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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Disruption by Revelation

by Sharon

John Singer was a Mormon with seven children. He and his wife, Vickie, lived west of Salt Lake City on their 2.5 acre farm in Marion, Utah. Dissatisfied with the public school system in the 1970s, Mr. Singer confronted school officials after seeing a picture in one of his children's textbooks. It was a photo depicting blacks and whites together and, in Mr. Singer's opinion, this was proof that his children were being subjected to "immoral secular influences." (At this point in history the LDS Church held to a doctrine that claimed blacks were cursed by God.) Mr. Singer pulled his children out of school, breaking a state law. This began a chain of events that eventually led to his death.

Due to his defiance of the law, the LDS Church excommunicated Mr. Singer. Not long after, in 1978, Mr. Singer received a revelation directing him to enter into plural marriage with Shirley Black. Shirley was already legally married and had four children. Nevertheless, she left her legal husband, Dean, and moved with their children onto the Singer farm. Mr. Black went to court. He was awarded a divorce from Shirley and temporary custody of their children; Mr. Singer, however, refused to surrender them. Three months later, in January 1979, Mr. Singer was confronted by Utah law enforcement officers outside his home. Mr. Singer threatened the officers with a gun and was subsequently shot and killed.

A young man in central Utah paid close attention as this story unfolded. Described as an "excommunicated Mormon" and a "budding Fundamentalist," nineteen-year-old Addam Swapp had held John Singer in awe; he believed Mr. Singer and his family had been unjustly treated. Mr. Swapp visited the Singer home in early 1980. Within a few years he had married two of the Singer daughters. Addam Swapp and his wives took up residence at the farm in Marion, Mr. Swapp assuming John Singer's vacated role of family patriarch.

The anger and sense of injustice over John Singer's death continued to grow and fester. Addam Swapp, along with the rest of the Singer/Swapp family, harbored deep-seated hatred which grew to encompass not only the government of Utah, but also the LDS Church.

On January 16, 1988, based on a revelation Addam Swapp believed he had received from God, Mr. Swapp planted a bomb comprised of eighty-seven sticks of dynamite in a nearby LDS Stake Center. As intended, the bomb exploded at 3:00 a.m., harming no one but causing $1.5 million worth of damage to the building. The message was sent and received: a required atonement for John Singer's death was in motion.

Soon there were 100 law enforcement officers--local and federal--surrounding the Singer/Swapp compound. Addam Swapp refused to communicate with the law, but did tell his cousin about the revelation which was now guiding his behavior. Addam Swapp believed he had been told by God to seek an armed confrontation with the lawmen because, at the moment the police would attack, John Singer would be resurrected to come to the aid of his family:
"John Singer’s resurrection would trigger the downfall of corrupt government and religious institutions and clear the way for the second coming of Jesus Christ."

About ten days into the siege Addam Swapp wrote a letter to Utah's governor. It said, in part,
"I stand on the truth and declare my independence from this government and society...We are independent and separate from your wicked society... Take a warning -- any man of yours which attempts to cross the boundaries of this place, without our permission, will be treated as an aggressive act on your part against us and we will defend ourselves in any manner we see fit... I now must warn you and anyone else involved... leave this valley immediately... Those who would come against this my people, will I verily cause to be destroyed."

The standoff continued for another three days, ending on January 28 in a shoot-out that left one officer dead. The Singer/Swapp family finally surrendered, Addam Swapp explaining to authorities that since blood had been shed, John Singer's death had been atoned.

Addam Swapp was convicted of several crimes and has been serving out his prison sentence these past two decades. Last week he had his first parole hearing. Asserting that he was sorry for what happened in 1988 and that something like that would never happen again, Mr. Swapp claimed to be a changed person. He said he has asked for God's forgiveness and now wants to follow the example of Jesus Christ in pursuing peace. He still subscribes to fundamentalist views, but, he said, he is first and foremost a Christian. He also explained that the whole 1988 altercation between himself and the police could have been avoided if the person who killed John Singer would have apologized for it.
"If they would have just said they were sorry, it would have been like throwing cold water on a fire," he said.

