August 1, 2008

On Personal Responsibility in Education

We read in the Bible, that there is one glory of the sun, another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars...These are worlds, different departments, or mansions, in our Father's house. Now, those men or those women who know no more about the power of God and the influences of the Holy Spirit than to be led entirely by another person, suspending their own understanding and pinning their faith upon another's sleeve, will never be capable of entering into the celestial glory to be crowned as they anticipate; they will never be capable of becoming gods. They cannot rule themselves, to say nothing of ruling others, but they must be dictated to in every trifle, like a child. They cannot control themselves in the least, but James, Peter, or somebody else must control them. They never can become gods, nor be crowned as rulers with glory, immortality, and eternal lives. They never can hold scepters of glory, majesty, and power in the celestial kingdom.

Who will? Those who are valiant and inspired with the true independence of heaven, who will go forth boldly in the service of their God, leaving others to do as they please, determined to do right, though all mankind besides should take the opposite course.

Will this apply to any of you? Your own hearts can answer (Brigham Young, JD 1:312).
Much has been discussed regarding dissemination of knowledge in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I want to share a few thoughts on the topic of education, knowledge, history, and personal responsibility before more fully explaining my view of the recent Bushman seminar

First, by way of clarification I assert that I believe the current Sunday School, seminary and higher CES instruction could definitely stand some improvement. I also keep in mind that as far as gospel instruction on Sunday is concerned, teaching positions are not filled with professional clergy but with regular members of the Church. The manuals and lesson plans are structured with specific purposes in mind, historical inquiry seemingly secondary to the weightier matters of preaching Christ and Him crucified, and enjoining Saints to have faith and live the gospel.[1]

Perhaps like you I have sat through some mind-numbing lessons when the teacher apologizes for forgetting to go over the lesson during the week or that they were called at the last minute. I have occasionally cringed during what I self-righteously felt was an inadequate sacrament meeting talk or one that expressed what I believe is false doctrine. I have been caught offguard by various surprises in Church history, such as the "Adam-God" theory or "blood atonement" and wondered if these things were discussed in a Seminary class through which I was writing a note to a girl or sleeping with my head on my desk. In the meantime I also recall all of the Simpsons episodes and Utah Jazz games I've watched, the afternoon naps, the summer water fights, all the music I've listened to, enabling me to sing along to every word with favorite bands.

With all that in mind, I don't mean to ridicule those who have less gospel understanding than me, indeed I often feel dwarfed by others; as Will Rogers said: "everybody is ignorant, only on different subjects." I do not wish to lay complete blame of ignorance at the feet of Saints who have felt the Church somehow let them down in regards to disseminating information; as Bushman mentioned in his paper, some feel shocked or misled when they discover what they feel is unflattering aspects of Church history; they can lose trust. I wish to emphasize a key gospel principle enjoining all to take personal responsibility now; to remind us that each must be "anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness; For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves.  And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward" (D&C 58:26-29).[2] For now, I will approach the responsibility to seek this learning, as Brigham explained above, initiative is key. Ironically, most of the people who read this likely don't need to hear it; I'll be preaching to the choir.

For my text I refer to a talk given to BYU students in 1976 by Eliot Butler, former dean of the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences.[3] I feel a little like he did; it may seem presumptuous to talk about what it means to be an educated person, but like Butler, I take comfort in the observation that "one is not required to be that which he describes."

What does it mean to be an "educated person"? Butler defines it (not comprehensively, but rightfully, I believe) as one who by his or her own initiative and discipline is consciously, vigorously, and continuously learning. He notes some characteristics that mark any educated person:
  • Learning is not an aberration, but a continuing, vigorous process.
  • Learning is the result of self-discipline; not just the result of demands or pressure from others. 
  • Learning does not place responsibility solely on teachers, parents, etc.
  • Learning includes the freedom of doing more than is expected or required rather than the slave-like position of doing only as much as is required.
Butler briefly describes some processes of gaining knowledge:

You learn that rain makes your shirt wet. A parent learns the likes and dislikes of a child. This learning is good and crucial, but true education and learning must reach beyond simple observation and memory.

