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Archive for October, 2009

Heavenly Father and Theodicy

Posted by nebula0 on October 30, 2009


One of the most prickly problems theists face is the problem of evil and developing a theodicy in response.  If there is an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent Creator how can evil exist?  If he is all good and all powerful and all knowing there should be no excuse.  In response to the problem a number of responses exist from classic monotheists including the free will defense or arguing that from God’s perspective all really is well.   In the face of true evil however, these responses often feel thin.  Knowing that God, if he wanted to, have intervened in the Holocaust and prevented children from getting gassed, wouldn’t we expect a good God to do that, free will be damned?  What kind of God allows for the unbearable torture of the innocent?  These thoughts have in part led to the creation of new types of theologies, namely, process theology.  However, Mormonism also has an interesting potential angle.

One of the strengths of Mormonism, I argue, is that it has a very interesting solution to the problem.  In Mormonism God is relatively, not absolutely, infinite.  That is, as a mile wide piece of paper might as well be infinite to a speck of dust, God is relatively infinite in qualities to us.  God has so much more power, goodness and knowledge than we possess he is in effect infinite, though not in the absolute sense of the classical monotheist.  You can probably already sense where this is going, if God is not absolutely infinite, then perhaps his power is in some sense insufficient to prevent evils even if he wanted to.  What’s more, Mormonism provides a further avenue of thought on the matter by arguing that God became God by following pre-existing rules of the cosmos that just happened to be there, that he is in effect bound to them and to break them would cause him to cease being God.  We are, of course, also bound by these same laws. God wants to illumine these laws to us for our good and further our happiness.  He provides us succor and guidance as we learn, but cannot alter these laws.  So it is, that through the unavoidable operation of these laws people get hurt.  God can do much to alleviate suffering, but it is inevitable that suffering will occur and he cannot help that.  God in this theology remains truly good, without significant problem.

This is truly a great strength of Mormon theology and I hope it is not overlooked by the Mormon population.  The problem of evil is a disturbing one and the ability to salvage God’s character through the Mormon solution is not a trivial thing.

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Tracked Down! Families in Mormonism

Posted by nebula0 on October 29, 2009


So after having moved after having not been to church for over a year, I admit I had great hopes that we’d fly under the radar and never be tracked down by what is supposed to be our new local ward.  Most of our Mormon friends dropped out of the picture after we stopped showing up for sacrament meetings, so I reasoned that there would be no reason for our new address to enter the picture.  However it was only a week ago that an older gentleman came to our door and introduced himself as a neighbor ‘in our ward’ with, of course, an invitation to church.

What surprised me was not so much that our address eventually did get out, but my reaction to the visit.  I was deeply disturbed.  I realized that Mormonism threatened, at least in my own mind, our family harmony.  I am completely non-Mormon, I don’t even really think of myself as ‘ex’ Mormon.  I don’t feel related to Mormonism at all, good or bad.  However, my spouse considers himself a jack Mormon, even though he doesn’t accept its basic truth claims.  He feels some kind of cultural connection, as if he was born a Jew who disbelieves that Moses was a prophet.  It is for that reason I don’t want Mormonism an issue in our lives, I don’t want it brought up, I don’t want anyone thinking about it in our family.  We have such a happy, close family life and I am so pleased not to raise our children in the church, or any church for that matter, I don’t want this happy family ship perturbed.

If you are familiar with Mormonism you might find my sentiments ironic.  After all, isn’t Mormonism a bastion of happy, close families?  It really only works if all the members of the family are also active Mormons.  Only active Mormon couples can be sealed for ‘time and all eternity’ in the temples, and thus have their children ‘born in the covenant’ and thus sealed to them for ‘time and all eternity’.  And those promises are bound up with individual obedience to Mormonism’s gospel message.  So it is having one spouse an active Mormon and another not, or even worse, one who is non Mormon, is bound to cause stress on the marriage. 

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t just a Mormon issue- interreligious marriages in general cause stress if one member of the marriage is committed to a religion.  But, Mormonism creates a unique stressor by stressing so much family unity, in the church.  In fact, a defective spouse can threaten the eternal possibility of the other.  It is a couple that is exalted to godhood through obedience to the (Mormon) gospel, not individuals.

Since nothing has come of the visit of the well intentioned older gentleman to our house, I have relaxed again.  But the episode has reaffirmed to me how far I have come in the matter of a couple of years in how I understand the very core of my identity.

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Some Recent Thoughts about Mormonism

Posted by nebula0 on October 28, 2009


Well folks, in case you haven’t guessed I haven’t thought a whole lot about Mormonism for a while now.  It has been over 2 years since I have been to a Mormon church, and I nearly thought we’d fall off the radar when we moved (someone, however, tattled us out).  Nonetheless, as I have been reviewing some of my comparative religion literature along with Christian history I thought about Mormonism vis-a-vis other religious traditions and I came to realize a couple of things through comparison.

In Hinduism there are 4 main yogas, or paths, by which one can become enlightened.  The most popular path is called bhakti yoga, the way of love or adoration of God.  By many Hindus, Christianity is regarded as an exemplar of this way.  Through total love of God adherents are able to turn from ego and progress spiritually.  Likewise, one way to approach God is Sufism is through a similar all out adoration of God.  Out of this tradition love poetry has been created.  I probably needn’t tell you about the emphasis on love and personal relationship with Christ (whom the Hindus would regard as an avatar of God) in Christianity, and how establishing the relationship is the way to salvation in evangelical thought.

How does this compare with Mormonism?  Mormonism doesn’t include a concept of the truly infinite, and therefore doesn’t include a notion of utter dependence.  It is the latter, I argue, which inspires the way of devotion which I describe above.  The idea that it is God who is the source of existence itself creates a relationship to God in which the finite worshipper finds himself swallowed up into God as the essence of Being itself.  In Mormonism, every individual is immortal, apart from God, at the core of his being.  God, in Mormonism, is to be loved, of course, but it does not inspire the sort of total love devotion that religions of the infinite God can command.  Whether this is good or bad is not the point of my argument at all, that is for you to decide.  What Mormonism has instead is a religion of covenant.  God is a sort of way shower, to show the individual how to succeed, helping him to do so at every step as humans need help and guidance.  In Mormonism, God is a literal and figurative Father figure, and the love and devotion shown by God most approximates the love and guidance shown by good human fathers than any other religion I am aware of.  As good human fathers, Heavenly Father is patient, knowing that we are but little children, and sacrificing. 

I believe that this distinction can explain much about the differences between Mormonism and many other world religions, particularly orthodox Christianity.

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