Spiritual death has gradually become one of my favorite gospel topics, especially after reading some really lucid articles by Elder Gerald N. Lund. I think one of the reasons it has attracted my attention is that is it both (1) an absolutely basic doctrine at the root of the gospel, and (2) misunderstood by the majority of Latter-day Saints in a few crucial ways.
I thought I understood it perfectly well (after all, I taught about it for two years on my mission) until Elder Lund showed very clearly and persuasively that the way we Latter-day Saints often describe spiritual death actually contradicts the scriptures in several places. I have since studied more about it, mostly from awesome Ensign articles and Church manuals, and have tried to summarize my personal discoveries in a variety of diagrams and charts.
A few years ago, a symposium’s open call for papers gave me the impetus to put all my thoughts on the subject in one place. My paper wasn’t accepted, but I thought I would post it here for anyone who’s interested. It was a rough draft, so don’t be surprised if you find a few incomplete footnotes.
Since the paper is 60+ pages long, I also created a condensed version that is only 7 pages long. It summarizes the most fundamental points and conclusions of the paper, including the most important diagrams and charts. I hope that it enable those who don’t have the time to commit to 60 pages to at least get the basic ideas.
I also completely rewrote the article on spiritual death at MormonWiki.com. It needed a complete overhaul, so I summarized there many of the same concepts from my paper.
I hope to eventually turn this into a book. You know, in my spare time … 🙂
Also, I wrote three related series of articles that approach the topic of spiritual death from three different angles. I recommend reading them in the order they were published (the order I list them here). One warning: my coauthor and I wanted to make a major redesign of our blog LDSphilosopher.com, but one result was that the text formatting for many articles got messed up, especially the images. I’ll clean them up one of these days.
A. The Path of Sin
1. The Benefits of Sin?
2. “I Am the Way … Unless You Find a Better One”
3. Paradise Lost Forever?
4. As Though It Never Happened
5. Knowing without Doing
6. Bastiat and Repentance: How Not to Get Out of a Recession
B. The Path of Adam’s Fall
C. Spiritual Death
1. What I Thought I Knew about Spiritual Death
2. Two Kinds of Spiritual Death
3. Temporal Separation versus Spiritual Separation
4. Evaluating Common Explanations
5. Spiritual Death Quiz (The software that kept score is broken, but you can definitely still take the quiz)
6. Spiritual Death Quiz: My Answers
7. Six Doctrinal Errors Related to Spiritual Death
8. The Fall of Adam and the Fall of Me (this one was a draft; I hadn’t finished the conclusion yet)