April 9, 2013

GUEST COLUMN: Racism and Mormonism in Uganda

By Tim Martin
I read with mixed emotions the Observer article “Mormons in media drive” dated 6 March 2013. The article explained that the Mormon Church has created a new web site that “will publish all there is to know about the faith” and help “Ugandan journalists and the general public [to] get credible information” about their religion. 
The article was positive and accurate in its depiction of Mormonism’s moral positions. For instance, the Mormon Church should be commended for its “strong stance against cohabiting, alcoholism, pre-marital sex and homosexuality.”
However, the Mormons’ new site fails to cover some of the important topics that the Observer article said it would address. For instance, the article quotes Sean Donnelly as saying that the site “would throw more light on…controversies like…racism.” But the site’s article on racism sidesteps the main points of this controversy almost entirely.
Concerning racism, the site accurately discusses the 1978 change in Mormon Church policy allowing male church members of African descent to hold its priesthood. It also describes the current state of racial integration in many Mormon congregations. While true, these points beg the question at hand.
The most controversial race issue is that the Mormon Church’s top leaders have repeatedly claimed that dark skin is a curse from God. For instance, revered Mormon Apostle Mark E. Petersen declared: “At least in the cases of the Lamanites [American Indians] and the negroes we have the definite word of the Lord Himself that He placed a dark skin upon them as a curse—as a punishment and as a sign to all others.” (“Race Problems—As They Affect the Church,” an address given at Brigham Young University on August 27, 1954)
Notice that Petersen is not claiming that this is his personal opinion. As an apostle of the Mormon Church, he claimed that this was the “definite word of the Lord Himself.”
The Book of Mormon also supports this teaching. Although “black and white” people are all invited to approach God (2 Nephi 26:33), the fact that some have much darker skin is based on divine curses against their ungodliness. Second Nephi 5:21 explains that the people known as Lamanites received “a sore cursing, because of their iniquity.” What was the nature of the curse? God “cause[d] a skin of blackness to come upon them” so the Lamanites would not “be enticing” to His followers.
(It’s worth noting that on 1 March of this year the Mormon Church announced its new digital edition of the Book of Mormon. While the main text of the book remains the same, the church has strategically altered some of the chapter descriptions. For example, in the 1981 print edition of the Book of Mormon, the chapter description for 2 Nephi 5 says that the “the Lamanites are cursed, receive a skin of blackness, and become a scourge unto the Nephites.” The new version omits the phrase “skin of blackness” and merely says that the Lamanites “are cut off from the presence of the Lord.”)
The same theme is found in another Mormon scripture, the Pearl of Great Price. In the Moses 7:8 the people of Canaan were cursed, “and there was a blackness came upon all the children of Canaan, that they were despised among all people.”
Sadly, the Mormon Church’s apostles and prophets have never apologized for these and many other statements—some of them far worse. (See “The Mormon Church and the African,” published by the Africa Centre for Apologetics Research, for extensive quotations.) Instead, the church diverts attention from the issue by repeated references to the racial harmony one can observe in Mormon congregations since the 1978 “revelation.”
Still, there is another aspect of this issue that the Mormon Church needs to openly admit if it wants to engage in genuine full disclosure. According to the Book of Mormon and Mormon leaders, once a person with dark skin ceases to practice evil and begins following the Lord, his/her skin will transform into lighter shades. In the second chapter of 3 Nephi some of the Lamanites left their tribe and joined with the righteous Nephites. Verse 15 explains: “And their curse was taken from them, and their skin became white like unto the Nephites.
At the church’s General Conference in October of 1960, Mormon Apostle Spencer W. Kimball described his visit to an Indian community in Arizona. The Mormon Church had been making converts there for 15 years and had over 8,400 members. Now that these dark-skinned Indians had been accepting the Mormon gospel, Kimball—who would later become the church’s prophet—could report:

For years they have been growing delightsome, and they are now becoming white and delightsome, as they were promised (2 Ne. 30:6). … The children in the home placement program in Utah are often lighter than their brothers and sisters in the hogans on the reservation….At one meeting a father and mother and their sixteen-year-old daughter were present, the little member girl—sixteen—sitting between the dark father and mother, and it was evident she was several shades lighter than her parents. (Conference Report, October 1960, pp. 32–37; accessed at http://scriptures.byu.edu/gettalk.php?ID=1091&era=yes)

This aspect of Mormon teaching has not been properly addressed. Instead, it is covered up. Though Mormon leaders avoid the topic, its implications still permeate Mormon culture. For example, Mormons often produce large outdoor pageants depicting scenes from the Book of Mormon. Every one of them depicts Lamanites as savages with dark skins and Nephites as more sophisticated people with light skins. If you were to ask any lifelong Mormon why there is a difference in skin color between the Lamanites and Nephites, they know the correct answer.
People in Uganda and other nations where the Mormon Church is attempting to make inroads may never hear the facts about this racist doctrine—at least from the church’s missionaries. •

