Freedom, according to Lehi

I don’t have strong feelings in the debates surrounding “free will.” I believe in some measure of free will, but I tend to view it as an emergent vector. I generally don’t think infants have free will and I think that various environmental and biological factors have tremendous influence over any real will. I do believe, however, that God is perfectly free, and that he is God because he chooses to be good (coupled with maximal power, of course). Being god-like then requires us, as humans to expand our will within our biological constraints.

Now, I’m old-timey. I believe Joseph Smith when he said that God never had the power to create the spirit of man. With that then comes the idea that the mind, however incipient, existed before we were born. However (and this is a big however), with the rise of modern science and clinical methods, I think we generally have to concede that at least in mortality, our mind is flesh or at least there is no way to separate any aspect of the mind from the flesh.

I don’t know if this is what Lehi had in mind when he delivered his widely read sermon regarding the atonement in 2 Nephi 2. But I like to use his words this way. “According to” is a popular construction throughout the Book of Mormon. Joseph Smith repeatedly employed it in his dictation of this sermon. Verse 27 is the key:

Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.

Men are free according to the flesh.

Comments

  1. The concept of free will, to me, clashes with the concept of God’s pure omniscience. I’ve never been one to believe that God knows every single action we are ever going to take in our lives. I know that flies in the face of most people’s belief in God, but it never made sense to me to have a God who knew exactly what we were going to do, and still tried to steer us in a different direction.

  2. Steve Evans says:

    I always interpreted this to refer to our capacity to take physical action with respect to choices. Interesting thoughts.

  3. Jonathan, I’m slow. You’re saying that “free according to the flesh” means “free to the extent that your flesh allows?”

    James, free thyself from the shackles of linear time.

  4. Kathryn,

    I knew you were going to say that.

  5. Yet you didn’t even attempt to steer me in a different direction.

  6. What’s the point?

  7. Because as far as I knew, I hadn’t said it yet. Silly rabbit.

    Sorry, J. You were saying?

  8. I’m saying that is what I think it should mean.

  9. James: Maybe he knows what we’d do with his intervention compared to without? A lot of the time I feel as though he mostly just wants me to know that he loves me, and to take that into account in my decision-making.

    OP: What are you getting at?

    I’ve read in Ensign articles and things where they talk about how you can’t divorce the mind from the body, and how our biological conditions do influence our ability to make the right choices. That’s why we’re supposed to take good care of our bodies.

  10. Agh, I seem to have acquired a new middle name.

  11. I mostly agree. But exercising free will can impact the constraints of the flesh, for better or for worse. So accountability still seems awfully messy to me.

  12. Jared, I’ve always liked to think that God knows what choices we face each and every day. In that way, he is omniscient. He also knows the consequences of each possible choice. If we choose A, the consequence will be X. If we choose B, the consequence will be Y.

    In that way, he knows what the consequences of our actions will be, and can counsel us and attempt to steer us in the right direction, but he doesn’t know what the final result is. I’ve never been a fan of the version of God who patronizes us by trying to tell us what to do even though he knows we’re not going to do it.

  13. I mostly agree. But exercising free will can impact the constraints of the flesh, for better or for worse. So accountability still seems awfully messy to me.

    Much more than free will can impact the constraints of the flesh. I agree that the Church does talk about how choices we make effect out body/agency. But I don’t think as many people fully grasp what it means that our mind (and will) is flesh, subject to all the disease and mortal failings that the rest of our body is.

  14. I do not believe that our minds were from eternity. I believe that intelligence is matter that is organized to a specific level. Does a molecule of water have a mind? It does hold properties that hydrogen and oxygen molecules alone do not possess.

    I see Abraham 3 as a gathering or “organized intelligences” or spirits, wherein it is at that point that “mind,” as in “individuality,” is formed. Spirits are innocent in the beginning, but no necessarily so by the time they are ready to come to earth or rebel against God.

    I see babies as having free will, but it is limited to their level of knowledge. They can choose to turn their head, open or shut their eyes, cry or laugh, etc.

    With a physical body/flesh, we now have new capabilities for our freedom. Previously, we were free to obey or rebel God in the Spirit World. We possibly could sin, but were limited in the ways we could sin (can spirits commit adultery or murder?). So “according to the flesh” means there are a new and higher set of choices we can make that we did not have before.

    This fits well with the concept of intelligences as matter (H2 and O combine to form H2O and obtain greater abilities/ Spirit and Flesh combine to obtain greater abilities).

