IMAGES OF HATE - MINISTERS OF FEAR
Lilies that fester
smell worse than weeds
Anti-Mormon ministry The Reachout Trust publishes the book, Don't Close the Door. One of the book's chapters is contributed by Brian Rendell, a former member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Rendell's chapter is entitled "Trying to be a Worthy Mormon." The thrust of his contribution is that it is very hard work being a Mormon, but a much easier path lies before "Christian."
His chapter furnishes some alleged details of his Latter-day Saint membership, alleged former Church activities, and alleged leadership positions he claims to have held and the story of his break with the Church. His story raises several urgent questions. At the end of his chapter Rendell offers:
There is more I could say, but I leave it here with the promise that any questions that are unanswered I will answer if you contact me through Reachout Trust.
Extracts from the resulting correspondence are subjoined. The correspondence came to an abrupt end due to the unwillingness of Mr Rendell to honour his promises and continue what became a very interesting series of revelations.
10 September 1993
C/o: Reachout Trust
MORDEN Surrey SM4 4LX
Dear Mr Rendell
TRYING TO BE A WORTHY MORMON
I read with interest your article in DON'T CLOSE THE DOOR! and am responding to your invitation to answer further questions on your experiences as a Mormon.
I am commencing doctorate studies into certain aspects of the Latter-day Saint Church including the "community" as experienced by LDS members and also the Priesthood system. In this regard it would be very helpful if you could supply me with a detailed account of your entry into the Mormons and your experiences whilst involved with them and also how you came to be disaffected. I appreciate that this will be time-consuming but would be grateful for your help and thank you in anticipation.
Ronnie Bray B.A. (Hons)
Department of Theology
University of Nottingham
Its very nice to hear from a person who is taking an in depth interest in a subject that I really do know. I shall be most pleased and happy to furnish you with all the facts and feelings concerning the Mormons and their ways of life.
I have enclosed a simple break-down on their "scriptures" not complete because I don't now have access to many of the documents, but it will give you an idea of the methods they employ.
I have also enclosed part of my original Testimony of how I became a Mormon, etc. If you require more details on any specific subject don't hesitate to ask, I will be only too happy to let you have everything you need.
I hope your work and study goes well, and it will help you to understand the complex workings of the Mormon cult.
Rendell's willingness to co-operate in my studies was most welcome, especially his statements that
I shall be most pleased and happy to furnish you with all the facts and feelings concerning the Mormons and their ways of life...If you require more details on any specific subject don't hesitate to ask, I will be only too happy to let you have everything you need.
Unfortunately as my questioning became more specific, especially where verification for certain of his claims was concerned it became clear that he was unwilling to honour his promises. Those aspects of his story which aroused my interest were those which deviated sharply from the widely known normative aspects of Mormonism. The main ones being:
1 that he served as president of the Primary organization;
2 that he was invited to speak in the bi-annual Conference of the Church at Salt Lake City;
3 that he advised a female member of the Latter-day Saint Church to abstain from sexual relations with her Husband;
4 that the Church in Barnstaple received a decree from LDS headquarters to relegate the Bible to a position of less importance than the Book of Mormon;
5 that he pretended to divine revelation;
6 that he was ordered to get out of a car and walk along the motorway by his minister;
7 that Mormon missionaries are trained by psychologists in methods of conversion;
8 that the reason most Mormons do not leave their faith is because the Church does not give them time to think, but occupies them fully to prevent them from learning the doctrines and studying the Scriptures;
9 that Latter-day Saints expect and are expected to become perfect during mortality;
10 that he was the presiding minister of the Barnstaple Branch of the LDS Church and,
11 that he received death threats which were delivered personally by two ministers of the Mormon Church.
This claims on this list does not exhaust those made by Rendell in Don't Close The Door and his subsequent correspondence. They have been selected to demonstrate that he has lied.
We turn our attention verifying the truthfulness of his claims. Something that Reachout Trust ought to have done but failed to do, and which they would only discuss after much prompting.
During a protracted correspondence some of his claims were probed in attempts to uncover the truth. The sample of eleven points are representative of his story. If his claims could be substantiated, he would be vindicated and Reachout Trust's name would be without blemish. If they could not be substantiated, then Rendell and Reachout Trust would have a case to answer. The eleven were:
1. His claim to have been president of the children's Primary organization, a position is exclusively held by a female member never by a male, as the Church's official Primary Handbook states:
The ward [or branch] Primary presidency consists of a president, first counsellor, and second counsellor. They should all be women.
