An early response to the SMPT conference paper on Spirit Birth

The forthcoming SMTP conference looks great, and I wish I could attend. In particular, I would like to attend Eric’s presentation billed as a look at the theological advantages of procreative/viviparous spirit birth. The idea that God the Father (with the Queen of Heaven) created our spirits out of pre-existing element has firm genesis in the post-exodus teachings of Brigham Young and the Pratt Brothers. I think it is fascinating history, but as far as theology goes, I tend to think it isn’t all that consistent. I quite like Eric, but we tend to approach this question differently. So, while I can’t be to his presentation, I figured I would briefly post my reasons for that perspective.

Joseph Smith’s clear teaching to the contrary and tainted associations
Joseph Smith clearly revealed in the book of Abraham and repeatedly taught that spirits are without beginning. As he stated in one of the most contemporarily documented segments of any of his discourses, “God never did have power to create the spirit of man at all.” Historically interesting, is also Brigham Young’s and the Pratt brothers’ absence during that discourse and the subsequent June 16, 1844 “Sermon in the Grove.” They were on missions and simply either didn’t understand the teachings or rejected them. Moreover, their cosmological contexts for spirit birth are generally viewed as modern heresy in the Church. BH Roberts tried to synthesize a reconciliation with his tripartite model. However, Joseph Smith’s teachings and revelation on the matter are some of his most clear on any subject.

Analogical fallacy
Fundamentally, procreative/viviparous spirit birth relies on an analogy projected from our own biology onto God. It reasons that since humans reproduce in a certain way, that God must also reproduce the same way. However, analogies are only reasonable, with strong evidence and a continuous existence. You could also say that the idea of procreative/viviparous spirit birth is question-begging. Arguments presuppose that God creates spirits a certain way and then reason that he has to create that way to fulfill any number of criteria.

Beyond the unreliability of analogizing our existence onto God, according to the popular pattern, wouldn’t resurrected bodies create resurrected babies, anyway? Our bodies certainly don’t create spirits.

Stripped of the superfluity, the fallacy is outlined as:

A is like B.
B has property P.
Therefore, A has property P.

The Heavenly Squirrel
Or as I have said to the more panpsychistic among us: the Heavenly Carrot. Mormons have a fairly unique perspective with regards to the eternal nature of animals. And that perspective has interesting ramifications. If God creates human spirits via procreative/viviparous act, then where do animal spirits come from? Logically there must be a Heavenly Squirrel, Heavenly Elephant, and Heavenly Liger (though the latter is not especially fecund). Orson Pratt realized this when describing his cosmology of spirit birth, and indeed posited what are essentially Gods for each species. I generally think this is silly.

The temporality of spirit creation
If God’s creations are without number and spirit procreation/gestation requires any time, then the amount of time spent procreating/gestating is also endless. Now we all know that infinite sets can differ in magnitude. If there is a specific personal and temporal procreative/gestative act for each spirit, then it is quite likely that it is the largest of all infinite sets on the celestial docket. The only question is whether the entire infinite set of time is greater than the procreative set. Caveat: maybe a la Section 19 of the Doctrine and Covenants, endless doesn’t mean endless.

Comments

  1. All I know is that the epidural was first spiritually created.

  2. Well put, J; agreed on all counts.

  3. Karen M. says:

    “gestating is also endless”

    That sounds a lot more hellish than heavenly.

  4. Heavenly Ligers …

    I like that.

    Actually, this post makes some sense on a topic that has made me nervous in the past … it’s been a place I just didn’t want to go. But again, I think this post helps us to walk the topic a bit sensibly.

  5. To quote:

    “If God’s creations are without number and spirit procreation/gestation requires any time, then the amount of time spent procreating/gestating is also endless.”

    If this is true, my wife wants no part of the eternal part of our marriage. The best we can hope for is that our celestial fecundity is like that of the Liger.

  6. linescratchers says:

    I read this post and also your post last year about tripartite human existence. Very interesting.

    I still wonder quite a bit about agency. Physical gestation is not the same thing as a creation of my hands. If I were to carve a sculpture with my hands, I am in control of the sculpture: its appearance, the material out of which it was made, its size, its “personality” etc. Gestation has a more random connotation to it. A parent doesn’t “design” a baby. Certainly, if they did, the babies would never have defects or imperfections.

    And this is why I think the analogy of spirit gestation matters and may be imperfect no matter how we use it. When we use the analogy of physical birth it almost has an indeterminate connotation, that God really didn’t control how the spirit was organized, He was just giving it a spirit body, presumably to amplify its nature and give it more capabilities. If this is the case, one would wonder why God even gave some of us spirit bodies, just like giving a bad kid a gun just to see how he’d use it.

    However, if God DID control the personality or characteristics of the spirit that was being organized, then we are still left wondering why some spirits fell away and some didn’t. Did God intentionally create some with defects?

    So the whole pre-existence thing appears to solve certain problems or draw a distinction between our theology and mainstream Christianity’s, but it also just raises other, I would say even more difficult questions. Maybe someone could help me out with this?

  7. Thanks all.

    linescratcher, of course, if as Joseph Smith said, “God never did have power to create the spirit of man at all,” then he is not responsible for our choices. The uncreated will is a powerful concept in Mormonism.

    Though biological parents generally can not choose the physiology of their children, they are still physiologically responsible for it. But this is the sort of question-begging and analogizing that I mentioned in the post.

  8. linescratchers says:

    After thinking through my post, I realize what I’m getting wrong. You have it right. Our spirit body isn’t the one making decisions either way, the same way that physical body isn’t really making choices on its own either. Or, at least, not since I was a teenager.

  9. linescratchers says:

    Or, to clarify, it is that bit of self-determining will that is making decisions, ultimately.

  10. “The uncreated will is a powerful concept in Mormonism.”

    I agree that this appears to be the crux of the matter. Anytime we start looking at notions that God is responsible for our individual selves, including talents, personality traits, weaknesses, then we start running into the problem of an ex nihilo creation, a rejection of which seems to me to be part of our core theology, and begs all sorts of new problems of theodicy that we otherwise avoid.

  11. linescratcher, you may like this brief essay about freedom and mortality.

  12. linescratchers says:

    That is interesting.

    I have always viewed the brain as an amplifier in a way. I don’t feel that decisions originate within the brain, so I’m not sure free will comes from the brain either. Though I agree that every thing has free will within a certain sphere of influence that it has been given.

    For instance the wave function collapse of a particle could be seen as an act of will, perpetrated by the particle itself. A particle has free will only inasmuch as it determines, without cause, how it collapses. Or perhaps indeterminate things like wave function collapse are actually an entry point of free will into an otherwise deterministic Universe. Perhaps the brain merely amplifies slight shifts or wave function collapse in some way. Like what Stuart Hameroff has been proposing for the last few years.

    So I don’t know how I feel about your post (“free according to the flesh”). I can’t claim to be an expert in any of this. I only know enough to confuse myself.

  13. Great post.

    Mormon theology anthropomorphizes God so much it’s no wonder they came up with viviparous birth of spirits, which makes no sense to me at all. We extend the “Father of our Spirits” quote too far.

  14. Steve G. says:

    Every time I go down this road philosophically I am never satisfied. I wonder if its possible to get to the root of it all.

    Are we intelligences packaged within spirits packaged within bodies? Or to turn a phrase are we intelligences having a spiritual experience having a physical experience?

    Personally, I’m more comfortable with the idea that spirits can’t be created or destroyed. Otherwise at some point I could get blown to spiritual bits and it really would be the end of me. Having an intelligence control the spirit control the body, just seems superfluous.

    If I ever get my 5 minutes to stare into heaven, this question would be at the top of my list. The second would be how does information transfer from the physical matter to the spiritual matter and vice versa?

  15. linescratchers says:

    My main question would be, “Why would anyone consider the Rolling Stones to be comparable to the Beatles?” It’s one of those enduring mysteries.

  16. W. V. Smith says:

    Well, Joseph does suggest that animals can be exalted. Particularly if they have a lot of eyes. Or, maybe spirit dogs have a Platonic Ideal who adopted them? Just kidding. But I do kind of like Tripartite Existentialism. I don’t know. There’s just a kind of symmetry. I suspect we’ll see some fun stuff out of the Givens Seminar this summer. Not that any of this is resolvable in the present “don’t ask, don’t tell” theological position of correlation. <grin>

    I am a partisan of eternal persons, mainly because I like LFW. Any system that claims that, I can go with it, I suppose.

  17. i’ve wondered why/how resurrected perfect bodies create spirit bodies too. I also wonder how the spirits could be without number—is it just a very big number? or are all thecreations together without number? If a third of the hosts of heaven left…a third of what? infinity?

    If we do need to be pregnant (which I doubt) could we have multiples-how much space could a spirit take? Or how much time-a lot of pregnancy is SO time dependent it’s hard to imagine outside of time.

  18. One day, WVS, I’d like to sit down with you and hear why you you like the tripartite model (grin).

  19. A few unrelated things I think about this idea:

    1) Even if gods do spiritually create each of us in a process analogous to physical gestation and birth, we wouldn’t need gods for each species. All life on Earth is biologically kin to each other so we’d only really need a blue-green-algae (or photosynthetic bacteria) god, and the rest would naturally follow. Seriously, I think Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother created all of life on earth in Their image, not just our one species. It’s our awareness, our sentience, that’s the part of us that’s most resembles God. I think we’ll eventually have to come to terms with the fact that we’re children of god, but so are whales and dolphins and blue-green-algae in some sense.

    2) Even though we humans don’t choose our children’s physical traits and build them block by block today doesn’t mean we won’t in the near future. Nothing seems to me to be more likely than that humans, if we survive, will begin designing build-a-babies with the genetic knowledge we’re currently learning and will soon learn. I guess this is called trans-humanism but some might be adapted to live in the vacuum of open space, with delicate huge light-sail wings, for instance. Others might just be designed to fly in the air of a planet like the earth, or to swim in the oceans like mermaids, and eat raw fish. The ocean is at least 3 times the living area of the land on our planet, so it might be a way to open up new living areas to humans (or human descendants at least — not sure if we’ll call them human or not) and ease population pressures.

    3) I personally think that in the Celestial Kingdom we’ll be designing our own universes making big bangs which we learn how to make ourselves, tailoring the physical constants and so on to optimize the ability for life to flourish. Then we’ll probably be nudging things in interesting directions over billions of years and communicating with our spirit children through revelation. I think God speaks to earthworms and katydids here on earth as well as humans. They each receive according to their understanding, just as we do line upon line.

    4) My last note is that the universe as we know it now is not deterministic. So we’re not having to subvert the universe’s determinism in order to have free will. There isn’t any determinism to subvert. Just wanted to make that point. Physics in the 20th century discovered this. We haven’t really wrapped our heads around what this means to us culturally and intellectually completely, but there is no absolute determinism on any scale in the universe. It’s all probabilities, just some of them can become vanishingly small so that we can effectively ignore those possibilities on the scale of space and time of our everyday lives.

  20. “I quite like Eric, but”

    If I only had a dollar …

    It is my feeling that Joseph used the terms ‘mind’, ‘spirit’, ‘intelligence’, ‘soul’, interchangeably. I do not believe he did this because they are synonyms, but because there is a lack of precise definitions for these terms. It is your overly strong interpretation that forces the contradiction which is not necessarily the case.

    Suggesting that this is only projecting our biology onto God is pretty convenient also. D&C 77:2 gives support for this. (As does Hebrews 12 and Acts 17) I might also refer you to Harrell’s article on the preexistence. I am also thrilled that I will be presenting with Paulsen, and I might refer you to his brilliant response to Openness theology in ‘Mormonism in Dialogue with Contemporary Christian Theologies’. He and I seem to be on the same page on this as well.

    Much of this comes down to ontological difference. Are we literal children of God or not? Are we capable of becoming like God is or not? Is gender an important part of our eternal identity or not? Are we begotten children of God?

    I am not sure where to go with the animal thing. I have a hard time with spirit mosquitoes. But we do not necessarily deny animals spirits either.

    You also do not seem to grasp the eternal future thing either. If we start at a point in time, and consider any activity (like having spirit children). The amount of time available for having spirit children will always be greater than the amount of time taken to have spirit children. There is no logical problem here. There is plenty of time for other things.

    For the record, the viviparous aspect is not necessary. Toning it down to something like a gendered reproduction of some type. Since there are some obvious differences between a resurrected being and a mortal being there is not to much of a need to get bogged down in the ‘birds and bees’ details. But I do feel a pull to maintain a literal parent/child relationship.

    I like you too J.

    (No but’s about it).

  21. Thanks for the response Eric.

    I think you are correct that Joseph Smith used spirit, intelligence and soul interchangeably. Abraham 3:22-3 is a very strong precedent for that. I don’t see any reason to believe that he had any reason not to use them interchangeably. I’d love to see any evidence you have that Joseph believed spirits and intelligences and souls weren’t all the same thing and the spirits were indeed created (his broad corpus to the contrary).

    I generally think Harrell’s argument is lame. Hopefully he ponies-up in his forthcoming book. I must confess to not having read Paulsen’s essay.

    Much of this comes down to ontological difference. Are we literal children of God or not? Are we capable of becoming like God is or not? Is gender an important part of our eternal identity or not? Are we begotten children of God?

    See the original post about question-begging.

  22. Of course one could argue that, for all its flaws, Orson Pratt managed quite well to reconcile the things you see unreconcilable.

