Monday Mid-day Theological Poll: Pre-existent sinnin’ edition

Excepting the sons of perdition, is it possible for a spirit to have been less valiant in the pre-existence?
[poll id="126"]

Please justify your choice below. Don’t be ashamed of it either because the circle of our love, it goes forever. Take your time, we will wait for you.

Comments

  1. I should note that it was Steve Evans that gave me this quesiton. If you have deep theological questions that you would like to see determined via blog poll, please email them to me [hpsoandsos {at} gmail {dot} com]. I am happy to let other people come up with ideas for me.

  2. If Abraham was called one of the noble and great ones, presumably there were some less noble and great ones, right?

  3. wrong

  4. In my mind, the title of your post doesn’t match the question wording. I think it’s possible that people could have been more or less valiant, but still not “sin.”

  5. Cynthia,
    Please explain.

  6. My thoughts are hardly fully-formed on this, but what I had in mind was maybe some could have attained higher knowledge or power than others, though none had sinned. Kind of a “doesn’t matter how far along the path you are, just that you’re headed the right direction” philosophy. The great and noble ones are further down the path, but that doesn’t mean anybody left the path or went backwards.

  7. StillConfused says:

    I agree with #2

  8. I agree with Cytnhia’s explanation. And thus the intelligence that we gain in this life only furthers us in our quest for perfection and godhood. Some intelligences were lesser, some were greater, and will remain at their station until they progress through the paths of the Father and the Son.

  9. Steve Evans says:

    I must admit when I formulated it to John I had more in mind the concept of sin in the pre-existence, not necessarily comparative greatness. The PGP is pretty clear that there are noble and great ones in the pre-existence.

  10. Abraham 3:18-19

    18 Howbeit that he made the greater star; as, also, if there be two aspirits, and one shall be more intelligent than the other, yet these two spirits, notwithstanding one is more intelligent than the other, have no beginning; they existed before, they shall have no end, they shall exist after, for they are bgnolaum, or eternal.
    19 And the Lord said unto me: These two facts do exist, that there are two spirits, one being more intelligent than the other; there shall be another more intelligent than they; I am the Lord thy God, I am amore intelligent than they all.

  11. I sort of picture someone hiding in a corner during the War in Heaven. (Maybe it was me.) I think you can be on the right side and still be less zealous – we have lots of members like that right now. :=}

  12. The capability of sinning was discussed of course by Orson Pratt, but what does that mean in the long run? ;-)

  13. Hmmm…that funny looking thing at the end of my comment was supposed to be a smiley but I must have messed it up.

  14. I agree, RE: sin. Can one sin in the presence of God?

  15. Sure. I think it’s possible to have sinned a sin of omission, i.e., what Nora said. I can imagine myself really really liking Jesus’ plan, but avoiding any nasty confrontations with one of the opposition. (“what? huh? me?”)

    If there was sin, was there also repentance? Is repentance an eternal principle, or only here for us mortals? If it is an eternal principle, then what would we have needed it for if there was no sin?

    Finally, what if sin was just going against what our Heavenly Parents and Jesus told us to do? ( “meems, do NOT put those two elements together in th… Oh, HECK. That’s the fourth big bang this eon! Go to your room!!”)

  16. I’m sure we could have been less valiant before our earthly lives – we were much like we are now. The flesh is quite corrupt, but our spirits are also far from perfect at the moment – imo :)

    BTW, I love the Saturday’s Warriors references!!

  17. The only way it was not possible to sin is if we had no free will there. But if we had no free will there the entire notion of a counsel/war in heaven goes out the window. So of course it was possible to be less valiant.

  18. The question isn’t about being more or less “great” but about being more or less “valiant.”

    that is, couldn’t one of us (me, for example) have been LESS excited (or valiant) about the plan than someone else (my wife, for example)?

  19. Steve Evans says:

    But Geoff, how is it possible to sin in the presence of God? What about all the definitional claims that no unclean thing can be in his presence?

  20. I am a yes (going with Evans’ original intent about sin in the pre-existence).

    Can one sin in the presence of God?

    No, but who says we were in the presence of God in the pre-existence? Joseph Smith had occasion to be brought temporarily into the presence of God, but this does not mean he was already celestial. Thus, I don’t assume our participation in a heavenly council means we lived with God in the pre-existence. Apart from scriptures which talk about participating in a council in heaven, I don’t know of any scriptures that say we lived perpetually in a celestial kingdom prior to coming to earth. The first half of D&C 88 suggests to me that we could not have lived in the celestial kingdom, since giving us the chance to become celestial is what God’s plan was all about (see also KFD).

  21. Actually, I think one can be noble and great without implying that there are others less noble and less great. And, since the notion that some were “less valiant” in the pre-mortal existence has been used for ill, I am very hesitant to find much value in the “noble and great” label anyway. At best, it is a way for us to pat ourselves on the back; at worst, it is a way to justify behavior towards those whom we assume were less valiant.

  22. Steve,

    We’re all currently in the presence of God in a very real sense so I don’t really know what to do with that statement that says it is not possible. It is demonstrably possible in my opinion.

    BTW — How are we defining sin here? Further, how are we defining God here? Further, what assumptions are we making about the nature of our pre-mortal existence here?

