Monday, March 3, 2014

"Mormonism 101" by Bill Mckeever and Eric Johnson: A Review

Men with keen intelligence got together . . . [at] Nicea and created a God. They did not pray for wisdom or revelation. They claimed no revelation from the Lord. They made it just about like a political party would do, and out of their own mortal minds created a God which is still worshiped by the great majority of Christians.
-President Spence W. Kimball, Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 426
If the above quote from Mormonism's twelfth president is correct, then the God proclaimed by the Mormon Church is not the same God who is worshiped by millions of Christians today. (23)*

While thousands of miles away from our home town in a foreign land discipling young believers and preaching every opportunity I had, a number of North Carolinian Latter-Day Saints wanted to tell me about Jesus. It is simply amazing the growth that the LDS church continues to experience in spite of some of the strange and simply unbelievable and unbiblical doctrines they proclaim. These young men were on there 2 year mission and worked overtime not convincing me that Joseph Smith died "as a lamb to a slaughter" or that the true church is located in Salt Lake City. Instead they continued to preach, "we're Christians too you know." I didn't buy it then and after reading Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson's book Mormonism 101: Examining the Religion of Latter-Day Saints my convictions remain just as strong.

This is not the first book I've read on Mormonism (some of which you can find links to at the bottom of this review), but it is the first that seeks to purely examine and compare Mormon doctrine to orthodox Christianity. There are six sections that cover theology proper, anthropology, bibliology, soteriology, ordinances, and the LDS Concept of Revelation. Thus what the reader receives is a helpful overview of LDS theology and practical beliefs.

Regarding God, the authors show that LDS deny the eternality of God, His immutability, aseity, transcendence, omnipotence, omnipresence, and affirm that we are a god in embryo (a direct quote from one LDS-produced magazine). This, clearly, is not the God of Scripture.

Regarding Jesus, the LDS church teaches that Jesus became a God before His incarnation. Jesus, like the Father, is not eternal and the LDS Church is by no means trinitarian. Regarding His birth, they teach that the Father had actual sexual relations with Mary. Furthermore, they teach that Jesus achieved perfection only after His resurrection, that Lucifer and Jesus were brothers, and that Jesus is but one of several Saviors. He is the Savior of earth, yes, but earth is not the only inhabited planet. In addition to all of this, the LDS church has taught that Jesus was a polygamist father. Again, this is not what Scripture teaches.

Regarding the Fall, the LDS church teaches that the first sin was actually a good thing. It is, as the authors put it, a fall upward, not downward. It is in this section on anthropology and hamartiology that the authors tackle the strange belief that John the Apostle as well as three Nephites have yet to die. For more on this, I recommend a post I did earlier on this strange belief. Beyond the unlikeliness of this being true, the authors argue how this belief contradicts Mormon doctrine of apostasy. If the church ceased to exist between the end of the first century and the birth of Joseph Smith, how do they explain these four individuals?

Regarding Scripture the authors argue that Mormon leaders have taught that the Bible's authority has been diluted over the years. They then tell the story of how the Book of Mormon was "discovered" and "translated" and how the Pearl of Great Price and the Doctrines and Covenants became canonized. The story behind each of these books is sketchy and bear witness as to why they should be rejected. For example, many of the official witnesses to the discovery and translation of the Book of Mormon were men with dubious backgrounds. One of them, for example, was excommunicated from the Mormon Church after he accused Smith of adultery, lying, and teaching false doctrines. Many of the other witnesses have similar stories. The authors write:
Regarding their testimony to the Book of Mormon, each of these three "witnesses" had questionable qualifications since, as Joseph Smith said, they all fell into error. They were gullible and their credibility was stained with cases of counterfeiting, dowsing, false prophecies, money digging, and lying. Even their testimony claiming to have "seen the plates" is suspicious. For instance, John Gilbert, who assisted E. B. Grandin in printing the Book of Mormon personally asked Martin Harris if he had actually seen the plates with his "naked eyes." Gilbert remembered:
Martin was in the office when I finished setting up the testimony of the three witnesses . . . I said to him, "Martin, did you see those plates with your naked eyes?" Martin looked down for an instant, raised his eyes up, and said, "No, I saw them with a spiritual eye."
Then there is the many historical problems with the Book of Mormon and the other writings of Joseph Smith. The authors write in summary the LDS Church has no tangible evidence to support the claims of the Book of Mormon.

Regarding soteriology, Mormons emphasize the Garden of Gethsemane experience over that of the cross. The authors write: According to Mormon teaching, then, while the blood shed on Calvary's cross completed the atonement, the Garden of Gethsemane is the pace where the efficacious atonement took place. This is, they go on to argue, but one of several reasons why crosses cannot be found on LDS buildings. Certainly in the mind of the Latter-Day Saint, the significance of the cross is not nearly as important as it is to the evangelical Christian. In addition, the LDS Church teaches works righteousness and deny original sin suggesting that humanity is inherently good. The following quote from former President Spencer Kimball, as cited by the authors, sums it up best:
One of the most fallacious doctrines originated by Satan and propounded by man is that man is saved alone by the grace of God; that belief in Jesus Christ alone is all that is needed for salvation.
The authors then go on to examine the Mormon doctrines of communion and baptism, LDS leadership, the Temple, the undergarments, baptism for the dead, polygamy, charges of racism, and the dubious character of Joseph Smith. Smith was anything but a saint and Mormons are being told a lie about him.

Overall, this was a helpful overview and introduction not just to LDS doctrine but to why it should be rejected. I believe that as more of the truth comes out, the LDS Church will crumble. It has caused great damage to the gospel of Christ and has led many astray. In short, the Church of Jesus Christ of LDS cannot stand up to scrutiny to both secular history and Christian orthodoxy.

* I read this book on Kindle and so page numbers will either be approximate or unavailable.

For more:
There is No Evidence Supporting the Claims of the Book of Mormon
Is John the Apostle Alive and Well: Investigating Mormon Doctrine
"The Mormonizing of America" by Stephen Mansfield: A Review
The Mormon Faith of Mitt Romney: A Review
Joseph Smith's Last Minutes: The True Story
The Mormon Moment: SBTS Panel Discussion on Voting LDS in 2012
Here We Go: NBC Doing an Hour Long Special on Mormonism Tonight
On God, Religion, Politics, and Mormonism: Robert Jeffress on Bill Mahar
Here We Go Again: Mormonism and Presidential Politics

An Important Read: Is Mormonism "Having a Moment?"An Important Read: Jeffress on Faith, Politics, & Secularism
Glenn Beck on Mormonism: Misinformation Abounds    
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