ARTICLE 1-We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.
The Existence of God-Since faith in God constitutes the foundation of religious belief and practise, and as a knowledge of the attributes and character of Deity is essential to an intelligent exercise of faith in Him, this subject claims first place in our study of the doctrines of the (Mormon) Church.
The existence of God is scarcely a question for rational dispute; nor does it call for proof by the feeble demonstrations of man’s logic, for the fact is admitted by the human family practically without question, and the consciousness of subjection to a supreme power is an inborn attribute of mankind. The early scriptures are not devoted to a primary demonstration of God’s existence, nor to attacks on the sophistries of atheism; and from this fact we may infer that the errors of doubt developed in some later period. The universal assent of mankind to the existence of God is at least strongly corroborative. There is a filial passion within human nature that flames toward heaven. Every nation, every tribe, every individual, yearns for some object of reverence. It is natural for man to worship; his soul is unsatisfied until he finds a deity. When men through transgression fell into darkness concerning the true and living God, they established for themselves other deities, and so arose the abominations of idolatry. And yet, even the most revolting of these practises testify to the existence of a God by demonstrating man’s hereditary passion for worship.
The evidence upon which mankind rest their conviction regarding the existence of a Supreme Being, may be classified for convenience of consideration under the three following heads:
1. The evidence of history and tradition.
2. The evidence furnished by the exercise of human reason.
3. The conclusive evidence of direct revelation from God.
1. History and Tradition-History as written by man, and authentic tradition as transmitted from generation to generation prior to the date of any written record now extant, give evidence of the actuality of Deity and of close and personal dealings between God and man in the early epochs of human existence. One of the most ancient records known, the Holy Bible, names God as the Creator of all things, and moreover, declares that He revealed Himself to our first earthly parents and to many other holy personages in the early days of the world. Adam and Eve heard His voice in the garden, and even after their transgression they continued to call upon God and to sacrifice to Him. It is plain, therefore, that they carried with them from the Garden a personal knowledge of God. After their expulsion they heard “the voice of the Lord from the way toward the Garden of Eden,” though they saw Him not; and He gave unto them commandments, which they obeyed. Then came to Adam an angel, and the Holy Ghost inspired the man and bare record of the Father and the Son.
Cain and Abel learned of God from the teachings of their parents, as well as from personal ministrations. After the acceptance of Abel’s offering and the rejection of that of Cain, followed by Cain’s crime of fratricide, the Lord talked with Cain, and Cain answered the Lord. Cain must, therefore, have taken a personal knowledge of God from Eden into the land where he went to dwell. Adam lived to be nine hundred and thirty years old and many children were born unto him. Them he instructed in the fear of God, and many of them received direct ministrations. Of Adam’s descendants, Seth, Enos, Cainan, Mahalaleel, Jared, Enoch, Methuselah, and Lamech the father of Noah, each representing a distinct generation, were all living during Adam’s lifetime. Noah was born but a hundred and twenty-six years after the time of Adam’s death, and moreover lived nearly six hundred years with his father Lamech, by whom he was doubtless instructed in the traditions concerning God’s personal manifestations, which Lamech had learned from the lips of Adam. Through Noah and his family a knowledge of God by direct tradition was carried beyond the flood; and, moreover, Noah held direct communication with God, and lived to instruct ten generations of his descendants. Then followed Abraham, who also enjoyed personal communion with God, and after him Isaac, and Jacob or Israel, among whose descendants the Lord wrought great wonders through the instrumentality of Moses. Thus, had there been no written records, tradition would have preserved and transmitted a knowledge of God.
But even if accounts of the earliest of man’s personal communion with God had become dimmed with time, and therefore weakened in effect, they could but give place to other traditions founded upon later manifestations of the divine personality. Unto Moses the Lord made Himself known, not alone from behind the curtain of fire and the screen of clouds, but by face to face communion, whereby the man beheld even “the similitude” of his God. This account of direct communion between Moses and God, in part of which the people were permitted to share so far as their faith and purity permitted, has been preserved by Israel through all generations. And from Israel the traditions of God’s existence have spread throughout the world; so that we find traces of this ancient knowledge even in the perverted mythologies of heathen nations.
