Theogony is not a topic that comes up a great deal in discussions of Mormon theology. We tend to take the eternity of God for granted and as often as not end up affirming the eternity of man as well. The closest we generally get to discussion of the birth of the gods is when we ask the peculiarly Mormon question of how God progressed to become God. Orson Pratt, however, did get down to more fundamental questions of origins.
I have been reading Wilford Woodruff’s diary, and I came across an interesting passage. He is describing the journey of the first band of pioneers to the Salt Lake Valley. You have always wondered, of course, about what they talked about as they walked for days and days. (The pioneer children, we all know, sang.) As it turns out, they spent much of their time engaged in theological speculation. On June 26, 1847, Wilford recorded the following conversation with Orson Pratt in his journal:
- Then the question arose how did God receive his present formation? The Answer given by Professor Pratt was sumthing in the following language:
He sayes I throw out my Ideas not as doctrin but for you to look at. You know when A Chemist goes to work to Analize or try new experiments they often have to try many times before they put a thing perfect & take certain processes which are unnecessary an are afterward laid aside And pursue the most perfect Course that can be [pursu]ed. It may reasonably have been the case with the first being [form]ed which may be Called God. As eternity was filled as it were with particles of intelligence who had there Agency, two of these particles in process of time might have joined their interest together exchanged ideas found by persueing this course that they gained [double?] strength to what one particle or intelligence would have & afterwards were joined by other particles & continued untill they formed A combination or body though through a long process.
Yet they had power over other intelligences in consequence of their combination, organization & strength And in the process of time this being body or God seeing the Advantage of such an organization desires company or A companion and Having some experience goes to work & organizes other beings by prevailing intelligences to come to getehr & may form sumthing better than at first. And After trials of this kind & the most perfect way sought ought it was found to be the most expeditious & best way to receive there formations or bodies either spiritual or temporal through a womb. (original spelling, punctuation and capitalization retained)
For those of you who worry about such things, Wilford does write, “And Any person who should chance to read these lines I wish them to understand that the Ideas given upon these points were not given as doctrin but opinion untill sumthing better should present itself or be decided by revelation.” It occurs to me that there might be a valuable Mormon apologetic in this discussion. We tend to love faith promoting stories that take the form of “modern science has shown X, but we knew X by revelation long before modern science.” The most common example would be the stories we tell about the Word of Wisdom. Here we have Orson Pratt talking about the random evolution of complex intelligent life from a primordial soup a full twelve years before the publication of On the Origin of Species!