Questions Mormons Can’t Answer?

I was reading an ethnography of Mormonism that will be released in the next few months (I got an advance copy) and a thought struck me when the author started describing some Mormon beliefs: There are some aspects of Mormonism that really cannot be explained.  In other words, Mormons can’t answer some questions about their religion.  I could be wrong, of course, but here the questions that came to mind:

  • Why do people have to have ordinances performed on physical, mortal bodies, thus necessitating proxies?  If the ordinances can transfer to spirits via proxies, why can’t the spirits be baptized?
    • And if there is some reason why they have to be performed on physical, mortal bodies, why can’t this wait until the resurrection?
  • If god is omniscient, why do Mormons need to learn handshakes and passwords to get into his kingdom?  Wouldn’t god know who is worthy and who isn’t?
  • If priesthood is required for performing ordinances, then how are female temple workers able to perform washings and anointings?
  • When does a prophet speak as a prophet and when does he speak as a man?
  • How will god not let a prophet lead the church astray (per, “The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as president of this Church to lead you astray.” – Wilford Woodruff)?
  • And, of course, the infinite regress question: Where did the first god come from?  Joseph’s regression of gods doesn’t actually solve the problem of “who created god”, it just regresses it.
Any other questions that Mormons just can’t answer?  And are there answers to these questions and I’m just not aware of them?

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profxm

I'm a college professor and, well, a professional X-Mormon. Thus, ProfXM. I love my Mormon family, but have issues with LDS Inc. And I'm not afraid to tell LDS Inc. what I really think... anonymously, of course!

63 thoughts on “Questions Mormons Can’t Answer?

  1. How will god not let a prophet lead the church astray (per, “The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as president of this Church to lead you astray.” – Wilford Woodruff)?

    I think he’s implying that if the prophet were on his way to lead the church astray, God would immediately strike him with a bolt of lightening.

    When does a prophet speak as a prophet and when does he speak as a man?

    If the members were given conditions for figuring this out in real time, that would just lead to people criticizing things that the prophet says and thinking for themselves. The whole “speak as a man” thing is just for rhetorical use for when anti-Mormons point to stuff earlier prophets said that was either obviously wrong or contradicted by later prophets. As for the current prophet, just keep in mind that he’d sooner be struck by a bolt of lightening than say something that is wrong.

    If priesthood is required for performing ordinances, then how are female temple workers able to perform washings and anointings?

    Many people take this to mean that endowed Mormon women do have the priesthood within the temple.

  2. chanson…

    If god would strike an erring prophet with lightening, how come he’s never done it? Have the prophets always made perfect decisions? I’m thinking the Mormon involvement in Prop. 8 was a bad decision – Monson should have been “lit up” over that one.

    I’ve heard the idea that Mormon female temple workers have the priesthood in the temple, but this is really a logical impossibility. Here’s what the Encyclopedia of Mormonism says,

    In the temples of the Lord, sacred priesthood ordinances (e.g., washings, anointings, clothings) are administered to men by men and to women by women who have received the endowments of the priesthood in the temple (TPJS, p. 337) and have been given that specific priesthood responsibility. Women thus may act in priesthood power when called, set apart, and authorized by those who hold the keys; however, women officiators are not ordained to the priesthood or to an office in the priesthood to do this work.

    In other words, women CANNOT hold the priesthood, but they CAN administer priesthood ordinances. In logic, I think that would qualify as a contradiction. That’s like saying, “I’m not a doctor, but I can get temporary approval to practice medicine in an official setting when approved by the state medical board, but just on other white males without medical licenses.” Or, “I’m not a cop, but sometimes the police chief thinks it’s okay for me to pull people over, so long as they are driving the same car I am and they are also not cops.”

    The only way this makes sense is if church leaders realized it would be way too awkward to have men perform washings and anointings for women and, out of expediency, allowed women to do it. Then they had to come up with a justification – like: women can do priesthood stuff in the temple, kind of, but they still don’t have the priesthood.

    (NOTE: The weird thing in reading your answers is that I wasn’t sure if you were being humorous or not (I don’t think you were) because the answers just seem comical.)

  3. If god would strike an erring prophet with lightening, how come he’s never done it? Have the prophets always made perfect decisions? I’m thinking the Mormon involvement in Prop. 8 was a bad decision – Monson should have been “lit up” over that one.

