Grace and the Temple: Insights from a Jewish Scholar

Some of our fellow Christians misunderstand LDS teachings regarding grace, feeling that our choice to obey God and respect His commandments somehow means we think we earn our salvation and thereby deny the mercy and grace of Christ. That confusion sometimes becomes frenetic when our critics discuss the Temple, which to them epitomizes Mormon emphasis on works and self-righteousness rather than relying on the merits of Christ. The concept of having to keep specific commandments in order to have a Church leader give you a temple recommend can be especially foreign and irritating, and is easily misunderstood. To our critics, it is a sign that Mormons have abandoned grace and emphasize mortal works instead of the Atonement of Christ.

In reality, the temple is a place of turning our hearts to Christ, using teachings, symbols, and covenants to help us focus our lives more fully on Him and recognize the power of His sacrifice and mercy to transform, bless, and save us. It is, however, a foreign place to us modern people, for it is rooted in ancient Middle Eastern concepts that are a far cry from the mundane world we live in. Recognizing its ancient roots, though, helps us to better appreciate its imagery and meaning. (See my LDSFAQ page on the LDS Temple and Masonry.)

On the issue of grace and obedience in a temple context, the teachings of early Christianity help shed light on modern LDS concepts, as I argue, for example, on my LDSFAQ pages on covenants and on grace and works. But useful insights can be found even earlier that that, going back to the ancient Jewish temple itself. The connection between God’s grace and our obedience in the context of temple worship was noted by Jewish scholar Jon D. Levenson in his book, Sinai and Zion: An Entry into the Jewish Bible (Minneapolis: Winston Press, 1985).

Early in his book, Levenson discusses the six ancient steps of the covenant formulary, the archetypal pattern of covenant making that scholars only recently recognized in ancient Middle Eastern documents, and which is also found in the LDS temple and in King Benjamin’s covenant-focused speech at the Nephite temple. In discussing how the covenant between God and man was repeatedly renewed, and how God’s requirements for keeping his commandments were recalled, Levenson reminds us that the basis for the required obedience is God’s past grace, and His desire to transform us into more holy beings:

His past grace grounds his present demand. To respond wholeheartedly to that demand, to accept the yoke of the kingdom of heaven, is to make a radical change, a change at the roots of one’s being. To undertake to live according to Halakhah is not a question of merely raising one’s moral aspirations or of affirming “Jewish values,” whatever that means. To recite the Shma and mean it is to enter a supramundane sovereignty, to become a citizen of the kingdom of God, not simply in the messianic future to which that term also refers (e.g., Dan 2:44), but also in the historical present. (Levenson, p. 85–page numbers are for the 1985 printing.)

Later, Levenson discusses Jeremiah 7:1-5, Jeremiah’s speech at the temple where Jeremiah challenges the Jewish reliance on the temple as a place that will protect them. The potential grace available from that Holy House will not be afforded if the people do not accept the moral code that goes with it and rely on the temple as a place instead of a sacred tool to build their relationship with deity. Jeremiah opposes the disconnect between our morality and the grace God affords.

As you read this next passages from Levenson, consider it in the context of the misleading grace versus works argument so often levied against LDS religion. I suggest that Jeremiah’s critique of those who claimed “we are safe” because of the temple is not unrelated to some of our critics who say “we are saved” because of their belief in the Bible while claiming that Christ’s call therein to “keep the commandments” somehow cannot mean what it says, and that those who teach that doctrine actually deny God’s grace.

What Jeremiah does oppose is the idea that the divine goodness so evident in the Temple is independent of the moral record of those who worship there, in other words, the effort to disengage God’s beneficence from man’s ethical deeds and to rely, as a consequence, on grace alone. To the complacent cry of his audience that “We are safe” (v 10), the prophet responds by noting that the Temple is not “a den of robbers” (v 11). The grace of God does not mean exemption from the demands of covenant law, from ultimate ethical accountability. Grace and law belong together. In separation, they become parodies of themselves. For Jeremiah, this means that one cannot ascend into the pure existence of the Temple with his impurities intact. He cannot drag his filth into paradise and expect to benefit from paradisical existence. Mount Zion is morally positive. It does not accept the moral debits of those who seek only protection there. Rather, the protection follows naturally from the relationship with God which is appropriate in that place. Such a relationship excludes the practice of the sins prohibited in the Decalogue (v 9). (Levenson, p. 168; emphasis mine)

