Ex-Mormons

Is Mormonism The Same As Biblical Christianity?

Making the statement that Mormonism is different than biblical Christianity inters that person into the realm of “The Controversy Zone.”  People don’t like controversy.  Why do people disagree so much on religions?  First reason is because religions are so different.  If all religions were the same, everyone would agree.  If all religions were Islamic, there would be no reason for Jihad.  If all religions were Jehovah’s Witnesses, there would be no need for them to criticize other religions.  If all religions were Mormon, there would be no need for missionaries to go Door to Door.  So many people now, want religions to be the same.  They don’t like controversy.  They want unity so bad that they claim that all religions are the same.  They obviously have not studied the different religions much at all or they would not make such ridiculous claims.  Different religions are different by definition.  The most important issue with any religion is “Is it the true religion?”  How can we determine that? By investigating, studying and comparing the foundation and core issues of each faith. Here are three foundational keys to all religions.  This foundation actually forms the backbone of any faith that makes each one distinctly different.  They are as follows:  

One interesting thing about this is that the source of truth always determines the next two; (#2 - Who is God and #3 - How are you saved).  When the source of truth is different, that different source of truth always determines a different God and a different method of salvation.  The most important Key to any faith is its “Source of Truth.”  Many call it their “authority.”  Recognizing the source of truth is key to understanding the different faiths and the reactions of their faithful.  As you can see, your choice of your source of truth is significant and foundational.  Once we learn the significance of these three keys, we are ready to study and compare any faith.  Let’s look at Mormonism and see how this works.

Key #1 What are the Sources of Truth in Mormonism?

Mormonism has many sources of truth.  The following is a list of the official sources of truth in Mormonism.

1.      Joseph Smith

2.      The Book of Mormon

3.      The Doctrines and Covenants

4.      The Pearl of Great Price – (includes the 13 articles of faith)

5.      The Bible (KJV and Joseph Smith Inspired Version)

6.      Words of all succeeding “Modern-Day Prophets” and apostles when they speak in conference

7.      The Temple Ritual

8.      Personal feelings – Personal Testimony

 

Key #2 Who is the God of Mormonism?

Mormonism has defined at least three different Gods over the years. 

1)      1835 Doctrine and Covenants – (Father is spirit, Son is tabernacle, Holy Spirit is the mind of the Father and the Son).

2)      Brigham’s “Adam–God” teaching

3)      Three Gods in one purpose.  Eternal Progression.  Lorenzo Snow “As man is God once was, as God is man may become.”

4)      Jesus is A God – a different God, one who is not defined only by the Bible.  The Mormon Jesus has been redefined to be Lucifer’s brother and Jesus came to the American Continent and picked twelve more apostles and killed whole cities of people at his crucifixion. 

 

Key #3 How are you saved in Mormonism?

1)      Keep all the Commandments all the time / Stop Sinning

2)      Believe in the God and Christ of Mormonism – (Eternal Progression)

3)      Be a member of the Mormon Church

4)      Testimony – Believe in the sources of truth

a.       Believe in Joseph Smith as a prophet

b.      Believe that the Book of Mormon is true

c.       Believe that the Mormon Church is true

d.      Believe that the Church is led by a true prophet

e.       Participate in the Temple Ordinances

f.       Serve a mission

5)      Be polygamous – (No longer a requirement for this life – still in D&C 132)

 

The significance of this outline: Every article and every discussion on the theology of the Mormon faith will fall somewhere in this outline in one of the three keys.  For example, if you wish to study Mormon polygamy you would fall into the third key.  Polygamy is a method of salvation.  If you wanted to study Joseph Smith’s translation methods, you would be studying in the key of “authority” or the “source of truth” of Mormonism. 

Let’s compare this Mormon outline with one for biblical Christianity.

 

Key #1 What Is the Source of Truth in Biblical Christianity?

Biblical Christianity has only one source of truth on earth, and that is:

·         The Bible – II Timothy 3:16-17,  II Peter 1:19-21,  Hebrews 4:12-13  Luke 11:28

 

Key #2 Who is the God of Biblical Christianity?

Biblical Christianity has only one God and this God is defined from the Bible.  We call this description that we find in the Bible as:

·         The Trinity God of the Bible – Three persons somehow one God – Father, Son, and Holy Ghost Isaiah 43:10, 44:6, 8; Jeremiah 10:11, John 1:1, 1:14; John 8:58, Exodus 3:14 – 15; Matthew 1:23; John 21:19, John 10:33, John 5:18, Acts 5:3-4

 

Key #3 How are we saved in Biblical Christianity?

In biblical Christianity, no one is perfect and therefore no one can get to heaven on his own merit or worthiness.  Therefore salvation must be given to us or we have no hope of ever getting it.  God offers salvation to all who have faith and trust in his Son Jesus. 

By grace through faith – Ephesians 2:8-10, John 3:15-16

Notice how the source of truth determines everything about the individual faith.  Every uniquely different faith is tied to its uniquely different source of truth.  In biblical Christianity we document and verify the truth of our faith from the Bible (Bible verses).  With Mormonism, we find multiple sources of truth.  Do they contradict each other?  (We find evidence that they do).  Biblical Christianity has one source of truth – the Bible.  It has 66 books by some forty authors.  Do they contradict each other?  We, of course say, “No, because the one true God is the same source for all their inspired writings.” 

Discernment Questions

The simple fact is that Christianity has always been about Jesus; what he has said and done and his scriptures.  All other religions have someone else that they look to for leadership.  Mormonism has always been about Joseph Smith and his scriptures.  This is a major difference that distinguishes Mormonism from biblical Christianity.  This is the foundational reason Mormonism does not qualify as biblical Christianity.  The focus of Mormonism is Joseph Smith and his restoration, rather than Jesus and his gospel.  This point can be seen easily, if I ask a discernment question of a Mormon: “Can I be a Mormon but not believe that Joseph Smith is a true prophet?”  “Can I be a Mormon and deny that the Book of Mormon is God’s true scripture?”  Of course, the answer has to be, “No!”  Can I be a Mormon and not believe in Eternal Progression?  The answer is again, “No!”  Mormonism’s gospel is the gospel of Eternal Progression.  I must agree with Mormonism and believe that God was once a Man and that all men may become Gods or I don’t believe in Eternal Progression.  All a Mormon has to do to become a biblical Christian is dump the unbiblical teachings of Mormonism and accept the true Jesus of the Bible. 

PUBLISHED BY "African ExMormon Foundation"

 

Two families say goodbye to well-loved nun

By Kristen Moulton

The Salt Lake Tribune

Updated Jul 18, 2010

The two families of Sister Mary Joseph — the Mormon one by birth and the Catholic by adoption — said farewell on Saturday at the Carmelite monastery where she lived for more than 40 years.

Sister Mary Joseph, the spark plug behind the annual Carmelite Fair that drew thousands to Holladay each fall, died Tuesday at the age of 77 from complications of diabetes.

Named Barbara Whipperman at birth, she was raised in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She became a public health nurse, found her way to the Catholic Church, and ultimately into a religious vocation as a young woman.

Her two brothers, Con Whipperman of Salt Lake City and Don Whipperman of St. George, sat in the front pew with their wives. Nieces, nephews and their children filled several pews and a row of folding chairs in front.

Among the estimated 200 attending the funeral was Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon, a Catholic who had met Mary Joseph at the fair, which she presided over in recent years from a motorized wheelchair.

Don Whipperman, seven years older than his sister, said he and others in the family always called her Barbara, not Mary Joseph. “After 77 years, it would be hard to change.”

The Carmel of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is a cloistered community centered on prayer. Her eight sisters participated in her funeral mass from a side room separated by a screen.

The sociable Mary Joseph, who took the name on entering the monastery, was the “extern” sister, living in an adjacent apartment, greeting visitors and handling business affairs.

 

Ex-Mormons gather for annual Salt Lake conference

The Associated Press

Saturday, Oct. 10, 2009

Officially, Richard Packham hasn't been a Mormon since 1958, but like many former Latter-day Saints, he spends a lot of time thinking and talking about his former church.

Packham is the founder and past president of the Exmormon Foundation, a nonprofit group that works to support those who have left the Salt Lake City-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The group was formed in the late 1990s by individuals who had begun talking about their departures on Internet discussion boards.

"It's nice to be able to talk openly with people who have gone through similar experiences," said Packham, 74, of Roseburg, Ore., whose decision to quit Mormonism after he stopped believing its teachings cost him his marriage.

The foundation's annual conference began Friday night in Salt Lake City and continues through Sunday with speakers, workshops and an open-mic session where individuals can share their personal stories.

The annual event draws about 350 people, including some from outside the United States.

Individually, the stories of ex-Mormons vary, Packham said. Some members leave on their own and others have been excommunicated. But what most share is a set of complicated emotional ties to family, heritage and community that makes leaving the faith difficult.

"There is a lot of pressure for nonbelievers to keep their mouth shut because it's a family situation," said foundation member Azra Evans, a retired economics professor. "Your mother's going to cry and say, `Now the family won't be together in the next life,' or `You can't go to your sister's wedding in the temple.' There's a lot of ostracization and broken families."

Evans, 72, said the annual conference is an attempt to regain some of that lost community. He also attends a monthly meeting of former Mormons near his home in St. George.

"In Mormonism you meet for three hours each Sunday and they've got so many activities going that your life is full," said Evans, who was excommunicated after writing a book in 2003. "This is an attempt to do a little bit of that, but it's not as intense."

Former Los Angeles Times religion reporter Bill Lobdell came to an Exmormon conference in 2001 to write about the group.

"I was really taken by the struggle these people have simply because they stopped believing," said Lobdell, who was scheduled to give the keynote conference address Saturday night. "There were so many tears and gut-wrenching stories, and they had become very isolated."

Lobdell said it makes sense that ex-Mormons gather annually and continue to talk about the church. Mormonism is a much a culture as a religion, so the loss of community and sometimes family relationships can be devastating.

"I think when you are raised in any kind of environment where your whole life centers around that, I think that there is a whole lot of trauma in leaving," he told The Associated Press. "I think they feel very much alone and so to get together with like-minded people with similar experiences really helps them hold each other up and boost their resolve to see this through."

On the Net: Exmormon Foundation: http://www.exmormonfoundation.org

 

Group reaches out to former Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses

June 06, 2009

MARK BARNA

THE GAZETTE

Christians are fickle when it comes to allegiance to a denomination. According to a Pew Forum study in April, 44 percent of Protestants have changed denominations at least once.

Christy Darlington of Colorado Springs, for example, explored the ideas of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Jehovah's Witnesses more than 10 years ago before returning to her childhood faith of evangelical Christianity.

But what sets Darlington apart is that in 1997 she formed Witnesses for Jesus in response to her experiences with those denominations.

Witnesses for Jesus, a nonprofit evangelical Christian organization supported by donations, helps disaffected Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses come to terms with their experiences and, perhaps, embrace the evangelical understanding of religious salvation.

Did Darlington, 32, experience a traumatic event within the Mormon Church and the Jehovah's Witnesses that motivated her to form Witnesses for Jesus?

Well, no. In fact, she was never a member of either church and says she kind of liked the worshipers. But upon re-embracing the literal truth of the Bible as interpreted by evangelicals, Darlington was compelled to warn others about what she calls false doctrine.

"We are not out to bash the Mormon Church and Jehovah's Witnesses," said Darlington, who runs the organization out of her home.
"Our focus is to get people to see the difference (between those faiths and evangelical Christianity) and make their own choice."

Witnesses for Jesus has 35 Colorado Springs members and 200 more online nationwide through the nonprofit's three web sites, which gently mock and impugn the doctrines of the two denominations. Meetings are free to attend and include fellowship, Bible study and guest speakers who rail against Mormonism and the Jehovah's Witnesses.

The group's next meeting is June 20 in a Colorado Springs park that Darlington won't reveal because of security concerns. She expects a handful of people to attend.

Organization member Tressa Ballard, 62, left the Jehovah's Witnesses in 1990 and has since embraced evangelical Christianity. The Colorado Springs resident sometimes speaks at the meetings about how four of her five children who remained in the church refuse to talk to her since she left the faith. "People can leave, but they will be shunned by family and friends," Ballard said.

But Martin Ringle, spokesman for the local Jehovah's Witnesses churches, said shunning is not part of the faith. "Sounds like a personal decision her kids have made," Ringle said.

A sometime speaker for Witnesses for Jesus is Phillip Naugle, a 64-year-old Colorado Springs resident and a Mormon until 2000. Now an evangelical Christian, Naugle said that leaving the Mormon Church is difficult because its theology insists that the faith is the only way to be saved.

Naugle dismisses the Book of Mormon by Joseph Smith as a plagiarized work written by "a member of a cult," but the Bible is the work of God, he said. "There is nothing in the Bible that can be disproved."

Mark McConkie, president of the Colorado Springs Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, respects Naugle's views.

"A bedrock principle of our faith is to allow all people the privilege of worshipping God according to their own consciences," McConkie said in a statement. "This principle even applies to former members who have become disaffected."

Darlington claims to hold a similar view to McConkie's about being open to different belief systems, but she's also firm in her belief that Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses follow false doctrine.

"I didn't like how they looked at the Bible differently," Darlington said. "They don't teach that Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven."
 

Witnesses for Jesus
Web sites: www.4mormon.com, www.4jehovah.org, www.4witness.org
Email: Christy@4witness.org

 

A Mormon Finds A New Faith at Notre Dame

April 22, 2009

Indystar.com

My recent visit to the University of Notre Dame brought me into contact with several people with interesting stories, but few more interesting than that of Levi Checketts.

Checketts, 21, grew up as a Mormon in Vernal, Utah. When it came time to go to college, he knew above all that he wanted to get out of Utah and see someplace different. One of the places he was accepted was Notre Dame.

Most Mormon families are, famously, conservative by nature. And Levi said Notre Dame was a somewhat reassuring school choice from his parent's perspective -- a Catholic school with religious values at its core was a better alternative that most, as they saw it.

What no one -- not even Levi - expected was that he would start to doubt his own Mormon faith almost from the moment he set foot on campus. During his sophomore year, he says, "I found myself in a position where I just didn't believe in the Mormon Church anymore."

So where would he place his faith? He went on a silent retreat last spring and took a lot of time for reflection and prayer. "I just felt called that I should become Catholic," he said. "That was an earth-shaking moment for me."

Checketts was baptized into the Catholic Church during the recent Easter vigil service, which takes place on the night before Easter.

His family, Checketts admits, is not very happy about his conversion. Most Mormon men his age are serving as a missionary somewhere around the world. But Levi says they take some consolation in that, if he's not Mormon, he's chosen a faith which many Mormons perceive as the faith most likely to have it right if the Latter Day Saints have it wrong.

"I think somewhere deep in their hearts they feel this is what I feel called to do," he said. "And it is better than losing complete faith." 

 

Ex-Mormons Say Breaking Up Was Hard to Do

A group of former believers offers support for what it contends is a step made difficult by the church. Officials say that's not true.

By David Haldane
Times Staff Writer
June 3, 2006

For Tom Hall, 77, the disillusionment came during the 1970s when the Mormon Church wouldn't allow blacks to become priests.

Carma Naylor, 64, says she began doubting the religion in which she had been raised after debating the meaning of the Bible with a Jewish friend who had been born again.

And William Ken Andersen, 23, said he left the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints six months ago because of problems with "church leaders ignoring opposing facts about dogma and trying to cover them up."

All three are now active members of Ex-Mormons for Jesus, a California-based group whose Information and Visitors Center in Orange, organizers say, is the state's only facility of its kind.

The group's beliefs:

•  That Mormons aren't true Christians;

•  that they follow false doctrines that preclude them from entering heaven;

•  that leaving Mormonism is a profoundly difficult and isolating experience requiring the support of fellow ex-Mormons.

None of which is true, says Tom Thorkelson, director of interfaith relations for the church's Orange County Public Affairs Council.

