One Death or Many?
Why do the present Mormon authorities teach that reincarnation is the doctrine of the Devil?
It all stems, as do many false doctrines, from an original misinterpretation, and each succeeding authority did not have a mind to contradict the preceding ones. It’s as Joseph Smith said in the King Follet discourse. If we start right we can go right all the time, but if we start amiss we will continue to error.
In November 1835 a man who went by the name of Joshua paid a visit to Joseph Smith. The man evidently had some truth for Joseph said he made some “excellent remarks”. However, Joseph Smith was suspicious of him and discovered that he was Robert Mathias of New York who had endured trials for “murder, man slaughter, contempt of court, whipping his daughter, etc.” Despite this Joseph entertained him for a few days and finally asked him to enlighten him “on his views respecting the resurrection.” Matthias made four statements 1. He was a literal descendant of Matthias, the apostle. 2. The spirit of Matthias was resurrected in him. 3. The scheme of eternal life was the transmigration of the spirit from father to son. 4. He was the spirit of truth itself and possessed the soul of Christ.
To this Joseph Smith said “I told him that his doctrine was of the devil, that he was in reality in possession of a wicked and depraved spirit.” Joseph pressed him to leave and upon his departing he said: “And so I, for once, cast out the devil in bodily shape, and I believe a murderer.” History of the Church Vol. 2; pages 304-307.
Let’s examine the four statements of Matthias and see if Joseph Smith was correct about him. The first statement is really the only one that may be true. It is possible (but very improbable) that he was a descendant of Matthias. Intellectually, we have no way of knowing the truth of this one.
It’s very unlikely that he possessed the spirit of Matthias, the Apostle, since he (Robert Matthias) himself was a murderer. Chances are very slim that one of the original twelve apostles would come back as a murderer and wife beater.
Number three is also false doctrine since the scheme of things is not to have one spirit passed down from father to son. One is often reincarnated in a body unrelated to a previous life.
Number four is also false doctrine as he certainly did not possess the soul of Christ neither was he the Spirit of Truth.
Interestingly we can believe in the true doctrine of reincarnation and yet say along with Joseph Smith that the man’s doctrine was of the adversary.
It is easy to misunderstand the statements of the prophets if we just have a portion of their thoughts. For instance Mormon called the baptism of infants “solemn mockery before God.”. If this was the only statement of the prophets we had concerning baptism then the natural man would automatically assume that all baptism is mockery and no one would be caught dead getting baptized. People take Joseph’s only statement dealing directly with reincarnation and apply it to the whole vast doctrine of eternal lives as the doctrine of the devil. We must remember that there is more to an elephant than a leg.
Just like many Christians misunderstand Mormonism many also misunderstand reincarnation. Some erroneously believe the doctrine teaches that one may be a rock or toad in the next life. This, of course, is not true and is completely out of harmony with any teaching on eternal progression. It is, however, a good tool to make a mockery out of a sacred belief: “Watch out! Don’t step on that ant. He may be your dead Uncle!!!” As a general rule a person enhances his form and becomes more like God in each incarnation, but if a person were to sin against the Holy Ghost he would suffer a terrible retrogression for a long period of time. As Brigham Young said he would go back to his native element and start his progression all over again. He said such a thing would take myriads of ages. See the Journal of discourses Vol. l; page l18, 213-214, 275; and Vol. 5; page 95. If one had to start his progression all over that would take at least one reincarnation right there.
With as many scriptures as there are to prove reincarnation both in the Bible and Latter-Day works, it’s amazing that many Christian religions don’t accept the doctrine. There are a few though, which on the surface, do seem to refute it. These few scriptures Christendom pounce on immediately, ignoring the rest. We shall pounce on them too and take away their punch.
The most common and powerful scripture against reincarnation is: “And as it is appointed unto men ONCE TO DIE, but after this the judgment.” Heb 9:27 The argument is, of course, that if man only dies once, then he could only be born once, thus there could be no reincarnation. You may think this scripture puts us in a corner, but it’s not nearly as bad of a fix as when a Jehovah’s Witness quotes to a Mormon missionary “God is a Spirit” John 4:24, or “no man hath seen God at any time.” John 1:18 About the only good explanation a Mormon can give is that they are mistranslations, but of course, to a Jehovah’s Witness – this is completely unacceptable.
