The authors have written this book “to demystify Mitt Romney's religion and address the major concerns – raised by both liberals and conservatives – about Mormonism. [They] aim to make the weird familiar.” (12) They should know. They were raised Mormon and are sociologists who study Mormonism. Both went on missions, married Mormon women in the temple and participated in the secret rites. But now both men no longer believe the truth claims of the LDS. But they don't want the Mormons misrepresented either.
“Polls show Americans generally have negative views towards Mormons. Among religious groups, only atheists and Muslims are less popular.” (12) They think calling Mormons cultists is dumb. They say that most Christian scholars who study Christianity accept Mormons as Christians. They attack those who say Mormonism is not Christians, calling them “religious bigots.” (31) “Unless you've got a theological axe to grind, Mormons are Christians.” (31)
They review the ceremonies, including endowment. “As with baptism, no one can enjoy true salvation without receiving endowment.” (54) They write about the underwear but note that other religions require specific clothing. They review the church's racist past and write that the church is working feverishly to expunge that past. They note other shifts in Mormon belief, at least as it is publicly stated. “These days, many church authorities prefer to say that exalted Mormons will become 'like God' rather than baldly proclaiming that they will be gods. This shift is designed to deflect the criticism of outspoken opponents of Mormonism...” (83)
Jesus and Satan are brothers, spirit children of Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother. Actually, the Mormons teach that every person that has ever lived on earth is also a spirit child of Heavenly Father and therefore siblings of Jesus and Satan. (89)
There are a few things I learned from this book (as I have studied Mormon belief). Mitt's great-grandfather was a polygamist. His ancestors fled to Mexico in the late 1800s to avoid arrest under the laws prohibiting polygamy. Mitt's father was born in Colonia Dublan in Chihuahua, Mexico, an expatriate polygamist outpost.
I disagree with the authors' defending Mormonism as Christian. From what I have read about the history and beliefs of the LDS, I would not classify them as Christian. The authors write, “...[A]ccording to LDS theology, no person can achieve complete salvation without being married in the temple.” (51) That is not orthodox Christian belief. Elsewhere they note that Mormons are technically henotheists, recognizing many gods but worshiping only one. (82) That is definitely not Christian belief.
This book is a reasonable introduction to Mormon belief for those who know relatively little about them. Just be mindful that these authors evaluate Christians believing in Noah and his ark to be on the same level as Mormons believing God lives on planet Kolob.
Could the authors vote for a Mormon? You'll just have to read the book to find out.
Ryan Cragun is an Assistant Ptofessor of Sociology at the University of Tampa. His research interests include Mormonism and the nonreligious. His research has been published in numerous journals and featured in numerous local and national newspapers. He is a past president of the Mormon Social Science Association.
Rick Phillips is an Assosiate Professor of Sociology at the University of North Florida. He is the author of one book and has had articles published in several journals. He is a former president of the Mormon Social Science Association, a scholarly association of social scientists interested in the study of Mormonism.
Strange Violin Editions, 134 pages.
I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.