, intelligence is unorganized or disorganized.

We know that intelligence is light and truth, that it cannot be created nor unmade. We also know that

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it is animated by the Light of Christ. Individualism does not necessarily seem to take place until
Intelligence is created as spirit.

I agree with Blake Ostler in his Volume I of Attributes of God that intelligences are any particle,
element or thing that is animated by the Light of Christ. Since the Light of Christ is in and through all
things, that means all things (including God) is an Intelligence. But so is every individual atom and
subatomic particle. When God organizes elements into higher forms (atoms into molecules) they
retain their old memories/abilities and add new abilities, as well. For example, hydrogen has certain
capabilities and aspects, but when combined with oxygen can form water molecules, which have new
abilities or intelligence.

These can later be formed into higher forms of intelligence, until we become spirits where
individuality and agency begin. As mortals, we are continuing on the process of developing into higher
forms of intelligence.

Comment by Gary Smith June 1, 2006 @ 5:32 pm

3. Dont the scriptures say that some intelligences were of higher quality, and that there was one in the
midst that was more intelligent than they all or something to that affect.

This leads me to believe that intelligences, whatever they were, had free will and ability and knowledge
etc. If not, what would distinguish one aboth the other? Particles dont do this for me. If we allow that
God had very much to do with the quality of our intelligence through some near absolute creation, we
begin to face some theological problems I feel. So the less organization God does at the intelligence
stage the more comfortable I am.

I want to believe that even intelligences have some matter to them, but I do not necessarily believe they
have any particular form until they receive a spirit body. Since they are eternal, perhaps they do not
move and not subject to time? Silly thought perhaps.

Comment by Eric June 1, 2006 @ 5:55 pm

4. Ive always believed that intelligence is the matter that spirit is formed of, and that it is beginningless
and endless, being matter. Intelligences are spoken of in the plural because they already denote
individuality, or an ability to be classified, hence noble and great ones. While the concept of
intelligences denotes formation, the idea of intelligence denotes a more fluid and ambivalent substance.

Is intelligence equal to spirit then? No, for spirit can be good spirit or evil spirit. Intelligence is the
matter for the spirit of truth, hence light, hence the Light of Christ, sometimes said to be, Pure
intelligence.

Comment by Nate Jensen June 1, 2006 @ 6:12 pm

5. Geoff,

In the post, you said there are two main models with regard to intelligences, but I dont think youve
divided up the topic quite right. Historically, the biggest debate has been between those who said
intelligence is a stuff out of which individuals are created, verses those who said individuality is
beginningless. I hate to start things off with a huge blockquote, but I think this quote from Eternal Man
expresses the B.H. Roberts view very well.

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Individuality is difficult to picture. That has led some to the view that intelligence is a
name given to a primal stuff out of which, perhaps, the spirit personality is constructed, but
that individuality does not really emerge until then. The doctrine of the Church, however,
is clearly a doctrine of individual, separate intelligences. This is required by the original
statements of the Prophet in Nauvoo. The Journal of Wilford Woodruff, for example,
shows that the phrase a spirit from age to age refers to an entity, a person, and
individual. (See footnotes to the sermon in Teachings, especially p. 354). It is required by
the logic of the Prophet Anything that has a beginning may have an end. It is required by
the use of the plural intelligences in many passages in the Standard Works. Finally, it is
required by official pronouncements of the Church. The issue became a matter of wide
discussion in the early 1900s. B. H. Roberts Seventys Yearbook, Volume 4, assumed the
co-eternity of individuals. The book was read and approved by the First Council of the
Seventy. Later controversy resulted in an article titled The Immortality of Man. By
assignment, Elder Roberts read this article first to President Fancis M. Lyman, then to the
First Presidency (President Joseph F. Smith was President) and seven of the Council of the
Twelve. It was thoroughly discussed. The article was published with their encouragement
and endorsement. (April, 1907 Improvement Era). This article teaches the existence of
independent, uncreated, self-existent intelligences which, though they differ, are alike in
their eternity and their freedom. (p. 419). This is a doctrine, Roberts often said, from
which spring most glorious and harmonious truths. (Truman Madsen, Eternal Man pg.
24-25 note 5)

Now, I dont agree with Madsen that the doctrine of the church is clear, but I do agree with his view.
The Orson Pratt view you quoted heavily in the post is in the same basic camp as B.H. Roberts and
Truman Madsen (individuality is beginningless for Pratt), but he had his own system built on top of it
about spirits being created out of multiple individual intelligences.

I find the Pratt view quite problematic. I have yet to see anyone make a compelling case for how a
bunch of independent wills can be joined together to create the one will I experience as me. It seems to
me Pratt glosses over this very serious problem with the sort of mystical explanation he scoffed at in
trinitarian doctrines (which similarly try to say that multiple people are mystically one person at the
same time that they are independent).

Here is the sort of glossing over I refer to: The intelligent particles of a mans spirit are by their
peculiar union, but one human spirit (Orson Pratt, Absurdities of Immaterialism, ed. 1849 pg. 26).

Thanks Orson, that explanation clears it up for me.

Comment by Jacob June 1, 2006 @ 8:47 pm

6. Thanks for the comments all.

Gary Smith I read Blakes Volume 1 but dont recall anything like what you described. As I
understand it, Blake is in agreement with B.H. Roberts view on intelligences that is that they are
the same as spirits and that our spirits/intelligences with our current personal identities are
beginningless.

I certainly dont remember him ever implying that God somehow takes any old inert matter and
transforms it into intelligence particles with the light of Christ. That very notion implies that

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intelligence particles are somehow created by the light of Christ to me which is contrary to the D&C 93
quotes in the post.

Eric To be clear, Pratt taught that each individual particle is autonomous but that they join together in
perfect union and a new personality or personal identity emerges from that union. So each particle
could be referred to as an intelligence but a unified new personality that arises could be called an
intelligence too. Now the question of whether intelligences are matter is a good one. If they are the
same as spirits then we know the answer is yes. If they simply power spirit bodies as the tripartite
model holds then I assume the answer is no.

I personally think the tripartite (intelligence->spirit->body) model has too many problems and lean
toward the idea that there is no difference between intelligences and spirits. The Abraham 3 quote in
the post implies that they are the same. Abraham calls them intelligences in one clause of a sentence
and then refers to them as souls in the very next clause implying that the terms are interchangeable:

Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before
the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones; And God
saw these souls that they were good,

Nate Jensen I think if you are going with the idea that intelligences are made of matter then you will
have an uphill battle defending the idea that they are not the same thing as spirits I think. It seems
terribly redundant to me.

Comment by Geoff J June 1, 2006 @ 10:21 pm

7. I suppose I always just assumed that my intelligence was basically the existence of free will, that it
always existed within its own sphere, and that God just gave it the power to have expression by
granting it a spirit, followed by a body.

Call it a blue print. It would make sense to me that my *identity* was eternal, always was, always is,
always will be. I look at identity, agency, and intelligence as synonomous in some respects.
Independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also
(D&C 93:30)

Comment by Rhapsidiom June 1, 2006 @ 10:31 pm

8. Jacob,

I actually framed my first two posts on this subject in the way you suggested here. In those I labeled
the Roberts view where we have beginningless personal identities the whole cloth model of
intelligences/spirits and the Pratt model the spirit atomism model. Mark B. got confused by these
terms in the last thread so I shied away from them here. I wanted to change the pace a little for this post
anyway.

I agree that there are problems with the Pratt model. However, I have even bigger qualms with the
Roberts model. The main beef I have with it is that if seems completely implausible to me that every
person on this planet has lived any infinite amount of time with the same basic personal identity and
with the capacity to repent and become one with the Godhead, and yet in that infinity of time only one
person actually did that (Jesus Christ) whilst many billions of the rest of us didnt accomplish it.
Further I find it completely implausible that after literally FOREVER we now get a mortal probation of

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maybe 70 years to do what we couldnt or wouldnt do in the infinity of time prior to this mortality.
Infinity of time was not enough but infinity of time plus 70 years will be just right. It frankly seems
like a ridiculous claim to me.

Now Blake avoids part of my criticism by assuming that Christ and the Father have been Gods forever
as well and are beginningless in their state of Godhood. But you and others agreed with me in the last
post that Joseph specifically taught against that position in the Sermon in the Grove. So when it comes
to defending the Roberts model, you have a tougher task than Blake does I think.

Now you said that individuality is beginningless for Pratt but this is only partially true. Pratt believed
that the individuality of particles of autonomous intelligence in beginningless, but that personalities
also emerge from the union of these particles and those emergent personalities (which would include
you and me in his model) do have a beginning.

Regarding the union of intelligence particles to create new emergent intelligences/spirits Pratt said on
page 104 of The Seer:

The particles organized in an infant spirit, can no longer act, or feel, or think as
independent individuals, but the law to control them in their new sphere, requires them to
act, and feel, and think in union, and to be agreed in all things. When the same feelings,
the same thoughts, the same emotions, and the same affections, prevade [sic] every
particle, existing in the union, the united individuals will consider themselves as one
individual: the interest and welfare of each will be the interest and welfare of the whole: if
whole: if one suffers, they all suffer: if one rejoices, they all rejoice: if one gains any
information, it is communicated to all the rest: if one thinks, all the rest think in the same
manner: if one feels, they all feel: in fine, the union of these particles is so perfect, that
there can be no state or affection of one, but all the rest are immediately notified of it, and
are thus by sympathy in the same state or affection. And, therefore, they live, and move,
and think, and act as one being, though in reality, it is a being of beings. So far as the
substance is concerned the spiritual body is a plurality of beings; so far as the attributes or
qualities are considered, it is but one being. We should naturally suppose, that individual
particles which have been accustomed to act in an individual capacity, would, at first, find
it very difficult to act in perfect concord and agreement. Each individual particle must
consent, in the first place, to be organized with other similar particles, and after the union
has taken place, they must learn, by experience, the necessity of being agreed in all their
thoughts, affections, desires, feelings, and acts, that the union may be preserved from all
contrary or contending forces, and that harmony may pervade every department of the
organized system. Now, to learn all this, there must be a law given of a superior nature to
those by which they were formerly governed in their individual capacities as separate
particles. A law regulating them when existing out of the organization, would be entirely
unsuitable to their new sphere of existence. New laws are wanted, requiring each particle
no longer to act in relation to its own individual self, but to act in relation to the welfare
and happiness of every other particle in the grand union. All disobedience to this law by
any particle or particles in the organization, would necessarily bring its appropriate
punishment: and thus by suffering the penalties of the law they would in process of time
become martialed [sic] and disciplined to perform their appropriate functions in the
spiritual system. The appropriate place for this grand school of experience, is in the
Heavenly world, where, from the time of their birth as infant spirits, until the time that

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they are sent into this world to take fleshly tabernacles, the organized particles are
instructed and educated in all the laws pertaining to their union, until they are made
perfectly ONE in all their attributes and qualities; but not one in substance, for this would
be impossible; each particle, though organized, maintains its own identity in the system.
The oneness, therefore, can only consist in the sameness of the qualities which are attained
by ages of experience through strict adherence to the wise and judicious laws, given to
govern them in their united capacity.

More long block quotes its contagious!

Comment by Geoff J June 1, 2006 @ 10:40 pm

9. Rhapsidiom,

It sounds like your assumptions also match the Roberts school of thought. This is the single (or
whole-cloth) beginningless intelligence with free will and a beginningless personal identity model
that I have qualms with as described in #8. (As well as in my previous post on the subject)

Comment by Geoff J June 1, 2006 @ 10:45 pm

10. Rhapsidium,
Your assumptions about eternal Identity are in disharmony with President Brigham Young:

We have no shirt-collar dignity to sustain, for we have no character, only such as our
friends and enemies give us. It is only a shadow, and we are willing that they should have
the shadow, and make the name of our President honourable, if we can. They are welcome
to traduce our character, if they choose; but they must not undertake to walk us under foot,
contrary to every principle of the Constitution, right, and law. The character of those who
are such sticklers for it will perish, for they are taking the downward road to destruction.
They will be decomposed, both soul and body, and return to their native element. I do not
say that they will be annihilated; but they will be disorganized, and will be as though they
never had been, while we will live and retain our identity, and contend against those
principle which tend to death or dissolution. I am after life; I want to preserve my identity,
so that you can see Brigham in the eternal worlds just as you see him now. I want to see
that eternal principle of life dwelling within us which will exalt us eternally in the presence
of our Father and God. If you wish to retain your present identity in the morn of the
resurrection, you must so live that the principle of life will be within you as a well of water
springing up unto eternal life.
JD 7:57

And

When the spirit overcomes the evil consequences of the fall, which are in the mortal
tabernacle, it will reign predominant in the flesh, and is then prepared to be exalted, and
will, in the resurrection, be reunited with those particles that formed the mortal body,
which will be called together as with the sound of a trumpet and become immortal. Why?
Because the particles composing these bodies have been made subject and obedient, by the
law of the everlasting Priesthood, and the will and commandment of the Supreme Ruler of
the universe, who holds the keys of life and death. Every principle, act, and portion of the

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lives of the children of men that does not tend to this will lead to an eternal dissolution of
the identity of the person.
JD 7:287

Just to name a few. He spoke on the subject on several occasions. Whatever it is, it is not Identity that
is protected from having an end.

Comment by Jeff Day June 1, 2006 @ 11:57 pm

11. Geoff,

It is a good idea to explore Pratts version rather than rehashing the standard debate, just wanted to
make it clear that his was not one of two main views in the church

The big quote from the Seer is a good example of Pratt trying to give a clear description of his viewI
take back my criticism that he glossed over the problem. After reading it laid out so clearly, I have a
hard time believing anyone accepts it, but perhaps I lack imagination. Ill be interested for more people
to chime in.

Comment by Jacob June 2, 2006 @ 12:03 am

12. Abraham calls them intelligences in one clause of a sentence and then refers to them as souls in the
very next clause implying that the terms are interchangeable:

Geoff, that is not a valid argument. I can use substitute B for A in conversational discourse as long as A
is a necessary part of B. So sometimes we speak of a soul as the union of spirit and body, sometimes
we speak of a soul (following convention) as an intelligence.

Same goes for substituting spirit in context for intelligence as long as all spirits have one and only
one intelligence (the cardinality mapping is one to one) then using the term spirit to refer to an
intelligence is a pretty standard rhetorical transformation.

The problem is the term intelligence is awkward, so once you have made your point (as Joseph Smith
did quite well in the KFD), you can just talk using familiar terms, spirit in this case. Unfortunately
Western language does not provide good terms for a three part division of agent (my preferred term),
spirit body, and temporal body.

Remember that spirit != spirit body. When we say spirit we mean intelligence + spirit body,
whenever intelligence has a meaning like Joseph Smith used it in Abraham 3 at all.

So all spirits have a one to one correspondence with intelligences. The intelligence or agent is what
makes a spirit a spirit. Without a controlling intelligence, a spirit would be a clump of spirit matter, on
my account at any rate.

In any case an intelligence is something less than a spirit, or there is no reason to use both terms in the
first place. We should just discard that use of the term as a perversion of the language.

We have four basic alternatives:

(1) An intelligence is thinking/feeling particle of spirit matter


(2) An intelligence is thinking/feeling primal agent

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(3) Intelligence is a emergent epiphenomon of matter


(4) Intelligence is the light of God shining within us

Advocates are Pratt/McConkie, Roberts/Widstoe, Mormon materialists, and apparently Blake Ostler,
respectively. I do not think that Mormonism is materialistic by the way, any form of matter that thinks
and feels is not what materialism has ever meant. The introduction of metaphysically distinct
intelligences moves Mormonism back into the dualist or tri-alist camp. The Pratt view is hylozoistic
monism, not materialism in any conventional sense.

Comment by Mark Butler June 2, 2006 @ 1:02 am

13. By the way, the idea that truth is independent to act for itself in D&C 93:29-30 seems to be a typo or a
mistake in editing. The sine qua non of truth is absoluteness of some sort, not independence, let alone
willing independence. Law is truth-like, and sometimes is independent, but not willingly so.

People create law, not the other way around. If truth is self-willing then it is either higher than or
equivalent to God, and truth-God equivalence is a disaster with a temporal God reduces truth to
arbitrariness, and eliminates how we can distinguish God from the devil. Truth is not a manifestation of
the Stockholm syndrome.

Comment by Mark Butler June 2, 2006 @ 1:08 am

14. Of course people do not create natural law. Nor does God, for the term to have a distinct meaning in
LDS discourse. Natural law is absolute, divine law is ordained.

Of course givine infinite backward recursion, it is rather difficult to tell the difference in many cases.
IBR as generally conceived looks like Platonism for all practical purposes. Elaborate forms, symbols,
and laws no one ever made.

If we reintroduce a healthy amount of divine discretion into IBR, we still need a distinct independent
natural law a common absolute ground of being for multiple divine persons to relate to each other in,
unless we are all processionary emanations from the ONE as Neo-Platonism holds.

Comment by Mark Butler June 2, 2006 @ 1:17 am

15. I reject the McConkie/Pratt/Penrose view of Intelligence from which other intelligences are derived as
subparts. Im an advocate of two types intelligences. Lower-grace intelligences that act according to a
natural propensity and spirits/intelligences that act as they will or choose of LFW. Lower grade
intelligences are analogous to Whiteheads actual occasions, where spirits are eternal intelligences of
humans. Natural law arises from the natural propensities of lower grade intelligences as I ellaborate in
ch. 3 of the first vol. I agree with Mark that Mormonism is not materialistic in the classic sense of dead
matter but there must be some type of panpsychism and emergent properties as well.

Joseph Smith is pellucidly clear that spirits/intelligences are the same thing, that they manifest
intelligence in the ability to act for themselves independently, and that they are uncreated. I dont
believe in spirit birth in the traditional sense, but I do believe in further organization which gives rise to
further emergent properties that arise from the inherent intelligence in all things.

I have two very long articles on this subject, one in Dialogue (1982) and another in Line Upon Line.
The view that I write of here is ellucidated in ch. 3 of vol. 1.

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Comment by Blake June 2, 2006 @ 7:13 am

16. Blake, right on.

Comment by J. Stapley June 2, 2006 @ 11:13 am

17. I think there are four models. One is the quasi-spirit model. One is the Cartesian mind model (from B.
H. Roberts and probably the most popular today). One is the Pratt model which is basically Leibnizian
monads which are in space rather than immaterial like in Leibniz. I suppose one ought allow for a
more Leibnizian form of this as well although I cant think off hand of anyone advocating it. Then
there is the idealist realism form which I think Brigham Young at least verged upon. I suppose one
could add a fifth model which is that intelligences are nothing but are opening to information. This is
roughly a Sartrean, Heideggarian or Ricoeurian view. I dont think anyones formally espoused this
although I suspect most of the Continental leaning Mormon philosophers end up espousing that. I think
this latter view could easily be reconciled with D&C 93 as well.

I cant comment on Blakes Whitehead reading since I tend to always get Whitehead wrong despite
reading him many times. I suspect he might be close to a halfway place between Leibniz and
Heidegger.

Of course I dont think there are really many compelling theological reasons to pick one above the
other. The typical approach (as we see here) is to make appeals to the language Joseph used to express
the ideas. But that presupposes that Joseph both had a clear understanding of the matter and clearly
expressed it. Neither of which Im convinced of.

Comment by Clark June 2, 2006 @ 11:55 am

18. Jacob: I have yet to see anyone make a compelling case for how a bunch of independent wills can be
joined together to create the one will I experience as me.

I think Leibniz gave a fairly good answer to this several hundred years ago. While Pratt doesnt go into
it one clearly ends up requiring a kind of master atom which is the seat of perception.

The alternative is to argue that all these intelligences are quasi-mind out of which a full mind emerges.
That is consciousness is an emergent property. Once again a lot has been written, especially the past 10
years, on the mind as an emergent system.

So I dont see this as a serious objections. Those who reject emergence can take Leibniz solution
while for those that accept emergence (either reductive or ontologically radical) dont have a problem.

Mark: I do not think that Mormonism is materialistic by the way, any form of matter that thinks and
feels is not what materialism has ever meant.

Thats a fair comment although this raises the very problem of defining materialism or physicalism.
They are moving targets. I think though that an emergentist could claim Mormon is materialist. I do
think, however, that either panpsychic or quasi-panpsychic approaches make the most sense to
reconcile to Mormonism. Whether those should be called materialist is a matter of debate. (For
instance is C. S. Peirce a materialist?) But generally you are right that materialism is equated with a
reductive and eliminatist view that all that exists is what is now described by physics. Its great failing
is that physics doesnt agree upon what is fundamental.

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Comment by Clark June 2, 2006 @ 12:04 pm

19. I think you are right Clark that there do not seem to be sufficient theological reasons to definitively
pick one model over the other. I think most of us prefer whatever variation that best fits our other
theological preferences down the line.

I think the categories you mention probably are simply subcategories to the two main paths I
mentioned. In the single intelligence camp one could go for a tripartite model with intelligences quasi-
spirits/ pre-spirits or one could go with intelligences being essentially Cartesian minds. Likewise the
Pratt parts model could have variations with the parts being matter or not; but both variations could be
roughly categorized in the eternal parts not eternal whole camp. In fact is seems to me that one could
conceive of the particles Pratt envisioned as little Cartesian (or immaterial) minds that can choose to
unify as he said. It may be that Pratt had something like that in mind since he has these unified
intelligences being born into spirit bodies only after they have sufficiently unified. I cant imagine
why they would need to be born if they had already formed a spirit body so he seems to be pushing a
tripartite model too. The question is whether he saw these intelligences as material pre-spirits or
immaterial minds a la Descartes (Perhaps he answers this question somewhere and I am not
remembering it though).

Comment by Geoff J June 2, 2006 @ 12:26 pm

20. The reason I have a problem with the whole-cloth idea, is that I can clearly see my body, and I am
pretty sure I could cut off an arm or a leg. I expect that I could do the same thing with my spirit. I also
know that heavenly father organized our spriits (whatever that means), we were formed, and
therefore something must have existed from which we were formed. I guess I see no good reason not to
call these things from which we were formed particles, or intelligences, or spirit matter (which seems
to imply a substance that can be manipulated into forms).

Comment by Jeff Day June 2, 2006 @ 12:27 pm

21. Jeff,

Folks like Blake and Stapley would argue that spirits were organized in the same way people are
organized here that is they were organized into groups of various kinds. The argument about limb
amputations would also be applicable to resurrected bodies so the whole cloth spirits camp would not
have much difficulty dismissing that one either. I dont prefer the whole cloth model for various
reasons, but I can see why it is a reasonable belief to hold considering the dearth of revelation we have
on the subject.

Comment by Geoff J June 2, 2006 @ 12:38 pm

22. Geoff, Pratt denied anything was immaterial. He had an ontology in which to be meant to exist in
space and time. Unfortunately he was philosophically naive in a lot of ways. In The Absurdities of
Immaterialism he acts like hes arguing against immaterialism whereas hes really just critiquing it in
terms of his fundamental concept of Being, from what I can see. Of course his fundamental notion of
being is tremendously problematic. Pratt was influenced by Reid and the other Scottish thinkers of the
late 18th and early 19th centuries. So some of the odd things he allows may be due to the influence of
direct realism as an epistemological approach. I suspect, although Ive not seen evidence for it, that he
was influenced by Leibniz as well.

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The big question with Pratt was whether all atoms were intelligent (a true panpsychism) or only some
were. This is basically the question of emergence in Pratts thought. We discussed this a few years
back. Im convinced, myself, that hes inconsistent on this point. But I do think that as a practical
matter he adopts a Leibnizean approach to emergence but is undecided about whether all atoms are
intelligent. I think that his typical approach is to say they are and this is why things like gravity work.

The big question then becomes whether human intelligence is emergent, whether there is a dominant
monad ala Leibniz, or whether all the atoms that are unified are in identical states. (Sort of the Leibniz
dominate monad replicated to all atoms in the unified body for a human our spirit body)

I confess at one time I found all these questions much more interesting than I do now. Mainly because I
simply found too many problems in the approach Pratt took to find the questions as compelling.

Comment by Clark June 2, 2006 @ 12:45 pm

23. Just to add, I think the idealist interpretation of intelligence is the most interesting. Not because I buy
into it as such. But mainly because I think it has been unanalyzed historically, even though from what I
can see it is a natural way to read D&C 93, fits into the philosophy of the day (especially German
idealism), and probably fits Brigham Youngs and others views.

Had I the time (which I wont for some time) Ive thought about writing a paper on the subject.

Comment by Clark June 2, 2006 @ 12:47 pm

24. Thanks Clark its nice to lean on some of the work you have already done on this. I can see why this
might be a dead-end road though with the scarcity of revelation and data to draw on.

Yes I agree (as we have discussed in the past) that there remains a big question regarding monism vs.
pluralism in Pratts model. As we discussed in the past, Orson Card went with a true monism idea
when he lifted from Pratt in his Enderverse. Cleon Skousen reportedly said he was taught a form of
dualism by his mission president John Widtsoe with the division being between things that act and
things that are acted upon; or intelligences and inert matter. I also agree that whether there is a
dominant/controlling intelligence particle or not would have massive implications. Card assumed there
was in his sci-fi version but Pratt is less clear. If there is then each of us can indeed be reduced to a
single organizing intelligence after all (even if our current personal identity is emergent from a union of
many.) The downside is that it tends to grade us all based on beginningless nature a concept I find
hard to embrace.

Comment by Geoff J June 2, 2006 @ 2:39 pm

25. Just to add since I dont think I was clear in that paragraph, I think Pratt thinks that when multiple
intelligences are One that they are in identical states with respect to the properties of the joint body,
although they may be in individual states with regards to subgroups. I think here that his strongest
parallels arent to Leibniz but to the Stoics who had some similar views in their panpsychic form of
materialism.

The Widstoe version you mention is the Stoic view, btw.

Comment by Clark June 2, 2006 @ 2:54 pm

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26. We have excellent physics for describing the properties of inert matter a physics which demonstrated
to the level of available evidence that ordinary matter is deterministic. If matter were intelligent we
should see actual evidence that they sometimes violate statistics *en mass* a material conspiracy of
sorts, and not one at at time, so to speak.

So I see the free will explanation for quantum randomness as a non-starter. Bohmian non-locality is
more than adequate to explain all the randomness we see. I personally do not give the idea of
metaphysical randomness or swerve any credit.

I believe all randomness is an epiphenomenon of missing information (epistemology) or the


consequential echoes of the sui generis acts of free intelligences (agents). No one can hold an agent
morally responsible for something that is randomly uncaused or coincidental.

Continuing, we have good meta-ethical and phenomenological theories as well. What we do not have is
a clue as to how information and action cross the mind / brain boundary. The intelligence, whatever it
is, is the mind. Everything else in our head is the brain, whether spirit brain or temporal brain. How do
they talk together?

Does anyone have a good model as to how a LFW free agent intelligence, localized, distributed,
whatever interacts with a largely deterministic quantum mechanics?

My own speculation is simply that an intelligence is a localized agent-particle that shares the same
infinite dimensional quantum field as more ordinary matter, such that it is coupled both spiritually
(field wise) and physically (direct collision or particle exchange) to the brain on a distributed, non-local
basis (Quantum non-locality again).

That lets the intelligence *feel* and *perceive* what is going on in the brain, according to what must
be a very subtle, but also fundamental coupling mechanism, but also to affect what is going on in the
brain by indirect information injection.

This injection or control process works as follows. According to the Bohmian realist version of
quantum mechanics a particle is swept along in a multidimensional field and deterministically at that.
That is fine for inert particles. Now if we have an intelligence, it would also naturally be swept along
we do not naturally vacate our brains when we move or are physically impelled to do so. Our
intelligence is bound to our brain in some sense.

So now we have this intelligence (literally us) and we have an agent causal capacity to change. how
so? Not by violating natural law to any great degree, but by small, purposeful perturbations that we
introduce into our trajectory in phase space, perturbations that affect the rest of the brain in a manner
similar to the way the rest of the brain affects the intelligence. The difference is the intelligence knows
what it is doing, such that it can be the master rather than the slave when the brain is properly
functioning (not damaged, on drugs, etc).

Now if anyone else has an idea for introducing LFW or even causal idealism into physical reality I
would most like to hear it.

(Clark: I wouldnt consider Peirce a materialist either, although any strictly deterministic system bears
unavoidable similarities I get the impression that Peirce moved away from determinism toward the
latter part of his life though what else is agapistic causation if not freely offered love? Can love be
deterministic or tychistic? Doesnt it have to be a unique act of will? If it were mechanistic there

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wouldnt be a need for a third category.)

Comment by Mark Butler June 2, 2006 @ 3:28 pm

27. Clark (#18),

Which work of Leibniz should I read to get his good explanation you refer to?

My argument in #5 is not really leveled against the emergent theoriesI have different problems with
emergence. Back on Pratt: I have never studied his theology in any rigorous way, so I dont know if he
ended up going for a master atom or not. He does not seem to be going that direction in the quote
Geoff added from the Seer. I find the idea of a master atom quite difficult to swallow, since the sine
qua non of the slave atoms was supposed to be their independence/freedom, and now they are slaves
of a master atom?!? Besides, wasnt the whole point that they were all seats of perception to begin
with? What makes one of them become the master atom, and do the rest become less than a full
independent mind?

I see incentives to go for the emergent theory, or for the Cartesian mind theory, but this hybrid of
Pratts seems totally unappealing to me. Trying to merge all of these independent minds into a single
mind causes nothing but a headache, and leads to some of the same problems as trinitarianism. Now, it
will not only be God in three persons, but Jacob in one million persons.

Comment by Jacob June 2, 2006 @ 9:15 pm

28. Hear, hear.

Comment by Mark Butler June 2, 2006 @ 10:25 pm

29. The Monadology is a good place to read, although Id suggest Anthony Saviles Leibniz and the
Monadology for a nice thorough discussion of the text. (It includes the Monadology in an appendix) It
also situates quite well Leibniz thought.

Mark, Peirce never was a determinist. His Epicurean notion of swerve is very important in his thought
and was from early on.

Jacob, the master term is perhaps a bit misleading. Also note that Leibniz is a determinist so when
one brings his thought over one has to realize that he argues everything develops rationally as the best
possible world. In that sense it is hard to reconcile with the kind of freedom Pratt discusses, although
its never clear what kind of freedom Pratt accepts perhaps he is a compatibilist. (I suspect he is
myself) Anyway master simply means where the seat of consciousness is. There is a relational aspect
to the atoms and one atom because of the kinds of relations it enters into ends up being more
intelligent. Id note that one could argue that in Pratts theology God the Father is our master and we
subject our will to his freely. But clearly we dont have his consciousness but our own. So thats the
analogy Id go with.

Comment by clark June 2, 2006 @ 11:11 pm

30. Now, it will not only be God in three persons, but Jacob in one million persons.

It seems to me that Pratt assumed that the One God was perhaps millions of persons already too, so his

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theory simply pushes the irreducible parts back below us. With revelations about innumerable
inhabited worlds already passing and the KFD explaining that God the Father of Jesus was once a
mortal man like us it would makes sense that there are also innumerable members of the Godhead or
One God already. The strength of his approach is that it allows for at least some explanation of how
plants and animals can find joy and how they and the earth somehow could fill the measure of its
creation. It seems that that somehow by meeting their full potential intelligences get to graduate to
higher spheres in later eternal rounds. I recognize that this is not definitive but it does play well for
the Pratt model. (Especially if there is no such thing as a single governing particle which I agree with
you has far too many problems.)

Anyway, I think that the evidence for a unified One God is a pattern that could legitimately be
considered both above us and beneath us. Perhaps Jacob is indeed the emergent you from millions of
unified intelligences. Pratts logic seems to be that the entire thrust of the Gospel is to get us to freely
choose to completely and unreservedly turn our wills over to God. In essence to give the one thing we
truly own to God our wills:

In conclusion, the submission of ones will is really the only uniquely personal thing we
have to place on Gods altar. The many other things we give, brothers and sisters, are
actually the things He has already given or loaned to us. However, when you and I finally
submit ourselves, by letting our individual wills be swallowed up in Gods will, then we
are really giving something to Him! It is the only possession which is truly ours to give!
(Neal A. Maxell, Ensign, Nov. 1995, 22)

If that is the pattern to get us to progress beyond our current state perhaps it is the pattern that ended up
creating an emergent us to begin with

The other thing I want to mention in this discussion is that the idea that our current personal identity is
eternal seems ludicrous to me. We arrive on this planet with essentially no identity. See the amnesia
thought experiment I blogged on a few months ago here. Complete amnesia like we experience in
mortality gives us a nearly blank slate when we come here. We have no personal identity per se until
we develop it through experience in this life. What we do bring with us might more appropriate be
called an essence as Jeff Day dubbed it in another thread. As I mentioned in that thought experiment,
the personal identity we have here is 100% guaranteed to be obliterated in either model when the
current us is subsumed in the flood of memories that return from the old us. (In the thought experiment
an American gets amnesia and wakes up to start a new life as a German check out the post I think
the argument that our current personal identity is guaranteed to be washed out in any model is solid.)
So if our personal identity as we know it here is already going to basically be destroyed anyway much
of the value of the whole-cloth or beginningless personal identity model is out the door to begin with.
Even if we had a beginningless personal identity it is not the one we have now so what does that model
buy us? Then add the problems I mentioned in #8 and the severe problems with the eternal personal
identity model start adding up.

