What do you think is the most gorgeous and inspiring thing about the Book of Mormon? Be specific; don’t just say it testifies of Christ. I am searching for ways of putting across the power of the book to non-Mormon readers.
How would you map Joseph’s thought. If you had to reduce his thought to four or five major areas, what would they be. The ones I am using are: a. The simple gospel of faith, repentance, baptism, the Holy Ghost, and endurance. b. Zion, gathering, the millennium. c. Priesthood, ordinances, endowment of power, temple, rituals. d. Family bonds: baptism for the dead, priesthood marriage, sealings. e. Stories of eternity: the accounts of God’s history and nature, the nature of individual free intelligences, the purpose of life, the hereafter and human destiny.
Are we prepared to accept contradiction, plurality, and even ambiguity as an integral part of our theology? Is the aim absolute precision and consistency, or is built-in ambiguity a requirement of a theology that comprehends reality?
Do you think it is proper to say that God is recruiting us for the great cause–joining Him in the work of eternal life? Rather than simply being saved from our sins, we are being mobilized? Does this mean, in turn, that God benefits from our worshiping Him, that bringing to pass eternal life for His children adds to His glory? Is priesthood (including women) another name for the grand alliance of those who have joined God in His great work?
I have a line in my book about Joseph Smith being the Copernican theologian par excellence. Does that stimulate any thought? Does Joseph Smith’s theology exploit the possibilities opened up by an infinitely expanding universe?
Since my time as a blogger is drawing to a close, I am going to riddle you with all the ideas I jotted down for possible entries. To permit people to respond to them individually, each one will occupy an entry but with no development. You can develop them as you wish. The first on my list: How does this group come down on the classic questions of God’s power? Is he an absolute God who created everything, knows everything, and has all power? Or is he a contingent God who a) learned to be God, b) is eternal but so are we, c) organized the earth out of pre-existent matter, d) is teaching us to be gods like himself.
The question is how do we testify. I have come to feel that our formulaic “I know …”does not serve as well as we would hope. In a discussion, it stops the conversation. We are announcing that our belief is highly personal and therefore not subject to examination. The listener is likely to feel okay, you have your belief; I hope you enjoy it. He or she may even feel we protest too much. No one ever says “I know this table exists.” The opening “I know” may function like the word “undoubtedly;” it conveys the opposite of what it purportedly means. An experience a few years back led me to believe another kind of testimony is more effective, but it is a kind of testimony we have not necessarily prepared ourselves to bear.
Nate Oman suggested I tell you a little about the Sacred Space conference we are planning with the Columbia Religion Department and the Auburn Theological Seminary to help note the dedication of the Manhattan New York Temple. It originated last spring when I asked Robert Millet, Richard L. Evans Professor of Religious Understanding at BYU if he would be interested. The Evans chair has money for sponsoring just such enterprises. He thought it worthwhile and so I talked to the chair of the Columbia Religion Department. They are wary about denominational programs but after making various pleas and taking advantage of the fact that the chair lives downstairs from us, we received their approval. Meanwhile I ran across the Auburn Theological Seminary, an independent group that is embedded within the Union Theological Seminary building. Auburn does not train students, but they specialize in multi-faith education. Though Presbyterian in origin, Auburn’s director of such programs is a Jewish rabbi. He thought a tour of the temple before it is closed would be the icing on the cake.
Having ventured into the realm of high generalization about cultural systems, in my second entry I wish to raise my game to a still higher level. We have heard many warnings recently from Church leaders about American and world culture spiraling downwards. While this diagnosis can be debated (it is always the best of times and the worst of times), a pessimistic mood has prevailed at Church headquarters. Some relief was granted in this last conference when a few talks struck the theme of “Don’t Despair.” I believe there are grounds for adopting the pessimistic stand because morally and religiously our culture has been hollowed out. Neither our theological beliefs nor our moral standards are supported in the cultural systems that dominate our society: capitalism, democracy, and science.
Claudia enjoyed her two weeks of fame on the T&S blog, and I am looking forward to my time in the blogger’s chair. We have few enough venues for informal exploring and reflecting, and this seems to be one of the best. My initial question is: Are capitalism and the gospel at odds with one another? I am not thinking about greed and cruelty, the usual line of criticism against capitalism, and I am not suggesting socialism as a better course. My thoughts were spurred by the General Conference talk on “the heart of a mother.” As I listened to the talk, the speaker (whose name I missed on my web-originating broadcast) was promoting motherhood over against career, and that is where I think capitalism undermines the church and the gospel.