Friday, March 9, 2012

Matthew Bowman

Matthew Bowman received his Ph.D. in American religious history from Georgetown University in May 2011, and a master’s in American history from the University of Utah. His dissertation, “The Urban Pulpit: Evangelicals and the City in New York, 1880–1930,” was funded by the prestigious Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship. His new book is The Mormon People: The Making of an American Faith.

From his Q & A with Marjorie Kehe at the Christian Science Monitor:

Previously you had mainly studied the evangelical Christian church. Why are you now writing about Mormonism?

[Today we’re seeing] the rise of what has been called “the Mormon moment.” I think it is not the first Mormon moment and will not be the last. But it is one getting more attention.

The Mormon theology – with its narrative of buried golden tablets, a battle between Nephites and Lamanites, Jesus visiting North America – can seem odd to non-Mormons. Is it really more or less unusual than some other religious beliefs?

Mormonism is perceived as being unusual for two reasons. One is that it’s a very small faith. There are about 14 million Mormons in the world. The other thing is that [the church’s teachings] are new. Joseph Smith founded a new religion in the modern world. Smith’s visionary experiences and his scandalous claims to be speaking the words of God in 1840s America seems very freshly provocative to us. But it’s not really so different from Muhammad claiming to speak for God in the desert of Arabia. Or Joan of Arc seeing visions of angels in her farmhouse in medieval France. [Mormonism] has not yet gained the dignity which comes with age.

Mormonism has grown rapidly over the years. Why do converts find it so appealing?

First, Mormonism is...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue