Discourses in Mormon Theology: Margaret Toscano article review

Previously, I reviewed a couple of interesting discourses/articles by Dennis Potter and James McLachlan in the book, “Discourses in Mormon Theology”, which contains the discourses for the first Seminar of the Society of Mormon Philosophy and Theology (SMPT).

In this post, I’ll discuss an article written by former LDS member, Margaret Toscano, titled: “Is There a Place for Heavenly Mother in Mormon Theology? An Investigation into Discourses of Power”.

I was hoping for some interesting information regarding the belief in a Heavenly Mother through the ages Continue reading

Dennis Potter on Liberation Theology

in my continued reading of the book “Discourses in Mormon Theology” (ed James McLachlan), covering several topics from the initial 2004  conference of the Society of Mormon Theology and Philosophy (SMTP), I cover an article by Dennis Potter (UVSC) on Liberation Theology.

Dennis gives a generous overview of what Liberation Theology is.  He focused on the events of 4 Nephi, where the people had their hearts knit together in unity, sharing all things in common, and having no poor nor rich among them.  Sounds enticing, doesn’t it?  People coming together as a mandate from God to share all things and erasing poverty from the earth.

And it is a mandate. Sort of. As we are asked to consecrate ourselves in the temple to the Lord and his service.

Unfortunately, Dennis only gives a part of the story on Liberation Theology. Continue reading

William Chamberlin’s Personalism Theory

Kofford Books has “Discourses on Mormon Theology” on Kindle, and so am beginning to read its papers.  So far, it is an excellent book on the philosophy, history and theology of Mormonism.

I wanted to share my thoughts on one article by James McLachlan, professor of philosophy and religion at Western Carolina University.

. I was very impressed with McLachlan’s article on LDS scholar William Chamberlin’s Personalism Theory (I’ll give some details below)  I’ve emailed McLachlan and a few other LDS philosophers, and we’ve talked a little about it. According to McLachlan, The concept of Personalism is getting a lot of renewed interest right now by those in the philosophy field outside LDS church.

Basically, it says that reality and truth exist for two reasons: God sees us and we see Him. It comes down to there is only one truth: Relationship/Family. The highest existence occurs only when God and man come together in a perfect bond of love, a Godhead, a family. God is greater when man embraces God, and man is greater when God embraces man.
It fits very well in LDS theology on the eternal family, on the Doctrine of Christ (2 Nephi 31, 3 Nephi 11, John 17), and gives us our highest reason to follow Christ.  We do not obey commandments because we fear God’s wrath. We follow Him because we want to morally become One with Him in all things.  In this, we keep our individuality, but also become freely united with God.  Christ becomes the model for us to follow into this relationship.
It balances free will and agency of both man and God. If God forced us to follow Him, it would be a Master/Slave relationship. If we were to seek to become gods of our own accord, we would be involved in Satan and Cain’s insurrection.Neither form works to establish truth or reality, as both require force on the other.  Instead, God invites us to join Him in the highest relationship, and we choose for ourselves how deeply we will join into that relationship (Telestial, Terrestrial, Celestial).  Existence, truth and reality occur to the level of relationship we enter into. Though not stated in the article, this possibly suggests that sons of Perdition would then be in a non-existent state, refusing to enter into any relationship with God.
This concept of relationship also requires individuals to choose to freely enter into a loving relationship with those around her.  Each individual keeps her individuality, but freely surrenders the battle for individuality for the cause of the family and relationship.  McLachlan gives the example of Christ in Gethsemane, who asked for the cup to be removed from him, but “not my will, but thine, be done”.  This suggests that liberal and conservative Mormons can live together in Zion, if they freely choose to overlook the differences and focus on the common ties.  In doing so, they find a higher and greater existence together, while still retaining their own identities.  Perhaps it will be this understanding of doctrine that will lead Mormons into the true form of Zion and eternal bonds.
McLachlan gives a very detailed and excellent examination of the concept of Personalism, its history, and its relevance. The concept really opens up a new venue of study for me in regards to understanding Mormonism and our relationship to God and with one another.  It will have me looking for more papers on the concept.

The End of the World as We Know It (and I feel fine)

There seems to be a growing chasm between the world and the Church.  Years ago, society and Church standards and norms were very similar.  In dress, appearance, speech, manners, habits, and basic beliefs, were all on the same page.

However, times and society have changed. Abortion, LGBT, casual sex, and a variety of addictions are looked upon as the new norm. Once stalwart knights sworn to protect societal morals, many churches, Boy Scouts, and other groups have descended into the pit to embrace the devil in his lair.

For those who remain faithful, to condemn sin today means one is intolerant, a bigot, evil.  Prophets, once adored, are now seen as less than human, more prone to error than the modern intelligentsia. Continue reading

Zane Grey and Mormonism today

I recall as a kid, enjoying reading the Sackett series of western books by Louis L’Amour.. Joining the Church at 16, I turned much of my reading attention to LDS and ancient literature. Still, I retained a love for good western literature.

Over the years, I’d wanted to read “Riders of the Purple Sage” by Zane Grey (1912), curious at his take on Mormonism a century ago.  After all these years, I finally read it this past week, and wished to comment on it.

The story takes place in 1871 in southern Utah. A woman, Jane, has inherited her father’s wealthy ranch. She is LDS, loves her bishop, and is being pressed to marry one of the elders.  Meanwhile, rustlers are stealing large herds of cattle, including Jane’s herd.

We quickly see interesting twists in the book. Mormons are pretty much either evil or pressured to comply by the Mormon leadership, who are not above doing evil things They drive off Jane’s herds, work in conjunction with the rustlers, steal her prize horses, kidnap her adopted daughter, etc.

Meanwhile, the two leading Gentile men, Venter and Lassiter are justified in killing others. Jane falls for Lassiter, while Venter falls in love with a young woman that ran with the rustlers.  All four seem to be redeemed by their rejection of rustler and Mormon, alike.

The bishop and elder end up being powerful beings that have sweet smiles, but black hearts. It appears all Mormon leaders are of the same ilk, deserving to be gunned down by Lassiter.

It was a very interesting read. A good book, a great Western. That said, it made Mormonism seem like the Mountain Meadows Massacre was a daily occurrence.  For Jane to first mentally, and then physically run from Mormonism and the Church leaders is a key breakthrough Grey wishes for us to cheer for in his heroine.

A century later, the Church is very different than the 1870s Mormonism that Grey envisions. Yet there are still those who see the LDS as a dangerous group, lorded over by dangerous men.
Continue reading