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The Rise of Mormonism Hardcover – 11 Nov 2005

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a well-written thought-provoking compilation covering nearly three decades of scholarship Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion It's an excellent summary and a must-read... The Rise of Mormonism is a thoughtful and insightful look at the Church. -- Jeffrey Needle Irreantum Rodney Stark is one of America's pre-eminent sociologists of religions. -- Gerald M. Mcdermott Books and Culture An important voice in the sociological study of religion. -- Kathleen Flake The Journal of Religion I recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the social scientific study of Mormonism. -- Henri Gooren Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion

About the Author

Rodney Stark is University Professor of the Social Sciences at Baylor University. He is the author of more than twenty books, including For the Glory of God and Exploring the Religious Life.Reid L. Neilson is the author and editor of several books on Mormonism. He is currently a doctoral candidate in religious studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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56 of 61 people found the following review helpful
The Birth of a New World Religion? 29 Oct. 2005
By George R Dekle - Published on
Format: Hardcover
In 1984 Rodney Stark predicted that by 2080 the Mormon faith would have no fewer than 64,000,000 adherents and possibly as many as 260,000,000. He was taken to task by many, but so far, over the past twenty years, the Mormons have outstripped his most optimistic predictions. How do they do it? Can they continue to do it? Stark offers some explanations.

He begins by positing that Joseph Smith was neither a liar nor a lunatic, but a man who genuinely believed that he had been given divine revelation. In the chapter "Joseph Smith among the Revelators" Stark compares Smith to Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed, and finds a common pattern. All four belonged to close-knit, very supportive families from whom they got their first converts. From that beginning, Stark finds other striking similarities. Stark flatly rejects the "Liar or Lunatic" explanation for religious revelation, arguing that the four religious revelators (Moses, Jesus, Mohammed, and Smith) all honestly believed they had been the recipients of divine revelation. He further goes on to argue that the reality of those revelations cannot be disproven by science, and that it is not irrational to believe that any one of them (or all of them) actually received divine revelations.

One Revelator that Stark gave scant attention was Saul of Tarsus aka Paul the Apostle. No one can deny Paul's profound influence on the growth of Christianity, and no one can deny his place among "religious revelators". It is difficult, however, to fit him into Stark's pattern. The best arguments by example and analogy take into account the counter-examples and disanalogies. Stark can be forgiven, however. Although he wrote the chapters of this book, he didn't "write" the book. Somone else "wrote" the book by assembling articles Stark had written over the course of many years.

Stark seeks to discern the general from a study of the particular. By studying the Mormons' success, he discerns a set of principles for religious growth which he argues can be applied to any religion. He finds the current secularism to be, not the deathknell for all religion, but a cultural ferment from which new religions can grow. Referencing his earlier "The Rise of Christianity", he finds parallels between the secularized society of ancient Rome (which gave birth to the meteoric rise of Christianity) and our own modern secularized society.

The book is a challenging, stimulating read on many levels, and addresses more issues than can be covered in a brief review. Any denomination or religous body wishing to grow could learn from the principles Stark develops. Anyone thinking that organized religion is on the brink of collapse might have to rethink that proposition after reading this book.
21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
nice analysis of the rise of mormonism 24 Oct. 2006
By R. M. Williams - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I like R.Stark, i've read several of his books, they are all very good and extremely insightful. I have a long term interest in Mormonism and when i saw his name on this book i grabbed it off the shelves. He is an excellent writer and a careful and somewhat iconoclastic thinker. The book comes out of a debate that he sparked with a paper on the growth curve of Mormonism. It is a collection of essays, more than a "written from scratch, the beginning to the end" book, and shows some of the weaknesses of being a compilation, but it is not a serious failing.

There are a few take home ideas:

conversion is a social capital event, tied closely to family and social groups.

Mormonism is growing rapidly and there are good reasons for it.

Mormonism is recent enough to have good history to study about it's rise and theology.

People are rational and calculating in their religious thinking, you just have to find the right equations.

Just read the introduction if you are looking to assess reading it. It is sympathetic to Mormons as a social and cultural phenomena, it is generally interested in religion from a secular and scientific viewpoint. It is an insightful and interesting book,was well worth the time to read and think about. It again confirms my idea that i ought to read by authors, just working through their body of work to deeply understand what they are doing. Stark is certainly worth such a concentrated effort.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
The Rise of Mormonism 5 Aug. 2009
By Richard Nabozny - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The Rise of Mormonism is a sociological perspective of the success of the LDS Church, based on research done by Sociologist Rodney Stark and compiled by Reid L. Nelson. The book is well written and easy to understand for those with and without a background in sociology. The chapters are well organized and focus on a particular aspect of Stark's studies of Mormonism, including, but not limited to, LDS growth, revelation, strictness, social networks, and sacrifice. Stark identifies the factors that have lead to the LDS Church's growth and why it continues to be a popular alternitive to traditional Christianity. He analyzes topics that Sociologists are usually uncomfortable exploring and draws conclusions that are soundly based in research. While this book is focused on Mormonism, the topics discussed are vital and applicable for understanding other aspects of the sociology of religion, including the study of other faiths. Because Stark has been able to draw so much out of the study of Mormonism and apply it in other areas of Religious Studies, it has an overall favorable tone towards the LDS Church, written with a degree of awe and respect.
Interesting theory and introduction 24 May 2012
By Will Jerom - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This is a good book, though the title may be slightly misleading as it uses Mormonism as an example to demonstrate (very interesting) theories about religion, and religious conversion. Refreshingly, the author does not assert that religious founders had to be crazy, but could be rational actors. He also believes modernization does not necessarily mean secularization or the demise of religion. About 70-80% of the book deals with an analysis of Mormonism and its rapid growth in recent decades. The book is a collection of essays on the theme of Mormonism's rapid growth, with the theoretical expectation that Mormonism will be a major world religion someday soon. While not exactly an introduction to Mormonism, it will discuss some of the basics (e.g. Joseph Smith, Book of Mormon) of the religion. Those looking for a more straightforward introduction to Mormonism might be advised to look elsewhere (Richard Bushman, A Very Short Introduction to Mormonism). Those already familiar with the religion and looking for angle of theoretical study will profit most here.
Stark on Mormonism 27 Sept. 2012
By William H. Scarle Jr. - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Stark is at his best in giving an accurate picture of the rise of the Mormon religion. He does not tell us much about the teachings of this new belief system. What he does is explain its phenominal growth, and he does this well.
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