Pre-mortal Works

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Alma 13:3

“And this is the manner after which they were ordained—being called and prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God, on account of their exceeding faith and good works”

Are we to understand that we exercised faith and performed good works in the pre-mortal existence?

99 thoughts on “Pre-mortal Works

  1. You and Geoff both seem to be insisting on a certain temporal relationship between cause and effect, putting the cause before the effect in time. But there’s no reason to suppose God is confined in this way. Your free choice in the future informs him in the present and the past. Hence, a future event causes knowledge that happens “before” it.

  2. Because He knows what can happen based on different choices I may make, but not exactly what will happen. If He knows the choice I will make than that means it is pre-destined and the choice is taken out of the matter.

  3. Nearly everyone keeps saying that if God knows what choice you will make, that makes the choice predestined. Are you just trying to strengthen this argument through repetition? As I’ve pointed out several times now, that isn’t true. His knowledge does not predestine what he knows. His knowledge is the result, not the cause, of the future event.

    Mary, you say God knows what CAN happen but not what WILL happen. What are you basing that on? I say the scriptures are against you on that point, as I showed above.

  4. Itbugaf: The reason you can choose otherwise is that the only reason God *knows* you will murder someone on Feb. 12 2009 is that he already sees what you will freely choose on that day.

    That’s circular reasoning if I ever heard it…

    You can call it “free” all you want but that does not take away the fact that if the future is fixed none of us are actually free. If I am fated to murder in 2009 I CAN NOT choose otherwise no matter how much I wish I could.

    You seem hung up on whether God forces this fixed future on us but that is beside to the point. I need not be forced to be fated. The fact is that I am only actually free if the future is unscripted and open. If my future is already pre-scripted then we are all predestined whether it feels that way or not. Simply claiming that is not true does not make it so.

    I think Mary and Kim are on to the right track though. God can know the open possibilities and can predict them to a level that appears like exhaustive foreknowledge to mortals.

  5. Geoff, your own choice of whether to murder or not murder is the only determinant of what will happen. It is the only determinant of what God knows. Please show me how this is “fated” or “predestined.” You determine the future, and God sees it.

    You seem hung up on whether God’s knowledge happens before or after you make your choice but that is beside the point. The choice need not come before the knowledge in time in order for it to be free. The fact is that I am actually free to make my own choice unless an outside force is interfering with my agency. The fact that another being knows what I’m going to choose doesn’t provide any interference.

    Your future is not “pre-scripted” just because God can foresee it. It is created by your own choices, as you make them. God sees those free choices. The fact that he is not bound by time and therefore sees the future, past and present at once, doesn’t suppress your freedom in choosing. Unless your choices are interfered with, they’re free. There is no “fate” to “escape” because the future which God sees is the one created by your free, uninhibited choices.

  6. “God can know the open possibilities and can predict them to a level that appears like exhaustive foreknowledge to mortals.”

    So God is just a really good guesser? I don’t think I can accept that doctrine. And I don’t think ANY of the scriptures cited above are in agreement with you.

  7. But ltbugaf, when you say He knows what will happen, no matter what, you are basically saying it’s all predetermined and we have no choice in the matter.

  8. “when you say He knows what will happen, no matter what, you are basically saying it’s all predetermined and we have no choice in the matter.”

    No, I’m not. I’ve explained this so many times I don’t know what else to say. Please read what I’ve already written above. You make the choice, and God sees it. Seeing it doesn’t determine it. Foreknowledge doesn’t interfere with your agency.

  9. Itbugaf: Please show me how this is “fated” or “predestined.” You determine the future, and God sees it.

    Because if God knows I will murder in 2009 I cannot choose otherwise — now or then. Because in that scenario there are no open possibilities — only a fixed future.

    fate

    n 1: an event (or a course of events) that will inevitably happen in the future [syn: destiny]”

    So God is just a really good guesser?

    Not just a good guesser — the ultimate predictor of the choices of his truly free children. I have enough faith in God’s power and knowledge to believe he can pull it off even though the future is open.

  10. Geoff, since God’s knowledge of your action is caused and determined only by your choice to take that action, you CAN choose otherwise. You choose to kill or not to kill. You’re not hemmed in or limited by any kind of “fate.” You choose, God sees.

    If God doesn’t know, but just has a lot of ability to predict, then he’s guessing, no matter how skillfully. I reject the doctrine that God is a cosmic, well-informed gambler who’s playing the odds. You say you have faith in God’s knowledge, but you deny that he has it.

