On Our Ambiguous Origins

One of the more interesting aspects of Mormon theology is the basic ambiguity that it sets up about our ultimate origins. It seems to me that we have at least three different and not entirely compatible ways of talking about where we come from.

We are uncreated. This is the notion that our spirits are uncreated beings, co-eternal with God himself. This is the line of thinking that says that intelligence, like matter, can be neither created nor destroyed. The scriptural basis for the doctrine lies in the 93 section of the Doctrine & Covenants, but its strongest statement is in the Prophet Joseph’s influential but uncanonized “King Follet Discourse.�

We are created. The notion that God is our maker and creator pops up all over in the scriptures. It seems to be particularly popular in the Book of Mormon. (A quick search at the Church web site reveals that God is referred to as man’s Maker six times in the Book of Mormon).

We are the literal children of God. Obviously, there is lots of language in the scriptures referring to God as our Father, but Mormonism has a very literal approach to this. The Proclamation on the Family declares that we are the spirit children of Heavenly Parents. Interestingly, as near as I can tell, this doctrine of the spirit birth does not show up in the scriptures. The language in the “Proclamation on the Family� seems to be lifted almost verbatim from similar language about heavenly parents from the First Presidency’s 1925 statement on “The ‘Mormon’ View of Evolution.� (A document noticeable for its lack of any discussion of evolution.)

It seems to me that there are some problems to be worked out here. Depending on our particular rhetorical mode, we adopt different accounts of our origins. The uncreated soul provides a nice spring board for discussions of personal responsibility and moral agency. God as our Maker provides a nice way of invoking divine awe and gratitude toward God’s goodness and an appreciation of his power. The notion of literal parentage provides us with a divine model for families and emphasizes the intimacy of our link to God. The question, however, is how we reconcile things so that all three concepts can live comfortably side by side in our theology. Generally, we do this by simply not looking directly at the issue, and perhaps this is the best solution. I wonder, however, if we might do better.

220 comments for “On Our Ambiguous Origins

  1. November 15, 2004 at 9:05 pm

    How, exactly, are these incompatible? Maybe I’m not seeing it, because it seems to me that if you add in the ‘intelligences’ language from the PGP and couple that with an understanding of what ‘creation’ entails (i.e., a rejection of ex nihilo creationism), we have something of a harmony. You’re right that the concept of spirit birth isn’t very fleshed out (perhaps it’s that way on purpose), but I guess I am missing the conundrum.

  2. November 15, 2004 at 9:21 pm

    Steve: If I understand what you are saying, it is the McConkie theory that “intelligence” is some sort of ambigious spirit stuff lacking self-awareness from which God organizes souls. This position is literally consistent with the langauge of Section 93. It is much more of a stretch when compared with the KFD. It is also inconsistent with the way that a lot of LDS theologians have understood section 93, e.g. B.H. Roberts.

  3. November 15, 2004 at 9:32 pm

    What I have in mind is similar to the McConkie reading, but not necessarily lacking self-awareness or anything, which is much more in keeping with the KFD. Everybody has their own concept of how their beings came to be, I guess, but I don’t like the idea of an emergence of awareness (makes me feel all small).

    Far be it for me to disagree (albeit unknowingly) with BH! But the concepts of the same societal nature being eternal are pretty firmly entrenched in the D&C & PGP, and so I’ve always thought of creation in those more familial/interpersonal terms. What’s then the inconsistency with the BH Roberts/”a lot of theologians” interpretation of Sec 93?

  4. Aaron Brown
    November 15, 2004 at 9:38 pm

    Harold Bloom has something to add:

    “Smith’s passionate belief (wholly Gnostic) that our spirit or intelligence is as old as God and the gods, and so need never have been begotten, is rather clearly at variance with the doctrine of spirits being engendered for the unborn. We have the anomaly of a doctrine of Spirit Birth that not only has no sanction in the scriptures that Smith composed, but that also seems to violate one of his most basic principles.” (The American Religion, p. 124).

    Aaron B

  5. Matt Evans
    November 15, 2004 at 9:48 pm

    Our earthly birth adds another source of possible confusion, but also helps to make sense of what birth and creation mean. As Primary children we grasp that even babies are in some sense mature (mature spirits) and this dualistic paradigm (some of our elements are old, some are new) helps us imagine that each prior creation was similar. It’s easier to comprehend how spirit children are not created ex nihilo because we know earthly children aren’t created ex nihilo.

  6. Matt Evans
    November 15, 2004 at 10:03 pm


    What do you think Bloom is saying there? It sounds as though he thinks our Spirit Birth is the creation of an “eternal intelligence,” and it would indeed be a profound conundrum to figure out how you create something that has always existed. Does he not know we believe that we existed as intelligences prior to our spiritual creations, and that our Spirit Birth is not the creation of our “intelligence”?

    eternal intelligence –> spirit child of God –> physical child of man

  7. Joel D.
    November 15, 2004 at 11:06 pm

    I agree with Matt’s #5 comment. Nate’s original post makes it seem that “we are created” is a different option than “we are literal children of God”. While God could conceivably create us in lots of ways, surely one way is to create our spirits is to bear us through divine reproduction (for lack of a better term). This is how I’ve always understood our spiritual creation–a “spirit birth”.

    Now, of course, this doesn’t tell us anything about what we were like before our spirit birth, whether we had our essential personality or whether we we just some type of spirit matter without personality. I’ll need to buff up on the King Follet Discourse, but my recollection is that the statement that we are co-eternal with God is not much developed. That statement could simply mean that our spirit particles and God’s spirit particles have all existed eternally. It could mean lots of other things besides. Do we have really much to go in the teachings of any of the prophets to shed light on this? I’m not aware of anything other than BH Robert’s speculations, and as he was never an apostle, I wouldn’t count him as a prophet, as much as I respect him.

  8. Matt Evans
    November 15, 2004 at 11:30 pm

    Joel, you make good points. Especially since you agreed with me, I’m inclined to say your comments are eminently profound! I did want to point out, however, that B.H. Roberts was an apostle, but that doesn’t mean that his theological ruminations are more than speculations. There are many things God hasn’t revealed that apostles still like to consider and ponder and wonder.

  9. Blake Ostler
    November 15, 2004 at 11:39 pm

    I think that Nate is right that there is a tension between the ideas of spirit birth and uncreated intelligences. However, the tension is not merely in these ideas but in the fact that “spirit(s)” is used interchangeabley with “intelligence” in Abraham 3 and Joseph Smith’s Nauvoo discourses. Intelligences/spirits are uncreated. As far as I can see (and I’ve done a little looking at it) Joseph Smith did not believe in the notion of a birth of spirits that followed the prior status as an intelligence only. Indeed, I cannot find anything indicating that he believed that spirits were begotten (or that there was a Heavenly Mother for that matter). I believe that Brigham Young and Eliza Snow must be credited with that innovation. I also worry about the doctrine of spiritual birth (and to the same extent of a Heavenly Mother) because they are outgrowths of BY’s and Eliza’s Adam God theology (I’m writing a paper on it called “Cultural Over-Beliefs”). It seems to me that JS thought of intelligences as conscious minds having individual gradations of knowledge and intelligence that are due to their own status and not to God’s creation. So it seems to me that Nate’s point is a good one.

  10. November 15, 2004 at 11:55 pm

    Blake, the concept of intelligences as conscious minds and God’s role in the development and raising of those minds (as a Father would be, for example) could be a form of reconciliation, couldn’t it?

    And in terms of JS not believing in intelligences, then what are we to make of Abraham?

  11. Blake Ostler
    November 16, 2004 at 12:06 am

    I didn’t say that JS didn’t believe in intelligences — just that he didn’t distinguish uncreated spirits from uncreated intelligences; he used these two terms interchangeably. I need a little more explanation for what you suggest regarding a reconciliation because I’m missing something (my problem and not yours).

  12. November 16, 2004 at 12:16 am

    No, I think I’m missing something, which is the difference between a spirit and an intelligence. That’s something on which JS and Brigham/Eliza may have differed, I guess, along with the notion of spirit birth, but I was thinking of a reconciliation between the two views by considering spirit birth to mean the education and formation of intelligences in the preexistence, rather than a coming to consciousness.

  13. Blake Ostler
    November 16, 2004 at 12:19 am

    Steve: Good point, “Spirit birth” is very likely not like natural child birth as we know it — and it could mean something like becoming enlightened to the existence of others or other-ness; or becoming open to others for the first time. Good point. I hadn’t thought of it that way before.

  14. Chris Snow
    November 16, 2004 at 12:36 am

    If we did not exist as intelligences before our spiritual birth how can we explain the varying degrees of intelligences that existed before the world was? Abr. 3, 22-24. That is, if God truly brought us into our first existence would He not have created us of equal intelligence? Why would he create some spiritual beings that would progress more quickly than others. I choose to believe, based on scriptural support from Abraham and D&C 93, and common spiritual sense (which I of course derived prior to my spiritual birth as an intelligence), that I existed before I was spiritually created and that my progress in this life and in the pre-existence is tied somewhat to the person I was at the time of my spiritual birth — or at the time my intelligence was organized or clothed with a spirit body. This view is also consistent with the doctrine of accountability. If man came into existence at the time of the spiritual birth it would make sense that God would grant each individual the same measure of intelligence, coupled with the same tendencies to progress. But, we know that in the pre-existence and on earth mankind differs greatly in degrees of obedience and progress in terms of righteousness. How can I be accountable for disobdedience if I was not created equally with my spiritual peers? We can only be accountable for who we are if we existed before we were given spiritual bodies.

    Chris Snow

  15. Matt Evans
    November 16, 2004 at 12:48 am

    I have always imagined our spirit-birth to be that time when I became a child of God. Intelligences that are co-eternal with God can’t be children of God, it seems to me, so there must be a time when God came to call me his. That’s what we mean by our spirit birth.

  16. Chris Snow
    November 16, 2004 at 12:55 am

    Intelligences that are co-eternal with God can become the children of God through a spirtual birth or through the gift of a spiritual body. I have always believed that the time God called me his was when he gave me (when I existed as an intelligence) a spiritual body. Of course, we are all speculating or blogging because the doctrinal foundation is lacking in this area.

  17. November 16, 2004 at 12:58 am

    “Intelligences that are co-eternal with God can’t be children of God”

    I don’t think that necessarily follows, Matt, unless you are locking yourself into versions of spiritual birth and parental relationships that are translations of physical birth and parental relationships. I’ve got the idea somehow that our doctrine doesn’t require that tight of a correlation between the two.

    I can easily conceive of a heavenly Father, finding intelligences and helping them learn and develop to become spirits, then sending them on to become souls, without the Father being the origin of those entities and without the Father existing prior to those intelligences….. no?

  18. Larry
    November 16, 2004 at 1:15 am

    If mortality makes parents and children, but in an eternal sense we are brothers and sisters, is it not possible that a similar relationship can exist with our Heavenly Father, since we are co-eternal with Him?

  19. Matt Evans
    November 16, 2004 at 2:55 am


    We actually believe the same thing: when I read your comment I realized my sentence was unclear. My point was that if my intelligence and God’s intelligence are both co-eternal, then God’s intelligence couldn’t have fathered or created my intelligence. If God is not the origin of my intelligence, but he at some point created me or fathered me, then that creating couldn’t have been the creation of my intelligence and must therefore refer to a transformation of my intelligence into something else, such as a spirit son. That transformative creation is what we call our spiritual birth.

    Blake and Nate,

    If Joseph Smith didn’t consider us begotten sons of God, or believe in a spiritual birth, do you think he thought that God “creates” us — transforms our intelligence into a spirit — concurrent with the creation of the body?

    Otherwise it seems that the logic of my above paragraph requires a spirit birth: 1 – we are eternal uncreated intelligence; 2 – we’re created by God (spirit birth); 3 – we’re created by biology. It seems to me that the only way to avoid believing in a spirit birth is to combine 2 and 3 into a single step — God “creates” us when our biologicial bodies are formed, so there’s no distinct spirit birth.

  20. November 16, 2004 at 7:28 am

    Blake has done a lot more research on this than I have, but I don’t recall ever reading any place where Joseph taught that our spirits were begotten in the very strong sense that Brigham taught that our spirits were begotten. I think that Brigham pretty clearly had visions of spirit sex or something like it.

    Steve, it seems to me that you offer a potentially good way of understanding spirit-birth. (Although Blake is right to point out the the intelligence/spirit distinction doesn’t really exist either in the scriptures or in the sermons of Joseph.) However, it seems to me that his interpretation conceptualizes the birth in rather less literal terms than did Brigham.

    Matt, BH was in the Presidency of the Seventy but was never an Apostle, hence we can probably dismiss his speculations even more easily! On the other hand, his article “The Immortality of Man,” where he lays out his theory of intelligences was formally approved by the First Presidency and the Apostles.

    Blake, it seems to me that given the fact that the doctrine of a spirit birth is enshrined in both a First Presidency doctrinal exposition (“The ‘Mormon’ View of Evolution,” 1925) and a Proclamation by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve (“The Family: A Proclamation to the World”) it has rather more doctrinal heft than simply “folk belief.” I agree with you, however, that there aren’t any references to it in the scriptures.

  21. Matt Evans
    November 16, 2004 at 9:25 am

    Nate, thanks for the correction about Roberts. That’s embarrassing that I erroneously “corrected” Joel. My apologies to Joel. I’d always thought Roberts’ debates with various brethren happened within the quorum — that controversy was a staple of their weekly meetings. I stand corrected.

  22. Blake Ostler
    November 16, 2004 at 10:48 am

    Nate: You’re right about the idea of spirit birth being enshrined in the 1909 and 1925 FPS and the Proclamation — but it seems to me to be an assumption that is accepted as established doctrine rather than a revelation that reveals the doctrine. I worry that certain non-scriptural ideas get a momentum going (e.g. blacks and the priesthood) and then they turn into an assumption and then they get defended as established doctrine and eventually taken up into the PR statements that we now see rather than revelations. Eventually it gets to the point that anyone who disagrees with the non-scpritural assumption is then seen as unfaithful. Such momentum of over-beliefs seems unwise and ironically unfaithful to me.

    I know that is a rather severe judgment but it seems to me to be accurate. Now don’t go claiming that I am saying that Pres. Hinckley and the other GAs are all just wrong or off their nut — I’m not saying that. Yet there is no scripture and no revelation to back the view of a spirit birth (or Mother in Heaven which is part of that Adam God theology beginning with BY and Eliza Snow). The irony is that the doctrine seems to have started with a theology that we all (or nearly all) now reject and yet the ideas that spin out of it are accepted as established w/o a shred of scripture or acceptable revelation to back them — unless one simply regards everything that is said by the FP and Q of 12 as scripture. Yet if we accept everything spoken by the FP as scripture then I fear we’re in for real trouble. So I just express my worries, observations and then admit that when it comes to intelligences and spirit birth we don’t know much. However, if spirit birth can be divorced from some type of celestial sexual conception and natural child birth (as I prefer — though I’m open to being shown that I’m off my nut) then the need to explain how the intelligence/spirit transformed into an intelligence clothed in a spirit/matter body becomes superfluous. It seems fairly clear to me that Joseph Smith and the Book of Abraham view intelligences/spirits as uncreated and backwardly eternal — and such a view seems to be in tension with the idea that we had a beginning as spirits at the time of spirit birth.

  23. November 16, 2004 at 10:58 am

    How exactly is the concept of Mother in Heaven a part of A-G theory? If it is a part, is it not separable?

  24. Joel D.
    November 16, 2004 at 11:00 am

    Thanks, Nate. You beat me to the punch on BH Roberts.

    It seems that we might also be running into an “either-or” fallacy–either we were uncreated or we were created. To analogize on our physical birth, there is a part of us that is created by our biological parents and there is a part of us that existed before and was placed in our physical bodies (i.e., the spirit). In the premortal world, God could have created a part of us through a process of divine reproduction and that eternal uncreated part of us could have been placed in those spirit bodies. Viewing the transformation of our uncreated intelligence into spiritual bodies this way seems to me to accord with scriptures and teachings of Joseph.

    It also seems that some of us are indicating that there was a division between Joseph and Brigham Young on this point. I don’t know that this is necessarily clear or true. No one claims that we have a definitive record of everything Joseph taught, and Brigham Young claims that he didn’t teach anything that he didn’t learn from Joseph. In addition, we believe that BY was a prophet and why not give greater weight to his teachings (as best we can make out what they actually were–I acknowledge some potential documentary problems with BY’s teachings), especially when they augment and do not contradict what Joseph taught.

  25. Joel D.
    November 16, 2004 at 11:07 am

    Blake [#22]: “However, if spirit birth can be divorced from some type of celestial sexual conception and natural child birth (as I prefer – though I’m open to being shown that I’m off my nut) . . .”

    Why is this so distasteful to you? How do you then understand the concept of “Eternal Increase” for those of us who achieve exaltation?

  26. Blake Ostler
    November 16, 2004 at 12:14 pm

    Joel: It isn’t distasteful to me so much as contrary to Joseph Smith’s view of spirits/intelligences and the scritpural view of the same subject. Eternal increase doesn’t mean, as far as I can see, that we continue to have sex with our wives and spiritually conceive spirits by natural child birth (as for instance BY and Orson Pratt saw it). Eternal increase is eternal increase in experiential knowledge, new vistas of growth in relationship and so forth. Of course, it could mean that we continue in family relationships eternally and our progeny is ever-growing — but the state in which the progeny is conceived seems to refer to earth-birth or post-mortal increase rather than some spiritual birth before this life.

  27. November 16, 2004 at 12:40 pm

    Blake: Aren’t you being a little bit too definitive about the nature of Joseph’s teachings. A couple of points to keep in mind:

    1. Our record of Joseph’s teachings is very, very incomplete. Hence, the fact that we don’t have contemporary accounts of Joseph teaching something doesn’t mean that he didn’t teach it. It is not unreasonable to think that BY and OP were teaching or expanding on doctrines taught them by Joseph privately.

    2. There are passages in Joseph’s revelations suggesting that eternal increase is linked to a sort of cosmic sexual fecundity. Certainly there are echoes of this in section 132. I have also often wondered if the occasional reference to “the Gospel of Abraham” are not tied up with this idea, since Abraham was the patriarch whose promised blessing (good news, gospel) was that his posterity would be as numberless as the sands of the seashore and through them the whole world woudl be blessed.

    3. Also, we don’t have a very good handle on precisely how Joseph conceptualized plural marriage, but it is not unreasonable to suppose that his thinking had links to the idea of cosmic fecundity later taught in Utah.

    In short, I think that you need to be a bit more cautious about definitively stating what Joseph Smith did nor did not teach.

  28. Joel D.
    November 16, 2004 at 1:03 pm

    Blake [in response to #26]:

    First, is divine reproduction really contrary to scriptural views/Joseph Smith’s views? Or are do you rather mean that you find no support for it in the scriptures or teachings of Joseph Smith? I don’t see where any scriptures or teachings of JS contradict this. I freely admit that there is no direct scriptural support for it, but neither is there any direct scriptural support for any understanding of how our spirits came to be in the form that they were in the premortal life.

    You’ve mentioned that the Book of Abraham treats intelligences and spirits interchangeably, and you infer that this contradicts the notion of a spirit birth. I don’t see how. This argument seems to depend on an assumption that Abraham somehow would have been required to set forth a distinction between intelligences and spirits if there were such a distinction. But I don’t see how the context of the narrative in the Book of Abraham requires such a distinction–Abraham was talking about the pre-mortal decision to experience mortality and choose a Savior; he was not describing a vision of the entire scope of our pre-mortal life or how the intelligences came to be. For purposes of the particular context of his vision, there may not have been a need to make such distinctions.

    While there is no direct scriptual evidence, I do see hints about a spirit birth. In Abraham, we learn that all things were created spiritually before they created temporally. Presumably that includes Adam and Eve. And since we do have some direct scriptural evidence that part of us is uncreated (D&C 93), this would hint at some process of creating a spiritual body to house our uncreated self.

