Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Mormonism 101: Fourth Level Statements (#2)
08/13/2007 - James WhiteWilford Woodruff
Wilford Woodruff became the fourth President of the LDS Church in 1889. While known to history more as the Prophet through which the Manifesto ending polygamy came to the LDS Church, he also spoke to the topic of our study in the years prior to his elevation to the Presidency, here from 1857:
If there was a point where man in his progression could not proceed any further, the very idea would throw a gloom over every intelligent and reflecting mind. God himself is increasing and progressing in knowledge, power, and dominion, and will do so, worlds without end.Woodruff's statement, while perfectly in line with what Joseph Smith said in the King Follett Discourse, is controversial today, for many LDS wish to say that God has completed His progression. This can be seen in a statement by Mormon Apostle Bruce R. McConkie:
It should be realized that God is not progressing in knowledge, truth, virtue, wisdom, or any of the attributes of godliness.
Brigham Henry Roberts is one of the two greatest scholars Mormonism has produced since its inception (I would include James Talmage as the other). Here we encounter a great mind that attempts to provide some consistency to the system created by Joseph Smith. His book, The Mormon Doctrine of Deity, is one of the first examples of LDS apologetic literature. He knew the vocabulary of Christian theology, and hence struggled to express LDS beliefs in that language. For example, in regards to how the term omniscient (having all knowledge) could be applied to the LDS God, he wrote:
So with the All-knowing attribute, Omniscience: that must be understood somewhat in the same light as the other attributes considered: not that God is Omniscient up to the point that further progress in knowledge is impossible to him; but that all knowledge that is, all that exists, God knows. He is Universal Consciousness, and Mind---he is the All-knowing One, because he knows all that is known.True omniscience becomes potential omniscience or relative omniscience. This kind of redefinition of terms is absolutely necessary in attempting to fit the anthropomorphic God (or, as some put it, the theomorphic man) of Mormonism into classical terminology. The same is true regarding omnipresence:
So the attribute Omnipresence---the Everywhere Present attribute. This must be so far limited as to be ascribed to Gods Spirit, or Influence, or Power: but not of God as a Person or Individual: for in these latter respects even God is limited by the law that one body cannot occupy two places at one and the same time. But radiating from his presence, as beams of light and warmth radiate from our sun, is Gods Spirit, penetrating and permeating space, making space and all worlds in space vibrate with his life and thought and presence: holding all forces--dynamic and static--under control, making them to subserve his will and purposes.
Omnipresence becomes a matter of God's Spirit radiating throughout creation, though, we are left to wonder if all of creation is meant, or only those worlds under this particular gods control. In either case, there was a time when this God wasn't a god, so whose influence was then felt throughout creation? These are difficult questions for the LDS position to answer. Despite Roberts interaction with historic, orthodox Christian belief, he still maintained the full LDS viewpoint regarding the plurality of gods:
A Plurality of Divine Intelligences: We have already shown that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are three separate and distinct persons, and, so far as personality is concerned, are three Gods. Their oneness consists in being possessed of the same mind; they are one, too, in wisdom, in knowledge, in will and purpose; but as individuals they are three, each separate and distinct from the other, and three is plural. Now, that is a long way on the road towards proving the plurality of Gods.Robert's classic work on the subject is titled The Mormon Doctrine of Deity. This work, which contains a dialogue and debate on the nature of God with a Catholic clergyman, Van Der Donckt, is a must read for the person looking into not only the definition of LDS theology, but the means used to defend it. But a single citation will be enough to include Roberts among all the others we have examined regarding the nature of the LDS God:
But since the premises themselves have been shown to be utterly untenable, as relating to God, as revealed in the scriptures, and in the person and nature of Jesus Christ, the conclusions are wrong; and the facts established are that while God in mind, faculties and in power is doubtless infinite, in person he is finite; and as his spirit is united to a body, he is composite, not simple; and as Jesus Christ was God manifested in the flesh, the express image of God the Fathers person, the counterpart of his nature, and yet at the same time was a man--it is neither unscriptural, nor unphilosophical to hold that God, even the Father, is also a perfected, exalted man.
 Wilford Woodruff, Journal of Discourses, 6:120, LDSCL.
 Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966), p. 239, LDSCL.
 B.H. Roberts, The Seventys Course in Theology, Fourth Year (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1911), p. 70, LDSCL.
 Ibid., pp. 70-71.
 B.H. Roberts, The Seventy's Course in Theology, Third Year (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1911), p. 193, LDSCL.
 B.H. Roberts, The Mormon Doctrine of Deity: The Roberts-Van Der Donckt Discussion to Which is Added a Discourse, Jesus Christ: The Revelation of God by B. H. Roberts, Also A Collection of Authoritative Mormon Utterances on the Being and Nature of God, (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1903), p. 130, LDSCL.