Mormonism: A Very Short Introduction

Oxford University Press
2
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Beginning with a handful of members in 1830, the church that Joseph Smith founded has grown into a world-wide organization with over 12 million adherents, playing prominent roles in politics, sports, entertainment, and business. Yet they are an oddity. They are considered wholesome, conservative, and friendly on one hand, and clannish, weird, and self-righteous on the other. Mormonism: A Very Short Introduction explains who Mormons are: what they believe and how they live their lives. Written by Richard Lyman Bushman, an eminent historian and practicing Mormon, this compact, informative volume ranges from the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to the contentious issues of contemporary Mormonism. Bushman argues that Joseph Smith still serves as the Mormons' Moses. Their everyday religious lives are still rooted in his conceptions of true Christianity. They seek revelation to solve life's problems just as he did. They believe the authority to seal families together for eternity was restored through him. They understand their lives as part of a spiritual journey that started in a "council in heaven" before the world began just as he taught. Bushman's account also describes the tensions and sorrows of Mormon life. How are Mormons to hold on to their children in a world of declining moral standards and rampant disbelief? How do rational, educated Mormons stand up to criticisms of their faith? How do single Mormons fare in a church that emphasizes family life? The book also examines polygamy, the various Mormon scriptures, and the renegade fundamentalists who tarnish the LDS image when in fact they're not members. In a time when Mormons such as Mitt Romney and Harry Reid are playing prominent roles in American society, this engaging introduction enables readers to judge for themselves how Mormon teachings shape the character of believers. About the Series: Oxford's Very Short Introductions series offers concise and original introductions to a wide range of subjects--from Islam to Sociology, Politics to Classics, Literary Theory to History, and Archaeology to the Bible. Not simply a textbook of definitions, each volume in this series provides trenchant and provocative--yet always balanced and complete--discussions of the central issues in a given discipline or field. Every Very Short Introduction gives a readable evolution of the subject in question, demonstrating how the subject has developed and how it has influenced society. Eventually, the series will encompass every major academic discipline, offering all students an accessible and abundant reference library. Whatever the area of study that one deems important or appealing, whatever the topic that fascinates the general reader, the Very Short Introductions series has a handy and affordable guide that will likely prove indispensable.
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About the author

Richard Lyman Bushman is Gouverneur Morris Professor of History Emeritus at Columbia University. An authority on Mormon history, he is the author of Building the Kingdom: A History of Mormons in America (with Claudia Bushman) and the best-selling Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Oxford University Press
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Published on
Apr 22, 2008
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Pages
144
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ISBN
9780199718696
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Language
English
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Genres
Religion / Christianity / Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon)
Religion / Christianity / Denominations
Religion / Cults
Religion / General
Religion / History
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Richard Lyman Bushman
The eminent historian Richard Bushman here reflects on his faith and the history of his religion. By describing his own struggle to find a basis for belief in a skeptical world, Bushman poses the question of how scholars are to write about subjects in which they are personally invested. Does personal commitment make objectivity impossible? Bushman explicitly, and at points confessionally, explains his own commitments and then explores Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon from the standpoint of belief.

Joseph Smith cannot be dismissed as a colorful fraud, Bushman argues, nor seen only as a restorer of religious truth. Entangled in nineteenth-century Yankee culture—including the skeptical Enlightenment—Smith was nevertheless an original who cut his own path. And while there are multiple contexts from which to draw an understanding of Joseph Smith (including magic, seekers, the Second Great Awakening, communitarianism, restorationism, and more), Bushman suggests that Smith stood at the cusp of modernity and presented the possibility of belief in a time of growing skepticism.

When examined carefully, the Book of Mormon is found to have intricate subplots and peculiar cultural twists. Bushman discusses the book’s ambivalence toward republican government, explores the culture of the Lamanites (the enemies of the favored people), and traces the book’s fascination with records, translation, and history. Yet Believing History also sheds light on the meaning of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon today. How do we situate Mormonism in American history? Is Mormonism relevant in the modern world?

