Proclamation of the First Presidency and Twelve
October 21, 1865
(Messages of the First Presidency, 2:235)
This document was issued to members of the Church to correct certain theories about the nature of God that had been published by Orson Pratt of the Twelve in official Church literature, without having those statements cleared and verified by the First Presidency and the Twelve.
An apparent major purpose of this Proclamation was to emphasize the established order of the Church, that new doctrine is to be announced only by the First Presidency. See Elder Pratt’s humble response to this at the end of this proclamation.
In an article entitled “The Holy Spirit,” published by brother Pratt in the Millennial Star of October 15th, and November 1, 1850, pages 305-309, and pages 325-328, it is stated, among other things, in relation to the Holy Spirit, that,
“Each part of this substance is all-wise and all-powerful, possessing the same knowledge and the same truth. The essence can be divided into parts like all other matter, but the truth which each part possesses is one truth, and is indivisible; and because of the oneness of the quality, all these parts are called but ONE God. There is a plurality of substance, but a unity of quality; and it is this unity which constitutes the one God which we worship. When we worship the Father, we do not worship merely his substance, but we worship the attributes of that substance; so likewise, when we worship the Son, we do not merely worship the essence or substance of the Son, but we worship because of his qualities or attributes; in like manner when we worship the Spirit, we do not merely worship a personal substance or a widely diffused substance, but we worship the attributes and qualities of this substance; it is not then the essence alone which is the object of worship, but it is the qualities of the essence. These attributes and qualities, unlike the essence, are undivided; they are whole and entire in every part. A truth is not two truths because it dwells in two or more beings, but we worship it as one truth wherever we find it. Hence, if the qualities and attributes are the principal cause of our worship, we worship them as one and the same, wherever they are found, whether in a million of substances or only in one. If these qualities and attributes dwell in all their fulness in every substance of the universe, then one and the same God would dwell in every substance, so far as the qualities are concerned. That the qualities are the real object of worship, and not the essence, is evident from the fact that all essences without their qualities, must be alike in nature, if not in form and magnitude. Therefore one essence without qualities has no more claim to our worship than another.”
And again he says:—
“We can form some conception of the extreme minuteness of these all-powerful and all-wise atoms of substance, when we reflect that they are capable of being in and through all things. Now there are many solids so dense, that many millions of millions of particles are collected in a space not larger than a grain of mustard seed; now the pores between these particles must be still more minute than the particles themselves; therefore, the particles of that all-wise substance, which is in and through all things, must be sufficiently minute to enter these extremely small pores, surrounding every atom, and pervading the whole mass, governing and controlling it according to fixed and definite laws.”
In a tract, bearing the same title as the article just quoted from, one of a series of eight tracts which brother Pratt published in England in the year 1856, in reasoning upon the difference between the Holy Spirit and the being known as the Holy Ghost, it is stated on page 51, par. 11, that
“On this occasion [the day of Pentecost,] portions of this Holy Fluid assumed the form of ‘Cloven Tongues like as of Fire.’ It is very doubtful whether a permanent personal spirit would dissolve its personality, and transform its parts into one hundred and twenty tongues, having the appearance of fire. But a living, self-moving fluid substance might transform itself into any shape it pleased, and render itself visible in the form of tongues, or in the form of a dove, or in a personal form, resembling the image of man.”
And further on page 53, par. 18, he says:-
“This boundless ocean of spirit possesses in every part, however minute, a will, a self-moving power, knowledge, wisdom, love, goodness, holiness, justice, mercy, and every intellectual and moral attribute possessed by the Father and the Son. Each particle of this Holy Spirit knows, every instant, how to act upon the other materials of nature with which it is immediately associated: it knows how to vary the gravitating tendency of a particle of matter, every moment, precisely in the inverse ratio of the square of its distance from every other particle in the universe. Where an infinite number of particles of matter are in motion, and every instant changing their relative distances from each other, it must require an overwhelming amount of discernment and knowledge, for each particle of the spirit to perceive every motion of every other particle, and every instant to know the relative positions and distances of every particle in the universe. And yet without such knowledge, the gravitating intensity could not be varied according to the strict law which is known to exist. For the Holy Spirit to move all the materials of nature, according to this one law, requires a wisdom and knowledge incomprehensible to mortal man.”
Again, on page 53, par. 20, it is stated that,
“Man has been accustomed to associate wisdom, knowledge, love, joy, and all the other faculties and passions, with an organized being or personality. Therefore, when he is informed that the Holy Spirit possesses all these attributes, he, from habit, supposes it to be a person; but there is no necessary connection between these attributes and a personality. Indeed, there is no reason why these attributes may not also belong to a fluid substance. We see life and voluntary motion exhibited by beings of every conceivable shape and magnitude, from man down through every grade of existence to the microscopic animalcules. Many of these inconceivably small beings appear to be merely minute globules or particles of living substance. Such being the case, why may not the still smaller particles of the Holy Spirit be alive also? and why may they not also possess all the elementary attributes of a spiritual personage or organization? Is there anything in the mere shape or magnitude of organized spirit-matter, that should cause it to differ in its elementary attributes from unorganized spirit-matter? Certainly not. Therefore, it is perfectly analogous with what we see in nature, to attribute life, voluntary motion, and numerous other attributes and qualities, to a fluid substance, or to each of its particles.”
