The Anti-Mormon Predicament
By Ronnie Bray
Preface from “Images of Haste – Ministers of Fear” – [ unpublished MS by Ronnie Bray]
In an age that takes a certain pride in its tolerance and respect, it is something of a tragedy that this unashamedly apologetic work is necessary. Succeeding generations of Latter-day Saints have explained themselves, their doctrine, practice, teaching, and history to armies of hostile critics. Have they listened? There is no evidence that they have. The shelves of Christian bookshops groan under a welter of anti-Mormon materials. The purpose of these materials is to strike at the foundation of the Restored Gospel. The ultimate aim is the discomfiture and destruction of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Apart from this objective being unattainable, it is darkly grim in its essence. That a Christian ministry should be engaged in no better pursuit than destructive attacks on another Christian group is an extreme tragedy.
The Church grows from strength to strength. Much of this growth it owes to the very forces that seek to weaken it. Persecution to convince the persecuted that they are right in their belief system. It serves to entrench the harried in their positions with greater determination. Disagreeing with a particular religious belief is not persecution, or all would be persecuted. Persecution is any activity that is intended to cause harm to another. The harm intended may be to a reputation. This is in order that it becomes difficult to take the maligned reputation seriously, or to reduce the person so travestied to a joke which makes it unlikely that his or her claims will be taken seriously enough to be even listened to. Persecution does not address itself to scientific description. Rather it distorts science - usually history - to present an image which, it is claimed with gravamen, represents the reality of the subject.
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The actual number of Anti-Mormon organisations is difficult to quantify because new ones spring up all the time, while the traditional ones continue to operate. The term ‘Anti-Mormon’ is applied only to those groups that consistently attack Mormonism and Mormons on the broad generalisation that Mormonism is a false religion and must be countered with all possible resources including the generation of falsehoods that contravene the ninth commandment, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.” [Exodus 20:16].
This charge is rejected as a matter of course by severe critics that explain that they only use material from Latter-day Saint publications, scriptures, and Journals. In such cases, it is evident that while they use these sources as referents, they fail to understand what they read and re-interpret the written word in ways that do not represent normative, experienced Mormonism from the insider’s perspective. Their conclusions are, therefore, divorced from the reality that Latter-day Saints encounter from the same sources.
The predicament faced by Anti-Mormons is that there is no single school of thought among them that is shared by all, but many schools of thought that have become fragmented to such a degree that few if any Anti-Mormon groups will agree with each other as to the origin or Mormonism, or, as Latter-day Saints hold it to be, ‘The Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ.’
There is no general agreement as to Mormon theology, Mormon Christology, Mormon ontology, the branch of metaphysics dealing with the nature of being; Mormon epistemology, the nature of knowledge, its presuppositions and foundations, and its extent and validity; eschatology; Mormon doctrines concerning the end times of the earth’s existence as a habitation for humanity, or final, matters, the nature of death, Judgement, the future state, resurrection, salvation; and so forth.
This in brief is the situation in which Anti-Mormons flounder like drowning men each by his flailing preventing others to board the life raft that bobs about on the choppy waters of their self-imposed shipwreck. It is anticipated that this short work will illuminate the major quandaries in which these hapless mariners find themselves in danger of drowning in the churning waters of the Sea of Confusion that they have made their homes.
The Predicament Identified
Latter-day Saints believe that their beliefs, teachings, principles, rites, and ordinances are little, if any, different than those of the Primitive Christian Church of the first Christian century. The tectonic plates of Historical Tradition and Restoration Christianity bump and grind against each other in areas where what was believed, taught, and practised by New Testament Christians was abandoned or changed by successive Christian centuries, so that some doctrines that have been restored seem somewhat alien to Christians unfamiliar with the early history of Christianity.
