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The leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) aren't happy with this book. They have issued what reporter Bob Mims of The Salt Lake Tribune describes as "a clear, if muted, rebuke" of the Ostlings, even as they acknowledge that the authors made a sincere effort to be fair-minded and comprehensive in their portrait of Mormonism. As LDS authorities see things, the Ostlings have brought a "secular approach to a spiritual subject," resulting in what they consider an unbalanced account of Mormon realities.

We can only hope this does not discourage many Mormons from carefully reading this book. They will learn much about some things their leaders would rather not have discussed, especially in such chapters as "Mormons, Inc.," "The Power Pyramid," and "Dissenters and Exiles." However the LDS community responds to Mormon America, evangelicals should certainly put this book high on our list of "must read" literature.

I wrote a cover blurb for the book after seeing the galleys because, despite the worries at Salt Lake City's Temple Square, it strikes me as a marvelously balanced study of one of the fastest- growing religions in the world (from about 1 million adherents in 1950 to nearly 11 million today).

Furthermore, as evangelical scholars of Mormonism Carl Mosser and Paul Owen have shown, evangelicals have a lot of catching up to do on current Mormon thought. The title of their essay from the fall 1998 issue of Trinity Journal sums it up: "Mormon Scholarship, Apologetics, and Evangelical Neglect: Losing the Battle and Not Knowing It?" The Ostlings' book is an excellent place to start to correct this pattern of neglect.

Evangelical assessments of Mormonism have typically utilized one or more of three strategies: ...

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March 6, 2000

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