Message Three: Brigham Young and the Natural Man (1994)

H. Curtis Wright, Things of Redeeming Worth: Scriptures Messages and World Judgments (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2002).

Brigham Young and​ the Natural Man


Reading Professor H. Curtis Wright’s essay entitled “Brigham Young and the Natural Man” is a rewarding experience to persons interested in theology or philosophy. It tackles head-on a fundamental concept about man that is basic to the gospel of Jesus Christ and also to human philosophy.

I have known Professor Wright for half a century and oft noted that he has a magnificent obsession for things scriptural, theological, and philosophical. In this essay he works all three. His particular background of languages, secular philosophy, and scripture, combined with an acute and analytical mind, accompanied by a spirit-borne testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ, qualify him to produce such an essay. Wright demonstrates a valuable gift to be able to comprehend detailed and extensive sources and restate them in understandable summaries.

Professor Wright’s familiarity with Greek and Latin enables him to discuss word origins and meanings. His astute familiarity with scripture, particularly the Book of Mormon and the writings of Paul, and also his familiarity with the teachings of President Young, prompt him to write with uncommon assurance and intensity.

This essay discusses the difficulty of trying to communicate spiritual concepts, using the shortcomings and imperfections of a secular language, and also the impossibility of understanding such concepts without the intervention of the Holy Spirit. Further, Wright demonstrates the likelihood for error and misunderstanding if one reads only fragments of scripture, or isolated bits of Brigham Young by proof texting without close attention to context. In addition, he shows that it is necessary to view man’s mortal fallen condition against the wider background of man’s entire existence or essence. This is a major and necessary point that he makes if one is to harmonize what otherwise appear to be contradictory positions.

 Professor Wright’s essay is masterful in organization and in content, leading the reader to see theological harmony in the teachings of President Young, Paul, King Benjamin, and the brother of Jared. A word of caution: this essay is not easy reading for most people, but it is well worth the effort required. The most difficult is the first third, after which the argument moves more quickly through the remaining pages of delightful quotations, occasional humor, a touch of polite sarcasm, and final conclusions. Just as there is necessity in dealing with the whole essence of man theologically, so must the reader deal with the whole essay and not with just a part of it. Some may not agree with Professor Wright’s conclusions. He is not casual in manner. His words are muscular and are like sharp teeth. Be that as it may, I found the treatise challenging, informative, and convincing, and recommend it to anyone who desires a deeper understanding of the “natural” man.

—Robert J. Matthews, Dean of Religious Education, 1981–90, Brigham Young University


Brigham Young’s understanding of the natural man was not constructed from statements about the nature of man by Nephites or Jaredites like Enos, Benjamin, Abinadi, Ammon, Alma, and the brother of Jared: [1] it was derived from his New England and European backgrounds and refined by latter-day revelation; and for all his spirited defenses of the Book of Mormon against its critics, his self-acknowledged neglect of its theology is strangely apparent to anyone who studies his uses of scripture. He was, of course, a great proponent of the Book of Mormon; but he was not a great expounder of its doctrines, for Brigham Young, in a word, did not come foursquare out of the Book of Mormon. “With us,” he told the Saints in 1862, “the Bible is the first book, the Book of Mormon comes next; then the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants, [and] then the teachings of the living oracles.” [2] And less than five years before his death he told the Saints: “I was brought up a Christian, very strictly, and was taught to read the Bible; consequently it is natural for me to believe it—it is according to my traditions, and also from the spirit of revelationfrom God unto myself. In all my teachings, I have taught the Gospel from the Old and New Testaments. I found therein every doctrine, and the proof of every doctrine, the Latter-day Saints believe in, as far as I know. Therefore I do not refer to the Book of Mormon as often as I otherwise should.” [3]

 For these if for no other reasons, it seems advisable to obtain some understanding of ancient Eurasian beliefs about the Naturmensch before trying to understand the Latter-day Saint concept of man, Brigham Young’s attitudes toward the natural man, or the implications of total depravity for the Latter-day Saints. But that task, although rewarding, is also formidable because “nature is perhaps [and may actually be] the most complex word in the [English] language.” [4] This is the conclusion of a Cambridge scholar, who, after studying “comparable ideas” such as “culture, society, individual, class, art, [and] tragedy,” finds that “difficult as all those ideas are, the idea of nature makes them all seem comparatively simple.” [5] This apparently innocuous idea has generated “major categories of meaning that have informed Western thought about nature since ancient times.” And since Curtius had already isolated in the 1930s at least “fourteen ways in which a single aspect of nature, its personification as the goddess Natura, operated in Latin allegorical poetry alone,” [6] it would seem not only appropriate but necessary to observe its influence in ancient Christianity and to remark its presence in the restored gospel before examining its impact on the thought of Brigham Young.

I. The Carnal, the Natural, and t​he Spiritual Man

The literature of early Christianity distinguishes sharply between the carnal man, the natural man, and the spiritual man. “The whole man,” according to Irenaeus, is tripartite, since he “consists of a fleshly body, a natural spirit, and a revealed spirit.” [7] Thus, “all of the redeemed will be resurrected unto [eternal] life possessing their own physical bodies, their own natural spirits, and their own revealed spiritualities.” [8] But those who are raised unto eternal punishment will possess only “their own natural spirits and their own physical bodies, in which they exist without the grace of God” [9] during their mortal lives because they reject revelation. There is, for them, no Spirit of God that descends upon anyone from above, no spirituality that God reveals to anybody, and no redeeming witness communicated by God to any of his children that testifies of his Son as the only Savior of mankind. This neglected tripartition of man, so prominent in early Christianity, was also discussed by later writers like Origenes (for whom “man consists of a body, a natural spirit, and a revealed spirituality” [10]), Apollinarius Laodicenus (for whom “man’s three parts are a revealed spirituality, a natural spirit, and a body” [11]), and Procopius Gazaeus (for whom scriptural writers likewise affirm “that man consists of . . . his body, his natural spirit, and his revealed spirituality” [12]).

 Jude, speaking for the prophets, told the early Church that “people with natural spirits who do not have a revealed spirituality are the hairsplitters” [13] whose subtle distinctions, philosophic niceties, and intellectual divisiveness have subverted believers of all ages. He was thus warning Christians everywhere about the natural man, who shares the natural order with the carnal man and the spiritual man and cannot be understood apart from them. But secularized thinkers of all ages, whether in or outside of the Church, have found it difficult to acknowledge any spirituality except their own. The secularizing tendency of westernized Christianity, moreover, has been to identify the natural man with the carnal man by accepting Plato’s condemnation of everything physical, including the human body, as permanently evil. It is therefore essential, in defining the natural man, [14] to understand him as distinct and separate from both the carnal man [15] and the spiritual man. [16] There are literally scores of late Greek and Latin sources that deal with this early Christian tripartition of humanity into carnal, natural, and spiritual components. [17] Its implications cannot be secularized or ignored without distorting beyond recognition revealed information about the natural man. [18]

The carnal man comprises the whole physical dimension of man’s tripartite constitition. He is not like the natural man, who lives on earth and according to nature in all kinds of cultural “weather” created by the human spirit. Nor is he like the spiritual man, who also lives on earth but not according to nature: he constantly evaluates cultural influences, regarding some as beneficial and others as unwholesome; and he sees the natural order as not only lost and fallen but defined and dominated by the human spirit, whereas he prefers the spirit of God because it connects him by supernatural revelation to a transcendent spirit-world through redemptive faith. The carnal man, accordingly, pertains only to the empirical aspect of man as a physical organism operating by instinct within the natural order. He is the easiest of these three men to understand because he is at least similar, and in some ways virtually identical, in the natural religion of secular culture derived from Greco-Roman antiquity and the prophetic culture of revealed religion derived from the ancient Near East. It need only be said that the carnal man is not the best of news in either religion, although he fares better in Mormonism than in orthodox Christianity, which was formulated in the platonistic climate of ancient Alexandria.

The word “carnal” derives from cam-, the Latin stem of caro, which means “flesh.” It refers to “meat,” the stuff that’s wrapped around our bones. The carnal man is simply the man of flesh who lives in the natural universe without involvement in a hypernormal overworld of any kind; and in Plato, the popular version of everything goes with him. The carnal man, accordingly, is not “spiritual” in either the classical or the Christian sense of the word; and that excludes him from both kinds of spirituality. That’s also the point, for European history is a jumbled compound of conflicting oriental and occidental spiritualities that scrambles two versions of spirituality and two kinds of spiritual man [19]the revelatory version of redemptive spirituality, which derives its spiritual man from the supernatural order and his spirituality from a supernatural deity, and the secular version of natural spirituality, which derives its natural man from the natural order and his spirituality from the saeculum. [20] The carnal man and his lack of spirituality is therefore easily distinguished from either version of the spiritual man; and the real problem is thus to distinguish “the natural man” from “the spiritual man,” since the natural man is every whit as “spiritual” in the secular sense of that word as the spiritual man is in its revelatory sense. [21]

