Feast upon the Word Blog

A blog focused on LDS scriptures and teaching

When Heavenly Father Wasn’t

Posted by BrianJ on October 8, 2008

Central to our theology are the doctrines of Heavenly Father as the creator of our spirits and the need for agency. God created our spirits and we chose to come to earth and gain a physical body.

But did we always have that kind of agency?

I started thinking about this a few weeks ago while studying the Joseph Smith manual (CH 17). Some relevant quotes (a mishmash):

Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be.

Where did [the soul—the mind of man—the immortal spirit] come from? All learned men and doctors of divinity say that God created it in the beginning; but it is not so: the very idea lessens man in my estimation. I do not believe the doctrine; I know better.

Is it logical to say that the intelligence of spirits is immortal, and yet that it has a beginning? The intelligence of spirits had no beginning, neither will it have an end

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.

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. All the minds and spirits that God ever sent into the world are susceptible of enlargement.

The first principles of man are self-existent with God. God himself, finding he was in the midst of spirits and glory, because he was more intelligent, saw proper to institute laws whereby the rest could have a privilege to advance like himself. The relationship we have with God places us in a situation to advance in knowledge. He has power to institute laws to instruct the weaker intelligences, that they may be exalted with himself….

A couple of points, to reveal my understanding:

  1. We are intelligences inside of spirits inside of physical bodies (insert matryoshka doll image here!)
  2. Our bodies and spirits were created, but our intelligence has always existed
  3. God is the creator—and in at least that sense “father”—of our spirits
  4. We chose to gain a physical body

So here’s my question: Did we choose to gain a spiritual body? God became our Father when he created us spriritually; prior to that moment, I do not see how he was our father (or even god, for that matter). How did he go about selecting which intelligences would be ‘advanced’ into spirits and which would not? Did he make the selection, or did we as intelligences choose?

If we didn’t choose to become spirits, what does that say about the choice that faced us later? We could either follow God or face outer darkness (hardly a choice, if you ask me). If we did choose to become spirits, what does that say about agency? We had agency before we were subject to God (!).

52 Responses to “When Heavenly Father Wasn’t”

  1. robf said

    Not sure the matryoshka doll image works. Even in the quote you give, it is possible to read it as intelligences=spirits. Perhaps as eternal spirits we were “begotten sons and daughters unto God” our Father in a premortal life like we are currently begotten sons and daughters unto God through Christ–by accepting ordinances. Brigham said there were ordinances for us after this life. Why not before? I think Alma 13 may point towards this as well.

  2. J. Stapley said

    You are claiming here that the tripartite existence (intelligence=>spirit=>physical body) is normative. It isn’t. I’m actually fairly shocked that you are promoting this as normative.

    Joseph Smith taught that spirits are eternal and uncreated.

    Brigham Young taught that God created spirits from spirit element and that there was no existance before this creation.

    B. H. Roberts wanted both to be right so he invented the tripartite existence.

    Roberts’ contemporaries thought this was crazy, and folks all the way up to McConkie rejected it in favor of a Brighamesque view. Truman Madsen championed the tripartite existence and since, several GA’s have hinted that they buy into it (though evidence is rare). Ostler and many others have created a resurgence in Joseph’s position.

    Read this and the comments.

  3. J. Stapley said

    this may also be helpful as well.

  4. Matt W. said

    J. I know we went around on this on the other thread, but the “tripartite” model is really just the joseph model with a bit of apologia to allow for the book of Moses Model.

  5. Aaron Brown said

    J, your second link doesn’t work.


    [fixed, but left this comment here because I’m happy AB read my post {smile}]

  6. J. Stapley said

    I don’t think so, Matt. It creates an entirely new ontological plane.

  7. Matt W. said

    But didn’t we agree somewhere at some point that
    1) if there was a time before we were children of God
    2) we were adopted to be God’s children
    then a change of state had occurred and thus technically an entirely new ontological plane did exist?

    I thought we’d done that on the Brigham on Spirit thread, but am now worried I may have imagined it. Maybe at NCT?

  8. Matt W. said

    Found the thread at NCT. I was mistaken.

    the closest we got to agreeing was you saying “I accept that we are in some way children of God by default. We all accept that there was some sort of premortal covenant organization. That is what I typically associate with becoming children of God.”

