Monday Midday Theological Poll: Flat-out Speculative Edition

When does an “intelligence” become self-aware?
[poll id=”120″]

Please post your reasons, aided by as many obscure GA quotes as possible, below.


  1. I don’t think we are aware of self until there is an “Other” to contrast the self against. I see spiritual birth as an encounter with the Other (God) and thus self-awareness begins at that point. Prior to that point, there was no Other that we knew of, and thus no Other to sin against or to respond faithfully to, and thus no agency either.

  2. Thomas Parkin says:

    John C turns the Speculation Amplifier up to 11.
    woo hoo!


    PS maybe 13 or 14
    PPS I voted ‘after.’

  3. Yikes!

  4. I just had this conversation with a retired BYU prof whose done some research and writing around this. And Brent Top at BYU looks at both sides of early discussion (between Brigham Young, P.P.Pratt, B.H. Roberts, etc) around “individual” and “collective” intelligence in his book ‘The Life Before’.

    This particular prof felt that in order for agency to be an eternal principle there had to be agency in order to progress to the point where intelligences could choose to become sons and daughters of God and be organized according to the principle of gender. Elder McConkie has expressed his belief–though qualifying it as opinion and not as doctrine–that there was no agency prior to spirit birth.

    I fall in the camp of believing there was intelligence, agency, and self-awareness prior to spirit birth. Though I can’t say I feel strongly about it either way.

  5. I’ll vote ‘before’, but I’ll admit that this is blatant speculation.

    Okay, so let’s get straight on what I’m assuming the question is–then we’ll move from there.

    We assume the time line is this:

    Intelligence–>Spiritual Birth–>Spirit–>Physical Birth–>Mortality (current human state)–>Death–>Paradise/Spirit Prison (Spirit)–>Ressurection–>Immortal Soul (Body + Spirt never to be separated)–>Eternal Reward/punishment

    Okay. IF that timeline is correct (and honestly, I’ve got no reason to believe its not, but whatever–we’ve probably busted a number of speculation detectors at this point), then the concept of self-awareness may actually depend on a few things.

    First off, we need to define what makes an Intelligence. We know so very little about this…and that’s why it’s pure speculation. I think it’s an organized set of light–photons (or other subatomic particles) that have come together in a particular way as that they are self-aware and capable of reason. I think that’s what makes them an ‘Intelligence’ rather than simply more light. Once this has happened it is ready for Spiritual Birth–which further organizes it and makes it further capable of sustained existence beyond the probably fragile state in which it came to be. Or maybe it’s initial state isn’t fragile. That seems more correct. The further organization also seems to fit.

    The spirit also refines it and gives it further capabilities that a raw or unborn intelligence would not have. What those abilities are, I can’t begin to guess at.

    But there you have it…my opinion on the matter. I’ll be around to defend it throughout the day.

  6. I voted before Spiritual Birth, since I was self-aware before I was baptised and given the gift of the Holy Ghost. (John 3)

    less flipantly, If we had the ability to choose to be adopted into God’s family, which I would think is our “spiritual pre-mortal birth”, then we would have to have been self-aware to choose.

    Unless spiritual birth is actually the moment of becoming self aware.

    Some (Geoff J) argue we have always been self-aware. I don’t know about that, but it is a possibility.

  7. Ty (#4), I’ll say that the question of agency before spirit birth is likely a matter of definition. Self-awareness indicates at least the capacity to make decisions, and therefore the capacity for agency, but not necessarily the availability of any great decisions. Remember, that just because something can make decisions and choose, it does not necessarily have agency. It may simply be exhibiting a great deal of rapid rule-based selections. This is exactly what computers do. The AI in a computer game does this very well in many instances, and looks like it is making choices, but is not really–it is really rule-based decisions, though sometimes the rules are incredibly complex, and may even involve a random number generator.

    It is a good thought, though, that it is at Spirit Birth when gender is assigned. I would guess this is probably true. By the way, this in no way nullifies the teaching that gender is eternal. Remember, saying that gender is eternal may simply be the same as saying ‘your spirit is a specific gender and this is unalterable–existing in the eternities and outside of time’.

    It may also be that intelligences are subject to time and spirits are the first point at which we become immortal beings (hey, the speculation meter is already at 15 or so, I might as well keep it there).

