Images of Hate - Ministers of Fear
REACHOUT TRUST'S EXPLANATIONS
Beware of mettle in a blind horse. He is apt to dash into danger.
He must go, and he does not see where. Many zealots are so
ignorant that they come under this proverb; they are dangerous
when they are not well-guided
C H SPURGEON
Copies of the previous chapter were sent to Brian Rendell, Doug Harris of Reachout Trust and Gordon Slade of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to allow them to read them and comment or make amendment prior to publication. Not all the text of letters is reproduced here in the interest of space.
Dear Mr Harris,
Thank you for your letter dated 17 November 1993 in which you give your reasons for declining to answer the questions I asked in my letter of 15 October 1993. I note that you feel that I am hostile to you and Reachout Trust and likely to accuse you of trying to defend the Trust or else misconstrue what you write. Both of these reasons I consider to be inadequate and baseless.
As you will see from the enclosed piece, I have good reason for believing that Mr Rendell was less than honest in his contribution to your book, in fact he has admitted that he lied. My questions to you were designed to determine whether you had taken sufficient care in accepting his testimony at face value, or whether you were just happy with it because it served the purpose of your ministry. I am surprised that you turned down the opportunity to explain your own position. The offer was made with the best of intentions. My feelings are that an honest researcher could do no less than give the opportunity of those he may stand in need of criticising to set the record straight before publishing. That is why I make this offer to Mr Rendell and yourself at this time.
I can say from what I have learned so far about the activities of Reachout Trust that I find some cause for concern about its research methods within the context of a Christian ministry. But I would expect you to appreciate the need for thorough research in such matters and that my enquiries must be as thorough as I can make them in order to present truthful accounts of my findings.
The enclosed is for your perusal and comment. I have sent a copy to Mr Rendell and informed him that you are to receive one.
Should you feel that any of my conclusions are wrong, or that I have misconstrued, or that I am being in any way unfair, I would appreciate your reasons. Should I be convinced that there is need for changes in the final form of the document, which I am preparing for publication, I will gladly make such changes as are necessary, provided that they conform to provable evidence and are not mere prejudices. With best wishes for the coming year, I am
I enclose for your perusal and comment a manuscript concerning your contribution to Don't Close The Door and our correspondence. Should you feel that changes need to be made or that I have been unfair to you, etc., I will consider any points you make provided that you furnish sufficient grounds for doing so.
Trusting that both Carol and yourself are well, and wishing you both the best for 1994, I remain
Ronnie Bray PS - I am also sending a copy to Doug Harris and Gordon Slade.
President Gordon Slade
I am enclosing the preliminary document for the Reachout Trust/Brian Rendell claims and correspondence, prior to its final preparation for publication. I have sent copies to Brian and Doug Harris of Reachout Trust inviting their comments.
I have mislaid your response to my letter to you which I neglected to date but which comes in the series about October-November 1993. Do you have a copy of your letter to me in response? I have marked the copy with your remarks but kept them to either "denied", "yes", or "no".
I invite your comments on the manuscript, especially if you feel that I have misrepresented you in any way, or if you feel that I am being unfair in any other respect. It is important that the truth of this matter is represented without prejudice.
With best wishes for 1994, I am
yours sincerely Ronnie Bray
REACHOUT TRUST 16 February 1994
Dear Mr Bray,
I have pleasure in enclosing the reply on behalf of the Trustees to your 'thesis'. We specifically request that it is included with your final publication so as to give the full picture and not just one side of the argument.
As we have spent so much time answering your questions we ask that you also take the time to reciprocate and answer the following questions that we have.
1.Are you or have you ever been a member of the Mormon church? If yes please would you give details of when and why you joined?
2.How can you study the structure of Mormon ministry and priesthood between 1820 and 1830 ish when no such structure existed for most of that time?
3.Do you apply the same stringent rules of verification to your sources in the Mormon church that you feel we ought to apply in our sources?
4.What other groups have you approached with regard to your research and what has been their response?
5.What control criteria are you using to verify or otherwise the information you are receiving from your apparently limited research?
6.Why did you not seek to contact Mike and Ann Thomas when Ann's testimony is also in Don't Close The Door?
7.Will you be sending a complete copy of your thesis to groups such as ourselves for a final comment before publication?
We look forward to your detailed response in the very near future.
Yours sincerely (Signed) Doug Harris.
The following response was enclosed with this letter.
REPLY FROM THE TRUSTEES OF REACHOUT TRUST
Further to your recent letter and article (chapter twenty-five), we believe that it need to be amended or this letter appended to the chapter, in order to reflect the true work of Reachout Trust. We realize why you have reached your conclusions but feel you do not understand the people you are dealing with. We would never exert as much pressure as you have to try and obtain facts because the ex-member has enough problems trying to come to terms with their changed life.
We also wonder whether you have used the same investigative methods on Mormons as well as ex-Mormons. Have you pressurized Mormons into talking about their secret Temple ceremonies and underwear? Have you accepted that they are not allowed to talk about these things and not accused them of hiding anything?
In saying 'we refuse to discuss' certain issues you are not conveying the truth of our correspondence with you. We justifiably held off from replying until we saw the way in which you were using the information. The context is now clear from the extract you sent us and we can answer accordingly.