    The law of restoration also hints at divine reproduction. When we are resurrected, everything is restored to its proper frame, even as it now is. As Alma explained to Corianton, the meaning of the word restoration is to take a thing and return it to its natural state. I take this to mean that our reproductive organs are restored to their proper frame and function in the resurrection. It seems strange to me that we would have these restored and have no use for them.

    It also seems to me that divine reproduction is one of the main points of having a corporeal resurrected exalted body. Why have a physical body in the afterlife? (1) It provides sensation, adding to our joy in interacting with our environment; and (2) it (possibly) provides an avenue to reproduce.

    I also see hints of divine reproduction in the general scriptural sense that many earthly patterns are based on heavenly patterns. The human family unit echos the eternal family unit. God is our Father like our dad is our father. We are ordained to the priesthood on earth; we were foreordained in the premortal world. Why not then, human couples bear mortal children and eternal couples bear spiritual children?

    Also, Blake, in the end of #26, you mention post-mortal increase. What do you mean? The increase of your biological posterity on earth? If so, this will cease at some point when the earth ends and hence your posterity cannot be increasing eternally. Or do you mean creation of mortals by exalted beings in future worlds they create? If so and if you define Eternal Increase to exclude creating spirit bodies for other intelligences, does this mean that you view Elohim as not literally our Heavenly Father (since our spirits are uncreated by him) but really our Heavenly Grandfather to the nth degree (since he “fathered” Adam by some creative process, who is in turn our mortal ancestor)? Because it seems to me that whatever exalted beings do after this mortal life is similar to what Elohim has done with us in our first and second estates.

  29. Blake Ostler
    November 16, 2004 at 1:29 pm

    Nate: your point about not knowing all that Joseph taught is well taken. However, his use of the spirits/intelligences interchangeably is not — it is documented in at least 8 discourses in Nauvoo very consistently. It is the same use in the Book of Abraham and it is no mistake that Joseph would use the same language to translate the BofAbr. since he says at least three times that that is the source of his inspiration on the issue.

    Joel: You may be right that “eternal increase” in D&C 132 refers to eternal progeny — but the mode of conception and the mode of birth is definitely not addressed! That is what I was addressing. We don’t know that they are anything at all like the same thing. We don’t know, for example, whether we are born as spirits after being intelligences only. I’m sure when you refer to being “spiritually created” you mean the book of Moses and not the Book of Abraham. B.H. Roberts tied the two ideas together the way you do. For my part that seems to go beyond what is meant.

    The conflict between the two ideas is that: (1) JS believed that spirits (qua intelligences) are eternal and uncreated; (2) BY and BHR believed that our spirits are not the same as intelligences but something added to them and that our spirits had a beginning and thus are not eternal or uncreated. (1) and (2) seem to be mutually exclusive to me.

  30. November 16, 2004 at 1:30 pm

    Blake: I fully agree with you regarding the absence of a distinction in Joseph’s teachings between spirits and intelligences. I am less certain about your rather forceful claim that Joseph never taught about a mother in heaven or had any concept of spirit birth.

  31. Blake Ostler
    November 16, 2004 at 1:38 pm

    Nate: If our spirits are eternal then they don’t need to be begotten at some point. The mother in heaven arises in Eliza Snow first as far as my research indicates and it is part and parcel of an Adam-God theology that seems to me to be quite distant from anything that JS had to say. You are right that I cannot show definitively that Joseph Smith didn’t teach it. But I cannot show that there isn’t a big red clown in the chair in my office either. However, BY did credit JS with teaching the Adam God doctrine — but I think that BY misunderstood JS and I think I can point to the Nauvoo discourse that BY thought taught it and how he misunderstood JS. So those are my reasons.

    Let’s settle right now on the fact that it is non-scriptural and no source shows that it was by JS that is extant from his lifetime and seems to be contrary to what he did teach and seems arise in a theology that none of us (at least most of us) would not be real comfortable espousing (at least not openly).

  32. November 16, 2004 at 1:45 pm

    On the other hand, I can’t find statements by Eliza R. Snow or Brigham Young stating that Joseph taught that there is a Big Red Clown in your office chair. My understanding, however, is that there are statements by Eliza R. Snow and Brigham Young to the effect that Joseph taught about a mother in heaven and that he also taught about God begetting spirit children. Hence, we are not engaged entirely in hopeless debates about proving a negative. There is evidence suggesting that Joseph taught these doctrines. It is just not strong evidence and you don’t want to credit it. That is fine. I am just not willing to accept such forceful claims about what Joseph did or didn’t teach.

  33. November 16, 2004 at 1:47 pm

    I’d put this in the pride thread, but I’ll put part of it here as well as it seems more applicable. I’d just add that like Nate, I tend to be somewhat skeptical that all the Utah teachings by many figures somehow all originated with Brigham Young. I tend to think that a lot what taught in the Nauvoo School of the Prophets that was then interpreted, often in different ways, by the leading brethren who then started speaking more publicly in Utah. Of course that also means that it then becomes more secondary and distorted. So there seems no textual way of determining what is “authentic” or not. Regarding Brigham Young, I worry that we dump the baby out with the bath water. While elements of what is characterized as the Adam/God theory have been rejected that doesn’t entail everything being rejected. Indeed the two Adam theory reconciles most of his theology to modern thought with only a little reworking.

    The appeal to a essential soul that endures rather than perdues seems more conducive to the problem of pride than I think the alternatives do. For instance if we perdue (i.e. are made up of temporal parts) then in one sense, what we are made of is never uniquely mine. We are always made up of something else, of something beyond myself. In a fundamental way there is never a stable or absolute border between what is me and what is the other.

    Now my own views on this I’ve discussed before and I’ll not bore people with it. I simply think that a soul, in the model of Descartes or Aquinas, is an incorrect model. Yet clearly that is a view that has been rather influential on LDS notions of intelligence – especially since B. H. Roberts (although one can see it in Pratt as well) As I read him, Brigham Young moves much more towards the perdue view of human souls, in which there is an underlying unity to all beings. i.e. in one sense we are making pre-existent intelligent part of us. It is thus, most probably, an idealist conception of the soul.

    I certainly understand why Blake would disagree with this. And, I hasten to add, I’m not at all prepared to defend this reading of Young. (I may well be misreading him) But this more neoPlatonic way of reading things does offer interesting insights – especially to explain pride.

  34. Blake Ostler
    November 16, 2004 at 1:50 pm

    Nate: When I say that BY credited JS with teach Adam God, I meant the entire complex of beliefs associated with it including a mother in heaven and spritual intercourse and begetting. So you are right and I should have been clearer. If JS did teach it, then it seems to be in conflict with the things we know he taught about eternal spirits/intelligences — and it seems to me that his theology is not easily meshed with this complex of Adam God beliefs. But it probably wouldn’t be the first time he taught doctrines in tension with one another. Yet if the belief is non-scriptural — and if it contradicts what is scriptural — don’t we go with scripture?

  35. Joel D.
    November 16, 2004 at 2:01 pm

    Blake [#34]: if the belief is non-scriptural – and if it contradicts what is scriptural – don’t we go with scripture?

    This has a false premise: that the possibility of spirit birth contradicts scripture. I see nothing in scripture that contradicts it, conceding that there is nothing that directly supports it either. Since it is non-scriptural, I think that we need to be careful that in talking about it we always make it clear that this is speculation or opinion and not doctrine. It is simply one option that makes sense to some of us.

  36. November 16, 2004 at 2:02 pm

    Blake: So now we have gone from Joseph never taught that, to Joseph may have taught that but it is incoherent, and we ought to stick with the scriptures anyway. This seems like a more reasonable position. BTW, if we believe with Clark (and I do) that much of the Utah era teachings by BY, OP, etc. were garbled interpretations of what Joseph taught them in Nauvoo, then to the extent that you find AG utterly unpalatable, why not accept some portions of it and throw out others. For example, one might argue that Joseph taught about spiritual begetting, but that BY was responsible for all of the embarassing stuff about Adam being the father of our spirits etc. One could justify this by the old argument that the simpler concept (spirit begetting) is likely earlier than the more complext version of that concept (full-blown AG). Also, this would fit nicely with the implicit interpretive principle that I think really guides most of these discussions, namely make BY solely responsible for any doctrine that one doesn’t like because he is already theologically discredited (in some sense) in a way that Joseph is not.

    Finally, while I do believe that the scriptures are largely silent on the issue of a spirit birth, it is by no means obvious to me that the concept is affirmatively inconsistent with them.

  37. November 16, 2004 at 3:14 pm

    Blake, I tend to think that the Kirtland era theology and Nauvoo era theology are only in conflict if we require a textual kind of consistency and accuracy. i.e. the texts as texts must be treated as unambiguous. Certainly in that sort of reading some elements of Kirtland and some elements of the postulated School of the Prophets in Nauvoo are in conflict. However if we simply ascribe more vagueness to Joseph’s teachings then I think the problem resolves itself. That vagueness would also account for some of the differences among the Utah era theologies as the missing parts of the vague teachings were filled in.

    Nate, while clearly we’re saying the same sorts of things, I’m not sure we ought call Brigham Young discredited because of Adam/God any more than we ought call Joseph problematic because of the questionable theology of the resurrection of children he taught in the KFD. Further as you know, the cessation of A/G as a teaching had as much to do with politics as anything. Even in the latter responses to A/G, such as with Elder McConkie, I think there is a strong element of politics. That’s not to say I believe it. I don’t accept the Adam=God in the way Brigham Young did. But I also think that the era from Woodruff up to, but not including, Grant, saw the doctrine repressed as a way of putting aside many elements of the Utah period and not necessarily a rejection of the doctrine. The change under Grand and then Joseph Fielding Smith represented a new period when adherence to scripture over Utah doctrine was pushed. But even there while scriptural literalism (and the influence of Pratt) was a prime mover, I think political and perhaps other motives were at work.

    None of this is to say what the truth of the matter is. Simply that I think things are more complex than we sometimes present them as.

  38. Jim Bennett
    November 16, 2004 at 4:23 pm

    There is a big red clown in my office chair.

  39. November 16, 2004 at 4:26 pm

    Clark: I agree with you about the decline of AG, and as I have argued here and elsewhere, I am not especially sympathetic to glib dismissals of BY. On the other hand, I think that such glib dismissals are very common. I think that the average Mormon feels much more comfortable writing something off as BY’s “speculation,” than writing something off as Joseph’s “speculation.”

  40. November 16, 2004 at 4:51 pm

    I do agree with that Nate, which is why I think Blake and a few like-minded theologians have an uphill battle for a theology that neglects much of the Nauvoo teachings and all of the Utah teachings. Simply put, as soon as someone in Utah says, “I heard it from Joseph,” people pay more attention. When you have lectures, like the King Follet Discourse and other textual fragments which became the Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, then I think people are loath to neglect them. Especially when many of those fragments ended up in the D&C perhaps primarily because of who said them.

  41. Jim Bennett
    November 16, 2004 at 4:51 pm

    Nate, did you hear me? There’s a big red clown in my office chair! What are you going to do about it?

  42. November 16, 2004 at 4:53 pm

    Jim: You are going to have to make real comments — pretentious, pseudo-intellectual ones like me — or we are going to have to ban you again!

  43. Jim Bennett
    November 16, 2004 at 5:06 pm

    Pretentious and pseudo-intellectual is what you want, huh?

    I gots pretentious and pseudo-whatsits comin’ out of my eyeballs!

    Bottom line: if you voted for John Kerry, you were created. If you voted for George W., you are eternal.

    What would BH Roberts have to say about that, I ask you!

  44. Joel D.
    November 17, 2004 at 9:57 am

    Stop the presses! There is in fact direct evidence from the scriptures and the teachings of Joseph Smith that there was a spiritual birth in the pre-mortal realm. I was re-reading D&C 93 last night and came across vs. 21: “And now, verily I say unto you, I was in the beginning with the Father, and am the Firstborn.” If in the beginning (i.e., the pre-mortal world), Christ was the Firstborn, how can He not have been born in the pre-mortal world?

    Furthermore, in one of the textual variants of the King Follett Discourse, Joseph was reported to have said that “Jesus Christ being the greater light or of more intelligence, for he loved righteousness and hated iniquity, he being the Elder Brother presented himself for to come and redeem this world as it was his right by inheritance.” (George Laub record). The context here is the pre-mortal council. Here, Christ refers to his right at the Firstborn of the gathered intelligences/spirits to fulfill the role of Redeemer. Joseph also characterizes him as our Elder Brother, which means that the we also must be spirit children of Elohim in order for Jesus to be our Elder Brother in the pre-mortal world.

    These references are clearly not referring to Jesus simply being the Only Begotten of the Father in the flesh (i.e., the Firstborn because the only-born). The context is that of the pre-mortal world and as the pre-eminent brother among spirit siblings. If, as Blake has pressed, our spirits are wholly uncreated, none of these references make any sense at all. However, reading all things together so that they make sense, we see that there is a part of our spirit selves that is uncreated (thus justifying the other statements in D&C 93 and in the KFD about our spirits being co-eternal with God) and a part that is created by our Heavenly Father that makes us His spirit children.

    Finally, I call upon the Church Correlation Department to back me up. In Chapter 2 of the Gospel Principles manual, it states:

    “God is not only our ruler and creator; he is also our Heavenly Father. ‘All men and women are … literally the sons and daughters of Deity. … Man, as a spirit, was begotten and born of heavenly parents, and reared to maturity in the eternal mansions of the Father, prior to coming upon the earth in a temporal [physical] body’ (Joseph F. Smith, “The Origin of Man,â€? Improvement Era, Nov. 1909, pp. 78, 80).

    “Every person who was ever born on earth was our spirit brother or sister in heaven. The first spirit born to our heavenly parents was Jesus Christ (see D&C 93:21), so he is literally our elder brother (see Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 26). Because we are the spiritual children of our heavenly parents, we have inherited the potential to develop their divine qualities. If we choose to do so, we can become perfect, just as they are.” (Gospel Principles, Unit One: Our Premortal Life with God, 2: Our Heavenly Family, We Are Children of Our Heavenly Father, 11)

    By the way, the reference to “heavenly parents” and “inherited” also points to divine reproduction by exalted beings. See further the last chapter of Gospel Principles:

    “These are some of the blessings given to exalted people: . . . 3. They will have their righteous family members with them and will be able to have spirit children also. These spirit children will have the same relationship to them as we do to our Heavenly Father. They will be an eternal family.”

  45. Jim Bennett
    November 17, 2004 at 10:56 am

    Question for those in the know: is it considered the McConkie position that intelligence was/is an inchoate spiritual stew that only achieves sentience at the time of spirit birth? I had a McConkie (Joseph Fielding)as a mission president, and I consider myself somewhat of a McConkite. He liked to talk deep doctrine, but this issue never came up.

  46. Jack
    November 17, 2004 at 11:14 am

    Joel, I think there is some kind of “birth” happening, but my mind begins to reel when I equate “spirit birth” too closely with “temporal birth”. It requires too much math. I take comfort in finding some possible analogue between being “born again” and what birth might mean in other contexts.

    Jim, I’m not really “in the know”, but yeah, I think that’s pretty much the way McConkie saw it.

  47. November 17, 2004 at 12:32 pm

    Regarding the Firstborn imagery, one ought be careful, since firstborn also implies chief heir. So to assume that the imagery of firstborn implies a spirit birth seems dangerous. Indeed the very notion of “only begotten son” is also problematic, even if we Mormons tend to read it in a very literal way.

    Personally I always read the scripture about the same society existing in heaven as here, and the fact we talk about a heavenly mother and heavenly father as implying a spirit birth. But it is hardly umambiguous. But to me I find the rejecting of basically everything taught in 19th century Utah as mere speculation as very, very problematic. I’m willing to say somethings got mangled a little, but not that the general thrust was wrong.

  48. Matt Jacobsen
    November 17, 2004 at 1:17 pm

    Here’s another scripture about spiritual birth. Mosiah 5:7

    “And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters.”

    I had always assumed that this verse refers to a symbolic and not a literal spiritual birth, or at least one separate from the way in which our Heavenly Father had spirit children. Is it heretical to think that the two processes may be related? There are other verses that mention becoming spiritually born of Christ. Jesus is doing what he saw his father do. Jesus knows how God the Father had spirit children, and perhaps Jesus is going through the same process by being a Savior and calling all people to come unto Him (voluntarily be born of Him, just as we voluntarily were born into mortality).

    Of course, this implies that at some point in the past we would have been spiritually born of Heavenly Father in the same way. This is where the thought becomes either ridiculous or interesting.

  49. November 17, 2004 at 2:51 pm

    I’ve been traveling again (to Philadelphia, and if I may, that is quite possibly one of the most poorly planed transportation hubs in the Nation – the interstate around the airport that is), and I wish you would please refrain from posting such interesting threads when I am unavailable to comment.

    While I would love to express my malaise against the imposition of our current biology on the eternities, I won’t. Rather, I wanted to throw a conclusion out there: it seems to me that if we take in both the Nauvoo period teachings (e.g., KFD) and subsequent teachings of spirit propagation, we are left with a situation where, not God the Father, but a host of resurrected beings are the literal fathers of all of our spirits.

  50. November 17, 2004 at 3:21 pm

    Matt, the problem with an appeal to Mosiah 5 (or related texts) is that it is Jesus who would be our Father. So unless you are adopting the fairly heretical view that Jesus Christ gave physical birth to us, I don’t think it works.

    By the way, Mosiah 5 is an excellent Mormon text illustrating the broader meaning of “begotten son.” We are all begotten of Jesus, Jesus alone is spiritually begotten of the Father.

  51. November 17, 2004 at 3:25 pm

    The whole issue of spiritual paternity is an interesting one, J. It gets at an other ambiguity in our theology. i.e. are we all children on this world of one parent? In the resurrection when we are exalted, will we be individual gods for our own planet or will we jointly work with Christ? There have been a variety of views on this, with some interesting evolution of the ideas in the 19th century. (The way they evolved leads me to think they were speculation – especially since Heber C. Kimball was involved in so much of it) But by and large the 19th century view was that each of us will be a God to our own world or worlds. In the 20th century, while the remnant of the 19th century view remains popular, there has been a growing view that only Christ will be a God on his own and that we do it with him. And, of late, there has been gaining in popularity, at least among intellectuals, the idea that only the Father is ever God and that he’ll function in the same role for any future posterity, if indeed we ought to accept spirit births at all.

  52. November 17, 2004 at 3:48 pm

    Clark: Well said. I do think that the overwhelming majority of the church is in the “God of my own world� camp. While I have my own ideas, they have been developed in vacuo. So, I would love to read anything on the latter two positions, if you would be so kind as to point me in the right direction (if there is anything out there).

  53. November 17, 2004 at 3:54 pm

    J. Stapley: As I recall, James E. Talmadge advocated the Christ becomes God and we work under him scenario in some sermons. I think that they are collected in the Signature _The Essential James E. Talmadge_ volume. (Sorry my books are at home). As for the, we all end up under the Father forever and ever, the most sophisticated recent proponent has been Blake Ostler. Check out his book.

  54. November 17, 2004 at 4:02 pm

    The Talmage view, Nate, is simply the late 19th century view of eternal progression minus some of the controversial aspects. i.e. the idea that we become Christs and are born on an other world prior to becoming a full God. Without that odd doctrine (and don’t ask me for the references – as I recall Heber C. Kimball was a proponent)

  55. November 17, 2004 at 4:05 pm

    Whoops. Hit enter by accident.

    Without that weird near reincarnation speculation then Jesus becomes by adoption our Father and if Jesus becomes God, we’ll always be under him and thus not God as such. However I suspect (without checking — I don’t know) that Talmage also thought we could become full gods.

