I looked out the window and what did I see?

SwitzerlandTwo months ago I had the amazing opportunity to visit Switzerland. What an inspiring display of God’s creativity! Deep blue water, soaring snow-topped peaks, brilliant green-carpeted valleys…and, of course, happy cows everywhere.

One morning I watched out the window of our tour bus as we headed away from the incredibly beautiful village of Interlaken. As we were leaving the freeway and beginning our ascent to go up and over the mountain, my fellow travelers were just finishing up a discussion about Gypsies. When the bus rounded a curve we came upon a group of teenaged kids at the side of that mountain road. They looked a bit like Gypsies, pushing and pulling their earthly goods heaped into two-wheeled carts. Everyone gawked at them as the bus drove slowly by, while our guide made sure we knew that these were, in fact, not Gypsies. Shaking her head, she kept incredulously repeating, “I don’t know what that is!”

But I knew. It was a group of Mormon kids doing a handcart trek, their handcarts piled high with clothing and camping gear. Right there in the middle of the Swiss Alps unenthusiastic, dazed-looking kids were reenacting the American Mormon Handcart Experience in the gathering summer heat.

These Swiss kids apparently know all about the historic Mormon handcart pioneers and their trials. But I wonder if they know much about other important aspects of American Mormon history. Do they know about Joseph Smith’s occult involvement? Do they know about his failed copyright revelation (and other failed prophecies)? I wonder if they know that Joseph Smith married eleven women who had additional living husbands? I wonder if they know about Brigham Young’s Adam-God teachings or his commitment to the blood atonement doctrine. Do they know about the Mountain Meadows Massacre that transpired under Brigham Young’s watch? Do they know about Mormonism’s third president John Taylor’s graphic denunciations against Christianity? Or Wilford Woodruff’s “lying for the Lord”?

I wonder. If these Swiss kids knew about these other Mormon historical events, would they consider reenacting them as well?

About Sharon Lindbloom

Sharon surrendered her life to the Lord Jesus Christ in 1979. Deeply passionate about Truth, Sharon loves serving as a full-time volunteer research associate with Mormonism Research Ministry. Sharon and her husband live in Minnesota.
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20 Responses to I looked out the window and what did I see?

  1. falcon says:

    Of course they don’t know any of these things as don’t most practicing Mormons. There’s a reason why, in this internet age, the LDS church is fighting a losing battle. This little trek the kids were on is really “old school” indoctrination that just shows how out of touch the LDS church is. Do you think that there were more than a few kids in the group who were turned-off by the activity? When they find out the truth about Mormon history, they will be bitter and angry. It’s a condition that the LDS church creates. Once these kids lose their fear of going to outer darkness if they leave the LDS church it’s really Kattie-bar-the-door.
    I heard Grant Palmer say that something like fifty percent of returning missionaries go inactive within five years of completing their missions. Young men are leaving the LDS church at an alarming rate, especially in Utah. It’s creating a “husband shortage” for the young women and a crisis for the LDS church.
    The old line of, “I knew all of that stuff years ago and it hasn’t effected my testimony one bit” just doesn’t cover it any more. In fact most LDS don’t know this stuff and keeping it hidden has become a major problem for the one true church.

  2. Tom says:

    I served a mission in Germany. One of my mission companions was from Switzerland (he’s now an Area Authority Seventy). Like me, he was a fifth-generation Mormon. His Mormon “pioneer” ancestry never emigrated to America. They stayed put. It seems to me that there is plenty of pioneer heritage to celebrate in local Mormon communities everywhere in the world, without having to draw upon the American pioneer narrative for inspiration and re-enactment. Who cares what the American Mormons did in the mid-nineteenth century by trudging across North America to some desert outpost Zion? To non-American Mormons, this continual focus on America must get tiresome, to say the least. What is the message? The only real Mormon is an American Mormon? No wonder the uppermost hierarchy is made up mostly of North Americans.

  3. historybuff says:

    The Mormon Church has always tried to extend its reach internationally, and it’s not above trying to buy converts. It was recently a participant in the international “World Meeting of Families” in Philadelphia, and the Church rated praise from the Catholic Archbishop of Philadelphia for its “significant financial contribution.”

    “The Catholic archbishop of Philadelphia praised Mormon families on Thursday at the World Meeting of Families and thanked the LDS Church for a significant financial contribution to the event.”

    This has a disturbing ring to it. Has a similar “significant financial contribution” been the reason that the “Parliament of the World’s Religions” is holding its 2015 conference in Salt Lake City? The Mormon Church isn’t likely to discuss the matter, but Parliament officials have gladly volunteered that its past financial troubles have suddenly evaporated:

    “The Parliament has “eliminated” past debt it held, according to Parliament spokeswoman Molly Horan. Imam Mujahid said the organization is “in better financial shape than it has ever been.” The 2015 Parliament will be funded through registration fees, grants, foundations and other funding sources, he said.”

    And the Parliament isn’t shy about soliciting money from participants:

    “The 2015 Parliament Exhibition Bazaar offers the opportunity to showcase your organization by sharing information, signing up members, marketing and selling merchandise, and publicizing products or upcoming events. … The 10,000 Parliament participants will walk through the Exhibition Bazaar daily offering highly beneficial exposure AT AN AFFORDABLE PRICE!”

    Do those paying vendors and “other funding sources” include the Mormon Church, as they did for the World Meeting of Families? Is it possible that Salt Lake City was selected as the site for this year’s conference partly as a result of financial contributions from the Mormon Church? And if so, does this reflect a new facet of the Church’s missionary effort and a “Pay to Play” ethic? Mormon leaders aren’t talking, but the idea of “buying” converts isn’t new to the Church.

    You may recall that in the 1950’s and 1960’s LDS Church Headquarters in Salt Lake City was encouraging Mormon missionaries worldwide to in essence “buy converts” by offering free baseball and basketball activities and beach trips to children – over the age of eight — in exchange for baptism. Here it is in the words of LDS officials:

    “In many missions, this accelerated-baptism program was known by whatever activity the missionaries employed to attract adolescent boys. … In some missions its nickname was “Basketball Program.” In others, it was the “Beach Party Program.” In Great Britain and continental Europe, it was popularly known as the “Baseball Baptism Program,” which is the most common nickname for the era.”…
    “On 15 December 1960, [First Presidency] Counselor Moyle formally announced to the apostles that baseball was now a missionary tool to baptize teenage boys. Because the British Mission had traditionally been the most prestigious mission, Moyle emphasized the success of the baseball program there. He reported to the Quorum of Twelve that this was happening “not only in England but all over the Continent.” … [M]issionaries told the boys they had to be baptized into the LDS church in order to play on its “athletic teams.” …
    “A Mississippi convert described a variation on this approach in the Gulf States Mission in the early 1960s. Missionary sisters and elders combed upcountry towns and hamlets for boys who had never seen the Gulf of Mexico. During the several-hour bus or car ride to the beach, the missionaries taught the boys all six discussions at once. When they reached the sugar-white sands of the Gulf, the first order of business was multiple-baptism ceremonies in the gently lapping surf. If the boys did not comply, the vehicle would turn immediately around and take the boys back home. After hours of fun in the sun, the newly baptized learned that the missionaries would be glad to bring them back to the beach again – if each boy brought along at least one unbaptized friend.”

    Yes, the Mormon Church definitely seeks converts internationally. And it’s more than willing to buy them.

  4. historybuff says:

    The LDS revere their ancestors who made that handcart trek. They even revere the divine inspiration of the LDS leaders who organized the journey, although one wonders why. This, from the Denver Post newspaper:

    “A historian’s view of two migration parties blames 250 deaths on bad planning: The reality was that poor planning and irrational decisions, even stinginess, doomed the handcart scheme from the outset.

    The carts were made of green wood, which means they split and broke as the pioneers pushed them across the prairie and mountains. Most of the converts were not used to the strenuous work required to propel a loaded cart over hundreds of miles. And because [Mormon Church President Brigham] Young claimed the handcarts would cross in just two months, he provided for no supply stations along the route. Planning was so poor, in fact, that officials in Salt Lake did not even know how many handcart companies were stranded in the mountains in 1856.

    The most devastating decision was to allow the immigrants to leave late in the season. They should have been on the road in May or June. Instead, the ill-fated Willie and Martin companies (two of 10 handcart companies that crossed the plains to Zion between 1856 and 1860) left in August.

    One arrogant church official, who castigated anyone who suggested the last two companies wait until spring and who later zipped past them in his light wagon, promised there would be no snow. He declared he’d eat every snowflake the pioneers encountered.

    In fact, there was snow, thick and heavy and cold, and it all but buried the two parties of immigrants as they made their way through the mountains.”

    Of course, that’s not the way the Mormon leaders tell the story….

  5. historybuff says:

    Sharon mentions “Lying for the Lord” as one of the more embarrassing policies of LDS prophets. I personally believe this strong proclivity for mendacity will prove to be the eventual undoing of the Mormon Church and its leaders. Not only do LDS leaders feel no compunctions about lying, but they’ll also lie under oath when it suits them:

    “In a sensational trial that mesmerized the nation for four years (1903 – 1907), Reed Smoot, a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles and newly elected US Senator from Utah, underwent Congressional hearings prior to his seating in the US Senate. In 1904 Church President Joseph F. Smith was called to testify, in which he perjured himself by lying repeatedly under oath about his knowledge and participation of post-Manifesto polygamy. Smith undoubtedly knew about the nearly 250 post-Manifesto marriages that were being performed and approved by Apostles under his own direction.”

    Nevertheless, perjury before Congress does not win my nomination for the “Outstanding Performance by an LDS Prophet” award. That honor goes to this gem by Joseph Smith himself. Not only did he lie, but he lied publicly. But that’s not why he gets my nomination. He gets it for having the gall to lie to his own followers and frame his lie as a scripture from God:

    “Inasmuch as this church of Christ has been reproached with the crime of fornication, and polygamy; we declare that we believe that one man should have one wife; and one woman, but one husband, except in the case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again.” 1835 Doctrine and Covenants, C1, p. 251 (1835)
    (This “scripture” was quietly removed from LDS scriptures several years later when LDS leaders suspected it might no longer be believable…)

    And the award goes to ….

  6. falcon says:

    As a “team building” activity, this seems like a big zero. What’s the point? Is it to build the teenagers faith in Mormonism? It’s the old suffer like the Mormon pioneers suffered and………………….what? Is this suppose to build loyalty to the LDS church? Most of these kids will leave the LDS religion once they start doing some independent research and they’ll just end-up resenting the sect for putting them through this nonsense.

  7. historybuff says:

    I suspect that LDS leaders view this “handcart reenactment” much the same way they view basketball in the cultural hall: it keeps the kids off the streets (okay, so they’re still on dirt roads…) and keeps the LDS youth in the company of other LDS youth. All things considered, it’s a good short-term strategy but as you pointed out, in the long term the intelligent youth will discover the truth and hopefully seek something more reliable and Christian.

  8. Mike R says:

    The tragedy that befell the Mormon handcart journey of the Willie and Martin companies in Oct of 1856 was one of the worst tragedies in the overland Westward migration in the U.S. , estimates put the death toll near 200 persons . It should’nt have happened , and students of Mormon history have said that sizable blame belongs to Mormon apostle Franklin Richards .

    Apostle Richards and some Missionaries returning from England over took the hand cart companies part way across on the journey to Salt Lake City , the handcart companies were well behind schedule and the Rockies loomed ahead . Being so late was ill advised and could spell disaster because of possible severe weather . Despite this , apostle Richards counseled the handcarts to go on . Wallace Stegner in his book , ” The Gathering of Zion ” p 243 mentions what one of the handcart captains , John Chislett , recorded :

    ” Richards gave us plenty of counsel to be faithful , prayerful, obedient to our leaders , etc., and wound up by prophesying in the name of Israel’s God that ‘ though it might storm on our right hand and on our left , the Lord would keep open the way before us and we should get to Zion in safety.”

