One of the most common assumptions about people who have left is that they picked up some “anti-mormon” literature and lost the spirit. While it is true that I ran into plenty of people ready to challenge Mormonism, and I wasn’t afraid of talking to them, I never read an iota of anything anti-mormon. But I did read a lot of books and put a lot of study into my faith and would like to include a list of the books that influenced me the most. All of these are produced by Mormon authors and all can be found at Deseret Book – nothing “anti” here.
The Scriptures. See! Not anti, I swear! 😛 I put this at the top just to make the point that the bulk of my study was done just through the scriptures, with a lot of prayer, and I had many insights and questions arise from them. The other books and sources listed below were important in giving much needed historical knowledge and understanding of the context of the scriptures, but they were secondary and tertiary to the scriptures themselves. I used the King James version of the Bible primarily, though I did eventually pick up other translations like the NIV to compare meanings. All in all, since I was raised with the King James, I didn’t have a problem understanding the older language used, so the other translations didn’t do much. Then, obviously, I used the Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants, Pearl of Great Price, and Joseph Smith Translation.
How Wide The Divide? (Stephen E. Robinson and Craig L. Blomberg) Probably the most influential of the books I read. In this book the authors take 4 subjects of heated disagreement between Mormons and Evangelicals and debate them openly and honestly. Evangelicalism is home to some of the most outspoken anti-mormon sentiments and both groups harbor many misconceptions about the other’s faiths. In each chapter Robinson (author of other very popular books in Mormonism like Believing Christ) and Blomberg (a conservative Evangelical scholar) both present their beliefs, respond to each other, and then come to a joint conclusion on the similarities and differences in the two belief systems. The subjects discussed are 1) the nature and bounds of Scripture, 2) the nature of God and deification, 3) the person of Christ and the Trinity, and 4) the essentials of salvation.
Bridging The Divide. (Robert Millet and Gregory Johnson) 10 years later, Millet and Johnson did a follow up to How Wide the Divide, attempting to show how open and respectful dialogue can take place even with immense differences in belief. I had the opportunity to meet with Millet and Johnson on a regular basis when I returned from my mission and talk with them in person about these subjects and other questions that troubled me.
A Different Jesus? The Christ of the Latter-Day Saints (Robert Millet) and Are Mormons Christians? (Stephen Robinson) I can’t tell you how many times I’d knock on a door, introduce myself, and hear, “Oh, sorry, I’m Christian.” “Uh . . . so are we.” It honestly baffled me at first why others would claim we weren’t Christian! Isn’t professing a belief in Christ enough to qualify you as “Christian?” These two books are responses by Mormon scholars and leaders to those who claim we aren’t, and clarification for membership to understand what others mean by saying we’re not Christian.
What Happened to The Cross? Distinctive LDS Teachings. (Robert Millet) One of the common misconceptions about Mormons arises from not using the cross as a symbol of their faith. This book responds to that and attempts to clarify other unique LDS teachings about Christ.
Sustaining and Defending the Faith. (Joseph fielding McConkie and Robert L. Millet . . . ya, I liked reading Millet’s books, what can I say.) Every missionary needs a big guy in their corner to give the bold answers to constant attacks and misinformation thrown at them. The problem is, most all “apologetic” books I came across were trash: the answers they gave were clearly dishonest, misinformed, and illogical; I’d be excited to latch on to their clarity only to later find they had taken scripture out of context to prove their point. This book, to me, was a fantastic resource at getting more honest, complete, and clear answers to be prepared to show how the LDS church was what we claimed it was: the restoration of God’s true church.
The Four Gospels, Verse by Verse. (D. Kelly Ogden and Andrew C. Skinner. Also, the follow up book for the rest of the New Testament) This is one of the trusted sources I turned to when I came across a New Testament scripture I needed clarification on. The authors themselves didn’t give commentary, but just compiled commentary from prophets and apostles. The emphasis of this book on putting the scriptures first in your study and hearing the voice of the prophets, not just scholars, was attractive to me.
Non LDS Books:
Exposition of the Divine Principle. This is a book of scripture from a religious group called “The Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity.” The author, Sun Myung Moon, claimed to receive it by divine revelation, and it was impossible to tell the woman who gave us this book that he wasn’t a prophet because she knew by the Holy Ghost that he was. Yet the “truths” revealed in this book were extremely different from ours. This book affected me for obvious reasons.
Grace Gone Wild! Getting a Grip on God’s Amazing Gift. (Robert Jeffress) A book by an evangelical, written to evangelicals, attempting to reign in the teaching of “grace” so it didn’t become an excuse for living in sin. Interesting insight into something the LDS commonly criticize other christians for (often erroneously).
Of all the books I bought and studied through this time these are still in my collection because of the perspective-changing influence they were. Reading other books on your mission was technically against the rules (approved literature included only a few things: Scriptures, Preach My Gospel, and a couple other manuals), but this is one of the few rules I broke; I desperately needed more insight into the questions I was having to feel more confident in the answers I gave to sincere people trying to understand. I had been given surface level answers to respond to concerns and had quickly discovered those answers were often incomplete at best or deceptive at worse, and needed something more complete (for example claiming that polygamy was revealed at a perfect time when many men had been killed from persecution and the Saints were sent across the country – there were more women than men, and those women needed to be taken care of. Completely false and misdirecting).
So there you go! If anyone would like to borrow one of these books I’d be more than willing to send you my copy – let me know!