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Monday, February 20, 2006

Link dump of Finnish skaters and ex-Mormons and present-Watchtowerers 


Dumping some links.


And last but not least, check out this excerpt from Chapter 15 of Beyond Mormonism by James Spencer.


One afternoon in October 1975 I got a call from George Eichler. He said one of his members, married to a Mormon woman, had called him. The young man’s wife had invited missionaries to teach her husband about the Mormon Church. They were coming that evening and George was invited. Since he was not a specialist in Mormonism, he asked me if I would accompany him to the meeting. I agreed.

When we arrived, the missionaries were already there. Their easel was set up and they were ready to begin. Introductions were made. They said they had heard about me. George and I took our seats and I began praying for wisdom. I did not relish confrontation and I certainly did not want to badger the missionaries. On the other hand, I believed that the spiritual destiny of this family was at stake.

The missionaries seemed disconcerted at having two strangers, a pastor and a former Mormon elder, in the meeting. But they moved forward with poise. Everything they said sounded reasonable. They made no mention of any doctrine offensive to a Christian. The young man seemed to listen with an open mind, nodding and responding to the prepared questions put to him by the missionaries. I was reminded of my own first lesson twelve years earlier. How sincere and naïve I had been!

I listened as long as I could, then scooted to the edge of my chair and cleared my throat. "Excuse me, gentlemen. I’m a little disappointed in the way you are proceeding."

The older of the two men, who had been leading the discussion, glanced at his partner. "Well, Mr. Spencer, what’s the problem?"

"I’m afraid you’re misleading this young man."

"Perhaps you ought to do us the courtesy of allowing us to present our material before you ask questions."

"I understand how you feel. But I want to ask you a question."

"Well, what is it?"

"Why don’t you tell him that you plan to become gods?"

"What!" cried the prospective convert in alarm. "What do you mean?" He looked at the missionaries.

The younger missionary flushed in irritation. "We’ll come to that!"

"That’s the problem," I said evenly. "I know from personal experience that you will not come to it until after this man is baptized into the Mormon Church."

"We have a lot of material to cover, and we cover it in a logical sequence," replied the older man.

"But you don’t mention the plurality of gods anywhere in the six discussions."

"Well…."

"Do you?"

Silence.

"Please," I said, "I think you owe it to us all. Tell us now, do you believe you’ll become a god?

"The Church teaches the law of Eternal Progression."

"Do you believe you’ll become a god?"

The missionary stared at me for ten long seconds, then answered quietly, "Yes, I believe that in God’s economy, I will have the opportunity to progress to be as He is."

"To become a god?"

"Yes. To become a god."

There was no arguing or anger in that meeting, but an uneasy silence fell over the room. The young investigator continued to stare incredulously at the missionaries until they finally put away their material and left.

Later that night I got a call from President Jones. "Jim, I need to talk to you."...



Needless to say, Brigham Young University doesn't think that Spencer is all that great:


The current manifestations of sectarian anti-Mormonism are in large measure part of a malady long present on American soil. The modern sectarian countercult movement, whose dimensions and disposition I will examine in this essay, is but one more episode in a series of manifestations of religious bigotry. Hostility to those with different interpretations of the Bible or with different understandings of divinity has a long and undistinguished history in America--it has never entirely abated.

Of course, the Saints remember that anti-Mormon sentiments, often followed by violent deeds, began with the initial efforts of Joseph Smith to relate his encounters with angelic messengers, and such opposition has subsequently accompanied the efforts of the Saints to build the Kingdom of God. The restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ was thus set in a matrix of sectarian hostility to the very idea that God could make available through a prophet the fulness of the gospel with the recovery of the Book of Mormon. News of the restoration led to the persecution and eventually the lynching of Joseph Smith by a mob acting without legal sanction. The expulsion of the faithful Saints from Illinois then followed. The story of the removal of the earliest members of the fledgling Church of Christ from New York to Ohio, the subsequent movement of the Saints to Missouri, followed by their exodus to Illinois and eventually to Utah, is one involving unrelenting sectarian bias and bigotry....

Anti-Mormon preachers such as Ed Decker, with his Saints Alive organizations, seem to come close to forming what might be called a client-cult out of their disciples. Anti-Mormon luminaries like the Tanners merely want an audience for their parade of propaganda. They make no effort to gather those they influence into much of anything. They seemingly only desire to see those they influence adopt something like their own bland evangelicalism. In addition, Jerald Tanner, who is shy and reclusive, lacks the ability to function as a preacher.

If I am more or less right about what distinguishes the efforts of someone like Ed Decker, who seems bent on drawing followers into his own countercult, and the Tanners, who appear eager to warn of the dangers of Mormonism and persuade people to reject the gospel of Jesus Christ, then we may have an explanation for what Introvigne sees as the fundamental differences between what he describes as the somewhat more and much less rational wings of sectarian anti-Mormonism, and of the countercult movement generally. They differ in the way they try to explain why Mormons are not Christian. Those like Ed Decker see Mormonism as the work of Satan, while people like the Tanners find themselves somewhat embarrassed by the lurid and absurd details that preachers like Ed Decker, James Spencer, and Bill Schnoebelen parade to flesh out this kind of explanation. The Tanners, and others like them, tend to reject at least some if not all of the more extreme claims of evangelical preachers like Decker....

Dr. [Tal] Davis suggests that his Baptist associates read something written by Robert Morey....Dr. Davis also recommends an inaccurate, sensationalized account of the Mark Hofmann affair written by a journalist. And he likes James R. Spencer's work. Spencer, an associate of Ed Decker, as we have seen, just loves lurid speculation about the supposedly demonic architecture of LDS temples. And, of course, Davis recommends Walter Martin's opining about the Church of Jesus Christ.



