I am a Child of God, and Nobody Else!

Nate Oman pointed out this message from the First Presidency of Joseph F. Smith from June 30, 1916 called The Father and the Son. I had never heard of this message before and was thrilled to read it because it addressed quite directly topics that I have been addressing lately. Namely the literal parent-child relationship between God and man.

I posted on this topic using Romans 8, Hebrews 12, the Proclamation on the Family, and Gordon B. Hinkley here. I later posted on it similarly based on statements by Brigham Young, James Talmage and John Widtsoe here. I would now like to review the supporting information found in this important but not well know First Presidency message.

The notes from this message (I presume by James R. Clark) suggest some of the background and purpose behind this message. The most interesting and important note to me was the first one which states:

There was a misunderstanding in some quaters within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and attacks from outside the Church on the ‘Mormon’ doctrine of deity all during the period from April 8, 1897, when the Presbytery of Utah issued their pamphlet entitled ‘Ten Reasons Why Christians cannot fellowship the Mormon Church,’ through the first quarter of the Twentieth century. These misunderstandings arose over a lack of clarity on the part of some as to the distinctive roles and personages of Elohim, or God the Eternal Father; of Jehovah, or Jesus the Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God in the flesh; and the person and role of Michael or Adam as the Patriarch of the human race.

The first step in clearing up these types of misunderstandings was to establish God the Eternal Father as the literal parent of our spirits. The first paragraph of this section reads as follows:

Scriptures embodying the ordinary specification-literally that of Parent-are too numerous and specific to require citation. The purport of these scriptures is to the effect that God the Eternal Father, whom we designate by the exalted name-title ‘Elohim’, is the literal Parent of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and of the spirits of the human race. Elohim is the Father in every sense in which Jesus Christ is so designated, and distinctively He is the Father os spirits. Thus we read in the Epistle to the Hebrews: ‘Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence; shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits and live?’ (Heb 12:9). In view of this fact we are taught by Jesus Christ to pray: ‘Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.’

The final paragraph of this First Presidency message are to good not to pass along.

Jesus Christ is not the Father of the spirits who have taken or yet shall take bodies upon this earth, for he is one of them. He is The Son, as they are sons or daughters of Elohim. So far as the stages of eternal progression and attainment have been made known through divine revelation, we are to understand that only resurrected and glorified beings can become parents of spirit offspring. Only such exalted souls have reached maturity in the appointed course of eternal life; and the spirits born to them in the eternal worlds will pass in due sequence through the several stages or estates by which the glorified parents have attained exaltation.

Now, whether or not you completely by what the First Presidency is saying here or not is up to you, but what they are saying is pretty clear.

In my conversations with others on this topic the idea of our being children of God by virtue of some type of adoption has been frequently brought up. Some consider that if one spirit adopts another that this can be considered just as literal as if that spirit were begotten offspring. This has always seemed like quite a stretch to me.

To illustrate, my wife and I have four sons. The last pregnancy was very hard on my wife and resulted in an emergency c-section. Our bishop was the doctor who performed the surgery, and in his own understated way let us know we were pretty lucky not to lose my wife. We have thought about the possibility of adopting a girl. And if we did, no matter how much we loved her, or how much she loved us, or what covenants might be made, I would never be her literal biological father. Even if she were sealed to us, that would not change that she was literally another man’s biological daughter.

Similarly there are many adoptions in the Gospel. This First Presidency message addresses this type of figurative fatherhood in section three of the document.

By the new birth-that of water and the Spirit-mankind may become children of Jesus Christ, being through the means by Him provided ‘begotten sons and daughters unto God (D&C 76:2). This solemn truth is further emphasized in the words of the Lord Jesus Christ given through Joseph Smith in 1833: ‘And now, verily I say unto you, I was in the beginning with the Father, and am the firstborn; And all those who are begotten through me are partakers of the glory of the same, and are the church of the firstborn’ (D&C 93:21-22). For such figurative use of the term ‘begotten’ in application to those who are born unto God see Paul’s explanation: ‘for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel’ (1 Cor. 4:15). An analogous instance of sonship attained by righteous service is found in the revelation relating to the order and functions of Priesthood, given in 1832: ‘For whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two Priesthood of which I have spoken, and the magnifying their calling, are sanctified by the spirit unto the renewing of their bodies: They become the sons of Moses and of Aaron and the seed of Abraham, and the church and kingdom, and the elect of God’ (D&C 84:33-34).

I believe that it is a belief in the literal Parent-child relationship between God and man that clears up confusion about the roles of God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son. It also removes possible confusion regarding any other possible fathers. If the theory of adoption is believed, and replaces that of literal spirit parentage, then anyone could be the ‘father’ of our spirits. Jesus, Adam, the Holy Ghost, Paul, Moses, Aaron, Abraham, whomever. Why stop there? Why not Joseph Smith, or Brigham Young, or Satan? Anybody could be your spirit parent. Choose whoever you like. But such passages of scripture that suggest such fatherhood should be taken as the figurative expressions that they are.

It is not a belief in the literal parent child relationship that causes any confusion and leads to theories like Adam-God, it is the lack of such belief that does. And it is the central doctrine that the First Presidency of Joseph F. Smith used to clear up any such confusion.

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55 Responses to “I am a Child of God, and Nobody Else!”


  1. 1 J. Stapley February 21, 2007 at 4:02 am

    …then anyone could be the ‘father’ of our spirits.

    Not sure that I follow this.

    It is not a belief in the literal parent child relationship that causes any confusion and leads to theories like Adam-God, it is the lack of such belief that does.

    I’m not sure that you have considered the development of Adam-God or you have some information that I don’t have.