2.Rendell claims to have received
...an invitation to speak in Salt Lake City, the world headquarters...
He reiterated this claim on another occasion
I had been invited to Salt Lake City to speak at the Mormon Temple at their bi-annual convention.
One who had been a member of the Latter-day Saint faith for six years ought to be aware that the bi-annual meetings of the Mormon Church are conferences not conventions, and that the venue is not the Salt Lake Temple but [at that time, prior to the Conference centre being opened] the Salt Lake Tabernacle. If he has received an invitation why does he not provide details that will confirm his claim? If he did not receive the invitation why has he said that he did? Is it to inflate his spurious claim to have been a "top member" even further than he has already done? Rendell will not provide details of his invitation to speak in Salt Lake City and we are entitled to ask "why not?"
[I wrote to him] I was interested in your invitation to Salt Lake City to speak in the Mormon Temple there. Did you receive a letter of invitation and if so do you still have it? I'd appreciate a copy of it. If you did not keep it could you tell me who it was from and when the invitation was for - date - meeting - etc., and the purpose of the invitation. I understand that most of the speaking is performed by the Mormon hierarchy.
Rendell has not responded to this enquiry but Gordon Slade provides insight on his claim:
Brian Rendell...found it difficult to speak to a small congregation of twenty in Barnstaple. He never was invited to speak in Salt Lake, nor would he have been able, if he had.
As to his invitation to speak in Salt Lake, the LDS Church in England, let alone the backwater of North Devon, is so many years behind in its progress, compared to Salt Lake, that a struggling member here of a few years experience in the Church could expect such an invitation is just a preposterous claim. Especially as he spent much of that time in hospital.
3. Rendell confesses to a serious abuse of his ministerial office relating to advice he gave to a young woman regarding her sexual relations with her husband.
Another example of misusing my position was when I was teaching a group of ladies to prepare them to be ready to go to the Temple. I counselled one newly married young woman that she should abstain from sexual relations with her husband for three months to prove to the Lord that she was "worthy'. She did!
This last claim of Rendell's is difficult to believe for several reasons. Latter-day Saint Church leaders do not advise members on intimate matters. Mormons do not consider married sexual love to be unclean, sinful, or liable to render marriage partners in any way unworthy, and there is no doctrine or practice which requires abstinence.
4. Rendell alleges,
My first doubts about whether the Mormons were really the true church or not came on a day when we received a decree from Utah came telling us that in future the Book of Mormon was to be the first book of the Mormons and the Bible would only be a companion to it.
Attempts to shed more light on the decree met with no success.
[I wrote] You have not explained this decree satisfactorily. I would appreciate sufficient data on it to be able to identify it and possibly obtain a copy of it. Can you help?
Characteristically no response was forthcoming. It has not been possible to obtain a copy of the "decree", and the instruction is unknown to senior members of the Latter-day Saint hierarchy.
5. Rendell claims to have pretended to have been the recipient of a divine revelation in order to make good a shortfall in the Branch's operating budget. This deception, he says, was only a small part of non-Christian things that he did during his period of ministry.
On many occasions during my time with the Mormons I did things which were certainly not Christian. For instance, one time while I was keeping the financial records I discovered that we were short of the amount required to purchase the books and tracts needed for the following year. With a fellow Mormon I hatched a plan to raise some cash quickly! On the following Sunday I announced that the Lord had revealed to me that all present at the meeting should pay an extra and special tithe so that the work for the following year could go forward promptly. At the end of the meeting every person was interviewed and told the amount the Lord wanted him or her to give; everyone paid in full before leaving that meeting.
Rendell confesses to have done unchristian things "on many occasions." Later telling of this incident displaces certain emphases in the story as a comparison will show.
Another example of the power of leadership. One Sunday in September, the account for the following year's books was well short. The two of us in leadership wrote down the names of all the adult members present, then assessed what each could afford. During the meeting it was announced that God had revealed that all should pay an extra tithe for the following year's work, each and every member payed the figure we had suggested before leaving the building.
Since the power of Mormon leadership was an integral part of my study, especially where control was in evidence, Rendell was invited to comment further.
Re the extra year's tithe. Who was your partner in this affair and what position did he hold? You mention the absolute power of the leadership and the fact that every member paid up before they left the building. What kind of threats were used against them to make them comply, and what would have happened to them if they hadn't coughed-up?
[Rendell replied] Gordon Slade was my confederate when the extra tithe for books was taken from the membership. He was President and I was 1st Counsellor and Treasurer. It was August and we were having the meeting in the Moose Hall, because our normal venue was being decorated. It is plain and simple, no threats, no punishment, just judged to be "unworthy" to a Mormon nothing could be worse.
Slade says of this incident that there was no claim to revelation and the request that members make a contribution to budget funds (it was not a tithe) was normal. At that time budget funds were raised from through voluntary contributions. In the event of a shortfall a further contribution might be requested and this could be assessed, but there was no coercion or control or claim of revelation as Rendell's claims.
6. Rendell claims to have been ordered out of the car in which he was a passenger on the return journey from his first visit to the Temple because he spoke about things he had experienced whilst in the Temple.
After my first visit to the temple I was so excited that I started talking about it on the way home. The driver stopped on the motorway and told me to get out because I was breaking the Mormon taboo.
I asked Rendell if he could "expand on this experience". His next letter ignored the request and several other pertinent questions so the request for further information regarding the incident was repeated.
I was very interested in the fact that you were made to walk along the motorway for an error of what appeared to be enthusiasm. Could you expand on this incident please?
His next letter dealt with the incident.
My walk on the motorway was very confusing, we had all experienced the time in the Temple, so why not? When they let me back into the car it was explained that everything behind those temple doors was sacred (I always thought secret).
Gordon Slade, the driver of the car, who was the presiding minister of the congregation in which Rendell worshipped, and Rendell's friend says, "this incident never happened."
7. Rendell claimed that Latter-day Saint missionaries are trained by psychologists.
These young missionaries are very effective on the door at highlighting the problems of those householders who will talk to them. ... These young men (often look and seem very young) but they are trained by experts (psychologists etc.).
He was then asked
Re: training of missionaries by psychologists etc. Could you please explain this in some detail, it is quite fascinating! Do you mean that Mormon ministers are trained in brainwashing techniques or that they are taught how to meet, identify and respond to human needs in some sinister way? Could you be quite explicit about this please?
He responded to the question but failed to satisfy its demands. His reply was evasive making no mention of psychologists.
Yes. Missionaries are trained at M.T.C. to be aware and how to handle many human responses when confronted at the door or even in the investigators homes. They may be young but they are eager and have been told by their families for up to 10 years that they will be going on a mission. Even separate bank accounts are opened, the pressure is enormous. At 17+ they are at the peak of their learning capacity, they absorb the sales patterns [patter?] rapidly, wanting as much knowledge as possible so that they can do the work for their Church. So you can see it is quite simple for the coaches (teachers) to fill their minds with programmes and programmed responses as they talk to people who often reject their ideals. It doesn't matter, they often continue as if nothing had been said to them. This is very frightening to contemplate for 18 - 19 year olds. The utter single-mindedness.
The Mormon ministry have little formal training on door-knocking, it is mostly learned by experience, but, when possible by doing a "split" with the missionary Elders. Two local Elders pair up with the missionaries, it is very effective, a local man can often gain access to the home when missionaries alone would fail, nothing is overlooked in giving these robotic salesmen a chance to use their patter, even ladies go out together trying to obtain appointments for the Elders to sell Mormonism.
8. Rendell claims that Mormons are not "given time to think" in order to prevent them from noticing what kind of a religion they have joined.
No one is given time to think. If you are unemployed, the Mormon Church finds work for everyone, social work, Help the Aged, door knocking, church cleaning, etc. In return all your basic needs are met. No money is given only a shopping list (this is vetted), then independent members do the actual shopping, ... it seems to be a perfect Welfare System. That is the question I pondered?
Why a "perfect Welfare System" should give rise to suspicion, we are not told. Clarification of this statement was sought.
Re: "no one is given time to think." I cannot understand what you mean by what follows, which I presume was intended to illuminate your initial statement. What follows is a description of the Mormon Welfare scheme, which, as you describe it, seems admirable. Could you please explain how this relates to your initial statement and also what you meant when you ended - "...it seems to be a perfect Welfare System. That is the question I pondered?"
His response was as obscure as the original statement and did not address why he should "ponder" a successful programme which was of such great benefit to those in need.
The Welfare System is good, but I am sorry to say that it also has an hidden motive in that those underemployed or even unemployed are not left to ponder the truths of Mormonism, but [are] filled with chores of one sort or another, all according to the person's abilities.
Rendell was pressed for further information on the subject.
How many hours a day are those in the Welfare System made to work? Your statement would make it appear as if they are driven to exhaustion so that they cannot concentrate on the "truths of Mormonism." Is this so or do you exaggerate a bit here?
