The God Makers is a book and film highlighting the inner workings and perceived negative aspects of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). The book and film was co-authored by Ed Decker and Dave Hunt.
The film, produced by Jeremiah Films in 1982, takes a highly critical view of the LDS Church, its practices, and its teachings. The film is an exposé of the Church’s secrets, which has been controversial among church members and non-members since its release, provoking passionate debates about its veracity and message.
The God Makers was first shown to a group of 4,000 evangelical Christians on December 31, 1982, at Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California.
Introduction and setting
The film depicts a meeting between Ed Decker and Dick Baer with two actors who portray Los Angeles attorneys.
The film states that Decker and Baer are there to consult “with a Los Angeles-based law firm about filing a class action lawsuit” against the LDS Church. Decker states that the church is a massive, multi-billion dollar corporation which shatters the lives of families and has ties into Satanism and the occult. Much of the dialogue occurs between Decker, Baer and the two actor/lawyers, in addition to interview segments with various other people interspersed throughout the film.
Dr. Harold Goodman, who is introduced as a BYU professor, former Mormon bishop, and current LDS mission president, provides quotes at various points throughout the film. Goodman states that the church is very family centered, and notes the importance of temple attendance and marriage to Latter-day Saints.
The film’s narrator adds that the temple is used for “only secret ceremonies which are reserved for an elite few,” and that temple attendance is required in order that “the worthy Mormon can become a god himself in the life hereafter, ruling over his own planet, with a number of goddess wives.” It is claimed that temple open houses are the only opportunity some members will ever have to enter the temple, which is inaccurate, as all Mormons are invited to the temple if they live according to the basic tenets of the faith.
Baer states that members of the LDS Church believe that there are “billions of these highly evolved humanoids” in space ruling their own planets. A woman is interviewed who said that her goal as a Mormon was to be “eternally pregnant”. One of the actor/lawyers states that he finds it difficult to believe that the Mormon attorneys and judges that he associates with expect to become “infinite gods” and populate planets through “celestial sex” with their “goddess wives”. He further states that he would be embarrassed to ask them about this. Decker responds that the Mormons are so embarrassed by it that they themselves don’t even talk about it. Floyd McElveen, who is introduced as author of the bestseller, The Mormon Illusion, states that “their whole doctrine flows from this about becoming gods”.
Decker and Baer run an animated film that is claimed to illustrate the differences between Mormonism and Christianity. The animation depicts God the Father living on a planet called Kolob with his many identical, blonde “goddess wives” who are taking care of “spirit children” produced through endless celestial sex.
A plan is presented to create and populate the Earth, and all of the spirits in attendance vote on the matter. One third of the spirits follow Lucifer’s plan and are denied physical bodies. Those that are “neutral” are born with black skin. Those who were valiant were to be lighter skinned and born into Mormon families on planet earth.
The narrator states that thousands of years later, God the Father journeyed to earth “from the Starbase Kolob”, to have sex with the virgin Mary, in order to provide Jesus with a physical body. It is also stated that Jesus Christ, who is now referred to as the “Mormon Jesus”, had a number of children through multiple wives. The narrator states that Joseph Smith Jr. claimed to be a direct descendant of Jesus Christ.
The animation portrays a brief history of the events described in the Book of Mormon. The narrator states that the Book of Mormon was recovered by “a young treasure seeker named Joseph Smith, who was known for his tall tales in upstate New York.” The narrator states that the Mormons thank God for Joseph Smith and that Smith will sit in final judgment over them, along with God the Father and the Mormon Jesus. The film depicts Smith sitting in the center position with God the Father and the Mormon Jesus to either side during the judgment process. It is stated that Joseph Smith shed his blood for us, so that we too may become gods. Upon viewing the animation, one of the actor/lawyers comments that it sounds like something from von Däniken or Battlestar Galactica.
Parts of the animated segment were featured in Bill Maher’s religious documentary Religulous, due to the segment being posted on various video-sharing websites.
Divorce and suicide
The film states that the church pressures couples to divorce if they cannot endure the pressure of living up to the church standards. Decker states that his five children were pulled away from him by the Mormon church. Baer states that his wife had to divorce him and find another man who was “working his way to godhood”.
It is also stated the Mormon women are under such constant pressure to be perfect that they are chronically depressed. The father and brother of a young suicide victim named Kip Eliason are interviewed. The family relates how Kip could not live up to the pressure of finding that his sexual orientation placed him at odds with the teachings of the church.
The narrator states that Mormons used Christian terminology when speaking with nonmembers of the LDS Church, using words such as “God”, “Jesus”, and “salvation” to deceive potential converts.
Decker states that the Mormon church keeps changing its scriptures, but that Christian scholars are “always refining, always going back to the earliest manuscripts to improve and validate the authenticity of the holy scripture”. He later states that “scripture is not to be tested”.
Sandra Tanner is introduced as one of the greatest living authorities on Mormonism. Tanner states that Mormon leaders have deliberately kept members from their true history. Tanner discusses the various accounts written by Joseph Smith of the First Vision, and suggests that this implies that he didn’t actually witness this event despite the fact that eye-witness accounts are generally considered false if the account does not vary after multiple retellings.
Baer states that Joseph Smith claimed that the moon was inhabited, and that Brigham Young stated that the sun was inhabited as well.
Tanner and Decker discuss polygamy at some length. Tanner suggests that the Church has hidden documents that are not available to the public. She states that most members and missionaries are unaware of the deception and that the typical missionary “doesn’t even realize he couldn’t go to Salt Lake and see these documents for himself”.
Book of Mormon and Book of Abraham
Dr. Charles Crane is introduced as an author, college professor, and expert on Mormon archaeology, while Dr. Richard Phales is introduced as an author, lecturer, and archaeologist. Crane states that he has looked over maps and checked archaeological information, and that he cannot locate the land of Zarahemla. Phales adds that “we have never excavated one single artifact” related to the Book of Mormon. The narrator further states that archaeology has been able to prove the existence of all great civilizations. Coins are used as an example, and Crane mentions what he states are coins listed in the Book of Mormon. Crane concludes that the Book of Mormon is a fairy tale, much like Alice in Wonderland. Decker adds that the church is converting people by claiming that archaeology has proven the Book of Mormon to be true.
Interestingly, the Smithsonian Institution also seems to assert the same thing. It predicates that the Book of Mormon is not supported by Smithsonian Institution’s archaeological research, and states, “The Smithsonian Institution has never used the Book of Mormon in any way as a scientific guide. Smithsonian archaeologists see no direct connection between the archaeology of the New World and the subject matter of the [Book of Mormon].
Crane also mentions the Book of Abraham, stating that it was translated from fragments of papyrus that Joseph Smith purchased from an Egyptologist, and that the manuscript resurfaced in 1967 and was found by several famous Egyptologists to have nothing to do with Abraham. Crane adds that Smith took “one little letter” that “looks like a backward ‘e'”, and produced from it 76 words.
A reenactment of temple rituals is shown, which are said to be performed for the purpose of “evangelizing the dead”. The narrator states that without these rituals, “no one can enter the presence of Joseph Smith and become a god”. The narrator states that Mormons are encouraged to contact the dead and that it is common for demons to appear to Mormons asking them to perform family history work for them. Several people discuss temple garment, or “holy Mormon underwear”, and several stories are told of people who refused to remove this underwear under any circumstances, including bathing and giving birth.
Baer states that Joseph Smith was arrested and convicted for pretending to find buried treasure using a seer stone. Decker produces what he refers to as a Satanic Bible, in which the word “Mormo” is said to represent the “king of ghouls”, and whose followers are called Mormons. Baer also claims that in Chinese, the word Mormon means “gates of hell”.
The term “Mormon” is a nickname given to the Latter-day Saint community and based on the name of one of the central spiritual texts of the religion, the Book of Mormon It is a phrase used in the LDS Church’s “I’m a Mormon” campaign to describe the church’s members. Some members of the LDS Church officially refer to themselves Latter-day Saints.
The economic power of the LDS Church is discussed. A man introduced as “Doctor John L. Smith, author and expert on the vast wealth of the Mormon church”, states that the Mormon Church is the second largest financial institution west of the Mississippi and that it is difficult to determine what the church actually owns. The narrator adds that the church has “vast land holdings”, and that billions of dollars are extracted from church members through a mandatory tithing program. The church is also said to own a substantial portion of the state of Hawaii.
The film concludes with the two actors playing lawyers stating that they cannot take the case, because they don’t believe that a jury will believe them. They state that the Mormon church has “billions” with which to fight the case and that it would take years. Kip Eliason’s father reads a letter that his son left him before he committed suicide, after which a woman is asked by an interviewer what she would miss the most if she left the church. The woman replies that she would “rather be dead” than leave.
Controversy over the film
The film created considerable controversy in some of the communities in which it has been shown, and was described by Truman G. Madsen, LDS professor of religion and philosophy, as “religious pornography”. The negative reaction came from both Mormons and non-Mormons.
The Anti-Defamation League of the B’nai B’rith publicly presented their concerns of the film which they described as “Mormon bashing” and “invidious and defamatory”. Rhonda M. Abrams, Regional Director stated the following:
I sincerely hope that people of all faiths will similarly repudiate The God Makers as defamatory and untrue, and recognize it for what it truly represents — a challenge to the religious liberty of all.
It was noted by LDS scholars that the film portrays Mormonism as a cult far removed from mainstream Christianity, and that many statements that are represented as Mormon doctrine are not actual doctrine, with a particular emphasis on “those ideas which would seem most anomalous to Christians”. In particular, the repeated references to endless celestial sex are viewed as absurd and profane.
LDS respondents claim that the film portrays all Mormons as either part of a conspiracy to cover up information or as being deluded by their leaders.
Criticism from the National Conference of Christians and Jews
Max Jennings, editor of the National Conference of Christians and Jews (NCCJ), attended a showing in Mesa, Arizona that was sponsored by a group known as Concerned Christians, whose purpose was “to reach out in love to those lost in Mormonism”. Jennings reported that “If what I saw Tuesday night is love, I must have had the wrong Sunday School lessons back in that dusty, west Texas Methodist Church of my childhood. I didn’t hear anyone reaching out in love Tuesday night. I heard people reaching out in hatred of another’s right to believe what he wants.”
The NCCJ committee sent a letter to Concerned Christians on December 5, 1983 which stated, among other things, that
The film does not fairly portray the Mormon Church, Mormon history, or Mormon belief. It makes extensive use of half-truths, faulty generalizations, sensationalism, and is not reflective of the true spirit of Mormon faith. We find particularly offensive the emphasis that Mormonism is some sort of subversive plot — a danger to the community, a threat to the institution of marriage, and destructive to the mental health of teenagers. We are of the opinion that the film relies heavily on appeals to fear, prejudice and unworthy human emotions.
The film’s creator has criticized the NCCJ for allegedly failing to contact Jeremiah Films, which produced The God Makers for the purpose of elucidating claimed errors and prevarications in the film.
Effects of the film
In January 1990, Decker claimed that the film had produced a three million person shortfall in projected converts to the church. This claim was based upon a statement made by Elder M. Russell Ballard at Brigham Young University on November 14, 1989. Ballard never mentioned a shortfall, but instead stated that the church continued to grow despite films such as The God Makers. Decker later retracted his claim.