Reviewed by Eric Johnson
While it’s only 82 pages in length, the title of Tom Scott’s 2012 book (It’s True: An Evangelical Pastor’s Journey to Truth in the Mormon Church) begs to be read. If nothing else, Scott appears to be a good marketer, even having worked out a deal with several Utah Costco stores to sell copies at $6.99 (regularly priced at $10.99—though still a bit pricey for a small 7×10-inch paperback averaging 300 words per page!). Sitting at a card table, he has made autograph-signing appearances there as well as at LDS Fireside meetings in Utah; according to one source, books by the case loads have been sold at these events.
Because we have heard that Tom Scott’s story was instrumental in converting at least one person in the winter of 2012, a review from a Christian ministry needed to be done. With that in mind, I contacted the author through Inglestone Publishing, using my [email protected] address (one that would be easy for someone to look up to see who I was). Would he, I asked, meet me for lunch? An open invitation was also made to appear on MRM’s daily radio show called Viewpoint on Mormonism (airing twice a day on 820 AM in Utah).
A few days later, I received a phone call from the 51-year-old Scott. Early in our three-minute conversation, he asked if I was “pro church,” as he apparently assumed that I was desiring to help him promote the book through our show. I explained that I was with Mormonism Research Ministry, a Christian organization that is not a part of the Mormon Church; while we care very much for the Mormon people, I told him, we are critics of the LDS Church. He told me that he would have to think about my invitation to meet. I responded, “When you decide, either way, would you please let me know right away?” “Of course,” he said, promising that he would inform me later that week about his decision, even if he decided to decline my invitation. A month later, on November 13, 2012, I sent him an email through his publisher as well as a text message to his personal cell phone, asking if he had made a decision. At the time of this writing (in January 2013), Scott has not responded to my inquiries. This is disappointing since this book left me with many questions; I believe that a personal conversation with Scott would have helped me connect the dots. Instead, I had to do more research without his help.
A conversion to Christianity
According to the book, Scott’s supposed conversion to Christianity took place when he was a teenager. At the beginning of chapter 2, he writes, “The truth has always been important to me, especially when it comes to things spiritual and matters of faith. And, to find that truth, I have always sought after God” (p. 11). Most of his family who lived near Atlanta, Georgia attended a 150-year-old United Methodist church. For those who are unfamiliar with the United Methodists, let’s just say that this denomination has traditionally been quite liberal. My grandparents belonged to a United Methodist church in Indiana back in the 1960s and ‘70s, so I’ve been familiar with this denomination for many years. Scott admits that “during the majority of the year, the church was not overly aggressive in their pursuit of those who were without Christ. Yet, it was there at that church that I learned some of what Christ’s atonement was about—through those great Easter hymns. It was the beginning of my understanding of Truth” (p. 12).
During his first thirteen years, he says that he “did not understand how truth applied to me!” (p. 12) As a high school freshman, he dated a girl who attended the Atlanta First Church of the Nazarene. He ended up getting involved with the youth group and “I accepted Christ as my personal Savior” (p. 13). Sitting in a bathtub after a service, “[I] repented of my sins and asked Christ to come into my heart.” The next Sunday he was baptized.
Scott joined the church choir and “sensed that I had been called to full-time ministry” (p. 15). When he received a football scholarship to a Nazarene college, he jumped at the chance. He became confused, however, when a member of a charismatic singing group came to his parents’ church and asked Scott if he had experienced the “baptism of the Holy Spirit.” A few weeks later, he says that he sensed the Spirit while he drove his dad’s truck over the railroad tracks. “It was there that the presence of the Holy Spirit came over me” he writes. “I received this amazing gift of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, something that I had not even heard of until three weeks prior” (p. 16).
Scott ended up transferring to another Nazarene college. While there, he attended a concert by a popular contemporary Christian band called Second Chapter of Acts and felt “the presence of God so strong; all I could do was raise my hands to my Heavenly Father and worship Him” (p. 16). When he asked his professor the next day about this experience, Scott was told how this feeling he had was “the work of the enemy.” Scott reported, “I saw no way that my professor could be right. What I felt couldn’t be the work of Satan, as Satan surely wouldn’t point me towards heaven. What I had received was truth and the light of the Spirit” (p. 17).
With that as a background, I would like to discuss five distinct warning bells that ought to be heard loud and clear when a reader is going through this book.
Warning bell 1: A “good” Evangelical Pastor?
