Epistles of Thomas

June 30, 2009

Questions for Latayne Scott

Filed under: Uncategorized — Thomas @ 12:02
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Please leave your questions for Latayne Scott as comments to this post and she will answer them as she makes her way around on her blog tour. I have a few questions that have arisen over the last month as I have talked with people and have been reading this book.

Arnold – Are there any resources for a non-Christian whose daughter has become a Mormon?

Marianne – Why have Mormons begun to emphasise that they are just another type of Christian like Pentecostals or Roman Catholics? Will this trend continue and is there hope that the LDS will return to orthodoxy?

Me – Where can people download the electronic copy of this book with the extra 150 pages? I cannot find any links on Zondervan’s website and although they list a number of retailers that sell e-books none of them seem to have The Mormon Mirage.

Me – Have there been any academic studies done on the similarities between Joseph Smith and Mohammad? There seem to be a lot of parallels between the two men. Both claimed to be prophets. Both received divine revelation and published new scripture. Both claimed that the Bible as originally given was the word of God but that their later revelation was superior. Both redefined who Jesus Christ is. Both claimed that Jews and Christians edited the Bible to remove mention of their coming as later prophets. Both practiced polygyny and promoted it among their followers. Both claim that in heaven people will be ‘married’ and have multiple wives. Interestingly, after the deaths of the two men their religions split based on whether leadership should be passed on to their descendants or elected.

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Mormon Mirage review and blog tour

Filed under: Review — Thomas @ 11:40
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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.

mirage

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.

June 22, 2009

Mormon scholar to work on Biblia Hebraica Quinta

Brigham Young University is reporting that professor Donald W. Parry has been assigned to work on the book of Isaiah in BHQ which will replace BHS once it is complete. Parry makes the rather curious statement that “This work will impact virtually all translations of the Old Testament (including the King James Version) for many years to come, including all translations of all of the world’s languages.” Obviously the KJV was translated four hundred years ago and nothing can impact its form. This statement stems from the Mormon reliance on the KJV, which they believe is the closest to God’s intended revelation, although even it has errors such as excluding mention of Joseph Smith’s status as prophet. What does Parry mean when he claims that BHQ will impact the KJV? Is he suggesting that the LDS will be able to create a translation closer to God’s intended word? Does he imply that he will discover new things in Isaiah that will provide evidence for the Mormon view of doctrine and scripture?

Does it make sense to have a Mormon work on BHQ? As much as most of the disinterested scholars, I suppose. So far most of Parry’s published work deals with the Bible’s relation to Mormonism and the Book of Mormon. It will be interesting to see how his views are confirmed or changed through this process.

I read a summary of a lecture Don Parry’s made on the DSS thanks to the ping from heartissuesforlds (see comments). One of the comments on that summary quotes from Parry’s book Harmonizing Isaiah (FARMS, 2001) and demonstrates the bias Parry works with:

“translators who lived before the restoration of the gospel [i.e. LDS] believed doctrines and teachings that biased their translations. Likewise, translators since that time tend to be biased in similar ways. Like their earlier counterparts, they may embrace teachings that are not compatible with the doctrines of the gospel as revealed through Joseph Smith and other prophets of the latter days. Such false teachings include predestination, creation ex nihilo (creation out of nothing), the Trinity as three in one, an immaterial God who cannot be seen by humans on earth, and a denial of living prophets of God, modern temple worship, the gifts of the Spirit, angels, and so on” (12-13).

All translators have some kind of theological bias but most are either within orthodox Christianity or are supposedly disinterested in proving any theological points. Parry works within an entirely different paradigm as this makes clear. Is he truly blind to the fact that he is biased towards ensuring that he embraces a translation that is compatible with the revelations of Joseph Smith? Whenever you accuse someone of bias you need to be aware of what bias is causing you to make that claim. Which bias is true? 😀

June 6, 2009

The Mormon Mirage 3rd ed. arrives

Filed under: Review — Thomas @ 0:25
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mirage Today I received a new book in the mail from Zondervan. I have joined Latayne Scott’s “blog tour” set for June 30 and will be reading the book between now and then and commenting on it on June 30. My initial impressions are positive. The book is hefty and seems to be well researched judging from the endnotes (pp 305-345). There are three indexes: subject, Mormon scriptures, Bible references.

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.

I also note from the adverts in the back that this book is also available in an electronic form which contains an extra 150 pages. I’m not sure how you can buy it in this format though because the ISBN for the kindle edition doesn’t even work on Amazon.com. If you want to buy the paperback edition Chapters has it in stock for $16.59 after discount.

I have more experience with JWs than Mormons so I am looking forward to reading this book. During my first encounter with Mormon missionaries I noticed a big difference between the two groups. This pair of young men were willing to visit my Bible College and share with a class. In contrast, JWs are taught that Christians churches and schools are inhabited by demons and they should be avoided at all times. When I invited some JWs to the citywide Easter service held at my school they apologised and made excuses. They recognised that it didn’t seem fair for me to enter their space when they were unwilling to enter mine but there was nothing they could do about it. Mormon missionaries do not seem to be prevalent here although I saw a pair last month at Superstore and Bryan’s used books in Ladner was always well stocked with the Book of Mormon for $4.

For those interested, all three Mormon “scriptures” are availble for download via http://www.archive.org. They are the Book or Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price.

May 14, 2008

Mormon Handbook of Instructions

Filed under: Uncategorized — Thomas @ 20:41
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is now available online. I read this today on Slashdot where it has garnered 978 comments so far, which goes to show that if you really want to keep your religious manuals secret you probably shouldn’t threaten to sue people. Quite frankly, from the examples given most people would be bored to sleep reading it. I won’t bore you or risk being sued myself 😉 so jump on over.

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