Archive for the ‘Mormon Studies’ Category

LDS President, Russell M. Nelson in prayer.

A Spring General Conference 2019 Exclusive Special Edition Editorial

by Michael Flournoy
Popular Latter-day Saint blogger and Mormon Apologist  Greg Trimble recently published an article entitled, “Take it Easy on President Nelson”, and I would like to echo his sentiments. That’s right, an ex-Mormon like me is calling for the masses to give President Nelson the benefit of the doubt.

Mr. Trimble begins by saying, “I woke up to what I considered some good news from the Church yesterday. But along with it, for some reason, came also a slew of negativity toward the prophet and the apostles.”

I completely and utterly share in his shock. The negativity makes no sense. To illustrate, imagine that Planned Parenthood suddenly reversed their policies and refused to participate in the murder of the unborn. What a day right? Christians would parade in the streets! I mean, forget the fact that Planned Parenthood participated in millions of abortions. Their good would certainly outweigh the bad.

So it is with the LDS church. Yes, back in November 2015 they instituted the policy that children of gay parents could not be baptized, and a lot of people committed suicide because of the hurt this policy imparted, but who cares about that? The church has decided to stand for a good principle, and I applaud them.

Mr. Trimble continues, “Can you imagine the immense pressure they feel as they literally spend their entire lives trying to make the right decision for so many people and knowing that no matter what they do, there is going to be a huge segment of people who are going to be hurt, offended, or angry about their decision? These men are in their 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s.”

Again, Mr. Trimble hits it out of the park. I mean, yes, in theory, it should be easy for the prophet to hear from God and then do it. But do you know how hard it is to hear the still small voice when you’re over 90-years old? It’s stressful when you can’t tell if God said the original policy was “his will” or “evil”. I can totally understand why Russell M. Nelson or any prophet would have sleepless nights over that.

Mr. Trimble makes a solid point that there are a lot of things we don’t know. It’s so easy to pin the blame on President Nelson when he could be innocent.

He says, “We don’t know what is going on behind the scenes. We don’t know what situations might have arisen that might have caused the policies of the past. We don’t know what information they have when these decisions are being made. We don’t know if it was a ‘revelation’ regarding the policy or just an honest mistake.”

While all of these are valid options, I think Mr. Trimble is downplaying the greatness of President Nelson. Here’s what we know. When the original policy was unveiled, Russell M. Nelson said it was “the will of the Lord”, and that “each of [them] during that sacred moment felt a spiritual confirmation.” (see (Russell M. Nelson, “An Evening with President Russell M. Nelson”, Worldwide Devotional for Young Adults, January 10, 2016, Brigham Young University–Hawaii)

God clearly commanded the original policy that denied baptism for children of LBGTQ parents. But as we all know, even the man upstairs makes mistakes sometimes. All of us, including God, are all on a path to greater knowledge, perfection, and glory. When God repents, the prophet has a sacred duty to take the fall for him.

It takes an unfathomable amount of courage to take one for the team when God misleads his people. So, for all the haters out there, I say leave Nelson alone. He’s a good man, doing his best to keep up with a bipolar Mormon deity. And to Russell M. Nelson I give a standing ovation and shout, “Praise to the man!”

About the Author
Michael Flournoy served a two-year mission for the LDS Church where he helped organize three Mormon/Evangelical dialogues and has participated in debate at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Born into Mormonism, Mr. Flournoy converted to Evangelical Christianity in 2016. Among his many friends, Mr. Flournoy is also known for his dry sense of humor in general and his mastery of biting satire in particular. 

Bo Bartlett, “Forge (Swords Into Plowshares)” (2008)

by Keith Walker
I belong to a number of private Facebook groups populated by Mormons and Christians. One Mormon apologist asked the group members a good question. He asked, “How did you come to hold the religious worldview that you presently occupy?” The instant thought in my mind was, “I worked for it.” I was immediately struck by the irony of my answer, especially when you take into consideration that it was a Mormon who asked the question.

There is a dichotomy of belief between Mormon and Christian thought and this question, and my answer, exposed exactly how different we are and to what depths that difference extends. What I meant by my answer is that I have put a great deal of time and energy into studying, not only what I believe, but why I believe it. I believe it because I worked hard for it. I worked hard to understand it. The Bible is replete with admonition to early Christians to, “test yourselves to see if you are in the faith” (1 Corinthians 13:5), “do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God” (1 John 4:1), “examine the scriptures daily to see whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11), “examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). The outcome of such study is described in Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen.” In other words, the Christian faith is a reality and there is proof for it, sound reasons to believe it.

What is true about Christianity, and what I have proved to myself about it, is that we do not, nor can we ever, reconcile ourselves to God through our works (Titus 3:5-7). Our works, our performance, our faithfulness, our behavior, has nothing to do with it. The only thing I contributed toward my salvation was the need for it (Romans 3:23). My works, my righteous deeds, are filthy rags and earn me death (Isaiah 64:6, Romans 6:23). This is what I deserve.

What I don’t deserve is to be saved despite my unrighteous works (Ephesians 2:1-9). In fact, the bible says that God justifies, or declares righteous, those who do not work (Romans 4:4-6). The bible mentions two kinds of righteousness in Romans chapter 10, God’s righteousness and our own. Verse three says that if we are seeking to establish our own righteousness, then we are not subjecting ourselves to the righteousness of God. We will either stand before God attempting to establish our own righteousness, (filthy rags, Isaiah 64:6) or we will subject ourselves to the righteousness of God. In other words, we need to repent of our righteousness and accept the righteousness of God provided for us through Jesus! Second Corinthians 5:21 explains that Jesus took on our sin, “so that, we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Our righteousness is insufficient. God will reject it outright. It is only the work of Jesus Christ on my behalf that God accepts. To believe otherwise is to trample under foot the Son of God, consider His blood unclean, and insult the Spirit of grace (Hebrews 10:29).

Mormonism works (pun intended), the opposite way. The only test for faith that prospective Mormons are encouraged to pursue is found in Moroni 10:3-5. Investigators are told to “ask, ponder and pray” and if they do so with real intent, then God will reveal the truth of Mormonism to them by the Holy Ghost. I have had many Mormons testify to me that they have received a spiritual witness, described as a beautiful feeling, that Mormonism is true.

Investigators of Mormonism are not encouraged to test Mormonism by other means. History, archaeology, textual criticism of the Book of Mormon, prophecy, Joseph Smith’s polygamy or criminal activities, none of it matters when compared to the inward, subjective testimony of what is believed to be the Holy Ghost. Not even the bible.

I had one Mormon lady tell me that I could hand her a “stack of facts” proving that Mormonism was false, but she would still believe Mormonism because of her spiritual witness. Note that she did not say, stack of evidence. She said stack of facts. Speaking from more than 25 years’ experience of talking with Mormons, this is not an uncommon sentiment. There is no work, in the sense of study or research, that Mormons are encouraged to pursue for the purpose of strengthening their faith like they are encouraged to pray. Granted, some Mormons do study and research, but what they learn through these disciplines is always subject to how it makes them feel. Their study is subjected to their feelings instead of having their feelings subjected to their study.

Ironically, Mormons believe hard to believe, as opposed to work hard to believe. The book of Mormon redefines faith as incomplete knowledge. Alma 32:21 says, “And now as I said concerning faith—faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true.” In other words, you need to believe something is true without any proof, otherwise, what you believe isn’t done so with faith. Verse 27 of the same chapter explains. “But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.” Before you can believe Mormonism is true, you have to desire to believe that Mormonism is true. If you follow this prescribed manner of “belief,” then you will come to “know” that Mormonism is true.

Contrary to the Biblical gospel message, Mormons believe their personal works contribute towards their being forgiven. This is one of the many things they “know” is true about Mormonism. In Mormonism, being reconciled to God is not done as a gift, it is done based on their works. Many Mormons would disagree with that last sentence, but the testimony of Mormon leaders is clear.