Stephen Neill and Tom Wright [Protestant Bible Scholars] say:
"On the problem of 'early Catholicism', […] it is not necessary to dwell very long. It seems to arise in the main from a transposition of the Reformation period into the first century AD. To an extent which is hard for the Christian of the English-speaking world to realize, the mind of the continental [meaning the European mainland] Protestant has been fashioned by the running controversy with the Church of Rome, which has gone on for more than four centuries. He has been taught to regard Catholicism as being at every point and in every respect a deformation of the Gospel. If there is anything even in the New Testament that seems to lend support to the Catholic position, that must at once be stigmatized as the beginning of the falling away of the Church from its true nature, a falling away which was almost complete by the second [Christian] century and from which it was delivered only through the new revelations given by God through Martin Luther in the sixteenth century.
"Above all, no suspicion must be allowed to pass that the Church is in process of becoming a Heilanstalt, an institution for the mediation of health and salvation. If by this means is meant that the Church comes to be regarded as an institution through membership of which salvation is automatically conveyed, without regard to faith or hope or the transformation of the life of the member, it may be stated at once that the Roman Catholic would be as resolute in repudiating the Church as any Lutheran could be. But the idea that the institutional form of the Church is in itself and necessarily a falling away from the original truth and grace of the Gospel he would naturally be unable to accept.
"But through this anti-Catholic prejudice, a large group of continental scholars have been led to produce a fancy picture of the early Church which does not correspond to any known reality."
[Stephen Neill & Tom Wright, "The Interpretation of The New Testament 1861 - 1986," Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1988, pp 200 - 201]
It is at the junctures where history meets the invention of ‘fanciful pictures’ regarding the nature and teachings of the New Testament Church that most criticism is levelled against Mormonism and Mormons, and on account of these differences that extraordinary theories are produced by diverse schools of Anti-Mormon thought.
It is these discrete theories that illuminate the abyss across which various schools of Anti-Mormonism scowl at each other. It is remarkable that there has not been any effort made by these contrary views to boil them down into a common theory from which to forge a single weapon with which to assail Mormonism. This signal failure is ‘the little rift within the lute that by and by will make the music mute.’
Had Anti-Mormons even attempted to come to agreement as to the precise origins of Mormonism’s Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ, then their predicament, whilst not actually disappearing, would become much less of a problem for them, and they could attack on one united front rather than the ugly array of missiles presently fired off in all directions at once by the motley crew under no single commander that fire their cannon and blunderbusses at each other most of the time by disavowing their co-belligerent’s arguments in favour of their own. The only attempt to ‘come together as one’ of which I am aware, is a move some years back to combine Anti-Mormon ministries under one umbrella that failed because every leader of an Anti-Mormon movement wanted to be the big chief, and they could not co-operate. This same reason is why the Scottish Clans failed to combine in large enough numbers to beat the English! Anti-Mormons did not learn from history and so were doomed to repeat the failure.
Mormonism’s Origins – The Mormon Version
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe that their Church is the Gospel of Jesus Christ that has been restored to the earth after a lengthy universal apostasy from the Church of Jesus Christ in New Testament times.
Latter-day Saints believe that in 1820 a young man called Joseph Smith prayed to God to know which church he should join. His prayer was answered by a remarkable vision of God the Father and Jesus Christ who told him that he should not attach himself to any church because none was the Church of Jesus Christ.
They believe the vision Saint John recorded in the Book of Revelation predicted the return of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the earth in the last days by an angel, and that the angel’s name was Moroni, that he appeared to Joseph Smith and led Joseph to a place where an ancient record telling of God’s dealing with people that had lived on what is today called the American Continent, and in time delivered the record written on metallic plates ‘having the appearance of common gold,’ to Joseph why translated part of them into English in a volume called The Book of Mormon.
“And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people.” [Revelation 14:6]
On April 6th of 1830, Joseph the Prophet in company with five men, in the presence of about fifty others officially formed The Church of Christ that would later be called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Through a series of visions and revelations the Church grew from a small gathering with rudimentary principles to grow into a Church that almost covers the earth and that in 2011 has more than thirteen million members.
