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.
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Rees, Robert A.
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54 I Dialogue wide-ranging as any available and should be consulted carefully if for no other reason than its references. Roberts7 brief discussion48 is valuable. That Mormonism accepts the view that living things possess spirits is well known as a general concept; man's spirit, of course, is said to be the result of a spirit birth in a pre-mortal state. That "spirit/7 "spirits,77 (/^"life," etc.), are material is likewise clear: "There is no such thing as immaterial matter. All spirit is matter, but it is more fine or pure, and can only be discerned by purer eyes; . . . it is all matter.7749 This canonized statement has been the justification for a long series of missionary tracts and doctrinal assertions that have spelled out very clearly that Mormonism is a materialistic system. There can be no identification whatever with sentiments of immateriality. Immateriality, to the early Mormons, was virtually synonymous with atheism; in either case, one ended up with his hopes pinned on nothing. Beyond this point, however, the thinking becomes more tortuous. The philosophically-minded Pratt brothers, Orson and Parley, were by far the most expansive and explicit on the matter. But certain aspects of Orson's writings eventually drew public denouncement from the First Presidency under Brigham Young.50 Parley's master work, decades after his death, was subjected to a rather unscrupulous editing and reworking, anonymously and without any warning to subsequent readers. Later editions passed off as Parley's some teachings quite foreign to those of the original text.51 These incidents, as perhaps no others in Mormonism, emphasize the fact that only the First Presidency comprises an authoritative source for doctrinal analysis. But from all the heady teachings on spirit during these decades comes a perception germane to our present consideration. The Pratts worried about the spirit natures of animals and plants, becoming in many ways almost Aristotelean, and these writings were not among those censured. The sentiment went further, to include the earth itself as a living thing by virtue of its having spirit or a spirit; indeed it was taught that all matter was possessed of spirit, that spirit pervades all matter. The material of the body of a man is thus possessed of spirit independent from his spirit. Spirit or life is thus a property of matter itself. From here, we can do no better than to let Brigham Young develop it directly, in an 1856 discourse. Speaking of "natural, true philosophy," and developing the idea that the processes associated with death are really a manifestation of inherent life in matter, he continues: What is commonly called death does not destroy the body, it only causes a separation of spirit and body, but the principle of life, inherent in the native elements, of which the body is composed, still continues with the particles of that body and causes it to decay, to dissolve itself into the elements of which it was composed, and all of which continue to have life. When the spirit given to man leaves the body, the tabernacle begins to decompose, is that death? No, death only separates the spirit and body, and a principle of life still operates in the untenanted tabernacle, but in a different way, and producing different effects from those observed while it was tenanted by the spirit. There is not a particle of element which is not filled with life, and all space is filled with element; there is no such thing as empty space, though some philosophers contend that there is. Life in various proportions, combinations, conditions, etc., fills all matter. Is there life in a tree when it ceases to put forth leaves? You see it standing upright, and when it ceases to bear leaves and fruit you say it is dead, but that is a mistake. It still has life, but that life operates upon the tree in another way, and continues to operate until it resolves it to the native elements. It is life in another condition that begins to operate upon man, upon animal, upon vegetation, and upon minerals when we see the change termed dissolution. There is life in the material of the fleshly tabernacle, independent of the spirit given of God to