  56. Larry
    November 17, 2004 at 4:17 pm


    It might do well to remember that “Christ” is an office. It is an essential office to making all things possible. I believe that 2Ne.11:7 addresses this when it says that “if there be no Christ, there be no God” (I’m doing this from memory so forgive any misquotes).
    It is this office that makes creation possible(D&C88:13) and provides the opportunity for existence because it allows for opposition (2Ne. 2), and therefore agency, which is also required for existence (Section 93).
    The Saviour is a substitute for the Father. He is not the Father.(Mosiah15:1-8)(Facsimile#1). That is why He behaves in every way as though He were the Father. He is simply doing the Father’s will, so that the Father can be glorified.
    In the end He inherits all that the Father has and offers the same thing to all our Father’s children because that is the will of our Father.
    “As man now is God once was. As God now is, man may become.”

  57. November 17, 2004 at 4:22 pm

    Larry: I know that your post was directed to Clark, but…just about every point you made was a matter of interpretation. Moreover, the premises for your argument are less then generally held.

  58. Joel D.
    November 17, 2004 at 4:27 pm

    Re: the last few comments. Are people mostly suggesting that there is a hierarchy of gods (this doesn’t seem too controversial), or are people suggesting that D&C 132 and the King Follett Discourse are simply mistaken when they state that saints can become gods (this seems highly controversial)?

    Nate, this discussion of becoming gods might be better put onto a new, separate thread to alert more people to the discussion.

  59. Larry
    November 17, 2004 at 4:33 pm

    J. Staplely,

    Thank you for responding. What point are you referring to as being a matter of interpretation? This could be an excellent discussion point.

  60. November 17, 2004 at 4:46 pm

    Larry: While “Christ� may be represented as an office, that is not the only way of representing it. One can say that opposition and agency are independent of the Christ. One can argue whether he offers “the same thing� to all the righteous heirs. And what “as man now is God once was. As God now is, man may become� means is highly debatable.

    I think there are multiple ways to interpret the other points as well, but I think this might illuminate my perspective on the comment.

  61. November 17, 2004 at 4:47 pm

    Nate & clark, et al. I don’t mean to hijack the thread at all, but just a fallow up. I would describe my position as “Jesus will be a God the Father and we will never be omniscient� And while my position is a result of my own synthesis of the teachings that have already discussed, it lands me closest to the “Jesus as the Father and we help him� that Clark mentioned. While I am familiar with Blake’s work (It is on my list of things to read) and many of his positions, I haven’t seen much on the position closest to myself. So, I’ve ordered the Talmage book. Are there any other sources out there?

  62. Larry
    November 17, 2004 at 4:52 pm

    J. Stapely.

    Good points except (surprise) I think you are wrong. Unfortunately I have to leave the blog right now, but I will be happy to continue this later this evening when I have more time. i look forward to the discussion.
    Have a good day!

  63. November 17, 2004 at 5:02 pm

    Larry, I agree that Christ and even Father are best seen as titles. Indeed the whole bin by Abinadi commenting on the “saviors on mount zion” is quite applicable. So I see a lot of the 19th century speculation as clealry wrong. So don’t get me wrong – I’m not defending some of the more odd doctrines that have been latched on by various recent apostate groups. Indeed I tend to see Brigham Young’s oft made comments about the identity of Michael a bit of confusion over names and persons. (Odd – since he probably makes the strongest case for name-titles)

    Regarding how Christ deals with the things he receives, that is the question. So you’re kind of begging the question. You are taking the common view that Christ gives it to everyone equally as he receives it. But exactly how he does that isn’t clear. The mainstream view is that Christ is made a full God and gives spiritual birth to new souls and that each of us is made a full God and give spiritual birth to new souls. Yet my point was that this is hardly the only view presented in church history.

    Joel, I think the issue is what is meant by becoming Gods. I think that recent thinkers have (IMO) moved towards a view more akin to eastern orthodoxy. An other way of viewing it is that God proper is the collective and not any individual. However the identity of the Father is sometimes conflated at times with this collective God. However I’m loath to say more than that since this is an area that isn’t clear in many people’s texts.

  64. November 17, 2004 at 5:33 pm

    Clark: Do you have any JD cites on the Heber J. Grant speculations. I have never really looked into that and it sounds interesting.

  65. Joel D.
    November 17, 2004 at 5:46 pm

    Clark, this idea of a collective God sounds similar to the old catholic doctrine of Trinity, where there is a collective God made up of three parts. This is a position strongly rejected by Mormonism, so I have doubts that mainstream Mormonism is moving in the direction you suggest.

    Re: what is meant by becoming Gods. While the process and timeframe is not at all clear, it seems to me that the end result is: “all that the Father hath”, as stated in the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood (or “as God is, man may become” as stated in KFD). Where is the ambiguity in latter-day revelation that leads people to interpret this as something less than becoming what Elohim now is.

  66. November 17, 2004 at 5:55 pm

    The KFD is pretty explicit about the office of Christ being preparative for the office of the Father. This jives very well with our doctrine of the atonement: that being that the expiation was a necessary means to confer omniscience upon the Christ.

    As per a reconciliation of this with the whole “as God is, man may become� thing. Well, that all depends on what the meaning of “is� is. ;)

  67. Joel D.
    November 17, 2004 at 6:02 pm

    Ah, I feel a Clinton blog coming on. But I will refrain. :)

  68. Larry
    November 17, 2004 at 10:30 pm


    I’m back.
    Quoting you,
    “Regarding how Christ deals with the things he receives, that is the question. So you’re kind of begging the question. You are taking the common view that Christ gives it to everyone equally as he receives it. But exactly how he does that isn’t clear. The mainstream view is that Christ is made a full God and gives spiritual birth to new souls and that each of us is made a full God and give spiritual birth to new souls. Yet my point was that this is hardly the only view presented in church history.”

    My point was not that the Saviour gave it to everyone equally as he receives it, but rather the Father does. All that the Saviour did He did on behalf of the Father. The Saviour is the gate by which we enter into the presence of the Father, but the kingdom and the power and the glory are His(the Father’s) and it is He who shares it with His children. As to everyone who enters the Celestial Kingdom receiving it instantly, that is another matter. Obedience in this life has to play a large role in how quickly we obtain “all” that the Father has even after we arrive there.
    As far as the Saviour and us achieving full godhood and bearing spirit children the example has already been shown by what has preceded us. Where is the ambiguity in what we know from the scriptures. To me it is clear.

  69. November 17, 2004 at 10:47 pm

    I’ve been reevaluating my antipathy towards viviparous spiritual birth. In my argument, I have a hard time putting up a good rational for it, while my rational against it seems pretty good. Without writing down my thoughts for the last couple of hours, can someone give me a decent rational for celestial procreation and viviparous spiritual birth?

    (Using our current biology as a pattern is not working for me – If we project it on to resurrected beings, then they should give birth to resurrected beings not spiritual ones)

  70. November 17, 2004 at 11:14 pm

    Joel, the Catholic view is not three parts making up one whole. Indeed many consider that position, called social trinitarianism, incompatible with mainstream Christianity. (But many note the affinity to LDS theology) The Catholic (and Protestant) view is that there is One God in three persons. i.e. the substance or unity is logically prior to the division and not the opposite.

    Nate, I can find some, although to be honest I’d be hesitation about posting them here. A lot of apostate sects went wild with the info. There was a MormonMystic mailing list at Yahoo for a while, with lots of resources. But it appears gone. I’ll see what I can find, but I’ll not post it here.

    Larry, I understand your position and it tends to be how I read them as well. My point is simply that the scriptures aren’t as unambiguous on this point as you suggest.

  71. Jack
    November 17, 2004 at 11:26 pm

    Fun thread!

    I wonder sometimes if we view the pre-mortal life as an estate (or estates) while viewing the post-mortal life as merely a refining of those estates already inherited, rather than a continuance of inheriting new estates. (nothing new here; ‘just the idea of being “added upon”)

    What if we consider our relation with the Savior an “estate”? We are members of his “body”, He is the head, and the whole “creature” – or estate – is called by His name. Because the Savior inherits all that the Father has, we too share in that inheritance because we are part of Him, or in essence, ARE Him.

  72. Jack
    November 17, 2004 at 11:43 pm

    J Stapley, I too have a hard time equating “spirit birth” with “physical birth”. I really don’t know what the answer is. However, I do find a little comfort in viewing being “born again” as a spiritual analogue to physical birth. I like the idea of viewing the “gathering of Israel” as the “birth” of the Savior’s body. (albeit, a very slow arduous “labor” from our lowly PoV)

  73. Larry
    November 18, 2004 at 12:03 am

    Jack & J. Stapely,

    Just a thought but consider this.
    In mortality we give birth to mortals because we have blood flowing through our veins. As Celestial Beings we have “light” flowing through our veins, then the beings we give birth to are beings of light or spirits as per D&C 84:45.
    How this is accomplished I don’t know but according to something I read by Hugh Nibley many years ago, it is better than the way we do it here on earth.

  74. Larry
    November 18, 2004 at 12:11 am

    An interesting point you make re:
    “I wonder sometimes if we view the pre-mortal life as an estate (or estates) while viewing the post-mortal life as merely a refining of those estates already inherited, rather than a continuance of inheriting new estates. (nothing new here; ‘just the idea of being “added upon”)”
    If I had more time right now I would comment. My son-in-law just called and he has a flat tire so I need to go. Please continue with this thought and I’ll comment later.

  75. November 18, 2004 at 12:14 am

    Just a note, the theory that Larry mentions above, was rather thought about by both Pratt and Young. (i.e. the differences between bloods) I’m not sure I buy it, since it depends upon an ambiguity over light. i.e. what is light and how does it flow and why does it make a difference? Further the equation of truth and light makes that whole treating it like a physical object kind of hard to buy.

    BTW – just to follow on Larry’s earlier comments, I think the oath and covenant of the priesthood is the strongest argument against recent theologies arguing an impassible essential gulf between God and man. “And also all they who receive this priesthood receive me, saith the Lord; for he that receiveth my servants receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth my Father; and he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father’s kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him.” (D&C 84:35-38)

    However clearly some would suggest that what God has and what God is are not the same.

  76. November 18, 2004 at 12:43 am

    “However clearly some would suggest that what God has and what God is are not the same.�

    You just obviated the need for my post.

  77. Larry
    November 18, 2004 at 1:09 am


    Now you raise an interesting point about light. This would be a good topic to blog on since it carries so many properties from visible to invisible, being the power by which all things are created, to a healer and destroyer, as in lasers, etc.
    I don’t see the scriptures as being ambiguous as you do on this topic, nevertheless, it would be good to get some insights on the properties of light that we know to date. Perhaps, in the end, we could “enlighten” ourselves.:)

  78. Matt Jacobsen
    November 18, 2004 at 4:11 am

    I was trying to address the equation of physical and spiritual birth with my comment refering to Mosiah 5. Clark, based on your response I don’t think I was clear. We hear ‘spiritual birth’ in the hereafter and speculate how spirits might copulate to produce new spirit children. Yet there is scant scriptural evidence for this concept. However, there are many scriptures that refer to being spiritually born of Christ. Rather than assuming that celestial spiritual birth needs to be similar to physical mortal birth, perhaps it is more similar to being born spiritually of Jesus. Still, being born of Christ is not exactly well-defined either, but people in the scriptures have tried, I would guess many believe they’ve experienced it, and it certainly seems to have a profound change on our spirits.

    Even though we are all spirit children of Heavenly Father, we don’t seem too put off by thinking of Jesus as also becoming our spiritual father, even if only by adoption. Is the use of the word ‘born’ significant in this case? Or is it just imagery? If it is just imagery then it certainly is consistently used.

    If you take the view that our spirits are co-eternal with Heavenly Father, maybe there was a time before this mortality where we were given a choice to follow Him, and by so doing, we were spiritually born of Him. (There are many problems, of course. Would Christ be a different kind of spiritual father than Heavenly Father is? How? What about a spiritual mother?)

    Like others here, I’ll be trying to catch up on what’s already been written on this topic. Thanks for the pointers and the thread.

    Off on a tangent now, someone over at bcc once made a post about why lurkers don’t comment, and this thread is an example of why it is hard for me. I read 30 comments on an interesting thread and think of some comment to make, and yet I don’t have the bandwidth to stay active in the conversation. It sometimes feels like I’m at a party secretly listening to many conversations and occassionally blurting out comments. Of course I quickly escape, leaving people to speak to my absence, or to ignore the intruder. Even though I know many others are in the same boat, it still feels awkward.

  79. Jack
    November 18, 2004 at 10:03 am

    Jacob, I think the spiritual rebirth you refer to from king Benjamin’s sermon is more than “imagery”. It is a change in the persona, without which, one cannot be redeemed. Perhaps birth may be likened unto a “rite of passage” or a change from one state to another, or even a movement from one world to another. (e.g., the Temple)

  80. Jack
    November 18, 2004 at 10:16 am

    Jacob, I think the spiritual rebirth you refer to from king Benjamin’s sermon is more than “imagery”. It is a change in the persona, without which, one cannot be redeemed. Perhaps birth may be likened unto a “rite of passage” from one state to another, or from one world to another if you will. Though, in the case of spiritual rebirth, it is not necessarily a complete transition from one world to another so much as it is a movement into a larger world which (larger world) encompasses the former.

  81. November 18, 2004 at 11:43 am

    Matt: Nice imagery. I have this mental picture of you hiding under the table making random comments during dinner or something. And as per you posts…I think that it is conceptually interesting. I spent some time since your comments considering the possibilities. And to be frank, (now this is more a response to the whole position of the uncreated), I think it is a matter of how much comfort level you have for a limited creation. That is, I am comfortable saying that energy and matter are eternal (though I do have a limited reservation here). Equally, I am comfortable with the idea of primordial agents that are eternal (though I have no good rational for why). I’m just not so comfortable with full on eternal-spirits (for no good reason).

    If we do accept the uncreated spiritual birth (a la born again) like Matt has proposed, does the fall of a third part of our spiritual generation still make sense? Would they be born again by the father, just to go on a rebel against the plan?

    Now back to the whole viviparous spiritual birth – Larry people have blood and give offspring with blood. The corollary would be light for blood give light for blood. However, the Light for blood thing just doesn’t seem to mean much too me. First I have this idea of fiber optics for veins…but seriously, maybe it is because I am a scientist and so the definition of light could be a lot of things to me, but the whole light=truth=etc. that people throw out there means nothing concrete to me.

    Is it possible that light means energy? From a scientific perspective, there is a conservation of mass, energy and information in the universe, and they are all intertwined.

  82. November 18, 2004 at 2:51 pm

    Matt, I think it is a category error to conflate spirit birth in the sense of being born again with the meaning of spirit birth in terms of the pre-mortal existence. While I agree that we need not assume the spirit birth in heaven is analogous to the mortal birth, I suspect it is equally problematic to see it as a kind of spiritual indwelling by the Holy Ghost.

    Certainly those who deny a true spirit birth might see us as coming to belong to God’s family and increase in stature through that relationship without seeing anything physical to it, the way our birth is. However by the same token one might well see our increase in stature involving something added physical. While the way this is done might be different from how a physical body is added to a spirit body, the mere view of there being a physical addition suggests that conceiving it as a birth might not be too far off.

  83. Joel D.
    November 18, 2004 at 2:59 pm

    I’m glad to see a consensus forming to establish the fact that there is a spiritual birth that in part forms our pre-mortal selves. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t undertstand how celestial biology works or what form divine reproduction takes. We know so little about how resurrected bodies operate. Given that exalted bodies are supposed to be exponentially better than mortal bodies, I’m sure it is a beautiful and wonderful process. However it occurs, I think it is clear that the result is that the uncreated spirit part of a pre-mortal entity becomes a spirit child of an exalted couple and commences its “first estate.” Other than this, is there anything else we can be sure about in relation to the pre-mortal spirit birth?

  84. Blake Ostler
    November 18, 2004 at 3:41 pm

    Joel: In answer to your question, I think that the answer in “no” and I’m not even sure of spirit birth of an intelligence — I believe that it is contra-scriptural and contra-JS’s world-view (so far as we can tell).

  85. Larry
    November 18, 2004 at 4:16 pm


    I need to get my glasses fixed. I see you repeating for emphasis. It might just be an age thing on my part though.

  86. Blake Ostler
    November 18, 2004 at 4:27 pm

    whoops — chalk it up to a computer that thinks it has to repeat everything.

  87. Larry
    November 18, 2004 at 6:47 pm

    J. Stapely,

    It’s good to know that you are a scientist. This helps in understanding your perspective.

    I liked your point about veins made of fiber optics. All sorts of images came to mind. :)

    Not being a scientist, I accept that scripture in 84:45 as being what it says. Go back to 50:24 where it says that”that which is of God is light”.
    If we did a scripture chain we could show a lot of different manifestations of light, including the fact that it is the priesthood power. The problem is that we don’t understand all the features of it and probably won’t in mortality.
    That our intelligences were clothed in light in order to become spirits is not difficult for me to grasp as per section 93, but the manner in which this was accomplished is completely unknown.
    If there wasn’t a spiritual birth that at least approximates what occurs on earth, i.e. requiring a man and a woman, of what value would our Heavenly Mother be. Since She is held in such high esteem by our Father, it makes sense to me , by deduction, that Her role was significant and the qualities She possesses are among the highest mankind can achieve.
    To equate that change from intelligence to spirit as being other than a birth, in my mind, would make Her nothing more than a clothier and a baby sitter. Surely, all that happens here is but a type of what happens in heaven. That is why the Brethern esteem women so much more than men. They (women) are a type of our Mother in Heaven.
    When I look at a lot of the qualities that the gift of the Holy Ghost endows us with, they seem in large measure to be feminine in characteristic and I believe they eminate from Her.

  88. Matt Evans
    November 18, 2004 at 7:12 pm


    I was re-reading Abraham 3, and noticed a couple of phrases that implicitly suggest a difference among intelligences.

    22 Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones;

    23 And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were very good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them: thou wast chosen before thou wast born.

    Verse 22 says Abraham saw “the intelligences that were organized before the world was,” suggesting that perhaps not all intelligences had been organized. Organized in this context could apply to intelligences individually (each intelligence Abraham saw had been transformed — organized — into something new) or collectively (the intelligences hadn’t changed, but had been gathered and grouped together: organized).

    In the first case, that transformation would match our traditional understanding of a spiritual birth, God took Abraham’s intelligence and made it into a spirit child. But even by the second definition, when God gathered and grouped the intelligences, they became His. God’s act of gathering and organizing our disparate intelligences made us spiritually alive. We were spiritually inert outside his presence.

    A weaker claim also could be made using the language of Abraham 3:23, that says God “stood in their midst . . . and stood among those that were spirits,” suggesting that souls and spirits were only subsets of the intelligences Abraham saw in verse 22.

  89. Larry
    November 18, 2004 at 7:25 pm


    Is it possible that when Abraham was talking about the intelligences being organized he was speaking of those who were spirits already, since they mean the same thing? The spirits having progressed to the point where they were prepared for mortality and had already exhibited their agency, and choosing good over evil, some were appointed to be leaders because of their greater diligence and obedience than others. Thus they had acquired more light and knowledge.
    Otherwise, God would have pulled their names out of a hat and said, “these I will make my leaders”. I think that would lend itself to determinism and would destroy the principle of agency.

  90. November 18, 2004 at 8:16 pm

    In the D&C, every instance of organiz* refers to the arranging church, government and social groups (e.g., “…or in any of her stakes which are organized,� and “After you are organized, you shall be called the United Order…�).

    In Abraham, every instance of organiz* refers to a creation event (e.g., “And the Gods organized the earth…�)

    Matt has brought out these verses:

    22 Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones;
    23 And God saw these souls that they were good,

    If we follow the usage in Abraham, it seems that the spirits are indeed created. Moreover, the use of the verbiage “saw…that they were good� is only employed scripturally in the affirmation of the creative process.

  91. Larry
    November 18, 2004 at 8:51 pm


    How does that negate my point. If intelligence and spirit can be used interchangeably, how can we suppose that this were anything other than post spirit birth, otherwise, as I pointed out, God would have predestined (in the Protestant way) those who were going to be leaders and those who were going to be followers. In my mind that would destroy all the correct ideas we have of God being a just God.
    Organization (socialbility) will exist hereafter, similar to what we have here. Why would we deem it to be otherwise before we came here. To me that involves creative thinking.

