Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Our heavenly parents gave birth to our spirits

Yesterday, Papa D asked: "Who Gave Birth to God's Spirit Children?" The answer is that man's spirit is a child of God, born to heavenly parents. Here are a few examples of that teaching.

"Within every human body dwells a living spirit born to our loving, eternal heavenly parents." (M. Russell Ballard, Ensign, Nov. 1978.)

"God is not the Father of the earth as one of the worlds in space, nor of the heavenly bodies in whole or in part, not of the inanimate objects and the plants and the animals upon the earth, in the literal sense in which He is the Father of the spirits of mankind." (A Doctrinal Exposition by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Ensign, April 2002.)

"Mortals are, by inheritance, spirits. They are the natural-born spirit children of God." (Marion G. Romney, Ensign, Jan. 1980.)

"As members of Christ’s true church we must stand firm today and always for human rights and the dignity of man who is the literal offspring of God in the spirit." (Spencer W. Kimball, Ensign, May 1979.)

"Men are eternal beings, spirit children of God. They were born to Him in the spirit world." (Marion G. Romney, Ensign, Feb. 1977.)

"We are the children of God, our Heavenly Father. We are members of his family. We are his spirit offspring. We were born in the premortal life as spirit beings, sons and daughters of a glorified, perfected, exalted being." (Bruce R. McCconkie, Ensign, April 1971.)

"We are the literal spiritual offspring of our Heavenly Father." (L. Tom Perry, Ensign, Feb. 2009.)

"You are literally spirit [sons and] daughters of Deity, offspring of exalted parents with a divine nature and an eternal destiny." (Julie B. Beck, Ensign, Aug. 2008.)

"You [young women] are literally spirit daughters of Deity, offspring of exalted parents with a divine nature and an eternal destiny." (Julie B. Beck, Ensign, May 2006.)

"All men and women are in the similitude of the universal Father and Mother and are literally the sons and daughters of Deity." (The First Presidency, "The Origin of Man," Ensign, Feb. 2002.)

"To be a daughter of God means that you are the offspring of Deity, literal descendants of a Divine Father, inheriting godly attributes and potential." (James E. Faust, Ensign, Jan. 2002.)

"We are literally the offspring of God, His begotten sons and daughters, with the potential of exaltation (see Acts 17:29; D&C 76:24). ‘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’ (Rom. 8:16–17)." (Sheri L. Dew, Ensign, July 2000.)

"The brotherhood of man is literal. We are all of one blood and the literal spirit offspring of our eternal Heavenly Father. Before we came to earth we belonged to his eternal family. We associated and knew each other there. Our common paternity makes us not only literal sons and daughters of eternal parentage, but literal brothers and sisters as well. This is a fundamental teaching of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." (Howard W. Hunter, Ensign, June 1979.)

"You and I must learn, as we walk through this life, how to become powerful spiritually. The spirit that dwells within this tabernacle of flesh and bone is the literal offspring of our eternal, heavenly parents. We know that; we have all talked about it in Sunday School. Because of that spiritual side of our existence, we have a spark of divinity within us. We trace our common parentage back to our heavenly parents, making us all brothers and sisters." (M. Russell Ballard, New Era, June 1984.)

"You are a child of God. He is the father of your spirit. Spiritually you are of noble birth, the offspring of the King of Heaven." (Boyd K. Packer, Ensign, June 1992.)


Blogger Papa D said...

I agree that we literally are the spirit children of God - created by Heavenly Parents. Just as we can say we are "born again" through baptism and not need gestational pregnancy to claim that wording as spiritual children of God, I have no problem with wording that we are "born" to heavenly parents. I just don't think that involved a gestational pregnancy like mortal birth does.

If you do believe in that sort of gestational spiritual pregnancy, fine; I don't. I just want to make it clear that I have no problem whatsoever agreeing that we are literally spirit children of God, born to Heavenly Parents.

7/05/2011 07:32:00 PM  
Blogger Papa D said...

I probably should add, just for clarification, that not one of the quotes in this post uses the phrase "gave birth to" to describe the process of our spiritual creation. "Born" means "to be brought forth" - usually through a conscious and intentional creative endeavor. I support that wording completely.

Finally, there is no reasonable argument whatsoever within Mormon theology that we were born exactly in the image of our Heavenly Parents, since they possessed perfect ("complete, whole, fully developed") physical bodies and we did not. Our progression to become like them is not just one of a spiritual nature; it also includes a physical component absent in the type of "birth" we experienced in the pre-mortal creation.