    See? There you go, thinking for yourself, trying to decide when the prophet is wrong and should be struck by lightening. No wonder you’re an apostate. 😉

  4. Apparently prophets themselves can’t distinguish between when they are speaking as a prophet and when they aren’t. At least I don’t know of any occurrence where any have acknowledge non-prophet-speak. What they can do is correct dead prophets,

  5. 1. Because the ordinances are for the living as much as for the dead. Part of the mandate from Elijah to “turn the hearts of the children to the fathers and the fathers to the children.”

    You can’t do that if you just sit at home playing your xBox and figure “God will take care of it.” The ordinances are to encourage us to connect spiritually with the deceased.

    2. Because the ordinances are to connect us tactilely with the spiritual reality we aspire to. They’re as much for us as they are for God. Anyway – it’s completely inaccurate to say that the physical rituals are buying our way into heaven or something (a common fundamentalist Evangelical attack on Mormonism) – they are simply a physical manifestation of a spiritual reality. We are physical beings, and we are aided in our spiritual and mental state by our physical actions.

    3. Simple – women have the Priesthood in the temple. Priesthood is nothing more than delegated power from God. It can be delegated to anyone. In the case of the temple ordinances – women.

    4. Relies on a variety of factors – such as were the statement is made, was it published and vetted for church publications, did the prophet actually claim to be speaking “thus saith the Lord” or was he speaking persuasively? And yes, the prophet can lead the church astray, but I suppose that also depends upon how anal you decide to be about the scope of the word “astray.”

    5. Answer can go two ways.

    a. You can point out that not all Mormons believe in an “infinite regress of gods.” Blake Ostler, for instance, is part of a prominent contingent of Mormon scholars who believe that God the Father was always God the Father, and Joseph’s King Follet talk of God being a man simply meant he experienced mortality the same way Christ did – as fully divine.

    b. Or you can just accept the infinite regress theory (which I personally favor) and note it’s not really a problem. I simply respond that its just always been this way and there is no beginning on the causal chain. In fact, if it comes to that human “intelligence” is also eternal and uncreated/uncaused.

    But this isn’t really a problem is it? After all, it’s simply the same argument an atheist uses for why the universe exists – “it’s just always “been” and doesn’t have a cause.” Most of the folks here are atheists, right? So does it bother you guys that your universe has no “first and final cause?”

    Well, it doesn’t bother me either.

  6. Seth,

    1. That makes no sense. Ordinances are ordinances. You can claim they “help” the living all you want, but, in the end, Mormonism has, for some reason, declared them as being necessary for salvation/exaltation. My question was why spirits can’t be baptized. Claiming it helps connect the living to the dead doesn’t answer that.

    2. Are you saying that ordinances are unnecessary? Hmm…
    http://www.lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?locale=0&sourceId=13bb9daac5d98010VgnVCM1000004d82620a____&vgnextoid=bbd508f54922d010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD
    The Church would care to disagree.

    3. So, women can have the priesthood? Hmmm….
    “God gives priesthood authority to worthy male members of the Church so they can act in His name for the salvation of His children.”
    http://www.lds.org/topics/priesthood?lang=eng
    Doesn’t seem to indicate that women hold the priesthood… Ever.

    I think my explanation in response to chanson does a better job explaining the situation, and makes a lot more sense.

    4. So, your combination of factors basically equates to: “Well, whatever we decide is in vogue at the moment, that dictates when they speak as prophets and rules out the stuff that really was spoken by them as men.” That’s the equivalent of saying, “It’s absolutely and completely arbitrary with no basis in logic or reason.”

    5. I don’t believe the universal is eternal or has “always existed”. Neither is that the current understanding in physics. Most modern understandings of physics suggest the universe came into existence at a point in time. Whether the universe came into existence as a result of the formation of a black hole in a different universe or something else, I don’t think any physicists today assert that the universe has just “always been.”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Age_of_the_Universe

  7. #1, of course it answers that.

    The key attribute of exaltation is the oneness that God experiences. You cannot have that oneness unless you experience it with others as well. It’s the definition of Zion itself – the pure in heart where all are of one heart and mind and so forth. You cannot be saved alone. That is the entire point of the mission of Elijah – to unify us together.

    And the temple is meant to invoke that unity and regard for your forebears. It’s meant for YOU.

    It is also meant for them. But it is meant for you.

  8. #2 makes no sense in light of what I wrote. It sounds more like you rushed to respond to what you WANTED my statement to be rather than what it was.

    #3 is just pure inference on you part and can be completely ignored for our purposes.

    #4 is just extremist hyperbole.

    Of course it’s not completely arbitrary.

    It’s how adults make decisions profxm. And it’s a far richer and more satisfying faith life than the sterile and neutered version of religion pushed by fundamentalists. Hopefully you are not among them.

    #5 and your characterization of modern physics is incorrect. Most of quantum physics has gone beyond the realm of the localized “big bang universe.”

    But I’ll admit I’m surprised profxm. I never expected to hear you repeating almost verbatim the gist of William Lane Craig’s arguments about the universe.

  9. Let me ask you a question profxm:

    Does the mere fact that God could theoretically save us some way other than baptism make baptism unnecessary for exaltation?

  10. Well, Seth, I think you’ve illustrated my point. I actually respect your views much of the time and think you’re a rather good apologist. But you don’t seem to be able to answer the questions.

    1. You can’t answer whether spirits can be baptized.
    2. What you wrote made no sense. Are ordinances required, yes or no? What you wrote suggests “ordinances connect us” to something, but it does not align with church doctrine and policy.
    3. Can women have the priesthood, yes or no? The church says no, but equivocates in the case of the temple because it recognizes the logical inconsistency.
    4. Absolutely not. No Mormon can determine when a prophet speaks as a prophet or as a man because it’s always determined ex post facto. In other words, there are no prophets.
    5. My characterization of modern physics aligns with modern physics:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Age_of_the_Universe

  11. One observation here.

    You’ve put out a lot of topics in your original post that could each be the subject of a blog debate on their own. If I’m required to answer every last one of them, the train of the debate is likely to be lost, and we won’t get anywhere. I’d rather deal with things one at a time. That way neither of us would have the option of skimming over the bullet points we feel like we argued poorly and focusing only on the bullet points were we feel like we are winning.

    But one observation. You said Mormons can’t answer these points.

    I just answered them.

    You don’t like how I answered them. But I did answer them – without avoiding a single one of them.

    Just wanted to make that clear before we move on.

  12. The church says it is required. That’s their website, not mine or yours. Are you disagreeing with the church?

    If so, I have to say it, you’re a heretic. 😉

  13. Nice attempt on the physics thing. But it relies on a trick you just pulled.

    You limited the definition to “universe.” But if you ask an actual physicist if our universe is the only thing that exists, you won’t get a thumbs up.

    Here’s another wiki link for you:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multiverse

  14. 1 – what about why ordinances like baptism for the dead need to be done in a dedicated temple (and not in a ward building)? I agree that whether or not ordinances are necessary was never really answered. Along with whether or not they are necessary, I would like to know why they have to be done in a specific place (like a dedicated temple) and can’t be done just anywhere (like someone’s home).

    The answers are because that’s the way God wants it to be. There isn’t a clearer answer.

    If there is a more precise answer than I would be interested in hearing it.

  15. 1. Mormon ‘facts’: Separation from God is a form of punishment. Righteous (those God know would chose the ordinances), but un-proxied are separated from God (in spirit prison) because nobody has done their work. This violates the Man is punished for his own sins proclamation.

    5. If there are an infinite number of Gods then where are they? They should be packed front-to-back, top-to-bottom across every square inch of the universe.

  16. “Why do people have to have ordinances performed on physical, mortal bodies, thus necessitating proxies?”

    It’s patterned after the way God saves us: through Jesus Christ, a Proxy. This points our minds to Christ.

    “If the ordinances can transfer to spirits via proxies, why can’t the spirits be baptized?”

    Because they are imprisoned. We do the work for them because they cannot do the work for themselves.

    “And if there is some reason why they have to be performed on physical, mortal bodies, why can’t this wait until the resurrection?”

    Because they are still, technically imprisoned. No one can break the chains of hell without faith in Christ and no spirit in hell can exercise faith in Christ without the ordinances being done in their behalf. A resurrected, unclean spirit cannot be baptized, for they remain unclean, having never exercised faith in Christ. Although they have left the geographical location of hell, they still have the chains of hell upon them and are still subject to the devil. In their resurrected state, having the Lord before them, they cannot exercise faith, for now they have a perfect knowledge. It is faith alone that saves. Therefore, their only hope is through vicarious ordinances performed in their behalf, and missionary proxies preaching in them while they are still spirits in prison. If they can exercise faith in Christ while they are there, prior to their resurrection, they can free themselves from their chains and obtain salvation.

  17. Another thing to point out, when mormonism was restored/began as a religious movement, it answered many of the existing 19th century questions about Christianity and faith.

    What happens to people who die before they were/are able to be baptized? How is the priesthood the same that Christ held (without going through the Roman Catholic church)? What’s heaven like? Where did the Native Americans come from?

    Other faiths (from the time period) may have tried to answer these questions, but since they didn’t have continuous revelation (or a tradition of revelation), there wasn’t a way to definitively answer.

  18. So, LDS Anarchist, what you’re saying is: Spirits can’t be baptized because there are no fonts in spirit prison.

    Really?

    And, “We do the work for them because they cannot do the work for themselves.”
    Ironically, doesn’t that sound like Satan’s plan? Are you saying they have no agency? And where does it say that there are no fonts in spirit prison?

  19. profxm, your question is really one of those things my dad always liked to term “Celestial vegetables” (derived from fruitless High Priest Quorum speculation on whether we’ll eat vegetables in heaven as opposed to salmon, etc.). Basically his term for speculative topics we don’t know the answer to – but literally don’t make a hill of beans worth of difference for our sacred view of existence.

    Is there water in the spirit world?

    Don’t know, don’t care. LDS teaching never claimed to answer such a question, nor is it really important or pressing.

    Can a spirit get wet? Don’t know, don’t care. Makes no difference.

    Could God theoretically exalt someone without baptism (assuming he hadn’t already made covenant commitments on the subject)? I suppose he could.

    But you’re focusing on the wrong end of the equation. You’re assuming that baptism is some sort of requirement that God needs in order to admit us to heaven.

    I doubt it. I doubt God himself needs baptism. He could have designated whatever ordinance he wanted, or even designated no ordinance at all. He could just, as you suggested do some mind and heart reading and forgo it all if this were all merely for GOD’S satisfaction.

    But that’s where you’ve gone wrong.

    This isn’t for God’s satisfaction. It’s for our own satisfaction.

    We need the ordinance. God doesn’t. Christ made that crystal clear when he spoke of the ordinance of the Sabbath:

    “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”

    The problem is one of projection profxm. You’ve gotten used to looking at Mormonism as a list of requirements that God is imposing on you in order to satisfy him. And if you don’t meet it, then he withholds rewards, or your right to view yourself as “Celestial material” or whatnot.

    But you’ve got it completely backwards.

    WE cannot be satisfied with exaltation without these measures. WE cannot have confidence in our own worthiness without them. WE need them. WE need to make the gesture.

    Otherwise we can never be one with God. Just as a husband can never be one with his wife if he is constantly tormented by thoughts of how no one could ever love someone as worthless as he is.

    I can give you a series of General Authority statements supporting this – starting with Joseph Smith.

    The ordinance is for us. Not for God.

  20. So, Seth… If I asked Thomas Monson, today, can I make it to the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom without baptism, you’re arguing that he’d say, “Maybe.”? I’d bet you $1,000 he’d say, “No.”

    Also, you changing the topic pretty clearly indicates to me that you cannot answer the question as to why spirits cannot be baptized. Of course my last question was absurd (Are there no fonts in spirit prison?). But that’s precisely the point. It makes no sense, given what Mormons claim to “know”, that spirits cannot be baptized. Which takes us back to my original point: Mormons don’t have a logically coherent answer for why they are baptizing dead people by proxy. It makes absolutely no sense. None whatsoever.

  21. Of course he wouldn’t say “maybe.”

    He’d say you need baptism.

    Because YOU need baptism.

    Which is exactly what my comment said. You did read it, didn’t you?

    As for your “change the topic” ploy – you’re the one changing the topic. I answered your yes-no question up front and clearly. You are the one changing the topic now to a different question while claiming you weren’t answered.

    I answered you. Without evasion whatsoever.

  22. Seriously, Seth? “I answered your yes-no question up front and clearly.” Where did you say whether or not spirits can be baptized? It seems to me like what you said was, that question is a “Celestial vegetable” and you don’t care about it. That’s neither “clear” or “up front”. That’s called “dismissing the question.”

    “This isn’t for God’s satisfaction. It’s for our own satisfaction.”
    This is some pretty slick sleight of hand that you’re employing here. You’re saying, “Well, of course baptism is required, but only because WE need it.” But you just suggested that baptism isn’t required, because god doesn’t need it. God is just making us do, well, stuff. Ipso facto, you have now relegated god to the status of petty bureaucrat: he is creating stuff for us to do, just to give us stuff to do. He could exalt us without baptism, but he has, completely arbitrarily (per your own post) decided that having people dunked in water by someone after that person repeats a few words is beneficial for us. This would, of course, suggest that priesthood is basically meaningless, since the baptism itself doesn’t change anything in god’s eyes, just in ours. Or is the priesthood important, FOR US? So, I have to believe that the person baptizing me has god’s power (regardless of whether or not he/she does), just because god needs me to need baptism at the hands of someone pretending to have his power? Is priesthood just symbolic too?

