A Credible Case for Universalism — A Review of Givens and Givens’s The Christ Who Heals

In their new book, The Christ Who Heals: How God Restored the Truth that Saves Us, Fiona and Terryl Givens make the case for how “the doctrines and scriptures of the Restoration have enriched our knowledge of the rock and foundation of our faith — Jesus Christ.” The book is a delight: The Givenses draw on a rich cast of characters — from spiritual leaders in the second century after Christ to General Authorities in the present — to map out the evolution of our understanding of the Savior. Each chapter explores a distinct aspect of our restored understanding of the Savior, and I was inspired again and again as I read (okay, listened to) this book.

The final chapter, “The Saving Christ,” expounds one of the boldest themes of the book. The Givenses make a credible case that every soul will have an eternity to work their way to exaltation. They suggest that “no loving parent would propose a plan that shuts the door of happiness to any of his or her children” and that “heaven isn’t a place we enjoy with other people; heaven is eternal companionship with other people.” But how then can we have both a “familial heaven” where all our loved ones are with us and “the freedom to reject heaven?” They reject the false dichotomy of either God as a “sovereign deity of vengeance and wrath” who condemns most souls OR God as a permissive being who will “‘beat us with a few stripes’ and then award us all heavenly bliss.” Rather, they propose that the gospel supports a third view: “Our Lord is, rather, the persistently patient master teacher; he is the loving tutor who, devoted to his students, remains with us, staying after class for extra lessons, giving us individualized attention, practicing sums again and again, late into the night, for as long as it takes—until we master the material.” This, they propose, implies eternal progression — including progress through the kingdoms.

They marshal some support from leaders of the Church:

  • Charlotte Haven, a contemporary of Joseph Smith, records him as saying that a spirit in the lowest kingdom “constantly progresses in spiritual knowledge until safely landed in the Celestial.”
  • Brigham Young taught that “those who fail to secure exaltation by the conclusion of their earthly probation ‘would eventually have the privilege of proving themselves worthy & advancing to a Celestial kingdom but it would be a slow process.'” [Double quotes here are the Givenses; single quotes are Young.]
  • Lorenzo Snow: “You that are mourning about your children straying away will…get all your sons and daughters in the path of exaltation and glory.”
  • B.H. Roberts: “The ministry alluded to in each kingdom seemed meaningless ‘unless it be for the purpose of advancing our Father’s children along the lines of eternal progress.'” [Again, double quotes here are the Givenses; single quotes are Roberts.]
  • James Talmage, in the first edition of Articles of Faith: “Advancement from grade to grade within any kingdom, and from kingdom to kingdom, will be provided for….Eternity is progressive.”
  • Joseph F. Smith: “There is a time after this mortal life, and there is a way provided by which we may fulfill the measure of our creation and destiny, and accomplish the whole great work that we have been sent to do, although it may reach far into the future before we fully accomplish it.”
  • J. Reuben Clark Jr.: “We do not ‘seal our eternal progress by what we do here. It is my belief that…if we live unrighteously here, we shall not go to the other side in the same status, so to speak, as those who lived righteously; nevertheless, the unrighteous will have their chance, and in the eons of the eternities that are to follow, they, too, may climb to the destinies to which they who are righteous and serve God, have climbed.”
  • James E. Faust: “I recognize that now is the time to meet God….If the repentance of the wayward children does not happen in this life, is it still possible for the cords of the sealing to be strong enough for them yet to work out their repentance?…Perhaps in this life we are not given to fully understand how enduring the sealing cords of righteous parents are to their children….I believe there is a strong familial pull as the influence of beloved ancestors continues with us from the other side of the veil.”

To be clear, the Givenses are not arguing for the “cheap, automatic salvation taught by the anti-Christ Nehor….It will take ‘work and labor,’ as President Snow said. No one will proceed automatically or under compulsion, as Elder David A. Bednar taught.” They are not arguing that universalism is a settled point of doctrine: “The Church leadership has officially declared that the question of eternal progression and movement through the kingdoms is not a resolved point of doctrine” in letters in both 1952 and 1965. They point to leaders, including Spencer W. Kimball and Bruce R. McConkie, who believed in a “more permanent, final state.” What they are doing is making a credible case for an eternal universalism. “Elder Robert D. Hales pleaded with parents in an area conference, ‘Never, never, shut the door of your heart to any of your children.’ We can hardly presume that God’s prophets are enjoining us to a degree of persistence, hopefulness, and readiness to forgive that exceeds our Heavenly Parents’.” And finally, “We find plentiful seeds of hope that Christ will truly wipe away all tears.” Of course, over the course of a thirty-page chapter, the Givenses make a more nuanced and complete argument than I can capture in this short post. But their proposal filled me with hope.