    The Mormon people trusted their apostle , they experienced a ” inner witness” ” / ” personal revelation ” which assured them his prophecy was reliable , and so they continued on . But sadly many of them perished .

    What can be taken from this episode in Mormon history ? To me it’s another example of the Mormon ” personal revelation ” being not a reliable way to test someone’s visions, revelations, or prophecies . In the case with those Mormons in the ill fated Willie and Martin handcart , a little common sense would have spared them — they were late , it was Oct , and the high plains of the Rockies still loomed ahead , they should have turned back but how could they doubt an apostle who prophesied ? To do so would be a sign of not trusting God — slipping into personal apostasy !

    Remember Mark Hoffman ? ( the Mormon document forger who committed murder ) . His father , Bill , after his son was arrested , gave his testimony that his son was innocent . But his spiritual witness proved to be wrong — not from the Holy Ghost . [ see ” The Mormon Murders ” by Naifeh and Smith , p 318, 421 ] .

    Mormons have been taught to rely to heavily on feelings , “a inner witness “, that proves to them that what they have learned about God , Jesus , or salvation from Mormon leaders , is true . But we can steer them towards properly testing any latter days prophet’s teaching by first doing what the apostle John advised in 1 Jn 4:1 to test a prophets teachings i.e. compare them with what God’s prophet’s / apostles in the Bible teach . This is vital because spiritual safety is at stake — Matt 24:11 .

  9. falcon says:

    The LDS are famous for their youth group activities and in fact, offerings such as this are often an attractive feature for recruits. I don’t know how often it happens, but I’ve heard stories about people getting into the LDS program and being baptized and never knowing about the sects peculiar views on the nature of God. And how many stories have I heard about people sampling what the temple has to offer and getting freaked out, many never to return again.
    So these cart pushing activities, meant to provide an object lesson for the youth, aren’t going to do much to Mormonize a person who begins to see past the projected image. No doubt that image is of devout, sincere people with high moral standards and deep faith in “God”. The love bombing that goes into the process of converting a recruit soon fades in the reality of what the sect’s history is and what they really believe.
    Those who leave are happy to have left but not happy about how they had been scammed.

  10. historybuff says:

    Sharon also mentioned the Mountain Meadows Massacre that Christians and historians have repeatedly tried to link to Brigham Young in Salt Lake City.

    I’ve never seen anything that would definitely link Brigham Young to the massacre itself, but there is plenty of information linking him to the cover-up — 20 years of cover-up — and Brigham Young made sure that only one man was ever held accountable.

    To be sure, there is circumstantial evidence that Brigham Young gave the orders for the attack. For example, when Brigham Young arrived at the monument to the dead erected by the U.S. Army, he announced his thoughts on the massacre:

    “Brigham Young showed up with an entourage of 120 people, riding in his carriage, rode up, looked at the monument with the inscription and said, “Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord, and I have taken a little.” ”

    And John D. Lee, admittedly not an unbiased source, recorded a conversation with Brigham Young:

    “In his diary, John D. Lee recorded how Young told him in May 1861 that the “company that was used up at the Mountain Meadowes were the Fathers, Mothe[rs], Bros., Sisters & connections” of the men who had murdered Mormon prophets. Taking the lives of the women and children troubled Young, Lee wrote, but, Young had told him, “under the circumstances [it] could not be avoided.” ”

    For those with a continuing interest in the massacre, the interview cited above with Will Bagley provides an excellent review of the facts.

  11. falcon says:

    You gave me a thought. Why don’t the LDS celebrate with an annual reenactment of the Mountain Meadows Massacre? They could have the teenagers take various parts, some could be victims and others the Mormon perpetrators.
    Maybe this experience would deepen the faith of the teenagers in the LDS church, Mormonism and Brigham Young. As part of all of this, they could also study Young’s famous doctrines like Blood Atonement, Adam-god and throw in his pronouncements about how the Mormon heavenly father had actual physical sex with the Virgin Mary.
    With a little thought I’ll bet they could come up with all sorts or celebratory reenactments of various episodes in Mormon history.

