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What is hope? What is Zion? And what does it mean to hope for Zion? In this insightful book Joseph Spencer explores these uestions through the scriptures of two continents separated by nearly two millennia In the first half Spencer engages in a rich study of Paul's letter to the Roman to better understand how the apostle understood hope and what it means to have it In the second half of the book Spencer jumps to the early years of the Restoration and the various revelations on consecration to understand how Latter day Saints are expected to strive for Zion Between these halves is an interlude examining the hoped for Zion that both thrived in the Book of Mormon and was hoped to be established again


10 thoughts on “For Zion

  1. says:

    Years ago I was lucky enough to participate in a close conversation about Mormon teachings about consecration with Joe Spencer I learned a great deal from those conversations and when much later I found the substance of many of those conversations reflected in this book of Joe's I was intrigued At first though I wasn't very impressed on a uick read through For Zion I thought I saw a lot of echoes of things we'd talked about before a few new insights and then a lot of speculation which really didn't fit in with the topic at hand namely consecration and the Zion economy A nice book was my judgment but not a very good one Fortunately however Joe's book was nominated for an Association of Mormon Letters award which I am one of the judges for and so I was obliged to go back and read this book again closely And what I found really impressed me enough for me to feel obliged to eat a little crowThe disconnect which I thought I saw before was between the first half of the book which is a close sometimes overly dense theological reading of Paul's discussion of hope in his letter to the Romans and what I originally took to be the primary point of the book which is a historical textual and theological consideration of the Joseph Smith's writings about the sort of ideal social and economic relations ones characterized by euality and support for the poor that Mormons ought to aspire towards This time through that disconnect didn't strike me as significant at all I still think his Interlude focusing on the Book of Mormon between the two sections of the book doesn't accomplish what he clearly hopes it will but really that's a small point On the contrary I can much clearly see now how the kind of radical transformative object less hope that he sees Paul calling those who have accepted the gospel of Jesus to embrace really does connect strongly with not just the ideal but also the actual practice of recreating one's social and economic existence around a collective communitarian almost monastic determination to get away from the economy of the idol trade and instead embrace a notion of stewardship that leaves ownership almost entirely aside perhaps only subjectively but perhaps also literally The result is a powerful and genuinely insightful treatment of Mormon teachings about love and euality one I'm going to have to think about for a while especially about the possible connections it may have for me anyway with the work of Charles Taylor John Milbank and James KA SmithJoe is not ultimately a Hugh Nibley; he tip toes up to the edge of outright condemnation of American Mormonism but is appears ambivalent about actually looking over it There is an apologetic dare I say almost Panglossian tone to his treatment of Smith's revelations on consecration and how they were edited and changed in the early years into something different than what they originally were I can't deny that Joe lands some good punches against the sort of self excusing nostalgia that Mormon leftists like myself too freuently make use of but I would have liked to have seen him apply the same critiue against the implied even if unintended uasi mystical uietism that affects his own writings and that of other contemporary Mormon theologians like Adam Miller But hey saying someone isn't uite Hugh Nibley is hardly a criticism This is a much finer and thoughtful and even practical though I'm not sure Joe himself recognizes that book than I'd originally supposed I apologize for that and am happy to recommend it to every theologically inclined member of our shared faith


  2. says:

    In this book Joseph Spencer analyzes the law of consecration through a close and detailed reading of selections from Paul's letter to the Romans and Joseph Smith's revelation now canonized as section 42 of the Doctrine and Covenants The first few chapters especially bear the marks of Spencer's academic training contemporarty French philosophy I struggled through the early chapters to get past some of the jargon and I suspect at least a few other readers will become frustrated with what seem like arcane arguments I think beginners will have to read these early chapters slowly and repeatedly in order to grasp what's going on I know I will That said perhaps most useful in these early sections is the way Spencer challenges long standing individualist interpretations of Paul's teachings Salvation is a communal endeavor in Paul's world as in Joseph Smith's which Spencer outlines using some of the best Pauline scholarship on offer today This book really picks up steam and hits its stride when Spencer turns his attention to Joseph Smith's revelations concerning the law of consecration Spencer closely analyzes changes Smith made to the revelations grounding his theological readings in the messy historical circumstances that gave rise to them Above all Spencer is challenging the common LDS perception that the law of consecration has somehow been put on hold that the law of tithing is a temporary fill in and that we are simply waiting for some future day when Mormons will again undertake to radically reform the economic behavior of Mormons themselves and then the worldOf course when it comes to actual concrete applications of living the law of consecration in the present since it has never actually gone away Spencer has much less to say Which means the hardest work remains to be done Hopefully this book will provoke thought and discussion on these matters