  15. I’ve never carried the idea this far before (that our mind/will is flesh), although I’ve long believed that our agency can be severely limited by physical ailments or influences outside our control.

    In any event, I think the idea that our spirit/intelligence is subject to the flesh, or even that our mind is flesh, should cause us to be more merciful to one another, since none of us knows the restraints each of our minds is laboring under.

    Kathryn & James, limhtnqol (laughing in my heart, though not quite out loud).

  16. rameumptom, without getting into it to much, I believe that is a misreading of both Abraham and Joseph Smith. I do agree that accountability requires both will and knowledge, not just one or the other; but I think that babies are not choosing to cry or laugh.

  17. What are the implications on this thought regarding the afterlife?

  18. J. I don’t think I choose to cry or laugh. I just do it. But that might be what your were talking about from the beginning.

    Great post.

  19. Tracy, I have a great hope in the resurrection. I think that it is truely the culmination of the Atonement. A perfect body. That is some freedom.

    Matt – bingo.

  20. John Mansfield says:

    D&C 107:43 comes to mind: “Because he (Seth) was a perfect man, and his likeness was the express likeness of his father, insomuch that he seemed to be like unto his father in all things, and could be distinguished from him only by his age.”

  21. The key to the verse is the one before in talking about the atomnement-

    26 And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day, according to the commandments which God hath given.

    (Book of Mormon | 2 Nephi 2:26)

    It means that because of Christ, mortal man can choose for himself the eternal course of his actions while still in his fallen condition.

  22. Wait, I thought I was getting it but then J agreed with Matt W. and I’m all confused again. I see the body as a limit. Are you arguing that it is also an alternate source of motivation (the unconscious or some such)?

  23. #13–no argument there. I wish there was better cultural understanding of this, esp. re: mental/emotional illness.

  24. John C., I think that our physiology and socialization are compelling factors to our behavior. I think the idea of a natural man which is carnal (fleshy) makes sense. There is a physiological animal in each of us.

  25. Ok, will Blake pounce? I too think that the body is fundamental in mental process. Also, I agree that Joseph seems to have something quite different in mind from 14. Can’t get away from the puns. Sorry. Anyway, Thang has had two related things going recently. And free will plus exhaustive foreknowledge *is* paradoxical. It’s simple probability. And time is locally linear at least. M-theory …….

    Way to stir up the hornets J.

  26. So if our spirit is subjugated by the flesh, and I agree that it is, what are the implications for LDS theology, particularly the that of the afterlife? If my body is going to be resurrected, will my spirit be subjugated by my eternal flesh? Or will the spirit and flesh be equal? And if it’s so important that we come to earth and receive a physical body so that they can ultimately be equal, why is our spirit subjugated during this life? Is our spirit learning something of which our flesh is currently unaware? And when they are equal in the resurrection will I have some sort of split personality; i.e the personality of my spirit from existence in my pre-earth life and the personality of my flesh from here on earth?

  27. 26, excellent question about the relation of spirit and resurrect body, and one debated at least since Augustine. Got to go lecture now. Keep going on this, please. I’d like to know what people are thinking about this.

  28. Our spirits are not entirely subjugated to the flesh in the sense that we can master our fleshiness to various degrees in this life, even though our spirits are bound to mortal bodies.

    In the resurrection, our flesh will not be mortal, so there will be no fight between the spirit and the mortal flesh. The flesh will obey the will of the spirit 100%.

    I have no scriptural support for the above statements, and I feel none distilling upon my mind like dew, but I bet I could find some if I had to. At the very least, I could interpret certain scriptures to suit my preconceived notions of truth.

  29. I think it is difficult to read the scriptural affects of the resurrection as saying anything other than that our resurrected bodies will have a physiology that isn’t carnal in the pejorative sense, but that is “good.”

    A related post from a couple of years ago.

    Though to be frank, in generally try to stay away from analogical speculation about extra-mortal existence.

  30. I’ve been thinking about this myself of late, as I have a family member who is subject to depression and also ADD. These are a result, apparently, of chemical imbalances in that persons body, and it is surprising the effect that the proper medications have on their ability to exercise agency, and have more joy out of life. As to our preexistent state, we obviously could exercise some agency, and I also believe in an eternal and uncreated self, but I’m still not sure of the exact nature of that self.

