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Mormon America: The Power and the Promise

3.72  ·  Rating Details ·  483 Ratings  ·  70 Reviews

In this candid examination of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, one of America's leading religion journalists covers everyaspect of this little-understood community of faith whose family values, business success, and evangelistic missions have helped it become one of the world's fastest growing religions.

Esteemed Time and Associated Press reporter Richard

Paperback, 480 pages
Published September 19th 2000 by HarperOne (first published October 20th 1999)
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(showing 1-30)
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Mar 20, 2009 John rated it really liked it
This is engrossing at times, if a little disjointed. It reads like a series of magazine articles about different issues in Mormonism, so there's no real through-line, and they frequently repeat little bits of information. It could really be skipped around in based on what you are curious about. Most of the first few chapters are history stuff that I already knew from 'no man knows my history' or 'under the banner of heaven', and it isn't really in chronological order, so if you are interested in ...more
Apr 01, 2008 Michael rated it liked it
Shelves: religion
Interesting read written by a non-member of the LDS church. I did find some definite errors in their research. Read this book with a grain of salt because I am not sure if they really could get all the info from the church, only what is public.
Feb 07, 2009 drowningmermaid rated it it was amazing
Fair, open-minded, and honest about all the difficulties with Mormonism, as well as the strengths of that faith.
Aug 13, 2013 Wallace rated it really liked it
I have an interest in Mormonism, primarily because my Mum converted to it, being baptised into the church and we entertained the visiting missionaries in our home most weeks! Most of the books I have read have either been official Mormon publications or polemical refutes from ex-Mormons or evangelical Christian protagonists. This book is written by neither of these constituencies!

Richard N. Ostling and Joan K. Ostling are husband and wife journalists, with extensive experience in the field of p
Tyler Anderson
Mar 14, 2009 Tyler Anderson rated it really liked it
Shelves: mormonism
Along with Fawn Brodie's biography of the Prophet, this was an important book in my readings on Mormonism. Most books on the subject of the Latter Day Saints seem to focus mainly on the 19th Century, the life of the Prophet, and the trek to Utah under the leadership of Brigham Young. And perhaps rightfully so. This book touches on those topics, but its primary emphasis is on the ideas, leaders, activities and lifestyle of the church and its adherents today. I found this to be a highly useful and ...more
Mar 24, 2009 Nicola rated it liked it
When I started this book, I was dating a Mormon. By the time I ended this book, we had broken up. Though Ostling presents a well-balanced, meticulously researched overview of Mormonism and dispels some of the myths about Mormonism (for example, polygamy), I still found this a tough read. As someone raised without religion, who if anything gravitates towards Buddhism and Krishnamurti, there were parts of the book--on censorship and authority, on blacks, on women--that were hard to stomach, much l ...more
Feb 02, 2011 Shelby rated it really liked it
Pretty fun to see critics of Mormonism, and Journalists not to mention, trying REALLY hard to be "objective". In all fairness, they did o.k. But there is an obvious slant and that is apparent though out the book. Jan Shipps (a non-Mormon scholar who has focused on Mormon studies) does a better job at objectivity regarding the Mormon's. But I did find the book interesting and have a copy on my shelf. If I could give it three and a half stars, that would be more accurate.
David Horney
Jul 19, 2013 David Horney rated it really liked it
Shelves: my-45th-year
Fascinating look at LDS history/theology/power structure. The author's stated intent is to be fair and balanced. I suspect most LDS readers will infer a raised eyebrow and more than a touch of skepticism when basic tenets of the faith are discussed. As an outsider I appreciated the history lesson and basic instruction in the differences between LDS and conventional Protestant views of God and salvation.
Apr 06, 2008 Rae rated it liked it
Shelves: religiosity
A pretty fair look at the LDS Church through the eyes of two Time magazine reporters. It seems that all non-member critics use the same old tired and often inaccurate sources for their material so the same myths are perpetuated. Sigh.
Dec 12, 2008 Scott rated it really liked it
Shelves: spirituality
Although this was obviously written by media people who were looking for the sensational, I found it surprisingly balanced and fair.
Nov 28, 2008 Adam rated it it was amazing
A really good overview of the Mormon faith. It's a few years old now so some of the statistics may not be correct today, but still a lot of really good information. Highly readable.
Deirdre Hanners
Feb 15, 2010 Deirdre Hanners rated it it was amazing
A must read if you are moving to Utah
Pat Carson
Jun 23, 2017 Pat Carson rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017-non-fiction
Presents an introduction to basic beliefs of the LDS.
Oct 01, 2014 Ryan rated it liked it
This book is, as advertised, a fair treatment of Mormonism-from a cultural, sociological, political, economic (a.k.a. religious studies-like) perspective. The book is very well written and engaging, as would be expected from seasoned, well-respected journalists like the Ostling's. While the authors are critical of some (many?) of the historical, doctrinal, and ecclesiastical aspects of Mormonism, they aren't attacking the LDS Church or being vitriolic in their rhetoric or tone. They strive to be ...more
Mar 18, 2012 Sara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: saggi
Non mi voglio convertire. Proprio no. Però, leggendo blog di mie coetanee oltreoceano, mi sono resa conto di una realtà religiosa dal tutto nuova (per me) e molto diffusa, rigida, ma con sempre più fedeli - e mi è venuta curiosità. Così ho trovato questo libro, scritto da un protestante, quindi del tutto estraneo al Mormonismo, e che racconta in maniera distaccata e lucida cosa siano i cosiddetti LDS. Che io all'inizio avevo scambiato per gli Amish, la gente rimasta nel 1821 con le donne che lav ...more
May 04, 2012 Nelson rated it liked it
As a primer on the history and beliefs of the Saints, this book can hardly be bettered. Though the authors are outsiders, they present the various doctrines and practices of the church as it has evolved over time with a straight face. Indeed, they do more than that. The Ostlings evince genuine appreciation for Mormon organizational skills, community-building efforts and the intense sense of loyalty fostered by these activities. To be sure, they pass a gimlet eye over some of the prophet's many u ...more
Nathanael Myers
Feb 12, 2013 Nathanael Myers rated it liked it
A good look at the Mormon church. The book, written by non-Mormons, avoids the polemical tone that many books about the Saints adopt. The first part of the book describes the history of the early church and Joseph Smith in particular. The second half of the book describes the current church, its doctrines and policies, and it seeks to define some of the theological differences between mainline Christian denominations and the LDS. For me, the chapters on the LDS church's suppression of academic f ...more
Laura LeAnn
Jul 19, 2012 Laura LeAnn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Having read a few books on Mormonism previously, this book was quite daunting to even start. Yet, once I started, it was hard to put down. Quite impressive in the amount of research and documentation provided to support the beliefs outlined. It is probably one of the most objective books I have read about Mormonism, including both the tenets and doctrine central to the faith as well as the arguments lobbied by those that have left Mormonism and by those in traditional Christian denominations. Ov ...more
Dec 12, 2012 Natalie rated it it was ok
This book is written by two historians who are not LDS. I sped through some of it because being LDS, I am familiar with what they report. I found the book interesting and some of the commentary insightful, such as church members' sensitivity to criticism. Also interesting were facts such as estimated church assets and estimated church activity rates. However the book has several weak points. One is there seems to be a lot of discussion about those who oppose the church, those who have left the c ...more
Sep 17, 2008 Mary rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: those interested in religion, 19th c Amer. history, and missions
This book was recommended to me by a UU seminarian who grew up Mormon. We had Mormon neighbors and friends at our last home but we never got around to discussing religion. Knowing that Conan Doyle's "A Study in Scarlet" and Krakauer's "Under the Banner of Heaven" were not the foundation of a well-rounded survey of Mormonism, I welcomed this suggestion of "Mormon America" as a good general overview and history by non-Mormon authors. I was not disappointed. The early history was re-told well with ...more
Jul 02, 2009 Matt rated it did not like it
I wanted to read this book because I've seen it referenced so much the last 2 years in mainstream news sources (Newsweek, Time, and the Washington Post) anytime Proposition 8 or Mitt Romney have been discussed. However, although it claims to be, and is referenced as, a non-biased, informative resource, that's not the case. The authors consistently try to draw a picture of a secretive, divided church with ill-intentioned, dishonest leaders and a misled and gullible membership. Although I agree wi ...more
Chris Mower
Feb 05, 2012 Chris Mower rated it liked it
I decided to read this book as so many had said it was a good, objective look at Mormonism from it's origins to the present day. It was overall pretty decent, a little dry at times, but well researched and cohesive.

