Saturday, February 10, 2007

Jesus Christ/Joseph Smith Video: Professional Polish on a Counter-Cult Apologetic Misfire

The following was originally posted a week or so ago but was then removed due to the need to consider a request by evangelicals who produced the DVD in question to remove the post and to keep this video project secret until the mass distribution of the video to Latter-day Saints in March. At that time I removed the post and sent an inquiry to a Christian philosopher and ethicist asking his opinion on the request. He said in response, in part, that "I see no reason why their concern for secrecy is greater than your concern for justice" [among Latter-day Saints in the way in which we engage in ways of living and ministry among them that are ethical]. He continued and stated that "Being a Christian means conducting one's relationships, both inside and outside the church, in a virtuous and honorable way." Related to this, I am reviewing Hiebert, Shaw & Tienou's Understanding Folk Religion for an intensive course with Terry Muck next weekend, and in the Preface they describe their foundational assumptions for the book that are based on their commitment to the mission of God. In one of these guiding principles they state that "mission is about principles, not pragmatic answers," and remind us that "Christianity is about truth and righteousness, not only in the ends it seeks, but also the means it uses to achieve those ends." These considerations are relevant to my consideration of the request to maintain secrecy on this DVD project and after careful review I feel that it is appropriate to share my comments publicly on this DVD project for my readers, both evangelical and Latter-day Saint.





A few weeks ago I received a call from a friend in California who was inquiring about a new video he had heard of and he was asking for my opinion on its value. I told him I had not heard of it but was willing to review any information about it that he could pass along. I recently heard of this video again, the Jesus Christ/Joseph Smith video, through a friend of mine in Utah and I was able to secure a copy. Tri-Grace Ministries is spearheading this project, and is engaged in a large-scale distibution campaign to LDS doorsteps as well as other distribution methods this month.

After contacting the individuals associated with this project to share my thoughts and concerns, and having given them an opportunity to respond, I thought I might pass along some reflections of mine which came to mind after I reviewed the video.

First, let me state that I appreciated the comments made at the beginning of the film concerning the love those associated with this project have both for traditional Christians and Mormons. I believe that they are sincere and have the best intentions in the production and distribution of this video.

Second, I appreciate the professional production values evident in this video. It is evident that great effort was made to ensure that the look of the film reflected the highest quality possible.

Third, let me state that I share with the video's producers a common desire to help traditional Christians understand Mormonism in contrast with traditional Christianity, and to share our testimony concerning the gospel of Jesus Christ through deed and words with members of the LDS Church. We simply happen to have substantial disagreements on the philosophy and methodology undergirding how these worthy goals should be accomplished.

With these positive considerations in mind please consider the following areas of critique:

1. The title, Jesus Christ/Joseph Smith, will be immediately perceived by Latter-day Saints as a false dichotomy. While evangelicals surely disagree on their understanding of both Jesus Christ and Joseph Smith, nevertheless, Latter-day Saints will be immediately put off by the notion that they must choose one versus the other when they feel they can maintain both in their proper place in their beliefs. Good communication skills requires that we try to determine how our message is understood by others from their perspective, and if we put ourselves in the shoes of the Latter-day Saints it is clear that the title will be perceived as dichotomous and confrontational.

2. In the beginning of the video the hosts introduce the persons of Jesus and Joseph Smith, and while Jesus is introduced in the most flattering of Christian terms and concepts, Joseph Smith is presented as a deceiver, a madman, or a prophet. Will Latter-day Saints receive these interpretive options positively? Certainly not, and this characterization merely compounds the problematic title of the video.

3. The video criticizes the founder and prophet of the LDS Church and in so doing threatens the sacred narrative of the Latter-day Saints as a foundational element of the video project itself. Scholars have long noted the importance of sacred narratives to individual and community identity, and when these narratives are threatened the usual reaction is defensiveness, not receptivity to the criticism or the critic.

4. The video approaches the subject matter primarily from the perspectives of doctrinal contrast between traditional Christian orthodoxy and heresy and apologetic refutation of historic claims of the LDS Church. Please note that this is a specifically evangelical framework reflecting evangelical concerns for biblical fidelity, rational certitude, and historical veracity. By contrast, Mormonism as a culture tends to emphasize praxis, ethics, and cultural identity and inclusion. Given these differing foundational frameworks for religion, evangelicals will feel as if this video communicates from the appropriate starting point, but this will be lost on Latter-day Saints who simply practice their religion from dramatically different vantage points. Thus, the basic foundation and approach of the video virtually guarantees that this project will miss not communicate to its target audience.

