My SMPT Experience

I fully expected the good folks at the SMPT to reject my paper.  I was then going to post it with a title something like ‘Wanna read a rejected SMPT paper?’  I am glad that they accepted it because it allowed me to have a great experience.  I would like to review what I thought were some of the highlights, and then give my impressions of the session I was in.

The tribute to Truman Madsen was wonderful.  What a way to start out the conference!  After the presenters it became a time for audience members to share their memories of this great man.  It was almost like being at his funeral.

Sheila gave an interesting presentation on grace, where she comes at it from a relationship perspective.  I am one who gets a little grumpy about easy grace, so I was listening for what our part in this perspective would be.  Sheila suggested that this relationship must be mutual and that we must participate in this relationship.  If there had been more time for questions, and if I had more confidence, I would have asked about the specifics of what appropriate participation would be on our part – and if these specifics would end up being faith, repentance, baptism, keeping commandments, etc., and if we end up with a distinction without difference.  I am sure she would have a good answer for that.

Grant Underwood blew me away with his presentation on ‘Reflections on Justification, Theosis, and Grace in Christian and Mormon Discourse’.  He might be one of my new heroes.  I asked him if he had a copy of his talk, and he said that a more complete one is available on line.  I might post a review of that some day.

Adam Miller gave something of a Buddhist like presentation.   He suggest that we should accept the givenness of grace in the here and now, and view things in a non-sequential rather than sequential way.  He suggest that the girl in the parable of the bicycle should enjoy her life in the moment whether she gets her bicycle or not.  The end goal should not be in the foreground, but the moment at hand should be in the foreground.  If I would have asked a question it would be – must we accept everything that comes at us as the will of God to be accepted?

Rob Line’s presentation on Dual Innocence was entertaining mostly because it made Blake squirm so much.  It was comical to watch.  Rob was very CES and I think he made more BRM and JFSII quotes than in the history of SMPT conferences combined.  Blake found this challenging, and charitably made a peace offering that Rob wisely accepted.  This presentation made me feel I was back in seminary.

It was great to meet Chris Henrickson.   He did a nice job.  I was not very prepared to receive his presentation.

Sam Brown.  Wow.  What a great guy.  He talked about a Suprehuman chain, and the importance of being sealed into one big family.  Lot of great quotes from early church leaders.  A very gifted guy, and a real trooper – he was obviously fighting a massive headache.

Kevin Hart took a long time to thoroughly dissect the prodigal son.  It was new to me to consider the father of the story as the one we should emulate.  It was also interesting to note that forgiveness comes first – justification comes at the end.

Blake’s presentation ended up being downright devotional for me.  He ended up getting at knowing religious truth comes from within us.  From the heart, not the head.  Finding truth being something of a recovery rather than a discovery.  It was almost Madsen like.  It was a great way to end the conference.  Blake made a lot of 800 pound gorilla observations.  Heck, he is an 800 pound gorilla.  But is also a gracious and nice guy.

It is hard to evaluate your own presentation.  I was scared to death.  I am not sure how everyone took it.  My parents and an aunt and uncle attended my presentation.  They were very complimentary of course.  My dad said he felt like getting up and shouting ‘Thats my boy!’  This was a meaningful thing to me.  My father is quite ill.  On top of a nasty cold, his body just doesn’t produce red blood cells fast enough.  He is having to get frequent transfusions just to keep going.  He also is not the type to hand out compliments like Halloween candy.

There were tough questions. Loyd Ericson made an observation that has to do with our resurrection.  Just how much of our biology get resurrected anyway?  Are we resurrected … guts and all?  This does have some relevance to purposeful/functional gender.

Shelia doesn’t seem to like the implications of this eternal gender thing.  I tried to be sympathetic to this in the paper, but I am not sure what would be enough sympathy.  What do I do or say if people do not like the idea of purposeful eternal gender without just dumping it?  I am not very good at that type of thing.

One guy asked about how this affects the omnipotence of God.  I really wish Paulsen would have chimed in on this, since he ‘wrote the book’ on Mormon finitude.

Meeting David Paulsen was great.  But he did not participate as much as I wish he would have.  He mostly stayed out of the QA (for all presentations), and apparently read a paper that Martin wrote.

Overall it was a wonderful experience.  I am grateful for the charitable reception even from those who might not have liked what I said.  I am grateful to my aunt and uncle for putting me up, and my parents for the transportation.  I was glad I followed though with this.  I was very impressed with everyone involved.

