excerpt – Mormon Doctrine of Deity

The Mormon Doctrine of DeityFOREWORD
David L. Paulsen

As the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints increasingly engages the scrutiny of the world, many Mormons find support for their beliefs in the works of B. H. Roberts (1857-1933), who in his lifetime was affectionately known as “defender of the faith.” Interest in Roberts’s life and thought waned somewhat following his death, but in the last thirty years, perhaps due in part to the recognition of the relevance of his thought to the challenges of contemporary critics, a revival of that interest has occurred, culminating now with the republication of his The Mormon Doctrine of Deity—arguably Roberts’s finest apologetic work.1 To introduce this book, I will attempt, albeit briefly, to place it in the larger context of Roberts’s life and thought.


Roberts’s life story is one of high drama; space here permits a sketch of but a few scenes and settings: his quasi-abandonment as a child of four in England;2 his immigration to the United States four years later3 and his barefoot trek across the plains to the Salt Lake Valley;4 his labor as a youth in the Ophir mines,5 as a ranch and farm hand,6 and as a blacksmith’s apprentice, all the while thirsting for an education;7 his quest to quench that thirst as he walked eleven miles daily from his home in Centerville to Salt Lake City to attend classes at the University of Deseret,8 graduating in just one year as valedictorian;9 his meteoric development from an illiterate English emigrant to a place of preeminence among LDS scholars; his church service as missionary,10 mission president,11 and member of the First Council of the Seventy;12 his risking his life (while a mission president) by disguising himself as a rough mountaineer to retrieve the bodies of two Mormon missionaries slain in Tennessee by anti-Mormons;13 his public lectures in many major U. S. cities on the Mormon gospel; his polygamous marriages14 and consequent struggles with federal authorities—arrests, exile, prosecution, conviction, and imprisonment;15 his important role in the Utah State Constitutional Convention;16 his election to the U. S. House of Representatives and his impassioned but unsuccessful bid (because of his polygamy) to be seated;17 his conflicts—political, theological, and otherwise—with the Brethren, and his subsequent reconciliations;18 his recruitment of Utah volunteers to serve in the armed forces during World War I and, although now over sixty, his service with them (both in the U. S. and overseas) as chaplain. High drama, indeed! And much more could be added. Of Roberts’s early background and his bootstrap rise to greatness, one experience is particularly significant:

When Roberts was a lonely little waif in England, walking along a city street, he stopped to pick up a sheet of paper. It had fluttered down from an open window above him and landed near his path. He stared intently at the strange symbols. There was an intense longing to know what message the writing contained, but all his efforts failed to unlock the mystery of the written words. In almost hopeless desperation he asked himself:

“Will the time ever come when I shall read books?”

“Yea, and write them, too!” The quiet, piercing voice of inspiration burned this message upon his soul.19

By the end of his life, Roberts had published over thirty books, more than three hundred articles, and more than a thousand sermons and discourses.20 In weighing Roberts’s accomplishments while considering that he was essentially self-taught, former LDS Church Historian Leonard Arrington said: “This should give the modern generation of Mormon scholars ample cause for humility. Considering our enormous advantages, we ought to be making far greater contributions than we are.”21


Arrington was among the first in our era to call attention to the significance of Roberts’s work. In 1968 he distributed a questionnaire to fifty prominent LDS scholars, asking them to identify the five most outstanding intellectuals in Mormon history. Of thirty-eight respondents, thirty-five listed Roberts, nearly all of them ranking him first.22 Nearly a quarter of a century later, Stan Larson replicated Arrington’s survey with remarkably similar results, except that Roberts’s preeminence was even more pronounced. Larson sent out 152 questionnaires and received 94 responses. Roberts was listed most often, with 72 votes. On the basis of his study, Larson concluded, “What the present survey demonstrates is that sixty years after his death, B. H. Roberts remains the foremost intellectual in Mormonism, and if anything his position is even stronger now: in 1969 Roberts was 17 percent ahead of the second position; today he is 42 percent ahead.”23

Roberts’s recognized importance among Mormon thinkers no doubt serves as both causal explanation for and effect of the extensive publication or republication of works by or about Roberts over the past thirty years. Eight of his major works have already been reprinted or republished, some more than once.24 Two biographies have been published—a short one by Robert Malan in 1966, and the more definitive biography by Truman Madsen in 1980. Finally, the last decade has seen the appearance of three of Roberts’s never-before-published books: Studies of the Book of Mormon,25 The Autobiography of B. H. Roberts, and finally what Roberts saw as his most important work—The Truth, The Way, The Life: An Elementary Treatise in Theology. After lying virtually forgotten for nearly sixty years, the manuscript was published twice in 199426 by two separate presses: Smith Research Associates27 and BYU Studies.28 “The resurgence of interest in Roberts’s work … and the reissue of some of his writings are fortunate,” said Sterling McMurrin, “for in him the Mormon people have a spokesman of uncommon stature and ability. His name should be kept very much alive by those who value the traditions of the Church, … or who have genuine appreciation for the ideas and institutions that have been the substance and strength of Mormonism.”29


Roberts’s intellectual contributions to the Mormon faith were many.30 Here I will highlight three: (1) his efforts to help the Saints establish a balance between faith and reason in understanding the Mormon gospel; (2) his attempt to integrate the insights of the prophet Joseph Smith into a coherent and comprehensive framework that illuminates human existence and the great drama of salvation; and (3) his powerful use of all the instruments of persuasion—reason, rhetoric, and personal testimony—in defending the faith and the Saints.

Roberts’s views on the appropriate relationship between faith and reason in Christian discipleship were both explicitly articulated in and modeled by his five “yearbooks” on theology, written as manuals for the seventies quorums of the LDS church. Before writing the yearbooks, he had toured the Eastern and Southern States missions with Elder George Albert Smith. On their return to church headquarters, they reported that the missionaries, for the most part, lacked the historical and doctrinal background for the work they were expected to do, and that they had no commanding knowledge to give them assurance of the things whereof they were to be witnesses. To improve the quality of missionary work, they successfully proposed that the seventies be released from other callings to receive intensive training and instruction. Roberts wrote the yearbooks to serve as manuals for this instruction.31

The first yearbook includes an outline history of the seventies and a treatise on the standard works as books. The second provides an outline history of gospel dispensations; the third covers the doctrine of deity; the fourth, the Atonement; and the fifth, the Holy Ghost and the doctrine of divine immanence. Throughout the yearbooks Roberts attempts to explicate revealed truths and to corroborate them by means of logical argument and scientific evidences.32

Roberts defended the need for such a rational understanding of the gospel in his preface to the fifth yearbook:

It requires striving—intellectual and spiritual—to comprehend the things of God—even the revealed things of God. … [But] mental laziness is the vice of men, especially with reference to divine things. Men seem to think that because inspiration and revelation are factors in connection with the things of God, therefore the pain and stress of mental effort are not required. … To escape this … mental stress to know the things that are, men raise all too readily the ancient bar— “Thus far shalt thou come, but no farther.” Men cannot hope to understand the things of God, they plead, or penetrate those things which he has left shrouded in mystery. “Be thou content with the simple faith that accepts without question. To believe, and accept the ordinances, and then live the moral law will doubtless bring men unto salvation; why then should men strive and trouble themselves to understand?”… So men reason; and just now it is much in fashion to laud “the simple faith,” which is content to believe without understanding, or even without much effort to understand. And doubtless many good people regard this course as indicative of reverence—this plea in bar of effort—”thus far and no farther.” … Yet, we must be certain that, making a virtue of reverence, we are not merely excusing ignorance. … This sort of “reverence” is easily simulated, … and falls into the same category as the simulated humility couched in “I don t know,” which so often really means “I don t care, and do not intend to trouble myself to find out.”33

Roberts defines “simple faith” as faith without understanding the thing believed. He maintains that simple faith taken at its highest value does not equal intelligent faith, which is a gift of God supplemented by earnest endeavor to find through prayerful thought and research a rational ground for that faith. Hence, Roberts claims, we should strive for a faith that satisfies the intellect as well as the heart.34

Religion must appeal to the understanding as well as to the emotional nature of man. It must measurably satisfy his rational mind as well as fill his spiritual and ethical longings— his thirst for righteousness. I know there are those who think that the important thing in religion is to live it rather than to understand it; just as there are those who think it better to live rather than to understand life. But as a matter of fact religion in its most exalting phases cannot be “lived” without making reasonably clear to the understanding the problems of existence; just as life cannot be truly “lived” without some knowledge at least of the near purposes of life.35

Despite his plea for mental effort to achieve a rational understanding of the gospel, Roberts acknowledges the primacy of divine revelation and individual faith. In his preface to the third yearbook, he describes his enterprise as one of faith seeking understanding: “I do not address the men for whom these Lessons are prepared from the standpoint that I would have them understand in order that they may believe; but rather that they may understand that which they already believe, … for surely well-ordered knowledge can have no other effect upon faith than to increase it, to strengthen it.”36 Roberts also recognized the limits of human reason in understanding the things of God:

Let me not be misunderstood…. There are limits to man’s capacity to understand things that are. That God also in his wisdom has not yet revealed all things, … where his revelations have not yet cast their rays of light on such subjects, it is becoming in man to wait upon the Lord for that “line upon line, and precept upon precept” method by which [the Lord] unfolds in the procession of the ages the otherwise hidden treasures of his truths. … [B]ut all this does not prevent us from a close perusal and careful study of what God has revealed upon any subject, especially when that study is perused reverently, with constant remembrance of human limitations, and with an open mind, which ever stands ready to correct the tentative conclusions of today by the increased light that may be shed [tomorrow].37

Roberts often stirringly witnessed the powerful appeal of the restored LDS gospel to both his intellect and his spiritual nature:

My brethren and sisters, I rejoice in the truth. I rejoice in the gospel of Jesus Christ. It satisfies me completely. It responds to the hungering of my spirit. It meets the demands also of my intellectual nature. And as I see the growth of intelligence among men, an increase of scientific knowledge, a broader understanding of the universe, a comprehensive of the extent and grandeur of the words of God, I see in “Mormonism” that which rises up to meet this enlarged knowledge of men. “Mormonism” teaches man that he is a child of God; it tells him that he has in him the divine elements that partake of the nature of God; that after the resurrection he will live forever; and that he may go on from one degree of excellence unto another until he shall attain unto something that is truly great, worthy of a God to give, and worthy of a son of God to receive.38



In summing up the contributions and significance of the mission of Joseph Smith in his six-volume A Comprehensive History of the Church of.Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Roberts wrote: “The New Dispensation is a system of philosophy as well as a religion. Indeed every religion that is worthwhile must be a philosophy. It must give some accounting of things if it is to be of any permanent service in the world.”39 Smith himself, Roberts noted, made no attempt to create a “system” of philosophy. His insights flowed forth without reference to any arrangement or orderly sequence. Rather they came piecemeal in response to the prophet’s petitions for guidance in resolving practical problems. But Roberts, grasping the interconnectedness of these revealed insights, attempted to weave them together into a coherent and comprehensive (yet open-ended) framework that would address humanity’s most fundamental and essential questions about itself, its world, and its God. He sketched that integrated framework most concisely in Chapter LXIII of A Comprehensive History and more expansively in his The Truth, The Way, The Life (hereafter TWL). This work crystallized, he said, “practically all my thought, research and studies in the doctrinal line of the church.” The work was important, Roberts said, because “it will affect the young and educated and the intellectual members of the Church and the standing of the Church before the world—shall we resolve ourselves into a narrow, encrusted sect of no moment, or shall we remain what we were intended to be?—that is, a world movement.”40 Space permits only the briefest sketch of Roberts’s outline of the prophet s world view as he sets it out in A Comprehensive History, with related references in the TWL being included as endnotes.41

These then are Roberts’s constructions of Joseph’s answers to the most fundamental metaphysical questions:

What is the ultimate nature of reality? Roberts cites Doctrine and Covenants 88: “There are many kingdoms, … and there is no space in which there is no kingdom; and there is no kingdom in which there is no space.” From the context Roberts surmises that “kingdom” refers to “substance, spirit, matter, worlds, and worldsystems. … It is the doctrine of the eternal and everywhere existence of matter and space,” and he concludes that “the extent of [the] universe is infinite and unbounded … empty in no part, but everywhere filled with substance; land] that the duration of the universe is equally finite and unbounded in duration, it has no beginning and no end.”42

Joseph Smith records God as saying: “Worlds without number have I created. … Behold, there are many worlds that have passed away by the word of my power, and there are many that now stand and innumerable are they to man. … The heavens are many and they cannot be numbered unto man: And as one earth shall pass away, and heavens thereof, even so shall another come, and there is no end to my worlds, neither to my words” (Moses 1). All this implies, says Roberts, a constant movement, change, process in this infinite universe—with new worlds continually forming as old ones disintegrate.43 Matter may be resolved into radiant energy; and then said energy may be brought back to matter, thus constituting a cycle from matter to “radiant energy” and from radiant energy to matter.44

What am I and how did I originate? Joseph Smith taught that persons or “intelligences” are self-existent and eternal and may be manifested as spirits, humans, angels, or deity according to the state of progress they have attained, and that they may be of infinitely varying degrees of intelligence and moral quality, yet all are equal in their eternity. There is something in each of us not only uncreated, but from the nature of it uncreatable and indestructible—without beginning and without end.45

What is the purpose of my existence and of my life on earth? “This is my work and my glory,” Joseph Smith reports the Lord as saying, “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). Then he represents God as dwelling among the organized intelligences, and as proposing the creation of an earth “whereon these may dwell” for the purpose of bringing about their eternal lives and eternal progress. “We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell. And we will prove them herewith to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them. And they who keep their first estate shall be added upon, … and they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever” (Abr. 3).

“Men are that they might have joy.” To this end, divine intelligences bring into existence worlds and world systems, sustain and guide them through immense cycles of time and through processes that lead from chaos to cosmos, from telestial to celestial; and when attaining a point beyond which they may not be exalted in their present forms, breaking those forms, disintegrating them to bring forth again a grander cosmos. And so the eternal drama continues. Intelligences meanwhile stand indestructible amid this organization and disorganization of worlds. This movement is from lower to higher estates, from little to greater excellences; yet this without ever attaining to “highest,” because advancement in the infinite knows no ultimates.46

Through comparative analysis Roberts shows that Joseph Smith’s synoptic vision cannot be neatly or accurately classified under any of the titles used to designate the various schools of human philosophy. At most one can point out similarities and differences. It is dualistic but not in the sense that it breaks up reality into two radically distinct substances, the material and the immaterial (or “spirit,” as classical theists, but not Joseph, name the immaterial). Its dualism recognizes infinitely extended material substance and, coextensive with it, intelligence, spirit, or mind, which are also modes of matter but whose substance is finer or purer than the grosser matter tangible to the senses. Intelligence, while material, is yet distinct, chiefly in the power of thought and action. Speaking broadly, this does divide reality into two grand divisions, spirit-matter and the grosser tangible matter—things to act and things to be acted upon.47

Yet despite this quantitative dualism, Roberts explains that Mormonism, or new dispensation philosophy, in a certain sense is also monistic in that it affirms all substances to be matter, that there is no such thing as immaterial substance.48

The LDS viewpoint resembles pantheism in that it conceives of the omnipresence of God by the indwelling of his spirit in nature, but nonetheless sharply distinguishes between nature and deity. It is materialistic in holding to the reality of matter; idealistic in maintaining the superiority of mind to matter.

So proceeds Roberts’s comparative analysis.49 He chooses the term “eternalism” as most descriptive of new dispensation philosophy—”an eternal universe, with no beginning and no end: eternal intelligence, working in eternal duration, without beginning or ending, and without ultimates, and hence eternal progression running parallel with eternal lives; and an eternal or ‘everlasting gospel,’ offering eternal opportunities for righteousness; eternal existence of mercy, justice, wisdom, truth and love; all accompanied by eternal relations, associations, unions—eternal youth and eternal glory!”50

On the basis of his comparative analysis, Roberts concludes that Mormon “eternalism” more than holds its own with human philosophies in comprehensiveness and coherence, and in its power to illuminate all aspects of human existence and experience, including (perhaps especially) the darker corners of moral evil and human suffering. And he reinforces his intellectual work with personal testimony:

New Dispensation philosophical doctrines afford a noble coign [vantage point] from which to view life, and furnish the noblest incentives to earnest strivings for right living, which is the true end of thinking and of all human endeavor. [Joseph Smith announced] physical and metaphysical principles dealing with the profoundest subjects of intellectual investigation and thought; … which, when they are finally arranged in proper order, will constitute a system of philosophy worthy of the enlightened age in which it was brought forth—it is this work, and the whole volume of it, that constitutes Joseph Smith’s vindication before the world, and justifies his followers in believing that his life’s work was a super-human achievement; and hence there was in him a divine inspiration that wrought the work of his great though brief career; the inspiration of the Almighty gave him understanding—He was a Prophet of God.51



There was little that Roberts enjoyed more than a good debate. And his time, especially the decade before and the decade after the turn of the twentieth century, provided the occasion for many debates. This was a period of great public antipathy toward the LDS church, principally, but certainly not exclusively, due to its practice of polygamy.52 LDS leaders and members were maligned, church doctrines and practices were discredited and ridiculed—and all in a very visible way. The Mormon church made good copy, and the media exploited it.

It was necessary that these challenges be rebutted and the church and its people defended. Roberts, not only blessed intellectually, but gifted in oratorical and forensic skills as well, responded to the challenge. He took on all corners: psychologists such as Woodbridge Riley, who claimed the Book of Mormon was the product of epileptic hallucinations; novelists like Harry Leon Wilson, who “falsely misrepresented” the church and its people in works of “purpose fiction”; sectarian ministers seeking to discredit church doctrine, even adventists claiming Saturday to be the true Sabbath and Jews denying that Jesus was the promised messiah. Roberts’s more sustained polemics became the basis for individual books, such as Rasha the Jew and The Mormon Doctrine of Deity. Shorter pieces were combined into volumes 1 and 2 of Defense of the Faith and the Saints, published in 1907 and 1912. These polemical pieces are fascinating and faith promoting, as the following examples illustrate.

