“If history has shown us one thing, it’s that today’s Mormonism is tomorrow’s dustbin fodder”

by Fred W. Anson
The Church of Jesus Christ claims, “The gospel has been known throughout eternity, and its principles have been preached among men and women from their beginnings on this earth.” (Robert L. Millet, “The Eternal Gospel”, Ensign, July 1996) and “The gospel of Jesus Christ is a divine and perfect plan. It is composed of eternal, unchanging principles, laws, and ordinances which are universally applicable to every individual regardless of time, place, or circumstance. Gospel principles never change.” (Ronald E. Poelman, “The Gospel and the Church”, Ensign, November 1984).

But history tells a different tale: The Mormon gospel is temporal and constantly changing. Here’s a partial list of Mormon Doctrine, scripture, and bits and various pieces that have been left on the dustbin of history. This is the second in this ongoing, intermittent series of articles.

7) The United Order
Joseph Smith’s February 1831, Book of Commandments Chapter XLIV revelation established the United Order as “a covenant and a deed which can not be broken” (BoC 44:26). Mormon Historian, Fawn Brodie (the niece of LdS President, David O. McKay) explains the backstory and history:

Joseph Smith set up an economic order in his church which followed with a certain fidelity the life history of the typical communistic society of his time. When he first arrived in Kirtland, he found Rigdon’s tiny “community” in chaos. “The disciples had all things in common,” wrote John Whitmer, “and were going to destruction very fast as to temporal things; for they considered from reading the Scriptures that what belonged to a brother belonged to any of the brethren; therefore, they would take each other’s clothes and other property and use it without leave, which brought on confusion and disappointment. . . .”

Before long Joseph issued a revelation setting up the United Order of Enoch. “Behold,” said the Lord, “thou shalt consecrate all thy properties, that which thou hast unto me, with a covenant and a deed which cannot be broken, and they shall be laid before the bishop of my church.” Private property became church property, and private profit a community spoil.

Production was kept on an individual basis. Each convert, after “consecrating” his all to the church, was given back certain property “sufficient for himself and family,” over which he acted as a foreman or “steward.” The system was thus more akin to farm tenancy than to the true communal agriculture practiced by the Shakers and New Harmonists. Upon the death or disaffection of the steward, the land reverted to the church, which permanently held the title.

Whatever surplus the steward exacted from the land, or whatever profit the mechanic derived from his shop, was contributed to the church storehouse and treasury, the convert keeping only what was “needful for the support and comfort” of himself and family. The spirit of true Marxian communism — “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need” — was implicit in the whole system.”
(Fawn M. Brodie, “No Man Knows My History (Illustrated): The Life of Joseph Smith”, Arkosh Publishing, Kindle Locations 2410-2426)

Brodie also describes the demise of the United Order:

On April 10, 1834 the Kirtland council dissolved the Order. Dividing the community property was a thorny business. Tired of quibbling and recrimination, Joseph finally resorted to a revelation to parcel out the real estate, deeding himself the temple lot, Rigdon the tannery, Cowdery the printing shop, and most of the other leaders the lots on which they were then living. In 1835, when the time came tor print this curious document in the Doctrine and Covenants, he substituted fictitious names to avoid any unpleasantness — Ahashdah for Whitney, Olihah for Cowdery, Pelagoram for Rigdon, Mahemson for Harris, and Gazelam for himself. He even used code names for the industries — Laneshine house for the printing shop and Ozondah for the store. Except for a few leaders who knew better, the Mormons believed these to be the names of people living in the days of Enoch.

From this moment Joseph began to efface the communistic rubric in his young theology. Since most copies of the Book of Commandments had been burned, it was easy for him to revise drastically the revelation on the United Order when it was republished in the enlarged Doctrine and Covenants in 1835. The Lord no longer demanded consecration of a man’s total property, but only a donation of his “surplus” over and above living expenses. In reprinting the first twelve issues of the Evening and Morning Star, Joseph revised most, though not all, of the descriptions of the original Order and commanded his missionaries to destroy the notion abroad that the church had ever been a common-stock concern.

Although Rigdon repeatedly urged a restoration, Joseph made only one effort to revive the Order after 1834. This was a greatly revised consecration program that he launched in Missouri in 1838. It collapsed at the end of the year when the Mormons were driven out of the state altogether. Thereafter the prophet was content to let the United Order be translated to the plane of abstract ideals, where it was destined to remain. Years after his death, experiments with communal living were tried in the desert isolation of the Great Basin, but these also disintegrated because, it was said, the Mormons proved as yet unworthy to live the higher law of God.”
(Fawn M. Brodie, “No Man Knows My History (Illustrated): The Life of Joseph Smith”, Arkosh Publishing, Kindle Locations 3184-3206)

So despite the fact that D&C 104:1 claims that the United Order is supposed to be, “an everlasting order for the benefit of my church, and for the salvation of men until I come” the United Order no longer exists in the LdS Church.

8) The Original Law of Consecration
Those members who might feel that the 10% mandatory tithe of the modern LdS Church is high should consider themselves lucky. In Early Mormonism, you were encouraged to give 100% of your estate to the Church. From Wikipedia:

As practiced by the Latter Day Saints in Smith’s day, the law of consecration was for the support of the poor and to ensure that all members would be “equal according to his family, according to his circumstances and his wants and needs”. Adherents were asked to voluntarily deed, or consecrate, their property to the Church of Christ, and the church then would assign to each member a “stewardship” of property “as much as is sufficient for himself and family”. If consecrated property became more than was sufficient for the assigned steward, the “residue” was “to be consecrated unto the bishop” kept for the benefit of “those who have not, from time to time, that every man who has need may be amply supplied and receive according to his wants.”

Under Smith, members attempted to implement the law of consecration through the establishment of the United Order, but it was never fully instituted due to conflict and disagreements.
(Wikipedia, “Law of consecration”

An echo of the original Law of Consecration can still be found in the Temple Endowment Ceremony which contains the following rite:

THE LAW OF CONSECRATION
[Peter, James, and John return to the Terrestrial Room.]

PETER: A couple will now come to the altar.

We are instructed to give unto you the law of consecration as contained in the book of Doctrine and Covenants, in connection with the law of the gospel and the law of sacrifice, which you have already received. It is that you do consecrate yourselves, your time, talents, and everything with which the Lord has blessed you, or with which he may bless you, to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, for the building up of the kingdom of God on the earth and for the establishment of Zion.

All arise.

Each of you bring your right arm to the square.

You and each of you covenant and promise before God, angels, and these witnesses at this altar, that you do accept the law of consecration as contained in this, the book of Doctrine and Covenants [he displays the book], in that you do consecrate yourselves, your time, talents, and everything with which the Lord has blessed you, or with which he may bless you, to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, for the building up of the kingdom of God on the earth and for the establishment of Zion.

Each of you bow your head and say, “Yes.”

That will do.
(“The Terrestrial World”, LDS Endowment website) 

Each of the 10 companies of Mormon handcart pioneers was accompanied by a wagon train that carried supplies, and sometimes had room for an ill, injured or simply worn-out walker to ride along the trail for a short distance. Painting by William Henry Jackson. – Courtesy NPS.gov, William Henry Jackson Collection, Scotts Bluff National Monument.

9) Gathering to Zion
Just as it’s very name implies, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was originally an apocalyptic cult. As is the case with all such cults, the idea was that the Lord was gathering the faithful together in anticipation of Christ’s return to set up His Kingdom on earth. So if you’ve ever wondered why the Early Mormons moved en masse from New York, to Ohio, to Missouri, to Illinois, to Utah, now you know. If you’ve ever wondered why an estimated 85,000 people immigrated from Europe to America to join the “saints in Zion” during the 19th Century now you know. If you ever wondered how the culture of food hoarding and Mormon triumphalism developed, now you know. As then Apostle (later to become LdS President) Joseph F. Smith explained in 1877:

In this dispensation there is a principle or commandment peculiar to it. What is that? It is the gathering the people into one place. The gathering of the people is as necessary to be observed by believers, as faith, repentance, baptism, or any other ordinance. It is an essential part of the Gospel of this dispensation, as much so, as the necessity of building an ark by Noah, for his deliverance, was a part of the Gospel of his dispensation. Then the world was destroyed by a flood, now it is to be destroyed by war, pestilence, famine, earthquakes, storms, and tempests, the sea rolling beyond its bounds, malarious vapors, vermin, disease, and fire by the lightnings of God’s wrath poured out for destruction upon Babylon.
(Joseph F. Smith, ‘Arrival in Salt Lake City—The First Principles—The Question of Authority—The Ordinances—Education of Our Youth—Plural Marriage, Etc.—“Mormonism” Immortal’, September 3o, 1877, Journal of Discourses 19:192)

Just consider the Apostle’s words above in light of the fact that this was imperative not just a nice idea or some type of nebulous ideal that one could choose or not choose. The Gathering to Zion wasn’t to be taken lightly, it was a requirement of joining the Latter Day Saint faith back then, not an option. You got baptized, you started tithing, and you gathered you and yours to Zion as soon as you could. Period.

So what happened? Why has the Gathering been quietly been swept into the dustbin? Mormon Scholar Kathleen Flake explains that around the turn of the 20th Century there was a subtle but significant shift in Mormonism:

Instead of being admonished to do the works and receive the blessings of Abraham, the Latter-day Saints were encouraged aged to manifest Yankee virtues and Progressive Era values. Exhortations to missionary work overtook the other elements of nineteenth-century millennialism; growth, not gathering to Zion, became the rallying cry. During Joseph F. Smith’s tenure, immigration to Utah was officially ended, and the church began to build centers of membership abroad.
(Kathleen Flake, “The Politics of American Religious Identity: The Seating of Senator Reed Smoot, Mormon Apostle”, Kindle Locations 1690-1693, Kindle Edition)

Then in the mid-Twentieth Century, the Gathering to Zion was quietly phased out during the David O. McKay administration. As Greg Prince, the biographer of David O. McKay explains:

David O. McKay brought this church into the 20th century, even though he got started halfway through that century. We were a church that still was insular. We brought people to Salt Lake. He said, “Let’s reverse that. Stay where you are. Grow where you’re planted. Make the church a vital force throughout the world.”
(Greg Prince interviewed in the PBS Documentary “The Mormons”, Part Two. Quote from official show transcript.) 

Thus, today, having someone immigrate to Zion as part of the Gathering to Zion is the exception, not the rule. The Gathering to Zion doctrine is now, it’s explained, a spiritual, not a physical gathering. And the LdS Church is trying to send the original Gathering to Zion doctrine down the Memory Hole by rewriting its own history so that it reads like this:

Why did so many faithful members leave their home countries in those early days of the Church? Many reasons can be named: to escape persecution, to help build the Church in America, to improve their economic circumstances, to be close to a temple, and many more.
(Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “First Presidency Message: Developing Christlike Attributes”, Ensign, October 2008, p.7)

So down the Orwellian memory hole goes real history! It’s 1984 all over again, “Everything faded into mist. The past was erased, the erasure was forgotten, the lie became truth.” (George Orville,“1984”, Kindle Locations 1053-1054, Pandora’s Box. Kindle Edition) And thus, modern Mormons are given misinformation to cover up the hard reality that the only constant when it comes to Mormon Doctrine is constant change.  Tomorrow’s LdS Church will be very different from today’s church. Tomorrow’s “eternal gospel” will be very different than the Mormon gospel that’s taught today. And, as it has always been, Mormon Leaders will have to lie in order to give members the illusion that nothing has changed, all is well in Zion, and the gospel is as it has always been.

But this is the problem with dust-binned, man-contrived, bad theology, isn’t it? It still leaves carnage in its wake. It leaves a mess. And by forcing good men to lie to cover up the truth it has left a trail of incriminated dust behind Mormon Leaders since Joseph Smith onward, hasn’t it?

By their fruit, you shall know them indeed.

Bales and bales of shredded paper and cardboard waiting to be converted into paper-mash and then reformed into new paper products. The original will then, of course, be lost to the Memory Hole.