We have spoken to Brian Rendell and he still sticks by his story, however, as we shall underline in our concluding remarks we clearly stated in our letter that if anything was proven to be false we would take steps to rectify it. However, even if it did become clear that some of the facts in Brian's story were not true it would not alter the information we have printed about Mormonism in other leaflets and this needs to be said.
We must also question the view of the evidence that you are bringing as it appears that you are not weighing up the evidence fairly. We have been accused of being biased before but when Mormon material is weighed up in the light of the Scripture it is clear why we choose the Bible as the truth.
For instance your point 1 with regard to the fact that certain positions can only be held by woman [sic]. Can you be certain that this has always been the case and that a man has never held any of these positions?
In point 2 concerning an invitation to Salt Lake City, you show no proof that this invitation was not extended. As stated in Don't Close The Door p. 33, Brian returned 10 boxes of correspondence from the past, which is not unusual for people coming our of the cults, and so he cannot provide the letter. You only provide circumstantial evidence and no proof that the invitation was not offered.
The information in point 3 concerning counsel given is based on the comment that Slade made to you. "Latter Day Saint leaders do not advise members on such intimate matters." I do not believe this to be true and could bring evidence to the fact that Mormons have been advised on such matters. One ex-Mormon stated to us, "
I have personally received advice on matters of an intimate nature, although in completely different circumstances. It is axiomatic of church leadership that problems of an intimate nature must be dealt with from time to time. The way in which these matters are handled does not always reflect "official" church policy. However, it is not "the church" that has to deal with these things but individual bishops."
Our conclusion has to be that the evidence recorded is from a general standpoint of Mormon belief but an individual Mormon may not always abide by the general rules.
Point 4 queries the relationship between the Book of Mormon and the Bible. Yet the Mormon position is quite clear from their Articles of Faith, the Bible is only the Word of God as far as it is translated properly but the Book of Mormon is the Word of God without any qualification. Again, you have only to read the study guide that all Mormon missionaries are taken through to realize that this statement by Brian is factually correct.
The main focus of this discussion should be the Book of Mormon and the Prophet Joseph Smith . . . After the discussion, the Investigator's strongest impression should be of the Book of Mormon and the prophet Joseph Smith.
Point 5, concerning the abuse of power, highlights the main problem we have here. Brian's testimony is of a Mormon who has left the church and become a Christian. This is pitted against the testimony of Slade who is still a member of the Mormon church. There is no way that we can be certain that this event did or did not happen unless there was an unbiased witness on the scene.
Point 6 is in the same category as point 6. It is very doubtful that Slade would admit to the facts if they were as Brian says they are. Again there is no proof and we end up with two different versions of the same event. The fact however that the Temple ceremonies are secret is still not in dispute.
I'm not sure exactly what you are aiming at in your point 8. Mormons are kept busy and are shown things from the Mormon point of view. They are not encouraged to look at things from the 'other side of the fence'. One understands why and I cannot see the fuss you are making over this small point.
Point 9 concerns whether we are striving to be perfect in this life or not. What does the Mormon church encourage on this point - that we must be obedient to all the laws and ordinances. If we do not then we have no hope of getting into the highest heaven although we might have a second class salvation.
Ex-Mormons would again testify to the fact that perfection in this life is encouraged under the heading of 'having your calling and election made sure'. See Doctrines of Salvation, Vol. 2, Joseph Fielding Smith.
There is a clear distinction here in that the Bible says that we are saved by grace and that Christ has accomplished everything on the Cross. The Book of Mormon says that we are only saved by grace after all we can do. Christianity shows that man can do nothing to work for his salvation. Mormonism shows that it is very much down to works.
Point 10 again offers no proof as to whether Brian was Branch president or not. The proof you bring consists of the phrase 'as best I recall...' It goes on to admit that there are 'no official records' and so how can the point be substantiated beyond reasonable doubt? You further suggest that Brian 'may be acting out of bad feelings towards those who were once his fellow religionists and friends.' Would it not be equally as fair to suggest that it could be the other way round> However would you also please read again what Brian says as recorded in Don't Close The Door, p. 25, 'Mormons, on the whole, are very nice people: they have impeccable manners, amoral code second to none, a welfare system that works, and some truth in the message they bring to you.
You conclude here that Brian has lied but have given no substantial proof to that claim and I believe such a statement should be withdrawn. Is it not a fact that Mormons have lied and twisted the truth? Why do you not say the same things about them? On what basis do you accept person 'A’s account and yet reject person 'B's, when they are presented with similar evidence.
For you, point 11, shows beyond any question that Brian will go to any lengths to injure Mormons. You state that he claimed he was threatened with murder by two Mormon ministers. Mr Bray I ask one simple question, where do you get that accusation from? Actually it is not unusually [sic] for ex-cult members of Christians working with them to receive verbal or even physical abuse. However, what are the facts here?
The quotation from the book talks about being 'aware of the consequences'. Later to you he concluded that his 'life may be in danger'. You later go on to state that 'Rendell backs down from his previous extreme position' and yet the evidence you bring for this is that Brian said, 'The threats were given to remind me that I had made vows in the endowment room.'' This is exactly what he has said all along. You are the one who put the words kill and murder in his mouth - he never used them and therefore to accuse him of saying this is a lie and not honest investigation. Indeed Mr Bray, Jesus will be the judge of us all as the Bible rightly says.
