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List of reliable sources on Mormonism
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon church) has grown from an obscure American sect to a major worldwide branch of Christianity, but increased prominence does not always lead to increased understanding. The best way to learn about a unfamiliar belief system is to ask its own adherents rather than relying on possible misinformation or bias from others. Therefore, the church’s own websites at mormon.org and lds.org should be the starting point for anyone interested in researching Mormons. Another excellent and more systematic resource is the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, available online.
Probably almost all Mormons have had the experience of a friend or colleague reciting a “fact” about Mormon faith or practice that is actually false. Many other snippets of “common knowledge” about Mormons are based on truth but are distorted or misinterpreted.
Fortunately, there are several scholars and journalists, both Mormon and non-Mormon, who have written clear and accurate explanations of Mormon belief. MormonVoices presents this list of suggested sources:
The Mormon People by Matthew Bowman
The Book of Mormon: A Biography by Paul Gutjahr
What’s Wrongwith Mormons? A Good Tree Cannot Bring Forth Evil Fruit by B. Jay Gladwell
Our Search for Happiness by M. Russell Ballard
By the Hand of Mormon: The American Scripture that Launched a New World Religion by Terryl L. Givens
Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling by Richard L. Bushman
Mormonism: The Story of a New Religious Tradition by Jan Shipps
Mormonism: A Very Short Introduction by Richard L. Bushman
Many other books could be included here, but have not been for the sake of brevity. Many others have not been included here because they are not useful sources. This is not to say that only positive accounts by Mormons are worth reading; some authors above are not Mormon and yet produced excellent and accurate work that deals fairly with criticism of the church.
But some authors, whether intentionally or accidentally, have produced works which confuse more than enlighten. For instance, Stephen Mansfield’s new book, The Mormonizing of America: How the Mormon Religion Became a Dominant Force in Politics, Entertainment, and Pop Culture, aims to be an extremely thorough analysis and yet its explanations sound quite foreign to Mormon readers. It is clear that the manuscript was not prepared in consultation with a knowledgeable Mormon, which has resulted in a book full of errors and misinterpretations. These cloud the book’s good points and open the question of whether the author intended to be fully accurate or merely to tell the most gripping story. Other recent books suffer from the same flaws.
Individual Mormons are often eager to answer questions about their beliefs and will do so without turning the exchange into an attempt at conversion. Anyone curious about Mormon doctrine and its possible implications for society are encouraged to consult reliable sources and actual Mormon church members. Attending Mormon Sunday services is another excellent way to learn, first-hand, about Mormons and their beliefs. We extend our gratitude to all who make the effort to understand our faith.