Book Review, Apocalypse: Reading Revelation 21-22. Julie M. Smith, editor.

Review, Apocalypse: Reading Revelation 21-22. Julie M. Smith, editor. 

From the Proceedings of the Mormon Theology Seminar.

Published by The Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship.

418gtmufail-_sy346_Full disclosure up front: generally, I don’t consider myself a fan of doing “Mormon theology.”  Not that I find the concept inherently incorrect, but that the results (usually) disappoint me.  However, this slim volume, from “The Proceeding of the Mormon Theology Seminar” is a happy exception; even if I didn’t find value in all the essays, I found the collection, overall, quite valuable. Continue reading

Book Review: “How Do I Know If I Know?” by John Byetheway.

Title: How Do I Know If I Know?How Do I Know_f
Author: John Bytheway
Publisher: Deseret Book
Genre: Devotional
Year: 2014
Binding: Softcover
Number of pages: 138
ISBN: 9781609079215
Cost: $9.99

Reviewed by Ivan Wolfe for the Association for Mormon Letters

John Bytheway has made a fairly nice niche for himself writing books aimed at Mormon youth that do quite a few things well: He doesn’t talk down to them, he avoids overly complicated language, and he presents the ideas straightforwardly.

I could see a complaint that his writing is too simplistic in handling controversial aspects of the gospel (his work is not at all like Adam Miller’s recent “Letters to a Young Mormon” which does tackle hard issues). However, such a criticism would be missing the point. Continue reading

Book Review: Polygamous Wives Writing Club

HarlineOne of the perks of being a Mormon blogger is the opportunity to comment. Recently I was informed of a new book Oxford University Press will be publishing in June 2014, titled The Polygamous Wives Writing Club: From the Diaries of Mormon Pioneer Women, by Paula Kelly Harline.

Ms. Harline assembles stories of twenty-nine women who entered into polygamous marriages between 1847 and 1890. Ms. Harline wished to show the lives of regular women who remained faithful to Mormonism yet were not leaders themselves or wives of leaders. Continue reading

Review of “Mere Christianity” Part III

This series has been cross posted from Straight and Narrow Blog

Book III: Christian Behaviour

The section on Christian morality reflects C.S. Lewis at his best. He is not a very good theologian, but he is credible as a social critic and moral apologist. A person of any faith can accept what he says about behavior. Not that he ignores the underlying theological framework he set up earlier and will continue exploring. Instead, there are arguments about moral actions that don’t have to have those pre-conceived religious notions to have a powerful impact. They work independently from the Christian life.

His biggest problem is the bias against particular forms of religious observance that even some of his co-religionists would disagree with. This bias goes beyond simple formality and extends to stereotyping and possible blatant bigotry. It also has political implications that may or may not be properly termed as Christian based. He believes that Christians should not force through law or any other means the morality they hold as important. In fact, he says, “One of the marks of a certain type of bad man is that he cannot give up a thing himself without wanting everyone else to give it up” (pg. 78). Despite what C.S. Lewis says, it can just as easily be argued that the whole point of laws is to decide what kind of moral and ethical behavior should shape society.

What make his argument more than a simple political position that could be acceptable is the borderline bigotry based on his non-interference theory. He says that Islam rather than Christianity is a “tee-totaller” religion. In other words, a religion that expects abstaining from certain things for its followers. For him, a Christian is someone who can eat, drink, and otherwise do whatever they want in moderation and moral judgement. Why he singled out Islam is unclear. He could easily have included Jews, Hindus, and probably Mormons without hesitation.

Continuing on, he discusses three levels of moral choices. There is the way we feel about the inner self. There is how we interact with others. Finally, and most important to him, there is for what purpose the other two exist. He compares them all to a fleet of ships. A ship alone might not do any damage, but it doesnt’ do much good. A fleet of ships can encourage, strengthen and help each other, but they might still always remain at sea. Only ships that have someowhere they are going can truely realize their full potential. Of course, it is religion that gives purpose to life. He does acknowledge that the third moral way causes the most disagreement, and he chooses Christianity as the destination.

Continue reading