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Book review: 'Common Ground, Different Opinions' shares essays on doctrinal issues

By Mike Whitmer

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, Aug. 9 2014 5:00 a.m. MDT

Updated: Friday, Aug. 8 2014 4:52 p.m. MDT

"COMMON GROUND, DIFFERENT OPINIONS: Latter-day Saints and Contemporary Issues" edited by Justin F. White and James E. Faulconer, Greg Kofford Books, $31.95, 386 pages (nf)

Recent events and changing mores in the world have highlighted the varied perspectives of doctrines held by many in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Issues such as same-sex marriage, the true definition of doctrine, evolution and the role of women in the church invite members to ponder their place in the world and their own personal understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Seeing a need to address some of these questions, Greg Kofford Books invited several LDS scholars to share their thoughts and ideas on specific areas of belief. The resulting essays have been published in the book, “Common Ground, Different Opinions,” edited by Justin F. White and James E. Faulconer.

According to Faulconer, the premise for this collection is to “explain why we believe what we do.” In many cases, it is not enough to state that church members believe something “because the prophet said so” — especially to those who have sincere questions concerning Mormon theology. The truth is that sometimes there is no definitive prophetic statement to use as a basis for a particular belief, so a more thoughtful and prayerful approach is needed. These essays are written to offer members knowledge they can consider as they share with those who question practices and doctrines of the LDS Church.

Each of the scholars included in the book examines a specific doctrine of the church and shares his own perspective — sometimes orthodox, but in other cases, much more liberal. The purpose is to offer readers, especially those young in the faith, varying viewpoints as a way to invite thoughtful and prayerful consideration of gospel truths. The resulting ideas will then be valuable as building blocks for their own foundational beliefs.

It should be noted that a few of the contributors express ideas that push the envelope of credibility when it comes to the doctrines of the LDS Church. Their rationale will require some effort to understand, as it is far from the basic understanding of most church members. But many of these ideas are addressed in more orthodox essays responding to the same questions, so there is some balancing. As a whole, the writers of these essays are respectful of their readers and provide “food for thought” as they consider very common questions asked of church members.

Mike Whitmer lives in West Valley City and can be reached at grundelwalken@gmail.com. He blogs at mtwhitmer.blogspot.com.

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