Overall, it's fairly objective, though there are paragraphs here and there (especially in the chapter conclusions) that are somewhat biased. Considering that the authors are not Mormon, it would be difficult to write on another religion's faith without bringing your own opinions and e
Mike Jensen
Aug 16, 2009 Mike Jensen rated it it was amazing
This is the fairest non-partisan book I have read on the Mormon cult. The authors have no ax to grind and are careful to view things through the eyes of the Mormon’s they interview as well as through their own fairly objective eyes. They include nearly every stupid belief that Mormon’s have, but present it factually, never with ridicule. My only criticism is that while Mormons were given a voice, their critics are only sometimes given an equal voice. Their dippy beliefs are condemning enough, bu ...more
Jan 30, 2008 Barbara rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anastasia & Kevin
I read this book while investigating the church, and it was pretty much everything I'd hoped for. At the time, it seemed honest without agenda, discussing the history through the current day, complete with seemingly unbiased details about rituals, beliefs, practices and teachings. Good stuff. The mormon friends we talked it over with at the time said they didn't know this much about LDS, but I had the thought that - especially if they grew up in the church - they probably don't feel they really ...more
Wes Freeman
Nov 14, 2007 Wes Freeman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Informative and probably fair survey of Mormonism in the U.S. It's probably fair, I say, because I'm not a Mormon. There's a surprising amount of Mormon fascination and paranoia going on, and I don't this book tries to play to it. You do learn a lot of interesting things though and, cards on that table, some of the thrill of reading it is voyeuristic. Put it this way, I read this book because I wanted to learn about Mormons, but I don't think Mormons will read this book to learn about themselves ...more
Aug 30, 2013 Katie rated it liked it
This was an old book that I read (parts of) in seminary; I dusted it off and went in for a re-read. Some parts are dry, some engaging, but it presents a decent and mostly objective picture of the LDS church. I recently spent some time in Salt Lake City, so was curious to get a little back ground knowledge.
David Brown
For an informative book, from a trustworthy and journalistic source, on the Mormon church this is the one. Without judging or condemning Ostling captures an intriguing and holistic look at the LDS church. Start here and then move on to I Heart Mormons by David Rowe if you wish to get a view from an evangelical outsider who has lived and worked among Mormons for decades (and still loves them).
Dec 10, 2008 Julie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great primer into the history, inner-workings, ceremonies, and practicies of the Mormon (LDS) Church. I found it to be very informative even though I have an above average knowledge of the church. It presented a fair and balanced account of the good, bad, and ugly in the church's history and modern day movement.
Apr 11, 2009 Susan rated it really liked it
Finally finished it, since I couldn't renew it one more time. I found it very interesting - facts are laid out with comments from church officials. The authors said they passed everything through the church prior to publication and had nothing in the book that church officials refuted. Lots of sources cited which put my reporter's natural skepticism to rest.
May 16, 2007 Steve added it
mormons! it tries to be balanced about mormonism - which is a difficult aim that i don't think it quite hits; it stays a bit to the negative side.

covers mormon doctrine, history, rituals, sociology and art. a pretty good combination, i do believe.

i will be using this book as a reference for a class i am planning on teaching for gentiles.
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