Image by Michael Whiffen
Mike Norton has a change of heart.
Final song: Emblem by Colin Self.PLAYLIST
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Archival: Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel but on a candlestick. And it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men.
Mike Norton: If I was in a building that was on fire, and I was on the tenth floor and I realize on the tenth floor, oh my god the building is engulfed in flames–
Archival: Blessed are the poor in spirit.
Mike: There’s really like two kinds of people in the world.
Archival: Blessed are the meek.
Mike: There’s the kind of people that get the hell out of the building and protect themselves.
Archival: Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness.
Mike: And then there’s the kind of people that think about everybody else who’s still in the building and can’t leave until they make sure everybody else is safe.
Archival: Blessed are the merciful.
Mike: I am the latter. I just can’t leave a burning building knowing full well there’s people in danger there.
Archival: Blessed are the peacemakers. For they shall be called the children of God. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’s sake. For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Nick van der Kolk: From Radiotopia, you’re listening to Love and Radio. I’m Nick van der Kolk. Today’s episode: The Battle of Cumorah, featuring Mike Norton.
Mike: My baptism date was the fourth of July in 1976. My dad called me the bicentennial boy and he tried to convince me that the fireworks were for me, that everybody was celebrating because I’d joined the church. At the age of nineteen, my bishop called me in his office and told me the Lord has asked that every worthy young man go on a mission, I think you should go on a mission.
Lived in Logan, Utah at the time, and I drove my car to the parking lot of the Logan Temple. It was very late at night, and I prayed asking God, “Help me make the right decision.” The answer was so clear, it was almost as if I could hear a voice in my ears, an actual audible voice that said, “You know what the right decision is, make it.” I sat there and wept. I knew that I had to go on a mission.
I believe I was credited with twelve baptisms altogether in the Encino ward, this is Encino, California. There was a woman by the name of Joyce Brian. Joyce was a real holdout. Called herself a Christian. Joyce was not convinced that the church was true. She had gone through several sets of missionaries. We met at their house and we’d have dinner with them many times. We would ask her to read the Book of Mormon and pray about it. I would look her in the eye, I would testify to her and tell her, “Joyce, I am telling you as an ambassador of Jesus Christ that this is true. Ask God with a sincere heart, with real intent, if this is or is not the restored church of Jesus Christ on the Earth today. I know that God’ll answer your prayers, and that answer will be yes.”
It was probably the fourth or fifth time we’d been there to their house. I remember asking Joyce to pray. We knelt down and she prayed and I remember her saying specifically, “Heavenly father, I’m sorry for what I’ve said about Brigham Young.” [Laugh]. When she said that during the prayer, I though, we finally have turned her. She was ready for baptism.
There is no joy greater than helping somebody come to the conclusion that the Mormon Church is the only true church of God on Earth. It doesn’t get better than that. I mean it just doesn’t get any better than that. As far as numbers are concerned, I was an average missionary. I like to think that I went above and beyond, though, for example: I had actually contacted big anti-Mormons at the time, pretending to be investigating Mormonism and ask them for free books and tapes. I felt it was one less anti-Mormon book in the hands of some poor unsuspecting soul. And in a relatively short period of time I started thumbing through them and reading some of them. We need to know what the enemy is teaching and we need to know, essentially we need to, to know the playbook of people who would want to have the church destroyed. I was educating myself to know what people were going to throw at me as a Mormon missionary. It got to the point where I’d kind of developed a reputation as the missionary who could actually answer the anti-Mormon questions, and my answers were pretty damn good.
Archival: Chapter one, how we got the Book of Mormon.
Mike: The nutshell version is–
Archival: When Joseph Smith was fourteen years old…
Mike: In the early 1800s, Joseph Smith, Joseph Smith Jr, actually.
Archival: One night, Joseph was praying to be forgiven of his sins.
Mike: Told people than an angel–
Archival: An angel named Moroni appeared and told Joseph about–
Mike:–showed him where some gold plates were.
Archival: Joseph was to translate these plates into English.
Mike: Dug them up, translated them.
Archival: And have them made into a book. The book is called The Book of Mormon. It tells about people who lived in America many years ago.
Mike: These ancient Israelites sailed across the ocean to the Americas and they split essentially into two factions, the Nephites–
Archival: Jesus loved the Nephites.
Mike: And the Lamanites.
Archival: The Lamanites felt great joy and the spirit of God filled their hearts.
