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I have a whole file of quotes from Bloom's TAR, but here are two of the more thought-provoking ones, particularly in light of Thomas Murphy's assertion that the BOM is, essentially, inspired fiction, and a product of Joseph's fertile 19th-century mind.

Quoth Bloom:

...The general public associates Mormonism primarily with the BOM, a curious return after a century and a half to the origins of the religion. But the centrality of the BOM actually vanished during Smith’s major phase, the final five years before his murder by the Illinois militia...Benson has devoted himself to publicizing the BOM, even though it has very limited relationship to the doctrines of the LDS Church...When President Monson becomes Prophet, Seer, and Revelator, there may be less reliance upon the BOM as the royal road into the Mormon relgion...
...it does not matter how retrospective and revised a First Vision this is; all religion necessarily is revisionary in its regard to its own sacred origins...that remains the center of his achievement: the Mormons have continued for over a hundred and sixty years; they change, but they do not die...the Mormons, like the Jews before them, are a religion that became a people. That, I have come to understand, was always JS’s pragmatic goal, for he had the genius to see that only by becoming a people could the Mormons survive...

Yes, Bloom's perspective is rather unique. He says such interesting things he is fun to quote, but he has such odd religious perspectives that no one really "buys in" to his overall thesis (and he is certainly not a systematic thinker). Does anyone really think Jewish Gnosticism is the proper perspective for understanding American religion?

Actually I thought his Gnostic views of American religion were quite dead on in many ways. I kind of loved the way Orson Scott Card played with this in the early (and good) books in the Alvin Maker series. He went so far as to make William Blake a quasi-Gandalf figure.

While there are definite differences between gnostics, convervative evangelicals, and Mormons, there are also numerous parallels. Nibley had be, with various degrees of unrigor, been pointing this out for decades. Then we had Quinn, Card, Brooke, and others who went with it. I think that it was an important thread in understanding American religion that had been ignored for too long.


I'm flattered you dropped in. I enjoy Mormon Metaphysics, although you usually lose my by the second paragraph.

I enjoy Bloom's book, but I have a hard time integrating the whole Gnostic argument to Mormonism in any systematic way. I think the parallels, such as they are, are largely coincidental rather than suggesting any real historical link. I haven't read Brooke's book yet, but plan to soon. I imagine Brooke takes a different (and more historical) approach to the Gnostic or magical link than Bloom did.

Yes, Brooke is more historical, although as with many of these sorts of books suffers parallel-mania a tad too much. (i.e. when is a parallel a significant one?) Unfortunately no one looking at these parallels tends to bring up the issue of structural parallels. i.e. how do problems and a general approach generate structures. The "genetic" parallel approach of Quinn, Nibley, Brooke and so forth are thus fatally flawed. Bloom's is more interesting because he adopts the position that it's all Joseph's creativity. (I think Lance Owens basically takes that position) For him the nature of the parallels is thus irrelevant.

Still many of the parallels definitely are there. Look for an upcoming book by Joe Swick on Masonry parallels that should really open up the discussions. There are far more than most people realize. Swick rejects the "legendary" origins of Masonry (as most modern Masons do). Yet a lot of early Mormons accepted them. The interesting question for apologists then becomes the connection between Renaissance philosophy and Mormonism.

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