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The Mormon Doctrine of Deity: The Roberts-Van Der Donckt Discussion

TitleThe Mormon Doctrine of Deity: The Roberts-Van Der Donckt Discussion
Publication TypeBook
Year of Publication1903
AuthorsRoberts, B.H.
Number of Pages296
PublisherThe Deseret News
CitySalt Lake City
KeywordsDeity; Doctrine; Early Church History; Godhead; Heavenly Father; Holy Ghost; Jesus Christ; Principle; Prophet; Revelation; Smith, Joseph, Jr.; Trinity

In the winter and summer of 1901, unusual interest was awakened in “Mormon” views of Deity, in consequence of a series of lectures on the subject delivered by a prominent sectarian minister of Salt Lake City, and other discourses delivered before sectarian conventions of one kind or another held during the summer months of the year named. Now it so happened that for that same year the General Board of the Young Men’s Improvement Associations of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had planned a coarse of theological study involving consideration of this same subject—the being and nature of God; therefore, when the Mutual Improvement Associations of the Salt Lake Stake of Zion met in conference on the 18th of August of that year, and the writer was invited to deliver an address at one of the sessions of the conference, the time to him seemed opportune to set forth as clearly as might be the doctrine of the Church of Christ as to God. Accordingly the discourse, which makes chapter one in this book, was delivered. The discourse attracted some considerable attention, being published both in the Deseret News and Improvement Era: in the latter publication, in revised form. Through a copy of this magazine the discourse fell into the hands of the Reverend C. Van Der Donckt, of Pocatello, Idaho, a priest of the Roman Catholic Church; and he wrote a Reply to it, which by the courtesy of the editors of the Improvement Era was published in that magazine, and now appears as chapter two in this work.

It was very generally conceded that Rev. Van Der Donckt’s Reply was an able paper—a view in which I most heartily concur; and it had the additional merit of being free from offensive personalities or any indulgence in ridicule or sarcasms of those principles which the gentleman sought to controvert. Some were of opinion that the Rev. gentleman’s argument could not be successfully answered. This was a view in which I did not concur; for however unequal my skill in de­bate might be as compared with that of the Rev. gentleman of the Catholic Church, I had, and have now, supreme confidence in the truth of the doctrines I believe and advocate; and I was sure this advantage of having the truth would more than out­weigh any want of skill in controversy on my part. In this confi­dence the Rejoinder was written and published in the Improvement Era, and now appears as chapter three in this work. How suc­cessfully the Rejoinder meets the criticism upon our doctrines by the Rev. gentleman who wrote the Reply, will, of course, be determined by the individual reader.

The discourse with which this controversy begins appears in chapter one as it did in the Era; unchanged except by the enlargement of a quotation or two from Dr. Draper’s works, and Sir Robert Ball’s writings, and the addition of one or two notes, with here and there a mere verbal change which in no way affects the thought or argument of the discourse, as I recognize the fact that any alteration which would change the argument or introduce new matter in the discourse, would be unfair to Mr. Van Der Donckt. The Rev. gentleman’s Reply is, of course, exactly as it appeared in the Improvement Era for August and September, 1902. In the Rejoinder I have felt more at liberty, and therefore have made some few changes in the arrangement of paragraphs, and have here and there strengthened the argument, though even in this division of the discussion the changes in the Era copy are but slight.

In chapter four I publish another discourse — Jesus Christ: the Revelation of God, which I trust will emphasize and render even more clear than my first discourse the belief of the Church that Jesus Christ is the complete and perfect revelation of God that such as Jesus Christ is, God is.

In chapters five, six, seven and eight is a collection of utterances from our sacred scriptures and from some of the prophets in the Church, on the doctrine of Deity, which I may say without reserve will be found extremely valuable to the student of this great subject; and these passages are so arranged as to make clear the fact that our doctrines on the subject of Deity are today what they have been from the commencement; and while there may have been an unfolding of the doctrines, an enlargement of our understanding of them, there is nothing in our doctrines on Deity today but what was germinally present in that first great revelation received by the Prophet Joseph Smith, in which God made himself known once more to a prophet, who knew him, as Moses did, face to face —as a man knows his friend.

The Mormon Doctrine of Deity: The Roberts-Van Der Donckt Discussion