The Essential Orson Pratt
Foreword by David J. Whittaker
“Questions on the Origin of Man,” “Mormon Philosophy. Space, Duration, and Matter,”
“Questions on the Present State of Man,” and “Angels”
(from The New York Messenger, 6 September, 13 September,
20 September, 27 September, and 18 October 1845)
I. “Questions on the Origin of Man”
[p.29]O MAN! The noblest inhabitant of earth!—Wonderful in thy physical construction! And more wonderful still in thy mental constitution!
Who art thou?—Whence thine origin?
Art thou a creature of chance—of fortuitous origin—the result of the operations of blind, unconscious, and unintelligent matter?
Whence that noble intelligence—that self moving principle of thy nature?
Is it the effect of organization—the product of the combination and arrangement of unintelligent atoms?
Can unintelligent atoms originate motion?
Can they at all unite or combine themselves together?
Can they display any wisdom, order, or design in their union, such as is manifested in the physical constitution of man?
If intelligence is not the effect of organization, and organization is not the effect of chance, then does it not follow, that some, if not all, the elementary atoms of thy nature were intelligent before their union, while yet in a separate and uncombined state? Or wilt thou contend that their union has been eternal, without beginning, and that they never existed separately and uncombined?
If their organization is not eternal! Then tell us how so great a work was accomplished; how so skilful, so marvelous, and so useful a mechanism was produced?
Did the elementary atoms hold a council together, and enter into an agreement of an eternal union, for each others benefit and exaltation in the scale of being?
Did they in accordance with this agreement, unite themselves together by virtue of their own intelligence, and self-moving capacities?
Or, wast thou, O man, fashioned from the elements by the physical or mental power of some being: himself eternal—without beginning?
Or, wast thou begotten and born, and the scattered elements of thy [p.30]nature by the laws of generation organized and arranged in their proper position?
If so, who are thy father and mother?
Whence the first pair?
Has there been an eternal succession of father and son?
Or is there a first in this grand scale of being—in this golden chain of intelligent existence?
Speak, O man, if thou knowest, and declare thine origin!! Tell us of what thy mental and physical constitution consists! Does it consist both of intelligent and unintelligent matter?
If so, were both these kinds of matter organized at the same time?
Or was the intelligent part organized first, and afterwards united to the unintelligent part?
If so, when, and by what process, was the intelligent part organized?
Is God, the father of thy spirit?
Art thou, indeed, of so noble an origin?
If so, when wast thou begotten?
Wast thou among the “SONS OF GOD” who “SHOUTED FOR JOY,” when the foundations of the earth were laid?
Did thou then rejoice in anticipation of a future residence on this earth?
On what planet or world didst thou then reside?
Wast thou acquainted with all the family of spirits—the sons and daughters of thy Father?
Canst thou tell us the number of thy brothers and thy sisters?
Was Jesus Christ the oldest — “THE FIRST BORN OF EVERY CREATURE”— “The beginning of the creation of God?”
Canst thou tell us, O man, what period of time elapsed between thy birth-day, and the birth-day of Jesus Christ, “the first born?”
Is the birth-day of every spirit recorded and deposited in the sacred archives of heaven?
What were thy capacities, and what the extent of thy knowledge at that time?
What were the rules, regulations, and laws of this celestial family of spirits?
What were the rewards and penalties, following obedience or disobedience?
Were there any family quarrels, or contentions or strifes among them?
Did any produce such discord and disturbance, that their father was under the necessity of banishing them from the society of the rest of the family, to preserve peace and good order?
If so, were there any conditions or provisions made for their restoration?
[p.31]Or were their crimes of that nature and magnitude, as to totally deprive them of any future exaltation in the scale of their being?
Can they ever be placed in a condition to promulgate their own species, and thus increase their subjects in the kingdom of darkness?
Or is the law of increase wisely confined to higher orders of beings, where the law of righteousness is taught, and where the species shall be early educated and reared up in the kingdom of light?
O man! Of noble origin! And princely birth! Unfold, if thou canst, the history of thy first estate!
Tell us the noble acts—the generous deeds—the magnificent works of thyself and of thy kindred spirits!
Show us the splendid scenes—the mighty revolutions—the grand operations of that world through which thou hast passed.
II. “Mormon Philosophy. Space, Duration, and Matter”
What is space?
It is expansion or extension from any point in all possible directions.