  92. Matt Jacobsen
    November 18, 2004 at 8:57 pm

    Does anyone else find the near-synonymous use of the words ‘intelligence’, ‘spirit’, and ‘soul’ in these Abraham verses confusing? If they’re not used here as synonyms, it seems that some intelligences were organized before the world was. The souls were many of the noble and great intelligences. And the spirits were those that were very good (souls or intelligences, not sure). What happened to the notion that the soul is the spirit and physical body united? Or does this imply that Heavenly Father had some other celestialized beings there to help Him out? But then, Abraham was one of them…what is the antecedent of ‘them’?

    It’s hard for me to take our commonly understood definitions of these words and apply them to these verses. Either I don’t get it or Joseph was simply being less precise in this case.

  93. November 18, 2004 at 9:14 pm

    Matt, Blake could answer this much better than I, but I don’t think that the current concrete definitions that we have for spirit, soul, and intelligence were formalized until well after Joseph passed on.

  94. Joel D.
    November 18, 2004 at 9:21 pm


    See my comment in #44 above. The pre-mortal birth of spirits is clearly not contrary to either scripture or Joseph Smith’s teachings and in fact it is fairly well established. How it all works is not so clear.

  95. Larry
    November 18, 2004 at 9:45 pm

    Thanks Joel. Being at work I didn’t have references so I just use scripture from memory.

  96. Jack
    November 18, 2004 at 9:54 pm

    How about the idea that “man is now organized” re. Adam in the garden vs. Brigham Young’s teaching that Adam was born of a woman? I realize that I’m not speaking of “spirit birth” per se, but perhaps equating Adam’s “organization” with a literal physical birth might open up the possibility that the same holds true for pre mortal spirit birth. (that is if BY was correct, though I secretly hope that he wasn’t)

  97. Matt Evans
    November 19, 2004 at 12:11 am

    Larry, I trust that your comment #89 is directed toward Matt Jacobsen? (I haven’t tried to negate any of your points.)

    J. Stapley wrote: I don’t think that the current concrete definitions that we have for spirit, soul, and intelligence were formalized until well after Joseph passed on.

    To me, it seems that Abraham 3:22-23 does not use spirit and intelligence interchangeably, suggesting that the current view of spirits and intelligences as distinct forms was at least considered in the 1830s, even if the definitions weren’t as tight as they are now.

    I think our comments #86 and #88, especially if you’re right about the use of organize in Abraham, which supports my definition (1), present a strong argument against the claim that the notion of spirit birth was foreign to Joseph Smith. Hopefully Blake will let us know if he’s persuaded by our reasoning and will modify his claim to “only ONE passage in scripture supports spirit birth.”

  98. Blake Ostler
    November 19, 2004 at 12:30 am

    Joel et al.: Re Post # 44 — I think that I would see the way you handle the scriptures as proof-texting because it seems to me (though I am obviously subject to correction) that you have mixed references and taken the key terms out of context. First, Christ is the “first-born” in the sense that he is pre-eminent or chosen and not in the sense that he was the first of all spirits born in a process of spirit birth (since the Father would have had to have been born before him etc.). Further, the references to “organizing” spirits in the Book of Abraham seems to me to refer to an organization of the spirits into a council or social unit and not in the sense that spirits are organized from intelligences as steps of progress in organizaton (as I said, your view seems contra-textual to me). Consider again the statements in Abraham 3:

    22 Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones;

    23 And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were very good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them: thou wast chosen before thou wast born.

    Here, it seems to me, we can see that the souls in the midst of which God stood are the intelligences who are also called spirits. Moreover, it is not the “spirits” per se that are organized, but the intelligences. The phrase “among these were” refers to the organized council of intelligences/spirits (which is consistent with the way Joseph Smith spoke in at least 3 sermons in Nauvoo). So it seems to me that your reading is likely anachronistic. It is not consistent with Joseph’s Nauvoo use of these very same terms. However, let me be the first to admit that scriptural interpretation is tricky business and I’m open to the possibility that I have misunderstood. But after spending time looking at all of Joseph’s statements on the issue, it seems to me that your interpretation reads a later view into the text.

    Consider for example the statment by Joseph Smith on 28 March 1841: “[Job] says the spirit or inteligence [sic] of men are self-Existent principles before the foundation of the world…” Or on 5 january 1841: “The first step in the salvation of men is the laws of eternal and self-existent principles. Spirits are eternal. At the first organization in heaven we were all present and saw the Savior chosen….” Note that it is the ‘spirits’ that are eternal based on eternal principles. The organization spoken of is the organization of spirits into a council or social unit for making decision (like approving the Savior). Look also at the Thomas Bullock report of the KFD: “They say God created man in the beginning. The idea lessens man in my estimation … The mind of man, the intelligent part is coequal with God himself … but their spirits existed coequal with God himself … Is it logic to say that a spirit is immortal and yet have a beginning because if a spirit is immortal and yet has a beginning it will have an end….” In all of these statements, JS uses spirits and intelligences interchangeably — and he repeatedly states that it is spirits that are uncreated and eternal.

    Because it is JS’s usage and vocabulary expressed in the BofAbr., I think we are wise to see the usage as consistent — because it is.

  99. Blake Ostler
    November 19, 2004 at 12:43 am

    All: in the next volume of my book I distinguish two types of “filial relationships” with God. We are already sons and daughters in the sense that we are of the same species and he assists us as a loving Father to progress to be what he is. However, we are also adopted as sons and daughters. If we are already sons and daughters then it is strange that we would be adopted since parents don’t need to adopt their natural-born children. However, being born again or “spiritually begotten” refers to entering into a new kind of relationship with the Savior — one that we freely choose this time so that we can have the type of loving relationship that can arise only from freely choosing to be in relationship rather than simply being in relationship. To be born again, or spiritually begotten, does not refer to “spirit birth” in the sense that an intelligence is begotten by a celestial female and celestial male and give “birth” to a spirit. It refers to entering into a new type of relationship in which the new life of Christ takes up residence within us. I just want to clear that up.

  100. Matt Evans
    November 19, 2004 at 1:19 am


    Thank you for your response. You write “the references to ‘organizing’ spirits in the Book of Abraham seems to me to refer to an organization of the spirits into a council or social unit.”

    I wonder what you make of my argument in Comment 86 on this point. To my eyes, when God organized spirits into social units (a family?), they became His (even if not a family). Is there any way that intelligences God works with and organizes aren’t made spiritually alive through the interaction?

    Just now I erased a half-written paragraph of what I understand to be your view on our eternal nature and it’s incompatibility with the idea that we’re God’s offspring. I deleted the paragraph because I thought of a simpler way to present the idea: in what way do you perceive God’s relationship with the eternal spirits He organized into a social unit to be different from an earthly father’s relationship with the eternal spirits he organizes into a social unit?

  101. Matt Evans
    November 19, 2004 at 1:49 am


    I had another thought, this one from your last comment. You note that it would be odd for a father to adopt his own children, but then go on to say that we’re “spiritually begotten” — adopted — by the Savior, who, as you know, most Mormons believe to be their brother. Is there reason to believe that all of the talk of spiritual adoption, spiritual birth, spiritual begetting, and so on, isn’t a metaphor confined to describing our relationship with Christ?

  102. Blake Ostler
    November 19, 2004 at 1:53 am

    Matt: I think that you may be correct that a certain kind of ownership — or filial relationship — arose when God organized the spirits into a council to “vote” on the plan. I see it as God sitting down with and saying essentially: “I love you and I desire a more intimate and peer-like relationship with you. If you choose to have that kind of relationship with me, there is only one way that we can accomplish what we want. However, you are free to choose whether to enter into this relationship with me. If you go to this mortal life, it is not guaranteed that you will choose this relationship and it may be that you will end up even further from me than you are now — but it is the only way for you to become like me so that we can fully share a relationship of peer love.” He then organized us in the sense that those who desired to seek the type of relationship that he offers to us lined up to support his proposal and those who did not rejected it and were left free to choose to not grow in the relationship but to be damned (or stopped in their growth in that relationship) where they were.

    How is it like an earthly father? It depends on whether that father is loving and promotes the best interests and growth of his children or, on the other had, the father is controlling and seeks his own interests. The former is our Father in heaven and the latter is Satan. My own father is like the former but I’ve seen plenty of the fathers who more resemble the latter (sometimes I see the latter in me to my disgrace).

  103. Blake Ostler
    November 19, 2004 at 1:57 am

    Matt: re: #100: It seems to me that almost all scriptural references to spiritual birth and adopting refer to the life of Christ entering into us and we take up a new life-in-Christ-and-Christ-in-us. However, I haven’t looked to see if *all* statements can or should be read that way. However, I still see the point being a new type of relationship than we had before — one based upon a free choice to be in relationship rather than one that we have in virtue of the fact that we are what we are.

  104. Blake Ostler
    November 19, 2004 at 2:25 am

    I also wanted to add that I don’t believe that verses 22-23 of ch. 3 of BofAbr. are actually the most relevant verses for interpreting the spirit/intelligence equation. Look at v. 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.”

    Note that in verse 19 it then states that one spirit is more intelligent than another and in v. 21 the text begins to speak of these spirits as the “intelligences thine eyes have seen from the beginning.” Note carefully that the text is fairly explicit that it is the “spirits” that are eternal and have no beginning. It uses the two terms as synonyms. So I guess I also see focusing on vss. 22-23 as a misdirection from the more general point that the text sees spirits as uncreated and uses the term synonymously with “intelligences”. It also indicates that there is a distinction in the intelligence (quotient?) of intelligences and thus strongly implies individuation and individual characteristics that distinguish one intelligence from another (and that is one reason among others why McConkie’s theory of the sea of Intelligence doesn’t work for me).

  105. Larry
    November 19, 2004 at 2:28 am


    There seems to be a disconnect here. Section 93:38 states “Every spirit of man was innocent in the beginning; and God having redeemed man from the fall ,men became again, in their infant state, innocent before God.”
    There are a number of things at play here. Let me see if I can explain it properly from my perspective.
    1) There seems to be some problem understanding that light and spirit and intelligence all mean the same thing. The prophet Joseph taught that the spirit of man was not created(Teachings P158). He tells us that it existed from eternity. That means that we have always existed independent and apart from each other.
    He also taught that the mind or intelligence is co-equal with God.(ibid p353). He then talks about the immortality of the spirit of man and then says that the intelligence of spirits is immortal.

    Now, either he is confused or else he knows exactly what he is talking about. I believe the latter. He then goes on to say on page 354 that if the spirit had a beginning, then it must have an end. That makes sense.
    But how?

    If the reason a physical body cannot shake hands with a spirit is because a spirit is more refined than our body, why can it not be that the body of an intelligence is more refined than that of a pre-earth spirit, thus requiring a birth into the spirit world to a body more coarse than it previously was. . This progression makes possible the preparation of the spirit body to take on mortality in the same fashion (by birth) in preparation for possessing an immortal body and a Celestial body.
    Each step requiring a birth in the literal sense through mortality. Since it is our mortal body that will be resurrected, a literal birth is not required, but a spiritual rebirth is; a type, if you will, of our physical birth. This spiritual birth being the last step in reuniting us with our Father in Heaven and making eternal existence possible.
    The eternal principle being that there must be an estrangement and a reconciliation(agency and opposition) before that can take place, which is the spiritual rebirth before eternal existence is possible..
    2) Moses1:6 makes an interesting point. While appearing to Moses, the Saviour, acting as though He were the Father, said this: “…thou art in the similitude of mine only begotten; and mine only begotten is and shall be the Saviour…”.
    Look at the time frame here. How many years did Moses live before the Saviour?
    So, even prior to His coming it was known and revealed that He was the Redeemer in the present sense.(nothing new here)
    When we look at Section 93:38, we read, “every spirit of man was innocent in the beginning…”. Beginning of what? Since the spirit of man is eternal, it couldn’t have had a beginning. Alma 13 talks about “in the first place”, speaking of our pre-earth existence, and the calling of those referred to in Abraham3. So the beginning spoken of in scripture deals with our pre-earth spirit existence only. As alma points out that agency was at play here and it was possible for men to obey and exercise faith. This must also mean that it was possible for men to disobey and not exercise faith. ( a la 1/3 of the hosts etc.).
    As I pointed out earlier with regard to Section 84:45 and relating it to Section 93:23 – 24, men were capable of knowing just as much as they were worthy of knowing about mortality prior to coming here and we all rejoiced, because, regardless of what we knew, it excited us.
    Therefore, when we look at verse 38 and it says “Every spirit of man was innocent in the beginning (pre-earth); and God having redeemed man from the fall, men became again, in their infant state innocent before God”, it demonstrates that the atonement had it’s influence at least as far back as our beginning with the Father, which is in the spirit world.
    Why is that? Because He became our Father at the point we were born to Him and our Heavenly Mother, just as our children become our children when born to us in mortality. Prior to that experience we were brothers and sisters, as we were to our Father in Heaven as co-eternal beings, prior to our birth in the spirit world.
    At that point He had to provide a means whereby we could grow and progress to be like Him.
    As Mosiah said; “…that God himselfshall come down among the children of men and shall redeem His people.”(Mosiah 15:1) Or as Alma put it; ” God himself atoneth for the sins of the world,… that God might be a perfect, just God, and a merciful God also.”(Alma42:15)
    In verse 17 of the same chapter he says; “Now, how could a man repent except he should sin? How could he sin if there was no law? How could there be a law save there was a punishment?”
    The scriptures say that God himself should do all this. But how? In verse 26 it says; “And thus God bringeth about his great and eternal purposes, which were prepared from the foundation of the world…” That is, the point at which He became our Father and not just a co-existent being.
    Now we know that He could not come down and perform all this because He was an Eternal Being and could not lay down His life.
    Now look at 3Ne.15:9. ” Behold, I am the law and the light…”. Compare that to Alma 42:17 and then go to 2Ne.2:5. All of it talking about the atonement.( also Mosiah 15:1-8)(also D&C88:13)
    Notice that Lehi goes on to talk about tje fact that if there is no law, there is no sin (v13) and points out that if these things are not there is no God.
    In 2 Ne.11:7 it points out ; “For if there be no Christ there be no God…”.
    None of this is new to you. The reason I point it out is that our relationship to God as our Father began when we were born as spirit children. That makes our beginning with Him at the point where we are born as spirit children and He provides the means, through the office of Christ, whereby we can return to His presence.

  106. Blake Ostler
    November 19, 2004 at 2:35 am

    Larry: I believe that D&C 93 represents a different view of “Intelligence” than is referred to BofAbr. and JS’s Nauvoo discourses. Intelligence in D&C 93 seems to be an attribute of God. It may be that our relationship with the Father arose at some time, but I don’t believe that is at all clear and unlike you I just don’t see anything to suggest a spirit birth here. “In the beginning … ” is the general reference to the entire time before the earth was created in D&C 93 as I see it so your argument makes an assumption of an absolute beginning that I don’t believe is indicated. At least, that is how JS saw it in his later Nauvoo discourses (and he actually translated the Hebrew word for ‘in the beginning’ as “the head God brought forth the gods…”) Again, I don’t see anything about a birth of spirits from a prior state as intelligences in anything that you have cited.

  107. Matt Evans
    November 19, 2004 at 9:33 am


    I’m very glad you’d had time to engage our questions, this is very interesting. I have to admit that your comment #101 is one of the most peculiar things I’ve read at Times & Seasons. The part that seems least intuitive is the 1/3 hosts of heaven. If God was merely making a proposal to spirits who had lived for eternity, I don’t see why those spirits who weren’t interested in the plan were damned. Your outline suggests they didn’t need to do anything to be damned; merely choosing the status quo damned them, implying that all of the spirits, good and bad, were damned until God up-ended the status quo. What seems most unlikely about this view of autonomous spirits deciding whether to have a relationship with God in the first place, is why so many spirits chose to spend the rest of eternity in an epic battle against God instead of saying “no thank you” and going about their business as before. I’ve been a missionary, so I know what it’s like to offer something valuable to people who say “no thanks” or “get lost.” But never do they quit their day jobs and commit their lives to fighting me or my plans for happiness. Why would 1/3 of spirits be so terribly irrational? In the same way, lots of marriage partners break up and spend the rest of their lives fighting viciously, but only after they’ve been emotionally committed to the other person. Are there people who respond to someone’s offer to help by wasting their life trying to destroy the stranger who offered to help them? It seems more likely, to me at least, that the 1/3 of hosts had a relationship with God before he proposed his plan.

    Going back to your comment #97, and your citations from Joseph Smith. Isn’t Joseph’s logic in this statement, “because if a spirit is immortal and yet has a beginning it will have an end,” invalid? Given what we know about eternal marriage, it appears that it is possible for something with a beginning to have no end. More importantly, these citations show that Joseph thought our spirits are eternal, but you seem to go further and say he didn’t believe God was the “Father of our Spirits.” Do you take the further step because of something else Joseph said, or by deducing that, if spirits are eternal, they couldn’t be fathered?

  108. Larry
    November 19, 2004 at 10:30 am


    How do vs19 – 38 equate with your point that intelligence is simply an attribute of God. Section 84:45 was given in Sept. 1832 and Section 93 was given in May 1833, not that that is really important, but to me they equate.
    The whole point of Section 93, to me, is not to define God so much as it is to define us and our relationship to Him. Verse 29 clearly points out that “inteliigence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be” is referring to man not God. Verse 32 makes Matt’s point about agency in the spirit world and the 1/3 of the hosts who rebelled
    Verse 38 makes the point regarding “intelligence” being the glory of God. This is the only verse that talks about what you would call an attribute of God. It could also define His children in the way Moses1:39 does. The glory of God is the intelligences or spirits He has created. This would bring in so many of Adam’s points regarding the atonement and it’s impact on us hereafter.

  109. Blake Ostler
    November 19, 2004 at 10:31 am

    Matt: How do you know all of the 1/3 are actively opposing God? They rebelled in the sense that they opposed his plan for their own growth in the project of love and becoming like God. Moreover, it is likely that they rejected him precisely because they were hell-bent in the first place.

    As for why I supposedly reject that God is the Father of our spirits. The short answer is that I don’t — with qualifications. God is the Father of our Spirits in important senses. We are of the same species. I simply don’t see God’s Fatherhood as based on the requirement that it results from having sexual relations with a heavenly mother(s) to beget spirits or that spirit birth is like natural child-birth. I would like to address this at greater length later — it involves discussion of what the warrant for a belief is and whether, given that the scriptures don’t teach it and it appears to derive its popular LDS form based upon ignorance of the fact that it derives from an AG theology, we should nevertheless affirm what has become assumed doctrine that becomes embodied or assumed in later FP statements. However, that discussion is a bit too large for me to address competently here.

  110. Blake Ostler
    November 19, 2004 at 10:36 am

    Larry re: 103: how do you know that the reference to “intelligence” in D&C 93:29 refers to us and not to God (alone)? It seems pellucidly ambiguous to me. And actually it seems that the fact that all are innocent in the beginning simply means that we couldn’t yet discern good from evil in the sense provided by opposition in all things. We are innocent, not righteous, in the beginning — like little children. Moreover, our reference to the glory of God being the intelligence(s) rather misquotes the key scripture doesn’t it? Doesn’t the fact that the word “intelligence” is singular have significance for you? Intelligence is an attribute (one that was *later* revealed to be shared by both God and eternal intelligences), not a person or thing it seems to me.

  111. November 19, 2004 at 12:36 pm

    Blake: RE #109. I think that I am much more in your camp than I thought I was. Thank you (and everybody else) for the excellent discourse.

  112. Joel D.
    November 19, 2004 at 1:10 pm


    Re: #98. It seems strained to argue that Christ could not have been the Firstborn because that would have meant that He would have been born before Elohim. I am the firstborn in my family, and that doesn’t mean I was born before my biological father. The position of “Firstborn” is assigned on a family-by-family basis. Your argument presupposes your conclusion: because we are not spiritually born, we are all wholly uncreated, and therefore Elohim could not have been the father of Christ’s spirit body, thus disproving spiritual birth.

