The Doctrine of Transmigration VS The Doctrine of Multiple Mortalities
I got this email today from a reader
> I’m reading your latest paper about the return of Elijah the Tishbite. One question comes to mind.
> Your theory would make sense – especially considering the doctrine of multiple mortal mortalities or missions – except for the fact that Elijah was translated and never died. So, how could he have been born again in the form and identity as John the Baptist if he never died and his Spirit was never separated from his body/identity as Elijah?
> How does that affect your proposition here?”
First of all let me point out that there are two changes in the inspired version where JS clearly pointed out that John was Elijah. Therefore, I would not characterize it as my theory, rather, it appears to have been Joseph Smith’s belief.
The first question is, is the Inspired Version of the Bible that Emma preserved and gave to the RLDS church the real revision that Joseph did. (I think you can purchase exact reprints at Deseret Book showing the insertions made by the and of Cowdery & Rigdon, etc)
I am not aware of anyone that has really seriously questioned the integrity of it. Since the LDS church obtained the rights from the RLDS church to put about 50 references from the IV into their own canonized scriptures, and has essentially endorsed it as scripture, it would appear as if the Mormon Church concedes that it is an accurate and credible carry down of what Joseph Smith did. (it is interesting that of the countless changes made in the IV, the top 50 or so changes that the LDS scholars deemed important enough to include, happened to contain those passages regarding to Elijah)
The second question is, was Joseph Smith inspired to make those two changes or was he just shooting from the hip and making a wild speculation.
I have explained in the article why I believe the changes were inspired in the article.
Now then, getting to your question.
Here are my thoughts.
We know precious little about the doctrine of translation as it pertains to people, except that it is a temporary change which makes it so that death has no power over the person during that state. I think your implied assumption that Elijah still had a mortal body and therefore could not have his spirit infused into the body of John is not supported in scripture, although many people, including myself, have probably made the same assumption that you made. I think translated souls are spiritual beings, not necessarily physical beings in the sense that mortals are.
We know from Jesus’ appearance to the 12 in the upper story that his resurrected body was physical and yet it could dematerialize in some mysterious way to go through a solid wall. Would that not indicate that a translated body might be even more of a spiritual substance that could be used to animate a mortal tabernacle?
We just don’t know enough to make any conclusions.
I do think the following two statements by Joseph Smith could be providing significant clues
In a sermon given in October of 1841, Joseph Smith taught that “Translated bodies are designed for future missions“. This sets the stage for a future work that Elijah was to do in the meridian of time, since he was translated and taken to heaven during Old Testament times. Joseph also taught that “Translated bodies cannot enter into rest until they have undergone a change equivalent to death“.
Why are translated bodies necessary for future missions?
Moses died and came back to make appearances at the Mt of transfiguration and also section 110. Not being translated didn’t prevent him from the future mission of appearing in a visitation… so, what kind of future mission would a translated being be able to make that a resurrected body or perhaps even a disembodied spirit not be able to make? (I realize that some people believe that Moses was also translated but he was not. He died. I have addressed this in another post)
I think the answer is, being born into flesh again.
Therefore, it appears that Joseph Smith may have been pointing out that the temporary state of translation enables a future mission in the mortal flesh, whereas if someone dies and is resurrected, they cannot have a future mission in the mortal flesh…. which brings me to one more point.
The doctrine of Transmigration that I am referring to has nothing to do with the doctrine of multiple mortalities/probations that many people are currently buzzing about.
The doctrine of mortal probations, as I understand it, is about people continuing to progress in the plan of salvation by being recycled into multiple mortal probations, with the opportunity to repent and be baptized again, etc., etc., etc.. I don’t remember if I have never addressed that doctrine on this blog.
So, the doctrine of multiple mortal probations is not what Elijah was doing. He was not being recycled to enhance his chances of being saved. His New Testament ministry was not part if his probationary experience, it was part of an ongoing ministry, which probably isn’t even over with yet.
He had already been sealed up to eternal life before being translated in the Old Testament.
That was one of the points of the article, he did not need to be baptized or to receive the Holy Ghost when he came back as John the Baptist, he had already “been there… done that..”
He likened himself to the bridegroom and distanced himself from being part of the bride.
It is very important to not confuse the doctrine of multiple probations with the doctrine of transmigration. I am glad you brought this up because I probably failed to make that distinction in the article as clearly as I should have, and I need to revise it and make that distinction.
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