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Comment: This paperback book was published in 2001. The text is unmarked. The binding is tight. There is normal shelf and edge wear with some creasing along the edges.
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Building the Kingdom : A History of Mormons in America (Religion in American Life) Paperback – December 27, 2001

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In 1999, the Bushmans published Mormons in America, a thoughtful little textbook that was part of Oxford's Religion in American Life series for the young adult market. If you missed that book, never fear: this brief paperback is a slightly edited version of the original YA title. Oxford should be congratulated for having the smarts to realize that adults need basic information about Mormon history, too, particularly in this Olympic month. Here, Claudia Bushman (Mormon Sisters: Women in Early Utah) and husband Richard Bushman (Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism), both historians at Columbia University, present a balanced, informative and brief introduction to one of the world's fastest-growing religious movements. Theirs is a grassroots approach to history; the Bushmans are more interested in the everyday experiences of ordinary Latter-day Saints than they are in the institutional growth of the church, its financial "empire" or its corporate bureaucracy all of which have been well documented elsewhere. They are not afraid to tackle some of the thorny issues of the Mormon past, such as polygamy, the Mountain Meadows Massacre or the early Mormons' feuds with the federal government. But they don't dwell unduly on these blemishes, preferring instead to focus on how Mormonism as a religion has changed over time, and how those changes have contributed to a shifting sense of what it means to be a Latter-day Saint. This user-friendly, perceptive and accessible primer is a welcome counterbalance to the highly specialized literature on Mormon history. (Feb.)Forecast: With a release date coinciding with the winter Olympics in Utah, this title should get off to a good start, but given the dearth of balanced, informative introductions to Mormonism, it is also poised to have a long shelf life as a favorite for course adoption.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


"Tells the remarkable story of how a new religion was born, developed amid persecution and hardship, and became one of the world's fastest growing faiths... Gives great insight into Mormon beliefs and the elaborate organization of community life that is a hallmark of the faith."--The Christian Science Monitor

"A well-rounded treatment that not only presents readers with the facts but also deals with questions that naturally arise... While emphasizing the strengths of Mormonism, the book also looks carefully at some of the controversies that have surrounded it... A strong resource for libraries."--Booklist

"A rich and sympathetic portrayal of what for a time was America's most persecuted religious minority."--The Wall Street Journal

"An engaging and accessible overview ... An informative, sympathetic introduction to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. A major strength of this book is its graceful prose."--Religious Studies in Secondary Schools

"An admirable and objective history of the Mormon church... Invaluable for any reader wanting to learn something about the Mormon religion; even Mormon readers will find this book a very useful guide to their church's history."--VOYA

"A clear, concise, and unbiased account of Mormon history, especially as it relates to the issue of church and state. [The Bushmans] are honest about the number of disaffected Mormons and examine problems within Mormon history, such as the relationship with Native Americans.... Serious treatment of the subject at hand in a way that makes [it] attractive for popular reading by combining text, photographs and original documents."--Library Journal

Praise for the Religion in American Life series:

"This series, written in a style that would be accessible to bright high-schoolers, promises to be an excellent supplement to textbooks that too often downplay the central role religion has played in American history."--Library Journal

"[The] texts are concise..., engagingly written, and well illustrated.... Promises to be a lively and accessible read for anyone interested in the various human dramas that constitute America's religious journey. As religious diversity is now growing in the US, and some are concerned about what values will hold the country together, a series that explains Americans clearly to one another is something to be valued."--The Christian Science Monitor

"The Religion in American Life series meets a need as we strive to educate students beyond the ignorance and confusion that often breeds intolerance."--MultiCultural Review

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Product Details

  • Series: Religion in American Life
  • Paperback: 123 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (December 27, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195150228
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195150223
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 0.4 x 5.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #619,295 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Kirialax on April 24, 2010
Format: Paperback
There really isn't a whole lot to say about such a brief book on general Mormon history. I've been oscillating between giving this book three or four stars, but I'd really like to give it three and a half. About half of the book is the history of the Mormons as was promised. Joseph Smith gets a good and surprisingly honest section, although it is very clear that Bushman has a lot more to say about it, and indeed he went on to write Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, which easily dwarfs this little book. Brigham Young's journey west is fairly well-covered, as is the privation of many of the early pioneers. It touches on some sensitive topics like the Mountain Meadows Massacre and the Mormon Battalion, but only gives them as much space as anything else. The chapter on Mormon women is excellent, and briefly discusses life for Mormon women, most especially those who were polygamous wives. While I ultimately disagree with her arguments regarding polygamy and feminism, the fact that this chapter approaches a difficult topic from the perspective of the women is very refreshing, and it is exceptionally well-written and organized. The plates are good and varied, but there is no map. A map with the travels of the Saints during Joseph Smith's day, Independence, Missouri and the route west taken by Brigham Young and the pioneers would not have been asking much, and would have added greatly to this book, especially since it is clearly written for a popular audience.

