Tag Archives: Latter-day Saint

Reviews of “Understanding the Book of Mormon”

My book Understanding the Book of Mormon has been well received by the reading community, as represented by people who use the Goodreads site.  Reviews there average 4.13 out of 5 stars, with no negative reviews.  If you haven’t read it yet you can get Understanding the Book of Mormon in print version, e-book, or audio book.  Here are the comments people have left at the Goodreads site:

“I am very new to this topic and I thought that this book did a wonderful job of teaching the basics. It was written by an ex-Mormon who is still close to his Mormon family but he is also Pastor and is the perfect person I believe to write on this topic. He comes at it from not only head knowledge but a compassionate heart as well.”

“Fair and balanced, no bashing, gave me insight to the beliefs of my close friends and helps me understand them more.”

“This is a good, balanced introduction for someone who isn’t familiar with the Book of Mormon.”

“The author, a former Mormon, offers a temperate critique of the Book of Mormon, and he doesn’t use straw man techniques. In fact, he submitted the most controversial material to active LDS members (including friends and family) for review and critique. He gently points out the flaws of the Book of Mormon.”

“This is a fantastic book! So greatful there is a generous and kind book that helps christians gain perspective on this other religion.”

“Transitions” Curriculum Now Available

Western Institute for Intercultural Studies has just released the completed version of Transitions: The Mormon Migration from Religion to Relationships, a multimedia resource including six video sessions on DVD along with a participant workbook.  This resource is designed to help former Latter-day Saints navigate the journey from their former religious culture into a healthy new relationship with Jesus in a local Christian church.

The Transitions material tracks closely with my Doctor of Ministry research about following Jesus after leaving Mormonism.  I appear in the DVDs and helped to write the workbook.  I’m hopeful that this resource will be a great encouragement to former Mormons.  It will also help the members of Christian churches to understand what their ex-LDS friends and co-parishioners are going through.

Section 1: Migration covers issues of finding a new individual and collective identity, dealing with relationships, and sorting out a new church culture.

Section 2: Doctrine and Worldview Issues presents traditional Christian doctrine and worldview framed in an understandable way for someone coming out of Mormonism.

Transitions can be used in a variety of settings, from an individual, group of friends or family meeting in a home, to small group meetings in local churches.

The first three of six modules were released to the public earlier this year, and can be viewed HERE.

The complete materials are available at the Transitions Store.  They are very reasonably priced, to encourage wide usage.

I encourage churches to attend a Transitions Training to become acquainted with how to use the materials.  The next training event is on Saturday, September 17.  Find out more HERE.

Are Polygamists Mormons?

Part 6 of a series.

I’ve been sharing some thoughts about a question that often arises in discussions with Latter-day Saints: Are Mormons Christians?  I speak to this issue in my upcoming book, Understanding Your Mormon Neighbor, which is due to be released by Zondervan next year.  But I’m giving a preview in recent posts.

To help a Latter-day Saint friend gain some insight into why this question even matters to many traditional Christians, you might consider an analogous situation within Mormonism.

Polygamy has been in the news quite a bit in recent years.  Most of the polygamist groups are offshoots of the LDS Church.  They continue to follow Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon.  These groups are commonly referred to by themselves and others as “Fundamentalist Mormons.”  But the LDS Church objects strenuously to anyone using the word “Mormon” in reference to polygamist groups (see here), because what the polygamists stand for is at odds with the mainstream LDS Church.  The Church is trying to control the definition of what “Mormon” means, and who has the right to use the name, because it doesn’t want to be confused with polygamists by use of the same label.  The Saints have some values and boundaries that they want to maintain.  They want to world to think certain things when they see the word “Mormon” – and not think certain other things that they don’t feel are legitimate expressions of Mormonism.

That’s almost precisely how evangelicals feel about Latter-day Saints using the title “Christian”.  Mainstream Christians have some values and boundaries they want to uphold.  Mormonism espouses some things that are at odds with historic Christianity.  The use of the same word to describe both groups creates confusion about what each group stands for.

If Latter-day Saints are uncomfortable with the polygamous groups being called “Mormon”, they should at least have some empathy with why evangelicals are hesitant to apply the title “Christian” to them.

Who Is an Authentic Christian?

Part 5 of a series.

In recent posts, (starting here) I’ve been exploring how to answer the question: “Are Mormons Christians?”  Evangelicals say “No” and Latter-day Saints say “Yes” based on differing definitions of the word “Christian”.  Because we use the word differently, we’re really not even asking the same question.

