Sir Richard Burton on Mormonism

Richard Burton was an amazing man. He lived a life of adventure and writing, being the paragon of a Victorian. He took a journey to Salt Lake City and wrote about Mormonism in a book called The City of the Saints. He outlines how Mormonism is a combination of various systems of thought before it:

This brief outline of Mormon faith will show its strange, but, I believe, spontaneous agglomeration of tenets which, were its disciples of a more learned and philosophical body, would suggest a remarkable eclecticism. But, as I have already remarked, there is a remarkably narrow limit to religious ideas: the moderns vainly attempt invention when combination is now the only possible process. In the Tessarakai Decalogue above quoted, we find syncretized the Semitic Monotheism, the Persian Dualism, and the Triads and Trinities of the Egyptians and the Hindoos. The Hebrews also have a personal Theos, the Buddhists avataras and incarnations, the Brahmans self-apotheosis of man by prayer and penance, and the East generally holds to quietism, a belief that repose is the only happiness, and to a vast complication of states in the world to be. The Mormons are like the Pythagoreans in their procreation, transmigration, and exaltation of souls; like the followers of Leucippus and Democritus in their atomic materialism; like the Epicureans in their pure atomic theories, their summum bonum, and their sensuous speculations; and like the Platonists and Gnostics in their belief of the Aeon, of ideas, and of moving principles in element. They are fetichists in their ghostly fancies, their evestra, which became souls and spirits. They are Jews in their theocracy, their ideas of angels, their hatred of Gentiles, and their utter segregation from the great brotherhood of mankind. They are Christians inasmuch as they base their faith upon the Bible, and hold to the divinity of Christ, the fall of man, the atonement, and the regeneration. They are Arians inasmuch as they hold Christ to be “the first of God’s creatures,” a “perfect creature, but still a creature.” They are Moslems in their views of the inferior status of womankind, in their polygamy, and in their resurrection of the material body: like the followers of the Arabian Prophet, they hardly fear death, because they have elaborated “continuation.” They take no leap in the dark; they spring from this sublunary stage into a known, not into an unknown world: hence their worship is eminently secular, their sermons are political or commercial, and–religion being with them not a thing apart, but a portion and parcel of every-day life–the intervention of the Lord in their material affairs becomes natural and only to be expected. Their visions, prophecies, and miracles are those of the Illuminati, their mysticism that of the Druses, and their belief in the Millenium is a completion of the dreams of the Apocalyptic sects. Masonry has evidently entered into their scheme; the Demiurgus whom they worship is “as good at mechanical inventions as at any other business.” With their later theories, Methodism, Swedenborgianism–especially in its view of the future state–and Transcendentalism are curiously intermingled. And, finally we can easily discern in their doctrine of affinity of minds and sympathy of souls the leaven of that faith which, beginning with the Mesmer, and progressing through the Rochester Rappers and the Poughkeepsie Seer, threatens to extend wherever the susceptible nervous temperament becomes the characteristic of the race.

-pages 397-98

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