In 1907, in an effort to counteract continuing hostile misrepresentations, the church published “An Address to the World,” setting forth, in outline form, a statement of belief and practice. On June 4, 1907, the Ministerial Association of Salt Lake City published in The Salt Lake Tribune a “Review” of the address. In an article accompanying the review, the Tribune called the association’s review “unanswerable” and described the church’s address as a “suppression rather than a confession of the Mormon faith” and as “falsified, juggled, and deceiving.”53 Then in a related editorial the Tribune said of the ministerial review:

The evasions, the duplicity, the hypocrisy, the dishonesty of the conference declaration are completely shown, in masterly style. The repeated but half-hearted efforts of the church leaders to make the world believe in their patriotism, their piety, their unselfishness, their benevolence, their purity, when they do not believe these things of themselves, knowing their own corruption, treason, blasphemy and corroding selfishness, avarice, lusts of power and of the flesh, are fitly dealt with in this admirable review.54

Surprisingly, the editorial writer also praised the ministerial review for being “calm, deliberate, and temperate in tone.”

Just two days later, Roberts responded to the review in a four-hour address delivered in the Salt Lake City tabernacle at two meetings (afternoon and evening) of a conference of the church’s Mutual Improvement Association (MIA). Although in places well-conceived, this hurried response lacks both careful argumentation and respectful consideration of opposing views. Rather, Roberts’s reply is rib-tickling, interlaced throughout with self-serving humor, sarcasm, and ad hominem attack.

Two examples: “Of your nonsense of one being three, and three being but one, we will say nothing, except to remark that you must reform your arithmetic, if you expect sensible people to pay attention to your doctrines.”55 Again:

One other item in which we offend these reverend gentlemen is that we believe Jesus had a Father as well as a mother. Now, gentlemen, honestly, is it any worse for him to have had a Father, than it is for him to have had a mother? You concede that he had a mother: that his body grew as yours did, in the womb of his mother; that he came forth of the womb by birth pains; that he suckled at the breast of woman; that through months and years of infant weakness he was watched and guided by the hand of a loving mother. Tell me, is it true, that in your philosophy of things it is all right for Jesus to have a mother, but a terrible sin and blasphemy to think of him as having a father? Is not fatherhood as sacred and holy as motherhood? Listen people, there is something else. Having objected to our idea of Jesus having a father, these pious gentlemen turn now and object to our faith because we believe that we have for our spirits a heavenly mother as well as a heavenly father! … Now, observe the peculiar position of these critics: it is all right for Jesus to have a mother; but it is all wrong for him to have a father. On the other hand, it is all right for men’s spirits to have a Father in heaven, but our reviewers object to our doctrine of their also having a mother there. I sometimes wonder what in the world is the matter with you, gentlemen. I am puzzled to classify your views, or the kind of beings with which you people heaven.56

As manifested in his robust reply to the ministerial review, Roberts welcomed attacks on the church—in fact, he almost delighted in them. He referred to anti-Mormon writers as “God’s advertisers.” Adverse media treatment of Mormon themes not only kept the issues in the public eye, but almost always afforded opportunity to set forth positively the message of the Mormon restoration. One such piece of anti-Mormon writing produced an incredible opportunity.

There appeared in the September 1906 issue of the American Historical Magazine the first of four articles on the “Origin of the Book of Mormon” by Theodore Schroeder, a New York attorney who had once practiced law in Salt Lake City. Schroeder presented what appeared to be a highly credible reconstruction of the “Spaulding Theory of the Book of Mormon.” The articles were immediately republished for local consumption by The Salt Lake Tribune. Roberts requested and was granted permission by the American Historical Magazine to publish a rebuttal, in four parts, which not only dismantled Schroeder’s case, but also set forth the church’s own witness. When Roberts completed his rebuttal, he was invited to write a history of the church for publication in the magazine. To accommodate the projected history, the editor changed the magazine from a bi-monthly to a monthly periodical, changed its name to the Americana Magazine, and for a period of six years, from July 1909 to July 1915, devoted about half its space each month to installments of the history of the church. This work not only provided much of the material for Roberts’s monumental Comprehensive History of the Church published in 1930, but, in the view of one commentator, contributed to bringing about an era in which sentiment toward the church became more favorable.57


Roberts’s writing of The Mormon Doctrine of Deity was similarly occasioned by attacks on the church. He reports that in the first part of 1901 considerable interest was generated in Mormon views of deity as a result of a series of six lectures (March 10 through May 5) on the topic delivered by the Reverend Alfred H. Henry of the First Methodist Episcopal church. Reports of these lectures are found in The Salt Lake Tribune. A notice announcing both the series and the first lecture, and specifically inviting Latter-day Saints to attend, appeared in the Tribune on March 10: “At the evening service the pastor will begin a series of ‘Sermons to Mormons,’ the special subject being ‘God.’ All who believe the doctrines of the ‘Latter-day Saints’ with reference to the being and character of God, are especially invited to be present.”58 The following day the Tribune, commenting that “a large congregation, many of whom were Saints,” had attended Henry’s lecture,59 summarized the sermon. According to the newspaper, Henry introduced his lecture series by explaining the importance of correctly understanding the nature of God. Such an understanding is vital not only because man tends to shape his life according to it, but also because the New Testament declares that one’s eternal life depends on knowing “the true God and Jesus Christ whom [he] has sent.” Henry then quoted the Doctrine and Covenants’s declaration that “God has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s,” and attempted to show the declaration inconsistent with biblical teachings, arguing that man and Jesus are not in the image of God in a physical or bodily sense. The incarnate Christ was in the likeness, not of God, but of sinful flesh (Rom. 3). He took, not the form of God, but the form of a servant (Phil. 6-8). In contradiction to reading that Jacob wrestled with and Abraham ate with God, John 1:18 explicitly says, “No man hath seen God at anytime.” In light of this, Henry said, all passages of scripture apparently alluding to body parts of God should be understood as figurative.60

The second lecture did not draw a large crowd. According to the Tribune, there was only “a fair attendance, but very few Mormons were among the audience.”61 Undaunted, Henry continued his critique of the Mormon doctrine of God, comparing it with the portrayal of God in the Bible which describes God as “a spirit, infinite, eternal, unchangeable in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth,” and which declares that “man could not find out the Almighty, and that the inhabitants of the earth were creatures of a day, and as grasshoppers compared to him.” He then contrasted these biblical descriptions of God with those of Brigham Young and other Mormon ecclesiastics who aver, said Henry, “that there are many gods; that the gods were once not only men, but fallen men; that they with their wives had been redeemed and would die no more, but would remain in a condition to multiply forever and ever.” Henry concluded that the Mormon doctrine was “absurd and foolish and in no way like the God of the Bible.” Indeed, “the Mormon idea of God was materialistic, gross and un-elevating, while the God of the Bible is the father in a Christian, spiritual sense, not in the gross, materialistic way of Mormon theology.”62

In the third of his series, Henry addressed the question “How Was Man Created in the Image of God?”63 and in the fourth, the question “In What Sense is God the Father of Men?”64 This sermon was reportedly heard by “over 200 people, a number of whom were Mormons.”65 Henry argued that if God has a body of flesh and bones, it follows that he could not have existed from all eternity and that man cannot have any spiritual existence. But these implications contradict the Bible. Henry concluded: “If the God of the Bible is repudiated by the Mormons, theirs is certainly a false system of religion.”66 He continued this theme in his fifth lecture.67 In his sixth and final lecture, Henry abandoned his critique of the Mormon doctrine of God, challenging instead the Mormon interpretation of Christian soteriology.68

The Mormon understanding of God also came under attack later that year by Dr. William Paden of the Presbytery of Utah in an address on August 16, 1901, to the Teachers’ Institute of the Presbytery of Utah. He reportedly closed his address by saying that he thought Mormon teachings of a material god and a plurality of gods were “heathenish.”69 Henry’s and Paden’s denigrations of the LDS understanding of God were by no means novel, according to Roberts. Indeed, he tells us, from the very beginning Mormon views of deity had been assailed as “awful blasphemy,” “soul destroying,” “the lowest kind of materialism,” “the crudest possible conception of God,” “worse than the basest forms of idolatry.”70

These were challenges to the faith which Roberts was not about to ignore. In August, when he addressed the annual conference of the MIA, he defended “The Mormon Doctrine of Deity” against Paden’s and Henry’s complaints. His address was published first in the Deseret News and subsequently in two installments in the Improvement Era, where it came to the attention of a Jesuit priest, the Reverend Cyril Van der Donckt of Pocatello, Idaho, a graduate of Louvain University in Belgium who later became a leading Catholic prelate in California.71 He wrote a twenty-four-page critique of Roberts’s essay, which was published in its entirety in the Era, together with a 102-page rejoinder by Roberts, also published in installments. These three essays, together with additional “authoritative” Mormon writings on the nature of God, were first published in 1903 under the title The Mormon Doctrine of Deity: The Roberts—Van der Donckt Discussion.72

In his initial address to the MIA, Roberts classified under three headings what Henry and Paden alleged as Mormon error on the subject of deity:

First, we believe that God is a being with a body in form like man’s; that he possesses body, parts and passions; that in a word, God is an exalted, perfected man.

Second, we believe in a plurality of Gods.

