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Criticism of Mormonism/Books/Letters to a Mormon Elder
Response to "Letters to a Mormon Elder"
A FairMormon Analysis of: Letters to a Mormon Elder, a work by author: James White
Reviews of this work
James White's book Letters to a Mormon Elder is clearly regarded (at least by Mr. White and his ministry) as a major "witnessing" tool for confronting Latter-day Saints. "Reading this book may prove to be one of the most important events in your life" goes the blurb on his Internet site. Thus it is appropriate to see what responses it has garnered. Until now, L. Ara Norwood's review in the FARMS Review of Books on the Book of Mormon has been the only substantive response given to this work. In that review, Norwood says, "It would have been much more interesting and balanced had the letters been written between Mr. White and an actual member of the Latter-day Saint Church with the proper background, but then that would change the entire outcome of the book."1 Taking this as a challenge, I decided to write a series of responses to Mr. White's letters.
At first glance what we seem to have in James R. White's first book-length project on Mormonism is the evangelical answer to the claims of Mormon doctrine. In fact, Mr. White seems to have the answers to just about anything and everything a Mormon missionary would ever say. After all, he has, "over the past few years, . . . spoken with well over 1,200 Mormon missionaries in Arizona and Utah,1 and an equal number of plain Mormon folk" (p. ix). Anyone who has spoken with what amounts to over 2,400 people of one particular faith has really done his homework, or so it would seem. Alpha and Omega ministries had only been in business for about seven years when this book was written. Is Mr. White serious when he says he has dialogued with an average of 350 Mormons each year, or 29 Mormons each month, or an average of one different Mormon each day—every day—for a seven-year period? That's a huge amount of research—in fact, it's staggering, incredible, and, dare I say, unbelievable.2
What is even more unbelievable is the content of his dialogue. Each of the seventeen chapters is dubbed as a "letter." These fictional letters are written from the perspective of James White, champion of Calvinism, defender of the evangelical reformed version of Protestant Christianity, as he corresponds with a character known first as "Elder Hahn" until a démarche at letter number 10 causes Mr. White to address the emissary by the less-formal, less-dignified salutation, "Dear Steve." Mr. White tries to make the last eight letters to Steve more chummy though no less preachy, perhaps in an effort to suggest to the reader that it is possible to influence even that most diehard of all Mormon species, the full-time Latter-day Saint missionary.