Monday Morning Theological Poll: “We’ve Got (a) Spirit! Yes, We Do!” Edition

Today’s poll is a sort of repeat of the second of these ever posted. However, those poll results are lost to the ether and I don’t remember what I said and I don’t feel like reconstructing it from the comments. So, we have this instead. Enjoy.

Justify your vote below. We shall judge your intelligence(s)!


  1. While I marked that we began as intelligence and then formed into spirit, this poll seems to show no intelligence whatsoever…..

  2. I like the idea that we were self aware “intelligences” before being born as spirits. That covers the idea that we are “co-eternal with God” in some fashion and also covers the idea that we are his spirit children. Those two ideas are otherwise difficult to reconcile.

  3. I also like to think we were self aware spirits but allied ourselves with God thereby becoming his children. Only after becoming his children, were we able to gain bodies etc. etc..

  4. Jim F’s recent post at patheos on this very topic highlights the tension between in my thinking. I feel an inclination to the view that I am co-eternal (both self-aware and individuated), and I believe there is beauty in the concept of being adopted as His children, and yet I dislike the notion of being radically other to God.

  5. Like Blake Ostler, I believe that intelligence is just a descriptor of how matter is organized (atom, molecule, element) into higher and more complex forms. Spirit is intelligence that is formed with individual personality and self-awareness. We continue on the path of intelligence progression by obtaining a body, resurrecting, becoming gods, etc.
    This does not require us to be radically other to God, but to progress just as he did.

  6. Ram,
    You gets what you pays for

  7. John C,

    Yeah, well if I’d paid for this, I’d want my money back. ;)

    But since I didn’t, you can keep the change.

  8. I voted for being co-eternal and co-self aware, but feel we encountered some sort of adoption/assisted transition to a higher state in the preexistence, facilitated by God, that enabled us to move further along the path of progression to become like him. I firmly believe we are indeed the same sort of beings as God, just at a different point in the process. However, I much sympathize with the last answer about dumb questions we have no clear answer for.

  9. Apparently: tripartite existentialism FTW! I voted for the first choice. I’m with Joseph Smith on this one.

  10. Also: I’m with kevinf as well. ;-)

  11. I love a good paradox. Somehow I think it’s both #1 (co-eternal) and #3 (spirit birth; HF is literally my heavenly dad). I have no way to explain it.

  12. Rameumptom, I find Ostler’s view problematic here because he does not adequately outline how God can be eternally God while humans require developmental complexity to reach a point where we can experience the type of life he does. In short his view does not account for how we are the same type of being despite this fundamental difference. Moreover, iirc, he rejects adoptionist theology in favour of a form of spirit birth; although it is not exactly clear what he means by this because he also rejects any version of ‘the birth’ which involves gestation.

  13. John, I guessed at what you were driving at RE- Self-Awareness, but would love to hear more from you on what you mean by this.

  14. I think it is a dumb question, but I love it when you ask them.

  15. Aaron R, we were discussing the state of Intelligence/spirit, not of God. I do not agree with Blake’s view of God, either. But I do agree with the formation of spirit from intelligence, and that intelligence is organized matter than can be reorganized on a higher level.
    I do not believe that gestation is necessary in order to have birth. We are God’s creation, hence his children, regardless of whether formed through a sexual bond, in a test tube, or on a production line. For example, Adam was the son of God, yet the scriptures state he was formed from the dust of the earth – no sex involved (unless you take Brigham Young at his word). God can determine what is/isn’t his child, regardless of whether there was a gestational period.

  16. In the ancient church, people were inhabited by devils that needed to be exorcised or cast into swine. While there are some records of Joseph Smith casting out devils, that doctrine has largely been expunged from correlated Mormonism. Why? Because clinical psychology has filled in the white space where before religion laid claim. We now have a greater understanding of why the human mind can break down – and it is not due to devil possession. Similarly the theory of soul was the philosophy staked out by religion prior to an understanding of the neuroscience, evolutionary biology and cognitive science. Not surprisingly, theory of soul is harder for religion to cede than theory of devil/possession, but the science is none the less compelling. Luckily for the religious, the reductive theories of consciousness have faced significant challenges… however there is certainly less white space for the soul to carve out of our consciousness than what our Mormon theology of soul would tell us.

