The book for my book club is by Sarah Baringer Gordon, The Mormon Question. It’s been a really hard book to find at the library (nearly impossible), so I got a late start on it. It takes a very different approach to the polygamy question. Ms Gordon has a law degree, and so she talks about the legal arguments concerning the separation of church and state. I’ve learned a lot about the evolution of legal thought and the Constitution. There hasn’t been a strict separation, especially during the 1800’s. The Mormons helped define that line.
One of the interesting quotes from the book concerns whether Joseph started another denomination of Christianity, or a new religion. From page 11,
Most antipolygamists were so alarmed by the Mormons that they refused to concede even that the latter-day faith was itself Christian….
In some senses, latter-day revelation and practices were indeed so distinct from other forms of Christianity that it is valid to call Mormonism a new religion. Religious historian Jan Shipps has cogently argued that Mormonism in the nineteenth century brought believers out of one faith and into a new one–a distinct religion, emerging out of but different from Christianity. As this book emphasizes, latter-day faith was also deeply related to American Protestantism and was frequently opposed with tools that had been deployed against Catholicism. If nineteenth-century Mormonism was a new, post-Christian dispensation, it was also developed and defended in American space and time.
I guess what struck me about the quote was that Christianity developed out of Judiasm to form a new religion. Is Mormonism a new religion formed from Christianity?