Clark posted a review of pages 1-11 of McMurrin's The Theological Foundations of the Mormon Religion as the first installment of a Mormon Philosophy reading club at his website. I'll play along. I'll copy McMurrin's headings with a summary then add brief comments so those who want to join in on their own weblog but don't have the book can at least catch the drift of things. I would note that in my Signature books edition of McMurrin's work, there is a glossary that provides capsule explanations of the philosophical terms he throws around--based on Clark's comments I'm not sure his edition has that.
1. On Naturalism and Supernaturalism
"Metaphysics is an attempt to answer the most basic questions which can be asked concerning the nature of reality" (p. 1). McMurrin contrasts the Greek view of an eternal cosmos (naturalism) with the Christian view of a creating and transcendant God who is partly or wholly separate from time and space (supernaturalism). He sees Mormonism as radically naturalistic for a religion as it puts God firmly in time and space rather than above it. He notes how this Mormon naturalism ties nicely to the remarkably postive Mormon view of the human body, sex, education, and science.
McMurrin is talking about big-picture naturalism. It should be contrasted, I think, with the methodological naturalism that is criticized (demonized?) in just about every FARMS book review. Or perhaps philosophical and methodological naturalism are linked and the Mormon view of naturalism needs to be considered more systematically. Alternatively, one might point out that in terms of practical belief (as opposed to the more theoretical view McMurrin is taking) there is certainly reliance on supernaturalism to explain several key aspects of Mormon doctrine and history (e.g., translation).
3. On Materialism
Skipping a bit, Mormonism rejects standard Christian dualism in favor of comprehensive materialism. This is kind of an odd position, as radical materialism has generally been associated with mild or blatant atheism (Epicureans, Hobbes, modern science). McMurrin quotes the D&C: "There is no such thing as immaterial matter. All spirit is matter." He points out that this type of materialism is a Christian heresy (like what isn't?).
Personally, I see this proclamation of Mormon materialism as an ineffective relabeling job. Joseph's descriptions of angels and the Mormon belief in spirits, a preexistent spirit world, and our spiritual continuation after death sure sound like standard dualism to me. Just saying "all spirit is matter," just extra-fine matter so it behaves like spirit, doesn't seem like a change in substance, just terminology.
4. On Monism and Pluralism
If you smash reality down to its ultimate constituents, is there one or many? McMurrin notes that Greek philosophy offered both monist and pluralist theories. Christianity is strongly dualist, matter and spirit, each a separate realm of sorts, with God existing in the spirit realm but acting on the world (matter) through events in history, through the activity of the Spirit, and through the Incarnation (that's me winging it there, not McMurrin).
Again, since I've never seen a comprehensible account of how Mormon spirits, which act just like Christian spirits, are actually "matter" rather than "spirit," I think the Mormon view is as dualist as the Christian view. Perhaps one could describe the Mormon position as being theoretical monists (all is matter and God has a body) but practical dualists ("spirit" plays a key role in the Mormon view of the cosmos).