A website with answers. That’s what Time Magazine calls the new religion website Patheos.com in “What Do Religions Believe? A Website with Answers.” The Time article describes the new site as one “that sets out to explain the differences among religions as well as illuminate the areas of common ground.” Just today the site unveiled its Mormon Gateway section, a menu of resources designed to complement the more detailed information presented in the Library section of the site.
Ben Spackman, no stranger to online religion sites, is the Mormonism Gateway Manager at Patheos. In the About page, he explains that the site hopes to “explore Mormon beliefs and history through a deep library of accurate, balanced information on Mormonism.” In addition, the Public Square forum at the site will feature “moderated discussions on critical issues in Mormonism and across religious traditions.”
The library information is part of the Explore section of the site, offering information on the origin, history, and beliefs of various religious traditions and providing tools to do side-by-side comparisons of the beliefs of different faiths. There are five groupings under the Christianity section: Eastern Orthodoxy, Mormonism, Oriental Orthodoxy, Protestantism, and Roman Catholicism. To give you a sense of the level and tone of the material at the site, here is the first paragraph under the Origins tab for Mormonism.
Mormonism came into being as an officially organized church in April 1830, when 24-year-old Joseph Smith and five others gathered in upstate New York to form what was initially called the Church of Christ. Emerging in an atmosphere of intense religious activity (later referred to as the Second Great Awakening), there was little indication at the time that Mormonism would eventually become the largest church to originate on American soil. Nor did Smith’s fairly typical background and upbringing suggest he would become the most important innovator in American religious history.
Historical material under the subheading the Modern Age has this to offer about contemporary Mormonism:
In contrast to the place of Mormonism in American culture during the 19th century, 20th -century Americans came to view Mormons as hardworking and honest. Evidence of this newfound esteem came in the 1950s, when Mormon apostle Ezra Taft Benson served as the Secretary of Agriculture under President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Mormons also rose to prominence in the U.S. Military, the FBI, other government agencies, and in the business world. In 2008, Mitt Romney became the first Mormon contender for the presidential nomination of a major political party.
Other sections contain material on beliefs; ritual and symbolism; and ethics and morality. My quick impression is that there is a lot of material there, the content is pretty good, and the tone is scrupulously neutral. After years of seeing various online journalists and Christian website do-gooders mangle every facet of LDS belief and history, it is a pleasant surprise to see how objectively Patheos is presenting its material. If only journalists could cover the news like this site is covering religion!
Note: The Mormon Gateway section at Patheos has reposted (with permission) an earlier Times and Seasons post I wrote two months ago, “Being Orthodox in the Modern World.” However, I am not a contributor and have no affiliation with the Patheos site.