Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Seven Deadly Heresies - Part Five (Progression Between Kingdoms of Glory)


This post is part five in our series on The Seven Deadly Heresies, as given by Elder McConkie (see here).

The fifth heresy, according to Elder McConkie, is the idea that there is progression within the kingdoms of glory after the resurrection.

Heresy five: There are those who say that there is progression from one kingdom to another in the eternal worlds or that lower kingdoms eventually progress to where higher kingdoms once were.

This belief lulls men into a state of carnal security. It causes them to say, "God is so merciful; surely he will save us all eventually; if we do not gain the celestial kingdom now, eventually we will; so why worry?" It lets people live a life of sin here and now with the hope that they will be saved eventually.

The true doctrine is that all men will be resurrected, but they will come forth in the resurrection with different kinds of bodies--some celestial, others terrestrial, others telestial, and some with bodies incapable of standing any degree of glory. The body we receive in the resurrection determines the glory we receive in the kingdoms that are prepared.

Of those in the telestial world it is written: "And they shall be servants of the Most High; but where God and Christ dwell they cannot come, worlds without end" (D&C 76:112).

Of those who had the opportunity to enter into the new and everlasting covenant of marriage in this life and who did not do it, the revelation says:

Therefore, when they are out of the world they neither marry nor are given in marriage; but are appointed angels in heaven; which angels are ministering servants, to minister for those who are worthy of a far more, and an exceeding, and an eternal weight of glory.

For these angels did not abide my law; therefore, they cannot be enlarged, but remain separately and singly, without exaltation, in their saved condition, to all eternity; and from henceforth are not gods, but are angels of God forever and ever. [D&C 132:16-17]

They neither progress from one kingdom to another, nor does a lower kingdom ever get where a higher kingdom once was. Whatever eternal progression there is, it is within a sphere.
So the question is whether the kingdoms are locked from progression after entrance, or whether there is some progression after entry so that we could progress to eventual Celestial status.

Elder McConkie relies on D&C 76's description about the inhabitants of the Telestial Kingdom that they cannot visit the Savior and the Father or be where the are. He also relies on D&C 132's description of those who reject the new and everlasting covenant.

Those who believe in some type of progression rely on D&C 19, specifically verse 6, which says:

"Nevertheless, it is not written that there shall be no end to this torment, but it is written endless torment."

I suppose to proponents this means that punishment is not eternal but that after our punishment we can increase in glory as we perfect ourselves.

Additionally, a supporter of this theory would say that the Telestial Kingdom scripture mentioned above does not specifically say that it will be eternally so. One could be in the situation until he is ready to progress. Moreover, Heber C. Kimball taught an eternal progression model (perhaps BHodges can give us an idea where to look in the JD). Proponents are not comfortable with the absolutism of eternal placement where our theology is generally not so absolutist. I don't see how this can displace Section 132 above, but I don't see any scriptural support beyond Section 19 and it's tenuous at best.


Kimball's model seemed to further Joseph Smith's teachings that we only receive blessings from ordinances as soon as we are ready to receive them. Therefore, if one receive assurance of salvation, while guaranteed, it would not occur until that person is ready. Brigham espoused the idea that we resurrect in Celestial glory and make the jump directly to Celestial substance, whereas one could argue based on JS's statement that we attain a kingdom and then progress to receive our blessing as soon as we are prepared.

My final thoughts:

1) Like previous posts, this is certainly not case-closed as Elder McConkie suggests (astonishing!).

2) My gut tends to feel better with the progression idea because as Alma and Amulek taught, we are raised in the state that we die in. If we are in great need of improvement and are still bound to be Celestial, that leaves a huge gap between death and resurrection.

3) Despite my gut feeling against absolutism, there are similar circumstances of absolutism (War in Heaven) where we understand a group to have made their choice and no further progression is possible. While this may feel like a contradiction of Moses 1:39, I just don't see a lot of scriptural support for the progression model, and not much more direct support for the model advocated by Elder McConkie. I think that, like many of these deeper points of doctrine, it is better to stay open minded because it really hasn't been revealed relative to what we are asking. Any GA statements are, most likely, speculation and will contradict each other (I'll see your Talmage and raise you a Wilford Woodruff).

18 comments:

J. Max Wilson said...

"...but I don't see any scriptural support beyond Section 19 and it's tenuous at best."

Tenuous indeed.

