Title: “War & Peace In Our Time: Mormon Perspectives”
Editors: Patrick Q. Mason, J. Davis Pulspher, Richard L. Bushman
Publisher: Greg Kofford Books
If you’re looking for a sign that Mormon Studies is not only maturing, but has significant practical, political and theological relevance, I’ve found your book.
If you’re looking for evidence that smart, faithful, and creative Latter-day Saints can express diverging perspectives on sensitive hot-button issues while refraining from creating straw-man caricatures of the opposing position, I’ve found your book.
If you’re new to Mormon Studies, and are looking for a helpful overview or sampler of different fields-within-the-field, whether it be history, Book of Mormon/Scriptural narrative deconstruction, theology, or simply personal lived experience narratives, (and more, in addition to combinations of the above), I’ve found your book.
From an LDS perspective, I see War & Peace In Our Time: Mormon Perspectives as being an exemplar in constructing bridges between inhabitants of opposing schools of thought within the Wide World of Mormonism.
Even among otherwise faithful Latter-day Saints, it is heartbreakingly easy (throw a stone…) to find online discussions focused on a particularly sensitive issue that break out almost instantly into mutual demonization to a degree where it is very clear that nobody is actually engaging each other’s ideas. You will find scattered throughout such discussions exasperated exclamations of how Person On This Side can’t possibly reconcile The Other Side with the Gospel – and then Person on the Other Side makes very clear the he feels the same way about This guy.
W&P presents the time and space for well-reasoned scholastic expressions of faith. In addition to papers that expound on and illustrate Your Current Position, you will also find just as well-though-out positions that are Different Than Yours. What you will not find are papers that mock, denigrate, or otherwise marginalize Your Position or Anyone Else’s.
I was very much pleasantly reminded – in format, if not subject – of the other ‘conference report’ collection of essays earlier published by Kofford Books – Parallels and Convergences: Mormon Thought and Engineering Vision – (and even John Whitmer books’ essay collection The Persistence of Polygamy) This collection had essays that at times had me reading through in initial disagreement with the premise, only to have a profound and new-to-me insight later on that made me reconsider my thoughts and beliefs on that point.
So while expressing a variety of faithful Latter-day Saint perspectives on global issues surrounding the morality of armed militant combat, the book’s existence is a striking witness of, at the very least, the feasibility of peaceful coexistence of contrasting views among the membership of the Church.
I have found it difficult to single out examples of exemplary papers and presentations, because I sincerely found each one to have value in contributing to the overall effect of the work. Props may be given to the work of the powerhouse trio of editors including Patrick Q. Mason, J. David Pulsipher, and Richard L. Bushman. The organization of the texts into four key thematic categories (Scriptural and Doctrinal Interpretations, Historical and Cultural Perspectives, Notable and Prophetic Voices, and Personal and Professional Observations) definitely benefited the presentation in book form.
I will, however, take note of D. Michael Quinn’s submission, “J. Reuben Clark: Pacifist Counselor in the First Presidency” as being a strong illustration of the differing views on sensitive subjects held even among members of the highest leadership circles in the Church, and also as an example that even the staunchest and boldest of views and opinions can be radically shifted during a leader’s tenure. (This essay alone strengthened my desire to read Quinn’s full-length bio of Clark, Elder Statesman: A Biography of J. Reuben Clark)
To end, I have to also acknowledge and commend the simple yet striking cover design, featuring the evocative appearance of a red graffiti Angel Moroni over the canvas of a bullet-riddled stone façade.
May we continue to see more books and conferences like this not simply occur and exist, but become known, read, and discussed. I’ll be doing what little may be in my power on my part to make this so.