  8. So, if it’s self-aware prior to a-souling, what’s it thinking about?

  9. Does this include spiritual gestation? For some might argue that awareness could occur during the process of gestation for an unknown amount of time, before the actual spiritual birth, assuming of course that spiritual birth is not an instantaneous occurence. Note: This said a bit tongue in cheek.

    I do recall a general authority being quoted as claiming that one of the merits of obtaining the celestial kingdom is having your memory restored of not only your pre-mortal spiritual life, but that of being an intelligence.

    As for me, the window glass is yet too dark to make anything out.

  10. Spirit birth? What spirit birth?!

  11. What makes you so sure there is such thing as spirit birth (particularly the literal viviparous variety). See here.

  12. I’m with Ronan. What’s spirit birth?

  13. Oops. Not “what’s” spirit birth, but “what” spirit birth.

  14. Last Lemming says:

    Unless spiritual birth is actually the moment of becoming self aware.

    I lean toward this camp. But I am also open to the possibility that self-awareness as we understand it is strictly a physical phenomenon that we acquired only at our physical birth. Spiritual self-awareness in that case would be more a simulation of self-awareness than actual self-awareness.

    (Why then, you ask, could physical self-awareness not also be a simulation? Let’s call that a threadjack and not go down that road.)

  15. I voted after. But think that “before” somewhat too–else how could the earth groan, as recorded in the book of Moses? Does the earth have an organized spirit that will continue to progress? Or rather is a bunch of intelligence thrown together?

  16. Also think that self-awareness is particularly strange–am adult and still unsure of self-awareness.

  17. “God never had power to create the spirit of man.” (Joseph Smith, General Conference, April 7, 1844, aka “KFD.”)

  18. JS said:

    “… I take my ring from my finger and liken it unto the mind of man—the immortal part, because it had no beginning.”

    So “intelligence” equals “mind.” Can you have “mind” without self-awareness? What’s the point? It seems like cheating. It’s like people who believe in God but say that he is “energy” or “law.” For me, our intelligence is some unique thing about each of us that exists eternally and can’t be created or destroyed.

  19. It depends on how intelligent you are, and how narcissistic.

  20. What do you make of the fact that JS seemed to use the words “intelligence” and “spirit” somewhat interchangeably. We do not equate the two concepts today, seemingly, but it appears that he did. Are they separate, or the same thing?

  21. Ooo, I just love it when somebody invents an entirely new opportunity for us to take sides and beat each other up! (I voted ‘after.’ Don’t ask me why. I might have to hit you.)

  22. “Spirit Birth” is a dubious concept at best. If there is one thing theology has taught me it is: “garbage in, garbage out.”

  23. Um, let’s not start throwing around derogatory terms like “garbage.” For one thing, how is Christ described as the “Firstborn in the Spirit” and our “Elder Brother” if there is no spirit birth?

  24. StillConfused says:

    I voted “before” because “after” seems too late and “during” wasn’t an option.

  25. Steve Evans says:

    I don’t believe people become truly aware of who they are and what they can become until they have been spiritually born of God; therefore, the answer is clearly “after.”

  26. 29 Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be.
    30 All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence. (D&C 93)

  27. Steve Evans says:

    PS “spirit birth” as some abstract pre-existence notion is indeed total garbage and those who buy into it are anathema.

  28. Jacob, I’ll raise you an Abraham 3:18: “…also, if there be two spirits, and one shall be more intelligent than the other, yet these two spirits, notwithstanding one is more intelligent than the other, have no beginning; they existed before, they shall have no end, they shall exist after, for they are gnolaum, or eternal.”

  29. Peter LLC says:

    (I voted ‘after.’ Don’t ask me why. I might have to hit you.)

    I’d be careful if I were you–I voted ‘before’ and I’ve got God on my side!

  30. J.

    Another excellent “obscure” quote. (We are agreeing, right? I’m wondering because I’m not sure what you mean by “I’ll raise you”)

  31. Yeah, we are in agreement; just having some fun (grin).

  32. Can you have “mind” without self-awareness? What’s the point?

    I’m not aware while I’m asleep but I believe I’m still thinking and still have a mind.

