Presidential candidate Mitt Romney says he's a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons). He belongs to the largest faction of the church which is based on Salt Lake City, Utah.
So what is Mormonism? To gain a quick and, I think, an unbiased history of that religion, it's roots and beliefs, read the new book about the faith's primary book. I'm referring to The Book of Mormon: A Biography by Paul C. Gutjahr, published this year (2012) by the Princeton University Press (Princeton and Oxford).
The actual The Book of Mormon was written in America, according to Gutjahr, "...by a 24-year-old, semi-literate migrant farmer...scholars agree that Joseph Smith, Jr. (the author) had little formal education, although his father was a schoolteacher for a time." Smith's book was first published in March of 1830 as The Book of Morman: An Account Written by the Hand of Mormon Upon Plates Taken from the Plates of Nephi.
According to Smith's account, The Book of Mormon was originally written in an otherwise unknown language or characters referred to as "reformed Egyptian." The text was engraved on golden plates. Smith claimed that the last prophet to contribute to the book, a man named Moroni, buried it in a hill in present-day New York and then returned to earth in 1827 as an angel, revealing the location of the book to Smith and instructing him to translate and disseminate it as evidence of the restoration of Christ's true church in the latter days (see Wikipedia article).
Gutjahr's biography of a holy book of the Mormon religion is not a large volume, physically. However, it's 255 pages are tightly written and easy-to-read and, I submit, devoid of opinion, a predominant feature of many books on religion.
The author includes an explanation of what I consider the three "factions" of Mormonism: the largest body, today more than 14-million strong, is based in the well-known Temple Square in Salt Lake City; the "reformed" or "reorganized" (RLDS) group that broke away from the main body and today is called The Community of Christ and his group numbers about 250,000 members, based in Independence, Missouri, close to Kansas City; and there's a third faction, a much smaller group that is apparently quite unorganized, residing in rural areas of Utah and surrounding states. This is the group we hear about in the media, mostly in stories regarding "plural marriages," i.e., polygamy. Neither the Salt Lake City-based Mormons nor the the "reorganized" Community of Christ condone polygamy and these bodies condemned it decades ago.
I found The Book of Mormon: A Biography a fascinating and informative read. You'll learn a lot about the religion of one of our current Presidential candidates.
I do want to be very clear that I believe any person's religion (or non-religious beliefs), whether it be Romney's Mormonism, President Obama's protestant Christianity, or John F. Kennedy's Catholicism have no affect on my voting decision and, I believe, should not influence any American's decision on who to vote for, for any public office. The U. S. Constitution does not require or bar a religious belief or non-belief in order to be a candidate for President of the United States.
If you'd like to read Gutjahr's The Book of Mormon: A Biography, you can find out more about the it and order the book in hard-cover or for your Kindle through the Amazon link below: