June 9, 2011

Mormon Shout-Outs in Books I'm Reading

(Initiated on 12/16/10)

It seems like Mormons pop up ever so briefly in many of the religious-themed books I read, and sometimes in the fiction. I wish I'd been keeping track to this point, but I'll start from now and add future mentions to this post, however inconsequential, when I remember.

My criteria for inclusion is subjective. Basically, if I didn't expect Mormonism to crop up I'll probably mention it here, especially when the author is not a member of the LDS Church. As I discover more references I might start to classify them. (Geographical/Utah references, which usually leads to some comment on Mormons, References to beliefs or practices, like polygamy, etc.).

Feel free to add your own.

Bart Ehrman, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christians Writings (2 ed.), (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000). 

Mormons get two shout-outs in Ehrman's good little intro to NT studies for undergrads. In a list of characteristics Americans might expect religion to include (Hierarchy, doctrinal statements, ethical commitments, sacred writings) Ehrman adds: "7. Exclusive commitments (e.g., a member of a Baptist church cannot also be a Hare Krishna, just as a practicing Jew cannot be a Mormon)" (21).

In Box 26.2, "The Spread of Christianity," Ehrman states that the early church "grew quite slowly in its early years. At the end of the first century, far fewer than 1 percent of the Empire's population of 60 million was Christian. But the growth was steady...With a steady growth rate of 40 percent every decade (the approximate rate of growth for the Mormon church today, as it turns out), the small band of Jesus' followers could become something like 5 percent of the Empire by the end of the third century" (398).

Donald Barthelme, "CONSTRUCTION," from Forty Stories, (New York: Penguin Books, 2005).

Barthelme is a quirky writer of fiction, his short stories often have no start or finish in the traditional sense, his prose can be disjointed, creative, roaming. In the middle of a story about some sort of businessman who frequently flies to Los Angeles we read:

"I noticed very little about the place, the shrubs or trees, saw a bit of the ocean from my hotel room window, saw an old woman in a green bathrobe on the balcony of the building opposite, at the same level, the eleventh floor, and wondered if she was a guest or if she was one of these persons who clean the place; if she was one of those persons who clean the place it seemed unlikely that she would come to work in a green bathrobe and I am sure that she wore a green bathrobe, but she did not resemble a guest or tenant, she had a bent broken stooped losing-the-game look of the kind that defines the person who is not winning the game. Seldom am I wrong about such things, the eidetic memory as we say, saw a figure of some kind possibly female atop the Mormon temple, the figure seemed to be leading the people somewhere, onward, presumably, saw several unpainted pictures on the street, from the windows of my limousine in which I was moved from place to place, Pietas, mostly, one creature holding another creature in its arms, at bus stops, mostly. Los Angeles" (213-214).


rameumptom said...

Ehrman's work is rather good. I have several of his books, and while sometimes he goes a little beyond what I think the evidence says, he's usually rather accurate.

BHodges said...

I liked the book. I've seen a few complaints about it in that Ehrman favors his own position (!) and doesn't give enough space for opposing views in this book. Since it's an introduction, and for the sake of brevity, I think that's fine, and his suggested sources at the ends of chapters often include books which advocate for different positions on various things (for instance he tips the cap to John Meier even though they seem to have pretty different views on Jesus's teachings regarding the Kingdom of God and apocalyptic what-not.

Clark said...

Why can't a practicing Jew be a Mormon? I know there is tension between Jews and say Messianic Jews over the Christ issue. But Messianic Jews typically consider themselves Jewish and many go to synagogue regularly. I can't think of anything within Mormonism which would keep them out of synagogue and being a practicing Jew. If there is a problem it would be Jewish prejudice against Mormonism.

Interesting the other example of Hare Krishnas is also relevant. Many HAre Krishnas take a lot of the discussion of the Gods symbolically. I've known people to simultaneously practice Mormonism and Krishna. Indeed if you go down to the Krishna temple in Spanish Fork on Sunday night you'll find a lot of active LDS BYU students.

Clark said...

(Or at least when I went a few times back in the 90's there were a lot)

BHodges said...

Clark, I miss what you're responding to

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