“The gospel of Jesus Christ is the power of God unto salvation, and it is absolutely necessary for every man and woman in the Church of Christ to work righteousness, to observe the laws of God, and keep the commandments that he has given, in order that they may avail themselves of the power of God unto salvation in this life” (Teachings Of Presidents Of The Church, Joseph F. Smith, p. 243).

“The Lord will bless us to the degree to which we keep His commandments. Nephi … said: ‘For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do. (2 Nephi 25:23.) The Savior’s blood, His atonement, will save us, but only after we have done all we can to save ourselves by keeping His commandments” (Teachings of The Presidents of The Church, Harold B. Lee, p.24).

In an April 1998 General Conference address, which messages are treated by Mormons as new scripture, Mormon apostle Dallin H. Oaks said, “As to salvation from sin and the consequences of sin, our answer to the question of whether or not we have been saved is “yes, but with conditions.” Our third article of faith declares our belief: ‘We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.’”

Notice the constant theme. Mormons are told they must keep commandments, do all they can do, and that they are saved by their obedience. Mormons work hard because of what they believe. Here is the contrast. Christians work for what we believe, but what we believe cannot be worked for. We work for our faith (belief system), then believe it. Mormons believe their faith (belief system), then work for it. The difference is, Christians are told to test their beliefs to see if it is true, whereas Mormons are taught to believe it and then they will know it is true. This does not line up with what Jesus did in the first chapter of Acts for those who doubted in His resurrection. He did not tell them to pray and believe. Verse three states, “To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God.” Christian faith is an objective faith, there are reasons for it and there is proof. If you don’t study, test and question, but just believe, your faith is dead. It isn’t living and active. It is lifeless and rote.

Caravaggio, “The Incredulity of Saint Thomas” (c. 1601-1602)

About the Author
Keith Walker is the President of Evidence Ministries. He was born in Michigan City, Indiana in 1967, born again in Rochester, New York in 1988 and has lived in San Antonio, Texas since 1992. Keith has a twisted sense of humor, a strong sense of justice and an unusual way of looking at things.  His favorite book of the Bible is Romans, favorite color is tye-dye, and likes to compete in USPSA sanctioned handgun matches at the Bullethole Shooting Range.  At present, he is a “C” class Production shooter.

Keith’s personal goals are to raise a God-fearing family, mentor his children to be noticeably different Christians, read the Bible through once every year, increase his handgun proficiency and read one book a month. His spiritual goals are to live a life that will count for something and impact others long after God calls him home. Keith’s gravestone will read: Keith Walker, Born: 9/24/1967, Born Again 9/16/1988, Died: Date, When Jesus comes, I’ll be back.

How Mormons Abuse Paul’s Use of Pagan Sources in Acts 17:28

A marble bust of Cleanthes

compiled by Fred W. Anson
The Gospel According to St. Cleanthes
One of favorite responses when a Mormon cites Acts 17:28 (“For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.”) is to simply ask, “Oh, and since you think that Paul was endorsing Cleanthes’ ‘Hymn to Zeus’ by citing from it in the latter citation (“ For we are also his offspring“)1 are you also suggesting that he was endorsing it as divinely inspired scripture?” Then I give them the entire poem. Here it is, with the text that Paul cited italicized for emphasis:

Hymn to Zeus
by Cleanthes (c. 300 – 220 B.C.)
O God most glorious, called by many a name,
Nature’s great King, through endless years the same;
Omnipotence, who by your just decree
Controls all, hail, Zeus, for unto you
Must your creatures in all lands call.

We are your children, we alone, of all
On earth’s broad ways that wander to and fro,
Bearing your image wheresoever we go.
Wherefore with songs of praise your power I will proclaim.

Look! yonder Heaven, that round the earth is wheeled,
Follows your guidance, still to you does yield.

Glad homage; your unconquerable hand
Such flaming minister, the heftless brand,
Wields, a sword two-edged, whose deathless might
Pulsates through all that
Nature brings to light;
Vehicle of the universal word, that flows
Through all, and in the light celestial glows
Of stars both great and small.

