Reconstructing Joseph Smith’s “First Vision”

(This continues a series of posts about reconstructing the Mormon/Christian narrative. Please read this introductory post first, if you haven’t already, before continuing.)

Mormonism traces back its history in modern times to its founding prophet, Joseph Smith Jr., and his “First Vision.” Joseph was a young farmer boy who lived in western New York, born in the early nineteenth century. This was the time of what’s known as the Second Great Awakening, and where Joseph lived is known as the “burned-over district.” It was a time of much Protestant religious excitement, revivals, reforms, and the formation of new religious movements and denominations (which eventually included Mormonism). A Restoration Movement grew in popularity in the area, which involved ideas of “restoring” a pure, primitive, uncorrupted, and original form of Christian faith.

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Reconstructing Mormonism’s “Holy Ghost”

(This continues a series of posts about reconstructing the Mormon/Christian narrative. Please read this introductory post first, if you haven’t already, before continuing.)

The “Holy Ghost” is perhaps one of the most mysterious figures in Mormon theology (and perhaps more generally in Christianity). Many Mormons likely know this being of the Godhead as a “personage of spirit,” which “has not a body of flesh and bones,” “were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell within us” (D&C 130:22). This already begins to sound quite supernatural, a ghostly person that may come and dwell within me? How are we to make sense of this?

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Reconstructing Mormonism’s and Christianity’s Jesus/Christ

(This continues a series of posts about reconstructing the Mormon/Christian narrative. Please read this introductory post first, if you haven’t already, before continuing.)

Jesus is, of course, the center of Christianity, including Mormonism. In Mormonism, he is prominently identified in the name of the largest denomination of which I was a member, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Everything revolves around Jesus.

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Notes on Christian Mysticism from a Seminar with Bernard McGinn

bernard_mcginn
Bernard McGinn

This weekend I had the fortunate opportunity to go to Fairfax, Virginia, to attend a seminar hosted by the Shalem Institute, an organization that fosters contemplative living and leadership. Their invited guest to present for their annual Gerald May Seminar was Bernard McGinn, who is Professor Emeritus of Historical Theology and of the History of Christianity in the Divinity School at the University of Chicago. McGinn is an American Roman Catholic Theologian and is considered one of the world’s foremost expert scholars on the history of Christian mysticism. He has written seven volumes outlining the history of Christian mysticism, and may write two more, bringing the history up to the present time. This series is known as The Presence of God. Continue reading “Notes on Christian Mysticism from a Seminar with Bernard McGinn”

Reconstructing Mormonism’s “God the Father”

(This continues a series of posts about reconstructing the Mormon/Christian narrative. Please read this introductory post first, if you haven’t already, before continuing.)

The God we are referring to is often known in Mormonism (and more generally in Christianity) as “God the Father,” “Heavenly Father,” or just “the Father.” He is the highest God, and this God is referred to predominantly as a “he” or male figure, although it is also taught occasionally that he is married to a wife (“Heavenly Mother”) and they jointly occupy that highest position of God. As a man or couple, God is portrayed literally as a human being, with a human body of flesh and bones, albeit resurrected (immortal), glorified, and exalted. God is said to be the governor of the universe, and the father of humanity. Humans are made in the image of God, are God’s literal offspring, which is why we too have a human body of flesh and bones. God is a personal being, who hears and answers prayers. It is taught that our goal in life is to become like God the Father, to be a God and live in heaven for eternity. We do this by following God’s commandments, his laws.

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Is the Truth Really Found “Within”?

Some Mormons, other Christians, and perhaps people generally, are uncomfortable with the idea that the truth is found within us. They might consider this to be incompatible with the gospel, navel-gazing, narcissism, and selfishness. But I think the whole purpose and goal of the Christian gospel, and of spirituality more generally, is to help us discover that Truth is at the core of our being, which is our divine nature in God, in Reality. This is beyond all that is “selfish” in us, reaching the ground of who and what we really are. Continue reading “Is the Truth Really Found “Within”?”

What is the Second Coming?

One of the most profound realizations I’ve had in recent years is that the Second Coming is something that we can effect through our “repentance” (metanoia = a change of mind, or conscious perception of the world).

I don’t mean to say that we bring it about directly, because there is a real element of Grace involved (ego is absent, so “we” end up not “doing” anything in the end), but it is not something that we wait around for as an event in an indefinite future. We can do something now (“works,” practices, service), which can reveal Heaven on Earth, and which eventually reveals the Christ. This has been known in the past, but we’ve largely forgotten it in our modern culture. Continue reading “What is the Second Coming?”