Sunday, September 07, 2008

Intelligence and Spirit

I have increasing been confronted with an unfortunate misunderstanding of LDS Doctrine that has been propagated on the Internet recently. Some antagonists to the LDS church have been spreading a misunderstood description of LDS eternal life using imagery that makes it sound like the final destiny of LDS woman are that they are to become eternal, spirit-baby-making factories. Our opponents try to equate our doctrine with God telling Eve, " I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception." Whatever the mechanism involved with clothing self-existent intelligence with a spirit body, I am positive it is associated with a "fullness of joy" and not a "multiplicity of sorrow." I had always considered the LDS doctrine on women in eternity to honor women with an equal position together with their husbands. If that is so, where does this misunderstanding come from?

"God has made His children like Himself to stand erect, and has endowed them with intelligence and power and dominion over all His works, and given them the same attributes which He himself possesses. He created man, as we create our children; for there is no other process of creation in heaven, on the earth, in the earth, or under the earth, or in all the eternities, that is, that were, or that ever will be." (Journal of Discourses 11:122-123).

I think this process of creation that Brigham Young is more referring to is the process of parenting and nurture of a child by a loving father and a mother. In context, this is how God endows His children with intelligence, power and dominion by nurture and not just nature. Physical mechanisms don't pass on intelligence, power and dominion alone. Therefore, the mechanism of pro-creation or creation here is not necessarily speaking of a physical mechanism, sexual reproduction, uterine gestation, or pregnancy but of parenting, love, and nurturing. This important distinction differentiates pro-creation from reproduction. Pro-creation refers to the spiritual process of parenting while reproduction infers physical mechanisms.

Parenting is the process of creation in the heavens, on earth, and in all the eternities. Remember it takes more than just making a baby to raise a child and this is what Brigham Young was teaching. The eternal role and destiny for men and women is to be spiritual parents who are given spiritual stewardship over spirits who will pass through morality as we have. But these spirits according to Joseph Smith have always existed and are co-eternal with God and us. Therefore, a physical, tangible, resurrected, glorified, spirit parent doesn't necessarily need to gestate an intangible spirit in a uterus, but to nurture them as God nurtures and loves us. The important issue here is that whatever process was involved in the organization of the spirits of man; it was an act of generation and not just creation.

Also, the fact that our spirits are co-eternal with God is how the Bible can say that Christ purchased us, and how we are expected to give our whole souls to God. How can we give what is not ours? Why would God buy what is already His? Also, the fact or our self-existent nature and will is why God is not responsible for the evil of Satan. God did not create a defective spirit.

Joseph Smith clearly taught that the spirits of man were not created but are self-existent and co-eternal with God in the King Follett Discourse:

"We say that God himself is a self-existing God. Who told you so? It is correct enough, but how did it get into your heads? Who told you that man did not exist in like manner upon the same principles? (Refers to the old Bible.) How does it read in the Hebrew? It doesn't say so in the Hebrew; it says God made man out of the earth and put into him Adam's spirit, and so he became a living body. The mind of man is as immortal as God himself. I know that my testimony is true; hence, when I talk to these mourners, what have they lost? Their friends and relatives are separated from their bodies for only a short season; their spirits existed coequal with God, and they now exist in a place where they converse together, the same as we do on the earth. Is it logic to say that a spirit is immortal and yet has a beginning? Because if a spirit has a beginning, it will have an end. That is good logic. I want to reason further on the spirit of man, for I am dwelling on the spirit and body of man--on the subject of the dead. I take my ring from my finger and liken it unto the mind of man, the immortal spirit, because it has no beginning. Suppose I cut it in two; as the Lord lives, because it has a beginning, it would have an end. All the fools and learned and wise men from the beginning of creation who say that man had a beginning prove that he must have an end. If that were so, the doctrine of annihilation would be true. But if I am right, I might with boldness proclaim from the house tops that God never did have power to create the spirit of man at all. God himself could not create himself. Intelligence exists upon a self-existent principle; it is a spirit from age to age, and there is no creation about it. Moreover, all the spirits that God ever sent into the world are susceptible to enlargement. The first principles of man are self-existent with God."

