Date of Award

Spring 2015

Degree Type

Restricted to Claremont Colleges Dissertation

Degree Name

Philosophy, PhD


School of Religion


Early Christianity

Second Concentration

Modern Christianity in North America

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Patrick Mason

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Anselm Min

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Karen Torjesen

Terms of Use & License Information

Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Rights Information

© 2015 Gordon A. Carle


Transcendence, Origen, Ignatius, Theophilus, Joseph Smith, Incorporeal

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities | Christianity | History of Christianity | Metaphysics | New Religious Movements | Philosophy | Religion


This work is a comparative study of the theological and historical development of the early Christian (pre-Nicene) and Mormon doctrines of God. For the Christian tradition, I follow a detailed study of the apostolic period, followed by the apologetical period, and then conclude with the pre-Nicene up to around 250 C.E. For the Mormon tradition, I cover the period beginning with the establishment of the Mormon Church in 1830 and conclude with its official doctrinal formulation in 1916. I begin this work with a chronological examination of the development of the Mormon doctrine of God, commencing with Joseph Smith's translation of the Book of Mormon and concluding with his revelations and additional translations of those books that make up the Pearl of Great Price. I then examine Brigham Young's single theological contribution, followed with the speculative contributions of Parley P. Pratt, Orson Pratt, John A. Widtsoe, B.H. Roberts, and concluding with James E. Talmage. This section covers chapters two through four. In chapters five through seven, I examine the theological contributions of Ignatius of Antioch, then Theophilus of Antioch, and conclude my study with the theological contributions of Origen of Alexandria. For the Christian tradition, I trace the development of the pre-Nicene theologians' struggle to explicate the theological and philosophical implications regarding the divinization of Christ within the context of monotheism.. At the end of chapters five through seven I include a succinct, comparative study of each father's doctrine with Mormon doctrine. This work will also address the major theological and historical factors that influenced both the Mormon and traditional Christian doctrines of God. Further, I contrast both theological systems and discuss their basic differences and similarities. My conclusion is that the fundamental difference between these two theological systems rests upon their foundational conceptions of reality as absolutist or finitist. The Mormon theological system rests upon a materialistic and monistic conception of reality, whereas traditional Christianity's system rests upon a dualistic conception of reality. In Mormon materialism, the Trinity is divided as individuated Gods; in Christian transcendence, the unity of God may only be maintained, while acknowledging the separate existences of the Persons of the Godhead, if the nature of God is understood as an incorporeal substance.