  33. You’re not aware, Clark? Not aware of any “self?” I seriously doubt that.

  34. Steve, your artificial and cynical attempts to stir things up into some kind of firestorm are totally transparent. You have yet to provide any substantive answer to my arguement, however, so I’ll assume you have none.

  35. Kevin Barney says:

    Apart from the fact this poll assumes the tripartite model of intelligence + spirit birth + mortal incarnation, which as several have indicated is not universally acknowledged in the Church, I chose before, just because if it is really an “intelligence” one would think it would be self-aware.

    I love this poll, though; it seems so sci-fi, like we’re arguing over the Terminator movies.

  36. MCQ, to your argument: “Firstborn in the Spirit” comes from nowhere. Tell me where the term comes from and then you may garner some credence. Perhaps Jesus is our “Elder Brother” in a similar fashion in which his is our “Father.” On Elder Brotherism.

    As to intelligence and spirit. I typically think they are synonymous, at least in Joseph Smith’s mind. I tend to think most colloquial usage is heavily influenced by BH Roberts tripartite model of existence which is far from normative.

  37. Heisenberg uncertainty is the most fundamental form of agency–the physical law is subject to rules, but has some degree of freedom within them.

  38. I like BH Roberts explanation of this in ‘The Immortality of Man’. The key paragraph is here:

    There is in that complex thing we call man an intelligent entity, uncreated, self existent, indestructible. He–for that entity is a person, because, as we shall see, he is possessed of powers that go with personality only, hence that entity is “he,” not “it,”–he is eternal as God is; co-existent, in fact, with God; of the same kind of substance or essence with deity, though confessedly inferior in degree of intelligence and power to God. One must needs think that the name of this eternal entity–what God calls him–conveys to the mind some idea of his nature. He is called an “intelligence;” and this I believe is descriptive of him. That is, intelligence is the entity’s chief characteristic. If this be a true deduction, then the entity must be self-conscious. He must have the power to distinguish himself from other things–the “me” from the “not me.” He must have power of deliberation, by which he sets over one thing against another; with power also to form a judgment that this or that is a better thing or state than this or that. Also there goes with this idea of intelligence a power of choosing one thing instead of another, one state rather than another. These powers are inseparably connected with any idea that may be formed of an intelligence. One cannot conceive of intelligence existing without these qualities any more than he can conceive of an object existing in space without dimensions

  39. MCQ (#34), it’s not artificial at all — I genuinely believe you are talking out of your butt.

  40. I refuse to view this poll as anything other than awesome. Those who disagree clearly had to stew for a few extra millenia as intelligences.

    Spirit birth, while not universally accepted, does enjoy a lengthy and contentious history in LDS theology. It is a reference, generally, to getting a spirit body. Yes, we are that weird :)

    For that matter, the notion of progressing from a less-developed state to a more-developed one is pretty critical to those of us who believe it possible to become gods in some hereafter.

  41. Stapley:

    I believe the firstborn spirit comes from the Bible:


  42. Eric,

    That verse is about Adam, not about Jesus or any spirit birth.

  43. Eric, that is a nice pull. Though in context it claims that Jesus is the firstborn because he created all things. Not sure if that is what Mormons believe.

  44. nu-uh

  45. Oops, I thought you linked to a different verse Eric. My bad.

  46. Thanks J. The nu-uh was for Geoff.

  47. So, I gather from the gist of this conversation that the wise of the internet have pretty much thrown out the idea of a Father and Mother in heaven who gave birth to spirit children, ala “I Am A Child Of God”?

  48. Thomas Parkin says:

    After reading everything … I want to change my answer to ‘before.’ The idea that we were ever an undifferentiated, unindividuated goop of intelligence, non-intelligence, or any other kind of commonality rubs me the wrong way. Is it possible to function intelligently without becoming Cartesian-aly self-aware.


  49. Thomas Parkin says:


    I’m not the wise of the internet, but I have definitely not thrown that idea out.


  50. larryco_,

    Lots of wise interneters (but not all) have thrown out the idea of spirits being born in the way that physical babies are born. Far fewer have thrown out the idea of a Heavenly Mother (although there are a few notables like Blake Ostler who argues that Heavenly Mother is a cultural over-belief). I don’t know of any wise interneters who have thrown out the idea of us being spirit “children” in some sense, often a sense similar to the one we think of when we talk about becoming “spiritually begotten of Christ” here on earth (e.g. something like an adoption where a relationship is formed that did not exist previously).

