Blog Archives

A Primer on Mormon Prayer: Abiding

July 5, 2011 | 2 comments
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You know the feeling: you’re hungry for God. Your soul, restless, can find no rest. Your pillow’s warm on both sides. Read more »

A Primer on Mormon Prayer

July 3, 2011 | 28 comments
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A religious life is a life of prayer. Don’t skimp on this or, no matter how white your sepulcher, your insides will always just be full of dry bones.  Read more »

Some Articles of Faith

June 8, 2011 | 19 comments
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Some (Wednesday morning) articles of faith: 1. The gospel is terrifyingly simple: Give up! Read more »

Faith, Philosophy, Scripture: Breathing

May 17, 2011 | 5 comments
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One last post about Jim Faulconer’s Faith, Philosophy, Scripture (Maxwell Institute, 2010). The final chapter is entitled “Breathing” and is a meditation on Romans 8. Read more »

Faith, Philosophy, Scripture: Saying vs. Said

May 15, 2011 | 9 comments
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There are persons and there are principles. The gospel is about the former rather than the latter. Granted, there are gospel principles – but the sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath. Read more »

Faith, Philosophy, Scripture: Literally

May 13, 2011 | 18 comments
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Ironically, the trouble with biblical literalism is that it doesn’t take the word “literal” literally. Read more »

Faith, Philosophy, Scripture: Reading Zion

May 10, 2011 | 9 comments
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Zion is the world ajar. Zion is the world set on a double hinge. God gives a push, the door goes swinging, and the world opens wide. Read more »

Rivers of Living Water

April 26, 2011 | 8 comments
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It’s Easter and I, like Mary, have a hard time seeing what’s right in front of me. Read more »

Be Ye Perfect

April 12, 2011 | 70 comments
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Be Ye Perfect

The gospel instructs us in a certain way of being imperfect. Here, salvation turns on practicing what Elizabeth Bishop calls “the art of losing.” Jesus famously describes this art of losing in Matthew 5:48. “Be ye therefore perfect,” he says, “even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” Here, the term “perfection” indexes that “certain way” that is peculiar to both Jesus and the Father. The baseline meaning of perfection, of teleios, is completion. But what kind of completion? My suggestion is that, rather than burying Jesus’ teleios beneath layers of curdled metaphysics and ripe fantasy, we... Read more »

Faith, Philosophy, Scripture: Apocalyptic Theology

March 29, 2011 | 19 comments
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Imagine I’ve just been made supreme chancellor of a graduate program in Mormon theology. Thousands of students throng. We need a syllabus. What’s our first reading assignment? We’re going to start with Jim Faulconer’s dramatically subtitled essay “Rethinking Theology: The Shadow of the Apocalypse” from Faith, Philosophy, Scripture (Maxwell Institute, 2010). On my reading, Jim’s essay lays out a couple of basic principles for engaging in theology as quasi-academic meta-reflection on Mormonism: 1. Theology should be “apocalyptic.” Apocalypse does not so much refer to the end of the world . . . as it refers to the moment when... Read more »

Faith, Philosophy, Scripture: True Believer

March 15, 2011 | 9 comments
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Faith, Philosophy, Scripture: True Believer

It’s unlikely that I believe the right things about God, Jesus, the gospel, or the Church. It’s even less likely that I could express my beliefs in a coherent and justifiable way. I used to think that, because my ideas were clever, I was at least closer to being right than most. This I took as a consolation. But cleverness isn’t much to live on. God, I think, has been working to pry this cleverness from my cold, dead hands. I have felt God more than once pushing me to echo Meister Eckhart’s deeply orthodox prayer: “I pray to God to... Read more »

Faith, Philosophy, Scripture: Secular Mormons

February 25, 2011 | 25 comments
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Faith, Philosophy, Scripture: Secular Mormons

The irony of religious fundamentalism is that it is a profoundly modern and profoundly secular phenomenon. This is perhaps especially true of the scriptural literalism that often accompanies it. The result is that many of the most conservative Mormons are, in point of fact, also the most secular. Few Mormons are more secular than Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce R. McConkie. Why is fundamentalism so profoundly secular? Because it cedes the field of truth wholly and without contestation to secular models of truth – and then tries to combat, contest, and outdo the secularists at their own game. Is... Read more »

Sky

February 20, 2011 | 6 comments
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Sky

I’d forgotten about the sky. For how long, I’m not sure. Months? Years? When I remembered, it felt like waking from a cramped dream. A few weeks ago, early in the morning, I was running. The sun climbed bright in the east. The moon, chalk white, lapsed in the west. And I was running beneath them – on the ground, next to water, up a hill, and around a bend. I had been worried, anxious, impatient. But, beneath this sky, I couldn’t remember what about. So I wiped my brow and leaned into the wind. Tolstoy remembered this sky. Here’s... Read more »

Faith, Philosophy, Scripture: The Call

February 11, 2011 | 19 comments
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Faith, Philosophy, Scripture: The Call

It is a commonplace in Zen that three things are necessary for liberation. If you want to wake up from the slumber of self-absorption, if you want to live your life outside the suffocating confines of that mason jar that is your own head, you need (1) great faith, (2) great doubt, and (3) great effort. As Mormons, we’re famous for valorizing the third. We’re also often good at promoting the first. But when was the last time you heard a talk extolling the need to cultivate great doubt? The Zen masters were likely right to see all three... Read more »