The volume is much more than just this case for universalism. Here is a taste of just a few of the other chapters:

  • The Selfless Christ: “What greater perversity could we imagine than to take a human being made in the likeness and image of God and reduce her or him to a mere object among objects, a rung on the ladder of our own self-interest, a stepping-stone on the path to our own self-aggrandizement, or a disposable diversion in our pursuit of a self-serving aim? Such, however, is the nature of most any human evil one could name.”
  • The Adoptive Christ: “Sin and death are not the beginning of the human saga; divine parentage and a planned celestial destiny are. Christ’s central purpose from the beginning was not to correct an Adamic misstep, but to draw us further into a world of joyful sociality.”
  • The Healing Christ: “Rather than render the Messiah’s title of soter [a Greek word in the New Testament] as Savior, we could with equal linguistic justification call him Jesus Christ, Son of God, Healer of the World. One virtue of such a substitution is that healing signals the beginning of a glorious journey now unfolding, while saving implies its end.”
  • The Collaborative Christ: “Heaven is not a reward for merit or a repair of an Adamic catastrophe; it is an eternal sociality of celestial beings, existing, striving, and creatively engaging in loving relation….The perfect harmony and synergy of a collaborative Godhead is not just a model for our own relationships, but a healing enterprise in which we are invited to participate, to collaborate.”

I recommend this bold, beautiful defense of Jesus Christ as taught in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

 

52 comments for “A Credible Case for Universalism — A Review of Givens and Givens’s The Christ Who Heals

  1. Jerry Schmidt
    December 30, 2017 at 10:21 am

    There was a previous post and dialogue about “The Dangers of Theology,” and this book strikes me as a model of what was discussed. I am NOT inferring this book is dangerous; rather, this book demonstrates how much room exists in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ for serious exploration, particularly without a requirement for ecumenical training.

    I personally am intrigued by what this book has introduced, and while I am not comfortable with “testifying” one direction or another, I can say I have been exploring the core concept myself of late. That at least two other people boldly witness the patterns of teaching in the counsel of previous LDS spiritual authorities that point them to their thesis helps me feel validated somewhat, and I can’t help but respect those who take personal reputational risk to advance potentially controversial concepts such as I would interpret their thesis. I have learned through personal experience that controversial does NOT mean wrong. Thank you for the post.

  2. December 30, 2017 at 12:32 pm

    I’ve felt near-universalist for years now. No wonder I’ve been looking forward to reading this.

  3. Jerry Schmidt
    December 30, 2017 at 1:06 pm

    I admit this sounds presumptuous, but I see the LDS church as a membership leading to a spiritual equivalent of a Grand Unifying Theory as to the purpose of human existence on earth for at least the last 7000 years.

  4. December 30, 2017 at 3:27 pm

    It is somewhat dangerous to come out and say “We’ll all be saved eventually.” As that could demotivate some in this life. It certainly seems better to become as Christ like as possible in this life, instead toiling through some other kind of progression that will possibly take longer than what we could possibly comprehend now.

  5. David Evans
    December 30, 2017 at 3:49 pm

    jader3d: I think that concern about incentives is a major concern, and my impression from the teachings I’ve heard and in this book suggest that for reasons unclear to me, repentance and progression may be more difficult outside of this life. Not impossible, but harder. And as the Givenses point out, the other real incentive to righteousness in this life is that it means a happier life.

    Jerry S: Thanks so much. I agree that controversial does not mean wrong. :)

  6. December 30, 2017 at 4:13 pm

    I am curious to see how this received. There was some anxiety “The God Who Weeps” would be an unsettling addition to Deseret Book offerings, but the reaction it provoked seems tame compared to the potential of “The Christ Who Heals.”

    It is interesting both sides of this issue feel strongly: mortality is a probation state with real and eternal consequences – or mortality is a probationary state with temporary consequences.

    Interestingly, my greatest observation throughout all of this is determination not to teach any doctrine I am not certain of.

    I think of Elder Bruce R. McConkie’s authoritative stance on this issue. The more influence you have the more careful you need to be. I would think one way or another he is rolling in his grave — either because he feels awful to have influenced so many in the wrong direction or because he warned of this ideology a long time ago and wishes we would listen.

  7. Jeff Walsh
    December 30, 2017 at 7:06 pm

    I once asked Terryl to explain how universalism squares with D&C 76:112 , the Lord speaking of those assigned to the Telestial world says;- “And they shall be servants of the Most High; but where God and Christ dwell they cannot come worlds without end”. He did not answer me then so I would request Terryl and Fiona to explain this to me now. Worlds without end would seem to me to be for ever.

