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Book review: 'The Biblical Roots of Mormonism'

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 28 2010 6:30 a.m. MST

"THE BIBLICAL ROOTS OF MORMONISM," by Eric Shuster and Charles Sale, Cedar Fort, 258 pages, $17

In their co-authored book "The Biblical Roots of Mormonism," Eric Shuster and Charles Sale defend the modernity and authenticity of the Mormon church by connecting its core doctrines to ancient scriptural references.

This reference book of Latter-day Saint theological comparison is sort of Round 2 for Shuster, who recently published "Catholic Roots, Mormon Harvest," a book detailing his scholarly and spiritual conversion from Catholicism to his baptism in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 20 years ago.

"The Biblical Roots of Mormonism" is a 258-page overview of about 350 Latter-day Saint beliefs referenced in the Old and New Testament and is largely a product of Shuster's two-year personal exploration into the Bible.

Because he didn't want to "rob time" from his family and company while producing his book, Shuster said he did the majority of his verse-by-verse research before work, early each morning starting around 4 a.m.

Shuster and Sale forewent a prolific tone in their writing and settled appropriately for a more matter-of-fact, practical approach to their descriptions of LDS beliefs.

While the book's premise that Mormon doctrine is connected to ancient Christianity and Judaism is as old as the LDS Church itself, it's the book's organization and simplicity that makes it worth owning.

Make no mistake, the book isn't a read-it-cover-to-cover narrative with thorough commentary. Instead, it's a decent topical reference for Mormons, but especially for other Christians interested in the often-misunderstood relationship between Latter-day Saints and the Bible.

Each of the book's chapters is subdivided into two sections: "Biblical teaching" and "Mormon Understanding."

With each topic averaging less than a single page of commentary, the book is no in-depth analysis of any one of its many subjects. But where critics might accuse it of being shallow in its brevity of doctrinal descriptions, others will surely hail the authors' self-discipline for not cramming in deeper-than-necessary theological minutiae to impress scholarly circles. Their aim, to show Mormon biblical roots, hits the bull's-eye.

Its table of contents and 23 fast-paced chapters, jammed with dozens of bible verses, are easy to scan through in a hurry.

Finding a subject, say, temple sealings, is easy: Subheaded under Chapter 19, "Temples," you'll find that subject, in bold text, along with about two dozen other temple-related themes. Most are supported with biblical references; many are standalone descriptions about general LDS beliefs.

The authors, both active Latter-day Saints, were careful about explaining sacred LDS ordinances, but they weren't afraid to address controversial issues, such as homosexuality, capital punishment and abortion.

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