The Good News – You are a Child of God. The Bad News – You Were Adopted?!

In my many blog discussions and debates over spirit birth, I have learned that spirit adoption is the preferred theory of those who do not like the idea of literal spirit birth.  The idea of adoption as the fundamental relationship between God and man does not appeal to me in the least.  And I would like to attempt to explain why that is. But first it may be a good idea to provide simple definitions for spirit birth and spirit adoption as I currently understand the terms.

Spirit Birth – Our spirit bodies are begotten spirit sons and daughters of Heavenly Parents.

Spirit Adoption – Our spirits are not begotten sons and daughters of Heavenly Parents, but are adopted by God.

Now we can quibble about these definitions if anyone wishes to, but I would mostly like to describe why the idea of spirit adoption as the fundamental relationship between God and man (as opposed to a literal parent/child relationship) does not appeal to me.

- Who would prefer to be adopted rather than a literal child?  Especially when we are talking about omniparents here?   What prince or princess would like to hear that they were not really descendants of the perfect King and Queen, but were instead adopted?

- Ontalogical Gap.  If we were adopted by God, then He may very well be an entirely different species of being than we are.  If our spirits are not His offspring then what are we?  And who is He?

- My view of the afterlife is to become like God and live the type of life He does.  This whole notion potentially goes down the toilet if we are merely adopted.

I suppose I could go on, but I think this might do for now.  I really so no theological advantage to the notion of spirit adoption being the fundamental relationship between God and man.  I know that there are scriptures that suggest that we become the sons of God, but I feel that these ideas add to the literal parent/child relationship rather than to contradict it.  Thus we can have both literal and adoptive ideas together if we start with the literal offspring relationship.  But if we reject that literal relationship then we can never fully get it back.  An adopted child cannot become the literal child of an adoptive parent.

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20 Responses to “The Good News – You are a Child of God. The Bad News – You Were Adopted?!”


  1. 1 Don Bixby September 15, 2012 at 11:11 am

    It seems pretty clear that our spirit bodies were created by God, making him our literal father. The essence of who we are (our intelligence, whatever that is) has always existed, just as all matter in the universe has always existed. We were born spiritually before being born physically. Whether spiritual birth is related/similar in any way to the physical birth, we have no idea, but I believe it is definitely a literal creation from which we take a portion of God’s spirit.

  2. 2 Matt W. September 15, 2012 at 12:15 pm

    So you don’t believe our spirits are eternal? Because if our spirits are eternal, then they were adopted by God at some point, whether begotten or not.

  3. 3 Eric Nielson September 15, 2012 at 12:52 pm

    Don:

    I agree with you all the way.

    Matt:

    I believe that something about us, usually referred to as an intelligence, is eternal. But I do not think that our spirit bodies are eternal.

    Also, I feel that one can not reasonably be both begotten and adopted. It would be one or the other. To be both seems like a clear contradiction to me.

  4. 4 J. Stapley September 15, 2012 at 3:54 pm

    I can see why you like spirit birth. I don’t think I agree with your conclusions, though. I do think you need to be careful, though, not to replace the evidence with your preferences. E.g., your last comment. There are scriptures that use “begotten” to mean precisely an adoptive relationship.

  5. 5 Eric Nielson September 15, 2012 at 5:21 pm

    J:

    Scriptures like Mosiah 5:17 say ‘spiritually begotten’, and is clearly referring to Christ. Are there others that clearly refer to an adoptive relationship being the fundamental relationship between God the Father and man? (Serious question). I will try to look it up.

  6. 6 DavidH September 15, 2012 at 7:41 pm

    I suppose it depends on what you mean by “begotten” and what you mean by “adopted”. I suppose it also depends on what you mean by intelligence versus spirit. What can a spirit do that an intelligence cannot? How does a “spirit body” differ from an “intelligence body”? Does this not get to the unresolved theological question, even among people who believe in “spirit birth”, of whether pre-spirit “intelligences” were autonomous or semi-automonomous thinking entities with agency of some sort, or whether pre-spirit “intelligence” is just spiritual “matter”?

  7. 7 Eric Nielson September 15, 2012 at 9:26 pm

    We can certainly complicate issues if we want. The key issue for me and for this post is whether we are offspring of God or not. One is not offspring of adopted parents.

  8. 8 Mark D. September 15, 2012 at 11:10 pm

    The phrase “offspring of God” always reminds me of the Adam-God theory or some other version where Adam is the son of God and we are the offspring of God by inheritance.

