Plans of Salvation

It seems like everyone is familiar with those diagrams with various circles that explain Mormon cosmology, and which outline the progression of the human soul through eternity (do an image search for “plan of salvation” for some beauties). I thought it would be fun to sketch out the Plans of Salvation for various sources.

The most simple is that found in the Book of Mormon. It is essentially the Christian conception of eternity, with perhaps one radical change. Some people read Alma 40:11 and Alma 13:3 as saying the spirit existed before birth. Personally, I don’t think that these verses are arguing for that, but will concede it is a possible reading. Hence the question mark.

Things get interesting fast. The Book of Moses (and D&C 93) certainly brings in some radical new ideas. Angels are humans, and existing before creation. The Vision, which was wildly controversial, introduced the three heavens and “outer darkness.” A close reading indicates key conflicts with JS’s later revelations, namely the idea that those who don’t accept the gospel “in the flesh” are destined to the Terrestrial Kingdom. Some argue that progression between kingdoms is the consequent resolution. Progression indicated by a question mark.

In Nauvoo JS does three important things: 1) he repeatedly teaches that human spirits cannot be created or made and that “God never did have power to create the spirit of man at all.” 2) He reveals the Nauvoo Temple liturgy, which dramatically recasts the entire narrative. 3) He at least lays a foundation for the idea of Mother in Heaven, if not teaching it privately. It is only the last of these three that people seem to have run with after JS died. [Update: So I didn’t really like the diagram I had originally posted. I’ve updated it with what is now shown. I am convinced that JS was teaching that the kingdoms are entirely relational, and not geographic, and that the sealings materialize heaven. As it relates to the image, I think that the more speculative aspect relates to the endowment liturgy, which seems to indicate that people pass through kingdoms as part of their progression.]

After JS died Orson Pratt, Parley Pratt, and Brigham Young each promoted models that have important similarities and important differences. All of them run with the idea of Mother in Heaven and adopt the idea of a celestial sexual procreation. I call this concept of “viviparous spirit birth” a wildly popular folk belief. To accommodate this, BY took JS’s argument that if a spirit could ever be created, it must also be able to be destroyed, and flipped it. Spirits were created just as human babies were created, except with spirit element. If you merited perdition, just as you were created, you would also be destroyed, and the spirit matter recycled. Not enough info to conclude yay or nay on progression between kingdoms.

Orson Pratt is the source for all sorts of Mormon weirdness. He kept JS’s eternal spirits but atomized them. These intelligent atoms then self organized, resulting in increasing levels of complexity through spirit vegetation and animals. This had some consequences for OP’s conception of divinization, and BY pretty much hated all of it. Cleon Skousen and Orson Scott Card, however, likey. Progression between kingdoms? I don’t know.

There was this thing in Utah during the nineteenth century. There isn’t a lot of concrete description, but it pops up in a lot of places because it agitated so many people. Inherent in BY’s Adam-God teachings was the idea that resurrected people could become mortal (e.g., Adam and Eve). It appears that some people ran with that and got “baby resurrection,” that is, you got resurrected as a baby. Sounds like reincarnation? A lot. Anyway, Orson F. Whitney seems to have gotten on the band wagon, at least for a while. To be honest, because documentation is not particularly granular, this one is essentially a guestimation. It also got stamped out pretty quickly (except, as I understand it, among some fundamentalist groups, who also like Adam-God teachings).

James Talmage, as he was wont to do, took the pioneer teachings, stripped them down considerably and then bolstered them with texts. I think he probably landed on progression between kingdoms because of his interaction with the temple liturgy.

B. H. Roberts being a student of JS’s teachings, and preparing many important sermons for publication saw the conflict between JS’s common teaching that spirits could not be created, and BY’s triumphant spirit creation. He, along with a few others, proposed a model that I have called tripartite existentialism. Roberts posited that there was a non-spirit entity that was the core of human personhood, and which was never created or made. This “intelligence” got a spirit body through spirit birth. Consequently no annihilation. Roberts’ idea caught on with some important folks like John A. Widtsoe. However, for a number of reasons (see WVS’s forthcoming book on all of this, it is so great) many hated it. JFS and Penrose squashed it, and it wasn’t until the rise of Truman Madsen, who liked the idea for the same reasons as Roberts that it started catching on more widely. I’d venture, in fact, that Roberts’ is the most commonly imagined model among Latter-day Saints today. Progression between kingdoms? Not enough info.

Do you know who else hated Roberts’ shtick? Bruce R. McConkie. He basically took BY’s model, ignored annihilation, and said that “intelligence” was the same thing as “spirit element.” But he was emphatic that this was just non-intelligent matter, and personhood began with spirit birth. He also said that spirit prison and paradise are geographically discreet places, and one couldn’t travel between them without a pass. His son, JFM disagreed with him on this latter point, as I imagine most people have. Also progression between kingdoms is one of the “seven deadly heresies.”

As mentioned above, I think that B.H. Roberts has taken the day. It has just so much grass-roots appeal, and people haven’t thought about it enough to recognize conflicts (often because of coded language such as BRM’s intelligence/spirit matter move). While the church is doubling down on spirits being children of heavenly parents, my sense is that the idea of spirit adoption is gaining some traction over viviparous spirit birth (which also obviates the need for BHR’s “intelligences.” I think that the seven deadly heresies squashed progression between kingdoms for a generation of Latter-day Saints, but Terryl Givens is publishing the idea with Deseret Book and more people are pointing to James Talmage’s support. It also reduces a tremendous amount of anxiety, confusion, and cog diss over proxy temple work. When my ward discussed this in Gospel Doctrine, there appeared to be unanimity in support for progression between kingdoms. I also understand that my ward may be anomalous.


  1. Nate W. says:

    Which is the plan with TK smoothies?

  2. Angela C says:

    I’ve had wards who seemed in favor of kingdom progression, although my current ward is more in the “visits go one direction: downward,” which seems to be an anti-progression sentiment. However, what are we doing on these visits to our non-progressive relatives? Sounds like a downer. I guess we could sell them essential oils.

  3. When I teach the Plans of Salvation, I stick with one big circle, with infinte concentric circles inside of it with arrows starting at the outside edge pointing to the center (bulls eye). Then I draw two thicker lines to create 3 sections and label them with Celestial Terrestrial Telestial. For me that works the best to describe my own understanding of universal salvation and eternal progression.

  4. John Mansfield says:

    On top of rest of this post’s clear organization and descriptions, the graphic design is quite nice, which has to count for something when it comes to this topic.

  5. Aaron Brown says:

    J., this is epic. So useful. Can’t believe no one’s done it before. But I guess you’re the obvious person to do it.

