The following excerpt is from Pierced by a Sword by Bud Macfarlane, Jr. Although it is fiction, the characters are based on real people, and the facts about Mormonism and Catholicism are accurate.
Lanning tonelessly reiterated his main point. "Divorce is always difficult. It pains me more than you know to counsel it for you. But your husband has been excommunicated. Unless you remarry you cannot be called forth to exaltation. The devil has taken control of your husband," John Lanning said with feigned empathy.
Lanning sat there silently and motionlessly for several minutes. A dam broke inside his soul. He began to cry in heavy, deep sobs. He cried for the woman, for her husband, for their five children. For himself.
I have helped destroy another marriage!
John Lanning was a bishop in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, known more commonly as the Mormons or the LDS.
In addition to his part-time religious duties as a bishop he was also a full-time professional of the LDS.
Officially, Lanning was the director of public relations for LDS. Unofficially, he was known to a select few in the secretive organization as one of the most important marketing minds of the fastest growing church in the United States. Depending on the length and goals of the project, Lanning had hundreds of millions—even billions—of dollars at his disposal. For over forty years Lanning had served the LDS diligently and brilliantly.
John Lanning's job was simple: foster in the minds of Americans that the LDS was a family-oriented, harmless, and ordinary Christian church. That's what the Apostles wanted, so that's what Lanning delivered.
By the early 1990s, Lanning's public relations campaign had worked. The Mormons enjoyed widespread acceptance in the minds of ordinary Americans. It had been an extremely difficult and painstaking job.
Marketing surveys commissioned by Lanning in the early 1960s showed most Americans associating Mormons with the idea of polygamy (multiple wives). Recent surveys showed the number one idea associated with Mormons was now "family values."
Overseas LDS missions were booming; over fifty thousand missionaries scavenged the United States and the rest of the earth for new members. The LDS now had almost ten million members. Lanning had played a hidden but key role in this area, too. These missionaries used highly effective presentations—often memorized word for word and always carefully tailored to fit the culture of the marketing target.
The Mormons had a practice called theological warfare which makes these presentations more effective. It was okay for a Mormon missionary to exaggerate, misrepresent, or hide the true teachings of the LDS in order to avoid losing a prospect.
Although finances were not his department, he knew that the LDS owned large portions of stock in major U.S. and international corporations. A negative article in the Wall Street Journal in the 1980s had claimed that the LDS owned untold billions of dollars worth of corporate assets through a complicated web of holding companies. When word came down the corridor that the higher-ups were not pleased, Lanning believed, only the Twelve Apostles knew the true extent of the LDS wealth.
Where did all the money come from? Most Mormons were good Mormons. And good Mormons were required to donate ten percent of their gross income to their church or face excommunication and loss of the incredible reward of Mormon exaltation: personal godhood and control of one's own planet! As strange as this would seem to most Americans, Mormons taught and believed that every Mormon who is "exalted" will become the god and king of his own planet after death, which he will then populate with "spirit children" just as the Mormon God populated the Earth.
A clever series of national radio and television ads—at the suggestion of the incomparable John Lanning—cast a glowing light on Mormon activities, offsetting the bad publicity garnered by the refusal of Mormons to accept black members until 1978. In 1978, the Prophet suddenly announced a "new" revelation: God now permitted blacks to be admitted to the married priesthood of Mormonism. (All good Mormons believe that their destiny is to be admitted to the priesthood through sacred marriage ordinance rituals carried out in their temples.) A simple, one page memo had instructed Lanning to "ease" the new teaching into the public consciousness. The fact that the new revelation came shortly after a much publicized racial discrimination lawsuit was leveled against the LDS was not lost on Lanning.
That lawsuit and the new revelation had cast the first doubt concerning his faith into his mind. Slowly but surely the doubt grew until he found himself counseling depressed women to divorce their husbands based on theology he no longer believed. At first the doubt was barely noticeable to himself. To reject Mormon teaching was an unforgivable sin "against the Holy Spirit" according to Mormon teaching. Yet Lanning was a keen observer of human nature by temperament and profession, and he couldn't understand why God would change such an important religious law. Humans lived by unchanging natural laws, he believed. He banked on the universality of human nature to design his strategies.
Thousands of Mormons left the sect after the new "black" revelation. Lanning was asked to craft language to prepare missionaries confronted by Protestants who were well informed about the matter. Soon after the lawsuit, a key scripture in the Book of Mormon which described the elect and "white and delightsome" was changed to "pure and delightsome." At the time, he was aware of hundreds of other scriptural changes routinely made in "updated" versions of the Book of Mormon, but this particular change struck him as a matter of expedience.
Over time Lanning's attitude toward his religion changed from unthinking acceptance to an exciting search for inconsistencies.
As his doubts increased, his fear of losing his soul and godhood decreased. A few weeks ago, he woke up in the middle of the night, uncomfortable in the "sacred garment" which is required to be worn by Mormons.
Lanning tore it off. For a few moments he waited for the demonic attack to being. When nothing happened, he fell back to sleep with little consternation.
As John Lanning sat sobbing in his chair in his ward office, he considered suicide. He could not pray because he no longer believed in God—or at least he could not pray to what he now thought were cartoon Mormon versions of gods. Having lost his faith, he had no belief to turn to for solace.
"Who are you! Are you Lucifer or Jesus or something else? Are you there at all?" John called out, his voice filled with misery, addressing gods he no longer believed in. (Mormons believed that Lucifer was the defiant brother of Jesus.) Are you real? The walls of his office did not reply. Lanning looked out the window. At the bottom of the hill he saw Temple Square and the Salt Lake City valley. He closed his eyes and shook his head slowly. He wanted to die but he no longer believed in heaven.