You are probably aware that the threats mentioned here were explicit in the Temple Ceremony until 1992. It is also an established fact that gruesome deaths were carried out in the early days of Mormonism. In this light the threats become implicit in any reminder of the temple oaths taken. It indeed could be argued that as Mormons don't today go around killing those who reveal the temple ceremonies they should not worry about it. However, for some these threats may still seem quite real and frightening.
Having dealt with your unfair treatment of Brian we move on to the recording of your correspondence with us and the answering of the questions outstanding from your letter dated 16 July 1993.
Answers to the writer's questions of 16 July 1993
There are no academic qualifications that exist for this work, even a B. Ed degree in Theology would not equip anyone for the ministry. The qualification is a 'hands on' experience over many years with an on-going study of the Bible to ensure that the basis is correct.
Questions 1, 2a-i and 2-4 can first be answered in a general way. We would have to say that in our eyes all your investigations into Brian have provided no proof that his statements are false. We spent a day with him during filming and subsequently two weekends. On top of this there was correspondence, phone calls and I spoke to a number of Christians who knew him. The reason we did not try to talk to Mormons is clear when we look at the answers you have received. Anything that Brian said, the opposite must be true. It would be difficult if not impossible to get clear answers from an active Mormon. The fact is that some events can never really be substantiated one way or the other but if, when checked, they fit in with the known behaviour of the group we are dealing with then we believe that we have every right to accept them as true. However, as we have stated all along if anything later is shown to be conclusively wrong we would ensure the matter was dealt with satisfactorily.
Item 2c is a true statement, it's a matter of interpretation. An elder is the bottom rung and the only way is up. High priests are still men who became Mormons at some point. They were not born special but entered the Mormon church and have risen up the ladder.
Item 2d is again a matter of who you talk to. We have heard that such long interviews are not unusual.
Items 2e-g have been answered in detail elsewhere.
Item 2h. In our studies there is no evidence to suggest that it is only emotions [sic] unstable people who are 'religion changers'. However what we have found is that it is often at a time of 'crisis' which could be physical, emotional or spiritual, that most accept a wrong teaching such as Mormonism. Again, however, we must repeat that this is not always the case.
Item 5. is your impression and would very much depend on who is reading it. We realize that when people are faced with the truth it does sometimes hurt. We have a number of ex-Mormons and those who were about to get into the church who are very thankful for our literature and services. We do not look for 'ammunition' but share facts which we hope every Mormon will check out for themselves and then make their own careful decisions.
In answer to item 6. I could not say I have friends who are Mormons but I have spoken to many Mormons. Recently I presented a lecture entitled, 'Is Mormonism Christian'? Two Mormon missionaries attended, who although did not want to agree with what I said, were not offended in the way it was put across. Also they could not dispute on what I said as I was quoting from my extensive library of Mormon literature.
The fact that, by some, Godmakers may be condemned is not very relevant. The important factor is whether what is said in the video is true. It is not religious persecution to inform people of error. In fact it is a service as their eternal life may depend on it. It is only religious persecution if it incites people to hate and it is only defamatory if it is not true. Godmakers has been useful in helping many to reach out and love Mormons and its truth has been established. A Mormon bishop who saw Godmakers did not deny it was true. The only thing he said was that he didn't like the background music.
I know Lorri MacGregor, she is one of our board of reference. You will notice we carry some of her books but we have no official tie up between the two ministries if that is the purpose of your question.
Finally we believe that you must change your concluding remarks as they are untrue. I did not refuse to answer your questions. Please read again my letter of 17 November. In our opinion we do not believe you are writing in the right spirit but still we do have the opportunity to answer your statements in context, which is most important.
Reachout Trust has never and will never, deliberately promote falsehood and to say so would be libellous. To make this statement anyway is totally unfair because you cannot point to even one deliberate falsehood. Unless you can prove beyond any doubt that there are deliberate falsehoods in the story you must withdraw this. Not only that but in the light of our offer made in the letter dated 22 June, to correct any errors that unintentionally crept in this statement is certainly defamatory.
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 this 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.
To conclude we would underline again, just suppose 'we have been fooled' does that make Mormonism right and Christianity wrong? No. There is so much more evidence to show that the Jesus Christ the Mormon Church present [sic] is not the same as the Jesus Christ of the Bible. Consequently the salvation that the Mormon church offers is tragically not the salvation that Jesus Christ won for us at Calvary.
Dear Mr Harris,
Thank you for your letter dated 16 February 1994 and enclosure. My initial impression is that overall your responses are disappointing. You do not address the issues I raise but merely attack my methodology. Hopefully you will take another look at the whole matter and I share the following comments with you in the hope that you will do so and then carefully re-think your position.
I note your request to have your responses included in the finished work. However, if I were to include it as it stands now it would not reflect credit upon either yourself or upon the Reachout Trust for the reasons I have already stated, and because of the many inconsistencies it contains. For this reason alone you will need to consider the whole matter again. I will try to help you see where the principal issues lie.
You will appreciate that your letter raises very many points, but at this present time I am unable to deal with them all because of the demands upon my time. However I will address those points the resolution of which will, I believe, enable us to see where truth lies provided that you will ensure that these points are adequately dealt with.
Page 1. You write:
[A]'We have spoken to Brian Rendell and he still sticks by his story...[B]even if it did become clear that some of the facts in Brian's story were not true it would not alter the information that we have printed about Mormonism in other leaflets and this needs to be said.'