A King of Kings
Through ceaseless ages,
God, whose purpose brings
To birth, whatever on land or in the sea
Is wrought, or in high heaven’s immensity;
Save what the sinner works infatuate.

No, but you know how to make the crooked straight:
Chaos to you is order; in your eyes
The unloved is lovely, who did harmonize
Things evil with things good, that there should be
One word through all things everlastingly.

One word – whose voice alas! the wicked spurn;
Insatiate for the good their spirits yearn:
Yet seeing see not, neither hearing hear
God’s universal law, which those revere,
by reason guided, happiness who win.

The rest, unreasoning, diverse shapes of sin
Self-prompted follow: for an idle name
Vainly they wrestle in the contests of fame:
Others inordinately riches court,
Or dissolute, the joys of flesh pursue.

Now here, now there they wander, fruitless still,
Forever seeking good and finding ill.

Zeus the all-bountiful, whom darkness shrouds,
Whose lightning lightens in the thunder-clouds;
Your children save from error’s deadly sway;
Turn you the darkness from their souls away:
Vouchsafe that unto knowledge they attain;
For you by knowledge are made strong to reign
Overall, and all things rule righteously.

So by you honored, we will honor thee,
Praising your works continually with songs,
As mortals should; nor higher reward belongs
Even to the gods, than justly to adore
The universal law for evermore.

A bust of Epimenides.

The Gospel According to St. Epimenides
The first pagan source cited in Acts 17:28 (“For in him we live and move and have our being.’”) is Epimenides (c. 7th or 6th century BC). The passage is from Epimenides’ “Minos and Rhadamanthus”. Unfortunately, none of Epimenides’ works have survived, but thankfully a passage has been found cited in the Syrian lectionary Garden of Delights and in a 9th-century commentary on Acts by Isho’dad of Merv. Translated into English, it reads like this. And again I have italicized the text that Paul used for emphasis:

A grave has been fashioned for thee, O holy and high One,
The lying Cretans, who are all the time liars, evil beasts, idle bellies;
But thou diest not, for to eternity thou livest and standest,
For in thee we live and move and have our being.

By the way, the “O holy and high One” being referred to is Zeus, just so that there’s no misunderstanding. Clearly, this provenance is too complex to use effectively with Mormons in short, conversational discussions. However, you can refer them to the following article (which I used as my primary source for this section on Epimenides) for a full explanation if you wish to: “Lying Cretans and Unknown Gods: Allusions to Epimenides in the New Testament” on the “Is That in the Bible?” blog site.

The Gospel According to St. Paul
So with that background let’s consider how Paul actually used these pagan sources on Mars Hills, with the text discussed above italicized for emphasis:

Acts 17 (KJV)
16 Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry.
17 Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him.
18 Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, encountered him. And some said, What will this babbler say? other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection.
19 And they took him, and brought him unto Areopagus, saying, May we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, is?
20 For thou bringest certain strange things to our ears: we would know therefore what these things mean.
21 (For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.)
22 Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious.
23 For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, To The Unknown God. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.
24 God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands;
25 Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things;
26 And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation;
27 That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us:
28 For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.
29 Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device.
30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:
31 Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.
32 And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter.
33 So Paul departed from among them.
34 Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed: among the which was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them.

As the text clearly states, Paul’s audience was wholly pagan. Therefore, given the underlying nature of the citations combined with the nature of his audience, he clearly was simply using a common point of reference to make his point. As William MacDonald notes in his commentary:

17:28b To further emphasize the relationship of the creature to the Creator, Paul quoted from some of their Greek poets, who said, “For we are also His offspring.” This is not to be interpreted as teaching the brotherhood of man and the fatherhood of God. We are the offspring of God in the sense that He created us, but we only become sons of God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

17:29 But Paul’s argument continues. If men are the offspring of God, then it is impossible to think of God as a gold or silver or stone idol. These are shaped by art and man’s devising, and therefore are not as great as men. These idols are, in a sense, the offspring of human beings, whereas the truth is that human beings are the creation of God.
(MacDonald, William. Believer’s Bible Commentary (p. 1625). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition)

