Thursday, August 18, 2011

One Nation Under Gods, by Richard Abanes

One Nation Under Gods: A History of the Mormon Church

Joseph Smith founded the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in the early 19th century, when the country itself was showing tremendous growth.  As the new Mormon movement gained popularity, it moved further and further west, finally settling in Utah.  With controversial tenets, including polygamy and blood atonement, the LDS church has been under scrutiny since its creation, yet somehow its membership grows and grows.  While some theological stances have been recanted or deemed out of date, the church still has a strong hold over its faithful members.

After reading another book on the LDS church, I quickly became fascinated with this mysterious denomination.  A friend of mine is an ex-Mormon, so she lent me this book to learn more about the history and beliefs of the church.  And boy howdy did I learn.  I think of the whole book, the most interesting to me was the early history of the founder, Joseph Smith, and how the church actually started.  It just seemed like there were so many holes in his testimony from the beginning, I am amazed he ever gained followers.

The book is long and heavy on the historical side of things, which I think is actually a strength.  There seem to be a lot of supporting documents regarding the information presented, which made me feel like the book was accurate, and well researched.  I would have like to have seen a bit more information on the current theology of the church.  I would like to see the updated version, to see if it includes information on the LDS influence on Proposition 8 in California, and the growing LDS presence in politics.

I am sure the LDS dislikes this book, as many of the poor reviews out there will show.  I cannot speak to whether or not this is an accurate book, as I myself am not a Mormon.  I can say that I felt like a lot of good information was presented, enough to make me want to continue research to form a more informed opinion.  Obviously, this book would not appeal to Mormon readers, but may appeal to those who have left the LDS church, or other Christians who, like me, want to learn more.  It would also appeal to historians and those interested in comparative theology.

This book was borrowed from a friend.

If you liked this review, please rate it (and others!) as helpful on my Amazon profile. My Amazon Profile


  1. As a non-Mormon who has extensively studied Mormonism, Abanes book is bad to terrible. There are actually good works on Mormonism from Mormons and non-Mormons that I would recommend. I would hardly be afriad of reading Mormons either, a group is usually best at speaking on themselves after all.

    Jan Shipps is non-Mormon, but excellent. Richard Bushman is Mormon, and also excellent.

    The problem Abanes has is that he has no actual training in historical research or how to study history. The tools that Abanes lacks, understanding historical sources, inhibit his grasp of the nuances of Mormonism. He makes up for this by using a LOT of footnotes. I have seen more than one person talk about how well researched he is because he uses so many footnotes. This is like saying someone must be smart because their glasses are so thick.

    I would not rely on Abanes at all, if you ever get into a discussion with an educated Mormon they are going to talk circles around you. Mormonism has seen a resurgence in legitimate Scholarship, I would use one o fthose before an amateur work like Abanes.

  2. The above review was obviously written by a Mormon who is trapped in this cult.

  3. The review was written by a Mormon, or the comment above yours was written by a Mormon? I can assure you I am not a Mormon. I was loaned the book by an ex-Mormon who has since left the religion.