ANTI-MORMONISM - IS IT HONOURABLE?
Remember then, as long as you live,
that nothing but strict truth
can carry you through the world,
with either your conscience or
your honour unwounded.
Mormonism is the focus of a multi-million pound industry aimed at its containment and eventual destruction. Do the writers of such works really believe that what they publish is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? If they do, and if they have arrived at this position by way of careful study and research of their subject, their honesty should not be impugned. Most publications can be shown to contain such glaring errors of fact and to be couched in intemperate and antagonistic language rather than the moderate rhetoric of impartial scholarship.
Latter Day Saints are largely unaware of anti-Mormon ministries. Those who become familiar with their publications can not harmonise the images they present with the Church of their experience or its teachings and practices. Antagonistic ministries comb historical documents for obscure and unusual sayings in writings of the early historical period and claim they are official teachings. Meanings are distorted to create doctrines were never taught. Statements at variance with normative Mormon theology were either personal notions or a restatement of contemporary popular beliefs, but were not Mormon beliefs. Another method is decontextualization: the transfer of an event into a different context than its original to distort its truth. A patently dishonest method, as is the extension of official teachings beyond the point of intention. The resultant exaggeration presented as facts about Mormonism. Truth can be distorted by exaggeration or understatement. In neither case is truth served. These practices reveal more about opposing ministries than they do about their victim, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But why do they do it? Part of the answer is discovered in the justification given by anti-Mormons for their publications. Coping With The Cults states its primary purpose to be:
To equip Christians to witness effectively to cult members and win them for Christ...[our] burden [is] for those trapped in the cults...with many souls set free from the cults.
Anti-Mormon publications refer to Mormonism as a cult or sect. These words are used in a pejorative, demeaning and derogatory sense removed from their standard English or sociological meanings. This is part of the process of marginalization necessary to accomplish the de-Christianization of Latter-day Saints. The impression is given that members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are somehow "trapped" inside the "evil system of Mormonism." Martin expresses his interest in releasing "trapped cult members." In a disagreeable book he writes:
All interested Christian pastors, teachers and workers will receive reliable, documented information on the major cults...there is a chance to effectively answer the cults and present them with the Gospel in a context of enlightened and equipped Christian workers "speaking the truth in love."
Expressions of love are not evident in the book. A contribution from the Christadelphian Dawn Book Supply explains its purpose to be:
to look briefly at some of the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to see whether their gospel is similar to that which was taught by the apostles, or whether it is entirely different. If it is a different gospel then, in view of the apostle's words, true Christians can have nothing to do with it.
The book starts with its conclusion and manipulates its way through evidence collected and presented support its proposition. Burrell's Mormonism does not explain its purpose but is published in the MODERN HERESIES SERIES evidently to alert readers of the heretical nature of Mormonism, in anticipation that by means of this warning they will not be deceived by a "ravening (Mormon missionary) wolf )". Christie-Murray's A History of Heresy ought to have been a scholarly appraisal of religious movements outside the main stream of 'orthodoxy,' but his failure to research denies it a place among the scholarly literature of religious studies. Sanders and Wright's Some Modern Religions whilst poorly researched and undocumented is at least honest as to its purpose because it sees "modern faiths" as Christianity's "rivals".
Numerous rivals to orthodox New Testament Christianity have appeared...many of these modern faiths are vigorous in their efforts to propagate their views...This small book is designed to give the basic information required to enable [...] comparison to be made in respect of some of the most popular of these rival faiths.
Gruss admits that "The non-Mormon could easily be envious of what he sees in the LDS Church." But lest anyone should get the impression that he is motivated by envy to attack Mormonism in his book he explains that,
Many criticise your [Mormon] church because it was founded on the conviction that all other churches were false, apostate.
He continues to argue that anti-Mormonism as a Christian response is,
Not unwarranted, for they are only defending what they believe to be true against a clear attack.
He presses his point of view even further, citing the Bible as justification for anti-Mormon activities on the grounds that by engaging in them they are being obedient to the direction to "earnestly contend for the faith." This admonition was given to the Church to struggle against false teachers who had infiltrated its branches, yet Gruss finds no difficulty extending the injunction from the particular to the general. The co-authors of Some Modern Faiths also explain their reasons for publication.
It is still largely from the more established sects examined in "SOME MODERN FAITHS" that the mainstream churches face a more vigorous challenge.
One of the authors of this work does not hide his feelings under pretended love for his victims. In fighting mood he steps right up and claims a Satanic origin for all non-traditional churches.
It is incumbent upon Evangelicals, not only to indoctrinate their own members, but to raise a warning voice against the insidious encroachments of these Satanic counterfeits of true religion. Too long have we allowed the cults to win by default. The purpose [of this book is] to enable ordinary Christians to resist the blandishments and refute the errors of these cults.
Whilst identifying the devilish nature of other Christian movements he lays some of the blame at the door of traditional churches in their failure to answer the spiritual needs of Christians. Hoekema also takes the mainstream churches to task because they have:
Failed to emphasize certain important aspects of religious life, or have neglected certain techniques. One of the main purposes of this book will be to expose the many pernicious anti-Christian teachings which the cults are disseminating...[it] may even serve as rebukes to the church, accusing fingers pointing at its failures and shortcomings, its coldness and its lack of zeal.
Even as they admit their own faults and failings, anti-Mormon ministers harshly criticize their enemies for achieving what they themselves are failing in. They would be better employed putting their own houses in order. The most common reasons for the existence of anti-Mormon ministries and publications may be summarised as a response to the perceived threat from the LDS Church to traditional historical churches. This is sometimes seen as "sheep-stealing", by which is meant the conversion of members of their own congregations into the Latter-day Saint Church. Often the simple act of active proselytising by LDS missionaries is considered objectionable, as one minister put it, "among people for whom I felt a responsibility." For the most part Mormons who have seen defamatory publications have usually been given them by Christian "friends", often by anonymous donation. The conclusion has to be that such materials are not made for Mormon consumption, but for purchase and consumption by "concerned Christians."
The primary and overwhelming purpose of these materials is to inure members of mainstream churches against involvement with Latter-day Saints. This is achieved by the creation of an imagery of Mormonism that is deliberately abhorrent to non-LDS Christians. And so the Apostle James' warning against the curse of a malicious tongue is unheeded by those who are involved in this malevolent business.
A secondary purpose of hostile publications is to comfort non-Latter-day Saint Christians who will never personally engage in persecutory activities. Their principle use is as a source of funding through their purchases of the materials from anti-Mormon ministries. Their acquaintance with the imagery of the publications affords them insulation against the consideration of ideas other than those which they hold within their own idealised world of solitary certainty. Whilst there is nothing wrong in holding ones own views as exclusively correct, it takes an uncommon mind to undertake the role of "thought policeman" in charge of everyone else's thought and beliefs. It is precisely that kind of intolerance which festers into profound hatred of those who dare to believe differently! It is not heterodoxy but intolerance that leads to persecution and murder.
In questioning whether attacking writers actually believe what they write, we recognise that there are several sorts of anti-Mormon writers. Some are engaged at the research end - others at the polemic end. Those engaged in research are committed to discovering material which can be presented in the worst possible light to perpetrate the most damage to the Latter-day Saint Church. They appear to operate on the principle that no development should be evident in a church claiming to be the true church of Jesus Christ. It should not be necessary to point out that if the same standard were to be applied to any of the mainstream churches their own claims to orthodoxy would fail. Any organization which does not develop in response to the needs of changing society is doomed to become a mere curiosity before it withers and dies. At the forefront of this group are such notables as Fawn M Brodie and Jerrold and Sandra Tanner.
One-time LDS member Fawn Brodie is the author of No Man Known My History. This has become a standard work for anti-Mormon ministries in the second half of the twentieth century. It re-appraises Joseph Smith in the form of a historiography and presents some interesting theories as to his character and work.
