Lorenzo Dow. Methodist Itinerant Extraordinaire.

Lorenzo Dow was legendary in late 18th century — early 19th century America among believers and preachers alike. He was judged harshly by many of his colleagues for his flamboyant manner and sharp tongue. Dow’s popularity is evidenced by the number of male children named after him during period. Just looking through the narrow lens of Mormonism, we find people like Lorenzo Snow, Lorenzo Dow Young and Lorenzo Dow Barnes. These and others prove the point. He was a revered and despised guy, fitting the Moroni Profile. But just to prove that Dow was not all show, here is an excerpt from one his many imprints:

The idea of the Eternity of Nature embraces that of an eternal succession of Mankind, Beasts and Vegetables, and that of course to an “infinite number.” For if the number be not infinite, how could their succession be eternal? And yet to talk about an “infinite number,” is a contradiction in terms; because there can be no number, but what may be enlarged by the addition of units. But that which is infinite cannot be enlarged. Again, if there hath been an eternal succession of mankind, &c. by the same rule, there must have been an eternal succession of Days and Nights and Years likewise. Now, this must be granted, that “infinite numbers” are equal. For if one number be smaller than another, how can it be said to be infinite? If infinite numbers are equal, and if there hath been an eternal succession of days and years also; it must then follow, that theiir infinite numbers are equal, which cannot be admitted; seeing it take 365 days to compose but one year. And if the number of years be not equal to the number of days, their number cannot be infinite . . . it must follow there was a time when years began. Hence the idea of the order and succession of Nature . . . being eternal, is not admissible.

With similar arguments (equally bogus but nicely common-sensical) Dow argues for his CAUSELESS CAUSATOR (he always capitalized the phrase). The Aquinian great First Cause. That is, Dow rather cleverly brings home a version of the Cosmological Argument.

Attribution was mostly unknown in these times, but it seems that Dow was familiar with some sophisticated theology. He was homespun, but widely read and Mormons were no exception. Even Joseph Smith. I go into this briefly in the book.

4 Responses to Lorenzo Dow. Methodist Itinerant Extraordinaire.

  1. Christopher says:

    Fascinating stuff, WVS. I’ve never taken Dow very seriously as a theologian, and now see that perhaps I should. I look forward to seeing what else you find.

    • WVS says:

      Dow flashes some Lockian stuff. He’s definitely rationalist, but drips with supernaturalism at the same time. Anti-Calvinist, Pro-science, Bridger of gaps. And sympathetic to bumpkin problems — a psychologist of the first water.

  2. J. Stapley says:


  3. ricke says:


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