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mormonismexplained.com

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Reviewed by Patti (Batavia, NY), May 19, 2008

This is a very informative book about what the Latter Day Saints teach and practice. Jackson has certainly done his homework, which is evident as he spells out clearly what Mormon’s believe and why they believe the way they do. While it is full of information, the author has a very easy-to-read style. Mormonism Explained is one of the most thorough books on Mormonism I ever read. It covers their history, beliefs, theology, and their diversity in beliefs. This book clears up some confusion I had about what Mormons really believe. I want to note that Jackson does not put down Mormonism as he explains their beliefs, not as a critic but as a teacher. It is a good book for those who want more insight into this religion.

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QUOTES FROM THE BOOK

1. “As a result, within Mormonism the Bible is functionally subordinate and subject to clarification and revision by the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price” (13).

2. “Early Mormonism reflected many of the common Christian trends of the times: having an authoritarian prophetic leader and being noncreedal, staunchly Arminian, fervently restorationist, evangelistically driven, end-time-focused, and characterized by isolated communal living” (18-19).

3. “Although, many Mormons take pride in rejecting historical Christian creeds, they have creeds themselves” (190f7).

4. “Although LDS authorities have often denied Joseph Smith’s treasure-hunting, he was found guilty of disorderly conduct and treasure-hunting through the use of divination on March 20, 1826 in Bainbridge, New York” (25).

5. “Mormons believe that April 6 is the birthday of Jesus Christ himself and thus connect the incarnation of Jesus Christ with the birth of the first Mormon church” (29).

6. “It is important to understand that early Mormons were not simply interested in building churches and temples within cities; their vision was to become a church that consisted of a large network of Mormon cities, with the city of Zion as their capital. Mormons wanted whole cities, not simply a portion of them. It is no surprise that the Mormon vision of building and dominating cities created significant tension wherever they settled among non-Mormon citizens” (39).

7. “Mormons believe that American Indians are the direct ancestors of the Book of Mormon’s Lamanite people and thus are also direct descendants of Israelites” (191f26).

8. “Numerous Ohio revelations recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants are the direct result of Smith’s revision of the Bible” (40).

9. “Attempting to get a new start, reestablish authority, and obtain badly needed finances, Joseph Smith changed the name of the Mormon Church to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on April 26, 1838, attributing the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah 11:1-10 to himself instead of Jesus Christ” (46).

10. “Although Mormons do not worship Joseph Smith, they do acclaim his status of preexistent greatness and latter-day calling to a level of superiority that is unprecedented in the history of Christianity” (189f1).

11. “Joseph Smith’s death lead to a bitter succession crisis not unlike what had occurred following the death of Muhammad” (50).

12. “Immediately following the appointment of the new Mormon successor, there was a major split between Brigham Young and Joseph Smith’s wife Emma. In fact, it seems rather revealing that Young never even visited Emma after Joseph’s death” (51).

13. “The LDS President and Prophet is the single authorized mediator between God and Mormon leaders and members” (78).

14. “Because not a single person, place, or event unique to the Book of Mormon has been proved to have existed, Mormons emphasize that a subjective heart experience—what they call a burning in the bosom—proves the authenticity and truth of the Book of Mormon” (86-87).

15. “In fact, the worldview constructed and promoted by Mormonism mirrors several aspects of ancient paganism, Egyptian and Greek mythology, Hinduism, and New Age, and is foreign and destructive to a biblical Judeo-Christian worldview” (94).

16. “According to Mormonism . . . The human mind or spirit has no beginning and will have no end” (96)

17. “Although Mormonism does not like the word polytheism because it is too closely reflects a pagan worldview, there is not doubt that Latter-day Saints believe in the eternal reality of a plurality of gods” (97).

18. “In fact, the LDS Church describes the Godhead—the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—more as the supreme heavenly presidency of three gods than as the historically and universally accepted Christian doctrine of the eternal triune nature of one God” (113).

19. “Although in my view Mormons are somewhat contradictory in their own writings, Dr. Craig Blomberg told me that many informed Mormons would unequivocally say that their understanding of deification means that one day we will share perfectly God’s communicable attributes only. They do not claim we will ever be omnipotent, omniscient, or omnipresent. They stress that we will always be dependent on and contingent on God. We will never become beings that anyone else worships. All worship for all eternity will be reserved for God, through Christ, in the power of the Holy Ghost. We must ask, then, why spirit-children of the Father worship Jesus and the Holy Spirit, who are themselves other spirit-children who progressed into gods. If it occurs today, why wouldn’t it logically occur in the future? (200-201f52).
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An Interview with Dr. Andrew Jackson, author of “Mormonism Explained”

The Christian Manifesto recently had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Dr. Jackson about his upcoming book.

First of all, thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to interview with us, Dr. Jackson. I know I said I would call a little later, but class got out earlier than expected. Is this a good time?

It’s no problem. Really. Actually, this is a great time.

I guess we’ll dive right into our questions here, then.

Fire away.

Your new book is titled, Mormonism Explained: What Latter-Day Saints Teach and Practice. Why this subject and why now?

Well, I am one of the pastors at an Evangelical nondenominational church in Mesa, Arizona, a city that was originally founded by the Mormons. One block down from our church is the Arizona [Mormon] Temple. The area still has a very strong Mormon culture; it is very much a part of our social fabric here.