  51. Kevin Barney says:

    Personally, I haven’t thrown out the idea of spirit birth. I just acknowledge that there are different schools of thought on the subject, and I tend to be rather agnostic on which is correct.

  52. See my link in #11 for gobs of discussion and debate on this spirit birth topic larryco_.

  53. #47, is there another verse to the song of which I am unaware?

  54. If only we had a prophet to clear up this messy confusion.

  55. Peggy, we do, and he hasn’t.

  56. So, I guess were also throwing out the concept of faithful saints living in celestial connubial bliss for eternity, cranking out vast numbers of spirit children to inhabit their own planet? What’s next, no Santa?

  57. #53 Steve, I was sure you’d know that the rest of “I Am A child…” is found in Saturday’s Warrior. The real question is “who (of what) are these children coming down…”

  58. I voted before.

    I see our “progression” as a growth in the power to manipulate dimensions. Right now we live in for 4 dimensions and can manipulate 3. In the past I speculate that we lived in 3 dimensions and could manipulate 2. In the future, Godhood is described by our power to live in 5 dimensions and manipulate 4, or some version of that. Perhaps this is what is meant by eternal progression.

  59. On our understanding of Christ as the Firstborn, it seems to me to come primarily from D&C 93:

    19 I give unto you these sayings that you may understand and know how to worship, and know what you worship, that you may come unto the Father in my name, and in due time receive of his fulness.
    20 For if you keep my commandments you shall receive of his fulness, and be glorified in me as I am in the Father; therefore, I say unto you, you shall receive grace for grace.
    21 And now, verily I say unto you, I was in the beginning with the Father, and am the Firstborn;
    22 And all those who are begotten through me are partakers of the glory of the same, and are the church of the Firstborn.
    23 Ye were also in the beginning with the Father; that which is Spirit, even the Spirit of truth;
    24 And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come;
    25 And whatsoever is more or less than this is the spirit of that wicked one who was a liar from the beginning.
    26 The Spirit of truth is of God. I am the Spirit of truth, and John bore record of me, saying: He received a fulness of truth, yea, even of all truth;
    27 And no man receiveth a fulness unless he keepeth his commandments.
    28 He that keepeth his commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things.
    29 Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be.
    30 All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence.

    So I take Christ at his word that he is the Firstborn, and I interpret that to mean, “firstborn in the spirit.” If you don’t interpret it that way, what does it mean?

  60. The Encyclopedia of Mormonism, under the topic, “Jesus Christ” states in the second paragraph that he is the “firstborn spirit child of God the Father.”

  61. Lawzy, we got to have a doctor– I don’t know nothin’ ’bout birthin’ spirits! So I abstained…courteously.

  62. Teachings of Heber J. Grant
    Jesus Christ is the literal Son of God.
    We believe absolutely that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, begotten of God, the first-born in the spirit and the only begotten in the flesh; that He is the Son of God just as much as you and I are the sons of our fathers.

    Yeah, totally just getting this out of my butt.

  63. Should I go on?

  64. Martin Willey says:

    See Abraham 3:21-22. Admittedly, it is a little difficult to perceive where we are in the eternal timeline here, but I interpret this passage to mean that some intelligences were more noble and/or great than others. In this context, I think nobility or greatness would require self-awareness.

  65. MCQ,

    If you don’t interpret it that way, what does it mean?

    When I read it, the main point of D&C 93 seems to be that we can receive everything that Christ has received and we do it by doing the same things he has done (cf. D&C 93:19). Again and again it tells us things about Christ and then turns around and tells us the same can apply to us. So, in the same breath that Christ tells us he is the Firstborn, he says that we can be the church of the Firstborn. The significance of the firstborn is that this is the position of inheritance. Jesus is the Firstborn in that he is the one who will inherit everything from the Father. Same can be true of all of us, so we can all become “firstborns.” That’s how I take it, at least. Compare, for example, Romans 8:

    14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
    15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
    16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
    17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.

    People use verse 16 sometimes as a proof-text that we are spirit children of God, but the context is clearly talking about giving the status of children to people who it would not naturally belong, with the purpose of making them heirs of God (i.e. that is the point of using this imagery).

