Mormon Amer Paperback – Sep 21 2000
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Mormon America: The Power and The Promise by Richard N. Ostling and Joan K. Ostling, grew out of a 1997 Time magazine cover story called "Mormon's Inc." One of the reporters on that story, Richard Ostling, became so fascinated by Mormonism that he set out to write "a candid but non-polemical" overview of the Church, beginning with its founding by Joseph Smith Jr. in 1830 and continuing to the present day. The resulting book is a marvel of clarity, organization, and analysis.
For statistical reasons alone, the Mormon Church demands a reader's attention: in just 170 years, the Church has grown from six members to more than 10 million; if current rates of growth continue, membership could hit 265 million by 2080, which would make it the most important world religion to emerge since the rise of Islam. Mormon America clarifies the reasons for the religion's rapid growth: "It was from the beginning optimistic and upbeat, a reaction against the establishment New England Calvinism.... It was a religious version of the American dream: Everyman presented with unlimited potential." The book also investigates the Mormons' immense wealth (relative to size, this is "America's richest church, with an estimated $30 billion in assets and something like $6 billion in annual income, mostly from members' tithes.") It anatomizes the minutiae of Church governance (Mormonism is ruled by a self-perpetuating, all-male hierarchy, headed by a "President, Prophet, Seer, and Revelator"), details the many rules that govern the Mormon lifestyle (famously, they avoid caffeine and alcohol; the Church's mandates extend even to the proper technique for "dispos[ing] of worn-out holy underwear"), and summarizes the Mormon scriptures. Mormon America is a compulsively readable book, not only for its insightful analysis and wealth of factual information, but also, and most importantly, because it respects its subject rigorously. "This is a real faith," the Ostlings write, "and must be understood in those terms, without caricature." --Michael Joseph Gross --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
This account of the history and current situation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is better than its cover would lead one to believe. Packaged as another sensationalist expos? of Mormon economic and political power, with chapters promising to unlock "The Power Pyramid" and "Rituals Sacred and Secret," the book is in fact generally well-balanced and often insightful, particularly on matters of race and gender, and draws upon a number of recent studies by Mormon scholars. (The authors, a well-educated husband and wife team with copious journalistic accolades between them, describe themselves as "conventional Protestants.") Their erudite chapter on Mormon theology sheds light on a fascinating but neglected subject (even by Mormons), and they sensitively portray what is at stake in the telling of Mormon historyAa controversial undertaking nowadays due to the recent excommunications of some high-profile Mormon historians. Yet in its effort to provide a one-stop panorama of Mormonism, the book seems a bit of a hodgepodge at times (the authors evaluate the authenticity of Joseph Smith's revelation in one chapter and catalogue "Great Mormons of Sport" in another). Although the Ostlings say they hope to profile the "multidimensional" character of Mormonism, and they include chapters on Mormon family life and dissent, this is very much an institutional account, focusing on the "very controlled...very top-down" leadership of the church rather than on the mass of believers. Finally, while the authors attempt to be "nonpolemical," their close attention to the church's financial assets cannot help but hint of conspiracy theory. (Why does no one write books on "the Episcopalian empire"?) While this book is undoubtedly the best introductory snapshot of the Mormon world available in print, there is still room for improvement. (Nov.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
Ever since reading "Under the Banner of Heaven" by Jon Krakauer I have been reading other books about "America's most successful home grown religion." I am currently reading "The Blood of the Prophets." by Will Bagley, (Review to follow.) The story of Mormonism is indeed a quintessential American story, full of colorful, often larger than life characters, vicious villains and their fair share of heroes. The story of the Mormon migration to Utah ranks as one of the great epic journeys ever recorded.
The husband and wife team of Ostling and Ostling, have set out to tell the story in as fair and objective a way as possible for the non-Mormon reader. They achieve their aim admirably. The book reads well, but lacks passion; perhaps passion and objectivity don't go together.
