This daily feature is an introduction to a full book review by James M. McLachlan. To read the full text of this review, follow the link below.
In the foreword to the book Mormonism in Dialogue with Contemporary Christian Theologies, Martin Marty playfully chides the Latter-day Saint contributors to the book who say that Latter-day Saints do not really have a theology and then go on to elaborate on their theology. Of course, there is truth to both sides of the theology question. On one side, Latter-day Saints, like Buddhists, Jews, and Moslems are, as a whole, less concerned with theology than with practice. Because Latter-day Saints do not have formal seminaries, do not train professional theologians, and have a lay priesthood, they tend to not be obsessed with theology. On the other side, Latter-day Saints employ theology whenever they reflect on the meaning of the revelations and doctrine. A minor classic in the field, Sterling M. McMurrin's The Theological Foundations of the Mormon Religion points to the problem that Latter-day Saints want to avoid in approaching theology; it is the idea that there are definitive theological foundations to all religious practice is just not a very Mormon way of looking at religion. (From a religious studies point of view, it does not really work for any tradition.)
Of course, we can easily imagine numerous theologies that can be spun through reflection on the revelations that make up the Restoration. The problem comes when we mistake our reflections and interpretations for the revelations. This would be like theologizing about my beloved and then falling in love not with her but with my idea of her. This, of course, does not mean that we should not reflect on our faith or our love; we just need to remember what we are doing.