Summa Contra Moroni: a book review

I was asked several months ago by a ministry colleagu if I had any resources on Mormonism. I really didn’t, other than perhaps a chapter in an overview of world religions. It is interesting that I have a number of resources  on Atheism and the grower secularism in our country. Yet we’ve come much closer to electing a committed Mormon as president than we ever have electing a confirmed Atheist. The evangelical Liberty University has had Glenn Beck deliver a commencement address where he took time to describe his experience of faith as a Mormon. Evangelicals are used to cooperating with Mormons on moral issues (i.e. Abortion, traditional marriage) The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has major and growing influence on all aspects of our culture. However their vision of God, humanity, the Bible, salvation, and revelation are different from orthodox expressions of the Christian faith

Mormonism 101: Examining the Religion of the Latter Day Saints is not, as the title implies, a simple overview of basic Mormon beliefs, though that is certainly included. It is a book about how basic Mormon beliefs are wrong and are incompatible with biblical Faith. Authors Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson of the Mormonism Research Ministry have dedicated their lives to engaging Mormons in conversation about the tenants of their faith from an Evangelical Christian perspective. Because they know Mormonism as a dynamic faith led by a living prophet and president, their case against Mormonism makes generous use of documentary evidence, drawn especially from leaders who are central to the Mormon faith.

McKeever and Johnsons book gives a comprehensive overview of Mormonism. They examine the LDS concept of God (the Father, Jesus, and the Trinity),  Mormon anthropology (Human preexistence, the secondary state, the fall and apostasy), their scriptures, their concept of salvation, their ordinances and temple practices, and their concept (and content) of Revelation.  I appreciated how carefully they built their case on documentary evidence (with extensive endnotes at the end of each chapter). Their purpose in writing, is to be a resource for non-Mormons as they engage in conversation with Mormons.

In general, I agree with their theological convictions and their take on Mormonism. I am an Evangelical pastor and while I respect Mormons for their lifestyle and commitment to mission, I think their concept of God, Jesus and Humanity is deeply flawed and their teachings are problematic. Nevertheless I have trouble with the tone of this book.

When I was in college I remember extended conversations on faith I had with a couple of Muslims. They carried little booklets with them with titles like How to Answer a Bible Thumper which rehearsed the contradictions in the Bible (from a Muslim perspective). Mostly, they demonstrated misunderstanding of my faith, having observed it from the outside. I wonder if there is a similar dynamic related to this book. This is not a sympathetic take on Mormonism. Not even a sympathetic-critical take. This is a critical look at where Mormonism is wrong and occasionally the authors tone bothered me and definitely would bother me if I was a Mormon reader.

That caveat aside, for my purposes, I think this is a helpful resource to have around and will likely refer to when I’m next In conversation with a Mormon. In several places, it helped me clear up some of my own misconceptions of Mormon beliefs and I think it is on point on many of the issues (especially the Mormon concept of God and humanity. I give this four stars.

Notice of material connection: I received this book from Baker Books in exchange for my honest review.

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