Instead of just ignoring this scripture we shall examine it in the light of day. Just as many scriptures differ in meaning with the above quotes from John many seemingly contradict Hebrews. Paul said: “I die daily.” I Cor 15-31. Since we are told that men only die once we must ask ourselves what kind of death he is talking about in both scriptures? Also, we must take into consideration that the people he was writing to in Hebrews had little if any knowledge of Eternal Lives and they assumed that men lived and died only once. Thus the writer used this phrase to show to them the sacrifice of Christ in language they could understand. The scripture’s surface meaning meant just what it said, but it also had a second hidden meaning, as do most of the doctrinal scriptures as Jesus explained with his parables. (Matt 13:11
The key to the hidden meaning is the phrase: “But after this the judgment.” Also important is that death is appointed unto “men” (plural) or the human race as a whole.
We see that when this one death is over there is “the judgment.” But does the judgment come after the regular physical death? No ! The judgment comes at the “last Day” Then all men shall be judged of their works.”. II Nephi 9:44 The reason the last day is called such is because it is the last day of man’s spiritual death, and after this is the judgment.
“And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and Hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” Rev 20:12-15.
Let us examine the meaning for further light: “And the sea gave up the dead which were in it.” What is the sea? The scripture explains: “The waters (the sea) which thou sawest where the whore sitteth are the peoples, and multitudes, and nations and tongues.” Rev 17:15. We are told that “Death (Physical death II Nephi 9:11) and Hell (the spiritually dead in hell. II Nephi 9:12) delivered up the dead which were in them.” Thus we see that on the last day ALL the spiritually dead including those still living on the earth (The sea) and all the Spirit world (Death and Hell) will be judged, and those who cannot abide the judgment must suffer a “second death” and be cast into the lake of fire (or another round of numerous lives of sorrow).
Exactly what is the second death? Mormons have a vague idea of the truth when they say it is being cut off from the presence of God a second time, but how does this happen? The scripture explains: “therefore, I, the Lord God, caused that he should be cast out from the Garden of Eden, from my presence, because of his transgression, wherein he became spiritually dead, which is the FIRST DEATH, EVEN THE SAME DEATH WHICH IS THE LAST DEATH, which is spiritual, which shall be pronounced on the wicked when I shall say: Depart ye cursed.” D&C 29:41
What was the first death??? It was being cut off from the presence of God and being placed in a state of probation in a MORTAL STATE subject to death and disease and this is “that same death which is the last death” (second death). Therefore those who suffer the second death will be (1) Cut off from the presence of God and (2) suffer disease and PHYSICAL DEATH all over again. There is no other way the second death could be the same as the first death as the scripture says..
Those who do not suffer the second death: “The same shall overcome and shall receive an inheritance UPON THE EARTH when the day of transfiguration shall come.” D&C 63:20 When the Earth is transfigured it will be quickened to abide the terrestrial glory and all the telestial stars and planets we see about us will disappear and there will be “a new heaven and a new earth”. Those spirits who cannot abide the transfiguration must go to another planet in the telestial kingdom or “must abide a kingdom which is not a kingdom of glory.” D&C 88:24. These Sons of Perdition with no glory will be sent to a kingdom of darkness where they will return to their original intelligence to start their progression all over again.
Now we complete the hidden meaning of the scripture in debate if you can receive it: “And as it is appointed unto (the race of) men once (on this earth) to die (spiritual death), but after this the judgment (and transfiguration).
As we said, many scriptures have more than one interpretation. Now let us take a second view of Hebrews 9:27
Let’s refresh our memory and quote it one more time: “And as it is appointed unto man once to die, but after this the judgement.”
The “once to die” sounds like an absolute statement not open to debate until we realize that it is boldly contradicted by the scriptures themselves: “Broad is the gate, and wide the way that leadeth to THE DEATHS…” D&C 132:25
We have also talked about a “second death,” so obviously in the big picture the “once to die” statement is not literal.
After we are told that man only dies once the scripture says “BUT after this the judgement.” The word “but” comes from the Greek ALLA which literally means “contrariwise.” In other words, it indicates that the information that is forthcoming may contradict that which has just been said.