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Ted Patrick is a controversial figure. That said, regardless of how one feels about his methods, the fact remains that he was instrumental in exposing how being in a “Snapped” psychology state is crucial to the recruitment and retention of cult members. In fact, before Patrick, the term “deprogramming” was virtually unknown. Beggar’s Bread believes that after you read this excerpt from the classic Cult Studies book, “SNAPPING: America’s Epidemic of Sudden Personality Change” you’ll agree that while his means may be debatable the ends are enlightening. — Editor 

by Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman
IN ALL THE WORLD, there is nothing quite so impenetrable as a human mind snapped shut with bliss. No call to reason, no emotional appeal can get through its armor of self-proclaimed joy.

We talked with dozens of individuals in this state of mind: cult members, group therapy graduates, born-again Christians, some Transcendental Meditators. After a while, it seemed very much like dancing to a broken record. We would ask a question, and the individual would spin round and round in a circle of dogma. If we tried to interrupt, he or she would simply pick right up again or go back to the beginning and start over.

Soon we began to realize that what we were watching went much deeper. These people were not simply incapable of carrying on a genuine conversation, they were completely mired in their unthinking, unfeeling, uncomprehending states. Whether cloistered in cults or passing blindly through the world, they were impervious to the pain of parents, spouses, friends and lovers. How do you reach such people? Can they be made to think and feel again? Is there any way to reunite them with their former personalities and the world around them?

A man named Ted Patrick developed the first remedy. A controversial figure dubbed by the cult world Black Lightning, Patrick was the first to point out publicly what the cults were doing to America’s youth. He investigated the ploys by which many converts were ensnared and delved into the methods many cults used to manipulate the mind.

He was also the first to take action. In the early seventies, Patrick began a one-man campaign against the cults. His fight started in Southern California, on the Pacific beaches where, in the beginning, organizations such as the Hare Krishna and the Children of God recruited among the vacationing students and carefree dropouts who covered the sands in summer and roamed the bustling beach communities year round. The Children of God approached Patrick’s son there one day and nearly made off with him. Patrick investigated, was horrified at what he found, and immediately set out on a course of direct action. His first-hand experiences with cult techniques and their effects led him to develop an antidote he named “deprogramming,” a remarkably simple and-when properly used-nearly foolproof process for helping cult members regain their freedom of thought.

Before long, Ted Patrick was in action all over the country on behalf of desperate parents. Through the seventies, he made front page headlines in the east for his daring daylight kidnappings of Ivy League cult members. He made network news for his interstate car chases in the Pacific Northwest to elude both cult leaders and state troopers. And eventually he made American legal history. In his ultimate defense of the U.S. Constitution, Patrick challenged the confusion of First Amendment rights surrounding the cult controversy and drew an important distinction between Americans’ guaranteed national freedoms of speech and religion and their more fundamental human right to freedom of thought. In precedent-setting cases, U.S. courts confirmed Patrick’s argument that, by “artful and deceiving” means, the new cults were in fact robbing people of their natural capacity to think and choose. To that time, it was never considered possible that a human being could be stripped of this basic endowment.

Ted Patrick in the documentary "Deprogrammed"

Ted Patrick in the documentary “Deprogrammed”

In many courtrooms, however, Ted Patrick lost his case for freedom of thought, gathering a stack of convictions for kidnapping and unlawful detention. In unsuccessful attempts to free cult members from their invisible prisons, Patrick was repeatedly thrown into real ones, in New York, California and Colorado. In July 1976, during a time when Americans were celebrating their two hundredth year of freedom, Patrick was sentenced to serve a year in prison for a cult kidnapping he did not in fact perform.

Patrick confirmed our own perspective when he described the method of control used by many cults, beginning with the moment the recruiter hooks his listener.

“They have the ability to come up to you and talk about anything they feel you’re interested in, anything,” he said. “Their technique is to get your attention, then your trust. The minute they get your trust, just like that they can put you in the cult.”

It was in 1971 that Patrick infiltrated the Children of God, the cult that had tried to recruit his son, Michael, one Fourth of July on Mission Beach in San Diego. His initial concern over the cults was personal but it also had a public side. Worried parents had already appealed to him for help in his official capacity as head of community relations for California’s San Diego and Imperial counties. Patrick had moved to the area years earlier and became active in local politics working against discrimination in employment. During the Watts riots is Los Angeles in 1965, he helped calm racial unrest in San Diego. His public service caught the attention of then California’s Republican governor, Ronald Reagan, who appointed Patrick, an active Democrat, to the community relations post.

“Thinking to a cult member is like being stabbed in the heart with a dagger,” said Patrick. “It’s very painful because they’ve been told that the mind is Satan and thinking is the machinery of the Devil.”

Having gained personal insight into the manner in which that machinery may be brought to a halt, Patrick developed his controversial deprogramming procedure, the essence of which, he explained, was simply to get the individual thinking again.

“When you deprogram people,” he emphasized, “you force them to think. The only thing I do is shoot them challenging questions. I hit them with things that they haven’t been programmed to respond to. I know what the cults do and how they do it, so I shoot them the right questions; and they get frustrated when they can’t answer. They think they have the answer, they’ve been given answers to everything. But I keep them off balance and this forces them to begin questioning, to open their minds. When the mind gets to a certain point, they can see through all the lies that they’ve been programmed to believe. They realize that they’ve been duped and they come out of it. Their minds start working again.”

That, according to Patrick, was all there was to deprogramming. Yet since Patrick began deprogramming cult members, both the man and his procedure had taken on monstrous proportions in the public eye. Patrick’s legendary kidnappings, a tactic he employed only as a last resort, often brought him into physical confrontation with cult members who had been warned that Black Lightning was an agent of Satan who would subject them to unimaginable tortures to get them to renounce their beliefs. Cult members who managed to escape their parents and Patrick before being deprogrammed frequently ran to the media with horror stories about the procedure. One young woman charged on national television that Patrick had ripped her clothes off and chased her nude body across the neighbors’ lawns. Other active cult members claimed to have been brutally beaten by Patrick, yet no parent, ex-cult member or other reliable witness we talked to ever substantiated any of those charges. In truth, Patrick told us, and others later confirmed, many of the distortions that had been disseminated about deprogramming were part of a coordinated campaign by several cults to discredit his methods. In the end, he said, the propaganda only worked to his advantage.

“The cults tell them that I rape the women and beat them. They say I lock them in closets and stuff bones done their throats.” Patrick laughed. “What they don’t know is that they’re making my job easier. They come in here frightened to death of me, and then because of all the stuff they’ve been told, I can just sit there and look at them and I’ll deprogram them just like that. They’ll be thinking, What the hell is he going to do now? They’re waiting for me to slap them or beat them and already their minds are working.”

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In the beginning, Patrick admitted, he developed his method by trial and error, attempting to reason with cult members and learning each cult’s rituals and beliefs until he cracked the code. Refining his procedure with each case, he came to understand exactly what was needed to pierce the cult’s mental shield. Like a diamond cutter, he probed with his questions the rough surface of speech and behavior until he found the key point of contention at the center of each cult member’s encapsulated beliefs. Once he found that point, Patrick hit it head on, until the entire programmed state of mind gave way, revealing the cult member’s original identity and true personality that had become trapped inside.

We asked him to describe a typical deprogramming from the beginning and, then, how he knew when a person had been deprogrammed, that is when he could say for sure that he had done his job.

“The first time I lay eyes on a person,” he said, staring at us intently, “I can tell if his mind is working or not. Then, as I begin to question him, I can determine exactly how he has been programmed. From then on, it’s all a matter of language. It’s talking and knowing what to talk about. I start moving his mind, slowly, pushing it with questions, and I watch every move that mind makes. I know everything it is going to do, and when I hit on that one certain point that strikes home, I push it. I stay with that question whether it’s about God, the Devil or that person’s having rejected his parents. I keep pushing and pushing. I don’t let him get around it with the lies he’s been told. Then there’ll be a minute, a second, when the mind snaps, when the person realizes he’s been lied to by the cult and he just snaps out of it. It’s like turning on the light in a dark room. They’re in an almost unconscious state of mind, and then I switch the mind from unconsciousness to consciousness and it snaps, just like that.”

It was Patrick’s term this time we hadn’t said the word for what happens in deprogramming. And in almost every case, according to Patrick, it came about just that suddenly. When deprogramming has been accomplished, the cult member’s appearance undergoes a sharp, drastic change. He comes out of his trance like state and his ability to think for himself is restored.

“It’s like seeing a person change from a werewolf into a man,” said Patrick. “It’s a beautiful thing. The whole personality changes, the eyes, the voice. Where they had hate and a blank expression, you can see feeling again.”

Snapping, a word Ted Patrick used often, is a phenomenon that appears to have extreme moments at both ends. A moment of sudden, intense change may occur when a person enters a cult, during lectures, rituals and physical ordeals. Another change may take place with equal, or even greater, abruptness when the subject is deprogrammed and made to think again. Once this breakthrough is achieved, however, the person is not just “snapped out” and home free. Deprogramming always requires a period of rehabilitation to counteract an interim condition Patrick called “floating Patrick told us, he recommended that his subjects return him to everyday life and normal social relationships as quickly as possible. In that environment, the individual, must then actively work to rebuild the fundamental capacities of thought and feeling that have been systematically destroyed.

“Deprogramming is like taking a car out of the garage that hasn’t been driven for a year,” he said. “The battery has gone down, and in order to start it up you’ve got to put jumper cables on it. It will go dead again. So you keep the motor running until it builds up its own power. This is what rehabilitation is. Once we get the mind working, we keep it working long enough so that the person gets in the habit of thinking and making decisions again.”

Deprogramming added a whole new dimension to the already complex mystery of snapping. In one sense, deprogramming confirms that some drastic change takes place in the workings of the mind in the course of a cult member’s experience, for only through deprogramming does it become apparent to everyone, including the cult member, that his actions, expressions and even his physical appearance have not been under his own control. In another sense, deprogramming is itself a form of sudden personality change. Because it appears to be a genuinely broadening, expanding personal change, it would seem to bear closer resemblance to a true moment of enlightenment, to the natural process of personal growth and new found awareness and understanding, than to the narrowing changes brought about by cult rituals and artificially induced group ordeals.

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What is it like to experience the sudden snap of a deprogramming? As a result of Ted Patrick’s efforts, and others, there are now thousands of answers to the question. Patrick claims to have personally deprogrammed more than two thousand cult members; thousands more have been deprogrammed by other deprogrammers and professional “exit counselors” who have since entered this fledgling field. In our first round of cross-country travels, we spoke with dozens of ex-cult members, many of whom had been deprogrammed by Patrick. As far as we could see, his clients showed no scars, either physical of mental, from their deprogramming experience. Most seemed to be healthy, happy, fully rehabilitated and completely free of the effects of cult life.

In contrast to the many tales of cult conversion that we heard, which after a while began to sound virtually identical, each story of a Patrick deprogramming was its own spellbinding adventure, rich with intrigue and planned in minute detail. The first step in the process was almost always to remove the member from the cult, which might be accomplished by abduction, legal custodianship or, as Patrick seemed to prefer, simply a clever subterfuge.

One puzzle of snapping that the deprogramming process illuminates is the enormous amount of mental activity that takes place in the unthinking, unfeeling state many cult members are drawn into. Ironically, most people we spoke with fought desperately to preserve their blissed-out states, although they often were saturated with fear, guilt, hatred and exhaustion. In the beginning this seemed to present a disturbing contradiction: How could an individual whose mind has apparently been shut off, who has been robbed of his freedom of thought, display such cunning and initiative? What the deprogramming process demonstrated is that cult members do not simply snap from a normal conscious state into one of complete unconsciousness (and vice versa during deprogramming). Rather, most pass from one frame of waking awareness into a second, entirely separate, frame of awareness in which they may be equally active and perceptive.

We talked with an ex-member of the Church of Scientology, one the oldest and cagiest of America’s cults, who took steps to preserve his cult frame of mind during his deprogramming, until Patrick’s adept conversational skills caught his attention and he snapped out.

“I tried to pretend that I was listening,” this former Scientologist told us, “but I also tried to stay spaced out and not really pay attention. Occasionally, something would go pop and I would suddenly be listening to him. From his continuously talking like that, he just snapped me out of the spaced-out state I was in. All of a sudden I felt a little flushed. I could feel the blood rushing through my face.”

