Family Entertainment Network and Mormonism
In 1988, Family Entertainment Network (FEN), a company out of Dallas, Texas, produced a series of animated Bible video tapes which immediately became popular within Christian circles. Titles included "The King is Born," "John the Baptist," "The Prodigal Son," and "He is Risen," among others. As part of FEN's marketing strategy, several prominent Christian personalities were solicited to endorse the product while many Bible-believing Christians were employed as salespeople. Since concern was being raised about the possibility of Mormon influence in the tapes, Bill McKeever, director of Mormonism Research Ministry, met with two Southern California regional reps from Family Entertainment Network on April 2, 1991.
Findings from the meeting concluded that there is definitely a Mormon connection, although we have no evidence of any official ties with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Jared F. Brown (Executive Producer), Richard Rich (Producer/Director), Orson Scott Card (Screenplay), and Lex de Azevedo (Music) are indeed all Mormons. How many other Mormons were used in producing the tapes is not known.
There is no doubt that FEN has ties with "Living Scriptures," a company based in Ogden, Utah. Living Scriptures produces audio and video cassettes dealing with Mormon themes. Because the people who produced the Bible videos are the same as those who produced the Book of Mormon videos, it is easy to see a similarity in the artwork and features of the animated characters. Richard Rich, Orson Scott Card, and Lex de Azevedo are featured on the jacket of the Book of Mormon series which is described as "scripturally accurate." (It should be noted that Mormons consider the Book of Mormon as scripture.) In the "Living Scriptures Winter 1995-1996" catalog, the FEN tapes are prominently displayed along with Mormon videos whose titles include "Nephi and the Brass Plates," "Ammon, Missionary to the Lamanites," "The Savior in America," and "Mormon and Moroni." The catalog also lists an audio tape collection of "Mormon Hymn Classics" and "Great Mormon Women Dramatized" as well as a video series called "The Docudrama of the Restoration" which recounts various points in LDS Church history.
While many would probably agree that the FEN Bible videos are more accurate than other similar products available today, this is not to say that Mormon teachings failed to find its way into the scripts. Though this is not meant to be a point-by-point critique of the videos, suffice it to say that there were numerous areas which were questionable. For instance, the story of the Good Samaritan had Jesus telling the people that if they did as the good Samaritan, they will inherit eternal life. To a Mormon, eternal life is synonymous with Godhood and can be obtained only by a life of good works. In the tape dealing with the death and resurrection of Jesus, the opening song originally stated, "He paid the price for me there in Gethsemane." Thirteenth LDS President Ezra Taft Benson, wrote, "It was in Gethsemane that Jesus took on Himself the sins of the world, in Gethsemane that His pain was equivalent to the cumulative burden of all men, in Gethsemane that He descended below all things so that all could repent and come to Him" (Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, pg. 14). We understand that this has been changed in newer versions. We do not know how many of the other inaccuracies have since been corrected.
While we are strongly against the unbiblical teachings of Mormonism, it is the position of Mormonism Research Ministry that Mormon businessmen should be afforded the same freedoms as everyone else. We do, however, object when a company uses its product to further a principle that contradicts God's Word. Naturally the close connection between FEN and Living Scriptures causes us concern. We are also disturbed about the possibility that members of the LDS Church may use the tape's success to lull an unsuspecting public into believing Mormonism and biblical Christianity are compatible. Because the content of the FEN tapes deal with the more basic aspects of well-known Bible stories, they, of course, do not deal with much of the subject matter which clearly separates Mormonism from Christianity.
Also causing concern is the fact that some have called FEN headquarters and have been told there is no Mormon involvement in the videos. We feel this is misleading. While it is true that the LDS Church has no direct involvement with this company, Mormons were in fact responsible for producing the tapes in the first place.