A review of:

For Any Latter-day Saint

One Investigator's Unanswered Questions

By Sharon I. Banister ISBN 0-94-999-30-7, paperback, 397 pages

Reviewed by Richard Packham

I first came across this book several years ago in a Christian book store. I had never heard of the author or the book, but I bought a copy, and I have referred to it a thousand times since and recommended it at least several hundred times - in fact, at every opportunity. I am invariably thanked by those who bought the book on my recommendation. One of the most recent ones (who was reluctant to get it for quite a while, I think) commented: "Wow! This is powerful stuff! I can't put it down!"

This compilation of materials is one of the most powerful one-volume tools available for making an iron-clad case about the self-contradictions and lies of Mormonism. If one were going to buy only one book to study the "other side" of Mormonism, this should be the book. (My second recommendation would be the Tanners' Mormonism: Shadow or Reality?)

Banister wrote the book after she began a study of Mormonism as an "investigator," that is, a potential convert. Her study continued for six years. She never became Mormon. This book - essentially the questions and contradictions that the Mormons could not satsifactorily explain - is the result.

In format, the book is a "workbook," with quotations from Mormon scriptures, Mormon prophets and other Mormon writers, on various topics of history and doctrine. After the reader reads various quotations from Mormon sources on a specific topic, the reader is asked a question, usually involving a choice between one statement and a contradictory statement. There are even blank lines or check-mark boxes for the reader's answer. For samples of the questions, go to the author's web page.

Most Mormons label any book critical of their church as "anti-Mormon." That criticism would be difficult to justify here, since the quotations that are the real core of the book are all from PRO-Mormon writings. The only thing the author has done is to place those Mormon writings side-by-side in such a way as to make their mutual contradictions self-evident.

And, lest the Mormon reader be tempted to claim (as Mormon apologists frequently do) that the quotations are misquoted or taken out of context, the author has provided many of them as actual photo-copies of the original (Mormon) publications.

In all, there are over 650 such questions, arranged topically in sixteen chapters. Although one could browse around, the most devastating effect comes from working through the book from question number one to the end.

I have only two criticisms of the book, neither of which is of such importance that it detracts from my "do buy" recommendation:

There are a few of her questions, especially toward the end of the book, that are clearly designed to persuade the reader to accept Jesus as personal savior, in an evangelical Christian sense. Banister makes no secret, in her introduction, that her religious background is Christian, and that she maintains her strong faith in Christianity. I have no problem with a Christian writing about Mormonism, but I believe that such proselytizing, in any writing intended to convince a Mormon that Mormonism is false, is not only unnecessary, but has a negative effect. It is unnecessary because Mormonism's falsity can be amply demonstrated without any comparison to or reliance on traditional Christianity. It has a negative effect because Mormons are so imbued with negative attitudes toward traditional Christianity that they tend to reject automatically anything which seems to promote it. Fortunately, this pro-Christian tone appears only in a few items, and does not permeate the whole book.

My second criticism is technical in nature. Although the author carefully cites her sources for every quotation, she cites them in the text only by title, not by author. Her bibliography, however, is arranged alphabetically by author. This makes it very difficult to check the sources of her quotations. (I finally went through my copy and pencilled in the author of each quotation in the text, after scanning the bibliography for each title.)

There are a few minor typographical or historical errors (e.g., Heber C. Kimball is identified as "Church President" on page 8, whereas he was only a counsellor to President Brigham Young).

These criticisms in no way detract from the value of the book, however, and I highly recommend it.

I privately wrote to the author and voiced my hope that in a second edition she would consider my criticisms. She graciously thanked me for my suggestions, but expressed doubt that she would ever produce a second edition. That means, then, that when this edition is sold out, the book will be out of print. You may wish to get your copy now.

Update May 2007:     Unfortunately this book is now out of print
Click here for used copies: ISBN 0-940999-30-7

Comments? Write:  packham@teleport.com

©  2002 Richard Packham    Permission granted to reproduce for non-commercial purposes, provided text is not changed and this copyright notice is included


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