Now to be fair, the Pratt model has some pretty severe problems as well. For instance, I cant buy his
line about how unified particles (or divine persons for that matter) can no longer act, or feel, or think
as independent individuals. I think he goes too far in this. In the Godhead (no matter how large it
really is) the members must be in that unity because of freely chose love not because they cant get
out. (I think Blake is right on in this idea.) And since we are comparing the Godhead to the particles
then the same principle must be true of said free intelligence particles if they exist. That is, they must
freely choose the Oneness out of love of some kind too. Of course this gets to the difficulty of giving

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these particles perhaps too much autonomy or personifying them to an absurd degree. And that
absurd personification is a major knock against the Pratt model too I think

Comment by Geoff J June 3, 2006 @ 12:10 am

31. Clark,

Thanks for the Leibniz reference.

Id note that one could argue that in Pratts theology God the Father is our master and we subject our
will to his freely. But clearly we dont have his consciousness but our own. So thats the analogy Id go
with.

I am trying not to construct a straw man, so if I am off base please correct me. First, the analogy clearly
doesnt hold if were talking about us in our current state. Currently, we havent freely subjected our
wills to Gods. Our behavior is characterized by disobedience to Gods will, whereas, the particles of
my spirit seem to be remarkably obedient to me, or perhaps I should say they have aligned their wills to
mine in a remarkably complete way. I am never even aware of them as separate beings from me.

Since the analogy is not talking about us in our current condition, it must be referring to our
relationship with God as it will be in the celestial kingdom. Already, this makes the analogy
surprisingly unhelpful since I have no experience with what it is like to be in the celestial kingdom.
Thus, the analogy seems to compare one mystical union to another, both of which are matters of heated
debate. Analogies are supposed to help us conceive of things by relating difficult concepts to things we
are already more intimately familiar with, so it seems to be failing on this front.

However, I will try to hang with it a bit longer. Assuming the particles are to me (the master atom) as
celestial sons of God are to God, that indicates a remarkable level of unification (as Pratt indicated)
between all of these supposedly lower level intelligence-particles. When people are able to align their
wills to God, that union makes them divine. This level of unification seems to be a big part of the
requirement for Godhood, and, if the analogy is correct, the task of unifying all the particles into a
spirit is essentially the same challenge as us unifying under God. So, if all these little particles can pull
off something this impressive, I have to wonder why they are not the master atoms running the show
and becoming Gods.

Butsomeone might objectthe difference is that when we align ourselves to Gods will it is a more
difficult task because Gods will is also synonomous with the moral law. Thus, aligning to Gods will is
a far more impressive feat, and much more signficant morally. But this raises two issues:

First, it points out what a bad idea it is to have a bunch of particles spending eons aligning their wills to
a hugely imperfect and immoral master atom. Wouldnt their time be better spent aligning their wills to
Gods will to start with? Knowing what a bad person I am much of the time, it hardly seems fair to tell
some particle that it needs to freely align its will to mine. After all, there is nothing inherently worthy
about aligning one will to another if the other will is largely evil.

Second, my will is not nearly as stable as Gods will. I am always changing in my ability to live the
moral law and my willingness to obey the moral law. Presumably, all of these particles have to change
simultaneously with me in order that we remain agreed in all things. And if I dive off the deep end and
start stealing the retirements of old ladies, all these little particles have to keep their wills aligned. This
seems neither plausible nor desirable.

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Also, notice that I keep having to talk about the particles of my spirit as aligning their wills to mine.
That is not just me being sloppy in my language. Even if someone else aligns their will to mine, they
dont become me. The me is inextricably tied to my consciousness, so if one atom is the seat of
consciousness, then it is never really one person with the rest of the particles. Pratt does not seem
comfortable accepting this eventuality, which is why he says things like:

The particles organized in an infant spirit, can no longer act, or feel, or think as
independent individuals, but the law to control them in their new sphere, requires them to
act, and feel, and think in union, and to be agreed in all things.

So, it seem to me like a constant equivocation between all of the particles becoming literally one (no
longer independent individuals) and them remaining separate individuals (in reality, it is a being of
beings).

Comment by Jacob June 3, 2006 @ 12:24 am

32. hey, sorry, I dont have time to read all the comments (I have to give the connection to another soldier),
but I just wanted to say that I dont like to look at intelligence (or spirit!) as protons, neutrons and
electrons.

I know Joseph Smith said that spirit is matter, just a lot finer than we can see with our current eyes. But
he also said that spirit matter (and intelligences!) are eternal, that they cant be created or destroyed.

Well, protons and electrons are created all the time in atomic accelerators.

Theyre also destroyed in a bright flash of energy whenever they come into contact with anti-matter.

Matter then, as we know it, cannot be the building blocks of the spiritual universe.

I think spirit and intelligence exist on a completely different plane than we do, a different dimension
perhaps. Only that dimension and ours are very entwined.

Ok, sorry again about saying this without reading all the comments. Im going to now though (working
offline).

Comment by Jason June 3, 2006 @ 8:58 am

33. Geoff: JS was very clear. Intelligences/spirits are eternal and uncreated. He was clear that spirits are
individual identities. None of your arguments against eternal personal identity are persuasive to me.
Moreover, how do we become individuals having an identity on your view?

I will also suggest that the notion that the universe is simply deterministic reduces to mere evolution of
natural necessity without any agents anywhere needed to explain anything. It is an atheistic view from
inception of its premise. God(s) then becomes merely an accidental outcome of an eternal process
which God did not create, did not organize, had no control over and remains at he mercy of this
inevitable natural necessity not to mention that it is totally meaningless. (Im not suggesting that
Geoff adopts this it is more of an observations of where Mormons who adopt determinism and total
naturalism must end as the logical outcome of their unverifiable assumptions).

Comment by Blake June 3, 2006 @ 9:05 am

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34. Geoff (#30),

It seems to me that Pratt assumed that the One God was perhaps millions of persons already

I dont get this from Pratt, where did he say this. He had his whole thing about worshiping the
properties instead of the individuals, but when he spoke of God, he meant a person as far as I am aware
(Im open to correction).

it would makes sense that there are also innumerable members of the Godhead or One God already.

You keep going back to this analogy with the Godhead, but you have yet to nail down for me whether
the snowflakes in your snowball melt or not. I need to get a definitive position from you on whether
people melt into the Godhead, and whether snowflakes (particles) melt in the snowball (person). I
thought (on the previous thread) you said they didnt melt in both cases, but when I criticised the
non-melting model, you retorted that perhaps they actually do melt. Which is it?

The strength of his approach is that it allows for at least some explanation of how plants and animals
can find joy and how they and the earth somehow could fill the measure of its creation.

Yea, but his explanation is just that they get disorganized and reorganized as something else, which
doesnt seem like a great explanation to me (especially for the Earth which is supposed to become the
celestial kingdom, not get disorganized to later become a person as your interpretation of Pratt seems to
suggest).

I will get to your other arguments (about infinities of time and personal identities) in a separate post
later.

Comment by Jacob June 3, 2006 @ 9:14 am

35. Heres how I see it so far.

The monad is irreducible. This is an intelligence.

It is material.

It can progress and become sentient.

A higher monad can organize lower monads, into a whole body or separate entities.

To know and to organize is eternal progression, or order and progress.

The higher monads purpose is to bring lower monads up to a higher level, until they eventually all
become equal. (Kind of like Nibleys definition of syntropy: The best of the best of everything is
eventually going to happen.)

At some point a monadic organization is converted into a human spirit and tabernacle. Its evolution
into the resurrection is the highest level of monadic organization.

Before the human level monads progress something like the Hindu/ Buddhist model.

After the human initiation monads progress along the Joseph Smith/ Brigham Young model.

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After the resurrection monads progress along the 7th heaven kabbalist model (from Angels to
Seraphim; see D&C 121:28-32). This might be the Multiple Mortality Probations model.

The purpose of eternal progression is to eventually develop the 3 key components of existential
happiness: Creation, Opposition, and Equality. As long as there are monads who are unequal there will
always be a distribution of justice and mercy to apply Equality. As long as theres Love (through
Celestial Marriage and Priesthood) and Imagination (through the irreducible nature of intelligence
itself) there will always be Creation. And as soon as we realize that we can only realize our potential
through opposition there will always be Opposition.

Theres an infinite quantity of intelligences, or monads, in the Universe (or multiverse). Even if
intelligences somehow ran dry, I guess yet more intelligences would spring out of other intelligences
like zip files. Thats why this eternal round will never end.

Comment by cadams June 3, 2006 @ 10:17 am

36. Clark, Point taken. I should not have said strict determinist. My main point is that Peirce ended up
with three modes of causation a third mode agapistic causation that was not captured by either
determinist or tychist causation. Given that many cannot distinguish from LFW and randomness, I
believe this show some fundamental insight.

Is swerve tychist or agentist or a mixture of both in Stoic thought?

Comment by Mark Butler June 3, 2006 @ 10:37 am

37. If someone wants to pursue the Pratt model, they should look at Whitehead, Hartshorne, and process
metaphysics. It is along the same lines, but much more up-to-date. The problems that Jacob describes
so well are still problems with these later views, however, and indeed any particulate hylozoistic
system.

I would like to echo what Blake said about determinism, and also about the clarity of Joseph Smiths
views as to the eternality of personality. We were discussing determinism over at Defensor Veritatis
my point was that given ex nihilo creation, the conclusion that God caused Adam to sin is unavoidable.
Evil may be a no-thing a privation of grace, but wherever grace isnt God caused it not to be.

Now eternalist determinism is more plausible than that, but it defies understanding for us or God or
anyone else to be responsible for anything. An eternalist determinist world is a painting without an
author. I do not think many determinists realize that in determinism the distinction between the future
and the past is immaterial. Rightly the greek determinists concluded that time was an illusion. They had
no idea how right they were. Determinism turns not only God, but all of creation into a hologram.

Comment by Mark Butler June 3, 2006 @ 10:59 am

38. Re grace & time those lines are for the purposes of argument, not my actual positions if that is not
obvious. I understand that the Stoics had an idea of inner light that was much closer to our views, at
least those semi-Pelagians among us, as opposed to the neo Arminian all grace is from God
perspective.

The reason why I think the latter argument fails in LDS theology is that grace is not a substance. The
phenomena it represents may share common properties, but since God is not the ground of all being in

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our theology, neither is he the author of *all* good, except by *adoption*, the same way we say the
Satan is the father of *all* lies.

This neo-Hellenistic substance based essentialism is quite a drag on LDS theology it makes it hard to
take neo-orthodoxy seriously. Too many look like they are cribbing from the Hellenist apostasy
without proper reflection, a situation that is highly ironic.

Comment by Mark Butler June 3, 2006 @ 11:16 am

39. Jason,

hey, sorry, I dont have time to read all the comments (I have to give the connection to another soldier)

Where are you serving?

Good points about the difference between spiritual matter and protons/electrons (#18)

Comment by Jacob June 3, 2006 @ 1:06 pm

40. Clark, the problem with panpsychism is no one has a clue how it works in particular what is the
difference between the will of the atoms in a rock and the will of the atoms in a human being? Are they
all equally dumb? How can two or more minimally dumb atoms get together and be more intelligent
than they were before? Isnt it impossible for any one of those minimally dumb atoms to have a clue as
to what is going on?

So what advantage to cognition, free will, and moral responsibility do we gain by having a collection
of minimally dumb atoms, above strictly inert ones? Materialist panpsychism is still in the stone age.

Somewhere there has to be a commanding facility that is and always has been self aware. That is
what Joseph Smith taught. If there were not, neither we nor God would be self-existent, we would be
accidental freaks of nature.

How minimally dumb atoms have a clue to what they are doing, have an intent for a higher and greater
design, when it is impossible for them to have a sweeping picture of conciousness? Even if this greater
design happend accidentally, the atoms would no know more about it than cogs in a machine know
about its function.

So ultimately we are left with two possibilities either some atoms / monads / whatever are *really*
intelligent, as in Pratt or Roberts, or nature is Platonistic, that the human soul and the human form is a
reflection of immanent reason in the world, which we might as well identify with God.

Personally I much prefer the idea of a God who actually has free will and thinks and designs things as
on a drawing board, than an epiphenomenon of a bunch of Platonic forms, or a God who is
indistinguishable from them.

The minimally dumb atom idea leads to God as the mysteriously unlikely product of evolution. A God
whose very identity would dissapear if someone dropped an appropriate nuclear bomb on him. Joseph
Smith did not believe in this kind of annihilationism. If identity were so easy to destroy, the first order
of business should be to execute Satan for treason. Exile is such a mild punishment.

On the Pratt model we have a similar problem we blow a spirit up, now all of them have their old

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memories because they were completely unified together. Lo and behold we end up with umpteen
zillion human class intelligences, each of which could be clothed with a new body of lesser
intelligences and teach them everything in a spiritual mind meld. That way one could lift 10^32 or so
intelligences up to the same level in a few hours or years at best. Think of the fan-out factor. Maybe our
spirit children are currently denizens of various parts of our body? Ever wonder where Jewish
mysticism comes from? Somebody had a wild idea some *really* wild the kingdom of God is
within you stuff, taken literally. Some people think that the testes are the pre-mortal spirit world.
Some Catholics have a similar mysticism with regard to the Body of Christ. I think this is all craziness
of course.

Comment by Mark Butler June 4, 2006 @ 12:40 am

41. HA! The testes are the pre-mortal spirit world! Ha ha ha.

That is a wild idea indeed. Caused me a good laugh

Marks #26 seems like a very plausible way that our intelligence actually controls our mind and body. I
like it.

Jacob: Where are you serving?

Ar-Ramadi, Iraq. Been here almost a year, and leave in almost a week!

Comment by Jason June 4, 2006 @ 8:38 am

42. Godspeed Jason!

Comment by Blake June 4, 2006 @ 8:54 am

43. Jeff (#10), In regard to this quote:

They will be decomposed, both soul and body, and return to their native element. I do not
say that they will be annihilated; but they will be disorganized, and will be as though they
never had been, while we will live and retain our identity

The distinction Brigham Young is trying to make here with regard to the proper semantics of the term
annihilated is sophistry. Joseph Smith taught that the doctrine of annihilation of souls was wrong and
Brigham Young is trying to avoid the impression that he is contradicting him on the matter. They
clearly have rather different opinions on the subject, and since Joseph Smiths opinions reflect scripture
(Abraham 3) and Brigham Youngs do not, I think this is a case where we can say that BY was in
disharmony.

Now the interesting thing is that despite the immense power and influence Brigham Young held, he
apparently never attempted to get any revelations canonized. One of the reasons may have been that
too many other leaders disagreed, and unlike the simple view of the prophetic infallibility we
sometimes hold, he needed a consensus of the quorum of the twelve, and a sustaining vote of the
membership of the Church to canonize new scripture. So he said that his talks in the Journal of
Discourses were scripture, which they are of course, to the degree he was moved upon by the Holy
Ghost (in other words neglect them at your peril).

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But in this case, as in all cases when leaders of the church disagree, we can assume that one or more of
them do not have the full story that is the reason for the consensus rule in D&C 107. (This is LDS
conciliarism for those Catholics reading). Of course Joseph Smith gets special treatment anyway,
something about which Pres. Young sometimes bitterly complained (e.g. with respect to unwillingness
of the people to accept A/G in a Deseret News article a decade and a half later)

So if the stuff isnt canonized, nor clearly taught by present and past prophets in clarity, no one has an
obligation to do other than ponder it in the context of other statements. Not in harmony with X sounds
like a mild way to tell someone they are leaving a narrowly defined catechism, when in fact the bounds
of LDS discourse are far broader, at least at this stage in our development.

Comment by Mark Butler June 4, 2006 @ 9:02 am

44. Jason: Ar-Ramadi, Iraq. Been here almost a year, and leave in almost a week!

This is great news! Thanks for your service, our prayers are with you.

Comment by Jacob June 4, 2006 @ 10:39 am

45. Mark, you are on a roll with #40 and 43, I agree with your sentiments in both. The part that I am not
sure about is your fanout factor and mind meld statements (end of 40):

we end up with umpteen zillion human class intelligences, each of which could be clothed with a new
body of lesser intelligences and teach them everything in a spiritual mind meld.

If I understand Pratt correctly, the part about teaching lesser intelligences through a mind meld would
not work in the way you are describing it. I keep referencing the quote in #8 from the Seer. Admittedly,
the idea being expressed contains some incoherencies, so maybe your idea is a valid reading, but here
is what I see:

Pratt envisions a mind meld of sorts, which he calls a union:

after the union has taken place, they must learn, by experience, the necessity of being
agreed in all their thoughts, affections, desires, feelings, and acts

The interesting thing is that after the union, they still have different thoughts, affections, desires,
feelings, and acts; else, the sentence above makes no sense. This makes me wonder what the union
consisted of, and my best guess is that each particle was given access to the thoughts, affections,
desires, feelings of all the other particles. It also seems to be related to a new set of laws which govern
their union:

New laws are wanted, requiring each particle no longer to act in relation to its own
individual self, but to act in relation to the welfare and happiness of every other particle in
the grand union.

So, no one is controlling anyone else, they are just all independently learning to work in concert:

All disobedience to this law by any particle or particles in the organization, would
necessarily bring its appropriate punishment: and thus by suffering the penalties of the law
they would in process of time become martialed [sic] and disciplined to perform their

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appropriate functions in the spiritual system.

It sounds, from his description, as though these new laws work on them in the same way the moral law
works on us here. They feel guilty, or are punished in some way, when they do the wrong thing.
Now, it is very interesting to ask what this new law is really telling them to do. What are they unifying
to? It doesnt seem to be some master atom. What else can it be? I am at a loss to answer this question.

Another seeming inconsistency arises in relation to the different functions they may or may not have in
the union. The quote above speaks of them having appropriate functions which implies that they
remain independent and are supposed to keep acting separately and differently, even in the union.
However, I have no idea how to make this consistent with the following (from the same paragraph):

The particles organized in an infant spirit, can no longer act, or feel, or think as
independent individuals, but the law to control them in their new sphere, requires them to
act, and feel, and think in union, and to be agreed in all things.

Now, if we take this last quote seriously, then the union is supposed to lead to all the particles having
the same thoughts, feeling, emotions, desires, and actions. The only thing that keeps them from totally
merging into one being is that all the particles must retain their own separate streams of consciousness.
But how can anyone accept the idea of a bunch of separate particles becoming identical to the point of
acting and thinking identically in every situation? It is absurd. It really needs no refutation. How I react
emotionally, what I think, and how I choose to act based upon those things is simply who I am. It
contradicts the whole notion of self-existent independent beings to believe that groups of them can just
become identical with some practice.

This is where the mind meld Mark mentions comes in. Pratt does not seem to allow for one greater
intelligence transferring knowledge or discipline to lesser intelligences through a mind meld. It is all
done through the free will of each particle, acting according to the laws of their union. Somehow they
must become identical through their freely willed actions, and then they must stay identical, each
independently making identical choices, freely initiating identical thoughts and emotional responses for
the whole time they are in union. These particles make the olympic syncronized swimmers look like
bumbling idiots.

Is there anyone who believes this stuff? Geoff, you seem to like some parts of Pratts theory, but you
reject other parts. Can you give a summary statement of your view similar to the one Pratt makes in
#8?

Comment by Jacob June 4, 2006 @ 11:18 am

46. Jacob,

I have been re-reading the relevant parts of Pratts The Seer this weekend and have found it
frustratingly inconsistent and at times self-contradictory. (See an online version here.)

For instance at some points he seemingly teaches a Stoic dualism of matter where some matter is
eternally inert and yet there are also eternal intelligence particles that can independently act:

There is no substance in the universe which feels and thinks now, but what has eternally
possessed that capacity. These capacities may be suspended for a season, but never can be
annihilated. A substance which has not these capacities now, must eternally remain

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without them. The amount of matter in space can never be increased nor diminished,
neither can there be a new elementary capacity added to this matter. (Section 84)

But then later he implies a panpsychic monism where all matter can think and act independently:

It matters not how far we may, in the imagination of our minds, go back into the infinite
depths of past duration, we are still obliged to admit, that every particle of matter which
now exists, existed then; that it was then capable of self-motion; that it was then capable of
exercising the eternal capacities of its nature, and of progressing onward and upward, until
it should be perfected in all the fulness of wisdom, knowledge, and truth. (Section 103)

Another example is that he in some places argues for a metaphysic of becoming:

To suppose that all the spiritual matter of the universe, which is now so powerful and
active, has once been eternally at rest, would seem to be absurd in the highest degree.
Every thing now is in motion; every thing is highly active: every thing is acting under
some law, or guided by some motive or will. Such a thing as an inactive particle of matter
is not known in the universe. (Section 103)

But that is shortly after he argues for a static metaphysic of being for the One God and insisting that
once becomes One with the Godhead there is no more possibility for progress because the One God
knows all that can be known and we will share in all that God knows by virtue of entering the
Godhead:

This perfection and equality in knowledge among the Gods of all ages and worlds, serve to
produce a perfect oneness among them all. Having equal knowledge, they would of course
have equal wisdom and equal power, and would act with the most perfect union, and
harmony, and consert [sic] in all things. But what inextricable difficulties and confusion
there would be, if they differed in knowledge and all of them were progressing. The
oneness, so necessary for the peace and good order of the Heavenly worlds, could not
exist; one for the want of the requisite knowledge would undo what another of superior
knowledge had done: upon the progressing principle, they never could be made perfect in
one, worlds without end. (Section 102)

Also, in answer to your first question in #34 about whether Pratt saw the Godhead as composed of
many more than three persons, Pratt said:

In the twenty-second paragraph of this article we showed that there could not possibly be
but one God, so far as the attributes are concerned, but so far as it regards persons, that
there were an immense number of Gods. Now we wish to be distinctly understood that
each of these personal Gods has equal knowledge with all the rest; there are none among
them that are in advance of the others in knowledge; though some may have been Gods as
many millions of years, as there are particles of dust in all the universe, yet there is not one
truth that such are in possession of but what every other God knows. They are all equal in
knowledge, and in wisdom, and in the possession of all truth. None of these Gods are
progressing in knowledge: neither can they progress in the acquirement of any truth.
(Section 97)

So this leaves us with some interesting questions. Pratt is taking the concept that many of us accept

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today about the Godhead and applying it to independent particles that make us up. The mind meld
complaints about the particles that make us up can be equally apply to the mind meld most of us
attribute to members of the Godhead after all. It is sometimes called indwelling unity and was nicely
described by Blake recently in a thread when he said:

The notion is fairly straightforward: We join as one with the Godhead in such a way that
what one does, all do; what one knows, all know; what one wills, all will.

Now I dont know if there is such a thing as independent and autonomous intelligence particles or
not, but I think yall should be careful not to inadvertently attack the entire concept of a unified
Godhead with mind meld snipes. Pratt seems to believe that the personal identity that is us now is
somehow emergent from a unity of intelligent particles in us. Likewise, he seems to believe the Head
God is an emergent person from the unity of the persons that make up the One God.

there were innumerable worlds in existence, each peopled with myriads of personages, and
each were filled with all the fulness of Jesus Christ, or the fulness of Truth, which is called
by various names, such as, God, the Great I AM, the Father, the Son, Jesus Christ, &c. All
these names, as well as the personal pronouns He, His, and Him, are applied to the
FULNESS OF TRUTH, wherever it or He may dwell, whether in one tabernacle or in
unnumbered millions. This Great Godthe FULNESS OF TRUTH, can dwell in all worlds
at the same instantcan be everywhere presentcan be in all things, and round about all
things, and through all things. He is in the personage of the Father; He is in the personage
of the Son; He will be in the personages of all His Saints when they receive of His fulness;
and in fine, He is the only living and true God, and besides Him there is no God: He is the
only God worshipped [sic] by the righteous of all worlds; for He exists in all worlds, and
dwells in all his fulness in countless millions of tabernacles. He has no beginning, neither
have His works a beginning, but each of His organized tabernacles had a beginning: each
personal spirit was organized out of the elements of spiritual matter. (Section 106)

It was apparently this idea (an emergent Head God which we can become constituent parts of) that
Brigham took such issue with. I can see merit in both sides of that argument.

Comment by Geoff J June 4, 2006 @ 1:04 pm

47. Geoff,

The problem with Pratts doctrine of God is that it is Neo-Aristotelian. In that last quote there Pratt is
not talking about God as a person or collection of persons he is talking about God as an abstraction, a
fulness. Basically the worship of divinity, what all the gods have in common, rather than any
particular divine being. Pratts concept of the Most High is not a person, but a feeling, a trans-personal
absolute essence. People become divine not by becoming one with other exalted individuals per se, but
rather by participating in this essence which knows all things.

Now I consider this idea to be a classic example of the metaphysical fallacy, the idea that Truth for
example, is a *thing*. (Or grace, or love, justice, mercy, ). This is unquestionable heretical in many
ways it is worse than the Hellenistic doctrines of the Trinity that we identify with the Apostasy. Much
worse Pratts God doesnt appear to be a person at all, more like the God of Plato all these other
gods are strictly secondary, ones whose will or discretion is immaterial. Is it any mystery that they
come to *absolute* unity under such a system?

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As for myself, I think theological absolutism is an unmitigated disaster. It always results in an


impersonal, incomprehensible God of mystery, one with a heart of stone.

Comment by Mark Butler June 4, 2006 @ 1:25 pm

48. Geoff, we also need to be very careful to distinguish when we or Pratt are talking about the unity of
multiple persons in one Godhead and the unity of multiple intelligences in one person. Now Pratts
ideas on the former may very well be the key to understanding his views on the latter, but in general
they are radically different problems.

I should say that I think the idea of the Godhead or extended Godhead as thinking exactly the same
thoughts, sharing exactly the same feelings, etc, as a practical denial of personality. It is another form
of theological absolutism one that defines theosis as nothing but submission or absorption into a
single will, rather than a definition of theosis as many wills creatively working together, greater than
the sum of the parts, *communicating* thoughts and feelings by an indwelling spirit of glory, not
extinguishing identity through it.

Comment by Mark Butler June 4, 2006 @ 1:36 pm

49. Mark,

It is true that Pratt is moving in the direction you assert in his comments. But in the context of the
whole, I his point is Neo-Aristotelian in the sense the higher persons (including Mark, Geoff, and
even the Head God) are emergent from the unity of other constituent intelligent parts. In the case of
humanity it the parts are intelligence parts and in the case of the Head God the constituent parts are
perfected humans. But you are right that Pratt does vacillate between hinting at this emergent person
idea (mostly set up through his equating our personhood to the personhood of the Head God) and then
hinting at some Platonic-like non-personified Universal he calls The Fullness of Truth. This is just
another example of the frustratingly murky teachings in this tract of Pratts

Comment by Geoff J June 4, 2006 @ 1:45 pm

50. Well, it is the latter idea that we worship the attributes of God, or GOD as divinity itself, rather than
GOD as the society of the gods, the divine concert (Elohim), that was first on the list of what was
condemned by the First Presidency in 1865. Another problem was Pratts conception of the third
member of the Godhead as a particulate spirit fluid, rather than as essentially a person.

This is no doubt why we prefer the term Holy Ghost to the Spirit of God or Holy Spirit when talking
about the latter. The Spirit is a person, the spirit is not. When we sing the Spirit of God like a fire is
burning, it is clear we mean the glory of God, what Eastern orthodox call the energies of God, and not
generally speaking the Holy Ghost immanently present everywhere simulataneously.

It is an interesting question of course how often (if ever) does the Holy Ghost as a person, enter into
us as people, rather than us feeling his influence, and influence which is hard to associate with just him,
and not the Father and the Son as well. And if that is actually the case, I think it is a foregone
conclusion that the Holy Ghost delegates some (half?) of his responsibilities to female spirits.

Comment by Mark Butler June 4, 2006 @ 2:07 pm

51. One other thing, unless we descend into Manicheanism, we have to carefully distinguish between

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senses of the latter, impersonal spirit :

(1) spirit as the natural quantum wave function coupling all particles, or something equivalent,
neither good nor evil
(2) spirit as the manifestation of divine influence, presumably modulated onto (1), like a radio signal
modulates the E/M field.
(3) spirit as the manifestation of satanic influences, presumably modulated onto (1) in an imitation of
(2).
(4) spirit as the natural emission or glow of intelligences, embodied or unembodied, presumably
modulated without mental effort.
(5) spirit as the all purpose Hebrew metaphor for influence or idea

Now it is a fundamental question of metaphysics what type of scalar or vector field is necessary to
cross couple spiritual and physical matter. Is the manifold quantum wavefunction as we know it today,
adequate for the purpose?

In my opinion, yes, spirit matter operates on the same principles as physical matter, and is coupled
and cross coupled the same way via the quantum field. Intelligences are also coupled to everything else
the same way, they just have sui generis properties, like intentionality.

The second fundamental question is that if we construct the right type of radio receiver, or spirit
demodulator, can we tell by mathematical analysis the difference between the transmission of a good
influence, and the transmission of a bad influence?

If I were to guess, there is no simple mapping, that spirit is modulated according to intention, whatever
serves the purposes of the modulating intelligence just like communication in general, whether it be
art, language, music, and so on. Such that we would have to analyze a message or signal in terms of its
semantics, not its essence.

In other words there does not not *metaphysically* such a thing as spiritual darkness, something
blacker than black if there was it would have to be a substance like a nebular gas, not a transmission.

Black is silence, not confusion. Of course, if our antenna picks up nothing but cacaphony it is hard to
identify that with good but certainly white noise sounds better than a vacuum cleaner. Is there any
modulation that is analytically evil, before semantics are taken into account. The closest I can see are
signals that naturally disrupt order, the equivalent of the sound of a sand blaster. That cannot be
conducive to peace or serenity.

So does the adversary really have much of an ability to construct material mists of darkness, that block
spiritual transmissions, obstructing the Light of Christ as it were? Maybe, but I think in most cases the
spirit (as divine influence (2)) is present, we just are not tuned to recognize it.

It is too bad Orson Pratt did not live to see Quantum Mechanics, or perhaps even appreciate Maxwells
Theory.

Comment by Mark Butler June 4, 2006 @ 2:40 pm

52. So I should say we have black as nothing, or silence, and black as opacity or opaqueness, and that
neither is evil per se. Evil is the result of intentionality, or a semantic of opposition to intentionality, not
any sort of substance or property of natural things. The latter is Manicheanism, and it is all too present

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in folk interpretations of scripture.

Now the Catholics properly have generally considered Manicheanism, the idea that evil is a substance,
as a heresy because God is not the creator of evil. So all evil becomes the privation, or absence of
grace. The problem is that Christian orthodoxy tends to treat grace as a substance, like jello. And that is
a serious problem relating to free will and why people are good or evil, as if God could make a bad
person good just by pouring grace on him the inevitable result is Calvinism, and the more moderate
form is classical Arminianism, where grace is necessary for any good thing to happen, whence
prevenient grace, and the idea that all is inevitably chaos except for the Light of Christ, the Weselyan
name for the same thing.

Can intelligences band together and accomplish anything without Gods help? The symmetry of KFD
discourse says yes, D&C 88 seems to imply no. In other words the KFD appears to be semi-Pelagian,
or Stoic in its metaphysics, and D&C 88 appears to reuse some of the language of the Arminians
improperly a classic example of where using absolutist language tends to bite you in the end. It is all
for the greater glory of God, right? Yes, but then where does that leave everyone else? Worms, nothing
but worms and hardly even that more like a bubbling pot of fluid.

Comment by Mark Butler June 4, 2006 @ 2:57 pm

53. Of course evil is not *just* a semantic of opposition to intentionality some intentions are better than
others.

Comment by Mark Butler June 4, 2006 @ 3:40 pm

54. Geoff: I think yall should be careful not to inadvertently attack the entire concept of a unified
Godhead with mind meld snipes.

First, the term mind meld seems to be a reasonably accurate description of what Orson Pratt believed
in. More to the substance: Mark already responded exactly as I would, but let me go on the record as
well. I think the view of the Godhead you described where they all have the same thoughts and feelings
and wills is a clear rejection of God as a person. There is no such thing as personality if everyone
thinks, feels, and wills identically. Joseph Smith said that the same sociality which exists among us
here will exist among us there, only it will be coupled with eternal glory, which glory we do not now
enjoy. (D&C 130:2). This scripture is completely meaningless if the Godhead exists as you descibe it.
So, I dont see the mind meld snipes as attacking the idea of a unified God. They only attack a
certain kind of unity which I do not accept in either case.

Now, this is another in a string of comments where you have equated or likened the Godhead to the
idea of intelligent particles becoming one person. I have repeatedly argued against the validity of this
analogy, pointing out that the Godhead has multiple people, but our spirit is by all accounts one person.
To this point, I havent seen a response. Did I miss it?

Comment by Jacob June 4, 2006 @ 3:48 pm

55. Geoff,

In case it was not clear: At the end of #45 when I asked if anyone believes this stuff, I did not mean
that to be taken rhetorically, I meant it as a real question. You have distanced yourself from some parts
of Pratts theory, and rejected other parts explicitely. I started wondering if there is anyone here who

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actually believes what he is saying, or if I am spending time critiquing a theory that everyone here
already disagrees with. That is why I followed the statement by asking if you can sketch out your
theory (which parts do you like from Pratt and how do you fill in the holes left by parts you reject). It
will be much more interesting to attack your theory than attack parts of Pratt that you already reject.
After all, Orson isnt here to defend himself.

Comment by Jacob June 4, 2006 @ 4:01 pm

56. Mark: I should say that I think the idea of the Godhead or extended Godhead as thinking exactly the
same thoughts, sharing exactly the same feelings, etc, as a practical denial of personality.

I think there are lots of Mormon thinkers that would disagree with you to large degree here. Blake said
what one does, all do; what one knows, all know; what one wills, all will after all. If they have a real
indwelling unity how are their thoughts not shared thoughts?

Now I suppose it may very well be that their capacity allows them to simply have separate thoughts
and yet to know every thought of one another at the same time. I blogged once on our human limitation
of only being able to think of one thing at a time and how this likely does not apply to God. Maybe that
is a better approach to take on this sort of thing

But I do think this needs to be carefully worked out because the other risk you deal with is a theology
with vast numbers of essentially autonomous Gods with potentially competing interests (what Blake
called ultra-individualistic view).

Comment by Geoff J June 4, 2006 @ 6:07 pm

57. Jacob: That is why I followed the statement by asking if you can sketch out your theory

If it is not clear, I dont have a theory to defend yet. I see massive holes in all of the theories discussed
so far. The beginningless personal identity concept seems totally untenable to me for reasons I have
already stated. Many parts of Pratts theory are also non-starters.

One question I would like to explore further with you and anyone else who wants to chime in is: How
unified are the members of the Godhead? It seems that there are perils on both sides of the unity line
on one side you get an ultra-individualistic view Blake rails against and on the other you get a unity
so complete that all thoughts are the same and what Mark and apparently you would reject as a
practical denial of personality. So my question is where is the appropriate middle ground then? How
can we conceive of the Godhead as sufficiently One without being too much One?

(BTW I recognize that this is a variation on the classic Trinity debate with modalism/Sabellianism on
one side and tritheism on the other.)

Comment by Geoff J June 4, 2006 @ 6:54 pm

58. It seems to me that if we allow members of the Godhead to be capable of thinking seperate thoughts
and even willing different things but insist that they cannot act with divine power unless they are in
complete accord, we have a notion distinct beings that are truly distinct but must act as one God.
However, if they know exactly the same things, and they are all perfectly rational in virtue of their
complete knowledge and wisdom, then the possibility of a significant conflict is then avoided. So they
have complete power only in unison and their shared knowledge and faculties of ratioality insure that

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they will not be in endless conflict the real problem with polytheism. Thus, we have distinct
individuals but not seperated or warring gods.

Geoff, with all due respect, none of your arguments against a beginningless personal existence are
logically sound (and you dont offer any scriptural or textual arguments against it) and the scriptural
and textual arguments in favor of such a view are very clear it seems to me.

Comment by Blake June 4, 2006 @ 7:24 pm

59. Geoff: If it is not clear, I dont have a theory to defend yet.

Ok, fine, but you do seem to have something you like about the Pratt model. Is it just that it is not the
beginningless personal existence model?

I guess we should get to your objections, if thats the real issue. I have identified three so far:

(1) The infinite time already argument (see #8). Your concern here is that an infinite time has already
passed, yet in that time, we have not become celestial.

(2) The infinity + 70 years argument (see #8). Your concern here is that after an infinite duration of
time in which we did not become celestial, a short 70 year stint on earth is enough to get us there.

(3) The personal identity argument (#30). I am not entirely clear on this one, but I will try to
summarize and you can correct me. It seems your concern here is that personal identity (as you have
defined it) is fleeting, and cant sustain itself for an eternity, especially if there are veils of forgetfulness
tripping it up.

(You also mentioned as part of argument (1) in #8 that Christ is the only one so far who has become
one with the Godhead, but I have no idea why you assert this. D&C 132:29 says that Abraham has
already entered into his exaltation. Also, it is generally believed that lots of worlds have come before
us wherein lots of people have already been exalted, but God told Moses that he was only going to give
us an account of this world, which is why we dont know a lot about them. So, I left this part out, since
it does not seem essential to argument (1) and is questionable at best.)

Please fill in any of the arguments that I have missed. Other people will likely have different responses
than I do, which Ill be interested to read. As for myself, my initial reactions are as follows:

In response to (1): This is really an argument against an infinite regress of time. You think that Pratts
model helps here by saying our identity came into being only recently, but it really doesnt help. On
Pratts model, there were a bunch of self-existent particles which combined to make you, and they had
already been around for an infinite duration of time. By your logic, it should be considered ludicrous
that an infinite amount of time had passed without them coming together to form you until just
recently? The argument can be leveled against absolutely anything that happens. An infinite amount of
time has already passed, how could [fill in the blank] not have happened yet. For example, your
argument could be used to say how ridiculous it is to think that God could find matter unorganized
from which to fashion the earth. After an infinite duration of time, shouldnt God have organized all the
matter by now?

Your real beef, I suspect, is with the idea of time stretching back infinitely in the first place. Your logic
seems to say that with an infinite amount of time passed already, everything should have happened that

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can happen and we should be done. In your comment #133 on the previous post you used argument (1),
but that time in favor of time being circular. The circular time argument legitimately solves the thing
that concerns you, the Pratt model does not.

In response to (2): If the 70 years was just about a few more years of time, this would be a better
argument. However, the 70 years is important in Mormon theology because it is unique type of
experience, which is much different than the type of experience available to us previously. Just as there
is an eternity of unorganized matter out there for God to find and fashion into things, there is an
eternity of intelligences. They are not likely to become divine on their own. This is why Joseph said in
the KFD that God, finding himself in the midst of lesser intelligences, instituted laws whereby the
lesser intelligences could progress to become like himself. God got to us, and we are participating in
his plan designed to help us progress. I predict that you are going to think it ridiculous that there would
be intelligences out there that God has not gotten to yet. The alternative is that God has already gotten
to all the intelligences, and in a relatively short amount of time, his work will be done (everyone will
be either exalted or banished to outer darkness). This leaves a lot of time for nothing to happen, so you
will keep things changing in the universe by disorganizing Gods and sending them around to go
through the whole thing again. Im not sure that is better.

In response to (3): There is an interesting philosophical question about what ties the me in the
present to the me of the past, but I dont see this as an argument against beginningless personal
identity. You suggest that if I get my memories of pre-mortal life back, my current identity will be
annihilated, but this argument really implies that personal identity itself is untenable. The implication
of what you are saying is that any change in a person annihilates the old identity and creates a new one.
To which I reply, this definition of identity is never what we meant when we said identity is
beginningless.

Comment by Jacob June 4, 2006 @ 9:13 pm

60. Geoff, I do not think my view is ultra individualistic, but rather a healthy compromise between no
unity and no personality. I will grant that it may seem that way relative to neo-Aristotelian orthodoxy,
but I give the latter little credit in any case.

Down here on earth, the Quorum of the Twelve and the FP form an adequate model of what I have in
mind. The present rule of the Church is that no major change on policy is effective unless both
Quorums agree unanimously. As you might expect unanimity is sometimes difficult to achieve, so this
process is slow at times. However, we have been told that major mistakes have been avoided by
following this policy.

Of course in times of exigency the unanimous vote of any of the three leading quorums can act with
plenipotentiary authority, theoretically the Q12 + the Q70 can outvote the FP, although in such a case a
general council of the authorities of the Church is called (cf. D&C 107)

Now note the effective balance of powers we have here effectively a tricameral system, where under
normal conditions there are theoretically 210 votes to be cast, and a Q70 member has the equivalent
of one vote, a Q12 member gets just under six votes, an FP member gets 23 votes. Sort of like our U.S.
bicameral system where theoretically a Senator has the same power as 4.35 House members, and the
President has the same power as 290 House members or 67 senators, at least in the negative on any
piece of legislation.

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And what is our countrys motto? e pluribus unum, not many out of one, as the Neo-Platonists and our
former Vice President have it, but rather one out of many.

So we have a practical, inspired example of the formation of the will of the concert, with principles to
avoid the weaknesses of a pure democracy, including protecting certain fundamental rights via, in our
case judical review.

Now why the difference? Might it be because the legislative branch is up in heaven, and the Quorums
here are the local civil service, the executive arm of the Lord? And is are not the Bishoprics among
other things evidence of judicial / executive separation of powers?

As I see it the reason (besides heritage) that everyone favors the mind meld model of celestial unity, is
they cannot imagine a procedure, even when coupled with celestial glory, for righteous government.
They think that some dirty rotten scoundrel will turn the whole scheme upside down.

And with a view of sovereign power where if God blinked an eye incorrectly whole galaxies would
disappear, that rightly frightens them, even more then letting one God have a personality in the first
place.

Jesus Christ came down to tell us what divinity was really like, and within a century it was back to idol
of stone or thundering voice from the heavens. The God of Aristotle and the God of the Deutero-
Calvinists, take your pick, but definitely not one like the Son of the Living God.

So metaphysically speaking, we have to say that the Neo-Platonists had metaphysics wrong on one end
of the spectrum it was not one out of ONE, many, nor the Borg doctrine of out of many ONE, But out
of many, both the many and One in a proper dynamic balance. And that is why I see the last part of
D&C 121 as the most metaphysically significant doctrine ever recorded.

Comment by Mark Butler June 4, 2006 @ 10:46 pm

61. I should add that the idea of a God with absolute power both in time and in eternity is exactly where
Calvinism came from. The God of Aquinas is benign by comparison.

So basically LDS theological history (which rarely makes the papers) looks like we have covered
nearly 1500 years in a tenth that time. Lets just hope we dont get stuck in a corner, with the same
chains that bind every other form of Hellenistic orthodoxy.

Comment by Mark Butler June 4, 2006 @ 10:52 pm

62. Save the doctrine of the Stoics, of course, the only Greek metaphysics that has an ounce of common
sense.

Comment by Mark Butler June 4, 2006 @ 10:55 pm

63. Blake (#58),

I think the model you suggest is a reasonable one. Im glad you clarified your position here (Im sure
youve already clarified it elsewhere) to the effect that various Gods are capable of thinking different
thoughts and willing different things.

I would suggest a somewhat different model, but with similar goals in mind. Firstly, I hold open the

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possibility that Gods continue to progress in knowledge eternally. Secondly, I think that sometimes
Gods disagree as to the best course of action. I think this because I believe the future is unknown and I
believe in a consequentialist theory of meta-ethics.

Despite the room this leaves open for real differences between Gods, I believe they are completely
united in their intentions to bring about goodness. Thus, although they may disagree on occasion, they
would never be at war with each other.

Comment by Jacob June 4, 2006 @ 11:13 pm

64. I think that if the unity of Godhead is less than total then Pratts hinting at an emergent personal
identity necessarily fall apart on all levels (micro and macro). If the members of ther Godhead really do
share the same thoughts and will as a result of their perfect indwelling unity then I think Pratt could
have legs to stand on with his theories since that model could apply on many levels. Since we dont
really know the answer to that question Ill simply have to keep that one filed in the dont know
cabinet.

Jacob: To which I reply, this definition of identity is never what we meant when we said identity is
beginningless.

Good point. So what exactly do you (or Blake or Mark) mean when you say personal identity is
beginningless? What definition of personal identity are you using?

Comment by Geoff J June 5, 2006 @ 12:18 am

65. Geoff, You seem to either be switching backing and forth among the two issues at hand here (the unity
of the extended Godhead or divine concert and the unity of the components of a single person), or to be
adopting a radical Judeo-Christian mysticism about the body of God/Christ The Kingdom of God is
within you style. I think the rest of us take Paul to be making a metaphor when he talks about the
Church as the body of Christ, not making an assertion to be taken literally.

I do not see any evidence that Pratt thought that our resurrected bodies would join into a single
resurrected body after this life, he was just makeing a neo-Aristotelian account of consensus of exalted
persons share the same attributes of perfection and presto absolute consensus free will, or the idea
that the unified will is partly *discretionary*, like a choice between chocolate and strawberry, instead
of Platonic does not seem to play a part in his account of divinity. His idea of divinity is very much like
Aquinas account of resurrected persons a large number of exalted persons who participate in
Absolute Glory of the Father, but do not determine it in any way. No divine discretion, a very
Catholic rather than Protestant perspective. In fact more Aristotelian than Catholic, because there was
no Creation at all. At least the Catholic divinity is a Person, and not merely a collection of attributes.

So I have to admire Pratt for his creativity, but this particular aspect of his account is radically foreign
to the perspective of Joseph Smith re divine sociality Joseph Smith and most of classical Mormonism
is unusually free will oriented, about the most classically liberal Christian theology of any
denomination by far Pratt on the other hand took divine pluralism and negated its most interesting
implications, not by getting rid of the bodies of exalted persons, but by making an impersonal account
of divinity itself, a sort of Augustine on steroids, and I suspect Augustine would say he went much too
far.

Comment by Mark Butler June 5, 2006 @ 6:50 am

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66. It is worth remembering that Pratt opposed the Adam-God theory on the account of the Book of
Mormon scripture that talks about how our resurrected bodies will never more be divided, or become
mortal again. To take him as arguing that resurrected persons have a 1:M correspondence with mortal
persons would make his objection rather weak. I mean are Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob particles inside
the resurrected Christs head? Scarily enough I recall seeing a diagram (I dont know if it was Pratts)
implying just that.

An idea like that is a pretty conventional aspect of Hebrew mysticism perhaps some of the early
leaders of the Church spent too much time listening to the learned Jews in the land. You can go down
to your local Barnes and Noble metaphysics section and read all about it.

Can you imagine the fan-in factor, we could have the exalted intelligences of billions of worlds
merging into a single person so instead of having a Malthusian population explosion, we would have
a population implosion, such that the hosts of heaven could be reduced to half a dozen people sitting
around a table. I do not think that is what Joseph Smith had in mind in D&C 130:2 about the same
sociality in heaven as we have here on earth, only coupled with eternal glory.

Whatever Pratt thought, Joseph Smith and the Old Testament do not give any evidence of intelligences
merging together in such a mystical fashion, particularly into a single human form.

The ancient Hebrew view is that of the divine council multiple God / angels, with El Elyon, the Most
High presiding, the Angel of the Lord, Jehovah being his representative, or God unto Israel, and the
rest of the Sons of God, also as angelic spirit persons. The Deuteronomists tried to cover all this up and
monotheize the Hebrew faith, rather successfully I might add, and in a certain sense properly. If angels
do not act together in relative unity, how can they be said to be righteous at all? If ye are not one, ye are
not mine saith the Lord, and so on.

So, avoiding Greek absolutisms, I do not see Elohim as a person at all, it is literally gods or the
concert of heaven, the only way a person can be Elohim is by divine investiture. So the more traditional
question is not how do angels materially merge together into a greater angel, but rather what is the
decision making process of the divine council, and how does divine investiture operate what gives
the act of an exalted person or council legitimacy.

Well there are four classic ways to derive legitimacy Monarchy, democracy, patriarchy, and
federalism. Monarchy in purest form is despotism, democracy in purest form is mob rule, patriarchy is
division of authority by descendancy, and federalism is division of authority by geography. Most
systems are hybrids constitutional monarchies like Englands set considerable constraints on the
power of the King, more liberal systems turn the King into a Preside-nt, no personal divine right at all.
Patriarchy is not a feudal despotism either when practiced in righteousness, but fathers (and mothers)
have a natural authority or divine right to preside over their posterity. And of course executive and
judicial branches have been divided by geography in a quasi-federalism since time immemorial. The
Hebrews (and the English) tried to unify family authority and geographical authority through the law of
primogeniture and entailment, such that the Land (and the accompanying authority over it was
partitioned by (noble) family or tribe, and stably maintained that way over generations.

Now on the account of Joseph Smith in D&C 130, literally on heaven as it is on earth, just glory/glow
/righteousness far exceeding what we see here, why isnt the idea that a system like this prevails in
heaven, was reflected here on earth, and will still prevail when we get there, the most plausible account
of celestial society?

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Comment by Mark Butler June 5, 2006 @ 7:53 am

67. Mark: I agree with your assessment of the divine council where all of the gods are in the service of the
Most High God. I believe it is clear from scripture that this Most High is the Father (and indeed that is
the name or title of the Most High God in the texts). In fact, my 3rd volume is an exploration and
support for this very view.

However, I am not comfortable with the blanket statment that elohim always means gods. It doesnt
function that way in the Hebrew texts. Further, Im not sure what you mean by the Deuteronomist. One
of the most explicit texts regarding the divine council is Dt. 32, as you know. Do you mean Josiah is
the Deuteronomist?

Comment by Blake June 5, 2006 @ 8:55 am

68. I am not an expert on the subject by any means, I am generally relying on Margaret Barker and the
descriptions of the Documentary Hypothesis for my definition of Deuteronomist. First association is
the theory that the Deuteronomist authors tried in general to either hide or eliminate the idea that
Yahweh, Elohim, or El Elyon were separate persons with a host of additional angelic sub divinities,
also elohim in many Hebrew scriptures. So we see the more particular emphasis in Deuteronomy on
the one-ness, if not the absolute singularity of God. I believe that aspect was particularly emphasized in
the Inter-testamental period, due to Greek influence, sort of the Hellenization of Judaism.

Now I do not know enough to say whether Josiah and company were the Deuteronomists or not, it is
Margaret Barkers theory however, that Josiah et al were not just ridding the temple of Canaanite
corruption, but were discarding the original mysteries and theology of the temple, an idea we can
certainly relate to with regard to the possible loss of the endowment and so on. By scriptural accounts
Josiah is a good fellow, so I am not inclined to see the change in black and white terms by any means.

In any case, the Old Testament regularly uses elohim in both singular personal and plural personal
sense. The latter is obvious, the former is a bit of a mystery, as to whether we are talking about a
pseudo-plural, just an honorary name for El Elyon, divine investiture, or what. Certainly by the
Deutoronomist period no one is talking about radical divine plurality in public, except a few angels
here and there we have Yahweh and Elohim merged into a single personal figure, and perhaps a
further discussion reserved for mystical contemplation or private discussion among the Priests. An
amazing parallel with what happened in the Patristic era of course.

Comment by Mark Butler June 5, 2006 @ 9:27 am

69. except about a few angels or sons of God here and there

Comment by Mark Butler June 5, 2006 @ 9:28 am

70. Of course the really interesting question is whether the original Deuteronomists were intending just to
hide the plurality of divinity for pragmatic reasons or whether they really didnt believe in it at all. I am
inclined to the former position, the historical parallel with what we did after the excesses of Adam-God
and Pratt-onic absolutism is clear first a mystery, then a denial, then a heresy, or vice versa. Official
secrets tend not to last very long, cf. also the corruption of the true Christian gnosis from umpteen
sources and its subsequent rejection.

Of course even the Catholics today have mystical aspects descended from that type of gnosis, the

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doctrine of the body of Christ and the Eucharist in particular. I am told that PJPII was quite the
mystic, but did not talk about it in public, which makes sense. The recent book the Theology of the
Body, which is a collection of his discourses, apparently makes these themes more apparent.

Comment by Mark Butler June 5, 2006 @ 9:39 am

71. As Ive stated before, I dont see Barkers views as compelling or even persuasive. The evidence she
points to is much more easily explained by new elements and influences in sectarian Jewish thought
during the Second Temple period. It is clear to me that the epithet elohim began to function as a
title/name for the god yahweh. I address these issues at soem length in vol. 3 so I thought I would look
into your views. I begin an assessment of Ugaritic material and the influence of ancient near eastern
views on the Israelite world-view and how it plays into scriptural views. It is clear to me that at some
point in the textual history (and demonstrably with the Masoretic text) someone decided to suppress the
notion of plurality of gods and the divine council in favor of a mono-yahwistic view (that is still
different from metaphysical monotheism by a long way).

Comment by Blake June 5, 2006 @ 10:28 am

72. Mark: You seem to either be switching backing and forth among the two issues at hand here (the unity
of the extended Godhead or divine concert and the unity of the components of a single person)

They might or might not be two separate issues. That is the point of my inquiry on that particular
subject. If our personal identity is the result of an emergent mind out of unified panpsychic intelligence
parts then it is feasible that the Head God is likewise an emergent mind from unified exalted persons
(and vice-versa). That seems to be where Pratt was headed. Therefore, your later comments about one
single physical body seem to be straw men in this conversation. We are talking about emergent minds
here, not physical components of actual bodies. The problem is that we dont have enough data to
know exactly how unified the Godhead is when if comes to their minds, thoughts, and wills so we cant
even use that as a template to compare to so I am left to shelve this idea of Pratts for lack of revelation
on the subject.

Comment by Geoff J June 5, 2006 @ 3:01 pm

73. Blake: none of your arguments against a beginningless personal existence are logically sound (and you
dont offer any scriptural or textual arguments against it) and the scriptural and textual arguments in
favor of such a view are very clear it seems to me.

First, I still await a definition of personal identity from any of you three that could possibly be a
candidate for being beginningless. It seems to me that our personal identity is largely a fleeting thing
and that they change dramtically over the years. Then when you throw in the amnesia thing what is left
of personal identity? One might refer to an essence of sorts but is a subconcious essence really a
personal identity?

Second, I dont see any overt support for beginningless personal identities in the scriptures. Here is a
link to spirit bodies in the topical guide. It seems your best supports in the canon are:

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. (Abr. 3:18)

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This one does not say that personal identity is beginningless though only that spirit is or spirits are.
But we already know that all matter is beginningless and spirit is a form of matter so that is hardly
proof of you claim.

Every spirit of man was innocent in the beginning; and God having redeemed man from
the fall, men became again, in their infant state, innocent before God. (D&C 93:38)

This one is less convincing than the Abraham one since it simply refers to the beginning which
usually means before this earth.

Are there other better canonized verses I am spacing?

In the KFD your position finds some support:

The soul. Doctors of Divinity. God created in the beginning-he never the character of man.
dont believe it.-who told you God was self existent? correct enough.-in hebrew put into
him his spirit.-which was created before. Mind of man coequal with God himself. friends
seperated for a small moment from their spirits. coequal with God. and hold converse
when they are one with another- If man had a beginning he must have an end.-might
proclaim. God never had power to create the spirit of man
Inteligence exist upon a self existent principle no creation about it. all mind & spirit God
ever sent into the world are susceptible of enlargement.-all things God has seen fit proper
to reveal while dwelling in mortality, are revealed. precisely the same as though we were
destitute of bodies.- (Richards Diary)

The learned says God made it in the beginning, but it is not so, I know better God has told
me so. If you dont believe it, it wont make the truth without effect, God was a self
exhisting being, man exhists upon the same principle. God made a tabernacle & put a spirit
in it and it became a Human soul, man exhisted in spirit & mind coequal with God
himself, you who mourn the loss of friends are ownly seperted for a moment, the spirit is
seperated for a little time, they are now conversant with each other as we are on the earth. I
am dwelling on the immutibility of the spirit of man, is it logic to say the spirit of man had
a begining & yet had no end, it does not have a begining or end, my ring is like the
Exhistanc of man it has no begining or end, if cut into their would be a begining & end, so
with man if it had a begining it will have an end, if I am right I might say God never had
power to create the spirit of man, God himself could not create himself. Intelligence is
Eternal & it is self exhisting, All mind that is susseptible of improvement, the relationship
we have with God places us in a situation to advance in knowledge. God has power to
institute laws to instruct the weaker intelligences that thay may be exhalted with himself
(Woodruff Diary)

we say that God himself is a selfexisting God, who told you so, how did it get it into your
head who told you that man did not exist in like manner- how does it read in the Heb. that
God made man & put into it Adams Spirit & so became a living Spirit77-the mind of
man-the mind of man is as immortal as God himself-hence while I talk to these
mourners-they are only separated from their bodies for a short period-their Spirits
coexisted with God & now converse one another same as we do-does not this give your
satisfactn. I want to reason more on the Spirit of Man for I am dwelling on the body of
man on the subjt. of the dead-the SP of man I take my ring from my finger and liken it

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unto the mind of man, the im[mor]t. Sp. bec. it has no beging. Suppose you cut it into but
as the D[evil] lives there wod. be an end all the fools & wise men from the beging. of
creation who say that man had begin-they must have an end & then the doc of annihilitn.
wod. be true-but if I am right I mit. with boldness proclaim from the housetop that God
never had power to create the Sp of Man at all-it is ne God himself cod. not create himself-
intelligence is self existent it is a sp. from age to end & there is no creatn abt. it (Bullock
report)

Another subject-the soul-the mind of man-they say God created it in the beginning. The
idea lessens man in my estimation. Dont believe the doctrine-know better-God told me
so-Make a man appear a fool before he gets through if he dont believe it. We say that God
was self-existant who told you so? Its correct enough but how did it get into your
heads-who told you that man did not exist upon the same principle (refer to the bible)
Dont say so in the old Hebrew-God made man out of the earth and put into him his spirit
and then it became a living body The mind of man-the intelligent part is coequal with God
himself. I know that my testimony is true. hence when I talk to these mourners what have
they lost-They are only separated from their bodies for a short season but their spirits
existed coequal with God and they now exist in a place where they converse together as
much as we do on the earth. Is it logic to say that a spirit is immortal and yet have a
beginning because if a spirit have a beginning it will have an end-good logic-illustrated by
his ring. All the fools learned & wise men that comes and tells that man has a beginning
proves that he must have an end and if that doctrine is true then the doctrine of annihilation
is true. But if I am right then I might be bold to say that God never did have power to
create the spirit of man at all. He could not create himself-Intelligence exists upon a
selfexistent principle112-is a spirit from age to age & no creation about it-All the spirits
that God ever sent into this world are susceptible of enlargement. (Clayton report)

Thats some pretty decent if uneven evidence for the notion of beginningless personal identities. One
could argue that the reports refer to the mind of man always existing do not necessarily mean that
your and my personal identity have always existed but rather that there have always been minds of men
in existence though.

But again, I am still baffled at what definition of our personal identity could be beginningless. Whos
willing to step up and explain that one to me?

Comment by Geoff J June 5, 2006 @ 4:09 pm

74. I can see your point Geoff, however the plausibility of any particular theory or principle of will
unification greatly depends on the context. If we accept Pratts metaphysics then the idea is plausible,
but Pratt himself did not teach it explicitly, if he did he would have been doubly ridiculed, and early on.
Who aspires to literally be part of Gods toenail?

Comment by Mark Butler June 5, 2006 @ 4:12 pm

75. Who aspires to literally be part of Gods toenail?

This is the very straw man I have objected to. Nobody claims this possibilty but you. The real question
is who wants to completely give up their will to God. Neal A. Maxwell apparently was one person who
did (see #30). He saw it as the ultimate act of love for and faith in God.

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Comment by Geoff J June 5, 2006 @ 4:20 pm

76. The conventional mind meld model, the one I believe Pratt is advocating with regard to exalted
persons, bears a striking similarity to the Borg, minus all the amorality and mechanical robotics. If
need be I will call it the Borg model of exaltation from now on. We will take your distinctiveness and
add it to our own Resistance is futile you will be assimilated

It would make for a much more subtle critique of Borg doctrine if they good rather than evil, of course.
Contemporary writers lack the subtlety to make a persuasive critique of this kind of unity. Their
attitude is the true radical individualism no unity at all, except the accidental and the temporary. The
doctrine of the revolution exalted from now and then to whenever I feel like it.

Comment by Mark Butler June 5, 2006 @ 4:21 pm

77. Blake, my long standing understanding is similar to what you just described. I dont think Margaret
Barkers particular theory re Josiah is particularly relevant here, more to temple theology and the
doctrine of Christian apostasy than anything else and of course the evidence is rather vague and
suggestive at this point.

Comment by Mark Butler June 5, 2006 @ 4:24 pm

78. Mark: If need be I will call it the Borg model of exaltation from now on.

This is also a ludicrous straw man I would expect better from you than this. Borg is by very
definition a model of compulsion and slavery. The invitation from God is one of loving unity. If the
idea of indwelling unity among exalted persons in an extended Godhead is correct then one could
conceivably believe that total indwelling loving unity could result in a shared mind as well.

I wouldnt say I believe that but I also dont rule it out as impossible yet.

(I personally suspect that since God can read all of our minds simultaneously, the members of the
Godhead also read all others minds in real time without losing autonomy.)

Comment by Geoff J June 5, 2006 @ 4:34 pm

79. Geoff (#75), I am glad we have that cleared up the switch from talking about sub-bodily intelligences
to agreement among persons was rather indefinite.

Now, in regard to Elder Maxwells position. The issue here is *whose* will are we submitting to. The
possibilities are:

(1) El Elyon (enlightened despotism)


(2) Our particular heavenly father (dictatorial feudalism)
(3) The consensus of the divine concert (heavenly democracy)

If (1), then the Most High is the only one with any valid discretion
If (2), then we presumably have something like the French aristocracy
If (3), then we presumably have something like a heavenly republic

Now the mind meld model with (1) is a lot like crystal formation, the result depends on what kind of
seed you have. Or alternatively like a society with all the rules set by the first member, with no

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possibility of later revision, or a constitution that places all authority solely in the founder. With (2), the
mind meld model doesnt work unless it is softened quite a bit.

With (3) a mind meld model could work, sort of like democracy conducted at the speed of light, as long
as there is no room for principled disagreement. I do not think morality is that well defined. People
obey the law, or gracious accept chocolate instead of strawberry, despite disagreeing with it, or the
consensus of the group, invalidating a absolutist mind meld model, but certainly allowing a
Maxwellian one, both on earth and in heaven.

The question remains though: whose will are we conforming to? That is a more important question
than how much we conform, and whether the conformance is both mental and praxical or mostly the
latter.

Comment by Mark Butler June 5, 2006 @ 4:42 pm

80. I might add that you can turn a more flexible model into an absolute one by dialing up the tension, but
not vice versa. Loyalty is like a spring, and absolute loyalty is a rod of zero compressibility. Solids
fracture, the lower the compressibility the greater the inclination. So if there is any free will in heaven
at all, I think even jello is a more likely model than a crystalline structure. Crystals can anneal, but
flexible structures return to form far more quickly, *even* if uniformity is the goal here, and
personality is devalued.

Comment by Mark Butler June 5, 2006 @ 4:47 pm

81. Geoff,

The KFD is certainly the best textual support for beginningless indentities. As to the scriptural support
for beginningless identity, you didnt mention what I consider to be the best:

29 Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not
created or made, neither indeed can be.
30 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.
31 Behold, here is the agency of man (D&C 93)

Any one little snippet from here is less convincing than the whole quote in the context of the entire
section. By itself, man was also in the beginning with God is not hard to explain. Likewise,
intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made can be explained in various ways.
However, the fact that these statements are part of the same thought makes the meaning more definite.
Verse 29 connects man to intelligence which is uncreated. Verse 30 says that all intelligence is
fundamentally independent in its ability to act (this requires some basic elements of consciousness as
B.H. Roberts pointed out). Verse 31 says that all this abstract stuff is the basis of mans agency as we
understand it today.

I think it is a stretch to interpret these verses as anything other than supporting the idea of beginingless
individual centers of will which are radically different than passive matter in their ability to act, and
which are the basis for mans agency in the world today.

Comment by Jacob June 5, 2006 @ 5:17 pm

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82. The soul, the mind, the spirit, the intelligence. JS repeatedly used all of these terms interchangeabley.
The spirits/intelligences form a continuum from most intelligent to less intelligent. If the notion of an
intelligence that has a mind that is not created is not enough to convince Geoff of the beginningless
personal existence, then nothing will do. But then, Geoff it may be that you are just being intransigent.
So a personal identity could be defnined as an enduring mind with memory and/or spirit body
continuity. The memory can be parsed as not always occurrent, but capacity to recall ones own past
experiences under the right circumstances. That ought to suffice to define eternal personal identity. In
fact, the very notion that a personal identity has a beginning lessens man in my opinion and I am
quite sure that JS was of the same opinion.

Comment by Blake June 5, 2006 @ 5:36 pm

83. Blake: So a personal identity could be defnined as an enduring mind with memory and/or spirit body
continuity. The memory can be parsed as not always occurrent, but capacity to recall ones own past
experiences under the right circumstances. That ought to suffice to define eternal personal identity.

Well Im glad my question isnt being completely dodged.

So apparently occurrent memory is not a requisite part of this type of personal identity. Yet if all it
takes to have a personal identity is a spirit with a working mind then what is really enduring about
this so-called identity? It sounds like you are describing an eternal computer of sorts where the hard
drive can be erased from time to time. But isnt our real personal identity the software and not the
hardware? Where is our former software now on a backup drive somewhere? The brand new
software we have here on earth is destined to be overwritten isnt it? If not overwritten, then at least the
tiny drop of personal identity from this life will be lost in the vast ocean of our former personal
identity But if that is the case who will we be then? And who will our spouses be then? Not the
people we are here.

