DVD challenges Mormons to take closer look at their beliefs
EDITORS' NOTE: A two-part series, "The Mormons," will be shown on PBS tonight and Tuesday, April 30 and May 1. The following two stories report on some of the various efforts to reach Mormons with the Gospel.
SALT LAKE CITY (BP)--The "Jesus Christ/Joseph Smith" DVD distributed across Utah and other parts of the country this spring was intended to be upsetting, the co-director of the DVD said.
"I was offended when I was told these same things when I was a Mormon," Randy Gavin said.
"The reverence I held for Joseph Smith kept me from taking a critical look at him," Gavin said. "If you're going to trust your salvation to something, you need to take a critical look at it."
The DVD has elicited responses from within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and in other religious circles. An LDS news release said the church has weathered similar attacks throughout its history and is not surprised that groups are trying to restrain its growth. The Anti-Defamation League, meanwhile, condemned the DVD in a news release as the same kind of "plain, old-fashioned Mormon-bashing" various groups have been "spewing" for more than 25 years.
"Hate directed at any of us is hate directed at all of us. From whomever that hate comes, and to whomever it's directed, ADL takes it very seriously and will continue to speak out against it," ADL Regional Board Chair David Bodney added.
Gavin, however, mentions Jesus' teachings in John 6:54-61 as one of his guidelines for the DVD, comparing the disciple's distressed reaction to Jesus' teaching of eating His flesh and drinking His blood to the reaction some Mormons will have to the DVD challenging their faith.
"They're going to be offended," Gavin said. They will investigate the DVD's claims, he said, and likely will become mad over various biblical falsehoods inherent to Mormonism.
"That's what I went through, as well as other people I've talked to," Gavin said. "If I had never been offended, I would have never known."
The ultimate goal of the DVD, Gavin said, is to "reach Mormons with the truth of who God is." The DVD attempts to do that by addressing Smith -- the "epicenter of Mormonism," Gavin said -- and explaining how "his doctrines of God contradict God's revelation." The DVD also attempts to show how Smith's later revelations contradict the doctrines taught in the Book of Mormon.
The LDS church declined a request for an official response to the content of the DVD.
Planning for the DVD began in September 2005 by Gavin and Floyd McElveen, author of "The Mormon Illusion," along with LaBarge Media, the New York-based group that produced it. The project grew by word of mouth into what Gavin described as the largest known outreach to Mormons ever.
"This would not have happened without the sacrifice of time, effort and money of thousands of Christians," Gavin said.
The distribution is still not done. Gavin said 700,000 DVDs will be sent out worldwide over the next few months and a Spanish version is being planned. Numerous churches have requested DVDs to distribute in their community. A key challenge remains securing the funding and volunteers needed for the distribution.
"This is a lot of seed planting," said Lisa Kiltz, volunteer administrative assistant for the DVD project, "and [its impact] depends on where people are in the chain of events God has orchestrated in their lives."
Hundreds of volunteers across Utah hung the DVDs on doorknobs March 25 in white plastic bags that said "Good News for LDS."
Dustin McNab is a writer based in Anchorage, Alaska.