  23. I agree Clark, that for all its whackery, Orson gets the prize for most valiant effort.

  24. J.- Since Eric does go with the Tripartite approach(TM, herein due to laziness), I am not sure how your response in the OP really attacks that. In the TM, spirits are eternal.

    Also, since Joseph taught(or at least implied) there was a time before God entered into a relationship with us, it seems reasonably possible there is some sort of tripartite model, even if we give up the spirit body aspect of it. (Though the spirit body is reasonable as a response, as Eric uses it, to maintaining the doctrinality of Abraham and Moses)

    We’ve discussed this before though.

    Eric- I did not get out of Paulsen what you did.We’ve also had it out before, but I fail to see the doctrinal necessity you always assert.

    Makes me wish we could have a nice dinner party and hash this all out.

  25. Matt, maybe I have been misunderstanding people for years, but I generally don’t think that the Tripartite folks believe that spirits are spirits until they are born in someway. Am I mistaken?

    Yes, there is evidence that there was a time before we had a relationship with God. This is also a logical necessity, I believe. But anyway, I tend to view our entrance into a relationship with God to be a non-procreative/non-viviparous/likely-adoptive birth.

    I’d love to have a dinner party and chat, Matt.

  26. I’m surprised we’ve gone over 20 comments without anyone pointing out that the OP says SMTP in the text instead of SMPT.

    I haven’t spent any time toying with speculation to have much else to say on this matter, but I hope the discussion will continue, as I find this absolutely fascinating!

  27. I’m always getting Mormon philosophy mixed up with simple mail protocols.

    J. Stapley, I think the deeper question is why, so early, Pratt felt the need to come up with this reconciliation. That is what ideas were in the air that he was dealing with.

  28. BTW – it’s not really that wacky. More an atomistic version of Stoicism which was the dominant metaphysical view at the time of Christ.

  29. Thomas Parkin says:

    I’m with Eric, and for his reasons, as far as I can tell, which I’m only looking to amplify a bit.

    Beyond the idea that Joseph used ‘intelligence’ and ‘spirit’ interchangeably, I wonder how much weight we can put on a handful of sentences, fewer of them canonized, and those not canonized not even come from Joseph first hand. I’m fine taking from these sentences that we have an ‘intelligence’, or whatever, an absolute foundation of our being, that was not created, that has existed forever. But, beyond that, I don’t think we can draw any definite conclusions. What’s more, while I trust Joseph to know as much as anyone on these subjects, I don’t see that we are bound to take him as the final word on these subjects.

    If we have had all time to progress, all ‘intelligences’ whose nature and capacity it is to progress to become like Yahweh will have done so at any given time. I know that some of y’all have no problem creating these differences in capacity and nature between us and members of the Godhead, but I continue to find the fundamental Mormon insight that no such differences exist, that we are of the same nature and capacity as God, without limitation given the correct circumstances which He provides. A ‘spirit birth’, or even ‘spirit beginning’ of some other kind, that removes limitations inherent in ‘intelligences’ provides a starting point and hence the limited time frame necessary differences in progress among spirits of the same nature. In other words, a hierarchy of progression in beings with ultimately equal capacity requires a beginning.

    Now what that spirit birth is, who is to say, but I follow Eric in that it must exist in some form for us to take the very frequent expression ‘literal parents’, literally.

    It may be that animals have a direct transition from an eternal type to a physical body. If all squirrel ‘spirits’ are without beginning, then what you have is an infinite pool of squirrels ready to be born, all equal in so far as they are of the same nature. Alternately, maybe there is a squirrel god. Silly, but not more so than any of the rest of this paragraph, and not a lot sillier to some than the idea that God has a body and is therefore limited.

    And, finally, ‘endless’ almost never means ‘endless’, certainly ‘eternal’ almost never means ‘without beginning.’

    Groovy. ~

  30. Thanks for the interesting post, J. Stapley. I think you are right about the analogizing. An additional problem in my mind is when the resulting conclusion about spirit (based on analogy to the biological) is then used to discount new information discovered about the biological. A simple example would be arguing that the spirit, not genes, determines your physical appearance.

  31. Thomas Parkin says:

    “Yes, there is evidence that there was a time before we had a relationship with God. This is also a logical necessity, I believe. But anyway, I tend to view our entrance into a relationship with God to be a non-procreative/non-viviparous/likely-adoptive birth.”

    This sentence reconciles almost everything. If there is beginning, then why not call it a birth, especially if it entails a change in capacity, necessarily a change in nature, from a previous state?

    All that is left is discovering why we want to believe it requires, say, male and female. I think Eric has been candid on why he _personally_ prefers to think of it in those terms. And his reasons are also mine. ~

  32. While I agree that Joseph uses intelligence and spirit as roughly synonymous (I say “roughly” intentionally) I also think one should point out the context of intelligence/spirit prior to the revelations calling spirit matter. There intelligence and spirit are seen as an emanation from God. Literally light and truth coming from God. Harell’s “The Development of the Doctrine of Preexistence 1830-1844″ in BYU Studies is interesting here.

    What’s not commented upon nearly as much as it perhaps ought be is how neoPlatonic these early ideas are. We have a series of emanations from God in a very idealist way. Now intelligence and spirit are used synonymous by most at this point although they are distinguished within neoPlatonism (as well as Kabbalism which some suggest in the context for some texts such as Moses 3) Quinn makes some hay with this although in a pretty unorganized and scattered way. Certainly this is the more natural way to read D&C 93 as well.

    Pratt’s later odd Stoic like views actually arise in 1839 with his brother Parley’s “The Regeneration and Eternal Duration of Matter” where he embraces this emanation theory. (There’s also a revelation in the Kirtland Revelation Book also promoting an emanation theory) This is a dualist scheme where animation comes from spirit and matter is animated by it. Writing long before the King Follet Discourse Pratt writes, “spirit is eternal, uncreated and self existing.”

    The question is then when individual spirits arose. Clearly early on (1839) with the Book of Mormon we have both eternal and individual spirits.

    The idea that there is uncreated spiritual “stuff” that is quasi-material (see Quinn’s discussion of those texts relative to the neoPlatonic intelligent matter) that is organized into personages before mortality seems to do justice to all the various statements. Which is what Pratt taught. While Pratt is clearly caught up in an emanationist view which he has trouble reconciling with God the Father as a personage it’s also clear the rough outline he gives, minus his particular metaphysics of substance, works extremely well. If one reads more neoPatonism into all this then you get extreme consistency in all the texts, including D&C 93 and more.

    I’m not saying this is correct, mind you. I’m just saying it has far more explanatory power than some ways folks are reading all this.

  33. Just to add – I’m far from a neoplatonist. But I think this is an area where a lot more work needs to be done.

  34. I apologize if it’s already been said, but, J. Stapley, one reason you find the idea of a Heavenly Squirrel to be silly, is probably because we don’t *know* that much about our Heavenly Squirrel. I should add that this lack of knowledge about our Heavenly Squirrel is because we respect the Heavenly Squirrel too much to talk about it.

  35. we respect the Heavenly Squirrel too much to talk about it

    Lol.

  36. I’ve come to the conclusion that while spirit birth probably isn’t true it may still qualify as good theology. It is a useful and simple way to teach that there is no ontological gap between us and God. Most people never think about it much further than that as far as I can tell so it serves a useful purpose in helping Mormons feel close to God.

    In other words, God is keeping mum about the details so if someone wants to assume viviparous spirit birth is the explanation for our relationship with God I can’t see any good reason to argue with them about it anymore. (As long as they don’t want to try to harangue me about not believing it at least…)

  37. Thanks for the post. It’s good to see more discussion on the topic.

    First, I think needs to be stressed is that when Joseph Smith claimed that man was uncreated and eternal, he did away with the traditional creature-creator dichotomy. In other words, spirit birth does not perform the work of placing man and God in the same ontological category. Joseph already did that when he claimed that man was in the beginning with God and is uncreated. To argue that spirit birth is valuable because it does away with the Creator-creature model is to overlook that this work was already done by Joseph’s teaching, before the concept of spirit birth emerged. Spirit birth is not necessary to place God and man in the category of the uncreated. In fact, adding the doctrine of the spirit birth tends to undo that work and places man back in the category of the created, because his spirit must be created and must have a beginning, contra Joseph Smith.

    Second, I wonder if the term “literal” isn’t the cause of the some of the confusion here. In my observation, many people are using the term “literal” to mean something like truly, really, or honest to God. But it seems to me that to say “literal” can only refer to a spirit biology, a spiritual genetic relationship, not to any social relationship (the de facto understanding). I think everyone is agreed that terms like Father, sons and daughters are used in the scriptures to describe relations between man and God. However, the term literal never appears in the scriptures nor was this ever used by Joseph Smith. Citing Harrell’s article does nothing to support this view since Harrell never argues that Joseph Smith taught spirit birth. Rather, in his article, he merely suggests possibilities for how this idea developed after Joseph Smith’s death, none of which seem all that controversial.

    Describing our relationship using the modifier “literal” comes later in the historical record, after Darwinism challenged man’s origins. Much of the literal and biological language comes in response to Darwinism. It can’t be overlooked that the 1909 statement is a specific response to Darwinism.

    When someone says we have a “literal” relationship they aren’t just saying we have a real relationship. To say “literal” is to speak of the method. One can’t say on the one hand that he believes we are literally the children of God, but then on the other say he is agnostic about the details. To speak of a literal relationship is to speak directly to the details. Literal means a one-to-one isomorphic relationship that what goes on down here is exactly what goes on up there. This is how the early saints after Joseph Smith meant it (i.e. Pratt’s discussion of spirits being “organized in the womb of the celestial female”). That is literal. If that isn’t what a person means to say, then it makes much more sense to go with truly, honestly, really, rather than insist on the language of “literal” with the caveat that one isn’t interested in articulating the details.

    Finally, another problem with the notion of a creation of a spirit body that looks exactly like the physical body is that this ends up demanding a predestination of all sexual relationships, or an exhaustive foreknowledge of all sexual unions, that proves to severely complicate the notion of free will. Spirit birth advocates seem to create the very problems that were done away with by Joseph Smith. With a spirit birth, Man not only has a beginning but also every act that is necessary for his physical body to come to be, the selection of mates throughout all human history, must be predetermined by God, and the acts of human beings seem awfully determined.

  38. God never did have power to create the spirit of man at all.”

    I am not sure how to read this. I think about what it means to create a body for a mortal and the fact that I didn’t myself create the original matter doesn’t change the fact that my husband and I, in fact, are the “literal” parents of our children.

    I’m not sure what to think of all of this, but this particular argument in the OP doesn’t quite hold up for me.

    I also think that while we can’t fully put mortality onto God, I do think that there are patterns in our mortal life that can teach and testify of God. I have a hard time not leaving space for the possibilities Eric presents because of the power of those patterns in my mind, especially given the fact that family is so central to our doctrine, that multiplying and replenishing is as well (the first commandment given), that we are told repeatedly that we are literal spirit children of God, and that such a relationship seems central to what the plan of salvation means.

    I think that part of Eric’s argument is pretty compelling, even as I’m not nearly philosophically sophisticated enough to engage very well in the whole discussion that continues about this.

    And it’s interesting to see different points of view about it all.

  39. And, fwiw, my comment crossed with aquinas’ so my bringing up ‘literal’ may seem like I was ignoring it, when in reality, I hadn’t seen it.

  40. I confess to not reading the majority of the posts, and so perhaps my comments are redundant.
    1. Why confuse a report of J.S. saying “create” with your understanding of “procreate”? J.S. perhaps was arguing against ex nihilists in the grove, rather than pre-empting disputes among not-present apostles in his claim about the Father not creating spirits.
    2. No, resurrected beings don’t bear ‘resurrected’ children, they bear children of spiritual element, as Pratt and B.Young say. Thus gods require a fall into bodies. Careless logic is forgiveable, but just ignoring the reasoning of men one claims to represent and counter, that is hardly fair.
    3. BYoung said he learned about Adam being the literal father of our spirits from J.S.
    3. It is likely that other gods, bad ones, for example, create by means other than sexual. (see ancient myths)
    4. What counts as evidence when discussing spiritual births in another world/life? Authoritative writings? Which ones? Such questions provoke little more than side-choosing, and resolve nothing unless one dares to say, “Thus saith the Lord.”
    5. I assume that being a god means one can choose the way to bring forth spirits. Does anyone have a better plan for enspiriting intelligences in the image of god? I’m rather fond of the current way, personally.

  41. Tom Weber says:

    I’ve enjoyed reading J. Stapley’s post. I’d be interested in his (and y’all’s) response to D&C 132:19 & 63, verses which to my mind suggest a scriptural basis for belief in procreative/viviparous spirit birth (or at least “gendered reproduction of some type”).

  42. GeoffJ(36): This is very charitable of you. Thanks.

    Matt: One of these days I may review Paulsen’s section.

    J: It is often stated by opponents on this issue that JS never taught this explicitly. THere is some evidence that he may have taught this verbally prior to his death based on second hand accounts from a handful of folks. Also many subsequent prophets have taught this.

    aquinas: Your refusal to accept that a tripartite model maintains the important parts of Joseph’s teaching is unnecessarily limiting. I also think you are not accurately stating Harrell’s conclusions. I also think your attempts to cast this teaching as a knee-jerk reaction to Darwinism by JFS in not satisfying. BY is one of the most explicit teachers of this. Eliza Snow and the Pratt boys al well, along with other claims like Benjamin Johnson put this teaching way earlier than JFS. Stating a gendered reproduction goes a long way in terms of details. I personally prefer something like viviparous birth, but the is very little reason to push this detail. To state that one must take a firm stand on all the ‘biological’ details of this is an unfair standard I believe. You are also putting an unnecessary standard for identical likeness, and discounting some type of long term conforming of image.

