Table of Contents
List of Abbreviations
Latter-day Scripture Refers to the Holy Ghost as “It,” not “He”
The Godhead Within
How Elohim, Jehovah, and Michael Can Represent the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost
How Elohim Can Represent the Father, the Creator, and Our Spirit Bodies
How Jehovah Can Represent the Son, the Redeemer, and Our Physical Bodies
How Michael Can Represent the Holy Ghost, the Witness/Testator, and the Spirit of the Gods/Intelligence in Us
The gift of the Holy Ghost
The Spirit of truth
The Spirit is Forever the Same; Beside it is No Other
Everything is a Matter of Degree
Intelligence and Intelligences as Premortal Eternal Progression
The Spirit is Everywhere, to Some Degree
Ye Are Gods, to Some Degree
Degrees of Glory
Degrees of the Priesthood
Levels of Understanding
Levels of Knowledge
Levels of Laws
Levels and Laws of Reality
List of Abbreviations
JD = Journal of Discourses
TPJS = Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith
This study journal assumes that you have an understanding of basic gospel principles and doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
This study journal is an introduction to pondering Brigham Young’s statement: “It is the Deity within us that causes increase. Does this idea startle you? Are you ready to exclaim, ‘What! the Supreme in us!’ Yes. He is in every person upon the face of the earth. The elements that every individual is made of and lives in, possess the Godhead. This you cannot now understand, but you will hereafter” (JD 1:93).
The Lectures on Faith can serve as a starting point for thinking about the Godhead.
“In my judgment, it is the most comprehensive, intelligent, inspired utterance that now exists in the English language—that exists in one place defining, interpreting, expounding, announcing, and testifying what kind of being God is. It was written by the power of the Holy Ghost, by the spirit of inspiration. It is, in effect, eternal scripture; it is true. . . . We need to study and ponder and analyze the expressions that are made” (Bruce R. McConkie, “The Lord God of Joseph Smith,” Speeches of the Year, Brigham Young University Press, 1972, 4).
“In my own judgment, these Lectures are of great value and should be studied. . . . I consider them to be of extreme value in the study of the gospel of Jesus Christ” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Seek Ye Earnestly, 194).
“We shall, in this lecture speak of the Godhead—we mean the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” (Lectures on Faith 5:1).
There is no problem with the use of the words “Holy Spirit.” As far as I can tell, in the KJV New Testament, “ghost” equals “spirit.” The Greek adjective hagios and the neuter noun pneuma is sometimes translated as “Holy Ghost,” and sometimes translated as “Holy Spirit,” by the KJV translators.
“Christ the Son, and God the Father, and the Holy Spirit . . . is one Eternal God” (Alma 11:44).
“Take upon you mine ordination, even that of an elder, to preach faith and repentance and remission of sins, according to my word, and the reception of the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands” (D&C 53:3; see also D&C 55:1).
“That by keeping the commandments they might be washed and cleansed from all their sins, and receive the Holy Spirit by the laying on of the hands of him who is ordained and sealed unto this power” (D&C 76:52).
“There are two personages who constitute the great, matchless, governing and supreme power over all things, by whom all things were created and made, that are created and made, whether visible or invisible, whether in heaven, on earth, or in the earth, under the earth, or throughout the immensity of space. They are the Father and the Son—the Father being a personage of spirit, glory and power, possessing all perfection and fulness” (Lectures on Faith 5:2).God is a spirit (John 4:24). God is also holy.
“The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also” (D&C 130:22).
“And the spirit and the body are the soul of man” (D&C 88:15).
So God, and any exalted being, is a Holy Spirit/Ghost with a celestial body, also called a “spiritual body.”
“All spirit is matter, but it is more fine or pure” (D&C 131:7).
If spirit is a more pure form of matter, then matter would be a less pure form of spirit.
matter < - - - (a continuum of matter/energy/spirit) - - - > spirit
A resurrected, celestial physical body would be made of a more pure form of matter, so it would be relatively more accurate to call it a spiritual body than a material body.
“I say unto you that this mortal body is raised to an immortal body, that is from death, even from the first death unto life, that they can die no more; their spirits uniting with their bodies, never to be divided; thus the whole becoming spiritual and immortal” (Alma 11:45).
So the united whole (spirit and body) becomes “spiritual.”
“So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body” (1 Corinthians 15:42-4).
“Now what is a spiritual body? It is one that is quickened by spirit and not by blood. Our Father in heaven and our Savior and all those who have passed through the resurrection have physical bodies of flesh and bones, but their bodies are quickened by spirit and not by blood, hence they are spiritual bodies and not blood bodies. The immortal body is quickened by spirit, but the mortal body is quickened by blood” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation 1:77).
“I say unto you, the earth abideth the law of a celestial kingdom, for it filleth the measure of its creation, and transgresseth not the law—Wherefore, it shall be sanctified; yea, notwithstanding it shall die, it shall be quickened again, and shall abide the power by which it is quickened, and the righteous shall inherit it. For notwithstanding they die, they also shall rise again, a spiritual body. They who are of a celestial spirit shall receive the same body which was a natural body; even ye shall receive your bodies, and your glory shall be that glory by which your bodies are quickened. Ye who are quickened by a portion of the celestial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fulness. And they who are quickened by a portion of the terrestrial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fulness. And also they who are quickened by a portion of the telestial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fulness. And they who remain shall also be quickened; nevertheless, they shall return again to their own place, to enjoy that which they are willing to receive, because they were not willing to enjoy that which they might have received” (D&C 88:25-32).
So there are at least 4 types of spiritual bodies: bodies quickened by celestial spirits, bodies quickened by terrestrial spirits, bodies quickened by telestial spirits, and bodies quickened by spirits of the sons of perdition.
“. . . the Son, who was in the bosom of the Father, a personage of tabernacle, made, or fashioned like unto man, or being in the form and likeness of man, or rather man was formed after his likeness and in his image” (Lectures on Faith 5:2).The Son changed over the course of the plan of salvation. The premortal Son had a spirit body. The mortal Son, as Jesus Christ, had a physical body (tabernacle). The resurrected Son is now like the Father, with a spiritual body.
“. . . he is also the express image and likeness of the personage of the Father, possessing all the fullness of the Father, or the same fullness with the Father; being begotten of him, and was ordained from before the foundation of the world to be a propitiation for the sins of all those who should believe on his name, and is called the Son because of the flesh, and descended in suffering below that which man can suffer; or, in other words, suffered greater sufferings, and was exposed to more powerful contradictions than any man can be. But notwithstanding all this, he kept the law of God, and remained without sin, showing thereby that it is in the power of man to keep the law and remain also without sin; and also, that by him a righteous judgment might come upon all flesh, and that all who walk not in the law of God, may justly be condemned by the law, and have no excuse for their sins. And he being the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (Lectures on Faith 5:2).“And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:30-5).
“When the Virgin Mary conceived the child Jesus, the Father had begotten him in his own likeness. He was not begotten by the Holy Ghost” (Brigham Young, JD 1:50-1).
“I beheld the city of Nazareth; and in the city of Nazareth I beheld a virgin, and she was exceedingly fair and white. And it came to pass that I saw the heavens open; and an angel came down and stood before me; and he said unto me: Nephi, what beholdest thou? And I said unto him: A virgin, most beautiful and fair above all other virgins. And he said unto me: Knowest thou the condescension of God? And I said unto him: I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things. And he said unto me: Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh. And it came to pass that I beheld that she was carried away in the Spirit; and after she had been carried away in the Spirit for the space of a time the angel spake unto me, saying: Look! And I looked and beheld the virgin again, bearing a child in her arms. And the angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father!” (1 Nephi 11:13-21).
Since the Church is opposed to adultery, how did conception occur? God can do all things. Especially in light of modern medical technology, there are ways that fertilization can occur without involving the crude, fleshy way some people may initially think of.
“I, John, bear record that I beheld his glory, as the glory of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, even the Spirit of truth, which came and dwelt in the flesh, and dwelt among us” (D&C 93:11).
The Holy Spirit
“. . . and having overcome, received a fullness of the glory of the Father, possessing the same mind with the Father, which mind is the Holy Spirit” (Lectures on Faith 5:2).“My mind is continually exercised to urge the people to faithfulness, that they may have the Spirit of Christ; and being in possession of this mind, everything comes to us naturally” (Brigham Young, JD 8:340).
The Holy Ghost as a “mind” needs to be reconciled with the statement that “the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit. Were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell in us. A man may receive the Holy Ghost, and it may descend upon him and not tarry with him” (D&C 130:22-3). This will be discussed later.
“. . . that bears record of the Father and the Son, and these three are one; or, in other words, these three constitute the great, matchless, governing and supreme, power over all things; by whom all things were created and made that were created and made, and these three constitute the Godhead, and are one; the Father and the Son possessing the same mind, the same wisdom, glory, power, and fullness—filling all in all; the Son being filled with the fullness of the mind, glory, and power; or, in other words, the spirit, glory, and power, of the Father, possessing all knowledge and glory, and the same kingdom, sitting at the right hand of power, in the express image and likeness of the Father, mediator for man, being filled with the fullness of the mind of the Father; or, in other words, the Spirit of the Father” (Lectures on Faith 5:2).If “mind, glory, and power” is, in other words, the same as “spirit, glory, and power;” and if “mind of the Father” is, in other words, the same as “Spirit of the Father;” then “mind” equals “spirit.”
“His Holy Spirit centers in His presence, and communicates with and extends to the utmost verge of His dominions, comprehending and controlling all things under the immediate direction of His own will, and the will of all those in communication with Him, in worlds without end!” (Parley P. Pratt, Key to the Science of Theology, 41-42).
“. . . which Spirit is shed forth upon all who believe on his name and keep his commandments; and all those who keep his commandments shall grow up from grace to grace, and become heirs of the heavenly kingdom, and joint heirs with Jesus Christ; possessing the same mind, being transformed into the same image or likeness, even the express image of him who fills all in all; being filled with the fullness of his glory, and become one in him, even as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one” (Lectures on Faith 5:2).It would seem unlikely that all exalted people have physical bodies that are exactly the same in outward appearance. And taken literally, for every exalted person to have the “express image of him who fills all in all” could mean that there are many people who are filling all in all.
“Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature . . . for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
Since the Lord looks at the heart, perhaps the more important event is that those worthy of exaltation are transformed into having the same heart or core being, which is the fullness of the Spirit. The statement “filled with the fullness of his glory, and become one in him” is the transformation to exaltation.
“As the Son partakes of the fullness of the Father through the Spirit, so the saints are, by the same Spirit, to be partakers of the same fullness, to enjoy the same glory; for as the Father and the Son are one, so, in like manner, the saints are to be one in them” (Lectures on Faith 5:3).
Latter-day Scripture Refers to the Holy Ghost as “It,” not “He”
“You do not find the term Holy Ghost in the Old Testament, as we now have it, but you do find the Spirit of God” (Joseph Fielding Smith Jr., Doctrines of Salvation 1:46).
In the New Testament generally “Holy Ghost” is the same as “Holy Spirit” (Greek adjective hagios and neuter noun pneuma).
The Spirit referred to as “he”
“I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you” (John 14:16-8). If “another Comforter” is referring to the Savior, then John is not referring to the Spirit.
“For he whom God hath sent, speaketh the words of God; for God giveth him not the Spirit by measure, for he dwelleth in him, even the fullness” (JST John 3:34). This “he” could refer to “God” or “the Spirit,” so is inconclusive.
“And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:27). This “he” could refer to “he that searcheth the hearts” (which Revelation 2:18, 23 states is the Son of God) or “the Spirit,” so is inconclusive.
“But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things . . . when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me” (John 14:26, 15:26).
“It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. . . . Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you” (John 16:7, 13-4).
I do not know if the Greek word translated to “he” was a masculine or a neuter noun.
It is interesting that none of the above passages are from the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants, which were translated directly into the English language.
“I said unto him: To know the interpretation thereof—for I spake unto him as a man speaketh; for I beheld that he was in the form of a man; yet nevertheless, I knew that it was the Spirit of the Lord; and he spake unto me as a man speaketh with another” (1 Nephi 11:11). This is the only passage in the Book of Mormon in which the Spirit of the Lord is referred to as “he.” However, I believe this verse is referring to the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ, and not to the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit referred to as “it”
“Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (Romans 8:26).
“Jesus was in the Spirit, and it taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain” (JST Matthew 4:8).
“I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him” (John 1:32, JST John 1:31).
“Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ” (1 Peter 1:11).
Latter-day scripture refers to the Holy Ghost as “it.”
“I beheld the Spirit of God, that it came down and wrought upon the man . . . I beheld the Spirit of God, that it wrought upon other Gentiles . . . I beheld the Spirit of the Lord, that it was upon the Gentiles” (1 Nephi 13:12-3, 15).
“Now they durst not do this lest they should wither before me, so powerful was the Spirit of God; and thus it had wrought upon them” (1 Nephi 17:52).
“I say unto you that if ye will enter in by the way, and receive the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do” (2 Nephi 32:5).
“But behold, there are many that harden their hearts against the Holy Spirit, that it hath no place in them” (2 Nephi 33:2).
“That ye contend no more against the Holy Ghost, but that ye receive it, and take upon you the name of Christ” (Alma 34:38).
“For behold, if ye deny the Holy Ghost when it once has had place in you, and ye know that ye deny it, behold, this is a sin which is unpardonable” (Alma 39:6).
“Behold, my brethren, he that prophesieth, let him prophesy to the understanding of men; for the Spirit speaketh the truth and lieth not. Wherefore, it speaketh of things as they really are, and of things as they really will be” (Jacob 4:13).
“I say unto you, my brethren, that after ye have known and have been taught all these things, if ye should transgress and go contrary to that which has been spoken, that ye do withdraw yourselves from the Spirit of the Lord, that it may have no place in you to guide you in wisdom’s paths that ye may be blessed, prospered, and preserved” (Mosiah 2:36).
“I know that thou believest, but thou art possessed with a lying spirit, and ye have put off the Spirit of God that it may have no place in you; but the devil has power over you, and he doth carry you about, working devices that he may destroy the children of God” (Alma 30:42).
“And they saw that they had become weak, like unto their brethren, the Lamanites, and that the Spirit of the Lord did no more preserve them; yea, it had withdrawn from them because the Spirit of the Lord doth not dwell in unholy temples” (Helaman 4:24).
“Ye shall call on the Father in my name, in mighty prayer; and after ye have done this ye shall have power that to him upon whom ye shall lay your hands, ye shall give the Holy Ghost; and in my name shall ye give it” (Moroni 2:2).
“Having denied the Holy Spirit after having received it, and having denied the Only Begotten Son of the Father, having crucified him unto themselves and put him to an open shame” (D&C 76:35).
“I now send upon you another Comforter, even upon you my friends, that it may abide in your hearts, even the Holy Spirit of promise; which other Comforter is the same that I promised unto my disciples, as is recorded in the testimony of John. This Comforter is the promise which I give unto you of eternal life” (D&C 88:3-4).
“That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man” (D&C 121:37).
“A man may receive the Holy Ghost, and it may descend upon him and not tarry with him” (D&C 130:23).
One possible reason that latter-day scripture refers to the Holy Ghost as “it” will be discussed later.
The Godhead Within
In some way, the Godhead is within us.
“It is the Deity within us that causes increase. Does this idea startle you? Are you ready to exclaim, ‘What! the Supreme in us!’ Yes. He is in every person upon the face of the earth. The elements that every individual is made of and lives in, possess the Godhead. This you cannot now understand, but you will hereafter” (Brigham Young, JD 1:93).
“Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? . . . ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them” (1 Corinthians 3:16, 2 Corinthians 6:16).
“No member of the Godhead dwells in us in the literal sense of the word, but all of them dwell in us figuratively to the extent that we are like them. If we have ‘the mind of Christ’ (1 Corinthians 2:16), which we receive by the power of the Holy Ghost, then Christ dwells in us. If the love of God abides in our souls, which love is a gift of God that comes by the power of the Holy Ghost, then God dwells in us. In some way beyond our comprehension, all of this is possible by the power of the Holy Ghost” (Bruce R. McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, 271-2).
The First Presidency of George Albert Smith, J. Reuben Clark, and David O. McKay wrote that God “has taught us the immortality of the human soul, itself a trinity of intelligence, of spiritual body, and of mortal body, and that after the resurrection, our trinity reunited, we become perfected beings” (James R. Clark, Messages of the First Presidency 6:236).
“I have heard it said, often, that man is a dual being—I say, he is a trinity. Man is a representative of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. When a human body comes into the world, there is a light from another sphere placed within it. The spirit that God places within this tabernacle was not created in this sphere, it was created yonder, in the presence of our Father and our Mother in heaven. When that spirit tabernacle was born unto them, there was a light, there was an intelligence placed within it that existed from everlasting. So that man was created in the image of God, and, like unto God, he is from everlasting to everlasting, and is thus a representative of the Trinity in heaven” (Ben E. Rich, October 1908 General Conference).
The kingdom of God
The Godhead within us would rule over the kingdom of God within us.
“And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:20-1).
In the above scripture, “within” was translated from the Greek word entos, which supposedly means “inside.” The word entos is used one other time in the New Testament: “cleanse first that which is within [entos] the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also” (Matthew 23:26).
“WHAT THE KINGDOM OF GOD IMPLIES. The term implies divine rule in the hearts and wills of men and in society. Man acknowledges a power and authority superior to his own. ‘It is not the arbitrary rule of a despotic Deity, but is based upon man’s voluntary submission of his will to that of God’s.’ On one occasion Jesus said, ‘The kingdom of God is within you.’ That is true, for it is in the heart of man that membership in the outward kingdom has its origin. Devotion and loyalty that spring thus from the heart ‘for the common Father of all mankind is the strongest and only universal bond that can bind all men together.’ Only such a group looking as one mind to heaven for guidance can eventually transform human society. . . . Wherein then does the secret of happiness lie? The Savior gives us the key to it when he says: ‘The kingdom of God is within you.’ The power is within man to choose the right or to choose the wrong. Happiness is not an external condition, it is a state of the spirit and an attitude of the mind” (David O. McKay, Gospel Ideals, 104, 495-6).
