Criticism of Mormonism/Books/Mormonism 101
Response to "Mormonism 101"
A FairMormon Analysis of: Mormonism 101A work by author: Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson
Part One: Examining the LDS Concept of God
- Chapter 1—
Brief Summary: Response to claims made in Chapter 1: "God the Father" (Click here for full article)
- Response to claim: 23 - the God proclaimed by the Mormon Church is not the same God who is worshiped by millions of Christians today
- Response to claim: 24 - LDS leaders have stated that "worship of the God of Christianity's creeds will not result in salvation"
- Response to claim: 25 - "To be sure, historical Christianity has never advocated the belief in a tangible deity"
- Response to claim 25-27 - "the LDS Elohim sexually created spirit children with his heavenly wives"
- Response to claim: 28 - The authors ask if it is the Church's position that God did not know whether Adam and Eve would transgress His commandment
- Response to claim: 31 - "Mormonism's view of God is both implausible and unbiblical"
- Response to claim: 32 - The authors compare their idea of LDS theology with the Evangelical doctrine of God's transcendence
- Response to claim: 33-34 - The authors state that Gordon B. Hinckley "made it not clear on whether such a concept was part of Mormon belief"
- Response to claim: 35- The authors claim that Mormons believe that "God could stop being God"
- Response to claim: The authors claim that "Mormonism has reintroduced polytheism to the modern world"
- Response to claim: 36 - The authors claim that the "Mormon God" is limited to creating only out of existing matter
- Response to claim: 37 - "God of Mormonism cannot be personally present everywhere because he dwells in a finite body"
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- Chapter 2—
Brief Summary: Response to claims made in Chapter 2: "Jesus" (Click here for full article)
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- Chapter 3—
Brief Summary: Response to claims made in Chapter 3: "The Trinity" (Click here for full article)
- Response to claim: 51 - Several church councils, in which men fought for their own theories, foisted upon the Church the incomprehensible and unnatural doctrine of "one in three and three in one"
- Response to claim: 51-52 - The authors claim that "Mormon leaders" have "mocked and slandered" the concept of the Trinity despite it being "the heart and soul of Christian theology"
- Response to claim: 53 - The Bible "declares that there is only one God"
- Response to claim: 53 - The commandment "Thou shalt have not other gods before me" it interpreted by the authors to mean that "one is not to even believe that there are other gods"
- Response to claim: 53 - The Mormon may insist his worship does not extend beyond the one he calls Elohim, but context demands that this must also involve his faith
- Response to claim: 53-54 - The Book of Isaiah offers perhaps more verses in defence of monotheism than any other
- Response to claim: 54 - the LDS idea of deification is unbiblical
- Response to claim: 54 - the LDS Church rejects the historic church's concept of the Trinity
- Response to claim: 54-55 - Now Zeezrom said: Is there more than one God? And he answered, No
- Response to claim: 56 - "the Trinity was not an invention of the early church; rather, it was a definitive response designed to explain the biblical position of the church"
- Response to claim: 57 - Mormons believe that the Trinity was "an invention of the apostate church," while Christianity believes it is "a doctrine that came from biblical origins"
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Part Two: Examining the LDS Concept of Humankind
- Chapter 4—
Brief Summary: Response to claims made in Chapter 4: "Preexistence and the Second Estate" (Click here for full article)
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- Chapter 5—
Brief Summary: Response to claims made in Chapter 5: "The Fall" (Click here for full article)
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- Chapter 6—
Brief Summary: Response to claims made in Chapter 6: "Apostasy" (Click here for full article)
- Response to claim: 81 - "While some apostasies were certainly predicted, a complete apostasy where God's authority fully left the earth was never predicted or implied"
- Response to claim: 82 - The stock argument used by the authors against the LDS case for a complete apostasy appeals to a single verse in Matthew: "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it"
- Response to claim: 83 - "The 'apostles and prophets' do not necessarily mean offices, as the LDS Church implies"
- Response to claim: 84-85 - Since John the Apostle and the three Nephites did not die, then there could not have been a "complete apostasy"
- Response to claim: 293 n14 - Jesus did not say that John would not die, or that he would stay on Earth until Jesus returned
- Response to claim: 86-87 - The authors proffer a series of arguments against the LDS belief that Apostles are a necessity in the Lord's Church
- Response to claim: 87 - "In the strictest sense, apostle means 'one sent forth.' With this being the case, numerous people could have rightly held this designation"