The Tanners organization, Modern Microfilm Company, is probably the major source for anti-Mormon ministries whose activities consist in nothing more than sniping at Mormons from hidden positions. The Tanners have been tireless in gathering any information which can be put to negative critical use. Sandra Tanner is also a former Mormon. Both Brodie and Tanner are related to Latter-day Saint Apostles, both of whom are deceased. Those whose contribution is limited to bad-tempered polemic and sarcastic comment are dependent on the output of the first group. The snipers seldom, if ever, contribute anything worthwhile or original, being content to furnish secondary, tertiary and even quarternary sources at great length without troubling testing the validity of the material and its reading. They proceed on the assumption that if an anti-Mormon wrote it it must be reliable. Introducing one quotation after another from invalidated sources is not the "well documented" material it is claimed to be. Writers who unthinkingly publish their offerings have failed to heed the apostolic injunction: that to "prove all things, hold fast that which is good." This group has such as Lorri MacGregor, Ed Decker, and Forrest A Brinkerhoff. Of them Brinkerhoff deserves especial mention because of the opportunities he was granted, but which he significantly failed to use, to undertake primary research into and interesting and pertinent area of Mormonism.
The answer to the question, "Why do they do it?" depends upon the particular strand of Christianity from which they view their subject. It would be foolish to deny that some persecutory writers believe that they are presenting an honest appreciation of Latter Day Saint doctrine and practice. But it cannot be doubted that others are no more than cynical purveyors of religious bigotry. This is especially applicable in those cases where the writers are former members of the Church. They set out to be deliberately damaging but are aware of what they are doing. They know that they are misrepresenting their former religion, acting as if they were exacting some kind of personal revenge. Others may have motives connected with a lucrative ministry or publishing business. Some, the desire for prestige or power. All of these aspects require detailed research.
Some have become aware of the doctrinal differences between themselves and Latter Day Saints, but permit others to decide the issues for them and are content to repeat their charges unchallenged when their own research might have led them towards different conclusions. Others, such as Reachout Trust, must be seen in a far different light for reasons which are discussed at some length later. The responses of anti-Mormon ministries to suggestions that they are engaged in persecution are interesting. They either deny that what they do is persecution, or else justify it on the grounds that Latter Day Saints are "heretics."
Christianity has a long history connected with the persecution of non-agreeing groups. Many instance have had tragic consequences. When Christians see themselves as Christ's Church under attack from Satanic powers in an apocalyptic struggle for dominion of the minds of men, it should surprise none when they become excited and react viciously. And whilst the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints continues to grow in new areas of the world in addition to the more traditional growth areas, it will continue to be regarded as a threat by some Christian groups, and their hostility will correspondingly increase.
But whatever theories are applied to account for the continuing activities of persecuting ministries, the most obvious reason for their existence is probably something far simpler than may be imagined. Latter-day Saints are persecuted because they are there and are perceived as "different;" there and perceived as "wrong," which means of "heretical." And because they are perceived in this way they have to be dealt with according to one of only two possibilities: either they can change their thoughts, doctrines, teachings and practices to the correct or "orthodox" position, in which case nothing further need be done. But if they are unwilling to become orthodox they must go out of existence either voluntarily or by such force as is necessary to achieve their extermination. This was the method used by Governor Boggs of Missouri, and is the method employed by the majority of anti-Mormon ministries. Whilst such responses cannot be reconciled with Christianity they are a normal societal response unhappily employed by Christians. Jesus gave his advice to the apostles who complained about a minister who "followed not us."
And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us. But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me. For he that is not against us is on our part.
This advice goes unheeded by those who see their role in life to be the persecution of a Christian denomination with which they disagree, especially if that persecution is directed towards its destruction. Anti-Mormon ministers appear to vie with each other to reach new depths of insult and injury. There have been many instances in which evangelical Christians have been less than responsible in presenting the beliefs of cults, one of the most blatant being the widely distributed film and video introduced in 1983 entitled "The God-Makers." The most disturbing element of the film is the manner in which it is presented. Mormon doctrine, especially that relating to the physical nature of God, the Adam/God theory, the council in heaven, and the future life of Mormon men on planets with their eternally pregnant wives - is presented in cartoon animation. Cherished beliefs, no matter how false and objectionable they may seem to others, should not be ridiculed.
