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For week ended January 09, 2000 Posted 24 Feb 2001
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News about Mormons, Mormonism,
and the LDS Church

Summarized by Kent Larsen

Theocracy in the Desert
New York Times Book Review 9Jan00 A4
By Timothy Egan

NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK -- "Mormon America: The Power and the Promise" by Richard N. Ostling and Joan K. Ostling is certainly the most reviewed book at the moment on Mormonism. Major reviews of the book have appeared in most news and book publications, including the most influential book review publication, the New York Times Book Review. And New York Times reporter Timothy Egan, who reviewed the book for the Times, calls the book, "a long overdue primer on one of the fastest growing religions in the world."

Egan takes a more critical, and atheistic view of Mormonism than the Ostling's do in their book, saying that the LDS Church has changed from a radical, socialist church to a capitalistic empire that guards family values. But he admits that the LDS Church's influence is growing, pointing out that "at the present rate, the Mormon Church could become the most important world religion to emerge since the rise of Islam 14 centuries ago."

Skeptical of Mormon history, Egan also admits that historians can look at it more critically than older religions. "Mormons are burdened by being one of few major religions subject to recent fact-checking." Egan assumes that historical evidence on Mormonism and on the Book of Mormon question's the LDS Church's legitimacy.

But Egan says that the Ostling's book is "eminently fair, well researched and exhaustive," adding that "there are no major revelations that are likely to alter opinion one way or the other, but the authors are diligent referees of fights past and present." He does see a weakness in the book, which he says "does not go into much depth on the temporal world created by the Saints."

Egan praises the Ostlings for their work on the spiritual side of life. He says that they make a good case that "the Saints should not be afraid of their own past," and that they criticize the Church for keeping an eye on members, "No other sizable religion in America monitors its own followers in this way," [The Mormon Church] "is unusual in penalizing members for merely criticizing officialdom or for publishing truthful -- if uncomfortable -- information," he quotes the Ostlings from their book.

Another recent major review, this one in the Christian Science Monitor, is written from a perspective more sympathetic to the Church. Linda Giedl writes that "Mormon America" "won't make anyone comfortable." She says that the book "will elicit less than happy reactions from many Mormons, while startling the formerly oblivious into sudden awareness of the identities, beliefs and practices of a rapidly growing church."

According to Giedl, the book contains descriptions of the LDS Church's corporate and land holdings, welfare system, missionary and building programs, and seminary and institute programs. It also details 150 major corporations in the U.S. with a Mormon in one of its top slots, and the sixteen LDS Church members in the U.S. Congress.

But Giedl isn't able to say for sure whether the book is fair or not. "No outsiders, no matter how detached and objective, can be completely sure where the truth actually lies. Likewise, a Mormon insider's perspective is colored by the understandable bias that comes from voluntary immersion in an institutional view of the church's history and mission."

See also:

A Utah-based church spreads its arms
Christian Science Monitor 23Dec99 A4
By Linda L. Giedl


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Mormon America
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Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 Kent Larsen · Privacy Information