  12. historybuff says:

    Gee, Falcon, I don’t know. At the last Mormon Pageant there were women dressed as Joseph Smith’s plural wives and I don’t know if that was a big hit with the Mormon elders… Maybe you should discuss it with the Quorum of the Twelve. Now’s not a good time, though. How about never. Is never good for you?…

  13. Mike R says:


    If Mormon leaders want LDS to re-enact the handcart episode in Mormon history but won’t make sure that the full story of the Willie and Martin tragedy is told to those participating , what makes you think they will ever re-enact the Mountain Meadows massacre ?

    How about Mormon leaders doing the honorable thing and placing bronze replica’s of Joseph Smith’s 30 plus wives along side the one of him and wife Emma in Temple square ?
    Not a chance .

    The Mormon people deserve to be free , we will never stop praying for them .

  14. falcon says:

    I’ve been picking up some news about the LDS church now having a policy that, in effect, rejects the children of gay couples. I don’t mean to get into a discussion here about homosexuality and gay marriage, but rather am looking at this from the point-of-view of today’s teens. How will they view the LDS church, which they are apart of, rejecting children?
    The way I look at it, a religious sect can accept or reject whomever it pleases. It’s their game, their rules, but then the sect has to deal with any blow-back that might occur as a result of its policies. Enter this generation of young people. Might the LDS sect’s exclusion of children of gay couples be something that catapults kids out the door when they become of age and can choose for themselves whether or not to be members?
    As if it weren’t bad enough having to defend polygamy or come up with explanations regarding it, now this.
    Just my two cents worth here, getting us way off topic. I don’t think that anyone chooses their gender attraction. I know I didn’t. But we do choose the behavior that’s associated with gender attraction whether it might be hetro or homo. As I started to “unpack” this I got to thinking whether or not a pedophile chooses to be attracted to children? I doubt it but a pedophile certainly chooses the behavior that that attraction often leads to.
    Taking this in another direction. A man or a woman may find themselves being attracted to someone other than their spouse. It happens. But acting on that attraction is the problem.
    Perhaps it’s more complicated than I make it, I’m sure it is, but how a religious sect deals with sin, the policies it develops, can be a real challenge. The Catholic church certainly lost members and the ire of the general public with the way they dealt with pedophile priests exploiting children.
    As a parting thought. Should Christian sects deny baptism or confirmation to the children of known sinners? Do young people today understand sin, it’s consequences and how Christians are called to deal with it within the Body of Christ.?

  15. falcon says:

    ………………and when you think of this from a PR stand point; how often would the LDS church had to deal with a gay LDS couple wanting their child baptized? Unless some gay couple tried it just to test the system like in the case of trying to get Christian bakers to bake a cake for a gay wedding, it probably wasn’t going to happen like ever. I can’t believe that there’s a lot of gay LDS married couples attending church services at a ward on a regular basis. What percent of the total active LDS population is gay? I bet the percentage is so low as to not even register on a statistical scale.
    …………………and then there’s the idea of LDS women and the priesthood.

  16. falcon says:

