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on March 25, 2010
Firstly, as a Mormon who has read this book, I want to apologize for the Mormon who gave the book one star without even reading it, and who assumed to know Mr. Anderson's intentions and attacked his character. Such was closed minded, embarrassing to read, and reminded me of the Proverb "He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him." (Proverbs 18:13)

The following review is copied and condensed from an email I wrote about this book (which I admit was quite cordial to Mormons) for an acquaintance who wanted to know my thoughts:

Context:

As you would be aware, every religion has someone who has left the ranks and written a book of sorts to explain why they left and why they went to their new faith. There have been Born Again Christian pastors who have converted to Mormonism, Catholic priests who have done likewise, as well as Jews and those of other denominations who have become LDS, many of whom have written of their conversion. There have also been such conversions from any faith to any other faith you can think of - Christian to Muslim, Muslim to Christian, Jewish to Buddist etc. It is not an uncommon occurrence, therefore, because such an occurrence happens in every direction, one's own personal experience cannot be used as evidence for where the truth is, regardless of whether they say that they have at last found God in their new faith. I do not question the author's conscience or motives for leaving the LDS Church - I believe that he sincerely had doubts about the Church and acted on them. But looking at the big picture, his experience in questioning his original faith and moving to another that he finds more fulfilling is far from unique, nor does it only happen in the direction away from the LDS Church. One needs to understand that people don't change faiths unless their mind has reasons to do so, reasons that make such a large decision valid to them. But often times people make decisions without being aware that they haven't received all the facts, and other times they may receive sufficient information but it comes at a time when they have invested too heavily in their previous beliefs to change.

In regards to this specific book, although you told me the author ran this book by his family and a couple others in the Church to ensure it was accurate, such in no way holds any credibility as to whether the book accurately portrays LDS doctrine. A) His family and friends are not quoted as authorities of the Church, and B) it assumes that his family and friends would be experts on LDS doctrine, although no evidence of such is presented. It may provide an idea as to what the regular Joe Mormon understands, but historically the regular Joe Mormon has too often been a poor presenter of Mormon doctrine in its accuracy. One can't go quoting their nephew's thoughts on LDS doctrine (as the author does more than once) and have their readers expect that it makes things authoritative.

Accuracy of the book:

Although much of what is in the book is true regarding LDS belief, there are some significant errors, and overall I found the book to be a very weak and rushed analysis of the Book of Mormon and the LDS faith. The author makes various claims but too often provides no evidence for his claims, or he simply expects a footnote that most readers will never check up on to be sufficient evidence. The author also demonstrates an unfamiliarity with the sources he references, to the contradicting of certain claims that he makes. On top of this, there was a gaping hole in understanding on an issue surrounding the Book of Mormon.

With a book that small, and seeking to conclude on as many topics as it does, it is inevitable that there will be a number of arguments that are glossed over with quick conclusions. However, one can't arrive at solid conclusions to detailed issues after just dedicating a page or two to them. People need to understand that it is impossible for a book this small to provide strong analysis and conclusions. Books this small on topics such as this are best suited to stay in the realm of only presenting basic facts, and should not try to analyze and conclude, because a book this small can never come close to conclusively and respectably analyzing all the topics it seeks to. I don't just say this because the book is analyzing my faith, but would say the same if a book of similar length was seeking to analyze and conclude upon any other faith, or any other topic with many detailed issues. I want to acknowledge however that the author appeared honest and did not come across as trying to deceive his readers because he appears genuine in his disbelief of the Mormon Church.

One thing the author and I absolutely agree on is that the claims of the Mormon Church beg questioning and inquiry. I am a very big believer in questioning and thinking about things critically, because such weeds out falsehoods. However, many of the arguments the author raises have been shown as non-issues a long time ago for those versed in the dialogue, or if not non-issues, then things that don't challenge the validity of the Mormon Church anymore than parallel issues would challenge the validity of the Bible and its prophets. But to those new to the discussion, which would include many who read this "Quick Christian Guide", the way the author presents the questions makes it appear as if these issues undermine the Book of Mormon and that belief in the Book of Mormon in the face of these issues is clearly misguided. Now, I am not saying there is anything wrong with introducing a new audience to legitimate questions for the purpose of ascertaining the truth. Such is needed. Nor am I saying that people can't arrive at any conclusion which is unfavorable to the LDS Church, because people are free to interpret any evidence as they wish. What I am saying that when the issues are raised in the manner employed by this book, that is a couple or a few pages of selected facts and then a conclusion, it is hardly a respectable inquiry.