Language is important in formulating and communicating ideas.  But if learning is limited to naming it may amount to little more than trivia.

*Higher Tools
Discipline, desire, hard work, etc. are possessed by any educated person should possess.

In short, there must be an inner drive to reach past the boundaries of current knowledge. Butler emphasizes "there should be purpose and a sense of responsibility to the learning." The more one learns, the wider is his or her view that he or she has much more to learn. Increased education actually ought to lead to increased humility rather than smugness or a feeling that "we need no more, for we have enough!"[4]

In closing, Butler emphasizes that by becoming educated (be it at school or on our own) we can become better instruments in the hands of God. We can use our knowledge to appreciate things more, to serve and share with others, and to increase our happiness in life. Or by our ignorance we can become a stumbling block.[5]

So please ask yourself: Do I actively seek more knowledge? How many books have I read in the past year? If I am a college student, have I confined my reading to the assigned texts or do I go beyond them? Have I read something with which I disagree within the past few weeks? Do I read the Sunday School lesson each week before going to Church? When is the last time I read the Book of Mormon? When I have a question during a class do I ask the teacher, or out of fear for looking dumb (or for other reasons, which may be wise) do I keep my hand down? Do I have the initiative to discover an answer if one is not readily available? Am I a passive or an active learner? Am I prideful? Do I view others with contempt because I feel I am smarter than them? What areas of my knowledge can I improve?  If I felt to sing the song of the love of continual learning, can I do so now?

This is brief and scattered, but I hope to emphasize that personal responsibility and drive are imperative. Seek and we shall find, knock it and it shall be open to us. Sometimes I view the gospel as a gigantic mansion house with room after room of things to discover. Some people have been in rooms I have not seen yet and I like to ask them what they've discovered there. I try to poke my head in a lot of rooms, and if one looks particularly interesting (or even sometime particularly uninteresting, but I need to stretch my mind) I might walk in and sit down and see what I can discover.

How does knowledge affect salvation? How does the growing access to information, especially through the Internet, affect the gospel cause? What can the Church do better in disseminating knowledge? Has the Church succeeded in the past? What are the roles of each member of the body of Christ (students and the different instructors) regarding education? How did the Bushman seminar compare to previous apologetic efforts? What was different? My intent is to address these issues and more through next week.


Indeed it becomes difficult to differentiate between the two (history and living the gospel), given that Latter-day Saints and Christianity in general include historical accounts in religious conviction. Still, for Sunday school purposes I believe that rather than rigorous historical criticism, Church manuals focus more on the application of principles than on various historical opinions. For more on this subject, see David B. Honey and Daniel C. Peterson, "Advocacy and Inquiry in the Writing of Latter-day Saint History," BYU Studies 31:2 (1991), 1-41 [.pdf]. See also, Dallin H. Oaks, “Focus and Priorities,” Ensign, May 2001, 82; “Good, Better, Best,Ensign, Nov 2007, 104–8.

Intelligence receives high billing in the Church; seeking knowledge is a fundamental aspect of the gospel; "seek[ing] learning, even by study and also by faith" (D&C 88:118) is canonized. We are promised that the Spirit can give utterance in the hour of need, especially when one has continually treasured up in the mind the words of life (D&C 84:85). Scripture also connects righteousness with the acquisition of knowledge; charity and virtue can help the doctrine "distil upon [the] soul as the dews from heaven" (D&C 121:45) implying that knowing and becoming are interconnected, and a function of our own works with the grace of Jesus Christ. How much does the knowledge we acquire lend into our faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God? Why would one who gains more knowledge have greater advantage in the life to come (D&C 130:18-19)? What type of knowledge gives this edge?

Butler, "Everybody Is Ignorant, Only On Different Subjects," BYU Studies 17:3, p. 275-290 [.pdf].