  23. couldn’t one of us (me, for example) have been LESS excited (or valiant) about the plan than someone else

    I don’t have a problem believing this.

    And, since the notion that some were “less valiant” in the pre-mortal existence has been used for ill, I am very hesitant to find much value in the “noble and great” label anyway.

    This seems fallacious. Just because the belief justified some incorrect actions, doesn’t mean that the belief in and of itself is incorrect.

  24. Tim,

    I’m not saying it is incorrect (although I think it is), I’m saying that I don’t see the benefit derived from the belief. I don’t know why we keep it around.

  25. In other, better words, it strikes me as a pretty inessential thing to believe.

  26. I voted yes because the patriarch giving me my patriarchal blessing stated ‘You were in deed faithful and valiant in the pre-existence.” Some have noted Abraham. Alma 13 speaks of pre-existent valiance relating to high priests. The doctrine of varying degrees of pre-mortal valiance seems compelling but I don’t know if/how we are to use the knowledge of pre-mortal goodness during mortal trials… other than vague self-affirmations.

    It worries me when we infer grievous pre-mortal inferiorities as somehow having substantial mortal ramifications. In this respect, I think the doctrine is sparsely revealed and unclear.

  27. John C,

    The context of Abr 3 is a long discussion of graded intelligence and greatness:

    19 And the Lord said unto me: These two facts do exist, that there are two spirits, one being more intelligent than the other; there shall be another more intelligent than they; I am the Lord thy God, I am more intelligent than they all.

    You are seriously going to argue that the “noble and great” line doesn’t imply that some were less noble and great. Read the verses again:

    22 Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones;
    23 And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good

    This makes no sense unless the description is comparative. Why would he choose “these” to make his rulers if their nobleness and greatness was not greater than others’?

  28. I don’t know why we keep it around.

    Probably because it’s somewhat scriptural. And because we have polls about it on BCC.

  29. I tend to read Alma as referring to existent sins and choices. I tend to read Abraham as referring to Gods, people, and demons (and just those categories). FWIW.

  30. Anonymous,

    Since you mention Alma 13, notice the phrase “left to choose good and evil” in verse 3 which seems to refer to the pre-existence:

    3 And this is the manner after which they were ordained—being called and prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God, on account of their exceeding faith and good works; in the first place being left to choose good or evil

    This goes along with Geoff’s (#17).

  31. Yes, I think the Sons of perdition were not always planning on following Satan’s plan, and eventually worked their way up to that. Which would say to me that they were less valiant. Which would also indicate that there were some who chose Christ’s/God’s plan reluctantly at first. I think like now, there are those on Earth that are more valiant, so it was in the Pre-Mortal life.

  32. As to “sin”, I don’t know.

    But I believe that there are as many degrees of valiance, righteousness,and “glory” as there are stars in the sky, metaphorically speaking. Each of us in pre-mortal life could decide to what extent we would learn and grow. I believe many of the less-valiant of us chose to ultimately follow God’s plan.

    Re: #21, the idea of pre-mortal half-heartedness may have been used for ill, but that’s the arguer’s fault, not the idea. Any true principle can be used for bad purposes. That doesn’t make the principle less true; it makes us sinners.

  33. Jacob,
    Why does that choice have to refer to the pre-existence? Why can’t it refer to mortality? For that matter, why can’t God be referring to all humanity with his these? The other could be animals (or sons of perdition).

    I question this a lot, because I see it as too easily leading us into temptation. I don’t see the value in the belief, but I am (as always) willing to be talked out of it.

  34. I’m interested, because my experience is limited. Can ya’ll come up with a good reason for having a belief in varying degrees in human valiance in the pre-existence (meaning a reason that motivates us to be better people)?

  35. John,

    There are scriptures in Alma 13 that relate to the fact that people behaved differently in the preexistence.

    Also, I find it very suspect to claim that I was as righteous as the prophets in the preexistence. That has certainly not been the case here.

    I find it even more suspect to claim that people were simply binary in the pre-existence — they chose good or bad but with no gradations whatsoever. It seems unlikely that people were completley binary in the pre-existence but then become wildly heterogenous in this life.

    The “noble and great ones” line makes it seem pretty likely that there were gradations– and that God doesn’t mind telling us so.

  36. Can ya’ll come up with a good reason for having a belief in varying degrees in human valiance in the pre-existence (meaning a reason that motivates us to be better people)?

    As long as we always see ourselves as the very last one to qualify for being in any way valiant and worthy to come to Earth at all.

    Then it seems valuable to me.

  37. Okay Steve! Enough already! It was me and I admit it: I let the air out of your bike tires in the pre-existence.

    So yes, there was sin in the pre-existence (but apparently, no forgiveness).

  38. Single Sister says:

    I believe that we are the same people as we were in the pre-existence. With some growth, with some learning, with some wisdom tacked on of course, but our basic personalities are the same. I can see myself following along in the pre-existence, knowing that I was doing the right thing, but maybe not sure why or having a full testimony of it, but nevertheless knowing that somewhere along the line it would all come out in the wash. I say this because in many respects I am the same way today. I am certainly not one of the more “valiant” ones like Abraham or Moses or Joseph, but I don’t feel I “sinned” in the pre-existence because of my lack of valiance (and I don’t think it’s possible to “sin” as we know it in Heaven, being in the presence of God and all….). God needs foot soldiers as well as Generals, after all.

