By the waters of Mormon: an open letter to Christian Esoterists
'Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be'.
We must not shrink from saying that a man on earth is a mortal god, and that God in heaven is an immortal man.
~ Hermes Trismegistus
There is something in the soul which is uncreated and uncreatable.
~ Meister Eckhart
Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be.
You have got to learn how to be gods yourselves the same as all gods have done before you.
~ Joseph Smith
Even the most hardened and adventurous esoterist would be a little shocked and uneasy with the juxtapositions in the above epigraphs. ‘What is the venerable Hermes (the Egyptian Toth, the Hebrew Enoch) and perhaps the wildest and most radical Meister of Traditional Christianity doing together with, of all people, the ‘prophet’ Joseph Smith?’ The scare quotes around the word ‘prophet’ denote something between ridicule and disgust. Surely no one in their right mind would take Mormons seriously. Well, I am here to tell you – yes, you, as an esoterically inclined Christian – that you should indeed take it seriously and pay attention. Mormon theology is just like the plates of Nephi that originated it - a buried treasure. And you need stones to engage with it. Let it be said however that I am not making a pitch for joining (or not joining) the LDS church. That is your business. Personally, I am simply not a joiner, and especially after the events of 2020-2021 I no longer believe in any official institution, since all of them failed basic tests of morality and truth. In Mormon terms, I believe since then we have entered a new dispensation – perhaps the much spoken of Age of the Holy Spirit. I am writing not as an apologist, for I don’t think I need to apologize to anyone for my beliefs, but rather as a fan and a supporter. I think Mormon Scripture and theology is both true and beautiful, and a much needed addition to the collective consciousness of Christians, and especially of a certain type of Christian. In fact, if anything, I believe Mormon ideas can answer adequately most of the challenges that neo-pagans in particular have against Christianity. You be the judge.
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A Roman Catholic theologian, of all people, noted once that the Book of Mormon is the only book in the world about which one can have an opinion without having read it. We can expand the note to include Mormon scripture as a whole – which includes two other important sources: the Doctrines & Covenants and, the most radical of all, The Pearl of Great Price. It is simply assumed that there is nothing to learn, and so indeed no one does. One could of course blame the Mormons themselves for the insufficiency and failure of their missionary efforts, and there may indeed be some of that (the shirt and tie don’t appeal to certain people, that’s for sure). But it’s also something else, it is an immediate prejudice whose only explanation is mass media indoctrination. Even among the many who are quick to question everything, the attitude to Mormonism remains largely unquestioned and unexamined. What is most surprising when one starts to learn about the Mormon worldview, however, is the almost comical discrepancy between the external image and the radicalness and wildness of the theology. For the Mormon worldview, if I was to describe it in a sentence, is: Christian esoteric philosophy without abstraction or foreign borrowings, and also without the pedantic tone and boring jargon that one finds quite often in such writings.
I should start by saying that it is impossible, given the richness of the Mormon worldview, to give more than a very short and very incomplete summary. So be warned. Besides this, I will start with my own impressions from long ago. I don’t exactly remember when I first learned about Mormons but it probably had something to do with the missionaries that came to my door one day. I was sixteen or thereabouts. They seemed like good people so I invited them in and we had a conversation. I don’t remember any theological discussion. I remember we talked about music – System of a Down in particular. At the time it struck me as strange because the two young men, but a little older than me, were the typical image of goody-two-shoes that we have come to associate with Mormonism. Not exactly the kind of people you would think liked nu-metal. But it turned out I was wrong. I know they left me a copy of the Book of Mormon, but I eventually lost it. I never gave it a first look, much less a second. All in due time, I suppose.
For most of my life after that I didn’t think much about it. In my mind they were just another Protestant denomination, and coming from a Catholic country, Protestantism never appealed to me much, even the most radical American varieties. I remember also seeing the, now famous, South Park episode and thinking that Mormons are, after all, not Protestants at all. But the joking and dismissive nature of the show also doesn’t do justice neither to the radicalness nor to the seriousness of Mormon thought. And so I never gave much thought to Mormonism at all. I suspect everyone reading this has a similar story. The very word ‘Mormon’ awakens both contempt and ridicule, a gut reaction that is difficult to explain on rational grounds. Maybe it awakens some thoughts of polygamy (even though it was officially rejected more than a century ago, and its basis was rather different than what is imagined or proposed by the mainstream media, whose capability for nuance is zero). Perhaps, if nothing else, we should reexamine our automatic reactions to mainstream triggers.
