Philosophy and Theology

Plainness and Ornament

November 24, 2004 | 21 comments
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With many other Christian traditions, we share the admonition to plainness in speech and other aspects of life: “Let all thy garments be plain, and their beauty the beauty of the work of thine own hand” (D&C 42:40) Read more »

Interpreting Scripture

November 15, 2004 | 23 comments
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Joe Spencer, Blake Ostler, Larry, and Ivan Wolfe have started talking about the interpretation of scripture on the thread on pride. Read more »

Pride

November 14, 2004 | 80 comments
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In Book X of Confessions (chapter 39), Augustine writes about various ways of being proud. Read more »

Against an LDS Theology of Conscience

November 12, 2004 | 24 comments
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I’ve never seen the Disney version of “Pinocchio,â€? but I’ve absorbed by cultural osmosis the image of Jiminy Cricket cheerfully chirping, “Always let your conscience be your guide.â€? Our banal present-day version of conscience—and our uncritical acceptance of the concept as a stable psycho-spiritual category–belies the treacherous history of the idea. Read more »

Two Questions from Jim F. (2)

October 19, 2004 | 39 comments
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Second question (go here for the first): This question is more philosophical. Read more »

Nietzsche and Longfellow

October 14, 2004 | 27 comments
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I’m neither a Nietzsche-ologist nor a Longfellow-ologist, and it’s likely that this association has been made by others. Still, it’s something that I personally had never noticed till this morning, when it suddenly occurred to me: Nietzsche’s famous charge has already been answered (in a sense) by Longfellow — and the answer came a full decade before the charge was even made. Read more »

Relics

October 12, 2004 | 17 comments
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One of my more prized possessions is a small chunk of limestone. It is about 8 inches long, roughly the size of two fists. Its value lies in the fact that is is a piece of one of the shattered sunstones of the original Nauvoo temple. Read more »

A Book I Would Like to See

October 8, 2004 | 6 comments
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With luck we should soon be hearing from Professor Royal Skousen, who is the mastermind of the critical text of the Book of Mormon. There is another critical text edition that I would like to see: A critical text of the Doctrine and Covenants. Read more »

Betting with Blaise

August 20, 2004 | 19 comments
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Clark mentioned Pascal’s wager in a comment, and that reminded me of a thought I’ve had for some time: Pascal’s wager seems like a bad deal for Mormons. In case anyone is unfamiliar with Pascal’s wager, the basic idea is that God can either exist or not. If he does exist, then believers go to heaven. If he doesn’t, then it really doesn’t matter whether one believes. The smart money says to believe in God and take the x% chance of infinite happiness. How does this apply to Mormonism? Well, we have the added wrinkle of some pretty good... Read more »

Temptation

August 17, 2004 | 11 comments
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In the thread on suicide below, several comments have raised this idea from 1 Cor. 10:13: “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” What does this mean? When BRM states, “Persons subject to great stresses may lose control of themselves and become mentally clouded to the point that they are no longer accountable for their acts,” isn’t... Read more »

The Oddity of Comfort

August 17, 2004 | 10 comments
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Comfort is a concept that holds pride of place in the gospel. We learn that an important part of our baptismal covenants is the promise to “comfort those that stand in need of comfort.” Elsewhere, we learn that one of the reasons for Christ’s suffering and atonement was so that he could “know how to succor his people.” This leads to the question: Why is comfort important? Read more »

Geertz: Mormonism and Theories of Religion VII

August 9, 2004 | 6 comments
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Clifford Geertz is the last thinker discussed in the series here. This is not necessarily to imply that his approach is the best. However, his understanding of religion as a cultural system may be especially useful for understanding Mormonism and Mormon identity. Read more »

Evans-Pritchard: Mormonism and Theories of Religion VI

August 6, 2004 | 5 comments
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E. E. Evans-Pritchard is one of the most important anthropologists of the last century. Unlike many of his predecessors (and contemporaries), he actually went to live with the people he studied and meticulously detailed their beliefs and practices. If he teaches us nothing else, it is that close research is vital to understanding religion. Read more »

Eliade: Mormonism and Theories of Religion V

August 5, 2004 | 7 comments
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Unlike the other thinkers we have reviewed so far, Mircea Eliade was a religious person himself. Perhaps for this reason his sympathetic approach to religion has been extremely well accepted by Mormon scholars. When reading his books for the first time, I couldn’t help but feel a strong kinship with him, as if his interpretation of religion was written about Mormonism itself. I once advocated in an EQ lesson that Eliade was essential reading for all Mormons. Read more »

