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Tuesday, 26 June 2007

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philjohnson

Alan,

There are valuable points made in the books by Covey senior and now his son. It is perhaps worthwhile also noting that there is some shared "values-capital" in the corpus of Covey's writings with what many American evangelicals would also esteem.

In a post-Watergate world the word "trust" and the qualities of behaviour associated with it do indeed need to to be rehabilitated and appropriated by people. So Covey has approached an important subject for which we can be grateful.

However there is also a distinctive background feature in the writings of the Covey family that needs to be kept in mind: the Coveys are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (or more familiarly known by the nickname "Mormons").

The culture of the LDS partakes of some elements also found in American Protestantism; but the LDS culture also has its own peculiar features. There is an element of "cargoism" in LDS thought -- an emphasis on the delivery of divine cargo/bounty that is entwined in LDS theology about the American continent being the sphere of divine activity (e.g. Garden of Eden was in North America; Christ preached to his followers in America; the church existed in America until c. 400 AD; Christ's second advent occurs on the US continent).

The emphasis on "cargoism" in the LDS is a point that religious studies scholars such as Garry Trompf and former LDS believer John Bracht have drawn attention to (features that phenomenologically and functionally are similar to the cargo cults of Melanesia).

There is also a strong emphasis on self-sufficiency and thriftiness in the LDS culture, which reflects some aspects of the wider American outlook on rugged individuals and independence from relying on the government to sustain and maintain one's household.

When one crosses the LDS church's threshold then the word "trust" takes on significance regarding questions of authority. In effect non-LDS churches are deemed to be deficient because they lack the authorisation to procalim good news, they lack the living prophet, lack the restored priesthood, and lack the "mysteries" of the gospel that are revealed in the Temple. So "whom do you trust" becomes a theologically acute question for LDS members. I'm not saying that these points are obvious in the writings of Covey, but that being aware of these things helps us as non-LDS readers to appreciate the social-religious context out of which Covey writes.

In its theology the LDS stands apart from the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Protestant and Orthodox Eastern traditions and sees itself as the unique "restored" church led by a living seer and prophet. The LDS understanding of God is decidedly different from what has been the classical Christian confession of God.

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