“The Mormons”: a review
A few years back, while walking through a bookstore, this book caught my eye. I stopped right in the middle of the aisle to take a look. The images are both stunning and memorable. So I was more than thrilled when I was invited to review The Mormons by Mark Hedengren.
The scope of this photo book is what first impressed me. Hedengren, who holds a MFA from Glasgow’s School of Art, traveled to five different continents to photograph church members as far away as Nicaragua, Sweden, Eygpt, Scotland, and Cambodia.
It is hard to convey the many facets and nuances of a religion through newspaper articles, presidential candidates, 30-second TV spots, or, heaven forbid, a Broadway musical. While I appreciate the more thoughtful coverage the Mormon church has received in recent years, our faith (and its people) can still come off sounding two-dimensional.
The Mormons seeks to add yet another dimension, the brushstrokes of everyday living, by featuring the actual people who make up the church body.
The black & white photos are at times thoughtful, beautiful, and even a little whimsical. I love that cover photo of a man vacuuming the church building. It says so much about the level at which church members are involved in the faith. Our meetinghouses are a place where we worship Christ. He is central to all we do. Our meetinghouses are also places where we work–every person has an assignment, or three, and no one gets paid for it. There is no formal training.
I also appreciate the way the book is divided. I think I’ve read every major news article about our church since 2002. (In fact, it was my job to collect them during the 2002 Winter Olympics.) As far as I know, no coverage of the church has ever addressed what we call the threefold mission: proclaim the gospel, perfect the saints, and redeem the dead. “The Mormons” follows missionaries all over the world, as well as individuals who have converted to the faith. It goes on to present pictures of members in their every day worship, visiting the sick and the elderly, attending church, repairing clothes for orphans (as seen in the photo above), and teaching. The final section addresses family history and work done in the temple on behalf of deceased ancestors.
As a words person myself, I liked the interviews with church members in various stages of life, from a Swedish man who was introduced to the church because he wanted to go to Disneyland (love!) to a Sunday school teacher in Cambodia.
In a year when we’re going to hear the word Mormon more than ever (thank you, Mr. Mitt!), The Mormons is a great addition to anyone of the faith, or trying to understand our faith a little better. I hope it gets the attention it deserves.