Ed Decker has recently released a new "Updated and Expanded" edition of The God Makers. Releasing a new edition seems advisable due to the number of errors and distortion of facts contained in the original edition (one of which we point out in out in the article by Malin Jacobs on the so called 56-year Second-Coming prophecy of Joseph Smith). This response, written in 1986 and revised in 1995, was provided to us by Robert Starling and is reproduced with his approval of minor grammar and punctuation changes. - SDB
A MORMON CHALLENGES "THE GODMAKERS" MOVIE
The movie "The Godmakers" is described by a multi-denominational group, the National Conference of Christians and Jews, as "making extensive use of 'half-truth', faulty generalizations, erroneous interpretations, and sensationalism. It is not reflective of the genuine spirit of the Mormon faith."
Unable to accept this assessment, the supporters of the film have demanded specific examples of the above-mentioned faults. The following is a partial list of such specifics in the approximate order that they are found in the film.
1. LDS temple services are said to be "reserved for an elite few." In actuality, great efforts are made to assist all members to align their lives with the principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ so that they may enter the temples. They are not "reserved" for the "elite." If not all members worship there, it is by their own choice, and represents a fulfillment of the Biblical truth, "many are called, but few are chosen," for "strait is the gate and narrow the way, and few there be that find it."
2. After LDS mission president Harold R. Goodman described the interview for receiving a temple recommend, a misleading film edit was made so that he seemed to say, "that is the only way we can be with our Heavenly Father." While it is true that certain of the highest heavenly rewards are contingent on making covenants with God in the temple (and living up to them), this is not required for salvation and entrance into the Celestial Kingdom where we will be in the presence of our Heavenly Father. Anyone familiar with LDS doctrine knows this, and the film was edited in such a way as to create a deliberate deception.
3. It was said that "many Mormons came thousands of miles and stood in the rain" to tour the Seattle temple before its dedication because "this may be the only time they may be allowed to enter a Mormon temple" as one of the "select few." In view of #1 above, any LDS member who cared enough about the temple to make that kind of a journey would certainly find it easier to obtain a recommend and attend a temple nearer home. The statement was absurd and unfounded.
4. The Mormon "gods" were said to have "worked their way up" to become gods. This is alien to LDS theology. While we believe that we are the "offspring of God," (Heb. 12:9, Acts 17:29, Ps.82:6) and "joint heirs with Christ," (Rom.8:17, 1 Jn.3:2, Rev. 3:21) we can no more "work ourselves up" to godhood than a piece of coal can "work itself up" to become a diamond or a caterpillar can "work itself up" to be a butterfly. In each case the potential is there, but it is God who must work the miracle. He is the only "Godmaker"!
LDS strive to follow the Savior's admonition to "Be ye perfect even as your Father in Heaven is perfect."(Matt.5:48) And yet we know that "we have all sinned and come short" of that perfection. In fact, we know that we won't achieve it in this life, and that we must all rely on the Grace of Christ to return to the presence of our Heavenly Father. But "we know that when he shall appear, we shall be like him"(1 John 3:2).
Following the admonition of Paul, we as Latter-day Saints "let this mind be in (us) which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God." (Philippians 2:5,6) We do not apologize for believing the Bible. Most Christians consider themselves "a child of the King," yet they don't know what that really means. Latter-day Saints believe the Bible when it says the faithful children of our Heavenly Father are to inherit the kingdom, receive a throne, and sit at the right hand of God. (Rev. 3:21)
5. The quote "As man is, God once was, and as God is, man may become" was credited to James E. Talmadge. It was Lorenzo Snow who said this. This is a small thing, but it's evidence of poor research and a disregard for accuracy. Almost any LDS high school seminary student could give the correct attribution for this quote.
6. To demean God's Biblical command to "be fruitful and multiply" by referring to "endless Celestial sex" is an example of the tasteless sensationalism decried by the National Council of Christians and Jews in their report which totally discredited this film.
7. The principles of Celestial Marriage and Eternal Progression were said to be "secrets" that "Mormons don't talk about." This is untrue. While the principle of man's becoming like our Heavenly Father is not discussed in our church meetings nearly as much as one would believe from reading anti-Mormon literature, it is certainly not a secret.
