There can be no arguing that Mormonism is, as Newsweek put it last year, "having a moment." But why? What has led to this? Answering questions like these is the goal of the new release by Stephen Mansfield, The Mormonizing of America (2012, Worthy Publishing). Mansfield is a former pastor. He has authored several books including: The Faith of George W. Bush, The Faith of Barack Obama, The Search for God and Guinness (reviewed here), and The Faith of the American Soldier.
In The Mormonizing of America, Mansfield gives us a sketch of the history of Mormonism, a look at their basic doctrines, and some of the challenges facing the modern Latter-Day Saints (LDS) church. He does this while managing to avoid the trap of the book simply being a negative, Mormon-bashing diatribe. He is honest about Mormonism, but he is graceful. Mansfield speaks the truth plainly and clearly, but respectfully. I think this is one of the books strongest features.
Another strong feature is how Mansfield puts Mormonism into its context. In telling LDS history, he doesn't simply tell the odd story of its founder, Joseph Smith. He describes the historical context that helped make the religion what it is.
Frankly, the book was worth reading for its introduction. In it, the author moved past simply describing the faulty doctrines of the LDS church, and described the experience of being part of the church. I had honestly never figured out why someone would want to be part of a religion built on such a faulty view of history and outrageous theology. It isn't about the doctrine, it is the experience.
I simply want to make three observations:
1. Mormonism must deal honestly with history. Their history is checkered, at best. It is a past that is full of questions and concerns. Joseph Smith has been regarded as a criminal, a con-man, and a manipulator. This is true of him both before and after his revelations. It is a history of violence. It is a history of constantly changing theology. When Mormonism began, it often looked more like a radical form of Pentecostalism than the buttoned-down religion we see today. Not only do they need to deal honestly with their own history, but also with their view of world and American history. DNA evidence has proven there is no relationship between Jews and Native Americans. When Smith discovered the golden plates that contained what he translated into The Book of Mormon, he claimed the language on the plates was Reformed Egyptian. This is a supposed language that has never been discovered anywhere else in the world. And his claim that angels took the plates away when he was finished translating leaves the language unavailable for verification. He also claimed horses were in North America before Columbus when all evidence is to the contrary. Those are just some of the historical fabrications the religion was founded on.
2. There is no authoritative LDS theology. Joseph Smith established the church. He was succeeded by Brigham Young. Young had a number of revelations that superseded Smith's teachings. And so their doctrine has changed throughout their history. In fact, a constantly changing theology is rooted in their theology. They teach that from its earliest days the church became corrupt. When Smith had his revelations, the proper priesthood was restored. The head of the LDS church is also regarded as a prophet, and a living prophet trumps a dead prophet. By and large, members of the LDS do not know or study theology to any great extent. They are taught how to live. There are not many LDS theologians at any level. For the most part, Mormonism is an experiential religion. They do not witness based on doctrine, but on testimony.
3. Mormonism is a uniquely American religion. This is true not just in the sense that it began here, but that it is tied into the culture and fabric of the United States. One of the reasons Mormonism is so interesting right now is the fact the Republican nominee for the office of President is an active, practicing Mormon. Many are concerned that he may take orders from Salt Lake City rather than from the United States Constitution. I find this unlikely. And if he does, the orders are not likely to conflict with the Constitution. This is because the LDS church views the United States Constitution as an inspired document, just like the Book of Mormon and the King James Version of the Bible. In fact, they view it as more accurate than the KJV Bible!
At this year's Republican National Convention, Vice-Presidential nominee Paul Ryan made the comment that Mitt Romney's life has prepared him to be President. From a Mormon perspective, nothing could be truer. Mormonism builds this into its followers. Progress, family, education, and patriotism are keys to success in American culture. They are also the emphases of Mormonism.
The Mormonizing of America was a joy to read. I found it incredibly helpful in understanding the religionâ€”not just the doctrine, but the history and culture of the LDS church. I believe that as a part of our American society, Mormonism has reached a critical mass and is here to stay. It is imperative that every Christian have some understanding of the religion of people they will encounter on a regular basis. Because Mormonism is such a religion of experience, simply pointing out flaws in its history and theology will not convert most. The only way to witness to individuals in the LDS church is to share the gospelâ€”and to share the gospel in a loving, understanding way. This can only be done when we have some understanding of the Mormon culture. The Mormonizing of America is a great resource for this. I highly recommend it.
This is a great primer for anyone who wants to lea
August 22, 2012
Stephen Mansfield is a New York Timesbestselling author and a popular speaker who is becoming one of this generation's most respected voices on religion and modern culture. He is also an advisor to leaders around the world, an activist in a variety of social causes and a regular commentator on the FOX and CNN news networks.
His latest book, The Mormonization of America is a powerful "mini-history lesson" on the Mormon religion. Each page is backed by up-to-date research, personal anecdotes, and sixteen pages of photographs. Mansfield examines the influence of the LDS church-past, present, and future. He debunks common myths, expounds on the Church's beliefs, and unveils many of the mysteries surrounding this influential religion and its loyal members.