See 2 Nephi 28:29. The more I have learned about history and archeology the more I am aware of the possible shortcomings of both of those pursuits, as well as the potential fruits they can still yield, for example.

Muslim philosopher Abu-Hamid Muhammad al-Ghazali (1058-1111) wrote: "The harm inflicted on religion by those who defend it in a way not proper to it is greater than [the harm caused by] those who attack it in the proper way to it. As it has been said: 'A rational foe is better than an ignorant friend'" (al-Ghazali, The Incoherance of the Philosophers: A Parallel English-Arabic Text Translated, Introduced, and Annotated by Michael E. Marmura, p. 6).

The picture "Antiphonary" is from a Latin piece of music from Italy (1250-1299 AD). It depicts Joseph (son of Jacob) dreaming of the sun, moon and stars. Library of Philadelphia, shelfmark: Lewis E M 26:20-29

July 30, 2008

Preliminary Thoughts on the 2008 Bushman Seminar

See also my follow-up commentary on the seminar here. Yesterday I was pleased to attend the 2008 Bushman seminar presentation at Brigham Young University. While I greatly enjoyed the seminar, I believe it appears to have missed its mark in a few ways. The topic this year was "Joseph Smith and His Critics." Bushman described the nature of this year's conference in his invitational letter:

The theme has been chosen in response to the growing number of criticalattacks [of Joseph Smith] in books and on the web. Many Latter-day Saints have beenaffected adversely by these criticisms, and the materials supplied byour apologetic institutions have not always met their needs.[1]
Bushman and company desired to take what they call a "pastoral approach" to help Church members who experience turbulence after being exposed to unfamiliar aspects of LDS Church history. According to participant Stephen J. Fleming, a PhD. candidate in Religious Studies at UC Santa Barbara:
We often didn’t accept critics versions of events, but we didn’t want to fight with them either. What was the best way to help those who struggled? We all took at shot at the issue by dealing with various topics.[2]
For six weeks the seminar discussed a few specific issues which Bushman believed may cause consternation to some members of the Church. Each participant of the seminar tackled one specific issue to research and then created a paper to present. Ideally, each approached an issue with which the he was not already well familiar. I believe this decision had both positive and negative affects which I will discuss below. According to Bushman, the emphasis of the papers "will be less on providing answers to every question than on putting the adverse evidence in a new light. Our aim is to persuade readers that the facts do not compel them to discard Joseph Smith. In fact, negative information can sometimes illuminate his cultural situation and mission."[3]

Bushman's opening paper got things off on the right foot.[4] He described the path of people who are surprised to find negative information on the Internet or elsewhere seeming to call into question Joseph Smith or his divine mission. Some members of the Church- after researching, pondering, and praying about the new information- emerge from the turmoil as "revised Saints" who realize Joseph Smith was imperfect but prophetic; that he wasn't led in every single detail by specific revelation. These Saints, Bushman believes, now take a more philosophical approach to the Church, focusing on the good fruit, following the Spirit as best they can with a slightly more skeptical but faithful eye.

Others, however, begin down a path of shock, doubt, disillusionment, and mistrust. They become worried that the Church has something to hide because specific aspects of history wasn't addressed in Church meetings, seminary, or Institute. For these, Bushman emphasized, silence is not the answer. Casting off criticism as "anti-Mormon" or "of the Devil" can trouble a doubter more than simply addressing the issue. Doubters can feel lonely, castigated, or even scared of losing friends and family members over their questioning. Thus, Bushman believes "safe havens" must be established where questions may be asked and good answers provided.[5]

For a brief overview of the other presentations, see the reviews posted at Juvenile Instructor. I wish to offer some of my overall thoughts, both positive and negative. The participants included various CES personnel and a member of the Church Curriculum department. I believe getting these people involved is a crucial step forward in an effort to better equip Institute and other teachers to handle issues that may cause concern among their students.