    So, really, what you’re saying is, “Baptism is required because god needs us to need it, not because god needs it.” If that’s accurate, than all of the saving ordinances in Mormonism are red tape. They change nothing metaphysically. They have no real power. They are just symbols, for us.

    So, symbolically getting baptized for a spirit in spirit prison is just a symbolic act that now allows that spirit to leave spirit prison? It has no actual power?

    Okay, Seth. If that’s your argument. Great. You have successfully made god a petty bureaucrat and relegated all Mormon saving rituals to the status of make-work.

  23. No – I told you I don’t know. That either answer is possible. And that it doesn’t matter. Then I told you exactly why it doesn’t matter.

    You don’t get a clearer answer than that.

    Are you just pouting because your leading question didn’t lead the way you wanted it to?

  24. You’re also ranting at this point.

    “Petty bureaucrat?”

    Seriously profxm?

    That’s not even clever. It certainly has nothing whatsoever to do with my comments. Are we just pulling random adjectives out of the hat at this point?

  25. No. Answer – I don’t know, and it doesn’t matter. And here is why the ordinances are still vital and important.

    You’ve pretty much completely misrepresented what I wrote.

    My comments have been absolutely dripping with how vital and important the ordinances are.

    I can only conclude you didn’t read them because you were too eager to skip to the part where “now I get to ridicule the temple.”

  26. “So, LDS Anarchist, what you’re saying is: Spirits can’t be baptized because there are no fonts in spirit prison.”

    No, what I’m saying is that 1) they are still impenitent and 2) they are bound. Whether there is water or not in hell makes no difference, whatsoever. They can’t be baptized because they have no faith nor repentance because they are bound by the chains of hell. That’s what chains do, they stop you from doing things you otherwise might do. It’s called prison for a reason.

    And, “We do the work for them because they cannot do the work for themselves.”

    “Ironically, doesn’t that sound like Satan’s plan?”

    I’m not sure what you’re talking about. Satan’s plan was to save man by destroying agency. The Lord’s plan was to save man while retaining agency. Both wanted to be the Father’s proxy (His only begotten Son.) Under the Lord’s plan, there are a multitude of proxies, we acting in the name of the Lord, in behalf of ourselves and others, as “saviors on mount Zion,” while the devil’s plan had only one proxy and savior acting under his own power and authority: him.

    “Are you saying they have no agency?”

    The spirits in hell have no agency. They are subject to the spirit of the devil and are bound in the chains of hell. He is the warden there. It operates according to his destruction-of-agency rules. Spirit missionaries traveling from paradise to hell to bring the gospel light to their darkness would be unable to get anyone to exercise faith in Christ and free themselves, because they cannot be baptized. Proxy baptism opens the way for them to exercise faith and shake off their chains.

    “And where does it say that there are no fonts in spirit prison?”

    Fonts in hell would serve no purpose, except to torment people further. Since the devil is a sadist, perhaps he does have fonts there.

  27. One more thing. The ordinance of baptism requires complete immersion (of the soul.) Your physical body is as much a part of you as is your spirit body. So that’s the requirement. All of the fallen man must be immersed. The unbaptized spirits in prison are screwed because they have no power to get their bodies back, thus cannot exercise faith unto salvation. So the Lord provides a way for their escape from prison, by making temple workers proxy souls. The ordinance of baptism, then, is of necessity an earthly ordinance. It must be performed by embodied spirits (souls.)

  28. No, what I’m saying is that 1) they are still impenitent and 2) they are bound. Whether there is water or not in hell makes no difference, whatsoever. They can’t be baptized because they have no faith nor repentance because they are bound by the chains of hell. That’s what chains do, they stop you from doing things you otherwise might do. It’s called prison for a reason.

    But what about the souls in spirit prison that have accepted the gospel and are ready to accept the proxy ordinance, but it hasn’t been performed yet…? Are you saying that up until the point where the proxy ordinance is preformed they have no faith nor repentance, then as soon as someone performs the proxy ordinance, then they stop being impenitent…?