For instance did you know that only 2% of America is Mormon? That's roughly the number of people who subscribe to a magazine or who are fans of a hit TV show. In the entire world, there are only about 14 million Mormons. And for most of us, I would say that the Mormons are just one of those things we all know exists, but unless we have sat down to examine it, we are not really sure what they are all about.
First of all, they like to be called "Later day Saints" or "LDS" for short. And at the heart of your typical LDS is the idea that their faith is about the restoration of the priesthood. They literally believe that the LDS franchise is the continuation of the levitical priesthood that began with Aaron.
Mansfield spends much of his book discussing the roots of the LDS faith with it's founder Joseph Smith. The organization today would argue that where they are "now" supersedes where they started, but Mansfield disagrees. The Mormon group is famous for being able to re-write history to fit their needs and so taking a glance back at the "founder of the faith" is a great place to see where the bedrock of this practice stands. If you'd like an indepth read on Joseph Smith, Mansfield recommends "No Man Knows My Story" by Fawn Brodie.
The Mormon boys will tell you that Mormonism was born because the entire church was apostate. No church or Christian was following the true teachings of Christ anymore and so Joseph Smith began to have visions and began to receive word that he would become a prophet and the patriarch a new "American" Christianity.
I guess the Mormon church does not recognize the Christians who adopted abandoned children from the Romans, or Telemachus who was martyred when he tried to stop the Roman games. The Mormons don't believe Celtic monks who sheltered the mentally ill or who built hospitals were faithful and they probably don't recognize St Francis of Assisi, or Martin Luther or Isaac Watts or any one of the men and women through Christian history up until Joseph Smith was born in 1805.
The LDS faith was given life because Joseph Smith didn't see a righteous church in his little neck of Vermont. And more than likely Joseph Smith read a work of fiction called "The View of the Hebrews" (which came out in 1825) and he plagiarized it and published it 5 years later as a "Bible" in 1830.
The bottom line is no matter how the LDS dresses it up, they are not a Christian faith. They are the epitome of a "cult."
A system of religious veneration and devotion directed toward a particular person or object.
A relatively small group of people having religious beliefs or practices regarded by others as strange or sinister.
Mormons say that they want to talk to you about the teachings of Jesus Christ, but what they really want to talk to you about is Joseph Smith.
Mormons say that the book of Mormon "strengthens" the Bible, but that implies that the bible is weak.
But don't take my word for it, or Stephen Mansfield's. Listen to what the LDS founding fathers have to say:
"God made Aaron to be the mouthpiece for the children of Israel and he will make me to be a god to you in his stead, and the elders to be a mouth for me, and if you don't like it, you must lump it."
"I am not so much a Christian as men suppose I am. When a man undertakes to ride me for a horse, I feel disposed to kick up and throw him off, and ride him."
~ Joseph Smith, History of the Church
"Every spirit that confesses that Joseph Smith is a prophet, that he lived and died a prophet, and that the book of Mormon is true, is of God, and every spirit that does not is of the Anti-Christ."
The Mormonizing of America: How the Mormon Religion Became a Dominant Force in Politics, Entertainment, and Pop Culture is written by Stephen Mansfield and published by Worthy Publishing.
the book is great. it's exceptionally written. it's timely. it's an important read, especially for Americans.
i'm at somewhat of a disadvantage reviewing this book: i'm Canadian and i live in Canada. i do, however, like to think i've got enough of a handle on a few things to review this book and comment on few of its implications.
like Mansfield, i'm not passing judgment on Mormonism. i'm simply reviewing a book, stating the facts reported and recorded in said book, and reflecting on a few of the topics. Mansfield's work is excellent. his other books, including spiritual biographies of President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama, are wonderful. anything he's written is worth reading.
Mansfield immersed himself in the history and culture of Mormonism. he interviewed and spoke with scholars and historians, both apologists and critics of the LDS. he presents the facts and stories and allows readers to come to their own conclusions.
the Mormon faith is a home-grown, American religion. it has spread to other countries around the world. but if there were no US of A, there would be no Mormonism. Mormonism, in the hands of its founder Joseph Smith, made American divine and reshaped elements of Christianity in America's image.
included in the book is a timeline of significant LDS dates. as well as a section entitled "Mormon Beliefs in Plain Language." these two sections are very helpful.
this book will be helpful to people who want a clear, honest picture of Mormonism.
The Mormonizing of America is an excellent book. i highly recommend it.
If you like history or want to learn more about the Mormon faith this book is perfect for you. The subtitle is "How the Mormon Religion Became a Dominant Force in Politics, Entertainment, and Pop Culture."
I found this book to be very informative. The author tells the history of the Mormons. It is interesting to read who the first leader was. I especially liked how he showed the influence of Mormons on our culture.
The book was not condescending or putting down of the Mormon faith. I thought the book was open and really just a history of what the religions stands for and what a Mormon believes.
I gave this book 4/5 stars. I liked the book itself and found it educational. I did wish the author had found more Mormons to contribute to the book. If he had some more personal testimonies of what being a Mormon means to an actual Mormon I think it would have given the book more standing.
I would like to thank NetGalley and the publisher for the copy of this book I enjoyed reading. I gave an honest review based on my opinion of what I read.
If you've ever wondered what members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe, this book answers the question as well as looking 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.
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.
Thanks to Worthy Publishing and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.