8. Mormonism is described as being far removed from "orthodox" Christianity. It must be remembered that orthodoxy is often subjective in its definition. Christ himself flew in the face of the religious "orthodoxy" of His time. But who was right? Our Lord, or the Scribes and Pharisees? In reality the LDS church is much closer to the "orthodoxy" of the original first century Christians than other churches in the world today. (The popular Protestant doctrine of salvation by faith alone is itself far removed from the historic Catholic theology by which "orthodoxy" was defined for over 1,000 years!)
9. A story is shown in animation of Elohim growing up as a mortal on a planet and later becoming God, our Heavenly Father. Somehow this is implied to be a fantastic and un-Christian doctrine. Yet this is exactly like the story told in the four Gospels of the mortal existence of our Lord Jesus Christ, who later rose from the dead and received the fullness of His glory as God the Son, equal in power and dominion with His Father. Jesus said that he did nothing that he had not seen the Father do. (John 5:19) If Jesus is God, yet lived as a mortal, then why could not His Father have done the same?
10. Blacks are described as being "neutral" in the war that was fought in heaven against Lucifer and the spirits who followed him. This is incorrect. LDS are taught that there were no neutrals in that conflict.
The implication in the film that the LDS church is racist is unjustified. Many blacks and other minorities hold responsible positions of leadership in our Church, and our Indian Placement Program (where LDS members open their homes to assist in the education of Native American children) is unequaled by any other Christian denomination.
11. God the Father (Elohim) is pictured "returning to Earth in human form from the 'starbase Kolob' to have sex with the Virgin Mary in order to provide Jesus with a physical body." The caricature of the Lord of the Universe knocking on the door of a home in Nazareth in the middle of the night is a total perversion of LDS beliefs and has rightly been called "religious pornography" by many Christians who have more taste than the people who produced this film.
Two marvelous events happened on that wondrous night (or day) when Jesus was conceived in Mary's womb. According to the Bible, (1) the Holy Ghost came upon her, and (2) the power of the Highest "overshadowed" her. The first was necessary because no mortal can endure the presence of God the Father without the protection of the Holy Ghost. But Jesus is not the son of the Holy Ghost. God the Father is "the Highest," and it is He who is the father of Jesus. To say otherwise is to "wrest the scriptures."
12. A few speculative remarks from early LDS leaders regarding Jesus having married and fathered children is implied to be official Church doctrine, which it is not. However such a doctrine would not be un-Christian, since the Bible is silent on the subject. (In fact a Presbyterian minister in West Virginia has written a book giving Biblical reasons why he believes that Jesus was indeed married!)
13. Joseph Smith is described as "a young treasure seeker." Although he did once hire out as a laborer for a man looking for treasure, this derogatory term is a definite "half truth" and in no way accurately describes his usual occupation or character.
It is also highly questionable whether it can be substantiated that he was "known for his tall tales," or if this is merely an invention of the film's authors. His mother said he shared stories from The Book of Mormon history with family members, but these are no more "tall tales" than telling about Moses parting the Red Sea.
14. Statement from the film: "The Mormons thank God for Joseph Smith, who claimed that he had done more for us than any other man, including Jesus Christ." This is patently false. The original quote from D & C 135:3 said Joseph Smith had done more for the salvation of men" save Jesus only" than any other man who had lived in the world. There is a world of difference in the two statements, and difference is the truth of what was said versus the deception of those who have deliberately misquoted Joseph Smith.
Defenders of the film have confused this misquote with another reference in LDS Church history (taken from the book also titled The God Makers, not the movie, which is what I am dealing with here) where Joseph Smith said of "keeping a whole church together" that "neither Paul, John, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such a work as I!" (Let the reader compare the three quotes to see where the deception lies!) Here, Joseph did not say that he was greater than Jesus as the anti-Mormons have claimed, but rather that he had done a greater work than Jesus. Was this blasphemy? Or fulfillment of a prophecy made by Jesus himself? In John 14:12, the Lord said of whoever believed on Him; "the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do..."
Perhaps Joseph did get a little carried away in his boasting of what happened to be a true fact of history. But this is a human fallibility that Joseph shared with many other Biblical prophets (see Paul in 2 Cor. 11:16-33). In no way does this negate his prophetic calling nor invalidate the truthfulness of the church he restored. To even mention it shows how desperately the critics of the LDS church are grasping at straws. A quick reading of Joseph's speeches or writings would show immediately that neither he nor his followers have ever considered him to be greater than Jesus Christ.
