Several weeks ago we had a sacrament meeting talk that remains on my mind. The gentleman who concluded the meeting used most of his time to read a story that he frankly admitted came from his mother, who “got it from Google.” If you are thinking that the word “Google” is a bad sign in this context, your spidey sense is doing well.
The narrative he read was the highly embellished story of Gertrude Specht. You can read the Google version here and Jonathan Green’s research here. The bottom line is that the reality and the internet myth share only three points of contact: both talk about a German, both talk about a woman, and both indicate that the woman had at least one doctorate. Otherwise, the story appears to be what we will charitably call a fabrication in order to avoid offending any tender sensibilities with scatological references.
I must admit that I find it disturbing to hear this sort of thing in church – you want to think that what you hear in church can genuinely be called “worship.” But I must report that the irony runs even deeper. For the major emphasis behind the fabrication was an effort to make poor Dr. Specht, a housewife with a dissy in economics, into an expert who could affirm in detail the historicity of the complex of ideas we group under the term “Great Apostasy.” Yes indeedy, it was an unhistorical narrative contrived to lend the highest scholarly authority to the historicity of the LDS version of early Christianity.
Continue reading “Faith-Promoting [Not] History”
I haven’t posted for a while, so I was checking through some of my drafts this evening. This was fully written, but I can’t remember why I didn’t post it at the time I wrote it. It is a bit past the prime time on this issue, but might still be relevant.
The reemergence of the controversy about baptism for the dead, spearheaded by the issue of posthumously baptizing Holocaust victims is frustrating for Mormons. Not only do Mormons feel misunderstood and suspicious of the motives of those who mischaracterize Mormon ritual and belief, but also frustrated that the Church has not adequately put in the safeguards to prevent these kinds of issues from happening (banned since the 1990’s), and embarrassing us all over again. At the same time, the practice of baptism for the dead and the controversy surrounding it reveal a deep philosophical issue about the place of difference in universalist understandings of salvation.
Continue reading “Baptizing Vicariously and the Problems of Universalism”
Authors note: The following is the second in my Mormon Rawls Project Series. It is also the expansion of my first ever post here at FPR.
When Rawls develops the concept which he labels “justice as fairness.” This does not mean that a just society is one which is fair, but instead that principles of justice must be determined under conditions which are fair to all.
While fairness may not be something commonly found in the world, we can imagine what the conditions of fairness might appear like. This is what Rawls does when he introduces the original position (OP). The original position is a hypothetical situation where representatives come together to determine the principles of justice that will govern the basic structure of society (the basic structure being the political and economic institutions which impacts ones life-chances) . It is these principles that would guide the development of a constitution and further development of law and policy.
In order to ensure that these principles are chosen under fair conditions. Rawls introduces the device known as the veil of ignorance. The veil of ignorance prevents the participants from knowing the particulars of their own situation and standing in the world. They are unaware of their own wealth, gender, race, and geographical situation. They are essentially stripped of the knowledge that might lead than to pick principles of justice which benefit themselves or people like themselves rather than principles that benefit all and which could be accepted by all. Continue reading “The Mormon Rawls Project: The Original Position and the Council in Heaven I”
The parable of the Good Samaritan is well known and much beloved. The image of the caring Samaritan tending to the bruised and bleeding traveler speaks to the goodness of mankind; despite the self-love of the world.
I have noticed that this parable often shows up in secular moral theory as an example of an acceptable religious concept for the public square (See “The Idea of Public Reason Revisited” by John Rawls). It is also used in a number of ways that…well…few Mormons might expect (see section 6 of Judith Jarvis Thomson’s “A Defense of Abortion”). [Author’s Note: I will be revisiting both of these at a future date]
What strikes me most about this parable is not so much the story itself, but Christ’s use of a Samarian as the protagonist. Not only do the Levite and the Priest fall short of their neighborly obligation, but the one who is the good example is from a despised people. Continue reading “The Good Samaritan as The Other”
Like many Christians I like to read and re-read Romans 5-8. Paul uses very vivid imagery to portray both sin and grace as powers that can exercise dominion over human life. Death and the law are likewise rendered in apocalyptic terms. These chapters come to something of a climax in Rom 8:3
3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
Now I’ll stop here and ask you to reflect on what sort of things strike you as important about this passage. Since there are no wrong answers you are free to answer in whatever fashion you like but do take a moment and think about it.
Continue reading “Brand Spanking New”
The category of “myth” is arguably the most important for evaluating the Bible in the last few hundred years. The very earliest critics of the Bible employed the category of “myth” in evaluating the stories and histories recorded there. D. F. Strauss (Das Leben Jesu, 1835) employed the term for making sense of the life of Jesus, among the first to suggest that the gospels were not literal history.
Besides the difficulty in identifying and defining myth, the most important interpretive problem comes in trying to figure out how to understand the significance of myth. In sum, is myth a good thing or a bad thing? Basically, two different options emerged that dominated 19th c. biblical studies.
Continue reading “Myth, Modernity, and Mormonism”
…is how we are described by the Catholic blogger who writes as “The Anchoress.” I read her pretty much daily. On the whole, she’s usually a refreshing combination of entertainment, spiritual insight, and wisdom. My kinda person, and especially so since I teach from within her tradition.
It’s always interesting to find out how you’re viewed by others. And I don’t mind being “always placid.” If, through this Proposition 8 tempest, one of the labels that sticks to us is “placid,” it won’t be such a bad thing.
In fact, I could go for the placid thing on my tombstone: Here lies Mogget, usually reasonably placid unless you get frisky with the 2nd Amendment or you proof text from the Bible…
The 20th comment on David Clark’s “Mormon Anxieties” post comments that the request to support a “yes” on Proposition 8 was “time sensitive.” After comparing this to President Hinckley’s recent directive to read the BoM before the beginning of the year, this same author writes “we didn’t have the luxury of weeks and months to ‘gain a testimony’ of it.”
There are instances where we must react based without detailed thought. For example, those who use firearms regularly in their line of work rely on decisions made earlier, in more leisurely moments, about how they will react under certain legal conditions and circumstances. But moral-political propositions presented for a vote with an understanding that there is insufficient time to seek genuine spiritual confirmation seem to me to be similar to $700 B bailouts for which we likewise somehow lack the time for public debate. Katy. Bar. The. Door.
Like David, I am not going to open a debate on the Prop. 8 issue. But I am interested in the idea that there might be circumstances in which we should act without spiritual confirmation on some major political or moral decision. This does not seem likely to me, because the LDS lifestyle seems to be full of at least anecdotal evidence of major life changes made on the basis of rather sudden spiritual inspiration. I am, however, open to learning more from those who have given it some thought.
…his own blog.
I have enjoyed my almost three years here at FPR. But it is time for me to move on. I will be writing about politics and political philosophy with a Mormon and leftist twist now at Approaching Justice (approachingjustice.wordpress.com).
It is not polished yet, but my personal favorite posts from FPR are now at Approaching Justice and here at FPR as well. Hopefully, I will have it up and running soon.
I would like to thank John C./HP for the opportunity to blog here and get some (negative and positive) attention on the bloggernacle.
It was fun getting to meet Mogget, David J., and LxxLuthor in the early days. It has also been a joy getting to know TT, Smallaxe, and Jupiterchild a bit. All of these people are far smarter than me, and I appreciate their patience. It is funny how these people seem like friends even though I have not met any of them (except John C.) and likely never will.
It has been fun.