Book Review: Mormon a brief theological introduction

It seems fitting that I finished this book the morning after a huge windstorm that knocked our power out for 27 hours. At 5:30 AM, the rest of my house was sleeping and so I was alone in the cold and the dark reading by headlamp curled up in a blanket (okay, it was a snuggie and it was totally worth it).

The Mormon volume of this series is written by Adam S. Miller. Miller refers the book of Mormon (written by the prophet, Mormon, not the Book of Mormon as a whole) as the “beginners guide to the end of the world.” Miller weaves together a message of hope while simultaneously showing reverence and respect for the loss that comes with the destruction of the Nephite people.

Miller’s insights on the doctrine of justice were fascinating to me. He starts by framing it within the doctrine of creation:

If all creation is recreation, then God’s creative work may not only be unfinished, but it may be unfinishable

The doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints teaches that “the Lord organized elements that had already existed” (source) and as such in a sense reformed or recreated the world. That work continues as we live in an ever changing world. Our hearts, our nature, or relationships, and even the very world around us are constantly changing and being recreated, affected by our agency.

As Miller lays out in his book, recreation requires the end of the previous state. Thus, the work of recreation is intertwined with the work of ending. But when the two doctrines are viewed together, we can see the loss that comes with ending is also the start of something new.

That principle already has my mind spinning, but it didn’t stop there! He dovetailed this into the doctrine of justice in a way that completely blew my mind. Instead of seeing justice as a punishment for the past, Miller proposes

The law [of justice] is fulfilled by asking: what, on this occasion, is needed to re/create the world as a just world? If hard consequences are needed to express love and fulfill the law, then love enforces hard consequences – but as a form of grace, not as an act of revenge.

This frames the law of justice not in looking to the past, but in looking toward the future. The law of justice doesn’t mean that God is looking back at what punishments the people deserve, but what the people need to become what God intends for them to become, like Him.

Thus, justice is not seen as the act of a vengeful God, but one who loves His people enough to not allow us to live a lawless existence. Miller then goes on to add the doctrines of sacrifice, grace, and of course the Atonement of Jesus Christ to build a full picture of how we can have hope in the end of the world.

Pondering these perspectives has been such a blessing for me. It is so easy to get caught up in viewing what is ending that we lose sight of what opportunities we now have to create. It is so easy to get caught up in seeing justice as punishing the past that we forget that it can also create growth in the future.

In the few days since I started this book I found myself looking at the concept of change differently. I started looking at consequences differently. It has reframed my thinking from one of hopelessness and loss to one of hope and rebirth. I can both sorrow for what I’m losing while being willing to sacrifice for something new. It’s a beautiful process!

One thought on “Book Review: Mormon a brief theological introduction

  1. That is a beautiful view of justice. I have never had the feeling that it was vengeful, but I understand why some feel that way. I just wrote a sacrament talk about change for this Sunday! I have been thinking about change a lot lately 🙂


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