15. It is stated that "the Mormon church pressures individuals into divorcing their spouses when they are not measuring up to the Church's standards." This is totally untrue. Several ex-Mormons interviewed in the film said they were counseled by their Bishops to divorce. A quick look at handbooks for Bishops will reveal that the official Church policy is quite the contrary. LDS couples are counseled to make every effort to strengthen and preserve their marriages and families. If Ed Decker knows "literally hundreds of families with stories like this" (being advised to divorce), then why did he have to hire actors to portray 2 of the "estranged husbands" in the film? (These were in addition to two other actors playing attorneys.)
16. One of the major allegations of the film is that "there is a whole area of psychiatric care dealing with depression in the Mormon woman." Much has been made of a 1983 TV documentary produced by KSL television in Salt Lake City called "Mormon Women and Depression." (I watched it and have it on videocassette.) It is never mentioned, however, that this was only one part of a series of programs on depression in various segments of the Utah population. Its importance has been blown out of proportion... another example of the "half truths" in this film which were condemned by the investigators from the NCCJ.
It should also be noted that in the last few years there has been a rise in the awareness of depression in women in general (some think it's brought on by the feminist movement), and a recognition of illnesses like Pre-Menstrual Syndrome, etc. If one is to believe the multitude of commercials heard on Christian radio stations (at least in the LA area) which advertise counseling and PMS treatment centers, it could more legitimately be said that "there is a whole area of psychiatric care dealing with depression in CHRISTIAN women." To single out Mormonism as a cause of depression is at best false and misleading. I have no doubt that virtually 100 percent of LDS women who feel depressed would say if asked that their faith in Christ which they're taught in the Mormon church is their greatest help in OVERCOMING that depression.
17. According to Ed Decker in the film, "Heaven to the Mormon woman is being pregnant for all eternity, one spirit baby after the next." A mental picture is thus drawn which is supposed to be repugnant to today's "liberated" women and somehow un-Christian. In reality, God has not yet completely revealed the process by which spirit children are added to His eternal family (of which we are all a part). But surely the process is more sophisticated than the nine-month gestation period and pregnancy through which mortal women suffer to give birth. It was only after the Fall that God said to the woman Eve, "I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children." Therefore "pregnant" is a term which in all likelihood is applicable only to the post-Fall mortal condition.
18. Sandra Tanner is described as "considered to be one of the greatest living authorities on Mormonism." Considered by whom? Anti-Mormons? Being an "expert" on only one side of an issue doesn't make one an "authority." Dr. Jan Shipps, a non-Mormon professor at Indiana University At Indianapolis is a much more believable "expert." Her book entitled Mormonism, A New Religious Tradition is acclaimed as an objective alternative to Tanner's polemic tome.
19. Mrs. Tanner says Utah (67% LDS) has a higher rate of divorce and suicide than the national average. Teen suicide is supposedly much higher than nationally. "This is partly due to the fact the Mormons emphasize perfection," she says. (For more details on the questionable statistics, see #44 below)
Is it un-Christian to strive for perfection? Was it not Christ himself who said "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect"? (Matt.5:48) And though we, like Paul, have not "already attained" perfection, but "follow after" as we "press toward the mark" (Philip 3:12), is not the purpose of the church "for the perfecting of the saints" (Eph. 4:12)?
A truly heart-rending and tragic case is presented of 16-year old Kip Eliason who committed suicide in 1982. When he approached LDS counselors regarding his "sexual feelings that were in direct conflict with the teachings of the Church," they lovingly reinforced those teachings and standards. This is implied to have led to the boy's death, and therefore is supposedly another proof that the LDS Church is not Christian.
Ironically, an almost identical case of a teen's suicide after receiving counseling from a religious leader has led to a landmark lawsuit filed by the second boy's parents. Except in this case the defendant is not a Mormon but a leading figure in the Evangelical Christian community who is also an ardent supporter of "The Godmakers." Did not Jesus say that we should cast out the beam in our own eye before worrying about the mote in the eye of our neighbor? Clearly, this kind of tragedy can happen in any church. Such exploitation of the Eliason family's grief by the filmmakers is unforgivable!
20. Ed Decker charges that The Book of Mormon calls the "Christian body" the "whore of Babylon." Actually two churches are mentioned in 1 Nephi 14:10--the "church of the Lamb of God" and the "church of the devil." It is the latter which is described as "whore of all the earth." However this church is further described in 1 Nephi 22:23 as actually a collection of "all churches which are built up to get gain, and all those who are built up to get power over the flesh, and those who are built up to become popular in the eyes of the world."..etc. Only those churches which fit this description need worry (and according to the complaints of many Christians, there unfortunately seems to be quite a few of them).