What best place to start if not the official Articles of Faith as exposed at the end of the last piece of official Scripture, the Pearl of Great Price:
1. We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.
2. We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam's transgression.
3. We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel.
4. We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.
5. We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.
6. We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.
7. We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth.
8. We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.
9. We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.
10. We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.
11. We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.
12. We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.
13. We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul-We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.
The first thing one notices is that it is unreservedly Christian – Jesus, His Atonement and His Gospel being at the center of everything; secondly, we see a mention to the gifts of the early Church that have long disappeared. But perhaps more importantly for Christian esoterists, we also notice less familiar ideas. For one, the repudiation of Original Sin; second, a statement of universalism (all men may be saved); third, an emphasis on the potential fallibility of Scripture (‘as long as it is translated correctly’); fourth, an emphasis on personal and continued revelation, not something that is confined to the ancient past; fifth, that the earth is not merely a temporary home and much less a prison, but that it will receive paradisiacal glory; sixth, and perhaps more shocking and radical of all, the assertion that there may be many true and righteous ways of worshiping God, and that a man must do it according to his own conscience. All these, taken together, constitute a very radical shift from traditional Church doctrine. We shall see how much this is distilled and applied, but for now we can at least say that these address certain anxieties and problems that modern man can no longer ignore in the traditional Christian viewpoint: the kind of anxieties and problems that makes a Christian look for answers in esoterism and perennialism, for example.
To start to understand, or even give a chance to, Mormon thought, one has but to ask a simple question, that is in fact asked quite a lot and was especially asked at the time it appeared: what if something went wrong, or was lost, in Christendom? All over the Christian world people were asking this question. Whether among Catholics or Orthodox or Protestants the ‘salt had lost its savor’, and many were trying to recover that savor. Perhaps above all the Romantics asked this question and tried to reframe Christian realities. The Mormon restoration, in my opinion, indeed fits this pattern – and I am not alone in this opinion. The problem, in any case and if we want to use an euphemism, was not new. In the West it probably started with the end of the Middle Ages and intensified with the Reformation; in the East it took a bit longer, but not that much, to manifest. In either case, a turn to more mystical or esoteric shades was in the air. Everything that the Church had cast aside was now not only fair game, but awakened a keen interest as the ‘something’ that had been lost. A ‘fools errand’, would say Joseph Smith, for the loss was much older – and it went back to the very time of the Apostles, and it had not much to do with mysticism as typically understood. In fact, if anything, quite the opposite.
But if Joseph Smith was just another mystic, perhaps initiating a school or an ashram, there would be no problem and he might even be well regarded by other Christians with an interest in esoterica – much like, say, Boehme. Besides, didn’t Pope John Paul II have a copy of Tomberg’s meditations? But in fact his claims are much wilder and much deeper. He claimed a restoration of the early Church, no more and no less. This was bound to ruffle too many feathers. And this radical claim was based not on abstract visions and theories, but on concrete revelations: the Book of Mormon, for one, is not a mystical text in the classic sense, waxing faux-poetic about abstractions, but a family record with specifics of time and place and doctrine. And the claim is that it was originally written on brass plates, unearthed and then translated with direct help from God (since the language was no longer known by anyone), as well as some otherworldly implements (the famous seer stones). This is the first problem: to believe that Smith has something of value to say is also to believe the claim about the authenticity of the book and everything else that goes with it. Since the default position, without even reading the first page, is that the book must be a fraud, so must Joseph’s other claims and pronouncements be fraudulent (or, at the very least, accidental). Yet, there is too much in it, too many coincidences, to think so. Much like what C.S. Lewis said of Christ, that it’s all or nothing, Joseph Smith’s claims demand just as radical a proposition: take it or leave it. Either the man was a charlatan, or he was inspired. I will not attempt to mount a defense of the authenticity of the book or the man, Hugh Nibley – a serious scholar – has already done that and more, sufficiently illustrating that there is internal coherence to the texts and too many coincidences with what we now know about the culture of the people it describes. Whatever the books might be, the most unlikely explanation is that a farm boy in 19th Century America could have written them from his own imagination. And with the archeological and historical knowledge we have gained since, it seems equally unlikely that anyone at the time could have done it.