Mike: Around 34 AD, a prophet named Nephi recorded the account of Christ’s visit to the American continent.
Archival: Everyone bowed down and worshipped him.
Archival: Soon all the Nephites and Lamanites were converted. They did not argue and everyone was honest.
Mike: Several hundred years later, the people fell into wickedness.
Archival: There were wars and famines in the land.
Archival: The wicked Lamanites killed every Nephite who would not deny Jesus Christ.
Mike: And God cursed the Lamanites with dark skin, and that’s why Native Americans are brown skinned because God cursed their ancestors.
Archival: A great battle was fought between the Nephites and the Lamanites in which the Nephite civilization was entirely destroyed.
Mike: There’s this last great battle at the Hill of Cumorah in upstate New York, located near Joseph Smith’s house, and at least 230,000 men, women, and children died in battle at this hill Cumorah. And the last of the Nephites was a man named Moroni.
Archival: Moroni was alone. He finished the records his father had given him. The words on the gold plates tell about Jesus Christ. They bear testimony and teach people how to live righteously.
Mike: And Moroni buried his gold plates in the hill near Joseph Smith’s house.
Archival: When Moroni finished writing on the gold plates, he hid them in a stone box in the hill Cumorah, and covered the box with a big rock. His mortal work was finished.
Archival: Approximately 1400 years later, Moroni appeared as an angel to Joseph Smith and disclosed the location of the buried plates.
Mike: And that’s where you get the Book of Mormon from.
The first person I told was my wife. Driving down the street and I just, I hit her like a bombshell, I said to her, “What would you say if I said,” and I remember taking a big breath, knowing full well my life was going to change, “that Joseph was a pathological liar and the Church isn’t true.” I didn’t even wanna look at her, I just kept driving. We come to a stop sign, turn to look at her, couldn’tve been more than ten seconds later, she already has tears streaming down her face and she said, “What? Why would you say that?” And for this I’ve gotta backtrack a little bit.
September of 2001. I accidentally came across a website, Dr. Shade’s page on Mormonism. On his little anti-Mormon website he had the story of the Kinderhook plates. I was familiar with the story of the Kinderhook plates. But, there was information in this website about the Kinderhook plates that I was simply unaware of. I believe it was in 1842, there were some men living in Kinderhook, Illinois who made a set of six brass plates, dug ’em up in front of witnesses, and announced, “Oh, look what we found!” Joseph Smith claimed he could translate them. Just further evidence that he was a prophet of God. It was touted as nothing short of a sequel to the Book of Mormon. It wasn’t until the 1960s that they verified beyond any reasonable doubt that the Kinderhook plates were completely and totally bogus. Joseph Smith made it up, his translation of the Kinderhook plates, he was a fraud. And that is what led me down the rabbit hole.
For about eighteen hours a day for the better part of a week, week and a half, I did nothing but read and investigate Mormon claims, and Mormon doctrines, scriptures. The Pearl of Great Price, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Book of Mormon. In the process of investigating, I reached out to the Smithsonian and asked the highest ranking curator that I could find about the Hill Cumorah and the claim that two million people died in massive battles at the Hill Cumorah back about 2600 BC then, and 420 AD another two hundred and thirty thousand people died at the same hill in New York. Is this possible? No. You would not find a single solitary anthropologist, archaeologist, or anybody who is an expert in Mesoamerican history who would say such a thing on the record publicly. There is not one. There is nothing in the Book of Mormon that is verifiable. It’s absolutely preposterous. Ridiculous.
Joseph Smith was a pathological liar and the church isn’t true. She immediately told me, “Turn around. Go home. We’ve, we’re going home. We’ve gotta talk.” And I’m like, “Yeah, yes, yes, we do.” We immediately turned around, went back home, and spent three hours at our kitchen counter with all my evidence spread out and just showing her, so basically standing in the kitchen. The mother of my children was essentially deconversion number two if you count me as number one. I had a, ah, seven or eight page resignation letter. It was addressed to our friends and family members, everybody that I cared about that was still a member of the church, which was ninety-five percent of my friends and family. I started telling them all.
“Dear friends and family, this is a kind of letter that comes with the admonition, you’d better sit down to read this. Take a deep breath. Make sure you’re sitting down. Ready? Okay. We are leaving the church. To say that this discovery is heartbreaking would be an understatement of monumental proportions. To say that we are happy with what we have found would be a monumental lie. Nothing makes us more sad than to discover that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not the restored Church of Christ on Earth. We wish you well in life and can only assume that you wish the same for us. Sincerely, Mike and Chelise Norton.
Leaving Mormonism back then wasn’t exactly easy. We were ostracized. We had members of our own family that didn’t talk to us for years. But, I felt free. When you were a member of a cult your entire life and at the age of thirty-three you realize that is not true, it’s like you live in a little tiny bubble your entire life and then all of a sudden somebody comes up and pops the bubble, and at first you’re like, “Oh shit!”and it’s terrifying. Your bubble just got popped. And then you realize, oh my god, what a beautiful world there is outside of the bubble.
I made a website JosephLied.com to educate as many people as possible about Mormonism. I was a missionary, a full-time missionary for two full years trying to get people to join. When I realized it wasn’t true, I really didn’t feel like I had a choice. You’re in a 10-story building and you realize the top floor is on fire. You’ve got choices. You can leave the building and save yourself, but for the love of God, at least scream fire!
Fox announcer: Live from Fox 13 studios…
Mike: There’s a news station in Salt Lake where they have a window on Main Street. During the five o’clock and ten o’clock News, anybody can walk up and hold up a sign behind the newscaster. I’d make a big poster board that said JosephLied.com. I would just hold up the sign behind the newscasters. That night alone I would get 10,000 views on my website, and I could see that the demographics, I knew that ninety-five percent of those views were coming from people in Utah. The website really seemed to strike a chord.
I put my phone number out there on the internet on a regular basis. I got a phone call from a kid, Stephen. He’s 15 years old. He was gay. His parents knew he was gay from the age of, I think he said, eleven, twelve years old. He live with his mom, she was very conservative, she was LDS Mormon. She had a problem with him being gay. When he turned twelve years old, he had to go meet with a bishop to have an interview to be a deacon in the church. The meeting started out with his Bishop saying to him, “So your mother tells me you think you’re gay.” He told me that if he had a gun, he would have killed himself right there on the spot. He wanted to crawl into a hole and die. His mother outed him and he had no idea. He left absolutely humiliated.
He turned fifteen. He realized in nine months he was going to be turning sixteen and he was probably not going to be able to avoid an interview with his Bishop again. I think he said, I found a very clever way to get out of it, I would just kill myself. For about nine months, he would steal Ambien from his mother. She had a prescription and, after about nine months, shortly before he was going to be interviewed by the bishop again to be a priest in the church, his plan was to come home from school on a Friday afternoon when he got out of school early, he would get home, barricade his door, lock his door, take the Ambien, and go to sleep. He said before he took the pills, he went online one last time to try and find a talk by somebody, some church leader that was made for somebody like his mother, a talk that basically would say, just love your kid, man. Just love ’em. Instead of finding a talk, he came across a video. Well, he came across one of my videos. He’s literally minutes away from taking a stack full of Ambien and he wants to end his life, suddenly he realizes, I’m in a cult. He packed a bag, his best friend’s mom had told him that if he ever needed a place to stay, he was welcome in their home. He grabbed his little bag on wheels, wheeled it right out the door, went straight to his friend’s house and his friend’s mom answered the door and she just said, “Come on in,” and she knew I he was there. Calls me out of the blue and just says, “You don’t know me, but you saved my life today.”
I spend far more time now as a former Mormon then I did when I was a faithful active Mormon focused on and dealing with Mormonism. It’s like these are my people, this is my tribe. I will always in one way shape or form identify as part of this tribe of Mormonism. Every day I help other people that are inside the tribe step outside and just take a look at what life is like outside of the tribe just momentarily. And very very very rarely today want to go back in. Most Mormons when they go on a mission, if you were to ask anybody who went on a mission, how many people did you baptize, odds are they know the answer. Just as I, when I was a Mormon oh, I kept track of how many people I brought into the church. As a former Mormon, I keep pretty good track of how many people I’ve helped to get out of the church. And now I’m at 796, so [laugh], I, I just checked that earlier. I will probably get another tattoo when I get to like a thousand or something, you know, I don’t know, I’ll do something special.
Temple recommend is a pass that allows one to enter into Mormon temples.
Archival: These massive structures play a vital role in the Mormons’ quest for godhood.
Mike: if you do not have a temple recommend, you cannot go past the front desk of any Mormon Temple.
Archival: Mormons must engage in a series of occultic rituals inside the temple in order to become a candidate for godhood.
Mike: No non-man members can attend at all, and anybody who does attend must have a temple recommend.