  2. 2 Eric Nielson February 21, 2007 at 12:03 pm

    As far as anyone being the ‘father’ of our spirits goes, I am trying to address what I feel is a false notion regarding our being children of God. If all the scriptures referring to God being our spirit father are simply figurative, then what is to stop us from a belief in any other figurative father as being just as literal. Adoption is somewhat administrative isn’t it? Becoming a ‘son’ then would simply be some type of formality and not literal. It seems a lot is lost in such a belief.

    As far as the development of Adam-God I am somewhat ignorant. I am just thinking in general terms for us today that a literal belief in spirit birth from God the Father sets up a firm distinction between Him and anyone else. He is then the one and only permanent Father of spirits. I am only using this as a current belief system and not relating it to what may have been the historical developments of the theory.

  3. 3 J. Stapley February 21, 2007 at 3:36 pm

    I guess I would respond with the fact that God said he is. It would seem that that would be enough to ensure that no one else is. Is God’s word not enough?

  4. 4 Matt W. February 21, 2007 at 3:55 pm

    Eric, I am sure you are aware that the conversation is going on still at Splendid Sun. I think some of the later comments might interest you.

    While I have expressed my belief in a form of tripartite existance there, and do hold to it, there are some unanswerable questions for me.

    First, are you saying that HF and HM literally performed intercourse in order to create a spirit body for my intelligence? Did my intelligence have any form of mind before that point to you? If so, was that mind part of my HM and HF? If not, What did Joseph mean by saying that we have always existed, as he repeated over and over again? (See the link above, comment 68) Was Joseph wrong? If not, then in what capacity am I a “literal child of God”? Is it the spirit body my intelligence was put into? does this mean my intelligence is not made out of spirit, since my spirit body would have been made out of the seed and egg of HF and HM? And many more questions…

  5. 5 Geoff J February 21, 2007 at 4:22 pm

    Those are the important questions Matt.

  6. 6 Geoff J February 21, 2007 at 4:22 pm

    Well said Matt — those are some of the key issues.

  7. 7 Eric Nielson February 21, 2007 at 4:48 pm

    J:

    God said what? That he spiritually adopted us?

    Matt:

    I am not opposed to the idea of intercourse between HF and HM as the method or creating a spirit body. It does seem that that is exactly what BY and JFS taught. It also seems consistent with the common Mormon ideas of what our exaltation will consist of.

    Did you intelligence have any form of mind before that point? Well, mine did, I’m not sure about yours 🙂 (Joke man – probably a bad one). Intelligence having a mind and will prior to spirit birth would make certain statements by JS more consistent. So I am not opposed to that and personally lean that direction. I prefer to think of our state before spirit birth as an intelligence with an independent mind and will better than a pile of mindless spirit element.

    Was that part of my HF and HM? I don’t know – for now I would guess not. If it existed and was independent prior to spirit birth then perhaps spirit birth is the event which added organization to whatever intelligence is.

    What did Joseph mean? I think he was referring to pre spirit birth intelligences.

    What capacity am I a literal child of God? I personally believe that he is the literal parent of your spirit body.

    Is it the spirit body my intelligence was put into? I would guess yes.

    I do not know what intelligence is made out of. Perhaps there is not matter associated withit at all? I just don’t know. I would also suppose that whatever seed/egg may be involved, that ultimately they are made up of some type of spirit element.

    So there you go Matt. I have tried to give very simple straight forward answers. I am not trying to pull a fast one on anybody, nor do I pretend to know all the answers. But I do believe prophets subsequent to Joseph were prophets also. And that in general they added insight instead of taking away.

    Geoff J:

    Who’s side are you on anyway?!

  8. 8 J. Stapley February 21, 2007 at 4:53 pm

    God said what?

    That we are his children. Regardless of how that is, he said it.

    One thing that I am anxious for you to expound on is the logical consequence of your corporeal projections…that is: Heavenly animal and vegetable parents. If God is our Father and created us by celestial procreation, then there must be heavenly parents for every species, right?

  9. 9 Eric Nielson February 21, 2007 at 5:02 pm

    I do not have any personal opinions. From what i read in the document I am siting it suggests that God made the plants and animals spiritually. It seems to suggest a ‘manufacturing’ process. I’m not sure what to think.

    Many believe that animals for example will be resurrected. Perhaps there is spirit reproduction among animal ‘mates’. I don’t like the idea much. I don’t want dogs and cats running around my home now. I am not sure what the CK will be like as far as animal control. Hopefully there will be leash laws.

    Sorry. I haven’t formed strong opinions along those lines yet.

  10. 10 Matt W. February 21, 2007 at 5:50 pm

    J. I think Eric is sighting the simple solution of “special creation” for man. The question becomes if God capably manufactured everything else, why did he need to use special creation for spirit man?

    Eric,
    Further Questions on the egg and seed, if we take the vivaporous route, God’s spirit body would need to be of either infinite size, or rely on the intake of spirit element in some form (consumption?) to create spirit children, because otherwise, he would be reducing his own spirit body by X-amount for each child which was literally born unto him. Since Spirit element is endless and beginningless, this element would not be created or made. Of course, comprehending an infinite amount of eternal substance is basically impossible to compute, but I think it illustrates the confusion I have here.

