Foodleking wrote this up, and I thought it was worth sharing. I post it here with his permission.
A hero of mine, a great LDS thinker, and the quintessential Mormon philosopher, brother Truman Madsen spoke as the inaugural guest lecturer at the Mormon Studies department atCollege. I have listened to literally hundreds of hours of his voice on tapes, and read several of his books and papers. Brother Richard L. Bushman occupies the Howard W. Hunter Chair at this university, and introduced brother Madsen. I know some did not love brother Bushman’s book on Joseph Smith (Rough Stone Rolling), but I did.
A little back story
My illustrious post-high school academic career began brilliantly at BYU, but ended less brilliantly with night school at a bible college owned by the Assemblies of God faith in Costa Mesa (Vanguard University). However, one very bright spot was that I was finally able to take philosophy courses, which were taught by anpastor, and had sort of a philosophy-from-a-Christian’s-perspective tint to them. Spending long hours after class discussing LDS doctrines with this challenging and interesting man, I began to see the philosophical underpinnings of our faith, and appreciate its logicality. I gained greater love for the depth of Joseph Smith’s teachings. At the same time, I heard a lecture by brother Madsen on a bootleg tape explaining the LDS worldview, and how we fit in the traditional stratum of philosophical theories (we don’t). Brother Madsen gave nomenclature to what I had been discovering through these discussions with my philosophy professor. Ironically, my testimony deepened greatly by attending this bible college.
Thereafter, I gobbled everything I could get my hands on that was written or spoken by brother Madsen. I attempted, unsuccessfully, to name both of my boys after Truman Madsen. Had we 10 boys, maybe I would have stood a chance, but no such luck. Shortly after I graduated, brother Madsen recorded a series of 8 lectures called “Timeless Questions, Gospel Insights.” This title may sound like an elementary primer on LDS views, but it turned out to be a detailed account of LDS philosophy, and I couldn’t get enough.
So, a few days ago we received the latest copy of “LDS Trumpet” newspaper, and on the front page was an article advertising this lecture by brother Madsen on Thursday night. Having never seen him speak in person, I planned to go. The place was absolutely packed. I mean every seat, every standing space, the entire stage behind him, all space on the riser, the aisles, EVERYWHERE. His hour-long lecture was a condensed version of familiar territory. I was again reminded how LDS theology solves some of the great paradoxes of traditional Christianity, and how Joseph Smith’s revelations are revolutionary, yet logical. Thinking in this way, it makes me literally laugh at the anti-LDS tracts and arguments that constantly gurgle to the surface like sulphur bubbles (“Jesus and Satan are brothers,” etc). They SOOOO miss the mark, and are like using a crayon to trace a. Elements are eternal. Intelligence is uncreate (and freedom is inherent in this). Heaven and earth are not radically different. Spirit and body are not radically different. Time and eternity (or eternities) are not radically different. And God and man are not radically different. These are immense jumps from modern Christian traditions. Even small mis-translations in ancient texts can have profound impacts on doctrine. In Exodus, Moses met God and asked him who He was. God answered “I AM, that I AM.” Brother Madsen contends that many Hebraists (past and current) indicate that the more correct translation is “I shall be that I shall be.” Much ethereal mysticism is removed, and it draws very close to our own revelations and knowledge concerning experience and growth. Likewise, the famous “God is spirit” in John is only found in the KJV translations, and not in earlier texts, which bear out the JST. And in Psalms, “God has made man a little lower than angels” is more correctly translated as “God has made mad a little lower than Elohim [or Gods].” If Moses saw God, then Joseph Smith could have also.
If God is all good, all powerful, and all knowing, how come there is pain and suffering on the earth, even inflicted on innocent children? The answer, of course, is that God is not all powerful. We, like God, are independent beings (or intelligences), and have freedom. And, there is, in reality, no substitute for experience. God cannot save us against our will, and without our gaining experience (as God and Christ did). Like exercising a muscle, there must be pain for growth to occur. And no man or woman can say to Jesus “You don’t understand me,” or “You don’t care about me.” Christ gained all of these through experience (from grace to grace), and was not born with this perfect knowledge and understanding.
I love our logical faith. That is not to say that LDS doctrine is free of its own paradoxes, but they are far deeper than the basic need to understand who we are, who God is, and what our relationship is. Ours is a unique faith. We believe that EVERY soul born has the light of Christ, the spark of divinity, and we believe it so much that we go to the ends of the earth to find every soul, living and dead, to bring them the gospel. Nobody else even attempts or professes to do or believe this. I love the sound of brother Madsen’s voice. It is at once familiar and comforting, like an old song with beautiful memories. It struck me hard at the first words from his mouth tonight. And I am glad there are men like him to speak to our hearts and minds, to defend the faith, and build bridges to others not of our faith.
Just wanted you to know.