    Aaron B

  6. Discussions like this are fantabulous for blogs and philosophical conferences and sitting around the campfire … but I avoid them in formal Church settings like I’d avoid few other things. It’s one thing to view the options intellectually, with their champions and implications. It’s another to discuss anything beyond the simplest principles in Sunday School, because there is zero chance that we would know the correct answer, even if one of these models did happen to be correct. I mean, do you take a vote of ward members, and bind God to allowing progression between kingdoms because your Gospel Doctrine class voted 23-18 in favor? How in heaven’s name (quite literally) do you manage to host such a discussion in your ward and have it lead anywhere worth going? (If anybody can, it’s you, J., but I don’t have a clue where to start.)

  7. Aaron Brown says:

    Shouldn’t the progression-between-kingdoms arrow in the 2nd graphic (1833), be pointing up, not down?

  8. J. Stapley says:


    Nate, I didn’t do one for JFSII, mostly because it seems he shifts with time.

  9. Amen, Ardis.

  10. Although this is a beautiful example (nice graphics!) of the theological imaginations that have been allowed throughout the years. Kind of wish it was the same today. And women were involved.

  11. J. Stapley says:

    I actually agree, Ardis. I didn’t teach Sunday School this week, but progression between kingdoms did come up. I like the idea of respecting the beliefs of the Saints and giving space for all of this in our classes. However, part of that is being ready for someone to make an emphatic statement like “progression between kingdoms is a deadly heresey,” or “all spirits are made through celestial sex,” and then being able to create a space that doesn’t completely shut down. And I do think that requires a bit of finesse.

    Aaron, there were a couple of mistakes in the images and text that I have now fixed.

  12. J. Stapley says:

    EmJen, I’d love to see yours!

  13. FarSide says:

    The takeaway from all of this is that, starting with Joseph Smith, nobody really has a clue as to what the previous life was like or what the next one will hold. Beyond a few a basic principles—being a good person on earth will serve you well in the eternities, “whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life. . . .” etc.—most everything else is conjecture.

  14. Ah. I can see the need to be prepared from that point of view, J. Thanks. I’ll have to think how to handle this sort of thing, should I ever teach again — my first instinct would be to change the subject as quickly as possible, which wouldn’t help anybody. Acknowledging the possibilities, or at least softening the black-and-white positions of class members on things we just don’t know, would be part of the teacher’s calling.

  15. J.

    Believe me, it would not have women making spiritual babies into the eternities. It would not have polygamy as a top-tier celestial kingdom requirement and it would not have the female’s mortal punishment equating reproductive systems and processes. Now hopefully no one will go off the rails with me even bringing these up because I know that these are not really in the scope of your post but these ideas have also been involved in some of those depictions and very male oriented discussions of these depictions throughout the Mormon past/present.

  16. J. Stapley says:

    You’ve got me thinking through this, Ardis. I think my instinct would be to do something like this (open question whether it is useful or appropriate):

    Class member: Progression between kingdom is a false doctrine, and a deadly heresy.

    Me: You know, Elder McConkie taught that, and a lot of good saints have believed that. Other church leaders have taught and believed to the contrary. Elder Talmage, for example, taught that people could progress between kingdoms. I’m probably more in line with Elder Talmage.

  17. Yes EmJen — just see “vivaparous spirit birth” in a couple of these. That alone suggests both polygyny and a rigid formulation of eternal gender roles mirroring what is observed in mortality.

  18. J. Stapley says:

    EmJen, I think that you are right across the board. I didn’t include anything with regard to D&C 131 mostly because I think OP’s editorial gloss was a misreading, and also because it deserves a discussion of its own.

  19. This is really cool. BUT WHERE ARE THE FOOTNOTES????? (Sorry to shout).

  20. J. Stapley says:

    Alas Xerxes, I felt like getting what I got out was sufficient. If you google a little of items of particular interest, you will likely find bcc posts by me and others that cover the topic. That said I can point you in the direction if you are looking at something in particular.

  21. Thanks, I’m particularly keen on looking at Nauvoo-era J.Smith stuff, which seems to take things in quite a different and fascinating direction.

  22. BHodges says:

    amazingly useful post

  23. This post is great, J. Good reminder that we don’t always *know* what we think we know, and that what we know can change, and that’s fine.

  24. Also helps us to focus on what is truly essential and what is nice and important but not truly essential.

  25. All great fun!

  26. Who is WVS and what is the forthcoming book I should be looking for?

  27. Could you say that Orson Pratt basically believed in “medichlorians” a la Star Wars style? :)

  28. Amen, EmJen. Even though I found the differences in these diagrams fascinating, I still looked at them through the lens of what they meant for me as a woman. I think it’s pretty clear that JS didn’t give women a lot of thought in regards to Mormon theology until polygamy came about. I’d love to be wrong on that, though.

  29. This is really interesting stuff and I’d like to read more. Could you post your citations for the quotes?

  30. Great write up. I have been thinking a lot about how the Book of Mormon plan of salvation differs from current doctrine. It’s amazing how we can read the book over and over and miss what’s right under our nose because of preconceptions.

    To supplement these schemes, consider the changing fate of the ‘special cases’ in these plans of salvation. In the Book of Mormon, the ignorant (or, “those without law”) are automatically saved along with little children. Then in The Vision (D&C 76) they are terrestrial. Then in another vision (D&C 137) they are automatically saved in the celestial kingdom again. Then in another vision (D&C 138) they have to repent and be baptized, etc, via proxy to get out of prison.

  31. J. Stapley says:

    WVS’s forthcoming awesomeness (WVS, what is the current publication date?):

    ElleK, there is some in the JS’s Nauvoo teachings that could be pretty cool (e.g., queens and priestesses), and which is fairly easily isolated from polygamy.

    mel, the “God never did have power to create the spirit of man at all” bit is from JS’s April 7, 1844 GenCon address, but he hit on it multiple times. Check out “the parallel joseph” or the JSP website (in particular the Clayton account, but they all agree).

    Jared*, the most interesting things always seem to be manifest in the special cases in science as well as theology.

  32. Dog Spirit says:

    J. Stapley, super interesting post. For the sake of clarity, when you say that the concept of queens and priestesses in Joseph Smith’s times is fairly easily isolated from polygamy, do you mean there are historical sources showing that he taught that separately from polygamy, or that modern folks can easily reinterpret it to remove polygamy? I’m no expert, but as a person who had been profoundly troubled by this concept, I’ve looked into it a bit, and from what I could find, the language in the temple regarding women seems to have always been connected with polygamy. I would be delighted to look into anything you can point to that indicates otherwise, if that was what you meant.

    Along with EmJen’s comment, I just feel a little wistful that we don’t have historic examples of women publicly theorizing on the particulars of the plan of salvation. I bet they would have had some interesting theories that differed substantially from the men’s, if they had felt it appropriate to do so.

  33. Kevin Barney says:

    This is awesome, J., and I’m thrilled you did this with such clear graphics.

    I agree Roberts has mostly carried the day. Your average Saint has not the first clue about this, but to the extent they think of it they think of it in his tripartite view.