Through two decades of legal battles and repeated periods of imprisonment and probation, few people spoke up in defense of Ted Patrick or the pioneering work he was doing, ultimately, at his own great personal and financial expense. No mainstream mental health organization or established social institution has yet taken a stand on behalf of his concept of freedom of thought. Part of the problem, especially in those years, was attributed to Patrick’s manner of action. In his single-minded focus on rescuing cult members, he minced no words and wasted little time on social niceties. As a result, he often irked and alienated those parents, clinicians and law enforcement officials who might otherwise be his natural allies.

Yet, regardless of his style, the grave questions Patrick first flamboyantly brought to public attention are not the ones we can choose to like or dislike nor will they simply go away if we ignore them. Is an individual free to give up his freedom of thought? May a religion, popular therapy, political movement or any other enterprise systematically attack human thought and feeling in the name of God, the pursuit of happiness, personal growth or spiritual fulfillment? These are questions that Americans, perhaps more than others, are not prepared to deal with, because they challenge long-standing constitutional principles and cultural assumptions about the nature of the mind, personality and human freedom itself.

In the months after out trip to the Orange county Jail we spoke with many people about Ted Patrick: parents, ex-cult members, attorneys, mental health professionals and others who, at the time, were only dimly aware of the building controversy over some alleged forms of religion in America. Some denounced him as a villain and a fascist, others hailed him as a folk hero and dark prophet of what lay ahead for America. Yet Patrick himself showed little concern for titles or media images.

Through the eighties, Black Lightning remained a lightning rod, a target for aggressive counterattacks and disinformation campaigns waged against deprogramming by major cults and more mainstream fundamentalist Christian sects. By the mid-nineties, he was widely presumed to be out of commission, but Patrick was still active, working mostly on voluntary deprogrammings and rehabilitation counseling. In the interim, swayed by a changing religious, political and social climate, courts across the country grew cold to deprogramming. Another pioneering deprogrammer, New York cult counselor and private detective Galen Kelly, was prosecuted on criminal charges in two separate cases but was convicted and spent more than a year in prison on the second before an appeals court overturned his conviction.

Those cases and others brought a global chill. In the new climate, judges were deaf to the pleas of the parents and families of cult members, and the precarious deprogramming profession was largely eclipsed by the efforts of the new generation of cult “exit counselors.” Exit counselors we talked with, many of them one-time sect members themselves who had gone on to acquire clinical training and credentials, were testing a wide range of eclectic approaches, some more successful, some less so. Many were generalists, counseling cultists and families across America and, increasingly, in other countries. Some specialized in counseling ex-Moonies, members of Eastern cults, of controlling charismatic groups and extreme fundamentalist sects.

Most confirmed a pattern we, too, had noted: the new methods of voluntary deprogramming and exit counseling, while far less controversial and much safer from a legal standpoint, prompted fewer cult members to experience a sudden “snapping out” of their controlled states of mind. Instead, most experienced a slower process of emergence, or as Rick Ross, an exit counselor from Arizona, called it, a gradual “unfolding” from the cults’ ingrained altered states. Afterwards, many required additional counseling, specialized rehabilitation and, for some, ongoing psychotherapy to recover their personalities and regain full control over their impaired powers of mind.

But, two decades later, public understanding and professional support were still in short supply.

Snapping BookExcerpt from, “SNAPPING: America’s Epidemic of Sudden Personality Change, 2nd Edition” by Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman, Chapter 6: “Black Lightning”

Copyright © 1995 by Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman. All rights reserved. The authors give their limited permission to readers of the “Rick Ross” World Wide Web site to copy and distribute this excerpt from SNAPPING, provided that the material is copied or redistributed solely for the purposes of public information and education without any charge to recipients, and that any copied or distributed materials carry this copyright notice exactly as printed here.

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A playful take on the "I'm A Mormon" website that introduced in 2011 and taken down in 2018.

“‘Mormonism’ is the pure doctrine of Jesus Christ; of which I myself am not ashamed.”
(Joseph Smith, “Letter to James Arlington…”, September 8, 1842, “History of The Church”, 5:156)

by Fred W. Anson
If you’re still scratching your head over current LdS President, Russell M. Nelson’s public denunciation of the words “Mormon”, “LDS” and all their various variations and derivations as it relates to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, you’re not alone. In case you missed it, here’s what he said:

The Lord has impressed upon my mind the importance of the name He has revealed for His Church, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We have work before us to bring ourselves in harmony with His will. In recent weeks, various Church leaders and departments have initiated the necessary steps to do so. Additional information about this important matter will be made available in the coming months.
(LdS President, Russell M. Nelson quoted in Sarah Jane Weaver, ‘“Mormon” Is Out: Church Releases Statement on How to Refer to the Organization’, Official LdS Church News website, August 16, 2018)  

The same article then goes on to offer new style guide directives including the following:

The official name of the Church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The full name was given by revelation from God to Joseph Smith in 1838.

  • In the first reference, the full name of the Church is preferred: “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
  • When a shortened reference is needed, the terms “the Church” or the “Church of Jesus Christ” are encouraged. The “restored Church of Jesus Christ” is also accurate and encouraged.
  • While the term “Mormon Church” has long been publicly applied to the Church as a nickname, it is not an authorized title, and the Church discourages its use. Thus, please avoid using the abbreviation “LDS” or the nickname “Mormon” as substitutes for the name of the Church, as in “Mormon Church,” “LDS Church,” or “Church of the Latter-day Saints.”
  • When referring to Church members, the terms “members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” or “Latter-day Saints” are preferred. We ask that the term “Mormons” not be used.
  • “Mormon” is correctly used in proper names such as the Book of Mormon or when used as an adjective in such historical expressions as “Mormon Trail.”
  • The term “Mormonism” is inaccurate and should not be used. When describing the combination of doctrine, culture, and lifestyle unique to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the term “the restored gospel of Jesus Christ” is accurate and preferred.
  • When referring to people or organizations that practice polygamy, it should be stated that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not affiliated with polygamous groups.
    (ibid)

In my 40+ years in Mormon Studies, I thought that I had seen some real head-scratchers from the Mormon side of the divide, but this one absolutely tops the list. And then when President Nelson doubled now on this absurdity in the Fall 2018 General Conference, things went from, “What is he thinking?” to eye rolling and facepalming. After all, how can you help it when you’re hearing over the top public rhetoric like this:

The name of the Church is not negotiable. When the Savior clearly states what the name of His Church should be and even precedes His declaration with, “Thus shall my church be called,” He is serious. And if we allow nicknames to be used or adopt or even sponsor those nicknames ourselves, He is offended.

What’s in a name or, in this case, a nickname? When it comes to nicknames of the Church, such as the “LDS Church,” the “Mormon Church,” or the “Church of the Latter-day Saints,” the most important thing in those names is the absence of the Savior’s name. To remove the Lord’s name from the Lord’s Church is a major victory for Satan. When we discard the Savior’s name, we are subtly disregarding all that Jesus Christ did for us—even His Atonement.
(President Russell M. Nelson, “The Correct Name of the Church”, Fall General Conference, October 2018, italics in original) 

And, yes, President Nelson was correct when he said, “In the early days of the restored Church, terms such as Mormon Church and Mormons were often used as epithets—as cruel terms, abusive terms—designed to obliterate God’s hand in restoring the Church of Jesus Christ in these latter days.” (ibid, italics in original), but so what? As Easton’s Bible Dictionary explains, the word “Christian” was also originally an epithet that was used by the enemies of the primitive Christians too:

Christian the name given by the Greeks or Romans, probably in reproach, to the followers of Jesus. It was first used at Antioch. The names by which the disciples were known among themselves were “brethren,” “the faithful,” “elect,” “saints,” “believers.” But as distinguishing them from the multitude without, the name “Christian” came into use, and was universally accepted. This name occurs but three times in the New Testament (Acts 11:26; 26:28; 1 Pet. 4:16).
(“Christian”, Easton’s Bible Dictionary) 

And like the word “Christian”, the word “Mormon” has become nothing more than shorthand for the ridiculously long (43-digit to be exact), “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” and its various derivations. This directive makes no sense from any perspective. There’s no nice way to say it, it is both inane and insane! I mean, does President Nelson, or anyone else for that matter, really think that outsiders are going to start referring to Mormons as “members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”? Or Mormon Missionaries as “Missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”? And if he really thinks that he’s going to get mainstream Christians and journalists to replace the word “Mormonism” with the term “the restored gospel of Jesus Christ” when they’re  “referring to the combination of doctrine, culture, and lifestyle unique to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”, then he needs to wake up and smell the Postum. As Mormon author Jana Riess correctly observed:

This is problematic for reporters and writers. It is not the job of a religion-neutral media to adopt or validate the truth claims of whatever religions they’re writing about. Some denominational names do have truth claims already baked in—is Roman Catholic really catholic, meaning universal? Is Orthodox really orthodox, meaning doctrinally pure? Have Reformed Christians and Reform Jews actually changed from the traditions that preceded them? Etc.—but in those cases, the truth claims have been part of the religion’s name for centuries.
(Jana Riess, “The name ‘Mormon’: Why all the fuss, and why now?”, Religion News Service website, October 20, 2018)  

Friends, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the words “Mormon”, “Mormonism”, or the abbreviation “LDS” (or more accurately “LdS”) any more than there is anything wrong with the words “Presbyterian”, “Baptist”, “Methodist”, “Lutheran”, “Calvinist”, “Catholic”, or whatever. Using those terms doesn’t offend the Savior, it doesn’t disregard all that Jesus Christ did for us (even His Atonement), and it doesn’t give Satan a victory of any kind. The suggestion that it does any of that is utter and complete madness! They’re just words that encapsulate much bigger, more complex social constructs, cultures, and systems of theology – nothing more. As the aforementioned Jana Riess noted elsewhere:

Given that the LDS Church has not suggested any substitute that is actually workable when referring to its members, the name “Mormon” is here to stay. Rather than fighting it, why doesn’t the Church just embrace it? Its own powerful and often delightful “I’m a Mormon” campaign is not going to have nearly the same descriptive power when it becomes the “I’m Affiliated with the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ” campaign, or somesuch silliness.
(Jana Riess, “I’m a Mormon! But I’m not supposed to call myself that anymore.”, Religion News Service website, August 17, 2018)  

Think about it. Are we really to believe that Christ is so thin-skinned that He gets his nose out of joint if folks don’t constantly and explicitly drop His Name – like some kind of ego-driven, self-absorbed prima donna? Is He like a small child in a sandbox angrily shaking His fist at the world while shouting, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me!” Doesn’t that image of an immature, divaish Christ seem utterly foreign to the implacable, down-to-earth, “velvet-covered brick” that we see in the New Testament gospels? Is it anything like the no-nonsense, sword-wielding, take no prisoners, all-powerful, overcoming Sovereign that we see in the Book of Revelation?

The strong, steadfast, faithful and transcendent Jesus of the Bible is the Lord and Savior that I know and love. And He’s not someone, who with everything else that’s going on in the world, gnat-strains over what people call His Church like some petty, persnickety, Pharisee getting more and more incensed with every  “mint, dill, and cumin” uptick of the tally.

So, given all that, Beggar’s Bread has exactly no (that is, zero) intention of joining President Nelson in his bizarre Escher’s world of unreality. To coin a phrase, he’s not our President. And if for some reason you consider that stance harsh, inflexible, or unreasonable, I would just point you to the pages of history and consider that fact that not only did Mormon Leaders prior to Mr. Nelson have no problem with the words, they made them their own and took ownership of them. The rest of this article is nothing more than examples of this. And to make the point even clearer for the reader, I have bolded every instance of “Mormon” or “Mormonism” in the text.

And if Mr. Nelson takes issue with anyone calling him on his folly I would suggest that he take it up with these guys – especially the first one.

