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I think there are weaknesses in the book, but I do not think the nomenclature issue is a particularly serious one. It is not necessary for the author's argument that he establish any direct relationship between what he terms "Mormon Neo-orthodoxy" and Protestant Neo-orthodoxy. His fundamental thesis only requires that the mainstream of Mormon theology moved in roughly the same direction as in the Protestant world during the period concerned.

I think that is unmistakable, and that it is particularly unmistakable if you consider that the Mormon "crisis" actually started a few decades earlier with the federal assault on the very existence of the institutional Church over the practice of polygamy.

That is enough of a similarity that the idea of a crisis reaction can be sustained even without the hypothesis that Mormon and Protestant communities in America were similarly affected by two world wars and the Great Depression.

I might add that Blake Ostler's Exploring Mormon Thought: The Attributes of God has an excellent summary of the Mormon theological tension in chapter 3, "The Restoration and Systematic Theologies".

He calls the more contemporary variety "Neo-absolutist Mormonism", which I believe is a much more accurate title than "Neo-orthodox Mormonism", which can easily be construed about three different ways depending on what the standard of orthodoxy is believed to be.

While "neo-absolutism" is perhaps nicer, the be problem with the neo-orthodoxy book was how McConkie and Nibley ended up in the same boat with their, to me, radically different theologies.

The problem with neo-absolutism is that while it deals with the theology in terms of ontology, it tends to not deal with the epistemological or hermeneutic issues. If the "death" of neo-absolutism is FARMS and FAIR then I'd argue that what is more significant is less the ontological issues in theology than the hermeneutic approach to texts.

It would be nice if you could fill that in a bit, Clark. I am not sure what set of concepts fall under the category "neo-absolutism," much less "Mormon neo-absolutism." That's part of a more general problem, I think, that theological and doctrinal terms and labels developed in the practice of Christian theology don't necessarily translate well when looking at Mormon doctrine, which has essentially followed its own independent path with little reference to Christian thinking.

But I agree that White's odd grouping of LDS thinkers is problematic. A more recent and nuanced look at classifying views of Mormon doctrine is John-Charles Duffy's Defending the Kingdom, Rethinking the Faith: How Apologetics is Reshaping Mormon Orthodoxy.

Neo-absolutism, in Blake's book, is roughly that God has true logical omnis. That is he knows right now all truths and there will never be a truth he doesn't know. To a more limited degree he has all power and can do anything even if he chooses not to. (I think there are degrees on that one - I'm not convinced McConkie accepts that one) God can't progress except by having more kingdoms but in his character and abilities he is complete.

Now that does describe the theology of most people put in the neo-orthodox camp, but not everyone. Nibley's theological beliefs are definitely different from McConkie. Some folks put in the neo-orthodox camp like Chauncey Riddle also have much more nuanced views.

My point though is simply that what is often most at issue is less their metaphysical commitments than the way they read scripture. So if we're turning to a principle it probably should be a categories based upon hermeneutics: i.e. the way they read scripture. Now once again there will be problem. Nibley is, all things considered, actually closer hermeneutically to McConkie than I think most are willing to recognize. Although clearly, because of his education if nothing else, the way he reads scriptures is different. But there's a lot of similarity. Ditto with Chauncey Riddle.

So I think if attempts to take's Blake's category (which wasn't intended for this use) to "fix" the neo-orthodoxy category then one is probably not going to end up with a fruitful analysis. Probably if you want to do something it will be focused on hermeneutics. Simply put while there is a lot of common ground between FARMS and McConkie (surprisingly so when you stop to think about it) there is also a fairly significant difference in how scripture is read. Even though there's an obvious connection between FARMS and Nibley, I think most FARMS folks read scripture much more loosely and allow a lot more fallibilism than Nibley typically did. Although I think Nibley fits into a middle ground between a more literalistic hermeneutic ala JFS/BRM and the more scientific focused FARMS contributors.


I think it would be a serious mistake to underestimate the influence of classical theism and conventional Christian theology on the development of LDS theology, especially over the past century or so.

I believe the most significant event in LDS theology since the death of Joseph Smith was the apostolic rejection of the Adam-God theory in the early twentieth century. Splinter groups talk about it as part and parcel of the Mormon Apostasy, but the rejection was ultimately based on giving greater priority to the scriptures than to a prophet who was still in living memory.

Many of the twentieth century apostles certainly read and studied the prominent Protestant biblical commentaries. James Talmage certainly did - and he was charged with writing the official clarification on the whole issue.

If anything the history of twentieth century LDS theology is a drift from radical theological progressivism into a neo-orthodoxy based not so much on Protestant theology per se, but rather by applying the rather naive hermeneutical approach of conservative Protestant scholars to the expanded LDS canon.

Some doctrines are described so well in latter-day scripture that they could stand any conventional theological assault. However, there are many others that are not so clear - and in particular Mormon theological progressivism regarding the key issue of the similarity between God and man withered over the period in favor of an approach that like Protestantism (and Augustinianism before that) emphasized the differences.

And rather than clarifying matters it made the LDS theological muddle worse - it makes the KFD / Snow couplet sense of exaltation virtually a logical impossibility.

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