    However, if we think of the uncreated intelligences being spiritually born and becoming part of Elohim’s family, then there is a position of Firstborn and I think the scriptures are clear that this is Christ’s position vis a vis all of us as His spirit siblings. There are plenty of terms used to indicate Christ’s pre-eminence among us (Alpha and Omega, Prince of Peace, Beloved Son, Most High, etc.), so why would the Lord use the term “Firstborn” if it only meant “preeminent” instead of its plain meaning?

    Also, to say that “our spirit is eternal” does not necessarily mean that it is wholly uncreated. We often hear statements like “man is eternal” and we don’t presume that this is false doctrine because men die; rather, we recognize that there is a part within us that is eternal and thus justifies the statement. I believe that our spirits are eternal–some part of me was uncreated and have always and will always exist. But that part goes through many transformations, from spirit birth to mortal birth, to unembodied spirit, to resurrected being.

    Also, I note that no one has addressed the fact that this is taught as doctrine to our newest converts in the Church-issued Gospel Principles manual. Blake seems to suggest that this is simply passed-along Church folk doctrine rather than a scrutinized Correlation-vetted statement of official Church doctrine.

    So while I respect that people may have differing personal beliefs about this, I think it is a different matter to say that they are contrary to scripture and Joseph Smith’s teachings, thus implying that a number of us believe in false doctrine.

    By the way, I never put forth this business about being “organized” in the pre-mortal world as discussed in Abraham 3. That has always seemed to me, as has been mentioned, to refer to gathering the council and giving mortal assignments.

  113. Larry
    November 19, 2004 at 5:22 pm


    The use of the word “intelligence” in verse 29 and v36 does not imply singularity alone. In defining man as an individual and describing him as “intelligence, or the light of truth,” He is describing all men. Then saying in v36 that “The glory of God is intelligence…” is just repeating the same thing and paralleling what is said in Moses1. How else is God glorified except through His children.

    Anyway, it seems this thread is coming to an end. Thank you Blake, Matt. J.Stapley, Joel D. et al for a stimulating discussion. If any one wants to continue on this vein I am more than willing. Thank you Nate for posting it, although I’m a little disappointed we couldn’t draw you in, along with Adam.

  114. November 20, 2004 at 6:40 pm

    If I may resurrect this thread, I wanted to solicit some perspectives. There is one primary question, then two other corollary questions. While I’ve read some of the obvious references, I haven’t researched this too much, but let’s just throw it out there:

    1) To what extant is non-human life (e.g., animals, plants and bacteria) and physical constructs (e.g., Earth) present in spirit form in the pre-mortal existence?

    If non-human life and physical constructs exist in spirit form in the pre-mortal existence:

    2) How do those who support that spirits are uncreated view these other spirits?

    3) How do those who support a procreative or viviparous spirit birth account for the other spiritual creations?

  115. Larry
    November 20, 2004 at 6:53 pm

    J. Stapley,

    Are you trying to open a can of worms? At this point we are free to expound on that which nothing has been revealed. This should be fun. Although I have my theories on this issue I will wait to see hoe others respond.
    Have a good weekend.

  116. Jack
    November 20, 2004 at 7:54 pm

    Moses 3:4-5 reads:

    And now, behold, these are the generations of the heaven and of the earth, when they were created, in the day that I, the Lord God, made the heaven and the earth,

    And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew. For I, the Lord God, created all things, of which I have spoken, spiritually, before they were naturally upon the face of the earth. For I, the Lord God, had not caused it to rain upon the face of the earth. And I, the Lord God, had created all the children of men; and not yet a man to till the ground; for in heaven created I them; and there was not yet flesh upon the earth, neither in the water, neither in the air;

    The latter half of verse 7 reads:

    …nevertheless, all things were before created; but spiritually were they created and made according to my word.

    Further reading in verses 7 through 9 indicates that as man becomes a “living soul”, so do the trees which are planted in the garden.

    How did we ever let these verses get by us in this discussion? Or has someone mentioned them already?

  117. Joel D.
    November 20, 2004 at 10:48 pm

    I was just looking at the verses that Jack cited also, along with a few others scriptures that make it abundantly clear that there is a spirit birth in the pre-mortal world.

    In addition to Moses 3:5 (“And I, the Lord God, had created all the children of men; and not yet a man to till the ground; for in heaven created I them”), see the following:

    Moses 6:35-36: “And the Lord spake unto Enoch, and said unto him: Anoint thine eyes with clay, and wash them, and thou shalt see. And he did so. And he beheld the spirits that God had created; and he beheld also things which were not visible to the natural eye.”

    Moses 6:51: “And he called upon our father Adam by his own voice, saying: I am God; I made the world, and men before they were in the flesh.”

    Bible Dictionary entry on “Spirit”: “Every person is literally a son or a daughter of God, having been born as a spirit to Heavenly Parents previous to being born to mortal parents on the earth (cf. Heb. 12: 9).”

  118. Matt Evans
    November 20, 2004 at 10:52 pm

    Eureka, Jack, you’ve found it! That passage is undoubtedly the basis of our belief in “spirit birth.”

  119. Larry
    November 20, 2004 at 10:59 pm


    I was going to refer to that scripture a long time ago but I was afraid it would give those who think we were created instead of being born in the spirit world too much ammunition.
    We’ll probably get a longer blog on this now. :)

  120. November 20, 2004 at 11:05 pm

    Joel & Jack: It was the Moses verses, among some other reading that sparked the interest in my question. From my perspective, the spiritual creation of all things poses challenges to the uncreated/spirit is eternal camp as well as the viviparous spiritual birth camp.

    If spirits are eternal, then the creation was set in stone and lacked any dynamism. If it is a viviparous spiritual birth the source of non-human spirits seems challenging.

    I do agree that the Moses verses seem to argue favorably for a spiritual creation.

  121. Matt Evans
    November 20, 2004 at 11:19 pm


    I’m interested in your perspective on the verses Jack cited from Moses 3. They are directly on point, especially the passage,

    “And I, the Lord God, created all things . . . spiritually, before they were naturally upon the face of the earth. For I . . . created all the children of men; and not yet a man to till the ground; for in heaven created I them; and there was not yet flesh upon the earth.”

    To me at least, that verse clearly shows that the idea that God created our spirits is scriptural, and was taught and believed by Joseph Smith. It similarly seems to vindicate what I presented back in Comment 19 as the traditional Mormon view. The traditional Mormon view, in chronological order:

    1. we were eternal intelligences without beginning — whatever that means
    2. God created us spiritually — whatever that means (sometimes called “spirit birth”)
    3. God and/or our mortal parents created us physically (“physical birth”)

    Importantly, and maybe this has been your point all along, Moses 3 does not say that we are God’s spirit children, only his spirit creations. The position that we’re creations but not children is tenable, but it seems logical to assume we’re God’s spirit children given that (1) he created our spirits and (2) our spirits are of his species. It may be that inductive reasoning has failed us, our being tricked because there’s no earthly analog for a relationship with those parameters that’s not parent-child.

    If you are debunking the narrower claim of some people that spiritual creation is accomplished in a manner similar to biological creation, then I wouldn’t disagree. The specific method of our spiritual creation has not been revealed. It’s my feeling that most Mormons realize that even though we popularly refer to our spirit creation as a spirit birth, we don’t actually know that the spiritual creation mirrors our physical creation. No doubt the term spirit birth leads some people to leap to conclusions unsubstantiated by scripture or revelation. The term spiritual birth is especially confusing because, as you pointed out, we use the same term to describe our rebirth as a child of Christ through adoption.

  122. Larry
    November 21, 2004 at 12:16 am


    Just as a curiosity, because I knew this would happen. Of what relevance is our Heavenly Mother, since as you put it;
    ” It’s my feeling that most Mormons realize that even though we popularly refer to our spirit creation as a spirit birth, we don’t actually know that the spiritual creation mirrors our physical creation.”
    Why would we refer to them as our Father and Mother in Heaven rather than our Creators in Heaven if it didn’t mirror our earthly birth. It seems to me that although we don’t know the method, both parties are required and one bears the children. It is also important to realize that this occurred over millions of years, as attested to by the fact that earth’s creation took miilions of years and it was created after the Council in Heaven. I’m sure spirit children continue to be born to them.

  123. Jack
    November 21, 2004 at 1:12 am

    So, at this point, should we assume that “to organize”, as used in the book of Abraham’s creation sequence, is the equivalent of “to create” as used in the book of Moses’ creation sequence? If so, when God “organizes” the intelligences, is he creating spirits?

  124. November 21, 2004 at 12:08 pm

    Jack: RE: Abraham. I think that Blake’s response (#98) to posts #88 and 90 make it a tough call.

    Joel: RE: Heavenly Mother and Spiritual birth. The earliest proponents of viviparous spiritual birth were Orson Pratt and Brigham Young (though their perspectives were disparate enough to elicit public denunciations of each other). Both of them espoused a position where spiritual birth was the beginning of agency and self awareness. BY’s Adam-God theory was probably the most responsible for popularizing the notion of Heavenly parents. The neo-orthodoxy of the McConkie era was probably the most critical in denunciating the Adam-God Theory, while simultaneously borrowing heavily from it in their formulation of spirit birth (non-agency before spirit birth and celestial procreation). The current popularization of these concepts stem from the era of neo-orthodoxy, though they have been modified by the incorporation of self awareness and agency pre-spirit birth a la Roberts and Widtsoe.

    So, in light of the fact that there is no evidence Joseph Smith believed in Heavenly Mother (as currently viewed), and that current popular conceptions of Heavenly Mother and viviparous spiritual birth are an evolution from doctrines that are now viewed as false at best and apostate at worst, I think that we can safely say that their veracity is at least equivocal.

  125. November 21, 2004 at 12:33 pm

    My last sentence was too strong, please substitute controversial and false for false and apostate. Thanks :)

  126. Blake Ostler
    November 21, 2004 at 1:59 pm

    All: The spirit creation in Moses does not seem to refer to spirits being born or created from intelligences. The notion of pre-mortal intelligences had not been revealed in 1830 when this part of the Book of Moses was written. Moreover, the notion is completely absent from the text of the Book of Moses. “Spirit creation” seems to me to refer to God’s plan to create — that was actually a rather popular way of reading Gen. 1:26-27 in light of Gen. 2:4 where man is created in chapter 1 and yet said not to be yet created in ch. 2 of Genesis. Those who spoke of the “spirit creation” in the late 18th and early 19th centuries did not mean that there were things that were created for the first time in spirit form; rather, they meant that Gen. ch. 1 referred to God’s “ideal” or mental plan for the creation of man. Ch. 2 shows God carrying out his plan or “spiritual creation.” It seems to me that Joseph used the terms in the same way. Moreover, as pointed out by several posts above, the notion that spirits are uncreated and without beginning seems to be in tension with the view that there was a spirit creation in which intelligences began existence as spirits at some first time.

  127. November 21, 2004 at 3:07 pm

    Blake I’m not sure I buy that reading, due to the way the sentences are constructed. I’d agree that Joseph and others probably didn’t draw the inferences from the JST at this point. But clearly there is a spiritual creation. Now I’d agree Joseph’s treatment here isn’t that unique – Philo has something quite similar. Yet Philo’s pre-mortal creation is a more neoPlatonic creation of intelligences in the sense of ideas. Those ideas, however, are “real” and not just a plan.

    I think that to read Moses 3 as just a plan requires something additional as I just don’t see the text itself reading that way.

  128. November 21, 2004 at 3:08 pm

    Just to add to that, I think Moses 3:7 is the problematic scripture. “…nevertheless, all things were before created; but spiritually were they created and made according to my word.” That “and made according to my word” seems problematic if we see this as a plan. Since presumably the word would be the plan, but this is a creation from a plan but not yet on the earth.

  129. November 21, 2004 at 3:10 pm

    Blake: What is your perspective of non-human spirits as per #114 & 120

  130. Matt Evans
    November 21, 2004 at 3:14 pm


    Moses 3:7 says that all things were “created and made” spiritually before they were made physically. Those aren’t words one would choose to describe something that had only been imagined or planned. What verbs would be necessary to show that this passage was intended to correct the theories of men popular in the 18th and early 19th centuries?

  131. Matt Evans
    November 21, 2004 at 3:24 pm

    Wow, Clark and I made almost the exact same point.

    Larry, I don’t know enough about God or spirits or resurrected bodies to know how spirits are created. As we’ve seen from this discussion, there’s not even a consensus that spirits are created.

  132. Jack
    November 21, 2004 at 3:34 pm

    J Stapley, yes it’s a tough call, but in lieu of having *no* answer as to what was going on, one may concede to the *possibilty* that “the intelligences that were organized before the world was” who were noble and great, might indeed be those of whom the Lord was speaking when the He said: “These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits”. i.e., “created” spirits as per Moses, “organized” intelligences as per Abraham.

  133. Larry
    November 21, 2004 at 5:13 pm


    The question has to do with the relevance of “Mother”. If a female has always been so, what possible difference would they make in eternity if the only time they are differentiated from “Father” is here in mortality where they bear children.

    I wonder if the reason that more isn’t said on this topic, in scripture, is that this earth is a type of eternity and what is obvious here is obvious in eternity.

    Once we settle this question we solve the problem in my mind. When I married my wife I knew that eternal lives were not possible without her. To me it’s just common sense.

  134. Blake Ostler
    November 21, 2004 at 6:03 pm

    Clark: Re: 127: by speaking of an “ideal” creation I was distinguising between the notion of a merely mental plan and a creation that exists “really’ but only as ideas or ideally in the way you suggest (and as both Philo and Origen also argued as good middle and neo-Platonists respectively) — since that is what the early 19th century Protestants were teaching. Thus to “create and make” In Moses 3:7 does not refer to a mind-independent existence as the intelligences in the Book of Abraham seem to be. You are also correct to recognize that the connection was not made by Joseph or anyone else between spirit creation and spirit birth during Joseph’s lifetime — and so far as I know Orson Pratt was the first to publish about it and BY later taught it. I argue in my essay in Line Upon Line that it was the Book of Moses that foreshadowed the doctrine of pre-existence (though it seems rather clear to me that it had not yet matured into an actual statement of human pre-existence).

    I also suggest that the discourse of Alma in Alma 41-42 assumes that we all have the same status as Adam and were once in God’s presence and that in the resurrection we return to God as we were before the Fall. That seems to me to implicitly require a notion of pre-existence — but it clearly doesn’t address the spirit/intelligence divide.

    Re: ##114 and 120: I believe that all things, including plants and animals and rocks, were “created spiritually” before they were creasted on this earth. However, if rocks and the earth were created spiritually, that suggests that spiritual creation in Moses is not the same as spirit birth of intelligences as spirits as many seem to want to argue here — unless one countences spirit birth of rocks and animals in the same way we are supposedly spiritually born and begotten as intelligences organized into spirits.

  135. Larry
    November 21, 2004 at 6:50 pm


    “Behold, here is matter unorganized”.
    I find it interesting that you would classify animals in the same category as rocks.
    You know that this opens up a whole new area of discussion.

  136. November 21, 2004 at 8:05 pm

    I think, as I said, it is problematic to read that kind of neoPlatonic creation into Moses. First off the neoPlatonists wouldn’t have used the term make. I’d have been very surprised if that term were used by 19th century Protestants or those within the Hermetic traditions. More significantly though God is speaking to man in the first creation, suggesting that this can’t be seen as a neoPlatonic creation. (Moses 2:26-31) That whole passage seems very hard to reconcile to either planning or a neoPlatonic creation of universals.

    If you can show me the use of “make” in some contemporary text that doesn’t refer to mind-independent entities I’d be very surprised.

  137. Larry
    November 21, 2004 at 9:26 pm


    It is interesting when we refer to the ancient Greeks and their philosophies that we neglect the origins of their religion in Egyptian religion. If we trace the origins of Egyptian religion, we end up with Pharoah who was the son of Ham and Egyptess(Abr.1:26) who earnestly strived to imitate the Gospel.
    This opens up a whole lot of new discussion as to the thoughts they elucidated and how much gospel continued on and how much was apostate doctrine. To me this would be a fascinating study, particularly with regard to this thread since that is where out focus is.

  138. November 21, 2004 at 9:29 pm

    I have to agree with Clark’s reading of Moses 3:7 contra Blake here. “Created and made” clearly have parallel meanings which I take to refer to mind-independent entities. However, I think there is further evidence in this passage that spiritual creation speaks of mind-independent entities.

    In Moses 3:5 it reads “in heaven created I them.” Again in 3:9 “for it was spiritual in the day that I created it; for it remaineth in the sphere in which I created it.” These verses indicate the spacial location of not only the spiritual creation, but where the spiritual creation remains. If the spiritual creation only indicates ideas then these kinds of references seem to lose their meaning.

  139. Fred Astaire
    November 21, 2004 at 9:40 pm

    Melissa, why weren’t you at the Cambridge First Church tonight? Just curious.

  140. November 21, 2004 at 10:02 pm


    I had a commitment in Providence late this afternoon so regrettably I couldn’t stay in Cambridge today. By the way, do I know you?

  141. Jack
    November 21, 2004 at 10:22 pm

    Melissa, great point! One of the things I love about Joseph Smith is his feeling for the “landscape”, if you will. His thoughts on things “other-worldly” invariably seem to convey a spacial reality.

    As Larry (I think) is hinting at in comment 137, neo-platonism is laden with a “mysticism” that works against JS’s view of creation. (I’m no philosopher/historian, but it seems to me that the move toward “ideas” or “concepts” as a saving principle is quite hellenistic)

  142. November 21, 2004 at 11:09 pm

    Would any of the supporters of viviparous spiritual birth comment on the ramifications of the spiritual creation? i.e. , why would there be a creation of intelligent yet non-human spirits that is disparate (in process, not just in time) from the creation of human spirits?

  143. Jack
    November 21, 2004 at 11:16 pm

    Larry and Joel, your dice.

  144. Blake Ostler
    November 21, 2004 at 11:18 pm

    Clark: re: 136: see my essays in Dialogue (Summer 1982) and Line Upon Line where I give the background that you ask for. The notion of “creating and making” is not foreign to the tradition of merely ideal creation and even Philo (whom you quote) uses it that way, as well as does Origen (who as quoted and followed by the Protestants in their scriptural interpretations); so I guess I am at a loss as to why you think such usage is inconsistent with middle Platonism (Philo was a middle Platonist and not a neo-Platonist). Perhaps you could explain how the verb “make” is somehow inconsistent with ideal creation and “create” is not.

    Melissa: re: 138 — note the scope of what is created spiritually: “4: These are the generations of the heaven and the earth, when they were created, in the day that I, the Lord God, made the heaven and the earth, 5: And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew. For I the Lord God, created all things of which I have spoken, spiritually, before they were naturally upon the face of the earth … and I, the Lord God created all children of men, and not yet a man to till the ground; for in heaven created I them; and there was not yet flesh upon the earth, neither in the water, nor any in the air. 7: nevertheless, all things were before created; but spiritually were they created and made according to my word …. 9: …. And it became a living soul. For it was spiritual in the day that I created it; for it remaineth in the sphere in which I, God, created it…”

    So let’s take a closer look. First, it is not just man that is created spiritually, it is everything in heaven and on earth (including specifically herbs and plants). Second, what is “in heaven” is not what is created spiritually but God when he did the creation. That seems to support the ideal creation interpretation. Third, the nature of the “spiritual creation” is taken for granted — but it reads like the interpretations of Origen and 19th century Protestants who also spoke of “spirit creation” in this exact same context, i.e., the reconciliation of the creation spoken of in Gen. 1:26 and the statement in 2:4 that man was not yet created. That is how this scriptural interpretation also develops in the Book of Moses. Fourth, just why “created and made” means something different than created ideally remains a mystery to me — both Melissa and Clark assume that they must mean something different but they don’t explain why. I assume it is because (as with both Philo and Origen) two different verbs are used in Genesis for the creation in Gen. 1:26 where “created” (Heb. bara) is used and in 2:4 “made” (Heb. asah) is used. But just why you believe that use of both means they are not ideal mystifies me. Finally, the sphere in which something is created seems to be a distinct kind of existence. Spirit existence seems to be quite distinct from immortal existence as mind-independnt objects on earth.

