Mormons make up only 2% of the U. S. population yet their influence is much greater than that number would indicate. Mansfield explores why their impact on America is so great. He says they have achieved their influence on two fronts: the secular success of the “Mormon machine” (the earthly benefits of religious requirements) and the appeal to hurting people.
Mansfield describes the engine of the machine.
Number one is Progress. This life is like an obstacle course a Mormon must master to qualify for what comes in eternity. Achievements become a religious value.
Number two is Family. It is an eternal institution. Families who qualify will rule in eternity, even as the Heavenly Father rules this world with his family.
Number three is Education. Knowledge and intelligence in this life is an advantage in the world to come.
Number four is Patriotism. The U. S. has an ordained destiny. The Garden of Eden is in the U. S. and is the spot Jesus will return to earth.
The vulnerable aspect of the Mormon Church is its history. The church makes assertions about history and earthly events. They are subject to historical research, scientific and medical testing. It is not a challenge the leadership or the average Mormon is prepared for, Mansfield says.
For example, the Book of Mormon says horses were brought to the New World (America) thousands of years before Columbus arrived here in 1492, finding none. The same is said about pigs, sheep, cattle and donkeys, that they were brought here in 25000 B.C. It also says American Indians are descendants of the “lost tribes” of Israel (although DNA evidence indicates otherwise).
Mansfield writes, “The truth is that when all of the research is considered, there is precious little scientific or historical evidence that Book of Mormon claims are historically true.” (177)
So why don't Mormons leave the faith? He says most Mormons are not primarily interested in scholarship. They are taught to seek a feeling of confirmation, an “inner knowing” that trumps objective evidence.
He goes on to write about the importance of the restored priesthood, the squishy nature of Mormon belief, and the odd nature of Smith's revelations. He also reviews the history of the religion and has a section of their beliefs. Their beliefs do change as new revelation is given, such as the recent “revelation” that allowed black males to the priesthood when before they were a cursed people.
This is by no means a definitive study of the Mormon faith. Mansfield's aim is to explain how a religion with such a troubled origin and such questionable beliefs can be so influential in America. He has accomplished that very well.
This would be a great book for anyone wanting an introduction to the Church of Latter-Day Saints and wanting to understand how the church has become such an accepted part of American culture.
Go here for Mansfield's blog, biography, a video and other information.
Go to the publisher's product page to read the first chapter and listen to an interview.
Worthy Publishing, 288 pages.
I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.