I echo the sentiment of David L. Paulsen when he states, “As I have perused the philosophical literature on the problem of evil, noted men’s perplexities, and then returned to once more ponder the revelations and teachings of Joseph Smith, I have been constantly amazed. Joseph had no training in theology, no doctor of divinity degree; his formal education was at best scanty. And yet through him comes light that dissolves the profoundest paradoxes and strengthens and edifies me through my own personal trials.” (Paulsen, 1999)
In addition to the problem of evil, Joseph contributed to our understanding of many philosophical topics including
- The origin and nature of man and God
- Individualism vs. community vs. god focus
- The subjective/objective split
- The nature of matter
- Characteristics of existence
- Methods for finding truth
- Faith vs. empiricism vs. rationalism
- The nature of truth
While a complete survey of Joseph’s writing on each of these topics is beyond the scope of this paper, I have endeavored to make a thorough analysis of three: cultural eugenics, the nature of matter, and agency.
In gathering materials for this paper, I was discouraged to find that various authors had applied liberal doses of “filling in the gaps” to Joseph’s doctrines that produced intriguing ideas at best and outright falsehoods at worst. For example, I found citations to quotes recorded 50 years after Joseph was alleged to have said them that, in context, did not support that author’s points. Other authors simply called into question the authenticity of quotes attributed to Joseph that countered their claims.
Perhaps the most vivid example of stretching Joseph’s words I encountered was by John A. Widtsoe, a former apostle of the Church. In his book Joseph Smith as Scientist he goes into great detail to describe the theory of ether, calling it “one of the most helpful assumptions of science” and a certainty. He states that “there is at this present time no grander or more fundamental doctrine in science than that of ether.” He then drew correlations between ether and Joseph Smith’s descriptions of the omnipresent nature of light and refined spiritual matter. He insisted that Joseph is describing ether: “[these are] not an accidental arrangement of words suggesting an idea not intended by the prophet . . . Lest it be thought that the words are forced, for argument’s sake, to give the desired meaning, it may be well to examine the views of some of the persons to whom the Prophet explained in detail the meanings of the statements in the revelations which he claimed to have received from God.” He then goes on to give further supporting quotes from the likes of Parley P. Pratt. Widtsoe concludes his discussion by stating, “it is certain that Joseph Smith, in the broad and rational statement of the existence of the omnipresent, material though subtle substance, anticipated the workers of science. In view of that fact, it is not improbable that at some future time, when science shall have gained a wider view, the historian of the physical sciences will say that Joseph Smith, the clear-sighted, first stated correctly the fundamental physical doctrine of the universal ether.” (Widtsoe, 1964) The challenge with all of Widtsoe’s accolades is that the arrival of Einsteinian physics discredited the theory of ether and it is no longer considered viable by mainstream science. Clearly, his desire to see Joseph as enlightened led him to fill in gaps with connections that were not there.
After my initial research I was forced to agree with David H. Bailey when he stated,
“there has also been a considerable amount of free-wheeling doctrinal speculation in LDS history. Some well-known examples of speculative doctrines that once were taught at least semi-officially in the Church include: (1) Adam was the father of Jesus; (2) certain sins require one’s blood to be shed in retribution; (3) practicing polygamy is essential to be a candidate for exaltation; (4) certain racial groups were “less valiant” in the pre-mortal existence; (5) the seven periods of creation lasted a literal 1,000 years each; (6) the Book of Mormon is the history of the entire ancient western hemisphere; and (7) mankind will never venture into space. One common thread in these and other examples that could be cited is the attempt to justify, by doctrinal exposition, notions that have already been widely assumed in the religious movement. Another common thread is the usage of quasi-axiomatic reasoning to press questionable premises to logical extremes. But perhaps the most pervasive underlying thread is the perennial desire for “answers” among religious believers, even in cases where ultimate answers cannot be provided. According to the Apostle Paul, the early Christians, not content with “sound doctrine,” had developed “itching ears.” A similar comment could be made of religious movements in almost any age, including our own.” (Bailey, 2004)
With this in mind, in this paper I have endeavored to be as unbiased as possible. I have only accepted as credible sources canonized scripture recorded by Joseph. I tried to not “fill-in” any conceptual gaps. Where appropriate, if more than one perspective can be supported, I present evidence for both. As much as possible, I make my points with the original quotes in the text and limit commentary to simple summaries. Where necessary, I include quotations from multiple sources to clarify and illustrate points.
