by William Trollinger
Encountering a prophet, or someone who believes they are a prophet, is unlikely to be a pleasant experience. It certainly was not for me.
I had never heard of Temple Lot Mormons before I began teaching at the School of the Ozarks (S of O). Officially known as Church of Christ, this denomination of approximately 7,000 members claims that it is the only true Mormon – actually, only true Christian – church on the planet. They own the lot in Independence, Missouri where the temple of the New Jerusalem is to be built in anticipation of Christ’s return (hence “Temple Lot Mormons”). They accept as authoritative the King James Version of the Bible and the Book of Mormon, but they reject Latter Day Saint doctrines such as baptism for the dead.
Among the students at S of O was a group of twelve or so Temple Lot Mormons. Most were women, but their leader was a self-designated “Prophet” named George (not his actual name). That George was understood as a “prophet” was certainly in keeping with the Temple Lot Mormon “Articles of Faith and Practice:”
10. We believe in the principle of continuous revelation; that the canon of scripture is not full, that God inspires men in every age and among all people, and that He speaks when, where, and through whom He may choose.
It was striking to watch George and his followers walk through campus, with the Prophet in the lead and the women in tow. Over time, I heard about the “spiritual parties” they held in the chapel, during which they laughed and screamed uncontrollably while also “healing” each other of colds and the like.
In the fall of 1985, I co-taught an evening class on “American Christianity” with my friend Will Soll from the Bible Department. Much to my surprise, George and three of his female followers signed up for the class. All seemed to go relatively well until the evening I showed the film “Elmer Gantry,” which they took to be anti-Christian, and so they all got up and walked out of class. From that moment, the Temple Lot Mormons were noticeably and increasingly suspicious about what Will and I were teaching, to the point that one of the young women simply quit submitting her assigned work.
Near the end of that increasingly tense semester the Prophet confronted me directly. Below is an account of that confrontation – dialogue and all – that comes directly from the journal I kept that year. In a couple of places I add a comment, and those comments are in brackets.
December 14, 1985
An interesting incident occurred on Monday night. Will had just finished lecturing on ecumenism, and he and I were in our respective offices, gathering up our gear to go home. George was hanging around Will’s office, asking him about ecumenism. I thought to myself, “George does not care about ecumenism. He is just trying to figure out how the ecumenical movement fits in with the endtimes.” Will eventually told George that he had to go home; when Will left, George, rather to my surprise, came down to my office.
“Dr. Trollinger, what do you think of the ecumenical movement?”
“Why are you so interested?”
“I want to know how close they are to establishing a world religion, because that would tie in with the coming of the Antichrist.”
“You have nothing to fear. The ecumenical movement is so weak that there is scant chance that it will produce a world religion.”
“I think it is possible that the ecumenical movement is part of the New Age movement, which is a world conspiracy that has the rainbow as its symbol.”
“You need to give up on your conspiracy thinking. The conspiracy you are describing is not real, and there is no evidence to back it up.”
I assumed that this was the end of the conversation. But as I was preparing to leave, he said: “About the ecumenical movement. I don’t believe any one denomination has the truth.”
[Note: I do not know how George squared this idea with the notion that the only true church on Earth is the Church of Christ (Temple Lot).]
“I believe there are true Christians in all denominations.” Nothing radical here, so I continued filling my backpack.
“These true Christians are speaking in tongues” (okay, he’s charismatic), “healing people” (ok, the fringes of the charismatic movement), “and raising people from the dead.”
He started to go on, but I stopped him.
“Wait a minute. Raising people from the dead?”
“Right. It happens all the time.”
“All the time? How often is ‘all the time’? How many times has this happened?”
“You mean in the Ozarks?”
“Well, maybe not millions of people raised from the dead, but certainly hundreds of thousands.”
“And around here?”
“Maybe not in the last week, but probably some time in the last couple of months.”
“Why haven’t we heard about this?”
“The media doesn’t want us to know about how God is working in this world, so the media is hushing it up.”
“One resurrection would be the media event of the century. Are you telling me that the media is hushing up all of these resurrections?”
“What can I say? It is a conspiracy of silence.”
“George, why do you believe this? Have you seen someone raised from the dead?”
“Do you know someone who has seen someone raised from the dead’”
“I have good sources.”
He then went on to give me an extended (and tedious) discussion of the theology of bodily resurrections: God had been at work raising people from the dead in Jesus’ time, and there was no reason to believe this power has been snuffed out. This seems to be at the core of his belief. He became agitated with my skepticism, and he told me he would send people to my office who could prove that people were raised from the dead.
He also told me that a big event would occur on campus next semester that would prove to all that his group of Temple Lot Mormons were the true Christians. I asked if I would know when this event had occurred.
“Of all people on this campus, Dr. Trollinger, you will know when this event occurs.” The implication was that someone had prophesied this event, and I was included in the prophecy.
[Note: During spring semester I told a number of people that if I were murdered, they needed to check out George, as I was concerned that my role in the prophecy was to be raised from the dead.]
I am not sure I have conveyed the creepiness I felt in talking with the Prophet. It was 8:40-9:40 PM, and we were the only ones in the faculty office area. Much of the time George’s eyes were but half open. Moreover, at the most inappropriate moment, George broke out in a strange laugh.
If I had told him that I had been raised from the dead three times, he would have believed me. If he had pulled a gun on me for being a heretic, I would not have been surprised.
I can’t believe you ‘ve never told me this story.