That would mean that “after this the judgement” may have an opposite meaning to “it is appointed unto men once to die”. It would indicate an exception as in the sentence: “I rise every morning at 8:00 A.M., except when the alarm does not go off.”
We shall see that when we examine the Greek word for “judgement” that the second half of the sentence does indeed contradict the first.
The word “judgement” here comes from the Greek word KRISIS. This is one of the most misunderstood words in the entire Bible. Translators don’t quite seem to know how to handle it and have rendered it according to their bias rather than the actual meaning. In the King James version it is translated as: accusation, condemnation, damnation, and judgement, but none of these portrays the word accurately.
The modern English word “crisis” (which is derived from the Greek word KRISIS) is a more accurate rendering than the Bible translations. The actual Greek word implies a decision that brings correction. It is hard to give the meaning of this word with one English word, but the word “correction” would probably be the closest.
The best scripture to help us understand the KRISIS is from John 5:28-29: “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 (KRISIS).”
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.
Taking this into consideration let us retranslate Hebrews 9:27: “And as it is appointed unto mankind once to be dying, but on the other hand, after this comes (the resurrection of) correction.”
Another stumbling block to a Mormon accepting reincarnation is the doctrine of the resurrection. This, of course, is not peculiar to the Mormon faith as many Christians have various beliefs on the resurrection which does not coincide with reincarnation. We find, though, that when we examine the standard works, we, on the other hand, have difficulty in justifying the normal doctrine of resurrection with them.
The scripture creating the main problem states that after the resurrection “neither can they die any more.” Luke 20:36. In examining this scripture let us first state that we recognize that there are three degrees of glory after the resurrection; yet the scriptures point out there are two types of resurrections and one must recognize this to determine what the prophets were talking about. The official doctrine is that “in Christ shall ALL be made alive.” I Cor 15:22. This is interpreted to mean that all men will be resurrected. Two resurrections are pointed out by John: “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 (KRISIS).
Let us examine first the resurrection of life. This is the resurrection Paul talked about when he said “this mortal must put on immortality”. I Cor. 15:53 This way we can eventually be like Him “Who only hath immortality” I Tim 6:16. Even though it is written that at the resurrection of Jesus “many of the bodies of the Saints which slept arose” Matt 27:52 only Jesus possessed immortality.
A point realized by few is that the immortal resurrection is not a free gift to all and must be obtained through great effort. Paul says that he was not advanced enough to yet obtain it: “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might ATTAIN (Greek KATANTAO Means struggle to arrive at) unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but follow after.” Phil 3:10-12 If Paul was not yet perfected enough to receive an immortal resurrection like Jesus how can we expect it with one imperfect life?
Jesus also pointed out that there was a resurrection given to not just anyone: “But they which shall be ACCOUNTED WORTHY to obtain that world, AND THE RESURRECTION FROM THE DEAD, neither marry nor are given in marriage: neither can they die any more…” Luke 20:35-36 Clearly one must be accounted worthy to obtain this resurrection of life. One must be an even better man than Paul. Finally, Joseph Smith offers a statement that is impossible to misunderstand: “You have to learn how to be Gods yourselves, and be kings and priests to God, the same as all Gods have done before you, namely by going from one small degree to another, and from a small capacity to a great one: from grace to grace FROM EXALTATION TO EXALTATION until you ATTAIN THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD.” History of the Church; Vol. 6 Pg. 306
Where is there room for error??? Prophets both ancient and modern tell us that the immortal resurrection must be ATTAINED. We must be exalted and then exalted again before we can attain it. What! Says one. How can one be exalted without an immortal resurrection In the same sermon Joseph Smith said that “Those who have died in the faith are NOW in the Celestial Kingdom of God.” History of the Church Vol. 6, Pg. 315. Here he was referring to the recently dead who had not obtained any physical resurrection. This certainly is a different idea than that of going to the spirit world to wait a resurrection to the celestial kingdom as taught in the missionary discussions. The scriptures teach the same doctrine: “There are two kinds of beings in heaven (the celestial glory), namely: angels who are resurrected personages, having bodies of flesh and bones Secondly: the spirits of just men made perfect, they who are not resurrected, but inherit the same glory.” D&C 129:1&3
So far we have come to some interesting conclusions: (1) There is both a mortal and immortal resurrection. (2) One may be exalted in the celestial kingdom BEFORE reaching the immortal resurrection.
