Scolasticus cum Peter Principle

Posted: August 13, 2012 in Book Reviews, Fred Anson, Mormon Studies, Richard J. Mouw, Theology

BOOK REVIEW: “Talking with Mormons: An Invitation To Evangelicals” by Richard J. Mouw
Reviewed by Fred W. Anson

Scolasticus Consummati
Richard J. Mouw’s book “Talking with Mormons: An Invitation to Evangelicals” represents his maiden voyage into the vast sea of Mormon Studies books.  As such, anticipation of a valuable  and timely message was high given his bio:

Richard J. Mouw

“Richard J. Mouw has served as president of Fuller Theological Seminary since 1993, after having served the seminary for four years as provost and senior vice president. A philosopher, scholar, and author, Mouw joined the faculty of Fuller Theological Seminary as professor of Christian philosophy and ethics in 1985. Before coming to Fuller he served for 17 years as professor of philosophy at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He has also served as a visiting professor at the Free University in Amsterdam.

A graduate of Houghton College, Mouw studied at Western Theological Seminary and earned a master’s degree in philosophy at the University of Alberta. His PhD in philosophy is from the University of Chicago.

Mouw has a broad record of publication. He has been an editor of the Reformed Journal and has served on many editorial boards, including currently Books and Culture. He is the author of 19 books…”[1]

Indeed, Dr. Mouw has had a long and distinguished career and many of his books, particularly those on Reformed, Creedal Theology are recommended reading.

Out Of His League
Of course, given such an impressive resume, there’s an expectation that this book should be well written, and it is. Dr. Mouw writes in a tight, succinct, engaging style and his arguments are logical, clear, and understandable. Dr. Mouw is a craftsman of style and rhetoric, however the substance of his argument fails to satisfactorily address those issues with Mormonism that present the greatest challenges to Evangelicals and others with years of experience in the field. Ultimately this new entry into the arena is clumsy and counter-productive. It’s quickly apparent that Dr. Mouw has exceeded the limits of his competency.

For a start, Dr. Mouw is talking to the wrong Mormons. “College Professor” and/or “Scholar” has no place in the hierarchy of the LdS Church.[2]  They don’t interpret official doctrine, they don’t define LdS orthodoxy, they don’t dictate LdS Church policy and they have exactly no “Priesthood Authority” over those who do. Thirteenth President Ezra Taft Benson made this quite clear when he said:

“Doctrinal interpretation is the province of the First Presidency. The Lord has given that stewardship to them by revelation. No teacher has the right to interpret doctrine for the members of the Church. If Church members would remember that, we could do away with a number of books which have troubled some of our people”[3]

In expecting the learned lay person to have any influence on the theology, doctrines and practice of the LdS Church, Dr. Mouw appears to have psychologically projected his own Evangelical tradition onto the Mormon movement. He doesn’t appear to grasp that Mormonism is, and always has been governed magisterially by its First Presidency. It is a “top down” institution that simply does not answer to the professors in its private university.[4]

To illustrate this point, it should be noted that of all the myriad changes to LdS theology that have been enacted in Salt Lake City (home of the Church Office Building for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)[5], I can think of none that have originated in Provo (home of Brigham Young University).[6]

A Fine Example Of … What Exactly?  
This isn’t to say that Dr. Mouw limits himself exclusively to leading LdS academics. He also relates his interaction with Elder Jeffrey Holland, who is a member of the “Quorum of the Twelve Apostles” and occupies one of the top positions in the Mormon hierarchy:[7]

‘Elder Jeffrey Holland, one of the LDS General Authorities, not only has talked privately with some of us about the ways in which LDS leaders are placing a much stronger emphasis these days on the “finished work” of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross of Calvary, as well as the need for fallen sinners to rely completely on the grace of God for salvation; he and his colleagues have also publicly preached that kind of message in unambiguous terms to tens of thousands of Mormons in their addresses in recent years at the annual General Conferences. The evidence is available to anyone who has access to YouTube!’[8]

However, there’s an incongruity between what Dr. Mouw claims and the supporting evidence he produces to support it.[9]

Specifically, the address that Dr. Mouw presents as “a fine example” of this new trend in Mormonism was the 2009 General Conference Easter Message.[10]  If you watch the video, Holland doesn’t present the mainstream Christian view of “the ‘finished work’ of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross of Calvary, as well as the need for fallen sinners to rely completely on the grace of God for salvation”, instead what he gave was the  type of generic LdS Easter Message that’s been given at Annual General Conference sessions for decades.