Because of that, it has led me to teach quite a few seminars in the surrounding area called “Mormonism Explained.” Many Christians have no idea what Mormons teach or believe and the seminars were a way of communicating that and fielding questions and reconciling misconceptions. Eventually, Crossway [Books] approached me about adapting the seminar into book form.

The timing also seems correct right now because of Mitt Romney’s bid for president. It has put Mormonism front-and-center for a lot of people and there is a lot of confusion as to what they believe.

That’s really interesting. How did you go about researching for Mormonism Explained?
(Laughs)

It was a challenge really. Once you get into the question of “What is Mormon orthodoxy?” and “Who can explain Mormon orthodoxy in a systematic way?” is very difficult to find. I found that Mormon missionaries tended to be some of the worst sources for finding out about Mormon beliefs. The same went for Mormon bishops. I ended up contacting and working with Dr. Steven Robinson, Professor of Ancient Scripture at Brigham Young University as one of my scholarly sources. One of the problems he cited with many missionaries and bishops is that they have no theological training in Mormonism itself. A lot of them, especially the bishops, don’t actually work for the church. They have full-time work outside the church. Accordingly, when you question them about Mormon orthodoxy, you’re not likely to get a very good answer.

So, I ended up leaning on Steven Robinson, Robert Millet, a few of the new Mormon scholars who have been interacting with evangelicals as of late, and the writings of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young for source material. I found that there are really two streams of Mormonism, which I explain a little in my book.

What are some of the distinctive features of Mormonism? Are Mormons Christians or do they diverge from Christian orthodoxy?

Of course, Mormonism arose in New York because that’s where Joseph Smith was from. But, it also arose during a time of the revival and restoration movements that were sweeping across the US. In that respect, Mormonism definitely emerged out of a Christian culture. However, Joseph Smith really did create his own thing, excluding himself very early on from accepted Christian orthodoxy.
According to Mormon teaching, Smith received his first vision at the age of fourteen—all of Mormonism is based on this visitation. Mormonism is also regarded as an exclusive movement outside of historical Christianity. This is partially due to the fact Smith believed there was a strong apostasy movement that started as early as the time of the writing of the New Testament documents. Thus, in Smith’s view, even the church that arose out of this time emerged apostate. Mormons believe that Smith was told in his vision to restore the church and now, at their core Mormons believe they are the true and only church on earth.

So, it’s almost like the Catholic teaching that they are the only church that holds the fullness of the Gospel?

I would say that it goes even deeper than that. They believe they’re the only church on earth. Everyone else is apostate.

Do you feel your work is more of an academic endeavor (i.e. more of a textbook) or that the average Christian ought to sit and read your book?

I wrote in a way that the average Christian can read it, but it is heavily footnoted. So, while it’s accessible, if you want to go deeper and check out some of the resources, you have that option, too.
So, what is it you hope people will get out of Mormonism Explained? Who is it written for?

My main purpose is really [to be] educational. A lot of Christians don’t know what Mormons systematically teach. So, I’m really hoping to present something that will introduce them to what Mormons believe. Mormonism Explained isn’t as apologetic as many Christian books about Mormonism. This is more of an explanation of belief than anything else. To often little pieces are presented here or there. I’m trying to present a more comprehensive introduction to the topic.

Though, at various points throughout the book I contrast the teachings of Mormonism with Christian orthodoxy. So, while the primary audience will likely be Christians, I’m hoping that a Mormon or nonbeliever can pick it up and learn something.

You’re hoping Mormons will pick your book up, too?

Yes. I have relationships with a number of Mormons and I hope they read it.

So, a Mormon picks up a copy of Mormonism Explained. Do you think they view it more like a Christian views Dawkins’ The God Delusion, or do they think you handled their beliefs with integrity, whether they agree with your final conclusions or not?

That was actually a concern I had from the beginning. When I first started to write about this subject I contacted an organization called F.A.I.R., a Mormon apologetic organization, and got about 20 or so people from that network to dialogue with me about the topic. That helped to keep things balanced.

So, I think a Mormon reading my book will find it to be very fair and very well-documented. I tried not to follow too many rabbit holes looking for obscure quotes and references to discredit Mormonism. I just tried to show it as it is.

One last question. And we have to ask it. Mitt Romney is running for US President and is open about the fact he is a Mormon. Many Americans have expressed fears about having a Mormon in the White House? Would having a Mormon in the White House, in your opinion, be any different than having a Catholic or a Baptist?

I do believe there is a distinction, between someone running [for president] as a person with Orthodox Christian beliefs and someone running as a Mormon, not that I would fear it. A concern would be that it would give an obvious platform to the Mormon Church. In actuality, it already has. They wouldn’t necessarily control a Mormon president, but the LDS Church would definitely use a Mormon president [to their advantage]. It would help enhance the reality of the Mormon Church in the eyes of the American populace.

Thanks so much for your time, Dr. Jackson. We look forward to reading your book when it releases in March.

No problem. It was great talking with you, too.

http://thechristianmanifesto.wordpress.com/2007/12/07/an-interview-with-dr-andrew-jackson-author-of-mormonism-explained/ 

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