Eugenics is “the study of or belief in the possibility of improving the qualities of the human species or a human population, esp. by such means as discouraging reproduction by persons having genetic defects or presumed to have inheritable undesirable traits (negative eugenics) or encouraging reproduction by persons presumed to have inheritable desirable traits (positive eugenics).” (Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1)) While I am unaware of any evidence in the Book of Mormon for desiring to eliminate or promote genetic traits, there are examples of efforts to isolate populations along cultural and moral lines. In separating people and limiting their interaction, it is a natural consequence that the passing of genetic material is limited along those same lines, affecting a form of eugenics. The Book of Mormon includes examples of both positive and negative cultural eugenics.
In the Book of Jacob in the Book of Mormon, we find Jacob condemning the practice among his people of excusing “themselves in committing whoredoms, because of the things which were written concerning David, and Solomon his son. Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord” (Jacob 2:23-24). In the verses following these, the Lord makes His will clear. “Wherefore, I the Lord God will not suffer that this people shall do like unto them of old. … For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none; For I, the Lord God, delight in the chastity of women. And whoredoms are an abomination before me; thus saith the Lord of Hosts.” (Jacob 2:26-28)
In this passage, the Lord condemned plural marriages in Jacob’s time and culture. However, in verse 30, the Lord explains under what circumstances polygamy is allowed. “For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things.” In other words, monogamy is the order of the day unless the Lord desires to increase the population of his “seed.” While this does not necessarily indicate a strict eugenic intention—limiting or advancing desirable genetic material, it does indicate the intention to advance desirable cultural and moral traits in a population. Doing so would have the effect of limiting the mix of genetic material as well. This is an example of positive eugenics; people with positive spiritual and moral characteristics are encouraged to produce more offspring.
For an example of negative eugenics, i.e., preventing people with negative traits from breeding with people with positive traits, we turn to Alma the Younger’s explanation of the method and reasoning of the Lord separating the Nephites from the Lamanites. He states, “…the Lord God set a mark upon them, yea, upon Laman and Lemuel, and also the sons of Ishmael, and Ishmaelitish women. And this was done that their seed might be distinguished from the seed of their brethren, that thereby the Lord God might preserve his people, that they might not mix and believe in incorrect traditions which would prove their destruction. And it came to pass that whosoever did mingle his seed with that of the Lamanites did bring the same curse upon his seed” (Alma 3:7-10). Thus, the children of Laman, Lemuel, and Ismael’s sons are marked and prevented from mixing their seed with the Nephites, limiting culture and morals, as well as genetic material, from spreading from one group to another.
This form of eugenics should not be compared with that practiced by Nazi Germany. In this case, the Lord is not destroying people with undesirable traits; rather, the practical result is only to separate people with undesirable spiritual and moral traits from the Lord’s seed or chosen people. While genetic separation is a byproduct of this separation, the fact that genetic separation is NOT the purpose becomes clear as Alma the Younger continues. “And it came to pass that whosoever would not believe in the tradition of the Lamanites, but believed those records which were brought out of the land of Jerusalem, and also in the tradition of their fathers, which were correct, who believed in the commandments of God and kept them, were called the Nephites, or the people of Nephi, from that time forth.” (Alma 3:11) In other words, should someone isolated from the Lord’s seed comply with cultural and moral guidelines, they were welcomed into the population, regardless of genetic heritage. Thus, while genetic eugenics is a byproduct, it is not the intent of cultural and moral eugenics, and the resulting genetic eugenics is eliminated when cultural and moral characteristics are adopted.
