REVIEW: The Mormon People: The Making of an American Faith

Book by Matthew Bowman


REVIEW: The Mormon People: The Making of an American Faith Polls recording the number of Americans who say they wouldn’t vote for a Mormon have held steady (at 25 per cent) for years, while the number who say the same about a gay person—now at 33 per cent—has been dropping. That raises the striking possibility that more Americans will soon be prepared to see a lesbian in the Oval Office than, say, Mitt Romney. Given that Mormonism is the all-American faith, the one religion rooted in the cultural DNA of the U.S. alone, the fact that so many Americans distrust and even hate it demands explanation. As this account by Bowman, a historian of religion who is a Mormon himself, makes clear, there is a lot of history between Americans and their native-born faith, much of it bloody.

Mormonism’s origins couldn’t have been more American. Its founding prophet Joseph Smith (1805-1844) grew up in northern New York state, known as the “burned-over district” for its fiery religious revivals. He was one of dozens of charismatic preachers of his day, all of whom, in Bowman’s lovely phrase, “heard the voices of angels outside their windows at night.” Even Mormonism’s bans on alcohol and tobacco are in the mainstream of 19th-century American Christianity.

But there are, of course, aspects well outside the norm too, including polygamy and, in the early days, a kind of communism. It was that last practice that brought the rapidly expanding faith into violent confrontation on the frontier, leading to Smith’s death when a mob stormed the Illinois jail where he was held, and leading also to the Mormons’ great trek westward, out of the U.S. to a new theocratic Zion in Utah.

Americans, who fought a bloody civil war over the integrity of their union, really didn’t like that. Eventually, Mormon Utah was brought within the U.S. and polygamy (officially) abandoned. Mormons began their enthusiastic embrace of free enterprise, patriotism (they are overrepresented in both the CIA and FBI) and apple-pie family values. But however American they may now feel, many of their neighbours have never quite agreed with them.



REVIEW: The Mormon People: The Making of an American Faith

  1. There is more proof for what Prophet Joseph Smith taught than any other religion. Prophet Joseph Smith explained many mysteries that other prophets were not able to explain in the King Follett Discourse. Based on Joseph Smith’s teachings, Lorenzo Snow, the fifth president of the Mormon church, wrote that: “As man is, God once was; As God is, man may be.” Look into this truth yourself. God was a man before he even became a God. This is very comforting. So we too may be exalted to be gods. This is very encouraging. Doctrine and Covenants 132:20
    “As man is, God once was; As God is, man may be.”

    • Check your  Bible buddy, where does it say God was an man before he was a god? Angh!  How do you get multiple gods out the One True God??

      • Not all truths are in the Bible. Try the Rig Veda, Koran, Lao Tzu, and Zoroaster before coming to a “One & Only Truth” book. ‘Bible’ means library of small books…Open your horizons a little.

      • Jesus Christ’s church must represent man’s potential correctly 1 Corinthians 8:5-6, Psalm 82,  John 10:34   “If we are children (of God),” wrote the apostle Paul to the Romans (8:17, New International Version), “then we are heirs — heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.”   “To him that overcometh,” says the Savior to John the Revelator (3:21, KJV), “will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. He that hath an ear, let him hear.”

        • in Genesis 1:26 God says “let us make man in our image”. 

  2. Mormons’ theology is based on New Testament Christianity, not Fourth Century Creeds. 
    For example, the Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) views on Baptism, Lay Ministry, the Trinity, Theosis, Grace vs. Works, the Divinity of Jesus Christ comport more closely with Early Christianity than any other denomination.  And Mormons’ teenagers have been judged to “top the charts” in Christian Characteristics by a UNC-Chapel Hill study.  Read about it here:


    According to a 2012 Pew Forum poll of members of the Church of Jesus Christ (LDS) 98 percent said they believe in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and 97 percent say their church is a Christian religion. Mormons have a better understanding of Christianity than any other denomination, according to a 2010 Pew Forum poll: 


    11 of the signers of the United States’ Declaration of Independence (including several presidents) were non-Trinitarian Christians.  Those who now insist on their narrow Trinitarian and salvation-only- by-grace definition of Christianity for candidates for public office are doing the U.S. Republic an injustice.

  3. As the Bturner540 comment confirms, he is not a Christian. I for one have never considered Mormons to a branch of Christianity. The Caydon Robison, who sounds like he is a Mormon, confirms that. This is not so much about who is right and who is wrong. I have read the Koran and the Hadith and well aware of what is not right. I tried reading the Book of Mormon and felt it was the product of a deranged mind. Caydon Robison should read the New Testament before quoting ramblings of fools.  