“Neither shall they say, Lo, here! or, Lo, there! For, behold, the kingdom of God has already come unto you” (JST Luke 17:21).
“So within the heart of everyone, every honest seeker after truth, if he has the desire to know, and studies with real intent and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the kingdom of God may be within him, or in other words, the power to receive it is his” (Harold B. Lee, Stand Ye In Holy Places, 275).
“What constitutes the kingdom of God? Where there is a prophet, a priest, or a righteous man unto whom God gives His oracles” (TPJS, 272).
The kingdom of heaven
The kingdom of God within is preparatory for the development of the kingdom of heaven within.
“Wherefore, may the kingdom of God go forth, that the kingdom of heaven may come, that thou, O God, mayest be glorified in heaven so on earth, that thine enemies may be subdued; for thine is the honor, power and glory, forever and ever” (D&C 65:6).
“I also beheld that all children who die before they arrive at the years of accountability are saved in the celestial kingdom of heaven” (D&C 137:10).
The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man in many, but not all, parables.
“The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field” (Matthew 13:24).
“[T]he kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls” (Matthew 13:45).
“[T]he kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard” (Matthew 20:1).
“[T]he kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods” (Matthew 25:14).
“Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants” (Matthew 18:23).
“The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son” (Matthew 22:2).
“Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom” (Matthew 25:1).
“The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field” (Matthew 13:31).
“The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened” (Matthew 13:33).
“[T]he kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field” (Matthew 13:44).
“[T]he kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind” (Matthew 13:47).
How Elohim, Jehovah, and Michael Can Represent the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost
“It is true that the earth was organized by three distinct characters, namely, Eloheim, Yahovah, and Michael, these three forming a quorum, as in all heavenly bodies, and in organizing element, perfectly represented in the Deity, as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost” (Brigham Young, JD 1:51). “Represented,” not “identified.”
“Everlasting covenant was made between three personages before the organization of this earth, and relates to their dispensation of things to men on the earth; these personages, according to Abraham’s record, are called God the first, the Creator; God the second, the Redeemer; and God the third, the witness or Testator” (TPJS, 190).
How Elohim Can Represent the Father, the Creator, and Our Spirit Bodies
“Such titles and epithets as God, Father, Lord, Creator, Most High, Eternal, Everlasting, Endless, and Almighty are employed rather interchangeably in referring to either the Father or the Son. However, in current LDS usage, such expressions as Eloheim, Man of Holiness, Heavenly Father, and Ahman, are reserved for God the Father” (Rodney Turner, The Pearl of Great Price: Revelations From God, 102).
“I, the Lord God, created all things, of which I have spoken, spiritually, before they were naturally upon the face of the earth” (Moses 3:5). Thoughts (inner creations with our mind/spirit) lead to words (outer statements of inner commitments), which lead to actions (outer creations with our physical body).
“Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us. Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father? Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake” (John 14:8-11).
Some have interpreted the above scripture to mean that Jesus physically looks like God the Father. Likening this scripture to ourselves, this means that our physical body resembles our spirit body. Someone who has seen your physical body (Son-aspect) has seen, in a limited sense, your spirit body (Father-aspect).
Another way this has been explained is that the Son ideally follows the Father in thought, word, and action. In the exalted person, the Son (as the body) is completely obedient to the Father (as the spirit). In the natural man, however, one’s carnal aspect can have more control than one’s spiritual aspect.
The exalted have the fullness of the Father-aspect. A father is a father because he begets children, so the exalted continue to have children. The exalted will have full power to create other things, including thoughts of creativity and beauty. The Father-aspect will reign in glory with all power and no opposition from any of his subjects. Those who are exalted become one of the Elohim.
How Jehovah Can Represent the Son, the Redeemer, and Our Physical Bodies
“God himself shall come down among the children of men, and shall redeem his people. And because he dwelleth in flesh he shall be called the Son of God, and having subjected the flesh to the will of the Father, being the Father and the Son— The Father, because he was conceived by the power of God [which D&C 88 states is the Spirit] and the Son, because of the flesh; thus becoming the Father and Son—And they are one God, yea, the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth. And thus the flesh becoming subject to the Spirit, or the Son to the Father, being one God” (Mosiah 15:1-5).
“I am in the Father, and the Father in me, and the Father and I are one—The Father because he gave me of his fulness, and the Son because I was in the world and made flesh my tabernacle, and dwelt among the sons of men. I was in the world and received of my Father, and the works of him were plainly manifest” (D&C 93:3-5).
“I am Jesus Christ. I am the Father and the Son. In me shall all mankind have life, and that eternally, even they who shall believe on my name; and they shall become my sons and my daughters” (Ether 3:14).
“All things are delivered to me of my Father; and no man knoweth that the Son is the Father, and the Father is the Son, but him to whom the Son will reveal it” (JST Luke 10:23).
“Teach them that redemption cometh through Christ the Lord, who is the very Eternal Father” (Mosiah 16:15).
“The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise” (John 5:19). Similarly, the body of flesh only acts in submission to the will of the spirit body.
“Firstborn, Only Begotten, Alpha and Omega, the Word, Son of Man, Son Ahman, Lamb of God, Savior, Redeemer, Great I Am, Jehovah, Holy One or Shepherd of Israel, Messiah, Christ, etc., are reserved for the Son” (Rodney Turner, The Pearl of Great Price: Revelations From God, 102).
“I have a work for thee, Moses, my son; and thou art in the similitude of mine Only Begotten; and mine Only Begotten is and shall be the Savior, for he is full of grace and truth” (Moses 1:6).
The Only Begotten will always be the Savior. The Only Begotten is the only one who has full approval from the Father. No sin can dwell in the Father’s presence, so the Only Begotten is the only rightful heir of all that the Father has. The Only Begotten is the only one that the Father can truly call his Son. In a sense, all the rest of us have to be “adopted.” Our Son-aspect must follow the Only Begotten Son, the Savior, the Christ. Becoming like Christ, through the Atonement, is the only way.
“I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn” (Zechariah 12:10).
“I was in the beginning with the Father, and am the Firstborn; And all those who are begotten through me are partakers of the glory of the same, and are the church of the Firstborn” (D&C 93:21-2). One can interpret this to mean that the Church belongs to Jesus Christ, but one could infer that it also belongs to those who are the Firstborn. In the beginning, we were pure and innocent. As we came into the telestial world, we partook of the ways of the world and to an extent lost sight of who we really are. We struggle to figure out who we really are. We have taken upon us other names, labels, and personalities, and “given birth” to new identities. Only through Christ can we return (Hebrew shube, “repent”) to a pure, innocent state, the state of the Firstborn. Once we have completely shed away all false identities, only our pure, divine nature remains, and hence the Firstborn becomes the Only-born. The Firstborn is the Only Begotten.
Jesus said, “I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me” (John 6:38). The flesh should be in complete submission to the spirit.
“Wherefore, brethren, seek not to counsel the Lord, but to take counsel from his hand. For behold, ye yourselves know that he counseleth in wisdom, and in justice, and in great mercy, over all his works. Wherefore, beloved brethren, be reconciled unto him through the atonement of Christ, his Only Begotten Son, and ye may obtain a resurrection, according to the power of the resurrection which is in Christ, and be presented as the first-fruits of Christ unto God, having faith, and obtained a good hope of glory in him before he manifesteth himself in the flesh” (Jacob 4:10-1).
D&C 88:97-8 states that “they who have slept in their graves shall come forth, for their graves shall be opened; and they also shall be caught up to meet him in the midst of the pillar of heaven—They are Christ’s, the first fruits, they who shall descend with him first, and they who are on the earth and in their graves, who are first caught up to meet him; and all this by the voice of the sounding of the trump of the angel of God.” We can become Christ’s first fruits.
“Wherefore teach it unto your children, that all men, everywhere, must repent, or they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God, for no unclean thing can dwell there, or dwell in his presence; for, in the language of Adam, Man of Holiness is his name, and the name of his Only Begotten is the Son of Man, even Jesus Christ” (Moses 6:57).
When we are exalted, the Son-aspect will be united fully with the Father-aspect. They will work together as one, as part of a resurrected and inseparable spiritual body. The Son-aspect will be the Only Begotten Son of the Father-aspect; there will be no other fragments (“dysfunctional children”) of ourselves.
How Michael Can Represent the Holy Ghost, the Witness/Testator, and the Spirit of the Gods/Intelligence in Us
The connections between Elohim and the Father, and between Jehovah and the Son, are more obvious. What about the association between Michael and the Holy Ghost?
D&C 31:11 states that “it shall be given you by the Comforter what you shall do and whither you shall go.”
“He that keepeth his commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things” (D&C 93:28). We gradually obtain light and truth through the Spirit until we have a fullness.
Spirituality is a measure of how much Spirit, or what intensity of Spirit, one has.
“Ask the Father in my name, in faith believing that you shall receive, and you shall have the Holy Ghost, which manifesteth all things which are expedient unto the children of men” (D&C 18:18).
The gift of the Holy Ghost
During the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, we are not told to “receive the Spirit,” since everyone born into the world already has it (albeit to varying degrees). We are told to “receive the Holy Ghost.”
“The gift of the Holy Ghost is the privilege—given to people who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ, been baptized, and been confirmed as members of the Church—to receive continual guidance and inspiration from the Holy Ghost” (Gospel Principles, 121).
“This first Comforter or Holy Ghost has no other effect than pure intelligence” (TPJS, 149).
“Now, let us understand this clearly in our own minds: When we lay hands upon an individual and say, ‘Receive the Holy Ghost,’ . . . what is it? Do you mean to say that upon every child that is confirmed, you give the personality of the Holy Ghost, as a personage of spirit? Not at all; it is the universal Spirit in a higher degree that is conferred” (Charles W. Penrose, April 1922 General Conference).
“[T]he presentation or ‘gift’ of the Holy Ghost simply confers upon a man the right to receive at any time, when he is worthy of it and desires it, the power and light of truth of the Holy Ghost, although he may often be left to his own spirit and judgment . . . the Holy Ghost is a personage of spirit, he constitutes the third person in the Trinity, the Godhead. The gift or presentation of the Holy Ghost is the authoritative act of conferring him upon man. The Holy Ghost in person may visit men and will visit those who are worthy and bear witness to their spirit of God and Christ, but may not tarry with them. . . . By means of this Spirit every man is enlightened, the wicked as well as the good, the intelligent and the ignorant, the high and the low, each in accordance with his capacity to receive the light; and this Spirit or influence which emanates from God may be said to constitute man’s consciousness, and will never cease to strive with man, until man is brought to the possession of the higher intelligence which can only come through faith, repentance, baptism for the remission of sins, and the gift or the presentation of the Holy Ghost by one having authority” (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, 60-1).
“What is the gift of the Holy Ghost? Nothing more nor less than the right to the companionship of the Holy Ghost. As President Joseph F. Smith says: ‘He does not have to dwell with one constantly.’ This man here, another one over there, and a man over in England, are confirmed members of the Church. The question arises, ‘How can the Holy Ghost be with them all at the same time?’ He does not have to be, but the power of the Holy Ghost is such that it can be manifest in every place at the same moment of time” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Jr., Doctrines of Salvation 1:40).
“The promise is to those who will repent and be baptized for the remission of sins; they shall receive ‘the gift of the Holy Ghost.’ What is it? It is a greater and higher endowment of the same spirit which enlightens every man that comes into the world; a greater power given unto us as an abiding witness, to be a light to our feet and a lamp to our path; as a restraint against sin, to guide us into all truth, to open up the vision of the mind, to bring things past to our remembrance, and to make manifest things to come. It is the spirit of truth that reveals the things of the Father and the Son, proceeding from the presence of the Almighty and the very glory in which He is enrobed, which makes him like unto a consuming fire” (Charles W. Penrose, JD 23:350).
Everyone has some light [of Christ] to a degree; we just need to increase our intensity of light.
0% holy < - - - (a continuum of Spirit) - - - > 100% “Holy”
To receive the Holy Ghost is to receive a holier level of the omnipresent Spirit occupying the same area where our physical body is. So in that sense, what we are striving to receive is person-shaped.
Therefore, for each of us, it may be possible that our Holy Ghost is a “personage” shaped just like ourselves.
The Spirit of truth
Christ has referred to Himself as the Spirit of truth.
“The Spirit of truth is of God. I am the Spirit of truth, and John bore record of me, saying: He received a fulness of truth, yea, even of all truth; And no man receiveth a fulness unless he keepeth his commandments. He that keepeth his commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things” (D&C 93:26-8).
D&C 93:8-17 states that “in the beginning the Word was, for he was the Word, even the messenger of salvation— 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. The worlds were made by him; men were made by him; all things were made by him, and through him, and of him. And I, John, bear record that I beheld his glory, as the glory of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, even the Spirit of truth, which came and dwelt in the flesh, and dwelt among us. And I, John, saw that he received not of the fulness at the first, but received grace for grace; And he received not of the fulness at first, but continued from grace to grace, until he received a fulness; And thus he was called the Son of God, because he received not of the fulness at the first. And I, John, bear record, and lo, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Ghost descended upon him in the form of a dove, and sat upon him, and there came a voice out of heaven saying: This is my beloved Son. And I, John, bear record that he received a fulness of the glory of the Father; And he received all power, both in heaven and on earth, and the glory of the Father was with him, for he dwelt in him.”
“I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also. At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. . . . These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John 14:16-20, 25-6).
“But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning” (John 15:26-7).
“[I]f you shall ask the Father in my name, in faith believing, you shall receive the Holy Ghost, which giveth utterance, that you may stand as a witness of the things of which you shall both hear and see, and also that you may declare repentance unto this generation” (D&C 14:8).
Man is told to be a witness of Christ, being a witness from the beginning. To the extent that we follow the Spirit, we are being a witness by our thoughts, words, and actions.
Some have noted that we could be called “Witnesses,” or “Seers,” as we perceive the thoughts that we have and the actions that we do without actually being those thoughts and actions. “And he beheld the spirits that God had created; and he beheld also things which were not visible to the natural eye; and from thenceforth came the saying abroad in the land: A seer hath the Lord raised up unto his people” (Moses 6:36).
The premortal Jehovah was a Holy Spirit. “And in that day the Holy Ghost fell upon Adam, which beareth record of the Father and the Son, saying: I am the Only Begotten of the Father from the beginning, henceforth and forever, that as thou hast fallen thou mayest be redeemed, and all mankind, even as many as will” (Moses 5:9).
This Spirit of truth is Jesus’ premortal higher identity.
Jesus prayed, “O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was” (John 17:5).
The Spirit of truth, Jehovah, glorified the Savior.
Jesus told his disciples, “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you” (John 16:13-5).
“It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you” (John 16:7).
“But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified” (John 7:39).
That may be why the fullness of the Holy Ghost was not available while Jesus was mortal. For if the mortal Jesus had not yet received the fullness of the Holy Ghost (as the Spirit of truth) and been glorified, we cannot expect that any other mortal would have been able to.
“Ye were also in the beginning with the Father; that which is Spirit, even the Spirit of truth . . . Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be” (D&C 93:23, 29). Here man seems to be referred to as the light of truth or Spirit of truth, which is the same designation given to the Son!
Receiving the identity of the Holy Ghost
Back to the question: What about the association between Michael and the Holy Ghost? Adam “received” Michael and Jesus “received” Jehovah; they were worthy to fully receive their divine nature. Their spirit bodies and physical bodies received the fullness of the Spirit of the Gods that filled every part of them, thereby making this spirit matter in the same shape as their bodies. The exalted truly receive the Holy Ghost.
Joseph Smith prayed that the saints, who already have the gift of the Holy Ghost, “may grow up in thee, and receive a fulness of the Holy Ghost” (D&C 109:15).
Colossians 2:9 states that in Christ “dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are within us, but certainly not currently at the level of “fullness” that Christ has.
Joseph Smith is reported to have said that “the Holy Ghost is now in a state of Probation which if he should perform in righteousness he may pass through the same or a similar course of things that the Son has. . . . the Holy Ghost is yet a Spiritual body and waiting to take to himself a body as the Savior did or as God did or the gods before them took bodies” (Ehat and Cook, The Words of Joseph Smith, 245, 382). Heber C. Kimball said that “the Holy Ghost is a man; he is one of the sons of our Father and our God; and he is that man that stood next to Jesus Christ, just as I stand by brother Brigham” (JD 5:180). On a literal level, these statements may all be correct. But also on a figurative level, it could also be thought that the portion of Spirit in us is in “a state of Probation” and if we are worthy, we will receive a fullness of the Holy Ghost and then we will be “next to Jesus,” to be considered as an equal (however incomprehensible that seems to us now).
If we are exalted, we will have a fullness of the Spirit of the Gods. The fact that we will have a fullness, as shown through our thoughts, words, and actions, will be a witness of our perfection. We will have the fullness of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
D&C 93:33 states, “For man is spirit.” We are spirits (in bodies).
“Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? . . . know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 3:16, 6:19-20).
If you are worthy to be made holy through Christ, you become a Holy Spirit/Ghost. Exalted beings are Holy Ghosts with celestial bodies.
“Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son” (2 John 1:9).
“That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3).
“And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3).
The Holy Ghost is not explicitly mentioned in the above 3 scriptures. The Holy Ghost is not mentioned as a personage in the fifth Lecture on Faith. For in the context of the Godhead within, you (if worthy) will take your place as the third member of the Godhead within you.
“For now we see through a glass [mirror], darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known” (1 Corinthians 13:12).
“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Literally speaking, God is the gift. The gift of God is the fullness of the Holy Ghost, which is eternal life.
Those who become exalted will find that the words “Holy Ghost” in the scriptures meant “potential future Self.”
The Spirit will not always strive with man
In Genesis 6:3, the Lord said, “My spirit shall not always strive with man.”
2 Nephi 26:10-1 states that “for the reward of their pride and their foolishness they shall reap destruction; for because they yield unto the devil and choose works of darkness rather than light, therefore they must go down to hell. For the Spirit of the Lord will not always strive with man. And when the Spirit ceaseth to strive with man then cometh speedy destruction, and this grieveth my soul.”
“For behold, the Spirit of the Lord hath already ceased to strive with their fathers; and they are without Christ and God in the world; and they are driven about as chaff before the wind” (Mormon 5:16).