    I would think that there’s a point where a teenager has to ask, “Do I want to be mixed-up with this bunch?” The LDS church has to do something to indoctrinate the young people to make them want to stay with the program. If the LDS church loses its young people, they are in major trouble. The good thing for the LDS church is that they’ve rat holed enough money to keep going for a long time. If the tithes aren’t coming in, they can just cut back. Fortunately for them, most of their workforce within the sect is volunteer. The exception would be the church owned businesses.
    But it’s all dependent on getting people to join up. Mormonism is a tough sell. In Christianity the commitment isn’t to an organization like in the LDS sect i.e. “the one true church”. In Christianity the person is accepting Jesus as their Savior. It’s coming to that point spiritually where the individual realizes that they are a sinner and they need the saving grace of the Almighty God. Having repented and come to Christ in faith, redemption is realized. Having been redeemed we then walk in the Spirit and crucify the deeds of the flesh. There is nothing that can be added to what Christ did for us.
    In the faux religion of Mormonism, a teen for example, has to be convinced that the program is one of having to earn the position of being a god. Besides not being true, the entire process is a hassle and one that appeals to a very small segment of even LDS members; this is not to mention the population at large who the missionaries are trying to convert.
    The attrition rate for young people in the LDS church will continue to increase. In order to keep them in the fold, the LDS church will have to come up with something better than pushing handcarts.

  17. falcon says:

    Here are some comments I just picked-up by John Dehlin. They answer the fear that many LDS have that they can never be happy outside of the LDS church. Here are a couple of paragraphs. He writes:

    “When I was in the church I struggled for years to believe that I and my family could be happy, healthy, and moral after leaving the church. But having now been out, and having met thousands of post-Mormons, I can tell you — there can be incredible joy, meaning, and fulfillment outside of Mormonism. In addition, I think it’s possibly harmful when we perpetuate the fear-based idea that we’re trapped inside, with no where else to go. Sometimes our traps are nothing more than learned helplessness.”
    “My message for LDS people today is — sometimes the chains are of your own making. There is a big, bright, beautiful world outside of the LDS church. It’s not always easy. Sometimes things are difficult (e.g., thorns, thistles, and noxious weeds). You certainly have to replace the “holes” that develop when you leave Mormonism – and you certainly can make a HUGE mess of your life.”

    “But joy outside of Mormonism is absolutely doable — and for tens of thousands, it is absolutely worth it.”

    This is the second post I most recently read on this topic: “LDS think that folks outside of the LDS church can’t really be happy. I wasn’t aware of this LDS conditioned attitude. They apply this not only to LDS but non-LDS. I think that’s a pretty warped point-of-view.

  18. Mike R says:


    Leaders of high control groups we encounter in these latter days have to tell their followers that they will only be happy if they stay in the organization , otherwise members who find out their leaders are really false prophets will not only leave but they will “infect” others in the organization and that can cause a landslide of ” apostates” . The Mormon church , Watchtower Society ( Jw’s ) are such organizations . Mormons have their ” Happy valley ” ,and Jw leaders keep telling their followers that “Jehovah’s people are happy people ” . These are two examples .

  19. makeitshine says:

    Mormon leaders want you to believe leaving the Mormon Church means leaving behind morality, Gods truth and Christ’s Church. They want you to believe they are the only option for true doctrine, guidance and enlightenment. I am here to tell you I found the exact opposite to be true. Discovering the biblical Jesus, the church fathers and true Christian doctrine and life has been the discovery of a lifetime. It was NOT an easy thing to understand initially though, being wired to believe certain things and having to so a complete mind sweep and basically learn a totally new language. Once understood though everything fits together so perfectly in a picture only God could create. Mormonism is a huge mess when you look at it. So much junk to wade through!

    Funny how studying mormon history scandalizes people so they put it on the shelf. Studying Christian history from the Bible and the writings of those who followed immediately after the apostles has made me more convinced of its truth. I have been studying it for several years now. I have NO SHELF as a Christian. Think of how good it would feel for that thing to be gone. I still believe there is a thing called sin and that living in it causes death. I also believe there is ONE called life. He is not me, but he is in me as part of my being. Knowing you have no existence apart from the ONE true God is humbling. My morals havent changed a bit since leaving but I sure am a lot less judgemental.

  20. falcon says:

    Isn’t that a strange immature attitude? Who would believe that? You can only be happy if……………….that is a high control tactic. “You can only be happy if I love you” is a control type message sent by those who want to dominate others. People who have been in abusive relationships get that. And really, when you are talking about some religious groups, it is all about control and power and it’s spiritual abuse. It doesn’t matter what the setting is, abuse all smells the same.

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