    • I’m not so sure about Caydon’s claim to being a Mormon. I see similar comments from him on other sites as well. While accurate, he proudly emphasizes a doctrine that hardly gets mentioned at all in the Church in this age. I suspect that he is an opponent that is bating the haters rather than a believer and member of the Church. Current Church members don’t talk that way.

      • GKG, I am indeed a Mormon. If you doubt what we believe, listen to what our former LDS President Gordon Hinckley taught us: “On the other hand, the whole design of the gospel is to lead us onward and upward to greater achievement, even, eventually, to godhood. This great possibility was enunciated by the Prophet Joseph Smith in the King Follet sermon; and emphasized by President Lorenzo Snow. It is this grand and incomparable concept: As God now is, man may become!”

  4. I feel I need to address the comment by GKG that I am trying to bait haters. This is not true. Haters will always find a reason to hate the LDS, and it seems that polygamy before 1890 and Mountain Meadow is brought up endlessly. It is true that I do not speak as a typical Mormon does. This is because I do not turn off my brain when I heard our former LDS president Gordon Hinckley say one thing inside the LDS church about becoming a God, and then seemingly say something completely opposite to the press in 1997. Personally, this “difference” causes within me, doubts about my faith. I am reacting to these doubts by proclaiming the beliefs which I hold most dear, namely, that I may become a God. Why are some of our leaders evasive about this when speaking to the press? This is disheartening.

  5. If Mor,onism hadbretreated into obscurity, it would be a curiosity and no one woyld worry about it. What excites fearnand hatred is thebsuccessnand cintinuing growth of Mormons as a body of believers increasinglyneducated, increasingly wealthy, increasingly influential in many careers, and thus increasingly perceivrdbas a threat to the status quo. An entire industry has spring up to supply slander, prepackaged and ready to eat, for pastors who want to retail hatred and distrust of Mormons. The Southern Baptist Convention has lost some 50,000 members each year the past five years, while estimating that 40,000 of those losses each year join the Mormons. A Baptist pastor told a Mormon professor at BYU that a saved Baptist can commit muder or adultery and still be saved, but not if he joins the Mormons! The fact that such losses reduce demand for pastors might have a little to do with it. The bottom line is that many pastors see the election of Romney as a threat to their income.

  6. I have written an open letter to Jeff Howard who is the Bishop of the Brainerd, Minn. Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in response to his article.


    Dear Jeff,

    Thank you for your insightful article. I agree with everything you’ve written.

    I am proud to be a Mormon. Moreover, I am proud of Joseph Smith. He is an inspiration to me. Joseph Smith is a true prophet who received important revelations from God.

    So why, if we believe that Joseph Smith is a true prophet, do some of us shy away from some of the most important things that Joseph Smith taught? Certainly, as you clearly pointed out, we Mormons are Christians, because we believe in Jesus Christ.

    But we also believe, based on Joseph Smith’s revelations, that God the Father was not always a God, but was a man before he was exalted to godhood. Why is it that some of us seem embarrassed about that?

    I do not see that as something to be embarrassed about, but rather, an encouragement. For if God the Father was once a man, and was exalted to become a God, so too, I may be exalted to become a God. Why do some of us try to hide this very important truth? Even some of our leaders are evasive on this truth.

    Joseph Smith taught that: “First, God himself, who sits enthroned in yonder heaven, is a man like one of you. That is the great secret.” “You have got to learn how to be Gods yourselves, and to be kings and priests to God, the same as all Gods have done before you”. Do we really believe this or not? And his teaching is indeed confirmed by Doctrine and Covenants 132:20.

    Personally, for me, the hope of being exalted to a God is one of the most exciting things. This is something that I have been ridiculed for believing by unbelievers. This is to be expected. Faith is tested by persecution. But, worse yet, my Mormon peers have criticized me for openly sharing this. Why should I keep silent on the greatest hope?


    • I comprindi this better when it comes to the conclusion that my heavenly father before God to be my first is my father. That is: A parent who is a God. Understand God as a parent is easier to understand many mysteries of life and understand the gospel and the very existence.

  7. Isn’t it interesting that homosexuals, mostly left-wingers, think it’s alright for a man to marry a man and a woman to marry a woman, but it isn’t ok for a man to have more than one wife (like they do in the Bible).  A sad commentary on a sick society.

  8. Any one past the age of believing in Santa could not possibly believe such superstitious nonsense.  But then that goes for all religions.

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