Did John Milton’s seventeenth-century epic poem Paradise Lost play a role in the early development of Mormon theology?
Milton’s heretical speculative theology left an indelible imprint on the conceptual and imaginative structures of early Mormon doctrines of Creation, the Fall, and redemption. Past scholars have noted parallels between Paradise Lost and the visionary writings of Joseph Smith in the Doctrine and Covenants. But Yale University professor of English John Rogers believes some of the most exciting Miltonic contributions to Mormon speculative theology emerged in the years just after Smith’s death in the work of Parley P. Pratt and Orson Pratt.
About John Rogers
A professor of English at Yale University, John Rogers is the author of Matter of Revolution: Science, Poetry, and Politics in the Age of Milton, a book awarded prizes by the Milton Society of America and the Modern Language Association. He is also author of several articles on Renaissance (mainly seventeenth-century) English literature and religious culture. He is currently completing a book titled Milton’s Poetry and the Theologies of Liberalism, which looks at the impact on Milton of the dangerous early modern heresy of Socinianism, which denied the existence of the Trinity, and which radically secularized the doctrine of Christ’s atonement on the cross. He has also begun a new book, from which the material for this Maxwell Institute guest lecture is taken, on the reading of the seventeenth-century poem Paradise Lost in the spiritual hothouse of nineteenth-century America. The focus of that book, tentatively titled Latter-day Milton: Paradise Lost and the Creation of America’s God, examines the engagement of Mormonism and Seventh-Day Adventism with Milton’s epic poem and the highly publicized revelation, in 1823, of Milton’s secret and hitherto unpublished espousal of anti-Trinitarianism.
The views expressed here and in Maxwell Institute publications are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Maxwell Institute, Brigham Young University, or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“Seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.” (D&C 88:118)