What is its magnitude?
It is boundless in every direction from any given point.
What are the conceivable properties of space?
Divisibility and figure.
To what extent is space conceived to be divisible?
Beyond any assignable limits.
Of how many varieties of figure is it susceptible?
Of every possible variety.
Has space any active properties or powers?
No. It is incapable of moving or being moved, of acting, or being acted upon, by any force, power or property in existence, whether chemical, mechanical, or mental.
What is Duration?
It is the time intervening between successive moments.
How far is duration susceptible of continuation?
Duration, both past and future, is capable of continuation from any given moment to an unlimited extent.
How many conceivable properties has Duration?
[p.32]Only one, viz. divisibility.
To what extent is it susceptible of division?
Beyond any limits which can be assigned.
What are its three grand divisions?
The past, the present, and the future.
Has duration any active properties or powers?
No. It can neither act, nor receive action from any force, power, property in existence. Like space, it is entirely powerless.
What is Matter?
Every substance in space, whether visible or invisible, sensible or insensible, intelligent or unintelligent.
Of what do the elements of matter consist?
They consist of inconceivably minute, solid, hard impenetrable, moveable, immutable atoms, incapable of expansion or condensation, of occupying either more or less space at one moment than at another.
What is the probable magnitude of these atoms?
It is unknown. Experimental observations, however, have ascertained that the size of an atom or molecule of lead cannot exceed, and is probably much less than the 888 billionth part of a cubic inch, while its weight cannot exceed, and is probably much less than the 310,000 millionth part of a grain. By the aid of the microscope, animalcules have been rendered visible, of such inconceivable minuteness that a million of million of them would not exceed in bulk a grain of sand, and it is highly probably that each of these minute beings is now as complicated in its structure as the whale or the elephant. How incalculably small must be their arteries, veins, and circulating fluids!!
What is the FORM of these elementary atoms?
Their form or shape is as yet unknown; but experiment and reason render it highly probable that they are spheres or spheroids.
Are these atoms divisible?
No. Divisibility belongs only to compound bodies, formed by the union of atoms. Compound bodies can only be divided, not in the midst of solid atoms, but by destroying their bond of union, and separating atom from atom, unbroken, whole and entire, as they were previous to their combination. These atoms are imporous—destitute of all vacuities, and hence perfectly solid, and incapable of being broken or abraded by any concussion or violence, however intense, and therefore their sizes and shapes remain unchangeably the same.
What is known concerning the origin of matter?
Matter is without origin.
[p.33]Reason demonstrates it to have been without beginning. For if it had a beginning, then, an endless period of time preceeded its existence, during which there was nothing but an eternal boundless space: but space is immoveable, and without power or force of any kind, and therefore, wholly incapable of producing any thing, to occupy any part of its own boundless void. Therefore, if matter had a beginning, it must have been originated by some being, or thing in space, but to say that matter was originated by some being, is to admit the prior existence of that being. Of what does this something or being consist? It must consist of one or more atoms, of the same nature and qualities as those we have already described, and therefore, this being must be matter, and this matter must have eternally existed. Now if a material being, or a part of the matter in space, existed eternally—reason and analogy would say that the whole may have existed eternally.
If the eternal existence of a part is possible—The eternal existence of the whole is possible.
What is intelligence?
It must be either a property of material atoms, or a result of the combination or contact of these atoms.
If intelligence be a property of material atoms prior to their combination or contact with other atoms, then it is evident that this property could not have been derived by experience from external things. It is still further evident, that this intelligent property could not have been derived from any internal operations; for such operations would be impossible in a perfectly solid and imporous atom. Hence it could not have been derived from any source, either external or internal. Therefore if intelligence be a property of material atoms, it must have been as eternal as the substance to which it belongs.
Perhaps some may argue that material atoms receive intelligence not by coming into contact or union with external things, but by the will of some intelligent atom or being. But how could an intelligent being impart this property to matter without acting upon it, by bringing something external into contact with it? It would be as impossible as it would to act upon nothing and produce something. But to say that some being gave this property to atoms, is to admit the prior existence of a being with intelligence. How did this being derive or acquire its intelligence—Was it derived by experience, or was it as eternal as the being itself? To say it was derived by experience, is to admit that this being was acted upon from without, which is contrary to the above supposition. Therefore its intelligence if not derived from experience, must have been eternal. And if the intelligence of one atom or being has been eternal, analogy would say that the intelligences of all other atoms or beings may have been eternal also. And reason has demonstrated, that the in[[p.34]telligence of every atom must either be without beginning, or else be the result of contact and combination.