5. In terms of the apologetic orientation of the video, this involves the same types of arguments that evangelicals have been using for years. Australian scholar and former Mormon John Bracht made two observations relevant to this in his masters thesis on Mormonism in the 1980s reflecting on The Godmakers film. He stated in the introduction that evangelical apologetic critiques of Mormonism tend to “simply draw attention to Mormon theology in the most simplistic and sensationalist terms.” He went further and noted that even though The Godmakers was one of the most widely distributed apologetic critiques of Mormonism, worldwide membership in the LDS Church continued to grow, and despite widespread evangelical apologetics against Mormonism, “Mormon proselytizing efforts have not been appreciably affected.” While I have no doubt that some Mormons have been persuaded by apologetic approaches such as that exemplified by Jesus Christ/Joseph Smith, the numbers have not been great, and despite a long history of apologetic interaction with Mormon culture the effects have been minimal. Thus, it would seem that this new project promises little more than what has been offered apologetically for many years by evangelicals, and while it may make evangelicals feel better in they have defined and defended the boundaries of traditional Christian orthodoxy, among the Mormon people it does little and amounts more to an exercise in preaching to the evangelical choir.

6. The video suffers from something Terry Muck has referred to in his book on religious studies methodology as the "error of triumphalism." This refers to depictions of other religions as inadequate with an accompanying idealization of one's own religion. Muck provides an example of unflattering depictions of the shortcomings of Muhammad related to Islam, and then states that "these statements may all be true, but how one then uses this information can be devastating." Jesus Christ/Joseph Smith engages in this error in relation to Joseph Smith by discussing aspects of his life in the most unflattering of ways, going so far at one point as paralleling his polygamous activities with Warren Jeffs. Regardless of whether a sound historical case can be made for this ethical portrait of Smith, quite unsurprisingly the reaction of Latter-day Saints will be extremely negative and will provide yet another reason for the video not to accomplish its purposes.

7. The distribution methods for this video appear to be largely impersonal, through door-to-door distribution, and perhaps through mailings. If this is the case, the videos will likely be distributed without any context of relationships, friendship, interpersonal credibility, and trust, and as a result the videos will likely do little more than see the inside of thousands of trash cans in Latter-Day Saints homes.

Other criticisms should be considered but these serious shortcomings should suffice for critical reflection. With these in mind I can only come to the conclusion that while many evangelicals are putting great hope in this video as a major evangelistic and apologetic that will reach the Latter-day Saints, in all likelihood it will be yet another failed project.

For all of these reasons I feel that it is my responsibility to let churches, pastors, and Christians know that I do not support this project, and that I feel it will set back other efforts by evangelicals while alienating us further from the Mormon people. I must also let my Mormon friends and contacts know that I do not agree with this project and that it does not represent the attitudes and efforts of myself or like-minded colleagues. There are other more promising ways forward and they must be explored.

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

Your analysis of the DVD's deficiencies parallels some comments in FAIR's pre-emptive response, released Saturday, March 24:

http://www.JosephSmithDVD.org

Mark Scott said...

On the eve of the distribution, I find it noteworthy that we appear to be placing a higher priority on tolerance, coexisting in our belief systems, and, at all costs, avoiding the appearance of confrontation. There seems to be a naivete that open dialogue is adequate (at a human level) to address the spiritual need present in Latter-day Saints. Confrontation in a vacuum of relationship will change few people. It can be perceived as polemic, uncaring, or hateful. Multiple New Testament examples could be cited, however, in support of Jesus, Peter, and Paul being confrontational after laying common ground from Old Testament Law, Psalms or Prophets. Articulate, caring confrontation that relies on the Holy Spirit to convict men and women and lead them to the Savior will be appreciated even by those who reject the message.
A greater concern that has not been addressed is the need to deal with one of Mormonism's greatest hindrances to hearing the Biblical Gospel: their submission to and unflinching commitment to Latter-day Saint authority. It is this authority that reinforces itself semiannually at General Conference and weekly in chapels throughout Mormonland. It is this authority which tells them to tolerate and compliment Biblical Christians but sends missionaries to those who show sincere interest in the LDS faith. It is this authority which instructs sincere, submitted Mormons everywhere to avoid any material that disagrees with LDS teaching as anti-Mormon including this DVD which clearly demarcates the two prophets and their claims. Jesus telling us to be wise as serpents but harmless as doves does not give us the right to proclaim the Gospel in underhanded ways. Neither does it prohibit us from using methods designed to circumvent an unscriptural authority system and challenge those who have been indoctrinated deeply in it to consider the spiritual peril they face. It should not be our goal to deliberately offend our LDS neighbors and coworkers. If we err by avoiding all offense and withholding the truth merely because it could offend or is uncomfortable to hear, we sin as greatly. This DVD will confirm some in their unbelief and convince them that some evangelicals are (incorrectly) anti-Mormon. It will also make some Latter-day Saints angry. I borrow the quote that an angry Mormon is a thinking Mormon if the truth has made him angry. May we pray for sleepless nights for many of the DVD's recipients until they wrestle with the truth and find their rest in the all-sufficient Jesus Christ of the Bible.