To use a modern equivalent it was like when Billy Graham cited the secular song lyrics “What the world needs now is love, sweet love” (from a Dione Warwick song) and “The answer is blowing in the wind” (from a Bob Dylan song) to make his point in sermons during his 1969 Anaheim, California Crusades.2 In both cases, the intention wasn’t to endorse the sources, simply to establish a rhetorical connection with the listening audience from their cultural vantage point. To suggest anything more than that is exegetically unsustainable.

“Saint Paul delivering the Areopagus Sermon in Athens” by Raphael, 1515

NOTE
1 The other pagan work that’s often cited as a source for this latter citation is Aratus’ (c. 310-245 B.C.), Phaenomena from the opening lines which are as follows:

Let us begin with Zeus, whom we mortals never leave unspoken.
For every street, every market-place is full of Zeus.
Even the sea and the harbour are full of this deity.
Everywhere everyone is indebted to Zeus.
For we are indeed his offspring…
(Phaenomena 1-5)

That poetic text is, in my opinion, is too long and complex to use effectively with Mormons in a conversational type discussion, but if you would like to refer them to it, they will find a good English translation here (click on link).

Further, since it’s generally believed that Aratus and the other pagan sources that use the “we are indeed his offspring” were glossing on Cleanthes. Therefore, and in my opinion, it’s better to just go to the short and simple original source rather than those who quoted from him later.

2 I was at these crusades and I recall him using the lyrics something like this in his sermons, “Popular culture tells us that what the world needs now is love, sweet love. I couldn’t agree more because what we need now more than ever is the sweet love of the Savior.” He used the lyrics of the Dylan song something like this, “I agree with the singer who said that the answer is blowing in the wind. That wind is God’s Spirit. And if you’re listening, really listening, you will hear Him calling you to come to Him.” I’ve paraphrased both from memory, but to the best of my recollection that’s how I heard them used back in the day.

BACK TO TOP


Smoke, nothing but smoke. [That’s what the Quester says.]
There’s nothing to anything—it’s all smoke.
What’s there to show for a lifetime of work,
a lifetime of working your fingers to the bone?
One generation goes its way, the next one arrives,
But nothing changes—it’s business as usual for old
planet earth.
—Ecclesiastes 1:2-4 (The Message)

by Paul Nurnberg
Accepting the Labels
I’m a quester. A seeker. I accept those labels, because “he who seeks shall find.”1 Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of Ecclesiastes renders the Hebrew qoheleth as “quester” (typically preacher). This word choice highlights a reality that surprised me as I completed graduate studies at a Christian seminary. Namely, many of my fellow students—often vocational ministers—were also seekers. That is, they were intensely interested in seeking and knowing God’s truth and had passed through crucibles of doubt and suffering that ultimately drew them closer to God. Such is true of most of the believers I count among my spiritual mentors. Petersen’s rendering of the opening verses of Solomon’s realist musings powerfully capture the tragic quest of seeking to know and grow closer to the heart of God and the disillusionment one feels when one’s faith universe implodes.

In 1984, Mormon thinker, professor, literary critic, and yes, theologian, Eugene England published his first collection of personal essays, Dialogues with Myself. In the first essay in that collection, “Joseph Smith and the Tragic Quest” England quotes from and shares his thoughts on an essay  entitled “Tragedy as Religious Paradox” by the former chairman of the English Department at BYU, P.A. Christensen:

. . . the emerging and unifying element in the richly diverse tragic tradition is the focus on that ultimate desolation, available to us all, when by accident or our own questing we come to feel “the universe has lost its meaning, its moral bearings, its spiritual security.” Tragic man, the subject of our greatest literature, unwilling to rest with simplistic and thus secure conceptions of the universe, pushes at the paradoxes of his mind and experience uncover, “lives precariously on the growing margin of knowledge,” and challenges—or obeys—the Gods of his conceptions in ways that bring, in either case, suffering and loss out of all proportion to his actions. Yet tragic man persists in testing the paradoxes and enduring the suffering. Perhaps he does so because that is the process of all significant learning, of breaking out of confining concepts, out of old seed husks into new life, the process of dying in the old man so a new one can be born; perhaps he does so because it is the ultimate way of courageously confronting the real universe.2

