In my experience, theistic anti-Mormonism is largely (though not entirely) a conservative Protestant or evangelical enterprise. (Secularist anti-Mormonism is increasingly visible and influential, but it’s another story completely.)
There is some Catholic anti-Mormon activity; I picked up a little pamphlet attack the faith of the Latter-day Saints in the Colorado Rockies just a few weeks ago. In fact, I’ve even seen a Muslim anti-Mormon pamphlet. Still, it’s Protestants who are, by and large, the folks who set up “ministries,” publish newsletters, broadcast radio shows, travel on the lecture circuit, churn out pamphlets, teach divinity school classes, produce videos, hold public seminars, offer online courses, organize picket lines, air television shows, sponsor “mission trips,” author books, and run a myriad of websites aimed at criticizing Mormonism, and who, in a comparatively small but surprising number of cases, earn their livings by attacking the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Thus, it’s not unexpected, given all their undertakings, that fundamentalist and evangelical Protestants have come up with most of the stupidest arguments against Mormon beliefs. (At some point, I’ll probably share an example or two of what I mean.)
Although the Muslim pamphlet that I once saw was fairly unimpressive, it at least attempted to mount a sober argument, and the few Catholic criticisms that I’ve seen have always been at least a cut above many evangelical attacks. Sometimes, in fact, they’ve even been fairly interesting.
But our Irish friend Robert Boylan, who might understandably be more attentive to Catholic criticisms of Mormonism because of his location near Dublin, has located what surely has to rank as one of the most obviously laughable anti-Mormon arguments that I’ve ever seen, and it’s from a Catholic:
I’m grateful to him for pointing it out. I’ve kept something of a mental list of such particularly ridiculous arguments since the day on my mission in Switzerland when, in a small bookstore in the Berner Oberland, I ran across the claim of a nineteenth-century woman to have escaped from white slavery in a Mormon harem by leaping from a western window of the Salt Lake Temple. She landed in the Great Salt Lake and swam to freedom. I had heard about such stories, but had always assumed that they were joking exaggerations. However, there it was . . . in a serious book — well, from its looks and its tone, it was intended to be taken seriously — designed to rebut the claims of the Restoration and to cast doubt on the integrity of Latter-day Saints. (I regret more than I can express that I didn’t buy the little book in which the woman’s story appeared and that I no longer remember her name. Presumably, though, she went on to set all sorts of track and field records; anybody capable of a standing broad jump of at least twenty miles, even if she did have the advantage of leaping from an upper window, would have been — to put it mildly — an athlete to reckon with.)
Incidentally, the Cowdrey, Davis, and Scales book to which Brother Boylan refers was pretty funny even back when it was published in 1977, both because it was deliciously awful and because Wayne Cowdrey was claiming to be a descendent of Oliver Cowdery. (He explained the difference in the spellings of their names — Cowdrey versus Cowdery — as merely a family variant that was without significance.) Alas, though, Oliver Cowdery fathered only one child, a daughter, who survived to maturity. When she married, she took the name of her husband, which was neither Cowdery nor Cowdrey but Johnson. Had she had children, they would have been named Johnson. But she never had children. Which is to say that, if Wayne Cowdery was actually a descendent of Oliver Cowdery, it must have been through some wholly unaccountable miracle.
And this was absolutely fitting, because the Cowdrey, Davis, and Scales book was pushed and publicized by the late “Dr.” Walter R. Martin, a then-famous evangelical Protestant countercult impresario who had built up a very large ministry (headquartered in southern California) based not only on his own charisma but, among other things, on his possession of a bogus doctorate from a diploma mill housed in a strip mall and on a demonstrably false claim of direct descent from Brigham Young.
[I corrected an error in the Cowdery family history, on which I was going by distant memory. It was kindly pointed out by Sam LeFevre.]