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A conversation with Latayne C. Scott

Christian author and speaker gives an insider’s view of Mormonism and life in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Latayne C. Scott thought she’d convert her future husband to Mormonism.
Instead, he introduced her to New Testament Christianity.
“It was the grace and mercy of God: nothing I wanted and certainly nothing I deserved,” she said of leaving behind the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The former Mormon brings a unique perspective to her writings, which include her book “The Mormon Mirage,” published 32 years ago by Zondervan and now in its 20th printing. In all, she’s the author of 15 books and more than 1,000 secular and religious magazine articles, book reviews, poems and other short pieces of fiction and nonfiction.
In 1990, Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., honored her with the Distinguished Christian Service Award for her writing. She blogs regularly at Latayne.com (on Mormonism and writing), at Novelmatters.com and SheReads.org (Christian fiction) and at RepresentationalResearch.com and RStudies.wordpress.com (theology and Bible studies).
A frequent speaker at Christian university lectureships and other church events, Scott earned a Ph.D. in biblical studies from Trinity Southwest University. She and her husband, Dan Scott, an elder at the Mountainside Church of Christ in Albuquerque, N.M., have two adult children and three grandchildren.

What was it like growing up as a Mormon? 
I was baptized into Mormonism at age 11 after missionaries came to our home. It was thrilling to learn about the history of Native Americans who were descendants of ancient Jews and that people who never heard of Mormonism could have proxy baptisms done for them after death. (I was later baptized 45 times in Mormon temples on behalf of deceased persons.) I loved living the health laws and lifestyle of the Mormon Church, loved its scriptures, loved its doctrines and explanations, loved its god.
What were the circumstances of your conversion to New Testament Christianity?  
I lacked just over a semester to graduate from Brigham Young University and came home to Albuquerque for the summer break. I met a young man, Dan Scott, a member of the Church of Christ, and believed I could convert him to Mormonism as I had others.
He didn’t know much about Mormonism, but his minister, Lon Elkins, and Dan’s brother-in-law, a minister named Charles Williamson, gave me books that assessed Mormonism, but which balanced accurate and probing criticisms with kindness of approach.
What I learned about the history and archaeology of Mormonism — things not taught to me at BYU — devastated me. It broke my heart. Dan and the people of the Pennsylvania Street Church of Christ (now named Mountainside) loved me and accepted me, but it took me over 10 years to begin to recover. There is no loss like the loss of a beloved god; no betrayal so deep.
What prompted you to research and write about Mormons, and what have you learned through that process?    

God did it. I never thought to write a book about Mormonism until a Christian author and her publisher asked me to do so. That book, “The Mormon Mirage,” is now an audiobook and an extended-text e-book as well.
However, I came to realize that not everyone can process all the information in such a highly documented book. For that reason, I wrote a novel, “Latter-day Cipher” (published by Moody), which describes, almost as a parable, the lifestyle of 21st century Mormonism and the cost of finding out its false claims.
Interwoven into the action of the book are details about Mormonism’s doctrines and practices. In addition, there are hundreds of informational links and a section called “365 Reasons Why I Won’t Return to Mormonism” on my website, Latayne.com.
Mormons say that they are Christians. Do you agree?     

I’ll answer that with a series of questions. Do you believe that God the father was once a man and grew to adulthood on another earth and achieved godhood? Do you believe you can become a god or goddess? Do you believe that the Bible is so flawed and in error that it gives Satan power over people who read and believe it? Do you believe that Jesus didn’t keep his promise to protect his church against the gates of hell?
When I was a Mormon, I would have heartily said “yes” to each of those questions. (Well, maybe not the last one — I never thought through that a total 1,700-year apostasy implied that.) Furthermore, Mormons use the same terms that Christians do, such as “God,” “salvation” and “seminary,” but they mean very different things. It makes communication with a Mormon difficult because it can seem that we are agreeing, saying the same thing, when we have different definitions of the same terms.
Mormons seem to be role models in many ways. Could we in Churches of Christ learn from them?  

