Archive for the ‘Shepherding Movement’ Category

A caution to Ex-Mormon Christians.
19th Century Restorationist Revival Meeting

19th Century Restorationist Revival Meeting

by Fred W. Anson
Most Mormons are surprised to find out that the Restoration that they think is unique to their church isn’t unique at all. In actual fact, as he had a tendency to do, Joseph Smith plagiarized “The Restoration” from contemporary sources. In this case his major source was a 19th Century Restorationist movement that began in 1801 in Cane Ridge, Kentucky.

That movement (now known as the “Stone-Campbell Movement”) was already an established subset of the Second Great Awakening and was going great guns long before Joseph Smith was even born in 1805. Further, even that American 19th Century restorationist movement had ideological and theological roots going back hundreds of years and crossing continents, cultures, and countries:

Christian primitivism, also described as restorationism, is the belief that Christianity should be restored along the lines of what is known about the apostolic early church, which restorationists see as the search for a more pure and more ancient form of the religion. Fundamentally, this vision seeks to correct faults or deficiencies [in the church] by appealing to the primitive church as a normative model.1

Essentially any group that claims that they have restored something that was lost from primitive Christianity is restorationist. That can range from the addition of a particular rite or belief to the rejection of a particular practice or doctrine. In other words, anything that “restores” the church via addition or subtraction to it’s primitive, apostolic state is restorationist. Does this sound familiar? Can anyone think of any church that believes or does this? Well, I could fill an entire article with just a list of the name of such groups since they’re as common as crickets and more are forming all the time. As the Wikipedia article on Christian Restorationism explains:

The term “restorationism” is sometimes used more specifically as a synonym for the [19th Cenutry] American Restoration Movement. The term is also used by more recent groups, describing their goal to re-establish Christianity in its original form, such as some [20th Century] anti-denominational Charismatic Restorationists, which arose in the 1970s in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. In comparable terms, earlier primitivist movements, including the [15th Century] Hussites, [16th Century] Anabaptists, [19th Century] Landmarkists, [16-17th Century] Puritans, and the [12th Century] Waldensians have been described as examples of restorationism, as have many Seventh-day Sabbatarians.2

And just as most believing, practicing Mormons are oblivious to the reality that Latter Day Saint restorationism is just one of many various and sundry flavors of Christian primitivism, so are most Ex-Mormons. So it’s only natural that Ex-Mormons are going to feel some draw toward Restorationism since it’s what Mormons (particularly Born Into the Covenant Mormons) know best. Restorationist is how they’re been conditioned to think and feel about the Christian Church in general – it’s their comfort zone. There’s really no surprise here is there?

However, I would ask our Ex-Mormon friends to consider fully the dangers of continuing to uncritically think like a restorationist. Please consider this:

At least two disastrous consequences can be expected to result from a zealous embrace of restorationist philosophy. First, it easily leads to a spirit of exclusivism and arrogance, not to mention error. The natural outcome of believing one’s own group has the corner on the truth is the despising of all others who claim the name of Christ, seeing them as apostates, or worse, tools of the devil. No spirit of Christian unity can survive such a mindset. One has only to look at the diverse beliefs that exist among the restorationists themselves, and the resulting animosity that accompanies them, to see the inevitable result of adopting such a belief system. Exclusivism leads to pride, a sin especially abhorred by God (Proverbs 16:5; James 4:6). In addition, exclusivism can provoke delusions of grandeur in its leaders, making possible all manner of erroneous interpretations, not to mention rewriting, of Scripture designed to fit it to the paradigm of the group, without regard for clear and concise biblical scholarship and exegesis.

The second, and far more destructive, result of restorationist philosophy is that it denies God’s ability, or willingness, to preserve the faith “once delivered to the saints” (Jude 3), rejects His sovereignty over His people, and disavows His plan to bring to pass His will without fail, despite attempts by Satan and his minions to derail it. God did not send His Son to die on the cross for the sins of His people only to allow those same people to lapse into apostasy and languish there for 1800 years. Such a notion is not only absurd, but it defines God as a ruthless and capricious entity, not the loving and merciful Father God we know Him to be. Those who believe God abandoned mankind for centuries because of their unbelief and sin need only to read Romans 3, which makes it clear that even though men are unfaithful, this does not nullify God’s faithfulness. The Holy Spirit is, and always has been, active in the world “convict[ing] the world concerning sin, and concerning righteousness, and concerning judgment” (John 16:8), drawing God’s people from every race, tribe, nation and language to the Savior. In every era, the redeemed of God have responded to His Spirit because that is God’s plan, and it will continue unabated to the day of Christ’s return. Until then, we have the assurance of Jesus Himself that He will be with us “always, even until the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20).3

An Anti-Christmas Restorationist makes her feelings known.

An Anti-Christmas Restorationist makes her feelings known.

A Practical Example
Another dangerous by-product of Restorationist philosophy can be taking extreme or dogmatic positions on non-essentials of the Christian Faith. To point to just one of many such examples, some Restorationist groups (such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh-day Adventists, some Church of Christ groups, etc.) take extreme positions on celebrating some or all holidays – “extreme” as in that they not only don’t recognize or celebrate them, they condemn those who do.