Is Mr. Swapp denying he ever received the revelation from God that he believed, at the time, justified his violent actions? He doesn't say, but this must be the case. Else why would he have sought forgiveness from God and now choose to follow the example of Jesus Christ? At the time of the crimes Mr. Swapp believed blood needed to be shed to atone for John Singer's death, but now says all would have been well if someone had just said, "I'm sorry." At the time Mr. Swapp believed God told him the confrontation with law officials would spark John Singer's resurrection and usher in the second coming of Christ which, of course, didn't happen. What does Mr. Swapp think about this? Does he recognize himself to be a false prophet?

Some years ago journalist Christopher Smart wrote for the Salt Lake Tribune,
Utah has its special brand of religious fanaticism that has cropped up again and again. Often it is associated with polygamy, which the LDS Church disavowed in 1890 and for which members are excommunicated...

The belief that anyone can receive revelation is a thread that runs through many of Utah's most bizarre crimes, said historian D. Michael Quinn. "It will probably always be a problem, I would say, in Mormon culture because Mormon culture maintains this faith that God continues to speak both to individuals as well as to the church as a whole."...

"The Mormon community is alive with one essential position of faith, that God continues to reveal new things, new doctrines, new words," said Quinn. "That leads to the possibility of disruption."

John Singer and Addam Swapp are sad examples of the LDS belief in continuing revelation run amok. They are not the first; this sort of thing has plagued the entire history of the Mormon Church.

Interesting to me is that many elements in the lives of these two men have approved parallels in LDS history.

For example, John Singer's plural marriage to an already married woman by reason of revelation echoes the actions of several early LDS leaders, including the Prophet Joseph Smith. Mr. Singer's appropriation of another man's children and unwillingness to give them up recalls similar events that led to LDS Apostle Parley Pratt's death in 1857.

Addam Swapp's plural marriage to a set of sisters also followed the example of Joseph Smith, who married at least three sets of sisters between July 1842 and May 1843. Mr. Swapp's declaration of independence from the government and warning to any who would set foot on the Singer/Swapp property brings to mind the tirades of Brigham Young as the U.S. army marched toward Utah to put down the "Mormon Rebellion" in 1857.

In the LDS Church and Mormon culture these actions by early LDS leaders are considered honorable and righteous, while similar actions by Mr. Singer and Mr. Swapp are condemned.

Ann House, the widow of the officer killed in the Singer/Swapp shoot-out, reflected on Addam Swapp's incurred debt:
As for Swapp's promise to pay restitution to the Houses, Ann said the best thing he can do is to make sure whatever ideas caused his actions should never be passed to his children or grandchildren.

"Certainly he can never go back and undue [sic] all the harm that will last for generations [in our family]," she said. "The best he can do is let his old beliefs go and become a productive member of society."

The bedrock ideas that caused Mr. Swapp's actions are firmly rooted in the history and doctrines of Mormonism. They are passed on from generation to generation, a proud legacy within the LDS Church.

Mr. Swapp initially chose to follow the examples of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, a tragic choice with an infinitely high price tag. If only he had chosen, from the beginning, to follow Jesus Christ.


There is a way that seems right to a man,
but its end is the way of death.

-Proverbs 14:12-


Jesus spoke to them, saying, "I am the light of the world.
Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness,
but will have the light of life."

-John 8:12-



----------------

Information for this article came from the following sources:

Utah History Encyclopedia

Richard S. Van Wagoner, Mormon Polygamy -- A History, 212-214

Christopher Smart, "Religious Zeal a Common Theme in Broken Minds"

Utah Highway Patrol

Jason Bergreen, "Church bomber apologizes for actions"

Ben Winslow, Swapp is sorry for crimes

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10 Comments:

  • At March 15, 2007 1:11 PM, Blogger Interested said…

    Sharon,
    Thank you for this very interesting article. This is a story I have not heard before.
    "Due to his defiance of the law, the LDS Church excommunicated Mr. Singer" It has always seemed strange to me that the LDS church tends to throw out those who disagree with them. It is strange that they profess to be Christian and followers of Christ yet it is doubtful that Jesus could enter the LDS temple or be considered a faithful mormon.

