The Opportunity and Tragedy of Immaturity

May 16, 2006 | 66 comments
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To a large degree Mormonism is about the recapitulation of the past. Our religious ordinances all involve the re-enactment of certain stories, e.g. the last supper, the fall of Adam and Eve, etc. More basically, Joseph Smith’s revelations offered early Mormons an opportunity to — in the words of Richard Bushman — recapitulate the stories of the Bible. Early Mormons did not simply read the Bible, they got to relive it, complete with forced exoduses and polygamy.

The youth of Mormonism frustrates a lot of intellectuals. They note — entirely correctly — that older religious traditions have a much richer literature on theology, philosophy, and scriptural hermeneutics. For some this even leads to a crisis of faith, and they sell their birthright for a shelf full of books. This is tragic, but not for the reasons that one might normally imagine. I always think that turning away from the Restoration, the fellowship of the Saints, and the power of the priesthood is tragic, but to do so because of the intellectual immaturity of Mormonism is sad for other, purely intellectual reasons.

First, it is tragic because it rests on the mistaken belief that Mormonism somehow cuts one off from the shelves of books, which can only be grasped and appreciated by rejecting the Restoration. However, it is tragic at a deeper level. Nineteenth-century Mormons got to recapitulate in their own lives the stories of the Bible. Mormon intellectuals have the opportunity to recapitulate the intellectual history of other faiths. A few Mormons — Orson Pratt and B.H. Roberts come to mind — have realize this and grasped at the possibility, realizing what a rare position they find themselves in. To be sure, reading Origen and Augustine is a wonderful experience. Mormon intellectuals, however, get to do so much more than read Origen and Augustine. They get to live Origen and Augustine, thrashing out for a new faith its relationship to the life of mankind’s mind. Like Origen and Augustine, they find themselves with a new — and in many ways crude — religion trying to come to terms with a conversation that has already been happening for centuries.

A Mormon can read Augustine and Origen not simply out of intellectual reverence or historical curiosity, but as fellow adventurers at the dawning of a new religious tradition. It is an opportunity that only comes around every millennia or two, and missing it is the tragedy of turning from the intellectual immaturity of Mormonism.

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66 Responses to The Opportunity and Tragedy of Immaturity

  1. Seth R. on May 15, 2006 at 11:38 am

    I’ve always felt that LDS theology had the capability of permanently altering the course of world theology and creating a major defining moment in philosophical history.

    I find the idea of being uniquely positioned to be another “pioneer” quite exciting. I’ll admit this is probably one of the primary attractions of the LDS faith for me.

    Alas, I doubt I could aspire to that level of scholarship. I was a decidedly mediocre student in all my coursework in college (including BYU religion classes, my minor in philosophy, and my major in political science). I never had the discipline to do more than skim Augustine and Kant, etc.

    So I just have to sit and mope … and content myself to “getting my home teaching done.”

  2. Ronan on May 16, 2006 at 9:55 am

    Origen’s fate: tortured, pilloried, and bound hand and foot to the block for days. :)

    But seriously… who are our Origen’s and Augustine’s? Is the church encouraging its theologians? (I suspect that those who pack-up their books say “no.” But what say you?)

  3. Dave on May 16, 2006 at 10:13 am

    Nate, I was waiting for the part where you talk about recapitulating (or not) the Great Apostasy. If we’re already up to Origen and Augustine, maybe it’s already too late …

  4. smb on May 16, 2006 at 10:35 am

    This reminds me of the early modern intellectual conversions to catholicism. People like GK Chesterton and TS Eliot. There is something vastly beautiful about the complexity of Catholic history and rite, and Mormonism, however great its reported kinship with the early church fathers, does not have it in as clear terms. I still like to read Chesterton’s description of his draw to Catholicism.

    an interesting distinction is that Origen and Augustine were writing and living at a time of great Christian diversity–they were not members of a monolithic church, they represented trends within the overall Christian movement. Their task was to _create_ a Catholic church.

    Intellectuals in the contemporary LDS church may feel that they are working within a monolithic church, but the church itself does not have the theological maturity that Catholicism now has. In that sense, they are not parallel to Origen and Augustine–they are not shaping the movement as directly as the church fathers did and may not feel invested or “empowered” in the same way.

    Also interesting is the fact that, contrary to early or late Catholicism, Mormons are now in a world where doctrine and theology are being actively de-emphasized in a transition present even in Catholicism, to a murkier but more personal religious faith walk. I’m thinking of the Charismatic/Pentecostal movement, which by various reports is the fastest growing wing of Christianity (recognizing that it involves vastly different denominations and so the statistical comparisons may be a bit strained). You get the impression that most people are no longer sufficiently interested in theology anywhere in the Christian world, and this makes a more “immature” faith more palatable generally.

    While being sympathetic to people who love Catholic (or high church Protestant) rite and doctrine, I probably side with Nate. I feel pretty free as a Josephite to rove across Christian tradition and periodically pull my church fathers off the shelf and read a few pages.

  5. john f. on May 16, 2006 at 11:42 am

    Dave meant his comment tongue-in-cheek but I would like to ask whether the “theological maturity” of the Catholic Church would be possible without the Great Apostasy, Nate. Is it really possible for Latter-day Saints to tread the same philosophical roads as Origen and Augustine — to “relive” their invention of explanations for mysteries, which inventions became known as theology — when we belong to a religion that is lead by a living Prophet and continuing revelation? I envy the richness of the Catholic tradition and philosophies perhaps as much as you, but whenever I experience this enthusiasm and regret the absence of this artifice in the LDS worldview, I am always reminded of the question of whether “theology” really exists in a climate of guidance by revelation. The pursuit of it seems perfectly natural and desirable in a context devoid of such guiding revelation but, in your view, how can it coexist with direct transmission of knowledge from God?

  6. Mark Butler on May 16, 2006 at 11:59 am

    John f.(#5), that is a fundamental question of religious epistemology, most directly dealt with in modern scripture in D&C 9. i.e. we must study things out in our mind first to become receptive vessels for inspiration or revelation. A disciplined theology is a collective process for studying questions out in our mind – the product of which should be as or more useful to church authorities as to anyone else. Church leaders have the right to direct and to receive and propagate new baseline principles – but that does not mean that the revelatory ideal is anti-rational with respect to the principles already received.

  7. DKL on May 16, 2006 at 12:17 pm

    Well, Origen castrated himself. Seems like he actually took heed of Christ’s oft-repeated admonition that self-mutilation is preferable to damnation (Matt 5:30 and 18:8–how many things do we have record of Christ teaching twice is the same book? Paradoxically, it was on this account that Origen never became a saint; and thus the age old problem of sexism rears its ugly head: male saints must have testicles–not so with the female ones). You’re free to call that rich history, but I call it kind of twisted.

