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News about Mormons, Mormonism,
and the LDS Church
Sent on Mormon-News: 01Feb02
By Ken Ward News Release
Download to My Handheld!

New Book Explores Church's Power in America's Fastest-Growing City

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA -- Mormons took a big gamble when they settled Las Vegas 150 years ago. That bet paid off as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints helped plot the growth of America's gambling mecca. Now, for the first time, the deep and symbiotic relationship between America's fastest growing religion and the country's fastest growing city is exposed in a book, "Saints in Babylon: Mormons and Las Vegas'' (1st Books Library, Bloomington, Ind.). Through never-told-before accounts and exclusive interviews, veteran journalist Kenric F. Ward traces the guiding influences of a conservative church in a city that deals in the wages of sin.

"It's a sociological odd couple. Las Vegas is eight hours and light years from Salt Lake City. But amidst the bright lights and the non-stop partying is a thriving Mormon community," says Ward, an author and free-lance writer who has lived in Nevada for the past decade.

From its first organized settlement in 1855, when missionaries built a fort along the dusty Old Spanish Trail, Las Vegas and Latter-day Saints have been inextricably linked. As polygamists and farmers gave way to gaming executives and corporate attorneys, today's Mormons shatter many of the religion's stereotypes. There is virtually no corner of Sin City they do not inhabit.

Among the colorful cast of characters in Ward's work: a polygamous patriarch who pioneered Southern Nevada with a collectivist plan that would make Karl Marx proud; a banker who funded casinos and brought them respectability; Howard Hughes' closest confidants; decorated and controversial Vietnam War hero Bo Gritz; a tough-talking sheriff who took on the Mob; and the U.S. Senate's second most powerful member. In this fast-paced book highlighted with historical photos, Ward tells the uniquely American story of a strict, sober Church that found a way to co-exist with - and profit from - the gambling industry. It's a testament to the adaptability of a people, a city and a faith.

About the Author
Kenric F. Ward is an award-winning journalist and author who has written and edited extensively throughout Nevada, California and Indiana. Earning a bachelor's degree in political science from UCLA, Ward graduated with Phi Beta Kappa honors. He was an editorial writer at the San Jose Mercury News and editor-in-chief of the Columbus (Ind.) Republic before moving to Las Vegas, where he served as an editor with the Las Vegas Sun. In addition to writing weekly columns for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Ward co-authored "The Insiders Guide to Las Vegas" in 1997. Las Vegas correspondent for U.S. News & World Report, Ward also has been published by the Los Angeles Times, and other Internet news sites. His investigative reports and commentaries won first-place awards from the Nevada Press Association, the Hoosier State Press Association and the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Education Reform.

"Beautifully written. By far the best thing I have ever seen on the LDS role in politics and the community. A great book." -- A.D. Hopkins, Las Vegas Review-Journal.



New Book Explores Church's Power in America's Fastest-Growing City
Ken Ward News Release 30Jan02 A2

See also:
Saints in Babylon
More about "Saints in Babylon: Mormons and Las Vegas" by Kenric F. Ward at


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