Should we drop these doctrinal ideas?

Geoff Johnston, from New Cool Thang, recently suggested in a Nine Moons guest post the following five doctrinal ideas that should be dropped from LDS beliefs.

  1. God exhaustively knows the future.
  2. Our spirits gestated in the womb of a resurrected celestial woman.
  3. This life is our only chance to become at one with God and there is no progression between kingdoms.
  4. The world is coming to an end any day now.
  5. We really understand the atonement.

Do you agree?

For what it’s worth, we’ve talked about the first idea several times at Our Thoughts (see here, here, here, and here).

29 thoughts on “Should we drop these doctrinal ideas?”

  1. I don’t know if it’s for us to decide doctrine here but why would we drop the idea that God exhaustively knows the future? As far as I know He does!

    I would think recent statements by the brethren answer #4 The world is coming to an end any day now … in the negative. But we should live as if it is tomorrow.

    2 Our spirits gestated in the womb of a resurrected celestial woman. I don’t think we know enough about this to call this doctrine in the first place. It might be true but I have no idea so I will forbear.

    3 This life is our only chance to become at one with God and there is no progression between kingdoms. is a little problematic but we should live as if it is true. There is some hints that there may be progression…. after life…. between kingdoms…?

    5 We really understand the atonement. Some of us understand in part but do most of us don’t. If you read D&C 19 I think you will see we don’t comprehend and can not comprehend.

  2. Having not read the afore-mentioned post, is there a reason that “a Man” thinks he can dictate what is or is not Doctrine? I have the same beef with McConkie as I do with Geoff for thinking that they can steady the Ark.
    I am not arguing that any of these things are indeed Doctrine-where are they written for one thing? Someones journals? So if they are not official Doctrine-who cares if somebody else believes them? It’s not infringing on your salvation. I like the Joseph Smith quote of “no one was ever damned for believing too much”

    theres goes that swearing in the bloggerncale again, sorry Kim.

  3. No need to apologize; I wasn’t saying I was offended by the swearing. I simply noted it had increased. Even so, that wasn’t swearing, David. :)

    I think that’s why Geoff refers to them as doctrinal ideas rather than specifically as doctrine.

    1. God exhaustively knows the future.

    Geoff is in a very small minority on that one.

    1. Our spirits gestated in the womb of a resurrected celestial woman.

    If anything, statements to that effect are strictly limited to “JoD-type” speculation. I imagine any current GA would say “We just don’t know.” The closest recent statement to that idea has been uttered by BKP within the last few years, and is that “God somehow clothes an intelligence with a spirit body.” We don’t know how that act of “clothing” works. And no GA has given any statements at conference about it in over 50 years, that I know of.

    Geoff also has issues with the tri-partite nature of our species, i.e.: intelligence, enclosed in a spirit body, enclosed in a physical body.

    1. This life is our only chance to become at one with God and there is no progression between kingdoms.

    Well, leaving aside the deal about those who never heard the gospel in mortality having the opportunity to hear/embrace it in the spirit world, the D&C is pretty clear on this.

    However, the Lord’s statements are also sometimes subject to “scope”. He gives us the facts as they pertain to the scope of our point of view, or the scope of our creation and our plan-of-salvation on this earth. He hasn’t told us about previous creations or planets peopled prior to our “grand council in heaven”.

    Maybe there were previous “batches” (broods?) of children that Heavenly Father had before ours. We don’t know. But if so, then “In the beginning…” of Genesis 1:1 applies only to us, not those previous broods/councils.

    We don’t know if the grand council in heaven that we were in consisted of Elohim’s first batch of spirit children or a subsequent batch, or if it was the first and only.

    Example: “No death before the fall” may only apply to this planet, or only to the children of Adam. If the Lord has created worlds without number, there was likely life and death on those other planets before “the fall” on our planet, assuming there were previous “councils” or “batches” of spirit chidlren.

    We’ve been told that other spirit children of Elohim inhabit, and have inhabited other planets, but we’ve never been told that our “grand council in heaven” was exclusive, or unique, or exhaustive.

    1. The world is coming to an end any day now.

    Define “day”.

    1. We really understand the atonement.

    I don’t think any GA’s ever said we do.

  4. I don’t see how knowing the future is in conflict with agency. I don’t think we can even comprehend how this works, but Geoff’s way of looking at this is kind of concrete, imho. Then again, perhaps my way of looking at it is not “knowing the future” – I think God knows every possible choice and event that could and might occur in our lives, and hence all of the possible outcomes… so in a sense, he knows more than the future, he knows ALL the possible futures.

