Book Review: “Building Bridges Between Spirit-filled Christians and Latter-day Saints (Mormons)” by Rob and Kathy Datsko

Posted: March 19, 2017 in John MacArthur, Mormon Studies
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Front Cover Reviewed by Fred W. Anson

Title: Building Bridges Between Spirit-filled Christians and Latter-day Saints (Mormons)
Author: Rob and Kathy Datsko
Publisher: eBookIt.com
Genre: Non-fiction, religion
Year Published: 2012
Length: 402 pages
Binding: Paperback, Kindle, Nook, PDF, ePub, Mobi
ISBN10: 1456613413
ISBN13: 9781456613419
Price: $2.99 eBook, $23.95 paperback

I know that this may seem like an odd book to review. It’s self-published and a niche of a niche, of a subset of a subset, to boot! Not to fear, the appendix below explains how I found this quirky little imprint and why I’ve bothered to write a review for it. Sometimes things are not always as they appear and that’s the case here. So segueing off of that, let’s first consider the “About the Authors” information from the back of the book and maybe things will start to gel, come together, and start making sense here:

“Rob and Kathy Datsko met at the University of Michigan, and were married in 1976. As of 2012, they have enjoyed over 35 years of Christian marriage. Between the two of them, they have a combined total experience within the Spirit-filled Christian community of 74 years. They have a combined 17+ years of experience as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They were sealed in the Denver temple in 2004. They reside in Loveland, Colorado, and have two wonderful sons, Rephaiah and Jon.”
(Datsko, Rob and Kathy, “Building Bridges Between Spirit-filled Christians and Latter-day Saints (Mormons)”, Kindle Locations 7444-7449)

Friends, this information is conspicuously missing from the book’s description and the author’s page on Amazon. Yes, that’s right, I had to buy the book to find out that I was reading what was essentially -no scratch that, there’s no “essentially” about it, that is – an agenda driven propaganda piece from a “Charismatic cum Latter-day Saint” married couple. So armed with this new found knowledge I found their full backstory elsewhere on the Internet. This is from the wife:

“I’m a born again Spirit-filled Pentecostal/Charismatic Christian who came into the LDS Church 10 years ago because the Holy Spirit, whom I have loved since I was 24 led me here. I’ve known and loved Jesus since I was 16, and tried to follow Him my entire life. I was baptized in 2002, endowed in 2003, a month later my husband was baptized, and we were sealed in 2004. We go to the temple regularly.

I could not stay within this oppressive culture if I did not have the gift of tongues which I received at age 24. Praying in tongues regularly gives me the strength to live with the full knowledge that I was willing to give up worship, the wonderful presence of the Lord in our services, the gifts of the Spirit, including tongues, Word of knowledge, laying on of hands healing (yes, a brain tumor disappeared after I joined several others and we all laid hands on a friend’s head and prayed), etc. to gain the Book of Mormon and the LDS Gift of the Holy Spirit and the sealing ordinance.

I would come into the Church again even though we have lost so much: We had prophetesses in our other churches, priestesses, and 50% of all the leadership was women. My husband was told by MD Anderson Cancer Center that research had shown that the very strange cancer he contracted two years ago was most likely caused by a traumatic loss. We immediately knew the “loss” was the presence of Jesus, the worship and Power of the Holy Spirit that we willingly sacrificed to obtain the Restoration. He was sobbing last week again- from the pain of missing the Holy Spirit in this our “new” church. He has the gifting and anointing to help invite the Holy Ghost in, through worship, and his gift is not welcomed. It is not in the almighty Manual.

