TMTP: Skousentastic Edition

Tuesday Mid-day Theological Poll:
Is all matter made up of intelligences?

Please explain your answers, preferably with references to unnamed General Authorities, below.

Bookmark TMTP: Skousentastic Edition


  1. I put yes, though the distinction between “intelligences” (a countable noun) and “intelligence” (an abstract noun) is far from clear. BY spoke and wrote only in terms of the latter, while OP extrapolated a theological vision based on the former. Pratt’s rendering had more influence, I think, on subsequent dominant LDS doctrinal trajectories.

    Do I think that intelligence(s) entails something like libertarian free will, as Skousen’s model implies? Absolutely not.

  2. Eric Russell says:

    I can tell you that some matter lacks intelligence, particularly the matter of missionaries who xerox talks by non-GAs and base their testimonies of the atonement off of them.

  3. No.

    A Diamond is made of matter but has no intelligence. Go on down the list of inanimate objects and do the same.

  4. I nit-picked over the “s” – but I also have no clue exactly what “intelligences” means at a practical level.

  5. Gilgamesh says:

    Didn’t Orson Pratt, in the the First Great Cause, argue that all matter has intelligence becuase atoms need intelligence to “know” how to move their electrons and neutrons or something to that effect?

  6. Yeses, please explain!

    Nos, please explain why you feel emboldened to dismiss the thought of an unnamed General Authority who may or may not have been Skousen’s mission president!

  7. What’s the difference between saying all matter is made up of “intelligences” and saying all matter is made up of atoms?

    Except that one of them is more cuddly, of course….

  8. No. Inanimate matter behaves in very predictable ways, almost as if it were governed by the laws of physics. I gather from Skousen that he explains this by saying that all these little low level intelligences are very obedient, which seems to require quite a lot of the lowest intelligences in the universe. I can’t buy into that. As to my feeling emboldened to dismiss the thought of John Widtsoe, that requires no special explanation. I feel emboldened to ignore GA and non-GA speculation alike if it is absurd. On a related note, I don’t believe in the universal ether.

  9. Seth R, the difference is that atoms are not intelligent. Thought that would be obvious.

  10. No, and from what little I know of quantum physics, the deeper down you go, the less matter and its component parts act in rational and easily understood or predictable ways. A complete lack of “intelligence” or “intelligences” seems to be the rule there, unless you are a quantum physicist, in which case you are probably working on the Large Hadron Super Collider in Switzerland, and have no time to be reading this blog, as the thing is currently broken.

  11. I’ve always liked to imagine some sort of conversion such as e=mc^2 applying to intelligence. I shouda been an alchemist.

    I find it very interesting that the smaller you get in terms of the building blocks of matter, the more important probability becomes for explaining how things work, where things are located etc. And since I also believe that all people are mostly predictable, that most human actions are just as good as pre-determined for all the novelty anyone displays, it’s easy to draw an equivalency between what is driving human decision-making and quantum mechanics.

  12. MadChemist says:

    No. I fall in with kevinf’s argument, but all grad students spend way more time on their computers than they should, so you know, we also have supercomputers to run our web-browsers on, and that makes it all the faster…

    Can I suggest another poll?
    “Are intelligences matter?”
    For the purposes of the poll, all spirit is matter, but what of intelligences?

  13. I agree with Jacob J. and have no trouble whatever dismissing John Widtsoe. I never liked his building at the University of Utah either. Drafty, awful place.

  14. I dunno. I kind of like the aspect of Shintoism that states all matter has spirit – a principle which I think leans towards all matter/objects having intelligence or spirit.

    Don’t mess with the Kaimi – er, I mean kami.

  15. It would be more accurate to ask “are intelligences purely material, purely non-material, or do they have both material and non-material properties?”

  16. Eric Russell says:

    Well I for one say yea, because if there are zillions of lower level intelligences that were not intelligent enough to become a person, than I am, as Skousen says, “very, very, very special.”

  17. should another question be, why has Skousen had such an impact on Mormon thought? Seriously.

  18. I like Orson Scott Card’s model of this, laid out in the Ender’s Game series, post-Ender’s-Game. Particularly when Jane has to transport everyone through non-space :)

    Is it coherent? Consistent with itself or scripture? Vulnerable to philosophical critique? Probably, but I don’t care.