  11. 11 Geoff J February 21, 2007 at 6:38 pm

    Eric,

    I think I am on Joseph Smith’s side on this one after all. To put it more bluntly: Joseph taught one thing — that spirits cannot be created and are beginningless; Brigham taught a contradictory doctrine — that spirits have a beginning and that is via viviparous spirit birth. One has to have a priority in these sorts of things so when push comes to shove, Joseph wins for me. The BH Roberts attempt to find a middle ground (the tripartite model you like) doesn’t adequately deal with the clear teaching from Joseph that spirits are beginningless. I have tried at some length to argue for something like the Orson Pratt model (which is similar the the BY and the BH Roberts models) but in the end I am now convinced that Joseph meant what he said on the subject. (Some of which is canonized but much of which is not.)

    So the fact that JFS and BRM and JSFII sided with Brigham doesn’t impress me much. I’ll take Joseph over them. Not only because I think that is a reasonable choice but also because I think literal spirit birth is simply a ridiculous concept for many of the reasons we have discussed in the past:

    1. How can resurrected couples procreate and bear spirit babies? Does the divine uterus expand as a spirit baby grows? How could that even make sense? The entire concept makes reason stare.
    2. If spirits can only be created by procreation in heaven then how are animal spirits created? If God manufactures them then why not us?
    3. Why would we assume that all eternal organs of resurrected persons are exactly like mortals? Do resurrected bodies have obsolete organs too like an appendix?
    4. What make a spirit fetus grow in a resurrected uterus? Is do resurrected persons eat some kind of food?

    The list of questions could go on and on. I don’t want to overdo it though because I do believe in resurrection and I don’t want to undermine that entire concept. I just think that projecting too many mortal conditions onto resurrected persons fails early and often.

  12. 12 Matt W. February 21, 2007 at 7:30 pm

    Geoff, on the other hand, Eric does have Joseph on his side via Moses 3:5, which needs to be accounted for, and the references (not known of the top of my head) in D&C 29 (and other places) to all things temporal being first spiritual, and D&C 77:2 about the spirit being in the likeness of the being (Though thi could be post-mortal only) In the Same category, we have Joseph interacting with either spirits or resurrected personages of over 100 different beings, we have Nephi speaking with a spirit which is in the form of a man. We have Jared’s brother talking to the premortal Jesus. We have angels all over scripture in human body shape. We have god using terminology to imply we are his children all over scripture, and we have canonized the concept that all spirit is matter, but we scientifically currently know that all matter is made up of quarks. So if our etenal immortal spirit is indivisible into quarks, being without beginning or end, this opens another whole category of theoretical worms…

  13. 13 Eric Nielson February 21, 2007 at 7:53 pm

    Matt and Geoff (or is it Mutt and Jeff?)

    Thanks for engaging in this. It would be complete arrogance on my part to pretend that I have any special answers to the details of how it all works. I might take a few uninformed guesses.

    Both of you asked if God can manufacture the spirits of animals then why not us? I don’t know. Better that then adoption for me.

    Natt asked about God being infinite size or if he consumes spirit material. God being infinite in size seems ridiculous, God consuming spirit matter seems better but less satisfying (Great Taste – Less filling). Better yet seems that the spirit element exists s intelligence already and that spirit birth in some way further organizes it. Of course a guess in the dark.

    I don’t know that human birth would mimic spirit birth so I don’t want to take to much of a stand on the details of spirit pregnancy. Perhaps the process is much quicker and less of a stretch (thus leaving fewer stretch marks).

    I also do not have strong feelings regarding internal organs of resurrected beings. The spirit birth process may be significantly different. I don’t know, and many of these types of questions do not matter much to me. Does a spirit fetus grow? Who knows? Perhaps it starts out with all the spirit matter it will ever have. Again the process could be quite different.

  14. 14 Geoff J February 21, 2007 at 7:54 pm

    Matt,

    The revelations known as the Book of Moses were received in 1831. Joseph’s understanding of these things advanced over time. So it could be successfully argued that the 1831 Joseph assumed spirits were created but it is abundantly clear that he changed his mind as he progressed in his ministry. I see no reason why we should not take his more mature view on the subject too.

    I didn’t say spirits can’t be in human form either — I simply said it makes no sense to project too many mortal conditions onto resurrected persons.

    Also, quarks are the smallest bits of matter we currently can discern…

  15. 15 Geoff J February 21, 2007 at 8:02 pm

    Eric,

    You seem to be giving a lot of ground… I’m not sure what you will have left to argue for if you keep this up.

    If the spirit birth process is significantly different than the mortal birth process (as in perhaps no egg being fertilized and no spirit fetus growing in a resurrected womb) and if God is mostly housing individual persons/minds/intelligences is spirit bodies somehow then you have something that sounds suspiciously like adoption anyway. Does God choose which person/mind/intelligence to give a spirit body to? If so that is just like adoption. If it is just like adoption anyway what are you even defending here?

  16. 16 Eric Nielson February 21, 2007 at 10:18 pm

    GeoffJ:

    You make a good point. Mostly what I want to defend in the idea that we are the same race/species/kind etc. as God is. That is important to me. I sence a possible loss of this if an adoption model is taken as absolute.

    If we buy into God as Father only through some adoptive process then what can be really said of who we are and what we can become? Who then can say that they are of the same race/species as God? Who is to say we are anything more than house pets so to speak? Sure, a loved house pet, but nothing more?

    This also has implications on what exaltation will be like. What of the sealed husband and wife and promise of eternal increase? What of gender being an important part of identity and eternal purpose?

    Just because I am not commiting to the details does not mean there are not important implications to maintain. At the same time I think we will find that there is much less contradiction than we as a group are making it out to be. I guess I feel like BH Roberts was on the right track when he tried to show that both Joseph and Brigham were right.

    So, in a way, if you are saying that there may not be much to defend, then perhaps I have made my point. If we don’t get to wrapped up in the details (which we can’t know anyway) then perhaps the supposed contradictions between models are not as big as we think and may not exist at all.