Secondly, If intelligence be a result of the combination or contact of atoms, then these atoms, though unintelligent, must have capacities to receive intelligence; for without intelligent capacities, combination or contact, could not be perceived or known; and it would be impossible to acquire these capacities by experience; therefore they must have been as eternal as the atoms to which they belong.
It may be argued that atoms may be unconscious of these latent capacities until appropriate circumstances develop them.
That they may possess the property or capacity of feeling, and yet be entirely unconscious of feeling until they come in contact with other atoms: that by experience they perceive not only the existence of themselves, but the existence of something external to themselves; that an atom may possess various capacities, such as seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling and feeling, and that if this atom never comes in contact with other atoms, their capacities will remain unexercised; that such an atom would be as ignorant of light, sound, taste, smell, and even of the existence of all things external to itself, as though it had none of these capacities; that to perceive light, it must come in contact with some material atom, by which itself shall be affected, not by any vibrations, movements or derangements of its own parts, for this would be impossible in a perfectly solid imporous atom, but that it must be affected as a whole, by some change of state or position in its relation to space; that the only changes it can possibly receive from the contact of atoms are,
First, A change from a state of rest to that of motion.
Secondly, A change from a state of motion to that of rest.
Thirdly, A change of velocity.
And Fourthly, A change of direction.
That seeing, hearing, tasting and smelling are only different modes of feeling, that these different modes of feeling, depend upon the different modes and intensities of the contact of material atoms with each other, and that one kind of impulse would give an atom the consciousness of light; another the consciousness of sound; a third, that of taste; a fourth, that of smell, &c.
But let us trace this subject a little further, and enquire into the nature of these intelligent capacities. What are these capacities? Are they not a species of intelligence, self existant and eternal? If not, how can we account for the combination or contact of atoms? Is this combination fortuitous, resulting from the eternal motions of unconscious and passive matter? Is there not a force exerted in the acceleration of the velocities of these atoms as they approach each other?
Is there not a force, of no small degree, which holds these atoms [p.35]in combination? Are not these forces altogether different from that which would result from a uniform motion, and an accidental contact? What then is the cause of atoms approaching atoms, and adhering together with such a variety of intensities according to such uniform and general laws? The only sound answer that can be given to these intricate enquiries is, that these atoms must be intelligent—having self moving powers—limited to certain spheres and modes of action, according to the nature and degree of their intelligence; and that this intelligence is not the EFFECT, but the cause of combination—not derived from EXPERIENCE, but self existant and eternal.
Attraction is said to be a property of matter.
It is said that every atom attracts every other atom with a force varying inversely as the square of the distance. But attraction is impossible, for an atom cannot act where it is not.
Those who believe in attraction, have also assumed inertia to be a property of matter, that is, they assert that matter is entirely passive, and incapable of changing its state. Now if an atom has no power to move itself, how can it move any thing external to itself? It is the very height of absurdity to suppose that a helpless passive atom can move every thing in the universe but itself. Yet this is the hypothesis assumed by the learned, and believed by millions in our day.
But, if attraction is impossible, what other cause is adequate to produce the effects, which we know are constantly taking place and which are commonly ascribed to attraction?
It is evident that intelligent, self-moving atoms confined in their movements within the necessary limits, can produce all these effects. These self-moving atoms are regulated by the following law, namely, Every atom MOVES ITSELF towards every other atom, with a force varying inversely as the square of the distance.
Now let us contrast the Newtonian system of attracting matter, with the author’s system of intelligent, self moving matter, and see which is the most consistent and simple:
Newtonian System—Matter is entirely passive and incapable of moving itself.
Author’s System—Matter is active, and capable of moving itself.
Newtonian System—An atom cannot move itself, but it can move a universe of worlds towards itself.
Author’s System—An atom can move itself, but it cannot move any thing towards itself.
Newtonian System—An atom cannot act where it is, but it can act in every place where it is not.
Author’s System—An atom can act where it is, but it cannot act in any place where it is not.
[p.36]Newtonian System—An atom moves every other atom towards itself with a force varying inversely as the square of the distance.
Author’s System—An atom MOVES ITSELF towards every other atom with a force varying inversely as the square of the distance.