21. Ed Decker also charges in the film that the LDS temple ceremony "mocks the Christian pastor and calls him a hireling of Satan." The depicting of a nameless clergyman in the temple instruction is simply a teaching device where he recites the traditional creeds regarding the nature of God, which we believe to be in error. No disrespect or "mocking" of any Christian pastor or any denomination is intended. In fact, the minister's integrity is demonstrated when he repents and changes his ways after he learns the truth from the apostles Peter, James, and John. (Note: Recent changes in the temple films have deleted the above altogether.)
22. The film's narrator states that: "Mormons are instructed to use Christian terminology when talking to potential converts. Words such as 'God', 'Jesus', and 'salvation' all have different Mormon meanings which the outsider may not be aware of..."
LDS members use no different terminology when talking to non-LDS than when talking to each other. The sort of sinister deception that is implied simply does not exist. Any deviation from the Biblical usage and definition of the above words lies with the film's authors, not with the Latter-day Saints.
23. Reference is made to "nine versions" told of Joseph Smith's First Vision, "each of which contradicts the other." These "unpublished" accounts are supposedly "deliberately kept from you by Mormon leaders" to conceal the truth. As a point of fact, the different versions were published in a feature article by James B. Allen in the official LDS church magazine The Improvement Era (April 1970) with the express approval of the "Mormon leaders," for all to see. An in-depth article on this subject by Dean Jesse was also published in BYU Studies (Spring 1969).
A careful comparison will show that there is no more "contradiction" among the accounts than one will find in comparing the four descriptions of the life of Jesus found in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. In each case, different aspects of the events were emphasized or highlighted according to the needs of the intended audience at the time of the writing.
Similarly in Acts 9,22,&26 we find three different accounts of Saul's "first vision," with discrepancies as to who fell down and whether those with Saul saw the light or heard the voice, etc. Yet both Saul's and Joseph's visions did take place. (They are actually quite similar.)
24. The film points out that there have been many changes in the LDS scriptures in their various editions. This is implied to be a fatal flaw. If so, then the rest of Christianity must share the same deficiency considering the thousands of changes made in the Bible in the hundreds of translations and editions that have been printed. Usually changes in LDS scripture have been made to correct typographical or punctuation errors, or to make the text either (1) agree more closely with the earliest editions, (2) seem more grammatically palatable to the modern reader, or (3) express under inspiration a clearer meaning of the original intent. (see #28 below)
25. Statements said to be made by Joseph Smith and Brigham Young regarding the possible inhabitants of the sun and moon were reported from journal entries or from third-hand memory, and are suspect. To imply that those quotes really represent LDS doctrine is another in a long list of distortions in this propaganda film.
But the real issue is, can a prophet believe something which is found to be in error by the science of a later age? If the Bible is true, the answer is yes. Leviticus 11 and Deut. 14 list the hare as an animal that chews the cud, which science has disproved. And Gen.30:35--43 says that placing striped sticks in view of mating animals results in striped offspring. ...Moon men? These examples sound equally absurd in light of modern day scientific knowledge. The Rev. J. R. Dummelow in his One Volume Bible Commentary said something about the author of Genesis which could equally be applied to Joseph Smith or Brigham Young: "His scientific knowledge may be bounded by the horizon of the age in which he lived, but the religious truths he teaches are irrefutable and eternal."
26. Decker says: "The true doctrine (of the LDS church) teaches that there is no eternal life without a polygamous relationship." This is blatantly untrue. The church teaches that the highest heavenly rewards are reserved for those who enter the "new and everlasting covenant" of eternal marriage, but they can be married to just one person and receive the same rewards as anyone in a "polygamous relationship."
On polygamy: (the practice of which was officially ended by the LDS church in 1890) --if Joseph Smith seemed reticent to tell his wife Emma about this law of God at first, it is an understandable human foible. (Especially if you knew Emma!) But this no more disqualifies him from the office of prophet than the similar frailties seen in Abraham's lie to Pharaoh about Sara being his sister, or in Moses' boast to the Children of Israel that he would give them water from a rock in the desert. (Num. 20:7--12. His failure to acknowledge God on that occasion kept him out of the Promised Land as punishment, but did not negate his prophetic calling or nullify the scriptures he wrote.)
