Hypothetical Negotiations for Spiritual Gifts

My work as an economist often involves providing estimates of damages in intellectual property disputes. Most frequently, these disputes involve two parties suing each other for patent infringement, with each party claiming they own some method or technology used as an input for some snazzy gizmo they claim is worth zillions of dollars. To estimate damages, several techniques and approaches are helpful—some are statistical, some are analytical, some are based on past case precedent. One of the most valuable techniques is that of the hypothetical negotiation.

The hypothetical negotiation in a patent infringement lawsuit involves re-constructing the world that existed the moment before the accused party allegedly began infringement, and imagining what the outcome would be if both parties were forced to sit down and negotiate a licensing royalty or other form of payment to legitimize the otherwise-illegal use of the patented technology. In this hypothetical world, an economist then considers other criteria that may influence how the negotiation would proceed. For example, if the two parties are direct competitors, this would push toward a higher royalty rate; if there are numerous substitute technologies that could be used instead, this would put downward pressure on the likely royalty rate. There are two important rules that must be followed here: First, in the context of a lawsuit, walking away from the negotiating table is not an option—an agreement must be reached for the hypothetical to be of any value, so outcomes are constrained those involving an agreement. Second, because the hypothetical negotiation takes place in the past, we have information available to us that a real negotiation would not have; while it is tempting to eliminate this information to more closely approximate the original circumstances, most courts allow the parties to use the “Book of Wisdom” to take into account major events that have taken place and might have impacted the negotiation in some way.

What does the concept of a hypothetical negotiation have to do with Mormonism? Potentially very little, but I’m going to give it a shot anyway.

I am a big fan of the pre-mortal existence. The idea that we lived before we were born into mortality is one of the defining doctrines of the LDS Church—one that separates us from most any other religion in the world. In theory, this doctrine provides a wonderful context for the plan of salvation and informs much of our thinking about the way God deals with His children. Whether such explanations are accurate or not, nearly everyone in the LDS Church has heard liberal references to the pre-mortal life as an explanation for human suffering or other circumstances and allotments in life.

However, in practice, the pre-mortal existence is also a treasure trove of mystery and speculation, because it is characterized by a couple of inconvenient facts: First, the veil ensures that there are no memories or eyewitnesses around to debunk anyone’s claims regarding their pre-mortal behavior. Second, we have a dearth of scripture on the subject—a few passages in Moses and Abraham, some ambiguous stuff about Jeremiah in a womb from the Old Testament, and a smattering of ultra-unhelpful verses in the Doctrine & Covenants. The only other canon for this topic—Saturday’s Warrior—loses much of its explanatory power by focusing so heavily a single family; it’s difficult to know exactly how broadly we should apply the experiences of Jimmy and Elder Kestler to the rest of the human race.

We know that each individual is born with a different array of talents and blessings. The scriptures teach that everyone has at least one spiritual gift. Despite this assurance, there is no indication as to why one person is born with the gift to be healed, while another is blessed with the gift of weeping (clearly, the stick of spiritual gifts has a short end). In the name of seeking further light and knowledge, I propose that we apply the concept of a hypothetical negotiation to evaluate our own spiritual gifts.

In this hypothetical negotiation, we (all the spirit sons and daughters of God) are sitting at a table with our Heavenly Father shortly after having tossed our ballots for the Plan of Happiness. We have gathered to decide what talents, blessings, and spiritual gifts we will receive upon our entrance into mortality. Having been told that the cold and dreary wilderness is not the easiest of all hangouts, we are initially tempted to shoot for the moon and negotiate a license for every spiritual gift under the sun. However, Heavenly Father wisely invokes TANSTAAFL: If He were to give each of us all the spiritual gifts and talents He has to offer, we would certainly be held to a higher standard at Judgment Day. Of course, One of us is not intimidated by such a proposition, and accepts it humbly, yet willingly.

(This is, of course, ignoring the spiritual economist’s worst nightmare: Spiritual Gift Inflation. If we all got everything, it would be like the religious version of Syndrome’s evil plan in The Incredibles—“If everyone has the gift of great faith, then no one does!”)

