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Key to the science of theology

Pratt, Parley Parker. Key to the science of theology: Designed as an introduction to the first principles of spiritual philosophy; religion; law and government; as delivered by the ancients, and as restored in this age, for the final development of universal peace, truth and knowledge. By Parley P. Pratt. Liverpool, F. D. Richards, 15, Wilton Street, London, L. D. Saints’ Book Depot, 35, Jewin St., City, and all booksellers. 1855.
2 p.l., [vii]-xv, 173 p., 1l. 18 cm.

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By the early 1850s essentially all of Mormonism’s distinctive beliefs had been discussed somewhere in print, but no single comprehensive treatment had yet been written. Again it fell to Parley Pratt to produce the first book of this kind. In San Francisco in August 1851, just before leaving for his mission to Chile, Parley began work on his Key to Theology. Sixteen months later the next-to-last chapter, chapter 16, was printed in the Deseret News; and in March 1855 the first edition was offered for sale.

Key to Theology is the earliest attempt to comprehensively synthesize the theology of Mormonism into one published work. Its scope is complete: beginning with a definition of theology, it traces the loss of the true gospel among the Jews and the gentiles; then in linking chapters it discusses the nature of the Godhead, the origin of the universe, the restoration of the gospel, the means by which man regains the presence of God, the resurrection, the three degrees of glory in the hereafter, and the ultimate position of exalted men and women as procreative beings. Unlike the writings of Orson Pratt, which are definitive, almost dogmatic, Key to Theology is poetic, allusive, at times ambiguous. It apparently appealed to Brigham Young as well; for during the twenty-two years following its publication, a time when almost no other Mormon books were being written, Key to Theology went through three more editions.

Excerpted and edited from Peter Crawley and Chad J. Flake, A Mormon Fifty: an exhibition in the Harold B. Lee Library in conjunction with the annual conference of the Mormon History Association. (Provo, Utah, Friends of the Brigham Young University Library, 1984). Item 45, p. [32-33].

Used by permission of the authors.