I will address point [B] of this paragraph first. It is of absolutely no consequence to my research whether Mormonism is true or false. I am not interested in that question and so it is meaningless to raise it in your own defence. In fact I consider your raising it to be an attempt to divert attention away from the point I have made by widening the issue. Defending a proposition by another proposition which does not prove the first one, but which diverts the attention to another question (one about which the person making the diversion feels more certain), is a common trick in controversies, and I am more than a little surprised that you have sought to employ it here. Back to the point - my research in this case deals with two basic issues which are:
1.Has Rendell been entirely truthful in his account of his experiences as a Mormon?
2.If Rendell has lied, has Reachout Trust and its officers acted in good faith in publishing his falsehoods?
3.or are they in complicity with him either as a result of a deliberate policy of doing harm to Mormons at any cost, or iithrough their failure to conduct honest primary research and verification methods?
You refer me to what you have written in other leaflets. Not having seen any other of your publications except a photocopy of two pages of your newsletter I cannot comment. Your other publications may become of interest when (and if) I get around to researching them, but I can only foresee that becoming likely if I decided to conduct a dedicated investigation of Reachout Trust, but in our present context the introduction of this material is a diversion.
My interest in Rendell's writings was aroused solely on grounds of the extreme hostility that I felt was evident in his account. It was his particular enthusiasm for his subject that attracted me. What you would no doubt call a 'hostile spirit.' Nor am I in this instant interested in comparisons between any system of theology, religion, Christology or soteriology and another. I think I need to express that to you to save you the trouble of attempting to persuade me that you have clairvoyance in matters of religion. My current research is solely connected with those points I have expressed in my previous correspondence. Nothing has changed since that time, and I would be pleased if we could stick to those points.
As to Rendell sticking to his story, if he continues to maintain its truth, why does he not provide further and better particulars of those points which I have requested from him. If he would do so and if that information confirmed his claims, the difficulties would be immediately resolved and we could all get on with something else. Even if as you suggest, he no longer has primary documentary proof, and I have no difficulty in admitting that possibility, then he ought to present proof as best he can recall. I will settle for less than exact answers to those questions dealing with his term as leading minister and his invitation to address the Mormon headquarters meeting. But he has not done so in spite of repeated requests. His only response has been:
'I have not been able to give you truly complete and honest answers...'
What should I conclude from that other than that which I have concluded? How am I wrong in my understanding?
If Rendell had been the incumbent minister of a Mormon congregation, the absence of documentary evidence would not preclude him from answering the questions I asked which were:
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?
These questions were asked in order that I could verify his claim.
You refer to what you consider to be my use of 'pressure'. Relevant inquiry into names, dates and places is hardly pressure. Neither is repeatedly asking for information. The information I continue to ask for is relevant even if documentary confirmation cannot be produced, because if Rendell cannot remember, or if he is unwilling to do so, then other people may be able to remember and either verify his claims or prove them false. There is nothing unusual about that, it is normal research practice and your apparent objection to it is trivial. It is likely that by its introduction you are attempting to focus attention away from the point. The point is verification, in this case it is a question of biography - everyone has a biography - Rendell's biography is necessary to verify his claims. Calling this pressure is a nonsense.
From the information you have supplied in this instance your research apparently consists of listening to a story and then making up your own mind. I appreciate how you could be comfortable with this, and would rely on your subject to be truthful. But there are certain difficulties involved with this method as we are discovering.
I asked you about academic qualifications hoping to understand your mental approach to your subject. I understand from your reply that you are not a qualified minister.
You ask about 'control.' A control group cannot be applied when dealing with the question of one person's testimony against another - Slade's against Rendell's, for instance. In such cases as this the standard of verification is not a model, but relies upon substantive personal verifiable testimony and/or documentary evidence.
I do not know what your reference to B.Ed in theology was meant to imply - as far as I am aware there is no such thing, but I am willing to be corrected. My understanding is that B.Ed. is taken in education. Theology is taken as part of an arts degree, even when it is taken under the auspices of a theological college or seminar, in which case its purpose is to equip for ministry. However, that's one of the many insignificant points you raise in your responses. But I do take your point that a BA in Theology is not of itself necessarily equipment for clerical ministry, although I do believe that it is a very useful thing to have experienced, the research and study - not the degree, in order to make a scholarly contribution to questions of the nature of those you apparently deal with in your ministry.
Perhaps we are using the same term with different perceptions of its meaning. That may have given rise to your confusion. When I referred to your 'ministry' I meant your efforts in anti-Mormonism, etc. Your use of an irrelevant objection in this connection is slightly impudent, but I am not offended.
Point 10 - Continuing with the question of Rendell's term of ministry you have said,
'Point 10 again offers no proof as to whether Brian was Branch president or not. The proof you bring consists of the phrase 'as best I recall...' It goes on to admit that there are 'no official records' and so how can the point be substantiated beyond reasonable doubt?
Certain aspects of this paragraph lead me to believe that your grasp of basic research methods is weak. It also raises a doubt about the honesty of your approach, which is a more serious matter. I presume that the text between commas and in italics in your text is intended to be the ipissima verba of Slade's letter. But you fail even to quote accurately from a text that lies before your eyes! I will explain. You say that Slade wrote: 'as best I recall...'
What he actually wrote was: 'to the best that I can recall...'