Participant Stephen Fleming pointed out that each presenter wrote a paper on a subject with which they were not already completely familiar. If this approach was intended to help participants learn how to better use historical sources and discuss various methods, it may have been successful. If this approach was intended to develop new information, I believe it somewhat failed, or at least didn't reach the highest heights. In the question and answer period following several of the presentations it became apparent that some presenters weren't as familiar with the subjects they addressed as they would have liked to be, and they were aware of it.

In short, this is where I believe the seminar missed its own mark in seeking to promise something new; a "pastoral approach." While I generally liked each presentation, and believe for the most part they can be successful in responding to members of the Church who are unfamiliar with the various subjects, the seminar did not present any new information or even methodology. What was different about these papers that isn't already available? In addition, most of the papers seemed geared more towards Protestant or other religious criticism, overlooking the current pop-atheism and agnostic approaches to religion Church members face today. The papers by Stephen Flemming and Kerry Muhlstein, for example, interestingly discussed "magic" from a religious perspective but overlooked criticism people may encounter from those who believe all of it to be hocus pocus.

Because Bushman said "the materials supplied by our apologetic institutions [such as FARMS and FAIR] have not always met their needs," desiring a more "pastoral approach" than we've seen in the past,[6] I was left to wonder why the seminar itself didn't differ much from those materials in style, presentation, and even information.[7] I wanted to see the footnotes of each presentation to see what material they used, who they cited other than primary sources, how they arrived at their various conclusions. I got the feeling some of the presenters were not completely familiar with the scholarship that has already been done on their subjects. Thus, rather than providing something new they sometimes provided something merely similar, or perhaps even inferior, to already-published materials. This isn't to criticize the scholarly abilities of the participants but to point out, given their short amount of time to investigate and their relative unfamiliarity with their topics, these presenters were perhaps working on process rather than explicit and set conclusions.

I hoped the seminar would answer some specific questions, even if intrinsically, but I was left unsatisfied. (Duly noted I probably wasn't the primary audience, though.) I have my own opinions on these questions but hoped to see them addressed:

Why were these specific topics covered over others? How did the seminar define "apologetics"? What method of apologetics is right, or are they all wrong together? What exactly is a "pastoral approach" and how does it differ from what is already being provided by various organizations? How can CES instructors, Sunday School teachers, and every-day members of the Church become more familiar with the materials; should or would they? What more can be done on an institutional level?

I believe involving CES and Church curriculum individuals, and inviting religious instructors under the employ of the Church may very well be the most important aspect of this seminar. This conference, as a stone thrown into water, may create ripples that reach important places in the Church. In a few upcoming posts I will address these questions and comments in-depth.

Finally, perhaps one of the most exciting parts of the seminar for me involved the personal aspects; being able to rub shoulders with some fine members and scholars of the Church including Richard and Claudia Bushman, Steven Harper, Robert J. Woodford, Terryl Givens, Andrew Ehat, Mark Ashurst-McGee, and others. Both sessions of the program opened with an invocation to the Lord. One scholar privately expressed his concern with helping his own children develop and maintain faith in the restored gospel. When an attendee asked what the new project Claudia Bushman was knitting would be she responded "well, right now I am just creating order out of chaos" (she later informed me it was to be an afghan). After presenting his paper on the Kirtland Banking Society, a loving supporter passed Robert Lund a note scribbled on a small yellow piece of paper assuring him he is "#1." Steven Harper brought a stronger measure of the Holy Ghost to the room when relating a bit of William McClellan's emphatic 1880 testimony of the Book of Mormon, as did Spencer Fluman when reading accounts from Helen Mar Kimball Whitney.[8] John Dehlin felt that more could be said to commiserate with those who lost money in the Kirtland Anti-Banking incident. Glenn Rawson, host of KJZZ TV's Joseph Smith Papers program discussed the logistics of a future interview with Richard Bushman. When Spencer Fluman described "dynastic sealings" in Nauvoo, one audience member looked amazed as he mouthed "wow!" Camille Fronk spent some time in the audience, making me reflect on where the women presenters were (according to one presenter Bushman often expressed regret that none had participated). Another audience member assured the group that, should he ever become an artist, he'd try to depict the translation as Joseph Smith with his seer stone in a hat as best he can.