  39. John C, On Alma 13, I don’t think it “must” refer to the pre-existence, and I’m open to other readings. Traditionally, people have taken it to be talking about the pre-existence, so clearly that is one obvious way to interpret the scripture. I don’t any substantial weight on the Alma 13, other than that of the scriptures which might comment on the situation, all of them seem to point to agency and sin in the pre-existence.

  40. Kevin Barney says:

    There is good news and there is bad news.

    The good news is that our notion of a Preexistence gives us a tool for explaining otherwise inexplicable differences in mortal circumstances in this life.

    The bad news is that our notion of a Preexistence gives us a tool for explaining otherwise inexplicable differences in mortal circumstances in this life.

    By which I mean that being able to appeal to a Preexistence as a way of propping up God’s justice is something a lot of Christians don’t have. But almost invariably when we appeal to such distinctions there, we end up creating our own injustices here in the mortal realm.

    I’m fine with assuming that there were gradations in knowledge and talent and all sorts of things, but I’m resistant to ever appealing to such a concept as a way of “explaining” (read “marginalizing”) any particular group or individual here in mortality. The sordid history of this idea as an aetiology for the priesthood ban should be ample demonstration of the point.

  41. Frank,

    If God came out and said he had blue eyes, I wouldn’t mind it, but I wouldn’t see what it has to do with anything. If this doctrine is meant to motivate some action, I would like to know what it is. If it isn’t, then why (in the great economy of God) do we have it?

    dug,
    I am not sure that I see your point. Could you elaborate?

  42. Kevin, I agree with you 100%

  43. Kevin,

    I don’t have a problem with the assumption of gradations, so long as we never attempt to apply those gradations to differences in mortality. This, of course, means that I am fine with the doctrine so long as no-one ever talks about it or believes in it. I think this means that I have a problem with the doctrine.

  44. Yes we could be less valiant and yes we could sin. We were not perpetually in the presence of God before we came here. I did a post that touched on this here.

    Joseph Taught

    Before foundation of the Earth in the Grand Counsel that the Spirits of all Men ware subject to oppression & the express purpose of God in Giving it a tabernacle was to arm it against the power of Darkness

    here.

  45. I’m fairly certain I was one of the less valiant.

  46. John C (#43),

    It means nothing of the kind. As has already been pointed out, believing in gradations among spirits is important for:

    1. Not wresting Abr 3 into an untenable reading.
    2. Accounting for the existence of agency in the pre-existence, which is viewed by many people to be foundational to Mormonism (as Geoff said, cf. D&C 93:31-32).
    3. Explaining why there was the need for a plan to make us celestial in the first place (KFD).

    None of these has anything to do with marginalizing anyone on earth. So, your hermeneutic from #34 is just a wrong-headed way to approach theology, in my opinion.

  47. Like, John C, I don’t see a useful reason for believing people were more or less valiant there. To say that church leaders were among the most valiant smacks of predestination. If it’s true, we ought to prtend it’s not., for the reasons Kevin points out.

    I also think we carried away with the war in heaven metaphor when we start talking about generals et al.

  48. dug, I am not sure that I see your point. Could you elaborate?

    Yes, I think Rebecca J. has it right:

    I’m fairly certain I was one of the less valiant.

    If each of us believes, or at least acts like we believe that WE are the less valiant who just barely qualified, then there is no temptation to stratify and subsequently marginalize based on the idea of more or less valiant.

    I agree completely that the idea has been prone to misuse, and is dangerous. That doesn’t mean I don’t see MYSELF as less valiant. I barely qualify for so much spiritually here on Earth that I can only assume that I was the last chosen for the Earthly team in the pre-existence.

  49. To say that church leaders were among the most valiant smacks of predestination.

    I’m not so sure the Church doesn’t believe in a sort of predestination, Norbert. Especially when it comes to the Prophets.

  50. Norbert: I don’t see a useful reason for believing people were more or less valiant there

    I’m guessing your didn’t see #43 before you wrote this right?

  51. #46 that is

  52. Thomas Parkin says:

    Whatever conditions were there, here we begin on equal footing – since God is no respecter of persons – in at least this most important respect: anyone who gets on the path through baptism, yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, lives the gospel, receives revelation on revelation, endures to the end, and is cleansed through the blood of the Lamb, will make his/her way to exaltation.

    I’ve never been sure what the scriptures mean that say many of the first will be last and the last will be first. But I’ve always assumed that at least one of its potential meanings is that many who were noble and great will fail in this life – perhaps David, and there must be many others – while many who were perhaps less valiant will make their way rightly in this life. ~

  53. While I am totally in agreement with Jacob J on everything here so far, I do want to say “Sin” is perhaps a difficult word to assign, as we need to determine if by sin we mean “To do bad thing” or we mean “To go against God’s plan” And if so, is that willingly or accidentally.

    I think it is safe to assume we did bad things in the pre-existence. That is the argument I believe I am making.