Now let’s be clear: No one denies that the Roman Catholic Church syncretized pagan holidays in creating Christian holidays like Christmas and Easter. However, does this really mean that Christians and Churches that observe these holidays are in error or apostate? Thinking critically, couldn’t a counter argument be made that the priests actually took righteous domination over these pagan holidays and redeemed them by “Christianizing” them? As the pastor of a traditional, liturgical Lutheran church noted well in this regard:

Of the major Christian Holy Days, Christmas, Easter and Pentecost are the high points in the Historic Church Year. On these Holy Days we celebrate God the Father’s gift of His only-begotten Son in the birth of Jesus Christ, we celebrate God the Son’s gift of His life, sufferings, death and resurrection at Passover/Easter, and we celebrate God the Holy Spirit’s gift of calling us to faith and dwelling in us through Word and Sacrament.

These Holy Days are also one of the main fronts in the battle against Christianity by people who wish to undermine Christianity. Part of undermining Christianity means undermining all the claims of Christianity about what the Bible teaches. The historical liturgical practice of the church has been the focal point of the application of Biblical doctrine to the faith and lives of the saints. By discrediting the liturgical practice of the Church the enemies of Christianity try to distract from biblical teaching for that day and discredit that teaching.

This is not to say that these liturgical practices or holiday traditions should be required in any legalistic way. This is to point out that the efforts of those who try to discredit the authenticity of Christian Holy days and seek to scandalize the traditions associated with those days do so to undermine the biblical doctrine the Church teaches through the observance of these Holy Days.

And so any Christian holy day that could be claimed is claimed by the anti-Christian groups. We have seen this with Halloween [which has supplanted Reformation Day on October 31] and we will see it with many other lesser Historic Christian celebrations.4

This isn’t to say that this Lutheran Pastor is entirely right, Restorationist groups completely wrong, or vice versa. As stated previously, choosing to observe or not observe all or a particular holiday is a matter of conscience and personal conviction that has nothing to do with our salvation. This is just as Paul said Colossians 2:16 (NKJV) when he said, “So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths.”

In the end each of us is left to come their own conclusion and life decision on this matter as the “Got Questions” article on this subject states well:

The Bible nowhere instructs Christians to celebrate holidays such as Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, Valentines Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Independence Day, birthdays, anniversaries, etc. This leads some to refrain from observing these celebratory days, even those that are considered Christian holidays. However, at the same time, the Bible does not speak against celebrating holidays.5

We would also remind everyone that since this is a non-essential of the Christian faith, that liberty and charity should prevail toward those who take a position on this subject that differs from our own.

In essentials, unity.
In non-essentials, liberty.
In all things, charity.

Conclusion
Please don’t think that this article means that Ex-Mormons should never consider or join a restorationist church after leaving Mormonism. I would be a hypocrite were I to say that since I’m a Charismatic Christian – that is, someone whose theology includes a belief that God has supernaturally restored the gifts of the Spirit to the church through various revivals throughout Christian Church history. Further, since the congregation I’m a member of is Charismatic, I am in fact in a restorationist church myself. However, that said, there’s a lot of Charismatic Christianity that I refuse to have anything to do so because it fails to pass biblical scrutiny. Rethink restorationism? Oh trust me, I did, I have, and I still do!6

I’m also speaking from hard experience. My lack of discernment and inability to question Christian restorationism landed me in a Restorationist Mind Control Cult back in the day – and my inability to rethink restorationism kept me there for thirteen years.7 So I’m issuing a hard won caution here: If you’re an Ex-Mormon you need to proceed with caution because many restorationist groups are imbalanced, in error, or heretical. Some are even cults that are very similar to the one that you’ve just left – McCraneyism immediately springs to mind here. So be careful out there – think, think, and then rethink!

Finally, I would suggest that biggest error of Restorationism is the presumption that the original Apostolic Church was pristine, pure, perfect, and problem free. Yet all you have to do is read the New Testament to see that this simply wasn’t the case. So when people say they want to restore the New Testament Church, the logical question is, “Which one?” Corinth? Why would you want to restore that dysfunctional mess? Or maybe Galatia where a false gospel was being taught? What about the Seven Churches of Asia in the Book of Revelation – five of which Christ Himself rebukes? Even the original church of Jerusalem (see Acts 2) was slow to fulfill the Great Commission until God stirred up persecution and goaded them into doing so (see Acts 8).

Can you see how presuming that there has ever been an ideal or perfect Church on earth leads to the false conclusion that there can be a perfect church in our day? After all, if Christ’s Apostles couldn’t do it what makes you think that we can? Wasn’t Paul clear in 1 Corinthians 13:10 that the perfect and complete won’t come until the return of Christ? Wasn’t he clear in Ephesians 5:25-27 that Christ is both preserving and preparing His future bride of Revelation 21:2 (notice, present and future tense not past) to be holy, without spot, wrinkle, or blemish? Perhaps, this rethinker of Restorationism said it best with this challenge:

We should stop idolizing a church era, and start worshiping her Creator. We should stop idolizing the past, and look forward to our future with Jesus. We should recognize that we are on a journey, and our ultimate goal is not to reach the “golden age of the church” but it is to earnestly strive to be like our humble Savior in whatever time, season, or place God has appointed us to be.8

Amen Brother Recovered Restorationist, amen!