In addition, it should be noted that these same ancient prophets --and their followers-- also practiced polygamy... with the approval and sanction of God.
27. Sandra Tanner charges that LDS church historical records are hidden from the members in some sort of dark cover-up. Obviously the rare and valuable documents must be protected from public access, just like the closed stacks in many libraries and museums. Nor would the Church see the need to admit a known anti-Mormon like Mrs. Tanner.
Incidentally, Mrs. Tanner and her husband have made a substantial business of publishing those same LDS church historical records that are supposedly "hidden." They must not be too hard to get hold of!
28. Decker says that Christian scholars are "always refining" the scriptures in the quest to "improve and validate the authenticity of the Holy Scripture." Then he says, "In Mormonism it's completely opposite." And yet when LDS efforts are made to "refine" scripture, resulting in changes, he decries these changes as proof of the non-validity of LDS scriptures. (see #24 above)
Come on, Ed... you can't have it both ways!
29. Dr. Charles Crane is presented as an "expert on Mormon archaeology." He is actually a Church of Christ minister with advanced degrees in "Ministry," "Divinity" and Psychology, (not archaeology) who in correspondence with me says he has "sought to study the archaeology of The Book of Mormon." He revealed no details on the extent of his study, so I must question his "expert" status.
30. Both Crane and Tanner claim that because the cities of The Book of Mormon are not found on modern maps, "there is no evidence for the book, any yet it's supposed to be a historical record." Dr. Richard Fales ("author, lecturer, archaeologist"-- what are his credentials?) says "not one single artifact has been found that even remotely relates to the (Book of Mormon) civilizations." He calls the book a "fairy tale."
Point of fact: Many books have been written detailing dozens of archaeological parallels between The Book of Mormon and the history of ancient America. The Book of Mormon's claims regarding wheeled vehicles, great walled cities with prayer towers, baptismal fonts, the use of cement, the presence of horses and elephants, etc. seemed absurd in 1830 when it was published. Yet these claims have been vindicated by archaeological discoveries since that time.
In addition, one particular artifact (Stela 5 Izapa from Chiapas, Mexico) contains a large and detailed drawing of the Tree of Life which appears to be a direct connection with The Book of Mormon. Competent scholars have found over 50 elements in Stela 5 which correspond to parts of a long and involved vision given by God to the prophet Lehi in the 8th chapter of 1st Nephi. This artifact was discovered by a Smithsonian dig in 1941, and to date no non-LDS scholar has offered a viable alternative interpretation of the inscription. --Not bad for a "fairy tale"! (see the Ensign June 1985 pp.54--55.)
A note on the film's statement that "archaeology has been able to prove the existence of all great civilizations": It was only in the 1800's after many years of struggle against the archaeological "establishment" that the explorer Heinrich Schliemann finally found proof that unearthed the ancient city of Troy described in Homer's epic poems. Until that time they were considered to be in the realm of "fairy tales." Who's to say that in a year or two the great Book of Mormon cities of Bountiful or Zarahemla will not be uncovered and make news around the world? What will the anti-Mormons say then?
Anyone sincerely wishing to study scientific evidences of The Book of Mormon should contact the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) for a catalog of scholarly papers on a wide range of topics.
Their address is P.O. Box 7113 University Station, Provo, Utah 84602.
31. The film states that: "Mormon missionaries are converting people throughout the world by explaining to them that archaeology has "proven" The Book of Mormon to be true." This is false. Sometimes archaeological evidences are shared with people to pique their interest and get them to seriously consider the book, but LDS missionaries are trained to teach people that the ultimate test of the truthfulness of The Book of Mormon is through an answer to prayer and a personal witness from the Holy Ghost, as described in James 1:5,6. It is only through the Spirit of God that true conversion takes place.
32. Regarding the Book of Abraham in The Pearl of Great Price, which was revealed to Joseph Smith through the gift and power of God: The film says, "Several famous Egyptologists have now translated it (the Egyptian Papyri associated with the Book of Abraham) and have found that it doesn't have anything to do with the time of Abraham at all."
At least one of these "famous Egyptologists" --Dee Jay Nelson-- made false claims about his academic background and his alleged employment as a translator for the LDS church. How many other holes are there in "The Godmakers" story?