The negotiation continues long into the night, but eventually we all reach individual licensing agreements with Heavenly Father regarding the spiritual gifts, talents, and blessings that will be ours to employ during mortality. The royalty rate we pay for such gifts comes in the form of responsibility for our use of those gifts to bless the rest of His children.

For some, this negotiated agreement involves being raised in a home without the Gospel of Christ. For others, it involves poverty and compelled humility. For others, like me, it means going to college at a school with the worst football team in the known universe. No matter the details of our individual license agreements, we are confident of one thing: the faith and obedience required from each of us is perfectly just and proportionate to the blessings and gifts that are promised. Importantly, we agree to add an insurance clause: If and when we fail to hold up our end of the negotiated agreement, One Other will be allowed to help us pay any debt we owe. We all sign the contract with the Holy Ghost acting as Notary Public, and we make our way to the Blue Planet.

So here is the question: When we now open the Book of Wisdom, how do we feel about the negotiation that took place before the world was? Now that we’ve had many years in mortality to see the flowers and thistles of that negotiation, would we ask for a do-over if we had the chance? I’ve thought about this long and hard myself, and unless the gift of shooting lasers out of my eyes is on the table, the answer is probably a very hesitant No. I know who I am, and find great joy in seeing the unique ways the Lord has blessed me during my life in endowing me with certain attributes and abilities. The ability to believe on the words of others has blessed me in countless ways. The gift of bearing a mighty testimony has enabled me to help others come unto Christ. The gift of discerning between truth and error has been invaluable to me in nearly every aspect of life.

Sure, if I could have a do-over, I might have negotiated for a more natural love for the scriptures, as this is something I’ve always struggled to develop. An innate sense of humility would have served me well on more than one occasion, as would the gift of knowing when to shut up. The gift of understanding one of J. Nelson-Seawright’s last post would be a big addition, too, because, well, wow. However, working to overcome each of those weaknesses has served to magnify the strengths I have and cause me to appreciate them all the more.

It may well be that no negotiation took place in the pre-mortal world; perhaps the spiritual gifts and talents we now possess are as eternal as the very intelligence that makes up our spirits. Perhaps they were simply divided up via one-potato, two-potato or paper-rock-scissors. If such proves to be the case, then I will gladly let my theory go, but for the time being, there is something very empowering and faith-promoting to me in the idea that long ago, my Heavenly Father and I sat down at a table and tailored a set of spiritual gifts specifically for me.

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Comments

  1. I like this in theory. In reality, it frightens me a little that God might let people as short-sighted as our pre-mortal selves (a third of which followed the Adversary) to pick our gifts. Then again, it is a well-established folk-doctrine that we picked our troubles, too. Laying our talents and our problems at the feet of an accomodating God and a foolish aspirant makes some sense.

  2. “What does the concept of X have to do with Mormonism? Potentially very little, but I’m going to give it a shot anyway.”

    With that line, Scott explains most of the bloggernacle.

  3. Peter LLC says:

    I am confident that all the advantages I enjoy in this life are the result of my ability to negotiate with deity.

  4. Cynthia FTW!

  5. I just wish I would have gotten better representation at the pre-existent table. In retrospect trying to represent myself was a bad idea, especially when I see what some have negotiated. Of course, I could have done worse, and the gift of “wide-eyed cluelessness” as served me well in science.

  6. Steve G. says:

    very good theory, though I could have been quite happy to not have been reminded of Saturday’s Warriors ever again (this life and the next).

    Somehow I’m happy I didn’t negotiate the gift of ‘appreciating sappy mormon melodramas as a method of proclaiming the gospel’.

    Though I did find some enjoyment in rewatching the original Battlestar Gallactica. Perhaps I negotiated a partial measure of the gift after all. Either that or it was part of a bundle in which I got the really cool gift of ‘always having keys to the clerk’s office’ with which I could escape Gospel Doctrine.