One of the main reasons that I wanted to meet with Scott is that I wanted to discuss his claim that he had been a Christian pastor for 27 years. What does his history look like? Unfortunately, he gives few details in the book. On page 20, he lists the many ministry positions he held:
“Evangelist, Pastor, Teacher, Youth Pastor, Children’s Minister, Senior Adult Minister, Associate Pastor, Christian Education Director and the list goes on. I pastored in Georgia, Virginia, Kansas, and Ohio, with the majority of my ministry time spent in Canton, Ohio. I have learned many things over the years and have seen the workings of the church and how churches operate. I can tell you whether a church is board run, pastor run, family run or denominationally run. I have seen the ugliness of the political systems that exist in every, and I do mean every, church. I have seen lives edified and destroyed, all within the same congregation. I have seen or been a part of almost every denomination and non-denomination.”
A little more research (without Scott’s help) reveals the extent to his pastoral experience:
- A Nazarene church in Kansas City, Kansas. Scott held no official position there but served as a layman.
- A Methodist church in Georgia. Again, Scott had no official position, though he served in volunteer positions as a layman.
- A Nazarene church in Virginia Beach, Virginia. He had his first official position, and the church was happy with him. However, he left because he told church leaders that he spoke in tongues. This appears to be his last church in a non-Pentecostal format.
- Started a nondenominational church in Virginia, but he ended up leaving due to personal issues.
- A Church of God (Cleveland, TN) in Ohio. He worked with children, although his wife Kathy fulfilled many of the responsibilities at this church. He also led the bus ministry. While the church was happy with the Scotts, he ended up leaving because he wanted to become a senior pastor.
- A Church of God in Ohio. He was the senior pastor, but he left when offered a children’s position in Georgia.
- A non-denominational church in Georgia. Again, he worked with children, but once more his wife had many of those duties. He taught in the church’s Christian school and had a radio show; he also had music duties, but he didn’t preach. Although he was well-liked, Scott left because he wanted to once more be a senior pastor.
- A non-denominational church in South Carolina. He was the senior pastor, but he ended up leaving for personal reasons.
- The Church of God in Aiken, South Carolina. He was the senior pastor. However, Scott decided to leave this church and return to Ohio because his family was depressed as they continually moved from church to church.
- The International Pentecostal Church of Christ in Canton, OH.
- A non-denominational church in Ohio. He was the senior pastor, but he left to go to a position at a struggling church. Scott was apparently attracted to this church’s wonderful facility.
- Faith Fellowship in Canton, Ohio (later became Grace Fellowship). Scott was the senior pastor but left for personal reasons.
- Canton Temple of Praise, a Church of God church in Canton, Ohio. Scott served here from 2005-2007 as an associate pastor.
- Scott apparently attempted to start an Ohio church plant in 2007, but it didn’t last long. This appears to be the end of his pastoral career.
Yes, Scott did serve in the positions that he claims in his book. Just being a pastor in name, though, does not mean that a person is a “good” pastor. Actually, something is amiss with a man who jumps from one church to the next, apparently leaving for greener pastures or escaping from problems at the previous church. In fact, he moved so often that my research cannot find a church where Scott pastored for more than three years. On page 23, he says that his family “had to watch as I went from one church situation to the next and one move to another,” which eventually resulted in him returning to Ohio to appease his wife and children, who quickly tired of the constant moving. In fact, in 26 years of marriage, Tom and Kathy Scott moved 29 times, averaging one move every year!
Please understand, as someone who has been around “church” all of my life and with a seminary degree of my own, I fully understand that many pastors change churches or their positions throughout their careers. However, most of those whom I know eventually find the right spot for them. If not, they get out of the ministry—and I’ve seen that happen many times. But rolling through so many positions and changing positions every couple of years—sometimes even less than a year—is just not healthy or even normal.
Scott does not have a seminary degree from an accredited institution. Of course, a person is not required to possess a seminary or doctoral degree to be an effective pastor. However, the training received at this level can play an important role in the success (or failure) of any Christian pastor. If he really was a believer in the Christ as depicted in the Bible, perhaps his minimal training was a reason for so many problems that he experienced in the pastorate.
As far as his boast that he is able to determine a church’s polity (government), a person doesn’t need seminary training to figure out how different churches are led. If I could just spend half an hour teaching average laypeople about the different styles, I would explain the basic workings of elder-run, pastor-run, or congregation-run churches, using Bible verses that are used for support in each system. The differences are not hard to comprehend. I’m not sure why he seems to highlight this ability as something extraordinary.
