Here is the previous part. All parts may be found here. Apologies to the huge cadre of readers who have been waiting on the edges of their collective seats for this for over a year. I just forgot to post it at the time–and then went off on other adventures. You’re welcome. To catch up with what’s here, I recommend subjecting yourself to the pain of following the link above (and similar links in it and its predecessors until you reach the “beginning”).For you, Brad.
One of the axioms of Mormonism is the existence of an infinite supply of matter. This follows from various statements like “this is my work and my glory, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” (Moses 1:39.) This process, which many Mormon thinkers have seen as not only the life of God but the life of every exalted person, implies that spirits will never run out. That is, there is either an infinite supply so that the process may continue, or there is an infinite supply of material from which spirits and their corresponding bodies may be “organized.” (Sorry, ex nihilo not allowed.)
Putting this aside, imagine the universe is infinite. Not really an unthinkable proposition, given that it appears to be “flat.” Baryonic matter comes in limited variety. That is, there are only finitely many types of available atoms, and thus only finitely many ways to create human creatures. This means that, given the epochs Mormonism postulates, there are infinitely many “yous” running around out there in the “cosmos.” Not only that, if time really is a discrete quantity, as some argue, then there are only finitely many ways to “be” you. In other words, no matter how you slice it, you fail to be unique, big time. Your whole life trajectory has been repeated infinitely many times (does “you” mean anything now?).
What the word cosmos means is open to discussion. If it means the product of the big bang, then an infinite universe is still quite possible, but if you prefer multiverse situations (a thing I’m not really comfortable with on a number of levels) then you must ask yourself how you see God as a material god. Does God consist of baryonic matter? No wonder there are infinitely many!
On another level, let’s think about spirits, or as B. H. Roberts might have said, “intelligences.” Joseph was big on spirits/intelligences/minds being eternal, that is, spirits have no beginning or end. True, this was junked in Utah for a long time in favor of process, but revived by Nels Nelson-B.H. Roberts and finally by the wonderful John Widtsoe.
Mormon eternity runs in both directions and presents interesting difficulties on both ends, especially if you subscribe to the retrenched theology of 1960s. By this I mean, material God + omnis (omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent). It’s the omniscient identifier that I want to focus on here. Omniscience generally includes foreknowledge. Aside from any freewill issues here (I think there are large ones) it requires a material God to have effectively instant, perhaps even simultaneous access to everything the future holds. Given that includes his own future and that he’s material, this entails an infinite subjective period containing infinitely many events. How is such a thing stored or accessed? If you really start thinking about this, it takes more than science fiction to dig out of the hole. But even if a material God doesn’t know the complete future, surely he must know what is going on in every corner of his domain (a possibly infinite place – see above). Baryonic matter storage will not do for too many reasons. Hence some other way is required. And, no fair postulating speed limit violations people!
The reverse direction is haunted by the same ghost, but multiplied by infinity if you will. There are infinitely many individuals who have been around for a (subjectively if you must) infinite period. Keep in mind we don’t subscribe to some sort of “bounded” infinity (in the familiar parlance of Mormonism the essentially meaningless “eternities”) like (for the knowing) the extended reals. There is no beginning point, a hard state of affairs for Mormons like Orson Pratt who wanted to buy the Cosmological Argument’s features, if not its conclusions.
How should these issues be dealt with if one wants to keep the essence of Joseph Smith and is willing to discard certain add-ons from the following generations? What would a bare-bones consistent Mormon Cosmology look like, given that we need essential features like Justice, Mercy, Preexistence, Atonement, Resurrection, a Powerful Loving God and yes, Joseph Smith’s revelations and revelatory claims – or most of them. Is a consistent, meaningful, system available? (Well, for the depressed (or maybe depraved) there’s always this (grin)).