Sunday, May 5, 2013

30 years ago: Mormon front organization sponsors talk by Eldridge Cleaver and Cleon Skousen

Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?
II Corinthians 6:14-15

On Thursday, May 5, 1983, former U.S. Black Panther activist Eldridge Cleaver was in Edmonton, speaking in Tory Lecture Theatre L-11 on the University of Alberta campus. Mr. Cleaver expressed his opposition to much of the "peace" talk and activities of the day, and talked about how he had come to oppose Communism as a result of actually living under Communism in places such as Cuba. Mr. Cleaver was followed by Cleon Skousen, former FBI agent and Salt Lake City police chief and author of The Naked Communist (1958) (see my previous post on Mr. Skousen).

I had read a newspaper item sometime earlier stating that Mr. Cleaver, a former leader of the Black Panther movement in the United States and a professing Christian by the late 1970s, was flirting with Mormonism (strange, given the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' historic attitude toward blacks); indeed, seven months after his Edmonton appearance, Mr. Cleaver was baptized as a Mormon, and was apparently still a member at the time of his death at the age of 62 on May 1, 1998. Mr. Cleaver's conversion to Mormonism didn't have any apparent influence on his behaviour, since he developed a cocaine addiction and had numerous brushes with the law. As I recall his speech at the U of A, his message consisted mainly of how he became disillusioned with Communism after spending time in societies dominated by it. There was nothing in his address that mainstream conservatives would have disagreed with.

I don't remember much of Mr. Skousen's talk, but if I recall correctly it seemed to focus mainly on things that would have been of interest to Americans, and seemed somewhat inapplicable to Canada. I think they were selling some sort of manual with editorial adjustments suitable for Canada, but I didn't buy anything from them, and my memory is hazy on that.

The lectures were sponsored by The Freemen Institute (now known as the National Center for Constitutional Studies), an organization dedicated to upholding the principles of the United States Constitution. Why such an organization would be active in Canada I don’t know. I started to suspect that the Freemen Institute was a Mormon front, and that suspicion was heightened by a look at the audience, which consisted mostly of young people who had a "Mormon look" about them--better-groomed and better-dressed than average, looking as though they had stepped out of a television show from the 1950s.

Mr. Skousen and the Freemen Institute were popular with some Christians and political conservatives at the time, and some Christians were appearing at conferences sponsored by FI (as well as with the Unification Church ("Moonie") front organization CAUSA International, perhaps unwittingly (the Freemen Institute, like a typical front, didn't come right out and say that it was a Mormon front organization). This sort of fellowship with unbelievers on the basis of similarity of political views is in disobedience to scripture, and should be avoided by Christians, regardless of how worthwhile the cause appears to be. Such forbidden fellowship may have affected the results of a few elections in the last few decades, but it hasn't resulted in a more godly society.

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