His response served only to cloud further an already darkened situation.
No, no more than an ordinary day's work, but then there is their assigned studies that all members are expected to complete, their day is only balanced with others. On top of study there is the "door to door" work which is done by all, it is important that every door is knocked at least once a year.
Rendell did not see the incongruity of members doing their "assigned studies" and his statement that they lacked time to "ponder the truths of Mormonism". He was beginning to feel the pressure as I sought clarification and verification. His answers became more defensive.
I don't think I am able to debate the Bible with you because you seem to use it as a weapon to draw further retorts from someone without enough information...
All my comments and observations are based on what I saw and did with the Mormons, after all this is why you contacted me in the first place, and even with the Book of Mormon I'm no expert because very few Mormons are given the chance or the time to become an authority on it.
All your Mormon quotes sound good, but most often they are from persons still involved with the cult, what else would you expect them to say?
I suspect that your yardstick for Mormons does not come from persons able to speak the whole truth, or maybe from literature that is not beyond question.
Two examples you quote are from a non-Mormon and a current Mormon. One can't know, and the other won't tell, there must be better examples?
He also fails to point out what examples are available except those from non-members and members. He appears to be saying that only ex-Mormons are capable of speaking the truth. Unfortunately he tell so many lies and Reachout Trust is so evasive and unhelpful that the value of their contributions to the debate is questionable.
9. Rendell claims that Mormons believe that human perfection is possible during mortality, and that their Church activities are directed towards this end.
You must know that Christian are not under the same pressures [as Mormons], we are expected to do our best, but we know no one can be perfect ...but Mormons expect to reach that status [perfection] on earth ...
The notion that Mormons are expected to become perfect is erroneous and runs counter to the expectation of Church members and the its. Mormons have been accused of being priest-ridden and too fearful to use their own judgement. The truth is they are only asked to do right, live pure lives, do good to all men, evil to none, and to respect the order of God's kingdom that salvation may come to them and be extended to all the world.
How beautiful and holy is this plan of eternal justice! How consistent with the words of the Messiah, "Be ye perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect." Paul informs us that after the resurrection and eternal judgement, we are to go on unto perfection, and not until then, will the measure of our creation be filled.
We do not look for absolute perfection in man. Mortal man is not capable of being absolutely perfect.
Decker and Hunt in their vile book The Godmakers make a similar claim to Rendell's:
Nothing less than 100% perfection [in this lifetime] will do.
Mormons strive to improve themselves conforming their lives to the pattern of the Jesus Christ, who is their paradigm. They do not expect to reach perfection in this life and are not taught that such is possible. Decker and Rendell know their statement to be untrue: why insist otherwise?
10. Rendell, to lend some substance to his claims to be a high-ranking defector from the Mormon faith, makes a claim that is unmistakable in its intention, although he does not define the claim clearly in Don't Close The Door, he does so in later correspondence.
I was not just a 'run of the mill' Mormon - I became one of the top members in the south-west of England Area.
His position as one of the "top members" included holding certain offices within the Latter-day Saint hierarchy.
Over the years I was Primary President and also Teacher, then Sunday School President yet still teaching Primary, then Secretary and shortly after that Treasurer together, then for 4 years I retained both these jobs, then added Counsellor and the President of the Branch. So in the end I was Secretary, Treasurer and President at the same time.
Gordon Slade denies that Rendell was ever the Presiding minister of a Latter-day Saint congregation.
I knew Brian [Rendell] throughout his short Church life, as a friend, and for a while as his Branch President.
While an active member, he was never that strong, he was not a "top member in the South West," and found it very difficult to speak to a small congregation of twenty in Barnstaple.
To verify Rendell's claim to have been the Presiding minister of the Barnstaple Branch of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints he was asked to provide evidence.
Can you tell me during what time period you were the Branch President and how this information can be verified? This is particularly important.
You write that you were President of the branch of the Mormon Church.
1. Who installed you in your incumbency?
2. When were you installed as president?
3. When did you cease to be the congregation's president?
4. Which congregation did you preside over?
No answers were forthcoming from Mr Rendell. Verification was sought from the Mormon Church. Gordon Slade, one-time presiding minister of the Barnstaple Branch, was asked to verify whether Rendell had ever been the presiding minister:
As I am no longer the local Branch President, I have passed your letter to the Stake. We do not keep any official records of callings in the Branch, but to the best that I can recall (the dates may not be exact but the names and sequences are), since I joined in 1979.
