A thoroughly researched, impartial treatment of that homegrown American religion so shrouded in mystery and myth: Mormonism.
The Latter-Say Saints have been the subjects of a number of illuminating scholarly works, from Jan Shipps’ Mormonism to D. Michael Quinn’s The Mormon Hierarchy, but until now there has been no book of the same caliber for the general audience. An outgrowth of Richard Ostling and S.C. Gwynne’s 1997 Time magazine cover story, Mormon America is an accessible, evenhanded treatment of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS), which, according to sociologist Rodney Stark, will number well over 63 million faithful by 2080. Not themselves Mormons, the Ostlings bring a newcomer’s curiosity and a healthy respect for the LDS to their project. After a brief summary of the history of Mormonism, which was born in the late 1820s, the Ostlings investigate a number of hot-button issues, from polygamy (officially banned, but still practiced by a few renegade “Mormon fundamentalists,” who are excommunicated if church authorities discover their marital practices) to money ("If the LDS Church were a U.S. corporation, by revenues it would rank number 243 on the Fortune 500 list"), from LDS politicos (including presidential hopeful Orrin Hatch) to the Mormon doctrine of God (which is at odds with orthodox Christian teaching in matters such as deification, the LDS belief that a person can become a God). Mormon America deals with many topics that Americans have heard of but don't understand, explaining what Mormons mean when they talk about being “eternally sealed” in marriage, evaluating the Latter-Day Saints” famed system of tithing and welfare, explicating the relationship between Mormon ritual and Masonic rites, and investigating the special undergarments that some Mormons wear.
For Protestants and other “Gentiles,” Mormon America is an invaluable primer; Latter-Day Saints will find the book a useful refresher course.