  43. Finally, another problem with the notion of a creation of a spirit body that looks exactly like the physical body is that this ends up demanding a predestination of all sexual relationships, or an exhaustive foreknowledge of all sexual unions, that proves to severely complicate the notion of free will.

    aquinas, can you explain how the creation of a spirit body that looks like the physical body predestinates all sexual unions? I don’t see or understand this at all.

  44. In the first place, I’d take Daymon’s side on this and insist that the Nauvoo sermons be read in context of what they were intended to do — not as neutral logical data ready to be plugged into any structure of argumentation. What idea was Smith arguing in favor of? What against? Daymon’s suggestion that it was a rejection of ex nihilo thinking is plausible. Certainly “birth” is different from the prototypical meaning of “creation.”

  45. Several comments:

    - I have thought a lot about this over the years. At the end of it all, I thought myself into the same circles and paradoxes that everyone is expressing above, so it’s not really worth expanding on my personal theory.

    - I don’t think even prophets actually understand this. Granted BY talked a bit about it, but he also talked about missionaries on the moon and the inhabitants of the sun. It is hard to tell the difference between prophetic revelations and personal musings in much of what he says.

    - Barring any additional actual revelation from a prophet (which I think is very unlikely, given that even Hinckley backed away from the fairly simple: “As men are…” teaching), I think all of the above comments are possibly right and are all possibly wrong. To me, they reflect more the personal feelings of the writer projected onto what few bits of teachings we might have on the subject. If you took any 10 people on this board and had them explain what they thought, we’d probably have 20 different answers.

    - It’s fun to play around with different ideas and bounce them off each other, but at the end of the day, it is an unknowable problem until/unless God chooses to reveal more.

  46. Thanks, Mike S. (no. 45). Clearly, we’re into philosophies of men here. Man tries to understand God by creating and pushing theories or explanations, rather than being satisfied with scripture and revelation. This can be helpful on an individual basis as part of pondering, but a risk exists when such theories are shared aloud — for example, if a neighbor reads of this and asks me, I will have to say that Mormons are human too and some Mormons philosophize beyond any authority, but no, the theme of “The Godmakers” and continuous celestial sex is not what I believe or what the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches. I suppose the anti’s had a valid basis for “The Godmakers”.

  47. “Aquinas” I think we have to distinguish the idea that we are literally the offspring of God spiritually (rather than some adoptive sense) from the idea this process worked fairly similarly to biological sexual reproduction. There is then yet an other separate issue of whether spirit bodies are quasi-anthropomorphic. It’s helpful to not conflate all these ideas even if they were all held by most of the late 19th century major figures.

  48. Lot’s of good comments.

    m&m: It isn’t just that one phrase, though it does nicely illustrate Joseph Smith’s perspective. He repeatedly taught the idea. E.g., in Abraham 3: “…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.” I also perceive a bit of wishful thinking in your comment, which is fine, I guess. You are basically saying that you like certain ideas, regardless of any particular evidence, and because of that you are going to believe them.

    Daymon, I agree that rejection of creation ex nihilo was an import thrust of Josephs argument, but he was certainly explicating his familial cosmology. I understand the premises outlined in your #2, but I don’t think they are coherent. I also think that your use of “fall” works for BY but doesn’t map onto the Pratts. #3 BY also said he got it by revelation. I think the idea that JS taught Adam-God is generally ridiculous. However, for some potential germs, Sam’s paper on Paracletes is worth checking out. #3b. Huh? #4. Of course evidence for Mormon Doctrine is a nebulous thing. But I don’t think it is all that difficult to track the evolution of belief in Mormonism on the topic. Whether any particular member believes any of the historical options or something else entirely is up to them. #5 “Does anyone have a better plan for enspiriting intelligences in the image of god?” This is question-begging. The idea that intelligences exist separate from spirits is a circa 1900 idea (see in the original post on “Tripartite Existentialsim.”

    Tom Weber, I think that a lot of the Utah folk read it that way.

    Eric, I think that is quite poor evidence. I agree that later Church authorities taught it, but for the first decades it was associated with a cosmology we now flatly reject (Viz., BY and Eliza, but also Orson).

  49. Clark (#32), I agree that there is a lot of work left to do there; however, I think generally that Joseph Smith, as he was wont to do, later used similar words to describe different concepts. I think it is folly to equate the “Lectures on Faith” with section 93 with Abraham with the King Follet Sermon.

  50. I think the idea that JS taught Adam-God is generally ridiculous.

    I’m dubious about it and almost certainly he didn’t have the full fleshed out theory Brigham did in the 1860′s. However there is that enigmatic bit in the Nauvoo Expositor where Law attributes to Joseph the idea of God falling with his creation. And this long before BY started spouting off his views.

  51. J. Stapley (#49) I fully agree Joseph used the same words to describe different concepts. That’s why appealing to words independent of structures (especially conceptual oppositions) is doomed to failure. (I think the problems with Lectures on Faith are bigger just because Joseph didn’t write most of the actual text) That said I think the conceptual development suggests many, many more parallels to neoPlatonic thought. As I hinted I think the Pratt brothers started out in that line and shifted to atomism primarily because of the revelations about spirit being matter.

    I have no clue where the full blown conception of spiritual sexual reproduction came from. It makes zero sense on a ton of levels. (i.e. sex is intrinsically caught up in the issue of DNA and evolution which seems to have no connection to spirits) I think its the idea that heaven is like earth which people just pushed too far. Likewise probably a bit too much literalism about “father.” Although that’s all just my guess.

  52. J:

    I think these assoications are unnecessarily strong with you.

  53. When we start speculating about what it would mean to create spirits by sex, and whether this involves DNA and so forth, it seems to me that we are running far ahead of our capacity for reason. We don’t know what kind of thing a spirit is, obviously. Even among life forms on Earth right now, there is a fair amount of diversity in terms of what sexual reproduction involves; it seems to me that such a thing could be wildly varied when it comes to sexual reproduction for spirits, given that spirits are basically an undefined symbol. Why should we assume that the sexual reproduction of spirits involves transfer of DNA or anything like that? It’s unreasonable to require this unknown process to conform in any particular to known processes with similar names…

  54. Let me reply, Stapley:

    “Daymon, I agree that rejection of creation ex nihilo was an import thrust of Josephs argument, but he was certainly explicating his familial cosmology.” OK? “familial cosmology”? “Certainly.” You concede the point, but require your terminology?

    ” I understand the premises outlined in your #2, but I don’t think they are coherent. I also think that your use of “fall” works for BY but doesn’t map onto the Pratts.”

    I realize you don’t think it does. I wasn’t attempting to map the word onto OP and PP, and BY. Just saying, there’s a way to recognize truth, and that is, I suppose, it expands one’s understanding of other murky areas.

    “#3 BY also said he got it by revelation. I think the idea that JS taught Adam-God is generally ridiculous. However, for some potential germs, Sam’s paper on Paracletes is worth checking out.”
    “Generally ridiculous”. Yet again a pronunciamento designed, apparently, to gather converts who’ll say yea and nay. If you read his sermons in Nauvoo Adam-god can be found there, but surely he never listed them in a topical guide under that title. Michael, he said, was part of plan to rescue spirits who were enslaved under a tyrant, and providing bodies was central to this revolution. Do we not use the word “revelation” as a way to speak to confirmation of a truth we’ve been taught? That BY “got it by revelation” in no way means he was lying when he said he also got it from J.S.
    “#3b. Huh?”
    You’ve not read enough, then, if you the claim that BY said he learned Adam-God from J.S. leaves you huh-ing.

    #4. Of course evidence for Mormon Doctrine is a nebulous thing. But I don’t think it is all that difficult to track the evolution of belief in Mormonism on the topic.”
    This is the problem that your reading of my dissertation unfortunately didn’t resolve. There is no such thing as “belief in Mormonism” which could “evolve”; this Protestant view of a mind active in history is a post-correlation pseudo-academic attempt to conceal the fact that history hasn’t yet submitted to correlation.

    “Whether any particular member believes any of the historical options or something else entirely is up to them.”
    Glad to have that option granted me. But you evade the very problem of there being no ground rule for evidence in SMPT circles. This ain’t chemistry, where experiments are replicable. The only rule seems align, cite, re-align, re-cite. Vanity is the beast fed thereby.

    ” #5 “Does anyone have a better plan for enspiriting intelligences in the image of god?” This is question-begging.”
    Look in your encyclopedia of philosophy under “question-begging” for the proper usage. This is just a question.

    ” The idea that intelligences exist separate from spirits is a circa 1900 idea (see in the original post on “Tripartite Existentialsim.””
    I’m not sure, but I recall a scripture somewhere that spoke of ‘intelligences’, which in my version was printed before 1900. In other words, you’re claim is utterly false. Orson Pratt taught it, B.H. Roberts saw it that way, and of course,
    B.Y. fought with Pratt over that issue. Pratt told Woodruff the first god evolved from intelligences through trial and error. Tripartite Existentialism? Are SMPTer’s interested in anything other than unwittingly post-modern generation of senseless terms to pose upon?

  55. Daymon, what ground rule for evidence can there be in theology? It seems to me that all choices are ultimately arbitrary, which raises the following question: why argue with anyone’s choice?

  56. JNS, it seems to me that that’s true if you’re doing speculative theology. But the discussion here has moved pretty far into the terrain of intellectual history, I think, in which case some basic attention to historiographical principle seems important.

  57. Daymon, glad to see you engage. This bodes well for letter discussions on priesthood.

    K? “familial cosmology”? “Certainly.” You concede the point, but require your terminology?

    You seem to be asserting that there is only one thing going on in the discourse. But perhaps, I misread you. Do you disagree that Smith was describing his family cosmology? Call it familial cosmology or sacerdotal genealogy or whatever you want.

    “Generally ridiculous”. Yet again a pronunciamen to designed, apparently, to gather converts who’ll say yea and nay.

    Not really, just my opinion.

    if you read his sermons in Nauvoo Adam-god can be found there, but surely he never listed them in a topical guide under that title. Michael, he said, was part of plan to rescue spirits who were enslaved under a tyrant, and providing bodies was central to this revolution. Do we not use the word “revelation” as a way to speak to confirmation of a truth we’ve been taught? That BY “got it by revelation” in no way means he was lying when he said he also got it from J.S.

    I disagree that it can be found there. Perhaps principles that BY expanded. I tend to view Young’s comments at the June 9, 1873 school of the prophets as reflecting a perspective that Young did not receive the teaching from Joseph. He may have misremembered earlier, I don’t know. But I think that if Smith had taught it in Nauvoo, then Young wouldn’t have been so surprising.

    “#3b. Huh?”
    You’ve not read enough, then, if you the claim that BY said he learned Adam-God from J.S. leaves you huh-ing.

    The “huh?” was in reference to your second #3 (you listed two of them). I think I may know what you are getting at, but I’m not certain.

    This is the problem that your reading of my dissertation unfortunately didn’t resolve. There is no such thing as “belief in Mormonism” which could “evolve”; this Protestant view of a mind active in history is a post-correlation pseudo-academic attempt to conceal the fact that history hasn’t yet submitted to correlation.

    I don’t think you understood what I was trying (and evidently failing) to say. Do You really think that what people in the Church believe does not changes over time? I view Roberts’ synthesis of Young and Smith as an “evolution.”

    But you evade the very problem of there being no ground rule for evidence in SMPT circles. This ain’t chemistry, where experiments are replicable. The only rule seems align, cite, re-align, re-cite. Vanity is the beast fed thereby.

    Heh. I can’t speak for the SMPT folks. I’m not all that familiar with what is their standard fair. That said, this post is about my reasons for not liking viviparous spirit birth. The first is historical the others are logical or philosophical. I generally do think that people in the Church can believe what they want. However, I do believe that when writing history or anthropology there are rules, and those rules are different than the more concrete realm of chemistry. I’d be happy to have a discussion on the historiography of Mormon cosmological beliefs.

    ” #5 “Does anyone have a better plan for enspiriting intelligences in the image of god?” This is question-begging.”
    Look in your encyclopedia of philosophy under “question-begging” for the proper usage. This is just a question.

    True, but it is a question asked in a manner that requires acceptance of the proposition to be argued for.

    I’m not sure, but I recall a scripture somewhere that spoke of ‘intelligences’, which in my version was printed before 1900. In other words, you’re claim is utterly false.

    Are you really saying that section 93 is talking about pre-spirit beings? Orson Pratt did not teach it. He taught a spirit atomism (though unlike Young’s atomism, Pratt’s atoms were “intelligent”).

    Are SMPTer’s interested in anything other than unwittingly post-modern generation of senseless terms to pose upon?

    I have no idea (see above). But I sometimes like descriptive short hand for complex ideas.

  58. Kristine, I agree, history is a different beast. I was responding to Daymon’s objection that SMPT theological work lacks a philosophically grounded epistemology. This seems a true but empty objection — all theology lacks a grounded epistemology.

  59. Jay,
    I don’t think there can be text-derived rules about evidence in theology, and this is why the entire endeavor seems little more than posing and posturing, a farce of scholariship.
    They could devise some ground rules, say, a point system for the authoritativeness of the author cited (Aquinas = 7; Whitehead = 11), and they could give “style” points for, say, invention of senseless terms that seem nonetheless “powerful” (tripartite homousia preternaturalist Nicenism = 3 points). Go for obscure Greco-Latinate here. Other points could be awarded for deceptive readings, ahistoricisms, imposition of universal and static belief on a collection of texts, and overall pompous disregard for history, people, and so on. And finally, a merit system would reward the descent of respected church leaders, professors, and other professionals to condescend to speak with the bevy of amateurs. Say, 10 points for a BYU assistant prof. of ‘ancient scripture’, but 15 points for a ‘secular’ bibical theologian, from say, an eastern divinity school. This seems the only way to decide the truth of Mormon theological claims conducted in an ‘academic’ setting. They (a generic stand-in, of course) want to be historians, philosophers, religious scholars, psychologists, all without apparent understanding of the complexities of every field.

  60. J. Nelson-Seawright (#53). I think that’s my point. Sex has a specific biological meaning that is wrapped up with evolution, death, and the creation of something new biologically from molecular parts. If the Mormon leaders in the early Utah period thought that there was sex, even ignoring the origins of the belief, there are intrinsic problems. My point is more that these folks were almost certainly ignorant of what sex actually is. (DNA hadn’t yet been discovered and evolution was very, very new and probably not understood by any of them)

    The debate about whether there was a spirit creation out of parts with no sentience or whether there was a pure sentience with kind of matter added to it is interesting. One can find people on both sides of the believe. I think saying Joseph himself had a definitive position on this due to synonymous use of “spirit” and “intelligence” is doomed to failure. He just does say enough about the topic.

    Daymon (#54), of course BY does say he got the idea from JS. But the idea in what form? Almost certainly not in the fully fleshed out form. That said, as I mentioned in (50) the Nauvoo Expositor offers excellent support for thinking at least some of the ideas were percolating in Nauvoo and were attributed to Joseph Smith. (Whether correctly attributed or not is harder to say) Of course Pratt attributes the idea of spirit creation to Joseph Smith as well from the era when the JST manuscript of Moses 3 was being privately read.

    Whether those later (circa 1850′s) recollections are sufficient to attribute the ideas to Joseph is trickier. Given the issue of theological innovation of the era and Joseph’s authority there is a tendency to attribute ideas to Joseph. We ought recall that the typical member didn’t know much of what we call Nauvoo theology until after the emigration to Utah.

    Daymon (#54) Orson Pratt taught it, B.H. Roberts saw it that way, and of course, B.Y. fought with Pratt over that issue.

    BY and Pratt fought over a lot but I don’t recall them fighting over this particular issue. (The idea of intelligences and spirits existing separately) Of course it gets tricky as I think Pratt moved to an atomistic view from the more neoPlatonic emanation model due to the revelations on spirit as matter. Brigham Young maintained, I believe, a more Idealist conception where intelligence remains something far more Hegelian or Platonic. So there is a talking past each other. Of course for Pratt its somewhat misleading to say he separated spirit and intelligence. Each atom of intelligence is a spirit. A spirit body is just one unified collection of such spirits as is our body now. Young doesn’t get into the materialist issues as much and tends to focus more on intelligence as ideas or knowledge. But I think both are developing out of pretty similar ideas. It’s just that Young thinks all that one ought talk about is an anthropology whereas Pratt moves to a distinction between spirit substance (the ousia of the Gods) from the person. And that is the real point of contention.

  61. Stapley,
    how different in your part of the world is ‘intelligent atomism” which are organized in the wombs of resurrected goddesses (pratt), from some notion of pre-spirit intelligent intelligences? Pratt’s claims don’t precede 1900? Book of Abraham? King Follett? I assume you read these texts, and so have managed to find a certain, comforting meaning therein opposed to my reading. Fair enough, but to call one reading ridiculous and another self-evidently true is to expose oneself as more concerned with labelling usage than with understanding historical figures, texts, etc.
    Of course ‘beliefs’ change over history. My problem is suggesting one can document a belief, and its evolution. You are talking about texts, which now obliges you to involve yourself in disciplines that were developed because after Kant theology, metaphysics, and traditional philosophy were exposed as dead husks. Meaning, one cannot be simultaneously a historian, literary critic, psychologist, and a theologian thereafter (that is, unless one has a very small circle of companions).

    Also, I do think there can be a ground for Mormon speculation, but that eliminating intelligences, as something like light, truth, and living, salts that ground. So, I remain convinced that eliminating “intelligences” as living agents in the universe, organizable at any level, leaves Mormon theologians with little more than posing. The question of their existence concerns historical, theological, philosophical
    truth, epistemology in its broadest sense, and is not something to be washed away by invention and release of new terms and new meanings.

    that said, you do seem sincerely engaged with the questions, though I do think you’re imposing too much on texts as “beliefs”, and not letting them speak as texts.

  62. Clark, I agree that pinpointing Joseph Smith on this issue is difficult at best.

    On the broader “sex” topic, I obviously agree that we can’t claim that sex in a narrowly defined scientific sense is connected to the creation of spirits. But equally obviously the term can be used in a wide variety of more-or-less literal ways…

  63. (#60 above) He just does say enough about the topic.

    That should read, “he just doesn’t say enough about the topic.

    Daymon (#54) But you evade the very problem of there being no ground rule for evidence in SMPT circles. This ain’t chemistry, where experiments are replicable. The only rule seems align, cite, re-align, re-cite. Vanity is the beast fed thereby.

    I think it might be better described as the hermeneutic circle. What counts in a philosophical argument are the arguments one marshals. I should also note that chemistry is stable at this point only because the foundations are largely agreed upon now. Go back and read some 19th century chemistry and you’ll find much more debate about what constitutes evidence for a position. It’s only after the notion of atomic bonds and the periodic table develop that chemistry becomes “more formal.”

    To suggest that being stuck without absolute rules for evidence entails a kind of vanity just seems silly to me. (IMO) I do think though that just because some major figure says something doesn’t make it true. It may have more weight for the community, but that’s an other matter. If one is doing theology then I think it more important to look at the ranges of defensible possibilities. Theology, like metaphysics, can at best only marshal weak arguments. But that doesn’t mean the arguments don’t matter.

  64. Daymon, why post-Kant? Because you like Prussians? I see that reference and raise you a Spinoza and a Hume.

  65. (Whoops, can someone fix my close tag for the bold in the above?)

    J. Nelson-Seawright, I agree one can use the term in more or less literal ways. I just don’t see how such use would make sense. (i.e. refer to the general mechanics of the act rather than the biology) I’d note that even those promoting the idea don’t seem able to marshal terribly comprehensible explanations. And both Pratt and Young, when they marshal explanations of spirit – body interaction seem purely speculating and their speculations don’t make sense at all. (IMO)

  66. Clark, I guess I don’t see why we have to assume that the ideas in question even involve the general mechanics of the act as we understand it. It seems to me that the reasonable if perhaps to some extent limit of the language would probably include any kind of creative act in which participation by both a male and a female are of the essence.

  67. Daymon, your condescension is magnanimous (after the vanity quips, allow me some fun).

    Pratt described intelligent spirit atoms that were variously organized and unorganized as they progressed from spirit-vegetation to spirit-animal and ultimately spirit-human. I view that as a very different proposition that the currently popular view (which comes from Roberts) that an eternal intelligent entity, similar to a Cartesian mind, received a spirit body then came to earth.

    I also agree that nothing about this discussion is self-evident. There is a bunch of stuff to work through. But I can’t see why you can get perturbed by my statement of opinion when you do the same.

    And I agree that we can’t be all things at all times. When I write history, I do simply that. I’m not writing history in the original post, I’m simply giving my reasons for not liking viviparous spirit birth.

  68. “…to some extent metaphorical…”

  69. Daymon (#61) You are talking about texts, which now obliges you to involve yourself in disciplines that were developed because after Kant theology, metaphysics, and traditional philosophy were exposed as dead husks.

    Huh? This seems…a novel take on history of philosophy. I’d argue that until the rise of neo-Kantianism in the late 19th century and positivism around the same time that metaphysics was alive and well and largely the dominant force in both British and German philosophy. It’s hard to say the above with a straight face when considering Hegel, Schopenhauer, Schelling, and so forth. The transformation of Kant from making metaphysical claims to just making epistemological claims certainly allows one to say something like you do – although it still ignores a lot of early 20th century philosophy. (The realism – idealist debate being but one example of a dispute that went well into the 20th century)

  70. J. Nelson-Seawright (66) Clark, I guess I don’t see why we have to assume that the ideas in question even involve the general mechanics of the act as we understand it. It seems to me that the reasonable if perhaps to some extent limit of the language would probably include any kind of creative act in which participation by both a male and a female are of the essence.

    Oh, I agree. I just have a hard time calling that sex in anything but a highly metaphoric sense. And I think it goes without saying that few in the early Utah period – heck well up until today – were willing to be that metaphoric.

  71. Clark, I’m not sure that really goes without saying! Metaphor plus literalism, isn’t that the Mormon formula?

  72. Well that does tend to be a common Mormon hermeneutic. (Look at Joseph’s use of Isaiah, for instance) The question is how one grounds such inquiries, which ultimately is the real theological question.

  73. Thanks everyone. You have given me a little to think about. I say a little because I only understand a fraction of what some of you say.

    If it sets anybodies mind at ease, my paper basically makes the case that spirit birth is ‘good’ or ‘beneficial’ theology. That it promotes a sense of love for and from God, it promotes love for each other, it promotes a desire to keep commandments, etc. If I understand, my approach is sort of a novice William James approach. And I try to supply some simple answers to many of the questions brought up here – which many of you would find superficial explanations. It will be a pretty harmless paper I believe. I don’t really go any farther than something like us being literal offspring by some type of gendered reproduction.

  74. However, Joseph Smith’s teachings and revelation on the matter are some of his most clear on any subject.

    Arg. Apparently it does not matter how many times I refute this, you will continue to say it as thought it is uncontroversial.

  75. Jacob, it does seem odd that I can’t remember anything particularly persuasive. Would you link to a refutation so I can refresh myself? Also, as a side note, I’m curious what of his Nauvoo theologies you think is more clear.

  76. W. V. Smith says:

    This is a bit off the topic of the OP, but it’s probably important.

    I just give it as my opinion that you have to read King Follett, whichever version, in the context in which it was spoken. It was a funeral sermon, not just for Follett’s kin, but for all the many who had lost family and friends in the Kingdom-that’s in the documents. Think of it in terms of two conversations:

    First conversation.

    Mrs. Follett:
    “Joseph, my husband is gone. Will I ever meet him again? Will he and I know each other” etc., etc.

    Joseph:
    “Well yes, you will see him again in the resurrection. After all, that dirt that made up his body is eternal stuff! It can’t go away! Same with his spirit! Eternal spirit dirt. Isn’t that comforting??”

    Mrs. Follett:
    “Well . . . .”

    Second Conversation.

    Mrs. Follett:
    “Joseph, my husband is gone. Will I ever meet him again? Will he and I know each other” etc., etc.

    Joseph:
    “Of course you will see him again, and he’ll be much the same person you knew here.”

    Mrs. Follett:
    “Why?”

    Joseph:
    “Because the *person* you knew here is a permanent part of existence. That person, as a person, had no beginning, and therefore cannot end.”

    Does eternal spirit dirt or atoms or ideal fluid or whatever, give you comfort that the *person* you love is going to be around after he/she shuffles off the mortal coil? Apparently not in JS’s mind. Joseph is rendering comfort here.

    One can argue I suppose whether or not this would be meaningful to everyone, but I think it may have been somewhat meaningful to his audience. Maybe. It’s more Josephy to me. But what do I know.

  77. Excellent point, WVS.

  78. Wow. That’s quite the thread. I need a stiff drink or a nap. Maybe both.

  79. WVS I think that’s a very important point, sometimes forgotten. However it does avoid some central questions. I don’t think it answers, for instance Pratt or the like. And of course B. H. Robert’s tripartite model, for all its problems deals with this as well.

    Really the whole debate, for the most part, comes down to what the development of the soul in the pre-existence was. And I don’t think the funerary talk really gets at that precisely because of that context you bring up.

  80. W. V. Smith says:

    Clark, you are correct that this does not deal with soul evolution in the whole context Mormonism. But I think it does represent Joseph’s idea at the time.

  81. If we come away from any lesson with just one memorable thing, the lesson was a good one.

    I will remember Heavenly Squirrel.

  82. Clark: There intelligence and spirit are seen as an emanation from God. Literally light and truth coming from God.

    I don’t know where you get this idea. D&C 93 gives no indication that “spirit” is synonymous with “light” and/or “truth”. The general idea is that the “spirit of man” receives “light” and “truth”.

    In particular, D&C 93 uses the term “spirit” in the discrete, personal sense at least twice, once in verse 38 (“Every spirit”) and once in verse 26 (“I am the Spirit of truth”).

    In general though, it seems to be entirely unwarranted to assume that the same term is used in the same sense everywhere it is used, especially where the senses used are contradictory in the extreme.

    For example “the glory of God is intelligence” uses the term “intelligence” in an amorphous, non-discrete sense, where “the intelligences that were organized before the world was” uses the term in a discrete, personal and countable sense.

    And in fact that last passage (Abr 3:22) is excellent evidence with regard to the proposition that “intelligences” by that point were composite entities.

  83. after Kant theology, metaphysics, and traditional philosophy were exposed as dead husks.