1979 - 81 President A D B Wheele
81 - 84 President M J Vickery
84 - 85 President D Kirk
85 - 92 President G Slade
92 -President I Turner
At no time has Brian Rendell ever been Branch President of Barnstaple or any other unit of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Rendell's claim to have been Branch President is deliberate falsehood. It was suggested to Rendell that he could be acting out of bad feelings towards his former friends.
I must ask you whether your article is meant to injure your former friends. If not could you explain your reasons for writing it in the first place. How did you become involved with the Reachout Trust?
His response exposes the depth of contempt he feels for his former church, and shows how deeply into the grip of an active anti-Mormon ministry he has fallen.
The reason I want to make things public is a sincere wish that those contemplating joining [the LDS Church] might see or be shown the great number of "ifs" to be found in "their scriptures", and perhaps stop them from making a great mistake, and if it can put doubt into the minds of members, that is if they are allowed to even see it.
Sincerity does not need lies to progress the cause it espouses. Lies impoverish any cause to whose ends they are employed. It is one thing for people to change their religions. Conversion is the acquisition of a point of view or perspective that was not held previously. However, some who are converted find it necessary to set about to bring about injury to of those who were once their friends:
Over the years I was Primary President and also Teacher, the Sunday School President yet still teaching Primary, then Secretary and shortly after that Treasurer together, then for 4 years I retained both these jobs, then added Counsellor and the President of the Branch, so at the end I was Secretary, Treasurer and President at the same time until I found Jesus and the truth was with me."
Rendell's statement that he has found Jesus and that the truth is now with him sounds a little hollow in the light of the exposure of his dishonesty and of his eventual admission that he had lied.
11. It is possible that no other claim by Rendell exposes the extent to which he is prepared to go to demonstrate his intention to injure the Latter-day Saints than his claim to have been threatened with murder by two Mormon ministers.
Since my conversion [to the Christian Fellowship Church] I have been reminded a number of times by local Mormons of the vows I took to keep quiet about the secret Temple ceremonies and that I should be aware of the consequences of my actions.
I assume that you want me to name names. This is very awkward because a number of the leadership in this area have visited me and warned that if I continue revealing facts about them, then the vows etc. taken by me in the Temple may be invoked and my life may be in danger. I don't treat these threats lightly, but there are two names that I will give you. One is the current local President, Gordon Slade, living in Bideford, and the other is Andy Wheele, a counsellor who lives in Barnstaple. These are the two that have levelled threats on 3 separate occasions.
These were serious charges that demanded further investigation. Rendell was asked to be more specific about his allegations that threats on his life had been by Mormon leaders in his local area.
You say that you received threats from Mr Slade and Mr Wheele on 3 separate occasions. Is it possible for you to be even more specific about these incidents? I must say that I view them with a certain amount of disquiet! Were the threats quite open and explicit such as, "we will kill you if you don't keep quiet," or were they more veiled? Could you give me examples?
In his response Rendell backs down from his previous extreme position to imply that whilst no threats were verbalised they were still implicit in reminders to honour the solemn promises he had made in the House of the Lord.
The threats were given in the manner as to remind me that I had made vows in the endowment room... So the threat was given by reminding me of the vows I had given whilst inside the Temple, so beware and be quiet was the message. As a matter of interest there are in the USA a large group of Mormons, I think they are referred to as "Fundamentalists" and they are often prepared to help to quiet people like myself.
The ultimate sanction the Church may take against any member is withdrawal of membership. Rendell himself at one time wrote that the ultimate sanction of the Church was rescinding the member's temple recommend. Mormons have no interest in laying hands on either the property or person of the disaffected. Rendell's charges were designed to bolster his reputation amongst his new friends at the expense of his former friends, and at the expense of truth.
29th January 1993
I note that it is now some long time since I heard from you and wondered, since you have always been prompt in responding to my letters, whether you were in good health. I do hope so. Perhaps the delay in responding has been due to pressure on your time. Whatever the reason I do hope that it has not been anything too serious.
Looking forward to the resumption of your interesting contributions to my studies, I remain,
sincerely Ronnie Bray B.A. (Hons)
16 April 1993
Not having had a response to my last two letters dated 23 November 1992 and 29 January 1993 I write in the hope that I can persuade you to resume our correspondence or at least offer an explanation for your abrupt cessation.
