IMAGE: PHOTO OF PERSON STANDING BEFORE SUNSET SKY
In a faith which claims God is the creator or architect of the universe, one
grand idea to lose yourself in is to reconcile that faith with the amazing
truths mankind has discovered about those creations. This exercise was
eloquently described by Blaise Pascal in the 17th century and resonates even
more powerfully today:
Let him lose himself in wonders as amazing in their littleness as the others
in their vastness. For who will not be astounded at the fact that our body,
which [is] imperceptible in the universe, itself imperceptible in the bosom of
the whole, is now a colossus, a world, or rather a whole, in respect of the
nothingness which we cannot reach ...
For in fact what is man in nature? A Nothing in comparison with the Infinite,
an All in comparison with the Nothing, a mean between nothing and everything.
IMAGE: PHOTO OF BLAISE PASCAL
Pensees by Blaise
This paradox is also echoed in religion: That when compared with God mankind
is nothing; but to God mankind is everything. This is stated in the famous
What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou
In an attempt to explore this paradox, interesting perspectives are gained on
our relationship with God, the role of the atonement, and the eternal nature of
In Arthur C. Clarke's "3001 The Final Odyssey", the prolog opens with a
description of the explorations of the "First Born" -- the first species to
... [since] in all the Galaxy, they had found nothing more precious than Mind,
they encouraged its dawning everywhere. They became farmers in the fields of
While this line is from science fiction, this idea (that Mind is the most
precious thing in the universe) resonates with the declaration in Moses 1:39. In
the Mormon faith, this notion of Mind described here aligns well with the
doctrine of Intelligences which are seen as co-eternal with God.
To better understand what God sees in Mind or Intelligences, it is necessary to
dive into what the essence of Mind is. From the Seventy's Course in Theology
vol. 4 'Intelligence, Intelligences', the following descriptions of attributes
are used to define Intelligence (or Mind):
[Intelligence is] conscious of self and of not-self; of the me and the not me.
"Intelligence is that which sees itself, or is at once both subject and
object." It knows itself as thinking, that is, as a subject; thinking of its
self, it knows itself as an object of thought—of its own thought. And it knows
itself as distinct from a vast universe of things which are not self; itself
the while remaining constant as a distinct individuality amid the great
universe of things not self. It is an awareness of the mind. By reason of it
an Intelligence ... knows itself as seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting,
touching; also as searching, and finding; as inquiring and answering; as active
or at rest; as loving or hating; as contented or restless; as advancing or
receding; as gaining or loosing, and so following in all the activities in
which Intelligences, as men, engage.
Intelligence (mind) can perceive... something that cannot be taken in by sense
perception; that is to say, Intelligence can generalize. Sense can get at the
individual, concrete thing only: "this triangle," "this orange," "that
triangle," "those oranges," etc. By the consideration of the individual,
concrete object, however, the mind can form an idea, a concept, a general
notion—"triangle," "orange"—which does not specify this or that individual
object, but "fits to any individual triangle or orange past, present, or
future, and even the possible oranges that never shall be grown. In other words
Intelligence can rise from consideration of the particular to the general.
Perception of a priori Principles
There are a priori principles, which the mind can perceive to be
incontrovertible and of universal application, by mere reflection upon the
signification of the principles and without going into the applications (e.g.
1+1=2, a triangle has 3 sides, etc.) The objects here are mental objects. Their
relations are perceptually obvious at a glance, and no sense-verification is
necessary. Moreover, once true, always true, of those same mental objects.