    I am not sure if you meant you accept by default or if you meant we are children of God by default, by I assume you meant you accept by default, based on context, and thus through our covenant organization we became children of God, and so the answer would be yes we chose to get spirit bodies, in so far as “getting spirit bodies” merely entails becoming a child of God.

    That’s a pretty figurative spirit body, but it is my current thinking on the matter, FWIW.

  9. aquinas said

    J. Stapley, thanks for the relevant links and articles.

  10. BrianJ said

    robf, J, Matt: thanks a lot for melting my brain!

    J Stapley: “I’m actually fairly shocked that you are promoting [tripartite existence] as normative.” You shouldn’t be. The only really good reason to be shocked is if I actually knew a lot and still made this mistake. Since I don’t know all that much, you should expect these errors from me. Seriously. My only real intellectual talent is recognizing that I know very little.

    I read the entire first link and comments; really good stuff. I left some questions on that thread—please check it!—because I don’t want this thread to become focused on the nature of spirit. I really want to focus on the question of choosing to become spirit children of God (or not having that choice). If I’m not mistaken, that question is valid whether one sides with Joseph, Brigham, or Roberts (although with Brigham, there seems to be no way we had choice—we didn’t even exist!).

    I didn’t read the second link yet. I remember seeing it when it came out and cursing you for posting something so interesting when I was so busy. Curse you again! (Please read that with lots of smileys, etc.)

  11. James said

    I have believed that agency is not a gift, but is rather a sort of “inaliable right” that just exists, and cannot be taken away even by God. It is the freedom to make a choice among existing opportunities.

    I’ve also speculated on the possibility that we experienced some sort of trial in the process of obtaining our spiritual bodies…as we do now in the obtaining of our physical bodies. Christ must have had opportunities to exercise faith prior to mortal life in order for him to become so much greater to us in pre-mortality.

    Great post!


  12. BrianJ said

    James, thanks for commenting. What are your reasons for believing in a trial before spirit birth?

  13. NathanG said

    I definitely don’t have the answer, but here are my thoughts/questions on two parts of your post.

    Agency: Regarding this world there are comments in the scriptures that things were created both to act and things to be acted upon. In the description of the creation in Abraham chapter 4, it talks about various parts of the creation being ordered and they saw they were obeyed (see verses 10, 12, 18). This description of being obeyed includes the separating the water from dry land. I would have thought that water and land are things that are acted upon, but I can’t make complete sense of the language obedience in Abraham. I have thought this is obedience to physical laws which have been described in science and are considered absolutes. So where is the obedience? Could the water really have not obeyed? Does water and land have agency? Regarding our moral agency we have choice with consequences. I have often felt the way our agency would have been destroyed by Satan comes from Lehi’s discussion with Jacob in 2 Nephie 2. If there were no law there would be no sin and no good or evil, and no God and no creation (Satan may have thought to not give the law, and then none could fail). So at the heart of agency is a lawgiver who defines consequences. When I choose what flavor of yogurt to eat in the morning, I make a choice, but there is no law that I am following nor is that choice accountable to anybody, so agency transcends simple choice, but is choice as pertains to the lawgiver who defines consequences.

    Intelligences: Your first quote is what puzzles me the most about the nature of intelligence. “Intelligence, or the light of truth”. Further we have a definition of truth in section 93 (the whole section is amazing and utterly confusing, at least I’ve never been able to feel I have a firm grasp of it)
    23 Ye were also in the beginning with the Father; that which is Spirit, even the Spirit of truth;
    24 And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come;
    Can we substitute words here? Intelligence, or the light of knowledge? Does the sentence structure of the first quote support that in the beginning man was intelligence, or is intelligence as used in Abraham different than intelligence as used in section 93? (It seems Joe suggested they were different in one of his recent Joseph Smith manual commentaries)
    Assuming that man was intelligence in the section 93 sense (which I’m not certain of), is this an organized intelligence or is it a nebulous collection of intelligence. Before I had a spirit, was there a unique collection of organized intelligence that was me clothed in a spirit at some later point?

    So back to agency. If I were an organized intelligence or if I were a less defined collection of intelligence, was there a law to be accountable to? If so, who was that lawgiver and what were the consequences? Is the light of truth something that has ability to act? Since all truth is independent to that sphere in which it has been placed, can we really hope to understand this with our limited understanding in this sphere?

