Review of a Review: Bushman on Givens’s The Pearl of Greatest Price

Though I have not yet had the pleasure of reading the totality of Terry’s Givens’s The Pearl of Greatest Price, I was delighted by the review written by Richard Bushman, which is in the most recent issue of BYU Studies (59:4).

Where the Book of Mormon and The Doctrine and Covenants were intentional scripture, largely or entirely created and published as scripture during the life of Joseph Smith, The Pearl of Great Price assembles a collection of writings by Joseph Smith that was originally assembled as a pamphlet in Britain by Franklin Richards in 1851, long after Joseph was dead. The collection was canonized in 1880 as President John Taylor was sustained as the new President of the Church. It may be worth noting that the text now known as The Book of Abraham and the Articles of Faith were originally published in the Times and Seasons during the spring of 1842, when Willard Richards (Franklin’s brother) was residing in the Times and Seasons building and John Taylor was effectively running the operations of publishing the Times and Seasons (though Joseph was titular editor at that time).

Richard Bushman points out how radically Joseph’s doctrine departed from what had become “Traditional Christianity.” Though Bushman doesn’t reflect on this, I imagine Terryl Givens in his text may make mention that Joseph’s doctrine does, in fact, hark back to the teachings of the original Church fathers, those who had learned Christianity from the Savior or those who themselves had learned at the feet of the Savior.

I recommend Terryl’s book for your consideration. But any reading this blog post surely have time and ability to take in Richard Bushman’s review of Terryl’s book. Please read it.

___________________________

One point Terryl apparently makes, with which I will take some exception, is the idea that the universe existed before God and that God appears powerless over aspects of that universe, specifically the free willed actions of individuals. A God who actively chooses to allow us free will is not the same as a God who lacks the power to take away our free will.

As I contemplate what it means to be like God and His Christ, I see how hard They work to teach us Truth and guide us into wise decisions. In becoming like Christ, this is an aspect that I try to emulate. But when I contemplate an omniscient and omnipotent God who respects our free will, this is to me more powerful than a God who simply can’t thwart our free will. As a mere human, it is possible for me to take away the free will of others. And therefore, God must also be capable of stripping us of free will.

Saints understand God, though raining down truth upon us, to not force our will. At this time of COVID and availability of scientifically validated mitigations, this alternate reading of the God of the Pearl of Great Price gives me insight into why communities dominated by Saints have reacted as they have.

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About Meg Stout

Meg Stout has been an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ (of Latter-day Saints) for decades. She lives in the DC area with her husband, Bryan, and several daughters. She is an engineer by vocation and a writer by avocation. Meg is the author of Reluctant Polygamist, laying out the possibility that Joseph taught the acceptability of plural marriage but may have privately defied the commandment for love of his wife, Emma.

46 thoughts on “Review of a Review: Bushman on Givens’s The Pearl of Greatest Price

  1. Hi Meg-
    Thank you for your comments on this Review if the Pearl Of Great Price . I must admit, when my eyes scrolled over the words “Richard Bushman” I almost stopped reading as I so disliked his book, or should I say his manipulative wording style, of Rough Stone Rolling, but I thought.. hey, let’s give him another chance, and once again he is a master of using the English language
    to sway his readers from his “contorted” thinking. Not a fan!

  2. “As a mere human, it is possible for me to take away the free will of others. And therefore, God must also be capable of stripping us of free will.”

    Yes and no. I think that in theory He likely does have that capability. But in reality, He really doesn’t because to do so would invalidate the very principles that are the foundation of who He is and what He is. If He were to strip us of our freewill, He would in effect be stripping Himself of His glory and power and would then cease to be who He is.

    In that manner, I see Him incapable of overcoming our agency. Not because He does not have sufficient omnipotence, but rather because He would never do so as it would violate His core value system.

    He thwarts Himself, I suppose. But not really, because our agency is part of His plan, and thus is His will, as well.