You say that Slade wrote: 'no official records' and include that in your own sentence to make: 'It goes on to admit that there are 'no official records.'
What he actually wrote was: 'We do not keep any official records of callings in the Branch.'
Slade had earlier written that he had passed my letter on to the Stake (diocese), and you have that text.
By your 'cut and paste' method you have constructed a meaning which Slade never intended, and by so doing have very properly deserved to have your objectivity called into question. What possible justification can you put forward for such deception? I propose that the reason you are unable to see the inconsistencies in Rendell's story is because your thinking is as flawed as his, although I concede that he probably learned it from you.
To enable you to see what I mean I will repeat Slade's paragraph and demonstrate how you have decontextualized parts of his statements, significantly altered others and twisted them into saying something that the text does not in fact say. Slade wrote:
'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.
1979-81President A D B Wheele
81-84President M J Vickery
84-85President D Kirk
85-92President 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.
Slade's statement, 'To the best that I can recall' refers only to the dates served by the incumbents, not to either the sequence of presiding ministers or their names. Brian Rendell's name does not appear on the list. If Rendell alleges that Slade is lying, as you imply, then let him produce the evidence to refute Slade's allegations. If he now has no documents, let him produce witnesses who can verify his claim and disappoint Slade's claim.
Working entirely within Slade's text, your attempts to make it say what it does not say, is a trick, and a dishonest one at that. In fact this is the trick that does cause offence to my sensibilities. I expect to be dealt with on a more serious basis, and you should not stoop to such deplorable deception if you wish to be taken seriously as a researcher.
I have not yet heard from Slade's diocesan ministers and have mentioned this to him in the letter I sent to him with a copy of the paper we are now debating. I have suggested that I approach his senior ministers directly to have the matter resolved from the official records that are kept at that level. And this I will do as soon as he furnished me with the appropriate name and address. You are probably aware that branch ministers are appointed by diocesan officers, not elected by the local congregation, which makes it necessary for the diocese (stake) to keep the records. I was under the impression that each church unit kept their own historical records or at very least would have copies of reports signed by unit leaders, which should establish the sequence of names of the branch presidents. This method would satisfy the demands of proof in this case. Do you agree?
To summarise: careful scrutiny of Slade's letter will show you that he does not admit that there are "no official records" as you have claimed. He states that they are not kept 'in the Branch.' But the internal evidence of his letter may reasonably be taken to infer that they are kept at stake level, which would give the lie to your interpretation. Do you agree?
Distortion, deception, decontextualization, misquotation and misinter¬pretation are all forms of lies. Do you agree? Christianity has no need of these. You do not appear to be interested in objective neutral reporting of facts, but seem intent on constructing a model according to your own subjective needs, which are by nature interpretative and which require further interpretation as you apply the model to Mormonism. It is disturbing. The meaning of any text is guaranteed by what is taken to be the intention of the writer. Manipulation of a text for propaganda purposes aims to locate within the text, but independent of its intention, a single specific interpretation. This is the means you employ, and is as dishonest as picking a man's pocket. It is concerned with plurality of meaning, but the primary and intentional meaning of a text is the only honest one, and it is that one which should be diligently sought.
As to what might be expected from those who change their religions, Skonovd, in "BECOMING APOSTATE" Anaheim, 1979, says that in general accounts made by defectors about their former religious experience
"...are not objective, impartial accounts of events and experiences".
They are not usually reliable enough to be taken at face value. Your mistake is that you seem happy to take them, not at face value, but as understood by you through the lens of your particular theological necessity, the plague of all religious textual exegesis. If you have made a mistake in your reading, research or understanding of this point then I am willing to reconsider my verdict on your scholarship. But if you insist on sticking to it just because you find it useful, but without positive verification and for no other reason than that it serves your purposes, then you seek to serve your faith perspective in an ill manner. We all do well to remember the injunction,
'Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.'
Your reference to point 6 misses some essential information. In Rendell's account of this event he writes:
'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).(Emphasis added).
I have supplied the underlining and capitals in order to emphasize to you that there were more persons present than Slade and Rendell. Your own analysis of the text will lead you to that point. No doubt these others (at least one other) have evidence to offer as to whether or not it took place. Who were the others? Have you spoken to them? If it took place, and it could have done, where are the witnesses? Why does Rendell not call them?
Regarding Point 11 you write:
'You state that he claimed he was threatened with murder by two Mormon ministers. Mr Bray I ask one simple question, where did you get that accusation from? Actually it is not unusually [sic] for ex-cult members or Christians working with them, to receive verbal or even physical abuse. However, what are the facts here?
The facts you ask for are provided by Rendell in his writing and letters. Analysis of the text ought to have led you to the same conclusions as I have drawn. But I will present my process of deduction here and you will please then indicate how my conclusions are wrong, provided that you continue to maintain that they are.
Please be aware that the context in which something is said is as important, often more so, as what is said. I would also point out that Rendell often presented partial information and then used words to the effect of,
'I will leave you to draw your own conclusions.'
I have on more than one occasion pointed out to him that this approach is unsatisfactory. It is his conclusions based on his experiences that count, and it became clear to me from what he wrote to me that he either considered that he had been threatened with murder, or else he wished people to believe that he had been so threatened.
Rendell often resorted to innuendo in his accounts, and on each occasion I required him to be explicit rather than leave me to determine what he intended to convey. Would you have done differently?