    Your question “How did he go about selecting which intelligences would be ‘advanced’ into spirits and which would not?” is also interesting. How much of the creation is made of intelligence? Did some intelligence get formed into bacteria, some into plants, some into dirt, and some into man? If all things were created spiritually before they were physically, were they also intelligence before spirit?

  14. J. Stapley said

    Matt, I guess that I would counter that all popular versions of tripartite existence I have seen do violence to Abraham and Joseph’s explicit teaching that “God never had power to create the spirit of man.” If we are just talking about some covenant of relation as being the “spirit birth” transition, then there really is no change in state and it really isn’t tripartite.

    When agency begins is tricky. Philosophers that like the Joseph model also like inherent agency, as it helps with things like the Problem of Evil. Folks like Elder Packer teach that agency was a gift bestowed upon spirits.

  15. robf said

    I gave a talk on animal intelligences at a BYU symposium on LDS Environmental Theology a few years ago. It wasn’t accepted for publication in the proceedings volume (deemed to speculative!), but I suggested that animals are also eternal intelligences and tried to take the doctrine of eternal progression seriously from a pre-mortal life standpoint of eternally progressing intelligences. Would some of them be plants and bacteria at this stage in their progression? You bet.

  16. Matt W. said

    J. Most versions of tripartite existence discussed around the water cooler here that I am aware of basically only use the concept of a “spirit body” as a defining difference. It’s typically not very well thought through, as it mainly has to do with the “shape” of the spirit more than anything else. But it does keep the book of Moses “God created all things spiritually first” idea, which I think you reject as earlier revelation than Abraham, and thus less accurate? I think the more typical response (thus tripartite reponse) is to marry the two ideas, rather than reject one, as both are scripture. Or you could go BY and reject both (which was acceptable for him since neither where canonical in his day)

    So going from the state of not having a relationship with God to having a relationship with God doesn’t count as a change in state for you? I’d say this is my major sticking point on that. But maybe it’s just a semantics issue on my part.

    The Agency as Gift, Inherent Agency has always interested me. I have thoughts on that, but will save it for a different thread.

    robf: I have heard rumors that Cleon Skousen taught something similar. It’s personally hard for me to figure out species not being eternal, while gender is eternal, etc. I’m open to the possibility, but am not sure what implications it has.

  17. J. Stapley said

    Matt, I honestly don’t believe that the Lord created a “spirit earth” qua spirit before the physical one. Moses is an early revelation, and like other early revelations has limits when compared to later revelations; that being said, I don’t really see Moses as saying that God created the spirits of humans.

    I think most popular water-cooler discussions of tripartite existence hinge on viviparous spirit birth.

  18. joespencer said

    I have tended to keep myself relatively aloof from discussion of what spirit is made up of, but I have ventured to say something now and again about the nature of agency. I’ll follow that pattern here.

    Can we phrase you question this way, Brian: Can there be agency before anything happens?

    If so, I think the answer is straightforwardly “No.” Agency is freed up by an event: to be an agent is to be commissioned by a messenger (whose advent is the event) and then to take up the burden of preaching the truth received in that communication. Agency thus depends on the event, on happenings, and I don’t see what it would mean to speak of agency before every event.

    In fact, let me venture to say a little something about the intelligence/spirit business. It seems to me that one could combine the tripartite and bipartite models by suggesting that the leap from “mere” intelligence to spirit is simply the happening of an event. That is, intelligence is rendered spirit by a call or a visit. Agency follows from that, and so it was ours in the premortal war, etc.

    Does that jive?

  19. Matt W. said

    joespencer: I think it depends on how you define agency. Is it the potential to choose or the ability. In regards to the ability, I think I completely agree with you. If we are talking about the potential, I think it is inherent.

    J. I’d agree regarding the vivaporous comment, except no one exer uses the word vivaporous outside of our clique online.

  20. robf said

    As for vivaporous…I don’t think there is any revelation on that. For all we know, spirits are hatched from eggs…or grow from fertilized seeds…maybe intelligences “fertilized” by the Word? ;)

  21. Jesica said

    Has anyone read “A Gospel Trilogy” by Cleon Skousen that was originally given as a talk to missionaries in the Georgia, Atlanta mission in the year 2000? I found it interesting?

  22. Jesica said

    I mean, I found it interesting. (Period)

  23. BrianJ said

    Matt W: “The Agency as Gift, Inherent Agency has always interested me. I have thoughts on that, but will save it for a different thread.” Please please please do not save it! That is what I really want to learn about here.