  54. I do not believe I was less valiant in pre-mortal life, nor am I a fan of false-self-degradation. (I assume dug and rebecca j are not acting out false-self-degradation, but actual self-degradation; as long as it doesn’t lead to self-abuse, emotionally speaking, I have no problem with that)

    John C., I do not believe the belief requires putting anyone else down. Just because I believe I was “noble and great” in the premortal life does not mean I believe anyone in particular on this earth was not “noble and great.” I believe it in the abstract, but it would be a sin for me to judge someone that way because only God knows our souls.

    However, teaching the doctrine of our nobility and “greatness” helps us understand truth: many who were noble and great before this life have been blessed with knowledge and responsibility in this life. We must live according to the knowledge we have been given and we have a responsibility to lift up those around us and share the knowledge with others.

    Although I can lift up those around me without this doctrine, I value the knowledge because it helps me to understand how my actions before this life have affected my life now, and how my actions in this life will affect my eternal life.

  55. I believe that some could have been less valiant, but valiant nonetheless. Once they were born, the slate was wiped clean and they are only judged from earth birth on.

  56. I agree with Geoff and Jacob. Free agency is a real thing.

    How we use a doctrine has more to say about us than it does about a doctrine itself. Just because we do not like how a doctrine is used by some people does not make it untrue.

  57. I like what Dug and others have said about this doctrine being good motivation for humility, personal duty and a sense of our eternal agency having consequence. That’s where I stop because the revealed light dims and gross injustice has been perpetrated in the twilight beyond.

    I’m comfortable viewing the doctrine of pre-mortal variance as only one revealed side of the coin. We have a bit about “thus it was” but very little about what “thus” means for now and forever. Given the fact that in most cases, the light we have on this matter came when God privately commissioned his prophets and expanded their vision of the eternal creations, is it a cop out to consider the matter clouded with the greatest mysteries of creation and eternity? I’m not suggesting we stop seeking/thinking, just suggesting we must consider the nature of this knowledge in the debate of how to use it.

  58. Yes, free will.

  59. Jacob,

    I really don’t see the value in reading Abraham 3 in the manner you do (although I admit it is the common way of reading it). Assuming gradations in the pre-existence gets us where exactly?

    Regarding sinnin’ in the pre-existence, I don’t see how that is different from sinnin’ here. We all do it, we are all condemned by it. We all need the atonement if we wish to return to God. I don’t see how stopping speculation on pre-existent sinnin’ or valiance turns any of that on its head.

  60. Last Lemming says:

    I think the real problem is not with the idea of gradations, but with the notion that one’s valiance (and, bu extension, one’s value or worthiness or whatever relative to others) can be summarized in single measure. How about if we stipulate that “valiance” is a multi-dimensional construct, and that we have erroneously conflated those dimensions into one.

    So in one context, we declare Spirit A, who has progressed further along dimension X than Spirit B, to be more valiant than Spirit B. But in another context, we declare Spirit B, who has progressed further along dimension Y than Spirit A, to be more valiant than Spirit A. Now we don’t even know what the dimensions are, so there is always danger in comparing two pre-existent spirits. But there is no harm is acknowledging that those dimensions exist and that each spirit is located at different coordinates in that space.

    Why is this important to believe? Because it tells us that we all have our own inherent abilities that are unique to us–we are not spiritual clones of one another. But with the exception of Abraham and perhaps a few others, we do not have the data necessary to make comparisons among spirits.

  61. Adam E.,

    I don’t have a problem with you believing you are a “noble and great” one. Doesn’t this just mean you are a child of God? The goods you attribute to that belief seem to parallel the goods we attribute to beliefs we have regarding our divine worth.

    Eric,

    Please provide some applications of that doctrine that demonstrate its truth. John 7:17 and all that. (ps. I am not entirely certain that I am disagreeing with you, Geoff, and Jacob).

    Anonymous,

    I agree. But sadly these polls are pointed at the controversial unknowables instead of the obvious points of doctrine. If you like though, next week we could do “Should you be baptized?” :)

  62. Re: Good and great ones, I also don’t see the value in believing that Abraham or President Monson are better in someway than I am (or that they were in the pre-existence). I’m not, necessarily, denying that they are better than me, but I don’t see the value in believing that.

  63. well then how else did I get to be tan?

  64. at that point, transgression == lack of valiance

  65. Jacob J, I’ll give you the free agency. I think that’s right. But beyond saying, ‘We had agency in the pre-existence,’ the speculation on what any individuals did with it seems to be absolute guessing in the dark. I’m uncomfortable about that predeistination regarding prophets: why would the operation of agency there trump the operation of agency here? It doesn’t make sense to me.

    I love this:

    This, of course, means that I am fine with the doctrine so long as no-one ever talks about it or believes in it.

  66. When I first read the question:

    is it possible for a spirit to have been less valiant in the pre-existence?

    my initial reaction was to ask, less valiant than what?

    I assume that the question is asking if some spirits were more valiant than others in the pre-mortal life. Assuming we had agency then, which I think is a safe assumption- we know that we chose to follow Heavenly Father’s plan- it seems safe to assume that there were varying degrees of valiance there just as there are here.

    IMO, there is no inherent value in comparing ourselves with anyone else, whether here or pre-mortally.