And here's another LDS view on Spencer (emphasis mine):


James R. Spencer runs an anti-Mormon ministry out of Idaho Falls, Idaho. Spencer is fond of stating that his motives for his relentless and ugly attacks on the Church of Jesus Christ are purely out of his love for the Mormon people and his love of the truth. Spencer and I met while I was an undergraduate student at Brigham Young University in the mid-1980s. Soon afterwards, we began a formal correspondence through the mail. Spencer wanted to begin a debate of sorts about Mormonism's unique truth claims. He began his end of the debate by proposing several ground rules. The first of these read as follows:

"If I ask a question, you answer it. And if you ask a question, I'll answer it. Let's avoid red-herring maneuvers."

Spencer's first letter containing questions included one that he believed was unanswerable. Quoting from yet another anti-Mormon publication, Spencer wanted to know how it is that 21 Book of Mormon place names were exact or near exact matches of actual place names in Joseph Smith's frontier New England area. Spencer even included a copy of the maps showing the parallel place names. Due to a trip I was about to take to overseas, I was not quick in responding to Spencer's challenge. But when I returned from my travels in the summer of 1985, I found a letter waiting for me from Spencer almost taunting me to respond. I went to work, did the necessary research, and was able to provide a cogent response to his charges. Like the Nehors, is James Spencer refused to continue the debate when faced with the truth. He hid under the cloak of "The Mormon response is subjective but I, the true born-again Christian am objective,". Spencer discontinued the debate as soon as he sensed he was on the short end of the stick. Truth was not his interest. Like Nehor, winning the debate was his goal. Like Nehor losing the argument to Gideon, Spencer was upset. I am grateful he didn't lash out with violence. The Book of Mormon paints a picture of the ancient Nehors as a people who loved being right over being true. When on the losing end of an informal debate or discussion the typical anti-Mormon will either change the topic to one that may give the anti-Mormon some new leverage, or will bring the exchange to an abrupt halt. Truth is not a virtue to the anti-Mormon; mocking true religion is. Yet, he could learn much from Albert Einstein who is reported to have said, "I am not interested in being right; I am interested in knowing whether or not I am right."



But Spencer isn't the only Nehor-like individual. There's also Arafat:


With Arafat perhaps dead or very close, we can expect a gush of media outpouring about the contributions of this great Nobel Peace Prize winner. Since Latter-day Saints tend to be intensely interested in Israel and the conflicts with its enemies, I would suggest that we turn to more reliable sources than the pro-Arafat media to appreciate Arafat's role in the modern world....

Those who actually know Arafat may be interested to find that he is a far cry from his depiction in the American media, and much more accurately represented in the Book of Mormon description of Gadianton robber operations. The Gadiantons had the audacity to demand to be taken seriously as the legitimate representatives of the people over them they had seized power. They made impressive sounding but hollow claims in their quest for power, and readily found dupes among the Nephites (kingmen and order of Nehors types) who supported them internally. They used terror and assassination as tools to gain power. They worked with secret combinations and allied themselves with traitors and wicked people at all levels. They applied external military pressure coupled with internal intrigues in achieving their political objectives. I think it would be worthwhile to study modern terrorism in terms of Book of Mormon teachings about the dangers of secret combinations, and to consider how men like Arafat fit into the depictions therein.



As Tom Cruise wouldn't say, "You haven't studied modern terrorism. I have." But, in opposition to the orthodox Christian view that the "cults" are all involved in their own things, it turns out that the "cults" look at each other.

A Mormon refers to the Jehovah's Witnesses:


I was working in a deeply traditionalist Catholic area [of Switzerland] which was notoriously resistant to proselyting--my companion and I were reputedly the first missionaries there since an earlier pair of elders had been run out of town at gunpoint seven years before--and even to the immigration of Swiss Protestants. We found ourselves speaking with a woman who had first mistaken us for a pair of Jehovah's Witnesses, and was relieved to find we were not. She had been visited some weeks before by two of their representatives, and had received from them a book which was, she said, full of the most bizarre things. We agreed with her that their theology was implausible, but I at least began to feel more and more uneasy as she proceeded to describe the book in greater detail. It was, she recalled, dreadfully dull despite all its silly stories and its outlandish names. When she offered me the book, which she no longer wanted, I eagerly accepted it. And I was not entirely surprised when what she gave me turned out to be the Bible (in the Watchtower version). What had so amused this woman, in a region not given to the reading or even the owning of Bibles, was nothing peculiar to the Jehovah's Witnesses, but the Bible itself. It was unfamiliar to her, foreign to her world and concerns, and she viewed it as a worthless farrago of nonsense.


And the Jehovah's Witnesses talk about the Book of Mormon:


The Book That Explains Paradise

All these glorious things, and the certainty of them, are explained in a book, the most wonderful book ever written. It is called the Bible. It is a very ancient book, parts of it having been written some 3,500 years ago....

No other holy book has had so universal a distribution, and most others are not nearly as old. The Koran of Islam is less than 1,400 years old. Buddha and Confucius lived about 2,500 years ago, and their writings date from that time. The Scriptures of Shinto were composed in their present form no more than 1,200 years ago. The Book of Mormon is only 160 years old. None of these holy books can accurately trace human history back through 6,000 years, as does the Bible. To understand original religion, we must therefore go to the Bible. It is the only book with a universal message for all mankind.



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