I've been given Blaine and Brenton Yorgason's The Greatest Quest on no fewer than three occasions. Hardly a statistically relevant sample. Nevertheless, the seventeen points therein rank right up with Hugh Nibley's Challenge as an apologetic tool.
"The Seventeen Evidences or Points of the True Church" are attributes of Christ's church, taken from the Bible. In a similar list by Henry L. Whiffen (see Afterword of The Greatest Quest), he explains the purpose of his points:
If you were to look at a set of blueprits for a building, it would identify all the details of one specific structure that would generally not be exactly identical to any other building anywhere. There may be others that are very similar, but because of the individual detail required for a particular location, a specific set of plans will fit only one building.Each of these points is supposed to be a detail of a unified, coherent whole. Hence, the list is meant to be used to weed out false churches quickly, and provide confirmation once the sole true church has been found.
Of course, any group claiming to follow the Bible could make up such a list, keeping whichever attributes they found which supported their beliefs, and ignoring the others. This is precisely why the Seventeen Points have been so successful: at the time of compilation, the authors were not LDS.
The Author's Note preceding "The Greatest Quest" gives the source for the Seventeen Points:
Shortly after the beginning of World War Two, Floyd Weston and four of his college friends set out on a quest to find the one true Church of Jesus Christ. Armed with a list of seventeen points that they had compiled, they began visiting different churches, searching. Although later separated from each other by the war, in the next few years four of the five young men, by differing routes and under varying circumstances, found and joined one particular religious denomination. The fifth didn't join because he had been killed in the South Pacific.Actually, the origins of these points are far more complicated than the authors portray, although I doubt the Yorgasons could have been aware of this at the time. According to Richard Packham's Site, Weston has confessed that he made up the story behind the points. In spite of this, people keep using the list.
I cannot confirm whether the rumors are true, or whether Packham's source is correct. But if they are, and the list was composed by an already believing Mormon, then it is an entirely subjective list, and as such has no more evidentiary(sp?) power than Richard Packham's Twenty Points of the True Church. The difference between a list assembled by outsiders and one created by the faithful is simple. In the latter case, the creators have a preconceived goal in mind, and are able to list those Bible verses which further their goals while ignoring those verses which disagree with them.
Without further ado:
1) Interestingly, despite its popularity, Deseret Books doesn't carry The Greatest Quest any more. The representative I contacted about this said that it had simply sold out its printing, and I can't imagine how I could demonstrate otherwise.