I don't always agree with the LDS general authorities, but this is a helpful book. It's addressed specifically to the women of the church, but a lot o...moreI don't always agree with the LDS general authorities, but this is a helpful book. It's addressed specifically to the women of the church, but a lot of the information applies to both men and women. Ignore the LDS theology, and you can get some good advice out of this book. While I would recommend this book for its target audience of LDS women, I think it's appropriate for a more general audience, also.(less)
The Restoration movement is a subject that fascinates me. I read a lot about the LDS and other groups within the movement, and I never tire of it. I s...moreThe Restoration movement is a subject that fascinates me. I read a lot about the LDS and other groups within the movement, and I never tire of it. I should point out at the start that I'm not a member of any Restoration denomination and generally take no side on the good or bad of Mormonism. However, I do like a good story. This book, which attempts to explain the current "Mormon moment" and how it will continue and develop, is very good. It's well written, persuasively argued, and filled with information (some of which I wasn't aware of). Stephen Mansfield makes his case as to why this "Mormon moment" has developed, and presents well-thought arguments for how it can grow into mainstream acceptance of the LDS church. Living on the edge of the Bible Belt as I do, I'm not sure there will be any such acceptance in the near future, but it is possible. I was particularly impressed with Mansfield's argument that Mormonism is a religious distillation of the best of the Jacksonian democracy of the early nineteenth century. It's one I haven't heard before, and I find it particularly appealing.
So, if it's a good, well-written and persuasive book why did I rate it as low as I did? It's also a somewhat confusing book. In my experience, there's two kinds of popular books about Mormonism. The first kind does nothing but praise the church, is very sanitized (glossing over any oddities present or past), and is generally written by members or church authorities. The second is extremely critical, pointing out all the past and current faults of the church and its leadership, going all the way back to Joseph Smith, and is usually by someone with a personal grudge or a theological investment in attacking the church. This book is unusual in pointing out a lot of the problems in church history, theology and politics, while at the same time presenting an overall positive picture of the LDS faithful. At times, I couldn't tell where the author was coming from. So my rating is probably more related to the fact that I like to know the position of a writer than it is to the book itself. I can fully recommend the book to anyone interested in American history, religious history, current events, or the Restoration movement in general. It's a great addition to the growing body of popular Restoration studies, and I look forward to more books like this in the future.(less)
I actually enjoyed this book quite a lot. It's not what I was looking for, or expecting, but in its own way it's very good. I was looking for an objec...moreI actually enjoyed this book quite a lot. It's not what I was looking for, or expecting, but in its own way it's very good. I was looking for an objective biography of Baha'u'llah. What I found was a rather detailed, mostly devotional story of both the Bab and Baha'u'llah written by a believer. If that's what you're looking for, or are willing to read, then I'm sure you'll enjoy this book. The language is clearly influenced by the style of the English translations of the Baha'i Writings. It seems a little stilted and old-fashioned, but that's not necessarily off-putting. There are lots of notes and references for those who like that type of thing. Personally, on a first reading, I generally ignore end notes. If they're footnotes at the bottom of the page, I'll read them. In this case, the notes are almost exclusively supporting references to source material. I ignored them this time. I would likely pay more attention on a second reading, or if I were using this book for research.
If you're looking to learn more about the founders of this lesser known faith, this is an excellent place to start. It is more useful if you already have some understanding of the Baha'i faith. I would recommend a more general work, such as Baha'u'llah And The New Era: An Introduction To The Baha'i Faith by J.E. Esslemont if you have no knowledge of the faith. I also recommend it for students of world religions.(less)