John W. Morehead said...

Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I had not seen it. While some evangelicals might view the similarities in critique troubling, in my view this indicates that my assessment is correct in how the shortcomings in this DVD will result in a lack of receptivity among its intended audience.

John W. Morehead said...

Mark, I normally do not post comments that do not interact with my posts but which merely use my views as a sounding board for criticism, but your comment provides a learning opportunity for us so I am pleased to post it.

You state that those such as myself who oppose and critique projects like the DVD do so because we place "a higher priority on tolerance, coexisting in our belief systems, and, at all costs, avoiding the appearance of confrontation." Nothing could be futher from the truth. Those of us pursuing an approach at interacting with Mormons and other religious cultures from a missional and interdisciplinary approach are not pursuing a compromise approach that avoids all distinctions and conflict of ideas between adherents of differing belief sytems. While we do not believe it is helpful or effective to be offensive (the gospel itself is an offense without those presenting it being an offense), this does not mean that we would shy away from appropriate forms of more aggressive rhetoric when a context warrants it. Your mischaracterization of our views, and the attempts to "baptize" confrontational approaches demonstrates and unfortunate tendency in many counter-cult cirlces at a lack of balance and fairness, and a corresponding theological, cultural, and missiological naivette. I hope you and those in your camp can make a decided effort to move beyond this and into more mature and in-depth reflection.

Anonymous said...

John,

I appreciate your initial post and further comments, especially the ones about the ethics of the content of this DVD.

I'm LDS - a fairly recent convert (6 yrs ago). I can empathize with Evangelicals wanting to "reach" Mormons as I am aware of the theological contrasts and concerns.

The problem I have with the DVD is that there are so many untruths (lies?) and mischaracterizations in it (to to www.JosephSmithDVD.org to see this demonstrated).

I don't believe that we have to play down differences between Christian denominations, although I do believe "tolerance" in the sense of honesty, respect, and fair play are important. Certainly "bearing false witness" should NOT be tolerated and I hope all Christians agree with that.

I don't doubt the sincerity of the people that participated in the production and distribution of the DVD; however, I do think they have gone about addressing their concerns and "witnessing" to LDS in all the wrong ways, telling untruths and being uncharitable the worst.

Jan

Gregory Smith said...

I might add to your comments that, as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the most offensive thing to me about the video is it's presumption to tell me what I do and don't believe.

The video's producers and interviewees have the temerity to explain that I don't have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and proceed to "spin" doctrine in a way that would be virtually unrecognizable to an active member of the Church.

They also ignore the fact that most of the positive expressions of belief (i.e., where they explain what they believe, rather than attacking what they think Mormons believe) are echoed both in Latter-day Saint understandings of the Bible and in the Book of Mormon.

If you want us to listen to you, stop telling us what we believe. Tell us what you believe.

The DVD strikes me much more as a defensive reaction among a small segment of the evangelical community, that is desperate to marginalize Mormons--and, no surprise since (as the distribution letter that goes with it notes) most LDS converts come from other Christian groups.

So, the audience isn't really the Mormons (rather hollow protestations of friendship and concern aside). It's other evangelicals, who can (the DVD hopes) be persuaded that Mormons are beyond the pale.

It is refreshing, though, to have my conviction that such behavior represents a fringe group in Evangelical Christianity confirmed by a fair-minded post like yours.

