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About Louis C. Midgley

Louis Midgley (Ph.D. Brown University) is an emeritus professor of political science at Brigham Young University, where he taught the history of political philosophy, which includes efforts of Christian churchmen and theologians to identify, explain, understand and cope with the evils in this world. Dr. Midgley has therefore had an abiding interest in both dogmatic and systematic theology, and the alternatives to both. His doctoral dissertation was on the religious socialist political ideology of Paul Tillich, a once famous German American Protestant theologian, most famous for his systematic theology which is a radical elaboration of classical theism. Dr. Midgley’s encounter with the writings of Leo Strauss, an influential Jewish philosopher/intellectual historian drew his attention to the radical challenge posed by what is often called modernity to both the wisdom of Jerusalem, which is grounded on divine revelation, and also the contrasting, competing wisdom of Athens, which was fashioned by unaided human reason. Dr. Midgley has an interest in the ways in which communities of faith have responded to the challenges posed by modernity to faith in God grounded on divine special revelation.

Remembering and Honoring Māori Latter-day Saints

Review of Robert Joseph, “Intercultural Exchange, Matakite Māori and the Mormon Church,” in Mana Māori and Christianity, ed. by Hugh Morrison, Lachy Paterson, Brett Knowles and Murray Rae (Wellington, New Zealand: Huia Publishers, 2012), pp. 43–72;1 and of Selwyn Kātene, ed, Turning the Hearts of the Children: Early Māori Leaders in the Mormon Church (Wellington, New Zealand: Steele Roberts Publishers, 2014). 231 pp. Glossary (pp. 220–22), Index (pp. 223–31). N.Z. $39.99.2

Abstract: Dr. Robert (Rob) Joseph’s essay on Māori matakite (seers) is described and assessed, along with the contents of a book, edited by Dr. Selwyn Kātene, consisting of essays on twelve nineteenth-century Māori Latter-day Saint “leaders.” All these essays are indications that Māori scholars are setting out and defending the Māori Latter-day Saint narrative. These essays also make available to future generations the stories of some of the Māori who subsequently helped set in place a Māori community of Latter-day Saints in Aotearoa (now the official Māori name for all of New Zealand rather than merely the name for the North Island). One crucial fact is that there were divine special revelations to Māori seers that opened the way for the message brought to them by Latter-day Saint missionaries. These essays will help Māori Saints (and others) remember and honor earlier encounters with the divine that yielded what was for at least a hundred years primarily a Māori community of Saints in New Zealand. Continue reading

Careless Accounts and Tawdry Novelties

Review of Lofte Payne. Joseph Smith the Make-Believe Martyr: Why the Book of Mormon Is America’s Best Fiction. Victoria, BC, Canada: Trafford Publishing, 2006. xxi + 331 pp., with appendix and index. $23.10 (paperback).

Abstract: The faith of Latter-day Saints is rooted in Joseph Smith’s recovery of the Book of Mormon, which presents itself as an authentic ancient text and divine special revelation. Book-length efforts to explain away these two grounding historical claims began in 1834, and have never ceased. They are often the works of disgruntled former Saints. In 1988 Loftes Tryk self-published an amusing, truly bizarre, seemingly countercult sectarian account of the Book of Mormon. In 2006, now under the name Lofte Payne, he again opined on Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. He discarded the notion that Joseph Smith was a demon. He now claims that the Book of Mormon was Joseph’s sly, previously entirely unrecognized covert effort to trash all faith in divine things. In this review, Payne’s explanation is compared and contrasted with books by Alan D. Tyree, a former member of the RLDS First Presidency, and Dale E. Luffman, a recent Community of Christ Apostle, as well as that of Robert M. Price, a militant atheist, and Grant Palmer, and also the Podcraft of John Dehlin, all of whom have in similar ways opined that the Book of Mormon is frontier fiction fashioned by Joseph Smith from ideas floating around his immediate environment. Continue reading

The Māori Stairway to Heaven

A review of Jason Hartley. Ngā Mahi: The Things We Need to Do; The Pathway of the Stars. n.p.: Xlibris, 2013. 264 pp., no index. $23.00AUD (softcover).1

Jason Hartley’s book manifests a passion for alleviating the problem of Māori surging into the prisons of Aotearoa/New Zealand2 by restoring their old, traditional religious ethos and the social control that hinges on the recovery of the old belief that they are potentially noble children of God. In setting out his own disappointing discovery of the roots of both a growing problem and what he believes is the solution, he describes how he came to learn the arcane moral teachings, or old stories, that once buttressed Māori social order. For Latter-day Saints, he also demonstrates that for some Māori, despite much degradation, the Heavens are still open, just as they were when Latter-day Saint missionaries first encountered a people prepared for them and their message by their own seers, thus also implicitly challenging recent efforts to downplay or explain away the old stories as mere embellishments, wishful thinking, or an implausible founding mythology. Continue reading

A Plea for Narrative Theology: Living In and By Stories

Abstract: The following are reflections on some of the complicated history, including the abuses, of what is commonly known as theology. The Saints do not “do theology.” Even when we are tempted, we do not reduce the contents or grounds of faith to something conforming to traditional theology. Instead, we tell stories of how and why we came to faith, which are then linked to a network of other stories found in our scriptures, and to a master narrative. We live in and by stories and not by either dogmatic or philosophically grounded systematic theology. Instead, we tend to engage in several strikingly different kinds of endeavors, especially including historical studies, which take the place of (and also clash with) what has traditionally been done under the name theology in its various varieties, confessional or otherwise. Continue reading

Māori Latter-day Saint Faith: Some Preliminary Remarks

Review of Marjorie Newton, Tiki and Temple: The Mormon Mission in New Zealand, 1854–1958 (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2012), xv + 328 pp. (including a glossary of Māori words, three appendices, bibliography, two maps, twenty-nine illustrations and a photography register, and index). $29.95 (paperback).

Abstract: Marjorie Newton’s widely acclaimed Tiki and Temple1 is a history of the first century of Latter-day Saint missionary endeavors in Aotearoa/New Zealand. She tells the remarkable story of what, beginning in 1881, rapidly became essentially a Māori version of the faith of Latter-day Saints. Her fine work sets the stage for a much closer look at the deeper reasons some Māori became faithful Latter-day Saints. It turns out that Māori seers (and hence their own prophetic tradition) was, for them, commensurate with the divine special revelations brought to them by LDS missionaries. Among other things, the arcane lore taught in special schools to an elite group among the Māori is now receiving close attention by Latter-day Saint scholars. Continue reading


  1. Marjorie Newton has received several awards for her book, and it has also been reviewed favorably.