Criticism of Mormonism/Books/Mormonism 101

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    Response to "Mormonism 101"


A FairMormon Analysis of: Mormonism 101
A work by author: Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson

Topics


Mormonism 101 by McKeever & Johnson


  • Introduction (Click here for full article)
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  • Index of Claims
    Brief Summary: Responses to specific critical or unsupported claims made in Mormonism 101 indexed by page number. (Click here for full article)
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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.

—Marc Schindler

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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.[1] 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,[2] 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."[3]

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.

Notes

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.


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