Over the past month I have read the works of Christopher Nemelka and attended his last public gathering in Salt Lake City. Before 2006, Nemelka was just another guy who had been to jail for violating protection orders and failing to pay child support, but then he claimed that a revelation had come to him, which had allowed him to transcribe the “Sealed Portion” of the Book of Mormon. It took an economic downturn for him to gain popularity, though.
Before he started preaching that churches and governments were evil because they oppressed poor people, he was dismissed as a false prophet and deceiver, but now desperate people have begun to listen to his messages. It is true that his situation is unique, but there are numerous people across America preaching the same self-serving, religion-mixed-with-Occupy Wall Street nonsense, so I have taken the time to address some of his messages.
In order to attend his last public meeting, held in a park in Salt Lake City, I left church a bit early (don’t worry, I already confessed my sin). When I got there, I stood out like a sore thumb in my suit and cropped hair. Most of the people were wearing revealing clothing, had tattoos, were smoking or drinking, and just were not fit to be out on Sunday. Then he got up to speak, looking like a mix between Jesus and Fabio. Within the first few minutes of this so-called prophet’s speech, he had the audacity to utter, “Scriptures have caused more misery than happiness,” because, you know, “Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow (Isaiah 1:17),” is such a horrible thing to try to teach people.
The next topic on the menu was something I had read about in his book 666: The Mark of America, Seat of the Beast – the economy. He explained that he refuses to work and lives out of an RV by choice, because he prefers to live humbly and not give in to the evil capitalist system we have in America. By claiming that he is a prophet, people seeking spiritual validation eat up his socialist rhetoric without much thought. He likes to point to Isaiah 2:20, which reads “In that day people will throw away to the moles and bats their idols of silver and idols of gold, which they made to worship,” as proof that people with good jobs and who work hard are not good in God’s eyes.
As he was finishing his rant against politicians and businessmen, I immediately thought of the Parable of the Talents:
For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money (Matthew 25:14-18).
The parable ends with Jesus making the first two servants rulers, but declaring the third “wicked and lazy” and chastising him for not depositing the money with bankers so that it could accrue interest and grow. The Lord wants active, industrious servants, not those who sit by idly and complain that churches and businesses are pernicious entities.
The rants went on to describe how churches were meant to keep the poor oppressed with their rules and doctrines. I can attest to the importance and benefits of these rules, though. The city in Utah that I live in has a crime rate of nearly zero. Why? Because everybody reads the scripture every night and attends church every Sunday, meaning that everybody knows everybody and that they actually care about them. It is kind of like Puritan New England – safe and harmonious.
One of his main issues with the Mormon Church is their collection of tithing. What he doesn’t understand is that the tithing and alms provided by wealthier — aka more industrious — members of the church allow the church to assist those in need both in America and Third World countries. Unlike taxes, which I’m sure he is okay with since he spouts loads of socialist nonsense, tithing is optional and is used much more efficiently. Churches are great alternatives to the government and can provide the same services. For instance, Brigham Young University provides a 50% tuition discount to Mormon students because they have already contributed toward their education via their tithing. Now Cuba has free universities, paid for completely by taxes, but the education system is worse and less efficient than the church run system. However, Namelka does not have much faith in education, as he believes that professors came about in ancient times because they were “thugs who didn’t like to work in the fields.” I guess it makes him feel better to insult those more successful than himself.
Nemelka is just one of many false prophets who have decided to use hard economic times to turn people away from organized religion and honest work in order to create a following. The solution he preaches in the guise of religion is one in which people can do whatever they please, as rules are no longer important, and people no longer have to be productive, as wealth will be redistributed. Maybe Occupy Wall Street should have co-opted him when they were still relevant.
Adam Ondo | University of Rochester