50 Responses to “My SMPT Experience”

  1. 1 Matt W. March 29, 2010 at 9:34 am

    Eric, So Awesome that you participated! Wish I’d been there. Hope all these get published somewhere!

  2. 2 Eric Nielson March 29, 2010 at 10:01 am


    They recorded with video and audio. It is my understanding that SMPT members will be able to at least hear – if not view – all the presentations.

  3. 3 Clean Cut March 29, 2010 at 10:32 am

    Eric, I want to extend a warm congratulations on following through with this experience. Despite our apparent disagreements, it has been fascinating to be a part of your journey online. Wish I could have been there in person.

  4. 5 J. Stapley March 29, 2010 at 11:52 am

    Great review of the proceedings. I too wish I could have been there. I’m glad that it was such a great experience.

    I hadn’t realized that Rob Line was participating – we counted tithing together when we were both at Purdue. I’d love to catch up with him at some point.

  5. 6 Jacob J March 29, 2010 at 12:17 pm

    Sounds like so much fun, great job. I’m glad your dad could be there.

  6. 7 Jacob B. March 29, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    J, When were you at Purdue? Rob was my institute director when I was there (2001).

  7. 8 J. Stapley March 29, 2010 at 1:47 pm

    2000-20004. Go Boilermakers.

  8. 9 Jacob B. March 29, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    Sorry for threadjacking here, but which ward were you in? I think my father may have been your bishop at one point.

  9. 10 J. Stapley March 29, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    [threadjack]We lived in West Lafayette. If your dad was my bishop for a while, it is quite possible I was his executive secretary or financial clerk.[/threadjack]

  10. 11 Jacob B. March 29, 2010 at 2:20 pm

    Yes, Bishop Baker. Small world. That is all.

  11. 12 Clark March 29, 2010 at 5:40 pm

    Eric, I was really hoping someone would have raised the omnipotence issue as well. It didn’t occur to me until the following day though. But as I mentioned in my comments at my blog, I think that is the real 800 pound gorilla in the room. That is even assuming God is nothing but human with full understanding of science and therefor a huge level of technological prowess then the question of reproduction should mean that it’s not a big deal at all. Since I think even that is an undue limit on God I think we can say there wouldn’t be any real sacrifice for God to reproduce nor should we see the “biology” as much of a limit.

  12. 13 m&m March 29, 2010 at 5:59 pm

    I’m still so sad I couldn’t pull myself together enough to come. I may join just to be able to hear all the presentations.

    Good for you for following through with this.

    p.s. I think you raise a good question about the balance between sympathizing with others and holding to what you feel/believe. It’s tough, because I think we have to realize and admit that we are very limited as mortals, but sometimes I feel there is an expectation of suspending any belief/perspective/opinion in order to keep the peace. I’m struggling with that issue myself.

  13. 14 Loyd March 29, 2010 at 6:11 pm

    My question wasn’t necessarily wasn’t about the status of resurrected bodies, but the problem of calling spirit bodies the literally birthed offspring of resurrected bodies.

  14. 15 Eric Nielson March 29, 2010 at 8:05 pm


    I think I agree with you. I am having a little trouble piecing together your comment though.


    Too bad, I would have loved to have met you.


    Yes, I admit that I expressed my reaction to your comment more than your comment itself. But when resurrected bodies is listed in both cases(even in your comment above) there clearly is a relation to what resurrected bodies are and what their offspring would be ‘obtained’.

  15. 16 Chris Henrichsen March 29, 2010 at 8:31 pm

    Eric, you did great. It was the better part of that session in that you had an argument. I like that. I do not have a side in this fight one way or another.

  16. 17 Clark March 29, 2010 at 9:01 pm

    Eric my point is more that an omnipotent being could make a new being out of part of himself without needing anything analogous to a spirit (literal) birth. To limit it to a birth is really to place a huge unnecessary limit on God. It seems like your key point is that birth indicates an ontological unity. But one can do that without a birth. Indeed in the early 1830’s the emanation model did just that.

  17. 18 Clark March 29, 2010 at 9:05 pm

    To add, one might say that the main function of a literal birth is to show the ontological unity if the stuff we are made of seems insignificant. i.e. say Brigham Young or Bruce R. McConkie’s view that we were made of raw matter. Effectively both move towards a physicalism that has to explain how life gets made special and is related to the divine. In such a scheme the “stuff” we are made of just won’t fulfill the role of providing a physical unity so we have to turn towards some special act that does it. And a literal birth fits the bill, just as it does for our biology (since electrons, neutrons and protons are insufficient).

