A biased examination of “convent escape narratives”

Escaped Nuns: True Womanhood and the Campaign Against Convents in Antebellum America
By Cassandra L. Yacovazzi
Oxford University Press, 2018, 202 pages

American Protestants of the 19th-century viewed Roman Catholicism with a good degree of well-earned mistrust and antagonism. Popes had openly condemned democratic forms of government and freedom of religion. In Catholic countries, Protestants were not tolerated (to put it mildly). The determined efforts of the Jesuits to counter and reverse the spread of the Gospel were known to all.

As large numbers of Irish and German Catholics began immigrating to America in the early 19th-century, they were accompanied by priests and nuns. Convents were seen by Protestants as especially vile institutions, where it was suspected some nuns were abused and/or held against their will. It was also feared that Catholic schools staffed by nuns would draw an increasing number of Protestant children who would be indoctrinated into the Catholic religion. The very idea of unmarried women living together communally, dressed in their strange, 12th century habits was antithetical to the Protestant ideals of female virtue, marriage, and domesticity.

In this book, historian Yacovazzi, examines the Protestant reaction to the alarming influx of Catholic immigrants and especially the growing number of convents. In 1835, “Six Months in a Convent” was published in which ex-nun, Rebecca Reed, documented her escape from a convent and the abuses that took place therein. Ex-nun, Maria Monk’s “Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk” was published the following year to a large and receptive audience. Similar “convent escape narratives” would continue to be published into the mid-20th-century.

Yacovazzi dismisses all of these books, just as Catholic spokespersons did at the time they were published, as anti-Catholic fiction meant to appeal to prurient interests and Protestant sectarianism. To what degree those works were fiction or fact is still roundly debated. It’s interesting that Yacovazzi makes no mention of Herbert Wolf’s “The Nuns of Sant’Ambrogio” (2013) in which the award-winning historian documented the abuses in a single 19th-century Italian convent, abuses that were no more “outlandish” than those told by Reed, Monk, and the rest (see my review here). It’s also very interesting that Yacovazzi’s only mention of the Catholic church’s ongoing pedophile priests and hierarchical cover-up scandal is encompassed in one sentence on the second-last page of the book. Given the sheer enormity of the ongoing 20-year scandal, it’s amazing to me that Catholic apologists and academicians like Yacovazzi still attempt to discredit Reed, Monk, and the other ex-nuns who penned “convent escape narratives.” Catholicism’s rule of clerical celibacy led to widespread abuses then and now. Objections to historical accounts of abuse in Catholic celibate institutions reminds me of when Mafia-funded, Italian-American organizations protested the “defamatory” nature of the film, “The Godfather,” while it was being filmed in New York City in 1970.

In building her case against 19th-century American Protestant anti-Catholicism, Yacovazzi unsurprisingly makes no mention of those historical anti-Protestant factors that I cited at the outset. The omission is not an accident and serves the author’s agenda. A reader of this book would unwittingly assume American Protestants’ fear and anxiety regarding Catholicism were hatched in a vacuum.

Given the academic credentials of the author and publisher, I was quite surprised at the sectarian nature of this book.

Postscript: Ms. Yacovazzi included a short chapter in which she paralleled American Protestantism’s strong reaction to nuns and convents with its negative reaction to Mormon polygamy. Well, of course 19th-century American Christians saw the convent and polygamy as threats to women and orthodox Christianity! Yacovazzi’s argues from her 21st-century progressive soapbox that the nuns and Mormon women of the 19th-century were actually farther ahead in the proletarian feminist struggle than Protestant women!

Postscript II: I don’t pretend to be an academician, but I do know more than a few things about Catholicism and Mormonism. In the chapter on Mormon polygamous wives referenced above, Yacovazzi cites Emma Smith, wife of Mormonism’s founder, Joseph Smith, as 1) being opposed to her husband’s polygamous marriages, but that she 2) remained “a willful, vocal member of the church until her death” (p.118). Both claims are entirely untrue. Following her husband’s death in 1844 and the subsequent power struggle within the church, Emma Smith split from the main body of the Mormon church (led by Brigham Young) in 1846. Throughout the remainder of her life, she held firm to her denial that her husband had ever suggested or practiced polygamous marriage, attributing that novel doctrine to Brigham Young and others. In 1860, she joined the newly-formed Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, with her son, Joseph III, as the appointed president. The RLDS condemned polygamous marriages. Yacovazzi’s inaccurate assertions regarding Emma Smith reveal some very shoddy scholarship.

Warren Jeffs: Fundamentalist Mormon Monster

Warren Jeffs: Prophet of Evil
A&E Cable Channel, 2018, 120 minutes

The documentary, “Warren Jeffs: Prophet of Evil,” premiered February 19th on the A&E cable channel and I finally caught up with it via on-demand on Saturday night.