I'm sure you and I would disagree on some points of theology, but I think we could at least have a conversation--something clearly impossible with the Dave Hunts, Sandra Tanners, and Floyd McElveen's of the world.

These folks are practically caricatures of what "Anti-Mormon Evangelical" means to Mormons. They are far too vocal for their numbers.

Best wishes,

Greg Smith

John A. Dunne said...

In light of the DVD distribution that took place today, do you anticipate some kind of a reaction this weekend at General Conference? Since every member of Church hierarchy at least recieved the DVD. I'm curious about how this is going to play out. I'm planning on attending the LDS General Conference this weekend with some fellow students from Biola who have been a part of continuous interactions with BYU and several Institutes of Religion out in Utah. Our Biola team will be coming out for our Spring Break, which is the 6th through the 14th. It'll definitly be interesting to see how this DVD distribution plays a role in our future Dialogues. I've attended a few sessions with Biola in which you participated in a panel discussion and a one-on-one discussion with Bob Millet at BYU. Do you plan to be a part of this trip's BYU discussion?

John W. Morehead said...

John, thanks for your thoughts and questions. I will be part of these discussions if Greg and Erik invite me. :) I've been part of them in the past.

I don't know that this will come up either at General Conference or in the discussions. If it does it might be in a casual or general way. To mention it officially might be to give it more credence than the church would want to do. I think many LDS know that this represents the work of a vocal minority of evangelicals, as the comments on this blog and my emails indicate.

Anonymous said...

Like another commenter here, I too am LDS. I haven't seen the video yet, but I have seen plenty of anti-LDS material that uses approaches similar to what the video apparently uses.

There may be some LDS who are swayed by this sort of thing, but Mr. Morehead is right that the numbers will be minimal. Much of this material suffers from the "we know what you believe and you don't" syndrome that will be seen as arrogant at best.

Mormons have plenty of misconceptions about evangelical Protestantism, and if you could find some way of engaging their curiosity you might be able to get them to listen. But going on the attack with half-truths simply isn't going to be persuasive.

Part of the problem (trying to look at this from the perspective of someone trying to "convert" LDS) is that Mormons find it incomprehensible that anyone would consider them non-Christian. Jesus Christ is the focus of the religion. He's not only our savior and redeemer but also the creator and the one (along with the Father) whom we worship. Tell us that we're not Christian, and we're simply not going to listen, because we know that's balderdash.

Also, the LDS faith, in teaching if not always in practice, is very tolerant of other faiths. It is literally an article of the faith that people should be able to worship God as they wish, and all religions are seen as being true in part. Many non-LDS Christians are highly thought of -- C.S. Lewis, Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King are some historical ones that come to mind. We expect to see many non-LDS in heaven (and, in fact, that's why we have so many temples). So again it seems a bit baffling to be attacked as a cult and that sort of thing when our rhetoric toward those who disagree with us isn't nearly so harsh.

Anonymous said...

This DVD is a giant yawner. There is absolutely nothing new in this DVD compared to what the anti-Mormons were saying in 1965 except the "new" issues of DNA and the Book of Abraham.

The shrill shrieks of this self-marginalized group of "Christians" will have no effect whatsoever on the LDS church leadership or general membership. Sure, a few Mormons might leave (ones that would probably end up leaving anyway over time), but the renewed energy of many LDS to respond to this will almost certainly result in new conversions that will far outweigh any direct membership loss.

I wonder when the countercultists will ever realize that their strident methods and approaches are actually counterproductive to their professed goals.

Never, I hope...

Anonymous said...

John,

I think the approach of the DVD represents a failing that I have noted in many domains of interest. That failing is to set down The Goal, and then to view every approach that brings one closer to The Goal as productive, and every approach that takes one farther from The Goal as unproductive. And then, consequentially, (as you came close to pointing out), by examing the actual (likely) effects of an approach taken, one can back-trace to what the actual goal may be versus the stated goal. However, sometimes the stated goal really is the actual goal, but one has blinders on to the fact that the actions taken are counter-productive to The Goal.

