A graphic on the cover of this German paperback juxtaposes the face of the Statue of Liberty with an image of Thorvaldsen’s sculpture Christus. The title translates as “Christ in America? Mormonism as a Christian Religion in Comparative Ecclesiastical History.” On closer reading, we realize that the question forming the first part of the title (Christ in America?) is not asked with the incredulity and indignation we might expect in a European exposé of yet another sect. It is posed with the positively charged curiosity of an author writing for a society that often understands theological differences in geographical terms. In that sense—and with alternate sociohistorical, philosophical, and figurative approaches to the central question—the author is able to give a positive answer. Going beyond the obvious and welcome reference in the subtitle to the LDS Church as a Christian religion, in his final summation he calls the Church “a powerful pacesetter of Christianity on its path to illumination.”
The author who came to this unusual conclusion—certainly unusual for a non-Mormon German critic—has a remarkable interdisciplinary background that includes training in civil and ecclesiastical law at Güttingen and a Ph.D. in German from Yale. He has taught at various institutions in Germany, Switzerland, Poland, Canada, and the United States in disciplines as far-ranging as Latin, medieval German literature, comparative urban history, peace research, and migration studies. He is well known for his biography of Hugo Grotius; in fact, he states in the foreword that only by studying the literary elements of Grotius’s elegant jurisprudence and theology was he able to make ecclesiastical parallels to the standard works of Mormonism.