Readers of this blog may remember that I had a strong historical interest in the “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” (LDS, Mormons) because we live only 23 miles from Palmyra, New York, where the “church” had its beginnings. Mormon apologists say the church’s founder and first prophet, Joseph Smith, received divine revelation at some point in the 1830s to revive the Old Testament practice of polygamous/plural marriage and that the “principle” continued within the church until Wilford Woodruff, the fourth prophet, claimed he received divine revelation in 1890, which ended it. My, the Mormon god appears to be quite indecisive. In practical terms, the Mormons ended polygamy due to mounting pressure from the federal government. Although officially banned, Mormons continued polygamy under wraps until it eventually fizzled out within the “official” LDS church. However, several “fundamentalist” Mormon groups split from the church in order to continue the practice.

Warren Jeffs is the president and prophet of one of those groups, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), which was concentrated in the Hidale (UT)-Colorado City (AZ)-Short Creek (AZ) area with around 15,000 members. This documentary traces the rise of Jeffs within the FLDS. He had a penchant for marrying underage girls as plural wives (78 wives total! Oy vey!), which eventually led to his arrest, conviction, and sentencing to life in prison in 2011.

This is a sad, sad story of a religious cult wreacking havoc in the lives of its members. Jeffs was a monster of nightmarish proportions who cloaked his pedophilia in “religious authority.” Ultimately, every false religion is spiritually deadly. I’m mindful that such “respectable” religious institutions as Roman Catholicism dealt in abuses and persecutions that surpassed those of the FLDS. Praise the Lord, Jesus Christ, for His genuine Gospel and His genuine Church! Praise the Lord for His easy yoke and light burden! I think it’s useful for Christians to watch “Warren Jeffs: Prophet of Evil” to remind us that we should be very wary of placing any leader on a pedestal. In the first Biblical church my wife and I attended after accepting Christ, there were elements of authoritarianism and leadership idolatry. We must follow the Lord rather than any man.

For my previous posts on the fraudulent claims of Joseph Smith and Mormonism see here.

The Hill Cumorah Pageant – Don’t drink the Mormon Kool-Aid

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) holds its annual Hill Cumorah Pageant just south of the town of Palmyra, NY, about 25 miles east of Rochester. This year was the 80th anniversary of the pageant and it ran from July 14-15 and 18-22 with yesterday’s performance being the final night. The church reports that around 35,000 people attend the pageant annually.

The production is a reenactment of the claims of the church’s Book of Mormon, that Jews immigrated to the Americas around 600 BC and split into two warring factions, that they were visited by the resurrected Jesus Christ, and that the one group, the Lamanites (supposed ancestors of the Native Americans) obliterated* the godly Nephite civilization. Angel Moroni (the last surviving Nephite) allegedly appeared to young Joseph Smith at Palmyra in 1823 and one thing led to another with the eventual establishment of the LDS church in 1830.

The Mormons buy a lot of television time in the Western and Central New York areas advertising the pageant. It’s billed as a “must-see event” and “possibly the largest annual outdoor theatrical production in the United States” with its 750 volunteers, ten-level stage, state-of-the-art light and sound systems, and 8,000 seats. While the church advertises the pageant as a free theatrical extravaganza, the entire purpose of the production is to draw non-LDS and expose them to the Mormon religion. Mormon missionaries canvas the crowd prior to each performance, asking people to fill out contact information forms for post-pageant follow-up.

The gospel of the LDS church has nothing to do with the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. The church’s many unorthodox beliefs are totally contrary to Scripture and the Gospel of grace. Many people today have no knowledge of the Bible and get sucked into the church’s pro-family, pro-morality, pro-USA facade.

For my previous posts on the absolute untenableness of Mormon beliefs and the complete lack of archaeological evidence to corroborate the Book of Mormon myths, see here and here.

*According to the Book of Mormon, the last remnant of the Nephite civilization, 230,000 people, engaged the fierce Lamanites in one final, desperate stand at Hill Cumorah, the site of the pageant, around 385 AD. The B of M text claims all of the Nephites perished during the battle except for Moroni. One would rightly assume that such a mammoth gathering and conflict would have resulted in thousands of ancient artifacts, but the Smithsonian has no plans for an archaeological dig at Hill Cumorah any time soon. In fact, the Smithsonian issued a statement citing absolutely no archaeological evidence for the ancient Nephite and Lamanite civilizations as alleged by the Book of Mormon. See here.

“Dad, Let’s get out of this blank blank place!”

The last couple of days I’ve posted on topics related to the Church of Jesus Christangry of Latter-day Saints (Mormons). Today, I’ll finish up this short series with a humorous memory from long ago.

This story may be a little offensive to some so I apologize in advance. I mean no offense to my Lord or fellow believers but I think the words are a valuable part of the story. As a little background, our son, Steve, was around five years old at the time and I hadn’t accepted the Lord Jesus Christ yet. The language around our home may have been a little raw at times.