Brilliantly stated! The temple is about the relationship between God and man. It is a cosmic mountain intended to pull us higher, but we must seek to climb toward the ideals that are before us. We must seek to shed, or rather, allow Him to rip away, the impurities that weigh us down and hold us back from God’s presence. We cannot cling to Him while clinging to our dross. It is in a covenant relationship with Him in His holy temple where we can most fully receive of His grace. As Levenson puts it, “Grace and law belong together.” Levenson continues:

For them [Jeremiah’s audience], the delicate, highly poetic image of the cosmic mountain has become a matter of doctrine, and the doctrine can be stated in one prosaic sentence: In the Temple one is safe. The Temple does not thrill them and fill them with awe; the vision of it does not transform them. For them, the appropriate response to sight of the Temple is anything but the radical amazement of a pilgrim. Instead, the Temple in their eyes is simply a place like any other, except that there the long arm of moral reckoning will not reach. Hence, they approach Zion in the stance of one about to take possession of what he deserves, not in the stance of one humbly accepting a miraculous gift which no one can deserve. Jeremiah’s audience seeks to profit from the Temple without committing themselves to the moral dynamic that animates it. (Levenson, pp. 168-9; emphasis mine)

Ironically, it may be that some of our critics–some, not all!–who speak of the security of grace reach for that gift with the same flawed attitude that Jeremiah condemned in the Jews who misunderstood God’s work and failed to grasp why they needed to repent in order to obtain the true blessings available through the temple of their day. The greatest miraculous gifts of the Gospel, gifts that we cannot possibly deserve, are offered with conditions in covenant relationships, not that earn us anything, but allow God to transform us into the people He wants us to be as we strive to follow Him and seek to enter His presence.

As for the notion of standards of worthiness being connected to entry into the temple, the LDS concept may not be as innovative and foreign to the Bible as our critics would like to think. In the paragraphs shortly after the previous quotation, Levenson makes further points about the temple as he discusses Psalm 24:

This psalm [Ps. 24], chanted by Jews today on Sunday mornings, opens with a cosmic perspective. The first stanzas (vv 1-2) reminds us that the earth rests upon the waters of chaos and owes it endurance to the power of the creator who so established it. This image of God’s putting the earth upon a foundation resting over the waters is, once again, a reflection of the idea of the Temple as cosmic capstone, holding back the waters of anti-creation. [Note: I would add that this resonates with the creation story that begins the LDS Endowment and with the LDS concept of the baptismal font in the lowest part of the temple, which may be symbolic of the waters of chaos and death conquered by Christ and His Resurrection.] The term “all that it holds” (v 1; literally, “its fulness”) reminds us of the chant of the seraphim in Isaiah’s vision in the Temple:

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts, The fulness of the whole earth is his glory (Isa 6:3)

In Isaiah 6, the “fulness of the earth” is God’s glory; in Psalm 24, it belongs to God, who is the king of glory. In both instances, the term indicates the cosmic scope of the Temple. Thus, the second stanza of the psalm (vv 3–6) does not change the subject significantly. We have simply moved from a description of the cosmic rooting of the universe to the question of who shall be admitted to the mountain shrine which still incarnates that original creative energy. In this and in the last stanza (vv 7–10), there seems to be an antiphonal structure. One group of worshippers asks the questions, and another answers. It is not readily evident how the roles were divided, who said what, but one can imagine that vv 3, 8a, and 10a were recited by worshippers seeking admission to the Temple complex and that vv 4–6, 8b–9, and 10b–c are the answers of the priests who guarded the gates. Alternatively, it may be that the priests asked the questions by way of examining the congregation to determine whether they indeed met the qualifications for entry, and that the answers were supplied by the congregation to demonstrate their mastery of the requirements. In either case, the issue in the second stanza (vv 3–6) is, what are the ethical characteristics of life within the Temple precincts? What must one be like to reach the top of the sacred mountain? The last stanza (vv 7–10) makes it clear that the presence of God enters the Temple only after the ethical prerequisites of vv 3–6 have been met. It may be that these verses accompanied a procession of some sort, with the Ark, perhaps, symbolizing YHWH. At all events, it must not be missed that the second and third stanzas are parallel. Each records an entrance to the Temple complex, one by visiting worshippers and one by YHWH the king. In light of the first stanza, it is clear that YHWH might have chosen to dwell anywhere. The world is his. His presence in the Temple, as I have argued, does not imply his absence elsewhere. Rather, he intensifies his presence and renders it most dramatic at the cosmic center. It is there that his power and his sovereignty are most vivid, for it is there that we see the palace he founded upon the tamed body of his primal challenger, the seas. Similarly, according to the second stanza (vv 3–6), those who enter there must represent the apex of ethical purity. They must be people of “clean hands and a pure heart” (v 4). In no way could the cultic and the ethical be more tightly bound together. They are two sides of the same experience. The cult celebrates the glorious victory of God the king, through which he established order in the universe. The ethical tradition, as it appears in Psalm 24, celebrates the order and lawfulness of man, through which he qualifies for entry into the presence of God in the palace he has won. It is significant that in Hebrew the same term (sedeq) can indicate either victory or righteousness/justice. The Temple represents the victory of God and the ethical ascent of man. (Levenson, pp. 170-172; emphasis mine)