And You're A Mormon 05

“Joseph Smith Receives the Gold Plates” by Kenneth Riley

Joseph Smith: Great Prophet of the Restoration (of Mormonism)
“The Saints can testify whether I am willing to lay down my life for my brethren. If it has been demonstrated that I have been willing to die for a ‘Mormon,’ I am bold to declare before Heaven that I am just as ready to die in defending the rights of a Presbyterian, a Baptist, or a good man of any other denomination; for the same principle which would trample upon the rights of the Latter-day Saints would trample upon the rights of the Roman Catholics, or of any other denomination who may be unpopular and too weak to defend themselves. It is a love of liberty which inspires my soul—civil and religious liberty to the whole of the human race.”
(Joseph Smith, “History of the Church”, 5:498–99; from a discourse given by Joseph Smith on July 9, 1843, in Nauvoo, Illinois; reported by Willard Richards)

“The inquiry is frequently made of me, “Wherein do you differ from others in your religious views?” In reality and essence we do not differ so far in our religious views, but that we could all drink into one principle of love. One of the grand fundamental principles of “Mormonism” is to receive truth, let it come from whence it may.”
(Joseph Smith, “Sunday , July 9, 1843 – Meeting in the Grove”, “History of The Church”, 5:499)

Have the Presbyterians any truth? Yes. Have the Baptists, Methodists, any truth? Yes. They all have a little truth mixed with error. We should gather all the good and true principles in the world and treasure them up, or we shall not come out true “Mormons.”‘
(Joseph Smith, “Discourse — Burden of the Prophet’s Ministry — Friendship”, “History of the Church”, 5:517); also see “Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith”, p.316)

“Friendship is one of the grand fundamental principles of “Mormonism“; [it is designed] to revolutionize and civilize the world, and cause wars and contentions to cease and men to become friends and brothers. Even the wolf and the lamb shall dwell together; the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf, the young lion and the fatling; and a little child shall lead them; the bear and the cow shall lie down together, and the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall play on the cockatrice’s den; and they shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountains, saith the Lord of hosts. (Isaiah.)”
(Joseph Smith, “Discourse — Burden of the Prophet’s Ministry — Friendship”, “History of the Church”, 5:517)

Mormonism is truth; and every man who embraced it felt himself at liberty to embrace every truth: consequently the shackles of superstition, bigotry, ignorance, and priestcraft, falls at once from his neck; and his eyes are opened to see the truth…

Mormonism is truth, in other words the doctrine of the Latter Day Saints, is truth…. [Y]ou may think that it is a broad assertion that it is truth; but … the first and fundamental principle of our holy religion is, that we believe that we have a right to embrace all, and every item of truth, without limitation or without being circumscribed or prohibited by the creeds or superstitious notions of men, or by the dominations of one another, when that truth is clearly demonstrated to our minds, and we have the highest degree of evidence of the same; we feel ourselves bound by the laws of God, to observe and do strictly, with all our hearts, all things whatsoever is manifest unto us by the highest degree of testimony that God has committed us, as written in the old and new Testament, or any where else, by any manifestation, whereof we know that it has come from God: and has application to us, being adapted to our situation and circumstances; age, and generation of life; and that we have a perfect, and indefeasible right, to embrace all such commandments, and do them…. And again, we believe that it is our privilege to reject all things, whatsoever is clearly manifested to us that they do not have a bearing upon us.
(Joseph Smith, “To Isaac Galland, March 22, 1839,” Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, p.420-421, ellipses mine)

“Hell may pour forth its rage like the burning lava of mount Vesuvius, or of Etna, or of the most terrible of the burning mountains; and yet shall “Mormonism” stand. Water, fire, truth and God are all realities. Truth is “Mormonism.” God is the author of it. He is our shield. It is by Him we received our birth.”
(Joseph Smith, “The Prophet’s Epistle to the Church, Written in Liberty Prison, Liberty Jail, Clay County, Missouri, March 25, 1839”, History of the Church, 3:297)

“Peace and prosperity attend us; and we have favor in the sight of God and virtuous men. The time was, when we were looked upon as deceivers, and that “Mormonism” would soon pass away, come to nought, and be forgotten. But the time has gone by when it is looked upon as a transient matter, or a bubble on the wave, and it is now taking a deep hold in the hearts and affections of all those who are nobleminded enough to lay aside the prejudice of education, and investigate the subject with candor and honesty. The truth, like the sturdy oak, has stood unhurt amid the contending elements, which have beat upon it with tremendous force. The floods have rolled, wave after wave, in quick succession, and have not swallowed it up.”
(Joseph Smith, “Report of the First Presidency”, General Conference, April 7, 1841, History of the Church 4:337)

And I'm A Mormon 01

Close up of a bronze sculpture in Temple Square depicting Joseph Smith receiving the Melchizedek Priesthood under the hands of the ancient apostles, Peter, James and John.

The Baton is Passed: The Mormon Leaders Who Followed
“They [Joseph Smith the Prophet and his brother, Hyrum Smith] were innocent of any crime, as they had often been proved before, and were only confined in jail by the conspiracy of traitors and wicked men; and their innocent blood on the floor of Carthage jail is a broad seal affixed to “Mormonism” that cannot be rejected by any court on earth, and their innocent blood on the escutcheon of the State of Illinois, with the broken faith of the State as pledged by the governor, is a witness to the truth of the everlasting gospel that all the world cannot impeach; and their innocent blood on the banner of liberty, and on the magna charta of the United States, is an ambassador for the religion of Jesus Christ, that will touch the hearts of honest men among all nations; and their innocent blood, with the innocent blood of all the martyrs under the altar that John saw, will cry unto the Lord of Hosts till he avenges that blood on the earth. Amen.”
(Doctrine & Covenants 135:7, Bracketed text derived from context.) 

“Do you belong to the Methodist’s society? And have you got the truth? It is right, that truth is ‘Mormonism,’ it is my property. Are you a Quaker? It is no matter, if you have the truth, that same truth is mine. Are you a Catholic, and have got the truth? That is my doctrine, and I will not quarrel about it”
(Brigham Young, July 24, 1853, “Journal of Discourses”, 1:243-244)

“The Universalists say that we are all going to heaven in a heap together, and if they believe their religion they do not trouble themselves about ‘Mormonism.’ Though I confess that I think the most of them are like the old man who was a strong believer in Universalism, and, while walking among his cattle, and musing over his doctrine, stepped up to a favorite ox, and said to him­self, ‘I believe the doctrine of the Universalists, but, old Bright, as well as I love you, I would willingly give you if I knew it was true.’ You find a man who does not believe in any religious doctrines, who does not believe in a future existence, and what does he care about ‘Mormonism?’ Nothing at all”
(Brigham Young, February 18, 1855, “Journal of Discourses”, 2:180)

“‘Mormonism,’ so-called, embraces every principle pertaining to life and salvation, for time and eternity. No matter who has it. If the infidel has got truth it belongs to ‘Mormonism.’ The truth and sound doctrine possessed by the sectarian world, and they have a great deal, all belong to this Church. As for their morality, many of them are, morally, just as good as we are. All that is good, lovely, and praiseworthy belongs to this Church and Kingdom. ‘Mormon­ism’ includes all truth. There is no truth but what belongs to the Gospel. It is life, eternal life; it is bliss; it is the fulness of all things in the gods and in the eternities of the gods”
(Brigham Young, “Discourses of Brigham Young”, p.3)

“A Duty to Listen to the Truth-Do not say, ‘You are Mormons, and we do not want to hear anything about you.’ Wait until you have searched and researched and have obtained wisdom to under­stand what we preach, or to prove it to be untrue. If you cannot prove it untrue and are not disposed to receive it, let it alone. If it is the work of God, it will stand. What do you say, outsiders? What do you say, Christian world and heathen world? If we have the truth to present to you, which will do you good here and hereaf­ter, which will save you today and tomorrow and every day, until it saves you in the Kingdom of God and brings you to a perfect state of felicity and happiness in the presence of the Father, will you have it?”
(Brigham Young, “Discourses of Brigham Young”, p.435)

“Brethren and sisters, our friends wish to know our feelings to­wards the Government. I answer, they are first-rate, and we will prove it too, as you will see if you only live long enough, for that we shall live to prove it is certain; and when the Constitution of the United States hangs, as it were, upon a single thread, they will have to call for the ‘Mormon’ Elders to save it from utter destruction; and they will step forth and do it”
(Brigham Young, February 18, 1855, “Journal of Discourses”, 2:182)

The “Eyes Westward” Statue. This is a bronze statue of LdS Presidents Brigham Young and Joseph Smith. This bronze sculpture is located in Nauvoo, Illinois along the bank of the Mississippi River and in Salt Lake City, Utah at Heritage Park. It signifies the plans of the LdS Church’s move to the west, ultimately settling along the Rocky Mountains in what’s now known as The State of Utah.

“Some of the sectarian ministers are saying that we Mormons are ashamed of the doctrine announced by President Brigham Young, to the effect that Adam will thus be the God of this world”
(B.H. Roberts, “Mormon Doctrine of Deity”, pp.42-43)

“Now I come to us, Mormons. We are the only true Church, so we say. We have the only true faith, so we say and believe. I believe we have many great and true principles revealed from the heavens. I will tell you how I feel about it, and what I have said many times when I have been abroad among the priests, people, and philoso­phers. If any man under the heavens can show me one principle of error that I have entertained, I will lay it aside forthwith, and be thankful for the information”
(John Taylor, “The Gospel Kingdom”, p.50)

“WE HAVE frequently said that perhaps the grandest thought that has ever been brought forth to the children of men is the Mormon truism, namely: ‘As man is, God once was, and as God is, man may become.’ The foundation of that truism is in this revelation and these words we have just read”
(Melvin J. Ballard, “Sermons and Missionary Services of Melvin J. Ballard”, p.238)

“It is true that many of the Christian churches worship a different Jesus Christ than is worshipped by the Mormons or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”
(Bernard p.Brockbank, “The Living Christ,” Ensign (Conference Edition), May 1977, p.26)

“…Mormonism be it true or false, holds out to men the greatest inducements that the human mind can grasp… It teaches men that they can become divine, that man is God in embryo, that God was once man in mortality, and that the only difference between Gods, angels and men is a difference in education and develop­ment. Is such a religion to be sneered at? It teaches that the worlds on high, the stars that glitter in the blue vault of heaven, are king­doms of God, that they were once earths like this, that they have been redeemed and glorified by the same laws, the same prin­ciples that are applied to this planet, and by which it will ascend to a perfected and glorified state. It teaches that these worlds are peopled with human beings, God’s sons and daughters, and that every husband and father, may become an Adam, and every wife and mother an Eve, to some future planet”
(Orson F. Whitney, June 9, 1895, “Collected Discourses”, 4:336-337. Ellipses mine)

Mormonism teaches that God was once just like ourselves; that the eternal part of Him was enshrined in mortal flesh, subject to mortal ills and earthly pains and toils. I do not now refer to the experience of the Savior in the meridian of time. I mean that in the far away aeons of the past God once dwelt upon an earth like this, and that through its trials and vicissitudes and the experience they afforded He became a more intelligent being than before, ascending finally by obedience to certain principles, ennobling and exalting in their nature, to the plane which He now occupies. These truths, forming the ladder up which He climbed to celes­tial heights, up which we too are expected to climb from earth to heaven, from mortality to immortality, from a world where grief and sorrow reign, to a better and brighter sphere where sorrow and suffering are unknown—these truths are self-existent and eternal. God did not create them”
(Orson F. Whitney, May 6, 1892, “Collected Discourses” 3:45)

William W. Major captures details in this oil on canvas painting of the faces of this group of Mormon leaders: Hyrum Smith, Willard Richards, Joseph Smith, Orson Pratt, Parley Parker Pratt, Orson Hyde, Heber Chase Kimball, and Brigham Young.