    But then of course Psalms says that “ye are gods”, so we can definitely say that we are the “offspring of gods” either way.

  9. 9 Eric Nielson September 16, 2012 at 6:29 am

    Romans 8 and Hebrew 12 also.

  10. 10 Jamie Turner September 16, 2012 at 10:23 am

    I agree that our spirit bodies were literally organized/transformed/created by Heavenly Parents, but I’m not sure that we were organized through a process of pregnancy such as we are now familiar with (I could be wrong, but Eve was cursed with pregnancy – I think it is the fallen way of having children – not horrible, Eve rejoiced and I do too, but I think there is a higher way). I think Mosiah 5:7 describes what it means to be “begotten” that it is a covenant relationship, but more than that, it means that our hearts have literally been changed by God. I think our covenant relationship with God is similar to our covenant relationship with our spouse, and the church has often been referred to as the bride of Christ so I think these covenant relationships are similar. Marriage – where two people choose one another – is a beautiful thing. Our covenant marriage relationship trumps what we have with our children. It is in humility that Paul speaks of our adoption (Rom 8:15 etc.), that we are nothing without God. I think we have been given the opportunity to become literal children of Heavenly Parents through the literal baptism, and literal covenants, just as we become literally married through making and keeping literal covenants. As we progress in making and keeping covenants, and allowing ourselves to be refined and transformed by the hands of our Heavenly Parents, we take upon ourselves Their likeness, and can indeed become Their literal children. It is with humility that I consider who I am without Their guidance, that They should extend Their great love unto such as I… hard to believe what our potential becomes when we put ourselves in Their hands.

  11. 11 Niklas September 16, 2012 at 11:03 am

    So your take on Abr. 3:18 (spirits are gnolaum or eternal) is that it refers to intelligence or something similar, not to spirit body?

    I like the idea of spirit birth too, but not sure if I necessarily believe in it.

  12. 12 Matt W. September 16, 2012 at 11:43 am

    Eric: I guess it depends on how you define adoption. I define adoption as God seeing me as an already existing entity (intelligence, spirit, what have you) and choosing me to be his child. So he has adopted me. I believe that still happens within your paradigm. My point is that I don’t see it as a either/or scenario. It can be one or both. Does that make sense? I think that is why adoption is so appealing. It is more
    Universal.

    However, with all that said, I know this is a tangent on the topic of begotteness and what that means. For me, begotteness is complex. There seems to be a multitude of ways genetic material can be transferred from one generation to the next, and most of these characteristics are much more to do with this physical state and surviving in this state. I have a hard time understanding why some of the needs/cares/feelings would transfer to the sphere of eternal existence. I think it makes sense that God endows us with characteristics in the premortal existence, I am just not clear on how or what that means.

  13. 13 Eric Nielson September 16, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    Jaime: All that is fine, but it does not speak at all as to whether we are offspring or not.

    Niklas: Correct. I favor what might be called a tripartite theory. Intelligence>spirit>body

    Matt: We are either His offspring or we are not. Some of the covenant stuff can be an additional relationship on top of the literal offspring, but in my view it would be supplemental rather than fundamental. If one is already the offspring of a being there would be no fundamental need to be adopted to be a child. Those who do not make or keep covenants are still His children. We might speak of covenants in terms of adoption, but this would either be in addition to our offspring relationship or a relationship with Christ.

  14. 14 J. Stapley September 18, 2012 at 12:41 am

    Hey Eric, sorry for coming back to this so late. I see you got the Bible refs., but I was thinking particularly of th Vision-D&C 76. I think it is one of the most interesting adoption references and specifically revolves around “begotten” language. As a sidenote, have you read Sam’s article on adoption from last summer?

  15. 15 Eric Nielson September 18, 2012 at 7:06 pm

    Thanks J. I believe that I did read that article. I will have to review 76.

  16. 16 Eric Nielson September 18, 2012 at 8:42 pm

    J:

    It seems like D&C 76:24 is the money verse for your point. But it seems very weak to me. I would also say that the inhabitants of other planets are begotten sons and daughters of God. It seems I could use it to make my point. I do not see it as being a verse about adoption at all.

  17. 17 J. Stapley September 18, 2012 at 8:59 pm

    I think that the entire Vision is interesting, but particularly the use of “begotten” which is used quite a bit. But yes, vs. 23-24 are I think the most interesting verses in regards to this conversation:

    23 For we saw him, even on the bright hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father—

    24 That by him [Jesus Christ], and through him [Jesus Christ], and of him [Jesus Christ], the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God.

