Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Challenging Question for Latter-day Saints!

In the well-known official “Proclamation” concerning the family published by the LDS Church in September 1995, the following paragraph appears:

All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. . . . Source

This raises a question in LDS theology: How do you reconcile the above statement with the scriptural passages which suggest that our spirits in the preexistence were in fact created by Jesus Christ?

Mosiah 26:

23 For it is I that taketh upon me the sins of the world; for it is I that hath created them; and it is I that granteth unto him that believeth unto the end a place at my right hand.

Ether 3:

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

D&C 93:

9 The light and the Redeemer of the world; the Spirit of truth, who came into the world, because the world was made by him, and in him was the life of men and the light of men.
10 The worlds were made by him; men were made by him; all things were made by him, and through him, and of him.

In the past when I have discussed this subject with Latter-day Saints, they have replied that it refers to the physical or natural creation, not the spiritual one. That might have been a satisfactory explanation if it could be shown to be scripturally viable; but judging by the text of the scriptural references, I don’t think that it is. The use of the past tense, or of present perfect tense (which implies action completed) in the above verses, applied to all mankind not just to those in the past or present, implies more than just the physical creation. Take for example the last verse in the last quote: “The worlds were made by him; men were made by him; all things were made by him, and through him, and of him”. The use of the past tense, and the inclusion of “all things,” implies something more comprehensive than just the natural or physical creation. The same can be said for Ether 3:15.

In the book of Genesis, and especially in the book of Moses, it makes it clear that creation had two stages: first the spiritual, and then the natural; and that the two creations go in tandem. The two acts of creation are inseparable. The same God who created the second created the first:

Moses 3:

4 And now, behold, I say unto you, that these are the generations of the heaven and of the earth, when they were created, in the day that I, the Lord God, made the heaven and the earth,
5 And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew. For I, the Lord God, created all things, of which I have spoken, spiritually, before they were naturally upon the face of the earth. For I, the Lord God, had not caused it to rain upon the face of the earth. And I, the Lord God, had created all the children of men; and not yet a man to till the ground; for in heaven created I them; and there was not yet flesh upon the earth, neither in the water, neither in the air;
6 But I, the Lord God, spake, and there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground.
7 And I, the Lord God, formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul, the first flesh upon the earth, the first man also; nevertheless, all things were before created; but spiritually were they created and made according to my word.

I don’t think it is possible in the economy of God to speak of only a “one-stage” creation of man, or of anything else, as further affirmed in the following verses:

D&C 29:

30 But remember that all my judgments are not given unto men; and as the words have gone forth out of my mouth even so shall they be fulfilled, that the first shall be last, and that the last shall be first in all things whatsoever I have created by the word of my power, which is the power of my Spirit.
31 For by the power of my Spirit created I them; yea, all things both spiritual and temporal
32 First spiritual, secondly temporal, which is the beginning of my work; and again, first temporal, and secondly spiritual, which is the last of my work—
33 Speaking unto you that you may naturally understand; but unto myself my works have no end, neither beginning; but it is given unto you that ye may understand, because ye have asked it of me and are agreed.
34 Wherefore, verily I say unto you that all things unto me are spiritual, and not at any time have I given unto you a law which was temporal; neither any man, nor the children of men; neither Adam, your father, whom I created.

In the light of the above, I don’t think it is possible to conceive of anything other than a “two-stage creation” with the Divine. If Jesus indeed created “all things” including men, as it is stated in the scriptures, then that necessarily must include the spiritual as well as the temporal creation. Therefore I don’t think that that explanation is borne out by the scriptures. A different explanation will have to be given that is more in line with what has been revealed.

Moving on a little beyond that, further ambiguity surrounds the spiritual creation in LDS theology. Joseph Smith taught that the intelligence of man was not created, but is co-eternal with God. But a careful reading reveals some ambiguity in his teaching:

The mind of man is as immortal as God himself. . . . their spirits existed coequal [coeternal] with God, . . . Is it logic to say that a spirit is immortal and yet has a beginning? Because if a spirit has a beginning, it will have an end. . . . I take my ring from my finger and liken it unto the mind of man, the immortal spirit, because it has no beginning. . . . God never did have power to create the spirit of man at all. . . . Intelligence exists upon a self-existent principle; it is a spirit from age to age, and there is no creation about it. The first principles of man are self-existent with God. (Teachings, pp 352–54.)

Here Joseph Smith is not just talking about the “intelligence” of man, or whatever constitutes the “intelligent part” of him. He is actually talking about the spirit of man. He equates “mind” and “intelligence” with the spirit; and he says that it is the actual spirit of man that is eternal, has not been created. Joseph Smith of course did not pull that out of thin air. He obtained that information from the revelations that God had given to him, notably in the Book of Abraham:

Abraham 3:

18 Howbeit that he made the greater star; as, also, if there be two spirits, and one shall be more intelligent than the other, yet these two spirits, notwithstanding one is more intelligent than the other, have no beginning; they existed before, they shall have no end, they shall exist after, for they are gnolaum, or eternal.

* * *
21 I dwell in the midst of them all; I now, therefore, have come down unto thee to declare unto thee the works which my hands have made, wherein my wisdom excelleth them all, for I rule in the heavens above, and in the earth beneath, in all wisdom and prudence, over all the intelligences thine eyes have seen from the beginning; I came down in the beginning in the midst of all the intelligences thou hast seen.
22 Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones;
23 And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born.

In these verses the Lord equates “intelligence” with “spirit” and “soul,” and says that it is the actually spirit of man that is eternal, and has not been created. But the ambiguity doesn’t stop there. In section 93 of the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord identifies this uncreated “intelligence” with the “light of truth,” as follows:

D&C 93:

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

And in the following verses the “light of truth” is equated with the Holy Spirit which is also known as the “Spirit of truth”:

D&C 124:

9 And again, I will visit and soften their hearts, many of them for your good, that ye may find grace in their eyes, that they may come to the light of truth, and the Gentiles to the exaltation or lifting up of Zion.

D&C 88:

6 He that ascended up on high, as also he descended below all things, in that he comprehended all things, that he might be in all and through all things, the light of truth.

And of course, going back to the Book of Moses passages already cited, we are informed without hesitation that God is indeed the creator of the spirits of men in the pre-existence, which appears to contradict the Book of Abrham account, as well as the teachigs of Joseph Smith. All of this raises a number of theological questions for Latter-day Saints that may be summarized as follows:

1. What exactly is this part of man that has “not been created”? Is it his spirit, his intelligence, or his mind; or are they in fact all the same? How do you account for the different scriptural readings on the subject?

2. If the spirit of man was created, who did the creating: God the Father or Jesus Christ?

3. If the spiritual creation of man was indeed carried out by Jesus Christ, as many scriptural passages attest, how do you reconcile that with the teaching of the Proclamation on the family that each of our spirits is a “beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents”? Should we redefine the meaning of “procreation,” or “parantage,” in the pre-existence, or in the spiritual sphere, to accommodate the doctrinal discrepancies, or is there a different explanation?