When Nick Harris, of blessed memory, came to the Book Club years ago and first mentioned his encounter with Mormons, it became clear quickly that Mormons are ‘persons of interest’ in the American West. Indeed, they are persons of interest to us – Christians who practice their Christianity in Montana today. Mormons often are our neighbors, our acquaintances, our friends. Mormonism will be the focus of the St. Timothy’s Book Club this year, with Wayne Boulton as our facilitator.
That said, what sort of conversation will this be? In Wayne’s words:
“Mormons and orthodox Christians are religiously different.[i] Not only is it not easy to deny this, but I can assure you that I will not. All our sessions this summer will have two parts. First, in what would we say that the difference(s) between Christianity and Mormonism consists? Are there similarities? What sources do we use to make this case? How are we interpreting these sources? Do the sources include personal experience with Mormons? And secondly, so what? Or better, what can and should be said evaluatively about the Mormon faith? What do you think of them overall? Do you treat them differently than other faiths?
A lesson of my life has been that a fair assessment of a different religion takes work. The central premise of the class this summer is that the work is usually worth it. Our book will be Richard J. Mouw’s Talking With Mormons (2012), a short volume from which I have learned a great deal. As you recall, the Book Club is open to all. Those interested are encouraged to purchase the book on Amazon (pbk, $6.22 plus shipping; Kindle, $8.50).
Mouw, 75, was president of Fuller Theological Seminary in California for 20 years, and continues to hold the position of Professor of Faith and Public Life at the school. Though with him most of the time, I find myself disagreeing with Dr. Mouw at times about theology. If this happens to you while reading the book or in our discussions, take note…and be brave. Speak openly and with care about these moments; for such differences are religious ones.”
Meeting times will be communicated in July.
[i] More seriously, perhaps, and of significance nationwide in 2016, the same distinction holds for Christians and followers of Islam.