Saturday, June 04, 2011

Book Review: The 10 Most Important Things You Can Say to a Mormon by Ron Rhodes

The 10 Most Important Things You Can Say to a MormonThe 10 Most Important Things You Can Say to a Mormon by Ron Rhodes is a small 125-page book designed to be a quick introduction and Christian response to the teachings of Mormonism. Like other introductory books by Rhodes, this one is structured for easy understanding of key doctrines of the group with a strong scriptural response. This brief review will outline the main topics covered in the ten chapters of the book, providing highlights along the way.

The author’s pattern in dealing with the doctrines of the Mormon church is to first lay out the general teachings of the group, their reasons for believing what they do (along with handy bullet-points, quotes, and icons), and then respond to them point by point by correcting their misreading or misapplication of scripture.

 In chapter one, The Mormon Church is Not the Restored Church, Rhodes introduces the reader to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), their overall view and authority structure: “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) teaches that total apostasy engulfed the church soon after the death of the last apostle; therefore the ‘one true church’ needed to be restored.” (9) This restoration came about through the founder, Joseph Smith. “Joseph Smith allegedly restored proper church organization, the true gospel, and the ‘eternal’ priesthood.” (10) In a nutshell, total apostasy overcame the church after the death of the last apostle, church organization crumbled, and now the Mormon church is the restored church.

Chapter two, The Book of Mormon is Man-Made, describes the origin and use of the Mormons’ authoritative text. Rhodes says:
The Book of Mormon is allegedly an abridged account of God's dealings with the original inhabitants of the American continent from about 2247 B.C. to A.D. 421. Mormons claim it was originally engraved on gold plates by ancient prophets in the language of "Reformed Egyptian," deposited in a stone box, and buried in the Hill Cumorah in New York. It is said to be God's uncorrupted revelation to humankind, the "fullness of the everlasting gospel," and "another Testament of Jesus Christ." Smith is said to have "translated" the Book of Mormon from the gold plates using a "seer stone." (19)
Mormons believe the Book of Mormon is the most correct of any book. They would also believe that the Bible prophesies about the book of Mormon. The author answers these points by showing that the book of Mormon is man-made, citing thousands of demonstrable changes, errors, plagiarisms, and lack of archeological support. Rhodes also describes how the Book of Mormon contradicts current Mormon doctrines.

Chapter three, The Bible is God's Word and Is Trustworthy, refutes the Mormon idea that the Bible is corrupt. “While Mormons acknowledge that the original manuscripts penned by biblical authors were the Word of God, they aver that what passes as ‘the Bible’ today is corrupt. It can only be trusted insofar as ‘it is translated correctly.’” (33) Rhodes makes a case for the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible. He also shows the “inspired version” by Joseph Smith is false.

Chapter four, The One True God Is an Eternal Spirit Being, looks at the Mormon conception of God. “Mormon prophets and apostles teach that God the Father was once a mortal man who continually progressed to become a god (an exalted man).” (45) Their belief is not that God is spirit, as Christians believe, but actually a physical being. “Mormons often cite verses from the Bible to prove God is a physical being. For instance, it is suggested that since Adam was a physical being and was created in the ‘image of God’ (Genesis 1:26,27), God too must have a physical body.” (45) The author’s response includes showing that the Bible teaches that God is not an exalted man, but an eternal being. He refutes the scriptures used by Mormons to claim the physicality of God.

Chapter five, The Trinity Involves Three Persons in One God, corrects the Mormon denial of the triune nature of God. “Mormonism teaches that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not three persons in one God, as historic Christianity has taught, but rather that they are three separate gods.” (53) This view goes even further: “Not only are there numerous Father-gods, there is also a heavenly wife (or wives) for each.” (54) Rhodes reveals clearly just how far Mormonism differs from Christian teaching. “All of this is part and parcel of the polytheistic world of Mormonism. Mormons believe in numerous gods.” (54) And again: “Each Father-god has a heavenly wife, and together they beget many millions of male and female spirits, who can eventually become gods.” (55) Rhodes lays out scriptural evidence that there is but one God, yet existing in three persons - Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Chapter six is entitled Humans Are Creatures and Never Become Gods. Rhodes points out that, “A perusal of Mormon literature quickly reveals that the ultimate goal in Mormonism is godhood.” (65) Mormons seek to attain the status of gods: “Attaining this lofty goal involves an extended process that spans preexistence (before being physically born on earth), mortal existence (life on earth), and postmortal existence (afterlife).” (67) Needless to say, again the author outlines countless scriptures that deny this doctrine, showing that the Bible’s teaching is completely contrary to the Mormon view.