And on page 55, par. 25, it is said that,
“By the power of Their [the Father and the Son] word the Spirit would set those worlds into harmonious motion; by the power of Their word the Spirit would move the particles in nature according to the law of gravitation; by Their word the Spirit would move every substance according to the varied laws which now exist. By the power of Their word the Spirit could suspend its operations in one way, and operate in another, directly opposite, causing what the world generally calls a miracle. Through the agency of such a universal Spirit, a person could exercise almighty power, throughout every department of nature. Particles, worlds and universes would obey, the Spirit being the great grand executor of all the sublime and majestic movements exhibited in boundless space.”
On the same page, par. 27, it reads,
“But if the body of each Saint is full of the Holy Ghost, it is evident that this holy substance dwelling in each temple, must assume the same shape and magnitude as the temple which it fills. If any one should, by vision, behold the tabernacle of man filled throughout with this substance, he would perceive it existing in a personal form of the same size and shape as the human spirit or tabernacle. And if he should behold a million of such bodily temples thus filled, he would see a million of personal beings called the Holy Ghost; but each one of these, though one with all the others in the attributes, would be distinct in substance from all the rest. They are distinct personal forms which the spiritual fluid assumes, upon entering human bodies, so as to accommodate itself to the size and form of the respective human temples which it inhabits.”
We have quoted some of the items which stand out most prominently in the publications referred to, and which strike us as being most objectionable. They are self-confounding and conflict one with another, and, to our minds, some of the statements, if pursued to their legitimate conclusion, would convey the idea that the physical and spiritual organization of a human being conferred no additional powers or benefits on the creature thus organized, but that any single atom of the “spiritual fluid,” however minute, possessed every attribute that an organized being could possess. Yet it will readily be perceived, upon reflection, that attributes never can be made manifest in any world except through organized beings.
There are great and important truths connected with the eternities of our God and with man’s existence past, present and future, which the Almighty, in his wisdom, sees fit to conceal from the children of men. The latter are evidently unprepared to receive them, and there could be no possible benefit accrue to them, at present, from their revelation. It is in this light that we view the points of doctrine which we have quoted. If they were true, we would think it unwise to have them made public as these have been. But the expounder of these points of doctrine acknowledges that he has not had any revelation from the heavens in relation to them, and we know that we have had no revelation from God respecting them, except to know that many of them are false, and that the publication of all of them is unwise and objectionable. They are mere hypotheses, and should be perused and accepted as such, and not as doctrines of the Church. Whenever brother Orson Pratt has written upon that which he knows, and has confined himself to doctrines which he understands, his arguments are convincing and unanswerable; but, when he has indulged in hypotheses and theories, he has launched forth on an endless sea of speculation to which there is no horizon. The last half of the tract entitled “The Holy Spirit,” contains excellent and conclusive arguments, and is all that could be wished; so also with many of his writings. But the Seer The Great First Cafe, the article in the Millennial Star of October 15th, and November 1, 1850, on the Holy Spirit, and the first half of the tract, also on the Holy Spirit, contain doctrines which we cannot sanction, and which we have felt impressed to disown, so that the Saints who now live, and who may live hereafter, may not be misled by our silence, or be left to misinterpret it. Where these objectionable works, or parts of works, are bound in volumes, or otherwise, they should be cut out and destroyed; with proper care this can be done without much, if any, injury to the volumes.
It ought to have been known, years ago, by every person in the Church-for ample teachings have been given on the point-that no member of the Church has the right to publish any doctrines, as the doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, without first submitting them for examination and approval to the First Presidency and the Twelve. There is but one man upon the earth, at one time, who holds the keys to receive commandments and revelations for the Church, and who has the authority to write doctrines by way of commandment unto the Church. And any man who so far forgets the order instituted by the Lord as to write and publish what may be termed new doctrines, without consulting with the First Presidency of the Church respecting them, places himself in a false position, and exposes himself to the power of darkness by violating his Priesthood.
While upon this subject, we wish to warn all the Elders of the Church, and to have it clearly understood by the members, that, in the future, whoever publishes any new doctrines without first taking this course, will be liable to lose his Priesthood.
BRIGHAM YOUNG, HEBER C. KIMBALL, ORSON HYDE, JOHN TAYLOR, WILFORD WOODRUFF, GEORGE A. SMITH, AMASA M. LYMAN, EZRA T. BENSON, CHARLES C. RICH, LORENZO SNOW, ERASTUS SNOW, FRANKLIN D. RICHARDS, GEORGE Q. CANNON.
TO THE SAINTS IN ALL THE WORLD.
DEAR BRETHREN,-Permit me to draw your attention to the proclamation of the First Presidency and Twelve, published in the DESERT NEWS, and copied into the MILLENNIAL STAR of the 21st inst., in which several publications that have issued from my pen are considered objectionable. I, therefore, embrace the present opportunity of publicly expressing my most sincere regret, that I have ever published the least thing which meets with the disapprobation of the highest authorities of the Church; and I do most cordially join with them in the request, that you should make such dispositions of the publications alluded to, as counselled in their proclamation.
ORSON PRATT, Sen.
London, Oct. 25, 1865