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Responding to Scott Adams: His Criticism of My Portrayal of Mormonism

By Eric Johnson

(Note: This and the linked articles were published before the December 29th dialogue scheduled between me and with Scott Adams, with Sean McDowell as the moderator.)

On Wednesday, December 9th, I was interviewed on a live YouTube program by my friend Sean McDowell, a professor at Biola University and Talbot Seminary as well as a well-known Christian apologist. The topic involved the Gospel Topics essays. During the hour-long show, we covered more than a half dozen topics. That program can be viewed here.

Sean wrote me the next day and explained how a Latter-day Saint named “Scott Adams contacted me and wanted to ‘correct’ the record on some of the issues we discussed.” Scott gives his credentials as follows: “I’m a High Priest in the priesthood, and have served many various positions in the church including as a youth leader, a gospel doctrine teacher, a stake high counselor, and I’m currently a counselor in a Bishopric.”

To suggest that the way I described Mormonism needed to be corrected is very serious. In other words, Scott is saying that at least part of my description of Mormonism are “straw man arguments”–made up assertions on my part to not accurately portray his faith. Whether he believes I intentionally or ignorantly described the religion in an erroneous fashion, it doesn’t matter. My entire credibility is at risk if Scott is correct in that I am creating a fictional portrayal of LDS history and  doctrine. Saying I need to correct what I said is taken most seriously.

Sean asked if I would agree to go on a follow-up show with him and Scott. Normally, I decline public interactions with Latter-day Saints, preferring to do these privately. I believe that my role is more “behind the scenes” as I feel I am more of a “writer” than a “debater.”

I told Sean that I would agree to a public discussion only if Scott would lay out what he disagreed from the original show and then keep to these points. On December 13th, Scott wrote two extended Twitter-based teachings that, for all intents and purposes, was at least a partial response to his disagreement with what I had said–he admitted to this on a private email to me on December 19th. On December 17th, Scott provided Sean with several topics he wanted to discuss. Based on one of his Twitter strings, I have requested to include one additional topic, which is whether or not Mormonism ought to be considered “Christianity.”

This article has been written before the scheduled dialogue for Tuesday, December 29th at 5 p.m. MST (7 p.m. EST, 4 p.m. PST). You can watch the show at that time:

The following links have been created for those who would like to see my responses to Scott’s December 13th Twitter feeds as well as my notes for this discussion. We certainly won’t get a chance to cover all of these points in an hour, so hopefully this information is helpful for someone who would like to do further research. Here are the five categories that we will talk about.

Since I have nothing in writing from Scott to consider on the other topics, I won’t pretend to know what he will say. But I do know what Sean and I talked about on December, so in the following three topics I include the notes I am using. 

  • Topic 3: LDS Teachings Regarding Faith and Works Notes from Eric Johnson
  • Topic 4: Polygamy Reprint of an article written by Eric Johnson Plural Marriage and Joseph Smith: A PR nightmare 
    • Scott wrote that “many of the claims made in your previous video are an oversimplification, and that it’s only IFAR to give a complete view when discussing it.”
  • Topic 5: The Book of Mormon and the Book of Abraham Notes from Eric Johnson 
    • Scott said he wants to show “why it’s not unreasonable to view their emergence as a miracle from God and why it’s reasonable to view them as real and reliable scripture.”

For the sake of clarity and space, I will not always refer to the church by its official title, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as President Russell M. Nelson has requested. His edict was given a few years ago, as he said that Jesus is apparently offended whenever the religion or its people are called “Mormon” or “LDS” because these titles leave the name of “Jesus Christ” out. He also does not like the religion to be called “Mormonism.” I have written an article on this issue, which I’ll refer you to at this link: Do nicknames for the Church offend God?

Let me say from the start that I mean no disrespect to “Latter-day Saints”–which, by the way, does not have the name of Jesus found in this approved title! Calling the followers of Mormonism “Mormon” is just as respectful as referring to members of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society “Jehovah’s Witnesses,” a title this group does not seem to mind. For many years, “Mormon” was a title that was not only embraced but even celebrated in the LDS Church, as shown by the “Mormon Tabernacle Choir” (now changed) and the “I am a Mormon” public relations/advertising campaign that was sponsored by the church just a few years ago. And instead of having to use  refer to “Mormonism” as “the religion of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” I will use the shorter designation. Again, no disrespect is intended.

 

 

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