Ep7-The Attributes of God Ch3 - The Restoration and Systematic Theologies (Part 2)

Continuing our survey of Mormon systematic Theologies we discuss the thought of the Pratts, John A. Widtsoe, B.H. Roberts, and Modern Mormon leaders. We talk about why they portrayed things as they did and what some strengths and weaknesses of each view are.

Pratt's 'The Seer': archive.org/details/seereditedbyorso01unse

Widtsoe's 'A Rational Theology': archive.org/details/rationaltheologywidtsoe

B.H. Roberts' 'The Seventy's Course in Theology': archive.org/details/seventyscoursein00robe

Show Notes:

The Theology of Orson Pratt and Parley P. Pratt

“The earliest Mormon associates of Joseph Smith understood the new revelation which he had received in different ways.

Two of the most influential thinkers in the history of Mormon thought, the brothers Parley Parker Pratt (1807–1857) and Orson Pratt (1811–1881),”

“They attempted to reconcile Hebrew monotheism with Joseph Smith’s later teaching that several beings may occupy the position of God.

 They also struggled with the view that God is a material being located in a particular and finite space and time with the understanding that God is omnipresent and immanent in reality.

 They also tried to understand the earliest expression of God’s glory as “intelligence” in the strong monistic sense with the later understanding of independently existing “intelligences” in a very strong pluralistic sense.

They also attempted to reconcile the fact that God has not always been God but that God is always the same unchangeable being.”

“Each particle eternally existed prior to its organization; each was enabled to perceive its own existence; each had the power of self-motion, each would be an intelligent living being of itself. . . . In this independent separate condition it would be capable of being governed by laws, adapted to the amount of knowledge and experience gained during its past experience.”

“In the course of the temporal organization of more complex entities, these eternal particles would be organized into an aggregate and begin to exist on a new level of existence as an individual. So organized, the particles “no longer act, or feel, or think as independent individuals, but the law to control them in their new sphere requires them to act, and feel, and think in union.”

Pratt embraced the philosophical doctrine of hylozoism.-Hylozoism is the philosophical point of view that matter is in some sense alive.

“The Pratt brothers turned the primary premise of the cosmological argument on its head by positing the “intelligence” inherent in each individual particle, rather than God as pure actuality, to be the “great first cause.”

Explain: “Nevertheless, universalizing the intelligence of all the particles taken as a sum and synthesis of God locates the “great first cause” within God’s power.”

“I have argued that . . . the Unity, Eternity and of the attributes, such as “the fullness of truth,” light, love wisdom & knowledge, dwelling in countless numbers of tabernacles in numberless worlds, and that the oneness of these attributes is what is called in both ancient and modern revelations, the One God besides whom there is none other God neither before him neither shall there be after him. I have still argued that the Plurality of God only had reference to the number of persons or tabernacles wherein this one God, or in other words, the fullness of these attributes dwells.”

Is he responding to JS King Follett?

Every particle in turn experiences everything else just as God would.....why is God unique?

Problems with God having a limited body.....they solve with universal and particular....
“The Pratts seem to have been absolute realists with respect to the universal God whose essence is exemplified in each of the particular “gods” who share the common status of deity.”

“The Pratts referred to “gods” as individuals who have reached a divine status or position, i.e., the status of participating in the fullness of the divine experience of all the atomic particles that constitute the material universe.”

There is still a universal that is Godhood and the Gods are instances of this. Does this include the God we pray to? Then there is the idea of the Holy Spirit as a the mind of God. Like a fluid that fills the universe and is in everything and is the oneness of mind. “or the spiritual unity of mind, power, knowledge, wisdom and glory which defines all of the particular Gods as one God.”

Kind if like the Higgs field?

“Thus, like the “initial aim” and lure of God which become part of the creative power of each actual occasion in Whitehead’s thought, the spirit element is the co-power by which all things subsist and act.”

Explain differences of absolutism in Pratt's though and Process Thought.

Conflict with Brigham Young:

“The crux of the conflict was Young’s criticism that Pratt worshiped the mere attributes of God rather than God as a person”


“1. There will be no being or beings in existence that will know one particle more than we know, then our knowledge, and wisdom, and power will be infinite; and cannot from thenceforth be increased or expanded in the least degree.
2. There will be nothing more to be learned.
3. The Father and the Son do not progress in knowledge ”
“and wisdom because they already know all things past, present and to come.
4. None of the Gods knows more than another and none are [sic] progressing in knowledge; neither in the acquirement of any truth.
5. Every particle of Holy Spirit, however minute and infinitesimal, possessed every intellectual or moral attribute possessed by the Father and the Son.”