  7. SteveP-
    I had Steve Evans for my counsel, and it’s clear how well that worked out for me. You were better off on your own.

  8. I am now imagining Scott B and Steve Evans on a fog-machine mist-covered soundstage singing a duet about how they promise to find each other and continue their attorney-client relationship on Earth. sniff. So touching!

  9. I think we have no clue about most things outside of mortality.

    Cynthia is in rare form today.

  10. John C (1.)-I agree that it is overly burdensome to put the full weight of such decisions on our shoulders. Thus, I don’t view it as a buffet table as much as a critical negotiation, with Heavenly Father giving us constructive feedback and warning us of the consequences for each gift we choose.

    Steve G (6.)-Why the Saturday’s Warrior hate? Do you hate the Doctrine & Covenants, too? You can’t pick and choose which scripture you love and which you hate.

    Ray (9.)-What you say is true, though you appear to be implying that you have a clue about most things in mortality. If so, I envy your position.

    You’re also correct about Cynthia L.–the visions of the Flinders family have clearly pushed her into a whole new class of commenting.

  11. Scott, that implication was not intended.

  12. ;)

  13. Alpha Echo says:

    If the pre-mortal existence is like Saturday’s Warrior then let my veil-induced, pre-mortal amnesia last forever!

  14. I am a terrible negotiator, so if your theory is correct, that would explain a lot about my life down here.

  15. Great post, Scott! I especially like the part about the Notary Public.

    It also reminds me of a thing we used to say on the playground:

    “When you were in the pre-existance and they were discussing the Plan of Happiness and thay started negotiating brains, you thought they were negotiating trains, so you negotiated a slow one!”

    Kids can be so cruel when it comes to the pre-existance.

  16. BG (15.)

    When I started the post, it actually included more attributes being decided in the hypothetical negotiation: Future annual household income, high school prom dates, etc…but after a while I realized that there was no way I could complete the post without making fun of ugly people.

  17. avisitor says:

    Scott,

    Very thought provoking post. As far as I understand things though-aren’t all blessings and gifts granted upon obedience to the laws that govern each one first? I am unaware of any scripture or doctrine that states that God grants blessings or gifts to His children based on their picking or choosing. But then again, the fact that I had no idea that Saturday’s Warrior’s had become official canon, or that weeping is now included on the list of gifts of the spirit, indicates that my knowledge in this area is somewhat limited.

    I am however fairly certain that do-overs aren’t necessary. If we actively and eagerly seek after the best gifts for the right reasons and we are worthy, God can bestow them upon us now. When we use the gifts we have been given, we are given more, so you never know…a “love for the scriptures” or a “sense of humility” could very well be part of your future after all!

    One last question, would God’s ability to see past, present and future all at once roughly equate with the “Book of wisdom” principle or not?

  18. avisitor (17.)
    Great comment. One thing that I would ask is, if every person is given at least one gift of the Spirit, what law have we all obeyed in order to receive it? The mostly likely answer to me is that we chose to come to Earth. However, while we know that blessings come through obedience, there is no requirement (that I’m aware of) that acts of obedience by different individuals warrant identical blessings. In this context, each individual was obedient–chose a mortal body–and then meets with his/her loving Heavenly parents to determine what tools he/she will need. Those tools could be viewed as blessings for choosing to enter mortality.

    Saturday’s Warrior = Canon = Sarcasm, but Weeping is one of the spiritual gifts listed by Elder Bednar (who was actually referencing a talk by the late Elder Romney) in the talk linked above.

    Certainly, the spiritual gifts that I would asked for in a do-over are still possible for me to attain–in re-reading the post, I realize that I messed up the last sentence: I meant to say that NOT having those gifts given to me so easily has made me appreciate the journey to attaining them all the more.

    As to the Book of Wisdom question…I don’t it would be applicable in the sense that BoW is used in legalese, because in that realm there is still an inherent imperfection in our ability to understand how past events relate to various outcomes. Having the Book of Wisdom in a legal context eliminates some uncertainty, but not all of it.

  19. avisitor says:

    Scott,

    Gadzooks man-do you get Ipod alerts when someone responds?

    Just to clear things up-I figured the SW reference was sarcasm, but if weeping is a spiritual gift, then my teen daughters experience something close to the magnitude of Pentecost monthly…sigh.

    “One thing that I would ask is, if every person is given at least one gift of the Spirit, what law have we all obeyed in order to receive it? ”

    Interestingly, most of the doctrinal explanations I have handy indicate that this specific category of “gifts” are reserved for members of the Church and not every living human. Sure enough, the scriptural references are found in instances where God or one of His prophets is speaking to the Church body and not to the world in general. In other words, gifts of the spirit are only given to the faithful believers. In your own example, the verse just prior states specifically that these gifts are “given unto the Church”.

    If that is true, then the “law” obeyed by every person who is given at least one gift of the spirit would be one contained in the law of repentance, baptism, and bestowal of the companionship of the Holy Ghost.

    In the parable of the talents we see the master of the Kingdom of God granting or removing “talents” or blessings from His “servants” depending upon how they use what He initially gave them. The Church is the Kingdom of God on earth.

    I agree with you that there are differences in how God administers His blessings and gifts to His children, but I think that difference arises because His children differ in their levels of obedience and what they need to learn, not because He wants to bless them differently.

  20. I was much more indirect in my first comment, but to be more blunt:

    I have a hard time with the idea that we chose / negotiated the circumstances of our lives and/or the gifts we would be given in order to grow from them prior to coming here, since it borders on the same concepts that were used to justify the Priesthood ban – “higher premortal righteousness”. Furthermore, I believe such an idea can be used as a nice way to minimize the pain and suffering of those whose lives are brutal and beyond our imagination – that it is advanced from a place of relative security, from which it is possible to sit back and feel good about ourselves and why we are so blessed – that it can lead some to not care physically for the diseased, oppressed and/or marginalized and, generally, is ripe for abuse and horrendous distortion.

    I don’t think the woman who is a punching bag for the alcoholic husband (among other atrocities), the crack baby, the young girl sold into sexual slavery, the paranoid schizophrenic released to the street to freeze to death under a bridge two vicious years later, etc. feel much comfort in the idea that they sat across a table from a loving God and chose spiritual gifts that would justify the Hell they would live on earth.

    Again, as I said initially, I have no clue whether or not we chose our gifts, our trials and our joys. I don’t have any answers here. None. I just think we should realize the state of privileged blessedness such a belief either assumes or engenders – and the implications those who accept it need to address.

  21. avisitor (19.)

    I get revelation directly when someone responds. ;)

    >”I agree with you that there are differences in how God administers His blessings and gifts to His children, but I think that difference arises because His children differ in their levels of obedience and what they need to learn, not because He wants to bless them differently.”

    I don’t see how I’ve disagreed with that–I don’t think He wants to bless us differently in this context; rather, I think He MUST bless us differently because our circumstances are all different, yet we all have the identical potential and goal–returning to be with, and like, Him. Heavenly Father answers my prayers in a way that I can understand them; I don’t know if I could understand your answers from Him.

    In a different context, however, and perhaps more to the point, we WANT different blessings; a loving Father in Heaven blesses us according to our righteous desires. Unless we’re willing to hypothesize that all of our righteous desires are identical, then it stands to reasons that our Father does, in fact, “want” to bless us differently, at least under the umbrella of a constant goal–eternal life and exaltation.

    I do not (at least I don’t think I did!) claim in my post that this “hypothetical negotiation” premise is the true tale of what happened before our birth into mortality–what it represents to me is simply a way of 1) generating dialogue (both for growth and for pleasure) about a topic we know very little, and 2) an interesting way of thinking about how perfect the spiritual gifts I have are for my personality and character, and how tailored they seem to be for the trials I face. It seems well within reason to me that I might, before departing His presence, have asked Him for an extra dose of faith in the testimonies of others. Perhaps it is not.

