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.
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.