    One might say though that with both of those figures the unity isn’t quite as significant as in say the early 1830’s model. Further, in the Roberts tripartite model we’re all just ontologically identical anyway and I don’t see the spirit birth adding anything at all. It seems to become superfluous.

  18. 19 Loyd March 29, 2010 at 9:31 pm

    (this comment is a response to the comments at zelophehad’s daughters

    “For all you talk about DNA you seem to pick it up and drop it at your convenience. Adoptive children by definition would not be the literal children of their adoptive parents. DNA tests could prove that. One could also adopt a dog or a cat, this would not make them offspring. There is simply no need to adopt your own offspring. Adoption would prove that there is not a literal parent/offspring relationship, and leave the door wide open for an ontological barrier.”

    No. I’ve been pretty consistent with my use of DNA. I never said that adopted children would be literal children. I believe I made that fairly explicit.

    I guess the main challenge is that I don’t find the PofF doctrinally binding in any way (to understand why, see my Element 3:1/2 essay). And as I already mentioned, I don’t think it should be read as some theological statement on the pre-mortal existence, but rather as a religious declaration on the role of families.

    As I mentioned already, gender makes no sense (and is thus non-sense) without a biological context. Our resurrection is a resurrection of our physical bodies which include biological parts (flesh, bone, hair, etc.). It has a false move to say that this goes in both directions.

    My questions for you are:

    1. What sense does it have to talk about physical bodies literally giving birth to spirit bodies, when none of the biological factors (DNA, amniotic fluid, umbilical cords, etc) play no role in that process?

    2. Without any details, what sense is there in saying that it is literal?

    3. And what point would you say that it is not literal birth?

    4. If our divine parents shot spirit lasers into spirit matter to create spirit eggs which hatched into spirit people, would that count as literal birth?

    5. If our divine parents (who were greater intelligences) adopted us as inferior intelligences, and helped us to mature to be like them, would that not count as parentage to you?

    6. What sense does gender have without a biological context? What would it mean to have a gendered non-biological spirit body?

    7. Do you believe in DNA and that DNA controls the way that our bodies are shaped, look, etc? Do you believe that DNA determines the sex of our bodies?

  19. 20 Eric Nielson March 29, 2010 at 10:51 pm


    I am beginning to understand. But could one not say that about anything that goes on? Could God not just give us a resurrected body directly? Why is he limited to evolution? Why is anything not easier/better than it is? Isn’t there a better image for us to be made in other than the human one? These things are not necessarily limitations on God.

  20. 21 Clark March 29, 2010 at 11:01 pm

    I think God doesn’t give us a Resurrected Body directly because there is something about this life we need to learn to develop ourselves in a way God is powerless to do given our uncreated nature. (i.e. something outside of God’s control) God gives us the body only after this period of limit.

    I don’t think God is limited to evolution. (After all even we’ll be able to create life via purely chemical means within the next 100 years) Why God chooses to use evolution isn’t clear to me. My guess is that he is simply interested in multiple things and picking a world with evolved life is sufficient for his purposes.

    In any case none of those are limits on God, but the points I made are limits on God.

  21. 22 C Jones March 30, 2010 at 12:21 am

    First I want to say *well done* to Eric. I’m so glad it went so well and that you had a good experience. I like your concise descriptions of the other presentations also.

    As far as these kinds of discussions go, it’s always fun and games as you men discuss divine parenthood by adoption or spirit lasers or whatever. But I never see a straight answer as to where that leaves women– why gender at all if there is nothing literal about our spiritual parentage? And as far as earthly life- why not cloning, or mixing chemicals in a test tube? Nothing literal? Then no women needed before, during or after earth life.

  22. 23 Loyd March 30, 2010 at 2:35 am

    “why gender at all if there is nothing literal about our spiritual parentage?”

    because it is largely what defines us today. if i was resurrected without a penis, something wouldn’t be right. furthermore, people today who are sterile and incapable of having children still find much significance in the gendered lives. to restrict gender to solely having value for making babies is a big mistake.

    “And as far as earthly life- why not cloning, or mixing chemicals in a test tube?”

    because we are the the products of evolution which necessitated gender.

    “Nothing literal?”

    There is plenty literal. I am literally gendered right now. I will be literally gendered in the resurrection. After a gendered life I will even be (socially) gendered in the spirit-world after death. There just wasn’t any gender in the pre-mortal world.

