REVIEW: “Parallels and Convergences: Mormon Thought and Engineering Vision”

Howe_Bushman__ParallelsTitle: “Parallels and Convergences: Mormon Thought and Engineering Vision”

Editors: A. Scott Howe, Richard L. Bushman

Publisher: Greg Kofford Books

Year: 2012

Paperback: 226 pages

Price: $24.95 Kindle edition:  $9.95

Mormonism,” said Brigham Young, “embraces every principle pertaining to life and salvation, for time and eternity. No matter who has it. If the infidel has got truth it belongs to Mormonism. The truth and sound doctrine possessed by the sectarian world, and they have a great deal, all belong to this Church. …There is no truth but what belongs to the Gospel. It is life, eternal life; it is bliss; it is the fulness of all things in the gods and in the eternities of the gods.

Parallels and Convergences: Mormon Thought and Engineering Vision brings together a series of essays that were first presented at Claremont University in 2009.

Edited by Richard Bushman and A. Scott Howe, this volume seeks to explore, practically, what Brigham Young envisioned.

Some of the earliest classic texts of Mormonism, such as those by the Pratt Brothers, sought to place the religious visionary principles of Mormonism as they understood them within the scientific world as was then understood. True Religion was not separate from science, but was perhaps even the overarching science.

Parley Pratt wrote in A Key to the Science of Theology, that “The present is an age of progress, of change, of rapid advance, and of wonderful revolutions…A new era has dawned upon our planet, and is advancing with accelerated force – with giant strides. [Advances in' technology], with their progressive improvements in speed, safety and convenience, are extending and multiplying the means of travel, of trade, of association, and intercommunication between countries whose inhabitants have been comparatively unknown to, or estranged from, each other.”

Pratt then, in the context of his book, sought to express how these understandings apply to his vision of the Gospel in that day. He would have been saddened to see a day where the Church stopped seeking to learn from and apply the advances of the world’s knowledge. The authors of Parallels and Convergences are seeking – and in my opinion, succeeding – to carry on Parley Pratt’s vision, letting it be enhanced by our “age of progress”, rather than feel hindered or threatened by it.

It’s a book of marvelous speculations that open up the vision of how beautifully and practically Mormonism can (and probably even should) be wed with our increase in scientific knowledge.

You will find essays that excitedly explain how quantum physics, nanotechnology, transhumanism, space exploration, and even virtual programmed worlds open to our eyes potential models of the eternities, and even the very nature of resurrection, the millennium, and ‘spiritual creation’. The essays come from a wide degree of differing personal interpretations of the Eternal Story of Mormonism (some are more inspired by Brigham Young, some B.H Roberts some even Tad Callister and Cleon Skousen), but in the end, prior to my initial assumptions, it doesn’t diminish their vision, but rather serves to effectively illustrate how expansive and powerful ideas inspired by the Wide World of Mormonism can be.

While I didn’t always agree with the ultimate conclusions of the essayists, all of them made me consider some aspects I hadn’t before. In one early essay, due to the essayist’s stated belief in one particular theological model, I initially read through it not expecting to learn, or to be enlightened in any way by it, having made up my mind that the assumptions the essay were based on would not to speak to me. But I was surprised when an idea and interpretational paradigm was presented that indeed had not occurred to me before. In spite of not expecting or particularly desiring to learn from this essay, I was taught, and inspired. That is the sign of a remarkable teacher.

A key message of the entire collection is that our faith and vision doesn’t need to be held back by ancient shepherds’ or pioneers’ technology and understanding of the workings of the world. We can ‘map’ our technological understanding and development onto their expansive vision – and in many ways, that may indeed be the only way to bring their visions into reality and fulfillment. It is a call to not just hope that some day we may live again, or that we will live in a magically made paradise earth – but rather to very literally, through our acquired knowledge and technology, and guided by inspired vision, to work and apply engineering skills to “bring to pass the immortality and Eternal Life of man”.

This book was a blast. I highly recommend it.

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