Still, reading the text of the Book of Mormon is more likely to yield a shoulder shrug than to incite a Christian to pick up his pitchfork. Surely, there are some beautiful images and passages in the book, but one would not call them revolutionary – at least at first glance. If we give the benefit of the doubt to the story (two groups of Hebrews flee the Middle East to America, one at the time of the fall of Jerusalem and another at the time of the fall of the Tower of Babel) and get over the fact that Jesus Christ appears to the protagonists before the Incarnation to preach to them the very Gospel whose outline we all know, it seems basic Christian doctrine. If I could give a summary it would be this: the Book of Mormon takes Blake's Jerusalem Hymn and changes England to America, but more importantly, changes interrogation to affirmation. Not ‘and did those feet’ but ‘Indeed those feet‘. Sure it sounds fanciful, but again not particularly revolutionary. But then how and why, one could ask, does Mormon theology look so different from Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant theologies? I suppose the argument could be made, and the position taken, that the Book of Mormon is true, but then the remaining Scriptures produced by Smith are his invention, as these seem to be where the ‘novel’ ideas come from. But in fact, already in the Book of Mormon, all the ‘novelty’ is already included in seed form; and the Pearl of Great Price has also sufficient ‘coincidences’ with archeological and historical facts to warrant a second look. So what are these ‘novelties’? The quotes are there because as such they don’t constitute novelties: for one, they are coherent with the Gospels (not to mention rigorous readings of Hebrew Scripture), and some of them have been more or less condemned as heresies by one church council or another, so they definitely aren’t new. Perhaps revival or restoration are preferable as epithets. And this is indeed the claim of Joseph Smith.
The best way I find to describe them is this: what if someone read the Christian Scriptures without any prior knowledge of theological elaboration by Patristics and Scholastics, without any attempt to fit it into the vocabulary and mental horizon of Greek philosophy, and without fear of the conclusions it might lead to? This, revelatory claims aside, is a good description of what Joseph Smith accomplished. In Mormon theology you won’t find the ‘god of the philosophers’ (which is neither a god, nor are its proponents lovers of the personal being Sophia – but that is another story for another time), nor will you find attempts to harmonize the abstractions of the Greeks with the words of Jesus or Moses. You find very concrete and personal ideas: the Father really is a Father (why else would Jesus use this word – and not only that, we know now based on philological research that the word Jesus uses is even more personal and intimate – the Aramaic equivalent of Daddy, a very childlike form of addressing a parent); and so the Son really is a Son. They are distinct personages (as Smith puts it), and they are ‘one’ in the sense that their wills are perfectly aligned, not in any abstract and unexplainable sense – which certainly makes sense from the point of view of the Gospels: Jesus prays to His Father, not to Himself in another form, for example. So this is the first major characteristic of Mormon Theology: unapologetic personalism. Mormon theology is the only one, not just among Christians, but among all religions (perhaps outside of ‘primitive’ ones) that clearly believes, in all its shades, in the Hermetic phrase: as above so below, as below so above. For Mormons the problem of paganism is not that it was anthropomorphic, but that it wasn’t anthropomorphic enough. And because they take Scripture seriously, and do not put it in equal footing with abstract metaphysics, the Mormons say essentially that one cannot believe in the theomorphism of humans without believing in the anthropomorphism of God, down (or as it turns out, up, as we shall see) to the very physical body.
