Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Do We Really Want a Mormon President?? / Brent Bateman

Reviewed by: BigAl

Genre: Non-Fiction/Politics/Religion

Approximate word count: 70-75,000 words

Kindle  US: YES  UK: YES  Nook: NO  Smashwords: NO  Paper: YES
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Although the author has written a few other books, for our purposes his qualifications are covered in the description and appraisal sections.

“The year is 2012, and we Americans are once again faced with a choice of Presidential leadership.

Nationally and globally, we are at a threshold . . . and we face an ever-threatening dilemma . . . politically, economically, and environmentally. The realities of our dramatically changing world demand that we act decisively and with courage.

The role of religion and ideology is unquestionably a key factor in both the cause and the resolution of our dilemma. We have a choice. We can take rational action, with responsibility, maturity, wisdom, and courage . . . or we can continue to pay blind homage to doctrines and dogmas that are irrelevant to our current issues, and which do not offer corrective insight or guidance.

With this upcoming election the resolution of our dilemma should be a major priority. The stakes are high. On one hand we have a candidate who can hopefully use a second term to put common sense and rational action to play.

On the other we have a candidate who is a devout member of a religion which fosters a life-style and system of belief that is much more a part of the problem than the solution, and, in particular, champions prophesies that threaten both our political system and our very survival.

The author uses his knowledge and experience from growing up in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to warn us that we do not want a Mormon President.”


By way of disclaimer, I have much the same background as the author. I was raised in a Mormon family, began asking questions and getting answers that didn’t make sense in my teens, and stopped practicing the religion in early adulthood. Although I’m not a believer, I also take exception when those who object to Mormon beliefs use half-truths and outright lies to make their case, a common occurrence. The author put it best:

It can at times be difficult to determine the authenticity and credibility of critical arguments directed against Mormon history and teachings because the critics are often just as zealous and biased as the LDS believer, and a good deal of unethical journalism is evident on both sides.

Last, to complete the disclaimer, odds of my voting for any of the Republican candidates who were vying for the 2012 nomination were slim. I’d already thought about one of the major points Bateman raises in Do We Really … as an issue, which was a concern for multiple candidates, not just the “presumptive nominee.”

The issue mentioned  isn’t just a concern with Mormon candidates. I’d had this same concern with Ronald Reagan and would with any candidate whose religious beliefs were that the earth is in its last days, and believe we’re on the verge of The Rapture, apocalypse, or whatever their religion calls it. If they are true believers and a crisis happens I feel like they’ll be much less inclined to hold back on pushing the button to start a nuclear war or the equivalent, because they believe it is going to happen anyway. They’re only fulfilling the prophecy.

Bateman covers a lot of ground. Some of this might not seem necessary to make his ultimate point, that Mitt Romney (or any other Mormon) as President of the United States has the potential (I would say likelihood) of being extremely detrimental to the US and the world. However, to truly understand the Mormon mindset and how that is likely to be reflected in a Romney presidency, as well as to make the case that Romney is a true believer, not just someone going through the motions for appearance’s sake, requires an understanding of the history Bateman outlines.

Given the nature of the subjects covered, many readers may find this a tough read. An exception would be for readers who are interested in studying religion or history. However, two sections were actually entertaining. One is a section that relates an experience the author had while working on a ship in the Philippines. The other is the first chapter, which is a fictionalized story, used to set the stage for the rest of the book. That chapter does a good job of laying out the issues and should convince the reader as to why finishing the less entertaining parts is worthwhile.

Although the book has a very specific goal and several points to be made, Bateman doesn’t paint an unrealistic picture. There are areas discussed where the Mormon religion has some positives. He doesn’t hesitate to admit that, even though doing so doesn’t help bolster his case. The majority of his personal experience, what he was taught, and the attitudes he observed, agree with my own. The few instances where our experiences were different, his observations were still credible to me. They didn’t seem unreasonable or unlikely. However, Bateman doesn’t make his case based purely on experience. He provides plenty of facts that are easily verifiable. In the few instances where something was presented as fact that I wasn’t aware of that seemed questionable, I was easily able to find other supporing sources.

The few negatives I found were the inherent dryness of some of the subject matter and some minor issues with historical quotes. I didn’t question the accuracy of what was being quoted (all too many of them were things I’d read or heard years before), but in some instances they are attributed to a person and title of “prophet,” when the person being quoted didn’t hold that position at the time they said it. (This might sound like it is insignificant, but to a Mormon, it wouldn’t be, because of the difference in how the words of the prophet are viewed in relation to everyone else.) I also thought there were some instances of using too many quotes, overkill, to demonstrate the official Mormon position on some subjects.

I’m concerned that in many ways this book will “be preaching to the choir.” It will be read by voters who weren’t going to vote for Romney anyway. It really needs to be read by anyone who is on the fence or thinks Romney is their candidate. If you’ve chosen Romney due to a feeling that he is the lesser of the two evils, after reading Do We Really Want a Mormon President, you might start looking for a third evil to mark on your ballot.

Format/Typo Issues:

A small number of typos and copy editing errors.

Rating: **** Four stars


Walter Knight said...

How silly.

If I am somewhere to the right of the Statue of Liberty, I guess Big Al is somewhere to the left of Hawaii.

Can there not be middle ground? Maybe somewhere in Kansas or Nebraska? Can't we all just get along. Can't we all just learn to swim?

The LDS is just another religion. If we can have a Jewish Mayor of Dublin, surely we can have a Mormon President. Whether that President should be Romney is a whole other issue.

My personal experience with Mormons is that they are hard working solid people I'm proud to have as neighbors, that want only the best for their kids, like everyone else.

If you feel dumping on Mormons is fashionalbe for election year expediancy, your attitude is outdated and embarassing. I am shocked and appalled.

Fortunately this book's Amazon Kindle sales ranking of 619,568 indicates most readers can recognize hateful partisan rhetoric, and don't treat it seriously.

Penumbra Publishing said...

Big Al, thanks for a thoughtful and balanced critique giving an honest analysis of this work.

I am always open to new information, and applaud anyone who tries to shed realistic light on a complex situation.

I am sure John F. Kennedy, being of the Catholic persuasion, was subjected to the same type of scrutiny while running for President.

We can all see the effects of men in power with agendas, so it behooves us to carefully examine our choices. The sad fact is, electing the President is not up to the people of the United States. It is done by Electoral College representatives. So the whole issue may be moot.

Pat Morrison, Penumbra Publishing

BooksAndPals said...

I knew I'd hear from you on this one, Walter. And, as always, thanks for your comments. I agree with about half of them. :)

I haven't checked the ranking, but will take your word that it isn't flying off the shelves. This isn't the kind of book that typically would. Most people would be inclined to not take it serious and write it off as being extremist or just the latest far wing conspiracy theory. I'll come back to this in a bit.

I'm definitely somewhere left of the Mississippi. Nowhere near Hawaii. Maybe Colorado. It borders both Kansas and Nebraska. Your point, that what the collective "we" need is something closer to the middle than any candidate or party appear to be giving us is valid. I wish I knew how to make that happen.

I'd be willing to wager I've had much more experience with Mormons as neighbors (along with co-workers, bosses, friends, etc). And in that situation I agree with you completely. They are generally hardworking good people who want the best for their family and community. To that I would add family members, parents, and other sundry relatives, at least until the subject of religion enters the picture.

As Pat mentioned, JFK also came under a lot of scrutiny because we had not had a Catholic president until then. There were concerns that he'd be taking order from the pope, if I remember what I've read correctly. As far as I know, that wasn't a problem. Whether it was a valid concern, I have no idea.

However, your contention that The LDS church is "just another religion," shows that you don't understand the LDS religion as someone who has seen it from the inside. I do, as does the author of this book. If this had been a hatchet job, and there are plenty of books on Mormonism out there that are, I'd have not hesitated in saying so. I have friends and family members who are staunch Mormons who follow this blog. If they question me about this review I have to be prepared to look them in the eye and say that, yes, what the author said was not only valid, but that I believe his conclusions are correct.

While a reader unfamiliar with the Mormon church, the beliefs of its members, and its history might read this book and think it's full of exaggeration, as someone who has lived it, I can say that it is not. I'm not sure how something can be both fashionable, and outdated, but I don't see how this is either. Unless speaking the truth is out of fashion or no longer relevant.

Walter Knight said...

I thought this one would go viral for sure.

BooksAndPals said...

That's a scary thought.