Mormonism’s Origins – Anti-Mormon Versions
Where to begin, that is the writer’s predicament when it comes to listing the many phanmtastic theories that have been brewed up in the cauldrons of Anti-Mormons. Since no Anti-Mormon theory has merits that send it to the head of this class, they will be listed in no particular order, and their appearance on the list does not demonstrate their importance nor their distance from Divine Truth, a characteristic they all share in common.
Jack Roundhill [Roman Catholic Truth Society]
[Mormons are] an admirable people in many respects.... Their doctrines are wildly eccentric, however, and show as wide a divergence from the Christian faith as does, for example, the faith of Islam.
Forrest Brinkerhoff [Christadelphian]
It is with this writer that we find an extreme example of the construction of an image of Mormonism that lies so far outside of recoverable facts and available history that it defies belief. Yet, that does not preclude some from embracing it as true.
One should look to the very fertile imagination of ambitious men...for the ideas that have been developed into the teaching of the modern Mormon Church. ...[the Mormon Law of Sacrifice] is an almost exact parallel to the ancient Persian Zoroastrian teaching that the human spirit in the preexistance [sic] agreed to come to earth to help god (Ahura Mazda) in his struggle to wrest the earth away from the devil (Ahura Mainyu [sic]). The Mormons believe in pre-existance [sic] and they accept that they are joining in the fight to do what they can to help their god [sic] win the battle. However they use the names Elohim (their father god [sic]) instead of Chaos (the Persian father god), Jehovah, (Jesus who is the good son/god), instead of Ahura Mazda (the Persian son/god), and Lucifer (the evil god and brother of the good god) instead of Angra Mainyu (the Persian evil brother of the good god). Sounds incredible doesn't it? How can the Mormons claim to be biblically based when their beliefs are patterned directly on the Persian Zoroastrians?
Brinkerhoff imitates the practice of many writers in that he takes anything for which he can find a parallel without exploring the underlying doctrine or practice. Were he to complete his research he would find that many similarities exist between greatly varying religious traditions, but these similarities do not signify dependence. Brinkerhoff misses this point in his blind attack on Mormonism.
Most Christadelphians have greater respect for truth than Brinkerhoff. Charges are easy to frame and easy to believe if anyone wants to believe them. It is easy to accept irrational theories as the truth about Mormonism when it is written or spoken by those in positions of trust such as ministers, religious writers, and scholars.
John Butterworth [Uninformed Evangelical Protestant]
Some writers, such as John Butterworth, reach strange conclusions for the wrong reasons as two statements from his book will demonstrate.
- ‘Joseph Smith is the true Messiah. Jesus was his forerunner,’ and,
- ‘Jesus...did not exist before his birth on earth.’
Not only are both these statements patently false, but they are easily discovered to be so. Only a malignant spirit could have concocted these outrageous lies.
No charge brought against Mormonism has greater impact than the allegation that Mormons are not Christians. This is delivered in various ways from direct denials:
•[Mormonism is] irreconcilable with the Christian faith.
•[Mormons] cannot honestly claim to be Christians at all...Mormon beliefs are neither true nor Christian.
•[Mormonism] does not deserve to be called a Christian religion...is basically anti-Christian and anti-Biblical.
•[Mormonism] differ[s] from the true Christianity of the Bible.
•[Mormonism] cannot be Christianity.
•[Mormonism] is a cult and not a Christian church.
•[Mormonism] differs from evangelical Christianity in five major ways and in numerous minor points.
•The Christian view of salvation is very different [than that of the Mormons],
to oblique references often phrased in comparative form:
•One is hard put to see any relationship between Mormon belief and Biblical Christianity.
•[Mormonism is] nothing more than pagan blasphemy dressed up in christian [sic] garb.
•The fundamental difference between Mormons and Christians.
•[Mormonism is] powerful, its missionary programme immense, and its inroads upon the Christian faith tragic.
