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Sunday, May 29, 2005

Death, defining what wasn't before the fall

Instead of reading "no death before the fall," some individuals have been reading "no [fill-in-the-blank-with-your-own-concept] before the fall."  Obviously, if everyone is allowed to arbitrarily choose a different definition of "death," no death before the fall will be difficult to defend.  On the other hand, if we discover that those apostles and prophets who teach "no death before the fall" have also given us a definition of death, the statement will probably be (a) easier to understand, and (b) more difficult to disprove.

This article will set forth a definition of death as given by some of the same sources that teach "no death before the fall."  It will be shown that physical death is a separation of the body and the spirit—the physical or mortal body being separated from the immortal spirit.  Because these definitions involve the immortal spirit, biological analyses of death will likely not fit very well in this context.

Encyclopedia of Mormonism

We will start with the Encyclopedia of Mormonism:

"At death, the spirit and body separate and  ' the spirits of all men, whether they be good or evil, are taken home to that God who gave them life '  (Alma 40:11; cf. Eccl. 12:7)."  (Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol.1, Death and Dying.)

Guide to the Scriptures

Three years ago, the Church announced a new CD titled The Scriptures: CD-ROM Standard Edition 1.0 which allows computer users to search, print, or copy scriptural texts, study guides, maps, and photos.  ("News of the Church: Scriptures Released on CD-ROM,"  Ensign. Mar. 2002, 76.)

Study aids available on the CD-ROM included a new Guide to the Scriptures (a topical compilation of cross-references and definitions).  Although the Guide is not found in printed editions of the LDS Bible, it is available in the on-line version of the LDS Scriptures along with other Study Helps.

Here is what the Guide to the Scriptures has to say about "Death, Physical":

"The separation of the body and the spirit.  The Fall brought mortality and death to the earth (2 Ne. 2: 22; Moses 6: 48).  The atonement of Jesus Christ conquered death so that everyone will be resurrected (1 Cor. 15: 21-23).  Resurrection is a free gift to all people regardless of whether they have done good or evil in this life (Alma 11: 42-44).  Each person suffers only one physical death since once we are resurrected, our bodies can die no more (Alma 11: 45).

"All flesh shall perish, and man shall turn again unto dust, Job 34: 15.  Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his Saints, Ps. 116: 15.  The dust will return to the earth, and the spirit will return to God, Eccl. 12: 7.  By man came death, 1 Cor. 15: 21.  The Savior holds the keys of hell and of death, Rev. 1: 18.  There shall be no more death, neither sorrow, Rev. 21: 4.  Death hath passed upon all men, 2 Ne. 9: 6, 11 (Alma 12: 24).  They never did look upon death with terror, Alma 27: 28.  Alma explained the state of the soul between death and the resurrection, Alma 40: 11.  Those who die in me shall not taste of death, D&C 42: 46.  Those who are not appointed unto death shall be healed, D&C 42: 48.  I will prove you in all things even unto death, D&C 98: 14.  Unto dust shalt thou return, Moses 4: 25.  Adam fell, and by his fall came death, Moses 6: 48."

True to the Faith

True to the Faith is the Church's new doctrinal guidebook aimed at youth, young single adults, and new members.  It is a collection of brief, simple statements on gospel doctrines and principles.  The authoritative nature of this doctrinal guidebook was previously discussed in an article titled "No Death Before the Fall taught in True to the Faith"  (click here).

This is what True to the Faith has to say about "Death, Physical":

"Physical death is the separation of the spirit from the mortal body.  The Fall of Adam brought physical death into the world (see Moses 6:48).

"Death is an essential part of Heavenly Father’s plan of salvation (see 2 Nephi 9:6).  In order to become like our Eternal Father, we must experience death and later receive perfect, resurrected bodies.

"When the physical body dies, the spirit continues to live.  In the spirit world, the spirits of the righteous  ' are received into a state of happiness, which is called paradise, a state of rest, a state of peace, where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care, and sorrow '  (Alma 40:12).  A place called spirit prison is reserved for  ' those who [have] died in their sins, without a knowledge of the truth, or in transgression, having rejected the prophets '  (D&C 138:32).  The spirits in prison are  ' taught faith in God, repentance from sin, vicarious baptism for the remission of sins, the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands, and all other principles of the gospel that [are] necessary for them to know '  (D&C 138:33–34).  If they accept the principles of the gospel, repent of their sins, and accept ordinances performed in their behalf in temples, they will be welcomed into paradise.

