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Month: April 2011

Down The Rabbit Hole: A Review of Charles Harrell’s “’This Is My Doctrine’: The Development of Mormon Theology”

Down The Rabbit Hole: A Review of Charles Harrell’s “’This Is My Doctrine’: The Development of Mormon Theology”

Harrell - This Is My DoctrineTitle: “This Is My Doctrine” The Development of Mormon Theology

Author: Charles R. Harrell

Publisher: Greg Kofford Books

Year: 2011

Pages: 583

Price: $34.95 (Available for Pre Order at $23.07)

In the film The Matrix, Neo found out about something that gnawed at him so much, he began actively searching out more information about it in such a way that resulted in his becoming highly disoriented from life as he knew it, feeling a bit like Alice caught in Wonderland. He eventually comes across Morpheus, who is known to have a pretty significant key to understanding Neo’s questions.

But before going ahead and answering, he gives Neo an option – to take the Red Pill, or to take the Blue Pill.

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If you take the Blue Pill, Morpheus says, “The story ends. You wake up in your bed, and you believe whatever you want to.”

It’s a somewhat attractive option. It embraces the ‘ignorance is bliss’ mentality.

However, the other option still stands: you take the Red Pill, and, Morpheus says, “I show you how deep the Rabbit Hole goes.”

Many members of the Church are used to a completely internally consistent prophetic historical narrative from Adam through Thomas S. Monson, where all prophets knew explicitly of what was to come, and all scriptures speak in the same doctrinal language as our Correlated Church Manuals of today – all the while meaning and knowing the exact same things we mean and know today.

This is the story one can easily come away with if their only substantial interaction with the scriptures are the bullet point interpretations given in Gospel Doctrine Sunday School classes, and the doctrinal references to scriptures given in correlated manuals like Gospel Principles.

There’s something beautiful and attractive about such a worldview – it makes it very easy to see one’s exact place in the Grand Prophetic Narrative. We can easily place ourselves in another scriptural character’s shoes if we know that they knew what we know, and if we feel that those who opposed the prophets in all ages have the same knowledge being preached to them that the Missionaries are going door to door teaching today. It makes it easier to judge both the righteous and unrighteous in black and white terms.

If something in the scriptures seems to contradict the current understanding, it’s easy to cite the 8th Article of Faith, and note that the conflicting concept must not have been “translated correctly” –  whatever that means.

In fact, that’s exactly what the Seminary Manual does when it comes to events attributed to King David. Instead of accounting for historical socio-religious context, the explanation given is, “The story in 2 Samuel 21 is either not translated correctly or shows that David truly fell deep into apostasy.”1 – present day values and doctrinal concepts are retrojected into the narrative. Either some scribes wrote the story wrong, or David was disobeying the Restored Gospel. There is no other option presented, or explanation offered.

But that’s the only possible way Inspired Scriptures written by Inspired Prophets can be understood, right?

If the Gospel is Eternal, everyone inspired by God must have known the same things, and no erroneous historical concepts or theological and cultural ideas would have been allowed to creep into the record. There would be no development of doctrinal concepts, no trial and error, and every time a prophet interprets a scripture, he must know and be explaining the Original Intent of the original prophet.

Right?

If that’s how you want to understand the historical scriptural narrative, then it may just be that the Blue Pill is for you.

For the rest, Charles Harrell has produced a Red Pill in his book “This Is My Doctrine”: The Development of Mormon Theology, of which I was able to read an Advanced Reader’s Copy.

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  1. Old Testament Seminary Manual, http://seminary.lds.org/manuals/old-testament-seminary-student-study-guide/ot-ssg-5-2_sam-21.asp []
Saul, Javert, and the Paradigm of the Empty Tomb: An Easter Sermon

Saul, Javert, and the Paradigm of the Empty Tomb: An Easter Sermon

I gave a version of the following in my Easter Sunday Sacrament meeting, April 24, 2011.

The evening of the Friday Jesus of Nazareth was tortured, beaten, crucified, and hung to die next to two political rebels, the influential leaders among the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Judean branch of the Roman Empire were all probably able to have a peaceful night’s sleep.

According to their own different ideologies, by participating in the death of this perceived cult leader and would-be revolutionary, they had each played an important part in averting national, social, religious, and political disaster. They would agree with the words attributed to the current High Priest, which remarked that  “it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.” (John 11:50)

And perhaps they would have continued to sleep well with their minds settled and at peace on the whole Jesus matter … if it hadn’t for the Empty Tomb on Sunday.

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REVIEW: Love Wins: A Book about Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived

REVIEW: Love Wins: A Book about Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived

Title: Love Wins: A Book about Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived

Author: Rob Bell

Publisher: Harper One

Year: 2011

Pages: 224

ISBN13: 978-0062049643

Binding: Hardcover

Price: $22.00

The Book of Mormon has gained a reputation as one of those books individuals don’t feel that they need to read in order to have an opinion of. Recently, Rob Bell, a a popular evangelical preacher, has presented a book that seems to be gaining the same sort of reputation.

The ruckus really started when this provocative video preview was posted online announcing the book, giving a preview of Chapter 1, and quickly went viral:

And then, based mainly on this video alone, all hell broke loose (pun completely intended) in the evangelical Christian community. Bell was called a heretic, a faithless popularity monger, biblically illiterate, and deceived by the devil for suggesting that its possible that God may not be sending people to burn forever and ever in literal fiery pits of hell.

And that was before the book even came out.

I don’t know much about Bell as an individual. I haven’t listened to podcasts of any of his sermons. This being the case, I wasn’t approaching this book taking into consideration his own motivation, past,  or credentials.

However, I did approach the book with a unique perspective among many Mormons: I was raised in the Pentecostal Evangelical community, specifically, the son of an Assemblies of God minister.

I grew up seeing dramatic plays performed at Church called ‘Heavens Gates & Hells Flames’, which graphically depicts the death and condemnation to hell of those who put off the opportunity to accept Jesus Christ as their Savior, all leading up to the eventual altar call for those in attendance to ask Jesus to save them from this fate.

Bell tells us that he was troubled as a youth by a painting depicting individuals traversing a cross-bridge over a fiery pit of hell. While I never had such a painting on my church or home wall, I did have books on my shelf with very similar imagery – but it never troubled me. It was just a clear illustration of what I believed. It was clear cut, plain and simple.

Yet there were times, as a child (and even young teenager) when I would wake up from a nap in the house, find that my parents weren’t there, and fear that the Rapture had occurred, and I had done something wrong, hadn’t been Saved, and that while my parents had been taken away to be with Jesus, that I’d been Left Behind. This happened more than once. And each time, I was equally worried.

I was raised with the understanding that God loved us very much, but if we were wrong, or ‘backslid’, then1 we would be in danger of an everlasting fiery torture. As a young teen I never questioned this understanding of God’s Justice – it was equivalent with Christianity in general, which I also never questioned – although I did at times question where I personally stood. While I fully accepted Christ as Lord and Savior, during those ‘Did the Rapture happen’ episodes, it did cause me to question if I really was Saved. Or, in a future context, Would I be saved?

It wasn’t until years later that I thought about what “salvation” really meant, and what (or who) Jesus was would be saving me from, and why I needed to be saved from it.

So that’s the context from which I, as a 7-year convert to Mormonism,  approached this book.

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  1. Whether or not this was actual doctrine spelled out and presented, this is definitely the impression and understanding I went away with. []