columns from the Christian Research Newsletter, Volume 4: Number 4, 1991.
The Editor of the Christian Research Newsletter is Ron Rhodes.
What's New in the Headlines
Troy Lawrence, Author of New Age Messiah Identified (Huntington House), Is Exposed as a Fraud.
According to an article by Eric Pement in Cornerstone magazine (vol. 20, no. 95), "Troy Lawrence" -- an alias for Darrick Evenson -- "has written and been published as a Mormon returning from Protestantism, a New Ager on the inside track, and a Mason disproving evangelical John Ankerberg's anti-Masonic literature. He also claims to be a Jehovah's Witness and a believer in the Baha'i faith."
Lawrence claimed to have been a respected worker at Benjamin Creme's Tara Center, a New Age group promoting the idea that Maitreya the Christ would soon manifest himself to humanity. (Tara staff members, however, flatly deny that he was ever employed there or was respected by anyone.) When the Christ failed to show up in 1982 as Creme had prophesied, Lawrence allegedly became disillusioned and converted to Christianity in 1984. He then (as the story goes) decided to conceal his conversion while stealthily gathering information that would help him identify the New Age Christ. The back cover of his book tells us that "writing under an assumed name, Troy Lawrence reveals to the world the true identity of Tara Center's New Age Messiah, the man they call 'Lord Maitreya.'"
"Lawrence's story isn't true," Pement writes. "He now admits that his real name is Darrick T. Evenson. This is the same Darrick Evenson who, from 1979 to the present, has been an ardent defender of Mormonism. The pseudonym may have been necessary because many Christian countercult ministries knew of Evenson through a book he authored in 1989 -- five years after his alleged Christian conversion. Entitled The Gainsayers, the book attacks Christian ministries to Mormons and is published by Horizon, a Mormon press." Evenson also has to his credit two cassette tapes and a booklet promoting Freemasonry.
Pement points out that "in a phone conversation with Cornerstone on June 4, 1991, Evenson told us he was currently 'an evangelical Christian, a Mormon, a Mason, and a Jehovah's Witness.' We'd never heard of him claiming to be a JW before, so we asked him if he was a baptized Jehovah's Witness. He replied that he was planning to be baptized, but because of the impending publicity, he probably wouldn't be able to do so. And finally, Evenson has also told [director of the Phoenix chapter of Saints Alive in Jesus, Mike] Mistretta and Christian expert on Mormonism Sandra Tanner that he is a Baha'i as well."
Lawrence's facade finally cracked on April 23, 1991 when Christian radio host Al Kresta -- based on information received from Constance Cumbey and others -- confronted Troy with the actions of his alter ego, Darrick Evenson. "Evenson denied ever being a Mormon, claiming that Gainsayers was part of a 'Trojan horse' method of evangelizing Mormons without their suspecting it. When challenged, Evenson lost control and finally had to be cut off the air. Evenson had one other disastrous interview on a Denver radio station, and after that he asked Huntington House to cease all interviews and tours," Cornerstone reports.
Elaborating on his "Trojan Horse" evangelism, Lawrence said he "infiltrates and joins false religions (Mormonism, Masonry, and the New Age) so he can later share the 'true' gospel in his books, which are read by members who would never read an overtly Christian book." However, as Pement points out, not only does Lawrence make false professions (such as that Joseph Smith is God's prophet for this dispensation), he also never presents the true gospel in any of his pro-Masonic or pro-Mormon writings.
Huntington House has ceased publication of the book.
New Agers Seeking Psychic Energy in Sedona, Arizona, Are Clashing with Conservative Churches, American Indians, and the U.S. Forest Service.
The August 4 Los Angeles Times reports that Sedona, Arizona, has become very popular among New Agers because of the reputed "vortex zones" in the area. (A vortex zone is allegedly a place in which the "veil" between this world and the next [i.e., the spiritual world] is very thin.) According to the article, "psychics say that Sedona rivals Stonehenge and the Bermuda Triangle as the world's top 'power' spot, radiating an unseen mystical energy reputed to enhance consciousness, make it easier to recall past lives, even communicate with space beings." One Sedona resident calls the area a "metaphysical Disneyland."
But not all is well in Sedona. Russell Chandler, the author of the Times article, points out that there are some "bad vibes" among some of the people there. For example, the American Indians want the land and their customs left undisturbed. "Reuben Snake, director of the Native American Religious Freedom Project, calls the New Agers 'pseudo-Indians exploiting our culture' and trying to imitate Indian religion," the article reports. Others are unhappy as well.
- Conservative local ministers are convinced that "New Agers are Satan-inspired and that their freewheeling, anything-goes philosophy threatens to undermine the community's moral stability."
- Forest rangers are worried about the crush of tourists who are upsetting the environment. They complain that "in erecting stone altars known as medicine wheels, conducting secret ceremonies by light of the full moon, and blazing trails into the virgin wilderness for meditation sites, metaphysical enthusiasts are defacing the buttes' beauty and trampling the delicate desert's ecosystem."
