News Release

Oxford Professor Mark Wrathall Presents the Annual Latter-day Saint Lecture at McGill University

On October 5, 2023, University of Oxford philosophy professor Mark Wrathall gave a lecture entitled “Religion, Faith and Practical Non-Cognitivism” at the Birks Heritage Chapel at McGill University. The lecture was the ninth in the annual Latter-day Saint Lecture series co-hosted by McGill University’s School of Religious Studies and the Montreal Quebec Mount Royal Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Wrathall specializes in 19th and 20th century European philosophy and is best known as a leading interpreter of the work of philosopher Martin Heidegger. His areas of research and publication include the philosophies of religion, art, human agency and popular culture. Among his many scholarly productions, he published “Alma 30–63: A Brief Theological Introduction” in 2020 (Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship).

Drawing from linguistics and philosophical and religious sources, Wrathall argued that faith, as a “non-cognitive attitude,” is different from belief; it is a “virtue of a religious form of life” involving practice or action. He used the Church as a case study to illustrate this concept.

Wrathall reasoned that a successful life of faith within the Latter-day Saint community hinges on “being bound together into ever-wider networks of loving relationships.” Latter-day Saint religious practice is first “embodied in the skills individuals develop by being ministers and teachers, filling callings, and becoming disciples of Christ”; second, “embedded in churches, temples [and] homes”; and finally, “aims at personal salvation and a flourishing community united in Christ.”

After Wrathall’s remarks, Philip Buckley, an associate professor of philosophy at McGill University, responded with his own questions and reactions, followed by questions from the audience, which filled the chapel.

Lecture participant Candice Wendt remarked, “I find Dr. Wrathall’s framework for faith practical, supportive and empowering. These insights could help bring individuals and communities together — both inside and outside of Latter-day Saint circles. His definition of faith as lived practice, including building a community that seeks to support everyone, made me ponder how in the 21st century one of the most valuable aspects of religious life is community connection. As someone invested in supporting young people in their spiritual lives in the interfaith community, I think Wrathall’s framework for faith could help young adults remain firmly anchored in their faith communities.”

The occasion of Wrathall’s lecture coincided with the 75th anniversary of the former McGill Faculty of Divinity, now the School of Religious Studies. Professor Daniel Cere noted, “On this exact day 75 years ago, a service was held in the Birks Chapel [formerly the Chapel of Divinity Hall] to mark the inauguration of the faculty.”

At that time, McGill principal F. Cyril James declared, “I think that the creation of this Faculty of Divinity signalizes not only the contribution that it can make to higher education in McGill University, but the contribution that McGill can make to the training of those who in the future will be ministers of the gospel” (“The Faculty of Religious Studies, McGill University: 1948–1978”). Cere remarked that Wrathall’s lecture continues to exemplify that joint mission.

The annual McGill Latter-day Saint Lecture series began in 2014 and has included speakers that have addressed topics such as sacred Latter-day Saint spaces, Latter-day Saint women, Book of Mormon origins and the influence of secularism on the Church. These and other lectures will be included in an edited collection of essays published by McGill–Queen's University Press.

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