    Most importantly, if this construct is not useful for you, then I would say to follow the words of C.S. Lewis–

    “Such is my own way of looking at what Christians call the Atonement [or, in this case, the pre-mortal life]. But remember this is only one more picture. Do not mistake it for the thing itself: and if it does not help you, drop it.”

  22. Ray,

    Each and every one of your points is valid and well taken. Let me just make a couple of observations in response. I want to be careful here, because I can feel the general tone of this conversation (not you, but the whole thread) taking the feel of me defending a viewpoint I don’t actually adhere to. To be clear, this post is simply an exercise in thinking about spiritual gifts, not a position paper.

    1. I deliberately focused on spiritual gifts and avoided any discussion of “circumstances” in this world. The reasoning, as you pointed out, should be clear.

    2. This construct is actually a direct contradiction of the “higher premortal righteousness” idea. The thought process actually started from the very premise that is false in any kind of universal application. After rejecting that theory, we are left to ask ourselves how did we all come to receive different spiritual gifts, if it has nothing to do with premortal righteousness? It seems a logical possibility that maybe you have this spiritual gift, and I have that one, simply because we asked for them. It may be false. I do not know, but to me, it feels reasonable.

    3. I don’t think it engenders a state of Seriously, So Blessed! in the slightest. To be frank, it does exactly the opposite for me. It means that, rather than sitting back and feeling oddly blessed for something I didn’t do, I have been given a very particular set of gifts that are to be used explicitly for the blessing of other people. It implies a frightening and heavy responsibility, not some lawnchair in the shade.

  23. Ray,

    In the interest of honesty, I confess that I just realized that I did in fact mention life circumstances in the post; In the interest of defending myself, I will say that that was a part of the post that should have been deleted before publishing. The post started as one thing, and took many different directions before finally arriving in its final form–had I not sent it to the Admins at 3:30 in the morning, I might have noticed the internal inconsistency there.

    To sum, the discussion should have focused more on spiritual gifts and abilities alone, and not on whether or not we were born into poverty or abusive homes.

    My bad.

  24. So was Jesus the best negotiator or the worst?

    Actually, what you describe sounds less like negotiaion and more like God said, “Here’s a menu of options: the more good things you get, the higher the standard I hold you to.” Then it’s just us shopping for what we wanted most.

    That there could have been something like this wouldn’t surprise me. And this yields a nicer interpretation than that expressed by those who claim that the righteous people in the pre-existence were rewarded with being born into the House of Israel and hence all others were less righteous.

  25. avisitor says:

    Scott,

    I feel bad that you seem to think your post went horribly awry or that we all took your premise as serious and based on absolute doctrine. I think you were applying a process you experience in your career to a gospel theory, nothing more, and for me personally it’s been great incentive to dig into my scriptures and doctrinal resources and improve my knowledge, which I can then ponder upon and pray for confirmation.

  26. I’m not worried that the post *went* horribly awry–i just want to make sure that it doesn’t *go* horribly awry. Thus, I clarified the purpose in an effort to hedge against any potential downward spiraling that might take place. No worries.

  27. Even though the jury seems to be out on whether this post went ‘horribly awry’ (protip: I’ve seen posts that have gone horribly awry…this isn’t it), I must say, I wish I could write like Scott, with the natural integration of economics and lighthearted self-deprecating humor (is this relevant? oh well, I’ll write about it anyway! or the stuff about Saturday’s Warrior). Dead Seriously. (no pun intended).

    I need to subscribe to this dude’s newsletter.

  28. Mike,

    >”this yields a nicer interpretation than that expressed by those who claim that the righteous people in the pre-existence were rewarded with being born into the House of Israel and hence all others were less righteous.”

    Agreed; as I mentioned above in a comment responsive to Ray, the whole idea came out my dissatisfaction with the more-righteous line of thinking. This is not to say that I categorically reject the idea that some people were more obedient–I dare say that Jesus Christ was likely more righteous than me, and He was probably not alone. However, it’s not a helpful tool for navigating mortality–it makes me feel pigeon-holed for decisions I can’t remember making.