•The first of their 'Articles of Faith' gives the impression of sound orthodox Christianity.
•A clever, and I believe, deliberate attempt to deceive the näive into believing that Mormonism is a Christian religion.
•Scholastic dishonesty and semantic trickery are apparently standard Mormon practices in their ever expanding attempt to appear as Christians, which they are not!
•The labyrinth of antichristian [sic] dogmas which constitute Mormon theology.
•All [Protestants] consider the Mormons a non-Christian cult!
•[Mormons] have not in the past hesitated to employ deception in their effort to mimic orthodox Christianity.
•Like Mormons, Christians...like Christians, Mormons...
•[Mormonism is] a cleverly designed counterfeit of the Christian religion...the filmy coat of pseudo-Christian testimony.
These direct pronouncements contain a more profound element than simple statements of denial. They claim to know the 'clever designs' by which The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 'pretends' to be Christian. None of these writers informs their readership why Latter-day Saints are so intent on this deception. In other of their statements, they claim knowledge of something more sinister lurking deep within Mormonism:
[Mormonism is] polytheistic and anti-Trinitarian masquerading under Christian terminology in a clever attempt to appear as 'angels of light' when in reality they are 'ministers of Satan.'
[Mormonism] may appear Christian by human standards of judgement...but under the veneer of professed Christianity lies the denial of 'the only Lord God and our Lord, Jesus Christ' and the subtle substitution of 'another gospel'.
[Mormonism is] as unchristian as any of the eastern cults.
Their description of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost is not that of the Trinity of the Bible... No Mormon can claim today that he has eternal life in Christ.
They differ from the true Christianity of the Bible.
[Mormonism is] polytheistic (believing in many gods), unlike true Christianity which is Monotheistic. Mormonism, therefore, is not truly Christian.
All the foregoing serve to demonstrate the systematic de-Christianisation to which Mormons are constantly subjected. It will be noted that many writers do more than simply state the non-Christian nature of Mormonism by introducing alien interpretations of the faith of Latter-day Saints.
Once the process has begun, anything can be written about Mormons regardless of its distance from the truth. This material is disseminated and received by those whose critical faculties are subjugated to the control of anti-Mormon ministers.
De-Christianisation distorts Mormonism and reconstructs it into an image created by the engines of a hidden agenda to present its message that Mormonism is not Christian.
Thelma ‘Granny’ Geer [Former Latter-day Saint turned hostile]
In Jesus and his Father is reposed all the trust of members of the Latter-day Saint Church. Although it is often stated otherwise, Joseph Smith is not worshipped.
Thelma "Granny" Geer, an anti-Mormon publisher and speaker, states that for years during her membership of the Mormon Church she "sung hymns to Joseph Smith."
There are two hymns known to the writer which allude directly to Joseph Smith, "Oh, How Lovely Was the Morning,” and "Praise to the Man Who Communed With Jehovah."
In neither hymn does he replace the object of Latter-day Saint worship, Almighty God, the Eternal Father. There are some other hymns which refer to prophets, but in each case they are seen as blessings from God, sent by Him to guide his children in his behalf, and to shed God's light for them in a darkened world. "We thank thee, O, God, for a prophet to guide us in these latter days," is a typical example.
Thelma Geer is either genuinely mistaken in what she was actually doing all those years, or else she is deliberately lying about her own experience to cause mischief for Mormons. Whichever it is, she is not telling the truth.
J Edward Decker [Ex-Mormon Anti-Mormon] and Dave Hunt [Evangelical Anti-Mormon]
Decker and Hunt claim that Mormonism is directly connected with:
- occult bondage
- occult power
- Hindu concepts
- the LDS/Hindu connection...occultism
- right on target with the Hindu/Buddhist occultism
- the New Age movement
And that Mormons have begun to work closely with the Unification church, headed by Korean Messiah Sun Myung Moon
- secular humanism...makes man the center and measure of all things. So does Mormonism ...
- as in nature (witchcraft) religions, so in Mormonism
- Smith was a classical humanist atheist
All the foregoing statements are designed to steer the reader away from the essential Christian foundation of the Mormonism and towards other putative origins.
This destruction of the true foundation of Mormonism is vital to the task of creating a false reality of in the mind of the uninformed reader. One author who does this despite knowing that it is patently false is former Latter-day Saint minister J Edward Decker.
Decker, now the director of an anti-Mormon ministry, claims to have been a Mormon for "almost twenty years.” If that is true, then he knows that the interpretation he applies to his twenty years of membership in the Latter-day Saint Church is based, not on his experience, but upon special pleading laced with distortion by his bitter anti-Mormon spirit.
There is no other way he could honestly represent his twenty years of membership as years dedicated to occultism and Satanic bondage.
James M McCormick [Proteastant Evangelical] offers another foundation for Mormonism in
Others see its foundation as:
- Protestantism or,
- some other 'ism.'
But it doesn't concern the myth-makers what kind of image they create as the alleged reality of Mormonism: any image that does not represent it as it is experienced in the lives of Latter-day Saints is employed to promote the anti-Mormon cause. The more bizarre and untruthful, the better to serve their degraded purposes.
- It was from the masons that Smith derived the ceremonies and symbols now known as the 'endowment'...these childish activities performed in the temples.
- Mormon magic underwear...secret Masonic markings...an occult talisman...they encounter barbaric bloody oaths.
Taking in the sweep of publications available on Mormonism, it is difficult not to be impressed by the ingenuity of the writers and the variety of their explanations. When these are taken together, as parts of the whole, the results are often essential contradictions, as the following extracts show:
- Polygamy is still common among [Mormons].
- They emphasise the value of family life.
- Conversions to Mormonism...resulted invariably in the disruption of family life.
- On the whole, Mormon missionaries are not nearly as well-drilled in the doctrines of their movement.
- Mormon missionaries...are well trained and prepared to discuss their Church's doctrines.
Apart from such contradictions, commentators are almost unanimous in their representation of Mormonism as underhand and deceptive:
- a long history of intrigue and suppression.
- un-Biblical: ...thousands of contradictions between the Bible and Mormon doctrines.
- Ravening sheep-stealers: With an annual crop of new missionaries, the Mormon leaders can designate a target area and send thousands of missionaries to saturate the area with Mormon literature.
These are a broad selection of the many charges made against the Church. They create an image of a "Satan-inspired, occult religion," "masquerading as a Christian denomination," which involves "secret barbaric practices" behind the doors of its holy Temples.
The images projected are of Church leaders who lie and deceive to hoodwink converts into believing they are being initiated into the Church of Christ and incorporated into the salvic body. Latter-day Saint leaders are portrayed as distorters of Bible teachings who are "out to get the members of your church."
No Temple-attending Latter-day Saint, of whioch I am one, considers that they have taken part in barbaric rituals in the temples, and if those who maintain otherwise were able to view these ceremonies for themselves, they would alter their opinions.
In these holy places, Latter-day Saints are instructed that they are the progeny of a divine parent. They learn that he has marked out for them the way of salvation. Such teaching encourages profound gratitude for God, and engenders a dependent relationship with deity. Solemn covenants are made between God and the individual which, if honoured, will produce a person marked by moral rectitude, obedient to the laws of God and man, and who consciously strives to be Christlike in all avenues of life.
It is distressing for Latter-day Saints to learn that there are those, who identify themselves as Christians, but seem unable to find no better employment than the creation of images which do not represent that which, for Mormons, is the truth and superlative reality of their own lives and religious experience.
It is anticipated that the widely divergent views propounded by the Anti-Mormons listed in this brief work will impress the reader that such as these are hopelessly adrift and at odds with each other in degrees that are so profound as to be irreconcilable. This, then, is the Predicament of Anti-Mormons.