Periodicals; Mormons; Religious thought; Philosophy and religion
Independent national quarterly established to express Mormon culture and examine the relevance of religion to secular life. It is edited by Mormons who wish to bring their faith into dialogue with human experience as a whole and to foster artistic and scholarly achievement based on their cultural heritage. The journal encourages a variety of viewpoints; although every effort is made to insure accurate scholarship and responsible judgment, the views expressed are those of the individual authors and are not necessarily those of the Mormon Church or of the editors.
Dialogue Foundation, 900 Hilgard Avenue, Los Angeles, California 90024
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Rees, Robert A.
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46 I Dialogue i. Creation Ex Nihilo A formal definition of this view is ". . . God brings the entire substance of a thing into existence from a state of non-existence . . . what is peculiar to creation is the entire absence of any prior subject-matter. . . ."19 The doctrine is elsewhere explained as God's "speaking into being" everything except Himself.20 The doctrine in its contested form meant literally out of nothing; more recent attempts to cast it in the light of matter-energy conversions are distortions that betray the earlier meaning. The doctrine, of course, finds little place in contemporary science, which deals with conversions of matter and of energy, but is generally foreign to the idea of something coming from nothing. It is difficult to find in Mormonism a philosophical doctrine that has been more consistently and fervently denounced, that is more incompatible with Mormon theology, than creation ex nihilo. The concept is usually derived straight from Gen. l :i: "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth," and it is right there that Joseph Smith chose to set the theologians straight: Now I ask all the learned men who hear me, why the learned men who are preaching salvation say, that God created the heavens and the earth out of nothing, and the reason is they are unlearned; they account it blasphemy to contradict the idea, they will call you a fool.—I know more than all the world put together, and the Holy Ghost within me comprehends more than all the world, and I will associate with it. The word create came from the word baurau; it does not mean so; it means to organize; the same as a man would organize a ship. Hence we infer that God had materials to organize the world out of chaos; chaotic matter, which is element, and in which dwells all the glory. Element had an existence from the time he had. The pure principles of element, are principles that can never be destroyed. They may be organized and re-organized; but not destroyed.21 This view of Joseph's has been affirmed ever since in Mormonism. Brigham Young continually preached it,22 as did his contemporaries among the general authorities. Creation ex nihilo has further meaning as well: that all things were created directly by God, and therefore have contingent being.23 In this view, only God had necessary being; all else is dependent (contingent) on Him for both its existence and continued maintenance. This concept leads to a morass of theological difficulties, not the least of which are responsibility for evil and denial of the free agency of man.24 Mormonism, while it does not escape completely from some of these difficulties, begins from a completely different base. For one thing, God is not the creator of matter, as is indicated in the above statement from the founder of the faith. "Element had an existence from the time he had ... it had no beginning, and can have no end." The statement (part of a funeral sermon) continues: ... so I must come to the resurrection of the dead, the soul, the mind of man, the immortal spirit. All men say God created it in the beginning. The very idea lessens man in my estimation; I do not believe the doctrine, I know better. Hear it all ye ends of the world, for God has told me so. I will make a man appear a fool before I get through, if you don't believe it. I am going to tell of things more noble—we say that God himself is a self existing God; who told you so? it is correct enough, but how did it get into your heads? Who told you that man did not exist in like manner upon the same principles? (refers to the old Bible,) how does it read in the Hebrew? It don't say so in the Hebrew, it says God made man out of the earth, and put into him Adam's spirit, and so became a living body. The mind of man is as immortal as God himself. I know that my testimony is true, hence when I talk to these mourners; what have they lost, they are only seperated from their bodies for a short season; their spirits existed co-equal with God, and they now exist in a place where they converse together, the same as we do on the earth. Is it logic to say that a spirit is immortal, and yet have a beginning? Because if a spirit have a beginning it will