A few examples:
1) What is the Goal of the Libertarian Party, and do their actions accomplish it? If it is actually effecting political change, in large part their actions are ineffective due to many insisting on a purist idealogy as opposed to practical results. (I know there are a growing number of Libertarians wishing to overcome this tendency)

2) Abortion. United we stand, divided we fall. One camp insists that anything short of illegalizing all abortion is to compromise principle, and therefore will even work against other camps that allow for exemptions such as rape, incest, health of mother. Because the multiple camps do not unite, due to purist stances on part of them all, the anti-infanticide camps are less effective than they could be. If the goal is "Significantly reduce the number of abortions performed each year", then the 'none-at-all' camp could in clear conscience work together with the 'some-exemptions' camp for a 90% solution. Wouldn't it be better to successfully stop 90% of abortions and then continue the battle for the last 10% than to maintain a pure, "principled" stance, keeping anti-infanticide camps divided and less effective.

3. The Drug War. Is the Goal to reduce the amount of usage or drugs? I believe it fails in moving towards the goal, and actually moves us farther away. Illegalizing drugs forces them into the black-market with all black-market pathologies, including that of only criminals taking the risk to supply the demand, creating scarcity, thus greatly increased prices & thus profits, thus criminal empires and their methods of 'prosyliting' their product resulting in more usage than the natural level. I feel the Drug War moves us away from the Goal, and education programs, legalizing + taxation and regulation would be more appropriate. Prohibition demonstrated the innefectiveness of the first approach, being tried again in the context of other drugs today.

4. This DVD, if The Goal is "generate a large response and exodus of mormons from their false beliefs and church."

Note, I must credit my recent thinking on The Goal and Productive and Unproductive to Eliyahu Goldratt and his book "The Goal" which is actually about manufacturing processes. However, I've extracted the general principle.

John W. Morehead said...

Thanks for these thoughts on "The Goal." I think this is important in that in my view the counter-cult may not often think clearly about goals in the context of how others will respond to what is used to reach the goal. If the goal is to see a mass exodus from Mormonism, or even a small exodus, then I believe this will fail, for the reasons my critique of the DVD indicates. I believe that if the goal is defined as gaining a fair hearing from LDS that too will fail. And I think it fall short if the goal is to inform evangelicals as to LDS distinctives and how our religious systems different. There are simply better, more accurate, and just ways in which to accomplish any number of goals.

rameumptom said...

As a Latter-day Saint, I'm glad to see this discussion here. I am always happy to hear others views, because I can often gain great insight and greater knowledge and truth from them. This video, if it is like many of the other slasher films out there, do not engage me. I can knock down the arguments easily, especially if they are specious ones, built up as straw men. But when someone discusses their own experience of Christ with me, then I am enriched, and we both gain from the experience - even if I remain Mormon and they remain evangelical.

Penny said...

I too understand where the makers of this DVD are coming from and believe they think they are doing the right thing.
In the past, anti-Latter-Day Saint productions have tried to prevent non-LDS from listening to the message we have to share. They may be successful in holding on to their own flock by using this approach, for a while at least. One need only know a faithful Latter-day Saint to know that we are not the blinded, brainwashed cult members they think we are. In fact, when their congregation learns that they have been led astray in regards to our beliefs, they will lose the trust of their members.
I have been LDS for 21 years. Before that time I refused all religion because of the hypocritical actions of the religious leaders I was acquainted with.
As stated before by another blogger, do not think you can tell me what I and the LDS Church believes. Most active Latter-day Saints are reasonably acquainted with the teachings/beliefs of the Church, that may be a difference they have not encountered before. We do not baptize people just because they ask to be baptized. you cannot be baptized unless you have received several lessons on the basics of our beliefs.
The main thing that the makers of this DVD have not taken into consideration is that we have felt the confirmation of the Holy Ghost. You cannot take that testimony away, although some come to forget what they once felt, usually through transgression. My testimony is not up for sale. I know what I know. Jesus himself said the same thing our missionaries teach. Do not believe only on the words, but seek the confirmation of the Spirit. By the Spirit you can know the truth of all things. God is not the author of fear, but of a sound mind. Do not be afraid of the teachings of the Latter-day Saints. What is there to fear, that you might become an instrument in doing some good in the world? What is this great evil that makes us so despised? I help my child's school, I help my neighbors (of any faith or no faith at all), I pay my taxes, I am honest with my fellow man, and I serve in my church callings. Why does it make other Christians uncomfortable? I do not worship Joseph Smith, but respect and appreciate him. I pray only to my Father in Heaven in the name of my Savior Jesus Christ. I worship no other.
I express my gratitude to those who see these misguided attempts for what they are.

rene.krywult@chello.at said...

John,
Being an LDS from Europe, and also an active apologist (though - like everybody else - unpaid ;-)) for the CoJCoLDS, I must say that I'm troubled. Not by this movie, nor by your blog entry, but basically by the mindset behind most evangelical apologetics.

The movie fails to reach the professed audience, because its makers do not understand Mormons, but only know a caricature of Mormonism. This is also true, for instance, for mark scott.

Different religious groups use different languages, and if one wants to communicate, one has to learn the language first. One has to understand the concepts. One has to know, what the other really believes. And then one can start sharing. And I repeat: Sharing, not tearing down.

But as you have shown so correctly, this video is more about "preaching to the Choir" and "marginalizingdemonizing Mormonism" than about confessing christ as the savior.

Are those countercultists really so afraid of Mormonism, that they cannot simply deal with truth, instead of sensationalism?

I've been a Catholic, before I became a Mormon, and I had 700 hours of Catholic religious education, plus an altar boy course and pre-confirmation lessons, before I became a Mormon. As a Mormon, I've attended 160 hours of Lutheran religious education. And yet, I had to listen to protestants for many hours, until I started to understand what they mean, when talking about grace (one of the obstacles is the nonsense many lay members of protestant churches produce when talking about this).

Why do those counter cultists not start out with taking the Missionary discussions, then attending Mormon church services, not with the eye of disgust, but as someone who wants to understand what others think, before they carry owls to Athens and misrepresent us?

I've read tons of antimormon publications (and yes, my elders quorum president, my bishop, my stake president, and even the Area Presidency knows it and encouraged me), before I was ready to say anything about countercultists. Why can't they start out on a "fact finding mission", before they put bags full of dollars into a technically well made (and probably even well meaning) but utterly nonsensical video project?

Why do evangelical countercultists blame Mormons for their history, when they themselves are so ignorant about their own? Why do they not know, what Luther and Bucer had to say about Polygamy? Why do they not know how christ-like Calvin reacted to someone rejecting trinitarism? Why don't they know about Luther's antisemitism and anti-witch attitudes? Why don't they know what Luther REALLY had to say about faith without works?

And how can they even hope to convince us of their gospel, when their acts tread Christ's moral teachings with feet?

Thank you for rejecting this video, and thank you for hereby showing that not all protestants are uninformed, when it comes to Christian behavior.

I wished, that all Christians, instead of fighting each others, would heed Lessing's famous Parable of the Ring. Ad maiorem gloriam dei, this would be beneficial in reaching those who know not Christ's voice, because it is drowned in the hateful voices of his followers.

In Christ
Rene Krywult, Vienna, Austria, Europe

Anonymous said...

I am not Mormon but I have friends who are. Our minister told us about the "secret weapon" for "saving our Mormon friends" some time ago (the DVD) and asked for a show of hands of those who are acquainted with a mormon. He promised us each a copy to give away. Although conflicted, I chose not to raise my hand. I have always been uncomfortable with how much energy our minister spends talking down the mormons, who are my friends and neighbors. Frankly, it makes me curious to know what he is so threatened by. I have never had the nerve to ask him, for fear of sounding unfaitful. He never really sounds like someone wanting to save the mormon's souls. He sounds more like a CEO who is threatened by an approaching competitor. Why all the fuss? My mormon friends seem happy and when they have offered the prayer at our Booster Club meeting, they pray like we do, their children are very well mannered when at our home and are actually better versed on the biblical stories than my own children. They look, act and sound like average christians to me. They have occasionally invited me to their church events and worship services, which I have always politely declined. However, this DVD causes me to again ask myself, why all the fuss? So I have decided to tell my mormon friends that I would like to visit their church service to see what really goes on inside. Do they spend any time worshiping Christ Jesus or are they just as busy as our church, talking about losing membership to the evangelical world? I am eager to find out. Our minister has frequently told us that people who are in a cult often don't even realize it. If thats true, is it possible I am the one in a cult? Some sort of anti-mormon cult? I would like to think not, but the constant attention and focus on the mormons makes me wonder sometimes.
Tara

Anonymous said...

As a concerned Independant Baptist Christian, We must follow GOD's word and make every effort to get the TRUTH to all those bound for HELL! Mormons fit that category! I disagree with your final analysis! A born again, blood washed Christian who loves all!

