Archive for the 'Mormonism' Category



The Merits of Meritocracy

The subject of meritocracy was stated on the facebook status of one of my friends.  A hyper-intelligent and talented philosopher who is very knowledgeable about Mormonism confidently declared meritocracy a false doctrine to be refuted.  This is a subject I posted on once or twice and wanted to do it again and figured now may be as good a time as any.

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Do Nice, Expensive Scriptures Lead to a Functionally Closed Canon?

I heard a rumor once, that when the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve were finished with ‘The Family: A Proclamation to the World’, that it was suggested that this document be added to the scriptures – perhaps as a section in the Doctrine and Covenants.  As the rumor goes, President Hinckley decided not to do that because it would make members feel that they needed to go out and buy a new set of scriptures.  A nice set of new scriptures is quite expensive, and the task of printing new scriptures for much of the church membership would be a significant one.

For the sake of argument, let us assume for the moment that this rumor has some truth to it.  Do nice, expensive scriptures lead to a functionally closed canon?  Unfortunately, I think the answer might be yes.

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Free Agency vs. Moral Agency

Mormons tend to have a very robust, though unsophisticated, belief in free will.  Most will refer to this free will as free agency.  This term agency seems to add an element of accountability to God for the choices that are made, while maintaining the freedom of the will.

There has been something of a subtle movement within the church to change the phrase ‘free agency’ to ‘moral agency’.  A few of the local members in my home ward are quite fond of pointing this out every time anyone mentions free agency in a lesson discussion.  They feel the need to correct some error on the part of the individual who uses the more common term free agency.  These good folks will point out that the phrase ‘free agency’ is not a scriptural phrase (although they never mention that the phrase ‘moral agency’ isn’t scriptural either). – [Update:  D&C 101:78 does use ‘moral agency’.  I was wrong.]

But these few local members are not the only one’s getting into the act.  A search on the phrase ‘moral agency’ at lds.org will bring up several recent conference talks.  It does appear that some church leaders are beginning to prefer the term ‘moral’ to ‘free’ when describing our agency.  Why should this be, and what is at stake?

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Reviewing Paulsen’s Statements Relating to ‘Spirit Birth’

In one week my presentation will be over, and perhaps I will be able to think about something else.  That might be nice.  In a recent thread at BCC, J. Stapley apparently felt the need to argue my presentation before it is even given.  This is probably no big deal since we have been over this stuff often, and I am sure that I will not be presenting anything that will be a big surprise to anybody.  In the comments to this thread I stated that Dr. David Paulsen and I seemed to be on the same page with much of this topic.  Matt W. said that he read the same section of ‘Mormonism in Dialogue with Contemporary Christian Theologies‘ and did not come away with the same impression.  I am pleased to pass along what I feel are the relevant statements from this section of the book.

Continue reading ‘Reviewing Paulsen’s Statements Relating to ‘Spirit Birth’’

Pinocchio, Spirit Birth and Being a ‘Real Boy’

As I am sure a few of you have noticed, I have had something of a one-track mind lately with my upcoming presentation at the SMPT conference (schedule announced here).  I was recently considering why I felt so strongly about this idea of spirit birth, when others don’t share this feeling – and even go to great length to dismiss the idea in spite of current church teachings on the subject.  This brings me to the story of Pinocchio which may bring some interesting discussion on the topic.

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From the Ensign: What We Believe – God is Truly Our Father

I have been thinking of reviewing this section in the Ensign while it lasts.  I hope the Ensign continues this department.  This review comes from the January 2010 issue, and I will try to catch up as the year goes on.  I will mostly just cut and paste what I feel are key points and open it up for discussion if anyone is interested.  This particular article addresses the topic I am preparing my presentation for so it particularly caught my attention.  You can read this very short article by clicking the link above and then clicking on the ‘What we Believe’ bookmark on the side of this PDF file.

Continue reading ‘From the Ensign: What We Believe – God is Truly Our Father’

SMPT Paper on Spirit Birth ….. ACCEPTED!

I just received word that my paper on Spirit Birth for the Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology was accepted.  I am pretty darn excited about it.  Now what?!

I have never presented, or even attended something like this before and I have no idea what to expect.  As for now I am planning to go, but I have the following fears:

1 – I do not want to be buried alive by people at this conference.  I am not very sophisticated or well read in philosophy.  There will be plenty of people who could bury me alive if they chose to.  YIKES!

2 – I suppose I will have to spring for a flight, a motel, a rental car, etc.  Cha-ching.

3 – I just don’t know what to expect.  Do I just read the thing and ask for questions?  What goes on at these things??