Now the reader is bound to have some distorted idea of the implications, given that the doctrines of the Mormons have been ridiculed a lot in the mainstream media. Perhaps you’ve heard that God the Father lives in a planet in outer space, and hence you cannot take these people seriously. Still, I doubt you could read the Pearl of Great Price (from which the idea is derived) and not be, at least, intrigued by it, and concluding in the end that it is not as crass as it is presented popularly. But leaving that aside, the more important question is the implication of this personalism and anthropomorphism: if God is a Person, rather than a ‘ground of being’, an impersonal absolute or a bodiless and formless light, certain things gain immediate emphasis and others are impossible. One of the impossible ones is creation ex nihilo. Now, every Christian esoterist or perennialist has been led to the conclusion that ‘ex nihilo’ theology, as officially defined, is a half-truth designed to safeguard certain secondary doctrines, and that the full truth lies elsewhere. For ‘ex nihilo’ does not solve any of the problems it attempts to solve, and it even adds some of its own. At best it seems an unnecessary step. The only thing it really does is safeguard an absolute separation between God and Creation, the total otherness of God. But once again, this is not the God that Jesus speaks to us about. We can perhaps assume, with a little humility, that Jesus Christ would know something about Christianity – and maybe, just maybe, He knows more than metaphysicians. And at this particular time in human history, it may be finally time to reject this idea of total separation, given that it is precisely the doctrine that evacuates all sacredness from Nature and whose results we see in striking and horrifying detail every day.
Normally, the perennialist or esoteric solution is that the ‘ex nihilo’ is really an ‘ex deo et in deo’. But this is less a solution than a capitulation. If ‘ex nihilo’ completely separates God from Creation, ‘ex deo et in deo’ completely collapses one to the other. It is the classic Vedantic or Neoplatonic trick: there really isn’t anything other than God. Mormons, on the other hand, do not look at the question in this way. They look at it from the perspective of Love: and Love cannot be bought or sold or imposed, but it also cannot be a masturbatory exercise – God loving Himself in Himself. No, for Love to exist we must be both free and independent. ‘Ex deo et in deo’ as much as ‘ex nihilo’ leaves no room for actual freedom and agency – and the problems of theodicy come flooding in like the waters at the time of Noah; and there is absolutely no ark to keep us afloat. But Mormons do have such an ark, and it is one that accords with the literal sense of Scripture, yet not in the way literal is understood by moderns: that certain things are, indeed, coeternal with God. Every esoterist worth his salt has reached this conclusion, as the epigraphs attest. But more than this, all the Scriptures of the world, despite bad translations, speak of an organization of matter, of Creation not as the abstract ‘ex nihilo’ or ‘ex deo’, but precisely as we know it to be when we, as artists and craftsmen, create things: again, as above so below. A craftsman does not create the stuff out of which he crafts the object nor the rules that must be followed to accomplish it. And neither does God. God can no more create matter than He can make two plus two equal five. Certain things are co-eternal with God – like the truths of arithmetic. But one cannot love two plus two equals four: it makes as much sense as loving the fact that a square has four sides and cannot have more. The lovingness of God is expressed not in creating out of nothing, or in creating the nothing, or in creating out of Himself, but rather in creating things that are, as Genesis describes in its original language, both good and beautiful by giving shape to what was formerly formlessness.
I confess that I never understood why it is asserted that to love God we must conceive Him, ultimately, as an omnipotent and impersonal It (for it is not a being, but Being Itself). If anything this omnipotence begs a lot of questions and not only of the theodicy variety. Can you really love an abstraction? Can you commune with ‘Being as such’? Can you pray to the ‘ground of being’ for help, for illumination, for happiness, for mercy? Because of this Mormons also affirm – with many an esoterist – that our Self is coeternal with God (that part of the soul which, according to Eckhart, is uncreated and uncreatable). This not only safeguards true agency and the possibility of Love, but it resolves in one easy step the question of evil in the world: it is precisely because there is a part of us that is not created by God that we can defy God; in short, it’s what allows us to sin, with God having no responsibility whatsoever. If everything about us was the creation of God, then we could easily blame God for not creating us perfectly. But seen the way Mormons see it God is not responsible in the least, unlike in every other scenario where He created everything and is absolutely omnipotent. And this co-eternity with God also implies a pre-earthly existence, a view which was eventually condemned by the Church, but that even notable Church Fathers have held. Just as every esoterist knows that we have existed in some other form before this earth, and in fact have chosen the time and place of our incarnation (our free will being true), Mormons say the same. We have existed before this mortal life, and this is part of why we long for something more. As Nibley, one of the most important intellectuals not only of Mormonism but of the 20th Century, beautifully put it: «We recognize what is lovely because we have seen it somewhere else, and as we walk through the world, we are constantly on the watch for it with a kind of nostalgia».
