The Philosophical Foundations of Mormon Theology

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The Philosophical Foundations of Mormon Theology
Author Sterling M. McMurrin
Salt Lake City, Utah: University of Utah Press, 1959

The Philosophical Foundations of Mormon Theology

Author Truman G. Madsen

In the brief compass of a monograph, Professor McMurrin has given us a survey statement of basic metaphysical implications of Mormon theology (this is the meaning of "Philosophical Foundations") which is penetrating and, in many ways, helpful.

Primarily he raises six classic questions of ontology, outlines major historical alternatives, and then identifies and relates Mormonism. To do justice to the Mormon position, he is forced to qualify each of his characterizing terms with another term, often of traditionally opposite meaning. Thus, for example, he describes Mormonism as pluralistic and non-absolutistic in its quantitative conception of the universe (p. 8), yet qualitatively as monistic (all things are matter) and at the same time dualistic (spirit is more refined than matter) (p. 17). It is dynamistic (the universe is in process), yet committed to unchanging entities: intelligences, eternal elements, space and time, and "principles" (pp. 12, 23, 24). It is super-naturalistic (God, angels, spirits are not "ordinary objects of sense perception"), yet naturalistic (they are subject to the spatial, temporal, causal order) (p. 19). Its value theory is absolutistic and platonic, yet at the same time instrumental and pragmatic (pp. 24, 25). It is realistic in its conception of universals (p. 26), yet at the same time nominalistic, especially as regards the Trinity (pp. 8, 28). It affirms the necessity or self-derivation of all existent things, yet teaches genuine human freedom and novelty (p. 29). In addition to these matters of exposition, the author offers a sketch, under each heading, of important inter-relationships and implications of these ideas for other Mormon teaching and practice.