  5. There is a conundrum, or apparent paradox between our agency and God’s foreknowledge. But since we don’t understand how God’s knows our future choices, I don’t believe we have any logical footing to deny Him exhaustive foreknoweldge.

    Elohim is an eternal being, and the adjective “eternal” as applied to an exalted being means more than a non-ending time-line into both the past and the future. It denotes some kind of existence “outside” of time. The scripture “time is measured only unto man” gives a hint of that idea. Another scripture about the end of the Millennium sheds light: “And time will be no more.”

    I think it was an LDS person who said, in terms of cosmology, “Time is a local phenomenon.” As temporal creatures, bound by time, we see time as a one dimensional line running straight from back to front, and we can’t see prior to our own life, and we can’t see beyond the present moment. It looks like a straight line from our vantage point, but the scope or depth of our view is limited.

    But to a non-temporal eternal being, who has no limit to the scope of his view, time might be like a circle that goes around Him. He just turns his head to look, and he sees.

    Kurt Vonnegut gave a good analogy in Slaughterhouse Five. A mortal is someone riding on a train on a straight railroad track, his head encased in a helmet, with a tube for an eyepiece, and it is fixed so that he can only look perpendicular to the track. An “eternal” (or an alien in the story, IIRC), is someone who is off of the train, and can look both forward and back.

  6. I agree with Bookslinger and adamf on #1 (and I’m glad to hear Bookslinger’s perspective that Geoff is in a very small minority on that).

    I think it’s the pinnacle of hubris to say that philosphy trumps prophets from three dispensations (among others) declaring that God knows all things (Moses 1, Alma 40:8, and D&C 130:6-10).

    It would be like saying that the Apostles didn’t feed hundreds with only five loaves and two fishes because that’s not logical. Apparently, God can do some things that violate our understanding of what’s “possible.”

    And I’m fine with saying I don’t know how he did it, but I know he did it; or, I don’t know how he knows everything including the future without it interfering with my free will, but I know he knows all.

    • “relieved to hear Bookslinger’s perspective” is probably a better way to describe it. I’m not rejoicing that Geoff’s viewpoint is in the minority.
  7. But since we don’t understand how God’s knows our future choices, I don’t believe we have any logical footing to deny Him exhaustive foreknoweldge.

    Or for that matter, since we don’t understand what knowledge means to God. Is knowledge to God as it is to us: a huge collection of fact? Is knowledge to God something else entirely?

  8. Guys,

    You are still missing the point. It is not knowing the future that entails we don’t have free will. Rather it is that idea that the future exists to be known. If there is no future then we are writing it moment to moment. If the future already exists for God to see or travel to it then we are stuck with whatever he sees. That means there is a complete story of our life already out there and we are not really writing it now.

    So here is an example I used recently:

    Let’s say that at 6:36 PM on March 3, 2017, through a series of shocking life turns Kim will get raging drunk then get in his car and run a red light and a kill young mother and her baby, leaving the young father to grieve with his remaining daughter. In this scenario God traveled there (or perhaps live out of time and now sees it — that part is moot) and knows that is not what might happen, but what will happen.

    Now maybe you will say that since Kim doesn’t now know his fate all he can do is try your best until then and “que sera sera”. But in this worldview God does knows what is coming on that fateful day. Again, this not a possible future but THE future. God knows what WILL happen if he has exhaustive foreknowledge, not what might happen.

    The question is, how can we say Kim has real free will if he can’t choose any other fate? Another big question is what can God do about this? The answer to both questions is the same: Nothing. If the future is fixed and God observer what will, not what might happen then by definition God can’t stop it even if he wanted to.

    The solution is simple. Simply reject the idea that the future is fixed. As long as we agree that the future is an infinite set of open possibilities rather than a fixed reality that can be known exhaustively then we will all be in agreement.

    (Of course if you are the type who goes for silly paradoxes like “God can create a rock so heavy that he can’t lift it” maybe you prefer to keep believing the free will vs. fixed future paradox…)

  9. I like the infinite set of possibilities idea, but I still don’t have a problem with the apparent paradox because, just as you said about the atonement, we don’t understand how it works, and probably can’t. Therefore, God knows the future, and what WILL happen, and we have free will. I don’t know how those fit together, but am not concerned because I just don’t think we are able to grasp it.

  10. I don’t know how those fit together

    They don’t. That’s because the word “knows” means something. But if you were to say God predicts the future you have no paradox.

  11. Bookslinger,

    Geoff is in a very small minority on that one.

    Does it challenge your faith to realize that you are in a very small minority when it comes to believing the Book of Mormon to be the word of God? Didn’t think so. That’s because pointing out that someone holds a minority opinion in a group of people who overwhelmingly haven’t considered the topic at hand is not at all relevant, persuasive, or interesting.