It will be perceived that these two theories are directly opposite to each other, and yet all the effects said to be produced by Sir Isaac Newton’s Theory, can be produced by the Author’s Theory, upon principles infinitely more simple. All the grand central forces of the Universe, by which worlds and systems of worlds, are so firmly bound together, and by which their stability is so wisely maintained—can be resolved into the self-moving forces of atoms.
All of the Cohesive, Chemical, Magnetic, and Electrical forces, can also be resolved into atomic self-moving forces.
III. “Questions on the Present State of Man”
O man! The offspring of Deity! The grand masterpiece of creation!
How camest thou hither?
And for what purpose hast thou entered this world?
Why didst thou leave the world of spirits?
Wast thou not contented to enjoy the society of thy great Father, and receive instructions from so wise and good a being?
Wast thou not perfectly happy in the society of millions of thy own brother and sister spirits?
Was not the world or planet from which thou hast emigrated perfect in its organization, and adapted to the full development of thy capacities?
Or was the world which thou hast left, overstocked with inhabitants?
Were its superficial contents too limited to yield sufficient sustainance for the innumerable millions of thy father’s family?
Or did a restless spirit of adventure and ambition seize thy bosom, and urge thee on to explore new worlds and scenes?
Did necessity compel thee to enter this world and take up thy abode here?
Or didst thou emigrate of thy own free will and choice?
Why hast thou clothed thyself with a tabernacle, and entered into so close a connection with the grosser substances of nature?
Was not try spirit perfect in its organization?
Was it not capable of a full development of its mighty capacities, without incorporating itself with flesh and bones?
Or was it limited in its knowledge to the laws, properties, and operations of spiritual matter only?
[p.37]Couldst thou then distinguish the properties of light and heat?
Couldst thou then acquaint thyself with the laws and properties of sound caused by the vibrations of elastic matter?
Couldst thou then perceive the great variety of odors and flavors of different fruits and vegetables, such as those which abound so luxuriantly upon this globe?
Couldst thou then discern the roughness, smoothness, hardness and various other properties of different kinds of matter?
Or was thy knowledge chiefly limited to the more refined substances of nature and to the laws by which they were governed?
Was thy spirit limited in its scientific pursuits to spiritual matter?
Was this the first lesson thou hadst to learn?
Hast thou now entered another department of the great UNIVERSITY of NATURE, to study her magnificent laws, and her wonderful operations?
Hast thou indeed been counted worthy to ascend in the scale of try being, to gaze upon new scenes and wonders in another world of life and joy?
What are the first lessons thou hast to learn in thy present state of existence?
Art thou not conscious, first of all, of thy own existence here?
And secondly, art thou not taught of the existence and properties of other bodies external to thyself?.
How was thou convinced that bodies external to thyself do exist?
Was it by experience?
If so, tell us O man, the means of thy experience.
Canst thou know by experience of the existence of things with which try spirit has not been in contact?
Canst thou indeed know of the existence of things which thou hast not felt?
Canst thou feel that which is at a distance?
Is not feeling the only means of experience?
Can the impression of feeling be produced without motion?
Can motion be imparted without contact?
Is not thy spirit prevented from coming in actual contact with the most of external objects by the interposition of the tabernacle or body?
Are there not millions of external objects of whose existence thou hast no doubt, and yet thou hast not felt them, neither thy spirit nor thy body, has been in contact with them.
How knowest thou that the sun, the planets and the stars, do exist? Thou hast not felt them. Millions of miles intervene between thee and them.
And yet, art thou not certain of their existence?
[p.38]Wilt thou say that it is by the sense of seeing that this knowledge is imparted to thee?
What is seeing?
Is it not a particular method of feeling?
Canst thou feel those distant bodies?
Is not light sent forth from them as a messenger to indicate their existence?
How does light impart this information to thee?
Perhaps it will be said by acting upon the optic nerve of the eye?
But is the optic nerve of the eye a spiritual substance?
If not, can it perceive, think, feel, or understand?
If not, how is the message brought by light, still further communicated?
Does the optic nerve act directly upon thy spirit, or are there still further channels of conveyance, intervening between the optic nerve and spirit?
Is not all the knowledge which thou hast of the existence of these distant objects, derived from the motions which thy spirit has felt and experienced, imparted by the intervening substances of thy body?