Unfortunately, things fall apart after the chapter on Mormon women. At this point, it largely stops becoming a history and only outlines the events of the previous century in little more than note form.
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18 of 23 people found the following review helpful By BeachReader on September 30, 2002
Format: Paperback
The authors' approach was stated to be to "understand Mormonism in terms of the experience of Mormon people". They presented the sometimes-stormy history of Mormonism, often in the midst of controversy, in a straighforward and non-judgmental way.
There has been some dispute as to whether Mormons are Christians. Critics say that the LDS doctrine of God does not conform to traditional Christian creed. Joseph Smith said he communicated directly with God; this is unlike reformers such as Calvin and Luther who used reason to interpret the Bible in new ways.
The authors presented a thorough background of Joseph Smith, from his fist vision at age 14 and his translation of the gold tablets into the Book of Molrmon. They then followed the Mormons as they headed West and founded settlements in Missouri, Ohio, and Illinois, among other places, on their way to Utah.
Plural marriage and its repercussions were thoroughly explained. By 1844, this and other pronouncements by Joseph Smith carried Mormonism beyond the bounds of conventional Christian belief. Smith was jailed after ordering the press of a dissenting newspaper in Nauvoo, Illinois destroyed and he was then killed by an angry mob while he was in jail.
By September 1846 14,000 "Saints" had fled west from Nauvoo and undertook a brutal trek toward the Rocky Mountains. Over the next 22 years, 300 wagon trains with over 10,000 wagons would travel to Utah. In Utah, Brigham Young, Joseph Smith's successor, designed the Salt Lake Valley according to Smith's plan for New Jerusalem.
In 1896, Wilford Woodruff, the LDS President, declared an end to polygamy, the price paid for Utah to become a state. This practice had raised national opposition to Mormonism.
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 17, 2002
Format: Paperback
This is a very well done introduction to the subject, by two extremely competent and highly respected historians. Those wanting a basic overview of the subject will not go far wrong if they choose this book. (There are many -- MANY -- much less desirable competitors on the market, including a considerable literature [almost entirely from evangelical and fundamentalist Protestants] that can only be described as hostile propaganda.)
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on March 25, 2010
Format: Paperback
This is a very good and short historical introduction to Mormonism. The authors are themselves Mormons, but they give the subject the academic treatment that is required in a book like this. A short treatment cannot go into the details of every, or any, controversy. This book does discuss some areas where Mormonism departs from orthodox Christian theology such as Baptism of the Dead and Spiritual Families. Reading this book will help you understand the surprising success of Mormonism outside the US and notes its' odd preoccupation with geneological research. Note: Reviewer is not a Mormon.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Neal Rappleye on July 20, 2013
Format: Paperback
I can see immediately that this book has gotten mixed reviews here on Amazon. While it is not the kind of book that offers anything groundbreaking, I do think it accomplishes it's aims well enough.

I am an active Mormon, who is also currently a history major in school. While I am no expert, I do a fair share of reading in Mormon history. Anytime I get my hands on a book about American history (or some aspect of it), I have a tendency to check the index for "Mormon" and related terms to see what, if anything, is said about the Mormons in the book. Then, if I can, I like to check to see what sources of information they are turning to when they need to know about the Mormons. It was while doing this for one of my American history textbooks that I discovered this book, which my sister was kind enough to get for me when my birthday rolled around.

My impression of the book is that is was not written to be a full blown "critical history" (i.e., a detailed history that examines all the documents and details and weighs in on their validity, sorts through the contradictions, etc.), but rather a very brief overview that meets the needs of professional historians and students of American history (along with any interested lay persons) who do not know much about the Mormons, but need to know the general story because, well, they do play a role in American history. With that in mind, I tried to imagine what kind of information would be most useful to such a person. What I came up with is the following:

(1) The origins of the movement and its early history.
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