    Perhaps I have been figuratively begotten by BH Roberts. I just read ‘Immortality of Man’ for the first time (thanks for the link Matt). I was thrilled by it and in general agreement with it. I suppose I have a tripartite (sp?) take that may actually lean toward Joseph in some cases.

    To restate again (because I am just coming to this myself) part of my point is that there may not be any where near the contradictions between Joseph and Brigham as we suppose, and if to maintain that I need to be wishy-washy on the details so be it.

  17. 17 Matt W. February 21, 2007 at 10:21 pm

    ERIC:

    Better yet seems that the spirit element exists s intelligence already and that spirit birth in some way further organizes it. Of course a guess in the dark

    If this is the case, then how is this defferent than adoption? If it is simply a matter of organization, then why must the be a vivaporous process? And if it is just an organization change, then how is the child a literal spirit child of God any more than in the case of adoption, as we are not getting any of God’s DNA…?

    I hope this does not come across as an attack. I’d prefer to think of it as mutually thinking this through in tandem.

    GEOFF:
    That’s the same sucky answer J. gave at Splendid Sun. Here’s the problem with it. If Moses only represents JS’s thoughts at the time, then it shouldn’t be canonized as scripture. What of it is revelation from God and What of it is scripture? Is there anything at all revelatory about any of the JST, or is it all exegetical and uninspired in nature? (And no I am not saying there is no inspired exegesis.) Are you going to take the same stance on D&C 29 then? Is it a revelation from God, or is it an inspired statement of the mind of JS?

    regarding the whole spirits being shaped like human bodies thing, I’d say any type of human form projects mortal conditions onto the premortal state. Even something as basic as Arms… Outside of that, I can’t really recall what point I was trying to make on that one, so bully for you 🙂

    quarks, sporks, morks, tiniest bits that really are, whatever. You knew what I meant…

    I hope this does come across as an attack. You are one of the most fun people to fight with online. 🙂

  18. 18 J. Stapley February 21, 2007 at 10:40 pm

    That’s the same sucky answer J. gave at Splendid Sun.

    Whoa there tex. There are myriad examples of where Joseph’s revelations increase with time (Think about section 76 or think about the salvation of children). Read Blake’s article, then think about the idea of mind-dependent creation and mind-independent creation and then think about the creation narrative in the Temple. That is where I see Joseph resolving the issues started with Moses.

    Moreover, how do you feel about the documentary hypothesis or for that matter, what Brigham said about the Moses account:

    In these respects we differ, from the Christian world, for our religion will not clash with or contradict the facts of science in any particular. You may take geology, for instance, and it is a true science; not that I would say for a moment that all the conclusions and deductions of its professors are true, but its leading principles are; they are facts-they are eternal; and to assert that the Lord made this earth out of nothing is preposterous and impossible. God never made something out of nothing; it is not in the economy or law by which the worlds were, are, or will exist. There is an eternity before us, and it is full of matter; and if we but understand enough of the Lord and his ways, we would say that he took of this matter and organized this earth from it. How long it has been organized it is not for me to say, and I do not care anything about it. As for the Bible account of the creation we may say that the Lord gave it to Moses, or rather Moses obtained the history and traditions of the fathers, and from these picked out what he considered necessary, and that account has been handed down from age to age, and we have got it, no matter whether it is correct or not, and whether the Lord found the earth empty and void, whether he made it out of nothing or out of the rude elements; or whether he made it in six days or in as many millions of years, is and will remain a matter of speculation in the minds of men unless he give revelation on the subject. If we understood the process of creation there would be no mystery about it, it would be all reasonable and plain, for there is no mystery except to the ignorant. This we know by what we have learned naturally since we have had a being on the earth. (JD 14:116-117)

  19. 19 Matt W. February 21, 2007 at 10:52 pm

    J. re: “tex” I just live here, I ain’t from here.

    I will read blake’s article! I promise. I just really hate the website I have to read it from. (sigh)

    Brigham is a pour source on this topic, as his model is quite on the other end of the scope.

    For the moment, the term “Documentary Hypothesis” escapes me.

    You’ll have to do a post on the “myriad of examples” sometime.

    The thing is, Moses is supposed to be aiding in the resolution of the problems started in Genesis.

    I know, I know, read the ostler. I will try to get to it soon. (Though it is competing with SWK’s biography for attention, and I have to say SWK is winning.)

  20. 20 Jacob February 21, 2007 at 11:12 pm

    To put it more bluntly: Joseph taught one thing — that spirits cannot be created and are beginningless

    Geoff, everybody likes to say they are following what Joseph taught, but you know and I know that if it was clear that Joseph agreed with you we wouldn’t be having this argument so often.

    All your questions that supposedly show spirit birth to be ridiculous are simply arguments against corporeality in the eternities. Is it ridiculous that we have babies the way that we do here on earth? Why is it any more ridiculous that it would be the same way in heaven? Personally, I think the manner of child bearing here on earth IS ridiculous, which is why I am open to the idea that reality may continue to be ridiculous.

  21. 21 Geoff J February 21, 2007 at 11:21 pm

    Eric: Mostly what I want to defend in the idea that we are the same race/species/kind etc. as God is.

    I am committed to this concept as well. But I think we can keep the baby (us being the same kind as God) while still ridding ourselves of the old bathwater (spirit birth — especially viviparous spirit birth.)

    (I will grant you that some Mormons (like Stapley) don’t like the idea that we are the same kind/species as God. But as I said, we can dump spirit birth without dumping the idea that there is no ontological gap between us and God).

