For the sake of expediency, I am going to take down my previous two posts in this series. While initially, I had intended to allow Widtsoe to speak for himself, the way I was parsing his quotes by topic was creating some confusion where it otherwise would not be, and was causing me to respond too often â€œwait and seeâ€ to issues which came up. More important, I was frankly just being lazy in my blogging. I hope no one is offended as my removing the two prior posts will delete comments. (more…)
In 1937, John A. Widtsoe presented the following test as a measure of spirituality. I really like what he says:
Spirituality in man or woman may be recognized by simple tests, of which the three following are of major importance:
THe Following is a lengthy excerpt from evidences and reconciliations, which was quite possibly the most popular book by John A. Widtsoe. In it he rejects reincarnation. I submit it here for your amusement and comment. For those concerned with copywrite issues or interested in reading more of evidences and reconciliations, the whole text is available online here.
Three doctrines lie at the foundation of belief in reincarnation.
First, the pre-existence of the “soul” of man; second, the indestructibility of the “soul” of man after death; and, third, the possibility of constant development of the pre-existent, eternal “soul.” These are all necessary doctrines to the thinking mind. They are supported by divine revelation. But, in the explanations and applications of these truths, the proponents of reincarnation have failed dismally, and have shown how the semblance of truth, becoming untruth, may lead men into vast fields of deception…
Ok, so Iâ€™ve given up on orderly systematic analysis of this book. Why? Because the more I read of Widtsoe, the more I see that he begins ideas in one chapter and ends them much later. (For example, his view of epistemology from chapter 2 is returned to in Chapter 33).
For the past two weeks I have been engaged in reading, thinking about, and reviewing John A. Widtsoeâ€™s â€œA Rational Theologyâ€. While I enjoy several of Elder Widtsoeâ€™s concepts regarding the pre-mortal existence, the book is lacking in a few areas which attribute to the reason why it has not had a longer lasting impression on our religion, and why it has sort of gone away from our religion.
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€
I would like to take some time to evaluate how Widtsoe’s teachings have held up over time and what we can learn today from his “rational theology”. 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 1-4 for those interested in turning to the source. Six years after writing this Church Manual, John A. Widtsoe was ordained an apostle.
Epistemology– After briefly introducing the purpose of his work, Widtsoe goes into a brief explanation of “How Knowledge is Gained” which acts both as an epistemology as well as an explanation of the methodology used to derive the contents which follow in the book. Widtsoe’s exposition is fairly simple: We rely on our senses, but without assistance, this would limit us to a very small part of the universe. This assistance or â€œsixth senseâ€ exists and can be received. In Widtsoe’s own words â€œBy Proper preparation and exertion he may intercept messages from out of the directly unknown, as complete as this may be done by man-made instruments.