I read about the book No Weapon Shall Prosper in the sltrib and decided to purchase it. As a rule, I don’t like apologetics and after reading parts of this book, I still don’t like apologetics. The book was written because of concerns about members separating themselves from the LDS Church over doctrinal and historical issues. This book is an attempt to answer some of the troubling concerns. But I find some of the book’s answers to be troubling. The book has a variety of authors, most are employed at Brigham Young University (Department of Ancient History) and it was published by Deseret Book.
My general criticisms would be:
- The book doesn’t seem to have a target audience. At times the authors talk down to the readers and at times they write like the readers are biblical or religous scholars.
- This book needs to have more non-BYU participation. There needs to a more diverse collection of LDS scholars.
- The book needs to deal more overtly with issues related to science and the LDS Church.
- There is too much reliance on the work of Joseph Fielding Smith, Bruce R. McConkie, and C.S. Lewis. But this is a personal prejudice.
The first chapter that I read was “God and Man,” by Robert L. Millet (who is also the book’s editor). The relationship between God and man has always been a favorite topic of mine, but on several issues there seems to be a wide disperity between the early teachings of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, and the doctrine put forth by Bruce R. McConkie. Millet tries unsuccessfully to find common ground.
Millet starts out by stating that God is “omnipotent, omniscient, and by the power of the his Holy Spirit, omnipresent.” Thus implying that He is all knowing and that He has nothing more to learn (a teaching of McConkie). Millet goes on to state that “God and man are ‘of the same species.'” My understanding is that the LDS Church still believes in Eternal Progression for mankind (althought the expressions is used a lot less today than it was 50 years ago). Since God and man are the same species, doesn’t that imply that God is also progressing, and will continue to progress throughout the eternities?
Millet seems to want to have it both ways. He wants to placate the Christian right by saying that God is all the omnis, but then he also writes at length about theosis (man becoming god) as a tribute to Joseph Smith. Millet avoids the issue of whether God is still progressing. Godly progression is something that was taught by Brigham Young and advocated by John A. Widtsoe, but was abhorrent to McConkie.
For us to completely understand God’s eternal plan, I think the issue of whether God is progressing is an important one, and Millet’s inability to “pull the trigger” is troubling and leaves a deep hole in his chapter. I would also have liked to see a more complete discussion of Joseph Smith’s King Follett funeral discourse along with a discussion of Mormonisms similarities and dissimilarities with Process Theology.
As a side note, Millet tosses out the line: “there is no way to establish and maintain a moral standard independent of God.” There is no backup for this statement; it is put there as if it is a commonly accepted fact. There is enough moral conumdrums in the OT, B0fM, and religious history to seriously question Millet’s ascertion. Modern atheistic writings (like those of Sam Harris) are starting to seriously question this assumption. Millet needs to either leave this subject alone or devote a chapter to it.
The next chapter that I read was “The Fortunate Fall of Adam and Eve” by Daniel K. Judd. This is a chapter that needs to be written (or at least co-written) by scientist. Mormonism needs to come to grips with the fact that Adam and Eve may not have been real people. Organic evolution is a reality and Mormon theologians need to deal with this issue. We can’t keep pretending that there was no death before the Fall.
Much of the Book of Genesis is a metaphor, and other parts of the OT are suspect. There was no Universal Flood, there was no Tower of Babel, the Earth didn’t stand still, and Jonah wasn’t swallowed by a big fish. To continue to teach these metaphors as if they are literal history is a serious mistake. Many of the scientists at BYU are starting to make this case. We need to start interpreting the saga of Adam and Eve in the light of what science is telling us about the creation.
Judd’s chapter contrasts the general Christian belief in Original Sin with John Locke’s philosophy of a “blank slate” (a child’s mind is like a white paper void of all characters) or “tabula rasa.” Judd wants to stake out, as the LDS position, a middle ground between the two. This seems more a concession to conservative Christians than a real argument. I certainly have no trouble with Locke’s position as summarized by Judd. (Although I’m certainly not an authority on Locke.) According to Mormon Terryl Givens’ writing for the University of Chicago Divinity School website: “Men and women are born pure and innocent, with no taint of original sin. (We find plenty on our own.)”
And what’s with the artistic rendering of Adam and Eve kneeling in the Garden of Eden at the beginning of the chapter? Could Adam and Eve be more “white and delightsome”? How do we know that the pair wasn’t Black? Can we please stop with the Nordic images. How about some diversity?
The next chapter I read was “Latter-day Saint Perspective on Biblical Inerrancy” by Millet. How can you write this chapter and have only a one-paragraph discussion of the OT? Some discussion of the Book of Genesis would have been useful.
In the future, I will try and write concerning some of the other chapters.