Moody Press, Chicago, Paperback.
Reviewed by Terry DeGuire
The major thrust of literary efforts seeking to refute the beliefs of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have always come, ironically enough, from other Christians. Gordon H. Fraser’s Is Mormonism Christian is no exception to the “rule”. Neither is it an exception to the “rule” of using deception, innuendo, half-truths and outright lies as “ammunition” in the ongoing “battle” waged by the self-appointed “cult-busters” of orthodox Christianity. Their favorite ploy, in their ongoing efforts to decide who “is” Christian and who is “not” is to present The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the common “enemy” of all Christendom.
Who is Gordon H. Fraser? It depends on who you ask. Two years after his death in 1990, John Ankerberg and John Weldon can be found touting him as an “ethnologist” in their own “cult exposing” volume, Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Mormonism. Of course these illustrious gentlemen don’t seem to know him very well either as they refer to him as “Dr.” Frazer (pg. 270, 284 and 286) and “Dr”. Fraser (p.262) alternately. Research showed him to be listed in the 1975 edition of Contemporary Authors, at the late age of 77, as holding an MA. but shows no evidence of a doctorate. “Indian anthropology” and “North American archaeology” are listed by Contemporary Authors as Reverend Fraser’s “avocational interests.” By 1977 biographical information included with Is Mormonism Christian? states that he has a doctorate.
Whatever his actual credentials might be, it seems he is a prolific author. In addition to Is Mormonism Christian, Mr. Fraser has given us Joseph Smith and the Golden Plates: A Close Look at the Book of Mormon; A Manual for Christian Workers: A Workshop Outline for the Study of Mormonism; Sects of the Latter-day Saints; and, with Bob Witte, What’s Going on in Here?: An Exposing [sic] of the Secret Mormon Temple Rituals.1 The back cover of Is Mormonism Christian? informs us that “Mr. Gordon Fraser has studied Mormonism in depth in order to warn other Christians about its heresies and subtleties.”2 A quick perusal of the endnotes for this “in-depth” study of Mormonism offered to us by Mr. Fraser reveals such illustrious “sources as Fawn Brodie’s No Man Knows My History and Philip D. Jordan’s Introduction to The Banditti of the Prairies, by Edward Bonney, and Jerald and Sandra Tanner’s Mormonism, Shadow or Reality?.
Unwilling to wait until the first chapter, Fraser begins his deception in the Preface with this contrived statement, “Two young Mormon missionaries came to my door and introduced themselves as Elders Smith and Jones.”3 Smith and Jones? How original. Fraser accuses these imaginary Elders of ridiculing the Trinity and using “Christian terminology to attack every cardinal doctrine of Christianity”.4 He says that “these Mormon missionaries, and all Mormons, for that matter, insist that they are Christians. They claim to believe in Jesus Christ as Savior, in the atonement, and in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. However, by an examination of their doctrinal writings, we discover that they mean something entirely different from what their terminology would indicate.”5 He further declares that Elders “Smith” and “Jones” were guilty of presenting “contrived untruths.”6 One has to wonder how a “contrived” set of imaginary Elders can be guilty of presenting “contrived untruths.” Undaunted by the irony of this accusation, Mr. Fraser informs us:
“That is why this book is being written. Pastors and Christian workers are constantly asking for something that can be used as a guide in dealing with those who are exposed to Mormon indoctrination.
“The plan of the book is to deal with each doctrine of Christianity and compare it with the corresponding doctrine of Mormonism. The documentation used is that of the accepted Mormon theologians, the originators of Mormonism, whose writings are considered true. No Mormon will dare to dispute the sayings and writings of their prophets Joseph Smith and Brigham Young…We want to call attention to distinctions in doctrine that, while using similar phraseology, are at opposite poles. We object to Mormon missionaries posing as Christians, and our objections are based on the differences between what they are taught by their General Authorities and what the Bible teaches. “7
What Mr. Fraser is actually stating here is that he objects to Mormons calling themselves Christians because their beliefs differ from what HE believes the Bible to be saying.
The entire first chapter is dedicated to mocking, ridiculing and painting an inaccurate picture of LDS beliefs, LDS missionaries and their efforts to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ. LDS missionaries are presented as slick “salesmen” with new top-of-the-line equipment calculated to deceive. Fraser then informs the reader that “There is no presentation of the Lord Jesus as the only Savior of individual lost sinners. There is no discussion of the fact that all men are sinners before God and need to experience the new birth.” 8 This, of course, is patently untrue. One of the discussions presented by LDS missionaries, the first discussion in fact, is “Our relationship to Christ.” In this discussion Jesus Christ is presented as our Creator, Savior, and Redeemer—the Light and Life of the world. The key parts of this discussion are His atoning sacrifice and its assurance for each of us of a resurrection from death and the only way in which we may receive redemption from sin.
In the second chapter Mr. Fraser blatantly presents, as factual, a number of untruths. It is impossible to deal with all of them in a review of this length so I have chosen a few examples for presentation here.
- That The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints preaches a gospel of doing good works for salvation.
- That the LDS Church has “consistently avoided preaching to the poor and destitute.”
- That the LDS Church has “raised no dead nor healed any lepers”.
- That the LDS Church has “participated in no relief efforts in cases of world disasters”.
- That the LDS Church controls “the lucrative vice industry of Las Vegas”.
- That the LDS Church “can point to no lives transformed by the Gospel.” 9
Are these accusations true? Of course not. Does this fact matter to Mr. Fraser? Of course not. His objective is to discredit Mormonism and he stops at nothing in his attempt to achieve that objective.
What are the actual “facts” behind these false allegations? Let’s examine them briefly.