Something is missing from this picture. It just doesnt work. It seems that Pratts model has too many
holes too though. That leaves me without a decent working model so far

Comment by Geoff J June 5, 2006 @ 6:34 pm

84. Geoff: identity is a challenge for any arena. In fact, it is a challenge to define even what remains
identical for mortals for an single person. So your challenge of identity isnt really a challenge as
much as simply a challenge for the notion of identity. However, merely having bodily continuity and
memory is quite sufficient on any theory of identity. We could add that we have continuity of character
also and forget the computer metaphors.

Comment by Blake June 5, 2006 @ 7:17 pm

85. Yea, Im with Blake on this one. I agree that identity is hard to nail down, but your argument, as
currently formulated, is not answered by any of the models we have been discussing. It suggests that
we did not have a pre-mortal life, because due to the veil, the me of today didnt exist then. So, I
wasnt around before I was born. Likewise, you are arguing that our current identity will be
annihilated when we gain our memories back from the pre-existence, but then how will you account
for there being consequences after this life for the things we did here? I dont remember anything from
when I was three years old, so does that mean the three year old in my parents picture is not really me?
When I found a box of stuff from my childhood and I suddenly remembered a whole bunch of

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experiences I had forgotten, did that annihilate my old self and leave a brand new on in its place? Can
you step in the same river twice? As Blake said, it is really a challenge to the notion of identity that you
have put forward.

Of course, to account for identity, we are always looking for some sort of continuity: physical,
consciousness, memory, character. It seems to me that none of these totally carries the day on its own,
but in concert they do pretty well. Continuity of character seems like the most important in supporting
my committment to progression and becoming as the purpose of existence. I suspect there is a physical
continuity that exists as well. The scripture about these things that cannot be created seems to imply
that they exist as something, and Mormons generally cant imagine something that is not physical in
some sense.

Comment by Jacob June 5, 2006 @ 10:20 pm

86. Well, I am not convinced that anything other than an indivisible, eternal, personal intelligence can give
a robust account of the plan of salvation. Saving a bunch of stuff hardly seems worth the trouble.

Comment by Mark Butler June 5, 2006 @ 10:50 pm

87. I have given it some thought and I dont really object to the idea that the mind of man is
beginningless as long as one does not try to insist that our current personal identity is somehow eternal
because it clearly aint. I mentioned in the post the notion some people hold that single intelligences are
beginningless as something like a blank slate and that each has infinite growth potential. This
discussion is pushing me in that direction.

Staying with my computer analogy (I see the universe in analogies after all) If we conceive of
intelligences as a form of hardware upon which software (personal identities via experiences and
memories) can be loaded and erased via veils then it is easy to imagine the hardware having no
beginning. Of course there is a component of this analogy that doesnt really work the character
aspect. I suppose I could compare the intelligence to the box and the character to hardware upgrades
or downgrades within the box though. Improving character is like upgrading the processor or RAM or
something. That sort of upgrade endures even when the hard drive is erased via a veil.

So yeah I probably could buy that sort of single, beginningless intelligence model some parts
(hardware) could endure between veils while other parts (much of what we consider personal identity)
erase and we start from scratch when we pass through veils of forgetfulness.

So one big question is: Do all intelligences start with the same blank slate or are there different
types/classes of intelligences for humans vs. lower forms of life? For instance, was Cro-Magnon man
powered by a box like ours but simply without the upgraded hardware our intelligences have attained
over the eternities? (I assume that our box is similar to Gods; only divine persons have the most
upgraded hardware plus the highest form of interconnectivity) Joseph said All the spirits that God
ever sent into this world are susceptible of enlargement/All mind that is susseptible of improvement,
the relationship we have with God places us in a situation to advance in knowledge/all mind & spirit
God ever sent into the world are susceptible of enlargement. Does this statement mean all
intelligences are the same in their primal state? Does it mean all boxes are the same and the
differences are in the internal hardware upgraded over the eternities? Its hard to tell from the text.

Comment by Geoff J June 5, 2006 @ 11:59 pm

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88. Holy cow, youre using the Waterboys!

Comment by Susan M June 6, 2006 @ 7:17 am

89. Yep, Susan. Im glad someone appreciated it :-)

Comment by Geoff J June 6, 2006 @ 8:26 am

90. Geoff, I find it rather amusing that you can simultaneously accuse me of radical individualism when
you do not believe in the essentiality of personal identity at all. Pratt is a conservative essentialist
compared to the idea that intelligence is just raw material that will run any program.

I see the intelligence as have aspects or quasi-parts but aspects that are not disassociable, connected
by springs that change configuration but will wont break. Obviously something happens to an
intelligence as it progresses, I think it is untenable to regard such progression as an accidental property
of things (e.g. physical memory representation) external to the intelligence. If an intelligence does not
have essential internal state of some sort, it cannot be an intelligence, but rather an accident, like a
microprocessor.

The components of a microprocessor do not have any essential properties except physical
characteristic. The operation is contigent on imposed form, however such form is an artifact of
intentionality, not equivent to it.

Or in short computers do not think, they only simulate a mechanistic model of thinking. They do not
create, they only simulate a psuedo-random model of creation. They have no intentionality at all. They
cannot rise above their programs except by the sheerest of accidents. The problem for the eternal
progression of a computer, is essentially the same as the problem for evolution in a deterministic or
tychodeterministic world, an issue we have discussed in considerable detail over at Mormons an
evolution. In summary, my conclusion is that robust evolution without intentionality approaches an
analytical impossibility.

If we are all just machines, then personal identity, and essentially all theology is just an accident of
nature. So how do we distinguish between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of the devil again? If
God is a machine without a soul? And the devil one running a different operating system neither
designed nor intended by either?

Since when was a microprocessor good or evil? When did a computer ever love? or hate? How does a
computer have free will? How does a computer have moral responsibility? How does a computer
invent things? Compose art, poetry, and music greater than that of its programmers?

The knee jerk denial of the life of the mind and spirit would be amusing if it were not so very serious.

Comment by Mark Butler June 6, 2006 @ 8:41 am

91. I apologize for the abundant spelling errors. Obviously not enough or non-effective sleep.

Comment by Mark Butler June 6, 2006 @ 8:43 am

92. Geoff, I explicitly mentioned the Borg minus their necessarily evil qualities. The usefulness of the term
(appropriately qualified) is that anyone who has seen the appropriate ST: TNG episodes knows exactly

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what kind of mental unity that type of denial of personality implies.

As I said, the example would be much more compelling if there were a non-pejorative righteous
version of the Borg in contemporary culture. Unfortunately, contemporary liberals do not care much for
unity and loyalty in any form.

Comment by Mark Butler June 6, 2006 @ 3:36 pm

93. Umm, Mark. My computer example was an analogy. You are reponding as if I meant it in some literal
sense.

Whatever is essential to continuity of an intelligence, it is not memories. Yet what we consider our
personal identity in this life is generally the sum of our memories and experiences. That is why when
someone loses all memories due to dementia/alzheimers or something people often say that the
memory-less person is no longer the person they used to know.

Comment by Geoff J June 6, 2006 @ 3:38 pm

94. Mark:Geoff, I explicitly mentioned the Borg minus their necessarily evil qualities.

Borg by definition is a compulsive/coercive model so if the evil qualities were absent then it
wouldnt be Borg would it? I simply object to your using such rhetorical ploys because they are not
helpful in this conversation. Many faithful people have implied a unity of will among members of the
Godhead and your attempts to summarily dismiss their position by labeling it Borg is a cheap
rhetorical trick in my opinion (even if they are indeed wrong.)

Comment by Geoff J June 6, 2006 @ 3:43 pm

95. Well! Found this link from Clarks blog and I must say it has been a freth of bresh air compared to
wading through forums for interesting posts. I dont have much to contribute to the discussion, but I
must thank those who have participated and shared some very thought-provoking ideas.

If the current conversation is dying, maybe we could try to work reincarnation (multiple mortal
probations) and evolution into these concepts of individuality vs unity?

Comment by CE Digger June 6, 2006 @ 8:03 pm

96. CE,

Thanks. See a whole bunch of MMP related posts here and a few evolution-related posts here. (See a
whole blog on Mormons and evolution here.) Also, you can check out any number of other categories
of posts in the side bar.

Comment by Geoff J June 6, 2006 @ 8:13 pm

97. Geoff, of course Borg minus their necessarily evil qualities would not be the Borg. X 1 != X. They
would the righteous counterpart of the Borg. You are reading malicious intent where I have explicitly
denied any. I might object to your calling the standard model of the Millennium, etc. the My Turn on
Earth model I have never seen MToE and so I dont know what you mean, except to give a funny
name to what virtually everyone has always believed. So if you quit calling the standard model the
MToE model, I will refrain from referring to a righteous, soft and fluffy counterpart of the Borg.

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Comment by Mark Butler June 6, 2006 @ 9:31 pm

98. I think we have discussed MMP rather enough for now, but if everyone else wants to, please go ahead.

Comment by Mark Butler June 6, 2006 @ 9:35 pm

99. Fair enough Mark. Perhaps I read more into the Borg title you were using than you intended. (For the
record though, I think that evil compusion/coercion is an essential characteristic of what we call Borg
so Borg-evil = Not Borg.)

Comment by Geoff J June 6, 2006 @ 11:02 pm

100. I agree that Borg minus Evil is Not Borg. However, I do not have an Aristotelian semantic of being, so
there are a wide variety of semantics that fall under the classifiation of Not Borg, including ones that
have some, but not all the essential properties of Borg culture.

Or in other words, I generally believe the more common semantics of the term is is not identicality,
but logical class membership, a semantics of constraint, that to be or not to be is a false dichotomy
that there is a multi-dimensional gamut of synthetic being or fuzzy set membership, some more like the
archtype and some less, such that I can modify a concept in a certain direction and not have lost the
semantics completely.

That said, I agree that as a general term, the modified Borg model is likely to be misleading and it
definitely appears pejorative.

Comment by Mark Butler June 7, 2006 @ 6:42 am

101. See the sad thing is that nearly all debates about scriptural exigesis boil down to people insisting that
language has absolutist, hard Aristotelian semantics by default, to the degree that a careful writer has to
interperse his statements with endless qualifiers to not be misinterpreted, especially by those who have
been trained in classical logic. A strict bivalence of logic applied to the natural language of being leads
to naive, Aristotelian realism about *all* concepts, even synthetic ones.

In other words, an insistence that concept set membership is black and white, instead of shades of gray.
There are ways to deploy classical logic accurately, physics does it rather effectively using advanced
mathematics, but classical logical arguments applied to most natural language propositions can only be
suggestive, not conclusive, because natural languistic concepts are not generally metaphysical
categories, but rather more often impressionistic associations.

Now, I was reading one of Blakes articles recently on how the Greeks in general made this distinction,
with regard to semantics of non vs. not in any way, mode, or manner (in the context of divine
creation), but Aristotle generally denied the distinction, as a matter of metaphysics of all being.

In logic this shows up in the denial / negation distinction, which has no place in Aristotelian logic, the
difference between:

(1) I deny that X is Y


(2) X is not Y
(3) X is not Y in any way

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Well, if Western language were not so heavily corrupted by Aristotelian bivalence of being, the
distinction between (1) and (2) would be superfluous. i.e. not Y could still have Y-ishness.

Comment by Mark Butler June 7, 2006 @ 7:03 am

102. So long story short, most purported proofs by contradiction, or applications of logical negation, De
Morgans law, etc. to natural linguistic propositions are faulty because they incorrectly apply Aristotles
Law of the Excluded Middle to the semantics of being. The law of non contradiction (LNC) has an
implementation in fuzzy logic, but it is not bivalent like the LEM. The LEM only works in classical,
first order predicate logic, either naive realism, or a similar semantic carefully imposed for a given
application, notably natural science, which uses mathematics to handle fuzziness instead of fractional
logic per se.

Comment by Mark Butler June 7, 2006 @ 7:08 am

103. So in the quote from Elder Maxwell, it is not a fair assumption to conclude a priori that he intends an
Aristotelian semantics of all of his terms.

In conclusion, the submission of ones will is really the only uniquely personal thing we
have to place on Gods altar. The many other things we give, brothers and sisters, are
actually the things He has already given or loaned to us. However, when you and I finally
submit ourselves, by letting our individual wills be swallowed up in Gods will, then we
are really giving something to Him! It is the only possession which is truly ours to give!
(Neal A. Maxell, Ensign, Nov. 1995, 22)

Now swallowed up is pretty explicit indeed minus the absolutist interpretation of that qualifier I
agree with this statement, although I would also have to go into the semantics of God as or representing
the divine concert.

See I read D&C 58 as the practical, and *canonical* denial of the truth of an absolutist semantic of
will-swallowing, indeed exactly the opposite, so either E. Maxwell is allowing some leeway or he is
contradicting the scriptures:

For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in
all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.
Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of
their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;

For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men
do good they shall in nowise lose their reward. But he that doeth not anything until he is
commanded, and receiveth a commandment with doubtful heart, and keepeth it with
slothfulness, the same is damned.
(D&C 58:26-29)

An ethic of absolute will swallowing effectively denies this principle, especially in the world to come.

Comment by Mark Butler June 7, 2006 @ 7:19 am

104. Mark, Ive not had time to follow this thread, but isnt there a difference between doing X because God
tells you and doing X because you share similar beliefs and desires to God? In the latter your will is

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also swallowed up but the nature of this will-swallowing seems fundamentally different. My sense is
that will swallowing in Mormon discourse is in terms of having a similar nature. It isnt (as some
argue) a kind of divine command theory.

I also agree with you regarding the Law of the Excluded Middle. With fuzzy logic or vagueness it just
doesnt apply. And I tend to think that scriptural concepts in particular are extremely vague and I
think sometimes in theological disputes we dont acknowledge this.

Comment by Clark June 7, 2006 @ 9:10 am

105. Clark, the exact opposite of the DCT (in LDS theology) is Pratt-onic absolutism, namely the idea that
the one true God is divinity itself, or alternately that God himself submits to a divinity that is
independent of his will.

Now the classical Christian solution to this conundrum the doctrine of divine simplicity, but since we
have multiple exalted persons, we cannot (and do not) even make a pretense of the idea that the nature
and the will of the divine concert are absolutely identical.

So we have in Orson Pratt, a doctrine of collective submission to an impersonal absolute in the worst
sense, worshipping divinity rather than the holders thereof, that in any case where the will of a person
departs from the absolute, it is an error.

Well there are a bunch of problems with a strictly absolutist conception of ethics that are dealt with in
technical treatises on meta-ethics, creativity, and free will. I think a absolutist meta-ethics is a denial of
the significance of divine discretion, or collective agreement. It makes God *opinion* on anything
irrelevant. Divine law becomes not in *any way* personal will, or collective consensus, but simply a
matter of scientific or analytical discovery of what could not have been otherwise.

My position is that there has to be a healthy balance between the natural, or absolute and freely
determined or socially constructed aspects of morality. i.e. things are wrong in part because they
conflict with natural symmetries, and lead to non-subjectively negative consequences (e.g. the reality
of pain) and in part because they conflict with a *system* synthetically established by the authorship of
one or many to allow us to avoid such consequences.

In other words, I do not think that morality is nothing but natural law, any more than I think beauty is.
There are many different implementations of fundamental principles that are comparably moral, or
beautiful, just as the beauty of a painting or a musical composition is at best a *partial* ordering. There
is not *one* true symphony, or novel, or culture. Heaven has a culture to be sure, but it is ridiculous to
conceive of every aspect thereof as a law of nature.

Thus the formation of the culture of heaven is a question of the formation of a relative unity of will, the
classic problem of government and society in all ages. Absolutism will not cut it, and discretionary
mind meld-ism is a cop out, a practical denial of D&C 130:2.

Comment by Mark Butler June 7, 2006 @ 9:37 am

106. I agree with all of that, but I think Geoffs complaint is still valid. One of the points Mark is making is
that analogies can be drawn to a wide variety of things because all you need for an analogy is one
aspect that is the same. Then you can say that it is analogous to the thing in this one way. The problem
is that it is very easy to slip into a guilt-by-association implication if you choose an analogy to

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something with other negative baggage. It is easy to do this on accident, but it certainly happens on
purpose a lot as well.

So, Geoff is rightly pointing out that the Borg are known for compulsive assimilation. There might be a
good analogy there if it werent for this. I dont think it is fair to initially qualify by saying you dont
mean the evil parts and then start calling it the Borg theory of unification. I think Marks point about
calling the standard model the My Turn on Earth model is also valid. It implies the model is cheesy or
childish (baggage that goes with MTonE). I am guilty of this whenever I refer to the theory that
exaltation is a matter of getting a bunch of people under you to give you glory as the pyramid-scheme
theory of exaltation (of course, I do it on purpose in this case). This is one of the real dangers of
analogy, and I think anyone who uses analogies needs to be constantly on guard against choosing
analogies that obscure more than they clarify.

Comment by Jacob June 7, 2006 @ 9:38 am

107. That argument, by the way, also leads me ultimately the conclusion that God is God *because* of what
he *does*, and not simply because of what he *is*.

We indeed have to take upon ourselves divine attributes, but the ultimate attributes are not passive, but
active. Love is a verb, Love without action is meaningless. If God quit acting, he would cease to be
divine. Grace is not a substance welling up inside of Gods heart, it is a metotnymy for Gods saving
*acts*. And that is why the purported dichotomy between grace and works is ultimately an illusion.
Grace is good works Gods works Christian service from the Most High down to the lowliest saint.

The service of any one will not save, because salvation is a collective enterprise. So works = our
works and grace = the works of the divine concert. There will be and cannot be any Zion without
work. God is work. (metonymically speaking)

Comment by Mark Butler June 7, 2006 @ 9:58 am

108. There will not be that is. God is Work in the same (imperfect) sense that God is Love. Good Work.

Comment by Mark Butler June 7, 2006 @ 10:02 am

109. Clark, the exact opposite of the DCT (in LDS theology) is Pratt-onic absolutism, namely the idea that
the one true God is divinity itself, or alternately that God himself submits to a divinity that is
independent of his will.

Well hopefully we arent given the choice of a false dichotomy.

BTW Ive long seen Pratts focus on the attributes of God as God to be a way of rescuing the more
traditional Trinitarian notion of God as the one ousia in three persons with the focus being on this
ousia. (One of many reasons I find the notion that Mormons arent Trinitarian to be problematic) I
agree here with Brigham Young that our focus is the persons and not the essence.

Regarding divine simplicity, Pratts relation to that is obviously problematic if only because of what
one might term a nominalist tendency.

I think, however, the main problem with Pratts view is its absolutism (which I think translates to his
approach towards the unity of body or spirit within any particular being as well). I think the Stoic

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notion of matter disposed to X solves the problem if one wants to adopt the kind of naive approach to
space and time that Pratt does. (Obviously Pratts desire for atoms is already problematic and is a relic
of the atomist ferver of the 19th century Stoic continuity is simply more conducive to physics
although I find their conception of space/time problematic)

If one rejects absolutism. That is the tyrrany of a single way of mind then I think the notion we share
a will with God becomes much more reasonable. That is there are numerous behaviors in harmony with
the divine nature. Combine that will with communication and I think one can achieve a lot of what
Pratt is after without some of his problematic metaphysics.

Comment by Clark June 7, 2006 @ 10:23 am

110. Clark, you know I dont believe in binary dichotomies, as a general rule. I am defining endpoints on a
spectrum. We can then tune parameters to get something viable in the middle. The classic problem with
absolutist / extreme models is that they are untunable, so we have to mix ones based on different ideals
to get something plausible, generally with a non Aristotelian semantic of interpretation of quasi-
authoritative sources. Half of the physicists I know do this rather than solve more complex problems,
but it is a good starting point either way. Call it the interpolative version of the Hegelian dialectic.

The reason why LDS are non trinitarian is not due to the disbelief in the indwelling unity of the spirit,
it is due to the Trinitarians insistence that the unity our ousia of the Godhead is indistinguishable from
the personality of the members. This *almost* works in a strict monotheism, but in a divine pluralism
(including a trinitarianism) it can only be considered an incomprehensible mystery at best. Since we do
not believe in such mysteries, as a general rule, we actually have to solve the problem.

Pratts solution is not divine simplicity, it is splitting out the members of the Godhead from the essence
of divinity. That is considered a heresy in the Christian world it makes God divine, because of what
he *has* rather than because of what he *is*, either that or denies the personality of God in favor of the
absolute and impersonal God of Aristotle.

As I said, I think this focus on attributes and properties is secondary. God is God because of what he
*does*. An active, process based idea of divinity, not a static Aristotelian one. A divinity that is a
function of the free creative expression of God in the salvation of his children, grounded in a handful of
natural laws and principles such that we can judge between good and evil, harmony and cacaphony
and avoid religion as might makes right or the Stockholm syndrome.

That is the balance between either a DCT or a divinity of anarchy on one end, and a Prattonic
absolutism on the other.

[By the way, If you can point me to a good reference on stoic metaphysics, preferably online, I would
appreciate it Clark]

Comment by Mark Butler June 7, 2006 @ 8:11 pm

111. Mark, I put the Stoic stuff on my blog.

I think that Pratts attempt is to make it so you cant distinguish the personality from the ousia. That is
as individuals bind themselves to the divine substance they become one with it.

Comment by Clark June 8, 2006 @ 1:44 pm

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112. Mark: I suggest that the reason LDS are not orthodox trinitarians is that the unity of the persons is
metaphysical and logical for traditional Christians such that they have no choice as to whether they are
in the relationship of divine unity. I argue in vol. 2 that the essence of fellowship love, the highest form
of divine love, is freedom to say no to the relationship and therefore I suggest that the traditional
view of the Trinity adopts a logical and metaphysical reading contrary to any sound scriptural
hermeneutic and it devalues the divine love.

Comment by Blake June 8, 2006 @ 2:05 pm

113. I agree with that, Blake involuntary love is not love at all. A healthy relationship must be freely
entered into and maintained through the active effort of both parties. An unreciprocated love is
*necessarily* much weaker than a reciprocated relationship, because of the lack of consent on the party
of the second part. Draw near unto, me and I will draw near unto you, and so on.

Comment by Mark Butler June 8, 2006 @ 2:29 pm

114. And it follows that outer darkness is not a *punishment* it is the natural state of those who are not
willing to love and sacrifice. They end up alone wandering in strange roads, subject to the random
highwayman, in a Hobbesian state of fear, or go in for a more perverse kind of love/rule by
intimidation in the anti-Kingdom, the combinations of the devil.

Comment by Mark Butler June 8, 2006 @ 2:34 pm

115. Thanks, Clark.

Comment by Mark Butler June 8, 2006 @ 2:34 pm

116. Mark Butler you have made some beautiful and insightful comments on this thread (as have the
others). Just wanted to say thanks again :)

Comment by CE Digger June 8, 2006 @ 11:08 pm

117. Thanks, CE.

Comment by Mark Butler June 9, 2006 @ 11:03 am

118. Clark: I thought youd find this article particularly interesting. It argues that quantum mechanics entails
panpsychism. See it here: http://cogprints.org/3064/01/qpan.pdf

Comment by Blake June 9, 2006 @ 3:28 pm

119. If: Physical creations are patterned after Spiritual creations

Then: Cells are to the physical body, like Intelligences are to the Spiritual body.

Think about it, the light should come on.

Comment by Simple-Simon June 16, 2006 @ 6:08 pm

120. Simple-Simon,

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So youre saying that intelligences are powered by mitocondria, right?

Comment by Jacob June 17, 2006 @ 9:25 am

121. Jacob,
In a wayyes, but were talking billions and billions of times smaller than that!

Look up: String Theory

Matter is all inconceivably small 1 dimensional energy WAVES or strings, i.e., [remember E=MC2]

Sounds are WAVEs


Lights are WAVEs
So, if all Energies are WAVEs
Then, all Matter is made up of WAVEs too.

The most elementary particles are really 1 dimensional [First Estate]tiny waves of energy. Vibrating [2
dimensions: 2nd Estate], like sound waves only really fast.

Genesis:
And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
and
John:
In the beginning was the word.

Quick little side note:


The Hebrew and Aramaic word Abracadabra, or the phrase avrah ke dibrah literally translates into
By my word, I create or It happened as it was said.

Sound was used to create Light,


And light can be used to create all the matter in the Universe; E=MC2 into [3 dimensions: or the 3rd
Estate] or MATTER.
And so on, and so on.

It all began with a single WAVE..

Comment by Simple-Simon June 19, 2006 @ 8:43 pm

122. I truly enjoyed this entire string. So interesting! Thanks to all especially Mark Butler.

Comment by Jason September 27, 2011 @ 2:34 am

123. Schne Webseite, ich komme mal wieder vorbei.

Comment by web site June 21, 2013 @ 2:37 am

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Spirits/Intelligences: An infinite number of them or not?

June 7, 2009 By: Geoff J @ 9:40 pm Category: Eternal Progression,MMP,Theology

I finally started reading that copy of Truman Madsens Eternal Man that has been sitting on my bookshelf for
the last couple of years. Eternal Man is an interesting little set of short theology and philosophy essays aimed
at laymen. It was published in 1966. In the second chapter of the book Madsen makes the following
assertions about the minds/souls/intelligences/spirits of all people:

The quantity of souls is fixed and infinite.


There is no beginning to us.
Mind has no birthday.
No one is older or younger than anyone else.
We have always been separate from, and coexistent with other intelligences.
Creation is never totally original.
Immortality is not conditional it is inevitable and universal.
Death does not destroy the self.
Suicide is just a change of scenery.
No self can change completely into another thing.
No one will ever lose their mind or consciousness.
Nothing is something we never were and never will be.

I agree with most of his assertions here. But in this post I want to delve into Madsens first assertion that
The quantity of souls is fixed and infinite.

As for the assertion that the quantity of souls/spirits/intelligences is fixed I think Madsen is on solid ground
in Mormonism. There is no disputing that Joseph Smith taught that the spirits of humans have no beginning,
are co-eternal with God, and cannot be created or destroyed. Therefore it follows that the number of spirits is
indeed fixed. In the William Clayton account of the King Follett discourse we get this:

God never did have power to create the spirit of man at all. He could not create himself
Intelligence exists upon a selfexistent principle is a spirit from age to age & no creation about
it

Whether spirits themselves are eternal or if pre-spirit intelligences/minds gain spirit bodies is not relevant to
the discussion I wish to have in this post. Both camps in that debate can agree that Joseph Smith taught that
intelligences have no beginning. Ill refer to these beginningless minds/intelligences/spirits simply as spirits
in this post to keep things simple.

But is there an infinite supply or a finite quantity of spirits? The revelations dont tell us clearly. Nevertheless
the answer to this question has important metaphysical and theological implications.

Implications of an infinite number of spirits

It is certainly logically possible that there are an infinite number of spirits. The problems I see with the notion
that there are an infinite number of spirits are more logistical that logical. Namely, if we accept that there are
an infinite number of spirits waiting to get a body then we must accept that we already waited an infinite

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amount of time to get our bodies here. We would also have to accept that there are an infinite number of our
brothers and sisters that will have to continue to wait an infinite amount of time before getting the chance
to get a body. And of course for all eternity there will always be an infinite number of spirits just waiting.
This model portrays God as inefficient at best and as utterly inept at worst. That eternal thumb-twiddling
reality associated with the assumption of an infinite supply of spirits just waiting ever waiting for their
chance to get a body and progress doesnt work for me. If there are an infinite number of spirits why doesnt
God organize an infinite number of inhabitable planets for all of them at once? Well even then we are in
trouble because infinity isnt a number. (Maybe this is the problem with playing fast and loose with the
concept of infinity.)

Implications of a finite number of spirits

So what happens if we assume a finite number of beginningless immortal spirits? Well if we assume that we
end up with a very different looking universe. I wrote a thought experiment post on this very subject a few
months ago. My conclusion then is my conclusion now given an infinite amount of time and assuming our
finite number of eternal spirits are eternally rational and free-willed, we all would have been exalted and part
of the extended Godhead prior to this earth being created. We all would have been part of the One God
eternally already.

This is obviously a radical theological idea that I would expect most people to recoil from. Not that there
arent potential passages that one could point to in loose support of the general idea that we all condescended
to come to earth:

Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye
have done it unto me. (Matt 25:40)

when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God. (Mosiah
2:17)

In such a universe these scriptures are much more literal than we imagine.

Of course I am not presenting any of this as truth. Rather the idea is offered only as one of the many
possibilities that exists in the absence of clear revelations on some of these issues.

I must admit though that eternal thumb-twiddling waiting for My Turn On Earth sounds like an eternity of
hell to me. I personally find that notion much more disconcerting than the suggestion that we might all be
slumming here on earth. That is why I prefer the finite number of spirits model. Or at least this month I do. I
reserve the right to be talked out of any such opinions at any time.

Comments (137)

137 Comments
1. Linear time is screwing you up. Ditch that one foolish western notion and this isnt nearly so troubling.

Comment by Owen June 7, 2009 @ 10:43 pm

2. Give me a convincing argument against linear time Owen. (And if you are going to lean on the God is
timeless nonsense take your response to this post where that argument is appropriately obliterated.)

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Comment by Geoff J June 7, 2009 @ 10:59 pm

3. Even if there were a finite quantity of spirits, the spirits themselves are still infinite. This could mean
that some portion of them still do have to twiddle their thumbs (or more than likely, demonstrate
faithfulness) for potentially an eternity until they are ready to take part in the plan.

Its like looking at a grain of sand on the beach and documenting its progress on its way toward being
refined into use on a computer chip. Even though there are finite amounts of sand on this planet, it
might still take an eternity for that particular grain to make it to the chip factory. It might not ever make
it at all.

Secondly, there may be some sort of you-dont-know-what-youre-missing principle at play here. A


spirit who is waiting for an eternity for a shot at exaltation may still have peace and happiness in its
current sphere while waiting. This is true for either finite or infinite numbers of spirits.

Comment by britain June 7, 2009 @ 11:47 pm

4. Britain: the spirits themselves are still infinite

I dont know what you mean by this. Could you explain?

Also I am not sure what you mean by an eternity. Do you mean an infinite amount of time? Or
perhaps a really long but finite amount of time? The problem is that if we assume with Brother Madsen
(and Joseph Smith) that no spirit has more rational capacity or free will or time than another spirit then
the idea that it might take some spirit another trillion years of thumb-twiddling to figure out that
wickedness never was happiness simply doesnt make any sense.

Comment by Geoff J June 7, 2009 @ 11:59 pm

5. I dont have a position per se on whether the number of spirit/intelligences is finite or non-finite. What
I do have a position on is that that the mean spatial density of eternal spirits is finite i.e. there arent
an infinite number of them in any finite measure of space.

In other words, if there is an infinite amount of space, there is an infinite number of spirits, or finite
space -> finite number of spirits, with some finite ratio either way.

As far as the competence question is concerned, my position is that the plan of salvation is proceeding
roughly in parallel for all spirits together.

Comment by Mark D. June 8, 2009 @ 1:13 am

6. I dont know that there are an infinite number of spirits. Spirits as we understand them are intelligences
whaich have been given spirit bodies by our Heavenly Parents. Thus, wouldnt we have had a spirit
birthday? Our Heavenly Parents held the pre-mortal council with a finite number of spirits, otherwise it
wouldnt have been a third of the spirits that followed Satan, but a small infinity of spirits.

Unfortunately, we dont know much about intelligences. Are they some basic unit of self-awareness,
much as an atom is a basic unit of matter?

We also dont know if our Heavenly Parents have been through the council/creation/wrapping-up
process just this once, or multiple times. After all the process should be finite(?). Satan will be cast into

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the pit, thereby marking an end to the tempting process. At least for this group of campers in mortality.

My opinion is that there is infinite mass, infinite intelligence, and infinite space. Everything else
remains to be seen. Unless it to is infinite, it which case it would be inprossible to see. ;^)

Comment by Floyd the Wonderdog June 8, 2009 @ 4:22 am

7. My bad. The pre-mortal council was held with intelligences, not spirits.

Comment by Floyd the Wonderdog June 8, 2009 @ 4:25 am

8. Geoff: And of course for all eternity there will always be an infinite number of spirits just waiting.

Nope. Just waiting for what? Not to exist. To experience morality? Nope. An infinite number at once
could experience mortality on an infinite number of worlds as you suggest. Or perhaps infinite numbers
can be accommodated on a planets or planets with an infinite number of dimensions or fractal spaces.

Geoff: Well even then we are in trouble because infinity isnt a number.

Yes, it is. It is an order of transfinite number. Such numbers dont have the same property as finite
numbers, that doesnt make it a number. To recognize that such numbers have different properties than
finite numbers, it is appropriate to recognize since Cantor that there are transfinite numbers of different
orders that also behave differently from on another. That they act differently doesnt make them not
numbers irrational numbers also have different properties than rational numbers.

Geoff: given an infinite amount of time and assuming our finite number of eternal spirits are eternally
rational and free-willed, we all would have been exalted and part of the extended Godhead prior to this
earth being created. We all would have been part of the One God eternally already.

This is just a nonsequitur. All that follows is that is any given intelligence will be at whatever stage of
progression it has freely to accept. You are making a modal logical error. That an intelligence could be
exalted doesnt entail that it must be exalted.

