Due to the explicit discourse of Joseph Smith, most frequently called the King Follet Discourse, many Latter-day saints believe that the spirit and mind of man is eternal and can never be created or destroyed. While he had preached this concept five years earlier, there was a significant diversity of thought post-martyrdom on the topic. Perhaps the two most identifiable ideologies were those of Orson Pratt (see here) and Brigham Young. This post will deal with Brigham’s thoughts on spirit creation from the perspective of a unique aspect of his thought: spirit destruction.
Perhaps as one of the many cats he decided to loose from the bag, Brigham frequently preached on the creation and destruction of the soul. In 1853 he stated:
Every kingdom will be blotted out of existence, except the one whose ruling spirit is the Holy Ghost, and whose king is the Lord. The Lord said to Jeremiah the Prophet, “Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause thee to hear my words. Then I went down to the potter’s house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hands of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it.” The clay that marred in the potter’s hands was thrown back into the unprepared portion, to be prepared over again. So it will be with every wicked man and woman, and every wicked nation, kingdom, and government upon earth, sooner or later; they will be thrown back to the native element from which they originated, to be worked over again, and be prepared to enjoy some sort of a kingdom. (1)
And later that year:
Jesus says, he will DESTROY death and him that hath the power of it. What can you make of this but decomposition, the returning of the organized particles to their native element, after suffering the wrath of God until the time appointed. That appears a mystery, but the principle has been in existence from all eternity, only it is something you have not known or thought of. When the elements in an organized form do not fill the end of their creation, they are thrown back again, like brother Kimball’s old pottery ware, to be ground up, and made over again. All I have to say about it is what Jesus says—I will destroy Death, and him that hath the power of it, which is the devil. And if he ever makes “a full end of the wicked,” what else can he do than entirely disorganize them, and reduce them to their native element? Here are some of the mysteries of the kingdom. (2)
Brigham used the metaphore of pottery for both spirit and physical creation. Brigham believed in a spirit element that was organized into a conscious spirit. If this soul never accepted Christ, the element would not be wasted, but reused in the formation of another soul. Obviously, for Brigham, the mind was not eternal:
Christ will never cease the warfare, until he destroys death and him that hath the power of it. Every possession and object of affection will be taken from those who forsake the truth, and their identity and existence will eventually cease. “That is strange doctrine.” No matter, they have not an object which they can place their hands or affections upon, but what will vanish and pass away. That is the course and will be the tendency of every man and woman, when they decided to leave this kingdom. (3)
The eternal fate of those who rebelled is not certain in Brigham’s thought, but he does show that their continued existence is a function of grace:
When there was rebellion in heaven, judgment was laid to the line and righteousness to the plummet, and the evil were cast out. Yet there was a portion of grace allotted to those rebellious characters, or they would have been sent to their native element. (4)
These are a few examples of many in which Brigham preached on the subject of spirit destruction (5). He continued to preach on the matter until his death.
- JD 2:124
- JD 1:275-276
- JD 4:32, emphasis added; see also 7:57-58 & 18:234
- JD 3:256
- Other examples include JD 3:203, 4:54, 5:54, 6:346, 7:276, 7:287, 8:29, 9:149-150, 13:316-317 & The Office Journal of President Brigham Young, 1858-1863, Book D, pg. 35.