When Mitt Romney was running for president many called it the “Mormon Moment.” As a result of a believing Mormon potentially leading the United States, there was increased scrutiny of the Mormon church. John Sweeny, of the BBC, interviewed LDS Apostle Jeffrey Holland for a program called ‘The Mormon Candidate’ which aired on BBC in 2012. The church later responded that Holland had been “ambushed” by the reporter and since then, has largely avoided any press – except when staging a press conference of their own at church headquarters.
The Mormon Candidate program doesn’t share a full interview with Holland, but there are snippets included throughout. Find the video below as well as transcripts in 5 different segments with John Sweeny interviewing Jerrfre R Holland in his office at church headquarters.
On Church Truth Claims that Joseph Smith Translated Papyri into The Book of Abraham and Being a Convicted Con-Man
Sweeney: Joseph Smith got this papyri and he translated them and subsequently as the Egyptologists cracked the code, something completely different came out…
Holland interrupts: All I’m saying, all I’m saying, is that, what got translated, got translated into the word of God. The vehicle for that, I do not understand, and don’t claim to know, and know no Egyptian.
Sweeney: As a record of historical fact, was Joseph Smith convicted of being a con-man in 1826?
Holland: I have no idea.
Sweeney: There’s a court record in New York, we’ve got in email…
Holland interrupts: There’s a, there’s a good deal of difficulty in the, in the early frontier life in America, but that’s an incidental matter to the character and integrity of the man.‘The Mormon Candidate’
John Sweeny interviews Jeffrey Holland
Holland was quick to dismiss Joseph Smith’s conviction and history of conning people via treasure digging. It’s part of his story the church would like everyone to forget and know nothing about because it clouds the foundations of the church with folk magic. They don’t want us to know that the seer stones he used to translate were found and also used as his peep stones when practicing treasure digging. John Sweeny asks Holland about this by referring to the fact that Joseph was convicted in a court of being a con man. Holland claims he has no idea about that, and interrupts the follow-up question to further claim that history is hard, but being convicted of being a conman is an “incidental matter to the character and integrity of the man”. Wait, what? Is lying and cheating people out of their money merely inconsequential? It’s no big deal to Holland, so perhaps that’s why he follows suit and lies about not knowing anything about it. He can lie and it isn’t reflective of his character and integrity. What a load of misleading and manipulative statements, but Holland is just getting started!
On Temple Penalties Pantomiming Slitting One’s Own Throat and if Mitt Romney Participated
Sweeney: Let’s talk about Mitt Romney. (OK). The man who may well become the most powerful man on Earth. (Uh huh). As a Mormon, in the Temple, I’ve been told, he would have sworn an oath to say that he would not pass on what happens in the Temple, lest he slit his throat. Is that true?
Holland: That’s not true. That’s not true. We do not have penalties in the Temple.
Sweeney: You used to?
Holland: We used to.
Sweeney: Therefore, he swore an oath saying, ‘I will not tell anyone about the secrets here lest I slit my throat.’
Holland: Well, the, the, the vow that was made, was regarding the ordinance, the ordinance of the Temple.
Sweeney: It sounds masonic, sir. It sounds masonic.
Holland: Well, it’s comparable, similar to a, a masonic, uh, relationship.
Sweeney: The most, potentially, the most powerful man in the world has sworn an oath, which he meant at the time, whatever it is now, that he must not tell anyone about what he seen lest he slit his throat.
Holland: That he would not tell anyone about his personal pledge to the Lord. I am assuming that any religious candidate: an evangelical a Roman Catholic – Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Osama…I mean, (nervous chuckle), President Obama. Uh, I’m assuming that anybody‘The Mormon Candidate’
who has a relationship to God has made a pledge of some kind to God. There’d be some kind of loyalty to God, or what kind of God is that?
