Monday, August 31, 2009

Book Review: The Mormon Mirage

The Mormon Mirage

The Mormon Mirage
by Latayne C. Scott

Trade Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Zondervan
First Released: 2009

Author Website
Author on Twitter

Source: Won during a Twitter contest held by the publisher

Back Cover Description:
As a gifted young student at Brigham Young University, Latayne C. Scott once was an ardent proponent of Mormonism. But a meticulous examination of Latter-day Saint (LDS) doctrines and practices convinced her that she and countless others had believed a lie. In the first edition of The Mormon Mirage, Scott shared her remarkable journey out of Mormonism as she uncovered shocking inaccuracies, inconsistencies, and contradictions in the faith she had loved and lived.

Thirty years later, Mormonism and Mormon scholarship have evolved with the times. In this third, revised and updated edition of her well-known book, Scott keeps pace with changes and advances in Mormonism, and reveals formidable new challenges to its claims and teachings. The Mormon Mirage provides fascinating, carefully documented insights into:

• DNA research’s withering implications for the Book of Mormon
• the impact of new “revelations” on Latter-day Saint (LDS) race relations
• new findings about Mormon history
• increasing publicity about LDS splinter groups, particularly polygamous ones
• recent disavowals of long-held doctrines by church leadership
• the rise of Mormon apologetics on the Internet

More than a riveting, insider’s scrutiny of the Mormon faith, this book is a testimony to the trustworthiness of Scripture and the grace of Jesus Christ.

A little background: I have an aunt and uncle who became Mormons when I was young. Their two children grew up as Mormons, married Mormons, and are raising their children as Mormons. The little they've said to me about their beliefs never made much sense to me. Six months ago, in an attempt to better understand what they believed, I read several chapters of a "covert Christians to Mormonism" book that my uncle had given my mother. This book attempted to demonstrate that even Christian Scripture proves Mormon beliefs. However, the verses they used in the book only 'proved' their doctrine when the verses were taken out of context and badly twisted. Not to mention that some of the doctrines taught in that book contradicted each other. I was frustrated and confused--why couldn't my Mormon relatives see the problems I so clearly did? Obviously, they were coming at it from a whole different viewpoint. I felt I needed to understand that viewpoint before I could effectively communicate with them about their beliefs.

When Zondervan held a Twitter contest for The Mormon Mirage, I jumped at the chance to win it. I hoped that someone who had been a Mormon and deeply understood how they thought yet who was now a Christian and understood how I thought would be able to help me understand the Mormon viewpoint by accurately comparing it to my own.

I was right. This is a wonderful book for those who have Mormon relatives or who want to better understand and communicate with Mormons when they come calling.

The Mormon Mirage is thoroughly researched with many links to free online resources for those interested in studying any of the covered topics more deeply. The author briefly described why she, personally, left the LDS church, the deep doubts she had about God and herself afterward, and her journey to becoming a Christian. She carefully covered what Mormons believe (and why she no longer believes it) concerning Joseph Smith and his visions, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price, and what they teach about God the Father, Jesus Christ, the Holy Ghost, the holy spirit, Satan, etc. She also covered their other main theological ideas (including what Mormons mean when they use terms like "saved" and "hell"). She also briefly described various lesser-known denominations/splinter groups that follow Joseph Smith's teachings.

The information was useful and easy for me to understand and remember. The book really helped me understand how Mormons view their teachings and how they make them make sense in their own minds. I now feel confident that I can effectively communicate with my Mormon relatives. I'd highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to better understand Mormons and what they believe, especially those with Mormon relatives.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
[pp.20-21] There are many books and magazine articles written to convince Mormons of their doctrinal errors. Many of these, however, make at least one of two major mistakes. One is underestimating the intelligence, integrity, or character of the LDS people. Many times when I was a Mormon, I had read some otherwise factual literature against Mormonism which by its bitter or berating tone turned me off. The doctrinal point the writer was making never sank in. Such literature implies that Mormons believe as they do because they are stupid, narrow-minded, or satanic. Since I considered other Mormon friends and myself to be intelligent, open-minded children of God seeking to do his will, I would toss such offensive literature into the nearest trash can. Then I would offer a prayer to God for the soul of anyone who would tell such lies in print where they might be accepted as fact by someone who’d never met a good Latter-day Saint.