We have sacrificed all things, including family *and* liberty for both women and men – and come into a camp where everyone is afraid to even talk to the Holy Spirit – but just talks about duties and obeying the commandments and the leadership. I know the Restoration is true. I *know* the Church is not. The Church will only be true when all are encouraged to embrace their agency and follow the Lord with all their hearts, rather than just follow the Prophet (who is an ‘honest but imperfect man’ as Neil Andersen stated in Oct Conference [2012]).”
(Kathy Datsko, comment on “Ask Mormon Girl” website, “Ask Mormon Girl: Time to come out of the closet as a Mormon feminist. How do I tell my husband?”, February 20, 2013 at 12:36AM. Lightly reformatted to improve legibility for this context)

"Confusion Bridge" by Tuah Roslan

“The Confusion Bridge” by Tuah Roslan

And trust me, folks the opening salvo of my review wasn’t too harsh, this book is propaganda – the authors are attempting to get the LdS Church to become Charismatic (as stated above) while getting Charismatics to accept the LDS Church as mainstream Christian. The net result is, “information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view” – which is what the Oxford English Dictionary gives as the definition of propaganda. For example, let me demonstrate how again, again, and again the authors misrepresent both Biblical Christianity and official, correlated Mormon Church doctrine in this book via direct quotes:

“Today when a SFC [Spirit Filled Christian] states, “I believe in the Trinity,” he is often asserting he believes there is a distinction between Father, Son and Holy Ghost. When stating, “I believe in the doctrine of the Trinity,” I am saying “I believe the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are separate, yet distinct beings, and I believe that somehow They are one.”   Most LDS [Latter-day Saints] have an outdated understanding of what SFC mean when they use the word Trinity, as the LDS understanding stems from a definition that was held 30-50 years ago. In fact, this definition is no longer accepted by Spirit-filled Christians today. LDS generally believe that the doctrine of the Trinity or belief in the Trinity implies that somehow there is no distinction between Father, Son and Holy Ghost. They think Trinity refers to some weird nebulous oneness in the Godhead, in which all distinction has been lost. They often believe that Trinity refers to the creeds that used to be so prevalent in many churches prior to the 1970’s (see SFC view under ‘Restoration’). Perhaps this was what Trinity meant before the 1960’s or even the 1970’s, but it is no longer true among Spirit-filled Christians.”
(Datsko, Rob and Kathy, “Building Bridges Between Spirit-filled Christians and Latter-day Saints (Mormons)”, Kindle Locations 5909-5918)

Mormon friends this is simply wrong! And I am saying this as a Spirit-filled Charismatic Christian. The doctrine of the Trinity is, and always has been, as it’s defined in the Bible and summarized in the (circa 4th Century AD) Athanasian Creed. The doctrine, in a nutshell, is as follows: God is one eternal, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient Being consisting of three co-eternal, co-omnipotent, co-omnipresent Persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. God is one in essence, but three in person. And creeds aside, each of these points can be proven directly from the Bible. This doctrine has never changed. Ever.1

And if that’s not enough, the authors then go on to misrepresent both groups:

“The term ‘Trinity’ does not even exist in the Bible, which means that each group has developed their own understanding of what it actually means. SFC would state emphatically, “I believe in the Trinity,” and LDS would say, “I do not believe in the Trinity.” They are each saying the exact same thing: that they believe the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are separate, distinct Persons (Personages), yet (somehow) deeply united in covenant as “one.”   When LDS state they don’t believe in the concept of the Trinity, SFC think they are teaching against the Godhood of Jesus Christ and/or the Holy Spirit. When a Latter-day Saint states, “I don’t believe in the Trinity,” his SFC friend will wonder “Which person of the Godhead does he not believe in?” The Spirit-filled Christian will most likely assume his Latter-day Saint friend is not a Christian, since he has just stated that he does not believe in at least one of the three Persons within the Godhead.

