Monday, February 6, 2017

"Fast Facts on Mormonism" by Ankerberg & Weldon: A Review

For the first time ever, the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) is now the fifth-largest religious faith in America. It will shortly replace the Church of God as the fourth largest religious body in America. it has a global Church membership of 12 million people in 160 nations. indeed, there are now more Mormons than Evangelical Lutherans, Presbyterians, or Episcopalians. According to the Deseret News Church Almanac, of its nearly 300,000 yearly converts, up to 80 percent are drawn from protestant backgrounds, meaning that millions of people have abandoned their Christian heritage in favor of Mormonism. (9)

The above quote was written in 2003 and one can only assume that its prediction regarding the continued growth of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has come true. The spread of LDS presents a unique problem for Protestant Christianity. Though LDS has traditionally presented itself as antithetical to orthodoxy Christianity proclaiming that the Church has abandoned the true gospel while Joseph Smith and his followers recovered the true gospel following the First Visit, the LDS church now promotes the opposite. So while their theology is clearly heterodox, they promote themselves as more of a denomination within Christianity.

As such, it is important for Christians to understand their LDS neighbors and what they actually believe. There is an abundance of materials. Much of the references available are beneficial while much of it is misleading (on both sides). Recently I picked up at our local library the book Fast Facts on Mormonism by John Ankerberg and John Weldon.

The motivation behind the authors is clear throughout the book. They do not see themselves as unbias researchers or journalists seeking to present both sides. Rather, they seek to warn orthodox believers of the dangerous doctrines and history within LDS itself. Thus, as typical with books like this, they emphasize some of the more troubled aspects of Joseph Smith, the history of the Mormon church, and some of their doctrines. Yet compared to other, similar works, Ankerberg and Weldon do not go to the extreme that others in this category do.

One point that the authors make worth emphasizing here regards the influence of the Book of Mormon and the prominent doctrines of LDS itself. It is striking that a number of the more notable doctrines and practices of the LDS community are never promoted in the Book of Mormon or barely addressed. The list of doctrines include the plurality of gods, polygamy, baptism for the dead, the role of Joseph Smith, etc.

Another crucial point the authors make regard contradictions within the LDS and its history. Not only has the church change some of its doctrinal stances (even beyond their view on African-Americans in the priesthood) but on a host of issues. One should not forget in this regard that Joseph Smith himself made a number of "edits" to the Book of Mormon after it was first published some of them were significant.

Finally, the authors look at some of the false prophecies of Joseph Smith. The LDS movement was conceived in New York not far from the Burned Out District which produced a number of eschatological cults (like Millerism). Yet, few rarely addressed the failed prophecies of Joseph Smith. The authors quote the founder of the LDS church directly and prove he was no true prophet. That alone should disqualify him and his movement. Yet history has shown that failed prophecies do not end religious movements. Just ask the Jehovah Witnesses.

In the end, the authors provide a helpful book but largely a very biased book. They make important points but do fail to offer a fair take on the movement. If we are to reach our LDS neighbors, we need to at least understand them and works like this help, but can, in some ways, hurt by presenting only one side of the story.
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