And in accordance with LdS Theology, the main emphasis (please note the graphics in the video in particular) is on the Garden of Gethsemane where – in direct contradiction to what’s taught in the New Testament – LdS General Authorities have always taught that the atonement took place.[11] Further, the message that Mouw claims is clearly presented here is hardly “unambiguous” – Holland’s words can be interpreted to refer to either Gethsemane or Golgotha depending on your presuppositions.

And notice that Holland doesn’t mention, or reference grace in this address at all!  Nor, is the atonement presented as all sufficient and final.  Rather, when Holland uses the word, “finished” it’s given in the context of Christ finally ending the suffering.[12] So, Jeffrey Holland simply does not use the type of orthodox, mainstream Christian language that Mouw credits him with in the address.

And though the difference between Gethsemane and Golgotha might appear to be a trivial technicality, it underscores the vast differences between orthodox Evangelical Christianity and Mormonism. By situating it at Golgotha, Evangelicals locate the atonement in the sacrifice of Christ; by situating it in Gethsemane, Mormons locate the atonement in the obedience of the believer.

It’s the difference between grace and works. On the one hand, there is the truly finished work that the believer looks to in faith; and on the other there is the completed demonstration that the believer aspires to recreate (albeit metaphorically). In the latter, Christ might show the way, but he stops short of becoming the way, thus the believer is thrust back on his own efforts to secure the goal. As one recent commentator noted, Mormonism is more about attainment than atonement,[13] but such a focus denies the redemption narrative that is so highly valued by Evangelicals.

And oddly, the fact that Holland’s address doesn’t mention or refer to grace at all doesn’t seem to trouble Dr. Mouw in the least. Rather he seems to prefer to detect a “shift” towards the Reformed Christian understanding of grace somewhere between the lines in a place, apparently, where no one else can see it.

Nothing New to See Here!
Given this propensity, one might suggest that he ought to listen more closely to the 2011 Easter message given by Thomas S Monson, the ultimate authority in the LdS Church, in which he states that: “He it was who died on the cross to atone for our sins. He became the firstfruits of the Resurrection. Because He died, all shall live again.” [14]  Could this be what Dr. Mouw is looking for?

But again and alas, this is nothing new, the LdS Church has always taught that Christ died and extended unconditional grace to the world so that ALL human would be resurrected and judged. This is often referred to as “General Salvation” in LdS Theology, as opposed to “Individual Salvation” which is only for a select few (that is faithful, righteous, endowed, commandment keeping Mormons) who earn eternal life in the presence of God via their good works.[15] Thus, when considered in context and in total, every single one of the references to the atoning work of the cross in these Conference Addresses is referring to General Salvation rather than Individual Salvation – this is a distinction that continues to land Mormonism in the theological cult category.[16]

So, ultimately, Elder Holland’s so-called ‘fine example’ combined with all the other General Conferences addresses, the continued teaching of LdS Leaders and the body of official, correlated[17] Church Educational System manuals[18] discredit Mouw’s assertions. There’s just nothing new here – nothing has changed! So why is Dr. Mouw getting so excited?

Now About Your Choice of Friends…
Further, Dr. Mouw ought to be more discerning in seeking authoritative voices within Mormonism. Elder Jeffrey Holland has demonstrated the greatest pattern of manipulation both within and without the LdS Church.

For example, his infamous “Safety for the Soul” address from the Fall 2009 General Conference [19] is now held up by many Mormon Studies Scholars as a modern example of the Mormon practice of rhetorical manipulation as well as “Lying for the Lord”.[20] And I found it ironic that the “Safety For The Soul” address was given in the Fall General Conference a mere 6-months after the Spring Easter Message that Dr. Mouw presents as ‘Exhibit A’ of alleged movement toward mainstream Christian orthodoxy by The Brethren.[21]

Another example of Holland blatantly lying is his videotaped interview with BBC journalist John Sweeney about whether Mitt Romney took blood oaths when he went through the Temple. Mitt Romney took these oaths before becoming a missionary for the LDS Church in 1966. The Temple penalties were removed in 1990, well after Mitt Romney took them.[22]

BYU Professor, Robert Millet, who is featured prominently throughout the book, has regularly been “caught in the act”. Numerous examples could be cited for Mr. Millet but probably the most dramatic example was his presentation to a group of LdS Missionaries preparing for their 2-year mission in which he coaches them on “how to handle anti-Mormon criticism”[23]

Robert Millet
(click to view referenced video)

In this video Millet speaks about how to handle the tough “anti-Mormon” questions missionaries may face while on their missions (or afterward) using tactics like:  “We never provide meat when milk will do”, in other words obfuscation; “We seek to answer any serious question by finding the most direct route to the Sacred Grove”, in other words redirection; “Don’t answer the question they ask, answer the question they should have asked”, in other words deflection.  And while we’re not privy to the private sessions between Mouw and Millet’s “teams” it seems reasonable to expect that the Millet team engages in such tactics.

