THE MORMON EXPERIENCE: A History of the Latter-Day Saints by Leonard J. & Davis Bitton Arrington

THE MORMON EXPERIENCE: A History of the Latter-Day Saints

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A long, stodgy, politely partisan survey of Mormon life, past and present. Arrington and Bitton are respectively the official Church Historian and Assistant Church Historian of the LDS, so in some ways this is the ultimate inside job. But the problem lies less in their admitted bias (both men are competent, fair-minded scholars, and they acknowledge their Church's failings) than in their inability to judge that Church aesthetically--to see the color, the humor, the grotesquerie of Mormon ways. In their eagerness to persuade us that everything's up to date in Salt Lake City (and has been, for some time now), they fail to convey the distinctness, not to say the weirdness, of America's last theocracy. Thus, they are scrupulously fair in allotting shares of guilt to Mormons and gentiles (non-Mormons) in the armed affrays of the early 1840s, the Utah War (1857-58), and the massacre of Mountain Meadows, but they don't so much as mention the fact that Brigham Young had, at one time or another, 27 wives. Mormon polygamy, of course, has attracted a lot of sensational publicity over the years, but that's no reason to skim the subject in a dozen bland pages, cough discreetly, and move on to a discussion of ward (parish) structures in the 19th century. As the most recent major history of the LDS, this one necessarily contains some material (e.g., the ""revelation"" allowing the admission of black males to the priesthood) not included in older standard sources--O'Dea, Whalen, Bailey, etc. But apart from that, and apart from its value as evidence of liberalizing trends in contemporary Mormonism, the book is of little significance.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1979
ISBN: 0252062361
Publisher: Knopf