  66. Jacob, I agree that it means we can be made partakers of his glory and “joint heirs” with Christ, but “Firstborn” is used as one of Christ’s titles. Thus, we can be of the Church of the Firstborn, just as we can be of the Church of Jesus Christ. That doesn’t make us individually Firstborn, just as there is only one Christ. Christ is the Firstborn of the Father, and he is the only one referred to that way, as far as I can see.

  67. MCQ, the “only begotten in the flesh” line, was, I believe, popularized at the same time the firstborn in the spirit idea was. DC 93 is a fairly early revelation (1833) and I don’t read it as commenting on ideas revealed later over a decade later. I read it in very similar terms to Paul.

    Now, to be fair, the almost-contemporaneous account of the KFD by George Laub included this little bit:

    Jesus Christ being the greater light or of more intelligence for he loved rituousness and hated iniquity he being the Elder Brother Presented himself for to come and redeem this world as it was his right by inheritance he stated he could save all those who did not sin against the holy ghost & the[y] would obey the code of laws that was given …But Satan or Lucifer being the next heir and had alloted to him great power and authority even prince of power of the eir He spake emediatey and boasted of himself saying send me I can save all [he] even those who sined against the holy ghost and he accused his brethren and was herld [hurled] from the council for striving to breake the law

    This is somewhat problematic as it isn’t reflected in the other accounts. I think it is problematic to read Spirit Birth into this account.

  68. Martin Willey says:

    I think it is problematic to read Spirit Birth into this account.

    Interesting. Why? Could this event not have occured after spirit birth (whatever spirit birth is)?

  69. Sure, it could. But there doesn’t appear to be good reasons to do so. We can read into anytext anything we want; but it doesn’t mean it is always a good idea.

  70. MCQ,

    Thus, we can be of the Church of the Firstborn, just as we can be of the Church of Jesus Christ.

    The “church of the Firstborn” is a phrase that comes from the book of Hebrews and since I am not a Bible dork, I don’t want to get too far out of my league, but it might be worth noting that in the scriptures it is never referred to as the “Church of the Fistborn,” but rather, the “church of the Firstborn.” That is, the word “Church” is not capitalized as it would be in the proper name of a church, but it is lower case. I have always taken the phrase to be referring to either a church full of firstborns (all those who inherit as the firstborn) or possibly as the Firstborn’s church (if the “of” is possessive). Maybe a Bible guru will correct me, which I would certainly appreciate.

  71. Stapley, when you read it with other pronouncements by later prophets on this subject it seems perfectly in line with the idea of a spirit birth. How do you deal with HJG’s teaching on the subject? Was he just talking out of his butt too?

  72. I voted based on my recent re-education at the hands of Stapley and Matt W. (Thanks again to both: I’m still reading through all the material!)

  73. Jacob, now you’re just being silly. Christ is described repeatedly as “Firstborn.” It’s one of his titles. calling the church by that name is equivalent to saying, “Church of Jesus Christ,” or “church of the Messiah.” I don’t see why capitalization makes any difference. It’s not referring to the proper name of the Church, it’s just referring to Christ’s church generally.

  74. MCQ,

    Jacob, now you’re just being silly.

    Actually, I think you might be the one getting a bit silly with your hyper-literalism.

    That doesn’t make us individually Firstborn, just as there is only one Christ.

    “Christ” means anointed one, as we all know. There is only one Jesus of Nazareth, but we are all supposed to become “anointed ones.” He is the Savior, but we are all supposed to become Saviors on Mount Zion. In other words, I see most of Christ’s titles as being instructive as to who Jesus was/is, but also invitations for us to become as he is. I don’t see them as exclusive titles that only he can ever bear by virtue of his unique position. And most of all, I don’t see the importance of these titles as coming from their literalness. You seem dead set on the title of “firstborn” having a literal meaning as to the chronology of the spirit births. Do you similarly find the significance of Jesus being the Christ in some particular literal anointing. I think it is quite odd that we take the title “firstborn” any more literally than we do “anointed one.”

  75. I think hyper-literalism is a bit strong. I’ll take the title of literalism on this issue, however. I don’t see any meaning in the word “firstborn” without it, and you have supplied none.