Third, we believe that somewhere and some time in the ages to come, through development, through enlargement, through purification until perfection is attained, man at last may become like God—a God.73

He then undertook to defend these beliefs by appealing to standard biblical proof texts and rational argument. Roberts’s most impressive argument for the embodiment of God is ingeniously grounded on premises which Van der Donckt and traditional Christians generally would be loath to deny: (1) Jesus of Nazareth is God; and (2) Jesus of Nazareth exists everlastingly with a resurrected body.74 The resurrected Christ thus becomes Roberts’s star witness for the defense of the Mormon understanding of God.

His argument proceeds:

“What think ye of Christ?”

I suppose that thousands of sermons every year are preached from that text by Christian ministers. And now I arraign them before their favorite text, and I ask them, What think ye of Christ? Is he God? Yes. Is he man? Yes—there is no escaping it. His resurrection and the immortality of his body as well as of his spirit that succeeds his resurrection is a reality. He himself attested it in various ways. He appeared to a number of the apostles, who, when they saw him, were seized with fright, supposing they had seen a spirit; but he said unto them, “Why are ye troubled? And why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.” Then, in further attestation of the reality of his existence, as if to put away all doubt, he said, “Have ye here any meat?” And they brought him some broiled fish and honeycomb, and “he did eat before them.” Think of it! A resurrected, immortal person actually eating of material food!75

He continues his argument:

What think ye of Christ? Is he God? Yes. Is he man? Yes. Will that resurrected, immortal, glorified man ever be distilled into some bodiless, formless essence, to be diffused as the perfume of a rose is diffused throughout the circumambient air? Will he become an impersonal, incorporeal, immaterial God, without body, without parts, without passions? Will it be? Can it be? What think ye of Christ? Is he God? Yes. Is he an exalted man? Yes; in the name of all the Gods he is. Then why do sectarian ministers arraign the faith of the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints because they believe and affirm that God is an exalted man, and that he has a body, tangible, immortal, indestructible, and will so remain embodied throughout the countless ages of eternity? And since the Son is in the form and likeness of the Father, being, as Paul tells, “in the express image of his [the Father’s] person”—so, too, the Father God is a man of immortal tabernacle, glorified and exalted: for as the Son is, so also is the Father, a personage of tabernacle, of flesh and bone as tangible as man’s, as tangible as Christ’s most glorious, resurrected body.76

In the course of his reply, Van der Donckt acknowledges both that Jesus Christ is God and that he was taken into heaven with his “sacred body,” but he nowhere addresses the apparent implications of those two admissions nor specifically responds to Roberts’s argument based thereon. Instead he counters Roberts’s proof texts with proof texts of his own, and relies on philosophical (principally scholastic) arguments to show that God cannot be embodied. Roberts capably deals with Van der Donckt’s scriptural proof texts and handles his philosophical arguments with skill, effectively shifting the burden of persuasion by demonstrating apparent logical contradictions in Van der Donckt’s own classical conception of God. As an example, consider Roberts’s response to Van der Donckt’s philosophical argument that in order for God to be infinite, he must be absolutely simple—without body or parts:

Mr. Van der Donckt himself says: “Something is limited, not because it is (i.e., exists): but because it is this or that; for instance, a stone, a plant, a man—or a person, I suggest. For if God has personality, he is a person, a something, and hence limited, … as he must be when conceived of as this or that, as a person for instance, then of course not infinite being; and thus my friend’s doctrine of God’s “simplicity” is destroyed the moment he ascribes personality to Deity.77

But what is the sum of my argument thus far on Mr. Van der Donckt’s premise of God’s absolute “simplicity” or “spirituality”? Only this: First, his premise is proven to be unphilosophical and untenable, when coupled with his creed, which ascribes qualities, attributes and personality to God. Either the gentleman must cease to think of God as “infinite being,” “most simple,” “not compound,” or he must surrender the God of his creed, who is represented by it to be three persons in one substance; and, moreover, persons possessed of attributes and qualities which bring God into relations with men and the universe, a mode of being which destroys “simplicity.” Either one or the other of these beliefs must be given up; they cannot consistently be held simultaneously, as they destroy each other. If Mr. V. der Donckt holds to the God of his creed, what becomes of all his “philosophy”? If he holds to his “philosophy,” what becomes of the God of his creed?78

In fairness to Van der Donckt, it must be noted that Roberts had the last word79 and that his last word consisted of over 100 pages of rebuttal to his opponent’s twenty-four-page rejoinder. But Roberts’s well-crafted essay clarifies the issues, points out difficulties with the classical conception of God, and provides a well-reasoned defense of the Mormon understanding of God. It is well worthy of, and still invites, our scrutiny and response.80



1. Sterling McMurrin, for example, asserted that the book was “the most impressive theological piece to come from an accepted Mormon writer.” McMurrin, The Theological Foundations of the Mormon Religion (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1965), 108.

2. Gary James Bergera, ed., The Autobiography of B. H. Roberts (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1990), 6.

3. Ibid., 4.

4. Ibid., 22-23.

5. Ibid., 48-51.

6. Ibid., 46.

7. Ibid., chap. 8.

8. Ibid., 68.

9. Ibid., 67.

10. Ibid., chaps. 11, 17.

11. Ibid., 136. He served as mission president two times.

12. Ibid., 174.

13. Ibid., chap. 17.

14. Ibid., 159.

15. Ibid., 175-80.

16. Ibid., chap. 21.

17. Ibid., chaps. 22-23.

18. Ibid., 254-57. These are not discussed by Roberts himself, but are addressed in the editor’s afterword.

19. This statement was written and signed by B. H. Roberts in his own hand in a compilation of Seventies’ Yearbooks, which Roberts presented to John Emmett, M.D., staff of Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, and is quoted in Robert H. Malan, B. H. Roberts: A Biography (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1966), 85. A slightly different account of the experience is contained in Roberts’s biographical notes quoted in Truman G. Madsen, Defender of the Faith: The B. H. Roberts Story (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1980), 21. See also Bergera, 16.

20. See the selected bibliography in Madsen, 441-43.

21. Leonard J. Arrington, “The Intellectual Tradition of the Latter-day Saints,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 4 (Spring 1969): 24.

22. Ibid., 13, 22-24.

23. Stan Larson, “Intellectuals in Mormon History: An Update,” Dialogue: AJournal of Mormon Thought 26 (Fall 1993): 187-89.

24. These include Joseph Smith, the Prophet Teacher (Princeton, NJ: Deseret Club, 1967); The Mormon Doctrine of Deity (Bountiful, UT: Horizon Publishers, 1976, 1982); The Seventy’s Course in Theology, Vols. I, II (Dallas, TX: S. K. Taylor Publishing Co., 1976); also (Orem, UT: Grandin Book Co., 1994) as Vol. 5 of series entitled: Prominent Works in Mormon History; Outlines of Ecclesiastical History (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1979); A Comprehensive History of the Church (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 1965, 1976), also (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1982); Defense of the Faith and the Saints, Vol. I (West Jordan, UT: Early Church Reprints, 1981), Defense of the Faith and the Saints, Vol. I (West Jordan, UT: Early Church Reprints, 1983); The Missouri Persecutions (West Jordan, UT: Early Church Reprints, 1983); The Rise and Fall of Nauvoo (West Jordan, UT: Early Church Reprints, 1981, 1983).

25. Studies of the Book of Mormon, 2d ed., with a new afterword (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1992); 1st ed. (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1985).

26. For fascinating essays telling the history of the manuscript from composition to publication, see James B. Allen, “The Story of The Truth, The Way, The Life,” and John W. Welch, “Introduction,” in John W. Welch, ed., B. H. Roberts, The Truth, The Way, The Life: An Elementary Treatise on Theology (Provo, UT: BYU Studies, 1996).

27. The Truth, The Way, The Life, An Elementary Treatise on Theology: The Masterwork of B. H. Roberts, Stan Larson, ed. (San Francisco: Smith Research Associates, 1994).

28. The Truth, The Way, The Life, An Elementary Treatise on Theology: The Masterwork of B. H. Roberts, John W. Welch, ed. (Provo, UT: BYU Studies, 1994; 2d ed. 1996).

29. Sterling M. McMurrin, “Brigham H. Roberts, Notes on a Mormon Philosopher-Historian,” written as an introduction to the reprint of Joseph Smith, the Prophet-Teacher.

30. For instance, I comment only incidentally on his significant contributions to Mormon history.

31. Madsen, 298-300.

32. Ibid., 298.

33. Roberts, Seventy’s Course in Theology, Vol. 2, Fifth Year, iv-v.

34. Ibid., vi.

35. Roberts, Comprehensive History, 2:381.

36. Roberts, Seventy’s Course in Theology, Vol. 2, Third Year, iv.

37. Roberts, Seventy’s Course in Theology, Vol. 2, Fifth Year, viii-ix.

38. B. H. Roberts, Defense of the Faith and the Saints, Vol. 1 (Salt Lake City: The Deseret News, 1907), 55.

39. Roberts, Comprehensive History, 2:390.

40. As cited in Truman G. Madsen, “The Meaning of Christ—The Truth, The Way, The Life: An Analysis of B. H. Roberts’s Unpublished Masterwork,” Brigham Young University Studies 15 (Spring 1975): 260-6 1.

41. For analytic summaries of Joseph’s philosophical theology as Roberts sets it out in the TWL, see the following: Truman G. Madsen, “Philosophy” (chaps. 1-3, 8, 26-27, 33), pp. 594-617; David L. Paulsen, “Theology” (chaps. 6-7, 13, 20, 23, 42), pp. 619-32; and William E. Evenson, “Science: The Universe, Creation and Evolution,” pp. 633-51, all in Welch, ed., The Truth, The Way, The Life, 2d ed.

