FAQ: What can I give a Mormon to read that is not 'anti-Mormon'?

- last revised September 13, 2015

Mormons, having been warned by their leaders not to read 'anti-Mormon' materials, are often suspicious of anything that deals directly about Mormonism unless it is published or sanctioned by the church. Non-Mormon friends and relatives of Mormons are thus frequently at a loss about how to get a Mormon to read anything that will start the critical thinking process.

This list was prepared to answer that need. None of these materials are "about" Mormonism (except for a few listed which are by Mormon authors or which no Mormon would think are 'anti-Mormon'). And yet, indirectly, they challenge Mormon thinking and Mormon teachings.

The list includes many suggestions from former Mormons of books they read while still believing, and yet "...that book started me thinking."

In some areas there is so much material that only a few works are suggested.


Should Mormons read non-Mormon books?

President Joseph F. Smith advised the Saints in General Conference:
Read good books. Learn ... to converse upon subjects that will be of interest to your associates, ... seek out of the best books knowledge and understanding. Read history. Read philosophy, if you wish. Read anything that is good, that will elevate the mind and will add to your stock of knowledge, that those who associate with you may feel an interest in your pursuit of knowledge and of wisdom. (Conference Report, October 1903, p.98)

SUGGESTED NON-ANTI-MORMON STUDY MATERIALS

Philosophy

Any history of philosophy, such as:

Will Durant, The Story of Philosophy
Bertrand Russell, The Wisdom of the West
Bertrand Russell, A History of Western Philosophy
John Herman Randall, The Making of the Modern Mind

Religion, Mythology, Legends

John Noss, Man's Religions
Joseph Campbell, The Hero With A Thousand Faces
Karen Armstrong, A History of God
Jan Harold Brunvand (any, e.g. The Vanishing Hitchhiker - discusses the development of "urban legends")
Steve Hassan, Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People To Think For Themselves
Joel Kramer, Diana Alstad The Guru Papers: Masks of Authoritarian Power (1993)
Sigmund Freud, The Future of an Illusion

Specific religions and cults

As Steve Hassan (a noted cult expert - his book is listed above) observed, a successful way of seeing the problems with one's own religious views is to see the parallels in a belief system that one is not adverse to criticism of.

Marshall Kilduff, Ron Javers, Suicide Cult: The Inside Story of the Peoples Temple Sect and the Massacre in Guyana
Deborah Layton, Seductive Poison: A Jonestown Survivor's Story of Life and Death in the Peoples Temple
Sue L. Hamilton, Death of a Cult Family: Jim Jones
Walter T. Rea, The White Lie (1982) (Seventh-day Adventists)
Kenneth R. Samples, et al., Prophets of the Apocalypse: David Koresh and Other American Messiahs
Clifford L. Linedecker, Massacre at Waco, Texas: The Shocking Story of Cult Leader David Koresh and the Branch Davidians (1993)
Hugh Milne, Bhagwan: The God That Failed (re Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh)
Diane Wilson, Awakening of a Jehovah's Witness: Escape from the Watchtower Society
Edmond C. Gruss, Jehovah's Witnesses: Their Claims, Doctrinal Changes, and Prophetic Speculation. What Does the Record Show?
William J. Schnell, Thirty Years a Watchtower Slave: The confessions of a converted Jehovah's Witness (2002)
David A. Reed, Blood on the Altar: Confessions of a Jehovah's Witness Minister (1996)
Bruce Renehan, Daughter of Babylon, expose' of the Worldwide Church of God and its founder Herbert W. Armstrong
Marion McNair, Armstrongism: Religion or Rip-Off?, also on Armstrong
David Robinson, Herbert W. Armstrong's Tangled Web

For internet links to critical information about other religions, click here.

History

David L. Bigler, Forgotten Kingdom

Pre-Columbian history & archaeology

Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs and Steel
Charles C. Mann, 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus

Encyclopedia Britannica 15th edition, articles:

"Meso-American Civilization, History of"
"North American Peoples and Cultures"
"South America, V - Human Resources"
"South American Peoples and Cultures"
others listed in index ("Micropaedia") under "American Indian geographical race"
Charles Gallenkamp, Maya: The Riddle and Rediscovery of a Lost Civilization
Victor W. von Hagen, World of the Maya
Kenneth MacGowan et al., Early Man In The New World

Science

Loren Eiseley, The Immense Journey
Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time
Spencer Wells, Journey of Man: A Genetic Odyssey (available both as a book and on DVD)