"First," he said, "as a Latter-day Saint, I believe in and accept Jesus Christ as my savior. We are Christians, though we recognize that there are some theological differences."

As for the alleged pressure on those who leave, Thorkelson said, it is no greater than that exerted by a member of any faith "who has deeply held convictions and finds somebody who shared those convictions leaving them and joining a counter group. I've seen lots of people whose families disowned them because they became members of the Mormon faith."

Founded in 1830 by Joseph Smith, a young man from Palmyra, N.Y., who said God spoke to him in a vision, the Mormon Church considers itself the "restored" church of Jesus Christ, which it believes was altered after the deaths of the original apostles.

Drawing on both the Bible and the Book of Mormon, the fast-growing church has more than 12 million members worldwide. The church's message clearly resonates with some. Church officials say the denomination experienced a growth rate, from 1984 to 2000, of 52% per decade.

Along the way, the institution has shed some of its more controversial practices, including polygamy, which was banned in 1890, and barring blacks from the priesthood.

Nonetheless, gathering in a donated church social hall on Chapman Avenue, Ex-Mormons for Jesus holds monthly support meetings for those "coming out" of Mormonism. The group also operates the information and visitor center, which is open six days a week in a small storefront featuring anti-Mormon tracts and books on Mormon theology and history. Director Charlotte Pardee, 76, is on hand to encourage Mormons leaving their faith.

She says she doesn't know how many members the group has in California or around the country.

"Our purpose," said Pardee, who has never been a Mormon, "is to help Christians understand Mormonism and to give Mormons a place to come when they start doubting their faith. I've shed more tears over Mormon souls than I did over my husband's, before he was saved."

Her argument with Mormonism, Pardee says, began 42 years ago when two Mormon missionaries came to her door.

"They told me that my Presbyterian baptism was no good," she recalls, still bristling at the memory. "They said that the Mormon Church was the only true church in the world."

It was the beginning of a conversation she has continued ever since and a moment that defined her life, propelling her to become headquarters director of the California organization that is part of a loose-knit movement of ex-Mormons nationwide.

About 20 people, including both ex-Mormons and evangelical Christians, attended the Orange County group's recent monthly meeting featuring, among other things, a lecture by Naylor, who said her leaving Mormonism after 40 years nearly tore her family apart.

"When I first realized that Joseph Smith had changed the word of God," Naylor said, "I thought I felt the presence of demonic spirits. I was frightened, alone and paralyzed with fear. That gives you an idea of the power of fear in the church to never turn away."

Rene Ellison, 46, said her leaving the church more than two decades ago caused her first marriage to break up.

"My family still tries to bring me back," Ellison said. Attending support meetings, she said, lets her hear "other people's stories that are the same stories as mine. I always thought there was something wrong with me."

For Karla Gledhill, 40, the meetings have provided a new perspective.

"Mormons tend to cast ex-Mormons as being satanic," said Gledhill, who left the church at age 19 because of a "creepy feeling" she got at the temple.

"They never let up," she said. "They still have the literature sent to me, and I get harassing phone calls. This group makes me stronger and gives me ammunition to stand up for what I truly believe."

The meeting ended with an open prayer, during which one member asked God to "turn the hearts of the Mormon elders … turn that church around, Lord."

Such talk doesn't faze Thorkelson of the church's Orange County Public Affairs Council.

"I invite anybody to examine the lives of friends and neighbors who are practicing Latter-day Saints to see if they are striving to lead lives consistent with the teachings of Jesus Christ," he said. "Rather than denigrate other faith traditions, we prefer to build relationships and let our lives speak for themselves."

 

Former Mormon warns fellow Christians not to support Romney

AgapePress

February 7, 2007

A woman whose father was a bishop in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) and who is a former Mormon herself says Christians considering Mormon candidate Mitt Romney’s bid for the U.S. presidency need to be reminded about the differences between Mormonism and biblical Christianity.

Writer, consultant, and business woman Tricia Erickson spent her childhood growing up in a Mormon home and knows a great deal about that religion, which she considers a cult. Now a born-again Christian, she wants to remind fellow believers that Mormons view Jesus differently than they do.

According to the LDS understanding of Jesus Christ, Erickson notes, "He was born as a mere man, and he worked his way through good works into godship." Furthermore, she says Mormons believe they are potential gods, capable of becoming divine by following the example of Christ.

So, according to the Mormons’ beliefs about Christ, the Christian woman explains, "as he is now, they can and will be." They believe "that if they just do enough good works and are perfect, even as he is perfect, they will become gods themselves," she says.

Up until recently, Erickson contends, Mormons would never even describe themselves as born-again Christians. She believes many do so now because they want to gain access to mainstream Christianity, especially now that their church is facing difficulties.

"Their missionaries are not doing as well out in the field," the former Mormon woman notes, and "their numbers are going down as far as new recruits." For that reason, she says, LDS members "want to infiltrate regular Christian religions so they can bring those Christians into Mormonism under the [impression] that they’re Christian, too. They’re anything but."

Mitt Romney has said his Mormon faith will not be an issue as he campaigns to become president of the United States. But Erickson believes the former Massachusetts governor’s presidential bid would help raise the profile of Mormonism and enhance its chances for winning new converts, so she says there is no way she can support him.

 

Ex-Mormons use billboard to reach others

April 10, 2007

The Associated Press

LOGAN, Utah (AP) -- A billboard aimed at uniting former Mormons has gone up on Main Street in a city that once had the image of a local temple on its public seal.

Jeff Ricks, a member of Post-Mormon Community, said similar signs in other cities could follow as the group tries to reach former members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"It's a milestone for the group. ... We're helping people validate their choice to leave. We're not trying to drag people out of the church," Ricks said.

The sign cost about $1,500 and will stay up for a month, he said. It simply says "Post Mormon.org" with a smiley face and two oversized Post-it notes.

Ricks, who left the church in 1993, said Post-Mormon Community serves as a social network. The goal is to erase the stigma that sometimes comes with leaving the faith.

Salt Lake City is the world headquarters of the Mormon church, and Logan, 80 miles north, has more than 30 LDS churches. The local temple was on the city seal until about a decade ago.

Local Mormon leaders don't seem concerned about the billboard or the group.

"I have no information or any knowledge or any thoughts about them," said Dean Quayle, a Mormon who is part of Cache Community Connections, a civic group of people from different faiths.

"Like everybody else, we've all got our positives and negatives," he said.

Ricks and others are working to raise money for billboards in Provo, St. George and Rexburg, Idaho.

The group has chapters at Utah State University and in Provo, St. George, Seattle, Phoenix and Portland, Ore., Ricks said.

He said 100 people or more attend weekly meetings in Logan.

"We want to build bridges if we can. As what we're doing gets more and more visible, the Mormon community will get acclimated to it and not think we're terrible, evil people," Ricks said.

 

Forest Hills novelist explores intolerance, anger and faith

Los Angeles Times

By Alex Christodoulides

04/12/2007

A crisis of faith is a deeply personal, life-altering event that can affect families and whole communities. Some people withdraw to avoid scrutiny. Others feel angry at the community or for the time they feel they lost. Forest Hills resident Beckie Weinheimer wrote a book.

Weinheimer stresses that her debut novel, "Converting Kate," is not autobiographical, but said her experience as a "fifth- or sixth-generation" Mormon who grew up north of Salt Lake City "in a little town called Bountiful - a little town with little-town dramas," did inform aspects of the story.

Kate, the novel's 15-year-old protagonist, moves from Arizona to Maine with her devoutly religious mother after her nonreligious father's death. Kate questions the dogma in which she has been brought up and comes to realize she does not share her mother's faith, causing more than the usual amount of parent-teen friction.

During a meeting at the T-Bone Diner on Queens Boulevard, Weinheimer, a mother of three girls (including her eldest, Heidi, who died at the age of 12), said what prompted her to leave the Mormon church and eventually write "Converting Kate" was the story of her youngest daughter and an influential teacher.

In 2000, California was gearing up to vote on the controversial Proposition 22, which limited the definition of marriage to solely that between a man and a woman. But Heidi's teacher at the time was a gay man, and as Weinheimer got to know him better she felt less and less right about voting yes on Proposition 22, as her church's minister exhorted the congregation to do.

When Heidi died, Weinheimer felt her faith did not adequately address her questions about whether there was an afterlife. She began to question and doubt, which the Mormon faith says leaves the door open to Satan.

When her brother left the Mormon church for his own reasons, Weinheimer knew it was time for her to do the same.

She spoke at the diner of feeling stifled by the culture of Mormonism, the few options open to women, the lack of positions of authority for women in the church that was the fabric of everyday life, how girls who were not married by the end of college were viewed as pitiable, the wives who were expected to live solely for their husbands and children and the church.

"This is my angry book," she said of "Converting Kate," the second novel Weinheimer has written but the first to be published.

When Weinheimer left the Mormon church, she felt so strongly about the decision that she forbade her daughters - then in their early teens - to attend services. At first, she said, they were upset because that was where all their friends were.

"When you're 16 and old enough to drive yourself, you can decide to go to a church that demeans women and gays," Weinheimer told her daughters.

That decision could have split Weinheimer's family the way the parents' different takes on religion do in "Converting Kate," but it did not. Her husband decided to leave the church when they did, she said.

Conversely, Kate's loss of faith while she is still learning who she is pits her against her mother, whose conservative values hem her in in ways few American teenagers would find acceptable. Her mother disapproves of the short shorts in Kate's cross-country running team uniform and tells her to "change into modest clothes" (which Kate describes as "navy blue, black and brown calf-length skirts" and a classmate calls "something my grandma would wear") as soon as practice ends. When Kate gets a ride home from a male cross-country teammate, her mother, who has forbidden Kate to date until she is 16 and even then only in groups, tearfully asks if she has "forsaken everything we believe in."

Weinheimer said her extended family reacted similarly when she left the church, expressing concern, offering to pray for her.

Whether Kate is a fictional character is immaterial, ultimately, since Weinheimer captures the struggle of losing one's faith.

And now Weinheimer is free to dress how she likes, drink what she wants (alcohol and caffeine are frowned upon by the Mormon Church), think her own thoughts. She spends her days exploring Forest Hills, where she has lived with her husband since September, walking and riding her bike in Forest Park, browsing at the borough's green markets. Her face lights up as she talks about these simple activities, as though she has just discovered them.

"Waking each morning free to decide what to do with my day, what to wear and what to think and read is too liberating. The wonder of it feels magical every single day," she writes in the author's note in "Converting Kate."

In losing faith in a religion, Weinheimer has found it in herself.

 

Thriving Church in Mormon Country Emphasizes Community

April 14, 2007

Journal Chretien

By Mark Ellis

OREM, UTAH - In a valley considered the spiritual heart of LDS culture, a 600-member evangelical church is remarkably healthy, with at least half the seats filled with ex-Mormons. All this has come without Mormon-bashing, or any special training or messages to Mormons at their worship services.

“When you come to church on Sunday morning, you’re not going to hear about Mormonism,” says Scott McKinney, pastor of Christ Evangelical Church. The core message and philosophy of Christ Evangelical isn’t about winning arguments with Mormons. “If a Mormon comes to our church and hears a negative message about Mormonism they will get up and walk out,” he says.

First settled by Mormon missionaries in 1847, the Utah Valley is home to 450,000 living primarily in Orem and Provo. The valley is also home to thousands of mission-minded students at BYU, Utah Valley State College, and the church’s Missionary Training Center, which trains and sends out 53,000 missionaries to various parts of the world each year.

McKinney knows the mindset of the LDS hierarchy from experience. “The LDS Church wants to put you into one of two categories,” he emphasizes. “You either feed their PR machine or you feed their persecution complex.”

“They have a very strong identity as a persecuted people,” he says. “If we hammer people over the head for what they believe they resist. In a weird way, that strengthens the LDS Church.”

Instead, McKinney emphasizes preaching the gospel and developing a loving community. “We’re here to communicate the Good News and see people come to Christ,” he says. “We want to provide a loving community, communicate the truth in love, and be a home for people who leave Mormon culture.”

McKinney developed an interest in Mormon history while a student at Talbot Seminary in Southern California. One of his professors, Wally Norling, asked McKinney what he might do after he graduated. “I want to plant a church in Utah,” he replied. The response surprised McKinney himself.

After graduation, McKinney served as an associate pastor in Cypress, California. He quickly developed some observations about the churches that surrounded him. “It seemed like everybody was trying to do church a little better than the guy down the street,” he thought. “I felt like if our church ceased to exist it wouldn’t really make an impact on the community. I wanted to be in a place where our existence would mean something.”

In Cypress, he met a man at church with two sisters in Utah married to the same man. “It was all the things you think about Utah before you go there,” he recalls. One of the sisters developed cancer, and McKinney’s friend traveled to visit her and led her to Christ during his trip. After her conversion, she started to attend a small evangelical church in Orem.

Over the years, this church had dwindled to about 25 people, mostly in their 70s. In 1988, the pastor resigned in discouragement. “The church was in the emergency room,” McKinney says. “There was thought of shutting it down and selling the building.”

But McKinney’s friend happened to be there after the pastor resigned, and confidently told the chairman of their board, “Don’t worry, I know who your next pastor will be.”

“He called me up and said, ‘You’re going to Utah.’”

“I have a wife and four children,” McKinney replied. “I probably ought to run this by them.”

On McKinney’s first visit, he was startled by what he observed. “I drove around the Utah Valley and felt a sense of oppression,” he recalls. “It was amazing to have one religion so dominant in one area.”

As he drove around the BYU campus, reality started to set in. “The idea of planting a church in Utah sounded good from afar, but what was I thinking ?”

On his first visit to the church in Orem he found a worn-out, defeated group. “They were faithful people. They built a building and sacrificed, but they were done.”

He called his wife, Sarah, on the phone. “Do you see any potential there ?” she asked.

“Absolutely none,” he said. “This is the most negative thing I’ve been around in my life.”

But slowly, God began to change McKinney’s heart. “The people were like sheep without a shepherd,” he thought. “God loves to work in this kind of situation – where people say it can’t be done.”

Then he saw another positive. “This is a church plant that already has a building,” he realized. God restored McKinney’s passion for Utah, but his wife was slower to respond.

At first, Sarah thought he was “nuts” to think about uprooting their four children. After arguing the merits initially, McKinney decided he needed to quiet down and wait on God to soften her heart.

“One day we were walking and she grabbed my arm and said, ‘Let’s go !’”

People warned them the move would be hard on their children. “But I said it would be worse to have a mother and father afraid to live by faith.”

After their arrival, he saw the unusual potential of the mission field. “Less than one-half of one percent of the people who live in Utah Valley are evangelical Christians,” he noted. “Those percentages are more like some Muslim countries.” He is quick to point out that Salt Lake Valley is somewhat different, with 3-4 percent evangelicals.

“I started asking what Jesus would do if he came to Utah,” McKinney says. He found an analogy in Jesus’ treatment of the Samaritans. “In Luke 9 the disciples wanted to rain down fire from heaven and destroy a Samaritan city,” he notes. “Jesus rebuked them for their attitude and I believe he would rebuke anti-Mormonism today.”

While McKinney thinks apologetics has an important role to play, he sees its limits. “Mormons aren’t going anywhere if there isn’t a healthy church there to provide a family,” he notes. “I’ve concentrated on creating a healthy local church.”

“In California people want choices,” he adds. “In Utah people want community.”

McKinney’s goal is to plant three more churches in Utah Valley by 2012. His church recently purchased a sizeable parcel with freeway visibility for a future location. The location is strategic, with 800 feet of freeway frontage near the busiest off ramp on Highway 15.

So far, he’s raised $600,000 for the new building, but still needs to raise an additional $1.2 million.

“I feel overwhelmed at time by the impossibility of the task,” he says, while at the same time he notes God’s faithfulness to them in the past. “At times I feel like this is home, but other times I feel like I’m living in someone else’s Zion.”

