by James Canfield, For Beginners
“Pithy, engaging, transparent, and accessible: Mormonism For Beginners is all the things that outsiders think Mormonism isn’t. Jett Atwood’s clever illustrations provide the perfect complement to Stephen Carter’s sparkling prose. Efficiently covering the bases from history to scripture to hot-button issues, this book will give you all you need to know to impress your Mormon friends.”
—Patrick Q. Mason, Howard W. Hunter Chair of Mormon Studies, Claremont Graduate University
Written by Stephen Carter and illustrated by Jett Atwood, Mormonism For Beginners illuminates both a belief system and a way of life that were born in America but remain little understood to the present day. From the start, Carter lays down a clear foundation of themes and subjects to be covered in the book. He then brilliantly discusses every building block of Mormon belief, practice, history, and lifestyle in terms anyone can understand.
Together, Carter and Atwood present the Mormon faith and LDS Church with the knowledge of insiders but an honesty, objectivity, and sense of humor that well serve the uninitiated reader. Carter presents a succinct, lively history of Mormonism—how it came to be, and how its “organized spirit of cooperation” was the binding force that helped early members endure hardship and persecution, find a home, and settle into communal life. He also discusses LDS scripture, Mormon life and values (their emphasis on communalism, marriage and the family, the Church, and mission work). And finally, it offers candid, balanced discussions of such “hot-button” issues as race and the priesthood, the role of women, and LGBT life. Jett Atwood’s illustrations elevate the text while adding a humorous touch.
A Mormon himself, Stephen Carter takes us on an informative and historical journey, explaining along the way how Mormonism became viewed as not only a religion, but also as a subculture. The entire faith revolves around the teachings of Jesus Christ and emphasizes the importance of following in his footsteps. Mormons commonly serve on missions where they share the word of the gospel as a means of showing and spreading their love for fellow people as well as for their lord and savior.
In the foreword, American writer and editor Jana Riess writes: “Mormonism is everywhere, but reliable information about the religion and its people can be hard to find. Some accounts produced by the LDS Church are glowing propaganda, while some written by outsiders or ex-Mormons are sensationalistic diatribes aimed at discrediting the Mormon faith.” However, “the truth lies somewhere in the middle, which is why you need this book. It joins a growing body of literature about Mormonism that aims to educate you—not to convert (or deconvert) you from what you already believe.”
It may be difficult for some to wrap their heads around Mormonism, however, Carter is able to lead the reader through the typical daily life of a majority of Mormons. There we are able to see the finite aspects of this religion and how they govern daily life. For instance, the Word of Wisdom is a strict dietary code that prohibits the consumption of both coffee and alcohol. Mormonism is a tiny, far-flung community compared with other religious groups, but also it’s a close, tight-knit community with a strong a sense of belonging as well as highly structured beliefs, values, and traditions. While most followers of the LDS Church and The Book of Mormon deviate little from set ways, change has been inevitable and will continue to be. How much and in what ways will Mormonism adapt to changing social mores and the needs of each new generation? Only the future will tell. Mormonsim For Beginners will be a valuable guide for anyone following the story.