And this ties with another important point in Mormon theology: the Earth, the Body and the Fall. Classical metaphysics, and classical theology in its wake, has always looked at the Earth and the Body as a prison, a punishment or both. While classical theology, denying pre-mortal existence, merely ignored the problem; classical metaphysics interpreted this mortal life as a punishment and the body as a prison. As it was said of Plotinus, it could be said of most classic theologians, that they were ashamed of being in the body – and the squaring of this position with the revealed Gospel and the doctrine of the Resurrection of the body always yields hilarious, if unconvincing, results. For Mormons, taking the Gospels seriously, the body is a gift, not a prison or a punishment. The gift of embodiment that God has given to our disembodied Self (with our consent) is to allow us to grow in wisdom, in love and in power. And related to this is the Mormon view of the Fall as an upward one. Unlike classical theology, which despite all the rigmarole cannot but see the Redemption and Atonement of Christ as a contingency plan, Mormons teach that we were always meant to become mortal, and that without mortality we cannot achieve the goal of the Glorious Resurrection Body. The implications of course are momentous: whereas Christians had always blamed Eve, and hence all women, for the Fall, Mormons are more inclined to see her as a hero than as a villain. This is a very strong hint of the sophiological potential of Mormon thought (although, personally, I find it still undeveloped) - illustrated by the fact that the Bee and the Beehive (Feminine and Sophiological symbols par excellence) are central symbols of Mormonism (and for other Christian traditions peripheral signs at best). Joseph Smith’s distinction between Sin and Transgression here is key: Adam and Eve surely transgressed the commandment, but they did not commit a sin, because God’s plan was for them to leave the Garden eventually anyway. We had to taste the bitter to appreciate the sweet – and furthermore, Adam and Eve repented their transgression and were forgiven by Christ after the Fall. Scripture says that Adam and Eve had ‘become like us [the gods]' and no other tradition takes this statement seriously except for Mormons. The whole of mortal earthly existence is thus not a mistake, nor a punishment, but a school. And what are we to learn? To be gods ourselves, of course. Again, the implications are enormous, and they provide a clear and rather concrete explanation of the enigmatic verse about ‘the lamb slain since the foundation of the world’ (other interpretations notwithstanding). Jesus, as the firstborn of Creation, has passed through the same process as we are meant to. And this is one of the reasons why He could perform the atonement for all humanity: He knew what He was doing.
This text is not supposed to be a complete overview of Mormon theology, nor could such a short description suffice anyway. The idea was to provide a few points and pique the curiosity of one group in particular, a group that I consider myself to be a part of. I became a Christian by reading the Gospels, and then studying the traditional theology I was unsatisfied by some of its answers. As such I started to look elsewhere and found more esoteric, and specifically perennialist, sources. But for the longest time it was impossible to reconcile the two: the Christian esoterist or perennialist is always in a balancing act between what the church traditionally says and what the more nuanced view of esoterism and perennialism reveal to the heart to be true. Of course one can ignore the conflicts, but not forever. And eventually either one ceases to be a Christian, being incapable of holding the centrality of Jesus to the whole of human history, or one abandons the nuances provided by esoterism and becomes, what else, a Pharisee. I was not ready to do either. It turns out that Mormonism does not have to justify this balancing act, nor is it torn asunder between believing in the centrality of Jesus and finding explanations that don’t condemn the vast majority of the human family to eternal hell – an idea that frankly should strike anyone with a healthy moral sense as repugnant. But at the same time it does not do this by losing itself in formless abstraction: it keeps Love, Personality and Freedom at the center. It does not at all relativize God, Creation or Humanity – as many an esoterist is wont to do. Somehow, I think that is important. So it’s not that I came to agree with the Mormons; it’s more that I already agreed with them but I didn’t know. I suspect many a Christian esoterist would find the same thing, and be as surprised as I was.
