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.