Chapter seven, Jesus is God - Not the Spirit-Brother of Lucifer, corrects the Mormon conception of Jesus. “According to official Mormon teaching, Jesus was begotten as the first spirit-child of the Father (Elohim) and one of his unnamed wives ("Heavenly Mother"). Jesus was allegedly the first and highest of all the spirit children.” (77) Jesus’ role is minimized dramatically. “The result of Jesus' atonement is that we will all be resurrected.” (79) Jesus did something good, but according to Mormonism, more good must be done by believers to attain salvation.

Chapter eight, Salvation is by Grace Through Faith, Not By Works, deals with the Mormon view of salvation, which itself means something very different from Christian teaching. Rhodes describes their view of Jesus work in salvation:
In Mormonism, Jesus' atonement basically means He was able to overcome physical death for the human race. He paid the price for all people to rise from the grave. Because of what He accomplished, we will all be resurrected. When Mormons talk about "salvation" (or "general salvation"), they essentially mean resurrection. (89)
Rhodes says, “Despite this important feat accomplished by Jesus, it did not do away with the need for good works.” (90) Requirements for salvation include: baptism in a Mormon church, regular church attendance, consistent good works, attaining “worthiness,” and engaging in “temple work” (rituals). (91) Refreshingly, the author outlines the Bible’s teaching on salvation, revealing the dramatic contrast in views.

Chapter nine, The Afterlife Involves Heaven and Hell - Not Three Degrees of Glory, describes and answers the Mormon view of the afterlife. “At the end of the world, Mormons believe people will end up in one of three kingdoms of glory: the celestial kingdom, the terrestrial kingdom, or the telestial kingdom. A person's level of worthiness determines which of these three realms he or she ends up in.” (103)

Chapter ten, Jesus Changed My Life Forever, discusses strategies in speaking with Mormons, which includes a strong emphasis on the use of personal testimony. Rhodes says, “One of the ten most important things to say to a Mormon must include a testimony of what the Lord Jesus has done in your life. Giving your personal testimony is a very important component of any witnessing encounter, but it is especially important in the case of the Mormon.” (111) The author gives us good reason for using testimony:
as you give your personal testimony, a key emphasis you must continually bring up is that you are a Christian not because you do good works, not because you follow rules, not because you attend a particular church, not because you read a Bible, but because you have a personal relationship with Jesus, the living Lord and true God of the universe. (113-114)
In conclusion, The 10 Most Important Things You Can Say to a Mormon by Ron Rhodes proves to be a very useful primer on Mormonism, answering the most crucial points using scripture. The reader will gain an understanding of Mormon beliefs, all the while learning the importance of learning and knowing sound Christian doctrine.

Ron Rhodes, The 10 Most Important Things You Can Say to a Mormon (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2001)


marciemo said...

This book seems like an interesting read. The exchange between Mormons and tradtional Christians has always been interesting to me. The back and forth and the arguments of each make for an entertaining exchange. I really like how he brings it back to a testimony of a personal relationship with the Savior. This is an all important aspect that I believe many people miss out on.

One thing I wanted to correct is that the Book of Mormon is believed to be an ancient writing written in 600 B.C., not the stated 2247 B.C. This can be seen by opening a Book of Mormon to the first page and looking at the bottom corner. I am interested to know where the author got his date.

I enjoy reading your blog. I find your topics fascinating and engaging. Thank you for being a defender of faith.

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