    Besides, intellectual immaturity has its advantages. For example, the primary scriptures unique to our religion all appeared after the Copernican revolution, so our scriptures all provide a tidily helio-centric view of our solar system.

  8. Eric on May 16, 2006 at 12:20 pm

    JF #5:

    It seems to me that when revelation is not complete that there is room for theology in certain areas. Often further revelation (to me) brings about as many questions as it answers. Perhaps higher level questions, but questions remain, don’t they?

  9. Nate Oman on May 16, 2006 at 12:40 pm

    john f.: I think that the answer is “No, Mormons cannot simply retread the same path that Christian theology has taken.” As you (and sam) point out, Mormon intellectuals already operate in the presence of an institutionally integrated Church with living prophetic authorities. This complicates things, and means that Mormon intellectuals end up dealing with a different set of issues than those that confronted Origen or Augustine. This, however, is precisely what makes it so much fun. We recapitulate the past in the sense of thinking about how a new faith relates to an old intellectual tradition. On the other hand, both the faith and the intellectual tradition with which we deal are different, so our questions and answers will necessarily be different.

    ronan asks: “Is the church encouraging its theologians?”

    I don’t know what you mean by “encouraging.” It is certainly not encouraging them in the sense of providing them with resources and institutional recognition. Furthermore, from time to time I suspect that it will crack down on theological speculation that goes too far afield (eg Allred’s more adventuresome speculations about Heavenly Mother and the godhead, etc.). I think that the main trouble for Mormon intellectuals is that having a lay clergy diminishes economic support for theologians, and the market for the stuff is pretty thin. To paraphrase Shakespeare, “The fault dear Ronan, is not in our GAs, but in ourselves that we are intellectual underlings.”

  10. Nate Oman on May 16, 2006 at 12:41 pm

    DKL: “You’re free to call that rich history, but I call it kind of twisted.”

    Fair enough, but you have to admit that Augustine’s carousing — “Save me Lord, but not yet” — sounds like fun ;->…

  11. Jed on May 16, 2006 at 1:06 pm

    “They get to live Origen and Augustine, thrashing out for a new faith its relationship to the life of mankind’s mind.”

    A couple of points. One very Mormon reading of the the impulse to thrash out of a new faith its relationship to mankind’s mind, as you call it, at least in Origen’s and Augustine’s case, was that it emerged out of apostasy: Judeo-Christian religion had already been wed to Greek metaphysics, or at least made hospitable to it, and great minds stepped forth to make sense of the confusion. Insofar as Mormonism sees itself set apart from “wordly” religious tradition, how does that aloofness change the nature of the conversation with “mankind’s mind”? If the trajectory of our intellectual history is different from early Christianity’s, how does that change the nature of the conversion?

    The second point relates to the first. Much of the tragedy you describe, Nate, comes from the attempts of Mormon intellectuals to force the church’s doctrines into learned categories. One senses embarassment in early curriculum writers like O. C. Tanner, Russel Swensen and many others who went east to study, imbibed nearly everything they were taught, and found themselves disappointed when the church found no use for all their notions. The result was rather overt and sometimes awkward attempts on the part of our intellectuals to bring the church into the modern world, to put off its backwardness and adopt much needed sophistication. The church obviously evolves over time, moving forward even as it looks back, maintaining the illusion of timelessness even as it accomodates to new attitudes, but our intellectuals seem to push for accommodation much more agressively than the average church member. I think the push is dangerous, because the consequences of full accommodation, as the history of Anglicanism (among other Christian churches) has shown, is devastating to the ability of churches to govern, to declare doctrine, indeed, to declare anything out of bounds. When world and church are blended, church tends to get smashed.

    My question is how we avoid falling into the same trap, how to thrash about, in other words, while avoiding the advocacy politics that have derailed so many intellectuals in our history. I think it is fine to envy the intellectual conversation of other faiths–there is a place for holy envy–but we should also recognize the cost. I don’t think that cost is inevitable, though it may seem that way. All the more reason for Mormon intellectuals, drawing strength from its youthful tradition, to learn from others’ mistakes. We should observe the littered field and chart another course.

  12. Mark Butler on May 16, 2006 at 1:12 pm

    The pre-scholastic era in LDS theology has passed. I doubt anyone revisiting LDS cosmology in the manner of grand schemes like Brigham Young’s Adam-God theory is likely to make any headway. We simply do not have the evidence for such conclusions. In addition, if the President of the Church cannot be taken seriously with regard to such a bold hypothesis, certainly no one else can.

    The bread and butter of theology is issues of rather more limited scope – grace vs. works, sanctification vs. justification, prayer vs. foreknowledge, and so on. These are the areas that the scholastic theologians (Anselm, Abelard, Aquinas, Ockham, et al) worked on, and did a mighty fine job of too, given what they had to work with.

    That type of scholastic theology is where I see LDS scholars being able to make a useful contribution. Currently, we generally refer to Protestant works on the subject and then give the results a little Mormon spin, without due diligence as to the provenance of many of the relevant concepts.

    That also one reason why the study of Western eccelesiatical history, more especially the history of the past five hundred years or so than that of the Patristic fathers, is particularly relevant.

  13. Nate Oman on May 16, 2006 at 1:32 pm

    Jed: Part of the solution, I think, is simply for intellectuals to know their place. In some ways, the modern persona of the intellectual is prophetic. The intellectual is the fearless voice of higher authority (Reason) calling an erring world to change its ways. In Mormonism, however, one may only speak with authority if one has been called of God by the laying on of hands. I think that if Mormon intellectuals are content with a more modest role for themselves — thrashing out possible solutions to various intellectual puzzles — they will have less opprotunity to wreck the Church, fewer frictions with Church authorities, and ultimately — in an ironic way — more influence within the Mormon community.

    I think that the second thing is for Mormon intellectuals to have a bit more intellectual self-confidence. Many, I think, recognize that often a pre-critical testimony simply masks ignorance and arrogance. This insight has the salutary effect of producing a bit more intellectual humility, but taken too far it leads to the conclusion that the pre-critical testimony was ultimately vacuous. From there, it is only a hop, skip, and a jump to the belief that Mormonism lacks intellectual respectability unless it can be remade in the image of a graduate seminar. What they miss is the possiblity of appreciating the intellectual tradition without being cowed or intimidated by it. The problem with folks like O.C. Tanner and Sterling McMurrin is that when the philosophies of the world pushed them they lacked the gumption to push back intellectually, and simply succumbed. The point is that one has to honestly think of Mormonism not as a parochial embarrassment that might be redeemed by transforming it into the disciple of this or that philosophy, but as a powerful — if admittedly crude — force to be dealt with. Ultimately, Socrates didn’t want disciples. He wanted peers and teachers. Tanner and McMurrin met Socrates and their confidence failed them. The result was that they became lackeys rather than interlocutors.

