An Insider's Look at Mormon Culture

Over 35 years ago, I promised God I would read scriptures for 10 minutes every morning. Ten minutes isn’t a lot of time, but each year I completed the volume studied in Sunday School, Ensign articles that provided background for the Sunday School course of study, General Conferences addresses, and a few LDS commentaries. Even the Book of Mormon, my least favorite scripture, became interesting as I concentrated on the spiritual truths presented, rather than the historical narrative. Still, I was never able to see the literary richness which Richard Dilworth Rust finds in the Book of Mormon. And most of the chiasmus that John Welch identifies seems like a stretch. Nevertheless, I find many meaningful passages, particularly King Benjamin’s address and Ether 12.

As a devout Mormon, I obeyed the council to spend even more time reading the BoM when the church ramped up the emphasis a couple of decades ago. Rereading the BoM over and over took time from studying other scriptures and it eventually became tedious. To add depth to my study, I started looking up cross references in the footnotes. As I continued my study, I found nearly every doctrine in the BoM is also found in the Bible.

Half-a-dozen years ago, as I closed the book at the end of Moroni’s farewell, I knew I did not want to start with, “I, Nephi” the next morning. I wanted to read the Jewish Study Bible I’d just purchased. Rereading the BoM would take time I could devote to learning more about the Old Testament. And what was the point of starting through the BoM for the second time this year? Would I learn anything or was I just trying to access blessings Church leaders promised for obedience? Was BoM reading a talisman?  Open book, read daily, receive answers to prayer.

I spent my scripture study time for the next several months on the Jewish Study Bible which opened my eyes to Jewish scholarship and to the reasons Jews don’t accept the Christian interpretation of passages foreshadowing Jesus.

Since then, I’ve expanded my study time far beyond the LDS Standard Works. My all-time favorite is Reverence by Paul Woodruff. Another life-changing book for me is Sharon Salzberg’s Loving-Kindness, a simple introduction to principles of Buddhism which can be practiced by members of any faith. Mother Teresa’s Come Be My Light revealed how even the most dedicated Christian may harbor doubts that she is doing what God expects of her or if He even hears her cries for help. Rumi, the 13th century Sufi mystic, wrote many spiritually moving poems. The wisdom of Tao te Ching also resonates with my spirit. I especially like Stephen Mitchell’s poetic translation of this Chinese classic.

I recently finished Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity by Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. I don’t have to be Jewish to be uplifted by his insights about God and human nature. His comment, “One of the major inclinations in every human being is a desire to be deceived,” explains many of our contemporary problems. 

As Joseph Smith was aware, God has not limited inspiration and wisdom to members of any one denomination. Branching out to access spiritual insights from many of God’s chosen children has deepened my reverence for all of God’s creations. Thank you Jewish and Gentile authors!

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Comments on: "Seek Learning–Even from Gentiles" (1)

  1. You are doing what both Joseph Smith and Brigham Young kept telling the members to do when they emphasized that there was truth in other religions and we had a duty to seek it out and bring it back and share it with each other.

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