    I didn’t understand the role of the mortal kingdoms in the JS/Nauvoo chart.

  34. Agree this is awesome. And I join Kevin in wanting more explanation of nauvoo. But what I’m really interested in is the ‘all dogs go to heaven’ chart. Seriously, if a sparrow cant fall without Gods notice, then why is our doctrinal interest so limited to just our species. Doesn’t anyone want to know how Fido gets saved?

    Also, a Prometheus chart would be cool.

  35. Emily U says:

    J. Stapley, do you think the Orsons and the B.s and James were all mostly trying to clarify what J.S. had taught? Or were they trying to expand on his teaching?

  36. So J, any directions on the JS Nauvoo era theology?

  37. Aussie Mormon says:

    The matter is complicated (greatly) by the seemingly interchangable use of intelligence and spirit throughout various scriptures, talks, articles etc.

  38. Not sure what publication date is at this point. For the plural marriage rev. book, maybe August? For the sermon book, not sure what will happen there. Up in the air in every way I’d say.

    Emily U, J can chime in here, but the differences between Utah and Nauvoo seem connected to rationalizations of plural marriage, sealing, and communalism of the West. It’s complicated by a number of narratives, I think Geertz’ work on ideologies is helpful here.

  39. Thanks, J.
    Stuff like this is the reason why I read Bycommonconsent.

  40. Oh my goodness, this post has made me outstandingly happy. BCC, you’re the best.

  41. Marvelous. Begs for footnotes and a bookmark function. Or how about an hack that (surreptitiously or not) inserts material into the study guides?
    May I agree and underscore “create a space that doesn’t completely shut down” (from comments way up above). For Sunday-at-church lessons and discussion that’s a high and valued objective.

  42. This clearly documents how men will speculate wildly on part of a woman’s existence without ever including a woman’s voice or perspective. None of these men seem to have taught that spirits were “intelligences” that needed to be organized a la The Book of Moses. Church leaders got stuck on the idea that eternal increase must include pregnancy and gestation without ever, seemingly, checking to see how women felt about that supposed eternal destiny.

    All of these models leave out unorganized intelligences and many violate Newtonian laws of physics, e.g. matter cannot be created or destroyed, which is why organizing intelligences makes more sense than any other concept.

    Perhaps it’s the charts and how they have been drawn up, do you mean that the spirits present in the celestial kingdom are these unorganized intelligences?

    The church still needs female theologians to weigh in with these conversations and the economic and social structures of the church have stifled women’s leadership and imagination back to the beginning.

  43. J. Stapley says:

    Thanks again for all the comments.

    I’ve updated the post with a revised Nauvoo image and some reasoning for that. I wasn’t happy with what I had and with some feedback from the BCC crew found something that reflects better at what I was going for.

    Dog Spirit, I don’t think that the Nauvoo Temple liturgy necessitated polygamy, though as you note there is a lot of conflation going on.

    Dave K., there is this vintage BCC post that touches on that.

    Emily U, I think WVS response is great, but I also think people are generally the same. We all do this sort of thing, often employing heuristics to simplify or smooth out irregularities. Often innovation is to meet a particular problem.

    Xerxes, look forward to WVS’s book mentioned above. My book comes out at the end of the year and really digs into the Nauvoo cosmologies (but I don’t touch on the endowment really at all, mostly focusing on priesthood and sealings). Sam Brown’s In Heaven is also a good place to look.

    Aussie, that really is a complication that exists in the 20th century because of the conflict and language usage by BHR and BRM.

    Footnotes would be great, but to be honest, this is at least an article’s worth of effort to do it right. Maybe in the future.

  44. J. Stapley says:

    Jenne, I think that you are reading Abraham through a BH Roberts’ lens. JS (and the Book of Abraham) clearly taught that spirit were uncreated. The organization was social. But you are right that in Utah, it has been a lot about viviparous spirit birth.

  45. It’s things like this that convince me that I’m a visual learner. Now I want to see diagrams on the beliefs of other religions.

  46. J.Stapley: I’m feeling guilty about calling for footnotes (even though I’m not alone). I wish there were a better way to say “I would like” without also saying “you should provide.” From me,
    take it as enthusiasm and nothing more,

    I’ll go one step further–for writers and publishers out there, I think there is an appetite for this sort of big perspective history of Mormon thought that includes both 19th and 20th century developments. Acknowledging that any “history of thought” risks appearing threatening to revealed religion narratives, I think it can be done and this post is a good example.

  47. J. Stapley says:

    I definitely appreciate the enthusiasm, Christian, a lot. Thanks! I tend to agree that there is a demand for this type of stuff. I’ll also confess that I’ve thought about ways to reach different audiences with my research and writing (I tend towards the less accessible, it seems). Maybe something like this could do the trick?

  48. Rachel Whipple says:

    For a Young Women’s lesson, the girls were drawing elements of the plan of salvation on the board in turn. My daughter drew Christ on the cross representing the Atonement, which made at least one of the other girls frustrated. “That’s not part of the plan of salvation!” she protested. I stepped in: “You don’t think there’s any place for Christ and the Atonement in the plan of salvation?” That question was startling, and it showed starkly how limited our drawing usually is. The discussion continued “How do you think it is accomplished? What is the point? Is there a chance that there could be something missing in the way we usually draw these charts?” It ended up being a really good conversation.
    I think too often we get locked into one visualization and don’t think about how it developed. The plan of salvation evolved over time, and the model we usually use now is one that has gathered strength of consensus (albeit a rather poorly examined one).

  49. Thanks J, BCC at its best!

    Discussions in SS often end (or never begin) when someone declares “doctrine never changes”. This post is so useful in tracking thought and development of a core LDS belief through time and historical figures in simple chart form.

    I would love to see similar treatment given to polygamy, blacks and the priesthood, Temple Ceremonies, and a number of other subjects that clearly trace how we got to where we are now. It will help us see the potential of what the future may hold in store.

    Or what Christian said 10:19.

  50. Rachel brings up a good point. The phrase “plan of salvation” in the Book of Mormon usually doesn’t really refer to cosmology at all, but to the atonement. I would be curious to track the shift in the meaning of “plan of salvation” from repentance and salvation to arrows and circles with suns moons and stars (if indeed there ever was a shift–maybe the church never really used the phrase much other than to discuss cosmology).

  51. Kevin @ 5:11pm: Another interesting thing is that the Plan of Salvation that missionaries teach investigators and that usually gets drawn on the chalkboard for youth and adults alike in Sunday School is the 1833 one shown here — and that says nothing about the preexistence except that it exists.

  52. J. Stapley says:

    Rachel and JKC, I think that is absolutely correct. The “Plan of Salvation” is gospel of Jesus Christ. Anything else is addenda. My sense is that these calling these cosmological models is a mid-to-late 20th century thing. The term pops up in early Mormonism, but typically as a synonym for the gospel.