Notwithstanding early apostolic speculations, I believe that the modern church authorities have reached a general consensus that Doctrine & Covenants 19 refers to the suffering of those who choose not to repent, but are not sons of perdition, and who therefore must suffer in Spirit Prison PRIOR to their resurrection at the end of Millennium. Then, after having suffered for their sins, every knee will bow and every tongue confess Jesus, and they will go on to receive a kingdom of glory. It is the suffering prior to resurrection that eventually ends, but the assignment of a kingdom of glory is a permanent, final, absolute destination.

Elder McConkie's use of D&C 76 is a great deal more sophisticated than merely relying on the idea that the telestial persons cannot visit the Savior or the Father. He is clearly using the idea the the resurrected bodies of telestial beings are in key ways essentially different than the resurrected bodies of the Celestial. This concept seems to be tied to the doctrine of the law of Restoration described by Alma to Corianton in Alma 41 and by Lehi to his sons in 2 Nephi 9. This concept of differring bodies and Restoration is combined with the doctrine that the resurrection is the permanent, insperable union of the spirit and body (D&C 138:17, D&C 93:33, Alma 11:45).

Abraham 3 also plays into the Absolutist doctrine of Elder McConkie, even though he does not cite it. Verse 26 says: "And they who keep their first estate shall be added upon; and they who keep not their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep their first estate; and they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever."

Even though it does not state that those who do not keep their second estate will never be added-upon, it does set up a parallelism between the first and second estates that implies something like that.

I'm not sure that the doctrine of Restoration is merely that we are raised in the state we die in. I think it is that we are "add-upon" according to the portion of the law we abide (D&C 88:29-32). Or as Alma says in Alma 41:6: " If he hath repented of his sins, and desired righteousness until the end of his days, even so he shall be rewarded unto righteousness."

If resurrection is a restoration to a body requisite to the portion of the law that quickens us, and that resurrection is permanent, then our progression is permanently circumscribed by the limitations of that body. That seems to be Elder McConkie's reasoning.

Doug Towers said...

Good post.

I had a good laugh at the "I'll see your Talmage and raise you a Wilford Woodruff"

I'd have to agree with j. max wilson also. I believe people only suffer in the spirit prison hell until their specific sins are paid for by their suffering - some beaten with many stripes and some with few.

People find their nitch in life. Satan decided to go the wrong way and the third that went with him have no intention of changing. It's like the Nephites at their end. They could see it coming, but wouldn't change. Once that nitch is established people will just live with their decision.

Hans said...

I think that we all concur then that D&C 19 is referring to suffering while is the Spirit. Punishment cannot be eternal because once that person as suffered the punishment, that law is fulfilled.

Elder McConkie's analysis is much deeper than I gave him credit for (one of my typical flaws) but I think that we can all agree that what the sciptures he quotes and J. Max adds indicate that the actual bodies are Celestial vs. Telestial and therefore cannot abide the presence of the higher.

So two final thoughts here:

1) Because the scriptures don't specifically mention this point of doctrine, I could still see room for the possibility that even though one is in the state of Telestial, the scriptures cited (with possibly the exception of D&C 132) seem to say that when one is in that state, one is stuck in that state, with the exception of the highest degree of Celestial glory (Section 131). This is pure speculation and something that leaders have really only speculated on, but I still see room to say that one could progress after that point.

2) I said in the original post that my gut feeling would like for some room for the possibility of progression, but Abraham 3 really is absolutist. The 1/3 had their chance. They are probably stuck where they are. This would mean that it is not quite so foreign that the future state could be absolutist. The scriptures lean this way, along with current GA opinions, and so I tend to lean that way.

But because this is not one of those scriptural points that is undeniably clear cut (i.e. like the resurrection) I am still open to be convinced. In the past I got stuck believing in such theories and then realized that it may still be more open to interpretation. But Elder McConkie brought it up, so it is free for comment!

I just think that it is much more nuanced that I we taught from the 4th discussion but is both 1) not completely revealed and 2) not really that important in the long term. Perhaps Elder McConkie considered it "deadly" because belief in progression may lull people into a sense of security to sin now and repent later, because if progression is not the correct interpretation, then....well I guess it is better to play this one more conservative.

Doug Towers said...

Iknow it may not mean anything to anyone else as it is my personal experience. But I have actually discussed this subject with Heavenly Father face-to-face. And he has told me that all people do finally decide on what they want to be, and stay that way from choice.

