Monday, June 9, 2008

Radical Mormon

I read an article by Eugene England on Orson Scot Card. In it, England describes Card as a radical Mormon. He describes him as “deeply committed at his core to both the Church and the Gospel and to traditional family values, to the point of great self-sacrifice”. The implication is that Card is not like other modern Mormon conservatives, in that he is “willing, in his fiction, to attempt to get at the roots of the most fundamental questions and issues affecting the Mormon religion.” England calls Milton and Shakespeare radicals too because they “both comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” By calling Card a radical he puts him in the august company. For his bias toward selecting literary figures I will forgive England because he was, after all, a professor of literature. But I like his idea of what makes a radical Mormon.

To expand on England’s idea, an honest yet faithful approach to Mormon history requires that we take a radical stance. No student of Mormon history discovers preconceived notions wrapped up in neat little packages. True history is far too messy for the conservative approach. Radical Mormons dig through the doctrinal folklore that makes up our history and understand the root of Mormon theology. They accept what they find as interesting and embrace its unique character.

In this sense I am radical. I accept what is Mormon not on the merits of its historic narrative, but because of it spiritual qualities. I am Mormon because of the spiritual events in my live. I study Mormon history because each event adds one more thread to the whole fabric of the Mormon experience. The cloth is not perfect, but if I tried to remove the imperfections, I would destroy the integrity of the fabric. Like the way my wife loves the look of woven raw silk, Mormon history is beautiful just as it is.

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