AMERICA'S SAINTS: The Rise of Mormon Power by Robert & Peter Wiley Gottlieb

AMERICA'S SAINTS: The Rise of Mormon Power

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A dullish, quasi-muckraking chronicle of contemporary Mormondom. Gottlieb and Wiley (Empires in the Sun) are diligent if uninspired investigative journalists who have covered the West for many years now. Their main problem here is a dearth of sensational material. Yes, the Mormon Church is the New World's last flourishing theocracy. (Brigham Young called it a ""Theo-Democracy."") Over the last 154 years the Church has beaten all the odds and reached an impressive total of 5fl million members, and has spread from Salt Lake City to Japan and the South Sea Islands. Yes, the Mormons have fabulous corporate assets (but their secretive ways make it impossible to quote a dollar figure). And yes, the Mormons are a dynamic reactionay force in the US and even, to some extent, worldwide: they are anti-feminist (warring on the ERA, attacking Sonia Johnson, championing high birth-rates and submissive, stay-at-home wives), anti-gay (Brigham Young U. persecutes its homosexual students), authoritarian (the FBI and CIA reportedly make a special effort to recruit young Mormons). The church leadership is more gerontocratic than the Politburo; and some of its figures, like apparent Prophet-to-be, Ezra Taft Benson, are positively paleontological. The Mormons helped to overthrow Allende, and their Placement Service has been accused of being a racist assault on Indian identity. But, however distasteful their ethos and policies may appear to the American left, the Mormons are basically just one more law-abiding interest group in our pluralistic scheme. Gottlieb and Wiley seem to be looking for scandal and garish local color, but they don't find much; and their dry, plodding prose, weighed down with a thousand details of church power struggles, soon proves wearying. Useful as a minor reference work, but no more.

Pub Date: Sept. 13th, 1984
Publisher: Putnam