So often we see people say things like, "I wish I could be more spiritual." If they really wanted to be so they would become so. What they really mean is that part of them feels there would be some benefit to being more spiritual but other parts of them disagree. And the disagreeing parts are greater than the agreeing part.

Others say, "you are probably right but I'll just keep doing it this way."

We think that everybody will be busting to spend forever raising billions of children and putting up with Satans and all the other stuff??? Having no holidays or time to yourself???

It takes dedication to mankind and love and all those other virtues to make a God. Not everyone will be keen at all.

But let me say that from the incredible joy and love I have felt in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ it is worth it all - as he promises.

Anonymous said...

Lots of GAs, of course, have come out on the other side of this issue.

See here for a small sample:
http://www.newcoolthang.com/index.php/some-pro-progression-between-kingdoms-quotes/

As for reasoning, either we believe in repentence or we don't. Either we believe in eternal progession or we don't.

Bruce R. McConkie was a great man, but he made many assertions without the support of the quorum and wholly on his own accord.

I'm afraid I file 7 deadly Heresies in the folder I file all of Paul H. Dunn's talks.

Matt W.

Swen said...

To Anonymous,

I don't know if I would call 4 or 5 quotes from GA's support from "lots" of GA's.

Moreover, I think you oversimplify the questions related to progression between kingdoms. I don't think anyone questions whether we believe in repentance or exaltation. Instead, I think we question whether both are limited, and if so, where that limitation lies.

Any thoughts?

Anonymous said...

I just came onto this blog in response to a search. I'm afraid I agree with Hans' post: we have to keep our minds open. Not all that general authorities said was fact; they are given to speculation, and it's best if we keep this in mind. My husband and I have discussed this point exhaustively, and agree that we do believe in eternal progression. Concerning the 1/3 of the hosts of heaven which followed Lucifer, I infer that there is a point--a decision--which cements our case; something we decide (they decided) that is irrevocable. This is what set them apart and denied them any further progression.

Look at Doctrine and Covenants 76:86-88. The question is: Why would angels/ministering spirits be sent from a higher kingdom to minister to those in a lower kingdom, if they were not going to be allowed to progress to that higher kingdom? What does it mean to "minister"? To be taught? What do angels do for us here? Teach. McConkie states that inhabitants in lower kingdoms will be able to progress within that kingdom, but not beyond it. So, if someone decided to progress as high as he could go in a kingdom, would he be satisfied at never, for all eternity, being able to go any higher? It doesn't sound like God's mercy to keep someone down forever who wanted to grow toward Him.

Next, look at Doctrine and Covenants 138:31-34. Does it not say here that the gospel will be preached to all who would repent of their sins . . . those who had died . . . in transgression, having rejected the prophets."

This clearly contradicts Elder McConkie's claim that those who reject the truth in this life cannot have a second chance.

Ryan said...

Anonymous,
If you follow the footnote in D&C 138:31-34, it leads you to the portion of section 76 that talks about terrestrial inhabitants, not celestial. Those who accepted the gospel after rejecting the prophets in mortality go to the terrestrial kingdom after acceptance (D&C 76:71-74). Upon reading the qualifications for the terrestrial glory, it becomes quite evident that D&C 138:31-34 is referring to them, not inheritors of celestial glory.
Also, Those who believe the notion of progression between kingdoms base it on a mistaken idea of God’s mercy. Their reasoning is: since God is merciful he wouldn’t cause any of his children to be relegated to a lower kingdom forever. In reality, however, mercy and repentance are only offered to mankind while they are yet in a preparatory state. “Therefore, according to justice, the plan of redemption could not be brought about, only on conditions of repentance of men in this probationary state, yea, this preparatory state; for except it were for these conditions, mercy could not take effect except it should destroy the work of justice. Now the work of justice could not be destroyed” (Alma 42:13). The progression between kingdoms idea destroys God's justice and, if true, would make him cease to be God. After the final judgment, mercy and repentance is not operable for the deeds done in the flesh. “The days of the children of men were prolonged…that they might repent while in the flesh” (2 Ne. 2:21). For those who never heard the gospel in this life, their probation seems to extend, at least partly, into the spirit world, but no further. The Book of Mormon is careful to designate our probationary estate as the time when repentance is granted, and the time to prepare for eternity (Alma 12:24). But this scriptural teaching becomes meaningless if we allow for progression between kingdoms after the final judgment.
We are explicitly told that “where God and Christ dwell [Telestial inhabitants] cannot come, worlds without end” (D&C 76:112). Likewise with all those who have inherited a lower kingdom, they shall “remain separately and singly, without exaltation…to all eternity; and from henceforth are not gods, but are angels of God forever and ever” (D&C 132:17).
Like mentioned earlier, logically a progression between kingdoms would make our earthly probation essentially meaningless. If the chance to receive exaltation never expires, then there is no point for a probation on earth, and the whole plan of salvation is turned upside down on its head. This notion of progression between kingdoms doctrine is exposed in the Book of Mormon, when the antichrist Nehor incorrectly taught that “all mankind should be saved at the last day, and that they need not fear nor tremble” since “in the end, all men should have eternal life” (Alma 1:4). Furthermore, exaltation in the Celestial kingdom requires the covenant of marriage (D&C 131:1-4), but the scriptures say that “when they [Telestial and Terrestrial people] are out of the world they neither marry nor are given in marriage” (D&C 132:16). Also, a person who was inseparably resurrected with a Telestial or a Terrestrial body would not be able to abide a Celestial glory (Alma 11:45; D&C 88:27-31, 22-24).
Further, Mormon assures us that "every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God. But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one" (Moroni 7:16-17). The idea or possibility of progression between kingdoms does not lead men to do good, but rather it does the opposite by giving them license to be careless during their mortal probation.

