Abstract: To many outside the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (and to some of its members), the Church’s teachings and practices appear not only socially and experientially constraining, but intellectually restrictive as well, given its centralized system of doctrinal boundary maintenance and its history of sometimes sanctioning members who publicly dissent from its teachings. Do these practices amount to a constraint of intellectual freedom? This essay argues that they do not, and offers several possible explanations for the commonly-asserted position that they do. Continue reading
Abstract: This essay provides a close theological reading of Helaman 13, the first part of the sermon of Samuel the Lamanite. Beginning from the insight that the chapter focuses intensely on time, it develops a theological case for how sin has its own temporality. Sin opens up a disastrous future, deliberately misremembers the past, and complicates the constitution of the present as the past of the future. Continue reading
Abstract: The accounts of creation in Genesis, Moses, and Abraham as well as in higher endowments of knowledge given to the faithful are based on visions in which the seer lacked the vocabulary to describe and the knowledge to interpret what he saw and hence was obliged to record his experiences in the imprecise language available to him. Modern attempts to explain accounts of these visions frequently make use of concepts and terminology that are completely at odds with the understanding of ancient peoples: they project anachronistic concepts that the original seer would not have recognized. This article reviews several aspects of the creation stories in scripture for the purpose of distinguishing anachronistic modern reinterpretations from the content of the original vision. Continue reading
Abstract: The author introduces the subject of the essay based on scripture by observing that one true morality governs the heavens and exists to govern mortality, which contains all possible ways to live in time and eternity and orders them into a hierarchy of rational preferability. In order to live their endless lives with enduring purpose and fullness, humankind must undertake two stages of probationary preparation, one as premortals and one that begins with mortality and concludes in the post-mortal world with the final judgment, in which they come to know for themselves the one morality and accept its ordering of the many never-ending ways of life and hence the ways they have proven themselves willing to receive. With that introduction in mind, in the next two sections of the essay the author explores what some latter-day scripture reveals about the moral facts that make possible knowledge of the one morality, about how humankind determines good from bad ways to live as they undertake the second stage of probationary preparation, about how they can come to a knowledge of the best way of life contained in that morality, and how in the end they have a perfect knowledge of it.
In the final section of the essay, the author investigates how it was that in the premortal world the hosts of heaven, knowing and accepting as they did the one true morality, nevertheless became deeply divided over two incompatible plans of salvation as they prepared for moral life and went to war over them. A major theme of the essay is that the one morality, and every way to live it contains, [Page 2]center on persons becoming and living as agents unto themselves. The upshot is that the principle of freedom, which prescribes the full collective and personal realization of human agency and which belongs to all humankind at every stage of their endless existence, is the fundamental principle of that eternal morality. Continue reading
Abstract: This essay seeks to examine the Book of Mormon translation method from the perspective of a regular, nonscholarly, believing member in the twenty-first century, by taking into account both what is learned in Church and what can be learned from historical records that are now easily available. What do we know? What should we know? How can a believing Latter-day Saint reconcile apparently conflicting accounts of the translation process? An examination of the historical sources is used to provide us with a fuller and more complete understanding of the complexity that exists in the early events of the Restoration. These accounts come from both believing and nonbelieving sources, and some skepticism ought to be employed in choosing to accept some of the interpretations offered by some of these sources as fact. However, an examination of these sources provides a larger picture, and the answers to these questions provide an enlightening look into Church history and the evolution of the translation story. This essay focuses primarily on the methods and instruments used in the translation process and how a faithful Latter-day Saint might view these as further evidence of truthfulness of the restored Gospel. Continue reading