Truth here has an 'eternal' character. If you can find a concrete thing ...
then your principles will everlastingly apply to it. It is but a case of
ascertaining the kind, and then applying the law of its kind to the particular
By a mind-power known as imagination, or imaginative memory, Intelligences… can
hold before consciousness, in picture, what has been perceived by an outward
sense, and this even when the outward sense has been shut off from the outward
world of matter. This power of imagination, is also constructive. Intelligences
can put before themselves in mental picture, combinations which are fashioned
from the varied stores of memory. But by the mere act of [its] will, [it has]
the power to project [itself] in thought to any part of the world. Instantly
[it] can be in the crowded streets of the world's metropolis, walk through its
well remembered thoroughfares, hear the rush and roar of its busy multitudes,
fragments of conversation, broken strains of music, etc. —- all this the mind
The mind (Intelligence) can combine various general principles or individual
facts and principles; and in the combination and comparison of them, it can
perceive other facts and principles. In other words, Intelligence is capable of
reasoning; of building up conclusions from the data of its knowledge. It has
the power of deliberation and of judgment; by which it may determine that this
state or condition is better than another state or condition. That this,
tending to good, should be encouraged; and that, tending to evil, should be
discouraged, or, if possible, destroyed.
Power of Volition
Intelligence, as embodied in man, is also conscious of the power, within
certain limitations, to will, and to perform what he wills to do: To rise up,
to sit down; to raise his arm, to let it fall; to walk, to run, to stand... to
control largely his actions, physical and moral; he can be sober or drunken;
chaste, or a libertine; benevolent or selfish; honest or a rogue. Having
deliberated upon this and that and having formed a judgment that one thing is
better than another, or that one condition is better than another, he has power
to choose between them and can determine to give his aid to this and withhold
it from that. So that volition, within certain limitations at least, seems also
to be a quality of Intelligence.
IMAGE: PHOTO OF MIND WITH COLORS
These attributes -- consciousness, generalization, comprehension of
principles/truths, imagination, reason, and the ability to act or choose its own
behavior -- are all necessary in order for something to be capable of
comprehending what God is and for progress to be made to become like God.
Abraham had a similar revelatory experience to that of Moses (described
previously). In Abraham's account, further insight was given on God's
relationship to intelligences:
21 I dwell in the midst of them all; I now, therefore, have come down unto thee to declare unto thee the works which my hands have made, wherein my wisdom excelleth them all, for I rule in the heavens above, and in the earth beneath, in all wisdom and prudence, over all the intelligences thine eyes have seen from the beginning; I came down in the beginning in the midst of all the intelligences thou hast seen.
22 Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones;
23 And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born.
And Joseph Smith further declared the eternal nature of Intelligences:
29 Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be.
This is a teaching that is profoundly different from traditional Christianity:
that consciousness (intelligence) is co-eternal (emergent) with God and that
genuinely independent consciousness cannot be created or engineered by God --
which leads to ideas like adoption theology. The essence of who we are is what
God cannot create and so we provide infinite originality, diversity, uniqueness,
and perspective. For a creative God where originality becomes the final
frontier, co-eternal beings become infinitely more valuable than whatever God
can create alone. This strenuously orients God towards the discovery and
fostering of the co-eternal attributes only consciousness brings.
God himself, finding he was in the midst of spirits and glory, because he was
more intelligent, saw proper to institute laws whereby the rest could have a
privilege to advance like himself. The relationship we have with God places us
in a situation to advance in knowledge. He has power to institute laws to
instruct the weaker intelligences, that they may be exalted with himself, so
that they might have one glory upon another, and all that knowledge, power,
glory, and intelligence, which is requisite in order to save them.
Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith - p. 354
So here we have Minds/Intelligences which are co-eternal with God. And it is
these Minds that God sees as "good", with the desire being to "dwell in the
midst of them all". This begins to unlock the paradox. Mankind is physically
insignificant compared to God's creations, but the co-eternal Mind combined with
the body of mankind is that which is most precious to God and to which God
devotes "work" and "glory".
A wonderfully poetic expression echoing similar aesthetics is from the song "My
Soul" by Peter Mayer:
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That is a profound truth. You and I, our emotions, our thoughts, our hopes, our
dreams, our fears, our loves, our imaginations, our reasoning; this life, with
our Minds and bodies, is the most valuable thing in the universe to which God
But how can God develop a relationship with co-eternal beings that preserves and
even fosters genuine originality of character and perspective? And what threats
exist towards that end? A clue is found in two words: entropy and atonement. And
I'll explore these in a future post.