Two Kinds of Religion

The result is not a life in which this world is given its value by another, transcendent world. Instead it is a life in which this world is of value, already and as it is.

Speaking through Joseph Smith, God said "All things are unto me spiritual" (D&C 29:34). As I read that it means that this temporal world is not a pale imitation of some other spiritual one, but that it too is spiritual. The meaning of life comes from lived life, not from something else. Ultimately there is no essential division between earthly and celestial life. They are both aspects of the same thing, namely the present existence of the world and my present existence in it.

It does not follow that this world is perfect or, especially, that there are no issues to be resolved within my life, religion, or religious community. Far from it. What follows is that I must live in the present world differently than I would if there were nothing divine or if the value of this world were determined by some transcendent one—differently, that is, than if atheism or the first kind of religion were true.

For Mormons, the obligations of religion come down to covenant. And James 1:27 gives a fundamental description of what that covenant requires: "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their afflictions, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.


Broadened, ritually pure religion demands covenant life with God and my sisters and brothers. That is not life spent waiting for something else. It is life with them here and now, a life of work creating, maintaining, and expanding the bonds of that covenant and its obligations.

Nietzsche may have been right about the first kind of religion, but his criticisms don't apply to the second. 

12/2/2022 9:09:22 PM
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  • James Faulconer
    About James Faulconer
    James Faulconer is a Richard L. Evans Professor of Religious Understanding at Brigham Young University, where he has taught philosophy since 1975.