42. Roberts, Comprehensive History, 2:387. See also The Truth, The Way, The Life, 2d ed., 43-44.

43. The Truth, The Way, The Life, 2d ed., 46.

44. Roberts, Comprehensive History, 2:389. See also The Truth, The Way, The Life, 2d ed., 45-46.

45. Roberts, Comprehensive History, 2:391-92. See also The Truth, The Way, The Life, 2d ed., 81-82, 251-57.

46. Roberts, Comprehensive History, 2:394. See also The Truth, The Way, The Life, 2d ed., 4 16-19, for Roberts’s discussion of the progression of God.

47. Roberts, Comprehensive History, 2:407-408.

48. Ibid., 408. See also The Truth, The Way, The Life, 2d ed., 85-90.

49. Roberts, Comprehensive History, 2:408-409.

50. Ibid., 410-11.

51. Ibid., 411-12.

52. Political, social, and doctrinal differences/conflicts also engendered public animosity.

53. The Tribune article cited is reprinted in full in B. H. Roberts, Defense of the Faith and the Saints, vol. 2 (Salt Lake City: The Deseret News, 1912), 257-59.

54. As cited in Roberts, Defense of the Faith and the Saints, 2:260.

55. Ibid., 312.

56. Ibid., 3 13-14

57. Malan, 98.

58. Salt Lake Tribune, Mar. 10, 1901, 11.

59. Ibid., Mar. 11, 1901, 3.

60. Ibid.

61. Ibid., Mar. 18, 1901, 3.

62. Ibid.

63. Ibid., Mar. 24, 1901, 14.

64. Ibid., Apr. 1, 1901, 5.

65. Ibid.

66. Ibid.

67. Ibid., Apr. 22, 1901, 5.

68. Entitling his sermon the “Mormon Theory of the Terms of Salvation,” Henry challenged what he understood to be Mormon soteriology. According to the Tribune report, he read extracts from the writings of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young to show that, according to Mormon doctrine, “salvation was obtained through the observance of ordinances, faith in Jesus Christ and also faith in Joseph Smith as a prophet, and faith in the Book of Mormon as an inspired and authoritative work, and that without faith in Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon there could be no salvation.” These doctrines Henry claimed to be unscriptural and contrary to all the teachings of Christ and the Bible. Rather, he claimed “Salvation came through faith in Jesus Christ as a Savior, and the other conditions of the Mormon creed … were man-made and erroneous.”

69. Salt Lake Tribune, Aug. 17, 1901, 3.

70. McMurrin, 4.

71. Madsen, Defender of the Faith, 428-29, n8.

72. For some recent defenses of the LDS view that God is embodied, see four articles by David L. Paulsen: “Must God be Incorporeal?” Faith and Philosophy 6 (Jan. 1989): 76-87; “Early Christian Views of a Corporeal Deity: Origen and Augustine as Reluctant Witnesses,” Harvard Theological Review 83 (1990): 105-16; “Reply to Kim Paffenroth’s Comment,” Harvard Theological Review 86 (1993): 235-39; “The Doctrine of Divine Embodiment: Restoration, Judeo-Christian, and Philosophical Perspectives,” Brigham Young University Studies 35 (1995-96).

73. Roberts, The Mormon Doctrine of Deity, 11.

74. These two propositions conjoined with (3) N (if x is God, then x is incorporeal) form an inconsistent triad. By means of his scholastic arguments against the possibility of God’s being embodied, Van der Donckt argues for (3), leaving him with an inconsistent belief set. See Paulsen, “Must God be Incorporeal?”

75. Roberts, Mormon Doctrine of Deity, 23-24.

76. Ibid., 25-26.

77. Ibid., 111.

78. Ibid., 113.

79. The record is silent as to whether Van der Donckt attempted to continue the dialogue by responding to Roberts’s rebuttal.

80. For a sophisticated recent critical attack on the Mormon understanding of God, see Francis Beckwith and Robert Parrish, The Mormon Concept of God: A Philosophical Analysis (Lewiston, NY: Edward Mellen Press, 1991). Though nearly a century old, much of Roberts’s argument and analysis is relevant to Beckwith’s and Parrish’s criticisms. For contemporary LDS reviews, see David L. Paulsen and Blake T. Ostler in The International Journal for the Philosophy of Religion 35 (1994): 118-20; James E. Faulconcer in Brigham Young University Studies (Fall 1992): 185-95; and Blake I. Ostler in FARMS Review of Books 8 (1996): 99-146. Roberts’s arguments are similarly relevant to A. A. Housepian’s recent attempt to prove Mormons to be atheists, “Are Mormons Theists?” Religious Studies 32 (1996): 357-70. For an LDS reply, see Blake T. Ostler, “Worshipworthiness and the Mormon Concept of God,” Religious Studies 33 (1997): 315-26.


In nothing have men so far departed from revealed truth as in their conceptions of God. Therefore, when it pleased the Lord in these last days to open again direct communication with men, by a new dispensation of the gospel, it is not surprising that the very first revelation given was one that revealed himself and his Son Jesus Christ. A revelation which not only made known the being of God, but the kind of a being he is. The Prophet Joseph Smith, in his account of his first great revelation, declares that he saw “two personages,” resembling each other in form and features, but whose brightness and glory defied all description. One of these personages addressed the prophet and said, as he pointed to the other—

“This is my beloved Son, hear him.”

This was the revelation with which the work of God in the last days began. The revelation of God, the Father; and of God, the Son. They were seen to be two distinct personages. They were like men in form; but infinitely more glorious in appearance, because perfect and divine. The Old Testament truth was reaffirmed by this revelation—”God creatcd man in his own image, in the image of God created he him.” Also the truth of the New Testament was reaffirmed—Jesus Christ was shown to be the express image of the Father’s person, hence God, the Father, was in form like the Man, Christ Jesus, who is also called “the Son of Man.”

Again the Old Testament truth was revealed—”The Gods said let us make man in our image, and in our likeness.” That is, more than one God was erigagod in the work of creation. Also the truth of the New Testament was again reaffirmed—the Father and the Son are seen to be two separate and distinct persons or individuals; hence the Godhead is plural, a council, consisting of three distinct persons, as shown at the baptism of Jesus, and throughout the conversations and discourses of Jesus and his inspired apostles.

All this, coming so sharply in conflict with the ideas of an apostate Christendom which had rejected the plain anthropomorphism of the Old and New Testament revelations of God; also the scriptural doctrine of a plurality of Gods, for a false philosophy-created God, immaterial and passionless—all this, I say, could not fail to provoke controversy; for the revelation given to Joseph Smith challenged the truth of the conception of God held by the modern world—pagan, Jew, Mohammedan and Christian alike.

It was not to be expected, then, that controversy could be avoided, though it has been the policy of the Elders of the Church to avoid debate as far as possible—debate which so often means contention, a mere bandying of words—and have trusted in the reaffirmation of the old truths of revelation, accompanied by a humble testimony of their divinity, to spread abroad a knowledge of the true God. Still, controversy, I repeat could not always be avoided. From the beginning, “Mormon” views of Deity have been assailed. They have been denounced as “awful blasphemy;” “soul destroying;” “the lowest kind materialism;” destructive of all truly religious sentiment;” “the worst form of pantheism;” “the crudest possible conception of God;” “absolutely incompatible with spirituality;” “worse than the basest forms of idolatry.” These are a few of the phrases in which “Mormon” views of Deity have been described. Defense against these attacks has been rendered necssary from time to time; and whenever Elders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have entered into discussions on the subject of Deity, they have not failed to make it clear that the scriptures sustained their doctrine, although they may not always have been successful in stopping the denunciations, sarcasms, and ridicule of their opponents. This, however, is matter of small moment, since waking clear the truth is the object of discussion, not superior strength in denunciation, bitterness in invective, keenness in sarcasm, or subtilty in ridicule.

In the winter and summer of 1901, unusual interest was awakened in “Mormon” views of Deity, in consequence of a series of lectures on the subject delivered by a prominent sectarian minister of Salt Lake City, and other discourses delivered before sectarian conventions of one kind or another held during the summer months of the year named. Now it so happened that for that same year the General Board of the Young Men’s Improvement Associations of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had planned a course of theological study involving consideration of this same subject—the being and nature of God; therefore, when the Mutual Improvement Associations of the Salt Lake Stake of Zion met in conference on the 18th of August of that year, and the writer was invite to deliver an address at one of the sessions of the conference the time to him seemed opportune to set forth as clearly a might be the doctrine of the Church of Christ as to God. Accordingly the discourse, which makes chapter one in this book, was delivered. The discourse attracted some considerable attention, being published both in the Deseret News and Improvement Era: in the latter publication, in revised form. Through a copy of this magazine the discourse fell into the hands of the Reverend C. Van Der Donckt, of Pocatello, Idaho, a priest of the Roman Catholic Church; and he wrote a Reply [sic] to it, which by the courtesy of the editors of the Improvement Era was published in that magazine, and now appears as chapter two in this work.