1829 Methodist Revival Camp Meeting

1829 Methodist Revival Camp Meeting

NOTES
1 Wikipedia, “Restorationism”
2 Ibid
3 “What is Restorationism?”, GotQuestions.org website
4 “Redeeming Holy Days from Pagan Lies — Christmas”
5 “Should a Christian celebrate holidays?”, GotQuestions.org website. And I would encourage the reader to consider this article in it’s entirety in answering this question for them self.
6 How else does one end up both Reformed and non-cessationist like I am – much to the dismay of both my friends in both camps who just can’t figure that one out. To explain my stance a bit, I could only nod in complete agreement with fellow Charismatic Reformed Christian R.T. Kendall when he wrote:

My position is clear. I describe myself as a Reformed theologian—not only in belief but also in practice. I have to say that for some reason I have often felt last in line as far as signs and wonders are concerned. While others have been slain in the Spirit all around me, my body has remained resolutely upright—like the Statue of Liberty. While members of my family have seen physical healing personally, I have not. It is true that I have spoken in tongues, but you would not find an occasion of that in public. In short: if I am charismatic, I am the least of the brethren.
(R.T. Kendall, “Holy Fire: A Balanced, Biblical Look at the Holy Spirit’s Work in Our Lives”, Kindle Location 409)

7 See Fred W. Anson, “My Life as a Mind Control Cultist (Part 1)”
8 Yuriy Stasyuk, “12 Reasons Why The Early Church Isn’t the Ideal Church”

Click to read this article - highly recommended for recovering Restorationists!

Click to read this article – highly recommended for recovering Restorationists.

BACK TO TOP

by Fred W. Anson
On his May 20, 2014 Heart of the Matter broadcast Shawn McCraney read the follow email from “Michelle”:

Michelle Email 01

Michelle Email 02

The email from Michelle read on the May 20, 2014 Heart of the Matter broadcast

Screen shots of the email from Michelle read on the May 20, 2014 Heart of the Matter broadcast

He then spent about 6-minutes (from 6:42-13:01 in the broadcast) using this email as validation for his rebellion against Christian orthodoxy and as a soapbox to (in his typical backhanded, thinly veiled manner) rail at his critics from. In the end, I don’t think that Michelle’s questions and issues were addressed and I think that they deserve and need to be – so here’s my response:

DEAR MICHELLE
Let me first say, “I get it!” I was in a Mind Control Cult for 13-years so I know how confusing and challenging transitioning out of one can be. Further, when one is leaving an authoritarian group it’s natural to feel stung and not want to trust authority figures – that is, any authority figure – again. And like Mormonism, my group was filled with formal and informal rules too so I can certainly appreciate your apprehension about them. And, of course, when you’ve been deceived by false teachings and white washed, spin doctored versions of the group’s history it’s only natural to be on “high alert” when approaching a new church.

It took me 4-years of searching before I found a good church family and I made some bad turns into some groups with less than sterling doctrine and practices during that time. I’ve come to find out that for those of us coming out of cults this is actually pretty normal. In my case, I went from a large authoritarian Mind Control Cult (The Shepherding Movement) that was being run by a bunch of experienced, mature, controlling old dudes to a mainstream denominational church was that essentially being run “man behind the curtain” style by a false prophetess and then to a small authoritarian church that was being run by a bunch of inexperienced, immature, controlling young dudes.

Can someone say, “Ouch?”  Well, we could, but since it’s so common for cultists to leave one errant or abusive group only to find themselves in another one, perhaps it would be better to say, “We have met the enemy and it is us!”

SAME MOTH, NEW FLAME
The reason why we former cultists are so prone to this type of error Michelle is because the past – whether we realize it or not – feels comfortable to us. As a result, we’re drawn to the old and familiar like a moth to a flame – so we tend to be “same moth, new flame.” That’s why I find your attraction to Shawn McCraney so concerning.

Michelle, I would ask you to stop for a moment, take a deep breath, and think about what Shawn McCraney’s has been saying in both in concept and in words lately:

  • That Christian churches who adhere to historic Christian orthodoxy are wrong.
  • Their creeds are an abomination in God’s sight.
  • Their professors are all corrupt and motivated by things other than the truth.
  • They’re treating Shawn’s communication not only lightly, but with great contempt, even saying it may be of the devil.
  • As a result, there’s prejudice against Shawn among these corrupt, self-interested professors of religion.
  • And that all the above is the cause of a great persecution of Shawn.
  • Further, his circumstances in life are such as to make Shawn of no real consequence in the world.
  • Yet despite all this men of high standing are taking notice sufficient to excite the public mind against him.
  • But Shawn has an inner witness that he can’t deny, lest he offend God and come under condemnation.
  • And so he continues to bring forth new revelations week after week after week.

Sound familiar? Yes, I’ve used Joseph Smith’s 1838 First Vision account as my template in describing Shawn’s basic, recurring message but I’ve done so because the shoe fits. Tell me, is there anything is that list that doesn’t match the themes and principles Shawn has been teaching lately?