The victory of God and the ethical ascent of man are linked, reminding us of what the Gospel is all about. “For this is my work and my glory, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). God’s victory, Christ’s victory, is about enabling our righteousness and eternal life through the power of the Atonement, enabled by the transformational covenant relationship offered therein.

When Christ was asked what we must do to obtain eternal life, His answer was unmistakably clear in Matthew 19:16-21: “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” Christ followed that with a request, carefully tailored for the needs of the rich young man He spoke to with love, to go and sell all that he had in order to follow Christ. To sell all for the Kingdom of God was not an impossible request intended to sarcastically mock the notion of keeping the commandments, but was what many early Christians actually did, and what this rich young man needed to do. It’s also what modern Christians in the temple covenant to do, potentially, in consecrating themselves and all that they have to the building of God’s kingdom. In this way, the wealthy can let go of that dross which weighs them down and hinders their climb on the temple mount, a climb in which God reaches down to us in grace and pulls us into his presence in a sacred grip of grace, if only we will let Him.

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Author: Jeff Lindsay

19 thoughts on “Grace and the Temple: Insights from a Jewish Scholar

  1. What are the possible relationships between works and reward?

    1. I need to perform works to earn the reward.
    2. I can do whatever I want and will still earn the reward.
    3. I must perform works but they do not earn the reward.
    4. I have been given the reward, and perform works out of love and gratitude.

    1. This is the Judaizer's heresy, spoken against by Paul.
    2. This is the Antinomian heresy, also spoken against by Paul.
    3. This is Mormonism.
    4. This evangelical Christianity.

    Here is the problem with 3. If I have to do something and won't get the reward without doing it, but am not technically earning the reward by doing it, then I am doing it in the same way a slave works. A slave does not earn his sustenance, for a slave does not earn a wage. But without the work the slave is rejected and does not receive sustenance from the master.

    The temple is the place where the slave/master relationship is forged in Mormonism. You are placed under covenant to abide by a law. And if you fail to do so, Satan is right there in the temple to tell you how God will cast you off should you fail to comply.

    Interestingly, the promise to give all is made not to God but to the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. So the master to whom you are indebted as a slave is not God, but an organization.

  2. everythingbeforeus: there is a perception worth talking about in your comment but it doesn't relate to the post on Grace in the temple. Maybe there is a precursor comment about the old law being fulfilled that you'd like to add so that your comment makes sense discussing on this post/blog?

  3. Everythingbeforeus I think you strong misstate the LDS position on grace. At least the way that I understand the relationship between works and grace is that grace is what sanctifies and makes my work efficacious. If I work without grace my work availath me nothing. With grace, my work is a signal of covenant faith which allows the holy spirit which I have received to purify me and turning me into a being which can eventually reside in God's presence. It is grace which makes it all possible and without grace no work could avail.

  4. The temple as a slave plantation–what next? It's a plantation that people seek to get into. It's one where they can leave anytime. In fact, right there in the temple, if people aren't comfortable with the covenants, they are expressly told to step out rather than go forward, as they are told in preparing. They can leave before, during, or after. It takes desire and effort to stay on the plantation. To call that slavery waters down the horrors of actual slavery and all the plausible metaphors for it.

    Do you see marriage as inherently a slave/master relationship? How about a Boy Scout making oaths to obey the Scout law, etc.? How about any other serious agreement, contract, promise, etc.? All about slavery? We sometimes toss worlds like "slavery" around in complaining about jobs we don't like, but those are usually jobs people can leave. People can leave the temple, they can leave temple covenants, and they can leave the LDS religion completely if they want. In fact, it takes diligence and perseverance not to. That's not slavery.