Believing History offers many surprises. Believers will learn that Joseph Smith is more than an icon, and non-believers will find that Mormonism cannot be summed up with a simple label. But wherever readers stand on Bushman’s arguments, he provides us with a provocative and open look at a believing historian studying his own faith.
Richard Lyman Bushman
Beginning with a handful of members in 1830, the church that Joseph Smith founded has grown into a world-wide organization with over 12 million adherents, playing prominent roles in politics, sports, entertainment, and business. Yet they are an oddity. They are considered wholesome, conservative, and friendly on one hand, and clannish, weird, and self-righteous on the other. Mormonism: A Very Short Introduction explains who Mormons are: what they believe and how they live their lives. Written by Richard Lyman Bushman, an eminent historian and practicing Mormon, this compact, informative volume ranges from the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to the contentious issues of contemporary Mormonism. Bushman argues that Joseph Smith still serves as the Mormons' Moses. Their everyday religious lives are still rooted in his conceptions of true Christianity. They seek revelation to solve life's problems just as he did. They believe the authority to seal families together for eternity was restored through him. They understand their lives as part of a spiritual journey that started in a "council in heaven" before the world began just as he taught. Bushman's account also describes the tensions and sorrows of Mormon life. How are Mormons to hold on to their children in a world of declining moral standards and rampant disbelief? How do rational, educated Mormons stand up to criticisms of their faith? How do single Mormons fare in a church that emphasizes family life? The book also examines polygamy, the various Mormon scriptures, and the renegade fundamentalists who tarnish the LDS image when in fact they're not members. In a time when Mormons such as Mitt Romney and Harry Reid are playing prominent roles in American society, this engaging introduction enables readers to judge for themselves how Mormon teachings shape the character of believers. About the Series: Oxford's Very Short Introductions series offers concise and original introductions to a wide range of subjects--from Islam to Sociology, Politics to Classics, Literary Theory to History, and Archaeology to the Bible. Not simply a textbook of definitions, each volume in this series provides trenchant and provocative--yet always balanced and complete--discussions of the central issues in a given discipline or field. Every Very Short Introduction gives a readable evolution of the subject in question, demonstrating how the subject has developed and how it has influenced society. Eventually, the series will encompass every major academic discipline, offering all students an accessible and abundant reference library. Whatever the area of study that one deems important or appealing, whatever the topic that fascinates the general reader, the Very Short Introductions series has a handy and affordable guide that will likely prove indispensable.
Claudia Lauper Bushman
Mormonism is one of the world's fastest growing religions, doubling its membership every 15 years. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the formal denomination of the Mormon church) is now 10 million strong, with more than half of its membership coming from outside the United States. More than 88 million copies of The Book of Mormon have been printed, and it has been translated into more than 50 languages. Mormons in America tells the tumultuous story of this religious group, from its humble origins in small-town New York State in 1830 to its present heyday. Claudia and Richard Bushman introduce us to charismatic leaders like Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, go deep behind Mormon rites and traditions, take us along the adventurous trail of the Mormon pioneers into the West, evoke the momentous erection of Salt Lake City in the desert, and draw us into the dozens of skirmishes, verbal attacks, and court battles between Mormons and their neighbors, other religions, the media, and the American government. Religion in American Life explores the evolution, character, and dynamic of organized religion in America from 1500 to the present day. Written by distinguished historians of religion, these books weave together the varying stories that compose the religious fabric of the United States, from Puritanism to alternative religious practices. Primary source material coupled with handsome illustrations and lucid text make these books essential in any exploration of America's diverse nature. Each book includes a chronology, suggestions for further reading, and an index.
Claudia Lauper Bushman
Mormonism is one of the world's fastest growing religions, doubling its membership every 15 years. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the formal denomination of the Mormon church) is now 10 million strong, with more than half of its membership coming from outside the United States. More than 88 million copies of The Book of Mormon have been printed, and it has been translated into more than 50 languages. Mormons in America tells the tumultuous story of this religious group, from its humble origins in small-town New York State in 1830 to its present heyday. Claudia and Richard Bushman introduce us to charismatic leaders like Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, go deep behind Mormon rites and traditions, take us along the adventurous trail of the Mormon pioneers into the West, evoke the momentous erection of Salt Lake City in the desert, and draw us into the dozens of skirmishes, verbal attacks, and court battles between Mormons and their neighbors, other religions, the media, and the American government. Religion in American Life explores the evolution, character, and dynamic of organized religion in America from 1500 to the present day. Written by distinguished historians of religion, these books weave together the varying stories that compose the religious fabric of the United States, from Puritanism to alternative religious practices. Primary source material coupled with handsome illustrations and lucid text make these books essential in any exploration of America's diverse nature. Each book includes a chronology, suggestions for further reading, and an index.
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