Latter-day Saint Theology & Divine Finitude: Scripture, Revelation, The Problem of Evil & Social Justice

Latter-day Saint Theology & Divine Finitude: Scripture, Revelation, The Problem of Evil & Social Justice

About the Conference:
April 26-27, 2024, at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA - Dinner Board Room 

Plenary Speaker: Thomas Jay Oord, Professor of Open and Relational Theology and Director of the Center for Open and Relational Theology, Northwind Theological Seminary 

The Latter-day Saint tradition maintains a finite conception of God that challenges key tenets of classical Christian theism. God is understood to have a literal body of flesh and bone (D&C 130:22) and to relate to human beings in exceptionally passable and interactive ways (Jacob 5:7 & Moses 7:29). God is said to have created human beings in the divine likeness such that it is possible for humanity to become divine (Moses 1:39). God’s design for humanity is to create the conditions for spiritual growth and to labor with them toward the glorification of both (Jacob 5:72). This conference will explore divine finitude in the Latter-day Saint tradition and seeks to examine and build on the theological writings of thinkers such as B. H. Roberts, David Paulsen, Truman Madsen, Eugene England, Lowell Bennion, Sterling McMurrin, Margaret Toscano, and Fiona & Terryl Givens, among others.  

The concept of divine finitude is especially relevant given the challenges confronting humanity in the contemporary world. How might Latter-day Saint theology respond meaningfully to the lived experience of chaos and hopelessness due to pervasive loss and suffering? How might its conception of God inform its approach to scriptural interpretation, ethics, and social activism?   

About the Call for Proposals: 
The conference is organized by Deidre Green, Assistant Professor of Latter-day Saint/Mormon Studies at the Graduate Theological Union in collaboration with Brian Birch, Director of the Religious Studies Program, Utah Valley University, and Patrick Mason, Leonard J. Arrington Chair of Mormon History and Culture, Utah State University. 

Conference Schedule

Friday, April 26th

  • Panel 1: 1:00 PM - 2:15 PM
    • Deidre Nicole Green, Opening Remarks
    • Rachael Givens Johnson, "The Kingdom of God is Present’: Late 19th-century  Transatlantic Debates on LDS Material Metaphysics"
    • George Handley, "Unorganized Matter as a Foundation of Social and Environmental Morality in Latter-day Saint Theology"
  • Panel 2: 2:30 PM - 3:45 PM
    • James M. McLachlan, "Any Personal God is Finite: Personal Idealism from Schelling to William Chamberlin and Sterling McMurrin"
    • James Kintz, "Is a Relational God Compatible with Classical Theism?"
    • Matthew R. Draper & Richard D. Draper, "Lived Grace: Divine Finitude in a Suffering World"
  • Panel 3: 4:00 PM - 5:10 PM
    • Maddison Tenney, "What is Known and Unknown: LGBTQ+ Salvation within Latter-Day Saint Theology"
    • Jared Bennett, "Divine Compassion in Jewish and Latter-day Saint Scriptures: A Comparative Theology"
    • Paul Bryner, "A Response to Antitheodicy: Dostoevsky, Mormon, and the Problem of Evil”
    • Kyle David Belanger, "Situated Revelations and Embodied Divine Knowledges"

Dinner: 5:00 PM - 6:30 PM

  • Keynote: 6:30 PM - 7:30 PM 
    • Thomas Jay Oord, "A Finite God: Internal or External Limitations"

Saturday, April 27th

  • Panel 4: 9:00 AM - 10:15 AM
    • Mark Wrathall, "What Kind of a Body is God’s?"
    • Maxine Hanks, "Feminist Theology as Deconstructive and Affirmative of LDS Deity"
    • Tyler Johnson, "Godliness in a Tragic Universe: How Restored Christian Cosmology Suggests a Radical Approach to the Problem of Evil and a Coherent Direction for Individual Moral Development"
  • Panel 5: 10:30 AM - 11:45 AM
    • Keith Lane, "Following Christ in His Finitude: Imitation in the low way of suffering and sorrow"
    • Taylor-Grey Miller, "Evil and Embodiment"
    • Brian Birch, "Finitism and the Problem of Evil: It's Still a Problem"

Lunch: 11:45 AM - 1:00 PM

  • Panel 6: 1:00 PM - 2:15 PM
    • Rachel Helps and Steven L. Peck, "The Aesthetic Universe: Evolution, Embodiment, and Suffering"
    • Patrick Q. Mason, Closing Remarks