    It is much like how in life we have the power to thwart Him from giving us miracles through our lack of faith. Because he respects us and our agency, he will not force some blessings upon us.

  3. “One point Terryl apparently makes, with which I will take some exception, is the idea that the universe existed before God and that God appears powerless over aspects of that universe, specifically the free willed actions of individuals. A God who actively chooses to allow us free will is not the same as a God who lacks the power to take away our free will.”

    That is a well-written paragraph that resonates with me. I am always dismayed when Latter-day Saints try to reduce God to our level, or, in other words, to re-create Him in our image. I prefer the God of scripture and Holy Spirit teachings, and am content to wait to learn more when God chooses to teach me.

  4. @Mike,

    I like my God to be one who has chosen to limit Himself to achieve His will, rather than one who is limited in a manner that thwarts His will.

  5. Hi Meg – I agree. I think that is his his core value system. Again, I think that any limits He has are self imposed because it is the way that He wants to be. And that He does not view them as limitations, at all.

    On a different subject, but related to the OP, I would also recommend reading John Gee’s “An Introduction to the Book of Abraham.” Well researched and clearly written. It addresses the history of the papyri as well as I have seen it done, in my limited reading on the subject.

  6. Nice review. The universe did exist prior to God, at least Jesus Christ. Agency to become free only comes thru the atonement (2 Me 2), yet God refrains from imposing his will on us in most instances. Givens means that our matter is something God did not create, and therefore cannot create our agency from scratch. In Abraham, even the gods commanded but then had to wait until they were obeyed in the Creation. Even then, Lucifer had agency to rebel.

  7. Gerald,

    I like D&C 38:1-3, 45:1-9, and so forth. I am unaware of any time or any thing or any being that existed before Christ.

  8. Ji,
    I am unaware of any time or any thing or any being that existed before you did. Let me explain.

    It is quite clear that creation ex nihilo is not a part of LDS theology. What creation ex nihilo means is that God exists outside the material universe and has created everything within it. From this philosophical position, God is outside of time and has perceived and created each moment. This paradigm led to the predestination found in Calvinism and the Problem of Evil which is still debated by Christen theologians.

    For Latter-day Saints, matter and spirit are as eternal as God himself. Remember that the “elements are eternal” (D&C 93:33).So are we! “The spirit of man is not a created being; it existed from eternity, and will exist to eternity. Anything created cannot be eternal; and earth, water, etc., had their existence in an elementary state, from eternity” (Joseph Smith, in HC 3:387). Also see D&C 93:29. It seems that God organizes this material and spiritual “stuff” into higher levels of organization. From Joseph Smith’s King Follet sermon we learn that “God never had power to create the spirit of man. . . . Intelligence is eternal and exists upon a self-existent principle.” (See also D&C 131: 7-8) I suggest that the very essence of each individual has always existed.

  9. I personally did not find anything like the doctrine that “the universe existed before God and that God appears powerless over aspects of that universe, specifically the free willed actions of individuals” in Givens’ book, but also I read it several months ago. However, I think I would have remembered such false doctrine, especially coming from an author I respect.
    The best way to see if the author did, in fact, say that, is still to go and read the book oneself.

  10. “One point Terryl apparently makes, with which I will take some exception, is the idea that the universe existed before God and that God appears powerless over aspects of that universe, specifically the free willed actions of individuals”

    Kind of difficult to follow that reasoning. It would seem that, if God truly is powerless over the free willed actions of individuals, then the choice in the pre-existence was really bogus because God wouldn’t have had the ability to follow through on Satan’s plan to compel everyone to make the right choices in any event.

  11. Old Man, You are agreeing with me — thanks! I am still unaware of any time or any thing or any being that existed before Christ. From the very beginning (whatever that means), He always has been my Lord and my God, and He created (or organized) everything that has been created (or organized).