    In the afterlife, between death and resurrection, I suspect that some aspects of our agency may be more limited without a body, but I don’t think we lose cognitive powers.

    I don’t have the D&C reference at hand, a sure sign that I never mastered my scripture mastery list, but we are all familiar with it. Fount it, D&C 130:18-19:

    “18 Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection.
    19 And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come.”

    While the first verse certainly ties back in with the mind/body connection, the second would imply, I believe, that as we progress, we have more advantage in the spirit world if we have exercised our agency properly here in mortality, and can still progress and exercise agency beyond, perhaps, what we enjoyed in our preexistent state.

  31. Our spirits are not entirely subjugated to the flesh in the sense that we can master our fleshiness to various degrees in this life, even though our spirits are bound to mortal bodies. – adam e #28

    Tell that to the person who develops Kluver-Bucy Syndrome after a traumatic brain injury. Or to the ex-mayor of a local town near where I live who is facing sexual harassment charges stemming from behavior due to his unrecognized Fronto-Temporal Dementia. Complete subjugation of the spirit by the flesh.

  32. Oh, brother. I stated that our spirits are not entirely subjugated to the flesh. I did not state that our spirits may never be entirely subjugated to the flesh, just as I am not assuming that you are arguing that our spirits are ALWAYS entirely subjugated to the flesh.

    I suppose I could have said:

    Except for those of us who suffer from Kluver-Bucy Syndrome, Fronto-Temporal Dementia, Imperio curses, or other maladies that cause us to lose all control over one or more parts of our bodies… fill in post #28 here.

    Disclaimer: One or more compulsory syndromes may have been omitted from this list.

  33. Actually, I am arguing that our spirits are always subjugated to the flesh, just as J. Stapley seems to be arguing in the original post. I may be reading too much into J’s post, and I assume he will let me know.

    In this life our spirit is incapable of action without, and is entirely dependent on, the flesh of our brain. Not some ephemeral idea of “flesh” as meaning the urges, or “tempations” we face to steal, cheat, commit adultery etc. And this dependency has implications for the theological positions of the LDS church related to the need for a physical body and the resurrection.

    One can argue that our spirit interacts with our brains to create our personalities and behaviors, but I personally find this argument inadequate due to the presence of these various well-known syndromes that occur when specific areas of the brain are damaged. If the spirit wasn’t completely subjugated then I would expect a person so afflicted to be able to overcome the effects of such damage. These syndromes range from the seemingly simple prosopagnosia, where a person loses the ability to identify others by their faces, to the profound Kluver-Bucy syndrome previously mentioned.

    I think in the end, we may be using the term flesh to mean different things.

  34. Kari,

    I would submit that there are a range of physical conditions, some such as what you identify, that completely subjugate agency and cognitive ability to the point that such persons certainly would fit into the category of those for whom their is no accountability; some that severely restrict our agency, such as debilitating depression or the onset of dementia; and some milder forms, such as ADD or some obsessive compulsive disorders that present challenges, but do not completely impair the individual.

    In that sense, J’s statement that “We are free according to the flesh” makes perfect sense to me. We are free to the extent that our physical bodies allow us to be, and God knows what those limits are, and judges us “according to the flesh”.

    That also helps me to make more sense of the line in Jsoeph F. Smith’s vision of the redemption of the dead, where he quotes from 1 Peter 4:6:

    D&C 138:10 “For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.”

  35. Somehow, and I think the Book of Mormon might support this, that while the flesh and spirit war now, in the resurrection they are somehow one. The relation of flesh to spirit can be transplanted in the tripartite model (TM) to “intelligence” and “spirit body” perhaps. Assuming TM, what of that? The earthly in the likeness of heavenly somehow? Paul’s famous and controversial statements of 1 Cor. 15 bring another dimension to flesh and spirit too. What *is* a resurrected body? I think the OP suggests the kind of thinking many would like to avoid: the brain is the motor behind a nearly separate person from the spirit.

  36. WVS-

    Since Joseph taught that our spirits were shaped like bodies the tripartite model may not even be necessary to claim the earthly in likeness of the heavenly.

  37. Hey, if you can have one level of fineness in matter, maybe there’s a lot of them. Spirits are elastic though — right?

  38. I just feel no need to engage in the hypothetical ramifications of the tripartite model (grin).

    But I agree that the question of what a resurrected body is, with its sometimes-shiny-sometimes-not-waftability, is beyond my current ability to comprehend. I have the faith and hope that it is going to be awesome, though.