  8. David Evans
    December 30, 2017 at 7:43 pm

    Jeff W: Fiona and Terryl have this to say in the book — “Section 76 of the Doctrine and Covenants indicates that inhabitants of the telestial world cannot enter ‘where God and Christ dwell … worlds without end.’ That concluding phrase, aionos ton aionon in Paul’s original language, has convinced some readers of a more permanent, final state. Joseph Fielding Smith, Bruce R. McConkie, and Spencer W. Kimball, among others, felt those words suggested an eternity without the possibility of progressing from lower kingdoms to higher ones… And that may be the case. As we have seen, however, from Joseph to the present, others did not find such words referred to permanent damnation. As Joseph learned and recorded in his reworking of Genesis, Eternal is one of God’s name or titles: ‘Behold, I am God; Man of Holiness is my name; Man of Counsel is my name; and Endless and Eternal is my name.'” They go on to talk about a similar finding in D&C 19. Then, “like ‘eternal,’ so is the expression ‘worlds without end’ of ambiguous meaning. Greek scholars note that the fraught expression can suggest ‘prolonged time or eternity,’ or ‘prolonged but not unending time,’ just as Joseph learned was true of ‘eternal.’ Joseph Smith himself was surprised to learn that section 76 did not teach a binding judgment in the way he first understood it to.” They go on to discuss Alvin Smith, who it seemed sensible would go to the terrestrial kingdom, which is for those “who died without law … who received not the testimony of Jesus in the flesh, but afterwards received it.” But in D&C 137, he sees that Alvin is in the celestial kingdom. “We cannot say for sure, but one possible inference from Joseph’s experience, which his subsequent remarks support, is that Alvin did indeed inherit a terrestrial kingdom…but his progress did not end there.” And to conclude that discussion: “Thus we find ourselves aligned with James E. Faust, who acknowledged the ambiguity of this great issue, but came down on the side of hopefulness.”

    There is more in the book. (And I hope that the Givenses will forgive my extensive quoting from their book here as well as forgiving anything I’ve missed.)

  9. Jerry Schmidt
    December 30, 2017 at 9:18 pm

    “But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.” Moroni 7:47

    If we interpret this literally, those in the last days of earth found with charity “it will be well” with them. However one could argue with validity that this ‘final’ state is not earthly, but heavenly, and charity as a state of mind could be started on earth as a personal project that may continue in the next life.

    It would seem where we get hung up is whether the project of salvation is ongoing after death, or only applicable to this life. Perhaps some of the elements of this life are required for this progression of God’s children. Perhaps experiencing an earthly existence, even for a small moment, is the only requirement, for some.

    Perhaps the plan of salvation is not one-size-fits-all, but each of God’s children has a custom plan to follow that started before we came to earth. Earthly existence provides testing opportunities for faith, hope, and charity that are not available outside of this existence, and those children who need to strengthen these then voluntarily leave God’s presence for a time.

    Other children may have strengths in these and need other opportunities. Earthly existence IS the required time for some learning, not necessarily all learning. So progression is eternal, hence it is called eternal progression, but not because it takes forever, because more than one existence is involved to accomplish the necessary growth.

  10. Bryan in VA
    December 30, 2017 at 10:26 pm

    Here’s my 2 cents worth…

    Regarding “The Givenses make a credible case that every soul will have an eternity to work their way to exaltation”, does that include Lucifer and the third of the host of Heaven that followed him?

    What about King David? D&C 132:39 says “therefore he hath fallen from his exaltation, and received his portion; and he shall not inherit them out of the world”. Do the Givenses believe that David can still achieve Eternal Life/Exaltation?

    The JS and BY quotes are somewhat ambiguous in that “landing safely in the Celestial” doesn’t necessary equate to Exaltation since the two lower Celestial realms do not require marriage.

    Why do the Givenses rely on GA quotes instead of Scripture?

    Christ is mighty to save so I’m sure there are aspects of His power we do not comprehend.

  11. December 31, 2017 at 12:29 am

    It would be interesting to see the Givens’s publish a journal of their experiences and various receptions of the books, much like Richard Bushman’s “On the Road with Joseph Smith” in connection with Rough Stone Rolling.

  12. sjames
    December 31, 2017 at 4:05 am

    Let me echo Bryan’s questions above. Is there hope for the Adversary then? And what of agency, is it eclipsed by the implied assumption that all souls desire, or will be brought to desire, states of being that address the unknown sense of their own good. Will all finally accept the heavenly invitation, including those lost before the foundation of the world? Or are the limits of universalism reached here?

    Notwithstanding the sense of theological uniqueness culminating above as the collaborative ‘healing enterprise’, the healing hand so lovingly, yet discerningly, extended in the scriptural record and in the ever-present Spirit of Christ, becomes, I suggest, ‘the divine abiding hand’ to those who choose to take it.

  13. Bryan in VA
    December 31, 2017 at 8:31 am

    2 more cents worth…

    In Elder Callister’s book “The Blue Print of Christ’s Church”, on page 235 he shares a response by Harold B. Lee to a statement disagreeing with “the gospel teaching of a second chance”. President Lee responded, “You misunderstand our teachings. We don’t believe in the gospel of the second chance. We do not believe in the gospel of the first chance, but we believe in a chance or a full opportunity for everyone to hear and accept the gospel.” Elder Callister then continues, “God in His mercy will provide a full opportunity for everyone to learn the gospel of Jesus Christ, either in mortality or in the spirit world, or a combination of the two.”

    I am certainly encouraged by the quote by Joseph Smith:

    There is never a time when the spirit is too old to approach God. All are within the reach of pardoning mercy, who have not committed the unpardonable sin.

    I hope our Heavenly Father is able to redeem as many of his children as possible.

  14. Jerry Schmidt
    December 31, 2017 at 8:16 pm

    ““By praising effort, you help create an environment where employees feel anything is possible — all they have to do is keep trying.” from a LinkedIn article.

    Is this part of the problem in this dialogue, we have different interpretations of the above concept? There will be those who see this concept as incentivizing mediocre behavior, and others who see a patient mentoring method that rarely gives up.

    Seems to me the underlying issue is how you see godhood. Is God the superman who commands the stars and galaxies with overwhelming power, so imperfection is unacceptable? Or is God trying to raise free-willed children in a complex inter-relationship with one or more other free-willed children?

  15. Jack Young
    January 1, 2018 at 6:21 am

    Insofar as the Givens are saying that that there may be progression from one kingdom (telestial, terrestrial, celestial) and/or progression within the celestial kingdom from either of the two lower degrees to the highest (after the resurrection), they are promoting false doctrine. See D&C 88:28-32; 1 Cor 15:35-49; D&C 76:112; D&C 132: 15-17; D&C 131:4.

    As aptly summarized by President Spencer W. Kimball, “After a person has been assigned to his place in the kingdom, either in the telestial, the terrestrial, or the celestial, or to his exaltation, he will never advance from his assigned glory to another glory. That is eternal. (The Teachings of Spencer w. Kimball, at 50).

  16. Jerry Schmidt
    January 1, 2018 at 6:34 am

    As I contemplate this dialogue, I think I see the real disconnect. In reviewing the Givens’ text, Mr.Evans appropriately or inappropriately invokes the Constantinian tradition ofChristianity by using Universalism as a comparison.

    The Givens text necessarily arises outside the Constantinian Christian tradition, as the subtitle itself tells us, “How God restored the truth that saves us.” Like the dialogue on the LDS view of grace, LDS theology is informed by not being part of the Constantinian Christian tradition. Some who are part of these dialogues offer their insight from within the framework of traditional, i.e. Constantinian, theology, as that tradition currently informs all Christian theology.

    By bringing this up, I’m not trying to reject the framework of traditional theology, but temper its use at least in this context so all sides have a better understanding of each other :)

  17. Jerry Schmidt
    January 1, 2018 at 6:39 am

    Also, we must avoid creating straw man arguments by assuming we know what the Givens text is saying about three degrees revealed in the D and C.

  18. Jeff Walsh
    January 1, 2018 at 1:13 pm

    I am afraid that The Givenses are advocating the very argument that Satan was contending for in the contention in heaven. In the Book of Moses we read:-

    ” And I the Lord God spake unto Moses, saying, That Satan, whom thou hast commanded in the name of mine Only Begotten. Is the same which was from the beginning, and he came before me, saying. Behold here am I, send me. I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall be lost, and surely I will do it wherefore give me thine honor.
    But, behold, my Beloved Son and Chosen from the beginning, said unto me, Father thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever
    Wherefore, because that Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I the Lord God had given him, and also, that I should give unto him mine own power, by the power on mine Only Begotten, I caused that he should be cast down;
    And he became Satan, yea, even the devil, the father of all lies, to deceive and blind men, and to lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken unto my voice” (Moses 4:1-4)

    The Prophet Joseph Smith speaking of this said:-

    ” The contention in heaven was , Jesus said there would be certain souls that would not be saved, and the devil said he would save them all, and laid his plans before the grand council, who gave their vote in favour of Jesus Christ. So the devil rose up in rebellion against God, and was cast down, with all who put up their heads for him.” (DHC 6:314)

    So David (Evans) I disagree with Terryl and Fiona there really is no third way, either we accept our Saviour’s warning in D&C 19 to repent and come unto Jesus Christ or accept Saran’s lies advocating we need not live the Gospel in this life because we will all make it in the end anyway.

  19. David Evans
    January 1, 2018 at 7:18 pm

    Maybe universalism is the wrong word here. What I read the Givenses as proposing at “eternal opportunity,” NOT a guarantee that every soul will he saved.

  20. p
    January 1, 2018 at 8:01 pm

    “It is quite in vain, then, that some–indeed very many–yield to merely human feelings and deplore the notion of the eternal punishment of the damned and their interminable and perpetual misery. They do not believe that such things will be. Not that they would go counter to divine Scripture—but, yielding to their own human feelings, they soften what seems harsh and give a milder emphasis to statements they believe are meant more to terrify than to express literal truth.”
    — Augustine, Enchiridion, sec. 112.

  21. p
    January 1, 2018 at 8:04 pm

    If any subject invites an ecumenical approach, this is it.

  22. Old Man
    January 2, 2018 at 12:25 am

    Jeff W: Have you read the book?

  23. Clark
    January 2, 2018 at 1:08 am

    I don’t want to say too much before I read it, yet what I’ve read about the book in the various stories makes me think it is an example of people picking a theology they find aesthetically pleasing. Now of course that sort of theology work has a long pedigree. Arguably it’s what thinkers from Orson Pratt through Blake Ostler have done. Although ultimately what counts are the arguments and I’m not seeing as many of those. (Most of the arguments I see are more focused upon how it’s compatible with Mormon thought not why it is the best interpretation of Mormon thought) However until I have time to read it that’s an unfair judgement on part – much more a critique of how the book has been discussed than the book.