The Nature of Matter
In the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord states that the elements are eternal (D&C 93:33). However, there is some question about the definition of eternal. The more common use of the term eternal, at least in philosophic circles, is “always existing.” For a competing definition of eternal, we turn to the Doctrine and Covenants. In explaining the nature of suffering in hell, God explains that Eternal is His name, not a duration. Thus “Eternal punishment is God’s punishment” (D&C 19:11) and “it is not written that there shall be no end to this torment.” (D&C 19:6) So, potentially “eternal elements” are simply God’s elements. In this section we explore evidence for both points of view.
It is clear that at least some elements are eternal in the sense that they have always existed. The Lord states that “There is no such thing as immaterial matter. All spirit is matter, but it is more fine or pure, and can only be discerned by purer eyes.” (D&C 131:7) From this line, we learn that spirit is a form of fine or pure matter. Concerning the eternal nature of the spirit, the Lord says, “if there be two spirits, and one shall be more intelligent than the other, yet these two spirits, notwithstanding one is more intelligent than the other, have no beginning; they existed before, they shall have no end, they shall exist after, for they are gnolaum [Hebrew for eternal], or eternal.” (Abraham 3:18) Together, these passages teach that spirit, a form of pure matter, is eternal in the sense of “always existing.”
For further evidence of the eternal or always existing nature of spirits we turn to Doctrine and Covenants 93:29 which reads “Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be.” What exactly is meant here by intelligence, or the light of truth, is unclear. In some cases, “intelligence” is synonymous with “people in spirit form”. For example, in a vision to Abraham, the Lord reveals the following: “Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones; And God saw these that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good” [emphasis added] (Abraham 3:22-23). This passage illustrates that intelligences or spirits are the same entities and they existed at least “before the world was.” If they are the same as the intelligence described in Doctrine and Covenants 93:29 they were “not created or made, neither indeed can be,” implying that they have always existed.
In discussing the nature of non-spiritual matter, the creation process described in Moses 2 deserves some analysis. The question is whether creation means “to organize elements into new forms”, as an artist creates a masterpiece, or if it means “to generate something from nothing.” The answer is not made overtly clear in the scriptures. According to Moses 3:5, creation includes two phases. “… I, the Lord God, created all things, of which I have spoken, spiritually, before they were naturally upon the face of the earth.” Anything made spiritually would necessarily have to be the organization of spiritual matter and not the creation of it from nothing because, as stated above, spirit has always existed and cannot be created from nothing. It is also clear from Abraham 3:24 that the creation process involved forming the earth from existing matter. “And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell.” Thus, all non-spiritual matter of which the earth consists existed prior to its creation.
The question that remains is the origin of that matter and all other matter in the universe. I am unaware of a passage of scripture declaring that all matter has always existed. Likewise, I am unaware of any scriptural declaration that some matter was created from nothing. In the absence of definitive scriptural statements, the following passage gives ambiguous evidence to either side. In the Book of Mormon, Jacob describes what would happen if there were no God. “[I]f there is no God we are not, neither the earth; for there could have been no creation of things, neither to act nor to be acted upon; wherefore, all things must have vanished away.” (Jacob 2:13) Without God, “all things must have vanished away.” Vanishing can take on two meanings, “disappearing from sight” or “ceasing to exist.” (Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1)) Disappearing from sight could imply the dissolution of the form of all things to their constituent unordered material. However, this understanding would require giving the word vanish meaning it does not inherently contain. On the hand, the concept of ceasing to exist is contained in the definition of vanish. This interpretation would necessitate matter that could be created from nothing and returned to it.