  12. Here is the portion of Bushman’s review of Givens’s book that prompted my comments:

    “Givens’s major achievement…, is demonstrating how radically Smith’s stories of eternity stood out against the traditional Christian culture from which they emerged…. In the first chapter of Moses, God makes one world after another within an established universe. He is the author of worlds, not the totality of the universe. This meant that God was not the Creator in the traditional sense but “an organizer and artificer” (130). Moreover, the God who weeps over his children’s cruelty to each other in the writings of Enoch governs a universe that is not “fully conformable to his will and desires” (129). This amounted to a full “assault on the sovereignty of God” (129). He was neither the traditional Creator of the universe nor in complete control. Givens thinks that the Catholic Church was accurate in its official pronouncement that “the differences are so great that one cannot even consider that this [LDS] doctrine is a heresy which emerged out of a false understanding of the Christian doctrine. . . . The teaching of the Mormons has a completely different matrix” (129).

  13. Puzzling conclusion by Givens/Bushman. He is not in complete control by choice, i.e. He allows us to exercise our free agency which results at times in cruelty, but that doesn’t mean He doesn’t have the power to control our actions if He wanted to do so.

  14. When God Himself claims that He gave agency to mankind, I am not going to agree with theologians or academics that God did not give agency to mankind. Sounds like sophistry to me.

    Moses 7:32:
    The Lord said unto Enoch: Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands, and I gave unto them their knowledge, in the day I created them; and in the Garden of Eden, gave I unto man his agency…

  15. Hi ji,

    If our spirits/intelligences are eternal and uncreated as Joseph taught, then what is the source of our free will? Is not agency an attribute of intelligence? I suspect it is an uncreated attribute.

    For example, I can bridle a horse so that it temporarily does what I want it to do. But later, after training and development, I may “give” the horse its head while racing along a track. It knows what to do. The horse always had the desire to run and the ability to do so. But I temporarily limited the horse during training. I did not create that “fire” in the horse needed for it to be a great race horse. I bridled the horse until its training established the control necessary to win. I suppose that in the Moses 7:32 case, we were limited by being in God’s presence. In the garden humankind was given the time to run their respective races.

    Also, if spirits/intelligences, the very essence of what we are, is uncreated, when did we gain a loving relationship with God that is best described as father-child? We don’t have scriptural answers for that. But I suspect such a relationship can only be freely chosen by both parties. I really can’t see God forcing development on unwilling spirits.

  16. Old Man,

    I appreciate your engagement, but your persuasions won’t work for me. The Lord God said that He gave us our agency — I’ll take His simple word over your elegant persuasions.

  17. Old Man:
    While intelligences may be uncreated it doesn’t necessary mean that all of the attributes that we currently possess including agency were necessarily part of the initial form of intelligence. If that were the case then there would have been no need to change, modify or enhance the form of intelligence. But clearly that was done. What each of us is today is not simply the intelligence that existed in the beginning. We clearly don’t know all that the Lord did to get us where we are today but as noted by ji the Lord tells us one of the things he did was give us our agency. So while you may “suspect” things it is difficult to see them as anything other than questionable if they are inconsistent with what the Lord has told us.

  18. Ji,
    I am not trying to persuade you to do anything but examine your position and engage with mine. And I not sure in the least your reading of scripture is correct. I respectfully give you an opportunity to persuade me.

    Ojiisan,
    If God gave us our agency at a much later point in our development, we simply could not have a loving relationship with God before that point. Relationship is a choice.
    Also, if your reading of scripture is correct, then God did not play by the same rules that He does currently. You suggest he acted upon us without us having a choice in the matter. And God is therefore changeable.

    I understand if you do not want to engage.

    Respectfully,
    Old Man

  19. Old Man, Your persuasions are elegantly stated, but I prefer the simple words of scripture to man-made philosophy, however reasonably presented. For me, it works better to take God at His word rather than to declare that He was wrong in what He said. I don’t want to diminish God in any way, and if He said that He gave agency to mankind, then I’m content to agree with Him. I also don’t want to re-create God in my own image, to have itching ears, to look beyond the mark, and so forth.

    I agree that we are eternal beings — even so, I acknowledge that living eternally after is easier for me to comprehend than living eternally before.