"Because of the Atonement and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, physical death is only temporary: “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22).  Everyone will be resurrected, meaning that every person’s spirit will be reunited with his or her body— ' restored to their proper and perfect frame '  and no longer subject to death (Alma 40:23; see also Alma 11:44–45).

"You have probably experienced the pain that comes at the death of a family member or friend.  It is natural to feel sorrow at such times.  In fact, mourning is one of the deepest expressions of love.  The Lord said,  ' Thou shalt live together in love, insomuch that thou shalt weep for the loss of them that die '  (D&C 42:45).  The only way to take sorrow out of death is to take love out of life.

"Even as you mourn at the death of loved ones, you can receive comfort in the promise of resurrection and in the assurance that families can be together forever.  You can  ' see the great reason of sorrow, and also of rejoicing—sorrow because of death and destruction among men, and joy because of the light of Christ unto life '  (Alma 28:14; see also Alma 28:9–13).

"In addition to receiving comfort when loved ones die, you can be at peace with the knowledge that you will eventually die.  As you live the gospel, you can remember the Lord’s promise:  ' Those that die in me shall not taste of death, for it shall be sweet unto them '  (D&C 42:46)."

The LDS Bible Dictionary

The LDS Bible Dictionary is located in the appendix of the 1979 LDS edition of the Bible.  The dictionary is based on the Cambridge University Press Bible Dictionary.  The dictionary's preface informs us that many of the items in the dictionary have been drawn from the best available scholarship of the world and are subject to reevaluation based on new research or on new revelation.  In should be noted as well that the dictionary contains many additions and changes to the Cambridge text which reflect the additional light and knowledge the Lord has revealed in our day.  The dictionary can provide helpful insights to aid in scripture study.  (See Tools for Searching the Scriptures," Aaronic Priesthood 1, chapter 43, p. 154.)

This is what the LDS Bible Dictionary tells us about Death:

"Two kinds of death are spoken of in the scriptures.  One is the death of the body, which is caused by the separation of the body from the spirit; i.e.,  ' The body without the spirit is dead '  (James 2: 26).  The other is spiritual death, which is to die as pertaining to, or to be separated from,righteousness — to be alienated from the things of God (Alma 12: 16, 32; Alma 40: 26).  Both of these deaths were introduced into the world by the fall of Adam.  But death is also the consequence of our own sins.  We make our own spiritual death by our works, our thoughts, and our actions.  As Paul said,  ' The wages of sin is death '  (Rom. 6: 23), and some are  ' dead '  while they  ' liveth '  (1 Tim. 5: 6).

"In explaining these things, Jacob called the physical death, the grave, and spiritual death he called hell.  The atonement of Jesus Christ will bring all persons back into the presence of God to be judged, the body coming forth from the grave and uniting with the spirit released from paradise or from hell (as the case may be).  This will restore all mankind to the presence of God.  This is the same as Paul spoke:  ' For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive '  (1 Cor. 15: 21-23).  Then those who have willfully rebelled against the light and truth of the gospel will suffer again a spiritual death, which is called the second death (Rev. 20: 14; Alma 12: 16-18; Hel. 14: 16-19; D&C 76: 36-37).  Each person suffers only one physical death, since when once resurrected, the body can die no more (Alma 11: 42-45).

"Latter-day revelation teaches that there was no death on this earth for any forms of life before the fall of Adam.  Indeed, death entered the world as a direct result of the fall (2 Ne. 2: 22; Moses 6: 48).

The Living Prophet

President Gordon B. Hinckley has taught, "Each of us is a dual being of spiritual entity and physical entity.  All know of the reality of death when the body dies, and each of us also knows that the spirit lives on as an individual entity and that at some time, under the divine plan made possible by the sacrifice of the Son of God, there will be a reunion of spirit and body."  (Ensign, Mar. 1998, p. 2.)

16 Comments:

Anonymous J. Stapley said...

So in summary, you are saying that "Death" is:

the sepperation of a body and spirit and consequent banishment of said spirit to hell until the resurection.

-----


Would you agree or disagree that pre-Adam plants and animals might live, propogate and die without fitting this definition.

I do find it interesting that the only source that you site that extends the definition of death to all things on the planet is the Bible Dictionary (McConkie et al.?) Moreover the scriptures they site for the extension don't seem particularly relevent.

5/29/2005 10:20:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Jonathan: There are five items in your comment that I would like to address.

I.

The first part of your summary agrees with the one I gave at the beginning of this post, "physical death is a separation of the body and the spirit—the physical or mortal body being separated from the immortal spirit."