- Environmentalists are suing the rangers, resisting such developmental projects as asphalt paving and the building of campground facilities in the area.
As noted above, the vortex zones are the biggest attraction in Sedona. "It felt like warm energy going to and from my hands," Mona Hammer said as she stepped from the center of a medicine wheel. Others who have been to the Sedona vortexes say that "they have had metaphysical experiences ranging from direct contact with spirits, visions and healings, to clairvoyance and telepathy. Some say that they just felt good there," the Los Angeles Times reports. Jim Bishop, a big-city journalist who moved to Sedona six years ago, estimates that "up to 30% of every dollar spent here is related to the vortexes."
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Takes In an Estimated $4.7 Billion per Year, Controls at least 100 Companies or Businesses (Including a $300 Million-a-Year Media Conglomerate), and Has an Investment Portfolio in Excess of $1 Billion.
"No religion in America converts spiritual beliefs into financial success like the Mormon Church," according to a four-part series in the Arizona Republic. The articles, which ran from June 30 to July 3, stated that the cult's $4.7 billion annual income from businesses and tithing would place it about 110th on the "Fortune 500" list of industrial corporations, "ranking it among Warner-Lambert, Gillette, and Chiquita Brands International."
The Republic's eight-month investigation also concluded that:
- "The church's business subsidiaries generate an additional $4 billion per year in sales, which, if counted in the total, would make [it] an $8 billion-a-year corporation, comparable with Union Carbide and Bordon Products."
- The church is "one of the nation's largest private landowners, with holdings in all 50 states."
- The church spends roughly $550 million per year on its worldwide missionary effort.
- Church-owned radio and television outlets reach more than 2.3 million adults per day.
Such massive figures invite comparison with not only multinational corporations, but with other large church bodies. The Roman Catholic church -- whose members outnumber Mormons by 126 to 1 -- is in deep financial trouble. The Vatican estimates a record $91.5 million deficit in its 1991 budget.
Only 30% of the church's membership contributes tithing, totalling up to $4.3 billion annually. (Mormonism teaches that tithing is essential to attaining eternal life, and that those who fail to pay a full 10 percent of their income may be "burned" at the Second Coming.)
The Republic had to work from a wide range of outside sources, because in 1959 LDS leaders stopped releasing financial reports altogether. "Only a few church officials know how the money is spent. Most members take it on faith that their funds will be spent advancing the Lord's work." For over three decades, "the church's official financial report to its members has consisted of six paragraphs announcing that budgeting, accounting, and auditing are 'adequate.'" Why such secrecy over the church's financial activities?
"A church official said secrecy about the amount of tithing arises from a fear that 'if a widow living on a pension knew the exact sum the church takes in tithing, she might say, 'Well, they don't need my little bit.'"
Another reason was offered by Mormon historian D. Michael Quinn at the 13th annual Sunstone Symposium held in Salt Lake City. According to the August 8, 1991 Ogden Standard-Examiner, Quinn said that in 1962 "the church had a deficit of $32 million and 'was teetering on the edge of financial collapse.'"
It was the late N. Eldon Tanner, a member of the church's First Presidency who became known as the church's "modern financial wizard," that turned the church's fortunes around. And "'once church finances were completely in the black again, there was no incentive to resume the detailed annual reports,' Quinn said. 'Silence concealed massive church deficits for years, and later, silence concealed massive financial successes.'"
Another possible motive was to shield the church from protesters who might have targeted specific business interests for demonstrations and harassment due to Mormonism's racist exclusion of Blacks from the priesthood prior to 1978.
In a related July 29 article, Time reported that "Utah has become the envy of its neighbors," adding that "the Mormons deserve much of the credit for Utah's economic vibrancy." Indeed, "two-thirds of the population of 1.7 million belongs to the church, which has helped to shape the boom in both direct and indirect ways." Quipped one Wall Street bond trader: "All they do there is breed, pray, and make money."
Fugitive Cult Leader, Tony Alamo, Nabbed in Florida After a Two-Year Manhunt.
Tony Alamo, who gained notoriety with the belief that his embalmed wife -- who had died of cancer in 1982 -- would rise from the dead, was arrested on Friday, July 5. Alamo had kept his wife's embalmed body on display for six months while followers of his sect prayed for her resurrection.
The July 6 issue of The Denver Post reports that "Alamo, 56, a fugitive for more than two years, was tracked to a Tampa home after a flood of tips prompted by coverage of his case on crime re-enactment television shows and news programs."
"This was one case where media coverage was instrumental," U.S. Marshals Service spokesman Bill Dempsey said, according to the Post. "People had seen him on 'Unsolved Mysteries,' on 'A Current Affair,' and some tips even came from a '60 Minutes' segment."
The article reports that Alamo disappeared after being charged with child abuse in Santa Ana, California, in October 1988. "The charges were filed after an 11-year-old boy told authorities that Alamo ordered four men to beat him with a paddle 140 times."
