Book Review: Mormonism Explained

Andrew Jackson, Mormonism Explained: What Latter-Day Saints Teach and Practice. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Books, 2008. Paperback, 208 pages.

(Review copy courtesy of Crossway Books.)
Mormonism ExplainedPurchase: Crossway | WTS | Amazon | CBD

Excerpts: Introduction and Chapter 1 | Browse Online

www.mormonismexplained.com

ISBNs: 1581349351 / 9781581349351

Subjects: Mormonism, Theology

Andrew Jackson (M.Div., Fuller Theological Seminary; D.Min., Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary) is a seminary professor and an ordained minister in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. He also blogs at SmartChristian.com.

Why Write about Mormonism?

Andrew Jackson, seminary professor and ordained minister in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, is a pastor ministering in a nondenominational church in downtown Mesa, Arizona. The city of Mesa was founded by the Mormons 130 years ago, and Andrew’s church family congregates only one block from the Latter-day Saints Mesa Temple.

He opens up his book with a clear thesis statement: “My goal in writing Mormonism Explained was to present a concise and thorough introduction to what Latter-day Saints (LDS) officially teach and practice today primarily for the broad Christian audience, although I also wrote it for interested non-Christians and Mormons” (p. 9).

The 208-page book is divided into three main parts: 1) The Origins of Mormonism, 2) What Mormonism Teaches and Why, and 3) The Salvation of Mormonism. Extra bonuses are the appendices: LDS Articles of Faith, LDS Organizational Structure, LDS Terminology, and Select Resources. Endnotes (though I prefer footnotes because I read them all), an index of names, and an index of Scripture (always a plus in my estimation) are included in the back of the book.

Why Should Anyone Read This book?

Because many people have no idea what the LDS church teaches today. The only things that come to their minds are polygamy, racism, billions of gods and goddesses populating billions of planets with billions of babies, and Mitt Romney. So I believe that this book is a nice, short, fresh introduction from an evangelical perspective. If you desire to read a brief introduction from a leading Mormon historian, pick up Richard Bushman’s small primer, Mormonism: A Very Short Introduction (2008). If you are interested in catching the latest from the affable BYU professor, Robert Millet, the head point man for LDS/evangelical dialogue, read the book Pressing the Boundaries of Christianity (2007).

Overview

Andrew has provided for the reader a logical, easy-to-understand format that takes us all the way from the birth of Joseph Smith to the prophet’s clever proclamations of mandatory baptisms by proxy for all the untold dead. For many of us, the journey awaits to better understand the nuanced diversity within modern Mormonism as we share the gospel with our LDS friends.

The author touches upon LDS diversity in the opening introduction of his book but only scratches the surface. Unfortunately, a whole world of contemporary Internet LDS would hammer dozens of statements in his book as inaccurate—and yet the proof would be in the pudding. Would any LDS General Authorities call him on the carpet for blatant misrepresentation?

The historical trail in the first third of the book triggered many memories. When I was young over a decade ago, I took my bride on an LDS expedition across America. We started in Sharon, Vermont; explored Palmyra, New York; took a stroll through the sacred grove; tramped around Hill Cumorah; chuckled at the house where the runaway renegade Joseph married his new bride, Emma; stopped at the home site grounds where Joseph began his “translation” of the Book of Mormon; stood on the banks of the Susquehanna River and contemplated priesthood authority; romped around in the garden of Independence, Missouri; researched in Nauvoo, Illinois; and finally listened to the tour guide in Carthage share how Joseph died as a lamb submissively led to the slaughter. And honestly Andrew shared significant details that I had not thought of before.

After taking the reader on a tour of LDS history, the author jumps right into the swirl of LDS ecclesiology, bibliology, theology, and soteriology. Much of it, I think, would properly reflect the traditional, conservative stance of LDS thought, though some of Jackson’s comments are pulling from the Church Educational System (CES) position written almost thirty years ago. For instance, Jackson writes, “Although salvation in the highest Celestial heaven is what Mormons strive throughout their lives to achieve, the LDS Church is clear that many Latter-day Saints will never actually experience exalted salvation” (p. 128). This past summer I browsed through a counterpoint book, Odds Are, You’re Going to Be Exalted by Alonzo L. Gaskill (Deseret, 2008), and found that in some LDS quarters, it seems that the angst of not reaching exaltation is dissipating. I think Millet would encourage this as well in his ongoing comfort to young college LDS on the topic of grace.

Conclusion

Overall, I recommend this book. Purchase it. Share the information with those in your church families. And let the gospel conversations begin, be more informed, be more loving, and be more frequent with your LDS friends in America.

Todd WoodTodd Wood is pastor of Berean Baptist Church (Idaho Falls, ID). He received his B.A. in Missions, M.A. in Theology, and M.Div. from Bob Jones University (Greenville, SC). But more than anything he hungers for the A.I.G. degree affixed to Apelles (Rom. 16:10). He also operates a blog called Heart Issues for LDS.



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