Thursday, 14 February 2013

Sterling M McMurrin - Theological Foundations of the Mormon Religion

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I've just finished a very close and careful re-read of McMurrin's book on Mormon Theology, which I first read, more swiftly, four years ago.

I would strongly recommend the book to anyone interested in theology of any type.

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In order to understand and explain what is different about Mormonism - which he knows from the inside having grown-up in an established Mormon family living in the heartland - McMurrin performs a masterly summary of the metaphysical, philosophical and theological history relevant to Judaism and Christianity.

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Yet this is not a work of apologetics; because although McMurrin never left the LDS church, was on excellent terms with many of its senior figures, and has very positive attitudes towards Mormonism - he was in fact a multiple heretic voicing many strong criticisms, and someone who came close to being formally excommunicated before some very senior figures of the CJCLDS stepped-in and put a stop to the proceedings, and such figures (including some Presidents of the church) continued to protect him through the rest of his career and life.

As an adult academic, McMurrin was, indeed, explicitly an agnostic; and also unusual in being politically a Democrat of the Liberal type and serving at a senior level in the Kennedy administration.

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All this is marginal - what is important is that McMurrin is extremely intelligent, well read and (most important) has thoroughly thought-through all the metaphysical, philosophical and theological perspectives he describes - as well as being able to place them in historical context. 

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I am hesitant to try and explain briefly and in my own words what kind of conclusions McMurrin reaches; but they are absolutely fascinating, and reveal that Joseph Smith was a creative theologian of the first rank; since the theology of Mormonism solves several of the perennial problems of Christian theology in a - mostly - coherent fashion; and had advantages of inculcating a more positive, active, engaged and indeed happy mind-set than preceding theologies.

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