Officially, as far as I can tell, Scott was involved with the Methodist, Nazarene, and Church of God denominations, as well as several non-denominational churches. Consider just a few of the denominations with which he was never associated: Baptist, Evangelical Free, Christian Missionary Alliance, Lutheran, Reformed, Mennonite, Presbyterian, Four Square, and Assembly of God, not to mention such a non-denominational organization such as Calvary Chapel. Of course, this is not a complete list; each of the above denominations have a variety of different denominations of their own, such as the Baptists, of which there are more than a hundred in the United States alone. Scott’s involvement with just three denominations and several non-denominations comes nowhere close to “almost every denomination,” a certain stretch of the truth and a claim that would be impressive (but misunderstood) by the majority of the Mormon readers whom I assume are the main target audience of this book.
Warning bell 2: Wounded family
Because Scott’s pastoral career was filled with plenty of moves to different churches, he writes that it had a direct effect on his family. He explains on pages 23 and 24:
“Having a family and being in the ministry was extremely difficult….They had to watch as I went from one church situation to the next and one move to another. Their dad and husband had to go through every board meeting, building program and change in denominations. This took its toll and, after twenty-seven years, I failed to do the most important thing—to put my family first…. I had allowed my job—the work of the ministry and the pleasing other people—to come before my family, because it was my job. I knew how to build up a church, but underneath, things at home were breaking apart fast…. After twenty-seven years, my family was shattered…. So, what do you do if you love God, but you have lost your family and the church members you once served treat you like you have leprosy? You have a choice! You can become bitter, or you can press into the One who loves you in spite of all your failures, the One who placed the calling on your life in the first place, and trust that somehow He has a plan. I chose the latter of the two options” (p. 24).
The reader is led to believe that Scott is the victim of circumstances. On page 23 he writes, almost in a triumphant matter, that he takes “full responsibility for the ultimate failure to be the priest of my home. I had allowed my job—the work of the ministry and the pleasing other people—to come before my family…” In a stroke of what he must have thought was genius, Scott doesn’t provide any details about his divorce from his first wife or the details that led to this tragedy. Perhaps he feels that he is protecting his family. However, a person who writes an autobiography, stressing over and over again how he was an “Evangelical Christian” pastor for 27 years, owes more to his readers. Either give the details or don’t write a book that misleads.
Additional research quickly uncovers the reasons why Scott conveniently left this information out, since the facts would have certainly been a detriment in impressing the Mormons in Utah. In 2005, Scott left Faith Fellowship to become an associate pastor at the Canton Temple of Praise in Canton, Ohio. At the time, the church was medium-sized, with about 350 members. There were several questionable situations that took place during the two years that Scott served at the church. For example, Scott was found twice alone in a classroom with a woman named Maggie, who had four girls and a boy of her own and was in the midst of a divorce. Scott blew off criticism of anyone who thought he shouldn’t be in a closed room alone with a female who was not his wife. He defended himself by saying that he was only “counseling her.” “Don’t worry,” he assured the pastoral staff, “there’s nothing wrong.”
At that time, the church staff did not know that Scott was having marital problems with his wife Kathy. However, another warning flag came when Maggie’s children told a member of the church that Scott sometimes “slept” at their house on the couch. When questioned about this, Scott claimed that it was innocent. “I just need to get away from home,” he said, saying Maggie’s couch offered him a place of solace away from a difficult home situation. In addition, Scott made it appear that his marriage problems were mainly due to his “crazy” wife, even though those who knew the situation understood that Kathy was not crazy but had battled clinical depression for a decade. In fact, the Scotts left South Carolina to return to Ohio to help Kathy with her depression. (Within six months after the Scotts had divorced, the depression left Kathy and has never returned.) According to one person who knew the Scotts, one reason for his wife’s depression was a result of Scott’s emotional abuse of her over the years. Scott had even told his wife, while they were still married, that he was in love with Maggie.
Scott left the pastorate at the Canton Temple of Praise just after Easter in 2007. Kathy remained at the church, even staying on with the choir. Just two weeks after the divorce was final, Scott was remarried…to Maggie, the very woman whom he was “counseling” in the Canton Temple of Praise classroom.
In the book, Scott gives the impression that he had met Maggie after his divorce. On page 26, he says that “there was a divine connection between us [Scott and Maggie].” He writes, “As we both sought after God’s will, there was no doubt in either of our minds that we were to be together and, as one, diligently follow after the will of God for our family.” Yet the reader is led to assume that Scott is explaining this feeling after, not before, the divorce with Kathy. And he certainly doesn’t mention that when he separated from Kathy, he left her there with no job, no car, and no home.