  53. The article is excellent. Especially the pictures. The only thing that would tremendously help would be adding more extensive footnotes capturing the sources for each of the models.

  54. Can we loudly reject viviparous spirit birth? The Pratts’ and Brigham’s preoccupation with the role of a heavenly penis has theological consequences that we’re still feeling today.

  55. Emily U says:

    Kyle M, you made my day with that comment.

  56. Bro. B. says:

    J. Stapley, interesting post. Do you think that if JS had lived long enough, he would have come around closer to the BHR model? If God could not create man’s spirit, yet there is a role for a Heavenly Mother, maybe that’s a way to reconcile it? Also, what is your basis for JS’ progression between kingdoms, just the temple liturgy? or are you aware of other teachings?

  57. J, thanks for the response. I think we might be conflating “intelligences unorganized” (xr temple ceremony and Abraham 3:22) with the spirits in the spirit world. I’d like to see the unorganized intelligences depicting separately and preceding the premortal spirits, at least in the Moses diagram. As far as I understand it, the progression is unorganized intelligences—–> premortal spirits—–> mortality. The creation occurred between organizing the intelligences into spirits. The question there that fascinates me most is: what is the process of organizing spirits? Obviously BY taught it was through conception/gestation but what other means have been or could be speculated?

  58. J. Stapley says:

    Bro. B., there really isn’t a better attested Nauvoo teaching from JS. He repeated it frequently and it was a lynch-pin to the King Follett discourse. Who knows what might have happened, but this is one that did not seem to be in flux.

    Jenne, per my comments to Bro. B, the idea of organizing intelligences into spirits is not documented during JS’s lifetime. What you are describing is the BH Roberts model (late 1890s). What portion of Moses are you reading this from?

  59. J. Stapley says:

    Bro. B., I forgot to respond to the balance of your questions. JS framed the sealings as constituting heaven. If you weren’t sealed, you were ultimately “single and alone” or “separate and single.” So it is this idea coupled with the temple liturgy. But I think it is interesting for the church after WW’s revelation in 1894 that we could perform sealings for our dead because there would be few if any who reject them, and consequently we could rely on our ancestors to accept the proxy work and connect us to the human family. Hard not accommodate some sort of progression with that (though plenty in the 20th century did just that).

  60. Bro. B. says:

    Thanks J. When you say, “Hard not accommodate some sort of progression with that (though plenty in the 20th century did just that), I suppose in the parenthesis you’re referring mainly to Bruce R. McKonkie.

  61. I wonder if some of the “inconsistency” in our perception of doctrine is the result of flawed assumptions. For example, those who balk at progression between degrees do so mostly (I believe) because they assume the described “kingdoms” must be final destinations based on a single and final judgement. I do not read that in the scriptures. Christ described “many mansions”, not just 3 or 4. And He never said they were permanent abodes. Descriptions indicating that one “cannot receive an increase” does not necessitate a permanent situation either.

    Another flawed assumption that is likely is that the creation “happened” instead of that it “is happening”. The spiritual creation is perhaps a thing of the “past”, but the temple teaches that the 6th “day” of the physical creation will not end until man enters back into God’s presence. In this regard, if someone asks how long the creation took, we can answer that it is yet to be determined!

    Mortals have a difficult time grasping a reality where time perhaps doesn’t exist.

  62. Aussie Mormon says:

    Another thing to think about:

    Is there a difference between spirits, and spirit bodies?

    From various scriptures (Ether etc) we know that the spirit bodies looked the same as our mortal bodies. Presumably because everything was created spiritually before it was created physically.
    All 3 of the scriptural creation accounts talk about “create man in our own image”, which we generally take to mean that our bodies are patterned after Heavenly Father’s.

    Eternal spirit inside spirit body inside mortal body?

  63. Who is WVS? Is there a title for the book?

  64. J. Stapley says:

    Bro. B., I’ll plug my book coming out at the end of the year (*The Power of Godliness,* with OUP)as a response to that. It is a little complicated.

    Aussie, there are some interesting theological hoops one can jump through with spirit bodies, whether foreknowledge or metaphysics, but generally I think we can just ignore them.

    David, links to the books are above.

  65. J., a question about your forthcoming book (please keep plugging it) — will it trace the uses and meanings of the phrase ” power of godliness” (and its two nouns) from KJV 2 Timothy 3:5 through the 1838 version of the First Vision to D&C 84? It seems to some that Section 84 “without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh” either (a) means that godliness (in what seems to be its meaning in 1 Timothy 2 and 2 Peter 3 and D&C4:6) had no observable power or influence in the lives of many who lived godly lives with no connection at all the authority of the priesthood or the ordinances thereof, or (b) must mean by “godliness” and “power” something quite different from what those 1 Timothy 2 and 2 Peter 3 D&C 4 verses mean. The first of these options appears to be simply contrary to fact; the second leaves some without any idea what D&C 84:21 means, unless its meaning is so limited by v. 22 that it has no practical relevance to most of us. If your book doesn’t deal with that and you know of something else that does, how about giving that something else a plug in addition to your book…

    Thanks for your work on the Plan of Salvation charts. It’s quite helpful.

  66. Very interesting the Book of Mormon is silent on The Plan of Salvation especially the pre-existence

  67. Molly, The Book of Mormon is hardly silent on the Plan of Salvation. See Jarom 1:2, Alma 24:14, Alma 42:5. Unless, of course, by “The Plan of Salvation” you mean something different from what the Book of Mormon calls “the plan of salvation.”

  68. I’d say McConkie was trying to make as minimal a model as possible without adopting what he considered the more speculative elements of Pratt, Young or others. Thus he doesn’t really take a position on what intelligence is. In some ways that’s close to Young but in other ways is still open to a more Pratt or what gets called the Roberts view. (I used to think the idea of intelligence as a Cartesian or Thomist immaterial intelligence soul/mind was Roberts’ view but I’ve since decided that was wrong)

    With regards to kingdoms, I think there’s a lot of different views in the idea of progression between kingdoms that needs unpacked. I think the quasi-reincarnation model that became popular during the spiritualist era when Saints were coming to Utah from England is different from the heavenly ascent model that I think the endowment is closer to. (Say Merkabah/Hekhalot ascents in late antiquity)

    BTW – I’d never heard the idea that Roberts ideas got stamped out until Madsen’s Eternal Man promoted a tripartite model. Given the relatively short period between Roberts manuals and Madsen’s Eternal Man (which I think is late 60’s, right?) why do you think it was stomped out?

    Looking forward for the books on all this. Just to add to Pratt, I think one should look at his model through a Stoic/Tertullian view of both the “trinity” but also the basic ontology of personhood. Which isn’t to deny aspects of Leibniz/Spinoza as well.

    Anyone know Madsen’s basic philosophical commitments? I should know since he was my Stake President when I was single but I never actually discussed anything with him.

