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Reviewing an American Muhammad

July 19, 2013 One Comment

american-muhammadby Wesley Hromowyk

In his new book The American Muhammad: Joseph Smith, Founder of Mormonism, Alvin J. Schmidt compares the founder of Islam, Muhammad to the founder of Mormonism, Joseph Smith. In the process, he makes a great confession of the Christian faith without ever directly addressing the dogma of the Church. He does so by consistently interweaving Christian doctrine into the mix of his discussion of the Islam and Mormonism.

Schmidt compares the two founders of these world religions in a fresh and thought-provoking way. In many instances the eeriness of their similarities is quite startling. Along the way, Schmidt also exposes some of the lesser known facts of both founders, such as the Satanic revelations each man experienced, the founders’ ability to receive revelations whenever they desired (or needed) them, and both men’s earlier encounters with Christianity before starting their own faith.

The latter point is perhaps the most intriguing. Muhammad’s first contact with Christianity was with a Nestorian, a member of a sect that denied the divinity of Christ. Muhammad saw many problems with a God so apparently insignificant. As a result, Schmidt argues, Islam created a god with an emphasis on being all-powerful. Smith’s contact with Christianity in western New York was of a pietistic and emotion-driven sort. Smith earnestly desired to know which Christian sect was the “right one.”

According to Schmidt, both men felt the need to purge and purify religion. They saw the problems with the “religions” around them and attempted to fix those problems. One conclusion we can draw from these facts is the importance of true doctrine: where false doctrine exists, increasingly false doctrine is sure to follow. In both Muhammad and Smith’s cases, the religions they gave birth to are far worse doctrinally speaking than the unorthodox Christianities from which they came.

Where false doctrine exists, increasingly false doctrine is sure to follow.

Schmidt’s book is great for analyzing the historical circumstances surrounding the Islam and Mormonism because he cites many firsthand sources from both the founders of Islam and Mormonism and their closest followers. He even goes so far as to cite newspaper clippings and court orders (in Smith’s case) to prove his point. The eyewitness accounts along with the very words of Muhammad and Smith give great testimony to Schmidt’s thesis that both men had similar psychological dispositions which pioneered their roles in founding their respective religions.

If there no were no reason to read this book, its collection of resources would alone make it worth reading. Schmidt breaks each chapter into easily accessible units for quick reference, with a helpful index in the back for locating material. For the Christian seeking to be able to converse with a Mormon, Muslim, Christian, or other faiths/non-faiths about either religion, the facts arranged in this book will give the reader confidence and assurance in doing so.

I would honestly recommend this book to any person who wanted to learn more about Islam and Mormonism. Whether you are a clergyman educated in religious studies and looking for more, or a layman just seeking an informative read, this book captures your attention. At the same time, it causes you to think and evaluate the facts presented. Even if the book does not exhaustively discuss the two religions’ doctrines in a systematic way, the historical context Schmidt provides on their development gives enough information to the attentive reader to conclude many of the same things Schmidt does and perhaps more. If someone desires to learn more about either religion, this book is the way to go.

I would honestly recommend this book to any person who wanted to learn more about Islam and Mormonism.

Because of my minimal, “mainstream” understanding of both religions, I went into the reading of this book intrigued and fascinated, hoping to learn more. After reading it, I feel I did just that. Most importantly the book gave me fresh insight and a different perspective of Mormonism and Islam than what the media and other resources have been able to do. I am convinced it would do the same for you.

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Rev. Wesley Hromowyk is a recent graduate of Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary in St. Catharines, Ontario. At the May Call Service, Rev. Hromowyk was commended to The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod for placement.

The American Muhammad is published by Concordia Publishing House.

  • Leona Martin

    Enough info in this review to buy the book!