Regarding that team, concern has also been expressed about BYU Professor J. Spencer Fluhman of whom Mouw writes:

“Spencer Fluhman is a young Mormon scholar who recently earned his Ph.D. and is now a history professor at Brigham Young University. A participant in our Mormon-evangelical dialogue, Spencer converses easily with evangelicals, showing a willingness to entertain new – and old! – questions in a self-critical spirit. There’s no question about his fidelity to his Mormon faith, but he also clearly wants to link his Mormon convictions to what he sees as the deep concern in the Christian tradition to acknowledge the supremacy of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.” [24]

Based on that analysis, wouldn’t you think that Mouw is right to have great hope for future change in Mormonism given the presence of open-minded young men like this?  Perhaps we should consider what Mr. Fluhman had to say about Evangelicals in a recent New York Times article before we draw any hard conclusions:

“Anti-Mormon attacks by evangelicals have betrayed anxiety over the divisions in their movement and their slipping cultural authority as arbiters of religious authenticity. Some big-hearted evangelicals have recently reached out to Mormons with genuine understanding, but they must now fend off charges of getting too cozy with Satan’s minions. Because evangelicals are hard pressed for unity to begin with, and because they have defined themselves less and less in terms of historic Christian creeds, their objections to Mormonism might carry less and less cultural weight.” [25]

Based on that one, is tempted to ask, “Dr. Mouw, while it appears that this young Mormon scholar seems to be ‘impressed’ with your hearts, he seems to be somewhat less than impressed with your heads (not to mention Evangelical heads in general). It would seem that Mr. Fluhman is of the opinion that the LdS Church has Evangelicalism on the ropes, that we’re fading fast and that we don’t really have much of value to add to society relative to Mormonism – now one can only wonder where he got these ideas from Dr. Mouw!”

“Peace for our time”

Adding it all up, Dr. Mouw’s uncritical acceptance of what these rather notorious Mormon figures say in their private discussions, combined with how he appears to use “reading between the lines” as definitive evidence of a major shift taking place in the LdS Church one could easily lead one to conclude that he is ignorant, naive, and lacks good judgment as well as discernment.  One need only recall the picture of Neville Chamberlain declaring “Peace for our time” as a tutorial as to where having such deficiencies in an Ambassador can lead.[26]

For The Sake Of Brevity (really!)  
It’s an important subject, but for the sake of brevity I haven’t broached on how Dr. Mouw insists on publicly misrepresenting, slandering and libeling fellow Evangelicals.  The late Walter Martin who died in 1989 seems to be a favorite target for the wheels of Mouw’s bus but there are others. This pattern of behavior had already gotten him labeled everything from a “Pandering Slanderer” to “the LdS Church’s best Apologist” so I expect this book will simply add fuel to the fire. Suffice to say, Dr. Mouw’s infamous November 4th, 2004 Tabernacle apology to Mormons sounds hypocritical given how thoroughly and repeatedly he’s borne false witness of his own people!

Another complaint I have with this book is how Dr. Mouw is constantly lamenting Christians for not really understanding official LdS Theology, then filling page after page with misinformation derived solely from the unofficial, private, uncorrelated, personal opinions of LdS intellectuals while ignoring the vast body of approved, public, correlated LdS materials (books, magazines, manuals, etc.) — the latter being the material that defines what constitutes official LdS doctrine and theology and that contradicts what he’s hearing in those private meetings.

So tell me, who would you advise Dr. Mouw to listen to: A bunch of BYU Professors sequestered away and privately arguing over their personal opinions out in Provo, or the LdS Church First Presidency publicly dictating official Church dogma and doctrine to the membership in Salt Lake City?