Your contribution has been significant into providing insight into causes of disaffection from the Mormon faith. You will recall that I have been pressing you to provide details of the claims you have made in our correspondence, and I would hope that you would feel able to do this. Particularly in the light of your comment in your original letter to me dated 22 September 1992 that "I would be only too happy to let you have everything you need." I do feel that it's a shame having come this far to let me down at this stage.
Of particular interest to me just now are the following paragraphs taken from my letter to you dated 23 November 1992:
Can you tell me during what time period you were the Branch President and how this information can be verified? This is particularly important.
I am interested in your invitation to Salt Lake City to speak in the Mormon Temple there. Did you receive a letter of invitation and if so do you still have it? I'd appreciate a copy of it. If you did not keep it could you tell me who it was from and when the invitation was for - date - meeting - etc., and the purpose of the invitation. I understand that usually most of the speaking is performed by the Mormon hierarchy.
As before I trust that your health is good and that you and Carol are both well and happy.
14 June 1993
I write in hopes of persuading you to resume your correspondence. I require validation of some of the information you have so kindly supplied me with in former correspondence.
I hope that all is well with you and that you will find time to confirm those matters I have asked about previously.
If you have reasons why you no longer wish to correspond with me I would appreciate the courtesy of an explanation so that I can refrain from troubling you in future.
Yours sincerely RONNIE BRAY BA (HONS)
Postmark: North Devon 16.6.93
I am sorry about my not replying to your recent correspondence but I have not been able to give you truly complete and honest answers to your further delvings into a part of my life I am desperately trying to erase as something I was involved in, and when I made my offer in the book, I never expected to meet anyone like yourself who definitely has more in depth knowledge into a subject I am trying to forget as well as I can, because, to be honest with you, Ron, I feel much shame at the things I did to others, and I am doing my best to obliterate as much as I can, and in the course of our correspondence old wounds have made me feel very ashamed of myself, so with regrets I prefer not to continue our correspondence, but I want to say it has been a pleasure just to have known you.
No further correspondence has been forthcoming from Brian Rendell. But the matter did not rest there. When it became clear that Rendell had lied, Doug Harris, who appears to be the director of Reachout Trust and the author of "Don't Close the Door", was approached to find out whether Reachout Trust was aware of the nature of Rendell's contribution, or whether they knew but didn't care about his falsehoods as long as they served Reachout Trust's purposes.
14 June 1993
Dear Mr Harris,
Some little time ago I purchased a copy of your book Don't Close The Door, which I have read with interest.
Part of my research is concerned with disaffection of former members of the Mormon Church, therefore, two chapters in your book were of interest to me. They have raised some questions which I address to you in the hope that you will be able to satisfy them.
1. How did you contact those who made their contribution to the book?
2. How did you verify the truth of the claims they have made?
3. If any of those claims were proved to be unsubstantiated what action would you take?
4. If your purpose is to win the cults for Christ do you think that negative material is likely to help, or do you think that it will only serve to produce hostile feelings between you?
5. Is the main thrust of your ministry to promulgate Christianity or to defeat your perceived enemies, or do you consider them to be part of the same equation?
RONNIE BRAY BA (Hons)
Building Bridges to those in the Cults Occult and the New Age
ALPHA PLACE GARTH ROAD
MORDEN SURREY SM4 4LX
081 - 337 9716
22 June 1993 Dear Mr Bray,
Thank you for your recent letter and I will happily answer the questions, but before I do please can you let me know whether you intend using any of the answers in your postgraduate research, and if so what the general subject of your research is.
Many thanks. Yours sincerely [signed] Derek Ware Doug Harris Dictated by, signed in his absence
24 June 1993
To: Doug Harris Reachout Trust
Dear Mr Harris,
Thank you for your letter of 22nd June 1993 in response to my questions. Whether your answers will be useful to my thesis depends upon what they are.
The propositional sentence of my thesis is "Priesthood, Leadership, Control, and the Community in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." Broadly it is concerned with the early (1820-1830ish) structure of Mormon ministry, the methods of leadership employed, then and now, the theology underlying Mormon priesthood, methods of control employed in ruling the church, and the experiences of certain groups within the church, such as, women, single members, etc., and reasons for disaffection of members, and post-disaffection activities, such as entering other denominations or groups, and such activities which are possibly hostile to Mormonism.
The possibility exists that I will include a section on anti-Mormon ministries, but that depends largely upon the quality of the responses I get from initial approaches to such groups, yours included, and whether there is sufficient meat in them to take me beyond the work started by James Beckford, with which you are no doubt familiar.