The sincere investigator on this topic will find a wealth of information in Dr. Hugh Nibley's articles in BYU Studies (1968 and 1971) as well as those in the Improvement Era almost every issue from Jan. 1968 to May 1970, plus one in the Ensign, March 1976. Also see Michael Rhodes's study in BYU Studies 17 (1977). Also Nibley's book, The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri (1975)
33. The 1978 revelation to President Kimball to give the LDS priesthood to blacks was said to have come because of "social pressure." This is wrong. The greatest period of pressure of this nature came in 1971. By 1978 it was hardly an issue because the civil rights movement was at a comparative ebb. The revelation came as an answer to prayer from God's prophet and mouthpiece on Earth, at a time when increasing numbers of blacks were beginning to join the LDS Church. Church leaders desired to extend all blessings of membership to these people, and after much supplication God heard their prayers.
34. The film says that "the finality of Mormon theology is not based on evaluation by scriptural evidence," and that LDS missionaries do not encourage the people they're teaching to read from the Bible, only The Book of Mormon. This is untrue. In the Uniform System for Teaching Families, (the basic lessons that LDS missionaries use all over the world) they are expressly instructed to: "use only Biblical references with investigators." Nothing is taught in LDS doctrine that is in conflict with the Bible, and every opportunity is taken to point this out by studying the relevant Bible verses. (LDS prefer the King James Version)
35. The witness of truth by the Holy Ghost in the heart of the individual person --described as a "burning in the bosom"-- is said to be a "totally subjective" process. This is incorrect, as many Christians will testify. There are many times when one is walking in the Spirit that "the heart will be told what the mind cannot know." And yet the reliance by LDS on the Spirit for guidance and inspiration is implied to be somehow un-Christian! The makers of "The Godmakers" would prefer to gamble their Eternal Salvation on someone's (usually theirs) subjective interpretation of this Bible verse or that. (My Baptist friends tell me that when you get any three Baptists together on a Bible verse you'll get at least five opinions!)
Latter-day Saints rely heavily on the Scriptures, including the Bible. But we believe that "no prophecy of the scripture is of private interpretation"(2 Pet. 1:20) "But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea the deep things of God.... Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth: comparing spiritual things with spiritual."(1 Cor.2:10--13) This is the real test.
The Saints in the days of Paul relied on the witness of the Spirit instead of hermeneutics. The Saints of these latter-days believe that true Christians must still do the same. It is the "rock" of revelation from God to man (as the Christian singer Sandi Patti so eloquently puts it in her wonderful song) on which the true church of Jesus Christ is built; not someone's Biblical interpretation, however learned. The "Born Again" experience itself necessitates the Holy Spirit witnessing to a person that Jesus is indeed their personal savior, Lord, and Christ. It cannot come by Bible study alone.
36. The "re-enactment" (so-called) of LDS temple ceremonies is perhaps the most disappointing and offensive part of this film. An utter disregard is shown by the filmmakers for the sensitivities of other human beings. Ceremonies that are considered sacred by millions of people are trampled upon, ridiculed, and distorted, with definite purpose and malice aforethought. A great many right-thinking Christians have expressed revulsion at this kind of propagandistic approach.
The producers of the film have admitted their use of deception to obtain stock footage of temple interiors from the LDS church information services, and to arrange interviews with church officials who appear in the film. These despicable tactics speak for themselves.
The LDS temple ceremonies are said to be "Mason-like" and "occultic." There is nothing "occultic" about the covenants that LDS people make with our Heavenly Father in the temples, nor about the work done there for the dead. In fact one of these ceremonies --baptisms for the dead-- was mentioned as a practice of the early Christians by the apostle Paul in 1 Cor.15:29. This is merely a way in which these necessary ordinances can be performed as a vicarious service for those who have died without the opportunity to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ and accept Him as their Savior through baptism. (Most Christian denominations have a hard time explaining what happens to these people.)
What is described as a "fanatical program to evangelize the dead" is simply the fulfillment of prophecy in the last verse of the Old Testament (Malachi 4:6) that in the last days God will "turn the hearts of the children to their fathers." What is so "fanatical" or sinister or "occultic" about that?
If there is anything "Mason-like" about the LDS temple ordinances, it might be explained by the fact that the Masonic order began among workers on the great Temple of Solomon. If God is "the same yesterday, today and forever," then the same ceremonies were performed by God's righteous believers in the Temple of their day. If God then revealed the ordinances to the prophet Joseph Smith in our day, a corrupted version handed down through the centuries by the Masons might still bear some resemblance to the original.