  11. As I said earlier, you are taking the classic compatibilist stance Itbugaf. You certainly can do that if you want, but what you are describing is not real free will but is more precisely known as “hypothetical free will”. The compatibilist claim is that even though we are all fated to a fixed future we are also “free” because we hypothetically could choose otherwise (even though we can’t do so in reality). I find such a version of free will anemic and frankly, contra-scriptural (see 2 Nephi 2).

    You say you have faith in God’s knowledge, but you deny that he has it.

    Actually, I believe God knows all that is knowable.

  12. I’m also still wondering what you think of Mormon’s words–was he just mistaken when he said God knows all things that will come to pass? Had he been blessed with your superior enlightenment would he have seen things differently?

  13. And what I am trying to say is that He knows what will happen with each choice we might make. But He still allows us to make those choices. I don’t see how you can say He knows for sure what is going to happen no matter what and at the same time, this is free choice. My belief is He knows each of us so well and knows the future, as far as each choice that CAN be made.

  14. Mary, if God only knows the future “as far as each choice that CAN be made,” then why didn’t he show Nephi a vision of what would happen if Laman and Lemuel repented and turned their posterity back to the Priesthood authority of their younger brother? Why didn’t he show Nephi a future where the Gentiles DON’T cross the seas and discover the promised land? Why didn’t he show Nephi a vision of his posterity living in righteous bounty forever? All those were choices, or results of choices, that could be made.

    The answer is that he knew what choices were going to be made and what choices weren’t going to be made. He showed Nephi what was actually going to happen–not just what had a pretty good chance of happening–because he knew it.

  15. Why should He? He doesn’t need to tell us every little detail like that.

    What if Laman and Lemuel had repented? Do you think He doesn’t take that into consideration?

    It sounds to me like you are saying it’s all a foregone conclusion, so that’s that.

  16. Re #66 –

    I agree with Mormon. God has enough power and knowledge to bring about all of his purposes and prophecies for this planet.

  17. Geoff, obviously you DON’T agree with Mormon. Mormon says the Lord knows EVERYTHING that is going to come to pass. He doesn’t say God has a pretty good method of predicting what’s going to happen because he knows what’s happening now. He says he knows ALL that is going to happen.

    You’ve again let me know which scholarly pigeonhole you put me in (“classic compatibilist”). I’m afraid I don’t care what label you choose to affix to me or my belief.

  18. I don’t think He predicts either. I think the method He uses is actually beyond our understanding, and therefore this conversation is moot.

    Besides that, He already knew we would be discussing this.

  19. I don’t know that I said I didn’t like stupid faith, didn’t I say blind faith in leaders was stupid faith? I don’t find child-like faith stupid, although I am frequently stupid myself.

    The smartest people I know have a very simple faith in God and leave things in His hands.

    Geoff I thought about this all night and this morning as I meditated and I think I’m right, God is outside of time. I don’t think it’s damnation. We can still choose, it’s just that in the future it’s already happened. He didn’t make it happen, I chose, it’s like He just watched the movie, so He knows how it ends.

    I believe it, I do.

    Also, He’s not only watching, He’s interacting and when I allow Him to influence me, He can. And He’s so good He can influence other people at the same time.

    Although, you know, I do suspect we’re all just having a virtual experience tied up to computers and that’s how it’s all tailored to our personal growth and testing needs. It’s how I would do it if I were God.

  20. But Mary, according to you and Geoff, he DIDN’T know we would have this discussion. Apparently he just knew that we would have the choice of whether or not to have this discussion, and made a prediction based on his limited knowledge. According to Geoff, the future isn’t knowable, so God was merely making an extremely educated guess when he showed Nephi the future. I’m sure glad he got it right! That would have been embarrassing.

  21. Itbugaf: Geoff, obviously you DON’T agree with Mormon.

    What I don’t agree with is your interpretation of Mormon’s words.

    You seem to be hoping that God can pull off a paradox — that the future can be fixed and he can see it but that we will still be free. But that is the equivalent of hoping God can create a rock so heavy that he can’t lift it. I am saying that God knows everything that is knowable and that as such we need not insist that the paradox of a fixed future and free will co-exist.

    If God can accomplish all of his purposes I fail to see why anyone would so be so adamant about how he pulls it off. Why not have faith that he can simply do it without the paradox?

  22. ltbugaf
    you need to start understanding Canadian humour.

    And I didn’t quite say that. I said He knows all possibilities, so of course He knows about this conversation. You need to read my comments. I also said none of us truly understand HOW He knows things.

  23. Geoff, I still just can’t see why you conclude that the future is fixed by God’s knowledge of it. I can’t see why you conclude that if the future is fixed, there is no freedom for those who are forming it.

