Eternal Progression

I was able to teach lesson 17 from the Joseph Smith manual to the Elder’s Quorum today. This lesson included the pre mortal existence, and the famous ring analogy of Joseph Smith. Preparing, giving, and reflecting on the lesson has brought some thoughts to mind. I have been questioning how something can be both eternal and progressing. (This was not part of the lesson.)

One might think that if a being has an eternal past, that the being must be static. That if any progress could have been made, it would have been made. If this is the case, then why the apparently dynamic nature of reality? Why should progress be being made now, instead of at some time in the eternal past?

I think that if an individual intelligence were all alone in the universe that a static existence would probably be a reality. But we are not alone. Intelligences can influence each other for good or evil. This influence can bring about real change, which then opens up a vast array of options, which makes for a dynamic reality.

In this way, God, who is greater than all the intelligences, can offer opportunities for real, meaningful, and positive change to lesser beings. We can accept His help, and make progress. We can also reject Him. Thus, our eternal past could be a highly dynamic existence, with a series of positive gains and negative losses. The progress of each individual being different, based on their abilities, choices, and desires.

It has been said of God that His work and His glory is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. I think that part of the way he does this, is by offering us a positive, meaningful change, that can bring eternal progression.

15 Responses to “Eternal Progression”

  1. 1 m&m September 22, 2008 at 12:27 am

    I have heard it suggested that the premortal council was actually a series of councils, stretched out over lots of time (or whatever existed there). The idea was that the adversary didn’t just decide one day to want to take over all of God’s power and glory. That to me just seems reasonable and logical.

    It also makes the scope and reach of the Atonement that much more stunningly mind-boggling. His atonement is eternal and infinite. Consider what that must mean.

    Reading that lesson, by the way, hurt my brain. It’s like I could sense that I was barely scratching the surface of eternity.

  2. 2 Geoff J September 22, 2008 at 2:00 am

    In this way, God, who is greater than all the intelligences, can offer opportunities for real, meaningful, and positive change to lesser beings.

    If we are all the same age, why do you think God ended up being greater than all the intelligences? Don’t you think that sort of scheme is pointing to an ontological gap between God and us?

  3. 3 Eric Nielson September 22, 2008 at 7:04 am


    I was really looking forward to this lesson, but it kinda fell flat. The EQP said that this was deep doctrine and that we really shouldn’t dwell on it. I had him read the paragraph were Joseph said we should study these things day and night. The concept of eternal beings is difficult to comprehend, but so is something being created out of nothing.


    Excellent questions.

    I think God did not just end up greater, but that he likely started greater. That is how I read Abraham 3.

    What exactly is ontological gap? Maybe I should look it up, but does that imply God being a different species? If so then I would say no. My guess is that He simply has much greater abilities than we do.

  4. 4 RoAnn September 25, 2008 at 2:59 pm

    The revelations given to Joseph Smith about our origin and destiny are exhilarating and fascinating for me. I love to ponder these things from time to time; but I usually end up realizing that I probably won’t understand more than a tiny fraction of what they really mean while I am still in this life. The veil is here for a purpose, and glimpses of eternity are usually all we will get for now. If those glimpses motivate me to live a better life, that’s great. If they only prompt me to spend all my time trying to esentially determine how many angels can dance on the head of a pin (and perhaps leading some people astray), instead of serving others, I will have missed the point.

    I really like your observation that one of the ways God may be realizing his work and glory is “by offering us a positive, meaningful change, that can bring eternal progression.”

  5. 6 Randall October 8, 2008 at 7:20 pm

    The key to progression is experience. When you stop having experience, you stop progressing. We are the product of everything we have done, and we will be something different tomorrow.

    I like that you touched on interaction being a key to experience. Not only do our own experiences shape who we are, but those we associate with, whether directly or indirectly, shape all of our individual experiences.

    (Love your blog by the way)

  6. 8 mormonsoprano November 3, 2008 at 4:40 pm

    My mortal brain is cramping up! AAAKKKKK!!!

    OK – all of this is fascinating to consider and reflect upon while gazing at the stars on camping trips. Someday we will comprehend it, and that is quite exciting. I am so thankful for the promise that “There is no end to knowledge”.

  7. 9 Eric Nielson November 4, 2008 at 7:59 am

    You are correct, and that is the point.

  8. 10 Robert January 13, 2009 at 6:30 am

    Is God ‘greater than all the intelligences’ – or – is God unfolding or revealing a greater degree of intelligence than us in the mortal state? Perhaps, God ‘holds all intelligence’ within His current state and all intelligences in the realms ‘below’ His own – while also containing the ‘seed’ for greater unfolding of intelligence as He progresses. If intelligence is viewed wholistically in its diverse unfolding through all beings, then it shouldn’t be seen as static in any being in any realm. Therefore, the being in question isn’t static, either. Eternal progression, afterall, does include Heavenly Father.

    Could we compare and locate this, generally, to our own state – that we hold all intelligence in our given state and those states below our own – while having been given the ‘seed’ to ‘ascend’ (through our being restored through the Atonement Work of Christ) towards the current state/realm of Heavenly Father?

  9. 11 Eric Nielson January 13, 2009 at 12:40 pm

    Interesting thoughts. I must confess that I am having trouble grasping exactly what it is you are suggesting and asking. You are probably going to have to be more concrete for my benefit.

  10. 12 Robert January 14, 2009 at 3:47 am

    Essentially, I’m highlighting the ‘fluid’ and ‘living’ nature of our relationships through the realms. It seems we tend to get into patterns of ‘spinning the wheels’ and ‘running around in circles’ as we approach the whole of our eternal life in a static, self-centered fashion – and our eternal progression falls into an intellectual exercise of ‘defining’ rather than the living reality it is.

  11. 13 Eric Nielson January 14, 2009 at 8:12 am

    I am still having a little trouble.

    I view us all as individual agents. So I think that intelligences, spirits, mortals, gods, etc., are all ontologically separate beings. I think of us as materialistc, and as life as pluralistic. This does not mean we should be selfish by any means, but… I view us all as eternally individual.

    Is this what you are getting at?

  12. 14 Robert January 14, 2009 at 8:53 pm

    I agree with your view. I was pointing out the ‘order’ and relationships between beings vis-a-vis eternal progression – that it isn’t a static reality but a living one that is always in flux. In other words, as we move ‘up’ – so does Heavenly Father, also, move ‘up’ the ladder. We are eternally individual – but also linked together and so forth. By ‘self-centered’ I wasn’t referring to a negative in terms of our individuality but to an orientation that approaches ‘isolation’ – disregarding the positive ‘order’ and ‘relationships’ between beings: ie, disregarding the relationship and order between Heavenly Father and His children, for example.

  13. 15 Eric Nielson January 15, 2009 at 12:35 pm

    Ah yes. And I think this fits in nicely with the topic of this post.

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