And did not these parts of thy body receive their motions from the intervening substance of light, which in its turn, received its motion from the luminous body?
Couldst thou form to thyself the least idea of luminous bodies, and worlds arranged in such magnificent splendor, independent of these organs of vision?
Without these organs couldst thou have the least conception of the gaudy and splendid colors of the different objects surrounding thee?
Hence is not the organ of vision one of the grand instruments of thine education—the inlet of a certain species of ideas of which thou wast before entirely ignorant?
Again, hadst thou any ideas of bitterness, sweetness, sourness and other varieties of taste, until thou hadst acquired them by experience? How hast thou acquired a knowledge of these properties?
Is it not by feeling—by the peculiar motions imparted to thy spirit, by the organ of taste, or other parts of the body, which in their turn received their motions from the external substance with which they came in contact?
Hence, again, is not the organ of taste another grand instrument of thine education—another medium of communication between thy spirit and the external world—another great inlet of new ideas?
Again, does not the spirit experience and feel the peculiar motions imparted by the organ of smell, which also, in its turn, derived its motion from external odoriferous particles in motion?
[p.39]Dost thou not through this channel also, acquire another set or species of new ideas?
Again, is it not the peculiar motions experienced and felt by the spirit, which have given it the ideas of sound?
Hence, are not seeing, hearing, tasting, and smelling only different modes of conveying motion to thy spirit?
Cannot all these organs be resolved into the sense of feeling?
Again, how didst thou acquire distinct ideas of roughness, smoothness, hardness, softness, sizes, and shapes of external bodies?
Was it not by feeling the motions of different parts of the body which came in contact with the different substances?
Are not all the ideas which thou hast of the existence of external nature, derived by the spirit’s feeling a great variety of motions, impressed upon it by various parts of its fleshly tabernacle?
Has not thy spirit then, been embodied in its present habitation, as the only medium through which it could receive the vast variety of ideas which flow so profusely from all surrounding objects?
Hast thou not been sent here then to receive an experimental education,—to become acquainted with the existence, properties, laws, and operations of other varieties of matter; and by these means to be enabled to combine, organize, and control the same for thine own pleasure, benefit, convenience, and happiness; and thus to become qualified for the society of a more exalted and higher order of beings?
Couldst thou exercise power or control, over elements of which thou wast entirely ignorant?
Couldst thou combine, arrange, and organize material substances of whose existence and properties thou hadst not the least idea?
Couldst thou display the mighty energies and capacities of thy mind upon that of which thou hadst no knowledge?
If then, O man, thou hast forsaken the world of spirits, and chosen a habitation of flesh and bones, and located thyself in this department of the universe for the grand purpose of acquiring a more extensive knowledge of material things and thus to qualify thyself to preside in wisdom over Nature’s works, and Nature’s laws—if this be one purpose of thine immigration to this globe it is a most laudable undertaking, worthy of the character of beings springing from so noble a parent.
But tell us ye sons of God, why pain and misery, and death itself, besets you so closely on every hand?
Do these evils emanate from God?
Is he the originator of pain and death?
Does he delight in the misery of his own offspring?
Is it a pleasure to him to behold his own children bowed down in [p.40]sorrow and mourning—writhing in pain and anguish, and struggling in vain in the horrors and agonies of death?
If not, what is the cause of all these evils?
Are they the necessary results of the laws and properties of matter? Can there be any organization in which these evils do not exist?
Were not our first parents when formed from the dust, and placed in the garden of Eden free from all these evils?
Was not their organization perfect—free from sickness decay and death—capable of enduring forever—unchanged and immortal?
If so, is not this an evidence that material substances are capable of perfect organization—of an endless duration, entirely free from pain?
Could God consistently with his character produce any other organization but a perfect one—capable of everlasting endurance?
If not, whence then arises our present, imperfect, changeable, and unhappy situation?
Is it not the result of man’s own doings?
Was it not man, and not God, that brought imperfection, pain and death, into our world?
Was it not God that gave to man an immortal body?
And was it not man that changed it to mortality?
Was it not God that gave endless life to man?
And was it not man that called death unto himself?
O unhappy man! As death is not an ingredient of thy nature, why hast thou sought after it?
Tell us ye first progenitor of the human race why ye chose mortality instead of immortality,—why pain was prefered to ease—why death was desired rather than life?
Didst thou not believe that these evils would be the result of thy transgression?
