Worldviews

February 25, 2009    By: Kent (MC) @ 9:54 pm   Category: Ethics,Evolutionary psychology

Guest post by Kent White

Mormonism offers a worldview which gives meaning and purpose to my life. I love the gospel I find in the Mormon scriptures and I believe that the way I understand that good news has led me to choose two basic axioms which filter my interpretations of my experiences and desires in this life:

  1. I am here to be of service, not to seek to be served.
  2. All these things shall give me experience and shall (eventually) be for my good as a result of:
    1. Christ’s power to heal all the pain I feel
    2. Christ’s power to heal all the pain I’ve caused others but can’t fix myself


With those two deep anchors (or lenses) in my life, I feel gratitude and open to relationships with others. I feel that Christ is patient and at-one with me despite my disappointments, sins, and pride. But there is a set of foundational assumptions that have led me to this worldview, and I think that those assumptions can be found in the way we as Mormons use The Plan of Salvation. Joseph Smith said, “The great plan of salvation is a theme which ought to occupy our strict attention, and be regarded as one of heaven’s best gifts to mankind.” (History of the Church, 2:23) It is this plan which provides the blueprint from which I build my life. It provides me with a powerful worldview which I believe allows me to function quite well in this world with family and strangers alike.

According to Leo Apostel, a worldview should comprise seven elements:

  1. An ontology, a descriptive model of the world
  2. An explanation of the world
  3. A futurology, answering the question “where are we heading?”
  4. Values, answers to ethical questions: “What should we do?”
  5. A praxeology, or methodology, or theory of action.: “How should we attain our goals?”
  6. An epistemology, or theory of knowledge. “What is true and false?”
  7. An etiology. A constructed world-view should contain an account of its own “building blocks,” its origins and construction.

I think it is obvious that Mormonism’s worldview as provided by the plan of salvation strives to answer each of these elements.

James W. Sire defines a worldview as “a commitment, a fundamental orientation of the heart, that can be expressed as a story or in a set of presuppositions (assumptions which may be true, partially true, or entirely false) which we hold (consciously or subconsciously, consistently or inconsistently) about the basic construction of reality, and that provides the foundation on which we live and move and have our being.”

When I hear my kids (the oldest is almost 11) saying in their prayers “please bless the food”, “please let us have a good time tonight”, “we hope that you will love us forever”, and “please bless Heber to close his eyes and stop looking at me”, I know they aren’t getting their presuppositions about how God works in the world from my wife and I. Now I used to have pretty messed up ideas about God that weren’t based on anything but my vanity and wishful thinking, and I can’t necessarily blame my parents for that since they weren’t fundamentalists or agnostics. In fact, my parents did a pretty awesome job at teaching us the gospel by living it. It is obvious that my kids are acquiring this worldview of God and how he works in the world in a very unstructured and unconscious way for the most part.

A few years ago my wife and I wrote a picture book for my children that would explain the entire plan of salvation to them (addressing the seven elements listed above) and help provide them a doctrinally correct, simple, and practical worldview (with my own take on some things). Basically my goal was to provide the essence of the gospel for an 8-12 year old understanding that will still have relevance (and provide insights and reflections) for an adult.

Over the years I have found myself making some changes to the book as my understanding increases, but I still don’t feel like the final product is adequate. Is this even a possible or doable endeavor? My next post will deal with the outline of the “book” I wrote for my kids and what should be included in a discussion of the plan of salvation, but for now I would like to discuss and explore the issues related to raising children with a specific worldview that works for them.

24 Comments »

  1. I’m looking forward to this Kent.

    My parents imparted some worldviews that still have an affect. One of these was that people are all basically the same. I bought into this hook, line and sinker. It has its benefits and drawbacks. It helps me be tolerant of others, because I often assume I would be just like them if I were in their situation. But, I also have a way of assuming that the motives and goals of others are the same as mine. This makes it difficult for me to deal with people who are fundamentally different from me.

    Difficult to know exactly how to raise these kids…

    Comment by Eric Nielson — February 26, 2009 @ 6:51 am

  2. Halfway through the post, I was hoping you were going to do a series on your picture book.

    I look forward to your posts. Something I struggle with is that there are some things I consider to be pure speculation that make up part of my worldview, and I am uncertain whether to impart them to my kids or not.

    Comment by Matt W. — February 26, 2009 @ 8:26 am

  3. Matt, keep reading, I’m getting to the picture book (if it can be called that since my wife hasn’t drawn the pictures yet).

    I guess an important question I have is does God act so differently with individuals that my worldview will necessarily be incompatible with other people who have an experience with God? I can definitely say that my parents have expectations of God that I don’t have (and vice-versa), but is that based on experience or just desire? So far the only large commonality I have with most people I know is the experience that God loves me and others very deeply. Can I really tell my kids how God will act in their lives if this is the case?

    Comment by Kent (MC) — February 26, 2009 @ 8:54 am

  4. Kent,

    Mindy pointed me to check out your first post. Awesome!
    I’m completely on board with the notion of having and defining a world view. I know that like it or not, it is, in large part, shaped by our initial relationships. First among those parents and children. (is that why why OSC’s fiction is so insightful).

    And while I think a single book explaining what constitutes and comprises a solid world view is a grand idea, I think children and all agent beings are prone to distilling a worldview from their surroundings. As a parent I tell lots and lots of stories. Some are mine, others have already been authored and I just share them. Combine that with my example and that of those we associate with and you’re going to get a good idea of my childrens’ world view.

    Comment by David Gonzalez — February 26, 2009 @ 9:14 am

  5. “please bless Heber to close his eyes and stop looking at me”

    Love this. Using public prayer to talk to God about other people in front of them is always gold.

    I was looking at the list of seven and trying to decide where I thought the Mormon worldview was strongest and weakest. Strangely, I ended up thinking we are weakest on 4 and 6 (ethics and epistemology) which are weird things for a religion to be weak on.

    Comment by Jacob J — February 26, 2009 @ 11:58 am

  6. That’s interesting Jacob, I’d say 5 and 6, as I think, in terms of praxis, we have pretty strong ideas of which behaviors are good and bad. I think we need some work on how to go about attaining some of our macro level goals. (conversion, retention, etc.) I definitely agree that we have issues with what is true and false (Isn’t that what my last post is all about?)

    Comment by Matt W. — February 26, 2009 @ 2:19 pm

  7. Matt,

    Our different response to 5 is due to reading it differently. I took five to be more about how each individual should act in relation to the plan of salvation, not how we get where we want to be as an institution. I’m sure we could break down all of these on many levels, though, and each could be an interesting discussion.

    Comment by Jacob J — February 26, 2009 @ 2:42 pm

  8. Jacob, my 6 year old loves to pray that God will coerce her siblings into doing what she wants them to do. I think she is trying to shame them, but I can’t be sure. I think you are right about how the church as an institution ends up being a tool in the plan of salvation for individuals.

    David, you are probably of the opinion that creating a book about the plan of salvation which also provides a worldview I’d like them to adopt is probably not a doable endeavor (regardless of the merits). I know that children will only be able to receive things at their own pace and level, but I want it to be deep enough that they will see things in it that they didn’t notice before as they mature.

    The whole reason I think it is important to talk about the plan of salvation with the kids is because I think that right now they get it piecemeal, with many things left out, an incorrect understanding of the fall, sin, and the need for an atonement, and how the church works in the process. They will probably see God as they see their parents and try and manipulate him as they do my wife and I for a while. When that doesn’t work out for them I want them to try out a different approach that they learned from their parents, which worked for them. I don’t care that they believe as I do, but I don’t want them to have unrealistic expectations for God or the church in their lives. I guess I want them to expect pain and be surprised by joy.

    Comment by Kent (MC) — February 26, 2009 @ 4:48 pm

  9. Kent,

    I was raised in a family with eight kids; I have over 50 first cousins. My wife and I have six kids (ages 20-6), and we have housed up to 13 people for up to four months at a time over the years.

    One of the clearest things I have learned from this is that each of us, even each who is raised in a large immediate and extended family, has a worldview that is slightly unique in some way – sometimes radically, sometimes incrementally, always to some degree or another. Each of us truly is unique, and one of my biggest responsibilities as a parent is to try to understand my children as fully as possible – then assist them in learning how to construct a worldview that will work for them, each, individually.

    That also has direct implications about teaching them the true meaning of forward-looking repentance, but that’s for a different post or thread.

    I also am looking forward to reading your follow-up posts, as I value the contributions you make on my blog and elsewhere.

    Comment by Ray — February 26, 2009 @ 5:44 pm

  10. I like your 7-point list Kent.

    My slight objection to the post is the implication that there is a single Mormon worldview. There isn’t. There are many, many legitimate Mormon worldviews. I think this is because there isn’t just one Mormon ontology or just one Mormon “futureology” etc. This is directly related to Mormonism not adopting a formalized and systematic theology.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 26, 2009 @ 8:38 pm

  11. Geoff,

    I guess your right about the implication that only “my” worldview is viable. I certainly am able to accept others ideas and worldviews. However, I emphatically reject certain worldviews and believe they are detrimental to faith and happiness, particularly the adoption of fundamentalist assumptions.

    Comment by Kent (MC) — February 26, 2009 @ 9:32 pm

  12. Geoff, if you missed it, see Kent and my comments over at T&S from a few days ago. I think you’ll find them largely in line with your point.

    Comment by Jacob J — February 26, 2009 @ 9:41 pm

  13. Yeah, I thought those were good thoughts over there. I just wanted to make sure it was clarified that Kent isn’t claiming there is a single universally-agreed-upon Mormon worldview.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 26, 2009 @ 10:10 pm

  14. Oh and I agree with your reservations about fundamentalist worldviews Kent. It seems to me that mainstream Mormonism flirted with it in the 60-80s as a result of the fundie-leaning views of some of our leaders at the time and there is plenty of the residue of that in the minds of members today.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 26, 2009 @ 10:13 pm

  15. Wow. With respect Geoff….ya think Joseph Smith had/has “fundie-leaning views”?

    I’ll be the bigger man and not start an ugly spirit-void exchange but can I submit that the fundamentalist worldviews are the closest to mainstream that exist.

    The “leaders” advocate understanding and tolerance for other faiths but when it comes to love for those with who they share the most history…something seems amiss. Go figure.

    The term “fundie” comes across as a bit of an insult to some fundamentalist mormons. I hope that it’s their perception and not the real intent. It could be akin to calling the mainstream church a “monogamous sect”. :)

    We, who should be the closest and reaching out to each other for understanding, seem to have a lot of “bad apples” on both sides who have caused us to think of each other as enemies. Nothing should be further from the truth. If I’m permitted to recommend a reference that can clear up a lot of misunderstanding…
    mormonfundamentalism.org is a great place.

    Comment by Bruce in Montana — February 27, 2009 @ 8:05 pm

  16. Bruce, it’s hard to feel close to people who still spout the racist justifications of previous generations. Are your women silent in church? “Go figure.”

    Sometimes, change really is a good thing – and Joseph himself is a perfect example of that, as he changed both existing ideas and his own mind over time. It’s hard to make a solid argument against change and claim adherence to the spirit of Joseph’s restoration.

    Comment by Ray — February 27, 2009 @ 8:56 pm

  17. Having said that to Bruce, he is a perfect example of the need to accept that people see the world in differing ways. I don’t mean at all to belittle his worldview; rather, all I mean to do is point out how inconsistent it seems to me based on mine.

    Comment by Ray — February 27, 2009 @ 8:58 pm

  18. Bruce, I don’t think Geoff’s phrase “fundie-leaning views of some of our leaders at that time [60s-80s]” refers to fundamentalist mormons. The leaders in question leaned toward views found in christian fundamentalism with respect to a wide range of issues.

    I am all for love and tolerance of people I disagree with. That does not mean I have love for all of their views, nor does it preclude me from making sure I don’t provide a platform for views I find destructive and wrong.

    Comment by Jacob J — February 27, 2009 @ 11:24 pm

  19. Yeah, what Jacob said. The fundamentalism I am referring to is more about the adoption of a God with more Calvinistic attributes.

    Comment by Kent (MC) — February 28, 2009 @ 12:42 pm

  20. Bruce: ya think Joseph Smith had/has “fundie-leaning views”?

    You think Joseph Smith lived in the 60s-80s?

    See Jacob’s #18 and Kent’s #19 for who I was referring to.

    The term “fundie” comes across as a bit of an insult to some fundamentalist mormons.

    Yeah, but it is probably preferable to my other favorite term for fundies: “nutjobs”

    Comment by Geoff J — February 28, 2009 @ 6:39 pm

  21. And may God bless you and yours “Geoff”.
    Maybe someday you’ll outgrow name-calling.

    Comment by Bruce in Montana — March 3, 2009 @ 2:14 pm

  22. And may God bless you and yours as well “Bruce in Montana”

    Comment by Geoff J — March 3, 2009 @ 2:39 pm

  23. Kent: Can we really say all 7 are required for a worldview? I wish I had some models of how Apostle plays this out. For Example, does Buddhism have an epistemology? I think looking at other examples, I would get a clearer idea of what is needed in an LDS worldview.

    Comment by Matt W. — March 5, 2009 @ 1:11 pm

  24. A simplified epistemology for all religious traditions likely requires the teaching that truth can be gained through sacred texts, traditions, and divine (or supernatural) interaction. I think Buddhism fits this model fine (with regards to epistemology) since gurus and texts tell you how to find enlightenment (even if they aren’t explicit in doing so; what “not to do” is just as important as “what to do”). You may want to look at this PDF document entitled “What is a Worldview?”, where they omit number 7 on the list.

    Comment by Kent (MC) — March 5, 2009 @ 1:44 pm

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