Toward an LDS Theology of Religions

“Theology of religions” has been a particularly pressing concern in Christian thought since at least the middle of the twentieth century. The term refers to the effort to make theological sense of other religions. It involves questions like, from the perspective of a Christian, is God involved in other religions, or are they merely human constructions? Is Christianity the only true faith–and if so, why hasn’t God revealed it to everyone? As I’ve posted about before, theologians often speak of three general approaches to the problem: exclusivism (Christianity is the one true faith and there is no way to salvation outside of membership in it), inclusivism (only Christ can save, but explicit belief in or knowledge of Christ is not necessarily required for this to happen), and pluralism (there are multiple true paths and ways to salvation, and Christianity is only one of them.)

I’ve often thought about what an LDS theology of religions might look like. Read More

A Lectionary of Snarky Politesse

In this Our Lovely Deseret, we place a high premium on niceness, as well we should. There is much to be said in favor of civility, and it’s probably impossible to say too much in its favor in fora such as these, but of course the snarkier, more unfeminine emotions such as irritation and anger are not thereby eradicated, and after a time our stock phrases begin to experience significant and inevitable semantic leakage, following some sort of pattern the sociolinguists among us can, no doubt, identify with far more precision than I. My nominations for my least favorite, most tiresome phrases (both Bloggernacle and offline) follow. Read More

Questions

When I look at the religious conversations I’ve had again and again, the papers I’ve written, the books I’m fascinated by, I can’t help noticing how frequently I find myself coming back again and again to some of the same themes. There are certain questions which have haunted me for years; I feel almost compelled to keep returning to them, to explore them further, to try approaching them from yet another angle. When it comes to these particular problems, you might fairly accuse me of being somewhat obsessed (my siblings and friends could certainly attest to this). Some examples: Read More

Turning the Other Cheek

But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. –Matthew 5:39

A recent post reminded me of an experience I had my first couple years in graduate school. It was a difficult, painful experience that taught me a lot about anger, forgiveness, and what it means to be Christlike when another person is trying to manipulate you. Read More

A Cafeteria Feminist Manifesto

In the spirit of fostering further discussion, I’d like to gently unravel several issues from the tangled skein of Seraphine’s Separate but Equal thread below and give each its own consideration. One of these is a fundamental difference in the role authority plays in Mormonism and feminism and the differing degrees of skepticism and partial embrace thus consistent with each.

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Lost Things

I don’t know quite what I think about petitionary prayer; once you raise those sticky questions about God intervening in the world sometimes but not others, it all gets so complicated. But I’m more than a little skeptical of any theory of prayer that treats God like a vending machine who dispenses blessings if only you can come up with the correct combination of change. Rather, I’m drawn to the idea that the point of prayer is relational, that it’s not so much about coaxing stuff out of God as about developing a relationship with him.

That’s how I like to think about prayer in the abstract, at least. But to be honest, I don’t necessarily live that way. Read More

Results of Poll on Feminist Concerns

A while back we put up a poll asking commenters to vote on their top feminist concerns with the Church. The table below shows a few results, based on responses from the 78 people who have voted as of today (although second and third concerns each received only 75 total responses). Note that the “weighted votes” column assigns votes for #1 concern a value of 3, #2 concern a value of 2, and #3 concern a value of 1. The “votes” column simply counts the number of times a concern was voted for without weighting.

The major result of this poll is that limited female participation in Church administration is by far the top concern of those who voted. Read More

The Positives of Religion

Before I got sucked into the world of Mormon blogging, I spent a lot of my online time participating in a community which dealt with mental health issues. I met a lot of great people there, and I learned a lot. While I appreciated the thought-provoking and informative discussion on topics like surviving depression, I was also particularly interested in the lively conversations which took place about issues related to faith and spirituality. Many expressed extremely negative views of organized religion; I heard repeatedly that it was to blame for all the problems of the world, that it was something for the immature who didn’t want to think for themselves, etc. At one point I attempted to explain why, despite some of my reservations, I’d stuck with it. This is what I came up with. Read More

On Outlawing Abortion: I Have a Question

The Utah state legislature is looking to pass a law that outlaws abortion. (Thanks to Matt Evans at T&S for the pointer.) In line with the Church’s position on abortion, it would allow for three exceptions. A woman could have an abortion if the pregnancy endangered her life (or her health, in a major and permanent way), or if it resulted from incest or rape.

If this law were passed, I wonder if this last exception might not be problematic. Read More

Exploring a Misconception about Feminism: Difference and Equality

In the bloggernacle, one of the statements that I hear over and over again from non-feminists is: “I don’t support feminism because I don’t think that women should be the exact same as men” (or as a recent blogger put it at the Blogger of Jared [it’s in the comments], we shouldn’t be “trying to make women ‘man-like'”). Now, while I admit that feminists are much more likely than the average person to be skeptical that various gender differences are inherent or natural, throughout feminist history there has been a large amount of tension around “equality” and “difference” and what those ideas mean for the feminist movement. Read More

The Names of My Wounds

But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother shall be in danger of his judgment. And whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council; and whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.

–3 Nephi 12:22

And the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.

–1 Corinthians 3:13

I’ve been ambivalent about blogging for a long time, and I have to admit that on the balance, I have found it spiritually destructive. Not because I found any dirty little Mormon secrets that shattered my faith; for whatever reason–perhaps sheer intellectual laziness–Joseph Smith’s amorous adventures and nineteenth-century English in the Book of Mormon and the Mountain Meadows Massacre and institutionalized racism, while they do disturb me, don’t fatally damage my commitment or conversion. I suppose I figure that prophets are human, that God has to work with what he has–us–and that moral complexity is an inevitable part of life, even life in the true and living church. Blogging has breached years of loneliness and helped me come to terms with questions that at times I’ve barely had the courage to admit to myself. I blog, in some measure, to know I’m not alone–intellectually, emotionally, or spiritually. Online conversations have sharpened and complicated my thinking, advanced my understanding, and broadened my perspective.

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Called of God

An acquaintance of mine was ordained in the Episcopal church last month. She’s a warm, lively person, probably around the age of my mother, who despite not knowing me well stopped to give me a hug the night before my comps defense. The path to ordination is a long one, with a lot of requirements along the way, and even for me as an outside observer it was kind of exciting to see someone finally make it to the end of it. Read More

The Value of Theology

“It is very strange. But we Christians often seem to be completely unconvinced of the power of thought with regard to our Christian faith.” (Karl Rahner)

I’m currently in my sixth year of studying academic theology. (I’ve posted before about how I ended up in this area.) Despite those inevitable moments of feeling tired of it all, on the whole I honestly can’t imagine doing anything more engaging. However, I’m all too aware that from the point of view of many Latter-day Saints, what I’m studying is worthless at best, and possibly even downright harmful. It’s nothing but the philosophies of the world, I repeatedly hear. It denies the value of revelation. And so on. Read More

Recent Down Time

We apologize for being unavailable the last day or so. We’re not sure quite how it happened, but we suspect that one of us left the Bouncer on autopilot, and he ended up bouncing himself repeatedly until our CPU quota was used up.

Defining “Patriarchy”

In recent threads people have commented on various words that the church redefines for its own use. While most are words I know are redefined by the church, one word which was often included I’d never seen on a similar list, or thought of myself. Patriarchy. Yes, I’m quite familiar with how the dictionary and the world define patriarchy (I studied anthropology). I just wasn’t aware that the church defined it differently. Read More