“And he that repents not, from him shall be taken even the light which he has received; for my Spirit shall not always strive with man, saith the Lord of Hosts” (D&C 1:33).
“For behold, if ye have procrastinated the day of your repentance even until death, behold, ye have become subjected to the spirit of the devil, and he doth seal you his; therefore, the Spirit of the Lord hath withdrawn from you, and hath no place in you, and the devil hath all power over you; and this is the final state of the wicked” (Alma 34:35).
“And they saw that they had become weak, like unto their brethren, the Lamanites, and that the Spirit of the Lord did no more preserve them; yea, it had withdrawn from them because the Spirit of the Lord doth not dwell in unholy temples” (Helaman 4:24).
“And thus we see that the Spirit of the Lord began to withdraw from the Nephites, because of the wickedness and the hardness of their hearts” (Helaman 6:35).
“I say unto you, my brethren, that after ye have known and have been taught all these things, if ye should transgress and go contrary to that which has been spoken, that ye do withdraw yourselves from the Spirit of the Lord, that it may have no place in you to guide you in wisdom’s paths that ye may be blessed, prospered, and preserved—I say unto you, that the man that doeth this, the same cometh out in open rebellion against God; therefore he listeth to obey the evil spirit, and becometh an enemy to all righteousness; therefore, the Lord has no place in him, for he dwelleth not in unholy temples” (Mosiah 2:36-7). It is the sinful, natural man who withdraws from the Spirit.
On this level of interpretation, the unpardonable sin is truly terrible—to actually know of the existence of one’s Higher/Potential Self, and then deny it exists, purposely shutting the doors of eternal progression to oneself!
The Spirit will not always strive with a man, because if he gets to the point where he is so far lost, his Potential Self can no longer become an actuality.
Becoming a prophet, seer, and revelator
“A prophet is a teacher of known truth; a seer is a perceiver of hidden truth, a revelator is a bearer of new truth” (John A. Widtsoe, Evidences and Reconciliations, 258).
“If any person should ask me if I were a prophet, I should not deny it, as that would give me the lie; for, according to John, the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy; therefore, if I profess to be a witness or teacher, and have not the spirit of prophecy, which is the testimony of Jesus, I must be a false witness; but if I be a true teacher and witness, I must possess the spirit of prophecy” (TPJS, 269).
“I can assuredly tell thee, O king, of a man that can translate the records; for he has wherewith that he can look, and translate all records that are of ancient date; and it is a gift from God. And the things are called interpreters, and no man can look in them except he be commanded, lest he should look for that he ought not and he should perish. And whosoever is commanded to look in them, the same is called seer. . . . And the king said that a seer is greater than a prophet. And Ammon said that a seer is a revelator and a prophet also; and a gift which is greater can no man have, except he should possess the power of God, which no man can; yet a man may have great power given him from God. But a seer can know of things which are past, and also of things which are to come, and by them shall all things be revealed, or, rather, shall secret things be made manifest, and hidden things shall come to light, and things which are not known shall be made known by them, and also things shall be made known by them which otherwise could not be known” (Mosiah 8:13, 15-7).
“[T]hou mayest be a spokesman unto him, and he shall be a revelator unto thee, that thou mayest know the certainty of all things pertaining to the things of my kingdom on the earth” (D&C 100:11).
“My KNOWLEDGE is, if you will follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and his Apostles, as recorded in the New Testament, every man and woman will be put in possession of the Holy Ghost; every person will become a Prophet, Seer, and Revelator, and an expounder of truth. They will know things that are, that will be, and that have been. They will understand things in heaven, things on the earth, and things under the earth, things of time, and things of eternity, according to their several callings and capacities” (Brigham Young, JD 1:243).
Not every member of the Church can be a prophet, seer, and revelator for the entire Church; that could potentially cause confusion.
However, every worthy man and woman can potentially become a prophet, seer, and revelator for themselves on an individual level.
In the kingdom of heaven, every member will be able to sustain every other member as a prophet, seer, and revelator. Since everyone will be of one heart and one mind, there will be no confusion there.
In latter-day scriptures, the Holy Ghost is referred to with the gender-neutral “it” because any worthy man or woman will eventually receive it in its fullness and become it.
“No man can receive the Holy Ghost without receiving revelations. The Holy Ghost is a revelator” (TPJS, 328). A worthy person who becomes a Holy Spirit (in an immortal physical body) will be a revelator. By their very nature they will reveal things, but in the right way.
The Godhead within
The Father in us represents our spirit body. It is likely that there will still be variability in our personalities (favorite color, etc.).
The Son in us represents our physical body. It is likely that there will still be variability in the way our physical bodies appear to others.
The Holy Ghost in us represents the intensity of the light of Christ, or Spirit of the Gods, ranging from a son of perdition level up to a divine level.
0% son of perdition < - - - (a continuum of Spirit) - - - > 100% Holy
The Spirit is Forever the Same; Beside it is No Other
So there have been, and will be, endless generations of worthy people becoming exalted, and becoming like God.
“In the very beginning the Bible shows there is a plurality of Gods beyond the power of refutation. It is a great subject I am dwelling on. The word Eloheim ought to be in the plural all the way through—Gods. The heads of the Gods appointed one God for us; and when you take [that] view of the subject, its sets one free to see all the beauty, holiness and perfection of the Gods” (TPJS, 372).
Our Heavenly Father “changed.”
“God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret. If the veil were rent today, and the great God who holds this world in its orbit, and who upholds all worlds and all things by his power, was to make himself visible, —I say, if you were to see him today, you would see him like a man in form—like yourselves in all the person, image, and very form as a man; for Adam was created in the very fashion, image and likeness of God, and received instruction from, and walked, talked and conversed with him, as one man talks and communes with another. . . . It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God, and to know that we may converse with him as one man converses with another, and that he was once a man like us; yea, that God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ himself did” (TPJS, 345-6).
Jesus Christ “changed.”
“And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature” (Luke 2:52).
“I, John, saw that he received not of the fulness at the first, but received grace for grace; And he received not of the fulness at first, but continued from grace to grace, until he received a fulness; And thus he was called the Son of God, because he received not of the fulness at the first” (D&C 93:12-4).
However, there are scriptures that mention God being the same yesterday, today, and forever.
“Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever” (Hebrews 13:8).
“I speak unto you who deny the revelations of God, and say that they are done away, that there are no revelations, nor prophecies, nor gifts, nor healing, nor speaking with tongues, and the interpretation of tongues . . . For do we not read that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and in him there is no variableness neither shadow of changing?” (Mormon 9:7, 9).
“I am a God of miracles; and I will show unto the world that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and I work not among the children of men save it be according to their faith” (2 Nephi 27:23).
“I, Nephi, was desirous also that I might see, and hear, and know of these things, by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is the gift of God unto all those who diligently seek him, as well in times of old as in the time that he should manifest himself unto the children of men. For he is the same yesterday, today, and forever; and the way is prepared for all men from the foundation of the world, if it so be that they repent and come unto him” (1 Nephi 17-8).
“I speak the same words unto one nation like unto another. And when the two nations shall run together the testimony of the two nations shall run together also. And I do this that I may prove unto many that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and that I speak forth my words according to mine own pleasure. And because that I have spoken one word ye need not suppose that I cannot speak another; for my work is not yet finished; neither shall it be until the end of man, neither from that time henceforth and forever” (2 Nephi 29:8-9).
“God does inspire men and call them to his holy work in this age and generation, as well as in generations of old; Thereby showing that he is the same God yesterday, today, and forever” (D&C 20:11-2).
Although we worship our anthropomorphic Heavenly Father, He is one of many divine beings. The thing that all divine beings share is the omnipotent, omnipresent (and therefore nonanthropomorphic) Spirit of the Gods.
“[E]ach individual Deity becomes a partaker of the collective knowledge, wisdom, honor, power, majesty, and glory of the Body Divine—in a word, the embodiment of the Spirit of the Gods whose influence permeates the universe” (B.H. Roberts, The Mormon Doctrine of Deity, 168).
““We were begotten by our Father in Heaven; the person of our Father in Heaven was begotten on a previous heavenly world by His Father; and again, He was begotten by a still more ancient Father; and so on . . . In worshipping any one of these Gods we worship the whole, and in worshipping the whole, we still worship but one God; for it is the same God who dwells in them all; personages are only His different dwelling places. After the resurrection, when the Fulness of Truth or God dwells in us, it can then be said of us, as is now said of Christ, that we are ‘from all eternity to all eternity;’ it can then be said of us, that our ‘works have no end, neither beginning;’ it can then be said of us, that we are ‘in all things, and through all things, and round about all things;’ it can then be said of us, that the number of worlds which we have created are more numerous than the particles of dust in a million of earths like this . . . God is one God though dwelling in countless numbers of tabernacles. This is the reason why we are so repeatedly told in both ancient and modern revelation, that there is but one God. And whenever a plurality of Gods is mentioned we may always know that the expression has reference only to the number of tabernacles where this one only true and living God dwells” (Orson Pratt, The Essential Orson Pratt , 303-5).
In response to Isaiah 43:10 which states, “before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me” and Moses 1:6 which states, “there is no God beside me,” Orson Pratt said, “In these expressions, God has reference to the great principles of light and truth, or knowledge, and not to the tabernacles in which this knowledge may dwell; the tabernacles are many and without number, but the truth or knowledge which is often personified and called God, is one, being the same in all; God is one, being a unity, when represented by light, truth, wisdom, or knowledge; but when reference is made to the temples in which this knowledge dwells, the number of Gods is infinite. . . . the attributes of Deity are one; and they constitute the one God that the Prophets speak of, and that the children of men in all worlds worship. One world has a personal God or Father, and the inhabitants thereof worship the attributes of that God, another world has another, and they worship His attributes, and besides Him there is no other; and when they worship Him they are at the same time worshipping the same attributes that dwell in all the personal Gods who fill immensity. And hence the Lord says, in one of the revelations of these last days: ‘Ye are tabernacles in which God dwells, man is the tabernacle of God’” (JD 2:345).
“He that is ordained of God and sent forth, the same is appointed to be the greatest, notwithstanding he is the least and the servant of all. Wherefore, he is possessor of all things; for all things are subject unto him, both in heaven and on the earth, the life and the light, the Spirit and the power, sent forth by the will of the Father through Jesus Christ, his Son. But no man is possessor of all things except he be purified and cleansed from all sin” (D&C 50:24-8).
The Gods are the same yesterday, today, and forever because they have access to the Spirit, “for the Spirit is the same, yesterday, today, and forever” (2 Nephi 2:4).
Everything is a Matter of Degree
Since God knows and comprehends all things, the things that we would consider to be paradoxes or exceptions are simply human mental constructs.
A person has many life experiences and circumstances that have contributed to the way they see things. We have been brought up in different ways, been taught different lessons by different teachers, and have developed a certain way of thinking. There is nothing wrong with this; we needed learning and experience to make sense of the world around us.
However, when we interact with others now, we see that there are other ways to think. Maybe we might even find that we would think the same way another person thinks if we had the same life experiences.
Someone may place a different emphasis on something at a given time, depending on who the listener is. The meaning of a statement can depend on the context.
For various reasons, sometimes we focus more on what is “necessary” for salvation. Sometimes we focus more on what is “insufficient” for salvation.
Sometimes we focus more on faith. Sometimes we focus more on works.
Sometimes we focus more on the fact that “it is by grace that we are saved.” Sometimes we focus more on the fact that it is “after all we can do.”
Although there can be exceptions to mortal man’s rules, there are no exceptions to God’s rules.
Mortal minds may think that there are exceptions, but that is because our interpretations of the rules are limited. Nothing falls outside of God’s jurisdiction. Apparent exceptions to the rules indicate the existence of higher, more encompassing rules.
Supposed paradoxes and exceptions help us avoid one-sided thinking.
Through pondering paradoxes and exceptions, we remember that God’s thoughts are higher than our own thoughts, so we can ponder and seek to synthesize or find transcendent principles.
Commandments that seem to oppose each other are unified under God’s law. “Happiness is the object and design of our existence; and will be the end thereof, if we pursue the path that leads to it; and this path is virtue, uprightness, faithfulness, holiness, and keeping all the commandments of God. But we cannot keep all the commandments without first knowing them, and we cannot expect to know all, or more than we now know unless we comply with or keep those we have already received. That which is wrong under one circumstance, may be, and often is, right under another. God said, ‘Thou shalt not kill;’ at another time He said, ‘Thou shalt utterly destroy.’ This is the principle on which the government of heaven is conducted—by revelation adapted to the circumstances in which the children of the kingdom are placed. Whatever God requires is right, no matter what it is, although we may not see the reason thereof till long after the events transpire. If we seek first the kingdom of God, all good things will be added. . . . Everything that God gives us is lawful and right; and it is proper that we should enjoy His gifts and blessings whenever and wherever He is disposed to bestow; but if we should seize upon those same blessings and enjoyments without law, without revelation, without commandment, those blessings and enjoyments would prove cursings and vexations in the end, and we should have to lie down in sorrow and wailings of everlasting regret. But in obedience there is joy and peace unspotted, unalloyed; and as God has designed our happiness—and the happiness of all His creatures, he never has—He never will institute an ordinance or give a commandment to His people that is not calculated in its nature to promote that happiness which He has designed, and which will not end in the greatest amount of good and glory to those who become the recipients of his law and ordinances. Blessings offered, but rejected, are no longer blessings, but become like the talent hid in the earth by the wicked and slothful servant; the proffered good returns to the giver; the blessing is bestowed on those who will receive and occupy; for unto him that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundantly, but unto him that hath not or will not receive, shall be taken away that which he hath, or might have had” (TPJS, 255-6).
Consider the following 2 groups of 3 statements:
- Heavenly Father has a body of flesh and bones.
- Heavenly Father has a body of spirit.
- Heavenly Father has a body of flesh and bones and a body of spirit.
- Captain Moroni was prompted to shed blood to defend the Nephites.
- The people of Ammon were prompted not to shed blood.
- We should do whatever God tells us to do.
Since “truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come; whatsoever is more or less than this is the spirit of that wicked one who was a liar from the beginning” (D&C 93:24-5), once someone knows the more complete truths, it would be sin to preach only incomplete truths, such as, “Heavenly Father has a body of spirit only” or “We are always justified in shedding blood.”
“Everything is a matter of degree. . . . Russell’s paradoxes ended thousands of years of blind faith in the certainty of math, bivalent math. . . . Heisenberg’s quantum uncertainty principle ended, or at least dented, our blind faith in the certainty of science and factual truths. . . . Sorites paradoxes arise everywhere in our word/world schemes because we everywhere negate things and get nonthings. Our words cut the world into a black A and white not-A but the gray world pays no attention. . . . The old and new paradoxes teach us many things. The first thing they teach is that we have misnamed them. The term paradox means exception. A fuzzy analysis shows the reverse. Paradoxes are the rule and not the exception. Pure black-and-white outcomes are the exceptions, the corners of the fuzzy cube filled with gray outcomes. There are two Aristotelian extremes of black and white, 0 and 1, and infinitely many shades of gray between them. A gray shade means A AND not-A holds to some degree. Paradoxes also show how bivalence costs. You cannot always round off descriptions of fact and get away with it. You trade accuracy for simplicity and you pay for the trade” (Bart Kosko, Fuzzy Thinking, 15, 18, 93-4, 102-3).
The simultaneous existence of two seemingly contradictory states can help us see that both states can exist, to some degree.
Joseph Smith wrote, “by proving contraries, truth is made manifest” (History of the Church 6:428). (However, this phrase was in quotation marks, so he may have been quoting someone else.) Brigham Young said that “with all facts that have come to the knowledge of all beings in Heaven, or on earth—all facts are proved and made manifest by their opposite” (JD 13:59). These are very interesting phrases, ones that can lead to interesting discoveries.
There are often, if not always, more than two sides to an issue. It can be helpful to try to find the unifying principle, a higher level of truth, that encompasses and enhances the two sides.
It can remind one of a triangle of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis (at the top apex of the triangle). G.W.F. Hegel appeared to think that “there is a process in the mind by which each pair of opposites is reconciled in a synthesis which includes both but on a higher level. This process is everywhere. First there is a thesis or affirmation, then we discover the antithesis to this thesis or its contradiction. The highest form of thought is the reconciling of both in a synthesis which lifts thinking one step higher. The human mind does not stop with contradictions, but strives to get rid of them by effecting a synthesis. This is not to be confused with a compromise. In a true synthesis the values of both the thesis and the antithesis are conserved and together they move toward new values. The highest function of the mind, then, is that activity which enables one to see things whole, to see opposites unified . . . thinking moves from the simple to the complex not by discreet jumps but by a gradual development into synthesis which become theses for still higher syntheses” (S.E. Frost, Jr., Basic Teachings of the Great Philosophers, 258-9).
“Between apparently conflicting extremes there is always a ‘middle way’ of balance, justice or compensation which, while it includes both extremes, cannot be said to be either one or the other, and which brings both into harmony; and this middle way is the point of contact between two extremes. Truth cannot be partisan, but, by its nature, is the Reconciler of extremes” (James Allen, The Wisdom of James Allen, 152).
“Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled” (Titus 1:15).
Charity “believeth all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7).
“I believe all that God ever revealed, and I never hear of a man being damned for believing too much; but they are damned for unbelief” (TPJS, 373).
How can we believe all things, even concepts that seem contradictory?
One possible answer: “There are many levels of spiritual understanding among righteous members of the Church” (Endowed from on High: Temple Preparation Seminar Teacher’s Manual, 23).
Whenever we come across a subject or concept that people appear to superficially disagree on, some people try to think about which one of the two sides are correct, an “either/or” approach.
Others may see the disagreement as a signal that the truth might “transcend” both sides. By assuming both sides are valid to some degree, there can then be an attempt to reconcile, unify, and create a “synthesis.”
The syntheses turn out to be more intuitively satisfying than either of the initial two options alone, since it does not negate either idea.
When we see that things are a matter of degree, we move from dualistic “either/or” thinking to synergistic “both/and” thinking.
Question: Is the glass half-empty or half-full?
Answer: The glass is both half-empty (the top 50%) and half-full (the bottom 50%).
“I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:11-3).