 

In-your-face gospel riles town

Christian couple's confrontational style gets hostile response in Mormon Nauvoo

By E.A. Torriero
Tribune staff reporter
Published April 15, 2007

NAUVOO, Ill. -- Towering over a Mississippi River bluff, the recently built Mormon temple symbolizes the central role this town played in Mormon history.

And the arrival of two Christian evangelists from the Chicago area, proclaiming an anti-Mormonism message to the world, recalls the troubled history of those early Mormons with neighbors of other faiths.

Operating from a white stucco storefront called the Nauvoo Christian Visitors Center, ex-Mormon Rocky Hulse and his wife Helen are bent on portraying Mormonism as a false religion with fabricated histories.

And though the Christian Visitors Center predates their arrival, the Hulses have taken its confrontational message to a new level, with an active public presence and a weekly television show broadcast internationally on a Christian network.

It's no wonder, locals say, the Hulses are facing blowback.

The couple reported they had received two veiled written threats late last year. Then, two days before Christmas, the couple received an e-mail that was traced to an address in Utah.

"id love to watch you all die," it read, "then witness the looks on your faces when you realize how stupid and counterproductive your fight really was."

Shaken, the Hulses installed deadbolts on their doors and floodlights around their storefront. They began checking their car's gas cap for any sign of tampering. And they called police, triggering an investigation from Nauvoo to Utah.

"This town is to the Mormons what Mecca is for the Muslims," Helen Hulse said. "Of course they don't want us here."

Mormon leaders scoff at any suggestion of conspiracy. Still, they have a dim view of the Hulses' work.

"It ought to be called a non-Christian center or anti-Mormon center," said Bishop David Wright, a top Mormon Church leader in Nauvoo. "I don't see anything Christian about it."


Sacred space

Nauvoo is a hallowed place for Mormons, who settled the town in 1839. Their prophet, Joseph Smith, received his last revelations here, where the first great temple was built and temple rituals were instituted. Smith was killed by locals nearby in 1844, and within two years, the main body of believers had begun heading west in search of a home beyond the reach of their persecutors.

The largest descendant church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has spent millions in recent years on the temple and shrines to Smith. It created a budding Mormon renaissance in this town of 1,100 residents, 270 miles southwest of Chicago, that rankles some locals.

The tensions in Nauvoo, which Smith named after an Old Testament verse describing beautiful mountains, reflect a broader uneasiness with the Mormon faith among some people. A Gallup poll in March suggested "something about the Mormon religion apparently disturbs a significant portion of the American population," pollsters said.

The poll showed 46 percent of Americans "have an unfavorable opinion of the Mormon religion." And a third of the respondents said they would not vote for a qualified presidential candidate of the Mormon faith, a question trigged by the Republican candidacy of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

In the last decade, the church began buying up property in Nauvoo and its $30 million temple opened in 2002.

Today, the town's Chamber of Commerce and Nauvoo's aldermanic government have a Mormon majority. Some locals say Mormons tend to hire from among their own, leaving others feeling left out.

"It's like Microsoft or Disney coming in and taking over the place," said Marilyn Candido, who recently lost a Web-consulting contract with the local chamber, which replaced her with a Mormon operator. Chamber officials say the move had to do with performance, not religion.

But many residents said the different factions in town have maintained a detente, one threatened by the Hulses' stance.

Evangelism fight

This month the Hulses decried an annual non-denominational Passion play held at a Mormon-owned auditorium. The Mormon site is inappropriate because Mormons do not subscribe to Christian beliefs of Jesus Christ dying on the cross of Calvary for their sins, Rocky Hulse said, calling it a heresy for other denominations to join the event.

Nonetheless, several local Christian churches encouraged their congregations to participate, not only to promote harmony in town but also to spread the Gospel message of Christ.

"We live with the Mormon people and work alongside them," said Pastor Gayle Pope of the Christ Lutheran Church who participated in the play. "We have differences with the Mormon belief but choose to do our evangelism by living out our faith."

Coming from a Mormon family of six generations, Rocky Hulse met his wife, Helen, while serving in the Navy in California. At first he tried to convert her to Mormonism, and she looked into it, though she held off joining the church.

The couple married in 1980 against his family's wishes. Later, Helen Hulse became an evangelical Christian, enraging her husband.

But on New Year's Day 1986, after hearing a cowboy preacher at a rodeo, Rocky Hulse says he became a Christian. The Lord put a burden on his heart, he says, to teach Christians about the ills of Mormonism and convert Mormons.

The couple moved to Indiana in 1999 and began a ministry targeting Mormons in the Midwest. Stationed at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center in Chicago's North Shore, the couple preached at Christian churches across the Midwest about Mormonism. On a visit to Nauvoo in 2002, Mormons barred Hulse from attending a temple open house because they deemed him disruptive.

The couple moved to Nauvoo in late 2005 to take over the Christian center. The storefront is filled with boards, pamphlets and literature such as "the troubling story of a self-proclaimed prophet" Smith.

Growing fears

Last fall, as their Christian television ministry "Truth Proclaimed" spread internationally, the Hulses say threats came. The couple now fear the threatening e-mail received before Christmas is being ignored by Utah investigators who they say want to protect Mormons.

Authorities traced the e-mail to an address belonging to a Mormon, Phil Rogers, of Farmington, Utah, a few miles north of Salt Lake City.

In a telephone interview with the Tribune, Rogers repeated what he told investigators: Someone hacked into his Internet account while he was using an open router. Internet security experts contacted by the Tribune said if Rogers allowed access to his router, tampering could be easily done by anyone in his neighborhood.

Bill McGuire, the Utah assistant county attorney investigating the case, said he is awaiting further police reports to determine if criminal charges will be filed and against whom.

"We prosecute Mormons all this time," said McGuire, a Mormon, who chuckled at the Hulses' accusation of a cover-up.

Still, Rocky Hulse doesn't trust the Mormons.

"Look at their history full of lies and deceit," he said. "We are a voice of truth and they will do anything to silence it."

 

Why I Left the Mormon Church

by Richard Packham


I left the Mormon church in 1958, when I was 25 years old.

That was a long time ago: David O. McKay was the prophet, seer and revelator. There were only eight temples, and none of them owned a movie projector. Every ward had its own meeting house, Sunday school was at 10:30 a.m, and sacrament meeting was at 7:00 p.m. There were no black people in the church (at least none were visible). Garments were in a single piece. The temple endowment ceremony still had the death penalties, the minister, the five points of fellowship. The Book of Abraham papyrus scrolls were still missing. New missionaries learned the language of the country they were assigned to by arriving there two weeks early.

Why, after all these years, would I still be concerned, then, about Mormonism? Why have I not yet come to terms with that distant part of my past and left it behind?

There are several reasons:

First, I am descended from a long line of faithful Mormons. All of my ancestors in every branch of my family, for four, five and six generations, were Mormons. The Mormons and their history are my heritage. It is my only heritage. It is where I come from. None of my Mormon ancestors were great or famous, but I have read their stories, and they were good people. They were faithful, hard working, and deserving of my respect. The history of my family is inevitably intertwined with the history of the Mormons, their migration to Utah and the settlement of the mountain West. I cannot ignore Mormonism and Mormon history without forgetting my past.

Second, my family are still faithful Mormons, almost all, including my parents, my brothers and sisters, my older children, my grandchildren, my nieces and nephews. Their lives are permeated by their Mormon beliefs. Their day-to-day existence is intertwined with the activities of the busywork-making church, their friends are all Mormons, their hopes and fears are Mormon hopes and fears. I cannot ignore Mormonism without ignoring the lives of those I love.

Third, the Mormon church is becoming more prominent and more powerful in our society. In my state (which, unlike Utah, is not thought of as a "Mormon" state) it is now the second-largest religious denomination. Our present U.S. Senator is a devout Mormon. Mormons are occupying influential positions in our state and national governments far out of proportion to their population in the United States. The church has become a mega-wealthy financial enterprise, with billions of dollars worth of money-making businesses and property all over the country - a fact of which most non-Mormons are unaware - with wide-ranging (and usually unseen) influence on many aspects of American life. Its income has been reliably estimated to be millions of dollars per day, not only from its thousands of businesses but also from its faithful members, who are required to donate a minimum of ten percent of their entire income to the church.

The Mormon church boasts of its rapid growth. This growth, in addition to its stance in favor of large families, is because it maintains a large voluntary corps of full-time missionaries who are a well-trained and thoroughly indoctrinated sales force whose sole purpose is to bring more people into the church. Their goal is not to convert, but to enroll, not to enrich lives, but to baptize, not to save sinners' souls, but to enlarge membership rolls. This missionary force is not directed by caring clergymen, but by successful businessmen, because the Mormon missionary effort is a business, and a very successful business, when judged by business standards.

But the ultimate goal of the church, as stated publicly by its early leaders Joseph Smith and Brigham Young (but not mentioned so publicly by more recent Mormon leaders), is to establish the Mormon Kingdom of God in America, and to govern the world as God's appointed representatives. The church is already influential in the making of secular policy, as was proven not so long ago when the Equal Rights Amendment was defeated with decisive help from the Mormon church.

To me, the possibility that the Mormon church might control America is a frightening prospect.

Those are some of the more important reasons why I am still vitally interested in Mormonism and the LDS church.

Mormons will tell you that Mormonism is a wonderful way of life, bringing happiness in this mortal existence and, if we earn it by our faith and obedience, ultimate joy (and "power and dominion") in the next. The promises and hopes it gives to its believers are very attractive and inspiring. Why, then, did I reject that? Here is the story of my own particular journey through (and, eventually, out of) Mormonism.

My Mormon childhood was very happy, with loving and nurturing parents and family. We were "special" because we had the "Gospel," meaning Mormonism. In my small town in southern Idaho we Mormons easily were the dominant social and political group. We felt sorry for those not so fortunate, for whatever reason, that they were not blessed with the gospel. Our lives centered around the church. We had perfect attendance records at all our meetings. We studied our lesson manuals. It was a wonderful life. Wonderful because we had the Gospel, for which we thanked God several times a day, in every prayer and every blessing pronounced over our food.

We Mormon teenagers participated in school activities, of course, with non-Mormons, but we also had our own church-sponsored events, which were just as good, or better. Really good Mormon teenagers did not date non-Mormons, because of the danger of "getting involved seriously" with a non-Mormon, which would lead to the tragedy of a "mixed marriage" which could not be solemnized in the temple, and which would thus ultimately mean the eternal loss of the possibility of entering the highest degree of heaven, the celestial kingdom. None of us dared to risk that.

So my high school sweetheart was a good and faithful Mormon girl. We fell deeply in love and were devoted to each other without risking any immoral physical activity beyond long kisses and hugs (no touching of body skin or of any area below the waist or around her breasts, etc.). When she graduated from high school and I was in my third year at Brigham Young University, we two virgins got married in a beautiful ceremony in the Idaho Falls temple, and started to have babies. We were the ideal young Mormon couple.

I enjoyed my four years at BYU, being surrounded by devout fellow- students and being taught by devout and educated teachers. One professor of geology was also a member of our ward. I was just learning about the age of the earth as most geologists taught it. I asked him one Sunday at church how he reconciled the teachings of his science with the teachings of the church (which said that the earth was created about 6000 years ago). He replied that he had two compartments in his brain: one for geology and one for the gospel. They were entirely separate, and he did not let the one influence the other. This bothered me, but I didn't think more about it.

After my graduation from Brigham Young University I was offered a scholarship at Northwestern University to work on a master's degree. So my young wife and I with our two (at that time) babies moved to Evanston, Illinois, and for the first time in my life I was surrounded by non-Mormons. I was the only Mormon in my university program. This did not intimidate me in the least. I felt that I was intelligent enough, knowledgeable enough about religion, and skillful enough in debating skills (I had been a champion debater in high school) to discuss, defend and promote my religion with anybody. I soon found takers. Since it was no secret that I had graduated from BYU, many of my fellow graduate students had questions about Mormonism. They were friendly questions, but challenging. For the first time in my life I had the opportunity to spread the gospel. It was exhilarating. We had some wonderful discussions. Even my professors were willing to listen, and so I educated my linguistics professor about the Deseret Alphabet and my German literature professor about the similarities between Goethe's worldview and Joseph Smith's.

Some of my fellow students, however, had tracts and other literature about the Mormons which they had obtained from their own churches. They asked me questions that I was unable to answer satisfactorily because they were based on facts I was unfamiliar with. I had never heard about the Danite enforcer gangs, about the Blood Atonement Doctrine or the Adam-God Doctrine. Where did these horrible allegations come from?

I realized that in order for me to defend Mormonism I would have to know what its enemies were saying about it, so that I could be prepared with the proper facts. I had never been an avid student of the history of the church, although I had earned the highest grades in the third year high-school seminary course in church history. I mean, what was there important to know about church history, beyond the story of how Joseph had his visions, got the plates, translated them, and how Satan had persecuted the Saints until they got to Utah? I was more interested in doctrine: the Truth, as taught by the prophets. The Truth, eternal and unchanging.

But now I began to read church history, both the authentic histories published by the church and the awful lies and distortions published by its enemies. How different they were! It was almost as if the authors in each camp were writing about different events. And the university library, where I spent a good deal of time, seemed to have more of the latter than the former.

After one year I got my master's degree in German and accepted a teaching job in Ogden, Utah. We returned to Zion and had our third child.

In Ogden I encountered for the first time the writings of the Mormon fundamentalists, who believe that Joseph Smith and Brigham Young were true prophets, but that the church since then - especially since the abandonment of the practice of polygamy - is in apostasy. At the time I was studying the doctrines and history of the church extensively, and it seemed that the fundamentalists had a lot of historical information that was not otherwise available. For instance, they relied heavily on the Journal of Discourses, a multi-volume work containing practically all the sermons preached by the church leaders in the first thirty or forty years after coming to Utah. Many years ago, I learned, every Mormon home had a copy of this work. But then the church leaders decided that it wasn't necessary for the members to have it, and ordered all copies to be turned in. It became a rarity. Why? Every anti-Mormon work I had read relied heavily on quotations from the sermons in the Journal of Discourses. But the present-day church leaders almost never referred to it. Why? It bothered me, but I put the thought aside.

While I was living in Ogden, a fundamentalist publisher brought out a photographic reprint of the entire Journal of Discourses, in hard binding, for $250. If I had not been a poor schoolteacher I would have bought it, because I yearned to be able to read the wise words of the early leaders. But the question of why this work was suppressed by the church still bothered me. I put the thought aside.

One of the accusations made by anti-Mormon works I had read was that Brigham Young had taught that God had revealed to him that Adam was, in fact, God the Father. To substantiate this, they quoted Brigham's sermons in the Journal of Discourses. If only I could check for myself! I was reminded of a strange comment made after class one day by Sidney B. Sperry, the BYU professor and authority on Book of Mormon and Bible studies. I had taken a Book of Mormon class from him, and admired him greatly. One day he said mysteriously to a small group of students who had stayed after class, "I think, when you get to the Celestial Kingdom, you may be greatly surprised to find out who God really is!" Wow! That implied that Dr. Sperry knew some secret that not many people knew; that we students didn't really know all there was to be known about this; that the prophets had not told all. What could that secret be?

As I researched this more, and found again and again the same words quoted from Brigham Young's Journal of Discourses sermons, it began to fit together: Adam was really God!

After two years teaching high school in Zion, I was offered a scholarship to continue my graduate studies in Baltimore. We accepted. Again we were surrounded by Gentiles, and again I had a large research library available.

Certain events in church history really began to bother me. Why had Zion's Camp failed? Why had the Kirtland Bank failed? Both of these enterprises were organized for the benefit of the church by God's prophet, who promised that they would succeed. It was difficult to avoid the conclusion that God was not doing much to direct the affairs of his church. And, as I thought about it, the same could be said for the experiments in the United Order (holding all property in common), plural marriage, the Deseret Alphabet - all projects begun with great promise, directed by God's anointed leaders, and all of which failed and were soon abandoned. It bothered me, but I put the thought aside.