     
  • At March 15, 2007 2:18 PM, Blogger rick b said…

    What is really sad is, the LDS tell people like me they have the real and true Church because they recive "Revelation" from God, yet look at this "Revelation" An LDS recived, it follows the "Revelations" Prophets of old recived, like Polagamy, blood atonment, and others.

    Yet these all seem to change like the wind, the LDS god is a changing god, one day this is ok to teach and believe Blood atonment or polagamy, the next day it is wrong.

    This really is a problem, how can I know the truth if the LDS dont seem to know the truth? If their god changes how can I trust him? Rick b

     
  • At March 15, 2007 4:57 PM, Blogger Interested said…

    Rick b

    When my daughter married a mormon I asked her how she felt about the fact that the church was changing so often i.e. revelations. She stated that it made her feel good because as the world changes the church is keeping up. I had no idea what to say to her but my heart skipped a beat to think that she did not understand the implications of modern "revelations".

     
  • At March 15, 2007 6:22 PM, Blogger Neal said…

    Sharon,

    "LaShuan Harris took her three children on a train from Oakland into San Francisco on Oct. 19, 2005. She bought the little boys hot dogs, and they walked along Fisherman’s Wharf.

    Then Harris undressed the three boys, ages 16 months, 2 and 6, and dropped them one at a time over the low railing into chilly San Francisco Bay, police say.

    She knew they couldn’t swim and thought she was sending them to heaven. God had commanded her to sacrifice her three boys, her most precious possessions . . .

    “She was trapped inside an overwhelming delusion, one that kept telling her to take her kids and ’put them in the water’ to send them to Jesus,” Caffese said in a recent court filing. “And that is what she believes she did.”

    Should we now condemn ALL Christians for encouraging the kind of thinking that would make someone believe that heaven is so glorious and earth so dismal that killing children is prefereable to allowing them to live here? Should we make certain that no Christians or Jews should teach about Abraham and Isaac just in case somebody who is unstable, mentally ill or downright malicious might misunderstand, or that Satan himself may twist the truth for his own gain?

    Your post was thought-provoking, but also misleading. Double check the facts and se if John Singer was excommunicated for his defiance of the law or for his apostacy.

    Revelation is a principle of the Gospel from the beginning of time. Amos teaches that God will always reveal his will through his prophets. The law of Moses as lived by God's chosen people was revealed to Moses and the Children of Israel were commanded to live it. Christ Himself came to fulfill that law and change it in form and substance.We would never accuse Him of "changing like the wind". Rick -- you are not being fully honest comparing revealed doctrine to a nebulous teaching such as blood atonement. This concept has never been accepted as official docrtine in the LDS Church. I have read all of the obscure references you will undoubtedly drag out and we can question what was meant. There is a process by which revelation is received and accepted and that concept, while clearly mulled over, discussed and talked about, was never doctrine.

    Polygamy was different. There a process was observed tht can be discussed -- a revelation was given and received, a principle clearly taught and lived by prophets of old was restored. In the Lord's time a revelation was received and the principle was done away. The Lord's will was done in order and in His time.

    Peter and Paul both experienced changes in their revealed religion -- one day they were to teach only the Jews, the next day, they were to include the Gentiles. One day they were required to circumsize, the next day it was not required. God does not EVER change, but He reveals to His people through his prophets the knowledge required of them at the appropriate time. Thank God the heavens are not closed. I beleive we need His revelation now more than ever.

    It is unfair and misleading to judge the LDS Church by people who have left the church to follow after their own teachings. I would NEVER judge the Baptist church by one who becomes disaffected and follows their own path.

    I normally enjoy the exercise of following your posts. This one was unfair.

     
  • At March 16, 2007 11:27 AM, Blogger Sharon said…

    Neal wrote: "Your post was thought-provoking, but also misleading. Double check the facts and se if John Singer was excommunicated for his defiance of the law or for his apostacy."

    My information came from the Utah History Encyclopedia:

    "Singer's defiance of the law and his determination to have his children removed from the public school system led to his ostracism in the community and eventual excommunication from the Mormon Church."

    I would welcome correction or clarification from another source.