    As Jerry noted though this does verge potentially close to what I see as the danger of theology. Where theology can become dogma due to appealing features of the theology. It does sound like Givens is careful to note our ignorance. At the same time there also does seem to be a certain class of similar theologies (often loosely tied to open theism in an LDS context) that are popular among Mormon intellectuals without focusing enough on the alternatives.

    Here the clear ontological presumption is that there is no essence to a spirit – no core that determines its nature. They are open in a robust ontological sense. But what is the evidence for such a presumption? I’m certainly not saying revelation says there is an essence. From what I can see it says nothing at all. However that a set of theologies depends upon this premise ought make us question them.

  24. Clark
    January 2, 2018 at 1:09 am

    To add what makes Blake’s work so valuable is that he argues for his positions. He comes down on a position of libertarian free will I’m skeptical of. But he does argue strongly for it.

  25. Ojiisan
    January 2, 2018 at 1:00 pm

    The difficulty with this view is that there does not appear to be anything in the scriptures that supports it while there are a number of scriptures that seem to be inconsistent with it. One also needs to be careful to filter the GA statements which appear to support it to exclude those which are really directed at the post-death opportunities those who did not hear the gospel on earth may have.

  26. SVBob
    January 2, 2018 at 2:06 pm

    There is no gain if the risk is not real. There is no lesson to be learned without real consequences for not learning the lesson. So, in this life there has to be consequences for all of our actions. This is in contradistinction to eternity where virtually nothing has consequences. There we live forever with people we like. It is here that we learn of consequences according to the law of opposition in all things. This life is the opposition to our life in eternities.

    How we live our lives here has eternal consequences, but what those consequences are, exactly, in eternity is an open question as, apparently, the Givenses have stated. Joseph said that whatever we learn here will give us advantages in the life to come. Maybe the major consequence will be the initial RATE of progression in the life to come. Who knows. Eternity changes everything.

    And finally, there are real consequences for this life. These are the souls who will be eternally lost. If you can stand before the God of Love and say that you hate him and want no part of his kingdom, you are lost indeed. There will be some, but I guess, very few.

    Count me with the Givenses.

  27. Jeff Walsh
    January 2, 2018 at 2:07 pm

    David Evans, Call it what you will universalism or eternal opportunity the Givens speculation is just that, it is not supported by the standard works of the Church. The Book of Mormon teaches us that this life is the time for us to prepare to meet God, and if we procrastinate the day of our repentance even until death we become subjected to the spirit of the devil and he does seal you his. (Alma 32) It is unscriptural to accept that our final judgement is an open ended day stretching for ever. And by the way In a fireside in the UK during May 2013 in Bristol Fiona stated that even the third of the hosts of heaven who did not keep their first estate will have the opportunity of advancement to exaltation.

    Old Man, you ask me if I have read the book, no I have not but I have heard all the arguments before, including universalism. I have listened to the 5 hour podcast Terryl gave with John Dehlin and other podcasts he had with both Terryl and Fiona. I listened and read Terryl’s Letter to a doubter. I was in attendance in my own stake in York when they visited during their UK tour. Indeed I was assigned to provide transport for them from their hotel and also to take them to the train station the following day. I became acquainted with them and found them very friendly, I expressed reservations then concerning some of their teachings and indeed gave them a short paper outlining my concerns which they promised to reply to. Unfortunately they never did. So yes I am aware of their many teachings which I would question, among them are speculations that Joseph was a weak vessel and fallible, as were other prophets. Yes Joseph was just fourteen when first called and did display faults in his youth, but to say he remained weak throughout his life is a travesty, a weak and fallible man could not have endured the persecution he was subjected to even from his youth. The reason that the scripture they use saying that the saints would need patience and faith was not because of his weakness it was the doctrines which were revealed to him would need patience and faith to accept. I will have to break off there as I have been called by the one who needs to be obeyed, I will return later

  28. SVBob
    January 2, 2018 at 2:23 pm

    People have asked if Lucifer is granted entry into God’s kingdom. Sure, if he is willing to subject himself to this life of consequences and to learn here what cannot be learned in eternity. Lucifer’s problem is that he hates God and will not subject himself to the humiliations of this life.

  29. January 2, 2018 at 4:45 pm

    SVBob, are you suggesting that if Lucifer, or any others of the third cast out of heaven were repentant, they could commence a mortal journey like all others who initially choose to follow God?

  30. klc
    January 2, 2018 at 6:31 pm

    Elder Christofferson may have been addressing issues similar to those found in the Givens’ book in his BYU Devotional address Dec 12.
    He says that many people today assume that because God loves us it doesn’t matter so much what we do or don’t do; that because God loves us he just takes care of things.Then Elder Christofferson adds, “This philosophy has ancient roots, Nehor, for example.”

    Fiona Givens does sound a lot like Nehor in her Mormon Interpreter interview.

    Although in the book they are effusive in citing the philosophies of men and we find fewer scriptures, the Givens are certainly masterful minglers!

