Criticism of Mormonism/Books/One Nation Under Gods/Overview

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Overview: One Nation Under Gods

A FairMormon Analysis of: One Nation Under Gods, a work by author: Richard Abanes

In early 2002 a new book entitled One Nation under Gods (ONUG) appeared on bookshelves, promising to tell the "real" history of the Mormon Church. In the words of its author,

It is beyond legitimate dispute that the Mormon church has for decades been painting for the general public a decidedly biased picture of the Latter-day Saint faith, especially with regard to the origins of the Book of Mormon. Fortunately, a more objective sketch of Mormonism's earliest years can be drawn using non-LDS witnesses, secular media articles, and private journals (Mormon and non-Mormon).

All of these sources will be used in this book to discover how Mormonism's founder--Joseph Smith--formed, controlled, and expanded his church, which today is one of the wealthiest and most influential religions in the world. [One Nation Under Gods, xvi]

With his thesis stated and his purpose laid bare, the author attempts to pull disparate sources together to paint a picture that, when compared to objective reality, more closely resembles a Picasso than a Rembrandt, skewed and distorted, while obscuring and maligning the actual doctrines and beliefs as understood and practiced by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for more than 150 years.

Of course, if you ask the author, he stands by his work and insists that it is competent and unbiased from a scholarly perspective. In his acknowledgments he thanks avowed professional anti-Mormons Sandra and Jerald Tanner for their publication of Mormonism—Shadow or Reality?, saying it was his "introduction to Mormonism more than a dozen years ago." [ONUG, xi] Further, Sandra Tanner wrote a glowing Foreword to the book, and provided a dust-jacket blurb that states (in part),

One Nation under Gods is a well-written and absorbing book that is ideal for anyone wanting a concise, accurate, and easy-to-understand history of Mormonism from its inception to the present.

Unfortunately, Sandra Tanner has a history of producing inaccurate facts about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (See, for example, They Lie In Wait to Deceive, Vol. 1 or Jerald and Sandra Tanner’s Distorted View of Mormonism: A Response to Mormonism--Shadow or Reality.)

So we are now left with One Nation under Gods, with its 473 pages of prose and an additional 144 pages of endnotes. In a dust-jacket blurb, professional anti-Mormon Hank Hanegraaff (associated with the Christian Research Institute), praises the author's work by stating that "One Nation under Gods is documented as meticulously as any scholarly work." The author has been quick to point out, in various e-mails, that his book is well-documented and scholarly in its approach. This brings to mind a statement by Douglas E. Cowan, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies and Sociology at the University of Missouri:

My favorite example of questionable scholarship is the use made of the humble endnote. When the Christian Research Institute issued an official statement about fellow apologist Dave Hunt, and claimed that, although they considered him a "brother in Christ," they did not regard him as a credible scholar, Hunt was outraged. "I’m not a scholar? How is that defined? In spite of the more than 800 footnotes in A Woman Rides the Beast, I’m not thorough in my research?" (Hunt 1995: 3). Occult Invasion (1998) contains nearly fifteen hundred endnotes. That countercult apologists employ the apparatus of scholarship is, of course, not the issue; how those apparatus are employed is. What are the sources and are they reliable? Are they quoted fairly and correctly? The mere use of scholarly apparatus in no way ensures the reliability of the information provided.
—Douglas E. Cowan, "Reflections on Louisville: The Christian Countercult in Conversation," (Center for Studies on New Religions, June 2002).

Fortunately, the sources used in this work can be checked. After the release of the hardback edition of ONUG in 2002, FAIR began a detailed examination of some of the sources used by this author. The author responded to FAIR's original analysis by correcting some of the issues that were found in the hardback edition. In 2003, the author released a paperback edition containing these changes. In some cases, errors were corrected. In others, the author simply reworded things so that they made the same point that he had made in the hardback edition without actually addressing the real issue. Although the original set of articles was intended to be a work in progress, it was never pursued further for the next six years. In response to the author's more recent complaints in 2008 that FAIR's analysis only addressed the hardback edition, FAIR moved the original articles from the FAIR website into the FAIR Wiki. This allows multiple authors to update and correct the articles—something that was not easy to do when the articles were in their original form on the FAIR web site. In addition to editing the original articles for content and tone and updating them to reflect the information found in the 2003 paperback edition, we have continued the project originally begun in 2002 to more thoroughly examine the sources used by the author in this work. As a result, many additional articles have been created in an ongoing effort to examine these sources.

As you explore the information in the articles linked below, you will begin to recognize the "surrealist" aspects of this work, which does with words exactly what Picasso did with pigments—present a twisted and surreal view of reality. In this case, the reality of normal people living normal lives and seeking to worship and serve God to the best of their ability.

As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and volunteer members of FAIR, it is our hope that this work will help to "set the record straight" and clarify many of the distortions and misrepresentations accorded our doctrine and beliefs by One Nation under Gods. It is our desire to increase understanding and goodwill among all sincere seekers of truth; that you may gain greater insight into the Christ-centered principles and practices that have directed His Church since its restoration in 1830.

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