American Zion: A New History of Mormonism

Liveright: Norton. Jan. 2024. 512p. ISBN 9781631498657. $35. REL
Synthesizing the massive archive of primary and secondary sources on Mormonism is no small task. Park (history, Sam Houston State Univ.; Kingdom of Nauvoo) not only admirably achieves his goal by offering new and different interpretations, but he also gives readers fresh insights into well-worn territory by utilizing his gifted storyteller’s pen. The overarching narrative of the book follows the Church of Latter-day Saints in its American context, from pre-establishment in the 18th century to the present day. Internal and external conflicts are covered. The book documents the contributions of LDS women, and their voices are present in every era, although sometimes muffled. Still, Park makes sure they are heard. Questions about racism in the LDS Church are addressed, and Park acknowledges that sometimes the institution was complicit. Contemporary issues of sexuality and polygamy are also given their due. Park has a knack for highlighting the right historical figures, known and unknown, to make serious points about the bigger picture of Latter-day Saint history.
VERDICT A book about Mormonism that will stand the test of time. General readers should be riveted by a story well told; scholars will be engaged by arguments worth debating.
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