The Longer We Exist, The Less We Change

It is a common thing to say, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”, or ‘he is very set in his ways’. These phrases may be most likely applied to older people, like High Priests. What these statements imply is that the older you get the less likely you are to change. Is this really the way things are? Even eternally speaking?

When we consider our mortality, and our progress in it, we can see that the vast majority of our development happens early in life. There is a lot more difference between a 5 year old and a 10 year old, than there is between a 75 year old and an 80 year old. We all seem to start out very quickly, learning very much very fast. But then we seem to settle in to who we have become. Can the same be said of us eternally? Can the same be said for God?

The scriptures refer to God as being unchanging. ‘For I am the Lord, I change not’ (Malachi 3:6). And also, ‘For he is the same yesterday, today, and forever; and the way is prepared for all men from the foundation of the world, if it so be that they repent and come unto him (1 Ne. 10:18). So it appears that God is rather set in his ways as well. His work and glory are to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. He does not seem to be on a quest of self improvement. In terms of character and attributes he does not appear to be progressing.

But he did progress at some point did he not? We have the familiar statement – As man now is God once was. We also have this from Widtsoe:

However, if the great law of progression is accepted, God must have been engaged in progressive development, and, infinite as God is, he must have been less powerful in the past than he is today. (Rational Theology, p. 23)

So is God, himself, progressing or perfect? Is it possible to be both? Will all of us eventually plateau at some level eternally, whether that level is perfection, or something less? Is it correct to say that the longer we exist, the less we change?


9 Responses to “The Longer We Exist, The Less We Change”

  1. 1 Eric Nielson July 31, 2006 at 8:32 pm

    I have tried to put up pictures on my last two posts with no success.

  2. 2 Connor Boyack August 1, 2006 at 7:11 am

    All the more reasaon to start using wordpress 😉

  3. 3 Mark Butler August 1, 2006 at 7:34 am

    I think this is generally true, although I would put it in societal terms as much as in individual terms. One of the reasons for conservatism is simple economy – why throw away everything that previous generations struggled to achieve?

    Errors should be discarded, but the rule is generally that what they did was worth preserving, as such, if we are doing what is right, we should need to change the rules governing a righteous society less and less as time goes on.

  4. 4 Wade August 1, 2006 at 8:18 am


    Very good argument; I like it a lot.


    So is God, himself, progressing or perfect?

    I really like this question you pose–it’s one I’ve thought about quite a bit. I would have to answer: I don’t know? However, currently my belief is that God does progress. I would argue (perhaps in a different post if no one wants to pursue it here) that God is perfect as to our sphere of existence (i.e. he knows our realm inside and out and has complete control and understanding of it and therefore can govern perfectly), but that he continues to progress.

    I have a quote from Wilford Woodruff that backs me up here, but I’m at work and will have to wait til I get home tonight to post it.

    Great question though!

  5. 5 Eric Nielson August 1, 2006 at 8:43 am


    For some reason blogger has been giving me fits lately. I have had problems opening up posts, adding comments, posting pictures etc. Will wordpress be better?


    You’re way ahead of me here. But in general the better we get at anything, the less we would need to change, correct?


    These are along my thinking as well. I believe that to our perception God is not progressing, and we are justified in believing this it seems. But I guess that God continues to progress in some ways. But if this theory holds, in general he would progress less and less as time goes on.

  6. 6 OKIE August 1, 2006 at 9:03 am

    I like this question a lot also. I believe along the line of what Wade said about God’s progression. I believe in the “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”… as it applies to dogs. Humans never stop learning unless they want to, particularly in the spiritual realm. Our base of knowledge doesn’t grow as fast when were old as when we’re young, but we have plenty of tricks to learn. –

  7. 7 Connor Boyack August 1, 2006 at 10:17 am

    I’m excited about the prospect of eternal progression and continual learning. While there are some subjects that interest me more than others, the idea that I can continue to learn and grow pleases me.

    Eternal stagnation and relaxation, sitting on a cloud and playing a harp, is so absurd I want to scream. Anybody who is content in believing that needs a smack upside the head.. 🙂

    Eric: Yeah, wordpress will be better. There will be a slight learning curve that I’ll get you guys through, but it’s not hard at all.

  8. 8 Mark Butler August 1, 2006 at 4:21 pm

    Eric, Yes. The problem here however is before we can talk about “less and less” we need a defined metric for what we are measuring.

    If one means say the principles governing behavior, where the basic principles are weighted according to importance relative to the minor details, then certainly we change less and less.

    However if one measured wisdom in terms of bits required for mental representation, I imagine that God (or more properly speaking celestial civilization), “learns” or rather develops new things all the time, things that are necessary reading if one wants to serve in certain capacities in heaven.

    A lot of learning is simply learning the language for communication with others. I sometimes have ideas I can hardly explain to anyone until I research who studied the field first, and adopt their terminology and nomenclature. Social knowledge is generally linguistic in nature – so no doubt there is some analog in heaven of the comparable processes here on earth (cf. D&C 130:2).

  9. 9 Wade August 1, 2006 at 4:48 pm


    Very interesting perspective!

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