What began to bother me most was that the church did not seem to be telling the entire truth about many events in its past. The evidence I read seemed to leave no doubt that the church had encouraged, if not organized, the enforcer gangs called the Danites or the Avenging Angels. Too many independent and primary sources testified of their activities. At that time in my researches the true story of the Mountain Meadows massacre was becoming known, an atrocity which the official church history passed off as the work of Indians, whereas it was becoming clear that the primary blame was on the church. The massacre itself was bad enough, but to me the subsequent whitewash by the church was worse, so far as the divine nature of the church was concerned. It bothered me, but I put the thought aside.

Among the papers of my grandfather, who had served a mission to England in 1910, I found a number of tracts and pamphlets that he had used on his mission. One was the transcript of a debate in 1850 between John Taylor (then an apostle, and on a mission in England) and a Methodist minister. Among the topics discussed in the debate was the rumor, common at the time, that the Mormons were practicing plural marriage. Taylor vigorously denied the rumors as a vicious lie, and firmly asserted on his honor that Mormons were good monogamists. At that very time, however, Taylor himself was married to twelve living wives. All of the top men in the church also had multiple wives at that time. How could a prophet of God lie so blatantly? It bothered me, but I tried to put the thought aside.

The Adam-God problem continued to occupy my mind. I finally decided to try to settle the matter. If the doctrine were true, I was willing, as a faithful member of the church, to accept it. If it were not true, I needed some explanation about the apparent fact that Brigham Young (and other church authorities of his time) vigorously taught it. So I composed a letter to Joseph Fielding Smith, whom I respected very much, and who at the time was the Church Historian and the president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. If he would only answer my letter! I spelled out to President Smith my dilemma: the evidence seemed to be clear and uncontroverted that Brigham Young had taught that Adam is God the Father. But the present church does not teach this. What is the truth?

I secretly thought (and perhaps hoped) that President Smith would write back and say something like: "Dear Brother, your diligence and faith in searching for the truth has led you to a precious secret, not known to many; yes, you can be assured that President Young taught the truth: Adam is our Father and our God, and the only God with whom we have to deal. The church does not proclaim this precious truth because we do not wish to expose the mysteries of God to the mockery of the world. Preserve this secret truth as you do the secrets of your temple endowment."

I received a short and clear answer to my letter from President Smith. It was quite different from what I had expected. He wrote that such an idea was unscriptural and untrue, and completely false. He did not deal with the evidence that Brigham Young had taught it. He ignored the whole problem as if it didn't exist. It bothered me, but I tried to put it out of my mind.

At the time I was auditing a class at the university in the history of philosophy. It was fascinating. I had no idea that ordinary human beings had given such thought to some of these questions. It occurred to me that my religion had plenty of answers and explanations, but it provided those answers without even really realizing what the questions were. The answers my church gave seemed rather flimsy and superficial, not even dealing with the really basic problems. I was introduced to the study of ethics, and was surprised to find the same thing: my religion, which claimed to be the ultimate, final and complete answer, was not even an introductory primer to the great ethical problems with which great thinkers had been dealing for hundreds of years.

However, I remained a faithful member of the church, fulfilling all my church obligations, attending meetings, observing the Word of Wisdom, wearing my temple garments. But I was struggling mightily to reconcile the church's inconsistencies, lies, and dubious past with my faith in its divinity.

It was at a single moment one day in the university library when I was pondering this problem. I was suddenly struck with the thought, "All of these problems disappear as soon as you realize that the Mormon church is just another man-made institution. Everything then is easily explained." It was like a revelation. The weight suddenly lifted from me and I was filled with a feeling of joy and exhilaration. Of course! Why hadn't I seen it before?

I rushed home to share with my wife the great discovery I had made. I told her what I had learned: the church isn't true!

She turned away and stomped up the stairs. She refused to accept anything I said critical about the church. It was the beginning of the end of our marriage.

I tried to continue my church responsibilities, primarily as ward organist. But I found it more and more difficult to sound sincere in public speaking, public prayer, or participation in class discussions. During the next summer my wife took the children back to Utah for a visit, and I felt it was silly for me to continue to wear the temple garments. And why shouldn't I have a cup of coffee with the other students, or have a glass of wine at a party? I had never tasted coffee or alcohol in my life, but there was no reason now, I felt, to deprive myself of those pleasant things. The next year was an armed truce in my marriage.

My wife left me suddenly, with no warning, taking the children. Her friends at church helped her escape, and she returned to Zion and divorced me. A last-ditch attempt at reconciliation failed when she said that her return would be conditioned upon my returning to the faith. I realized that I could not do it, however much I wanted to keep my family. Of course she got custody of the children. She remarried four years later, her new husband a faithful priesthood holder whose wife had left the church. (How ironic, that a church which places such a high value on family ties actually destroys the very thing it claims to promote!)

In the years since leaving the church I have never regretted my decision for a moment (other than the fact that it caused me to lose my wife and children). Subsequent study has given me a hundred times as much damning information about the church and its history as I had at the time of my original decision to leave it. Many Mormon friends and family members have tried to convince me that I made a mistake, but when I insist that they also listen to what I have to say about my reasons for believing the church to be false, they soon abandon the attempt, even though I assure them that my mind is open to any evidence or reasoning I may have overlooked. They are convinced that I apostatized because of sin, lack of faith, stubbornness, pride, hurt feelings, lack of knowledge or understanding, depravity, desire to do evil or live a life of debauchery. None of those reasons is correct. I left for one reason, and one reason only: the Mormon church is not led by God, and it never has been. It is a religion of 100% human origin.

My wife believed, I think, that since the church had taught me to be honest, loving, faithful, hard-working and a good husband, my leaving the church would mean I would soon become just the opposite. She was probably not alone in believing that I would soon be a shiftless, godless, miserable bum, dead at an early age of syphilis and alcoholism.

However, my life since leaving the church has been a rich and rewarding one. I have been successful in my profession. I married a lovely girl with beliefs similar to mine, and we now have two fine adult sons whom we raised with no religious training whatsoever, and who are as admirable human beings as one could ever want their children to be. We have prospered materially (probably more than most of my good Mormon relatives), and our life has been rich in many other ways as well, rich in good friends, in appreciation of the beauty to be found in our world. We have explored all the intellectual and spiritual riches of our human heritage and profited from it all.

And as I am getting older I also realize that I have no fear of death, even though I have no idea what to expect when it comes. In that regard I find I am unlike many Mormons, who are desperately worried that they have not been sufficiently "valiant" in their devotion to the church to qualify for the Celestial Kingdom. Again, how ironic it is that a church which begins by promising its members such joy and happiness actually causes them such worry and despair!

I am still proud of my Mormon heritage. I still enjoy doing genealogy work (I have more complete records than most of my Mormon family members). I still love to play and sing some of the stirring old Mormon hymns. I still keep a good supply of food on hand. And I still believe in eternal progression: things just keep getting better and better.

As a postscript: Apostle Bruce R. McConkie admitted that Brigham Young did teach that Adam was God, and that the church has indeed lied about its own history. (read his letter here) He says that Brigham Young was wrong, but he has gone to the Celestial Kingdom; but if you believe what Brigham Young taught about that, you will go to hell. The fact that the church can put a "positive spin" on these admissions is truly mind-boggling.


Click here to write to the author: packham@teleport.com

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©  1998 Richard Packham    Permission granted to reproduce for non-commercial purposes, provided text is not changed and this copyright notice is included

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Mormon ousted as an apostate

Lawn Griffiths

East Valley Tribune

October 3, 2007

Being excommunicated for apostasy by the Mormon church is one thing, but Lyndon Lamborn is livid that his stake president has ordered bishops in eight Mesa wards to take the rare step of announcing disciplinary action against him to church members today.


“I thought if he could go public, so can I,” said Lamborn, a lifelong member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who said his research into church history gave him “thousands of reasons the church can’t be what it claims to be.”

Stake President R. James Molina acknowledged Friday he intends to have Lamborn’s excommunication announced to the wards at men’s priesthood meetings and womens Relief Society gatherings, even with Lamborn now taking his case public. Molina, as well as officials at church headquarters in Salt Lake City, call such a public warning about an ousted member extremely rare.

They say, however, church members must be protected from what discordant ex-followers may say to damage the church.

In a letter to Lamborn dated Sept. 2, Molina noted that a disciplinary council had been held Aug. 19 and excommunication was ordered. Lamborn, 49, a Mesa resident who has been a priesthood leader for 20 years, was informed he was no longer a church member, could not “enjoy any membership privileges, including the wearing of temple garments and the payment of tithes and offerings.”

He could attend public meetings if his conduct is orderly, but would be denied giving any talks, offering prayers, partaking of the sacrament or voting.

“Because of the nature of your excommunication and your involvement with people in this area, an announcement will be delivered to the Melchizedek Priesthood quorums and Relief Society in each of the wards in our stake ... on Sunday, September 23, 2007, that you have been excommunicated for apostasy,“ Molina wrote.

“We need to let people know if there is a danger to them, such as him teaching doctrine that is contrary to what is taught by the church,” Molina said Friday.

Lamborn, a member of the Thunder Mountain Ward, said his Mormon roots go back generations, with a great-grandfather in the famed Mormon Battalion that trekked from Iowa to San Diego in 1846 and 1847.

Lamborn served a two-year Mormon mission in 1977-79 in Belgium, was elders quorum president four times and led a Mormon Boy Scout troop. Most recently, he said he was assigned to teach older men in his ward and held other roles.

But everything changed in early 2005. Lamborn, an engineer employed at Boeing in Mesa for nearly 25 years, was asked by a work colleague about the wives of church founder Joseph Smith. She had read “Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith” by John Krakauer and asked Lamborn if what she had read was accurate.

Smith, the first LDS prophet and president, had at least 33 wives by many accounts.
“Well, I had no knowledge of multiple wives, so I did some research, including using the church’s own genealogical Web site, familysearch.org,” Lamborn said.

He found the information concurred with the book. “Nonmembers seemed to know more about the personal life of Joseph Smith than me,” he said.

Lamborn conducted further research, which led him to question many church teachings. He said he went to Molina with his questions, but received no definitive answers.

Lamborn has been attending the three-hour ward meetings with his wife and 16-year-old son. His two daughters, 22 and 24, “are totally out of Mormonism.”

He said he learned that his five brothers “were doing the same research and arriving at the same conclusions” and doubts, he said. The same was true for his best friend since childhood. In a meeting earlier this summer with Molina, Lamborn acknowledged that he wanted to give up his church membership.

“I was planning to leave the church quietly, but was denied that opportunity, presumably because I was speaking openly to other members about my findings and (was) writing things down,” Lamborn said.

Lamborn has compiled his research into a lengthy testament called, “Search for Truth 6/07,” in which he states: “There comes a time in the life of many church members when the desire to know the truth about the church becomes stronger than the desire to believe the church is true.”

He said he intends to continue to accompany his wife, Nancy, to ward services.
“It is tough to go, tough to attend, but I enjoy the fellowship,” he said.

He said he has no desire to join another church, adding that the Mormon faith has many merits, such as its strong family values and its internationally recognized welfare system to help those in need.

The public announcement of his excommunication will be toughest on his wife, Lamborn said. “There’s the embarrassment,” he said. “Friends won’t know how to treat her. The awkwardness. It is going to be tougher on her than anybody.”

Clark Hirschi, manager of the area relations division in Salt Lake City, said Friday he talked to Molina after the stake president was contacted by the Tribune.

“Despite the fact that he has told you this is going to happen, it is up to the priesthood leaders,” Hirschi said. “There may be a letter read to some of the adult members this Sunday. It might be in a few weeks. It may not happen. That is going to be at the discretion and call of the stake president.”

Hirschi said he has never been in a meeting in his own 20 years as a Mormon where a public announcement about an excommunication has been made. He said he had only heard of one being made in a neighboring stake. 

 

Mormon leader declines to announce ouster

Lawn Griffiths

East Valley Tribune

October 3, 2007

Lyndon Lamborn was excommunicated from the Mormon church for doubting some of its claims, but on Sunday his stake president backed away from a plan to publicly announce his ouster.

Stake President R. James Molina wouldn’t tell the Tribune why he refrained from making the announcement at the eight wards under his leadership.

Molina had told the Tribune last week that he intended to have bishops publicly announce the discipline taken against Lamborn, a fourth-generation member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as a warning that he may spread blasphemy about the church.

Lamborn, 49, had gone before a disciplinary council of male elders on Aug. 19 where excommunication was ordered. Molina, president of the Mesa Arizona Salt River Stake, wrote to Lamborn in a letter dated Sept. 2, stating that “because of the nature of your excommunication and your involvement with the people of this area, an announcement will be delivered to the Melchizedek Priesthood quorums and Relief Society in each of the wards in our stake ... Sept. 23, 2007, that you have been excommunicated for apostasy.”

Excommunication allows him to be at church events, but not have membership privileges, wear temple garments or tithe.

Such a public announcement about an excommunication in the church is extremely rare, Mormon leaders confirmed.

It’s not clear whether Molina’s announcement was withheld as a result of the publicity the issue has garnered or whether he intends to do it at a later date.

Lamborn said Thursday he went to the Thunder Mountain Ward meeting Sunday expecting the announcement, then asked Molina why nothing happened. Lamborn said the stake president told him “I haven’t made a final decision.”

Molina said Thursday that the Lamborn issue “is a private matter, so I don’t have anything to say to you guys on it.”

 

Ex-Mormons prepare for upcoming conferences

By Peggy Fletcher Stack
The Salt Lake Tribune

10/05/2007

The large billboard in downtown Salt Lake City features a diverse group of people with the caption "You are not alone" and the Web site www.postmormon.org.
    It is sponsored by the Post-Mormon Community, made up of people who have voluntarily left Mormonism.
    "We choose to no longer base our lives, and the lives of our children, on so-called truths dictated by others," organizers say in their mission statement. "We endeavor to help those like us who also feel the need to explore meaning, purpose and life beyond Mormonism."
    They may no longer affiliate with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but Post Mormons do not see themselves as Mormon antagonists. They readily acknowledge the "good that came into our lives through Mormonism," and try to retain a cordial relationship with family and friends who remain in the church.
    The billboard will remain up for the next 30 days, timed to coincide both with LDS General Conference and with the upcoming meeting of the Ex-Mormon Foundation, "Transitions - Unlocking the Secrets of a Post-Mormon Life," at Salt Lake City's Embassy Suites Hotel on Oct. 12-14.
    The Ex-Mormon Foundation takes a more aggressive stance toward the LDS Church. It sees its mission as warning members and potential converts " of the harm [the church] causes, the families it devastates, the methods it uses to control minds, and the half-truths and deceptions by which it deludes the public," according to its Web site, www.exmormon foundation.org.
    The foundation reviews and critiques "the church's propaganda" so it can be "a counterforce to the massive Mormon missionary and advertising effort."
    For more information about the conference, go to Ex-Mormon Foundation's Web site.

 

Web site for former Mormons
Postmormon.org offers support for ex-Mormons

Kevin Whitaker
September 17, 2007

Observant college students may have noticed a peculiar billboard bordering I-15 southbound around 1500 North in the Provo area: It simply read Postmormon.org

Surrounded by a plain white background with two yellow squares (clearly meant to be Post-it notes).

Those who noticed it, like UVSC student Blake Longmore, merely disregard what seems to be another advertisement capitalizing on the dominant religion in the area. "I thought it was some missionary mail site or something," Longmore said.

The site actually has no official connections to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

It is, however, a forum provided for those who have left Mormonism -- "post-Mormons," to be exact.

