Will Mormonism be the next world faith, one that will rival
Catholicism, Islam, and other major religions in terms of numbers
and global appeal? This was the question Rodney Stark addressed in
his much-discussed and much-debated article, "The Rise of a New
World Faith" (1984), one of several essays on Mormonism included in
this new collection. Examining the religion's growing appeal,
Rodney Stark concluded that Mormons could number 267 million
members by 2080. In what would become known as "the Stark
argument," Stark suggested that the Mormon Church offered
contemporary sociologists and historians of religion an opportunity
to observe a rare event: the birth of a new world religion.
In the years following that article, Stark has become one of the
foremost scholars of Mormonism and the sociology of religion. This
new work, the first to collect his influential writings on the
Mormon Church, includes previously published essays, revised and
rewritten for this volume. His work sheds light on both the growth
of Mormonism and on how and why certain religions continue to grow
while others fade away.
Stark examines the reasons behind the spread of Mormonism,
exploring such factors as cultural continuity with the faiths from
which it seeks converts, a volunteer missionary force, and birth
rates. He explains why a demanding faith like Mormonism has such
broad appeal in today's world and considers the importance of
social networks in finding new converts. Stark's work also presents
groundbreaking perspectives on larger issues in the study of
religion, including the nature of revelation and the reasons for
religious growth in an age of modernization and secularization.
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