Havent we been over this several times before? You see, your own intransigence and refusal to accept
the mathematics of infinities is an example of someone who could get it and move on, but freely
chooses not to do so. Youll be stuck in mathematics hell of infinities forever simply because you
freely choose not to move on. Can u give me an argument for why such eternal intransigence isnt
possible?

And like others . . . I have no position on whether the number of spirits is finite or infinite but it is a
number either way.

Comment by Blake June 8, 2009 @ 6:06 am

9. given an infinite amount of time and assuming our finite number of eternal spirits are eternally
rational and free-willed, we all would have been exalted and part of the extended Godhead prior to this
earth being created. We all would have been part of the One God eternally already.

There are processes that take a semi-infinite amount of time to arrive at some specified quantity. An
exponential function (y = e^x) is typical.

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However, I agree if we were always essentially as we are now, then explaining what we were doing for
a semi-infinite amount of time is difficult.

Comment by Mark D. June 8, 2009 @ 7:36 am

10. Thank you Mark D. and Blake for bringing some mathematical sense.

I dont comment here very often but ironically, a post/topic very similar to this one is what brought me
to this blog and if I remember correctly, my first comment was to complain that the poster was playing
fast and loose with the concept of infinity. I cant find that original post or comment now but I have the
same complaint.

I absolutely agree with Mark D.s finite density and particularly its corollary: there are an infinite
number of spirits ONLY IF there is an infinite amount of space to hold.

Blake is correct that there are numbers which can be treated as numbers in some contexts but are still
infinite (such as Cantors transfinite numbers). At the same time, Geoff was most likely saying that
infinity is not an algebraic number, i.e. one that you can perform algebraic operations on like all the
numbers that we are used to dealing with (including funny ones like pi). But your entire section on the
implications of infinite spirits seems to depend a lot on being able to define infinity infinity = X
which just isnt going to be definable no matter how hard you try.

I also think that youre making a several major logical fallacies in going from infinite time + finite
spirits = infinite progression of all spirits. First of all, I dont see any point at which you couldnt also
say infinite time + infinitely many spirits = infinite progression of infinitely many spirits = infinite
progression of (nearly) all spirits (which I also dont agree with). Secondly, Blake is dead on when he
questions the idea that we would have progressed that much simply because we had the time to do so.

Im pretty sure that if you applied the pidgeon hole principle to your logic and tossed in the idea that
there are only a finite number of actions we can take that we would have committed every such action
an infinite number of times which doesnt seem likely.

Comment by Rob V. June 8, 2009 @ 7:37 am

11. Mark (#5) I do currently assume finite space and thus I assume a finite number of spirits.

Floyd (#6) As mentioned in the post, we are calling eternal minds spirits so the implications of the
tripartite model of spirits are moot.

Comment by Geoff J June 8, 2009 @ 7:51 am

12. Blake,

I tried to make it clear that I realize that it is logically possible that one could freely reject happiness
through oneness with the Godhead over an infinite amount of time. You repeatedly hammer on the fact
that these things are logically possible when this subject comes up and I repeatedly agree with you.

But of course to accept that we would have to reject one of the other assumptions like the assumption
that we are all beginninglessly rational I think. That is I assume a rational being would reject misery
and seek peace and happiness. I also accept the idea that greatest peace and happiness is found in

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oneness with the Godhead. So it seems to me that freely and perpetually choosing misery is not a
particularly rational choice for spirits to make over infinite time.

Just waiting for what? Not to exist. To experience morality? Nope.

The forever waiting in the Madsen and most popular assumption is forever waiting for a body. Are you
of the opinion that a time will come when ALL of the fixed number of spirits will have finally received
a body and experienced mortality? If so that puts you in the finite spirits camp with me I suppose.

Yes, it is. It is an order of transfinite number.

Duly noted.

Comment by Geoff J June 8, 2009 @ 8:01 am

13. Mark However, I agree if we were always essentially as we are now, then explaining what we were
doing for a semi-infinite amount of time is difficult.

Exactly.

Rob V I agree that the infinity infinity = X thing is impossible to define. I tried to indicate that
in the post. But either ALL spirits eventually will get a body or they wont right? If they all will we can
call the fixed number of them finite right?

Last, it seems to me that the implication people like to fall back on is that beginningless spirits might
have essentially different levels of rationality or even intelligence. If those differences are essential and
beginningless at what point do we call them an ontological divide?

Comment by Geoff J June 8, 2009 @ 8:08 am

14. Assuming our finite number of eternal spirits are eternally rational and free-willed

Free-willed, yes. Eternally rational? Heck no. Why do you believe this???

Comment by brady June 8, 2009 @ 10:12 am

15. Brady,

Do you have any evidence that suggests that the eternal mind of man (and God) is irrational or
a-rational? I think that the fact there is a God and we are reportedly of the same species/kind as God is
plenty of evidence to support the assumption of essential rationality. Further, most irrationality we
witness here could be attributed to the flesh or our mortal weaknesses.

Comment by Geoff J June 8, 2009 @ 10:31 am

16. Do you think it was rational for Lucifer and Crew to boot themselves from Gods presence? Please
explain how that episode fits in to your account.

Ill turn the table: what evidence do you have that most irrationality we witness here could be
attributed to the flesh or our mortal weaknesses? Sure, it could be- but Im not sure why one
would be more willing to believe that than the alternative. I guess at root, Im not really sure how

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youre defining rational.

Your logic that:


God has A
We are of same kind as God
We therefore have essential A

does not sit well with me. Does it necessarily follow that because an adult member of species/kind
has a characteristic, the juveniles must also have that characteristic? Id argue that we possess the seed
or potential for A, but not developed A. And if not developed A, then there is no reason to believe we
currently act rationally or even that we acted (exclusively) rationally in premortality.

I hope my tone isnt perceived as contrarian, snide, or disagreeable. This is a genuinely interesting
topic, and I appreciate your thoughts. Just not sure I agree with all of them. I am also open to change
my mind.

Comment by brady June 8, 2009 @ 10:54 am

17. Please explain how that episode fits in to your account.

I dont take it literally like I dont take most of the stylized pre-earth narratives literally.

what evidence do you have that most irrationality we witness here could be attributed to the
flesh or our mortal weaknesses

All mental illness and deficiencies can easily be attributed to the flesh (unless you argue that there are
eternally idiotic people at which point the ontological gap between us and God issue arises again).

You have my logic wrong as well. It is more like this:

God is A
We are of same kind as God
We therefore be essentially A

That is perfectly logical.

Does it necessarily follow that because an adult member of species/kind has a characteristic,
the juveniles must also have that characteristic?

No, but according to the co-eternal model God is not older than any of us so the adult vs. juvenile
analogy fails. As Madsen states Mind has no birthday and No one is older or younger than anyone
else.

Id argue that we possess the seed or potential for A, but not developed A.

What exactly does A represent for you? Further how much time would it reasonably take for a mind
to gravitate toward greater peace and happiness? Whatever amount of time you name weve already
had it. As I said it is technically logically possible that we havent but hardly feasible from a practical
standpoint.

Comment by Geoff J June 8, 2009 @ 11:10 am

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18. My question stands whether or not you believe in a literal or figurative reading. Unless you completely
discard that narrative as a whole.

Irrationality/arationality = mental illness or deficiency?? Youve lost me.

A represents any Godly characteristic (in this case, Reason).

Im arguing that no amount of time may be enough for a mind to gravitate toward ultimate peace and
happiness. Even if you assume that all intelligence has the same initial start value, there is no reason to
assume that rates of change across intelligences are equivalent or linear. Peace and/or happiness is not
only a function of time that is maximized as time increases. Again, just because we may be coeternal
with God does not mean that we be what he is.

Comment by brady June 8, 2009 @ 11:28 am

19. And FWIW, Im not quite convinced that I have a problem with an ontological divide between us and
God (although thats not what Im currently arguing for).

Comment by brady June 8, 2009 @ 11:31 am

20. Irrationality/arationality = mental illness or deficiency?? Youve lost me.

I dont know what you mean by this. Are you wondering what the definitions of those words are?

A represents any Godly characteristic (in this case, Reason).

By reason I simply mean a desire to avoid pain and misery. That is certainly not something that only
God has but an insane person might lack it. If a desire to avoid pain and misery is an essential part of
our minds then I contend we are essentially rational. If wickedness never was happiness is an eternal
principle as I believe then it make very good sense to assume over enough time we all would have
figured out that wickedness is not a good way to avoid misery. If we are eternal we have had enough
time. I contend one would have to be at core insane to not seek to avoid misery in the long term.

Of course if you you are fine with the idea that there is an an ontological divide between God and us
an unbridgable gap between the species that God belongs to and our species then we are at an
impasse. I simply disagree with that assumption of yours.

Comment by Geoff J June 8, 2009 @ 11:41 am

21. Nice writeup and discussion all.

I am not sure that we can assume all intelligences are equal to each other Abraham 3 suggest that
they are not.

I think that eternal peace and happiness is not always the easy route especially in the short run. There
may well be intelligences that will choose to procrastinate because it is easier. I think many of us are
not as good as we should be given what we know. We may all have the tendency to choose not to
progress, which is not evidence of an inept God.

Free will of intelligences might suggest the ability to progress, and digress, and progress again, and
digress againon and on. God may simply not force us to prgress if we dont want to.

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Comment by Eric Nielson June 8, 2009 @ 11:44 am

22. Of course I know what the definitions of those words are. I disagree with your claim of equality.
Irrationality/arationality =/= mental illness or deficiency.

I also stated that I wasnt arguing for that assumption (i.e., an ont. gap). That assumption has no current
bearing on what Im trying to get at here.

You still have not explained how exactly you do account for any sort of reading of Lucifer (literal or
figurative). Unless you deny the existence of Satan, Id be interested in hearing it.

I still dont think you have argued well enough for why just because there is an eternal principle that
beings across an infinite time will come to embody it. Time is not the end of the story.

Comment by brady June 8, 2009 @ 11:49 am

23. Brady,

As for the definition of rationality I gave you my working definition for this discussion in comment
#20. Based on that definition do you object to the idea that we are all essentially rational?

The ontological gap issue is very important because unless we reject it there is no reason to even care
about these other details.

As for Lucifer I am not at all convinced there is an actual individual spirit by that name. See a post
on that here.

I still dont think you have argued well enough for why just because there is an eternal principle
that beings across an infinite time will come to embody it.

My argument is that peace and happiness for our species is only found in unity with God. I further that
the One God or Godhead is infact a unified community of many individuals (see here for that).
Therefore I contend that for our species peace and happiness is only found in unity with the one God in
the eternities. If we are all essentially rational (by the simple definition I am using in #20 of uniformly
wanting to avoid misery) then it stands to reason that given enough time we would figure out that unity
with the rest of our peers in the Godhead and thus avoid the misery and pain of separation from the
One God.

Comment by Geoff J June 8, 2009 @ 12:21 pm

24. Eric: We may all have the tendency to choose not to progress, which is not evidence of an inept God.

This argument works to a point. But the idea of procrastination assumes that we eventually will choose
happiness and eternal life (unless we are not sane and rational). Well how long until eventually comes
around? Whatever finite number we choose, no matter how large, we have already passed that that
length of time.

God may simply not force us to prgress if we dont want to.

Again we bump up against the long term happiness vs long term misery problem here. If we are
essentially sane then it stands to reason we would want to avoid misery in the long term.

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Comment by Geoff J June 8, 2009 @ 12:37 pm

25. Does essentially rational mean that one can only act rationally, that one has the capacity to act
rationally, or that one acts rationally more often than not?

Was Christ irrational in taking on the pain inherent in the Atonement?

What role exactly does the Atonement play in your theory if rational intelligences will necessarily
gravitate towards this unity over time?

Comment by brady June 8, 2009 @ 12:37 pm

26. Geoff: Ive been watching this all day with interest. We already had this out back here, so I am pretty
sure I cant add anything, but I will say I personally think we could not eventually choose happiness
without the atonement/plan of salvation, in that the atonement was a singular event which allowed us to
choose happiness, and without it we would have perpetually been unable to eventually choose
happiness. We didnt know how to do it without Heavenly Father, and we were not always in a
relationship with him. (This is in response to your response to Eric in #24)

Comment by Matt W. June 8, 2009 @ 1:20 pm

27. Matt,

If one were to fully accepted this radical theological notion I have mentioned (which I am not
advocating) then one would probably assume that we have all eternally been part of the Godhead and
that we are simply here without our memories as a way to add variety and excitement to an otherwise
dull and perfect life over eons. Under those assumptions I imagine a moral exemplar model of
atonement for Jesus would be the only atonement theory that would make sense. I imagine the
assumption would that there was never a time when we beginningless spirits had no relationship with
each other whatsoever so there was never a time when we werent part of the One God.

It is a radical variety of universalism to be sure. The upside is that it might provide such radically
different metaphysical assumptions that the problem of evil might be solved under those assumptions.

Comment by Geoff J June 8, 2009 @ 1:32 pm

28. Brady,

By essentially rational I mean that basic rationality is essential and irreducible and indestructible in
our eternal minds. In other words if one strips away all that can be stripped away from the core of us,
there is still a mind that is us that has free will, consciousness, and is rational enough to wish to avoid
misery.

Comment by Geoff J June 8, 2009 @ 1:35 pm

29. Well, maybe eternity is just 2,555,000,000 years, and after that time we all start the cycle over again.
(You know, just to add some variety).

Comment by Eric Nielson June 8, 2009 @ 2:04 pm

30. I have always thought that 0 is not the infinite and therefore not the realm of God in the sense that

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Plato/Aristotle have put it. Meaning out of space and time.


Joseph Smith therefore was bigger than Plato (using Trumans analogy) because he rectified this
small huge mistake by putting God/ and all of the transcend world back to the matter. By doing so did
he (JS) destroy the 0 at all?.
Roman and indian numerology dont have 0 at also. This is something I believe came from the
greeks. Being so can we still think about infinite? I think yes, and the way I see it is that the platform of
matter is infinite in a sense that the termimus the end number would be something like
1.99999999999 and we as souls live in this realm like 1,999999 also. In another worlds we are infinite
in a matter way and not in an imaginary infinite as transcribed by plato and his followers.
please discard some english mistakes as I am a portuguese native speaker.

I am hoping that my explanation make some sense.

Comment by Srgio June 8, 2009 @ 2:40 pm

31. Geoff: is rational enough wish to avoid misery.

Well, of course it is rational to avoid misery. It is always irrational to choose to be miserable when one
could be happy. It so happens that people irrationally make this choice all the time. People are
sometimes just irrational and sometimes they are hell-bent and committed to their irrationality.
Sometimes they dont see or get their irrationality. Sometimes, they choose their misery because they
are so damned stupid (literally). Sometimes, they would choose differently if they just knew how or
knew how miserable they are. Most of the time, it seems that miserable people have no idea just how
much happier they could be if they just stopped being irrationally stupid and such asshats.

Comment by Blake June 8, 2009 @ 3:22 pm

32. I agree with you Blake that humans do behave irrationally on a regular basis and in fits of irrationality
humans make choices that lead to their own misery.

However over time it is my observation that cooler heads prevail, that passions subside, and in the end
people yearn for peace. Perhaps some people manage to be asshats for their entire 72.6 years here and
choose misery the whole time. But how long can a rational prodigal son or daughter eat corn husks
with pigs before he or she says enough! and decides to move toward the peace and happiness of a
loving Father? Is it 72 years? 150 years? 1000 years? More? I contend that eventually all rational
prodigals would have their fill of asshatness and seek a way out of misery. So no matter what finite
length of time we choose there was more than enough time before this earth to work through it.

This is on top of the fact that we presumably were not saddled with the flesh prior to this life and its
genetic predispositions. Plus we did not have that pesky veil that made it unclear whether this 72.6
years is all there is to us or not.

Comment by Geoff J June 8, 2009 @ 3:48 pm

33. Geoff-
If I grant your eternally rational assumption for the sake of argument, what if our environmental
conditions were such that we could not work through it even given infinite time? Isnt it possible that
environmental context precluded any such progression???

Comment by brady June 8, 2009 @ 4:06 pm

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34. Im not opposed to an environmental influences argument Brady. What about our premortal
environment do you think would influence us to choose to spurn a relationship with the one God?

Do you think we had a veil of forgetfulness there? Perhaps we were perpetually mortals on other
inhabited planets or something so we had the same challenges we face here? What do you have in
mind?

Comment by Geoff J June 8, 2009 @ 4:15 pm

35. Geoff, I think that we didnt spurn a relationship with God in the pre-mortal life as much as we werent
able to fully accept Him (or the Godhead) in a peer relationship. Like the prince and the commoner
woman, the woman can only see the prince as an object, not as a person. I think Gods majesty was so
overpowering as to keep us from Him as peers.

Comment by Kent (MC) June 8, 2009 @ 4:38 pm

36. Geoff: But how long can a rational prodigal son or daughter eat corn husks with pigs before he or she
says enough!

Well, Id say that in light of Gods love for them that leaves them free to decide whether to be asshats,
some can do it about forever. I hope youre right and all of Gods children wake up and get it. Im
committed to that proposition and will do what I can to bring it about. But like Kent sez, how many are
ready to accept their true glory and inheritance? I fear that some are just hell-bent asshats.

Comment by Blake June 8, 2009 @ 4:44 pm

37. Blake said:

You see, your own intransigence and refusal to accept the mathematics of infinities is an
example of someone who could get it and move on, but freely chooses not to do so.

haha ouch. The Ostler rebuke! I have to say, Blake, with me the problem is simple mathematical
incompetence. I rejoiced when I passed my Math 1030 class last semester. I am worthless in math
matters even though I try. Im glad I have infinity to figure it out. Maybe I can keep putting it off.

Comment by BHodges June 8, 2009 @ 6:19 pm

38. Blake:

Im committed to that proposition and will do what I can to bring it about. But like
Kent sez, how many are ready to accept their true glory and inheritance? I fear that some
are just hell-bent asshats.

Sounds like a hope and a fear seeking resolution. Interesting way to frame it, considering Geoffs
thoughts. Is that the best response we have for the weve already had a gazillion years to repent and
return to God, so we already would have thing Geoff keeps repeating?

Comment by BHodges June 8, 2009 @ 6:40 pm

39. Kent (#35),

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The problem with the idea that we werent fully able to accept God in the premortal world (and by God
you are assuming a single divine person right?) is that there is not much explanation why this possibly
would be. Remember, as Madsen put it No one is older or younger than anyone else. So in a real
sense the eternal man model makes every person a peer with every other person (including Jesus and
his Father) by default. That is, there are no adults vs. adolescents in this model. No older brothers.
And arguably there is no spirit that has more potential than any other spirit.

Therefore analogies like parents and children or princes and commoners are ultimately inaccurate and
misleading in the eternities (though they are probably useful with us here behind the veil). More
appropriate would be calling us all gazillion-tuplets.

So if you think one of our eternal peers has majesty that is so overwhelming that the rest of us cant
treat him as a peer we should examine what the difference between us is. I would say that if we are all
eternal and all have the same capacity the radical model I outlined (where we are all part of the One
God and just visiting here) sounds pretty feasible.

Comment by Geoff J June 8, 2009 @ 7:37 pm

40. Blake: that leaves them free to decide whether to be asshats, some can do it about forever

I cant deny that this is logically possible. But that doesnt make it at all likely.

But like Kent sez, how many are ready to accept their true glory and inheritance?

I contend that if they are remotely rational then the answer would be 100% would reject misery and
accept joy. A spirit choosing misery for a all eternity would be overwhelming evidence that that spirit
is insane.

Comment by Geoff J June 8, 2009 @ 7:41 pm

41. BHodges: Is that the best response we have for the weve already had a gazillion years to
repent and return to God, so we already would have thing Geoff keeps repeating?

As far as I can tell yes. It is a shockingly anemic defense in the face the logic I am presenting dont you
think? Blakes ever repeated defense is its logically possible. It is also logically possible that
monkeys will fly out of my butt but that doesnt make it remotely likely or feasible.

Comment by Geoff J June 8, 2009 @ 7:45 pm

42. Geoff #27:


Regarding:

this radical theological notion I have mentioned (which I am not advocating

Its good to know you dont really advocate this idea and you are just bringing it up because you think
it is ridiculously stupid (?). Seriously, you are advocating this idea. Just own it bro.

Regarding:

The upside is that it might provide such radically different metaphysical assumptions that
the problem of evil might be solved under those assumptions.

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What? Im sorry, Ill take Life is hard because Suffering is self-existent and I am willing to take the
hard to get to somewhere better over I allow myself to be hurt to alleviate boredom.

Im still holding to the best possible answer being We were not in a relationship with God except for a
finite period, and only a finite number of us are (currently) in a relationship with God, and the
atonement/plan of salvation is what gives us the freedom to choose happiness, which we otherwise
would not have been able to do. Its not a matter of not being ready to accept their true glory and
inheritance, it is a matter of fundamentally being unable to do it without the transforming power of the
atonement of Christ. He and we together cause the synergy needed to lift us up.

Comment by Matt W. June 8, 2009 @ 8:33 pm

43. Matt Im clearly saying it is within the pantheon of possibilities and Im saying it makes more sense
than the popular head-in-the-sand approach taken to the simple question what were we doing for all
eternity. What I am not doing is presenting it as the truth because I really dont know.

Ill take Life is hard because Suffering is self-existent and I am willing to take the hard to get to
somewhere better over I allow myself to be hurt to alleviate boredom.

If everyone who suffered in this life did so because that suffering helped them get somewhere better
this might make sense. But our theology tell us that babies that die get somewhere better but the poor
women tortured and murdered by the Taliban or who die painful and slow deaths from diseases dont
necessarily have a leg up on getting somewhere better than an upper middle class American who lives
a long and prosperous life in our theology. Further, the more importance we place on this life the more
difficult it becomes to explain Gods occasional intervention vs his normal non-intervention. If this life
is mostly an adventure that we all sign up for and roll the dice on the problem of evil is shifted pretty
dramatically.

I dont begrudge you wanting to defend the traditional models. Who knows they may be true. I am
still waiting for an decent attack on the arguments I have presented. Plus I have never once heard
anyone give a reasonable answer to the question of what we have been doing forever. This model
(along with an assumption of reincarnation/MMP) provides the only feasible answer to that question I
have encountered.

Comment by Geoff J June 8, 2009 @ 8:58 pm

44. As usual, there are lots of alternatives here. To begin with, I am inclined to think there was a time
before any individual could be considered divine, in any comprehensive sense.

I dont think anyone has ever been saved by themselves or even in a small group. Spirituality and
salvation to me seem to be inherently group enterprises. So to me, the question is not when this person
or that decided to live by superior principles and somehow became quasi-exalted. The question is when
enough individuals did so together enough to make heaven a reality.

Needless to say, the level of agreement and moral discipline necessary for a large group of individuals
to form a heavenly society is far greater than that required to be a monk in a cave, and in practice the
formation and reformation of a heavenly host worthy of the name requires far more time than that for
any individual to follow a prescribed practice of personal morality.

We have no idea how many incremental plans of salvation necessary to bring heavenly civilization to

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the next level preceded this one. In my opinion, I dont think the capacities we associate with
human-class character, rationality, language, spirituality, etc. were developed in a fortnight. I dont
think they are random evolutionary accidents either.

I simply take it as an empirical fact that the process that lead to the current state of heavenly
civilization (and its mortal auxiliaries) took as long as it did to reach the point where we are now.

The alternative is to adopt the position that there is no net forward progress in the world, that we are all
just twiddling our thumbs, and that struggle and exertion in the cause of right are of no eternal
consequence. That sounds to me more like the downside of Taoism than the upside of Christianity.

Comment by Mark D. June 8, 2009 @ 10:05 pm

45. Geoff, I didnt have much time to read through the comments, so I apologize if someone has already
caught this, but

You do realize that your arguments for a fixed quantity of intelligences are really no different from
William Lane Craigs argument for creation ex nihilo based on the impossibility of infinite regress of
causes right?

I mean, Craig pulls out the old Kalam Infinity argument and says that if there is a an infinite regress of
causes in the universe, we could never arrive at now. Which is why there had to be a finite beginning
to the universe.

Now you are arguing essentially the same line of reasoning and saying that since an infinite number of
spirits would man an infinite waiting period for my turn I could never arrive.

Surely you realize that the logic behind one argument necessarily demands the other, right?

So, I guess my question is do you believe in creation ex nihilo and a finite universe?

Comment by Seth R. June 8, 2009 @ 11:54 pm

46. I recommend you read the comments so you dont look silly next time Seth. Blake and I have gone
over that issue numerous times in the past here.

I dont have the problem you mention because I readily admit that an infinite number of spirits and an
infinite amount of space is logically possible. In fact I believe I even mention that in the post.

Comment by Geoff J June 9, 2009 @ 12:06 am

47. Geoff, a simple we already covered that would have sufficed.

Comment by Seth R. June 9, 2009 @ 12:24 am

48. Hehe. Yes but that would not have properly conveyed my annoyance with the tone/wording of your
comment

Comment by Geoff J June 9, 2009 @ 12:48 am

49. If everyone who suffered in this life did so because that suffering helped them get

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somewhere better this might make sense

Good, Im glad it makes sense because the Church teaches we went from a pre-mortal lesser state to a
mortal higher state. (Body = Happiness and all that) So this life, with any suffering involved, is
involved in getting somewhere better, no matter what degree of suffering is involved. Just look to ye
old We all Jumped for Joy to participate in the plan bit that has been in every general conference for
a long time.

And the What were we doing for all eternity options I see are needing help or entertaining
ourselves. Neither really seems to be a head in the sand approach and both, from the available
information (ie none or at least very little), seem reasonable. I dont see the amusement park model of
life as inconceivable, I just think the majority of evidence points toward life being a bit more
meaningful. (and by evidence, I mean scriptures, personal feelings, conjecture, hoping, wishful
thinking, quotes taken out of context, etc.)

Comment by Matt W. June 9, 2009 @ 6:17 am

50. Geoff, I guess the question you are really asking is why God is God and why arent/werent we part of
that Godhead if all things were equal in the beginning. If the meta-universe didnt have a beginning
how do we even approach that question? We have no framework to discuss it. Blake argues that there
wasnt a time without God in the universe, the indwelling love between members of the Godhead has
always existed. Im open to that idea as well as the idea that intelligence was emergent and God just
woke up before the others, but how do you reconcile that with eternity?

I take my position on Gods glory being overpowering based on our present situation being the most
compelling explanation. I am agnostic as to how Gods glory became overpowering to us. Just
spreading the ignorance and taking up space with this one.

Comment by Kent (MC) June 9, 2009 @ 8:32 am

51. Geoff:

Maybe I am not understanding, but I dont think your model answers the problem. If we think about
eternity, why would beginningless and endless cycles be more entertaining/less boring that a
beginningless and endless single process? Especially if you include free will and variation within the
single process?

As far as what we did for eternity, could we not consider an infinite variety of options?

Infinte space
Infinte intelligences
eternal past
Infinite spirit relationships
Infinte amount to learn
Infinte options

They all seem about the same to me. So maybe we just did whatever we chose to do within our
capabilities and we liked it!

Comment by Eric Nielson June 9, 2009 @ 8:48 am

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52. Matt Yep, you do have the getting a body at any cost is worth it argument to lean on. But you still
have the problem of explaining gratuitous evil. The formulation might be: If God only wanted us to
get a body why not do so in a way that did not include so much gratuitous pain and suffering for some
while sparing others almost entirely?

Kent I am saying that if it is feasible that three eternal persons have always unified to make up the
One God it is also feasible that all of us eternal persons have always unified to make up the One God.
Of course there are a lot of possibilities. Mark had some interesting ideas on the subject in #44 if one
prefers the idea that there was a time before the One God became God.

Eric The boredom is alleviated by MMP. We are living the exciting part right now in the model Im
assuming. I suppose you could argue for an infinity of concurrent planets to populate too if you
wanted But since we believe in God with some limits (particularly the limits associated with a finite
and physical body) you will likely run into problems of claiming God can keep track of a universe with
all the infinities you are describing in #51. In other words I dont think all those infinities you mention
work when you throw a physically finite God into the mix.

Comment by Geoff J June 9, 2009 @ 9:07 am

53. If this is the exciting part..

And, it would not be the first time we have seen some advantages to a finite view of God.

Comment by Eric Nielson June 9, 2009 @ 9:33 am

54. I assume you meant to say disadvantages to a finite view of God right?

Comment by Geoff J June 9, 2009 @ 9:38 am

55. To me, the idea that some small handful of individuals started out divine while every other self-existent
individual started out otherwise is a proposition that cannot be explained.

Even if that small handful were ontologically distinct the relative number would be arbitrary, and if as
most Mormons believe there is no ontological distinction, the divinity of the first handful is a
contingent fact and for them to start out that way would be a metaphysical accident on the order of the
world spontaneously springing into existence last Thursday.

Comment by Mark D. June 9, 2009 @ 10:01 am

56. I agree with you Mark.

Comment by Geoff J June 9, 2009 @ 10:06 am

57. Yeah, but when there is no beginning Mark, there is no beginning.

Comment by Kent (MC) June 9, 2009 @ 10:13 am

58. I of course disagree with Mark. According to the BofA, there is a continuum of intelligences of various
degrees and God is the most intelligent. Necessarily, in any array of intelligences of varied intelligence,
there will be a most intelligence.

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That there would be a most intelligent or some who are most intelligent and equally intelligent with
each other seems to be quite logically necessary given an array of varied degrees of intelligence. Those
who were most intelligent could see that love and agreeing with each other in each moment would be
most happiness inducing also seems quite rationally necessary.

For the umpteenth million time, could you please define what you mean by ontologically different,
since it clearly doesnt mean for you what it means in usual philosophical discourse. That A is more
intelligent than B, even in each moment of reality, is not an ontological difference. That A, B and C
agree with each other perfectly and, as a result, share an emergent property inherent in the kind of
being that they are, and D who is the same kind as A-C but has not made the same choice, is not an
ontological difference as long as D would have the same emergent properties as A-C if D made the
same choices.

Divinity is a contingent fact for A-C, but how you conclude that A-C agree with each other perfectly in
each moment is a metaphysical accident (whatever that means) on the order of spontaneous world
existence is just a mystery to me. It seems to be just an unsupported assertion based on a term that has
no real meaning.

Comment by Blake June 9, 2009 @ 10:21 am

59. Kent, When I say start out, I mean in the limit as the time t approaches minus infinity. It is a
metaphysical accident either way.

For a variety of reasons, infinite backward recursion in Mormonism approaches hard Platonism. Take
the ordinance of baptism for example. Who decided that baptism was a necessary step in the plan of
salvation? Nobody? Saying nobody decided how the plan of salvation should operate is equivalent to
saying that either (1) the ordinance of baptism is an accident, or (2) the ordinance of baptism is a
metaphysical necessity (i.e. a law of nature). Either way no God or gods had anything to do with it.

The idea of divinity is so all encompassing that the same argument follows in spades, to the degree that
Orson Pratt on at least one occasion identified divine attributes (i.e. divinity) as the one true God, a
higher God than God. There is some point to that perspective in the abstract, but if you take it to the
point where you have a plan of salvation that no one actually authored, one is essentially saying that
God is just a functionary carrying out the dictates of an impersonal abstraction no one has ever met.

Comment by Mark D. June 9, 2009 @ 10:47 am

60. Blake, I dont have a problem with the idea that at any given time t there is a spectrum of intelligences.
What I disagree with is the implication that whoever ranks the highest is God by definition.

I dont believe it makes sense to even bestow the title on the most intelligent person until he is
sustained to a position of leadership by the majority of all other righteous individuals. In other words, I
dont think any individual or small handful of individuals can be God all by themselves. In particular I
maintain that divine power is more a function of common consent than superior intelligence per se.

I also disagree with the general idea that some small number of individuals started out with vastly
superior intelligence due to no particular action or discipline on their part. It makes sense that such a
broad spectrum might develop over time, but the idea that one individual starts out with
immeasurably higher intelligence than virtually all others implies among other things that a high level
of intelligence is the sort of thing that nature can bestow by accident, or is in and of itself a independent

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Platonic reality.

I completely reject the idea that any superiority of human character or intelligence is some sort of
independent, self-existent Platonic reality that no will or wills had anything to do with developing. And
in particular I think the idea of morality cannot exist prior to will, so the idea that some start out with
superior moral character (i.e. divinity) prior to any willing action or experience on their part doesnt
make any sense.

Comment by Mark D. June 9, 2009 @ 11:10 am

61. Geoff (54)

No, I meant advantages. No absolute foreknowledge for example.

Comment by Eric Nielson June 9, 2009 @ 11:37 am

62. Oh, and I kinda like Mark Ds recent comments so far, fwiw.

Comment by Eric Nielson June 9, 2009 @ 11:39 am

63. Geoff 52:


If God[We, the divine concert] only wanted us to [alleviate boredom] why not do so in a way that
did not include so much gratuitous pain and suffering for some while sparing others almost entirely?

Sorry, as far as I can tell, we are on equal footing on that one.

Comment by Matt W. June 9, 2009 @ 11:46 am

64. Now that I have room to answer Blakes question:

I mean ontologically different in the standard sense of an unbridgeable metaphysical distinction, such
that X and Y are ontologically different if they belong to non-overlapping species or classes A and B
such that there is no metaphysical possibility of transforming any member of class A into a member of
class B or vice versa.