Anonymous said...

Ryan,

With all due respect, I believe that your take may be extremely structualist and subsequently contradictory to the gospel message. First, you speak of the "probationary state" and duly so because it is scriptural. However, we must remember that many have died without the gospel, so the term "probationary" is extremely relative, and I would balk to even guess to whom else it may apply.

You also state that our earthly life would be somewhat meaningless if there were progression between kingdoms. Well.....sorry, I just say hogwash, and here's why. This life is to learn and experience right from wrong without memory of our prior life. Mortality is a progression because we receive physical bodies, and that's what the resurrection is all about. Personally, I find it a bit counter intuitive to suggest the a 70 to 80 year time period, compared to all the eons, will be the ultimate finality. Again, eternal progression. Yet I dare say that it seems contradictory to say the we all have eternal progression while at the same time saying that we have eternal damnation. You can flip this from one side to another semantically, which is why I believe the spirit tells me that there is eternal progression.
Next, please do not ignore the portion of D&C 76 stating that the terrestrial kingdom is assigned the those who were blinded by the craftiness of men. Now this is a perfect example of just how unclear scriptures can be. If they were blinded, how can they be held accountable?
Also, notwithstanding a facile interpretation that a probationary period can be extended (self-contradicted, based on D&C 76-those that would have accepted the gospel) please tell me unequivically what the point in doing there temple work is. And please don't say "because God said to do it" , a very facile explanation,because we are dialoging reason here. So please support it.
Next, earlier in the post the term ministers was used. Those in the lesser kingdoms are being ministered unto. If I'm not mistaken, you failed to mention that nuance. So if you tell me you don't know what it means, then I do believe that your argument is trumped. That one little detail says a lot, and it was blithely ignored.
Next, the idea of progression without an expiration date does not imply that it would destroy the justice of God. Justice is a natural consequence of our actions, yet our actions still continue after this life.
But in all honestly, and I have to say that your interpretation of this life has somewhat destoryed your credibility (no offense), being pointless if we could progress between kingdoms is fallacious because it would imply that all the trillions of people who died without the gospel are, for all intents and purposes, screwed. This life is for much more than becoming a member of the church, receiving an endowment, etc... We learn right from wrong (in many ways)and more importantly, we gain a body. If the opposite were true, then I believe we're regressing our doctrine to a catholic/puritan/protostant mentality, which Joseph tried for so many years do disabuse people of. And subsequently, if we deny this possibility, then our doctrine simply ends up being at odds with itself.
Cheers!

BTW: not all will be saved at the last day, but more may be saved after.

Ryan said...

Anonymous,
It has been so long that I really never expected any reply. But now that I see your reaction I feel that it is needful for me to defend my position, at least this one time, by responding to your various comments below (note: because of length my reply will be broken up into multiple posts):

-“your take may be extremely structualist and subsequently contradictory to the gospel message”

My conclusions are drawn from scriptural evidences. If they are “structuralist” then that IS the gospel message.

-“many have died without the gospel, so the term ‘probationary’ is extremely relative, and I would balk to even guess to whom else it may apply.”

