Roberts on the Attributes of God

In Chapter 42 of ‘The Truth, The Way, The Life’, Roberts presents the attributes of God. The relationship of these attributes to the atonement is made very briefly, and basically states that the atonement of Jesus Christ must be in harmony with all of God’s attributes. This relationship is very similar to the discussion on inexorable law. But I found Roberts descriptions of the attributes quite interesting from a theological standpoint so I would like to review them.

Roberts breaks the attributes of God into two broad categories: Attributes of power, and moral attributes. First the attributes of power.


Roberts asserts that there never was a time when God did not exist, and there never will be a time when he will cease to exist. This attribute is said to be absolute with no limitations.


This has to do with God being unchangeable, and that he is the same today, yesterday, and forever. For Roberts this attribute is not absolute, or it would reduce God to a condition of being eternally static. God’s kingdom and glory continue to grow and expand, and in this way there is an eternal progress even for God. His immutability therefore is in regard to stability, and adherence to principle. It is clearly very important to Roberts that God will always act according to eternal law and principles, and not arbitrary caprice.


By this is meant all-powerfulness. Roberts puts limits on this as well. He states that it would be unthinkable that God would ever be overruled by a higher power. All that may or can be done by power conditioned by other eternal existences – duration, space, matter, truth, justice, reign of law – God can do. But these conditions limit the power of God.


By this is meant all-knowing. There are limits to this as well, as Roberts explains. God is not limited in his capacity to know things, and he knows all things that are knowable. But Roberts believes that the universe is not so much a ‘being’ as a ‘becoming’. And everything that is yet to become known – he will know it.


By this is meant everywhere present. In terms of God’s influence, or spirit, or power this may be true enough. But Roberts maintains that even for God, a body may not occupy two places at the same time.

Now for the moral attributes. These are the attributes that more closely relate to the atonement, and any understanding of the atonement must allow for these attributes with no compromises. These attributes do not have the same type of limitations as the power attributes, and it appears that Roberts feels that their only limitations is that they may not intrude on each other. The primary attributes of this category are holiness, truth, justice, mercy and love. It seems impossible to imagine a God who did not have all these qualities in perfection. Roberts attempts to show that his explanations and understandings of the atonement maintain a harmony with all the attributes of God.

14 Responses to “Roberts on the Attributes of God”

  1. 1 Jacob J August 2, 2007 at 2:20 am

    Nice write up Eric, thanks. I am very much in agreement with Roberts on this stuff.

  2. 3 Naiah August 2, 2007 at 12:37 pm

    I find myself doubly convinced I need to read this book. On the one hand, it dovetails so nicely with what I’ve been reading in The Infinite Atonement, by Tad R. Callister. On the other, I am curious about subtler aspects of Roberts’s understanding.

    The eternal one gets me, both about God and about us. We learn that our souls are eternal, and yet that they were created. A creation implies a fixed point in time as a beginning, doesn’t it? It is a paradox and a mystery that as yet eludes my understanding. If you have insight, please do share.

  3. 4 Eric Nielson August 2, 2007 at 2:40 pm

    Hey Naiah.

    This strikes at the heart of the child of God topics I have gone on about. There are a couple of links on the Top Posts sidebar at BofJ, and I have a category sub topic under Mormon Doctrine here at small and simple.

    This is another interesting thing about Roberts in that he is credited often with the tripartite model of existence. That of intelligence -> spirit -> body. Roberts believed there was something about us that is eternal and was never created or made which can be called an intelligence. This intelligence received a spirit body from heavenly parents. This intelligence/spirit body combo received a mortal body at our mortal birth. I favor this explanation which in a way allows me to have my cake and eat it to.

    I’ll try and leave a link to the Immortality of Man. If this link works it will take you to a paper published in the Improvement Era which was approved by the First Presidency. (Hat tip to Matt W.)

    Perhaps in a few weeks it will be time to hash this out again.

  4. 5 Eric Nielson August 2, 2007 at 2:54 pm

    Oh, the Child of God category is separate on my sidebar here.

    As far as recommending this book, I personally like it a lot. Exactly the type of thing I was looking for. There is some level of controversy over the book, and it was not approved for church publication at the time of its writing. Joseph F. Smith apparently did not like a few aspects of the book. I think it should be looked at as a smart guy trying faithfully to explain pretty near everything (its a big book). Not everyone will agree with his explanations.

    He looked at this book as his greatest contribution to the church – including his work on ‘History of the Church’.

  5. 6 Eric Nielson August 2, 2007 at 3:13 pm

    Oh again, that should be Fielding instead of F.

  6. 7 Robert August 11, 2007 at 4:52 am

    What I find interesting about these attributes is that they are also characteristics of Man – when taking into account Man’s real nature as an ‘intelligence’ and Man’s potential for exaltation which would bring into manifestation these attributes in the higher realms. I think the differences between ‘Man’ and ‘God’, in terms of these attributes being manifested currently, are related to one’s current state of being and how one perceives or understands the relationship between God and Man.

    Man, being in an Earthly, fallen/probationary/learning state, has only a faint memory of not only where he came from in physical terms, but also what he actually is at root (an eternal intelligence). Because many outside of the LDS tradition identify God with the ‘intelligence’ – ‘hidden’ and ‘beyond creation’ save for Christ that ‘reveals’ this in solely exterior terms to Man – it may be difficult to understand how these attributes could possibly be instrinsic to Man’s eternal nature.