If It Walks Like A Duck 
Finally, it’s hard to take Dr. Mouw seriously when he uses criteria like this to conclude that Mormonism isn’t a cult:

“In fact, even the label ‘cult’ seems inappropriate for describing the Mormonism that we’ve seen up close. Jehovah’s Witnesses – they’re a cult. They stick to a party line. You don’t find them arguing among themselves – at least in a way the rest of us can see and hear. If someone does insist on raising questions from within about Jehovah’s Witness teachings, they’re quickly expelled from the group. And the very idea of a world-class Jehovah’s Witness university is a hard one to entertain.

Mormonism is a different story altogether. Brigham Young University is world class. It has an excellent faculty, with doctorates from some of the best graduate programs in the world. Some devout Mormons are well-known scholars at major secular schools.” [27]

Ambassador College

What about the Worldwide Church of God?  They had a respected and accredited University too, but they were still a cult.[28] And let’s not forget “The September Six” (all academics and most BYU Professors) who were excommunicated on September 1993 for not sticking to the Mormon party line.[29]

Then there’s the recent Excommunication of Lyndon Lamborn on August 19, 2007 for “raising questions from within” about official church accounts of Mormon History that didn’t reconcile with reality – what about that?[30]

If the LdS Church isn’t a cult, then why has 13th LdS Church President Ezra Taft Benson’s “Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet” been quoted from at least once in every recent General Conference and continues to be cited and reprinted regularly in official, correlated LdS Church books, periodicals, and manuals? [31] Dr. Mouw, if President Benson’s pervasive and highly influential address isn’t a formula for mind control, I don’t know what is!

And let’s not forget the countless Mormons who have had their Temple Recommends pulled – or have even been excommunicated – because they gained a testimony of Jesus Christ but lost their testimony of Joseph Smith. Why is belief in and loyalty to a human being (the founder) so paramount if the Mormon Church isn’t a cult?

Finally we have the BITE Model[32] and other Sociological models for Mind Control Cults that we can “use as a plumb line” against.  Mormonism has consistently met the criteria when evaluated against such tests.[33]


The Peter Principle circa 1994

Michael Jordan Shouldn’t Play Baseball . . .
Much more could be said about just how flawed and misguided the substance of this book is – Mouw exposes his naiveté and ignorance on virtually every page. It’s hard for this reviewer to see a scholar of Dr. Mouw’s stature embarrass himself so thoroughly by stumbling and bumbling around in an arena where he’s so obviously so unqualified.  Dr. Mouw appears to be in very deep denial on a great many things – not the least being his qualifications to work in an area that’s outside of his area of accomplishment, training, expertise and skills.

Or put another way, just as Michael Jordan shouldn’t play baseball, Richard J. Mouw shouldn’t talk with Mormons.

So despite my respect for many of Dr. Mouw’s other accomplishments, in the end I simply cannot recommend this book. However, I have a book recommendation for Dr. Mouw:  Please read “The Peter Principle”[34] because, to me it explains what’s really going on when you’re talking with Mormons.

[1] See
(retrieved 2012-08-10)

[2] For a more complete description – including a superb graphical representation – of the hierarchy of the LdS Church see
(retrieved 2012-08-07)

[3] “Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson“, p.317; “The Gospel Teacher and His Message”, also cited in “Charge to Religious Educators”, p.14, and; The LdS Church manual, “Teachings of the Living Prophets”, pp.51-52;
(retrieved 2015-09-19)

[4] A case in point is how the LdS Church treated BYU Professor Randy Bott’s Washington Post comments on race in February 2012 (see ; retrieved 2012-08-12)  In their church statement, the LdS Church clearly stated, “BYU faculty members do not speak for the Church.”

[5] See Wikipedia “Church Office Building” (retrieved 2012-08-10)

[6] See Wikipedia “Brigham Young University” (retrieved 2012-08-10)

[7] Richard J. Mouw. “Talking with Mormons: An Invitation to Evangelicals”, Kindle Locations 873-877

[8] See Wikipedia, “Jeffrey R. Holland: LDS Church Leadership”
(retrieved 2012-08-08)

[9] The accompanying endnote then references the YouTube video ; Op Cit, Holland, “Talking with Mormons”, Kindle Location 961

[10] “None Were With Him” by Jeffrey R. Holland
(retrieved 2012-08-07)

[11] “[It was in the Garden of Gethsemane that Christ] “suffered as only as God would suffer, bearing our griefs, carrying our sorrows, being wounded for our transgressions, voluntarily submitting Himself to the iniquity of us all, just as Isaiah prophesied.

