25 July 2012

Review: The Mormonizing of America by Stephen Mansfield

If you’ve ever wondered what members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe, The Mormonizing of America: How the Mormon Religion Became Became a Dominant Force in Politics, Entertainment, and Pop Culture answers the question and looks at the influence Saints have on business and politics in the USA, and why. It’s fascinating. He covers the history of the LDS Church, from the visions of Joseph Smith, the establishment of the Church, its initial theology, the reason their beliefs have changed over the years, and the practices and values that have led to Saints having a disproportional impact on the US today.

Although Mansfield is writing from a Christian perspective, he is very respectful towards LDS beliefs, writing from an impartial stance and leaving the evidence to speak for itself. From the point of view of the doctrine, the evidence is flimsy at best. The entire story of Joseph Smith’s translation of the Book of Mormon is eerily reminiscent of fable of The Emperor's New Clothes, except that there is no little boy to tell the truth and thereby break the illusion. However, Mansfield points out that doctrine and theology is not what draws people to or keeps people in the church (after all, popular sci-fi show Battlestar Galactica was loosely based on Mormon theology, but this is much more believable–and better TV-than the Scientologists and Battlefield Earth).

What makes the Mormon machine successful, at least according to Mansfield, is that the Church’s respect for family, service, education and hard work mirror the American Dream. So a large part of the Church’s modern success is because of their commitment to community and prosperity. So while I can see the holes in their beliefs, I can also see why Mormonism is attractive. Recommended. But members of the LDS Church probably won't like The Mormonizing of America.

Thanks to Worthy Publishing and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.

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