How I Became A Mormon Studies Scholar

Posted: December 13, 2015 in Fred Anson, Mormon Studies

mormonby Fred W. Anson
I grew up in Southern California and had Mormon friends and family members all my life.

But the big event was when a close family member converted in 1970. That was a watershed event the ripples of which are still resonating through my family.

I was Born Again in 1976 and lightly studied Mormonism starting around 1978 – mainly the Tanner’s material and Walter Martin. I dared not touch anything from the other side of the divide lest I get “contaminated” (typical ’70’s Jesus Movement ‘antiseptic Christian’ thinking no doubt).

Fast forward to the passing of Gordon B. Hinckley . . .

A Mormon family relative sent out a mass email praising Gordon B. Hinckley using “Fast and Testimony” language and expounding on the time that he met him and shook his hand. The “hook” that got me was when my normally rational, logical relative said, “When I looked into his eyes it was if I was he and I were the only people in the room – it was if I were looking into the eyes of Christ.”

That was wake up call #1.

Then a few months later Mitt Romney drops out of the Presidential race on the same week that the Wall Street Journal publishes an article revealing that most Americas consider Mormons “weird” and thus would have second thoughts about having one as President of the nation.

Apparently the Mormon General Authorities sent out some type of communique to the Wards about this article and Romney’s departure because that Sunday that same Mormon family member sent out another weepy “Fast and Testimony” email about how Mormons are just normal people and how we non-Mormons shouldn’t persecute them for their faith.

That was bad.

What was worse when someone else in my family (who’s not Mormon) immediately replied with words of comfort ending with, “… after all we all worship the same Christ.”

I sat there stunned and realized that I wasn’t equipped to reply intelligently to either of these bright, intelligent, well read family members.

So I dove into Mormon Studies with heart, mind and soul and to my shock and surprise discovered that: a) I love it! and; b) I’m pretty good at it.

I’m hooked.

My favorite Mormon Studies quote – and the one the epitomizes my Mormon Studies philosophy and experience – comes from LdS Scholar Kathleen Flake who said:

Superficially, one thinks of revealed religions as providing answers, and Smith provides as many questions as he does answers. Nobody is exempt from struggling with who he is. Whether you’re an insider or an outsider, thinking about Smith causes you to struggle, and that struggle brings as much of you into the question as it does Smith himself. He’s a bit of a religious Rorschach test.
Kathleen Flake, Historian
(from the PBS Series “The Mormons”)

That quote matches my experience to a T! I have grown deeper and wider in my own faith by studying Joseph Smith than I ever thought possible – that was unexpected. Further, I seem to be helping others through my own involvement on Internet discussion boards (Concerned Christians and AnswerBag).

I have been labeled, “An enemy of the only true Church” and “A Child of the Devil” by Mormons which I take as feedback that I’m doing something right and I’m effective to some small degree.

Oh, and I’m ready for either of my relatives and their families should the door ever open there.

(As originally published on Facebook on May 10, 2010) 

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