Back to the Classics

In this interview Charlotte Pardee of Ex-Mormons for Jesus discusses her mission to Latter-Day Saints.  From almost the opening line she expresses an understanding of Mormonism that I think has done a great deal of harm. But the long form of this interview will give you an insight into her goals, motivations and aspirations.

Though I used to live about a mile away from their information center, I have never had any contact with Ex-Mormons for Jesus.  I believe I had a chance encounter with Charlotte outside of the opening of the Newport Beach Temple in 2005.  She was handing out pamphlets on the street corner.   I have met a couple of Evangelicals who ended their investigation of Mormonism after talking with someone from Ex-Mormons for Jesus. I believe her when she says she’s led many Mormons out of the LDS church but I question if her strategy and understanding of Mormonism has been the most effective over the long term.  I do not think it’s helpful to assume a Mormon does not understand their own faith tradition when their beliefs do not match our outsider’s view of Mormonism.

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About Tim

Evangelical Christian living in Southern California. I live with my wife and whatever foster children happen to be in our home at this moment. I love photography, baseball, movies and I'm fascinated by Mormonism.

14 thoughts on “Back to the Classics

  1. She clearly must have been talking with Seth when she says “Mormons believe the King Follett Discourse to be one of Joseph Smith’s greatest sermons”.


  2. Or she’s reading BH Roberts:

    “The Prophet lived his life in crescendo. From small beginnings, it rose in breadth and power as he neared its close. As a teacher he reached the climax of his career in this discourse. After it there was but one thing more he could do — seal his testimony with his blood. This he did three months later.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 355, footnote 11)

  3. I don’t think that the majority of Mormons really have the King Follett Sermon on the radar.

    I think this is a shame. I completely agree with that B.H. Roberts quote Aaron provided.

    I wouldn’t mind holding the LDS Church to the King Follett Sermon, it’s something I would be proud to own. But unfortunately the reality in the LDS Church is somewhat different, so I am forced – as a representative of the LDS faith – to equivocate on the issue.

    That said, I somehow doubt Charlotte has fairly represented the King Follett Sermon.

  4. Although I’m often harping to all sides that the KFD was never canonized, I have to admit it was much more prominent when I became an LDS kid in New York circa 1970. As a teen, even with LofC and substance abuse problems, I was more intellectually knowledgeable about the church than most other LDS kids. The KFD was certainly actively taught and promoted by many at the local level. I observed this at BYU too. It wasn’t until about ~seven months into my mission in the South of France circa 1978, when I was rocketed from Junior Comp into the mission leadership, that I learned it wasn’t doctrine and shouldn’t be taught.

    It’s correlation that pushed the KFD into apocryphal status, and the correlators were probably grateful the lack of official status made their job much easier. I’ll add that was long before GBH’s public distancing himself from the KFD, hence my anger at people like Bob McCue who know all this and still insist Mormons teach from the KFD today.

  5. I’ve read the King Follett Discourse before, and I just read it again, and I don’t see anything in it that is contradictory to my understanding of LDS theology. Can someone give me a link to any of the claims that the Church has officially “distanced” itself from these particular teachings of Joseph Smith? I only wonder because I just read it again off of the Church’s website, where it had been published in the Ensign as a two-part series in 1971.

    I’ll listen to the recording later. Unfortunately have to go do some work this morning first.

  6. Alex — I think that many of the claims that we have distanced ourselves from the KFD go back to a 1997 interview that President Hinckley had with Time magazine. Here’s what was said:

    Q: Just another related question that comes up is the statements in the King Follett discourse by the prophet.

    A: Yeah

    Q: …about that, God the Father was once a man as we were. This is something that Christian writers are always addressing. Is this the teaching of the church today, that God the Father was once a man like we are?

    A: I don’t know that we teach it. I don’t know that we emphasize it. I haven’t heard it discussed for a long time in public discourse. I don’t know. I don’t know all the circumstances under which that statement was made. I understand the philosophical background behind it. But I don’t know a lot about it and I don’t know that others know a lot about it.

    For what it’s worth, I don’t recall ever being taught that our Heavenly Father was once human like we are before he became God, although I have heard people in classes express that point of view.

