Mormon America - Revised and Updated Edition: The Power and the Promise

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9780061432958: Mormon America - Revised and Updated Edition: The Power and the Promise
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Who Are the Mormons?

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:

  • Has over 12.5 million members worldwide and is one of the fastest-growing and most centrally controlled U.S.-based religions
  • Is by far the richest religion in the United States per capita, with $25 to $30 billion in estimated assets and $5 to $6 billion more in estimated annual income
  • Boasts such influential members as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and presidential candidate Mitt Romney

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Review:

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

About the Author:

Richard N. Ostling, a religion writer for the Associated Press, was formerly senior correspondent for Time magazine, where he wrote twenty-three cover stories and was the religion writer for many years. He has also covered religion for the CBS Radio Network and the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer on PBS-TV.

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