The nation rejoiced when Elizabeth Smart was returned to her family on March 12, 2003, following her abduction on June 5, 2002.
The media has covered the event with great detail. The Smart family is debating whether they should accept a movie offer so they can tell the story as it happened, or allow the media to run away with it, and risk misinformation.
I don’t blame them. No healthy person, church or denomination likes to be misquoted or misunderstood. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS), more commonly known as the Mormon church, is no exception. While their beliefs are not embraced by traditional Christians, it is important to know what is true of them, and what is not true. Because of the bizarre beliefs of the LDS church, we Christians often fall into a condemnation mode. It is a grave error when we, the bearers of truth, spread falsehoods, or allow them to continue.
I am a born again Christian. Because I live in Utah, however, and am married to a High Priest in the LDS church, I am as close to the church without being a member of that church. I have learned that people outside of Utah often misquote or misunderstand the LDS church. As a result, the LDS people pull together even more. They feel strengthened by such persecution; it propels them to believe with greater passion that their church is what they call “true” because we Christians badger them, don't understand what they believe, and make them think that we are a bunch of bulls in a spiritual china shop.
While I do see a certain amount of deception in the LDS church, most LDS people are good and decent. I pray for my husband and many of my LDS friends, and I (as well as many Christian pastors in Utah) were upset at the number of people who believed that God sent them to Salt Lake City during the Winter Olympics to "preach" the truth. They held up signs downtown, they badgered members as they came out of the LDS Temple, they called them names, they screamed that they were going to hell, and they incited confrontations that involved the police.
Within days of Elizabeth’s return to her family, I received an article about the Smart case in from a spiritual viewpoint. I was appalled at the amount of misinformation.
First, the article stated that Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Barzee are LDS. No, they were LDS. They were excommunicated years ago for bizarre behavior and beliefs. Think of it this way; every denomination and every church has different strengths of members. Some are fanatical, some more conservative. Every church and every denomination invariably has someone who breaks off and forms their own beliefs, sometimes, even their own church, and the main church does not support that person. This is what has happened with Brian and Wanda. While Brian maintained the appearance a good man, he had some problems. He did attend church faithfully and worked hard in the community, and was once thought of as a decent person. Wanda was a quiet, but accomplished classical musician.
All LDS people are not alike. They are white, black, Asian, native American, British, Samoan, and more. They are, however, the exact same in spiritual beliefs. They have a unified, world wide, strictly adhered to doctrine, and they do not tolerate any deviation from that doctrine. Anyone who does, regardless of race, is cast out from their presence, but only so they may repent and start afresh with the church. This is what happened to Brian and Wanda, but they never returned. They got stranger and stranger.
Second, the article reported that the Smart family was using the abduction to give publicity to the LDS Church to further its glory. While the church is very business savvy and not above manipulation of God and His name, the bonds between Ed and Lois Smart and their daughter are like any loving family. To suggest that they were somehow in cahoots to further the cause of the church is ludicrous. To live in Utah and see the family interact as I have, one would not make such an accusation.
Third, the article stated that Elizabeth was simply handed over from one Mormon "family" to another. Mitchell is a reputed sex offender who not only broke off from the main church to form his own, but lost custody of his own children years earlier. Barzee and Mitchell had no home before the abduction, and no children living with them. They were panhandlers. I would hardly call that a family!
Lastly, the article declared that the LDS church continues to secretly practice and promote polygamy. No matter what anyone says, the LDS church does not promote polygamy. Proper LDS people become very agitated when the subject comes up, and they will not laugh at jokes about polygamy. They are embarrassed at that part of their past. There are sects that have broken off from the church who do practice polygamy, but they live in compounds out in the country. The most famous cases involve the millionaire Kingston family and Tom Green (now in prison). But most have carefully constructed private lives. The LDS church believes that polygamy will be restored with Christ’s return. They believe that there will be marriage in heaven, and so some sects practice polygamy, waiting for the day that Christ will come. Brian Mitchell (aka Immanuel) believes that he is to restore the church to its former purity, specifically through polygamy. His plan was to take seven sisters (new wives), beginning with Elizabeth. This is absolutely not a teaching of the LDS church.
Elizabeth needs prayer. She was, by her own accounts, raped by a 49 year old man while his 57 year old wife helped. LDS doctrine is bizarre, but I have seen things that confirm their faith. I have seen them seemingly experience miracles and other blessings. It is not as easy to sway them as it might seem. What is clear to us is also clear to them. One cannot convince a member of the LDS church that they are wrong any more than someone can convince us that what we believe is wrong.
I pray that we as Christians will focus on the larger issue of the distortion of God’s word by cults, and the need for millions of people to be saved. God is the only one who can transform, and it is by our unity in His love, in faith in Him, and our obedience to His truth that His kingdom will go forward.
Donna Conger is the author of 4 romantic suspense novels, both mainstream and Christian. She incorporates paraphrased Scripture and Biblical lessons into her secular novels, but loves writing Christian fiction best. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org. For ordering information on her books, please visit: http://inspirationplace.tripod.com (New Releases page).
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Donna, this was a very well balanced article. I was horrified to see that some christians were actually being abusive to the LDS people during the winter olympics. These people are precious souls in need of the truth and sign waving and name calling isn't going to reveal it. As for Elizabeth Smart, this is something that we only heard a relatively small amount about here in Australia - thankfully so. I hope and pray this girl will be able to get on with her life, without the public scrutiny and media hype. With love, Deb