  39. D&C 130:22 says “The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also;”

    This is clearly incompatible with the theory of evolution, which holds that our bodies (including our weak lower back from standing upright) evolved from something not even remotely humanoid, indeed continuously from something that did not even have bones. Surely God’s flesh and bones did not evolve with us.

    I am curious how Mormons who believe in evolution reconcile that belief with this verse. Or do they believe in this verse?

  40. Steve Evans says:

    Dan, saying that God has a tangible body is not the same thing as saying he followed mankind’s evolutionary track.

  41. Dan, this isn’t an evolution thread, so we won’t be engaging your thread-jack. But don’t be too quick to judge what is incompatible with scripture and what isn’t – you betray your own capacity for judgment.

  42. Threadjack:
    #39
    Suppose there are varying degrees of intelligence, each being on the earth has a spirit with a degree of intelligence corresponding to its earthly body. Suppose that in the course of human evolution, there came a point were humanoids were sufficiently like God to receive spirits that are his literal offspring (our Adam and Eve moment, so to speak).

    Under this theory, there I see no conflict between D&C 130:22 and the theory of human evolution. I do not purport to have proven that this theory is true, just that there are ways in which both evolution could exist and our bodies could be in God’s image.

  43. Uh, right. Other than my post #42, I won’t be engaging the threadjack, either. Sorry, J.

  44. adam e., thank you for responding to my simple question with an articulate and thoughtful answer.

  45. Steve Evans says:

    What am I, Dan, chopped liver?!

  46. No, Steve. Just not articulate or thoughtful.

  47. Steve, it is illogical to infer a negative judgment on articulateness or thoughtfulness from the absence of an affirmative judgment. Scott, who knows better, presumably has independent evidence on which to base his condemnation.

    Meanwhile, I will try to follow J. Stapley’s advice (if not example): “don’t be too quick to judge”.

  48. Steve Evans says:

    Dan, I just thought we had a connection, you and I.

    Selah.

  49. :)

  50. I used to be free to run very far indeed. Now, after a few wrecks, not so much. When I don’t sleep well I can’t remember half the words I know I knew just yesterday and I am not free to use them on demand. I learned a new program for managing my scientific papers which required me to lay down some new neural wiring and now I’m free to be more organized! “Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh.” Pretty much.

  51. Seems to me that there are a lot of inferences in this interpretation. Some:

    Being god-like then requires us, as humans to expand our will within our biological constraints.

    What if biological and environmental factors are intentionally placed in order to promote particular lessons? When I consider all the miracles that aren’t worked I consider this a real possibility — if not a probability.

    …God never had the power to create the spirit of man.

    If it is possible that the spirit is a component of man, then we don’t really know what aspects of mind might be components. Lumping all of “self” together seems to contradict quite a bit of religious thought.

    …there is no way to separate any aspect of the mind from the flesh.

    I don’t know that current scientific thought is very advanced on this topic.

    I’m just skeptical about any analysis that assumes any deep understanding of self/man.

  52. ummquestion says:

    Joseph Smith used “the mind” interchangeably with “the soul”, “the will” and “the spirit”-indicating something that is eternal in nature, whereas “the brain” is something mortal/flesh in nature. When we speak of knowing “the mind and will of God” no one supposes that we mean His brain or the organ that resides inside His skull-no matter how perfected it might be now.

    Based on multiple references within LDS literature, it appears that Lehi is talking about the fact that due to The Fall, human beings-flesh and blood-were unable to choose eternal life because they were no longer immortal. They were prisoners to captivity/death no matter how they lived out their mortal existence. The Atonement set humanity “free” from the captivity of permanent death by giving all immortality.

  53. #37 wrote: Hey, if you can have one level of fineness in matter, maybe there’s a lot of them. Spirits are elastic though — right? <<<<<<<<<<

    All I know is that my physical body is elastic, as the stomach continues to expand….

    I believe our spirits are subject to the flesh on both a literal and figurative level. Spirit and matter are the same thing. Our brains and spirits are made of matter, just different levels of "fineness." So we are subjecting fine matter to more solid matter, akin to gases and solids, I suppose.

    As mentioned, our brains subject our spirits. Our chemical interactions can create huge mood and personality changes. Perhaps it is less an issue of free will, and more a "all these things shall give thee experience" reason for life.