  29. re 27-
    (blushing like a schoolgirl)

  30. Andrew,

    Apparently part of the formula is to start out as one thing, take several different directions, and do it at 3:30 in the morning. :-)

  31. Scott,

    I waited until everyone else had their say. But since it seems to me that no one else actually said anything (beyond how great your post was), I feel the time is at last ripe for my own well-intended response:

    I am a big fan of the pre-mortal existence…In theory, this doctrine provides a wonderful context…

    Most explanations provide a good context (in fact, they are tailor-made to do so). The atheist idea of random chance is the least demanding context.

    I think what you really mean is not context, but purpose. When people say there must be a reason for suffering, they mean there must be a justification for it.

    In this light, a premortal existence is a great justification, but why stop there? Caprice and interdeity competition are much richer tapestries on which to paint our suffering. Human defiance is boring. A vengeful God is a much more compelling narrative, which explains why it is so much more common historically.

    First…there are no memories or eyewitnesses around to debunk anyone’s claims regarding their pre-mortal behavior. Second, we have a dearth of scripture on the subject

    Alfred Hitchcock called this a McGuffin. The premortality doctrine sells the LDS narrative and provides powerful glue to encourage/compel LDS norms of family, reinforce in/out group division, foster quasicompulsory volunteerism, and link charity with group norm enforcement. Whether the doctrine is true is (in this world) incidental, so long as it is believed to be true. Catholic doctrine has changed little in two millenia. It is the belief that it is true that has diminished, and this is a good lesson for Mormons as their church ages.

    We know that each individual is born with a different array of talents and blessings. The scriptures teach that everyone has at least one spiritual gift.

    Independent of whether the above is true, good politics teaches that it is useful and important for the highly gifted to at least pretend that the less gifted are blessed, to minimize jealousy and class resentment.

    The evidence so far is that this is an inexpensive and highly effective technique. Conveniently, flattery seems to work disproportionately well on the less intelligent.

    Despite this assurance, there is no indication as to why one person is born with the gift to be healed, while another is blessed with the gift of weeping (clearly, the stick of spiritual gifts has a short end).

    Except within the context of the minimalist hypothesis that there is no reason besides random chance. This gives plenty of indication. Indeed, once we get beyond our solipsism, the real surprise is that there is such commonality of gifts. All humans look (and largely think) alike and possess similar abilities: there is only one species of hominid. Natural selection is again the minimalist hypothesis here.

    The negotiation continues long into the night, but eventually we all reach individual licensing agreements with Heavenly Father…

    So close to the crux of your post and you drop the ball. Is the the negotiation individual, secret, and bipartite, have we arrived at a Nash equilibrium among a small interinfluential group, or are we large enough to be treat our own negotiation in equilibrium with a reservoir, where our marginal choices have no statistical importance to others? In exercising our agency, do we care how others exercise their own? If not, that eliminates the “out” of collusion effects mentioned below. If so, then “our” choice is at heart reactionary, and not a real choice at all.

    The royalty rate we pay for such gifts comes in the form of responsibility for our use of those gifts to bless the rest of His children.

    What constitutes informed consent in this setting? Both modern human ethics and contract law rest strongly on the premise that no valid agreement can be made unless both parties are able to inform themselves (whether they do or not is a different matter). Did premortals fully understand the limitations of the human condition?

    the faith and obedience required from each of us is perfectly just and proportionate to the blessings and gifts that are promised.

    Huh? You offer no support whatever for this (to some seemingly fatuous) statement.

    Importantly, we agree to add an insurance clause: If and when we fail to hold up our end of the negotiated agreement, One Other will be allowed to help us pay any debt we owe.

    A moral hazard? Like government bailouts? It would seem important that this insurance clause revelation be unexpected and come after the choice man to become mortal, or it would vitiate the benefit of even making such a choice. Come to think of it, why the highly improbable configuration of 1/3 going with Satan, 2/3 to Earth (or whatever the LDS breakdown is). Short of collusion effects (partisanship and factionalism), the most likely distribution would be scale-invariant, i.e. over a log scale, giving rise to a power law either almost all with one or the other. Is there a scriptural basis for these collusion effects?