Starting out with vastly superior intelligence is does not imply an ontological distinction. Not being
able to lose that vastly superior intelligence, even in principle, most definitely would.

In any case, I dont think Blakes position revolves around ontological distinctions the way J. Stapleys
does, and it was the latters position to which I was referring in passing.

Comment by Mark D. June 9, 2009 @ 12:02 pm

65. Interesting opening post I believe LDS thought implies an infinite supply of intelligences. Now I
present the following with the caveat I am by no means an expert in transfinite math so it is always
possible I screwing up in some fashion.

If my understanding of the LDS view is correct this earth is just one in a infinite chain of prexisting
earths. In which God or a God takes existing intelligences and helps them progress by creating a
world providing a body etc. If indeed the chain of earths is eternal both back in time and forward in
time. This then requires that at each time point t there exists an infinite supply of intelligences to be

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transformed into Gods. If at any time point t there was a finite number of intelligences than at some
time point t+x the supply of intelligences would run out and the great chain of earths would end
(given that intelligences are continually being consumed undergoing mortality and an infinite amount
of time). But if at any time point t there is an infinite amount of intelligences this therefore means the
supply of intelligences is inexhaustible and infinite.

Of course there is a number of other possibilities one of which is outlined by Geoff. And that is there is
a finite supply of spirits but each spirit is used multiple times. That is a given spirit will undergo many
rounds of being born experiencing mortality and death.

The other possibility is that the great chain of earths is not endless and infinite but has a finite length.
Which strongly implies if not requires some king of beginning point which I understand is not
compatible with LDS theology.

Also if indeed the first model is correct (i.e. infinite earths/infinite intelligences) this implies there will
be an infinite number of intelligences that will never get a body and experience mortality. And if a
mortal experience is necessary in some sense for further progression then they will be damned (i.e.
blocked in further progression).

Consider an infinite number of earths has already passed therefore an infinite number of intelligences
have already gotten a body and experienced mortality. But an infinite number of intelligences have not
gotten a body and experienced mortality. Given at any time point t there is an infinite supply of
intelligences. It necessarily follows at any time point t there is an infinity number of intelligences that
have not gotten a body and experienced mortality and are blocked in further progression. Of course it
also means at any time point t there is an infinite number of intelligences that have gotten a body and
progressed to Godhood.

Comment by Uncertain June 9, 2009 @ 12:31 pm

66. Mark: What I disagree with is the implication that whoever ranks the highest is God by definition.

It isnt a matte of rank as in some artificially contrived ranking of military order. It has to do with a
way of being and a matter of the greatest possible. At any given time, the divine persons are one in
the sense of unifying and deifying indwelling oneness. Any divine person who participates in this unity
is a participant in the fullness of divine knowledge and power the most that can be possessed. Thus,
there is, at any given time, a greatest possible sharing of divine being. In the next moment, the scope of
the divine knowledge and divine power will expand and increase, but no being could know more or
have more power. No individual or isolated being could even approach this kind of power and
knowledge.

It follows that those who participate in the indwelling divine glory spoken of by Jesus in John 17 are
one God and there cannot be any more knowledgeable or more powerful being.

Comment by Blake June 9, 2009 @ 2:34 pm

67. Perhaps Bro. Madsen simply got a few things wrong.

I have come to see things more in the light of; if evolution is true, then it would seem that a first god
evolved (actually a whole race of gods) and since then, they organize the way things are now. Of
course only within the realm of existing natural laws. Needless to say, we do not understand all of those

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natural laws.

Anyway, it seems hard to me to explain evolution without something along these lines.

Just my two cents worth. ;)

Comment by CEF June 9, 2009 @ 3:02 pm

68. Any divine person who participates in this unity is a participant in the fullness of divine knowledge and
power the most that can be possessed

I generally agree here. My departure is that I maintain that divine power and glory is and can be only a
consequence of the effective unity of a very large number of divine individuals, and that the quality and
glory of that unity increases with the number of participants.

So if one is strictly speaking about a handful (two or three or ten) of individuals, I maintain that the
glory of such a union would necessarily be but a pale shadow of that of a union of a much larger
number.

Furthermore I maintain that the power and glory of this divine concert is ever increasing, such that one
in perfect union with the whole does indeed have the most glory that can be experienced at that time,
but in no way the most than can be experienced in any absolute terms.

At one time, perhaps a disciplined council of three was the greatest unity that could be had. But I dont
see any reason to say that they exercised divine power and glory by virtue of the unity and moral
superiority of a mere three individuals. In my opinion a very great deal of the glory of God is due to the
spiritual concurrence of a host of individuals who havent yet arrived anywhere near the same state.

Comment by Mark D. June 9, 2009 @ 5:08 pm

69. Matt: If God[We, the divine concert] only wanted us to [alleviate boredom] why not do so in a way that
did not include so much gratuitous pain and suffering for some while sparing others almost entirely?

Because in that model the real risk of real pain and suffering and fear is a large part of what makes our
mortal lives non-boring. (Maybe think of it like improvising live in an action/drama/thriller tale)

Comment by Geoff J June 9, 2009 @ 7:46 pm

70. Mark #59,

Some good points all around there. The idea that just three divine persons have eternally been One
leads to problems with the Plan of Salvation. Was there a point in time where it dawned on them that
inviting others to join the union was a good idea and that became the plan of salvation? If so then we
should note that there was an infinity of time before they figured that out. And what was the pitch they
initially made? They could not point to a time when they decided to join together because according to
Blakes model there was never a time when they werent One. So they could never set an example of
choosing to join the Godhead in that model. Maybe the great examplar would be spirit #4 who signed
on to that oneness

Now I will say that the model where all human spirits have always been part of the one God solves
some of the issues you mention. That model is basically radical universalism so concerns about

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ordinances and plans of salvation sort of lose their bite in that model.

Comment by Geoff J June 9, 2009 @ 8:07 pm

71. Uncertain (#65): Also if indeed the first model is correct (i.e. infinite earths/infinite intelligences) this
implies there will be an infinite number of intelligences that will never get a body and experience
mortality

This is technically not true. See Seths #45. While it would take spirits an infinite amount of time
before they experienced mortality in that model it is not correct to say any would never experience
one.

But you seem to be seeing the problem I see with the infinite spirits idea. I think ultimately the finite
God if Mormonism is really what sinks the idea of an infinite number of Spirits.

Comment by Geoff J June 9, 2009 @ 8:16 pm

72. Maybe you get to be a mosquito while you wait your chance to become a mortal man.

Comment by Patrick June 9, 2009 @ 9:09 pm

73. Geoff J, If I understand you correctly, your position is that all individuals are eternally one in the sense
we are discussing here. That has clear advantages in symmetry of course. All else being equal, the a
priori probability of initial symmetry is always higher than anything with radical (i.e. non uniformly
distributed) asymmetry.

The problem is I see the Fall as pretty much a return to the natural condition of mankind, and the point
of the plan of salvation (if not civilization itself) is to work together to overcome that natural condition
such that that accomplishment becomes second nature, both to us as individuals and as a society.

In particular, I dont think that divine nature is natural not in the full sense of the word divine, nor
in the primary sense of the word natural. That is the thrust of my argument here it simply isnt
natural for anyone or any group of individuals to start out in a divine state, because divinity is much
more subtle than anything that can happen by accident (or by nature).

Or in other words, I dont see divinity in the full sense of the term as any more natural of a condition
than civilization. Both happen, but in my view neither happens by nature not by first nature at any
rate but rather by dint of will, effort, experience, and creativity on the part of a very large number of
individuals.

Comment by Mark D. June 9, 2009 @ 9:21 pm

74. Mark,

I agree with those things you say regarding humans here on earth. But what comes natural to mortal
humans behind veils here on earth has little bearing on what is beginningless and essential in eternal
human spirits. As I said, the model I am exploring is probably best described as Radical
Universalism. It simply takes the idea of universal exaltation and applies eternally backward and
forward. I doubt the idea will ever catch on but it does have some theological strengths when it comes
to the big challenges like the problem of evil in my opinion.

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Comment by Geoff J June 9, 2009 @ 9:38 pm

75. (Geoff #71)


>This is technically not true. See Seths #45. >While it would take spirits an infinite amount >of
time before they experienced mortality in that
>model it is not correct to say any would never >experience one.

Hi Geoff

I looked over my post and I was not clear hopefully I can clarify. I am not arguing that a given
intelligence will never experience mortality or that an actual infinite set is impossible. Any given
intelligence has a possibility of coming to a earth getting a body and experiencing mortality. What I am
arguing is there is an infinite number of intelligences that will not get the chance to come to a earth and
get a body.

If the infinite regression/progression of earths is correct and if a given intelligence only experiences
mortality once. It therefore follows the number of intelligences is infinite and inexhaustible. If the
number of intelligences was finite then eventually you would run out of intelligences and infinite
regression/progression of earths would be impossible because there would be no intelligences to
populate those earths they would already have been used up.

If the supply of intelligences is inexhaustible and infinite that means at any time point t there is still an
infinite supply of intelligences that need to come to a earth and get a body.

Possibly and example would prove helpful. Suppose every second I select a unique random real
number. Now suppose I have been doing this for an infinite amount of time up to this point t. I have
selected and infinite number of real numbers but there is still and infinite amount of real numbers I
have not yet selected. At any point t+x in the future I will have already selected an infinite amount of
real numbers but I can continue to randomly select real numbers for an infinite amount of time in the
future. Because there is still an infinite amount of real numbers I have not yet selected. Any given real
number has a possibility of being selected. But there is still and infinite number of real numbers that is
not selected. And there will be an infinite number of real numbers not selected at any point t in the
future.

Similarly if there is an infinite regression of earths each populated by a unique population of spirits. An
infinite amount of spirits have already been selected to experience mortality but there is still and
infinite amount of spirits that have not been selected and there will be an infinite amount of spirits
unselected for any time point t in the future.

Again this does not mean no intelligences will be selected indeed and infinite number will be. It just
means there is still and infinite number that have not been selected and this will hold true for all
eternity.

Comment by Uncertain June 10, 2009 @ 8:07 am

76. Geoff J: but in that model, it is only real temporary risk. and further, doesnt that seem sort of
masochistic? We choose to alleviate boredom by exposing ourself to suffering? In any case, why is it a
better solution that we allow the risk of horrible suffering because we think it could be fun over our
allowing the risk of horrible suffering because we believe It will help us be better in the long run by
giving us an opportunity to be like God?

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I am not sure how the finite God of Mormonism sinks the idea of an infinite number of spirits. It may
sink the idea of all spirits being Gods children, but I dont think Mormonism seriously holds that idea
to begin with.

Comment by Matt W. June 10, 2009 @ 9:18 am

77. I think the solution to the problem of evil is simple. God isnt omnipotent (yet) in the way everyone
would like him to be. There is a war between good and evil and the good is making progress as fast as
reasonably possible without violating the very principles that sustain it namely agency, economy, and
consent.

As far as I can tell, it is simply impossible to think rationally about the level of divine intervention
(especially in natural evils) without some idea that God is pushing the limits already we have a
promise and a hope of salvation, but it wont happen overnight, and the whole thing is run on a much
more delicate and spiritual basis than we might otherwise prefer.

Comment by Mark D. June 10, 2009 @ 9:27 am

78. Matt: doesnt that seem sort of masochistic?

No more than riding a fast rollercoaster or bungy jumping or going for any other adrenaline rush is
masochistic Id say.

Comment by Geoff J June 10, 2009 @ 9:58 am

79. Uncertain,

You are right that we would have to conclude that throughout all eternity we would never reach the
final spirit. That is a messy thing. Playing with the concept of infinity always leads to these kinds of
messes in my experience.

Comment by Geoff J June 10, 2009 @ 10:09 am

80. I have been reading all your threads with a tremendous passion and vigour. Our immortal pasts must
have been filled with great learning. Perhaps we have been through endless mortal probations, each a
progressive one or a regressive one, until we learn all the principles necessary to be exalted. That
would explain our never ending immortal past. I guess that we just cant understand divine concepts
regarding eternity, since we are all subject to our small mortal undestanding. Who is to say weather
king David will be given another chance to grab his exaltation? Who knows? I dont. Who is to say that
hitler had to regress to progress? What about saddam hussein, crawling like a poor worm from his hole
in the desert, having to face up to his punishment. I think that to advance, some have to learn the hard
way.

Comment by Lieutenant Rodriguez June 10, 2009 @ 11:32 am

81. Mark,

I agree that solving the logical problem of evil is easy. Solving the lesser problem of Gods intervention
vs. non intervention on earth as in exonerating God of sins of omission is not quite as simple.
One way to deal with it is to simply exercise faith that God knows more than we do and that God is

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intervening as much as he can to create the best possible world for progress (I used that argument in
this post actually). Robust Mormon universalism (assuming all will eventually choose exaltation) is
another way to deal with that lesser problem because it paints this life as a blink of an eye on the way
to better things. I think radical universalism (extending exaltation eternally forward and backward) is
even a more robust solution than one-way universalism because it makes our time here non-mandatory.

Comment by Geoff J June 10, 2009 @ 11:48 am

82. Regarding Uncertains post #75: Lets tackle this by swapping time with space.

What if there were an infinite amount of earths hosting an infinite amount of intelligent spirits
simultaneously?

We wouldnt have a problem of an intelligence waiting an infinite amount of time for their turn. Their
turn is happening right now, just somewhere further away.

Comment by britain June 10, 2009 @ 10:00 pm

83. britain,

Your comments highlights the problem with playing with infinities like this. Are you saying there
would be a time when ALL spirits had experienced a mortality? If that ever were to happen then the
number of spirits would not have been infinite. If there is a last spirit is line the the number is finite.

Comment by Geoff J June 10, 2009 @ 10:36 pm

84. Geoff, The way I answer that issue is that there is a divine economy and all available resources are
used to a practical limit, such that there is an essentially economic tradeoff between and among
potential interventions and other critical activities.

Comment by Mark D. June 11, 2009 @ 12:11 am

85. My father in law had a theory about animals that became extinct. He thought in some cases that meant
that the spirits for that animal were all used up.

Comment by Eric Nielson June 11, 2009 @ 8:41 am

86. Hi britain,

The problem is not the number of earths currently hosting spirits. The problem is an infinite
regression/progression of earths with unique spirits for each. For example assuming this model is
correct. This earth is just the latest in a chain of earths infinitely long. That means an infinite number of
spirits have already had the chance to come to an earth and experience mortality. And yet given an
infinite amount of time and earths there are still intelligences that have not gained a body or
experienced mortality. This earth is not the last earth but simply the latest in a chain of earths.And there
will be an infinite progression of earths into the future. If this model is correct then it necessarily
follows the supply of intelligences will never run out. If it did run out then eventually the chain of
earths would end and it would be impossible to have an infinite regression/progression of earths. It
doesnt matter how many earths are concurrently in time hosting spirits in mortality it could be one, ten
or an infinite amount. What matters is that there is an infinite progression/regression of earths in

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time.And if the supply of intelligences is infinite and inexhaustible then it necessarily follows there
will be an infinite supply of intelligences that will never presumably for no fault of their own
experience mortality and gain a body. Which is problematic if gaining a body and experiencing
mortality is beneficial in some fashion.

This issue at least for me makes the infinite progression/regression of earths model problematic. I tend
to lean toward some version of multiple mortal probations although perhaps not as most LDS would
formulate it.

Comment by Uncertain June 11, 2009 @ 9:51 am

87. Uncertain,

As you probably know a finite spirits model and MMP is what I lean toward as well.

This post simply follows that trail farther down its logical end. That is, IF a finite number of spirits
exist, and IF we have lived forever already, and IF all will eventually come around to be exalted due to
our combination of rationality and free will; THEN it makes sense to assume we were all exalted prior
to this earth. In this post I posit the possibility that we never have not been exalted but there are many
other possibilities beyond that.

Comment by Geoff J June 11, 2009 @ 10:16 am

88. Mark D Your assumptions seem plausible enough if we assume we have never been exalted in the
eternities past. I just question that assumption.

Eric Your FILs theory has some appeal I think.

Comment by Geoff J June 11, 2009 @ 10:18 am

89. @83 & 87

If there are an infinite amount of earths, there could still be an infinite number of spirits; there would be
no last in line spirit. In fact, this scenario seems to get to exactly where you want to go, Geoff
(everybody becoming exalted) while permitting an infinite rather than a finite spirit count.

How is it that if there are an infinite number of spirits, some never get a chance at exaltation? If I have
an infinitely long river, there will never be a case where, traveling from negative infinity to positive
infinity, Water Molecule A does not travel past Point X. Please help me see where Im wrong on this
one. Im happy to change my mind on this, as its one of my biggest sticking points to this idea.

I still dont think that youve effectively argued for your third proposition in 87 (all will eventually
come around to be exalted due to our combination of rationality and free will), but perhaps I should
just leave that alone at this point.

Comment by brady June 11, 2009 @ 12:37 pm

90. Hi Brady,

Thank you for your thoughts. I think there may be some confusion on this point. Doubtless fed by my
convoluted and confusing explanations :). It is not the fact there is an infinite number of intelligences

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that is problematic. I am satisfied it is possible to transverse an actual infinite. Which means it would
be possible for an infinite number of spirits to experience mortality.

The problem is a never ending chain of earths both back and forward in time. Consider this earth it is at
the end of an infinite chain of earths so an actual infinite amount of earths have come and gone in an
infinite amount of time and an infinite amount of spirits have experienced mortality correct? And yet
have all intelligences even in an infinite amount of time and earths experienced mortality? clearly no.
If that were the case this earth would be the last one in the chain and there would be no more earths
after this one. Because all the intelligences would have been used up. In other words we already have
an example of an infinite amount of time passing and yet even given and infinite amount of time there
are still intelligences that have not experienced mortality (assuming of course the infinite
progression/regression model is correct). If there really is a never ending chain of earths both back in
time and forward in time each earth populated by a unique population of intelligences. Then it logically
follows you need a never ending supply of intelligences to populate those earths. But by definition of
never ending it is logically required that there will be intelligences that will never inhabit a earth. If all
intelligences did inhabit a earth then at some point the chain of earths would come to an end because
all intelligences have experienced mortality and gained a body and there are no more left and the chain
of earths would not be never ending after all. It does not matter how many earths are concurrently in
time hosting spirits what matters is the never ending chain of earths progressing forward in time.

Take the set of all odd numbers this is an infinite amount of real numbers and yet it is not the set of all
real numbers. There is still an infinite amount of real numbers not included in the set of odd numbers.
So it is possible to have selected an infinite amount of something (i.e. real numbers) and not selected
all of that something. Even an infinite amount of odd numbers does not include all real numbers.
Similarly an infinite amount of intelligences may very well have come to an earth and gotten a body it
does not mean all intelligences have done so.

So to sum it all up in one quick statement (I should have done this at the beginning :) ). A never ending
chain of earths requires a never ending supply of intelligences and a never ending supply of
intelligences by definition is inexhaustible and not stopping (i.e. some intelligences will never
experience mortality and earth life).

All the Best.

Comment by Uncertain June 11, 2009 @ 2:06 pm

91. Wow. That is a really long answer Uncertain.

Brady if we ever got to the last spirit throughout all eternity then there is not an infinite number of
them. It is that simple.

Comment by Geoff J June 11, 2009 @ 2:11 pm

92. Hi Geoff,

As you can no doubt tell I have a real tendency to be long winded. I am a graduate student in the
sciences and have written a number of scientific manuscripts and my boss is constantly telling me to be
more concise. Clearly I have not yet mastered this particular skill.

Comment by Uncertain June 11, 2009 @ 2:17 pm

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93. Geoff and Uncertain-

I completely agree with Geoffs statement here: if we ever got to the last spirit throughout all eternity
then there is not an infinite number of them.
I also agree with Uncertains statement that: [a] never ending supply of intelligences by definition is
inexhaustible and not stopping. However, it does not follow that i.e. some intelligences will never
experience mortality and earth life)

An endless supply of intelligences does not entail that there will always be some sort of eternal static
surplus that just never gets a shot; were talking about a dynamic system! It is true that at any given
point in eternity there will be an infinite number of intelligences waiting for a chance to play.
However, because that infinite supply is moving through time, if each intelligence is considered
individually then over time each individual intelligence will have a turn. Its just that theres just no end
to the supply behind that individual intelligence. Please probe if Im not being clear.

Comment by brady June 11, 2009 @ 2:39 pm

94. Think about it in these terms Say youre working on a great cosmic conveyor belt, and have fed
more intelligences through the system than you can ever hope to remember. Now youre down to your
last two. Finally, youre done! However, just as youre down to your last one, another one pops into
existence. In these terms, its easier to think about seeing an individual intelligence that may have had
to wait literally an eternity to go through the system, but eventually it makes it through. But just as it
does, theres another one behind it. We watch that one go through, but then theres another one behind
it. Every single one gets to go through (over time), its just that process never ever stops.

Of course Im not arguing for the continual and/or spontaneous creation of intelligences (they are all
co-eternal)- Im just using this as an illustrative device.

Comment by brady June 11, 2009 @ 2:53 pm

95. Not forgetting, in the equation, assuming that an infinite amount of pre existences are going on right
now, one third of every pre existence dont get a body since an infinite number of `lucifers#` persuaded
them to follow a different game. Ive heard that these castaways, plus the flesh and bone sons of
perdition, are described as the `balance`. what does that mean? Balancing what?

Comment by Colonel Ferdinand June 11, 2009 @ 3:34 pm

96. Do people get at least a personal flashlight as a parting gift from god prior to going to outer darkness?
Maybe some night vision goggles?

Comment by Colonel Ferdinand June 11, 2009 @ 3:36 pm

97. Brady,

Of course Im not arguing for the continual and/or spontaneous creation of intelligences (they are
all co-eternal)- Im just using this as an illustrative device.

Frankly it seems to me you are arguing for spontaneous creation. Take your example of a cosmic
conveyor belt. Yes there may be a line of intelligences right behind the one currently going through.
But in order to be inexhaustible this line must never end there must never be a point in time in which

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there is a last intelligence in line. If indeed intelligences can never be created and if indeed the
supply of intelligences is inexhaustible then it logically must follow there will be intelligences who
never experience morality. If all currently existing intelligences will at some point experience mortality
than the supply is not inexhaustible after all. Because at some point all of them will come to a earth.

The only way your convey belt example will work is if intelligences are being created to replace the
ones used.

Now one possible solution is that intelligences are not sentient they are the equivalent of floating rocks.
In which case God or a God in the process of creating spirits introduces sentience. In which case it does
not matter that all intelligences wont get used because they just dont care they dont have a mind to
care with. I am reluctant to accept this solution because I think it causes problems when dealing the
Problem of Evil but other peoples mileage may vary.

Comment by Uncertain June 11, 2009 @ 4:10 pm

98. I have to agree with Uncertain that the pops into existence part of your analogy is totally untenable.
More appropriate would be that the line is infinitely long and no matter how fast the line moved it
would always remain infinitely long.

I still think that Uncertain oversteps by using the word never though because that technically should
not be true for any individual spirit. (Its a paradox I suppose.) Perhaps a more precise way of saying it
is that there will never be a time when the line isnt infinitely long.

Comment by Geoff J June 11, 2009 @ 4:18 pm

99. Geoff- Im happy with your last paragraph in 98. My only point has been that *every* individual spirit
will come through and have an opportunity for exaltation, even though there never will be a time
without an infinite number waiting in the wings. It seems were finally in agreement there. Yes?

If you accept this point, though, Im not sure how you can still hold to the claims you were making in
the OP regarding the implications of Infinite Intelligences versus Finite Intelligences. Given the points
weve agreed on above, if everybody eventually gets a shot in the Infinite Intelligence model, whats
the problem?? From a group level, it seems there will always be some intelligences that engage in
eternal thumb-twiddling, but from an individual level, we see that eventually each individual has an
opportunity. And whats wrong with waiting for an eternity after someone else gets their shot if youve
already waited an eternity??? Is there a difference?

Comment by brady June 11, 2009 @ 4:49 pm

100. Uncertain- You are committing something called the ecological fallacy by claiming that the following
is logical: If indeed intelligences can never be created and if indeed the supply of intelligences is
inexhaustible then it logically must follow there will be intelligences who never experience morality

If something is true for the group, it does *not* mean that it is true for the individual.
So, if even if there is always an infinity of intelligence (i.e., an infinite group) waiting across all
eternity, it does not follow that a given individual will also have to wait across all eternity.

And lastly (sorry this has been a lot at once)

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Regarding that part of the analogy being untenable, you guys are taking it too far and not respecting the
boundaries I imposed when suggesting it. The conveyor belt was just an attempt to make infinity a
manageable concept. I was implying that there is indeed an infinite line, but that we were only
attending to a small subset of it. There are no new intelligences being created, just new intelligences
being attended to by us as we try to make sense of this. If you dont like simplifying that way, then
rather than reading another one pops into existence, read then you notice that there are more. Of
course, an infinite line is also an inadequate concept, as there are also an infinite number of belts.

Comment by brady June 11, 2009 @ 4:51 pm

101. Were close but not quite there brady. I think if you are willing to drop the word every well be there.
The problem is that every means 100% and of course 100% cannot logically happen. So because of the
paradoxes involved here we have to be careful with the language to as to avoid fallacies.

Comment by Geoff J June 11, 2009 @ 4:57 pm

102. Is 100% of infinity really logical? 100% seems pretty discrete (i.e., finite) to me.

Comment by brady June 11, 2009 @ 5:04 pm

103. That is sort of my point. 100% doesnt jibe with infinity so using the word every doesnt work either.

Comment by Geoff J June 11, 2009 @ 5:10 pm

104. Say Ive got a curve (e.g., y=arctan(x), which is an s-curve with two horizontal asymptotes- somewhat
symbolic of our current issue).

I can talk about a specific point on that line (e.g., its y intercept) even though there are an infinite
number of points on the line. If I was to travel up that curve for eternity, it is not possible that I could
never reach a particular x-value. Id never finish traveling up the whole curve (because theres not
really such a thing- it goes forever), but you could never name a *specific* x-value that I could not
reach.

Even though my supply of intelligences never runs out, I can never select a specific one that would not
get passed through the conveyor belt.

Comment by brady June 11, 2009 @ 5:26 pm

105. I like that better. Just drop every and say you would never find a spirit that would never experience
mortality and we would be fine.

Again I think the whole thing is a paradox. That is why I prefer the finite space and matter model.

Comment by Geoff J June 11, 2009 @ 5:34 pm

106. Im not sure I understand what the paradox is though. If youre fine with the statement you would
never find a spirit that would never experience mortality, wheres the paradox? One can either find a
specific case or not. If not, then the only problem is with conceptualizing the selection of discrete
entities from among an infinite set. Just because something is difficult doesnt make it paradoxical. Its
sort of like Uncertains selection of all odd numbers from the infinite set of real numbers, in that its
tricky to think about but not paradoxical.

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Anyway, in your OP you said that your problem with the Infinite Intelligence stance was of a logistical
nature, not of a paradoxical nature. I can handle your taking the Finite stance if youve changed your
reasoning for doing so. :)

Comment by brady June 11, 2009 @ 6:04 pm

107. The paradox is that while it seems like we can safely claim that some spirits will *never* experience
mortality we technically cant. On the flipside while it seems like we can safely claim that *all* spirits
will eventually experience a mortality we technically cant.

Comment by Geoff J June 12, 2009 @ 12:23 am

108. Hi Brady,

I am not sure I am committing the ecological fallacy. I fully accept each and every intelligence has the
possibility of coming to an earth. But not each and every intelligence will come to an earth. If every
intelligence did come to an earth than the supply is not inexhaustible after all. So no it is not possible to
pick those intelligences that will not experience mortality. But it is possible to state there will be
intelligences that never experience mortality although we do not know who they are. Again if every
intelligence currently in existence experienced mortality than eventually we would run out of
intelligences and the great chain of earths would end. Yes I would be committing the ecological fallacy
if intelligences can be created. In which case an inexhaustible supply of intelligences does not mean
there will be a group of intelligences that will never experience mortality. But if the supply of
intelligences cannot be increased and if it is inexhaustible then it must be the case that some of those
intelligences will never experience mortality.

Suppose I select a random number between 1 and 1000 every number has the possibility of being
selected. But only one number will be selected. Similarly every intelligence has the possibility of
coming to an earth and experiencing mortality but this does not mean each and every intelligence will
come to an earth and experience mortality.

Take your curve example. You are 100% correct that it is not possible to name a specific x value you
cannot reach. But it is also not possible to reach all x-values. It must be the case no matter how long
you travel on the curve there is still an infinite number of x-values you have still not reached. You
could travel for an infinite amount of time and still have an infinite amount of x-values untouched. So
yes it is impossible to name a specific x-value that is not touchable. However it is logically required
that not all x-values will be touched. As you move along the curve there will always be one more
value that is not yet touched hence there will always be one more intelligence that has not
experienced mortality and this will hold true no matter how much time has passed (i.e. no matter how
long you move along the curve). Hence it is logically required no matter how much time as passed
there will still be intelligences that have not experienced mortality.

Again we already have an example of this there has already been an infinite amount of time and earths.
And yet there still are intelligences that have not experienced mortality. Indeed there is an infinite
supply of them.

So yes it is something of a paradox. It is impossible to name a given spirit and say it will never
experience mortality. But at the same time it is logically required that there will be intelligences that
will never experience mortality there will always be one more in line no matter how much time has

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passed. This is what happens when you mess around with infinity.

Comment by Uncertain June 12, 2009 @ 8:21 am

109. Your statistical analogy is curious. Were not talking about making a single selection. There are infinite
selections. Youre implying that the only reason why the other 999 arent selected is because either a)
there is a finite sampling procedure or b) some subset are not fit for selection. Are you arguing that
from among an infinite number of intelligences, only a finite number have the opportunity to
experience mortality?

By concluding that it is logically required that there will be intelligences that will never experience
mortality, you are claiming that there is a distinct set of intelligences that can never be selected- which
you denied is a possibility by claiming that it is not possible to name a specific x value you cannot
reach.

An infinite supply does not entail that there are some that will never be reached. There will always be
an infinite set of intelligences that have *not yet* experienced mortality, but it is not correct to say that
they *never will* experience mortality. Saying that the selection process is never complete is not the
same as saying that some will never be selected. The former entails the concept of infinite, while the
latter denies it.

Comment by brady June 12, 2009 @ 9:42 am

110. Hi brady,

Well the point of the statistical analogy was simply to demonstrate something may be possibly but not
actually happen.

By concluding that it is logically required that there will be intelligences that will never
experience mortality, you are claiming that there is a distinct set of intelligences that can never be
selected- which you denied is a possibility by claiming that it is not possible to name a specific x
value you cannot reach.

I am not arguing there is a distinct set of intelligences that never have the possibility of being selected I
am arguing there will be a set of intelligences that will never be selected. And yes it is a paradox but I
see no way to avoid it. Look if there is always one more intelligence in line no matter how much
time has passed. And if intelligences cannot be created then it must follow there will be some
intelligences that will never experience mortality. How can it be otherwise? If all intelligences will
eventually experience mortality then there will come a point when there will not be one more in line.

Your example of the curve is a perfect illustration of this. I can move along the curve for eternity but
never reach the end because it *has* no end. Similarly intelligences can be consumed for all eternity
but if there is no end to the supply of intelligences then some of them will not experience mortality
because there is *no end* to the number of intelligences. And by definition no end means all of them
will never be used up. There will be for all eternity some intelligences that have not experienced
mortality.

If there will always be an infinite set of intelligences that have *not yet* experienced mortality for any
amount of time gone by even an infinite amount of time. Then there will always be a set of
intelligences that will *never* experience mortality. How can it be otherwise? I see no way to avoid

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this if indeed intelligences can never be created. I do understand your position but it depends on the
ability to create new intelligences to replace the ones used.

In any case I feel I am repeating myself. It may be we just need to agree to disagree and let the readers
decide who they find more convincing. I have very much enjoyed the discussion.

All the Best,

Comment by Uncertain June 12, 2009 @ 10:16 am

111. Uncertain- I think the only thing I have left to say on this is that my position does not require the
creation of new intelligences. Rather, we just need to agree to disagree regarding whether *never*
follows from *not yet* for an infinite, coeternal set. And definitely, the discussion has been enjoyable.

On a different note- what exactly is your overall position on the OP? I cant quite gather it from your
comments.

Do you buy into Geoffs assumptions that given time, rationality, and free will, all intelligences will
have emerged as God? I still think there are major problems with that stance (which may at least
partially be explained by my less-than-full understanding of his MMP model) which have not yet been
fully discussed in this thread.

Comment by brady June 12, 2009 @ 10:41 am

112. I believe that gods will is fundamentally heretical, and that it is possible that even god could fall from
grace if his ego permitted.

Comment by Sir Dasturdly June 14, 2009 @ 12:13 pm

113. Brady and Geoff: I completely agree with Geoffs statement here: if we ever got to the last
spirit throughout all eternity then there is not an infinite number of them.