  20. @ Ojiisan:

    Whence cometh this idea that Satan’s plan was to “compel everyone to make the right choices”? I know many GAs have repeated that perception, but I don’t believe it’s firmly rooted in scripture. IIRC, the scripture says merely that Satan “sought to destroy the agency of man”.

    We often equate “agency” with “choice” or “free will”, but “agency” is a specific legal arrangement where an agent makes choices on behalf of the principal, and whose consequences—good or ill—redound to the interests of the principal and not the agent. When the scriptures speak of “man being an agent unto himself”, I don’t think they’re usually talking about God giving us free will; they’re talking about God implementing a system where we, through our actions, become active participants in our own salvation—acting, rather than simply being acted upon. Satan didn’t have to do anything to our free will in order to “destroy the agency of man”; he only needed to make our mortal actions and attributes irrelevant to our eternal destiny—to save us in (as opposed to *from*) our sins. “Satan’s plan” is, and always has been, impenitent libertinism.

  21. To echo what JimD is saying, Agency entails both the freedom to act, and responsibility for our actions. The popular notion within the Church is that Satan’s plan was to force us to do good, eliminating our freedom to act. But ever since then, he’s been trying to get people to avoid responsibility for their actions (look at the teachings of Nehor or Korihor). The scriptures never say he’s trying to destroy our free will; rather, he’s trying to destroy our agency–and free will is only one part of the agency equation.

  22. I see Lucifer as promising a two-fold platform, where he ensured we would live blameless lives and that we would all be returned to God’s heaven, But that is a bit like promising everyone $1M and a balanced budget (without inflation or other mechanism that might theoretically allow these two promises to be kept). God wasn’t so much saying “I disagree” as saying “It doesn’t work that way.”

    And Christ was saying, “I believe Father and am willing to be the sacrifice He says is required.”

    The (harking to recent events), we voted and the majority chose Father. Then a minority decided they still preferred Lucifer’s plan for themselves and tried to storm Heaven. But subsequently they were cast out, and have whinged about it ever since.

  23. Old Man
    Hard to see why I wouldn’t want to engage. Your reasoning escapes me. You presuppose an understanding of intelligences and life that isn’t found anywhere in the scriptures. Relationship is not always a choice either on this earth or eternally. And how does it make God changeable simply because he acts in accordance with his plan? He changed the nature of the constituent elements of the earth in forming it. Does that make him changeable? No. he is acting in accordance with his plan. The same is true of his relationship with intelligences.

  24. JimD
    I am intimately acquainted with the legal concept of agency but a look in any dictionary will show that is not the only definition of agency. And quite frankly I do not see how that definition of legal agency works at all in the plan of salvation as we understand it. Simply put the legal concept of agency means a third party is retained to do something for a principal so the principal does not have to do it themselves. That is not the plan of salvation. I am not doing something for the Lord so He doesn’t have to do it Himself. I am doing things for myself and so the legal definition of agency does not work.

    But even if I accepted your definition and reasoning (which I don’t), my points discussed above about Givens’ position still stand. If God truly is powerless over the agency of men, then God couldn’t implement the system to which you refer.

  25. Eric
    Your argument presupposes that what Satan is trying to do now is the same as what he was proposing in the pre-existence. Not certain why you think that is the case. He lost in the pre-existence and his goal today is to prevent individuals on earth from accomplishing the goal of the plan which was chosen. He may be trying to get people to avoid responsibility for their actions but he is first getting them to take actions that are inconsistent with the plan chosen in the pre-existence. Not taking responsibility simply means he is ensuring they can’t take advantage of the atonement to repent of those actions

  26. @ Ojiisan

    I see your point as jt pertains to Givens; so thank you. 🙂

    I’m maybe straining at gnats at this point, but the legal definition of “agency” works just fine in a Plan of Salvation context because the scriptures say repeatedly that men are agents **unto themselves** (Moses 6:56, D&C 29:35, 39; D&C 58:28; D&C 104:17). In other words, the same person both acts, and bears the consequences for those actions. We’re talking about a kind of agency where, but for the Atonement, there is no third party—“men will be punished for their own sins and not for Adam’s transgression”, and all that. “Agency” is inextricably linked with accountability for one’s own actions (see, eg, D&C 101:78).

