Introduction To Hate Literature
Love your enemies
Jesus of Nazareth
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a broad doctrinal base and a complex history that provide its enemies with many aspects upon which to concentrate their attacks. Church members who have not studied doctrine or history are vulnerable to misleading arguments. There is no substitute for study and research. Knowledge is the best defence against immoderate attacks.
In this work we focus upon four areas which, while they do not exhaust the possibilities, are the primary targets for unfriendly attention. They are areas where the reputation of the church is most easily damaged and are inclined to cause anxiety for members unfamiliar with the detail of Latter-day Saint documentary sources, which enables readers to test the images made by anti-Mormons against reliable models.
Each area is a focal point for constructors of images of hate. Each writer concludes that their idiosyncratic model represents the "Truth" about Mormonism. Image-makers are unable to agree on a common imagery which exposes the weakness of their respective positions. Neither are they in agreement how models and interpretations are to be understood. The differences between their models becomes clear by their attempts to each hold the position of supreme authority on Mormonism in which writers often propose explanations of wondrous dimensions. The four areas under our scrutiny are:
1. The multiplying theories of origin of the Book of Mormon
2. The character of Joseph Smith Jr
3. Denial of 'Christian' status to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and,
4. Stereotypical false images of Mormons and Mormonism.
The order in which these are presented has been determined by historical procession. Some theories of the origin of the Book of Mormon arose from an understandable scepticism which greeted the announcement that a book of Holy Writ was being prepared and would soon be available.
Just about in this particular region, for some time past, much speculation has existed, concerning a pretended discovery, through superhuman means, of an ancient record, of a religious and divine nature and origin, written in ancient characters, impossible to be interpreted by any to whom the special gift has not been imparted by inspiration. It is generally known as the "Golden Bible." Most people entertain an idea that the whole matter is the result of a gross imposition, and a grosser superstition. It is pretended that it will soon be published as soon as the translation is completed.
Early theories amounted to gossip rather than formal arguments, but were no less effective for that. The high-water mark of Book of Mormon criticism was around the time of its publication in the spring 1830. However it did not take long for scepticism to yield to more serious charges of blasphemy, theft, fraud, plagiarism and conspiracy. False charges that are monotonously trotted-out with each new anti-Mormon publication.
At the same time that attacks on the Book of Mormon were gathering pace, insulting libels arose about the character of the Prophet Joseph Smith Jr., in which his enemies levelled four major allegations against him:
- his congenital disposition to ignorance, superstition and idleness
- his fundamentally bad character as attested by his former neighbours
- his immorality and,
- his criminality
Denial of Christian status to Latter-day Saints is principally based on theit rejection of the Nicean and Chalcedonian definitions of the Triune Godhead or Holy Trinity. This is a point of difference between historic denominations and Latter-day Saints who claim that ttinitarianism lacks Biblical support.
The development of the doctrine of the Trinity has been traced by many eminent scholars such as Jaroslav Pelikan. The historical evidence suppports the development of a trinity as doctrine of necessity probably initiated by taunts by Jews and pagans that Christians were not monotheists but at best ditheists or at worst tritheists. Ecclesiastical history furnishes cogent evidence that early theologians were not easily convinced of the soundness of the Holy Trinity.
Other reasons for denying Christian status to Mormons are based on claims that its foundations are not Christian. Some writers assert that its base is derived from occult or other Satanic systems. Some contend that Joseph Smith adapted existing non-Christian systems. One proposed that Smith introduced a new religious tradition alien to traditional Christianity but parallel to it. In a well written but flawed thesis which ignores much relevant primary material Shipps offers:
THE QUESTION of whether Mormonism was a renewed version of apostolic Christianity or whether it was a more radical movement that accepted "the restoration of all things" created tension within Mormonism from the very first. . . Mormonism started to move away from primitive Christianity very early in its history.
Early Christians thought of themselves in Hebraic terms. As the saints for that is what the Bible calls them-of Solomon's day rejoiced when fire came down from heaven and the glory of the Lord filled the house during the consecration of the temple, so at Pentecost the "latter-day saints" of early Christianity rejoiced in God's goodness when a rushing mighty wind filled all the house and cloven tongues of fire sat on each of them. But as Christianity developed, as Jews and Greeks were "together in Christ" brought beneath the covenant that God had made with Abraham, it gradually became clear that the way espoused by the apostles were not part of Israel's tradition. Without fully and consciously realizing that they were doing so, the followers of Jesus established a new religious tradition.
This book tells the story of yet another assembly of saints whose history, I believe, is in many respects analogous to the history of those early Christians who thought at first that they had found the only proper way to be Jews. Despite the surprising similarity between some of the modern cultural manifestations of Mormonism and American evangelical Protestantism, Mormonism started to grow away from traditional Christianity almost immediately on coming into existence. It began as a movement that understood itself to be Christian, but as "the new dispensation of the fulness of times" commenced with the publication of the Book of Mormon, the "restoration" of the Aaronic priesthood, and the recognition of Joseph Smith as prophet, these nineteenth-century Latter-day Saints [as they came to be called] embarked on a path that led to developments that now distinguish their tradition from the Christian tradition as surely as early Christianity was distinguished from its Hebraic content.
Shipps' proposition is that Mormonism is as discrete from Christianity as Primitive Christianity was from the Judaism from which it sprung.
While the difficulty of reconstructing exactly how things happened nearly 2,000 years ago frustrates the development of an elaborate theoretical model that could be rigorously tested, it is clear that in early Christianity, the pattern of recovery included four principal activities: reiteration of Israel's story, with heavy emphasis on the means by which the life and death of Jesus fulfilled Hebrew law and prophecy; theological reinterpretation, based on consideration of the meaning of the story in light of what was seen as the eschatalogical event of the ages, the resurrection of Christ. Actual recapitulation of key events of the story in a new setting; and appropriate ritual re-creation of the story in a Christian context. Furthermore, it is also clear that through these acts of appropriation, Christianity transformed Israel's past so that it seemed alien to the Jews as did the developing Christian tradition whose belief system was supported not only by the proclamation of a resurrected messiah, but also by a particular vision of Israel's history that gave meaning to the life and death of Jesus. In the nineteenth century the Mormons were engaged in similar activities, out of which emerged a similar result. This time, however, reiteration, reinterpretation, recapitulation, and ritual re-creation of the significant events in Israel's past and the significant events in the story of early Christianity were both required.
This interesting theory is scholarly but flawed. The evidence for it is capable of widely different interpretation and application. Anti-Mormon writers portray the Church as an accretion of images cynically composed to bring about three particular effects. The first is to prevent non-Members listening to the Latter-day Saint proselytising ministry by presenting fictional aspects of Mormonism which are opposed to the accepted values and morals of Christianity, just as surely as they are opposed to the essential values and mores of Latter-day Saints.
Anti-Mormon hater and demagogue, Lorri MacGregor, whose Canadian based MacGregor Ministries was forcibly shut down by the Canadian Government as a hate group under the terms of Canadian law, fires a barrage of well-aimed hostile invective:.
MORMONS WON'T TELL YOU that the state of Utah, which is predominantly Mormon, has a higher than the national average of divorce, wife-beating, child abuse, and teenage suicide.
MORMONS WON'T TELL YOU that their prophet Joseph Smith was heavily involved in the occult when he founded Mormonism.
MORMONS WON'T TELL YOU that they encourage visitations from dead relatives from the 'spirit world', a practice forbidden in the Bible (Deuteronomy 18:10-12).
MORMONS WON'T TELL YOU that according to Anton Lavey's Satanic Bible, the demon God of the living is called "Mormo". Is it just a coincidence that MORMOns [sic] are so concerned with the dead?
MORMONS WON'T TELL YOU that on their Salt Lake City Temple they prominently display an upside-down star which is a Satanic symbol known as the Goat's head. Why?
WHY WON'T MORMONS TELL YOU THESE THINGS?
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the Mormons, are well aware that if these facts were known to the convert prior to baptism, they would have very few converts. The missionaries are well trained to keep most of these facts from their potential converts.
The second purpose is to dissuade potential converts from proceeding into membership of the Church by recounting distorted or fictionalised 'histories' and teaching, the familiar "horror stories" claiming to represent the "Truth about Mormonism.'"
THE BIBLE - The Mormons only USE THE BIBLE DECEITFULLY. Actually they teach that not one verse in the Bible is correctly translated.
A MORE DETAILED EXAMINATION - Joseph Smith was succeeded by Brigham Young who, in 1846, led the Mormons to Utah, where they bound themselves by secret oaths, offered human sacrifices, made blood atonements, and committed murder.
Third, is the intention to induce Latter-day Saints to abandon the Church by convincing them that they have been duped by a cunning and cynical leaders who are "using" them for sinister but vague purposes. Some hold that the nature of Mormonism has changed during its history. Changed from a blatantly occult sect into a marginalized "Christian-looking cult." This kind of activity is peddled - most of it is for sale - under a heading such as "freeing Mormons from cult bondage". It presents weak but elaborate arguments based on libels and slanders which are easily rebutted with the aid of a reliable history of the Church.
Tragically, many Mormons may not even be fully aware of the doctrine and history of their own church. Every statement on this tract is true. Mormons are invited to write to us for documentation and discussion. After all, if the Mormon Church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) has any truth, it can stand any amount of investigation. Please do not be afraid to investigate. We are not Ex-Mormons [The MacGregors are ex-Jehovah's Witnesses and have nothing good to say about Jehovah's Witnesses either!], but they say, "we are Christians defending the Christian Church and its beliefs."
All those who have been in the cults have been affected by the satanic realm...Once they have confessed and turned their backs on it, you can pray a strong prayer in the name of the Lord cutting him off from the past and closing the doorway that Satan had into their life...We are not battling against the people who are in the cults but against Satan and his armies who have blinded their eyes. Do remember therefore that we are to engage in the spiritual warfare of prayer to see these captives released.
Take your authority as a Christian and pray in Jesus' name and bind the spirit of deception that is operating in the cultist's life and loose him to hear the gospel of Christ....People in the cults are under a spirit of deception. The whole purpose of this book, and of our ministry, is to reach out with the love of Christ, to those trapped in the counterfeits of Christianity, and to introduce them to the real Jesus Christ.
Everybody should find this booklet useful. It will warn the unwary. Honest Mormons will find it pointing to the real historic Jesus Christ who saves and satisfies the greatest sinners who trust him. It is written and designed chiefly to encourage and equip EVERY CHRISTIAN to be a witness to lost Mormons caught up in the ever evolving and expanding world of Mormonism.
One of the things that Christians often take for granted when dealing with those who are caught in the cults.
By her own admission, MacGregor was in a cult and so by her own reasoning she admits to being influenced by the Satanic realm which she demonstrates through the hatred she turns on her once-beloved denomination to manufacture her twisted version of it to plunder hatred of its profit in her new enterprise. Is she unaware that Jesus asks her, "What doth it profit a woman if she gain the whole world but lose her soul?"
Some former Mormons adopt "bondage" language when describing their former religious associations.
"The Lord released me from all my bondage, including Mormonism, in one very exciting evening."
Brian, the released one, does not let us into the secret of ALL the other habits in which he was enslaved. However, and to his credit, he did eventually admit to me in a letter that he was enslaved to a lying spirit that was not from God but was one that reach Out Trust [ROT] took advantage of when it made him one of their own.
While the liberation motif connected with the activities of anti-Mormon ministries goes some way to explain the distortions with which their publications are packed, it does nothing to justify the claim that they are 'acting out of love for Latter-day Saints." But, the language of warfare tell more about motives and attitudes than do the feeble attempts at sentiment. Mormons have experienced the cutting edge of such love.
An overview of Latter-day Saint history is contained in chapter four. This provides a context for the persecution which has attended the Church at all stages of its history. Where inaccurate history has been supplied, it is corrected with honest historical accounts. Official doctrines and teachings are presented to counter extravagant fictitious versions and lies are shown to be lies.
Our interest is in the persecution of a misunderstood and much maligned people. This is not an experience unique to Mormons, but is a common response to all groups perceived as anomalous provided that certain pre-conditions are present. These include the introduction of different ideas whether religious or political and attempts real or perceived to seize control. The role played by perception is fundamental, something does not have to be true to attract hostility, it need only be perceived as such.
Persecution also arises when a scapegoat is dsiscovered to be necessary to deflect attention and criticism away from one's own shortcomings - every politician understands that. Any threat, real or imagined, is inclined to promote hostility from the threatened and it is safe to conclude that those engaged in anti-Mormon activities at any level feel threatened by the existence and success of the Church.
What surprises decent people is the inability of persecutors to see their behaviour for what it is. Whatever noble, if mistaken, ideas cause them to view Latter-day Saints as their enemies, it should be self-evident that their tactics are questionable. How is it possible that those who construct images of Mormonism not based on the understanding and experience of Mormons expect to have their lies and distortions accepted as reality? If the models put forward by hostile writers are not based on the substantive history or doctrines of the Church, upon what are they based?
Distortion and decontextualization are common ploys to make things seem different than they are, and there is another rich source of confusion. Many discourses and sermons delivered by leading brethren in the early days of the Church were recorded in longhand without the benefit of electrical recording equipment, relying on the memories and accuracy of the amanuense writing them. Many of these discourses contain speculative material which is not and never has been the official doctrine of the Church. Such data is seized upon by revisionists and declared to be the normative teaching of the Church. Speculative theology can not be considered official and should be treated with circumspection. The premise that because a Latter-day Saint said or wrote something it must be the official teaching falls heavily.
Images of the Prophet Joseph Smith offered by his detractors are unreliable, because they are drawn to put the worst possible interpretation on the man and his work. Information from polluted and biased sources is frequently used in the reconstruction of his story. These sources are dedicated to his downfall, many of them having made their contribution to his eventual murder.
Anti-Mormons act reflexively in their opposition to the Latter-day Saint Church. Convinced that they are right which is their justification for enmity. They conclude that Mormons are wrong. Some are so extreme in their opposition that they publish pamphlets and books whose content offends simple decency. The disparity between their own "rightness" and their enemies "wrongness" enables them to subvert noble impulses which might otherwise prevent their actions. Muddled scholarship obscures objectivity. It becomes apparent that their need to be right displaces the self-critical faculty. There are no barriers of decency or regard for truth which is not breached. All, it appears, is fair in the search for the final solution to the Mormon problem.
Of course, every story has at least two sides, but those who enter into the practice of persecution know it is obligatory to suppress details about the enemy which weakens the persecutors' case. Positive information must be suppressed or passed over in silence and without shame on the part of detractors who do not hesitate to manufacture untruth or repeat any untrue material in the promotion of hatred. Material which is patently irrational is used if it will pad out a weak proposition. Data which serves the end irrespective of its being vile or false is admitted. Allegations made by Brinkerhoff bear this out, although Brinkerhoff is not alone in his willingness to cross the line of truth and sanity in his fantastic theorising..
Do Latter-day Saints persecute their opponents? The Church admits of no faith, denomination or religious group which it regards with enmity. It is true that among early Latter-day Saint writings there is evidence of polemic. Should material must be viewed against their backgrounds and in context. They were defences against present hostility and not pre-emptive attacks. The Saints had to fight for their lives against the type of enmity and lies which interprets signs of their distress as invective against Christianity at large. Many Saints lost the fight, martyred by Christian enemies.
The Nineteenth Century, into which Mormonism was born, was a time of bitter sectarian rivalry. Christian denominations were engaged in the battle with Deism and its consequences. Each group sought to convince its hearers that they alone had the truth. In such an atmosphere exaggerated claims and counter-claims multiplied. It was inevitable that when the Restored Gospel was ushered into the midst of this rivalry that it would become the target of vilification.
This was a period when the United States was struggling to forge its identity and frame the meaning of the term "American." Professional politicians and ordinary citizens alike exerted themselves to find a national identity. The framers of the Declaration of Independence constructed it with white, Protestant men in mind. Society, whether at the teeming frontier or in the settled cities, was divided along ethnic, national, economic and religious lines, Chinese and Irish Catholics in particular being at the bottom end of the pecking order, to which was added Mormons. It is no wonder that the infant Church should be the object of ridicule by those in established religions who felt that they supplied all that was necessary for the religious needs and aspirations of the population.
They were especially critical of the claim that a Joseph Smith reported a conversation with the glorified resurrected Christ who, in answer to his question, "Which church shall I join?" had declared: You must join none of them. They are all wrong. Their creeds are an abomination in my sight. The professors thereof are all corrupt. They draw near me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They teach for doctrine the commandments of men. Having a form of Godliness, they deny the power thereof.
Remarkably Smith's Methodist minister friend, Reverend George Lane, to whom he related the incident, did not refute the reality of the a vision, but insisted that it was the product of Satan by which he granted to the Devil the very power that he denied to God.
Some take Jesus' statement to Joseph about the exisitng denominations as a personal insult and claim it represents the hatred that Latter-day Saints have for non-Latter-day Saint Christians. Claims one,
In my Mormon contacts another question was frequently asked, "Why do other denominations criticize the Mormon Church?" Doctrinal reasons will be presented later, but at this point it should be sufficient to reply that many criticize your church because it was founded on the conviction that all other churches were false, apostate.
This as a childish response unworthy of a disciple of Jesus Christ. Besides which, to believe this is to misunderstand the words of Jesus, and to seriously misrepresent the Latter-day Saints' attitude to other denominations. The official view is that all who acknowledge Jesus to be the divine Son of God, Saviour and Redeemer of the world are an important part of the Christian world. Mormons are positively engaged in establishing better relations with other churches and faiths. This approach is distorted by some who claim that the Saints are only interested in becoming friendlier with others so they can take over their organizations.
The director of an anti-Mormon ministry wrote that her organization was not persecuting Mormons and she believed that "Mormons would persecute others if they could get away with it." This monstrous idea has no foundation. The director was asked for evidence to support her allegation but was not able produce it It had no substance than her own prejudicem, which she admitted when I interviewed her and taped the interview with her permission..
The battles of the nineteenth-century religious scene have no part in the approaches to the twenty-first-century. They can only be maintained by those religions which have fossilised at some point in the past. Latter-day Saints believe in the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of mankind. This concept informs their attitudes and actions towards others.
Negative feeling towards another's religious system does not of itself constitute persecution, but it does lead to a devaluation of the other's system even if this is not expressed. Devaluation leads to disrespect for the system and loss of respect for the individual and indifference for his well-being. These attitudes underlie the hatred that is the bed-fellow of persecution The hated religion is marginalised, then alienated, from where it is but a small step to positive persecution. Perception of the hated thing as "other" is a requirement for persecution leading to the destruction of the dehumanised other.
Some ministries rely on sheer weight of numbers of complaints against Latter-day Saints, overwhelming readers with catalogues of "expose" material. These do not cause concern for members of the Church who are familiar with their own history and doctrines. They are the spoofs of anti-Mormonism relying on decontextualization. When the context is restored the lie is apparent and the threat of harm is neutralised.
Christianity is a religion of reconciliation: it reconciles man to God, and man to man. If the hand of reconciliation is not extended to all can it be Christian? Is it Christian to seek the discomfort or injury of another? The cry "heretic" has caused bloodshed and flesh burning enough to satisfy the deepest of hatreds. It should have no part of any Christian ministry.
Jesus extended his care, his love, and his concern for all who followed him and for many who did not. He is our pattern and example and Christians have no business departing from his example. That alone would prevent mindless hatred and distrust generated by the ministers of hate, and Christianity would be the richer for it.