Archive for August, 2012

The Mormonizing of America, by Stephen Mansfield

Posted in Book Review with tags , , , , , , on August 16, 2012 by seguewm

Other than the usual pejorative characterizations of Mormonism predictably inserted into any conversation that makes a reference to this group, most of my knowledge about Mormons up till now have come from brief interactions. Personally, I have never met a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints that I haven’t quickly liked. Yet, the rumors of odd beliefs have always kept me from taking this religious group more seriously.

Until recently.

With the GOP nomination of Mitt Romney for president and all the recent discussions about religion and governance, I knew it was time to learn more. In the previous presidential election much noise was made by the political Right of Obama’s association with Reverend Wright, yet it became quite clear – despite unfounded accusations – that Obama’s faith was not tied to the person of Rev. Wright or any other person or religious institution. In other words, there wasn’t any external religious influence demanding that Obama make certain policy decisions. I wondered if this was true of Romney.

I have read several of Mansfield’s books in the past. I have always found them quite engaging, well researched, and thus meaningfully informative. This particular book was also timely. It proved to be all that I had hoped it would be. It has influenced my choice for president. But that’s all I will say about that.

Mansfield himself is not a Mormon. He fairly discusses the good, the bad, and the ugly. The Mormon story really is incredible. There is much that is respectful, lots to commend and to honor as solidly ‘American’. Yet, there are many things in their beliefs that have left me saying, ‘huh? How can intelligent people actually believe that?’ All this helped me not only to understand much more about what Mormons believe, but more importantly how they believe, how they view life, and how they approach tomorrow. Thus, what I might expect from a president who is a dedicated Mormon.

The Mormonizing of America presents testimonies of faith, the history of its origin and development, how they answer questions and objections, how Mormonism ‘works’, and where it believes it is headed. It is a fascinating study of American history as well, since the Mormons have often had to deal with conflicts among other faiths, US law, and a developing American culture.

Between now and election day, in particular, this is a book I hope every American will read and give serious thought to.

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Church Outside the Walls, by Raj Samuel

Posted in Book Review with tags , , on August 1, 2012 by seguewm

Hopefully you won’t find much, content-wise, to disagree with in this short book. That, in fact, is the first problem you will encounter. It seems a bit boring to begin with. But persist.

The second thing that might ‘put you off’ is the presentation. It comes across as quite arrogant. No frills, no stories, just the facts. But persist.

The truth is, according to the author, when we call ourselves ‘followers of Jesus’, we are actually followers of the religion called Christianity. The two are not the same. Most of us have heard these complaints about the ‘church’ at various times. We note them as facts, yet continue on as usual. Why?

Many books that address the issues facing the church often end by pulling their punches. The scenario often plays out like this, ‘yes, the church is not what it ought to be, but never forget all the good it has and is doing’. In other words, we become acquainted with the problems, but are always given a way to escape acting upon those problems. We settle in to the notion, ‘it is what it is’ and won’t ever change. Or, the church is changing, it just takes time. Or, I see what you are saying, but so many people over so many years can’t be wrong. We’ve ‘married’ the church ‘for better or for worse’. But…

Samuel argues his case, chapter by chapter, topic by topic, succinctly and pointedly. The reader is then, rather abruptly, abandoned at the end, left alone to wonder – ‘what, now, must all this mean for me?’ Is my faith in Christianity or in Christ? Can I be a true follower of Christ within the structure of Christianity as it is today? Does my religion compromise my witness? Lots of questions to wrestle with. Samuel does not offer an escape route. He holds our feet to the fire. But persist.

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.