The Ostlings lead their readers through all the well-known themes of Mormon history, beliefs and life. They do so in a way that allows the outsider as good an introduction as can be had in any one book. We are given insights into Mormon history, both the good and the bad. The Ostlings describe the once secretive, Masonic-like Temple rituals; we are told of the basic beliefs of Mormonism, their polytheism, the eternal nature of the nuclear family, the now suspended beliefs in polygamy and blood atonement. The unsubstantiated claims of the Book of Mormon regarding the pre-Columbian history of America are opened up to us.
No one can appreciate Mormonism without grasping the importance of the family in Mormon life. The Mormon belief that every marriage is sealed for eternity and every family will continue to live together as families in the heaven, results in the high priority placed on the family, marriage, children and family values.Read more ›
Upfront, the Ostlings claim this book is for non-Mormons as an introductory text to learn about this religion. Thus is covers many topics, some very thoroughly, in a concise, Time magazine sort of way. From Prophet Joseph Smith's visions and his establishment of the Mormon church based on his translated texts, to the current church (current as of 1999), you learn about many church aspects.
One of the most intriguing chapters early on is the polygamy chapter, which was handled fairly without judgment. Another chapter explains the complex organizational structure of the church, which comes across as being very totalitarian and a top-down form of leadership. A third chapter explains the development of the Mormon family, and the roles people play in them. The last few chapters discuss the religious beliefs of the church members.
All in all, I found while the text is very informative, it also reads very dryly. Perhaps because the authors attempt to present a vision of Mormonism without their own personal beliefs in the way, it reads very matter of fact and not very compelling. I've read other books that account the death of Joseph Smith which have moved me much more than the mere reporting of it in this book. While I appreciate authors leaving it up to the reader to make any decisions based on the material presented, a bit of humanity and a bit of themselves would have made for a slightly more enjoyable read.
If you know nothing of the LDS church, and are interested to learn what it's all about, this is the book for you. If you already have a working knowledge of the church, and want more, there are a host of other books out there that might fulfill your needs better.
Enter Mormon America: The Power and The Promise by Joan K. and Richard Ostling which provides an excellent resource for those curious outsiders.
The book itself is written in an informative, well-documented and journalistic style (some of the chapters appeared as part of a Time magazine cover story). Instead of a skeptic's condescendtion or a fundamentalist's hysterical "hell fire and brimstone" condemnation, the Ostings provide a fair overview of the Mormon's history, doctrine, practice and future. For every instance of an odditiy, contradiction or embarrassing moment in the previously mentioned catergories, the author's provide the standard explanation given by LDS apologists in addition to the criticism given by both non-Mormons and Mormons alike.
On a personal level, I found the LDS concept of continuing revelation to be one of the most facinating parts of the book. While it seemingly could provide a way to explain uncomfortable practices from the past (i.e. polygamy, denial of the priesthood to African-Americans etc.), I would think it would undermine any attempt to form a stable basis for morality.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
The Ostling's have created a well-done work that does a great job with the difficult task of compiling information and presenting it in a fashion that is easy to grasp and... Read morePublished on July 13 2004 by Beverly Hines
This book is the best I've read on the rise of the LDS. It may be a bit dry in parts. The book provides a detailed history of the church as well as a discussion of the beliefs... Read morePublished on March 2 2004
I really didn't know much about the Mormon religion before reading this, and it truly gives the religion a positive spin, which you don't always find when it comes to this religion... Read morePublished on Dec 27 2003 by Hello Kitty Ellen
I love the cover of this book. The salt lake cathedral is loonming liekthe mormon meance appraching us. will we stand? I will not say. Read morePublished on Sept. 2 2003 by Karl F. Hamm
It's not that I wouldn't recommend this book- but I would certainly not rely entirely on the authors' viewpoint. Read morePublished on May 9 2003
The authors do an excellent job of exposing the Mormon Church for the mindless mass movement that it is.Published on Feb. 23 2003 by freethinker
As a man raised in the church and a former Mormon missionary, take it from me, this book is by far the best book ever written on Mormonism by non-Mormons. Read morePublished on Jan. 12 2003
I myself have done intense research into the church. I myself am a practicing Roman Catholic. I think most everything written in this book was very well done. Read morePublished on Dec 30 2002
Some of the best people I've known over the years have been Mormons, and I've therefore had a lifetime curiosity as to just what these folks are all about. Read morePublished on Dec 3 2002