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Book review: 'Quest' delves into question of a Mormon president

By Branden Hurst

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, March 3 2012 5:00 a.m. MST

"THE MORMON QUEST FOR THE PRESIDENCY: From Joseph Smith to Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman," by Newell G. Bringhurst and Craig L. Foster, John Whitmer Books, $24.95, 398 pages (nf)

While it is quite clear from the many sources used throughout the book that Newell G. Bringhurst and Craig L. Foster have done extensive research in the field of politics, "The Mormon Quest for the Presidency" falls short on its main goal of answering what the authors dub "The Mormon Question" — "Is America ready for a Mormon president?"

The book chronicles the campaigns of 11 individuals with ties to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; however, for nearly half of them those ties are fairly thin.

One of the candidates, Mo Udall, left the church at the age of 14. Other politicians who don't seem to contribute to the book's focal point include Parley P. Christensen, who was never baptized into the church; Sonia Johnson, who was excommunicated five years prior to running, and Eldridge Cleaver, who did not become a convert until 15 years after his campaign. The only reason these individuals may even have been considered would be because of people's perceptions of their involvement in the LDS Church.

The book does have several bright spots. It examines people who have credible connections to the LDS Church such as Orrin Hatch, Mitt Romney and even the church's founder, Joseph Smith. It also includes Joseph Smith's entire campaign banner, "General Smith's Views of the Powers and Policies of the Government," as one of its appendixes.

It is also arranged in a very easy-to-reference manner with sections for each century and a chapter dedicated to each candidate's campaign. The authors also took great care to present a credible, historic approach to all 11 campaigns and ended each chapter with their thoughts on how the campaigns impacted Americans' perception of the LDS Church and its role in politics.

Ultimately, though, if the reader were to omit the sourcing information, appendixes and the candidates who seem to have a distant link to the church, this 398-page book would be reduced to not much more than a pamphlet that doesn't really delve very deep into answering "The Mormon Question."

Bringhurst, a cultural Mormon and a liberal Democrat, stands in stark contrast to Foster, an active Latter-day Saint and a conservative Republican. Their political views aside, both Bringhurst and Foster are trained historians who have sought to treat the subjects of this book in a scholarly, objective manner.

Branden Hurst is a proud father of four who grew up outside of Utah - and the LDS faith. He has worked in the IT industry for over 14 years, but in his free time enjoys sharing in wholesome activities with his family and working on genealogy.

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