    In many things, we have as little agency and ability to choose as an infant (which in my view DOES choose to cry, etc). Ever see a small child look around after falling down to see if someone is watching, prior to choosing to cry? In my view, it is all the same. We strive our best to overcome, but we really can't. For this reason, 2 Ne 2 ties in the Messiah's atonement with agency. We do not have true agency without the atonement, because we cannot save or lift ourselves in a reliable manner, independent of the flesh.

  54. I like to go down to where the waves are breaking on the rocks. I look at the chaos of the seething mass of water and foam and spray and wind. I think of classical chaos and quantum indeterminacy.

    Can you predict a wave? Can you predict when the last little bit of Van der Waals force is overcome and a boulder drops on someone’s head?

    My guess is that it may be predictable, or most likely not. It is a wave and we are supposed to have the experience of being foam with what little free will we have, to use it as best we can. Even if it is really not free or will: it looks like it. Most events to most people are random anyway. Some of us will experience God in the wave but not all.

    So, if you were born with a mirror neuron defect and could feel almost no empathy, the Nazi’s gave you a machine gun and you were quite happy shooting at targets at the edge of a mass grave? This poor person was doing us a service by bringing evil into the world, which could not really exist without it.

    Foam. We have no idea about anything except the chaos of the wave we are in. We need 2Ne2 to give us some encouragement, and for our amusement.

  55. Foam on the sea. All we are is foam on the sea.

  56. I thought it was dust in the wind. All we are is dust in the wind.

  57. Sea is life, foam is the foam of life. Dust is dry and sterile, no life. Sea is the mother of life, we are the foam of life. It is for a purpose that in the beginning God moved on the face of the deep and divided the waters above and below.

    Kari, you may be dust, I rather would be foam, encompassed about with the fluid of life.

  58. # 26 Kari and J. Stapely,

    I think children in primary learn that the easy way. The hand represents the spirit. The glove represents the body. The glove is put on the hand, and both move. The glove is taken off – the hand can move, the glove – cannot. Our spirits can live without bodies, and they lived so before, our bodies cannot live without spirits, they do not exist without the spirit. So, it is the spirit that is in charge, and it will be so after the resurrection.

    I believe we have only one personality – that is of our spirit. That what we call minds are part of our spirits while brain is part of the body. Both are made of matter, just different kind. Because the science have not learned to separate them, they think that the mind is part of flesh – and it is not.

    In this life our spirits are limited by the physical aspects or our flesh (for example, spirits can fly – bodies can’t), but when it comes to the free will, the body of a grown up person doesn’t have much to do with it, unless the brain is so damaged that the person is not found accountable.

    For instance, some commit terrible murders and are found accountable. So, it’s not something in their bodies that made them do that. It’s their spirits (mind) who ordered their bodies (brain) to commit murder. There could be two persons equally dying from hunger – one would kill somebody to obtain food, and another one would not – he would prefer to die – the spirit decides.

    To illustrate the correlation between the body and the spirit further, a healing process could be used. I think that our bodies do not heal themselves automatically – our spirits know how to heal bodies – probably we had learned this in the preexistence. Then, sometimes, if something goes wrong, a person (or rather, a spirit) can receive additional help from other spirits as a priesthood blessing is given. And when the person dies (the spirit leaves his body) then there is no spirit to take care of the body.

  59. I am reluctant to reply because this is, after all, a Mormon blog, and I don’t know whether the concepts presented in #58 are Mormon doctrine, common informal understanding, or just one person’s opinion. If they are doctrine, there is no point reading further (so please don’t). If they are not, then they should be examined more closely:

    “It’s their spirits (mind) who ordered their bodies (brain) to commit murder.”

    This is a dubious proposition. The entire field of psychiatry (not psychology) is based on solid evidence (e.g. PET/FMRI scans/effects of administering psychotropic medication) that many antisocial ideations are biochemically induced. Furthermore, one’s ability to resist these impulses also has a strong neurological component. Moreover, this rewiring can be caused by environment but persist long after the stimulus is removed. It is not just stubbornness that most people may take a lifetime to overcome childhood trauma.

    I believe that a simplistic belief in a spirit flesh dichotomy (as opposed to say duality) leads to a lack of empathy. In Texas, a much more Evangelical Christian state than California, the mentally retarded are much more likely to receive the death penalty. “Hand” and “glove” are nice analogies for children, but as an adult I find them wholly inadequate.