I hope that this is helpful to you in framing your answers.
I note that your letter head states your intention to "[build] bridges to those in the cults..." Do you approach those in the cults directly, and if so, how are your approaches perceived.
Yours sincerely RONNIE BRAY BA (Hons)
REACHOUT TRUST 9 July 1993
Dear Mr Bray,
Thank you for your recent letter and for giving me further information concerning your thesis.
I will seek therefore to answer your questions raised in the light of your recent letter.
1. The people mentioned in the book Don't Close the Door were folks that we contacted over the years that our ministry has been growing. I believe both the Mormons that are mentioned in your letter were already out of the Mormon Church and had become Christians before we met them, and therefore they would have contacted us on the basis of wanting to help when they heard about our ministry.
2. We verified the truth of their claims by spending quite a bit of time with them and ensuring that their stories added up. I questioned them both for quite a period and looked through their testimonies. Having also met them and had references on them from other people that knew them we ascertained that they were truthful people and indeed both those mentioned in the book are continuing to help others now in similar situations.
3. If claims that they made were clearly proved to be unsubstantiated, we would make this public although I am not sure what the logistics of that would be at the moment. I expect we would certainly have to consider putting an amendment in each Don't Close the Door book and obviously changing that when there was a reprint. We believe that there is enough truthful information that can be used to show that these groups are wrong without having to make things up.
4. It very much depends on what you mean by "negative material". Yes, I believe that if we write a horrendous attack on a particular church and on people like Joseph Smith etc., without any concern for the people that are reading it, I believe that would have a negative approach. However, we seek to provide facts in a very loving and caring way, and rather than making accusations of "this is what you do", we would ask questions as to why such and such a thing happened showing that there have been problems in the past. I believe too in the case of the Mormons that we should bring to their attention areas in the life of Joseph Smith which they may not be aware of, but again one does not have to do this with a hateful attitude, but with a loving, caring one, and maybe making a different decision to one they have made already.
5. I do not believe that the question you asked here is one which I can answer directly because I do not believe that our ministry is whether "to promulgate Christianity" or "to defeat our perceived enemies". Our aim is to communicate to these people in the groups that (1) there are faults and failings and the claims that these groups made cannot be substantiated. (2) If somebody believes this, obviously they will want to leave the group and yes, we would then present Christianity as the true way as we have found it to be. However, if somebody just wants to come out of a group and have nothing to do with Christianity we will still help them. I would also add here that we do not view these people as our enemies but we view them as those we want to reach out and help.
You also asked in the second letter, do we approach these groups directly. The answer is yes in several ways, either by writing or advertising or personal contact, and depending on where that person is with regard to belief in the cult we receive different reactions. Some indeed are hostile, but others are very willing to communicate with us.
I hope this helps but should you think it would be helpful to discuss things further then I would be very glad to do so.
I will also appreciate seeing a copy of your thesis when it is finished if that is possible.
[signed] Derek Ware Doug Harris
Dictated by, signed in his absence
16 July 1993
Mr Doug Harris
Dear Mr Harris,
What qualifications do you have academically and relating to the ministry?
Your answers are interesting but lead to a series of further questions. I wonder would you be kind enough to consider answering some questions more fully.
Section 1. In respect of verifying the truth of their claims you say you spent "quite a bit of time with them (...) ensuring that their stories added up. [You] questioned them for quite a period and looked through their testimonies and both met them and looked through their testimonies. [You] met them and had references on them from other people that knew them [thus] ascertained that they were truthful people..."
You do not say 'how' you obtained verification. You appear to suggest that you took them on trust rather than seeking to prove their claims.
My further questions on this section would be:
1. How much time did you spend with Mr Rendell?
2.What criteria for consistency did you apply to his story, with reference to:
a.His claim to be "one of the top members in the south-west of England area. What position or positions did he hold that justify his claim and how did you verify whether he actually held such positions?
b.His claim to have received "an invitation to speak in Salt Lake City". How did you verify this invitation, where was the venue, what was the date, and who extended to invitation to him?
c.He claims that when he became an Elder in the Mormons "there was no position in the Mormon Church that I could not hold". Since senior presiding ministers in the Mormons are high priests how do you reconcile that with his statement?
d.Sources in the Mormons inform me that a three hour temple interview is unheard of. What evidence do you have that this was the case in Mr Rendell's case?
e.Mr Rendell describes a disturbing incident (p. 28) on the motorway. What evidence do you have that this did in fact take place?