John W. Morehead said...

Tara, I appreciate your comments. As my initial post and comments indicate I had concerns about this DVD project, as I do about other approaches to Mormonism and new religions in general by evangelicals. This does not mean that I do not have my disagreements with Mormonism and with fellow Mormons. I think we have areas in common, but also great differences. I simply want to pursue a different path in how these differences are shared. But in this process I want us to be careful in recognizing that the differences exist.

John W. Morehead said...

I posted your comment to help illustrate a point. I too am a Christian who has had a life-changing experience with Jesus, and I am interested in sharing the message of Jesus with religious others, including Latter-day Saints, but this does not mean that every way in which we do so is legitimate or appropriate. It seems as if you did not make any attempt to put yourself in the shoes of the Mormons in order to discern how they would receive such a video. The point is, the vast majority won't be able to "hear" it at all.

Anonymous said...

Some very close freinds spent this past year on a search to find the truth. They mapped out a course to visit several different churches that professed to follow Christ. They actually started at the mormon church because a family member had recently converted and encouraged them to look into it. they went for a few weeks, then moved on to the catholic chuech, and several protestant and evangelical churches in the area, spending several weeks at some of them. They came back to the mormon church several months later. Last week I had the privelege of baptizing them and confirming them members of the church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints. When they first started their search I told them that I would love to help them learn about the Mormon church but that the only way they would know if it were true would be to pray to find out through the Holy Spirit for themselves. I also told them that no matter what church they joined, they would always be my dear freinds. In the week before their baptism, Evangelicals came out of the woodwork to give them anti-mormon literature and called them daily to "save" them from their terrible decision. Two things really bothered my friends and actually helped cement their decision. They were so turned off that some of their evangelical friends tried to impose themselves as experts on Momonism, and on several occasions told them things that they had already learned first hand were completely false. The other disturbing thing for them was that many of these Evangelicals made it very clear that their friendship would be affected if they were to join the Mormon church. Thankfully they had the strength to choose the judgement of God over the judgement of these so called Christian friends.
This DVD and those who push it will have the same effect on Mormon's and those investigating the Mormon church. It will backfire and be a turn-off to many more than those who are actually affected by it.

Whitman said...

Thanks for this conversation. I found it very interesting and instructive. I am a Lutheran who has had loads of contact with LDS people, generally positive.

Two things seem clear to me:

1. If people want to save Mormons from their own faith, then they need to offer something better than that faith. The DVD, based on your description, does not seem to do that. It seeks to destroy, not build. My understanding is that most Mormons who leave their church become agnostics rather than join other Christian faiths. Is that because they don't see mainstream Christianity reaching out to them at all? I realize the LDS church resists ecumincalism generally, but can't small steps be taken?

2. This hang-up about who is or is not a Christian has to go. It is beneath us as members of the body of Christ to try to exclude those who would like to be included on almost any sincere terms.

John W. Morehead said...

Thanks for your comments, Whitman. I would respond briefly to what you wrote by noting that in my view the approach many evangelicals use of tearing down the faith of Mormons, or what has been called worldview annihilation, without the presentation of the gospel of Jesus in their cultural forms and the presentation of the abilty for the Mormon to retain much of their culture and religious capital (to use sociologist Rodney Stark's phrase) often leads to agnosticism or atheism. How might we do better.

And I do not so much want to save Mormons as I recognize I can't do that (all usch efforts are the work of the Spirit), as I want to communicate the gospel and the spiritual pathway of Jesus in ways that resonate with members of this culture while leaving the choice to them and the results to God.

busted_knuckle said...

After reading your analysis of the DVD at issue, and your responses to the comments posted by others, I admire your ethics and principles in how you approached this situation. Truly, you are a doer of the Lord's word.

As an LDS member, I rejoice when I find someone of another faith who respects the religious differences of others, and looks forward to discussing doctrinal similarities and differences for mutual benefit. Furthermore, I appreciate any Christian from another church asking to share their beliefs with me in hopes of helping me seek greater understanding of the gospel and greater guidance from the Lord Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit.

I hope that the Lord continues to enlighten you with His guidance, light and knowledge as the dews from Heaven.

Gratefully yours,

Joshua, southern California.

Anonymous said...

I found out about this extremely funny and sad attempt to convert us by coming out of our ward chapel and finding the dvd on our windshield. (I am a non-Utah member so ours were distributed at our chapel parking lots by placing on car windshields.)