Faith, Philosophy, Scripture: Pagan Faith

February 1, 2011 | 21 comments
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Faith, Philosophy, Scripture: Pagan Faith

Mormons are metaphysical heretics, backward pagans, country bumpkins, who claim that the world, rather than being one, is fundamentally many. We’re metaphysical pluralists and so break with the creeds. Unity is a product, not a starting point. God the Son is not God the Father and (moreover!) all intelligences are uncreated and co-eternal with God. As a result, rather than being reassuringly antedated by the simplicity of a Divine Will or the uniformity of a Providential Reason, we’re preceded by the mystery of a material plurality that is always already given. In this scenario, faith is a different kind of thing.... Read more »

Faith, Philosophy, Scripture: Making Room

January 25, 2011 | 7 comments
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Faith, Philosophy, Scripture: Making Room

We like to shut doors. Jim’s book is a doorstop. Quick! Wedge it in. Of Truman Madsen’s book, Eternal Man, Jim says: More than teaching a particular doctrine or suggesting any particular solution to a philosophical or theological problem, the book gave its readers permission to think about these kinds of problems, to read the books listed in its many footnotes and books like them. . . . By writing Eternal Man, Truman Madsen said to me – and, I believe, many others – “Take seriously the admonition of the Prophet Joseph Smith that introduces chapter two: ‘When things... Read more »

Faith, Philosophy, Scripture: Memory

January 18, 2011 | 8 comments
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Faith, Philosophy, Scripture: Memory

Say someone asks if you know the time. You say yes and then look at your watch. Did you really know the time? Say someone asks you how to get downtown to the museum. You say yes. They ask you to write down directions. You can’t, but you offer to drive them there instead. If you can see the landmarks, then you’ll know where to turn. Did you really know how to get there? Say that, walking past a bakery, you’re struck by the smell of a pastry and then vividly recall a time when, six years-old, you made those same... Read more »

Faith, Philosophy, Scripture: A Typology of Readers

January 5, 2011 | 18 comments
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Faith, Philosophy, Scripture: A Typology of Readers

In the introduction to his Faith, Philosophy, Scripture (Neal A Maxwell Institute, 2010), Jim Faulconer gives us a kind of typology of religious subjects. Imagining the different kinds of responses he might get to the difficulty of his philosophically inclined essays, he picks out four basic types. I. Typology 1. Those who enjoy a kind of childish naivete. Those with childish faith will find what I say difficult because it makes the obvious difficult. They are likely to be bored or, at best, indulgent of me, and their reaction is the right reaction. I have nothing to say to those who are... Read more »

Home Waters: Recompense

December 27, 2010 | 9 comments
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Home Waters: Recompense

Of his awakening, Dogen says, “I came to realize clearly that mind is no other than mountains and rivers, the great wide earth, the sun, the moon, the stars.” Tinged with enlightenment, you see what Dogen saw: that life is borrowed and that mind itself is mooched. Every day you’ll need something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue. Mind borrows mountains and rivers, earth, sun, and sky. But you can’t just keep these things forever. Even if they weren’t quite what you wanted, they gave what they had and now some compensation is needed, some recompense is... Read more »

Home Waters: Gene/ecology

December 20, 2010 | 3 comments
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Home Waters: Gene/ecology

Earth is stratified time. Use some wind, water, and pressure. Sift it, layer it, and fold it. Add an inhuman number of years. Stack and buckle these planes of rock into mountains of frozen time. Use a river to cleave that mountain in two. Hide hundreds of millions of purloined years in plain, simultaneous sight as a single massive bluff. It’s a good trick. Bodies, made of earth, are just the same: in my face, unchosen, generations of people are stratified in plain, simultaneous sight. My father’s nose, my grandfather’s ears, my mother’s wink, the lines my kids have... Read more »

Home Waters: Soul as Watershed

December 8, 2010 | 17 comments
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Home Waters: Soul as Watershed

Spurred by Handley’s Home Waters, I’ve been reading Wallace Stegner. Like Handley, Stegner is interested in the tight twine of body, place, and genealogy that makes a life. On my account, Handley and Stegner share the same thesis: if the body is a river, then the soul is a watershed. Like a shirt pulled off over your head, this thesis leaves the soul inside-out and exposed. You thought your soul was a kernel of atomic interiority, your most secret secret – but shirt in hand, everyone can see your navel. Stegner’s novel, Angle of Repose, opens with the narrator’s own... Read more »

Home Waters: Overview

December 7, 2010 | 4 comments
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Home Waters: Overview

George Handley’s Home Waters: A Year of Recompenses on the Provo River (University of Utah Press, 2010) practices theology like a doctor practices CPR: not as secondhand theory but as a chest-cracking, lung-inflating, life-saving intervention. Home Waters models what, on my account, good theology ought to do: it is experimental, it is grounded in the details of lived experience, and it takes charity – that pure love of Christ – as the only real justification for its having been written. It is not afraid to guess, it is not afraid to question, it is not afraid to cry repentance,... Read more »