I could have mentioned other emphases of Mormon doctrine that are very important specifically for our day, even if they were already implied in what was written. Perhaps the most important of all is the affirmation of the eternal value of Man and Woman, and Marriage. The classic theology of the churches can offer absolutely no challenge to the transgender assault, since it does not believe in the eternity of sexual distinction. Mormons very assertively refuse to say ‘till death do us part’. Quite the opposite: no death can do us part is what they say. Nor, let it be said, can traditional theology and cosmology offer any challenge to the transhumanist threat which is intimately related to the transgender one. Mormon theology, by affirming the importance of the body and the fundamental duality of Male and Female as eternal principles, can and indeed does offer this. In fact, Mormons affirm that to achieve the highest level of theosis is only possible as a couple, as Man and Woman in eternal marriage: that’s the level of importance that sexual distinction is given, not just as an earthly reality (as classic theology affirms) but for eternity. And this duality of Male and Female is carried upward into God: we have, not only, a Heavenly Father but a Heavenly Mother also. We are the offspring of Heavenly Parents. If you want a Christian affirmation of the Divine Feminine, without the excuses and subtleties of classical theology which can never get to say what it really needs or wants to say about Mary, this is it. And what a relief that one does not need to cease being a Christian to affirm it. Many a psychic conflict could be solved in modern Western man by this simple, yet coherent, affirmation: if there is a Father and a Son, why wouldn’t there be a Mother? And not as the vague connection to the Holy Spirit – though for sure it exists – but as an embodied and loving immortal Goddess. Once again, no one quite believes in ‘as above so below’ as much as the Mormons.
Another important piece of the puzzle is what we are to do in eternity. The answer of classical theology always seemed to me insufficient, if not downright depressing. Essentially, after being saved, theosis – becoming gods – would mean a perpetual contemplation of the ineffable face of God, singing eternal praises to this formless light. In this sense, the highest aspiration would be an eternal Orthodox Liturgy – and they are already pretty long as it is. Besides, if this is indeed the ultimate goal, what reason is there for mortal life at all? Don’t the highest angels already contemplate and praise God continually? The Mormon answer is not that we will ‘contemplate’ an impersonal God continually in a sort of stasis and merely do what certain angels already do. The vision is much broader: by ‘becoming perfect as the Father in Heaven is perfect’ we will, in fact, do what He already did: Create and populate our own worlds. There’s a vision for you – a vision which gives eternal significance not only to this life as such, but to one of the highest and most profound callings of human nature: creativity. To learn to exercise this creativity, with all its potential and all its limitations, is what earthly life is for.
And here I must end this already rather long exposition of how Mormon scripture and theology can open certain doors that traditional Christian theology has locked and that esoterists, missing the key, have sought to peak into by climbing through the window. It is possible to be both a perennialist and esoterist as well as a Christian, and without giving up either side of the equation: but only by being, at least a little, Mormon. And this opening of the door to outsiders, neither raised in nor affiliated with the tradition, can probably yield some interesting results. There is a treasure here and I wish that all ‘weird Christians’ can partake, and contribute, to this unfolding. If there ever was a time to put aside half-truths and at the same time to cling ever more boldly and strongly to the centrality of Jesus Christ and His mission, it is now.
I will end with some recommendations. Besides the Scriptures themselves, which can be somewhat hard to parse on their own, given our prejudices and our distance, I would recommend the following books. For the straight theology, Terryl Givens’ Wrestling the Angel and The Book of Mormon: A very short introduction are good primers. For more historical context on the Book of Mormon and the Mormon restoration, Hugh Nibley is unsurpassed: Volumes 4 (Mormonism and Early Christianity) and 5 (Lehi in the Desert, The World of the Jaredites, There Were Jaredites) of his collected works are a good starting place. I would also recommend this online-book by Bruce Charlton, which in fact is where this whole journey started, and what made me consider Mormon thought seriously for the first time.
The place of Mormon, the waters of Mormon, the forest of Mormon, how beautiful are they to the eyes of them who there came to the knowledge of their Redeemer. ~ Mosiah 18:30