Evidences and Reconciliations

By John A. Widtsoe

Synopsis: This book is a compilation of John A. Widtsoe’s “Evidences and Reconciliations” column which appeared in the Improvement Era. Older editions were split up into a three volume work, but the Collector's Edition, arranged by Widtsoe's son-in-law G. Homer Durham, compiles the entire work together into one volume.

Strong Points: The book really highlights the profound mind of Elder John A. Widtsoe. A scientist, educator, and apostle, he made an invaluable contribution to gospel learning and study. Evidences and Reconciliations is strongly reminiscent of Joseph Fielding Smith’s Answers to Gospel Questions, wherein he answers readers’ challenging doctrinal questions with a thoughtful and memorable response. While (almost but) not as expert at the scriptures as Joseph Fielding Smith, John A. Widtsoe was nevertheless an insightful thinker of astounding proportions. Also, unlike President Smith, Elder Widtsoe made a special point to clearly recap his answer to each question/heading at the end of every article. In fact, the reader could essentially get the straight answer to every question just by reading the last paragraph of each entry. The answers to questions are short and make for easy reading – each one is only two to four pages long. And the breadth of topics is very impressive, and makes for an intriguing book. Within the pages of Evidences and Reconciliations, Elder Widtsoe discusses evolution and the age of the earth, the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible, the Adam-God Theory, Joseph Smith’s plural marriages, the historicity of Joseph Smith's First Vision, freemasonry, the United Order vs. socialism, and several questions relating to truth, testimony, science, and priesthood. A deep level of understanding is exhibited in each of the disparate topics, as well. The sheer range of topics coupled with the valuable insights provided ensure that the book will make an often-used reference to the student of the gospel. Highly recommended.

Weak Points: There's not much to dislike about this book. If I had to be nit-picky, I would point out that the format for citations is not consistent throughout the Collector's Edition of the book. It switches from in-text references, to footnotes, and back again, from article to article throughout the book. Overall, there would have been a few instances where I would have made a mild departure from Elder Widtsoe's stated views in the book, but that was certainly not a common occurrence throughout the work by any means. Some may find it mildly frustrating when Elder Widtsoe would not commit to any certain view in a particular article, but just provide different points of view and say that we don't know for sure. While that is the responsible thing to do, it would have been interesting for him to be more inclined to state his preference among the various options. 

Interesting: 5/5

Must Read: 4.9/5

Overall: 4.9/5

Pages: 407

Selected Quotes: “It is a paradox that men will gladly devote time every day for many years to learn a science or an art; yet will expect to win a knowledge of the gospel, which comprehends all sciences and arts, through perfunctory glances at books or occasional listening to sermons. The gospel should be studied more intensively than any school or college subject. They who pass opinion on the gospel without having given it intimate and careful study are not lovers of truth, and their opinions are worthless.” (p. 16-17).

"The doctrine of the common origin of life on earth is but a scientific theory, and should be viewed as such. Clear thinkers will distinguish between the general law of change or evolution accepted by all, and the special theories of evolution which, like all scientific theories, are subject to variation with the increase of knowledge. Honest thinkers will not attempt to confuse law and theory in the minds of the laymen. The man, learned or unlearned, who declares the doctrine of the common origin of life on earth to be demonstrated beyond doubt, has yet to master the philosophy of science. The failure to differentiate between facts and inferences is the most grievous and the most common sin of scientists." (p. 162).

“Modern communism, facism [sic], nazism, socialism, and other related systems, are all the same in essential theory. They oppose religion, except as they themselves claim to be revelations, and they reject Christian morality. They prohibit free speech and action; eliminate private ownership and initiative; hold without exception the state above the individual; regiment the people; allow the strong to dominate the weak; they take government out of the hands of the governed, and place it in the hands of a self-appointed, selfish, self-styled, super-group, and they culminate in dictatorships. The free agent has no place in their systems. Their claim that they believe in human equality, as shown by their tyrannical behavior, is false. Force and terrorism are their weapons. All that makes for human security and happiness is destroyed.
“One need only read the published philosophies of these ‘isms,’ and observe them in action, to confirm the above statements. From Plato to Marx and Nietzsche, the same story is told, one of high-sounding objective, but in practice one of subjection of the common man to a self-appointed guardian, masquerading in the stolen robes of human equality – wolves in sheep’s clothing.
“In stern opposition to these political ‘isms’ is the plan provided by the Lord [i.e. the United Order].”
(p. 377).

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