Of course many have died without the gospel. What happens is no great mystery. For them, their probation extends into the world of spirits where they will receive a chance to accept or reject the gospel (D&C 137:7-9; 138:30-31). For the rest of us who have heard the gospel (as in Alma 34:2), our chance to accept or reject the gospel is in this life, and so our probationary period is this lifetime (Alma 34:33-34).

-“You also state that our earthly life would be somewhat meaningless if there were progression between kingdoms. Well.....sorry, I just say hogwash”

What I meant here was that to concede that life is a probation out of one side of our mouths and turn around and imply that it really isn’t (through progression between kingdoms philosophy) makes the idea of an earthly probation meaningless. But the scriptures, the Book of Mormon in particular, are very clear to designate our mortal experience as a probationary time with eternal consequences. “Wherefore, if ye have sought to do wickedly in the days of your probation, then ye are found unclean before the judgment-seat of God; and no unclean thing can dwell with God; wherefore, ye must be cast off forever” (1 Ne. 10:21). And “this probationary state became a state for them to prepare; it became a preparatory state” (Alma 42:4,10). Prepare for what? “prepare to meet God; [our life now is] a time to prepare for that endless state…which is after the resurrection of the dead” (Alma 12:24). Your deliberate downplay of life as a probation is not accurate to the scriptures. Indeed, we are given to understand in the Pearl of Great Price that our major reason for coming here is not only to gain experience and receive a body, but to undergo a period of testing, “we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them,” And so it is very clear that our lives are to be a great proving ground. The narrative continues in this vein, establishing the eternal consequences of our actions: “And they who keep their first estate shall be added upon; and they who keep not their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep their first estate; and they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever.” (Abr. 3:25-26).

-“I find it a bit counter intuitive to suggest the a 70 to 80 year time period, compared to all the eons, will be the ultimate finality.”

Yes, there’s a lot at stake in this life. It’s important to be good and serve God. The fact that you do not like this idea, though too bad, is not a sound argument, let alone a scriptural one. The Book of Mormon writers comprehended the urgency of our situation well: “And now, my brethren, I wish from the inmost part of my heart, yea, with great anxiety even unto pain, that ye would hearken unto my words, and cast off your sins, and not procrastinate the day of your repentance” (Alma 13:27). If there was really no big deal or urgency, and most everyone will eventually be saved anyway, why does the Book of Mormon plead with its readers so? If progression between kingdoms is true, then Alma needs to chill out before he worries himself into an ulcer.

Ryan said...

-“Again, eternal progression.”

Your usage of the term “eternal progression” employs the fallacy of equivocation, in which you use the phrase in two different senses. Every Mormon should believe in eternal progression (an implied premise of your argument), but to you eternal progress does not only mean a “just man made perfect” receiving exaltation (D&C 76:69), it means progression between kingdoms, something totally foreign to the scriptures and altogether different from what is usually meant by “eternal progression.” Putting your own meaning to a phrase does not make it so.

-“Yet I dare say that it seems contradictory to say the we all have eternal progression while at the same time saying that we have eternal damnation.”

Whoever said that “we all have eternal progression”? Only those who live the celestial law in the days of their probation are eligible for the full heights of eternal progression. “For he who is not able to abide the law of a celestial kingdom cannot abide a celestial glory” (D&C 88:22). If there is any progression in lower kingdoms, it is limited. Only those who lived lives fit for the celestial kingdom can receive its blessings, “For these angels did not abide my law; therefore, they cannot be enlarged, but remain separately and singly, without exaltation, in their saved condition, to all eternity; and from henceforth are not gods, but are angels of God forever and ever” (D&C 132:17).

-“You can flip this from one side to another semantically, which is why I believe the spirit tells me that there is eternal progression.”

Once again the equivocation fallacy. I believe in eternal progression, too, but not progression between kingdoms. And are you really invoking the “Holy Ghost told me” argument? If you must. But allow me to counter: Watch which “spirit” you may be listening to. The Holy Ghost, logic and good sense, the scriptures, and Church leaders tell me that an attitude of “what we do now with our lives doesn’t really matter in the end” will lead a person to paths of darkness.

-“Next, please do not ignore the portion of D&C 76 stating that the terrestrial kingdom is assigned the those who were blinded by the craftiness of men. Now this is a perfect example of just how unclear scriptures can be. If they were blinded, how can they be held accountable?”

