December 15, 2017

Book Review: The Mormonizing of America

Mitt Romney. Stephenie Meyer. Glenn Beck. Harry Reid. Donny & Marie Osmond. Gary Allan. Katherine Heigl.

What do these names have in common? They all belong to Mormons. And not just any Mormons — highly influential ones. Mormons with power, fame, or authority.

In a country that claims only 2% of its population as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, there are a surprising number of those members who are household names. With the rest of the population.

Does it make you curious what their religion is all about? Do you wonder what Mormons have that the rest of us haven’t figured out yet?

In his newest book, The Mormonizing of America, Stephen Mansfield delves into the history and traditions of Mormonism — and the pull that so many feel towards its structure. And I think it’s the best thing I’ve read about the Mormon religion in the past ten years.

Side note: why am I recommending a book about Mormonism on a blog about Christianity?
Good question. Here’s the short version:

During the summer after my freshman year in college, I went on a missions trip. Our team traveled throughout the Western US, working with churches and sharing the Gospel in 7 different states. We even did a little bit of “church planting” work in a few towns — areas where there’d never been a Christian presence, as far as we could tell.

{Yes, areas like that do exist in the United States of America.}

Long story short, God used that trip to call me to home missions. Specifically, to church planting in the Western US, home to Salt Lake City and Temple Square — and the very base of Mormonism itself.

My husband (then a mere acquaintance) went on a different missions that same summer, to some of the same areas. And God used it in his life as well, to call him to the same sort of ministry. You can guess what brought us together after that summer… 

And we are preparing to be out there someday.  That includes learning more about Mormon culture and history. If we’re going to be neighbors, and we hope to share the Gospel with them, we’d better understand who we’re talking to.

And that’s where The Mormonizing of America comes in. It was actually recommended by a pastor friend of mine, who has a ministry of his own in Idaho Falls.

After reading it for myself, I heartily second his recommendation.

Stephen Mansfield, author of several other well-known biographies (such as The Faith of George Bush), clearly states in the beginning material that “the author of this book is not a Mormon, and this book is intended to neither to defend nor to prosecute Mormonism.”

Mansfield does a pretty tight job of sticking to that resolution. He makes it clear what Mormons say about certain things, and compares it with what non-Mormons say. He lets the reader draw his own conclusions about the spiritual beliefs of the LDS Church.

The Mormonizing of America starts with high praise for the “Mormon machine,” as Mansfield calls it — the reasons so many Mormons have risen in fame and influence. It extols the virtues of the “engines” of that machine: continual progress, family, education, and patriotism.

From there, Mansfield turns to the spiritual appeal of the Mormon religion — things like men becoming gods, and the restoration of the Aaronic priesthood. And finally, he turns to the controversial history of Joseph Smith, the angel Moroni, the golden tablets… and the other battles waged within and around the Mormon church.

Who should read it?

To someone with little prior knowledge of the Mormon religionThe Mormonizing of America gives a clear picture of who they are and what they believe, from both Mormon and “outsider” perspectives.

To someone who has friends or co-workers in the LDS church, it provides good clarification about what they think and how they approach different aspects of their lifestyle and worship.

To someone preparing for a life in ministry, be it church leadership or missions or anything like that, it provides a good basis for getting to know Mormons and understanding how to effectively win them to Christ (as far as humans are able to do so).

One final word.

I want to make it clear that I believe Mormons are not Christians. And yet, they are not better or worse spiritually then your average Joe-down-the-street. They need salvation by faith in Jesus Christ — just like the rest of us.

On the other hand, their culture certainly has some attraction for the undisciplined, individualistic society we live in today. It’s clear that Mormons excel in so many fields, and they can certainly be respected as good role models.

And so, I believe The Mormonizing of America is a relevant (and fascinating!) read for anyone in America today.

 

Note: if you have questions about what Mormons believe, or how to witness to a Mormon, I’d love to chat further. Send me an email and I’ll be in touch with you!

Disclaimer: this post contains my affiliate links.

Comments

  1. Elizabeth, thanks for sharing this! I grew up in Mormon country and it has grieved me to see Mormonism become so mainstream… especially during the recent election. I truly believe that most Christians don’t have any idea how far Mormonism is from biblical faith.

  2. Very interesting! Thanks for the review. I’ve always been intrigued by their culture and what exactly makes them who they are. Growing up overseas we frequently ran into Mormons doing their 2 yr mission work. My piano teacher in college grew up Mormon and of course pianists know The 5 Browns…any way, they definitely have a reputation for being highly disciplined which is curiously fascinating to me even though I disagree with them on just about everything theologically.

  3. the white wave says:

    Thank you. I just got the book in the mail. The town where I live was founded by Mormons, we have a Mormon bookstore in town, and some of my family members are Mormon-so this is very relevant to me. I also bought an apologetic book at the Mormon bookstore, written by a Mormon for Mormons, on how to answer the questions of non-Mormons. Very interesting.

  4. This was an interesting post. Growing up I actually did not hear much about Mormons until my late teens. I found this review thought provoking. Visiting you thanks to Titus 2sday!

    Candice
    lillythroughthevalley.blogspot.com

Trackbacks

  1. […] Book Review: The Mormonizing of America In his latest book, Stephen Mansfield delves into the history and traditions of Mormonism — and the pull that so many feel towards its structure. And I think it’s the best thing I’ve read about the Mormon religion in the past ten years. But why am I recommending a book about Mormonism on a blog about Christianity? […]

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