    It seems odd to me that due to a single scripture (Moses 4:3) talking about Satan trying to destroy “agency”, we overlook the obvious way that Satan could destroy “agency” (by playing the same game of insulating action from consequence that his minions have been playing for the last six thousand years) and instead jump into the endeavor of imagining a scenario in which Satan (or anyone) could make it physically, existentially impossible for a sentient human being to do anything other than “good”. And the endeavor risks giving intellectual cover to libertines who suggest that any attempt to pronounce or encourage conformance to divine law constitutes an assault on “agency” (“Dad, you won’t let me pierce my tongue? You’re trying to make me be good, and THAT WAS SATAN’S PLAN. You don’t want to be Satan, do you, Dad? Now, give me $50 for my tongue piercing; I’ll pay for my navel
    piercing with the proceeds of my OnlyFans account . . .”)

  27. Hello Ojiisan,

    A loving, reciprocal relationship is a choice. I can’t think of a scenario where that is not true. And in my mind, God’s plan must be based upon principle, including the consent or affirmation of those who are affected. Otherwise love becomes compulsion and yes, I find that bothersome.

  28. Butting in, I have always operated with a paradigm where we have existed for eternity, but that there was an event where our eternal selves chose to come forward into spiritual life at God’s invitation.

    I think that satisfies the different sides of this discussion. God respects our individual agency to remain as unaffiliated disincorporated, non-spiritual intelligences. Once we accept His invitation to enter spiritual life, we have embarked on a relationship with God, with whom we are co-eternal. He/They simply started their spiritual and then corporeal life before we did.

  29. Speaking of those, like Lucifer, who whinge about God and His heaven, we always have the choice to disaffiliate with God. That’s what outer darkness is about. It isn’t punishment so much as it’s giving folks the freedom from God they desire.

    whinge [British] – v. complain persistently and in a peevish or irritating way.

  30. JimD
    I am not certain I follow your thought process. It sounds like you are saying that within the agency relationship as you see it we are agents for ourselves. If so then it would seem to me that we are making choices for ourselves with our agency which seems to be free agency.

    Having said that I think the nuances of this discussion are such that we likely cannot sort them out through written explanations and replies in an online forum such as this so I will simply thank you for the discussion.

  31. Old Man
    Not following where you are going with this. You have gone from “relationships are always a choice” to “loving relationships are always a choice” which is not the same thing. In the development of intelligences each intelligence could have had a relationship with God (eg He’s God and I am an intelligence He is developing). The gift of agency provided as the intelligence was developed allowed that intelligence (in a more developed form) to make a choice as to the loving nature of the relationship. That would I think be consistent with His giving us the gift of agency and our use of it regarding our relationship with him.
    Thanks for the discussion.

  32. Meg Stout
    Thanks for butting in. I’d have to spend more time thinking about the nuances of your paradigm but upon first reading it seems reasonable and consistent with what the scriptures tell us.

  33. Ojiiban,
    Sorry for the confusion. I’ll take the blame for the errors in communication.
    Are you claiming that God acted in a compulsive fashion towards intelligences? If you get a minute to clarify, I’d like to read it.

    Meg,
    I appreciate your perspective. May I add that Givens’ argument is simply a logical extension of Joseph’s revolutionary teaching. We are quibbling over the details of some revolutionary ideas.

    As you know, in traditional creation ex nihilo teaching God is beyond human experience (without “body, parts or passions”) and He is influenced by nothing else. He is the creative source for literally everything, both at the beginning of time AND each moment by moment throughout time. God creates everything. Time itself stops if God did not or does not create it. Free will is only possible with God’s support. (This is where Calvinism develops its message of predestination.) According to creation ex nihilo, everything we experience is the product of that singular God, the “unmoved mover.” From this view, God rules arbitrarily. He can even contradict Himself. Of course, this creates the “problem of evil” because theologians wrestle with the concept of a God who has absolute power and the simultaneous existence of evil.