  67. John C. (#59),

    I really don’t see the value in reading Abraham 3 in the manner you do

    The text does not make sense in the way you read it, which is reason enough to reject your reading. At least, if it does make sense, you have failed to defend your reading after I asked you to in #27.

    Regarding sinnin’ in the pre-existence, I don’t see how that is different from sinnin’ here. We all do it, we are all condemned by it. We all need the atonement if we wish to return to God. I don’t see how stopping speculation on pre-existent sinnin’ or valiance turns any of that on its head.

    I agree with all of that. The poll asks whether it was possible to be less valiant (or to sin if we take Steve’s original intent) in the pre-existence. That question has nothing to do with whether we should speculate about who was a sinner or who was less valiant, which seems to be your beef. I already agreed with Kevin that we shouldn’t speculate about who was more or less valiant (see #42). So your argument has become a non-sequitor to your original question.

    (#62) Re: Good and great ones, I also don’t see the value in believing that Abraham or President Monson are better in someway than I am (or that they were in the pre-existence).

    The value in believing Abraham was more noble and great in some way is that the scripture states it explicitly. I find value in believing what the scriptures say. Beyond that, I would not speculate that this applies to President Monson or anyone else, for that matter. You are arguing against something that no one has advanced. I can’t tell why.

  68. Norbert,

    But beyond saying, ‘We had agency in the pre-existence,’ the speculation on what any individuals did with it seems to be absolute guessing in the dark.

    Agreed, I have never suggested (and would not suggest) that we speculate on which individuals were more valiant than others.

    I love this:

    I already stated in #46 why it could be an important theological doctrine (with associated belief and talking about) even if we never speculate about who was more/less valiant in the pre-existence. You failed to address any of the points there, so I don’t have more to say until you do.

  69. Is it safe to say that all here in this second estate were valiant to some degree? If that’s the case, and I believe that it is, then we should all recognize that all that inhabit this earth are of great (and equal) worth in the sight of God. With this knowledge, we should try to view others as God views them- with love, and a desire to help others reach their potential.

    Beyond this, I’m confused at the value of the question at hand….

  70. Jacob J, FTW!

    Anecdotally,the issue is not whether we could have been more or less valiant in the pre-existence but whether our valiance, outside of the binary choice to come here, had any impact at all on what circumstances we were born into.

    I once got in an argument about whether the most noble saints would be those who were born with the least access or most access to the Gospel in this life.

  71. Valiant means courageous, brave, worthy.

    Is it possible some were less worthy than others? I’d assume plenty of us felt we were less worthy of certain tasks than those around us in the pre-existence.

    So it all depends on your definition of valiant I suppose.

  72. John C. (61)

    I am not sure what you are getting at. You can not have real freedom of action and real equality of results at the same time. If freedom, then variation.

    What does John 7:17 have to do with this?

    And what of the 1/3 that got cast out? Was this not a result of an open rebellion in the pre existence?

  73. Regarding “Why does that choice have to refer to the pre-existence? Why can’t it refer to mortality? For that matter, why can’t God be referring to all humanity with his these? The other could be animals (or sons of perdition).”:

    God: “Abraham- I part the heavens to inform you that you were not and are not an animal nor a Son of Perdition.”

    Abraham: “I KNEW it!!!! Better write this down quick…”

    Good thing he didn’t forget his pen. I don’t see the point in such an interpretation. Help me out here.

    If there wasn’t variance in pre-mortal beings (i.e., no noble/great ones relative to others) what was there?
    What good is it to believe that all beings were equal when that isn’t the case now? What does that say about continuity in God’s established eternal processes? Please describe how one could be noble and great if all others are also? Those words are descriptive and meaningful only in the context of things that are not noble and great. Distinguishing between identical elements is nonsensical and pointless.

    Here are a few good things that a “noble/great” interpretation permits and elaborates:
    teaches us about the justice of God, eternal development, purpose of earth life, eternal nature of atonement and its effects, and the nature of the pre-existence. Furthermore, it illustrates how much at stake there is for us in this life. Let me know if you disagree with these.

    If by “better” you mean more valued, I think you’re headed down the wrong track. The distinction is more in terms of degree of progression, not some implicit value of the soul. That value is indeed equal across all people even if one is not “greater” in terms of progression.

    What value is there in thinking that people were/are all equally progressed, or that you’re on the same plane as a prophet in spiritual development? This seems like it promotes spiritual laziness. If the answer is that holding such a viewpoint eliminates the harm that can be done by wielding such a doctrine unjustly, let’s just get rid of agency before we’re all jacked up. Some people are further progressed or developed than others. That’s a fact that the existence of temple recommend interviews seems to support. This doesn’t decrease the VALUE of someone, just a fact of their current state.

  74. Regarding sin in the presence of God- is it really reasonable that Lucifer’s first deviant act was a complete rebellion and attempted overthrow of God’s thrown? Does it really make sense to say things went down like Calvin’s (of Calvin and Hobbes) virtuous clone instantaneously evaporating as a result of his first evil thought?

    Doesn’t it make more sense that Lucifer must have had to sin incrementally (without immediately being booted out of the “presence of God”) at least to some degree to become his Satanic self? If not, how do you make sense of such an apparently random shift in behavior and status? Wouldn’t it have had to be the same for the rest of us?