    That is the most extreme example of hubris I have seen for quite some time. I don’t know whether to laugh, cry, or wonder whether you are a Humanities major.

  84. A is like B.
    B has property P.
    Therefore, A has property P.

    That is indeed a fallacy. The following is not:

    A is substantially similar to B.
    B has property P.
    Therefore, barring any information to the contrary A is more likely than not to have property P as well.

    It is called abduction or Bayesian logic, take your pick. The entire enterprise of empirical science is based on the assumption that Bayesian logic is correct. That is the only reason we have any reason to believe the sun will come up in the morning.

    I generally don’t think that the Tripartite folks believe that spirits are spirits until they are born in some way

    There is nothing about the Tripartite model as such that requires viviparous spirit birth or any other event whereby a spirit becomes a “spirit”, in the strict sense of the term. It is like saying there is no requirement that an event such as viviparous physical birth is required for a person to become a “person”.

  85. Mark, philosophy is technically a major in the humanities.

    Regarding D&C 93 I didn’t mean to equate the two. As I said in formal neoPlatonism intelligence and spirit are different with one being a lower emanation from God. However the way Pratt and company interpreted emanation tended to equate them prior to the revelation on matter.

    You’re right that by the time of Abr 3 we have a distinction with the term intelligence towards individuals and organization being a social organization. However that is about 2 – 3 years after D&C 93. Harell does a really good job breaking out the positions and who held what when in that BYU Studies article I mentioned. (Let me know if you need a copy)

  86. BTW – that first line was a joke. I can never tell how tone will be received in plain text…

  87. Mark, philosophy is technically a major in the humanities.

    I know that. It is just that the sort of philosophy that prevails in departments of Humanities at large tends to be of the idealist, obscurantist, anti-realist, solipsistic variety of the sort that has never prevailed among natural philosophers and their successors in the natural sciences at any time then or since.

    An anti-realist scientist (though they certainly exist) is the next closest thing to an oxymoron, while an anti-realist English professor is nearly a matter of course, based on the sort of reasoning that would have kept mankind from ever advancing out of the stone age.

  88. Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.

    Question: a scientist, a philosopher, and a theologian are debating the essence of existence. Whose side was Jesus on?

    Answer: He was on the side of the prostitute. While others were laughing, she was the one getting stoned.

  89. Mark: It is called abduction or Bayesian logic, take your pick. The entire enterprise of empirical science is based on the assumption that Bayesian logic is correct.

    Mark, but it only works with the caveats I included in the original post: evidence and systemic continuity. Having done my fair share of empirical science, I have first hand experience how easy it is, even with those two thing, to make hypotheses that don’t pan out experimentally.

  90. Stapley: Clair. Be careful. You could be bordering on squirrel blasphemy.

  91. J (#75),

    It is the simplest argument in the world. I agree that Joseph Smith was clear in saying that the “spirit,” or “intelligence,” or the “mind of man,” or the “intelligent part” of humans, never had a beginning. So, if you are arguing with the McConkie’ite who thinks God scooped up some inert spirit matter and formed an intelligent spirit, your statement that “Joseph was perfectly clear in his opposition to that idea” is well founded.

    However, he was decidedly and demonstrably not clear in what he thought a spirit entailed or how it got a spirit body (a concept that also comes directly from his own scripture and writings). Given the inherent tensions in the various things he said about spirits, minds, and bodies, it is ridiculous in the context of a debate about how spirit bodies came about to claim that Joseph Smith was never more clear on any subject. Just ridiculous. He raised 10 questions for every 1 answer when it comes to this topic. Some relevant threads as requested: one by me and one by Matt.

  92. I don’t think McConkie’s view is that it was inert spirit matter though. Of course its been a while since I last read McConkie on all this so I might be mistaken. I think McConkie was more adopting a position closer to Pratt, as I recall. Both he and his father in law were heavily influenced by Pratt as I recall. One could even argue that if you reject Pratt’s spiritual fluid then the logical conclusion is the kind of nominalist view of God that McConkie develops. (And even with Pratt’s aether as God’s ousia I think there is a strong nominalist streak in his thought)

    In any case the real debate (outside of the sex question) is whether organized spirits were made out of something or were in their form eternally. And you’re definitely correct that Joseph doesn’t help too much there. The best one can say is that given Moses 3 and the popular views of spirit creation out of God’s spirit that the burden of proof is much more on those arguing for an eternal spirit form. Joseph simply would have been familiar with those other views and nothing in the KFD or other sermons appears to form an opposition to them.

  93. Mark, given that Baysian inference is a more formal system and given that few scientists ever formalize inferences I’m pretty skeptical one should say what you do. But I don’t want to be drawn down a debate about the philosophy of science here. I just think it erroneous to equate induction with Baysian inference.

    Regarding anti-realist science I think that actually the dominant position rather than a rarity. Instrumentalism (exemplified in folks like Richard Feynman) is effectively an anti-realist view of science. They don’t deny there is a reality. They just don’t think science ultimately is dealing with that reality. Empiricism proper is also typically put in opposition with realism. Now speaking as a realist, I’m pretty sympathetic to the view it is the correct view for science. But I’ve also read enough literature to recognize it as the minority view.

  94. Clark, see the McConkie quotes at the end of the Tripartite post linked in the original post. It is quite hard to argue anything other than that McConkie was employing Young’s model with different language.

    Jacob I guess I just don’t follow you to your conclusions. Joseph said a lot of things and very few of them with the regularity and clarity of his assertions that spirits are not created or made. I understand that you think that there are complicating factors, though.

  95. (24) Matt, that sounds fun. I’d like to be part of that too.

    (38) m&m, suppose that a couple has an adopted child. Are they the “literally” the parents of that child?

    (42) Eric, I understand that the tripartite model seeks to reconcile how man can be eternal and created at the same time. I’m pointing out that Joseph already taught that God and man were both uncreated and eternal, without employing a spirit birth model at all. Man’s spirit is uncreated an eternal, and the tabernacle of man is created in the image of God. I think this is an important point to stress as it seems to be perennially overlooked.

    If you read my posts on Darwinism’s Influence on the Mormon View of Spirits – Part I and Part II you can see that I never once claim that “spirit birth” was invented by Joseph F. Smith. Rather I’m seeking to place the developing of our language and concepts about spirits in a socio-historical context and examining how theology is influenced by outside developments in science and religion.

    I’m not imposing a standard as much as I’m suggesting something that will help us to have a more informed discussion. By using the term “literal” without unpacking what we mean by it (and without clarifying whether one is departing from how it was used by Mormon thinkers in the past) it masks the kind of distinctions and possibilities that you revealed in your response. That was helpful.

    (47) Clark, I completely agree with your comment, but don’t know why you are directly it at me.

    (56) Kristine, thank you for this salient comment.

    We are dealing with the history of ideas, and clearly there is a history of those who have written on this subject and I think it is important to familiarize ourselves with what has happened in Mormon thought. We are using language that we have inherited from those who have gone before and learning about that will help us to have a more informed discussion about this topic. Using J. Stapley’s language, a “historiography of Mormon cosmological beliefs” is a useful starting point. For an example of this kind of work, see Joseph Smith’s Revelations on Preexistence and Spirits.

  96. aquinas:

    I might answer the question you asked m&m. My answer is a clear no. Of course they are not literally the parents. Test would prove that, and honesty would demand it. They may happen to be the same species, but that is not necessarily the case.

    There are a handful of people that attribute ‘Mother in Heaven’ and ‘Spirit Birth’ to Joseph Smith. (I understand Paulsen has been doing research on this). So I think your statement may be a bit absolute. I think the important point to stress is the parent/child relationship.

    It seemed to me that in your Darwinism posts you were claiming that these concepts developed much later than they actually were. It is my impression that much of the same language (if not even more direct and explicit) was used long before JFS.

  97. Jonathan, I looked at the tripartite post and I don’t think the McConkie quotes quite go as far as you are making them. Yes, McConkie adds the important caveat that, “any notion or theory that life, or ego, or agency, existed for each individual prior to the time of the spirit birth is pure speculation.” That seems to be explicitly referring to Pratt’s speculations. But McConkie is completely right there.

    What McConkie seems to be asserting is pretty close to the early emanist model where spirits are made literally from God’s spirit. Further, like the early writings of the Pratts, he associates this with intelligence and light ala D&C 93.

    While McConkie says, “life began for man and for all created things at the time of their respective spirit creations,” I think one should be careful not to assume this entails the spirit substance is inert.

    Saying this is the same as Young, is true to a point. Although I strongly suspect McConkie and Young would differ over what the spirit substance is. I see McConkie’s target more as B. H. Robert’s Cartesian intelligences rather than what I suggested.

  98. (One of my comments on McConkie is missing – could someone check the spam filter?)

    Aquinas (#95), I made the comment in (47) since you seemed to be suggesting that I was misusing Harrell. My point was there were three independent topics going on and we ought keep them separate.

    I agree, by the way, that “literal” isn’t too helpful a term. In almost any context. Typically what is meant is a kind of first order reading of a sentence in the main context of the present subtracted from its textual content. Yet in practice folks playing a “literal” card are usually using it in opposition to some other view they don’t like – and often engaged in a different sort of hermeneutic from what they usually do. So the word is dangerous and unless you see what oppositions the exegesical debate is crouched in you can’t figure out what really is going on. Of course once you have that context then the word “literal” is superfluous. It’s ends up just being a rhetorical trump card people play of a sort.

    Eric (#96), I think there’s great circumstantial evidence to attribute the notion of mother in heaven to Joseph. Consider the direction of all his teachings towards the RS especially relative to the temple and it just makes sense. Throw in Eliza R. Snow’s place in his family and the like and there is a solid case. The main counter-argument would be the idea that Joseph didn’t actually believe anything like the traditional reading of the KFD and thought there was an absolute head God different from all other divine beings. (i.e. akin to Blake Ostler’s view) If that was true then of course a Mother in Heaven makes less sense.

  99. Obviously the history is murkier than this, but let me pose a hypothetical situation:

    Brigham Young: “There is a certain biological birth process that happens in heaven to create every spirit”

    Joseph Smith: “Spirits are without beginning or end”

    Now, if JS said his during his time as the mouthpiece for the Lord, and BY said his during his time as the mouthpiece of the Lord, and we suppose both statements to be diametrically opposed, do we accept Brigham’s and reject Joseph’s because Brigham is the more recent, and more closely speaks to our generation? Or do we accept Joseph’s and reject Brigham’s because, well, Joseph was just the greatest?

    As I see it, if we can’t answer that question unequivically, then any of our views on the origin of spirit will just be supposition. I think we’ve established this generally speaking, but throughout the thread I’ve seen people claiming that JS said this; others claiming BY said that, without any claim that the two views are probably unreconcilable.

    What we really need is a prophetic trump card.

  100. “What we really need is a prophetic trump card.”

    Heavens, no. That would mean the end of the bloggernacle.

  101. I think this thread has been enormously productive, for at least the following reasons.

    1) It clarifies that we all have little ability to define the term “spirit.”

    2) It shows pretty straightforwardly that we have few good arguments in favor of or against the proposition that some kind of joint effort between a male and a female deity are involved in bringing “spirits” or perhaps “spirit bodies” (whatever those might be) into being.

    3) It demonstrates that an appeal to authority will do little here, even for those who like such things.

    With these thickets swept away, we are left to draw a series of conclusions. Our ideas about where spirits come from lack meaningful referents and evidence. Hence, these ideas cannot feasibly be judged based on probability or plausibility.

    However, this does not imply that they have no value or are all equally important, because even ideas that lack referents can have social functions. I think, in the absence of better conceptual grounding, it’s reasonable to identify these ideas as being identical to their social functions. In this instance, belief in spirit “birth” can be seen as an expression of social hope that men and women are in some meaningful way connected in heaven, but also as a formulation of that hope in a way that (since this is our only image for exalted women) can tend to reinforce harmful conceptions of women as being “for” reproduction only.

  102. To add to my comments on McConkie and spirit element. I think, as I mentioned, that BY tends towards idealism. Not to say he had formal philosophical ideas on the issue but the way he speaks doesn’t really distinguish between intelligence as spirit entity from intelligence as cognitive capacity, function or phenomenal experience. He moves between the two quite regularly.

    McConkie on the other hand is a nominalist. This might indicate, as you suggest, spirit element as something more akin to inert dirt. Yet I note McConkie (from what I recall) just never makes that explicit move. I think his qualification against B. H. Roberts (sorry, I accidentally wrote Pratt in my comment above) is because Roberts has fully cognizant Cartesian minds as intelligences. I think McConkie’s view is compatible with Pratt who has a kind of mind, but one so undeveloped it can’t be considered alive let alone human. McConkie’s point is closer to Young’s critique of Pratt’s in that McConkie thinks we should just worry about the anthropology of man which starts at the spirit creation.

  103. (82) Anthropology.

    (98) That’s what Roberts was all about. Reconciliation.

    (92) McConkie held no truck with “spirit element” (his raw material for making spirit babies that developed as emergent conscious persons) bearing the “finer properties of human feelings, virtue or other such nonsense” from his own mouth to my ear.

    I repeat (76). The complications are not assignable to JS by any good documentation I know of. Speculation bubbled up (a little before and) after he died. JS believed in eternal (backward/forward) persons, by whatever name you want to give them, there was continuity of the person, right or wrong.