From the political landscape to religion, the Internet is rapidly altering the way contemporary society interacts. According to the organization's Web site, Jeff Ricks, a previous LDS member, began the idea as a post-Mormon support group in the Logan area in 2002.

He launched postmormon.org in 2004 and received tax-exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service in 2006.

The official mission of the post-Mormon community is "to provide and maintain systems that facilitate the growth and development of a safe and supportive community for those who leave or are considering learning about the Mormon Church."

This mission is carried out in three main ways.

The first is the online community, which consists of a forum and a listing of chapters worldwide.

For various reasons, there are a number of people leaving the LDS church: Some are excommunicated. Some are offended by a local leader. Some have simply lost faith.

The reasons are quite numerous and stages of becoming post-Mormon can be readily identified through the diverse postings, which range from "A Voice From the Active but Doubting" to "Help! I Think I Am Going to Cry" to "Mission Shout-out."

These postings chronicle the assorted stages and LDS backgrounds that post-Mormon members come from.

While some posts are quite hostile and cynical toward the LDS church, there are other comments that appear to be well researched and sincere.

Possibly the most popular threads, though, consist of heartbreaking stories of misunderstandings, loss of faith or pleas for help in soul searching.

The concentration of Mormon culture within Utah can create a very difficult atmosphere among family, friends and co-workers for individuals who consider endorsing religious views outside the LDS church.

One post, somewhat typical in revealing the pragmatism of postmormon.org, is titled "Please Help Me Out With This Situation." The author, No Testimony, who lives in Utah and is "an inactive member who has never had a testimony," details some concerns she has for her children who have recently been shunned by other girls in the neighborhood because word spread that she was not Mormon.

No Testimony concludes by asking if there is anybody who might have experience in some effective ways of resolving these concerns.

The second way the postmormon.org mission is pursued is by an online library. The library contains essays, audio, comedy and even a Wiki-based scrapbook.

Of the more serious literature contained by the library is a paper written by William Gardiner, a licensed clinical social worker, that tackles potential limiting effects of religion on intimacy capacity.

Gardiner's paper was possibly brought about in reaction to the frank posts of couples disclosing problems with being intimate with each other because they've been conditioned to perceive intimacy negatively through highly orthodox families or zealous youth leaders.

The paper attempts to tackle topics such as guilt, expectations and other issues that might be intruding on intimacy as a result of religion.

The final method for carrying out the mission is a fund for financial donations.

Although stories on postmormon.org may attest that the LDS church's generally well-meaning members may not always live in perfect harmony with the doctrine, the church canon speaks for itself: Article of Faith 11 declares, "We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may."

Whatever a person's beliefs, the ability to feel belonging in a community is invaluable to fostering cooperation and respect.

Additionally, it functions as a type of watch-dog organization that may assist LDS members in being more consistent with living church precepts, given that individual deviations could well end up documented on postmormon.org

 

Post Mormon group supports those who leave LDS church


Brittany Lish

Dixie Sun Staff Writer

Dixie State College of Utah

People who have decided to leave the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints may feel relieved when they have an organization to lean on.

Jeff Ricks founded the Post Mormon organization in 2002. Ricks was an active member of the church for 30 years. He had complete faith in the church, served a mission and was married in the temple. At age 40 he started questioning the church and made the decision to leave in 1993.

"When I walked away from the church, my Mormon friends scattered, and I didn't know how to make friends with people who weren't Mormon," Ricks said.

For nearly 10 years, his network of friends was gone. During the Winter Olympics in 2002 he found a discussion forum online for former Mormons. He followed the discussions and eventually met up with the group for a party. Ricks said during the party he felt instant rapport with everyone and was relieved to meet people with whom he could connect after so long.

"I went out in my car to go home, was about to start up the engine, and I just broke down crying," Ricks said. "It felt so good to finally find people who understood."

The years of feeling alone and the emotional experience at the party gave Ricks the determination to start an organization to support others who have left the church. He met up with members of a support group in Ogden who asked him to help them start a Web site. Ricks began working on it and decided he would start a group in Logan and be a part of the Web site. He also wanted to encourage people to start groups in their area.

After the groups in Logan and Ogden started, groups began in Phoenix, Seattle and Portland, then the growth of the organization plateaued. Ricks said he decided to revamp the Web site and make it more interactive with comments and discussion forums, and things began to take off.

In 2005 he recruited a board of trustees in order to organize a non-profit corporation; that led to tax exempt status, and donations were put toward advertising. Plans were then placed on hold for Rick's health.

After a year Ricks got back to working on his organization and started receiving funds. His first large donation enabled him to post the first billboard, which was placed in Logan.

The local paper printed an article about the organization, and the Associated Press picked it up so the article appeared in multiple newspapers in different states.

Ricks said the impact of the article across states really got the organization popular. Post Mormon is now organized into more than 40 chapters throughout the world. There are several in Canada, four in Europe, and one each in New Zealand, Australia and Ecuador.

The mission statement of Post Mormon is to provide and maintain systems that facilitate the growth and development of a safe and supportive community for those who leave or are considering leaving the Mormon church.

"We are not about pulling people out of the church," Ricks said. "Leaving the church is very difficult on families. We push people back in and tell people to take their time, no hurry, and to bring their spouse along if possible."

Jonathan Ellis, a junior art major from Fredonia, Ariz., left the LDS church three years ago. After leaving the church, Ellis said he spent a lot of time feeling alone and was depressed and confused.

"I felt very relieved that I had managed to liberate myself from a very sheltered and bigot organization, but it was difficult leaving the thing that had always given me direction," Ellis said.

Ellis said he recently discovered Post Mormon after seeing the billboard.

"I've since joined their online community, hoping that my understanding and compassion may ease the suffering of others as they leave the Mormon church," Ellis said. "I believe Post Mormon's greatest strength is its care and concern for people who are going through painful rejection from an organization they once respected, and the social and political ramifications they experience in their lives."

Brad Biedermann, spokesperson for the St. George chapter, offered advice to students who have left the church.

He said students should take the good things they have gained from their religion such as a healthy lifestyle and commitment to family with them.

He also suggested thoroughly studying the issues facing the church from both the church's perspective as well as the Post Mormon perspective.

"Enlightenment is painful and is much like going through a divorce," Biedermann said. "Be patient and allow yourself to heal and grow."

If people want to help the organization, donations are always accepted. Ricks is also looking for people who have professional, legal and Web development experience.

St. George chapter meetings are held the first Sunday of each month at 2 p.m. at the Holiday Inn, 850 S. Bluff St.

There is also a library of books available to check out at the meetings.

For more information, visit www.postmormon.org.

"Perhaps the very knowledge that [post Mormons] are not alone will ease the suffering of those leaving the church," Ellis said.
 

 

Group uses billboards to reach out to ex-Mormons

East Valley Tribune

September 4, 2008

Paul Hahn stopped taking part in the bustling activities of his Mormon ward in Queen Creek about 2 1/2 years ago, and it wasn't until January that he formally resigned his membership after 20 years, a tenure that included a two-year missionary assignment in South Dakota.

"I stayed in that church for quite a few years not believing it," said Hahn, 32, who has donated money for a billboard that went up last week on the southwest corner of Gilbert Road and Chandler Boulevard on the border of Chandler and Gilbert.

The sign is paid for by Post-Mormons, a Logan, Utah, organization. It features a generic smiling family of eight, a Post-It note that reads "You are not alone!" and the Web site address: www.PostMormon.org.

"Mormonism, itself, is a culture," said Hahn, a one-time ward Sunday school superintendent. "When you leave it, most of your friends are generally not going to be interested in continuing their friendships with you, so it is very important to find new people to hang out with."

Post-Mormons founder Jeff Ricks said it is the group's first billboard in Arizona, and the south East Valley site was chosen because of the high concentration of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints - as well as former church members. "We got a really good deal on it - $3,000 for 30 days, and that is our most expensive billboard to date," Ricks said.

It is the eighth billboard put up by the group, with previous ones in Logan, Idaho Falls and Pocatello, Idaho, along with two in Salt Lake City (the church's headquarters), plus Provo and St. George, Utah.

Ricks met the biggest fight in Idaho Falls, when the billboard company put the vinyl sign on property owned by a Mormon, who ordered it removed. (Another site was found.)

Gifts of $1,000 and $5,000 in recent months helped the effort, he said, but donations average $30.

Don Evans, spokesman for the Mormon church in Arizona and president of the Mesa Mountain View Stake, said he did not know about the billboard until he was contacted by the Tribune.

"I think it is another instance of people who have decided to leave the church," he said. "Generally, what we find is that oftentimes people who leave the church don't leave quietly." They sometimes "leave bitterly and want to make some sort of a statement," he said.

Scott Trotter, church spokesman in Salt Lake City, said his office "respectfully declined comment" on the Post-Mormons' work.

Ricks, 53, founded Post-Mormon in 2002 just after he formally asked to have his name removed from church rolls, almost a decade after he stopped being active. He is the great-great-grandson of Thomas E. Ricks, for whom Ricks College (now Brigham Young University - Idaho, in Rexburg, Idaho) was named.

MISSING BLESSINGS

Ricks said he had always fully tithed, giving 10 percent of his income to the church, and was repeatedly told by his bishops that "if you pay the tithing, you'll be blessed financially." But when his business failed, it became the "trigger point" for him questioning other teachings and issues of the church.

"The blessings that I was taught are supposed to be there, absolutely were not there," he said. "I wondered what else is not quite right."

When Ricks stopped being involved in 1993, he said, "I lived for eight years thinking I was the only person in the Cache Valley that had left the church - an active good person who left willingly." He described himself as lonely and "kind of deserted" by his church friends because he stopped attending.

"I didn't know how to meet non-Mormon people," so it prompted him eventually to start a support group and then create a Web site in 2004, whose primary features are the posted stories and testimonies of former Mormons and why they left the church. He said it gets 7 million to 8 million site visits monthly.

Today, Post-Mormon has 46 chapters scattered around the world, including Europe, New Zealand and South America.

Ricks said about 30 percent of former Mormons associated with the site join other faiths while "70 percent find that they don't need another religion."

"Why does something have to be replaced?" he asked. "That is a misconception. There is that hole or void for a while. A lot of other people like me have filled the void not with another religion, but basically an appreciation of life in general."

Those ex-Mormons should be better helped spiritually, said Jim Robertson of Mesa, who launched an outreach ministry to Mormons in 1973 called Concerned Christians (www.concernedchristians.org). He and his wife, Judy, author of several books, including "Out of Mormonism" and "Understanding My Mormons' Friends Faith and Mine," hold Thursday night support group meetings several blocks from the Mesa Arizona Temple where their emphasis has been to contrast Mormon teachings with Christian doctrine.

Jim Robertson, who said he had never heard of the Post-Mormon group, said after reviewing its Web site, "It's good that they are having meetings to support them, but that doesn't give them anything to take in place of what they have left behind." Concerned Christians, he said, seeks to help former Mormons "understand who Christ is and to come into a relationship with him and have a peace and joy about it."

"The thing that hurts is to see them leaving them out dangling in nowhere," he said. "I can understand why they could be hurting."

'UNDER THE RUG'

Hahn said he was pleased the billboard has gone up in the area. "Most people when they are considering leaving the church don't know there is anyone else who has gone through the same thing they have," he said.

He said his choice to leave centered on church history. "Generally they have some problems telling the truth about the history of the church and the origins that they have been putting under the rug," he said. "And when you find those truths out, it is kind of hard to continue to believe what they have to say.

"I am sure there are a lot of people who go there every Sunday because that is their culture, what they grew up in, but they don't believe it."

But Evans said he was "personally perplexed" that Post-Mormons "would even bother to have a billboard or even have a Web site. If they choose to leave, they choose to leave. That is their prerogative."

 

Benson, Ex-Mormon Cartoonist, Says Romney Not Telling Truth
By Dave Astor
December 20, 2007

NEW YORK As an ex-Mormon, Arizona Republic editorial cartoonist Steve Benson has strong opinions about current Mormon Mitt Romney. He said the Republican candidate's recent speech on religion should not be trusted by media people and other Americans.

In his talk, Romney said "I believe in my Mormon faith" while also noting that the church's "teachings" would not influence his decisions if elected president.

"Yeah, right," responded Benson, adding that "Romney also believes in misrepresenting what his Mormon Church actually espouses."

Benson is the grandson of former Mormon leader Ezra Taft Benson.

He told E&P that, in his view, a Mormon believer is required by church doctrine (as dictated by the church's "living prophet") to "obey God's commands" over anything else. He said "Romney, like all 'temple Mormons,' made his secret vows using Masonic-derived handshakes, passwords, and symbolic death oaths that he promised in the temple never to reveal to the outside world" -- and that Romney also secretly vowed to devote his "time, talents" and more "to the building of the Mormon religion on earth."

So, said Benson, the only way Romney could be truly independent of the church as U.S. president would be to disavow Mormon doctrine. "He hasn't done that," said the Creators Syndicate-distributed cartoonist.

"When Mitt says he belongs to a church that doesn't tell him what to do, that's false; it's a 24/7, do-what-you're-told-to-do church," asserted Benson, who won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning in 1993.

That was the year Benson left what he calls the "Mormon cult." One reason for his decision was disgust with the way Mormon officials tried to fool church members and the general public into believing that Ezra Taft Benson -- Steve's then-94-year-old grandfather and church president -- was still capable of leading the church. "He was not mentally or physically in a place where he could make any meaningful decisions," recalled Benson. "I know it because I saw his condition with my own eyes."

Benson -- who was contacted by E&P for this story -- said journalists have basically given Romney a free pass on the "fundamental contradiction" between being an observant Mormon and a U.S. president. "Most journalists don't know about actual Mormon teachings and practices," noted the cartoonist, adding that they instead see the religion as perhaps "strange" but "rather benign."

Romney "needs to face an informed member of the media with 'cojones' who has a working and perhaps personal experience with Mormonism," said Benson. "It would be harder for Romney to do his well-practiced duck and dodge."

Benson himself drew a post-Romney speech cartoon that pictured John F. Kennedy saying "Ask not what your country can do for you..." followed by Romney saying "...do whatever it takes for me to win Iowa." (Many people believe Romney gave what he hoped would be a JFK-like speech on religion because he was losing support in Iowa.) But Benson said he hasn't heavily focused on Romney's Mormonism in other cartoons. "Religious issues are very touchy," he said. "I do what I can, but I pick my battles."

Another reason Benson distrusts the words in Romney's speech is because the candidate has changed his public positions on issues such as abortion and gay rights to woo conservative GOP voters in states like Iowa rather than the more liberal voters he once courted to become governor of Massachusetts. "He flips and flops like Jesus is coming tomorrow," said the cartoonist. "It's like Romney is reading from the Mormon Church playbook."

Benson explained his last comment by noting that the Mormon Church has also "publicly flipped 180 degrees when it feels it's necessary for its image, for its financial solvency, and for political expediency."

He mentioned, by way of example, that black Mormons weren't allowed into the priesthood until 1978. And while polygamy has been publicly disavowed by the Mormon Church, Benson said "the church still holds that it will be practiced as a matter of eternal doctrine in heaven. The church also currently performs polygamist marriage 'sealings' in its temples around the world."

Benson predicted that Romney will not win the Republican presidential nomination. If Romney is nominated, added the cartoonist, he will not defeat his Democratic opponent.

Voters, said Benson, "are not ready for someone in the Oval Office who has committed to absolute obedience to a religion they feel is extremely odd and not in the American mainstream. I trust the rational U.S. electorate, not the weird Mormon God."

 

How cults turn people into atheists

About This “Mormonism” Thing

by Ernest Partridge

December 19th, 2007

When Willard “Mitt” Romney announced his intention to run for the Presidency of the United States, one might suppose that there was joy in Salt Lake City among the leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

I suspect that by now those leaders may be having some second thoughts.