One final argument for the “always existing” nature of earthly matter comes from a brief line in the Doctrine and Covenants where the Lord states, “For man is spirit. The elements are eternal, and spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fullness of joy” (D&C 93:33). We have examined the first half of this verse earlier. The second half offers additional insight. It states that the spirit of man, formed of pure matter that has always existed, can be inseparably connected with elements. Amulek, the missionary companion of Alma the Younger, sheds further light on the nature of this connection, known as the resurrection. “Now, behold, I have spoken unto you concerning the death of the mortal body, and also concerning the resurrection of the mortal body. I say unto you that this mortal body is raised to an immortal body, that is from death, even from the first death unto life, that they can die no more; their spirits uniting with their bodies, never to be divided; thus the whole becoming spiritual and immortal, that they can no more see corruption” (Alma 11:45).
The similarity between the mortal body, made of earthly elements, and the immortal body is described in the Doctrine and Covenants. “Their sleeping dust was to be restored unto its perfect frame, bone to his bone, and the sinews and the flesh upon them, the spirit and the body to be united never again to be divided” (D&C 138:17). The Lord also states that “The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also” (D&C 130:20). From these passages we learn that the form of the resurrected body will be the same as the mortal body and is “as tangible as man’s” rather than spiritual matter that can only be perceived with “pure eyes.”
Assuming from these passages that the type of material of the immortal body is the same as the material of the mortal body, these passages describe resurrection as the inseparable combination of spirit matter, pure and endless, with the body’s earthly material. Thus the fate of the earthly material is the same as spiritual matter, having no end, being infinite. If under this condition earthly material has no end, it is reasonable to assume it had no beginning and has therefore always existed.
Joseph’s materialism does not result in determinism (lack of agency) as most materialistic cosmological systems require. In fact, Doctrine and Covenants 93:30 reads “All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence.” Here the Lord declares that the ability to act for oneself, or agency, is so important that nothing would exist without it. The reason, described in detail below, that nothing would exist without agency is that without it, there would have been no purpose for creation and it would not have been undertaken.
In the Book of Abraham the Lord says “We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these [spirits] may dwell; And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them; And they who keep their first estate shall be added upon; and they who keep not their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep their first estate; and they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever” (Abraham 3:24-26). Here we learn that the intent of creation is to provide a proving ground where it will be seen whether individuals choose to follow the Lord’s commandments. The results of these actions will govern their existence forever.
In the Book of Mormon, Jacob states, “there is a God, and he hath created all things, both the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are, both things to act and things to be acted upon” (2 Nephi 2:14). In this passage the products of creation are categorized as things which “act” or things which are “acted upon.” He continues, “Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself” (2 Nephi 2:16). In this statement we learn that man is considered in the category of creations that act and that the nature of man’s action is “that he should act for himself,” in other words, man has agency.
Man’s first opportunity to exercise agency came before being sent to this world. In their premortal existence, spirits were presented with the Lord’s will, a plan to be championed by his First Born. In addition, Satan presented a second plan and demanded God’s power for himself. The Lord explained the details of this struggle to Moses. “That Satan, whom thou hast commanded in the name of mine Only Begotten, is the same which was from the beginning, and he came before me, saying—Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor. But, behold, my Beloved Son, which was my Beloved and Chosen from the beginning, said unto me—Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever. Wherefore, because that Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him, and also, that I should give unto him mine own power; by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that he should be cast down; And he became Satan, yea, even the devil, the father of all lies, to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken unto my voice” (Moses 4:1-4). Here we learn that Satan’s plan “sought to destroy the agency of man,” even though without agency there would be no proving ground and thus no purpose for existence (the mechanics of this proving ground will be discussed more in a moment). The culmination of this struggle is described more succinctly by Abraham. “And the Lord said: Whom shall I send? And one answered like unto the Son of Man: Here am I, send me. And another answered and said: Here am I, send me. And the Lord said: I will send the first. And the second was angry, and kept not his first estate; and, at that day, many followed after him” (Abraham3:27-28). Additional details are provided by the Lord in the Doctrine and Covenants. “[Satan] rebelled against me, saying, Give me thine honor, which is my power; and also a third part of the hosts of heaven turned he away from me because of their agency; And they were thrust down, and thus came the devil and his angels;” (D&C 29:36-37). In a bid for the power of God, Satan led a rebellion in which a third of God’s spirits used their agency to reject God’s plan and were cast from God’s presence, becoming devils. As we shall see in a moment, they become a critical component in the Lord’s “proving ground” plan.
Man’s agency continued with him in the Garden of Eden. “The Lord said unto Enoch: Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands, and I gave unto them their knowledge, in the day I created them; and in the Garden of Eden, gave I unto man his agency;” (Moses 7:32). However, Adam and Eve were limited in their application of agency because there were no options to choose from, as there had been in the premortal world. “For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, … righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. …Wherefore, it [the earth] must needs have been created for a thing of naught; wherefore there would have been no purpose in the end of its creation. Wherefore, this thing must needs destroy the wisdom of God and his eternal purposes” (2 Nephi 2:11-12). Again we see that without agency, there is no purpose for creation. “To bring about [the Lord’s] eternal purposes in the end of man, … it must needs be that there was an opposition; … Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other” (2 Nephi 2:15-16). For the plan to be successful, man needed options to choose from.
To provide one set of options, the Lord drew upon those who had used their agency to rebel. “And it must needs be that the devil should tempt the children of men, or they could not be agents unto themselves; for if they never should have bitter they could not know the sweet” (D&C 29:39). Satan had used his agency to rebel and as a consequence became “the devil, the father of all lies, to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken unto [the Lord’s] voice” (Moses 4:4). “[H]e became a devil, having sought that which was evil before God. And because he had fallen from heaven, and had become miserable forever, he sought also the misery of all mankind” (2 Nephi 2:17-18). Satan and his followers use their influence to entice mankind to make evil choices, motivated by spite, a hope to spread the misery they experience to as many as they can.
The second set of options comes from the Lord’s law. “Wherefore, he gave commandments unto men, they having first transgressed the first commandments as to things which were temporal, and becoming as Gods, knowing good from evil, placing themselves in a state to act, or being placed in a state to act according to their wills and pleasures, whether to do evil or to do good” (Alma 12:31). “Behold, I gave unto him that he should be an agent unto himself; and I gave unto him commandment” (D&C 29:35). “And it is given unto them to know good from evil; wherefore they are agents unto themselves, and I have given unto you another law and commandment” (Moses 6:56).
Rather than viewing the law as restricting, the Lord says, “I, the Lord God, make you free, therefore ye are free indeed; and the law also maketh you free” (D&C 98:8). To accomplish this freedom the law includes instructions for pursuing the Lord’s plan and accessing blessings. “And again, I say unto you, I give unto you a new commandment, that you may understand my will concerning you; Or, in other words, I give unto you directions how you may act before me, that it may turn to you for your salvation. I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise” (D&C 82:8-10). “There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated” (D&C 130:20-21).
The Lord’s law does not include instruction for every aspect of our lives. Rather, we must do all we can to add value in this life. “For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward. Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness; For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward. But he that doeth not anything until he is commanded, and receiveth a commandment with doubtful heart, and keepeth it with slothfulness, the same is damned” (D&C 58:26-29).
Thus, the agency we experience is one of choosing between options of good and evil, a moral agency, “[t]hat every man may act in doctrine and principle pertaining to futurity, according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment” (D&C 101:78). Within the concept of moral agency is accountability and consequences for the choices one makes. Samuel the Lamanite told the wicked Nephites “And now remember, remember, my brethren, that whosoever perisheth, perisheth unto himself; and whosoever doeth iniquity, doeth it unto himself; for behold, ye are free; ye are permitted to act for yourselves; for behold, God hath given unto you a knowledge and he hath made you free. He hath given unto you that ye might know good from evil, and he hath given unto you that ye might choose life or death; and ye can do good and be restored unto that which is good, or have that which is good restored unto you; or ye can do evil, and have that which is evil restored unto you” (Helaman 14:29-31). Lehi shares these principles with Jacob as well. “Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself” (2 Nephi 2:27).
