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Criticism of Mormonism/Criticism of "17 Points of the True Church"
Criticism of "17 Points of the True Church"
Someone wrote the FairMormon Ask the Apologist service saying:
"My question is about that fellow who wrote the "17 Points of the True Church" and the validity of his story. I stumbled into a web site that talked about a particular fireside this man gave where someone approached him on the truth of his story. Afterwards the man was told by a stake president that he must confess that he lied because he had been essentially "found out," and that many details of his story were fabricated.
My testimony is in no way based on the "17 Points," and I feel that it is overused and overemphasized within the Church, but regardless, I would like to know about the information claiming that his story his false."
It makes little difference for the Church if Weston made up his story, since the truth or falsity of Weston's personal history has no bearing whatsoever on the truth of the restored gospel.
Additionally, the "17 Points" may be used by certain individual members of the Church, but they have not been used in any official Church publications or adopted by the Church in any other way. The claims of the restored gospel stand independent of Weston's list.
The person responsible for the "17 Points of the True Church" is a man named Floyd Weston.
An ex-Mormon critic of the Church has claimed that Weston fabricated the details of how the "17 Points" were created. For example, Weston claims to have developed the list when he was a student at Cal Tech, and that during this time Albert Einstein visited the school. The critic has charged that Weston was actually at Cal Tech several years too late to see Einstein's visit. All of this is based on an email to the critic from an anonymous person who claims to know someone who knew Weston. So, the source is anonymous and almost impossible to verify. Anyone with further verifiable information is invited to contact FairMormon.
What this has to do with the validity of Weston's "17 Points" is not entirely clear, but it seems that the critic is attempting to discredit Weston's list (and, by implication, the Church) by discrediting Weston himself. This would be a form of the ad hominem fallacy.
The assumptions underlying the "17 points" are highly dependent upon a worldview widely assumed by Utah Mormons, but which rarely reflects the situation of those who are not members of the LDS Church: the idea that there is "one true church" and that people will accept the LDS faith once they are logically convinced that it "matches" the New Testament Church in salient ways. In reality, these concepts are totally foreign to the worldview of most non-Mormons and depend a great deal on the assumptions which one brings to such an analysis.
"17 Points" is thus a resource that may be interesting to Latter-day Saints in examining the scriptural basis for certain features of the modern Church, but it is one that has relatively little value or relevance to the missionary effort unless the non-member already shares many aspects of the LDS world-view. Most non-members are likely more effectively approached about the gospel in entirely different ways, and following the Church's emphasis on such things as the mission of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon are more likely to be effective missionary tools.
In August 2014, FairMormon was contacted by a relative of Bro. Weston's. She wrote:
I am Floyd Weston's daughter and I'd like to tell you that he and his friends did indeed collaborate on the 17 points found in the New Testament. Over the years people have taped his talks and put his firesides on the market. He has stated that several lists claiming to be the original 17 points are incorrect; however. The stories of him being chased out of church-sponsored meetings are ridiculous. He never taped or published any of his remarks; rather, shared his conversion with others and motivated them to investigate the gospel.
This confirms the perspective that the hostile reports targeted against Weston suffer from significant bias.
- Carlie Weston Arntsen, e-mail to FairMormon editors, 30 August 2014.