The Write Question

A question that keeps coming back to me: does God write? His religion certainly does. The importance of records and recording is impossible to escape in both the religious and the culturally religious settings (i.e., how many times are we told in a doctrinal setting to keep a journal or record our impressions, and how many times in mormon culture do we see an emphasis on record-oriented activities, such as scrapbooking?). And then we do have the scriptures that tell us that things are recorded in heaven and in books of names and that angels will rejoice over them. It isn’t stated that it’s God himself who does the writing—but it does seem to be standard celestial protocol.

I wonder if all that record keeping influences how I conceive of God. There are some who would argue that God has no need to write or record and that the very idea is blasphemous: isn’t He omniscient? Doesn’t He have everything present before Him? So why would He write—isn’t writing and recording an inherently temporal act designed to give physicality to memory so that the past may continue to exist in the future? A contract, a grocery list, a letter, a poem: the act of writing essentially records these thoughts in time and preserves them against the loss of memory.

So if God writes, and if He is omniscient, I have a couple of possibilities. Maybe He has things recorded so that those who haven’t reached godhood yet (like those rejoicing angels) can keep on top of things. Maybe His omniscience comes from having every record available to Him with an infinite number of angel-librarians (I like the image of a God-the-Librarian padding past celestial shelves late in the evening, his hand absently running along worn leather spines, but that’s just me and my fondness for Borges). Or maybe He just likes writing for its own sake—word play and a possibility for renewed interpretation keep an air of mystery about the place….

Bonus Question: If God writes, does He use a PC or a Mac?

13 comments for “The Write Question

  1. Nick Webb
    October 7, 2006 at 1:04 pm

    I claim credit for that fantastically witty title.

  2. meems
    October 7, 2006 at 1:19 pm


  3. Tatiana
    October 7, 2006 at 1:25 pm
  4. Ardis
    October 7, 2006 at 1:39 pm

    Tatiana’s comment leaves me speechless. Her, too, apparently. /g/

  5. Tatiana
    October 7, 2006 at 2:05 pm

    Lol! I think the board is having glitches. I had a comment in there.

  6. October 7, 2006 at 2:30 pm

    If he does, it must look a lot nicer than our handwriting.

    While serving a mission in Japan, I had the opportunity to witness some really beautiful calligraphy done in ink and brush. Our culture really has nothing that even comes close to the aesthetic experience of Japanese or Chinese calligraphy.

    Although English speakers do have a tradition of calligraphy… It’s just no one learns it anymore. And I thinks that’s sad.

    “Look, I didn’t learn joined-up writing for nothing, you know!”
    Gilderoy Lockheart

  7. Tatiana
    October 7, 2006 at 2:51 pm

    Ah, I know what I did now. I began my post with a greater-than sign to say I “heart” Jorge Luis Borges. (laughs). I forgot that would make the board interpret the whole post as an unintelligible html code.

  8. Jenny
    October 7, 2006 at 4:18 pm

    Tatiana, lol—of course any time we try to talk about Borges the text disappears, or becomes infinite, or some other conundrum.

    Seth R.—don’t you just wonder sometimes what a celestial language would look like written down? My knowledge of asian calligraphy is limited to several kanji from a year of Japanese (a long long time ago), but it always seemed that having such an inherent aesthetic sense in one’s system of writing would change the way one thought about the value of words.

  9. Anna
    October 7, 2006 at 5:14 pm

    Physicist Leo Szilard told his friend Hans Bethe that he was considering keeping a diary: “I don’t intend to publish. I am merely going to record the facts for the information of God.” “Don’t you think God knows the facts?” Bethe asked. “Yes,” said Szilard. “He knows the facts, but He does not know this version of the facts.”

    Writing is not just a form of recording undertaken to aid one’s memory; it is a form of creativity. If God is a writer, I think it is because he is the Creator.

    [I read the anecdote above in a book by Bill Bryson, who in turn credited it to the book Taming the Atom.]

  10. JKC
    October 7, 2006 at 5:43 pm

    It depends what you mean by write. If you mean the physical act of transcribing something, he does that a couple of times in the scriptures—there’s the 10 commandments and then there’s his finger writing on the temple wall in both the OT and the BofM (by reference, though—I always wished we had that story).

    But if you mean writing as in creating narratives he does that all the time. Almost every time there’s a vision it’s a narrative constructed by the almighty to teach and instruct and inspire.

    If you mean writing as in recording things (the idea of the librarian with all the shelves) then that reminds me of Derrida and the other continental philosophers who wrote about the archive—God as the archon, that’s interesting.

    I always pictured God as a ancient Native American medicine man who sits on top of a mesa somewhere looking down on us observing things; somenody who has all the stories of the ages and tells them to those who will listen.

    So is the purpose of writing to record something so it isn’t forgotten? Yes, I think so, but it’s also to construct a reality based on the raw experiential material, a narrative that makes sense of experience. The D&C says that truth is knowledge of things as they are, were, and are to be (paraphrasing), I find it interesting that by that definition truth is not just things, but knowledge of things. Can we really have knowledge without stories? Without a narrative, it seems that experiences are just experiences, just facts, just information, but it is when we experience them in memory through creating stories that we really begin to understand our reality.

    But that’s just the view of an English grad.

  11. MikeInWeHo
    October 8, 2006 at 1:51 am

    Somehow I have this feeling that there is a celestial connection to Google.

  12. October 8, 2006 at 4:17 am

    Neither a mac nor a pc. By hand, of course.

    Writing is also about leaving a legacy. It’s part of becoming. It’s an extension of personality. It’s to remember; to document; to witness; to explore; to wonder; as a tool of thinking; etc.

    I can’t help but think that perhaps the history of this world was already written–by God’s hand–before it started.

  13. Mark Butler
    October 8, 2006 at 6:38 am

    I believe Grego is right. I am inclined to believe the Book with seven seals is a written document (probably with all sorts of sub documents), although it may be considerably larger than an ordinary book. The amazing thing of course is the sort of anticipation and power required to be able to write a plan that He knows can be fulfilled without wresting any person’s agency and moral responsibility (which would defeat the purpose).

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