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One Nation Under Gods: A History of the Mormon Church by Richard Abanes


Rating: (Recommended)


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Saints Revealed

I first became aware of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) as a teenager in the mid-1960s when I visited (often) the Mormon Pavilion at the New York World’s Fair. I even conned one of the earnest docents out of a free copy of the Book of Mormon, promising that I would read it. I fulfilled the promise, read it, and thought it was bogus. In the intervening years, I haven’t read much about the Mormon Church, but I’ve certainly noticed increases in their membership and visibility. Over the years, I’ve come to know many Mormons, and universally have found them to be a pleasure to spend time with: friendly, warm and open. I don’t expect that any of my Mormon acquaintances will be reading Richard Abanes new book, One Nation Under Gods: A History of the Mormon Church. It most likely appears on their Index of Forbidden Books.

Abanes presents almost 600 pages of history, including helpful appendices. Readers learn of the start of the church in New York State by Joseph Smith, and the journey West, to Ohio, Illinois, Missouri and finally Utah. Abanes tackles divine revelation to the Mormon prophets, plural marriage, lack of cooperation with government authorities, racism, and secrecy. If you’ve wondered whether or not Mormonism is Christian, Abanes answers clearly that it is not. The title refers to the expectation that faithful Mormons will become gods.

Through Abanes’ presentation of church documents, changed over time, a story becomes clear that the LDS church has been and continues to be, willing to change their theology, prophecy and version of revelation to fit better into different cultures and societies. I came away from the book with the sense that lying is a Mormon virtue. The foundation of this religion appears to be a scam, involving scrolls that could never have ended up buried in upstate New York. Here’s an excerpt from the chapter “Unholy Matrimony” (p. 286-7):

“Countless souls, say LDS leaders, have already attained godhead, Orson Pratt theorized: ‘If we should take a million of worlds like this and number their particles, we should find that there are more Gods than there are particles of matter in those worlds.’ Brigham Young, much less willing to calculate the number of gods, admitted: ‘How many Gods there are, I do not know. But there never was a time when there were not Gods.’ These teachings inspired the popular Mormon couplet: ‘As man is, God once was; as God is, man may become.’
Such exaltation, however, is available only in the LDS church because only in Mormonism can a person be sealed – i.e., married – for time (here on earth) and for eternity (in the afterlife). Sealing for eternity is the most crucial kind of marriage to Latter-day Saints because according to the Mormon gospel, a man cannot become a god without a wife (or wives) to bear him spirit children in the afterlife. Each Mormon make, just like heavenly Father, needs spiritual offspring because only through receiving their worship and obedience can he be sustained as a god and acquire the power necessary to build upo a celestial kingdom. More spirit children means more power, which in turn pushes a Mormon male further up the hierarchical ladder of gods in our universe. Even the mighty Elohim is a god ‘simply because all of these intelligences honor and sustain Him as such.’”

Abanes tells readers that the Mormon interest in genealogy is to seal ancestors, or anyone, to help them achieve godhood in the afterlife. Some overly exuberant Mormons decided to seal Hitler and Eva Braun. To maintain a unified front, the LDS church routinely purges members to are critical, even if their criticism is factual. Readers of One Nation Under Gods conclude that the LDS church is a cult that presents a smiley face to the world, but maintains beliefs and practices that are deeply disturbing. If after reading this book, you worry about what’s happening in Utah and elsewhere, Abanes will probably feel he has done his job in bring light to the shadows of a dark religion.

Steve Hopkins, January 7, 2003


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The recommendation rating for this book appeared in the February 2003 issue of Executive Times

URL for this review: Nation Under Gods.htm


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