MothInFlame

Same moth, new flame

Thus I found this assessment particularly astute and to the point:

“… a former Mormon, he is mainly targeting other former Mormons and disaffected Mormons. Without a ‘nod to Joseph,’ he is playing on their ingrained prejudices and leading them into another counterfeit of Biblical Christianity. Mormonism is often categorized as a Christian cult, because it primarily targets those from a Christian background. You don’t see many Mormons trying to evangelize Muslims. Similarly, Shawn is targeting those from a Mormon background. This is why I would loosely call it a Mormon splinter group.”[1]

Further, have you noticed how Shawn launches pre-emptive strikes against his critics? Joseph Smith did that too didn’t he Michelle?[2]

In fact, essentially wasn’t that the gist of how he responded to your email on the air?  Of course it was couched in terms of how you will be subjected to the same “persecution” that he has if you continue to “seek truth” in the same deaf, stubborn, rebellious, rogue, and obstinate “wild ass” (his description of himself at “Inquisition 2014”) fashion that he has.  Make no mistake about it Michelle, he was only talking to you tangentially – his real audience was his critics. And in the end, didn’t it all seem and sound something like this:

“Our religious principles are before the world ready for the investigation of all men, yet we are aware that all the persecution against our friends has arisen in consequence of calumnies and misconstructions without foundation in truth and righteousness. This we have endured in common with all other religious societies at their first commencement.”
— Joseph Smith, 1836[3]

Yes, it’s all very “Joseph Smith” isn’t it Michelle? I would ask you to think about that.

BECOMING A NEW MOTH
Michelle, I’ll be honest, it wasn’t until I began to change my way of thinking and became willing to consider getting outside of my comfort zone that I broke out of those old cult ways of thinking, evaluating, discerning, and behaving and finally got knit into a healthy, functional, Biblical church family. I would encourage you to do the same.

Now I know that you may not realize it but your email displayed some pretty strong Mormon tendencies. For example, in Mormonism defining and establishing the essential doctrine of the faith is pretty much impossible since they can change at any time. That’s why Joseph Smith was able to write “scripture” that was pretty much aligned with orthodox 19th Century Protestantism (the Book of Mormon, The Lectures on Faith, The Joseph Smith Translation) but then utterly contradict it with heresy old and new in what followed (The Book of Commandments, Doctrine and Covenants, The Pearl of Great Price). It’s why polygamy can be denied in one prophetic regime, an essential practice required for exaltation in the next, publicly abandoned (but still secretly practiced) a few years later, and then grounds for excommunication just a little over a decade later.  It’s why at first a trinitarian God can be taught, followed by a modalistic god, who’s finally followed by a pantheon of henotheistic gods. It was once even taught that Adam is God in Mormonism. All this begs the question, “What’s next in Mormon theology?”  And the fact of the matter is that nobody knows isn’t it?

My point is that in Mormonism the idea of adherence to a fixed set of essential doctrines of the faith is a foreign (perhaps even discomforting) concept. Exhibit A of this would be so-called “Cafeteria Mormonism” in which as long as one toes the lie publicly to the current set of doctrine, privately one can believe whatever one wants to. That’s why the old joke about how one could talk to ten different Mormons about what they believe walk away thinking that they’re all in ten different churches is so poignant. Michelle, I can even tell you about unbelieving Latter-day Saint atheists whose private apostasy was known to their bishop but he still allowed them to practice callings as Gospel Doctrine and/or Priesthood Quorum teachers because they “played the game” publicly.

With Biblical Christianity this isn’t the case – there is an established set of essential doctrines that one must privately believe in and publicly confess in order to be considered a Christian. And it’s the Bible itself that establishes and reveals those doctrines.[4] Groups that deviate from those essential doctrines are known as cults and those who teach doctrine contrary to them are known as false teachers, or even heretics. That’s why Christians can say with authority that Mormonism is a cult and Joseph Smith a false teacher and a heretic. It’s also why we can declare Shawn McCraney’s false, unbiblical teachings heretical as well.

SAY HELLO TO BOUNDARIES
Biblical Christianity has boundaries Michelle. As the Apostle Peter said, “… no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.” (2 Peter 1:20 KJV) and as a Christian you are joining a community of Spirit filled saints that for over 2,000 years has read, loved, struggled with, and sought God over the correct interpretation of His written revelation of Himself to man. Michelle, we’re all fallen sinners prone to error and the great “cloud of witnesses” (the one that Hebrews 12:1 describes) can be of great value and benefit in guiding us in sound Biblical interpretation if we’ll listen to them through their creeds, sermons, writings, and lives. In fact, even their flaws, foibles, follies, and mistakes can be instructive! No, Church History isn’t the Bible but it’s important. After all, as Elizabeth Browning said well:

“Always learn from experience – preferably someone else’s”

Further, the Bible is clear that we also need to be in a part of and accountable to the living community of saints:

“…submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
(Ephesians 5:21 NLT)

“…encourage one another and build one another up…”
(1 Thessalonians 5:11 ESV)

“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”
(Acts 2:42 ESV)

“For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints…”
(1 Corinthians 14:33 ESV)

That’s why I found your statements about “having this war against rules” and your praise for Shawn McCraney’s “explanation of culture” troubling. Michelle, like it or not the Bible is full of rules. So there’s nothing wrong with rules as long as they’re biblical is there? Further, Shawn McCraney’s explanation of culture is nothing more than a contrived, unbiblical rationalization for his own rebellion, teaching of heresy, and leading others into dangerous error. Once again, it’s just Joseph Smith all over again, isn’t it?