England’s life and letters have been celebrated by a certain subset of progressive and liberal Mormons since he co-founded Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought at Stanford in 1966. Since his death in 2001, younger generations of progressive Internet Mormons have paid homage to England through blog posts and podcasts.3

Mormon thinker, professor, literary critic, and theologian, Eugene England.

I learned of England’s writings posthumously. As a young LDS return missionary in 1999, I began a long quest of seeking and discovery. I began discussing Mormonism online—debating my beliefs and epistemology with others of similar disposition. In 2002, as my religious views began to lean towards the unorthodox in Mormonism, I was in spiritual turmoil. The universe was reeling. It was no longer a secure place. A friend recommended England’s book of essays Making Peace, which I purchased and devoured.

My journey has taken me out of the LDS Church, but the drawing of God to his Son, supported by the evidence for Christianity, has continued to be compelling and convincing to me. I’ve since found a new spiritual home. The tragic nature of being a quester is that one risks losing everything. Just ask Job! As an ex-Mormon, I’ve experienced my share of loss—of friends, of trust and intimacy in family relationships, and of community. Over the years, I’ve witnessed many other young Mormons go through their own quests, a few were family, friends or mission companions, some were merely online acquaintances—all tragic. Some have lost spouses and children to painful separation and divorce, some have lost their sense of community, and many have lost faith in God altogether.

If the above resonates with you, if the universe has lost its meaning, bearings and spiritual security; my hope is that you will decide to continue the tragic quest with me through this series of posts. I understand the pain, loneliness, fear, and rejection that comes from deconstructing one’s faith. I also know the comfort, companionship, assurance, and intimacy that comes from renewal of faith. I hope that you will one day find the words of my apostolic namesake to be as affirming of your journey and transformation as I do now— “. . . whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”4

Pinned to the Spot Where I Stood
My mind screamed: RUN! FIRE! GET OUT! For a moment, I stood there in the darkness—pinned to the spot where I stood by fear—however irrational it seemed. Smoke swirled around the neon green exit signs, glowing brightly, but providing no reassurance. I’d been to enough local rock concerts to recognize the unmistakable smell of artificial smoke and the hiss of smoke machines, but I should back up a bit.

When I was a sophomore in high school, the LDS Seminary teachers at my school in West Jordan, Utah planned a special devotional. In the days leading up to it, we were told that rather than meeting in our classrooms, we would meet in the large subdivided room that was used for devotionals. When the day arrived, I left the school building, crossing the parking lot to the seminary building.

The side entrance was locked, which was unusual. A seminary teacher standing nearby told me that I must enter through the front doors. This change in routine was confusing, but I made my way to the front of the building where a line was forming and waited with my classmates to get into the building.

The glass double doors were obscured. Smoke drifted from beneath a heavy black curtain, which was hung to block our view inside. The whole experience had an ominous feeling. Near the door stood another of the seminary teachers, admitting students one at a time through the curtain. I watched the teacher speak briefly to each student and admit one every thirty seconds or so.

I soon realized that whatever devotional the teachers had planned would not be completed in the fifty-five minutes allotted for third period, especially if they kept up the pace of one-by-one admittance. I wondered about the purpose of this exercise. When it was my turn to enter, the “seminary bouncer” greeted me and asked me to extend my right hand through the curtain. I was told that I would feel a guide take me by the hand, that I should trust the guide, and do as he instructed.