    But in LDS thought, with the uncreated and eternal nature of matter, intelligence and spirit… we have an enormous paradigm shift. Joseph’s thinking moved outside the accepted bounds of traditional Christianity theology. In LDS thought, an embodied God can utilize but cannot create the elements of our physical and temporal reality. God is not the sole player. God has never been alone. There are multiple movers in our unfolding story, including us. The ultimate good in our lives occurs when God’s will is combined with our own. From a traditional Christian perspective, the God of LDS thought is extraordinarily limited. A few LDS church leaders have claimed that God is outside of time and suggested that everything that happens is God’s will. Those are relatively rare, and I don’t know if their ideas as expressed are in complete harmony with what Joseph taught.

    We often describe Joseph’s teachings as the “Restoration.” That may be a weak descriptor. Joseph’s teachings are revolutionary. God was once again ennobled as a loving, merciful, compassionate Father. His goodness IS goodness.
    God cannot lie or contradict Himself. There are things God cannot do (even if he has the ability to do so) or He would cease to be God. We are invited into continuing a loving relationship with Him, a relationship we choose long prior to the creation of this earth and still chose by keeping covenants.

  34. Ditto Old Man’s comments.
    Agency is under-theorized in the discussion as well. Not that I have a lot to add, except to say that Oaks specifies agency as our not being subject to coercion by God or other forces or consequences (of our choices) emanating form outside our mortal realm. Or something to that effect. Also, the case for traditional or popular notions of agency(=strong, broad notions of self-determination) appears to be getting weaker as science brings the concept under scrutiny, especially in the neurocognitive sciences. (Not an expert here, just doing a lot of reading.)

  35. I see Final Judgment as God, Allwise, being able to see the trajectory of our core being (intelligence) while clothed in the glories of spiritual flesh and the power of physical flesh. He can determine what the forces acting on us were and can thereby determine the valiance of our core being in the face of those forces.

    As a data wonk, I would love for it to be true that we will all be enlightened by this knowledge also, as we and our fellows go through Final Judgment. And I think there is reason in scripture for my wonkish soul to hope for this dream. But while for me such sharing and knowledge is a dream of hope, for others such naked exposure to others would be nightmare.

    Either way, I trust the God I chose be accepting invitation to become spirit to determine which of His realms of glory is best fit for my future eternity.

  36. Old Man:
    The short answer is I don’t know what God did or how he did it. If we go back to where this aspect of the discussion started my view was that:

    “While intelligences may be uncreated it doesn’t necessary mean that all of the attributes that we currently possess including agency were necessarily part of the initial form of intelligence. If that were the case then there would have been no need to change, modify or enhance the form of intelligence. But clearly that was done. What each of us is today is not simply the intelligence that existed in the beginning. We clearly don’t know all that the Lord did to get us where we are today but as noted by ji the Lord tells us one of the things he did was give us our agency (Mosiah 7:32).”

    Thus my point is simply that, since we don’t know absolutely how or what God did, we are free to speculate but it would seem reasonable that anything that we think may have happened during this process has to be consistent with scripture including Mosiah 7:32 and any thoughts that are inconsistent with scripture would in my view have to be questionable.

    We then got into your thoughts that we must have had agency as an intelligence since we couldn’t have a relationship without being able to make a choice. As I said I can’t tell you unequivocally you are wrong since no one knows but I did point out how relationships are possible without choice and how agency given by the Lord at a later time in the process could still result in a loving relationship with God.

    With respect to calling what God did to intelligences compulsion, as I said I don’t know, but I’m not certain you can have compulsion in the absence of agency. As a very imperfect analogy, when I put a diaper on my week-old granddaughter am I compelling her to wear a diaper or just putting on a diaper since she is really not cognizant of the difference between wearing and not wearing a diaper? (My two-year old grandson different story … they can hear him 6 houses away when he is having a diaper change!)

  37. I have a comment regarding Moses 7:32 as it has been referenced repeatedly.

    Clearly agency was not given to us initially in Eden. But a literal interpretation of the verse might make one think so.

    The word give (or gave) is used with different meanings in different cases. Often “give” is used to mean “allow.” One would find this synonym in a thesaurus. And I think that this meaning is common in scripture instead of only referring to an initial gift.

    That is how I have always understood this verse. Not that this was a statement of God divinely appointing agency to man suddenly. But rather that God was saying that He allowed man his agency in Eden. He gave him the opportunity to make multiple consequential choices there without being forced how to choose. But this is not where we were allowed our first free choice. There was clearly agency before Eden, even though a strict interpretation of Moses 7:32 would say that we did not have it before the Garden.

  38. Meg Stout:

    I would agree with you. I think that, while there is the overall global plan of salvation, there is also an individual plan of salvation for each of us based on the strengths and weaknesses we brought to this earth, the varied experiences (negative and positive) the Lord knew we would have on this earth and the covenants that we made with our Father in Heaven before we came to this earth. The final judgment and reward for each of us will be an individual one based on all of those factors. And that would be why it does not work to compare ourselves with others: we may appear to be doing well compared to someone else but actually be falling short of where the Lord expects us to be based on all those factors.

  39. Mike:
    That would be my understanding as well. I would see Moses 7:32 as an affirmation that he had given them the gift, not that he was actually giving them the gift at that point in time.

  40. Fascinating discussion! So, am I reading that we should understand Moses 7:32 as below?

    The Lord said unto Enoch: Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands, and I gave unto them their knowledge, in the day I created them; and in the Garden of Eden, I allowed man to exercise the agency that he already had and which he did not get from me

    Hmmm… I think I’ll stick with the scripture version. To each his or her own.

  41. Hi ji,

    “The Lord said unto Enoch: Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands, and I gave unto them their knowledge, in the day I created them; and in the Garden of Eden, gave I unto man his agency…”

    Look, if God gave man his agency in the Garden of Eden, then that is where and when he did it. Right? You are sticking with scripture, correct? Now that does create a problem with the council in heaven (Abraham 3:24-28) where and when we choose to follow or not follow the Father’s plan. God even asked us an open-ended question “Whom shall I send?” We obviously did some choosing then. Maybe even a bit of critical thinking. Satan and his minions certainly exercised their ability to choose.

    Of course, you could recognize the possibility that “agency” in this case may mean something different than freedom or ability to choose. Or you could follow Meg’s proposal and connect the development of that ability with our spiritual birth. Or rethink what Mike said or I said. Plenty of other possible options…

    What do you think?

  42. I think I like what the scripture says. I like giving praise to God for the agency He gave us. I don’t want to philosophize God out of it and assert that my agency is independent of God. I don’t believe in vivaparous spirit birth.

  43. I was taking with a sister about facts, and we joked that I always yield to fact. Observation, as I said in one such dialogue, always trumps speculation.

    I, myself, have not witnessed the spirits of those yet to be born or the mature/adult spirits of those who died in infancy. But Scripture tells me the brother of Jared saw the pre-mortal Christ. My mother spoke of seeing the mature spirits of her deceased infant daughter, my deceased infant nephew, and my deceased infant son.

    From these observations, which I trust, I have a construct that seems to work and which I find to be consistent with scripture. But if God some day tells me this speculation is in error, I will yield to His truth.

  44. ji

    Just to be clear, I do think Adam (and all of us) got our agency from God but I think that gift occurred prior to the Garden of Eden time. Having said that, as much as I might like to think my thoughts are definitive, the reality is they are not so I may get to the life hereafter and find out that you were right and I was wrong. In such case you have my permission to find me and tell me “I told you so!!”.

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