    “J. I’d agree regarding the vivaporous comment, except no one exer uses the word vivaporous outside of our clique online.” Not at all. All the kids are using ‘vivaporous’ these days. {smirk}

    Nathan, robf: Something about animals having an eternal spirit bugs me. I think it is this: where do you draw the line? I’m okay with monkeys and penguins being in heaven, but yeast, bacteria, mycoplasma, etc.? That’s a lot of individual intelligences! I solve the problem (in my mind) by lumping all the earth into a single big creation; i.e., all plants, fungi, insects, etc. are an extension of the earth’s spirit. I know there are still many problems with that, but thought I’d throw it on the table.

    I think Nathan you raise some important questions about choosing before a law was given—seems impossible to me. So that brings me back to my central question: Did we choose to become spirit children?

    Joe: I’m okay with rephrasing the question, but I forgot that you define “agency” very specifically and quite differently than “choice” or “free will.” I agree that “agency/being an agent” requires that one be commissioned. My real question, then, is about choice or free will. Did we choose to become agents?

  24. Gerald Smith said

    My view is similar to Blake Ostler’s. In his first volume of his great series Exploring Mormon Thought, He suggests, with quotes from Orson Pratt and others, that intelligence is matter (such as the scriptures say that spirit is matter). What an intelligence is, depends on how it is organized. So, an oxygen atom is an intelligence with certain capabilities, partially caused or allowed by the Light of Christ flowing through all things.

    If one takes an oxygen atom and adds two hydrogen atoms, suddenly we get a new intelligence, where the sum of the parts are not equal to the whole. Water molecules have more “intelligence” or capability than does separate oxygen and hydrogen atoms do.

    Eventually, one would get to where intelligences are advanced enough to have individuality – the spirit level? We see in Abraham that the Gods commanded the creation and then waited until they were obeyed. Was that agency being followed by lower intelligences, or was it intelligence that follows orders because it knows no other way? Not sure on that one.

    Gaining a body then becomes the next higher level of development for the Intelligent being, followed finally by immortality, and possible eternal lives.

  25. robf said

    The problem is that individual organisms exercise agency, in their own sphere, so they seem to be a lot like us, though our spheres (or our “level” of intelligence) are different. Even plants do many things that would require some sort of intelligence, though it seems to be on a different level than (most) animals.

    And just because they have an eternal spirit or intelligence, I doubt they maintain the same form forever…my guess is that over the eternities, they grow and progress. Just as we have. Eternity (or eternities?) is a long time to be a bug, or a porpoise, or a human for that matter!

    In fact, I daresay, from that eternal perspective, we may have more in common with them than we care to admit. Could it be that there is good reason why prophets and other spiritual leaders over the centuries seem to do what they can to avoid needlessly harming these other creatures?

  26. J. Stapley said

    Gerald, I’m fairly certain that what you describe is not championed by Ostler; though you are correct that it is Orsonesque.

  27. robf said

    Wrote something about animal souls, but it got eaten by “them Internets”…maybe it will show up here eventually…

  28. robf said

    OK, lemme try this again. Can’t remember all I wrote before it disappeared, but here goes…

    Brian, the problem with denying spirits to all living things is that even the most “simple” creatures exercise some sort of agency–they make choices, albeit probably not “moral” choices in the way we think. But they do have to make choices and control themselves and respond to other things in their environment. Even bugs and microbes.

    So they are intelligent, and free to make choices, within their own sphere or level of intelligence. I don’t see any reason to be able to deny them intelligence, and to think that they aren’t guided by an eternal spirit, even as we are. I don’t see anything in the scriptures that would make me think we aren’t all eternal beings.

    I know I’m in some way conflating two definitions of intelligence here, but I think there is something to it.

    To me it makes sense that every living thing has its own eternal intelligence, free to act within its sphere, and to progress.

    Just because a bug has an eternal intelligence, doesn’t mean it has to stay at a bug level of intelligence for all eternity (or throughout the eternities). All intelligences (even animals) that the Lord sends here to earth are capable of progress. In that sense, maybe we have much more in common with all the other beings on this planet than we normally care to consider.