1) Let's begin with a large misunderstanding. I will not hold this against the author as there are many LDS who also misunderstand it. The topic is the issue of archaeology and the Book of Mormon. A whole chapter was devoted to it, and I agree with the findings of the archaeologists regarding Mesoamerica and the Book of Mormon - there is no real evidence for it, but a good deal of evidence against it. The problem is however, as the author was seemingly unaware, that the Mesoamerican setting for the Book of Mormon is not at all where Joseph Smith said the Book of Mormon took place. Without going into the whole history as to how the Mesoamerican idea gained traction and became the dominant theory as to where the BoM took place, suffice it to say that it sprang from a couple of statements mistakenly attributed to Joseph Smith (which even proponents of the Mesoamerican theory are now starting to acknowledge). However, throughout the history of the Church, those versed in Joseph's history and teachings, as well as the teachings of the BoM itself, have known that after Lehi and his family left the Middle East, the BoM takes place in North America, in parts of what is now the Eastern, Southern and Midwestern States as well as possibly some of Canada. Joseph's letters, sermons, journals and even the journals of his contemporaries say this is where he said it happened, the Doctrine and Covenants says things that clearly show it was there, as well as BoM prophecies that the land the Nephites and Lamanites inhabited would in the latter days become a great and powerful nation amongst the nations of the earth (Keep in mind that when the BoM was first published, the U.S. was a fledgling nation still under possible threat of Europe and on the verge of civil war, the outcome of which was unknown). On top of this, the various objects and animals that the author relates that the BoM speaks of and which are missing in Mesoamerica have been found amongst the ancient civilizations that inhabited North America, as well as other empirical evidence backing it up, not least the fact that native tribes from these regions contain DNA that is linked to the Middle East (in fact the very tribes whom Joseph said were the descendants of the Lamanites). Now in saying all of this, the Church has always and still takes no official stance on where the BoM took place, except for one specific location - the Hill Cumorah where the plates were buried. And where were they buried? New York, USA.

Now, just assume for a moment that Joseph had said the BoM took place in Mesoamerica. Isn't it a little inconsistent of any Christian to say that modern science and archaeology question the validity of the BoM, when the current consensus of mainstream modern science and archaeology is that a) There is no evidence that ancient Egypt ever had any Hebrews in it. b) There is no evidence of a Moses being in ancient Egypt. c) That the prophet Daniel was a fictional character and his prophecies were specifically calculated by scholars and editors several centuries after he was supposed to exist for the purpose of bolstering Jewish national morale in the face of war. d) That King David and Solomon were also mythical characters. e) That the very first versions of the Gospels never taught that Christ was divine, nor that he ascended into heaven, nor anything of the like, but that the evidence suggests that the divine elements were added as embellishments as the decades went by. This list of what modern science says about the Bible could go on, and although there are scientists here and there who dispute it, usually because they hold these religious beliefs themselves, such is the consensus on the matter. If you do not believe me, I suggest you download Stanford University's "Historical Jesus", a free lecture series on iTunesU, as but one example of what modern scholarship and archaeology say of the Bible. Obviously Mormons believe the Bible, as do I, but I only bring this up as being inconsistent of a Christian saying that modern science challenges the BoM, regardless of where they think it happened, without acknowledging the many problems the Bible itself faces with the same archaeologists and scientists.

2) The argument that the Book of Mormon reflects issues of 19th Century New York as evidence that Joseph Smith wrote it. Firstly, the 19th Century minister who suggested this only turned his attention to the Mormons after they made converts out of one of his best congregations, including one of his finest preachers, things he was obviously not happy about, and so he fired back. Secondly, his critique is weak for a number of reasons. Any book that is over 500 pages in length and addresses all the various problems of humanity, many times over, is going to have things which overlap and detail any society's problems. Although a couple of specific issues were listed such as infant baptism and republican government, republican government existed a long time before New York and United States, and it is certainly not unusual to find the topic of infant baptism to be addressed in a religious book. One could just as easily make the argument that the BoM reflects problems and culture of the 21st Century, therefore somebody today must have wrote it, which is obviously not the case. Another reason why this is a weak argument is that orthodox Jews have said Christ's teachings in the New Testament are nothing unique but are just cultural reflections and common philosophy of the day, yet we don't question the eternal nature of Christ's teachings. However, the author tries to bolster this New York argument by compiling it into other arguments he makes, such as the lack of evidence in Mesoamerica, giving the impression that the New York argument could very well be true given all of these other things. However, using understanding that is incorrect does not bolster an argument that is fundamentally weak.

