Frameworks #1: Java Programming and the Gospel

Posted on July 27, 2008 by


I’ve been philosophizing a bit lately, and so I’m afraid you will all be on the receiving end of that for several of my next posts.

One thing on my mind has been frameworks. In my job right now I’m building a new web application. From the start, I knew it would be written in the Java programming language, but I didn’t know which framework I would use. In programming, the language (Java, in this case) is what makes the program do stuff, and the framework is how you give structure and order to the things the program does. Than language Java has existed for about 10 years, and has changed relatively little during that time. However, there are dozens of Java frameworks, with names like Struts, Faces, Tapestry, Spring, and Seam, and new frameworks are created every few months.

So it’s in that light that I’ve been considering the gospel. The gospel principles espoused by the prophets — concepts like “priesthood”, “foreordination”, “keys”, “prophet”, “blessings”, “righteousness” etc. — have, like the Java language, changed very little since they were first introduced. However, the frameworks for understanding those principles change remarkably from time to time and person to person, and new frameworks are developed every day. For example, Grandpa Stan’s concept of a prophet was rather different from Grandma Nina’s, and young women today have a different vision of ideal womanhood than their grandmothers did.

Frameworks are problem-solving structures. Many programmers have been turned off from Java because it was introduced to them in a framework that did not meet their needs. When we present the principles of the gospel, do we do it in a framework that addresses the needs of the people we are addressing?

Frameworks come in many shapes and sizes. Perhaps the simplest one contains three basic principles — church, righteousness, and heaven. It relates them in the sentence, “The church teaches us to be righteous so we can go back to heaven.” For many church members, this framework is sufficient. For other church members, this framework leaves a lot of unanswered questions, questions like, “If the church is what it’s all about, then what’s the rest of life for?” or “Why doesn’t everyone have the same chances to get back to heaven?” or any of thousands of other questions. The gospel teaches principles that address many of these questions, but it takes a more complex framework to apply them.

One of the best known complex frameworks, and perhaps most influential, is Bruce R. McConkie’s Mormon Doctrine. Mormon Doctrine presents, connects, and prioritizes hundreds of principles in ways that made sense to the church members in its day. Dozens of other frameworks have been published before and after Mormon Doctrine, and they address the issues of their days.

When Joseph Smith presented the Articles of Faith in 1842, he talked about “gift[s] of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues” and “the literal gathering of Israel and…the restoration of the Ten Tribes”. When the prophets speak today, we’re more likely to hear about eternal families, loving one’s neighbors, and the divinity of Christ. That’s not because Joseph did not believe in eternal families, or because we don’t believe in the literal gathering of Israel, but because our frameworks emphasize different principles for the needs of our day.

Each of us develops a personal gospel framework as we read the scriptures, attend church, meditate, and start answering our own questions about life and eternity. Our personal relationships to the church will likely depend largely on the frameworks we create for ourselves. Perhaps the prophesied future growth of the church will happen as people like us, whether in or out of the church, find new ways to apply the principles of the gospel to the world in which we live.

Posted in: Church