This assertion is false. All does not mean the same thing when discussing infinite sets as it does
when speaking of finite sets. It is quite possible that all (the entire infinite set of spirits) will have
experienced a mortality at some point and then all will have experienced it every last one. The
problem is that in infinite sets the term last one does not mean the same thing either. Every one of the
spirits is the last one to experience it because all have if there is an infinite set of spirits.

Uncertain: I fully accept each and every intelligence has the possibility of coming to an earth. But not
each and every intelligence will come to an earth.

How could you possibly know that not every spirit will come to an earth? After all, if it is a possibility,
how do you know that this possibility hasnt in fact obtained?

Comment by Blake June 14, 2009 @ 3:00 pm

114. Geoff: They could not point to a time when they decided to join together because according to
Blakes model there was never a time when they werent One. So they could never set an
example of choosing to join the Godhead in that model.

This is just false. It may be that there was no first moment when they chose to be one if they have

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chosen in each moment of eternity one without beginning precisely because there is no first moment to
an infinite series of this nature. However, it doesnt follow that they dont freely choose to be in this
relationship. They could freely choose it anew in each moment that they exist.

The term there was never a time that they werent one sounds like there is no time in which to choose
to be one. However, what it means is merely that there was no first time they chose. But so what?
Saying that they have eternally made this choice in each new moment is merely to deny that there is
such a first time.

It is of course nonsensical that in an infinite, beginningless expanse of time there isnt enough time in
which to freely choose to be one. But that is the sense in which you assert that there is no time time
which to choose to be one. It is perhaps the greatest possible absurdity in an infinite amount of time
there isnt time to choose to be one. To the contrary, there are plenty of times in which to make such a
free choice to be one in fact, an infinite number of times.

You continue to use terms that apply to finite sets as if they had the same meaning in infinite sets. They
dont.

Comment by Blake June 14, 2009 @ 3:10 pm

115. Blake #113,

I suspect you are using sleight of hand in comment #113.

If a finite number of planets (no matter how massive that number may be) exist at any given time then
a finite number of spirits may pass through them at any time. Under such circumstances we would
never reach the time throughout all eternity when there was anything other than an infinite number of
spirits still waiting.

Now I will have to think about the implications of and infinite number of planets inhabited planets
coming into existence. If we match the infinite set of inhabited planets and the infinite set of human
spirits wouldnt there be a 1-1 ratio? (I am thinking that an infinite set of positive integers would
directly correlate to these) Maybe some mathematicians among us could comment on that question.

Comment by Geoff J June 14, 2009 @ 5:42 pm

116. Blake @113:


I hope the rest of my comments indicate that by agreeing with Geoffs quote there, I was essentially
saying If this werent an absurd statement, Id be ok with it.

Geoff- Why does it matter what the ratio is? Also, is there good reason to think that there will not be an
infinite number of inhabited planets- even in your model?

Comment by brady June 14, 2009 @ 6:06 pm

117. Brady: Why does it matter what the ratio is?

I dont think I ever claimed the ratio mattered much.

Also if a finite number of inhabited planets exist at any given time then there will never be an infinite
number of them as far as I can tell.

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Comment by Geoff J June 14, 2009 @ 6:32 pm

118. Geoff- Im not sure I understand what you mean in your last statement (regarding finite planets). Could
you explain a little more? Are you saying that a finite set at any given time point necessarily excludes
the possibility of infinite growth in the future?

Also- if I havent already mentioned it- thanks for the great blog. Im new to it, and have really enjoyed
the current discussion as well as previous posts Ive gotten through.

Comment by brady June 14, 2009 @ 6:57 pm

119. Im glad you are enjoying the discussions here brady.

My argument in #117 is the same argument I used in #115. That is:

If a finite number of planets (no matter how massive that number may be) exist at any
given time then a finite number of spirits may pass through them at any time. Under such
circumstances we would never reach the time throughout all eternity when there was
anything other than an infinite number of spirits still waiting.

So let me ask you what did you mean when you said is there good reason to think that there will
not be an infinite number of inhabited planets? Are you saying that eventually the number of planets
will reach inifnity? That is obviously not true. If a finite number of planets exist at any given time
then there never will be an infinite number of inhabited planets. If not, what did you have in mind
there?

Comment by Geoff J June 14, 2009 @ 7:11 pm

120. Geoff: If a finite number of planets (no matter how massive that number may be) exist at any given
time then a finite number of spirits may pass through them at any time. Under such circumstances we
would never reach the time throughout all eternity when there was anything other than an infinite
number of spirits still waiting.

This statement is nonsensical because it begins on the assumption of a finite number of spirits and then
states that under such circumstances we wind up with an infinite number of spirits. I dont know
what you intended to state, but it clearly cannot be this statement. A finite never becomes an infinite by
extension.

Comment by Blake June 14, 2009 @ 8:05 pm

121. No I think you have my statement backward Blake. It doesnt assume a finite number of spirits in
existence. It assumes an infinite number of spirits exist but a finite number of inhabited planets exist at
any given time. Your point is my point we could go forever with that scenario and there would still
be an infinite number of spirits waiting.

Comment by Geoff J June 14, 2009 @ 8:22 pm

122. Geoff- Are you saying that eventually the number of planets will reach inifnity? That is
obviously not true.

The reasons for why that is obviously not true are unclear to me. I have a hard time eliminating the idea

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that there could be an infinite number of inhabitable worlds (across eternity). Please make this stance
more obvious to me.

I should clarify that reaching infinity sounds like arriving at some definite endstate- which I dont
think is accurate. See again Blakes 113, as that sums up a number of the criticisms I have about your
take on infinity.

Comment by brady June 15, 2009 @ 4:48 am

123. Hi Brady- re #111

With regards to Geoffs model. If one accepts his premises I think the conclusion is logical. If you have
a rational intelligence. And the most rational course of action is union with God. Then given an infinite
amount of time it seems reasonable to me that the given intelligence will eventually make the most
rational choice and chose union. Now this assumes the given intelligence has enough information to
make a rational decision. I am well aware rational individuals do not always make rational choices. But
given an infinite amount of time I think it is reasonable to expect the curve of decision making to
approach the asymptote of optimal choices given a rational being. :)

Comment by Uncertain June 15, 2009 @ 8:25 am

124. brady #122,

Blake answered your question in #120 when he accurately said A finite never becomes an infinite by
extension. That is, either it is a whole infinite set to begin with or a finite set, but you can never extend
a finite number enough to make it infinite. So if a finite number of planets exist at any given time the
line of spirits will never become shorter than infinitely long.

I suppose the only way around this problem is to claim there are not now, but that eventually there will
be an infinite number of inhabitable planets concurrently in existence. I am not sure how that would be
accomplished without creatio ex nihilo but it may be logically possible I suppose

Comment by Geoff J June 15, 2009 @ 8:53 am

125. Hi Blake- re #113

Blake -How could you possibly know that not every spirit will come to an earth? After all, if it is a
possibility, how do you know that this possibility hasnt in fact obtained?

Well maybe if I put my argument in a more systematic form it would be easier to see.

1. There exists an infinite and never ending chain(s) of earths progressing forward in time one after the
other.

2. Each earth is populated by a unique set of intelligences (i.e. no repeats)

3. Intelligences can not be created.

4. From 1, 2 and 3 there never exists a time t such that there is a finite number of intelligences that have
never come to an earth.
If at any time t there was a finite number of intelligences left. Then the great forward progression of

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earths in time would eventually end and 1 would be false.

4. If 4 obtains then there will *never* be a time t such that all intelligences have come to an earth.

Therefore by 4 there will *never* be a time t in which all intelligences have experienced mortality.
Indeed there will be an infinite number of intelligences that have not done so for any time point t.

Take my previous example of counting real numbers.

Suppose every second I select a unique random real number. Now suppose I have been doing this for
an infinite amount of time up to this point t. I have selected and infinite number of real numbers but
there is still and infinite amount of real numbers I have not yet selected. At any point t+x in the future I
will have already selected an infinite amount of real numbers but I can continue to randomly select real
numbers for an infinite amount of time in the future. Because there is still an infinite amount of real
numbers I have not yet selected. Any given real number has a possibility of being selected. But there is
still and infinite number of real numbers that is not selected. And there will be an infinite number of
real numbers not selected at any point t+x in the future.

So any real number has the possibility of being selected. I cannot point to number 1 trillion 300
hundred and two and say it will never get randomly selected. But what I can say is at *any* time t no
matter what t is I will still have real numbers not selected. Indeed there is an infinite number
unselected. Any given real number may be selected but also there will always be an infinite number of
real numbers that has not yet been selected and this will hold true for any amount of time. Selection
from an uncountable infinite set will never select *all* the members of that set.

Comment by Uncertain June 15, 2009 @ 8:53 am

126. Doesnt the output of a perfectly rational decision depend on the input of knowledge? In other words, if
I possessed the faculty to be perfectly reasonable and were required to make a particular decision, that
decision would likely be different based on what information I was acting on. More or less information
could change the output of the decision even if the reasoning mechanism was perfect in either case.

Thinking about a curve of decision-making is odd. In order for that curve to approach that asymptote,
youre talking about over time somebody either a) becoming more or less rational or b)gaining more or
less knowledge. If the former, then it cant be said that they are fully rational from the get-go (which I
take as one of Geoffs assumptions). If the latter, then this argument is confounding reason with
knowledge- which we both admit are not equivalent, and is a problem which was ignored in the
opening argument and hasnt yet been addressed in this thread (or at least, I havent recognized it).

Comment by brady June 15, 2009 @ 9:45 am

127. @124:
OK, your stance makes more sense to me now. Do you hold that there is also finite matter in existence
(it seems to me like you do)? If so, then I understand your creatio ex nihilo comment. Otherwise, I
dont.

To be honest, I dont think I really know what concurrent means in terms of infinite time.

Comment by brady June 15, 2009 @ 10:02 am

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128. Hi Brady,

I agree the output of a rational decision is based on the input of knowledge. This is why I included in
my response that the intelligence has enough information to make a rational choice. That is the
intelligence has enough information to rationally choose Mormonism as the path to union over other
competing paths.

Thinking about a curve of decision-making is odd. In order for that curve to approach that asymptote,
youre talking about over time somebody either a) becoming more or less rational or b)gaining
more or less knowledge.

Well the reason I choose this example. Is I do not believe we are perfectly rational beings. In other
words we are not emotionless thinking machines. But to some extent our decisions may be influenced
by irrantional factors. For example maybe I was offended by person B so I leave religion A. Clearly
being offended by a member of a given religion is not necessarily a rational reason to think the given
religion is not true. So I think of the decision making curve as in a sense very noisy we may stray far
from what is really best for us. But if at the core we are more or less rational beings eventually we will
all converge at that which benefits us the most. Again assuming we have enough information such that
we know (or strongly suspect) what is best for

Comment by Uncertain June 15, 2009 @ 10:15 am

129. Uncertain- Sure. But my point is that Geoff assumes in the OP that we are eternally rational. And the
assumption about having enough information is a big one, especially when considering Geoffs
argument for why we should have already become part of the One God before showing up here on
earth.

From Comment 3: the problem is that if we assume that no spirit has more rational capacity or free
will or time than another spirit then the idea that it might take some spirit another trillion years of
thumb-twiddling to figure out that wickedness never was happiness simply doesnt make any
sense This sort of thinking also assumes that all knowledge is possessed by all intelligences.

Comment by brady June 15, 2009 @ 10:34 am

130. Brady- Well I do agree the assumption about enough information is a big one. I think Geoffs model
does require that all intelligences do have sufficient information to make the rational decision and this
may not be the case.

To All- I just noticed I mislabeled some of my points the second 4 in post 125 should really be 5.

Comment by Uncertain June 15, 2009 @ 10:48 am

131. Brady #126: Doesnt the output of a perfectly rational decision depend on the input of knowledge?

I remind you of the minimal definition of rational we are using in this conversation. I mentioned it back
in comment #28 and limit it simply to being a wish to avoid misery. So choosing anything that avoids
misery is perfectly rational.

Geoff assumes in the OP that we are eternally rational. And the assumption about having
enough information is a big one

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No it isnt a big assumption. It assumes we are conscious and have a certain irreducible level of
intelligence and it assumes we use those two to avoid prolonged misery. That is no stretch at all in my
opinion.

This sort of thinking also assumes that all knowledge is possessed by all intelligences.

Not at all. It simply assumes that spirits interact with each other rather than existing in completely
isolated vacuums. Through interaction we would figure out what leads to misery and what leads to
happiness given enough time. And if we have existed an infinite amount of time already that is clearly
enough time.

Comment by Geoff J June 15, 2009 @ 6:51 pm

132. I agree with you geoff.

Comment by Colonel rodriguez June 16, 2009 @ 11:53 am

133. I think that we are told and told again that we only have this life to pressure us into making the correct
choices,when,in true reality, that is not the case.

Comment by Colonel rodriguez June 16, 2009 @ 11:55 am

134. Best LDS-themed blog on the web.

-BHodges

Comment by BHodges June 17, 2009 @ 6:28 pm

135. Its funny how you try to rationalize and use logic on a matter that is so irrational to begin with. Where
are these thought processes when it comes to the basis of this belief system in the first place?

Where is your rationalization applied to the authority of Joseph Smith?how dare we question that
one as it is rational to believe that if we pray to get a feeling (burning) that it must be so how
rational is that?? Our feelings couldnt possibly be wrong, could they? How dare we question such
tradition, as held by our fathers? Like questioning the Pope. How dare we get rational?

Comment by pvgardens June 24, 2009 @ 9:37 am

136. pvgardens,

These sort of discussions are based on If/Then reasoning. Obviously if you reject the If then there is
no reason to spend much time on the Then. In other words if you reject the premise there is no need
to discuss the various implications of that premise.

In such cases where you reject the premise of the discussion your time is better spent reading and
commenting elsewhere.

Comment by Geoff J June 24, 2009 @ 11:23 am

137. There is a finite amount of spirits that belong to each world, and there are an infinite quantity of
worlds, ruled over by an infinite quantity of Gods. Dealing with infinities is easy, you just have to

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believe in infinite amounts of other things to accommodate them.

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An Interpretive Tradition Rather than Church Doctrine

November 18, 2007 By: Blake @ 1:01 pm Category: Mormon Culture/Practices,Scriptures,Theology

With respect to your questions regarding what constitutes Mormon Doctrine, your question is best answered
by the Japanese mu, which means that the question is misinformed so it is better to withdraw the question.
Like Judaism, and it appears earliest Christianity, there is neither official Mormon Doctrine nor council or
creed that establishes such matters. Rather, there is a tradition of interpretation that is like the common law
approach to deciding what constitutes the law. It is taken on a case-by-case basis guided by prior precedent of
revelations, decisions and practices. So everything in the scriptures is doctrine, but of course that leaves
open a lot of different approaches. It is well-settled that the doctrine of the Church is that Jesus is Gods Son
and our Savior. What these basic affirmations mean is left open. It is basic that the Book of Mormon was
translated by the gift and power of God. What that means is left open to a range of interpretation.

The question also assumes that somehow getting doctrine right is vitally important. To the extent it facilitates
a saving and exalting relationship with God, it is important. But it isnt important, for instance, to be able to
formulate the relations of the divine persons in the Godhead correctly. If that were the standard, then only
very articulate and very bright people could hope to be saved and exalted. I get the idea from the scriptures
that it is more about a soft and loving heart than a correct idea in the head. In fact, taking such issues
seriously enough to cause dissension over them is counter-productive to loving harmony int he community of
Saints that is much more important in the end.

So LDS doctrine is open-textured. Such openness is necessitated by the ongoing revelation and the fact that
we admit that there is a lot we dont know and a new revelation might put what we thought we once knew in
a new light. That Jesus is our Savior must be affirmed that one must accept the penal theory of atonement
is optional (and in my view wrong-headed).

It follows that there is no authoritative and comprehensive work on LDS doctrine except the scriptures.
However, there seems to be a hierarchy of authoritative sources that one uses in the interpretative context to
persuade what constitutes truth and obligation. First, the scriptures are accepted in all that they say. However,
just as there are many different religions and creeds that derive from the Bible, there are many that are
possible within a Mormon context. Next in authority I would place the uncanonized revelations of Joseph
Smith and his successors. Next in authority are the Official Statements of the First Presidency. Next I would
place the sermons of Joseph Smith and after that those of his successors. Next I would place LDS Church
publication. Knowing this hierarchy of authority doesnt give one an encyclopedia of Mormon Doctrine
but it gives one the sources necessary to engage in the interpretive dialog about what LDS will accept and
take seriously.

Let me give an example of how this interpretive context may work. As should be obvious, the mere fact that
you can find something in scripture that seems solid to you (e.g., Second Isaiahs statements that there is only
one God who is Yahweh) is not going to be definitive because that must be placed within the wider context of
interpretive sources and revelatory authority. It so happens that these statements are made alongside the
recognition of foreign gods and gods who are the sons (and daughters) of God in the council of Gods. These
Old Testament texts will be read in context of Jesus revelations about the Son of God who is called God in
scripture and is not identical to the Father whom Jesus also recognized as God. These crucial texts will also
be placed in the context of Joseph Smiths observations about the God of all other gods in his revelations.
These revelations will be placed in the wider context of his sermons about the council of gods and so forth. In

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the end, there is a sense in which there is only one God, but not in the sense that the creeds have assumed
(based largely on the interpretive context of the Greek metaphysics in which the Church Fathers wrote).
There is a sense in which there are three in the Godhead. There is a sense in which there is a plurality of gods.
Among Mormons, there is a good deal of disagreement over whether these other gods are subordinate to a
Most High God, or there is an infinite regress etc. because such matters have not been fully clarified by
revelation.

In the end, it turns out that getting doctrine right is not what is essential about being a Christian Mormon.
What is essential is being open to love others and do whatever that entails. It is also vital to be open to hear
Gods voice when he speaks and most often that is to assist to discharge the duty to love others. While one
could not be Mormon while fighting against the kingdom of God established through the Church, one could
follow God with doubt about just about everything fundamental and no clear views on even fundamental
doctrinal issues.

I dont know if that is very satisfactory to you, but it is, I believe, an accurate assessment of how Mormons go
about determining what to believe.

Comments (45)

45 Comments
1. Beautifully put Blake. This is one of the best and most succinct articulations of the Mormon approach
to doctrine I have ever read. I look forward to sending people this way when the topic comes up next.

Comment by Jacob J November 18, 2007 @ 1:18 pm

2. Blake,

Thanks for this exposition.

I have one question; what does this statement mean from your perspective:

the scriptures are accepted in all that they say

Just curious. Thanks again.

Comment by Mike November 18, 2007 @ 1:54 pm

3. Mike: What that means is that the scriptures act like a constitution. It can be updated and amended, but
it takes a very positive and affirmative act widely recognized by Church members (like the 1978
revelation for instance). The scriptures, like the Constitution, lay down broad and general statements of
very foundational principals that control and govern all other possibilities of belief. So the scriptures
must be accepted because they are the foundational revelation; however, they do not contain there own
self-contained self-interpretation. There are numerous possibilities and the interpretive rules are not
themselves authoritative. That is why the prophetic voice is crucial in Mormonism.

It seems to me that what makes a tradition distinctive is the interpretive stance it adopts. Evangelicals
adopt a kind of inerrant stance where they suppose that the scriptures are a self-contained systematic
authority that provide authoritative and self-consistent interpretive rules for interpretation of the text.

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So how do we decide what the interpretive rules are? I believe that it is easy to see that the evangelical
stance is logically circular, and I believe that it fundamentally and seriously misunderstands the
scriptural texts by treating them as a consistent set of belief statement that can be worked into a
systematic doctrinal statement that must be believed for salvation. Only the really intelligent and vastly
literate can be saved on such a view. Indeed, given all of the different views that intelligent interpreters
can adopt based on the scriptural texts, if one must get the doctrine right to be saved, then I dont
believe that it is possible for anyone to be saved at all.

Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy likewise constitute distinctive interpretive traditions. The later
writings of the Church Fathers for Eastern Orthodox and the Magisterium for Catholics constitute a
crucial context for interpretive authority. The way they approach the texts is within the context of a
later tradition that developed. The problem I see here is that there is no reason to give any authority to
the later tradition or texts because they eschew revelation on par with scripture as a means of
interpreting scripture. Thus, their interpretive context lacks authority their sole authority is the
validity of their reasoning. I find that reasoning seriously suspect and I have no other reason to grant
the authority of such a tradition.

It is different in Mormonism where the context is formed by revelation and the ongoing interpretive
context is the continuation of the prophetic spirit. There is reason to grant authority beyond a
systematic theology because we dont have the entire revelation and we are guided by an ongoing and
living voice rather than being left to our best reasoning to figure out the appropriate interpretation. So
we could be given commands or truths that make no sense at present because they await further
revelation to put them into a context that makes sense of them. However, there is authority beyond the
authority of simply reasoning from what has already been given. So I will give assent to what I take to
derive from revelation because it may well be beyond my ken; but I wont give assent or authority
when the sole basis is reason.

Comment by Blake November 18, 2007 @ 4:43 pm

4. Blake,

Thats a wonderful post. It restores my hope. Thanks.

Comment by Jack November 18, 2007 @ 5:10 pm

5. the uncanonized revelations of Joseph Smith and his successors

Im sure the light bulb will click when I hear it, but Im having a hard time figuring out what this refers
to.

Comment by Eric Russell November 18, 2007 @ 6:55 pm

6. Blake (#3),

I have long been fascinated by the fact that the authority of so many religions boils down to thinking
they are smarter than everyone else. As you put it their sole authority is the validity of their
reasoning. By coincidence, I posted a response along these lines earlier today on Todds blog. It seems
that as long as authority is derived from the Bible, this will necessarily be the case because there is
disagreement about what the Bible means. Each group claims that they have the correct interpretation,
but without an appeal to revelation, the only explanation for one group being right and the others

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wrong is that the one group is smarter. Talk about a sandy foundation. Thinking of heart issueslol.

Comment by Jacob J November 18, 2007 @ 7:36 pm

7. Blake:

I really appreciate what you are saying and for taking the time to respond, and I agree with you largely.
I guess I am just hung up on the all that they say phrase and what this appears to say on the surface.
This is an issue I have been thinking a lot about lately. Like you (I think like you anyway, correct me if
I am wrong), I see differing and developing views through scripture, contradictions (or what appear to
me to be contradictions anyway), varying opinions/options on different doctrines and beliefs, as well as
some things I just dont take to be true despite the authors affirmation that it is true (for instance I
currently just dont think the harem on Canaanites in the DH came as a real historical order from God).
Obviously here I am more specifically referring to the bible, though I see differing views espoused by
general authorities in the modern Church on different issues throughout its history, and developing
views through time. Clearly, my faulty reasoning and lack of understanding can be the problem and,
like you said, it may just not make sense now because the right context and revelation is missing and I
certainly allow that. But it isnt that any of this (i.e., developing views or apparent contradictions)
really bothers me anyway, because I certainly love the prospect of continual revelation (and thus the
understanding that things can and do change in a positive sense) and God giving to us as we actively
seek it from him (thus acknowledging we allincluding those authors of scriptureare to some extent
reflecting our human cultures and values).

It seems to me that the bible as we have it was never ordered by God by revelation to be as it is today.
In part, at least, it is indebted to human reasoning and opinion as to what should be included there. Sure
the D&C says it is true and I very much believe Gods hand was involved in preserving what we
have today. But to me there are things in there that are just spurious it seems, not to mention there are
probably just as equally authoritative texts that are now missing or lost and forgotten. How can
everything be affirmed if there are disagreements in the text itself? Yes, it is accepted as a standard
work, or canonical, but does that mean it is all inspired to the same degree (or some even at all
perhaps)?

So let me see if I can wrap things up, as well as my head around what you are saying by the phrase in
all that they affirm (and please correct and clarify me if I am wrong). What you are saying isnt that
all that the scriptures affirm is necessarily in complete harmony or all historically accurate, etc., but
merely that scripture (i.e., what we currently use as the standard works?) including all of its
incongruitiessimply acts as the broad context for which we discern what is true and not true. It doesnt
mean that everything there is true necessarily, but simply that it is the context that allows us to discern
what may come from God as further light and clarification is given from heaven. Is this what you are
saying?

Sorry I am a little dense on this. Again, I appreciate your interaction.

Comment by Mike November 18, 2007 @ 9:12 pm

8. Sorry, I meant all that they say and not affirm in the last part. Didnt mean to change your quote.

Comment by Mike November 18, 2007 @ 9:20 pm

9. Well said Blake.

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Comment by Clark November 18, 2007 @ 9:36 pm

10. Nicely done.

There are similar thoughts available at lds.org as well here.

Comment by Eric Nielson November 19, 2007 @ 6:54 am

11. Yup Mike, Im in full agreement with what you say. When I say that we accept the scriptures in all that
they say, Im not saying they are consistent (they are not) or that everything they say is true (which
follows in any event doesnt it?). However, if it is in the scriptures it has an authoritative pull on us to
make sense of it in our assessing the interpretive matrix of our views. If the Bible says that a donkey
spoke to his master, I am called upon to make sense of it in some way even if I believe it is a childrens
story used for didactic purposes. I am called upon to explain how a book inspired and preserved by
God would be allowed to contain such things. I dont treat it like Grimms fairly tales. I am called to
account by it and for it in a way that non-scriptural texts dont call to me or make demands upon me.

Comment by Blake November 19, 2007 @ 7:39 am

12. Thanks for taking the time to respond Blake. I appreciate the clarification.

Comment by Mike November 19, 2007 @ 7:45 am

13. Blake,

I would agree with much of what you say, although I think the ordering of what is authoritative is left
open to a range of interpretation. Id place official declarations and statements of the first presidency
above (or beside) scripture in many instances. Further, I think such directives from our living prophets
and leaders trump the scriptures in terms of authority on what we should do (of course, only if also
given a second witness by the Holy Ghost). If the prophet tells us we need to serve in the military and
that we should seek a spiritual confirmation of this, we cannot appeal to the scriptures to trump such
instructions.

We all individually have our private canon, of personal revelations from the Holy Ghost, and we all
collectively have the public canon of the scriptures. I think modern prophets have the authority to
clarify our understanding of both (and I think thats doctrine), and we are under necessity to verify such
claims by seeking personal revelation.

So, for example, if our reading of the scriptures contradicts what the 1st Presidency and Quorum of the
12 said in the proclamation to the world on the family, we should seek to reconcile the two. If we
cannot (or the Holy Ghost tells us the proclamation is wrong) we should not preach publicly that the
scriptures contradict the prophets. At least, that is my impression. (By the way, just to be clear, I do
accept completely the proclamation.)

Best,
Pace

Comment by P. Nielsen November 19, 2007 @ 8:48 am

14. P. Nielsen: The interface between scripture and present prophet is a fairly complex one. I suggest that

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what a modern prophet says, unless accepted by common consent of the Saints, is subject to scripture.
Let me give two concrete examples. Brigham taught the Adam-God doctrine. We have many resources
for dealing with this fact. One is to reconcile such teachings with the scriptures and revelations. I
believe that there is a lot to learn from such an attempt. However, ultimately I believe such
reconciliation is not successful. I believe that Pres. Young misunderstood Joseph Smith and the temple
endowment (he took it literally where it wasnt). If such a reconciliation could be done in good faith, it
would be the appropriate way to deal with that issue from an LDS perspective. Since we teach that
prophets are fallible and that they can act in a private or non-authoritative capacity even as prophets,
we have a much better way to approach the issue it seems to me. We admit that Brigham was wrong or
was onto something but not fully correct.

I am bound or called on to make some sense of the fact that a prophet of God taught this doctrine. I am
also called by the fact that the scriptures teach that Adam is the creation of the Father, that Adam
worshiped God who created us all, that Joseph Smith didnt believe the doctrine and Pres. Youngs
successors havent taught the doctrine. In the total mix of the scriptural authority and subsequent
rejection of that view, I conclude that it is either false or in material respects not totally true.

Lets assume that I am correct and that such a reconciliation of Brighams Adam-God doctrine with
scripture is not fully successful. What then, were the Saints of Pres. Youngs day obligated to accept
such teachings but we are not? Strange result it seems. It seems preferable at that point to simply
recognize that even though Pres. Young taught his views in conference, he was mistaken. The
scriptures trump on the issue of whether Adam is the God we worship. Answer: he aint. However, I
believe that there is something very valuable in the teaching: We are all Adam and were in the council
of the gods prior to this life. And BTW everything in the endowment regarding Adam must be seen as
figurative.

Lets take the example of the Proclamation on the Family. It isnt scripture. It hasnt been presented to
the Saints for acceptance. Am I bound by it? Why should I be? It is authoritative in the sense that it
must be taken into consideration among the precedents that I consider. I give it some weight. But lets
say that I take its teaching that there a literal birth process by a mother in heaven to be a cultural
over-belief (and I am open to that possibility).

From an epistemological position, do I have reason to believe that the First Presidency received
revelation on this subject and the Proclamation represents or embodies that revelation? Not as far as I
can see. As far as I can see, it is their present interpretation of the subject matter given their best
understanding. Thus, I give it some weight the weight due to a document by church leaders giving
their best thought to putting together the same mix that I am working with. But here is a caveat: why is
their reasoning about such matters better than mine? I cant see any reason to believe that their
reasoning is more definitive or must be given weight over against scripture. If it were based on
revelation, then it has an authority that mere reason doesnt have. Does the Proclamation have such
added revelatory authority? I dont see a reason to believe that it does.

I give some weight, but not overriding weight, to the First Presidency statements. I dont give them
greater weight than revelation and scripture. You of course are free to do otherwise, but I would ask
why you do so other than political expediency?

Comment by Blake November 19, 2007 @ 9:32 am

15. Blake,

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I agree that the interface between scripture and present prophetic statements is a fairly complex one.
Some of that complexity is lightened when one accepts the idea that the Holy Spirit trumps all things.
Then, when there seems to be a conflict between scripture and prophet, one has a source to turn to.

But aside from the issue of which source is correct (or, if you will, *more* correct) there is the issue of
authority. And even here there are many facets. The prophets, scripturally, have been given the
authority to proclaim new scripture. Specifically, the Presiding high priest, as declared in the Doctrine
and Covenants, has the authority to speak Gods word.

The issue of Adam-God is an excellent example. Let us suppose, for the sake of argument, that your
assessment is correct and that Brigham was simply mistaken. He was not teaching the truth. Suppose
further that you pray for help in understanding the doctrine, and God tells you personally that Brigham
was mistaken. It is my understanding that you are not authorized to share this revelation with others.
Even if accepted as doctrine by common consent, you personally would not be obligated to believe it.
In fact, the only doctrines we are *obligated* to believe (as I understand it) are those related to
covenants we make during ordinances, and those taught us by the Holy Ghost. Nevertheless you would
not have authority to contradict the President of the church (and neither would an apostle!).

Now in reality such doctrines were never accepted as part of our collective canon. Time passed and one
of the new Presidents (I think that at least Pres. Kimball spoke on the matter) of the church makes it
clear that Adam was not our spirit father. (At least, as we use the words today.) Now that our Presiding
high priest has made this clear, such teachings can be made public.

At any rate, we seem to agree that prophetic pronouncements are authoritative enough that if the Spirit
doesnt immediately verify their truth to us, and we feel a need to verify it, that we are under obligation
to seek personal verification.

Ill get back to you on 1st presidency statements shortly. There we seem to have more to discuss. But
my family is calling now.

Best,
Pace

Comment by P. Nielsen November 19, 2007 @ 9:53 am

16. Blake,

Regarding messages from the 1st Presidency, why do you think they are any less authoritative than,
say, the words of the prophets in General Conference? If anything, I would think them more
authoritative. They are not spoken in the heat of the moment so to speak. They are issued only after
serious contemplation and with the stamp from the *entire* highest quorum in the church, to the entire
church, as a proclamation. Wouldnt someone be under as much obligation to verify their truth as, say,
conference talks? Or the scriptures?

Are you bound by them? I would say that in many ways you are. You couldnt, for example, preach in
your sacrament meeting that the Proclamation to the Family is incorrect, and that the first presidency
was wrong because of Daniel 3:17 (or whatever scripture you could pull out). That would be
completely out of line. I would even go so far as to say that if the proclamation asked us (as members

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of the church of Jesus Christ) to do something that seemed to go against scripture, such instruction
would trump (so to speak) said scripture (but not the Holy Ghost, of course). And, again, I believe it
would be wrong to preach publicly that the scriptures contradict the proclamation of our leaders.

Interpretations of the proclamation are open (e.g. in regards to spirit birth), but its authority in regards
to public preaching (about what it clearly states) doesnt seem to be questionable. So, in my mind, it is
certainly a doctrine of this church, with the strongest stamp possible, that gender is a premortal
characteristic. Further, I would state that this doctrine has more authority than any interpretation of the
scriptures that would seem to counter it. We may not have formally raised our hands to add it to the
scriptures, but we have collectively raised our hands in sustaining the First Presidency as prophets,
seers, and revelators. And this stamp, at least in my mind, is stronger than the stamp of canonization
(because canon has to be interpreted by someone).

I hope this is clear. And, again, just to be even more clear: I agree with most of what you say and
definitely agree that this can be a fairly complex interplay.

