It’s a Mystery

I encourage you to check out this post by my friend Matt on the theological trump card known as “mystery“.

Where does the “mystery card” get played in Mormonism?

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174 thoughts on “It’s a Mystery

  1. Yep, they totally play the mystery card there, but it’s a super lame place to play it. Because it’s not a mystery. It’s simple. Men made up the rules, that’s why.

    I think a more mysterious mystery in Mormonism would be something like:

    –How does God dwell in a physical body in physical space but still have the capacity to hear and answer prayers simultaneously?

    –How was Jesus (or how is the Holy Ghost) fully divine without a physical body?

    There are probably more, but I have to run to the store right now!

  2. How was Jesus (or how is the Holy Ghost) fully divine without a physical body?

    Or without a wife.

    In truth, I rarely hear Mormons use the word “mystery,” not even on the gender stuff (Rebecca J.’s comment specifically stuck in my mind because she used the word “mysteries” to describe it). More often I hear people say, “We just don’t know,” and while I could give a long list of areas where Latter-day Saints say “we just don’t know,” I’m not sure that’s exactly the same thing as “mystery.”

    I’ll admit that I’m rather skeptical of the mystery card, for anybody’s tradition. It seems to be something that people invoke a lot when they know the stuff they’re trying to argue is contradictory nonsense. I’m a bit more willing to accept the concept of “mystery” when it’s applied to the nature of God because I can accept that there are things about God that we just can’t understand (“my ways are not your ways” and all that), but I’m still skeptical even there.

  3. –How does God dwell in a physical body in physical space but still have the capacity to hear and answer prayers simultaneously?

    That’s not a mystery, Katie. God is wiretapping us all, and he has a faster-than-fiber-optic internet connection to our brains.

  4. “How does God dwell in a physical body in physical space but still have the capacity to hear and answer prayers simultaneously?”

    Heck Katie, even I can do that right here at my kitchen table.

  5. “How was Jesus (or how is the Holy Ghost) fully divine without a physical body?”

    Who said having a body was a pre-req for divinity?

  6. Heck Katie, even I can do that right here at my kitchen table.

    Accumulating adherents already? I think you might be taking this “Sethism” thing a little far.

  7. Part of Mormon teaching – albeit a small part – is that we ourselves are the agents of answering prayers. That many prayers are answered through our actions.

    So what I said is theoretically possible. However, like Moses, I should probably be a little careful about boasting that I have given anyone water myself.

    Point still stands though.

  8. Ms. Meyers

    The idea of women not holding the priesthood is not a mystery. There are differences between men and women that make them better suited for different callings. We allhave every quality within us, but to varying degrees.
    Also, if you actually understand the doctrine, while women are not called to the priesthood, they can still have it in a sense.
    My wife has the authority to use my priesthood when I am not with her. She cannot perform the ordinances, but the power is still hers, in an equal share as it is mine.

    As to the presiding thing, if one did not preside there would be no order, and chaos cannot attain salvation. If the husband did not preside than the wife would, and you would again be faced with the same dilema. The man presides for the same reason that it is the man who is called to the priesthood, because the varying degrees of the many qualities of the human race that are within men makes it more appropriate.
    (You shuold get the book “Women in the Modern World.” I will try to get you more information on this.)

  9. KATIE

    –How does God dwell in a physical body in physical space but still have the capacity to hear and answer prayers simultaneously?

    Personally, I don’t really think he does. Just as he can’t appear to more than one group of people at a time. But then, that is one thing that the doctrines concerning godhood and angels fixes. I have read general authorities speak of “The Holy Ghost and his army” going to work, indicating that he does not work alone. We also know that many of the ancient people have been sent to relay messages. I have also heard it said that Rapheal (who I personally believe was Enoch) is the record keeper in heaven, who oversees all the records of our lives.
    There is no real mistery when you accept that God does have help, from many people.

    –How was Jesus (or how is the Holy Ghost) fully divine without a physical body?

    First you would need to define what it means to be devine. After all, angels are devine beings, but before Christ was resurrected they were all spirits. Devine simply means you dwell with God, not that you are God.
    Now, I will say that before Christ was born and resurrected he was fully God, or in other words he had the authority of God, for the Father already knew he would not turn from the perfect course. However, he was not fully God in the same sense as the Father is, for he was still a spirit, and he wasn’t married. He had all the authority of God, but not yet all the power or glory.

  10. The only real misteries in the LDS doctrine are those things that are too far back to matter (such as the nature of the Intelligence) or too far future to worry about (such as the exact nature and progression on those who become Gods).

  11. shematwater, I already spanked you hardcore on that issue over at Jessica’s blog. And sorry to say, I have no interest in doing it again. You and every other defender of the gender status quo are a pack of dead horses and beating you isn’t even remotely fun or interesting anymore.

    Tim asked where Mormons invoke the mystery card; I gave a very specific example of a Mormon invoking the mystery card to explain the women & the priesthood thing. That you disagree and think you have a better answer doesn’t invalidate the relevance of my example.

  12. Why did the Mormon Father and Mormon Jesus jip us all with a second-rate plan? Jesus was able to reject Satan’s plan and yet choose a third plan for himself that enabled him to achieve godhood without participating in post-Fall sin, but instead wanted us all to achieve what he achieved through a plan that inevitably involved us sinning.

    Thanks a lot, Jesus.

  13. You think Jesus didn’t participate in post-Fall sin Aaron?

    That’s an odd thing to say. It seems to me that he participated in “post-Fall sin” more than any of us.

    I don’t envy his lot one bit.

  14. Just to be clear, I didn’t start this thread as an excuse for everyone to complain about what they don’t like about Mormonism. It was meant to be light-hearted, as the original post was.

  15. Shemawater- “The only real misteries in the LDS doctrine are those things that are too far back to matter (such as the nature of the Intelligence) or too far future to worry about (such as the exact nature and progression on those who become Gods).”

    If you believe this you can’t understand LDS doctrine and religion.

    Religious people often get their doctrinal explanations mixed up with real understanding.

    If the scriptures from God leave so many questions unanswered, why do you think you can fill in the answers with human reasoning?

  16. You think Jesus didn’t participate in post-Fall sin Aaron?

    Only as a substitute. Not as an actual sinner. If plan C (one the Jesus took) allows a person to participate in post-Fall sin simply in the manner of substitutionary suffering and punishment, then we should have been given that option at the Grand Council.

    It’s never ethical to choose for yourself a plan where your own personal sins are inevitable when another plan that doesn’t involve you actually sinning is available.

  17. Who says you weren’t given that option Aaron?

    God made an open-ended question: “whom shall I send.”

    You didn’t want the option. Neither did I.

    I don’t blame either of us for that judgment call.

  18. In other words, it’s a lie to say that people have to personally experience post-Fall inevitable sin (as in, actually sinning) when Jesus was able to achieve godhood and eternal life without that. Jesus kept the best to himself, and gave us us something inferior.

  19. Seth, this is the Mormonism people are getting on Sunday mornings in chapel:

    “At this council we also learned that because of our weakness, all of us except little children would sin (see D&C 29:46–47)” (Gospel Principles [2009], chapter 2)

    Again in chapter 3:

    “While we were away from Him, all of us would sin and some of us would lose our way.” (chapter 3)

  20. “You didn’t want the option. Neither did I.”

    Then we sinned by not choosing option C. It’s always unethical to choose a path where personal sin is inevitable when another option (however long it takes; such as waiting longer in pre-mortality to progress to the level of the pre-mortal Jesus) is available.

  21. Aaron,

    Your argument is a bit ridiculous considering where its coming from, you are trying to prove that Mormonism doesn’t make sense because God’s actions as described by the LDS Scriptures don’t measure up to some ethical standard you have set.

    Isn’t your entire religion subject to equally damaging criticisms? Is human ethics the measure of God anyway according to you. If the God of the Bible doesn’t measure up to standard human ethical standards (and he doesn’t) then it seems disingenuous for you to attack Mormonism this way.

    Sure you can reason around why God did it the way he did, but ultimately the intellectually honest believer in the prophecy of Joseph Smith on this issue is going to say he doesn’t really understand it all and is not going to try to defend God from your ethical standard.

    If the argument was turned on you to defend God’s actions against such criticism you would end up playing the mystery card too, its the only one worth playing.

    Its baffling why you would even pursue such an argument.

  22. Mormonism is the religion saying that spirit children must come to mortality where we would inevitably personally participate in post-Fall sin (as in, actually sinning), if they want to become exalted Gods. I’m pointing out that this isn’t true in Mormonism itself. The Mormon Jesus showed this wasn’t necessary. This is an internal theological problem.

    And I am positively and charitably assuming something good about Mormonism when I assume that it shares the basic belief that taking a sinless route is better when the sin-ridden route isn’t absolutely necessary.

  23. Mormonism doesn’t teach the inevitability of sin, only that it always happens with weak people. There is a significant difference.

    Jesus wasn’t weak, so he didn’t sin, thus proving sin was not inevitable.

    There is no internal theological problem here, you are just getting it wrong.

    The scripture teaches that we chose the route to be tested and to have the opportunity to sin, i.e. choose for ourselves, not that we would be forced to sin through a truly inevitable process.

    Jesus proved that sin was not inevitable, that is why he was a fit sacrifice.

    It’s a silly argument, even if you did get it right.

  24. AARON AND SETH

    The whole argument seems pointless.

    No, Christ did not sin in the post Fall world, as Aaron says. Yes he did participate, as Seth says.
    However, his way was not different from ours, he just was better at it than us and progressed to perfection in deed and thought before he was born on this Earth. For those who make it to Exaltation they will have progressed to the same state.

    Thus, to say there was a different plan is false. To say he was better and faster at completing the plan is more accurate, which made him the only one who turn around and help us finish in mortality what he had already completed as a spirit.

    JACK

    After a brief review of the sited thread I have to say you did not do much of anything that you claim. You still lack understanding, and though you disagree, you could not present any form of actual proof against what I said.

    My last comment here gives my point again, very clearly (much more so than before). However, as you don’t want to get into it, I’ll leave it at this.

    TIM

    I am sorry I joined the conflict that you didn’t intend. I think the main problem with trying to come up with a “Mistery Card” for mormonism is that there is always bound to be someone who will claim it is not a mistery (like me) except on those point that I mentioned no one really cares to discuss.

    I liked the original thread, and I liked your idea of continueing it, but the LDS church seems to be to hot a topic for a light hearted conversation over the web.

  25. So… Aaron…

    You’re saying that spirit kids are like buns in the oven, and that – unlike Jesus – we didn’t have enough time to fully cook?

    Where on earth did you pull that strange notion from?

    I can’t wait for the selective cherry-picked quote you’re going to dig up to prop up this original idea.

  26. How about this mystery . . .

    How does the death and suffering of one man pay for the sins of another?

    Why was a sacrifice necessary to forgive someone of sins?

    This is certainly contrary to our ethical standards of crime and punishment!

  27. If our weakness in the pre-mortal life made our post-Fall sins inevitable, then we should have progressed unto more strength before we came to morality. We should have said, “I’m not ready, I need to redo some training or relearn some new lessons for increased spiritual strength—until I get it right”.

    Sending weak souls to a life of inevitable sin when they can instead increase their strength so as to avoid a life of inevitable sin would be the better route.

  28. And now you’re saying that pre-mortal spirits could simply bypass everything if they just did a few more bench-presses.

    Honestly Aaron, where are you getting this stuff?

  29. Aaron is setting up a total straw-man. This isn’t at all what we believe. Jesus had already achieved godhood before coming to Earth. We all had the chance to achieve godhood of our own free will before coming to Earth, but only Jesus chose to do it.

    It’s not like we were forced to participate in a plan where we had to sin, repent, and be redeemed. It isn’t that Jesus is the only one who was allowed to live sinless. I think the ancient Pelagius got it right when he taught that theoretically, all men could live their entire lives without ever sinning. We don’t have to sin. But in practice, all of us do. We don’t have to participate in the plan of redemption. It is a safety net that all of us end up using, but we theoretically should be able to not use it. We theoretically have the potential to live sinlessly, and never need to be forgiven for anything.

    We are commanded to be perfect for a reason. Well, that’s my view of things.

    James

  30. Aaron, its like you don’t even want to understand where Mormons are coming from.

    Its not even a straw man, its a different man or an an ape.

    Its like discussing something with a 7th grader who already knows the answers and wants to prove you wrong.

    I get that you don’t like Mormon doctrine,(Surprise! its not Evangelical Protestant Christianity!), but any harsher judgment does seem a bit judgment since you don’t seem to know or care what Mormons actually believe.

  31. shematwater ~ You still lack understanding

    No, shematwater, the problem is not that I lack understanding. The problem is that you’re a patronizing, overly privileged Mormon male with your head too far up the ass of Mormon paternalism to recognize what a condescending blowhard you come off as on this issue.

    I don’t make that charge of Mormon men very often; normally I’m a huge fan of Mormon men, and I’ve got a string of Mormon ex-boyfriends to prove it. In fact, I’ve even defended other Mormon men from similar charges.

    But you? You’re the real deal. You’re like a textbook example of why Feminist Mormon Housewives exists, so congratulations because it takes a lot to fail that hard.

    If you’re really so eager to engage me on this issue though, hold your horses. I’m working on an entire series for my blog deconstructing the terribad apologetics for why the LDS church discriminates against women, and the “women already hold the priesthood through the endowment / through their husbands” argument is definitely on the list (and it will be refuted by a mountain of statements from LDS apostles and prophets, no less). I’ll be happy to send you a link to it when I’m done.

    You shall no doubt riposte to this comment with your usual abortions of logic that amount to a string of “nuh uhs” and “you silly woman, you just don’t get it.”

    You have fun with that.

    I’m sorry if I ruined your laid back, fun thread, Tim. I’ll skulk off now and listen to angry chick music or something.

  32. I don’t like to invoke the mystery card. I am much more comfortable with the “I don’t know because God hasn’t seen fit to tell us yet” card. I tend to use it a lot when my 10-11-year-olds in Sunday School ask things like, “Where did the intelligences come from?” and “What does it mean when the Scriptures say that ‘God organised the intelligences that were?'” and, of course, “Where did God come from?”

    In regards to shematwater, I’m with Jared on this one: You’re on your own. I’m going to stay off to the sides and wait for Jack to beat you. Again.

  33. One event in Mormon history that we usually (now a days) play the “mystery card” on is how to explain the priesthood ban. We generally believe it was God-inspired, we just don’t really know what the reason for it was. Polygamy is sometimes treated the same way.

    One LDS doctrine that I currently have in the “mystery” category is the idea that having a physical body is preferred to not having one. It seems obvious enough to me that our doctrine indicates that a physical body is preferred, but I don’t really understand why.

  34. “Just to be clear, I didn’t start this thread as an excuse for everyone to complain about what they don’t like about Mormonism. It was meant to be light-hearted, as the original post was.”

    Just out of curiosity and I’m asking sincerely: What did you think would happen? For example, suppose we run a simulation. And in this simulation we have all the personalities that tend to participate on this blog. And then we draft a post that asks where Mormonism plays the “mystery card.” Given those inputs, what is the likely output?

    Now, obviously, no one here is omniscient so epistemologically speaking, we don’t know the future. But I’m wondering whether anyone here is surprised by how the thread has unfolded.

    From my observation, people look down on mysteries in other religions as a general principle. Some people are very suspicious of them and see them as cop outs. People usually see those in other faiths invoking mystery as a sign of insincerity and sometimes a lack of integrity. Is this inevitable? Is this just the way it is? Or is there some other way to view mysteries in other faith traditions?

  35. shematwaterMy wife has the authority to use my priesthood when I am not with her. She cannot perform the ordinances, but the power is still hers, in an equal share as it is mine.

    I’ve always wondered how, exactly, that’s supposed to happen. What can we do with priesthood authority that doesn’t involve ordinances? Mowing the lawn? Presiding in meetings? Because I still never see ladies preside whenever males are present. And I sure as heck don’t want to be mowing lawns.

  36. Nicole, I have some bad news for you.

    You are an active and faithful Latter-day Saint woman who is married to a Catholic man. I am an evangelical Christian woman who is married to an active and faithful Latter-day Saint man.

    Your husband does not hold the priesthood. Mine does.

    Therefore, I as a non-member have more priesthood than you do as a Mormon woman.

    Sucks to be you, sista. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go get busy using my husband’s priesthood while he’s away at work.

  37. Ah, except that my sealing to my ex is still in effect. Does that mean that I still have the authority to exercise *his* priesthood? I mean, he’s not really using it, and apparently as long as *I’m* living the way I’m supposed to live, I can still benefit. And as a wife to a Catholic, apparently my household is in need of some priesthood authority.

  38. Whoa. I think you totally get to preside over your Catholic husband since you have more claim to priesthood than he does, Nicole.

    Better make sure your husband never gets baptized or you might lose the powa’.

  39. Seriously, this entire discussion drives me a bit crazy.

    There are literally thousands upon thousands of questions that can only be adequately answered in words using the “mystery card”.

    The POINT of Christianity, especially the LDS variety is not to be able to explain the gospel, but to learn the “mysteries” through the power of the Holy Spirit.

    The whole process of detailed explanations is a complete red herring. you are missing the point if you are not diligently seeking revelation rather than explanation.

  40. I didn’t say anyone here consciously and explicitly believed the implications of traditional Mormon theology in this regard. I’m simply fleshing out undesirable implications, regardless if you put them in your heart and dwell on them.

    If you want to say that Jesus was of a nature that was able to progress in the pre-mortal life beyond what the rest of us were, then you’re unwittingly flirting with the idea that Jesus is of a different species. If his pre-mortal capacities were by nature more than ours, then you can’t say that all of Heavenly Father’s spirit children are of the same nature. If you say we had the same nature as the pre-mortal Jesus, then the only thing left to differentiate with are things developed by free agency.

    Please, by all means come to the dark side and affirm that Jesus had a distinctively different species and nature than us in pre-mortality.

    Or at least admit that we all were in some significant measure moral failures in not achieving godhood in the pre-mortality like Jesus did.

    But if the difference was merely a matter of better learning to exercise free agency (so as not to be “weak”), there’s nothing that indicates we couldn’t have spent more time and experience in the pre-mortality to avoid a mortality where post-Fall sin was practically inevitable for us.

    If you say that our pre-mortal agencies were not such that we could keep growing in spiritual strength to the degree that another of the same species was able to, then it sounds like you’re unwittingly affirming a form of compatibilism.

  41. Hello Aaron. As you’ve already anticipated, the reason Jesus has achieved what he has achieved, and why we have not achieved it, is due to agency. Plain and simple. It has nothing to do with him being a unique species.

    We are all in some way moral failures for not achieving godhood in the pre-existence. That’s fine by me.

    You said:
    “But if the difference was merely a matter of better learning to exercise free agency (so as not to be “weak”), there’s nothing that indicates we couldn’t have spent more time and experience in the pre-mortality to avoid a mortality where post-Fall sin was practically inevitable for us.”

    I respond:
    If it is only a matter of time in the pre-mortality until everyone achieves godhood, that still doesn’t solve the issue of how to get physical bodies. It also doesn’t provide us with the experiences of mortality that we believe are important to our progression. We need to have a place where we can learn to exercise faith, have families, work hard, fail, learn from failure, grow, and all of the other wonderful things about this life. I think even Jesus wanted to experience this mortal life.
    It only makes sense (to me) that opportunities for testing existed in pre-mortality (or else how could we make choices?). But this life is somehow an ultimate training ground that we need to go through. It is a wonderful training ground.

    In sum, I reject the “implications” you have invented for Mormonism.

  42. Just out of curiosity and I’m asking sincerely: What did you think would happen?

    to be honest, I didn’t think about it. I decided to link to the other article because I thought it was of interest. Then at the last second I thought I needed to tie it to Mormonism somehow (since the article is about Evangelicalism) and that is what I came up with.

    The minute Jack responded I figured out what a mistake it was. I’m sure there’s some reason to suspect my underhandedness in all of this, but it was merely an ill-conceived question and a lapse of judgment (or perhaps an indication of my general lack of judgment, I’ll let you decide).

  43. Aaron, your problem is is that you are using A implies B logic to infer things that defy LDS scripture and understanding, when you don’t have “A” correct.

    It may be worth having this discussion if you attempted to get Mormon understanding correct before trying to draw “troubling” conclusions.

    If you cannot even understand the accurate picture of what Mormons believe on the subject, its impossible to intelligently discuss what implications there are for this theological position.

    Mormons doctrine never implies no has ever implied that people ever were at the same level as Jesus.

    Of course all of the details of this stuff is a complete mystery to me, and where there is a huge gap in the available information its impossible to reasonably infer anything like what you are talking about.

    According to the Bible, the nature of who Jesus is, is a mystery that cannot expressed without revelation and it was hidden for centuries and who knows what else may be hidden.

    As Paul explained to the Ephesians 1:

    “Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ”

  44. Sorry Tim.

    Truth be told, I actually thought my responses on this thread were pretty neutral and even-handed until shematwater showed up and insisted on throwing the gauntlet down at me.

    Guess it shows what I know.

  45. I’ll fully agree that mystery exists for Mormons in trying to understand exactly how Jesus got to where he is. I think some reasonable, though tentative, conclusions can be made. I think we can be consistent throughout as well. But I don’t hesitate to admit that some mystery remains. Ultimately, we don’t totally understand it.

  46. “I think some reasonable, though tentative, conclusions can be made. I think we can be consistent throughout as well. ”

    This is just Mystery on stilts. Our conclusions are almost certainly going to incomplete, most likely deeply flawed. You’d think if it mattered God would just send an 8000 page revelation explaining the entire theology in intimate details.

  47. While I realize that everyone probably interpreted my first comment on this thread as “it’s just Jack b*tching about gender again,” I’m pretty serious that Mormons tend to invoke something that sounds like the traditional Christian concept of mystery to explain their system.

    A brilliant and brilliantly-named Bloggernacle post along those lines:

    Adam and Eve: the First TBM & NOM by Andrew Ainsworth at Mormon Matters.

    That post deals with the tension between how those who push for and ultimately bring about progress in the Mormon church always seem to be the ones who get disciplined, even though they’re right. Ainsworth seems to take the same interpretation of the temple liturgy that my own husband does, i.e. that it’s because Eve was the first to eat from the tree and Fall that women are punished with not having the priesthood, even though that action actually led to the progress of humankind. He compares this to people who pushed for blacks to have the priesthood before the 1978 policy change and were excommunicated for it, even though they were right.

    Ainsworth never uses the word “mystery,” but he basically says, “Yes, the TBMs get to be in charge and lead the church even though they’re often in the wrong and it’s the NOMs who bring about progress. It doesn’t logically make sense, but it’s the way it is and it works.”

    So, I wasn’t just trying to complain. Mormons really do play the mystery card there, sometimes thoughtfully and elegantly.

  48. Jack, for what it’s worth, I didn’t think your opening comment was out of line, I just knew what would follow. I think the discussion would have gone more like I intended it to if I had only asked Mormons what they play the mystery card on.

  49. I agree with comments made earlier that there’s a difference between “mystery” as it usually is used in religious discussion and the “we don’t know” that most of us invoke at one time or another. They’re obviously overlapping categories.

    That said, I’m not sure I really “play the mystery card” as I don’t have much interest in shutting down an honest discussion. But some of the cases where I’m most likely to say “I don’t know” include these:

    — Why women don’t have the priesthood.

    — Why men of African descent didn’t have the priesthood.

    — What Joseph Smith was up to when he did the Joseph Smith translation. (Correction? Midrash? Personal opinion?)

    And then a few that apply to both LDS Christianity and Christianity in general:

    — How much of the scriptures should be taken literally and how much figuratively.

    — In what ways do believers become one with the Father in the way Jesus was one with the Father?