OK, that last one was me.

From Richard Bushman's invitation to participants, posted on the Neal A. Maxwell Institutes's website November, 2007. The photo depicts some members of the seminar posing for a picture following their presentations. 
See more of Fleming's thoughts on the Juvenile Instructor blog, "What Is Our Obligation: The 2008 Bushman Seminar."
Bushman, opt. cit.

Transcription here.
An article written in FARMS Review after the publication of Bushman's Rough Stone Rolling discussed the concept of inoculation in the teaching of Church history. In it Daniel C. Peterson cited various statements from Bushman on his concerns for those troubled by historical events. See Peterson, "Editor's Introduction Reflections on the Reactions to Rough Stone Rolling and Related Matters", FARMS Review, 19:1, P. xi–liv.
[6] Bushman, opt. cit. [7] As for information specifically, Stephen Fleming's paper on magic was the exception for me. I was not familiar with most of his sources regarding "magic" and the history of Christianity; thus his presentation was new to me. His style, however, was similar to many papers I have read from both FAIR and FARMS. Thus, where is the "pastoral approach?" See JI for more on Fleming's paper. According to Bushman, plans are being made to have the presentations published in the Religious Educator, a magazine for CES instructors.
For more on McLellan, see Larry Porter, "William E. McLellan's Testimony of the Book of Mormon," Brigham Young University Studies 10 (Summer 1970): 485-87. Helen Mar's reminiscences were taken from "Life Incidents," Woman's Exponent 9-10 (1880-1882) and "Scenes and Incidents in Nauvoo," Woman's Exponent 11 (1882-83).

July 29, 2008

Spirit Recycling?

Brigham Young
August 17, 1856

Toward the end of his life, Joseph Smith emphasized key doctrinal points regarding the eternal nature of the intelligence and the mind of man:

The soul the mind of man, whare did it come from? The learned says God made it in the beginning, but it is not so, I know better God has told me so. If you dont believe it, it wont make the truth without effect, God was a self exhisting being, man exhists upon the same principle. God made a tabernacle & put a spirit in it and it became a Human soul, man exhisted in spirit & mind coequal with God himself...1
After Joseph was killed the complexities of this sermon led to a few differing interpretations regarding the soul. On a few occasions Brigham Young discoursed on intelligence or spirit "recycling" for lack of a better term (particularly regarding those sent to Outer Darkness, or at least those who forsake the gospel). It seems Brigham diverged from the teachings of Joseph Smith that the "mind" (which I assume here indicates identity) is eternal. It appears as though Brigham saw intelligence as a kind of substance that can be formed and reformed into different identities, rather than intelligences as eternal identities, or minds.2

For example, on April 17, 1853, Brigham explained:

The Lord said to Jeremiah the Prophet, “Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause thee to hear my words. Then I went down to the potter’s house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hands of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it.”
The clay that marred in the potter's hands was thrown back into the unprepared portion, to be prepared over again. So it will be with every wicked man and woman, and every wicked nation, kingdom, and government upon earth, sooner or later; they will be thrown back to the native element from which they originated, to be worked over again, and be prepared to enjoy some sort of a kingdom. (BY 2:124)3
Technically "some sort of a kingdom" could indicate Brigham believed they could inherit a Telestial or Terrestrial, but never attain a Celestial, kingdom. He was careful to point out he wasn't teaching an annihilation, but a recycling. On August 17, 1856 he stated:

...the truth is, you are not going to have a separate kingdom [from God when you are exalted]; I am not going to have a separate kingdom; it is not our prerogative to have it on this earth. If you have a kingdom and a dominion here, it must be concentrated in the head; if we are ever prepared for an eternal exaltation, we must be concentrated in the head of the eternal Godhead.