Our modern failure to regard carnality, natural spirituality, and revealed spirituality as distinct and separate aspects of the human being accounts for spiritual ambiguities that permeate every Western culture. We have nothing but trouble with this word “spiritual”: we run into it all the time, for we are constantly referring to spiritual things that are purely secular and have nothing to do with revealed religion. Without exception, for example, all colleges of humanities and fine arts in every one of ourwestern European universities are based upon the study of the human spirit; and sophisticated expressions of the human spirit in the arts, literature, and philosophy constitute precisely what is studied in those colleges. We are always talking, furthermore, about such things as the Olympic spirit, the spirit of the nineties, the scientific spirit, the Zeitgeist [spirit of the times], the corporate spirit, the competitive spirit, the spirit of compromise, the professional spirit, the cooperative spirit, the spirit of a novel (play, concert, speech, movie, country dance, or sporting event), mob spirits, the spirits of war and peace, reforming spirits, spirited horses or people, bottled spirits, etc. None of this has anything to do with actual revelation, since we are definitely involved, like it or not, with two kinds of spirituality derived from distinct and separate sources that are rarely differentiated and easily confused: our horizontal spirituality comes from the immanent spirit of naturalism through the Greco-Roman tradition of occidental Europe, whereas our vertical spirituality comes into Europe from the transcendent spirit of redemptivism through the Egypto- Mesopotamian cultures of western Asia. We should therefore observe carefully how we actually use the word “spiritual,” since the spiritual man is a very different thing in revelatory than in secular thinking; and because of that difference, there are two basic words for “spirit” in both Greek and Latin. The two Greek words, which surface in English as “psyche” and “pneuma,” translate into Latin as anima and spiritus. Thus, the Greek word for the secular spirit is psyche[22] which appears in English words like “psyche,” “psychic,” “psychology,” and “psychosomatic”; and it is paralleled by pneuma[23] the Greek word for the spirit of revealed Christianity. [24] When Jerome translated the Greek New Testament into Latin, accordingly, psyche emerged as anima, since each of those words denotes the secular spirit of man; and pneuma became spiritus because both of these words refer to the revealed spirit of God. Like psyche, incidentally, anima also appears in such English words as “animal,” “animate,” and “animus”; for it, too, indexes the spiritual or animating principle of natural life. Animalis, as a matter of fact, is a Latin adjective meaning “spiritual,” which refers, like its Greek correlate psychikos, to the spirit of secularism, just as the Christian spirit is translated from the Greek pneuma into the Latin spiritus. That’s why we never hear priests saying “anima sancta” if we listen to the mass; but we do hear them chanting”spiritu sanctu,” even if we don’t know Latin. Spiritus is therefore the Christian word for “spirit” in Latin, just as pneuma is in Greek, whereas the secular word for “spirit” is psyche in Greek and anima in Latin.

Paul discloses the implications of these conflicting spiritualities in a letter to the Corinthians. His Greek term psychikos anthropos consists of two Greek words translated by the Latin term animalis homo and by the English term “natural man” (1 Cor. 2:14); and all three terms, believe it or not, mean “spiritual man.” [25] Psychikos means “having characteristics or properties of the psyche”; and the English term “natural man,” since it is translated from psychikos anthropos, refers to man as a spiritual psyche, not to man as a physical soma. Or, to use the Latin term, animalis homo designates man as an anima but not as a corpus. The “natural man,” accordingly, is not man regarded merely as a physical organism, for that is precisely what constitutes the carnal man. Paul is definitely talking about the secular version of the spiritual man, which determines exactly what the natural man is. It is therefore clear that the psychikos anthropos, the animalis homo, and the “natural man” all refer to anyone in this world—regardless of time, place, age, gender, race, or circumstances—whose spirituality is naturalistic. Paul is saying that there is a naturalistic spirituality, and that civilized people, like Greeks or Romans who do not have the gospel, are indeed spiritual people; but their spirituality is naturalistic, not revealed, for theirs is the secularized spirituality that created ancient Greece, came into his world through Rome, and has since come into all civilized institutions of western Europe.

 Paul also uses the Greek term pneumatikos anthropos in referring to the revealed version of the “spiritual man,” which he contrasts with the psychikos anthropos, the secular version of the spiritual man. The pneumatikos anthropos, which translates into Latin as the spiritualis homo[26] expresses his Christian interpretation of the spiritual man perfectly, since pneumatikos anthropos and spiritualis homo both refer to anyone whose spirituality is revealed. This reaffirms the necessity of distinguishing between a naturalistic spirituality whose source is no higher than the human being, which is what we study as the human arts and sciences, and a revealed spirituality, the charismatic gift of heaven whose source is much higher than the human being—something we receive fromabove as a gracious gift from God by faith in Christ through repentance and rebirth. These two spiritualities, which Paul clearly recognizes, are disclosed by a careful translation of 1 Corinthians 2:12–14, which pays close attention to juxtaposed subtleties that escape notice when translators go solely by words. “We are animated, not by the natural spirit of the cosmos, but by the supernatural Spirit of God that descends upon us from above, so that we may distinguish the revealed gifts of God’s free grace [from the provisions of nature]. We speak freely of God’s gifts, but not in words that generate instruction from humanly originated wisdom: we use words that communicate information revealed by the Holy Spirit; and we also utilize the Holy Spirit as a criterion for determining what is and is not revealed. But the natural man—anyone whose naturalistic spirituality excludes the supernatural—rejects as absurd all things revealed by the Spirit of God: he is incapable of experiencing such things himself and has no means of evaluating them in others in the absence of revelation.” [27]

II. The Orthodox and Latter-da​y Saint Concepts of Man

The natural man in the Book of Mormon [28] is identical to the natural man in the New Testament [29] and other scriptures for an important reason: the ancient concept of a natural order, which is widely venerated in secular sources but evaluated as fallen and nonredemptive by all of the prophets, constitutes “the oldest idea in the Western intellectual tradition.” [30] That explains why Paul—for whom the natural man, guided only by the fallen spirit of man, can neither know nor accept anything revealed by the spirit of God—is in perfect harmony with Benjamin, who insists that, “unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the Atonement of Christ the Lord,” man is not only “an enemy to God” but “has been from the fall of Adam, and will be forever and ever” (Mosiah 3:19). Before being converted, Paul reminds the Ephesians, “we were children of wrath by nature like the rest of mankind,” [31] thus according with the brother of Jared, who regards no one, not even the best of men, as worthy of the Lord, for “because of the fall our natures have become evil continually” (Ether 3:2); and with Alma, for whom, since the fall of man encompassed everybody, “allmankind . . . had become carnal, sensual, and devilish, by nature” (Alma 42:9–10).

 The scriptures plainly teach that the natural order itself, together with everything it contains (including all forms of natural life both human and nonhuman), is fallen. That is nowhere more evident than in the Book of Mormon, but we must take its historicity seriously in order to understand this. We cannot take its historicity seriously, on the other hand, if we ignore its actual provenance—which means that we should study the Book of Mormon within its own historical context as an authentic document from the ancient world; [32] and that makes Latin essential in studying the Book of Mormon for at least three reasons: (1) it has a powerful impact on English; (2) English is the language of a revealed translation for the Book of Mormon; and (3) scholarship cannot go beyond revelation for original sources. [33] Thus, the Latin word natura (which means “nature”) associates “birth” with the English word “nature” (which means natura) because both words stem from natus (which means “birth”); and that makes the “nature” of anything refer to its ultimate essence—to the inherent forms, inborn characteristics, or innate properties that are fully present within it upon its birth or entrance into the world. “Nature” and its European relatives, moreover, together with shirttail relatives in other linguistic families, have spawned a vocabulary of nature-words so deeply imbedded in all of the western languages that there is no possible way to root it out of them. It is therefore difficult to interpret the “natural man” in King Benjamin in other than European terms, for he meant precisely what we mean when we discuss the natural man: he was talking about the psychikos anthropos, just as Paul was. Benjamin and Paul, furthermore, both say things that affront many people, including some Latter-day Saints, who (like Greco-Roman secularists) deny that nature is fallen and view it optimistically while contending with those who assert (like Judeo-Christian revelationists) that it is fallen and see it as nonredemptive. This is the classic standoff between Western naturalism and Near Eastern supernaturalism, which must be understood in order to separate the orthodox concept of total depravity from the Latter-day Saint doctrine of a total fall. By “orthodox,” of course, since this kind of surgery requires incisive distinctions, we refer to the three orthodoxies of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, which were all shaped by thesame Greek influence that flowed into western Europe through the university of Alexandria. All three orthodoxies were formed in that way: they were all constructed in the language of temporal reality that came straight out of Greece; and they have since been preoccupied with refurbishing houses already built by rational argumentation. Latter-day Saint doctrine, by way of contrast, is based on continuous revelation; and that raises knotty problems of disparity between the Latter-day Saint and orthodox concepts of man, since the Latter-day Saint concept is founded on eternalism in ways that are not relevant to the orthodox concept. These differing concepts of man must be differentiated before being evaluated, for no concept of anything can be properly evaluated unless it has first been closely defined and clearly understood.

Eternalism is always associated with the other world in revelatory thought, but there has never been anything in the secular way of thinking, that is more eternal than this world. [34] The natural universe is therefore regarded in Greek thought as an eternal system of temporal particulars in which the system as a whole is the only eternal thing there is. There never was a time, accordingly, when it did not exist as a whole; but its all-inclusive contents, which include absolutely everything that exists, are embroiled in ceaseless temporal change. The natural universe, on this account, was never created, since it has always existed and contains everything there is; and natural language, which is derived from and has developed within the natural universe, is therefore a time-bound instrument for discussing temporal particulars associated with the world we live in. That forces us, in the absence of an eternal language for discussing eternal things, to use temporal language for discussing both temporal and eternal things; [35] and this problem becomes acute in communicating the eternalism implicit in the Latter-day Saint concept of man because one kind of language must do two kinds of work. Natural language, in a word, is securely tied to human temporal existence in the natural order and is not hooked up with eternity. The Latter-day Saint concept of man, although complex, is often oversimplified, even by Latter-day Saints. There’s more to it than saying, for example, that man is a child of God, or that mortal life is a test to see if he will do everything the Lord commands. There is, of course, some truth in this. Naturalists, on the other hand, may also call man a child of God. Since their Godis the natural order, however, they might as well say that men are children of the universe; and they are, in a sense—but it’s not the sense in which Latter-day Saints call all men the children of God. It is therefore helpful, in distinguishing the Latter-day Saint from the orthodox concept of man, to begin with Joseph Smith’s reference to a ring as the symbol of eternity. Since a ring has no beginning and no end, he says, it symbolizes eternity; but if we cut the ring, it acquires a beginning and an end because cutting it creates a gap in the ring that interrupts its continuity. [36] If we draw a perfect circle, say, three inches in circumference, we can visualize all this by letting the circle stand for Joseph’s ring as the symbol of eternity and allowing Joseph’s ring to represent the Latter-day Saint concept of man as an eternal being. If we rotate the ring ninety degrees on its vertical axis, it becomes a line three inches high, since we are now looking at the edge of the ring. If we then draw a horizontal mark across the edge of the ring an inch down from the top, and do the same thing an inch up from the bottom, the middle inch defines a gap made in the ring by cutting it in two—a gap that separates the ring from eternity and makes it temporal until it is rejoined. [37] Much of this is suggested, moreover, by English words like “time,” “temporary,” and “temporal,” which are all derived from the Greek verb temno[38] meaning “to cut.” So, what have we done? By cutting Joseph’s ring, we have separated the temporal aspect of man, which begins with the top side of the cut and ends with its bottom side, from the eternal aspect of man, which has no beginning and no end. The top of the cut now represents man’s conception, the earliest point at which the fall of Adam can affect him; and the bottom of the cut represents man’s death. It is precisely at this point, accordingly, that Latter-day Saints have their biggest problem with orthodox belief about the nature of man, since premortal eternity has no place in it. Man’s conception is thus the beginning of everything: all of a sudden man is there, created out of nothing, just as the universe was created out of nothing. Man therefore moves from conception out of nothing through mortal life to death and into postmortal eternity; and there is no concept whatever of premortal eternity.

 The nature of man, for Latter-day Saints, must comprehend their overall concept of man in the totality of his entire existence; and that constitutes an eternal existence out of which and in relation to which man’s temporal life is realized, and into whichhe will return. That obliges us to make a fundamental distinction which the orthodox theologies do not make. This distinction is represented in our diagram by a brace around the right side of the gap in Joseph’s severed ring, beginning with the top of the gap, which symbolizes man’s conception, and ending with the bottom of the gap, which symbolizes man’s death; and the embraced gap itself, which represents the temporal aspect of eternity, symbolizes man’s “nature.” This is precisely what the Book of Mormon is talking about when it discusses the nature of man, since it concentrates almost wholly upon the fallen nature of man’s temporal existence and is not focused on his eternalism. [39]

If we go to the left side of the diagram and put a brace around our entire concept of man, it will extend from the top to the bottom of the whole vertical line; and if that brace includes the totality of Joseph’s eternal ring, or what we often miscall the “eternal nature” of man, we absolutely must distinguish between the way we view our concept of man from the left side and the way we view it from the right side of the diagram. But a subtle clash of meanings lurks in the term “eternal nature”—it’s oxymoronic, like “colorless paint” or “immaterial matter.” The meanings of “eternal nature” are contradictory because the root of our word “nature” is natus, the Latin word for “birth;” and natus underlies natura, the Latin word for “nature,” which refers to the internal, inherent, or inborn characteristics and properties of anything that is born or comes into the world. In talking about the “eternal nature” of anything, that is to say, we are talking simultaneously about something that neither begins nor ends on one hand but begins and ends on another.

This problem, at bottom, is irretrievably linguistic, since European words like “nature,” natura, and physis [40] are inadequate for discussing the eternal aspect of the Latter-day Saint concept of man. It may be partially resolved by choosing the philosophical word “essence” to describe the left side of our diagram because, ever since the beginnings of philosophy in the sixth century B.C., “essence” has designated that permanent aspect of anything which is always or eternally present within it. Even that is not wholly adequate, however, because the revelatory and secular meanings of “eternal” obscure some rather subtle differences that are not always apparent. While participating in an academic seminar in the late sixties, for example, a Methodist friend and fellow classmate heard me say something about the fall of man and false ideas of merit that he had never heard from other Latter-day Saints; and in conversing with me about it after class, he asked me point-blank, “Do you believe that men are basically evil?” I could not speak, of course, for others in answering this query; but I had taught Book of Mormon classes at BYU for fifteen years by then, and my students had never tired of asking me essentially that same question. I had learned to answer it, moreover, by putting this diagram on the blackboard and pointing from the right side at “Nature,” and from the left side at “Essence,” and saying, “it all depends on the basis of ‘basically’—if the basis of your question is mortality you answer it one way, and if it’s eternity you answer it another way; so, which answer do you want?” That’s where this diagram came from: it’s my attempt to answer this very question for Book of Mormon students. The answer I gave my Methodist friend was therefore this: “I believe that all men are evil by nature; but I do not believe they are essentially evil.” And his response to me was, “That’s gobbledygook.” Well, when we stop to think about it, that is gobbledygook if, in treating questions like this, we have assumed or presupposed the orthodox concept of man, which is the same from the left side of the diagram as from the right side. The answer I gave my Methodist classmate does not make any sense at all to anyone whose total concept of man begins with conception and has no place in it for premortal eternity. That, I think, is the nub of the whole problem, or very nearly so. I’ve learned to talk about the eternal essence of man—or whatever we choose to call it—because the Latter-day Saints, unless they are out of their minds, do not attribute universal evil to their total concept of man as an eternal being; but they do regard the temporal nature of man as universally fallen and attribute evil to it. We absolutely must make a clear distinction here, and the orthodox do not have to make it. And that, it seems to me, is an appropriate way to handle this.

All of which raises another thorny problem, as already suggested, for the Latter-day Saints. We have, in my opinion, an immensely complicated language problem; and in saying this, I do not mean that we should be using some language other than English (like German, French, or Italian): I’m saying that all of the Indo-European languages, and indeed all natural languages, are inadequate for discussing the eternal or supernatural essence of man.

III. Brigham Young an​d the Natural Man

Now, what about Brigham Young? Where does he stand on this intricate and sensitive issue of the natural man? Typically enough, as with most issues, he eventually gets around to viewing this one from all sides; and his feelings about the natural man have often been misinterpreted, even by his followers. He is not perceived by many Latter-day Saints as a strong advocate for the doctrine of the natural man. Yet, he is precisely and exactly that. He runs head-on into the temporal language problem, of course, in discussing the eternalism of man; and some of the more broadminded Latter-day Saints are fond of citing volume 9, page 305, in the Journal of Discourses to show that he neither accepts nor advocates the doctrine of the natural man as taught by Paul in the New Testament. [41] It can be shown, however, if we understand where Brigham Young is coming from and where he’s headed, that his famous disagreement with Paul is more a problem of language than anything else, and that he makes the words he uses mean what he intends them to mean because words are his servants, not his masters.

 We can observe Brigham Young in relation to the temporal language problem in his remarks about Heber C. Kimball’s use of words. “When brother Kimball speaks, . . . I easily understand his meaning; but he does not always fully explain his views to the understanding of the people. . . . Brother Kimball understands this doctrine as I do, but he has his method of expressing his ideas and I have mine; and I am extremely anxious to so convey my ideas to the people that they will understand them as I do.” Brigham Young then makes this significant statement: “Our language is deficient, and I do not possess . . . the natural endowment that some men enjoy. I am a man of few words, and [I am] unlearned in the learning of this generation. The reason why brother Kimball has not language as perfectly and fully as some other men is not in consequence of a lack in his spirit, for he never has preached when I have heard him, that I did not know what he was about, if he knew himself. I know that his ideas are as clearas the sun that is now shining, and / care not what the words are that he uses to express them.” [42]

That suggests a couple of things. Words, on the one hand, mean absolutely nothing at all: they do not mean anything. But on the other hand, people do mean things by words, which acquire meaning only when they are given specific linguistic functions to perform. Brigham Young’s remarks remind me of Humpty Dumpty, who, when Alice objected to his use of a word and complained that it didn’t mean what he used it to mean, replied: “I can make a word mean anything I want, if I pay it enough!” That’s the way Humpty Dumpty puts it; and in Bishop Berkeley’s dialogue between Philonous and Hylas, Philonous says to Hylas: “ I am not for imposing any sense on your words; you are at liberty to explain them as you please. Only, I beseech you, make me understand something by them.” [43] Brigham Young does not care what the words are that Elder Kimball uses because he understands Elder Kimball: it is Elder Kimball, after all, who means whatever he means by means of the words he uses. President Young’s only concern is that others may not understand Elder Kimball as he understands himself; and that, if there ever was one, is a language problem.

Brigham Young’s comments about Heber C. Kimball were made on February 23, 1862; and six weeks later, on April 6,1862, Brigham Young made another significant statement:

No matter what our exercises may be before the Lord . . . , if our every day life does not accord with our profession, our religious exercises are all in vain. We may have all faith so as to remove mountains, . . . yet if we are not pure in our affections, true and fervent in our love for God, and holy in our spirits, all this will avail us but little. Our spirits should reign supreme in our bodies, to bring the flesh into subjection to the will and law of Christ, until the carnal, devilish spirit that fills the heart with anger, malice, wrath, strife, contention, bickering, fault-finding, bearing false witness, and with every evil that afflicts men, is entirely subdued. If this evil power is not vanquished by the power and love of God, the whole course of nature will be set on fire with the fire of hell, until the whole body and spirit are consumed. [44]

That’s an interesting comment, coming as it does from a man who, in the minds of many, does not accept the Pauline doctrine, which is also a Book of Mormon doctrine, of the fallen, evil nature of man. Brigham Young continues, moreover, by quoting Paul as saying that “we are nothing without charity, whatever else we may possess,” and makes still another significant statement:

 Using my own language I should say [that], without . . . the love of God in the heart to subdue, control, over-rule, and utterly consume every vestige of the consequences of the fall, the fire that is kindled within the nature of every person by the fall will consume the whole in an utter and irretrievable destruction. . . . In speaking of the tongue, the Apostle says, “But the tongue can no man tame, it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison” . . . . If this unruly member is not held in subjection it will work our ruin, for “The tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity, . . . it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature, and it is set on fire of hell.” If the tongue is unbridled and uncontrolled, it sets in motion all the elements of the devilish disposition engendered in man through the fall. [45]

 These comments about language are important, since they show very clearly that Brigham Young not only believes implicitly in the fallen nature of man but knows full well there is a language problem. “Our language is inadequate,” he says, so he uses his own language and does not care what language Brother Kimball uses as long as both he and Brother Kimball control what they say and are not controlled by the language they use. He knows that he uses language in his own way, and that others do likewise. But he also knows that everyone must use the same temporal or time-bound languages in order to discuss any concept of man, including the Latter-day Saint concept of man; and that constitutes a problem when it comes to discussing the eternal aspect of anything. Brigham Young, like everybody else, must therefore use a temporal language in discussing our concept of man, whether he is speaking from the left side of the diagram about the eternal “essence” of man, or from the right side of the diagram about the temporal “nature” of man; and that makes him sound like he’s contradicting himself when he really isn’t. Brigham Young is in firm control of the words he uses, not the other way around; and our problem is to understand as clearly as possible what he intends the language he uses to imply. The Book of Mormon, furthermore, does not discuss the so-called “eternal nature,” or what we have called the ultimate “essence,” of man; [46] and that, too, is part of the temporal language problem.