    — Why there couldn’t have been some other way for our Heavenly Father to save us than by having his son brutally murdered.

    — To what extent God knows the future.

    Despite those things, there’s a lot I do know; fortunately, those are the things I need to live my life.

  50. I think about these things a lot. Have you ever heard of game theory? I think it is useful to apply game theory to apologetics and dialogue. At least I find it useful. And I find that running simulations can be a useful way of brain storming how people may react. So, as I was saying, having discussed our points of view many times over the last few years, many of us are generally familiar with the overall concerns each of us have, as well as how we have responded to various viewpoints in the past. So, if you construct a kind of system and then input various personalities, you can get a strong sense for how things will turn out. This is one of my dissatisfactions with traditional apologetics because it is predictable. It’s like playing checkers over and over again (sometimes like playing tic-tac-toe over and over again). Now, clearly we have various participants on this blog. They come from different perspectives and faith backgrounds and they have certain issues they feel passionate about. Given those inputs, if you craft a certain post with a certain question, you can get a sense for how these actors are going to behave. Try running some simulations in subsequent posts and see how well your predictions line up with what unfolds in actuality.

    Even before anyone commented, it seemed to me that several things would happen. First, despite the joking sense of Matt’s original post, I could envision that some would use the post as an opportunity to offer criticism of Mormon beliefs. It is inevitable given the personalities involved. I’m not saying this is a reason not to do a post like this, or that people who offer criticism are bad. I’m just saying its a logical outcome given the structure of the post and the personalities involved. I could envision that there would be some Mormons who would sincerely think through the question and would offer up what they think is a kind of mystery. Obviously, critics would jump at the opportunity to point to what they see as irrational or nonsensical viewpoints in Mormonism and certain Mormons would quickly try to defend their faith, or perhaps point out “mysteries” in traditional Christianity as well. I couldn’t really see how else the thread could end up. Overall, I’m not certain whether it went any differently than I had imagined.

    I’m interested in discussing what exactly constitutes “mystery.” Can we ever allow those in other faith traditions to legitimately claim mystery? Is it just where people give up using their brain? I still think there is a serious negativity towards “mystery” in regards to the religious “Other.” I’m not particularly interested in a quid pro quo where both sides talk about how illogical and irrational the other sides beliefs are. But then again, you could probably predict I was going to say something like that too.

  51. Jared said:

    How about this mystery . . .

    How does the death and suffering of one man pay for the sins of another?

    That’s a good one. I know some prominent Christian philosophers are starting to take Hitchens’ challenge on this seriously.

    Aquinas, what’s my response to your latest comment going to be? I’ve already got it typed up. Let’s see how good you are at this game.

  52. I’d like to add another mystery, or, at the least, something that is a mystery to me:

    Why are their so many crazies in the Church out in the Intermountain West, and, as a related mystery, why is it that the only crazies not in the Intermountain West are folks who used to live there?

    Unless we are to take the fluoride-in-the-water theory seriously, it must be chalked up to being a mystery.

  53. That’s a good one Alex. I’m confident I’d be no more comfortable in Alabama than you would be in Utah. What’s the deal with dominant cultures?

  54. My prediction was that someone was going to make a jab about me being able to tell the future and test my clairvoyance abilities. In fact, it’s highly likely there may be uncreative puns that flow from my comment. I could figure that such a response was inevitable given the overall tenor of my comment. Of course, as you probably realize, my point was not to announce to the world I had supernatural abilities to tell the future, but only to point out that some outcomes logically or naturally follow given a particular system: here a particular question presented to various personalities who have a demonstrated history as to the general kinds of reactions they will take to such stimuli. You seemed to manifest a similar premonition when you stated above “I just knew what would follow.”

  55. thanks for playing. Here’s my response.

    ———————————————————————–

    The problem with the game theory predictions in a forum like this is that it assumes our thoughts and attitudes are fixed. Instead I see people’s attitudes shifting over the course of time. I could just play out how every post I’ve ever written is going to resolve itself and then decide not to write them. But because I’ve written and responded to other people I have changed and they have changed. It wouldn’t take much to see a difference in what I talked about when I started this blog and what I talk about now. I’ve seen both Aaron and Seth make changes in what and how they talk about things over the course of time as well. (I’ve also seen Daniel Peterson, Juliann Reynolds and Shawn McCraney change in strictly apologetic formats.) You have moved away from talking about interfaith dialogue as much as you used to, partly as a result of having talked about interfaith dialogue. You might have predicted that you would have grown restless or frustrated in time with discussing interfaith dialogue on the internet, but I’m guessing you gained something through the process.

    So while we might be able to predict how things are going to go, the predictable action does not make the exercise pointless (though it may occur to us that it might be an exercise we wish to not participate in). Though the ensuing conversation was not what I had hoped to produce, I certainly learned something about forming a question.

    I heard someone recently say that the day of the great orator is over in regards to faith. Nobody listens to a figure in authority talk and then make a decision anymore. Now people dialogue their way into decisions. They talk out every step of their path. Kullervo is an excellent example of this.

    Can we ever allow those in other faith traditions to legitimately claim mystery? Is it just where people give up using their brain?

    I’ve actually got no beef with allowing other people to have mystery in their own faith. Typically where our criticisms for each other arise are at the places where the “other guy” thinks he’s got it all figured out. (see Jack’s exchange with Shemawater). When I hear someone say “I don’t know” in regards to the Black Priesthood matter I have always felt compassion and empathy as compared to the anger I’ve felt towards some of the answers other people have tried to defend it with. In some ways “mystery” isn’t a trump card as much as a “get out of jail free” card.

    I’m not particularly interested in a quid pro quo where both sides talk about how illogical and irrational the other sides beliefs are.

    Though not the case in this particular instance I think there can be great value in exploring how other people cross the desert. I’m skeptical of people who portray nothing but unicorns and Skittles in describing their faith (particularly Evangelicals). I’m glad to hear other people wrestling with their convictions and don’t see why we have to assume it’s merely quid pro quo.

  56. Tim, I really do appreciate this engaging response. First of all, let me agree with you that dialogue is valuable. I understand that someone could interpret my comment above to be saying that since we can predict what people are going to say, why dialogue in the first place? Well, I’m not making a blanket statement that we can predict how people are going to act, I’m making a more nuanced observation that questions drive answers, systems drive outcomes, and that our past influences how we perceive our present.

    I’m noting that our interactions with each other tell us things about each other. We don’t erase our memory every time we engage in discourse, but rather we bring into the discussion the memories of our prior discussions. At least I do. We can choose to act on that experience or choose to ignore it.

    I also agree with the broad premise that people can change over time. However, I think many people on this blog have been pretty consistent in their approach and tenor over the last three years. It doesn’t have to be that way, but my observation is that it has been that way. If I have not spoken about interfaith dialogue it may not be because I have changed my mind about it, but it could be other reasons such as other demands for my time preclude it, or that I’ve realized that talking about interfaith dialogue with certain persons is an exercise in futility, and that my efforts might be better spent elsewhere.

    “I’m skeptical of people who portray nothing but unicorns and Skittles in describing their faith (particularly Evangelicals).”

    I know you feel this way, and I know this because of statements that you have made in the past, not about Evangelicals but about Mormons. For example, you said to me in the “Shooting Ourselves in the Foot” post:

    “is it at all reasonable for me to suggest that not everyone’s experience with Mormonism is as glowing as Mormons would like everyone else to believe?”

    I learned quite about from that statement about how you feel about Mormons. I think you feel the same way and are rather consistent in your views. I don’t see you changing on this point any time soon. Now, I simply don’t feel the same way as you do. I come from the perspective that people tend to believe in something because they find beauty and truth in it.

    “I’m glad to hear other people wrestling with their convictions and don’t see why we have to assume it’s merely quid pro quo.”

    Let me just say that I agree we can learn a lot from each other about how we wrestle with our convictions. When I listen to stories of Christian theologians who struggled with their faith but remained believers, I personally can and do draw strength from that example. Yet, remember you have also presented to me a different attitude about this topic. I don’t know whether you feel you can draw strength from a Latter-day Saint who has wrestled with her faith and yet remained a Latter-day Saint. I get the sense from your last post in particular that when Mormons remain Mormon they have to either redefine Mormonism to make themselves fit, but there really isn’t a kind of legitimate way for Mormons to struggle with their faith, and remain Mormon and be true to themselves. Now, there are a host of other statements you have made, which I decline to rehearse here, that I feel warrant me in drawing that conclusion. Again, if you feel this way, that is perfectly fine. I’m not trying to persuade you to feel otherwise, I’m just explaining that I read your posts with the understanding that you are writing from that perspective.

  57. James, my objection (in my above line of argumentation) is not over the idea of experiencing human life in the flesh. My objection was over personally participating in post-Fall sin (as in, actually sinning) when it is not necessary for progression unto godhood. The Mormon Jesus is the Mormon paradigm-breaker, showing one didn’t need to be a part of the post-Fall inevitability of sin while experiencing suffering and the human life.

    The basic dilemma in Mormon theology over the issue (whether or not people consciously dwell on this and take hold of it as an explicit beleif) is this: either one has to affirm that we did indeed sin in the pre-mortal life, thus rendering ourselves “weak” and no longer able to benefit from “Plan C”, or Jesus jipped us at the Grand Council by giving us a second-rate, inferior plan when another plan (the one he personally took) was still possible and available.

    Both sides of the dilemma are problematic. The former has us actually choosing to not be fully Christ-like in the pre-mortality. That is an ad hoc explanation, however, something that in all my years of reading Mormon literature no author has touched on. It means we needed an atonement to cover our sins even before Adam and Even stepped foot in the garden. And it suggests we were driven out of God’s presence partly out of necessity, since we had already shown ourselves to be moral failures. I have a hard time believing all of that has always been implicit in the Mormon narrative of the pre-mortal Grand Council.

    The latter side of the dilemma is problematic because it means Jesus kept the best plan exclusively for himself when he could have shared it with us. It’s also problematic because, again, the traditional Mormon narrative only speaks of two plans proffered, not three plans. It also challenges the big premise that we absolutely needed to experience a sin-ridden post-Fall mortality in order to progress unto godhood and eternal life.

    Take care and goodnight!

    Aaron

  58. And I still think you are making an awful lot of rather big assumptions there Aaron.

    Do you really think that Mormon theology posits that doing enough pre-mortal spiritual bench presses makes you divine? I don’t think that’s true at all. Jesus divinity was, in my view, wholly contingent on his relationship with the Father. No relationship, and he would not have been divine.

    And it was not inevitable and pre-destined that Jesus would live a sinless life.

    When Satan tempted Jesus, it was a real temptation. Most admirably, Jesus resisted it.

    Finally, while Jesus was perfect in his unity with the Father, he was not complete. Only his mortal experience could provide him with that.

    But sinless-ness was not inevitable with Jesus. Nor is sinfulness inevitable with us. Merely highly likely in both instances.

  59. And by the way, theologically-wise, I’ll take you and I choosing a plan with a high likelihood of sin over God creating us ex nihilo to sin any day of the week.

  60. “That is an ad hoc explanation, however, something that in all my years of reading Mormon literature no author has touched on. ”

    No author has touched on it because it doesn’t fit. There is no dilemma.

    Your description of Mormon understanding is off-base. There are all kinds of ways “out” of the imagined dilemma, but really its not worth talking about. The whole argument implies an understanding of how and why Jesus was a sacrifice for sin that nobody can really answer.

    mystery card! I get the trick.

  61. Aaron, I will repeat it again. There is no inevitability of sin for post-fall mortals. There is no inevitability of sin for anyone, anytime, anywhere. Your argument seems predicated on that assumption, which is understandable coming from one so influenced by Augustine.

    We don’t know much about what went on in the eternities preceding the war in heaven. Somehow, previous to that moment, Jesus achieved “godhood”, whatever that means. Since we don’t really have a firm definition for that term it is hard to say exactly what that entails. But nonetheless, we consider him to have been fully divine. That much is clear.