3) The idea that Joseph most likely made the Book of Mormon up in his imagination because his mother related how prior to its translation Joseph would tell great and "amusing" stories about ancient inhabitants of America (p. 37). This shows an unfamiliarity with the sources. Had the author been more familiar with this statement from Joseph's mother, he would have known that immediately before Joseph's mother speaks of the "amusing" stories, she explains where Joseph got the information for those amusing stories - the angel Moroni. Joseph maintained that when Moroni appeared to him the very first time, he showed Joseph many aspects of life of the ancient Americans whom Joseph would translate in the BoM. Moroni showed him in vision their government, religion, warfare, etc. The same was the case every year when Moroni would visit him. It was from these lessons from Moroni about the ancient inhabitants of America that Joseph regaled his family (and taught the BoM took place in North America), as testified by both Joseph and his mother. The author again does not provide the full picture here.

4) The so called magic practices that the young Joseph Smith engaged in. Two things to say about this - A) We have a wealth of historical information on Joseph Smith, which people may use to draw their own conclusions on about him. However, whilst doing so, it must be kept in mind that such voluminous historical information is not the case for those whom Christians (and Jews) hold to be prophets from the Bible. In most cases the Biblical text is all we have as far as historical information goes, and in some of those cases, such as with Enoch, just several verses is all the credible information Christians have about someone who walked with God and was caught up to heaven (Genesis 5:24). If we were to have as much information about all of these prophets as we do of Joseph Smith, people might be surprised to learn about the characters of those whom God has chosen to do his work and the things that they did in their lives (after all, take Paul, before the Lord appeared to him, and Moses, who killed a man before he was called as a prophet - Exodus 2:12).

B)These magic practices were common in early U.S. history, being practiced by various Christians for non-sinister reasons, just like young Joseph. However, these Christians who did likewise will apparently be "saved" due to their traditional Christianity.

5) The author says that to Mormons, salvation is ultimately conditional, suggesting that Mormons misunderstand the concept of grace. Such is false, as Mormons believe that salvation is a free gift through the grace of Christ. No matter how many good works we do, the bottom line is that salvation comes from Christ's grace alone, for such is the only thing that can save. Yes, we believe that after salvation occurs, there will be varying rewards in heaven bestowed according to how much we did the will of the Father, but underlying that is the fact that salvation from sin and death are from Christ's grace alone. From the very beginning, Joseph Smith said that such is the central doctrine of Mormonism, and that all other doctrine are but appendages to it.

6) The weak argument that because Joseph Smith wrote several accounts of his first vision with different information in each that he must have made it up. Although the author tries to dismiss the common LDS response, it truly is no different than the multiple Biblical accounts of different events that emphasis different aspects of the same events (in fact with known contradictions). The author doesn't mention, or perhaps is not aware, that even some non-Mormon ministers who have investigated the first vision believe that all accounts are the product of a sincere person describing the same event. They don't necessarily believe that God appeared to Joseph, but they do believe him to be sincere. The author also says that one account mentions he was 16, whereas the others that he was 14. The former account actually says his 16th year, meaning age 15, and so while this is definitely not age 14 as all the other accounts say, getting an age wrong by one year in a letter he wrote once hardly serves as proof that Joseph was a fraud. Moreover, there is historical evidence of Joseph (outside of his own writings) speaking of his vision to people when he was 14, showing that his letter saying that he was 15 when it happened was simply a minor oversight, the cause of which could have been a number of reasons.