Or didst thou prefer these evils for some great and wise purpose?
Couldst thou, while immortal in the garden of Eden, appreciate the blessings and good with which thou was then surrounded?
Couldst thou appreciate light if thou wert never in darkness?
Couldst thou appreciate sweetness without a knowledge of sourness?
Couldst thou fully appreciate any blessing without contrasting it by experiencing in some degree its opposite?
Didst thou, therefore, prefer knowledge to ignorance, thou gained by painful experience—by sorrow and mourning, misery and death?
Didst thou prefer to “BECOME AS GODS KNOWING GOOD AND EVIL,” rather than to remain in everlasting ignorance of both these principles, though death itself should be the price of this knowledge?
[p.41]If so, didst thou expect any deliverance from the miserable condition into which thou wert about to plunge thyself, with all thy posterity?
If so, whence did ye expect deliverance?
Couldst thou deliver thyself?
Couldst thou say to immortality “return again,” and would it obey you?
Couldst thou say to the scattered elements of thy body, now mingled with dust, “be organized!” and would they hearken to thy voice?
Couldst thou command the openings of Paradise and return again from banishment to thy former possessions?
Couldst thou lift the curtains of heaven, and behold again the smiles of thy Father’s countenance?
If not, how canst thou be restored to the blessings of Eden—to the beauties of Paradise—to that which thou hast lost?
How canst thou triumph over death—regain immortality—and dwell again in the abodes of light, life, and love?
Who holds the keys of salvation, and the power to redeem to the utmost?
Who is capable of being entrusted with so great and important a work?
Is there any among all the heavenly host better qualified than Jesus Christ our eldest brother?
Hast he not had a longer experience than any of the rest of the family?
Is it not through his love and mercy alone, that redemption will come?
Will not all mankind be fully restored from the effects of Adam’s sin?
And will not this universal redemption be unconditional on their part?
Is any man required to believe in Christ, repent, and be baptized for the remission of sins, or to do any other work, to obtain a resurrection from the dead?
Is not this blessing obtained by free grace alone without works?
Is any man too wicked to be raised from the dead, and be fully redeemed from the penalty of the original sin?
Will not all mankind, after the resurrection, return again into the presence of God, and there be judged for their own sins and not Adam’s? Will not their own sins condemn them?
And will not their own sins banish them from his presence? Or are there conditions of redemption from our sins? If so, what are these conditions on the part of man?
Are they not faith in Christ, repentance of all our sins, baptism for [p.42]the remission of the same, laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Spirit, and a faithful compliance with all the commands of God unto the end?
Wouldst thou attain to a glorious resurrection, and be exalted among the just? Comply with the conditions and all are thine.
Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation. Heb. i. 14.
O ye angels! Ye messengers of light! Ye inhabitants of distant worlds!
Who are ye?
Whence your origin?
And what your future destiny?
Are ye of the same species with man?
Were ye begotten by the same parents?
Were ye composed of the same kind of elements?
Were ye fashioned in the same likeness and image of man?
If ye are of the same species—begotten of the same parents—composed of the same kind of spiritual matter, and fashioned in the same image, then are not both classes brothers and sisters—of one common origin?
If so, why are one class commonly called men, and the other angels?
Is it not merely to designate and distinguish between different classes of the same order of beings, according to their advancement in the different stages of their existence?
Into how many grand divisions may the angels be divided? They may be divided into four grand divisions as follows:—
First spirits or angels, who have never been incorporated with flesh and bones.
Second, spirits or angels, embodied in a mortal tabernacle.
Third, spirits or angels disembodied, but waiting for the resurrection.
And fourth, spirits or angels, embodied in an immortal tabernacle.
These four grand divisions of angels, may still further be divided into fourteen different classes as follows:—
FIRST GRAND DIVISION
1. Angels never embodied, who kept their first estate.
2. Angels never embodied. who rebelled and kept not their first estate.
[P.43]SECOND GRAND DIVISION
1. Mortal men, who hear and obey the gospel.
2. Mortal men, who never heard the gospel.
3. Mortal men, who hear the gospel but do not obey it.
4. Mortal men, who hear the gospel and obey it, but afterwards fall away and become sons of perdition.
THIRD GRAND DIVISION
1. Disembodied spirits in Celestial paradise, or place of happiness.
2. Disembodied spirits in Terrestrial Paradise, or prison.
3. Disembodied spirits in Telestial Paradise, or outer darkness.
4. Disembodied spirits of the sons of perdition, the most degraded of all.
FOURTH GRAND DIVISION
1. Resurrection, Celestial angels.
2. Resurrection, Terrestrial angels.
3. Resurrection, Telestial angels.
4. Resurrection, sons of perdition.
All of these classes of beings were in their origin, the sons and daughters of God—begotten by or unto him before this world was made.
The “first born” of all this numerous family was Jesus Christ. He is “the first born of every creature.”—Col. i. 15. “The beginning of the creation of God.” Rev. iii. 14. “The bright and morning star.” Rev. xxii. 16. At what period in eternity our oldest brother was born, we know not. If we were to judge from the analogy of nature, we should suppose that a period equal to many millions of our years must have intervened between his birth and the organization of our present globe. If there is any analogy between the present process and laws of the generation of our bodies, and the previous process and laws of the generation of our spirits; that is, if in the former world, it requires nearly or quite the same length of time to organize, develop, and to bring forth the SPIRITUAL EMBRYO, that it requires in the present world to organize, develop, and bring forth the tabernacle, then we can form a faint idea of the vast length of time which must have intervened.
As we pass along with this subject, let us make a few mathematical calculations, founded, however, upon suppositions which are very imperfect data.
Suppose that the whole number of spirits, designed to take tabernacles in this world, were the offspring of the same parents—begotten and born of the same father and mother, at an average rate of one per year. What length of time would it require for the production of so [p.44]great a family? In order to give a correct solution of this question, it would be necessary to know the precise number of inhabitants, designed for this globe. But on the supposition that the earth stands eight thousand years with an average population of five hundred millions every fifty years—then the whole population would amount to (80,000,000,000) eighty thousand million. Hence upon these suppositions 80,000,000,000 of years must have intervened between the birth day of the oldest and youngest. Add to the whole amount of the human family, one-third part of the host of heaven who fell, and the sum would be increased to one hundred and twenty [thousand] million which, upon the foregoing suppositions, would be the age of the “first born.” But let us extend our calculation still further, and take into consideration the inhabitants of the thirty worlds of our “Solar system.” Let us suppose them to exist 8000 of our years, and be peopled in proportion to their surfaces in the same ratio of our world. What would be the amount of inhabitants?
The extent of surface upon these thirty worlds is equal to (12,750) twelve thousand seven hundred and fifty times the surface of our globe: hence the whole number of inhabitants would amount to (1,020,000.000,000,000) one thousand and twenty million of millions. If all these spirits or angels were born of the same parents at the average rate of one per year, then upwards of one thousand billion of years must have elapsed between the birth day of the oldest and youngest.
If we were still to extend our calculations beyond the limits of the Solar system, and take into consideration the inhabitants of the innumerable systems of worlds existing in the vast immensity of space, our imaginations would be altogether overpowered, and our limited capacities incapable of conceiving any rational idea of the immense unlimited number of beings.
Should any contend that these were all the offspring of the same parents, we would ask where is the mind so expansive and powerful, as to grasp within its conceptions the countless ages of eternity requisite for the production of so numerous a progeny?
Would it not, therefore, be more reasonable to suppose that the countless number of spirits, who have their abode upon such a vast variety of worlds, are the offspring, not of one pair, but of many; and that the law of increase is not confined to God alone, or to one pair, but is extended to other beings.
Who were the Angels sent to Adam immediately after the fall? (See Book of Mormon and other revelations.)
Were they disembodied Angels then living in their first estate, or were they Angels incorporated with flesh and bones, having been raised [p.45]from the dead or translated in some former world? Let those who know, answer.
If spirits only administer in the world of spirits, and Angels of flesh and bones only administer to flesh and bones, then it follows that the angels who administered to Adam, must have been fleshly beings of some former world.
But there are instances of spiritual bodies, administering to fleshly bodies, as for instance, the exhibition of Jesus Christ to the brother of Jared on the mount where he shows him the body of his spirit, and informs him that all men had a pre-existence, that is, were created in the beginning after the image and likeness of the body of his spirit. (see Book of Mormon.) Again the administration of the spirit of Samuel to the witch of Endor and Saul, the administration of the spirit of Noah, called Gabriel, to Daniel, Zachariah, and Mary.
