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.

 

by Fred W. Anson
Citing Matthew 7:20 (“Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.”) Mormons challenge us to “inspect the fruit” of Mormonism. So I did, and this is what I found:

  1. A church that teaches the blasphemy that God was once a man. And that further teaches that good Latter-day Saints can likewise be exalted to Godhood. (see official LdS Church website “Becoming Like God”)
  2. Via the doctrine of “Continuing Revelation” is a church that engages in and teaches moral relativism based on the example and teaching of its founder who once said, “That which is wrong under one circumstance, may be, and often is, right under another… Whatever God requires is right, no matter what it is, although we may not see the reason thereof till long after the events transpire. If we seek first the kingdom of God, all good things will be added. So with Solomon: first he asked wisdom, and God gave it him, and with it every desire of his heart, even things which might be considered abominable to all who understand the order of heaven only in part, but which in reality were right because God gave and sanctioned by special revelation.” (see History of the Church, Vol. 5, p.135
  3. A church that hides sensitive topics like it’s pagan “Mother in Heaven” doctrine from investigators and recent converts. (see official LdS Church website, “Mother in Heaven”)
  4. To the last point, a church that in the LdS Church’s official Missionary Training curriculum “Preach My Gospel”, LdS Missionaries are specifically told to withhold information from investigators on key doctrines:
    “…you will not teach all you know about the doctrine [of the LdS Church] …” (p.19, 2004 edition)
    “When first teaching this doctrine [Agency and the Fall of Adam and Eve], do not teach everything you know about it.” (p.50, 2004 edition)
  5. A church that engaged in institutionalized racism until 1978, has never apologized for it and is now lying by claiming that it was never official doctrine. (see official LdS Church website, “Race and the Priesthood”
  6. A church that implicitly makes God a racist by claiming that the LdS Priesthood Ban against People of Color that ended in 1978 was of divine origin – that is God’s will – rather than due to human error. (see Jana Riess, “Commentary: Most Mormons still believe the racist priesthood/temple ban was God’s will, survey shows”, Salt Lake Tribune, June 11, 2018) 
  7. A church that lied about no longer practicing polygamy in 1890 and secretly continued to practice it until 1904. (see official LdS Church website “Plural Marriage in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”)
  8. A church that murdered 120 innocent people at Mountain Meadows on September 11, 1857 and then plundered their belongings but spared any children who were younger than 8-years old intending to raise them as Latter-day Saints. (see official LdS Church website, “Mountain Meadow Massacre“; also see “Peace and Violence Among 19th Century Latter-day Saints”
  9. A church that to this day refuses to acknowledge or apologize for the role of high ranking Mormon leaders in the aforementioned Mountain Meadows Massacre. (see Mormon Coffee website, “Mormon Church Does Not Apologize”)
  10. A church movement that has resulted in 400+ denominations over its 180+ history – a fragmentation rate that will easily surpass Non-Mormon, mainstream Christian denominationalism eventually. (see Wikipedia, “List of Denominations in the Latter Day Saint Movement”; also Steven L. Shields, “Divergent Paths of the Restoration”)
  11. A church that hypocritically points to the denominationalism of mainstream Christianity as a “proof” of its apostasy while simultaneously ignoring it’s own rapidly spreading denominationalism. (see Mormon Reformation Day, Facebook website, Thesis #72)  
  12. A church that allows and condones lying to outsiders by its leaders. (see Mormon Reformation Day, Facebook website, Thesis #71)
  13. A church that allowed their founding prophet to violate state and local law by giving him every political office in Nauvoo from Justice of the Peace to Mayor. The result was that he was able to ignore every writ of Habeus Corpus that crossed his desk – many of which were in regard to warrants for his arrest. (see John S. Dinger, “Joseph Smith and the Development of Habeus Corpus in Nauvoo 1841-1844”, Journal of Mormon History, Vol. 36, no. 3 (Summer 2010), pp. 135-171)
  14. A church that defends a founding Prophet who had at least 34-wives, about a third of them minors (the youngest being 14-years old), and another third of them already the wives of living husbands who were members of his church. (see official LdS Church website “Plural Marriage in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”)
  15. A church that defends a founding Prophet who brought about the Book of Mormon via the Occult practice of scrying (the Peep Stone in a Hat). (see official LdS Church website, “Book of Mormon Translation”; also see Wikipedia, “Scrying”)
  16. A church that defends a founding Prophet who deceptively claimed that his contrived translation of a common Egyptian “Book of Breathings” funerary papyrus was a legitimate translation of the source text. (see official LdS Church website, “Translation and Historicity of the Book of Abraham”)
  17. A church that defends a founding Prophet who ordered his fellow leaders to engage in illegal polygamy with him. And, oh, by the way, polygamy was illegal everywhere the Mormons practiced it. (see official LdS Church website, “Plural Marriage in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”; also see MormonThink website “Polygamy”)

    In a scene from Lehi’s dream from The Book of Mormon (see 1 Nephi 8:4-35), Lehi reaches for the white and desirable fruit on the Tree of Life while holding onto the Iron Rod alongside the strait and narrow path that’s enveloped in mists of great darkness.

  18. A church that defends a founding Prophet who publicly declared, “I will be to this generation a second Muhammad, whose motto in treating for peace was the Alcoran [Koran] or the Sword. So shall it eventually be with us Joseph Smith or the Sword!” (Joseph Smith, October 14, 1838,  History of the Church, Vol 3, p.176). It was inflammatory public rhetoric like that from Smith and other Mormon leaders – such as Sidney Rigdon’s “Salt Sermon” – that lead to the 1838 Mormon War of Missouri. (see official LdS Church website, “Peace and Violence Among 19th Century Latter-day Saints”; also see Wikipedia, “Salt Sermon”)
  19. A church that defends a founding Prophet who boasted that he was greater than Christ and the Apostles when he said, “I have more to boast of than ever any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam. A large majority of the whole have stood by me. Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such a work as I. The followers of Jesus ran away from Him; but the Latter-day Saints never ran away from me yet.” (see History of the Church Vol. 6, p. 408-412, or Millennial Star No. 42 Vol. 23 p. 672-674, also see Utah Lighthouse Ministry website “Joseph Smith’s Boasting and Polygamy Denial Sermon”)
  20. A church that defends a founding Prophet who publicly lied when he denied that he was practicing polygamy in a sermon on Sunday, May 26, 1844. Specifically, he said, “What a thing it is for a man to be accused of committing adultery, and having seven wives, when I can only find one.” And this while at least 16 of his polygamous wives were in attendance. (see History of the Church Vol. 6, p. 408-412, or Millennial Star No. 42 Vol. 23 p. 672-674, also see Utah Lighthouse Ministry website “Joseph Smith’s Boasting and Polygamy Denial Sermon”)
  21. A church that defends a founding Prophet who ordered a “hit” on Governor Boggs of Missouri by his private bodyguard, Porter Rockwell. Thankfully it failed. (see Wikipedia, “Attempted Assassination of Lilburn Boggs”)
  22. A church that defends a founding Prophet who, in violation of the First Amendment of the US Constitution, had a private printing press destroyed because it was telling the truth about his secret polygamy and abuse of power. (see Wikipedia, “Nauvoo Expositor”)
  23. A church that defends a founding Prophet who in violation of Federal and Illinois sedition and treason laws illegally mustered the Nauvoo Legion (a private army that was bigger and better armed than the Illinois State Militia) and declared Marital Law in Nauvoo in case the State of Illinois should attempt to arrest him for the destruction of the aforementioned printing press. (see History of the Church, Vol. 6, p. 532; Joseph Smith, “Personal Narrative of Joseph Smith (June 22, 1844) (End of Smith’s Personal Narrative)”  hosted on the University of Missouri-Kansas City, School of Law website; also see Wikipedia, “Death of Joseph Smith”)
  24. A church that defends a founding Prophet who ordered the Commander of the Nauvoo Legion to march on the Carthage Jail where he was being held a free him and his brother Hyrum from jail. This would have been an act of treason and sedition under State and Federal law which the Commander wisely ignored. (see Allen J. Stout, “Manuscript Journal, 1815-89”, p. 13; also see Thoma B.H. Stenhouse, “The Rocky Mountain Saints”, Kindle Locations 2698-2725), and; Fawn M. Brodie, “No Man Knows My History (Illustrated): The Life of Joseph Smith“, Kindle Locations 8848-8854)
  25. A church that defends a founding Prophet who defrauded his own church members out of monies – even entire estates – via the fraudulent Kirtland Safety Society. (see Wikipedia, “Kirtland Safety Society”)
  26. A church that’s so desperate for continuing revelation from their current “Living Prophet” that its members will declare minor church policy changes like lowering the Missionary age of eligibility for boys from 19 to 18-years of age and from 21 to 19-years old for girls, a “revelation”. (see President Thomas S. Monson, “Welcome to Conference” for this policy change announcement. Also so “History, Hearsay and Heresy, Conclusion: Hastening What Work?” for one Mormon’s commentary on the ongoing claim in Mormon Culture that this was a “revelation”) 
  27. A church with leaders so corrupt that they will brazenly violate their own canonized scripture. The most recent example is the November 2015 policy that barred the children of homosexual parents from receiving baptism into the LdS Church until they are 18-years old – and even then only after they have formally renounced their parent’s homosexual behavior. In other words, in direct violation of the first clause of the canonized Article of Faith 2 (“We believe that men will be punished for their own sins”), the LdS Church now punishes the child of homosexuals for their parent’s sin. (see official LdS Church website, “Articles of Faith” and LA Times, “New Mormon policy bans acceptance of children of same-sex couples”, November 06, 2015) And to make things even worse, Mormon Leadership declared this policy change a “revelation” (see prior point). (see Peggy Fletcher Stack, “Mormon gay policy is ‘will of the Lord’ through his prophet, senior apostle says”; Salt Lake Tribune, February 3, 2016)
  28. A church with leaders that are so misguided and out of touch with reality that of all the issues confronting the world today, their biggest concern and priority is what they want people to call the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its members. And yet again, the claim is made that this minor, largely irrelevant, and insignificant policy change is a “revelation”. Does anyone else see a pattern here? (see Mormon Newsroom, “The Name of the Church”
  29. A church that is so corrupt and badly in need of reform, that this “short” list is just the tip of the iceberg – as the 95 LDS Theses point out (see “The 95 LDS Theses”). And even then, that’s just the tip of the iceberg too – not only could yet more could be said in regard to the problems in the LdS Church alone, the other 60+ still active Mormon denominations have problems and issues that are just as bad, or worse than what we see in it.

Conclusion: Stated plainly, when one inspects the fruit of Mormonism, it may look good at first glance, but what one finds when it’s closely inspected is quite the opposite.

A couple look over the Tree of Life at Draper City Park in Draper on Friday, Dec. 30, 2016. A lone willow tree lights the air with over 1,000 strands of lights in a non-fruit bearing re-creation of Lehi’s Dream from the Book of Mormon.

salt-lake-city-temple-terrestrial-room_EDITED

The veil in the Terrestrial Room of the Salt Lake City Temple.

necromancy
(nɛkrəmænsi)
Necromancy is magic that some people believe brings a dead person back to this world so that you can talk to them.
— Collins English English Dictionary

by Fred W. Anson
For those who are unfamiliar with the Mormonese term, “both sides of the veil”, it is a reference to the living and the dead on their respective sides of the veil of mortality. As Mormon Apostle, Neil L. Andersen explains:

One of the most magnificent doctrines of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ is that every man, woman, and child who has ever lived on the earth—every person who has breathed the air of this world—will have the opportunity to clearly understand and to accept or reject the life, teachings, and ordinances of the Savior. How amazing! No one will be set aside or coerced; no one will be forgotten!