“The infinite Atonement is for both the sinner and for the saint in each of us” (Elder David A. Bednar, “Clean Hands and a Pure Heart,” October 2007 General Conference).
Seeking to synthesize information can lead to interesting possibilities. The next section is one example.
Intelligence and Intelligences as Premortal Eternal Progression
“Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be. All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence” (D&C 93:29-30).
We believe that before we were born “into mortality” on the earth, we existed as spirits. But what were we, if anything, before we were spirits? The above scripture seems to indicate something eternal in man’s nature. Does the “intelligence” refer to an individual intelligence? Does it refer to a collective substance from which we were all derived?
Before being spirits, we were individual intelligences
B.H. Roberts was a proponent of this view. He has referred to Joseph Smith’s statement, “God never had the power to create the spirit of man at all. God himself could not create himself. Intelligence is eternal and exists upon a self-existent principle. It is a spirit from age to age, and there is no creation about it. All the minds and spirits that God ever sent into the world are susceptible of enlargement. The first principles of man are self-existent with God. God himself, finding he was in the midst of spirits and glory, because he was more intelligent, saw proper to institute laws whereby the rest could have a privilege to advance like himself. The relationship we have with God places us in a situation to advance in knowledge. He has power to institute laws to instruct the weaker intelligences, that they may be exalted with himself, so that they might have one glory upon another, and all that knowledge, power, glory, and intelligence, which is requisite in order to save them in the world of spirits” (TPJS, 354).
“I am Jesus Christ. I am the Father and the Son. In me shall all mankind have life, and that eternally, even they who shall believe on my name; and they shall become my sons and my daughters. 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. 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. And now, as I, Moroni, said I could not make a full account of these things which are written, therefore it sufficeth me to say that Jesus showed himself unto this man in the spirit, even after the manner and in the likeness of the same body even as he showed himself unto the Nephites” (Ether 3:14-7).
Commenting on the above scripture, B.H. Roberts wrote, “Now, with the above revelation from the Book of Mormon concerning the spirit-body of Jesus, before us, we are face to face with a something that was begotten, and in that sense a ‘creation,’ a spirit, the ‘first born of many brethren;’ the ‘beginning of the creations of God.’ The spirit is in human form—for we are told that as Christ’s spirit-body looked to Jared’s brother, so would the Christ look to men when he came among them in the flesh; the body of flesh conforming to the appearance of the spirit, the earthly to the heavenly. ‘This body which ye now behold is the body of my spirit’—the house, the tenement of that uncreated intelligence which had been begotten of the Father a spirit, as later that spirit-body with the intelligent, uncreated entity inhabiting it, will be begotten a man. ‘This body which you now behold is the body of my spirit,’ or spirit-body. There can be no doubt but what here ‘spirit,’ as in the Book of Abraham, is used interchangeably with ‘intelligence,’ and refers to the uncreated entity; as if the passage stood; ‘This is the body inhabited by an intelligence.’ The intelligent entity inhabiting a spirit-body make up the spiritual personage. . . . The difference, then, between ‘spirits’ and ‘intelligences,’ as here used, is this: Spirits are uncreated intelligences inhabiting spiritual bodies; while ‘intelligences,’ pure and simple, are intelligent entities, but unembodied in either spirit bodies or bodies of flesh and bone” (The Seventy’s Course in Theology, Second Year, 10-1).
So he interprets the scripture in Ether to mean that Jesus meant that his spirit body was the body housing his intelligence. He further writes:
“But what is the value of this doctrine of the eternal existence of uncreated intelligences? . . . why should [God]—being infinitely wise and powerful and good, for so the creeds represent him—why should he create by mere act of volition beings such as men are, not only capable of, but prone to, moral evil? Which, in the last analysis of things, in spite of all special pleadings to the contrary, leaves responsibility for moral evil with God? God’s creative acts culminating thus, the next pertinent questions are: Then what of the decreed purpose of God to punish moral evil? and what of the much vaunted justice of God in that punishment? Wherein lies the just responsibility of man if he was so created as to love evil and to follow it? It is revolting to reason, as it is shocking to piety to think, that God of his own free will created some men, not only inclined to wickedness, but desperately so inclined; while others, he of his own volition created with dispositions naturally inclined toward goodness. In like manner stands it with man in relation to his inclination to faith, and to disbelief: and yet, under the orthodox belief all are included under one law for judgment! Under the conception of the existence of independent, uncreated, self-existent intelligences, who by the inherent nature of them are of various degrees of intelligence, doubtless differing from each other in many ways, yet alike in their eternity and their freedom; with God standing in the midst of them, ‘more intelligent than them all,’ and proposing the betterment of their condition—progress to higher levels of being, and power through change—under this conception of things how stand matters? There is the begetting of these intelligences, spirits; the spirits, men; the men, resurrected personages of infinite possibilities; at each change increased powers for development are added to intelligences, yet ever present through all the processes of betterment is the self-existent entity, the ‘intelligences,’ with the tremendous fact of his consciousness and his moral freedom, and his indestructibility;—he has his choice of moving upward or downward in every estate he occupies . . . This conception of things relieves God of the responsibility for the nature and status of intelligences in all stages of their development; their inherent nature and their volition make them primarily what they are, and this nature they may change, slowly, perhaps, yet change it they may. God has put them in the way of changing it by enlarging their intelligence through change of environment, through experiences; the only way God effects these self-existent beings is favorably; he creates not their inherent nature: he is not responsible for the use they make of their freedom; nor is he the author of their sufferings when they fall into sin: that arises out of the violations of law to which the ‘intelligence’ subscribed, and must be endured until its lessons are learned” (Ibid., 16-8).
He believes that if individual intelligences were uncreated and had agency, that would avoid the paradox of God creating evil spirits, like Lucifer, from a collective intelligence.
Parley Pratt spoke in agreement, “It may be inquired, why God made one unequal to another, or inferior in intellect or capacity. To which I reply, that He did not create their intelligence at all. It never was created, being an inherent attribute of the eternal element called spirit, which element composes each individual spirit, and which element exists in an infinitude of degrees in the scale of intellect, in all the varieties manifested in the eternal God, and thence to the lowest agent, which acts by its own will. It is a fixed law of nature that the higher intelligence presides over, or has more or less influence over, or control of, that which is less” (JD 1:258).
“I am dwelling on the immortality of the spirit of man. Is it logical to say that the intelligence of spirits is immortal, and yet that it had a beginning? The intelligence of spirits had not beginning, neither will it have an end. That is good logic. That which has a beginning may have an end. There never was a time when there were not spirits; for they are co-equal [co-eternal] with our Father in heaven. I want to reason more on the spirit of man; for I am dwelling on the body and spirit of man—on the subject of the dead. I take my ring from my finger and liken it unto the mind of man—the immortal part, because it has no beginning. Suppose you cut it in two; then it has a beginning and an end; but join it again, and it continues one eternal round. So with the spirit of man. As the Lord liveth, if it had a beginning, it will have an end. All the fools and learned and wise men from the beginning of creation, who say that the spirit of man had a beginning, prove that it must have an end; and if that doctrine is true, then the doctrine of annihilation would be true” (TPJS, 353-4).
If we were created from a collective Intelligence, that may mean that our individual identities had a beginning. So does that mean that our individual identities will have an end? We usually tend to think, or at least hope, that becoming one with God does not mean losing our individual identities. We hope that “losing our life” does not mean losing our individual identity and existence; that concept may make life feel less purposeful. Would there be a purpose for God in giving us individual identity and then taking it away?
Before being spirits, we were from a collective intelligence
“[I]f God is an individual spirit and dwells in a body, the question will arise, ‘Is He the Eternal Father?’ Yes, He is the Eternal Father. ‘Is it a fact that He never had a beginning?’ In the elementary particles of His organism, He did not. But if He is an organized Being, there must have been a time when that being was organized. This, some one will say, would infer that God had a beginning. This spirit which pervades all things, which is the light and life of all things, by which our heavenly Father operates, by which He is omnipotent, never had a beginning and never will have an end. It is the light of truth; it is the spirit of intelligence” (Charles W. Penrose, JD 26:24).
“Abraham used the name intelligences to apply to the spirit children of the Eternal Father. The intelligence or spirit element became intelligences after the spirits were born as individual entities (Abraham 3:22-74). Use of this name designates both the primal element from which the spirit offspring were created and also their inherited capacity to grow in grace, knowledge, power and intelligence itself, until such intelligences, gaining the fulness of all things, become like their Father, the Supreme Intelligence” (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 387).
The word “intelligence” is used in various ways. “The Lord said unto Enoch, Behold, these thy brethren, they are the workmanship of mine own hands, and I gave unto them their intelligence in the day I created them. And in the garden of Eden gave I unto man his agency” (JST Genesis 7:39). However, the Pearl of Great Price states, “The Lord said unto Enoch: Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands, and I gave unto them their knowledge, in the day I created them; and in the Garden of Eden, gave I unto man his agency” (Moses 7:32).
Perhaps these two concepts can be synthesized into another possibility:
Premortal eternal progression—we have been progressing and receiving up until this stage for eternity
We tend to believe in eternal progression. However, we usually think more about our future progression and less about our past progression. If Joseph Smith’s statement “That which has a beginning may have an end” is correct, then perhaps the contrapositive, “That which has no end, may have no beginning” is also correct. If so, there was no beginning to our eternal progression. There was no starting point.
“[T]he capacities of are not only eternal, but infinite. An infinite quantity of self-moving intelligent matter, possessed of infinite capacities, and existing naturally, must have been engaged in an endless series of operations” (Orson Pratt, The Essential Orson Pratt, 299).
Perhaps there has always been some eternal, individual component to what we are. Perhaps there has always been some eternal, collective component to what we are. As we have eternally progressed up until now, we have continually been “added upon.” Our eternal, individual identity has undergone an eternal process of receiving, and becoming one with, endowments of various kinds. Maybe sometimes these collective endowments have been so monumental that they seem to overshadow the previous individual state. For example, those who will be exalted will receive all power.
We have been continually “clothed” with more and more, such as our spirit bodies and then more recently our mortal bodies. Under this idea, perhaps Heavenly Father is the father of our spirit bodies in the way that our mortal fathers are the fathers of our mortal bodies.
The Spirit is Everywhere, to Some Degree
The light of Christ (Spirit of the Gods) is everywhere. But it is not everywhere in the same intensity or degree.
It does not seem to be the case that you either have the Spirit or you do not. Apparently you can have more, or less, of it.
“Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?” (Mosiah 18:10).
“The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).
Scriptures such as 2 Kings 2:9, Alma 17:9, Alma 18:35, Alma 24:8, Alma 40:13, and D&C 71:1 mention people having a “portion” of the Spirit.
“Ye who are quickened by a portion of the celestial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fulness” (D&C 88:29).
“Here, perhaps, is a good Presbyterian brother, a good Baptist brother, or, perhaps, a good Catholic one. Are they entitled to that degree of the Spirit of God that we are? No, but they are entitled to light” (Brigham Young, JD 10:296).
The words “more abundantly” and “portion” and “degree” imply that the Spirit is received in degrees; it is a continuum or gradient.
There are at least 3 major degrees of the light of Christ. “There are three phases of the light of Christ that I want to mention. The first one is the light which enlighteneth every man that cometh into the world; The second phase is the gift of the Holy Ghost; And the third is the more sure word of prophecy” (Marion G. Romney, “The Light of Christ,” April 1977 General Conference).
0% < - - - phase 1 - - - phase 2 - - - phase 3 - - - > 100%
The idea of something everywhere, but in varying degrees, helps one deal with the following statement: “Orson Pratt . . . believes . . . that universal space is filled with, and that every particle of it is a Holy Spirit, and that spirit is all powerful and all wise, full of intelligence and possessing all the attributes of all the Gods in eternity. . . . that theory, though apparently very plausible and beautiful, is not true . . . Brother Hyde was upon this same theory once, and in conversation with brother Joseph Smith advanced the idea that eternity or boundless space was filled with the Spirit of God, or the Holy Ghost. After portraying his views upon that theory very carefully and minutely, he asked brother Joseph what he thought of it? He replied that it appeared very beautiful, and that he did not know of but one serious objection to it. Says Brother Hyde, ‘What is that?’ Joseph replied, ‘it is not true.’ . . . According to his [Pratt’s] philosophy, the devils in hell are composed of and filled with the Holy Spirit, or Holy Ghost, and possess all the knowledge, wisdom, and power of the Gods. If he believes his own doctrine pertaining to the celestial and other kingdoms, viz., that the devils in hell possess the same power as the Gods, they being opposed to Jesus and his Father, the whole fabric must fall” (Brigham Young, JD 4:267).
Brigham Young does not disagree that the Spirit is everywhere (even if close to 0%, like in outer darkness), but he disagrees that the same high (“Holy”) spiritual level of the Spirit is everywhere.
“I have a few questions to ask the philosophical world, those especially who are well skilled in chemistry: Is this earth, the air and the water, composed of life, or do they, or any portion of them, consist of inanimate matter, or of that that has no life in itself? Another question: If the earth, air and water are composed of life, is there any intelligence in this life? The philosopher may take his own time to answer these questions, and when he has satisfied himself he may ask himself again: Are those particles of matter life; if so, are they in possession of intelligence according to the grade of their organization? As far as we are concerned, we suggest the idea that there is an eternity of life, an eternity of organization, and an eternity of intelligence from the highest to the lowest grade, every creature in its order, from the Gods to the animalculae” (Brigham Young, October 1875 General Conference, quoted in Scrapbook of Mormon Literature 2:41-2).
Ye Are Gods, to Some Degree
The nature of man is another example of things not being “all or none.”
We are lower than the dust of the earth (to some degree). However, we are also gods (to some degree).
On the one hand, scriptures that tell us that we are lower than the dust of the earth can be helpful for those who have pride.
“O how great is the nothingness of the children of men; yea, even they are less than the dust of the earth” (Helaman 12:7).
“I know that man is nothing” (Moses 1:10).
On the other hand, scriptures that talk about our divine potential can be helpful for those who have low self-esteem.
“We say that God himself is a self-existent being. Who told you so? It is correct enough; but how did it get into you heads? Who told you that man did not exist in like manner upon the same principles? Man does exist upon the same principles. God made a tabernacle and put a spirit into it, and it became a living soul” (TPJS, 352-3).
“God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods . . . I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High” (Psalms 82:1, 6).
“Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? . . . If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; . . . Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?” (John 10:34-6).
“‘Now,’ says God, when He visited Moses in the bush, . . . God said, ‘Thou shalt be a God unto the children of Israel.’ God said, ‘Thou shalt be a God unto Aaron, and he shall be thy spokesman.’ I believe those Gods that God reveals as Gods to be sons of God, and all can cry, ‘Abba, Father!’ Sons of God who exalt themselves to be Gods, even from before the foundation of the world, and are the only Gods I have a reverence for” (TPJS, 375).
So it sounds like more than one son of God, and not just Jehovah, was able to “exalt” himself in the premortal existence.
“God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ” (Galatians 4:4-7).
“And I, John, saw that he received not of the fulness at the first, but received grace for grace; And he received not of the fulness at first, but continued from grace to grace, until he received a fulness; And thus he was called the Son of God, because he received not of the fulness at the first. . . . For if you keep my commandments you shall receive of his fulness, and be glorified in me as I am in the Father; therefore, I say unto you, you shall receive grace for grace” (D&C 93:12-4, 20).
“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together” (Romans 8:14-7).
Abraham 4:1 states that “the Gods . . . organized and formed the heavens and the earth.”
“It is true that the earth was organized by three distinct characters, namely, Eloheim, Yahovah, and Michael, these three forming a quorum, as in all heavenly bodies, and in organizing element, perfectly represented in the Deity, as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost” (Brigham Young, JD 1:51).
Putting the two above quotes together, it can be concluded that Michael was considered to be one of “the Gods.”
Degrees of spirituality, using arbitrary numbers
Let us arbitrarily use a scale from almost 0% to above 100%.
Let us pretend that the “average” person who has the light that enlighteneth everyone is a 10% god. (And therefore is 90% less than the dust of the earth.)
When someone receives the gift of the Holy Ghost, they become a 20% god. To clarify, this means that their maximum capacity would then be 20%; they may not always function at a level of 20%, since a person could choose to live by a lower level of light and truth. In this way, a righteous non-LDS functioning at 10% is more righteous than an LDS functioning at 5%.
When someone receives the more sure word of prophecy, they become a 30% god.
When becomes exalted (truly receiving the fullness of the Holy Ghost), they become a 100% God.
0% god < - - - 10% - - - 20% - - - 30% - - - - - - > 100% “God”
The premortal Jehovah was 100% God. The premortal Michael’s spirit was sufficiently Holy (whether 98%, 99%, or even 100%?) to be considered a God with a capital “G.”
0% god < - - - - - - 98% “God?” - - - 99% “God?” - - - > 100% “God”
Although D&C 93:23, 29 may be referring to man as the Spirit of truth or light of truth, it does not appear likely that we were 100% Gods and had the true fullness of the Holy Ghost premortally.
“Every spirit of man was innocent in the beginning; and God having redeemed man from the fall, men became again, in their infant state, innocent before God” (D&C 93:38). This could imply that we made mistakes in the premortal existence.
Also, if people were 100% Gods premortally, that could mean that it is possible to permanently fall from Godhood (after the Final Judgment).
Degrees of Glory
Souls are not confined to either a Heaven or a Hell.
“I resumed the translation of the Scriptures. From sundry revelations which had been received, it was apparent that many important points touching the salvation of man, had been taken from the Bible, or lost before it was compiled. It appeared self-evident from what truths were left, that if God rewarded every one according to the deeds done in the body the term ‘Heaven,’ as intended for the Saints’ eternal home, must include more kingdoms than one. Accordingly, . . . while translating St. John’s Gospel, myself and Elder Rigdon saw the following vision [D&C 76]” (Joseph Smith, History of the Church 1:245).
“[W]hen we have passed into the sphere where Joseph [Smith] is, there is still another department, and then another, and another, and so on to an eternal progression in exaltation and eternal lives. That is the exaltation I am looking for. . . . The kingdoms that God has prepared are innumerable. . . . How many kingdoms of glory there are, I know not; and how many degrees of glory there are in these kingdoms, I know not; but there are multitudes of them. Paul speaks of three, Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon saw three, and multitudes more have we seen by the Spirit of revelation, according to the capacity of our understandings” (Brigham Young, JD 3:375, 8:155, 9:107).
