Mormon America - Rev. Ed.: The Power and the Promise

Mormon America - Rev. Ed.: The Power and the Promise

by Richard Ostling, Joan K Ostling

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Who Are the Mormons?

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:

  • Has over 12.5 million members worldwide and is one of the fastest-growing and most centrally controlled U.S.-based religions
  • Is by far the richest religion in the United States per capita, with $25 to $30 billion in estimated assets and $5 to $6 billion more in estimated annual income
  • Boasts such influential members as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and presidential candidate Mitt Romney

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061749803
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 10/13/2009
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 504
File size: 803 KB

About the Author

Richard N. Ostling, a religion writer for the Associated Press, was formerly senior correspondent for Time magazine, where he wrote twenty-three cover stories and was the religion writer for many years. He has also covered religion for the CBS Radio Network and the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer on PBS-TV.

Joan K. Ostling, a freelance writer and editor, was formerly a writer and editor for the U.S. Information Agency in Washington, D.C., a reporter for the Press Publications newspaper chain in Chicago, and an English and journalism professor.

Read an Excerpt

Mormon America - Revised and Updated Edition

The Power and the Promise
By Richard Ostling

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2007 Richard Ostling
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780061432958

Chapter One

Sealed With Blood

Nauvoo, Illinois, today sits at a picturesque bend in the Mississippi River, a tourist attraction and state historical park with visitor centers operated by competing churches at opposite ends of the restored town. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) owns the imposing brick Heber C. Kimball house and the Masonic lodge. The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (RLDS) owns Joseph Smith's grave and his two homes. Relations are polite. The visitor can take the LDS tour in a cart pulled by Amish-raised draft horses and admire the cornfields and soybeans, the rushing creek, the restored shops, and the old Masonic building. There is no sign of the once mosquito-infested malarial swamps, and neither church has restored any of the cramped wooden hovels in which most of the Saints actually lived during Nauvoo's brief moment of glory.

Today as one breakfasts at Grandpa John's Cafe in the backwater country town perched on the high bluff above the river, it is hard to believe that in its day--five years of growth and fame before it became a ghost town--Nauvoo rivaled Chicago. Nothing like this theocratic principality inthe heart of America had been seen since Pilgrim and Puritan days. Here the prophet Joseph Smith maintained a militia of 3,000 to 4,000 men under arms, at a time when the full U.S. Army had only 8,500 soldiers. At its height the population of Nauvoo proper reached 12,000 citizens; several thousand more Saints tilled the ground in nearby Hancock County or across the river in Iowa. These were frontier days, and the white limestone temple rising 160 feet high on the crest of the hill was an imposing sight for miles around.

Praise for Nauvoo's impressive achievements appeared in the newspapers of Boston, New York, and elsewhere. A steady stream of visitors came in 1843 and 1844 to admire the town, visit the strange exhibit of Egyptian mummies in its little museum, and sample Smith's hospitality. They included Charles Francis Adams, son of former president John Quincy Adams, and Josiah Quincy Jr., son of Harvard's president and later the mayor of Boston. Quincy was impressed with Smith's charisma and how he "won human hearts and shaped human lives." But Quincy also sounded a somewhat ominous cautionary note when he observed that Joseph Smith was far more than the entrepreneurial mayor of a successful, if unique, frontier town: "His influence, whether for good or for evil, is potent today, and the end is not yet."

That influence had begun in Palmyra, New York, fifteen years earlier with the translation of the golden plates that Smith testified had been lent him by the Angel Moroni. These latter-day scriptures described the migration of Israelites to the New World--where they became ancestors of Native Americans--and the risen Christ's ministry on American soil. Smith translated these writings into the Book of Mormon, a revelation that Mormons would place alongside the Bible. The influence continued as a band of six followers incorporated a new church and multiplied into a movement of thousands willing to follow their prophet anywhere. And it did not end when a mob left Joseph Smith's bullet-ridden body propped against a well outside the jail at Carthage, Illinois.

The assassination of their prophet left the Saints grief-stricken and dispirited. Nevertheless, as in Quincy's prediction that "the end is not yet," from that bloody atrocity there emerged the most successful faith ever born on American soil, a church regarded by some today as a major emerging world religion.

In the spring Of 1844 matters were spinning out of control for the prophet. He was charged as an accessory to attempted murder and faced an extradition warrant to Missouri, where a thug had pumped buckshot into the head of Governor Lilburn Boggs, who had cruelly mistreated the Saints. Amazingly, Boggs survived. It was rumored that the assailant, never caught, had operated at the behest of Smith. Despite vigorous denials by church officials, talk also abounded of something unthinkable--that the prophet and other top church officials were secretly taking multiple wives. Accusers also said Smith was profiting from land speculation over the miseries of poor Saints. Some of his closest colleagues were beginning to regard him as a fallen prophet.

