Book Review Roundup

Once again, I offer some bite-sized reviews of books that deserve far longer and more detailed treatment. Some excellent books here, some a little more rough.

The Mormon Hierarchy: Wealth and Corporate Power, by D. Michael Quinn. Signature Books, 2017. I was excited when this book was announced, both because I enjoyed Quinn’s prior work and because the financial affairs of the Church have not been the object of enough study and examination. Suffice it to say that between malls and Florida landholdings and no transparency, the use of wealth in the Church is a perennial hotbed of conversation in the Bloggernacle, with no real resolution other than to come down as either trusting the Church — or not. Quinn’s book therefore promises to "follow the money and see where it leads", so to speak. However, there are a few flaws that keep Quinn’s book from being a truly monumental work. First is the fact that most of the Church’s contemporary finances are not public and Quinn has largely not had access to those records. So while Quinn is able to recount how the Church went from being insolvent to being a financial powerhouse, this volume may not be reflective of the contemporary financial state of the Church as a result. The second flaw is that the book itself is very short: barely over a hundred pages of narrative essays, with 2/3 of the volume preserved for annexes and appendices. Now, those appendices are really fun, but this book is mostly undigested raw material. The last flaw is that some of his numbers don’t add up, vastly overestimating some numbers and underestimating others, using CPI. He needed an economist to look over his work a little more closely. Overall, a good book on a topic that is definitely timely. Flawed but will be useful to historians.

Women of Faith in the Latter Days, Volume Four: 1871-1900, Chapman Nash and Turley, eds. Deseret Book, 2017. I heard recently that this will be the last volume in the Women of Faith in the Latter Days series, which is a shame, because we’re just getting to time periods of women in the Church that have not seen much scholarship. The series provides vignettes of the faith and devotion of Latter-day Saint women, and is as much detached history as it is faith-promoting biography mixed with general historical context. However, the volume is worthy of praise for highlighting not just Camilla Kimball and Belle Spafford but other less-known women whose work deserves recognition, such as Maria Guadalupe Monroy, one of the first Saints in Mexico and who endured astounding persecution and violence for her faith. Would recommend this volume to those who would like to broaden their understanding and appreciation for the faith of LDS women who have paved the way for today.

Canadian Mormons: History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Canada, by Carma T. Prete, Roy A. Prete, BYU RSC and Deseret Book, 2017. I was especially excited to hear that the Religious Studies Center was publishing a book on the history of the Mormons in Canada, because the Mormons have been in Canada since nearly the beginning of our faith. There are tremendous narratives to tell both in eastern Canada, but also in the west, in Southern Alberta in particular where Charles Ora Card established a Mormon kingdom rivaled only by Salt Lake City itself. The Pretes have done an admirable job highlighting the contributions of Latter-day Saints across Canada. However, this book is more like a religious coursebook or textbook than a volume history. It provides biographies and anecdotes, but there is no real sense of historical analysis; as history books go, it is closer to Truth Restored than to Rough Stone Rolling. Canadian Mormons resembles a textbook in look and feel as well, with full-color glossy pages with inset vignettes. I suspect that the book would be most useful for Seminary instructors or for a course on Canadian Mormons done via BYU’s Religious Education department. The Pretes have invested a lot of time and effort on this book, and it is a good start, but we still need more robust history of the Saints in Canada.

Letters to a Young Mormon, 2nd Ed., by Adam Miller. Maxwell Institute and Deseret Book, 2017. I cannot recommend this book enough. I’ve owned the 1st edition since it was initially published, but the 2nd edition includes a couple of new letters, a revised cover and format. Miller (who also recently published an excellent book with BCC Press, plug!) uses the approach of writing to his own children to explore gospel topics, love, life, stewardship, faith and what it means to be alive. His style is approachable, but his words are challenging and provocative. Miller suggests a path of discipleship that embraces beauty and life while also recognizing the temptations of self-deception that wait along those paths. For Miller, "life itself depends on your filling and being filled with lives that are not your own." This means recognizing God at work within you but also recognizing that you are both greater and entirely different than you might think you are. Frankly, every single member of the Church could benefit from reading this book.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s