All people who are at least eight years old and not mentally retarded are accountable before God for their actions. This is a basic tenet of the gospel. If what you are suggesting with this argument is true, that everyone who is not Mormon is not accountable, then there is no sin and no need for any punishment except for Mormons. But the scriptures say that “the whole world lieth in sin” (D&C 84:49), and that the “unbelieving” [i.e. those who didn’t accept the truth] who are unclean are among those who will be found in hell (Rev. 21:8). To be “blinded by the craftiness of men” is in fact an exercise of agency and accountability, to yield their trust in the arm of flesh rather than God. All will be taught the gospel before they are judged. Those who do not have the integrity of heart to accept the gospel while it is offered to them are not worthy of God’s kingdom (D&C 137:7-9; 88:22). They are not unaccountable.

Ryan said...

-“Also, notwithstanding a facile interpretation that a probationary period can be extended (self-contradicted, based on D&C 76-those that would have accepted the gospel) please tell me unequivically what the point in doing there temple work is.”

The point of temple work for the dead is exactly this: to do ordinances for those who did not have a chance to hear the gospel in the flesh. Salvation for the dead is not for those who already heard the gospel and rejected it. The scriptures say, “All who have died without a knowledge of this gospel, who would have received it if they had been permitted to tarry, shall be heirs of the celestial kingdom of God; Also all that shall die henceforth without a knowledge of it, who would have received it with all their hearts, shall be heirs of that kingdom” (D&C 137:7-8). Salvation for the dead, therefore, is for those who would have heartily accepted it had they heard it while living; temple work will not be effective for any other class of people. President Kimball would concur with me here. He taught, “Remember, the temples of God are not for the vicarious temple ordinances for those who have known the gospel. I’m sure we misunderstand that. Those who live as you have lived [i.e. aware of the gospel] for twenty years – as some of you will live for forty years and eighty years – this vicarious temple work isn’t for you” (Kimball, Marriage is Honorable). The probationary state of someone who is familiar with the gospel is their mortal life (Alma 34:2,33-34). If such a person rejects the gospel in this life, but later changes their mind in the spirit world, they will go to the terrestrial kingdom only (D&C 76:74, Gospel Principles Manual p. 297). For someone who has not heard the gospel message on earth, their probation necessarily extends to the world of spirits, just as it did with Joseph Smith’s brother Alvin (D&C 137:6. See also D&C 138:30-31). This is not a “facile interpretation” – it is grounded firmly in the scriptures.

Ryan said...

-“Next, earlier in the post the term ministers was used. Those in the lesser kingdoms are being ministered unto.”

If you want to have more than a snowball’s chance, you need to come up with something more substantial than your conclusions about the “ministering” (D&C 76:87-88). Of course ministering implies teaching or instructing of some nature. But this definitely does not justify us in concluding that people can progress between kingdoms as a result of it. Consider the ministering done by angels as referred to in D&C 132:16-17. This implies service, and is definitely not done for the purpose of exalting those who are ministered to (since in this context, they are already exalted). Also, in that circumstance, we are explicitly told that the angels themselves who are doing the ministering cannot ever be exalted. You charged me with ignoring the “ministering,” but I would likewise ask you to not ignore scriptures – scriptures which explicitly denounce the possibility of progression between kingdoms. “where God and Christ dwell,” the scriptures declare, “they [i.e. telestial people] cannot come, worlds without end” (D&C 76:112). “Worlds without end,” of course, means “forever and ever.” At least, this is the way in which the Prophet Joseph Smith understood the phrase. Note the context in which he used the phrase when he said, “There have been remarks made concerning all men being redeemed from hell; but I say that those who sin against the Holy Ghost cannot be forgiven in this world or in the world to come; they shall die the second death. Those who commit the unpardonable sin are doomed to Gnolom—to dwell in hell, worlds without end.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 361). This is extremely significant, and says more than “a lot” – it says everything. And yet it was “blithely ignored” by you. There is no clear scriptural indication of the possibility of progression between kingdoms, and that is why its advocates rarely use scriptures, or if they do, their use is narrow or limited. On the other hand, everywhere the scriptures indicate, and sometimes quite explicitly, that such is not possible.

-“Next, the idea of progression without an expiration date does not imply that it would destroy the justice of God.”

