SAMUEL M. BROWN is Assistant Professor of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine and Medical Ethics and Humanities at the University of Utah and an intensive care physician in the Shock Trauma ICU at Intermountain Medical Center. His award-winning book In Heaven as It Is on Earth: Joseph Smith and the Early Mormon Conquest of Death was published by Oxford University Press in 2012. He is also translator of Aleksandr Men’s Son of Man: The Story of Christ and Christianity. Here is here today to talk about his book First Principles and Ordinances: The Fourth Article of Faith in Light of the Temple being published by the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship.
Questions addressed in this interview:
Your book addresses, among other things, the topic of faith, but your journey through your own faith crisis becomes an important backdrop for your perspective as a writer. Perhaps you could give the cliff notes version of that to set the stage.
Your book is part of the Living Faith Book Series that is being put out by the Maxwell Institute at BYU. As I understand the series as a whole, and therefore part of the feel and function of your book, is the reconciliation of faith and knowledge which is particularly notable challenge some are having in discourse about Mormonism. How do you seek to approach the challenge of reconciling faith and knowledge with your book?
There is a statement that opens the promotional one-sheet that I received on your book that was quite gripping and thought provoking. I don’t know if you wrote it or if it was someone with the publishing side of this effort, but I want to share it and give you a chance to expound upon that in context of your book: “Familiarity can lead to a kind of blindness in life and in religion. The first principles and ordinances of the Latter-day Saint gospel are particularly at risk for misunderstanding through such familiar neglect.”
While not set up in such a way that it addresses critical questions that some may have about the church, there is a sort of positive apologetic angle, almost devotional feel to your book. Is that a fair assessment?
Your book addresses active faith initially. This is something that I have been studying and feeling for years now so it was nice to see some confirmation in your writings to that idea. You speak of two main models of faith at least the way Latter-day Saints talk about Faith, what are those two models?