I realize it’s been some time since I updated the series on the Jehovah’s Witnesses. But don’t worry. I haven’t forgotten about it. Being a particularly hot summer, my brain fog has been especially bad, which prevents me from putting in the long periods of time and attention needed to construct longer and more complicated posts. But it’s still on my mind and I do plan to continue with the next section in the near future.
In the meantime, I wanted to touch on the general issue of cults, and particularly the tremendous grip they have on their victims. People who are born and raised in cults are especially entrenched because they’ve been saturated in cult life from their very earliest memories. Individuals who are drawn in as adults may not be quite as deeply indoctrinated, but are still very attached to their new found sense of community and security.
Now, when I talk about cults, I’m not talking about the occult in particular. I’m referring to religious groups that claim to be “true Christianity” while rejecting orthodox historic Christian doctrine and replacing it with any number of “new” teachings. While they each have their own teachings, they do share some important factors in common. All of them teach that salvation is accomplished by human works (though some are more subtle about this than others). They all also deny the Trinity. They will tell you about the great respect they have for their Jesus, but deny that God is the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; one God consisting of three persons. JWs see Jesus as the angel Michael; a second and lesser “god”. The Mormon Jesus is one of an infinite number of separate gods, of whom humans may become one day. Cults also segregate and isolate members so that they have little to no connection with anyone outside the cult. If they have friends or family who are not part of the cult, they are encouraged to separate from them. They are also taught that the cult leaders/organization are the only source of truth, and so all research and study must be done within those confines because nothing else and no one else can be trusted. They are taught an “us vs. them” ideology that encourages a sense of pride in being among the select few who really know the truth.
But beyond all of that is the tremendous amount of brainwashing they engage in. Such tactics are so effective that even when members are clearly shown the errors of the cult teachings, the failed prophesies, the inaccuracies, the contradictions, etc., many of them will still cling to the cult and go back to what feels most familiar and secure. What drew me to write this post is a video I recently viewed by a former Mormon who is now a Christian. In the video, he explores a few points that contrast the truth of Scripture with the falsehoods of Joseph Smith and his writings. He very graciously and kindly explores these differences with a practicing Mormon and clearly shows him what he’s found. The Mormon has no answers and has to admit that what he’s been shown is clearly proven and correct.
Now, I always take these kinds of videos with a grain of salt. There are many moving pictures with dramatic music, etc. And in any video like this, portions of discussion must be edited down for the sake of time. But the discussions that were recorded and in particular, the interviews with scholars, archaeologists, etc. are especially interesting and well done. So, for that reason I think it is a valuable video. Don’t use the film as your resource to disprove Joseph Smith and assume your Mormon friend will also have nothing to say in return. LDS apologists have confronted these issues many times and have a long list of excuses to offer. Additionally, there are many more contradictions to be aware of. Having just these few will most likely not get you far.
If you’ve ever conversed with Mormons, JWs, etc. you know how encouraging it can be to see them showing the same thoughtful, though troubled reactions that the Mormon fellow in this video expressed. It appears that showing him clear proof is helping him to think through serious issues that he never considered before. It looks like a light bulb may be turning on in his head. And you may expect that in time you would find he’s left the cult completely. But that is not often the case. More often they end up just like him, having been presented with clear evidence, yet choosing to go back to his familiar childhood teachings.
While it is important to know about the many contradictions that are prevalent in cults, it is even more important to simply share the gospel with them. They may give you a blank stare, but keep doing it when you get a chance and trust God to use that for His glory. Cult members are exhausted under the yoke of their false religion. Show them the freedom that they can only find in Christ – the true Christ of the Bible.
That video was recorded in 2006. And this next one was recorded in 2011 in response to a similar video. Funny thing is at first I actually thought this was the same fellow from the first video (Greg Gifford) because they look a lot alike. But no, his name is Kerry Shirts, and he has quite a few videos on YouTube promoting his LDS ideologies.
Below are his impressions of the video I posted above. Note how he’s built up walls of denial around himself, brushing off the evidence presented as minor, unimportant, and somehow just an “American” way of explaining “proof”, which to him is purely subjective. He shows us that he has a significant distaste for the Bible as a whole. He also employs very post modern ideology to deny even the reality or existence of truth. He even goes off on a tangent suggesting that current archaeology basically proves that nothing in the Bible actually happened as it is recorded, casually mentioning completely unqualified “sources” (look them up if you are curious), and suggesting that they represent archaeology as a whole instead of being the largely discredited, unqualified, fringe elements that they are. That’s the degree of delusion he’s willing to embrace in order to reject evidence and hold to his beliefs. It would be easy to simply say that he’s lying because he shares such ludicrous and easily disproven comments. But I think perhaps he has become so practiced at lying to himself that he actually believes what he’s saying. This is a far more common reaction to evidences of contradiction when they are presented.
The LDS organization has become quite adept at teaching this ideology so that members can more easily ignore every objection presented to them without even having to really think about it. I suspect the Watchtower organization is beginning to head down that path as well, though they are still holding on to modernism much more tightly. So it might be a little while yet before we see them fully training in this mindset.
The reason I wanted to share both of these videos is to remind us all just how dangerous cults really are and what a strong hold they have on even intelligent, thoughtful minds. Cults use brainwashing in expert fashion. You don’t have to be weak-minded to fall for them. There are many highly intellectual people who have been so saturated with cult ideology that even they cannot see the truth for what it is. Likewise, highly intelligent people can also be drawn into them as adults, usually through exploitation of their pain, loneliness, and need to be part of a community. This is why much of the material the missionaries, pioneers, etc. use is heavily focused on those specific issues. When they encounter someone who is hurting, they want to zero in on that and offer them something that looks like hope and acceptance.
So, when you are witnessing to a cult member, keep in mind that even if you “stump” them with evidence or feel like you are getting through, be prepared for the possibility that ultimately they will continue to choose the cult over the truth. This is genuine spiritual warfare. Pray for them, and keep sharing the gospel with them. There are two primary factors to consider and pray about: One is that their eyes are opened and they leave the cult. The other (and far more important) is that they come to a saving faith in Christ and are born again, free to worship the one true God. Also, be prepared to support them if they do leave the cult. They will need help and patience as they get their feet under them and learn to find their way through this new way of life. Most have to endure a very tumultuous time of grief, anger and bitterness as the reality of what they’ve been put through becomes clearer and clearer.
If N & M ever read this, please know that I am still praying for you and hope to see you again one day.