If any threats were indeed delivered with the intention that Rendell should understand that his life was in danger then the Mormons have a case to answer. If that was not the case then Rendell has a case to answer. It may be, as I have suggested, that he has taken you in, in which case you need to be aware of it. If on the other hand he has not taken you in but you are willingly in complicity with him, then you have a case to answer. Let me deal with the facts for you. Rendell wrote:
'Since my conversion 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.'(emphasis added)
What is the thrust of this passage? He has been 'reminded' about the consequences of not keeping Temple ceremonies 'secret.' What were those consequences? What do you take them to be? What did Rendell mean to imply by "consequences"? You write that
'threats were explicit in the Temple Ceremony until 1992. It is also an established fact that gruesome deaths were carried out [sic] in the early days of Mormonism.'
What "threats" do you refer to? What "gruesome deaths" do you refer to? Why do you introduce 'threats' and 'gruesome deaths' into your consideration of this point if you do not make a connection with the 'threats' and warnings to Rendell by Mormons that his life could be in danger from the consequences of 'threats' attached to vows made in the temple? Why have you made that connection, if not for the same reasons that I have?
You, quite properly, ask what the facts are that led me to my conclusions. Bear in mind that in spite of your stated objection to my putting the words 'kill and murder into his mouth', you reach the same or similar conclusion as I had. You wrote
'Later to you he stated that he concluded that 'his life may be in danger' and yet the evidence you bring for this is that Brian said, 'The threats were given to remind me that I had made vows in the endowment room.' This is exactly what he has said all along.'(emphasis added)
Unless I am being hypercritical, or unless I am seriously misunderstanding what you write, you do not appear to comprehend what is before your eyes. Rendell wrote:
'...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 (Emphasis added).
If we list the significant parts of that testimony we can, perhaps, see it more clearly.
1.A number of the leadership in this area have visited me
2.and warned me that if I continue revealing facts about them
3.the vows etc., taken by me in the Temple may be invoked
4.and my life may be in danger.
5.I don't treat these threats lightly...
6....Gordon Slade...and...Andy Wheele...have levelled threats on 3 separate occasions.
By these statements Rendell leaves no room for doubt that he considered threats had been made upon his life by two Mormon ministers. "MY LIFE MAYBE IN DANGER"
He did not take the threats lightly. By this he signals that he considered the threats to be serious, "MY LIFE MAY BE IN DANGER" both in respect of their delivery and in respect of their execution.
As we have noted you have also tied the threats to "gruesome deaths." These are the impressions Rendell has laboured hard to present - "MY LIFE MAYBE IN DANGER".
You will note that when I sought to clarify exactly how the alleged threats were phrased he did not answer in a direct manner, but instead stated
'The threats were given in the manner 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 KEEP 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 QUIET PEOPLE LIKE MYSELF.'(Emphasis added)
Now, Mr Harris, what does Rendell intend to be concluded from that? "Beware" of what? "Quiet" people like him, how? What does he infer? It is clearly an attempt to withdraw from an extreme position without withdrawing from it altogether - a bit of wriggling, perhaps?
Why does he introduce Fundamentalists? Was it in order to emphasise the threats to his life? If not, what purpose did it serve? What makes him think that they might be interested in him? Do Fundamentalists really "quiet" people like Rendell? Do they have any formal or informal connection with the church Rendell was once a member of?
I can draw no conclusion other than that he considered, or said he considered, his life to be in danger - "MY LIFE MAY BE IN DANGER". That evidently means and was intended to be understood that he feared for his "life." - "MY LIFE MAY BE IN DANGER"
If, as you appear to be saying, he did not consider that he had received threats against his life, why did he even mention it in the first place, and what was it that he intended these words to convey?
He says that he did not take the "threats" lightly. Presumably he did not call them "threats" just to amuse his readership, but saw them as threats against his "LIFE" - "MY LIFE MAY BE IN DANGER".
How the words 'kill and murder' are out of place in this context you fail to say. Can one "threaten the life" of another without threatening them with either 'kill[ing] and murder?'
And since the threats were allegedly delivered by "a number of the [Mormon] leadership in this area" (with 'Fundamentalists' standing mysteriously in the shadows!), my allegation that Rendell claimed to have been 'threatened with murder by two Mormon ministers' is accurate.
You have run all around this point but added nothing except a very spurious and unsatisfactory bit of fancy footwork in an effort to draw attention away from Rendell's text. His text is the issue, and what he meant by the words he used. Let's stick to that and see where it leads us. Diversions such as you introduce advance the debate not one yod or tittle.
Have you or any of your Reachout Trust workers ever been threatened verbally or physically by Mormons? If so I would appreciate full details please.
Again in connection with this you raise the question of the right or wrong of Mormons. Whatever Mormons may or may not have done in the past is of no consequence and I cannot see why you introduce it here except in the hope of widening the discussion and diverting attention away from the point under discussion. That's not the way to conduct a debate.
I note that you consider my treatment of Rendell 'unfair.' However, you omit any specific instances of where and how you consider I have been unfair, and so I am unable to defend myself against the accusation. Do you always strive to be fair? Your initial statement states 'We realize why you have reached your conclusions.' If this is so how can you then say I have been unfair? I have written nothing that is not supportable from Rendell's written evidence or from the evidence of other principle witnesses.