The bottom line is that a man who cannot manage his wife and family is doomed to failure in the pastorate. Paul gave instructions to leaders of the church in 1 Timothy 3:4-5, saying that an overseer “must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?)” Not long into the new marriage, Scott’s new wife Maggie—at the age of 48—became pregnant. As for Kathy, she ended up remarrying as well and is happily serving in the nearby Grace Fellowship, the church where Scott had been the pastor in 2004.
Warning bell 3: A naïve approach to understanding Mormonism
Despite Scott’s many health problems, a phone call from a friend who belonged to a multi-level marketing organization called Nuriche became “a life-changing experience for me.” Using the health foods distributed by this company, he lost 100 pounds in over eight months. The company, which is based in Utah, ended up having a celebration for his accomplishment. According to Scott, he was thoroughly impressed with Nuriche:
“I did a little research into the leadership of the company and noticed a common thread. They were all Mormons! I asked others in the business if they were aware of this fact, to which they would reply, ‘yes’ and then would comment on how amazing the leadership was. I thought back on everything I had ever heard about these folks and about how their church was a cult. I began to ask myself, ‘How can this group of amazing people be a cult?’ For the first time in my life, I began to look at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) not from the lens of my evangelical background, but I actually started to investigate the church by going to its source—to the LDS people I now knew. I have often wondered why people who want to know about something go everywhere but the source to get their information” (pp. 34-35).
Working with a multi-level marketing company was not a new experience for Scott, as verified by further research. After all, he had been involved in a number of similar ventures, adopting such products as water purifiers and Fizz tablets. While he was known for being a good salesperson, he apparently was not very good at sticking with the program. He would generate a lot of excitement, getting his friends and church members to join him in his marketing ventures. Typically, it took just a few months before he was either caught up in church work or picking up a new product to sell.
When it comes to Mormonism, It’s True gives no indication that he truly understood Evangelical Christian theology. When Mormonism is compared to the fundamental issues of the Bible—such as the nature of the Triune God, the role of salvation, and the authority of the Christian—major differences are apparent. He gives no evidence that he grasps the vital differences between Mormonism and Christianity. In addition, at the time of this writing (January 2013), Scott has been a Latter-day Saint for a little more than a year. Based on some of the things he has written, I am certainly not convinced he understands classic Mormonism; rather, he understands that Mormon people are kind and that faithful Latter-day Saints took care of him in his time of need. He practically admits this in the conclusion of his book when he asks, “Am I an expert on the church and its doctrine? Not hardly” (p. 79).
For Scott to believe that a multi-level company characterized by good people must automatically mean that this religion somehow is not a “cult” is certainly naïve. Yes, Mormons are not drinking poisoned Kool-Aid in Guyana or following the Hale Bopp Comet with 75 cents in their pockets. However, there are so many theological differences between Mormonism and Christianity that it should have been quite apparent to a legitimate Evangelical Christian pastor.
Scott also illogically determines that a person cannot understand a particular philosophy or religion unless the information is procured from the people inside the religion. Once more, this is a naïve approach. Can you imagine the conversation he might have with his new Mormon friends?
Scott: “I heard you were a cult.”
LDS business person (LBP): “No we’re not.”
Scott: “Well, do you believe in God?”
LBP: “We sure do.”
Scott: “Do you believe in Jesus?”
Scott: “Wait a minute, you certainly must not believe that salvation comes by grace through faith.”
LBP: “Of course we do.”
Scott: “Then I guess that you must not belong to a cult after all.”
If an Evangelical Christian does not understand what God, Jesus, and salvation by grace through faith means to a Mormon, of course a person can become easily confused. The same language is being used, but different meanings are attached. If we were to take Scott’s argument to its full extent, a person would almost have to become a Mormon in order to grasp what this religion is all about. However, Mormonism is really not so esoteric. By listening to the leaders speak in general conferences and reading the official manuals and other instructions given, an objective evaluation can be made. It’s also a straw man logical fallacy to assume that all Evangelical Christians create their personal version of Mormonism while ignoring the source. Playing the you-must-pray-about-it-and-see-if-it’s-true card does not mitigate the fact that Mormonism’s teachings can be objectively known and understood by anyone studying the church’s official teachings.