    There are 10 million different species on the planet. And that’s just a narrow slice of a 4.5 billion year history of life on this planet. And that’s just one planet. Multiply all the past ages and all the inhabited planets, and I think you start to get a picture of what is really going on with eternal progression and God’s work. It isn’t a 6,000 year old roadshow skit, it’s a far more spectacular eternal drama!

  29. BrianJ said

    robf: I think we both agree that there is no scriptural support one way or the other. And why should there be?

    I don’t, however, think that my “proposal” denies agency to bugs and things. Rather, I suggest that each individual bug is not itself a separate entity—it’s choices are made by an intelligence that controls the choices of lots of bugs. Think chess here: lots of individual pieces, but only one mind that controls their “choices.”

    Again, there is no support for this at all. None. It’s just how I shrug of the question (which may or may not be wise).

  30. J. Stapley said

    On animal spirits, salvation, etc., see here.

  31. robf said

    Brian, I think I’m closer to J. on this one. I think there is more scriptural and prophetic teaching to back this up than we normally notice. Animals have spirits (scriptural). Spirits are eternal (scriptural). Don’t see any evidence that animal and human spirits should be any different, and Joseph Smith’s teachings make me think animal and human spirits have much more in common than we normally consider.

    I also don’t know of anywhere where one spirit is shown to control more than one entity (though I guess you could find evidence for more than one spirit residing in one human). Big bug spirits controlling lots of bugs? That’s a new one on me! Though researchers studying social insects do talk about emergent “minds” or intelligence within hives. Too bad we apparently don’t have prophets asking questions about this kind of stuff, or at least sharing it with us at General Conference. But then again, would we accept it if they did?

  32. NathanG said

    I just reread your initial post. I like this quote from Joseph Smith.

    The first principles of man are self-existent with God. God himself, finding he was in the midst of spirits and glory, because he was more intelligent, saw proper to institute laws whereby the rest could have a privilege to advance like himself. The relationship we have with God places us in a situation to advance in knowledge. He has power to institute laws to instruct the weaker intelligences, that they may be exalted with himself….

    Depending on how each word is used, I can see the question of whether God set laws for intelligences, and thus if they had a choice to become spirits. Unfortunately he uses all these words: intelligent, intelligences, spirits, and glory (and the glory of God is intelligence). Spirits and weaker intelligences seem to be used synonymously in this statement. Neither spirit nor intelligences seems to be completely in line with D&C 93 use of intelligence (the light of truth), but more akin to Abraham, which talks about intelligences that were organized. I don’t know how closely intelligent in the sense of God being more intelligent fits with D&C 93 either, but perhaps it’s close. So the question you really want answered hinges upon understanding what is meant by this confusing word.

  33. joespencer said

    Brian, I’m not at all sure what it would mean to “choose to become agents.” I find it significant that the word agent comes from the Latin verb agere, to act: one does not choose to act; one simply acts and so becomes an agent. But, as the scriptures are wont to put it, one cannot act for oneself unless one is first commissioned.

    In other words, it seems to me that “my” model of agency replaces the model of agency that identifies it with (cognitive) choice.

  34. Matt W. said

    Joe, are you thus denying libertarian freewill? Do we have no say in how we act? I am not sure that the scriptures always point toward us being commissioned to act in every sense. After all, there is the D&C scripture about it not beeing good for us to have to be told everything, etc.

    I’d love to see more on this from you.

    BrianJ, my short answer is that I believe we have an inherent potential to make choices, however, we do not make choices in a vacuum, and thus our capacity/ability to make choices is limited by our environment. God connects himself in a relationship to us and that is a deal changer, in that it changes our environment and increases our capacity/ability to the point where we have enough momentum to progress.

    Someday I will get to writing my long version, but not today.

  35. Matt W. said

    I should add that the citation NathanG points to in 32 is where I derive my 34 from.

  36. joespencer said


    I don’t know that I’m denying so much as recasting “libertarian freewill.” I’m saying that action is, as such, impossible without some kind of event, some kind of happening, something that disrupts the status quo of what banally is. This does not turn agency into non-agency (as if I were simply controlled by something other than me), but rather releases agency as such.

    I’m not saying this as clearly as I would like to.

    Let me approach it this way. The D&C passage you mention uses a very interesting word: “compelled.” The steward who is compelled in all things is slothful, etc. And yet one would never know there is anything to do if one is not first compelled. What I think this means is that agency should be defined as something like: compulsion rewritten as willful response.

    Hmmm. That’s less clear, isn’t it?