Paul’s statement about the natural man in 1 Corinthians 2:14 deserves close attention. Brigham Young made four or five comments about this statement that are very important, since his remarks about it in Journal of Discourses, 9:305, have often been quoted by those who do not like the scriptural doctrine of the natural man and cite this passage to prove that he didn’t like it either.

 It is fully proved in all the revelations that God has ever given to mankind that they naturally love and admire righteousness, justice, and truth more than they do evil. It is, however, universally received . . . as a Scriptural doctrine that man is naturally opposed to God. This is not so. Paul says, in his Epistle to the Corinthians, “But the natural man receiveth not the things of God,” but I say it is the unnatural “man that receiveth not the things of God” . . . . That which was, is, and will continue to endure is more natural than that which will pass away and be no more. The natural man is of God. We are the natural parents [of our children], and spiritually we are the natural children of the Father of light and natural heirs to his kingdom; and when we do an evil, we do it in opposition to the promptings of the Spirit of Truth that is within us. Man, the noblest work of God, was in his creation designed for an endless duration, for which the love of all good was incorporated in his nature. It was never designed that he should naturally do and love evil. [47]

We can understand something of the temporal language problem by looking at our diagram for the Latter-day Saint concept of man and remembering that, whenever we discuss either side of the diagram, we are “stuck” with the temporal vocabularies of time-bound natur-words in the natural languages of western Europe; and since eternal realities are of a markedly different order than temporal realities, our only recourse is to use the same natur-vocabularies in two different ways. In Journal of Discourses, 9:305, Brigham Young is clearly talking from the left side of the diagram about the eternal essence of man and saying we cannot label that as evil. He sounds here as if he is contradicting Paul; and yet, in other places, he doesn’t contradict Paul at all. What he is saying, though, is very important and absolutely correct; but I would alert everybody to something Alan Cook used to say, “Beware of reading Brigham Young in paragraphs I” [48] We cannot simply isolate a paragraph from Brigham Young, read it carefully, and come away feeling that we know what he says about any subject: we must know most of what he says, and preferably everything he says, about a subject in order to understand how he felt about it. Alan would also say, if he were here, that there’s more to it than reading excerpts from Brigham Young out of context, for there is something like a “principle of contextual insufficiency” that plagues us when we read him because he is a holistic thinker, and we cannot grasp the whole of his thinking about any subject matter unless we observe it in a sufficient number of contexts. Brigham Young is not an inconsistent thinker; but he does try to view virtually all subject matters from every side, and that makes him seem, especially to orthodox theologians and secular Mormons, as if he contradicts himself—which he rarely if ever does. Three things should be pointed out concerning Brigham Young’s comments on Paul’s statement about the natural man. He said, first of all, that it was “the unnatural man,” not the natural man, “that receiveth not the things of God.” This is a dead giveaway, since it clearly shows that, to Brigham Young in this particular context, the opposite of the “natural” man is neither the “carnal” man nor the “spiritual” man: it is specifically the “essential” man, or the eternal aspect of man that transcends nature in every way, which constitutes the opposite of the “unnatural” man in this comment by Brigham Young. This means, of course, that Brigham Young has redesigned the natur-vocabulary of his native English by replacing its temporal content with eternal content in order to use it for discussing the left side of our diagram. This becomes plainer still, secondly, when Brigham Young says, “That which was, is, and will continue to endure is more natural than that which will pass away and be no more.” Here again, he is saying from the left side of the diagram that the eternal aspect of man, which we have called his “essence,” is more “natural” than the temporal aspect of man, which the Book of Mormon calls his “nature.” The real world, to Brigham Young, is therefore the eternal world, the world from which man came and to which he will return; and if we used the word “natural” as he uses it here, we could call the eternal world “the real natural world.” It’s “unnatural,” Brigham Young is saying, to think about the eternal “essence” of man in the same way that Paul thinks about the temporal “nature” of man. That’s why Brigham Young sounds as if he is contradicting Paul. But the truth is that both men are using the same vocabulary of natur-words in very different ways in order to discuss different aspects of the same thing; and that constitutes the whole sum and the entire substance of their infamous “disagreement”! Everything clears up when we realize that Brigham Young is using the same natur-words in two ways, depending on the aspect of man he is talking about—which is my third point: he does exactly that when he says that “the natural man is of God,” that “we are the natural parents” of children in this world, and that “spiritually,” or in relation to the world of spirits, “we are the natural children of the Father of light and natural heirs to his kingdom.” Brigham Young is saying, in this context, that man is an eternal being who is just as “natural” in relation to the other world as our children are in relation to this world, and that parents, whichever world they inhabit, have “natural” children. Here, while discussing both the temporal and the eternal aspects of man in the same context, Brigham Young uses the selfsame natur-words in two very different senses; and our problem is thus to understand him, not to understand them. [49] He therefore concludes, in his celebrated comments of Journal of Discourses, 9:305, that whenever we do evil, “we do it in opposition to the promptings of the Spirit of Truth that is within us.”

 But why, if only the “unnatural” man is evil, do so many of us oppose this eternal spirit of truth so vigorously while in the flesh? The meaning of Brigham Young’s answer to this question is now apparent without explanations. “Man . . . was in his creation designed for an endless duration, for which the love of all good was incorporated in his nature. It was never designed [by his Creator] that he should naturally do and love evil. .. . When our first parents fell from their paradisiacal state, [however,] they were brought in contact with influences and powers of evil that are unnatural and stand in opposition to an endless life. So far as mankind yield to these influences, they are so far removed from a natural to an unnatural state—from [a natural state of] life to [an unnatural state of] death.” [50]

When Joseph Smith’s eternal ring is severed, to sum everything up, we are brought into what Brigham Young calls “an unnatural state,” a mortal state in which we die, whereas our “natural” condition is to live forever because we were created as eternal beings. Cutting Joseph’s ring, accordingly, brings us into a fallen, mortal, sinful, and “unnatural” state of existence, since an endless life is “natural” to Brigham Young, and a life that ends in death is “unnatural” to him. That is clearly what he means by “natural” and “unnatural” in contexts like this; but we must remember Alan Cook’s principle of contextual insufficiency, for we will not find Brigham Young talking like this in all contexts.

 Paul’s comments about the natural man in 1 Corinthians 2:14–15 are treated by Brigham Young in at least four additional contexts. The statement we have already examined was made onJune 15, 1862; but on August 3,1862, only six weeks later, he made this statement: “The natural man (or as we now use the language, the fallen or sinful man) receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.” [51] Note the phrase “as we now use the language.” Brigham Young is fully aware that, in making the first statement we examined, he was using language in a different way than he is using it now because, whereas he was then discussing the eternal “essence” of man, he is now discussing his mortal existence. He is viewing the Latter-day Saint concept of man from the right side of our diagram, looking at what the Book of Mormon calls the temporal “nature” of man; and from this standpoint, or in his words “as we now use the language,” the natural man is in very deed and actual fact “the fallen or sinful man.” So, Paul is absolutely correct: the natural man, who constitutes “the fallen, or sinful man,” does not receive “the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” Brigham Young, who thus concurs wholeheartedly with Paul’s doctrine of the natural man, now says: “In no other way can the things of God be understood. Men who are destitute of the influence of the Holy Ghost, or the Spirit of God, cannot understand the things of God; they may read them, but to them they are shrouded in darkness.” [52]

We may wonder how Brigham Young can talk so differently, within only six weeks and almost in the same breath, about the nature of man. Our critics, both within and outside of the Church, often accuse us of being wishy-washy about this issue because they can’t pin us down to take one side or the other of it. Well, if that’s wishy-washy, then I guess we’re wishy-washy; but we absolutely must make these distinctions in order to clarify where we are standing and which perspective we are taking when we discuss our concept of man. Our understanding of man is complex: we believe not merely in a dual but in a triune concept of the human being as consisting of an intelligence, a spirit body, and a natural body, all in one; and the orthodox concept of man is much simpler than this. That explains why Brigham Young agrees fully with Paul in both instances cited above and why assumptions based on the orthodox concept of man only make him seem to disagree with Paul in the first instance.

A second additional context in which Brigham Young mentions the natural man is dated January 10,1869: “When we converse . . . on the religion we profess, we are apt to regard it as . . . unworthy . . . of the wise and to be passed [over] . . . by the great and noble. These reflections I have, and I presume others have them. Why is it so? The question can be readily answered by saying that the natural man is at enmity with God. That fallen nature [implicit] in every one is naturally opposed, inherently, through the fall, to God and to his kingdom, and wants nothing to do with them.” [53] What could be clearer than that? It is as though Brigham Young, once again, were looking at our diagram from the right side, not from the left side; and once more, he is in perfect harmony with Paul. He continues: “Is there anything connected with our religion that is derogatory to . . . the most refined? No, there is not . . . . Is there anything in our religion that should startle the nations of the earth? No, there is not. . . . And yet we talk about it as though the people would be struck with wonder if we should tell them what it is . . . . We always talk and feel as though there is something or other about the Gospel of the Son of God that the people cannot bear. What is it?” [54] What they cannot bear is truth, according to Brigham Young, and especially this truth about the natural man, which the secular mentality, however sophisticated, has never been able to stomach.