    Finally, if man is created spiritually — well, so is everything else. So my primary point, that “spiritual creation” does not equate with “birth of spirits from intelligences” seems to be supported by this passage. Would anyone contend that there is a spirit birth of plants and herbs? Finally, how do you reconcile this scripture with JS’s clear statements that spirits exist on self-existing principles and are uncreated and eternal? My view is that JS’s views grew with further revelation – your view seems to be that JS already knew of spirit birth at the time of the New Translation in 1830. I believe my view is better supported and more consistent. Are you suggesting that Moses 3 teaches that humans pre-existed as either intelligences or spirits? Are you suggesting that JS believed that “spiritual creation” somehow means that the earth, plants and so forth are begotten in the same way as human spirits (since the scripture demands that spirit creation is the same kind of creation for both)? If so, then your view seems to be pretty bizaar to me. It seems to me that it is only in light of the later revelation and the Book of Abraham that one could read back into the Book of Moses the view you suggest. But let’s be clear — it is a “back-into reading” based upon further revelation and not one that is presented explicitly in the text — and the fact that the early Saints didn’t readily see it (as even Orson Pratt expressly stated) seems to strongly support that conclusion.

  145. Jack
    November 21, 2004 at 11:38 pm

    J. I can’t speak for Larry or Joel, but I had a thought pop in my head that may complicate this discussion even further. We learn, by means of that creation account which is even more peculiar to the saints than those found in the PoGP, that both seeds and beasts were “placed” in/on the earth with the expectation that they would multiply in their respective spheres.

    The big question is: is this particular creation drama an account of “spirit creation” or physical creation? Or is it both, in the sense that one might echo the other?

  146. Larry
    November 22, 2004 at 12:13 am


    Joseph’s views may have grown with further revelation but the revelations he received were not dependent on his views.
    As for the creation of the earth “Behold here is matter unorganized” seems to speak clearly of a creation different for the earth than for spirits. As for the grass and trees and plants, – coming from seeds clearly indicates a different creation process than that of human spirits.
    How does the Neoplatonist view and the Hermetic views that so influenced Protestant thinking have any influence on Joseph’s thinking since I doubt he spent any time wondering about them. If there is a correlation of thought here, it seems to me that they maintain some of the principles that were passed down from the earliest influences on their religious thought, which I indicated before probably came from the Egyptians. There is nothing unique in early Greek thinking that Alexandria didn’t provide – as the university of choice.
    If the Egyptians corrupted the Gospel, then it would be a corruption of correct principles that were handed down.

  147. November 22, 2004 at 12:47 am

    If it hasn’t been evident thus far, I am not very sympathetic to a viviparous spiritual birth position. However, I’m very interested in delineating the ramifications of all the possible pre-existent conditions. I think (hope?) that when we consider all the variables we might refine and add credence to one or more positions.

    Jack: I don’t think there is any good evidence for spiritual auto-reproduction (it negates the role of God), but the idea of either celestial non-human reproduction is (at least to me) a natural consequence of the viviparous spiritual birth position. At least, it is a conclusion from the arguments that have been offered for it thus far. This is what Blake observed with slight disdain in #144. We would then have to ask how non-reproductive creations (e.g., a rock) reproduce. I think this line of reasoning, shows many difficulties of the position.

    After re-reading some of the posts, I’m not sure I completely understand Blake’s position concerning the spiritual creation. Are human spirits uncreated and everything else has a spiritual creation or are there two distinct (in time and process) creations? On a side note, I will plug his 1982 Dialogue article – I read it not too long ago and it was very good.

  148. November 22, 2004 at 12:54 am

    Blake I’ll have to check the texts you mentioned. (BTW – my use of neoPlatonic was more general and not meant to imply Philo was one, merely the idea of a more neoPlatonic emanation scheme as one would find in 19th century views.)

    I suspect the reason for Melissa and my skepticism is that make implies the making of an object and not an idea. So I believe the argument is a skeptical one and not a positive one. (i.e. it couldn’t mean. . .)

    I note though that you didn’t respond to the argument of Moses 2:26-31. How does God speak to a neoPlatonic (or middle Platonic) idea or intelligence?

    Also note that I was only speaking of a spiritual creation and not how that spiritual creation took place. I certainly agree Moses can’t be used to establish a spiritual birth. It could, for example, be compatible with taking a soul and simply making it more capable or providing it a kind of organization ala Pratt’s views minus the spirit-sexual activity.

  149. Jack
    November 22, 2004 at 1:13 am

    Blake, you say: “what is “in heaven” is not what is created spiritually but God when he did the creation”.

    Though, as an artist I can concede to the idea that the creation of “ideas” i.e., character, story, script, melody etc., is a legitimate creative process; I ask, why is it important for God to tell us where He is when He’s working on His “ideal creation” if they’re only “blue prints”?

    Furthermore He says: “I… created all things of which I have spoken, spiritually, before they were naturally upon the face of the earth.”

    What is the difference between “spiritually” and “naturally”? If it is like an inanimate script which is made alive by the animate elements of the theater, than what does “spiritually” mean in other contexts? i.e., “spiritually born of God”, “brought…into destruction, both temporally and spiritually” etc.

  150. Larry
    November 22, 2004 at 1:17 am


    Your argument re: viviparous spiritual birth is clear. In the absence of any clear description in scripture as to the nature of the birth process, are you willing to concede the need for both the male and female in that birth process? If you are, then a logical argument needs to be developed how that process did occur if not in a viviparous fashion.
    It goes back to my original question. What role does our Mother in Heaven really play? Was my wife deceived when she was taught in the temple that she would have the opportunity to have children hereafter? If it is a manner other than viviparous what could it possibly be?
    Enquiring minds want to know?

    Any appeal to Neoplatonic or Hermetic teaching begs the question – what possible influence could they have had on revelation or the interpretation of it?

  151. Jack
    November 22, 2004 at 1:27 am

    J. Stapley, I too am doubtful of the “viviparous” spirit birth.

    But, what about my real question? Is the above mantioned creation drama a depiction of things spiritual or temporal or both? If it is spiritual as Moses’ account proports to be, then we have some things to reckon with.

  152. Jack
    November 22, 2004 at 1:30 am

    Oops, above *mentioned* creation…

  153. Blake Ostler
    November 22, 2004 at 9:44 am

    Jack: The sequence of creation indicates that the creation account in Gen. 1 is a spiritual creation. The “physical” or temporal creation acount appears to begin in 2:4 according to Moses — it begins the story of the generations of the heaven and the earth temporally as I read the text. You are of course quite correct that if that is the case, then we must rely on the notion that the temporal creation mirrors the spiritual creation both in order and process to arrive at the conclusion that the 7 days of creation relate to the physical creation of the earth. Yet keep in mind that the ancient Hebrews had a very different view of the world than we do — the earth was viewed as a flat plate supported by pillars and the “heavens” above also supported by pillars and situated beneath a “firmament” or glass-like ceiling on which the stars were fixed. The “heavens” are situated beneath this firmament and above it is water that is held back by the barrier of the firmament. Above the firmament, God built his heavenly temple amid the uncreated waters. So “heaven and earth” meant something very different to them and trying to equate their view of “heavens and earth” with our view of the universe (or even mulitverses) is to equivocate enourmously. Does the Book of Moses continue this view of the world?

    I also find that the questions that people ignore are often the most interesting. For example, I have asked Clark and Melissa: “how do you reconcile your interpreation of this scripture [Moses 3:7] with JS’s clear statements that spirits exist on self-existing principles and are uncreated and eternal?” And Larry asked Clark a good question: “what possible influence could they [Hermeticism and Neoplatonism] have had on revelation or the interpretation of [Moses]?

  154. Last_lemming
    November 22, 2004 at 10:14 am

    Without getting into the NeoPlatonic stuff (which is way beyond me), and without implicitly endorsing all of Blake Ostler’s ideas, let me second his interpretation of the spiritual creation. I think of it as God running a vast number of computer simulations on his heavenly PC until one of them provides a clear path to his desired outcome. The final program constitutes the “spiritual creation,” and provides a pattern to be followed in the physical creation. Anybody who has written an even moderately complex program will tell you that using the the term “creation” for such a product is not a stretch.

    Like Ostler, I do not equate this spiritual creation with the birth of our spirits, which may or may not have been viviparous (I’m not convinced by either side yet).

    As for the spirits of inanimate objects, they are necessarily qualitatively different than those associated with living beings. We are taught (somewhere–the old missionary dicussions, if nowhere else), that physical death occurs when our spirit leaves our body. What spirit, then, will inhabit my inanimate corpse? One interpretation is that the simulation counterpart mentioned above could be that “spirit,” but I think there may be an even more concrete interpretation—the quantum wave function. Of course living beings and their consitutent parts also have wave functions, so under this interpretation one has to make room for two qualitatively different “spirits” in one’s body! I won’t try to describe wave functions here (economists are not the best qualified to do that anyway), but those familar with the concept may want to consider it as a candidate for the spirit associated with inanimate objects.

  155. November 22, 2004 at 11:16 am

    Let me some of the echo the comments already made.

    In comment #146 Larry says that “the revelations [JS] received were not dependent on his views.” I think this is an important point. Blake seems to mistakenly conflate Joseph’s growing understanding of doctrine, the exegesis of specific passages (like Moses 3), and discussion about LDS theology on spiritual creation. I think that these are distinct exercises.

    If we are going to try to attempt to draw out a doctrine of creation from scripture then we need to take all scripture seriously to so do. The more transparent passages should be used to help us make sense of opaque texts. Blake, you seem to resist this and I’m not sure why. You seem to confuse the historical project of exploring the development of JS’ thought with the more exegetical and systematic tasks of interpreting scripture and constructing theology. If you think that these projects are related then you need to tell us why you think they are.

    Like Clark, I remain unconvinced of your interpretation of Moses 3:7. You have not indicated why we should think of “created” as referring to an ideal instead of a mind-independent entity. You parathesize the Hebrew, but this is problematic on my view for two reasons.

    First, the Hebrew “asah” is usually translated “to do” or “to make”. It suggests concrete activity. In its 2,000 plus occurrences in the Hebrew Bible it is used to convey the idea “to fashion”, “to manufacture,” “to produce”, “to shape,” “to construct,” and so forth. The semantic range does not seem to cover your preferred meaning here.

    Second, despite the fact that the Hebrew favors the reading Clark and I prefer, we have no reason to refer to the Hebrew here since we don’t have the original text and don’t know that the word “made” has the same meaning as “asah.” It may be that the words “created” and “made” in verse 7 are parallel and thus synonymous in meaning. It may also be the case that two verbs are used because they each refer to something distinct, some different sort of activity, perhaps. We can’t tell based on the text in question.

    I am not suggesting that plant creation is the same as spirit creation but it does seem to me that there is some sort of animating spirit in plants and animals that could have been created (not spiritually begotten but divinely generated nonetheless) “before” as we read in Moses 3:7.

    Where exactly does JS make a clear statement that “spirits exist on self-existing principles and are uncreated and eternal?” (I apologize if you’ve already given the exact reference above, I haven’t read this entire thread). It is my understanding that spirits are organized (perhaps begotten?) intelligences and that it is intelligence that is uncreated and eternal.

  156. Jack
    November 22, 2004 at 11:34 am

    Blake, thanks for the response.

    I think, today, we view heaven as an “upper world” and earth as a “lower world”. And though our view may differ metaphorically from that of the Hebrews, there is a commonality between the two in the sense that both heaven and earth are considered to be real dwelling places. Or am I naive? Even the beautiful model which you spoke of portrays heaven to be every bit as real as the earth.

    I guess I’m at a loss as to what exactly the Lord means when he says that “in heaven I created them”. Why is it important that we know He is running his “simulations” (as per Last_lemming’s excellent comment) in heaven, especially if heaven as well as the earth is situated below his throne according to the Hebrew model?

  157. November 22, 2004 at 11:59 am

    “…are you willing to concede the need for both the male and female in that birth process?�

    While I tend to favor spirit creation (i.e., transition from eternal intelligence to spirit), I still think there is a pretty good argument for spirits being uncreated. And while I also favor the need to have both man and woman involved in the creative process, I think that the position is not very well supported (especially considering the evolution of the doctrine #145-5). I think it is fair to say that there are less inherent problems in a non-viviparous spiritual birth compared to viviparous spiritual birth. And as for mechanism, I don’t know, but I don’t know the mechanism of the other spiritual creations or physical creations, so I don’t feel too uncomfortable.

    � Where exactly does JS make a clear statement that ‘spirits exist on self-existing principles and are uncreated and eternal?’� See #98

  158. November 22, 2004 at 12:26 pm

    A few brief comments as that is all I have time for right now.

    Spirits can be self-existing while being changeable in modes or manifestations of latent properties. Further they can be put into new relationships, much like real world objects emerge out of Leibniz’ monads. So I’m not exactly sure what Blake’s appeal to self-existence is intended to establish. I don’t think any of us have stated anything about what the creation of man in Moses 2-3 entails. Merely that it is a real creation and not merely a plan about what God intends to do to a spirit. i.e. God has acted.

    My own belief is that in all theologies we never have anything like creation ex nihilo and that creation is always a making in the sense of forming. i.e. God creates by reforming what already exists. Even the spirit birth theology doesn’t deviate from this but merely makes an assertion that the forming of pre-existent enties occurs in a fashion analogous to how it works here on earth.

    Regarding bringing up Hermeticism and NeoPlatonism. I think there are two reasons it is applicable. One is simply that some of the ideas in those movements correspond to what was being asserted independent of any influence. i.e. perhaps those movements simply made correct assertions. There may be differences, of course, but within a general comparison they may be parallel assertions.

    The other alternative, which Quinn, Brooke and others have asserted, is that Joseph as he studied the Bible consulted commentaries and other texts that did discuss Philo, Kabbalism, and Hermeticisms. While Quinn’s book is at best a mixed bag, I think he does provide quite a few strong textual parallels between books Joseph could have been exposed to and phraseology in various texts Joseph produced. This isn’t to say that because a similar phrasing occurs that the original meanings are the same. Thus Joseph hypothetically might see something mentioned about Kabbalism, but not understanding the original context, used it to generate a new idea in consultation with God. As I recall I believe Quinn and others ascribe misreadings of Kabbalism to certain ideas from Joseph Smith, especially in the later Nauvoo period with things like Adam/God etc. I find that often a strained assertion, especially since Bill Hamblin has shown more simpler explanations that fit the data. But I don’t think we can neglect this approach.

    The real issue, and this was what I was getting at albeit poorly, is that we need textual reasons in Joseph that help us decide whether something is to be conceived of roughly Platonic (i.e. abstract real entities), conceptually (ideas or plans), or physically (spirit as spirit matter or location in heaven) My belief here is that Blake hasn’t established textual reasons for his readings and there are elements in the text that argue against it.

    The reason I brought up make in a platonic context is because it seems questionable whether one would say one makes ideas. I don’t have quick access to Blake’s article, but I did read through Philo’s first section on creation last night and he does use the term make, although in the context of 2 + 2 makes 4. I didn’t see, outside of the obvious Biblical quotations, Philo using the term like Joseph did. (Which isn’t to say he doesn’t – merely that I didn’t see it)

  159. November 22, 2004 at 12:56 pm

    �God creates by reforming what already exists. Even the spirit birth theology doesn’t deviate from this but merely makes an assertion that the forming of pre-existent enties occurs in a fashion analogous to how it works here on earth.�

    However, it was the position of Orson Pratt, Brigham Young and the later theology of McConkie that self awareness and agency did not exist before spirit birth.

  160. November 22, 2004 at 1:20 pm

    I’m not sure that was Pratt’s position. Certainly Pratt feels everything has agency. Self-consciousness is a little more complex as that might be emergent. I’d have to check on that. Brigham Young I simply don’t know off the top of my head. Do you have cites for those?

  161. November 22, 2004 at 4:13 pm

    Do you have cites for those?

    Yeah, I just lent my copy of Blakes article (Dialogue 1982), which would be the easiest list. I’ll get it back and post them. Though, Blake should have these if he has a second. His article goes through the bulk of it – I would need Dialogue’s permission to post the complete article on my web sight, right? The Adam-God article in that issue is also highly relevent to the conversation.

  162. November 22, 2004 at 4:45 pm

    Any chance you could email it to me? I just don’t foresee having time to make it up on campus this week.

  163. November 22, 2004 at 5:08 pm

    Yeah, I’ll scan them both into acrobat – you can accept large attachments, right? Why don’t you email me at stapley_at_splendidsun_dot_com and I will reply. Jonathan’s the name.

  164. Larry
    November 22, 2004 at 6:53 pm

    And blogging’s the game. :) Couldn’t resist. Temptation and all.

  165. November 22, 2004 at 7:12 pm

    Jack, that’s a good point. Further it isn’t clear if Moses discusses a Hebrew worldview or a worldview that was lost by the time most of the Biblical books were composed and/or edited. In either case, I suspect the meaning of heaven is rather important.

    Regarding the Hebrew view, I believe most scholars think that by the end of the Babylonian exile they’d adopted a cosmology more or less akin to that in 1 Enoch or the vision Nephi has in the beginning of the Book of Mormon. It was considered a spatial place, typically above the waters in the heavens with an underworld below the ground. I think the more platonized Hebrew thought comes with the conquering of the world by Alexander and the heavy Hellenization of Jews both in Israel but more importantly in Egypt.

  166. Matt Evans
    November 22, 2004 at 9:04 pm

    Blake: I also find that the questions that people ignore are often the most interesting.

    Blake, back in comment 130, I asked, “What verbs would be necessary to show that this passage [Moses 3:7, with verbs “created and make,”] was intended to correct the theories of men popular in the 18th and early 19th centuries?”

  167. Blake Ostler
    November 22, 2004 at 10:10 pm

    Matt: I admit that I just don’t understand what it is that you’re asking — my problem and not yours. I’m pretty sure that a mere verb wouldn’t do it.

  168. Jack
    November 23, 2004 at 3:24 am

    This has been a fascinating discussion. I hate to see it die.

    Clark, perhaps as a continuation of the themes developed on this thread you could post something to do with the dichotomy between Joseph Smith’s world view and hellenized christian/Hebrew world views.

    Don’t feel obligated if you don’t have the time or inclination. Just a thought.

  169. Matt Evans
    November 23, 2004 at 10:01 am

    Hi Blake,

    Earlier you said in the 18th and early 19th centuries, the understanding at that time (among, I assume, professors of apostate creeds), was that God spiritually created the earth in his mind prior to its physical creation. Given the not-so-nice things God had to say about professors of apostate creeds around 1830, I think it’s likely the interpretation of those professors was wrong, and that one of God’s purposes in revealing the book of Moses was to correct some of the beliefs the apostate creeds had injected into the world.

    Moses 3 notes that God created and made everything spiritually before he made it physically. To my understanding, and apparently to most readers of this thread, those verbs, create and make, suggest that this creation was more than simply his conception of or plan for the physical creation.

    My question is: what verb could Moses have used to persuade you that God spiritually made — in the common, current use of the word — everything spiritually?

    All things were spiritually ________ and ________ before they were upon the earth. (Moses 3:7)
    God _________ men before they were in the flesh. (Moses 6:51)

    Just as importantly, and we should have brought this up when Joel first mentioned it, how do you understand Moses 6:36, where Enoch “beheld the spirits that God had created; and he beheld also things which were not visible to the natural eye”? This strongly suggests that the spirits existed independent of God, as it doesn’t seem that Enoch saw things that didn’t exist except in God’s imagination, but that he saw things that existed, but could not be seen with the natural eye.