    But I think the idea carries precious cargo that most Mormons don’t really want to discard, including me. But I give you the inconsistency of views from Pratts and Young and Talmage and Penrose and McConkie, etc. Roberts was fully aware of the problem and hence his attempt at a fix. We won’t see that kind of thing again in our lifetimes is my thinking. I couldn’t possibly summarize what happened behind the scenes with Roberts here. The KFD chapter in the book is already 400 (single-space-single-sided) pages long. Going to have to cut somehow. It’s out for reading now.

  104. WVS that is wonderful news! (let me know if you want another reader).

    (92) McConkie held no truck with “spirit element” (his raw material for making spirit babies that developed as emergent conscious persons) bearing the “finer properties of human feelings, virtue or other such nonsense” from his own mouth to my ear.

    You just rocked my world.

  105. Joseph said a lot of things and very few of them with the regularity and clarity of his assertions that spirits are not created or made.

    J, read my last comment again. You restated the point I agreed with and didn’t address the critique I made, hardly an adequate response. The question at hand is not whether or not spirits are created or made. The question is how spirits got a spirit body and this is a topic on which Joseph was especially unclear. Your attempt to make it about the origin of spirits rather than how eternal spirits obtained a spirit body (did they always have it or was there a spirit birth) is just a dodge of the primary issue at hand.

  106. Only chapter 7 is out for reading. If you want to read it, when I get a copy back, I’ll send it along. They’re a bit expensive. Color and all.

  107. Do uncreated spirits at some point receive a spirit body? Personally, I think that is similar to the question of when uncreated spirits receive spirit clothing? Now it seems according to all the visionary accounts that we have, that spirits do wear clothing. What do you think?

    I’d love to, WVS.

  108. JNS (#101). Exactly right, I agree with your conclusions.

  109. What do you think?

    That you’re being flippant as a strategy to avoid a serious theological issue to which you have no answer.

  110. I apologize if my comment seemed angry, vengeful, and so on. Please feel free to delete it if it offends. Better to have it gone than to have people not learn from this fine post (I mean that sincerely).

  111. That you’re being flippant as a strategy to avoid a serious theological issue to which you have no answer.

    Actually, I am not intending to be flippant. But I personally am not prepared to make arguments about spirit ontology using spirit-clothing. I tend to view this as quite similar to the proposed discussion of whether or when spirits receive spirit bodies.

  112. That’s interesting about McConkie. It fits with his nominalism and of course is characteristic of the physicalism of the 20th century. Hopefully there’s some formal quote from McConkie the rest of us can quote in discussions? As I said I just don’t recall anything explicit on this in his writings.

  113. I actually think it’s a good point Jacob. I clearly disagree with Jonathan and others over the idea that spirits are like slime mold (or a T-1000 if you prefer) able to take any form. However if one accepts that then the issue of clothing becomes identical with the body.

  114. J, if you can produce a post like the one by Matt I linked to in #91 which details a bunch of language from Joseph Smith in scriptures and sermons talking about spirit clothing then you can make your comparison of spirit clothing to spirit bodies. Until then, I consider the comparison to be outlandish at best.

    Your total lack of substantive response to this issue after the many times we have discussed it illustrates that you are not paying very close attention to the other point of view in the debate.

  115. Clark,

    However if one accepts that then the issue of clothing becomes identical with the body.

    Yes, but if one accepts that then they are adding their own speculative theology into the mix in order to make sense of Joseph’s theology rather than pointing to a clear theology laid out by Joseph himself. Joseph never said anything about slime mold or T-1000 capabilities. In fact, as I pointed out in this comment, Joseph seems to have spoken fairly directly against such a doctrine. In any case, Jonathan has previously railed against such speculative additions as “making stuff up” (see threads already linked to in #91).

  116. Kristine says:

    Do you guys not understand or just not care that this egg-headed debate actually has conceivably (pun intended) real consequences for women (especially in a post-Proclamation on the Family church)? It’s really kind of creepy to watch you go on like this, as though establishing the answer were an interesting historico-theological exercise, without even a nod (except for JNS in 101–thanks, Jay–which you all summarily ignored) in the direction of the potentially deeply problematic ethical consequences of your conclusions.

    Just sayin.

  117. JNS (#101),

    Nicely said. Your comment fleshes out the point I tried to make way back in #36.

  118. Don’t worry Kristine (#116). Nobody is going to take any of our conclusions very seriously anyway.

  119. I have no strong opinion on the mutability of spirit form in the broad sense, except to say that humans have tended to have had visionary experiences seeing post-mortal spirits in the form they were on earth. I think we both agree that they don’t look that way before mortal life.

    But to simplify, I believe you are saying:

    1. Joseph Smith consistently taught that the Holy Spirit was in the form of a personage.

    2. Premortal spirits also appear in the form of humans.

    3. Therefore our spirits were also in the form of a personage before mortal life.

    I’m with you so far (though I’m not completely sold on #3). I however see no reason to believe the subsequent inference:

    4. spirits received their somewhat mutable personal form through a procreative act.

  120. Kristine says:

    Geoff, of course not–whatever the mechanism is just is, and you’re just playing around with the chemistry set until you die and find out–I get it. But the fact that a bunch of good, kind (at least the ones I know) Mormon men can have the discussion without anybody even mentioning the problem really doesn’t bode well for the possibility of an egalitarian relationship between Mormon men and women, at least not in this life.

  121. Kristine, while I agree that this does have huge implications for gender (in)equality, the same answer that reduces women to eternal spirit baby making machines, also makes us men organized spirit slime animated by outside forces (God) and clothed in a tabernacle of flesh. I don’t think it bodes well for either side of that equation. It just all seems so antithetical to everything else I understand about the plan of salvation.

    1. Humankind is co-eternal with God
    2. We have agency
    3. We are striving (progressing) to become like God, in some way (whether Gods ourselves, or Godlike)

    This whole spirit-birth concept, while the arguments are fascinating, just seems absurd in light of these ideas.

  122. Kristine, lots of things we don’t have answers to have practical implications. Yet due to the paucity of information there’s nothing beyond the “egghead debate” unless one wishes to impose more political force on the debate. But that ends up being even more problematic. Now one can, as sometimes feminists or foucaldians do, suggest it’s all lines of power and disparage the debate as intrinsically being something else. I’m not sure that ends up being helpful. That said I do think Jacob’s point in (115) is apt and that how we read these things tends to be highly influenced by our overall models and our models perhaps by our ethical and political preferences.

    BTW – could you lay out more what you see as the ethical implications of the debate? I confess I don’t see any that are that big – unless one takes sex as implying spirit pregnancy. But from what I can see not even the people promoting sex are suggesting pregnancy. (Obviously a few in the 19th century did, but I don’t think even the spiritual sex proponents are taking that too seriously)

    I’d think that the conclusion that there is far less certain here than appears would be of benefit for the ethical question. Maybe a post on the ethical issue would be useful?

  123. Kristine says:

    Clark, I agree that there’s not enough information to have a particularly useful debate, and also that (perhaps) those who suggest spirits are sexually conceived aren’t implying pregnancy. (Really??) But it turns out that most of this thinking is done by analogizing earth life to a possible afterlife, which means that the conceptual model (sheesh–that pun is impossible to avoid) according to which the debate proceeds is, either implicitly or explicitly, tied to the model one has of an idealized earth life. Since the process and the results of producing children in bodies have been used to justify various forms of sexism on earth, postulating that spirits are produced in ways similar to the way children are produced on earth probably (though not explicitly or necessarily) maps some of this discrimination onto the imagined relations between the Father and the Queen(s) of Heaven.

    Honestly, I’m not particularly interested in the outcome of the debate, since the conclusions (as Geoff noted) don’t matter a mite anyway. I merely want to note that being able to engage the questions in the abstract and bracket the ethical implications of one’s theological speculations marks one’s subject position as privileged. I think it’s reasonable to speculate that the privilege derives from belonging to the gender for whom earthly sex has fewer consequences, and for whom the activities of their divine counterpart are not utterly mysterious or liable to be used to derive ridiculous notions about their gender’s proper earthly roles and demeanor.

    I hope saying that doesn’t make me a Foucauldian.

  124. Kristine (#116). Please see #108, I think you may have summarily ignored it.

  125. J (#119), I’m glad you summarized my argument because it gives me the opportunity to point out that you have entirely misunderstood what I’m saying. I have no idea where I have ever suggested logic similar to your 1,2,3 leads to 4. What I have been arguing for a long long time is that Joseph’s theology includes an inherent tension which he did nothing to resolve. From this I have argued that people beating others over the head with the club of “but Joseph disagrees with you and he was totally clear about spirits and the tripartite model is just someone trying to reconcile Joseph with Brigham” are misguided and incorrect in using such a club. I am arguing that there is not enough evidence to come to any strong conclusion based on what we have from Joseph. What I consistently object to is the degree of certainty you claim with regards to Joseph’s thoughts on the matter. As I concluded in the post I already linked to before:

    The argument about eternal spirits vs. eternal intelligences who acquire a spirit body is often framed as a battle of Joseph Smith’s ideas vs. later LDS theologians. I believe this framing is both inadequate and ultimately unhelpful, as it avoids the real questions that lie at the heart of this issue.

    This is why I can wholeheartedly agree with JNS #101 as I did, which I could not do if I were making the argument you outlined in #119.

  126. Kristine says:

    ok–sorry :) JNS and Jacob get a “Get out of Feminist Jail Free” card. (Or a “Get out of the Feminist Panopticon Free” card, if we’re going to do Foucault).

  127. Kristine’s right. The suggestion that the consequences of this conversation (both social consequences in the real world, and theological consequences in the speculative world built here) are unimportant is frankly unethical, even though the conversation is just for fun. When we adopt attitudes about groups of people, even in hypothetical situations or in settings we consider unimportant, we build neural pathways which essentially wire those attitudes into our cognition. We reinforce the attitudes in our own minds, and in such a way that we start to incorporate those attitudes in our everyday thinking and behavior. Write women off in this just-for-fun conversation today, and you’ll catch yourself writing us off in some conversation or decision of real-world importance tomorrow. Or more likely, Kristine or I will catch you doing it.

    A side note: if your speculations devalue women, they are automatically inconsistent with the core ideas of our faith. We women are half of God’s family, after all; this is a basic, agreed-upon idea among Mormons. Any theology which may in fact approach an understanding of God’s reality must therefore consider us as important actors who have an eternal destiny and treat us with respect, as it does men. That’s basic logic.

  128. I tend to agree with JNS as well (he is mighty and strong). However, I fail to see the tension you do. Please clarify for me.

    It seems to me that you have agreed that Joseph taught that personal spirits are not created or made. What about that is unclear? I don’t really see any tension with the idea of a certain premortal spirit form (though I do believe that making any sort of analogical projections from our mortal body is just making stuff up). Am I missing something?

    Also do you disagree that Brigham taught that there was no individual existence before spirit birth and that the spirit can also be annihilated?

    I would love to see any evidence of the tripartite model in popular circulation today before Roberts introduced the idea.

  129. J, I have spent many words describing the tensions on threads already linked to and your answer is always (then and now) to say that you just don’t see what I’m talking about, so I won’t waste time going through the same exercise again here.

    Also do you disagree that Brigham taught that there was no individual existence before spirit birth and that the spirit can also be annihilated?

    No, and I’ve already said your argument effectively pits Brigham against Joseph on this point (see #91, I began with this concession). Given that I’ve never seen anyone in the bloggernacle champion Brigham’s model of spirits during the spirit birth debates (if Eric has done this I have totally missed it), this point seems interesting but unrelated to the current discussion.

    I would love to see any evidence of the tripartite model in popular circulation today before Roberts introduced the idea.

    I never suggested the tripartite model was introduced before Roberts. What I have argued is that the tripartite model is just as easily seen as a reconciliation of Joseph’s thought with itself as it is of Joseph with Brigham.

  130. In cas it is unclear, by “your argument effectively pits Brigham against Joseph” I meant “your argument successfully shows Brigham’s view to be in conflict with Joseph’s view”

  131. SV, I can’t speak for everyone, but I think it would be great to have a thoughtful commenter outline the ramifications of various ideas as they relate to women, devaluating or not. At first I read your comment as a blanket condemnation of the participants on this thread, and I was annoyed. However, I don’t think that is the case (feel free to disabuse me) and instead I read your comment as an important call to think about the real consequences hypothetical situations have on all potential participants. I think I fail to engage a lot of that in conversations like this as my perspectives on what “exaltation” is a bit different and perhaps more egalitarian than popular folks notions. And for that, maybe I am guilty.

  132. Kristine says:

    J., that is a good step towards conversation. But having “a thoughtful commenter outline the ramifications of various ideas as they relate to women” should not be seen as a separate task from that undertaken by the original post. Part of the problem is that it is conceptualized as tangential.

  133. J., I appreciate your invitation. I’ll try to do just what you suggest — given the limitations on my time (babies are demanding food right now), I’ll need to post my comments tomorrow afternoon. It shall be done.

  134. Kristine, I tend to think my original post did, but perhaps I was too subtle.

  135. Kristine, I hope I don’t come off as argumentative because that’s honestly not what I want. It’s just that it seemed like in (123) when you say, “most of this thinking is done by analogizing earth life to a possible afterlife” I just don’t see anyone here doing that. No one.