Now we proceed to unfold a mystery dreamed of by few. The word of the Lord is “That same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there” (in the celestial kingdom). D&C 130:2 On the other hand, we are told that both spirits and resurrected personages dwell there. This fact causes one to question as to how this same sociality which exists here can exist there between a spirit and a personage of flesh and bones? How would they even shake hands? It would seem like it would be an extremely inconvenient way to live, but to understand the reality of eternal lives, one must understand how this same sociality does exist.
The prophet said: “There is no such thing as immaterial matter. ALL SPIRIT IS MATTER, but it is more fine or pure, and can only be discerned by purer eyes: We cannot see it; but when our bodies are purified we shall see that it is all matter.” D&C 131:7-8 We see here that spirits were made of matter and bodies are also made of matter. What is the difference between the two? Basically very little for the Lord said that “man is Spirit” D&C 93:33. Paul said that the physical body is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.” I Cor 15-44 “The last Adam (Christ) was made a quickening spirit.” Verse 45 Modern revelation agrees with this: “For notwithstanding they die, they also shall rise again, A SPIRITUAL BODY.” D&C 88:27. Most do not think of a resurrected body of flesh and bones as a spiritual body, but it is obvious that a resurrected personage can change the state of the matter of his body from spirit to physical and reverse at will, When Jesus appeared to the disciples after his resurrection he passed his body through the wall and after let the apostles touch him. Luke 24:36-42. Just as man through his knowledge can make water into ice and ice, water Jesus made his body vibrate to a higher vibration and it became spirit while he was going through the wall. Afterwards he lowered the vibration and it became solid so the disciples could touch him and he could eat flesh with them. Thus in the celestial kingdom the spirits of the just men made perfect and the resurrected personages vibrate on the same wave causing them both to have spiritual bodies and having sociality between one another.
One thing few people stop and ask themselves is: What is the real purpose of a body? The answer we receive is, of course, to become like God, but that is no answer, for we are still left wondering why God needs a body. The answer is quite simple. Our bodies, both spiritual and physical are merely vehicles of conscious thought. On the earth when one wants to go under the sea he uses a submarine to extend his consciousness in that area and that is the only way he can do it. If one wants to travel sixty miles an hour on the land he must use a car. If he wants to go in the air he will use an airplane. The same is true of a celestial being. If he wants to descend into physical matter he must create for himself a physical body by lowering the rate of his vibrations. If he wants to go to the celestial kingdom his body must be “quickened” or increased in vibrational rate so he can have a suitable vehicle to ascend. One does not use a submarine while flying and one does not use a physical body in the celestial kingdom; instead the scriptures plainly tell us we use a “spiritual body.” Keeping in mind that bodies are vehicles of consciousness, bodies are useful only to the extent that they can carry and expand our intelligence to the infinite kingdoms of God.
It is true that after a celestial resurrection a person cannot die anymore as the scriptures say, but this must be clarified, for in describing the leg of an elephant it is difficult to give the correct impression of the entire body. It is true that a celestial body cannot die a physical death since it is spiritual and “it dieth no more”; nevertheless “with God ALL things are possible” Matt 10:27. A celestial being by using his free will can again become physical and subject to death again. Brigham Young taught this doctrine quite clearly; even though the church through lack of understanding is somewhat embarrassed to admit it. He stated that: “When Father Adam came into the garden of Eden, he came into it with a CELESTIAL BODY.” Journal of Discourses Vol. 1; Pg. 50. Brigham quoted Adam as saying: “I once dwelt UPON AN EARTH something like this, IN A MORTAL STATE, I was faithful, I received my crown and exaltation. I have the privilege of extending My work, and to its increase there shall be no end.” (From an address given June 8, 1873 in the tabernacle. Reported in the DESERET NEWS June 18, 1873; pg. 308; Column 5.)
Concerning those who go to the celestial kingdom it is written:
“Wherefore, 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
“And they shall overcome all things.” D&C 76:60
These celestial beings we are told can choose “life or death” and they “shall” overcome all things indicating that a choice of death may be a necessary part of their eternal progression.
Copyright 1996 by J J Dewey