  76. And your argument is still silly. Just because we are commanded to become “Saviors on Mount Zion” does not mean we become “The Savior” as in, the person who performed the Infinite Atonement. There is only one person who did that, as there is only one person who can be Firstborn and who is referred to as such. The terms are quite equally and literally referring to Jesus.

  77. MCQ, I’ll be the first to admit that spirit birth is a widespread teaching in the Church. It started with Orson Pratt and Brigham Young, both espousing a literal view of viviparous spirit birth. Young popularized the idea with his Adam-God teachings. After the core of Young’s ideas were largely discredited, many side issues remained popular.

    I actually have no problem with the idea of “spirit birth” and that Jesus was the first being to be “spiritually born.” However, I think it is important to note that ideas surrounding spirit birth do not come from revelation, per se. They are ideas that have been popularized through teachings and sermons. Personally, I stick with Joseph Smith’s teachings on the history of spirits, and take an adoptive view of “spirit birth” as the moment when our relationship with God began.

  78. MCQ,

    I don’t see any meaning in the word “firstborn” without it, and you have supplied none.

    The firstborn is the position of inheritance. When Christ is called the firstborn, it is meant to communicate that he is in position to inherit all that the Father has. So yes, I have supplied an alternate meaning. Also, I think I’m done with being called silly in every exchange, so, nice knowing you.

  79. I have no problem with that, J, and I will be the first to say that I think the idea of “spirit birth” has problems if you think of it as being very similar to our physical birth (I don’t), but I think the idea of Christ being “Firstborn” must refer to something, and it is clearly not his physical birth, thus I accept that he was born first of God’s spirit children, whatever that may mean.

    BTW, He is also describes as the “firstfruits of them that slept” meaning that he was the first to be resurrected. I accept this as well, though you can also imagine some problems with a literal interpretation of that statement.

  80. Uh, Jacob, I didn’t call you silly (and would never do so, since I don’t know you). I called your argument silly, or said that you were “being silly,” which means the same thing. There’s a world of difference between those two concepts, as I hope you can appreciate.

    That meaning of “Firstborn” was not previously supplied in your comments, at least as you have stated it now, but I find it unsatisfying because Christ is seperately referred to as inheriting all that the Father has, so “Firstborn” again, must be referring to something else. Why not use the simplest interpretation of that word? In the absence of any obvious reason to the contrary, “Firstborn” means the person that is born first.

  81. Jacob, MCQ is calling you out. Blowdarts at dusk, in the parking lot of the Little America hotel.

  82. MCQ,

    As Jacob said way back in #50 — the objections people normally have is to the idea of viviparous spirit birth. If you aren’t pushing for that then I doubt many people would have an argument with you.

  83. Little America is where I spent my wedding night, and is thus sacred ground. I suggest pistols at dawn on Main Street Plaza. I nominate Kevin Barney as my second, because he is the modern day Orrin Porter Rockwell if I ever saw one.

  84. Geoff, yeah, I think I finally figured that out. If that is the only real objection to the idea of spirit birth, then there’s no argument here. I just see no reason to throw out the spirit baby with that particular bathwater.

  85. MCQ,

    That meaning of “Firstborn” was not previously supplied in your comments,

    Try this from #65 (with supporting scripture from Romans):

    The significance of the firstborn is that this is the position of inheritance. Jesus is the Firstborn in that he is the one who will inherit everything from the Father. Same can be true of all of us, so we can all become “firstborns.”

    There’s a world of difference between those two concepts, as I hope you can appreciate.

    Nope, not able to appreciate the distinction, but thanks for trying.

    Blowdarts at dusk, in the parking lot of the Little America hotel.

    Nice, I will be there if you give me a google maps link or something.

  86. I’m not really expressing any kind of personal opinion on the subject, but recently I came upon a scripture verse that may or may not have bearing on the subject. I just think it’s an interesting verse:

    Ecclesiastes 11:5
    As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all.

    Obviously this verse was written before the technology we have today – but in some ways I think it is still very true.

  87. Just to belabor the point unnecesarily, this is from the Guide to the Scriptures on

    Jesus was the firstborn of the spirit children of our Heavenly Father, the Only Begotten of the Father in the flesh, and the first to rise from the dead in the resurrection (Col. 1: 13-18). Faithful Saints become members of the Church of the Firstborn in eternity (D&C 93: 21-22).
    The firstborn of thy sons shalt thou give unto me, Ex. 22: 29. I hallowed unto me all the firstborn in Israel, Num. 3: 13. He might be the firstborn among many brethren, Rom. 8: 29. He bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, Heb. 1: 6. They are they who are the Church of the Firstborn, D&C 76: 54, 94. It was conferred upon me from the fathers, even the right of the firstborn, Abr. 1: 3.

  88. Jacob, you need a map to find Little America??? You really are silly after all.

  89. MCQ, you just need to be aware that that is where the idea came from, to begin with.

  90. Thomas Parkin says:

    “Little America is where I spent my wedding night”

    Please show some care, MCQ, children read this blog!!

    I’m briefly stunned that this post could create bad feeling. How about next poll – for a soft landing – we discuss whether ‘intelligences’ might not have been gay, ala Aristophanes, and what this might mean to our promotion of Prop 8.


  91. Thomas, I predicted it back at comment 21.

  92. MCQ, I don’t know you well enough to say that you are an ass, just that you are being an ass. I’m sure you can appreciate the difference.

  93. No bad feeling here, TP.

    J, I think it’s impossible to read the term “Firstborn,” as applied to Christ, without considering at least the possibility of a spirit birth. Whatever Orson and BY later may have said, I consider the basic concept to have predated them.

  94. I can, Jacob, but perhaps you can appreciate the fact that you have upped the rhetorical ante considerably by using that kind of language.

  95. MCQ, I disagree (see Paul’s usage, which is clearly not regarding spirit birth and is perhaps the earliest bit we have); but that is fine.

  96. J, to what do you refer when you say Paul’s usage is “clearly not regarding spirit birth.” I agree he doesn’t explicitly state that he is referring to spirit birth, but he doesn’t exclude the possibility does he?

  97. Boys, play nice. I’d not thought I’d have to force people into cooling off periods over this, but I will.

  98. MCQ, my Bible skills are massively wanting; however, it appears that the strait forward reading of the verses (i.e., the complete sentance) suggests that firstborn refers to his station as creator. The NET bible note for the word is:

    The Greek term [Greek word] (prwtotokos) could refer either to first in order of time, such as a first born child, or it could refer to one who is preeminent in rank. M. J. Harris, Colossians and Philemon (EGGNT), 43, expresses the meaning of the word well: “The ‘firstborn’ was either the eldest child in a family or a person of preeminent rank. The use of this term to describe the Davidic king in Ps 88:28 LXX (=Ps 89:27 EVV), ‘I will also appoint him my firstborn ([Greek word]), the most exalted of the kings of the earth,’ indicates that it can denote supremacy in rank as well as priority in time. But whether the [Greek word]- element in the word denotes time, rank, or both, the significance of the -[Greek word] element as indicating birth or origin (from [Greek word], give birth to) has been virtually lost except in ref. to lit. birth.” In Col 1:15 the emphasis is on the priority of Jesus’ rank as over and above creation (cf. 1:16 and the “for” clause referring to Jesus as Creator).

    The verses themselves are quite plain, I believe (NRSV Col 1:15-16, though other translations are more explicit):

    He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him.

  99. #92 don’t know you well enough to say that you are an ass, just that you are being an ass. I’m sure you can appreciate the difference.


    #94 perhaps you can appreciate the fact that you have upped the rhetorical ante considerably by using that kind of language.

    HAR! (“That kind of language”… awesome)

  100. But whether the [Greek word]- element in the word denotes time, rank, or both, the significance of the -[Greek word] element as indicating birth or origin (from [Greek word], give birth to) has been virtually lost except in ref. to lit. birth.

    Well, paging Kevin Barney, but based on reading that material, I feel vindicated.

    It looks like either interpretation works. It also appears to me that the Church website supports understanding these verses as referring to time of birth. Or I have no problem with both interpretations being valid.

    You have to grant me though, J, that my interpretation is at least a possibility here, so it’s not true, as you said earlier, that Paul’s language is “clearly not regarding spirit birth.” Clearly, it could be referring to exactly that.

  101. Yeah, GJ, for the record, I think this conversation has been pretty funny. If people were offended, or thought I was being obnoxious, I sincerely apologize.

  102. MCQ, I honestly don’t see how a spirit birth reading is possible. I’d be happy to be corrected by one of the Bible crew. As you say, paging Barney.

