Mormonism: A Very Short Introduction

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Oxford University Press, 2008 M04 22 - 144 pages
Beginning with a handful of members in 1830, the church that Joseph Smith founded has grown into a world-wide organization with over 12 million adherents, playing prominent roles in politics, sports, entertainment, and business. Yet they are an oddity. They are considered wholesome, conservative, and friendly on one hand, and clannish, weird, and self-righteous on the other. Mormonism: A Very Short Introduction explains who Mormons are: what they believe and how they live their lives. Written by Richard Lyman Bushman, an eminent historian and practicing Mormon, this compact, informative volume ranges from the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to the contentious issues of contemporary Mormonism. Bushman argues that Joseph Smith still serves as the Mormons' Moses. Their everyday religious lives are still rooted in his conceptions of true Christianity. They seek revelation to solve life's problems just as he did. They believe the authority to seal families together for eternity was restored through him. They understand their lives as part of a spiritual journey that started in a "council in heaven" before the world began just as he taught. Bushman's account also describes the tensions and sorrows of Mormon life. How are Mormons to hold on to their children in a world of declining moral standards and rampant disbelief? How do rational, educated Mormons stand up to criticisms of their faith? How do single Mormons fare in a church that emphasizes family life? The book also examines polygamy, the various Mormon scriptures, and the renegade fundamentalists who tarnish the LDS image when in fact they're not members. In a time when Mormons such as Mitt Romney and Harry Reid are playing prominent roles in American society, this engaging introduction enables readers to judge for themselves how Mormon teachings shape the character of believers. About the Series: Oxford's Very Short Introductions series offers concise and original introductions to a wide range of subjects--from Islam to Sociology, Politics to Classics, Literary Theory to History, and Archaeology to the Bible. Not simply a textbook of definitions, each volume in this series provides trenchant and provocative--yet always balanced and complete--discussions of the central issues in a given discipline or field. Every Very Short Introduction gives a readable evolution of the subject in question, demonstrating how the subject has developed and how it has influenced society. Eventually, the series will encompass every major academic discipline, offering all students an accessible and abundant reference library. Whatever the area of study that one deems important or appealing, whatever the topic that fascinates the general reader, the Very Short Introductions series has a handy and affordable guide that will likely prove indispensable.

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User Review  - everfresh1 - LibraryThing

It's difficult to fit a lot of information into such a small format - and I don't think the author was very successful with it. Besides, although he tries to show that his narrative is objective, it ... Read full review

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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.


What sets Mormons apart?
How Joseph Smiths revelations set the pattern for every Mormon to seek inspiration
How the organization of the City of Zion constituted Mormons as a people as well as a church
How the Mormon priesthood is both hierarchical and democratic
How Mormons understand the meaning of life
How old ideals and new struggles formed Mormon identity
How Mormons left their homeland and fought to retain their distinctiveness
Articles of Faith
Further reading
Web sites

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About the author (2008)

Richard Lyman Bushman is Gouverneur 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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