  14. Mark Butler on May 16, 2006 at 1:40 pm

    Jed, I think the modern (Medieval and post-Medieval) history of the Catholic Church is a better example of how a church accomodates theology without being overcome by it, especially of the skeptical accomodationist variety.

    There have been some serious issues in the post-Vatican II era, particularly here in America, but those are being remedied. Otherwise, the example of the Catholic church on this matter is generally exemplary, if not too conservative – the notable exception being the disciplinary excesses of the Inquisition era.

    It would be very hard to make the general case that the Catholic tolerance for theology has led to accomodationism of the skeptical, liberal, antinomian variety. Catholic theology from Aquinas to Molina is an overwhelming success story. It is the Protestants who have much greater reason to be embarrassed, as their theology is much more extreme, causing all sorts of strange side effects.

    It is worth recognizing that except for one major issue, the Protestant Reformation was reactionary – not reactionary as in going back to the scriptures, though that was the rhetoric, but reactionary as in going back to the worst excesses of the Augustinian / Neo-Platonic conception of God. As in dumping all the careful moderation of medieval theology, and adopting a Neo-Manichean view of the world and reading the scriptures through that lens.

    Both Luther and Calvin were highly inclined to see the world that way for a variety of reasons having to do with certain notorious failures of fifteenth century theology. There was a theological crisis of sorts, and the Protestant reformers solution was to run home to Augustine – not only run home, but to do him one better.

    The Open Theists make this point about Protestant theology all the time, arguing that “sola scriptura” should mean we drop any of the non-scriptural conclusions of the Patristic fathers as well, resulting in a neo-Arminianism comparable to classical Mormonism in many respects.

  15. Nate Oman on May 16, 2006 at 1:44 pm

    Mark: Your contrast between Protestants and Catholics is interesting. I suspect that part of the success that you are talking about comes about because Catholics have a magesterium that prevents them from being at the mercy of their intellectuals.

  16. Jordan on May 16, 2006 at 2:20 pm

    For some this even leads to a crisis of faith, and they sell their birthright for a shelf full of books.

    I love this insightful quote.

  17. Geoff J on May 16, 2006 at 3:05 pm

    Nate: Mormon intellectuals, however, get to do so much more than read Origen and Augustine. They get to live Origen and Augustine, thrashing out for a new faith its relationship to the life of mankind’s mind.

    Amen! (Despite the amusing objections/quips by Dave and DKL). I have long felt this way about Mormonism. Further, Mormons are about living scripture-worthy lives now. We are all tasked to to literally be the type of prophets that Lehi and Nephi were. It seems that we are supposed to live in such a way that our personal journals could become canonized scripture for distant future generations. And as Mark mentioned, D&C 9 allows us to individually use our intellectual capacities and revelation in conjunction as we work out theology.

    BTW – I also agree with Mark’s point that Calvinism ended overshooting in it’s attempted return to Augustine.

  18. Jed on May 16, 2006 at 3:16 pm

    “Part of the solution, I think, is simply for intellectuals to know their place.”

    It might require a redefinition of what it means to be a Mormon intellectual. The voice of reason has no peers, as you suggest, because reason has been defined by the Western tradition as peerless, and Mormon intellectuals have tended to swallow this defintion lock, stock and barrel. The problem is always the same: uncritical acceptance, inverting the critical gaze. But if we press against the tradition reason need not be identified in that way. It can be defined in a way that makes sense within our own tradition.

    We may find upon close inspection that the notion of a peerless reason is not all wrong, but simply too expansive. For example, if I confine myself to the solving of intellectual puzzles, it may be that my reason is peerless within the tradition of academic wrangling, just as the prophets are peerless in their own arena of leading a large organization. Our own doctrine implies that everyone can be a prophet in their own realm. A plumber is not an electrician, and an electrician is not a plumber, and neither presumes to tell the other what to do, though both may know a great deal about what the other does. Both prophets help the house stand.

    On the other hand, it may turn out that the modesty required for reason’s containment requires us to dispense with peerlessness altogether. The having of peers, even within domains of like kind (electricians, plumbers, etc), seems to be the order of heaven in the Mormon view. No intelligence holds absolute preeminence; no virtue, not even reason, holds certain sway. On this view reason is a ministering angel, a mere priest, in the Mormon scheme, forever subservient to prophetic authority.

    It may be that this latter view–the subservience of reason–is the sacrifice Mormon intellectuals are asked to make to sit where Abraham sits.

  19. Mark Butler on May 16, 2006 at 3:53 pm

    I think it is highly ironic that the defenders of fideism actually believe what their worst adversaries tell them – that a robust application of reason is necessarily the end of faith. That may the the dominant intellectual current in the post-Reformation age, but it is hardly a necessary one, as any decent Catholic scholar will tell you. Reason need not start from a principle of universal doubt, and we have no good reason to believe the gospel is beyond rational understanding.

    From the perspective of history, Fideism and Secularism are two heads of the same Hydra. Is it any wonder that secularism proceeded the fastest and furthest in countries that adopted the Lutheran hostility to reason? The history of Germany, particularly sixteenth century Germany is most instructive. Reason and law were practically synonyms at the time, so when reason was thrown overboard, civil order went along with it.

  20. Jim F. on May 16, 2006 at 4:04 pm

    Mark Butler (#19): From the perspective of history, Fideism and Secularism are two heads of the same Hydra.

    Amen and amen. In spite of my objections to systematic theology, I find the tendency for Mormons to adopt fideism dangerous.

  21. Mark Butler on May 16, 2006 at 4:13 pm

    And as is usually the case, when civil order goes, a variant of despotism takes its place. Without reason you see – a common cultural understanding of shared principles and the mode of their proper application, people can no longer govern themselves – they have to be told what to do.

    Antinomianism leads directly to despotism and on to imperialist totalitarianism – French, German, Russian, Japanese, or whatever. A perception of being the manifestation of divine justice, might makes right, and all that. It is not that big a step from Calvinist determinism to authoritarian antinomianism either – so we had two Reformationist approaches that shared the same tendency – truth and right as a function of authority instead of as a function of principle.

  22. Nate Oman on May 16, 2006 at 4:51 pm

    Mark: Do you see Jed as espousing a sort of fideism as a way for Mormon intellectuals to relate to prophetic authority?

    I actually don’t think that one needs to go so far as to say that faith and loyalty to the church will require some sort of radical rejection of reason, only of a reason based on some sort of Cartesian notion of certainty. I don’t think that this is a particularlly big concession, however, as no one in actual practice adopts a Cartesian approach to reason, which generally gets trotted out as an epistemological plaything or else as an opprotunistically deployed criteria used to attack beliefs that one rejects on other grounds.