Why? Because everything else is opposed to that kingdom, and the heir of that kingdom will keep up the warfare with that opposing power until death is destroyed, and him that hath the power of it; not annihilated, but sent back to native element...(JD 4:28).
Later in the sermon he mentioned the fate of those who forsake the gospel:

The moment a person decides to leave this people, he is cut off from every object that is durable for time and eternity, and I have told you the reason why. Everything that is opposed to God and His Son Jesus Christ, to the celestial kingdom and to celestial laws, those celestial laws and beings will hold warfare with, until every particle of the opposite is turned back to its native element, though it should take millions and millions of ages to accomplish it. Christ will never cease the warfare, until he destroys death and him that hath the power of it. Every possession and object of affection will be taken from those who forsake the truth, and their identity and existence will eventually cease.

“That is strange doctrine.”

No matter, they have not an object which they can place their hands or affections upon, but what will vanish and pass away. That is the course and will be the tendency of every man and woman, when they decide to leave this kingdom. (JD 4:31-32).4
More recent LDS leaders such as Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce R. McConkie have rejected the idea that those in perdition can ultimately be redeemed, which contradicts Brigham's speculations. (See, for example, Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation Vol. 2, page 31; Bruce R. McConkie, "The Seven Deadly Heresies," BYU Fireside, 1 June 1980.) I believe these particular leaders were inspired not with a desire for some kind of eternal hell, but with fear that the view of Brigham will "lull men into a state of carnal security," (McConkie, Heresies) and thus hamper their mortal probation.

Knowing that disagreement exists in the teachings of various LDS leaders, perhaps for the time being it is safe to rely upon canonized LDS scripture. For example, D&C 76 (1832) maintains that no ultimate knowledge of the fate of the sons of perdition will be known to any but the partakers:

Wherefore, he saves all except them—they shall go away into everlasting punishment, which is endless punishment, which is eternal punishment, to reign with the devil and his angels in eternity, where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched, which is their torment—

And the end thereof, neither the place thereof, nor their torment, no man knows; Neither was it revealed, neither is, neither will be revealed unto man, except to them who are made partakers thereof; (D&C 76:44-46).
Compare that with the following from an 1830 revelation:
Wherefore I will say unto them—Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels. And now, behold, I say unto you, never at any time have I declared from mine own mouth that they should return, for where I am they cannot come, for they have no power.
But remember that all my judgments are not given unto men; and as the words have gone forth out of my mouth even so shall they be fulfilled, that the first shall be last, and that the last shall be first in all things whatsoever I have created by the word of my power, which is the power of my Spirit (D&C 29:29-30).
Brigham's speculations are interesting, but currently remain outside accepted or official LDS doctrine, and stand in contrast to other LDS leaders past and present. Perhaps it is significant that in the official Church manual Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, a segment from a sermon given August 26, 1860 is included as follows:

Jesus will bring forth, by his own redemption, every son and daughter of Adam, except the sons of perdition, who will be cast into hell….

The punishment of God is God-like [see D&C 19]. It endures forever, because there never will be a time when people ought not to be damned and there must always be a hell to send them to.
How long the damned remain in hell, I know not, nor what degree of suffering they endure.

God’s punishment is eternal, but that does not prove that a wicked person will remain eternally in a state of punishment (JD
8:154-155; TPC:BY, 288-289, my emphasis).
Perhaps Brigham viewed the fate of the sons of perdition much like the fate of those who inherit a Telestial glory, who suffer for a time, as described in D&C 76:81-84. As members of the Church speculate in the meantime, perhaps the best course for the time being is to recall that, ultimately, "all [God's] judgments are not given unto men" (D&C 29:30).