    The ordinance of baptism requires complete immersion (of the soul.) Your physical body is as much a part of you as is your spirit body. So that’s the requirement. All of the fallen man must be immersed. The unbaptized spirits in prison are screwed because they have no power to get their bodies back, thus cannot exercise faith unto salvation.

    Now it sounds like you’re saying that the problem is that spirits can’t be immersed in water. So we’re getting back to the lack of baptismal fonts problem which you mentioned earlier and then kind of backtracked on.

    Which is it? Spirits in Spirit Prison are physically incapable of being baptized or they lack the faith and repentance to be baptized? Or some combination of the two…?

  29. “But what about the souls in spirit prison that have accepted the gospel and are ready to accept the proxy ordinance, but it hasn’t been performed yet…?”

    The principle of a future savior (on mount Zion) still applies, allowing them to exercise faith and escape. This is how the ancients who lived prior in Christ obtained faith. But if there were never any work done for the dead, none of the dead could exercise faith.

    “Are you saying that up until the point where the proxy ordinance is preformed they have no faith nor repentance, then as soon as someone performs the proxy ordinance, then they stop being impenitent…?”

    No. I’m saying that there must be a way for the ordinance to be performed, in order for the commandment to be fulfilled, otherwise no amount of preaching to the dead could allow them to generate faith. They are hopelessly bound by the devil’s chains and also by the bands of death. They have lost all agency, all hope and thus, all faith. The missionaries preaching in prison bring them agency, through the light of the gospel, and hope for escape from hell through the vicarious works and also hope of a resurrection. All of this allows them to begin to exercise faith and repent, which, if they do, shakes the chains off.

    “Which is it? Spirits in Spirit Prison are physically incapable of being baptized or they lack the faith and repentance to be baptized? Or some combination of the two…?”

    It is both. Their are two bands or bonds they are powerless to overcome. The first are the chains of hell, which subject them to the devil. To put it in more modern terms, subjection to the devil means that he takes total control over you, so that you become a mind controlled slave, or a robot, a puppet. The “you” of you ceases to exist. Your will becomes (forcefully) swallowed up in the impenitent will of the devil. You lose all agency and become a thing that is merely acted upon. This is slavery on an absolute level. The second bond are the bands of death, which also provide many limitations.

    In mortality, a person (who has not sinned unto death) can exercise faith, repent of all their sins and then fulfill the commandments of baptism, etc., because first, there are no bands of death on them and second, any chains of hell upon them are powerless to drag them down to hell (because of the body) and are also powerless to subject them to the devil. These conditions of mortality allow us to have agency and make choices according to our wills. Once we die, though, the limitations of the chains are removed and if we still have chains attached, all is lost.

    Thus, people who die in their sins also die a spiritual death, as Jacob taught. This is also why if there were no resurrection, we would all become angels to the devil, again as Jacob taught. Death and hell present an insurmountable obstacle to mankind’s very existence, for according to the very laws of the universe, the devil must always win. But then the Lord provides the miracle of the atonement, providing a way for our escape.

    And it is miraculous, for the spirits in hell have the will of the devil, and so are incapable of repenting or exercising faith. They can no longer choose their own path. They are powerless to get their bodies back. This makes it impossible for them to escape from their spiritual and physical death. But irregardless, the Lord provides a resurrection of the physically dead and a resurrection of the spiritually dead, doing the impossible.

  30. You know what I like best about LDS Anarchist’s responses is the sheer confidence he has in talking about what is clearly unknowable. He’s making most of this stuff up, but that doesn’t seem to diminish his confidence.

    Also, I’d really like to know how you “chain” a “spirit.” I’m thinking Ghostbusters…

  31. I’m saying that there must be a way for the ordinance to be performed, in order for the commandment to be fulfilled, otherwise no amount of preaching to the dead could allow them to generate faith. They are hopelessly bound by the devil’s chains and also by the bands of death. They have lost all agency, all hope and thus, all faith. The missionaries preaching in prison bring them agency, through the light of the gospel, and hope for escape from hell through the vicarious works and also hope of a resurrection. All of this allows them to begin to exercise faith and repent, which, if they do, shakes the chains off.

    If the missionaries preaching in prison bring them agency — and the hope for possible ordinances allows them to begin to exercise faith and repent, hence shake off their chains — then why can’t the missionaries in prison dedicate a spirit baptismal font and baptize them once they’ve repented?