    Who then can say that they are of the same race/species as God?

    God can; via revelation through his prophets. And he has. The truth doesn’t need to be bolstered by faith promoting rumors — especially inaccurate ones.

    I agree that dumping Spirit birth means we don’t know as much about exaltation and some have imagined. But big deal. We all admit that there is a lot about life the universe and everything that we don’t know yet.

  22. 22 Geoff J February 21, 2007 at 11:27 pm

    Jacob: you know and I know that if it was clear that Joseph agreed with you we wouldn’t be having this argument so often.

    True. And as you know I have argued against beginningless spirits at some length in the past. I just think I was wrong doing so. I think Joseph meant what he said when he said spirits cannot be created now.

    As one who argued against it I also know that the primary point one has to make is that Joseph either didn’t mean what he said or that he wasn’t enlightened enough yet to discern the error in what he said. I just don’t buy either of those points anymore.

    (Partly because I think I can have the good parts of the Orson model and still keep beginningless spirits now…)

  23. 23 Geoff J February 21, 2007 at 11:30 pm

    Matt: If Moses only represents JS’s thoughts at the time, then it shouldn’t be canonized as scripture.

    It was revelation. But it was revelation that was filtered through a man. That filtering process always leaves a mark. Hence the heaven/hell dichotomy we get in the BoM rather than scriptures reflecting the greater light and knowledge received in section 76. There are loads of other similar examples.

  24. 24 J. Stapley February 21, 2007 at 11:51 pm

    Yep, what Geoff just said.

  25. 25 Jacob February 22, 2007 at 12:20 am

    Geoff,

    More than the issue of beginningless there is also a very legitimate question about the meaning of intelligences vs. spirits. Joseph did say rather directly that something is beginningless, which could be the spiritual material, the mind, or the mind with spirit body. Blake (et al.) continually points out that Joseph used these interchangeably (as in Abr. 3), but there is plenty of room, in my opinion, for the view that they are not identical. Just because they can be used as synonyms in some situations does not mean they are equivalents. It might simply mean that they share the essential property under discussion. Joseph used “spirit” and “mind” synonomously in the most crucial passages (most recently discussed here). So, rather than Blake’s conclusion that the interchangeability of “intelligence” and “spirit” implies that intelligences have spirit bodies, it could very well mean the opposite–that “spirit” in that context was referring to the the mind of man (i.e. the intelligence). This, of course, would imply that it is intelligence/mind that is eternal, not the spirit body. This would fit very nicely with D&C 93:29-30 in support of a triparte model.

    I don’t think we have conclusive evidence in either direction, but it seems like you are overstating the clarity of Joseph’s position. It is the overstating that I am taking issue with.

    And as far as the heaven/hell dichotomy in the BofM, I personally feel it is evidence that the BofM prophets themselves had a limited knowledge of the afterlife (see Alma 40) rather than being evidence that the BofM came through the filter of Joseph’s own understandings.

  26. 26 J. Stapley February 22, 2007 at 12:31 am

    Jacob, Joseph for five years preached that spirits are uncreated. I just don’t see how you can equivocate over this.

  27. 27 Eric Nielson February 22, 2007 at 4:11 am

    Geoff:

    I still favor a spirit birth of some kind, probably viviparous. But I don’t know the details, as nobody does, so I don’t get to wound up about them. I like the bathwater, it’s fine. And these rumors are coming from subsequent prophets so are not necessarily inaccurate. They may be, but may not be.

    Jacob:

    I like your thoughts here, thanks for your comments. I like the idea of viviparous birth on earth being ridiculous.

    Matt:

    I was mostly showing my flexibility (i.e. lack of clear thought) on the details of viviparous birth. I still want there to be some type of reproductive act between exalted beings that produces spirit offspring. Anything less leaves me feeling like a left handed red headed orphan. This is central to my image of both pre-existence and exaltation. I don’t want to give it up. I have not thought through all the details – and that doesn’t bother me much. I also want to believe that what appears to be contradictions between JS and BY on this issue are mostly a lack of understanding on our part. I think efforts to try to make them both right are worthwhile. For now I am willing to take a broad interpretive range to maintain the possibility of harmony.

  28. 28 Jacob February 22, 2007 at 5:18 am

    J.,

    I am surprised, I don’t usually see you make this kind of non-argument. Do you honestly think this is an issue upon which informed people cannot disagree? (If so, how do you explain the disagreement among informed people?)

  29. 29 Geoff J February 22, 2007 at 6:12 am

    I like the idea of viviparous birth on earth being ridiculous.

    Of all of Jacob’s comments I thought that one was least worthy of a high five… Viviparous birth on earth makes all sorts of sense in a evolutionary setting. That is the problem. The evidence strongly points to our physical bodies being the end product of millions of years of species evolution. I’m fine with that. But it makes significantly less sense to start claiming divine resurrected beings have appendixes too — aka obsolete leftovers from an evolutionary past.

  30. 30 Geoff J February 22, 2007 at 6:19 am

    Jacob: Do you honestly think this is an issue upon which informed people cannot disagree?

    I think we can certainly disagree on whether Joseph was right or not about spirits being beginningless. I’m not convinced at all that there is a reasonable argument to support the notion that Joseph believed in any kind of spirit creation though — he was pretty consistent and clear on his opinions on that matter.

    So sure — the disagreement could be whether later opinion on the successors of Joseph should trump Joseph’s opinion on this subject. I can imagine solid arguments on both sides of that debate.