7) Something that the book said that is true but which has an underlying misunderstanding in general is "Mormonism denies the traditional doctrine of the Trinity". As I said to you, we believe in the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, collectively referred to as the Godhead. Why then are Mormons labelled "unbiblical" in this regard when our belief, the Godhead, is referenced in the Bible (Acts 17:29, Romans 1:20, Colossians 2:9), and the term "Trinity" is nowhere to be found in scripture? The answer is simple - the doctrine of the Trinity is an altered concept of the Godhead that evolved a couple of centuries after the New Testament was written. It was a hybrid of the original idea of the Godhead mixed with the influential Greek philosophy of the day, philosophy that spoke of an intangible, disembodied God that is everywhere and incomprehensible. Such a doctrine was debated, compromised then voted on, and the result was that God is three, but yet not three but one, that he is incomprehensible, that he is intangible and omnipresent, yet small enough to dwell in the human heart. This Nicene Creed in 325 A.D. became the official doctrine of the dominant Christian sect and later of most of Christianity itself. The Mormon Church is not the only church that understands this. There is an abundance of scholarship on it, as well as evidence on other Christian groups of the first couple of centuries A.D. who believed that the Father, Son and Holy Ghost were three separate beings but united in purpose. Yet the sad truth is that many Christians will ignore or attempt explain such away to believe and support a "Trinity" that is never mentioned once in the Bible. It is simply the power of tradition - the Trinity has been the traditional belief for over a thousand years, and such is what gives it is credibility. But tradition and familiarity are often the enemy of the truth, and when such tradition regarding the doctrine of the Trinity is questioned, one discovers that its origins are the same as the origins of celebrating Christ's birth on December 25th - pagan influence on the early church. However, it is natural that people don't like to lose their investments, and after a thousand years of investing in the doctrine of the Trinity, it won't be going away anytime soon, regardless of its absence in the Bible and historically proven origins centuries after the New Testament was written.

Although a few verses of scripture are used to try to show that the Trinity is biblical, such as that "I and my Father are one" (John 10:30) and "He that hath seen the me hath seen the Father" (John 14:9), such verses and others are consistent with a tremendous amount of phraseology in the Bible that is simply not meant to be taken literally. Moreover, the doctrine of the Trinity, what is supposed to be the description of the one true God, is entirely absent from Hebrew history, evidence again that it was a post-New Testament creation.

8) Hopefully what I have shared above is representative of what else I could say about the other aspects of Mormonism as addressed by this book.

Fundamental misunderstandings:

"Jesus and Satan are brothers" - although just touched on it the book, such is the typical sound-byte that Born Again Christians are trained on when it comes to Mormons. As I said to you, such is nothing more and nothing less than sensationalism. You may as well say that "Mormons believe that Jesus is God's Son, and Mormons also believe that we are all God's children, therefore, logically, Mormons must believe that Jesus and Charles Manson are brothers!" Sensationalism. Remember, before he fell, Satan was an angel in heaven, with God as His Father, therefore he has the same God and Father as Christ does and we all do. Jesus and Satan are not brothers however in the sense that Christ is God's Only Begotten Son. Satan has no claim at all to such Sonship in LDS theology. As said, it is just the usual sensational sound-byte designed to evoke immediate negative reaction to LDS doctrine instead of thoughtful contemplation.

Probably the real issue of misunderstanding with Born Again Christians in their view of Mormons is that of Christ. "The Mormon Jesus is not the real Jesus" is the other common sound-byte that is drummed into Born Again Christians by their pastors, or as the author of your book expressed in more polite terms, "I personally do not believe a person can find eternal life by following the LDS approach to salvation". (page 47) If Born Again Christians can be made to believe that the Mormon Jesus is not the real Jesus, then in one stroke pastors have succeeded in not having to deal with the countless good, wholesome and beautiful things of the Church. They don't have to really explain the BoM, can ignore the Church's massive global humanitarian program, can ignore the fact that many Mormons live lives that follow Christ's example, etc. Once again, it is a catchall that causes people not to have to think, but to believe as their pastors wish them to believe. However, these are the facts - when Mormons look up at the night sky, the same night sky that other Christians look up at, we know that the God who made those stars and planets had a Son, and that this Son lived on earth about 2000 years ago as was known as Jesus of Nazareth, was crucified and died for all mankind, and rose again on the third day - that is the Jesus whom we believe in and know is the only source of salvation. He is the Jesus of the New Testament, and no matter how many good things a person does, their good works are in vain - it is only Christ's grace that saves. Such is the Mormon belief in Christ, regardless of the misunderstanding the author of the book had.

Most troubling aspect of book:

In reference to the question of whether or not the Book of Mormon is true, the author says "The Latter-day Saints also encourage prospective converts to pray about the Book of Mormon. I don't recommend that you go that far. There's no need to ask God to show you whether it is true. While you and I do pray for guidance in every area of life, we have seen that the ultimate test of truth is not a spiritual experience." (page 92) In short, the author doesn't recommend that his audience ask God whether the BoM is true because the author has already provided all the facts on the matter to his audience and therefore the case is closed. What does the Bible say about this? "Thus saith the Lord; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord." (Jeremiah 17:5) Anyone who recommends that we depart from our communication with the Lord on a matter because we can trust what they have said is quite simply leading people astray. We are not to trust in man, but are to trust in God alone. Besides, what is there to fear? If this author believes the BoM to be false, then he should encourage people to sincerely read and pray about it!

Also, if one believes that the ultimate test of truth for spiritual matters is something other than a spiritual experience, then I don't know how one can understand what it is truly like to have a functioning relationship with God. The Bible plainly teaches this. "When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven." (Matthew 16:13-17) Christ didn't say to Peter that he received his knowledge through facts presented to him, or through listening to a pastor, nor even through lining up Christ with the scripture of the day. Instead he says that Peter received it straight from the Father. And how does the Bible say the Father reveals the truth of spiritual matters to us? Through the Holy Spirit. "But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me" (John 15:26) Again, "Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come." (John 16:13) Also, when the two disciples on the road to Emmaus expressed their testimony of Christ after he walked with them, it wasn't because they empirically could prove him, nor was it even Christ's use of the scriptures that was the ultimate thing that let them know he was Christ. What then did they say? "And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight. And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?" (Luke 24:31-32) The Holy Spirit is the ultimate test of spiritual truth.

Although it is true that different people will think they have had an experience with the Spirit and end up believing in different things, such as "God told me the Book of Mormon is true" or "God told me that it isn't", or "God told me Jesus is the right person to follow", or "God told me Mohammed is the right prophet to follow", such is why the experience of others, as I said in the beginning, can't be used as empirical evidence for where the truth is. However, regardless of the possibility of error, the Spirit is still the only way for the individual to know spiritual truth. Following the words of one's pastor who doesn't know all the facts because he is human, and trying to match things with the latest scholarship, though beneficial, will always result in one being "blown about with every wind of doctrine" if it is the ultimate test of truth that one uses.

Summary:

As I said, the Mormon Church definitely begs inquiry. Many valuable things can be learnt from such. However, one must learn that ultimately the Church cannot be proven nor disproved through scholarly inquiry. There is indeed a human side to Joseph Smith, as there is to every LDS leader and every true prophet from history. But there are also things which after centuries of inquiry still cannot be explained, with far too many "coincidences" for Joseph Smith or anybody for that matter to have made it all up. Although every LDS doctrine is in the Bible, differing interpretations of the Bible won't allow many to accept that method. The fact is that the only way for somebody to know whether Joseph Smith was a prophet and whether the Book of Mormon is true is to have their mind free of the polluting premature conclusions from incomplete information as this book was filled with, and be truly sincere about it by inquiring of God, and as Christ has said in the Bible, the method that God will use for testifying to truth is the Holy Spirit.

In summary, regardless that your book shares true things about Mormonism, it is nevertheless a piece of very poor analysis, steering people away from analytical thought and sound judgment by fostering conclusion without examination of all evidence and discouraging prayer.

Now, in expressing to you that your pastor's book isn't as accurate as it attempts to be, I do not deny that he has a relationship with Christ, nor that he is well meaning. Nor do I deny that that you have a relationship with Christ. I was happy to hear how he helps you every day in your life, as he does with me. I just hope that through this email your mind can be opened to the fact that often times when one thinks a case is closed, there is usually a much bigger picture that is yet to be seen.
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on April 25, 2009
I just finished Ross Anderson's little book Understanding the Book of Mormon: A Quick Christian Guide to the Mormon Holy Book, just published by Zondervan, and find it both helpful and fascinating.

The book is short, 116 very small pages, and is written in a conversational style. Anderson, an evangelical pastor in Utah, lays out the contents of the Book of Mormon, compares the doctrinal content with that in other Mormon holy books, and suggests ways for Christians to dialogue with Mormons.

The most effective part of this book is its fair, honest look at the Book of Mormon, and its loving, respectful tone toward Mormons. I would word things a bit stronger than the author does in a few places, but his overall tone is a needed balance to some of our bombast when it comes to speaking Christ to our neighbors.

Anderson is an ex-Mormon, but he's an ex-Mormon who loves Christ, not an ex-Mormon who is rebelling against his family. It is obvious in the pages of this little book that Anderson loves his Mormon family members and wants other Christians to learn how to speak to folks like them, with grace and truth.

Anderson advises his fellow Christians on what Mormons hear when we say certain things to them. He tells us why, for instance, bringing up Joseph Smith's polygamy isn't the best way to get the gospel to Latter-day Saints.

This book isn't a comprehensive comparison between Christianity and Mormonism. It's not necessarilly the book to give to someone weighing becoming a Mormon, or to a Mormon contemplating Christ. But it's an excellent resource to give to a church member who is in an ongoing conversation with a Latter-day Saint friend or neighbor.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon November 30, 2011
Ross Anderson is a former Mormon, and is also the author of the book, Understanding Your Mormon Neighbor: A Quick Christian Guide for Relating to Latter-Day Saints.

He wrote in the Preface to this 2009 book, "This book has been written both to explain and to evaluate the Book of Mormon from the perspective of the historical Christian faith. My intention is to interact with Mormonism in a spirit of kindness and civility."

Here are some quotations from the book:

"For Latter-day Saints, the method and pace of dictation is strong evidence that Joseph Smith could not have composed the Book of Mormon himself. The story is intricate, with intersecting plot lines and hundreds of different character and place names. Yet it displays unity of purpose and themes... Smith, an uneducated farm boy, dictated the story page after page, without stumbling into contradictions or errors. This could only have been done, Mormons believe, by the power of God." (Pg. 34)
"In later years, Martin Harris claimed that he saw the plates through 'the eyes of faith.' ... David Whitmer referred to the experience as a vision. Thus it is probable that the three witnesses never saw real gold plates with their physical eyes... Unlike the three, the eight witnesses ... said they actually touched the plates... (but) John Whitmer, said that he saw the plates by a supernatural power. Martin Harris claimed that none of the eight witnesses actually saw or handled the gold plates except in a vision." (Pg. 36)
"LDS scholars have responded with a number of theories to explain why the writing on the scrolls does not match the text of the Book of Abraham. Some believe that the text Joseph Smith translated is located on portions of the scrolls that have not been recovered. Others think that the original Egyptian text acted as a catalyst that prompted Smith to receive a revelation directly from God... The LDS Church has never issued an official explanation." (Pg. 56)
"The LDS Church has seemingly acknowledged that the DNA evidence carries some weight. For example, the introduction to the 1981 edition of the Book of Mormon identifies the Lamanites as 'the principal ancestors of the American Indians. The 2006 edition states that the Lamanites 'are among the ancestors of the American Indians.' This change accommodates the current scientific consensus..." (Pg. 71)
"Yet I would not be too quick to raise these issues with an LDS friend. Mormons have strong feelings of reverence and admiration for Joseph Smith ... If you criticize Smith, they will feel attacked. I would discuss the problems with Joseph Smith only when the relationship has developed a high level of rapport and trust---and even then, only with great caution." (pg. 91)
"The Latter-day Saints also encourage prospective converts to pray about the Book of Mormon. I don't recommend that you go that far. There's no need to ask God to show you whether it is true... the ultimate test of truth is not a spiritual experience. A Latter-day Saint would not accept an invitation to pray for the testimony of the Koran... because he or she will already feel confident about knowing the truth." (Pg. 92)
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on October 13, 2014
Great book.
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on February 18, 2016
Well written, easy read! Great perspective!
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on October 16, 2009
In this book Ross Anderson gives us a clear, helpful, and straightforward guide to the Book of Mormon. If you want to understand the book that is the centerpiece of the LDS faith and how it influences the lives of Mormons then get this book. Anderson conversationally walks us through the story of the book of Mormon, it's development as told by the LDS church, it's major teachings, and it's relationship to the Bible.

Anderson also spends some time examining whether or not the book of Mormon is what it claims to be. In doing this, he is fair, and avoids much of the name-calling and disparaging speech that is often found in books of this nature. You can tell his book has grown out of many years of learning to understand, love, and share Jesus with members of the LDS church.

Anderson fills out his book with stories and quotes from LDS family members, giving us a window into how everyday Mormons view their holy books. This book isn't just scholarly conjecture. It reflects the thoughts of our Mormon friends and neighbors.

I think this book is especially helpful for those who don't come from a LDS background and feel lost when it comes to understanding what the theology of Mormonism is all about. It certainly will help you talk with LDS friends and lead to more fruitful spiritual discussions. I would just urge those who want to read the book to get "ammunition" against the book of Mormon to be sure to read Anderson's last chapter. All of us who want to see our LDS friends put their faith in Jesus for salvation need to approach this subject with gentleness and respect. We need to listen to the stories of our friends and pray that the Spirit would give us wisdom as we speak. I think Anderson models this sort of thing for us in his book.
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on November 18, 2011
Let us try an clear up some of the confusion regarding this particular text.

The author of Understanding the Book of Mormon, the Reverend Ross Anderson, was a Latter-day Saint in his youth, though he soon went missing. He does not explain why this happened or how he came to found the Wasatch Evangelical Free Church in Roy, Utah. Larded with references to his faithful Latter-day Saint family (pp. 7-9, 14, 47, 49, 57, 82, 86), the book contains numerous hints about his apostasy, the pain it inflicted on his family, and their kindly way of dealing with him. Anderson has not, however, tried to explain in this book his urge to attack the faith of Latter-day Saints.

Anderson is trained as a pastor; he holds both MDiv and a DMin degrees, the latter from the Salt Lake Theological Seminary. What Anderson calls A Quick Christian Guide to the Mormon Holy Book can be seen as a product of the kind of indoctrination he received at that now-defunct institution, which appears to have had as its primary focus the training of pastors and the fashioning of programs to proselytize Latter-day Saints. Instead of witnessing to his own version of Christian faith, Anderson's book offers a sustained criticism of his former faith. By Christian he seems to mean his own understanding of what constitutes Christian faith, though he offers only hints about what that might be. He seems to have picked the Book of Mormon as a target because he senses its crucial role as both the ground for and content of the faith of Latter-day Saints (see p. 81), and also because he wrongly assumes that it is vulnerable to stock criticisms borrowed from secular and countercult critics. A Quick Christian Guide is designed to be a handbook with which pastors can protect their flocks from taking seriously the faith of the Saints or arm their flocks to proselytize the Saints. A set of "discussion questions" is included in the book (pp. 95-100) for pastors engaged in such indoctrination. For example, Anderson urges pastors to ask their flocks if there is "any good reason to read the Book of Mormon? If so, what might it be? If you ever do read the Book of Mormon, what precautions should you take?" (p. 100). It seems that the appropriate answer is a cautious yes, but no praying and pondering is recommended.

One of the Reverend Anderson's objections to the Book of Mormon is that there is far too much Jesus in it and not the right things about Jesus (p. 42). He notes that "many central doctrines espoused by the LDS Church are not found in the Book of Mormon" (p. 40) and concludes that the book lacks what he misunderstands as the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ (pp. 47, 59). In repeating this stock objection, he has neglected to read the Book of Mormon carefully and hence does not understand what Jesus describes as his gospel (see 3 Nephi 27:9-22) or his doctrine (see 11:31-40).

Anderson claims that Latter-day Saints lack "concrete evidence" or "empirical verification" for the Book of Mormon and that hence the "ultimate proof" comes for the Saints "in the form of a self-validating spiritual experience" that is unreliable (p. 39). He believes that "the Bible teaches us to evaluate truth by comparing truth claims to the standard of scripture" (p. 84), but this is, among other things, circular reasoning. He also is confident that for the Bible and its message, proof is both necessary and available. Latter-day Saints, from Anderson's perspective, do not have, nor do they seek, a proof or validation of faith that Protestants have. He makes a big fuss about biblical archaeology (pp. 68, 70, 77), and he claims that the Book of Mormon is without such proof (p. 72) and that, by pondering and praying, the Saints seek or fabricate a "spiritual witness" or "confirming experience" wrongly believed to be a divine revelation (p. 83). Hence the Saints merely depend on what he insists are squishy "spiritual experiences" (pp. 39, 79, 80, 82, 84, 89, 92) that amount to merely an unreliable "positive inner feeling" (p. 13), a "self-validating spiritual experience" (p. 39), and a "subjective inner testimony" (pp. 73, 77). Anderson is thus confident that the Book of Mormon, unlike the Bible, is without a real warrant, including the crucial and necessary archaeological proofs (pp. 68, 72, 77). One wonders, does Anderson have archaeological proof that Jesus existed? That he was the Messiah or Christ? That he atoned for our sins or was resurrected? Does he imagine that one must have such proof before one can come unto Christ and be redeemed?