  103. Aaron Brown says:

    A select few of us actually remember what it was like before we were spirit born (we’re a special subset of those who can remember life before we passed thru the veil). I am one of these. So I could answer this question definitively for you all if I chose to. But I won’t. Unless you pay me $10.


  104. Stapley, I was just quoting from your own source material that said a “birth” reading was one of two possibilities. Am I losing my mind or is that what it said?

    AB, do you take paypal?

  105. As far as I can tell no one disputes that there is such a thing as “spirit birth” in some sense. The first issue is what does “spirit birth” entail:

    A. Adoption
    B. Vivaparous spirit birth
    C. Other spirit-material organization

    The second issue is did self-awareness precede whatever event is properly referred to by “spirit birth”:

    1. Yes, eternally
    2. Yes, non-eternally
    3. No.

    I belong in the A1 (adoptionist, eternal self awareness) camp myself. D&C 76:21-22 is interesting:

    “And now, verily I say unto you, I was in the beginning with the Father, and am the Firstborn; And all those who are begotten through me are partakers of the glory of the same, and are the church of the Firstborn.”

  106. So do you mean this in the typical consciousness/psychological sense i.e. if we put a dot on an intelligence’s head and give it a mirror will it reach up to touch the dot on its own head?

    Dolphins and chimps usually pass this test.

    (Sadly, I aways reach for the dot on the person in the mirror.)

    On Spirit birth: So can we rewrite this (with applogies to Wordsworth and Man’s Search for Happiness:

    “And was our spirit birth was but a sleep and a forgetting:
    The Intelligence that rises with us, our spirit life’s Proto-Star,
    Hath had elsewhere its setting,
    And cometh from afar:
    Not in entire forgetfulness did it come,
    And not in utter nakedness,
    But trailing clouds of proto-glory did it come
    From God, who is our pre-home:
    Heaven lies about us in our infancy! Again.”

  107. light & truth -> Intelligence–>Spiritual Birth–>Spirit–>Physical Birth–>Mortality (current human state)–>Death–>Paradise/Spirit Prison (Spirit)–>Resurrection–>Immortal Soul (Body + Spirit never to be separated)–>Eternal Reward/punishment -> progression, including progression through kingdoms as taught by Joseph Smith’s older brother.

    Though the thought that light & truth and Intelligences are both non-gendered and become gendered upon spiritual birth is an interesting one. Which makes me wonder if gender is like charge or spin or strangeness is to elementary particles. Which makes it, of all things, both more and less meaningful than we think of it in this life.

  108. MCQ (#104), I agree that the word does mean born first in some cases; but I don’t think that it does in Colossians. A paraphrase of the two verses is:

    Christ is the Firstborn because he created everything.

  109. Kevin Barney says:

    Sorry, I just now saw my page.

    The Greek word rendered “firstborn” in that Colossians passage is prototokos. It’s basic meaning has to do with birth order, emphasis on time. But from that it also developed a meaning having to do with preeminence, emphasis on class.

    So the word itself is ambiguous and could be taken either way. But in context (prototokos over all creation) my guess is that here it is referring to class, to his preminence as being the author of creation.

  110. Cool. Kevin, you’re like Batman.

    So, are you saying that if the words “over all creation” were not there, the result would be different? Because there are other places where Paul uses the term “Firstborn” to refer to Christ but without that phrase.

  111. Adam Greenwood says:


  112. Mr. Greenwood,
    I prefer to think of myself as a Menshevik. Just so we are clear.

  113. Kevin Barney says:

    Yes, in each case the meaning has to be determined from the immediate context.

  114. What is an “intelligence” before spiritual birth?

    Disregarding infinity and eternity, going with the whole birth of an “intelligence” concept, I guess it would be after spiritual birth or in the spiritual “womb”……..once the “intelligence is conceived, …..maybe….but then again, before we were physical “intelligences” we were self aware….AHHHHHGHHHHH my head exploded………..

  115. Steve Evans says:

    Richard, you started off slow there but I liked where your comment was heading.

  116. Antonio Parr says:

    Excuse this post, but . . .

    yada yada yada . . .

    The answer to this question is unknown and unknowable during this life.

    Move along, folks. Nothing to see here . . .