To bring the ordinances of the gospel to every living soul is not an assignment for the faint of heart. This work is advancing on both sides of the veil and will continue through the 1,000 years of the Millennium. The Lord has invited each of us to be a part of it, and He has given us the tools and the ability to assist Him in “hastening His work of salvation.”
(Neil L. Andersen, “Sharing the Temple Challenge: Full Talk”, Family Discovery Day at RootsTech, February 2015) 

Out of this doctrine, a system of Mormon Necromancy has sprung up that promotes the belief that communication with the dead (especially in LdS Temples where the veil is said to “be thin”) is not only a normal, positive thing but something to be desired and hoped for. Mormons describe these encounters as “sacred” even though the Bible explicitly denounces such communication with the dead as an abomination:

There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord
(Deuteronomy 18:10-12, ESV, bolding added for emphasis. Also, see Leviticus 19:31; Leviticus 20:6; Leviticus 20:27, and;  Isaiah 8:19)

To overcome this problem many Mormons claim that they’re not really engaging in necromancy since it’s the dead who are approaching the living to communicate with them rather than vice versa. It is claimed that these encounters are akin to the type of angelic visitation that we see in the Bible. As “The Encyclopedia of Mormon” essay on Angels explains, “Another kind of angel may be an individual who completed his mortal existence but whose labors continue in the spirit world while he awaits the resurrection of the body.” However, Evangelical Theologians, Ken Boa and Rob Bowman have explained the disparity between what the LdS Church teachings and what the Bible actually says like this:

Mormonism teaches that all human beings existed as male and female spirit children of God in heaven before coming to the earth. This key element of their doctrinal system, as unobjectionable as it may seem to many in our culture, is at odds with the biblical view of humanity.

Perhaps even more common today is the notion that human beings become angels after they die. In popular angel mythology, human beings die and then come back to the earth as angels, either to help those they left behind or others in similar difficulties. According to the Bible, angels are a class of beings who existed before any humans had ever died. We know this because some of those angelic beings rebelled against God, and their leader, the Devil, tempted Eve (Gen. 3).

Moreover, the Bible makes it clear that departed human spirits, unlike angels, are generally not permitted to visit or communicate with human beings. In Jesus’ parable of Lazarus and the rich man, for example, the rich man’s request for someone to visit his brothers and warn them of the judgment to come was turned down (Luke 16:19 – 31). The Old Testament forbids communication with the dead (Lev. 19:31; Deut. 18:11; Isa. 8:19).”
(Kenneth D. Boa and Rob M. Bowman, “Sense and Nonsense about Angels and Demons” (Kindle Locations 611-622). Zondervan. Kindle Edition)

Furthermore, in response to the Mormon claim that no pursuit or conjuring of the dead occurs in Mormonism, I would ask the reader to consider the fact that while no overt or direct conjuring occurs, the fact remains that all of the elements are still there:

1) A sacred space is set up where it’s understood that the living can and will have encounters with the dead: Mormon Temples.

2) A sacred ritual is practiced that facilitates such encounters as a byproduct, or if you prefer, “side effect”: Proxy Baptism in Mormon Temples.

3) Practitioners are told by their leaders to expect such encounters as a result of said practice: “The veil is thin between those who hold the priesthood and divine messengers on the other side of the veil.” (David O. McKay, Conference Report, April 1948, p.172; also click here for more variations on this theme from Mormon leaders) 

4) Practitioners report such encounters.
(In addition to the examples from President Nelson below, you see find more here

How does that not, in fact, meet the criteria for pursuing communication with the dead – that is, necromantic “conjuring”?

Given all that, let it never be said that we don’t live in interesting times since no Mormon Leader in recent history has done more to teach, promote, and publicly practice Mormon Necromancy than current LdS President Russell M. Nelson. What follows are examples of Mr. Nelson publicly speaking about this unusual and unique form of necromancy as if it’s the most natural and normal thing in the world. All sources are Latter-day Saint publications – up to and including official, correlated sources.

The Mormon Necromancy of President Russell M. Nelson
“We invite all of God’s children on both sides of the veil to come unto their Savior, to receive the blessings of the holy temple and qualify for eternal life, so that they can have enduring joy now and forever,”
(President Russell M. Nelson, “50,000 Come to MLB Stadium to Hear President Nelson Share Vital Message to Those “on Both Sides of the Veil”’, LDS Living, September 16, 2018)

“Our message to the world is simple and sincere: we invite all of God’s children on both sides of the veil to come unto their Savior, receive the blessings of the holy temple, have enduring joy, and qualify for eternal life.”
(President Russell M. Nelson, “Let Us All Press On”, April 2018 General Conference) 

“This “precious gift” President Nelson shared was one his grandfather Andrew Clarence Nelson, or A.C. Nelson, shared with his family through his journal.

Through this entry, President Nelson and his family were able to learn of a visitor from the spirit world his grandfather received 27 years before President Joseph F. Smith’s 1918 vision of the redemption of the dead and gain important answers to what life after death is really like:

“When my Grandfather A. C. Nelson was a young husband and father, just 27 years old, his father died. Then, about three months later, his father, now deceased, came to visit him. The date of that visit was the night of April 6, 1891. Grandfather Nelson was so impressed by his father’s visit that he wrote the experience in his own journal for his family and his friends. And thanks to your encouragement, I took his journal entry and created this document and made copies of this document for every member of the family.

Listen to my grandfather’s words about that sacred experience:

“I was in bed when Father entered the room. He came and sat on the side of the bed. He said, ‘Well, my son, as I had a few spare minutes I received permission to come and see you for a few minutes. I am feeling well, my son, and have had very much to do since I died.'”