In our numerous discussions with Latter-day Saints, contradictions happen all of the time, perhaps through the individual Mormon’s ignorance or a personal opinion that disagrees with the leadership. When we explain that “this is what Mormonism teaches,” Mormons may complain by saying, “That’s just your interpretation” or “you’re taking it out of context.” Yet words have meaning. To suggest that no Christian can grasp the fundamentals of Mormonism unless a Mormon confirms the meaning is certainly not found in the Standard Works nor is it an official teaching of the Mormon Church.
Scott makes it appear that he did his homework, saying that he did Internet research. Continuing with his straw man technique, he writes on pages 36 and 37: “…with every click of the mouse, I found another message from the Mormons that was bearing witness and pointing people to the Savior. My theological mind was under attack as I struggled to make sense of why my church had said so many awful things about these people….The more I asked, however, the more I would hear the standard line that Mormons were not Christians and I better stay away from them.”
What exactly did he find in his research? He’s not specific. And what were the “so many awful things” said “about these people”? Honestly, while a number of Evangelical Christians believe that Mormonism is not the same as Christianity, I believe a great majority of them are filled with compassion rather than animosity, which is the opposite of the impression Scott is intentionally trying to give. Indeed, he paints a picture of hatred rather than one of concern or disagreement. Just because Evangelical Christians may not agree with a group’s philosophy or way of thinking doesn’t mean they think the people are somehow horrible. Finally, this man is supposed to be a pastor. Typically, pastors are learned people who are leaders rather than followers. If his fellow pastors or his congregation were telling him how he “better stay away from them,” shouldn’t he have been the one who determined what the issues were and made an appropriate conclusion?
From here, he decided to look into the question as to “what determines if someone is a Christian or not.” He explains on page 38:
“My understanding always has been that what made a person a Christian was their believing and receiving Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world! I thought a person was a Christian if they believed that through the Savior’s marvelous atoning work, we are able to have eternal life with the Father, and if they trusted in the reality of things such as His dying on the cross, shedding His blood for the remission of sins, His resurrection from the dead and ascension into heaven and that, one day, He would return again. To me, if you believed these things you were a Christian. Right?”
Once more, if Scott is truly serious in the above paragraph, this shows a great deal of naiveté. Just a few hours of research for someone versed in the Bible would quickly determine that:
1) The Jesus Christ of Mormonism is nothing like the Jesus Christ of Evangelical Christianity. See here.
2) When it comes to the “atonement” of Christ, the Garden of Gethsemane plays more importance in Mormonism. See here.
3) Mormonism’s view of salvation is much different as well. See here.
Warning bell 4: Communication from heaven
In the spring 2011, Scott and his family were still living in Canton, Ohio, “trying to survive financially in a horrible economy. Adding to our financial woes were the constant reminders we received from some individuals who felt compelled to remind us of what they thought of us, of how I had failed as a pastor and how we had lost our families” (p. 39). (Again, remember that exact details of how the two had lost their families are missing in the book, so the reader here is supposed to feel sympathy for the Scotts.) While he wanted to remain in Ohio so he could be close to the children’s grandparents, “the situation continued to deteriorate, however, and something had to happen and happen quickly.” Then, on April 14, 2011, he “sat down and opened my notebook and received the following as a word from the Father”:
‘The Angelic Hosts have been summoned and are at your disposal to thwart all attacks of darkness. Now is the time to allow faith to rise through your mind, will and emotions and seize the territory that has been occupied by darkness for too long! Do not faint and grow weary in your well doing for you are ready to reap if you refuse to faint or quit! In what you view as weakness, I will show forth My strength so ALL may see that I AM the Lord your God Who delivers you with My strong hand. So rejoice and shout for I have given you this victory. For every word that is spoken against you, I will, in turn, release more of My blessing so that those who speak against you will see the more they attack, the more I will bless. Laugh out loud! For My anointing is upon you and with it comes more of My expression of a Father’s love to His children. Laugh out loud!’” (p. 40).
I am very skeptical when people claim to have personal revelations from the Almighty who supposedly gives word-for-word instructions. Yet, over the years, this is something Joseph Smith and many who claim to be his followers have done. Consider Warren Jeffs, the polygamous leader who is now in prison. He had a number of revelations that he said came from God, including two printed in the March 27, 2012 Salt Lake Tribune titled “New Warren Jeffs’ revelations predict ‘famine by mob rule.’” See here. Or how about Christopher Nemelka, who heads a splinter group that holds that he is the reincarnation of Hyrum Smith? See here. Of course, all three—Scott, Jeffs, and Nemelka—believe in Joseph Smith’s revelations, most of which are recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants and contradict the Bible in many ways. Scott supposedly received a message that is, quite honestly, bizarre and very self-centered. It is judgmental on those Christians who were speaking against him and says nothing about his personal repentance. To me, this is nothing but narcissistic.