The other great error committed by many writers on Mormonism is that of not checking their facts. Like the mother of the girl who asked me about my navel, such writers discredit themselves with inaccuracies. Some writers, carried away in their enthusiasm, embellish facts — it’s easy to do — but when I would run into such stretching or bending of the truth in writings critical of Mormonism, I would dismiss as also erroneous anything else I read there that didn’t agree with LDS doctrines I had been taught.

When you confront many Mormons with, for example, copies of the original 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon, or strange prophecies made by Joseph Smith which never came true, some will be dumbfounded. Often such things are unavailable to them through regular Church channels. If, therefore, a book errs when covering things they do know about, how can they trust new information on things they have never heard of?

The most effective weapon of all in Dan’s armory was three-pronged. First was his overwhelming faith and confidence in the Word of God, the Bible. Second was the prayer that he continually offered for my soul’s enlightenment. Third, and most penetrating, was the love he had for me. Had we not loved each other, I don’t believe I would have had the courage to leave the comfortable LDS way of life. Had he ceased loving me before my conversion was completed, I fear I would have returned to the womb of Mormonism and lived ever an infant, frightened and dependent, but secure in my deliberate ignorance.

I finally came to an impasse in my spiritual progress. I was struggling against the bonds of Mormonism — tradition and heritage, doctrinal comfort and love. Yet I felt that something was terribly wrong there — why did my teachings and background in Mormonism conflict so sharply with my new knowledge of the Bible? Why the inconsistencies in LDS historical accounts and early documents?

Read all of chapter one.


gahome2mom said...

Thanks for the thorough review. :)

Andrew Rogers said...

Great review! Thanks so much for sharing part of your story in the review section. I will pass this link on!

Genre Reviewer said...

Thank you, both, for the compliments on this review and for taking the time to comment on it.

Andrew, thank you for passing on the link to this review. I wasn't sure if I should talk about myself in a book review, but it seemed like relevant information. I'm glad you thought it added value to the review.

Anonymous said...

Um, I have friends that are Mormon and the one thing I can say for sure is that they are Christian. It is a common misconception that they aren't and though I don't believe what they do, I do know they are good people who have taken Christ into their hearts. All this hate toward this religion is completely unjust.

Genre Reviewer said...


I have relatives that are Mormon, and I love them so much I've gone out of my way to try to understand their beliefs and teachings--by talking with them, by reading the Mormon evangelistic material they gave me, and by reading this book (which, I might add, finally helped me make sense of what they were saying even if neither I nor the author of Mormon Mirage agree with it).

And might I point out that, if my Mormon relatives gave my family evangelical material to convert us from mainstream Christianity to their LDS Church, then obviously they think (1) that my religion is not correct in it's teachings and (2) that the differences are so profound that I need to convert (i.e. the differences are deeper than the denominational disagreements in mainstream Christianity).

So you can't say I hate Mormons just because I don't agree with their beliefs without also saying they hate me because they don't agree with my beliefs and are trying to convert me. Neither is true. They love me, and I love them.

But, from everything I've learned, it's clear Mormons are not "Christian" in the sense of what most non-Mormon's assume a person believes when they say they are Christian. Perhaps reading The Mormon Mirage would help you understand the differences between 'mainstream' Christianity and Mormon teachings.

Yes, I know that Mormons are good people. I love my relatives, and they are good people. I've never thought Mormons are bad people and never will.

The author of Mormon Mirage also obviously still loves Mormons and thinks the best of them even if she no longer agrees with their religious teachings. You won't find any hate toward Mormons on this blog or in the book.