Saturday, May 12, 2012

(66)The Mormon People: The Making of an American Faith

by Matthew Bowman 
Publication Date: January 24, 2012

Pages: 352

I am very much a "live & let live" kind of girl.  You want to breast feed your child til he is 12.  Not my business.  You want to spend every last dollar you have on fast food.  Not my business.  You want to share your Husband with three other women, again, NOT my business.  You do what you want to do, as long as it does not impact my life or my family, I really could not care less.  And that extends to religion, as well.  I would say that I am a lapsed Catholic .  It has been several years since I have regularly attended church and honestly, I am not sure the Catholic church or any organized religion "fits" (for lack of a better word) what my image is of God and how I define my relationship with Him.

Having said that, it has been almost a year now since we moved to the Salt Lake City area. An area where one religion, Mormonism, permeates every aspect of life in one way or another.  From the nightly news to the new state of the art shopping center that just opened in the area.   We were visited weekly (sometimes more than once a week) by the local missionaries for the first six months that we lived here.  It got to the point that we just stopped answering the door. BUT, that does not mean I am not curious about the religion of which  my Step-Daughter is a member.  I have purchased a few books, but have not read them. It was not until I had the opportunity to read The Mormon People by Matthew Bowman, (a Mormon himself, but I could not find a website or even a Facebook page for this author) that I had a chance to really get to "know" about the religion.

Mr. Bowman gives a history of the Mormon church from it's early beginnings with Joseph Smith in New York to his death in Missouri to Brigham Young leading his people West and everything in between and beyond. Right up to Mitt Romney running for President.  I will say that the author gave a pretty comprehensive timeline of events, but nothing was really discussed in depth.  In fact many of the things he glossed over were much more concerning to me than whether or not they practiced polygamy. For example some of the recruitment processes of Missionaries.  In South America it was an adopted practice to have "baseball baptisms" where the Missionaries would invite local children (and their families) to baseball games and then tell them that they must be baptized in the Church before they could play.   This happened so frequently that today, in 2012, more than half of the fourteen million members live outside of the States. Many of the people outside of the US being counted as church members do not even realize that they ARE members.  To me that is just , well, it is just wrong.

The other thing that just left me dumbfounded was that in the early days of Salt Lake City Brigham Young discouraged his "people" from doing business with non-Mormons.  He very much had the mindset of Mormon Exclusiveness.  And honestly, despite the work of  more recent leaders, that mindset still resonates in some areas of the state.

Some other things I found interesting.  I had no idea that Mormons founded & settled Las Vegas.  A little ironic, don't ya think?   I also got the answer to why this city (and her suburbs) have  such a jacked up "naming" systems. Such as the street that leads to the kids house is called 200 North. Brigham Young wanted the Church to be the center of everything so all of the streets are named because of the distance to the Temple. Hmm, I had no idea.  And it makes it a bit less confusing, but man, when streets have two names it can cause utter confusion to "outsiders" visiting the city.

The final thing I will share with that I did not know is another thing that I find a bit ironic.  Joseph Smith started his church with the desire to create a Utopian (ie: socialistic) society of the righteous.(I had no idea!) Why do I find that ironic?  Because here it is nearly 300 years later and the  most famous Mormon in the world is running for President and campaigning AGAINST a man and political party that have some socialistic ideologies.  Thing that make you go hmmmm.....

Bottom line, I think that Matthew Bowman was as objective as he could be in writing this book.  He did touch on some of the negative PR issues that have plagued the church since it's inception, but it seemed very glossed over.   I do feel as if I learned something about the Church, it's history, and it's people.  If all you know about the Church of Latter Day Saints have come from a Broadway Play or ex-members, then I think this book will  help you understand a bit more about the Church and what they believe.


Sam (Tiny Library) said...

This sounds good, I think the Mormon faith is fascinating although I know next to nothing about it.

Lukey Here said...

Interesting review, I too find the Mormon religion interesting. I was baptized when I was in the late 80's and soon realized it was not for me. If you haven't read the 19th wife, I highly recommend it.

Mimi said...

Those Baseball Baptisms have me with my jaw dropped. Ay yi yi.

Laura said...

I have not read this book yet but I have put it on my "to read" list. I lived in SLC for a year and I found it quite interesting and also a bit entertaining at times. I am not a Mormon but I have found it fascinating. I was able to visit the Temple in SLC and I have to say the building and surrounding grounds were breathtaking beautiful BUT I found it quite strange that you are not allowed to enter the church unless you are a member. I found this out the hard way since I tried to go in (being a brand new resident I wasn't aware of their rules) and 2 men came out of no where grabbed my arms and escorted me off the property. They wouldn't even listen to me when I tried to explain I just moved to their city a couple days earlier and wasn't aware non-members weren't allowed. That was my first bitter encounter with the members of the church. I have met several ex-members and current members and I have to say both sides always gave a great history lesson.

Speaking of history lessons, I have been living in Reno NV for the past 9 yrs and there is this small town on the outskirts of Carson City called Genoa and that was the 1st settlement established or trading post in our area, and it was also established by the Mormons. History records show that the rates they charged settlers coming across our area was astronomical which would break the settlers after trying to rebuild their food/supplies.

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