Anyway, I guess I need to write a 200-300 word abstract, and figure out what a ‘curriculm vitae’ is.

And I want to thank everyone who helped me with this.  That includes everyone who ever interacted with me on any of my goofy spirit birth posts and comments, but particularly those who encouraged me and gave advice in my posted outline and draft.

A Sketchy First Draft of SMPT ‘Spirit Birth’

(I spit this out pretty quickly.  Some of it is awkward, I know.  I would appreciate any constructive comments.  I have about 1000 words left, so I could address things that are missing.)

Introduction

The idea of mankind being the children of God is not a new one. Yet, many take this idea metaphorically. One of the unique aspects of Mormonism is found in how literally many members take the parent/child relationship between God and man, and how many members take this relationship literally.

Continue reading ‘A Sketchy First Draft of SMPT ‘Spirit Birth’’

Joseph Smith Teaching Spirit Birth? Or Something Like It?

I was asked to teach the Elder’s quorum Lesson yesterday.  We were on lesson 42 of the manual which can be viewed here.  Right off the bat there is a very interesting paragraph:

By 1843, although the Nauvoo Temple was not yet finished, the Prophet had announced the doctrine of salvation for the dead, and he had administered the temple endowment to a group of faithful Saints. But an important part of the sacred work of temples had yet to be put in place. On May 16, 1843, the Prophet traveled from Nauvoo to Ramus, Illinois, where he stayed at the home of his close friend Benjamin F. Johnson. That evening, he taught Brother and Sister Johnson and a few close friends about the “new and everlasting covenant of marriage.” He explained that this covenant was the “order of the priesthood” necessary to obtain the highest degree of the celestial kingdom. (See D&C 131:1–4.) He also taught that unless a man and a woman enter into the covenant of eternal marriage, “they will cease to increase when they die; that is, they will not have any children after the resurrection.” Those who do enter into this covenant and remain faithful “will continue to increase and have children in the celestial glory.”  (HC 5:391)

I have been told a few times in blog debates over spirit birth that Joseph Smith never taught anything about spirit birth, and I have been a little surprised by that.  But this quotation (From History of the Church) is pretty interesting and may bring some evidence about his thoughts on the topic.   The money line in this quote is ‘they will not have any children after the resurrection’.

So, if we assume that Joseph did teach something along these lines, and that it was recorded properly.  What are we to make of such after-resurrection child bearing by exalted, sealed married couples?  I am not sure there are very many possibilities:

1 – This was Joseph’s opinion – and he was wrong.  (Not very satisfying, especially given D&C 131)

2 – Exalted couples giving birth to …. resurrected, exalted beings?  (Not very satisfying either.  Seems a short circuit of the Plan of Salvation.)

3 – Exalted couples giving birth to spirit body offspring.  (This sounds more like it.)

Now, I realize that the quote from above speaks only to the eternal future, and not directly to the eternal past.  But given some statements from the KFD, would we not suppose that the same pattern also went on before?

Does this quote not provide some evidence of Joseph teaching something along the lines of spirit birth?

An Outline for a Possible SMPT Paper

There is a call for papers for the Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology annual meetings that MattW announced here.  When I saw that the theme was “The Measure of Their Creation—Theological Anthropology”, and that one of the suggested topics was spirit birth, I got a bit excited.  Spirit birth was among my favorite blogging topics, and several of my posts on this topic can be read here.

I have never submitted a paper to anything like this before, and I readily admit that I am likely not up to the task of putting together a paper that will meet the appropriate standards.  But since this is a topic that interests me, and because I have been wanting to piece together the ideas and thoughts of all the posts and comments on this topic – I think I am going to make a go of it.

I thought I might spit out a possible outline for such a paper in this post, and solicit advice from any who care to give it.  I might organize such a paper thus:

Establish that literal spirit birth is a legitimate idea in Mormonism

– Key scriptures (Heb 12, Rom 8 etc.)
– Proclamation, TTTF
– BH Roberts, Truman Madsen, Brigham Young, John Widtsoe quotes

Discuss theological Implications

– Necessity of a tripartite model
– Relationship between God and Man
– Christ as Elder Brother
– Eternal families and Exaltation

Common Objections

– Sexual relations and viviparous birth for Heavenly parents
– Billions + of spirit offspring
– Resurrected being giving birth to spirit bodies
– Why did it take so long?
– Fixed/finite number of intelligences

Alternative View

– Spirit adoption
– Advantages/disadvantages

Conclusions

 

So, feel free to mock me, give me encouragement and advice, ignore me.  Whatever you want.


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