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The Best Books on Mormonism


Lars Umlaut

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What books about the Church written by a nonmember would you recommend to a friend? I have a friend who was looking at my personal library and was interested in reading more about the Church, but indicated that she would prefer to read something written by a non-Mormon. To my surprise, I didn't have a single non-LDS authored book on my shelf to lend her (though I know I have some floating around here somewhere). Anyway, she gave her reasons for wanting a book written by an 'outsider', and, for the most part, I get it. However, most (if not all) of the books on Mormonism written by a nonmember that I have read have been on the critical side, so I come to you all for help: What are the best books on Mormonism by non-Mormon authors? Jan Shipps, of course, comes to mind, but after her, my mind is blank.

Thanks! :P

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I dont think there are any ... all those that have tried have become mormons. The ONLY advice I can give is taht she should read Scolars like Bert Ehrman, Margret Barker, Patay... aso... adn then she should FIND the mormonismities in those books. Only problem is that seh do not know them even if she reads them as these adn other NON LDS scolars do NOT go around advertising that this or this is mormonism! WHY should they they ar NOT exploring mormonism but fex early Christianity... :P

Why should someone write a book on mormonism if one did not believe in it or if one was against it? Mormonism is not something you can stay neutral for, you either has to be for or against....

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Why should someone write a book on mormonism if one did not believe in it or if one was against it? Mormonism is not something you can stay neutral for, you either has to be for or against....

When I was going through my Catholic theology class, I enjoyed the fact that the instructor used a lot of C.S. Lewis books for references in understanding the faith. The LDS church would benefit for having such an author not of the faith to reference IMO.

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I liked this book

The Mormon Question: Polygamy and Constitutional Conflict in Nineteenth-Century America~Sarah Barringer Gordon

but I would balance it with this one

Zion in the Courts: A Legal History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1830-1900~Edwin Brown Firmage & R Collin Mangrum

and maybe even Dallin H Oaks book

Carthage Conspiracy: The Trial of the Accused Assassins of Joseph Smith~Dallin H Oaks & Marvin S Hill

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Good grief. I just went through the first 20 pages of Amazon books on Mormonism (sorted by "best-selling), and there isn't any book written by a non-member that could fill the bill. If you can get your friend to overcome their Mormon-author bias, they should probably start with "Mormonism for Dummies". It's very readable.

It's not a book, but they could start with the PBS documentary "The Mormons". There are certainly worse things out there (if you haven't seen it, you could watch it with them and point out a few of the things that aren't quite right.)

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What books about the Church written by a nonmember would you recommend to a friend? I have a friend who was looking at my personal library and was interested in reading more about the Church, but indicated that she would prefer to read something written by a non-Mormon. To my surprise, I didn't have a single non-LDS authored book on my shelf to lend her (though I know I have some floating around here somewhere). Anyway, she gave her reasons for wanting a book written by an 'outsider', and, for the most part, I get it. However, most (if not all) of the books on Mormonism written by a nonmember that I have read have been on the critical side, so I come to you all for help: What are the best books on Mormonism by non-Mormon authors? Jan Shipps, of course, comes to mind, but after her, my mind is blank.

Thanks! :P

What sort of book, historical? doctrinal? cultural?

Will lapsed, apostate or inactive Mormons fit the bill?

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Rimini's biography of Joseph Smith might fit. I haven't read it, but I understand it is pretty even-handed. I don't know of any others by non LDS authors. A couple of good introductions to Mormonism written for a non-Mormon audience are Rex Lee's "What Mormons Believe" (at least I think that's the title) and Coke Newell's "Latter-days." These are designed to address questions in an open and honest way without any attempt to convert.

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What books about the Church written by a nonmember would you recommend to a friend? I have a friend who was looking at my personal library and was interested in reading more about the Church, but indicated that she would prefer to read something written by a non-Mormon. To my surprise, I didn't have a single non-LDS authored book on my shelf to lend her (though I know I have some floating around here somewhere). Anyway, she gave her reasons for wanting a book written by an 'outsider', and, for the most part, I get it. However, most (if not all) of the books on Mormonism written by a nonmember that I have read have been on the critical side, so I come to you all for help: What are the best books on Mormonism by non-Mormon authors? Jan Shipps, of course, comes to mind, but after her, my mind is blank.

Thanks! :P

W.D Davies wrote a great book called "Christian Engagements with Judaism" or something like that. He devotes a large chunk to the pro-semitism of Mormons and I personally found his analysis very insightful.

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This is odd. Why do you guys suppose that there is a derth of good books about Mormons (History,Culture,Theology,etc,etc) written by Non-Mormons?

There may be a lack of books, but there is certainly no lack of journal articles on Mormonism, written of course, by non-LDS.

With the rise in Mormon Studies I think we will see more of an uptick.

Remember.... we are a young AND small religion. Takes some time to get noticed! :P

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There may be a lack of books, but there is certainly no lack of journal articles on Mormonism, written of course, by non-LDS.

With the rise in Mormon Studies I think we will see more of an uptick.

Remember.... we are a young AND small religion. Takes some time to get noticed! smile.gif

Ah, that is an excellent observation.

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What books about the Church written by a nonmember would you recommend to a friend? I have a friend who was looking at my personal library and was interested in reading more about the Church, but indicated that she would prefer to read something written by a non-Mormon. To my surprise, I didn't have a single non-LDS authored book on my shelf to lend her (though I know I have some floating around here somewhere). Anyway, she gave her reasons for wanting a book written by an 'outsider', and, for the most part, I get it. However, most (if not all) of the books on Mormonism written by a nonmember that I have read have been on the critical side, so I come to you all for help: What are the best books on Mormonism by non-Mormon authors? Jan Shipps, of course, comes to mind, but after her, my mind is blank.

Thanks! :P

Hello Lars,

Agood history book I read was written by an RLDS member. I don't recall the name of the book. I don't know if your friend would consider them non mormon or not.

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What books about the Church written by a nonmember would you recommend to a friend?

I don't know much about your friend but How Wide the Divide?: A Mormon & an Evangelical in Conversation will be at least a good starting point.

The book is an initial dialogue between LDS and Evangelical academics seeking first to find common ground, and second to delineate differences between two religious traditions. Dr. Blomberg is a professor of New Testament at Denver Seminary; Dr. Robinson is professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University.

The book's format is in the form of a dialogue, with the authors writing alternately. In their half of each chapter, each author both discusses hisown tradition's teachings as well as reviews and comments on the the other author's material, discussing in turn, scripture, God and deification, Christ and the trinity, and salvation.

Good luck :P

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An excellent book that I read that is written by a lapsed Mormon (or so my Utah history professor tells me) is On Zion's Mount by Jared Farmer. Though its primary focus is Mormon-Indian relationships and how cultures create identities for themselves with the land when they enter a new and strange environment, it gives a brief overview of Mormon history that has a pretty refreshing angle compared to your usual cut-and-paste New York to the Valley histories. There are a few comments about the church that seem mildly negative, but I wouldn't feel uncomfortable recommending it to both members and non-members. It is a bit on the negative side in describing Mormon-Indian relations, but it tries to describe in the context of the Mormons' internal struggle with their views of the Indians as their brothers and their views of the Indians as obstacles in the way of their settlement and progress.

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When I was going through my Catholic theology class, I enjoyed the fact that the instructor used a lot of C.S. Lewis books for references in understanding the faith. The LDS church would benefit for having such an author not of the faith to reference IMO.

Which is sorta funny since he wasn't a huge fan of "papists."

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Rimini's biography of Joseph Smith might fit. I haven't read it, but I understand it is pretty even-handed. I don't know of any others by non LDS authors. A couple of good introductions to Mormonism written for a non-Mormon audience are Rex Lee's "What Mormons Believe" (at least I think that's the title) and Coke Newell's "Latter-days." These are designed to address questions in an open and honest way without any attempt to convert.

Rimini's bio was pretty weak IMO. He could have written a fantastic paper focusing on Jacksonian America and the Church, but he was taken beyond his ability in a short bio of JS imo.

Thomas F. O'dea's old book The Mormons is still pretty darn worth-reading.

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A few years ago PBS aired a program called "An American Prophet" or "The American Prophet", I don't recall which. It was narriated by Gregory Peck who is not LDS. He did a pretty good job of giving a third person approach on the 2 hour show. PBS may have it on DVD.

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