Mormon neo-orthodoxy

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"It seems the more that FARMS scholars research and write, the more that apologists respond to anti-Mormon attacks, the further away they move from the common beliefs that constitute and underlie lived Mormonism for most actual members. Is the church dividing in two? Is FARMS Mormonism even the same religion as the one I hear in Sacrament Meeting?" -Kaimi Wenger (LDS) [1]

Mormon Neo-orthodoxy (Neo, meaning "new") is a term used to describe a departure from what Mormonism has historically considered to be orthodox, classical teaching.

Mormon Neo-orthodox theology "emphasizes particular ideas about the sovereignty of God and the depravity of man"[1] which are not part of traditional Mormonism. Proponents are able to capitalize off the monotheistic and Arminian language of Mormonism's earliest writings.

The term is "neo-orthodoxy" borrowed from twentieth century Protestantism.

Historically, the LDS church has emphasized distinctness from other faiths, however, Mormonism is now beginning to attempt bridges between other faiths. To do this, Mormonism has made great attempts to appear more Christian. This has come with a greater emphasis on the family and moral values. If one has ever seen a commercial for the Mormon church, it becomes obvious that they use the family to help promote the moral side of the LDS church.

Lately, the LDS church is experiencing a potential shift in doctrine. Although the majority of this shift stems from the thought of scholars at BYU and other realms of Mormon academia, there has been a gradual appearance of changing doctrines in the actual Mormon church. "In the last few decades individuals inside the Mormon Church, and many outside, have noticed a shift in the content and presentation of the Mormon faith. Certain aspects of Mormon theology, like the physical, limited nature of God, are either downplayed or left unsaid. Other aspects, like salvation by faith in the justifying work of Jesus Christ, are highlighted." [2] This has been seen during the Mormon's bi-annual meeting, called General Conference. At this conference, the Mormon prophet (currently Gordon B. Hinckley) and other leaders address the members of the Mormon church.

The most popular 'neo-Mormon' scholars are Robert Millet and Stephen Robinson. Both figures are known for expounding a doctrine of justification by faith alone and clear doctrine of salvation by grace apart from works. Each has received criticism for their views from both Mormon and Evangelical circles. Evangelicals are upset because if these scholars really do believe these doctrines then it is claimed that the implications have huge consequences for historical Mormon theology (i.e. justification by faith alone should nullify Mormon temple practices).

Because of these scholars' newfound emphasis on justification by faith and salvation by grace some have begun to wonder if this shift means that Mormons are actually becoming Christians. Although there may be room to rejoice, there is also great need for caution. While some Mormons may embrace a doctrine of salvation and justification that sounds Protestant, there is still a clear denial of many essential doctrines of the Christian faith. Until Mormonism renounces most of the doctrines taught by Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, the LDS church can never fall under the umbrella of traditional and biblical Christianity.

"Progressive orthodoxy needs to be distinguished from 'liberal Mormonism,' since liberal often denotes a willingness to question the historicity of faith claims and to challenge teachings of contemporary Church leaders..." - John-Charles Duffy[2]
"What may be happening in these affirmations of grace by authors such as Mangum, Yorgason, Millett, and Robinson is a twofold development in turn of the century and millennium LDS life. The one answers the needs of devoted Saints, labouring under apparently impossible goals of achievement, the other displays the preparedness of a Church that now need not fear its distinct identity to accept wider Christians theological terms. It is as though modern Mormonism feels free to draw on the discourse of grace... Amongst ['the currents running within the current Mormon culture of salvation'] we find various checks and balances underlying undue movements in doctrine, with one example relating to a debate between Millett and some Baptist theologians on the issue of grace. This led to Boyd K. Packer, one of the most senior of the Twelve Apostles, addressing himself to the topic in a major satellite broadcast to church members in February 1998. Amongst other doctrines, he emphasized Latter-day Saints 'belief in the saving power of works in conjunction with Christ's sacrifice, rather than salvation by grace alone'." (Reported in Sunstone, June 1998, 21:2(110), 78)" - Douglas Davis[3]


