In reply to the chapter, “The Mormon Challenge”
Page 7, lines 5-14
The Mormon Church has erected a “Zion Curtain” to “protect its vast wealth and influence” state the authors of The God Makers, Ed Decker and Dave Hunt (hereafter called the authors). They also point out, “In this unusual state [of Utah] ‘Jews are called Gentiles.’ ”
The authors explain their usage of these two statements by saying that Mormons consider themselves to be the real Jews and Zion in the Bible isn’t Jerusalem, but Independence, Missouri, where Joseph Smith and Jesus Christ will one day have their headquarters for ruling the world.
Four ideas need to be corrected.
- Latter-day Saints do not consider themselves the real Jews, but do consider themselves Israelites, either literally or by adoption. Jews are cousin Israelites. In fact, the Book of Mormon teaches that LDS people and the world must not “spurn, nor make game of the Jews . . . for . . . the Lord remembereth his covenant unto them” (3 Ne. 29:8).
- LDS doctrine does state that Christ will reign during the Millennium, but no church doctrine teaches that the role of Joseph Smith is one of equal importance to that of Christ’s or even that the first Latter-day Saint prophet is directly involved in that reign.
- LDS Church teachings embrace the prophetic destiny of Jerusalem in future events and state that Latter-day Saints look to building a second Zion to complement the one that will be headquartered in Jerusalem. In fact, Orson Hyde, an LDS apostle, was sent to Jerusalem by Joseph Smith in 1841 to dedicate Palestine for the return of the Jews. The two-Zion concept has support in scripture, “Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered: for in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said.” (Joel 2:32. See also Isaiah 4:3.)
- I have never in a lifetime in Salt Lake City heard anyone seriously call Jews Gentiles. Occasionally a Jew or a Mormon may say this in jest. Utah was the second state in the union to have a Jewish governor, and the Jews I have talked to in Salt Lake City feel they are welcomed and treated fairly. Early Jewish, Protestant and Catholic services were held in LDS buildings.
Page 7, line 22
Comparing Utah conditions to those behind the Iron Curtain, the book claims these are particularly similar in the areas of “freedom of speech and freedom of the press.”
Nearly 140 years of Utah history has many examples of the press and individuals in Utah opposing the LDS Church right down to the present day. There probably is no place on earth where there is more freedom to attack the beliefs of a majority than in Utah.
‘The results [behind Utah’s ‘Zion Curtain’] are sometimes frighteningly similar to those suffered by dissidents within the Soviet Union.” No documentation verifies this.
This is not a fair statement. Even a casual study of Utah history shows that freedom of expression has always existed. Anti-Mormon elements have spoken with unrestrained passion against the LDS Church for years. The LDS Church has often been the victim of bitter attacks by the press nationally and locally.
(During one such tirade during President Joseph F. Smith’s administration in 1906, the elderly Church leader, himself the object of ridicule and scorn, said: “\ feel in my heart to forgive all men.”) (Joseph Fielding Smith, Life of Joseph F. Smith, p. 350.)
Page 8, lines 2-9
“Giving its official approval to the Church’s trampling on human rights, in 1975 the Utah Supreme Court with its Mormon majority handed down a surprising decision, that, as summarized by the Denver Post — ‘The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution — which guarantees freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly and freedom of religion—did not apply in Utah but was only a limitation on the federal government.’ “
The authors, as did the Denver Post, failed to mention that this was a pornography case. State of Utah vs. Phillips. The following statement from the legal proceedings is significant: “Defendants have made no contention that the materials were not pornographic, but concede that fact” (Emphasis added. Vol. 540 Pacific Reporter, 2nd series, pp. 936-946). Attorney Arthur M. Wood told me, “It is difficult to understand how the authors could believe that conviction for the distribution of ‘conceded pornographic material’ is to be considered ‘trampling on human rights.’ ”
Page 9, line 4
The authors repeatedly tell us they are Bible defenders and criticize the slogan, “The course of wisdom is the course of obedience,” which is found in the foyer of the LDS Church Office Building.
That concept is a predominant biblical theme. “To obey is better than sacrifice” (I Sam. 15:22) and “by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous” (Rom. 5:19) are examples. Any biblical concordance lists dozens of similar verses.
Page 9, line 19
“All who reject Joseph Smith’s claims and do not submit obediently to his successors are ‘Gentiles’ outside the true church he founded and are without salvation. “
This is not a true statement. LDS doctrine teaches that Christ’s atonement opens the door to salvation and exaltation” (the highest form of salvation) to all the earth’s inhabitants. Also the LDS concept of three heavens gives much more salvation than a never-ending fire and brimstone hell, where the wicked and unbaptized go, according to traditional beliefs. The highest of the three heavenly kingdoms in LDS theology is only for the most righteous. Those who do not have an opportunity in mortality to meet the Lord’s requirements for this highest exaltation will have an opportunity in the next world.
Page 9, line 31
The book says that LDS leaders “only command, and their followers must obey without question.”
This statement is not true, nor would the idea be enforceable.
The LDS Church repeatedly teaches that God’s greatest gift to his children is the freedom to choose. The book never once mentions this. “The term salvation in LDS doctrine means that through the atonement of Christ all mankind will be resurrected and most will attain a reward. To Latter-day Saints exaltation goes beyond salvation and refers to the highest possible eternal condition and reward, also made available through Christ’s suffering.
The Church teaches that spiritual truth comes through scripture, personal inspiration, and official statements of a living prophet. Even in cases of instruction from the prophet, the word “ought” to obey is correct rather than “must” obey.
The authors quote many times from the Journal of Discourses (hence JD) and History of the Church (hence HO, but leave out the following by Brigham Young:
I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by him. . . . Let every man and woman know themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates or not. This has been my exhortation continually. (Cited by Harold B. Lee, Conference Report, October 1950, pp. 129-130.)
President Hugh B. Brown, a member of the LDS First Presidency in recent years, told an audience at Brigham Young University: “We are not so much concerned whether your thoughts are orthodox or heterodox as we are that you shall have thoughts,” and on another occasion he defined Church loyalty in this manner: “While all members should respect, support, and heed the teachings of the Authorities of the Church, no one should accept a statement and base his testimony upon it, no matter who makes it, until he has, under mature examination, found it to be true and worthwhile; then his logical deductions may be confirmed by the spirit of revelation to his spirit because real conversion must come from within” (Dialogue, Summer 1984, p. 15).
Page 10, lines 1-3
“The original aim of founding Prophet Joseph Smith and other early Mormon leaders was to establish a theocracy that would eventually control the entire United States’
This charge will be discussed in relation to page 235, lines 8-11. Also see page 10, lines 6-10 and 21-24 as it relates to early Utah history.
Page 10, lines 6-10
“Under the leadership of Brigham Young . . . the persecuted Latter-day Saints traveled westward, where they established their ‘nation within a nation’ in the Territory of Utah.”
The following facts indicate otherwise:
1. When Mormons arrived in Utah in 1847, it was not U.S. territory, but belonged to Mexico.
2. In 1848 when Utah became part of the United States the Latter-day Saints made the first of five attempts to become a state and requested to become a territory as a second choice. A desire for statehood on the part of Latter-day Saints hardly sounds like a desire to establish a separate nation.
3. When the Civil War began and the United States was on the verge of collapse, Brigham Young pledged his loyalty to the Union, guarded vital communication links to California and resisted the offer of the Confederate States to join with them and gain state- hood. Had the Latter-day Saints joined with the Confederacy, California would likely have been captured by the South. They almost succeeded without Mormon help. The Southern forces could then have received supplies from foreign countries. One reason the South lost the Civil War is because their Atlantic ports were blocked by the North. Had this not happened, the United States would in all likelihood have lost the Civil War.[∗]
Instead of joining the South, seceding from the Union and gaining statehood or independent nation status, the Latter-day Saints remained loyal to the United States, an act that was not in keeping with the charges by the authors. If the Latter-day Saints had desired a separate state or separate nation, or to see the United States collapse, the Civil War gave them this chance.
4. LDS scripture makes clear that the LDS people see the United States Constitution as divinely inspired (D&C 98:4-6; 101:77-78).
Page 10, lines 21-24
“The [LDS] goal of establishing a theocratic rule over the United States and planet Earth is still an integral part of the Mormon faith and the underlying motivating factor in their desire to convert the world.”
Latter-day Saints believe it is their opportunity and duty to teach and testify to as many of mankind as possible prior to Christ’s second coming. An invitation to convert to the LDS Church is extended, but must be the choice of each individual. There is not a political plot for national or world domination.
Latter-day Saints believe in the Millennium, a thousand years of peace at the end of the world, when Jesus Christ will reign as “King of kings and Lord of lords” on the earth. Numerous Old Testament prophets and Jesus Christ have mentioned His second coming, saying “the Son of man shall come in his glory” (Matt. 25:31). Latter-day Saints do believe that they will have great responsibilities during the Millennium, especially in the area of expanded temple work. Any political assignments involving Christ’s earthly government would, of course, be decided by the Savior.
Ideas of LDS political ambitions have been blown out of proportion. When the LDS people were driven out of Nauvoo, Illinois, in 1846 and fled the United States into what was then Mexican territory, they did, out of necessity, establish a political arm of the LDS Church. This was started in Nauvoo under Joseph Smith and was known as the “Council of Fifty.” Some Latter-day Saints speculate that this type of government could be called upon to operate at the second coming of Christ. The Council of Fifty in Joseph Smith’s day consisted of both LDS and non-LDS people. After the Latter-day Saints became part of the United States and gained territorial status, the Council of Fifty was eventually discontinued.
There is the idea found in some LDS writings that the United States could someday again be on the verge of collapse. At that time, some Church members have felt, because of the stability of the LDS Church, Latter-day Saints would be called to save the Constitution and the nation. Joseph Smith reportedly made such a statement. This is hardly verification for the conspiracy charge made by the book. (See comments in connection with page 241, lines 24-27.)
Page 11, line 4
Many former Mormons have joined forces to share their knowledge of the dark side of Mormonism.
A most conspicuous part of a 1984 meeting in Salt Lake City of former Mormons and other critics was their disagreement among themselves. In the April 1984 General Conference, President Gordon B. Hinckley had said, “Some Latter-day Saints who have left the Church and have been disappointed, have asked to come back.”
Page 11, line 13
“The vast majority of converts to Mormonism are proselytized from Protestant denominations.”
This is not true. Large numbers of converts are coming from many parts of the world, especially from Latin American and Oriental countries as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints continues to carry out Christ’s injunction, “Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Matt. 28:19-20).
Page 11, line 15
“Mormons insist . . . they have the same God and the same Jesus as Christians. In actual fact, they have a completely different God from what the Bible presents. “
Latter-day Saints do not “insist” their understanding of Deity is the same as others’. One of the first points LDS missionaries teach is a different understanding of the Godhead. The authors are not as generous as the Apostle Paul. Paul did not blaspheme or ridicule the many pagan gods he found were being worshipped in Athens. Instead Paul politely said of the unknown god, “Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you” (Acts 17:23). Then he went on to preach of Jesus Christ, rather than belittle their beliefs.
Throughout the history of Christianity there have been various disagreements about the Trinity and the nature of God. Deists and Unitarians are as much opposed to the widely held Trinitarian concept of God as are Latter-day Saints. The book claims that Mormons aren’t Christian because they do not accept the authors’ Trinitarian interpretation of the Godhead. Some Christians say there is only one God who manifests himself three ways. Others say there are three Gods in one and that God does not have a body.
Latter-day Saints are Christians because they emphatically believe in Christ, use His name in their official church title and believe in the Bible and the Book of Mormon, which testify repeatedly of the reality of Christ and the truth of His teachings. In the four Gospels there are literally dozens of scriptures in which Jesus is either praying to the Father, quoting Him, staling his dependence on Him, or worshipping Him, clearly showing that they are separate Beings.
Latter-day Saints sincerely believe that both they and their fellow Christians can believe in Jesus yet interpret Him differently just as Democrats and Republicans are both Americans yet differ on their interpretation of what the ideal American government should be.
A study of Christianity prior to A.D. 325 reveals that the LDS interpretation of the Godhead was then the prevailing feeling. The Church fathers Ignatius, Hermes, Justin Martyr, Origen, Arius and others argued that the Godhead consisted of separate Beings (J.D.N. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines [San Francisco, 1978], Harper & Row, pp. 93, 96, 129, 233).
Page 11, line 24
“Mormonism’s most sacred and important doctrines and practices are discovered only after getting in too deeply to turn back. “
Then how were the authors and others able to turn back? Any person who asks in writing to have his name taken from the records of the LDS Church will have that request granted. The person making the request is invited to a hearing, but need not attend. This inquiry gives that person a chance to vent his feelings, but those conducting try to leave the person desiring to withdraw from the LDS Church with a good feeling and an open invitation to return at some further time.
Page 11, line 32
“Our purpose is not to harm the Latter-day Saints. ”
In light of this statement, this reviewer wonders why almost every sentence is designed to undermine the faith of LDS people. There are many sources giving the story of Mormonism. Some sources are friendly and supportive of the LDS version of history. Other sources are not. If a footnote refers to rumors or to what other disgruntled Mormons have said, how reliable is it? Yet the authors almost always use the source that fits their conclusion. One can prove anything by picking and choosing evidence. Any honest reader should sense that The God Makers is far from being fair or objective.
One could make a case against Christianity if one-sided sources were used. Would angry Jews have been the best source from which to learn about Christianity in A.D. 33?
Page 11, line 35
“Everything in the following pages has been thoroughly researched and fully documented. “
Hopefully the reader will note how many sweeping generalizations are not documented, have no footnotes, and are from non Mormon and unofficial Mormon sources. The stories given by people having had “bad” experiences in the LDS Church are almost always from anonymous sources, which any court of law dismisses as hearsay.
Some footnote sources cannot be found, because the footnotes are incomplete; many footnotes refer to material which in its context means something different than it does as it is presented in the book.
Page 12, line 9
The authors sometimes quote from the November 1982 Denver Post articles and say the writer “used nothing from anonymous sources in his article. ”
One must ask why Decker and Hunt did not use the same standard. The reader will note that none of the several “horror stories” by former Latter-day Saints in this book are documented, nor are many other charges.
Page 12, line 24
“Mormonism is not Christian at all but a revival of primitive paganism in a modified form.”
One has to wonder what makes these authors qualified to talk about primitive religions? Most recognized life-long scholars in world religions admit they know little about primitive religion. In fact, recent researchers give greater respect to these earlier religions, and they now more often refer to them as “primal” or basic religions. The book, however, still uses the derogatory terms “primitive” and “pagan.” Any religion, including traditional Christianity, has many similarities to primal religions. (See comments in relation to page 60, line 14.)
Page 13, lines 16-18 and the back cover
“Mormonism’s darkest secrets that those privy to them have sworn upon penalty of death not to reveal,” and “temple rituals that even most Mormons have never seen . . . and the elite who have must keep it secret or be killed. “
The temple ceremonies are sacred to Latter-day Saints. To preserve that sacred character, those who participate are obligated not to discuss these ceremonies outside the temple. The importance of this obligation and its binding quality on the conscience of the participant is emphasized but there is no mention or expectation in the temple ceremonies that a person who violates it will suffer any penalty at the hands of men. The Church policy governing violations of this nature is encompassed in its statement that religious societies have no right or authority to take any person’s property, “or to put them in jeopardy of either life or limb, or to inflict any physical punishment upon them. They can only excommunicate them from their society, and withdraw from them their fellowship” (D&C 134:10).
[∗] The South was always close to victory in the early years of the conflict. When they started hurting for supplies which had previously come from the industrialized North, they turned to France and Great Britain who were eager to help the South. When Southern ports were blockaded by the North the only hope was to capture California which had just become a free state by a close margin and had Confederate sympathizers. We can only speculate what would have happened had the Latter-day Saints, with a sizeable trained militia, joined with the South and helped them in just the Battle of Apache Pass, which the South narrowly lost and was a turning point in the Civil War. (For further discussion see Richard Vetterii, Mormonism, Americanism, and Politics, pp. 501-539.)