I like to say that everything that is truly good about Mormonism is Christian — scripture study, missionary work, emphasis on family and loyalty to your God — and you don’t need all the “extras” that Mormonism tacks on.
When I became a Christian, the membership numbers of the LDS Church and the Churches of Christ were just about equal. I’d like to say we have “held our own,” but the LDS church has more than doubled. However, they are beginning to lose members in droves because people are learning the truth, mainly via the Internet, about Mormonism.
We don’t have such “secrets,” but the Bible itself has become our unread secret. Whereas the Body of Christ with which I united myself in 1979 had a well-deserved reputation for deep and extensive Bible knowledge, I observe that the average member of the Church of Christ no longer has that devotion to Bible knowledge and understanding. I was determined that this would not be the case with my own children.
Mormon politicians are making a lot of headlines these days, from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman. I know that you attended BYU with Romney. What implications would a Mormon presidency have? 
Faithful Mormons have a highly developed sense of patriotism due to two main factors.
First, they believe that the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and other founding documents were inspired by God in the same manner their scriptures were, and that almost without exception our patriotic forefathers — from Columbus to almost every president of the United States — became Mormons after their deaths, in the spirit world.
Secondly, when I was at BYU, I (and most Mormons) put great stock in a prophecy of Brigham Young that the government of the United States would “hang by a thread” and only Mormon elders would save it.
You combine that information with knowing that any man who has been married in a Mormon temple has made an oath of loyalty to the LDS Church, and you must consider that such an LDS president would not have the same view of government as traditional Christians would have. 
What advice would you give to a fellow Christian interested in evangelizing a Mormon friend, neighbor or relative?   

When I was a Mormon, I believed all Christians were secretly unhappy, yearning unknowingly for the completion that Mormonism could bring them. (This seemed to be affirmed every time I knocked doors and a Christian slammed the door or insulted me.) So my first advice is to be proactive in sharing the joy you have in the Lord and your sense of satisfaction with the Bible — emphasizing that you don’t need anything beyond that. If those young men knocking doors in your community met that response repeatedly from Christians, they would be amazed.
Of course, that implies you are at peace with God and are intimately familiar with the Bible — which is the mind of God in written form — and have confidence that it does indeed provide what you need for life and godliness.

Got a question about Mormonism? Ask Latayne C. Scott.

  • Feedback
    I am so thankful for your life. In such a time as this we can only thank God for you. My friend, an American in Belize brought you and your website to my attention. I am just learning about you this very morning and will certainly spread this good news. Thank you, Christian Chronicle. Please write another article about Latayne! May God grant you a long and productive life in the Lord.
    Your sister, Barbara O. Kee
    wife of Windle Kee, preacher for 61 years. Missionaries in West Africa and Belize.
    Barbara Kee
    Faith Village/Holliday church of Christ
    Wichita Falls, TX
    October, 2 2012

    With Mitt Romney’s rise to the presumptive nominee for the GOP party, there is increased interest in the role of the LDS Church and its members in politics.
    I have collated numerous sources for those who would like to research this subject on my Website, http://latayne.com/mitts-mormonism
    I don’t presume to tell anyone how to vote, but I can share well-documented information.
    Latayne C Scott
    Albuquerque, NM
    April, 13 2012

    Ms. Scott. I did read the whole chapter, and all the chapters before and after it, multiple times. Your claim that, to Mormons, the bible gives Satan power over people continues to be completely opposite to what Mormons teach and believe.
    Brian Casaday
    Worthington Ward
    Columbus, Ohio
    August, 4 2011

    Read the whole chapter in the BofM, Brian and readers. As a faithful Mormon, I believed what what Mormons believe about the Bible: Because it was corrupted, it’s NEVER the first source of reliable information. If I wanted to know about something, I went to other LDS Standard Works and then to see if the Bible concurred. (And of course it often does not!)
    Latayne C Scott
    Albuquerque, New Mexico
    August, 4 2011

    That’s a huge stretch, Ms. Scott, to interpret the scripture to mean that reading/believing the bible is what “gives Satan power over people.” Besides, like I mentioned, it is opposite to what Mormons believe and teach, so saying such is clearly deceptive.
    Brian Casaday
    Worthington Ward
    Columbus, Ohio
    August, 3 2011

    29And after these plain and precious things were taken away it goeth forth unto all the nations of the Gentiles; and after it goeth forth unto all the nations of the Gentiles, yea, even across the many waters which thou hast seen with the Gentiles which have gone forth out of captivity, thou seest—because of the many plain and precious things which have been taken out of the book, which were plain unto the understanding of the children of men, according to the plainness which is in the Lamb of God—because of these things which are taken away out of the gospel of the Lamb, an exceedingly great many do stumble, yea, insomuch that Satan hath great power over them.
    I Nephi 13:29
    Latayne C. Scott
    Albuquerque, NM
    August, 3 2011

    I enjoyed reading the article to learn about the experiences and perspectives of Ms. Scott.
    At the end of the article, questions about Mormonism are referred to her, but this worries me. In the article, she claims that Mormons believe “that the Bible is so flawed and in error that it gives Satan power over people who read and believe it.” This is completely opposite to what Mormons teach and believe, so I wouldn’t consider her to be a trustworthy source of information about Mormonism.
    Brian Casaday
    Worthington Ward
    Columbus, Ohio
    August, 2 2011

Filed under: Dialogue

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