Sometime back around 1982-83, our youngest son, Steve, and I packed into the car and headed to Fayette, New York, about 50 miles away. I had studied the origins of the Mormon church for several years and had already visited the church-sponsored visitor centers and historic sites in Palmyra (Smith family home, Sacred Grove, Hill Cumorah, and Grandin print shop where the Book of Mormon was printed). In Fayette was the Peter Whitmer farm and visitor center. Whitmer had been an early and important follower of Smith. The Mormon church was formally organized at the Whitmer farm in 1830.

So Steve and I arrived at the Whitmer site and we began strolling through the visitor center exhibit. The elderly husband and wife Mormon missionary couple assigned to the center came over to greet us and commenced with their sales pitch. I had no intention of joining Mormonism (I was already well aware of much of the church’s dubious history and theology at that point) but I enjoyed engaging the couple in conversation and impressing them with how knowledgeable I was. After about ten minutes of conversation, our young son began losing his patience and piped in, “Dad, can we go now? ” I replied with that pat parental answer, “In a little while.” After ten more minutes of talking, a much more frustrated Steve said, “DAD! Can we go now???” I was disappointed my son had interrupted us again so I gave him a stern look and said once again that we would be leaving soon. Sensing their opportunity was coming to an end, the elderly couple began pushing VERY hard to close the deal. After several more minutes, Steve could no longer contain himself and blurted out very loudly, “DAD, LET’S GET OUT OF THIS G** D*** PLACE!” The couple’s jaws dropped right down to the floor. I was stunned and very embarrassed. My son had never spoken that way to me before, in private or public. But I was also relieved that he gave us a good reason to walk away. I apologized and we scooted out the door. As I looked back, the old couple was still standing there in a state of shock. I think I remember buying my son an ice cream cone on the way home. Steve, was only five but he had nailed it right on the head.

The chronology is a little fuzzy after 30+ years, but I believe my wife and I accepted the Lord just a few months after this encounter. That poor couple was selling a false gospel of works religion and much of their church’s unorthodox doctrine had no connection to the Bible. We Christians proclaim the Good News of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone! And we stand on the Truth of God’s Good Word, not on some home-brewed religion or traditions.

Sola Fide, by faith alone.
Sola Scriptura, by Scripture alone.
Solus Christus, through Christ alone.
Sola Gratia, by grace alone.
Soli Deo Gloria, glory to God alone.


More “problems” with Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post (see here), several decades ago I spent a lot of timeBOM studying the origins of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons). I learned the church’s founder, Joseph Smith, claimed to have translated some Egyptian papyri into the “Book of Abraham” in 1835. When the papyri were discovered 130 years later they were found to be only simple Egyptian funerary instructions rather than the writings of Abraham. Smith was proven to be a charlatan.

But the “Book of Abraham” hoax is far from the only embarrassing and incriminating item in LDS history. Today, let’s look at 4 other problems the LDS church has a difficult time explaining.

1) Origin of Native Americans disproved

In early 19th-century America, there was endless speculation and debate on the origins of the Native Americans. Joseph Smith was allegedly directed to golden plates by the angel Moroni in 1823, which he subsequently translated into the Book of Mormon. According to the BoM, a tribe of Israelites traveled by boat to the Americas around 600 BC. The immigrant group split into two factions, the warlike, dark-skinned (natch) Lamanites and the peaceful, godly, fair-skinned Nephites. Jesus Christ supposedly appeared to the Lamanites and Nephites after His resurrection and peace reigned for a short time but conflict then resumed. The unbelieving Lamanites slaughtered the last of the Nephites at a cataclysmic battle in 385 AD at Hill Cumorah near Palmyra, NY. According to the BoM, the Native Americans are descendants of the Lamanites. However, modern science has thrown a wrench into the BoM narrative. Researchers agree that the ancestors of the Native Americans migrated from Eastern Asia to the Americas over the ancient Bearing Strait land bridge. DNA evidence completely debunks the BoM’s claims that Native Americans are of Semitic origin.

2) No evidence of grand Nephite civilization

The Book of Mormon describes a highly advanced Nephite civilization with cities scattered across the Americas. However, not one shred of archaeological evidence has ever been unearthed which supports the BoM claims of a vast Nephite civilization with its “Reformed Egyptian” language. Despite intense efforts by the Mormon church, archaeology offers Smith’s BoM tale zero support.

3) Blacks denied priesthood then allowed

The second prophet and president of the LDS church, Brigham Young, declared in 1852 that Black men could not be Mormon priests. He claimed Blacks were descendants of Ham and their dark skin was the curse of Cain and, as such, could not attain the priesthood. Due to mounting societal pressures, the twelfth prophet of the church, Spencer Kimball, reversed Young’s declaration in 1978 and accepted Black men to the priesthood. How could one God-led prophet reverse the teachings of another?