    Why weren’t we fully divine too? Again, we don’t have definite answers. There are so many ways to speculate on it, and we can’t really know which is right. I speculate that we made wrong choices, didn’t employ our free agency righteously, and in effect “sinned”. I’m fine with that. Did we need an atonement to cover our pre-mortal sins? Perhaps. We can’t really know that. It probably isn’t fair to make too many assumptions about that place and time based on our mortal experience. But it isn’t far-fetched. Elder Tad Callister of the Seventy, I’m told, speculated on just that in his book about the Atonement.

    I don’t hesitate to agree with you that “mystery” remains on this subject. More appropriately, it isn’t so much a “mystery” in the sense that that word is employed by Trinitarians, as it is that we just haven’t been told. I’m sure it is perfectly understandable, but we just haven’t been told yet.

    And because there is so much room for speculation (something I love), one is hardly able to require the Saints to accept your own personal theory, which not surprisingly has negative implications.

  62. I really don’t mind people not joining me in debates. This topic is a very hot topic, and I don’t blame people for not wanting to discuss it. In truth, I don’t really want to either. I just have a big mouth and, yes, I am a little arrogant (which I have been working on).

    MEYERS

    No, I am not what you claim. I am simply more open and willing to accept the doctrine of the church. I do not always explain myself properly, and as a result people have frequently misunderstood my meaning and intention.

    As to you having more priesthood because you are married to an LDS man, your sarcasm is misleading, and is a twisting of my words. If you are not a member than you ahve not entered the covenant of the church, nor have you been sealed to your husband. As such you have no claim to his priesthood. This is one of the many reasons is taught that we marry only those of our own faith, for a marriage outside the sealing covenant of the temple does not bind the husband and wife together, and thus she does not share in his priesthood.

    THAT1GIRL

    In this regard there is a mistery for me, one that I have not yet sorted out. If your sealing is still in effect but you are divorced that would pose several problems which I am not willing to get into right now.
    However, on the question of presiding in the home (and I am sure you meant it more as a joke, so forgive me for replying to this) your current husband is still the head and patriarch, and thus still presides. Worthiness and qualificaiton are not the desiding factors.

    AARON

    To comment a post of yours long ago (and forgive me, I have not had time to read all the latest posts) the reason we were sent to this earth under these conditions is because we had to. The mortal existance of this Earth (or from Fall to Final Judgement) is a specific time period, or 8,000 years. Thus, this is all the time we are given here (or in the spirit world after death). Once that timeis over we will have no more opportunity.
    The same thing can be said of our Pre-mortal life. From the time we entered our spirit bodies to the Grand Counsel and Creation we had a pre-determined amount of time to progress as far as we chose to. Once that time was done we had to come here, or reject the plan of God and be cast out with Satan.

  63. I also think Aaron, that you are confusing completeness with divinity – as if “godhood” was some absolute ontological state you simply arrive at, and then you’re done.

    This is you trying to shoehorn Augustinian assumptions into a Mormon paradigm. The result is a very bad fit.

    Mormon theology does not posit that godhood is a final static destination or state. For Jesus, and for all of us, it is a voluntary relational state. It’s participatory. And apparently it is something that is available to people both in spirit and in physical form.

    But simply being divine does not necessarily mean you’re done in Mormon thought.

  64. Dear Shematwater,

    The word is “mystery,” not “mistery.” If you’re going to piss off the wimminz around here, at least indulge us with proper spelling.

  65. Whitney

    I do not have a lot of time on my hands. I am doing 19 hours in college and trying to care for my wife and three children. So, when I am typing I do not bother spell checking my words. I have never been all that good at spelling and many worlds in the English language can be confusing in this area. However, these are not great literary works that will be past down through the ages, and so spelling is not very high on my list of importance. I see these threads more as conversations, in which spelling does not matter. If it offends you I am sorry, and all I can suggest is to not read what I say.

  66. shematwater ~ As such you have no claim to his priesthood.

    Aw . . . *sniff sniff* Oh well. It’s a good thing I’m a Protestant and we don’t force our women to leech off their husband’s priesthood, we just give it to them on their own.

    And I’m pretty sure that my LDS husband does share in my priesthood (1 Cor. 7:14). We’re generous like that.

    your current husband is still the head and patriarch, and thus still presides. Worthiness and qualificaiton are not the desiding factors.

    Damn right, Nicole. The only desiding [sic] factor is who has the penis, and that ain’t you.

    Now go make your husband some cupcakes like a good Mormon wife.

    (BTW, I cannot believe that anyone would say that worthiness is not a qualification for presiding. WOW.)

  67. Seth, if an exclusive, special relationship between the Father and Jesus is what made Jesus able to achieve an (incomplete) godhood in pre-mortality so that he didn’t have to experience a post-Fall moratlity where sin was practically inevitable, then you are just digging another hole in the ground. Why? Because it means the Father jipped the rest of us out of a special pre-mortal relationship that would have instrumentally saved us from a post-Fall mortality ridden with our personal sins.

    James, not practically inevitable? I think when it comes to engaging Mormonism what matters more than the opinions of internet defenders is what is in the manuals:

    “At this council we also learned that because of our weakness, all of us except little children would sin (see D&C 29:46–47)” (Gospel Principles [2009], chapter 2)

    Again in chapter 3:

    “While we were away from Him, all of us would sin and some of us would lose our way.” (chapter 3)

    So what James basically ends up having to say is, “Sin wasn’t inevitable for us but, uh, we all knew we were going to sin going into mortality.” Or, “it wasn’t inevitable but it was definitely going to happen.”

    Mormon theology does not posit that godhood is a final static destination or state.

    I know, I understand that, but it’s irrelevant to my above line of thinking. The point is that the (incomplete) godhood that the Mormon Jesus achieved in pre-mortality enabled him to avoid the practical inevitability of sin in a post-Fall mortality.

    Take care,

    Aaron

  68. ~shematwater~

    My divorce doesn’t matter. On every record in the church, I am still sealed. And because I am still sealed to my ex, I have claim to his priesthood. If you’re still worried about me being divorced, I’ll assure you that the sealing is still in effect because if I want it canceled, it requires lots of paperwork, letters, and approval by the First Presidency. Which, by extension, means it takes approval from the First Presidency to take away my claim to the priesthood. And as the only person in my household that has any claim to the (LDS – that’s for you, Jack) priesthood, I maintain that while that may not entitle me to presiding in my home, it does make me the only one with the priesthood powa’ to oversee and lead things. (But not things like mowing the lawn. That’s all with the official presider.)

    And if you really think worthiness and qualification don’t matter, you need to read more D&C 121, for Amen to the priesthood *or the authority* of that man.

    ~Jack~

    I’d make DH some cupcakes (my wifely duty, I’m sure), but we’re living a few states away right now, so it would be my (priesthood) duty to then lick every one of them.

  69. How do you think Jesus “achieved” what he had Aaron? And why do you think that option was available to us?

    And what makes you think that Mormonism even has an opinion on the pre-mortal existence sufficient for you to set up these fun little hypotheticals?

  70. Aaron,

    You asked:
    “James, not practically inevitable?”

    I didn’t say it wasn’t practically inevitable. It is simply not inevitable. It is true, as the manual states, that we all end up sinning. But it isn’t because we are fated to do so. It isn’t because we can’t help it. It isn’t because our natures don’t allow us to perfectly obey God. We all sin because we choose to.

    You said:
    So what James basically ends up having to say is, “Sin wasn’t inevitable for us but, uh, we all knew we were going to sin going into mortality.” Or, “it wasn’t inevitable but it was definitely going to happen.”

    This is mostly correct. It is true, I think, that we all were pretty sure we wouldn’t pass. That is why a Savior was chosen. It was not inevitable that any one of us would sin, but it was extremely likely. You used the word “definitely”, I didn’t.

    I think Aaron has been answered enough. We are now at the point of just restating our opinions.

  71. that1girl

    The exercise of the Priesthood is based in worthiness, not the presiding in the home. It is church policy to not baptize a woman without her Husbands concent, or to baptize children without the concent of the Father and Mother. The father’s right to preside in the home does not come from the priesthood, but is a separate part of the law of God that is applied to all people, regardless of religion. As such your current husband is the presiding authority in the house, regardless of anything else.
    I am not simply stating this. This has been said by the leaders of the church, and this patriarchal order can be seen throughout the Bible.

    As to you holding the priesthood, maybe you should consider D&C 121. If a man’s worthiness determines whether he is able to use the priesthood or not, surely the wife’s worthiness would also determine whether she can share it with him.
    I am not trying to say anything against you. I am saying that the cerconstances you have described are of such a nature that I would not give an opion, but I would definitely raise the question.

    AARON

    Just a thought. The quote you give says that we all “learned” we would sin. It does not say how we learned this. Personally, I think it was mainly that all of us had the plan explained to us and realized that our character was such that we would fail in some points.
    Also, I just thought of something that I will agree gave Christ an edge in this world (though I believe he earned the right before this life). This is the doctrine that he was literally born of Mary and the Father, that his mortal body was half devine, which gave him more power while here on Earth. So, in a sense you could say he had a different plan, though I think it would be more accurate to say he had a different part in the plan.

  72. I have said I have a big mouth, and I do apologize for it. I am going to cease discussion on women and the priesthood before I say anything else that I will regret (for I do regret some of what I have said.

  73. Wow, shematwater. Did you really just question *my* worthiness? How dare you cross that line when you know nothing of me. FWIW, I have a current temple recommend and have been in many leadership positions in the church during and since my divorce.

    I have lots more to say and am pretty upset and hurt right now, but out of respect for Tim and his blog, I’ll censor myself.

  74. This topic is a very hot topic, and I don’t blame people for not wanting to discuss it. In truth, I don’t really want to either.

    I can only assume that Eric Doyle is in your house now, since you are clearly discussing the topic against your will.

  75. I never really recall LDS every using the term “mystery”……

    I would hear, “meat” but not mystery….

    Now as a Christian, yes, I hear the word “mystery” often enough…..

    Just my 02,

    gloria

  76. So, I asked my husband if he thinks I share in his priesthood. Here’s what he said:

    Him: Yes, of course you do.

    Me: Why?

    Him: Because you’re my wife by covenant and you share in everything I have, and because the Scriptures say that you’ve been made holy through me even if you don’t believe. [here he cited 1 Cor. 7:14 just like I did above.]

    (He approved of this transcription of our conversation before I posted it.)

    That is why my husband is made of win.

  77. No, meat is not mystery. Meat is something that you (think) you can explain, but some people can’t understand or would take wrong.

    Mystery is something that you can’t explain.

  78. Aaron, do you really care what Mormons actually think on this subject or are you actually trying to argue what Mormons “really” believe in order to support your argument?

    There really is no talking to you until you get it right, if you don’t care to get it right then the conversation is pointless.

  79. My question for Aaron is, “have you heard Mormons play the mystery card on this issue or are you just assuming they would?”

    Aquinas said:
    I get the sense from your last post in particular that when Mormons remain Mormon they have to either redefine Mormonism to make themselves fit, but there really isn’t a kind of legitimate way for Mormons to struggle with their faith, and remain Mormon and be true to themselves.

    Seriously?

    That post was about “Mormons” who don’t even believe in Mormonism (and in some instances don’t believe in God). How many different ways do I need to state that?

    I’m just explaining that I read your posts with the understanding that you are writing from that perspective.

    I think you need to find a different way to read my post. If you feel the need to quote mine and tell me what I really believe I’m sure everyone will be entertained to see you practicing Decker’s craft.

  80. Tim, last I checked Aquinas wasn’t under the delusion that the Anti-Mormons are trying to assassinate him, and confusing his own theological complaints with his resentment over a failed marriage that he ruined himself.