Yes it does. God is able to offer mercy to mortals because of the atonement (Alma 34:15-16; 42:14-15). But mercy is only extended to us while we are yet in a probationary state, “according to justice, the plan of redemption could not be brought about, only on conditions of repentance of men in this probationary state, yea, this preparatory state; for except it were for these conditions, mercy could not take effect except it should destroy the work of justice. Now the work of justice could not be destroyed” (Alma 42:13). What this says is that if God offers repentance or resolution for our misdeeds beyond the time of our probationary state, then his justice would be destroyed. Yet progression between kingdoms requires this very thing.

-“Justice is a natural consequence of our actions, yet our actions still continue after this life.”

Yes our actions continue, but we will not always be on probation. Our actions while we are under probation determine what our eternal fate will be, not our actions after the probation is past. Our probationary period has a clear end, and its end is before the judgment, since people “must be judged of their works, yea, even the works which were done by the temporal body in their days of probation” (1 Ne. 15:32). Like I said before, those who haven’t heard the gospel have their probation extend into the spirit world, but it too ends before the final judgment, when they “must be judged of their works” (ibid.)

Ryan said...

-“But in all honestly, and I have to say that your interpretation of this life has somewhat destoryed your credibility”

I’m not the one with the credibility problem, Anonymous. My arguments are based on the scriptures. Yours are not, but are based on your own wishes as well as fundamental misunderstandings of the plan of salvation and the character of God. My arguments employ several scriptural witnesses and approach the issue from multiple angles. I think nearly all of my arguments, taken independently, are sufficient to falsify progression between kingdoms. But taken together the evidence is overwhelming. They will stand on their own merit just fine.

-“it would imply that all the trillions of people who died without the gospel are, for all intents and purposes, screwed”

This claim does not make sense. Everyone will be given the chance to accept the gospel, if not here then in the spirit world. But they must accept mercy while it is still being offered, that is, during their probation (Alma 42:13).

-“This life is for much more than becoming a member of the church, receiving an endowment, etc...”

This statement is true. For instance, life is also the great proving ground by which our eternity will be determined (D&C 88:22-24, 35-39).

-“If the opposite were true, then I believe we're regressing our doctrine to a catholic/puritan/protostant mentality, which Joseph tried for so many years do disabuse people of.”

It’s interesting that you’re comparing me to Protestant views of the afterlife, when in the end, your progression between kingdoms idea results in a one-dimensional heaven and hell, with people either cast out with Satan or dwelling with God in full glory and nothing in-between. That seems to me to be much more like “Protestant mentality” than the idea of fixed degrees of glory. In the end, your idea is far more similar to the Protestant view you dislike so much. Is the idea of a just God who rewards people according to their works a “catholic/puritan/protostant“ notion? The God you are arguing for is loaded with mercy, but as I already established, is deficient in justice, making him less than perfect. The Book of Mormon is clear that this is not God (Alma 42:13-15,22). And I know of no circumstance where Joseph Smith taught that it didn’t really matter what we did in our lifetime. And yet, that is the ultimate conclusion of progression between kingdoms.

Ryan said...

-“BTW: not all will be saved at the last day, but more may be saved after.”

Your attempt to differentiate yourself from Nehor by playing this game is very unconvincing. For all practical purposes, your teachings are right in line with his. He says that eventually everyone will be saved. You say that eventually nearly everyone will be saved. The logical conclusion of Nehor’s teachings is that people “need not fear nor tremble” (Alma 1:4). The conclusion of progression between kingdoms is the same. The declaration of Nehor that “all mankind should be saved at the last day, and that they need not fear nor tremble” since “in the end, all men should have eternal life” (Alma 1:4) is almost exactly what progression between kingdoms implies. The two ideas, Nehor’s and progression between kingdoms, are virtually identical. I can’t think of any idea or teaching that compares better to this false doctrine of Nehor than progression between kingdoms, can you? And yet, this is one of the circumstances in which the Book of Mormon is exposing false doctrine for us.
Have you considered what you have to lose if you’re wrong about this issue? Consider the following logical statements:
1. Progression between kingdoms would mean that it doesn’t really matter what we do with our lives in the here and now, because things will eventually work out okay.
2. Satan teaches that it doesn’t really matter what we do with our lives, because we can escape punishment if there is one (2 Ne. 28:8).
3. What we believe determines what we do.
4. If we believe that we don’t need to strive in this life, because we can always progress between kingdoms later, we will naturally relax our personal standards.
Of course you can’t deny that progression between kingdoms gives license to sin. Even the most liberal of supporters of progression between kingdoms could not deny that. I have never heard a good answer to this obvious inconsistency. I strongly encourage you to re-evaluate your thinking on this issue. You know, it would be a terrible shame for you, I, or anybody to meet Jesus Christ at the end of our lives, having deliberately failed to live the celestial law, and then try to explain to him, “Oh, but I was pretty sure there was going to be progression between kingdoms.” At that point the parable of the ten virgins will take on poignant meaning for us: “Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins… five of them were wise, and five were foolish… And while [the foolish] went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut” (Matt. 25:1-10).