The second part of your summary—"and consequent banishment of said spirit to hell until the resurection"—isn't totally correct.

II.

Not all spirits go to hell.

The word hell is found three times in my article. It is found once in the article from the Guide to the Scriptures: "The Savior holds the keys of hell and of death."

The word hell is used twice in the LDS Bible Dictionary article: (1) "Jacob called the physical death, the grave, and spiritual death he called hell" and (2) "The atonement of Jesus Christ will bring all persons back into the presence of God to be judged, the body coming forth from the grave and uniting with the spirit released from paradise or from hell (as the case may be)."

When the physical body dies, the spirit body goes to the spirit world where there is a partial judgment. The righteous go to paradise (see Alma 40:12) and the wicked go to spirit prison, or hell (see Alma 40:14; D&C 138:20–22).

III.

You claim "the only source that you site that extends the definition of death to all things on the planet is the Bible Dictionary."

First, a small FYI. This blog is a web "site." By contrast, I "cite" my sources. Spell checkers recognize both words.

Apparently, you are referring to this sentence from the LDS Bible Dictionary: "Latter-day revelation teaches that there was no death on this earth for any forms of life before the fall of Adam. Indeed, death entered the world as a direct result of the fall (2 Ne. 2: 22; Moses 6: 48)."

Unfortunately, you missed this sentence in the Guide to the Scriptures article, "The Fall brought mortality and death to the earth (2 Ne. 2: 22; Moses 6: 48)." Notice death comes to "all things" (2 Ne. 2: 22) on "the earth," not just to Adam and Eve.

The Guide to the Scriptures cites the same two verses from the standard works that are cited in the LDS Bible Dictionary. Whether or not these two verses are particularly relevant is something you may wish to take up with the Church's Scriptures Publication Committee which in the past has been three members of the Quorum of the Twelve.

Notice that both the Guide to the Scriptures and the LDS Bible Dictionary plainly teach the same doctrine (no death before the fall) but the Guide to the Scriptures does not have a doctrinal disclaimer associated with it.

IV.

You ask "Would you agree or disagree that pre-Adam plants and animals might live, propagate and die without fitting this definition."

Regarding the death part of your question, see section III of this comment.

Regarding whether or not there may have been propagation before the fall, I've answered that question here. My answer at that time was, "I doubt you'll persuade me to change my focus on the web to 'Procreation Before the Fall.' "

I'll elaborate.

As you know, I like to stay with or at least very near what's been taught by the Lord's servants.

A search of my electronic library reveals that propagation among plants and animals before the fall hasn't been a hot topic (actually it hasn't been a topic at all—I couldn't find a single statement that addresses that topic). So, I seem to be stuck with 2 Nephi 2:22-23, as quoted in True to the Faith, which says "if Adam had not fallen,... [Adam and Eve] would have had no children" (p. 57). You may think this side-steps the question, but I'm satisfied for now to leave it at that.

V.

I appreciate the overall tone of your comment. However, there is one small exception. I sense something in your mention of Elder Bruce R. McConkie. Would you say there is an inherent problem with the doctrine contained in the LDS Bible Dictionary? Would you say Elder McConkie's involvement with that project somehow tainted its value?

5/30/2005 01:43:00 PM  
Anonymous J. Stapley said...

Would you say there is an inherent problem with the doctrine contained in the LDS Bible Dictionary?

Not particularly. I tend to take it with the same merit as the footnotes. I.e., pretty good but not perfect.

Would you say Elder McConkie's involvement with that project somehow tainted its value?

No. But understanding the authors goes a long way to understanding the text. (Not just this, but anything).

I realize why the church has gone to annonomous publications, but I do admit that it makes interpreting things a little difficult. Maybe thats the point.

Notice death comes to "all things" (2 Ne. 2: 22) on "the earth," not just to Adam and Eve.

The scripture states:

22 And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end.

I guess that I don't see what you see in the scripture. If you don't come to verse with the presupposition that there is no death, I don't see coming away with it as a conclusion. Isee it as saying the state would have had no end.

Sorry for adding the thing on propogation. I realize that you don't want to go there. It is so entwined in biology that I have a hard time limiting my thoughts.

5/30/2005 03:28:00 PM  
Anonymous J. Stapley said...

The reason I included the caviat of sending spirits to prison, is to determine if you think that animals and plannts are sent to spirit prison. If so, do you think that bacteria, yeast, seeds, and viable plants all have spirits that are sent to prison apon destruction of their temporal beings?