  81. I would agree with Jared that “meat” is used to describe doctrines that members think they have a deeper spiritual understanding of. A good example would be the Mormon doctrine of the Father creating Jesus via. intercourse with Mary. That teaching has been glossed over now, and members who think they understand it would never dare say what they believe to non members. In the past (during my TBM days) I discussed the question of what it meant for Christ to be the “only begotten Son” and learned there are many members who indeed believe God had to create Christ through sex, the same way we create mortals. These were not fringe members. I would describe them more as people who felt spiritually superior, and did a wink wink explanation to me about it.

    Typically LDS use the term meat in reference to the doctrines they would rather hide from those “not ready for it.” (e.g. polygamy being required for the highest level of the CK/ exaltation)

    I don’t often hear the word “mystery” invoked by Mormons when they can’t answer a question or a doctrinal contradiction is confronted. But I do hear this quite often: “God will sort it all out” or “that hasn’t been revealed yet.”

  82. Is “the Millet doctrine” a pejorative expression? I can never quite be sure if the slang I’m picking up around the post-Mormon community is going to offend people. . .

  83. Hmmmm. I think I’ve heard it both ways. But you might be right. It could just be that I never bought into / understood a lot of the “meatier” teachings, so they always seemed mysterious to me.

    that1girl, you know, meat — like “milk before meat,” that kind of thing. Does that ring a bell?

  84. wait, what’s the Millet Doctrine? Is it “don’t answer the question, answer the question they should be asking”?

  85. Most of the time my LDS friends will say in a doctrinal discussion “I just don’t worry about it”, “why do you worry about these things?” “you always have to analyze everything” if I bring up a concern or question they can’t answer on Patriarchy/polygamy in the CK, blacks, changed doctrines, ordinances, God intervening, etc. My questions made them uneasy (and they were asked back when I was a full believer), so the easy way out of the discussion was to make it look as if something is wrong with ME for asking it.

    I have a relative that lost her first temple married husband (cancer) at a younger age. They had children together. She has since remarried and the new hubbie and her have kids together, but those children do not belong to him according to Mormon doctrine. They belong to the first husband she married in the temple. He doesn’t even have an eternal companion sealed to him yet. She loves and hopes to be with both husbands in heaven, but under the Patriarchal order can’t. He will have to find a new wife in the CK.
    The answer LDS typically give for this scenario,all the temple sealing divorce mess, mistakes in temple record keeping, and for those who never get temple married on earth is
    “God will sort it all out.”
    If he can just sort all the mistakes and chaos out later, then why are temple ordinances even necessary for dead people?

    One mystery type question that often stumps my LDS circle is the sealing of children to parents under the “forever family” message being sold to converts. A child does not need the sealing ordinance to enter the Celestial Kingdom; only baptism is required. In order for that child to obtain exaltation, they must enter the New and Everlasting Covenant of marriage with a spouse (and eventually plural marriage), to become a God or Goddess of their own planets, so we won’t even be living with our children in the family unit we see here. What is the purpose of sealing children or those born in the covenant? My DH can’t answer it, and can only say there must be something to sealing lineage we will find out later.

  86. Tim ~ wait, what’s the Millet Doctrine? Is it “don’t answer the question, answer the question they should be asking”?

    Yup.

    Seven ~ My DH can’t answer it, and can only say there must be something to sealing lineage we will find out later.

    My DH claims that sealing is God’s power and every parent-to-child sealing increases God’s power. That’s how God progresses.

    Don’t know how good of an answer that is in the LDS system, but that’s what he says.

  87. Seven said: If he can just sort all the mistakes and chaos out later, then why are temple ordinances even necessary for dead people?

    Agreed. But heck – if divorces and messiness could possibly get in the way, why have temple ordinances necessary in life? If we all just wait until we sort things out and pair up like we want to later, we don’t ever need cancellations or clearances. If it’s all going to be sorted out, just let it be sorted out and keep our hands out of the candy jar.

  88. I think the only way to understand ordinances is their use in life to live the Gospel, when they hinder that or defy justice or love I think God is going to disregard, modify or adjust.

    The interpretation of temple ordinances has changed somewhat over the years, and I expect it to continue to change.

    I think part of the problem is that human life is messy and we want religion to be clean. We want the law to be clear and clean but lawyers know that it is always messy.

    Considering how clear human laws can be so messy when you try to merge all kinds of policies, values and ideas of justice I think we have to accept that ultimately Divine laws are going to be a least as complex.

    Of course scripture does not allow us to really formulate and reconstitute divine law and judgment into human language were we can explain what is going to happen in the afterlife in all contingencies.

    Additionally, in this life it appears that God reveals things to people that are not at all clear and often can be contradictory.

    So. . . I suggest we expect messy complexity when we try to explain religion. We shouldn’t be phased by it, and equally we shouldn’t be baffled when there are ulimately more questions than answers when we examine any revelation or ordinance.

    I think we should expect that things that are from God will often appear confusing and are often misinterpreted by those that receive them.

    FWIW

  89. I once had an unorthodox bishop tell me he doesn’t necessarily believe that temple rites *are* literally necessary, merely that they’re a symbolic reminder of our interconnectedness and reliance on each other. Plus, they give members a chance to go back and review / renew their own covenants.

  90. Is “the Millet doctrine” a pejorative expression? I can never quite be sure if the slang I’m picking up around the post-Mormon community is going to offend people. . .

    Yes is it Jack.

    It would be like if I called the “Gloria Doctrine” the ability to exaggerate to absurdity, or the “Darrel Doctrine” is to always misrepresent Mormonism. Sure, I consider it to be a valid representation of how they act, but I’m sure they’d consider it pejorative.

  91. The “Millet doctrine” is Aaron’s way of making sure his religion stays clearly distinctive from Mormonism.

    Millet advocates some ideas about grace strongly grounded in the Book of Mormon. Aaron finds this threatening because it deprives him of an extra club to beat Mormonism with. Thus he tries to marginalize Millet out of what he considers “mainstream.”

    It’s like when a counter-cultist calls a Mormon who’s ideas they have a hard time countering an “apologist” with the clear implication that “normal Mormons” aren’t like this. Therefore, the counter-cultist is free to avoid doing extra legwork, and need only attack the easiest targets on the other side.

    Because, after all, it’s only the stupidest versions of Mormonism that are the truly “authentic” versions, right?

    Right.

  92. Maybe he didn’t invent it, but I’ve heard it from him enough.

    It’s basically an attempt to make this sound like merely “Millet’s idea.” It breezily ignores just how well-grounded Millet’s writings are in the Book of Mormon itself.

    If too many folks within Mormonism get the idea that what Millet is saying IS in fact firmly grounded in accepted Mormon scripture… well gee! Mormons might even find a way to experience Christ’s grace INSIDE the LDS Church instead of having to leave and join another congregation to do it.

    Can’t have that.

  93. Aaron wasn’t the one who brought it up on this thread, it was me. And it was Seven’s comment on milk v. meat that got me thinking about it, not anything that Aaron said.

  94. How do you think Jesus “achieved” what he had Aaron? And why do you think that option was available to us?

    I don’t believe Jesus ever achieved godhood. Godhood (the kind Yahweh has) by definition (in traditional Christianity) isn’t something achieved. It’s something eternally intrinsic.

    But in Mormonism it sounds like Jesus achieved incomplete godhood through a special pre-mortal relationship with the Father in conjunction with the trained exercise of his free agency.

    I didn’t say it wasn’t practically inevitable. It is simply not inevitable. It is true, as the manual states, that we all end up sinning. But it isn’t because we are fated to do so. It isn’t because we can’t help it. It isn’t because our natures don’t allow us to perfectly obey God. We all sin because we choose to.

    Right. But my point stands. Call it what you want, but knowing we would sin made it a baaaaaad option, especially if there was a third option available that didn’t involve personally sinning in post-Fall mortality. There are other suggested alternative explanations than that Jesus jipped us, but I have shown above how none are good. Mormon theology is a big inconsistent internal-paradigm-breaking mess, and ironically it is the Mormon Jesus that causes that mess.

    I just thought of something that I will agree gave Christ an edge in this world (though I believe he earned the right before this life). This is the doctrine that he was literally born of Mary and the Father, that his mortal body was half devine, which gave him more power while here on Earth

    Good thinking, but doesn’t this just introduce another problem? Why didn’t the Father just sire all of us with a lucky female mortal, so that we could all be mortal/immortal hybrids with the realistic probability of not ever sinning?

    Aaron, do you really care what Mormons actually think on this subject or are you actually trying to argue what Mormons “really” believe in order to support your argument?

    You’re missing the point. I’m pointing out problems with the theological system, regardless of whether Mormons dwell on these holes or take psychological ownership of them. Compare it to other times when I’ve argued that traditional Mormonism leaves the door open to the possibility that God the Father was once addicted to sexual sin. Of course that isn’t in the manuals, and of course Mormons don’t like to consciously think about it. But if addicts to sexual sin can repent unto forgiveness and complete godhood and become Eternal Everlasting Almighty Gods who expect prayer and worship from their own spirit children, and if our Heavenly Father was once merely a man who had to progress unto godhood, then there’s no solid, official reason in Mormonism to absolutely preclude the possibility. It’s a problem with the system that Mormons should known about.

    “have you heard Mormons play the mystery card on this issue or are you just assuming they would?”

    Who needs a mystery card when you have ad hoc theology?

    The “Millet doctrine” is Aaron’s way of making sure his religion stays clearly distinctive from Mormonism.

    I don’t have to try hard to keep Millet’s religion distinctive. He has publicly said that we “don’t know” if God the Father was once a sinner.

    It breezily ignores just how well-grounded Millet’s writings are in the Book of Mormon itself

    Listen closely, because on this you’re way off. The point is not that Millet can’t find support for his ideas in the admittedly neo-evangelical Book of Mormon. The point is that Millet breezily ignores what his institution teaches to millions of its lambs. He gives the institution a free pass for teaching things he otherwise tries to discredit. And then, without sufficient qualification, he tries to implicitly represent the larger whole of mainstream, institutional Mormonism using teachings he knows contradict recent manuals and Conference talks. I want genuine repentance with integrity unto good doctrine, not sleazy attempts at transition that walk on eggshells to avoid publicly and explicitly stepping on the toes of the Great Sacred Cow (church leadership).

    Take care,

    Aaron

    PS Ms Jack Meyers has more priesthood authority than Thomas Monson.

  95. Why didn’t the Father just sire all of us with a lucky female mortal, so that we could all be mortal/immortal hybrids with the realistic probability of not ever sinning?

    Oh man. God the Father meets Zeus.

    I think Aaron asks good questions. That is all.

  96. “But in Mormonism it sounds like Jesus achieved incomplete godhood through a special pre-mortal relationship with the Father in conjunction with the trained exercise of his free agency.”

    Maybe it sounds like it to you. But I think this is purely speculative on your part.

    What does “incomplete godhood” or “godhood” even mean? If you’re trying to push for something ontological here, you’ll have to do it without the support of scripture – which is silent on the matter.

  97. I should also point out Aaron, that this is no less thorny a problem for you.

    Tell me – why didn’t God simply create me without sin? If he was capable of doing so, wouldn’t it be immoral to do otherwise?

    I imagine your justifications on this matter are going to share a common thread with Mormon justifications.

  98. Let’s see if we can’t sort out this silliness that Aaron is peddling. Mormonism specifically suggests two paths that various individuals have taken to reach “godhood.”

    A. Godhood achieved in pre-mortality by making correct choices.
    B. Godhood achieved after mortality, involving sin, repentance, and forgiveness during mortality.

    So far as we know, Jesus is the only person who has successfully taken path A. All other children of God are taking path B.

    (i) Aaron seems to be saying that had God only waited longer, all of us might have followed path A, which according to Aaron is a superior path because it does not involve sin, while path B involves sin and is thus inferior.

    (ii) But because God stepped in and sent us all down path B at a certain moment in time, Aaron believes that God has “jipped” us out of option A thereby providing Jesus with an option that nobody else fairly had.

    Aaron, feel free to point out if this is an accurate summary, and if not, how. Your argument needs to be clearly understood before we can debate the merits. As I understand it, there are some serious problems with it. But let’s defer discussion until you either approve of the summary I’ve given, or provide your own clear, step-by-step summary.

  99. “Why didn’t the Father just sire all of us with a lucky female mortal, so that we could all be mortal/immortal hybrids with the realistic probability of not ever sinning?”

    Religiously this is a dumb-ass question. . .which seems to be born of a severely obtuse and disrespectful understanding of Mormonism, and a juvenile sense of certainty.

    Do you really represent an Evangelical school of thought or is this just ?

    Its as disrespectful and stupid as Bill Maher’s criticismsof Evangelical Christianity, what you are saying is just like somebody saying something like:

    “Why did the God send Himself on a suicide mission to save the children that he could have made perfect and sinless? And then send most everybody to hell and keeps the others around only to further this obsessively self-centered quest for his own glory?”

    It seems you really have a strong commitment to misunderstanding and derision.

    Aaron, I don’t have a problem with your commitment to your religion, or even to attempting to convert Mormons, I can actually deeply respect these sorts of positions, but seriously this argument is really distasteful and ignorant. How can you expect to influence Mormons positively this way?

  100. THAT1GIRL

    I do apologyze for my words. It was said in the heat of the moment about something that I have always felt strongly about. I did go too far, which is why I later said I was leaving the topic. Unfortunately I was unable to remove the comment after I had posted it.

    I do have a problem in taking things to far, and I try very hard to watch myself. It is one of my failings and I do wish I could control it better.

  101. Jared,

    If my questions here were mere condescending jokes I’d see merit in your criticism. But my above discussion is serious and I’d hope you’d be more interested in getting at the truth than playing the PC card.

    James,

    I ditto the gratitude for trying to engage this issue with some seriousness. Either:

    1) God could have waited longer in pre-mortality and therefore we got jipped at the Grand Council.

    2) Waiting longer wouldn’t have helped and we only have ourselves to blame for sinning in the pre-mortality, i.e. by being moral failures in choosing something less than complete Christlikeness. This suggests we were driven out of the presence of God by necessity and that we already needed an atonement before we came to Earth.

    3) Jesus was selectively given an advantage in pre-mortality that made him alone realistically able to achieve the strength that would make post-Fall sin not realistically probable. This suggests we got jipped too.

    4) Jesus was selectively given an advantage when sired with Mary that made him alone able to realistically avoid the post-Fall personal participation in sin (as in, actually sinning). This suggests we got jipped too.

    Seth,

    God created Adam and Eve without sin, and then they chose to sin. The challenge with theodicy is that God knew this would happen and created them sinless anyway. But my God isn’t the same species as me, and isn’t trying to help me become a Worshiped Almighty Everlasting True Eternal God of six billion of my own spirit children, so it’s a lot easier for me to appeal to God’s supremacy and his own God-centered purposes (such as his own glorification). Also, we have in Christian philosophy a notion called “the best of all possible worlds”. The problem here with Mormonism is that a better possible route unto deification was not only evidently possible but also actualized in the person of Jesus Christ—a spirit-child of the same lineage and species.

    Also, I’m a Calvinist and I don’t have any problem—within my own theological system—with God predestining sin since I believe he can do so without being personally morally culpable for it and directly, causally responsible for it (example: Acts 2:23; 4:27-28). Although I do believe molinism is a great Arminian alternative that impressively deals with these issues as well.

    I’m happy to admit that I play the mystery card on a lot of these issues, but engaging Mormonism on related issues shows problems (by Mormonism own internal standards) and stops the mouths of those who want to point fingers at traditional Christianity (whether Arminian or Calvinistic). Mormonism’s God (at least with 1,3 and 4 above) is in some ways a very Calvinistic God, specifically in offering a plan of salvation replete with sin for non-Jesus spirit children replete when it shown not to be necessary for deification. And by Mormonism’s own standards, that’s a problem.

    Take care,

    Aaron

    PS I probably won’t be able to participate much until later tonight

  102. In fact, now that I think about it, Mormonism’s God is in some ways more Calvinistic than the God of Calvinism, since in Calvinism ordaining sin is seen as necessary for God’s greater glorification. But with 1, 3, and 4 above God didn’t even need spirit children to personally commit post-Fall sin in order for them to become deified.

  103. Aaron,

    You’ve offered four alternative explanations that you believe Mormons must choose between to explain why Jesus was made divine previous to mortality, while nobody else was. Before offering my own personal view, I want to repeat something I’ve already pointed out. This discussion began with observing that there are areas of LDS theology where we must resort to “mystery”, or rather, that we simply don’t know yet. Because we are dealing with pre-mortality we simply aren’t going to have definitive answers right now. The possibilities for what went on up there are virtually unlimited. Any number of imaginable and unimaginable scenarios may have taken place. I dare say the same is true for non-LDS Christians who have almost no knowledge of God’s activities prior to the creation of Earth. And because the possibilities here are endless it is a bit silly to suggest that Aaron Shafovaloff is the person who has made the great discovery. We can go in so many directions and there is no reason to accept your own pet-theory.

    And since we are dealing in the realm of speculation you just aren’t going to find very many LDS authors going too deep into it, especially those individuals (like GAs) whose opinions have to be reserved because their readers might invest more authority to them than is warranted. You just aren’t going to find that much written on “what-went-on-in-pre-mortality-that-we-don’t-already-know-about-from-the-scriptures.” Besides that, we have far more weighty matters immediately at hand to dwell on that occupy our energy (such as preaching the gospel, strengthening our members, etc). So I don’t think it is particularly interesting nor useful to dismiss our speculations here simply because you are unaware of any LDS authors who have expressed similar opinions.

    With that said, my view is similar to option #2 that you’ve outlined above. Coming to Earth was a way of speeding up the process. The issue of “sin” is a non-issue because “sin” isn’t limited to only this mortal life. “Sin” can occur by anyone at any point in their eternal progression. In fact, I’d suggest that “sin” is less serious here on Earth where our knowledge of God is obscured by the veil.

    The corollary to that is that pre-mortal “sin” has to be atoned for. Well, at least we assume it does. It makes sense that it does, but again this is all speculation. I’m happy with the idea that Jesus atoned for the sins we commit in pre-mortality, mortality, and post-mortality. The atonement in Mormonism, as you know, can be employed not only to those in this life, but to those in spirit prison in post-mortality. So, why can’t it reach backwards into pre-mortality as well? Unlike you, we don’t believe in a limited atonement. It is quite powerful and available to all.

    As I mentioned earlier in this discussion, I’ve been told that Elder Tad Callister of the seventy has speculated along these lines in his book about the Atonement. I haven’t read it so I can’t verify that. I point this out only because that seems important to you.

    So if you are going to argue that Mormonism implies that Jesus got a better deal than the rest of us you are going to have to try harder. This line of reasoning you are using simply doesn’t work.

  104. Aaron said:
    In fact, now that I think about it, Mormonism’s God is in some ways more Calvinistic than the God of Calvinism…

    Now this is interesting. The Calvinist God ordains sin because somehow it adds to his glory. Aaron even says it is “necessary” to his greater glorification. But if God’s state of glory (g) can be added to this entails that God can progress (in glory). God increases from g1 to g2 because of sin in Calvinism. And if God is increasing, then God is not immutable. To the dismay of Calvinists everywhere this undermines the traditional creeds that they adore.

  105. Aaron, Bill Maher doesn’t really care to understand Christians, he thinks they are silly and wants to make fun of them. likewise you don’t seem to really want to understand Mormons, you just think they are heretics and want to discredit their religion.

    Your argument may not be meant to be funny, and in that Bill Maher clearly has one up on you.

    This is certainly not about being PC, its about fundamentally misunderstanding the Mormon scripture and understanding of God. I could care less if you were PC, ts just that you don’t seem to have a real question, but it seems you just believe you have some novel criticism of LDS theology and want everybody to see if they can answer it.

    You are coming at this imposing upon God and Mormonism so many ethical and ontological assumptions that its really impossible to engage you without understanding where you are coming from, but since you are not arguing from your own theological position, but from your own mis-interpretation of Mormonism, its not worth taking your question seriously until you pose it in the context of actual Mormon understand.

    In addition, you seem immune to thinking you may have gotten Mormon religious thought wrong, and persist in this even though every Mormon here thinks you do.

    It may be worth answering this question if it was a real question with a real intent of understanding behind it.

    Are you really looking for the truth about what Mormons think more than trying to convince them that they have it wrong?

    And also, do you really think you can come to the truth about the way God acts by using human ethical concepts to imply certain ways God MUST have acted? – I can’t imagine you do in any other context.

  106. I’d just like to echo what James said. We don’t know what happened in the pre-mortal life, nor do we know how long it went on. Mormonism teaches that there was a pre-mortal life. But all we know of it is from a few brief passages of Scripture, and all they seem to do is establish that the it exists.

    To say that there are only four options to explain how we got from there to here is simply ridiculous. Granted, Aaron’s four explanations are possible explanations, but they are only four possible out of an unknown total.

    Aaron’s question to Mormons as to how the events of the pre-mortal life led to the events of our mortal existence are as unanswerable as is the question of what God did before He created the Earth. Furthermore, I would ask, does either question really matter? I would suggest that they do not.

  107. Has any one suggested that Jesus was the only one who didn’t sin in the pre-existence yet? Or perhaps he was the most valiant?

  108. Mormonism’s God is in some ways a very Calvinistic God

    Ah, the truth comes out. I was wondering if the twisted logic, non-sequiters, and unfounded assumptions were going somewhere: still smarting from the Calvinism beat-down at NCT a few month’s ago, he’s simply trying to make the Mormon God out to be a bigger douchebag than his own.

    Aaron, just become an Arminian. It’s not worth the sleepless nights.

  109. Tim,

    I think Aaron would answer that by saying that’s “unwittingly flirting” with the idea that Jesus is a different species or has a different nature.

    Don’t worry, I don’t get it either.

  110. Jared,

    Just because Mormonism discourages theological exploration doesn’t mean I have to fall in line. My engagement of Mormonism will never be limited to the explicit things Mormons think and dwell on. It will also include what the institution teaches and what the theological system unpleasantly implies and suggests and allows for. All of these areas are important, not only for examining other belief systems for but also examining our own.

    James,

    If I’m understanding you, you assume we commited sin in pre-mortality that needed to be atoned for. Like I said, this suggests you were removed from God’s presence out of necessity, since God cannot tolerate sin. It suggests you were like the now-demons in this respect, just not as bad as those who chose not to follow Christ’s plan of salvation.

    So if you are going to argue that Mormonism implies that Jesus got a better deal than the rest of us you are going to have to try harder.

    I’m not sure how you really successfully argued for that except by personally stating your assumption of #2 (we sinned in pre-mortality). Alex himself responded to the list of four possibilities not by precluding any, but by admitting they are “possible explanations”. Also, implicitly here you have confirmed for me that, in order to avoid 1, 3, and 4, one probably has to adopt something like #2 (or something else similar that hasn’t been suggested). And that itself is problematic. But it shows that the speculative exploration here paid off to a degree.

    I would hope you’d see such exploration as not mere increased fodder for critics like me, but opportunity for you to explore the possibilities of your own theology, even if it is speculation.

    As for the idea of God’s glory, of course traditional Christians don’t believe you can actually add to God’s glory. When we speak of something bringing God greater glory, we speak of things that better reflect the eternally intrinsic infinite glory that he has already always had.

    Aaron’s four explanations are possible explanations, but they are only four possible out of an unknown total.

    Alex, thank you for admitting they are real possible explanations for Mormonism’s theology of pre-mortality. If you have others you can think of, please suggest them.

    Aaron’s question to Mormons as to how the events of the pre-mortal life led to the events of our mortal existence are as unanswerable as is the question of what God did before He created the Earth. Furthermore, I would ask, does either question really matter? I would suggest that they do not.

    Whether God told unethical lies, or stole, or committed adultery, or coveted, or committed idolatry, or beat his wife doesn’t matter?

  111. “Whether God told unethical lies, or stole, or committed adultery, or coveted, or committed idolatry, or beat his wife doesn’t matter?”

    Not to me it doesn’t. Not that I think Mormonism requires that conclusion.

    But no, it doesn’t matter to me.

    Apparently, I have more faith in the efficacy of the Atonement than you do Aaron.

  112. Aaron,
    The assumptions you hold are leading you to make conclusions that are not warranted. For example, if pre-mortal sin did in fact occur, it doesn’t necessarily follow that we were immediately removed from God’s presence. We have to know exactly what we mean by “sin” and we also have to have an idea of exactly what it meant to be in God’s presence. Does that mean we are within arm’s reach? earshot? around the corner? next door? within walking distance? Who knows?…well, we certainly don’t. There are so many assumptions going into this it doesn’t make it possible to have any certainty.

    I can also imagine a scenario in which Jesus is simply better at obeying the Father than everyone else. Kind of like how Carl Lewis was better at jumping than everyone else. It certainly doesn’t make him a separate species. A scenario like that doesn’t entail sin on anyone’s part.

    You don’t have anything here Aaron. Time to pack up this nonsense and put it away. I second Mephibosheth in calling you out on the twisted logic, non-sequiturs, and unfounded assumptions.

    Oh yeah, I almost forgot. The Calvinist God is all about gazing at himself in his human mirrors. This of course is a different discussion, but I’d say God has a lot of polishing left to do before this whole “world” thing pays off.

  113. Apparently, I have more faith in the efficacy of the Atonement than you do Aaron.

    So God the Father (before achieving godhood) perhaps beat his wife, got addicted to pornography, and abused his kids, then confessed his sins to his bishop, cried out for mercy to his own Father, and received an atonement from another Savior?

    I would love to know this Savior’s name and worship him.

    There are lots of problems with this idea that God perhaps sinned. One is that it means you have to worship God for only part of who he has been and what he has done. In Biblical Christianity we get to worship God for all who he has been, is, and will be, and all he has ever done. There is absolutely nothing about our God’s past, present, or future that isn’t worthy of our uttermost worship. There’s nothing about our God’s past to be ashamed of.

    There is no Church Archives or First Presidency Vault or Correlation Committee in heaven to hide away the embarrassing records of God’s past sins.

    I can also imagine a scenario in which Jesus is simply better at obeying the Father than everyone else. Kind of like how Carl Lewis was better at jumping than everyone else. It certainly doesn’t make him a separate species. A scenario like that doesn’t entail sin on anyone’s part.

    Then you’re left to wonder why out of God’s 40+ billion spirit children it just so happens that his firstborn spirit-child developed the moral strength—without any selectively given special assistance—to live a post-Fall mortality without sinning, and it just so happens that all the other spirit-children born after the first failed to do the same. If this was merely a matter of chance—of the firstborn exercising his free agency better than the billions of others—it sure seems like an extraordinary set of odds were beat.

    But the moment one starts to suggest Jesus was given any sort of special treatment that made him achieve this uncommon moral strength, you’re back to #1, #3, #4, or something like them.

    Take care,

    Aaron

  114. There are lots of problems with this idea that God perhaps sinned. One is that it means you have to worship God for only part of who he has been and what he has done. In Biblical Christianity we get to worship God for all who he has been, is, and will be, and all he has ever done. There is absolutely nothing about our God’s past, present, or future that isn’t worthy of our uttermost worship. There’s nothing about our God’s past to be ashamed of.

    To be honest, I find a God who is incapable of making incorrect choices rather…dull. He hasn’t ever had to overcome anything, never had to learn anything, never had to struggle, fear, and experience success. I can’t relate to a God like that. I find him rather unimpressive.

    Then you’re left to wonder why out of God’s 40+ billion spirit children it just so happens that his firstborn spirit-child developed the moral strength—without any selectively given special assistance—to live a post-Fall mortality without sinning, and it just so happens that all the other spirit-children born after the first failed to do the same. If this was merely a matter of chance—of the firstborn exercising his free agency better than the billions of others—it sure seems like an extraordinary set of odds were beat.

    Actually, it is quite easy. Someone has to be the best. Why not the first-born? And we aren’t necessarily bound to believe that Jesus was chronologically the first spirit child of God the Father. If we are eternal beings, can there really be a first? Again, the possibilities here are endless. This once again illustrates that your attempt to pin us into a corner is failing, because there are no walls to pin us against.

    Another way of going about this is say that Jesus was not the only one who perfectly obeyed Father. Perhaps there were others, but the position of “Son” in the Godhead was already filled by Jesus. I’m not necessarily endorsing this view, but it is a possibility. Consider Adam, who most LDS consider to have been one righteous dude. His pre-fall “sin” is excused for reasons we all know. Again, there are no walls for you pin us against. We have so little information about what it was like then that we can go in virtually any direction with our speculations.

  115. “I would love to know this Savior’s name and worship him.”

    Why Aaron?

    I don’t.

    I worship him whom I have a relationship with. God the Father.

    I don’t have any sort of relationship with any other hypothetical prior God (assuming there is one under Mormon theology – an unsettled point, that). I have a relationship with this one. Because he first loved us.

    Worship isn’t about prostrating yourself in front of whoever has the biggest stick, or whoever called dibs.

    Typical ontological Calvinist thinking.

    Quite cerebral, almost robotic. It’s rather disturbing how willing you seem to abandon your loved ones. Are all Calvinists this mercenary?

  116. “There’s nothing about our God’s past to be ashamed of.”

    The fact that you think there is something to be ashamed of in this God’s past just shows me that you don’t really believe in the power and efficacy of the Atonement.

  117. But the moment one starts to suggest Jesus was given any sort of special treatment that made him achieve this uncommon moral strength, you’re back to #1, #3, #4

    Look, if you’re gonna make stuff up to be these theological gotchas, the least you could do is think about them for five minutes and make up some solutions, too.

    Let’s say Jesus was given something special, but it came with strings attached. He would be able to lead a post-Fall sinless life, but he would have to be tried and tested in proportion to His gifts. Descend below all things, bleed from every pore, etc. Then maybe it doesn’t look like the 40 billion others got “jipped” after all. No, I think we got off easy.

  118. James, you’re not alone. I have talked to a number of Mormons who say they actually find more comfort and empathy and awesomeness in worshiping a God who once sinned like us. Thank you at least for being honest.

    Seth, I would argue that the only way you can have an atonement that is powerful and efficacious is if it comes from an eternally sinless Son who was sent by an eternally sinless Father.

    we aren’t necessarily bound to believe that Jesus was chronologically the first spirit child of God the Father

    So Jesus wasn’t necessarily the literal firstborn spirit child, but rather he was perhaps dubbed with the label of Firstborn for not only having outperformed all 40 billion other spirit children, but for also performing to the degree that he alone uniquely achieved a pre-mortal moral strength that made a sinless post-Fall mortality realistically probable. It still seems like a feat of odds, especially if this Firstborn wasn’t selectively given any sort of advantage, and it also seems to reject a basic part of traditional Mormon theology (that Jesus literally was the firstborn spirit-child of Heavenly Father).

    If we are eternal beings, can there really be a first?

    If you deny spirit-birth as some Mormons do then this would have more weight, but if God had to achieve Godhood and then at some point in time successively (not all at once) beget spirit-children, then yes, there really has to be a first.

    Another way of going about this is say that Jesus was not the only one who perfectly obeyed Father. Perhaps there were others, but the position of “Son” in the Godhead was already filled by Jesus.

    Then you’re faced with another problem. If multiple pre-mortal spirit children equally obeyed the Father as did Jesus, and all of these achieved sufficient moral strength as to make a sinless post-Fall realistically probable, but all but one somehow simply weren’t privileged with a sinless post-Fall mortality because the position of “Son” was already filled, then they pretty much got jipped. In other words, they all had an equally positively impressive resume, but only one got arbitrarily chosen.

    How is this not worse than Calvinism?

  119. Let’s say Jesus was given something special, but it came with strings attached. He would be able to lead a post-Fall sinless life, but he would have to be tried and tested in proportion to His gifts. Descend below all things, bleed from every pore, etc.

    I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Mormonism in principle agrees that it’s better to choose a hard sinless path than it is to choose an easier sid-ridden path.

    In other words, “choose the right”.

  120. Nope. Only a Calvinist would think that 40 billion bleeding from every pore was superior to 1 bleeding from every pore.

  121. Depends on the Calvinist Mephibosheth.

    Aaron, there is a good case to be made that we are eternal in our spirit form, and the way we were made “spirit children” with the Father was via adoption and not by some “spirit birthing” process. Joseph Smith himself seems to have indicated this view on occasion.

  122. I don’t think I have anything to respond to anymore. We long ago left solid ground and we’ve allowed you to push us so far into speculative matters that the discussion has become ridiculous. We can come up with scenario after scenario, and you can come up with scenario after scenario. I mean we could literally do this all day long, and we would never arrive at a conclusion satisfactory to both of us. This is only a testament to the original message of this blog post.

    We don’t know.

  123. “Nope. Only a Calvinist would think that 40 billion bleeding from every pore was superior to 1 bleeding from every pore.”

    That’s right, since pain and suffering are actually factors that help reflect God’s glory even brighter. Right.

  124. Depends on the Calvinist Mephibosheth

    My apologies, I shouldn’t smear all Calvinists when refuting the theolgical imaginations of one.

  125. Aaron, there is a good case to be made that we are eternal in our spirit form, and the way we were made “spirit children” with the Father was via adoption and not by some “spirit birthing” process. Joseph Smith himself seems to have indicated this view on occasion.

    I’m aware of this line of thinking, but I don’t think the rest of the 13 million Mormons have gotten the memo. Spirit birthing remains a very strong part of traditional Mormon theology.

  126. James, you’re not alone. I have talked to a number of Mormons who say they actually find more comfort and empathy and awesomeness in worshiping a God who once sinned like us. Thank you at least for being honest.

    To be clear, I didn’t say nor imply that God had sinned.

  127. Ditto here.

    No idea what God was doing before the story the scriptures are telling. It’s an open-ended question in Mormon theology.

    I’m just saying the possible conclusions don’t upset me. And there’s no good reason they need to upset anyone else.

  128. And the quote of the thread probably has to be from Meph talking about Aaron.

    “he’s simply trying to make the Mormon God out to be a bigger douchebag (sic) than his own.”

    Now you truly understand Aaron, or more properly stated, the “Shavalov doctrine”.

  129. Now you truly understand Aaron, or more properly stated, the “Shavalov doctrine”.

    Lame.

    And his last name is “Shafovaloff.” I don’t see how anyone could ever possibly misspell that.

  130. I think I’m going to start referring to him as “Mr. Shafoluffagus”.

    You can only see him if you’re a Mormon apologist.

    Or a ten foot tall, yellow, flightless bird.

  131. Your last name is Rogers, and you’re male. Do you really want people to start taking shots at last names?

    On that note, I ran into a guy when I was at BYU whose last name was Myers. First name Michael. Born in 1983.

    Mormons really should do a better job keeping up on pop culture.

  132. I would be absolutely honored to be called, “Mr. Shafoluffagus”. My positive nickname growing up was “Aaron Snuffleupagus”.

    My negative nickname was “sh*t-on-a-waffle”.

    Take your pick 🙂

  133. Jack,

    Misspelling Shafovaloff is much less dishonest than misrepresenting individuals and religions.

    Shafovaloff has in this post misrepresented James.

    James wrote.

    To be honest, I find a God who is incapable of making incorrect choices rather…dull. He hasn’t ever had to overcome anything, never had to learn anything, never had to struggle, fear, and experience success. I can’t relate to a God like that. I find him rather unimpressive.

    Which Aaron misconstrued as:

    James, you’re not alone. I have talked to a number of Mormons who say they actually find more comfort and empathy and awesomeness in worshiping a God who once sinned like us. Thank you at least for being honest.

    .

    Now, to any other human being with non-single-digit IQ, one could easily find that what James wrote does not support what Aaron concluded.

    James wrote back,

    To be clear, I didn’t say nor imply that God had sinned.