It was very generally conceded that Rev. Van Der Donckt’s Reply was an able paper—a view in which I most heartily concur; and it had the additional merit of being free from offensive personalities or any indulgence in ridicule or sarcasms of those principles which the gentleman sought to controvert. Some were of opinion that the Rev. gentIeman’s argument could not be succcssfully answered. This was a view in which I did not concur; for however unequal my skill in debate might be as compared with that of the Rev. gentleman of the Catholic Church, I had, and have now, supreme confidence in the truth of the doctrines I believe and advocate; and I was sure this advantage of having the truth would more than outweigh any want of skill in controversy on my part. In this confidence the Rejoinder was written and published in the Improvement Era, and now appears as chapter three in this work. How successfully the Rejoinder meets the criticism upon our doctrines by the Rev. gentleman who wrote the Reply, will, of course, be determined by the individual reader.

The discourse with which this controversy begins appears in chapter one as it did in the Era; unchanged except by the enlargement of a quotation or two from Dr. Draper’s works, and Sir Robert Ball’s writings, and the addition of one or two notes, with here and there a mere verbal change which in no way affects the thought or argument of the discourse, as I recognize the fact that any alteration which would change the argument or introduce new matter in the discourse, would be unfair to Mr. Van Der Donckt. The Rev. gentleman’s Reply is, of course, exactly as it appeared in the Improvement Era for August and September, 1902. In the Rejoinder I have felt more at liberty, and therefore have made some few changes in the arrangement of paragraphs, and have here and there strengthened the argument, though even in this division of the discussion the changes in the Era copy are but slight.

In chapter four I publish another discourse—Jesus Christ: the Revelation of God, which I trust will emphasize and render even more clear than my first discourse the belief of the Church that Jesus Christ is the complete and perfect revelation of God; that such as Jesus Christ is, God is.

In chapters five, six, seven, and eight is a collection of utterances from our sacred scriptures, and from some of the prophets in the Church, on the doctrine of Deity, which I may say without reserve will be found extremely valuable to the student of this great subject; and these passages are so arranged as to make clear the fact that our doctrines on the subject of Deity are today what they have been from the commencement; and while there may have been an unfolding of the doctrines, an enlargement of our understanding of them, there is nothing in our doctrines on Deity today but what was germinally present in that first great revelation received by the Prophet Joseph Smith, in which God made himself known once more to a prophet, who knew him, as Moses did, face to face—as a man knows his friend.


Salt Lake City,
December, 1903.

* * * * * 



I am very grateful for the privilege of being allowed space in your magazine to reply to Mr. B. H. Roberts’ defense of the “Mormon Views of the Deity.”

1. First, Mr. Roberts asserts: “Jesus came with no abstract definition of God.” He certainly gave a partial definition of God when declaring: “God is a spirit” (John 4: 24). Now, although we must believe whatever God reveals to us upon one single word of his, just as firmly as upon a thousand, nevertheless, I will add that St. Paul, who solemnly testifies that he received of the Lord that which he delivered unto the Christians, (I Cor. 11: 23) also states: “The Lord is a spirit” (II Cor. 3: 17).

I am well aware that the Latter-day Saints interpret those texts as meaning a spirit clothed with a body, but what nearly the whole of mankind, Christians, Jews, and Mohammedans, have believed for ages cannot be upset by gratuitous assertions of a religious innovator of this last century. Again, the context of the Bible admits of no such interpretation. And if anyone should still hesitate to accept the universally received meaning of the word spirit, our risen Savior settles the matter. As his disciples, upon first seeing him after his resurrection, were troubled and frightened, supposing they beheld a spirit, Jesus reassured them, saying, “A spirit hath not flesh and bones as you see me to have” (Luke 24: 37-39).

2. Another very strong and explicit statement is: “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona [son of John] because flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but my Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 16: 17). As Christ has asked, “What do men say the Son of Man is” (Matt. 16: 13). There is an evident antithesis and contrast between the opinion of men and the profession of Peter, which is based upon revelation. The striking opposition between men, flesh and blood, and the Father, evidently conveys the sense that God hath not flesh and blood like man, but is a spirit.

3. That God is a spirit is proved moreover by the fact that lie is called invisible in the Bible. All material beings are visible. Absolutely invisible beings are immaterial or bodiless: God is absolutely invisible, therefore God is immaterial or bodiless.

Moses’ unshaken faith is thus described by St. Paul: “He was strong as seeing him that is invisible” (Heb. 11: 27).

“No man hath seen God at any time” (I John 4: 12).

“The King of kings—whom no man hath seen nor can see.” (I Tim. 15: 16).

In the light of these clear, revealed statements, how shall we explain the various apparitions of God mentioned in the Bible? Tertullian (A. D. 160-245), Ambrose (330-397), Augustine (354-430), and other Fathers, whose deep scholarship is acknowledged by Protestants and Catholics alike, informs [sic] us that God the Father is called invisible because he never appeared to bodily eyes; whereas the Son manifested himself as an angel, or through an angel, and as man after his incarnation. He is the eternal revelation of the Father. It is necessary to remark that whenever the eternal Son of God, or angels at God’s behest, showed themselves to man, they became visible only through a body or a material garb assumed for the occasion (see Cardinal Newman’s “Development of Christian Doctrine,” 9th edition, pp. 136 and 138).

I am well aware of St. Paul’s, “We now see as through a glass darkly, but then face to face” (I Cor. 12: 13.) “In thy light we shall see light (Ps. 35: 10).

The first and chief element of the happiness of heaven wilt consist in the beatific vision; that is, in seeing God face to face, unveiled as he really is. The “face to face” however is, literally true only of our blessed Savior who ascended into heaven with his sacred body. Otherwise, as God is a spirit, he has no body and consequently no face. In paradise, spirits (angels and our souls) see spirits. We shall see God and angels, not with the eye of the body, nor by the vibrations of cosmic light, but with the spiritual eye, with the soul’s intellectual perception, elevated by a supernatural influx from God. As in ordinary vision, the image of an object is impressed on the retina, so in the beatific vision, the perfect image of God will be reflected on the soul, impressing on it a vivid representation of him. We shall thus enjoy an intellectual possession of him, very different from our possession of earthly things.

4. That angels as well as God are bodiless beings, is also clearly proved by Holy Writ. To which of the angels said he at any time: “Sit on my right hand till I make thy enemies thy footstool? Are they not all ministering spirits sent to minister for them who shall receive the inheritance of salvation?” (Heb. 1: 13, 14). Again, “Our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness” (Eph. 6: 12).

Could plainer words be found to teach that angels, both good and bad, are spirits, devoid of bodies? Now, the Creator is certainly more perfect than his creatures, and pure minds are more perfect than minds united to bodies (men). [“The corruptible body is a load upon the soul, and the earthly habitation presseth down the mind” (Wis. 9: 15). “Who shall deliver me from this body of death?” (St. Paul).] Therefore, the Creator is a pure spirit.

5. It is a well known fact that all men, after the example of the inspired Writings, make frequent use of the figure called anthropomorphism, attributing to the Deity a human body, human members, human passions, etc.; and that is done, not to imply that God is possessed of form, limbs, etc., but simply to make spiritual things or certain truths more intelligible to man, who, while he tarries in this world, can perceive things and even ideas only through his senses or through bodily organs.

That even the Latter-day Saints thus understand such expressions is evident from their catechism (chapter 5: Q. 9). Yet it is from certain expressions of the same inspired Book that they conclude that God has a body. Now I contend that, if we must understand the Bible literally in those passages (God created man in his own image, (Genesis 1: 27, and Genesis 32: 24, etc., and Exodus 24: 9, etc.) from which they attempt to prove that God has a body, we must interpret it literally other similar passages: so that if Moses, etc., really saw the feet of God (Exodus 24: 10), then we must hold that the real hand of God is meant by David in (Psalm 138) (Hebrew Bible Ps. 139; 13: 9; 9; 10): “If I take my wings early in the morning, and dwell in the uttermost part of the sea, even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.” And as the Psalmist says also: “Whither shall I flee from thy face? If I ascend into heaven, thou art there; if I descend into hell, thou art there” (Psalm 139: 7, 8). Have we then according to “Mormon” standards, not the right to infer that God has such a long hand as to extend to the uttermost parts of the sea, and such an extremely long face, reaching from heaven to hell? To this, I am sure, even the gloomiest Protestants would object. By the way, should we not also conclude that David had wings? (“If I take my wings early in the morning, and fly,” etc.) unless we admit that the royal Prophet anticipated our modern scientists, the Brazilian Santos-Dumont, Professor Zahm of Notre Dame, Ind., etc., in experimenting with flying machines.

6. A sixth proof of the truth that God has not a body, and therefore is not an exalted man, is the fact of the incarnation of the Son of God. The “Mormons” admit that Jesus Christ is the Great I Am, (from all eternity to all eternity) therefore, God (Doctrine and Covenants section 39). By the by, I see no mention of this fundamental Christian truth of the incarnation, in the sacred books of the Latter-day Saints, not even in their catechism. Yet what is more capable of winning cold hearted, careless people to the love of God than the exposition of this mystery which has been hidden for ages and generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: (Col. 1:26) “God so loved the world as to give us his only begotten Son, that whosoever beliveth in him may not perish but may have everlasting life” (John 3: 16.)