    Finally, even if you are right in your interpretation of Moses (it’s a mistake to read it plainly), why do you attribute our current belief that God is the father of our spirits to the Adam-God theory, and not to the failure to interpret scriptures like Moses 3 and 6 in light of middle-Platonist definitions? Even if Adam-God contained ideas which fueled the belief that God’s the father of our spirits, the fact that the idea is buttressed by the plain readings of Acts 17:29, Hebrew 12:9, Moses 3:7, Moses 6:36-51, Abraham 3:22-23, and a dozen others, seems to suggest that erroneous scriptural interpretation is more responsible, or is responsible for Brigham and Eliza’s faulty idea in the first instance.

  170. Blake Ostler
    November 23, 2004 at 10:59 am

    Matt: I see the theology of the Book of Moses as quite preliminary to the Nauvoo theology of Joseph Smith. The notion that God “made the world and man” before they were in the flesh suggests strongly that we are not dealing with a spirit birth or the pre-existence of humans because the entire “world” was also created in the very same way before it was “in the flesh” — which I take to mean before it was in the physical nature that it now has. The entire world and everything in it was “created spiritually,” which within the context of the Book of Moses seems to me to mean that God had planned it and it existed already within his mind as a mind-dependent reality. It is the not the verbs used, but the entire theology of the book — where literally everything has a type of spiritual existence before it exists on earth physically. If you take “create and make” to mean something more than just a plan, well so do I, but the notion of “ideal existence” is not yet mind-independent existence although “real” in the sense it was used in early 19th century (and even earlier Christian) thought. Moreover, and this is important, it is not the view that there are intelligences who are clothed with a spirit body through spirit birth — unless you think that entire world was begotten that way. So it is not the theology of B.H. Roberts, or of Orson Pratt or of BY.

  171. Blake Ostler
    November 23, 2004 at 11:07 am

    Clark: the Book of I Enoch demonstrably also adopts the world-view of a flat earth supported by pillars — so what distinction are you pointing to? Moreover, I don’t know what you mean that “most scholars” believe that by the Babylonian exile there was a different view. Most scholars believe that second Isaiah is post-exilic and it adopts the same view as the pre-exilic works. So who are the scholars you refer to and what is it you’re referring to?

  172. Blake
    November 23, 2004 at 11:42 am

    Matt: So let’s take stock: first, there seems to have been intimations of pre-existence in the Book of Mormon and Book of Moses. Alma 41-42 assumes that we all return to God and were once with God like Adam. The Book of Moses speaks of a spiritual creation. The B. of Moses seems to be part of an interprettive tradition that saw Genesis 1 as a spiritual creation in which God created everything, the entire world, all that exists, in the sense that the creation was already present in his omnisciente mind and because his plan was so sure it was as if it already existed — it existed “ideally.” This complex of ideas is not yet a view of human pre-existence and almost certainly not yet the idea that there is something about us that is literally uncreated. Indeed, the notion that spirits are created (along with everything else) spiritually before the world seems to be in tension with the view that there are uncreated spirits who have no beginning.

    Later, the idea of an uncreated spirit/intelligence was revealed to/by JS. When the earlier view gets read in light of this later view it seems to me that there is a tendency to conflate the two views. Yet they are not the same (and in some ways may seem incompatible). I don’t think that anyone reading just the B. of Mormon or B. of Moses would come up with the idea of an uncreated and beginningless intelligence. Further, there is still no notion of a spirit birth or a heavenly mother. Clark suggests that spirits could change in their modes so he doesn’t see what I’m getting at. Well, one thing that cannot change about an uncreated spirit is that it is uncreated and had no beginning — and if one adopts a theology where spirits have a beginning then one has a different theology.

  173. Blake
    November 23, 2004 at 11:57 am

    Clark: Philo’s use of “2+2 make 4” is precisely a use of “make” meaning ideal existence. So the verb make doesn’t mean some type of mind-independent existence — at least for Philo.

  174. Matt Evans
    November 23, 2004 at 2:43 pm


    Thanks again for so patiently responding to my questions.

    It’s not obvious to me what noting that God created everything spiritually, not just man, gets you. You appear to believe that reading the passage plainly results in the absurdity of spirit-trees and spirit-earth, so we should know not to read it plainly. But every time these passages have been taught to me, the teacher has taught what to you appears absurd: that even trees and earth have spirits. Because I’ve been taught that my whole life, it doesn’t seem absurd to me.

    But setting that aside for the moment, you’re not treating both interpretive possibilities the same. In the interpretation of Moses 3:7 that suggests a “real” spiritual creation, you argue that all things are created in the same way — both men and things, whereas in the interpretation that suggests an “idealized” creation, you do not believe all things are spiritually created in the same way. When God “created” men spiritually, he was idealizing something that already existed, but when he created “all things,” he was idealizing something that did not yet exist. Since you accept distinct meanings of spiritual creation in your interpretation, it’s wrong to deny my interpretation distinct meanings.

    Also, I’m wondering about your assertion that intelligence and spirit are used interchangably. I suspect that spirit is sometimes used as a synonym for intelligence, but that intelligence is never used as a synonym for spirit. In other words, intelligence is a narrow term that’s only used prior to spirit creation, and spirit is a broad term that is sometimes used for pre- and post-spirit creation. Is intelligence ever used to refer to a spirit that is post-Moses3-creation, or that say mortality is the union of an intelligence and a body? It seems to me that spirit is more like “soul,” which, though soul is defined discreetly in the D&C as the eternal union of spirit and body, it’s usually not used in this narrow sense. More often, it’s used synonymously with spirit.

  175. November 23, 2004 at 2:59 pm

    � I suspect that spirit is sometimes used as a synonym for intelligence, but that intelligence is never used as a synonym for spirit. In other words, intelligence is a narrow term that’s only used prior to spirit creation, and spirit is a broad term that is sometimes used for pre- and post-spirit creation�

    From the King Follett Discourse (Teachings) we have:

    “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.�


    “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.�

    Especially from the second verse it would seem that intelligence is broader than spirit, in that it refers to a resurrected being as well.

  176. November 23, 2004 at 3:16 pm

    And for ambivalence’s sake (also from the KFD):

    “The intelligence of spirits had not beginning, neither will it have an end. That is good logic. That which has a beginning may have an end. There never was a time when there were not spirits; for they are co-equal [co-eternal] with our Father in heaven�


    “I take my ring from my finger and liken it unto the mind of man — the immortal part, because it has no beginning. Suppose you cut it in two; then it has a beginning and an end; but join it again, and it continues one eternal round. So with the spirit of man. As the Lord liveth, if it had a beginning, it will have an end.â€?


    �I might with boldness proclaim from the house-tops that God never had the power to create the spirit of man at all. God himself could not create himself.�

  177. November 23, 2004 at 3:31 pm

    For those interested, I have placed a Word copy of the King Follett Discourse on my server. I’ll probably leave them there for a couple weeks.

  178. November 23, 2004 at 3:33 pm

    For some reason the links are not working. Here they are spelled out:



  179. November 23, 2004 at 3:52 pm

    The following is less readable, but is the original sources from which the HotC version was compiled. King Follet Discourse.

  180. November 23, 2004 at 4:03 pm

    Blake, regarding your other comments, I’ll comment on them later. Regarding the geography of heaven, I was thinking of the discussions in The Jewish Apocalyptic Heritage in Early Christianity and Cosmology and Eschatology in Jewish and Christian Apocalypticism (Books I bought when I was single and could justify actually buying Brill books) However I confess it’s been a very long time since I last read them, so I want to read through and check my thoughts just in case I’m remembering wrong.

    Anyway, since this thread is getting a tad long and unweldly I may post it to my blog.

  181. Larry
    November 23, 2004 at 4:43 pm

    This discussion has been fascinating to read. I would like to make a couple of comments.
    I believe the prophet when he says we are co-eternal with God. I believe that we have always existed as independent, choice making beings. (Section 93)
    What I see as a problem is that everyone perceives that an intelligence cannot have a spirit body, or if it does it is exactly in the same state that existed with our Father in Heaven.
    Since we know that the action of light on light is an increase of light (Section 93) why is that we can’t conceive of a progression from a spirit/intelligence state to a spirit state preparatory to receiving a mortal body. That spirit state requiring the birth to immortal parents.
    If we understand that, then, it seems to me, everything flows congruently through the scriptures.

  182. Blake
    November 23, 2004 at 4:53 pm

    With respect to the KFD, I suggest that we not use the TPJS — but rely on the original sources in the Words of Joseph Smith by Ehat and Cook. I don’t believe that TPJS is accurate — it certainly uses the wording less accurately than the amalgamated text by Larsen.

    Matt, re: # 174: Contrary to your assertion, I don’t believe that the Book of Moses teaches that “the world” and “herbs and plants” are created and made in a different way than humans are as far as the Book of Moses narrative discusses that issue. I believe that everything was created spiritually because that is what the Book of Moses 3:4-5 says:

    “4. And now, behold, I say unto you, that these are the generations of the heaven and of the earth, when they were created•, in the day that I, the Lord God, made the heaven• and the earth,

    5 And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew. For I, the Lord God, created• all things, of which I have spoken, spiritually•, before they were naturally• upon the face of the earth.”

    Note carefully that it says that God created all things spiritually before they were on the earth. So what goes for the earth and the herbs and plants goes for man as far as spiritual creation is asserted in the B. of Moses. Verse 6:51 also says: “I am God; I made• the world, and men before they were in the flesh.” So it is both the entire world and man that were made before they were naturally created. That is why I believe it must refer to something different than spiritual birth, for the earth and plants are not begotten spirits of a heavenly mother (at least not as far as I can see). Further, the notion that spirits are “created” is different than a spiritual creation it seems to me. As I said, it seems to me that the discussion of the spirit creation is tied up in the interpretation of Gen. 1 and 2:4 where we have two different creation accounts and the B. of Moses attempts to reconcile a contradiction between 1:16-17 and 2:4 with the doctrine of spirit creation. I know that in 6:36 it says that Enoch saw the spirits God had created, but whether these are already living or post-life spirits is impossible to tell.

    That said, I believe that the B. of Abraham constitutes further revelation and its notion of the spirit is clear: the spirit is uncreated and eternal. It moves beyond the notion of spirit creation in the B. of Moses in the sense that gives a more precise notion of human pre-existence and human ontology. I’m still waiting for Clark and Melissa to tell me how they reconcile their view of the B. of Moses that the spirit is created with the B. of Abraham statement that: “18 Howbeit that he made the greater star; as, 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….”

  183. Matt Evans
    November 23, 2004 at 5:18 pm

    J. Stapley,

    Thanks for the excerpts from KFD. It does appear that there Joseph used intelligence in a way that would be as broad as spirit or soul.

    But check out this passage:

    The intelligence of spirits had not beginning, neither will it have an end. That is good logic. That which has a beginning may have an end.

    I’ve already pointed out that Joseph was wrong about one thing — that reasoning is bad logic: temple marriages are eternal even though they have distinct beginnings. But more interesting is his saying that intelligence is of spirits, meaning that a spirit is more than an intelligence. The construction “X of Y” can serve no other purpose. Intelligence is mentioned here for the purpose of explaining which part of our spirit had no beginning. This is more evidence for the traditional Mormon view.


    I think most Mormons conceive our progression as you outlined. I’ve been an actively engaged member my whole life but had never heard someone say it was hard to comprehend until this week. Because Nate and Blake are smart guys, I trust there’s something there, but I admit I don’t understand why it’s hard to imagine spirits are in some ways fixed and in some ways maleable.

  184. Matt Evans
    November 23, 2004 at 5:33 pm


    My point was that you use the word “creation” in two distinct senses. To create/imagine/plan something that already exists (eternal spirits) is different than to create/imagine/plan something that does not exist (herbs and earth).

    You’ve said that to use my interpretation of creation, one must also admit that the spirits of herbs and earth were begotten by God, given that the passage doesn’t distinguish between the way men and all thing were created. But to turn that logic around on your own view, you must believe that all things — herbs, plants and trees — are eternal, given that God created (imagined, planned) them in the same way he created/imagined/planned man. If you think that men had no beginning but the earth did, then God’s creation/imagination/planning of each of them was different and you’re using two definitions of creation.

  185. Blake
    November 23, 2004 at 5:51 pm

    Matt: The B. of Moses does not speak of eternal spirits and when it speaks of spiritual creation it is not addressing anything within the context of the eternal or uncreated intelligence — when the Book of Moses was written the notion of an eternal intelligence/spirit was not on the horizon and so it does not address the issue of creating an eternal spirit. You are still reading the text of the B. of Moses as if it were addressing a doctrine that was revealed only later. So I don’t see the word “create” used in two different ways in the Book of Moses. I am not reading the text of the B. of Moses in light of the later revelation about eternal spirits. So the B. of Moses speaks of a spiritual creation and it means that God created in the sense that it was an ideal creation. So I read the text of the B. of Moses as disparate from the B. of Abr. — though it forshadowed the later development or evolution of the notion of human pre-existence and uncreated intelligences. The Book of Moses has not yet revealed that spirits are uncreated or that persons pre-existed (though it hints at it depending on what it means to be created spiritually).

  186. November 23, 2004 at 5:52 pm

    As a side note. If there is a mind-independent spiritual creation of animals, plants, etc. (i.e., they are truly souls) then this might be an excellent argument for reincarnation. Because, as I have been taught since a child, the earth, animals and plants all fulfill the measure of their creation, they must be resurrected to the highest glory. Now if their spirits are not recycled, there is going to be a lot of “stuff� in the celestial kingdom. I mean, think about all the rats, dandelions, and rabbits (not to mention bacteria and blue-green algae) that have lived and died! ;)

  187. Larry
    November 23, 2004 at 6:45 pm

    In Moses 2 it says:”And the earth was without form, and void; and I caused darkness to come up upon the face of the deep; and my Spirit moved upon the face of the water; for I am God”.
    Read again D&C 84:45. Since it is the Saviour who is doing the actual creation (acting as though He were the Father) the Spirit He refers to is the Light of Christ which D&C 88:13 says is ” The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed,…”. It is the office of Christ that makes creation possible.

    God could not be God if He didn’t follow the eternal principles that make Gods Gods. By being previously obedient to those principles He, with His wife, are capable of bringing spirit/intelligences, by birth, from their previous existence into His heavenly home which He has merited, clothing them in a spirit body from the loins of an eternal, resurrected body, that would make it a progression from the spirit body it possessed as an intelligence. Since it is light that flows through their veins, then it is (to put it crudely) a coarser spirit capable of possessing a mortal body.
    At some time He is able to create a world of existence for them, in conjunction with them, based on other worlds which they probably observed, placing on it plants and animals from other worlds that they like and that will help the earth fill the measure of it’s creation, as well as us.

    To go back to the creation of the earth:
    It is the action of light on matter unorganized that gives it the ability to function. However, that is the physical body into which the spiritual body of the earth is to reside. The earth obviously has characteristics that make it a living thing, independent of it’s physical make up. Therefore it is capable of fulfilling the measure of it’s creation – where other worlds have failed.
    The same is true for plants and animals. If the Celestial Kingdom is an Elysian Field or Garden of the Gods, then plants and animals must be eternal in nature to exist there.

  188. Matt Evans
    November 23, 2004 at 10:28 pm

    Blake: when the Book of Moses was written the notion of an eternal intelligence/spirit was not on the horizon

    Whether or not the author of the Book of Moses knew the eternal nature of spirits is beside the point. So long as the author was correct in saying God created everything spiritually, then we know there were two kinds of creation because we know there were two distinct classes of things created. The creation/imagining/planning of things that already exist (spirits) would entail a different kind of creation/imagining/planning than would the creation/imagining/planning of things that did not exist (earth).

    To illustrate the same point another way, consider your statement from Comment 170, “The entire world and everything in it was ‘created spiritually,’ which seems . . . to mean that God had planned it and it existed already within his mind as a mind-dependent reality.” But you also believe “spirits exist on self-existing principles,” which means the eternal spirits couldn’t have been part of a mind-dependent creation. Only by using different definitions of creation can you say that God created/imagined/planned the pre-existing children of men and that he created/imagined/planned the herbs and earth. It’s important to notice that this referring to a whole system, either, that God had planned with both self-existing and contingent elements. Moses 3 says God “created all the children of men” and that he “created all things.” That references multiple creations of multiple things, not the single creation of a single plan or system.

    I’m also interested in your response to my analysis of this statement from the KFD:

    I am dwelling on the immortality of the spirit of man. Is it logical to say that the intelligence of spirits is immortal, and yet that it had a beginning? The intelligence of spirits had not beginning, neither will it have an end.

    The key feature is his formulation, “intelligence of spirits.” The only purpose that formulation can serve, “X of Y,” is to show that X is a part or attribute of Y. At the time he uttered that statement, Joseph clearly thought a spirit was more than an intelligence; intelligence was a part or attribute. He explains that the spirit is immortal because it’s intelligence had no beginning. Is there any way to interpret “X of Y” that does not result in X being a part or attribute of Y?

    Finally, if you have time, I’m interested in trying to understand why you think the confusion surrounding this topic is due to Adam-God, and not due to scriptural interpretation. If this thread has proven nothing else, it’s that the scriptures about this topic are not self-evident. As I wrote in Comment 169, “Even if Adam-God contained ideas which fueled the belief that God is the father of our spirits, the fact that the idea is buttressed by the plain readings of [dozens of scriptures] seems to suggest that erroneous scriptural interpretation is more responsible, or is responsible for Brigham and Eliza’s faulty ideas in the first instance.”

  189. November 23, 2004 at 11:57 pm

    So, after being formally spanked in #182, I formatted the electronic copy I had of the recommended text. I didn’t check it for errors, but it looks pretty tight:



  190. November 24, 2004 at 12:31 am

    Larry, that is a solid affirmation of your belief (187). While we differ in belief, perspective and epistemology, I appreciate it.

  191. Blake Ostler
    November 24, 2004 at 1:06 am

    Matt: What I believe you are missing is that I don’t accept the uniformity of scriptural teachings. That is, I don’t believe that the scriptures can or should be read as a single statement of uniform doctrine or that they all agree with one another. It appears to me that the B. of Moses has one idea about spirit creation and the B. of Abr. quite another — indeed, rejecting that spirits are created. I don’t believe that anyone reading just the B.of Moses would arrive at the view of uncreated intelligences, for instance. I don’t believe that the gospel of John views Christ in the same way (or even a compatible way) with the gospel of Mark etc.

    I believe that the complex of doctrines surrounding a mother in heaven and the associated belief that spirits are born through intimate relations between celestial beings is associated with the Adam God doctrine because the first appearance of the these doctrines is in Eliza Snow’s 1845 poem The Ultimatum of Human Life found here: http://www.color-country.net/~shepherd/ultimatum.html She followed it up with O My Father. It is possible that JS taught the doctrine in secret — but it definitely seems to me to be in tension with his view that spirits are eternal and don’t have a beginning through spirit birth.

    As you say, a spirit can be intelligent and thus there can be an intelligence of spirits as JS states — but he also clearly states that spirits, qua spirits, are eternal and uncreated. Thus, the fact that spirits can have intelligence is not at all inconsistent with calling spirits intelligences. In fact, it seems to me that spirits are also called intelligences precisely because they have an attribute of intelligence.

    It seems to me that explaining the different uses of “spirit/intelligence” in the B. of Moses and B. of Abr. as an evolution or development of doctrine is the best explanation and not that the B. of Moses must have meant what Eliza Snow and BY later came to believe. I believe that revelation is given line upon line and earlier statements are not as full, complete or clear as later statements — though earlier statements may foreshadow and prepare the way for the later revelation as I believe happened in this instance.

  192. Jack
    November 24, 2004 at 3:07 am

    “It seems to me that explaining the different uses of “spirit/intelligenceâ€? in the B. of Moses and B. of Abr. as an evolution or development of doctrine is the best explanation… I believe that revelation is given line upon line and earlier statements are not as full, complete or clear as later statements – though earlier statements may foreshadow and prepare the way for the later revelation as I believe happened in this instance.”

    Blake, how do you reconcile the idea of “evolution or development of doctrine” with the fact that the Books of Moses and Abraham are accounts witten by those particular authors according to their particular understandings? Did the Lord time there coming forth in such away so as to match Joseph’s growing understanding of the doctrine?