It’s my prayer that you will reconsider your stance on both because I must respectfully say that you’re not showing much insight, wisdom, or discernment on either of them. Yes, I know that the Mormon Church and other cults misuse and abuse spiritual authority, submission, and accountability so this may not be what you want to hear right now. And I know that due to the overbearing legalism of Mormonism you may find what I have to say next hard to believe, but the Bible tells us that mutual accountability and submission to one another is for our own protection due to our fallen nature and propensity to sin:

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”
(Jeremiah 17:9 ESV)

“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”
(Proverbs 27:17 ESV)

“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him — a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”
(Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 ESV)

Shawn McCraney is a great example of what happens when a Christian rebels against spiritual authority and refuses to listen to other wiser, more mature, experienced Christians. As James White said well of Shawn, “He does not realize that the people who are showing him the greatest love are the people who are warning him, ‘You’re goin’ down the wrong road!”[5]

SOME FINAL ADVICE
So Michelle, my final advice to you is this:

      1. Ignore Shawn McCraney’s bad, unBiblical advice and teachings.
      2. Be courageous in rethinking your Mormon comfort zone and presuppositions.[6]
      3. Find a good Church where the Bible is the final authority and is regularly taught.
      4. Be humble.
      5. Be teachable.
      6. Be in community.
      7. Be accountable.

On that third note (and so you don’t go through too much culture shock all at once while you’re transitioning) I would recommend that you try to find a church that’s in the Wesleyan/Methodist tradition. I make this recommendation because the Mormon Chapel liturgy was “borrowed” from the 19th Century Methodist church. Specifically, that means finding and attending a Methodist, Nazarene, Wesleyan, or Holiness church. And I would recommend that you stick with the “Traditional” (rather than the “Contemporary”) service as it’s closest to the 19th Century style liturgy that you’re familiar with in the Mormon Church.

Again, the most important thing with any church that you attend is that they love, respect, teach, and obey the Bible. Never the less, all too often transitioning Mormons are off-put by modern expressions of worship that are too far afield from the traditional Latter-day Saint Chapel service. If you want to try or move on to a different, more contemporary type of corporate worship later it’s up to you but I would recommend that you stick with the traditional “Methodist style” until you find your “sea legs” in modern mainstream Christianity.

And if you need help in finding a good church just let me know – I’ll be happy to help you out.

I hope that this helps Michelle and may God richly bless you in your quest to find a new church family outside of Mormonism. I (and I’m sure many others) will be praying for you.

A new moth

A new moth

NOTES
[1] Daniel Jason Wallace in the “Evangelicals Discussing Mormonism” Facebook Group.

[2] There are many, many, many examples of Joseph Smith’s public posturing and preemptive first strikes against critics.  Please consider these merely a sample:

“I have more to boast of than ever any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam…Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such a work as I. The followers of Jesus ran away from Him, but the Latter-day Saints never ran away from me yet”
(History of the Church, vol. 6, p.408-409)

“If you tell them that God made the world out of something, they will call you a fool. But I am learned, and know more than all the world put together”
(Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p.350-352).

“…how very strange it was that an obscure boy, of a little over fourteen years of age…should be thought a character of sufficient importance to attract the attention of the great ones of the most popular sects of the day, and in a manner to create in them a spirit of the most bitter persecution and reviling. But strange or not, so it was…I have thought since that I felt much like Paul”
(from Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith-History 1:23-24).

“God made Aaron to be the mouthpiece for the children of Israel, and He will make me be god to you in His stead…and if you don’t like it, you must lump it!”
(Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p.363).

“I will prove that the world is wrong, by showing what God is…God himself was once as we are now and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret…I am going to tell you how God came to be God. We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity. I will refute that idea, and take away the veil, so that you may see”
(Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p.345)

[3] History of the Church, vol. 2, p.460; from a letter from Joseph Smith and others to John Thornton and others, July 25, 1836, Kirtland, Ohio, published in Messenger and Advocate, Aug. 1836, p.358.

And if you would like to read even more examples of how Joseph Smith used, and how the LdS Church still uses, this tactic of demonizing critics in order to alienate followers from them, please see “Teaching of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith”, Chapter 32.  This is a common Mind Control Cult tactic Michelle – all cults do it.

[4] In a nutshell the Essential Doctrines of the Christian faith are:

1) The Deity of Jesus Christ
Jesus is eternal God who incarnated Himself as a man. He is fully God and fully man.

2) Salvation by Grace alone through faith
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast,”
(Eph. 2:8-9, NIV).

“You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace”
(Gal. 5:4).

This verse and its context plainly teach that if you believe that you are saved by faith and works then you are not saved at all. (Read Rom. 3-5 and Gal. 3-5)

3) The resurrection of Jesus Christ
“And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith,” (1 Cor. 15:14). “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins,”
(1 Cor. 15:17).

To deny the physical resurrection is to deny that Jesus’ work was a satisfactory offering to God the Father. It would mean that Jesus was corrupt and needed to stay in the grave. But, he did not stay because his sacrifice was perfect.

These verses clearly state that if you say that Jesus did not rise from the dead (in the same body He died in — John 2:19-21), then your faith is useless.

4) The Gospel
The gospel message which in its entirety is that Jesus is God in flesh, who died for sins, rose from the dead and freely gives the gift of eternal life to those who believe. Furthermore, it would not be possible to present the gospel properly without declaring that Jesus is God in flesh per John 1:1,14; 10:30-33; 20:28; Col. 2:9; Phil. 2:5-8; Heb. 1:8.

