Posts Tagged 'Mormon Doctrine'

Grace vs. Grace Alone

I served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Georgia.  While I was there, I came across many conservative, fundamentalist, Southern Baptists.  These folks appeared to be heavily influenced by Calvinist theology.  I learned to love the people, but I hated the theology.  Perhaps missionaries who serve in the southern U.S. should receive some type of therapy upon the completion of their mission, because I still get a little grouchy whenever I hear the term ‘grace’.

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General Conference and Agency

One of the themes of conference that emerged for me was that of agency.  Elder Hales and President Monson (priesthood session) both spoke on this topic directly.  One idea from the scriptures, which both men shared, is that agency is God-given.  This might seem unambiguous and straight forward, but it brings to my mind questions about what is agency, and how is it given?

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Spirit Birth and Ontological Sameness

Joseph Smith’s teaching that something about us (intelligence/mind/spirit) has an eternal past, and was never created nor made, is a remarkable thing with many implications on Mormon theology.  One of the obvious results of such a teaching is that it ultimately eliminates the creator/creature relationship between God and man.  But with the creator/creature relationship eliminated, what then is the relationship between God and man?

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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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Philosophies of Men, Mingled with Scripture

The phrase ‘the philosophies of men, mingled with scripture’ is sometimes used by Mormons to discredit some idea as a false doctrine, even if the idea has some scriptural support.  It almost always has a strong negative connotation associated with it. I imagine that people who have a background and interest in philosophy wish that this phrase, and the usual usage of it, would just go away.  I do not believe it is likely to go anywhere, and since one place this phrase is used is a narrative that is sacred to Mormons – it may be a warning to be taken seriously.

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My SMPT Experience

I fully expected the good folks at the SMPT to reject my paper.  I was then going to post it with a title something like ‘Wanna read a rejected SMPT paper?’  I am glad that they accepted it because it allowed me to have a great experience.  I would like to review what I thought were some of the highlights, and then give my impressions of the session I was in.

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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.

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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.

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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.


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