    It might be the case that everyone performed at their maximum potential in the pre-earth life. In this case “less valiancy” would be a function of initial starting points. If these were equal then everyone began at the same point, and if everyone fulfilled their potential
    from these equal starting points, I don’t see how you can explain Lucifer’s fall or the 1/3 rebellion without implementing some really crazy developmental mechanisms.
    If it was possible for Lucifer and Posse to sin, it would have had to at least been POSSIBLE for the rest of the gang.

  75. Ronito, maybe the darker your skin, the closer you were to the Light of Christ.

  76. Jacob,

    Okay. In Abraham 3, God is giving Abraham a guided tour of the universe. Verses 1-18 focus on stars and the universe and time and, so, they are not terribly relevant to our immediate discussion aside from the fact that he does emphasize that some stars are better than other stars.

    In verse 19, he discusses two intelligences, stating that one may be more intelligent than another. He goes on to emphasize that He is more intelligent than either (which seems to me to be the saliant point to take from that discussion).

    In verse 20, he talks about Abraham’s deliverance. I think the rest of the immediate verses are an attempt to put that deliverance in a context. Verse 21 notes that God hangs out with a bunch of intelligences that are less intelligent than he. Verse 22 notes that there were a whole ton of intelligences out there and that some of them were superior to others. Verse 23 notes that God chose from those to find his leaders in this life and that Abraham was one of them. Verses 24-26 talk about Christ as being one of the noble and great ones and gives a brief explanation of the plan of salvation. 27-28 deal with the war in heaven.

    Chapter 4 then begins with all the gods, the noble and great ones presumably, going down and creating the earth.

    Now, you have a couple of options with this:

    1. You can go the traditional route, assume that “noble and great ones” refers to some subset of humanity and then roll that on through the rest of the section. Only a portion of humanity actually participated in the war in heaven and the creation of the world in that case.
    2. You can assume (as I do) that “noble and great ones” refers to a subset of intelligences and maintain the notion that all of humanity participating in the war in heaven and the creation of the earth.

    I don’t find either reading impossible theologically or in the context of the chapter. I prefer mine because of the effect it has (cutting off some speculation regarding pre-existent valiance). So, there is that. Also, I feel a need to point out that the bible explicitly calls Job perfect and Job (the book) spends a great deal of time noting that he isn’t.

    My Achilles’ heel in this is, I think, the grouping of Christ with the noble and great ones. Then again, Abraham doesn’t distinguish between Christ and the rest of humanity in Abraham 4 so why should I insist on it.

    I feel like I’ve already dealt with the other issues you brought up, but if you would like me to explain myself further on those, I am willing.

    Eric,

    I’m defining “noble and great” for a given value of “noble and great.” I think people can accomplish that standard with a wide variety of behaviors (and with a couple of very specific ones).

    As to John 7:17, I was being a little facetious. I was saying that since this is a doctrine that we can’t actually live (or, at least as far as I can tell, we shouldn’t), I don’t know what the value of the doctrine is.

    b,
    “teaches us about the justice of God, eternal development, purpose of earth life, eternal nature of atonement and its effects, and the nature of the pre-existence. Furthermore, it illustrates how much at stake there is for us in this life. Let me know if you disagree with these.”

    b, I don’t think I disagree with those concepts, but I am unclear as to how the notion of pre-existent valiance demonstrates any of them. Please elaborate.

    “What value is there in thinking that people were/are all equally progressed, or that you’re on the same plane as a prophet in spiritual development? This seems like it promotes spiritual laziness.”

    I respectfully disagree. I think acknowledging that in God’s eyes we were pre-existently equal means that God wants me to be a home-teacher and Gospel Doctrine teacher in my ward now, not because I am inferior to President Monson, but because I am the best fit for that role and that President Monson is President of the church because he is the best fit for that role. Asking me to believe that pre-existent valiance matters means asking me to believe that there are roles that I am not just unsuited for, but inherently unqualified for.

    “That’s a fact that the existence of temple recommend interviews seems to support.”

    This I don’t understand at all.

  77. John C,

    The problem with your Abraham 3 explanation is that it ignores the fact that the stars discussion is presented as an analogy for the spirits/intelligences discussion. And the whole point of both is that there is vast gradation in the pre-mortal glory/intelligence of both stars and spirits. That comparison makes your attempts at making Abraham’s teachings fit with a strictly binary “noble v. not-noble” situation fall flat on its face.

    You may not like the idea of gradation of nobleness/greatness/intelligence in the premortal world but Abraham 3 makes the idea nearly impossible to dismiss even with the contortions you are trying to go through here.

  78. John C.- “Asking me to believe that pre-existent valiance matters means asking me to believe that there are roles that I am not just unsuited for, but inherently unqualified for.”

    Exactly. You are exactly right. You’re absolutely not- unless the Atonement is active in your life. When it is, you become fit/qualified. Ether 12:27 refers to some weaknesses that are a result of our pre-mortal life. In other words, some of us, given our pre-mortal growth, just aren’t fit for some things (aka, we have weaknesses) unless we come unto Christ. If we do come unto Christ, he can qualify us for things that we would otherwise be unsuited and inherently unqualified to perform based on our previous performance (both pre-mortal and mortal efforts). Those who were more noble/great don’t need to overcome certain weaknesses now since they already overcame them; they may be more fit/qualified to perform certain tasks, but only if they don’t blow it and only if they continue to rely on Christ.