You claim that I use 'pressure.' I admit to asking for and expecting verification of claims persons make. If that is what you call pressure, then so be it. But I do expect you to understand the need to determine truth rather than appeal to subjectivity, when claim and counterclaim are being dealt with. Do you agree? What is your objection to pressure being applied in a search for the truth. Would you shrink from putting someone like myself under pressure?
You ask somewhere whether I use the same investigative measures on Mormons as well as ex-Mormons. Unequivocally 'yes,' Why should I not? There is but one standard of truth and evidence, and I recommend the same to you and your team. [....]
Next, your point about my statement that you refused to discuss certain issues with me. I have mentioned this before. You should realize that until you responded no context existed because there was no material to introduce into a context. Do you follow this? Of course since you have responded that criticism of you is no longer valid.
What you say you have considered hostile is no more than critical, and the cause of my criticism arises from the material you have published, and from your responses to my research, and at times your failure to respond. "Holding-off", as you call it, is of no help since it stifles discussion of the central issues in this case. I have dealt with this elsewhere.
The preliminary document I have produced is entitled "Brian Rendell and Reachout Trust", a copy of which you have received and will have noted that it refers only to a consideration of Rendell's "Trying To Be A Worthy Mormon" which you thought fit to include in your book. Our correspondence therefore should remain centred on material which is contained therein.
You obviously missed my point which is, that having considered Rendell's original material and his further responses, and then meeting a wall of silence, I took it that he was avoiding making further responses of promised material, and so asked you for your consideration of the case in order to discover whether you had taken the trouble to verify (authenticate in the legal sense) his statements, especially those with which I had taken issue. My suspicions were aroused that he wasn't being honest, which he has confirmed, and the next step was to discover how much Reachout Trust was aware of the situation. Which discovery continues.
I still have to satisfy myself as to your position. Whether it is that you will use any ammunition against a perceived enemy, regardless of whether it was either verified or verifiable, or whether you are a serious ministry who has been hoodwinked by an over enthusiastic contributor. I approached you with this problem because it is inseparable from Reachout Trust, and you ought not evade the issues involved. However, I am sure that you will be able to vindicate yourselves if you set your minds fully on the resolution of the difficulties raised. [...]
You do raise some points of interest - I shall make further inquiries of the Mormon church regarding the post of Primary President. You may be right here but it should not be difficult to verify.
The same possibility applies to the invitation to Salt Lake City. Rendell's memory of who sent the information would assist me to approach the individual concerned and thus verify his information. If that is not forthcoming, and no doubt you will try to secure that information for me, then I will have to write in general terms to the conference organizers and hopeful obtain the information by that route. In this case it's a simple question of was he or was he not invited in the manner he claims. You will doubtless appreciate my difficulty with Rendell's reticence to provide this information. [...]
Point 4 queries the relationship between the Book of Mormon and the Bible.
It certainly does not and I find your reading of this extraordinary. I am seeking to obtain a copy of the 'decree' in order to satisfy myself that Rendell is representing its content accurately. No more, no less. Why complicate the issue by extending it beyond its original form? The extension of a proposition is a dishonest trick intended to make the proposer defend a more extreme position than he first posited - naughty. The relationship between the two books is not an issue, only whether such a decree as Rendell claimed ever existed, and if it did whether he represented it accurately.
Your reference to point 6 has been dealt with earlier. But further and better information may be available. You express the same notion which Rendell expressed, namely that a Mormon is not capable of telling the truth, and that a non-Mormon does not know the truth; only an ex-Mormon Christian attached to an anti-Mormon ministry can know and speak the truth. The nonsense of such a notion should be readily apparent. How one can hold such an opinion of Mormons as incapable of telling the truth and still say "Mormons, on the whole are very nice people: they have impeccable manners, a moral code second to none..." is beyond my comprehension. Perhaps you could explain the contradiction? Both Rendell and yourself appear to be saying that no Mormon is capable of telling the truth. That is equivalent to "all Mormons are liars" and is refuted by the introduction of just one Mormon who is proved not to be a liar, and you probably know at least one yourself, even though, as you say, you may not be close friends. [...]
As to how I choose between the varying accounts of 'A' and 'B', I use rules of evidence. I asked you this question relative to Rendell's account of his Mormon experiences and you said, effectively, that you relied upon intuition. You had no evidence for anything he claimed, yet you believed him. I am seeking evidence. I questioned his account on several points, and eventually he admitted that he had not been entirely honest. That's a fairly clear indication that his account is not honest and reliable. I don't know how anyone could conclude otherwise. Do you understand what I'm saying? Nevertheless you will be aware that I am continuing my efforts to obtain verification of the testimonies.
To date you have furnished no evidence which would cause me to withdraw my allegations about Rendell's honesty, particularly when he has admitted that his answers were not
'truly complete and honest'.
If this is not an admission of dishonesty what is it? I must admit to being less than impressed with what you choose to present as evidence. And as of this date, rather than abandoning my position on Rendell and Reachout Trust, I feel more justified than ever.
However, I am still willing to be convinced that I am wrong, but you will appreciate that the standard of evidence will have to be compelling. I look to you either to provide this or to withdraw your allegations concerning my methods of research and my conclusions on the grounds that your allegations are without substance rather than continuing to insist on ignoring my sound refutations. You will have noted that in my last (unanswered) letter to Brian Rendell, I gave him the opportunity to give,
'simple truthful statements regarding your involvement in Mormon affairs. I don't quite know how to put this without it seeming offensive - which is not intended - but I feel from the pattern and content of your responses that you have not been as frank and open and honest as you had led me to expect you would be.