    Alternately, if the spirits of the dead don’t have the agency to repent and stop being mind-controlled robots, then how do they have the faith, repentance, and agency to accept the proxy baptism once it is performed? Are you saying that the fact of performing the proxy ordinance breaks that spirit’s chains and allows the spirit to develop faith?

  32. In other words, you seem to be saying that because they died in their sins (and are bound by their chains of unfaithfulness), they can’t be baptized. OK, well then why can they be proxy-baptized? Does the proxy baptism itself somehow grant them agency so that they are no longer mind-controlled slave/robots?

  33. Hey this is anarchist’s line of argument. I find some of it interesting and perhaps persuasive. But this is his baby to argue.

  34. On a meta-level, I think the Mormon response to these questions hearkens back to what ProfXM said to Seth on another thread here:

    Now we have to decide which beliefs truly matter. And how, precisely, do we do that?

    I get the impression that if you think it’s important for these questions to have a clear, definite, logical answer, then you already have one foot out the door of the CoJCoL-dS. That’s kind of what I was getting at with my tongue-in-cheek comment @3.

    I think LDS Anarchist’s reasoning is interesting, but not really doctrinal in the modern, official sense. I also lean towards ProfXM’s idea @37 that Anarchist is making it up as he goes along.

    That wouldn’t be a problem if this were the church of Joseph Smith’s day, when theological speculation was encouraged. However, it’s kind of frowned-upon in the modern CoJCoL-dS to pronounce on any theological point that isn’t official doctrine (and since “official doctrine” isn’t well defined, just avoid speculating on any theology that isn’t covered by the correlation topics). But maybe that’s where LDS Anarchist gets his name.

  35. I’d modify the statement Chanson.

    “if you think it’s important for these questions to have a clear, definite, logical answer, [and you think that you are somehow entitled to an immediate, and reassuring answer,] then you already have one foot out the door…”

    I have always thought it’s important for those sorts of questions to have a clear answer. I just never felt like I was particularly entitled to demand that answer.

    Therefore I never felt particularly resentful about it.

  36. If the missionaries preaching in prison bring them agency — and the hope for possible ordinances allows them to begin to exercise faith and repent, hence shake off their chains — then why can’t the missionaries in prison dedicate a spirit baptismal font and baptize them once they’ve repented?

    The ordinance of baptism is a washing ordinance. We are washing “our garments.” You know how in the scriptures it says that many high priests washed their garments in the blood of the Lamb and were made clean? All things from the Spirit have both literal and symbolic meaning. There are no pure symbols in the gospel, but all symbols are based on real, concrete things. A real thing is symbolically called this or that because it reminds one of something else. So, we partake of new wine in the sacrament because wine reminds us of the blood of Christ, because it looks like blood, etc. The wine is a real thing that is used symbolically to represent another real thing: blood. To the prophetic mind, the physical body is a garment, for we put it on at birth and take it off at death, just as we do a cloth garment. Baptism is the ordinance in which we wash our “garment.” A unembodied or disembodied spirit cannot wash his or her garment in baptism, for they are naked spirits, and that ordinance is specifically for the washing of the “garment.” Baptizing a disembodied spirit does not meet the requirements of the ordinance, nor its purposes. Because of this, baptizing spirits is powerless to generate faith. It must be done by embodied spirits.

    Alternately, if the spirits of the dead don’t have the agency to repent and stop being mind-controlled robots, then how do they have the faith, repentance, and agency to accept the proxy baptism once it is performed?

    The spirits in prison are kept in darkness by the devil. They are spiritually dead. I’ll put it another way: they are dead spirits. The devil is a murderer from the beginning and as soon as they are dragged down to hell, they die. In other words, he kills them. How do you kill an immortal spirit? By taking away their ability to perceive. If you can’t see, hear, or have any other sense, if you can’t even perceive your own thoughts, you will cease to exist as you. You lose your identity, your sense of time and everything else. This is accomplished by the darkness and the chains. Thus, they have no agency or power.

    When the missionaries arrive, though, they bring with them light (if not so, the darkness would overpower even them) and this light allows the spirits to perceive once again, granting them agency. They still have to contend with the chains (which are real things that symbolically represent and look like, intertwining chains, and which also look like the tares plant, hence the prophets giving them that name, too) but they are no longer fully subject to the devil and can choose to exercise faith and repent.

    Are you saying that the fact of performing the proxy ordinance breaks that spirit’s chains and allows the spirit to develop faith?

