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Monday, July 23, 2012

RevGalBookPals: Latter-Day Saints Edition

It's July and if you are not taking a little break, you may be in the midst of planning for your next seasons of learning. While this is a global group, I have been thinking about elections recently (not election, my darling Presbyterians). In the USA, there exists the possibility of electing a president in November who is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Regardless of what you think of the candidate in question or about the impact the U.S. president may have on the world, you or members of your congregation may have questions about what he believes and in what ways his faith may impact his decisions, personal and political.

The LDS faith is fairly "new" on the scenes of world religion. Certainly not the newest kid on the block, but it has been somewhat unknown for much of its history. You may have very strong anti-LDS feelings, ambivalent LDS feelings, strong pro- LDS feelings, or be saying, "What is she talking about?"

I'm considering doing a little 4 week primer in a couple months about the tenets of the LDS faith within the congregation I lead. I have no interest in changing anyone's vote (well, that might be a stretch, but I have no intention of doing so by this method), but I generally find that people are curious about other systems of belief and spirituality. Within my own congregation, I may express some of my own strong feelings regarding the LDS church, but for today's purposes- I'd like to tell you about some of the resources that are available to you, if you decide to read a bit more, point curious congregants toward more information, or want to lead a little study yourself.

General Information/ Pro- LDS

Mormonism for Dummies is exactly what it says. It's a very clear-cut guide to the most basic tenets of the the Latter-Day Saint church, religion, and history. I used this resource myself a few years ago when trying to get a toe-hold into the words and phraseology around LDS practices. The authors are both LDS themselves and, thus, are fairly positive toward the history of the church and very positive about the current state and future of the church. This book will answer the most basic questions about day-to-day practices, special ceremonies, titles and positions, and common misunderstandings about the faith.

In the event that you have read (or intend to read) The Book of Mormon, A Plain English Reference to the Book of Mormon is a guide to help you understand what you're reading and its context. This guide may be more helpful to people who already have a strong or fairly strong understanding of Latter-Day Saint beliefs. The Book of Mormon offers some doctrinal ideas and history, but is mainly the explanation and story of the gospel on the North American continent. This guide helps outline the relationships and connections that are crucial to grasping the story of the Book of Mormon.

Not being Mormon, I have no idea how Elna Baker's memoir was received in the Saint community. This is a funny read about her move to New York, attempts to find work, and effort to remain chaste while kissing many men. Her faith evolves throughout the book, but she does remain true to the LDS church (if not the entire spirit of all the teachings). I would consider this book LDS-positive, because her struggles are legitimate and her own, but do not lead her into excessive criticism of the church, its hierarchy, or the tradition in which she was raised. If you have no interest in the LDS, but just want a fun read- this is a book for you.

Specific Information/"Anti-LDS"

Almost any book that attempts to examine discrepancies in LDS history or practiced is significantly criticized. The Mormon Mirage  is one of these books. Written by a former Mormon, there is a great deal of research into the history and historic claims of the LDS church. This is published by Zondervan and thus, occasionally, one sees a certain fervor shining through as the author refutes the Mormonism in which she was raised to embrace the evangelical Christianity that is frequently a cornerstone to this publishing house. Nevertheless, it is a well-researched book offering information to the curious and seeking reader. Along the same lines, one may wish to read

An American Fraud: One Lawyer's Case against Mormonism

Krakauer is not one of my favorite authors; I usually find him a somewhat bombastic in tone. However, I was riveted by Under the Banner of Heaven. This book deals more with the Fundamentalist Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), but it also delves into some of the violent history of the Mormom church itself. While the history of Christianity is hardly violence-free, there is little said about the history of violence in the early days of the LDS church, which are part of still fresh U.S. history. The reader must be discerning in reading this book as to what is currently true of the LDS versus the FLDS, but the book is informative and somewhat painful to read. In particular, the failure of the current LDS structure to speak loudly and forcefully against cults and cult behavior is provocative and thought-provoking. 

Leaving the Saints is somewhat controversial in that Martha Beck's former husband (who also left the LDS faith) contests a few details, but he does uphold the majority of her story. Beck talks about coming to terms with her memories of child sexual abuse at the hands of her father, a famous Mormon apologist. She discusses her struggle to find and define her spirituality, ultimately realizing that she will not heal or be whole within a church structure that denies her truth. Beck explains several principles of LDS faith and practices and her frustration with the same. This book is very helpful in understanding some of the structure of the church and the power it has in Mormon communities and homes. 

In the event that you want to read a little bit more about LDS history, these are a few resources for you. I regret that I do not have (at this time) anything to offer about the work of the LDS church outside of the United States. At this time, given the work of Mormon missionaries, the LDS faith can certainly be considered, at least, a minor world religion. 

I would feel remiss as a long-time RevGalBlogPal and a board member if I did not point out that the foundation of RGBP is the support (in all possible ways) of women's ordination and leadership in the church. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints does not offer women the leadership of the "priesthood" nor are women called to decision-making roles in the church or church hierarchy. 

This compilation of reviews is my own work and may not be taken out of context. Neither should it be construed or quoted as my own support or the support of RevGalBlogPals for the specific church mentioned above or any candidate therewith associated.


  1. Here is another resource to add to the list, She describes the blog as follows:

    Ask Mormon Girl offers an unorthodox but friendly perspective on Mormon thought and culture. Have a question you’d like to Ask Mormon Girl? Email

    Joanna Brooks is a national voice on Mormon life and politics. Her book The Book of Mormon Girl: Stories from an American Faith will be published in February 2012. Find a complete line-up of her writings at

  2. Thanks for these resources; this is actually a great idea.

  3. I am really impressed with your forward thinking on the possibilities here. I hadn't really stopped to think about it but, because of you and this post, now I am. That is a good thing!

  4. I was born in Salt Lake ancestors were Mormon pioneers who settled northern Utah and southern Idaho as well as SLC. I was baptized in the tabernacle at Temple Square (baptism is now done at the local - stake - level so I always get an "Oh, ah" when I tell mormons where I was baptized. I've read Under the Banner of Heaven, it's gripping but there were parts I had to skip over (too gruesome). As a family we moved away from SLC when I was nine and I remember trying to be a Mormon in a non-Mormon culture like small town Wisconsin...I think I'd like Elna's book....I hope your primer goes well!

  5. My husband left the LDS church at about age 19, much to the chagrin of his family. We had many encounters over the years with home teachers and missionaries, until...well...maybe I'll write a blog post about it someday. :-) VERY impressive list of books! I'll likely read at least one or two.


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