  23. 24 Eric Nielson March 30, 2010 at 6:57 am


    I must still be trying to understand then. If the process we see in mortality is good enough for God, and not a limitation – then could not a similar process go on in the premortal world and be good enough for God’s purposes and not be a limitation either.


    Thank you. (Although I am getting such tough questions I am not sure I did as well as initially advertized.) But I think you observation is a good one. It seems for gender to be purposeful it must be functional.


    The proclamation clearly says there was gender in the premortal life. I view this as something of a cycle anyway. And that our resurrected life will be similar to the life God lives now.

  24. 25 Eric Nielson March 30, 2010 at 7:20 am


    You may have never said adopted children may not be literal children, but are you not replacing divine parantage wholesale with divine adoption? Again, this could open the door to ontological barriers.

    I view the PotF as having a lot of doctrinal weight – probably more than you do. I see it as borderline scripture.

    When you say it is false to take our resurrection and biological parts in both directions I do not understand. Is not God a resurrected man, and our Heavenly Mother a resurrected woman? Is not the process of their past and present going to be similar to our future? Thus does this not go in both directions?

    1. Could there not ba a parallel here with ‘spirit’ biology? Perhaps not a perfect parallel, but an analogous one?

    2. The church teaches it is literal – I am trying to explore it. I like it because of the points in my paper (love of God, love of fellow men). Also I can relate to it. It guarentees no ontological barrier which I like. I thin it is good theology (even if not absolutely true).

    3. When we can not be considered offspring any more.

    4. No. I would be skeptical of that. There would need to be a transfer of divine potential and attributes take place. This does not seem to be consistent with scripture or the teachings of the church.

    5. No it would not. Possible ontological barrier. This would blow up much of my big picture of what exaltation and eternal families are. I would need to religiously start over.

    6. Again, could there not be a spirit/biological parallel.

    7. I am not sure that is all that is going on. I also believe that we are in the image of God, and that gender is an important characteristic of our premortal, mortal and eternal identity and purpose.

  25. 26 Clark March 30, 2010 at 12:11 pm

    Eric, the difference between mortality and heaven is that mortality is intentionally limited and intentionally painful for our growth. God’s already experienced that prior to his exaltation (if you buy the traditional reading of the KFD). So that argument just won’t hold up.

  26. 27 Loyd March 30, 2010 at 12:15 pm

    1. What would the parallel look like? What is paralleled? How would that parallel make sense? Just asserting it over and over again doesn’t make it make any more sense.

    2. The Church teaches is? Or someone in the Church taught it?

    2a. You want to say it guarantees ontology, but how? The primary ontological disunity in the Christian tradition is the difference between creator and created. Our shared uncreatedness breaks this disunity. Your appeal to ontological unity is appealing to a untity that is beyond the very discourse of ontological unity.

    3. And where is that? At what point would you say we are no longer offspring? What does offspring mean? What sense does the word have outside of biological DNA?

    4. Why does there need to be a “physical” transfer of divine potential? What does that even mean? I was just looking at my wife’s YW personal progress book. It talks about divine potential all over the place. Love, virtue, knowledge, etc. None of them seem to be things that necessitate some kind of “physical” transfer form one divine being to another. Rather they are things that seem to be taught from one divine thing to another.

    5. So why not just start over? Make it less complicated, and not go into unnecessary non-sense?

    6. What would that even mean? How would it any longer be gender? It is just non-sense. Try to imagine gender stripped of any biological context. You can’t, it’s parasitic upon it.

    6a. Were hermaphrodites that way in the pre-mortal existence? What about everyone else with a xy chromosomal mutation?

    7. But that is exactly what goes on with our DNA.

    7a. I know what you say believe. But what does it all mean? What is gender? What is image? And how does it make sense, given our understanding of DNA and the (ordinary) non-physical and non-biological nature of our spirit bodies?

  27. 28 Eric Nielson March 30, 2010 at 12:30 pm


    Is there not possible progress after resurrection? Progress after exaltation? Might there still be a becoming rather than a being for exalted beings?

  28. 29 Eric Nielson March 30, 2010 at 12:57 pm


    1. It may look much like mortality, just a better version of it. It would make more sense to us since we could relate to it. How would something entirely different make sense – something entirely out of our experience? Just denying it over and over again does not make it go away.

    2. Both.

    2a. There are mormons (J. Stapley for one) who assert an ontological barrier and uncreated intelligences. The uncreated intelligence answers the traditional discourse, but there needs to be more for ongoing discourse.