    We have the witness that Christ is the only begotten of the Father, and that through Christ the worlds are created and the sons and daughters are begotten unto God. This parallels things like D&C 25:1 (a construction found in other revelations as well).

  18. 18 Eric Nielson September 20, 2012 at 1:04 am

    Okay, I think I understand your take on 24. I read it as by, through, and of the worlds were created. And also that the inhabitants are sons and daughters of God. I almost make it two sentences. I will probably always read it that way, but I better see your reading now.

  19. 19 Gene Parrish December 26, 2012 at 10:03 am

    This seems like a very strange discussion. I am not sure your liking a certain philosophy makes it true. The LDS teaching is that you are a spirit child begotten of Heavenly parents. It makes no difference if you like the teaching or even if you take a vote about the teaching. If it is true – well then – it is true. Not much you can really do to change it (unless you become a prophet with a new revelation).

    Now if you want to discuss whether or not it is true – well now you have something to talk about. But just because you like or do not like a teaching does not make it true or not.

    As to whether we are God’s children by birth or by adoption I would like to weigh in. Without question I like the teaching that we were born somewhere in the heavens as spirit children of a Heavenly Father and Mother. And I prefer Brigham’s teaching that Adam populated the earth by bringing one of his wives with him from another world. I don’t care much for his teaching that Adam is God. Or that the blacks would never hold the Priesthood. Fortunately those two teachings didn’t hold well among the brethren – at least not with much staying power.

    A belief in a pre-existence brings with it a lot of warm fuzzies. It would be neat to think that we were all once sitting in Heaven around the fire celebrating holidays with snow on the ground and sleighbells ringing in the distance. But just because I like the idea does not make it so. I could even start a religion and make becoming a God (since we are His children) central to our belief structure. Still it does not make it true.

    So with your permission let’s move from what we like as the defining factor to what the scriptures teach.

    I do believe you have come across one of the key scriptures that teach Jesus is the only begotten of the Father.

    John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

    That he was the only begotten BEFORE his earthly birth is clarified in 1 John 4: 9 In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.

    This helps to clarify that Christ was the only begotten of the Father before the world was. If there were other spirit children then Christ is not the only spirit offspring of God. Now comes the dilemma. Did God have other begotten children or does “begotten” have a meaning different than in the sense as father/mother to children?

    Christ being the only begotten negates the assumption that there were other begotten spirit children. That being the case the alternative is “adoption’ into the family of God. Is there scriptural support for this. I believe so.

    http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/am/v2/n1/adopted-into-gods-family by Rod Martin

    Scripture is very clear—a Christian is a chosen child of God (Ephesians 1:4–5).

    As adopted children, we enter into a new relationship with God. Though we were chosen before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4), we lived as an enemy of God up to the moment of our salvation (Ephesians 2:1–2). At our conversion, we were adopted into God’s family through Jesus Christ. We have a new identity—the sons and daughters of God. The eternal God is our Father (1 John 3:1–2).

    But as in any family, this relationship goes both ways. Just as I took on my father’s name humanly speaking, we take on the name of God—we are His children, His heirs, and His ambassadors. Our Father wants us to protect His name through our thoughts, speech, and actions—we are responsible for His reputation (Romans 12:1–2).

    As adopted children, we have a new opportunity. Since the Holy Spirit lives inside us, for the first time we can please God (Ephesians 2:10) and be holy (Hebrews 12:10). We have a new blessing and inheritance—we are joint heirs with Jesus, receiving His eternal riches (Romans 8:14–17, 23).

    If you’re a Christian, the next time you begin to ask someone who was adopted what it’s like, reflect on your own adoption . . . as a child of the infinite Creator of the universe!

    God Bless you – you are a Child of God!

  20. 20 Eric Nielson December 26, 2012 at 10:44 am

    I believe it is the spirit that leads us to all truth. Thus how we authentically feel about something is important. ‘Did not our hearts burn within us?’ is an important question. This is what is meant by ‘liking’ something or not.

    I can say that scripture is clear to, and give biblical references (Heb 12:9, Romans 8:16, etc.) What scriptures do we give priority to? Whose interpretation do we give weight to.

    Scripture on its own is not as black and white as you seem to make it out to be. It is the spirit that leads to truth. Not Gene’s extreme interpretations. What we ‘like’ and what rings true are vital.


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