    We all sign the contract with the Holy Ghost acting as Notary Public, and we make our way to the Blue Planet.

    Disturbing metaphor. Clearly the Holy Ghost is not a disinterested party, and should be disqualified for any role as arbitrator or notary. The holy spirit seems to function as our superego to counterbalance the id of Satan, with God as executioner and Jesus possessing the power of pardon.

    So here is the question: When we now open the Book of Wisdom, how do we feel about the negotiation that took place before the world was?

    Is this really the question? This is an abrogation of contract. Whether things turn out well is immaterial. The question is whether we had good cause to make the decision that we did. Since we would not be asking the question if we had chosen differently, there is serious selection bias here. Assuming good faith negotiations in a premortal life, and absent new evidence to consider, we have no cause to revisit in appellate proceedings the decision made by the trier of fact.

    Now that we’ve had many years in mortality to see the flowers and thistles of that negotiation

    except that we haven’t. We do not know what the alternative would have brought, so we have a balance scale loaded only on one side. How can we possibly guess how heavy the payload is?

    would we ask for a do-over if we had the chance? I’ve thought about this long and hard myself, and unless the gift of shooting lasers out of my eyes is on the table, the answer is probably a very hesitant No.

    Bold move. You have managed not to be excommunicated, nor to commit the sin of pride. Nothing ventured, nothing gained (or lost). Still, I wonder why you needed to think so long and hard to come to this feckless result.

    there is something very empowering and faith-promoting to me in the idea that long ago, my Heavenly Father and I sat down at a table and tailored a set of spiritual gifts specifically for me.

    I have nothing to say about the content of this closing, but I congratulate you on its form. Rhetorically it is powerful, climactic, and compendious. I leaves me almost wishing it were true.

  32. Dan (31.)-

    Well, I’m glad to see you didn’t pull any punches just because you know me. :)

    Where to start…with the easy ones first:

    >”But since it seems to me that no one else actually said anything (beyond how great your post was)”

    Hrm. See Ray and Avisitor for dissenting opinions of my wisdom.

    >”Huh? You offer no support whatever for this (to some seemingly fatuous) statement.”

    This refers more to the general picture of God as being perfect–whatever He requires of His children must be perfect, otherwise He would either be imperfectly merciful or imperfectly just. Either of those things would negate the possibility of His own perfection, and He would cease to be God.

    >”except that we haven’t. We do not know what the alternative would have brought, ”

    Right, but this in keeping with the context of the Book of Wisdom aspect of the hypothetical negotiation. In a legal dispute, we similarly don’t know what *would* have happened; but we are certainly able to look and make imperfect, yet useful, inferences about what *might* have happened had a different course been pursued.

    >”Bold move. You have managed not to be excommunicated, nor to commit the sin of pride. Nothing ventured, nothing gained (or lost). Still, I wonder why you needed to think so long and hard to come to this feckless result.”

    Ouch. In the first version of this section, I actually did want a do-over. However, as it progressed, I realized the always-touchy-feely truth that in requesting a do-over, I was essentially saying I’m disappointed with myself, which is simply not true. I would like some different attributes if I could, but in true economist form, I would rather earn them than have them given to me now, after the fact.

    >”I have nothing to say about the content of this closing,…”

    All I mean here is that what has not killed me has made me stronger, and I’m a better person for it. That makes me both appreciative of what I have, but also reminds me of my responsibility–both as a son of God and as a member of society–to use whatever abilities I have to improve “things”.

    >”I leaves me almost wishing it were true.”
    There’s always Pascal’s wager, right? Let me know where to send the Elders. Or Sisters. Or old senior couple from Ogden.

  33. The mentioning of laser-shooting eyeballs as a spiritual gift raises an interesting question: What X-Men gift would you have negotiated if you could?

    For me, I would probably go with Storm’s powers, because I hate it when it’s rainy and windy when I’m trying to play golf or frisbee.

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