It was in Gethsemane that Jesus took on Himself the sins of the world, in Gethsemane that His pain was equivalent to the cumulative burden of all men, in Gethsemane that He descended below all things so that all could repent and come to Him”
(Ezra Taft Benson, “The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson”, pp.14&15; )
(retrieved 2012-8-08)

[12] “But Jesus held on. He pressed on. The goodness in Him allowed faith to triumph even in a state of complete anguish. The trust He lived by told Him in spite of His feelings that divine compassion is never absent, that God is always faithful, that He never flees nor fails us. When the uttermost farthing had then been paid, when Christ’s determination to be faithful was as obvious as it was utterly invincible, finally and mercifully, it was ‘finished.’”
(Op cit, Holland, “None Were With Him”)

[13] Adam Gopnik, “I, Nephi: Mormonism and its meanings”; The New Yorker, August 13, 2012;
(retrieved 2012-08-12)

[14] “At Parting” by Thomas S. Monson
(retrieved 2012-08-07)

[15] For a good overview of Mormon Soteriology see “Salvation According to Mormonism” by Mormon Research Ministry;
(retrieved 2012-08-07)

Here’s a salient excerpt:
“Mormonism teaches of a general salvation and an individual salvation. General salvation refers to the unconditional, universal gift of resurrection to all. Individual salvation refers to the process one must go through to receive exaltation in the highest heavenly kingdom of the afterlife, the Celestial Kingdom, where one may eternally enjoy family and become a God over his own spirit children. While Mormonism teaches that this process is made possible by the necessary merits of Christ and blessings of his atonement, and that gracious guidance, encouragement, and strengthening is granted throughout the journey, it nevertheless teaches that the decisive factor which determines one’s final destination is one’s personal, meritorious righteousness and worthiness.”

Also see,  Marvin W. Cowan, “Mormon Claims Answered”, Chapter 8
(retrieved 2012-08-08)

[16] See Alan W. Gomes, “Unmasking The Cults”;  Kindle Locations 103-106
Mr. Gomes is a graduate of Dr. Mouw’s University (Fuller Seminary) who teaches at Talbot Seminary and Biola  University.  He defines a cult as, “… is a group of people who claim to be Christian, yet embrace a particular doctrinal system taught by an individual leader, group of leaders, or organization, which (system) denies (either explicitly or implicitly) one or more of the central doctrines of the Christian faith as taught in the sixty-six books of the Bible.”

[17] See “Priesthood Correlation Program”
(retrieved 2012-08-07)

[18] These are the manuals used in Sunday School, LdS Seminary, and all other church related instruction see
(retrieved 2012-08-07)

[19] See for the address as it was given.

Some good deconstructions, analyses and critiques of the address can be found at:
“An LDS Gem Elder Holland’s Opus”

“Examing Holland’s Talk” (Part 1 of 5)

“Understanding Elder Holland’s Address The Book of Mormon”
(all above links retrieved 2012-08-07)

The official transcript of the address can be found here:
(retrieved 2012-08-10)

[20] See “Lying for the Lord” MormonWiki Article
(retrieved 2012-08-07)

[21] Op Cit, Richard J. Mouw. “Talking with Mormons: An Invitation to Evangelicals”, Kindle Locations 314-318; also see Kindle Location 961 for relevant endnote

[22] This video can be viewed at
(retrieved 2012-08-10)

[23] This video can be viewed at
(retrieved 2012-08-07)

[24] Op Cit, Richard J. Mouw, “Talking with Mormons: An Invitation to Evangelicals”; Kindle Locations 892-895

[25] J. Spencer Fluhman, “Why We Fear Mormons”; The New York Times, June 3, 2012;
(retrieved 2012-08-08)

Elsewhere in this article Mr. Fluhman exposes one of his underlying presuppositions with this astounding statement, “… evangelical hatred has been the driving force behind national anti-Mormonism.”

To that assertion I would first respond, “Disagreement is disagreement, not hatred.” Further, I would echo in agreement the words of Richard and Joan Ostling in when they observed:

“The thin-skinned and image-conscious Mormon can display immature, isolationist, and defensive reactions to outsiders, perhaps because there is no substantive debate and no “loyal opposition” within their kingdom. With some, it almost seems that the wilderness is still untamed, the federal ‘polyg’ police are on the prowl, and the Illinois lynch mob is still oiling muskets and preparing to raid Carthage Jail. All too often Saints use the label “anti-Mormon” as a tactic to forestall serious discussion.”
(Richard N. and Joan K. Ostling, “Mormon America: The Power and the Promise (2007 Edition)”; p. 115;
(retrieved 2012-08-10)

And I would remind those that use it that “Anti-Mormon” is the Mormon “N-word” – it’s the equivalent of an Evangelical calling a Mormon an “Anti-Evangelical”.  If you really want to demonstrate that you are a person of good intent and good will (not to mention not prejudiced or bigoted) please refrain from name calling and replace it with the far more accurate terms, “Mormon Critic” or “Critic of Mormonism.”

Finally, I would point out again to the reader that this is the type of up-and-coming-Mormon that Dr. Mouw places hope for a bright future in. One is tempted to ask Dr. Mouw, “Exactly WHAT are you seeing in a person that we, members your people group, fellow Christians and allies for the Reformed faith are missing? Candidly he seems to be too contentious for respectful dialog!”

[26] See “Peace for our time” Wikipedia article
(retrieved 2012-08-12)

[27] Richard J. Mouw. Talking with Mormons: An Invitation to Evangelicals; Kindle Locations 314-318

[28] See “Ambassador College” Wikipedia article ; (retrieved 2012-08-10)

[29] See “September Six” Wikipedia article
(retrieved 2012-08-09)

[30] See the Lyndon Lamborn webpage on Mormon Think
(retrieved 2012-08-09)

Or read Mr. Lamborn’s book, “Standing For Something More: The Excommunication of Lyndon Lamborn”
(retrieved 2012-08-09)

[31] Ezra Taft Benson, “Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet”, Liahona, June 1981;
(retrieved 2012-08-09)

[32] There are many sociological aspects we can examine to determine if a group fits the criteria of a “cult,” but one of the easiest models to use in evaluating cult mind-control is given by Steven Hassan in his book Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves, published in 2000 by Freedom of Mind Press, Somerville MA.  (see )
(retrieved 2012-08-10)

In chapter two, he gives four basic components of mind control, which form the acronym BITE. You can read more about the BITE Model here:
(retrieved 2012-08-09)

This model was based primarily on Robert Lifton’s work but also draws from research from Margaret Singer and many others. It doesn’t target any group in particular and can be applied to ANY group be they religious, political, secular, etc. It just doesn’t matter.

[33] Steven Hassan recommends that the BITE Model analysis be done by former members as they have the greatest insight into the group’s formal and informal behavior. So with that in mind, here are links to the BITE analysis’s that have been completed by former Mormons.

I would politely suggest that these analyses answer this nagging question rather nicely – and I will leave it to the reader to decide the answer for them self what that answer is:

The BITE Model and Mormon Control
by Luna Flesher
(an ExMormon and a Cult Exit Counselor at the time this analysis was completed)
(retrieved 2012-08-09)

The BITE model applied toward Mormonism’s two-year missionary program as submitted by an ex-Mormon
(retrieved 2012-08-09)

The BITE model applied toward Mormonism as submitted by an ex-Mormon
(retrieved 2012-08-09)

Are Mormons (LDS or Latter-day Saints) A Cult?
(retrieved 2012-08-09)

[34] Laurence J. Peter & Raymond Hull, “The Peter Principle”
(retrieved 2012-08-09)

From the Amazon product description:
“The Peter Principle, the eponymous law Dr. Laurence J. Peter coined, explains that everyone in a hierarchy—from the office intern to the CEO, from the low-level civil servant to a nation’s president—will inevitably rise to his or her level of incompetence.”

Also see: Wikipedia Article, “Peter Principle”
(retrieved 2012-08-10)

(And last but not least, while taking full responsibility for this article’s content, the author would like express his sincere appreciation to his editors and peer reviewers for making it far, far, far better, they are:  Martin Jacobs and Keith Walker) 

  1. fredwanson says:

    UPDATE: A version of this review (minus the live links in accordance with Amazon policy) can be read on the Amazon page for Dr. Mouw’s book at:

    Thank you.