f. Mr Rendell claims that he "did things which were certainly not Christian." How did you verify whether he was required to do the things he goes on to describe, or if he did them of his own accord?
g.I have tried unsuccessfully to obtain a copy of the "decree from Utah telling us that in future the Book of Mormon was to be the first book of the Mormons and the Bible would only be a companion to it." Have you a copy of this decree or have you seen one?
h.Mr Rendell writes that he had a mental breakdown in 1986. During your interviews with him did you ascertain whether this was the first bout of mental illness he had had? (A colleague sent me a photocopy of a page of one of your publications which contained a young girl's story of a brief associations with the Mormons. My immediate impression was that the girl was emotionally unstable and immature. Do you find many religion-changers who match this description?)
i.Is Mr Rendell continuing to write about his time as a Mormon to "help others in similar situations" as you write in your letter, or was his contribution to your book his sole connection with the Trust and its ministry?
2.Were the referees you interviewed for Mr Rendell members of the Mormon church or members of his new faith?
3.What questions did you ask Mr Rendell in order to satisfy yourself that his account of his ministry is truthful and accurate?
4.Did you ever discuss his experiences with members of the Mormon church to obtain verification of his claims?
5.You write "these groups are wrong." Acknowledging your inherent right to disagree with any denomination you wish to, my impression of the material which I have seen published by the Reachout Trust to date, is that it is abrasive and potentially offensive. You do explain your position in Section 4 of your letter and offer that you "seek to provide facts in a loving and caring way." I have to press you a little here and trust that you will understand that I do so because I cannot reconcile what you say with the material you publish except that the chapter you wrote WINNING AND KEEPING THE CULTIST FOR CHRIST is reasonably conciliatory in tone, whilst depicting cult members as "wrong" and doing "bad" things, which is, of course negative. Mrs Thomas' contribution is relatively mild but Mr Rendell's is openly hostile, belittling and demeaning. Is it the case that you consider anything to be useful ammunition?
6.Do you have any friends or acquaintances who are members in the Mormons? I am seeking to establish the sources of your information on Mormonism?
7. I note in your catalogue that you carry "The Godmakers". Are you aware that the National Council for Christians and Jews has denounced this as religious persecution and defamatory?
8. Do you have any connection with MacGregor Ministries of Delta Canada?
Thank you again for your response to my original questions and for your willingness to extend this courtesy. I appreciate that I am not an easy correspondent but I am confident that you appreciate the need for research to be thorough and conclusive to be of any value.
I note your request to read my completed doctoral thesis and will be happy for you to do so subject to the usual undertakings. I anticipate that it will be completed in 1997.
Yours sincerely RONNIE BRAY
15 October, 1993
Dear Mr Harris,
Not having received your reply to my letter of 16th July 1993 I wonder if I could press you for your promised response. Recognizing the possibility that you have not received the letter, because of the vagaries of the postal system, or such like, I am reprinting it below.
Looking forward to hearing from you.
Yours sincerely RONNIE BRAY BA (HONS)
21st October 1993
Dear Mr Bray,
Thank you for your letter of the 15th of October enclosing a copy of your letter of the 16th of July. This is the first time I have seen it.
As it is a long involved letter, with many questions, I am unable to answer it immediately. I will endeavour to get back to you just as soon as possible.
[signed] Derek Ware
For Doug Harris - Dictated by, but signed in his absence.
17th November 1993.
Dear Mr Bray,
I have looked again at your questions and as I feel they are coming from a very hostile basis and anything that I am likely to say will either be quoted in your thesis as 'trying to defend Reachout Trust' or misconstrued. I do not feel that I am at liberty to answer any of your questions at present.
If however, as your thesis develops you would want to send me the sort of thing you are writing and I feel that it is coming over in a right spirit then I would probably be willing to share some more with you.
Therefore I will await further developments.
[signed] Derek Ware
Doug Harris - Dictated by, but signed in his absence.
Following this letter from Harris, enquiries were treated as hostile. Harris' refusal to answer questions as he had promised to do raised suspicions that the Trust had been caught in the act of promoting falsehoods under the guise of Christian literature. The honest response would have been for Harris to answer the questions and conduct his own investigation. But Harris' responses strongly suggest that he was aware of the nature of Rendell's revelations and did not wish to face up to the responsibility. If it not so serious it would amusing that Harris does not wish to be "misconstrued."
For the time being it seemed that an impasse had been reached. But there were to be some very interesting developments which are dealt with in the next chapter.