  69. Just to note as well, we can reject the idea that spirit birth is extremely similar to biological conception and birth while still accepting it’s quasi-physical in some creative way tied to resurrected beings and not merely adoption. It seems that middle ground gets too swiftly dismissed in preference to a full adoption model. I’m not sure that’s justified.

  70. Clark, I was a student of Madsen’s, but remember little of his basic philosophical commitments. However, there may be some implied by one of his anecdotes I do remember. As I remember it, someone had been challenging him on his list of things that testify of the gospel (the one I remember is the French horns in one of Crawford Gates’ orchestral hymn arrangements). The challenger having apparently effectively demonstrated that each of those 20-something things was less than certain, Madsen responded “Well, in the end, ya makes yer choice and takes yer chances.” There may be some commitment against determinism and some commitment to a flexible epistemology buried in that remark. You would be able to unpack it better than I.

  71. J. Stapley says:

    JR, thanks. Yeah, the whole book address this issue, but the conclusion addresses those items specifically to wrap it all up.

    Clark, I’m going to disagree on several of those items. Talmage was simplifying, McConkie was making it more complex (new geographic locations, hard barriers). Also McConkie does take an explicit stand on what intelligence is, and he defines it as Young’s inanimate spirit element.

    The JFS First Presidency stripped BHR’s model out of publication drafts written by Roberts and Widtsoe, and moved to discredit it. The place where it really gets out there is in Roberts’ annotated King Follett Sermon, which he published in spite of FP attempts keep it out of circulation. So that is where it existed, and no one really talked about it, until Madsen, who championed it.

  72. Late to the party, but just two comments. First, really great post. And second, any ward that you are in is anomalous. Just saying.

  73. Re: organizing intelligences

    It’s documented in the Book of Abraham, specifically in 3:22, during the discussion about “the noble and great ones” that would enter mortality. The temple specifically describes matter unorganized before the spiritual creation of the earth. Unless that section of the temple was a later addition or I have infused my own interpretations over the years, that concept was present during JS’s life time, since he “translated” the text and wrote the temple ceremony. Did he not understand these phrases in this way during his lifetime?

  74. Posts like these are the reason why J has always been one of my favorite bloggers in the ‘nacle since its very beginning.

    I echo all the other people that want an elaboration on the Joseph Smith model!!

  75. J. Stapley says:

    Again, thanks all.

    Jenne, the chronology is a little hazy, but note that this portion of Abraham appears to be revealed in Nauvoo. It is important to look at the whole thing. From Abraham 3:18 “…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.” In vs 21, “I [the Lord] dwell in the midst of them all [all the spirits, see vs. 19];” Then at the end of that vs. the text shifts from spirits to intelligences (speaking of the same things). Then in 22 you see the Lord talking about “the intelligences that were organized before the world was.”

    It is useful to look at how JS spoke about these items in Nauvoo:

    August 8, 1839: “The Father called all spirits before him at the creation of Man & organized them.”

    January 5, 1841: “Spirits are eternal. At the first organization in heaven we were all present and saw the Savior chosen and appointed.”

    March 28, 1842: “The spirit or the intelligence of men are self Existing principles….God is Good & all his acts is for the benefit of inferior intelligences.”

    JS repeats these statements for the balance of his life. This culminates in the King Follett Sermon at his final GenCon in 1844 before he was killed, which is the most extensive and public elucidation of JS temple teachings. There JS repeats that spirits are not created, nor does God have power to create spirits. This is key to his argument throughout the discourse.

    There is no indication of spirit creation until after JS died. Also, I don’t think it is important to this discussion, but the actual text of the endowment liturgy is generally formalized after JS died as well (though it clearly uses Abraham and other JS documents).

  76. Thanks, J. Stapley. The charts are cool. For those looking for footnotes, many of the most relevant ones are in my Dialogue article from last year, titled “The Source of God’s Authority” (issue 49.3). I also argue against spirit birth, from a logistical angle. But it’s the implications of these various plans of salvation that are important in my view. Hence, the title of the article.

  77. BTW, the BHR plan got a semi-official stamp of approval a couple of years ago in general conference when Elder Christofferson referred to its basic shape (intelligences, spirits, and such), assuming that it was the true plan Mormons do believe (and always have). This is what happens when our current leaders are more executives than theologians and don’t have the time to explore the history and details of our rather nebulous cosmology.

  78. Love this Mr. J. I appreciate your work at splendid sun also.

    To me there are huge implications with the differences in exactly how a spirit is created. If it takes an exalted man and an exalted woman to get the job done, then gender roles are eternal and women like EmJen and my wife do not have a lot to look forward to. If it does not take a man and a woman to create or organize a spirit baby, there is absolutely no reason to deny homosexuals entry in the temple and this hope for exaltation.

    I hope that scenario B is true and I hope that there is progression after death.

  79. Clark Goble says:

    J, why do you think McConkie defines intelligence as element the same way Young does? (Earnest question – not trying to argue)

    I just did some checking, and I know Godfrey’s article says that in a 1974 letter to Walter Home that McConkie says spirit element had no agency. Yet that same letter says, “we have no knowledge of any existence earlier than our existence as the spirit children of God. The views in this field were described as pure speculation.” But of course wouldn’t that include the idea element was not intelligence? In other words while he rejects Robert’s view, isn’t it best to present this as his thinking we don’t know and it’s pointless to speculate? That seems a subtle but important difference.

    Godfrey, on the basis of Mormon Doctrine, sees McConkie taking a view of element as collective and not individual but I think that’s reading quite a bit into a pretty vague comment about primary element.

    To the period between Roberts and Madsen, I recognize JFS attempted to remove all references from church publications. But that seems quite a bit different from stomping it out in terms of public mindset. I thought it was the public acceptance you were referring to. The problem is that Roberts writings and especially Pratt’s were still fairly well read during this era. And the public didn’t know there was the concerted effort to stomp it out.

    JR, I confess that other than his Joseph Smith tapes which I loved when young I’ve read almost no Truman Madsen. His comments do sound a tad existentialist. I know Madsen’s fellow professor, Chauncey Riddle, was very much an existentialist. Risk matters quite a lot in that line of thought, especially the sort pushed by Herbert Dreyfus with his Heideggarian inspired existentialism. I’ve no idea if that applies to Madsen. If he does talk about it somewhere I might have to repent of my ignorance. That was a topic I found religiously quite interesting.

  80. Clark Goble says:

    Wally, which Christofferson talk are you thinking of? I did a search for talks by him with the term intelligence and I suspect you mean his talk “Why Marriage, Why Family” but I don’t see his reference to intelligence as necessary endorsing the Roberts model. He says nothing about what our nature as intelligences was.

