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The Cult of Personality

David - May 30, 2010

This sort of follows Don’s last entry. How I understand it, we were all distinct and authentic individuals in the pre-existence, children of Heavenly Father. I imagine we had friends, positions, we took classes. We may have dated, but I doubt it. We probably just hung out like the singles today. I wonder what sort of entertainment we enjoyed in those heady, pre-mortal salad days. Was there an equivalent to TV, sports, iPad? Did we watch the “Historical Documents” of other universes? Did we play practical jokes, or even know what sarcasm was?

Before we were spirits, we’re taught, we were intelligences, and this is where the imagination gets blurrier. Me, I picture little pixie lights darting around, or iridescent amoebae capable of witty conversation but not mixers because of, you know, the opposable thumbs thing.

“Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be… For man is spirit. The elements are eternal, and spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy.” D&C 93:29, 33

The revelation that we always WERE, in one form or another, begs the question, when did our personalities come into play? Did we possess a kernel of personality even in intelligence form, in the very beginning? I tend to think so, particularly since we developed them in the spirit world, as we did from infancy to childhood. We’re mortally born with prefab personalities and we build upon them. We adopt certain strengths, weaknesses, habits and traits that steer– construct or deconstruct– their development over the course of our earthly lives. This is what I believe, anyway.

Then comes the curve ball:

Personality is a gift from God. It is indeed a pearl of great price, and eternal blessing. David O. McKay, Improvement Era, August 1955

It’s funny, I can easily accept the idea that all my possessions, including my health, my body, etc., belong to Heavenly Father. Never thought twice about that. But I’ve always taken for granted that my relationship with Him was ME, MYSELF and my Father– and that included MY PERSONALITY, MY INDIVIDUALITY. Is President McKay saying that even though we were in the beginning with God, He endowed us with personalities when we became spirits– or the ability to have personalities? Yet we were always “intelligences”– is that possible without possessing personalities? Our personalities are like the rudders of our free agency.  Are we stewards or owners of our personalities?

Or perhaps I’m misinterpreting President McKay’s statement; that he is referring to an exuberance of personality.

And if it turns out we DID date in the pre-existence, I wonder if the phrase, “She’s got a great personality” sent off the same warning bells it does today.


  1. The whole quote is:

    In the realm of personality, in the kingdom of character, Christ was supreme. By personality, I mean all that may be included in individuality. Personality is a gift from God.

    If we all started as tabula rasa (without personality), why did God endow Christ with such a supreme personality? What part of Christ did show that he (being an intelligence and later spirit) was such a better being? His actions, perhaps? But doesn’t our personality affect our actions?
    I’m confused.

    Comment by Niklas — May 31, 2010 @ 5:38 am

  2. I think that Pres. McKay might mean something more akin to personhood as we would phrase it. Our intelligence always existed, but becoming a spirit (or spirit son/daughter of God) is what made us a person and gave us personality in the sense that Pres. McKay refers.

    Comment by el oso — May 31, 2010 @ 9:49 am

  3. Aren’t we taught that Heavenly Father “organized” our intelligences? Our heavenly parents do have physical bodies, and we ARE their children, so somehow physical, spiritual bodies create premortal spirits. I’ve always imagined that before the event that individuated me I was part of some sort of “soul plasma,” without a distinct sense of self. I wonder if that’s the gift President McKay was talking about, just as choosing to be parents here in mortality is a gift to our children.

    Comment by Ingrid — May 31, 2010 @ 4:20 pm

  4. No way to know, but to me, intelligences and personalities are roughly equivalent. It’s the only way that being co-eternal with God makes any sense to me.

    Comment by MCQ — May 31, 2010 @ 5:53 pm

  5. MCQ, that’s how I understand it too. Considering the fact that McKay said that in the realm of personality Christ was supreme, it’s not likely that McKay was talking about personhood. How can someone be supreme in being a person?

    Comment by Niklas — May 31, 2010 @ 11:40 pm

  6. My head hurts…

    Comment by Dr. Horrible... — June 1, 2010 @ 5:14 am

  7. David is taking the tripartite model of spirits (intelligence-spirit-physical) as a given but it is anything but that. We have debated that subject at great length over the years in the bloggernacle but in short the most major monkey wrench for tripartite fans is the fact that Joseph Smith explicitly said spirits have no beginning and cannot be created.

    Regarding the McKay quote: Sounds like he was speculating to me; and not speculating very effectively in that case. We are all allowed to make guesses though.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 1, 2010 @ 3:33 pm

  8. Geoff, I have read some of the debates you refer to, and my answer to that JS quote is that Joseph contradicted himself in some cases. He was learning line upon line and you can’t reconcile some of his quotes with others. Personally, I think he misspoke in that instance. It’s hard to imagine how we can be spirit children of God if spirits cannot be created. I think he meant that intelligences cannot be created. He sometimes spoke of the two interchangeably, but it seems more likely to me that they are not.

    Comment by MCQ — June 1, 2010 @ 4:10 pm

  9. MCQ: perhaps, like physical matter, the matter that composes a spirit body cannot be created or destroyed, but it can be organized.

    The apostles have stated that Heavenly Father “clothes” an intelligence “with a spirit body”. Therefore, my belief is that “unorganized” spirit matter gets “organized” into a spirit body, and becomes inhabited by an intelligence.

    It may be _somewhat_ analogous to physical matter being organized into a physical body that then becomes inhabited by a spirit body/intelligence combination.

    Comment by Bookslinger — June 12, 2010 @ 2:42 pm

  10. Geoff J, I believe you misconstrue what Joseph said, He said (or at least I believe he _meant_), that spirit _matter_ can’t be created or destroyed. However, it can be organized.

    In support of this are the scriptures that say that the Lord created the world, and all things in it, _spiritually_ before they were created physically.

    Comment by Bookslinger — June 12, 2010 @ 2:45 pm

  11. Bookslinger, what you’re saying is how I understand Harold B. Lee taught too:

    There is something that is not created or made. The Scriptures called it ‘intelligence,’ which at a certain stage in the pre-existence was organized into a ‘spirit.’
    Teachings of the presidents of the church: Harold B Lee, chap 2

    Comment by Niklas — June 14, 2010 @ 1:57 am

  12. There goes David unorganized…

    Comment by David T. — June 14, 2010 @ 8:48 am

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