Wednesday, July 22, 2015

God Progresses

In the Lectures on Faith we read that "three things are necessary in order that any rational and intelligent being may exercise faith in God unto life and salvation. First, the idea that he actually exists. Secondly, a correct idea of his character, perfections, and attributes. Thirdly, an actual knowledge that the course of life which he is pursuing is according to his will."

This post is dedicated to gaining a better understanding of his perfections and attributes.

In the same lectures on faith, Joseph taught that we can learn more about God from listening to those who have interacted with him to a greater degree than we have. Joseph Smith interacted with God face to face. What did Joseph teach us about the perfections and attributes of God?

Joseph taught that God was once a man, but worked out his exaltation. How did he do it? At least part of that journey was to do what Christ, his son, did in this mortal life. And what after? Are Celestial beings at an end of their progression? No!

How do we prove it?

``This earth, in its sanctified and immortal state, will be made like unto crystal and will be a Urim and Thummim to the inhabitants who dwell thereon, whereby all things pertaining to an inferior kingdom, or all kingdoms of a lower order, will be manifest to those who dwell on it; and this earth will be Christ's. Then the white stone mentioned in Revelation 2:17, will become a Urim and Thummim to each individual who receives one, whereby things pertaining to a higher order of kingdoms will be made known. And a white stone is given to each of those who come into the celestial kingdom...'' (D&C 130:9-11) Joseph taught that ``The place where God resides is a great Urim and Thummin. This earth in its sanctified & immortal state will be a Urim & Thummin for all things below it in the scale of creation, but not above it.'' (Words of Joseph Smith, 2 April 1843) What? The earth, in a celestial state, will not be able to see things above it? What could be higher than celestial?

Those in the Celestial Kingdom receive a stone on which things pertaining to a higher order of kingdoms will be made known. There are higher kingdoms than the Celestial.

Is this the only evidence we have of such a proposition? No.

Joseph said, ``What did Jesus Christ do, the same thing as I se the Father do, see the father do what, work out a kingdom, when I do so to I will give to the father which will add to his glory, he will take a Higher exhaltation & I will take his place and am also exhalted. Those are the first princples of the gospel.'' (Words of Joseph Smith, 7 Apr 1844)

Joseph claims that understanding that exalted beings step up in degrees of glory in each step of their existence, following those that came before, are "the first principles of the gospel."

If Jesus becomes as the Father is now, what happened to the Father's Father? The same that will happen to the Father now. Each takes the place of the one ahead, worlds without end.

If the Father takes on a higher kingdom, it must be because he has attained more knowledge than he previously had, as all degrees of glory have a corresponding law.

 22 For he who is not able to abide the law of a celestial kingdom cannot abide a celestial glory.
 23 And he who cannot abide the law of a terrestrial kingdom cannot abide a terrestrial glory.
 24 And he who cannot abide the law of a telestial kingdom cannot abide a telestial glory; therefore he is not meet for a kingdom of glory. Therefore he must abide a kingdom which is not a kingdom of glory.
...
 34 And again, verily I say unto you, that which is governed by law is also preserved by law and perfected and sanctified by the same." (D&C 88)

A greater degree of glory means more law, or more knowledge, than was previously had.

But how can God be all knowing and still learn more? Well, in short, he's not any more "all knowing" than he is "eternal." God wasn't always God--that isn't what eternal means (he used to be a man, not God, remember?). It means he was God since before the beginning of this creation, and will continue to be until after the end of it. Similarly, "all knowing" doesn't mean "knows everything." It means "knows everything pertaining to this sphere." What is true in our sphere is independent of what is true in his sphere:

"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 93:30)

This concept of sphere is called scope in programming. I can declare all sorts of variables within a certain scope of the program, and their values will have nothing to do with anything that is done outside of that scope.

This is how it is that God can be changing in his scope (by progressing) and at the same time be constant in our scope (unchanging). If he changed in our scope, we could not have faith in him. Yet, his behavior in our scope is already defined and set, despite any changes in his scope. "From eternity to eternity he is the same, and his years never fail." (D&C 76:4). Eternity to eternity is a concept that means from the beginning of time, or the council of the Gods, till the end of time, or when Jesus delivers the kingdom to his Father. It does not and cannot mean that he always has been the same (since we know that he, like Jesus, was once a mortal man).

If there is a highest kingdom, we don't know of it. ``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.'' (D&C 88:37) God taught Abraham that whenever there are two [kingdoms], one is above the other. This lesson is written in the heavens:

``And where these two facts exist, there shall be another fact above them, that is, there shall be another planet whose reckoning of time shall be longer still;'' (Abraham 3:8) God is using the planets to teach eternal progression. He says the slower a body moves, the greater it is. The sun moves slower than the earth, and the earth than the moon. Wherever there is a planet, there is one that moves slower, or is higher. God showed Abraham all the bodies which belong to ``the same order as that upon which thou standest.'' (Abraham 3:9) ``If two things exist, and there be one above the other, there shall be greater things above them; therefore Kolob is the greatest of all the Kokaubeam that thou hast seen, because it is nearest unto me. Now, if there be two things, one above the other, and the moon above the earth, then it may be that a planet or a star may exist above it; and there is nothing that the Lord thy God shall take in his heart to do but what he will do it. Howbeit that he made the greater star; as, also, if there be two spirits, and one shall be more intelligent than the other...These two facts do exist, that there are two spirits, one being more intelligent than the other; there shall be another more intelligent than they; I am the Lord thy God, I am more intelligent than they all.'' (Abraham 3:16-19) He must be implying that he is more intelligent than all those spirits in the same order as the earth, for he just said---several times---that there is always a greater power.

Is all this new? No. Many (not all) contemporaries of Joseph understood his teachings on this subject and embraced them.

``But to our branch of the kingdom there is but one God, to whom we all owe the most perfect submission and loyalty; yet our God is just as subject to still higher intelligences, as we should be to him.'' (Orson Hyde, Quoted in Words of Joseph Smith)

"We have been placed upon this earth for a wise purpose, in a state and condition of being to prepare ourselves for a higher state and order of things. These are the objects for which man exists here." (JD 2:368, Orson Pratt, June 30, 1855)

“It is reasonable to believe, in the absence of direct revelation by which alone absolute knowledge of the matter could be acquired, that, in accordance with God’s plan of eternal progression, advancement from grade to grade within any kingdom, and from kingdom to kingdom, will be provided for. But if the recipients of a lower glory be enabled to advance, surely the intelligences of higher rank will not be stopped in their progress; and thus we may conclude, that degrees and grades will ever characterize the kingdoms of our God. Eternity is progressive; perfection is relative; the essential feature of God’s living purpose is its associated power of eternal increase.”
-James E. Talmage, The Articles of Faith [1899 edition] pp. 420-421

Why have you never heard this? Well, Brigham Young was bitterly opposed to the idea of a progressing God. He had bitter, public fights with Orson Hyde about it. In modern times, there has been a general distancing from the idea of even our progression because it is bad PR. Also, some modern leaders did not believe in a progressing God. Elder McConkie went as far as to name it as one of his "Seven Deadly Heresies." I guess they didn't read much Joseph Smith...