    So accountability in society is tricky business. A bad dog is (gladly) punished, a mad dog is (reluctantly) put down. The ethics of punishment with people is murky, and it is a struggle to get it right. It is entirely possible to conclude (as in Of Mice and Men) that someone is not responsible for their actions and yet still must be accountable for them.

    As to your second proposition, that bodies do not heal themselves, almost every living organism is capable of healing itself. Presumably you don’t mean that when a sea star grows another leg, its spirit is doing that? Conversely, a recent study I heard on Science Friday with Ira Flatow demonstrated that animal stem cells can be made to grow on a piece of gauze specialized as heart cells and will, after a certain mass, start spontaneously beating, with the frequency of the heart of the animal it came from (though this can be tuned). Is the spirit moving them to do that? Viruses show sophisticated emergent behavior, and they aren’t even alive.

    The Ghost in the Machine problem has been around a while. Science has been clearly trending towards less Ghost and more Machine.

    “if something goes wrong, a person (or rather, a spirit) can receive additional help from other spirits as a priesthood blessing is given.”

    I will mention only as an aside that this proposition was tested in a non-Mormon context, and the hypothesis that people heal better when prayed over was not found to have support, and was found to be actually harmful if the patient knew he was being prayed for (presumably some reverse placebo effect?) Perhaps prayer is more beneficial to the one doing the praying than the one prayed for. Perhaps prayer only works if you are Mormon. This question is beyond my ability to answer.

  60. P.S. The fact that I posted the above at 2:37 am clearly tells me that I need to reread how the bloggernacle won’t save me… :(

  61. Dan, I also question the simplification of the system. “The body does not live without the spirit” is only a partial answer. We have to define “live” in this, as all matter is infused with the light of Christ. Book of Abraham teaches that the Gods commanded, and then waited to be obeyed by the intelligence inherent in the matter being commanded.

    I will agree that the body does not have individuality or a mind, as we have one. But then, we can discuss this on the molecular level, as well. Hydrogen and Oxygen have some capabilities, but gain new ones when combined into a water molecule.

    As for “foam in the sea”, or “dust in the wind”, it is obvious that whichever band that attempted the first line didn’t make it very far in this world. Besides, Socrates came up with the “dust in the wind” line – just ask Bill and Ted about it.

  62. ummquestion says:

    To Dan Weston-#59

    Regarding #58 as doctrine, common understanding, or personal opinion-while it was stated rather simply, and obviously there are a myriad of nuances that would refine it, it does represent “doctrine” in part.

    But in order to understand the things stated in #58, one must understand another LDS concept regarding “sin”. For someone to be held accountable to God (not society) for their mortal actions, they must be capable of committing sin and repenting. Those with certain mental impairments (physical brain disorders) and children under 8 are not viewed as “accountable”. Only God knows whether or not an individual’s mental/physical impairment actually restricted or compelled their acts or not, which is why human beings are withhold their own judgments whenever possible.

    The fact that mentally impaired criminals in Texas have been executed has not “led to a lack of empathy”-in fact, the laws in Texas have been under attack for years due to GROWING empathy for those who might have lacked the ability to understand or control their inappropriate actions. (The death penalty laws in Texas are currently being revised.)

    But the problem is complicated because an I.Q. lower than 70 (one of the stipulations in the Texas law) does not always result in criminal behavior. Many people think it is possible to learn and understand the difference between “right and wrong” regardless of I.Q. Mormons define the ability to discern between right and wrong as “the light of Christ” and are taught that this “light” is given to “every man that cometh into the world”.

  63. Dan,

    What I wrote about healing is just one (or maybe a few) person’s opinion. The Church doesn’t teach that. I would never say anything like that during the sacrament meeting or sunday school.

    As to the spirit/body, I think that duality is not what we are being taught in the Church. We were spirits. We came to this earth and received bodies. Our bodies present some new abilities, limitations and challanges to our spirits – they are not some sort of other beings that we are now united with.

    Only about 1% of criminals are found not accountable (and therefore not guity) for their actions. So, these cases of biochemical, neurogical factors that affect the person to the point where he can’t resist (i.e. the spirit can’t do anything about it), is an exception to the common rule: the spirit decides what he is doing with his body.

    Some spirits are born into bodies that are predisposed to alchohol either through genes or through habits. But the spirit can decide whether to resist the temptation or to fight it.

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