  19. Latter-day Guy says:

    Hey, Cleon doesn’t have a patch on the levels of craziness to which his brother Max rises. Now there is some awesome heresy. As far as intelligences and matter go… meh.

  20. A Diamond is made of matter but has no intelligence.

    Ah, you’re just not adminstering the right intelligence tests. It’s at least smart enought to keep its electrons in orbit around those protons and neutrons.

  21. Lately I have started pondering a worldview where intelligence is defined as energy flow. The more the energy flows, the greater the intelligence. This would apply to all matter, both animate and inanimate.

    Re: diamonds as an example of inanimate matter, I think diamonds can absorb/store/release energy, which would make them intelligent.

  22. Interesting ideas about intelligence(s).

    I have come to view intelligence as an integral part of personality, which is then, in its mortal incarnation, influenced by inherited physical capacities and parental and other social interaction.

    OTOH, I also think that “intelligence” (the abstract noun) is probably the ability to consider and make value judgments and decide our course of action based on them. As opposed to the classic humanistic view of intelligence as a capacity to make deductions and retain information, which I think is more of a mechanical process.

    But I could always be wrong. What do I know?

  23. Mark,

    Ah, you’re just not adminstering the right intelligence tests. It’s at least smart enought to keep its electrons in orbit around those protons and neutrons.

    Well, we need to define intelligence then.

    See, intelligence takes up matter, or space. There is a set portion of space where intelligence resides. If we go down to the level of an atom, we’re at a point where there just isn’t much space left over. I haven’t done physics for a long time so I don’t remember if we’ve yet delved into a proton, neutron and electron to see what is inside, but from what I do remember, there wasn’t much space left over for something else that governs the decisions of protons, neutrons and electrons.

    See, if intelligence is matter, then intelligence is MADE OF atoms! If intelligence is made of atoms, then intelligence can’t be smaller than atoms. Therefore intelligence can’t be smaller than the parts of an atom to try and govern the atom. Or has my rusty knowledge of physics failed me?

  24. Steve Evans says:

    Daniel, unless you studied physics before 1975, you should have known about quarks…

  25. Steve,

    I do now. Honestly I haven’t bothered with physics in years.

  26. nasamomdele says:


    I’m no physics expert, but the transferrence of electrons from one level of energy to another and giving off light seems to be a fundamentally intelligent operation. And attractiveness of quarks, etc. to form atoms and basic building blocks of matter is suspiciously like intelligence.

    But I admit that I have no idea what “an intelligence” is. I am operating on the simple assumption that it is something that displays some intelligence.

  27. nasamomdele says:


    I find myself thinking along the lines you are. Intelligence, to me, seems to be an energy or force; or ability for interaction, whether that interaction be attraction, repulsion, emission, whatever.

    Therefore, because I cannot think of anything that does not posses some energy or force of it’s own, let it be written that everything is an intelligence.

  28. Well, it’s obvious to one and all I’m no scripturian, (don’t get me started, it’s a word), because I looked all over and can’t find the reference, but isn’t there some scripture where Heavenly Father or Jesus says that everything was created by him in the spirit before it was created in the flesh?

    My point being, if everything was created in the spirit first, then doesn’t everything kind of have a spirit? And if everything has a spirit, then wouldn’t everything be created of some sort of intelligence? Even rocks?

    Of course I voted yes.

  29. nasamomdele says:

    Let it also be known that I LOVE Skousen, but do not subscribe to his wonderful theory.

    Cause honestly, where would we be without him? It would be a far far less interesting Mormondom.

  30. @meems,
    Moses 3:5:
    And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew. For I, the Lord God, created all things, of which I have spoken, spiritually, before they were naturally upon the face of the earth.

  31. Rameumptom says:

    I said yes. I believe that Intelligence is light and truth, which all things are made up of. In the scientific realm, we could compare it to String Theory, where all matter is made up of strings. An atom has intelligence, as each atom differs in its capabilities. When combined with other atoms, molecules are created that have greater capability, or intelligence, than the individual atoms held (H2O has abilities that neither oxygen nor hydrogen possess).

    Such shows a pattern of creation, with all things being made of matter (including spirit).

  32. Rameumptom says:

    BTW, comparing the size of protons, neutrons, and electrons to the size of an atom, there’s tons of space. Atoms are made mostly of space.