1. LDS author Stephen E. Robinson, in his recent book, Are Mormons Christians?, puts to rest the accusation that LDS are attempting to work their way into heaven and affirms the LDS position on the importance of grace in our salvation when he says ” we are saved by grace and condemned without it, no matter what else we might have or do. Grace is a sine qua non, an essential condition, for salvation.” 10
2. Fraser, of course, gives no evidence for this opinion that the church has ever avoided preaching to those in financial distress. Many of the “poor and destitute” members of the LDS Church can testify that Fraser’s allegation is abjectly untrue. Over half of the Church’s membership reside in underdeveloped countries and are faced with conditions of abject poverty and many American Saints are in lower income brackets.
3. The accusation that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has healed no lepers or raised no one from the dead is not only curious, it is also undocumented. Mr. Fraser has no way of knowing whether or not this is true. And, even if it were true, Fraser doesn’t make it clear just how this would prove the church to be false, nor does he provide any evidence that the many OTHER sects of Christianity, including his own, have performed these miracles either. In actuality, there are numerous testimonies of healings performed under the ministrations of the LDS Priesthood. In order for Mr. Fraser’s accusation to stand, it would be necessary for him to track down and to repudiate each and every such testimony.
4. To say that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has never participated in disaster relief is not only false, it is ludicrous. The LDS Church has always participated in disaster relief from the efforts made to rescue the Donner Party to the present day, and Mr. Fraser’s unfounded accusation is inexcusable. Documentation is simply a matter of research of public news articles. For this review I present the LDS Church’s efforts, which may be easily verified from old records and newspaper clippings, in only one disaster.
Deseret Evening News, 18 April 1906
“LDS and Utah government officials took immediate steps to send relief supplies to San Francisco. On 19 April, Thursday, the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve met and agreed to send $10,000 to California Governor George C. Pardee for the general relief of earthquake victims…When railroads provided free rides to quake victims, hundreds headed east, making overnight stops in Utah. There, local people provided the refugees free lodging, meals, clothes, and baths. Appreciated the most, apparently, were the baths. Utahns’ money donations for earthquake relief purposes exceeded $100,000 by early summer.”
In addition… an entire train car full of flour and subsequent train carloads of clothing, linens, hospital supplies, layettes, and bedding, including about 350 homemade quilts and blankets and ready-made bedding purchased by the Relief Society from ZCMI in Salt Lake City, dozens of train-car loads of food and supplies and untold numbers of home-baked loaves of bread. This is how the LDS Church deals with disaster relief. 11
5. Mr. Fraser’s ridiculously absurd reasoning for the accusation that the LDS church controls Las Vegas’ vice industry is that “a count of the Mormon church listings in the Las Vegas telephone directory numbers more than sixty churches and other facilities, which means that probably half the population is Mormon, and practically all of the population of Las Vegas is directly or indirectly engaged in work related to the vice industry.” 12
6. One has only to attend any LDS worship service on the first Sunday of any month to discover the fallacy of Fraser’s claim that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has never changed anyone’s life. Members will stand then and publicly bear their testimony as to the multiduds of wonderful changes in their lives brought about by the gospel of Jesus Christ.
It doesn’t get any better. Fraser’s Is Mormonism Christian? continues to misrepresent The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its beliefs and doctrines with the same disregard to truth and fact as we have seen thus far. It is representative of the typical anti-Mormon literary efforts. Among his more laughable accusations against the LDS Church we find:
- The god of Mormon theology is not the God of the Bible. ( Chapter 5, page 32 )
- That Adam takes precedence in LDS theology over Jesus Christ. (Chapter 6, page 51)
- That Mormons deny that the Word who became flesh was unique in His eternality and coequality with God. ( chapter 7, page 57)
- That Mormons believe that the resurrection of Jesus Christ has nothing to do with our salvation or justification and that man is not saved by the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. (Chapter 7 page 59)
- That Mormons endured no mistreatment or persecution because of their religious beliefs. ( Chapters 21, 22, and 23)
The remainder of the book is a mish-mash of out-of-context quotes from both LDS and anti-Mormons sources woven together without regard to truthfulness so as to create the picture the author wishes to present regarding Latter-day Saints and Mormonism. On a scale of 1 to 10 for the quality and integrity of his work this reviewer would have to award Mr. Fraser a lowly 2. His arguments against The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its theology and teachings are, by turn, fallacious or weak and unconvincing. His support and documentation for his own position is sketchy if not almost totally nonexistent. Gordon H. Fraser’s Is Mormonism Christian? is remarkable only in that it is just another in a long line of unimpressive anti-Mormon works whose sole redemptive value lies in supplementing the income of their authors.
1. Daniel C. Peterson, Review of Books on the Book of Mormon, p.16. John Ankerberg and John Weldon, Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Mormonism (Daniel C. Peterson)
2. Fraser, Gordon H., Is Mormonism Christian, Moody Press, Chicago, Copyright 1957, 1964, 1985, 1977 by THe Moody Bible Institute of Chicago. Back Cover.
3. Ibid. p. 7.
4. Ibid. p. 8.
5. Ibid. p. 9.
6. Ibid. p. 9.
7. Ibid. pp. 9-10.
8. Ibid. p. 13.
9. Ibid p. 18-20.
10. Robinson, Stephen E. Are Mormons Christians? Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1991, p. 108.
11. Larson, Clinton F., et al. Brigham Young University Studies. 33 vols. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1959-1996Hartley, William G. “Saints and the San Francisco Earthquake.” BYU Studies 23 (Fall 1983): 430-59.
12. Fraser, Gordon H., Is Mormonism Christian, Moody Press, Chicago, Copyright 1957, 1964, 1985, 1977 by The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago. p. 19.