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Mormonism: A Very Short Introduction Paperback – Apr 15 2008
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"Written by the dean of Mormon studies, Richard Bushman...this book -- a Berlitz guide of sorts to the complex world of modern Mormonism -- is probably the most efficient way to grasp what it means to be a Mormon today."--Samuel Morris Brown, The Wall St. Journal
"An elegant, even-handed introduction."--Catholic Herald
About the Author
Richard Lyman Bushman is Governeur Morris Professor of History Emeritus at Columbia University. An authority on Mormon history, he is the author of Building the Kingdom: A History of Mormons in America (with Claudia Bushman) and the best-selling Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling.
Inside This Book(Learn More)
Top Customer Reviews
Richard Lyman Bushman's thin introduction to Mormonism is a useful and very interesting introduction to this faith. It covers all the major points about Mormonism that make it fascinating and unique: their history that begin with the revelation of the Book of Mormon to Joseph Smith, the settling and building of a religious society in Utah, their idiosyncratic beliefs that diverge from the orthodox Christianity on many key points, and their practices, many of which like polygamy, have in the past been highly controversial and had made Mormons suspicious to the outsiders. The book also covers the present state of affairs and a few minor offshoots that have sprung out from the main Mormon Church (LDS).
Overall, this is a well-written book that could almost be considered a page-turner. If you are interested in finding more about Mormonism, this is an excellent first introduction to the subject and a useful reference for further study.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Bushman introduces his work by asking, "What sets Mormons apart?" He answers that succinctly by an exposition on the doctrines, persons, and history of the Restoration. In his subsequent six chapters, Bushman gracefully and knowledgeably tells 1) how Joseph Smith's revelations set the pattern for every Mormon to seek inspiration, 2) how the organization of the City of Zion constituted Mormons as a people as well as a church, 3) how the Mormon priesthood is both hierarchical and democratic, 4) how Mormons understand the meaning of life, 5) how old ideals and new struggles formed Mormon identity, and 6) how Mormons left their homeland and fought to retain their distinctiveness. A dozen illustrations add interest and impact to the book.
But, it's not that simple. What, exactly, is Mormonism and what sort of information should be included in an introduction like this one?
I was mainly interested in finding out about three main things about Mormonism: History, belief and practice. I believe these are three important considerations when trying to find out any any religion. History meaning how it got started and how the followers have developed it's identity in the world, beliefs, ie: what particular theologies and doctrines do Mormons believe in, and practice being how Mormons actually go about living out their faith- or how they're supposed to- and how this relates to their theology.
Bushman manages to cover all three of my broad categories throughout his 7 chapters. Amongst other things, he runs through a history of Joseph Smith's life, the various relevations he claimed to have had and the resulting doctrines, including how they differ from traditional Christianity, how the church got started and it's early problems getting settled in any one location, the concept of ongoing relevation, how the church is governed in the 21st century and how Mormons have both clashed and slotted into American society and the world.
I haven't read a great deal else on Mormonism before, so I'm not very well qualified to comment on the accuracy or objectivity of Bushman, but what I will say is that he appeared to come off relatively impartially.
This topic is close to home for me, since a good friend of mine converted to Mormonism not too long ago. So I decided to find out more about Mormonism, both out of genuine curiosity and because I wanted to understand what he now believed and what his church teaches, further than through the discussions we'd had. At the time, I did some basic internet searching and found that most of the online stuff suffered from some problems: Either it was too Mormon friendly and came across more like propaganda, or it just didn't cover exactly what I wanted it to and in the right amount of detail. But this book doesn't have those same problems.
I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in finding out more about Mormonism.
Jesus taught his followers to love their enemies. It stands to reason that His followers continue to astound the world by demonstrating the absolute truth and functionality of seemingly paradoxical ideas. How interesting then that the most "active" Mormons are also the most highly-educated, that the Prophet to whom members defer religiously taught that his highest goal was a People who could govern themselves.
Mormons have every reason to be proud of their history, accomplishments and beliefs. Dr. Bushman's overview does an excellent job of capturing the essence of the movement.