John A. Widtsoe

A Rational Theology - progressive Mormon thought

All persons, including God, progress to Godhood by self-effort and mastery of eternal laws.  Knowledge of the divine is gained through reason, sense experience, and revelation.

Q: God wasn't God until he went through a mortal probation? What about Jesus?

"Matter in its essence is eternal, that is everlasting"

Matter includes all forms of energy

Matter has properties of "intelligence" manifested by its ability to conform to natural laws.  Energy is only a form of intelligence, so rather than matter and energy, it is matter and intelligence that are the two fundamentals of the universe.

Eternal intelligences are mind-independent realities preexisting as individuals having separate wills and the ability to learn and recognize their separate identities.

Asserts God has not always been God.

Q: If God wasn't always God, yet he is the chief intelligence of the universe, how did the universe function without Him being in charge?

"The Lord who is part of the universe in common with all other parts of the universe is subject to eternal universal laws.  In some manner mysterious to us, he recognized and utilized the laws of the universe of which he is the chief intelligence.  Therefore, the law of progression must be accepted.  God must have been engaged from the beginning, and must now be engaged in progressive development and infinite as God is.  He must have been less powerful in the past than he is today.  Nothing in the universe is static or quiescent...  It is logical to believe that progressive God has not always possessed his present absolute position."

As knowledge grew into greater knowledge... he attained at last a conquest over the universe, which to our finite understanding seems absolutely complete.

There are some intelligences who approach God in the status of their development.

The answer to the problem of accepting the Son as fully divine:
it is an idle question since he surpasses our understanding.

God is supreme only to our finite understanding, but not necessarily the greatest actually existing being.

Q: Infinite regression of Gods?

God needs humans and humans need God to continue their mutual progression.

"God, standing alone, cannot conceivably possess the joy that may come to him if hosts of other advancing and increasing workers labor in harmony with him.  Therefore, because of his love for his children and his desire to continue in the way of greatest joy, he has proceeded to aid others in their onward progress... In that manner, through the united effort of all, the whole race of progressive beings receives an added onward impetus."

"True, the need God has of us is relatively small, and the help he gives us in infinitely large, yet the relation exists for the comfort and assurance of man."

Joseph F. Smith halted publication - Penrose and Lund disagreed on the evolution of God and Lund said, "I do not like to think of a time when there was no God.

Brigham H. Roberts

Mormon Doctrine of Deity - debate Catholic reverand Van der Donckt

Jesus of Nazareth was very God and in fact the revelation of what God is actually like.

Also accepts certain realities exist independently of God's creative power.

Two types of inteliigences:
1. The individual and actually existing essences of all persons - never created and individuality is backwardly eternal.
from all eternity posses the capacities of logical reasoning, perception of a priori  principles, imagination, rationcination, and self-directed volition. God and Christ - God more intelligent than all together (Abr. 3)

2. Universal property of intelligence which all of the intelligences posses and which God incorporates into his very being through his indwelling presence in all things.

Immanence - presence accompanied by power

God's power in 4 modes
1. God is present in the world as creative power (order and organization)
2. God is present as sustaining power - the light in all things which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which things are governed
3. God is immanently present as the vital or life-giving force in all living things
4. God is present as the indwelling "intelligence inspiring power" of all things.  Physical and spiritual light

Immanence - source of all divine power and the divine awareness of all things - omniscience

"God's presence and power penetrates and pervades nature in the universe; in another view, nature is received into the all-including spiritual presence of God


God, Son, and Holy Ghost are "not all merged into one individual, and all distinctions of personality lost, but one in mind, in knowledge, in love, in will, one by reason of the indwelling and all of the one spirit, even the mind and will of God, the Father, was also in Jesus Christ.

God not outside of time - his immutability refers to his unchanging stability, fixed character, commitment to morality and adherence to principle and does not exclude the idea of advancement.

God's power is limited only by tasks that are per se ligically impossibly, or not conceivable to human thought.  God is thus able to bring about anything compossible with the existence of everlasting realities.

All that exists, God knows.

God is still growing even in his mastery of eternal laws governing the physical universe.

Q: Does this imply there was a time when God was not God?

Neo-absolutist Mormonism

Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce R. McKonkie

Scriptural Literalism – “ These expositions are not theologically sophisticated and do not demonstrate an awareness of modern developments in theology and the philosophy of religion.”

Evolution....bah philosophy of man. So in an effort to fit in with Evangelicals and Fundamentalists we have perhaps given up too much of what made us unique.

God has reached an upper limit of knowledge since he knows all things ( past, present, and future)  Is outside of time now.

“McConkie also maintained that intelligences are not eternal. Rather, there is a single Intelligence and all intelligences are manifestations of this One Intelligence.”


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