Archive for September, 2018


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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“#37 Even though it’s like punching Mormons in the face, you take great delight in over the top polemic and pejorative rhetoric that alienates and repels Mormons rather than drawing them to the Good News of the Gospel.”

by Michael Flournoy and Fred W. Anson
It’s the most frustrating thing imaginable, you’re challenging Mormon thought and preaching the truth, and you’re labeled an “Anti-Mormon”. In just four syllables you are discredited as a bigot and a deceiver who can’t leave the church alone. It’s annoying to be called Anti-Mormon when you actually like the LDS people, and you weren’t engaging in ad hominem attacks or being snarky.

On the flip side, Anti-Mormonism is a real thing, and it isn’t pretty. In fact, we believe Anti-Mormonism bolsters the testimony of Latter-day Saints. Why you ask? Mormons believe they are persecuted because they have the truth, and anytime they are treated unfairly in a discussion they think, “This proves I’m right.” It is the responsibility of Christians engaged in Mormon studies to know where the line is and avoid Anti-Mormonism like the plague. The following list contains some behaviors that we’ve seen Anti-Mormons engage in over the years. It can be used as a self-diagnostic as well as a set of things to avoid if you don’t want to be written off, dismissed, and ignored as “just another Anti!” by your Mormon friends and family.

You Might be an Anti-Mormon if…

  1. You can’t say anything good about the LDS Church even though it has some praiseworthy qualities and attributes.
  2. You weaponize freshly minted Ex-Mormons and encourage them to attack the Mormon Church rather than letting them heal and fully transition out of it first.
  3. You’re a snarky Anti-Mormon meme-generating machine.
  4. You’ll stay in Internet groups where Mormon Bashing is allowed – even encouraged – rather than voting with your feet by leaving.
  5. You divorce your True Believing Mormon (TBM) husband or wife despite the Apostle Paul’s clear directive to not divorce an unbelieving spouse (see 1 Corinthians 7:12-16).
  6. You get angry whenever your TBM family and friends try to proselytize you, then whine because they get angry when you try to proselytize them.
  7. You get dizzy reading the Deseret News because your eyes are constantly rolling.
  8. You put your life on hold twice a year so you can watch General Conference live and find fault with it in real time.
  9. You only refer to Mormon Apologists by their Ex-Mormon culture nicknames (“Tapirman”, “Crazy Gordon”, “Michael R. Ass”, etc.) thereby dehumanizing and marginalizing them socially and psychologically.
  10. You speak in Ex-Mormonese rather than English. (“TSCC”, “LD$”, “MORmONism”, “Joseph’s Myth”, “The Profit”, “The Morg”, “God’s Only True Cult”, etc., etc.)
  11. You present Ed Decker’s “The Godmakers” in part or in full as an accurate depiction of what today’s Mormon Church teaches and believes.
  12. You present Jack Chick’s “The Visitors” and “The Enchanter” tracts as “balanced and true” depictions of Mormon doctrine, culture, and history.
  13. You think that the best (and possibly the only) biblical models for dealing with Mormons are Elijah on Mount Carmel and Christ Cleansing the Temple.
  14. You think that “The ends justify the means” even if that means exaggeration or outright lying about Mormon beliefs and practices.
  15. Your Social Media content is designed to provoke conflict rather than conversation with Latter-day Saints.
  16. You have to win the argument. Period.
  17. You won’t apologize to Latter-day Saints when you err with them lest you show weakness or acknowledge the possibility that you could be wrong.
  18. You stand idly by while others berate, abuse, and bully Mormons publicly.
  19. You refuse to learn, understand, appreciate, and respect Mormon Culture and smugly look down your nose at those who do.
  20. You belittle and mock all aspects of Mormonism – often in ugly, bigoted, and condescending ways.
  21. You take the biblical mandates to treat those in error with grace, gentleness, and respect (see 1 Peter 3:15, 2 Timothy 2:25, and Colossians 4:6) as optional or just suggestions.
  22. You treat other Christians who aren’t as vitriolic, rude, and insensitive to Mormons as you are with contempt.
  23. You take God’s place by judging and declaring the eternal fate of all Mormons simply based on the fact that they’re Mormon before you even know the particulars of their individual situations and personal beliefs.
  24. You go out of your way to offend Mormons with things that have little to nothing to do with the biblical gospel.
  25. You will fight to the death over secondary issues where Biblical Christianity and Mormonism disagree.
  26. You can’t say anything good about Joseph Smith.
  27. You can’t say anything good about Mormon Leaders despite their achievements and accomplishments outside of Mormonism or despite their role as positive agents of change within Mormonism.
  28. You chronically engage in over the top, hyperbolic language regarding Mormons and Mormonism.
  29. You deliberately misrepresent what Mormons believe and do in order to enhance your arguments.
  30. Even when your facts are straight your tone is shrill, condemning, and judgmental.
  31. You lobby for treating Mormons differently even if it’s unjust, unfair, uncivil, or downright bigoted.
  32. The majority of sources that you read and cite from in your work are Anti-Mormon sources that engage in all or some of the above tactics.
  33. You refuse to read and cite from Mormon friendly sources for a whole litany of reasons even when they are the most effective sources in persuading Mormons of how intellectually and spiritually bankrupt modern Mormonism is.
  34. You never give Mormons the benefit of the doubt when discussing theology with them.
  35. You make a point of telling Mormons they are in a cult.
  36. You consistently tell Mormons what they believe instead of asking them what they actually believe.
  37. Even though it’s like punching Mormons in the face, you take great delight in over the top polemic and pejorative rhetoric that alienates and repels Mormons rather than drawing them to the Good News of the Gospel.
  38. You can’t speak about your own faith without bringing up and putting down Mormonism in some form or fashion.
  39. If someone points out to you that you’re more in “The Church of Anti-Mormonism” than Christ’s Church you say, “Amen, to that!”
  40. You go into every engagement with Mormons wondering how you can triumph over them and set them straight rather than how you can love and serve them.
  41. You don’t think that you have anything to learn from Mormons or Mormonism since, “It’s all wrong, and there’s nothing good or true in it!”
  42. The thought of deceased Mormons realizing they were wrong and are being sent to hell amuses and/or pleases you.
  43. You’re an Ex-Mormon who rushed right into “ministry” rather than taking the time and effort to heal from Mormonism and fully transition into mainstream, Biblical Christianity first. That “ministry”, of course, involves relentlessly attacking the Mormon Church rather than taking up your cross and dying to yourself daily as Christ said is our first call as His disciples.
  44. Your stance is that even if the Mormon Church reforms and becomes biblically orthodox it should still be destroyed.
  45. You criticize other Christians who engage in the opposite of the above set of behaviors calling them “sissies” (or worse).
  46. You hate the Mormon Church more than you love Jesus.

The last one is probably the most important one – and the most telling one of all because it really speaks to one’s heart condition. Question: Who are you doing this for, yourself, the Mormon, or Christ? As Pro Football Hall of Famer Gale Sayers so famously said, “The Lord is first, my friends are second, and I am third.” Can you say the same friend? Can you call Mormons “friends”? Can you call them “victims of Mormonism”? Or can you only call them “enemy”? If it’s the last one then please do us all a favor: Get out of Mormon Studies until you call them the other two.

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