5) Monotheism
There is only one God in all existence (Isaiah 43:10; 44:6,8; 45:5,14,18,21,22; 46:9; 47:8)

A fuller discussion of these essential doctrines of the faith can be found in Theologian Matt Slick’s superb “Essential Doctrines of the Christian Faith”. I used Mr. Slick’s article for this brief endnote primer and for portions of the main article above.

[5] James White, “Ukraine, Hyper-Calvinism, David Allen, Shawn McCraney, and More!”; March 6th, 2014, at time stamp 1:09:00.

[6] By the way, a good Christian Mormons in Transition group or program can be very helpful here. If you can’t find a good one in your area, please consider the Institute of Religious Research’s online transition support group.

HerbertWArmstrong_edited

The eyes of Herbert W. Armstrong

by Fred W. Anson
Q: Can a Mind Control Cult reform itself?
It seems that just below the surface of every discussion of Mind Control Cults this question burns, simmers, and smokes like the proverbial ember seeking to spark into flame.

But can they?
Will they?

Thankfully, the answer (at least occasionally) is yes. Here are two case studies for your consideration.

THE SHEPHERDING MOVEMENT
The Shepherding Movement (the mind control cult that I was in) is one such group. Ron Enroth described how this happened in his classic book, “Churches that Abuse”:
“It is possible for authoritarian churches to change direction? There several fairly recent examples of leaders who have announced changes and confessed to error. One of the leaders of the discipleship/shepherding movement officially known as Christian Growth Ministries, Bob Mumford, made a dramatic about-face after issuing a public statement of repentance in November of 1989. Mumford, one of the “Ft. Lauderdale Five” (so named because of the five founders of Christian Growth Ministries of Ft. Lauderdale Don Basham, Ern Baxter, Bob Mumford, and Charles Simpson), acknowledged abuses that had occurred because of his teaching on submission. This emphasis resulted in ‘perverse and unbiblical odedience’ to leaders. He publicly repented with ‘with sorrow’ and asked for forgiveness. He also admitted that families had been severely disrupted and lives turned upside down.

“Churches That Abuse” by Ronald M. Enroth

In an interview with Christianity Today magazine, Mumford indicated that the abuse of spiritual authority lead to ‘injury, hurt, and in some cases, disaster.” Leaders, he said, were operating at a level where biblical limitations on their authority were not clear. ‘Part of the motivation of my public apology is realization that this wrong attitude is still present in hundreds of independent church groups who are answerable to no one.’[1]

S. David Moore, author of the definitive book on the movement[2] offered this perspective in a 2004 article:
“The Shepherding movement admittedly missed many of its ideals, and its extremes are well-known. In 1989, Bob Mumford offered a public apology to those hurt by the movement’s teachings and practices.

L to R: Bob Mumford, Don Basham, Charles Simpson, Derek Prince, Ern Baxter

L to R: Bob Mumford, Don Basham, Charles Simpson, Derek Prince, Ern Baxter

Charles Simpson, who leads a major segment of those who continue in the legacy of the movement, has said that human carnality won out all too often. While many were hurt as some leaders improperly exercised spiritual authority, mostly ignored are those who benefited from the movement and those who continue in its varied expressions today.

Both Mumford and Simpson believed they were catching and riding a wave of authentic spiritual renewal. Simpson commented that ‘the bigger the wave the more debris it can carry in.’
[3]

Today that ‘debris’ is largely gone. As S. David wrote in 2003:
“The Covenant movement’s leaders have dialogued extensively in recent years and seem to have ‘de-radicalized’ the earlier extremes. Dissent is now encouraged and idealism has given way to a chastened practicality, while the values of relationship, accountability, covenant, and pastoral care are still embraced.”[4]

THE WORLDWIDE CHURCH OF GOD
Another Mind Control Cult that reformed around the same time was the Worldwide Church of God (WCG).[5]

The 2004 documentary “Called To Be Free” summarized the change like this:
In the mid 1990s, the Worldwide Church of God, which began as a religious cult founded by Herbert W. Armstrong, underwent a massive upheaval. At great personal cost, but with an eye to even greater spiritual gain, they renounced their heretical teachings and embraced biblical, evangelical Christianity, and moved from the bondage of legalism to freedom in the grace of Jesus Christ.

Cover for the video documentary

Cover for the video documentary “Called To Be Free”

The leadership and the laypeople of the transformed Worldwide Church of God tell the incredible story in their own words.

Their moving narrative will bring deep encouragement to believers; and those in bondage to cults, legalism, and heretical movements will find hope and good news in this inspiring story.”[6]

Or if you prefer a more secular assessment, Wikipedia summarizes the group’s transformation like this:
“On January 16, 1986, Herbert Armstrong died in Pasadena, California. Shortly before his death, Armstrong named Joseph W. Tkach Sr. to succeed him as leader of the church.

As early as 1988, Joseph W. Tkach Sr. began to make doctrinal changes. Doctrinal revisions were made quietly and slowly at first, but then openly and radically in January 1995. They were presented as “new understandings” of Christmas and Easter, Babylon and the harlot, Anglo-Israelism, Saturday Sabbath, and other doctrines.

Herbert W. Armstrong

Herbert W. Armstrong

In general, Tkach Sr. directed the church theology towards mainstream evangelical Christian belief. This caused much disillusionment among the membership and another rise of splinter groups. During the tenure of Joseph Tkach Sr., the church’s membership declined by about 50 percent. His son, Joseph Tkach Jr., succeeded him after his death in 1995.

Eventually all of Herbert Armstrong’s writings were withdrawn from print by the Worldwide Church of God. In the 2004 video production Called To Be Free, Greg Albrecht, former dean of WCG’s Ambassador College, declared Herbert Armstrong to be both a false prophet (though Armstrong himself did not claim to be a prophet) and a heretic.”[7]

Today the group remains in transition: Some think that the organization has gone too far and have splintered and organized into groups that emulate the old WCG to varying degrees; still others don’t think that it’s gone far enough and have left for other churches, become inactive, or become atheist.[8]

In 2003 Cult Expert Rick Ross observed:
“It seems without its peculiar dogma that the religion lost its attraction. And many Worldwiders felt there was no longer much reason to belong and tithe to the church. Schisms and splintering have subsequently reduced Worldwide to about 60,000 adherents, though its annual revenue is still about $25 million dollars.

The modernization of Worldwide doesn’t seem to have included democratization and/or opened up the issue of meaningful financial accountability to the membership. A power elite still appears to run the organization without referendum and they recently decided to hold an auction.

Herbert W. Armstrong and Joseph W. Tkach Sr.

Herbert W. Armstrong and Joseph W. Tkach Sr.

In what can be seen as a symbolic liquidation they sold off some of the opulent residue that still remained from Armstrong’s glory days, reports The Pasadena Star News.

It appears that the ‘cult’ Herbert Armstrong built may gradually disappear without the man and idiosyncratic beliefs that made it so unique and compelling to its faithful.”[9]

So while the answer to the original question, “Can a Mind Control Cult reform itself?” may be yes, it is never easy, painless, or smooth – and there’s always fall out.

NOTES:
[1] Christianity Today, March 19, 1990 as cited in, “Churches That Abuse” by Ron M. Enroth; 1992; Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan

[2] S. David Moore, “The Shepherding Movement: Controversy and Charismatic Ecclessiology”; London: T & T Clark, 2003

[3] S. David Moore, “Cover Me”; Ministries Today, November/December 2004

[4] Op cit, Moore, “The Shepherding Movement: Controversy and Charismatic Ecclessiology”; p.188

[5] Of interest to those familiar with Mormonism may be the fact that the WCG believed that is was the God’s restored church and used this doctrine as a proselytizing point. Further, there are many other parallels as it appears that Armstrong borrowed some of his teachings from Mormonism. See “Between The Old Worldwide Church of God And The Latter-day Saints”;http://www.giveshare.org/churchhistory/mormons-worldwide-church-of-god.pdf

Some who have studied both organizations have even suggested that should the LdS Church ever reform it’s likely that it might follow a path similar to the WCG.

[6] Link to full video production on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LWAtvE1xiRk

[7] “Death of Armstrong and doctrinal reform” from Wikipedia “Grace Communion International” article;http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grace_Communion_International#Name_change_of_2009

[8] In addition to the aforementioned, “Called To Be Free” video which contains the stories of many who have stayed and seem to be genuinely pleased with and hopeful for the new church, Grace Communion International, many former members have posted their stories on the following websitehttp://www.exitsupportnetwork.com/recovery/testimony/testimon.htm and continue to speak out against Grace Communion International as well as the WCG splinter groups.

[9] Rick Ross, “Do cults collapse when leaders die and/or they give up the exclusive claims that define them?”; hhttp://www.cultnews.com/?p=1174

(Originally published on the Mormon Expression Blogs site where this article premiered on October 20, 2011)

Shepherding Movement Leadership Conference (circa 1975-1976)

Shepherding Movement Leadership Conference (circa 1975-1976)

by Fred W. Anson
Since none of you have never been in a Mind Control Cult, and I have been, I thought it might be instructive to help you all understand what it’s like.

Now I know what some of you may be thinking so let me set the record straight right now:
Contrary to popular rumor, I am not now, nor have I ever been a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Further, as Richard Packham said so well in his (very tongue in cheek) introduction of Cult Expert Steven Hassan at the 2008 ExMormon Foundation Conference

“Steve Hassan is a Cult Counselor and Mind Control Expert, a Nationally Certified Counselor and licensed Mental Health Counselor. He has a break through approach to helping loved ones to get their loved ones out of cult mind control.

Now by asking Steve to speak to us we’re not necessarily implying that Mormonism is a cult!

Steve Hassan

Cult Expert Steve Hassan

I mean, you ask any Mormon and they will tell you that the church isnot a cult. They recognize that the FLDS IS a cult, but not the LdS Church. President Monson would not run a cult. He is a Prophet of God. Other so-called Prophets run cults but not President Monson.

So we have cleared that up! . . . it’s now my great pleasure to introduce to you Steven Hassan.”[1]

Thank you Mr. Packham.  So for those of you that might have been thinking “those” thoughts . . . well now, you can just relax, take a deep breath, and “simmer down” can’t you? You see, though I was never a Mormon, I was a member of what has come to be known as The Shepherding Movement for 11-years (from 1978-1989).

Here’s how the overview reads in the Wikipedia article for our group:

“The Shepherding Movement (sometimes called the “Discipleship Movement”) was an influential and controversial movement within some British and American charismatic churches, emerging in the 1970s and early 1980s. The doctrine of the movement emphasized the “one another” passages of the New Testament, and the mentoring relationship described in 2 Timothy.

The movement gained a reputation for controlling and abusive behaviour, with a great deal of emphasis placed upon the importance of obedience to one’s own shepherd. In many cases, disobeying one’s shepherd was tantamount to disobeying God. A few of these criticisms were exaggerated, but many lives were damaged.”
[2]

Before I joined the Shepherding Movement I was pretty much your typical 1970′s anti-establishment “Jesus Freak” with long hair, a head band, and a belief in a Jesus that was pretty much a hippy just like me. I was flakey, irresponsible, politically liberal, a registered Democrat (an obvious sin if there ever was one!), and with a theology that was far more reflective of hippy culture than anything aligned with Biblical Christianity.

However, despite that self-admitted immature, theologically compromised mess I did have one thing going for me: I could think for myself – maybe not so well, but I could think independently none-the-less. After joining the group this all slowly began to change.

Of course, like the name implies Mind Control Cults are defined by tactics and techniques – be they intentional or not – that control the thinking of their adherents. For those of us who have come out of Mind Control Cults this can all be perplexing and painful to figure out. For years I beat myself up with questions like, “How could I am been so stupid?” and “How could I have not seen what was so obvious to those who were on the outside?”

That’s why when I discovered Steven Hassan’s BITE model (via the aforementioned ExMormon Foundation Conference address) I felt like the clouds had parted, the sun had finally broken through, and the fog had finally cleared.  I finally “got it”.

ReleasingTheBondsHassan introduced the BITE model in his book “Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves” , “BITE” stands for “Behavior, Information, Thought, and Emotional Control. The model is based on the Cult and Mind Control research of Clinical Psychologist Margaret Singer, the Thought Reform/Brain Washing research of Robert Lifton, the Cognitive Dissonance and Social Comparison theories of Leon Festinger, and Hassan’s own research and personal experience in Reverend Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church.

Because the model is based on scientific empiricism it can be used to assess any group entity or social institution be it religious, business, political, or otherwise to determine if it’s behaving like a Mind Control Cult or not.  Further, it is non-sectarian as well as doctrinally and theologically neutral.

The components of the BITE model are:[3]

Behavior Control
o Regulation of individual’s physical reality
o Major time commitment required for indoctrination sessions and group rituals
o Need to ask permission for major decisions
o Need to report thoughts, feelings, and activities to superiors
o Rewards and punishments (behavior modification techniques positive and negative)
o Individualism discouraged; “group think” prevails
o Rigid rules and regulations
o Need for obedience and dependency

Information Control
o Use of deception
o Access to non cult sources of information minimized or discouraged
o Compartmentalization of information; Outsider vs. Insider doctrines
o Extensive use of cult generated information and propaganda
o Spying on other members is encouraged
o Unethical use of confession

Thought Control
o Need to internalize the group’s doctrine as “Truth”
o Use of “loaded” language (for example, “thought terminating clichés”). Words are the tools we use to think with. These “special” words constrict rather than expand understanding, and can even stop thoughts altogether. They function to reduce complexities of experience into trite, platitudinous “buzz words.”
o Only “good” and “proper” thoughts are encouraged.
o Use of hypnotic techniques to induce altered mental states
o Manipulation of memories and implantation of false memories
o Use of thought stopping techniques, which shut down “reality testing” by stopping “negative” thoughts and allowing only “good” thoughts
o Rejection of rational analysis, critical thinking, constructive criticism. No critical questions about leader, doctrine, or policy seen as legitimate.
o No alternative belief systems viewed as legitimate, good, or useful

Emotional Control
o Manipulate and narrow the range of a person’s feelings
o Make the person feel that if there are ever any problems, it is always their fault, never the leader’s or the group’s
o Excessive use of guilt
o Excessive use of fear
o Extremes of emotional highs and lows
o Ritual and often public confession of “sins”
o Phobia indoctrination: inculcating irrational fears about ever leaving the group or even questioning the leader’s authority. The person under mind control cannot visualize a positive, fulfilled future without being in the group.

And with that “milk” foundation now laid, in Part 2 I would like to use the BITE Model as a framework for walking you through the “meat” of what I and others experienced via the Mind Control tactics and techniques employed in The Shepherding Movement.

My hope is that by “putting myself out there”  like this you will come to understand how groups that use Mind Control tactics and techniques acquire, retain, and control their members so that, maybe, just maybe, you will never suffer the fate of becoming a mind control cultist like I once did.

NOTES
[1] Link to YouTube Video Playlist for Steve Hassan ‘Releasing The Bonds: Empowering People To Think For Themselves Link to portal page for AUDIO/VIDEO: Steve Hassan ‘Releasing The Bonds: Empowering People To Think For Themselves’
(Keynote Address from the 2008 ExMormon Foundation General Conference)

[2] Wikipedia article on the Shepherding Movement; retrieved 2011-06-25

[3] Sources: “Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves” by Steven Hassan; Ch. 2, Aitan Publishing Company, 2000 and Freedom of Mind Webpage on the BITE Model

(Originally published on the Mormon Expression Blogs site where this article premiered on August 22nd, 2011)