March 5, 2013

ACFAR Conference on Cults (March 21–23)


Powerful, scriptural answers to the challenges and claims of…

Mormonismthe Prosperity GospelJehovah’s WitnessesSeventh-day Adventism

March 21–23, 2013 • Africa Renewal Christian College • Buloba, Kampala

Featured speaker: Tim Martin | Watchman Fellowship USA

Registration is 25,000/- for the two and a half days of the conference, plus materials. 

For inquiries, please call The Africa Centre for Apologetics Research at 0706 100 664/0782 000 664.

July 3, 2012

A Warning on Chris Oyakhilome

Last week, J. Lee Grady of Charisma magazine posted “False Prophets, Foreign Charlatans and Global Deception,” a harsh warning about Nigerian televangelist Chris Oyakhilome of Christ Embassy International.

Grady writes that Oyakhilome is now a controversial figure in Romania, where some Christian leaders “have sounded an alarm. One of them, Ioan Peia, released a public warning in 2011 listing various false doctrines promoted by Oyakhilome.” Read a translation here.

Grady’s article is all the more significant because in the past his magazine has unashamedly promoted the “ministries” of Benny Hinn, Kenneth Hagin, and other false teachers.

June 18, 2012

The Bizarre Teachings of Ryuho Okawa

As the much-heralded Namboole Stadium event of “Happy Science” founder Ryuho Okawa approaches, the curious would do well to closely examine his teachings. 

Okawa is an occultist—a spirit medium. On one level, the story is simple and grim: In 1986, Okawa took the advice of supposed spirits of the dead, who persuaded him that he was the most powerful being in the universe. The result is Kofuku-no-Kakagu, or “Happy Science.” These supposed spirits of the dead—for it seems that virtually all of them claim to have lived before—still control Okawa and his cult. 

The Bible harshly condemns the practice of necromancy in Leviticus 19:31, 20:6; Deuteronomy 18:10–11; 1 Samuel 28:3, 9; 2 Kings 21:6, 23:24; 1 Chronicles 10:13; 2 Chronicles 33:6; Isaiah 8:19, 19:3. 

The teachings of “Master” Okawa are many-layered. The deeper one goes, the stranger they become.

Among other things, the man who claims to be God is constantly consulting with spirits to produce such outlandish articles as this one. Note Okawa’s prophecy: “North Korea will collapse in the year 2012. Like the Berlin Wall, Panmunjom will be taken down.”

In fact, Okawa’s site The Liberty web GLOBAL has bizarre messages from the “guardian spirits” of a number of political leaders and other famous people.

Want to know what the Republican presidential candidates are really thinking? Just ask their guardian spirits:

And did you know that Barack Obama was the last king of the Aztecs?

This may play well in Japan, but it will probably look absurd to the Ugandan public. 

A final note: Regarding Okawa’s spirit messages and earlier predictions, one scholar writes that “study of [Okawa’s] prophetic utterances in Nosutoradamus senritsu no keiji [The terrifying revelations of Nostradamus] and elsewhere reveals very little original interpretation of Nostradamus. Examination of his alleged communications with higher spirits suggests plagiarism on a grand scale, with the spirit of Nostradamus managing even to repeat a mistranslation from a popular Japanese rendering of the Centuries. It is little wonder, then, that Okawa is anxious to keep his prophecies from the eyes of the rest of the world….” (Trevor Astley, “The Transformation of a Recent Japanese New Religion: Okawa Ryuho and Kofuku no Kagaku,” in Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 22/3–4 [1985], p. 377)

June 9, 2012

June 9th: Unanswered Questions on an Important Anniversary

On this date in 1978, the Mormon Church stunned the world by announcing that God would finally permit “worthy” African men to be ordained to its priesthood. This “revelation” by Mormon prophet Spencer W. Kimball defused decades of anger and controversy, and opened new doorways of privilege to members whose access to church leadership and secret temple rituals had always been denied. 

It also cleared the way for the Mormon missionaries to seek converts across Africa. On April 13th of this year the New York Times featured an article on the church’s increasing missionary work in Uganda, noting that fully a third of its members here have been converted in just the past year.
But the church’s announcement in 1978 left something completely unchanged by its leaders—men with the same authority as the prophets and apostles in the Bible, who direct “the only true and living Church upon the face of the whole earth.”
For more than a century, Mormon prophets and apostles openly taught that Africans are black because of a divine curse—the dreaded “mark of Cain.” This is not obscure folklore or opinion, but doctrine stated plainly by some of the church’s highest spiritual officers in formal conferences and respected publications.
What have revered Mormon leaders taught about the African race? Space only allows for four examples among many.
In 1859, Mormon prophet Brigham Young identified Africans as the descendents of Cain (Genesis 4), declaring: “Cain slew his brother. Cain might have been killed, and that would have put a termination to that line of human beings. This was not to be, and the Lord put a mark on him, which is the flat nose and black skin. Trace mankind down to after the flood, and then another curse is pronounced upon the same race—that they should be the ‘servant of servants,’ and they will be until that curse is removed….”(Journal of Discourses, Vol. 7, p. 290)
Mormon prophet Joseph Fielding Smith clarified this view in 1931, stating: “Not only was Cain called upon to suffer, but because of his wickedness he became the father of an inferior race. A curse was placed upon him and that curse has been continued through his lineage and must do so while time endures. Millions of souls have come into this world cursed with a black skin and have been denied the privilege of Priesthood and the fullness of the blessings of the Gospel.” He added: “This doctrine did not originate with President Brigham Young but was taught by the Prophet Joseph Smith....we all know it is due to his teachings that the Negro today is barred from the Priesthood.” (The Way to Perfection, pp. 101–102, 110–111)
Mormon apostle Mark E. Petersen asked in 1954, “Who placed the Negroes originally in darkest Africa? Was it some man, or was it God?” His answer: “The Lord segregated the people both as to blood and place of residence. At least in the cases of the Lamanites [i.e., Native Americans] and the negroes we have the definite word of the Lord Himself that He placed a dark skin upon them as a curse—as a punishment and as a sign to all others.” (“Race Problems—as They Affect the Church,” an address given at Brigham Young University)
Mormon apostle Bruce R. McConkie further explained in 1966 that “Cain, Ham, and the whole negro race have been cursed with a black skin, the mark of Cain, so they can be identified as a caste apart, a people with whom the other descendants of Adam should not intermarry.” (Mormon Doctrine, p. 114)
In recent years the Mormon Church has converted famous athletes and entertainers of African descent. In 2009 it elevated a Kenyan to the upper levels of its authority structure.
But on this date we are reminded that the Mormon Church has never renounced or changed its oft-stated doctrine that Africans are black because God Himself has cursed them. The Mormon Church should either publicly embrace its leaders’ racist teachings, or openly renounce them. 
Hoping that we will not notice is not enough.

April 23, 2012

Mormon Missionaries Advance Across Uganda

On April 13, the New York Times published a lengthy article entitled “At Age 19, from Utah to Uganda.” It describes the personal background and proselytizing efforts of a Mormon missionary named Jared Dangerfield and several of his colleagues from the United States and Zimbabwe.

Among the article’s claims:

• “Currently, there are only about 5,000 Mormons in Uganda, less than 1 percent of the population. What is noteworthy, however, is that a third of those were converted last year.
• “The number of missionaries stationed in Uganda has also grown, to 120 from 70 two years ago.”
• “The missionaries say they can net a dozen new contacts from the street in a couple of hours, and visit five homes in a day. They estimate each is responsible for around 40 baptisms by the time service is up.”
• “The [worldwide Mormon] church gained nearly 400,000 members in 2010, about 70 percent of them converted by college-age missionaries like Elder Dangerfield…”

And how do the missionaries promote their strange and controversial faith among the largely Christianized Ugandans?

One example, if true, is troubling: “We are not here to move you to another church…We just want to share,” asserts Elder Dangerfield as he pursues one prospect. This is blatantly deceptive, as Mormonism claims that all other churches are apostate, and the missionaries’ intention is to convert followers of any denomination.

Will Ugandan Christians rise to meet the challenge of the growing Mormon missionary thrust?

March 24, 2012


On March 18th, Uganda’s Monitor newspaper published a reporter’s account of her visit to the Kampala temple of Happy Science, a Japanese new religious movement also known as Kofuku-no-Kagaku.

Agnes Namaganda notes helpfully that “A large glowing gold statue of El Cantare, their god…stands directly in front of the corridor that goes right through the centre of the hall.” She also describes several aspects of Happy Science’s beliefs and practices, with an emphasis on angels and “casting out demons and evil spirits too.” As for parishioners at the temple on Rubaga Road, she describes them as “your ordinary Ugandans, your Mama Ivan who lives in a two-roomed-neighbourhoods sort of people, decently dressed in ankle-length outfits and men who are well-kempt but with no overtures of the rich and famous.”

For a succinct Christian perspective on the group, click here.