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The Mormon People: The Making of an American Faith Paperback – August 28, 2012
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Advance praise for The Mormon People
“The Mormon church has never been more important in American politics. In this smart, lucid history of the faith, Matthew Bowman explains a religion that many Americans don’t understand but should. With Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman in the race, this is essential reading for anyone interested in 2012 and beyond.”—Tom Brokaw, author of The Time of Our Lives: A Conversation About America
“Matthew Bowman has brought us a cogent, judicious, and important account of a faith that has been an important element in American history but remained surprisingly misunderstood.”—Michael Beschloss, author of Presidential Courage: Brave Leaders and How They Changed America, 1789–1989
“What do Mormons stand for? Are they quintessential good citizens or troubling religious deviants? Why are Mormons running for president? Matthew Bowman offers a quick, lively, and informative trip into the heart of Mormonism. All who are concerned or just curious will learn a lot about the making of modern Mormons from this book.”—Richard Lyman Bushman, author of Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling
From the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
Matthew Bowman received his Ph.D. in American religious history from Georgetown University in May 2011, and a master’s in American history from the University of Utah. His dissertation, “The Urban Pulpit: Evangelicals and the City in New York, 1880–1930,” was funded by the prestigious Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship. His work on American evangelicism and Mormonism has appeared in, among other places, Religion and American Culture: A Journal of Interpretation, Journal of the Early Republic, and The New Republic. The associate editor of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Matthew Bowman teaches at Hampden-Sydney College.
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Top customer reviews
Mr. Bowman begins the story with Joseph Smith in the first part of the 19th century. He is particularly good in describing the religious milieu that inspired Joseph Smith and many of his followers. He outlines the development of the early church and how the Mormons were constantly being driven from place to place until the "exodus" to Utah, led by Brigham Young. He follows the Mormon state through its admittance as a state in the United States and is once again very strong in showing the transition from an inward looking group through correlation and growth into a powerful, missionary, active people.
Some will likely complain that Mr. Bowman doesn't spend enough time with the controversies surrounding the church. He does devote a chapter to a discussion of polygamy; however, like most of the book, it is quite bloodless. It is descriptive of the theology and the political impact of polygamy but there is very little about how it affected people's lives. The multiple wives of Joseph Smith, himself, for example, get almost no mention. And yet, it seems part and parcel to what Mr. Bowman is trying to achieve--lots of information and little judgment. A lot of doctrine gets mentioned but its meaning is never analyzed nor how it is really put into practice.
This can lead to somewhat divided feelings about the book overall. For a reader with little knowledge of Mormonism, many of the basics are here but there is little depth. I, for one, felt I learned more about Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and Mormon theology in other books. On the other hand, having less knowledge of 20th century Mormonism, I felt I learned more about this. Certainly, I felt I understood better why some of the best, nicest people I've ever known are Mormons even as I find the theology beyond my ability to believe.
In the end, realizing that Mr. Bowman is trying to give a readable overview of nearly 200 years of Mormon history, it is easy to forgive some of the lapses in depth. He certainly has given us an excellent bird's eye view of the creation of a religion from prophet to followers to consolidated practice. Anyone whose knowledge of Mormonism is basically hearsay will learn much from this book.