So the “Mormons” admit that Jesus Christ is God for all eternity. The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ became a man at a specified time; therefore, Jesus Christ, or God was not man before that specified time.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1: 1-14). It is plain that the Son of God became flesh only at the time of his sojourn on earth. Now, had he been flesh, or man, before, as “Mormons” hold, how could he become what he was already from all eternity? No; not from the beginning of the world, but only now once, at the end of ages, he (Jesus) hath appeared for the destruction of sin, by the sacrifice of himself. When be came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and oblation thou wouldst not, but a body thou hast fitted to me.” Then said I: “Behold I come” (Heb. 9: 26 and 10: 5, 7). “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who being in the form (nature, glory, majesty) of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God (deemed it not fitting to assume to his human nature the glory and majesty due him without labor and suffering) but emptied (stripped) himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men and in habit (in his whole exterior) found as a man (Philip. 2:5,) etc. Again: “In him (Christ) dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead corporally” (Col. 2: 9). Had God a body (Latin corpus) what sense would there be in St. Paul’s corporally or bodily? All save “Mormons,” understand St. Paul to mean that in Christ the true God manifested himself in the flesh, or as man.

“Because the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself in like manner hath been partaker of the same, that through death he might destroy him who hath the empire of death. For nowhere doth he take hold of the angels, but the seed of Abraham, he taketh hold, wherefore, it behooved him in all things to be made like unto his brethren” (Heb. 2: 14.16). “Every spirit which confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God” (I John 4: 2). “Many seducers are gone out into the world who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh” (II John 1: 7). Why do the New Testament writers lay so much stress upon the taking of flesh by Jesus Christ? Evidently we must see in those expressions (the Word was made flesh, etc.) more than a Hebraism, for “He became man” (Gen. 6: 12; Is. 40: 5). The inspired authors want to teach us humility by impressing upon our minds the excessive abasement of the Eternal Son of God in uniting his Divinity, not to the nature of an angel, but to that of an inferior creature, as man is. They have still the further aim of impuning the heretics, of the early days of the Church the Docetae, Cerinthus, Ebion, etc., who, attributing the flesh to an evil principle, and therefore holding it as utterly polluted, maintained that Christ had not a real body of flesh but only an apparent body. This we learn from SS. Irenaeus, Jerome, Clem. of Alex., etc.

7. Another proof that God is not an exalted man; that is, that he was not what we are now, and became perfected into God, is the direct statement of the Bible: “God is not as a man that he should lie, nor as the Son of man that he should be changed” (Num. 23: 19). “I will not execute the fierceness of my wrath because I am God and not man” (Psalm 11: 19).

8. Another most striking proof is to be found in God’s immutability. The Latter-day Saints teach that God was once imperfect, as man is; the Bible teaches the very opposite:”Thou art always the self-same” (Psalm 101:26). “l am the Lord and I change not” (Mal. 3: 6). “The Father of lights with whom there is no change nor shadow of alteration.” (The Latin alter means other. So the Lord is never other from all eternity.) (James 1: 17).

9. Finally, the Latter-day Saints’ theory of the Man-God supposes a past and present with God. The Bible excludes that succession of time, and speaks ofGod as the Everlasting Present “I Am Who Am.” “Before Abraham was, I am.” “From eternity and to eternity thou art God” (Psalm 89: 2). “His power is an everlasting power” (Daniel 7: 14).



1. The following note preceded Rev. Van Der Donckt’s reply, when published in the Improvement Era: “In the first two numbers of the present volume of the Era, an article on the Characteristics of the Deity from a “Mormon” View Point, appeared from the pen of Elder B. H. Roberts. It was natural that ministers of the Christian denominations should differ from the views there expressed. Shortly after its appearance, a communication was received from Reverend Van Der Donckt, of the Catholic church, of Pocatello, Idaho, asking that a reply which he had written might be printed in the Era. His article is a splendid exposition of the generally accepted Christian views of God, well written and to the point, and which we think will be read with pleasure by all who are interested in the subject. We must, of course, dissent from many of the deductions with which we cannot at all agree, but we think the presentation of the argument from the other side will be of value to the Elders who go forth to preach the Gospel, as showing them what they must meet on this subject. It is therefore presented in full; the Era, of course, reserving the right to print any reply that may be deemed necessary.—Editors.”

* * * * *



I have read with great interest and I trust with due care the Rev. C. Van Der Donckt’s Reply to my discourse on “Mormon Doctrine of Deity.” With regard to his Reply in general, I observe three things: first, the Reverend gentleman labors with some pains to demonstrate that “Mormon” views of Deity with respect to the form and nature of God are at variance with the Catholic and even the orthodox Protestant views on that subject; second, the “Mormon” views of Deity are in conflict with the accepted Christian philosophy; third, that “Mormon” doctrines stand in sharp contrast to both Catholic and Protestant ideas repecting the unity of God. All this is easily proved; and would have been conceded cheerfully without proofs. “Mormons” not only admit the variances but glory in them. The foregoing, however, is not the issue between Mr. Van Der Donckt and myself. After the variances referred to are admitted, these questions remain: Which is most in agreement with what God has revealed concerning his form and nature, “Mormon” or orthodox Christian doctrine? Which is most in harmony with sound reason and the scriptures, “Mormon” doctrine, or the commonly accepted Christian philosophy? Which in their teaching presents the true doctrine of God’s unity, “Mormons” or orthodox Christians? These are the issues; and so far as the Reverend gentleman has maintained the orthodox Christian doctrine against the “Mormon” doctrine, I undertake to controvert his arguments.


Following the order of my treatise, the gentleman first deals with the form of God. His first premise is that “God is a Spirit,” quoting the words of the Savior (John 4: 24;) [sic] and Paul’s words, “The Lord is a spirit,” (II Cor. 3: 17). He then argues that a spirit is different from a man, and quotes the remark of Jesus to his disciples, when he appeared to them after his resurrection: “A spirit hath not flesh and hones as ye see me have” (Luke 24: 37-39). Also the words of Jesus to Peter, “Flesh and blood hath not revealed it [that is, that Jesus is the Christ] unto thee, but my Father who is in heaven.” (Matt. 16: 17.) The gentleman in all this sees a striking contrast between men, flesh and blood, and the Father; which “conveys the sense that God hath not flesh and blood like man, but is a spirit.”

That God is a spirit Mr. V. holds is proved also from his being called “invisible” in the Bible; and from this premise argues: “All material beings are visible. Absolutely invisible beings are immaterial, or bodiless:” and therefore, to help the gentleman out a little, not like man in form.

With reference to the passage—”Flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father who is in heaven,” and the Reverend gentleman’s remarks thereon, I wish to say, in passing, that the antithesis between man and God in the passage extends merely to the fact that the source of Peter’s revelation was God, not man; and is no attempt at defining a difference between the nature of God and the nature of man. Here also I may say that the Latter-day Saints do not hold that God is a personage of flesh and blood, but a personage of flesh and bone, inhabited by a spirit, just as Jesus was after his resurrection. Joseph Smith taught concerning the resurrection that “all [men] will be raised by the power of God, having spirit in their bodies, and not blood.”1 Again, in speaking of the general assembly and church of the first born in heaven (Heb. 12: 23), he said: “Flesh and blood cannot go there; but flesh and bones, quickened by the Spirit of God, can.”2 So that it must be remembered throughout this discussion that the Latter-day Saints do not believe that God is a personage of flesh and blood; but a personage of flesh and bone and spirit, united.

I would remind the reader, also, that while Jesus said, “God is a spirit,” and that a spirit “hath not flesh and bone as ye see me have,” he nowhere says that a spirit is immaterial or not substance. That is a conclusion drawn by the theologians from the false philosophy of the ancient pagans.

But let us examine these premises and arguments of Mr. Van Der Donckt, more in detail. The inspired apostle says: “Our God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12: 29). “Now,” to use the words of Mr. V., “although we must believe whatever God reveals to us upon one single word of his, just as firmly as upon a thousand; nevertheless, I will add” that Moses, who solemnly received the word from God which he delivered unto Israel, also says, “The Lord thy God is a consuming fire” (Exod. 4: 24). Is Mr. V. ready to believe on these solemn assertions of scripture—hence of the Lord—that God is a fire, and therefore that fire is God? Or would he insist upon interpreting these passages by others, and by reason? Would he not want to quote Moses again where he says, “Thy God is * * * as a consuming fire” (Ex 9: 3), and accept this as a reasonable interpretation of the passage stating so definitely that “God is a fire”?

Again, “God is light” (1 John 1: 5). Would Mr. V. from that definition of God believe and teach that God is light, mere cosmic light? Or would he find an interpretation, or explanation necessary? And still again, “God is love” (I John 4: 7, 16). Love is an attribute of mind, of spirit; must one conclude then from this definition that God is a mere attribute of mind? These reflections will demonstrate that these definitions of God, so far as they are such, together with the one with which Mr. V. commences his argument, “God is a Spirit,” need defining. He endeavors to anticipate the “Mormon” answer to this argument by saying:

I am well aware that the Latter-day Saints interpret those texts as meaning a spirit clothed with a body, but what nearly the whole of mankind, Christians, Jews, and Mohammedans, have believed for ages, cannot be upset by the gratuitous assertions of a religious innovator of this last century.

