Thursday, April 21, 2011

John Larsen on LDS Awareness of Broader Christian Thought

As some of you might know, I enjoy listening to the Mormon Expression podcast on a regular basis (still haven't worked completely through all the past episodes, but I'm getting closer). Earlier today, they released an episode in which podcast host John Larsen interviews Grant Palmer. It was quite an interesting interview, and one in which Palmer laments the LDS Church's failure to focus quite as fully as they might on Jesus and what he taught. I recommend giving the podcast a listen. But the interview as such isn't what caught my attention most; rather, it was a remark that John Larsen made from 27:45-28:26, which I transcribe as follows:

I've said this before to some of the listeners, but when I was struggling with faith, I started reading a little bit, like I said, in the Bible, and I realized quickly that I did not understand what I was dealing with. So I got two books, I got one on the history of the church - you know, the Christian church - and I got another basic systematic theology book. And I'm no expert in those today, but I soon realized that I had no idea, you know, I just-- there'd been these questions, these debates going on for two thousand years, deep theological thinking - not like some flippant 'servant of Satan trying to deceive', but people really trying to understand - and I realized I didn't even understand the basic questions they were asking.

This came in the context of a discussion of what LDS thought has really contributed, if anything, to the broader Christian tradition. And what John Larsen essentially realized was that, as a somewhat typical Latter-day Saint, he didn't even have a framework within which to actually dialogue with the larger Christian tradition, because he'd never attempted to grapple with the sorts of questions they'd faced. Now, of course there are exceptional Latter-day Saints who have actually studied these things (and they deserve a great deal of credit for that), and of course most people in general - LDS, Evangelical, and others - are all woefully ignorant of these things. But, as I've mentioned before, this is a real problem in establishing any sort of meaningful dialogue.

What thoughts do you have about the awareness of the typical Latter-day Saint - or, to pinpoint the situation even more crucially, the average LDS missionary - of broader Christian thought?

[Edited to add: According to my Dashboard, this is the 100th post here at Study and Faith!]

1 comment:

  1. I agree that we don't know enough about other people as we should. Many from both sides of the fence (at least from what I've observed) are so firm in their beliefs that they don't feel the need to study other belief systems. I have been guilty of this myself at one point or another, but the more I study, the more I can appreciate my own beliefs.