    I’d much rather have the Millet doctrine of “stick to simple and easy to understand things when you talk with simple minded folk” than the Shafovaloff doctrine of “lie and misrepresent Mormonism at any chance you get, and any individual Mormon.” Sorry Jack, just because you don’t follow Aaron’s doctrine doesn’t give Aaron a pass for his despicable behavior. Epic human failure on Aaron’s part. I’m glad, Jack, that you don’t engage in it, but I find Aaron’s behavior just as repugnant as the status quo’ers that you fight on so quickly. And unless you’re going to defend Aaron’s actions in this case (something morally beneath any licked-cupcake I know) I suggest you let the condemnation rest firmly and solely on Aaron’s own head.

  134. psychochemiker,

    If you think it was a malicious misrepresentation, consider how it came in context, i.e. what James was directly responding to:

    There are lots of problems with this idea that God perhaps sinned. One is that it means you have to worship God for only part of who he has been and what he has done. In Biblical Christianity we get to worship God for all who he has been, is, and will be, and all he has ever done. There is absolutely nothing about our God’s past, present, or future that isn’t worthy of our uttermost worship. There’s nothing about our God’s past to be ashamed of.

    To be honest, I find a God who is incapable of making incorrect choices rather…dull. He hasn’t ever had to overcome anything, never had to learn anything, never had to struggle, fear, and experience success. I can’t relate to a God like that. I find him rather unimpressive.

    James’ comment was a direct response to my point “There are lots of problems with this idea that God perhaps sinned”. Admittedly he didn’t go as far as I thought he did (sorry about that), but he still left the door open for God having once perhaps sinned. He just didn’t go as far as to say with certainty that God once sinned.

  135. PC, I don’t take Defenders of the Status Quo™ seriously anymore or offer them thoughtful engagement with their ideas because they never argue anything new and they seldom change their ways. It’s the same stupid crap over and over again and they seem completely incapable of self-reflective critical thought.

    They’re not the equivalent of what Aaron’s doing right now; they’re the equivalent of anti-Mormons who run around pounding the table about how the presence of the word “Adieu” disproves the Book of Mormon, or how “Mormon” means “Gates of Hell” in Chinese. They’re that bad.

    I can’t speak for the other people here, but the arguments Aaron is making right now are things I have never heard from the counter-cult ministry before, and make no mistake, he’s throwing punches at Mormon theology. My reaction to that is . . . so what? Mormons have been throwing punches at classical Christian theology for years. Not just Calvinism, either. I’ve completely given up even trying to discuss creation ex nihilo and exhaustive foreknowledge with the Mormon philosophy crowd; they’ve made it pretty clear that they think such notions (which I happen to believe in) are philosophically retarded and beneath them. So if Aaron wants to point out the problems with the divine council model, I’m not going to feel bad about it or slap his wrists.

    I think the real problem with Aaron’s arguments on this thread are that they’re coming from Aaron. You all know that he’s up to no good when it comes to Mormonism (from your perspective) and he has no credibility with you guys. And I really can’t help him there; he made his bed. But I can’t help but think that if the arguments he’s presenting here were being articulated in a kinder, less-confrontational manner by someone like me or Katie L., they’d be getting a better response and more thoughtful interaction.

    IN ANY CASE, my question above about the Millet Doctrine had ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with Aaron Shafovaloff. I didn’t hear it from Aaron Shafovaloff and Aaron Shafovaloff has never used the expression on this blog or my blog (I did a search and checked). So I’m pretty annoyed that my honest question that was not meant to offend and had nothing to do with Aaron Shafovaloff has been repeatedly mixed in with this epic battle of the Mormons v. Aaron Shafovaloff. I had no idea I was hitting a nerve.

    That is the last thing I have to say about the current dialogue between Aaron and everyone else. Carry on and please leave me the hell out of it.

  136. Well I will give Aaron props for one thing:

    The argument was fairly original. Not something I’ve heard before a dozen times.

    So credit where credit is due for that anyway.

  137. I am rather amused that Aaron has been making arguments against “traditional LDS theology” that I have never heard before. Neither the arguments nor the supposedly-traditional theology. Apparently the traditional theology of the LDS church that is taught in the Midwest is completely different from the theology that Aaron has come across.

    I am also amused that the arguments are against speculations that are in no way canonical or based in any kind of reality. Aaron has been creating dilemmas that simply don’t exist. The original post was about what are some of the “mysteries” of LDS theology. I am going to move on here, but I’ll leave with this thought: the Lord has told us that there are some things that He will not reveal until the very end. Therefore, it must be concluded that there are a lot of things that we simply do not know. And while it can be amusing to speculate, speculations are in no way an indication of LDS theology. LDS theology leaves a lot of things unknown.

    D&C 76:5-10

  138. I’m not going to goback and read the 164 responses people have already posted, so this may double or reinforce some of what has already been said:

    Mormonism has historically been disdainful of “mysteries” in general. I think it has to do more than anything with Mormonism’s origins among practical, working-class frontier people as a reaction to existing Christian theology.

    But among Mormons you do have “mysteries;” they just don’t call them that. “We just don’t know,” or “someday in the eternities that question will be answered,” or “that’s something I want to ask God about when we get to the Celestial Kingdom,” or “that’s not important for my salvation” are the functional equivalent. “I know that God loves his children, but I do not know the meaning of all things” (butchered quote from 1 or 2 Nephi).

    The difference is that Mormons believe that the “mysteries” can be known and comprehended, just not with the information we have at present. There is an unsaid suggestion that continuing revelation may reveal some mysteries, but it is tempered by a pretty strong belief that God has no intention of revealing everything that is knowable, just the things we need to get to the Celestial Kingdom, where, presumably, we will be able to find out a lot of the answers to our questions.

    In practice, the result is identical: there are spiritual questions that cannot be satisfactorily answered and so must be simply accepted as matters of faith.

  139. Admittedly he didn’t go as far as I thought he did (sorry about that), but he still left the door open for God having once perhaps sinned. He just didn’t go as far as to say with certainty that God once sinned.

    While I agree that James didn’t forcefully shut the door on the first response, (but he did on the second), I also think you didn’t need to ram your way through the door and then claim James opened it for you. I’m sure James is glad you apologized for that, I am, but to me it fits within a larger behavioral pattern. I’m not sure if James meant his comment to be as precise as it ended up being, but in order to truly understand someone, you’ve got to make sure you aren’t reading your own prejudices into what they say. The whole contention between Meph and Brian and others is that you don’t care to understand Mormonism, only tear it down–you don’t even consider you might be misunderstanding it, and that feeds our inability to trust anything you say, as Jack points out.

    Jack:
    I don’t consider you the police of interfaith dialogue. I’m not looking to you to reprimand or slap aaron on the wrists. I was just asking you not stick up for him on this specific matter. I really don’t care if Aaron’s arguments are new or rehashed, I guess from the perspective of trying to bring Mormonism down using new, unrefuted arguments is better than the old, previously solved or at least answered arguments from some others. I care more about the logic that people use, and making sure others (and myself) are not misquoted or misrepresented. I think Aaron has now acknowledged that the logic used in claiming what James said was bad. So I guess there’s no reason to continue defending it (on your part) or condemning it (on mine). FWIW, because of your example I no longer permit people in my presence to spread false stereotypes about Evangelicals, and I don’t let them just put them down, I encourage them to try and understand them.

    For the reasoning that I care more about the logic than the person, I wouldn’t care if it was Seth or Brian J, or Katie L or even the Orange Dart (I can’t remember if he’s red or yellow these days), or even Ardis. I think you’ve seen me turn on all of them when they say stupid things (Normally about how people have to be married to enter the CK). I actually hope people would do the same for me if I entertained such flawed logic.

  140. When the “mystery card” is played in orthodox Christianity, especially in regard to understanding the nature of the Trinity, what exactly is meant by that? Does it mean that it is something that is non-understandable by mortals? By immortals? Or, does it simply refer to things that are understandable but haven’t been revealed yet?

    It has been pointed out that in Mormonism the “mystery card” generally is used for those things that are understandable, but have not been revealed. I’m unaware of anything in Mormonism that is considered non-understandable.

  141. I think it means things that are non-understandable. But again, I maintain that the distinction between something that is non-understandable and something that is theoretically understandable but practically never will be understood is, from an outsider’s perspective, illusory.

  142. Hi Kullervo. It’s my understanding that in Mormonism the day will come when “all the hidden mysteries” will be revealed to the faithful (D&C 76:7-8). This is likely to be in the afterlife. So there isn’t this idea that some things will will practically never be understood.

    However, as I understand the orthodox tradition, even in the afterlife some things will eternally remain mysterious, impossible to understand. I’m assuming this includes the mysterious formulation of the Trinity.

    This to me is somewhat significant, though not terribly. It isn’t a make it or break it deal. But it is important to many Mormons that God be relatively simple, easy to comprehend. We are often told by critics that we can’t even begin to be Christians unless we’ve got the right understanding of God, but it is incredibly ironic that the God of our critics is incomprehensible.

  143. psychochemiker,

    Just because somebody makes ridiculous arguments and uses abrasive or intellectually dishonest rhetoric, this does not amount to anything close to:

    “despicable behavior” or “Epic human failure” –

    Lighten up a bit, people that attack the church have just as strong of reasons to them as you do for defending it so harshly. Conversation is not really possible when you go overboard.

    Granted Aaron’s arguments rub me the wrong way because of what seems to be a very dense aversion to trying to understand Mormons but this is little more than frustrating. The argument may have been novel, but it was completely vacuous. I think its ultimately fruitless to discuss this stuff with somebody that doesn’t want to see things from a Mormon perspective.

    (I actually think its fruitless to discuss this stuff AT ALL, where are we going to get disucssing stuff that cannot really be understood at all, We might as well be discussing the mating rituals of ET, we know there are some ETs out there, and we expect they mate, but is there really any point in discussing how?)

    Aaron, –
    I actually kind of like you and your quirky fanaticism, but I think you are really screwing up your chances at actually letting Mormons understand where you are coming from by nearly intentionally not attempting to find out where they are really coming from. Ultimately if Mormons don’t understand what is driving your religion they are never going to respect it. Right now it seems your fervent opposition to Mormonism is a critical part of your religion, somehow I don’t think this is an accurate self-portrayal of your own religious life.

  144. This to me is somewhat significant, though not terribly. It isn’t a make it or break it deal. But it is important to many Mormons that God be relatively simple, easy to comprehend. We are often told by critics that we can’t even begin to be Christians unless we’ve got the right understanding of God, but it is incredibly ironic that the God of our critics is incomprehensible.

    Of course it is significant to you, because you are looking at it from an internal point of view.

    From an outsider’s perspective, it is irrelevant what specific rhetoric you use to deflect from the questions you can’t answer, because it amounts to the same thing. The implications for your theology and your concept of God are a lot more important foryou than they are to other people.

  145. Hi Kullervo. I don’t disagree that I’m naturally going to find the perspective that I’ve already embraced to be significant. And naturally, I struggle to understand how it could be comforting to know that it is utterly impossible to ever, in this life or after, understand God. Some people revel in the mystery, but I tend to think such reveling is crafted more than natural.

    After saying all that I suppose you’ll just repeat what you’ve said above.

    Hi Jared C. I believe that God is comprehensible. I suggest that those things we don’t know or understand right now will be fully revealed to us in the afterlife. I don’t expect there to be anything that is forever incomprehensible.

  146. Maybe all is settled in the afterlife but in this life we can’t walk by sight on much of anything related to anything outside this world.

    I think both Mormons and Evangelicals get it really wrong on this point, to even to pretend to comprehend a being that could create the universe which is incomprehensibly large and diverse seems a stretch. To pretend to know what God is absolutely not like– or like –our theology assumes that we have verbal access to words that can describe what words clearly cant’

    Thus, even if we could comprehend God it would seem impossible to put our experience into words.

    The only fitting word that gives me any idea of what God is really and what he is fundamentally about is “Love”. Everything else seems just a footnote.

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