I have been a Christian blogger and speaker for many years, but my apologetic interests started long before in a small Boy Scout Troop in South Korea, where my father was stationed with the DoD. That Boy Scout Troop was led by the local Mormon Ward Leader (similar to a pastor or deacon), and consisted only of his five sons — and me. If you’re familiar with the time when a young Boy Scout is earning his Eagle and the time a young Mormon is preparing for his Mission, you know that these two time frames overlap precisely. Who was the only non-Mormon these five missionaries-in-training encountered on a regular basis? You guessed it! As a pre-teen and teenager, this environment forced me be able to articulate, at a very young age, what I believed, how it differed from what Mormons believe, and why I was right (and they were wrong).
Sean McDowell and Eric Johnson have taken on this topic with great vigor, and edited a much-needed and highly applicable practical guide for engaging Mormons and sharing the gospel. Both men are strongly credentialed and well-respected in the field, with my Biola classmate — and now professor — Dr. Sean McDowell carrying on his father’s work, and Eric Johnson bringing with him the long history and great experience of the Mormonism Research Ministry. This review is written at their request.
Many books have been written that outline the theological differences between evangelical Christians and Mormons, but relatively few engage the reader in a practical or “tactical” (to use the military term) approach to discussing your faith when that tell-tale knock at the door comes. In my view, none do it better than this compendium from Johnson and McDowell. Far from a narrative, this book is more of an encyclopedia — a toolbox of sorts, from which to draw whichever size wrench fits the task at hand. By enlisting a “who’s who” of Christian apologists and counter-cult experts, Johnson and McDowell are able to bring to bear a vast array of perspectives, experiences, and techniques for most effectively engaging Mormons in meaningful conversation. This includes Mark Mittelberg, Matt Slick, Brett Kunkle, J. Warner Wallace, and Sandra Tanner, along with about a dozen others. Former Mormons like Sandra Tanner and Dr. Corey Miller provide a critically important “insider’s view” of Mormonism, while professional apologists Brett Kunkle, Sean McDowell and others offer approaches that help expose the clear disconnects between Christianity and Mormonism. The “Police Lineup Approach” and “The Case-Making Approach” enlist the help of experts like LAPD cold-case homicide detective J. Warner Wallace, and others provide equally valuable insights. If one approach doesn’t seem to work, there are a dozen others to try — and no matter who or where your Mormon friend may be, there will be an approach in this fabulous book that will almost certainly reach them. The “Survey Approach” was new and quite creative, and it was insightful to learn how reaching Mormon women is particularly difficult.
Finding something to critique in this book is a challenge. The theological comparisons are accurate, and the tactics are practical and eminently usable. Only one chapter gave me pause — “When the Elders Come Calling” by Sandra Tanner, a well-known author and former Mormon. My wife and I have been inviting Mormons into our home for more than 20 years, including some of those very same brothers who first challenged me as a Tenderfoot 35 years ago. In every case, I have found that confronting them with the false claims and prophecies of Joseph Smith, and the clear errors in the Book of Mormon, inevitably results in an immediate defensive posture, a quick end to the discussion, and a potentially damaged relationship. Unfortunately, this seems to be the very approach that Tanner recommends — to “plant the seed” of doubt in them, then pray for them, and invite them back. In scores of encounters with LDS Missionaries and other friends, I have never seen this approach bear any good fruit. The “Conversational Approach,” detailed by Dr. David Geisler and Brian Henson in Chapter 14, is by far my preferred approach. That said, Tanner’s parsing of LDS terms is tremendously helpful, as Mormons often use Christian terms in a completely different way, and her comparison of doctrinal differences is precisely accurate. Still, confronting Elders at your door with their prophet’s and their holy book’s errors will rarely, in my experience, lead to an opportunity to share the gospel, and even more rarely result in a desire to return to your address.
From cover to cover, Sharing the Good News with Mormons provides a tour-de-force of strategies, tactics, and new ways to think about reaching Mormons with the Gospel. No matter where you are strong or weak in your apologetics, McDowell and Johnson provide multiple options that you can enlist to communicate His gospel to this growing and highly reachable community. The book is well-written, theologically sound, highly relevant, applicable, and — from this apologist — strongly recommended.