A fellow blogger asked recently for a book that might give a general introduction to Mormonism, and I’m pleased to suggest the Oxford University Press Very Short Introduction on the subject (Mormonism by Richard Bushman, published in 2008). Colombia professor of History (emeritus) Richard Bushman does a wonderful job of introducing and blending the doctrinal and historical facts of Mormonism in a brief format (less than 115 pages).
As a historian, Professor Bushman focuses each section by referring to key events in Church history, and branching out to the doctrines that make Mormonism unique in the context of American and world Christianity. The book addresses all branches of Mormonism, but the major focus is on the Utah church as led by Brigham Young after Joseph Smith’s death, as that is the organization with the most followers at this point. Although he is a practicing Mormon, Professor Bushman speaks with the professional voice of a historian as he writes of the history, doctrines, and faults of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often called the Mormon Church).
If Mormonism: A Very Short Introduction has a fault, it is that it is incredibly short. In 115 pages, it has the potential to feel superficial. Yet, for this reader, a practicing Mormon, it did not feel superficial. Professor Bushman appropriately introduces the important doctrines and historical facts about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints without overbearing one with unimportant information. It’s a book I’m pleased to recommend to any friends who may be interested in a general, Very Short Introduction, to what the Mormon Church is about.
University of Richmond English Professor Terryl Givens has also contributed a Very Short Introduction to the Oxford Series, that one on The Book of Mormon. I greatly enjoyed my first foray into Oxford University Press’s Very Short Introduction series, and I look forward to more such brief but thorough introductions.
I’m reviewing this book this week in celebration of the upcoming General Conference of the Church.
Great to know both that this book provides great information and that it is a good read. I’ll have to look it up.
Amy, I thought it was a good one! I hope you likewise find it so when you get to it!
I think it is probably beneficial for an introductory book like this to be short so it does not overwhelm.
It’s good to know that a member of the religion finds the book useful. Sadly the only thing I know about Mormons are the Osmonds.
Suzanne, I got to meet Donny once! My claim to fame. At any rate, yes, I think this book is a good introduction — which is what it set out to do!