On Being Behind the Times

I think that the modern age is often pretty arrogant about its relationship with earlier times. We seem to assume that collectively we are always more enlightened, more ennobled, more understanding, smarter, more discerning, than those who’ve gone before. We’re always “climbing the mountain,” and each decade finds us farther up the ascent.

I mean, after all, we’ve ended slavery, women can vote, we’ve rallied against racial discrimination, etc., etc. We wear these accomplishments with pride, as evidence that we are intellectually superior than the generations before us who’ve either ignored these injustices or perhaps even engaged in apologetics in their favor.

Because of this assumption, we look to the shifting opinions of the masses as a guide for how we should view the world. Continue reading

Announcing a New Website

I would like to announce that the website www.ldsphilosopher.com has been restored to active duty. It has been completely renovated. We will be posting new content almost daily. Nathan Richardson and I are very excited about this. We’ve spent many months building the site theme and functionality from scratch, so if you encounter bugs or have questions, let me know in the comments here, so we can fix them. The following information is lifted from the “About” pages of the site. Be sure to read the About pages, as they contain useful information about the site’s purpose and functionality.

What is the Site About?

We explore the world of ideas through the lens of the LDS faith. While our focus is philosophy, we’ll dabble in almost all realms of academic thought. The Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ invites us to reconsider many of the assumptions we have about the world. As such, it is the lens through which we approach all of the subjects we write about. Our goal is not to bring philosophy into Latter-day Saint thought, but rather to contrast revealed truths with the philosophies of the world. We’ll compare insights found in ancient and modern-day revelation with the prevailing assumptions in science, religion, psychology, government, and maybe more.

What’s New?

We blogged for several years on all sorts of subjects related to philosophy and religion. Over time, however, it became clear that we are somewhat perfectionistic when it comes to writing. Continue reading

Thoughts on Baptismal Covenants

Here are some remarks that I shared at my grandmother’s funeral yesterday. I hope it is not too personal.

When I was 8 years old, I was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I barely knew what I was committing to. I still don’t. But I know now that at least one of the promises we make to God when we are baptized is to “bear one another’s burdens, … mourn with those that mourn … and comfort those that stand in need of comfort” (Mosiah 18:8-9). We promise to live as Christ lived—for the sake of the other.

We do this first by befriending those close to us—our family members. We learn to love them, make their interests our interests, their concerns our concerns, their pains our pains. We learn compassion, which literally means to suffer with others. Passion means “suffering,” and the prefix com means “with.” All parents know what it is like to suffer with and on behalf of their children. And children and grandchildren, as their parents and grandparents grow old, learn what it is like to suffer with and on behalf of their parents and grandparents.
Continue reading

The Cruelty of Indulgence

I wish I had more time to pontificate on the following quote, but since my thesis is due in two days and I have to plan a class to teach, I don’t. But I found this quote, and I love it. It’s from an article called “What We Are,” by C. Terry Warner, published in BYU Studies. I believe what he says 100%:

Part of the intellectual fashion of our era is to think it charitable to excuse people for their behavior on the grounds that it can be completely explained by reference to their biological make-up or their early life experiences. ‘To understand all is to forgive all.’ …

But contrary [to this], there is no charity in this idea, only indulgence. People who believe it can extend no hope to those of us who are emotionally troubled; in their view we are stuck with our emotional deficiencies and will simply have to cope as best we can. … Not only that, people who believe this doctrine will tend … to collude with disturbed individuals in their pity for themselves. A collusive indulgence is just as condemnatory and, if accepted, just as debilitating as a collusive accusation.

On the other hand, treating people as responsible for their emotional lives is not condemnatory: it is a form of believing in them. It holds out hope.

In this quote, Warner is talking specifically about emotionally troubled, abusive, or anger-prone individuals. However, I believe that the same principle applies much more broadly. Holding people morally accountable for their moral conduct and for the way they treat others is not condemnatory—rather, it is the only position that holds out hope for them. To say that others “just can’t help themselves” is to resign ourselves to the fact that we are all simply products of forces beyond our control. That’s not a liberating philosophy—that feels to me quite constrained, and consigns others (in our view) to a position of helplessness against the vicissitudes of life.

Are there exceptions? Sure. I try not to make sweeping, universal, categorical generalizations. I’m speaking only of trends in society that try to exonerate individuals by claiming that they are helpless to control their thoughts, emotions, and behavior towards others. It feels like freedom, because the individuals are now free (so they think) of moral culpability. It feels like charity, since there is no moral condemnation. But truthfully, it is neither freedom nor charity. It’s captivity, because it keeps people from believing they can behave differently than they do. And it’s not love, because true love is willing to chasten, willing to correct, when correction is needed.

I’d say more, but that’s all I have time for now.

Aren’t We ALL Sinners, and Could that Be Why It Bugs Us so Much?

Recently, a “scandal” at BYU has topped several prominent news sources. Most of you have probably heard about it. If not, here’s a link where you can read about it. I’ve seen stories posted all over Facebook about it, and the near universal reaction has been ridicule, chastisement, anger, and shock towards the guy who wrote the note.

Here’s what I think: Continue reading