37. The sacred undergarment worn by LDS who have made special covenants with God in the temples is said to be "unattractive" and "de-humanizing." (Why should it be attractive since it is not meant to be seen? It's an undergarment!) These garments are patterned after the garments of skins that God made for Adam and Eve when He cast them out of the Garden of Eden. (Gen.3:21) Perhaps the filmmakers should take up their complaints with the original Tailor!
A parallel to the LDS temple garment can be seen in a similar item of under-apparel worn by the most orthodox Jewish sects-- a holdover from Israel's righteous days when they performed temple worship thousands of years ago. It should also be noted that a similar item is mentioned in the earliest Jewish and Christian writings such as the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Nag Hammadi codices.
The extreme measures referred to in the film that are supposedly taken by LDS to avoid ever losing physical contact with the temple garment are totally incorrect. There are many occasions such as visits to a doctor, swimming, playing basketball, etc. when "temple Mormons" rightly do not wear the garment. The film portrayed a caricature that does not exist.
38. Another caricature is built up of Joseph Smith as a "treasure seeker" who was "involved in the occult." This description does not fit the man as all, as revealed in many accounts regarding him written by his contemporaries. (See #13 above) The mistake is also made of trying to judge Joseph, who lived in the mid-1800's, by the culture and practices of the 1980's. Similarly a person in the next century might say that having a Jack o'lantern on Halloween is a sure sign of being "involved in the occult," and the hobbyist with a metal detector is a "treasure seeker"!
39. An avowed Satanist's book is used as an authoritative source to come up with a mythical god "Mormo" whose followers are allegedly called "Mormons." Obviously if the same book were to have reference to a god "Metho" whose followers were called "Methodists," they would give it no credence or notice, except perhaps for a good horse laugh. To stoop to such antics in a supposedly serious "documentary" is inexcusable.
40. Likewise, the claim that the Chinese word "Mormon" means "gates of Hell" relies on an extremely tortured translation and is meaningless. It's just another example of sensationalism. The National Enquirer would win a Pulitzer Prize in comparison to the writers of this film!
41. Some sort of sinister implication (complete with evil-sounding music to match) is made in speaking of the "wealth" of the LDS church and great landholdings. The narrator fails to mention that virtually all of the Church's real estate is identified as meetinghouses for LDS members (built with as little as 4% of the cost paid by the local congregations - in recent years [even this requirement has been removed - SDB]), schools, and farms where food is raised to feed the needy in the model LDS welfare program.
The LDS church does have some stock in the parent corporation that owns the LA Times, but can hardly be considered a "major stockholder" (especially in view of some of the articles unfavorable to the Church which have appeared in that paper and its sister publication in Denver).
42. Money is said to be "extracted" from LDS church members in a "mandatory" tithing program. These buzz words are by now quite tiresome, and again they are totally false! Tithes and offerings are no more "mandatory" for Mormons than for other Christians. As with any principle of the Gospel there are certain rewards (both temporally and spiritually) for obedience. But to show the picture of the young Deacon gathering Fast Offerings and imply that he was "shaking down" the Mormon mother for tithing... come on now! (The Fast offering is a separate contribution where members fast for two meals on the first Sunday of every month and give the cost of the meals into a special fund to feed the needy. This practice is now being picked up by some other Christian churches.)
43. Mormons are said to "own a substantial portion of Hawaii." It is not indicated whether they are referring to individual LDS members or to the Church. In either case the truth is stretched quite a bit.
44. Utah (identified as 75% Mormon--actually it's closer to 50%) is said to "rank among the highest" of the states in divorce, suicide, child abuse, teenage pregnancy, venereal disease, and bigamy.
Utah (according to Atlanta's Communicable Disease Center) is 47th among the states in venereal disease. This is hardly "among the highest." In view of this kind of error, the rest of the statistics cited are highly suspect. The following, however, might explain any unexpectedly high figures for the state of Utah if they proved to be correct:
Utah is among the lowest states in abortions, which accounts for more teenage pregnancies carried to term. And since most young LDS people don't plan to be "sexually active" as do teens in other states, they are more likely to become pregnant when they do make mistakes. And since they try harder to "do the right thing" by getting married when they get pregnant, there are more teen marriages and hence more divorces. And since Utah has some of the most strict child abuse reporting laws in the nation, (you must legally report even any SUSPECTED abuse) there is perhaps more reported child abuse than in other states. (Not necessarily more abuse.)