“What have you been doing since you died, Father?”

“I’ve been traveling together with Apostle Erastus Snow ever since I died. That is, since three days after I died. I received my commission to preach the gospel. You cannot imagine, my son, how many spirits there are in the spirit world that have not yet received the gospel. But many are receiving it, and a great work is being accomplished. Many are anxiously looking forth to their friends who are still living to administer for them in the temples. I’ve been very busy preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

“‘Father, can you see us at all times, and do you know what we’re doing?”

“Oh, no, my son. I have something else to do. I cannot go when and where I please. There is just as much and much more order here in the spirit world than in the other world. I have been assigned work to do, and it must be performed.”

“We intend to go to the temple and get sealed to you, Father, as soon as we can.”

“That, my son, is partly what I came to see you about. We will yet make a family and live throughout eternity.”

“‘Father, is it natural to die?”

“‘It is just as natural to die as it is to be born, or for you to pass out of that door.’ And here he pointed at the door. ‘When I told the folks that I could not last long, it turned dark and I could not see anything for a few minutes. Then the first thing I could see was a number of spirits in the spirit world. The paper you gave me, my son, is dated wrong. But it makes no particular difference. Correct records are kept here.”

“‘Father, is the gospel as taught by this Church true?’

“‘My son, do you see that picture?’ Pointing to a picture of the First Presidency of the Church hanging on the wall.“

“Yes, I see it.”

“‘Just as sure as you see that picture, just as sure is the gospel true. The gospel of Jesus Christ has within it the power of saving every man and woman that will obey it, and in no other way can they ever obtain salvation in the kingdom of God. My son, always cling to the gospel. Be humble, be prayerful, be submissive to the priesthood, be true, be faithful to the covenants you have made with God. Never do anything that would displease God. Oh, what a blessing is the gospel. My son, be a good boy.’”
(Katie Lambert, “The Questions President Nelson’s Grandfather Asked a Visitor from the Spirit World + the Surprising Answers”, LDS Living website, Jun. 19, 2017; see video below for the actual address)

(What follows is set up for the necromancy story that follows it in the next citation)
“Throughout my life, I have been blessed by such women. My departed wife, Dantzel, was such a woman. I will always be grateful for the life-changing influence she had on me in all aspects of my life, including my pioneering efforts in open-heart surgery.

Fifty-eight years ago I was asked to operate upon a little girl, gravely ill from congenital heart disease. Her older brother had previously died of a similar condition. Her parents pleaded for help. I was not optimistic about the outcome but vowed to do all in my power to save her life. Despite my best efforts, the child died. Later, the same parents brought another daughter to me, then just 16 months old, also born with a malformed heart. Again, at their request, I performed an operation. This child also died. This third heartbreaking loss in one family literally undid me.
I went home grief stricken. I threw myself upon our living room floor and cried all night long. Dantzel stayed by my side, listening as I repeatedly declared that I would never perform another heart operation. Then, around 5:00 in the morning, Dantzel looked at me and lovingly asked, ‘Are you finished crying? Then get dressed. Go back to the lab. Go to work! You need to learn more. If you quit now, others will have to painfully learn what you already know.’” (Apostolic Quorum President Russell M. Nelson, “A Plea to My Sisters”, General Conference, October 2015; also see “President Nelson Shares the Miraculous Night When Two Girls Visited Him from Beyond the Veil”, LDS Living)

“Six months ago in the October 2015 general conference, I spoke to the sisters of the Church about their divine role as women of God. Now I wish to speak to you brethren about your divine role as men of God. As I travel the world, I marvel at the strength and sheer goodness of the men and boys of this Church. There is simply no way to number the hearts you’ve healed and the lives you’ve lifted. Thank you!

In my last conference message, I related my devastating experience many years ago when, as a heart surgeon, I was not able to save the lives of two little sisters. With permission of their father, I would like to say more about that family.

Congenital heart disease afflicted three children born to Ruth and Jimmy Hatfield. Their first son, Jimmy Jr., died without a definitive diagnosis. I entered the picture when the parents sought help for their two daughters, Laural Ann and her younger sister, Gay Lynn. I was heartbroken when both girls died following their operations.1 Understandably, Ruth and Jimmy were spiritually shattered.

Over time, I learned that they harbored lingering resentment toward me and the Church. For almost six decades, I have been haunted by this situation and have grieved for the Hatfields. I tried several times to establish contact with them, without success.

Then one night last May, I was awakened by those two little girls from the other side of the veil. Though I did not see or hear them with my physical senses, I felt their presence. Spiritually, I heard their pleadings. Their message was brief and clear: “Brother Nelson, we are not sealed to anyone! Can you help us?” Soon thereafter, I learned that their mother had passed away, but their father and younger brother were still alive.

Emboldened by the pleadings of Laural Ann and Gay Lynn, I tried again to contact their father, who I learned was living with his son Shawn. This time they were willing to meet with me.

In June, I literally knelt in front of Jimmy, now 88 years old, and had a heart-to-heart talk with him. I spoke of his daughters’ pleadings and told him I would be honored to perform sealing ordinances for his family. I also explained that it would take time and much effort on his and Shawn’s part to be ready and worthy to enter the temple, as neither of them had ever been endowed.

The Spirit of the Lord was palpable throughout that meeting. And when Jimmy and Shawn each accepted my offer, I was overjoyed! They worked diligently with their stake president, bishop, home teachers, and ward mission leader, as well as with young missionaries and a senior missionary couple. And then, not long ago, in the Payson Utah Temple, I had the profound privilege of sealing Ruth to Jimmy and their four children to them. Wendy and I wept as we participated in that sublime experience. Many hearts were healed that day!”
(Apostolic Quorum President Russell M. Nelson, “The Price of Priesthood Power”, April 2016 General Conference; also see “The Dream President Nelson Had That United a Family on Both Sides of the Veil”, LDS Living, Aug. 20, 2018; “President Nelson Shares the Miraculous Night When Two Girls Visited Him from Beyond the Veil”, LDS Living, and; Russell M. Nelson Facebook Page, May 4, 2016)

“In 1844, Joseph Smith asked, “What is this office and work of Elijah?” The Prophet promptly answered his own question: “It is one of the greatest and most important subjects that God has revealed. …
‘This is the spirit of Elijah, that we redeem our dead, and connect ourselves with our fathers which are in heaven. … This is the power of Elijah and the keys of the kingdom of Jehovah.’