    As simple as I can muster: We definitely do have a say in how we act, but that say is precisely in our acting. That is, choice or freedom of choice is something we read back into our acts, not something that ontologically existed before we acted. Agency is the freedom to act, not the freedom to choose. To be an agent is to be commissioned and then to be freed to go about the task (or not to go about the task) in whatever way one pleases. One will be judged according to how one responds. That commission can be taken up in three different ways (three degrees of glory?). First, one can reject the compelling commission entirely (telestial). Second, one can accept the commission as a source of compulsion, doing good but with a kind (but only a kind) of regret (terrestrial). And third, one can rewrite any sense of compulsion that comes with the commission by a willful response to it (celestial). In the end, it is only the third of these that is really free, indeed, that really has agency, because compulsion itself is subtracted from the commission. The other two approaches to the commission take the commission as a form of compulsion, and so they are, in James’ turn of phrase, “doubleminded” (they would other than what they are commissioned, and so they are split… perhaps even in the Freudian sense). Only the celestial figure, who rewrites the commission through a willful response, remains “pure in heart” (again from James) and so is not compelled, is free.

    Did any of these end up having any traction?

  37. Matt W. said

    So basically, you believe that libertarian will can be boiled down to our ability to choose which deterministic forces acting up us to follow willingly, unwillingly, or not at all, and we will be judged by whether or not we choose to willingly follow the right deterministic forces (God’s commission)?

    Is that correct?

  38. joespencer said

    Not at all. Hmmm. I was less clear than I had (desperately) hoped I was.

    I see agency as a kind of rewriting of determinism. That is, the telestial and terrestrial glories might be understood as two different ways of giving in to determinism. (There is a kind of Kierkegaardian theme there, no? The terrestrial kingdom is the realm of infinite resignation, in an essential Stoic sense.) The celestial, though, is the stubborn refusal of determinism.

    Romans 7 is a good place to start thinking about these issues. Paul describes himself as being without agency: what he would, he does not, what he would not, he does. That is the state of nature, the natural man, the man caught up in the deterministic play of natural forces and thus with a double or split mind (or psyche). But, as Paul shows, the atonement, with its grace, overthrows that entire dialectic (the dialectic of the telestial and terrestrial glories). Only then does agency in any genuine sense come into being.

    In other words, I don’t think it is quite right to speak of inherent agency. Agency is always a graceful, typological recasting of the fallen, of fallen nature, of the natural. Agency is not, I think, something ontological, but is a rewriting or reordering of the ontological.

    Hopefully that is clearer?

  39. NathanG said

    I like comment 36. I won’t pretent I completely understand you, but here’s what your thoughts remind me of what I have thought in the past.

    You describe agency similarly to how I would think of freedom (and I recognize there are differences in the concepts). If I make choices contrary to what God has taught, I begin to lose my ability to act for myself, or begin to be bound by my own actions which can come in many addictive forms. This might be a telestial type of condition. Somebody may follow some sense of what is right or some instruction of what is right, but never attempt to understand the true potential that man can attain when united with God. They have never truly become free. Perhaps free from sin, but not free to progress. Finally, we may have someone who goes beyond what is simply required. This person is free to accomplish great things, of course because he has become united with God in accomplishing God’s great works, not the works of man.

    Your comment also made me think about the difference between sacrifice and consecration. Consecration not just in the sense of the United order, but truly consecrating oneself to God. Perhaps they become a consecrated agent?

  40. JakeW said

    I have nothing of great import to add to this discussion, just thought I’d thank you all for giving me lots to think about, and thank Joe for making me smile because he said ‘jive’.

  41. Matt W. said

    joe: I’ll have to think about it. I’ll go hit Romans 7 and get back to you.

  42. joespencer said

    Nathan, I think that is more or less exactly what I’m trying to articulate, albeit in obnoxiously philosophical language.

    Jake, always glad to make you smile.

    Matt, keep me posted.

  43. Justin said

    Regarding the idea that intelligences existed, then became spirit bodies, and now have physical bodies. Marion G. Romney, a member of the first presidency at the time, and six years after church correlation existed, said the following:

    “In origin, man is a son of God. The spirits of men “are begotten sons and daughters unto God” (D&C 76:24). Through that birth process, self-existing intelligence was organized into individual spirit beings.”

    In an ensign article that can be found here:


  44. I have to admit I’d never thought about this point. Between the original post and all the comments, there is a lot to digest and consider.


  45. So basically, you believe that libertarian will can be boiled down to our ability to choose which deterministic forces acting up us to follow willingly, unwillingly, or not at all, and we will be judged by whether or not we choose to willingly follow the right deterministic forces (God’s commission)?

    That was close to Chancey Riddle’s approach at times.

  46. robf said

    Justin, not sure that Romney quote says much. We talk about becoming “born again” and “begotten sons and daughters unto God” through Jesus Christ all the time.

  47. Robert C. said

    Joe #38, I don’t understand your adamant objection to Matt’s caricature (#37) of your position. Could you elaborate? It seems you are describing three ways one might respond to a call (or force or event), and that Matt’s desciption of your view also describes three ways to respond (rejection, reluctant acceptance, and eager acceptance). This seems to me like at least a good ball park summary of your view.

    (On a somewhat tangential note, I’ve been thinking about the passage in Revelation about hot, cold, and lukewarm and this discussion of three ways of responding reminded me of that. I wonder if the reluctant obedience might not be better thought in terms of being lukewarm and thus more reprehensible to God than being cold and forthrightly rejecting the call. This raises all sorts of questions regarding the Vision for me, but I’ll forbear for now….)

  48. BrianJ said

    All: I ducked away for a bit to try to digest this and the linked-to threads. I just wanted you to know that I am appreciating this discussion very much. Carry on!

  49. joespencer said

    Robert, it was the framing of the issue in terms of deterministic forces that concerned me. The threefold, as you mention, was perhaps right on, but I don’t see the three responses as possible responses to merely deterministic forces.

  50. Robert C. said

    Thanks, Joe, that makes sense.

  51. janetlisonbee said

    I would love to throw my speculative theory with all of yours. Perhaps the story of the creation is the story of our creation. We learn that elements can obey, and that plants and animals have the capacity for joy. Anyone who has been around animals know that each does have their own personalities and that there are definite levels of intelligence. Chickens are far less intelligent than dogs for example and their individual personalities are not as pronounced. For example, a dog will pout, have guilt and have anxieties. I have yet to see a chicken display guilt.

    Perhaps intelligence in its primitive state is much like a personality DNA. The characteristics of the intelligence is there but has not had the experience yet to develop. The way we gain experience is through physical bodies. Perhaps God did not take our primitive DNA and put it into the most highly developed form [human]at first, but let us gain experience through lesser forms such as plants,and then progress to bugs, chickens, dogs, horses, etc. If there is any merit to this thought, then we can sort of see a “spiritual evolution” and how reincarnation has an element of truth to it, even though I do not believe that we would regress into lower forms. This is also a good way for God to get to know us. For example, I have had several cats in my lifetime and could definitely see what kind of “human” they would be if they were given the opportunity. Some would be hard workers, others lazy. Some would be loving and others stand-offish.

    We also know that God’s body is at a much higher plane than ours and capable of doing much more than ours. I guess I view the physical body as a garment. I believe the atonement is the vehicle for progression. Those spirits who were not under the law [children under 8 for example and animals] are covered by the atonement and can still progress. But when a spirit is capable of the law, then agency is held accountable. Then that spirit can choose to repent and through the mercy and grace of Jesus Christ can continue to move forward. If not, then they damn their progression. But God, being the Creator and Father, gives them the opportunity to learn their lessons just as a child who fails first grade, is given the opportunity to repeat it [and can repeat it as long as it takes!] in order to eventually move to 2nd grade. For example, those “whoremongers, liars, murderers, etc.” will be held back during the Millennium, but will eventually learn their lessons and inherit a kingdom of glory.

    As far as being spiritually begotten children of God, I don’t think we are spiritually begotten until we have truly repented and become clean through the atonement. Before that we are God’s creation. Christ is the only begotten of God in the flesh that we know of. I think that there are many lives ahead of us because we need that experience to become like God!

    Another reason I like the theory that our intelligence was in some sort of primitive state and has been added upon through many experiences through physical bodies of some sort is that I would hate to think that I have been this “unintelligent” forever! I much rather think that I am in a growing state…that now truly I am a child of God, in fact, I know I am compared to God. Probably about 2 years old.

  52. meditation said


    […]When Heavenly Father Wasn’t « Feast upon the Word Blog[…]…

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

%d bloggers like this: