The Ostlings' monumental investigation into Mormonism, now available in paperback, remains the most accessible, comprehensive introduction to the LDS religion yet written. They provide the most accurate portrait ever attempted of the Church's financial wealth, gleaned from tithing and investments (all of these statistics are educated guesses, however, since the LDS Church has not released its tax information since the 1950s). But beyond the numbers, the Ostlings are keen storytellers; whether they are detailing the Joseph Smith story or describing the contemporary Church's emphases on family unity and clean living, they accentuate the people within the institution. Moreover, they place a premium on the distinctiveness of Mormon theology and beliefs, which other authors (such as Robert Gottlieb and Peter Wiley in "America's Saints") have virtually ignored.
Although the Ostlings generally rise above the polemics that have often characterized books on Mormonism--exposés on the one hand, and faith-promoting LDS literature on the other--they do at times overemphasize the "power" component of the book's subtitle, highlighting cloak-and-dagger operations and hierarchically-engineered excommunications. (The cover, which shows the gated, imposing Salt Lake City temple, adds visual enhancement to the implicit accusations of secrecy and intrigue.) The book is a perfect introduction for the religion student or the general reader.