I feel so sorry for the groups that must have spent a huge amount of money on this obviously expensive production - it's a shame they couldn't have spent about 5% of their production budget on buying books, magazines, and papers that would have actually explained what LDS beliefs and theology really is! (Not to mention actually talking to some of us - but perhaps they were afraid we or our writings might contaminate them?) Had they read these and then based their program on knowing what we actually believe and practice they might have at least gotten some of us to watch all the way through without laughter at their complete lack understanding of what we and our faith is all about and without real disgust at their attitude which was perceived (in our family at least) as insulting and demeaning.

Trust me - nobody listens to a person trying to sell an idea if that person is as inaccurate and rude as this dvd is and if this dvd wasn't intended to sell their version of Christianity("the only correct version of Christianity" in their minds) what was it? An excercise in expensive insulting perhaps? People who don't listen to what is being said before they speak are usually ignored. I am afraid these people just spent a fortune to be ignored as well as to lessen the chance that they will ever be heard or taken seriously at some future time if by that future time they should ever smarten up in how they express themselves - as the damage will already be done - LDS members will have dismissed their messages based on the major mistake that this one was.

Anonymous said...

I am awaiting a copy of the book, and DVD. I did watch the internet version of it. One of my chief complaints about critic's of the Mormon church is they don't interact with current LDS apologetics. So they repeat horrible trivia that's been answered. I am not actually LDS but Community of Christ (formerly the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints).

Anonymous said...

As a devout member of the LDS church for 43 years, I have gone out of my way to consider and weigh all beliefs against my own in a respectful, logical and honest manner both inside and outside my faith, including teachings from LDS conference. Some of my leaders and friends would consider questioning my own leaders a slippery slope to "apostasy", but I believe this life is a quest for truth and I don't totally trust anyone except my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I did not come this this earth to be a "kool aid drinker" but to think and act for myself, and I believe Christ would want us to "question" our beliefs. Because of this, I have found beautiful gems of truth in every religion I have studied, even in non-Christian religions such as Budhism and Judaism. I have also discovered that even some of us Mormons spin things to our own advantage, and we justify ourselves by thinking that the ends justify the means.

Just as you say, this new video is nothing "new" or inspiring; just the same old playbook with a new cover. It will have no sway in the long term on the growth of Mormonism other than to make the "anti's" feel better about themselves as they "stew in their own juices" (to use the same line apppied to Mormons by a producer and spokesman for the video)

Many of us Mormons love open, honest, balanced and respectful discussion about our beliefs. This video is none of the above, and the vast majority of LDS will see this for what it really is...a mugging in a back alley for any who might be persuaded to go there. Anyone capable of producing such is not the kind, loving, concerned or honorable person they claim to be. Jesus of the New Testament would never make and distribute anything like this. If they are true disciples, why would they?

Bartdude said...

I found the Jesus Christ/Joseph Smith documentary on the Internet and am downloading it. I was curious to know the content of the documentary which brought me here. I am LDS. I have read the Old Testament cover to cover four times and the New Testament a dozen times. I have collected all Apocryphal books, in addition to the Gnostic books, and all of the Ante-Nicene fathers--all 10,000 pages. I have also acquired many of the writings of the Great Reformers. In addition, I have acquired many biblical scholarship texts from non-LDS writers. To the extent allowable, I have been reading these materials. I have also been exhaustively studying general history of the middle-east and Europe, including the pre-Nicene, post-Nicene, Dark age, and Reformation periods. In sum, there is a lot of information out there, and it take considerable time and discipline to figure out the past 2000 years. As I study the anti-Mormon positions, I keep coming back to several questions: Why are these anti-Mormons so convinced that they have mastered the truth? Why are they so convinced that the Nicene Creed came from the hand of the Almighty? Why are they so convinced that text of diverse writings that were ultimately combined into the text we know as the Bible was the last and final word from the Almighty? And foremost, why are they so convinced that the interpretations that they share are the last word on the Truth? I have studied anti-Mormon writings for years. Frankly, I find the writings shallow, superficial, and flagrantly misleading. We are all searching for the Truth, and are seeking to stay connected to the Almighty God. As I return to anti-Mormon writings of various Christian groups, I do not sense that these groups are really searching for truth. If I did, I may listen more attentively to their positions.