It was a surreal and somewhat unsettling experience, but I followed the instructions and reached my hand through the curtain. As soon as I did, someone inside grasped my hand and gently drew me into the building, which was smoky and dark, and my eyes struggled to adjust. My guide placed my hand on a cold railing, wrapping my fingers securely around it. He gave some brief, whispered instructions. “Hold fast the iron rod,” he said. “It will safely guide you through.” Then he left me. And that is when I stood in place, illogically terrified, before finally moving.

I lumbered through the dark, holding onto the rod, which led to the devotional room, where I was instructed to sit quietly and ponder the experience. A CD loop played Joseph L. Townsend’s Mormon hymn based on 1 Nephi, chapter 8 in the Book of Mormon:

Hold to the rod,
the iron rod;
‘Tis strong and bright and true.

The Iron Rod is the word of God;
‘Twill safely guide us through.5

At sixteen, I couldn’t really grasp the significance of that experience for my spiritual life. It was, at the time, a direct and physical experience with fear and despair—one paradoxically tied to my religious experience. Since then, it has come to be a formative event in my life of faith. Not because anything transcendent happened that day, but because of the experiences I’ve had in the ensuing years.

“Hold to the rod, the iron rod; ‘Tis strong and bright and true.”

Theologians Don’t Know Nothing
The seminal Wilco song Theologians begins with these enigmatic lyrics: “Theologians / They don’t know nothing / About my soul / About my soul. / I’m an ocean / Abyss in motion / Slow motion / Slow motion. / Inlitterati lumen fidei / God is with us everyday / That illiterate light / Is with us every night.”

That indecipherable Latin line leaves the listener deliberating just what Jeff Tweedy is lashing at. On one hand, he seems to be conveying a post-modern approach to truth, which disdains the idea that God has revealed propositional truths of the type that theologians discuss and define—or even that there is a God to reveal propositional truths. On the other, he seems to be suggesting that the light illiterate is with us every night as it was with the ancient Israelites.6

It’s a fascinating line, given that the title for their album A Ghost is Born is taken from the lyrics to this song and the lyrics contain a reference to Christ’s ascension. Perhaps, one should consider the text from the album’s cover design (Wilco ≤ A Ghost is Born) in light of John 8:12, the way Jesus in John’s gospel uses the theme of light to point back to the pillar of fire that led the Israelites in the wilderness by night, and John Lennon’s controversial statement to the effect that the Beatles were “bigger than Jesus now” to fully grasp what may be going on here.

In several ways, this song and the album cover art is a microcosm of my walk with God. Paul Nurnberg ≠ Jesus (see 1 Cor 2:2). Now seems like the right time to finally begin this series of posts that have been rattling around in my head and taking shape for two decades.

There’s the younger, Mormon me, who spent two years in a foreign land, wearing a white shirt and black name badge—peddling Mormonism’s unique brand of Christian Restorationism to the Hungarian people. The one who was serious and conscientious about his beliefs, while also a bit naïve and laissez-faire about his theology. The one crippled by doubt and feelings of unworthiness. The one who came back to the United States and spent well over a decade discussing and debating the merits and pitfalls of Mormon theology and culture in online forums before finally walking away—setting aside with full knowledge and agency the faith, the community, and the beliefs of his birth, all of which he’d once cherished. The one who understands the deconstructionist, “burn it down” skeptical nature of John Lennon.

And then there’s the middle-aged, non-denominational Evangelical Christian me, who watches with bewilderment and sadness as others, seemingly in increasing numbers, take a similar—and sometimes not so similar—path to mine, only in more public forums, and from more faith traditions than just Mormonism. The one who has graduated with an MDiv in Biblical Studies from Cincinnati Christian University. The one who loves the Bible and affirms it as God’s inerrant Word. The one who loves the writings of St. John of the Cross about darkness and spiritual growth. The one who understands the reconstructionist “find what’s burning inside me” nature of Jeff Tweedy. The one who is passionate about living the examined life; about integration and wholeness—the abundant life given me by that illiterate Light.

