Sunday, October 12, 2008

Clarification on the Self-Existent Intelligence

Today, I was visiting my wife's parent's ward in Atlanta, GA. During Elders Quorum, we studied lesson 17 from the Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith Manual on the "The Great Plan of Salvation." The lesson quoted extensively from the King Follett Discourse and stressed the eternal nature of the "soul", "intelligence", or "mind of man."

In several previous posts I was thinking about the concept of the self-existent, co-eternal "spirit of man," "mind of man," or "intelligence of man." This concept comes from the Book of Abraham, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Book of Mormon as well as the King Follett Discourse by the prophet Joseph Smith.

D&C 93: 29 Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be.

Abr. 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;

Ether 3: 15-16 And never have I showed myself unto man whom I have created, for never has man believed in me as thou hast. Seest thou that ye are created after mine own image? Yea, even all men were created in the beginning after mine own image. Behold, this body, which ye now behold, is the body of my spirit; and man have I created after the body of my spirit; and even as I appear unto thee to be in the spirit will I appear unto my people in the flesh.

During our lesson the teacher brought in several quotes from B.H. Roberts who was an member of the First Quorum of the Seventy, wrote the volume "History of the Church" among other works and was the editor for the "Millennial Star." B.H. Roberts was very educated and a wonderful debater. His teachings were somewhat controversial and sparked some debate within the church. B.H. Roberts was known from writing extensively on the immortality of the soul. And our Elder's Quorum teacher brought in several of his quotes from, "The Seventy's Course in Theology." In one section, B.H. Roberts commented that the King Follett Discourse and Abraham used the words "mind of man," "intelligence," and "the spirit of man" interchangeably, but that despite this it was his opinion that there is a difference. "

I do agree that there is likely some differentiation between the self-existing, co-eternal intelligence and the point at which we became spirit sons and daughters of the Eternal Father. If you go to and search using the terms [intelligence AND spirit] you will see other quotes from modern Apostles and Prophets that seem to make this differentiation talking about clothing of our intelligence in a spirit body. But there is no clear mention of mechanism that I have found other than the Brigham Young quote which I quoted in my other post.

Another friend of mine brought out another B.H. Roberts quote concerning the mechanism of creation of the spirit body from intelligence:

"Will the resurrection return you a mere female acquaintance that is not to be the wife of your bosom in eternity? No; God forbid; but it will restore you the wife of your bosom, immortalized, who shall bear children from your own loins in all the worlds to come, and that without pain or sorrow in travail. This, sir, was couched in the promise of Abraham; this makes the promise great." (Defense of the Faith and the Saints, Vol.2, p.276)

It seems from this quote that B.H. Roberts believed in what he calls a "manual theory" as the mechanism by which intelligence is generated (not just formed) by God into spirit. The question and point of this post is; what should we do with this quote? It seems that Elder Roberts is referring to a physical mechanism. I don't have a problem with that. God is the Living God and has the power to both literally physically reproduce (Jesus as the Only Begotten) as well as spiritually pro-create. I am just not sure of the mechanism. And I don't think it matters.

And after looking around, I found a paper by Elder Roberts on "The Immortality of Man" which was published in the "Improvement Era" where he answers a series of questions his so-called "Manual Theory." B.H. Roberts in the article acknowledges his views are only a theory, and the fact that the theory is being debated and explained in the publication clearly suggests that not everything it claims are necessarily core doctrine of the LDS Church. But much of it is.

So, what are the essential truths on this subject? I will try and point out a few things that in my opinion are certain and why, and list what things have not been clarified yet and consequently, I have more of an open-mind regarding.

There exists something within man that is self-existent and co-eternal with God. Scriptures uses words interchangeably to describe what this is. They use "intelligence," "spirit," mind of man," and "light of truth." B.H. Roberts does not comment on the nature or mode or manner of subsistence of this form of existence. But Elder Roberts does talk about the necessary qualities of existence including self-awareness (sentience), ability to recognize self vs. other (individuality), and ability to recognized, judge, and desire light over darkness (will), and self-determination to a limited extent (agency).

Again, much of this is Elder Roberts opinion at the time. But the important concept here is that some element of our existence that is uncreated, self-existent. The reason that the eternal nature of man is important is that God can not be the author and creator of evil. If God made Lucifer who became Satan, then 1. He messed up, 2. He is guilty of giving Satan his will, knowing what he would do with it. 3. Or God rolls the dice and didn't know. God didn't create evil. Satan himself is called the Father of lies.

Because the intelligence, will, or mind of man is self-existent and co-eternal with God, the mind of Satan has always existed and was not created. Therefore, God is not responsible for Satan's rebellion and God is not responsible for our rebellion. God did not give Satan will. Satan possessed will as an inherent characteristic of self-existence. God did know exactly what Satan would do, but gave Lucifer free agency and every opportunity to choose rightly. Satan did not, and only Satan is to blame.

The Bible says that God is said to have made everything "that was made" both visible and invisible. But this suggests that not all things required making. It is also important that if man can truly realize immortality and eternal life then that life would have to exist infinitely forwards and backwards and have no beginning or end.

Another important point is the transition from intelligence to spirit. A few comments from current and past prophets and apostles have spoken of intelligence being clothed with a spirit body. There are even less comments on the mechanism. But the important point the Elder Roberts makes is that whatever the mechanism, the act in making us spirit children of God was an act of generation and not just organization or creation. Generation specifically implies that the very nature of the parent is imbued, endowed, and instilled in the offspring. Whether this occurs through a physical process or the mechanism of divine parenting or both, it doesn't matter. What matters is that God is the literal Father of Spirits, and we are His Spirit Offspring who are composed of the same essence and substance as God Himself and therefore can be endowed with all of our Father's characteristics, powers, and abilities. This power of pro-creation as well as reproduction is what makes God the Only True and Living God and not just the existing God.

1 comment:

Eric Nielson said...

Excellently done.

I think the proclamation on the family also adds to this. That gender is an essential part of our eternal identity and purpose. I have posted similar things - with more daring speculations. Your post here is more ... responsibly done.

Very nice.