Some among us still have neither perceived the Spirit of Elijah nor its power. Yet, we are bound by this warning:
‘These are principles in relation to the dead and the living that cannot be lightly passed over. … For their salvation is necessary and essential to our salvation … they without us cannot be made perfect—neither can we without our dead be made perfect.’

Joseph Smith’s responsibility was to “lay the foundation” for this great work. Important details were to be revealed later. At April conference 1894, President Wilford Woodruff announced this revelation: “We want the Latter-day Saints from this time to trace their genealogies as far as they can, and to be sealed to their fathers and mothers. Have children sealed to their parents, and run this chain through as far as you can get it. … This is the will of the Lord to his people.”. . .

No mortal mind could have conceived this divine work. It is evidence of the restoration of the gospel in its fulness and is sparked by the Spirit of Elijah. “Let us, therefore, as a church and a people … offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness; and let us present in his holy temple … a book containing the records of our dead … worthy of all acceptation.”41 Then we shall bless and be blessed as saviors upon mount Zion, I testify in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.”
(Apostle Russell M. Nelson, “The Spirit of Elijah”, Fall General Conference 1994; tight ellipses in original, loose ellipses mine)

Russell M Nelson Both Sides of the Veil

Both sides of the veil: LdS President Russell M. Nelson and a playful “Dia de los Muertos” take on a figure in popular culture that he is often compared to due to their similar appearance, Mr. Burns of The Simpsons fame.

Also recommended: Fred W. Anson, “Let The Dead Bury The Dead: A Biblical Response to Mormon Communion With the Dead Teachings”

The blind man, now healed, hugging Christ in a gesture of gratitude.

by Michael Flournoy
On August 14, 2017, an article entitled, “A Message to the Most Ardent Critic of the Mormon Church” was posted by Ben Arkell on his blog “Mormon Light”. This faith-promoting “masterpiece” is about a two-minute read, and it focuses on the experience of dropping sons and daughters off at the Missionary Training Center.

He gives a second-hand experience from a Mormon who shared his testimony from the pulpit. This unnamed brother was dropping off his son and daughter to serve as missionaries for about two years.  While at the MTC, he saw other families doing the same thing.

He said, “I was completely overcome with emotion as the reality of what these families were doing set in. These families, which come from all walks of life and arrive in anything from a beat up mini-van to a $60,000 SUV, send their children off to unknown countries where they trudge through mud, eat bugs, and endure poor living conditions.”

Feeling the weight of the sacrifice being made, this Mormon wished Ex-Mormon critics were by his side so they could see what he was seeing. In this hypothetical scenario, he would tell them, “You mean to tell me these people are brainwashed? These individuals and families who in all other walks of life, in their education, in their careers, and in their communities are successful, smart, and industrious – you mean to tell me in this one area they are so ignorant and brainwashed that they could send away their sons and daughters?”

He replies, “Never. They would never do it. But the reason they do allow their children to sacrifice two years of their lives is because the gospel of Jesus Christ is true.”

Before I left the faith in 2016, I felt the same way about apostates as every other Latter-day Saint: they were deceived by Satan, they were trapped in sin, or they had just plain been offended. When they left, the devil warped them into hateful maniacs who could never leave the church alone again.

It was all fun and games until suddenly I was an apostate. I didn’t leave because I was offended or trapped in sin. I simply found something better, namely the doctrine of imputed righteousness. Nevertheless, I have been accused of intellectualizing my way out of the church. One woman had the audacity to tell me I’d left for the enticing of an easier path.

I wish sometimes that ardent followers of Mormonism could stand by my side and see what I see in the Ex-Mormon community. There are people from all walks of life, driving anything from a mini-van to an SUV, who have left the church. Their stories are far more diverse than you would think. I see people leaving all the time, and the weight of their sacrifice hangs heavy on my heart.

It takes a lot to leave a religious system that means everything to you. I know people who have lost everything meaningful in their lives because they left the faith, and yet they are accused of taking the easy way out.

In all fairness, I understand what the author is getting at. I was a Mormon missionary myself. I’ve had all the same experiences and the same testimony. It’s not like I woke up one morning and mists of darkness covered those feelings up. I walked away with them intact, and it was excruciating. So why did I do it? Like so many others, I was compelled to follow my conscience and take up the true gospel of Jesus Christ.

I want to ask ardent followers of the LDS church, “You mean to tell me these people are brainwashed? These individuals and families who in all other walks of life, in their education, in their careers, and in their communities are successful, smart, and industrious – you mean to tell me in this one area they are so deceived and brainwashed that they could leave the most important thing in their lives behind?”

Never, they could never do it. The reason they do is that they discover the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not true.

A Response to Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s “Behold the Man” 2018 Easter Sunday Address

Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf speaking on Easter Sunday at the April 2018 General Conference.
(click image to watch the full address)

by Fred W. Anson & Michael Flournoy
For me, Fred, every General Conference there’s always one speaker that I always look forward to hearing from, Dieter F. Uchtdorf. To say that he’s my favorite Mormon Leader is an understatement. In fact, I once offended an entire Internet group by suggesting that all the other Mormon leaders with seniority in front of him should choose the right by stepping aside and letting him assume his clearly rightful place as the President of the LDS Church. The non-Mormons were offended that I would implicitly endorse the LDS system of church governance and the Mormons were offended that I would suggest that their system is anything less than ideal. Toes stepped on all around. Well done, Fred!

My enthusiasm is due to what I see as his clear focus on Jesus Christ and His redeeming grace above all else. In my opinion, if there is any voice in General Conference that can be counted on to exalt Jesus it is Dieter F. Uchtdorf. So you can imagine my excitement when there was a buzz on Facebook that in his Spring 2018 General Conference – on Easter Sunday, no less – address Elder Uchtdorf, had preached the clear, pure, gospel of the Bible. And we can see why they would come to that conclusion when words like this are spoken:

To find the most important day in history, we must go back to that evening almost 2,000 years ago in the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus Christ knelt in intense prayer and offered Himself as a ransom for our sins. It was during this great and infinite sacrifice of unparalleled suffering in both body and spirit that Jesus Christ, even God, bled at every pore. Out of perfect love, He gave all that we might receive all. His supernal sacrifice, difficult to comprehend, to be felt only with all our heart and mind, reminds us of the universal debt of gratitude we owe Christ for His divine gift…

Jesus Christ paid the price for our sins.

All of them.

On that most important day in history, Jesus the Christ opened the gates of death and cast aside the barriers that prevented us from passing into the holy and hallowed halls of everlasting life. Because of our Lord and Savior, you and I are granted a most precious and priceless gift—regardless of our past, we can repent and follow the path that leads to celestial light and glory, surrounded by the faithful children of Heavenly Father.

Because of Jesus Christ, we will rise from the despair of death and embrace those we love, shedding tears of overwhelming joy and overflowing gratitude. Because of Jesus Christ, we will exist as eternal beings, worlds without end.

Because of Jesus the Christ, our sins can not only be erased; they can be forgotten.

We can become purified and exalted.

Holy.
(Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Behold the Man!” Spring 2018 General Conference)

But friends, there are some real problems here! For a start, not only does the Bible affirm that the atonement took place on the cross, not the Garden of Gethsemane, so does the Book of Mormon:

“And I, Nephi, saw that he was lifted up upon the cross and slain for the sins of the world”
— 1 Nephi 11:33

“Arise and come forth unto me, that ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth, and have been slain for the sins of the world”
— 3 Nephi 11:14

And there’s a good reason for this, though the difference between Gethsemane and Golgotha might appear to be a trivial technicality, it underscores the vast differences between orthodox Biblical Christianity and Mormonism. By situating it at Golgotha, mainstream Christianity locates the atonement in the sacrifice of Christ; by situating it in Gethsemane, Mormons locate the atonement in the obedience of the believer.

It’s the difference between grace and works. On the one hand, there is the truly finished work that the believer looks to in faith; and on the other, there is the completed demonstration that the believer aspires to recreate (albeit metaphorically). In the latter, Christ might show the way, but he stops short of becoming the way, thus the believer is thrust back on his own efforts to secure the goal. As Adam Gopnik in the New Yorker noted, Mormonism is more about attainment than atonement, (Adam Gopnik, “I, Nephi: Mormonism and its Meanings”; The New Yorker, August 13, 2012). But such a focus denies the Christ-centered redemption narrative that’s at the very core of the gospel message and so rightly cherished by Christians the world over.

Further, and in the end, Elder Uchtdorf shifts the focus of his address off of the exaltation and glory of Jesus Christ and places it squarely on what Christ can do for us:

So, when you ponder the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, what do you see?

Those who find a way to truly behold the Man find the doorway to life’s greatest joys and the balm to life’s most demanding despairs.

So, when you are encompassed by sorrows and grief, behold the Man.

When you feel lost or forgotten, behold the Man.

When you are despairing, deserted, doubting, damaged, or defeated, behold the Man.

He will comfort you.

He will heal you and give meaning to your journey. He will pour out His Spirit and fill your heart with exceeding joy.

He gives “power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.”

When we truly behold the Man, we learn of Him and seek to align our lives with Him. We repent and strive to refine our natures and daily grow a little closer to Him. We trust Him. We show our love for Him by keeping His commandments and by living up to our sacred covenants.

In other words, we become His disciples…

My beloved brothers and sisters, I testify that the most important day in the history of mankind was the day when Jesus Christ, the living Son of God, won the victory over death and sin for all of God’s children. And the most important day in your life and mine is the day when we learn to “behold the man”; when we see Him for who He truly is; when we partake with all our heart and mind of His atoning power; when with renewed enthusiasm and strength, we commit to follow Him. May that be a day that recurs over and over again throughout our lives.

I leave you my testimony and blessing that as we “behold the man,” we will find meaning, joy, and peace in this earthly life and eternal life in the world to come. In the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.
(Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Behold the Man!” Spring 2018 General Conference)

So, in the end, the message preached here is that when we “behold the man”, Jesus Christ becomes something of a magic talisman or cosmic “turbo button” that we can push to get past our problems and press on to both temporal and eternal achievement and accomplishment. In such a scenario God gets pushed right off of the throne of our lives so we can sit down.

This is not the gospel of Jesus Christ, this is the gospel of I, me, mine. It is a false gospel.

Further, despite Elder Uchtdorf’s use of the scripture elsewhere in his address, this is not, “we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins” (2 Nephi 25:26), this is the gospel of “It’s all about what Christ can do for me!” And, speaking as those with Mormon family and friends, it is this false gospel that breaks our heart.