    J, while I certainly don’t dispute your quotes by Joseph, especially Abraham 3, I’d simply note that none of those really state the form of the intelligences. Variations on Orson Pratt’s model for instance could easily have uncreated spirits as atoms of intelligence becoming more organized as they associate with other atoms. While Pratt clearly sees the main organization as spirit birth, there’s no reason that couldn’t be changed to remove quasi-biological spirit birth and instead have a continuum. I raise this not to argue for such a position but merely to note that Joseph’s comments are exceedingly vague in terms of even addressing the form of these spirits.

    You are assuming Joseph took them as singular beings ontologically speaking, but I don’t think he really addresses that issue at all.

    This becomes more important when you look at some of the more recent contemporary models that have come out the last decade or so. Blake Ostler’s is the most obvious one. Blake as you might recall gets rid of the KFD inspired regress of gods and instead as God the Father as self-organizing himself and then attempting to organize the rest of us. While I don’t think he ever addressed it (I could be wrong) it would seem to follow that the self-existent spirits were all at different levels of development when God starts to organize them – much as outlined in Abraham 3.

    So again, I think we have to recognize the vagueness inherent in these things rather than making them more defined than I think they were.

    I think that many in the early church adopted an quasi-platonic idea of intelligence as both what constitutes a spirit and God’s glory. (A view Emerson made very popular but predates him) Effectively there’s initially an emanation model where spirits are out of God’s spirits and are more a principle of vitality rather than independent spirits. Parley Pratt’s “the Regeneration and Eternal Duration of Matter” is the classic example of that. Arguably Orson’s later work is just the same ideas put through a quasi-Stoic like materialism. Orson claimed in JD 2:342 that Joseph taught this quasi-pantheistic model.

    While Orson Pratt’s view becomes transformed first by the idea of materialism, then by making them atoms ala Priestly’s writings, the basic idea of pre-existent spirit as fluid that simply becomes more organized into individuals explains much of Joseph’s writings and has the benefit of being reflected in the contemporary writings of the 1830’s and 40’s by his acquaintances. I think the idea of eternal individual and complete spirit substances is a bit vague to assign to Joseph in an absolutist fashion.

  81. That’s a lot of quasis.

  82. Aussie Mormon says:

    For those interested, there’s a preview for an october 2017 ensign article on “the vision”/sec76 on the church website

  83. J. Stapley says:

    Clark, the easiest place to look (though there are others that are even more explicit) is Mormon Doctrine:

    “True, as Joseph Smith taught, man “is a self-existent being,” for “the intelligence of spirits is immortal,” and “had no beginning.” (Teachings, pp. 352-354.) That is to say the bodies of Deity’s spirit children were created from the existing spirit element (pg. 84)”

    “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, wholly unsupported by any correctly understood and properly interpreted scripture. Life began for man and for all created things at the time of their respective spirit creations. Before that there were only the spirit elements from which the Almighty would in due course create life. (pg. 442) ”

    “This spirit element has always existed; it is co-eternal with God. (Teachings, pp. 352-354.) It is also called intelligence or the light of truth, which ‘was not created or made, neither indeed can be.’ (D&C 93:29)”

    “Speaking of pre-existent spirits, Abraham calls them ‘the intelligences that were organized before the world was.’ (Abra. 3:22-24.) Thus, portions of the self-existent spirit element are born as spirit children, or in other words the intelligence which cannot be created or made, because it is self-existent, is organized into intelligences. (pg. 751) “

  84. J. Stapley says:

    We’ll also have to disagree about, JS. To be honest, I’ll agree that beyond the idea that spirits (and identity) are eternal, JS doesn’t seem to get into any more detail. This doesn’t seem to be a problem for him. It is a problem for people later on, hence all the complicated linguistic innovation and new ideas. But let’s not pretend that anything Blake or Orson were doing theologically has any use for interpreting JS historically.

  85. Bro. B. says:

    To Wally’s point, don’t all the modern apostles agree pretty much with the BHR/BRM model, at least as far as intelligence(s)–>born spirit children, vs. JS’ un-created, self-existent spirits? As you say above, JS doesn’t really go into detail on this. Is it possible that when he said God didn’t create “the spirit of man” he was referring to the “spirit element?” He introduced the idea of a Mother in Heaven, so it seems he’s giving room for the idea. We also have D&C 76 etc. “the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God.” Many people reconcile this by disavowing the accuracy of the King Follet sermon. If Joseph had lived longer, maybe we’d have more developed doctrine on this.

  86. J. Stapley says:

    Bro. B., it isn’t really possible that JS meant that. He was pretty clear and used the idea in ways that really illustrate is ideas well.

    Note that the BHR and BRM ideas are quite different and the latter was quite antagonistic to the former.

    Note that D&C is talking about being begotten of Christ, and is misread when applied to situations like this. The entire D&C repeatedly talks about becoming children of God, but it is always in terms of adoption. There really is no scriptural basis for Utah-era teachings about “spirit birth.”

    But I would imagine that most people in the church, including the apostles do, inasmuch as they think about it all, find themselves adopting a BHR or BRM view.

  87. IOW, “begotten” there is not an adjective describing spirit birth, “are begotten” is a verb phrase describing being born again. Through Jesus, we become (are begotten) sons and daughters of God.

  88. Oh I agree that Blake’s reading of the KFD and Sermon in the Grove are idiosyncratic to say the least. Although he’s convinced his is the right reading and isn’t ahistorical.

    With Orson of course he’s not really working with all of Joseph’s teachings but appears to be salvaging the earlier views Parley espoused by way of Tertullian’s stoic materialism. So I agree they aren’t historical. I just think that they aren’t as disconnected from them as you suggest.

    To be clear, the main issue as I see it is the connection between a common spirit and the individual entities as spirits. You are assuming Joseph’s view of individuals entails an ontology of individual spirit substances. But I think that’s going beyond Joseph’s words nearly as much as Pratt does. It’s a defensible reading of course. I just think Joseph’s views are far more vague because of those older bits about the common spirit. Some passages like the capitalized “Spirit of Man” or “Mind of Man” can easily be read as referring to this common spirit rather than individual spirits and parallel the idea of world-mind in early 19th century rhetoric such as Emerson. Almost certainly many of the popular Emerson texts available would have been read by Joseph. (Say “Spiritual Laws” or “The Over-Soul.”)

  89. J. Stapley says:

    Nope, JS was pretty clear. It is the whole basis of the KFD.

  90. Regarding McConkie, I looked at those passages before I commented. He says it’s speculation that anything like an ego existed before spirit birth. He then talks about spirit element but just is amazingly vague about what that could mean. If I understand you right, you’re assuming he’s saying spirit element isn’t ‘active.’ But I don’t think the passages you quote say that. He says it’s there but unlike Brigham Young doesn’t think we can say anything about it.

    With Brigham Young I agree with you. He’s basically adopting a physicalist ontology with spirit element more or less just being some ultimate stuff with no mental like properties at all. McConkie by contrast refuses to say what the original stuff’s properties are and condemns as pure speculation any attempt to define them.