Psychology, Epistemology

Eric Hoffer, The True Believer
Nathaniel Branden, The Disowned Self, The Psychology of Self-Esteem, The Art of Living Consciously, and Taking Responsibility
William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience
Wayne E. Oates, The Psychology of Religion
Carl Sagan, The Demon-haunted World
Thomas Gilovich, How We Know What Isn't So: The Fallibility of Human Reason in Everyday Life
Ralph Waldo Emerson, "On Self-Reliance"
Stuart Chase, The Tyranny of Words, The Power of Words
Robert B. Cialdini, Influence: Science and Practice (Harper 1993)
Michael Shermer, Why People Believe Weird Things, How We Believe
Irving L. Janis, Victims of Groupthink
Theodore Schick and Lewis Vaughn, How To Think About Weird Things: Critical Thinking for a New Age
William Sargant, Battle for the Mind
Pascal Boyer, Religion Explained: The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Thought (see reviews)
Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson, Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts (see reviews)

Scriptures, Works by Mormon authors

Todd Compton, In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith
B. H. Roberts (leading Mormon theologian and historian), Studies of the Book of Mormon
Linda K. Newell and Valeen T. Avery, Mormon Enigma: [Biography of] Emma Hale Smith
Richard Bushman, Joseph Smith (this Mormon author acknowledges Smith's involvement in money-digging and occult practices); a more recent biography of Smith (2005) is Rough Stone Rolling
Grant Palmer, An Insider's View Of Mormon Origins (this retired LDS institute director believes that telling the historical truth about early Mormonism will be "faith-promoting" because it will be honest.)
Joseph Smith, Lectures on Faith, Lecture Fifth, online here.
Book of Commandments (Joseph Smith Begins His Work, Vol 2 ed Wilford Wood), also online here
Journal of Discourses (26 volumes, online here or here. The second is a Finnish language site, but the text of the JoD is in the original English)
Ecclesiastes, or The Preacher (Old Testament)

Official Mormon Essays

These essays are a series on the official Mormon church website (www.lds.org) which began to appear in 2014 to deal with some of the troublesome areas of Mormon history and doctrine. Although anonymous, they have been approved as to content by the General Authorities of the church. In spite of trying to appear completely open and frank, they still continue to be less than that. Their significance is that they admit to the truth of many of the claims that critics of the church have made in the past, and which Mormons were told were "false" or "misleading." For a critical appraisal of these essays, see www.mormonessays.com (NOT a church-sponsored site)

Fiction

Ayn Rand, Anthem, The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged
Anatole France, Thais
John Milton, Paradise Lost
George Orwell, Animal Farm, 1984
Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah
Daniel Quinn, Ishmael
Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra
Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet
Lois Lowery, The Giver
Carol Emshwiller, The Mount
Hans Christian Andersen, "The Emperor's New Clothes" (online here)
James Michener, The Source
Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale
Ira Levin, The Stepford Wives

Reportage

Robert Lindsey, A Gathering of Saints (on the Hofmann forgeries)
Richard N. Ostling and Joan K. Ostling, Mormon America: The Power And the Promise. Harper, San Francisco, 1999, ISBN 0-06-066372-3
Irving Wallace, The Twenty-seventh Wife
Richard Van Wagoner, Mormon Polygamy: A History (2nd ed)

Verging on "anti"

Bertrand Russell, Why I Am Not A Christian
Andrew Smith, The Saintly Scoundrel (re John C. Bennett)
Richard Van Wagoner, Sidney Rigdon: A Portrait of Religious Excess
David John Buerger, The Mysteries of Godliness (a history of the development of the Mormon temple and its ritual)
Brent Lee Metcalfe, ed., New Approaches To The Book of Mormon
Brent Lee Metcalfe & Dan Vogel, eds., American Apocrypha: Essays On The Book of Mormon

Movies (available on videotape or DVD)

Pleasantville A pleasant town on television where everybody thinks the same is changed when some people try to be different.
Chocolat A religiously devout town is changed by the arrival of a non-believer who brings the pleasures of chocolate.
The Truman Show A man realizes that his whole life has been "staged" by others.
A Price Above Rubies A young wife in a strictly religious, male-dominated Jewish community tries to break free.
The Matrix Futuristic, controlled society.
The Handmaid's Tale Futuristic society based on Bible teachings.
The Ruling Class A man believes he is God (based on the play by Peter Barnes)
The Stepford Wives (either version) A town where all the wives are perfect and happy, and obedient to their husbands.
The Village A village lives in fear of the outside
Jesus Camp Religious indoctrination of children


Comments? Further suggestions? (Please, no preaching, testimonies, or hate mail!) Write:  packham@teleport.com

TO RICHARD PACKHAM'S HOME PAGE


Seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning even by study, and also by faith.

- Doctrine and Covenants 88:118



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