Mormonism, as it is called, must stand or fall on the story of Joseph Smith. He was either a prophet of God, divinely called, properly appointed and commissioned, or he was one of the biggest frauds this world has ever seen. There is no middle ground”
(Joseph Fielding Smith, “Doctrines of Salvation”, 1:188. Italics in original)

“And again, we exclaim, O Mormonism! No wonder that Lucifer, son of the morning, the next heir to Jesus Christ, our eldest broth­er, should fight so hard against his brethren; he lost the glory, the honor, power, and dominion of a God: and the knowledge, spirit, authority and keys of the priesthood of the son of God!”
(W.W. Phelps, December 25, 1844, “Times and Seasons”, 5:758)

“I thank God for ‘Mormonism,’ so-called; it is the power of God unto salvation”
(Joseph F. Smith, “Gospel Doctrine”, 1986 edition, p.97)

“Time and time again my heart has been melted, my eyes have wept tears of gratitude for the knowledge that He lives and that this gospel called Mormonism is in very deed the plan of life and salvation, that it is the only true gospel upon the face of the earth, that it is in very deed the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ”
(Heber J. Grant, “Gospel Standards”, p.197-198; Given in General Conference October 1918)

“Seven hundred years before the birth of our Savior, a prophet of God upon the eastern hemisphere predicted the coming forth of ‘a marvelous work and a wonder.’ ‘Mormonism,’ so called, ac­cording the faith of its adherents, is the fulfilment of that ancient prediction”
(Orson F. Whitney, “Conference Reports”, October 1916, p.51)

“However, a more important question for us today is this: ‘Are the so-called ‘Mormons’ true Christians and does the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints contain the elements of a world-wide Christian religion?’ It is my sincere belief and testimony that the Latter-day Saints commonly called ‘Mormons,’ are Christians in the truest and fullest sense of the term, and that this Church is world-wide in its comprehensiveness, in organization, and in its blessing and salvation of the human family. As true Christianity should and as it did in the days of the Savior, ‘Mormonism’ com­bines the essential elements in the teachings of Israel’s prophets, priests and sages; and in accepting the Jehovah of the Old Testa­ment as the Savior of mankind, it fulfils the noblest aspirations of the Hebrew race, thereby indicating a world-wide scope so far as Israel’s people and Israel’s God are concerned”
(David O. McKay, “Conference Reports”, April 1927, pp.104-105)

“To us, and to all the world to whom ‘Mormonism’ has been pro­claimed, has come the law by which the people of the world are to be judged. I want to say to the world to whom ‘Mormonism’ has come, or may come in the future, that it is unto them the savour of life unto life, or of death unto death, according as they receive it and live it, or as they reject it”
(George F. Richards, “Conference Reports”, April 1908, p.40)

Satan gaining a major victory via the 2014 Thomas S. Monson era feature film, “Meet the Mormons”.

Mormonism is Christianity; Christianity is Mormonism; they are one and the same, and they are not to be distinguished from each other in the minutest detail”
(Bruce R. McConkie, “Mormon Doc­trine”, 1966, p.513)

Mormonism is the wonder of this world, and the great leveling machine of creeds, constitutions, kingdoms, countries, divisions, notions, notorieties and novelties; and praise it, talk about it, lie about it, exalt it, degrade it, blow at it, sneer at it, fear it, love it, hate it, persecute it, or laugh at it, still it is Mormonism, true as heaven, powerful as Jesus, eternal as element, going on conquer­ing and to conquer!”
(W.W. Phelps, “Times and Seasons”, 5:758)

Mormonism’ is not exclu­sive. It does not claim that all who have failed to accept and obey the gospel of eternal life shall be eternally and forever damned”
(James E. Talmage, “Articles of Faith”, 1984, p.468)

“You might as well deny ‘Mormonism,’ and turn away from it, as to oppose the plurality of wives. Let the Presidency of this Church, and the Twelve Apostles, and all the authorities unite and say with one voice that they will oppose that doctrine, and the whole of them would be damned”
(Heber C. Kimball, October 12, 1856, “Journal of Discourses”, 5:203)

“…Mormonism be it true or false, holds out to men the greatest inducements that the human mind can grasp…It teaches that the worlds on high, the stars that glitter in the blue vault of heaven, are kingdoms of God, that they were once earths like this, that they have been redeemed and glorified by the same laws, the same principles that are applied to this planet, and by which it will ascend to a perfected and glorified state. It teaches that these worlds are peopled with human beings, God’s sons and daughters, and that every husband and father, may become an Adam, and every wife and mother an Eve, to some future planet”
(Orson F. Whitney, June 9, 1895, “Collected Discourses”, 4:336. Ellipses mine)

First Counselor, soon to be LdS President, Gordon B. Hinckley (1995-2008) offending the Savior and giving Satan a major victory in Fall General Conference 1990.

“There is no predestination in Mormon theology. Free agency is a sacred gift, divinely bestowed. Here is the answer to the old question, ‘If God loves his children, why does he permit war and strife and kindred evils?’ Because he holds inviolable the right given man to choose his own way, between good and evil, between life and destruction. (What of the Mormons? pamphlet, 1982, pp.6-7.)”
(Gordon B. Hinckley, “Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley”, p.55)

“Well done for Mor­monism; one hundred and forty four thousand GODS, among the tribes of Israel, and, two living Gods and the Holy Ghost, for this world! Such knowledge is too wonderful for men, unless they pos­sess the spirit of Gods”
(John Taylor, “The Gospel Kingdom”, p.29)

“Oppose it in this way, and teach your children to do the same, and if you do not become as dark as midnight their is no truth in Mormonism
(Orson Pratt, October 7, 1874, “Journal of Discourses”, 17:225. Ellipses mine)

“They [Mormons] are generally classed as Protestants, since they are not Catholic. Actually they are no closer to Protestantism than they are to Catholicism. Neither historically nor on the basis of modern association, theology, or practice can they be grouped with either. …Suffice it to say that its theology, its organization, and its practices are in many respects entirely unique among today’s Christian denominations”
(Gordon B. Hinckley, What of the Mormons? a non-paginated tract, 1976. Brackets and ellipses mine. Bracketed word choice derived from context.)

Mormons are true Christians; their worship is the pure, unadul­terated Christianity authored by Christ and accepted by Peter, James, and John and all the ancient saints”
(Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 1966, p.513)

“The Mormons believe that all men were born in the spirit world of the union of the sexes, having a literal father and a literal moth­er before coming to this world, that the spirits are just the same in appearance as the body, that God is a married Being, has a wife at least, as Jeremiah said the angels were offering incense to the queen of heaven. The Latter-day Saints believe that God is an ex­alted Man, and that we are the offspring of Him and His wife.
(George Q. Cannon, “Gospel Truth: Discourses and Writings of Presi­dent George Q. Cannon”, 1:129)

Mormonism does not tend to debase God to the level of man, but to exalt man to the perfection of God”
(Charles Penrose, cited in “The Gospel Through the Ages”, p.107)

“How did this state of things called Mormonism originate? We read that an angel came down and revealed himself to Joseph Smith and manifested unto him in vision the true position of the world in a religious point of view”
(John Taylor, “The Gospel King­dom”, p.6)

“The Mormons believe that all men were born in the spirit world of the union of the sexes, having a literal father and a literal moth­er before coming to this world… The Latter-day Saints believe that God is an exalted Man, and that we are the offspring of Him and His wife.
(George Q. Cannon, “Gospel Truth: Discourses and Writings of President George Q. Cannon”, 1:129)

“All men, regardless of the degree of their guilt or innocence, will be resurrected from the dead, and this belief also becomes a foun­dation stone in the structure of the Mormon Church. But in ad­dition to this general salvation through the atonement, every soul that lives in mortality to the age of responsibility may place himself within the reach of divine mercy and may obtain a remission of sin”
(Hugh B. Brown, “Conference Reports”, April 1965, p.43)

“We Latter-day Saints have that new revelation. We have a new prophet and new scriptures also, which, added to the Bible, now point the way. This new revelation brought with it the true under­standing of the nature of God and a restoration of primitive Chris­tianity. That restoration is Mormonism. It came about through the ministry of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Jun. He saw God and com­muned with him, even as did Moses”
(Mark E. Petersen, “Conference Reports”, April 1964, p.19)

“What the world calls ‘Mormonism’ will rule every nation. Joseph Smith and Brigham Young will be the head. God has decreed it, and his own right arm will accomplish it”
(Orson Hyde, “Journal of Discourses”, 7:53)

Man’s destiny is a God-like one. We do not worry about evolution. We have the true doctrine. The ‘Mormon’ Prophet set forth the eter­nal law of progression”
(John A. Widtsoe, “The Divine Mission of Joseph Smith”, “Handbook of the Restoration: A Selection of Gospel Themes Discussed by Various Authors”, pp.35-36)

“Members of the Church do not resent being referred to as Mormons, nor does the Church resent being referred to as the Mormon church. As we have said, however, it is not the correct name of the Church. Its correct name is, as we have already explained, “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” (D&C 115:4).”
(Marion G. Romney, “We, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”, General Conference, April 1979)

“The term Mormon can be appropriately used in some contexts to refer to members of the Church, such as Mormon pioneers, or to institutions, such as the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Church members are widely known as Mormons, and in interactions with those not of our faith, we may fittingly refer to ourselves as Mormons, provided we couple this with the full name of the Church.”
(M. Russell Ballard, “Following Up,” General Conference, April 2014)

“CHRISTIANITY WILL BEAR HONEST INVESTIGATION.— We call ourselves Christians, that is, we Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Episcopalians and Mormons, we all call ourselves Christians. Well, perhaps we are, and then, perhaps we are not”
(John Taylor, The Gospel Kingdom, p.75, caps in original)

“The Latter-day Saints, so commonly called “Mormons,” have no animosity towards the Negro. Neither have they described him as belonging to an ‘inferior race’”
(Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions 4:170)

“Enemies of the Church, or stupid people, reading also that Adam is ‘our father and our God’ have heralded far and wide that the Mormons believe that Jesus Christ was begotten of Adam”
(John A. Widtsoe, Evidences and Reconciliations, p.56)

The President Thomas S. Monson administration (2008-2018) giving Satan a worldwide major victory with the 2011 “I’m a Mormon” media campaign – which also included the 2014 “Meet the Mormons” feature film.

(The author would like to thank the “Preaching From an Asbestos Suit: Reasoning With Mormons on the Internet” Facebook group for their assistance in helping me research and harvest the historical quotes used in this article) 

BACK TO TOP

Apologists-anti-mormons_INVERTEDby Michael Flournoy
Some years ago, FAIRMormon put out an article by Maxwell Institute contributor, Russell C. McGregor entitled, “Are Anti-Mormons Christians?” It was a response to the common assertion that Latter-day Saints are not true Christians. The article claims that it is the detractors of Mormonism, not Mormons themselves that “need to be concerned about their Christian credentials”.

The question posed is: is Anti-Mormonism a Christian activity? According to the article, it isn’t. It asserts that Christian is a synonym for Christ-like, but Anti-Mormons are actively opposed to, and attack the doctrines and policies of the LDS church.

First off, even if Anti-Mormonism is opposed to the values of Christianity, it still does not discredit someone from being a Christian. For example, sin isn’t exactly a Christian activity, and yet all Christians are sinners.

Secondly, the LDS notion that Jesus was a gentle lamb who never spoke out against false religious leaders, is a myth. One only need to go to Matthew 23 to find Jesus calling scribes and Pharisees hypocrites, blind guides, and children of hell.

To be fair, there is such a thing as aggressive, over-the-top Anti-Mormonism, and it needs to stop. Mormons are not wrong to question the Christianity or at least the spiritual maturity of those who preach with rudeness and disrespect.

McGregor says Anti-Mormonism is satanic, and that Satan means “accuser” or “slanderer”. By this logic, Jesus was certainly engaged in a satanic activity when he told his disciples to beware the teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

For the sake of argument though, let’s assume the article is right on all accounts, and anyone who speaks out against Mormonism is not a Christian.

What does that say of Anti-Anti-Mormons, who spend every waking hour debating Mormon Critics online?

If the arguments in the article are valid, then the author himself is not a Christian, because he engages in the satanic activity of accusing and slandering Anti-Mormons!

The fact is, Jesus told his disciples to turn the other cheek rather than resist evil (Matthew 5:39). Anti-Anti-Mormonism is the opposite of this mindset. It’s not a Christian activity, and therefore Anti-Anti-Mormons aren’t Christian.

Furthermore, 3 Nephi 11:29 in The Book of Mormon states:

For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.

Anger and contention form the core of the article written by Russell McGregor, and I call on FAIRMormon to remove the article from their website. It’s full of hate speech against those who do nothing worse than proselytize Latter-day Saints with sincerity and out of a heart of love. Further, its logic serves as a double-edged sword.

