Monday, August 27, 2012

Review: Mormonizing of America (Part I)

I was invited to blog a review of the book, The Mormonizing of America by Stephen Mansfield. After I read his interview, I thought his book would be a good follow-up to a discussion we had in my parish in 2011 regarding the religions born in America, Christian Science, Jehovah's Witnesses and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to name a few.

I grew up an Episcopalian and I knew my great Uncle on my mom's side was a Mormon (he lived next door to our cottage). As a child, I had no idea what "Mormon" meant. We drove by one of their wards when I was a kid, to our Episcopal Church, but I never thought about them. It wasn't until seminary and I met a friend who was Mormon that I got to know it more personally and actually experience one of their church services.

I found Stephen Mansfield's book to be a delightful read regarding the LDS faith, its history and how it is lived out today. His prologue, "Scenes from the Land of the Saints," is a beautiful introduction into the myriad of ways that the Mormon faith appears throughout the U.S.A.

Mansfield continues his prologue for each chapter begins with a nice vignette of a real life example of members of the LDS church in America today. I found that Mansfield, who is not Mormon, tried hard to be as even handed about presenting Joseph Smith, the LDS faith, its history and all that goes along with the LDS worldview without being too judgmental. He does ask hard questions, he doesn't buy into their faith or its worldview but he lays out how their moment came about and captures the essence of who they are.

As someone who loves history, I do wish he explored more of the other offshoots of the Mormon faith, some of which he mentions in passing but I understand that his book wasn't a history per se, but an exploration of how the LDS Church became such a driving force within American and what it means for all of us today.

Part II will explore more of my thoughts on this book. It is well worth the read. 4 out of 5 stars in my book.

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