4

This question is a spin-off of the previous discussion How do proponents of the “free-will defense” against the problem of evil explain that God can be free and immune to moral evil at the same time?.

Therein, the top answer stated:

This question is answered directly in the text of the Bible.

14 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.

15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.

-- Hebrews chapter 4

The "missing link" here is character. God has free will, and is fully capable of being tempted and enticed to do evil, but consistently chooses to use that free will in benevolent and righteous ways. In this, and particularly through the example of the life of his son, Jesus Christ, he teaches us how to use our free will in benevolent and righteous ways as well.

To which I replied:

Then one could ask the follow-up question "then why did God not create human beings which are free and have perfect character?"

After noticing that the author of the top answer is a Latter-day Saint, I would like to know how the LDS denomination addresses the question.

So my question for Latter-day Saints is:

Why did God, according to Latter-day Saints, opt to create human beings with imperfect characters and vulnerability to evil, instead of bestowing them with perfect characters immune to evil like His own from the very beginning?

5
  • This question needs to be scoped as an overview. That is to say responses should be overviews and not individual expressions of one view.
    – Nigel J
    Jun 14, 2023 at 23:59
  • @NigelJ Good suggestion. I edited the title and included a note at the bottom.
    – Mark
    Jun 15, 2023 at 2:21
  • 1
    This is is a great follow-up question, +1. I think it is going to be challenging to get answers to this question in an overview format. There's some relevant Meta discussion on using overviews (or not) here. Jun 19, 2023 at 3:32
  • The answer you reference contains an error: "God has free will, and is fully capable of being tempted and enticed to do evil" is directly and clearly refuted in James 1:13. Jun 27, 2023 at 13:02
  • @MikeBorden I found a question about this contradiction: Jesus was tempted, but God cannot be tempted. How, then, do we reconcile James 1:13 and Heb. 4:15?
    – Mark
    Jun 27, 2023 at 13:18

1 Answer 1

6

Why are human beings not created with a perfect character from the outset?

The Pre-mortal Existence

My denomination teaches that we existed as spirits prior to physical birth. As taught in The Family - A Proclamation to the World:

In the premortal realm, spirit sons and daughters knew and worshipped God as their Eternal Father and accepted His plan by which His children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize their divine destiny as heirs of eternal life.

We had not then developed to the point we are at now, and we are not now everything we can become.

--

Creation ex-nihilo

My denomination does not believe in creation ex-nihilo with respect to the universe generally or humankind specifically (a brief argument against creation ex-nihilo here, a longer discussion here).

I believe that God creates by organizing, separating, & transforming. In almost every context this is what is meant by the word "create". To create is to take something that already exists and transform it. In another post I wrote about the concept of an "eternal self" - that there is a fundamental part of us that has always existed and will never cease to exist. We are eternal beings: we grow and develop, but we do not begin or end.

Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be. (Doctrine & Covenants 93:29)

The elements are eternal (Doctrine & Covenants 93:33)

Some may contend that this discussion of eternity and the infinite is not intuitive. While I grant that infinity is not intuitive, I submit that existing forever in the past is no less intuitive than existing forever in the future.

--

Theosis

My faith is unique in its understanding of theosis. We believe that we are the spirit children of God and that we can become like Him. We believe very literally Paul's statement "And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ" (Romans 16:9, see also 1 John 3:2-3, Moroni 7:48).

Theologian and former Brigham Young University Dean of Religion Robert Millet has written:

Latter-day Saints do not believe that human beings will ever be independent of God, or that they will ever cease to be subordinate to God. They believe that to become as God means to overcome the world through the atonement of Jesus Christ (see 1 John 5:4—5; Revelation 2:7, 11). Thus the faithful become heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ and will inherit all things just as Christ inherits all things...There are no limitations on these scriptural declarations; those who become as God shall inherit all things (see here p.15)

The Church's statement on the topic can be found in the essay: Becoming Like God.

--

Conclusion

God's plan is not one in which we were created out of nothing -- some essential part of who we are has always existed and God met us where we were. It is a merciful plan in which it is possible for someone to become more than they were in the past or are in the present. If the only things that could have perfect character were those which started with perfect character, we'd be talking about a much less hopeful plan and a much less powerful God.

Why didn't God create humans with perfect character? Because we already had character and it wasn't perfect. We are eternal beings. God has endowed our "eternal selves" with spiritual & physical faculties, but He has not and does not compel us to change our character. His plan provides us with the opportunity for the transformation of our character, if we are willing.

The great miracle of this plan is not that God creates something that does what He wants it to do, but that He can take someone that does not do what He wants them to do, and develop, teach, lead, and coach them to do as He does of their own volition, and that for those willing to walk that path, God has the power to make them as He is.


Post-script

This post might naturally lead to follow-up questions about how & why the nature of God is what it is. This appears to be outside the scope of the original question, but may make for a useful follow up question.


Disclaimer: these thoughts are the product of my own study and do not constitute official statements by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

6
  • 1
    Thanks HTTR for your answer. I narrowed the scope to the LDS denomination, and created a new question scoped to believers in creatio ex nihilo.
    – Mark
    Jun 26, 2023 at 0:35
  • @Mark thanks for the helpful scoping. Peculiar eh? =) I guess 1 Peter 2:9 puts us in good company. Jun 27, 2023 at 2:15
  • @Mark as always, I find your knack for seeking out various viewpoints admirable Jun 27, 2023 at 2:16
  • Follow-up questions: according to LDS, why do eternal selves have imperfect characters? Is there an explanation or is it just assumed to be a brute fact of reality? And are there exceptions? Are there eternal selves that didn't "start out" with imperfect characters? And what about God? Did He also have to overcome his "eternally past" imperfect character?
    – Mark
    Jun 27, 2023 at 13:28
  • @Mark you want me to tackle infinite regress in the comments?!? =) Re are there exceptions - none that I am aware of, so I could argue inductively that it's a brute fact of reality, but I can't prove that. Jun 29, 2023 at 2:34

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .