Today we sit down with LDS philosopher Blake Ostler. His is the author of many books including his newest “Fire On The Horizon”
Blake Ostler has published widely on Mormon philosophy in professional academic philosophy journals such as Religious Studies (Oxford, England), International Journal for the Philosophy of Religion (Netherlands), and Element: The Journal of the Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology, as well as Mormon scholarly publications Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Sunstone, BYU Studies, and FARMS Review of Books. He is the author of the multi-volume series Exploring Mormon Thought, published by Kofford Books. He has also taught Philosophy at Brigham Young University as an Adjunct Instructor.
Mr. Ostler is fluent in Italian and French, conversant in Swedish and Spanish, and conducts scholarly research in German, Egyptian, Hebrew, Greek and Latin. He loves spending his time with his wife and five children, and (to a qualitative lesser extent) fly fishing, playing racquetball, four wheeling and watching BYU Football.
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Bill, I’m glad you got this interview, I’d never heard Blake speak before and I’ve wanted to hear him, this was good. I was interested in his perspective on his BoM expansion theory that he wrote an essay about in the 1980s, so its been about 30 years since that essay and I was wondering if his position had evolved over those years Looks like it hasn’t. I find his perspective to be contraditory in that he acknowledges 19th century influences, and the complete lack of any archeological evidence, yet he’s willing do dismiss Joseph’s comments about native american’s as speculation, this is the same Joseph that revealed the book. How do you take obscure references in Jacob about an island of the sea and then ignore all the comments Joseph made and his paradigm that the people in America were the descendents on the Lamanites. He seems very smart, yet he also seems to not connect these dots, at least that was my impression.
Lastly, I was disappointed with his comments on the LGBT topic. I’m glad you asked these questions. It was apparent that Blake is a product of his generation, and has bigited positions that are laking in consistency. His appeal to morality to justify treating LGBT individuals as inferior was unfortunate, and his justifications like his homophobic inclinations were sad. But I can’t be too judgemental, because I had similar views a few years ago. He needs to do some research and open his eyes and mind to these issues.
So I hadn’t listened to the last 15 minutes of this interview when I made my comments yesterday. But this last section was perhaps the most disturbing one for me. I found his comments on polygamy extremely frustrating. He’s apparently read all the primary sources, and yet he comes up with these nonsensical conclusions that have no basis in the evidence and are far right of even the conservative apologists like Brian Hales. Fanny Alger being sealed in the barn (remember sealing doctrine wasn’t around until Nauvoo). Joseph didn’t have sex with his wives until after telling Emma, I’ve never heard that crazy speculation. Joseph didn’t have sex with other men’s wives, this is kind of like Hales, but Hales has to go through all kinds of speculation not supported by the evidence to un-marry those women who were already married so that Joseph can have sex with them.
Then he transitions right into his beliefs about Book of Abraham and taking really poor apologetic arguments as evidence for Abraham illusions. Wow, it was fantastical. Ultimately it came down to Blake’s world view. This idea that because he has a testimony of the church, then all of the negative elements that don’t seem to fit, must have a faithful answer waiting out there for us to find. Because he believes God has told him that the church is true, then all these bad things just can’t be true, and he’ll patiently wait for the right apologetics to come along, not matter how intellectually vapid those apologetics are, and he’ll readily and happily accept it so that he can have his testimony confirmed as correct.
Well, there are others who stay in this church and have a different path. A path of accepting the good and the bad in the church. A path of not trying to explain away the evidence because you want Joseph Smith to fit a certain definition that you’ve already created in your mind. I have my beliefs in God and I’m grateful for those beliefs, but I’m not going to ignore and explain things away just to fit my beliefs today. I try to be open to reality and humble enough to accept the uncomfortable and willing to change my paradigms so that I can learn and grow. This is not the same approach as Blake, and I’m sure he has contributed some good things to the Mormon culture, but I ultimately don’t understand the way he puts it all together, it makes no sense to me.
I think that if you’ve watched, read or listened some of Mr. Ostler’s points of view, you should realise that he doesn’t expect you or anyone else to be convinced by his spiritually-acquired testimony of the truth claims of the LDS church. The fact of the matter is that he is satisfied with the evidence he has accumulated over the years, and you may disagree with the validity of that evidence but that doesn’t mean that all his points of view are incorrect or unworthy of thoughtful consideration.
who is saying all his perspectives are wrong?
Brother Ostler is obviously an intelligent man. I thought the questions and interaction were great, but I found myself frustrated towards the end. Issue after issue starts to just be so easily explained away. BOM translation, LGBT issues, blacks and priesthood, Joseph’s relations with Fanny. Then towards the end of the interview he’s says don’t throw the baby out with the bath water ? I still choose to be active, pay tithes, hold callings….. But man at what point do we say, yep we have a lot of problems. Glad he was willing to come on but I guess I was hoping to hear more Grace and Atonement stuff from him vs weak apologetics .
Blake is spot on on almost everything. I appreciate his boldness here. There is a directness and bluntness that many are not accustomed to, but I find it refreshing.
More of Blake’s Lawyering of information to make his case. It does “feel rotten to be wrong and realize that you’ve screwed up on something real important.” Why don’t you try it sometime?
“Smart people are very good at rationalizing things they came to believe from non smart reasons.” – Michael Shermer
I felt that Mr ostler’s position on gay marriage was quite reasonable and sensible. I totally agree with him. I find ostler to be a refreshing voice of reason.
The comments on same-sex marriage were disappointing. Ostler attributed motives to advocates of same-sex legal marriage that I have never heard expressed by any of my friends who are in favor of such: the idea that legalizing marriage will “force” people of faith to approve of it.
I think everyone recognizes that anyone can disapprove of any marriage for any reason. The quest to gain legal recognition for same-sex relationships has to do not with forcing beliefs on others, but with creating the same contractual protections for same-sex partners as opposite sex partners can get. For better or worse, the government calls these relationship contracts marriage; creating civil unions for same-sex partners left them without adequate legal protection when it came to one partner dying or becoming sick. It also made tax law at the state and federal levels inconsistent and confusing.
That’s the real reason people have advocated for same-sex legal marriage.
Like Ostler, I don’t think the government should be in the marriage business at all. I would rather see civil unions be the term for these legal contracts, for both opposite-sex and same-sex couples. But that would require rewriting laws all over the country, and I expect that some religious organizations would somehow interpret this as outlawing marriage, even though it’s real purpose would be to preserve marriage as a religious and cultural institution, as opposed to a legal one. So I just don’t see this happening.
That’s how I became an advocate for same-sex legal marriage.