Alamo is the leader of the Holy Alamo Christian Church Consecrated (formerly the Tony and Susan Alamo Christian Foundation). His organization has been criticized for "its virulent attacks on Catholics and its requirement that church members work for little or no pay. Alamo has blamed a government conspiracy for his troubles," the Post reports.
--Ron Rhodes and Paul Carden
Mormon Expansion Faces Cultural, Racial Obstacles Abroad
The Mormon church's missionary outreach is extending to the furthest parts of the globe, and the cult now has operations in some 130 countries -- an all-time high.
But expansion has brought conflict, as the church's extensive racial and cultural baggage perplexes and provokes foreign governments, members, and potential converts.
Writing in the Fall 1991 issue of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Australian scholar Marjorie Newton, herself a Mormon, observed:
A few years ago I listened to a group of American [Mormon] missionaries who had just eaten an enormous meal at our table and were showing their appreciation by telling us how backward Australia is in every conceivable way when compared to the Promised Land. After a while I pondered aloud, wondering what I had done wrong in the preexistence to miss out on the blessing of being born American. Earnestly they reassured me, "Oh, no, Sister Newton. You must have been one of the strong ones. You'd have to be, to stand it."
...[M]any American Latter-day Saints...deep down, see their American birth and heritage not as luck but most definitely as the reward of preexistent virtue.
...I was taught that America the place is choice above all other places, that America the political nation is greater than all other nations...and that Americans are favoured and blessed of the Lord above all other people.
Such attitudes are clearly rooted in LDS doctrine. Mormonism teaches that spirits are sent from heaven to inhabit mortal bodies based on their conduct in pre-earth life. The church also says that the United States Constitution is a divinely inspired document and that Jesus Christ will return to establish the New Jerusalem in Missouri. Mormon apostle Mark E. Petersen once went so far as to declare that "the flag of the United States is the flag of God."
An August 12 article in the Salt Lake Tribune, entitled "Image of Yankee Imperialism Hurting LDS in S. America," sheds light on another dimension of the problem. At the 1991 Sunstone Symposium, scholars said that "Mormon Latinos are taught that the United States is a nation established by God for the restoration of the gospel," and that the "conspicuously American image of the Mormon Church undercuts its efforts to stop guerrillas from bombing its chapels in Latin America."
"Guerrillas began bombing Mormon chapels in Colombia in 1983. Within a year, chapels were exploding across the continent -- most often in Chile, where last year a group...detonated 66 bombs targeting the Church." Guerrillas in Peru and Bolivia have assassinated LDS missionaries.
The Mormon church has often been accused of overtly favoring dictatorial regimes in the region, and has also come under fire for promoting the Book of Mormon teaching that Indian peoples are "Lamanites" cursed with a dark skin for their ancestors' sins.
Despite such teachings, Mormon membership in the region has soared from 317,000 in 1980 to more than 1.3 million in early 1991.
Meanwhile, the church's latest attempt to sidestep a century of well-documented racist doctrines is Lives of Service, a promotional video originally designed for African heads of state and now available for purchase by the public. The September 1991 Ensign magazine quotes Bruce L. Olsen, managing director of the church's Public Affairs Department, as saying that among African leaders Lives of Service "is proving very effective in removing misconceptions and communicating a Christ-centered message."
The film is undoubtedly intended to prevent the kind of damage done when the anti-Mormon video The God Makers was shown on television in the West African country of Ghana -- a broadcast that apparently led to a 17-month ban on the cult's activities there.
Although the church lifted its ban on ordaining males of African descent in 1978, many are unaware that it has never renounced or revised its teaching that what apostle Bruce R. McConkie termed "negroid racial characteristics" are the mark of a "curse." In fact, even after the 1978 "revelation," church officials have issued warnings against interracial marriages.
Recent printings of McConkie's authoritative Mormon Doctrine declare on page 114 that "in a broad general sense, caste systems have their root and origin in the gospel itself," and that "Cain, Ham, and the whole negro race have been cursed with a black skin, the mark of Cain, so they can be identified as a caste apart, a people with whom the other descendents of Adam should not intermarry."
For the facts on Mormonism's anti-Black teachings, write to CRI and request a copy of the tract entitled "The Mormon Church and the African" (item # DM-400).
Who are the first official advertisers in the history of the Moscow subway system?
Answer: The Soviet Hare Krishna devotees, according to the September/October issue of the cult's Back to Godhead magazine, which reports:
The 3,500 cars of the Moscow "metro" carry seven million people a day. And for years the car walls offered nothing more for people to read than the metro schematics.
But that all changed in May. Since then, Moscow subway riders have been seeing three-square-foot posters of Krishna, in full color, advertising the Bhagavad-gita and other Vedic scriptures. The books are published in Russian and other Soviet languages by the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust.
When people leave the cars, fifteen Krishna consciousness book-selling tables await them in strategic underground stations. Comrades, Hare Krishna!
-- Paul Carden
End of document, CRN0036A.TXT (original CRI file name), "Research Notes" and "International" release A, June 30, 1994 R. Poll, CRI
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