Friday, July 08, 2011

Modern Mormonism

The GOP has two members of the LDS (Mormon) faith running for president. Broadway has a hit musical which is satirically based on the adventures of two Mormon missionaries (most Mormon guys serve an intense 2 year mission during their late teens or early twenties). If you don't live in the Inter-Mountain West, you may be asking yourself - "Who or what is a Mormon?"

That was my question 8 years ago when my wife and I decided to move our family out to Salt Lake City, Utah. I knew Mormons read the book of Mormon, but other than that... I am not sure that I even connected Mormon to Latter-Day Saint.

However, having been brought up in a charismatic/evangelical environment, I had heard the term Mormon a number of times at church functions... and it was never positive. The word cult was frequently attached. I can't say that I really knew what a cult was either, but somehow it was even worse than a non-Christian religion. Muslims and Hindus were deceived in their false religions... but cults were several cuts lower than that.

So, when we decided to move out here, we had many concerned Christians offering us books and videos about Mormons - how to convert them, how to know their tricks, how to run away, etc.

Somehow, my wife and I had enough foresight to politely decline these advances. We figured the best way to get to know Mormons.... was to get to know Mormons. What we found is that they are pretty much like everyone else. Our Mormon friends are some of the most wonderful people we have ever known. We have also run into self-righteous Mormons who use their faith to put everyone else beneath them.

Seems that pattern weaves its way into every religious group.

However, our good experiences have obviously dominated. After all, we have stayed in Salt Lake City. :)

Still, if one does not live near SLC and you want to get an impression of the best Mormonism has to offer, where might you look? I have a book recommendation.

Modern Mormonism: Myths and Realities

The author is Robert Millet, a Mormon's Mormon, and a man who has become a good friend of mine over the past few years. According to Wikipedia:

Dr. Robert L. Millet (born December 30, 1947 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana) is a professor of ancient scripture and emeritus Dean of Religious Education at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. Millet is a distinguished Latter-day Saint author and speaker with more than 60 published works on virtually all aspects of Mormonism.

Bob has worked with local evangelicals to foster better understanding and to promote courteous discussion of religious differences. He is also one of the best conversationalists I know. Regardless of your perspective on religion, Bob hosts a safe place to share your ideas.  He also has an enviable personal library containing a wide breadth of theological works. I have yet to bring up a theologian or author that he is not well versed in (or had lunch with).

In Modern Mormonism, Bob addresses a number of issues that are most often misunderstood by the public. He also presents the tenants of his faith in an approachable and heart-felt manner. Through personal stories and a deep knowledge base, he gives those unfamiliar with Mormonism a good sense of what the faith is like and what those who subscribe to it believe.

I am not Mormon; but I have many friends, whom I love, who follow the Mormon faith. I think Bob's book gives a good glimpse into the faith that my friends and neighbors embrace. If you have wondered about Mormonism, this book is a great introduction.


Watchman said...

I would love to find out from a Mormon what the tenets of the Mormon faith truly are void of Christian fundamentalist propaganda. I think the most ridiculous propaganda I heard from Evangelical Christianity is that Mormons wear some kind of secret underwear.

Bob said...

Thanks Andrew. We live in a community of quite a few Mormons and I had never known much about the faith either until we moved here nearly 14 years ago. We bought our house from Mormons who are great people, incredibly kind and very family oriented.

One thing I did not know about them is they are survivalists. The previous owners of our house had several years' worth of freeze-dried food, water, etc. stored on shelves they had built in the basement. They explained this to us when they showed us the house.

Cool thing about that is I got to keep the shelves.

irreverance said...

I really appreciate your willingness to see people as people first (with both brilliance and shadow), and only then moving on to understanding them in the context of their religion. Thanks for the resource. We really need recommendations like this so others can find helpful information that bypasses the propaganda.

The Arkwelder said...

I grew up Mormon. Haven't rejected the religion, but usually attach some weird adjective to the moniker to create some sort of distance between myself and it. There is a lot of negative and completely false propaganda out there. The truth about Mormons is much much worse--that they are much more like evangelical Christians than they ought to be. My experience is that there are people out there of every religion that "get it" and "don't get it". Religion, in most cases, is just something you're born into. I will confess, however, that I am very partial to Mormon theology and cosmology, which most non-adherents think sounds kraaazee.

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