  17. Well, I picked number four – I think we were unorganized matter, but still called intelligences because we had the essence of god in and around us. We had the potential to become other than what we were, Through Heavenly Father and Mother’s organization process, whatever that might have been, our very essences were organized into conscious and self aware spirits, thus becoming his children.

    This poll is far out!

  18. Not Knowing:
    How do we know that demons do not have a hand in at least some emotional/mental struggles? Is it not as likely that we have just named some of these issues, without noticing the devil in the details? When Jesus cast out Legion, if it were just a mental illness without demons, then how did he cast them out?
    Perhaps there is a component of both the physical that psychologists can measure, and a religious component for the devil?

  19. Rame: demons may have a hand in emotional struggles, as could the toaster orbiting Jupiter or the flying spaghetti monster. It is more likely that demons were a story created to explain what was at the time an unexplainable phenomenon. “How did he cast them out?” The most likely answer in my opinion is that he didn’t.

  20. I picked the last answer. I have become comfortable enough in my religion to admit that no one knows the next life until they get there. In my Seminary and Institute days I needed to know the “rules” of the gospel because that made me feel secure in my self-judgment. I am a bit long on the tooth now, and I am fine with summing up the Gospel with one word -Love. If it doesn’t bring you to Love, if it doesn’t come from Love, if at the heart of the beast there isn’t Love, you ain’t got nothing.

  21. Thomas Parkin says:

    “The most likely answer in my opinion is that he didn’t.”

    Says you.

  22. Not Knowing: shall we dismiss everything the Savior said or did to just myth and fable? Science shows that people do not resurrect, but become worm food. Are you ready to go that far? The Savior seemed to believe in the devil. Are we to assume that Jesus did not know what he was speaking about? Joseph Smith cast out demons, as well. Was he just full of baloney in what he was doing?

    How about modern day exorcisms? Just mental imbalanced people reacting to the priest?

    You are welcome to doubt such things. But without any scriptural support, I’d guess you are in the minority here.

  23. Just so we are clear, Joseph Smith would have voted for the first one :)

  24. Thomas Parkin:
    “Says you.”
    Hence, the “in my opinion” in the middle of my response that you quoted :)

  25. “I’d guess you are in the minority here.” I concur.

  26. Peter LLC says:

    shall we dismiss everything the Savior said or did to just myth and fable?

    Nope. Just those things attributed to the Savior by myth and fable.

  27. That’s cute Peter, but, assuming for the moment that your comment is meant to be taken at all seriously (and I know I’m going out on a limb here): how do you measure that? I tend to think that the scriptures are mostly accurate about Christ’s statements and actions. I don’t get that from vast scholarly research but from a testimony of the Spirit. How do you propose that we should decide such things exactly?

  28. MCQ – seems that a discussion of how closely the scriptures reflect the actually works and teachings of Jesus would take us far from the original intent of this thread, but in terms of “measuring that”, I’d check the works of NT scholars including Bart Ehrman for a careful consideration of authorship of the NT. Peter wasn’t being “cute” when he suggested that we not consider those things falsely attributed to the Savior… well I don’t know Peter so perhaps he was terribly cute when he was typing those words.

  29. NotKnowing: What if you could see spirits? What if you observed many cases of posession while while working at a mental hospital? And what if you observed teenagers with behavioral problems with such infestation? In addition to lots of creepy people in general (not that teenagers are creepy). I have never seen spirits, but my wife has and although it took me 15 or 20 years to come around, she really isn’t crazy. Bad spirits have a wide range of “badness”, ranging from the ones that simply go away when you tell them in the name of Jesus Christ to the really tough cases that require a three-day fast to expel. It doesn’t get much more scientific that this. They are observed, you cast them out, and they’re gone. One caveat: If you cast them out, they’ll tempt you with a vengeance.

