The Mormon Illusion: What the Bible Says about the Latter-Day Saints
By Floyd C. McElveen
Reviewed by Dr. James Rosscup
8.2 (Fall 1997) : 247-249
McElveen, a convert to Christianity after zealous efforts of a Mormon to convince him otherwise, is a graduate of Western Conservative Baptist Seminary, Portland, Oregon. He has been a missionary evangelist, church planter, pastor, and national evangelist for Conservative Baptist Home Mission Society. He adds to his earlier edition (Regal Books) Chap. 16 that contrasts the Mormon and biblical view of heaven, Appendix B answering the Mormon slogan that Christian ministers are paid hirelings, and four and a half pages annotating “Additional Resources.”
Sixteen chapters are well-organized, and after them Appendixes A on the way of salvation and B (cf. above). Many citations are from Mormon sources, and McElveen is both clear and concise in articulating how biblical claims are quite different from many Mormon points.
The Preface reasons that real love warns of error (10), and Christians are to exercise right judgment based on God’s Word (Matt 7:24). An urgency compels the author to answer a religion that goes back to Joseph Smith. Smith first attacked all Christians and their churches as being wrong, their creeds as an abomination, all their professors as corrupt (10). McElveen documents a Mormon “apostle,” Orson Pratt, long deceased, as writing that if Mormonism is false when examined diligently, this should be extensively published and arguments clearly, logically stated (11-12). The book urges a distinction between Mormonism (its claims) and Mormons, whom God loves and Christians should love (12).
Quite early, McElveen questions whether all Christians are corrupt, many of whom even sealed their witness with their blood. As for McElveen, discovery that he could know that he had eternal life (1 John 5:13) in Christ, which he could not know in Mormonism, was a great factor in his salvation.
The author points out contradictions in Mormonism often, such as claims that Smith’s first vision was at age 14, other assertions that it was at 17, whether 1820 or 1823 (28). Another example is Smith’s claim that he first saw an angel, yet the account that he saw the Father and the Son. Certain Smith prophecies did not come to pass (contra Deut 13:1-5). He claimed that the New Jerusalem and its temple (cf. Rev 21:22) would be built in Missouri in the generation related to 1832, which never occurred. He also claimed Jesus Christ’s birthplace to be at Jerusalem (Book of Mormon, Alma 7:10) rather than Bethlehem, contrary to Micah 5:2 and Matthew 2:1 (cf. further examples in Chap. 3).
Chapter 4 says that Smith claimed to receive the Book of Mormon (BM) in reformed Egyptian language given around A.D. 384 to 421, yet the King James Version of 1611 has many words in the same order in hundreds of instances. Even italicized KJV words appear in the BM, though not italicized there (46). Also, Mormons claimed the BM was from God and the most correct book on earth (46), yet Mormons found it necessary to make around 4,000 changes in grammar, punctuation, and word structure in the BM (cf. examples, 47). In Mormon belief, God was not God from all eternity. Rather he was once a man, a mortal, who by advancing progressively reached His exalted state. Man may also advance and become a god. Scripture represents God only as God, with nobody else becoming a god (Isa 43:10; 44:6; 46:9). He was eternally God (Ps 90:2). Chapter 7 develops this correction. Then Chap. 8 shows that Brigham Young taught often that Adam was God, which the Mormon church in more recent times has had to correct.
In Mormonism, Christ by a process attained to the status of godhood in his pre-existent state (72). Contrary to this, the Bible says that Christ was God from everlasting (Isa 9:6; Mic. 5:2; John 1:1). McElveen here fails to supply the reference in Mormon literature to their concept (72-73).
Mormonism uses the word “grace” but believes that man must by good works make himself worthy of God’s grace (74). Christ’s death will save all the human race into at least a second, lower level of salvation, all but a few “sons of perdition.” Second, Mormonism teaches a conditional individual salvation by grace plus baptism and works (that would leave out the thief on the cross) (145). Chapters 14-15 develop in detail that salvation is by grace, not works, and give examples of Mormons who became Christians by embracing this.
An interesting phenomenon is that Mormonism claims that all Christian statements or creeds are abominations, yet in many specifics translate these ideas verbatim into the Mormon creed, where they are holy before God (119). Mormon denial that Christians know God rightly seems strange. Many Christians showed the fruit of the Spirit, maintained unswerving love to Christ, some even giving their lives at the stake and in other ways for His sake.
Appendix A is useful as it points out sixteen concepts for Christians to go over with Mormon friends. These show the difference between what the Bible says and what Mormon writers say. Some of the points deal with the fact of one God, God’s eternality, God not originating as a man, the second Person of the Trinity always was God, fulfillment testing a prophet’s genuineness, etc.
The two-page bibliography lists both Christian and Mormon sources. Among Christian writings are famous works by Jerald and Sandra Tanner, such as Mormonism—Shadow or Reality (Salt Lake City: Modern Microfilm Co., 1975). Additional resources list ten writings by the Tanners, many available through Utah Lighthouse Ministry, P. O. Box 1884, Salt Lake City, UT 84110.
McElveen’s book is a very readable, at times illustrated, mostly welldocumented source that is one of the most usable popular tools for Christians witnessing to Mormons. The author fills it with frequent emphases on loving Mormons and seeking not to criticize them but to show them the truth and seek to win them to Christ. The book’s style is one of the most engaging this reviewer has come across among popular books on the subject.