- Response to claim: 87 - "it seems strange that God would have allowed the leaders of His church in Palestine to be so ignorant as to stop replacing martyred apostles"
- Response to claim: 89 - "The Aaronic priesthood was for the priests of the temple, as defined in the books of Moses known as the Pentateuch"
- Response to claim: 89 - The authors claim that there is a "priesthood of all believers"
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Part Three: Examinging the LDS Concept of Scripture
- Chapter 7—
Brief Summary: Response to claims made in Chapter 7: "The Bible" (Click here for full article)
- Response to claim: 98 - The authors claim that Latter-day Saints don't fully read the Bible because they don't find it "trustworthy"
- Response to claim: 97-98 - The LDS Church attempts to lend itself legitimacy in the eyes of the rest of the Christian world by borrowing from the legitimacy of the Bible
- Response to claim; 98 - The authors suggest that Mormons have a lack of interest in the Bible because they think that it is not trustworthy
- Response to claim: 99 - the authors highlight four principle uses of scripture...Teaching God's truths...Rebuking others...Correcting one another...Training for righteousness
- Response to claim: 100 - "The early church gave a stamp of authority to the writings of the apostles"
- Response to claim: 100 - The First Presidency said, "The most reliable way to measure the accuracy of any biblical passage is not by comparing different texts, but by comparison with the Book of Mormon and modern-day revelations"
- Response to claim: 101 - "It is doubtful that our many modern-day translations were produced by unprincipled people who wanted to keep God's truth hidden"
- Response to claim: 101 - The authors try to show that by the term translation in the eighth Article of Faith, we really mean transmission
- Response to claim: 102- whatever test for accuracy that could be applied to James 1:5 could also be applied to every other Bible verse as well
- Response to claim: 102 - Why doesn't the Mormon prophet fix the alleged errors in the Bible?
- Response to claim: 102 - If Mormons have problems with changes made to the Bible, do they also have a problem with the many changes made to the Book of Mormon over the years?
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- Chapter 8—
Brief Summary: Response to claims made in Chapter 8: "The Book of Mormon" (Click here for full article)
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- Chapter 9—
Brief Summary: Response to claims made in Chapter 9: "The Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price" (Click here for full article)
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Part Four: Examining the LDS Concept of Salvation
- Chapter 10—
Brief Summary: Response to claims made in Chapter 10: "The Atonement" (Click here for full article)
- Response to claim: 139 - Mainstream Christians and Latter-day Christians "both accept the atonement of Christ"
- Response to claim: 140 - The authors quote President Ezra Taft Benson to the effect that "it was in Gethsemane that Jesus took on Himself the sins of the world"
- Response to claim: 140-148 - One of the major themes of the LDS faith is that the atonement "took place primarily in the Garden"
- Response to claim: 141 - The authors quote Bruce R. McConkie: "it was in Gethsemane that 'he suffered the pain of all men...took upon himself the sins of all men..."
- Response to claim: 141 - The authors suggest that the apparent overemphasis on the shedding of blood in the Garden rather than on the cross "no doubt is but one of several reasons why crosses cannot be found on LDS buildings"
- Response to claim: 142 - Lorenzo Snow: "He undoubtedly had seen persons nailed to the cross, because that method of execution was common at that time, and He understood the torture that such persons experienced for hours. He went by Himself in the garden and prayed to His Father"
- Response to claim: 145 - "Hebrews 9:22 states that there is no remission of sins without the shedding (not sweating) of blood"
- Response to claim: 147 - The authors quote Elder Marion G. Romney that it was in the Garden of Gethsemane "that he suffered most"
- Response to claim: 148 - The authors claim that the LDS version of the atonement frees up everyone from the effects of Adam's transgression
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- Chapter 11—
Brief Summary: Response to claims made in Chapter 11: "Grace and Works" (Click here for full article)
- Response to claim: 150 - The authors claim that "Mormon leaders have redefined the word salvation and given it a split definition that is certainly not taught by the Bible"
- Response to claim: 151-152 - Bruce R. McConkie said that salvation by grace alone was "the second greatest heresy of Christianity"
- Response to claim: 153-154 - Latter-day Saints have unrealistic expectations with regard to achieving exaltation
- Response to claim: 155 -"Because of the unreasonable demand put on them," Mormons "may live their daily lives with the guild of never being good enough for celestial exaltation