Best,
Pace

Comment by P. Nielsen November 19, 2007 @ 12:35 pm

17. Interesting.

So how much power and authority does a living LDS Prophet of today or in a future generation possess
in declaring a one meaning prophecy that could possibly cut right through interpretive tradition (or
LDS Mishna?)?

Thanks for the post, Blake. I will put this link on my blog.

Comment by Todd Wood November 19, 2007 @ 1:12 pm

18. Nicely articulated Blake. Like Jacob, Im glad to have this succinct post to link to in the future.

Comment by Geoff J November 19, 2007 @ 2:54 pm

19. Blake: Nicely said. As you know, I basically agree with you on this. However, I think that you
somewhat underplay the role that doctrine serves in Mormonism. I agree with you that our doctrine
is not creedal but rather emerges from an interpretive tradition. On the other hand, I do think that the
notion of doctrine acts as an authority in many places within Mormon discourse. To pick two examples
at random: I think that church doctrine acts as a discipline in scriptural interpretation, foreclosing
certain interpretations as mistaken or at the very least without authority. Second, I think that church
doctrine acts as a disciplining force on the notion of personal revelation. Hence, if someone recieves a
revelation in conflict with the authority of church doctrine (say one that requires polygamy or the
drinking of beer or the public excoriation of church leaders) I take it that most Mormons would
respond with something like, But that conflicts with church doctrine! The implication being that
church doctrine somehow excludes the authority (even the personal authority) of such revelations. I
think that many Mormon thinkers in a laudable desire to affirm Mormonisms anti-creedalism undersell
the importance of authoritative doctrine (albeit of a non-creedal variety)

Comment by Nate Oman November 20, 2007 @ 7:50 am

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20. Nate: The purpose of my post wasnt to deny or underplay doctrine, but to look at how we arrive at
what constitutes doctrine. However, I do argue and maintain that doctrine has little importance with
respect to the extent that correctly understanding a doctrine is somehow supposed to be salvific. Little
children are exalted without understanding anything (as mortals) in our doctrine tho even whether
little children are exalted has been called into question on this blog (tho not persuasively I think).

Further, what you point to isnt doctrine but orthopraxis or the correct type of action. There are
definitely doctrines about appropriate conduct. However, it isnt really doctrine but just prudential
counsel (in Kantian terms) that has the authority of revelation behind it. No one reasoned their way to
rejection of polygamy it is just given. No one did a medical, or for that matter scriptural or
philosophical, study before the Word of Wisdom was received. Doctrine, on the other hand, goes to
what we believe. Do I believe that God is timeless? One could be a Mormon and believe that God is
timeless. Many do. In my view they are just overlooking the sheer incoherence of what they are
asserting but it isnt a problem if someone is just wrong on that matter.

Moreover, it isnt so much doctrine that the Book of Mormon is true as it is a matter of revelatory
experience. Let me make this vivid. I must believe that the Book of Mormon is from God in some
significant respect to really be a Mormon. However, I dont have to understand Amuleks take on the
atonement to be a Mormon. Amuleks view of atonement is a doctrinal matter. The fact of the Book of
Mormon is a matter of revelatory deliverance that doesnt so much call for me to grasp and articulate as
to acknowledge and learn.

So I dont know that we really disagree even on what you believe is the greater weight of doctrine. I
dont believe it is really doctrine so much as prudential counsel about conduct. However, Church
doctrine definitely does lay out whose revelations count in the community. E.g., Mine count if Im
calling someone to a position as bishop; they dont if Im having revelations about which atonement
theory is correct. The prophets revelations count and they become binding on the community when
accepted by common consent of the Saints. If they arent accepted by common consent, they arent
binding per se, but have the epistemological authority of revelation.

Comment by Blake November 20, 2007 @ 8:26 am

21. Todd: A living prophet has the authority of the office and calling as Gods prophet. One does not
lightly reject a prophets words. The prophets words are still just those of a man like you or me.
However, once the prophet says: I received the following by revelation, then his words take on an
entirely new kind of authority. It is no longer just his best wisdom and reasoning as he walks in the
spirit. I have reason to believe that the prophet is open to the spirit and revelation in ways that others
are not. If God wants to get thru to His Church, He does it through his prophet. However I dont have
reason to believe that the prophet is brighter or more able than anyone else. Nevertheless, when God
speaks and the prophets delivers the revelation, I have very good reason to believe that God knows so
much more than I do that I refrain from submitting God to the same tests of rationality and scrutiny.
God doesnt have to make sense in what He says because there is a lot more to come that I dont have
right now.

Comment by Blake November 20, 2007 @ 8:27 am

22. Blake,

If the prophet never says, I received the following by revelation . . . is he, by scriptural standards, a

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prophet?

Does it seem to you that revelation from God has greatly diminished within the Church over time?

Best,

Joe

Comment by Joe November 20, 2007 @ 9:57 am

23. The closest thing we have to a creed is our Articles of Faith (which as part of the scriptures Blake and
everyone else would consider binding in the sense that they are accepted in all they say).

But Article 11 specifically leaves it up to us as individuals to decide what we believe beyond the
specific articles. We worship according to the dictates of our own conscience.

Article 9 says we believe all that God reveals, but it doesnt limit it to what he reveals to LDS prophets;
this leaves room for our own revelation as well as revelations given to other people from which we can
learn. So while ongoing LDS revelation is an important element, we can be open to learning from
non-LDS traditions as wellso long as they are consistent with the scriptures, including the Articles of
Faith.

Comment by Jonathan N November 20, 2007 @ 10:29 am

24. Joe: When the prophet declares that a matter has been received by revelation that adds epistemological
authority to his utterances. However, it doesnt follow that the prophets statements are without
authority unless such a declaration is made. The prophet is called as one open to the Spirit and guided
thereby. There are moments and flashes of inspiration and insight that are as much revelation as visions
and voices from heaven. Thus, the apostles and First Presidency and leaders of the Church act as a
body insuring that their collective wisdom and inspiration will be pooled and represented in the
Churchs pronouncements and action. Thus, for example, the Proclamation on the Family is accorded
great weight but not as great as an express revelation or scripture.

Further, I agree that foundational revelations have definitely diminished and for a reason. The
foundations of the new dispensation of the Fullness of Times have been laid. In such circumstances, it
serves for the prophet to allow the Saints who have been called to serve to receive their own revelations
and inspiration for their stewardship. It seems to me that there is more, much more, revelation in the
Church than in Joseph Smiths day. Many of the revelations received by Joseph were due to questions
asked by members of the fledgling Church. They could have received the revelation themselves but
appear not to have trusted their own access to the heavens. I believe that it serves to grant space to the
members to not have every question answered by a prophet but to urge the members and others to now
seek their revelations and light and knowledge according to the light and knowledge that has already
been vouchsafed to them. So the revelation is now more democratically emphasized and received. We
are best served when everyone is guided by revelation as a kingdom of prophets.

Jonathan: I agree whole-heartedly.

Comment by Blake November 20, 2007 @ 11:45 am

25. Thus, for example, the Proclamation on the Family is accorded great weight but not as

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great as an express revelation or scripture.

And once again I strongly disagree. First, I think most Mormons would agree, that it would be wrong
to appeal to scripture to trump the plain meaning of the declaration on the family. Second, if you like I
can find many quotations from prophets declaring that modern prophetic utterances override the old.
So, when the prophets in the proclamation call upon us to promote those measures designed to
maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society we cannot appeal to the
scriptures, or previous express revelations, to avoid this responsibility. Third, I (and again, I think most
Mormons) would disagree that the Proclamation does not represent the words of prophets acting in
their prophetic roles as revelators. The proclamation *is* a proclamation of revelation, not a
proclamation of well-thought-out opinion.

Comment by P. Nielsen November 20, 2007 @ 11:58 am

26. Pace: First, I think most Mormons would agree, that it would be wrong to appeal to scripture to trump
the plain meaning of the declaration on the family

What do you mean by wrong here? Do you mean it would be a sin and would jeopardize ones
salvation or simply that it would be bad form? I agree that it would be bad form in terms of the
community of saints, but I dont think it would be a sin that would jeopardize ones relationship with
God.

The proclamation *is* a proclamation of revelation, not a proclamation of well-thought-out opinion.

What do you base this assertion on?

Comment by Geoff J November 20, 2007 @ 12:13 pm

27. Geoff,

By wrong, Im speaking in the context Blake provided for interpreting doctrine, and not in a salvific
sense. For example, as I understand it, it would be wrong (on an authoritative level) to stand up in
Sunday school and state that the prophets are incorrect in their statement that premortal spirits have
gender. It would be absolutely correct, as I understand it, for the presiding authority to stand up and
correct the person (in LOVE!). On the other hand, the original person did not sin unless other factors
are in play (such as God telling them not to say anything, that they understood they didnt have the
authority to correct the prophets, etc).

What do you base this assertion on?

The proclamation was first introduced to the saints in General Conference. It is a solemn proclamation
of ALL of the regularly sustained prophets, seers, and revelators, to the entire world, from the Church.

Do you disagree with me that most Mormons interpret it as a revelation and/or authoritative statement
of how we understand current doctrine/revelation? Would it surprise you if one of the general
authorities has said the same thing? etc

Comment by P. Nielsen November 20, 2007 @ 12:26 pm

28. Geoff,

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I just thought of perhaps an easier way to express myself.

The scriptures have to be interpreted by someone. We each individually do this each time we read
them. If youve ever tried to discuss Romans with a Calvinist, you know what Im talking about.

The prophets instruct us on how they interpret the scriptures, via General Conference talks, First
Presidency messages, new revelations, and so forth. For example, the reason we read predestined and
foreordained the way we do, is because of these extra instructions. So, in terms of understanding
doctrine, I dont understand how the scriptures themselves could be more authoritative than the
interpretation given to the scriptures from the prophets. (The highest interpretor/revelator is of course
the Holy Ghost. The scriptures, in my opinion, are just a nice tool to connect with the Spirit.)

For example, suppose (for sake of argument) we canonize a revelation stating that eating over-ripened
fruit is a sin. As I understand the doctrine of the church, if a few decades later, the president of the
church said publicly we didnt have to live that law, then that would override the previous revelation. It
wouldnt matter whether the new prophet announced this new policy in a letter to all church units, as a
revelation sustained in general conference, as a first presidency message, as a declaration, or just as a
talk in general conference. As long as the prophet made it clear He was speaking in his role as
Presiding High Priest, the authority is clear. (And if we had problems, we could always pray and
receive confirmation.)

I hope this clarifies.

Best,
Pace

Comment by P. Nielsen November 20, 2007 @ 12:41 pm

29. Pace,

See here for details in the 1995 proclamation. (It was not introduced in general conference but rather in
a general RS meeting, BTW).

Do you disagree with me that most Mormons interpret it as a revelation

I dont know what most Mormons assume. But the document itself does not claim to be a revelation
from God. As Blake has pointed out though, it need not be a revelation to carry authoritative and
official weight in the church.

Comment by Geoff J November 20, 2007 @ 12:43 pm

30. Pace: if a few decades later, the president of the church said publicly we didnt have to live that
law, then that would override the previous revelation

I think you are talking about practices here rather than doctrines. (See Blakes comment to Nate in
#20). Conflating the two creates all sorts of problems. Acceptable practices in the present are in a
completely different category than metaphysical realities of the universe.

Comment by Geoff J November 20, 2007 @ 12:52 pm

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31. I have never thought of the Proclamation as a revelation. I certainly would question the assertion that
most Mormons do. There is usually a very distinct difference in the composition of revelations vs.
proclamations. Compare D&C 138 to the Proclamation or to the First Presidencys statement The
Origin of Man or to the 1916 statement The Father and the Son. I think the differences are obvious.

Comment by Jacob J November 20, 2007 @ 12:55 pm

32. Pace: The niceties that you point to about standing up in any meeting apply because of social etiquette
and not because of any authority or correctness or incorrectness. What you suggest is a matter of
political propriety and not weighing what to believe. They are different issues.

Let me give an example. BY certainly had it out with Orson Pratt on the Adam God issue. Orson
believed that BYs doctrine was contrary to scripture and contrary to Joseph revelations. BY had
greater authority. He used it. But BY was wrong. It isnt the case that BY was right while he was
prophet and then wrong when he died. He was always just a bit off with that doctrine.

I dont feel bound in the least to adopt the view of the Proclamation on the Family regarding eternal
gender as a means of testing the scripture. As far as I can see it isnt inconsistent with scripture but I
dont see the fact that the Proclamation proclaims it as a definitive reason to adopt it either. What is the
basis of the assertion? How does it fit in the interpretive context of the revelations, scriptures and prior
prophetic pronouncements. Even now I leave it as an open issue. So I am doing precisely what I
suggest Mormons really do we place such matters into the totality of the interpretive context. Since
it isnt conflicting with anything more basic, we have some reason to adopt that view.

However, your approach assumes a kind of infallibility for present prophets who suddenly become
fallible after they die. While alive, they trump scripture even when theyre just thinking out loud. But
that just isnt a sound basis for assessing doctrinal commitments. In that context, I dont care if other
Mormons regard the Proclamation as revelation, I cannot see any reason to believe that it is based on
anything more than the best wisdom and reasoning the leaders of the Church bring to the issue.

The issues you raise are once again about orthopraxy. If the prophet receives a revelation to practice
polygamy and then later says (without revelation) that God no longer expects us live polygamy, then it
casts doubt on the mere opinion of the prophet. What is the basis of the prophets statement? If the
prophet says that God has told me that he no longer requires such a practice of the saints, fine. But
even a prophet cant simply revoke Gods commandments without God saying so.

Now lets take a real doctrinal issue and not an issue of orthopraxis. Say that the prophets have
received revelations that there are three degrees of glory. Then a later prophet says well, really
there arent three, theres just a heaven and hell and if you dont make the fine-line cutoff, youre going
to hell. God just said that stuff about three degrees of glory to get us excited. Such a circumstance
casts into doubt the prophets grasp of the revealed truth.

Now a prophet could by revelation say that God has revealed to me that when God said there was
eternal punishment he really meant that it was Gods punishment because God is eternal, now I
have some reason to accept that assertion i.e., God clarified it thru revelation just the same way he
revealed the original statement.

Similarly, if a prophet now proclaimed that we should worship the Father of God, the Father of the
Father of Christ, I would point to scripture and suggest that what is being asserted is contrary to

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scripture. I would place the issue in the interpretive context of the assertion to give it appropriate
authority. I would weight the assertion in the total context of what has been revealed. But I would not
trade political expediency for revealed truth (that is apostasy). However, if the prophet said (clearly)
that it has been revealed to me that there is a Father of God the Father, and we should worship him
instead,, then I would have reason to give it greater weight but still be called to make some sense of
what is being asserted in light of the revelations and scriptural statements. In other words, I would be
called to once again engage the interpretive tradition to make sense of the new information.

Comment by Blake November 20, 2007 @ 1:11 pm

33. Geoff,

Ive always thought of the General RS meeting as part of GC since they put them all together in the
Ensign. Sorry for not being clearer.

Also, you cut off part of my sentence, which greatly changed its meaning. I realized that my first post
you responded to could be misunderstood (via my use of the word revelation, since I take a very
open view on what revelation is) and so I added and/or authoritative statement of how we
understand current doctrine/revelation. Some church members might not think that God dictated the
Proclamation (and they might be right), but very few (I think) would claim it doesnt authoritively
represent the Churchs view of doctrine (regardless of how ANYONE currently interprets any
canonized scripture) and *reveal* doctrines not previously taught in such an authoritative setting (such
as premortal gender).

Jacob, I too get an entirely different feeling from those First Presidency statements than I do from
revelations like D&C 138. But that is because these statements are just that: statements of the current
understanding. They dont claim to be proclamations of what God says to the world via His prophets.
They are statements of understanding. For example, The Origin of Man states things like It is
believed that a statement of the position held by the Church upon this subject will be timely and
productive of good.

So, in some sense I can understand why people would place the scriptures on a higher pedestal than
such statements. The scriptures less likely to change as we receive new light and knowledge. On the
other hand, from an interpretational view, I think that the First Presidency statements represent the
Churchs view on doctrine more authoritatively than private interpretation of scripture.

Comment by P. Nielsen November 20, 2007 @ 1:29 pm

34. The niceties that you point to about standing up in any meeting apply because of social
etiquette and not because of any authority or correctness or incorrectness.

No, no, no. It has to do with public preaching of our doctrine. It doesnt matter if it occurs in Sunday
school, or in an investigators home, or in our own home. The Lords anointed is the one authorized to
give the public interpretation of scripture. When we take it upon ourselves to contradict this public
interpretation, we have stepped beyond our bounds.

Let me give an example. BY certainly had it out with Orson Pratt on the Adam God issue.
Orson believed that BYs doctrine was contrary to scripture and contrary to Joseph

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revelations. BY had greater authority. He used it. But BY was wrong. It isnt the case
that BY was right while he was prophet and then wrong when he died. He was always just
a bit off with that doctrine.

Using this example, it was incorrect for Orson Pratt to publicly defy Brigham Young. He was taken to
task on it many times, and taught that only the Presiding High Priest (as an individual) has the authority
to make public pronouncements on doctrine.

If the public pronouncements are wrong, then it falls to the Quorum of the 12 apostles (as a body) to
make corrections as the Lord sees fit.

There are many instances in the history of the church were this doctrine is taught over and over. How
certain members think to take it upon themselves to correct the prophet. Such actions are not
appropriate, and if continued can end in excommunication. Brigham Young loved Elder Orson Pratt,
and worked with him, trying to help him understand this. As did Joseph Smith with others who tried to
contradict him by citing scripture.

I dont feel bound in the least to adopt the view of the Proclamation on the Family
regarding eternal gender as a means of testing the scripture. As far as I can see it isnt
inconsistent with scripture but I dont see the fact that the Proclamation proclaims
it as a definitive reason to adopt it either. What is the basis of the assertion?

I never made such an assertion. If the Holy Ghost doesnt prompt you, or you are not making sacred
covenants via ordinances, I dont see any reason you should feel bound to *personally* accept anything
anyone every says in any context.

How does it fit in the interpretive context of the revelations, scriptures and prior prophetic
pronouncements. Even now I leave it as an open issue. So I am doing precisely what I
suggest Mormons really do we place such matters into the totality of the interpretive
context. Since it isnt conflicting with anything more basic, we have some reason to
adopt that view.

And here is where I (seem to) disagree with you. It is irrelevant whether their statement conflicts with
previous pronouncements. The new announcement was uttered/written in the context of their positions
of authority, as prophets of the living God, given them of Christ. As such, it authoritatively represents
the current doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

However, your approach assumes a kind of infallibility for present prophets who suddenly
become fallible after they die.

Not infallibility. Authority. And only authority in terms of the authority they have been given by God
in *representing* the position of the church. They have the authority to represent the church, period.
That is the position God calls them to. And if they dont do a good job, God will remove them from
their place. It has nothing to do with when they live or die, or whether their statements are correct or
incorrect. It has everything to do with the God-given authority to tell people what our doctrine is.

While alive, they trump scripture even when theyre just thinking out loud.

No, no, no. Being alive has nothing to do with it. While speaking/writing as prophets of the living God
(whether alive or dead), and as duly sustained representatives of the Church of Jesus Christ of

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Latter-day Saints, their words (when spoken by the Presiding High Priest, or as an entire quorum)
trump all previous interpretations of scripture.

And Im not just making this up. This is what the scriptures and prophets have taught us.

In that context, I dont care if other Mormons regard the Proclamation as revelation

And neither do I. Good thing I wasnt speaking in that context.

But even a prophet cant simply revoke Gods commandments without God saying
so.

I agree. Thats why, in my example, the prophet said so, as a prophet (and not as opinion). I apologize
if this wasnt clear.

NOTE: When I use the word prophet, I mean prophet. I dont mean the person called to the position. I
mean the person ACTING in the authority of said position. A prophet is a prophet only when acting as
such.

Say that the prophets have received revelations that there are three degrees of glory. Then a
later prophet says well, really there arent three, theres just a heaven and
hell and if you dont make the fine-line cutoff, youre going to hell. God just said
that stuff about three degrees of glory to get us excited. Such a circumstance casts into
doubt the prophets grasp of the revealed truth.

Certainly! And we would hope that the Quorum of the 12 would help clarify the situation. And wed
each seek personal help from the Holy Ghost to understand the prophets new words.

But, if the prophet spoke them in his position as a prophet and presiding High Priest, then the quorum
of the 12 would have to correct him (or hed have to correct himself), otherwise his words WOULD
represent the official doctrine of the church (whether or not they are true) by virtue of his position. [At
least, that is how I understand the priesthood authority, and what the scriptures and prophets have said
on the matter.]

Best,
Pace

Comment by P. Nielsen November 20, 2007 @ 2:02 pm

35. And just to make it clear, I dont believe that thinking out loud is equivalent to acting under the
prophetic mantle. Clearly things like 1st Presidency statements and Proclamations made to the worlds
are not just thinking out loud and ARE made under the mantle of their calling.

Comment by P. Nielsen November 20, 2007 @ 2:05 pm

36. Pace said: So, in some sense I can understand why people would place the scriptures on a higher
pedestal than such statements. The scriptures less likely to change as we receive new light and
knowledge. On the other hand, from an interpretational view, I think that the First Presidency
statements represent the Churchs view on doctrine more authoritatively than private interpretation
of scripture.

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Given this, arent we in agreement?

Comment by Blake November 20, 2007 @ 3:00 pm

37. [Note: After writing the first part of this post, I think I finally came to understand our different
methods. Ill leave the top part to provide context, but it is the bottom part that really represents what
Im thinking now.]

In some senses, yes, I think we are in agreement. But I think we weigh things slightly differently
when trying to come to a knowledge of the truth. Let me give a very concrete example, which I think
will help.

As far as I can find, the old priesthood ban was started with Brigham Young. He claimed it as part of a
revelation. Now, this wasnt ever presented for ratification to the church, and as such it just became the
de facto policy to deny the priesthood to certain people. I think we both agree that, when the ban was
still active, it would be stepping beyond ones bounds to contradict the Lords servants by claiming the
ban was not of God (whether or not it was of God). On the other hand, it was entirely within bounds to
pray that it end (whether or not it was of God). Where we seem to disagree (and after wading through
this big discussion, it seems a minor pointbut I guess all points are minor when not affecting ones
salvation) is what level of attention we should give to Brighams words, and how we should use them
to interpret scripture.

For me, these words are very authoritative, even though they were not spoken in General Conference.
And, as such, I give them serious contemplation. In terms of an interpretive tradition, I think our
tradition would place such things high on the scale of what we (collectively) used to preach to the
world.

Similarly, I view the 1st presidency statements (even if just statements of current belief) as coming
from the highest priesthood quorum, and representative of the Churchs position. As such, I weigh
them very highly.

It seems to me that you are a bit more conservative in what you view as inspired writings/sermons. If a
prophet seems to contradict your understanding of scripture, I read you as not caring too much unless
the prophet is clearly claiming revelation in some manner. Im much the same way actually, EXCEPT
when the prophet speaking is the Presiding High Priest. In that case, there is more authority in
revealing new doctrine, and so I feel obligated (via my sustaining) to carefully ponder his words. And
when the stamp of the 1st presidency is on a statement, I feel even more obligated. Such statements are
not commonplace, and (in my opinion) represent the will of the Lord more fully than statements given
by just one member of the quorum.

If I had to choose which statements to ponder the most, among all of those spoken by the prophets, I
would probably first choose the scriptures. But I wouldnt say this makes them more authoritative in
interpreting church doctrine. Next in line, Id choose those statements made by the current prophets
over and above Joseph Smiths sermons, especially the recent documents signed by all of the prophets,
seers, and revelators.

Thinking about it some more, maybe this is the difference:

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You seem to be coming from a context-oriented interpretive paradigm. I come from an authority-
oriented interpretive paradigm. You weigh things by their contextual significance. As such, the
scriptures trump everything in establishing context, and then come Joseph Smiths early revelations
and sermons, etc On the other hand, I weigh things by their authoritativeness with regards to our
public doctrine as a Church. It doesnt matter (as much) to me that Joseph F. Smith might have
misheard Joseph Smith when teaching about the salvation of little childrenthe main thing that matters
to me is whether Joseph F. Smith was the president of the church, and claimed in his authority that such
teachings are true.

Does this seem a fair assessment? From a context-oriented paradigm, Brighams comments are thought
of in terms of the culture of the day, whether Brigham was understanding Joseph correctly, and so
forth. From an authoritative-oriented paradigm, Brighams comments are thought of in terms of
whether he had authority to pronounce such doctrines, whether other prophets later clarified his
remarks, etc

Best,
Pace

Comment by P. Nielsen November 20, 2007 @ 4:14 pm

38. Blake,

curiously i am writting to you from Portugal. I have to say that I have got both your books. I must
admit that they have unlightend my mind in many aspects. It its very hard sometimes to get the kind of
openess over here. My father being a stake president and a faithfull teacher in the institute together
with the fact that I served a mission gave me much of the light to understand many of the things we
have.
When I say openess i do not refer to the new so called left or right ideas within our church.I dont agree
with those positions. people tend to use similar terminologies to define spiritual things i think its all
wrong. I see scriptures as a piece of wood. some people will stay with the piece of wood (doctrine in it
self) and do nothing with it. they will smell it, take it whatever they go, but the piece of wood will stay
the same. I believe we are to give life to the piece of wood as to get the idea of where did it come from.
We have to stop seeing things as there were dead. We tend to limit our selves many times and we
restrict interpretation that goes behond the solidity of things. Like people would say hell or heaven as if
they were places with locked doors. I dont think those places exist in that form.
Another think I deslike in many people is to put the word restoration as a past thing. (Please give your
openion on this). Restoration is an ongoing process, we are always being restored, we are always being
guided to get into the light in an on going process, as light grows or goes short so does darkeness. in
my interpretation some of our people may live in the darkness, its also true that some people see well in
the darkess or they relly more on their hands to hold them to the correct path. Some other people
may not be so cautios and fall
For instance people see God as the ultimate position as if he goes and sits in a chair all eternity, that is
so no true in my eyes, limiting the position by taking space and time from it is not acceptable in my
mind. Now I do think that joseph smith gave a great step in order to restore truth others followed him
in maintaning the path, but we have to go on and restore even more, that is what missionaries do. I do
believe lds philosophy to be the most evoluted of all. our interpretations of things goes on to clean the
separation Plato created from Church and reason. Its funny how deep greeks influenced the world to
into the state is is now.
your free agency explanation gave me light in the interpretation of evolution versus Design, even

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though you did not give much objectivity i think I got your openion. free agency is a beautifull thing, it
just answers it all, if somebody asks me the question again of wether do I believe in evolution or design
I answer free agency. It is with us all by choosing the right we grow, together. One of the most accurate
truths of all in my mind is our interpretation of the family salvation as a whole. others prefer to refere
to salvation as an individual path
My friends that are non mormons know what I think and they love my explanations, they all come
from the fact that we are trully iluminated in terms of our interpretation of God. The way you put it is
absolutly beautifull in your book. I so wish we could have your books in Portuguese, my father would
love to read you.
Please reply

Comment by sergio November 20, 2007 @ 4:26 pm

39. Hi sergio. Nice to see someone from outside the US speaking up. We tend to get dominated by
Americans on these forums.

Comment by Seth R. November 20, 2007 @ 5:32 pm

40. Sergio: I am impressed that you can actually read my books. They are challenging even for native
English speakers so I am simply amazed that you like my books at all. Thanks for the kind words. I
agree with you. I think that LDS seldom appreciate the strength of our own tradition and the amazing
flood of light it throws on the perpetual philosophical problems that have plagued the tradition. I also
love your analogy of doctrine as a piece of wood that we can either appreciate at it is or work with it to
mold it into something that serves us or both. We can certainly benefit from the perspective of
non-US Saints!

Comment by Blake November 20, 2007 @ 7:46 pm

41. Thanks,

one of the things I like in your opinions is that you tend to give an historical perspective rather than
having a straight foward openion. for instance some of the people that came from there USA, on
missions came with a straight openion that Catholicism was sick and there is nothing good in it, I think
that hinckley is actually making much effort to open the bounderies from some peoples minds in this
case. With time and looking at this old churches with centuries of existence( as I can see them in every
corner over here, I try to get a feeling of some apreciation. Wouldt have been for this buildings and
the history behind it as darken as it can be, we would not be a christian nation, so wouldnt you and
half of this world. if instead we could dream as some people might have dreamt that behind any
building of worship remains the attatchment to a higher prespective. The spirit was what left this
buildings. The same with the wood analogy, I can enter this churches and try to smell them and stop
there.I try now to go a bit behond. The difference is that the skies were opened and we can see
through it if we want, or we might choose not too and look down and centuries would pass and the
buildings over there would also rotten and become dry, and dark..
The way I see apostasy was also a long time process, the same as restoration.we can see through
some times if we decide to.

Comment by sergio November 21, 2007 @ 3:21 pm

42. Sergio,

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D&C 86:9-11 (recorded in 1832) refers to a restoration that had yet to begin, but was possibly
completed as of D&C 132:40 (~1843).

D&C 103:13 refers to a restoration that has never occurred. Of course some people, like Elder
McConkie think that D&C 103 is moot.

Comment by Mark D. November 21, 2007 @ 6:29 pm

43. could ilumination be used instead of restoration? in this case?

Comment by sergio November 26, 2007 @ 3:17 pm

44. It is very interesting for a Mormon to try to determine what is doctrine.

I once had a conversation with a stake president where I commented how I appreciated the doctrine
contained in Pres. Lorenzo Snows couplet. He responded that it was not doctrine. When I stated that I
was sure I had heard it at General Conference, he stated that if so, it would have been said without
authorization. Of course, I did a search at lds.org and found 6 or more instances of it being referred to
by an apostle or member of the first presidency, including Elder Gordon B. Hinckley.

So according to my stake president, something said at General Conference, even many General
Conferences, is not necessarily doctrine. Do you believe that? Dont the Qo12 and the FP know any
better ;=)

The issue of Adam-God is another interesting point. Brigham Young, a prophet of God, declared that
he had learned it from heaven and from Joseph. A later president of the Church declares it wrong. What
is a humble member of the Church to do? What if yet a later president declared it as truth? Surely the
truth of the matter would not have changed from one president to another. What would have changed?
The acceptance of the doctrine by the church. Somehow this seems like it could be a bit of a roller
coaster ride.

Another interesting doctrine is the identity of Jehovah. It seems in the early Church (pre-James E.
Talmage) that most of the sermons pointed to the Father as the personage known as Jehovah. However,
since then we preach that, no, it is the Son who is Jehovah. Now, the scriptures which show that the
Father is Jehovah (i.e. D&C 109 and Psalms 110) have for the most part not changed. Some of the
hymns have. But the scriptures have not. However, the doctrine has altered. How could that be?
Particularly on something so fundamental as the knowledge of God?

It seems to me that the end of the matter is that all of us must know by the witness of the Spirit the
truth of these things. That way we do not have to worry about being dragged down by the incorrect
opinion of one who is set as a light for us (JST Mark 9:40-48).

In the end salvation is an individual affair and we must learn our lessons ourselves and depend on the
Spirit and not on man.

Steve

Comment by Steve Graham December 3, 2007 @ 5:00 pm

45. well, the intriguing thing to me and, this is becoming more clearer latelly.

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Joseph Smith had his intelligence pretty close to a higher state than any of his followers. for instance, if
we acquire his teachings not by the spirit we will get lost. Normally this leads to a sort of conservative
states which is very natural to happen when someone like JS get where he got.and his followers dont,
leading to a consequent conservative state. Its like a mountain that people are climing, prophets will
always be closer to the top than we are, but JS got to higher points than many of the other prophets did.
Its a bit like the what I have said before some people get closer with their eyes because they see and
other will get there with the stick. I can see this in Brigham Young for instance. He was an operations
Man, the one that you need when you lead a bunch of people from one side of the states to the other, or
when you get to a place where you need to build everything from scratch. as he goes he goes by the
rod. SO you are right saying that the spirit does manisfest truth and truth may come from different
people. And I think that gradually this conservatism, will get less unidirectional and people will grow
up to be meek and therefore use the free will to actually get to highers states. Cultural America
influenced very much the followers of Joseph smith after his death. Racism for instance invades in
history of many countries that like to over take another land This happen in my country also Portugal
when we reached Brasil and AfricaWe should not forget our history but we have to go on with this
light that inspire us to understand the nonsence of it. the 1978 declaration acutally states my point of
view, kimball actually states it clearly that they were iluminated (I love the word) to reach the state of
mind that their conservativism blinded them for yearsNow they were prophets, They really are, but
they have to strive like all of us must, to reach the higher part of the mount, JS was pretty close to the
Top where he so much more then any othe saw things that others try to get with a simple rod. Doing
what is right is not going to church, pay tithing, etc doing what is right is to reach a state of mind in
which all this things are done in a way that we dont have to think all the time, as it is intuitive to the
one that tries to reach to a highr part of the mountain.

Comment by sergio December 8, 2007 @ 6:31 pm

Recent Comments:
Matt W.: Moving to Seattle
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