Saturday, April 24, 2004

Penrose on God

Richard Bushman, over on Times & Seasons, asked about the classic questions of the nature of God and his power. I commented about a great quote from Charles W. Penrose (who happens to be my great-great-great-grandfather). The quote is too long to post in a comment there, so I'll post the relevant portion here. You can also read the entire discourse, courtesy of (the complete text of the Journal of Discourses is at

But, if God is an individual spirit and dwells in a body, the question will arise, “Is He the Eternal Father?” Yes, He is the Eternal Father. “Is it a fact that He never had a beginning?” In the elementary particles of His organism, He did not. But if He is an organized Being, there must have been a time when that being was organized. This, some one will say, would infer that God had a beginning. This spirit which pervades all things, which is the light and life of all things, by which our heavenly Father operates, by which He is omnipotent, never had a beginning and never will have an end. It is the light of truth; it is the spirit of intelligence. We are told in the revelations of God to us that, "Intelligence of the light of truth never was created, neither indeed can be." And we are told further, that this Spirit, when it is manifest, is God moving in His glory. When we look up to the heavens and behold the starry worlds, which are kingdoms, we behold God moving in His Majesty and in His power. Now, this Spirit always existed; it always operated, but it is not, understood, and cannot be comprehended except through organisms. If you see a living blade of grass you see a manifestation of that Spirit which is called God. If you see an animal of any kind on the face of the earth having life, there is a manifestation of that Spirit. If you see a man you behold its most perfect earthly manifestation. And if you see a glorified man, a man who has passed through the various grades of being, who has overcome all things, who has been raised from the dead, who has been quickened by this spirit in its fullness, there you see manifested, in its perfection, this eternal, beginningless, endless spirit of intelligence.

Such a Being is our Father and our God, and we are following in His footsteps. He has attained to perfection. He has arisen to kingdoms of power. He comprehends all things, because in Him dwelleth the fullness of the Godhead, bodily. He is a perfect manifestation, expression and revelation of this eternal essence, this spirit of eternal, everlasting intelligence or light of truth. It is embodied in His spiritual personality or spiritual organism. This spirit cannot be fully comprehended in our finite state. It quickens all things. As we are told in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, it is:

“The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God, who sitteth upon His throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things.-Sec. lxxxviii, p. 13.

That spirit exists wherever there is a particle of material substance; that spirit is round about it, and in it, and through it; but that we may comprehend it, it must be manifested through organisms. The perfection of its manifestation is in the personality of a being called God. That is a person who has passed through all the gradations of being, and who contains within Himself the fullness, manifested and expressed, of this divine spirit which is called God.

Some people may think this is rather a low idea of a Divine Being. But I think it a most exalted one. The person whom I worship I acknowledge as my Father. Through Him I may learn to understand the secrets and mysteries of eternity, those things that never had a beginning and will never have an end. He has ascended above all things after descending below all things. He has fought his way from the depths up to the position He now occupies. He holds it by virtue of His goodness, of His might, of His majesty, of His power. He occupies that position by virtue of being in perfect harmony with all that is right, and true, and beautiful, and glorious and progressive. He is the perfect embodiment and expression of the eternal principles of right. He has won that position by His own exertions, by His own faithfulness, by His own righteousness. Jesus Christ, the only begotten son of God in the flesh, but His firstborn in the spirit, has climbed His way up in a similar manner.

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