    3. When there could be reasonable doubt about our own divine character and attributes and potential. You know what offspring means. This is why the nature of the resurrection is important to this discussion. Why would there not be something analogous to biology amongst resurrected beings and their offspring?

    4. Divine character, attributes and potential inherent in God’s offspring. The YW personal progress book prominently displays the PotF, and quotes it throughout. In the section on Divine Nature is specifically mentiond being a daughter of God and asks the young woman what these qualities are. Most of them can answer this question without much difficulty. Part of the attraction of Mormonism to me is the rejection of total depravity, and our belief in being divine offspring is an important part of that.

    5. I do not want to start over. I do not feel the need. This is less complicated. I think you are just being difficult to see me squirm.

    6. It would mean a literal resurrection. Gender would be included. It is not stripped of biological context. Our biology is resurrected.

    6a. I don’t know.

    7. Okay.

    7a. It means exaltation and eternal life. It is an important part of our premortal and eternal identity and purpose. It is what we look like and are like. Spirits are material as well. Are you saying they are immaterial?

  29. 30 loyd March 30, 2010 at 4:23 pm

    1. How would a resurrected physical body “giving birth” to a spiritual body look anything like a biological body literally giving birth to another biological body in mortality? You have still failed to show how this would be anything but non-sense.

    I’m not just denying it, I’m pointing out how your repeated claim is grammatical non-sense. Your claim is akin to saying that 4 plus an apple minus red equals 17. It’s just non-sense.

    2. Where did “the Church” teach literal spirit birth?

    2a. Then I would say that they are just as confused about the ontological debate.

    3. I know what offspring means. I don’t know what literal spirit offspring from resurrected bodies means.

    3a. You say, “Why would there not be something analogous to biology amongst resurrected beings and their offspring?” Here is why: Biological birth involves one (or more) biological bodies giving birth to another biological body. Your supposed spirit birth involves one (or more) resurrected bodies giving birth to a spiritual non-resurrected (aka, non physical in a robust sense) body. They are no analogous in any literal sense.

    4. The PofF does not teach literal offspring nor literal birth. The Personal Progress manual describes devine attributes as something that are learned and developed, not simply inherited.

    4a. literal spirit birth is not necessary for denying depravity. In fact, the two are completely unrelated. Spirit birth (whatever that means) could still result in depravity. Similarly, being created could result in depravity.

    5. I’m not trying to make you squirm. I’m just trying to point out that literal spirit birth is grammatical nonsense and is a confused direction which we do not need to go.

    6. Resurrected beings are not stripped of biological context. Pre-mortal spirits are. Isn’t that one of the whole reasons why we came to earth, to gain a biological context which we did not yet have?

    6a. Why not? Isn’t gender supposed to be an important part of our pre-mortal existence?

    7a. Yes, spirits are material–but is is clearly a different type of materialiaty than our biological and resurrected bodies.

    I think I am seeing where your confusion arises. You are failing to recognize that resurrected bodies are completely different than pre-mortal spiritual bodies. I am talking about the latter. I have always been talking about the latter. You, however, keep appeal to resurrected bodies when trying to talk about gender, biology,etc. The problem is that pre-mortal bodies do not have any of that. They do not have biology. Thus they cannot be born through biological means. And they cannot have biological gender. Nor can they have social gender which is parasitic upon a biological context of gender.

  30. 31 Clark March 30, 2010 at 4:29 pm

    Eric, of course there is progression but not this sort of progression. (Caught up in the veil of tears with a veil of forgetfulness and limited power) Now of course you could argue God went through just such things. That’s more or less the essence of the Adam/God theory. However even Brigham Young never attributed this to God when God was in his glory and power.

    Put an other way, the only way I can see to salvage the idea is to introduce some very speculative and controversial claims.

  31. 32 Clark March 30, 2010 at 4:31 pm

    To add – I’m not accusing you of A/G thinking of course.

    Regarding your claim of an ontological difference for Jonathan. Where does he claim that? I don’t remember him adopting that position but that may just be my horrible memory and things blurring together. I know he thinks spirits are fully the same through all past pre-mortal life.

  32. 33 Eric Nielson March 30, 2010 at 7:17 pm


    1: It may not look much like it. We don’t know any details about it whatsoever.

    2: Nearly everywhere. Whether you look at the PotF, Encyclopedia of Mormonism, True To the Faith, Gospel Principles, about any manual,, etc. All of these places will say all mankind the either the literal spirit children of heavenly parents, or begotten children of heavenly parents. To deny this is silly.