The Biblical says that God created everything visible and invisible. However John 1:3 says "All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made." The last part "that was made" suggests that not everything was made. Everything was made by God which was made. But somethings were not made but eternal, and self-existent and didn't require making. Either that, or the Bible is being terribly redundant.

Okay. So, where did this idea come from? This is really our own fault. This misunderstanding comes from a mistaken differentiation between intelligences and spirits. Abraham says in the Pearl of Great Price: " 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;" (Abr 3:22). Now some have taken this concept of intelligences and made a distinction between intelligence and spirit where no distinction is made. Some interpreted intelligence as some sort of eternal building block by which Eternal Parents reproduced and spirit-children were made using the same mechanisms as physical reproduction.
However, In my opinion, Abraham doesn't differentiate between spirit and intelligence and neither does Joseph Smith in the King Follett Discourse. Intelligence = Spirit, Spirit = Intelligence, and Spirit and Intelligence are co-eternal and co-existent with God. While God and exalted beings retain powers of literal physical reproduction, Christ is the only begotten of the Father and spirit children of God become like our Heavenly Father through the nurturing mechanism of eternal parenting.

While I am of the opinion that the scriptures do not differentiate between intelligence and spirit, however, there are some LDS quotes on this issue, there is an semi-authoritative quote which does make a distinction. Melvin J. Ballard is quoted as saying "In due time that intelligence was given a spirit body, becoming the spirit child of God the Eternal Father and his beloved companion, the Mother in Heaven. This spirit, inhabited by the eternal intelligence, took the form of its creators and is in their image" (Ballard, Melvin J. Sermons and Missionary Services of Melvin J. Ballard, comp. Bryant S. Hinckley, p. 140. Salt Lake City, 1949). So, it seems clear that Elder Ballard did make a distinction however there is no specific mention of mechanism by which raw intelligence was given a spirit body only that both the Eternal Father and the Mother in Heaven were involved. However, I am not sure where this quote comes from and when it was said, I am not aware of other recent quotes by the General Authorities on this issue.

Again, I object to is how some equate our doctrine with God telling Eve, " I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception." Whatever the mechanism involved with clothing self-existent intelligence with a spirit body, I am positive it is associated with a "fullness of joy" and not a "multiplicity of sorrow." I believe that the organization of the spirits of man was an act of generation and not just plain creation. I believe the process necessary for the organization of the spirits of man involved an act of generation and not just creation. Also, I do believe that Our Eternal Father is the Living God and the God of the Living and along with other resurrected, celestial beings, by definition, retains the sacred powers and abilities of both literal physical reproduction and literal spiritual pro-creation.


DJ said...

Your grasp on doctrine is inspiring.

I actually have a few questions that I'd like to ask.

They're more of personal testimony type questions, but if you'd leave a response to the latest topic I've posted on my blog with an e-mail address, I'd really love to ask your opinion of a few matters concerning doctrine and Church history.

This isn't bait, I'm really a member of the church with a few questions rattling around in my head and no one to ask.



DJ said...

Also, rest assured that I will delete your e-mail address immediately so no one else is contacting you.



Howard said...

BRoz; God endows His children with intelligence, power and dominion by nurture and not nature. Physical mechanisms don't pass on intelligence, power and dominion.
Please. Are you arguing that genetics do not pass on intelligence? Are you arguing that genetics have nothing to do with linage?

Anonymous said...

Yes, I am saying that genetics alone does not pass on intelligence.

Yes, our spirit are made of the same pure substance of God, but the mechanism of eternal parenting and (Celestial Nurture), is more important than nature.

But, I do agree there is not dichotomy here. The answer is that both nature and nurture are involved. I am just not sure the machanism for the nature part.

austin c. said...