“Paul saw the third heavens, and I more” (TPJS, 301).
“Every man will be rewarded according to the deeds done in the body. Those who have received pure and heavenly principles, and lived up to them, and kept the celestial law of God, will enjoy a celestial kingdom. Those who have not attained to this perfection, but can obey a terrestrial law, will receive a terrestrial glory, and enjoy a terrestrial kingdom, and so on. But I believe, furthermore, that there are eternal grades of progression, which will continue worlds without end, and to an infinity of enjoyment, expansion, glory, progression, and of everything calculated to ennoble and exalt mankind” (John Taylor, JD 1:159).
“Here, then, is eternal life--to know the only wise and true God; and you have got to learn how to be Gods yourselves, and to be kings and priests to God, the same as all Gods have done before you, namely, by going from one small degree to another, and from a small capacity to a great one; from grace to grace, from exaltation to exaltation, until you attain to the resurrection of the dead, and are able to dwell in everlasting burnings, and to sit in glory, as do those who sit enthroned in everlasting power” (TPJS, 346-7).
“[T]he degrees of worthiness in men are almost infinite in their variety; and as every man is to be judged according to his works, it will require a corresponding infinity of degrees in glory to mete out to every man that reward of which he is worthy, and that also which his intelligence will enable him to enjoy” (B.H. Roberts, New Witnesses for God 1:387).
What level we will ultimately gravitate to is up to us (and the grace of God).
“All will be judged according to their acts and opportunities, according to the light that they have received or the light that they might have received if it had pleased them to open their eyes to it, and everyone in the due time of the Lord will be placed where he or she is fit to be. We will find our own level. Just as water finds its natural level. The time will come when every spirit will find its own level. We will all gravitate some day into the place where we belong, and that place will be determined by our condition, according to the opportunities we have had, and according to the manner we have availed ourselves of them, either in cultivating the good and rejecting the evil, or in rejecting the good and cultivating the evil” (Charles W. Penrose, JD 22:86).
“All life is a migration of static patterns of quality toward Dynamic Quality” (Robert Pirsig, Lila: An Inquiry into Morals, 160).
Life involves progression toward a higher level.
Life would be uniting with the dynamic (eternally progressing) higher level(s); these dynamic levels would build upon, not destroy, the lower level(s).
Death would be disunion from the dynamic, or staying with the static, fragmented lower level(s).
Eternal progression involves separating from a lower level and uniting with a higher level. The object is to sacrifice dependence on static patterns to allow dynamic pattern formation.
“And now, my brethren, seeing that ye know the light by which ye may judge, which light is the light of Christ, see that ye do not judge wrongfully; for with that same judgment which ye judge ye shall also be judged. Wherefore, I beseech of you, brethren, that ye should search diligently in the light of Christ that ye may know good from evil; and if ye will lay hold upon every good thing, and condemn it not, ye certainly will be a child of Christ. And now, my brethren, how is it possible that ye can lay hold upon every good thing? And now I come to that faith, of which I said I would speak . . . God also declared unto prophets, by his own mouth, that Christ should come. And behold, there were divers ways that he did manifest things unto the children of men, which were good; and all things which are good cometh of Christ; otherwise men were fallen, and there could no good thing come unto them. Wherefore, . . . men began to exercise faith in Christ; and thus by faith, they did lay hold upon every good thing” (Moroni 7:18-21, 23-5).
“A great Teacher was once asked by one of His disciples to explain the distinction between good and evil, and holding his hand with the fingers pointing downward, He said, ‘Where is my hand pointing?’ And the disciple replied, ‘It is pointing downward.’ Then, turning His hand upward, the Teacher asked, ‘Where now is my hand pointing?’ And the disciple answered, ‘It is pointing upward.’ ‘That,’ said the Teacher, ‘is the distinction between evil and good’” (James Allen, “Seeing No Evil,” Byways of Blessedness).
“Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?” (Ecclesiastes 3:21).
“There are three independent principles; the Spirit of God, the spirit of man, and the spirit of the devil” (TPJS, 189).
The spirit of man is spirit pertaining to the level you are currently on, the Spirit of God is pertaining to higher levels, and the spirit of the devil is pertaining to lower levels.
Multiple levels stretch from darkness to light because God loves us. He has provided a place for all of His children. We will gravitate to the level at which we comfortably exist.
“[H]ow we use our moral agency does not result in a withdrawal of God’s love but does determine the ways and the degrees to which a loving God can express His love of us. Only the most righteous will receive His praise, His approval, and enjoy His presence. These supernal blessings are conditionally bestowed. However, as a perfect Father He loves all of His spirit children” (Neal A. Maxwell, If Thou Endure It Well, 34-5).
The more evil a person is, the more they will be eternally progressing downward, outward, until they can find somewhere they can exist in. The more evil, the more journeying; there is no rest for the wicked. “But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked” (Isaiah 57:20-1).
“By means of this Spirit every man is enlightened, the wicked as well as the good, the intelligent and the ignorant, the high and the low, each in accordance with his capacity to receive the light” (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, 60-1).
So the wicked are enlightened, albeit by a lower degree of Spirit.
Degrees of the Priesthood
“All priesthood is Melchizedek, but there are different portions or degrees of it. That portion which brought Moses to speak with God face to face was taken away; but that which brought the ministry of angels remained. All prophets have the Melchizedek priesthood and were ordained by God himself” (TPJS, 180-1).
“Before his day it was called the Holy Priesthood, after the Order of the Son of God” (D&C 107:3).
The Aaronic Priesthood shall be taken from the earth
“Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; and this shall never be taken again from the earth, until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness” (D&C 13).
“And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness” (Malachi 3:3).
“Behold, the great day of the Lord is at hand; and who can abide the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appeareth? For he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fuller’s soap; and he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness. Let us, therefore, as a church and a people, and as Latter-day Saints, offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness; and let us present in his holy temple, when it is finished, a book containing the records of our dead, which shall be worthy of all acceptation” (D&C 128:24).
“The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec” (Hebrews 7:21; cf. Psalms 110:4).
“They are they into whose hands the Father has given all things—They are they who are priests and kings, who have received of his fulness, and of his glory; And are priests of the Most High, after the order of Melchizedek, which was after the order of Enoch, which was after the order of the Only Begotten Son” (D&C 76:55-7).
The Aaronic Priesthood is to prepare people for the Melchizedek Priesthood, so when the sons of Levi (Levitical Priesthood) are righteous enough to advance in the priesthood, (after the Judgment) there would be no need for the Aaronic Priesthood on the celestial earth.
Celestial beings would not hold just the Aaronic Priesthood. They do not need angels to further minister to them, and they do not need further repentance or baptism.
Therefore, the preparatory Aaronic Priesthood will be gone from the future earth.
The following quotes consider the priesthood to be a channel, law, system, rule, government, power, and/or authority.
“There are two Priesthoods spoken of in the Scriptures, viz., the Melchisedek and the Aaronic or Levitical. Although there are two Priesthoods, yet the Melchisedek Priesthood comprehends the Aaronic or Levitical Priesthood, and is the grand head, and holds the highest authority which pertains to the Priesthood, and the keys of the Kingdom of God in all ages of the world to the latest posterity on the earth, and is the channel through which all knowledge, doctrine, the plan of salvation, and every important matter is revealed from heaven. Its institution was prior to ‘the foundation of this earth, or the morning stars sang together, or the Sons of God shouted for joy,’ and is the highest and holiest Priesthood, and is after the order of the Son of God, and all other Priesthoods are only parts, ramifications, powers and blessings belonging to the same, and are held, controlled, and directed by it. It is the channel through which the Almighty commenced revealing His glory at the beginning of the creation of this earth, and through which He has continued to reveal Himself to the children of men to the present time, and through which He will make known His purposes to the end of time” (Joseph Smith, History of the Church 4:207).
“The power of the Melchizedek Priesthood is to have the power of ‘endless lives’; for the everlasting covenant cannot be broken. . . . In fact, that Priesthood is a perfect law of theocracy, and stands as God to give laws to the people, administering endless lives to the sons and daughters of Adam” (TPJS, 322).
“If anybody wants to know what the priesthood of the Son of God is, it is the law by which the worlds are, were, and will continue for ever and ever. It is that system which brings worlds into existence and peoples them, gives them their revolutions—their days, weeks, months, years, their seasons and times and by which they are rolled up as a scroll, as it were, and go into a higher state of existence” (Brigham Young, JD 15:127-8).
“The question, ‘What is priesthood?’ has often been asked me. I answer, it is the rule and government of God, whether on earth, or in the heavens; and it is the only legitimate power, the only authority that is acknowledged by him to rule and regulate the affairs of his kingdom. When every wrong thing shall be put right, and all usurpers shall be put down, when he whose right it is to reign shall take the dominion, then nothing but the priesthood will bear rule; it alone will sway the sceptre of authority in heaven and on earth, for this is the legitimacy of God” (John Taylor, The Gospel Kingdom, 314-5).
“What Is the Priesthood—It is nothing more nor less than the power of God delegated to man by which man can act in the earth for the salvation of the human family, in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, and act legitimately; not assuming that authority, nor borrowing it from generations that are dead and gone, but authority that has been given in this day in which we live by ministering angels and spirits from above, direct from the presence of Almighty God, who have come to the earth in our day and restored the Priesthood to the children of men, by which they may baptize for the remission of sins and lay on hands for the reception of the Holy Ghost, and by which they can remit sin, with the sanction and blessing of Almighty God. . . . What I mean by the Holy Priesthood is that authority which God has delegated to man, by which he may speak the will of God as if the angels were here to speak it themselves; by which men are empowered to bind on earth and it shall be bound in heaven, and to loose on earth and it shall be loosed in heaven; by which the words of man, spoken in the exercise of that power, become the word of the Lord, and the law of God unto the people, scripture, and divine commands. . . . The Priesthood that we hold is of the greatest importance, because it is the authority and power of God. It is authority from heaven that has been restored to men upon the earth in the latter days, through the ministration of angels from God, who came with authority to bestow this power and this Priesthood upon men” (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, 139-40, 142).
“This Holy Priesthood, which is eternal, is the authority which prevails in all the universe. The ordinances of the Gospel are made valid through its power and without it the knowledge of God could not be made manifest. It is by this authority and through the ordinances that man is able to know of God” (Joseph Fielding Smith, The Way to Perfection, 212).
“The priesthood is the power and authority of God delegated to man on earth to act in all things pertaining to the salvation of men. It is the means whereby the Lord acts through men to save souls. Without this priesthood power, men are lost. Only through this power does man ‘hold the keys of all the spiritual blessings of the church,’ enabling him to receive ‘the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, to have the heavens opened’ unto him (see D&C 107:18-9), enabling him to enter the new and everlasting covenant of marriage and to have his wife and children bound to him in an everlasting tie, enabling him to become a patriarch to his posterity forever, and enabling him to receive a fullness of the blessings of the Lord” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 494).
“And now behold, these are the words which ye shall say, calling them by name, saying: Having authority given me of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen” (3 Nephi 11:24-5).
“The person who is called of God and has authority from Jesus Christ to baptize, shall go down into the water with the person who has presented himself or herself for baptism” (D&C 20:73). The authority is the priesthood.
“[T]he spirits of men are eternal, that they are governed by the same Priesthood that Abraham, Melchizedek, and the Apostles were: that they are organized according to that Priesthood which is everlasting, “without beginning of days or end of years,”—that they all move in their respective spheres, and are governed by the law of God; that when they appear upon the earth they are in a probationary state, and are preparing, if righteous, for a future and greater glory; that the spirits of good men cannot interfere with the wicked beyond their prescribed bounds, for Michael, the Archangel, dared not bring a railing accusation against the devil, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke thee, Satan.’ It would seem also, that wicked spirits have their bounds, limits, and laws by which they are governed or controlled, and know their future destiny; hence, those that were in the maniac said to our Savior, ‘Art thou come to torment us before the time?’ and when Satan presented himself before the Lord, among the sons of God, he said that he came ‘from going to and fro in the earth, and from wandering up and down in it;’ and he is emphatically called the prince of the power of the air; and, it is very evident that they possess a power that none but those who have the Priesthood can control, as we have before adverted to, in the case of the sons of Sceva” (TPJS, 208).
“For whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods of which I have spoken, and the magnifying their calling, are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies. They become the sons of Moses and of Aaron and the seed of Abraham, and the church and kingdom, and the elect of God. And also all they who receive this priesthood receive me, saith the Lord; For he that receiveth my servants receiveth me; And he that receiveth me receiveth my Father; And he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father’s kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him. And this is according to the oath and covenant which belongeth to the priesthood” (D&C 84:33-9).
To be the elect of God means that one’s calling and election has been made sure.
“But whoso breaketh this covenant after he hath received it, and altogether turneth therefrom, shall not have forgiveness of sins in this world nor in the world to come” (D&C 84:41). This sounds harsh, but on this level of interpretation, this is basically referring to the unpardonable sin, since it deals with those who have made their calling and election sure, and then turn away.
The priesthood as a subset of the light of Christ
There is a connection between the priesthood and the power of God, or light of Christ.
“The light of Christ is the power by which all things are governed (See D&C 88:13). It has been and can be appropriately described as priesthood, or power of God. Righteous priesthood holders have access to this power by which they govern. This light and power is described by the Lord as follows: ‘He that is ordained of God and sent forth, the same is appointed to be the greatest, notwithstanding he is the least and the servant of all. Wherefore, he is possessor of all things; for all things are subject unto him, both in heaven and on the earth, the life and the light, the Spirit and the power, sent forth by the will of the Father through Jesus Christ, his Son’ (D&C 50:26-7)” (Leaun G. Otten and C. Max Caldwell, Sacred Truths of the Doctrine and Covenants 2:104-5).
“That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness. . . . when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man” (D&C 121:36-7).
“There are three grand orders of priesthood referred to here. 1st. The King of Shiloam (Salem) had power and authority over that of Abraham, holding the key and the power of endless life. . . . What was the power of Melchizedek? ‘Twas not the Priesthood of Aaron which administers in outward ordinances, and the offering of sacrifices. Those holding the fullness of the Melchizedek Priesthood are kings and priests of the Most High God, holding the keys of power and blessings. In fact, that priesthood is a perfect law of theocracy, and stands as God to give laws to the people, administering endless lives to the sons and daughters of Adam. Abraham says to Melchizedek, I believe all that thou hast taught me concerning the priesthood and the coming of the Son of Man; so Melchizedek ordained Abraham and sent him away. Abraham rejoiced, saying, Now I have a priesthood. Salvation could not come to the world without the mediation of Jesus Christ. How shall God come to the rescue of this generation? He will send Elijah the prophet. The law revealed to Moses in Horeb never was revealed to the children of Israel as a nation. Elijah shall reveal the covenants to seal the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers. The anointing and sealing is to be called, elected and made sure. ‘Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like unto the Son of God, abideth a priest continually.’ The Melchizedek Priesthood holds the right from the eternal God, and not by descent from father and mother; and that priesthood is as eternal as God Himself, having neither beginning of days nor end of life. The 2nd Priesthood is Patriarchal authority. Go to and finish the temple, and God will fill it with power, and you will then receive more knowledge concerning this priesthood. The 3rd is what is called the Levitical Priesthood, consisting of priests to administer in outward ordinance, made without an oath; but the Priesthood of Melchizedek is by an oath and covenant. The Holy Ghost is God’s messenger to administer in all those priesthoods” (Joseph Smith, History of the Church 5:554-5).
“It is the light of Christ; it is the life that is in all things; it is the law by which all things are governed; it is truth shining forth in darkness; it is the power of God who sitteth upon his throne. It may be that it is also priesthood and faith and omnipotence, for these too are the power of God” (Bruce R. McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, 257).
“An individual who holds a share in the Priesthood, and continues faithful to his calling, who delights himself continually in doing the things God requires at his hands, and continues through life in the performance of every duty, will secure to himself not only the privilege of receiving, but the knowledge how to receive the things of God, that he may know the mind of God continually; and he will be enabled to discern between right and wrong, between the things of God and the things that are not of God. And the Priesthood—the Spirit that is within him, will continue to increase until it becomes like a fountain of living water; until it is like the tree of life; until it is one continued source of intelligence and instruction to that individual” (Brigham Young, JD 3:192).
“Literally, a priest is a mediator between God and man, and priesthood is power and authority to administer in the name of the Lord. . . . Priesthood is power and authority inherent in the Godhead. In man it is always delegated authority—it cannot be assumed with efficacy” (David O. McKay, Gospel Ideals, 168).
Perhaps at the very least, the priesthood seems to be the delegated access to the light of Christ.
“Priesthood is divine authority which is conferred upon men that they may officiate in the ordinances of the gospel. In other words, priesthood is a part of God’s own power” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation 3:80).
“There are two concepts that over the years have been expressed in defining the meaning of priesthood. One is that priesthood is the authority given by our Heavenly Father to man to authorize him to officiate in all matters pertaining to the salvation of mankind upon the earth. The other concept is expressed by another meaningful thought that priesthood is the power by which God works through man” (Harold B. Lee, Stand Ye in Holy Places, 251-2).
The priesthood is the power of God—just not all of it. The power of God, or light of Christ, encompasses at least 2 things:
- The priesthood, the power by which God “works through man.” This also includes the authority to officiate, to be responsible for the organizational structure of the Church and most ordinances. This would be a relatively static aspect of the Spirit.
- The power by which God works not through man, such as the power to beget mortal life. With less of an emphasis on outward structure and ordinances, this would be a relatively dynamic aspect of the Spirit.
“The Holy Ghost is God’s messenger to administer in all those priesthoods” (Joseph Smith, History of the Church 5:555).
Therefore, any righteous woman can attain the same spiritual blessings through the Holy Ghost.
Joseph Smith also wrote, “I met the members of the ‘Female Relief Society,’ and after presiding at the admission of many new members, gave a lecture on the Priesthood, showing how the sisters would come in possession of the privileges, blessings and gifts of the Priesthood, and that the signs should follow them, such as healing the sick, casting out devils, &c., and that they might attain unto these blessings by a virtuous life, and conversation, and diligence in keeping all the commandments” (Ibid., 4:602).
