Are there statements about God, humans, the universe, and any other thing that a Latter-day Saint “must” believe to be considered a “Mormon”? And, if so, how literally does one have to take these so-called “doctrines”? Are they close-to-perfect encapsulations of eternal truths that are consistently taught in scripture and that have hardly changed or evolved throughout time, with modern LDS pronouncements simply further clarifications? Or are doctrines far “fuzzier,” more fluid statements suggesting where Mormons are encouraged to focus now but always with the anticipation that, as the Ninth Article of Faith states, there are “many great and important things” still to be revealed? Furthermore, are “ideas” or “truths we can state” really what we should focus on? Does “knowing” some truth actually translate directly to becoming more godlike in nature? Would God really prefer that someone is able to list beliefs or name attributes of godliness over someone who has come to embody compassion and other spiritual qualities? Are we giving “doctrine” too much power? Are we letting “statements that we are supposed to believe” distract us from what’s vital? Are we allowing the discomfort of conspicuousness when we imagine that we are being pressured to say we assent to various teachings (that fall apart, horribly, when held up to scientific or intellectual scrutiny) drive us from fellowship with other Latter-day Saints?
In this two-part podcast, Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon and panelists Gina Colvin, Charles Harrell, and Chris Cobb take on all of these issues, and much more. Are there different, healthier ways to view the question of Mormon teachings and doctrinal discourse? Is doctrinal presentation, especially in Church curriculum, a straightforward process of teaching truth, or is there much more at play–assumptions (cultural, Western, cognitive, gendered, and countless other types) motivating what is selected as more or less important? The panel explore what it means when leaders might say that this or that doctrine is “binding” upon members and whether or not it is actual “doctrines” that are canonized or simply sources (scripture) that are granted authoritative power–and, as is evident about any scripture, whatever doctrines might be offered therein call always to a wonderfully wide spectrum of interpretation? The panel also explores whether we might be in a moment within Mormon development when doctrines are being scaled back, when less emphasis is being placed upon teachings and more on community, doing good in the world, “becoming” better Christians/human beings.
Listen, then engage–please! A lot here. (And hopefully a greater feel by the end that one of these “a lots” is a lot of roominess for all sorts of approaches to the teachings that help shape the Mormon tradition.)
Links to some sources discussed or referred to in the podcast:
Charley Harrell’s Mormon Stories podcast episode (January 2012)
“This is My Doctrine”: The Development of Mormon Theology, by Charles R. Harrell (Greg Kofford Books)
Gina Colvin’s blog, KiwiMormon
LDS Newsroom statement, “Approaching Mormon Doctrine”
“The Challenges of Defining Mormon Doctrine,” by Loyd Ericson (Element, Spring/Fall 2007)