That said, I acknowledge that some Christians do engage in mockery, ridicule, and saying hurtful things to Latter-day Saints about their religion. At the same time, I’ve seen LDS apologists be just as vile in return. I assume it’s a reaction to perceived hostility, but it’s still unacceptable and unchristian. The Book of Mormon doesn’t say contention is of the devil, except when someone else starts it. Jesus didn’t say to turn the other cheek unless they’re speaking against your religion. When Jesus was taken in the Garden of Gethsemane, one of his disciples cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant. Although it was technically a defensive move, Jesus immediately healed the man.

And turning to the other side of the divide, I call on my Christian brothers and sisters to repent if looking out for the interests of Latter-day Saints above their own self-interest isn’t their driving motivation. The vernacular term for this kind of self-effacing, self-sacrificial behavior is “love”. The other term for it is “respect”. And it is centermost in the infamous apologetic mandate of 1 Peter 3:15-16 (NIV) which says,

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

Jesus rebukes his disciples in Matthew 26:52, saying, “Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take up the sword shall perish with the sword.” (KJV)

The Savior also rebukes the apostles in Luke 9:55-56 when they suggest calling fire down from heaven to destroy a Samaritan village. He says, “Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” (KJV)

The most glaring issue with Russell McGregor’s article is it wrongly defines “Anti-Mormon” as anyone who opposes LDS doctrine and policy. To be clear, it is possible to oppose something lovingly. If this is not the case, then by default, all Mormon missionaries are Anti-Christian for teaching and converting Christians, aren’t they?

True “Anti-ism” is an aggressive, shameful way of attacking someone’s faith, and it exists on both sides of the divide. We should strive not to be Anti anything but stand for the Truth.

It may be hard for Latter-day Saints to accept, but standing for the truth does encompass exposing falsehood. Why is it, that it’s perfectly acceptable for a bishop to say, “You’re wrong if you think you’re worthy after breaking the law of chastity,” but when a Christian tells a Mormon they’re wrong, it’s hateful?

LDS apostle, J. Reuben Clark once said, “If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed.”

To Mr. Clark’s point, mainstream Christians hold to the stance that Latter-day Saints believe in an another Jesus and a false gospel. And neither a faux Savior or a false gospel can save anyone, can they? Is it Anti-Mormon to want Mormons to know the truth? Is it Anti-Mormon to reveal the mercy and boundless grace of Jesus Christ? Is it Anti-Mormon to desire to spend eternity with them in God’s presence?

Of course not. In fact, it is the responsibility of believers to speak the truth and expose falsehood. This is as the Apostle James said,

Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins. (James 5:20 KJV)

In closing, I can’t think of anything more Pro-Mormon than converting a Latter-day Saint from the error of a false gospel that doesn’t truly save to one that does. Can you? In fact, I would argue that the true Anti-Mormons are the people who oppose those who do so.

logeye-720x340

“And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?” (Matthew 7:3 KJV)

Merry Christmas everyone! And since this is the last article of 2018, Happy New Year too. As we celebrate the holidays and move into the new year, let’s not forget to look back and remember Who has brought here, His faithfulness to us through thick and thin, and His promised faithfulness to us to the end – and then beyond. God is good all the time, and all the time, God is good. Amen? 

Performed by Brian Doerksen. 

Good To Me (I Cry Out) 
I cry out,
For Your hand of mercy to heal me.
I am weak,
I need Your love to free me.
Oh, Lord, my Rock,
My strength in weakness,
Come rescue me, oh Lord.

You are my hope,
Your promise never fails me.
And my desire is to follow You forever.

For You are good,
For You are good,
For You are good to me
For You are good,
For You are good,
For You are good to me

(Words and Music by Craig Musseau)

prayer-hands

Performed by Brian Doerksen on “Change My Heart Oh God, Volume 2”

© 1990 Craig Musseau ION Publishing &Vineyard Music.

Scientology v. Scientology Lite

By Fred W. Anson
The A&E show “Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath” has been nothing short of a phenomenon. For those unfamiliar with the show, here’s the description from the show’s website:

Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath gives a voice to victims of the Church of Scientology despite public attempts to discredit them.

Leah Remini, along with high level former Scientology executives and Church members, explores individual accounts from ex-Church members and their families through meetings and interviews with Leah. Each episode features stories from former members whose lives have been affected by the Church’s harmful practices, even well after they left the organization. Along with a team of former high-ranking Scientology insiders who understand the inner workings and policies of the organization, Leah gives the victims a chance to be heard.
(A&E website; “About Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath”)

And anyone who’s watched the show will testify that it’s riveting stuff to watch. There’s intrigue, enlightenment, and horror all at once and usually in the same show. More than one box of Kleenex has undoubtedly been emptied over the heart-wrenching stuff that these people have had to endure both as members of the cult of Scientology and as former members – and often it’s hard to tell which is worse! And, of course, to the surprise of no one, current members and the Church of Scientology deny that any of it is true. Rather, they would have us believe, everyone involved in the show is either an enemy of the Church and/or an angry, bitter apostate – a “Suppressive Person” to use Scientology’s lingo.

Scientology Lite
Does any of this sound familiar Mormon Critics and Ex-Mormons? If so, you’re not the first to recognize the parallels between Scientology and Mormonism. Back in February 2011 (two-years before Leah Remini left Scientology) an article entitled, “Scientology Lite” on the Mormon Expression Blogsite listed the following parallels between Mormonism and Scientology:

  • The church refuses to account for member behavior even when they are quoting or following leaders
  • There are a lot of “unwritten laws”
  • Members default to defending the church, even to lying or turning back on family members
  • It’s all subjective…so how do you “know”?
  • Coverts are often “loners looking for a club to join”
  • Testimonies are overly effusive.
  • There’s “some good” in it, so “what harm can there be?”
  • The crazy S#!$ is introduced later … there’s a long process until you are fully entrenched.
  • Fascinating, enigmatic founder
  • Church underpays its employees
  • Requires sincerity for it all to work
  • Doesn’t “look” like a cult initially
  • Proof is in the lives of its members
  • Testimonies often include, “I don’t know where I’d be without….”
  • Levels of membership. Focus changes over time
  • Perverse pride in membership
  • Charitable but not egalitarian
  • Lack of curiosity keeps members in – they are uninterested and afraid of information
  • Willed myopia of membership
  • Hard to get through “scriptures”
  • At upper levels of membership they are deprived of adequate food and sleep
  • Members tell themselves they are wonderful examples to the world of good living
  • Inability of membership to laugh at themselves
  • Certain processes are confusing and unsatisfying
  • Members project unambiguous, non-ambivalent view of world
  • “If it changes me for the better, who cares if it’s true?”
  • Arrogance of membership with lots of superlatives used in sales pitch
  • Church avoids “overt political stands” but membership is almost entirely homogeneous politically
  • Apostasy is all the apostates’ fault. All disconnection to family  and friends is blamed on that decision
  • Wives tend to stay and denounce husbands who leave
  • Church discipline (kicking people out) is seen as “for their own good”
  • Members consider membership “safe” and a “protection”
  • Members maintain positive exterior, but a very reproachful interaction with former members
  • Public image of religion is MOST IMPORTANT
  • There’s a difference between public tenets and private interaction
  • Greatest fear is expulsion from religion
  • Church holds power the of eternal life
  • Members are taught to handle internal conflict within church’s own justice system
  • Big Brother type files kept of high level apostates
  • Members attack apostates’ character rather than address the issues
  • Church doesn’t live up to its own standards for its members
  • Special service is supposedly to “help people” but most of the time and energy is really just spent on serving the purposes of the organization
  • Sells itself as “fastest growing religion”
  • Members think it “does more good”
  • Critics are vilified and suspected of “anti” sentiment
  • Members sacrifice a lot with little to show for it
  • Original books are changed and church denies the changes are significant
  • All or nothing claims, “base stories are true or else it’s ALL a lie”
  • Shame in leaving, “Everyone else could see it was a sham, why couldn’t I?”
  • Apostates who leave claim they feel “alive” and can think clearly for the first time in a long time (or ever)
    (Dad Primal, “Scientology Lite”, Mormon Expression website, February 19, 2011)

Lt. General Joseph Smith, commander of the Nauvoo Legion, and Commodore L. Ron Hubbard of the Sea Org.

That article was based on this Ex-Mormon author’s dinner with an Ex-Scientologist co-worker during which they compared notes and were floored by the similarities between their two religions.  As he states in the article, “She’s a very successful businesswoman, but I had to scrape my jaw off the floor as she related her experience…some good, some bad…just like my experience with Mormonism.” That dinner was later augmented by the February 14, 2011, New Yorker article about infamous Scientology Apostate, Paul Haggis (Lawrence Wright, “The Apostate: Paul Haggis vs. the Church of Scientology”). That’s where the bullet points related to apostates were drawn from in his analysis.

So when it’s all said and done, Dad Primal’s article was new, fresh, eye-opening, enlightening – even shocking. Thus the article resonated strongly with Ex-Mormons and was soon being discussed extensively across the Mormon Bloggernacle.

Things had settled down a bit when the 2015 award-winning HBO documentary, “Going Clear” (which was based on Lawrence Wright’s 2013 book “Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief”) aired resulting in a fresh new crop of comparisons between the two groups. Then, once again, the Bloggernacle erupted with new articles and discussion based on the revelations of that excellent documentary.

But if that weren’t enough, later that year, Leah Remini’s book, “Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology” hit the bookstores with the aforementioned “Scientology and the Aftermath” hitting cable TV a year later to the month. It was around that time that the influential MormonThink website published a full analysis and explanation of the issues focusing on the following points of comparison:

10 Things common to both Scientology and Mormonism
1) Keeping secrets about the religion from its members.
2) You’ll be lost without the Church.
3) Excessive financial conditions for Church membership.
4) Believers often defend the religion with the comment that “it’s a good organization”, whether or not it is literally true.
5) Read only faith-promoting materials produced by us.
6) Churches use Internet filters to block some websites that frankly discuss some of the problems of their organization.
7) Detractors of the faith are labeled as liars and “anti.”
8) The founders and top leaders are hero-worshiped.
9) Tears families apart.
10) Have been labeled as a cult and the members as brainwashed.
(“Scientology and Mormonism”, MormonThink website)

So what started as a spark in 2011 has erupted into the full-on wildfire that we see burning today. Go to just about any Mormon-centric website and within a few minutes, you’ll find someone making a Mormon/Scientology comparison. It’s almost become a cliché.1

But if the parallels are so obvious to outsiders then why are active, believing Mormons so oblivious to them?

Mormon “Plan of Salvation” (circa the 1950’s) v. Scientology “Bridge” (circa the 1970s) [click to zoom]

Why They Stay (and Other Unsolved Mysteries)
One of the most common questions asked of those of us who have left Mind Control Cults is, “Why did you stay so long?” And very often, candidly, we don’t know ourselves! I have spent decades trying to unravel why I couldn’t see what outsiders could see so clearly about my cult. And I’m not alone, in my work with recovering Ex-Mormons I very often see them struggling to untie that knot too.

One explanation is that we were all in a “Snapped” psychological state. This isn’t a concept and term that I came up, nor is it a term that journalists, Flo Conway, and Jim Siegelman invented when they wrote the watershed book “SNAPPING America’s Epidemic of Sudden Personality Change” in 1978. Rather, it’s the term that ex-cultists often use to describe the shift in thinking that lead them into, and kept them in their group. Here’s how Conway and Siegelman describe it:

In all the world, there is nothing quite so impenetrable as a human mind snapped shut with bliss. No call to reason, no emotional appeal can get through its armor of self-proclaimed joy.
(Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman, “Snapping: America’s Epidemic of Sudden Personality Change”Kindle Location 1302, Stillpoint Press. Kindle Edition.)