    Now if you talk about Orson Pratt, Joseph Smith or Brigham Young I’m more than willing to acknowledge they are projecting a lot. But then I think everyone here agrees with that. (If there is someone who thinks they aren’t chime in – but I don’t think there is)

    You said, “It’s really kind of creepy to watch you go on like this, as though establishing the answer were an interesting historico-theological exercise, without even a nod…in the direction of the potentially deeply problematic ethical consequences of your conclusions.” But I can’t see any deeply problematic ethical consequences for the conclusions of anyone here in the discussion. If you feel this could you point out someone in this discussion who has conclusions with these ethical problems? Once again if you talk about Pratt or someone like that I’d probably agree. Yet I just don’t see anyone embracing that position.

    This is why I don’t want to come off as argumentative because you seem truly concerned about how we are discussing this issue. To such an extent that you apparently feel we are acting unethical. Yet looking at the comments (and I reread them all again) I can’t quite figure out what it is you see troubling. Unless you think the mere talking about the topic demands this feminist nod even if no one asserts anything remotely problematic to the feminst. But I confess that doesn’t make much sense to me and I have a hard time believing that’s what you are asserting.

  136. Jonathan (#128), it seems to me the only unique feature of Robert’s tripartite model over Pratt’s tripartite model is that Robert’s intelligences are immaterial with inert matter as “bodies” whereas Pratt’s intelligences are material with other intelligences as “bodies.” Put an other way what is original in Roberts isn’t the separation of intelligence and spirit but that he returns to the idea that intelligences are immaterial.

    Given that I think Jacob’s point (see 129) is apt. The tripartite model is just as easily seen as reconciling strains in Joseph’s writings (Say Moses 3 with the KFD) as it is anything to do with Brigham Young. I’d go so far as to say it is Roberts attempting to reconcile his philosophical reading, profuse with Cartesianism, with scriptures and Joseph’s sermons.

  137. Clark I think Roberts was simply trying to reconcile procreative spirit birth with eternal personal existence. The reason I don’t think Pratt is fairly falls under the tripartite appellation is that he does teach that the individual person is eternal.

  138. Kristine says:

    “I reread them all again”

    You’re a better person than I if you made it through all the comments again!

    I agree that no one here has said anything particularly troublesome. That’s largely because the discussion has been narrowly focused and a bit technical. But for those of us who grew up with jokes about populating worlds by being eternally pregnant, or who find it difficult to laugh at squirrel jokes about the lame arguments we’re given for not being allowed to talk about Heavenly Mother (I confess that’s not me–I guffawed), the narrowing of the discussion to the aspects that are interesting to the (almost) exclusively male discussants is itself a perpetuation of the kind of discourse that produces endless talks by men on the appropriate role of women.

    The stakes for women are high in this discussion–if we theorize that sex is unnecessary for the creation of spirits, then it’s easy to imagine a heaven devoid of women (like the one in the temple liturgy–lest anyone think this is so much hypothetical hyperbole). If, on the other hand, we posit that spirits are sexually created, it’s far too easy to start thinking about heavenly gender relations as similar to the problematic ones created on earth by human sexuality. No one here has articulated either of those visions, but that is, again, because you’re talking trees rather than forest. Some of us get nervous going anywhere near the woods, and you’re lucky that you don’t have anything to fear.

    If acknowledging the good fortune of belonging to the gender that never has to wonder about being either eternally marginalized or eternally pregnant, regardless of who turns out to be right at the end of your witty conversation, constitutes a “feminist nod,” then, yeah, I think you should make it.

  139. Jonathan (137), yet I have a hard time seeing one of Pratt’s atoms as really a person. But that takes us down a tangent about how to take the emergence of a person in Pratt’s writings. (I’ve not read much of Pratt beyond the Journal of Discourses and what’s collected in The Essential Orson Pratt – so there may be something that clears these things up in other sources) Anyway, Blake and I debated that once. Personally I don’t think Pratt is terribly consistent on the issue – but then I have to be careful not to read Pratt too much through the lens of Leibniz or the Stoics even though he closely resembles both.

    Kristine (138), OK. I kind of had the vibe that you were more reacting to the topic in general rather than this particular discussion. I’d almost certainly agree with you that this topic can be dealt with insensitively. I guess I was confused as your comments seemed to indicate a problem with how we were conducting it and I was trying to figure out exactly where the problem was.

    I do think that we ought separate out sex acts and what the Church calls gender. (To me gender is the socialized aspect of sex roles – but the Church uses it as something closer to sex) I think this is what J. Nelson-Seawright and I were going back and forth on around comment 60. To me sex as biology is so tied up in death and evolution that it’s hard to see how it even works on analogy. J. Nelson-Seawright suggested that what was at play wasn’t sex as biology but just the idea that two “physically” different kinds of entities were necessary to reproduction that closely corresponds to sexual difference here in mortality. (It can’t correspond exactly since biology is messy and gives us things like hermaphrodites and the like – something I don’t think the Church has really grappled well with yet) I’m more fine with that, but have a hard time calling that sex as such.

    Now I do think Mormon naturalism tends to suggest there is a spiritual biology. I’m skeptical this is necessary for various reasons. (If only that given God’s knowledge he’d have sufficiently advanced technology to avoid a lot of the messy biology)

    Perhaps this touches upon your point about people projecting their ideals onto heaven. People like sexual acts with people of the opposite sex and hope that’s in heaven. Most people are clueless about biology and don’t understand where those drives come from nor how they function relative to the biology.

    The real question ultimately is less our talk here about a fairly technical aspect of reproduction than the debate over how much a resurrected body functions like ours. We know it resembles ours – but there’s also lots of indication it functions differently. (i.e. the assertion that it doesn’t have blood)

  140. FWIW there is a fascinating chapter in Daymon’s dissertation called “Mind and Body in Mormon Theology” which discusses differences between the Pratts and Young on intelligences.

  141. My bad on the incoherance. It should have been:

    The reason I don’t think Pratt fairly falls under the tripartite appellation is that he does not teach that the individual person is eternal

  142. Clark: Regarding anti-realist science I think that actually the dominant position rather than a rarity.

    I don’t think you can clearly characterize instrumentalism, let alone empiricism as anti-realist. The entire scientific enterprise depends on the assumption that the fundamental laws (or regularities) of nature are real. Otherwise it is just a bunch of hot air, akin to tarot readings and palmistry.

  143. Kristine: Some of us get nervous going anywhere near the woods

    I dunno. Seems to me that your complaints have been along the lines of the “stop talking about that stuff” complaints we consistently get over at NCT when we discuss theology. Why can’t we talk about it? The metaphysical realities of the universe certainly won’t be changed by our discussions of the subject.

    Sure it is logically possible that women are “eternally marginalized”. It is equally logically possible that men are the ones who are really eternally marginalized. Talking about whether there is such a thing as viviparous spirit birth or not won’t change those possibilities one wit (as you noted earlier).

    Having said that… I do think an interesting discussion would be addressing Eric’s contention that believing in viviparous spirit birth (VSB) has so many practical benefits that it is wise to let that belief flourish. I think an opposite argument could be made that allowing such a belief to flourish does more harm than good on the ground level. But of course discussion of which speculations ought to be encouraged are different than discussions like this one which focus on the reasons one theory is more defensible than another. In the absence of revelation on the subject that discussion of “ought” about teachings probably is more important to us here and now than inquiries into the mysterious metaphysical realities behind the subject.

  144. The reason I don’t think Pratt fairly falls under the tripartite appellation is that he does not teach that the individual person is eternal</em.

    In a way he does. The spirit "atoms" in Pratt's model are full blown Cartesian minds, capable of full blown human consciousness, agency, and direction of the other atoms in the body. So a single spirit atom, standing alone, is for all practical purposes the equivalent of one of Roberts' "intelligences".

  145. Like I said Mark, I don’t really want to get into a philosophy of science debate. But the dispute is over what science addresses and not what is logically necessary for science to address. A subtle yet important difference which is key for understanding instrumentalism and empiricism vs. scientific realism. The instrumentalists and empiricists just think the “reality,” whatever that might be, is impossible for science to address. More akin to a Kantian think in itself. All the things science can address are contaminated by human minds and thus constitute an anti-realist position. Now folks can disagree with this view (as I do) but it truly is the majority view.

  146. Sorry, that should say, “logically necessary for science to be able to address what it does address.” Effectively you are making a particular kind of transcendental argument that many simply don’t buy.

    I’d add that I think it misleading to call Pratt’s atoms Cartesian minds. It’s closer to Spinoza’s property dualism. I alluded to this in one of my comments above. Sometimes Pratt does speak as if each atom was a full blown mind and ends up with a logic similar to Leibniz and the idea of a dominate monad. But at other times it seems like they are protominds – parts out of which emerge a mind. But as I said I don’t think he’s terribly consistent on this point – and often crucially ambiguous in key places.

    Anyway, that’s why Jonathan says, I suspect, that Pratt doesn’t have an eternal person. But it’s a complex issue and it’s been years since I last looked at it. As I recall one can find texts to support both views.

  147. J.Stapley: Also do you disagree that Brigham taught that there was no individual existence before spirit birth and that the spirit can also be annihilated?

    I am not the one who was asked, but Brigham Young most definitely did not teach that a spirit could be “annihilated”. Broken up into pieces, decomposed into its original element, sure. He called it the “second death”. I don’t see his view as being all that different from Orson Pratt’s, minus the latter’s assertion about the quasi-personal consciousness of spirit “atoms”.

    Dropping the whole VSB stuff, my inclination is probably closer to Young’s than to Pratt’s. And attractive as the idea of eternal Cartesian minds is (as clearly taught by Joseph Smith in the KFD), I think Brigham Young’s position on spirit element makes a lot more sense, primarily because it is hard to see why an eternal mind would ever require a body, nor a brain in particular.

  148. Mark,

    How is broken up into spirit dust different than being annihilated? If the spirit/mind no longer cease to be that is annihilation and that is what Brigham taught.

  149. How is broken up into spirit dust different than being annihilated?

    Annihilation means to reduce to nothingness. The same Latin root (nihil, meaning “nothing”) as in creatio ex nihilo. Since we do not believe that individuals are created out of nothing, it seems important to recognize that they cannot be reduced to nothing either.

    And that precisely what Christian “annihilationists” believe, that the souls of the wicked will be reduced to nothing rather than suffer eternal torment. There is of course an important difference between that and what Brigham Young believed.

  150. Can someone give a brief aside on the use of Cartesian here for those of us who only know that term in connection with geometry?

  151. In my mind the question is whether God created our spirits from some sort of a mass, by some kind of a separation process, or whether we were already separate intelligences, with gender, and He adopted us. I tend to believe the latter, because otherwise, why wouldn’t He make more men, so that there is a husband for every wife?

  152. Kristine says:

    Ben–you can probably find what you need with a quick search of “Cartesian dualism” and “Cartesian materialism.”

  153. Geoff J., you say:

    Sure it is logically possible that women are “eternally marginalized”. It is equally logically possible that men are the ones who are really eternally marginalized. Talking about whether there is such a thing as viviparous spirit birth or not won’t change those possibilities one wit (as you noted earlier).

    Two points. Certainly eternal marginalization of either sex is logically possible. But so is basically almost anything about heaven. It’s logically possible that heaven is a place where people watch South Park 24/7 while eating garbage-flavored ice cream. The sensible question isn’t what’s logically possible; that’s just simply way too broad. Rather, the reasonable question is for which perspectives are there important Mormon symbolic resources that can support their construction. Kristine has shown pretty conclusively that such resources exist for imagining a heaven with no women. Are there any equally powerful Mormon symbols of a heaven with no men?

    In the second place, these ideas matter not because they change the eternities, but rather because they change social relations here and now.

  154. Steve G. says:

    Lana (151)

    I tend to feel the same way. My opinion is that Father is our father because we gave him allegiance, not because he created our spiritual selves. There is a scriptural parallel here when Christ is called the Father because we give our allegiance to him. If that is the case than there is no need to blame God for creating rebellious spirits. If 1/3 of his spirit creations were rejects, that simply isn’t very compassionate, nor is he very good at accomplishing his stated mission right out of the gate. However if spirits are choosing to follow him in order to be like him, its a whole different story.

  155. Mark (#149)

    As I understand Brigham’s model the at dissolution the mind is indeed annihilated. It simply no longer exists even though the spirit dust parts persist.

  156. JNS: these ideas matter not because they change the eternities, but rather because they change social relations here and now.

    I’m glad you agree with my point then.

  157. Ben: Can someone give a brief aside on the use of Cartesian here for those of us who only know that term in connection with geometry?

    Descartes advocated a form of dualism where there was a material body and a unitary, immaterial mind. So a Cartesian mind is more or less a mind that is indivisible and exists independent of a body of any kind.

    Geoff J: As I understand Brigham’s model the at dissolution the mind is indeed annihilated. It simply no longer exists even though the spirit dust parts persist.

    Annihilated means reduced to nothingness. If any of the parts remain, strictly speaking something has not been annihilated, even though the composite entity (the mind in this case) no longer exists.

  158. Or rather “can exist independent of a body of any kind”, i.e. has an existence that is not contingent on the existence of the body.

    So if you exist as an individual prior to the reception or advent of any kind of extended body, as B.H. Roberts believed, you are in that state nothing other than a Cartesian mind, e.g, in order:

    1. Cartesian mind
    2. Cartesian mind + spirit body
    3. Cartesian mind + spirit body + physical body

  159. Mark,

    No part of the mind persists in Brigham’s model. As far as I can tell he assumed minds emerge from the parts.

    Are you assuming something else?

  160. Geoff #156, indeed — it’s a point I’ve been pushing at least since #101. A straightforward way to incorporate it into this discussion would be to start asking what the various thinkers being discussed were trying to accomplish in social terms with their proposals.

