Today is the blog tour by Latayne C. Scott promoting her two new books, The Mormon Mirage 3rd ed and Latter-Day Cipher. For more information you can check out her website or Zondervan’s Koinonia blog. They kindly sent me a copy of The Mormon Mirage which I finished reading yesterday and the review of which is below. I will be adding an additional blog post above in which you can ask questions of Latayne Scott and she will answer them.
Latayne C. Scott, The Mormon Mirage: A Former Member Looks at the Mormon Church Today. 3rd ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009. 0310291534, 9780310291534. 363pp. $17.99.
The Mormon Mirage: A Former Member Looks at the Mormon Church Today is the third edition of Latayne C. Scott’s book originally published in 1979 as a response to her leaving Mormonism in 1973. She is of Baptist background but became a Mormon when she was twelve and believed and loved it through her teenage years and into university studies at Brigham Young University. This book’s subtitle reflects that there have been a lot of changes in Mormonism in the last decades, especially since the 1990’s.
This book is comprised of two parts. The first part deals with the history and doctrines of the LDS and consumes most of the book. The second part looks at nine issues and challenges facing Mormonism in the twenty-first century. It actually covers more than nine issues because some are combined under one heading such as gender which covers Mormon positions on both women and homosexuality. I found the background information on Mormonism to be complete, with many references for those who wish to be exhaustive. Scott is clear throughout in showing how Mormon doctrine relates to orthodox Christian theology and how the two departed from one another in the lives and practice of early Mormon leaders, particularly Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. The only criticisms of this section I would level is that she refers to Joseph F. Smith before explaining that he is different from Joseph Fielding Smith (I had no idea there were so many Joe Smiths). There is also some repetition of details and historical material between the chapters and sections, although this is not surprising given the length of this book and would be helpful for those not reading it through completely.
The second part which lists the various issues that Mormonism is currently dealing with is quite helpful because one wants to know what Mormonism is actually doing today as well as what it has been doing in history. Scott is very helpful throughout the book in distinguishing between official Mormon doctrine and actual practice and folk belief. I was surprised to learn that Mormonism has become less authoritative in its proclamations in recent decades. Scott explains that this is due to opposition from both within and without and because of accommodation to changing times. Here in BC we still have Fundamentalist Mormons practicing polygyny so it is helpful to read both why it was discontinued in the LDS and what their current response to it is. I also never realised how many splinter groups there are. My only concern with this section is that she shows that the Mormon leadership is “out of touch” with society on some controversial issues such as gender and approval of homosexuality. These issues are fracturing many denominations (look at the Anglican church in BC) and therefore not something that traditional Christianity can criticise in Mormonism. Most Evangelicals would approve of the Mormon stance on the issue of homosexual marriage although we would base this on biblical exegesis not revelation by Joseph Smith or any other latter-day prophet.
I would highly recommend this book to those who know someone within the Mormon system or those who want to understand the importance of authoritative scripture for the Christian church. Although Scott does not set out to intentionally underscore the importance of biblical faith and proper exegesis and hermeneutical methods the evidence of what happens when those are not employed is very apparent. Her conclusion is also helpful in that she summarises the main points of disagreement between Mormonism and Evangelicalism and shows how the Mormon approach to the subject of truth differs radically from that of mainstream Christianity.