First a final belated farewell to the Lawyer, who first awakened me from my dogmatic slumber, and opened my eyes to the opportunities and possibilities in thinking about Mormonism and the world through Mormon perspectives. The praises by my fellow Elders are surely appropriate regarding his sweeping ambition and talents, but perhaps more importantly he is a good friend, willing to lend us 3 eggs and watch our two year old; equally willing to help someone move in or give a blessing as to explain Kantian ethics.
On the surface it seems to me that our Antiquarian and Lit Crit have given conflicting advice on Mormon 'hermeneutics' to the questioning Historian. The Antiquarian points out the emphasis on gnosis / knowledge and its salvific power in Mormonism, and encourages applying any outside tools and methods to produce knowledge by study. In the sense that this approach allows for an open methodology I think the Lit Crit would agree with it; one wonderful thing about Mormonism is that our relationship to scripture allows this --we don't have to assert a fixed, infallible canon--which opens the door to many ways of looking at scriptural texts. But I think that the Lit Crit's criticism runs deeper; what seems characteristically Mormon is our way of relating scripture to ourselves, which as he points out minimizes the 'historical particularity' of the text and our academic study of it. With his cobbling together stories from different traditions and added revelations, Joseph put us into the story / history of Israel and God's plan here on earth. The purpose of scripture then becomes our development of a relationship with God until we are brought face to face with him. It seems to me that academic methods of study and historical trivia have little to add to this relational method of reading scripture. [ and as one interested in such trivia, I sometimes find focusing on it blocks my having the spiritual experiences that bring me closer to God ]. In my view, any academic methodology or approach to scripture, or any focus on the history of the text cannot be uniquely Mormon, except in the sense of "put together by Mormons." This is not to say that it is uninteresting or useless.
The Antiquarian is rightly critical of the 'weak homiletics' that constitute much of Mormon discourse and writing. Perhaps we have a penchant for such an emphasis because we are mostly concerned with obtaining the righteousness / right place from which to approach the scriptures and develop such a relation with God. That is what we need to do to obtain the saving knowledge. I appreciate also his emphasis on the temple. There certainly is a 'gnostic' aspect to the temple ritual and the knowledge gained therein. But there seems to be more to knowledge than just knowledge of propositional truths ( at least this is why I still go to the temple now that I have the ceremony memorized), in the same way that there is more to knowing Jesus Christ (= eternal life) than knowing about him. I see the temple and the scriptures as transforming us to become like him, by bringing out our divine nature, and making us part of God's world and him a part of ours, in the best sense of the word 'myth.' For me all of this is tied up in the word knowledge. The question then becomes what is it about the temple and sacred texts that give them this power.
Tuesday, July 01, 2003
LORD COKE RIDES AGAIN: A while back I blogged a little bit about Sir Edward Coke's idea of the artifical reason of the law and how one might use it to understand the idea of cosmic law within Mormonism. (My original posts are here and here.) Interestingly, a related issue came up in the Supreme Court's recent sodomy case, Lawrence v. Texas. I posted about it over at A Good Oman. Enjoy!