Exploring Mormon Thought: Of God and Gods | BYU Studies

Exploring Mormon Thought: Of God and Gods

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Exploring Mormon Thought: Of God and Gods
Author Blake T. Ostler
Salt Lake City, UT: Greg Kofford Books, 2008

Exploring Mormon Thought: Of God and Gods

Reviewer James M. McLachlan

Blake T. Ostler's monumental systematic work, Exploring Mormon Thought, continues to be a major event in the development of Mormon philosophical theology. Over the last fifteen years, work on Mormonism in the general field of religious studies has exploded. There are far too many works to give even a partial list here, but I will highlight a few of the notable authors. Terryl L. Givens publishes thoughtful and nuanced work in such books as When Souls Had Wings: Pre-Mortal Existence in Western Thought; Stephen H. Webb memorably discusses Mormon "materialism" from the perspective of a philosophical theologian outside Mormonism in Jesus Christ, Eternal God: Heavenly Flesh and the Metaphysics of Matter; Adam S. Miller's Rube Goldberg Machines: Essays in Mormon Theology gives a postmodern take on the whole project of Mormon theology; and editor David L. Paulsen's volume Mormonism in Dialogue with Contemporary Christian Theologies tops a group of impressive collections on Mormon theology. However, nothing equals Ostler's projected five-volume opus in scope or completeness. Volume 3, Of God and Gods, focuses on the LDS understanding of deification. It consists of twelve chapters and is as massive as the first two volumes—some 425 pages, excluding the bibliography and index.

In reviewing Ostler's newest book, I feel somewhat like the poor German philosopher who was asked to review Georg W. F. Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit. Both books are incredibly rich and defy short summary. In the preface to the Phenomenology, Hegel talks about the inadequacies of reviews and excoriates those armchair thinkers who just read reviews but never read books. That is not to say that Ostler's book is as dense as Hegel's; in fact, it is his most accessible volume so far. But if readers really want to know what Ostler says in Of God and Gods, they will have to read it. They may disagree, as I do, with some of his major claims about the relation between God and gods. But this book says a lot that is important and will be a welcome challenge to any interested in Mormon theology.