    Making an agreement–a covenant, an oath, a promise, a contract–is not the same as losing one's freedom or one's soul.

    It is true that many modern Christians have lost the sense of a covenant relationship that was part of original Christianity and Judaism. It's a topic I will explore more in future posts to help others better understand some of what is missing in modern religion. Covenants with God, though, including those of the Temple, are not about losing one's agency and becoming a slave. They are about drawing closer to God.

    I also think you miss the meaning of Mormonism if you think #3 sums us up. What we aspire to is to love and serve God, not just now, but through the eternities, long after we've been admitted in his presence. Why? Because of our growing love for Him and inherent desire to serve. It is now and even more so then will be an expression of growing love for Him–not merely doing something to get a reward. The sacrifices of today–the service we render in particular–for most LDS people, in my view, is not driven by what's in it for us, by hope of reward for the service, but by a desire to serve, to bless, and to love. We love because of the love and grace we have received from the Savior.

    But invoking the outlandish slave/master relationship into temple worship (where people are far more equal than in profane society outside the temple) shows more than just misunderstanding who we are, I fear. Is there some deep anger toward us? Why? What's up?

  5. In the temple, you are given the opportunity to leave BEFORE you are called upon the make covenants, before you realize what exactly is even in your packet of clothes. After that, when the ceremony begins unfolding, you are not given another opportunity, although I am sure no one would stop you from getting up and walking out.

    Sure, there is a temple prep class, but hearing the edited version of what is going to happen is far different from being in that darkened environment and participating in that experience that is very foreign to everything you were taught to believe Mormonism is all about. And you have your mom and dad sitting nearby beaming at you. Trust me. Hundreds of people are turned off by the experience, do not report feeling the spirit there, in fact, some report feeling the spirit tell them that something ain't right! My wife was repulsed by it. A former girlfriend went and vowed never to go back. My brother, an Elder's Quorum president has intentionally not returned for over a decade. I was bothered by it my initial time through. And there are many more who tell their stories.

    I think you need a really good long sit down with the Epistle to the Galatians. Ask yourself why Paul is so angry at the Galatians for having accepted Christ in Spirit, but then turning to covenental, ritualistic practices to further perfect themselves.

    And you should also seriously consider the words of Acts 7:48.

    And a close reading of Hebrews 1-10 would be good, too.

  6. Everythingbeforeus makes outstanding points. Grace is another case of where the church will someday issue a weak and solicitous letter stating how they are and were wrong. Come thou font of every blessing was removed from the hymn book due to one GA having a fit over the word grace being used. And why do you say people are equal in the Temple? My Timpanogas temple is not ADA accessible. I guess that is treating people equally. Men with beards are scorned and not allowed to work there. There is only equality in the Temple if you are TBM and perfect.

  7. Symphony of dissent. I 95% agree with your statement on grace. But when the covenant is made by which you access grace, you are then worthy to enter into God's presence through the merits of Jesus Christ. It is not an "eventual" thing. You will never "eventually" be worthy. It happens now through Christ. Or never at all. When you are saved, you are saved. Yes, you can fall from grace, God forbid. But you do not "eventually" approach grace.

    The "eventual" concept is called infused righteousness, and it is a Catholic doctrine. (Mormons are far more Catholic than they are Protestant.)

    Protestants believe in "imputed righteousness." When you enter into covenant with God through belief and faith, Christ's righteousness is imputed to you.

  8. Jeff, sure, I believe many Mormons work righteousness out of love and gratitude, because Mormons are good good people. They are the best thing about that church. But, as Elder Oaks said, it is premature for any Mormon to confidently declare that they have eternal life. That only comes at the last day when the time to work is over. God will judge then whether you have done enough or not. So, this is the bondage I am speaking of and which Mormons labor under. This is the slavery I speak of.

    You can never know if you are doing enough. And your labors, no matter how gracious and loving and well-intentioned, are and will always be performed out of a place of fear for your eternal well-being and for the well-being of your future family relationships.

    Unless you are given the confidence and certainty of your eternal life now, you are always in fear now. Romans 8:15, For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons…"

    Christians proclaim that you can know that you have eternal life now. John says so in his epistles. If you believe in Christ, you know you have eternal life. And the author of Hebrews says that faith is the substance and the evidence of what you can't see, but what you hope for. And what do we hope for? Justification. Your faith in Christ is your evidence that he approves of you now. Not later.