    I don’t know if Roberts’ work goes into this at all, but I think it does tie in nicely – particularly in light of Eternal Progression as this relates to God’s current state, Man’s current state, and the ‘progression’ of all beings up and down the ‘ladder’. Thanks for presenting more of his work, Eric. 🙂

  7. 8 Eric Nielson August 11, 2007 at 8:01 am

    Great comment Robert. Your welcome.

  8. 9 LDS Anarchist October 22, 2007 at 3:39 am

    I haven’t read Robert’s book, but the intelligence-spirit-body claim I’ve heard before and I, personally, think it’s bogus. 2 Ne. 2 is fairly clear that there are two types of matter, that which acts (spirit) and that which is acted upon (element) and that prior to the creation (“if there had been no creation”) all things were combined in one, a compound in one, the uncreated state, but that the created Universe has an opposition in all things (spirit and element.) It’s pretty clear that we were that compound-in-one and that God split us up, or that God created the opposition in all things, creating the spiritual and the physical. Thus, the physical aspect of us is as much a part of the “us-ness” as is the spiritual part. God just “created” us into a usable entity, or an entity with purpose, through the initial opposition operation. This is why only through resurrection and the re-uniting of the spirit and body can man achieve a fullness of joy. There is no need to add a third element to explain ourselves, nor do I believe the scriptures indicate a third element. If the need to add a third element exists, in order to attain that magic number 3, the Spirit of Christ, which the exalted will obtain a fullness of, would be sufficient.

  9. 10 Eric Nielson October 27, 2007 at 10:43 am

    LDS Anarchist:

    I am not exactly sure what you are getting at. Do you believe that our spirit bodies are both spirit and element and are eternal? Therefore no spirit birth?

  10. 11 LDS Anarchist October 27, 2007 at 9:17 pm

    Lehi is describing (in 2 Nephi 2) the state that existed prior to the creation of all things. When he says that “all things must needs be a compound in one,” he is explaining that this is how things were prior to the creation. The opposition in all things that he describes is the state of the created universe. The uncreated universe that existed prior to creation was as “one body,” having neither this nor that, nor any purpose. God created the opposition in all things, he took of the uncreated stuff, the “compound in one,” and split it into two substances, spirit and element. The spirit matter is “that which acts” and the physical element is “that which is acted upon.” They are opposite substances. As we all came out of that uncreated state (and were a compound in one originally) into the created state, physical matter is as much a part of our original (un-split) nature as is spirit matter. This is why we go through the process of obtaining first mortal, physical bodies and then immortal, physical bodies, arriving finally at a state where our spirit and element parts are reunited (obtaining a fullness of joy,) yet not in the way prior to creation (the compound in one.) They are connected, yet distinct, whereas before they were combined as one body.

    This is why the devils who have not been given the chance to obtain physical bodies are trying like crazy to inhabit ours. The physical element is necessary for us to feel complete, as we started in the un-created state with that part of us combined with the spirit part of us.

  11. 12 Eric Nielson October 28, 2007 at 9:54 pm

    I am not sure I interpret 2Ne2 the same way you do. I will have to read it again soon. I can’t help but feel that when Lehi talked about things being compound in one he was describing something which can not be. My first impression is that you have things a bit backwards.

    Again, I’ll have to read this chapter again with your comments in mind.

  12. 13 LDS Anarchist October 29, 2007 at 4:00 am

    Lehi was describing what things would be like if there were no creation, if there were no God and also how things are right now, in their created state. So, his description is both of how things were prior to creation (the compound in one), how things are currently in their created state (opposition in all things-spirit and element), and also how they would be if God ceased to be God (everything created would “vanish away” to return to its uncreated, compound in one, state.) Most people miss this point, as we are so focussed on how the created universe is, that we miss Lehi’s description of how everything was prior to creation. Also, what is missed is that God created the opposition in all things. Verse 14 is one of the keys, as it says that God CREATED both things to act and things to be acted upon. The other key, of course, is verses 11 and 12 in which he describes the uncreated state, or state prior to creation, as being a compound in one, nothing acting and nothing acted upon, with no purpose whatsoever. God, therefore, did not take us from whence we came and leave us in essentially the same state. He split us into two, that which acts and that which is acted upon, giving us a purpose to our existence. We still retain that duality to our beings. But if God ceases to exist, the power that allows us to stay in this duality will no longer hold us in this state, and all created things will vanish away, returning to our prior “not alive and not dead state, either.” (The compound in one state that is good for nothing, or that has no purpose.) God and all the gods are in a continual state of creation. They are always creating more worlds, having more children, etc. They make their created universes from this compound in one stuff that surrounds their universes (outer darkness.) That is where we came from originally and that is where some of us (the sons of Perdition) will return to eventually. I suppose this could be considered heady, deep doctrine, but it’s all there in the scriptures.

  13. 14 Gunner November 22, 2007 at 2:44 pm

    This last comment just does not make sense to me. He tries to make his comments seem self evident from the scriptures, but that is his own interpretation. God did not create opposition, but works within eternal laws, on a self governing principle, ie. Justice , mercy, etc. If God created opposition he would have created the very problems that required the sending and sacrificing of his only begotten son. Why, if he has all power and all wisdom would he do such a thing? It doesn’t add up at all. However because of the natural state of things God creates a plan working within these laws and opposition can help us progress and overcome. He sees the need of a savior and so provides us one because he loves us. Opposition proves itself nessessary, but I do not believe God created it.

    To me, the compound in one, is all unorganized matter and intelligence fills all forms of matter. Some to act and some to be acted upon. Thereafter there is a spiritual creation and a physical creation. Intelligence in my mind is the spiritual entity or form of matter that has existed for eternity. Our intelligences move from one plane of existance to the next.

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