It’s been a bear of a day at work (editing 70 text pages of correspondence for the magazine), so I’m going to have to be somewhat short today.
I’m pleased to have been able to inspire so many interesting comments in response to my provocation about the “fairy-tale” character of Mormonism, especially those that go beyond the too-easy “inside it makes perfect sense but outside it looks silly” response, which I’d think is hardly the right outlook for a missionary faith: the point is to bring those on the outside IN, is it not?
I would only add on the subject that . . .
I would only add that I think a good case can be made for Mormonism by appealing to something like natural human longings. That is, why not say: the “fairy-tale” character of the faith follows from the fact that it perfectly responds or answers to what human beings most want to be true. And isn’t that an indication of its truth rather than a sign that it’s all made up? Wouldn’t we expect the true religion to fit perfectly with our hopes and wants, like perfectly designed and produced shoes, as opposed to one that we have to work to make sense of? That is, given how opaque the human soul is — how much of a mystery we are to ourselves — isn’t the ability of Mormonism (in its ideal form, say) to identify and satisfy and answer what our souls long for evidence that it is true, as opposed to something made up out of whole cloth by some semi-literate rural teenager from nineteenth-century New York State?
OK, now that I’ve done my missionary work for the day (talk about preaching to the choir!), I’ll leave you with another provocation. Some of you might be aware that my boss (Richard John Neuhaus) angered a lot of Mormons about 4 years ago when he wrote a long essay for our magazine (I was teaching at BYU at the time) in which he answered the question “Are Mormons Christians?” in the negative. Now there’s no reason for any of you to go run and read the piece, though if you want to you can find it here (http://www.firstthings.com/ftissues/ft0003/public.html); it’s not nearly as informed about or respectful of the LDS as I think it should be. But that’s neither here nor there. I’d like to pose the question right here: Are Mormons Christians? And since I bet you’ve debated the question many times before, I’ll stir things up a bit more by offering you what I think is the definitive answer to the question: for Mormons, Mormons are the only true Christians — and for that very reason, for non-Mormons, Mormons are not, and can never be considered, Christians — not even close.
I’ll defend that view tomorrow. Until then, discuss.
Oh, and I have one last bit for Jim F. You say that it was a trick (though an unintentional one) to ask you to expound on the content of the “world” according to Heidegger while precluding you from making reference to formal structures. “Formal content,” you say, is all there is. But isn’t “formal content” a contradiction in terms? A purely formal theory or structure has no content — and that’s precisely my criticism of Heidegger’s thought: he’s defending the truth as it is disclosed within the “world,” but that world could be Nazi Germany or white Mississippi in 1952. Heidegger’s thought has no resources whatsoever to judge the practices (the content) of either world. I know that lots of scholars in the U.S. and Europe have begun to try to tease an ethics out of Heidegger. God bless them. I think he would have considered their efforts to be touching but superficial. On this I agree with Leo Strauss, Heidegger’s thought is permeated by the fact (and the implications of the fact) that ethics is impossible.