  3. says:

    There is no LDS author who does a tighter reading of scripture than Joseph Spencer and Spencer shows how much can be pulled and utilized in such very few passages of scripture However than just a fascinating and philosophically rich exegesis of scripture Spencer reminds me of the hope that I too often lack and calls us all out to have faith in the power of hope


  4. says:

    The first half of this book is about Paul's epistle to the Romans The second half is about the development of the law of consecration in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints in the 1830s Then the author ties these revealed words together to briefly explore what the law of consecration means now It doesn't seem like it's going to work together but the author's close analysis of texts and sources makes it do so for the most part This is a book that's going to struggle to find an audience I think because it seems to have such a binary nature; it is rewarding on both fronts New Testament study and law of consecration study and with them together


  5. says:

    Spencer's mind is brilliant and his work here on the theology of hope extends an invitation to participate in a consecrated christian life that is difficult to refuse so don't His readings are sharp creative and illuminating Not to be missed


  6. says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book My rating is not due to knowing the author personally and having immense respect for him and it is in spite of my being an atheist who does not put a lot of stock in the idea of divine inspiration I genuinely think this is an engaging challenging insightful book and like other theological works I really enjoy it presents ideas and analysis which stimulate the mind enrich our understanding and provoke us to action no matter what worldview we hold all without sacrificing the particularity of the theological commitments which inform the work Wisdom is most apparent to me when an understanding has universal reach AND particular application and in this way I think this book is full of wisdomI would uibble with a couple of moments in particular the attempt to present hope as objectless yet with content While this is not an incoherent possibility it's not clear to me that Spencer really does identify an objectless hope and further it's not clear that objectless content escapes the conundrums that it is supposed to So I would want to think about the indeterminate and provisional nature of the content of hope in different terms Nonetheless the motivations for this move are well presented and in need of consideration


  7. says:

    I really did love this book and wanted to give it five stars The message is a very important one The law of consecration is one that the Saints aren't called on to live in some future day but covenant to live it right now In fact as Joe Spencer argues consecration is our only hope in working for the establishment of Zion I agreed with almost all of his conclusions and if I had not gotten so bogged down in some of the philosophical discussions in the first half of the book I would give a five star rating for sure I wish I could give half star ratings because this book is a solid 45 starsThis book is not all philosophicaltheological either I really enjoyed all of the historical content on early Christianity and the development of the sections of the Doctrine and Covenants related to consecration I would recommend this book to anyone with the caveat that those not well versed in philosophy may find a few sections in the first half of the book hard to get through Trust me your perseverance through those difficult sections in the first half will be abundantly rewarded in the second half of the book


  8. says:

    A lovely sweet heartfelt theological work on hope Starting with Paul moving to Abraham and Sarah Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith's law of consecration The link to consecration is not obvious but the link is strong The work of Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben helps provide the intellectual heft I hadn't heard of him before but he's on my radar nowAt root Spencer calls on us to live our lives in the world but also on a sacred plane That was Paul's agenda not to flee the world but to consecrate it Joseph Smith's tooTheology I always have to take in doses but I felt connected with Spencer's agenda I especially loved his storytelling of scriptural authorship Paul trying to legitimate his vision after the Corinthians' licentiousness damaged his credibility Or Mormon trying to tell his story through his abridged record Or Joseph Smith establishing and then revising what is now Section 42 in light of real world obstacles This helped me understand how scripture is revealed often unfolded in time and often in conversation with local conditions trying to realize God's vision even when it seems impossible


  9. says:

    Joseph Spencer has turned out yet another 5 star work on Mormon scripture This book is gorgeous The writing gets a little thick and overtly philosophical in the first few chapters but it's worth pushing through to watch Spencer lay out the law of consecration in the second half of the bookThis book besides being informative and intellectually stimulating was also spiritually transformative It has me convinced that hope is the theological virtue least understood and discussed among Latter day Saints but also the virtue that we most desperately needI'll be rereading this book over and over again Simply spectacular


  10. says:

    I found Spencer's first chapters about Pauline hope hard to understand Whether that is the fault of the author of my own I don't know Spencer spends a lot of time setting up the idea of hope to connect it to the law of consecration Once the book goes through its intermission and makes that transition to focusing on consecration the previous chapters start to make sense and as the dots are connected I was able to really enjoy this book I love the ideas put forth in this book even if they may not be delivered in the most concise way The law of consecration is something I need to take seriously