Symmachus wrote:Anti-cult ministries are sensationalists and entrepreneurs, so they will attack whatever religious group arouses enough curiosity and a great enough sense of difference to sell books and fill seats at their presentations.
Oh yes, no doubt. And yet they will also select targets that seem worthwhile and address perceived problems, because, well, that sells too.
Symmachus wrote:That Mormonism is somewhat historically closer to traditional Christianity than, say the Nation of Islam (which gets a chapter in Martin's book as meaty as that on Mormonism, as I remember) only means that the nature of the arguments deployed by anti-cult ministries against Mormonism are different, not that people find Mormonism more plausible than any other group deemed a cult by these ministries. Whether the anti-cult people believe Mormonism is a bigger threat because of points of similarity to their version of Christianity in comparison to other groups is irrelevant if the question is whether potential converts find one religious claim more plausible than another. You'd have to ask the people converting to know that, not the anti-cult people who perceive a threat but primarily a market that is made up people who already accept their message, share a lot of their views, and purchase their materials and pay for their lectures.
First of all, cherry-picking the fact about relative chapter lengths in a single book is unpersuasive. Secondly, it is the fact that Mormonism claims to be Christian, highlights its use of the name Jesus Christ at every turn, and aggressively proselytizes that makes it a steady target of anti-cult ministries, polemicists, and the anxieties of pastors who have lost parishioners to the LDS faith. The movement of people from Christianity to Mormonism is facilitated by the nearness of the two, and its plausibility as a faith choice over say, a UFO cult or Scientology.
Symmachus wrote:It's self-evidently true that Mormonism is more intelligible to people of a Protestant Christian background, but plausibility and intelligibility are not the same thing. And then people don't necessarily convert to something because it is intelligible. Often perceived difference matters. Or the possibility of getting an American sponsor for a visa. Sometimes that increases perceived plausibility of a religious claim. It is my understanding, in fact, that most converts to Mormonism are in the global south, where the cultural background, even when it is Christian, makes Mormonism something of an exotic American religion.
Plausibility and intelligibility are certainly related things, even if they are not the same thing. We can spend a lot of time arguing over the reason why millions of Christians converted to Mormonism, beginning in 1830, and including my own ancestors, but the simple fact is that they did, and they did so partly because Mormonism claimed to fulfill a lot of the promises of Christianity and the yearning for early Christianity with its charisma. There is also among some the desire for a Christian church that is more conservative, demanding, and one that aligns better with some people's biases and prejudices.
My take on this conversation is that we spend so much time obsessing over how weird and bogus Mormonism seems to us that we have pretty thoroughly lost touch with why it has appealed to numerous people over nearly two centuries. My guess is that the appeal of Mormonism as it was presented had a lot to do with its overlap with other Christian organizations, with the addition of certain appealing claims to continuing charisma in the presence of prophets, "just like they had in the Bible," etc. There is a reason why the discussions were pitched the way they were. Mormonism was presented as much like Christianity, but more old-timey in some ways (living prophets), and a bit softer in others (no hell).
I am not of a mind to continue arguing this point. It does not appear that we will make any headway.
“God came to me in a dream last night and showed me the future. He took me to heaven and I saw Donald Trump seated at the right hand of our Lord.” ~ Pat Robertson
“He says he has eyes to see things that are not . . . and that the angel of the Lord . . . has put him in possession of great wealth, gold, silver, precious stones.” ~ Jesse Smith