  91. Bro. B. says:

    Point taken about the meaning of begotten. But you also have D&C 93:29 talking about intelligence being un-created and eternal, and also Moses 6:51 “I am God; I made the world, and men before they were in the flesh.” (No details of how they were made.) In the KFS the next sentence after the one you quoted is “Intelligence is eternal and exists upon a self-existent principle. It is a spirit from age to age, and there is no creation about it.” You could say he uses intelligence and spirit interchangeably. Elder Christofferson seems to take that view in his talk referred to. In his footnote 3, he inserts “or intelligences” in brackets into JS’ KFS quote: “The first principles of man are self-existent with God. God himself, finding he was in the midst of spirits [or intelligences] and glory, because he was more intelligent, saw proper to institute laws whereby the rest could have a privilege to advance like himself. The relationship we have with God places us in a situation to advance in knowledge. He has power to institute laws to instruct the weaker intelligences, that they may be exalted with himself, so that they might have one glory upon another, and all that knowledge, power, glory, and intelligence, which is requisite in order to save them in the world of spirits.”

  92. J. Stapley says:

    Bro. B. to repeat, there is no reference to spirit birth in the cannon. I’m not going to begrudge anyone the right to do what you are doing there (which is essentially what Pratt, Roberts, and McConkie were doing), namely reading the sources in a way that makes sense to you and developing a narrative. But let’s not then go back and try to get JS to say it. Nor should we try and get all the voices in the cannon to harmonize (see the BoM chart above). Read JS as a whole, see what he says, and how he says it. It is true though that if you want a Heavenly Mother who gestates spirit babies, one can’t be so limited.

    Clark, he calls identity before spirit birth not only speculation but pure fantasy elsewhere. He also says he “does not believe” that there is life before spirit birth. It is not particularly vague. I’m not really interested in trying to guess what people could possibly believe in areas where they didn’t make explicit statements to the contrary. Let’s just go with what they said.

  93. D&C 19 discusses the idea of “Eternal” and “Endless” punishments not being eternal or endless, as we traditionally think of them but rather as God’s name.

    6 Nevertheless, it is not written that there shall be no end to this torment, but it is written endless torment.

    7 Again, it is written eternal damnation; wherefore it is more express than other scriptures, that it might work upon the hearts of the children of men, altogether for my name’s glory.

    8 Wherefore, I will explain unto you this mystery, for it is meet unto you to know even as mine apostles.

    9 I speak unto you that are chosen in this thing, even as one, that you may enter into my rest.

    10 For, behold, the mystery of godliness, how great is it! For, behold, I am endless, and the punishment which is given from my hand is endless punishment, for Endless is my name. Wherefore—

    11 Eternal punishment is God’s punishment.

    12 Endless punishment is God’s punishment.

    So if this is the case, who in their right mind isn’t going to repent once they recognize the error or their ways, whether that’s in this life or the next and what loving parent wouldn’t forgive his/her child and allow him/her to return home, after a sincere apology? Like Given’s sort of says, any God who would send their imperfect yet repentant child to never ending torment, regardless of when the repenting happens, is not worthy of our worship. It would appear that JS’s God isn’t in line with the McConkie doctrine, thankfully.

  94. On spirit birth, I’ve always thought that D&C 132:63 could be easily interpreted to be referring to spirit birth:

    “63 But if one or either of the ten virgins, after she is espoused, shall be with another man, she has committed adultery, and shall be destroyed; for they are given unto him to multiply and replenish the earth, according to my commandment, and to fulfil the promise which was given by my Father before the foundation of the world, and for their exaltation in the eternal worlds, that they may bear the souls of men; for herein is the work of my Father continued, that he may be glorified.”

    I think that the wording, “for their exaltation in the eternal worlds, that they may bear the souls of men,” can give the impression that their exaltation somehow consists of bearing the souls of men.

  95. J. Stapley says:

    Benjamin, a lot of people read it that way. I don’t really want to dwell on polygamy, but I don’t that is a good reading.

  96. Clark, he calls identity before spirit birth not only speculation but pure fantasy elsewhere. He also says he “does not believe” that there is life before spirit birth. It is not particularly vague.

    That’s a false dichotomy though. Either he accepts the BHR view or he accepts the BY view. Again he can think the BHR view wrong without taking a position on what happens prior to spirit birth.


    Of course there is eternal progression. In my long life I have seen people who really don’t want to progress. They are happy to just be in a nice place. We must find room for them somewhere.

  98. Scott Roskelley says:

    I think you actually just need two circles and that’s it. In the pre-existence we lived with God, and God lives in the celestial kingdom, “for in heaven created i them” Moses 3:5. Then we go to earth. When we die we go to the spirit world which is right here. “When you lay down this tabernacle, where are you going? Into the spiritual world . . Where is the spirit world? It is right here. Do the good and evil spirits go together? yes they do. .. Do they go beyond the boundaries of the organized earth? No.” Teachings of BY, 1997, pg279. Then the earth will become the celestial home for resurrected beings. The earth will be sanctified and receive its celestial glory D&Cov 88:17-20, 130:8-11. “When the time comes He will come down in heaven – not from heaven – but He will bring heaven with Him – and this earth upon which we dwell, will be the celestial kingdom” George Albert Smith, Oct. 1942. “In that great change, or resurrection, which shall come to this earth, it shall be sanctified, celestialized and made a fit abode even for God the Father, who shall grace it with his presence. Then shall the righteous, those who have become sanctified through the law of God, possess it forever as their abode. This earth is destined to become the everlasting residence of its inhabitants who gain the glory of the celestial kingdom.” Joseph Fielding Smith, Way to perfection, 351. As for the technologies, non-marriages, relationships, social life of the terrestrial and telestial kingdoms, the latter-day saints have almost nothing to say theologically so we can ignore them.

  99. Sorry, I am always late to these discussions, but this one still seems to be alive. Many commentators above wish there was a female voice in all the cosmologizing. However, there is (was), although brief. Eliza Snow’s poem “My Father in Heaven” (now known as “O My Father”) from 1845 is best known for its “headline” of being perhaps the earliest open reference to Mother in Heaven. However, if one reads the full poem, it encapsulates all the basics of what we call the Plan of Salvation. You have preexistence, godly parentage, female divinity, purpose of mortality, and return to a heavenly home. These are common elements of all of the flow charts in the post, and done pretty concisely in only four verses.

    Now I am sensitive of falling into a “men do logic, but women use emotional intelligence” stereotype, but aren’t the elements Eliza evokes the reasons why we love Mormonism’s expanded and expansive “visions of the eternities” (Bushman’s phrase), no matter which flow chart is right? I am open to the possibility that the “physics” or “mechanics” of immortality and eternal life are simply beyond our current comprehension, and that all the flow charts are all, of necessity, crude and incomplete descriptions. What is essential are the spiritual/emotional truths captured in Eliza’s poem. I love speculating on this subject as much as the next guy, but at least for general public purposes (as in the Gospel Doctrine class I am teaching tomorrow) I am now thinking that Eliza’s poem is the best core text.

    I need to add that part of the reason Eliza’s poem is not used more as a primary source may be its use as a hymn text, despite being raised to semi-canonical status. We don’t get “doctrine” from hymns. On the other hand, the poem might have disappeared into the footnotes of history if it wasn’t sung. Unfortunately, Eliza’s lyrics are now tied to a borrowed 19th C Protestant hymn that, at least in today’s culture, drags like a funeral dirge. Shameless (not-for-profit) promotion: watch this space in the next few weeks for a wonderful new musical setting for Eliza’s poem, which may refocus attention on the emotive power she invokes for these visions of eternity.

  100. Bro. B. says:

    J Stapely, true there’s no reference to spirit birth in the cannon, but then the quote from Joseph Smith you use about God not creating the spirit of man is not cannon either. Seems to me that if you’re going to use JS’ non-canonical comments such as the KFD to support your position, you also should consider his comments from people’s journals at the time, such as “3.Zina Diantha Huntington Young recalled that when her mother died in 1839, Joseph Smith consoled her by telling her that in heaven she would see her own mother again and become acquainted with her eternal Mother. (Susa Young Gates, History of the Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints [Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1911], 15–16.).” Also his teachings that seemed to align the Eliza Snow’s hymn and the fact that he didn’t say anything against her idea of a Heavenly Mother. Seems if you allow all his statements off the record, the possibility that he meant “intelligence” of man could not be created, not the spirit of man, is a viable reading.

  101. J. Stapley says:

    Bro. B., perhaps there is some confusion at what I am asserting. The question is: what did JS teach/reveal? With regard to spirit birth? With regard to Mother in Heaven? Using late Utah era sources to describe JS Nauvoo teachings is not particularly reliable. With regard to the latter, as I said in the post, JS “at least lays a foundation for the idea of Mother in Heaven, if not teaching it privately.”

  102. Do you think a unicorn’s horn is rainbow-colored or basic white? Let’s discuss….on the merits. FFS….

  103. Bro. B. says:

    J., I got your point. Just that if you’re basing your assertion on the KFD, I’m not sure that the KFD, notated by third parties, is any more reliable a source, just because it was notated in the Nauvoo era.

  104. J. Stapley says:

    Bro. B. skepticism of sermon audits is really important. I think we are in agreement there. Fortunately, this particular teaching is frequently repeated, and we have four independent accounts of the KFD in this section. Then couple it with the Book of Abraham. As far as any teaching of JS goes, this is about the most reliable we have.

  105. With Elder Roberts and progression from kingdom to kingdom, I got the impression that he did believe in progression, but wasn’t willing to make a firm statement on the matter because he felt it was a bit speculative. In Outlines of Ecclesiastical History, he indicates that: “Whether or not in the great future, full of so many possibilities now hidden from us, they of the lesser glories after education and advancement within those spheres may at last emerge from them and make their way to the higher degrees of glory until at last they attain to the highest, is not revealed in the revelations of God, and any statement made on the subject must partake more or less of the nature of conjecture.” However, he did feel that the Vision’s statement that people from higher kingdoms minister to lesser kingdoms led him to believe that it was possible and even likely. In the same area of that book, he wrote: “We can conceive of no reason for all this administration of the higher to the lower, unless it be for the purpose of advancing our Father’s children along the lines of eternal progression.” To balance it out, though, he did state that “they who at the first entered into the celestial glory— having before them the privilege also of eternal progress —have been moving onward, so that the relative distance between them and those who have fought their way up from the lesser glories, may be as great when the latter have come into the degrees of celestial glory in which the righteous at first stood.” (Outlines of Ecclesiastical History [Salt Lake City: George Q. Cannon & Sons Company, 1893], 426-427.)

    Although that is the best-known statement, he was open and perhaps a bit more forceful on other occasions. For example, in one public discourse, he said that: “The Priesthood that man receives is not laid aside even at death, but follows him into the world of spirits, where he may continue to minister to those who sit in darkness—to those who have lived upon the earth when the truth was obscured in the rubbish of human traditions, and when people were deceived by the cunning and craft of men. There they have the privilege of enlightening the minds of their fellows and leading them to the truth, as they did here. And when their spirits shall again be reunited with their bodies, their Priesthood does not end there, either; but so long as time shall last or immortality itself endure, just so long shall this power continue with those who are faithful unto it, and they shall have the everlasting privilege of doing good and being the representatives for God and help Him in the work of redeeming the children of men. I come to this conclusion from one of the revelations to the Church through the Prophet Joseph Smith, which says: ‘That they of the celestial glory,’ speaking of the time after the resurrection, ‘shall minister to those of the terrestrial glory, and they of the terrestrial glory shall minister to those of the telestial glory.’ And what is the object of this ministration? Why, it must be for the purpose of leading the children of men to the truth, of taking them by the hand and going higher and still higher in the scale of intelligence and of progression, until every son and every daughter of God shall receive all the honor, all the glory, all the power and happiness that it is possible for their natures to encompass.” (“Priesthood and the Rights of Succession,” in Collected Discourses Delivered by: President Wilford Woodruff, His Two Counselors, the Twelve Apostles, and Others, edited by Brian H. Stuy, 5 vol [Burbank, California: BHS Publishing, 1987-1992], 2:370).

    Anyway, I agree that progression from kingdom to kingdom can be marked indefinite on the chart for his thought because he indicated it was speculative in public and didn’t go way out of his way to champion it, but thought it might be fun to point out where he talked about it.

  106. Nathan Davis says:

    Can we add an “Elon Musk” model? I know, he didn’t invent it, but he brought it to the forefront. Now, I’m no philosopher and still don’t know what ‘aesthetics’ are, or why Tortugian epistemiologies are important to the hemalurgy of viviparous something or others… Never mind. But what if, instead of ‘birth,’ our Heavenly Parents are epic computer programmers, and we were some kind of pre-existing neural net/fractal/other buzz word (intelligence/spirit – I don’t care) that they offered to join their simulation. In that simulation, we gained a spirit body (or something) and were trained by them for eons of ‘time.’ Part of the deal was that we would get to have a physical/spiritual body like our Parents if we leveled up enough in this simulation by doing whatever epic quests they were handing out to us. (+100 to public speaking by serving a mission.) Then, when we finally died in the simulation, our neural net is allowed to upload to a kick butt (pardon my French) perfect body that we can go bungee jumping in without a rope, etc. And there, we get to become computer programmers, just like them. (My wife wants to be in charge of color design, etc. I’d rather stick to engineering and making things explode. In space.) And then, we’ll all look back on these diagrams and say, “Dang, why’d we worry so much about diagrams? We were ALL wrong.” :D

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