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.
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.