At this point I will not appeal to or quote the “gratuitous assertions of a religious innovator of this last century”—meaning Joseph Smith. There is no need of that. If I were an unbeliever in the true Deity of Christ, I might take up the gentleman’s argument in this way: You say God is a spirit, and hence bodiless, immaterial? His answer must be, “Yes.” But Jesus says, “a spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye see me have”—hence Jesus is not God, because he is a personage of flesh and bone, in the form of man—not bodiless or immaterial. This, of course, is not my point. I merely refer to it in the beaten way of good fellowship, and by way of caution to my Catholic friend, who, I am sure, in his way, is as anxious to maintain the true Deity of the Nazarene as I am; but his method of handling the text, “God is a spirit,” might lead him into serious difficulty in upholding the truth that Jesus was and is true Deity, if in argument with an infidel.

But now for the “Mormon” exposition of the text. Is Jesus Christ God? Was he God as he stood there among his disciples in his glorious and, to use Mr. V.’s own word, “sacred,” resurrected body? There is but one answer that the Reverend Catholic gentleman or any orthodox Protestant can give, and that is in the affirmative—”yes, Jesus is God.”3 But “God is a spirit!” True, he is; but Jesus is a spirit inside a body—inside an immortal, indestructible body of flesh and bone; therefore, if Jesus is God, and God is a spirit, he is an embodied spirit, just as the Latter-day Saints teach.

Now let it be understood that Latter-day Saints are not so foolish as to believe that so much phosphate, lime, carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen as may compose the body of a perfected man, is God. They recognize the fact that the body without the spirit is dead, being alone; but the spirit having through natural processes gathered to itself a body, and that body having been purified by the power of God—who has promised in holy scripture that he will “change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself” (Phil. 3: 20, 21)—when this is done, even the body takes upon it some of the divine nature. It indeed becomes “sacred,” and something more than “sacred”—it becomes incorporated with and forever united to, a spirit that is divine, and henceforth becomes an integral part of God. Of which process, of a divine spirit taking on a body of flesh and bone, Jesus Christ is the most perfect example.

At this point, I shall pass for the present a few items that stand next in order in Mr. Van Der Donckt’s argument, that I may consider some statements and arguments of his made further on in the “Reply,” because they are immediately related to what has just been said. Mr. V. holds that it is proved by Holy Writ that “angels as well as God are bodiless beings.” After quoting passages of scripture in support of this statement, he then adds: “Could plainer words be found to teach that angels, both good and bad, are spirits, devoid of bodies? Now, the Creator is certainly more perefct than his creatures, and pure minds are more perfect than minds united to bodies4 (men).” In support of which he quotes the following: “The corruptible body is a load upon the soul, and the earthly habitation presseth down the mind” (Wisdom 9: 15)5; and Paul’s saying, “who shall deliver me from this body of death?6” (Rom. 6: 24). Therefore the Creator is a pure spirit.

I fear Mr. V. in these statements has run into more difficulty. Let us see. According to his doctrine, “Angels as well as God are bodiless beings.” “Angels, both good and bad, are spirits, devoid of bodies. The Creator is more perfect than his creatures, and pure minds [minds separated from bodies] are more perfect than minds united to bodies. * * * Therefore the Creator is a pure spirit.” But where does this leave Jesus?

Was and is Jesus God—true Deity?


But Jesus is a spirit and body united into one glorious personage. His mind was and is now united to and dwelling in a body. Our Catholic friend says, “pure minds [i.e. minds not united to bodies] are more perfect than minds united to bodies.” He also says, “Angels, both good and bad, are spirits (i.e. minds) devoid of bodies.” Therefore, it must follow from his premises and argument that angels are superior to Jesus since his spirit is united to a body, while they are minds not united to bodies! I will not press the point, that the same conclusions.could be drawn from his premises and argument with reference even to bad spirits, whom he says are bodiless, and hence, upon his theory, superior to minds or spirits united to bodies, for that would be ungenerous upon my part, and would lay upon his faulty argument the imputation of awful blasphemy, which I am sure was not intended and would be as revolting to him as it would be to myself. Mr. V., I am sure, would contend as earnestly as I would that Jesus is superior to the angels, though it is perfectly clear that he is a spirit united to a body. “When he had by himself purged our sins, [Jesus] sat down on the right hand of the majesty on high; being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. * * * And again, when he bringeth in the first begotten into the world, he saith, and let all the angels of God worship him. And of the angels he saith, who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire. But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever” (Heb. 1: 3-8). In this passage the superiority of Jesus over the angels is manifested in four ways: first, by the direct affirmation of God, that he was made “better” than the angels; second, that by inheritance he obtained a more Exalted name; third, that the angels are commanded to worship him; fourth, God, the Father, addressing Jesus, said, “Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever.” In this passage the Father directly addresses Jesus by the title “God.” And as God is exalted above all angels, Jesus must be superior to angels, for he is “God,” if we may believe the words of the Father—whom to disbelieve would be blasphemy.

Mr. Van Der Donckt admits in his argument, of course, that Jesus is God; and also admits the persistence of him in the physical condition in which he left the earth with his resurrected body. For in explaining the scripture passage about seeing God “face to face,” he remarks:

The first and chief element of the happiness of heaven will consist in the beatific vision; that is, in seeing God face to face, unveiled, as he really is. The “face to face,” however, is literally true only of our blessed Savior, who ascended into heaven with his sacred body. Otherwise, as God is a spirit, he has no body, and, consequently, no face.

From this it is clear that, in the mind of the Reverend gentleman, Jesus not only ascended into heaven with his “sacred body,” but now dwells there spirit and body united; and the blessed, who shall inherit heaven will see him there literally face te face.”7 Otherwise than this “face to face” view of Jesus—according to Mr. V.——we shall only see God, since he is a spirit, “with the spiritual eye; with the soul’s intellectual perception, elevated by a supernatural influx from God!” This admission with reference to Jesus and his existence as an immortal personage of flesh and bone, and our literal view of him in heaven “face to face,” draws with it some consequences which my Catholic friend evidently overlooked. In the creed usually named after St. Athanasius, it is said: “Such as the Father is, such is the Son.” I take it that this, in the view of those who accept the Athanasian creed, has reference to the “substance of the Father,” as well as to other things pertaining to him; for, according to that creed, the “substance” of the Father and Son is one and undivided. “We worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity,” says the creed; “neither confounding the persons nor dividing the substance.” It must be, therefore, according to Mr. V.’s creed, that all the “substance” of God there is, is in Jesus Christ, as well as the attributes of God. The terms of the creed forbid us believing that part of the “substance” of God was enclosed in the flesh and bone body of Jesus, and the remainder existed outside of that body; for that would be dividing the “substance” of God, a thing the Athanasian creed forbids: therefore, all the “substance” of God inhabits the body of Jesus Christ, and he is wholly God. In this view of the subject, there is no God except the Deity enclosed in the flesh and body of Jesus Christ. But that would place our Catholic friend—after all he has said about God being a spirit, and about the superiority of pure minds (i.e. spirits not united to bodies) over minds united to bodies—under the necessity of accepting as God, the Supreme, the Almighty, a personage that is a spirit and body united in one glorious personage, and in form like man—a thing most abhorrent to our friend’s principles.

On the other hand, if it be contended that besides the Son of God, Jesus, a personage of flesh and bone and spirit, there exists God, a spirit, then there is likely to arise again the conception of the “substance” being divided, and the existence of two individual Gods instead of one. The one a spirit unembodied, and the other a spirit enclosed in a body of flesh and bone—the glorified, exalted Man, Christ. This danger is also increased by the part of the creed now being considered, viz., “Such as the Father is, such is the Son;” for it must follow, if this be true that such as the Son is, such is the Father also. And this, must hold with reference to God, wholly; to his substance, essence, personality, form, as well as to all attributes possessed, or else it is not true at all. And if true, since we know that Jesus is an immortal being of flesh and bone and spirit united into one glorious personage (and Mr. V. admits that, and also that the blessed in heaven shall see him as such a personage, literally “face to face”), then God the Father must be the same, a personage of flesh and bone and spirit united—a thing most abhorrent to Mr. V’s principles.

[This section continues for another 90 pages.]



1. Discourse delivered at Nauvoo, March 20, 1842. Mi11. Star, Vol. xix, p. 213.

2. Discourse delivered at Nauvoo, Oct. 9, 1843. Mill. Star, Vol. xxii, p. 231.

3. “His acts proved his Deity; Jesus is Jehovah, and therefore we sing unto him as the Lord.” “Treasury of David” (Spurgeon). Vol. iv, p. 371.

4. Italics are mine.

5. This is a book received by the Catholic Church on alleged apostolical tradition, but not found in the Hebrew Bible nor Protes tant versions of the Bible.

6. Quoted thus by Mr. V. In both Catholic and Protestant Bibles it stands: “Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”

7. In an article for the Improvement Era, on the Doctrines and Claims of the Catholic Church, Bishop Scanlan, of Salt Lake City, also said of the Divinity of Christ; “The Catholic Church teaches that Jesus Christ is not a mere elect child or special creation of God, or in any sense or manner a creature, but that he is the eternal and only Son of God, God of God, Light of Light; the expression of the Eternal Father, with whom he is one in nature and substance, and to whom he is equal in all divine attributes, power and glory.”—Improvement Era, vol. i, p. 14.

[Note: Punctuation in the above, however incorrect, has been maintained from the original.]