Reincarnation and Conflicting Scriptures
There are some scriptural sources put forth by a number of LDS students who make arguments against reincarnation. I thought I would make some comments on them.
First, let me make this point that is overlooked by both sides of the argument. There are scriptures that are in contradiction with each other on this and numerous other subjects. True believers think the cause of this in the reader, not the writers of the scriptures. They seem them as infallible and any contradictions are because we do not understand them in the same light as themselves.
The truth is something else. The contractions are caused by three basic things:
(1) The limitation of communication through imperfect language. For example, the words of Jesus in the New Testament are as clear as any ever written, yet they are interpreted in hundreds of different ways, partially because of the imperfection of language itself.
(2) Human imperfection. All people including prophets are fallible and do not have a clear understanding of all the mysteries.
For instance Paul said this: “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” I Cor 13:12
Paul here admits he knows “in part” which tells us that some of his writings will present an incomplete truth.
Nephi acknowledged his fallibility: “And now, if I do err, even did they err of old; not that I would excuse myself because of other men, but because of the weakness which is in me, according to the flesh, I would excuse myself.” I Nephi 19:6
Here Nephi admits not only that his writings may have error but “even did they err of old,” indicating that there was some error in the writings of past prophets.
Then, in Alma chapter 40, Alma tells us of a number of things that he doesn’t know or even that “no one knows.”
All this points us to the main truth that I have emphasized throughout my life, which is that the truth cannot be obtained by merely relying on the black and white precepts of men, even if they be prophets. The only way to stay on the straight and narrow path is through leaning on the Holy Spirit, not the arm of flesh, even if that arm speaks to you from the scriptures.
(3) The third reason for apparent contradictions is that prophets in the past often felt that the people were not ready for the whole truth. This even occurred in Joseph Smith’s day for he said:
“Would to God, brethren, I could tell you who I am! Would to God I could tell you what I know! But you would want to call it blasphemy and want to take my life.”
Life of Heber C. Kimball Page 333.
He thus had to hide or veil controversial mysteries when he taught, just as did numerous ancient prophets.
Alma also spoke on this principle:
“It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him.” Alma 12:9
Concerning reincarnation I have found that many more scriptures support it than seem to refute it and have written a whole book to this effect called, “Eternal Lives.”
There are a few scriptures, however, that that seem to support the idea of one life only with no additional chances. Let us take a look at some of them and see where the truth lies.
“And this is the manner after which they (prophets) were ordained—being called and prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God, on account of their exceeding faith and good works; in the first place being left to choose good or evil; therefore they having chosen good, and exercising exceedingly great faith, are called with a holy calling, yea, with that holy calling which was prepared with, and according to, a preparatory redemption for such.” Alma 13:3
Here we are told that God chose certain individuals to be prophets because a foreknowledge. And why did he have foreknowledge? Because at some time in a past life they showed “exceeding faith and good works; in the first place being left to choose good or evil; therefore they having chosen good, and exercising exceedingly great faith, are called with a holy calling…”
Now orthodox Mormons would interpret this as applying to a nebulous pre-existence in spirit bodies sitting on the lap of a heavenly Father and Mother with billions of others. On the other hand, because they exercised “exceeding faith and good works” this seems to apply more to a physical and mortal situation than one in the spirit where you can see God right in front of your eyes (according to the belief).
As it turns out, this first scripture presents a pretty good argument for reincarnation, rather than against it.
Anti reincarnation arguments are taken from Alma 12, verses 8, 18, 20, 24 & 32 and Alma 11:41-45.
Let us start here:
“all shall rise from the dead, both the just and the unjust, and are brought to stand before God to be judged according to their works?
It is certainly true that all shall rise from the dead but how this happens differs from regular Christian doctrine. John clarifies what happens to the just and unjust:
“The hour is coming in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” John 5:28-29
Here Jesus divides all resurrections into two categories. The first he calls the “resurrection of life” and the second “the resurrection of damnation”. “Damnation” is a mistranslation. The Greek KRISIS is more correctly rendered “correction” or “judgement that forces correction” and generally refers to a lesser resurrection.
The resurrection of life is one where the disciple will have a secure place in the kingdom of heaven “and he shall go no more out.” Rev 3:12. “Wherefore, all things are theirs, whether life or death…” D&C 76:59
Such a one will have graduated from the mortal school and not have to go out unless her chooses it for some reason for he can always choose “life or death.”
The second part of the verse says:
“…both the just and the unjust, and are brought to stand before God to be judged according to their works?”
The typical believer thinks that he as an individual will stand before God sitting on his throne where this being will expose him to be good or evil and then make a judgment right then and there about his eternal future.
The scripture is true, but not in the literal way that is assumed by believers.
We as humans are in the image of God. Joseph Smith even said we are co-equal with God. After death we become much more sensitive to the spark of God, or the extension of God that is within us all. Thus, all we have to do to return to God is to return to an awareness of who we are.
After death we go before a council of advanced humans who have this God awareness for a life review. Though this is sometimes called a judgment, as if we were being judged from the outside, it is more of a judgment from our own inside with the help of a number of elder brothers guiding the person through the review for enlightenment.
Here a small handful realize they have learned what they need from earth life and “will go no more out.” The vast majority though understand that they have many lessons yet to master and make preparations to go out again and be reincarnated into mortal life. This preparation can last just a few years or several hundred.
“And Amulek hath spoken plainly concerning death, and being raised from this mortality to a state of immortality, and being brought before the bar of God, to be judged according to our works…. and acknowledge to our everlasting shame that all his judgments are just; that he is just in all his works, and that he is merciful unto the children of men, and that he has all power to save every man that believeth on his name and bringeth forth fruit meet for repentance.” (verses 12 & 15)
“Then, I say unto you, they (the wicked) shall be as though there had been no redemption made; for they cannot be redeemed according to God’s justice; and they cannot die, seeing there is no more corruption.” (Verse 18)
These verses point to important points that will frighten the rank and file into being better people but the way it is worded does not present an accurate picture of the judgment.
Enos stressed the idea of wording his teachings slanted toward frightening the people toward repentance:
“And there was nothing save it was exceeding harshness, preaching and prophesying of wars, and contentions, and destructions, and continually reminding them of death, and the duration of eternity, and the judgments and the power of God, and all these things–stirring them up continually to keep them in the fear of the Lord. I say there was nothing short of these things, and exceedingly great plainness of speech, would keep them from going down speedily to destruction. And after this manner do I write concerning them.” Enos, Verse 23
This reasoning is pointed out in the revelation to Joseph Smith
“Nevertheless, it is not written that there shall be no end to this torment, but it is written endless torment. Again, it is written eternal damnation; wherefore it is more express than other scriptures, THAT IT MIGHT WORK UPON THE HEARTS OF THE CHILDREN OF MEN, altogether for my name’s glory. … For, behold, the mystery of godliness, how great is it! For, behold, I am endless, and the punishment which is given from my hand is endless punishment, for Endless is my name. Wherefore– Eternal punishment is God’s punishment. Endless punishment is God’s punishment.” D&C 19:6-12
Here God clearly says that he allowed the prophets to depict punishment as being “eternal” and “everlasting” to appear as if it would be forever, “that it might work upon the hearts of the children of men.” In reality they are merely descriptions of God and do not mean that punishments shall not have an end.
Joseph Smith backed up this principle when he said, “I take my ring from my finger and liken it unto the mind of man–the immortal part, because it had no beginning. Suppose you cut it in two; then it has a beginning and an end; but join it again, and it continues one eternal round. So with the spirit of man. AS THE LORD LIVETH, IF IT HAD A BEGINNING, IT WILL HAVE AN END. All the fools and learned and wise men from the beginning of creation, who say that the spirit of man had a beginning, prove that it must have an end; and if that doctrine is true, then the doctrine of annihilation would be true. But if I am right, I might with boldness proclaim from the house-tops that God never had the power to create the spirit of man at all. God himself could not create himself.” DHC 6:311
Therefore, “as the Lord liveth” if a punishment has a beginning then it will have an end.