John Sweeny interviews Jeffrey Holland
Sweeny asks if Mitt Romney would have sworn an oath in the temple where the penalty of sharing it is to slit his throat, and Holland retorts “that’s not true, we don’t have penalties in the temple”. He attempts to put distance between the masonic penalties and the Mormon temple ceremony and claims it isn’t true, but Sweeny has done his homework and has a quick follow-up pointing out that the temple used to have penalties, to which Holland must affirm. Yes, the temple “used to” have this throat-slitting penalty. Sweeny then retorts that therefore, Romney would have done this oath where if he shared the secrets lest he slit his own throat. Holland confirms that the vow was regarding the ordinance of the temple. Sweeny remarks that it sounds Masonic, a point that Holland responds to but it’s unintelligible what he means. We do know he affirms that the temple oaths are similar to Masonic rituals, so he must be informed about them, because we know earlier in the interview he’s not above stating ‘he has no idea’.
Sweeny finally restates the original question after having refuted all of Holland’s dodging and lying answers, Holland changes the subject of the oath to refer to it as his personal pledge to the Lord. He mentions other political world leaders (being sure to slip accidentally and call Barrack Obama Osama) and expects that they would each also have made some sort of pledge to God… so he wants to liken the temple covenants (with or without penalties) that are similar to Masonic rituals to being born again or any pledge to God. It’s another way that he gets by answering the question with no answer. He doesn’t outright deny it, though, so it stands as affirming the question. This is a tricky question because many many members of the church who regularly attend the temple don’t even know about the penalties. The church “used to” have these in the endowment ceremony, but they don’t anymore. They haven’t been included since 1990. It’s been over 30 years since anyone did that, but we can assume that anyone who went through the temple before 1990 (got married or went on a mission anytime before the nineties) would have a memory of this. There is no acknowledgment of them ever existing otherwise. If a member went through the temple for the first time in 2020, 2004, or even 1991 they would have no idea about what the church used to do in the temple. There have been many changes to the ceremony over the years. But the changes aren’t the issue, it’s the silence about the changes. They lead us to believe that the temple has always been the same. It hasn’t.
On the Strengthening Church Members Committee – Its Existence and Purpose and Shunning Church Members Who Leave
Sweeney: What is the Strengthening Church Members Committee?
Holland: The Strengthening the Church Members Committee was born some years ago… to… protect predatory practices of polygamists.
Sweeney: I asked what is it?
Holland: Well, that’s what it is.
Sweeney: So, it does still exist?
Holland: It does still exist. It does still exist.
Sweeney: And it looks out, it’s there to defend the church against polygamists?
Holland: Principally. That is still the principal task.
Sweeney: And, what is its subsidiary tasks?
Holland: Uh, I suppose, just to be protective generally, just to watch and care for, uh, any uh, any insidious influences. But for all intents and purposes, all that I know about it, is primarily to guard against polygamy. That would be the substantial essential part of the work. I’m not on that committee so I can’t speak.
Sweeney: Does the Mormon church shun people?
Holland: No! No. Of course we don’t.
Holland: We don’t use that word and we don’t know that practice. If I had a son this very day, given the office that I have, and the visibility that means, if I had a son or a daughter who left the church or was alienated or had a problem, I can tell you I would not cut that child out of family life.‘The Mormon Candidate’
John Sweeny interviews Jeffrey Holland
Sweeny wants to know more about the Strengthening Church Members Committee, which is known to investigate and monitor church members and report them for apostasy. If a Mormon posts online, challenges church leaders, or even shares ideas that can be seen as contrary to the church they will be reported. There are incidents where local leaders are made aware of private online activities and posts of members and they are disciplined. This is not private activities like viewing pornography or molesting children, it’s just disagreeing with the church or voicing an opinion that the church doesn’t like. Things like supporting same-sex marriage, opposing prop 8, disagreeing with how the church spends money, etc.
These opinions put members in the hot seat and Sweeny is asking Holland about the committee, to which Holland jumps in quickly to explain that the committee came from a time when the church wanted to watch members and make sure they weren’t polygamous. He confirms that it exists and states that it principally defends the church against polygamy. But when pressed about what else it does, Holland stammers about them also protecting the church generally and closes down the question claiming that he’s not on the committee so he can’t speak about it. What kind of leadership doesn’t know what the committees under them do? He really just wants to avoid saying anything that wouldn’t sit well with members or reveal any of the “Big Brother” tendencies the church has.
On Baptisms for the Dead, specifically for victims of the Holocaust
Sweeney: You baptize people after death. (Uh huh). Why?
Holland: Because we believe that in the justice and mercy of God, everybody ought to have a chance for salvation.
Sweeney: But you baptize Holocaust victims.
Holland: Not anymore. We, we, we, for, for the same reason, the same, the same conversation would be held with anyone. This is, uh, an invitation.
Sweeney: But if you were Jewish and your grandfather or grandmother was killed in the Holocaust because they were Jewish, doesn’t that seem somewhat insensitive to re-baptize them…
Holland interrupts: We’ve already been through that, and we’ve agreed to the insensitivity and so we’ve ceased, ceased doing that. But it was never meant to be an offense. It was never meant to be anything that would claim them away from their Judiasm. In time and in eternity
the freedom was to choose, if you chose to have this offer, it’s the same offer we make to a Jewish citizen, or, or, or a Muslim or anybody else. If you were interested, if you wanted this, you may step forward to claim it.
Sweeney: Some critics say that you still are (baptizing holocaust victims).
Holland: Not with our blessing. Not with our effort, we’re not.‘The Mormon Candidate’
John Sweeny interviews Jeffrey Holland
Sweeny next asks about the Mormon practice of baptisms for the dead. This is a fairly unique practice and has gotten the church in trouble recently because they were caught pulling names of Holocaust victims and baptizing them and doing temple work for them. This was offensive to the surviving Jewish families that the church was essentially converting their deceased relatives. Not just any relatives, but specifically those who died because of their religion. Holland tries to reframe the work for the dead as an invitation-only, and then when pressed again, gets short and defensively huffs that if it still happens, it’s not with the blessing of the leadership.
On the Mormon church being called a Cult
Sweeney: We did talk to a number of people who have left the church – more than 30 – and there is a massive gap between what they’ve told me, and what you’re telling me.
Holland: Well, then we ought to all get together – that would help. If you’ll give me that list, then, and if you want to sit with us, let’s go get them together and let’s talk.
Sweeney: They said to me, that they believe the Mormon church is a cult. They believe it’s a cult like the Church of Scientology, but actually it’s smarter and more powerful.
Holland: (Laughs) Well, I guess if that’s what they believe, it’s probably a good thing they chose to leave it. Because we’re not a cult. I’m not an idiot. You know, I’ve read a couple of books, and been to a pretty good school. And I have chosen to be in this church, because of the faith that I feel, and the inspiration that comes.
Sweeney: Oh, I’m not calling you a cult. I’m just saying that I met people that used to be in the church…
Holland Interrupts: I’ve met people. And if people want to call us a cult, they can call us a cult, and you can call us a cult. But we are 14 million and growing, and I’d like to think that your respect for me would be enough to know that that this man doesn’t seem like a dodo.‘The Mormon Candidate’
John Sweeny interviews Jeffrey Holland
Sweeny closes the interview out it seems with questions about the status of the church. He refers to the “massive gap” between the things he’s already learned from members who have left the church and what Holland is claiming. Understandably, because Holland has lied to his face! But only after claiming that being a con artist is inconsequential to one’s character or integrity. Sweeny brings up the four-letter word every Mormon fears. He says that these ex-Mormons he spoke with say the Mormon church is a cult, but a smart and powerful cult. Holland retorts that if they believe it’s a cult, it’s a good thing they decided to leave! He shows such a disgusting lack of sympathy and by a supposed “Special Witness of Jesus” who is called and chosen as an Apostle in the Latter-Days.