I am not very good at moving around through the blogs. I guess that I just don't quite understand how they work. One of the blogs had an interesting article on the Atonement. Much of what was there was quotes from Skousen. I have read much of his writings and came away with the idea that he should have studied more before he started writing
Here is what I know about the Atonement: In order to understand it you must first understand the Pre-existance. In that world of spirits there were spirits who functioned on different levels of obedience and were more or less valliant than other spirits. One third of those spirits we disobedient to the laws of God and thus gave up their right to come to this earth as mortals. That has left the other two thirds which are here, have been, or will be. Among those Christ himself was the most loyal and certainly others were very loyal. Adam, for example, must have been very loyal. In the overall plan, which was the work and glory of God, some decisions had to be made. Someone had to be the cause of the fall, Adam either chose or was called to be that person. He had to be a choice spirit because he would need to teach his decendants true principles. There was Enoch, Noah, Moses, Abraham and on down to the present day. Each of these great spirits had talents or personalities that were needed for various things pertaining to the kingdom. Now, we learn through the Prophet Josepj Smith, that all things have agency. It is evident that the spirits had agency as one third fell, they wern't forced to, they chose to. We believe that man is punished for his own sins and not for Adam's transgression. What was Adam's transgression? He partook of that which was forbidden. What was his punishment? He was cast out of the presence of God and became subject to death (mortality). I don't know of any other transgression the committed or of any other punishment he received. If I am not punished for Adam's transgression, then what am I doing here? I am here because I, like Adam, chose to be here, I partook of the fall,I was disobedient and thus became mortal. {A thorough reading of Abraham and Moses helps us understand the nature of man in the spirit world, but too much to quote here.]I wanted to be like my Heavenly Father. Now this brings us to the atonement. There was one there, Jesus Christ, who would not to even the very least degree be unfaithful to the will of the Father. He was the firstborne of the Father and therefore the reciepiant of all that the Father has, but he did not fall. Because he was perfect in the Spirit World and we were not, we fell but he did not. He could not be born as you and I were born. He was born the Son of God and of Mary, He therefore was not subject to death as were all other living things. Having been perfect in his pre-earth life and through out his mortal life, he still was not subject to death. Yet God the Father sends him, or rather he chose to be, the sacrifice for the world. In the Garden, the night before his death, as he saw all of our sins, pains, and trials, it hurt him enough that he bled from every pore. The pain was real but it could not kill him because he was not subject to death. He endured the pain so that he could take upon him all of our sins, He had to experience all that we would go through. Elder Maxwell said that somewhere that night, in that garden before the Savior were my sins, I caused the pain! The next day, on the cross, he again endured pain beyond anything that we can imagine, but He chose the moment to die. At any time, he could have stepped down from the cross and all would have been lose, He was not indebted to us or to God. He did not have to die, they did not take his life without his concent, it was a gift because of the love that he has for us. At his death the justice system of God is out of balance, He who was without sin, not subject to death has suffered died a more curel and painfull death than any mortal could. So how do we make it right? We can't take away the suffering that he unjustly endured. It is like throwing a man into prison for a crime that he didn't commit. You can't repay for what you have taken away from him. What the Savior claims are The souls of just men made perfect through the Atonement.
I have had to type this hurriedly so please excuse and correct the spelling.
Austin Hinkle

Eric Nielson said...

There are statements in things like the proclamation on the family that describe us as begotten sons and daughters of God. Does not begotten suggest something more that nurturing. We can nurture a pet, but that does not make it offspring.

BRoz said...

Begotten means that the offspring can become like the parent. I have no argument with that. I am just not sure the mechanism, other than I think it is unfair for opponents of LDS doctrine to equate our belief that we are children of God with with God telling Eve He would "greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception"

Richard said...

I have been pondering this question of the distinction between an intelligence and a spirit. My understanding has always been that we started out as an intelligence and later received a spirit body. I was recently challenged on this point, so I did a little research.

I'm not sure that I have found the definitive answer, but a quote from Spencer Kimball seems to support my beliefs about this. See (first sentence of 19th paragraph).

Of course, this is not a pivotal concept in the context of my overall beliefs and testimony, but simply a point to ponder. I can wait quite a while - my testimony undisturbed - to learn the final answer to this question.

David B said...

Elder Scott would agree with you.