For you see, the gospel isn’t about us, it’s about Jesus. Perhaps another German said it best when he so plainly and directly stated, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” And his words are even more powerful and plainer when considered in their full context:

The cross is laid on every Christian. The first Christ-suffering which every man must experience is the call to abandon the attachments of this world. It is that dying of the old man which is the result of his encounter with Christ. As we embark upon discipleship we surrender ourselves to Christ in union with his death—we give over our lives to death. Thus it begins; the cross is not the terrible end to an otherwise god-fearing and happy life, but it meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ. When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.
(Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “The Cost of Discipleship”, p.71, Nook edition)

A gospel than culminates in the garden rips the very heart of the gospel of Jesus Christ out of it. Mr. Bonhoeffer, might not be the Bible but he most certainly understood this. Consider the words of the Apostle Paul:

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.”
— Galatians 2:20&21 KJV

Or, better yet, consider the words of Jesus Himself:

“If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.”
— Luke 9:23&24 KJV

Garden theology and cross theology are completely at odds. The disciples were with Jesus in the garden. They were admonished to watch and pray. An angel came and strengthened Jesus. If the atonement happened in the garden, then Jesus was incapable of ransoming mankind alone. He needed help. This gospel makes grace an enabling power instead of a saving power, and salvation becomes a joint effort.

Cross theology has Jesus suffering alone. He even calls out saying, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” No one is present to strengthen the Savior or lighten his load. The burden is His, and His alone to carry. This gospel crowns him King of the Jews, the author, and finisher of our faith, and the sole rescuer of men.

Garden theology is a gospel of never-ending striving. In Mormonism, Jesus bled from every pore as He took the sins of mankind, but even after that he said to Peter, “Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?” (John 18:11)  Speaking in the future tense, he admitted he yet had a cup to drink. He describes this bitter cup in 3 Nephi 11:11 as “taking upon me the sins of the world.” Mormonism, therefore, is a theology of never truly having salvation. Just as Jesus still had to drink the bitter cup, Mormons still have to keep the commandments and endure to the end. There is no light at the end of the tunnel, and salvation is always something you aim for but can never possess.

Cross theology has Jesus definitively saying, “It is finished!” (John 19:30) It is a gospel of peace and rest, a gospel of trust, knowing that God has our salvation firmly in His grip. Salvation is a gift, it’s something believers can possess and be assured of in mortality.

Perhaps most dangerous of all, garden theology makes Jesus into a mere man. In the garden, he says to God, “Not my will, but thine be done.” (Luke 22:42) This is a theology where men are on a journey to become Gods themselves, and Jesus is on the same path trying to align Himself with the Father. In this vein, in the aforementioned 3 Nephi 11:11 passage Christ even goes so far as to say, “I have suffered the will of the Father in all things from the beginning” which implies that the atonement was a contest of his will v. Heavenly Father’s. Cross theology, in contrast, has Jesus in full submission to the Father. The wills are aligned. Jesus even says, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!” (Luke 23:34). In this theology, Jesus is already one with the Father. He is already fully God.

I, Michael, always thought it was amazing how Pontious Pilate could stare Jesus, the author of all truth, in the face and say, “What is truth?” It was this utter blindness that led him to say, “Behold the man!” What irony, that Pilate said these words, and nearly 2,000 years later they were repeated multiple times by a Mormon “pilot”. The true gospel of the cross does not inspire us to behold the man, it inspires us to behold the Son of God!

Garden theology teaches that God’s work is to exalt mankind. Everything is filtered through this lens. Every trial we go through is about our growth and learning. In cross theology, everything is for the glory of God alone. We are bidden to take up our cross, for only in losing our life can it be found – a paradox that requires a total and complete trust in God alone, even when the trial makes no sense to us or others. Thus, the gospel isn’t about personal achievement, it isn’t about self-actualization, it isn’t even about achieving personal perfection, it’s about dying to self, and being resurrected to live in Christ (see Romans 6:1-11). If the atonement culminates by simply achieving a life of self-glorifying obedience to religious laws and ordinances, then what need is there for the cross at all?

Friend, the gospel isn’t about using Christ as an enabling power, or a benevolent older brother to guide your way. The gospel isn’t about Jesus punching your E-ticket so you can be resurrected and spend eternity with your family and friends. The gospel isn’t about living a happy, self-actualized, prosperous life in the here and now. The gospel is about dying. The gospel can’t be found in the garden. Nor is it found in choosing the right. The gospel is found on Golgotha. On a cross. In a tomb. In death. The gospel is about dying to self and being raised to live with Christ in His righteousness. The gospel is Jesus Christ. He is the beginning and He is the end. As C.S. Lewis, said well,

Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favourite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end: submit with every fibre of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.
(C.S. Lewis, “Mere Christianity (C.S. Lewis Signature Classics)“, pp. 226-227, Kindle edition)

Friend, He calls to you, to me, to us, and to anyone who will listen, “Come and die.”


dvd-god_makersReviewed by Fred W. Anson

Title: The Godmakers
Authors: Ed Decker and Dave Hunt
Studio for film: Jeremiah Films
Publisher for book: Harvest House Publishers
Genre: Non-fiction, Religion
Year film released: 1982
Year book Published: 1983
Film Length: 56:00
Book length: 304-pages
Film Price: $21.99 DVD
Book Price: $14.99 Kindle, $14.99 Paper

The review that follows was originally published on the Amazon website on April 23, 2008. At the time I thought that the public had become sufficiently informed about the dubious tactics of Ed Decker to not use him as a resource. This is the man who respected Mormon Studies scholar, Jerald Tanner publicly criticized for his “ability to make up stories,” “his ability to fabricate evidence to support his own opinions,” and choosing to follow “the path of sensationalism in his work on Mormonism.”1

But in the intervening years, I have still seen some citing his work as if it’s respected and credible. It’s neither. If I were to rewrite this review today, I would be far more direct and to the pointed than I was then. Stated plainly, if you want to instantly discredit yourself with anyone in Mormon Studies in general, or with Latter-day Saints in particular, simply cite or use content from the Godmakers film or book. That said, here is that now, decade old and aging review for your consideration. — Fred W. Anson

Consider the Time
To fully appreciate this work you have to first put it in its 1982 historical context. The early-1980’s have come to be considered a transition period by many Church Historians. The Jesus Movement of the 1970’s was maturing as was the Charismatic Movement of the same decade. Both Movements were mellowing and casting off some of the excesses of their infancies. At the same time, the Vineyard movement had exploded on the scene bringing some new infant excesses to both challenges and refine the Church Universal. At the same time, traditional mainline denomination membership was beginning to see the first signs of decline as an interest in the more intimate, demonstrative worship of the Charismatic/Vineyard Churches and a unifying “Evangelical” Theology was diminishing denominational uniqueness.