Jeffrey R Holland then toots his own horn and wants to claim he is not an idiot. Not sure what that has to do with anything. He could be a con artist though! He is excited to allude to how literate he is since he’s read a few books. He is also excited to allude to how educated he is since he went to the prestigious Yale where he received a master’s and Ph.D. in American Studies. This is after he graduated from BYU with a bachelor’s degree in English, and a master’s degree in Religious Education. He likes to show that he’s educated, but not too “learned”, but also slyly so it doesn’t look like he’s proud, puffed-up, and intellectual. A collection of degrees usually indicates a specialty, but earlier Holland said he had “no idea” about Joseph Smith being convicted in court, so, did he do his homework to earn his Ph.D., or is he purposefully lying now to cover something up? If so, he would consider it merely incidental to his own character and integrity. He says he chooses to be in the church due to his faith. This claim cannot be challenged, but Sweeny pushes more.
Sweeny clarifies that he wasn’t calling the church a cult, but that people he’s met have told him that it is. Holland interrupts with a tantrum saying that he’s met people too, and “if people want to call us a cult, they can call us a cult! You can call us a cult!” He touts that the church has 14 million members and is growing. A debatable fact since estimates easily put global church activity rates at around 25%, but also an irrelevant fact, since size alone doesn’t absolve a church from being a cult. Then he proposes that if Sweeny has any respect for him it would be enough for him to know Holland is not a dodo. This also is irrelevant to the question of the status of the church being a cult or not. It does show that Holland’s argument for the church not being a cult is that he isn’t an idiot and he isn’t a dodo. He seems to be proposing that if it were a cult, he would have to be an idiot to sit at the top of it and milk all the Mormons. This better fits the description of a con artist, which again he’s already claimed has no bearing on integrity.
Holland doesn’t think he’s an idiot and thinks that is evidence that the church is not a cult. Holland doesn’t think he’s a dodo either and thinks that is evidence that the church is not a cult. These facts (while also debatable) have no bearing on the BITE model for cults. Where “BITE” stands for Behavior, Information, Thought, and Emotional control. It actually may increase the likelihood that Mormonism is a cult.
The Church Responds to BBC regarding The Mormon Candidate Program
The church then has the audacity to claim that Holland was “ambushed” in the interview and sent PR representatives in person to the BBC office to deliver a letter to complain about the Mormon Candidate program. Sweeny clears things up though by saying “Holland was fully briefed about who he was and what he wanted to talk about.” Holland knew who John Sweeny was, and we know he’s not an idiot, he would have looked at the brief that detailed the topics and even looked at the reporter’s history to know more about him. Only a dodo would walk into an interview unprepared and then claim to be ambushed.
The member of staff is understood to have allowed two representatives from the PR and lobbying firm APCO Worldwide, which represents the Mormon church into the BBC Media Centre at White City.
They approached Lucy Hetherington, the series editor of the BBC2 This World current affairs documentary strand, and took the unusual step of delivered a letter in person complaining about The Mormon Candidate, made by reporter John Sweeney, which is to be broadcast on Tuesday evening.
Sweeney’s hour-long documentary is understood to make a series of claims about the Mormons, including suggestions that some members of the church have been brainwashed.
He interviewed a number of ex-Mormons who claim the church is a cult.
The letter complained about an interview which Sweeney conducted with Mormon apostle Elder Jeffrey Holland, which the church claims was “an ambush” according to a BBC source.
Sweeney, disputes these claims, insisting that Elder Holland was fully briefed about who he was and what he wanted to talk about.https://www.theguardian.com/media/2012/mar/27/bbc-mormon-prs-complaint
What do you think about this interview? How do the videos make you feel about church leadership? Do Holland’s answers seem honest, transparent, or even clear? Do these brainwashing, cult claims hold any water? Let us know by contributing your story to the was mormon collection.
- Full Program: https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x31u248, or https://documentaryheaven.com/mormon-candidate/
- Nemo’s analysis: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U35e6sXsdRM
- Church PR Office officially complains about the program
- Park Romney: Why he turned against the Mormon church
- The BITE Model of Authoritarian Control: Undue Influence, Thought Reform, Brainwashing, Mind Control, Trafficking and the Law