    Neal wrote: "It is unfair and misleading to judge the LDS Church by people who have left the church to follow after their own teachings. I would NEVER judge the Baptist church by one who becomes disaffected and follows their own path. I normally enjoy the exercise of following your posts. This one was unfair."

    Please note, I wrote: "John Singer and Addam Swapp are sad examples of the LDS belief in continuing revelation run amok." Obviously their actions were well outside accepted behavior and belief for today's Latter-day Saints. But, unlike LaShuan Harris who had no scriptural or commended historic basis for what she did, Singer and Swapp were emulating latter-day prophets and in many ways conforming to their teachings.

    It would be "unfair" to form a conclusion about the LDS Church based solely on the actions of a few disaffected members. But as part of the bigger picture, these issues are certainly worth thinking about.

     
  • At March 16, 2007 11:58 AM, Blogger Neal said…

    Sharon,

    Thanks for the follow up. As always, your thinking is lucid and interesting. Thanks for taking the time to clarify.

    N

     
  • At March 16, 2007 12:47 PM, Blogger rick b said…

    Neal, when you talked about me bringing up blood atonment, it was Brigham young himself who said, I have never preached a seromon I would not call doctrine. Then your Prophet Ezra taft benson said 3 things.

    1. The prophet does not need to say thus saith the Lord to give us scripture. The problem with this is, if LDS dont like what was taught, it is/was not scripture. If they like it, it was/is scripture.

    2. The prophet speaks for the Lord in everything.

    So here we have the prophet speaking for God himself, just as if God said it.

    3. The prophet cannot lead the Church astray. Well it appers with changing Doctrine, the Church has gone astray.

    Then your reply about the Apostels shows you dont understand your bible. God did not change, they did not agree with God on certain things and tried putting people under legalism.


    You said
    Peter and Paul both experienced changes in their revealed religion -- one day they were to teach only the Jews, the next day, they were to include the Gentiles. One day they were required to circumsize, the next day it was not required. God

    Before the Jews existed it was only Humans, once the jews existed then we had gentils and Jews. God all through out the OT wants gentiles saved, go back and read your bible.

    The Issue of circumise was for Jews only, not gentiles, read your Bible again. If you really read you will see you are wrong on your points here, and your thoughts on Peter and Paul dont not show mormonism to be true. Rick b

     
  • At March 17, 2007 1:21 AM, Blogger Eric the Red said…

    March 17, 2007
    Neal, you’re an interesting fellow. To a certain extend I can see your point, but I can also see Sharon’s point, as well. Granted, one can find a nut case in any religious group, but when a pattern begins to emerge within a select group, one should sit up and take notice. For example, one doesn’t have to look too far into Mormon history to explain why there are 30,000 plus active polygamists in the Utah area today. But what perplexes me is that you questioned Sharon’s facts. Then, when she gave documentation, you gave her a hearty thanks and… on we go! One would assume that you originally questioned the validity of her statement concerning Singer’s excommunication because you had your own documentation that stated otherwise. If not, then why even question it? One would also think that if you doubted her comments, you would have done your own research before admonishing her to double-check hers. Perhaps, you did, but nothing in your response gives evidence that you did so. It just seems strange to me that you would question her facts without having any documented reason for doing so, and than when she gives the documentation, you just say, “Oh, thanks.” End of conversation. Consider this just a tweaking comment for future discourse (i.e., be certain of your facts before questioning the facts of others). By not doing so, you cast a shadow upon Sharon’s credibility.

     
  • At March 17, 2007 5:40 PM, Blogger Neal said…

    Eric --

    Good points all. Let me explain and make a comment. You are correct that I did not question Sharon loaded with my own facts. If I had facts I would likely have presented them, not just baited her or set her up. I probably was clumsy in doing so (or at least sloppy). My question came from my own experience as a Bishop and a member of a Stake Presidency having been in dozens of disciplinary councils and having paid attention to the handbook of instructions, etc. It seemed to me there was likely more going on with John Singer than simply defying the law by taking his kids out of school that would lead to an excommunication. From my personal experience that is a decision that is not easily come by. I'm sure everyone has a personal story, I am talking from my own experience. Therefore, when Sharon quoted her source, I moved on. I'm not convinced there isn't more to the story, but I didn't intend to spend any more time researching it. Sharon had -- good enough for me. Please know that when I ask a question I have no hidden agenda -- I ask sincerely. If I have a point to make I will try to make it up front.

    I do think that the question of modern revelation is one worth examining -- the case for and the case against. I have agreed that Sharon's post is interesting and thought-provoking, as usual. However, I don't think that the doctrinal concept of revelation can be dismissed because some abuse the notion. Revelation from God has beeen a cornerstone of his dealing woth his people throughout history -- including the need for contemporary revelation. By that I mean: God's revelation to Noah to load the Ark saved Noah and his family, but did not deliver the children of Israel from Egypt. God proved to be active, current, involved and revealed the truths that were necessary for his children in their circumstances. I appreciate Rick's comments and I will go back and reread those passages for clarification and insight. My point was not to prove that Mormonism is true, but to show a God that is revealing his will to his servants for their edification and need. I believe ti to be a principle throughout recorded scripture and therefore one we ought not to dismiss lightly OR find inconsistent or scary.

    Thanks Eric, Rick and Sharon. I hope I am adding to the dialogue and not an unwelcome interloper! You are all nice to indulge me.

    N

     
  • At March 19, 2007 9:57 AM, Blogger rick b said…

    Neal you said Thanks Eric, Rick and Sharon. I hope I am adding to the dialogue and not an unwelcome interloper! You are all nice to indulge me.

    I believe Sharon and Eric feel the same way, but I would say, you are more than welcome to be here and ask questions. I believe as I have said before, You have a false Gospel and will end up apart from Christ unless you come to the real Jesus.

    Now aside from that I want to point out a few things.

    Neal you said By that I mean: God's revelation to Noah to load the Ark saved Noah and his family, but did not deliver the children of Israel from Egypt. God proved to be active, current, involved and revealed the truths that were necessary for his children in their circumstances.

    The Issue with Noah was not a revelation from God, God simply spoke to Noah and said build the ark. God wanted more than Noah and his family saved, it took Noah around 200 years to build the ark, Noahs kids were most likly not even born when He started building the Ark. The fact that it took over 200 years shows Gods grace and mercy to see all saved.

    Sadly the people only mocked and refused to believe. Remember God said, it is not His will that ANY should perish, Also John 3:16 states He died for the entire WORLD, This means Jews and gentiles, men and women.

    Now the story of Israel from Egypt is a complty different matter.

    God raised up Moses to deliever them, God clearly spoke to His people and the pharaoh and used Moses to show signs like the Rod turning into a snake.

    The Pharaoh refused to let the people go, they could not simply get up and go or they would be killed, So after ten plagues Pharaoh let them go. But remember even after he let them go, he still came after them and wanted them back.

    God had to hold them back while the red sea parted, after the people made it just about across, God let Pharaoh and his people into the red sea and started to break down their chariots and they were getting stuck in the mud, then God closed up the waters and killed them all.

    This has nothing to do with God using and not using modern revelation.

    Lastly Neal, you said My point was not to prove that Mormonism is true, but to show a God that is revealing his will to his servants for their edification and need.

    Read the Book of Hebrews, Jesus is our High priest and it tells us that God speaks to us in theses last Days through His Son. His son is Jesus, and the Bible tells us in the Gospel of John that Jesus is the Word of God. So God speaks to us through His son and His son is the Word of God, Psalms 138:2 tells us God puts His Word above His name.

    Remember His Word is Jesus. So we dont need new revelation, then much of the so called New revelation contradicts the Word of God. If we really need New and On going Revelation from God, then how do LDS handle this verse? 2Pe 1:3 According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that [pertain] unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:

    All means All, God has given us ALL THINGS Again Neal, How can His Word contain ALL THINGS if His Word was at anytime corrputed and fell into Apostay? Then if we need new Revelation and more words from God IE BoM D and C Pearl of GR P, ETC, Then does His Word Really contain ALL THINGS that pertain to Life and Godliness? And if Jesus Is the Word and God puts His Word above His name, Do you think God really let it go to the point where He needed to add to His perfect Word (Jesus) another Testament? Rick b

     

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