Book Review: The Mormon Mirage

The Mormon Mirage: A Former Member Looks at the Mormon Church Today by Latayne C. Scott

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I want to thank the kind folks at Zondervan for this review copy!

The Mormon Mirage is divided into two parts. Part one describes the author’s reasons for leaving the Mormon church. She addresses the major theological and historical issues that proved untenable in her investigation into the claims of the church. These issues are lumped into the following categories: her “apostasy” from the Mormon church, Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, Mormons and revelation, the Mormon pantheon, and salvation and exaltation. Part one occupies the majority of the book as it deals with the various foundational tenets of the Mormon worldview. Part two is all-new material, in which the author lays out nine pivotal issues and challenges facing the Mormon Church today.

Of the books I have read that address Mormonism (or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, hereafter referred to as LDS), they almost always deal primarily with the religion’s theological and historical shortcomings (crucial areas to be sure). I enjoyed that Scott dealt with these issues in her book, but I was glad to read the first major section of the book that dealt with the founder of the Latter-Day Saints: Joseph Smith the man. Scott ably recounts many details of Smith’s life such that the reader has a suitable understanding of him as a person before trying to understand the religious movement he started. If you want to better understand a religion, you must study its founder.

This book, unlike many in the genre, reads more like a historical narrative than an apologetics text, and that’s a good thing. She factually weaves together the various strands of Joseph Smith’s life and exploits with subsequent church leaders’ efforts to maintain and expand the Mormon Church’s girth and influence. Scott creates a telling tale of the church that on the one hand would shine its light of family values and societal goodwill, and, on the other would prefer to keep its most sacred rites and darker moments of its history shrouded in mystery.

For those who are versed in LDS theology and history, Scott’s book may not provide information previously unknown to them, yet it will serve to remind and reinforce the reader’s recollection of the serious pitfalls of the claims and teachings of the LDS church. However, for those whose knowledge of LDS is less expansive, Scott’s book will serve as an excellent primer. This does not imply that The Mormon Mirage is strictly or explicitly a beginner’s guide, but it is geared toward those who are not scholars (p. 11). Do not be deceived, however, for this is no summary of Mormonism or a mere comparison of the LDS church with orthodox Christianity (though those elements are inherent in this type of work). Scott seeks to reveal Mormonism for what it is—a church that is founded on perverted theology and historical claims that are fictional at best.

Though Scott has thoroughly exposed the fundamental doctrines of Mormonism to be tenuous, she does so in a tone that is borne out of compassion and concern for her Mormon friends and family. Her exposé throughout is erudite and you can often sense a frustration in her words. Few statements capture this sentiment like the question she poses regarding the Book of Mormon: “Why can’t the Mormons own up to the fact that the Book of Mormon is a fraud”? (p. 90) This is one of the great qualities of the book—the author’s perspective. As an evangelical Christian, I enjoy reading books that address cults and false religions from a biblical perspective, but often times they are written from the perspective that would be identical to mine—an outsider looking in. Certainly this a good and necessary thing, but the perspective of a convert from the religion/cult at hand always offers insight that would not otherwise be known. They possess knowledge and experiences that come only from being a participant in the goings-on of these kinds of organizations.

To be sure, Scott is not the only one to have “apostasized” from the LDS church and publish her experience, but hers is a deeply personal work that not only discloses the fundamentals of Mormonism, but urges the reader to consider the merits of the church’s claims and evaluate for oneself its trustworthiness. Personally, it is more revealing to hear from a former insider than one who can only examine the church externally. Not having read the previous two editions I cannot comment on the changes and updates made for this third edition. But whatever the changes, I am confident that this edition will be a helpful guide both to those who belong to orthodox faith traditions and wish to know more about the LDS church and to those who are outside orthodox faith traditions or a not a part of any faith tradition and wish to know more about the LDS church.

Αυτω η δοξα,

Jason

4 thoughts on “Book Review: The Mormon Mirage

  1. Latayne,

    Thank you for stopping by! I think what was most interesting is that Joseph Smith didn’t seem to be an outright deceiver. You portrayed him as a man that genuinely longed to know the one true God, but who erred greatly in his pursuit. Unfortunately, many Christians probably dismiss him flippantly without regard to the events that shaped his theology. Again, I believe he missed the mark of orthodoxy by a long shot and ultimately deceived many (as he himself was deceived), but he was not quite the caricature I once saw. Thanks for your book and your ministry to those still part of the LDS church.

    Jason

  2. Another thing that surprised me was a recently-authenticated photograph of Joseph Smith– apparently the only one. Not exactly a Rasputin or Charles Manson. Very ordinary looking.

  3. Interesting. I remember my friends growing up (Mormon family) had a large painting of Joseph Smith hanging in their bedrooms. Like you said–very plain.

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