Alma was thus using the old fashion scary wording to frighten the people to repentance for if many prematurely know there will be an end to punishment some are likely put off their day of repentance.
So Alma presents the following idea to the people.
We must repent and be good people in the here and now else we will die in our sins. In this state we will be resurrected to eternal life, an incorruptible state and go before God where “they shall be as though there had been no redemption made; for they cannot be redeemed according to God’s justice; and they cannot die, seeing there is no more corruption.”
This is true but not in the light LDS readers take it, just like “everlasting punishment” is not true as standard Christians understand it.
Some time after death we are resurrected to our immortal incorruptible state that cannot die and are brought before a council of elders for a life review. The judge is God, but it is that spark of God that is within us concerning which we now have full awareness. With the help of elder brothers we judge ourselves. Joseph sp0oke of this self judgment:
“A man is his own tormentor and his own condemner. Hence the saying, They shall go into the lake that burns with fire and brimstone. The torment of disappointment in the mind of man is as exquisite as a lake burning with fire and brimstone.” DHC 6:314
If one has not lived a life of service and learned to follow the Christ within him then he will be as if no redemption has been made. Since he cannot pay off his debts in the immortal state he will have to choose death (D&C 76:59), or mortality and be resurrected (reincarnated) again into corruption where he can make things right and learn his needed lessons.
“And we see that death comes upon mankind, yea, the death which has been spoken of by Amulek, which is the temporal death; nevertheless there was a space granted unto man in which he might repent; therefore this life became a probationary state; a time to prepare to meet God; a time to prepare for that endless state (the state where our God nature is realized) which has been spoken of by us, which is after the resurrection of the dead (After death when raised up in a spiritual body).
“Therefore God gave unto them commandments, after having made known unto them the plan of redemption, that they should not do evil, the penalty thereof being a second death, (separation from God back to mortality) which was an everlasting death (everlasting being a name of God) as to things pertaining unto righteousness; for on such the plan of redemption could have no power, for the works of justice could not be destroyed, according to the supreme goodness of God.
(The works justice demand that the person not remain in his God presence but return to mortality to learn further lessons and pay his debts)
Next Alma wanders off into teachings that are not literally correct as well as being in disagreement with other scriptures.
“Now, there is a death which is called a temporal death; and the death of Christ shall loose the bands of this temporal death, that all shall be raised from this temporal death.
“The spirit and the body shall be reunited again in its perfect form; both limb and joint shall be restored to its proper frame, even as we now are at this time; and we shall be brought to stand before God, knowing even as we know now, and have a bright recollection of all our guilt.
“Now, this restoration shall come to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, both the wicked and the righteous; and even there shall not so much as a hair of their heads be lost; but every thing shall be restored to its perfect frame, as it is now, or in the body, and shall be brought and be arraigned before the bar of Christ the Son, and God the Father, and the Holy Spirit, which is one Eternal God, to be judged according to their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil.
“Now, behold, I have spoken unto you concerning the death of the mortal body, and also concerning the resurrection of the mortal body. I say unto you that this mortal body is raised to an immortal body, that is from death, even from the first death unto life, THAT THEY CAN DIE NO MORE; their spirits uniting with their bodies, NEVER TO BE DIVIDED; thus the whole becoming spiritual and immortal, that they can no more see corruption.”
The basic idea here, and in most Mormon thinking, is that all will be resurrected in their physical bodies, but an immortal state, and in that body will stand before God and be judged. After this, only a few will pass on to the celestial kingdom where they will have fullness of joy. The rest will go to lower kingdoms and outer darkness where they do not have the fullness “the penalty thereof being a second death, which was an everlasting death as to things pertaining unto righteousness.” Alma 12:32
So, according to Alma, after the resurrection where all become immortal, the people will be divided into two camps: those who go to the Celestial kingdom and enter into the presence of God and obtain a fullness and those who suffer a second death and are denied the Presence, which would obviously be the terrestrial, telestial and outer darkness inhabitants.
The trouble is that Alma disagrees with other revelations such as this through Joseph Smith:
“For man is spirit. The elements are eternal, and spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive fullness of joy. And when separated, man cannot receive fullness of joy.” D&C 93:33-34
Here we are clearly told that when the spirit and body are “inseparably connected” that the person receives a fullness of joy. This directly disagrees with Alma who says that the wicked will have their spirit and bodies inseparably connected yet be in a state of death, separation and torment.
If a fullness of joy is produced by an inseparable connection of the body and spirit then any connection where there is not an eternal connection will not produce a fullness of joy. If a fullness of joy is not produced then the union of spirit and body is temporary.
Where is there not a fullness of joy?
Obviously there is not a fullness of joy in the lower worlds of the terrestrial and telestial.
So what does this tell us?
That the spirit and body can yet be separated and die in the lower worlds.
Those earmarked for the lower worlds are those who are subject to corruption to some degree. Where there is corruption there is always the disintegration of the form. The scriptures are clear “Whatsoever temple (body) is defiled, GOD SHALL DESTROY THAT TEMPLE.” D&C 93:35. All those in the lower kingdoms have sinned and defiled their temples so their bodies shall be destroyed. Furthermore I must point out that a Fullness of joy which produces immortality only comes in the presence of God: “In thy presence is fullness of joy.” Psalms 16:11 “They shall inherit the kingdom of God…and their joy shall be full forever.” II Nephi 9:18. Finally we see that fullness of joy comes from living a life like the Christ: “And for this cause ye shall have fullness of joy; and ye shall sit down in the kingdom of my Father; yea, your joy shall be full, EVEN AS THE FATHER HATH GIVEN ME FULLNESS OF JOY; AND YE SHALL BE EVEN AS I AM…” III Nephi 28:10.
That there is a resurrection of corruption is plainly set forth by Paul: “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap (Often in a future life). For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh REAP CORRUPTION (Greek PHTHORA means decay); but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.” Gal 6:7-8.
If this is so then how could Alma had made such a mistake as thinking that there would be immortal resurrected being who are in torment, rather than experiencing a fullness?
Quite simple. He could have been shown a true vision of a soul after death arriving at the day of judgment who seemed to be perfect in his bodily form standing before several Elder Brothers. Even though this body was composed of spirit it would look physical and he probably incorrectly assumed that all who are judged are in resurrected physical bodies.
The truth is that they are in their spiritual bodies and it can take the form of the physical at any time period in your mortal life. In the spirit world the spirit body can feel physical to other spirit beings..
If then “spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive fullness of joy” is true does this mean that there can be no more reincarnation after such a union?
To understand this scripture one has to understand what happens when the ultimate union of spirit and matter happens.
First, one needs to understand that the substance behind all creation is pure spirit. The only difference between spirit and matter is that physical matter is spirit vibrating at a slow rate and pure spirit is vibrating at a much higher frequency.
Spirit and matter are inseparately connected when the vibration of matter is increased to harmonize with Spirit. Then, in this case, spirit and matter are the same. They cannot be separated because they are one and the same and in this state the life can have fullness of joy for the prodigal son has returned home, having an enhanced appreciation of that home.
The pilgrim is thus in the prophesied state
Where God says: “Him that over cometh I will make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out (Shall not have to be reborn) Rev 3:12.
Even though, in this celestial state, the person does not have to be born again into mortality he still has free will and can choose death and rebirth if he so desires for it is written of those who have overcome all things that “all things are theirs, whether life OR DEATH, or things present, or things to come, all are theirs and they are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” D&C 76:59
These celestial beings who have overcome all things and have raised the physical to the frequency of spirit can still choose death, or mortality if they desire. Their spiritual essence is merely projectted into a new physical body born into the world where they will have to again attempt to raise the frequency of matter up to spirit and produce another inseparable connection.
Before she died on December 5, 1887, Eliza told her brother Lorenzo Snow, who became
fifth president of the Church, that she “was a firm believer in the principle of reincarnation … [having] received it from Joseph the Prophet.”
Joseph indeed believed in the principle and saw through the conflicting scriptures on the matter where in times past the prophets spoke to the people in language “that it might work upon the hearts of the children of men, altogether for my name’s glory.” D&C 19:7
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