  31. Jerry Schmidt
    January 3, 2018 at 5:19 am

    Jeff Walsh, in my own opinion you have come closest to an effective counter-argument to the Givens thesis, not that my opinion is more valuable than anyone else’s lol. Your statement, ” It is unscriptural to accept that our final judgement is an open ended day stretching for ever,” has my agreement, if that is the conclusion the Givens thesis is reaching. I echo your understanding from the Book of Mormon that this life, this earthly existence, is the time to prepare to meet God.

    To the broader group: From the same book, I also understand that the Christ, through his atonement, wrought a miracle that has direct impact on this earthly existence and the after-earthly existence, and allows for the uncertainty of life in this earthly existence to have an ‘eternal’ contingency. Joseph Smith himself learned this when he was surprised to see Alvin, his brother who had passed away before the LDS church was organized and the priesthood and temple ordinances restored/implemented, in the Celestial kingdom.

    Eternal, for Joseph Smith, did not mean ‘fixed’ or ‘unending’ as humans tend to view it, but rather ‘having to do with God’s existence and perspective.’ From humans’ limited view, God and his works are overwhelming, and, in a developing state of mental capacity, humans grasp here a little, there a little. As we demonstrate increased understanding and faith and obedience, more is available to us. Perhaps I misunderstood the Givens’ thesis, but I took it as pointing to this kind of evolutionary development that necessarily crosses time and place. I, myself, do not see a crossing between degrees of glory, but I see that ‘final’ judgement as yet to come, and perhaps there is still time to prepare oneself as one will, since agency remains a primary eternal concern.

  32. Jeff Walsh
    January 3, 2018 at 6:06 am

    Thanks Jerry, Just a point about Alvin, the Givens and other seem to imply that because Alvin had died before the gospel had been restored he would go to the Telestial kingdom, but had progressed to the Celestial, thus proving that progression between the kingdoms will be possible. A correct understanding of D&C 137 and 138 tells us that if one leaves this life without having the opportunity of hearing the gospel they will hear it in the spirit world. D&C 137 was revealed to Joseph Jan 1 1836 which was before work for the dead had been revealed, When this occurred I am sure Joseph would have made sure that Alvin along with others of his family would have had the ordinances performed by proxy, thus allowing Alvin to have an inheritance in the Celestial glory. This is made plain in verse 7-10 ,

    ” Thus came the voice of the Lord unto me saying, All who have died without a knowledge of this gospel, who would have received if they had been permitted to tarry shall be heirs of the celestial kingdom of God.
    Also all that shall die henceforth without a knowledge of it, who would have received it with all their hearts , shall be heirs of that kingdom.
    For I the Lord, will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts (in this life?)
    And I also beheld that all children who die before they arrive at the years of accountability are saved in the celestial kingdom of heaven”

    I am sure that the Lord anticipated the times when progression between the kingdoms would be advocated, and so He had this revelation added to the Standard works of the Church and then for further clarification had President Joseph F Smith’s revelation added too.

    I am afraid that Terryl and Fiona themselves make other incorrect assumptions in their presentations which do not stand up to investigation.

  33. Jeff Walsh
    January 3, 2018 at 6:19 am

    Just as a postscript when Joseph saw the Celestial Kingdom and its inhabitants he as a Seer was being shown our future Celestial Kingdom. This has to be in the future because this earth (when Celestialised !) will be the abode of all those born on this earth who achieve exaltation.

  34. Jerry Schmidt
    January 4, 2018 at 1:28 pm

    David Evans, I still appreciate your OP, and I appreciate what the Givens thesis has to offer. However, I find that I align with Jeff Walsh in rejecting a post-judgement move from one glory to another, assuming that is part of the Givens argument. Not having read the book, I would be knocking a strawman down if that assumption is incorrect.

    I, personally, am comforted by the idea of a post-earthly preparatory period leading up to a final judgement, so that children of God use earthly existence and post-earthly existence as time to prepare to stand before the pleasing bar of God. Again, this is a personal belief; others may understand and be motivated as they will.

    I want to thank y’all for what I consider a good modeling of dialogue I think will benefit the LDS church as it introduces its ‘council’ model for future Sunday School, Priesthood, and Relief Society meetings :).

  35. Clark Goble
    January 4, 2018 at 1:56 pm

    Jeff Walsh, I’m not sure that’s necessarily true. Those already resurrected must have been judged and received their appropriate kingdom. Likewise even if this earth becomes a Celestial world it’s of course not the only one. Where we came from before birth was one as well. With regards to D&C 137 while it talks in a few places with future tense, the indication appears to be that it’s the place where Father dwells now. i.e. or premortal home. (See verse 3)

  36. David Evans
    January 4, 2018 at 4:12 pm

    I’ll just add that the book offers much more than this one thesis that I’ve highlighted here (and yes, the Givenses to posit travel across kingdoms, just as Elder Talmage posits it in the quote above).

    But their CENTRAL thesis is distinct from that, and I think it’s one that most on this comment list would agree with: It’s that the restoration has dramatically enriched our understanding of Jesus Christ.

  37. Nathan Whilk
    January 4, 2018 at 8:03 pm

    “the book offers much more than this one thesis”

    Yes. For example, of the 135 citations of Mosiah 3:19 in General Conference, the Givenses managed to dig up the one citation (by Brigham Young) that asserts that the Natural Man is not the enemy of God after all.

