The Thinking Mormon’s Reading List

Unfortunately, we’ve raised a generation of non-thinking, ever-feeling sheep. It’s lead to quite a few crises of faith, and rightly so. Human beings were never meant to simply obey for obedience sake, else why would we have an inherent ability to act and choose for ourselves from before the world was created?

So, here are some things I’ve read that I’ve found instructive for better understanding the anthropological reason for religion, the universality of truth, and ignited an intellectual study of the doctrine which balances out the often crazy Mormon culture. “Reading,” for our purposes, is code for close reading, critical analyses, and comparative to our currently held beliefs and practices. The thrust of our questioning should be: Why do we need religion? What is the societal function of a belief system? Then, why this system and where do I fit in?

It should be noted there are quite a few good works written by former or anti-Mormons. The research is generally sound, but the attitude is a little difficult to stomach sometimes. If you’re interested, though, let me know.

Presence on this list does not equal whole-hearted endorsement. It does equate with “things that will make you think.” It’s not an end-all be-all, but rather a starting point.* Please comment with any volumes you’ve found useful and think I should read!

  • The Sacred and the Profane, Mircea Eliade
  • The Savage Mind, Claude Levi Strauss
  • The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell
  • The Wentworth Letters, The King Follett Sermon, and Lectures on Faith, attributed to Joseph Smith
  • A Mother There, David L. Paulsen
  • Women and the Priesthood, Sheri Dew
  • The Life and Confessions of John D. Lee, written by himself
  • Mormon Doctrine, Bruce R. McConkie (aka the bulk of the Bible Dictionary)
  • World Religions, Palmer (this is a text book for Rel C 351)
  • Original versions of the Book of Commandments, The Book of Mormon, the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible (see RLDS church), varying accounts of the First Vision
  • The History of the Church — all volumes (it’s a slog, but you can do it!)
  • Journal of Discourses — all volumes (again, quite hefty at 24 volumes…. but provides excellent insight into the personality and humanity of those we’ve made into demi-gods; much easier to separate when the prophet of the time is functioning as a prophet and when he’s speaking for himself when you read an entire set of one person’s speeches)
  • The Qu’ran, The Bhagavad Gita, The Confucian Analects, The Torah and Talmud, attended worship services of various religions
  • The Screwtape Letters and Mere Christianity, CS Lewis
  • The LDS Canon: KJV Old and New Testaments, The Book of Mormon, The Doctrine & Covenants, The Pearl of Great Price
  • Anything and everything ever written, spoken by, or even thought about from Hugh Nibley (and by extension, C. Wilfred Griggs)
  • The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley (strangely, taught me more about the importance of fasting than anything else)
  • The Silmarillion, JRR Tolkien (the most revelatory description of a Creation Myth involving councils of gods, a fallen god, and the origins of the good/evil dichotomy)

*I purposefully disregard any and all blogs, no matter how well written. They are no substitute for true academic work or primary sources. I also apply stricter scrutiny to books or articles written after 2000, as they tend to be brimming with revisionist history and a pathological need to please (not offend) everyone. 

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3 thoughts on “The Thinking Mormon’s Reading List

  1. Really interesting and diverse list. Here are some of my favorites:
    Eugene England’s writings, in particular “That The May Not Suffer” (on the Atonement) and “Why the Church is as True as the Gospel”
    Richard Poll – “What the Church Means to People Like Me” (Iron Rod vs Liahona)
    Terryl and Fiona Givens writings, especially “The God Who Weeps” and “The Crucible of Doubt”
    Valerie Hudson – “The Two Trees”

  2. kevinf says:

    Sterling McMurrin, “Theological Foundations of the Mormon Religion” for some deep dives into our somewhat murky theology.
    Richard Bushman, “Rough Stone Rolling,” a must, I think.
    Peter Enns, “The Evolution of Adam,” to get a taste for contemporary scholarship on how, when, why, and by whom the Bible was likely written

  3. Also, Grant Hardy, “Understanding the Book of Mormon: A Reader’s Guide”
    I am a little concerned about your comment that you are skeptical of anything written since 2000. So much has come from the Joseph Smith Papers project, and other historical and theological writing in that time. And you should check out Ardis Parshall’s Mormon History blog, keepapitchinin.org, for how a blog can do serious history that fosters real thinking.

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