LDS generally express their belief in the ‘oneness’ of God by saying they believe the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are “one in purpose.” This makes complete sense to LDS. However, the concept “one in purpose” can be very frustrating and confusing to SFC. They think their LDS friends are implying that the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are willing to work together with the same purpose on a project, but that there is no deep covenant of oneness between the three of Them. SFC may therefore think LDS have the belief that Heavenly Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are like business partners; there is deep respect between Them, but certainly no affection. The phrase “One in purpose” (for SFC) implies the idea that there is no deep communion between the three of Them, and certainly never any demonstrations of tenderness.”
(Datsko, Rob and Kathy, “Building Bridges Between Spirit-filled Christians and Latter-day Saints (Mormons)”, Kindle Locations 5920-5934)

At this point, I would hope that any mainstream Christian reading that is rolling their eyes at how egregiously they and the doctrine of the Trinity have been presented yet again! The members of the Trinity are no more, “deeply united in covenant as ‘one'” than my soul is “covenanted” with my body, or my head is “covenanted” with my neck. Your nature and being is what it is. Period. No covenant or agreement is required.

And I suspect that Latter-day Saint eyes are also rolling, since what the authors have given as Latter-day Saint Godhead doctrine bears little to no resemblance to the official, correlated definition which is as follows:

“The Mormon view of the members of the Godhead corresponds in a number of ways with the views of others in the Christian world, but with significant differences. Latter-day Saints pray to God the Father in the name of Jesus Christ. They acknowledge the Father as the ultimate object of their worship, the Son as Lord and Redeemer, and the Holy Spirit as the messenger and revealer of the Father and the Son. But where Latter-day Saints differ from other Christian religions is in their belief that God and Jesus Christ are glorified, physical beings and that each member of the Godhead is a separate being.

The true doctrine of the Godhead was lost in the apostasy that followed the Savior’s mortal ministry and the deaths of His Apostles. This doctrine began to be restored when 14-year-old Joseph Smith received his First Vision (see Joseph Smith—History 1:17). From the Prophet’s account of the First Vision and from his other teachings, we know that the members of the Godhead are three separate beings. The Father and the Son have tangible bodies of flesh and bones, and the Holy Ghost is a personage of spirit (see D&C 130:22).

Although the members of the Godhead are distinct beings with distinct roles, they are one in purpose and doctrine. They are perfectly united in bringing to pass Heavenly Father’s divine plan of salvation.”
(official LDS Church website, Gospel Topics, “Godhead”)

To be clear here Mormon friends, there’s really no bridge to be built or crossed since that tritheistic definition, according to mainstream Christian orthodoxy, is both heretical and blasphemous. It changes the only one true God into a council of polytheistic gods with Heaven Father as the “Head God”. In other words, the Godhead is a henotheistic council. Changing your presentation to make it more palatable for mainstream Christian ears won’t change that offensive heresy. And when your Christian friend finds out that you have attempted to obfuscate official Mormon Doctrine and orthodox Christian Trinitarianism in the manner in which the Datskos do in this book, they will most likely feel betrayed, angry, and may even call you a liar. Sorry, but that’s just the way it is.

Making a splash! In preparation for the explosion, a stretch of I-270 crossing from St. Louis, Missouri, to Granite City, Illinois, was demolished in February 2015.

“Mormon friends, there’s really no bridge to be built or crossed here…”

But wait, it gets even “better” when the authors then advise you, my Mormon friend, to point your “SFC” friend to early (pre-1834) Mormon scripture in the Book of Mormon and D&C in which Joseph Smith and Mormonism held to a largely Trinitarian view of the Godhead (albeit with a strong modalist skew). It is common knowledge that Joseph Smith’s view of the Godhead shifted radically between 1834-1835 resulting in the previously”leaky” Trinitarianism in early Mormonism being supplanted by the aforementioned henotheistic tritheism.2 So you and I both know that if you’re truly honest you would turn instead to sources like these (post-1834) scriptures which more accurately reflect the current LDS Church position on the Godhead – which, as previously stated, is both tritheistic and henotheistic:

The Pearl of Great Price, Book of Abraham Chapter 4:1-4
“And then the Lord said: Let us go down. And they went down at the beginning, and they, that is the Gods, organized and formed the heavens and the earth.

And the earth, after it was formed, was empty and desolate, because they had not formed anything but the earth; and darkness reigned upon the face of the deep, and the Spirit of the Gods was brooding upon the face of the waters.

And they (the Gods) said: Let there be light; and there was light.

And they (the Gods) comprehended the light, for it was bright; and they divided the light, or caused it to be divided, from the darkness.”

“The King Follett Sermon”; Ensign, April 1971, p.13
“A Council of the Gods. In the beginning, the head of the Gods called a council of the Gods; and they came together and concocted a plan to create the world and people it.”
— Joseph Smith

“Sermon in the Grove”; History of the Church 6:474
“I will preach on the plurality of Gods… I have always declared God to be a distinct personage, Jesus Christ a separate and distinct personage from God the Father, and that the Holy Ghost was a distinct personage and a Spirit: and these three constitute three distinct personages and three Gods.”
— Joseph Smith, “Sermon On Plurality of Gods,” June 16, 1844

“Sermon in the Grove”; History of the Church 6:476
“The heads of the Gods appointed one God for us…”
— Joseph Smith, “Sermon On Plurality of Gods,” June 16, 1844

So stated plainly, what the authors are coaching you to do is lie and obfuscate what Mormonism really believes, aren’t they? And this is just one of innumerable examples that I could cite from this book. So, if you really, feel comfortable violating Gospel Principles, Chapter 31 which says . . .

“Lying is intentionally deceiving others. Bearing false witness is one form of lying. The Lord gave this commandment to the children of Israel: “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour” (Exodus 20:16). Jesus also taught this when He was on earth (see Matthew 19:18). There are many other forms of lying. When we speak untruths, we are guilty of lying. We can also intentionally deceive others by a gesture or a look, by silence, or by telling only part of the truth. Whenever we lead people in any way to believe something that is not true, we are not being honest.”

… then buy this book and follow it’s advice.

Speaking as a Spirit-filled Charismatic Christian, I simply can not recommend this book to Christians. And speaking as a Mormon Studies Scholar I can’t recommend this book to Latter-day Saints either. Rather, I advise you to save your $2.99 (the current price as this is being written) and look elsewhere if you’re looking for credible work on Mormon/Evangelical intrafaith discussions. Here are a few suggestions:

How Wide the Divide?: A Mormon & an Evangelical in Conversation
Bridging the Divide: The Continuing Conversation between a Mormon and an Evangelical
The New Mormon Challenge: Responding to the Latest Defenses of a Fast-Growing Movement

None of these recommended alternatives are perfect but they’re much, much, much better than this messy, poorly crafted, misleading, and agenda laden book.

The net result of following the advice given in this book whether you’re “SFC” or “LDS”. Any questions?

APPENDIX: What It Is And Why It Matters
Here’s the backstory on how I found this book and why I have burned a fair amount of time reading, analyzing, and exposing it per the above, admittedly scathing, review.

First, a little about myself. I am a Christian Mormons Studies Scholar. I am also a Charismatic Christian with a strong Reformed Theology (I usually tell people, “Just think ‘Charismatic Presbyterian’ and you’ve pretty much got it”). So it was with great interest that when I read the following in John MacArthur’s controversial book, Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship:

“Similarities between the two groups [Charismatic Christians and Mormons] have led some to seek for greater unity. In their book ‘Building Bridges Between Spirit-Filled Christians and Latter-Day Saints’, authors Rob and Kathy Datsko assert, “Although there is an incredible language and culture barrier between LDS [Latter-day Saints] and SFC [Spirit-filled Christians], often these two groups believe many of the same basic doctrines.” Though Pentecostalism has traditionally rejected the Latter-day Saints, comments like those made by Joel Osteen suggest that a new wave of ecumenical inclusivism may be on the horizon. It is hardly coincidental that Fuller Theological Seminary, the birthplace of the Third Wave Movement, is currently leading the campaign for greater unity between Mormons and evangelical Christians.”
(MacArthur, John F., “Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship”, pp. 51-52)

Strange Fire Front CoverWell after writing articles about the errors of cessationists Richard J. Mouw and Roger E. Olson, as well as Pentecostals Lynn Ridenhour, Paul Richardson, and Cal Fullerton I thought that I’d pretty much covered all the active Christian voices that had been seduced by Mormonism in the way that MacArthur describes. And I felt no need to address the error of Joel Osteen since he was so thoroughly shellacked within Evangelical Christianity, by cessationists and Charismatics alike, for making such blatantly stupid statements about Mormonism. Inclusivism? Sorry, Mr. MacArthur but no.

So who were these new players, the Datskos, who I had never heard of? I asked my Christian friends and colleagues in Mormon Studies and got crickets chirping. I asked my Mormon friends and got the same. No one, and I mean no one, knew who these people were – they were a mystery to everyone.

So I did an Amazon search, found the book and started reading. I also did a Google search and found a September 2012 Deseret News article entitled, “LDS converts write about building bridges with other Christian faiths” as well as Kathy Datsko’s February 2013 comment from Joanna Brooks’, “Ask Mornon Girl” website that’s cited above. And the result is the review that’s now before you.

All this raises some questions for John MacArthur and his Strange Fire collaborators:
1) Why are the Datskos implicitly presented as Charismatic Christians in your (circa 2013) book when, in fact, they have been Mormons since 2003?
Mr. MacArthur, this was a manipulative obfuscation and a misrepresentation of the facts – and as I will show later you knew that they were Latter-day Saints when you wrote this. Respectfully but directly sir, you have attempted to manipulate and have thereby borne false witness here.

2) Where are the rest of the Charismatic Christians that you declare, are seeking greater unity with Mormons?
Sir, I can name three: Lynn Ridenhour, Paul Richards, and Cal Fullerton. And all three of these men are not only not leaders but are considered, marginalized, lunatic fringe, Charismaniacs by mainstream Charismatics. In this author’s case, I have now written twice on Lynn Ridenhour’s errors,3 and once on the errors of Paul Richards and Cal Fullerton.4 In fact, Mr. MacArthur, you will be pleased to note that I cite a selection from your Strange Fire book that I agree with in support of my case against these men in the latter article. And, sir, if those articles don’t get the job done, I’ll write more. This is hardly an issue where Charismatics in Mormon Studies have been lax or negligent – despite your misleading and polemic rhetoric.

"Talking Doctrine" the latest offering from Richard J. Mouw and his team of cessationists who are seeking closer ties with Mormonism.

“Talking Doctrine” is the latest offering from Richard J. Mouw and his team of cessationists who are seeking greater unity between Mormons and evangelical Christians.

3) Why do you single out Charismatics when, in fact, it’s cessationists who are taken a far greater, more active role in seeking greater unity with Mormons?
For example, you hide a reference to former Fuller University President, Richard J. Mouw (who is a cessationist) back in the footnotes (see footnote 61 on p. 285) in reference to this misleading prose in the main text of p.52, “It is hardly coincidental that Fuller Theological Seminary, the birthplace of the Third Wave Movement, is currently leading the campaign for greater unity between Mormons and evangelical Christians”, somehow implying that it’s the Charismatics at Fuller rather than their liberal theology that’s the problem.

In actual fact, the leaders of this movement are cessationist not Charismatics. Let me name names: Craig Blomberg (Denver Theological Seminary), Christopher Hall (Episcopalian theologian), Gerald R. McDermott (Beeson Divinity School), and James E. Bradley (Fuller Theological Seminary). And there’s more where that came from. Mr. MacArthur – the people on the vanguard of this “inclusive” initiative are cessationists. So I just don’t see how Pentecostal Theology is the root cause here. Rather, I think that the problem is generally bad theology combined with a good ol’ fashioned lack of common sense and/or good judgment. Honestly, Mr. MacArthur there’s enough “stupid” on both sides of the cessationist/continuationist divide to go around isn’t there?

