A Conversation about Mormonism as Hermetic Christianity

I have been having an interesting conversation with a non-Mormon who only recently discovered Mormonism. What caught my eye at first was reading:

I had always viewed Mormonism as a legalistic branch of Christianity combined with a ridiculous story about Jesus having come to America to preach to American Indians. For all the exotic religions from the ancient world, from the middle ages, from the more recent past, I’d explored I never looked at a faith with 6 million modern day Americans with anything more than a passing glance because I assumed there would be nothing interesting to see. And just recently with one of those passing glances I did a double take. I ran into an internet discussion with a bunch of religious Mormons the kind that don’t know what coffee tastes like and were married by 23, using authors from History of Religions in a religious debate, the sort of authors and more importantly concepts that usually only atheists or radical theologians would cite; and the Mormons showed clear signs of having read, understood and at least in some part approving of those books.

And so I was caught off guard, so I read more and more of the discussions on that board, and saw ideas from esoteric Christianity, what looked to me like ideas from Rosicrucianism, being used casually. A bunch of people who all think George W. Bush was a good president, citing religious ideas that Paul Tillich might think but would figure too radical to speak? This warranted more investigation. And after a few weeks I’ve come to the conclusion that Mormonism is genuinely cool. A truly new American religion, a blend of ingredients I’ve never seen before.

Of course, I had to read more. There are some conclusions we Mormons are used to and others that I personally reject. What I liked the most was that this non-Mormon was taking a serious look at the religion without ending up mocking or dismissing. Best of all, there was not a rejection of Mormons as Christians even when discussing highly “unorthodox” beliefs. Responses to my own comments have been cordial and even insightful for a person who newly discovered the complicated world of Mormonism within a month. I highly recommend reading (and perhaps engaging) the three part series.

Mormonism as Hermetic Christianity (part 1)

Mormonism as Hermetic Christianity (part 2)

Mormonism as Hermetic Christianity (part 3)

I think the first part is the best and captures an understanding of Mormonism more than the others. The second part is mostly a history of Hermetic Christianity with a few bits of good Mormon related information. The third part is the most problematic to me as I think the conclusions come from a misreading of Mormonism. Secondary sources used are of a questionable nature, although links to the criticisms are included.

The bulk of the conversation can be found in the second one because of a mix up when posting. I invite anyone else to join in or just read. I will be responding to separate questions at my Straight and Narrow Blog as time permits.

15 thoughts on “A Conversation about Mormonism as Hermetic Christianity

  1. Hi thanks for the Xpost. I’ll keep the conversation there, though do let me know when you hit the next of the 5 over on your side. Mainly posting here so I’ll get email updates to questions, objections…

  2. Might I suggest that Mormons do not call themselves Christian, or at least call themselves Christian 8.1. I was a long time Evangelical and left to become Muslim, perhaps as a reaction to some of the bogus evangelical doctrine.

    Now the Holy Spirit has dragged me kicking and screaming into exposure the the LDS as an Investigator, and am finding the experience most agreeable; nothing like my experience as a “Christian version 1.0”.



  3. Gewn —

    Evangelical American Protestant is a religion that really didn’t exist until the 19th century. Its similar in many ways to 16th century Protestantism but even then they deserve a high version number.

    a.b.c.d. it has simultaneously incompatible releases: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0c/Protestantbranches.svg

    Regardless Hellenistic Judaism deserves the 1.X’s.

    I don’t know if I’m comfortable calling myself an investigator but I certainly agree with you on exploring Mormonism being a very different and all together better experience.

  4. Well, actually I’m probably not intellectual enough to be running in this circle, but I do love God unreservedly.

    In Islam, they believe that Christians (The People Of The Book) departed from the true path when Paul and some of the desciples began writing. Isn’t this similar to what I am being taught by the Missionaries?

    I had never heard the term, Hermetic Christianity before yesterday and looked it up to see what it meant and probably still do not understand it in its full context. Though, I am anxious to learn and do hope that someday they will all be convinced that I am sincere.

    It feels a little odd to believe that we have a living prophet, though it shouldn’t because I believed in Islam. This is proving to be an exciting time of my life, though I’m quite ignorant.

    Much peace


  5. Khadijah,

    I’d say that the bigger problem with Paul is how people choose to understand him, and not what he taught.

  6. Half C:

    One of the places where my old church really failed, I think was in shunning, forgiveness and restoration. Oh, they got the shunning part right, but the rest … But, from what I have seen of the LDS so far, they seem to work astonishingly hard with restoration. Now, all this may be a little glass bubble that breaks very easily. I hope not.

    There is something about me that may ultimately prove that I am unsuitable to be LDS. Missionaries and sisters insist that is not the case, but I promised a sister that I would carry this through to its logical conclusion.

    I think there was a huge shift from what Jesus Christ taught to the desciples, and some christian 1.0 denominations have gone even further off the true path.

    I’ve read just lots of blogs that are hostile to the LDS, but after I looked at what they had to say prayerfully and with humility, I just can’t agree with them. One of the things that I find odd is that one man said that Joseph Smith plagarised the Bible. I was devout and studious about the Bible when I was in my old denomination, so I know the book reasonably well.

    In my experience reading the book of Mormon, it imediately became apparent to me that he knew the Bible really well, and that I think the Holy Spirit gave him and the original authors of the book of Mormon additional insight into how to translate it into English. It is obvious to me that the book did not come from some country boy who was spaced out on those purple mushrooms in the cow pasture.

    It is also apparent to me that God has repeatedly exposed me to Mormons for years, and this March he became very insistent. There are so many things that are beyond logic to me. Several times, I had been reading a particular section of the book of Mormon, Bible or other books on my own and when the sisters showed up to study with me, they would want to talk about what I had been reading without their knowlege.

    I walked out of the historical site in Kirtland more than once, telling the sisters that I had had enough, and then broke down in my car and cried on the way home. Later I would find myself meeting with them again. Eventually, it was too much for me, and gave in. God did not punish me or make me suffer, he just kept speaking to me through the Holy Spirit in the gentlest terms. How could I fight agains that?


  7. Khadijah, I went through a similar path. I had repeatedly been exposed to Mormon missionaries over the years and ignored them or marginalized their ideas. By pure accident, I went to a baptism and felt the Spirit so strong that I could not deny it. I was baptized 14 years ago — best decision I ever made. Every year has been better and better. I do not think everybody takes the same path — we all have our own ways to get close to God in this lifetime. But I can testify that joining the Church was the right path for me and for many, many other people who have done so. It also may be right for you. Please continue to explore and learn. Peace. Geoff B.

  8. Geoff:

    Thank you for your kind words. I know that the words in the book of Mormon are true, that Joseph Smith was a prophet, and that Thomas S. Monson is the living prophet. I believe the church is the church of Jesus Christ.

    Now, even when I feel hurt or upset in my investigation, I can not simply leave because I promised one of the sister missionaries that I would continue this through to it’s conclusion. I am constrained by the Holy Spirit to keep my word.

    Much peace


  9. Khadijah —

    If you don’t mind me asking…
    You’ve indicated you are willing to leave Islam and join the LDS
    You’ve indicated you believe in the current leadership
    You’ve indicated you believe in Joseph Smith’s revelations
    You’ve accept their scriptures
    You like the church

    What’s stopping you from being baptized into it?

  10. Hi:

    I am going through the interview process right now. I don’t want to be patient, but until all that is done, I have to. I am very sure, but they want to be sure of me. I understand.


  11. Ultimately you have to do what you feel is right. Many of us have had a riot with the mysteries…Hermeticism, Kabbalah, masonry, Adam God, polygamy, etc…but sooner or later you are backed up against the wall of faith. One must be able to trust there is another proof system higher than and more satisfactory but still consistent with logic, reason, inquiry, experience, etc.

  12. All I have is that I love God, I love Allah SWT (Allah is the Arabic word for God, I love the creator of the Universe, and I love him because I was created to do that. To not do so is to rebel agains the very genes in my body.

    If I do not live long enough to be baptised, I still love God.

    These studies and discussions are enlightening and feed my soul but as you say, in the end faith must carry the day.

    In Jesus Christ


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