- Response to claim: 155-156 - "Some Latter-day Saints have felt that moral lapses in obedience can be overcome in the next life. Such thinking undermines the LDS concept of a mortal probation"
- Response to claim: 156 - The authors dismiss the concept of repentance by claiming that it is inconsistent, "since it is in keeping the law that one is exalted, not admitting you broke it"
- Response to claim: 157 - he authors claim that "no Mormon will ever receive" forgiveness, since no "human has the ability to clear the desire or urge to sin out of their life"
- Response to claim: 157-158 - The authors claim that LDS leaders give "mixed signals as to whether or not perfection is necessary for exaltation"
- Response to claim: 159 - Since it is impossible to be perfect, the authors claim that "it is wrong for the LDS Church to demand complete obedience to all the laws of God in order to receive exaltation"
- Response to claim: 159-160 - The authors claim that Russell M. Nelson said that "trying was good enough," while Spencer W. Kimball contradicts this
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- Chapter 12—
Brief Summary: Response to claims made in Chapter 12: "Heaven and Hell" (Click here for full article)
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Part Five: Examining the LDS Concept of Ordinances
- Chapter 13—
Brief Summary: Response to claims made in Chapter 13: "Communion and Baptism" (Click here for full article)
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- Chapter 14—
Brief Summary: Response to claims made in Chapter 14: "The Word of Wisdom" (Click here for full article)
- Response to claim: 202 - “Important Mormon leaders” broke the Word of Wisdom themselves
- Response to claim: 202 - The authors claim that if the Word of Wisdom “was such an important teaching,” why wasn’t it made a “command” until 1851 by Brigham Young?
- Response to claim: 202 - Latter-day Saints now use water instead of wine for the Sacrament
- Response to claim: 203 - While most Mormons say caffeine is their reason not to drink coffee and tea, an article in the Salt Lake Tribune states that 90 percent of adults in North America consume caffeine on a regular basis through other product
- Response to claim: 203 - “The admonition to eat little meat is largely ignored, as are some other points of the revelation”
- Response to claim: 204 - The authors take Joseph Smith and Brigham Young to task for their apparent non-compliance with the precepts of the Word of Wisdom
- Response to claim: 205-206 - The authors claim that Brigham Young reported in 1873 that a store in Utah “was doing a great business in tea, coffee and tobacco”
- Response to claim: 206 - Despite Joseph's claims that the Word of Wisdom was a revelation, there were in that time, temperance societies that also advocated the abolition of alcohol
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- Chapter 15—
Brief Summary: Response to claims made in Chapter 15: "The Temple" (Click here for full article)
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Part Six: Examining the LDS Concept of Revelation
- Chapter 16—
Brief Summary: Response to claims made in Chapter 16: "Lamanites, the Seed of Cain, and Polygamy" (Click here for full article)
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- Chapter 17—
Brief Summary: Response to claims made in Chapter 17: "Joseph Smith" (Click here for full article)
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- Chapter 18—
Brief Summary: Response to claims made in Chapter 18: "The Church and Its Leadership" (Click here for full article)
- Response to claim: 264-268 - The authors conclude that trusting in these men, their teachings and their counsel, is a foolish and destructive path
- Response to claim: 266 - The authors attempt to paint a picture of restriction for members of the Church
- Response to claim: 266 - Ezra Taft Benson said, "No teacher has the right to interpret doctrine for the members of the Church"
- Response to claim: 266 - "Do most Mormons accept this role of such authority, even to trust these men to lead them to eternal life? Apparently so. What if they are wrong?"
- Response to claim: 266 - "for Mormons, rejecting the prophet and other church leaders is akin to rejecting God Himself"
- Response to claim: 267 - While the Mormon leaders may say that they and their organization are above reproach, such a position of ultimate authoritarianism is not a New Testament trait
- Response to claim: 267-268 - If the leaders of the early church had claimed ultimate authority, then we could rightly conclude that Paul would never have become an apostle
- Response to claim: 268 - "But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel ... let him be accursed"
- Response to claim: 268 - the New Testament apostles did not have any special authority to declare doctrine and teach the gospel
- Response to claim: 270 - Brigham Young taught that Adam was God, but this has been relegated to "theory"
- Response to claim: 270-271 - Brigham Young stating that God is "progressing eternally," while Bruce R. McConkie states that God's knowledge and power is full and complete
- Response to claim: 273-275 - Pascal's wager: is what you are being asked to give up more than what you might receive in exchange?