    Incidentally, it is not only Catholic scholars who reject the notion that faith and reason are mutually exclusive. Political liberals (in the philosophical rather than political sense, if you know what I mean) have the good old standby of “reasonable disagreement”: Equally intelligent people reasoning in good faith will come to different conclusions, a fact that is neither an inditement of reason nor a warrant for rejecting reasoned discussion. Rather “reasonable disagreement” is simply a fact about the human condition that we ought to accept and accomodate with tolerant social arrangements. However, “reasonable disagreement” means that we can also dispense with the fiction that every disagreement between intellectual and authority involves a stark choice between Faith and Reason, and that only through the rejection of the latter could an intellectual submit to the claims of authority.

  23. Brad Haas on May 16, 2006 at 5:07 pm

    DKL (#7) – do you have some authoritative source that Origen’s self-castration is the reason he was not canonized a saint? As I recall, some of his teachings were errant (including too much influence from Platonism).

    Also,
    Mormon intellectuals, however, get to do so much more than read Origen and Augustine. They get to live Origen and Augustine, thrashing out for a new faith its relationship to the life of mankind’s mind.
    I hope they hurry up and emerge, then. I’m not getting any closer to Mormonism as things are right now.

  24. john f. on May 16, 2006 at 5:27 pm

    So systematic theology would bring you closer to Mormonism?

  25. DKL on May 16, 2006 at 5:45 pm

    Nate Oman: Fair enough, but you have to admit that Augustine’s carousing — “Save me Lord, but not yet” — sounds like fun ;->…

    Yeah, those were the days. Most people don’t know it, but Augustine partied harder than Ted Kennedy. If I could go back in time and party with anyone, it would either be Augustine or Jim Morrison. But I think I’d choose Augistine, because then I could say, “Dude! I partied with Augustine!” Anyway, I hope his temple work gets done.

  26. Nate Oman on May 16, 2006 at 6:25 pm

    Brad: Are you being snide or do you actually want a reading list?

  27. Mark Butler on May 16, 2006 at 6:30 pm

    Nate (#22), I am not sure how what I said directly addresses Jed’s comments – they make sense to me. I intended to address the weaknesses of the proposition that we can depend on revelation alone with no need for theological interpretation.

    One of the best ways is to look at the history of societies that took that idea very seriously – as it so happens Martin Luther and his followers provide the best example, in a manner that couples with the theological excesses of Calvinist authoritarianism in a most peculiar way.

    On one side, you have a tendency for Lutheranism to dissolve into antinomianism, a problem which is solved rather conveniently by an application of Calvinist authoritarianism – a very strange hybrid of hostility to reason and the greatest systematic excess of it, coupled by circumstance and a shared view of human depravity.

    I don’t believe the Protestant’s ever quite fixed this problem – to rather serious consequences in northern Europe. Theological extremism tends to produce its own opposition – instead of some nice happy medium with a careful balance between faith and reason – the ideal of the scholastics, we end up with fideist diehards fighting antinomian rationalists to the death with the middle ground a veritable no man’s land where any brave soul gets fired on from both the Right and the Left.

    The middle ground, however, is precisely where we need to be to avoid suffering the consequences of either rationalist skepticism or fideist authoritarianism. Faith in revealed truth understood and applied with right reason.

    Otherwise truth is arbitrary or non-existent. Reason *is* the harmony of truth.

    early Lutheran-styl

  28. Jim F. on May 16, 2006 at 6:48 pm

    DKL: If Augustine’s work is anything like most other historical celebrities, it has been done, and done, and done–whether or not the submitter was related to him. I’ll bet that Kierkegaard has rejected the Gospel in the Spirit World simply in disgust with all of the undergraduate philosophy majors who’ve done his work for him.

  29. john f. on May 16, 2006 at 6:54 pm

    I hope he wouldn’t reject for that reason.

  30. Jim F. on May 16, 2006 at 6:56 pm

    John F: just joking. He may reject, but I doubt that it would be for that reason.

  31. john f. on May 16, 2006 at 7:14 pm

    well, you never know!

  32. Mark Butler on May 16, 2006 at 7:40 pm

    [Off topic]
    Here is a nice word we could use – “ultramontane”, or “beyond the mountains”, referring to the Catholic doctrine of the supreme authority of the Pope over those beyond the Alps in matters of faith and doctrine. In modern parlance, it generally means an excessive religious authoritarianism, notably interference in civil matters.

    So when people inevitably say that Mitt Romney is beholden to Salt Lake, we can say they are accusing the Church of “ultramontanism”. Beyond the Rocky Mountains instead of the Alps.

    We could also use the word properly to describe the centralizing tendency in ecclesiastical administration.

  33. Kimball L. Hunt on May 16, 2006 at 8:03 pm

    Intellect is always subversive, always promotes some alternate agenda —

    Although perhaps those intellectuals who’d be successful at this enterprise must always cast their efforts as NOT as subversion but as restoration, distillation or fruitful elaboration.

    E./g. Socrates’ teachings were a form of Sophism exclusively claiming the authoritative mantle of Hellenic prophecy including Pure Reason and rejecting all other forms of Sophism as not truly incarnating these ideals. And as well: Yeshuah’s teachings were a form of Phariseeism claiming the authoritative mantle of the Messiahship including Pure Love and rejecting all other forms of Phariseeism as not truly fulfilling the true spirit of the Law.

    Origen’s (“while a father, not a “saint”!) successful intellectual approach was the same. But, yeah, with Origen’s havin t’ suffer posthumously the fate of his being decried as heretic/ apostate, though with his work merely being reinterpreted in parts rather being thrown out whole.

    Saint Augustine: the same. Except at the opposite pole of such success both in his lifetime and since that all of Christiandom still worships at the altars he’d fashioned for you’all. Before them both: saint Paul of Tarsus! And me myself, I’d even posit yet another example in saint Barnabas. And through Barnabas to God’s Messenger, upon him be divine peace, Muhammad. And ditto: brother Martin Luther. If only for some. And that superlative doctrinal formulator of Geneva Jean Cauvin for yet again others.|*|

    But I’m getting tiresome(!)

    But my point is: If intellectuals want success within The Church of Jesus Christ, they must follow the example of elder Bruce and Bruce’s successful predecessors. Elsewise, if ya can’t handle the heat, get outta the Mormon theological kitchen.
    ______
    |[*(And ultimately of even MORE importance if possible is the slot I'm gonna put in here for the Cultural Prophet (or that is avatar) Nietzsche -- or at least what His Name represents. As a form of contra thread! Smiles.)]|

  34. Mark Butler on May 17, 2006 at 1:29 am

    Kimball, I would argue from metaphysical grounds that reason as we know it today isn’t prescriptive at all. It is only prescriptive within the context of certain fundamental metaphysical assumptions (arguably truths, but they are metaphysical, not analytical truths).

    If reason is applied from the same set of metaphysical assumptions as the “ism” it is addressing, it is usually healthy and constructive. If the assumptions are different, it is divisive. If there are no assumptions at all, it is unquestionably destructive.

  35. DKL on May 17, 2006 at 1:32 am

    Brad Haas: do you have some authoritative source that Origen’s self-castration is the reason he was not canonized a saint? As I recall, some of his teachings were errant (including too much influence from Platonism).

    Errant teachings sometimes pose no barrier at all to becoming a Saint. I think that one can argue that if it weren’t for Abelard’s stirring the pot with Sic et non, neo-Aristotelianism might never have been able to gain a foothold, and Aquinas may have simply ended up marginalized by the institutional bias against Aristotle. (Today’s recurring theme is castration–Abelard was castrated, too, though not by himself. It’s even better than that: Abelard got castrated in revenge for his role in a twisted tale of adultery that the French seem to find romantic.)

    In any case, here’s the source for my statement:

    Origen’s aberrations were not only theological; in his youth he was guilty of an irreparable error through a too literal interpretation of the text: “There be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake.” This method of escaping the temptations of the flesh, which Origen rashly adopted, had been condemned by the Church; moreover it made him ineligble for holy orders, although some ecclesiastics seem to have thought otherwise, thereby giving rise to unedifying controversies.”

    This is from page 347 of Bertrand Russell’s A History of Western Philosophy, which, as Jim F. will soon point out, falls squarely within the positivists tradition of philosophical history, and it is therefore very good reading but not such great history. Incidentally, the scripture to which Russell refers is Matt 19:12 — the third time in Matthew that Christ discusses self mutilation (not to be confused with self abuse) as preferable to damnation).

    In any case, it’s not much of a supporting reference; when recalling it from memory, I read rather more into it than was there. It may well have been Origen’s too heavily Philonic and neo-Platonic heterodoxies about the nature of God that got him into trouble. The Alexandrian Clement, his teacher, was made a saint, and he was likely guilty of at least a few of the same heterodoxies. Since castration does bar entry into the priesthood and holy orders, it is seems likely to be at least a contributor to Origen’s canonically unsung status in the Catholic church.

  36. DKL on May 17, 2006 at 1:40 am

    Jim F: I’ll bet that Kierkegaard has rejected the Gospel in the Spirit World simply in disgust with all of the undergraduate philosophy majors who’ve done his work for him.

    LOL! I can picture that in my head.

  37. Brad Haas on May 17, 2006 at 3:08 am

    Please, Mr. Oman, I’m the very picture of politesse. (ok, *that* was tongue-in-cheek, and I had no idea what “politesse” meant before the thesaurus gave it to me.)

    But I *was* being serious in my comment. I have philosophical questions that Catholicism can answer, but I don’t believe Mormonism can. What reading would you suggest?

    DKL – fair enough. I don’t know one way or t’other. Also, Clement of Alexandria is not a saint, at least not in the Catholic Church. The Catholic Encyclopedia says Clement of Alexandria appeared in martyrologies and was widely venerated as a saint as late as the 1600′s, but at that time his name was officially dropped from the Roman Martyrology.

  38. Mark Butler on May 17, 2006 at 3:18 am

    I would like to hear what those questions are, Brad.

  39. DKL on May 17, 2006 at 8:18 am

    Interesting, Brad. I’m used to hearing Clement of Alexandria referred to as St. Clement of Alexandria. I wonder if he’s a saint anywhere, or if his status as a saint is similar to the status as “weatherman” held by non-meteoroligists who read the weather.

  40. Jim F. on May 17, 2006 at 1:35 pm

    DKL: Thanks for speaking for me. It is nice to know that my knee jerks have become so easily recognized.

  41. Deep Sea on May 17, 2006 at 3:09 pm

    Nate,

    This is pie in the sky.

    “Mormon intellectuals, however, get to do so much more than read Origen and Augustine. They get to live Origen and Augustine, thrashing out for a new faith its relationship to the life of mankind’s mind.”

    Is there any possible grounds for legitimate comparison between these two utterly different contexts?

    Origen and Augustine were prolific and eloquent writers whose writings are studied and revered today. Where are the Mormon equivalents?

    Origen and Augustine were, as you say, “thrashing out for a new faith its relationship” to the life of the mind. Who in Mormonism is doing this, with any conceivable long-term consequences?

    You’re implying an analogy between nascent Christianity and Mormonism in 2006. This is a ridiculous analogy. Mormonism will never be what Christianity once was, and Christianity never was what Mormonism is today.

    You’ve missed the obvious reasons why many intellectuals abandon Mormonism: it offers little sustenance for the needs of the mind.

    What hope is there that the “intellectual immaturity” of Mormonism is not, in fact, a permanent condition?

  42. john f. on May 17, 2006 at 3:55 pm

    Mormonism will never be what Christianity once was, and Christianity never was what Mormonism is today.

    Wow. And said with such confidence too.

  43. john f. on May 17, 2006 at 3:56 pm

    I’m particularly interested in the second half of that little condemnation. Christianity never was what Mormonism is today, again, said with such confidence that I am wondering what materials or sources are giving you such solid insight into what is truly ancient and obscure history.

  44. Geoff J on May 17, 2006 at 4:31 pm

    Re #28,

    Niiiice, Jim. I laughed too.

  45. Kimball L. Hunt on May 17, 2006 at 6:15 pm

    Saint George isn’t a saint either. (Ah those Christianized, Teutonic tribes in Britain’s concocting a founding saint and his spectacularly manly exploits when they needed one — )

  46. Mark Butler on May 17, 2006 at 7:00 pm

    Deep Sea,

    The teachings of Joseph Smith bear theological scrutiny much better than most of the Patristic Fathers, including (or should I say especially) Augustine. There is a considerable academic enterprise that even today is giving evidence that the progressive approach to theology taken by Joseph Smith and his contemporaries is not only more theologically sustainable, but much more faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ as understood prior to the wholesale importation of Greek and Persian theological concepts.

    The proponents of Open Theism largely agree with Classical Mormonism on these matters. Likewise, Parley and Orson Pratt largely anticipated much of process theology and metaphysics, pursued more formally by Alfred North Whitehead a century later. None of the early Mormon writers held doctorates in theology – but their perceptions as to the nature of God and the mode and manner by which he exercises his will have sustained scrutiny amazingly well.

    Most critics quite often dismiss Mormon theology as well as Open Theism as contrary to the established tradition of the Christianity. Ultimately, though the purpose of theology is to exalt the truth above mere tradition. A theological enterprise has to be examined from the first principles of a faith founded in scripture, not in terms of ideological accretions of some outside culture, or by some narrow hermeneutical lens.

    It is unfortunate of course that we do not have more contemporary expositions of classical Mormon theology, and there are a number of historical reasons for that, but if you want a book on theology that later generations revere and study, the “Doctrine of Covenants” is the book that should be examined.

    And what about the Book of Mormon? Whatever your position as to its origins, should it not count as such a book – it is certainly far more coherent than anything Augustine ever wrote. It is less formal than the Doctrine and Covenants, but presents a Christian soteriology as comprehensive (and devotionally *much* superior to) Calvin’s *Institutes of the Christian Religion*.

    Joseph Smith did not write any other books, although there are collections of his sermons. The merit of the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine of Covenants as the most lucid, scripturally faithful, and logically coherent exposition of Christian theology ever made, surpassing that of the Apostle Paul himself, is what the long term evaluation of the merit of Mormonism will depend upon.

  47. Kimball L. Hunt on May 17, 2006 at 11:24 pm

    Mark Butler:

    Although I’m in the midst of reading the later posts to this thread still, let me say that your idea in post 27 about middle ground (reconciliation?) of seemingly disparate Authority & Free Thinking (or even Faith & Reason, as I’d over grandly simplify it?) and about BALANCE is intriguing & probably profound . . . And I wish you good luck in this endeavor. ( . . . & Buddha himself did pretty good with his own “middle path” too!)

  48. Kimball L. Hunt on May 18, 2006 at 12:13 am

    Deep Sea’s pronouncements are a voice from the deep. So authoritative — the very voice of a High Reason! And ironically, just such a voice is imperative within the prophetic enterprise — that is, when combined with the idea of the prophet in question’s being the humble vehicle for the transmission of divine inspirations.

    But all Sea chimes in here with is an un-contradictable statement really about ya can’t compare apples to oranges: (there being no one conceivably comparable to an Augustine in Mormonism today — and that anyway today intellectuals of the church are busily fleeing offstage).

    But Nate’s idea wasn’t meant to be descriptive; it was meant to be suggestive. To be inspirational of possibilities, rather than merely being descriptively skeptical of such any such idea’s chances — as any such grand of enterprise would require such chutzpah!: Hey! — Let’s be a great artist/ politician/ thinker/ whatever!

    But, anyway, even if Nate would merely be wishing for us to discuss the “fruit” of scholarship/theology in the “post- foundational prophecy” stage of development within a distinct, revealed religion, with Nate’s citing as a model the “apples” of the proto-Arianist Origen and “the man of the hour at the Council of Nice,” Augustine . . . to inform any wistful longings for some theological “oranges” accomodating some kind of application of reason to the revealed truths of the restored Church, blah blah — Well, anyway, for the purpose to examine the general nature of fruit, isn’t it OK to compare apples and oranges?

  49. Mark Butler on May 18, 2006 at 2:11 am

    Aristotle also taught the doctrine of the golden mean or as it is most commonly known today in corrupted form as “moderation in all things”. Certainly the safe (if sometimes timid) way to go.

    Besides simple conservatism however, I suspect there should be something of a philosophical central limit theorem – something that demonstrates the truth is most likely to be found in a balance between two *plausible* extremes.

  50. Brad Haas on May 18, 2006 at 4:09 pm

    Mark Butler (#46):

    And what about the Book of Mormon? Whatever your position as to its origins, should it not count as such a book – it is certainly far more coherent than anything Augustine ever wrote.

    Heh. I hope you weren’t expecting agreement from any non-members about that. :) Have you read everything Augustine ever wrote? (seriously, not sarcastic)

    Generally, I still have to lean more toward Deep Sea’s opinion. Can we expect that the theological writings of a would-be Mormon Augustine right now will someday be further developed, officially recognized as truth, integrated into liturgy, etc.? Will the person be recognized as the LDS equivalent of a Doctor of the Church (someone whose writings we can trust for education in the faith)? It seems to me that these things only apply to some teachings of some of the past presidents or other authorities, and even then, their influence is not so permanent.

    Mark Butler (#38):

    I would like to hear what those questions are, Brad.

    Oh my. Now that it comes to it, I don’t have them collected into one handy list. I need to do that some time.

    For starters, in spite of the post and excerpts here from Mr. Ostler’s book, I still haven’t seen a good explanation of the origin of the moral law (or any truth) in LDS theology. I don’t see how right and wrong, the purpose of existence, or existence itself can come from any of the various models I’ve seen of the infinite progression of beings. Those three are pretty big questions for me.

    In addition, I don’t understand the necessity of living and dying in this life, nor the reason behind the necessary transgression of Adam and Eve. I don’t tsee the LDS view on these as making any more sense than the Catholic view.

    There are also the usual suspects: the Necessary Being or First Cause issues, the impossibility of progressing through an infinite sequence, et alii. Here’s a unique one: if God begat spirit children in sequence (Jesus being the firstborn, then others), that implies that He has a finite number of children at any given time (after Jesus was “born,” there was one, after the next, two, and so on). If that’s the case, then all god-parents have a finite number of children, which means there’s a finite total number of beings, and as one goes back in time, the number gets smaller, until one reaches… what?

    Do you have a blog, Mark? It’s been a while since I’ve discussed any of these in-depth, but I’d love to do it again. This comment box isn’t the place, though. If you don’t have a blog, we could do it there, or use my blog, or make it my first discussion on Mormon and Catholic. Interested?

  51. Mark Butler on May 18, 2006 at 5:39 pm

    Brad, The main problem with the way most approach the Book of Mormon is they get hung up on questions of historicity and neglect to examine what the book actually teaches. That is one of the reasons why an examination of the Doctrine and Covenants would make for a better comparision.

    It is worth noting that although neither is (fortunately!) a text in systematic theology, both can easily be seen to be in part the inspired (and to LDS divinely endorsed) product of deep and serious reflection on the problems of contemporary Christian theology. Interested LDS members learn the comparative coherence and consistency of Joseph Smith’s theology through study, but we could certainly use more scholarly expositions on the topic, especially ones accessible to members of other denominations.

    Historically, theology has gotten somewhat of a bad reputation in LDS circles because in the nineteenth century many LDS, including Brigham Young, apparently pushed grand, cosmological schemes further than could be coherently sustained. That form of cosmology, after the manner of the King Follett Discourse, is what is truely and properly considered the mysteries – a subject for parlor conversation, but not something than can safely be relied upon – speculative theology writ large.

    No I haven’t read everything Augustine wrote. My impression from what I have read as well as secondary sources was that his approach was neither particularly scholarly nor particularly consistent – something characteristic of most of the religous writing of the whole era. My main problem is that he seems primarily responsible for importing a Manichean sense of evil into Christianity – with serious long term consequences, most notably in the Protestant approach to the world.

    The LDS rejection of the doctrine of Original Sin is a fundamental departure from that schema. The canonical answer to the question of the origin of sin is that is it is a consequence of free will, in its most stark form – to be made aware of the light, and then reject it, as in the case of Lucifer in Isaiah 14. (cf. John 3:19, D&C 93:31,36-39).

    There are significant similarities between Mormonism and Neo-Arminianism on this question, but the key difference is that in Mormonism intelligence (or free will), the core aspect of personality, is and always has been independent of God, literally uncreated. Not explained from the “if you love it, set it free” idea of Arminianism. So sin, confusion, and disorder arise in part from a mere conflict of wills, an interesting precursor to certain aspects of existentialism.

    I don’t have a web log, but I would gladly participate if you posted on on of your weblogs. Geoff posts on many of these questions over at New Cool Thang – though we often get mired in peculiarly LDS controversies, unfortunately.

  52. Mark Butler on May 18, 2006 at 6:05 pm

    Brad, As to your other two questions, the Church is not at all inclined to do that, because of the view that scholarly theology tends to unnecessarily divisiveness. Especially not right now, as there is a bit of a live theological controversy running for the past few decades, and the Church does not want to take sides, nor settle things by conciliar majority. The LDS perspective is that such questions should be answered by revelation, and in the absence of such the Church is and should be officially neutral.

    So for anything similar to what you suggest to occur, several hundred years would probably have to elapse, with some position born out by first scholarly, and secondly ecclesiastical consensus. And even then the status of such writings would no doubt be informal. The LDS Church doesn’t endorse the independent writings of its own Apostles. It is inspired consensus that governs – the leadership tries to avoid majority override if at all possible (cf. D&C 107:27). LDS ecclesiology is very similar to a hierarchical conciliarism, with councils at the general (Church), stake (diocese), and ward (parish) level.

    Now from what I understand the contemporary practice of the Catholic Church bears considerable similarity to what I have described – allowing a healthy theological and philosophical diversity within the bounds of fundamental gospel principles.

  53. Geoff J on May 18, 2006 at 6:27 pm

    Geoff posts on many of these questions over at New Cool Thang – though we often get mired in peculiarly LDS controversies, unfortunately.

    Hehe. Well what do you expect? We are working out peculiarly LDS theologies together over at the Thang aren’t we? :-)

    (Brad chimes in or posts responses occasionally when the conversation takes a Catholic turn though.)

  54. Kimball L. Hunt on May 18, 2006 at 8:11 pm

    I hesitate to try to explain Joseph (& the Nauvoo mystics’) spiritual offspring doctrine, since I’m literally agnostic about it. But, Brad, Joseph’s revelations were delivered to us in a Newtonian|**| age which comprehended both space and time going on and on, infinitely. And in any case, how it works is that before Heavently Father/ Elohim begat Jesus, he had zero offspring and I was at that point not yet God, having no one to whom so to be; yet He is infinite because He continues to have spiritual offspring, forevermore.

    |[**(And, actually, even the best -- 'I' think -- cosmologies CURRENTLY on the cutting edge have the total mass of the universe (which I'll call /omega/) at any one point in time finite, yet with more mass constantly being created, in this sense making the universe's total potential mass sort of "infinite." And such constant, ongoing creation of matter is also a means to accounting for the so-called cosmological constant that's found to be mathematically necessary to ( due to the fact that in, I think, 2001, Purlmutter et al, tracking supernovas, discovered the universe to be accelerating and therefore likely "infinite/ open" -- despite all complications this entails for mathematicians and analytical geonmetricians trying to comprehend it).)]|

  55. Mark Butler on May 19, 2006 at 7:25 pm

    I retain a profound skepticism for much of what goes by the name of theoretical physics. Endless games with higher order mathematics and little in the way of solid experimental evidence. Not much more reliable than speculative theology, actually – and often spoken with the same unjustified air of authority.

  56. MikeInWeHo on May 23, 2006 at 1:32 pm

    Re: 51 “The main problem with the way most approach the Book of Mormon is they get hung up on questions of historicity…”

    But it’s almost impossible to avoid that, because it’s the core problem facing LDS intellectuals today. The Church has slammed the door on any alternative interpretations of the BoM’s origins, and enforces it via church discipline. This places thoughtful members in a very tough position. The tragic immaturity I see is that the leadership is commited to a black-or-white, all-or-nothing posture when it comes to it origins. Compare that to how much space Catholic theologians are given, and you’ll see the difference 1800 extra years make.

    Anyone here familar with how the Community of Christ approaches this ?

  57. Mark Butler on May 23, 2006 at 2:05 pm

    MikeInWeHo, I understand it is a serious problem, I just think it is a waste of time once it reaches the point of “A-ha! Now we don’t need to take anything in this book seriously anymore!”

    Alternatively, while the questions of BofM historicity are interesting, they have relatively little impact on the merit of what the book itself teaches, any more than the controversies of Bible origins (c.f. the Documentary Hypothesis) has an impact on the merit of what the Bible teaches.

    Too much LDS discourse reduces to the proposition that if something is “revealed” it is all good, and if not “revealed” it is all bad. There are serious issues here, of course, but say the Epistles of Paul do not need to be revelations to be worth study, and in particular theological analysis.

    So all those that doubt the historicity of the Book of Mormon are not likely to get anywhere – it is too fundamental of a question. If one really believes that Joseph Smith wasn’t a prophet, why the anxiety over LDS doctrine in the first place? The questions that are much more interesting are relative to the theology that the Book of Mormon actually teaches, and its relationship with the theology of the Old Testament, New Testament, and Doctrine and Covenants.

    In other words, if some Book of Mormon passage is objectionable or being used to justify an unsustainable theology, there is plenty of material in the New Testament and the D&C that can be used to show a fuller picture.

    Other than as a missionary tool, upon which people hang their testmonies, I do not see that historicity *needs* to be the fundamental topic of discussion. People can certainly feel the spirit and gain a testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon doctrines independent of its historicity. I suspect most do. Historicity is *much* more a question of faith, than religious merit.

  58. MikeInWeHo on May 23, 2006 at 6:18 pm

    re:57 I’m not sure I follow you, Mark. With all due respect, I feel like you’re contradicting yourself.

    On the one hand, you assert that the BoM origin question is irrelevant to the truth of the message, to the point that it doesn’t even merit discussion.

    On the other, in paragraph four you imply that that those who even doubt the book’s historicity have rejected Joseph Smith’s prophetic role and LDS doctrine generally, because it’s “too fundamental.”

    What I’m suggesting is this: Members should be allowed the option of saying “I don’t believe this is an ancient book, I don’t really understand its origins, but I do know that it points me to Christ and his Gospel….” This is already the position held by many active members (anyone out there dare estimate the percentage?), but they’re forced into silence in the current environment. IMO this is a highly immature position, and much less spiritually healthy than that of the Community of Christ (RLDS) where members are allowed to hold and express varying opinions about the plates, the BoM, etc.

    This notion that “it’s all a house of cards if there’s no such language as reformed egyptian” is exploited effectively by the anti-mormons. The current all-or-nothing mindset hands them this tool, which is very sad. IMO it accounts for the (real) conversion/retention rate being so low, but of course that’s a highly controversial assertion best discussed in another string.

  59. Mark Butler on May 24, 2006 at 4:03 am

    MikeInWeHo,

    The entities under discussion (like most in the real world) are not unitary Aristotelian objects – so if what I said looks like a paradox, use the context as appropriate to imagine how I reconcile the two cases – as Joseph Smith said – “through the proving of contraries, truth is made manifest”. This is a complex issue and the answers are not easy.

    I do think you overstated my position on a few points. What I said is mostly a matter of recommendation – a pragmatic question, not a statement of fact. Suppose, arguendo, the authorities in the Church felt the historicity of the BofM was suspect in several aspects. Should they announce that the founding document of the Church is an inspired fiction without having clear and convincing evidence that is actually the case?

    Now suppose, that after some 176 years, the Lord decides to put the Church back on course, and appears to Pres. Hinckley and tells him the Book of Mormon is a figment of Joseph Smith’s imagination.

    Then what? Do we get a hundred years worth of subtle de-emphasis in the manner of the Adam-God denouement, except ten times worse?

    If somebody can do first class research into the issues that does more than raise doubts (i.e. given that the Book has to be effectively *disproven* before the faithful are justified in abandoning it), sure that is probably worth doing.

    But to moan that the Church is off in never never land just because there are problematic aspects is pretty pointless. It is about as effective as complaining about the Catholic’s non-canonical doctrines with regard to Mary.

    Given the enormous value of the Book of Mormon as one of the most effective expositions of Christian doctrine ever written, and the fact that its historicity is taken as a matter of faith by the vast majority of the members of the Church, and the fact that our very identity is tied closely to that book, I couldn’t imagine the Church backing away from its position unless there was a consensus of all fifteen Apostles that the historical content of the book was a complete fabrication.

    Even then, an outright announcement would probably be fatal for the Church as we know it. You would get a whole new and much larget set of ‘fundamentalist’ sects that believe what they have been taught, a large contingent who would just leave or drop into inactivity, and a much reduced base.

    It would be comparable to a evangelical Protestant denomination simultaneously un-canonizing the Old Testament and determining that Calvin and Luther were frauds.

    Now while I have concerns in certain areas, my belief in the baseline historicity of the Book of Mormon, i.e. that Nephi and Lehi actually existed, and so on) is a matter of faith. Some might easily suggest modern influences to various parts of the account, or that Joseph Smith exercised some rather unusual liberties, but there would have to be *much* harder evidence before I would be persuaded beyond a reasonable doubt that the gold plates didn’t exist, and that the book was essentially a work of quasi-historical fiction created as a framework for a restorationist Christian theology.

    And even then (perish the thought), I do not see how going out of ones way to debunk other people’s testimonies would be very effective. Much much easier to examine the theological content – the true message of the Book of Mormon, from first principles and in light of other scriptures.

  60. Mark Butler on May 24, 2006 at 4:09 am

    I do generally agree, however, that members should be able to hold and even mention such opinions without being ostracized. One cannot expect such heterodox positions to be welcomed, however.

  61. Kimball L. Hunt on May 24, 2006 at 11:24 am

    Lots of the world’s religions were evangelical movements in cultures which ultimately obtained official sanction to, I dunno, attain cultural, critical mass. E/g what the Hassids, the Brahmin caste, the Parsees are /were?, are sets of beliefs/ practices from which deviations are looked upon askance. Enter Mormonism.

    And here we’ve got Mike, who puts “in West Hollywood” in his monicker, and then perpetual inactives, like me here in Joisey, commenting about things Mormon; but the thing is, where’s either of our Yiddishkeit, huh? Our clan marking on our foreheads? When’s the last time either of us tended a holy cauldron or, even, marvelled about our communities’ maidens’ reenacting rites of a holy harlotry? (Oh, that’s right: There’s our contemporary culture’s dance exhibitions/ beauty pangeants.) But, I’m obviously getting carried away here —

    What I mean to say is, Some of us “Mo’s” have made the rest of ya guys into an exhibit we’re injoying at the Museum of Natural History. But, here we are anyway, I guess — lol. (Thanks for having us!)

  62. MikeInWeHo on May 24, 2006 at 4:54 pm

    Thanks for clarifying, Mark. I think we’re closer to agreement than I realized. Your second-to-last paragraph resonates well with me (unlike the first paragraph, which flew right over my head). Personally, I think the way forward isn’t via some dramatic change, rather just a gradual shift away from the black-or-white mindset. Allowing members to openly hold alternative views of the BoM would be a start. That doesn’t mean allowing leaders/teachers to promote non-orthodoxy.

    And Kimball, it seems we have different motives for being here. I’m here because I love interacting with the LDS and would like to find some tiny niche for myself in this faith community. That may well prove impossible, but in the mean time blogging is interesting and uplifting to me. Your last paragraph rubbed me the wrong way. I prefer to be on the same side of the exhibit glass as Nate, Mark, et. al.

  63. bbell on May 24, 2006 at 5:08 pm

    Mikeweho.

    You are an interesting blogger. See if the admins will let you blog your story. You seem to have some type of belief/interest/micro-testimony and an alternative lifestyle. Would like to hear what you have to say

  64. Kimball L. Hunt on May 24, 2006 at 5:58 pm

    So sorry! My bad, Mike!

    OUTWITTED

    He drew a circle to shut me out — / Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout;
    But Love and I had the wit to win, / We drew a circle that took him in!
    . .– EDWIN MARKHAM (1852 – 1940)
    ======
    My seminary teacher was this really cool woman whose (um, ever-inactive) dad happened to have been one of Philo Farnsworth’s laboratory hands in San Fran. (Go California Saints, baby!)
    - – -
    And then, southern Indians celebrate the contributions of S. Ramanujan: Most definately one brahmin I just love!

    And, y’know, these days, COMPUTERS still use Rananujan’s infinite series to produce pi! (As, you see, among a gazillion other things, R. had proposed really what’s the best algorithm for pi: a(a+1)…(a+k-1).) ANYWAY, Ramanujan had sent this infinite series, among a host of other things, in his famous letter to Hardy. And in 1914 Hardy brought R., to Cambridge — alone and without his 15-year-old bride, to whom he’d already been married for five years. The thing is, back in 1914, a Brahmin’s leaving the subcontinent — which could result in his vioating certain constraints which could render him ETERNALLY unclean — very well might have resulted in R.’s losing his caste/ being SHUNNED, back home! But, the deeply religious R. perfomed his devotions to his very best, cooking for himself in his study at Cambridge.

  65. MikeInWeHo on May 25, 2006 at 1:53 pm

    Thanks, bbell. That is an interesting idea. Don’t even know how to contact the administrators here.

    Your phrase “micro-testimony” made me smile. Maybe I was microcephalic in the pre-existance!

  66. Nate Oman on May 25, 2006 at 2:05 pm

    Kimball: Be careful. Sometimes the animals get out of their cages and bite…

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