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The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power Hardcover – January 15, 1997

3.8 out of 5 stars 37 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Quinn's first volume of The Mormon Hierarchy (The Origins of Power, Signature, 1994) was a landmark in Mormon studies. This latest volume demonstrates the ways and methods by which the leadership maintains and applies its authority. Some believers may not be pleased with the portrait Quinn paints, but his documentation is so thorough and indisputable that few will be able to challenge his arguments. Some chapters are case studies in the rise to leadership of particular individuals, most notably Ezra Taft Benson (13th president/prophet of the church and Eisenhower's secretary of agriculture), and their employment of power. Other chapters look at the means by which power is exercised in governance. The biographical and chronological appendixes are worth the price of the book. Quinn, now an independent scholar, is unquestionably Mormonism's leading historian. A magisterial study; recommended for all libraries with collections in American history.?David S. Azzolina, Univ. of Pennsylvania Libs., Philadelphia
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.


The Mormon church today is led by an elite group of older men, nearly three-quarters of whom are related to current or past general church authorities. This dynastic hierarchy meets in private; neither its minutes nor the church's finances are available for public review. Members are reassured by public relations spokesmen that all is well and that harmony prevails among the brethren. But by interviewing former church aides, examining hundreds of diaries, and drawing from his own past experience as an insider within the Latter-day Saint historical department, Michael Quinn presents a fuller view. His extensive research documents how the governing apostles, seventies, and presiding bishops are strong-willed, independent men (much like the directors of a large corporation) who lobby their colleagues, forge alliances, out-maneuver opponents, and broker compromises. Quinn's The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions Of Power reveals clandestine political activities, investigative and punitive actions by church security forces, personal "loans" from church coffers (later written off as bad debts), and other privileged power-vested activities. The Mormon Hierarchy considers the changing role and attitude of the leadership toward visionary experiences, the momentous events which have shaped quorum protocol and doctrine, and day-to-day bureaucratic intrigue from the time of Brigham Young to the dawn of the twenty-first century. -- Midwest Book Review

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Product Details

  • Series: Mormon Hierarchy (Book 2)
  • Hardcover: 960 pages
  • Publisher: Signature Books; 1 edition (January 15, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1560850604
  • ISBN-13: 978-1560850601
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 2.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #228,748 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Dr. Quinn's book is a remarkable accomplishment. For a brief time, in the 70's and 80's, the historical office of the LDS church allowed for some objective, professional examination of its records. Quinn brings us some of the fruits of that time. This is not "faith-promoting" history-Deseret Book and Bookcraft have taken care of that-but shows the Brethren in all their human glory. Some reviewers have indicated that this volume has not threatened their LDS testimonies, but only confirmed what they already knew, that church leaders are human and fallible; other reviewers may be threatened by this realization, although many past presidents have pointed it out. The marketing of the infallibility of church leaders continues, perhaps because it gives comfort to those church members who are intolerant of ambiguity, but also because toadying is often rewarded in organizations.
Extensions of Power is actually several books. It is topically arranged to consider more or less controversial aspects of the church leadership-violence, involvement in politics, etc. It also includes, as the earlier companion volume did, hundreds of pages of notes and a detailed chronology of church activities from 1848 to 1996. We are afforded a glimpse into the complex personalities, power factions, and challenges of maintaining, growing and adapting a religious movement to a constantly changing and evolving U. S. and world culture. I was by turns frustrated with church leadership and empathetic with them in their struggle to understand and accommodate `the world' without losing their unique identity. I was also able to see how present problems have their roots in the past, and the futile efforts of those leaders--such as Gordon B. Hinckley and Boyd K.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a fascinating book. Don't be disuaded by the number of pages, and don't fret the large number of citations. Quinn is a master researcher, but more important, he has some strong and insightful opinions regarding the power structure of the Mormon Church. He respectfully (and candidly) explores some difficult issues, such as the evolution of the various offices of general authorities, (no, it's not the same today as it was 150 years ago, or the way it was in Old Testament times...), the degree of familial relationship among general authorities, and the manner in which decisions are made to appear unanimous, even when there is real dissent. Along the way, he shines his detective's light on stories tucked away in the collective cognitive closet of Mormondom, such as efforts to keep black men from receiving the priesthood nearly 15 years earlier than they eventually did, political entanglements on the Equal Rights Amendment and homosexual issues, and especially fascinating was the chapter on Ezra Taft Benson's extremely controversial John Birch Society association and his partisan political activities during the tumultuous "cold war" years. This is a fascinating read, and a great opportunity for folks to see "the other side," the real, human side, of the men Mormons revere as "prophets, seers and revelators."
A note about Quinn's critics. Quinn takes a lot of heat for his copious, almost obscene number of footnotes and references. Many reviewers of Quinn's writings are not convinced that his research is reliable. I say "hogwash." The reason I say that is that the author of a book such as this is doing more than just reporting a list of facts, dates, times and places.
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By A Customer on October 1, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I have read the Extensions of Power, and found that the accomplishment of such a study is on par with ground breaking studies in other fields of historical research. Quinn has obviously spent a great deal of effort in providing a clear and concise and convincing argument. I hope that he will continue his work and perhaps augment the appendices - particularly the chronology section with footnotes. Again, extremely well written by a reliable historian, and a pleasure to read and recommend.
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Format: Hardcover
I was terribly impressed with Dr. Quinn's efforts in 'Extensions of Power'. If you want to know how the Mormon Church is governed and operates, this is the book to have. Dr. Quinn's use of anecdotes, coupled with his extensively researched factual information, makes this book, nearly as good a read as anything I've ever read before. It's something that's very hard to put down (I read it nearly non-stop for 3 days!). More engaging that Tom Clancy, for sure.
Another reviewer said that Dr. Quinn's extensive use of quotes was somehow not a good thing, that it was distracting (?). I found his use of quotes to be extremely useful. Above all, it showed that his research was well founded in the Church's own records.
This is a tremenduous work and I'd highly recommend it to anyone seeking to understand how the Mormon Church really works.
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Format: Hardcover
Dennis Michael Quinn (born 1944) is a historian who has focused on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. From 1976 he was a professor at Brigham Young University, until he resigned in 1988. He is one of the "September Six" Mormons who were excommunicated or disfellowshipped in September 1993 for speaking against Church doctrine and leadership. He is also controversial for his sexual orientation (see his book Same-Sex Dynamics among Nineteenth-Century Americans: A MORMON EXAMPLE.)

He writes in the Preface to this 1997 book, "I have tried to be true to the spirit of candor I found in the spoken and written records of the Mormon hierarchy. This study ... also examines the evidence of historical process and institutional change over time, rather than selecting evidence to reinforce current definitions and policies. That single-minded determination on my part led to conflicts with LDS leaders. I am now a believer outside the church for which I still have affection and fond hopes."

Here are some more quotations from the book:

"Harmony and unanimity became so important to the twentieth-century hierarchy that some authorities have even assented to what they regarded as violations of God's will." (Pg. 13)
"The presiding quorums have sometimes tailored their minutes to fulfill the requirement of unanimous voting." (Pg. 19)
"Despite such conflicts, church leaders regard the final result of their deliberations as revelation." (Pg. 20)
"(I)n July (1946) the hierarchy was stunned to learn that Patriarch Joseph F. Smith was homosexual. Publicly they cited 'ill health' as reason for his resignation and released him..." (Pg.
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