Spelling in original, from Wilford Woodruff's journal account of the "King Follett discourse," a funeral sermon during the General Conference of the Church at Nauvoo on Sunday afternoon April 7, 1844. At least six different reports were made by various listeners in long hand, two of which (William Clayton's and Thomas Bullock's) were amalgamated into the version printed in the Times and Seasons a month later.
While it is possible that Joseph reviewed this version his clerks' diaries do not indicate one way or the other. A second amalgamated version was created in 1855 by Jonathan Grimshaw for the History of the Church. This version was also included in Joseph Fielding Smith's Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. For a brief overview of the sources, see Jonathan Stapley, "A Textual History of the KFD, Part I: Sources to the 'History of Joseph Smith,'" (June 3, 2008) and "A Textual History of the KFD, Part II,'" (June 5, 2008) Splendid Sun blog. An important side by side analysis of the available reports is available at the Book of Abraham Project. W. V. Smith of the BOAP argues that Joseph's doctrines on the eternity of man, among other things, was influenced greatly by the Book of Abraham, and demonstrates the theme as recurring in several of the prophet's sermons especially during the last 5 years of his life. For more on the history of the discourse, including a new amalgamation based on the known reports, see Stan Larsen, "The King Follett Sermon: A Newly Amalgamated Text" BYU Studies 18 (Winter 1978): 193-208 (pdf). For an interesting discussion on mind and spirit, see Jonathan Stapley, "Spirit and Mind," By Common Consent, Jan. 22, 2007.

Orson Pratt offered the diverging view of "spiritual atomism" as described by Jonathan Stapley in "Orson Pratt, The Seer and spiritual atomism," Splendid Sun, November 17, 2005. Matt W. of New Cool Thang posits that John A. Widtsoe found a way to reconcile various views on intelligence. See his post "A Rational Theology: Epistemology and Eternal Existence."  For interesting extended debates see Steve Evans, "Your Friday Firestorm #34,"
(February 15, 2008) and John C., "Monday Midday Theological Poll: Flat-out Speculative Edition" (October 27, 2008) at By Common Consent. See also Geoff J.'s discussions on the New Cool Thang blog: "A Child of God...the Son" (June 8, 2007) and "Is there such a thing as spirit birth or not?" (June 18, 2006).

Later that year (August 14, 1853) Brigham discoursed again on this "mystery of the kingdom." He described a hypothetical man who was so concerned with a large chunk of gold that he would starve to death sitting on it rather than leave it to get food. Having his heart set on the treasures of the world, the man would perish:

What good was his gold to him? He had not the power of endless life in him, and he will be decomposed, and the particles which compose his body and spirit will return to their native element. I told you some time ago what would become of such men [in the aforementioned sermon, presumably]. But I will quote the Scriptures on this point, and, you can make what you please of it. [Here Brigham seems to be allowing divergence of thought.]

Jesus says, he will DESTROY death and him that hath the power of it. What can you make of this but decomposition, the returning of the organized particles to their native element, after suffering the wrath of God until the time appointed. That appears a mystery, but the principle has been in existence from all eternity, only it is something you have not known or thought of.

When the elements in an organized form do not fill the end of their creation, they are thrown back again, like brother Kimball's old pottery ware, to be ground up, and made over again. All I have to say about it is what Jesus says—I will destroy Death, and him that hath the power of it, which is the devil. And if he ever makes "a full end of the wicked," what else can he do than entirely disorganize them, and reduce them to their native element? Here are some of the mysteries of the kingdom...

There can be no such thing as power to annihilate element. There is one eternity of element, which can be organized or disorganized, composed or decomposed; it may be put into this shape or into that, according to the will of the intelligence that commands it, but there is no such thing as putting it entirely out of existence (JD 1:275-276).
Brigham followed this up with an interesting aside on some conversations he had with Orson Pratt, which I'll post soon.

For a concise view on this topic, see one whom I am indebted to in regard to some references found here, namely, J. Stapley, "Brigham on spirit,"
Splendid Sun, February 14, 2007. For other examples on Brigham discussing his views on this topic Stapley cites JD 3:203, 4:54, 5:54, 6:346, 7:57-58, 7:276, 7:287, 8:29, 9:149-150, 13:316-317, 18:234, and The Office Journal of President Brigham Young, 1858-1863, Book D, pg. 35. More sources will be added as I encounter them. Finally,

Orig. posted 5/29/08

July 28, 2008

Welcome to Eternity

Picture by Sam Brown, "outside the universe,"11/7/2007, Exploding Dog.