I have also offered to visit him at his home and speak with him face to face. My offer is still open. In view of Rendell's previous difficulties I do not wish to add to any difficulties he may be experiencing, and which you have hinted at. He had led me to believe that his problems melted with his becoming a member of the Christian Fellowship movement, but perhaps this was a case of his being over-sanguine. I still feel that he should answer his case, and no doubt you will encourage him to do so. [...]
Your acceptance of the truth of Rendell's story has been dealt with earlier. You will now be aware that his sounding credible to you is not proof, and that the burden of proof for his claims is his. The onus is squarely on his own head. Alternatively he could admit that he was mistaken in those matters that he refuses to verify. He has given his word as a Christian and freely made "the promise that any questions that are unanswered I will answer, if you contact me through Reachout Trust."
5. Thank you for this explanation. What I really asked was, what do you set out to do. That's not a matter for me to interpret, but for you to explain. You appear to indicate that where truth is concerned it's all right to hurt people's feelings. If not all right, then inevitable, but a price worth paying. Is that what you intend? [...]
I am amused by your insistence that I am writing in a wrong spirit, or that I am not writing in the right spirit, whatever you mean by that. What exactly do you mean when you say that? I admit that I am probing, but if your case is right and you are being honest and straightforward that should not cause you any anxiety. If you are not being perfectly honest then you will feel uncomfortable and will need to set your own house in order, and this you have promised to do upon being convinced of that necessity. [...]
The statement that you have included falsehoods in DON'T CLOSE THE DOOR must remain in the work until I am satisfied that there are no falsehoods. So far you have not advanced any proof to make me withdraw from that position. If you consider that a libel has been committed you will have a remedy, but I am not moved by the possibility of action at law. At the moment I firmly believe that the material upon which I have based my conclusions support the opinion that the conclusions are well-founded. In the event of them being proved to be unsubstantiated then I will be only too happy to draw fresh conclusions based on evidence.
Again I stress that no matter how many times you feel impelled to introduce the subject. the rights and wrongs of your system of Christianity over the Mormon system of Christianity is of absolutely no consequence. You need to be aware that all ecclesiastical histories and doctrines can be made to appear erroneous according to the Bible. [...]
I will address one further point. You have asked why I did not approach Ann Thomas regarding her testimony in your book. I have read her chapter many times, but at no time have I felt that it was in any way remarkable. She, like Hans Kung (ON BEING A CHRISTIAN), woke up in the wrong church, that's all. She told a simple story of one who had changed her mind. There's nothing remarkable or objectionable in that. Did you think there was? It is a commonplace occurrence. We witness a daily migration of members from Anglicanism to Romanism without feeling that anything remarkable has happened. Ann Thomas' story appeared to be of the same order.
Brian Rendell's story - Ah! that was another story!! [...]
Thank you for the time and trouble you have taken to provide your responses to date. As you will see from my responses I found them disappointing, especially in the light of what I consider to be your unwarranted criticisms. No doubt you will produce responses that deal with my refutations instead of ignoring them, and avoid the diversions which you have attempted to introduce. If you keep changing the agenda by such methods we shall talk all over creation but never complete our investigation into the eleven points I introduced in my paper. I look forward to receiving responses that more positively satisfy the rigorous standards of evidence and verification demanded in academic research, as opposed to polemic.
We have a little further to travel together, Mr Harris, to determine the truth or otherwise of Rendell's account. I suggest that we both make the best of it.
Yours sincerely Ronnie Bray
Harris did not reply, instead he passed the matter on to Mike Thomas of Reachout Trust. Mr Thomas, an ex-Mormon, began in much the same spirit as Harris had, insisting that Rendell was truthful and that no proof to the contrary (in spite of Rendell's confession!) had been furnished. About this time Brian Rendell became ill and the writer determined not to trouble him any further. However, Thomas had persuaded Rendell to meet with him, and had promised to make a clean breast of the affair. Unfortunately Rendell withdrew at the last moment. From this and, no doubt from familiarising himself with the correspondence and because of his own experience as a Mormon, Thomas now took the view that Rendell was a liar and that Reachout's system of verifying such testimonies was seriously flawed. To his credit he admitted this. Efforts to determine how Reachout would honour their word that:
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. [...]
Apart from being forced to abandon Rendell's chapter in the reprint of Don't Close The Door, Reachout Trust refuse to reveal what plans they have for making the matter public.
Mike Thomas writes that he is too busy to continue the correspondence in spite of his having agreed to the writer undertaking further research into Reachout Trust. It is hoped that Reachout will be persuaded to reveal whatever it is that they are at this time so reticent to unveil.
Reachout Trust is not especially different from the many hostile ministries currently operating. Their sourcing, financing and operation methods are all very much alike.
Reach Out Trust [ROT], started by The Great Sexual Abuse Pretender Maureen Davies, then taken over by parachurchist and wandering self-taughht preacher, Doug 'Flamboyant' Harries lost this battle and Harruies proved duplicitous in the estreme by the step he took to publicise his egregious error in believeing what Brian Rendell told him and sucked him right up the tube before thrusting him down the tube.
See Harris' Unchristian Pefidy HERE