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Mormon Neo-Orthodoxy and Modernity

February 23, 2009

Just today, I got a curious article in my inbox for Mormon articles from the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship…bear in mind…this title’s a long one: “A Mormon Neo-Orthodoxy Challenges Cultural Mormon Neglect of the Book of Mormon: Some Reflections on the “Impact of Modernity””. I’m not making this up.

I got this in my mail because I have google scour the internet for things about Cultural Mormons…and you know, this seems right up my alley…It’s speaking directly to my neglect of the Book of Mormon and how I think modernity should impact it in that way. Yes, a diatribe against us wishy washy nonbelievers and how the church can rise against us.

Anyway…I was reading through it, and although I got the gist of a lot of what I was reading, I must admit that I wasn’t too particularly willing to invest the amount of time I would need to fully analyze this. So, I took a stroll over to Mild-Mannered Musings, where Chris took much more succinct (and therefore instantly better) notes.

And Janice from a Sunstone panel about the same issue gives us the sound bite:

Orthodoxy is not a useful term, was repudiated by JS. Better than Traditional Mormon Orthodoxy and MNO are the labels “humanistic Mormons” and “redemptive Mormonism”.

Ah, yes. As I was reading, I basically got the gist that the “Traditional Mormonism” that is spoken of is a humanistic Mormonism…while the Neo-orthodox Mormonism that is spoken of is a redemptive Mormonism. The former, which is claimed to be where the church has moved in response to secularization, represents the idea that Jesus Christ as a person is an ideal to be followed — and we can see that Mormons do place some backing on commandments, laws, and works.

On the other hand, the Neo-orthodox Mormonism (or redemptive Mormonism) puts the focus back on faith and grace, by focusing (supposedly) on Christ as the Savior — so his perfection isn’t the ideal, but is something that we cannot attain or hope to attain with more effort, so we just need to go for grace.

…it seems to me I already do not like this Neo-orthodox Mormonism that much, but if redemptive Mormonism is to mimic Neo-orthodox protestantism (as claimed), I could see how redemptive Protestants would feel more at ease with a Mormonism that focused more on grace. After all, many groups cry out about how Mormons focus too much on works, on the necessity of ordinances, etc., And the idea is that we can become more orthodox and have the protestants love of and be more focused on salvation…if only we get back to the Book of Mormon and its roots!

But what gives me a bad taste in my mouth about redemptive Mormonism or protestantism is this idea that we are all just no-good terrible people (OK, I can take that part)…and that the way to fix this is through some catch-all grace. At least with humanistic Mormonism and an idea of works, there is this idea that one can try to progress to a  better ideal. Trying to improve yourself, if you have the right goal in mind, is just a smidge better at producing good consequences for the rest of us than just saying, “Oh, lol, I pray and hope that I’ll be accepted.” Of course, then again, if your idea of righteousness is eliminating rights of others, maybe you should reconsider.

Eh, I got nothing. This article didn’t go as well as I thought it would.

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4 Comments
  1. Hey Andrew,

    Thanks for linking to me. That essay by Midgley looks typically obnoxious. I think that both the redemptive and humanistic views have been necessary under certain circumstances. The pressure that is placed on members of the Church– and especially women– to perform or to meet a certain standard has often resulted in depression and even suicide. The idea of redemptive grace can be tremendously liberating. On the other hand, you’re right that moral transformation is one of the great benefits of religion, and weakening that benefit sort of defeats the purpose.

    Although you wouldn’t know it from listening to the antics of die-hard anti-Mormons, many neo-evangelicals have largely left the faith/works debate behind, emphasizing instead a relational model of salvation: one is saved by loving and being conformed to Jesus. I think that this view pretty nicely unites faith and performance.

    Best,

    -Chris

  2. I guess too much emphasis on human role in salvation is a heavy cross to bear (and it’s not like we are half god, so this cross is heavier still). I guess I can see how a redemption-based model tones down the guilt just a bit, which is ultimately a good thing.

    I guess I should wish more for neo-evangelicals and less for the ones I hear from :D

  3. I think your article here is pretty good.

    I would differ on the idea that the Book of Mormon teaches a more grace centered path to salvation. 2 Nephi 31 comes to mind. The Book of Mormon seems to me to stress repentance, baptism, keeping commandments, etc. Sure there are powerful verses that emphasize grace, but that must be balanced with the Book as a whole.

  4. James E. Nickels, Jr. permalink

    Redemptive Mormonism? Hmmm…Let’s see. Don’t drink coffee, tea, alcohol, smoke, or masturbate, pay a full 10% of your gross income to the Church, testify that the Church is the one true church on the Earth today and you know this to be the fact (whether you actually do or do not), acknowledge that “OBEDIENCE is the FIRST LAW of eternal progression, be married, whether or not you want to be married, in the temple for “time and all eternity” and have children who will grow up to be missionaries and afterwards secure good paying jobs so they can pay a full tithe all of their lives. Mess up on one of these and there’s a “long road back” to “the miracle of forgiveness” so that you can be redeemed from your “sin.” Redemption from what? Redemption from things that never should have been “sins” to begin with! A true sin is like idolatry as in worshipping the Church! Count the number of times in Sacrament Meeting the word “Church” is mentioned and then count the number of times the word “God” is mentioned and then compare these numbers.

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