    3: okay

    4: begotten sons and daughters of heavenly parents.

    5: Would you be more comfortable with literal spirit offspring? I am willing to make that concession.

    6: Do you assert that spirits are immaterial?

    6a: I think the official explanation would be that these conditions are temporary in mortality. Like not in the preexistence.

    7a: How much different. Other than more refined how else is it different?

    Why would I not be talking about resurrected bodies? The issue is their offspring and how they might be obtained. How do you know so much about spirits bodies? You are making a lot of absolute assertions that go against official proclamations by recent prophets. What is that based on?

  33. 34 Eric Nielson March 30, 2010 at 7:24 pm


    But does your concern assume that obtaining spirit offspring is somehow really difficult, or risky, or painful. How would we know that is the case? What if it very easy, painless, and pleasurable? What if that is part of the fullness of joy that is spoken of. This then may not be a limitation on God, but a source of joy and happiness for Him. Among his greatest desires and consistent with His work and glory? Nothing for Him to learn or improve on. Does this remove or easy the worry?

  34. 35 loyd March 30, 2010 at 8:51 pm

    1. Eric, if you don’t know any details then it is non-sense to say it is literal. Do you know what literal means? The literality is in the details.

    This is the whole challenge here. You keep just saying over and over and over again that it is all literal, but you are giving nothing which shows in how it makes sense to say it is literal.

    5. No. I’ve made it clear that it does not make sense to use the word literal.

    6. I have said several times that spirits are material, though a different sort of materiality that we talk about in any other context. My point, which you seem to ignore or not understand, is that gender is strictly tied to a biological context–a context that our spirit bodies clearly do not have.

    7a. It’s clearly not biological–wasn;t that the main reason why we came to earth?


    perhaps we are talking way past eachother. Perhaps you could clear things up by answering a few questions.

    A. What is gender?
    B. Is gender tied to our biological body?
    C. Without a biological context, what does it mean to say that something is gendered?
    D. By what process do resurrected physical bodies produce spiritual bodies that makes your use of the word ‘literal’ sensical?
    E. What is 4 plus apple minus chair divided by blue?

  35. 36 Clark March 30, 2010 at 9:59 pm

    Eric, I’m just going by the assumption that it’s in someway similar to mortal pregnancy. I’m completely open to spirits being created out of God’s body in some way. I just am skeptical it’s in any way analogous to biological reproduction of primates.

  36. 37 Eric Nielson March 30, 2010 at 10:31 pm

    1. I believe in a literal resurrection, yet I don’t know all the details of how it is accomplished. Does this mean the resurrection is not literal? I do not know all the details of a nuclear reactor. Does this mean that they are not literal things. Just because I do not know every detail of something does not mean it is not literal. The idea that we are literal offspring of God requires a faith based belief without all the details of how it works, much like the resurrection.

    5. Would it make sense to you to ascribe literal to the resurrection. Since we do not know the details of how either idea would be executed, would you have the same issue with someone exploring the idea of a literal resurrection? If not, what would be the difference.

    6. Why is it clear that spirit bodies would not have any biological context? What is this based on? Maybe they have a more refined biological context.

    7a. See 6, and why not a two stage need. A need to get a spirit body, and a need to get a flesh and bone body?

    Of course we are talking past each other – you are forcing it.

    A. Gender is a complex set of characteristic which are seen to distinguish male and female. It can include characteristics other than biological factors I suppose. There is an interesting wikipedia entry here

    B. I would guess this is a primary tie but perhaps not the only tie.

    C. There may be other characteristics that would characterize one group or another. Maybe something of a self identity. I don’t know personally. There may be some studies on this in womens studies but I am not up on them.

    D. I don’t know. Again, just because I do not know all the details of the process of making bio-deisel does not mean the process and the results are not literal. My belief is a faith based belief similar to my belief in a literal resurrection. And I do not know the details of either process. And I believe both are literal. Both sort of defy intellectual proof.

    E. You insulting mocking is a nice touch.

  37. 38 Eric Nielson March 30, 2010 at 10:35 pm

    An interesting quote from the link:

    In gender studies, the term “gender” is used to refer to the social and cultural constructions of masculinities and femininities, not to the state of being male or female in its entirety

  38. 39 loyd March 30, 2010 at 11:51 pm

    1&5. There is a huge difference between talking about a literal birth and literal resurrection. The language game of the latter is already a religious supernatural concept. The former is not.