Ben Shahn, “Ecclesiastes Or, The Preacher”

Enemies to That Illiterate Light
There is something to Jeff Tweedy’s insistence: “that illiterate light / is with us every night.” Theologians aren’t the other. We’re all theologians. When we think about God, we’re all doing theology. The question is whether or not we do it well. Tweedy’s lyrics lead me to conclude the truth of this statement: “We have met the enemy, and the enemy is us.”7

Integrating the Tragic Quest
What is conceived here is a series of posts on reconstructing faith that I’ve named Dialogues with My Former Self. Part of reconstruction is integration. In these posts, I will seek to integrate every part of my mind, heart, and soul. They will include creative writing, philosophical and theological arguments, and personal experience; an integrative whole. After this first introductory post to kick off the series, we’ll tackle a simple subject: God. In the meantime, enjoy this poem I wrote to encapsulate my journey—my tragic quest.

Nightwatch
Wolves at the cave’s mouth snarling,
but how wolves,
if Nothing?

Childhood fears
soothsaid and smothered by pious lines,
Faith is standing at the edge of the darkness,
and taking one
faltering footstep forward,
only to find the way lighted
one step ahead.

Such is not
faith! If every step were lighted,
too soon,
you would know.

Where the Mystery?
As if,
no one ever took that uncertain step, only
to be shadowed in blackness,
crowded, shrouded in deep
despair, crushing the soul.

πάτερ εὶ βούλει παρένεγκε τοῦτο τὸ ποτήριον ἀπ’ ἐμοῦ . . .
“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me . . .”

As if,
no one has ever mouthed that pleading prayer, only
to carry a cross, one
faltering step after another, through
a darkened wilderness, lighted only
occasionally but brilliantly by
lightning striking on
the distant horizon;
beaten, broken by the empty
air surrounding their bed.

St. John of the Cross taught me
of the beauty, the healing
found in darkness.

And St. John the Beloved of
the Light to come,
Who has, and ever will,
everything illuminate,
all shadows
cast aside;
every crevice
of the small cave
thrown into radiance.

Every shaky aleph, every rounded
omega, each faltering figure,
arms upstretched, that I
scrawled on the rock
wall with the tip
of a branch
blackened in the fire
I light
to keep the wolves at bay—
because God loves
a madman.

Waltham St. Lawrence, “Ecclesiastes, or The Preacher Ecclesiastes”, book illustration.

NOTES
1 Matthew 7:8
2 Eugene England, “Joseph Smith and the Tragic Quest,” Dialogues with Myself: Personal Essays on Mormon Experience (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1984), 1-2.
3 For blog posts, see for example Shawn Larsen’s article at Mormon Matters, “Why Eugene England Still Matters” from 2008, or Boyd Petersen’s article at his blog Dead Wood and Rushing Water, “Eugene England and the Future of Mormonism” from 2016. For podcasts, see John Dehlin’s four-part tribute at Mormon Stories “Eugene England’s Life and Legacy” from 2011 and Gina Colvin’s podcast episode at A Thoughtful Faith from 2015, “The Life and Writings of Eugene England.”
4 Philippians 3:7-8a
5 Hymns of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1985, 274.
6 See Exodus 13:21
7 For the morphology of this oft-used phrase, see https://humorinamerica.wordpress.com/2014/05/19/the-morphology-of-a-humorous-phrase/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brodie also describes the demise of the United Order:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PETER: A couple will now come to the altar.

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

All arise.

Each of you bring your right arm to the square.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By their fruit, you shall know them indeed.

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

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lightning-best-wallpaper-images

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ted Patrick in the documentary "Deprogrammed"

Ted Patrick in the documentary “Deprogrammed”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

842784-lightning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And You're A Mormon 05

“Joseph Smith Receives the Gold Plates” by Kenneth Riley

Joseph Smith: Great Prophet of the Restoration (of Mormonism)
‘“Look,” he went on to say, “if there is any name that is totally honorable in its derivation, it is the name Mormon. And so, when someone asks me about it and what it means, I quietly say—‘Mormon means more good.’”
(Joseph Smith, “Correspondence”, Times and Seasons, May 15, 1843, 4:194; also see Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 299–300)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I'm A Mormon 01

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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