The third additional context in which Brigham Young refers to Paul’s comments about the natural man is dated July 24,1870:

God has commenced his Kingdom on the earth. How intricate it is, and how difficult for a man to understand if he be not enlightened by the Spirit of God! How can we understand it? .. . [We must] humble ourselves and get the Spirit of the Lord by being born of the water and of the Spirit . . . . How is it [to be understood] if we are not born of the Spirit? Can the natural man behold the things of God? He can not, for they are discerned spiritually—by the Spirit of the Almighty, and if we have not this Spirit within us we cannot understand the things of God. . . . What shall we do? Divest ourselves of great, big “Mr. I “ . . . . What next? [We must] humble ourselves before the Lord and receive the truth as He has revealed it, then we will be born of the Spirit. Then if we wish further blessings, [we must] be born of the water; then, if we wish further blessings, [we must] receive the laying on of hands for the reception of the Holy Ghost; and if we wish still further blessings, [we must] live by every word . . . spoken from the heavens. [55]

The fourth additional context from Brigham Young is dated April 28,1872. He refers less directly, perhaps, to Paul’s comments in 1 Cor. 2:12–14 in this context; but he does refer to them. “I am glad that I am not the Lord. And [I rejoice] to see the Latter-day Saints here [taking the sacrament and] following the example of the Savior . . . [who said:] ‘Do this in remembrance of me until I come.’ We are doing this to-day. Do not other Christians do the same? They do. How do we Latter-day Saints feel towards them? Were we to yield to the carnal passions of the natural man and we had the power of the Almighty we would spew our enemies out of our mouths, yes, we would hiss them from the face of human society for their evils, their malice, for the revenge and wrath they have towards us. But we are not the Almighty. I am glad of it.” [56]

That, to me, is a moving passage; and before leaving it, let’s go back to August 26,1860, where Brigham Young, in a similar statement, repudiated the spirit of vengeance, the desire for revenge or what we might call the war spirit, that gets so many people fired up. That spirit had found place among the Latter-day Saints, and this is what he said about it:

Some may think that they have passed through severe trials during the past few years; but . . . I have passed through no scenes of trial or sorrow. I have never felt better in my life than I have during two or three years past. I do not know that I have had wicked, unrighteous, or ungodly feelings . . . , though I may have felt desirous at times to lay righteousness to the line and judgment to the plummet, and sweep away the refuge of lies; but that would have only gratified that which pertains to the natural man. . . . It would not have satisfied that immortal part within us that is pure and holy, but partakes . . . of the weaknesses incident to the fallen portion. I have sometimes had feelings of this kind—“Draw your swords, ye Elders of Israel, and never sheathe them so long as you have an enemy upon the earth.” I sometimes felt, before the move, like taking the sword and slaying my enemies, until they were wasted away. But the Lord did not design this, and we have remained in peace and quietness. [57]

The remainder of this paper presents selected statements by Brigham Young that do not refer directly to 1 Cor. 2:12–14 but are still about the natural man. The first statement is dated January 16,1853:

How difficult it is to teach the natural man, who comprehends nothing more than that which he sees with the natural eye! How hard it is for him to believe! How difficult would be the task to make the philosopher, who, for so many years, has argued himself into the belief that his spirit is no more after his body sleeps in the grave, believe that his intelligence came frometernity, and is as eternal, in its nature, as the elements, or as the Gods. Such doctrine by him would be considered vanity and foolishness, it would be entirely beyond his comprehension. It is difficult, indeed, to remove an opinion or belief into which he has argued himself from the mind of the natural man. Talk to him about angels, heavens, God, immortality, and eternal lives, and it is like sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal to his ears; it has no music to him; there is nothing in it that charms his senses, soothes his feelings, attracts his attention, or engages his affections, in the least; to him it is all vanity. [58]

The second random statement, dated December 18, 1853, pertains directly to but is not specifically about the natural man; but it pertains directly to the natural man, since it deals with the transition of every child of God, which begins with mortal conception and continues through natural birth, from an eternal to a temporal order of existence: “Many of you have fearful forebodings that all is not right in . . . this kingdom. You shiver and shake in your feelings, and tremble in your spirit; you cannot put your trust in God, in men, nor in yourself. This [fearfulness] arises from the power of evil that is so prevalent upon the face of the whole earth. It was given to you by your father and mother; it was mingled with your conception in the womb, and it has ripened in your flesh, in your blood, and in your bones, so that it has become riveted in your very nature.” [59] The antecedent of “it,” which occurs three times in the last sentence of this statement, is “the power of evil,” which we inherit from our parents, they inherit from their parents, and so on—all the way back to our first parents. Conception is thus the mechanism of transition from man’s eternal essence to his temporal nature, the means by which the fallen nature of our first parents is transmitted to their children, and to their children’s children, etc.—all the way down to us. What we inherit from Adam and Eve, accordingly, is the temporal nature of their post-fallen condition, not the eternal essence of their pre-fallen condition. We do not therefore inherit any specific sins from them, for sinning is always personal and unique to individuals; but we do inherit from them the ability to sin, which Brigham Young calls “the power of evil,” since, without the ability and the freedom to choose evil, there would be no agency and no possibility of redemption. The doctrine that children are conceived in sin nevertheless contradicts the secular beliefs of many people both within and outside of the Church. But it’s definitely in our scriptures: it’s clearly stated, for example, by King David, [60] by the Lord himself, [61] and by Brigham Young, who understands clearly that only exalted Beings beget eternal spirits whereas fallen beings beget only temporal bodies. “The spirits of the human family are pure and holy at the time they enter tabernacles; but the Lord has so ordered that the enemy has great power over our tabernacles, whose organization pertains to the earth. Through this plan arises our probationary warfare. Our tabernacles are conceived in sin, and sin conceives in them; . . . our spirits are [therefore] striving to bring our bodies into subjection, and to overcome the Devil and the evils in the world.” [62]

“This war and striving to overcome that evil power must continue until we triumph,” adds Brigham Young, for “our spirits are [constantly] warring against the flesh, and the flesh against our spirits.” [63] These struggles of eternal spirits with evils encountered through fallen temporal bodies are very real.

We have a [probationary] warfare. . . . “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” 77MS warfare commences within us.

The spirits that live in these tabernacles were as pure as the heavens, when they entered them. [But] they came to tabernacles that are contaminated, pertaining to the flesh, by the fall of man. The Psalmist says, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” This Scripture has established in the minds of some the doctrine of total depravity. . . . This [doctrine] is not correct, yet we [do] have a warfare within us. We have to contend against [our own] evil passions, or the seeds of iniquity that are sown in the flesh through the fall. [64]

That, moveover, is not the end of it: “The pure spirits that occupy these tabernacles are operated upon” by two influences, according to Brigham Young; “and it is the right of Him that sent them into these tabernacles” to retain “the [ultimate] pre-eminence” among his offspring, “and to always give the Spirit of truth to influence the spirits of men, that it may triumph and reign predominantly in our tabernacles [as] the God and Lord of every motion.” [65] “We not only have this warfare continually . . . within ourselves, but we also have an outside influence . . . to resist. Both the religious and the political world have [environmental] influences [for us] to contend against that very much resemble each other; they are more or less exercised, governed and controlled by surrounding influences. We Latter-day Saints [also] have an [external] influence of this kind to contend against.” [66]

Brigham Young, finally, knows that evil exists in people and is realized in every human being and in all societies. “The evil that is spoken of,” however, is temporal, not eternal, since it constitutes only “the power the Devil has gained upon this earth through the fall.” [67] “He gained power to tempt the children of men, and wickedness is produced through their yielding to his temptations; but it is not [eternal] nature in them. They are not ‘conceived in sin and brought forth in iniquity’ -pertaining to their spirits: it is the flesh that is alluded to in that passage. Then why not follow the [eternal] dictates of the Good Spirit? We talk about it, read of it, believe in it . . . [because] that Spirit which gives joy and peace to the children of men, and wishes and does no evil to any person . . . is the Spirit of the Gospel.” [68] The third random statement by Brigham Young, which is dated April 6,1855, deals with defections from the restored gospel caused by naturalism: “Those who were not faithful, beholding things as the natural man beholds them, have left the Church: yes, scores of them, hundreds of them, thousands of them, both male and female. They looked at this kingdom, and, considering its progress upon seemingly natural principles, discovered it was best for them to leave it, and if possible save their lives.” [69]

Brigham Young made the fourth random statement on June 7, 1857. He was referring to the fact that Latter-day Saints are unified by their belief in actual, live, ongoing, continuous revelation, and that this unity dissolves many things which tend to separate them. But their secular neighbors view that negatively and are angered by it. “There is but one fact that makes our enemies mad at us,” he says, “and it is a principle visible and tangible to the natural senses, though I would not say that it is the internal workings of the natural senses to the natural man.” [70] The fifth random statement excerpts three paragraphs delivered by Brigham Young in the Bowery at Salt Lake City on July 19, 1857.

When you look at things naturally, which is as far as the natural man sees, a person who takes a course to destroy himself temporally would be considered very unwise. And to the natural man we are taking [such] an unwise and unnatural course, wherein our religion is obnoxious to the Christian world. Did not your friends say to many of you, before you left your homes, that you were foolish—that the world would despise you and hate you? Did they not . . . say that you were very unwise . . . [and] that you had better stay where there was safety? They can see nothing more thannatural things; they do not understand the ways of God; they are unacquainted with His doings, with His kingdom, and with the principles of eternity.

So far as the natural man is concerned . . . the Latter-day Saints are very unwise to embrace in their faith those obnoxious principles that render them so odious in the eyes of the political and Christian world—the popular world. [But] the Latter-day Saints see further; they understand more than what pertains to this world. The Gospel of life and salvation reveals . . . that this world is only a place of temporary duration, existence, trials, &c. Its present fashion and uses are but for a few days, while we were created to exist eternally. The wicked can see no further than this world is concerned.

Can the wicked be brought forth to endure? No; they will be destroyed. . . We all naturally know—we can naturally understand that man cannot stay here always. The inhabitants of the earth are continually coming and going. This is not our abiding place. All can see naturally . .. that this world is of but short duration to them. . . . It is but a short time, and then they must go. [71]

The sixth random statement by Brigham Young about the natural man is dated a week later on July 26,1857: “What caused the men and women before me to leave their good farms, their good houses, their merchandize, and all the luxuries and comforts of life so dear to the natural man? . . . What caused all this? . . . Can any man tell? The world are trying t o . . . . [But] they know not the reason why the people are assembled here; for they cannot and will not see and understand anything only as they discern it by the powers of the natural man.” [72]

This paper concludes with an additional miscellany of random statements about the natural man by Brigham Young, which are presented without comment in order to get them on record.

August 15, 1852: Two Excerpts.—“The [knowledge] capacity of mankind . . . is great; all nations and people understand more or less of the knowledge pertaining to the arts and sciences. But when they leave those principles  . . . comprehended . . . by the natural man, and undertake to define their own persons, their own being, . . . the propriety and wisdom of the creation, and bring forth . . . principles that pertain to future knowledge, . . . there is a veil over them. The veil . . . has beclouded their understandings, so that they are in thick darkness. This our experience teaches us—that when any uninspired person . . . [attempts to] step beyond organized nature, which is visible to the natural eyes, there is a mystery—the hidden mystery—the deep and unsearchable mystery of creation.” [73]

“We can see the natural man, we can behold our face in the glass; but can we tell what manner of person we are? . . . It is a mystery to the wisest. . . . Philosophers are ready to acknowledge and exclaim, It is a mystery!—it is not to be fathomed or understood by man. When we advance into the future or recede into the past, either plunges a man into still greater mystery. It is a mystery that the world have sought after by their wisdom: they have studied diligently . . . , seeking to find that which others have not found—to learn that which has not been learned.” [74]

June 12, 1860.—“The kingdoms of this world must become the kingdoms of our Lord and his Christ. To aid in accomplishing this work, we must overcome sin and every evil propensity of the natural man—every selfish and unhallowed desire. Let no man covet the things of this world, nor lust after the vain and foolish things that pertain to it.” [75]

September 30, 1860.—“The heart of man is incapable of fully comprehending the blessings that God has in store for the faithful, unless he has revealed those blessings to them by the revelations of his Spirit. The natural man is contracted in his feelings, in his views, faith, and desires, and so are the Saints, unless they live their religion.” [76]

April 7,1861.—“Place ourselves back ten centuries, read the prophecies, and behold by prophetic vision what the Lord was going to do in the latter days. ‘The time is coming when the Saints . . . will assemble themselves together. . . . Look forth in vision and behold these events.’ They would appear far more beautiful than they appear to the natural man while acting in them.” [77]

March 6, 1862 (in dedicating the New Theater in Salt Lake).—“Professing Christians generally would not consider this a fit position for those who profess the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ to occupy. [But] these Saints of the Most High appear here in the capacity of an assembly to exercise and amuse the mind of the natural man. This idea brings . . . a thousand reflections. What is nature? Everything that pertains to the heavens and the earth. ‘My son,’ says the Christian father, ‘you should not attend a theatre,. .. nor a ball-room, for there the wicked assemble; you should not be found playing a ball, for the sinner does that.’ Hundreds of like admonitions are thus given, and so we have been thus traditioned; but it is our privilege and our duty to scan all the works of man . . . , and thereby learn what man was made for, what he is capable of performing, and how far his wisdom can reach into the heavens, and to know the evil and the good [in man].” [78]

March 23,1862.—“Many of us have been taught the doctrine of total depravity—that man is not naturally inclined to do [anything] good. I am satisfied that he is more inclined to do right [as an eternal being] than to do wrong [as a temporal being]. There is a greater power within him to shun evil and perform good, than to do the opposite. [But] we have the powers of darkness, or the influences opposite to good, to contend with. . . . There are two classes of influences, one tends to good and the other to evil; one to truth and life, the other to falsehood and death. Evil is sown in our nature, but there is not a person who is not prompted to do good and forsake evil; though there are but few who . . . will subject themselves to be perfectly obedient to the law of Christ, yet there are dispositions that will be subject to the truth through cruel mockings and scourgings, bonds and imprisonment.” [79]

IV. Addendum: Total Depravity and the Latter-day Saints

This last remark by Brigham Young about total depravity again presupposes the left-hand view of our diagram; but another aspect of depravity emerges if the right-hand view is taken. Latter-day Saints have traditionally rejected the orthodox language and vocabulary of depravity, not because they view the fall of man as somehow less than total, but because their total concept of man differs from the total concept of man in conventional Christianity. It is, after all, only a previously assumed concept of man that can be evaluated as good or bad—as nonfalien or as totally or partially fallen; and it must be acknowledged, as Mormon insists, that “in Christ there should come every good thing,” since “all things which are good cometh of Christ,” and that “otherwise men were fallen, and there could no good thing come unto them” (Moro. 7:22, 24). It must also be acknowledged, on the other hand, that the Greco-Roman optimism of Western rational thought has always been hostile to the radical insistence of revelatory pessimists that the natures of man and the universe are fallen. The intense anthropocentric humanitas, accordingly, which stems from the same Greco-Roman naturalism that civilized western Europe, has always repudiated the Christian doctrine of fallen man, whatever form it took, with its own antidoctrine of natural or inherent goodness. Since the natural order, on this account, is man’s ultimate reality, it is the best thing he has to go by and his only means of evaluating anything; and since all who regard their ultimate realities—whatever they treasure most and give up last—as evil are insane, the natures of man and the universe are assumed to be good and contrary assumptions are not tolerated. But for all that, we must not be content with wrong answers to depravity based on humanistic objections to the fall of Adam, since they inevitably assume that man is good by nature whereas, according to our own latter-day revelations, the temporal nature of man, which deviates from the eternal essence of man, has indeed become depraved. Thus, the one and only instance of the word “depravity” in holy writ occurs in Mormon’s tortured lament for the Nephites. “O the depravity of my people!” he exclaims. “They are without order and without mercy. . . . They have become strong in their perversion”—which is exactly what depravity means—”they are alike brutal, sparing none, neither old nor young; and they delight in everything save that which is good” (Moro. 9:18–19). Mormon’s solitary use of “depravity,” as a matter of fact, follows its basic meanings very closely, since they are derived from de (“from,” “down from,” “away from,” etc.) and prauitas (any kind of “crookedness” or deviation from any kind of “straightness”), which combine to designate anything “twisted,” “distorted,” “perverted,” or “contorted” by deviating from a standard that defines it as such. For all of our aversions to orthodox doctrines of depravity, accordingly, that word accurately describes the temporal nature of man, which deviates from the eternal essence of man because of the fall of man. From the very moment when Adam’s pre-Cain children first “loved Satan more than God,” therefore, “men began from that time forth to be carnal, sensual, and devilish” because of the fall; and their fallen state was shared by all men, since “all mankind,” according to Alma, “were cut off from the presence of the Lord” and are “carnal, sensual, and devilish, by nature” (Moses 5:13; Alma 42:9–10; emphasis added) [80]—not spiritual, godly, and good by nature as the secular thinking of Greco-Roman naturalism would have it. This is the sticking point of our real dispute with total depravity as taught by orthodox Christians: they label their total concept of man as depraved; but we cannot do that with our total concept of man. Since people are either fallen or they are not and no one is partially (say 23 or 98 or 10 percent) fallen, we definitely affirm that everyone is totally fallen and is evil by nature; but we also affirm, since it is “because of the fall” that “our natures have become evil continually,” that we are not eternally evil, and that” the natural man,” who is in very deed “an enemy to God,” has only been so “from the fall of Adam” and is not out of sync with God from all eternity to all eternity (see Ether 3:2 and Mosiah 3:19, where these implications of eternalism are definitely present; emphasis added). It is therefore our solemn duty and sacred privilege to proclaim the reality of man’s total fall to everyone, and to offer relief from its negative consequences through the Atonement of Christ our Lord to anyone who loves redeeming light and truth enough to have faith in the Holy One of Israel, come to his Father’s knee for mercy, and repent of all personal sinfulness. We have nothing to offer anybody else.


[1] These are the six authors of the eight passages in the Book of Mormon that discuss the nature of man directly.

[2] Journal of Discourses, 9:297. Still, he adds that “in the end . . . the living oracles of God have to take all things of heaven and earth . . . and prepare them to enter into the kingdom of heaven. Gold and silver, houses and lands, and everything possessed by the Saints will be purified . . . by the power of God . . . when the earth is sanctified.” Emphasis added.

[3] Journal of Discourses, 16:73–74, adding that “there may be some doctrines about which little is said in the Bible, but they are all couched therein, and I believe the doctrines because they are true, and I have taught them because they are calculated to save the children of men.” Emphasis added.

[4] Raymond Williams, Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society (London: Fontana, 1976), 184, adding (in ibid., 186) that “any full history of the uses of nature would be a history of a large part of human thought.”

[5] Peter Coates, Nature: Western Attitudes Since Ancient Times (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998), 1.