And to their point is there any greater cultist defense mechanism than that of thought-terminating clichés? As cult researcher Luna Lindsey explains:

A thought-terminating cliché is a phrase that halts argument or prevents clear thought. It can be a short “bumper sticker slogan”, seeming to deliver a profound message without really meaning much. Or it can represent a larger concept that can’t be expressed in words. In either case, it is a shortcut to prevent deeper exploration or discussion.
(Luna Lindsey, “Recovering Agency: Lifting the Veil of Mormon Mind Control”p. 194. Kindle Edition.) 

Anyone who has attempted to reason with cultists has encountered these. They’re pat responses that get thrown up when the cultist is presented with discomforting evidence that challenges their group’s claims. Each group has there their own unique set but often there’s crossover between groups. Leah Remini talks about them throughout her book ( the aforementioned “Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology”) and Lindsey, a former Mormon, has an entire chapter of Mormon thought-terminating clichés in her book, things like:

  • The church is perfect, man is not.
  • The hardhearted hate the truth.
  • Satan is raging in the hearts of men.
  • Choose the right.
  • These are plain and precious things.
  • Cast not your pearls before swine.
  • It will be sorted out in the next life.
  • Wickedness never was happiness.
  • All will be revealed in due time.
  • You will not be tempted more than you are able to bear.
  • Are those feelings/thoughts/teachings in line with the gospel?
  • Leaving the Church is the easy way out.

But really, we’re still just describing symptoms rather than answering the question, aren’t we? Perhaps Christian Apologist, J. Warner Wallace, in a July 2018 radio interview, cut straight to the chase when he proposed that there are really only three reasons why we believe anything:

  • Rational Reasons.
  • Emotional Reasons.
  • Volitional Reasons.

And Mr. Wallace makes the point that typically Emotional and Volitional Reasons trump Rational Reasons. This is true even for non-cultists, it’s just not as extreme. Thus the issue when it comes to cults is really degree. For example, in healthy religious settings, you can leave the group pretty much without consequence. As the saying goes, “Cults have many entrances but few exits.” And, in fact, many experts claim that this is the key criteria in determining if a group is a cult or not.

Some Ex-Mormons have suggested this re-branding of their former religion.

Now consider that in light of Scientology and Mormonism, where leaving may result in loss of family, vocation, and social standing. As a result, many members simply choose to stay in the group even though they no longer believe in it. Leah Remini explains in her book that she stayed in Scientology even though she no longer believed in it because she knew that to do so would get her labeled a “Suppressive Person” which would result in her family “disconnecting” (Scientology’s policy-mandated form of extreme shunning) from her. Thus she stayed for volitional reasons.

We see a similar phenomenon in Mormonism with “Shadow Mormons” – Mormons who no longer believe the Church is true but remain members and play the game rather than risk losing their marriage, families, jobs, or social standing in the community. The cult has them trapped and they know it, as the words of one Shadow Mormon demonstrate so well:

REMEMBER US! To those of you on the outside reading this, I beg you, please do not forget us. Please remember the hundreds of thousands of unique, special, beautiful individuals that are currently serving life sentences in the prison of Mormonism. Please do not cease to pray; to whatever God you serve, for our deliverance. Some of us have no hope for redemption or liberation. For the greater good, we willingly sacrifice our souls upon the altar of conformity and orthodoxy. Our pain is real. Our sentence is absolute.
(‘Enigma’, “The Death of Reason and Freedom”, Beggar’s Bread website, October 18, 2013, caps in original)

And speaking from my own personal experience, and factoring in the many conversations that I’ve had with recovering cultists over the years as well, I will tell you that probably the #1 reason why we all stayed in our cults even when confronted with a mountain of discrediting evidence was that we wanted to. The reasons were emotional.

When I was a cultist I could rationalize and justify anything that didn’t conform to my preferred narrative. Thus I could bury any logic, reason, or evidence underneath feelings and will. In the aforementioned radio interview, J. Warner Wallace refers to this as “remediating the evidence”. And chillingly, he says that it’s the same mental process that criminals use to justify their crimes. It is, simply stated, a form of self-delusion – as former Branch, Ward, Stake and Regional Mormon leader Jim Whitefield explains:

I have become convinced that each individual Mormon must have his or her own personal epiphany which comes from uncertainty and questioning that arises along the way. Until something triggers the desire to ‘seek’, a member will never ‘find’ the ultimate truth.

If you try to face a believer with the truth, that person invariably rejects the messenger and the message. Something may get through sometimes, but generally members will not thank you for trying to ‘destroy’ their testimony. The messenger is under the influence of Satan, the message is fraught with lies, and members already ‘know’ and cling to the truth – just as they were taught to. That is called faith.

As long as people want the Mormon Church to be true, more than they are willing to face the possibility that it is not, they will not entertain evidence or reason. Delusion becomes a choice.”
(Jim Whitefield, “The Mormon Delusion: Volume 4: The Mormon Missionary Lessons – A Conspiracy to Deceive”, Kindle Locations 10297-10305)

So in summary and conclusion, the bottom line for to why cultists don’t leave is simply this: They choose to stay.

And whether we’re talking about Scientology, “Scientology Lite”, or any other cult, therein lies the problem. As funny as it sounds some folks actually prefer a cage to freedom. Yet, ironically, they’re utterly blindly convinced that outsiders are the ones who are caged. This is as writer and university instructor, David Foster Wallace famously said so well,

Blind certainty, a close-mindedness that amounts to an imprisonment so total that the prisoner doesn’t even know he’s locked up.”
(David Foster Wallace, Kenyon College Commencement Address, May 21, 2005)

And it is that blind certainty, my friends, that keeps Scientologists; Mormons; people in the abusive Shepherding Movement that I was in; and everyone else who’s ever been a cult from leaving it. Take away that certainty and suddenly everything changes.

NOTES
1 And to add my own contribution to the growing body of observed parallels, here’s another one: The book that is held up to investigators as the best introduction to and/or the foundational text for the religion is not only largely tangential to the current doctrine of said religion but may at points even contradict it. This just as true of “Dianetics” as it is “The Book of Mormon”. As Sociologist of Religion, Bryan R. Wilson noted:

In 1952, Hubbard launched Scientology, and this new, expanded, and more encompassing belief-system subsumed Dianetics, providing it with a more fully articulated metaphysical rationale…

In a collection of scholarly papers edited by the Jesuit sociologist, Professor Joseph H. Fichter, S.J., of Loyola University, New Orleans, (Alternatives to American Mainline Churches, New York: Rose of Sharon Press, 1983), Frank K. Flinn, now Adjunct Professor in Religious Studies at Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri, addresses directly the question of the religious status of Scientology in great detail. He considers first the religious status of Dianetics…

‘While Dianetics had religious and spiritual tendencies, it was not yet a religion in the full sense of the term… Dianetics did not promise what may be called ‘transcendental’ rewards as the normal outcome of its therapy. It did, however, promise ‘trans-normal’ reward… Secondly, in the Dianetics stage of the movement, engrams were traced back to the fetal stage at the earliest… Thirdly, Dianetics had only four ‘dynamics’ or ‘urges for survival’—self, sex, group and Mankind… Fourthly, the auditing techniques in the Dianetics phase [did not use] the ‘E-Meter’’
(Bryan R. Wilson, Ph.D., “Scientology: An Analysis and Comparison of its Religious Systems and Doctrines”, University of Oxford England, February 1995 pp.32,48) 

And I documented the many conflicts and contradictions between the Book of Mormon and modern Latter-day Saint doctrine in my article “The Book of Mormon v. Mormon Doctrine” which I concluded like this:

The reader may be scratching their head wondering how the work that is held up as the “keystone of our religion” by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints not only contains very little of that religion … but discredits much of it. The answer to that question is pretty simple: The Book of Mormon doesn’t teach modern Mormonism, rather it teaches 19th Century American Restorationism.

As Latter-day Saint scholar Thomas G. Alexander explains, “Much of the doctrine that early investigators found in Mormonism was similar to contemporary Protestant churches.” So if you strip away the baggage of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon origin story you’re left with a piece of Christian literature that’s more akin to “Pilgrim’s Progress” or “The Screwtape Letters” than “Dianetics”. In the end, it’s very much as Shawn McCraney described it when he said, “[We] recognize the Book of Mormon as a piece of 19th-century literary fiction aimed at teaching Jesus Christ…”

… For the uninformed, the Book of Mormon can be a powerful recruiting tool.  But for the informed that power is quickly lost.
(Fred W. Anson, “The Book of Mormon v. Mormon Doctrine”, Beggar’s Bread website, June 26. 2014) 

Thus, rather than being an accurate encapsulation of the religion, both “introductory” texts are really just a vehicle to get the investigators to talk to the full-time evangelists for these organizations: Auditors for Scientology, Missionaries for Mormonism.  Those evangelists use the book (even if it ultimately ends up going unread) as a means to begin the process of indoctrination into the religion and groom the investigator for the more esoteric and less comfortable “truths”, which will be only be revealed after so much of the investigator’s time, money, emotional energy, and personal effort have been invested into the organization that it’s hard for them to leave. Different organizations, different books; same tactic, same result.

BACK TO TOP

by Michael Thomas
A Meeting and a Revelation
It was a Thursday evening at the beginning of June 1978. Local LDS leaders were summoned to a meeting at the stake centre. It was there in the cultural hall that a small group of us stood around to hear of a revelation through then church president, Spencer W Kimball. The ban on male church members of African descent holding the priesthood was to be lifted. Sworn to secrecy until a formal announcement was made the following Sunday in Mormon chapels around the world, we travelled back to our homes wondering what this meant.

None among us were unhappy about this development, but we knew this was not just a much welcome change but a complete about-face on a long-established Mormon teaching. We had sat in all-white priesthood classes learning the history of the ban, perhaps feeling uncomfortable, but faithfully believing this was God’s will. Church leaders had confidently declared what we had just been told would not happen, ‘not while time endures.’ We were familiar with the words of Mormon leaders such as Brigham Young, and Joseph Fielding Smith:

“You see some classes of the human family that are black, uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable and low in their habits, wild, and seemingly deprived of nearly all the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind…and the Lord has put a mark upon him, which is the flat nose and the black skin.” 
(Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, vol.7pp.290-91)

“There is a reason why one man is born black and with other disadvantages, while another is born white with great advantages. The reason is that we once had an estate before we came here, and were obedient, more or less, to the laws that were given us there. Those who were faithful in all things there received greater blessings here, and those who were not faithful received less.” 
(Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, vol.1, p.61)

Spencer W. Kimball

From Joseph Smith, who said, ‘I can say, the curse is not yet taken off the sons of Canaan, neither will it be until it is affected by as great a power as caused it to come’. (History of the Church, vol 2, p.438) John Taylor, the 3rd President of the church, who said that the Negro is the representative of Lucifer on the earth, and Joseph Fielding Smith, the church’s 10th President who, in 1966, said, ‘It would be a serious error for a white person to marry a Negro, for the Lord forbade it’.
(Letter to Morris L Reynolds, 9 May 1966)

Founded on this clear and emphatic teaching from 10 generations of Mormon leaders, the LDS writer John L Lund stipulated in 1967 two conditions that were to be met before Negroes could receive the priesthood:

‘The first requirement relates to time. The Negroes will not be allowed to hold the priesthood during mortality, in fact, not until after the resurrection of all of Adam’s children…The last of Adam’s children will not be resurrected until the end of the millennium. Therefore, the Negroes will not receive the Priesthood until after that time.

The second major stipulation is that…Abel marry, and then be resurrected, and ultimately exalted in the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom so that he can have a continuation of his seed. It will then be necessary for Abel to create an earth for his spirit children to come to an experience of mortality. These children will have to be ‘redeemed’ or resurrected. After the resurrection or redemption of Abel’s seed, Cain’s descendants, the Negroes, will then be allowed to possess the Priesthood.’ 
(The Church and the Negro, 1967, pp.45-49)

Whatever we think of Lund, and he has had his issues, he is merely reflecting long-established LDS doctrine.

Unlike the current generation of Mormons, we knew all this and, welcome as this change was, we wondered how church leaders were going to justify such a contradiction. How were they to square that circle? How were we?

Denial and Celebration
These days, of course, the Mormon Church is in full denial, laying the blame at the door of that ‘racist’ LDS prophet, Brigham Young. Of course, this finds faithful Mormons on the horns of a dilemma. On one hand, they cannot bring themselves to recognise the curse and ban as official doctrine, on the other it hardly seems plausible, in light of fundamental LDS claims of exceptionalism, to admit Mormon leaders, ‘taught for commandments the doctrines of men, having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.’ (cf Joseph Smith: History, 1:19)

The current generation of church members is truly ignorant of their own church’s history on all kinds of issues. Such pressure has been brought to bear the church has published a series of essays to ‘explain’ some of the more controversial episodes and teachings from Mormon history.

Much of it my generation knew and understood well enough their content. The publication of these essays has, however, opened up a whole world previously unknown to 21st century Mormons. How do they handle this new data on everything from men becoming gods, through polygamy, a mother in heaven, to the priesthood ban? What generations of LDS have done when faced with such challenges, what we did, follow the party line, repeat the received wisdom of the day. (2 Cor.4:4) Can they be blamed when their leaders have proved so disingenuous:

From the mid-1800s, the Church did not ordain men of black African descent to the priesthood or allow black men or women to participate in temple endowment or sealing ordinances. Over the years, a variety of theories were advanced to justify the restriction. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has emphasised that those theories given in an attempt to explain the restrictions are “folklore” that must never be perpetuated: “However well-intended the explanations were, I think almost all of them were inadequate and/or wrong.… We simply do not know why that practice… was in place.” (Ensign, June 2018, p.32)

Folklore? I don’t think so, Mr Holland.

June 2018 is the fortieth anniversary of those events. The June 2018 Ensign magazine calls it ‘A revelation that has blessed the world.’ It has certainly ‘blessed’ the Mormon Church, as whole people groups previously unreachable for Mormonism because of a colour bar, now became a mission field or, as the Ensign spins it, ‘With the revelation came opportunities to expand missionary work, and membership flourished among many nations, kindreds, tongues, and people.’ I think I have just coined a new phrase, ‘Spinning a heinous.’

On June 1st this year the Mormon Church marked the occasion with an anniversary celebration entitled ‘Be One’ based on the Doctrine and Covenants (D&C) verse, ‘Be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine.’ (D&C 38:27) Nobody seems to have pointed out that this verse has been there since a conference of the church in January 1831. Nor has it occurred to anyone this is no reason to celebrate, as though someone has come of age and gained the key of the door. What was once a clear, and clearly understood, Mormon doctrine, became an embarrassment blamed on the prejudices of the day, and of Brigham Young in particular, finally becoming a – cause for celebration?

Official Doctrine
One of the arguments put is that there is nothing ‘official’ about this teaching, it is not found in the canon of church scripture. It’s a familiar argument that gets the typical Mormon out of very tight spots because of the ill-thought-out statements of their ‘prophets.’ However, in Mormon scripture the position is very clearly taught in a rambling explanation of Ham’s unfortunate descendants through the king of Egypt:

‘Behold, Potiphar’s Hill was in the land of Ur, of Chaldea. And the Lord broke down the altar of Elkenah, and of the gods of the land, and utterly destroyed them, and smote the priest that he died; and there was great mourning in Chaldea, and also in the court of Pharaoh; which Pharaoh signifies king by royal blood.

Now this king of Egypt was a descendant from the loins of Ham, and was a partaker of the blood of the Canaanites by birth. From this descent sprang all the Egyptians, and thus the blood of the Canaanites was preserved in the land. The land of Egypt being first discovered by a woman, who was the daughter of Ham, and the daughter of Egyptus, which in the Chaldean signifies Egypt, which signifies that which is forbidden;

When this woman discovered the land it was under water, who afterward settled her sons in it; and thus, from Ham, sprang that race which preserved the curse in the land. Now the first government of Egypt was established by Pharaoh, the eldest son of Egyptus, the daughter of Ham, and it was after the manner of the government of Ham, which was patriarchal.

Pharaoh, being a righteous man, established his kingdom and judged his people wisely and justly all his days, seeking earnestly to imitate that order established by the fathers in the first generations, in the days of the first patriarchal reign, even in the reign of Adam, and also of Noah, his father, who blessed him with the blessings of the earth, and with the blessings of wisdom, but cursed him as pertaining to the Priesthood.

Now, Pharaoh being of that lineage by which he could not have the right of Priesthood, notwithstanding the Pharaohs would fain claim it from Noah, through Ham, therefore my father was led away by their idolatry;’ 
(Book of Abraham, vv.21-27, Pearl of Great Price (PoGP)
Mormon teaching was much more recherché back in the day)

The Mark of Cain
The ‘Mark of Cain’ is thus clearly identified as an obvious barrier for the Canaanites to full participation in the blessings God has for His children. In other Mormon scripture we read the following:

‘And the Lord said unto me: Prophesy; and I prophesied, saying: Behold the people of Canaan, which are numerous, shall go forth in battle array against the people of Shum, and shall slay them that they shall utterly be destroyed; and the people of Canaan shall divide themselves in the land, and the land shall be barren and unfruitful, and none other people shall dwell there but the people of Canaan;

For behold, the Lord shall curse the land with much heat, and the barrenness thereof shall go forth forever; and there was a blackness came upon all the children of Canaan, that they were despised among all people.

And it came to pass that Enoch continued to call upon all the people, save it were the people of Canaan, to repent;’
(Moses, 7:7-8,12, PoGP)

The curse is a denial of blessings, especially priesthood but also denial even of hearing the gospel. This chimes with a statement from the late Bruce R McConkie:

‘Negroes in this life are denied the priesthood; under no circumstances can they hold this delegation of authority from the Almighty. The gospel message of salvation is not carried affirmatively to them…. Negroes are not equal with other races where the receipt of certain spiritual blessings are concerned…’
(Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 477, 1958)

The mark is a dark skin. A third official source shows a similar picture. In the Book of Mormon, the Nephites are faithful in following God’s plan while their brothers, the Lamanites, rebel. The two groups separate and, in order to distinguish the faithful from the rebellious, the latter are marked with a dark skin.

‘And he had caused the cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity. For behold, they had hardened their hearts against him, that they had become like unto a flint; wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them.

And thus saith the Lord God: I will cause that they shall be loathsome unto thy people, save they shall repent of their iniquities. And cursed shall be the seed of him that mixeth with their seed; for they shall be cursed even with the same cursing. And the Lord spake it, and it was done. And because of their cursing which was upon them they did become an idle people, full of mischief and subtlety, and did seek in the wilderness for beasts of prey.’
(2 Nephi 5:20-24)

Further on in the same story, the descendants of those first Nephites are warned: ‘O my brethren, I fear that unless ye shall repent of your sins that their [the Lamanites] skins will be whiter than yours, when ye shall be brought with them before the throne of God. (Jacob 3:8) Indeed, much later in the book many Lamanites repent and join with the Nephites with astonishing results:

‘And it came to pass that those Lamanites who had united with the Nephites were numbered among the Nephites; And their curse was taken from them, and their skin became white like unto the Nephites; And their young men and their daughters became exceedingly fair, and they were numbered among the Nephites, and were called Nephites.’
(3 Nephi 2:14-16)

According to the Book of Abraham, the mark and the curse single out the idolatrous. According to the Book of Moses, the mark and the curse single out those who are violent and despised, to be denied the gospel. According to the Book of Mormon, they single out the rebellious, the unlovely, the iniquitous, the loathsome and the mischievous.

To repent of such views the Mormon Church would have to reject something that is fundamental to their faith, enshrined in their scripture, part of the very pattern laid out by their god from the beginning. Lifting the ban in 1978 does nothing for the status of black people in Mormon historical theology. The ban has been lifted as a matter of political expediency, the curse remains as a matter of historical record and fundamental doctrine.

In the official Institute (religious studies) manuals on the Books of Abraham and Moses, these issues are skirted around. For the Book of Moses in particular, where it speaks of Canaanites turning black, the relevant verses are ignored altogether as the manual covers Moses 7:3-4; Moses 7:13; Moses 7:19 and then on to the later verses. Thus by subtle means, this becomes one of the greatest secrets of Mormonism today.

The Bible
The keen-eyed reader will have noted that none of the ‘official’ LDS references come from the Bible. If you take the first reference, Cain’s lineage coming through Egyptus, the wife of Ham. There is no such person in the Bible, indeed the name Egypt was not coined until Alexander the Great conquered that land, previously known as Kemet, around 332 BC. Kemet means ‘Black land’ because of it’s rich dark soil. It was later called ‘Misr‘ which means ‘country.’ It was Alexander who called it “Aígyptos” (Gk) after the Greek god Aegyptus (Lat.) According to mythology Aegyptus was the son of the heifer maiden Lo and the river god Nilus, and was king of Kemet. You can read about him here.

The Bible is very clear in what it tells us about both Cain and Ham. The curse on Cain was that he should be a wanderer in the earth (Gen.4:12) The ‘mark’ was not the curse, but a protection placed on the cursed (Gen.4:115) Note, confusion ensues if we insist on seeing significance in the similarity between the name Cain, son of Adam, and the name Canaan, son of Noah. They just sound similar.

Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, who would become the founders of nations. Ham did become the founder of some groups that settled in Africa, but most of his descendants settled in the Middle East, such as Babylonia and Assyria. The list of nations can be found in Genesis 10. Ham’s sons were Cush, Mizraim, Put (sometimes Phut), and Canaan. Remember that ‘Mizr‘ means country? Well Mizraim is the Hebrew and Aramaic name for the land of Egypt, with the dual suffix –āyim, perhaps referring to the “two Egypts”: Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt (Wikipedia)

Ham humiliated and dishonoured his father by pointing out their father’s drunken nakedness to his brothers, Shem, and Japheth (Gen.9:20-22) As a consequence, Noah pronounced a curse on Canaan, one of Ham’s sons (Gen.9:25) saying Canaan and his descendants would become servants or slaves to his brothers and their descendants.

Subsequently, this is what happened as judgement later befell the Canaanites (Deut.7:1-3) It has nothing to do with their being descendants of Cain, much less with a fictional character in LDS scripture named Egyptus. This whole sorry business only works if the curse is on Ham and his descendants. But the curse was not on Ham; it was only on his son, Canaan. Canaan’s descendants settled only in the Middle East, in the land of Canaan, later Israel. He did not found any African nations.

A complete fiction has been got up on the basis of a cruel and misguided prejudice held widely by people in the nineteenth century and still, sadly, by some today. This fiction concerning the curse of the black skin has been carried through in the Book of Mormon, where the faithful Nephites are white and the unfaithful Lamanites black. It has defined much of Mormon ecclesiology up until June 1978. It is very much an official doctrine of Mormonism, found in the ‘official’ LDS Scriptures. It’s ending, while a positive and welcome step, is no cause for self-congratulation, as though God was to blame and the petitions of Mormon prophets have changed God’s mind.

Conclusion
Darius Gray, one-time president of the Genesis Group, in 2007 made a presentation, Blacks in the Bible, in which he argues a case for recognising black people in the Bible, beginning with this story of Ham and Egyptus. He argues ‘every time you see one of these names (descendants of Ham) think Black’. Darius Gray is an African-American member of the LDS Church and an apologist for ‘understanding’ this doctrine that kept him from LDS priesthood from his first joining the church in the mid-1960s until 1978. But the Bible, apart from being an essential corrective, has nothing to say about this, except that ‘God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.‘ (John 3:16) and of course:

‘Here there is not Greek or Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.’
(Colossians 3:11)

A scene from the 1969 Star Trek episode, “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” which very slyly addressed the issue of racism and it’s ugly by-products.

About The Author
Michael Thomas is married to Ann, they have four grown children, four grandchildren and a step-grandchild, and they live in Swansea, South Wales. Michael was a Mormon for fourteen years and it is there that he met Ann. They have been Christians since 1986 and have worked alongside Doug Harris in Reachout Trust for twenty years. Following Doug’s passing in 2013 he was asked to chair Reachout Trust and he has been chairman since 2014. His passion is books and lifelong learning and he loves preaching and teaching.

This article was originally published on the Reachout Trust website on June 16, 2018, the month of the 40th Anniversary of Spencer W. Kimball’s 1978 Revelation on Priesthood. It has been republished here thanks to the kind permission of the author.