  161. I think mind is a tricky issue with Brigham due to what I perceive as an uncritical kind of idealism. But there mere fact he wasn’t a philosopher and if anything looked with disdain on philosophy makes it hard to work out what his view was at all. That said there is this snippet that might be of interest.

    I wish you to consider the nature of the human mind that is connected with the divine spirit, and while that spirit is in the tabernacle, they act so conjointly in all their operations that the division cannot be made, even by the philosopher, although he can discover the organization–when the spirit enters into the tabernacle they are not to be separated. We can discover the weaknesses of this organization; for instance, the child, as soon as it can use its hands, wants to handle that which does not belong to it, such as the looking glass, or the razor. This spirit, or mind, or disposition is manifested in every character on the earth. As soon as the child can stand on its feet, and can travel, it tries to obtain something he should not have. Its disposition is to grasp after that which is not good for it.

    Brigham appears to not consider mind in a substance sense but as more of a kind of disposition. Or rather mind is the activity of thinking directed towards some object. Also notice how this sense of spirit is far more Hegelian than it is Stoic-like ala Pratt.

  162. Whoops – forgot the cite. 29 December 1850 Bowery, SLC MS 13:257-259; DNW 1:186-187

    And Hegelian probably isn’t the right term for Brigham since Hegel was focused on humanity in general or the German people. While Brigham has that focus, his comments are on the individual rather than some kind of world-soul coming to self knowledge.

    Also

    A good deal was said this morning in relation to our organization and possessing a will of our own. Our Father in Heaven has placed within each of our tabernacles the attributes that He, Himself, possesses. He has given to everyone of us–His children–the germ and foundation of all knowledge and wisdom; and we are fashioned, made and framed for the express purpose of exercising our will that we may become independent and that we may reign, rule and predominate over all things. Brother Heber says that we have not got a will. He meant that we should not let our wills lead us to destruction. We have all a mind, disposition and will, are capable of becoming gods even the sons of God to rule and reign forever and ever. With these wills of ours we will go to the Master–Him whom we have enlisted to obey as our Teacher, Head and Guide, and from Him we will receive our lessons day by day, and we will fashion our wills and passions accordingly. You and I and every individual will do this sooner or later. (4 August 1867 Utah Historical Quarterly 29:66-76)

    So I think mind and will are pretty closely synonymous for Brigham. I’m not sure it is emergent in the sense you mean Geoff. It’s a tad more complex.

  163. Geoff, You said “How is broken up into spirit dust different than being annihilated? If the spirit/mind no longer cease to be that is annihilation and that is what Brigham taught.”

    The first answer is that (in Brigham Young’s view) the _spirit_ is not annihilated, it is reduced to raw intelligence. The spirit has parts and those parts don’t disappear.

    The second question, whether the “mind” is annihilated in his view is more subtle. If one is speaking of a contingent form “annihilation” is an error in language. It is a logical error to speak of annihilating a computer program for example. Abstractions, forms, designs, ideas, same deal.

    Or if you equate the mind and the composite spirit, then the former cannot be annihilated either any more than the latter. The elements are eternal, and unless the elements go away there has been no annihilation.

    The only way the idea of annihilating the mind makes any sense is when one is speaking of a unitary Cartesian mind. And that is the background of Christian annihilationism, more or less.

  164. Wow, take a vacation, and the thread goes Crazy.

    I only have one question:

    J. In 137 you said: “I think Roberts was simply trying to reconcile procreative spirit birth with eternal personal existence.”

    Yet, when we were talking in 25, you said “maybe I have been misunderstanding people for years, but I generally don’t think that the Tripartite folks believe that spirits are spirits until they are born in someway. Am I mistaken?”

    In that Roberts was the first to acknowledge our ability to use words interchangeably, is it safe to say we agree that tripartite folks do believe spirits are spirits before they are born in someway? Just trying to make sure I am clear on that point.

  165. I’m not sure I understand Matt. It is my current understanding that general belief in the tripartite model consists of the idea that a non-spirit being becomes a spirit through a procreative act of God. Roberts was trying to say that spirits and intelligences (or intelligencies in earlier works) are different, but that due to sloppy language the terms were sometimes used interchangeably by Joseph Smith. He had to say that, because it was the only way to make sense of his position.

    Sure Joseph Smith used spirit, intelligence, and soul interchangeably. I don’t believe that was because he was being sloppy, though.

  166. Mark: The first answer is that (in Brigham Young’s view) the _spirit_ is not annihilated, it is reduced to raw intelligence.

    That sounds like the Orson Pratt view to me but is not how I understand Brigham’s view. As I understand Brigham’s view, inert (and non-intelligent) spirit atoms are organized into spirit bodies via spirit birth and minds are emergent from that organization.

    Stapley — is that your understanding of BY as well?

    (Regarding the nerdy technical definition of “annihilated” point you are making — if that sort of nitpicking floats yer boat then have at it. )

  167. Geoff, to my knowledge, Brigham Young never used the term “intelligence” as a synonym for spirit or native “element.” He consistently taught that God organized spirit element to create a person’s spirit (though he did on occasion refer to that created spirit as an intelligence). If that person merited perdition, he said that the person would be “destroyed” and his or her element would be recycled to create new (hopefully better) persons.

  168. Sure Joseph Smith used spirit, intelligence, and soul interchangeably

    There is ample textual evidence (in the scriptures!) that Joseph Smith used the term “intelligence” in at least two different senses and “spirit” in at least three. He was not as sloppy as some make him out to be.

    Geoff, here are a couple of Brigham Young quotes:

    [speaking of Satan] Because everything else is opposed to that kingdom, and the heir of that kingdom will keep up the warfare with that opposing power until death is destroyed, and him that hath the power of it; not annihilated, but sent back to native element. (JD 4:28)

    So it will be with every wicked man and woman, and every wicked nation, kingdom, and government upon earth, sooner or later; they will be thrown back to the native element from which they originated, to be worked over again, and be prepared to enjoy some sort of a kingdom (JD 2:124)

    Now, if Brigham Young’s view was that spirit matter was inanimate, the whole idea of being “thrown back” or “worked over” doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. He doesn’t speak of ordinary matter this way.

  169. Mark, I disagree. For example, Young states:

    Mankind are organized of element designed to endure to all eternity; it never had a beginning and never can have an end. There never was a time when this matter, of which you and I are composed, was not in existence, and there never can be a time when it will pass out of existence; it cannot be annihilated.

    It is brought together, organized, and capacitated to receive knowledge and intelligence, to be enthroned in glory, to be made angels, Gods—beings who will hold control over the elements, and have power by their word to command the creation and redemption of worlds, or to extinguish suns by their breath, and disorganize worlds, hurling them back into their chaotic state. This is what you and I are created for.

    Yet, regarding, for example, the Devil:

    Jesus says, he will DESTROY death and him that hath the power of it. What can you make of this but decomposition, the returning of the organized particles to their native element, after suffering the wrath of God until the time appointed. That appears a mystery, but the principle has been in existence from all eternity, only it is something you have not known or thought of. When the elements in an organized form do not fill the end of their creation, they are thrown back again, like brother Kimball’s old pottery ware, to be ground up, and made over again. All I have to say about it is what Jesus says—I will destroy Death, and him that hath the power of it, which is the devil. And if he ever makes “a full end of the wicked,” what else can he do than entirely disorganize them, and reduce them to their native element? Here are some of the mysteries of the kingdom.

    The idea of inanimate matter being “thrown back” makes complete sense. The converse, not so much. One more for fun:

    …after the termination of the thousand years’ rest, [Christ] he will summon the armies of heaven for the conflict, he will come forth in flaming fire, he will descend to execute the mandates of an incensed God, and, amid the thunderings of the wrath of Omnipotence, roll up the heavens as a scroll, and destroy death, and him that has the power of it. The rebellious will be thrown back into their native element, there to remain myriads of years before their dust will again be revived, before they will be re-organized.

  170. …this one is nice:

    There can be no such thing as power to annihilate element. There is one eternity of element, which can be organized or disorganized, composed or decomposed; it may be put into this shape or into that, according to the will of the intelligence that commands it, but there is no such thing as putting it entirely out of existence.

  171. Brigham threw the no beginning, no end axiom in an entirely different direction from Joseph. For him, it did not apply to individuals:

    I ask the learned when was the beginning of eternity? Can they think of it? No! And I should very much doubt some of the sayings of one of the best philosophers and writers of the age, that we call brother, with regard to the character of the Lord God whom we serve. I very much doubt whether it has ever entered into his heart to comprehend eternity. These are principles and ideas I scarcely ever meddle with. The practical part of our religion is that which more particularly interests me. Still my mind reflects upon life, death, eternity, knowledge, wisdom, the expansion of the soul, and the knowledge of the Gods that are, that have been, and that are to be. What shall we say? We are lost in the depth of our own thoughts. Suppose we say there was once a beginning to all things, then we must conclude there will undoubtedly be an end. Can eternity be circumscribed? If it can, there is an end of all wisdom, knowledge, power, and glory–all will sink into eternal annihilation.

  172. J.- ultimately I would agree that Joseph was not being sloppy, I just think BH Roberts semantics of intelligences and spirits are not central to the tripartite model. In the Manual he is defending, he himself said:

    There is in man an eternal, uncreated, self existing entity, call it “intelligence,” “mind,” “spirit,” “soul”–what you will, so long as you recognize it, and regard its nature as eternal.

    and again

    By the immortality of the spirit of man, I mean not only a never-ending existence for the “soul” of man in the future, through the resurrection, but a proper immortality that means the eternal existence of the “ego”–interchangeably called “mind,” “spirit,” “soul,” “intelligence”–I mean existence before birth as well as existence after death; for I believe, with some of our modern writers, that the theory that immortality refers to existence after death only is evidently but half a truth.

  173. Agreed, WVS.

    Matt, I think Roberts in those sections is clearly not reflecting his own technical position. Do you disagree that he taught that upon a procreative spirit birth, non-spirit intelligences become spirits?

  174. J. Stapley, I am not sure what you are arguing against. My position is that the most probable interpretation of Brigham Young’s writings is that he believed that spirit matter had dual properties. However, on reconsideration (and without further evidence) I think the proposition that he believed that spirit matter was entirely “dumb” and mechanistic is plausible too. I don’t think the case has been proved either way.

    Also, you say to Matt Do you disagree that [Roberts] taught that upon a procreative spirit birth, non-spirit intelligences become spirits?

    I don’t think that is a legitimate question, because it lacks appropriate definition of what a “spirit” is. If you define spirit as “a personal intelligence with an extended body”, then sure. If you define spirit as “a personal intelligence”, then not. I am sure Roberts was more than capable of switching senses as the conversation demanded.

    In the vast majority of the scriptures, I don’t think you can clearly distinguish these two senses, and if personal intelligences are self-existent and eternal, clearly the latter sense is more fundamental. The other definition is just the latter with a little bit of icing on top.

  175. J- Of course not, I’d just say that to me, the intelligence/spirit divide is merely a matter of semantics in order to emphasize the before/after difference.

    I’d say the essential tripartite model is

    1. Personal Intelligence as an unincorporated being
    2. Personal Intelligence as a Child of God (Which to Eric, I believe means some form of infusion from the divine being to the personal intelligence, and entails the generation of the spirit body)
    3. Personal Intelligence as a physical being.

    I don’t think we must take BH Roberts Semantics to accept such a model, though I can understand why it would be useful to do so (in Order to distinguish 1 from 2 above).

    I still think Eric’s real challenge is the lack of any sort of scriptural evidence that event #2 required infusion or generation.

  176. Matt, I would argue that your parenthetical is actually required for the tripartite model. If the difference between 1 and 2 is only a matter of relationship, then really, it is a bipartite existence. For example, though ancient and modern scriptures describe becoming of a child of God in Mortality, we generally don’t split the before and after existence into a separate material ontology.

  177. I usually try to read all the comments before adding one of my own, but I only got to #60 before skipping ahead and commenting. If someone has said this already, I apologize, but, for me, there is a very simple explanation that sheds some light on the issue:

    Until fairly recently, sexual activity was the only way understood by humanity to create human life – or what some would have called “advanced life”. Therefore, it is understandable that the only alternative for people in the past to ex nihilo creation of spirits was gestational birth.

    We now live in a time when that no longer is the only alternative. If we now can create life outside the natural, biological womb – if we now can create human life without “sexual activity” or “traditional gestation” – I see no need to place those restrictions on God.

    I also think the idea of an eternally pregnant Mother in Heaven is one of the worst extrapolations of human ideas ever postulated – and, if I didn’t believe so on my own, my wife would make sure I developed that belief.

  178. #`177: I don’t know how you can make a baby without gestation?

  179. Bob, that’s why I used the terms “sexual activity” and “traditional gestation”. It was a rewording of the first “if” statement. If that phrasing doesn’t make sense to you, ignore it and pretend it isn’t there.

  180. #179: I am only saying all births take some kind of in the womb gestation. Sorry I misread your phrasing.

  181. J.- that’s fair enough. I think Eric would agree with you.

    In any case, C Jones is the only one I’ve seen make any sort of
    argument for it that
    has given me pause

    Otherwise, I am not sure there is much to distinguish the tripartite from a bipartite approach. In some ways, it reminds me of Blake’s use of Zoe in his atonement theory. The model seems complete without it, and so I am left with a side dish of something I don’t understand the practical implications of, so am apt to set on the shelf or ignore most of the time.

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