“Respecting females administering for the healing of the sick, he [Joseph Smith] further remarked, there could be no devil in it, if God gave His sanction by healing; that there could be no more sin in any female laying hands on and praying for the sick, than in wetting the face with water; it is no sin for anybody to administer that has faith, or if the sick have faith to be healed by their administration” (Ibid., 4:604).
“I have had sisters visit me and ask me if they did not have the right to administer to the sick. ‘Well,’ I have said, ‘yes, you have in one way; Jesus Christ said, “These signs shall follow them that believe—in my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover.”’ As I say, there are occasions when perhaps it would be wise for a woman to lay her hands upon a child, or upon one another sometimes, and there have been appointments made for our sisters, some good women, to anoint and bless others of their sex who expect to go through times of great personal trial, travail and ‘labor;’ so that is all right, so far as it goes. But when women go around and declare that they have been set apart to administer to the sick and take the place that is given to the elders of the Church by revelation as declared through James of old, and through the Prophet Joseph in modern times, that is an assumption of authority and contrary to scripture, which is that when people are sick they shall call for the elders of the Church and they shall pray over and officially lay hands on them. It is the prayer of faith that saves the sick; faith in God not in some particular man, although some men seem to have more of the gift of healing than others, that is true, but the authority in the Church is vested in the elders. True, a priest, of course, can, a teacher can, and so can a deacon, although neither a teacher nor a deacon can exercise the power in the lesser Priesthood which is for the remission of sins through baptism; he cannot do that, he has not the authority, but he may lay hands on the sick and pray God to heal them; so can a member. So can people out of the Church, and so they have done. Having faith in God, they have asked God in the name of Jesus Christ to heal the sick by the laying on of their hands, and some of them have got well, and a good many others have died, like it is with all of us” (Charles W. Penrose, Conference Report, April 1921, 198-9).
“The Melchizedek Priesthood holds the right of presidency, and has power and authority over all the offices in the church in all ages of the world, to administer in spiritual things” (D&C 107:8).
So the Melchizedek Priesthood (which is not a person) has authority over all of the offices.
“It was the Lord Jesus who restored the Holy Melchizedek Priesthood, through the instrumentality that He used; and all blessings, all offices, all callings, and all authority in this Church come under and are embraced in the holy Melchizedek Priesthood, which is after the order of the Son of God. There is no office growing out of this Priesthood that is or can be greater than the Priesthood itself. It is from the Priesthood that the office derives its authority and power. No office gives authority to the Priesthood. No office adds to the power of the Priesthood. But all offices in the Church derive their power, their virtue, their authority, from the Priesthood. If our brethren would get this principle thoroughly established in their minds, there would be less misunderstanding in relation to the functions of government in the Church than there is. Today the question is, which is the greater—the High Priest or the Seventy, the Seventy or the High Priest? I tell you that neither of them is the greater, and neither of them is the lesser. Their callings lie in different directions, but they are from the same Priesthood. If it were necessary, the Seventy, holding the Melchizedek Priesthood, as he does, I say IF IT WERE NECESSARY—he could ordain a High Priest; and if it were necessary for a High Priest to ordain a Seventy, he could do that. Why? Because both of them hold the Melchizedek Priesthood. Then again, if it were necessary—though I do not expect the necessity will ever arise—and there was no man left on earth holding the Melchizedek Priesthood, except an Elder, that Elder, by the inspiration of the Spirit of God, and by the direction of the Almighty, could proceed, and should proceed, to organize the Church of Jesus Christ in all its perfection, because he holds the Melchizedek Priesthood. But the house of God is a house of order, and while the other offices remain in the Church, we must observe the order of the Priesthood, and we must perform ordinances and ordinations strictly in accordance with that order, as it has been established in the Church through the instrumentality of the Prophet Joseph Smith and his successors. I am aware of the fact that there are those who in the past have held different views to this. They may still hold different views; and if they do, they will have to change them by and by, if they ever get a correct knowledge of the Priesthood. No office of an Apostle, no office of a President, no office of a High Priest, or a Seventy, or an Elder, is greater than the Melchizedek Priesthood. I hope you will understand that. If an Apostle has any authority at all, he derives it from the Melchizedek Priesthood, which is after God’s order, and he cannot have it in any other way. There is no authority except it comes from that Priesthood. It holds the keys of the administering of blessings, ordinances and promises upon the heads of all the members of the Church. Out of the Melchizedek Priesthood grows the Lesser Priesthood, which is called the Priesthood after the order of Aaron. This is an appendage to the Melchizedek Priesthood. The office of an Elder, of a High Priest, of a Seventy—all the offices in the Church are simply appendages to the Melchizedek Priesthood, and grow out of it. You can read the revelations regarding this in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and you must see it just as I have told it” (Joseph F. Smith, Conference Report, October 1903, 86-7).
There is no “spiritual elitism” in the Church. In other words, we do not necessarily have a hierarchy of increasing spirituality as we go “up the ranks” of Church leadership.
For example, the bishop of a ward is not necessarily the most spiritual male in the ward. A newly called bishop does not suddenly become more spiritual than the former bishop.
In reality, “we do not ‘step down’ when we are released, and we do not ‘step up’ when we are called. There is no ‘up or down’ in the service of the Lord” (Dallin H. Oaks, “The Keys and Authority of the Priesthood,” April 2014 General Conference).
Instead of spirituality, the will of the Lord should be the criterion that determines whom to call, to any calling. “We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy” (Article of Faith 5).
Those who think that there is spiritual elitism are perhaps more likely to find fault with their leaders. Those who expect increasing spirituality “up” the organizational structure may eventually become disappointed. “I will give you one of the Keys of the mysteries of the Kingdom. It is an eternal principle, that has existed with God from all eternity: That man who rises up to condemn others, finding fault with the Church, saying that they are out of the way, while he himself is righteous, then know assuredly, that that man is in the high road to apostasy; and if he does not repent, will apostatize, as God lives” (TPJS, 156-7).
“The power and authority of the higher, or Melchizedek Priesthood, is to hold the keys of all the spiritual blessings of the church” (D&C 107:18).
So the Melchizedek Priesthood (which is not a person) holds the keys of all of the spiritual blessings.
Therefore, any righteous man who receives the Melchizedek Priesthood holds the keys of all the spiritual blessings (but some or most may be unexercised).
For example, a man (or woman, through the Holy Ghost) can each have the sealing power on an individual level. We can be sealed up by the Lord unto eternal life. No middleman is required.
For another example, we can each receive a key (singular) of the gathering of Israel, again on an individual level—the call for a person to gather oneself to Israel, or in other words, to become a covenant person.
Receiving the keys (plural) of the gathering of Israel means that for the President of the Church, the scope of his stewardship expands to the entire world.
“Priesthood keys are the authority God has given to priesthood leaders to direct, control, and govern the use of His priesthood on earth. The exercise of priesthood authority is governed by those who hold its keys” (Handbook 2: Administering the Church, 2.1.1).
“The Priesthood in general is the authority given to man to act for God. Every man ordained to any degree of the Priesthood, has this authority delegated to him. But it is necessary that every act performed under this authority shall be done at the proper time and place, in the proper way, and after the proper order. The power of directing these labors constitutes the keys of the Priesthood. In their fulness, the keys are held by only one person at a time, the prophet and president of the Church. He may delegate any portion of this power to another, in which case that person holds the keys of that particular labor. Thus, the president of a temple, the president of a stake, the bishop of a ward, the president of a mission, the president of a quorum, each holds the keys of the labors performed in that particular body or locality. His Priesthood is not increased by this special appointment, for a seventy who presides over a mission has no more Priesthood than a seventy who labors under his direction; and the president of an elders’ quorum, for example, has no more Priesthood than any member of that quorum. But he holds the power of directing the official labors performed in the mission or the quorum, or in other words, the keys of that division of that work. So it is throughout all the ramifications of the Priesthood—a distinction must be carefully made between the general authority, and the directing of the labors performed by that authority” (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, 136).
“I now give unto you the officers belonging to my Priesthood, that ye may hold the keys thereof, even the Priesthood which is after the order of Melchizedek, which is after the order of mine Only Begotten Son. . . . [Various callings are then listed.] The above offices I have given unto you, and the keys thereof, for helps and for governments, for the work of the ministry and the perfecting of my saints” (D&C 124:123, 143).
“The Priesthood that we hold is of the greatest importance, because it is the authority and power of God. It is authority from heaven that has been restored to men upon the earth in the latter days, through the ministration of angels from God, who came with authority to bestow this power and this Priesthood upon men. I say that the Priesthood, which is the agency of our heavenly Father, holds the keys of the ministering of angels. What is a key? It is the right or privilege which belongs to and comes with the Priesthood, to have communication with God. Is not that a key? Most decidedly. We may not enjoy the blessings, or key, very much, but the key is in the Priesthood. It is the right to enjoy the blessing of communication with the heavens, and the privilege and authority to administer in the ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ, to preach the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins. That is a key” (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, 142).
“So in carrying on the discipline and government of the Church, and in administering the rituals and ordinances thereof, the Lord has established a control that there may be order in the Church—the Lord has said his house is a house of order. Those controls make it necessary to have special authority for the exercise of the Priesthood functions and powers which are involved in these matters of discipline, government, and administration. Not every bearer of the Priesthood, no matter what grade he holds, can perform these special services, rituals, and ordinances; he must be authorized to perform them by one holding the right to authorize, and this right of performance under authorization is called a key” (J. Reuben Clark, On the Way to Immortality and Eternal Life, 172-3).
“The second priesthood is called the Priesthood of Aaron, because it was conferred upon Aaron and his seed, throughout all their generations. . . . The bishopric is the presidency of this priesthood, and holds the keys or authority of the same” (D&C 107:13, 15).
Key of knowledge, key of the mysteries
Knowing God is an individual thing. That may explain why it is only referred to as the “key,” not “keys,” of the knowledge of God.
Learning the mysteries of God is also done on an individual level. “Then knowledge through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is the grand key that unlocks the glories and mysteries of the kingdom of heaven” (TPJS, 298).
“And this greater priesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God. Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest. And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh; For without this no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live” (D&C 84:19-22).
“Woe unto you, lawyers! For ye have taken away the key of knowledge, the fullness of the scriptures; ye entered not in yourselves into the kingdom; and those who were entering in, ye hindered” (JST Luke 11:53).
The Patriarch Hyrum Smith wrote that certain members “have neglected the House of the Lord, the baptismal font, in this place, wherein their dead may be redeemed, and the key of knowledge that unfolds the dispensation of the fullness of times may be turned, and the mysteries of God be unfolded, upon which their salvation, and the salvation of the world, and the redemption of their dead depends” (History of the Church 4:443).
The key of knowledge is the master key that unlocks the mysteries of God. One key for many doors.
Keys of the kingdom and keys of the mysteries
The President of the Church possesses all of the keys currently available to man. Every righteous Melchizedek Priesthood holder does.
The President of the Church exercises keys that the rest of the Church members do not. One example would be the keys of the kingdom, which may include “officiating” and maintaining the Church’s organizational structure.
“Those who hold priesthood keys have the right to preside over and direct the Church within a jurisdiction” (Handbook 2: Administering the Church, 2.1.1). “The Presidency of the High Priesthood, after the order of Melchizedek, have a right to officiate in all the offices in the church” (D&C 107:9). By virtue of being at the “top” of the organizational structure, the President is the only one who can “officiate” over the entire structure.
“And again, for the precedent, Matthew 16:18, 19: And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Now the great and grand secret of the whole matter, and the summum bonum of the whole subject that is lying before us, consists in obtaining the powers of the Holy Priesthood. For him to whom these keys are given there is no difficulty in obtaining a knowledge of facts in relation to the salvation of the children of men” (D&C 128:10-1). Keys are related to various powers of the Priesthood.
“And also with Peter, and James, and John, whom I have sent unto you, by whom I have ordained you and confirmed you to be apostles, and especial witnesses of my name, and bear the keys of your ministry and of the same things which I revealed unto them; Unto whom I have committed the keys of my kingdom, and a dispensation of the gospel for the last times; and for the fulness of times, in the which I will gather together in one all things, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth” (D&C 27:12-3).
“I say unto thee, Peter, this was a good desire; but my beloved has desired that he might do more, or a greater work yet among men than what he has before done. Yea, he has undertaken a greater work; therefore I will make him as flaming fire and a ministering angel; he shall minister for those who shall be heirs of salvation who dwell on the earth. And I will make thee to minister for him and for thy brother James; and unto you three I will give this power and the keys of this ministry until I come” (D&C 7:5-7).
“I will be with him, and I will sanctify him before the people; for unto him have I given the keys of this kingdom and ministry” (D&C 115:19).
“Unto whom I have given the keys of the kingdom, which belong always unto the Presidency of the High Priesthood” (D&C 81:2).
“Lift up your hearts and rejoice, for unto you the kingdom, or in other words, the keys of the church have been given” (D&C 42:69).
“The keys of the kingdom of God are committed unto man on the earth, and from thence shall the gospel roll forth unto the ends of the earth, as the stone which is cut out of the mountain without hands shall roll forth, until it has filled the whole earth” (D&C 65:2).
“Therefore, thou art blessed from henceforth that bear the keys of the kingdom given unto you; which kingdom is coming forth for the last time. Verily I say unto you, the keys of this kingdom shall never be taken from you, while thou art in the world, neither in the world to come; Nevertheless, through you shall the oracles be given to another, yea, even unto the church. And all they who receive the oracles of God, let them beware how they hold them lest they are accounted as a light thing, and are brought under condemnation thereby, and stumble and fall when the storms descend, and the winds blow, and the rains descend, and beat upon their house. And again, verily I say unto thy brethren, Sidney Rigdon and Frederick G. Williams, their sins are forgiven them also, and they are accounted as equal with thee in holding the keys of this last kingdom; As also through your administration the keys of the school of the prophets, which I have commanded to be organized; That thereby they may be perfected in their ministry for the salvation of Zion, and of the nations of Israel, and of the Gentiles, as many as will believe; That through your administration they may receive the word, and through their administration the word may go forth unto the ends of the earth” (D&C 90:2-9).
“Verily I say unto you, my servant Thomas, thou art the man whom I have chosen to hold the keys of my kingdom, as pertaining to the Twelve, abroad among all nations—That thou mayest be my servant to unlock the door of the kingdom in all places where my servant Joseph, and my servant Sidney, and my servant Hyrum, cannot come” (D&C 112:16-7).
“That they may be perfected in the understanding of their ministry, in theory, in principle, and in doctrine, in all things pertaining to the kingdom of God on the earth, the keys of which kingdom have been conferred upon you” (D&C 97:14).
“And as are the records on the earth in relation to your dead, which are truly made out, so also are the records in heaven. This, therefore, is the sealing and binding power, and, in one sense of the word, the keys of the kingdom, which consist in the key of knowledge” (D&C 128:14).
“[I]t is necessary in the ushering in of the dispensation of the fulness of times, which dispensation is now beginning to usher in, that a whole and complete and perfect union, and welding together of dispensations, and keys, and powers, and glories should take place, and be revealed from the days of Adam even to the present time. . . . And again, what do we hear? Glad tidings from Cumorah! Moroni, an angel from heaven, declaring the fulfilment of the prophets—the book to be revealed. A voice of the Lord in the wilderness of Fayette, Seneca county, declaring the three witnesses to bear record of the book! The voice of Michael on the banks of the Susquehanna, detecting the devil when he appeared as an angel of light! The voice of Peter, James, and John in the wilderness between Harmony, Susquehanna county, and Colesville, Broome county, on the Susquehanna river, declaring themselves as possessing the keys of the kingdom, and of the dispensation of the fulness of times! And again, the voice of God in the chamber of old Father Whitmer, in Fayette, Seneca county, and at sundry times, and in divers places through all the travels and tribulations of this Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints! And the voice of Michael, the archangel; the voice of Gabriel, and of Raphael, and of divers angels, from Michael or Adam down to the present time, all declaring their dispensation, their rights, their keys, their honors, their majesty and glory, and the power of their priesthood; giving line upon line, precept upon precept; here a little, and there a little” (D&C 128:20-1).
The President can also exercise the keys (plural) of the mysteries, in that he is authorized to reveal the mysteries to all.
“And thou shalt not command him who is at thy head, and at the head of the church; For I have given him the keys of the mysteries, and the revelations which are sealed, until I shall appoint unto them another in his stead” (D&C 28:6-7).
“And the keys of the mysteries of the kingdom shall not be taken from my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., through the means I have appointed, while he liveth, inasmuch as he obeyeth mine ordinances” (D&C 64:5).
“I have sent forth the fulness of my gospel by the hand of my servant Joseph; and in weakness have I blessed him; And I have given unto him the keys of the mystery of those things which have been sealed, even things which were from the foundation of the world, and the things which shall come from this time until the time of my coming, if he abide in me, and if not, another will I plant in his stead” (D&C 35:17-8).
Various other keys
“The messenger who visited us on this occasion and conferred this Priesthood upon us, said that his name was John, the same that is called John the Baptist in the New Testament, and that he acted under the direction of Peter, James and John, who held the keys of the Priesthood of Melchizedek, which Priesthood, he said, would in due time be conferred on us” (Joseph Smith—History 1:72).
“I say unto you, that after you have had sufficient time to build a house to me, wherein the ordinance of baptizing for the dead belongeth, and for which the same was instituted from before the foundation of the world, your baptisms for your dead cannot be acceptable unto me; For therein are the keys of the holy priesthood ordained, that you may receive honor and glory” (D&C 124:33-4).
“All covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations, or expectations, that are not made and entered into and sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, of him who is anointed, both as well for time and for all eternity, and that too most holy, by revelation and commandment through the medium of mine anointed, whom I have appointed on the earth to hold this power (and I have appointed unto my servant Joseph to hold this power in the last days, and there is never but one on the earth at a time on whom this power and the keys of this priesthood are conferred), are of no efficacy, virtue, or force in and after the resurrection from the dead” (D&C 132:7).