    With the former you are attempting to force the language and concept of a normal biological process into a non-biological one (creating non-biological bodies is clearly a non biological process). In the latter, the language game of resurrection is already right in place in the spiritual and supernatural.

    Your fallacious attempt to force literality into spirit birth would be like talking about a libteral resurrection where a physical biological body is literally resurrected into a non-physical pre-mortal spirit body.

    ” Just because I do not know every detail of something does not mean it is not literal.”

    It precisely means that it is non-sense to call it literal. Again, do you know what the word literal means?

    And so, yes, it makes plenty of sense to use the word literal to talk about a literal resurrection. I’m making a grammatical point here.

    Imagine this conversation as an example of your confusion.

    Eric: I believe that I was once a literal unicorn

    Me: A unicorn is a horse with a horn (and perhaps some magical powers). Did you have those things?

    Eric: I don’t know. I just believe that I was once a literal unicorn.

    Me: Well that doesn’t make sense. You can’t say that you believe you were once a literal unicorn if you can’t even say if you had the attributes of a unicorn.

    Eric: I believe I did have the attributes of a literal unicorn.

    Me: Well a literal unicorn is a horse with a horn and maybe some magical powers. It makes know sense for you to say that you believe that you were once a literal unicorn, but can’t provide any details on what that means.

    Eric: I just believe that I was once a literal unicorn. Don’t try to force details on me.

    6. Because they didn’t have a biological body. They were spirits made of refined spirit matter. “a more refined biological context” is non-sense. It makes no sense. It’s just throwing a bunch of words together and pretending like it says something. It’s no different than saying “the color of the sky smells loud.”

    7a. Because there is no need to. That’s why.

    “Of course we are talking past each other – you are forcing it.”

    I’m not forcing anything. I’m just unpacking the grammar to show the non-sense of it.

    A. I’ve spent much time studying gender. I know what it is. While not all of it is directly biological (drag draws this out well), it is all nonetheless parasitic on biological gender.

    B. What else would gender be tied to? It makes no sense to talk about it without a biological context.

    C. I’m fairly up on gender studies. Most of it would be a direction I’m sure you and the Church does not want to go (but should), as it points out the complicated social roles of gender and gender identity. Though gender is not directly tied to a biology–hence a biological male may “feel” like a woman and live as one– it is nonetheless parasitic upon a biological context of sex and is nonsensical without it.

    D. A friend of mine once said she literally ran herself to death while trying to catch the bus. I asked her if she was a ghost. See the unicorn discussion above to show the confusion in your language.

    E. What insult/mocking are you talking about? I’m merely giving an example of misused language. The sentence I gave makes just as much sense as you talking you talking about literal spirit birth and literal offspring without being able to provide literal details which are literally needed for your claims to literally be literal.

  39. 40 loyd March 30, 2010 at 11:58 pm

    And I know what gender means in gender studies. In gender studies, gender is something that is not permanent, nor is their any eternal notion of gender. Gender is a performance. One’s gender need not be directly tied to their sex. However, gender only has sense within a biological-sex context.

  40. 41 Eric Nielson March 31, 2010 at 1:05 am

    Language game indeed. The origin of man’s spirit is just as much a supernatural concept as that of resurrection. You continue to speak as if you know exactly what a spirit is and is not. What is it based on? The resurrection example is not without merit. An eternal incorruptible indestructible body is quite a metamorphosis that goes against all experience and known science.

    I am using literal as a synonym to actual. Is this any better for you?

    literal – adhering to fact or to the ordinary construction or primary meaning of a term or expression : actual

    Here is a conversation for you:

    Me: This tool is literally made from hardened steel by a unique proprietary heat treating process where the steel is air quenched.

    you: This is non-sense. All the tool steels I am familiar with are quenched in oil. How do they get the tempering they need in air?

    Me: I do not know, it is a proprietary process, and the company is quiet about the details of it. But it is pretty hard, and I believe that they literally are quenching it in air like they say.

    you: Do you even know what literal means? Steels need to be quenched quickly, and air would not transfer heat fast enough. How long does it cool?

    Me: I don’t know. It is probably similar to oil or water quenching, but I am not sure how long it takes. But I do think they are literally quenching this in air.

    you: then how can you claim it is literal? It makes no sense. What is quenching? How can you speak of quenching outside of a liquid medium? What is blue times 7?