  31. 31 Eric Nielson February 22, 2007 at 6:20 am

    Geoff:

    Does it not partially come down to knowing for sure what Joseph meant by the terms he used? There have been people smarter and better informed than I who have suggested that there may have been a lack of precision in the terms Joseph used. MUST we accept that Joseph clearly meant that our whole spirit ball of wax in a completed form is eternal and had no beginning or progress or transition? That seems a tad absolute to me.

  32. 32 J. Stapley February 22, 2007 at 6:28 am

    There have been people smarter and better informed than I who have suggested that there may have been a lack of precision in the terms Joseph used.

    I’d like to see a coherent argument that considers all the evidence. As it stands, I have never seen that.

  33. 33 Geoff J February 22, 2007 at 6:55 am

    Eric,

    All we know is what consistently Joseph said in the last several years of his ministry. And what he consistently said is that spirits are not created and cannot be. The onus is on the proponents of spirit creation (in whatever form) to show that Joseph didn’t mean what he said or that he had a less enlightened view of the subject than they have. As I said, a legitimate argument could be made that Brigham, as Joseph’s successor, received further light and knowledge on the subject.

    BTW – It is much harder to make that “further light and knowledge” argument on behalf of BH Roberts considering his position. But at least the FP didn’t reject his view.

  34. 34 Geoff J February 22, 2007 at 7:02 am

    Eric,

    All we know for sure is what Joseph consistently said in the last several years of his life. What he consistently said on this subject is that spirits (whatever they are) were not and cannot be created. I think the onus is on those who disagreed with Joseph to explain why he was wrong.

    One could argue that Brigham, as Joseph’s successor, trumps Joseph’s views on this. It is a bit harder to make that argument for BH Roberts (or for Orson Pratt for that matter). But at least the FP didn’t object to the Roberts view being published. I take that to mean the truth has not been definitively revealed on this subject. So in the face of that history I have decided to side with Joseph on this until I have a good reason not to.

  35. 35 Matt W. February 22, 2007 at 3:36 pm

    I think we can certainly disagree on whether Joseph was right or not about spirits being beginningless. I’m not convinced at all that there is a reasonable argument to support the notion that Joseph believed in any kind of spirit creation though — he was pretty consistent and clear on his opinions on that matter.

    Except those inconvenient outliers which are in scripture in D&C 29 and Moses 3….

    The Argument based on Heaven Hell and D&C 76 is apples and oranges because 76 can be seen ar additive (OD = Hell, 3K = Heaven) or even non related (Heaven and Hell equals spirit world not 3k)Thus 76 does not invalidate other scripture.

    I am willing to listen if you have an example which invalidates prior scripture as opposed to adding to it.

  36. 36 Geoff J February 22, 2007 at 4:28 pm

    Matt,

    I should have said that Joseph was consistent in the last 5+ years of his life on the uncreated nature of spirits. He never went back the hinting spirits were created or had beginnings once he became convinced otherwise just like he never went back to the binary heaven/hell model once he became convinced otherwise.

    The Argument based on Heaven Hell and D&C 76 is apples and oranges because 76 can be seen ar additive (OD = Hell, 3K = Heaven)

    This is just inaccurate Matt. In most corners of Mormon thought today only a handful of people from this world will suffer forever (or whatever) in outer darkness. Yet the pre-section-76 scriptures are filled with references to large percentages of people going to everlasting hell. (Think “broad is the way, which leadeth to destruction, and many there be who go in thereat” and “And whoso believeth not in me, and is not baptized, shall be damned” as just two examples of many.) After section 76 we see a near Universalist version of the eternities. We went from a binary version of the afterlife that was very similar to creedal ideas of the subject to completely different and near-Universalist view of the afterlife. That is very much comparable to a shift from a near-creedal view of created spirits to a completely different view where Joseph preached uncreated spirits. Claiming this is apples and oranges just doesn’t hold any water.

  37. 37 Eric Nielson February 22, 2007 at 4:47 pm

    Geoff:

    Would you consider spirit birth near creedal? This seems quite unique and revolutionary to me.

  38. 38 Jacob February 22, 2007 at 5:08 pm

    Geoff,

    Viviparous birth on earth makes all sorts of sense in a evolutionary setting. That is the problem.

    Honestly, I don’t know what you mean by “makes sense” in the sentence above. What sense does it make?

    But it makes significantly less sense to start claiming divine resurrected beings have appendixes too — aka obsolete leftovers from an evolutionary past.

    Well, this could cut both ways. Are you of the opinion that spirit bodies look like physical bodies? If so, is this true for animals as well?

  39. 39 J. Stapley February 22, 2007 at 5:09 pm

    Jacob, I think that you can believe that Joseph is wrong (everyone here believes Brigham was wrong on several things), but I don’t think there is really anyway you can argue that Joseph didn’t believe that spirits were eternal.

    Matt, if you want a specific example, check D&C 76 72-74, speaking of those who inherit the terrestrial kingdom:

    72 Behold, these are they who died without law;
    73 And also they who are the spirits of men kept in prison, whom the Son visited, and preached the gospel unto them, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh;
    74 Who received not the testimony of Jesus in the flesh, but afterwards received it.

    Joseph later receives a revelation that those who die without the law can receive proxy work and can inherit the celestial kingdom.

  40. 40 J. Stapley February 22, 2007 at 5:11 pm

    Jacob, regarding spirit form, see here.

  41. 41 Geoff J February 22, 2007 at 5:17 pm

    Eric,

    The mechanism by which spirits might be created is not what I was focusing on. The issue at hand is that Joseph taught and believed that spirits were uncreated. As I’ve mentioned, I can understand people thinking Joseph was wrong or at least only partially enlightened about that (especially since several of his successors thought he was wrong or only partially enlightened on the subject), but it just won’t do to try to convince ourselves that Joseph believed spirits might have a beginning in the last several years of his life.