  12. adamf,

    On knowing all possible futures, you might be interested in these two posts.

    Russel.G,

    …but I know he knows all.

    Phew. If you already knew the right answer, why didn’t you say so before. I am now relieved.

    Kim,

    Is knowledge to God something else entirely?

    What do you have in mind? A big pile of twinkies instead of a big pile of facts?

    1. A big pile of twinkies instead of a big pile of facts?

      Is this Grade 9 debate class?

      Actually, I didn’t have anything in mind. I’m just trying to be open-minded. One possibility perhaps could be that rather than his head being full of facts (i.e. specific events set in stone) he can comprehend all the possible choices we may make.

      By the way, the moderation queue is completely empty and there are no messages from you in the spam queue going back to the 16th of July.

  13. Jacob J: You are correct that majority opinion doesn’t determine fact.

    And I suppose I was sloppy in my comment about it being a minority opinion. It’s not just a minority opinion in general, but also among church members, and apparently (as far as I can tell) non-existent among the Brethren.

    I’m of the belief that doctrinal safety lies in staying in accord with the Brethren. Their majority is what really counts. If there is ever a split or disagreement among the 15, I’ll cast my lot in with the majority of them.

    Geoff J: We’re just approaching this from different philosophies.

    If you happen to have Star Trek: Deep Space 9 on DVD, check out some of the later-year episodes that feature conversations between Capt Sisko and the worm-hole Aliens. Aside from Vonnegut’s analogy in Slaughterhouse Five, Sisko’s conversation with the worm-hole Aliens was the best verbalization of the non-temporal-versus-temporal, and variable-versus-fixed-future paradox that I can remember.

    I don’t remember it well enough to retell the gist of the conversation, but I do remember a mental awakening, an ephiphany, upon hearing it, and it seemed to fit right into LDS theology on agency-versus-God’s-foreknowledge.

    However, I will grant you this one point: In the friction between fore-knowledge versus agency, I’ll actually give the nod to fore-knowledge, and say it would trump agency. Because if it turns out as you say, and both can’t coexist, then my fall-back position is that agency is merely an apparent agency and only exists in and from our limited temporal viewpoint. Yes, it’s real, but only in the “scope” of our temporal existence. In other words, we appear to have agency, and it is functional and in effect in this time-space in which we reside. But to exalted beings who are looking upon us from outside our time-space (or “plane of existence” if you will), then no, we might not be seen by them as having true agency as we think of the term.

    Another hint as to agency being an apparent thing, or viewpoint-dependent, are comments by the Brethren (and have been repeated in the CES system, but I don’t have sources handy) that our “test” on earth is not to prove to God what sort of people we are, but to prove to ourselves. God already knows what kind of people we are (CK-worthy, TrK-worhty or TlK-worthy) and with that knowledge of what and who and how we are, He could just snap his fingers and assign us to the appropriate CK, TrK, TlK, or OD.

    However, if he did that, then those of us outside of the CK would likely cry “No fair! That’s not the kind of person I am or would be.”

    So we’re not proving anything to God, if He truly has exhaustive foreknowledge. We’re proving it to ourselves, so that in the end, we know that our judgement, and assignment of final destination is just.

  14. Kim,

    Comment #15 is the one that was hung up for awhile, thanks for looking.

    Is this Grade 9 debate class?

    You seem to have taken my comment in a way I didn’t anticipate. Sorry if it came across as a 9th grade debate. I was reading your comment and trying to consider what you might mean but I couldn’t really tell. The twinkie comment was just a silly way to ask for clarification on what else knowledge might mean. I admit that I am suspicious of all attempts to redefine words in the context of God. As one example, people frequently attempt to say that “justice” means something totally different for God than for us (e.g. something we consider the height of injustice might be just for God). In general I think claims like that turn out to be an abuse of language. As to your idea that maybe God’s knowledge could be knowledge of possibilities rather than actuals, I think that is very reasonable, but then, that wouldn’t strike me as being very different (if at all) from what we mean by knowledge with respect to humans.

  15. Bookslinger: non-existent among the Brethren

    I’m afraid that since there is no public discussion of this specific topic by the Brethren there is no majority opinion for you to allow to do you thinking for you.

    but I do remember a mental awakening, an ephiphany, upon hearing it

    Even if it seemed to make sense at the time I assure you it was nonsense. This is a paradox and thus has no solution.

