A recent mass distribution of anti-Mormon DVDs has triggered a strong rebuke from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The DVD, "Jesus Christ/Joseph Smith," is part of a campaign targeting Mormonism that was launched by various Christian organizations on Sunday in the United States and Canada. Areas with a high concentration of LDS Church members like Utah are expected to receive the bulk of the DVDs, but an estimated 500,000 copies are expected to be delivered across the United States and Canada by the end of the week.
"Groups opposed to the (LDS Church) have a perfect right to distribute their materials in ways that are legal," said a statement posted Thursday on the church's Web site, www.lds.org. "The issue is not one of rights. Rather, it is that one religious group chooses to target another with a DVD full of distortions of its doctrine and history, and misrepresentations so stark that they call into question the integrity of the producers."
The video which features an LDS temple and a picture of Joseph Smith on the cover is designed to expose the "fatal flaws" of the LDS Church, said Floyd McElveen, who helped create the DVD.
McElveen, a retired Baptist preacher from Petal, Miss., said he helped create the video to warn Mormons and "save" them.
"We may be wrong I'm 100 percent convinced that we're not but we believe the doctrines of the LDS Church cause people to be deceived and go to hell," McElveen said. "Now if they believed that about me, even if they were wrong, they would be monsters if they didn't try to reach me and warn me. ... As long as I have breath, I'll try to reach Mormons for the real Christ, the biblical Christ."
McElveen said the video has been finished for several months, but efforts were made to keep the project hidden from public knowledge until March 25, the campaign's kickoff day. The campaign was planned to coincide with the semi-annual General Conference of the LDS Church, which begins Saturday.
"We knew what would happen (if the information got out)," McElveen said. "We knew when the (LDS) bishops heard about it they would say, 'Throw it in the wastebaskets,' and that's a lot of money to throw away. We wanted a fair shake."
McElveen says he helped plan the distribution out of love, but the campaign has come under fire from other religious organizations who disapprove of the effort.
In Arizona, where a door-to-door distribution was organized, Jewish Anti-Defamation League Regional Board Chairman David Bodney criticized the effort, saying that "hate directed at any of us is hate directed at all of us."
The LDS Church said it is not surprised at being the focus of the campaign. In denouncing the DVD campaign, the church compared the mass-distribution with the church's own missionary effort.
"When Latter-day Saint missionaries visit homes or engage others in conversation, they ... declare their own message honestly and openly and allow people the freedom to choose," says the statement. "That will continue to be the church's approach, not just because honest and open dialogue is what most people want, but because in our view it best represents the spirit of the gospel of Jesus Christ."
Since the DVD's initial distribution on Sunday, McElveen says the DVD's Web site, www.goodnewsforlds.com, has been flooded with e-mails and attention. The same can be said for another Web site, www.fairlds.org, that has published a point-by-point rebuttal of "Jesus Christ/Joseph Smith."
The Web site was created by the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research to defend Mormonism, but is not affiliated with the LDS Church. Scott Gordon, president of FAIR, said his organization obtained a copy of the DVD about a week before it was distributed, and volunteers prepared the rebuttals.
The questions raised and their answers aren't anything new, Gordon says.
Gordon said the DVD misses the target because it attempts to discredit tenets that are not true representations of LDS beliefs."My feeling about this DVD is they took a shotgun and said, 'We're going to give you everything we've got,"' Gordon said. "Then we say, 'If that's everything you've got, then it's not enough."'