But there is another issue underlying this debate.  We’re not just asking, “Who has the right to use the label ‘Christian’ on themselves?”  We’re asking a more fundamental question: “Who has the right to claim to be a true, authentic Christian in the fullest sense of the word?”  Evangelicals deny that Mormonism is Christian in the ways that really matter most to us.

But I haven’t heard many Mormons admit that, when it comes right down to it, the LDS Church denies that evangelicals and other traditional Christians are genuinely Christians in the fullest sense.  Its not just that Latter-day Saints want to be acknowledged as legitimate Christians.  There is also a very real sense in which Latter-day Saints view themselves as the only fully authentic Christians.

After all, the LDS Church claims to be the only valid representative of Jesus Christ on earth.  It portrays itself as the complete restoration of everything that Jesus originally established.  Joseph Smith claimed that God told him not to join any of the existing churches, because they were all wrong, their creeds were an abomination to him, and the people who professed those creeds were all corrupt.

I continually hear faithful Mormons say that the LDS Church and its people don’t ever attack other churches.  They don’t realize that the exclusive claims of Mormonism constitute just such an attack.  Latter-day Saints generally have backed away from the kind of inflammatory rhetoric expressed in the First Vision account.  But the LDS Church is eagerly trying to convince members of Christian faiths to abandon the churches they attend in favor of Mormonism.

The LDS Church’s claim to be the only true and living church on earth and the only authorized representative of God is, in effect, is an attack on the validity of every other church.  By making these claims, Mormons position themselves as the only fully legitimate Christians, with all others being Christian only in some inferior sense or in name only.

So I find it a bit difficult to empathize with Latter-day Saints who express hurt and confusion over being denied status as Christian, as long as they continue to assert that traditional Christian faiths are apostate, have no authority to act for God, practice meaningless ordinances, and read a corrupted Bible.

Can Mormons Be Christians?

Part 4 of a series.

In my upcoming book, Understanding Your Mormon Neighbor, I discuss how to think about the question, “Are Mormons Christian?”  I’m sharing some of those thoughts in this series of posts.

In my last post, I explained why evangelical and mainstream Christians do not consider the LDS Church to be a Christian church: because its beliefs stand far outside the biblical and historical boundaries that mark the Christian faith.

But as I noted in a previous post, we evaluate individuals differently from institutions.  Institutions are classified by what they assert to be true.  For individuals, we use a more experiential definition.  We call a person a Christian based on their standing with God, which depends not just on affirming certain truths, but on accepting and acting on the truth – which evangelicals understand as trusting fully and solely in the finished work of Jesus Christ to be right with God.

While we can examine the beliefs of Mormonism to evaluate whether it is Christian or not, no one can see into the heart of another person to know with assurance where that person stands with God.  Thus I can state with confidence that the LDS Church is not a part of the historic, biblical Christian faith.  But I cannot declare whether any individual Latter-day Saint is a Christian or not.  Only God can ultimately know that person’s interior condition.

Based on the definition I accept, I assume that some Mormons are regenerate, heaven-bound children of God, and that some members of evangelical churches are not.  I imagine there are people who genuinely became Christians in childhood or youth, but joined the LDS Church as adults without full knowledge of its world view and beliefs, perhaps because of a romantic relationship.  I know people who, as Mormons, read the Bible and understood its meaning apart from the LDS interpretive grid, and came to adopt the historic biblical gospel.  I’ve met people whom I believe had an authentic, saving encounter with God as members of the LDS Church.

I do believe that the more closely a person adopts the LDS world view and central beliefs, the more unlikely it is that he or she could be a regenerate, heaven-bound Christian, because the core beliefs of Mormonism are contrary to the biblical good news message of God’s saving grace.  I know a number of people who left Mormonism because they found their newly discovered evangelical experience and beliefs to be increasingly at odds with the LDS world view.  In the end they felt they could no longer support the things the LDS Church stands for.  But it makes sense to me that other genuine Christ-followers within Mormonism would stay in the LDS Church for family reasons.

So Mormonism has to be considered Christian in the broadest sense.  In a more particular sense it is not.  Individual Mormons may be Christians.  But if they are, it seems to me that it is in spite of, rather than because of, what Mormonism teaches.  I guess we’ll find out when we get to heaven.

For a different twist on the issue, see my next post.