It is difficult to doubt the sincerity or fault the exemplary lives of those clean-cut young Americans , the Mormons , who have become the worlds best-known doorstep evangelists. Yet, what they believe is so alien to other Christians as to be quite incredible. Jesus, they say, after his ascension, appeared to North American Indians , the supposed descendants of a tribe of Israelites who had sailed from Egypt hundreds of years before Christ. He revealed to them that his teaching had been corrupted by his first disciples and so he entrusted to them a purified version of the good news of salvation.
Central to Peter Bartley's examination of the Mormon Church are the mysterious inscribed gold plates upon which the revised scriptures were allegedly entrusted to Joseph Smith by an angel in 1823. The author systematically examines, in the light of scriptural, historical, anthropological and archaeological evidence, the total edifice of belief upon which the Mormon Church is built.
In his conclusion the author writes: 'The issues are clear, the conclusion hardly in doubt. Where a critical faculty is lacking, the evidence for Mormonism might sometimes seem persuasive. Probe beneath the surface, however, and it is seen to be superficial, facile and in every sense unscientific.'
Peter Bartley's thoroughness, coupled with a lucid and entertaining style, makes for an easy read. The copious notes and bibliography mark an invaluable trail to further study.