Criticism of Mormonism/Books/One Nation Under Gods/Use of sources/Christianity is satanic

Do Mormons believe that Christianity is "satanic"?


A FairMormon Analysis of: One Nation Under Gods
A work by author: Richard Abanes

Author's Claims


One Nation under Gods, page 86 (hardback and paperback)

ONUG claims that "anti-Christendom" became a "defining feature of Mormonism," which denounced all denominational forms of Christianity as "satanic."

Author's Sources


Endnote 22-23, page 519 (hardback); page 517 (paperback)

Answer


Early leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ—like other Christian clergymen then and now—clearly disagreed with the doctrine of much of Christendom, but to say they regarded it as "satanic" is not supported by these quotations.

Detailed Analysis

None of these citations are fairly represented. ONUG does not indicate which quotes on these pages are being referred to, so we have here tried to choose the most likely suspects.

Brigham Young, JD 5:73

Brigham Young describes his religious experience before becoming a member of the Church:

I was well acquainted with many of the priests of the day, and I would frequently think to myself that I would get some knowledge from them. And as I became acquainted with smart, intelligent, literary priests and professors of religion, I thought, Now I can obtain some intelligence from this or from that man; and I would begin to ask questions on certain texts of Scripture; but they would always leave me as they found me, in the dark. They were there themselves; and I knew of a surety, before I heard the Gospel, that the priests were blind guides leading the blind, and that there was nothing left for them only to stumble here and there, and perhaps fall into a ditch. That much knowledge I had previous to my becoming acquainted with what is called "Mormonism."
It would be very profitable to the inhabitants of the earth to learn one fact, which a very few in the world have learned, that they are ignorant—that they have not the wisdom, the knowledge, and the intelligence outside the circle of what is called the wisdom of man. For persons to know and understand their own talent, their own strength, their own ability, their own influence, would be very profitable to the inhabitants of the earth, though but very few learn it.

Brigham argues that the learning of men—as displayed by the clergymen he approached for answers—will not suffice to teach the things of God. There is nothing that calls Christianity "satanic."

Brigham Young, JD 5:229-230

While brother Taylor was speaking of the sectarian world, it occurred to my mind that the wicked do not know any more than the dumb brutes, comparatively speaking; but it is our business to hunt up and gather out all the honest portion of the nations of the earth, and give them salvation.
We may very properly say that the sectarian world do not know anything correctly, so far as pertains to salvation. Ask them where heaven is?—where they are going to when they die? —where Paradise is?—and there is not a priest in the world that can answer your questions. Ask them what kind of a being our Heavenly Father is, and they cannot tell you so much as Balaam's ass told him. They are more ignorant than children.
We have the knowledge of those things; and we have the greatest reason to be thankful of any people upon the face of the earth. If others ought to do right, we more. Be full of love and compassion to your fellow-beings, full of kindness, such as human beings can possess, for that is our business. The only business that we have on hand is to build up the kingdom of God and prepare the way of the Son of Man.

Brigham again argues that those who rely on man's knowledge do not have a knowledge of salvation, but notes that there is an "honest portion" among all the nations of the earth. Brigham does not see this as reason for arrogance, but gratitude and greater effort at Christian living. There is again no suggestion that Christianity is "satanic."

Brigham Young, JD 8:171

In the forenoon, brother Hooper asked—"What will not people do for gold?" I will answer the question. They will not serve God with a pure heart; you cannot hire them to do this. If they serve God, it will be by their own freewill and choice. Persons can be hired to preach for money, but it does not follow that such preaching is doing God service.
As I mentioned this morning, when the god of this world is hoisted, the priest from the pulpit and the pious deacon and the people worship at its shrine. All the churches and all the world run after gold.

Brigham here criticizes the love of luxury among churchmen, simony, or priestcraft. Brigham is not the first religious reformer to decry corruption in existing churches, or to point out that wealth and privilege have corrupted supposed men of God. Would the author of ONUG claim that Martin Luther's attack on papal excesses meant that he thought all Christianity "satanic"?

Brigham Young, JD 8:198-199

The most ignorant of our Elders, with the Spirit and power of God upon them, can, in knowledge of Scripture, lead the smartest of the Gentile priests into deep water, and dip them under, and draw them back again at their pleasure, and confound the Scripture knowledge of the priestcraft that is on the earth. During our return from England, brother Heber C. Kimball was beset by a number of Baptist priests who had been attending a conference. He read them all down out of the New Testament. Brother George A. Smith sat beside them with a pocket Bible, and brother Heber would say—"Brother George, turn to that." "Oh," said the priests, "you need not turn to it, for we recollect it," when there was no such passage in the Bible. He sat for two hours and advanced much Scripture that never was in the Bible....

In the same vein, Brigham makes fun of the supposed learning of the clergymen of the day, and tells a practical joke played by LDS missionaries which exploited this fact. Brigham then notes that this is the same type of trick as that reportedly played by Benjamin Franklin, who

...when he was conversing with a man who opposed him upon the subject of charity, and was particularly in favour of justice. "You remember the Scripture," said Franklin, where it reads like this:—Once on a time an old man came at eventide to Abram's tent. Abram bid him welcome, but as he entered the tent he gave not God thanks. He said to Abram, Canst thou give me meat? And Abram said, Thou art not a servant of God, and thou shalt not have meat. The old man said, Let me have meat, that I may live and not die. And the voice of the Lord came to Abram in this wise: Abram, Abram, beholdest thou this aged servant of mine, with whom I have borne ninety-nine years, and canst thou not bear with him one night?" When Franklin got through, the man had yielded the point, and asked him where he read that; to which Franklin replied, "You will find it in the 51st chapter of Genesis!" and there are only fifty chapters in that book. Our Elders may tell the priests that there are fifty-one chapters in Genesis, and but few of them, if any, will know that there are only fifty. With regard to true theology, a more ignorant people never lived than the present so-called Christian world.

Again, Brigham claims that other denominations do not have revelation—he labels them "so-called Christian," because he does not believe they are teaching true Christianity. Every religious reformer has had similar sentiments—if some other Christian denomination was teaching the truth, as the reformer understood it, there would be no need to form a new denomination.

But, again Brigham nowhere labels anyone or anything "satanic"—merely ignorant at best, and pompously ignorant at worst.

John Taylor, JD 6:25

What! are Christians ignorant? Yes, as ignorant of the things of God as the brute beast….
If there cannot be a people anywhere found that will listen to the word of God and receive instructions from Him, how can His kingdom ever be established? It is impossible! What is the first thing necessary to the establishment of His kingdom? It is to raise up a prophet and have him declare the will of God; the next is to have people yield obedience to the word of the Lord through that prophet. If you cannot have these, you never can establish the kingdom of God upon the earth.

John Taylor continues in the same vein as Brigham—he bemoans the ignorance of the Christian world, because they rely on their own learning and do not heed prophets. Paul bemoaned the same phenomenon (2 Timothy 2:7), as did Jesus Christ(Matthew 13:15, Matthew 23:13-33).

John Taylor, JD 6:167

The world has been apostate for generations past: it has been under the dominion of the prince and power of the air, even the god of this world, who rules in the hearts of the children of disobedience. As I have stated before, they have been wrong in their national affairs, they have been wrong in political affairs, they have been wrong in their religion, and they have been wrong in everything.
What is God going to do, to set the world right? We are the people who are called to do his work; and if so, he must put us right. We are a little nucleus, a mere handful, that he has selected from among the nations, to put His name among. Yes, we are that people, with all our faults, our foibles, and vanities. We do acknowledge the hand of God; we do acknowledge the prophet of God and the teachings of the Most High, and we do feel willing to be governed by those teachings….

John Taylor says here that the entire WORLD is under Satan's dominion or influence. This is a standard perspective for many religious reformers. He continues:

We have first to learn submission to the will of God ourselves, through various trials, persecutions, and the development of our weaknesses and imperfections, and thereby learn to appreciate the goodness and blessings that flow from Him. We must see that we ourselves first learn obedience, and then teach others. But how can we teach others a lesson which we have not learned ourselves?
There is no nation now that acknowledges the hand of God; there is not a king, potentate, nor ruler that acknowledges His jurisdiction. We talk about Christianity, but it is a perfect pack of nonsense. Men talk about civilization; but I do not want to say much about that, for I have seen enough of it. Myself and hundreds of the Elders around me have seen its pomp, parade, and glory; and what is it? It is a sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal; it is as corrupt as hell; and the Devil could not invent a better engine to spread his work than the Christianity of the nineteenth century.

Here, at last, we have something which approaches ONUG's claim. But, here again, Taylor's meaning is different than that which is alleged. Taylor certainly believed that the denominations of his day ("the Christianity of the nineteenth century") were apostate and corrupt. But, so did every religious reformer: Martin Luther felt that the Christianity of his day was apostate and corrupt, and reform movements ever since have been of the same opinion. This is quite a different matter than considering "Christianity" to be satanic.

John Taylor, JD 13:225

Who can tell things pertaining to our heavenly existence, or the object God had in view for creating this and other worlds, and the destiny of the human family? No man, except God reveals it to him. What has been, and still is, the position of the world in relation to these things? It has been governed by every kind of dogma and theory of religion. "Isms" of every kind have prevailed in turn -- polytheism, infidelity, Christianity in its ten thousand forms, and every kind of theory and dogma that the human imagination could invent. Such contrarities show definitely and positively that men, by wisdom, cannot find out God. And Christianity, at the present time, is no more enlightened than other systems have been. What does the Christian world know about God? Nothing; yet these very men assume the right and power to tell others what they shall and what they shall not believe in. Why, so far as the things of God are concerned, they are the veriest fools; they know neither God nor the things of God.

John Taylor again criticizes those who presume to knowledge (whether in Christianity or outside of it), without revelation: "No man" can tell it "except God reveals it to him." There is no suggestion that such people are satanic.

What did other Christians say about other denominations?

Latter-day Saint speakers are criticized in ONUG for supposedly attacking and vilifying "Christianity," while failing to recognize that the Saints' relatively moderate expressions of disagreement with other denominations are no worse (and often more mild) than attacks which various Christian denominations of the period heaped upon each other.

1800-1830

Missouri Presbyterianism in Joseph Smith's era

From: Joseph H. Hall, Presbyterian Conflict and Resolution on the Missouri Frontier, Studies in American Religion, Volume 26, (Lewiston/Queenston: The Edwin Mellen Press, 1987), 15, 22.

"The Greek word koinonia is translated fellowship and currently serves the purpose of ecumenical endeavors. The question can be raised, how did the various early Missouri denominations get along with one another? On the early Missouri frontier the greatest difficulty found by early Presbyterian missionaries was with the itinerant Methodist preachers. Very early on in his ministry Giddings determined that Methodists were untrustworthy inasmuch as they abstracted sections of his published ‘Journal’ and reinterpreted them for their own purposes. Giddings asked Secretary Abel Flint to help explore the devious practice so that the mischief would ‘recoil upon [the Methodists’] own head’” (citing Salmon Giddings, Letter to Abel Flint, October 6, 1816. Conn. Miss. Society Papers). [15]
“Timothy Flint found the early frontier Methodists equally untrustworthy: "[The Methodist]… meets you with harmony and cooperation on his lips, and the next thing which you hear is that you are charged with being a fierce Calvinist, and that you have preached, that ‘hell is paved with infants’ skulls’" (quoting Flint, Recollections, 84). [15]
“The Methodist attack on Presbyterian Calvinists is a constant refrain in the early literature” (citing Salmon Giddings, Letter to Abel Flint, July 23, 1818, CMS Papers). [15]
“Giddings mentions having heard that the celebrated Methodist Bishop McKendree had passed through the country and while preaching at Bellview, the Bishop did little more in his sermon than ‘scold or whip the Presbyterians and Presbyterian missionaries’.” [22, note 49]

Methodist Magazine 8-3

From: [Anonymous], “Popery in 1824,” Methodist Magazine 8/3 (March 1825): 81–120.

[Opening statement] “We have heard with our ears, because our fathers have told us, and we have seen with our eyes, because it has been faithfully transmitted to us in the page of history, of the deleterious effects of popery on the understandings and [105] consciences of men; blinding the one with a false light, and enslaving the other by the absurd dogmas of men of corrupt minds, ‘who have erred concerning the truth.’…. It was to be hoped that the wide diffusion of moral and religious principles, in the present age of Christian enterprise, would have softened, in some measure, at least, the asperity of the ‘beast and the false prophet.’” (104-5)

The article then quotes “The Circular Letter of the most Holy Lord, our Lord [Pope] Leo the Twelfth…” with comments by the author of our article. Here is the first comment

“Were the Roman Catholic church the only true church, or a true church at all, all this would be well enough; but for a man who has trampled on all laws, outraged even common decency, usurped the place of Jesus Christ himself, by being placed as the supreme head over a corrupt church, anti-christian in its spirit and many of its practices, so assume such a language, us truly shocking, and seems to us to border on blasphemy…. His holiness doubtless feels the influence of the present exertions in the Protestant world, to spread the knowledge of divine truth by means of Bible and Missionary Societies; and therefore wishes to oppose a timely barrier against its farther progress within his dominions” (106)

The article then quotes several more paragraphs from the Pope’s Circular Letter, which includes the well known statement of “outside the church there is no salvation”; the Letter also refers to “a certain society, vulgarly called ‘THE BIBLE SOCIETY’” which “after despising the traditions of the holy fathers… this society has collected all its forces, and directs every means to one object,--to the translation, or rather to the perversion of THE BIBLE into the vernacular languages of all nations!” (108)

The article responds to the above:

“In the above extracts we may see a display of that ecclesiastical finesse, which is the offspring of the cunningness of the serpent, by associating the promoters of Bible societies, and the advocates of the principles of toleration in regard to religious worship, with deists and naturalists, with a view, no doubt, to render them the more odious in the estimation of all good Catholic Christians” (109)

1831-1860

  • Rev. Thomas Best, St. James, Sheffield, “The Romish Church Essentially Anti-Christian. A Sermon,"; The Church of England Magazine 11/312 (November 6, 1841): 297-302.
  • The Ecclesiastic, an Anglican quarterly published in London made the following observations in its inaugural issue:
    • “… heresies of Independents, Baptists….” [1/1 (January – June 1846): 5.]
    • “… the gigantic heresy of the Methodists…” [1/1 (January – June 1846): 36.]