  30. I don’t understand why I’m yet again in the 6% bracket? What part of “Heavenly Father” or “Child of God” am I not getting? Am I being misled by the first first verses of John? That lying SOB!

  31. notknowing, I was talking to Peter. I get that you don’t believe, so I don’t know what the purpose of your participation in this discussion might be. But if you’re going to participate, at least spare me the sophomoric references to flying spaghetti monsters and disputed authorship of the NT. I’m interested in a believer’s perspective on this issue. That let’s you out.

  32. John:

    You have neglected what I feel is the predominant view in the church – the tripartite model. An eternal intelligence, provided with a spirit body through some spirit birth process. This is closest to number 4 but I feel the wording of this option is very poor.

  33. #30 – Bradley, I think most commenters here could respond with more than one answer, given the various statements throughout scripture and from our modern prophets. The sarcasm isn’t appreciated.

  34. Bradley: I can’t comment on you or your wife’s experiences at a mental hospital. It sounds like you (or her) have experiential knowledge that I don’t have. I’d love to hear experiences about the casting out you described.
    MCQ: I’m sorry that my presence on the bloggernacle offends you, and that you view my references as sophomoric. I appreciate you pointing me the door, but I think that I’ll stay for the time being. My views as stated above are in line with 8% of respondents, and I have backed them up with what I felt was a logical response.

  35. Excuse the terrible grammar in the last post… no more posting before postum :)

  36. pre-postum posting – a “peculiar people” problem

  37. Looking for the like button for Ray’s last post…

  38. Eric, that is what I was getting at with option 4. I think the predominant church view isn’t actually as well articulated as your version, which is why I phrased it that way. The vote seems to bear it out, but your objection is noted.

    Matt W.,
    To me, being self-aware is necessary to sin and to repent because sin implies doing something less than oneself and repentance something more. Both require some knowledge of oneself to accomplish.

  39. Ray: Sarcasm is the spice of life. I would like to see more of it.

  40. Additionally 1 and 4 are not mutually exclusive.

  41. MCQ: if you read only for the words of people who think like you and if the existence of opposing viewpoints offends you, then perhaps you ought to stay away from an open blogosphere?

  42. Peter LLC says:

    assuming for the moment that your comment is meant to be taken at all seriously (and I know I’m going out on a limb here): how do you measure that?

    I invite all to take my comments as they please, but to answer your question: I wasn’t proposing a patented approach to sort fact from fiction. Rather, I intended to suggest in response to Rameumpton that there is a third way between insisting the scriptural accounts are essentially inerrant and infallible and “dismiss[ing] everything the Savior said.”

    Since I can’t imagine that a figure as pivotal (polarizing?) as the Savior would not be the subject of myth and fable among followers and detractors alike, it’s no doubt an issue for all who profess to believe. Like you, I place a lot of stock in a testimony of the Spirit, but short of that I reckon that it is virtually impossible for an oaf like me to distinguish Jesus of our traditions from the Savior.

  43. Not offended by notknowing, just not interested.

    Thanks, Peter. Makes sense.

  44. Eric,
    I take number 1 to mean that we haven’t really changed. YMMV

  45. .

    Just one? I can’t pick two?

  46. StillConfused says:

    I went with the first one. If I am going to be eternal one direction (going forward) then I feel that it must go the other direction as well. To me, life is either a line or a segment, but not a ray. I choose line.

  47. And for me, life is an eternal round. It is neither a ray, segment nor line. It is a circular process that repeats itself, while the beings and matter involved may change, the process is the same.

    There are intelligences (choose your preference of what they are). God creates spirits from intelligence, or organizes intelligences into spirit (Abraham 3). The scriptures definitely show that spirits have agency and the ability to sin, we do not know for intelligences. Spirits gain bodies. They die. They resurrect. They return back into God’s presence, where they become gods. This completes an eternal round. They then renew the eternal round by creating spirits from intelligence.

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