4) Polygamy encouraged then abandoned

Joseph Smith introduced polygamy into the church as a sanctioned and blessed practice. His early successors continued to condone and encourage polygamy. However, in the face of mounting pressure from the U.S. government, Wilford Woodruff, the 4th prophet and president, claimed to receive a revelation in 1890 discontinuing plural marriage. Hmmm, the Mormon god seems to be quite a vacillating character, reversing himself on such important issues as the priesthood for Black men and polygamy.

Yes, false prophets and false religions abound. There are many denominations that claim to be “Christian” but do they uphold the orthodoxy of the Word of God? Do they proclaim the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone? Be cautious of what and who you embrace. The Lord God has provided more than enough proof for even the most credulous LDS that Joseph Smith was a deceiver and Mormonism is a false religious system. If your favorite TBN “evangelical” preacher embraces Mormon, Glenn Beck, cut your ties. You’re in trouble if you’re getting your theology from TBN.

“This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Do not listen to what the (false) prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD.” – Jeremiah 23:16

The “Book of Abraham” hoax: Iron-clad proof that Joseph Smith and Mormonism are frauds

Recently, I’ve posted some messages about how conservative pundit, Glenn Beck, hasBOA been invited to participate in evangelical-sponsored events. Beck is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Mormons. Some evangelicals would argue that Beck shares the same “moral values” as conservative Christians and indeed loves God righteously according to his own belief system. They argue evangelicals would be better off embracing religious Americans like Beck who share the same “moral values” rather than checking the fine print of their denominational membership cards in this age of encroaching secularism.

Really? I say not so fast.

I’m a bit of a history geek and back in the late 70s-early 80s I was curious about the Mormon church, which had it’s beginnings in Palmyra, New York, about 25 miles from where I live. Joseph Smith claimed that God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to him in 1820, which later led to his receiving “golden tablets” and producing the Book of Mormon. Smith founded the Mormon church in Palmyra, which subsequently relocated to Ohio, then to Illinois, and finally to Utah.

The Mormon church has some extremely strange unbiblical theology but I will only touch on a few particulars for this post. Mormons do not preach the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. They teach baptismal regeneration and that God the Father was once a mortal man who advanced to deity by obeying a different god. Mormons believe that by following their church’s requirements, they can achieve deity themselves and rule over their own universes.

Joseph Smith claimed to be God’s prophet and to receive direct revelation. But while studying Mormonism, I discovered some irrefutable proof that Joseph Smith was a deceiver and a false prophet.

After the church had moved to Kirtland, Ohio, a traveling exhibit came to town, which included some ancient Egyptian papyri. Smith got his hands on the papyri and translated them into “The Book of Abraham,” alleged writings from the Old Testament patriarch, which was subsequently canonized as Mormon scripture. In the 1960s, the very same papyri in question were discovered in the archives of a New York City museum. Trained Egyptologists examined the papyri and found they were simple Egyptian funerary rites. Smith’s “translation” was proven to be a complete and total lie, a fabrication.

“When Joseph first gave his translation, hieroglyphics were undecipherable. Today they are. He was safe in saying anything he wanted to, and there would be no way of proving him wrong. But with the resurfacing of the same papyri he used to do his Book of Abraham translation and the fact that he did not in any way do it correctly should be proof enough that Joseph Smith lied about his abilities from God. He has been shown to be a false prophet.” – from “The Book of Abraham Papyri and Joseph Smith,” Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry

Mormon apologists backpedaled by declaring the papyri were simply a “catalyst” for revelation!

Smith was proven to be an absolute, 100% fraud, yet the Mormon church marches on, drawing more poor souls into its false gospel. And now we have the evangelical compromisers on TBN inviting Mormon Beck to help them defend American “values” and the “gospel.”

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” – 1 John 4:1

For more on the “Book of Abraham” and Mormon scam, see here.

Mormon featured on TBN defending “our Judeo-Christian values”

Last night I was winding down the day by enjoying my usual evening ritual: laying in bedAABBCC while channel surfing. I happened to catch a glimpse of a special on the Trinity Broadcasting Network, “Foundations of Freedom,” featuring conservative polemicist, Glenn Beck (left), and Christian nationalist, David Barton (right). I didn’t watch for very long, but Beck and Barton were talking about defending America’s status as a “Christian nation.”

So, we now have a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons), Glenn Beck, featured on a supposedly evangelical Christian television network, defending America as a Christian nation? Hey, who cares about correct doctrine? Don’t be a nitpicker! We all love America! We all love Jesus and our Judeo-Christian values!  We need to forget about doctrinal squabbles and embrace each other and fight the secular and non-Christian hordes amassing inside and outside our gates! Right? That’s the priority, correct?

Christians in America are betraying the Gospel in the name of national pride and nobody says a thing.