However, some of the infantile excesses of all the above lingered. Specifically, the sensationalism of the “Bible Thumping” past was still in vogue. The memory of such best selling books as “The Late Great Planet Earth” (1970) and “The Kingdom of the Cults” (1965) dominated Christian Publishing. The popular Apocalyptic “End Times” preaching of Chuck Smith, Hal Lindsey and others were pulling in huge crowds and influenced many. On the air, TBN, PTL, “The 700 Club” and a whole host of radio personalities boasted audiences of literally millions (remember the Baaker and Swaggert scandals had not hit yet).

Finally, the boomers were hitting their late 20’s and early 30’s – looking back an awkward age where you know just enough to be dangerous and not nearly enough to be truly wise. As a result, I recall that the spirit of the age was still very much “in your face”, idealistic and rather judgmental.

On the popular culture side, shows like “That’s Incredible!” were all the rage.

In a nutshell, sensationalism was “in”, “good scholarship” and “reason” was viewed skeptically. In fact, the scholarship of the day could generally best be described as “good enough, is good enough!” And please remember this was in an age where Personal Computers were only available to a small segment of the population of and the Internet was only known in government and academic settings. “Nuanced” was a word that you looked up in the dictionary rather than lived – everything was either “black or white” or “us versus them”. Not a dark age, just another human age and one that contains many lessons for us today.

Ed Decker and Dave Hunter (who co-authored the Godmakers script and then the book with Ed Decker) were unquestionably influenced by all this (just read Hunt’s books from this period compared to his more recent work) and, therefore, produced two works on Mormonism that are sensational, abrasive, and lacking in a high degree of scholarship. Yes, they overstate things A LOT. Yes, they miss nuance again, again, and again. Yes, they exaggerate. Yes, their writing and film documentary style of the film can best be described as “National Enquirer”. Yes, they are often unkind, insensitive – even downright mean.

Yes! Yes! Yes! All true.

However, for the time it could have been A LOT worse! (Trust me on this one – I was there)

Is this the place I would go to get educated about Mormonism? Not now, but it was back then and I benefited greatly from the quick overview despite its horribly flawed style. And the meta-message that they brought is objectively and empirically true despite those horrible flaws – Mormonism is better off avoided if you’re not in it and exited if you are. Unfortunately, the style that that message was delivered in is rather ugly and unappealing.2

So this is another sad case where bad judgment overshadows good intention and reasonable content. Both Mormon and non-Mormon alike deserved better. As Mormon Studies Scholar, Carl Mosser summed things up so well years later:

Decker’s name alone is enough to discredit a book. Decker is infamous for the mistakes he makes describing Mormon doctrine, the sensationalist claims he has made about Mormon rituals and leaders, and the generally uncharitable attitude with which he conducts his ministry. Most Mormons are inoculated against anything with Decker’s name on it. I think it is foolish to give Decker’s materials to Mormons and unwise to give them to Christians to read. The Mormon will be repulsed and hardened, the Christian misinformed.3

Personally, I prefer the following “starter” books on Mormonism and would steer the reader to them and away from the Godmakers film or book, or anything with Ed Decker’s name on it:

Mormon America – Rev. Ed.: The Power and the Promise
Mormonism 101: Examining the Religion of the Latter-day Saints
Mormonism 101 for Teens: The Religion of the Latter-day Saints Simplified
The Changing World of Mormonism (FREE online edition)
The Changing World of Mormonism (FREE Adobe Acrobat eBook edition)
The Changing World of Mormonism (Paper edition)

And if you’re looking for something in a film-format instead:

The Mormons: Who They Are And What They Believe
The Bible vs. The Book of Mormon
The Mormons (PBS documentary)
The Bible v. Joseph Smith
DNA v. The Book of Mormon
The Lost Book of Abraham: Investigating a Remarkable Mormon Claim

And last, but certainly, not least, if you’re interested in exactly how and where Ed Decker misrepresents Mormonism in the Godmakers film, Evangelical Apologist Rob Sivulka’s concise review contains point-by-point specifics. Click here to read his analysis,

(click to zoom)

NOTES
1 Jerald Tanner, “Serious Charges against the Tanners: Are the Tanners Demonized Agents of the Mormon Church?” (Salt Lake City: Utah Lighthouse Ministry, 1991), pp.32, 29.

2 As Utah Pastor Jason Wallace recently said so well of Decker’s methods:

One of my great frustrations with Ed Decker was that he tried to make Mormonism worse than it was. Just because it is an antichristian cult doesn’t mean we get to accuse its prophet of homosexual orgies (The Godmakers 2). “Pay lay el” did not mean “we praise thee, Satan.” I seriously doubt that Mormon spires were meant to impale Jesus on his return. When Decker’s exaggerations were challenged by Christians, he condemned them as defenders of Mormonism. I applaud the Tanners that they did defend the Mormon church against lies, even while standing clearly against its lies. Decker’s exaggerations actually made it easier for Mormons to ignore the truth. The Tanners caught flack, but their love of truth meant they had to stand against Decker’s slanders.
(Pastor Jason Wallace on Facebook, January 8, 2018

3 Carl Mosser, cited on “Saint Alive in Jesus”, Apologetics Index website from a comment in the AR-talk mailing list, February 28, 1998. 

(This article has been lightly revised, expanded, and updated for republication in this format)

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