Book Review – “Evolving Faith: Wanderings of a Mormon Biologist”, by Steven L. Peck

Book Review – “Evolving Faith: Wanderings of a Mormon Biologist”, by Steven L. Peck


Maxwell Institute’s newest volume from the Living Faith series is scheduled to be released the end of October 2015.  The author, Steven L. Peck, is an associate professor of biology at BYU and is trained as an entomologist.

I wasn’t sure what to expect of this book, as it seems the Living Faith series appears to be somewhat eclectic, such as Adam S. Miller’s excellent book, “Letters to a Young Mormon.”  And “Evolving Faith” is an eclectic book, as Peck ranges widely in several essays from science to personal musings on death and nature. Continue reading

Book Review: Peter Enns’ The Evolution of Adam

Many years ago, the son of a good friend was preparing for a mission. He was offered a scholarship to a major university, and so decided to attend for a year before leaving on his mission. By the end of the year, he was no longer an active, believing member. His parents raised him believing in a 6000 year old earth, with a Creation that occurred over a very short period of time.  After several science classes that included biology and evolution, he was forced to choose between the incontrovertible evidence of science and the claims made by church leaders and his parents on the age of the earth.  Such is a great danger to many of our kids today, and so various scholars and others are seeking methods to be able to resolve the conflict, and hopefully save some of our people.

Recently, my friend Ben Spackman recommended a book by Protestant Bible scholar Peter Enns, entitled: “The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say About Human Origins”.

It is an interesting book, with the following chapters:

  1. Genesis and the Challenges of the 19th Century: Science, Biblical Criticism, and Biblical Archaeology
  2. When Was Genesis Written?
  3. Stories of Origins from Israel’s Neighbors
  4. Israel and Primordial Time
  5. Paul’s Adam and the Old Testament
  6. Paul as an Ancient Interpreter of the Old Testament
  7. Paul’s Adam

Continue reading

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.