The Mormon People: The Making of an American Faith
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“From one of the brightest of the new generation of Mormon-studies scholars comes a crisp, engaging account of the religion’s history.”—The Wall Street Journal
With Mormonism on the nation’s radar as never before, religious historian Matthew Bowman has written an essential book that pulls back the curtain on more than 180 years of Mormon history and doctrine. He recounts the church’s origins and explains how the Mormon vision has evolved—and with it the esteem in which Mormons have been held in the eyes of their countrymen. Admired on the one hand as hardworking paragons of family values, Mormons have also been derided as oddballs and persecuted as polygamists, heretics, and zealots. The place of Mormonism in public life continues to generate heated debate, yet the faith has never been more popular. One of the fastest-growing religions in the world, it retains an uneasy sense of its relationship with the main line of American culture.
Mormons will surely play an even greater role in American civic life in the years ahead. The Mormon People comes as a vital addition to the corpus of American religious history—a frank and balanced demystification of a faith that remains a mystery for many.
“Fascinating and fair-minded . . . a sweeping soup-to-nuts primer on Mormonism.”—The Boston Globe
“A cogent, judicious, and important account of a faith that has been an important element in American history but remained surprisingly misunderstood.”—Michael Beschloss
“A thorough, stimulating rendering of the Mormon past and present.”—Kirkus Reviews
“[A] smart, lucid history.”—Tom Brokaw
Journal of the Conference on Faith and History 40 (Summer/Fall 2008) shows the ways Mormon theology engaged with Protestant theology to develop new ideas about eternal progression and human nature. Douglas Davies’s Joseph Smith, Jesus, and Satanic Opposition: Atonement, Evil and the Mormon Vision (Ashgate, 2010) draws on the Progressive thought of Roberts and other thinkers to present a Mormon theology that emphasizes the free will’s struggle against opposition, as does Blake Ostler’s
Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, April 4, 1946 (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1897–1964), 317. 6 “Primary Leaders Challenged at Annual Conference,” Ensign (June 1973), 68. 7 “Prophet, Seer, and Innovator,” 50. 8 James B. Allen and Glen Leonard, The Story of the Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1972), 364. 9 David O. McKay Diaries, June 23, 1952, cited in Gregory Prince and William Robert Wright, David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism
to see to the temporal needs of the Mormons. Though Joseph did not attempt to enforce the law of consecration again, he declared that henceforth, until the Mormons were ready to practice consecration, they would be asked to tithe 10 percent of their gain to the bishop’s storehouse. The disasters in Missouri had shaken the process of the Gathering somewhat; to many Mormons, Zion seemed lost, and the flight from Ohio to Missouri to Illinois in such a short span of years left them scattered across
opportunity west. They were part of a New England exodus across the Great Lakes region in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, children of the decaying utopia of Puritan New England following paths since wrenched askew from those of their ancestors. There had been Smiths in Massachusetts and Macks in Connecticut since the seventeenth century, farmers and small merchants, though by the generation of Joseph and Lucy both families seemed interested in trying something new. Joseph Sr.’s
Come, Ye Saints.” In 1985 it migrated from the children’s songbook to the official LDS hymnal. The chorus runs, “Lead me, guide me, walk beside me / Help me find the way / Teach me all that I must do / To live with Him someday,” encapsulating in a handful of lines mid-twentieth-century Mormonism’s devotion to the importance of right behavior and the church’s responsibility to teach it.6 At the same time that McKay was working to guide Mormonism toward a particular way of being American, the