That is not a trivial detail, as it clearly is a significant difference than the type of birth we experience here on earth.

Again, I have no problem whatsoever with saying we were born of Heavenly Parents in the pre-mortal life. I believe that deeply. I just believe there are obvious differences between that "birth" and our mortal "births" - and gestational pregnancy is one of the differences in which I believe, largely because gestational pregnancy as we experience it now involves the direct transferal of exactly similar physicality. Our pre-mortal birth did not.

7/05/2011 07:53:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Papa D: Your personal point of view doesn't concern me. I'm fine with whatever you want to believe. However, my own memory of attending Church goes back to George Albert Smith's presidency. And in all of those years, there has been no dissonance among senior Church leaders on this. The terms "literal offspring" and "natural-born spirit children" are clear, they reflect the plain and obvious meaning of the words. The Church's teachings about this don't need clarification.

7/05/2011 08:04:00 PM  
Blogger Papa D said...

"The terms "literal offspring" and "natural-born spirit children" are clear, they reflect the plain and obvious meaning of the words."

I agree. I think the quotes you provided are correct exactly as they are worded. We just disagree about what those plain and obvious meanings are. Ironic, I know.

Good night. *grin*

7/05/2011 08:15:00 PM  
Anonymous J. Stapley said...

Gary, I think it is quite clear that though they believed in very different cosmologies, Orson Pratt and Brigham Young believed in what I call viviparous spirit birth. Many subsequent church members and church leaders have believed similarly (though with what is now considered heresy removed). However it is also clear that Joseph Smith taught that "God never did have the power to create the spirit of man at all," something that the Book of Abraham affirms.

It is less clear to me what any modern church leaders believe on this topic as they don't discuss the matter with any sort of detail.

7/05/2011 09:15:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

J. Stapley: I suppose I will never understand your fascination with quotes from early nineteenth-century Church leaders tossed like a monkey wrench into discussions about current Church teachings. Do you not realize that the same spirit of revelation that rested upon the Prophet Joseph and other early apostles and prophets rests upon the First Presidency and Twelve today. One of those authorized servants, Dallin H. Oaks, has warned:

-------------- quote --------------
"Following the prophet is a great strength, but it needs to be consistent and current, lest it lead to the spiritual downfall that comes from rejecting continuous revelation. Under that principle, the most important difference between dead prophets and living ones is that those who are dead are not here to receive and declare the Lord’s latest words to his people. If they were, there would be no differences among the messages of the prophets." (Ensign, Oct. 1994.)
-------------- end quote --------------

7/05/2011 10:19:00 PM  
Anonymous J. Stapley said...

I guess my hope is to contextualize the current situation. Perhaps this is similar to you pointing to your experience as a church member since the days of George Albert Smith. As I said, I don't think it is at all clear what current church leaders believe on the matter. Consequently, to take a firm position on what the Church currently teaches when it isn't clear, is to, as you say, focus on dead prophets.

7/06/2011 06:25:00 AM  
Blogger Eric Nielson said...

The statements in the Proclamation on the family, and the entry in True to the Faith give a clear picture of what current church leaders believe on the subject.

The key word here is 'begotten'. Begotten is to father or to sire. Heavenly parentage and literal offspring are much more than just creation or just covenant.

Countdown to Eric Nielson posting on this is now complete.

7/06/2011 06:50:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

J. Stapley: You and I seem to be at opposite ends of Church history. I've quoted 15 statements published by the Church during my adult lifetime, seven of them published in this century, including two doctrinal expositions by the First Presidency. Five of the above quoted leaders are still living. Their teachings are clear enough for me.

Eric Nielson: Yes, current leaders have made their position clear.

7/06/2011 08:05:00 AM  
Anonymous J. Stapley said...

Eric, be sure to look at how "begotten" is used in the D&C for your post.

Gary, I agree that many church leaders were explicit in their beliefs regarding viviparous spirit birth (e.g., Joseph Fielding Smith and his teachings regarding resurrection of telestial and terestrial bodies). I just don't think current church leaders are documented as believing it. They may believe in some other type spirit birth.

7/06/2011 08:48:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

J. Stapley: There is no confusion about what current Church leaders believe and teach. And you've made it clear that you yourself believe in some other (unspecified) teaching. Now I'm okay with that. But please don't use my blog to superimpose your interpretations on the Church leaders quoted above.

7/06/2011 10:58:00 AM  
Blogger SilverRain said...

I figure that my spirit already knows this on the other side of the veil, and I see little practical application for knowing it now.

