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Mormonism: A Very Short Introduction Paperback – Apr 15 2008

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (April 15 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195310306
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195310306
  • Product Dimensions: 17.3 x 1 x 10.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 136 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #488,996 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


"An elegant, even-handed introduction."--Catholic Herald

"An elegant, even-handed introduction."--Catholic Herald

"Engaging...Bushman s latest work may indeed be very short, but it simultaneously provides eloquent and sophisticated answers...deftly makes many aspects of Mormonism comprehensible." --BYU Studies

"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.

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Format: Paperback
Mormonism is considered to be an American religion, the first major religion born on the new continent, and the first to incorporate the elements of the life on the new continent in its fabric of beliefs and practices. Ever since its inception in the early nineteenth century it has fascinated, and often repelled, the outsiders, and drown new converts. Its continuing growth in the times when religious missionary movements are supposed to be in a decline is interesting in its own right. Mormon missionaries are known by their youth, and clean-cut appearance and lifestyle that avoids the use of alcohol, tobacco, coffee and tea. Its precisely this lifestyle, coupled with the strong emphasis on family life, that brings many outsiders to convert to this religion, and it creates a respect even from those who are opposed to Mormonism on religious or ideological grounds.

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.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x9f5dd144) out of 5 stars 34 reviews
29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9f5e1b88) out of 5 stars excellent explanation of the Latter-Day Saint faith and people Nov. 17 2008
By Tom Trails - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This excellent book has several things going for it. First, it's brief and small in size, making it an easy read to carry around and read in bits when you have a few spare minutes to kill (it's also very inexpensive). Second, despite its brevity, it is pretty darn comprehensive in scope, covering history, doctrine, practical application and culture, and not afraid to address controversial or ambiguous issues. Third, it's published by a respected, neutral publisher (Oxford University Press) and written by a prestigious academic historian who happens to specialize in 18th and 19th century America and happens to be a solid Mormon who has served in leadership positions. Lastly, it has an excellent but mercifully brief list of sources of further reading that is subdivided by topic (these are all academic titles rather than inspirational or apologetic ones). Professor Bushman manages to show how all the history and doctrine of the church makes someone's Mormon neighbors the people they are, and that seen in the light of objective history and a sympathetic hearing of the church's beliefs, the sensational elements of Mormonism in the media don't seem that weird after all.
31 of 36 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9f5e1dd4) out of 5 stars Richard Bushman's _Mormonism_ July 27 2008
By Richard Rust - Published on
Format: Paperback
Richard Bushman's Mormonism: A Very Short Introduction is the best work on Mormonism that could come out at this time. It is by the right author and published by the right press. It is the best work because it defines simply but elegantly the essential nature of Mormonism and addresses in a timely way the main issues about Mormonism currently in the public sphere. With his impeccable and highly honored credentials in the scholarly world, his profound historical and doctrinal knowledge, and his exceptional communication skills, Richard Bushman is exactly the right person to have written this book. I would venture that in time his Mormonism will receive his largest audience ever. The distinguished Oxford University Press assures widespread exposure to Bushman's book by placing it in its Very Short Introductions series. This is the same press that has given us Terryl Givens' highly acclaimed books, The Viper on the Hearth, By the Hand of Mormon, and People of Paradox and is bringing out Givens' commentary on the Book of Mormon and his edited collection of essays, with Reid Neilson, on Joseph Smith, Jr.

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.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9f5e3030) out of 5 stars Does what it says it will Feb. 10 2012
By T. Eldridge - Published on
Format: Paperback
This book does exactly what it claims to: Provides a very short introduction to Mormonism.

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.
12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9f5e32ac) out of 5 stars A Very Excellent Introduction Nov. 20 2008
By J. Brian Watkins - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
To summarize a philosophy that encompasses all creation requires an adept observer. As a lifetime member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I say that this book is a superior treatment of the religion because of what it leaves out--by keeping his treatment brief and to the point, Dr. Bushman manages to squarely address what makes Mormonism uniquely valuable. I suspect Dr. Bushman was influenced by Terryl Givens' recent work, People of Paradox. He returns often to the paradoxical aspects of Mormonism not the least of which is the central tenet that true freedom comes from strict obedience.

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.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9f5e3144) out of 5 stars Excellent Introduction April 19 2010
By R. Albin - Published on
Format: Paperback
This little book is a model of concise exposition. Bushman is a recognized expert on LDS history and an observant Mormon. His account is objective and sympathetic. Bushman covers the distinctive features of LDS life, history, theology, cosmology, ritual practice, and church organization. He shows very nicely how the major features of the LDS church emerge directly from Joseph Smith's original revelations. He is very good as well on the history of the LDS, particularly the background of Smith's original revelations in the context of the second Great Awakening, the concurrent millennarism of early 19th century America, and other influences such as utopianism and Freemasonry. The descriptions of the fascinating and optimistic LDS theology-cosmology are particularly good and go a long way towards explaining the attractions of the LDS faith. Ultimately, Bushman shows the LDS church to rest on a impressively integrated world-view and communal experience that is undoubtedly rewarding for many of its adherents. There is an excellent bibliography for further reading.