[edit] Summary list of differences

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Traditional positions Neo-orthodox positions
Evolution "There is... a strong tradition within Mormon orthodoxy of denouncing evolution as inconsistent with scripture."[2]
The Flood Was a global event.[4] Was a local event.
Book of Mormon geography "Orthodox intellectuals acknowledge that among the Saints, the prevailing understanding of Book of Mormon geography is the hemispheric model: the view that Book of Mormon history spanned the entire Americas and that indigenous peoples throughout the two continents—as well as peoples of the Pacific—are descended from Lehi. This view has played an important role in shaping the religious identity of Latter-day Saints in Latin America and Polynesia; it even enjoys quasi-canonical status, appearing in the Introduction to the 1981 edition of the Book of Mormon."[2] "Orthodox intellectuals prefer a limited geography, such as that championed by John Sorenson, because they see that model as consistent with the evidence yielded by scholarship. In other words, a limited geography allows orthodox intellectuals to affirm the antiquity of the Book of Mormon without having to maintain an account of Native American origins that lacks academic credibility... Despite the lingering reference to the hemispheric model that appears in the 1981 Introduction to the Book of Mormon, limited geography has become the Church’s preferred model, as reflected in Church art and film."[5]
Hill Cumorah
Book of Abraham Translated directly from the papyrus with the help of God. The papyrus served as an indirect instrument of revelation, and was "not literally translated from the Chandler papyri."[2]
Doctrine If a prophet speaks in a prophetic mode, then what he says is trustworthy and doctrinal. Talks given at General Conference and Church-published literature can be considered doctrinal. Stephen Robinson "defines the parameters of official LDS doctrine very narrowly: he claims that only statements issued by the First Presidency or the Quorum of the Twelve are doctrinally binding, a definition which could serve to legitimize dissent in the Church. There is a similarly subversive potential in apologists' explicit rejection of selected statements by past Church leaders, which Saints of a more dogmatic stripe might characterize as presuming 'to judge the prophets of God.'"[2]
Lamanites The Lamanites are the principle ancestors of the American Indians.
Adam-God doctrine Brigham Young never taught the Adam-God doctrine and is simply maliciously misquoted by anti-Mormons. Brigham Young preached what at least appears to be the Adam-God teaching, and it is simply an anomaly.
Joseph Smith and money-digging God was honing Smith's prophetic abilities in the practice of money-digging, and Joseph was simply doing something quite normal in his day.
Translation of the Book of Mormon “While the statement has been made by some writers that the Prophet Joseph Smith used a seer stone part of the time in his translating of the record, and information points to the fact that he did have in his possession such a stone, yet there is no authentic statement in the history of the Church which states that the use of such a stone was made in that translation. The information is all hearsay, and personally, I do not believe that this stone was used for this purpose. The reason I give for this conclusion is found in the statement of the Lord to the Brother of Jared as recorded in Ether 3:22-24” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation 3:225). "We know that Joseph didn't translate the way that a scholar would translate. He didn't know Egyptian. There were a couple of means that were prepared for this. One was he used an instrument that was found with the plates that was called the Urim and Thummim. This is a kind of a divinatory device that goes back into Old Testament times. Actually most of the translation was done using something called a seer stone. He would put the stone in the bottom of a hat, presumably to exclude surrounding light. And then he would put his face into the hat, it's a kind of a strange image for us." (BYU Professor Dr. Daniel C. Peterson, “The Mormons” (Public Broadcasting Service), Act One: Revelation).
Grace "Probably the most famous example of an orthodox scholar having a theologically progressive influence on Mormonism is Stephen Robinson's successful promotion of an LDS discourse emphasizing grace [in Believing Christ]—a concept the Saints have traditionally associated with apostate Christianity."[2]
Bible In How Wide the Divide?, Stephen Robinson "maintains that the removal of plain and precious truths from the Bible, spoken of in the Book of Mormon, refers to the exclusion of certain books from the canon, not—as a more traditional view would have it—to the alteration of books in the canon. He believes that the Joseph Smith Translation 'should be understood to contain additional revelation, alternate readings, prophetic commentary or midrash, harmonization, clarifications, and corrections of the original as well as corrections to the original.'"[2]

[edit] Quotes

[edit] Notes

  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 John-Charles Duffy, "Defending the Kingdom: Rethinking the Faith: How Apologetics is Reshaping Mormon Orthodoxy". He goes on: The most prominent representatives of the anti-evolution tradition have been President Joseph Fielding Smith and his son-in-law Elder Bruce R. McConkie; Joseph Fielding McConkie continues to champion this tradition." Sunstone, May 2004, 22-55. Available online here:
  3. Davies, Douglas. The Mormon Culture of Salvation. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2000. p. 58
  5. Ibid.

[edit] See also

[edit] Books

[edit] External links

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