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Tania Rands Lyon and John Lyon

The Mormon Story

This book is long overdue. Once the most persecuted faith in the United States, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the LDS or Mormon church) has emerged as one of the fastest growing and most influential religious groups in the country. It enjoys political representation beyond its 2 percent of the U.S. population (5 percent of the U.S. Senate is Mormon, for example) and now holds assets estimated in the tens of billions of dollars. It is truly an international church; indeed, membership abroad recently surpassed that inside the United States. If growth rates continue as sociologist Rodney Stark has predicted, Mormonism will soon be the newest major world religion since Islam.

In spite of this remarkable status, very little has been written for a general audience on the subject. Mormonism certainly invites sensationalist coverage with its history of colorful prophets, polygamy, theocracy, and temple rites closed to all but committed insiders. Unfortunately, much of what has been published on the LDS church veers toward defensive apology from believers or acerbic invective from opponents. Other surveys are either tendentious and out of date (America's Saints: The Rise of Mormon Power, by Robert Gottlieb and Peter Wiley, 1986) or geared to a scholarly audience (Mormonism: The Story of a New Religious Tradition, by Jan Shipps, 1985).

Mormon America: The Power and the Promise, by Richard N. and Joan K. Ostling, has broader appeal, although its loose journalistic style of documentation may frustrate the reader accustomed to more careful footnoting of claims. Here at last we have a well-researched and eminently readable overview of Mormonism that is penetrating but also respectful (and therefore able to make sense of why the church inspires such growth and loyalty in its members). Mormon America covers a wide array of topics, from well-known issues like polygamy, racism, and peculiar lifestyle habits to less publicized issues like politics, finances, and theology. ...

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