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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

Get the facts on temples, tithing, missions, and caffeine

Mormon doctrines, rituals, and history, demystified at last!

Mormonism, or the LDS Church, is one of the world’s fastest growing religions. But unless you were raised a Mormon, you probably don’t have a clear picture of LDS beliefs and practices. Covering everything from Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon to tithing and family home evening, this friendly guide will get you up to speed in no time.


  • How the LDS Church differs from other Christian churches
  • What Mormons believe
  • What happens in Mormon temples and meetinghouses
  • The history of the LDS Church
  • LDS debates on race, women, and polygamy

About the Author

Jana Riess, PhD, is the Religion Book Review Editor for Publishers Weekly magazine and is also the author of The Spiritual Traveler: Boston and New England (HiddenSpring) and What Would Buffy Do?: The Vampire Slayer as Spiritual Guide (Jossey-Bass). She holds degrees in religion from Wellesley College and Princeton Theological Seminary, and a PhD in American religious history from Columbia University. She is frequently interviewed by the media on trends in religion and publishing. A convert to the LDS Church, Riess has spoken at Brigham Young University Women’s Conference and other Mormon gatherings, as well as professional conferences. She lives in Kentucky with her husband and daughter.

Christopher Kimball Bigelow is the great-great-great-grandson of a Mormon apostle who had more than 40 wives. He served an LDS mission in Melbourne, Australia, and worked as an editor at the LDS Church’s official Ensign magazine. A graduate of Emerson College and Brigham Young University, Bigelow cofounded and edited the Mormon literary magazine Irreantum and the satirical Mormon newspaper The Sugar Beet, and he’s working on a memoir and a novel. A Hodgkin’s disease survivor and the oldest of ten siblings, he lives with his wife and four children in Provo, Utah. You can reach him at


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: For Dummies; 1 edition (February 25, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0764571958
  • ISBN-13: 978-0764571954
  • Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #354,460 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

61 of 64 people found the following review helpful By Marcello Jun De Oliveira on April 13, 2005
Format: Paperback
I just read a copy of the new _Mormonism For Dummies_. The book is an *excellent* introduction to Mormonism.

About seven or eight months ago I read _The Complete Idiot's Guide to Understanding Mormonism_ because I wanted to present an intelligent (hard-core atheistic) non-Mormon friend with a good introduction to and discussion of my religion. That book was a complete dud! It was written in a very naive apologetic tone that entirely avoids any topic that might not sound flattering to the faith, and promptly sanitizes the few unavoidable uncomfortable issues (e.g. polygamy).

This book is precisely the opposite. In a very respectful and Mormon-friendly tone, it tackles just about every thorny subject regarding the faith, providing brief incursions in all sides (and arguments) of each controversial point.
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66 of 74 people found the following review helpful By Bombadil on April 17, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I expected this book to be an overly simplistic treatment that would portray the LDS in any number of odd perspectives. However before getting through 5 pages, I was already impressed by the humor and insight it brought to LDS topics. From that point, it only got better.

In the end, the book far exceeded my expectations. It covered LDS theology and history in more depth, more breath, and more candor than I've ever seen in a summary book on Mormonism. The authors handled sensitive topics, such as temple ordinances, with respect while still providing good coverage. They document some of the warts and bruises of LDS history while balancing them with what I felt was very fair treatment. I liked how they melded traditional LDS perspectives with a nice sprinkling of a more open-minded attitude.

I suspect that "LDS ultra-traditionists" might find it a little too light-hearted and candid, while "anti-LDS" would find it too positive toward LDS beliefs. But for someone wanting to know more about Mormonism or its member's practices, this is the best overview I have ever seen. In fact, I took it to my local ward and passed it around to several other LDS members. I think my ward would be changed for the better if they all read it.

Highly recommended!
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55 of 64 people found the following review helpful By Jeff Needle on April 28, 2005
Format: Paperback


Title: Mormonism for Dummies

Author: Jana Reiss and Christopher Bigelow

Publisher: Wiley Publishing, Inc.

Genre: Non-fiction

Year Published: 2005

Number of Pages: 365

Binding: Paperback

ISBN: 0-7645-7195-8

Price: $21.99

Reviewed by Jeffrey Needle

I had grand plans for this review. They were, alas, dashed, as a friend pointed me to a review published in the Deseret News, wherein the writer covered pretty much everything I wanted to say. Sigh. He who hesitates...

If you are familiar with the "Dummies" series published by Wiley, you'll know that there are a wide variety of topics covered, from science to math to home improvement to just about anything you can think of. My own previous experience with a Dummies book was with my purchase of "Calculus for Dummies." It turned out to be exactly that - calculus for those who don't mind the frequent, and annoying, side trips of a writer who lacks imagination and feels that cute (yuck) little jokes are absolutely necessary in order for a person to learn mathematics.

I had higher hopes for the current volume. I know both authors from their contributions on the Association for Mormon Letters discussion list. I was not disappointed. "Mormonism for Dummies" was one of the best reads I've had in a long time.

Part I is titled "What the Mormon Faith is All About." It includes an easily grasped overview of Mormonism's worldview, with an explanation of the "plan of salvation" from the LDS point of view. Here the reader learns of the pre-existence, the war in heaven, Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother, etc. Quite a bit to chomp on if you're new to these concepts!
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28 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Frank Grimes on January 6, 2006
Format: Paperback
I just finished reading this book cover to cover. Although, as with in other Dummies books, it would be reasonable to use this book as a reference book. I have learned a considerable amount about this religion. This five part book is composed of twenty-one chapters.

Part 1: "What the Mormon Faith is All About"

This covers Mormon beliefs and doctrine

Part 2: "Eternal Rituals and endless Meetings"

This covers the organizational structure (like church hierarchy) and functions and ritual practices.

Part 3: "Holy books and Sacred History"

This covers the religious texts that the church bases its religion on. It also explores the origins and history of Mormonism.

Part 4: "Mormonism Today"

This covers current doctrine, practices, missionaries, and controversial issues.

Part 5: "The Part of Ten"

This includes "Ten famous Mormons," "Quick Answers to Ten Common Questions about Mormonism", and "Ten Mormon Places to Visit".

If you want to know more about the individual chapters, I recommended using Amazon's "Search Inside" feature to look at the first few pages.

Jana Riess and Christopher Bigelow are qualified to write to the book. In the book, they both state publicly that they are active members of the Mormon Church. I believe this makes for an informed read. They include many historical facts that I doubt the majority of Mormons know. However, I wish they would have had at least a one non-Mormon contributor. Often times, the book feels like it was officially written by the Mormon Church. They do confront controversies and issues within the Mormon religion, but they are frequently downplayed in the end.
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