From Anderson's sectarian perspective, "no concrete evidence is available" (p. 39) to support the historical authenticity of the Book of Mormon, but he also realizes that there is considerable evidence that makes plausible the historical authenticity of the Book of Mormon. He seeks to bush this literature aside, claiming that it leaves open the possibility of reasonable doubt where absolute certainty is needed. In doing this, he does not confront more than a tiny fraction of this material. Instead, he opines that "even the best Mormon apologists" can only create what he describes as "an aura of plausibility" (pp. 71-72) and not furnish credible proof. Anderson insists on proof prior to faith while also denying that God can or will reveal anything outside of the Bible, as understood by quarreling theologians and churchmen and in the ecumenical creeds, of course.

The Reverend Anderson claims to speak for historical, biblical, or traditional Christianity (pp. 7, 15, 34, 40, 47, 49, 57). Other than a brief reference to the ecumenical creeds of Nicaea and Chalcedon on the Trinity (where we are told there is one God in three persons subsisting in one essence but without the semblance of an effort to indicate what that language means) and an assertion that the Saints do not properly assent to Augustinian and Protestant notions of salvation, there is nothing setting out what Anderson would have the Saints believe. So it turns out that this book is, despite much talk about the necessity of a kinder, gentler, less hostile and aggressive approach to evangelizing Latter-day Saints, merely another example of a confrontational, adversarial mode of evangelizing the Saints. Anderson has fashioned a handbook with which Protestant pastors can arm their flocks to attack the faith of the Saints in a hopefully less offensive style. Intention and substance are not the issues here, but tone. The endeavor thus lacks probity.

If we turn to substance, A Quick Christian Guide offers little that is new or accurate about the Book of Mormon or the faith of the Saints; the treatment is both elementary and superficial. The confident, conversational tone is the most effective part of the Reverend Anderson's efforts to set out ways to lure Latter-day Saints from their faith. However, the assertions, analyses, and arguments found in this book are derivative, lifted from a sectarian and secular literature that is critical of Latter-day Saint faith. The arguments put forth have long been answered in detail in a literature that Anderson neglects to summarize or even mention. A Quick Christian Guide is thus not sound scholarship but partisan propaganda rife with mistakes at virtually every turn.

Zondervan is a reputable evangelical press, but it also has a penchant for publishing unseemly attacks on the faith of Latter-day Saints. With the recent release of Ross Anderson's little book, it has again manifested this disappointing and unfortunate proclivity.
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on July 15, 2009
This book by an ex-mormon gives a short, sweet, and gentle discussion of the "Book of Mormon" and how Mormon's feel about it.

Anderson contrasts the "Book of Mormon" to the Bible and to other Mormon standard works. He points out that while the "Book of Mormon" is felt to be inspirational and instructive, it does not contain important Mormon doctrines. For these, you have to turn to the books entitled "Doctrine and Covenants" and "Pearl of Great Price".

Anderson cautions that any criticism of the "Book of Mormon" will cause a Mormon to be defensive and they will likely use the "p" word (persecution). Merely to disagree and point out problems definitely does not meet the dictionary definition of persecution, but Anderson urges gentleness and sensitivity.

The reader will find useful charts of the content of individual books and a timeline of events in the "Book of Mormon". There is also a chart of where to find important Mormon doctrines in "Doctrine and Covenants".
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on June 17, 2009
I cannot recommend a better book for anyone who is interested on learning more about Mormonism. I learned and discovered many of my misconceptions that I had and had been established by the media. This caused me to not only better understand but also to love Mormons more. I gave copies to my Bible study group and they loved it and learned a lot as well. My only complaint would be that a price is really high for such a small paperback but it is well worth buying, you will not be disappointed.
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on March 26, 2012
The book offers a vantage point. To understand, you must read the book of mormon first. as someone living in oklahoma, I have had multiple experiences with the alpine church and it's anti mormon attitude. Anti, very simple.
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