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- Quote mining—
Brief Summary: Some critics mine their sources by extracting quotes from their context in order to make the statement imply something other that what it was originally intended to mean. We examine instances of such "quote mining" in Mormonism 101. (Click here for full article)
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About this work
When students enroll in a class called "101" they expect a comprehensive and sympathetic introduction to the subject at hand. For example, if you signed up for a university course called Astronomy 101, you'd expect an introduction to the principles of astronomy, including how the study of astronomy has improved our lives. You'd be shocked if your professor taught that astronomy was wrong, and that, say, astrology was a better way to understand the physical universe. It is a sign of the fundamental flaws in Mormonism 101 that it does exactly that-presents itself as a religious primer when it is polemics; a more honest title would have been Anti-Mormonism 101.
Mormonism 101 contributes absolutely nothing new to the body of anti-Mormonism-there is nothing in the book that hasn't been written about elsewhere. It is simply another example of modern-day professional anti-Mormonism—attacking the Restored Gospel for money. The authors insist on basing their arguments on their own preconceived assumptions, rather than trying to show how the Restored Gospel (which they refer to as "Mormonism") supposedly has inconsistencies or failures based on its assumptions. One may well ask, since the book's authors are not LDS, why they should be expected to accept our assumptions?
Marc Schindler notes,
The reason is that even if you don't accept an opponent's assumptions, you have to at least understand them and deal with them or you'll discredit yourself with neutral inquirers, and possibly even with your target audience, which in the case of Mormonism 101 is "Biblicists" who try to "witness" to Latter-day Saints. This is because, as will be shown time and again in this review, what McKeever and Johnson are actually criticizing are caricatures of the teachings of the Restored Gospel-teachings that they interpret on the basis of their own assumptions, rather than on ours. When the truth is examined, rather than caricatures or straw man arguments, works like Mormonism 101 lose their credibility. A polemical book that tries to ridicule the Restored Gospel-which is what Mormonism 101 is at heart-cannot afford to provide balanced arguments or it risks confusing the rather narrow world view of its intended audience of anti-Mormon "witnessers."
Mormonism 101's failings can be summarized in terms of two very common errors, and the reader is encouraged to be on the lookout for them in each of the individual chapter reviews: The first error is what I call "preaching to the choir." Metaphorically speaking, if you think that a mirror is a window, your view of the "world" will be what you yourself already perceive, and you will be unable to see other points of view. Your logic will be circular, your thinking will merely confirm your preconceived notions, and your arguments will make sense only to those who already share your preconceived ideas. An example of this first type of error is if a person speaks only English, and reads the word gift, and then assumes that the English word is the only possible meaning; they could be making a grave error. For example, in German the word actually means poison! Of course this is a trivial example, but this type of error is made in Mormonism 101 time and time again with respect to both simple and obvious concepts, as well as regards more complex and subtle philosophical arguments-as readers will see.
The second common error I call "co-opting of Christianity;" the incorrect assumption that one particular viewpoint can be applied to a wider audience, thereby deliberately excluding others on that near-sighted basis. An example of the second type of error is assuming that a very narrow and specific movement within Christendom, such as Biblicism (which I'll define shortly), constitutes "orthodox Christianity," thereby excluding 99% of all other Christians-not just Latter-day Saints, but also Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, mainstream Protestants and so on. This is the error one encounters most often in Mormonism 101-the assumption that the authors alone know what constitutes "real" Christianity.
- Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson, Mormonism 101. Examining the Religion of the Latter-day Saints (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2000). ( Index of claims ) Bill McKeever is a professional anti-Mormon, being the founder of Mormonism Research Ministry in El Cajon, CA; Eric Johnson is an employee of the Mormonism Research Ministry.
- A straw man argument is when a person misrepresents another person's views, and argues against the misrepresentation instead of against the genuine view. It's called "straw man" because it's easier to do battle with a "scarecrow" of one's own devising than with a real, life enemy.
- For an example of why this assertion makes sense, see the second quotation-from the book's editorial description on Amazon.com-under the section entitled Weak Scholarship.