In the face of enmity and persecution endured from fellow Christians, Mormons seek a better relationship. A barrier to this is the supposition that the roots of Mormonism lie in "occult bondage", "spiritism", "atheism", and other systems that are inimical to Mormonism. Another difficulty is the constant repetition of the claim that Mormons are not Christians. These false allegations linked with such falsehoods as "Mormons chant 'Wonderful Lucifer' in their sacred temple rites" make it unlikely that other Christian groups will even consider closer ties. These ties are not to be confused with ecumenism. Latter-day Saints recognise differences in belief, but these should not be permitted to prevent better relationships, or to act as a barrier to co-operation in service projects designed to make our communities better. Such activities must not be restricted to Christians, but extended to people of all faiths, even to those who claim no faith. In this connection Joseph Smith said:
We are to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to provide for the widow, to dry the tear of the orphan, to comfort the afflicted, whether in this [LDS] church, or any other, or in no church at all, wherever we find them.
The language used by anti-Mormons to describe Latter-day Saints fashions a powerful and disturbing negative imagery that makes it difficult for others to approach them in a good spirit, let alone with the intention of examining Mormon claims in an honest and straight forward way. Examples of hostile language will illustrate the nature and extent of the problem.
Mormonism actually encourages that same sinful ambition which caused Lucifer to fall from heaven.
[THE GOD MAKERS] peels back the mask of lies to expose today's most respectable yet deceitful and fastest growing cult who ;lure 75% of their converts from Christian Churches...families and lives destroyed...occult Mormon temple rituals.
Secret [Mormon temple] rites...barbaric bloody oaths.
To board the Mormon train one needs a strong imagination and a supreme ego.
Tucker, criticises "The God-Makers", a film and video produced by Jeremiah Films. The National Conference of Christian and Jews' "Advisory Report to the Religious Executives of Arizona" went further and declared:
We offer these opinions based on our viewing of the film, research and reflection.
The film [The Godmakers] does not - in our opinion - fairly portray the Mormon Church, Mormon history, or Mormon belief. It makes extensive use of "half-truth," faulty generalizations, erroneous interpretations, and sensationalism. It is not reflective of the genuine spirit of the Mormon faith.
We find particularly offensive the emphasis in the film that Mormonism is some sort of subversive plot - a danger to the community, a threat to the institution of marriage, and is destructive to the mental health of teenagers. All of our experience with our Mormon neighbours provides eloquent refutation of these charges.
We are of the opinion that "THE GODMAKERS" relies heavily on appeals to fear, prejudice, and other less worthy human emotions. We believe that continued use of this film poses genuine danger to the climate of goodwill and harmony which currently exists between Valley neighbours of differing faiths. It appears to us to be a basically unfair and untruthful presentation of what Mormons really believe and practice...
By and large, Valley Residents do not share the views of our Mormon neighbours espoused by The Godmakers. We believe that most fair-minded people will who would happen to view this film would be appalled by it, because their attitudes have been previously formed through many day-to-day experiences with Mormons which demonstrate that they are good friends, neighbours and fellow citizens.
There are, unfortunately, some who lack adequate knowledge about the Mormon faith, who may be unwarily misled by this film. We recommend to all persons that they utilize face-to-face dialogue with their neighbours in an atmosphere of mutual respect. This will help to provide authentic, first-hand information about the faith of our fellow citizens. Dialogue will offer a palliative for controversy and a positive basis for continuing understanding, good will and friendship.
May all our people enjoy fully their constitutional rights to practice their faith, guided by conscience, free from stress or harassment from others.
The Arizona Regional Board of the National Conference of Christians and Jews.
At the moment there seems to be little reason to believe that Latter Day Saints will ever be free from this kind of persecution. The question uppermost is whether the enemies of Mormonism will continue to be content merely to publish the symptoms of their hate, or whether in time it will assume a more concrete form. An answer may be lurking in the statement of Dr Walter Martin, director of the Christian Research Institute.
In the light of these startling facts [about Mormonism] and the alarming spread of the Mormon religion, devout Christians must now take a definite stand; we can hesitate no longer.
What the nature of that stand will be Martin leaves to the imagination. There can be no doubt that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints owes a great deal to its persecutors. The Saints have been proved in the intense heat of the fire of persecution. In these circumstances much of the peculiar and distinctive nature of the faith and its people has been forged. If current, intensifying waves of persecution continue Latter-day Saints may yet owe an even greater debt.