1915 must have been a great year to be a literate Mormon. Talmage produced his Opus, â€œJesus the Christâ€, for use in Sunday School Classes, and John A. Widtsoe produced â€œA Rational Theologyâ€ for the manual for Priesthood. I would like to take some time to evaluate how Widtsoeâ€™s teachings have held up over time and what we can learn today from his â€œrational theologyâ€. I thought it would be fun to see how my conceptions of the book evolve while I read through, this being my first full introduction to Widtsoe. This post will review Chapters 5-7 for those interested in turning to the source. I previously discussed chapters 1-4 here. The book is available for free here.
The Great Law- Chapter 5 sets up the underlying â€œgreat lawâ€ of the universe. As a preface to this, Widtsoe reminds us that the universe is ordered. He calls it â€œa universe controlled by intelligence under the law of cause and effect.â€ This means that the same act, under the same conditions will produce the same results. Thus the universe is not chaotic or filled with confusion, though it may be extremely complex and lacking â€œquiescenceâ€ [ie- to be still, inactive or dormant]. In fact, dormancy is impossible in a universe where matter, energy, and intelligence are eternal. Per Widtsoe, this lack of dormancy among learning intelligent beings means that there is an increase in complexity as reactions or changes take place among the basic components of the universe. â€œEach set of new effects becomes the cause of still other effectsâ€¦increasing complexity or variety would seem to be the resultant lawâ€¦.this is the great law of natureâ€¦â€