  38. Kangaroo
    January 4, 2018 at 10:23 pm

    I think that we have created a very very narrow theological narratives to many of our doctrines which closes and excludes much of Gods real grace to ALL his children…..come on universalism

  39. Clark
    January 4, 2018 at 10:33 pm

    Nathan, it’s worth reading this paper on Brigham Young’s conception of the natural man. Part of the problem is that “nature” is a particularly complex word. Clearly Brigham wasn’t using the word in the sense that the Book of Mormon does. At other times he does. Not sure how the Givens use Brigham so I can’t comment there. I’ll confess in my own use I often follow Brigham and mean quite different things depending upon context.

    Kangaroo, I don’t think that’s true. Rather the dispute isn’t over whether grace is fully offered but in what senses people are able to accept it. One camp says there is no essential structures to ourselves which can’t be changed by free choices. Others think there are and that those structures are even outside of God’s control. So by focusing on grace I think we’re asking the wrong question here. The issue really is the nature of the soul.

  40. Jeff Walsh
    January 5, 2018 at 6:21 am

    Fellow bloggers, it is a disadvantage keeping up with the discussion from the UK because of the time difference. My observation is that we need to have a correct understanding of the difference between salvation and exaltation. In one sense all of Heavenly Father’s spirit children who have or will come to this earth will be resurrected and because of this we will be saved from temporal death. However the place where we will spend eternity will depend on our actions here during the time we have been given to prepare to meet God. The whole plan of salvation would be nonsensical if we are all going to become exalted eventually anyway. Why bother to live the commandments here if this was the case, and quite frankly isn’t this what the arch deceiver wants us to believe?. What would be the point of performing work for the dead, are we just wasting our time attending the Temple? If this is what we think we are believing the philosophies of men mingled with scripture.

    Clark could I just comment on your observations on the point about celestial kingdoms. It is my understanding from the scriptures and especially from Joseph Smith’s teachings. In the King Follett sermon, which I believe we all need to have a full understanding of being the last major sermon before his death. It was given at the April Conference of the Church a few short weeks before his death. In it he said speaking of those who die true to the gospel and become heirs of God and Joint Heirs with Jesus Christ

    ” What is it? To inherit the same power the same glory and the same exaltation, until you arrive at the station of a God, and ascend the throne of eternal power, the same as those who have gone before. What did Jesus do? Why, I do the things I saw my Father do when worlds came rolling into existence. My Father worked out his kingdom with fear and trembling, and I must do the same, AND WHEN I GET MY KINGDOM (my emphasis) I shall present it to my Father, so that he may obtain kingdom upon kingdom and it will exalt him in glory. He will then take a higher exaltation, and I will take his place, and thereby become exalted myself”.(Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith selected from his teachings by Joseph Fielding Smith pp 347-348)

    So where is the Saviour’s kingdom to be? Here on this earth when eventually it becomes a Celestial sphere and is taken back into the presence of Heavenly Father with all the other celestial worlds. We are told by Paul and others that all born on this world and are worthy of a Celestial resurrection will become joint heirs with our Saviour on this earth. This is where Jesus and His joint heirs will be blessed with the “continuation of the seeds forever”. Where the few who lived on this earth and have already been resurrected are dwelling has not been made known, indeed Moses was only given knowledge of this planet. So if as Joseph told us Jesus Christ is doing what he saw His Father do that is to perfect his life on the planet which he went to gain His exaltation which also became His Celestial Kingdom and the planet where we were born as spirits. So Jesus and his Joint Heirs will do the same and thus will begin another round of existence for more children of more Gods..

  41. Clark Goble
    January 5, 2018 at 10:53 am

    My point is just that D&C 137 isn’t necessarily seeing that future state but could be seeing people who right now are resurrected.

  42. Jeff Walsh
    January 6, 2018 at 8:31 am

    Clark I fail to see the logic of your comment, Joseph must have been seeing the future state because in the vision he saw his father and mother as well as Alvin. But his father was in the same room in the temple when he received the vision. Of course the others he saw very likely had been resurrected because scripture and especially D&C 138 tells us that those who merited a celestial resurrection were still in the spirit world when the Saviour appeared and organised his forces and bridged the gap between paradise and the Spirit prison and would have been among the forces sent over to the spirit prison to preach the gospel. Further when the Saviour was resurrected scripture tells us that very lightly all the prophets of the Old Testament who had proved themselves were resurrected with Him. He being the first. D&C 138:51-52 tells us:-

    ” These the Lord taught and gave them power to come forth, after his resurrection from the dead, to enter into his Father’s kingdom, there to be crowned with immortality and eternal life.
    And continue thenceforth their labor as had been promised by the Lord, and be partakers of all blessings which were held in reserve for those that love him”

    I do not think that we can assume that these prophets became citizens of our Heavenly Father’s Kingdom at that time, They went there to be crowned with immortality and eternal life. Because the next verse tells us that they continued their labours so that the could be partakers of all the promised blessings. Surely their continuing labour would not be in Heavenly Father’s celestial Kingdom it would be here on planet earth

    As I said in my previous post it has not been revealed where the habitation of all those who lived on this earth and had been resurrected is. Maybe they are similar to translated beings who Joseph told us that their habitation is that of a terrestrial order a place prepared for such characters (TPJS p 170)

  43. Clark Goble
    January 8, 2018 at 11:34 am

    Jeff, must have seen a future state. However that state could well be representative (i.e. symbolic), a near future state or the final state. There’s no way in the text to distinguish.

    Regarding resurrected beings, I’d imagine any theology would have them moving between places depending upon what their tasks are.

  44. Jeff Walsh
    January 8, 2018 at 1:08 pm

    Clark, Logic tells me that Joseph was seeing this earth after it has received its celestial glory, after all we have no scriptural evidence that tells us that anyone in this dispensation has been resurrected yet. It will then become . our Celestial Kingdom where all who have or will receive exaltation will dwell. . The snag with your last point is that D&C 130:5 says:-

    “But there are no angels who minister to this earth but those who do belong or who have belonged to it.”

    If this is a divine law applicable to all worlds then the prophets mentioned in D&C 138:51 who are continuing their labours are doing so here on planet earth, they cannot be labouring any where else.

    Joseph Smith explained the difference between, an angel and a ministering spirit:-

    ” The difference between an angel and a ministering spirit, the one is a resurrected or translated body, with its spirit, ministering to embodied spirits, the other a disembodied spirit , visiting and ministering to disembodied spirits. (TPJS p 191)

  45. Clark Goble
    January 8, 2018 at 2:02 pm

    Jeff, the fact angels who come here to minister to particular humans are from this world says nothing about whether they can go to other worlds. If you think about this quickly you’ll see the problem of taking this as universal. (Resurrected beings can only go to this world) Think of the creation of other worlds.

  46. Jeff Walsh
    January 8, 2018 at 6:26 pm

    Clark I am not saying this of myself, I am quoting scripture. I have always understood that the Plan of Salvation is a Universal Plan controlled by Universal Law. This being so on each earth according to D&C 130:5 only those who have or will live on each world can act as angels and ministering spirits. What right have we to assume that angels or ministering spirits from our earth can minister to other worlds. or vice-versa Elder McConkie quoting Joseph Smith tells us that even the messenger that asked Adam why he was offering sacrifice after the fall was a ministering spirit either from the pre-existence or someone who had come to earth and then died and resided in the spirit world awaiting a future resurrection. No where in the 4 standard works are we told of messengers coming to this earth who have not resided here or would not do so The example of this is clearly evidenced in the temple, who was it that were sent to give Adam and Eve further light and knowledge?. Even Lucifer is a fellow spirit assigned to this earth. If you have evidence that this divine law has not been followed on this earth please enlighten me. I apologise to any who think I am just being argumentative, but I do feel pretty strongly about this, even though we have strayed from the pros and cons of universalism.

  47. Clark Goble
    January 8, 2018 at 6:56 pm

    Not much to say there beyond that we once lived as God’s children where the Father lives. So I don’t see the conflict. And again I think you’re pushing it further than is justified once you think through what creation entails.

  48. Jeff Walsh
    January 8, 2018 at 7:21 pm

    The only conflict would be is if you are implying that not all of our fathers spirit children in our round of creation did not come just to our earth but to other earths as well Was not Moses told that only an account of this earth would he be given? With D&C 130:5 being applicable. If you are implying this it is new to me!!!!

  49. Jeff Walsh
    January 9, 2018 at 4:24 am

    Good morning fellow bloggers, well now that it would seem that all has been said and done is universalism a doctrine of the Church or not?

  50. Jerry Schmidt
    January 14, 2018 at 11:20 pm

    The OP, as I understand it, posits that the Givens thesis makes a convincing case for Universalism, not that Universalism is LDS doctrine. Certainly any definitive statement as to whether Universalism as a Christian school of thought is supported by the LDS church is beyond the scope of the OP or this web site.

    My understanding about the posts on this web site is that these topics are valid points of departure for exploration of that which informs LDS thinking past and present. We share thoughts and try argument-counter argument as this is how -ology, the study of anything, usually works. The cool thing about the information age is how we all can participate without going to a public bath as Greeks and Rmoans did, and no slaves are used to stoke the fires, though slaves may or not be used to generate electricity for the host server(s).

  51. Clark Goble
    January 15, 2018 at 1:01 pm

    I think that’s right Jerry, although knowing the sources Givens uses if not their exact arguments, I’m skeptical they can make a convincing case. I suspect it’ll be persuasive to those already inclined towards universalism. But I’m really skeptical one can make a compelling arguments one way or the other. As I said it ultimately rests upon the nature of the soul and there’s not good arguments there (IMO).

  52. David Evans
    January 16, 2018 at 1:13 pm

    Jerry and Clark are correct: The Givenses argue explicitly (and I include this in the blog post) that this is not a settled point of doctrine. They merely argue that they retain hope for eternal opportunity, and they provide some evidence to support that hope.

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