Understanding Your Mormon Neighbor
by Ross Anderson
Published by Zondervan
Reviewed by Clint Walker
When I was in high school, the community I lived in had a very well-attended Mormon church. Many of my coaches and peers attended the LDS church. As a young evangelical, there were several times where I attempted to engage in dialogue with my LDS teachers and peers. What I discovered is that doctrinal discussions were very difficult, and that when we did get somewhere as we talked we found that we were using similar words and terms in different ways.
As I grew older, I discovered that Mormons and evangelicals often seem to talk over one another instead of with one another about matters of faith. Discussions about and with Mormons among mainline and evangelical Christians often seems to degenerate into attempting to win an argument instead of seeking to relate to and understand one another. Ross Anderson, in his book Understanding Your Mormon Neighbor, attempts to guide Christians in more productive approaches to building relationships and creating disciples in a Mormon context.
As I read this book, I discovered that Ross Anderson was a wise guide in setting me and other evangelicals on the right track in both building stronger relationships with our LDS friends, as well as sharing our faith with Mormons in such a way that we communicate clearly. One thing that was especially helpful in Understanding Your Mormon Neighbor was understanding Mormonism both as a culture and as a religion, much like Judaism, only with a much shorter documented history (p. 13). In the same chapter, Anderson also discusses why using the term "cult" to describe Mormonism, while it may be technically correct in terms of Christian orthodoxy, is unhelpful and misleading to use because of the terms other definitions of the word and popular stereotypes of what cults do to their adherents (p. 20-22). This book also describes the fluid nature of LDS doctrine, and how that makes discussions of doctrinal truth difficult, and often different from Mormon to Mormon (p. 29-31).
Each chapter is more and more helpful. It is obvious that Ross Anderson, as a former LDS adherent, both loves and extends a lot of understanding and grace to Mormon people. He approaches being a minister and missionary in a Mormon setting much the same as if someone was attempting to be a missionary in any other cross-cultural setting--respecting the culture, embracing its strengths and beauty, while at the same time proclaiming biblical truth in a way that challenges errors embedded in that culture.
Also, the reader needs to make sure they read the introduction and appendices of the book, which also offer interesting and helpful information in this study. This is easily the best book for Christians on standing for their faith in a Mormon context that I have ever read. I would recommend it strongly to anyone, and especially those who live in areas where the Mormon church dominates both the cultural and religious landscape.