  193. Blake
    November 24, 2004 at 11:53 am

    Jack: I see both the BofMoses and the BofAbr. as expressing Joseph Smith’s language and conceptuality expressed in revelation of an ancient text — so I view them in the same way as the BofMormon as an expansion of ancient text.

  194. November 24, 2004 at 12:19 pm

    Blake, the Nauvoo Expositor itself is usually taken as one of the big evidences such matters were being taught in Nauvoo, along with the claims of many other figures. Obviously the NE doesn’t establish the details, but since it was an expose of secret teachings and a lot parallel what was taught in Utah…

  195. Jack
    November 24, 2004 at 12:35 pm

    Blake, I’m open to that idea, however as one who is not an expert in languages, even I can sense a difference in tone and character between the two original authors that I would have a hard time attributing to Joseph Smith alone. I’m not saying that this is what you are suggesting per se, but the question that comes to mind as I view your idea in the extreme, is: if the text is an “expansion” (which I believe must be the case to some degree, even if only to make them accessible to our highbrow western elitism :) ) of the original, how do we know for a fact that any dichotomy, how ever great or small between the Moses and Abraham texts are a result of Joseph’s take on them as opposed to a dichotomy between the two original authors?

  196. Blake Ostler
    November 24, 2004 at 6:33 pm

    Jack: There is of course always the possibility that Moses and Abraham actually expressed the ideas and they just had different or disparate views or they were at different degrees or levels of revelation on these issues. However, the language and expression of the idea seems to me to be Joseph’s. There is of course no way to know just how much is Joseph, how much is Moses or Abraham unless and until we have the texts.

  197. Matt Evans
    November 24, 2004 at 9:20 pm


    Thanks again for taking the time to explain your views. I realize that we reject scriptural inerrancy and therefore admit that scriptures that teach errors contradict scriptures that teach truths. What I don’t understand, however, is why you believe the passages from Moses and Abraham are irreconcilable, meaning that one of them is not true. Most Mormons believe they are both true and merely highlight different angles of the same truth. One says the elephant is like a snake, and one says it’s like a tree. Neither account is more accurate than the other, they are just imperfect explanations of the multi-faceted essence we call truth.

    If it’s possible for the Godhead to be in some senses one, and in some senses three, why can’t the nature of spirits can’t involve paradox too?

    And to clear up your position on the role of Adam-God: is it the belief that God is the father of our spirits, the assumption of a heavenly mother, or the assumption that his spiritual fatherhood required intimate relations with a heavenly mother, that you attribute to Adam-God?

  198. Blake Ostler
    November 25, 2004 at 1:04 am

    Matt: Both the BofMoses and BofAbr are true as far as they go — and there is always more because there is always more light and knowledge and revelation to be had. The spiritual creation of the BofMoses pointed to pre-existence and the BofAbr clarifies that some aspect of human existence is uncreated and some aspects are created. I am open to all possibilities on this issue because it is fair to say that we just don’t know except to affirm that there is a part of us that is uncreated and a part of us that is spiritually created and as a result there is some sense in which we are literally sons and daughters of God. I think that is as far as we can confidently go.

    As far as A/G goes, I would say all of the above.

  199. Joel D.
    November 28, 2004 at 6:38 pm

    Blake [#153]: “I also find that the questions that people ignore are often the most interesting. For example, I have asked Clark and Melissa: ‘how do you reconcile your interpreation of this scripture [Moses 3:7] with JS’s clear statements that spirits exist on self-existing principles and are uncreated and eternal?’ ”

    First, while Clark and Melissa may not have answered it, I have offered an answer in comments #44 and #112 above. Essentially, my response is that to say that “our spirit is eternal� does not necessarily mean that spirits are wholly uncreated. If we take Joseph’s statement to mean that there is a part within us that is eternal, his statement is justified and does not conflict with the many scriptures cited above that evidence and allude to a spirit birth. I believe that our spirits are eternal–some part of me was uncreated and has always and will always exist. But that part goes through many transformations, from spirit birth to mortal birth, to unembodied spirit, to resurrected being.

    Like Blake, I also find the statements that people ignore are often the most interesting. Take these comments of mine that neither Blake nor those who are like-minded have addressed:

    [#112]: “Also, I note that no one has addressed the fact that this is taught as doctrine to our newest converts in the Church-issued Gospel Principles manual. Blake seems to suggest that this is simply passed-along Church folk doctrine rather than a scrutinized Correlation-vetted statement of official Church doctrine.”

    [#117]: “Bible Dictionary entry on ‘Spirit’: ‘Every person is literally a son or a daughter of God, having been born as a spirit to Heavenly Parents previous to being born to mortal parents on the earth (cf. Heb. 12: 9).’ ”

    While I am not sure I agree with Blake’s view on scriptural interpretation (I see both merits and dangers), it seems that it would actually argue in favor of the creation of spirit bodies. If one views scriptures/revelations received later as expanding and in some ways supplanting earlier doctrines (instead of trying to reconcile them), then how would Blake justify stopping at the King Follett Discourse? If later statements of prophets like Brigham Young and Joseph F. Smith teach a creation of spirit bodies, then wouldn’t this augment and supplant Joseph’s not-quite-finally-developed teaching regarding the nature of spirits? If this is the principle, then we would view Joseph’s statements in the KFD as still evolving and having been clarified by what later prophets teach clearly as the birth of eternal spirits through the instrumentality of Heavenly Parents.

    Finally, I want to really get down to brass tacks. Given the many scriptural cites and other evidences regarding the doctrine of our spirit bodies being created by Heavenly Parents, why are some of us going to such lengths to strain a reading of revelation that denies a spirit birth? In other words, what is it intrinsically about the doctrine that causes people to want to unsettle what has become in the eyes of the institutional Church at least settled doctrine?

  200. Joel D.
    November 28, 2004 at 6:39 pm

    Blake, for you at least, it seems from some of your comments that you want to deny the creation of spirit bodies as a part of your larger quest to debunk the Adam-God theory. But this seems to me to be overbroad. Are there not narrower grounds on which you can vanquish the Adam-God theory?

  201. Blake Ostler
    November 29, 2004 at 1:04 am

    Joel: If I saw any reason to believe that spirit birth were taught in scripture or given by a revelation I would agree with you — but I don’t. Moreover, the notion that the spirit is uncreated and exists on self-existing principles as JS taught (and is implicit in Bof Abr. 3) seems to preclude the notion that we had a beginning as organized spirits that begins at spirit birth. What you say about a spirit birth and an eternal spirit seems to me to contradictory on its face — if a spriit is born qua spirit, then it begins to exists as a spirit. What else are you suggesting? That the spirit morphed so that it was eternally a spirit and then was born as a spirit? I think you can see why such a view doesn’t make sense to me. If the spirit merely undergoes change, like an infant growing to an adolescent (as you seem to suggest), then I have no problem except that calling it spirit birth is then inaccurate and misleading.

    If BY or JFS had revelations about spirits being born, then I am willing to simply say that our knowledge has been expanded by further revelation. It appears to me, however, that scriptural arguments for spirit birth are bad arguments and strain the scripture (the scriptures cited appear to me to refer to adoption as children of Christ). It appears to me that BY misunderstood JS and this misunderstanding, like his AG doctrine, got emobdied in the list of assumed beliefs that became accepted and part of what later must be accepted to fall in line with the party line. Orson Pratt was right to challenge BY about AG, it seems to me, and the treatment that he got for doing so was unjustified in my view. Assumed beliefs are different than revelations. Indeed, that is the difference between the Restoration and what went before it. The fact that a “doctrine” is “correlation vetted” doesn’t suddenly make it revelation or scripture — indeed, for me it raises the likelihood that we are dealing with a politics of belief rather than revelation. But as I said, that is the difference between what went before the Restoration and the revelations that constitute the Restoration. So the “many scriptures regarding the doctrine of spirit bodies created by Heavenly Parents” to which you refer seems to me not only to overstate the case, but to assert something that just ain’t so. There are no scriptures regarding Heavenly Parents that give birth to spirit children so far as I can see. Intelligences/spirits are eternal and uncreated according to BofAbr. 3 and JS — and I prefer the scriptural teaching to the later assumed cultural over-belief based on a demontrably false doctrine (even if it was taught by BY).

  202. Jack
    November 29, 2004 at 9:51 am

    Blake, I know that you’ve already said that the “organization” of intelligences most likely refers to their being organized into a council or body (if I read you correctly).

    If so, how to do you relate Adam’s “organization” to the organization of intelligences? (re. “man is now organized”) Perhaps I’m comparing apples with oranges inasmuch as Adam’s organization was from the dust of the earth, but can we not discover an analogue sorts? Or is the analogue (if one exists) to be found in a gathering of “many” into one body? If so, then perhaps what we have is a recuring pattern on both a small and grand scale. Is it way off to consider the idea that our temporal birth may serve as an analogue to the birth of the body of “Christ”? And that the Fall of Adam is a dissociation from the Lord’s body? If so, then the death of the mortal body serves as an analogue to the Fall i.e., the death of the body of Christ, which is now in the process of being made alive again by the spiritual rebirth of His children. (an analogue of the resurrection).

    Anyway, all that goofy stuff said, if there was a birth of sorts from “heavenly parents” then perhaps it was the birth of the body of Christ.

  203. Jack
    November 29, 2004 at 10:46 am

    I’m glad to see a thread about “doctrine” (or at least a search for an understanding of such) ranking in the “most popular” here at T&S.

  204. November 29, 2004 at 11:41 am

    While I don’t have the original text, Blake, you sight (Dialogue 1982) Orson Pratt in The Seer saying:

    “’each particle eternally existed prior to its organization; each was enabled to perceive its own existence; each had the power of self-motion, each would be an intelligent living being of itself…In this independent separate condition, it would be capable of being governed by laws, adapted to the amount of knowledge and experience gained during its past experience.’ In the course of time, these eternal particles entities would be ‘organized in the womb of the celestial female’ thereby creating an individual spirit body. Thus through spirit pregnancy and birth, existence began on a new level.�

    As mentioned previously, I don’t particularly support the position of viviparous spirit birth. But it is interesting, that despite Orson and BY’s contention over AG, they both believed in viviparous spirit birth. Could they have both misconstrued Joseph Smith and landed in very different places?

  205. November 29, 2004 at 12:12 pm

    I tend to think that the spirit birth doctrine didn’t originate with BY but with Joseph. As you say, even theological foes adopted the view in the 19th century.

  206. Joel D.
    November 29, 2004 at 12:33 pm

    Re: Blake [#201]

    Clearly we’ll have to agree to disagree on this since we both see it quite differently and I think we’ll only start repeating ourselves at this point. However, you still haven’t answered my larger question: what is it intrinsically about spirit birth that troubles you? For the sake of argument, set aside whether you think the doctrine was ever revealed or whether it conflicts with other doctrine and give us what you think is wrong about the concept of spirit birth itself.

  207. Blake
    November 29, 2004 at 2:28 pm

    Joel: Spirit birth conflicts with what has been revealed, i.e., that spirits exist on self-existing principles and there is no creation about it.

  208. Matt Evans
    November 29, 2004 at 2:51 pm


    Your last comment to Joel appears to contradict your last comment to me. In Comment 198 you wrote to me:

    “The spiritual creation [in PofGP] clarifies that some aspect of human existence is uncreated and some aspects are created. I am open to all possibilities on this issue because it is fair to say that we just don’t know except to affirm that there is a part of us that is uncreated and a part of us that is spiritually created and as a result there is some sense in which we are literally sons and daughters of God.”

    And in your Comment 207 to Joel your wrote:

    “Spirit birth conflicts with what has been revealed, i.e., that spirits exist on self-existing principles and there is no creation about it.”

    Believing that some part of our spirit is “spiritually created” seems incompatible with the belief that our spirits simply exist and “there is no creation about it.”

  209. Joel D.
    November 29, 2004 at 3:01 pm


    We disagree about this clearly, but you’re not answering the question. If you don’t want to, that’s fine, so I’ll let it drop after restating it once more. Setting aside that you think it conflicts with what has been revealed, is there anything about spirit birth per se that bothers you?

  210. Blake Ostler
    November 29, 2004 at 9:09 pm

    Matt: I think that you are right that 198 and 207 appear to be in conflict — if what I mean by “spiritually created” means that spirits are created as spirits. But that is not what I mean. I believe that we are spiritually born when we accept Christ and our spirit is renewed as a joint co-creation of us acting in Christ. We become sons and daughters of Christ, but not by having our spirits organized from intelligences.

    Joel: I don’t know of anything wrong with the notion of spirit birth per se — aside from the fact that perhaps it is based on a false A/G theology as its underlying justification. Actually, I kind of like the idea — I just don’t see any scriptural justification for it and I see scriptural warrant against it.

  211. November 30, 2004 at 12:39 am

    Blake, why couldn’t spirit birth in heaven be analogous? i.e. we are made new creatures as sons and daughters of our heavenly father but not necessarily a birth via a heavenly vagina. (i.e. the caricature in The Godmakers) If being made a new spiritual creature by Christ is a kind of organizing, why not prior to it?

    The real issue is our spirit bodies. Ether 3 suggests we have them (although it need not be read that way). Certainly we have something like a spirit body in that when dead people are seen they appear phenomenologically like a body. Are you saying we always had such a form? If not, then isn’t there something akin to a birth giving one a spirit body at some time?

    I guess I’m still a little vague on what you are asserting. In certain ways it seems a difference without a difference. I can understand objecting to the sexual interpretation of spirit creation taught by Pratt and Young. However outside of that I’m not exactly sure of the problem.

    BTW – regarding Moses 2, something I noticed yesterday that I’d missed earlier was that the entire text, as presented, was dictated to Moses and wasn’t a vision of creation. Thus it may well be much more symbolic, ala the way Brigham Young read Genesis 1.

  212. Joel D.
    November 30, 2004 at 11:00 am

    Blake #201: “What you say about a spirit birth and an eternal spirit seems to me to contradictory on its face – if a spriit is born qua spirit, then it begins to exists as a spirit. What else are you suggesting? That the spirit morphed so that it was eternally a spirit and then was born as a spirit?”

    No, that’s not really what I’m saying. I think that the spirit body is somewhat analagous to our physical body, in that the physical body houses the spirit, and that similarly the spirit body houses an eternal uncreated self (which some call intelligence, but I recognize that this term could be problematic). When Joseph says that spirits are eternal and uncreated, I am suggesting that this means that there is a part within our spirits that is eternal and uncreated and therefore justifies characterizing the whole the same way.

    It also just occurred to me this morning that we can approach this another way. You seem to feel that a birth of a spirit qua spirit means that the spirit thus has a beginning and therefore cannot not be eternal. But let’s think about the other end of the journey–the resurrection. When the spirit and body are resurrected they are eternally fused and we are no longer spirits but are resurrected persons, and thus the spirit is not really eternal in the sense you seem to indicate–i.e., “eternal” means that your spirit form always existed. Otherwise, your position would lead to the conclusion that there is no literal resurrection whereby the spirit and body are inseparably joined and we cease having a spirit form.

    What I am suggesting is that the spirit is eternal because there is a part within that is uncreated and self-existent. This part is clothed with a spirit body through a spirit birth by heavenly parents, is then further clothed with a physical body for our mortal probation, sheds the physical body at mortal death, participates in the spirit world as a spirit body, and is then inseparably clothed with a glorified resurrected body. The uncreated and self-existent part of us goes through many transformations. Spirits are not eternal because they stay in the same form; spirits are eternal because some part of them has always existed and always will.

  213. Joel D.
    November 30, 2004 at 11:03 am

    Excuse the double negative in my third paragraph in #212. The end of the second sentence should read “and therefore cannot be eternal.”

  214. Wayne Wells
    December 1, 2004 at 1:06 pm

    “The Lord made it known to Moses (See Book of Moses Chap. 3.) and also to Abraham (Abraham Ch. 3) and it is expressed in several revelations, that man was in the beginning with God. In that day, however, man was a spirit unembodied. The beginning was when the councils met and the decision was made to create this earth that the spirits who were intended for this earth, should come here and partake of the mortal conditions and receive bodies of flesh and bones. The doctrine has prevailed that matter was created out of nothing, but the Lord declares that the elements are eternal. Matter always did and, therefore, always will exist, and the spirits of men as well as their bodies were created out of matter. We discover in this revelation that the intelligent part of man was not created, but always existed. There has been some speculation and articles have been written attempting to explain just what these ‘intelligences’ are, or this ‘intelligence’ is, but it is futile for us to speculate upon it. We do know that intelligence was not created or made and cannot be because the Lord has said it. There are some truths it is well to leave until the Lord sees fit to reveal the fulness� (Joseph Fielding Smith, Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:401).


    I figure that I have enough work cut out for me working on faith, repentance, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost. Although, a little mental exercise keeps the intellect in shape.

    I have been thinking about many of the problems people have that are related ego and the inflation thereof. Are the ego problems manifested by most developing children (e.g. realization that they are not the center of the universe) a reflection of the same sort of development when we were spirit children? Was there a point in our past as a spirit or an intelligence when we became aware that there is a delineation between self and not-self? Or is this an experience that is unique to our mortal development?

  215. Jack
    December 3, 2004 at 10:33 pm

    Wayne, I’ve thought a lot about this as well (not that I’ve come up with any good answers). I kinda like the idea of being established as one body through the agency of Christ, with the understanding that what we are is not defined solely by that agency – there’s more to us than that. However, without the Savior there would be no deliverence from the paradox of self vs. others (though, in the end, some will opt to remain separate). I think it’s quite possible that this arrangement prevailed in pre-mortality and is the very thing from which we fell (the fall of Adam). Perhaps our task in this life is to regain that relation with the Savior with the added dimention of the flesh.

  216. December 16, 2004 at 12:56 pm

    I came across an interesting section of text that I wanted to bring up for questioning. In his discourse dated “Before 8 August 1839 (1)� in The Words of Joseph Smith, Joseph first publicly (or so says the footnote) taught the uncreated nature of spirit saying:

    The Spirit of Man is not a created being; it existed from Eternity & will exist to eternity. Anything created cannot be Eternal. & earth, water &c—all these had their existence in an elementary State from Eternity. Our Savior speaks of Children & Says their angels always stand before my father.

    There are a couple of points I’d like to solicit comments on. I realize that this is twist on the neo-Platonic argument and he used it subsequently (e.g., the KFD). I also realize that people have already commented that the logic is not all that compatible with Mormon empiricism (e.g., Sealing families, etc.). I’m more interested, however, in the coupling of the eternal nature of our “being� to earth and water.

    In the 1780’s Lavoisier and later Gay-Lussac and Louis Jacques Thenard elucidated the proportion of carbon and hydrogen in organic material by combustion and subsequently measuring the water and carbon dioxide. I don’t know if the Saints where familiar with these concepts of chemistry, but it was obvious to many contemporaries that water and (potentially, depending on how you look at it) earth may be both created and destroyed: organic material + oxygen >> water + carbon dioxide.

    From a modern perspective, condensation of the quark-gluon plasma aside, it is obvious that the atoms of this earth were formed in the fusion reactions of stars and super novae. Moreover, they can be destroyed by fission/fusion reactions.

    So to get to the whole point of this post, if we are to take the coupling of the eternal nature of our “being� to things who’s parts may be eternal but are not eternal in the form applied by Joseph, can we draw any conclusions on the intent of Joseph and his description?

  217. December 16, 2004 at 1:40 pm

    I should have add an emphasis on the phrase …all these had their existence in an elementary State from Eternity.

    I should also point out that this was in 1839. It was not until 1843 (17 May) that we have record of Joseph commenting on the materiality of spirit.

  218. Pingback: Splendid Sun
  219. January 8, 2005 at 3:21 pm

    I thought I would explicitly give a great reference I stumbled upon (besides the pingback): The Development of the Doctrine of Preexistence, 1830–1844 [Harrell, C. (1988) BYU Studies 28:75-91]. There are some interesting citations for the emergence of things like MIH that were not discussed on this thread.

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