Mormonism rather spectacularly refuses to answer one of the big questions that has kept philosophers and theologians busy for the last couple of millennia. The question, of course, is why is it that there is something rather than nothing. It seems an odd question at first, but if one thinks about it for a moment existence itself is a bit of a mystery. All of our various endeavors to understand the universe consist of attempts to give explanations for this or that feature of it, or even the reasons for the shape of the whole. Under girding all of these, however, is the basic assumption that there exists something to be explained. But why should there be anything at all?
The God of traditional Christian theology purports to be an answer to this question. He is the fount of existence itself, and the reason that there is something rather than nothing is that God willed it to be so. Of course, this answer doesn’t really dispel the mystery but simply relocates it, since in the manner of a three year old we may always ask “Well why did God will it so?” or “Where did God’s will come from?” In order to avoid this kind of infinite regress, among other philosophical difficulties, philosophers and theologians have been forced to conceptualize God as a very peculiar sort of guy who accounts for existence itself but does not strictly speaking exist, or at any rate not in the same way as other entities. It all gets very complicated and the upshot of it all — in my humble opinion — is that God becomes the mystery rather than ontology.
Mormon theology takes all of these issues and skews them. We believe that matter (although it is not clear that we are talking about matter in the ordinary sense) neither can be created nor destroyed, and that God is an organizer of matter unorganized rather than a primal cause of existence. In a sense, existence is something that happens before God appears on the scene as it were. Strictly speaking our theology (our theory of God) does not provide an answer to the great ontological question. Existence remains a mystery. Of course, because God becomes an “ordinary” ontological entity on this view, he partakes of the mystery of existence along with the rest of everything that is.
Needless to say, working out the full implications of this shift is a big task, which, like most big tasks in Mormon thought, hasn’t really been done yet. One rather surprising implication, however, is that to the extent that mystery has been one of the traditional attributes of God, Mormons become panetheists. It is not that we deny that mystery is part of godliness, but rather that we say that everything partakes of this quality with God.