2. Human Reason, operating upon observations of nature, strongly declares the existence of God. The mind, already imbued with the historical truths of the divine existence and its close relationship with man, will find confirmatory evidence in nature on every side; and even to him who rejects the testimony of the past, and assumes to set up his own judgment as superior to the common belief of ages, the multifarious evidences of design in nature appeal. The observer is impressed by the manifest order and system in creation; he notes the regular succession of day and night providing alternate periods of work and rest for man, animals, and plants; the sequence of the seasons, each with its longer periods of activity and recuperation; the mutual dependence of animals and plants; the circulation of water from sea to cloud, from cloud to earth again, with beneficent effect. As man proceeds to the closer examination of things he finds that by study and scientific investigation these proofs are multiplied many fold. He may learn of the laws by which the earth and its associated worlds are governed in their orbits; by which satellites are held subordinate to planets, and planets to suns; he may behold the marvels of vegetable and animal anatomy, and the surpassing mechanism of his own body; and with such appeals to his reason increasing at every step, his wonder as to who ordained all this gives place to adoration for the Creator whose presence and power are thus so forcefully proclaimed; and the observer becomes a worshiper.
Everywhere in nature is the evidence of cause and effect; on every side is the demonstration of means adapted to end. But such adaptations, says a thoughtful writer, “indicate contrivance for a given purpose, and contrivance is the evidence of intelligence, and intelligence is the attribute of mind, and the intelligent mind that built the stupendous universe is God.” To admit the existence of a designer in the evidence of design, to say there must be a contriver in a world of intelligent contrivance, to believe in an adapter when man’s life is directly dependent upon the most perfect adaptations conceivable, is but to accept self-evident truths. The burden of proof as to the non-existence of God rests upon him who questions the solemn truth that God lives. “Every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things is God.” Plain as is the truth so expressed, there are among men a few who profess to doubt the evidence of reason and to deny the author of their own being. Strange, is it not, that here and there one, who finds in the contrivance exhibited by the ant in building her house, in the architecture of the honey-comb, and in the myriad instances of orderly instinct among the least of living things, a proof of intelligence from which man may learn and be wise, will yet question the operation of intelligence in the creation of worlds and in the constitution of the universe?
Man’s consciousness tells him of his own existence; his observation proves the existence of others of his kind and of uncounted orders of organized beings. From this we conclude that something must have existed always, for had there been a time of no existence, a period of nothingness, existence could never have begun, for from nothing, nothing can be derived. The eternal existence of something, then, is a fact beyond dispute; and the question requiring answer is, what is that eternal something-that existence which is without beginning and without end? Matter and energy are eternal realities; but matter of itself is neither vital nor active, nor is force of itself intelligent; yet vitality and activity are characteristic of living things, and the effects of intelligence are universally present. Nature is not God; and to mistake the one for the other is to call the edifice the architect, the fabric the designer, the marble the sculptor, and the thing the power that made it. The system of nature is the manifestation of an order that argues a directing intelligence; and that intelligence is of an eternal character, coeval with existence itself. Nature herself is a declaration of a superior Being, whose will and purpose she exhibits in her varied aspects. Beyond and above nature stands nature’s God.
While existence is eternal, and therefore to being there never was a beginning, never shall be an end, in a relative sense each stage of organization must have had a beginning, and to every phase of existence as manifested in each of the countless orders of created things, there was a first, as there will be a last; though every ending or consummation in nature is but another beginning. Thus, man’s ingenuity has invented theories to illustrate, if not to explain, a possible sequence of events by which the earth has been brought from a state of chaos to its present habitable condition; but by these hypotheses this globe was once a barren sphere, on which none of the innumerable forms of life that now tenant it could have existed. The theorist therefore must admit a beginning to life on the earth, and such a beginning is explicable only on the assumption of some creative act, spontaneous generation, or a contribution from outside the earth. If he admit the introduction of life upon the earth from some other and older sphere, he does but extend the limits of his inquiry as to the beginning of life; for to explain the origin of a rose-bush in our own garden by saying that it was transplanted as an offshoot from a rose-tree growing elsewhere, is no answer to the question concerning the origin of roses. Science of necessity assumes a beginning to vital phenomena on this planet, and admits a finite duration of the earth in its current course of progressive change; and as with the earth so with the heavenly bodies in general. The eternity of existence, then, is no more positive as an indication of an eternal Ruler than is the endless sequence of change, each stage of which has both beginning and end. The origination of created things, the beginning of an organized universe, is utterly inexplicable on any assumption of spontaneous change in matter, or of fortuitous and accidental operation of its properties.
Human reason, so liable to err in dealing with subjects of lesser import, may not of itself lead its possessor to a convincing knowledge of God; yet its exercise will aid him in his search, strengthening and confirming his inherited instinct toward his Maker. “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.” In this passage as in scriptural usage elsewhere, the fool is a wicked man, one who has forfeited his wisdom by wrongdoing, bringing darkness over his mind in place of light, and ignorance instead of knowledge. By such a course, the mind becomes depraved and incapable of appreciating the finer arguments in nature. A wilful sinner grows deaf to the voice of both intuition and reason in holy things, and loses the privilege of communing with his Creator, thus forfeiting the strongest means of attaining a personal knowledge of God.