  42. 42 Geoff J February 22, 2007 at 5:20 pm

    Jacob,

    I don’t really know what you are asking me. I think that evolution makes sense. I think that our bodies are the way they are as the result of many millions of years of evolution on this planet. As a result, I am less convinced that spirits have eternally looked exactly like our human bodies — is that what you are asking?

  43. 43 Jacob February 22, 2007 at 1:12 pm

    Yes, Eric.

    Geoff and J., no one is arguing with the fact that Joseph said spirits are uncreated. The ambiguity comes in deciding what Joseph meant by the word spirit in those cases. In the KFD, he equates the spirit with the mind and with intelligence. That is as indisputable to the same degree as his statements on the eternal nature of spirits. The question is, what did he have in mind? Is the spirit identical to a mind? Is it any more than a mind? Show me the place Joseph makes his views on this clear? In the KFD, he also refers to spirits as conversing just like we do here, which implies that they have form and the same manner of communication we have here.

    From the “brigham on spirit” thread, I see that J. does not think the word “spirit” implies any form. Geoff seems to express the same opinion above. Fine, I am sympathetic to that view, but what properties are you committed to it having? Is it any more than a mind? Is it some spirit-material in which a mind resides? Is there such a thing as mind without such a housing? Is such a thing inconceivable, or merely the simplest reading of Joseph in your opinion? This is where I see lots of room for different opinions because there simply is not enough precision in Joseph’s language or revelation on related subjects to be certain.

  44. 44 J. Stapley February 22, 2007 at 2:01 pm

    J. does not think the word “spirit” implies any form.

    Actually I think that form is not fixed. That is a fairly large difference. As to what Joseph meant, the history is quite coherent. Abraham calls spirits uncreated and also calls them intelligences. So does Joseph. If spirits are eternal as Joseph says they are, then you can’t separate the mind from the spirit and Joseph was simply emphasizing his point. Nowhere does Joseph try to separate spirit from intelligence. He just doesn’t do it, in fact he makes them synonymous. The onus is really on those who wish there were a difference to show one.

  45. 45 Geoff J February 22, 2007 at 2:05 pm

    Jacob (at 1:12),

    I’m with you now. Yes, there are certainly unresolved mysteries surrounding the nature of spirits. And yes there is significant theological leeway left by Joseph’s statements on the subject. I think the original objection in this thread was to viviparous spirit birth as preached by Brigham and others. It doesn’t jibe well with what Joseph said and it removes nearly all of the leeway that Joseph left us. In other words I think spirit birth closes down way too many options while at the same time contradicting some clear statements by Joseph.

    Eric: MUST we accept that Joseph clearly meant that our whole spirit ball of wax in a completed form is eternal and had no beginning or progress or transition?

    No. In fact I made some strong arguments against the notion that our spirits have been the same forever in this post:
    http://www.newcoolthang.com/index.php/2006/02/beginningless-spirits/205/

    I think many of those arguments are very valid. But rather than leaning toward spirit particlism (either Orson’s or Brigham’s model) I now prefer to think of spirits as being much more like BH Robert “intelligences”. That is, I currently don’t think spirits are locked into human form — I think they are “minds” as Joseph said and that people simply see them in human form in visions and dreams.

  46. 46 Eric Nielson February 22, 2007 at 2:39 pm

    Geoff:

    I am beginning to lean towards a BH Roberts type explanation as well. I desire to maintain some type of organizational trasition like spirit birth that takes us from less organized intelligences that were not created or made to spirit children of God.

  47. 47 Matt W. February 22, 2007 at 2:51 pm

    Comment order problem is driving me nuts.

    J. good point, I will think on it.

    Geoff J, less good point. First you don’t address the spirit world alternative, and second the “mere handful” to OD is unsupportable from Joseph’s attitude and rhetoric, so I don’t feel your nigh-universalism is an accurate reading in the holistic sense.

    One ting I find interesting is that J. does support some change in state in the spirit form, which is all that Roberts is speaking on, when you release him from the jargon.

  48. 48 Geoff J February 22, 2007 at 3:03 pm

    Matt,

    you lost me on that last comment to me. What are you talking about?

    Also, I don’t know what you are referring to when you say “J. does support some change in state in the spirit form”.

  49. 49 J. Stapley February 22, 2007 at 3:26 pm

    Matt, I think you may be misreading me. I am stating emphatically that spirits are eternal. It is not difficult to show how fixed forms of spirits does not work with Mormon theology. I am in no way saying that anything becomes a spirit.

    Let’s be clear, if you are talking tripartite existence then you are excepting that being exist that are not spirits. This is nothing close to what I said.

  50. 50 J. Stapley February 22, 2007 at 3:28 pm

    Come to think of it, Matt, you may be misreading me, becasue you don’t believe in viviparous spirit birth. Consequently, you are willing to accept any transformation or transition as spirit birth. If you concede that the spirit existed before that moment, then you do not espouse a tripartite existence.

  51. 51 Jacob February 22, 2007 at 4:14 pm

    J.,

    Actually I think that form is not fixed. That is a fairly large difference.

    Agreed, I was sloppy in my language and appreciate the correction. I meant that you do not think the word spirit implies a particular form (i.e. a human form).

    . As to what Joseph meant, the history is quite coherent.

    You are being a bit reckless here. In isolation, you can take some quotes and say the history is coherent. When put in the context of Joseph’s full theology, the matter is much less obvious (which is why there continues to be disagreement). I gave one example of the language in the KFD side by side the equivalence of spirit and mind is the fact that these spirits conversed just as we do. Certainly, that statement has implications about what Joseph was thinking of when he said “the Spirit of Man.”

