Chapter Fifteen

New Hope in Dealing with Mormonism

"I’m doing a lot better than when you last heard from me. It seems like every day gets a little easier. Were you really praying for me all this time? Prayer must really work!
"My husband and I are very happy now. He doesn’t even bring up divorce anymore. In fact, he told me this morning he thinks our marriage has improved since I became a Christian. I almost fell over when he said that!"—Robin

For thirteen weeks in the fall of 1982, John Aloysius Farrell, an investigative reporter for the Denver Post, traveled the state of Utah researching a six-part series that ran as "Utah: Inside the Church State." In spite of his journalistic effort at objectivity, it is clear that Farrell was shocked by what he found. "The Church State is different," he said. "Crossing its border is like riding along a wrinkle in time."

Farrell found Utah "strange, weird, dizzying," a land where "everything seems just a few degrees out of plumb." Values in Utah seemed different. "The cheerful, skeptical pluralism of the other 49 states does not apply." (1)

Farrell came back from investigating the Church State in Utah to join the American Civil Liberties Union because what he saw convinced him he could not afford to take his liberty for granted. Shirley Pedler is the head of the ACLU in Utah. She was born in a Mormon home and she echoes Farrell’s sentiments:

People in power here… don’t quite recognize a distinction between church and state…. Things as hideous as what the South was famous for do in fact go on here in Utah…. There is a veneer that everything is lovely…. But underneath it’s different. Mean, mean things go on in this state. (2)

Christian leaders who serve in Mormondom understand the term "Zion Curtain" – an epithet that is all too accurate. I couldn’t help but see Mormonism in Arakady Shevchenko’s Breaking with Moscow. Shevchenko, the highest-ranking Russian diplomat ever to defect to the U. S., describes the flawed philosophy that forces some Russians to leave the Motherland:

Beneath the multiplicity of reasons, there was one common denominator. At the bottom, it was the Soviet system that pushed its subjects to desperation, curtailing their freedoms or forcing them against their convictions.

Today life in Utah is changing because many Latter-day Saints have been pushed to desperation.

The winds of change are blowing in Mormonism. A great spiritual weariness goes with being an active Mormon. In the system you are on a treadmill with no hope of getting off, which helps explain why:

Christian radio and television are reaching into Mormon homes and account for some of the change in Mormondom. But mainly, people are just fed up with oppression. One Mormon put it to me in these graphic terms: "I’m tired of being treated like a mushroom; they keep me in the dark and feed me manure."

Recent developments have cost the Mormon Church thousands of members. I predict tens of thousands of others will leave Mormonism in the next few years. Three of the most important factors causing defections are:

First, the fall of the Book of Mormon to the archaeologists and anthropologists (see Chapter Ten).

Second, the continual uncovering of the shady early Church history. Particularly the mounting evidence for the occult activities of Joseph Smith. That Joseph Smith was heavily into witchcraft is, in my estimation, the worst problem for the Church he founded.

Third, the Mormon Church’s cover-up of the above. Thousands of Mormons were demoralized to discover that acting President of the Church Gordon B. Hinckley was involved in the purchase of controversial historical papers from rare-documents dealer Mark Hofmann. Many were convinced the reason Hinckley bought them was to suppress them. Ironically, though Hofmann is a member of the Church, most of the documents he sold to Hinckley were forgeries. (Hofmann, at the time of this writing, is on trial for murder and forgery in Utah.)

Three Escape Routes

In the face of all this unpleasantness, there are three primary reactions:

First, the fundamentalist reaction. Some Mormons harden their faith in the face of mounting damning evidence. They see the problems, but refuse to face them. These fundamentalists choose not to think about the implications of what they see. A Mormon bishop friend said to me, "Well, if I find out Mormonism is wrong when I die, at least I’ll have the satisfaction of knowing I lived a good life."

Second, there is the flight to liberalism. Those who choose this path commit intellectual suicide.

These are Mormon intellectuals who redefine their theology in the face of historical discovery and attempt to forge a Brave New Mormonism. Typical of this group is former Church historian Leonard J. Arrington who has said it is no longer important to him if Joseph Smith had any of the visions he said he had. Joseph’s stories, according to Arrington, "convey truth," whether or not they are actually true. Quoting an Italian proverb Arrington says, "Whether it is literally true or not, it’s still true."

Third, there are Mormons who ask, "Is anything salvageable in Mormonism?" Some then jettison everything except Jesus Christ, which leads them to orthodox Christianity.