For while it was a good thing for the American public to learn about the Mormon faith, Church leaders are now discovering that it is possible to have too much of a good thing.

The thirteen Articles of Faith of the Mormon religion enumerate a set of beliefs, some of which are quite consistent with traditional Christianity, and others which, while unique to Mormonism (e.g., the Book of Mormon), are not outlandish or immediately offensive to most ordinary Christians. (The Articles of Faith were written by the Mormon founder, Joseph Smith, to a Chicago publisher, John Wentworth, in 1842). The Articles say nothing about God once being a mortal human and being one among many Gods, about the brotherhood of Jesus and Satan, about God inhabiting a planet called “Kolob,” or about the “magic underwear” that devout Mormons are required to wear, etc. Nor are you likely to hear about such things from the Mormon missionaries that might appear at your front door.

However, it now seems naive to have supposed that these and other bizarre Mormon doctrines would not be brought to light by Mitt Romney’s political rivals.

Many faithful Mormons are surprised at the astonishment and derision that some LDS beliefs provoke among the general public. This surprise is likely due to the simple and universal fact that beliefs that are taught in childhood and shared in a community of believers are regarded by the faithful as “obvious” and “ordinary,” while at the same time those same beliefs are considered, “from the outside,” to be weird and outlandish.

I can testify to this fact, for I have experienced Mormon doctrine from both the inside and the outside. From childhood, through high school, I shared Mitt Romney’s faith in the Mormon religion. Then that faith totally vanished during my freshman year in college – at Brigham Young University, of all places!

MORMONISM AND ME

If I might be permitted a few autobiographical remarks, this is how it happened.

My high school education was outstanding. I was among a few students selected to attend a “demonstration” school attached to a state teachers’ college, where we were taught by college professors. There I acquired a precociously secular, scientific, and scholarly perspective on human history and institutions. At the same time, my parents (both graduates of BYU and both post-graduates of Columbia University) saw to it that my two brothers and I regularly attended LDS Sunday services. They accepted the conventional view that “Sunday School” was essential to a child’s moral development — a view that I have since come to seriously doubt.

Accordingly, during my adolescence, I carried about in my head, a bifurcated mind. There was “the weekday mind” of ancient dinosaurs, of evolution, of American Indians as migrants from Asia, and above all, of skepticism, scientific discipline and critical thought. Then there was “the Sunday mind” of the Creation in 4004 BC, of the Garden of Eden and Noah’s flood, of the Indians as migrant Israelites (the “Lamanites”), and of faith trumping “man’s reason” — faith: “the substance of things hoped-for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews, 11:1). I somehow managed the alternation of mind-sets from weekdays to weekends to weekdays again, without undue strain.

But at BYU the shifting of mind-sets from classroom to classroom to library to study hall proved to be untenable. At the end of my sophomore year, I transferred to the University of Utah and majored in Philosophy. Courses in geology, anthropology, new-world archeology, etc., pounded the final nails into the coffin of my childhood faith. In the words of the apostle Paul: “when I was a child, … I thought as a child. But when I became a man, I put away childish things.” (I Corinthians, 13:11) In my mind, the Latter-Day Saints, formerly “us,” became “them,” and since then I have never looked back. (Accounts of this “de-conversion” may be found in my unpublished “A Peculiar People” and “Religion and the Schools: A Dialog”).

Today, the polygamous man-God of Kolob, the magic underwear, the Hebrew-Indians, the translating peep-stones and the golden plates, the farm boy and the angel, “the curse of Cain” upon all people with any African ancestors, baptism for the dead (the Creator of the earth and all human souls being incapable of saving those souls all by himself), etc. — all this and more seem as bizarre to me as they do to most non-Mormons. (The essential tenets of Mormon theology are presented in this remarkable cartoon narrative of unknown origin. It is generally accurate, although there are a few identifiable minor errors. For example, Mormons do not believe that God and Mrs. God came to earth as Adam and Eve).

But equally bizarre to me is the Catholic dogma of transubstantiation (the ritual cannibalism of God’s body), the argument that birth control is contrary to “natural law,” the protestant fundamentalist beliefs in biblical literalism, young-earth creationism, and the doctrine of “the rapture,” the orthodox Jewish ban against eating shellfish or wearing mixed fabrics, and the Islamic belief that the Angel Gabriel handed the Koran to Mohammed. Much worse is the plain immorality of many traditional religious beliefs. These include the belief that the genocide, murder and mayhem chronicled in the Old Testament were condoned and even commanded by the Lord God, that God had ordered that disobedient children, blasphemers, unchaste young women (but not men), and those who toil on the Sabbath be put to death, and that a loving God created billions of souls, all but a few thousand of whom He has condemned and will condemn to eternal damnation and torment. Among those condemned are authentic “secular” saints and martyrs such as Socrates, Marcus Aurelius, Galileo, Voltaire, Gandhi, Jefferson, Sakharov, who somehow failed in their lifetimes to agree with Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell and to accept Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior.

 

ROMNEY'S SELECTIVE IGNORANCE

(OR HE DOESN'T KNOW THE TRUE HISTORY OF HIS OWN CHURCH)

Doug Wallace JD--- A Former Mormon High Priest

The recent attempt by Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney to placate American concerns about his church's Christian view bespeaks his selective ignorance about his own church’s history.

Chief among the past woes of Mormons was the persecution complex. The story went that the church had suffered immeasurable harm from Christian persecution for its beliefs.

While it is true that there were some isolated incidents of unfair actions against members by non-Mormons, the overall scene was one of tolerance with a quiet smirk for the absurd claims of church founder Joseph Smith involving angels, golden plates, Book of Mormon and visions of God. Official Church History distorts most events alleged as persecution.

Between the time of the church organization on April 6, 1830 and the extermination order (infra) of Governor Lilburn Boggs of Missouri in 1838, Smith and his close cohort/conspirator, Sydney Rigdon, had created an unlawful bank in Kirkland, Ohio where they defrauded investors and fled to Missouri when Ohio officials were seeking their arrest. In Missouri, with a large swelling of converts, Smith declared the place at Far West to be the original site of the Garden of Eden and it would be there that the New Zion would be built. He also declared that the church would be the future ruler of Zion and the world both ecclesiastically and civilly.

Meanwhile Rigdon at the 1838 July 4th celebration used the word “exterminate” against locals and some dissidents who dared stand in the way of the church settlement and expansion. When the pressure of the church went against the locals with allegations of theft by church members, hostilities broke out called the Mormon War with Governor Boggs issuing his own “extermination” order against Mormons. In effect, a declaration of a state of war.

See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mormon_War

Hostilities were ended by surrender of the church insurgents resulting in the arrest of Smith and close advisers to stand trial on treason and murder while the main body agreed in the peace terms to move east out of Missouri. Smith and associates were first tried, convicted and sentenced to death as war criminals by a military tribunal but that was halted and changed to a civil court where they were held prisoners in Liberty Jail awaiting trial. Smith, et al, later escaped and joined the main Mormon body on the east bank of the Mississippi river in Illinois on swampy land the main body had acquired for a city and named it Nauvoo.

Obtaining a special charter from the Illinois Legislature, for the city known as the Nauvoo Charter, Smith set himself up as a Theocratic dictator as (1) the Church leader, (2) the Mayor and (3) the General of a 5,000 man army called the Nauvoo Legion. He considered the charter granted him dictatorial autonomy as a state within the state of Illinois. HE WAS WRONG

At Nauvoo, Smith hired Gun slinger Orin Porter Rockwell to be his body guard and sent him on a mission back to Missouri in 1839 with instructions to kill Boggs. Boggs was seriously wounded in the shooting and not expected to live. Later an order for extradition of escaped felon Smith to be tried in Missouri was issued.

In 1844, Smith while a fugitive from justice in Missouri had declared himself a candidate for President of the US. He organized a semi secret group called the Council of the Fifty to bring about one world government but spelled backwards “YFTIF” in a clumsy attempt to conceal it. That group, which is perpetually organized, crowned Smith “King of the Earth”. The same crowning has occurred to each successive church leader to this day with Gordon B. Hinckley, Mormon president, as Christ's Vice Regent and Earth King. The Council continues to steer the church in that direction with involvement in the Heritage Foundation, the Bush war machine and international economic schemes raising poverty levels three fold in the past thirty years. Romney is a blood oath committed Priesthood subordinate to Hinckley in all matters!

Associated with that event, Smith ordered the destruction of a newspaper, the Nauvoo Expositor that was about to publish information about Smith's plural sexual relationships in particular with 16 year old Fanny Alger who worked in the Smith household as a maid.

Some time prior to this. Smith had obtained a franchise for establishing a Masonic Lodge. Very quickly he elevated himself to a 33rd degree Mason. He also adapted some of the Masonic Initiation rituals into the Mormon Temple ceremonies and had its icons sewn on special underclothing which had to be worn thereafter by all initiates to the temple ceremony every day and night for the rest of their lives. See: http://www.religionfacts.com/about.htm For doing this, the franchise was withdrawn and he angered the Order by his actions in violating its trust and the secrets within it.

Smith was arrested and lodged in the Carthage Jail to await hearings on charges of violation of freedom of the press and the extradition order.

In the evening of June 27th 1844, a mob made up of Masons, some of his own people and antagonists surrounded the jail shooting into it. Having been furnished a hand gun by his close allies, Smith mortally wounded two attackers as they attempted to ascend the staircase. Seeing his brother dead, he leaped out the second story window shouting the Masonic distress cry only to be repeatedly shot at by the mob

This last event chronicled at least four times in the 38 year life of Smith when he ran afoul of the law. The first was a charge and conviction in New York State of the scam of stone gazing for pay (beforehand) for discovering buried treasure. The second was bank fraud in Ohio. The third was an insurrection in Missouri and the last violating freedom of the press in Nauvoo. Ill.

In the legends of Mormonism, Smith died as a “Martyr” sealing his “Testimony” with his own blood when in fact he died in a furious gun battle attempting further deception at the last moment by using the con of a Masonic distress cry. The cause of Smith's death was anger and fear of those within the mob who saw him and his teachings as a threat to peace, the Constitution and separation of church and state.

A few years later, with Brigham Young at the helm, Mormons left Illinois and traveled west to the Utah Territory where Young set up a colony he called Deseret establishing a theocratic government. Any dissidents attempting to leave the territory were murdered or “disappeared” in the “Back lotting” operation led by Orin Porter Rockwell. No message against the church was allowed to get out of the territory.

Unfortunately for Young, the territory came under the control of the US government as a result of the 1846-47 hostilities with Mexico. The area was then labeled the Utah Territory. Nonetheless, Young ruled with an Iron Fist first as the territorial governor and later in a shadow government as the head of the church.

Nothing was done in the territory without his approval. This included the September 1857 Mountain Meadows Massacre in which in excess of 120 people age four years and older of the Fancher Party emigrant train en route to California were laid siege to and slaughtered by deception about 20 miles west of Cedar City, Utah. It was supposed this train had persons among it that were responsible for the death of founder Smith and this was an exercise of the Blood Atonement doctrine of the church.

That doctrine says that the blood of Christ can't atone for all sins and that some persons need to have their own blood shed by others for forgiveness. Hence the oft heard phrase about dissidents “He/She should be shot”. This past September, the church after 150 years finally admitted its' complicity in the affair but blamed it on long dead local leaders of the church. This doctrine does not square with Christianity!

From its inception Mormonism has been all about controlling people both spiritually and civilly. It is theocratic and has designs on controlling the United States first and then the world under New World Order concepts.

When Romney speaks of the LDS (Mormon) church being not a lot different from other Christian organizations he is blushingly far off the mark. He is typical of all brainwashed Mormons who never dared check out the real story of the rise of “Church”

Romney has taken a blood oath in a temple to consecrate his life to the church with total submission to the authorities of the church. Therefore under that oath he is and will always be subservient to church leaders in any capacity he might otherwise fill unless he repudiates that oath. What Christian church requires that oath of its members?

He doesn't confess that he has taken these oaths and that the church has the goal of world conquest. He should be made to admit or deny these facts before he can be a viable candidate. What present day Christian church has designs of theocracy?

The sinister side of the Mormon Church through its influence in the Congress, the CIA, the FBI and NGOs such as the Heritage Foundation has been implicated with middle east entities in acts leading up to the terrorism of 9-11 together with the war on terrorism as a ploy to inflict damage upon the Constitution of the United States so that it can be “saved” by having one of its own becoming President and “Earth King” all pursuant to a “prophecy” of founder Smith. It is false flag operation on a false flag operation! What Christian church engages in that kind of conduct?

Mitt Romney also needs to admit that his church with dirty tricks disrupted and destroyed the Equal Rights Amendment in the late 70's when it was winning nationally by a 66 percent poll before that interference. What Christian church politically interfered with the ERA?

Mitt Romney also needs to admit or deny that the church working with its missionaries, the CIA and the nut heads from the Chicago University Friedman School of Economics participated in the coup that overthrew democratically elected President Allende in Chile in 1973 ultimately resulting in the deaths of thousands murdered and tortured there and throughout the cone of South America during the 70's and 80's at the same time it operated the church and missions there. What present day Christian church engages in political coups?

Mitt Romney needs to admit or deny that the main reason behind that coup in Chile was due to the nationalization of the copper industry owned by entities of the Mormon Church aka the Utah Corporation. What Christian church would participate in killing and torturing thousands and establishing a dictatorship to recover a resource belonging to the people? And what Christian church would furnish Israel with uranium to make atom bombs? (Norman Mailer: A Harlot High and Low, New York Magazine August 16, 1976)

When I was facing my own dilemma in the early 1970's about matters which concerned my faith in the Mormon Church, I was in correspondence with Mitt's father, George after he had been a presidential candidate in 1968. He had been a young Mormon missionary in the UK in the 1920s and a friend of my parents. Mitt's father advised me to follow my own conscience which I did resulting in a two year struggle to persuade the church to accept black men in the priesthood. I did that in 1976 and the church oligarchs relented two years later however it was not without the deaths of two innocent men, David Olson and John Ragan orchestrated by the Council of the YTFIF!

At the time I was a dedicated Mormon to all teachings except racism and I suppose theocracy. Thanks to excommunication for insubordination in doing what I did, I discovered little of my learning about the church was true. I am grateful to Mitt's father George for his advice. George Romney was the first and last presidential candidate in US history to have admitted he had been brainwashed! He meant it for Vietnam of course. But the fact he discovered he was susceptible to brainwashing at all (As most of us are) was notable and should have made him take a critical look at Mormonism as well. It's time his son took a good look and saved us all the bother of another sojourn of Bushwhacked insanity!

Americans need personal honesty of their presidential candidates based on a thorough self examination with a lot of introspection! That is called true integrity! If Mitt is not capable of that he is unworthy of his presidential ambitions.

I got out Mitt, you can too!

 

By Michael J. Barrett
Special for The Arizona Republic
Michael J. Barrett is assistant general counsel to the Central Intelligence Agency in Washington.
 
I've just been excommunicated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The charge was disobedience. I have to confess, I did disobey a direct order.
 

On April 17, two men in dark suits knocked at my door and delivered a letter from my stake president. The letter informed me I was "considered to be guilty of Apostasy (sic)." The trial would be the following Sunday morning at 8.
 

That was a difficult week filled with questions of why and how, but the morning of the trial was worse. "Excommunicate" is a terrifying word, conjuring visions of hooded men in black robes, darkened rooms, drawn faces.

 

As I walked alone into the high-council room, I was told to sit at one end of a long, narrow conference table. Seated on both sides of the table were 12 high councilmen, with the stake president and his two counselors at the other end. Behind me were my bishop and two clerks. All wore dark suits.

 

The stake president, LaMar Sleight, read the charges against me: deliberately disobeying his orders by disclosing some of our unpopular doctrines in published letters to several newspapers. The truth of my statements was not in question, he said. The court would hear only evidence of my disobedience to his direct order.