    Here’s another example (there are more, but this should illustrate what I have in mind). In D&C 129 Joseph says that when a messenger appears, offer your hand as a test. If it is an angel you will feel his hand (because he is resurrected), if it is a spirit he won’t offer you his hand because that would be deceptive, but if it is a devil he will offer you his hand and you won’t be able to feel it (see here). Now, this assigns a human form to devils, who are presumably like they were in the pre-existence.

    You can argue that spirits are able to take various forms, fine, but that is not something you can find Joseph saying, it is something you have to introduce to reconcile statements made by Joseph with your position on what a spirit is. I am not aware of any statement in which Joseph hints that he thinks pre-existent spirits lacked human form. On the contrary, he makes statements like the one above which assume a human form. This is just one of the issues that arrises when we try to take a comprehensive view and see if we can tell what Joseph meant. Again, I have yet to make an argument on this thread for one specific view. I am arguing that there is room for honest disagreement, even on the topic of what Joseph himself believed.

    The onus is really on those who wish there were a difference to show one.

    In addition to the kind of argument I just made, I would point out that the word “mind” and “spirit” are not obvious synonyms. To my knowledge they were not obvious synonyms in Joseph’s day either. That means there are necessarily questions surrounding what it implies when these two words are used as equivalents. These must be answered by the people who believe they are equivalent. They do not escape an onus. Since Joseph did not make it clear how he answers those questions, we are left to guess, and the coherency of his position remains in question.

  52. 52 Jacob February 23, 2007 at 2:23 am

    I am home and on a different computer, so I will try posting this again:

    J. (at Feb 22nd, 2007 at 2:01 pm),

    Actually I think that form is not fixed. That is a fairly large difference.

    Agreed, I was sloppy in my language and appreciate the correction. I meant that you do not think the word spirit implies a particular form (i.e. a human form).

    . As to what Joseph meant, the history is quite coherent.

    You are being a bit reckless here. In isolation, you can take some quotes and say the history is coherent. When put in the context of Joseph’s full theology, the matter is much less clear (which is why there continues to be disagreement). I gave one example in a previous comment of why Joseph’s language is not unambiguous. Right next to the equivalence of spirit and mind in the KFD is Joseph’s claim that spirits converse just as we do. Certainly, that statement has implications about what Joseph was thinking of when he said “the Spirit of Man.” The idea of spirits conversing just as we do paints a picture of spirits with human form.

    Here’s another example. In D&C 129 Joseph says that when a messenger appears, offer your hand as a test. If it is an angel you will feel his hand (because he is resurrected), if it is a spirit he won’t offer you his hand because that would be deceptive since you wouldn’t be able to feel it, but if it is a devil he will offer you his hand and you won’t be able to feel it. Now, this scripture clearly assigns a human form to spirits–more particularly to devils, who are presumably like they were in the pre-existence.

    You might argue that spirits are able to take various forms and can appear in human form even though that is not their only possible form. Fine, but that is not something you can find Joseph saying, it is something you have to introduce to reconcile your position on the nature of spirits with the statements of Joseph Smith. I am not aware of any statement in which Joseph hints that he thinks pre-existent spirits lacked human form. On the contrary, he makes statements like the one above which assume a human form. This is just one example of the issues that arises when we try to take a comprehensive view and see if we can tell what Joseph meant.

    Again, I have yet to make an argument on this thread for one particular view in this matter. I am arguing that there is room for honest disagreement, even on the topic of what Joseph himself believed.

    The onus is really on those who wish there were a difference to show one.

    In addition to the kind of argument I just made, I would point out that the word “mind” and “spirit” are not obvious synonyms. To my knowledge they were not obvious synonyms in Joseph’s day either. As a consequence, there are necessarily questions surrounding what it means to equate the two. Since Joseph did not answer these questions, the onus falls on those who think spirit and mind are identicle to say why these two seemingly different words actually refer to the same thing. The idea that “mind” and “the spirit of man” refer to related but distinguishable things seems like the more obvious position from a linguistic standpoint.

  53. 53 Eric Nielson February 23, 2007 at 8:43 am

    Jacob:

    I released about 4 comments of yours that were placed in the spam filter. I am not sure why they found their way in there.

    The time overlap should be over now. I am so embarrased about the screw up. I should have thought about what changing the time would do to comment order. It should not happen again. This has been the best supported post I have ever had, I appreciate all the great comments.

  54. 54 Eric Nielson February 23, 2007 at 8:48 am

    J:
    There have been people smarter and better informed than I who have suggested that there may have been a lack of precision in the terms Joseph used.

    I’d like to see a coherent argument that considers all the evidence. As it stands, I have never seen that.

    BH Roberts ‘Immortality of Man’ tries to make that case.

  55. 55 J. Stapley February 23, 2007 at 4:18 pm

    BH Roberts ‘Immortality of Man’ tries to make that case.

    Not really, He actually uses a redacted and distorted account of Joseph. Nor does he consider the many other sermons that Joseph gave on the topic.

    Jacob, I’ll grant you that Joseph believed that spirits take human form. I don’t disagree with at all. I’m simply stating that if you want a fixed human form than you must accept predestination, which I don’t think you or I will. I don’t see that as being all that challenging.

    As to the mind and spirit thing. I agree that by saying that God could never create the spirit of man he isn’t necessarily saying that he never could create the mind of man. However, Joseph said that God could never create the spirit or mind of man, so we don’t have to worry about it. They are both eternal.


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