The Mormon Mirage: A Former Member Looks at the Mormon Church Today

Latayne C. Scott Zondervan, Grand Rapids April 21, 2009
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The author and her brother were baptized into the Mormon Church when she was eleven years old, and the family became active members as a result of her father’s conversion to Mormonism. She comments, “Though my parents were Baptist, we did not attend church regularly until my father was converted to Mormonism by missionaries. I gladly received the missionary lessons, and my younger brother and I were baptized into the Mormon Church when I was eleven. My mother, however, never accepted the Joseph Smith story” (pp. 17–18).

Scott was a faithful and committed Mormon. Nevertheless her drift from Mormonism happened rather quickly. After studying at Brigham Young University, she returned to her hometown in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to work. Her mother suggested that she date a non-Mormon, Dan Scott, who eventually became her husband. Their first date was to a service at Dan’s church. As they continued to date over a period of time, openly discussing their religious convictions, they admitted to each other that love was growing between them. However, Scott writes, “One thing we both agreed on: We could not take the chance of becoming more deeply involved with our hearts so near and our souls so far apart” (p. 20). Dan agreed to study The Book of Mormon along with other Latter-day Saints material if she agreed to study the Bible. Eventually Scott settled her struggle with the conflict between Mormon doctrine and Christianity through a series of events that led to her conversion.

In part 1 of her book Scott discusses the story of Joseph Smith’s claims of divine revelations; the origin of The Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, The Pearl of Great Price; conflicts within Mormonism; and the Mormon doctrines of salvation and exaltation. Part 2 discusses issues facing Mormonism such as the influence of the Internet, Mormonism in the news and the public eye, race, gender, and visibility of polygamy and splinter groups, to name a few, and it includes an addendum on how to evangelize Mormons. Scott does an excellent job of critiquing Mormonism, and she does so with a kind and gracious tone. The book is highly documented with references from both primary and secondary Mormon literature, as well as the judicious use of anti-Mormon writings.

Among the discrepancies within Mormonism, Scott discusses differences between the history of Mormonism taught to the followers and the actual facts that can be verified through documents and eyewitnesses. She provides specific examples of inconsistencies and of how the church has responded to those who point them out. “Such a struggle has been mirrored most recently in the life of a Mormon man named Grant H. Palmer. He painstakingly presents an abundance of documentation about the questionable claims of Joseph Smith in his book An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins. Palmer, a three-time director of the LDS Institutes of Religion in California and Utah, and high priest instructor in his own local LDS ward, tried to reconcile all the inconsistencies in Joseph Smith’s story and was disfellowshiped after his book was published” (p. 30).

Mormon doctrine downplays the importance of the Bible while elevating Mormon writings as the ultimate source of truth. The Book of Mormon explicitly makes this point when it states, “The bible is so imperfect that, instead of leading men to God, it actually causes them to stumble and gives Satan power over them” (p. 99, italics hers). Scott gives numerous examples from The Book of Mormon and official Mormon writings that claim that there are errors in Scripture. For example although Deuteronomy 34:5–8 records the death of Moses, Mormonism teaches that Moses never died but was taken into heaven like Elijah (p. 99). Also although John 4:24 affirms that God is Spirit, LDS doctrine asserts that God the Father has a physical body (p. 99).

Scott also explains in her book a couple of Mormonism’s most popular teachings and controversies related to them. For example according to Doctrine and Covenants, section 89, in the “Word of Wisdom,” or health law, the use of wine or strong drink for any purpose other than in the sacrament or for washing one’s body is forbidden. In spite of this, “at one time the largest liquor business in the state of Utah was run by the LDS Church-owned department store, Zion’s Cooperative Mercantile Institution (ZCMI)” (p. 112). The Doctrine and Covenants approves of polygamy. It states, “Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you my servant Joseph, that inasmuch as you have inquired of my hand to know and understand wherein I, the Lord, justified my servants Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as also Moses, David, and Solomon, my servants, as touching the principle and doctrine of their having many wives and concubines” (p. 115). Joseph Smith married many wives and stated that God allows it and He also commanded it (p. 115).

Overall Scott does the Christian community a favor by explaining in detail the theology of Mormonism. Her book is clearly written and the tone is kind and respectful. Also helpful are her suggestions on how to evangelize Mormons. This is a book that will be helpful to all those who wish to seek a greater understanding of this influential cult and who desire to see Mormons come to the truth of the gospel.

—Jason K. Neill with Glenn R. Kreider

July 1, 2011
 

Biblotheca Sacra

This review appeared in the Jul-Sep 2011 vol. 168 no. 3 issue of Biblotheca Sacra, DTS’s quarterly academic journal.

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