The author spends significant time as a volunteer helping to defend asylum seekers. He has a BA and an MA with PhD from Purdue in Rhetoric and Writing. He teaches at New Mexico State University.

The various parts of the book are often more focused than the whole, with the result that much of it does not flow as well as it might, especially the first 10-15% of the book.

His basic thesis is that the core of the theology of the Book of Mormon is

  1. Recognition of the Fall.
  2. Humility in response.
  3. Reliance on Christ.
  4. Service to others.

Theological missteps occur when we use philosophy instead of religion and thus ignore the significance of the fall.

The fall means:

  • Human weaknesses and flaws are normal.
  • Humans are vulnerable to the environment — you can starve, become homeless and you are subject to disease.
  • There is a fall of knowledge; our understanding is not complete and cannot be complete.
  • There are myriad social problems.
  • The divine presence is not immediate. It is limited to God being able to communicate with us within our limits.

The author addresses his thesis across a list of topics. He uses LDS blogs as a stand-in for how the current members of the Church respond to those topics when they do not see them from the perspective of the fall.

The author also addresses the following philosophies:

  • Marxist/Blank Slate with Intersectionality as a sub-set of Blank Slate. The mind as a tabula rasa is an important part of this approach.
  • Safe Places (John Stuart Mills). The idea that we need to allow humans to become truly human and provide safe places for that to happen. Mills is known for utilitarianism.
  • Prosperity Theology and its attempt to create a sense of control and fairness.
  • Gnostic Spirituality including Greek and Buddhist approaches. There is a Wikipedia entry on the thesis that the two can be linked.
  • Difference Ethics which requires identity theology and takes as a given that humans are not fallen.

The topics he addresses are:

  1. The Fall.
  2. Christ.
  3. God.
  4. Knowledge.
  5. Truth/Agency.
  6. Faith (where does it start and what is it).
  7. Social Justice/Institutional Fundamentalism.
  8. Sin.
  9. Purification.
  10. Leadership strategies.
  11. Joy.
  12. Spiritual Experience Models.
  13. Priesthood and the Fall.

He concludes with how to address the fall in preparing to come to Christ.

There is a lot going on, and a lot of substance in the book. In many ways, the book is about how to integrate a robust theology of the Fall into life and the Church. He nicely uses Martin Luther to point out that God reaches all the way to meet us where we are, in terms we can understand (with the implicit limits that creates) and then goes well beyond that in his analysis of Luther and the Fall.

The book covers a lot of ground. Once he gets past the first 10% or so (which is a very off-putting section), there is a lot to think about and to review. His claims for the power of critical statistical analysis models should have been skipped and the technique, as he used it, allowed to speak for itself.

His personal history and a good deal else would have made a fine appendix.

But the real value of the book is the approach at looking at the implications of the world being in a fallen state and applying that perspective to a number of areas.

  1. Recognition of the Fall.
  2. Humility in response.
  3. Reliance on Christ.
  4. Resulting in service to others as the message of the Book of Mormon connects to us.

You can look at the implications for leaders: are our prophets like the imperfect prophets of the Old Testament, or Peter and Paul in the New Testament, fellow mortals with whom God works — or are they something else?

How important are many doctrinal divides and rules vis a vis acknowledging that we are imperfect and that our response should be humility, reliance on Christ and being motivated to serve?

Obviously to do the book justice I need more perspective and a part three to this book review, but this is already long enough.

Questions for our readers:

  • Do you think viewing the world through the Fall can be used as a universal tool?
  • Should our response to most life experiences be humility?
  • Should imperfection in ourselves or the world lead us to rely on Christ?
  • Is true religion, true theology, such that it will motivate us to kindly care for one another?