Never passive, Smith responded with a frenzy of political activity. First he declared himself a candidate for president of the United States. Shortly thereafter he organized the secret Council of Fifty to plan an ambitious political future, and he had that body anoint him as "King, Priest and Ruler over Israel on Earth." He petitioned Congress for authorization to raise and lead a 100,000-man army, personally loyal and answerable only to him, that would subdue the western territories from Texas to Oregon. He proposed that anyone who would "attempt to hinder or molest the said Joseph Smith" in this design was to be liable to two years' imprisonment. Congress did not oblige.

In the midst of all this, Smith preached the most important sermon of his career. The doctrines he presented in this discourse--multiplicity of gods, eternal progression, a heavenly Father who had a body and used to be a man, denial that God created the cosmos "out of nothing"--departed radically from Christian orthodoxy.

Joseph Smith once said, "A religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation." The Saints' readiness to sacrifice all things had already been well tested. Just five years earlier the Mormons had arrived in Illinois, fleeing east across Missouri up into Iowa and across the frozen Mississippi. Missouri's Governor Boggs had thrown them a threat: get out or face extermination. Joseph Smith was in jail in Liberty, Missouri, that winter of 1838-39, under threat of execution for a trumped-up charge of treason. His loyal...


Excerpted from Mormon America - Revised and Updated Edition by Richard Ostling Copyright © 2007 by Richard Ostling. Excerpted by permission.
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Table of Contents

Preface     IX
Introduction: A New World Faith     XIII
Sealed with Blood     1
Beginnings: A Very American Gospel     20
The American Exodus     38
Polygamy Then and Now     56
Redefining the Kingdom of God     77
Almost Mainstream     95
Mormons, Inc.     116
Some Latter-day Stars     133
The Power Pyramid     151
Families Forever     163
A Peculiar People     177
Rituals Sacred and Secret     188
Two by Two     207
Saintly Indoctrination     224
Faithful History     242
The Gold Bible     264
Discovering "Plain and Precious Things"     284
"How God Came to Be God"     300
Are Mormons Christians? Are Non-Mormons Christians?     319
Rivals and Antagonists     340
Dissenters and Exiles     357
Mormonism in the Twenty-first Century     379
Joseph Smith's King Follett Discourse     395
How the Income and Wealth Estimates Were Made     403
Endnotes     409
For Further Reading     441
Index     451
About the Authors     469

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Mormon America - Revised and Updated Edition: The Power and the Promise 3.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
unclemark More than 1 year ago
Research is very good. Author has tried to be fair; many authors on this subject are not. Somewhat "dense" reading; many names, places, dates. Good for person researching the issue, somewhat slow reading for general interest readers as the specifics sometimes clog up the general gist of the book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am also a member, but I completely disagree wth everything you said. Yes they dont understand we feel so strongly for our faith but offering statistica is in no way against our religion. Also, if you are worried about people getting the wrong idea about the church, you juat gave them good reasons. Stop bashing on peopl for no reason, try bein decent. Its not that hard.
Mactallica More than 1 year ago
I read this book and found it to be very intelligently written and researched. If you read the review written prior to this one, the author fails to realize that this book is highly sighted, mostly with information gathered from The Churches records. Had the previous review author actual read the book, he/she would have found the information to be correct and in line with what the author is trying to portray. I grant you that the author does supply some opinions that may be found by some to be inflammatory, but hopefully you can decide for yourself to accept or reject them.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm a member of the LDS church. This book does not explain the churches history. The book tries to present itself as an unbiased source and its not.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am a proud member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The author however is not, so how can you write about a religion that you know nothing about?!?!?! You can't!!! The author can not feel the same way that I feel about this gospel. The author can not know the truth about this gospel and explain it to others because he himself does not know. The author might have gotten quotes from members of the church, but the author did not take them into consideration when he was writing about the 'Mormon baptism' or Joseph Smith's 'golden books.' If someone wants to know about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I have a few suggestions for you. One, GO TO THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS. Two, TALK TO A MEMBER OF THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS. Three, READ THE BOOK OF MORMON AND FIND OUR FOR YOURSELF- that is the only way to really know about the church and the truth behind it. Do not take a non-member's word on a religion. Would you talk to a cashier of a gas station about your financial problems? I don't think so- you would talk to someone who works or does that. So talk to a MEMBER OF THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS- don't read this book!!!!!