There is a difference in the appearance of the spirits of just men, and those immortal beings raised from the dead or translated. If the first become visible, they must appear in brightness with exceeding great splendor and glory. They have no tabernacle in which to hide the brightness of their glory, when visible to mortal eyes; the second can display their glory, or veil it from mortal gaze, by the interposition of the fleshly tabernacle.
Hence the second in this respect, hold a preeminence above the first, being possessed of the superior power of administering in brightness and glory, or appearing like common mortal men according to their own will and pleasure.
As an example of the exceeding great glory of the first, witness the description of Gabriel by Daniel; so great was his brightness, that this man of God could not stand in his presence, but was overpowered and fell to the ground, and did not regain his natural strength for some days after.
As examples of the administration of the second, read the description of Jesus appearing to the two disciples, who did not know him from a stranger, though he was a resurrected being. He was known to them by his breaking bread and vanishing from their sight. In many of his other administrations after his resurrection, we do not read that the disciples had any difficulty in gazing upon him, and conversing with him in the most familiar manner. His glory was veiled from their view.
But unto Saul of Tarsus, and unto John the revelator, he permitted his glory to shine forth, which in the first instance was so great as to injure and destroyed the natural vision; and in the second, caused as good a man as John to fall as dead at his feet.
Angels of flesh and bones were no doubt such as took dinner with Abraham, and afterwards took a long pleasant walk with him towards [p.46]Sodom and tarried all night with Lot, and waited upon him out of the city next morning. These angels were occasionally fond of a good wrestle, hence we find Jacob wrestling with one all night; both seem to have been equally matched, at least, neither of them was able to conquer by his physical strength alone; the only way that the angel could prevail, was by taking the advantage of his own mental powers, and performing a miracle by crippling Jacob.
But says one, where did these angels get their flesh and bones, seeing that none of this globe had as yet been raised from the dead? We answer, that they had no doubt come on a mission (if not a pleasure excursion), from the city of Zion, which was translated with Enoch. Such angels as these were frequently seen before the Messiah came. At the resurrection of Christ the translated angels of the city of Zion, received a great addition to their numbers by the resurrection of the saints who came out of their graves in those days. These saints immediately after leaving the grave, condescended to appear unto many. We have no account, however, of their showing their glory to any man.
When the apostle exhorts the Christian church to be careful to entertain strangers, for in so doing some had entertained angels unawares; he no doubt had reference to these kind of angels, who could come in disguise by hiding their glory in fleshly bodies.
But among all the different classes of angels, how many have a right and legal authority to minister to the saints?
We would answer, none but those who are under a celestial law. For the saints are governed by a celestial law, administered by a celestial Priesthood, and no beings or angels under an inferior law or priesthood, can administer unto any beings or saints under a superior law and priesthood, for this would be a violation of the order of heaven.
But, enquires one, cannot the seven or eight classes of angels, who are under an inferior law, become visible to man, and have power and influence over him?
We answer, that they may be permitted to visit men, and converse with them, but men have no fight to receive their teaching; for they hold not the keys of authority, neither understand the celestial law, and are without the priesthood; therefore they who hearken to their visions or their teaching, are captivated and brought in bondage to the inferior or lower kingdoms, where they will be more or less miserable and wretched according to the nature and degree of wickedness existing in such kingdoms.
Perhaps some may enquire, how the saints can distinguish between angels of authority, and such as have no authority, seeing there are so many different classes.
[p.47]We answer, that no one can distinguish correctly, without the keys of the priesthood, obtained through the ordinances of endowment.
Without these keys, man is liable to be deceived by numerous orders and classes of beings, presenting false visions and revelations to his mind, for instance, saints apostatize from this church, and while in a state of apostacy, they have the awful wickedness and presumption to administer sacred ordinances in the name of the Lord. To such abominable characters, the Lord in his wrath permits the devil, or some of his angels, or some other of the lower order of beings to show them false visions and revelations; thus he suffers them to swallow down strong delusions, because they apostatized from his kingdom, till finally they fill up their measure of iniquity, and are fully ripened for the burning. Let the saints therefore, beware of apostacy, and apostates, such as Rigdon, McLellin, Hinkle, &c., lest ye be consumed in their wickedness, like the rebellious among the ancient Israelites. For the Lord is not to be trifled with, though he bears long with them, for their destruction is sure, (without severe repentance,) and will come suddenly and unexpectedly upon them, like the whirlwind, and they shall not escape.