4) Where are all these Charismatic Latter-day Saints that you refer to on p.73 of Strange Fire? That’s where you claim, “Today there are even charismatic Mormons. Regardless of what else they teach, if they have had that experience, they are in.”
And most interesting Mr. MacArthur, footnote 53 for that passage takes us to this: “See, for example, “Hi. I’m Kathy, I’m a born again, Spirit-filled, Charismatic Mormon” at Mormon.org, accessed March 2013” (p.290) and one clicks on the link that’s provided in the footnote and it takes us to (wait for it, wait for it, wait for it) Kathy Datsko’s Mormon testimony! Sir, no many how many times you count her Kathy Datsko is one, and only one, Charismatic Latter-day Saint. Add in her husband Rob and now you have two. Are we now to believe that two people in a church of 15-million people somehow represents a major trend meritorious of your claim?

Further, as stated previously you knew that these authors were Mormon converts when you dishonestly tried to pass them off as Charismatic Christians didn’t you? So, in a similar manner Mr. MacArthur, no matter how many times you attempt to count the Datskos as Charismatic Christians, zero plus zero still equals zero. Finally, as Kathy Datsko stated plainly in her February 2013 comment, and as I have repeatedly observed myself, Latter-day Saints have absolutely no interest in Pentecostalism and stay as far away from it as possible – they treat it like kryptonite. So in the end, Mr. MacArthur your evidence that mainstream Charismatics Christians are seeking closer ecumenical ties with Charismatic Mormons isn’t just exaggerated, it’s non-existent.

Making a Mountain out of … Absolutely Nothing at All
Case in point: The book being reviewed here appears to have been published stillborn. There is absolutely no interest in it from either side of the Mormon/Evangelical divide and the only review that I could find of it anywhere prior to mine was the empty and inane 5-Star September 2012 review which said, “Wow! Awesome Read! Thanks for writing this much NEEDED book! May our Heavenly Father BLESS you and Keep you! May His Face shine upon you and give you Peace!!!” review that preceded mine here on Amazon. Stated plainly no one seems to care about this poorly conceived, poorly executed, and hopelessly flawed book. So to refer to it as if it somehow has a following and/or some influence in Charismatic/Mormon dialog is just silly. More than that, it’s absurd.

In the end Mr. MacArthur, not only is this passage in your book making a mountain out a molehill, it’s just flat out wrong. As is the case with so much of Strange Fire, you have exaggerated, misrepresented, and borne false witness in your mindless polemic tirade against Pentecostalism. Sir, this isn’t truth, this isn’t reason, and this isn’t biblical Christianity. Rather, this is nothing more than agenda driven prejudice and bigotry.

"When beliefs are formed, confirmation biases kick in and begin to look for information that supports our views, and selectively ignore everything which doesn’t."

“When beliefs are formed, confirmation biases kick in and begin to look for information that supports our views, and selectively ignore everything which doesn’t.” — Rachael Murphy

NOTES:
1 I would refer the reader to “The Biblical Basis of the Doctrine of the Trinity” by Rob Bowman on the Institute for Religious Research website for a good exposition of this.

2 To see a full analysis of this see Chapter 6 (Kindle Location 2941) of “The Godhead and Plurality of Gods” of Latter-day Saint Charles Harrell’s watershed work, “This Is My Doctrine”: The Development of Mormon Theology (Part 1). Also see Johnny Stephenson’s excellent summary on the Mormon Coffee website entitled, “What Happened to the Trinity in Mormonism?”, or Ronald V. Huggins’ classic essay, “Joseph Smith’s Modalism: Sabellian Sequentialism or Swedenborgian Expansionism?” on the Institute for Religious Research website.

3 See “The Errors of Dr. Lynn Ridenhour” and “Weak Arguments #7: “The Book of Mormon doesn’t have a trace of orthodox, mainstream Biblical Christianity in it.”’

4 See “Pentecostal Charismaniacs: Mormons Gone Bad”.

(an earlier edition of  this review was previously published on Goodreads and Amazon)

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