    I have heard it taught that Smith gave this sermon. And in that sermon, Smith never says that God was human like we were before he became God. In fact, he suggests otherwise:

    We say that God himself is a self-existing God. Who told you so? It is correct enough …

    The only things that are clear to me are that 1) the KFD has never been canonized, partly, I assume, because we don’t know the accuracy of the transcript, and 2) what Smith said is open to varying interpretations.

    I don’t see that there’s been any “distancing” from what Smith said in the sermon (after all, excerpts have been included in recent church educational materials). What I do see is that the Church hasn’t formally aligned itself with any particular interpretation of what Smith said, leaving us free to read into it what we will, or even whether to accept it as inspired.

    I find the sermon both brilliant and fascinating.

  7. So here are some of my thoughts:

    1) Blah, blah, blah, you believe in a different Jesus, blah, blah, blah… Blah, blah, blah, Jesus and Satan are brothers, blah, blah, blah…. Blah, blah, blah, Mormons won’t say they worship Joseph Smith, but actually they do, blah, blah, blah. The BS radar is going off strong now. Seriously? Okay, can we move on to something new?

    2) Mormons know what they believe. What Mormons may not know is what Charlotte claims Mormons believe. There is a pretty big difference between those two statements, and it is something that really peeves me to no end. When I interact with people of other faiths, I am not going to sit there doggedly insisting that they believe one thing while they say another. As Tim said, it isn’t very helpful to insist that an outsider’s view of a faith tradition is the view held by those within the faith tradition.

    3) The Plan of Salvation was never “Jesus’ Plan” – it was, is, and always has been Heavenly Father’s Plan. Just about every child in Primary can tell you this.

    4) I’ve never seen anyone experience the bait-and-switch tactic that she claims Mormons employ. The only people I know who have claimed this happens are those who are not Mormons. Interesting that I’ve never witnessed this in any of the dozens of wards/branches I have been in. Apparently I’ve consistently lived in all the wrong (or right) places.

    5) Her definition of a cult is control? So… every organisation in the world is a cult? Or, at least, every organisation that has any kind of order established. So the federal government is a cult, local governments are cults, parents have miniature cults within their homes, classroom teachers are cult leaders, schools in general are cults, sports teams are cults, the NCAA is a cult, and every single religious organisation in the world is a cult. I think that her definition is the most singularly unhelpful definition ever.

    6) Wow… Is she really using the title of a cheesy Mormon film to justify a claim that Mormons are man-centered instead of God-centered? Thanks for bringing up this insanely false dichotomy of having to pick either God or family, rather than understanding that Mormons believe in a life that includes both God and family.

    7) Huh? What does she mean when she says “God will never hiss”? Isaiah seems to think otherwise. Also, I love that she thinks that word “Bible” was literally written. Will someone please explain to her the concept of translation?

    8 ) If she wants to believe in an inerrant Bible, I guess she is welcome to do so. I find it interesting that she thinks that one error negates the entire thing. I just read over a contract, and I noticed this line, that appears in just about every contract: “If any provision, clause, sentence, paragraph, section, or part of this contract shall, for any reason, be adjudged to be invalid, said judgment shall not affect, impair, or invalidate the remaining provisions, clauses, sentences, paragraphs, sections, or parts herein.” I believe this is true for the Scriptures – if any part has been translated incorrectly, it will not invalidate the rest. it just invalidates that part.

  8. Alex, that YouTube clip of the Godmakers video presents the Plan of Salvation as “Jesus’ Plan” under Mormon belief.

    Her use of the same language indicates to me that she is using that video as her starting reference point for crafting a narrative about Mormonism.

  9. If languages were towers, French would succeed where Babel failed. We even have the word of a Mormon GA that French is the celestial language. But I’ll paraphrase Merovingian from The Matrix Reloaded who summed it up best: even cussing in French is like wiping your rear with silk.

    And in what other missions do we LDS have license to consume kirsch drenched cake (albeit with a prohibition against enjoying it or asking for seconds)? Francophone missions rock! I can’t tell you how disappointed I was when my son wasn’t called to France.

    We’ll my youngest dances in the Houston St Patty’s parade tomorrow, and I’m already craving a Guinness. Bon nuit.

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