Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Latter Days, by Coke Newell

I found this book at our local library and decided to check it out. I guess I wanted to see how our church was being presented to non-members. Newell is an employee of the church's public relations office, and wrote the book with the intent of presenting the church accurately to someone who is curious about it.

It was a pretty good book. I think a lot of what seems weirdest about Latter-day Saints can be explained by the 1820-1900 persecution, and Newell presents that part of church history well. I don't care what your religion is, there is no excuse for a governor of a state to order a group's extermination, another governor to placate a mob by setting up the group's leaders for murder, and two presidents to say, "That's not my bag, baby."

There was nothing in the book that was untrue, but there were some things that I felt were presented before they'd been set up, leading a non-member reader to say to himself, "That seems crazy of them." If you gave this to your friend to read, you would have some strange questions to answer. Specifically, Newell goes through things chronologically, so the book begins with many things about pre-mortal existence that we only know through modern revelation before the concept of modern revelation is dealt with. This might lead the reader to think, "Mormons believe a lot of crazy crap about creation."

I would say the average member would benefit from reading this book. The member who has done a lot of outside reading probably wouldn't find anything new, but would benefit from knowing the book's contents before sharing it with a friend. A non-member would be adequately served by this book, if he had a member to refer to who could bear testimony of the parts that might seem crazy without proper introduction.

Rating: 5.5 out of 7 giant inflatable monkeys.

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