So I agree with Ray. It MIGHT mean literally giving birth to, but it very well might mean something else. There's no reason to take an immovable stand on something so irrelevant to mortality.

Although I have yet to see a woman definitively say that giving birth is an eternal method. I'm guessing most of us don't like the idea of producing spirit children like some great queen bee for the eternities. Pain or not, that doesn't sound like any type of exaltation to me.

7/06/2011 12:39:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

SilverRain: You make a good case. However, after reading again what Howard W. Hunter said about it (as quoted above), including that "this is a fundamental teaching of the Church," I think I'll stay with "our common paternity" which makes us "literal brothers and sisters."

7/06/2011 01:13:00 PM  
Blogger SilverRain said...

Well, for what it's worth, I personally believe there is SOME way for heavenly parents to move us from being intelligences to spirits (whatever that might mean.) I even suppose that it is probably similar symbolically to physically giving birth.

I just don't think it is doctrinally essential that it mirror exactly what we experience here on earth.

7/06/2011 02:38:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

SilverRain: Again, your thoughts are convincing. But I have to believe that if spirit birth was similar to physical birth only in a symbolic sense, the First Presidency and Twelve wouldn't talk about "the literal sense in which He is the Father of the spirits of mankind." Of course, we as individuals are allowed to believe whatever makes the most sense to us. But in over 50 years I've never heard Church leaders speak vaguely about this topic.

7/06/2011 04:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Tackle SilverRain's question directly.

Do you believe that women's role in eternity is to go through pregnancies and birth of millions and millions of children?

I'm with her on that one. That doesn't sound like much of an exalted role.

7/06/2011 06:26:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Anonymous: You ask what I believe. I believe the most recent latter-day prophets and apostles as they interpret each other and as published by the Church, on this and on any other subject they touch upon in their teachings. Now as to SilverRain's concern regarding the eventual bearing of millions of children.

President Spencer W. Kimball taught:

-------------- quote --------------
“To those who are barren and unable to bear offspring, our deepest sympathy is extended. Let us quote for the consolation of those who are not blessed with the procreative power a statement from the Prophet Brigham Young:

“‘Let me here say a word to console the feelings and hearts of all who belong to this Church. Many of the sisters grieve because they are not blessed with offspring. You will see the time when you will have millions of children around you. If you are faithful to your covenants, you will be mothers of nations. You will become Eves to earths like this, and when you have assisted in peopling one earth, there are millions of others still in the course of creation. And when they have endured a thousand million times longer than this earth, it is only as it were at the beginning of your creation. Be faithful and if you are not blessed with children in this time, you will be hereafter.’” (As quoted in Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual, Religion 430 and 431, second edition, 2004, 79.)
-------------- end quote --------------

So there you have two Church Presidents speaking in unison, President Kimball having presided during my own lifetime and having had, therefore, a major influence on my life.

7/06/2011 07:05:00 PM  
Anonymous SilverRain said...

The problem with your arguments isn't that they're necessarily wrong, but that they aren't necessarily right. The quotes you cite about being literal parents doesn't mean that the process which makes them parents is sex and squeezing souls out of a birth canal.

But as I originally said, it is pointless to argue about since it will be easily understood at the point it becomes relevant.

7/06/2011 08:23:00 PM  
Blogger Eric Nielson said...

I think the key issue is whether or not we can be considered literal offspring. If we are not literal offspring then there may be a complete ontological gap between God and man. The details of the process are less important than the implications of the relationship.

7/08/2011 12:38:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Eric Nielson: The implications of our relationship to God are not relevant to the question: What do Church leaders teach.

Speaking in general conference 38 years ago, Marion G. Romney, then Second Counselor in the First Presidency, said this: "God is the Father of man's spirit, even as his earthly father is the father of his mortal body" (Ensign, July 1973, p. 13

To this day, there have been no subsequent teachings challenging President Romney's unambiguous analogy.

7/08/2011 01:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi. I do not have the cite handy, but, while he was President of the Church, in General Conference, President Kimball stated that Celestial beings can produce either physical or spiritual offspring. Also, in the King Follett Sermon, Joseph Smith, arguably, used the terms "spirits" and "intelligences" interchangeably. The "doctrine" promulgated that God "recruited" rather than "sired" our Spirits changes the natural meaning of "father" that I have come to know as a father and grandfather, and I have no idea why this change seems so attractive to people such as Richard Bushman, et al, etc. This is Greg in China

8/07/2011 08:44:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Good to hear from you, Greg!!

8/07/2011 08:52:00 PM  

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