Riley said...

Well said Ryan. I had to shake my head when Anonymous said "But in all honestly, and I have to say that your interpretation of this life has somewhat destoryed your credibility ..."

Basically she's saying that "since you don't agree with me, you have no credibility". Good argument.

Next, she says "earlier in the post the term ministers was used. Those in the lesser kingdoms are being ministered unto. If I'm not mistaken, you failed to mention that nuance."

How dare you ignore some random thread of a comment three posts ago? Shame on you. Are all posts expected to comment on each statement of every other posts. I sure hope not.

Why don't people just believe the scriptures. I am far from perfect, but atleast I have a clear idea of what's expected of me. As soon as you try to ignore the revealed word of God as written in the scriptures, you leave firm ground for the misty swamps of speculation.

Riley

Trevor said...

Ryan,
Thank you very much for taking the time to respond to Anonymous. Your initial post was sufficient for me, but the added explanation was worthwhile in demolishing the possibility of lingering confusion or doubts. I read John A Widtsoe's A Rational Theology a year ago and the question of progression between kingdoms was raised in my mind and plagued me with confusion to a minor degree till now. Mainly confused about WHY Widtsoe at the end of his little book would leave the door open to such a doctrine as progression between kingdoms when the scriptures (and I knew at the time of reading, scripturally it is as unsound as reincarnation) are so clear that such cannot be the case as you've demonstrated.

Anyway, I don't know WHY exactly he did but I know completely now, thanks to your writings and the Spirit testifying within, that Widtsoe was writing his own opinion and not from revelation, in that doctrine at least. It's a little disheartening to learn these errors from time to time. It's no wonder the brethren today are so much more careful about speaking "off the cuff" than some predecessors.

Anonymous,
Thank you very much for voicing your thoughts for the sake of learning. Had you not spoken up your errant beliefs would not have been so thoroughly detected and dis-proven for the rest of us to learn from. Brigham Young on Feb, 19, 1853 asked Bro. Woolley to preach his beliefs on resurrection and then proceeded to dismantle them as being more in error than truthful. Then he thanked Bro. Woolley for speaking his mind freely so that he could be corrected and not continue in falsehood. I hope you and your husband can be aligned with the teachings of the scriptures.

Wayne said...

I also feel the need to applaud Ryan for his VERY thorough explanation on the subject. In my opinion, one would have to be willingly ignorant in order to deny that Ryan's points are valid. After all, he's not theorizing or speculating at all. He's simply reiterating what the scriptures already teach in plainness.
For those who are sympathetic with the viewpoints that Anonymous expressed, I think that you are taking a rather large risk. Consider this: If you are correct in your thinking, then people who follow Ryan's understanding of the gospel with the strictness and care would be safe to assume a reward of exaltation from the Lord. It's called working out your salvation with fear and trembling. On the other hand, if Ryan's viewpoint is correct, then those who take a more liberal approach, like Anonymous, may be endangering their salvation. I, personally, would feel more comfortable aligning myself with what the scriptures teach, as opposed to just crossing my fingers and hoping to be able to progress through the kingdoms after the final judgment (emphasis on FINAL).
Ryan made a very good point and I must say that I agree with him when he compares Anonymous' views to be very close to that of Nehor. Progression through kingdoms truly is almost an exact match to the false teaching of Nehor. It is beyond debate that the Book of Mormon condemns this teaching, that all will be saved in the end.
Sorry, I don't mean to pick on Anonymous, but as Ryan has demonstrated, the scriptures are absolutely clear on this topic; the scriptures are not "unclear" as Anonymous has stated. Anonymous, I'm not saying your an evil person, but I would venture to say that, in this point of doctrine, that you have given yourself over to a doctrine of devils. "Eat, drink, and be merry; nevertheless, fear God—he will justify in committing a little sin...and if it so be that we are guilty, God will beat us with a few stripes, and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God." (2 Nephi 28:8) This seems to be what you're advocating. You might want to discern just exactly what spirit is teaching you this.