Those who opt for Christianity are those who deal honestly with unpleasant facts. For example, Mormons are now asked to deal with historical evidence confirming Joseph Smith’s involvement in witchcraft. The fundamentalists say it isn’t so; the Liberals say it doesn’t matter; but the honest see that they must reexamine the roots of their faith.

When Latter-day Saints finally capitulate to the evidence it can be a very traumatic experience. They are brokenhearted. Some are angry. Most are disoriented. I have received letters from hundreds who tell me of the anguish they experience leaving the Church. All leave loved ones behind. Some feel used, like the man who described giving his whole life to Mormonism – thousands of dollars and years of service. And, ultimately, he gave his children. It is understandable that it may take many months or years to overcome feelings of bitterness.

Then there is the spiritual intimidation. Many exiting Mormons experience months of inexplicable fear. In fact nearly all the former Mormons I know – especially former temple Mormons (people who have passed through secret occult initiation rites) say that they have had bouts with bone-chilling fear. Many have demonic visitations, some in the form of dead relatives who beg them to return to the Church. (If anyone reading this is suffering from demonic oppression, pray right now that the shed blood of Jesus will protect you. Then get to a good Bible-believing church and get men and women of God to pray for you.)

Others report impaired mental faculties. Over and over again I hear, "Pastor, I just can’t think straight." One man said his own handwriting became so garbled he could barely read it. One lady thought she was being poisoned because she developed terrible physical symptoms. (See Appendix D: "Psychological Snapping in the Cults.")

Harassment is also financial. People lose their jobs. Friends of mine, former Mormons who were responsible for much of the revival in Vernal, Utah, lost a prosperous business, when they left the Church because Mormons would no longer patronize their store.

There is only one power on earth that can salve the loss and rejection a Latter-day Saint experiences when he leaves the faith: the power of Jesus. The exiting Mormon must find Jesus Christ as personal Lord and Savior. He must be born again. When he experiences the new birth, he is empowered to endure. Recently a thirty-five-year-old man, the father of five, read my book, Beyond Mormonism, and simultaneously befriended a born-again Christian. After months of study, he found Christ. One day Don told me that his wife, frustrated by his conversion, was seeking divorce with the approval of his Stake President who explained that by leaving the Church he had forced his wife to "look for someone else who can take her to the celestial kingdom."

At this time, it appears Don and his wife will divorce. In spite of faithful prayer by Don and many supportive Christian friends, finally the decision rests with his wife.

There is no way to explain the grace God gives those who choose to be obedient to Jesus. Those who have not had to make the choice between family and God cannot comprehend the flow of grace in that moment. Through the tears there is a very real sense of the presence of God and we come to know by experience the Scripture that says, "God is a very real help in time of trouble."

Don told me. "Brother, this is the pits. But, I know I am cradled in the arms of Jesus. I know I can take whatever the future holds for me." There is no turning back for Don. He has decided to follow Jesus.

If you are involved in helping Mormons leave the Church, you will need to be very sympathetic, understanding, and patient as the Latter-day Saint finds his or her way through the maze into the open air.

After years of study, conversations with Mormons, and my own personal experience, I believe Mormons must spiritually break with Mormonism before they are able to come to Christ.

I know people who disagree with me on this point. They think, they hope that God will move through the Mormon Church and convert people to Christ and allow them to remain Mormons. I don’t think that will happen; I don’t think it can happen.

The biblical example is that one must leave Egypt before he can come into the Promised Land. "I brought you out to bring you in," the Lord declares. Egypt could not be converted. Neither can Mormonism. The foundations of Babylon. Mormons must leave Mormonism before it falls into the abyss.

Church history teaches us that false religion, like all mediocre ideas, is doomed to failure, because it cannot sustain enthusiasm. Throughout the history of the Church of Jesus Christ, spurious groups, once they had broken with Christian orthodoxy, followed a path to oblivion:

Mormonism is at the beginning of decline. It is, in spite of its monolithic façade, crumbling, falling from the inside out. It must, according to the Bible, like all the children of Babylon, fall, "and great will be the fall thereof."

Our word to those who inhabit her borders must be: "Come out of her! Flee the wrath to come!"

As Mormons come out into the sunshine of God’s love and into the kingdom of light, it is our great privilege to know, love, and teach exiting Mormons.

I challenge you to be one who joins me in loving Mormons enough to tell them they have a terminal doctrinal disease. I challenge you to join me in helping them find safe havens and fellowship and pastors who will feed them.

Will you help me free my people, God’s beloved lost Latter-day Saints?

 

  1. The Denver Post, Special Reprint, "Utah: Inside the Church State," p.6.
  2. The Denver Post, Special Reprint, "Utah: Inside the Church State," p. 7-8.