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