    This is the Christian message, the good news of Christ. Mormons reject this message, for the cross is foolishness and a stumblingblock. Mormons would rather not cast their eyes upon the brazen serpent because of the easiness of the way, so they build unto themselves temples and craft unto themselves rituals by which they are brought into the symbolic presence of God bedecked with earthly wealth and luxury.

  9. I have no stake at all in this intra-Christian debate about faith vs. works. But this idea that Mormon beliefs can be validated by appealing to ancient Judaism strikes me as really strange. There might be some tenuous, abstract parallels between Jewish temple practice and Mormon theology, but what actually happens inside LDS temples has pretty much no relation at all to practices in either the ancient temples in Jerusalem or the "temples" (that is, synagogues) of the diaspora.

    To someone like me, who was raised in a Jewish family that lit Sabbath candles Friday night and went to synagogue Saturday morning, there seems very little that is even remotely Jewish about Mormonism — nothing Jewish about its temple rituals, nothing Jewish about the Book of Mormon and other LDS scriptures, and (perhaps especially) nothing Jewish, in fact nothing even remotely Christian, about its sensibility.

    If my reference to "sensibility" seems unclear, stop thinking about "beliefs" and start thinking about art. Ask yourself whether a Mormon could have produced something like, say, Fiddler on the Roof (as an example of a quintessentially Jewish sensibility) or Jesus of Montreal (which strikes me as quintessentially Christian).

    Yes, yes, of course I know that the LDS Church insists that it is Christian, and by the usual criteria it quite obviously is Christian. It's just that those criteria strike me as pretty shallow. But then, I think that if we use more meaningful criteria, then a lot of American denominations are not Christian.

    Sure, this is all basically semantic. Mormons define "Christian" in terms of their doctrinal adherence to certain ideas about Jesus, whereas I define "Christian" in terms of a certain sensibility. For most of those who participate in these discussions, "sensibility" is a pretty nebulous concept. It's much easier to think of religion in terms of doctrinal checklists than in terms of the sort of art they create. It's much easier to say things like this…

    The Jews' relation to their God has always been as contentious as it has been reverent, as we see not only in the stories of Abraham at Sodom and Jacob at Peniel, but also in the poetry of Jacob Glatstein, as when he writes (in a poem about the Holocaust), "God, wherever you may be, / There all of us are also not." Where Christians try to understand tragedy and injustice in ways that don't challenge the essential perfection of their God, Jews tend to "push back," to "wrestle with God" or "speak truth to power."

    … than things like this:

    Christians believe in the divinity of Jesus, whereas Jews do not.

    It's not that the second of these isn't true. It is, and it's something one needs to understand before saying anything further about Christians and Jews (or Mormons and gentile Christians, or whatever). The problem is that it's just the beginning; such doctrinal statements shouldn't be the only elements in the discussion. To really understand the relations between various faiths requires a lot more. Hence my frequent forays into the realm of sensibility.

  10. Orbiting Kolob,

    I find no reason to believe that Mormons cannot participate in society including the direction of films that merit the "sensibility" test that you have given. The problem here is a matter of probability / statistics. How many "sensible" films are there that meet your criteria? What is the percentage of "sensible" films compared to the film industry? And now, what is the percentage of Mormons who are movie directors? To label a group of people deficient because of what they believe in sounds a bit unfair and unwarranted. I find this analogous to saying that you will not find biologists among people who believe in God because the idea of evolution "goes counter" to the idea that the creation happened by God.


  11. Steve, as far as I know I did not "label a group of people deficient because of what they believe in."

    Here I guess I need to clarify what I mean by sensibility. I'm using this term to refer to the "capacity for intellectual and aesthetic distinctions, feelings, tastes, etc." ( — but with an added twist, namely, that there's such a thing as a Jewish sensibility, a Mormon sensibility, etc. That is, to some extent, certain kinds of "aesthetic distinctions, feelings, tastes, etc." tend to be shared by members of certain groups, including certain religious groups. (I'm not alone in using the term in this way; lots of intellectuals do so.)

    Anyway, it is in this sense that I speak of a Jewish sensibility, a Mormon sensibility, and so on. It has nothing to do with being "sensible" in the sense of "practical," etc.

    Part of my larger point here is that we can learn something new by getting away from using what people "believe in" (that is, doctrine) as an analytical category in the first place, and using "sensibility" instead.

    Think about what Jeff believes in and what the bloggers at Feminist Mormon Housewives believe in. Some of those doctrinal beliefs will be the same, some quite different. We can certainly enhance our understanding by discussing those similarities/differences of belief. But we can also learn a lot by thinking about their similarities/differences in sensibility as I'm using the term.

    Example: I would say that the FMH tagline, "Angry activists with peaches to can," is very Mormon in sensibility. I cannot even imagine a Jewish group, or even any other Christian group, using that line, just as I cannot imagine a Mormon writing something like Fiddler on the Roof.

    The reason we recognize "Angry activists with peaches to can" as Mormon has much less to do with Mormon doctrinal beliefs than it does with a Mormon sensibility rooted in Mormon culture and values and history. The same is true of, say, a Woody Allen film, which we recognize as Jewish for reasons having much less to do with Allen's doctrinal beliefs (if he even has any) than with Jewish-American culture/values/history.

  12. Kolobber, I met a guy six years ago who's about 60, grew up north of Boston in a Jewish family, became a Mormon, has endured real pushback from his family, ridicule from his father, and he tells me that he thinks Mormonism is the completion of Judaism. What's that all about?

  13. Anon, I know a guy who grew up Mormon and is now an atheist, and he credits his Mormon upbringing for teaching him how to think his way out of his faith. I'm not sure what that's about, but I do know it's not an argument.

  14. OK writes: "this idea that Mormon beliefs can be validated by appealing to ancient Judaism strikes me as really strange" "there seems very little that is even remotely Jewish about Mormonism" "[there is] nothing Jewish about the Book of Mormon".

    I have determined that OK lacks sound judgment and is sadly an unreliable analyst. I had suspected it but it became clear when he stated that he took the sin of Sodom to not be homosexuality but inhospitality and greed. To hold this view one must ignore the totality of the evidence and cherry-pick from one verse in Ezekiel. There are a number of biblical passages that say otherwise and OK must also ignore the reasoned views of thousands of highly literate thinkers from the distant and not-too-distant past on this issue.

    OK writes well but is difficult and will almost always disagree with something Mormon, rarely admitting that quite often an approach is reasonable or understandable after some reflection and analysis. When an issue in isolation is inconclusive, rationally or logically — which is the rule — he will disagree and write rather extensively, meandering his way to nowhere.

  15. Anon, in addition to the verse in Ezekiel there are several other reasons for reading the Sodom and Gomorrah story as I do (and as many others do). For one thing, there's the ancient Middle Eastern tradition of hospitality as a supreme virtue.

    For another, there's the question of whether to read the townspeople's threat of rape literally or figuratively. That is, should we understand the threat of rape as just the threat of rape, or should we understand it as standing for something more? If we understand it literally, then we must also understand Lot's offer of his virgin daughters literally — which, to put it mildly, makes no sense, since we already know that Lot is the good guy of the story.

    What does make sense is to read Lot's offer figuratively. That is, it stands for something else, and ergo the townspeople's threat of rape also stands for something else.

    What might that "something else" be? The most logical choices are hospitality and inhospitality.

    If you insist on reading these verses literally, then you must believe that Lot was literally willing to turn his virgin daughters out of the house to literally be gang-raped, and that a father who would literally do this is literally a good man.

    How can you possibly believe such things?

  16. Orbiting Kolob,

    I understand now how sensibility is being used. If I can restate, Mormonism does not fit in the same cultural paradigm as Judaism nor Catholicism nor evangelical Christianity in a similar way the the culture of the United States is different than Mexican culture. Both countries believe (more or less) in the democratic process, have similar structures of government but at the end of the day, one is clearly American ( of the United States flavor) and the other Mexican. So, one would not expect to see a piece like Fiddler on the Roof be written by a Mormon nor would you expect an evangelical Christian being able to capture the essence of the Mormon trek across the plains.

    But, I think Jeff's post deals more on doctrine than sensibilities.


  17. Jeff's post deals more on doctrine than sensibilities.

    Yes, absolutely. I would go further and say that most if not all of Jeff's posts — at least the ones that generate the most heated comments — deal with doctrine, and few if any with sensibility. And the same seems to be true of Mormon-Evangelical debate.

    I wonder why that's the case. Doctrine is important, but it's not everything. Maybe it's not even the main thing. We tend to think of a religion's truth as the truth of its doctrine, but maybe that's too limiting a way to think about it. Maybe religious truth should be thought of as residing elsewhere — in its lived experience, perhaps, in its affect on the world, or even in its characteristic sensibility.

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