“The Book has two main arguments: First, faith crises and apostasies among Church members might have as much to do with our embrace of secular values and moralities as the strength of our faiths, loyalty to the Church, or “flaws” in the Church. Second, The Book of Mormon was strategically designed to counter our inclination to secularize the restored gospel.”From:
Dynamics of the Word: Secular Faiths meet The Book of Mormon
by Barry Thatcher.
I’ve been working on a book review of Dynamics of the Word: Secular Faiths meet The Book of Mormon by Barry Thatcher.
His thesis really has two parts:
- That political identity or values are the core of many faith crises.
- That he can, through textual analysis, accurate determine the core doctrines of the gospel as set out in the Book of Mormon.
The striking thing about that thesis and the part of the book quoted is that Carter agrees on the first core point almost 100% with Stephen Carter and the Sunstone Podcast (which is at a counterpoint to Thatcher at most points — and obviously does not agree with the second point of the thesis regardless of how expressed).
To quote Thatcher:
We like to think that our faith crisis came about because we followed the truth. But what if a faith crisis is actually produced by cultural cycles that have been grinding on for millennia? Stephen Carter discusses how anthropology and the sociology of knowledge turns the concept of a faith crisis on its head.Episode 41: Your Faith Crisis Isn’t Actually Yours
Stephen Carter/Sunstone Podcast
Both of them have reached the conclusion that, for the most part, a faith crisis is as much a cultural clash that plays out as a group matter than it is an individual journey for many people. I found that confluence between two scholars at opposite ends of the faith spectrum interesting.
I still have a long way to go before I reach Part 2 of this review, but I thought I would share the initial point both Barry Thatcher and Stephen Carter are making.
- What do you think?
- Have you seen political identity trump doctrinal statements on topics such as caring for refugees and immigrants?
- Have you seen social or status identity trump church guidelines such as men standing up for each other or women told not to learn a useful profession and then not supported by the same church leaders after widowhood or divorce?
- Is there a way to respond to cultural cycles — and how do we separate our values and mores from those of the gospel and those of the culture we are a part of?
- What other thoughts do you have on the observations that Thatcher and Carter have made?
As to the book I’m reviewing, the author claims that:
The Book is an empirical study that compares gospel discussions of Church members in six pro-LDS websites to secular models of human flourishing and core doctrines from The Book of Mormon and modern apostles. Using quantitative content analysis, the Book shows that many Church members in the pro-LDS websites are likely embracing secular alternatives to core doctrines, especially the Fall, faith in Christ, and agency.
Although this embrace of secular doctrines seems to feel innately spiritual for some members, it likely reduces space for the Word of Christ to flourish in them, leading to faith crises and apostasy. In fact, some of the members are following the same secular values and doctrines that sowed apostasy in the Original Church of Christ and The Book of MormonFrom the Amazon book description provided by the Author/Publisher.
He also claims that “Using content analysis, this Book also captures the theology of The Book of Mormon in stunningly clear and powerful ways.”
But that is all fuel for the next part of the review.