An Unlikely Mormon: The Conversion Story of Glenn Beck
"There is a way that seems right to a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death" (Proverbs 14:12).
The name "Glenn Beck" is now a household name among Americans, especially American conservatives. He is an extremely charismatic individual who is talented as an entertainer, political commentator, and spokesman for conservative values. He is most well known as the host of The Glenn Beck Program, a nationally syndicated talk-radio show, and the host of The Glenn Beck Show on Fox News. Not surprisingly, Beck has had six New York Times bestselling books, with five debuting at #1. If you have seen Glenn Beck on TV, whether you agree with his political views or not, you cannot deny that he is one of the most talented personalities on TV today. His ability to engage the viewer is a rare gift. He made Barbara Walters’ 10 Most Fascinating People list of 2009. This being said, the conversion story of Glenn Beck is unique in its own right. Although the video is simply a monologue, Glenn engages the viewer in a truly entertaining style in a theatrical backdrop that invites you to feel comfortable with the potentially uncomfortable topic of Mormonism.
Glenn’s conversion story from an empty life of drugs and alcohol is interesting because it involves a tremendous life change and paradigm shift that would make the secular and religious person recognize that something happened in his life that was transcendent, or so it seemed. Whether or not you believe that it truly was the power of Jesus that changed his life, Glenn does an excellent job in convincing the viewer that it really was Christ and the Mormon Church. In some respects this makes Glenn’s success as a TV and radio personality and multi-millionaire (who had signed a $50 million radio contract several years ago) even more fantastic, and almost everybody loves an inspirational story that shows transformation of this kind. To the American, it’s patriotic. To the religious, it’s commendable; but to the Christian, it’s tragic.
As the story goes, Glenn Beck started off in the radio industry at a pretty young age and quickly became very successful. He made lots of money, became well known, and had the lifestyle of which most people would be envious. With all the success came terrible emptiness that drove him to drink his life away in an effort to distract and dull the pain. On his quest to conquer drinking and the emptiness, he attended Yale for a while to study philosophy and theology, thinking he would find the answers to life’s questions. It was at Yale where he read Thomas Jefferson and learned that when it comes to religion, he ought to question with boldness. During these difficult years he always had a Mormon as a boss, a friend, or a co-worker, and that was what eventually led him to believe that God was pursuing him with what he called a “baptismal rifle.”
One of the turning points for Beck was the time that he met his wife. He prayed that God would place a roadblock in his way to prevent him from drinking on a particular night, and he challenged God that if He existed He would do that for him. On his way to take his first drink that night, he noticed a pretty girl who he recently met and knew that she was the roadblock God had provided. Before they got married, Tania said that they would have to join a faith if their marriage was to last. This was what started their quest to find a church that would suit both of them. After a long time of looking for a church to join, Beck was encouraged by an LDS friend to consider attending the Mormon Church. Initially Beck was not interested, but went anyways so he could ask the “tough” questions and see how the Mormon Church answered them. One of the questions Beck asked, which in my opinion shows how ignorant he is about the gospel, was, “Where is Ghandi?” He couldn’t accept a God who would condemn such a good person as Ghandi, and was surprised to find out that, according to Mormon doctrine, Ghandi is guaranteed a heaven of sorts because of his goodness and has the opportunity to hear the gospel after death. Beck seemed to greatly appreciate doctrine that rewards the good and hardworking person and spoke highly of the Church at that point. He remarked how well the Church answered his questions and how the members of the Church were such good people. This impressed Beck enough to lead him to study Mormonism in-depth. He read Bruce McConkie’s Mormon Doctrine like a novel and met with the elders and bishops to discuss theology.
In all his talk of conversion and transformation, he only briefly, although powerfully, mentioned the power of Christ in transforming his heart. Beck hardly mentioned the testimony of the Spirit or praying about the Book of Mormon, but his focus was the goodness of the people in the Church. Like a puzzle, he put the pieces together and joined the Mormon Church because he felt the events in his life directed him there.
Previously, I had said that Beck’s testimony was tragic to the Christian viewer in particular. It’s tragic in the sense that after so much emptiness, despair, and searching, he gave himself to an organization whose fundamental doctrine is so antithetical to Christianity, the Bible, forgiveness, and what Christ calls the “abundant” life. Despite Beck’s recent statements, Mormonism is a works based system--it makes you work for your forgiveness and put aside your sin in order to be worthy of Christ’s forgiveness. It mocks salvation by grace alone and the sufficiency of Christ’s atonement. LDS President Spencer W. Kimball’s in his The Miracle of Forgiveness said, “[O]ne of the most fallacious doctrines originated by Satan and propounded by man is that man is saved alone by the grace of God, that belief in Jesus Christ alone is all that is needed for salvation” (page 206). The Book of Mormon also says that it is by grace we are saved after all we can do (2 Nephi 25:23), and that God’s grace is sufficient for us only after we have denied ourselves of “all” ungodliness (Moroni 10:32). It is not exactly the type of stuff that makes you want to join Mormonism to unload all of your sin and baggage so Christ can give you rest. Yet Beck did, and he honestly believes the LDS Church is the solution. Perhaps he joined because he values the patriotic ethos of the Church coupled with its positive attitude towards hard work and charity. After so much searching into religion and philosophy, he settled with Mormonism, and that is tragic. And now as a forerunner for the conservative right, as he informs the masses about the swindling hands of the government and the progressives, he is himself caught in a terrible religious hoax that will swindle him straight into hell.
Perhaps Glenn Beck is just ignorant of the Mormon Church. But can a guy like Beck be ignorant about such a huge part of his life? Question with boldness, right? Did he not know that Joseph Smith was an unrepentant adulterer and sexual predator who married 34 women, two were 14 years old, and 11 were currently married to other men, baiting them by guaranteeing their exaltation (cf. the LDS run www.wivesofjosephsmith.org)? Did Beck not know that Brigham Young was a racist, or that black males were excluded from the priesthood and eternal life until 1978, or that the Book of Mormon teaches God cursed people with dark skin and as they repented their skins became white? Did Beck not know that LDS teach God was a man like us who became a God for us and shares the universe other Gods who rule over other worlds? Did Beck not know that God had to get a wife in order to become a God for us? Did Beck not know that Joseph Smith was involved in the occult and used occult practices to find buried treasure and translate the Book of Mormon into English from Reformed Egyptian, a language which has never been established to actually exist? Did Beck not know that the Mormon Church suppresses investigation into controversial matters, even to worthy LDS members (e.g., past editions of the LDS temple ceremony)? Did he not see the occultic symbols all over the temples, but not one cross to be found? Talk about being deceived!
At the end of the day, none of these questions mattered. What impressed Beck was an LDS guy who genuinely loved him and seemed to have a functional family. Like Beck couldn't find that in any other religion? He simply assumed that Mormonism must be true from this as well as the fact that it seemed like God kept bringing Mormons across his path.
All in all, I enjoyed the conversion story as a piece of entertainment, it made me laugh, smile, and reflect, but I had an unsettled feeling during the duration of the film because I know he bought into a lie. I find it fascinating, but not all too surprising, that the LDS book store, Deseret, says in their summary of the video that, “An Unlikely Mormon will be an ideal missionary tool.” Look out folks, Glenn Beck has not only been deceived, but will be used as a powerful tool to deceive others into thinking that Mormonism is just another Christian denomination.
For purchasing info, see here.
CFO, Courageous Christians United
September 17, 2010