[6] Ibid., citing George D. Economou, The Goddess Natura in Medieval Literature (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1972), 3, and 172, n. 5, who also adds that “Pauly-Wissowa devotes thirty-five columns to ‘Physis,’“ that “Arthur O. Lovejoy and George Boas list no fewer than sixty-six meanings of nature,” and that “R. G. Collingwood has brilliantly traced and interpreted the views of nature from ancient to modern times” in his book, “The Idea of Nature (New York, I960).” Consult also, in a truly voluminous literature about the idea of nature, many important studies such as C. J. Glacken, Traces on the Rhodian Shore: Nature and Culture in Western Thought from Ancient Times to the End of the Eighteenth Century (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967), passim, and C S. Lewis, Studies in Words, 2d ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1967), 24–74.

[7] Translating perfectus homo constat came, anima, et spiritu from Irenaeus Lugdunensis, Adversus Haereses 5.9.1. It is this three-way contrast between man’s flesh (caro), his natural spirit (anima = the soul or animating principle of all natural life forms), and his revealed spirituality (spiritus—God’s spirit and spirituality) that is so often overlooked today. Verfectus homo, which is properly translated as “the perfected man,” refers, in this context, to the whole, complete, ideal, or total man. Thus, Irenaeus is discussing the just man “made perfect through Jesus”—through the Atonement of Christ and “the shedding of his own blood”—as “all the prophets . . . since the world began” have known full well (D&C 76:69; Mosiah 13:33); he is not referring to legally observant humanists who try, however diligently, to perfect themselves through their own abilities to comply with ritual and moral requirements; he is stressing the very real difference between just men, who are made vicariously perfect by faith in the Atonement of Christ, and unjust men, who think they earn personal perfection through their own efforts without relying wholeheartedly on Christ and his Atonement.

[8] Translating πάντες . . . ει̉ς ζωὴν α̉ναστήσοντα, ί̉δια έ̉χοντες σώματα, καὶ ί̉δίας έ̉χονες ψυχάς, καὶ ί̉δίάς έ̉χοντες ψυχάς, καὶ ί̉δια πνεύματα, from Irenaeus Lugdenensis, Adversus Haereses 2.33.5. Emphasis added to stress Irenaeus’ tripartition of elements in the early Christian concept of man.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Translating ο  Origenes, De Principiis 4.2.4, emphasis added.

[11] Translating [Arabic] from his fragment no. 88, emphasis added.

[12] From [Arabic] from his commentary on Gen. 1:26.

[13] Translating [Arabic] in Jude 1:19, emphasis added to distinguish the two spiritualities implicit in this sentence.

[14] Paul’s “natural man” in 1 Cor. 2:14 is the man as an immaterial [psyche, natural soul, human spirit], not as a physical [body] made of [flesh].

[15] The carnal man is the or the former [Arabic] meaning the “man who is made of flesh,” the latter the “man who exhibits characteristics of the flesh.”

[16] Paul’s “spiritual man” is the which he contrasts [Arabic] with the “natural man” in 1 Cor. 2:14–15.

[17] Many of these sources are listed under [Arabic] and its cognates in Henry George Liddell [et al.], A Greek-English Lexicon . . . (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989); Joseph Henry Thayer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament . . . (4th ed.; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1930); and William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature . . . (2d ed.; Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979). See also G. W. H. Lampe, ed., A Patristic Greek Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon, 1961), 1542–54, which lists a multitude of pertinent sources and provides their original texts. And see, finally, W. K. C. Guthrie, The Fifth-century Enlightenment (“A History of Greek Philosophy,” v. 3; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969), 467–84 for an important discussion of the [Arabic] as controller of the [Arabic] in which the former is the soul—or natural spirit—of man that uses the latter as its instrument.

[18] As in E. M. Blaiklock, “The Natural Man,” Greece and Rome, 16, no. 47 (April, 1947): 52–53. This article not only identifies the natural man with the carnal man but fails to distinguish the spiritual man from the natural man in any meaningful way. Paul’s term for “natural” is [Arabic] which Blaiklock wrongly thinks “ is almost equivalent to [Arabic] [made of flesh] or [Arabic] [having characteristics of flesh];” and to prove that, he cites three sources tnat refute it completely: John Chrysostom, for whom the natural man is [Arabic] [“anyone possessing only inborn and humanly-originated intelligence”]; John Calvin, who defines the natural man as auemlibet hominem solis naturae facultatibus praeditum [“anyone endowed with only natural faculties”]; and G. G. Findlay, who says first that, “contrasted with the [Arabic] [profligate], the [Arabic] [natural man] is the noblest of men,” then that “to the [Arabic] [spiritual man] he is related as the natural [is related] to the supernatural,” and finally that the natural man constitutes man’s “unregenerate nature at its best.” But—and Blaiklock sees no contradiction here—”Aristotle (Eth. Nic. III.x.2 [=1117.b.28]) used the word [for “natural”] to distinguish the pleasures of the soul [Arabic] . . . from those of the body .[Arabic] “ It is nevertheless incongruous to argue, following Aristotle, that “the [Arabic] had all the human excellence of the philosophers of Athens,” since the immaterialism of Athenian form-philosophy rejected the Ionian physicalism of Democritean matterphilosophy implied in identifying the natural man with the carnal man. It is true, of course, that, “compared with the [Arabic] [spiritual man]” the natural man [Arabic] “lacks a whole dimension of his soul”; but the classical tradition knows nothing of a revealed component in its concept of man, and this insight is neither understood nor followed up. Blaiklock’s insights, as a matter of fact, rest almost exclusively on the misidentification of natural with carnal realities; and it is difficult to imagine a more confused attempt to differentiate the natural man from the carnal man and the spiritual man.

[19] For evidence see two of my articles, “The Central Problem of Intellectual History,” and “Naturalism and Revealed Religion,” in Scholar and Educator, 12, no. 1 (fall, 1988), 52–68, and 13, no. 1 (fall 1989), 17–31.

[20] “Saeculum—a sequence of generations or even an infinite sequence of time—was related to [indefinitely long] ages of the world and to eternity,” Philip P. Wiener, ed., Dictionary of the History of Ideas (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1973), 3:477. Cf. Warren Wagar, ed., The Secular Mind; Transformations of Faith in Modern Europe (New York: Holmes & Meier, 1982), 234: “If one main branch of meanings . . . [for] ‘secular’ derives from a Latin root which . . . implied ‘of or pertaining to the world,’ there is a second branch whose sense is ‘of or belonging to an age or long period.’“ Thus, “to secularizeis to make secular, to bring into the saeculum, or ‘ w o r l d ‘ . . . . This means to repugn or ignore religious considerations and substitute for them the values of ‘this’ world . . .. Secularization means the atrophy of belief in a . . . supernatural realm of being, and of institutions and practices grounded in such belief . . .. [It means] transferring the center of ultimate concern (to use Paul Tillich’s phrase) from . . . supernature to the ‘real’ world of empirically observable nature, history, and m a n . . . . [It] is the process by which the supernatural has been lost,” ibid., 2,4–5.

[21] Terms for the “carnal man,” the “natural man,” and the “spiritual man,” unless otherwise indicated, will henceforth have the primitive meanings already attributed to them in this paper.

[22] Transliterating [Arabic] the animating spirit of all natural life forms.

[23] Transliterating [Arabic] which normally refers to the transcendent spirit of God unless qualified by a contextual restrictor like an adjective, adverb, case form, etc. Its so-called [Arabic] opposite, means “pertaining to the soul or life” in the New Testament and related sources, “always denoting” as it does “the life of the natural world and whatever belongs to it, in contrast to the supernatural world, which is characterized [Arabic] by Arndt and Gingrich, 894.

[24] From this point on, unless otherwise indicated, Greek words already cited in the footnotes will be italicized in the text and transliterated in conventional Augustan spellings that should be familiar to most English readers. New Greek words, if introduced beyond this point, will be handled the same way in the text and confined to their native spellings in the footnotes. Greek words “naturalized” by English usage will normally appear in quotation marks but may show up without them.

[25] For [Arabic] and its adverbial form [Arabic] actually defined to mean “spiritual” and “spiritually” as opposed to “physical” and “physically” see Liddell, 2,027 and Lampe, 1,553–54. The same words, of course, which express only the secular spirituality of naturalism, can mean “unspiritual” and “unspiritually” from the revelatory perspective of Christianity.

[26] Or spiritalis homo—both spellings will fly in Latin.

[27] I have published this “full” or expanded translation of 1 Cor. 2:12–14, with only minor differences, in “A Sophie and a Mantic People,” BYU Studies 31, no. 3 (summer 1991): 52. It rejects, of course, the word-for-word insanity of interlinear translation, but stays very close to the spirit and meaning of the Greek and Latin texts from which it comes. 1 Cor. 2:15–16, which I have not included in this translation, adds that people whose spirituality is revealed make judgments about all things, both natural and supernatural, without being subjected to judgment themselves, because they possess the mind of Christ.

[28] All direct references to the nature of man in the Book of Mormon are found in Ether 3:2; Enos 20; Mosiah 3:16–19, 16:1–5; and Alma 19:6, 26:21, 41:4, 11–12,42:9–10.

[29] Most direct references to the nature of man in the New Testament are found in 1 Cor. 2:12–14,15:42–46; Eph. 2:3; 2 Peter 1:4,2:12; and Jude 10,18–19.

[30] John Herman Randall, “Epilogue: the Nature of Naturalism,” the concluding statement summarizing a monograph of fourteen critical chapters on naturalism in Yervant H. Krikorian, ed., Naturalism and the Human Spirit (“Columbia Studies in Philosophy,” 8; New York: Columbia University Press, 1959), 354. Our English word “nature,” Randall continues, “is the Latin version of the Greek [Arabic] adding that “philosophic reflection arose in the Greek world when . . . thinkers in Asia Minor began to criticize their inherited beliefs by speculating on the [Arabic] or ‘nature’ of things. Greek wise men,” he also adds, “early wrote books ‘On Nature.’ But what they were actually writing about had been a subject for debate ever since Aristotle . . . ; and it is [still] a theme for vigorous controversy among scholars,” ibid. But the idea of nature, for all that, is a lot older than Aristotle.

