Saturday, July 20, 2013

Follow The Prophet Endgame

Anyone remotely familiar with the works of anti-Mormon productions has undoubtedly heard of "The Godmakers." A propaganda piece released by Jeremiah Films in 1982, it includes a cartoon of basic "Mormon belief" that can be accessed on YouTube for anyone to see.

The cartoon's goal is to make Mormonism appear like a cult. By making not-so-subtle artistic implications, employing half-truths, and using statements made by LDS leaders of the past, it succeeds in that goal. After watching this clip, the viewer is left feeling a little dirty. The theology of Mormonism is painted to be nothing more than a Christian-based version of Scientology. But not really Christian, of course!

Sometimes I wonder, why is it so easy to make Mormonism appear so silly?


This single "doctrine," amplified over the years by those we've sustained as prophets, seers, and revelators, has led to more trouble for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints than any other. It's a doctrine that, once accepted by its followers, cannot be undone. There's no way to be liberal in the interpretations of things because the rank-and-file membership doesn't have the "keys" to. We have been sucked into the vortex of the circular argument from whence there is no return, as long as we continue this inside-the-box thinking.

You know what circle I'm talking about: The prophet cannot lead the Church astray-->Who said that?--->The prophet-->How do you know it's true?-->Because the prophet said so-->How do you know he's telling the truth?-->Because the prophet cannot lead the Church astray!

Once the assumption has been made that the President of the Church and all his corporate underlings cannot lead their people astray, there's no way to hide from the things that those men do and say.

And unfortunately for the Church, those men have done and said a lot of things, things we may not teach today, but things that stick with us nonetheless. And what happens when people outside the Church come across these scars? Cartoons like "The Godmakers" are produced. And you can be sure that such videos, made by men with their own devious agendas, will cast the Church in the worst light possible, not just the Church in Joseph's days, but the modern Church. (The producers of this video are very careful to always use the present tense when referring to all things the Mormons "teach.")

This is Follow the Prophet endgame, my friends. It doesn't matter how sincerely the Mormons of today proclaim respectable beliefs in doctrines like the Atonement, the love of God, and the worth of souls. Their prophets have advocated some not-so-respectable concepts over the years--polygamy, racism, and exclusion, to name a few--and since we believe in following the prophet no matter what, we are held accountable for those statements.

It's no one's fault but our own, really. Remember Joseph Smith's warning to those who "were depending on the Prophet, hence were darkened in their minds, [and] . . . neglecting the duties devolving upon themselves." Well, if this was a problem in the 1840s, it had metastasized by the end of the 19th Century when Wilford Woodruff, speaking for himself, superciliously declared that no President of the Church could lead it astray without God physically removing him from his position. And by embracing this falsehood, our minds remain darkened. Instead of individually determining, through the Spirit, and then being accountable for our own beliefs, as is the organic teaching of Mormonism, we are being told what we believe based off some inane statement made by a general authority 150 years ago.

One might ask, so what? Why does it matter what people think of us? We may have a problem, but it doesn't mean we need to worry about hatchet job cartoons like "The Godmakers." While these people may have a point--we can never quell opposition--people ARE avoiding our Church because of these sorts of things. And it doesn't help that videos like "The Godmakers" appeal to actual statements by LDS leaders through the years. Simply put, if missionary work and reactivation are genuine goals of ours, we need to find a way to escape such damaging stigmas.

The Church has tried to save face on the matter, and in 2007, released the following statement in a piece called "Approaching Mormon Doctrine":

Not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. A single statement made by a single leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, but is not meant to be officially binding for the whole Church. With divine inspiration, the First Presidency (the prophet and his two counselors) and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (the second-highest governing body of the Church) counsel together to establish doctrine that is consistently proclaimed in official Church publications. This doctrine resides in the four “standard works” of scripture (the Holy Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price), official declarations and proclamations, and the Articles of Faith. Isolated statements are often taken out of context, leaving their original meaning distorted.

This quote is promulgated time and time again on apologist websites, like FAIR LDS, in response to some of the controversial topics related to Mormonism. And while the message of this statement is correct, the Church has not exactly adhered to such a mindset over its history. And if it is indeed true, then it certainly waters down the power of those key-holding revelators at the top of the pyramid, doesn't it? If a single statement made by a single leader on a single occasion isn't binding for the whole Church, then what is? How far can we trust these fallible men? Especially when they decide to "establish doctrine" that conflicts with the standard works?

Don't get me wrong. I understand the position a head prophet plays in the Church. One of his roles is to relay messages directly from God. But when that man is not receiving such messages, when the heavens appear to be closed (to the institutional Church, anyway), when all his statements can be reduced to opinions or rehashes of previous revelations, is it wise to put all our faith in him and the corporate entity he presides over? You don't think outsiders notice this lack of revelation in a Church that claims to be run by it? You don't think those questioning the faith notice an imperfect Church replacing a perfect God as the object of worship? How are we going to grow at the exponential rates we presume we are (the actual numbers are less than staggering) with such a culture of stagnation pervading over us?

I don't think the answer is all that complex. We need to get back to our roots and proclaim our fundamental teachings. We've all but forgotten many of the pure and precious doctrines of the church (lowercase c, as in D&C 10:67), replacing them with the man-made, stifling teachings of the Church (uppercase C, as in the corporate creature that's correlated us to conformity).

Let's never forget one of the most profound things Joseph Smith taught: “Mormonism is truth; and every man who embraces it feels himself at liberty to embrace every truth. Consequently the shackles of superstition, bigotry, ignorance, and priestcraft, fall at once from his neck; and his eyes are opened to see the truth, and truth greatly prevails over priestcraft...The first and fundamental principle of our holy religion is, that we believe that we have a right to embrace all, and every item of truth, without limitation or without being circumscribed or prohibited by the creeds or superstitious notions of men, or by the dominations of one another, when that truth is clearly demonstrated to our minds, and we have the highest degree of evidence of the same.”

This is what Mormonism is. Not the sinister system "The Godmakers" proclaims it to be. And not the stifling system the LDS Church makes it to be. It is simply truth, "let it come from whence it may."

As an aside, the top-rated comment on the YouTube link for this video is from a user with the handle "Joseph Smith," who says, "I don't remember preaching half of this." Ain't that the truth?

Remember, a prophet is only a prophet when acting as such. And to act as a prophet means to directly relay a message from God, through the Spirit. Therefore, I think a better rule to follow than The Fourteen Fundamentals' third idea that a living prophet is greater than a dead prophet would be to ask yourself: who was acting as a prophet more than any other prophet? Why, that would be Joseph Smith. By a mile.


  1. Well put!

    I envy your ability to concisely convey a position that would have taken me all day to express. And your final paragraph was a perfect ending. Very nicely done.

  2. OOOOH I found a new blog I like!!! Thanks Alan for directing me here.

  3. Good things to ponder for sure, thanks for thinking on your own:)

  4. Thanks for this. I wish I could make every member in the Church read it.