After receiving this revelation—whether it was an audible voice or the still small voice in his heart, he doesn’t say—Scott received another sign. He explains: “On our way to church one Sunday, Maggie and I had to take a different way than usual because of a spring snowstorm. We came to a stop sign and when I looked up at the street sign at that intersection, it read Utah Street! Could this be a divine sign of the direction we were to go?! Only time would tell” (p. 41).
Although there is no “Utah Street” in Canton, Ohio, there is a “Utah Court.” This is beside the point. Still, there are serious problems with Scott’s account. I’m very suspicious when someone says “God told me so-and-so” based on circumstantial evidence. Since God took the time to have Scott dictate a letter from Him, why didn’t He just inform His child at that time that Utah was the final destination? Honestly, it was not too far-fetched that Scott could have ended up in Utah since he had such a good relationship with the multi-level marketing company from Utah. After all, he had been honored at a celebration in Utah for losing 100 pounds and certainly must have thought—at least in the back of his mind—that one day he could start his life over in an isolated place like Utah. Isn’t this a logical possibility as to why “Utah Ct.” made such an impression?
Consider the surrounding streets to Utah Ct. For example, “Kirk Ct” located nearby may have been meant for him to consider going to a Star Trek movie so he could determine his future. There’s also the major artery, Cleveland Ave—moving to this city in Ohio would have allowed the Scotts to keep the kids near the grandparents. How come he didn’t see Cleveland Ave in such a way as a divine sign? Or nearby Yale Ave could have meant he was supposed to go Ivy League and return to college. Perhaps the “Court” in “Utah Ct.” meant he was supposed to go to court and fight for some injustice. The problem with looking for God’s answers through circumstantial evidence is that the “answer” may be tainted by a person’s experience, meaning anything can be interpreted the way a person wants it interpreted. Interpreting circumstantial events in such a way can lead to preposterous conclusions.
Scott had been contemplating a move to Texas when he received a phone call from “David from Nuriche,” the multi-level marketing company from Utah. Scott explained, “I had told him about seeing the street sign and how strange I had felt since then. David then told me his call was to inform me of a possible job opportunity and, you guessed it, the job was in Utah” (p. 41). In June 2011, Scott and his teenaged son drove a van to Utah with his worldly possessions and ended up looking for a house to rent. They searched for three days, to no avail. Discouraged, he received a phone call from a woman named Grace who had a house to rent:
“My son had not felt good about the first house we had looked at; he didn’t feel in his heart that was the house for us. But, when Tommy and I turned into the neighborhood where this second house was located, I cannot explain to you what both of us felt. It was almost as if we had already been there and we were coming home. We drove up to the house and in the garage was the owner, Grace. We got out of our van, introduced ourselves and began looking at the house. Immediately, the spirit within me bore witness that Grace was a believer and she started sharing about her faith and how she had been praying that God would bring a pastor to this house” (p. 48).
It’s unclear from his writing if Grace was a Mormon or Evangelical Christian. Grace desired to have a pastor rent her house, though this certainly couldn’t have been fulfilled in Scott since he came to Utah to work for Nuriche, not to pastor a church. In fact, Scott had been out of the pastorate for at least three years.
When it came time to pay for the rental deposit, he doesn’t know what to do because he had no money. I find it hard to believe that a man who moved at least 29 times with his first family didn’t know that the first month’s rent along with a cleaning deposit is typically required before moving in! He called David Parker, his new boss, to tell him about the predicament. “How much do you need?” Parker asked. Then, whether or not Scott intended this to be a response to the April revelation he says he received from God, he says that “my son and I laughed all afternoon as we carried our belongings into our new home” (p. 50).
To insinuate that somehow this was a miracle from God is not fair. Since they first met, Parker has been one of Scott’s biggest fans. In fact, on Amazon.com, Parker couldn’t wait to give the first review of the book (June 28, 2012), saying:
“This is a great read, as Tom and Maggie Scott share an inspiring story about their pursuit of truth. As a Pastor, Tom Scott remained open in his heart and mind to what touched the light of Christ within – without fear or fences. It is an impressive experiential read as you join with both Tom and Maggie in their search. How, why and where they found truth, and the peace, and tenderness of their message, lifts the soul. I would highly recommend this book to those seeking for truth in their lives, irrespective of their faith. The path Tom and Maggie took applies to all who seek for truth. I would also recommend this book to those of the LDS faith, and those not of the LDS faith – it equally applies to inspire all of us to live a better, and more Christ-like life. This book is relevant to all, today!”
Throughout the book, Parker’s name is referred to in flowery terms. He is the person who was most responsible to get the Scotts to move to Utah, helping him convert to Mormonism. Since he appears to be a wealthy individual who is free to do whatever he wants with his money, I don’t see any miraculous overtones to Parker’s generosity.
Warning bell 5: Scott’s conversion to Mormonism
In the last thirty pages of the book, Scott explains his conversion to Mormonism. Invited to church by his boss, Scott reflected, “‘How could these folks not be Christians?’ They seemed okay to me” (p. 52). Watching neighborhood families going to church, he was impressed. “We had been here less than a week and already you could see that the family seemed to be a huge part of this society” (p. 53).
A number of intentional stabs are thrust at the Evangelical Christian churches. For one, Scott aims barbs at the church people who discounted him because of the “ugliness of the political systems.” I would agree that perfection is not found in the Christian churches. They’re flawed because they’re run by human beings. While he might not have meant it, the feeling I received was that his attraction to Mormonism was instigated, at least in part, to how badly he felt that he had been treated by Christians, many of whom apparently felt that he no longer had the right to be a pastor of a Christian church (and I would agree). For instance, consider the tone of the following paragraph on pages 53 and 54:
“All through my ministerial career, I had dreamed of seeing the church rise up and be the church that I read about in the book of Acts, a church that was full of power, whose concentration was on the Father in worship and was focused on a lost world as its purpose. I remember teaching my children that the church was about taking care of the broken and loving those who were on the outside. I can remember numerous sermons in different congregations that directed the saints to not be so inwardly motivated, to not only care for those within their church but to look outside their church, into the world and all the people for whom our Savior died. I had dreamed of seeing the church take care of people the way our Savior had designed. I longed to see this manifest but sadly saw only glimpses of what the Bible calls true Christianity. I never saw Christianity being lived out the way I knew it was supposed to be and, in time, I became very discouraged in my ministry because of our church’s lack of power and seemingly its lack of desire to reach the lost. What I was about to experience was an answer to a prayer that I had been praying since I was a young, teenage Christian. That prayer was to see and experience the church in operation the way the Heavenly Father had designed it to be.”
The families in his new neighborhood got together and provided the Scotts with things they needed, such as beds, tables, and chairs. He writes, “I could feel a genuine excitement from these gracious people toward total strangers and, yet, we didn’t really feel like strangers at all. We can honestly say we have never felt like outsiders, not from day one. I began to sense my heart being amazingly warmed” (p. 55). I would agree that Mormons are very friendly to those moving into their neighborhoods, especially those from out of state. The running joke is that when you move to Utah, you better like home-made bread because many neighbors want to bless you with a fresh-baked loaf. When my family moved to Utah in 2010, a next door neighbor helped me unload items from the moving truck, even though it was Sunday, a sacred day for him. It was and is very much appreciated.
However, Scott’s modus operandi when moving from church to church had been very similar. Scott was known for leaving many larger items behind during his many moves as a pastor, only to have his necessities replaced by kind Christians. Over the years, he received money, clothes, groceries, furniture, beds, and other items of value from a variety of Evangelical church members. To make it look like he had never been treated well at the churches where he served is certainly not close to the truth.
Scott was also impressed with the organization of the LDS Church. He points to the prominent sign (“Visitors Welcome”) located on every meeting house. He also believes that “the understanding of the scriptures displayed by these Mormons was quite impressive” (p. 57). While he uses the word “scriptures,” he’s not clear about what is meant. When he wrote the book, he had to know that “scriptures” in LDS terminology means the Standard Works, which include the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. (To verify his understanding, see page 77.) And he’s a firm believer in the Book of Mormon, as he writes on page 67, “Instead of the Book of Mormon being the fake book that I was always told it was, I began to notice that all it did was to confirm the work of Christ and reinforce what I already believed from the Bible.” By “fake,” he probably meant “fictional.” However, he provides no details to support his point that the “understanding of the scriptures displayed by these Mormons was quite impressive.”