To summarize, the Lord created the earth to serve as a proving ground where man could gain experience that would allow them to grow. On this earth, each spirit exercises moral agency in choosing between Satan’s enticements or the Lord’s law. We are accountable for our decisions and must endure their consequences. It is also important to note that the morality in Joseph’s philosophy is not a subjective, individual, or societal governed right and wrong, but rather a morality established by an infinite and eternal God.
However, no man is able to comply completely with the law and men become impure. The major consequence of not complying with the Lord’s law is man’s separation from God, necessitating a savior. “And men are instructed sufficiently that they know good from evil. And the law is given unto men. And by the law no flesh is justified; or, by the law men are cut off. Yea, by the temporal law they were cut off; and also, by the spiritual law they perish from that which is good, and become miserable forever. Wherefore, redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of grace and truth. Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered. … there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah, who layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise. … And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day, according to the commandments which God hath given (2 Nephi 2:5-8, 26). “Therefore, cheer up your hearts, and remember that ye are free to act for yourselves—to choose the way of everlasting death or the way of eternal life. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, reconcile yourselves to the will of God, and not to the will of the devil and the flesh; and remember, after ye are reconciled unto God, that it is only in and through the grace of God that ye are saved” (2 Nephi 10:23-24). Through the Messiah and the Grace of God, we can overcome the consequences of poorly executed agency and be reconciled to the Lord and fulfill the purpose of our creation.
In this paper I have attempted to draw directly from the writings of Joseph Smith to describe his contributions to philosophy on the topics of cultural eugenics, the nature of matter, and agency. Though lacking in formal education, the sophistication and depth of Joseph’s thought, as recorded in the scripture passages given above, attest to his authenticity as a prophet. These three topics are only a small sample of the controversial philosophy topics that Joseph addressed. I have attempted to limit my presentation to what is written directly in scripture and avoid “filling in the gaps”. I believe this approach would be valuable when investigating Joseph’s other philosophical contributions as well.
Bailey, D. H. (2004, April 12). Mormons and the Omnis: The Dangers of Theological Speculation.
Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1). (n.d.). eugenics – Definitions from Dictionary.com. Retrieved August 8, 2008, from Dictionary.com: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/eugenics
Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1). (n.d.). vanish – Definitions from Dictionary.com. Retrieved August 9, 2008, from Dictionary.com: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/vanish
Paulsen, D. L. (1999, September 21). Joseph Smith Jr. and the Problem of Evil. Provo, Utah.
Widtsoe, J. A. (1964). Joseph Smith as Scientist. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft.
 It is also true that many similar examples can be found in the Old Testament, however, this paper limits discussion to works brought about by Joseph Smith.
 One could argue that that is in fact what is happening when the Lord commands the children of Israel to slaughter the Canaanites and others in the Old Testament. However, this paper focuses on the contributions of Joseph Smith to philosophy and thus limits its commentary to scripture he revealed.
 John A. Widtsoe made this argument in several of his books, suggesting that Joseph had revealed the truth that science would later call the law of the Persistence of Matter or Mass. Einsteinian physics has called this “law” into question. Modern conceptions suggest that energy and mass are interchangeable as described by the famous formula, E=mc2.
 Brigham Young and others have indicated that the immortal body and mortal body are not identical. For example, “The blood will not be resurrected with the body, being designed only to sustain the life of the present organization. When that is dissolved, and we again obtain our bodies by the power of the resurrection, that which we now call the life of the body, and which is formed from the food we eat and the water we drink will be supplanted by another element; for flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God [see 1 Corinthians 15:50]” (DBY, 374).
 Doctrine and Covenants 93:30 reads “All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence.” Here intelligence falls into the category of that which “acts.” Conceivably, the materials described in Abraham 3:24 which Christ uses to create the earth fall into the second category, that which is “acted upon.”