    Me: Well, in general you quench a tool steel to set up stresses at the surface which makes the surface harder. That is how I am familiar with it. It may be a similar process, and there is something about this particular alloy which allows similar results to happen in the air? I do believe they are literally doing this.

    you: You either are not listening or do not understand. Liquid mediums are needed for this process. How would the alloying materials make any difference? How can you literally believe this?

    Me: They have put out advertising in official publications, and even though they have not revealed the details, I believe they literally know what they are doing. They also have applied for a patent on the process. It seems they know what they are doing. I like other things they have done in the past. This tool is pretty hard.

    you: this makes no sense to talk about this literal process without providing all the literal details which are literally needed to claim that they are literally quenching this tool steel in air. You are misusing language.

    Me: The company claims they are literally doing this, maybe there is something about this material that allows it to be quenched in air. I just have this feeling that this process literally works. I like the results. This tool is pretty hard.

    you: Just saying that over and over again doesn’t change anything. What you are saying is total nonsense.

    [me hits you on the head with the hardened tool]

    6. So how were the spirits made? What is the process? What are the details of spirit bodies? What do they look like? How do they function? It makes no sense for you to say they were made without all of the details. Were they literally made? How?

    7a. How do you know? Based on what? There was no need for spirits to be made as in your 6?

    A: You seem to know everything, and anyone who disagrees you will define as speaking non-sense in your language game. The only question is who will be more persistent.


  41. 42 loyd March 31, 2010 at 1:57 am

    Well I’ll let you win the persistence game. Literally.

  42. 43 J. Stapley March 31, 2010 at 3:27 pm

    As a side note, I wouldn’t classify what I believe as being an ontological divide.

    My position is that, as articulated by Joseph Smith, God the Father was not a mortal individual like us, but that he was a mortal individual like Christ. Furthermore, I accept the idea as outlined in our cannon that Christ is the “Eternal God,” and that he was God before this world was created.

  43. 44 Eric Nielson March 31, 2010 at 3:58 pm


    Thanks for clarifying. But does this not represent a divide?

  44. 45 J. Stapley March 31, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    Depends on how you look at it, I guess. Do you think there is an ontological divide between you and Christ?

  45. 47 J. Stapley March 31, 2010 at 5:04 pm

    Okay. I imagine also that you believe that you did not have the capacity to 1) be God before this world and 2) effectuate an atonement. If so, then we are in agreement.

  46. 48 Eric Nielson March 31, 2010 at 6:34 pm

    Sure. Perhaps we are not as far apart on this as i thought.

  47. 49 Mark D. April 4, 2010 at 2:47 am

    There is no need for viviparous spirit birth to guarantee ontological similarity. All that is necessary is for all beings human and divine to be ultimately derived from the same sort of spirit / material, and to be at different stages on the same path of eternal progression.

    An irreconcilable ontological difference would be is persons of class A were always and forever unable to develop or acquire the attributes of persons of class B. So if those of class B are omnnipotent, for example, and those of class B never will be and never cannot be, there is an irreconcilable ontological difference between the two.

    One of the problems here is that different authors (sometimes even the same author) in the New Testament try to have it both ways, or at least appear to do so. This and other interesting historical factors have led to a sort of doctrinal schizophrenia in Mormon thought.

    On the one hand, most believe that we can become like our Heavenly Father, in a very real sense. On the other hand, most believe that we will never really become like his son Jesus Christ. Following Christ’s example in a very real sense is one of the primary (if not _the_ primary) themes of the New Testament. There are important exceptions.

    What you end up with is that the NT essentially describes two theories of the At-one-ment, one is that everything relevant was done on the cross, and the other is that what actual Christians do in terms of suffering and sacrifice is of comparable importance. You essentially have the magical theory of the atonement and the practical theory of the atonement.

    And in the LDS tradition, as in most others, the magical theory has won out. However important Christian suffering and sacrifice are, in our discourse they have nothing to do with the Atonement. There isn’t a trace of an idea for why the suffering of Jesus Christ has any relevance to the outcome, or why our sacrifice has anything to do with his.

    There is an explanation for all this of course, it is the poisoning effect of the idea that God is strictly omnipotent, a proposition that reduces all theological inquiry to mush. If you start out with the idea that God is a magician, the idea that anyone else needs comparable attributes is superfluous. Only one magician per universe required. So we tend to push HF out of the picture, make JC do everything that is important, and assume that our contributions are worthless, and that theosis is of no benefit to anyone but ourselves, to the degree that it happens at all.

  48. 50 Eric Nielson April 4, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    I agree with you, I just feel that divine parentage is the best explanation.

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