With a Mormon presidential candidate, we've been seeing increasing national scrutiny of his religion—mostly of LDS Inc. financial might of the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints, including its $7 billion in annual cash flow from tithing from its faithful.
But Americans want to know more about the LDS faith and the culture it spawned—sorry, but you can't get all your info from Trey Parker and Matt Stone's "The Book of Mormon" musical, even if you can afford a ticket.
To slack the rapidly growing thirst for information about the church of the GOP presidential candidate, The New Yorker's Adam Gopnik examines the roots of Mormonism in a thoughtful article, "I, Nephi." Gopnik compares the influence of Mormon culture on a politician with Roman Catholicism on JFK and Evangelical Protestantism on every other president.
At the core of Gopnik's article is a review of a recent flood of books on Mormonism, including “The Book of Mormon Girl: A Memoir of an American Faith” by mainstream media's go-to Mormon faith-explainer Joanna Brooks.
Gopnik sites J. Spencer Fluhman ("A Peculiar People: Anti-Mormonism and the Making of Religion in Nineteenth Century America"):
Mormonism was the great scandal of American nineteenth-century religion, somewhat as Scientology is today, though Mormons understandably dislike the comparison. Mainstream Protestants couldn’t dismiss Mormonism, couldn’t embrace it, and couldn’t quite understand it, and yet it thrived. For American Protestantism, Mormonism was the other: you defined yourself against those nuts.
New Yorker articles are infamously long and self-absorbed and Gopnik even manages to insert a review of the Book of Mormon:
One expects the tale of Nephi’s emigration to America, for instance, or of Jesus’ visit to Missouri to be at least soberly vivid, like Early American folk art; but the writing is so compulsively Biblical that all the action seems to take place underwater, and you have to thumb back through the pages when you realize that something cool—Israelites travelling in a boat to these shores—has already happened. Smith mimicked the endless, generation-counting longueurs of the Old Testament so skillfully that he rendered the book dead as literature while giving it credibility as a sacred text: a book as boring as this could have been inspired only by the breath of God.