Marx: Mormonism and Theories of Religion IV

August 3, 2004 | 11 comments
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My titles were too long and hard to distinguish in the “Recent Comments” section, so I have switched the order around. The next theory in this series is that of Marx, just in time for the lifting of the ban on socialism! Like the others, Marx’s theory is reductionist. As a former Marxist myself, I find this particular kind of reductionism unpersuasive. However, this theory of religion became more than just a theory. For a good part of the 20th century a huge portion of the earth’s population subscribed to this theory. For this reason alone it derserves to... Read more »

Mormonism and Theories of Religion III: Durkheim

July 30, 2004 | 4 comments
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This follows up on the previous entries in this series here and here. Emile Durkheim is one of the most important founders of modern sociology. He is also one of the most important figures in the study of religion. Like Tylor, Frazer, and Freud, his theory of religion is also reductionist. It seeks to explain religion by pointing to something other than religion itself. Read more »

Mormonism and Theories of Religion II: Freud

July 29, 2004 | 25 comments
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This is the second installment in this series, begun here. Freud has had a huge impact on thought in the 20th century. He was a truly revolutionary thinker, to such an extent that the statement “We are all Freudians now” certainly rings true. Among the many subjects he treated, religion was a particular interest for him. He dealt with it in three books, Totem and Taboo, Future of an Illusion, and Moses and Monotheism. Read more »

Mormonism and Theories of Religion: Tylor and Frazer

July 27, 2004 | 15 comments
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As Nate mentioned, I am starting my doctorate in Religious Studies this fall. In my first semester I will take a required seminar for new doctoral students Contemporary Issues in the Theory of Religion. We were given some summer reading as a preparation for this course, which included the introductory book on the subject, Seven Theories of Religion, by Daniel L. Pals. He recognizes, and I concur, that these are not all of the theories, and some important thinkers are overlooked, but seven does sound like a nice round(ish) number. Read more »

Spirituality & Fundamenatlism II

July 2, 2004 | 4 comments
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Hi, sorry to have dropped out for a few days (what do you call a guest blogger who doesn’t blog?). A friend from the philosophy department has been helping me (actually, I’ve been helping him) work on a home construction project that is taking longer than expected (proving, I suppose, that between the two of them, law and philosophy can confuse pretty much anything). I enjoyed the comments. Some thematic responses. Read more »

Individual responsibility?

July 2, 2004 | 12 comments
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Frank McIntyre says “I am only responsible for that part of me that is eternally me.” Adam Greenwood agrees and wonders how to makes sense of that claim in light of the teaching that God oversees everything and brings about his purposes. Kristine Haglund implicitly assumes, I think, that despair, acedia, etc. are really individual psychological disorders because, like Frank and Adam, she assumes that individuals are the basic units, the units at which responsibility occurs. Of course that assumption is the norm. But why should we believe it is true? Read more »

Spirituality & Fundamentalism

June 28, 2004 | 18 comments
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Hello all, and thanks for Jim’s warm introduction and Lyle’s and Gordon’s welcomes. To get started, let me summarize some recent research I’ve done on current trends in the sociology of religion, and then pose some questions. Read more »

The Anti-Nephi-Lehite Puzzle

June 26, 2004 | 59 comments
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In the rather endless recent comments on war, torture, and politics, both Rob and Dan have made variations on the claim that it is better to suffer death rather than commit certain sorts of moral wrongs. Rob’s claim to me is more interesting, because as a pacifist he seems to claim that it is better to be killed rather than kill another. Dan and Rob, are of course, free to object that I am putting words in their mouths (which is probably correct), however, the basic proposition raises an interesting question: Why might killing be worse than death? Read more »

The Hipness of Divine Society

June 17, 2004 | 10 comments
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The idea of “social construction” is really hip in the social sciences and the humanities, or at least it was really hip a decade or two ago. Generally the concept gets invoked with another idea, namely “essentialism.” Here is how the game works. We take some quality – say race – and then we argue about its nature. If we are essentialists (and it is pretty unhip to be essentialist about anything), then we would argue that race is somehow an inherent, natural, biological quality. If we are social constructivists (and being the hip, smart people that we are,... Read more »

Benevolent Theodicy: the Logical Necessity of Eternal Progression

June 14, 2004 | 15 comments
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Few Mormon doctrines cause traditional Christians more consternation than the belief in mankind’s potential to become like God. This is of course the reason the authors of the most famous anti-Mormon work chose for their title The God Makers. But hacks who deliberately produce fraudulent anti-Mormon screeds aren’t the only ones to be offended by our unique doctrine. Without exception, every thoughtful Christian with whom I’ve discussed the issue similarly believes our doctrine to be blasphemous (though they are circumspect in telling me so). But the Benevolent Theodicy, as I have called it, shows that they are wrong. Read more »