5/30/2005 04:11:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Jonathan: If I understand you correctly, your comment asks two questions. (1) Are there any plants or animals in spirit prison? (2) Do bacteria, yeast, seeds, and viable plants have spirits?

Having been employed for five years as a vocational instructor at the Utah State Prison, I've seen my share of prison life. Based on that experience, I would say the answer to your first question is "no."

Regarding your second question, I've posted another article here. In addition, it turns out that an Institute of Religion manual addresses your question as follows:

"Moses 3:9 indicates that 'every tree ... became also a living soul.' Man, animals, and birds “were also living souls” (see Moses 3:7, 19). Doctrine and Covenants 88:15 teaches that a soul is a spirit and a body combined. On the subject of living things having souls, President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote: “The idea prevails in general, I believe, in the religious world where the gospel truth is misunderstood, that man is the only being on the earth that has what is called a soul or a spirit. We know this is not the case, for the Lord has said that not only has man a spirit, and is thereby a living soul, but likewise the beasts of the field, the fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea have spirits, and hence are living souls” (Doctrines of Salvation, 1:63)." (The Pearl of Great Price Student Manual: Religion 327, 2000, 10; available on-line here.)

The scriptures indicate which divisions of life were placed upon the earth as living souls (i.e. which divisions of life have spirits). Attempting to stretch the scriptures beyond that, without guidance from the Lord's authorized servants, is probably just speculation.

5/31/2005 11:44:00 AM  
Anonymous J. Stapley said...

If plants and animals do not go to spirit prison, do they still fit the definition of death that you site in the original post?

5/31/2005 12:39:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Jonathan: It is my opinion that (1) plants and animals have spirits, as explained here; (2) physical death for plants and animals happens when the physical body and the immortal spirit separate; and (3) the spirits of dead plants and animals do not go to spirit prison—they go to paradise.

5/31/2005 05:27:00 PM  
Blogger jeff g said...

While I am willing to attribute spirits, actually self-existent intelligences, to some animals, I'm not willing to go all the way to plants. Will they all be resurrected? Even weeds? What about all the plants that die and reproduce rather rapidly? If there going to be endless eternities of grass? What about moss? Mildew? Viruses? It seems that paradise will be very crowded, and not by people.

5/31/2005 05:43:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Jeffrey: I've seen good people cause themselves a lot of trouble by confusing theological "kind" with scientific "species." I'm wondering if you might be headed down that same road in reverse, assuming you know because of science what is "alive" in the theological sense. Questions I think you need to consider include whether each blade of grass has a spirit, whether and how much mildew is associated with a spirit, and the same for moss and viruses. You've often accused me of taking something beyond its original intent. Are you sure you aren't now doing that yourself?

5/31/2005 06:23:00 PM  
Anonymous J. Stapley said...

It's funny almost. We have found another area where semantics have betrayed us. I follow a more Brigham Young perspective that sees paradise and hell as not geographically disparate (and thus the same place).

5/31/2005 06:26:00 PM  
Blogger jeff g said...

Gary,

I'm glad that I misunderstood you. To say that each and every blade of grass has a spirit that will be resurrected would be absurd.

5/31/2005 06:34:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Jonathan: I follow Brigham when his is the latest word from God on the subject or when he agrees with more recent revelation. The Guide to the Scriptures has one entry for hell and another for paradise. Likewise the LDS Bible Dictionary, one entry for hell and another for paradise. The Church's doctrinal guidebook True to the Faith also has one entry for hell and another one for paradise. All of these sources see hell and paradise as being differentiated in scripture. Thus they seem no longer to be "the same place."

5/31/2005 06:50:00 PM  
Anonymous J. Stapley said...

I would agree that they are distinct states of being and consequently merit their own sections. I think that there is no question about that. But this is one especially where great indaviduals have and continue to disagree. Sorry for the threadjack.

5/31/2005 07:08:00 PM  
Anonymous J. Stapley said...

...hence my switch to prison, which authors have used to encompass both hell and paradise.

5/31/2005 07:09:00 PM  
Blogger Stephen said...

The Bible Dictionary needs some stiff editing -- it still has Baal as a sun god -- a position no one has endorsed since the 1800s. That was two centuries ago now.

6/05/2005 07:12:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Stephen: I suggest you contact the Bible scholars at Cambridge University who wrote that particular article and give them the benefit of your superior knowledge on this subject.

6/05/2005 10:12:00 PM  

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