[31] Translating [Arabic] emphasis added.

[32] Those who regard the Book of Mormon as originating in early 19thcentury New England, it seems to me, are at least tacitly acknowledging that they do not really believe it to be an ancient document, that it consists of something like inspired fiction invented by pious Americans for teaching religious principles, that it does not bind their consciences, that they can explain it fully in North America without referring to the European backgrounds of her earliest settlers, and that, in short, they do not take it seriously. But New England was not named for nothing, and the overwhelming majority of Americans, even today, are transplanted Europeans whose ancestors brought to their “new world” such geographical names as “New Orleans,” “New Hampshire,” “New Haven,” “New York,” and “Nova Scotia.” Western European culture, accordingly, continues to dominate the civilizations of both American continents, although copious sprinklings of Athabascan, Asiatic, and other cultures are found among them.

[33] This more or less summarizes Hugh Nibley’s comments about “The Language of the Book of Mormon” in The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, ed. John W. Welch et al. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1986), 896–97: “The original language of the Book of Mormon . . . seems to be stirring considerable interest in some quarters. . . . [But] such speculations are a waste of time. . . . Nephite was simply Nephite, as English is English, whatever its original components may have been . . .. If we had the original text [of the Book of Mormon], which we do not, and if we could read it, which we cannot, any translation we might make of it would still be inferior to that which was given, as we claim it was, by the gift and power of G o d . . . . Scholars would be everlastingly squabbling about it and getting out endless new and revised translations, as in the case of the Bible. In fact, if our English text of the Book of Mormon came to us in any other way than by revelation it would be almost worthless! For members and investigators could ask of every verse: ‘But how do we know it is translated correctly?’ A revealed text in English is infinitely to be preferred to an original [text] in a language that no one on earth could claim as his own . . .. To the question ‘What was the original language of the Book of Mormon?’ the real answer is: It is English! For the English of the Book of Mormon comes by revelation, and no one can go beyond revelation in the search for ultimate sources.”

[34] Christ referred to the secular concept of eternalism when he said, “Heaven and earth”—the most eternal thing the secular mentality can think of—”shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” Matthew 24:35; cf. Mark 13:31 and Luke 21:23.

[35] Even the Lord himself, in revealing information about eternal realities unto those who have no recourse to eternal language, uses temporal languages, since “he speaketh unto men according to their language, unto their understanding” (2 Ne. 31:3; emphasis added). Thus, Moroni reports that Jesus “talked with me face to face, and . . . told me in plain humility, even as a man telleth another in mine own language” concerning the things of God (Ether 12:39); and Mormon confirms, conversely, that “there are many things which, according to our language, we are not able to write” (3 Ne. 5:18; emphasis added) because their language, like temporal languages generally, was not adequate for discussing eternal realities. This inadequacy of natural languages for communicating eternal information is also verified in D&C 1:24, 29:33, 90:11, and in Moses 6:5–6,46, 57, 7:13.

[36] Cf. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1938), 181: “That which has a beginning will surely have an end: take a ring, it is without beginning or end—cut it for a beginning place and at the same time you have an ending place.”

[37] See Teachings of Joseph Smith, ibid., 354: “I take my ring from my finger and liken it unto the mind of man . . . because it has no beginning. Suppose you cut it in two; then it has a beginning and an end; but join it again, and it continues one eternal round. So with the spirit of man.”

[38] Transliterating [Arabic] “cut.”

[39] Man’s eternalism is everywhere assumed as true and taken for granted in the Book of Mormon, which is nevertheless silent, or very nearly so, aboutsuch things as premortality, intelligences, eternal increase, temple work for the living and the dead, the eternity of matter, and many other aspects of man’s everlasting coexistence with God in an infinite system of reality that has neither beginning nor end and lasts forever.

[40] Transliterating the Greek word for “nature.”

[41] A prime example of the above is George T. Boyd, “The Moral Nature of Man,” an unpublished address to seminary and institute faculty at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, on June 29,1962. Those who think this way also tend to reject the doctrine of the natural man as taught elsewhere in the scriptures by prophets like King Benjamin or the brother of Jared. I have personally heard an institute teacher in southern California, for example, teach openly in his classes that Benjamin was not a good Mormon because of his beliefs about the natural man!

[42] Journal of Discourses, 9:286–87; emphasis added.

[43] George Berkeley, Three Dialogues Between Hylas and Philonous, ed. Colin M. Turbayne (New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1954), 40, emphasis added. Hylas means “materialist,” of course, and Philonous means “idealist.”

[44] Journal of Discourses, 9:267–68.

[45] Ibid.; emphasis added.

[46] I keep saying “so-called” because I’m not satisfied with this term “eternal nature,” and I’m still groping for a better term like “essence,” or whatever we’re going to call it.

[47] Journal of Discourses, 9:305.

[48] Alan Cook, now deceased, was formerly a professor of religious education and part-time instructor in philosophy at BYU.

[49] Once we realize that Brigham Young uses the same language for discussing either aspect of man, but makes its words mean different things according to the aspect of man he is discussing, his contradictions simply evaporate—there aren’t any.

[50] Journal of Discourses, 9:305.

[51] Ibid., 9:330.

[52] Ibid.

[53] Journal of Discourses, 12:323. Cf. Bruce R. McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1985), 282: “There is a naturalbirth, and there is a spiritual birth. The natural birth is to die as pertaining to premortal life, to leave the heavenly realms where all spirits d w e l l . . . and to begin a new life . . . on earth. The natural birth creates a natural man, and the natural man is an enemy to God. In his fallen state he is carnal, sensual, and devilish by nature. Appetites and passions govern his life, and he is alive—acutely so—to all that is evil and wicked in the world. The spiritual birth comes after the natural birth. It is to die as pertaining to worldliness and carnality and to become a new creature by the power of the Spirit. It is to begin a new life . . . of righteousness, a spiritual life. Whereas we were in a deep abyss of darkness, now we are alive in Christ and . . . his everlasting light.”

[54] Journal of Discourses, 12:323–24.

[55] Ibid., 13:271–72. Brigham Young once said, “Away with stereotyped Mormons”; and here he seems to be saying “Away with stereotyped sequences.” It is not true that we are always born of the water first, and then we are born of the Spirit, and then we do this, and then we do that. These sequences are not unalterably fixed. In the Book of Mormon, for example, some of the Lamanites were born of the Spirit without even knowing what was happening to them; and here, Brigham Young says that, if we receive the truth as God reveals it, we are first born of the Spirit: then, if we wish further blessings, we will be born of the water, receive the laying on of hands, and so on. We have to do all of those things, but not necessarily in lockstep order.

[56] Ibid., 15:2.

[57] Ibid., 8:151.

[58] Ibid., 1:2–3; emphasis added.

[59] Ibid., 2:134.

[60] “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me,” Psalms 51:5. Cf. Psalms 58:3, where David adds that “the wicked are estranged from the womb,” and that “they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.”

[61] “And the Lord spake unto Adam, saying: Inasmuch as thy children are conceived in sin, even so when they begin to grow up, sin conceiveth in their hearts, and they taste the bitter, that they may know to prize the good.” Moses 6:55.

[62] Journal of Discourses, 8:118; emphasis added.

[63] Ibid., referring to Gal. 5:17 and adding that “to accomplish this, we must so yield obedience to the Divine influence as to learn the principles of eternal life—to learn to bring the whole man—all the passions, sympathies, and feelings in subjection to the spirit. . . . All we have to do is to let the spirits that have come from . . . heaven reign triumphant, and bring into subjection to the Spirit. . . . All we have to do is to let the spirits that have come from . . . heaven reign triumphant, and bring into subjection everything that tends to evil: then we are Christ’s.”

[64] Journal of Discourses, 10:105, citing Eph. 6:12; emphasis added. Brigham Young here characterizes total depravity as the false belief that fallen people are wholly bad and incapable of anything good, incapable even of choosing to accept or reject God’s offer of redemption through the blood of Christ by faith, repentance, and rebirth because they are so sinful “that it is impossible for them to have one good thought, that there is no good, no soundness, and no spiritual health in them,” ibid. For a near-perfect example of this false concept of total depravity, which is often thrown at Latter-day Saints by its protestant and other advocates, see Joseph Fielding Smith, Selections from Answers to Gospel Questions (Salt Lake City: Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints, 1972), 123–24, where President Smith rejects the bizarre sectarian insistence that parents, even if legally and lawfully married, must sin by having sexual relations in order to have children. President Smith’s comments were evoked by a false but persistent interpretation of Psalms 51:5, the same passage discussed above by Brigham Young.

[65] Journal of Discourses, 10:105.

[66] Ibid.

[67] Ibid, 7:190.

[68] Ibid., 7:190–91. These same statements by Brigham Young also appear in Journal of Discourses, 6:330 where, in both accounts, he adds: “It is extensively taught that nature must be subdued, and grace made to take its place. I wish to inform you that it is [eternal] nature for the child to be influenced by the [eternal] Spirit of God. It is [eternal] nature for all people to be influenced by a good spirit.” None of this negates, of course, Brigham Young’s attitude toward the temporal nature of fallen man, which he regards as lost, fallen, and sinful.

[69] Ibid., 2:248.

[70] Ibid., 4:351.

[71] Ibid., 5:53.

[72] Ibid., 5:75.

[73] Ibid., 6:284.

[74] Ibid.

[75] Ibid., 8:82.

[76] Ibid., 8:188.

[77] Ibid., 9:33.

[78] Ibid., 9:242.

[79] Ibid., 9:247.

[80] This doctrine of man’s fallen nature is consistently taught in all of the latter-day scriptures as well as in the Bible.