Thursday, December 18, 2008


I'm officially on vacation, and Summer's been studying for a final exam, so I found myself doing a lot of household stuff this week. This includes laundry, which I find tedious but a step above cleaning the kitchen. But I do have a few rants on this chore.

First, I like my laundry simple. Cotton fibers that are machine dry. I hate all these fancy shirts that Summer (and, increasingly, Allyson) wears that are lay flat to dry or line dry. The other day Summer put a shirt in the laundry basket and, since it's a relatively new shirt, checked the instructions. "Machine wash cold, tumble dry low." My six favorite words. That and "Would you like some more pie?"

Second, we wear a lot of fleece. The load of darks yesterday was 80% fleece--kids' pjs, sweats, etc. A few weeks back I washed a full load of nothing but fleece. It's like a low-rent version of George Castanza's dream of being enveloped in velvet.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Heresy of my Faith

I suppose that title could be read several ways. Today I am focusing not on my personal heresies as a Mormon, but on the general heresy that is Mormonism. That too is potentially messy, as various parties will note a variety of aspects of my faith that of heretical--an open canon, modern prophets, temple work, etc. Today's comes from This American Life, in an episode called "Heretics," which never once mentions Mormonism.

(I post this knowing that not everyone is a big NPR fan, and that, even among NPR listeners, TAL is not always a big hit. But I love the show. As I said to my mother-in-law over our Thanksgiving visit, I would invite Ira Glass over for dinner.)

The episode tells the story of a big name in American evangelical Christianity, Carlton Pearson, who began several years ago to preach pretty radical stuff--that there is no hell and therefore all are saved through Christ. This may sound pretty extreme to active LDS folks, but that's what we believe too. Sort of.

Here's the story. In the late 1990s, our protagonist was watching the evening news coverage of the Rwandan genocide while his infant daughter sat on his lap. Pearson had a moment of epiphany as he realized that these dying children were, at the core, the same as his child, but that for some reason their lives would be short, painful, and full of misery and suffering, while his daughter's could be a long, healthy, happy life. Then, according to the faith he practiced and preached, the dying child on his TV screen would be thrust to eternal punishment, while his daughter could be saved in glory. It struck him, as it may strike you, as wrong.

At this point Pearson describes a conversation with God in which he questions the justice of this sort of eschatology. God's response is that the people he sees on his screen will not be thrust to hell, and that hell is man's creation, not God's. The message is, "This is hell, what you see here, and what comes after death is a release from this agony, not an eternal continuation of it."

From here, his ministry fell apart, as he preached what was deemed a heretical doctrine he called "The Gospel of Inclusion." Attendance at his worship services dropped, as some were offended by the word he preached and others found that, without the threat of hellfire, it was easier to go to the lake or the mall on Sunday.

(As an aside, Pearson radicalizes this idea to the point that all--regardless of their actions or desires in this life--will receive the same eternal glory, which is clearly not in line with either Biblical or modern revelation--just in case you thought I was declaring my own brand of heresy...)

But what interests me the most is that the doctrine of "inclusionism" is part of--and I argue, a central, indispensable part of--the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. That which we believe as Latter-day Saints is that salvation is available to all, regardless of when or where they live in mortality. Additionally, we preach that the term "salvation" has a variety of meanings, ranging from salvation from physical death (granted to all people who have ever lived or will ever live as mortals) to salvation from the second death (granted to all but the sons of perdition) to exaltation (granted to those who make and keep sacred covenants, whether in this life or the next). And we believe that those who do not enter into these covenants in this life will have an opportunity to do so in the post-mortal realm. That's a lot of salvation, much more than most Christians would believe in.

This Sunday my message is on Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and my plan is to explore this idea, that through the Savior's infinite Atonement we can and will be saved in a variety of ways. Even the greatest depths of human suffering are swallowed up in that great and last sacrifice. Our deepest sorrows and weaknesses dissolve in the face of God's grace, made manifest in His Son.