“I have conferred upon you the keys and power of the priesthood, wherein I restore all things, and make known unto you all things in due time. And verily, verily, I say unto you, that whatsoever you seal on earth shall be sealed in heaven; and whatsoever you bind on earth, in my name and by my word, saith the Lord, it shall be eternally bound in the heavens” (D&C 132:45-6; see also 59-60).
“Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; and this shall never be taken again from the earth, until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness” (D&C 13:1).
“And the lesser priesthood continued, which priesthood holdeth the key of the ministering of angels and the preparatory gospel; Which gospel is the gospel of repentance and of baptism, and the remission of sins, and the law of carnal commandments, which the Lord in his wrath caused to continue with the house of Aaron among the children of Israel until John, whom God raised up, being filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother’s womb” (D&C 84:26-7).
“The power and authority of the lesser, or Aaronic Priesthood, is to hold the keys of the ministering of angels, and to administer in outward ordinances, the letter of the gospel, the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, agreeable to the covenants and commandments” (D&C 107:20).
“After this vision closed, the heavens were again opened unto us; and Moses appeared before us, and committed unto us the keys of the gathering of Israel from the four parts of the earth, and the leading of the ten tribes from the land of the north” (D&C 110:11).
“And Israel shall be saved in mine own due time; and by the keys which I have given shall they be led, and no more be confounded at all” (D&C 35:25).
“And also with Elias, to whom I have committed the keys of bringing to pass the restoration of all things spoken by the mouth of all the holy prophets since the world began, concerning the last days” (D&C 27:6). “Elias appeared, and committed the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham, saying that in us and our seed all generations after us should be blessed” (D&C 110:12).
“And also Elijah, unto whom I have committed the keys of the power of turning the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to the fathers, that the whole earth may not be smitten with a curse” (D&C 27:9).
“After this vision had closed, another great and glorious vision burst upon us; for Elijah the prophet, who was taken to heaven without tasting death, stood before us, and said: Behold, the time has fully come, which was spoken of by the mouth of Malachi—testifying that he [Elijah] should be sent, before the great and dreadful day of the Lord come—To turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers, lest the whole earth be smitten with a curse—Therefore, the keys of this dispensation are committed into your hands; and by this ye may know that the great and dreadful day of the Lord is near, even at the doors” (D&C 110:13-6).
“For unto you, the Twelve, and those, the First Presidency, who are appointed with you to be your counselors and your leaders, is the power of this priesthood given, for the last days and for the last time, in the which is the dispensation of the fulness of times, Which power you hold, in connection with all those who have received a dispensation at any time from the beginning of the creation; For verily I say unto you, the keys of the dispensation, which ye have received, have come down from the fathers, and last of all, being sent down from heaven unto you” (D&C 112:30-2).
“Behold, this is wisdom in me; wherefore, marvel not, for the hour cometh that I will drink of the fruit of the vine with you on the earth, and with Moroni, whom I have sent unto you to reveal the Book of Mormon, containing the fulness of my everlasting gospel, to whom I have committed the keys of the record of the stick of Ephraim” (D&C 27:5).
“That you may come up unto the crown prepared for you, and be made rulers over many kingdoms, saith the Lord God, the Holy One of Zion, who hath established the foundations of Adam-ondi-Ahman; Who hath appointed Michael your prince, and established his feet, and set him upon high, and given unto him the keys of salvation under the counsel and direction of the Holy One, who is without beginning of days or end of life” (D&C 78:15-6).
“I say unto you, let my servant William be appointed, ordained, and anointed, as counselor unto my servant Joseph, in the room of my servant Hyrum, that my servant Hyrum may take the office of Priesthood and Patriarch, which was appointed unto him by his father, by blessing and also by right; That from henceforth he shall hold the keys of the patriarchal blessings upon the heads of all my people, That whoever he blesses shall be blessed, and whoever he curses shall be cursed; that whatsoever he shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever he shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. And from this time forth I appoint unto him that he may be a prophet, and a seer, and a revelator unto my church, as well as my servant Joseph; That he may act in concert also with my servant Joseph; and that he shall receive counsel from my servant Joseph, who shall show unto him the keys whereby he may ask and receive, and be crowned with the same blessing, and glory, and honor, and priesthood, and gifts of the priesthood, that once were put upon him that was my servant Oliver Cowdery” (D&C 124:91-6).
“Which Twelve hold the keys to open up the authority of my kingdom upon the four corners of the earth, and after that to send my word to every creature” (D&C 124:128; see also D&C 107:35).
“I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death” (Revelation 1:18).
“These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth” (Revelation 3:7).
“I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth: and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit” (Revelation 9:1; see also Revelation 20:1).
“It is supposed by this people that we have all the ordinances in our possession for life and salvation, and exaltation, and that we are administering in those ordinances. This is not the case. We are in possession of all the ordinances that can be administered in the flesh; but there are other ordinances and administrations that must be administered beyond this world. I know you would like to ask what they are. I will mention one. We have not, neither can we receive here, the ordinance and the keys of resurrection” (Brigham Young, JD 15:137).
“Let my servant William Law also receive the keys by which he may ask and receive blessings; let him be humble before me, and be without guile, and he shall receive of my Spirit, even the Comforter, which shall manifest unto him the truth of all things, and shall give him, in the very hour, what he shall say” (D&C 124:97).
“I grant unto you a gift, if you desire of me, to translate, even as my servant Joseph. . . . And now I command you, that if you have good desires—a desire to lay up treasures for yourself in heaven—then shall you assist in bringing to light, with your gift, those parts of my scriptures which have been hidden because of iniquity. And now, behold, I give unto you, and also unto my servant Joseph, the keys of this gift, which shall bring to light this ministry” (D&C 6:25, 27-8).
If Oliver had a gift, and there were keys to that gift, it could be possible that there are keys related to every gift of the Spirit.
“For all have not every gift given unto them; for there are many gifts, and to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God” (D&C 46:11).
“I exhort you, my brethren, that ye deny not the gifts of God, for they are many; and they come from the same God. And there are different ways that these gifts are administered; but it is the same God who worketh all in all; and they are given by the manifestations of the Spirit of God unto men” (Moroni 10:8).
Levels of Understanding
“There are many levels of spiritual understanding among righteous members of the Church” (Endowed from on High: Temple Preparation Seminar Teacher’s Manual, 23).
“But the word of the Lord was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little” (Isaiah 28:13).
Whatever level of understanding we are currently on is wonderful, but incomplete.
Although we artificially divide things into levels, we cannot assume that things of other levels are irrelevant or insignificant. “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone” (Matthew 23:23).
The closed, finite mind tends to think that it has all the truth it needs and does not need further clarification. The open mind believes that God will yet reveal many great and important truths. God, not man, should determine what is or is not so.
It can be tempting to become complacent with one’s current level.
It is natural for a person to try to deny or discount the existence of a higher level of understanding than the one that they are currently on.
Movement between levels probably always involves conflict.
Whenever we hear a message, even if it is from the Lord, we cannot assume that there are no further meanings beyond what we currently understand.
“[H]e that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full. And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction. Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell” (Alma 12:10-1).
“I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have. Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm, or shall hearken unto the precepts of men, save their precepts shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost” (2 Nephi 28:30-1).
People’s levels of understanding can differ. Something more true on one level of understanding may be less true on another level. We cannot always assume that the people we are talking to are on the same level.
Every explanation turns out to be a partial explanation.
Relating to people on a lower level of understanding
Pride can be a potential temptation to those who are on a higher level of understanding.
Sometimes we may need to remember that it is more important to be “righteous” than to be “right.” And we mortals still know nothing as compared to the Lord.
“[T]ruth is one species of good . . . The true is the name of whatever proves itself to be good in the way of belief” (William James, Pragmatism, Lecture II). Until someone is exalted and knows all truth, it is more important to be a good person than to have more truth and knowledge.
“Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth. . . . take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak” (1 Corinthians 8:1, 9).
Words and actions may help reveal thoughts. By listening to someone, or observing his or her actions, we can begin to understand what level someone is speaking or acting on. Since anyone can quote scripture or quote someone else, people’s answers to questions may not always reveal their level of understanding. People’s earnest questions, however, can be very revealing. As we listen carefully to the other person, our powers of discernment increase.
By understanding the mental-spiritual level of someone we are conversing with, we can then adapt to their mental-spiritual capacity.
The Lord can lovingly adapt His teaching to match the level of the listener.
“We may come to Jesus and ask Him; He will know all about it; if He comes to a little child, he will adapt himself to the language and capacity of a little child” (TPJS, 162).
“For my soul delighteth in plainness; for after this manner doth the Lord God work among the children of men. For the Lord God giveth light unto the understanding; for he speaketh unto men according to their language, unto their understanding” (2 Nephi 31:3).
“I do not even believe that there is a single revelation, among the many God has given to the Church, that is perfect in its fulness. The revelations of God contain correct doctrine and principle, so far as they go; but it is impossible for the poor, weak, low, grovelling, sinful inhabitants of the earth to receive a revelation from the Almighty in all its perfections. He has to speak to us in a manner to meet the extent of our capacities . . . You have to use the words they use, and address them in a manner to meet their capacities, in order to give them the knowledge you have to bestow. If an angel should come into this congregation, or visit any individual of it, and use the language he uses in heaven, what would we be benefited? Not any, because we could not understand a word he said. When angels come to visit mortals, they have to condescend to and assume, more or less, the condition of mortals, they have to descend to our capacities in order to communicate with us” (Brigham Young, JD 2:314).
“Let us be patient with one another. I do not altogether look at things as you do. My judgment is not in all things like yours, nor yours like mine. When you judge a man or woman, judge the intentions of the heart. It is not by words, particularly, nor by actions, that men will be judged in the great day of the Lord; but, in connection with words and actions, the sentiments and intentions of the heart will be taken, and by these will men be judged. There are men in this community who make blunders; but they would not do an intentional wrong. They are weak; they do not fully understand themselves, and are sometimes overtaken in fault. Am I to condemn them? No; but to take them by the hand, and lift them up, and instruct them,—give them a little intelligence as they can receive it. If they can receive but a little, give them only a little, exercising patience with them. Ye mighty men of God, make sure the path for your own feet to walk to eternal life, and take as many with you as you can. Take them as they are, understand them as they are, and deal with them as they are; look at them as God looks at them, and then you can judge them as he would judge them” (Brigham Young, JD 8:10).
“It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him” (Alma 12:9).
“Why should I desire that I were an angel, that I could speak unto all the ends of the earth? For behold, the Lord doth grant unto all nations, of their own nation and tongue, to teach his word, yea, in wisdom, all that he seeth fit that they should have; therefore we see that the Lord doth counsel in wisdom, according to that which is just and true” (Alma 29:7-8).
For example, regarding the temple, knowing what the symbols are is the lowest level of understanding. Revealing what the symbols are does not save anyone.
Knowing what the symbols mean, on one or more levels of representation, is a higher level of understanding. However, revealing what the symbols mean also does not save anyone. It could potentially mislead some people into thinking that there is no higher level of interpretation. What a person is actually revealing is his or her own limited level of spiritual understanding.
We are instructed not to reveal sacred things of the temple with our mouths when we are outside the temple.
Similarly, we also should strive to not reveal our lower levels of understanding with our actions and outward physical manifestations.
Incorporating the symbols into our own being, through direct experience, is the highest level of understanding. Worthy people who have received the Holy Ghost to the point that they are revelators will have words and actions that will be appropriate to the level of the people around them. Therefore, they are the only type of people who can reveal all things without any spiritual penalty to themselves or others.
Relating to people on a higher level of understanding
Because it is challenging for a person to acknowledge the existence of a higher level of understanding, a person can become concerned that the actions of someone else moving toward a higher level are actually steps toward a lower level.
Sometimes they may need to realize that the other person is following the principle of “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
“Ye shall know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16), so before they categorically condemn any unproven idea outright, perhaps they can patiently wait and see what type of person the other starts to become.
Levels of Knowledge
“To some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God . . . To others it is given to believe on their words” (D&C 46:13-4).
Everyone has his or her own definition of “to know.” At one extreme, some would use the term more loosely:
0% “I believe that X” < - 5% “I know that X” - - - > 100% “I know that X”
For them, the level of knowledge may only be at 5% for them to say, “I know.”
They are comfortable saying, “I know that the sun will rise tomorrow” or, “I know that he won’t like that shirt.”
The challenge at this end of the scale is that if the threshold for saying “I know” is too low, the word “know” blends into the word “believe” and so becomes useless as a separate word. When they hear someone say, “I believe” in a testimony meeting, to them the statement sounds very weak (less than 5% on the scale), not knowledge at all.
At the other extreme, some would use the term more rigidly:
0% “I believe that X” < - “I believe that X” - > 100% “I know that X”
For them, the level of knowledge has to be at 100%, some form of “absolute” intellectual/physical/spiritual evidence that is acceptable to them, to say, “I know.”
They are not comfortable saying that they know the sun will rise tomorrow, since for them there is no absolute proof that it will happen for sure tomorrow.
The challenge at this end is that if the threshold for saying “I know” is too high, the person may hardly use the word “know” at all. When they hear someone say, “I know” in a testimony meeting, to them the statement causes them to be skeptical (since they expect knowledge at 100% on the scale); they inwardly wonder if that person really knows.
Other phrases could be used, that may fall somewhere in between the scale between “I believe that X” and “I know that X.”
“I bet my life that X.” Although “betting” is maybe not the best word to use in a public Church setting, it would seem that is what everyone in the world is doing. Everyone is betting their lives that their current course of action is the best course.
“I know that X is a good concept, because it begins to enlighten my understanding and begins to be delicious to me” (Alma 32:28, 30, 33-4). To testify that X has produced some positive result in one’s life is something that another person cannot deny.
“I testify that X.”
“I have intellectual/physical/spiritual evidence that X.”
“The Spirit witnesses to me that X.”
“X.” Simply stating a fact takes the “I” out of the equation completely.
Levels of Laws
The light of Christ, or Spirit of the Gods, “proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space—The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God” (D&C 88:12-3).
“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. Behold, I gave unto him that he should be an agent unto himself; and I gave unto him commandment, but no temporal commandment gave I unto him, for my commandments are spiritual; they are not natural nor temporal, neither carnal nor sensual” (D&C 29:34-5).
Different levels of law are made to accommodate different capacities of people.
“The laws that the Lord has given are not fully perfect, because the people could not receive them in their perfect fulness; but they can receive a little here and a little there, a little today and a little tomorrow, a little more next week, and a little more in advance of that next year, if they make a wise improvement upon every little they receive; if they do not, they are left in the shade, and the light which the Lord reveals will appear darkness to them, and the kingdom of heaven will travel on and leave them groping” (Brigham Young, JD 2:314).
Every level of reality has its corresponding law. “All kingdoms have a law given; And there are many kingdoms; for there is no space in the which there is no kingdom; and there is no kingdom in which there is no space, either a greater or a lesser kingdom. And unto every kingdom is given a law; and unto every law there are certain bounds also and conditions. All beings who abide not in those conditions are not justified” (D&C 88:36-9).
“And men are instructed sufficiently that they know good from evil. And the law is given unto men. And by the law no flesh is justified; or, by the law men are cut off. Yea, by the temporal law they were cut off; and also, by the spiritual law they perish from that which is good, and become miserable forever. Wherefore, redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of grace and truth. Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered” (2 Nephi 2:5-7).
“But now I am spiritual; for that which I am commanded to do, I do; and that which I am commanded not to allow, I allow not. For what I know is not right, I would not do; for that which is sin, I hate. For then I do not that which I would not allow, I consent unto the law, that it is good; and I am not condemned. Now then, it is no more I that do sin; but I seek to subdue that sin which dwelleth in me. For I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing; for to will is present with me, but to perform that which is good I find not, only in Christ. For the good that I would have done when under the law, I find not to be good; therefore, I do it not. But the evil which I would not do under the law, I find to be good; that, I do. Now if I do that, through the assistance of Christ, I would not do under the law, I am not under the law; and it is no more that I seek to do wrong, but to subdue sin that dwelleth in me. I find then that under the law, that when I would do good evil was present with me; for I delight in the law of God after the inward man. And now I see another law, even the commandment of Christ, and it is imprinted in my mind. But my members are warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. And if I subdue not the sin which is in me, but with the flesh serve the law of sin; O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (JST Romans 7:15-26).
“For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2).
The law of a particular level is that static, governing aspect of the Spirit that sustains or maintains the operations at that level of reality. It is useful to the extent that it will help prevent degeneration to a lower level of existence. However, it by itself does not particularly add much information about “higher law,” or laws pertaining to higher levels. In that respect, if we are not self-motivated to improve, our progress could be blocked, and we could “perish” by the “temporal law” as well as by the “spiritual law.”
“And if ye shall say there is no law, ye shall also say there is no sin. If ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness” (2 Nephi 2:13).
The law is needed to virtually define what is lawful and what is not lawful within the scope of that corresponding level of reality. For example, the molecules and cells comprising a morally evil person’s physical body are obeying certain inorganic laws by sticking together without flying apart in all directions, but the person is not necessarily complying with higher spiritual laws.
To not be under a law is to be at a higher level of law
Not being under the law does not mean being completely lawless; it is seeking to be “above the law,” in a spiritual sense. It is striving for a higher level and law.
“For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some” (1 Corinthians 9:19-22).
The natural man, on the other hand, may wish to not be subject to a higher law, but seeks for lower law, for a kingdom he would feel more comfortable in.
“For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness” (Romans 8:5-10).
D&C 88:34-5 states, “that which is governed by law is also preserved by law and perfected and sanctified by the same. That which breaketh a law, and abideth not by law, but seeketh to become a law unto itself, and willeth to abide in sin, and altogether abideth in sin, cannot be sanctified by law, neither by mercy, justice, nor judgment. Therefore, they must remain filthy still.”
“For behold that all little children are alive in Christ, and also all they that are without the law. For the power of redemption cometh on all them that have no law; wherefore, he that is not condemned, or he that is under no condemnation, cannot repent; and unto such baptism availeth nothing” (Moroni 8:22).
“For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect: Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression” (Romans 4:13-5).
“Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference” (Romans 3:19-22).
“For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law” (Romans 5:13).
Romans 6:13-4 states, “yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.”