  2. fredwanson says:

    UPDATE 2012-09-05: Regarding The Lorenzo Snow Couplet
    In the chapter entitled, “The Same Jesus?” under the “Theology of Salvation” section Dr. Mouw makes the following claim:

    “Mormonism is often portrayed as a self-deification program – and not without some legitimacy, given the popularity of the Lorenzo Snow couplet: ‘What Man now is, God once was; what God now is, Man may become:’ My Mormon friends are quick to point out, however, that this couplet has no official canonical status …”
    (Richard J. Mouw; :Talking with the Mormons: An Invitation to Evangelicals”; Kindle Location 534-537)

    This echoes the public claim he has repeatedly made since late 2004 (over the loud objection of both qualified LdS and non-LdS scholars) that Snow’s doctrine has “no functioning place in present-day Mormon doctrine.”

    And while there’s always been ample evidence from official sources that Dr. Mouw either didn’t understand what he was being told or was flatly being lied to by his “Mormons friends” the Church Educational System (CES) of the LdS Church has now released official curriculum in manual form entitled “Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow” (TPC:LS) that demonstrates just how drastic and dramatically Dr. Mouw has erred. As Rob Bowman of the Institute of Religious Research notes in a recent blog article:

    “…TPC:LS is an official curriculum manual of the LDS Church intended to be the basis of instruction in Mormon congregations worldwide.

    This manual is of special interest because Snow was the author of a two-line saying (commonly dubbed Snow’s “couplet”) that epitomizes what is distinctive about LDS theology. As one would expect, it is quoted in the manual (p. 83):

    As man now is, God once was;
    As God now is, man may be.

    As the manual reports, Snow actually formulated this couplet in 1840 and believed it to have been a “sacred communication” (i.e., a divine revelation), but did not teach it publicly until after Joseph Smith taught the same doctrine (83). Indeed, Joseph’s famous 1844 King Follett Discourse actually uses language that closely matches the first line of Snow’s couplet:

    God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! …Here, then, is eternal life—to know the only wise and true God; and you have got to learn to be Gods yourselves, and to be kings and priests to God, the same as all Gods have done before you… (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 345-46).

    The TPC:LS manual reports that Snow frequently “testified” to this doctrine, “making this truth a theme for many of his sermons” and even “adopted it as the theme for his life” (83). The manual goes on to quote at length from Snow’s own exposition of the meaning and significance of the doctrine. According to Snow, we have “the nature of deity” undeveloped within us, including God the Father’s “capabilities, powers and faculties,” just as an infant child does the faculties and powers of its parent (84). We have “the capacity for infinite wisdom and knowl­edge” in the “divinity” that lies within us albeit “in an infantile state.” As such, we are uncreated beings who “have divinity within ourselves” and “will live from all eternity to all eternity” (84).

    Through a continual course of progression our Heavenly Father has received exaltation and glory and he points us out the same path and, inasmuch as he is clothed with power, authority and glory, he says, “walk ye up and come in possession of the same glory and happiness that I possess” (85).

    Our “high destiny” if we are faithful is “becoming like unto Him in every particular” (86, my emphasis).”
    (Rob Bowman, “Richard Mouw, Call Your Office: The Lorenzo Snow Manual and His Couplet about God and Man”; ; retrieved 2012-09-05)

    While this issue was addressed in an early draft of my review I eventually chose to delete it for the sake of brevity. However, current events being what they are Dr. Mouw can no longer claim that Mormonism isn’t OFFICIALLY “a self-deification program” and that this doctrine (known as “Celestial Exaltation” or simply “Exaltation” within Mormonism) isn’t an essential part of modern and current Latter-day Saint soteriology.

    Further, it is this author’s opinion that given his track record Dr. Mouw would be wise to cease and desist his clearly incompetent work in Mormon Studies and issue an apology to the Christian Mormon Studies and Counter-Cult Ministries that he has so grossly misrepresented and slandered.

    How he handles the “little” issue of his “Mormon friends” lying to him and making him look the fool in public is, of course, his business not mine.


  3. fredwanson says:

    UPDATE: The 2006 Ron V. Huggins analysis
    In 2006, Theologian Ron V. Huggins published the most comprehensive analysis of Richard J. Mouw’s denial that the Lorenzo Snow couplet is official LdS Doctrine to date in the “Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society” 49/3 (Sept. 2006) pages 549–68). It was recently reprinted in the Utah Lighthouse Ministry newsletter in an online form. It is highly recommended reading:


  4. fredwanson says:

    UPDATE: The April 2013 EMNR Statement on Richard J. Mouw
    In April 2013, the leaders at the Evangelical Ministries to New Religions (EMNR) put together an offiical statement regarding Fuller Seminary President Richard Mouw. The statement can be read here:


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