    In the friction between fore-knowledge versus agency, I’ll actually give the nod to fore-knowledge, and say it would trump agency. Because if it turns out as you say, and both can’t coexist, then my fall-back position is that agency is merely an apparent agency

    Yikes. That sounds like the worst trade-off I’ve ever heard. You might enjoy Calvinism though.

    Anyhow, if agency is only “apparent agency” then moral responsibility is only “apparent moral responsibility” and this life is not a test at all. Did I mention you might enjoy Calvinism?

  16. Geoff: I disagree, the Brethren have spoken on this topic quite clearly.

    1. They have consistently taught of the foreknowledge of God.
    2. They have consitently taught of our agency.

    I have to fall in with J. Max on this. I’ll believe the brethren over you any day.

  17. Geoff J: And in case our agency is only “apparent” (not saying that it is, just as a possible fall-back position), it still doesn’t mean it’s not operational and true in this temporal sphere.

    The disconnect, which I think you’re trying to incorrectly connect, is making a linkage between something that exists in our time-frame (agency), and something that exists outside of time (fore-knowledge).

    Foreknowledge can’t exist in a linear time-based existence where we are being tested. But Heavenly Father doesn’t live in linear time, He’s “in the bosom of eternity” where “all things (past, present, future) are before him.”

    So in effect, I think you do have one piece of the puzzle correct: foreknowledge and agency can’t coexist (at least not in the same person) “in our frame of reference”. But the mistake you make is trying to bring in Heavenly Father’s knowledge into our frame of reference.

    He lives outside of our linear time.

    I think there’s something in the D&C (or something in TPJS) about how Heavenly Father can’t show someone literally “everything” of all his creations, and let them continue in mortality. He let Moses and Enoch see all the Earth, but that was the limit, they didn’t see all of Elohim’s planets as they saw the Earth. And, He can’t even show someone all the Earth (past, present, and future) unless they’ve “finished and passed the test” and have their calling and election made sure.

  18. Bookslinger,

    Please provide quotes of the Brethren speacking clearly on the exhaustive foreknowledge vs. free will issue. I can’t think of any off the top of my head.

    Also, it doesn’t matter how God might know the future — it only matters that a fixed future exists to be known to scuttle real free will. Here is the example again. Let’s say this is part of your fixed future (though you don’t know it yet):

    At 6:36 PM on March 3, 2017, through a series of shocking life turns you will get raging drunk then get in your car and run a red light and a kill young mother and her baby

    If that is in your future what can you do about it now? (Please don’t dodge this question — I really want to know your answer)

  19. I don’t think 1, 2, and 4 are part of our doctrine anyhow. At least, they’ve never been part of my belief system.

    Exhaustive foreknowledge to me interferes with having a real relationship. So i can’t think of God that way.

    3 and 5 I’m not giving up, no matter what you guys do.

  20. Actually, the idea of exhaustive foreknowledge of the future diminishes God’s power.

    Think about it. Suppose God does know everything that is going to happen.

    What can he do about it?

    Nothing. If he acts to change events, then it cannot be said that he knew what would happen perfectly a moment ago.

    A God with exhaustive foreknowledge is both impotent, and irrelevant to the course of the universe.

  21. “And in case our agency is only “apparent” (not saying that it is, just as a possible fall-back position), it still doesn’t mean it’s not operational and true in this temporal sphere.”

    That sounds very much like John Calvin’s position Bookslinger.

    Man is free as long as he chooses what he desires.

    The fact that God rigged the game from the beginning so that he would desire in exactly that way is irrelevant. Freedom is simply getting what you want – not having real options.

  22. So God chooses to be surprised by establishing a universe of quantum mechanics?

    This seems to imply a kind of monism (that all is one, all is God including us). After all, from this view couldn’t God have just as well Chosen to create an unsurprising universe?

    Joseph Smith’s teachings seem to tell us that we live in a pluralistic universe, in which we are eternal and somehow distinct elements. In such a pluralistic universe, the universe might be composed of relationships. Physics then could be seen as one way these relationships are manifested. It makes sence then that physics, the science, is incomplete(it fails to explain everything). I beleive physics will always be incomplete even to God. In a truly pluralistic universe to know everything in a meta physical sence is impossible.

    For me beleiving in a God who does not have inexhaustible fore-knowledge, actually lets me trust God more. If my life is already determined then how can God truly guide my life or call me to salvation? The Irony of inexhaustible Fore-Knowledge is that it actually takes away from the power of God to save us. I beleive from my experience that salvation is the grand story, yes, but one that is fundamentally as yet unresolved and undetermined.

    I’ve known many Mormons who beleive otherwise, but I think they are a shrinking majority. Of them I’ve found plenty that worship the same God as me, and I’ve found others who didn’t.

Leave a Reply