 

He directed my attention to the six men seated closest to him, and said they had drawn lots and been chosen to ensure that neither I nor the church would be abused during the trial. He then proceeded to tell the court of my sin. I had, he declared, disobeyed his direct order, and that of his predecessor, to conceal certain doctrines from the press and public.
 

He called the former stake president as his witness. After about 30 minutes, they finished and the stake president asked whether I had any evidence that his charges were false. No, I said, but I would like to explain.


Sleight, his predecessor, and two general authorities from Salt Lake City had been clear. As they explained in a letter to me, "Latter Day Saint scholars have no license to publish what a president of the church may have said when under a (U.S. Congress) subpoena. . ." And I had disobeyed.


I was pained to discover about 13 years ago that some church members believe it's better to deny or conceal doctrine and history, rather than discuss things honestly and openly.
 

At first, I attempted persuade church leaders that honesty was our best option. I was told that the decision already had be made by leaders such as Elder Boyd K. Packer and Elder Dallin H. Oaks: Some facts, some doctrines, are embarrassing and must be concealed.


Only faith-inspiring facts and doctrines may be discussed. Anything that is not immediately faith promoting is considered to be "advanced history" (Packer's term) and must be concealed with all of the zeal of a corporate lawyer hiding documents that could incriminate his company.

 
I could not accept this. Not only was such an approach dishonest, but it also presumed that Mormon doctrines are foolish an cannot withstand scrutiny.

 
So, when I noticed newspaper stories about the church, I began writing letters to editors in an attempt to educate the public, appeal our leaders' better judgment and demonstrate that we, as Mormons, are not afraid to confront our own history.

Revoking 'worthiness' Sleight's predecessor, Raul McQuivey, called me in several times and told me that members of the church didn't want to know these facts, and that I must stop writing letters to the editor.


On one occasion, he called me in and he, together with Elder F. Burton Howard of the First Quorum of the Seventy, directed me to stop disclosing our doctrines and history publicly, even though these teachings were taken from church publications, church records and public documents.


Howard, a lawyer, told me the public had no business knowing what President Joseph F. Smith said in his sworn testimony to Congress about polygamy in 1904. He said that any member of the church who would reveal that Smith's testimony was false was unworthy of a temple "recommend."

 
McQuivey immediately concurred and refused to issue me a recommend, which is an official stamp of worthiness to enter the temple and is given only to select Mormons who are deemed obedient to church commandments.
 

This was the first time I'd been without one since l can remember. I asked how I could repent and get a new recommend. McQuivey said I would have to agree to keep certain church doctrines and historical facts secret. I refused, saying I thought that would be cowardice in the eyes of Jesus Christ, and a tacit denial of those doctrines.

And so we came to the two issues before the court: Did I willfully disobey Sleight's order to remain silent? And, if so, why? The answer to the first question is a simple yes.


I would answer the second by recalling [Joseph] Smith's words [the founder of Mormonism], as written in The Doctrine & Covenants, Joseph Smith History 1:25: "Why persecute me for telling the truth? . . .(W)ho am I that I can
withstand God? I knew (the truth), and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it; at least I knew that by so doing I would offend God, and come under condemnation."


Embarrassing but truthful


We can't hide the gospel. And how much better for the church if we are open and truthful about our doctrines and history, rather than seeing converts feel betrayed by their leaders years later, when anti-Mormon ministries tell them the facts we have tried to conceal.

 
Yes, it can be embarrassing and difficult to be honest about polygamy and the fact that we still believe it was a divine commandment. But does that justify concealing it?


Many people are offended by our belief that Joseph Smith was visited by God and Jesus Christ, and an angel bearing new scripture. Shall we deny or conceal that, too? I know we very much wish to be considered "mainstream Christianity," but that does not justify concealing the gospel.


Do I regret that some people, members of the church and investigators alike, may read my letters and have serious questions about the church?


What I regret is that someone lied to them originally, or discreetly omitted some basic truths. When they read the letters now, and ask questions, we should answer them honestly and directly.
 

I realize we can all make mistakes, including prophets, and that this is a human quality. I love and appreciate our prophets for the truths they have given us and the principles of the gospel they have shared with us. I also love them knowing they have made mistakes. Those mistakes just reaffirm their humanity and the opportunity we all have to progress in light and
truth.


'Bad things' under wraps I had been told by several people over the years and again recently to remain silent, stop writing and apologize to the court for having offended it; that I should promise to conceal these facts and doctrines in the
future, as I had been told.


I concluded my remarks. And waited.
 

Several of the high councilmen asked questions. One angrily announced that we have no business discussing the "bad things" in the church. Then I was dismissed so they could begin their secret deliberations.


Later that afternoon, two men in dark suits knocked at my door and delivered a letter from my stake president. I was excommunicated.

 

Global thinker left his mark on the University

By Brandon Griggs
The Salt Lake Tribune

03/19/2008

Posted: 7:13 PM- Over an extraordinary career that spanned six decades, William Mulder's influence was felt from Utah to India and beyond.
    A global thinker at a time before the world was connected by the Internet, Mulder taught at the University of Utah for 41 years and helped broaden its geographical focus. The retired scholar, who died last week at 92, founded the University of Utah's Center for Intercultural Studies (now the Middle East Center) and developed its American Studies Research Center in Hyderabad, India.
    "Professor Mulder was a pioneering force in connecting the U. to the world beyond Utah," said University of Utah President Michael K. Young in a statement. "We would not be as prominent on the academic world stage without his immeasurable contributions to administration, collaboration and research."
    Some traced Mulder's passion for cross-cultural understanding to his own background as an immigrant. Born in Holland in 1915 to LDS Church converts, he immigrated to the United States with his parents in 1920, arriving in Salt Lake City six years later. His father worked on printing presses and brought home editions of classic books, which may have sparked his son's early interest in literature and poetry.
    Mulder earned undergraduate and master's degrees in English from the University of Utah and his Ph.D. from Harvard. He joined the U.'s English department in 1947, where he soon gained a reputation for witty and inspired teaching.
    "He had a way of bringing out the best in students," said LDS writer and educator Emma Lou Thayne, who studied under Mulder. "He was always a gentleman. He made people feel like they gave credible responses to the questions he asked. Sometimes teachers can put students down. He never did that."
    In the 1950s, Mulder became part of a well-known group of LDS intellectuals, nicknamed the "Swearing Elders," who met regularly on campus to discuss Mormon issues. Later he drifted from the church. He told The Salt Lake Tribune in 2005, "the trouble with various theologies is that they build walls around things that should be open."
    Mulder took a similar approach to his scholarship, reaching across disciplines to study literature, Mormon history, the immigrant experience and other subjects. In the early 1970s he introduced then-groundbreaking courses in literature by blacks, American Indians and other ethnic minorities.
    Mulder retired from teaching in 1987. In his later years he was showered with honors, among them a Utah Governor's Award and the Madeleine Award for Distinguished Service to the Arts and Humanities.
    A brief memorial service will be held March 29 at 2 p.m. at the University of Utah Alumni House. In lieu of flowers, his family suggests contributions to the U.'s Marriott Library.

 

Post-Mormon Community on Campus

By: Greg Boyles

Issue date: 4/9/08

The Utah Statesman Online – University of Utah

A post-Mormon group on campus is designed to provide a new community for those who have left or are currently thinking about leaving The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said Jeff Brady, junior studying electrical engineering and current organizer of the USU post-Mormon group.

Leaving the church isn't easy, Brady said. The majority of an LDS member's social network is tied into the church, and once a member has made the decision to leave, both parties tend to feel there is no longer a common ground, Brady said.

This lack of a common ground is mostly theological, Brady said. Many post-Mormons keep their culture because it's what they grew up with and it's what they feel comfortable with, he said. But some post-Mormons feel once they had declared they no longer believed in the LDS church, they were avoided and sometimes snubbed by members of their ward, friends and families, Brady said.

Dave Wind, graduate student in journalism, said growing up in the church is very polarizing.

"You're either in or you're out," Wind said.

Wind, who served an LDS mission, was married in an LDS temple and taught five years at the missionary training school until he said a friend exposed him to "quirky Mormon history," which he eventually discovered was true.

"When it's all said and done," Wind said, "I felt duped."

This feeling is common among members of the post-Mormon community, Wind said.

Torrie, junior studying technical writing at USU, said she left the church after uncovering information she strongly disagreed with.

"There are things the church doesn't tell you, things they don't want you to know, and I just felt lied to," Torrie said, who said she had been deeply involved with the LDS Church until she was 16.

Ray Sullivan, student at USU and returned missionary from the Utah/Ogden LDS mission, said he understood these concerns and witnessed them numerous times while serving in Utah. Nonmembers struggled to join the LDS Church because they felt they'd been persecuted by LDS members in their community, Sullivan said, and some members left the LDS Church because they felt their personal lives were being judged by members in their ward, and he said that's not what the LDS Church teaches.

Attending a post-Mormon meeting does not mean a person is planning to fight against the LDS Church, said Devin Felix, originator of the USU post-Mormon chapter.

"This is not an anti-Mormon group. It's not anyone's intent to lead people away from Mormonism or mock people for what they believe," Felix said.

Post-Mormon meetings, also known covertly as PM meetings, serve as a support group for former LDS members and a social network for non-Mormon members, Brady said. At these meetings, people can discuss personal experiences or just eat and have a good time. Some people at these meetings are considered closet post-Mormons while others are very open about no longer affiliating with the LDS Church.

The USU post-Mormon group was established in fall of 2006, Felix said. According to postmormon.org, 11 post-Mormon chapters exist in Utah alone, with 29 in various other states and 15 in other countries including Canada, Germany and New Zealand.

Another post-Mormon group students occasionally attend in Logan is the Cache Valley post-Mormon group, Brady said. This group was established in 2002 by Jeff Ricks, who also designed the Web site postmormon.org and has helped to establish numerous post-Mormon chapters in and out of Utah, he said.

Both the USU and Cache Valley post-Mormon groups are welcome to anyone who wishes to attend, Brady said. The USU group meets the first and third Wednesday of every month at 8:30 p.m. in the Hub while the Cache Valley group meets every Sunday at 6:30 p.m. for dinner at Ruby Tuesdays. Both groups can be found on postmormon.org, Brady said.

"Leaving the church is a hard thing to do," Torrie said. "I attend meetings because I feel like my story can help people who might be afraid to step out of the Mormon closet and say I don't believe this."
 

Mormon shirtless calendar maker faces discipline

July 11, 2008

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Las Vegas man who devised a calendar that features shirtless Mormon missionaries is facing a disciplinary hearing and possible excommunication because of the project.

A lifetime member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Chad Hardy was summoned by letter to a Sunday meeting with a council of elders to discuss his "conduct unbecoming a member of the church."

A copy of the letter from Frank E. Davie, the senior leader over a group of Mormon congregations in the Las Vegas area, was provided to The Associated Press. It was sent early this week, days before the 2009 version of the "Men on a Mission" calendar went to press, Hardy said in a telephone interview.

A takeoff on calendars of firefighters and returned U.S. servicemen, Hardy's project debuted with a 2008 calendar featuring 12 returned church missionaries in mostly modest poses, minus their trademark white shirts, ties and black plastic name badges. It has sold nearly 10,000 copies.

"You see more in a JCPenney catalog," said Hardy, 31, who once worked for Utah Jazz owner Larry Miller and now has his own entertainment company. "I just feel like my right to free speech is being violated."

The calendar was designed to shake up Mormon stereotypes, Hardy said. The pages include photos of the men dressed in standard missionary garb. In biographical sketches each missionary talks about his beliefs.

"It's not tearing anybody down," Hardy said. "I wondered what would happen if we took that perfect Disneyland image that the church spends millions of dollars cultivating each year and shook it up a little bit."

Davie on Friday confirmed sending the letter and the plans for the meeting. He said the calendar was the primary concern.

"I prefer not to say anything else about it," he said. "There is more involved, and he and I will have our meeting."

The outcome of a council meeting could include excommunication, probation "or exoneration," Davie said.

A returned missionary himself, Hardy acknowledged he has not been an active member of the church since 2002. He said he's never been contacted by anyone from the church encouraging his return to the fold and he suspects the current inquiry was driven by the church's Salt Lake City headquarters.

"I'm still a good Mormon boy in many ways," said Hardy, who says he bears no animosity toward Latter-day Saints, but never felt he fit in. "I still want to hold onto my heritage."

Blog entries on the social networking sites MySpace and Facebook show a range of reactions to Hardy's work. Some find it offensive and say it degrades the church by displaying missionaries as sex symbols, and that it contradicts church teachings about modest dress for all members.

Others praise the effort for rattling perceptions that Mormons are "stuffy." Some who identified themselves as younger Mormons said the calendar might make it easier for their non-Mormon friends to consider exploring the faith.

"It has created an interfaith dialogue," Hardy said. "People of all faiths have logged on and shared what they believe. They're talking about what's really important, not how bad it is that you took your shirt off."

Some of the missionaries in the calendar, many of whom were recruited by Hardy's friends at church events, have been asked by their church leaders about the project, but none has faced disciplinary action, Hardy said.

"The biggest concern was, whether this was an attack on the church, and when they determined it wasn't, it was no big deal," said model Jonathan Martin, a 25-year-old Utah Valley University student who was contacted by a church elder in May. "When you don something outside of the norm, it doesn't matter what group of people you're in, it's going to unsettle them."

Martin said he was told the inquiry was being made after a letter was sent to his church leader by higher-ups in Salt Lake City.

The Mormon church takes disciplinary action when leaders believe a person's behavior or actions are openly incompatible with the faith's teachings and could damage the church.

Church spokeswoman Kim Farah declined to comment on Hardy's specific situation, but said that "any church discipline is the result of actions not beliefs." Decisions are made at the local level and are based on individual circumstances and merits, she said.

"Because the fundamental purpose of church discipline has always been to help members, rather than simply punish, disciplinary councils are considered a necessary step in repentance on the way back to full harmony and fellowship in the church," she said.

Members have been excommunicated for reasons including criminal activity and scholarly works of history or theology that contradicted church claims.

An excommunicated person would be removed from official church rolls, although he or she would still be welcome at church services. Excommunicated members are prohibited from receiving the sacrament and can't perform church callings such as teaching or preaching during meetings. They also cannot enter church temples.

The 2009 calendar — which drew 100 inquiries from interested missionaries — will be released in September.

 

Mormon missionary calendar-maker excommunicated

July 13, 2008

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The creator of a calendar that featured shirtless Mormon missionaries was excommunicated Sunday after a disciplinary meeting with local church leaders in Las Vegas.

Chad Hardy said he bears no ill will toward the council of elders from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"I felt like I spoke my truth," the 31-year-old entertainment entrepreneur said. "Bottom-line, they still felt the calendar is inappropriate and not the image that the church wants to have."

"Men on a Mission," which has sold nearly 10,000 copies at $14.99 each, included pictures of 12 returned missionaries wearing black slacks, but not their trademark white shirts, in modest poses. The men also were photographed in traditional missionary garb and share their religious beliefs in biographical sketches.

Some of the 12 models have also been called to disciplinary meetings, but none were punished.

"I have no ill feelings toward any of those people," Hardy said of the church council. "They did what they believed was right and I really do feel it was the best decision for both of us."

Frank E. Davie, the senior leader over a group of Mormon congregations in the Las Vegas area, confirmed the 12-member council's decision in a telephone call to The Associated Press. He declined further comment.

Hardy said the purpose of the 2008 calendar was not to tear down the church or its 13 million members.

"The project is about stepping outside the stereotypes and stepping outside of the image," Hardy said. "Not everybody fits the image and I let them know we're not trying to portray an image for the entire church."

An excommunicated person is removed from official church rolls, but are still welcome at church services. Excommunicated members are prohibited from receiving the sacrament and can't perform church callings such as teaching or preaching during meetings. They also cannot enter church temples.

 

Band follows a new road for former LDS missionaries

By Peggy Fletcher Stack
The Salt Lake Tribune

08/23/2008

    Micah Wilder found Jesus as a Mormon missionary in Orlando, Fla., and the experience led him out of the church that sent him.
    Wilder's awakening began with an evangelical minister's challenge to read the Bible more closely, noting discrepancies between the ancient text and Mormon beliefs. The young missionary pored over the scriptures to prove the man wrong, he says, but instead found himself discovering a different Jesus than the one he had known as a Latter-day Saint.
    "I learned that salvation came through the gift and grace of God, not by our works. I learned that believing in Christ was enough. . . . I learned that the priesthood, temples, ordinances and prophets were all fulfilled through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ," he says in a written testimony. "God reached into my heart and changed everything I had ever known."
    Wilder shared his newfound faith with fellow LDS missionaries Joseph Warren and Steve Kay, Mormon convert Jay Graham, and his brother Matt, who had just returned from a mission to Denmark. They all had a "born again" experience and gave up membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
    Three years later, Wilder and the other four have formed a Christian band, Adam's Road, which is performing in Utah this week. The name refers to the biblical Adam as representing the path all people must take to return to God through Jesus. At every concert, band members wear ties with their button-down cotton shirts and jeans as a subtle dig at Mormon missionary attire and describe their love of Jesus Christ.
    They live together in a Florida hotel, own a bed-and-breakfast and have spent the past few months playing concerts up and down the East Coast. They sing about God's concern and intimate knowledge of his wayward children and Jesus' atoning sacrifice with lyrics such as "Only by Your Grace Am I Alive" and "God Is Crazy About Us."
    The band members allude to their Mormon roots in "Stone Temples," which says, "You're not where I thought you were in stone temples made by their hands. You're even closer. You're inside of me."
    They don't go out of their way to offend believing Mormons, but do feel an obligation to share their conversion with members of the LDS Church, Matt Wilder says. "As a band, we are not afraid to testify to what we believe."
    That approach created a small problem on SundayAug. 17 when organizers of Worship '08, a nondenominational Christian concert at Gallivan Plaza in downtown Salt Lake City, suggested that they tone down or eliminate their rhetoric about Mormonism. They refused to play without it and organizers relented.
    The Rev. Gregory Johnson of Standing Together, a consortium of Utah's evangelical churches that sponsored the event, denied that that was his instruction.
    "We talked about their Mormon background in our press release," Johnson insisted, adding, "but this is not an ex-Mormon gathering."
    Warren, a lead singer, felt free to describe his spiritual journey toward the end of the performance, when fewer than 200 people were in attendance.
    "I lived my whole entire life without knowing Jesus," Warren said. "I did not know what [God's] grace was."
    Growing up as a Mormon in Kaysville, he knew only "a vengeful, unforgiving God, full of condemnation, that only gave love to those deserving of it. I did not feel like I deserved His love, I lived in fear of God's disappointment and punishments," Warren wrote on his MySpace page. "I was seeing the God of the Old Testament, and I was living a similar life as those who were under the law of Moses; a religion full of laws, regulations and judgment."
    After his conversion, Warren came to see God's love as unconditional and all-encompassing.
    The lyrics resonate well with Wilder's father, Michael, and mother, Lynne, who resigned from the LDS Church in response to their son's prompting after being active Mormons for more three decades. Lynne Wilder gave up a tenured position at Brigham Young University.
    At his son's insistence, Michael Wilder says, he re-read the New Testament and began delving into little-known aspects of Mormon history.
    "It opened my eyes," he said. "Once I got into Mormon doctrines, I realized this is not what Christ would teach. We are not anti-Mormon, just anti- Mormon doctrine."

 

Richard Dutcher leaves the Mormon church and a genre

Once known as the king of Mormon film, a crisis of faith has him heading in a new direction.

By Chris Lee, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
August 19, 2008

RICHARD DUTCHER didn't set out to become a filmmaking messiah. Before he became known as "the father of modern Latter-day Saint cinema," Dutcher was simply a writer-director-actor hustling for movie work in late '90s Los Angeles. That is, until the devout Mormon took stock of an underserved filmgoing community -- his own.

"There was Indian cinema for the Indian community. Gay and lesbian cinema was starting to mature. There was black cinema," Dutcher recalled. "I realized there's 12 million Mormons in this country and we don't have a cinema of our own. I thought, 'Holy cow! If I could make a movie for this demographic that's successful and other people could start making Mormon films, it could be a vibrant thing.' "

"God's Army," the low-budget drama about missionaries proselytizing in Hollywood that Dutcher wrote, directed and starred in, garnered nearly $3 million at the box office, a smash by indie-movie standards. The 2000 film had higher production values and asked bigger theological questions than was typical of the straight-to-DVD Mormon movie fare before it. But, more important, it ushered in a new era for Mormon film. He became the first Latter-day Saint filmmaker to land a movie about Mormons, intended primarily (but not exclusively) for Mormon viewership in theaters across the country.

But after filming several other of the genre's touchstone works, Dutcher renounced Mormonism last year, citing a theological evolution he calls "a very frustrating enlightenment." And he tendered his kiss-off to LDS cinema, "leaving Mormon moviemaking to the Mormons," as he put it in a controversial opinion piece that ran in the Daily Herald of Provo, Utah.

Now, after incurring scorn in the Mormon movie world, the faith-based auteur is back with his most personal film to date, "Falling." Glibly marketed as "the first R-rated Mormon movie" in Utah, it opened in Los Angeles on Friday for a one-week engagement at Laemmle's Music Hall in Beverly Hills.

Focused on an ambulance-chasing videographer (played by Dutcher) who haunts Hollywood's mean streets, crime scenes and bloody accidents for footage to sell to unscrupulous media bottom feeders, "Falling" is, at its core, the story of a man's anguished search for salvation after repudiating his faith. (The L.A. Times review called it "one of the best small pictures of its kind in recent memory.")

Viewed against the writer-director's real-life religious odyssey, however, the film can be seen as the culmination of Dutcher's spiritual existence -- the product of a moment of self-realization followed by an existential crisis, a sudden plunge into what he terms "an earth-shaking moment of spiritual terror" that caused Dutcher to literally lose his religion.

"In one moment, I went from being a true believer to knowing that everything I had thought about God, everything I thought about the universe, the way I looked at the world might be off," Dutcher said. "Ironically, it's the films that allowed me to progress spiritually to the point I left Mormonism. If I hadn't been making films, I doubt I would have reached that point."

When "God's Army" began to connect with audiences in 2000, a handful of movie reviewers in and around Salt Lake City seized on it as a cultural tipping point, anointing Dutcher "the father of Mormon cinema." "At that point, the representation of Mormons on TV and in movies had been pretty negative -- it was all polygamy and crazy people, really extreme and marginal," Dutcher said. "One of my main impulses was to portray Mormons as real people."

Rather than repeat the formula of his breakout feature, Dutcher followed "God's Army" with 2001's "Brigham City," a faith-based work about a serial killer set loose in an idyllic Mormon town. The film's unusual subject matter prevented it from connecting with audiences as did "God's Army." And less than half a decade after having launched a new wave of Mormon film -- a batch of nearly 40 movies made by and for Mormons -- Dutcher began to fear that LDS cinema was "dying." A casualty of what he would later describe as "too many badly made films in the marketplace, too few good ones" in that widely publicized 2007 piece for the Daily Herald.

More confounding for the Illinois-born 44-year-old Brigham Young University grad (who converted to Mormonism at 8 when his mother remarried): He underwent a consciousness-rattling realization that he says shook him to his spiritual core. It was a life-changing event that left him feeling "enlightened" but that ultimately compelled Dutcher to leave Mormonism.

"One day in prayer, all by myself, I asked myself the question: What if it's all not true?" Dutcher recalled. "It was an earth-shaking moment of spiritual terror, such a profound experience. It was such a sense of loss. I felt my faith leaving me and never coming back."

The retiring Dutcher, who in conversation at a Culver City postproduction editing facility seemed more apt to make his point with a shrug than by banging his fist on the table, takes pains not to disparage Mormons or Mormonism. And although spirituality remains one of Dutcher's abiding concerns, he officially left the church last year. Nonetheless, in a frenzy of productivity right around the time of Dutcher's religious disconnect in 2004, he churned out screenplays for two more Mormon-themed movies: "States of Grace" (a harder-edged "semi-sequel" to "God's Army" that also follows LDS missionaries in L.A.) and the spiritually disquieting "Falling."

Released in 2005, "States of Grace" was greeted by mixed reviews and some outrage in the LDS community for what some felt was not an altogether positive depiction of Mormons -- buffeting Dutcher's reputation as the father of its cinematic vanguard.

"Richard became a local lightning rod because he accepted what might be called an ill-informed and premature title like the 'father of Mormon cinema,' " said filmmaker and Brigham Young University professor of media arts Thomas Russell. "He didn't make it up, nor did he ask for it, but I think he's also done little to distance himself from it."

That is, unless you take into account some of the more outré moments in his new movie. In addition to nudity, violence and coarse dialogue, you're unlikely to encounter in any other "Mormon film" -- R-rated or otherwise -- the amoral paparazzo protagonist Dutcher portrays in "Falling" hurls an F-bomb at God in a moment of despair and openly regrets having wasted 12 years of his life in the church.

To hear it from Dutcher's wife, Gwen, her husband's crisis of conscience added a layer of meta-narrative pathos to what is certainly one of the year's most self-excoriating performances. Then on top of his crisis of faith there were the vagaries of shooting a movie on a shoestring $500,000 budget.

"What you're seeing on his face is exhaustion and despair," she said. "It was excruciating. An unbelievably difficult time." Dutcher, who splits time between Los Angeles and Utah, parlayed his indie renown into writing and directing his most mainstream (and biggest budgeted) movie to date: the supernatural horror thriller "Evil Angel," which stars Ving Rhames and will hit theaters in 2009.

Despite its provocative handling of LDS faith, Dutcher insists "Falling" is, in effect, a Mormon movie insofar as its themes and imagery will be most meaningful to Latter-day Saints (never mind that, by default, they are embargoed from seeing an R-rated film). But then, doesn't that still make him a Mormon filmmaker?

"At the beginning, I was proud to say, 'Yeah, I'm a Mormon filmmaker' because then, I was defining what a Mormon filmmaker was," Dutcher said. "It quickly got completely out of my control. Now, no one wants to call themselves a Mormon filmmaker because you're associating yourself with a genre that's fallen into disrepute. It's like having porn on your résumé."

 

Ex-Mormon calendar-maker has BYU diploma yanked

October 17, 2008

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - The Las Vegas man behind a calendar featuring shirtless returned Mormon missionaries has had his diploma yanked by the Mormon-owned Brigham Young University.

Chad Hardy says he finished his last four units for graduation in June. On Aug. 15, he crossed the stage with other graduates during ceremonies at the Provo school.

In between, he was excommunicated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Hardy lost his membership for conduct unbecoming a member, charges rooted in his failure to pay tithing, a lapse of other obligations and the production of the 2008 "Men on a Mission" calendar.

A letter from BYU's director of student academic and advisement services says Hardy's graduation application is on "hold" and that he can reapply if he is "reinstated as a member of the church in good standing."

 

Roots in Mormonism denounced

By Regis L. Roberts

Originally published: 9/11/08

The Ranger Online 

My nuclear family - my mom, Ann; oldest brother, Ryan; sister, Rachel; and brother, Raimey - must have had something happen to us between being a churchgoing Mormon family and the people we are now: a non-practicing Christian, a pagan and at least two atheists.

I would wager to guess that everything changed for us when I was 4 years old and my parents, Roger - everyone calls him Larry, his middle name - and Ann, divorced.

As my mom tells it, she felt isolated from everyone else in the temple - full families, seemingly functioning with nice clothes and cars.

What was wrong with what she was doing, she thought. This is not the way it was supposed to be.

The truth is that she did not do anything wrong; she was just holding herself to an unrealistic standard that Mormon families often set upon themselves.

Mormon families are usually white with more children than the national average of 1.8 children and are expected to stay intact, even when they are in fact dysfunctional.

Mormons always seem to have artificial smiles plastered on their faces and feel obligated to dress up no matter what the occasion. In short, not very authentic.

This is part of what turned me off to Mormonism.

Now that I have come to identify myself as an atheist for more than 10 years, I celebrate my decision to renounce the Mormon church every day.

Partly, this is because I actually understand what Mormons believe.

Growing up, all I knew is that I could not watch R-rated movies - though my family never followed this - and that I was not to consume caffeine - ditto on this rule.

I also was somewhat aware that the church had something to do with Native Americans, but what exactly that was, I had no idea.

Now I have come to understand that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the full name of the Mormon church, was founded in upstate New York by a convicted fraudster named Joseph Smith.

Smith, a huckster who claimed to be able to find buried treasure using a "seer stone," was able to fool many people once again when he claimed that two spirits, Mormon and Moroni, told him in the 1820s where to find golden tablets that told a fabulous story.

The story goes that a tribe of Israelites, called Nephites, left Jerusalem in 600 B.C. and landed in present-day America.

After many years, another group of Israelites, called the Lamanites, engaged in a huge war in present-day New York against their brothers the Nephites, and smote them all.

Because the Lamanites were sinful, according the Mormon legend, they were stricken with dark skin by God - despite Jerusalem's location in the Middle East, the Israelites were white, you see. Hence, this explains why the Native Americans are darker than whites.

Smith dug up these golden tablets, according to his tale, and read them using one of his famous seer stones - the ones that got him in trouble with the law earlier.

In some tellings of the story, Smith read the contents of the plates to a friend who transcribed what Smith was saying, either while behind a curtain or while his face was buried inside a hat with the seer stone.

The plates, Smith said, were written in "reformed Egyptian," a language Smith made up, and could not be viewed by anyone besides Smith.

Smith's friend Martin Harris, who transcribed what Smith had dictated, showed his wife the wonderful story.

Harris' wife, thinking him to be a gullible fool, hid the papers and said that if Smith was the real deal, he would have no problem dictating exactly the same story.

When Smith heard this, he had a trick up his sleeve - hucksters, you see, are clever people. He said that God was angry at Harris for allowing his wife to do such a thing and would, therefore, punish Smith and Harris by changing the contents of the plates. No one, except Smith's wife, according to him, ever saw these supposed tablets.

Many Mormons, including some missionaries who came to visit me a few years ago, have never heard of this story.

Smith would live the rest of his life creating new scams.

He purchased some Egyptian papyrus that he claimed he could read, which told of, among other things, why black people have dark skin (hint: they are sinful).

Scholars who have studied the contents of the papyrus say what it actually says is not even close to what Smith claimed.

Many of the Mormons I have come to know - including my entire immediate family of grandparents, aunts, uncles and countless cousins (like I said, a lot of kids) - are decent people who can be fun.

Some of them are not even aware they are devoting themselves to a religion that is, at its core, racist. The problem is that they have been deranged by and made irrational by a scam artist who has been dead for almost 140 years.

They have allowed all aspects of their lives to be affected.

To me, this is not a way to live.

I hear from religious people that their faith gives them something to cling to and makes them feel good.

There are many other things for people to base their lives on: namely, the truth. I do not find comfort in going to some fantasy to help explain my life and the world around me.

Devotion to fantasy can be very problematic.

News coverage of the Fundamentalist Latter-Day Saints and the raid of the Yearning for Zion ranch in Eldarado has made the point that the FLDS is a breakoff group from the Mormon church.

However, FLDS is not a perversion of Mormonism. They are called "fundamentalist" for a reason.

This group, a racist, polygamist sect, is just going back to the roots of the Mormon church.

Before pressures from society and the government - years ago, the IRS started cracking down on tax-exempt organizations that discriminated on the basis of race - the Mormon church looked a lot like FLDS.

I only hope this extreme example will be taken as a message for people to search for truth elsewhere.

 

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