A person could spend his entire life fighting against something, being constantly negative and destroying, without accomplishing much else. In writing a review of a book that attacks The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, an organization loved and held in great respect by many, I realize I too am fighting against something.
My life prior to this undertaking had been centered around speaking up for that which I perceive as positive and good, enjoying visits to the LDS temple with my wife and watching M*A*S*H reruns with the children. These things now will continue.
Being a schoolteacher with a summer off and finding myself with a lighter than usual load, I tackled this project, not knowing where it would lead. Like most of us, I had come across anti-Mormon material from time to time. My response always was ‘This clearly is false; why waste time with it?” Occasionally I felt that someone ought to respond to some of those charges, but found myself with other priorities such as helping my wife raise a family, earning a living, busying myself with church and community service, or doing a crossword puzzle.
Upon reading The God Makers the first time, I had no intention of doing anything about it, but found myself making numerous marginal notes, which mostly said, “Not true.” As a teacher at the LDS Institute of Religion (a campus student center adjacent to the University of Utah) I knew that students who had read anti-LDS literature would sometimes come and ask questions about it. I wanted to be able to respond intelligently and to be prepared for whatever might be asked.
I reread the book and found many more errors and, quite frankly, also a few issues that I did not feel completely confident in answering. At such times one of my fellow teachers would poke his head into the door to ask what was going on. (They couldn’t understand why I was in my office during my vacation.) I would then ask my colleague how he would handle a particular accusation made by the authors of this book. In almost every instance, these colleagues gave me significant insights, unnoticed scriptures, or references to articles, books, or papers wherein someone else had come to grips with the particular issue.
I feel very fortunate being associated with a faculty of twenty dedicated scholars who are men with strong convictions of the LDS Church and are also diligent students in religious studies. All of these teachers have doctorate or other graduate degrees. There are probably few religious issues that someone on our staff doesn’t have answers to. To my esteemed associates I owe thanks for much of the material for this response. I am also grateful to the many authors who have written earlier explanations to many charges. I have tried to recognize them at the appropriate places in this review.
During my research I kept asking myself, “Why spend time doing this when I could be out earning money on a summer job, playing golf with a son or fixing a leaking pipe around the house?” I still did not relish the thought of working against something, even for just a few weeks. My rationale, that these authors attacked first and that one attack deserved another, did not satisfy me. At times I felt, and was told by others, that this anti-LDS book was not worthy of comment and that it should not be dignified with a response. I also realized the risk of becoming an unintentional promoter of the book and that the authors would love the recognition of any member of the LDS Church responding against them. “Why do all this work when the thing would undoubtedly fall on its own merits, as have other criticisms of this sort in the past?” I kept asking myself.
I have also heard reports that LDS converts are on the increase in areas where The God Makers’ forces are most active. As Andre Gide has said, “I owe much to my friends; but all things considered, it strikes me that I owe even more to my enemies. The real person springs to life under a sting even better than under a caress” (Reader’s Digest, Apr. 1984, p. 160).
Perhaps The God Makers fulfills Book of Mormon doctrine which says, “For it must needs be that there is an opposition in all things” (2 Nephi 2:11).
Even with all those reasons to discontinue, one concern outweighed them. Perhaps The God Makers book would do more good than harm. But any harm should not be left unanswered. I worried that if only one person read the anti-LDS book and left or rejected the LDS Church because of it, how sad that would be. If such a person could be persuaded to stay in or join the Church because an honest and well researched response was available, this project would be worthwhile.
Anyone without a background in LDS history and doctrine and world religions might be vulnerable to the errors printed in The God Makers. Those investigating the LDS Church and new converts who do not yet have strong testimonies could also be adversely affected by the many misinterpretations, omissions and one-sided presentations. Also it was felt that honest people who had read the anti-Mormon book and had been disturbed would appreciate and deserve an LDS view. (If one had wanted to learn about Christianity in A.D. 33, would he have gone to Judas and Caiaphas?)
It would be presumptuous to claim to be a spokesman for what is and is not official LDS doctrine, but I felt a need to correct the authors’ many erroneous versions of LDS teachings and history as I understood them.
Having for twenty-five years taught biblical and LDS scripture as well as LDS doctrine and history, I felt I had some insights into the charges the authors of the book made. I have also studied and taught about various world religions at the LDS Institute and for a non-LDS university. This background has been helpful because the authors often speak wrongly of other religions, too.
One thing this experience of responding to the book has done is increase my conviction that those who are critical of the LDS Church are on shaky ground. The farther I got into the analysis of the book, the more I realized that anti-LDS people had to strain, adjust, omit and change the facts to make their charges. This awareness increased as I checked over six hundred footnotes, scriptures and references. As a result, I found my own understanding of the Church strengthened, my appreciation of LDS doctrine heightened and new confidence gained in my convictions.
When analyzed. The God Makers actually has little, if any, original research, but is a scissors and glue abridgment and compilation of many of the anti-LDS books of the last 150 years; therefore the same responses could just as well be made about most other anti-LDS works.
So I apologize and repent for taking a brief fling at being anti-anti. Now it’s back to turning the other cheek and doing more important things like eating, mowing the lawn, and teaching Christ’s moral standards and a greater love for Him.