Living a life of faith with a God of matter

Re-examining the restoration without idealism

Adam Miller’s “A Radical Mormon Materialism: Reading Wrestling the Angel” in the book Future Mormon challenges Terryl Givens to take Joseph Smith’s “radical materialism” to the most whole extreme. Adam’s explanation of this extreme focuses on contrasting materialism and idealism. Adam’s articulate way of explaining complex concepts opened my eyes to what I saw but couldn’t explain. In this article, he proposed reading his previously written book Speculative Grace: Bruno Latour and Object-Oriented Theology, which attempts to re-envision grace within materialism instead of defining grace as the process of moving from the material to the ideal. He is moving Bruno Latour’s ideas into a religious context to ponder the doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints once we absorb “radical materialism” as a foundational paradigm of our faith.

This contrast is difficult to explain as words like truth, ideal, material, and even time are used so generally and abundantly in English that we don’t maintain a clear and specific meaning of each in our conversational language. In everyday conversation, I might say, “My son’s choice wasn’t ideal.” However, my sentence would mean that I could imagine many other choices that would have been better than the one he made. Not that he had one and only one choice to make. Or, I could say, “I follow the true path.” which opens up a range of interpretations that all have slightly different meanings.

When we discuss religious and metaphysical language, the ideal is often held as constant and unendingly ‘correct’. Idealists see the material world as limiting us from seeing this ideal, but the ideal has been and will always be there for us to strive to attain.

Materialist see that ‘the messiness of judgements, insights, and discernment does not stem from poor access to what is real (read ideal), but from the messiness of the real (read material) itself.’1 A materialist who believes in Prophets and Gods sees them as protectors of love in the messiness of the eternal material. We don’t see them as conveyors of the ideal state that is constant but impenetrable by our understanding. A materialist who believes in science sees experimentation as an action slightly overtaken by what it acts upon. We would change the view of the effortless passage from cause to effect in science to chains of mediation where correlation can imply causation from both variables.2


Definitions of materialism and idealism and a comparison of the concepts help solidify the concepts. Over time, a thorough interpretation of scripture through materialism will be developed under each of the books of Scripture leveraged by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.


Idealism is so penetrating in our worldview that it may feel like I am trying to explain how we breathe water instead of air (an absurdity) or even how the earth is flat. I am often uncomfortable with the implications myself. However, I believe that a materialist paradigm is what Latter-day scripture demands. This website is my attempt to see all scripture through the messiness of the real instead of the abstraction of the ideal.


  1. The good news is that, “as soon as there is no other world, perfection resides in this one” (PF 233). Every object is simply and perfectly whatever that object is. “There is no rear-world behind to be used as a judge of this one” (RS 118). This does not mean that legitimate judgements cannot be made, but it does mean that non-messy, non-provisional, non-concatenated judgements cannot be made. It means that the messiness of these judgements does not stem from our poor access to what is real, but from the messiness of the real itself. Adam Miller (Speculative Grace)↩︎

  2. Why always replace one commander with another? Why not recognize once and for all what we have learned over and over again in this book: that action is slightly overtaken by what it acts upon; that it drifts through translation; that an experiment is an event which offers slightly more than its inputs; that chains of mediations are not the same thing as an effortless passage from cause to effect; that transfers of information never occur except through subtle and multiple transformations; that there is no such thing as the imposition of categories upon a formless matter; and that, in the realm of techniques, no one is in command - not because technology is in command, but because, truly, no one, and nothing at all, is in command, not even an anonymous field of force? To be in command, or to master, is a property of neither humans, nor nonhumans, nor even of God. Bruno Latour (PH 298)↩︎