    The chains of hell (also called the bonds of iniquity, since they proceed from the spirit of the devil) cannot be broken by ordinances. They have to be shaken off or shaken loose in the process of “working out one’s own salvation with fear and trembling before the Lord.” That process requires faith, repentance, and coming to the Lord with a broken heart and a contrite spirit. That process starts with faith, but no faith can be generated if the process is doomed to fail even before it begins. The spirits must be given hope. They must be given good news. If they are told, “You must have faith and repent, but you can’t be baptized nor will you ever be able to,” this would extinguish all chance of them ever attaining faith, for there is no salvation without baptism. This is why we perform baptisms for the dead.

  37. In other words, you seem to be saying that because they died in their sins (and are bound by their chains of unfaithfulness), they can’t be baptized. OK, well then why can they be proxy-baptized? Does the proxy baptism itself somehow grant them agency so that they are no longer mind-controlled slave/robots?

    The light the missionaries brings with them grants them agency. Proxy baptism allows them to be able to exercise faith unto salvation. Proxy baptism is permissible in the gospel because it develops faith, as does every other part of the gospel. Unless faith is developed, no salvation is possible. The chains of hell, once attached, are impossible to detach except through faith. In other words, it is faith that saves. Faith is the first principle of the gospel. All the other aspects of the gospel are for faith maintenance or faith development, which also makes them salvific. But nothing in the gospel saves apart from faith. You can go through all the motions you want in the gospel, if you never develop faith the chains are still attached and upon your death you will find yourself in hell, despite all your “gospel living.” So a man cannot go to paradise with chains attached, for they drag him back. A man can’t get a physical, resurrected body with chains attached and expect to be free of them by virtue of his new body. It doesn’t work that way. No, that body is Satan’s. His possession alone. Just as king Benjamin taught, the Lord does not take what belongs to another.

  38. Also, I’d really like to know how you “chain” a “spirit.” I’m thinking Ghostbusters…

    I’m sorry I missed this. Even though you think I’m making this stuff up, I’ll tell you what you want to know anyway.

    The chains of hell correspond to the twin filaments of a Birkeland current discharging in dark mode. From the Wikipedia:

    Birkeland currents are also one of a class of plasma phenomena called a z-pinch, so named because the azimuthal magnetic fields produced by the current pinches the current into a filamentary cable. This can also twist, producing a helical pinch that spirals like a twisted or braided rope, and this most closely corresponds to a Birkeland current.

    Plasmas discharge in one of three modes: glow, arc and dark. Dark mode discharge is invisible to the naked eye.

    The spirit of the devil, a plasmoid, and the chains (Birkeland current filaments) which proceed from it, normally discharge in dark mode, though this spirit also has the capability of discharging in arc mode, hence the devil appearing as an angel of light.

    Birkeland currents are driven by different variables, such as magnetic fields. It may be that the spirit of the devil is attuned to specific changes in the human spirit, such as, perhaps, slight changes in the human magnetic field, which changes instantly create Birkeland currents directly connecting the human to the devilish plasmoid. Whatever the mechanism involved, the instant a person sins, a change comes over them and the filaments attach. The only way to get them off is to by changing back to how you were before they got attached (the mighty change of heart.)

    Again, the prophetic mind describes real things in symbolic ways which instill faith, so the twin filaments form a braided appearance and to the prophet it looks like a chain, so he calls it a chain. A plasma double layer looks like a bunched up curtain, so it is called “the curtain of thy pavilion,” and so on and so forth.

    The chains of hell, once attached, tend toward strengthening the connection. So, like Nephi wrote, it starts out a flaxen cord and ends up a strong cord. Strengthening the filaments is accomplished by magnifying the change that caused the chains to attach in the first place. In other words, the more one sins, the stronger the current and thicker the cable.

    Measurements of human cytoplasm electric fields show that they are off-the-charts high. (http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2007-11/uom-nvm113007.php) It is plainly obvious (to me, at least) that humans do not operate as a battery, but as an appliance. We are “plugged in” to an external power source, just as the planets and stars are. Thus, we may be plugged in to the spirit of the devil or plugged in to the Spirit of the Lord.

    Anyway, that’s how spirits are chained with tares.

  39. Seth, I do. But how can I take that last post seriously? Chaining spirits using electric fields? Really?

    Show me the chapter/verse in scripture or quote from a Mormon prophet that says:
    (1) spirits can be physically chained
    (2) the chains are electric fields

    As soon as you can provide those – without claiming that it’s all a matter of interpretation of scripture that has nothing to do with these things – then I’ll take this guy seriously. Until then, yeah, I can’t take this seriously.

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