“But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully; Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers” (1 Timothy 1:8-9).
“Wherefore, he has given a law; and where there is no law given there is no punishment; and where there is no punishment there is no condemnation; and where there is no condemnation the mercies of the Holy One of Israel have claim upon them, because of the atonement; for they are delivered by the power of him. For the atonement satisfieth the demands of his justice upon all those who have not the law given to them, that they are delivered from that awful monster, death and hell, and the devil, and the lake of fire and brimstone, which is endless torment; and they are restored to that God who gave them breath, which is the Holy One of Israel. But wo unto him that has the law given, yea, that has all the commandments of God, like unto us, and that transgresseth them, and that wasteth the days of his probation, for awful is his state!” (2 Nephi 9:25-7).
“But now we are delivered from the law wherein we were held, being dead to the law, that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter” (JST Romans 7:6).
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-3).
This scripture may summarize it: “But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law” (Galatians 5:18).
The dynamic aspect of the Spirit will be inspiring us to continually progress, to seek to not be bound under any static law of a particular level, however great it might seem to be.
2 Nephi 2:13-4 states that “if there is no God we are not, neither the earth; for there could have been no creation of things, neither to act nor to be acted upon; wherefore, all things must have vanished away. . . . there is a God, and he hath created all things, both the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are, both things to act and things to be acted upon.”
Things that act and things that are acted upon could potentially be interpreted in relative terms. Relatively speaking, anything of a higher level of existence is something that acts upon anything of a lower level of existence.
“And the spirit and the body are the soul of man” (D&C 88:15). Our “body” may be that aspect of our souls that derives from levels lower than the point (or level) of reference, and our “spirit” may be that aspect of our souls that derives from levels higher. Our souls are a synthesis of body and spirit.
Alma 61:15 refers to “the Spirit of God, which is also the spirit of freedom which is in them.”
The more we follow the Spirit, the more we are truly free.
Fulfilling the law
“For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Galatians 5:14).
“Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Romans 13:10).
“I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth” (Romans 10:2-4).
“Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets. I am not come to destroy but to fulfil; For verily I say unto you, one jot nor one tittle hath not passed away from the law, but in me it hath all been fulfilled. . . . Therefore those things which were of old time, which were under the law, in me are all fulfilled” (3 Nephi 12:17-8, 46).
Levels and Laws of Reality
To God, everything is spiritual; everything is one whole.
“This is a universe of spiritual order” (Neal A. Maxwell, A Wonderful Flood of Light, 25).
For God, all truth is one whole. For our finite minds, truth is divided into levels.
These arbitrary levels are simply human constructs to try to break up the unfathomable into finite pieces comprehensible to our limited minds. The works of the Lord transcend any type of artificial “order” we mentally impose on things.
“From the Tao came oneness; And from oneness came twoness; Then from twoness came threeness; And from threeness came everything” (Ray Grigg, The New Lao Tzu: A Contemporary Tao Te Ching, 9).
From the Spirit came the concept of the Father. Then came the concept of the Father and Son. Then came the concept of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Then came everything.
“When we look about us, we discover that this world of ours, looked at philosophically, is really a series of levels or stratifications of reality. The lowest level is matter with its mechanical basis. Above that is life, which, in its characteristic form, grows and reproduces itself in one way or another. The third level is animal mind, striving constantly to satisfy nature’s demand in appetite. Above that is the spirit. And man is a combination of all: He is matter, he is life, he is mind, and he is spirit. And his spirit gives meaning to all the rest. Each of the higher three of these four stratifications gives meaning to the one below it, and is dependent, in a measure, upon that which is below” (Hugh B. Brown, The Abundant Life, 257-8).
“This Holy Spirit, under the control of the Great Eloheim, is the grand moving cause of all intelligences, and by which they act. . . . In short, it is the attributes of the eternal power and Godhead. Those beings who receive of its fullness are called sons of God, because they are perfected in all its attributes and powers, and, being in communication with it, can, by its use, perform all things. Those beings who receive not a fullness, but a measure of it, can know and perform some things, but not all. This is the true light, which in some measure illuminates all men. It is, in its less refined particles, the physical light which reflects from the sun, moon, and stars, and other substances; and by reflection on the eye, makes visible the truths of the outward world. It is, also, in its higher degrees, the intellectual light of our inward and spiritual organs, by which we reason, discern, judge, compare, comprehend and remember the subjects within our reach. Its inspiration constitutes instinct in animal life, reason in man, vision in the prophets, and is continually flowing from the Godhead throughout all His creations” (Parley P. Pratt, Key to the Science of Theology, 38-42).
“[T]he light of God, the Spirit of God, proceeding forth from the presence of God, fills the immensity of space. It is the light and the life of all things. It is the light and the life of man. It is the life of the animal creation. It is the life of the vegetable creation. It is in the earth on which we stand; it is in the stars that shine in the firmament; it is in the moon that reflects the light of the sun: it is in the sun, and is the light of the sun, and the power by which it was made; and these grosser particles of light that illuminate the heavens and enable us to behold the works of nature, are from that same Spirit which enlightens our minds and unfolds the things of God. As that light comes forth from the sun, so the light of God comes to us. That natural light is the grosser substance or particles of the same Spirit” (Charles W. Penrose, JD 26:22-3).
So the following are completely arbitrary levels:
Level 0 < - - - 1 - - - 2 - - - 3 - - - 4 - - - 5 - - - 6 - - - 7 - - - > Level 8
Level 0. Unrevealed outer, lower level(s)
Words and phrases related to this level: Outer darkness, Bottomless pit, Gnolom.
The corresponding symbolic part of the temple: none (outside the temple).
One’s acknowledged “father” at this level: Perdition.
Type of mind: Reactive but not constructive.
Law(s) that sustain this level: none that I am currently aware of.
Transcending this level involves faith that being obedient and being able to be acted upon will lead to a more stable state of being.
Level 1. Inorganic, chaotic level
Words and phrases related to this level: Physical light, matter, element.
The corresponding symbolic part of the temple: External walls.
Law(s) that sustain this level: Laws of physics and laws of nature strive to prevent degeneration to a lower chaotic level.
“God had materials to organize the world out of chaos—chaotic matter, which is element, and in which dwells all the glory” (TPJS, 351).
“The elements are eternal, and spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy” (D&C 93:33).
“‘[C]ausation’ is a metaphysical term that can be replaced by ‘value.’ To say that ‘A causes B’ or to say that ‘B values precondition A’ is to say the same thing. . . . Instead of saying ‘A magnet causes iron filings to move toward it,’ you can say ‘Iron filings value movement toward a magnet.’ Scientifically speaking neither statement is more true than the other. . . . The only difference between causation and value is that the word ‘cause’ implies absolute certainty whereas the implied meaning of ‘value’ is one of preference. In classical science it was supposed that the world always works in terms of absolute certainty and that ‘cause’ is the more appropriate word to describe it. But in modern quantum physics all that is changed. Particles ‘prefer’ to do what they do. An individual particle is not absolutely committed to one predictable behavior. What appears to be an absolute cause is just a very consistent pattern of preferences. . . . The question of whether an electron does a certain thing because it has to or because it wants to is completely irrelevant to the data of what the electron does . . . not just life, but everything, is an ethical activity. . . . if moral judgments are essentially assertions of value and if value is the fundamental-ground-stuff of the world, then moral judgments are the fundamental-ground-stuff of the world. . . . The physical order of the universe is also the moral order of the universe” (Robert M. Pirsig, Lila: An Inquiry into Morals, 119, 180-1, 437).
Transcending this level, fulfilling this level’s law(s), involves faith that certain inorganic patterns and combinations are more conducive to leading to organic creations.
Level 2. Organic, biologic level
Words and phrases related to this level: Realm of action, “life.”
The corresponding symbolic part of the temple: Locker room, cafeteria.
One’s acknowledged “father” at this level: Biological. Biologically, our parents are the ones who contributed their genes that encoded the organization of our mortal bodies from physical matter. We sometimes can refer to our male ancestors as fathers. “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” (D&C 29:34). Paul refers to “our father Isaac” (Romans 9:10). He also wrote, “Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all, (As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were” (Romans 4:16-7).
Type of mind: Reactive and constructive.
Law(s) that sustain this level: The “law of the jungle” strives for self-preservation to avoid physical death.
“What is commonly called death does not destroy the body, it only causes a separation of spirit and body, but the principle of life, inherent in the native elements, of which the body is composed still continues with the particles of that body and causes it to decay, to dissolve itself into the elements of which it was composed, and all of which continue to have life. When the spirit given to man leaves the body, the tabernacle begins to decompose, is that death? No, death only separates the spirit and body, and a principle of life still operates in the untenanted tabernacle, but in a different way, and producing different effects from those observed while it was tenanted by the spirit. There is not a particle of element which is not filled with life, and all space is filled with element; there is no such thing as empty space, though some philosophers contend that there is. Life in various proportions, combinations, conditions, &c., fills all matter. Is there life in a tree when it ceases to put forth leaves? You see it standing upright, and when it ceases to bear leaves and fruit you say it is dead, but that is a mistake. It still has life, but that life operates upon the tree in another way, and continues to operate until it resolves it to the native elements. It is life in another condition that begins to operate upon man, upon animal, upon vegetation, and upon minerals when we see the change termed dissolution. There is life in the material of the fleshly tabernacle, independent of the spirit given of God to undergo this probation. There is life in all matter, throughout the vast extent of all the eternities” (Brigham Young, JD 3:276-7). The “life” in the decomposing physical body is following inorganic laws, as opposed to organic laws.
On this level, one may be concerned about their physical body’s needs.
Transcending this level, fulfilling this level’s law(s), involves faith that becoming involved in a group can have benefit to one’s biological survival.
Level 3. Social level
Words and phrases related to this level: Realm of communication, instinct, society.
The corresponding symbolic part of the temple: Garden room.
One’s acknowledged “father” at this level: Adoptive. Socially, our “parents” are the ones who raise us and take care of us. In circumstances of adoption, they are not necessarily one’s biologic parents. An adopted child who cannot remember ever meeting their biologic parent may realize the significant influence that their adopted parent has.
Type of mind: Believing, childlike.
Law(s) that sustain this level: The “laws of the land” are designed to protect societies and the welfare of the group.
“We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law” (Article of Faith 12).
On this level, one may be concerned about social acceptance.
Transcending this level, fulfilling this level’s law(s), involves faith that the development of good ideas can lead to a better society.
Level 4. Intellectual level
Words and phrases related to this level: Realm of thought, Tree of knowledge of good and evil.
The part of the temple this symbolizes: World room.
One’s acknowledged “father” at this level: Ideological. A person may pledge allegiance to the head of some group or thought movement. On an intellectual or conceptual level, a father can also refer to an “originator.” “Blessed be God, . . . the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3). “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him” (Ephesians 1:17).
Apparently Satan is a father, or originator, of contention and lies. “I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention” (3 Nephi 11:29). “And he became Satan, yea, even the devil, the father of all lies, to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken unto my voice” (Moses 4:4).
Type of mind: Analyzing, accountable, worldly.
Law(s) that sustain this level: Human rights, ethics, and freedom of speech and religion strive to preserve people’s rights to believe what they want.
“My own opinion is that the intellect of modern man isn’t that superior. IQs aren’t that much different. Those Indians and medieval men were just as intelligent as we are, but the context in which they thought was completely different. Within that context of thought, ghosts and spirits are quite as real as atoms, particles, photons, and quants are to a modern man. In that sense I believe in ghosts . . . the laws of physics and of logic . . . the number system . . . the principle of algebraic substitution. These are ghosts. We just believe in them so thoroughly they seem real . . . that law of gravity exists nowhere except in people’s heads! . . . The problem, the contradiction the scientists are stuck with, is that of mind. Mind has no matter or energy but they can’t escape its predominance over everything they do. Logic exists in the mind. Numbers exist only in the mind. I don’t get upset when scientists say that ghosts exist in the mind. It’s that only that gets me. Science is only in your mind too, it’s just that that doesn’t make it bad. Or ghosts either. . . . Laws of nature are human inventions, laws of logic, of mathematics are also human inventions, like ghosts” (Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values, 29-31).
“[M]oral bads and goods are not just ‘customs.’ They are as real as rocks and trees” (Robert M. Pirsig, Lila: An Inquiry into Morals, 355).
On this level, one may be concerned about information and ideas.
People who primarily function at the intellectual level may not believe in a higher (spiritual) level. To the person focused on the intellectual level, higher spiritual levels could appear to be a step “down” to a social level, which can be represented by a religious institution.
Transcending this level, fulfilling this level’s law(s), involves faith that spiritual ideals can lead to higher levels of thought.
Level 5. Saintly, telestial level
Words and phrases related to this level: Conscience. Letter of the law.
The corresponding symbolic part of the temple: Baptistry.
One’s acknowledged “father” at this level: Heavenly Father, as the father of our spirit bodies. Spiritually, our parents are the ones who mediated the organization of our spirit bodies from spirit matter.
We acknowledge our Father in Heaven as the father of our spirits. “And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven” (Matthew 23:9). “And call no one your creator upon the earth, or your heavenly Father; for one is your creator and heavenly Father, even he who is in heaven” (JST Matthew 23:6). “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God” (Romans 8:16). “Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?” (Hebrews 12:9). “For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device” (Acts 17:28-9).
“I want to tell you, each and every one of you, that you are well acquainted with God our heavenly Father, or the great Eloheim. You are all well acquainted with Him, for there is not a soul of you but what has lived in His house and dwelt with Him year after year; and yet you are seeking to become acquainted with Him, when the fact is, you have merely forgotten what you did know. . . . There is not a person here today but what is a son or a daughter of that Being. In the spirit world their spirits were first begotten and brought forth, and they lived there with their parents for ages before they came here” (Brigham Young, JD 4:216).
Type of mind: Committed, converted.
Law(s) that sustain this level: Law of the gospel, law of Moses, temporal law.
“I would not that ye think that I know of myself—not of the temporal but of the spiritual, not of the carnal mind but of God” (Alma 36:4). “While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18). So if anything, the unseen things are more real. The outward things are minor things.
On this level, one may be concerned about receiving blessings.
Transcending this level, fulfilling this level’s law(s), involves concepts partially discussed in my other study journal, The Doctrine of Meeting Christ in This Life.
Level 6. Elect, terrestrial level
Words and phrases related to this level: Spirit of the law, Tree of life, Prophetic vision, Holy Spirit of Promise.
The corresponding symbolic part of the temple: Terrestrial room.
One’s acknowledged “father” at this level: Christ. A number of scriptures refer to Christ as the Father.
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).
“And he shall be called Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of heaven and earth, the Creator of all things from the beginning; and his mother shall be called Mary” (Mosiah 3:8).
Mosiah 7:27 states, “he said unto them that Christ was the God, the Father of all things, and said that he should take upon him the image of man, and it should be the image after which man was created in the beginning; or in other words, he said that man was created after the image of God, and that God should come down among the children of men, and take upon him flesh and blood, and go forth upon the face of the earth.”
“Now Zeezrom saith again unto him: Is the Son of God the very Eternal Father? And Amulek said unto him: Yea, he is the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth, and all things which in them are; he is the beginning and the end, the first and the last” (Alma 11:38-9).
“I am the same that leadeth men to all good; he that will not believe my words will not believe me—that I am; and he that will not believe me will not believe the Father who sent me. For behold, I am the Father, I am the light, and the life, and the truth of the world” (Ether 4:12).
Christ is our father in the sense that he has spiritually begotten his disciples.
“And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters. And under this head ye are made free, and there is no other head whereby ye can be made free. There is no other name given whereby salvation cometh; therefore, I would that ye should take upon you the name of Christ, all you that have entered into the covenant with God that ye should be obedient unto the end of your lives” (Mosiah 5:7-8).
“My son Orson, hearken and hear and behold what I, the Lord God, shall say unto you, even Jesus Christ your Redeemer; The light and the life of the world, a light which shineth in darkness and the darkness comprehendeth it not; Who so loved the world that he gave his own life, that as many as would believe might become the sons of God. Wherefore you are my son” (D&C 34:1-3).
Type of mind: Enlightened, awakened.
Law(s) that sustain this level: Spiritual laws.
On this level, one may be concerned about receiving the mysteries of God.
Transcending this level, fulfilling this level’s law(s), involves concepts partially discussed in The Doctrine of Meeting Christ in This Life.
Level 7. Divine, celestial level
Words and phrases related to this level: All of the trees in the garden.
The corresponding symbolic part of the temple: Celestial room.
One’s acknowledged “father” at this level: Spirit of the Gods.
Type of mind: Synthesizing, evaluating, causative, active.
Law(s) that sustain this level: The law of Christ.
“And they who are not sanctified through the law which I have given unto you, even the law of Christ, must inherit another kingdom, even that of a terrestrial kingdom, or that of a telestial kingdom. For he who is not able to abide the law of a celestial kingdom cannot abide a celestial glory” (D&C 88:21-2).
“Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself” (Galatians 6:1-3).
On this level, one may be concerned about being the law-giver.
Transcending this level, fulfilling this level’s law(s), involves concepts partially discussed in The Doctrine of Meeting Christ in This Life.
Level 8. Unrevealed inner, higher level(s)
Words and phrases related to this level: Higher order of kingdoms (D&C 130:10), Freedom from domination by any static pattern.
The corresponding symbolic part of the temple: Holy of Holies.
One’s acknowledged “father” at this level: “Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually” (Hebrews 7:3).
“Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me” (John 17:20-1).
“For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him” (1 Corinthians 8:5-6).
“There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (Ephesians 4:4-6). We do not think that the flesh-and-bone body of our Heavenly Father is physically merged with us, but that the Spirit can be in us all.
Since we have always existed, we have no “ultimate parents.” But if we have been eternally progressing up until now, then we have been continually “added upon,” and all these things that have been added are ultimately aspects of the Spirit, so again we come to the idea of the Spirit of the Gods as “Father” (and “Mother”). If we pray to Heavenly Father and feel Heavenly Father’s love, perhaps we are feeling Heavenly Mother’s love as well, since they all share perfect love through the Spirit (“the Father”).
Type of mind: Transcendent.
Law(s) that sustain this level: Not applicable; not under the law.