    Let me put this to you: There is going to be only one true version of tomorrow’s events. Regardless of the myriad possibilities that now exist, every one of the possibilities will, by the stroke of midnight, be reduced to only one actual happening. So as of midnight tomorrow, the day’s events will be “fixed.” Does the fact that only one thing is actually going to happen destroy the will of those who are going to make choices tomorrow? If not, why not? The future is fixed.

    This is the nearest I can come, so far, to understanding what you mean by a “fixed” future. Only one will actually happen.

    Now, given that truth–that only one version of tomorrow will be the real one–what difference does it make to anyone’s agency if some person knows ahead of time? Why get hung up on the time issue?

    “If God can accomplish his purposes I fail to see why anyone would be so adamant about how he pulls it off.” Two points: (1) I don’t see how your position is any less “adamant” than mine. (2) I find it difficult to have total faith in a God who is lying when he tells us he knows all things that will come to pass. I find it difficult to have total faith in a God who is merely a cosmic gambler, using his vast but limited knowledge to make predictions which he can only hope will come to pass.

  24. Okay, Geoff, this is the deal: God doesn’t see stuff before it happens. He sees stuff when it happens. He sees the past when it happens and the present and the future. It’s all present to Him.

    Make sense? Doesn’t my virtual computer experience make more sense in light of my hypothesis?

    He knows we are having this discussion because He’s here, He’s also there, because time stands still where He is and He can be every place at once. That’s how He can answer my prayers.

    Because if not, how does He hear and answer all those billions of prayers and tend to all His children? Hello, I don’t really care about you guys, but He so needs to be there when I’m kneeling and tons of others are doing the same. I get God. You guys get the assistants. :) I’m sure they’re just as good. And He’d have to have billions of assistants.

    Itgubar, aren’t you just thrilled to have me on your side helping you with your argument?

    I have got to go finish the taxes. I think we have to pay, doesn’t that suck?

  25. Itbugaf: There is going to be only one true version of tomorrow’s events. Regardless of the myriad possibilities that now exist

    If there are real possibilities then the future is not fixed. It is like the difference between traveling by train and traveling by horse. If the future is fixed then there is only track. Another way to look at it is by considering the past (which is fixed). There are no real possible pasts for us — only hypotheticals. If the future is fixed then it is no different than the past and there are no more possible futures than there are possible pasts.

    So as of midnight tomorrow, the day’s events will be “fixed.”

    Exactly — but the point is that until the moment passes it is not fixed. Until the moment passes the possibilities remain open and unfixed.

    what difference does it make to anyone’s agency if some person knows ahead of time?

    If someone *knows* in advance what *will* happen then there are other possibilities of what *might* happen.

    (1) I don’t see how your position is any less “adamant” than mine.

    The crucial difference is that I am simply ruling out one way God accomplishes his purposes due to a paradox but I’m leaving all other possibilities open. In contrast, you are insisting on God accomplishing his purposes in only one way and ruling out all other possibilities.

    (2) I find it difficult to have total faith in a God who is lying when he tells us he knows all things that will come to pass.

    I don’t think God is lying, I think you are interpreting the revelations incorrectly and trying to insist on only one method for God to bring about all of his purposes.

  26. But you do think God is a very well-informed gambler?

    And why does it matter at what point tomorrow’s events become fixed? If they are ever to become fixed, then how can there be real freedom? The future–only one version of it–is definitely going to be the future and none of the other possibilities will matter. I don’t see why you’re so adamant in insisting that God is limited by time in the same way you are.

    You’ve repeatedly told me I’m interpreting the scriptures wrong, but you haven’t told me what you believe the right interpretation is. There is a myriad of choices you can make freely: Did Mormon not really mean “all things”? Was he just wrong when he wrote it? Is the Book of Mormon a fraud?

  27. The future is not fixed because God knows it, he knows it because it is fixed.

    If God can see what choices we make in the future, it is because those choices we make are fixed in that future. If we are truly free to make any choice we want, then it is impossible for God to be able to know all future events.

    You cannot have an open future and absolute knowledge of the future.

  28. But you do think God is a very well-informed gambler?

    No. Those are your words not mine.

    If [future events] are ever to become fixed, then how can there be real freedom?

    They become fixed after the moment of free choice, not before.

    I don’t see why you’re so adamant in insisting that God is limited by time

    Whether the future is fixed or open is unrelated to God’s relationship to time.

    Did Mormon not really mean “all things”?

    Yes, but that need not imply a fixed future — it could mean that God guides the general plot while allowing for improv on the details.

    Is the Book of Mormon a fraud?

    Hehe… Umm, no. But don’t take my word for it if you are having doubts. See Moroni 10:3-5. ;-)

  29. Geoff, I think you can see why God’s relationship to time is relevant. If the future isn’t “future” to him, then the point in time at which something becomes fixed doesn’t matter to him. You’re hanging your whole theory on the fact that one thing happens after, not before another. Before and after don’t matter to God.

    I know the description of God as a well-informed gambler is mine. I’m doing my best to summarize what you say you believe about him: that he doesn’t know future events (because they are unknowable) and that when he tells his Prophets what is going to happen in the future, he really doesn’t know whether he’s right or wrong. So he calculates the odds and chooses which future he thinks is most likely.

    You say that Mormon, when he says that God knows “all things which shall come to pass,” may mean that God “guides the general plot.” In this context, I’m asking about what God knows, not how he guides. Mormon says God knows “all things which shall come to pass.” But you and Kim say God knows nothing which shall come to pass because the future isn’t knowable. Wouldn’t you say that’s a fairly big disparity? And if God has NO actual knowledge of the future, but is in fact just calculating the odds and betting on the best chance, then what is this stuff mentioned in Kim’s original post called “foreknowledge”?

  30. The more I read through these posts, the more I think this may be the crux: Assuming (falsely but for the sake of argument) that I fit all the contemptuous labels you affix to me and that I do believe in a fixed future, what is less “free” about the choices made by someone whose future is fixed but whose agency is not interfered with, than the choices of someone who lives in a universe where God doesn’t know what’s coming next?

  31. I would hardly call “compatiblist” a contemptuous label. The world has lots of compatibilists and I feel no contempt toward you for being one. I simply disagree with the compatibilist position. Further, I think that exhaustive foreknowldge can be a faith-crippling doctrine for many people and that concerns me.

  32. After writing that, I realized I had gone overboard in citing you with contempt. :) My apologies.

    Hope you’ll have some responses to 83 and to 40.

  33. Since there apparently aren’t any responses to 40 and 83, let me sum up my position:

    Question: How much of the future does God KNOW?

    Answer of the scriptures: God knew of Christ’s betrayal and death. God knew of Peter’s acts in the flesh. God knows ALL things from the beginning. God has foreknowledge of all things. God knows all the times appointed unto man. God knew all that would befall the Nephites. God knows the end from the beginning.

    Answer of Geoff, Kim, Mary, et al: Nothing. God can’t know the future because the future isn’t knowable.

    I think I’ll side with the prophets who wrote the scriptures.

  34. Actually, you may want to go back and read my comments. I have never said God does not know the future. The closest I have come to saying that is comment in comment #81.

    If God knows the entire future as you suggest, than we cannot be free to choose because he can only have absolute knowledge of the future if the future is absolute. If the future is absolute, then we cannot change it.

  35. ltbugaf

    Again you put words and meanings in my mouth. I have never once meant that. You are limiting Heavenly Father’s knowedge to the realm of human understanding. I am not going to repeat what I said as you don’t seem to understand it. But I will say again that we CANNOT know what method He uses because our understanding, our comprehension is so limited. You place human capablities on our God. That’s always going to backfire on you.

  36. Kim, in 81 you say, “The future is not fixed because God knows it, he knows it because it is fixed.”

    What fixes the future? The freewill choice of individuals. So free choice results in fixation of events, which in turn results in God’s perfect knowledge of those events.

    You and Geoff keep saying that if the future is fixed and knowable, then there can’t be any freedom, as if that were somehow an undeniable axiom. Geoff even goes so far as to say that my denial doesn’t make it untrue. Of course, I know my denial doesn’t MAKE it untrue. It’s untrue all by itself. It’s a nonsequitur.

  37. Mary, I really don’t think I’m the one who is placing human limitations on God. The ones doing that are those who say it’s impossible for him to know the future because, according to human perspective, it can’t be known.

  38. Kim, re: 89–You say that if God knows the future then we have no real freedom of choice. So either you believe that God doesn’t know the future, or you believe that we have no freedom of choice. Surely that’s not a false dichotomy. Which side DO you take? No such thing as foreknowledge or no such thing as agency?

  39. ltbugaf

    But you are judging His comprehension by human standards and not by His standards which was way beyond our understanding.

    What I am saying is, we cannot fully know what He knows or how He knows, because we don’t have the capacity for such understanding.

  40. I certainly agree with you there. I don’t understand how God can know what hasn’t come to pass. But inasmuch as I accept the truthfulness of the scriptures, I clearly can’t deny that he does know it.

  41. Does anyone still read this? If so, I would like to share a few thoughts, but if no one is listening then I have no one to bounce ideas off of. So there’s no point-

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