Most Evangelical pastors I know would not so easily accept the LDS scriptural interpretations without asking lots of questions. For example, does Scott really believe that 1 Corinthians 15:29 refers to a rite known as baptism for the dead that Mormons practice today in their temples? Does he believe that the Bible is true only as far as it is translated correctly, according to the Eighth Article of Faith? Would he agree with Mormons that humans have the potential to reach godhood and be with their families together based on passages such as Psalm 82 and John 10? (He does hint that he would say yes to this last statement, for he writes on page 60 that “family is forever and our existence on this earth is truly temporal; what really matters is that we take care of things from an eternal perspective.”) Overall, I find his easy acceptance of Mormonism throughout these pages troubling.
Scott is also touched by the history of the Mormon Church. He writes on page 70,
“The church has been persecuted since its inception, with their people hunted down and massacred—and all for simply following after God! These atrocities against humanity did not take place in some communist country overseas, but right here in the good old USA. The amazing thing is, if you study the history of the LDS Church, you will find that persecution has always followed it. Sadly, those doing the persecution were those who called themselves by the name of Christ! As the reality of what happened set in, it completely broke my heart that our nation could have allowed this type of action by anyone. If you think that’s sad, it wasn’t until just in the last several years that a law on the books in the state of Missouri was removed that stated Mormons were to be shot on sight.”
Where did he get his information? Did he do his own research? Or did he just listen to his new Mormon friends? While there is no doubt that Mormons have been persecuted over the years, it’s different from Scott’s portrayal. To respond to this, I direct the reader to visit here.
Finally, Scott—who for much (if not all) of his pastoral ministry practiced the charismatic sign gifts, such as tongues and prophecy—doesn’t seem to have any reservations that most Mormons don’t typically talk about these issues and certainly don’t allow them to be displayed in the church setting. Has Scott changed his view about these sign gifts? Or does he still practice tongues? The reader will never know because this issue is not discussed in the book.
Based on Scott’s tone, it was obvious that the missionaries would not require very much time to convert this family. He writes, “The sessions with the missionaries started and, after each session, we were given assignments and were to continue to ask the Heavenly Father if what we were receiving was true….Maggie and I continued to pray about the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon” (p. 74). At the very end of his last chapter, Scott says, “I had searched for truth and for what is true in my life, and now I had the answer. It was in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. ‘It’s true’” (p. 77). The couple soon became members of the Mormon Church in mid-2011.
Addressing those who are not part of the LDS Church, he says that “my heart’s cry is for all of them and their wonderful people. My prayer is that, by God’s grace, they might experience truth in their lives and movements. I know this: the Heavenly Father loves all His children and is always reaching in love to bring unity to His people” (p. 79). Scott then encourages non-Mormon readers to refrain from asking “outsiders what the Mormons believe” but “go directly to the LDS people or to LDS.org and ask your question.” His desire is for a person “to read the Book of Mormon and then ask your Heavenly Father if it is true” (p. 80). The problem, however, is that Mormonism’s terminology is often the same yet the meanings are usually different from what biblical Christianity teaches. Instead of asking Mormons and praying about a book, the wise observer will consider both sides and determine if the religion of Mormonism can actually stand the test.
Like the Latter-day Saints who now call him “brother,” Scott unwisely relied on his feelings rather than the Word of God. He says that “what he felt couldn’t be the work of Satan.” Why did he feel this way? From what he writes, it appears that he believed Satan wouldn’t allow him to have such positive feelings about his experience. Is this wise? After all, the Bible continually warns about Satan’s trickery and the problem of trusting personal feelings. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” Proverbs 28:26 proclaims, “He who trusts in himself is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom is kept safe.”
Jesus told his followers to be wary. In Matthew 7:15, He warned, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” Paul exhorted the believers in 1 Thessalonians 5:21 to “test all things; hold on to that which is good.” John added in 1 John 4:1, “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” Nowhere does the Bible teach Christians to rely on feelings as the main indicator of truth. And if good feelings can be trusted to designate truth, then one must wonder why Scott left this charismatic faith in the first place in order to join a religion that does not place such a phenomenon in the forefront. Mature Christian believers understand that, with the prevalence of error in our world today, the only thing we can depend on is God’s Word.
5 Warning Bells = One Big Siren
Scott has a very emotional story to tell. With the information provided in the book, the five warning bells equal one big siren. Based on this, I certainly don’t think anyone should accept the religion of Mormonism based mainly on the story of Tom Scott.
For a 10-part Viewpoint on Mormonism podcast series on Tom Scott airing in Febuary 2013, click on the following links: