IMAGES OF MORMONISM
The gentleman is indebted
to his imagination for his facts
Richard Brinslay Butler Sheridan
Propaganda has a long history. Most people of the twentieth century equate propaganda with its sinister application in Hitler's Nazi Germany. Under that regime it was an effective force applied against Jews, who were Hitler's political enemies, and against other groups which Hitler's scientists had decided were unfit to live either because they were non-Aryan or else because they were mentally and physically disadvantaged. The objective of propaganda is to convince people that ideas and actions such as the vilification, tormenting or extermination of a racial, political or religious group, is .acceptable. Propaganda operates by feeding information produced by exaggeration, distortion and misrepresentation of negative stereotypes designed to lead to the auditor towards a determined collection of ideas and conclusions.
Propaganda is usually simple because simplicity side-steps the cognitive and judgemental processes of intellectual activity. The aim is not intellectual conviction but emotional persuasion in the guise of intellectual conviction. Its primary appeal is directed against uncertainties and fears. It incites by appearing to demonstrate that the enemy is responsible for those uncertainties and fears. Hitler's propaganda imaged the Jews as grasping, baby-killing, sewer-rats. The purpose was to identify Jews as subhuman (untermenschen), in public consciousness. Once the Jews had been de-humanised no voices were raised against their destruction. Used in this manner propaganda is dishonest, anti-intellectual and deadly effective. Himself a victim of the Nazis, Pastor Niemoller's self-accusation expresses this point.
First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out -
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the communists
and I did not speak out -
because I was not a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out -
because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me -
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.
The main thrust of propaganda is to show that the enemy is not like ourselves. This was done so effectively under Hitler's influence that the idea of Jewish "difference" insinuated its way into the German psyche so deeply that in very few years otherwise decent Germans witnessed the destruction of German Jews' property and the beating, even killing of Jews in the street without demur. How was Hitler able to achieve this?
The internal problems which had given the Nazis their first few seats continued to worsen. Unemployment rose yet again, reaching three million by the end of 1929. Both workers and employers were its victims. Small businessmen suffered equally with those on the factory floor. As the economic distress grew, the Nazis denounced Jewish 'wealth' and 'conspiracy'. In Berlin on 1 January 1930 brown-uniformed Stormtroopers killed eight Jews: the first Jewish victims of the Nazi era. For the next nine months, Jews were molested in cafes and theatres, and synagogues were constantly interrupted by these uniformed hooligans, already dignified by the title 'Party Members'.
Anti-Semitism was not Hitler's invention, it had deep roots in European religion and culture which he was able to tap. He was assisted by the perseveration of institutionalised Christian anti-Semitism. Luther, the great Reformer, was also the apostle of anti-Judaic hatred.
First, their synagogues should be set on fire, and whatever does not burn should be covered with earth so that none shall ever see its ashes or even a stone of it. Their homes are to be broken down and utterly destroyed. Then Jews should be housed in a single place, even a stable, like Gypsies, that they will learn they are not the masters of our land. They should be made to labour, earning their living by the sweat of their noses. If they are then still dangerous these poisonous bitter worms should be stripped of their property and belongings which they have obtained from us by extortion and usury and driven from the country never to return.
Hitler de-naturalised Jews by law. Although many families had lived in Germany for something like a thousand years, Nazi legislation debarred them from exercising or even claiming German nationality. Hitler made his attitude towards Jews clear in 1922 when he announced,
The Jewish people stand against us as our deadly foe, and will so stand against us always, and for all time.
One year later under the pen of Jew-baiter, Julius Streicher, Der Sturmer announced "The Jews are Our Misfortune". Hardly a page of Hitler's autobiography, Mein Kampf is free from anti-Jewish abuse. He describes Jews as "evil...impure...and inferior."
In this masterpiece of paranoia he has a singular vision of Jews and their supposed attack on German race and culture, suggestive of illiberal attacks on Mormons and Mormonism.
The black-haired Jewish youth lies in wait for hours on end, satanically glaring at and spying on the unsuspicious girl whom he plans to seduce, adulterating her blood, and removing her from the bosom of her own people.
The Jew uses every possible means to undermine the racial foundations of a subjugated people. In his systematic efforts to ruin girls and women he strives to break down the last barriers of discrimination between him and other peoples.
The Jews were responsible for bringing Negroes into the Rhineland, with the ultimate idea of bastardizing the white race which they hate and thus lowering its cultural and political level so that the Jew might dominate.
For as long as a people remain racially pure and are conscious of the treasure of their blood, they can never be overcome by the Jew. Never in this world can the Jew become master of any people except a bastardized people.
In his book Hitler defined his programme for dealing with Jews. He would expose them and the danger they posed to Aryan life and culture, describing them as "maggots in an abscess".
He decided that no understanding was possible with such people; they could only be dealt with by the "hard and fast 'Either/Or".
In time he disclosed his "final solution," which was the murder of all the Jews he could get into his death camps.
Jews were no longer treated as human beings. Even infants and children were not safe from the horrors of the regime nor were grey hairs or the frailty of advanced age exempt from the common-place brutality which characterized the anti-Jewish character of the Third Reich.
Hitler's programme was simple but effective. His propaganda machine churned out as much anti-Jewish sentiment as possible. Everything which could be laid at their feet whether guilty or not, was made available for public consumption. Individual acts of violence against Jews were encouraged and went unpunished as a matter of official policy. This encouraged faint-hearted anti-Jews to become bolder in their persecution. By the time the state was openly involved in beating and execution of a few Jews, the practice appeared very normal in the eyes of great masses of German people. From there it was a small step to the death camps which claimed the lives of at least six million Jews; maybe as many as eight million: the final figure may never be known.
Anti-Mormon persecution follows closely that of Hitler. It is not surprising that the initial impulse for this book came during a lecture on the Holocaust in Leeds University. Differing only in scale a similar programme has been applied by the enemies of Mormonism as has been used against Jews. To this end much anti-Mormon propaganda is dedicated to exposing Mormons and Mormonism not only as non-Christian but as "evil" and "Satanic". Whereas Jews were shown to be non-Aryan polluters of German blood and culture, Latter-day Saints are shown as non-Christian polluters of the ancient faith. For this reason much anti-Mormon polemic is couched in the language of warfare.
No charge brought against Mormonism has greater impact than the allegation that Mormons are not Christians. This is delivered in various ways from direct denials:
- [Mormonism is] irreconcilable with the Christian faith.
- [Mormons] cannot honestly claim to be Christians at all...Mormon beliefs are neither true nor Christian.
- [Mormonism] does not deserve to be called a Christian religion...is basically anti-Christian and anti-Biblical.
- [Mormonism].differ[s] from the true Christianity of the Bible.
- [Mormonism].cannot be Christianity.
- [Mormonism].is a cult and not a Christian church.
- [Mormonism].differs from evangelical Christianity in five major ways and in numerous minor points.
- The Christian view of salvation is very different [than that of the Mormons].
Some employ more oblique references which may be phrased in comparative form:
- One is hard put to see any relationship between Mormon belief and Biblical Christianity.
- [Mormonism is] nothing more than pagan blasphemy dressed up in christian [sic] garb.
- The fundamental difference between Mormons and Christians.
- [Mormonism is] powerful, its missionary programme immense, and its inroads upon the Christian faith tragic.
- The first of their 'Articles of Faith' gives the impression of sound orthodox Christianity.
- A clever, and I believe, deliberate attempt to deceive the näive into believing that Mormonism is a Christian religion.
- Scholastic dishonesty and semantic trickery are apparently standard Mormon practices in their ever expanding attempt to appear as Christians, which they are not!.
- The labyrinth of antichristian dogmas which constitute Mormon theology.
- All [Protestants] consider the Mormons a non-Christian cult!
- [Mormons] have not in the past hesitated to employ deception in their effort to mimic orthodox Christianity.
- Like Mormons, Christians ... like Christians, Mormons...
- [Mormonism is] a cleverly designed counterfeit of the Christian religion ... the filmy coat of pseudo-Christian testimony.
These direct pronouncements contain a more profound element than simple statements of denial. They claim to know the 'clever designs' by which The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 'pretends' to be Christian. None of these writers informs their readership why Latter-day Saints are so intent on this deception. In other of their statements they claim knowledge of something more sinister lurking deep within Mormonism:
- [Mormonism is] polytheistic and anti-Trinitarian masquerading under Christian terminology in a clever attempt to appear as 'angels of light' when in reality they are 'ministers of Satan.'
- [Mormonism] may appear Christian by human standards of judgement...but under the veneer of professed Christianity lies the denial of 'the only Lord God and our Lord, Jesus Christ' and the subtle substitution of 'another gospel'.
- [Mormonism is] as unchristian as any of the eastern cults.
- Their description of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost is not that of the Trinity of the Bible... No Mormon can claim today that he has eternal life in Christ.
- They differ from the true Christianity of the Bible.
- [Mormonism is] polytheistic (believing in many gods), unlike true Christianity which is Monotheistic. Mormonism, therefore, is not truly Christian.
All the foregoing serve to demonstrate the systematic de-Christianisation to which Mormons are constantly subjected. It will be noted that many writers do more than simply state the non-Christian nature of Mormonism by introducing alien interpretations of the faith of Latter-day Saints. Once the process has begun anything can be written about Mormons regardless of its distance from the truth. This material is disseminated and received by those whose critical faculties are subjugated to the control of anti-Mormon ministers. De-Christianisation distorts Mormonism and reconstructs it into an image created by the engines of a hidden agenda to present its message that Mormonism is not Christian.
Although each anti-Mormon writer presents their own version of Mormon reality according to their faith positions, experiences and prejudices, it is in Brinkerhoff that we find a most extreme example of the construction of an image of Mormonism that lies so far outside of recoverable facts and available history that it defies belief.
One should look to the very fertile imagination of ambitious men...for the ideas that have been developed into the teaching of the modern Mormon Church. ...[the Mormon Law of Sacrifice] is an almost exact parallel to the ancient Persian Zoroastrian teaching that the human spirit in the preexistance [sic] agreed to come to earth to help god (Ahura Mazda) in his struggle to wrest the earth away from the devil (Ahura Mainyu [sic]). The Mormons believe in pre-existance [sic] and they accept that they are joining in the fight to do what they can to help their god [sic] win the battle. However they use the names Elohim (their father god [sic]) instead of Chaos (the Persian father god), Jehovah, (Jesus who is the good son/god), instead of Ahura Mazda (the Persian son/god), and Lucifer (the evil god and brother of the good god) instead of Angra Mainyu (the Persian evil brother of the good god). Sounds incredible doesn't it? How can the Mormons claim to be biblically based when their beliefs are patterned directly on the Persian Zoroastrians?
Brinkerhoff imitates the practice of many writers in that he takes anything for which he can find a parallel without exploring the underlying doctrine or practice. Were he to complete his research he would find that many similarities exist between greatly varying religious traditions, but these similarities do not signify dependence. Brinkerhoff misses this point in his blind attack on Mormonism. Most Christadelphians have greater respect for truth than Brinkerhoff. False and bizarre charges are easy to frame and easy to believe if anyone wants to believe them. It is easy to accept irrational theories as the truth about Mormonism when it is written or spoken by those in positions of trust such as ministers, religious writers and scholars.
Some writers reach strange conclusions for the wrong reasons as two statements from Butterworth's deeply flawed book will demonstrate.
- Joseph Smith is the true Messiah.
- Jesus was his [Joseph Smith's] forerunner.
- Jesus...did not exist before his birth on earth.
Why should anyone believe these statements since they are diametrically opposed to the widely known official and accepted Mormon positions on the place and role of Joseph Smith and his relationship to Jesus Christ? Why would they be believed when Latter-day Saints believe not only in the pre-existence of Jesus but of everyone else? The answer is "because they are written in a book."
The author's youngest son was taught Religious Education from this very book at Almondbury Junior School in Huddersfield a few years ago. Other statements from the book demonstrate a lack of respect for the fundamental tenet of scholarship which is to be sure that one's statements are accurate. This case serves as a warning of what may be produced when a fertile imagination is coupled with the desire to injure. It is to the credit of the publisher that when the book was reprinted they prmosed me that they would excise these cavils.
How justified is the accusation that Latter-day Saints are not Christians? Is there any justification for the claim? Or is it a clever and potent fiction to prevent non Latter-day Saint Christians looking too closely at the claims of the Church?
In spite of Latter-day Saint belief in the divine Sonship and Redemptive death of Jesus Christ, there are some obvious points of difference between Latter-day Saint understanding and that of mainstream Christian churches. The most important of these is the Mormon rejection of the Nicean and Chalcedonian definitions of the Godhead.
Whilst this has long been considered to be one of the prime tests for Christian orthodoxy it has not always been so. The Athanasian Creed which is supported by the definition has not always enjoyed the unanimous confidence of the Christian Church. At other times the Arianist Creed has been held to be orthodox, thereby relegating the Athanasian Creed to the position of a heresy.
There is no positive confirmation of the Nicene or Chalcedonian doctrines in the New Testament. Nor is there any positive unarguable Trinitarian teaching in the early documents of Christianity, as familiarity with the Church Fathers' writings and Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History etc., will prove.
The history of the early Church is the history of conflict, as its ministers and theologians hammered out and sometimes fought about the basic meanings of Christianity. Christian theology and Christology were forged in the white hot furnaces of argument, contention, and conflict. Many paid for their 'heretical' beliefs with their lives.
The view of the New Testament Church continuing in faith, doctrine and practice until the present time with little or no variation is overly simplistic. Christianity was originally perceived as Judaism given a new impetus and direction by the appearance of the Messiah. It was viewed by the Romans as a Jewish sect, and by some Jews as a Jewish heresy. There is no sign of Jesus abandoning the Temple. He sought to elevate the understanding of the Temple and other ancient teachings. He sought to heighten the sense of morality that was the soul of the religion of ancient Israel. He was a Restorationist, seeking to restore lost meaning to doctrines and practices whose roots and foundations had been abandoned by Pharisaic re-interpretation of the Law after the Exile.
The tremor which shook the early Church was the extension of proclamation and membership to non-Jews. The mission to the Gentiles was fortunate to have a man of the insight, inspiration and energy that was Paul's. Trained as a teacher of Jewish Law, a Rabbi and a Pharisee, he understood the need for the universal expansion of the Saviour's message. He understood it better than some of the brethren in the Jerusalem branch of the Church, even better than Peter.
Other problems beset the young Church, many of them difficult because they were the result of novel situations with which those brought up in conservative Judaism were unable to cope. There is scriptural evidence that the college of Apostles sought and received inspiration for some of these problems: the replacement of Judas in the college of Apostles for example, among others.
Other problems proved to be more difficult. The councils of the second and third and fourth centuries were bitter and acrimonious affairs. Outbreaks of fighting were common. Eventually some of the most fundamental doctrinal issues such as the nature of God and Jesus Christ were settled not by inspiration, but by the edict of the pagan Constantine. A conservative Protestant writer has detailed many of the difficulties faced by the Primitive Church:
[From the writings of the Apostolic Fathers] we can see that the signs of deterioration were disturbing the Church. In the course of the next four-hundred years that deterioration increased steadily....The following unscriptural doctrines and practices had become deeply rooted in the Church:
•Prayers for the dead;
•Belief in purgatory;
•The forty-day Lenten season;
•The view that the Lord's supper is a sacrifice, and that its administrators are priests;
•The sharp division of the members of the Church into clergy and laity; the veneration of martyrs and saints and, above all, the adoration of Mary;
•The burning of tapers or candles in their honour;
•Veneration of the relics of martyrs and saints;
•The ascription of magical powers to these relics;
•Pictures, images and altars in the churches;
•Gorgeous vestments for the clergy;
•More and more elaborate and splendid ritual;
•Less and less preaching;
•Pilgrimages to holy places;
•Persecution of heathen and heretics.
Kuiper continues to relate how the influx of heathens and pagans into the Church brought problems which changed the nature of the Church. These converts brought into the struggling Christian Church their old pagan forms of worship and belief and invested them into the Church. The result was several significant changes of its intrinsic nature. Eventually the Church "was overwhelmed and could not handle the situation." Whilst Kuiper is an Evangelical Protestant who feels under no constraint to speak kindly of the Roman tradition, he can not be accused of overstating the case. The most severe critics of the Roman Church were important persons within that tradition. For this reason Kuiper's testimony can not be lightly set aside.
The early years witnessed the Church's struggle for identity as it reacted to the tensions introduced by its varied society. As Judaism had itself been sectarian, so sectarianism became characteristic of Christianity. Many groups within it claimed to have the core doctrine and accused other sects of being heterodoxical. As we have seen persecution became a common practice of the Church.
The nature of the Primitive Christian kerygma and its vehicle the Church is not dealt with here since that information is freely available elsewhere. The Latter-day Saint position is that the early Church eventually deviated so far from the doctrines of New Testament Christianity that a universal apostasy resulted and that the Restoration was effected by divine direction to reverse the situation. The Restoration brought back prophetic and apostolic direction which had been absent for so long.
Mormons do not consider the contributions made by generations of Christians throughout the period of apostasy as without value. On the contrary, it is recognized that a great debt is owed to the many brave souls who struggled, often against great difficulties, to develop and maintain meaning in the Christian life. A vast obligation is owed to those who generated profound insights into God and his creations; to those who studied the scriptures in order to gain awareness of Christian virtues; and to those who encouraged others to practice them. Our debt to those who sought to follow the Saviour's example is boundless. Often amidst difficulties and dangers they established traditions of virtue, service and devotion which has in large part contributed the most valued Christian traditions and prepared Western civilisation to reach the highest standards of culture, morality, and spiritual awareness.
In course of time an increasing understanding of the scriptural message reduced the hold on the minds of people in matters of religion, and most others matters, which had been enjoyed by the Roman Church. Many reformers appeared from within Mediæval Christianity.
Disagreement amongst themselves as to the direction and extent of reforms, caused the fragmentation of a great movement. It is specifically because of the lack of any central agreement among the reformers that Protestantism continues to suffer its intrinsic tendency to splinter, and it is precisely this tendency that prepared the ground for the Restoration of the Gospel.
Increasing numbers of denominations while creating much heated discussion, also contribute to increasing tolerance. Without such tolerance as has been available The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints could not have survived. Even though the Church has been persecuted it has also been the beneficiary of a widespread religious tolerance of such breadth as would have been unthinkable in former years.
In spite of attacks against the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints which allege that it is not a Christian organisation, and despite continuing but futile attempts to prove that "the Mormon Jesus" is not the Jesus found in the Holy Bible, Latter-day Saints hold fast to their position that the Holy One of Israel whom they acknowledge as the Son of God the Eternal father, is the divine Son of God, the Redeemer and Saviour of all mankind. Latter-day Saints acknowledge no other Saviour. He is the possessor of the one "name under heaven whereby men can be saved."
In Jesus and his Father is reposed all the trust of members of the Latter-day Saint Church. Although it is often stated otherwise, Joseph Smith is not worshipped.
"Granny" Thelma Geer, an ex-Momron anti-Mormon publisher and speaker, states that for years during her membership of the Mormon Church she "sung hymns to Joseph Smith." There are two hymns known to the writer which allude directly to Joseph Smith, "Oh, How Lovely Was the Morning", and "Praise to the Man Who Communed With Jehovah." In neither hymn does Smith replace the object of Latter-day Saint worship, Almighty God, the Eternal Father.
There are some other hymns which refer to prophets, but in each case they are seen as blessings from God, sent by Him to guide his children in his behalf, and to shed God's light for them in a darkened world. "We thank thee, O, God, for a prophet to guide us in these latter days," is a typical example. Thelma Geer is either genuinely mistaken in what she was actually doing all those years, or else she is deliberately lying about her own experience to cause mischief to Mormons. It is unthinkable that she is genuinely mistaken! If she ever was a Mormon, and she says she was, then she is telling direct lies.
The denial of Christian status to latter-day Saints has recently been highlighted in an example of institutionalised bigotry and prejudice. Four GCSE scholars at Home Valley high School near Huddersfield, submitted projects based on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as parts of their Religious Education examination.
They were informed the Midland Examining Group had disqualified their work because Latter-day Saints were not a Christian religion. I took up this cause in my position as the Church's Huddersfield Stake Public Affairs Council's ALERT Specialist, and was informed that while they were not against Mormonism, per se, and did not doubt its Christian foundations, their use of the term 'Christian' referred solely and exclusively to churches that were members of the World Council of Churches. Obviously, the MEG does not recognise Romanm Cathoics as Christians!
President Ezra Taft Benson has said,
No other single influence has had so great an impact on this earth as the life of Jesus the Christ. We cannot conceive of our lives without his teachings. Without him we would be lost in a mirage of beliefs and worship, born in fear and darkness where the sensual and materialistic hold sway. We are far short of the goal he set for us, but we must never lose sight of it; nor must we forget that our great climb toward perfection, would not be possible except for his teachings, his life, his death, and his resurrection.