Therefore it can be seen that the supposedly damning statistics reveal in actuality the good "fruits" of the LDS church. The filmmakers failed to mention that of active LDS church members married in the temple, the number of divorces is only ONE-FIFTH the national average.
45. The film says that "Mormonism undercuts the Bible," which is definitely false. Our 8th Article of Faith states, "We believe the Bible to be the word of God, as far as it is translated correctly." We believe it to be "verbally inspired" as do other Christians. That is, that it was "inerrant" as it flowed from the mind of God through the pens of the original writers. However we believe (along with most Christians) that copying and translation errors do occur. No Christian would accept as God's word any verse of the Bible which scholarship proves to be mistranslated, and neither do Mormons.
The film also says that Mormonism "undercuts all the other churches," which is misleading. Although we believe that the complete fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is found only in our church, we believe that almost all religions contain some of God's truth and are beneficial to mankind.
It is not the Latter-day Saints who brand another faith as a "cult" and seek to exclude its members from fellowship with other Christians. We leave that activity to the anti-Mormons.
46. It is said in the film that many LDS church members only remain in the church because "Mormonism is a nice place to raise your family...it's the easy road." That description may be true in Utah, but it does not account for the rapid growth of the LDS church in other parts of the world like Latin America and Japan, where becoming a "Mormon" is anything but "the easy road." Many millions of people have decided to follow Christ as the Holy Ghost has led them by joining the LDS church, and in doing so have lost their jobs, families, --everything. Sometimes even their lives.
47. "I learned that the God of Mormonism was not the God of the Bible." This statement near the end of the film shows that the person who uttered it has an incomplete knowledge of both Mormonism and the Bible. The God of Mormonism is not the God of the Nicene Creed, but He definitely IS the God of the Bible.
48. "But there's fraud...deliberate misrepresentation." This quote from Dick Baer aimed at the LDS church applies more aptly to his propaganda film "The Godmakers," as has been pointed out herein.
The foregoing 48 specific points constitutes a partial list of the errors, distortions, and untruths in the film. These comments will also apply equally to the same problems found in the book of the same name, written by Ed Decker and Dave Hunt. A more complete response to the book has been written, but the major points of emphasis will probably not vary a great deal from those of the film which have been dealt with here. The book is called The Truth About The Godmakers, and is available at most LDS book stores. More information on the book response may be obtained from the author, Gilbert Scharffs, 2898 Mill Creek Rd., Salt Lake City, Utah 84109.
It is unfortunate that the authors and producers of the "Godmakers" film and book have felt it necessary to expend such great amounts of money, time and energy to persecute the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is equally unfortunate that so many good Christians and pastors have unknowingly "aided and abetted" in this persecution by opening their churches and their pulpits to those who have been perpetuating it. Hopefully, this response will shed some light and lead to a better understanding between Latter-day Saints and their fellow disciples in the Body of Christ.
In his brilliant essay on "What it Means to Be a Mormon Christian," BYU English professor Eugene England shared a quote from the great reformer Martin Luther: "The kingdom of God is like a besieged city surrounded on all sides by death. Each man has his place on the wall to defend and no one can stand where another stands, but nothing prevents us from calling encouragement to one another." England then goes on to say, "It would be tragic if we Christians, standing each in our different places, were to desert our place on the wall...to turn on each other."
Intolerance has no place among Christians. Jesus himself taught that lesson when his apostles came to him saying they had forbidden one casting out devils in His name because "he followeth not with us." The Savior said: "Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us" (Luke 50:49). Likewise in Acts 5:27-39 we find: "Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God."
This is a commandment from Jesus that the producers of "The Godmakers" and those who assist them need to learn and obey.
The foregoing is my own work and does not represent any official statement of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Robert D. Starling
Note: These concepts and others will soon be presented in an expanded form, in a book the author is currently writing entitled Inside Mormonism; Confessions of a Latter-day Christian. This essay is considered to be in draft form until publication, and your comments, corrections and suggestions are welcomed.
I especially welcome the opportunity for clarification or dialogue with non-LDS readers.
Copyright © 1986--1995 Robert D. Starling
Permission is hereby granted for this work to be duplicated without cost and distributed by any means including electronic or computer transmission, provided it is done in its entirety and without alteration.