    The point is that we begin life here on an equal playing field as far as our ability to have access to strength-producing experiences through Christ. However, we are not all on equal standings as far as what strengths and weaknesses we have (some of which are a result of pre-mortal development). Only Christ could perform his mission for a number of reasons, but one of them was because he had been prepared in premortality to be able to do so- we couldn’t have done it (among other reasons) because we were unsuited and unqualified to do so at least in part because of what we had (or hadn’t) done (or become) in pre-mortality.

    This perspective is of value because it underscores yet another reason why we need the Savior, and extends our relationship with Him and to the Atonement beyond the veil. I’m unsure what part of this is disagreeable- it all points to our reliance on Christ.

    Do you also think that it seems unfair that in the next life some people will be unfit/unqualified to do certain things based on their performance in the previous estate (i.e., some people’s decisions on earth determine their standing in the spirit world)? Even though some people may be stuck in prison for a while, if they permit Christ to help them overcome their weaknesses, they can progress and become qualified for equal blessings. Same deal here.

    Also, how do you make sense of the doctrine of foreordination?

  79. Geoff,

    I disagree. I think the star info is there primarily to discuss the complexity of creation and the superiority of God. I read the whole chapter as an introduction to chapter 4. If I am doing damage to the reading, please demonstrate how.

  80. Nora,
    Truly we are a tan and delightsome people.

  81. b,

    What is the purpose in my supposing that President Monson is better than me? I don’t see it. He has talents and experiences that make him better suited to his calling than I would be, but why does that make him better? We both fall short of perfection without Christ, so, while I don’t deny that we are different, I fail to see how we are different in any manner that is significant.

    I also tend to think we are all foreordained for everything and some of us fulfill it in spirit, some in fact, some in part, and some not at all.

  82. John C,

    You are indeed doing damage to the reading. Here is how (quoting Abr. 3: 16-19):

    16 If two things exist, and there be one above the other, there shall be greater things above them; therefore Kolob is the greatest of all the Kokaubeam that thou hast seen, because it is nearest unto me.
    17 Now, if there be two things, one above the other, and the moon be above the earth, then it may be that a planet or a star may exist above it; and there is nothing that the Lord thy God shall take in his heart to do but what he will ado it.
    18 Howbeit that he made the greater star; as, also, if there be two spirits, and one shall be more intelligent than the other, yet these two spirits, notwithstanding one is more intelligent than the other, have no beginning; they existed before, they shall have no end, they shall exist after, for they are gnolaum, or eternal.
    19 And the Lord said unto me: These two facts do exist, that there are two spirits, one being more intelligent than the other; there shall be another more intelligent than they; I am the Lord thy God, I am more intelligent than they all. (bold mine)

    The “as, also,” in vs. 18 is a clear indicator that the stars discussion is a type and shadow (or perhaps even a metaphor) of the subsequent spirits/intelligences discussion.

    The rest of the chapter explains that this gradation principle applied to us in one way or another prior to coming here.

    (I say “one way or another” because, as you know, I remain partial to the MMP model of the eternities so it seems likely to me that the gradation in “nobleness” there was very much like the gradation in the nobleness of people here; though that does not mean that there is necessarily direct crossover/causation/correlation because of the veil.)

  83. Geoff,
    I think we are discussing different things. You are talking about intelligence, I am talking about valiance. I don’t argue that we vary in intelligence. I just don’t think that means we can disqualify people from being amongst the “noble and great”

  84. er…I don’t argue with variance in intelligence.

  85. John C.- You’re arguing against someone other than me, because I never said anything about anyone being better than anyone else. I already mentioned that I think you’re defining “better” incorrectly. Of course nobody is better than anybody else. If by “better” you mean “more good or intelligent” (a la Moroni 7 and D&C 93), you might be right, but if you define it as “of greater value or potential” then you’re most definitely wrong. Elder Packer recently spoke on this in General Conference. In the way that you mean it, President Monson is not better than you. But he is called to a particular calling that you are not, and he is also likely more spiritually developed than you- neither of which imply that he is “better” than you.

    We all are of equal value in the sight of God, but we’re not all equal in current capacity or intelligence.

    So if one of us is right about this issue and the other wrong, the one that is right is just right, not both right and “better”.

    @ 75- I thought that was pretty good.

  86. Dude- I need you to give me some better reasons as to why you think the concepts of intelligence and nobility/greatness are so divorced from one another.

    Also, give D&C 138:53-56 a read, with emphasis on the usage of the terms “choice”, “noble and great ones”, and “chosen”. How does this gel with your perspective?

  87. and by Dude I meant John C, of course…. or anybody else who shares his perspective

  88. b,
    I agree with you in 85. I see variance in valiance as insignificant outside of the sons of perdition. That doesn’t have anything to do with intelligence. It does make us all part of the noble and great ones, which I think Abr 3-4 supports.

  89. John C: I see variance in valiance as insignificant outside of the sons of perdition.

    Do you see variance in valiance as being insignificant here as well? If not you have a problem because of the whole free will thing. If we were free-willed beings with the ability to choose our “valiance” (whatever that means) there — and unless we are going to dismiss the entire concept of a war/council in heaven we must have been — then there would have been as much variance there as there is here.

  90. John C.- I’m pretty sure that I have no idea what you mean in 88. I guess that’s ok. Good poll question.

  91. John C., I took a few minutes to read over all of your comments again. What I find is that you are beating two drums consistently. They are:

    1. The idea of pre-mortal valiance is dangerous because we can abuse it by trying to say that we know who (on earth) was more or less valiant in the pre-existence. You hit this in comments 21, 33, 43, 59, 62, 81.

    2. You don’t see the value of the doctrine in providing a a motivation for us to be better. You hit this in 24, 33, 34, 41, 59, 61.

    The question you asked in the poll was: is it possible for a spirit to have been less valiant in the pre-existence? As has been pointed out numerous times, these two points you are driving home again and again are orthogonal to the question you asked in the poll. Perhaps next Monday you should have a poll that asks:

    Should we speculate about who was more valiant in the pre-existence based on race, calling in the church, or other earthly circumstances?

    If you do, I will side with you (and everyone else) in saying that we shouldn’t speculate about who was more/less valiant. No one, I repeat, no one, has said we should assume President Monson was more valiant or better than you. The only one suggesting this is you (in 62, 76, 81). Your insistence on pursuing this argument against a complete straw man is bewildering.

    As to your second drum beat, Eric responded very succinctly in #56 (I didn’t see a response to his point, that just because a doctrine can be misused does not mean it is incorrect).

  92. As to your Abr 3 interpretation. If I understand correctly, you are saying the ones who were not noble and great were animals and/or sons of perdition (from #29 and #33)? Do I have that right?

    As b pointed out quite well at the beginning of #73, this makes the declaration in Abr 3:23 a dramatic affirmation of the trivial and obvious. God says: “Abraham, you were not an animal nor a son of perdition. You were chosen before you were born based on that!”

    Further, in vs. 25, the one like unto God turns to the noble and greats with him and says they will go create an earth “And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them.” So, on your reading, they create the earth so that the animals and sons of perdition can be proven herewith? You may reply that the noble and greats are part of those who end up being proven, which is true, but the verse phrases it so that it is inescapable that the non-noble-and-greats are among those who will be proven herewith. Doesn’t seem to make sense to me on your reading.

    These points make your reading untenable in my estimation. Beyond the Abr 3 point, I don’t see anywhere that you have explained how we can have agency in any meaningful context to choose sides in a war or to develop our intelligence without people having the possibility of being more valiant than others.

  93. Jacob,

    I think that a way Geoff J. explained it makes sense. Geoff said something like imagine a range of sinning from -100 to 100. God declares “Valiant people (the great and the noble) are people who fall between 1 and 100″ That allows for some range of action, but it also includes everyone in the valiant category. It’s not that I don’t believe there is some variance in valiance; it’s that I don’t think it is significant. For that matter, I don’t find it significant on earth either (for we all are sinners and damned without Christ).

    As to the them whom Christ addresses, I don’t know. I don’t believe he is testing animals (because I don’t think they can sin). At the same time, the way you are reading it makes it sound like he is talking to a bunch of buddies who aren’t going to be tested at all, which also doesn’t sound like the plan. Or, if folklore is to be believed, it makes the noble and great ones the mentally challenged and those who die before they are 8. I don’t think either of those possibilities fits our understanding of the plan of salvation, foreordination, or Abraham being a noble and great one very well.

    I get that you don’t like my reading. Can you at least admit that your reading isn’t necessary? If you will offer the possibility of other interpretations, we can all move on.

  94. cantinflas says:

    If we can be more/less valiant here and after this life (choose the gospel or not), why not before? I imagine it was degrees of laziness, though. “I don’t wanna help the land come out of the sea today…I did it yesterday! I wanna help make hummingbirds todaaaaay”

  95. John C,

    As Spock once said, there are always possibilities. So I will happily admit that my reading is not necessary.

    It’s not that I don’t believe there is some variance in valiance

    So, you are a yes to the poll question now. We are on the same page.

  96. John C.- Welcome aboard to the yes crew. It’s ok, we accept variance in valiancy towards the yes response.

  97. Among the two thirds who remained, it is highly probable that there were many who were not valiant in the war, but whose sins were of such a nature that they could be forgiven through faith in the future sufferings of the Only Begotten of the Father, and through their sincere repentance and reformation. Orson Pratt, The Seer, vol. no4.,pp. 54-55.

  98. Just my two cent… calling some spirits noble and great is meaningless unless there are others who are less so.

    Also, I don’t see why anyone needs to feel like Pres. Monson, Abraham, or others were necessarily the noble and great, while you weren’t. In Abr 3:22 it says that the group that were to be the rulers were “many of the noble and great ones” – not all of them. So some of the noble and great ones were destined to do things other than lead the church. Does that mean they were destined to be mentally handicapped, or die under 8? Maybe, but I don’t see the point in worrying a whole lot about it. You might have been one of the “great and noble ones” or you might not… you’re going to be judged on what you do now, not then.

  99. Less valiant, less intelligent, less good looking. Variety is the spice of pre-mortal life.

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