Archival: That is the only way that we can meet with our heavenly father. Otherwise we could not be in his presence.
Mike: An old friend of mine that I worked with had a friend who had a situation. His son was getting married soon, and he wasn’t going to be able to attend his own son’s wedding because it was in the temple. He contacted me and said, “A mutual friend of ours told me that you might be able to get me a temple recommend, for me and my wife actually, we don’t pay tithing but our son’s getting married in the temple.” And I did, I got him and his wife copies of temple recommends, they attended the wedding, everything was fantastic. Word got out. It was kind of like the black market so to speak for temple recommends. And back then, they didn’t have any computers in the temples for the most part, at least not the front desk, so when you went in to gain entry in the temple, you’d literally just show them your little piece of paper that had a couple signatures on it. They would look at the expiration date that was stamped on the back with a rubber stamp and let you in. They had the little blue and red threads in them that you might see on like a, in currency. I would hand draw these little blue and red threads, put on a color copier at Kinkos and start handing them out like candy.
So originally it was super easy. I used to work for church security in the Temple. An old friend of mine who was still employed by the LDS Church in the security department called me and told me they had implemented a new security feature to the temple recommends to prevent you from going to Kinkos and printing off hundreds of copies of temple recommends. They added a barcode. Well, that was a bit of a problem for them. I don’t have a lot of talents oh, I can’t sing, I can’t dance, I don’t play any musical instruments, but there was one talent that I developed as a child. When I was a little kid I became obsessed with barcodes when they first came out in the 1970s. So as a child, I would literally hand draw barcodes. My mom, I’d go shopping with her and buy a can of peas or something, and I would have a barcode hand drawn from a can of peas that she had purchased previously, and I would ask the checker, instead of scanning this can of peas, would you scan this barcode. It was a childhood interest that I had not revisited since I was probably ten years old? As soon as my friend told me, “They’re adding a security measure, and it’s a barcode,” we both thought it was hysterical, even he thought it was hysterical, I mean the one talent I have in life, and that’s their security measure. It’s, you have to appreciate the irony of that.
I was at home, knock at the door, I answered the door. There was two men there dressed nicely in suits, and one of them said, “Are you Mike Norton?” “Yes.” And he said, “We’re with the church security, we have a letter we need to read to you, and then we’re going to give it to you, okay?” And I said, “Okay.”
“Dear Nr. Norton, you are hereby put on notice that you are no longer welcome in to any LDS temple or to enter onto any grounds surrounding any Temple. Be advised but if you enter onto any type of property, you will be considered an unlawful trespasser, and we will treat you accordingly.” Then he hands me the letter. I basically said, “Well okay, get the fuck off my porch.” And they drive off.
I have probably broken some law or another trespassing dozens and dozens and dozens and dozens and dozens of times, I, I would daresay, seventy-five, maybe a hundred times since 2002 I have trespassed on Mormon Church property knowing full well, if I am caught, I go to jail.
Mitt Romney: The principles that made this nation–
Mike: Friggin Mitt Romney.
Mitt Romney: A great and powerful leader of the world–
Mike: The thought of–
Mitt Romney: –have not lost their meaning.
Mike: –having that guy sit in the Oval Office is deeply disturbing to me.
Mitt Romney: We know we can bring this country back. I’m Mitt Romney.
Mike: I was scared for America.
Mitt Romney: And I’m running for president of the United States.
Mike: Because of Mitt Romney running for president, I wanted to have the information out there. Wait, you, you know, you want to be president? Let’s, let’s put Mormonism in the spotlight. My plan is very simple. It was to get the endowment ceremony on video. Endowment ceremony is shrouded in secrecy. These are rituals that have been performed behind closed doors in Mormonism since the 1840s. They literally will not discuss it. I started out very simply with a video recorded in the Jordan River Temple, a Mormon Temple. Every single person and the room is wearing all white, so it’s not like you could just pull your cell phone out of your pocket, turn it on, aim it at the screen. The camera in this particular video was in the hollowed out book that I took in there with me. Reached in, slid, pushed, closed the book, and then I sat it on my lap aimed in the general direction of the screen.
Temple recording: Brethren and sisters, we welcome you to the Temple and hope you will find joy in serving in the House of the Lord this day.
Mike: There’s a pre-recorded narration that is present in almost every Temple. “Brothers and sisters, thank you for coming to the Temple.”
Temple recording: The judgement of God. For God will not be mocked.
Mike: In almost every Mormon Temple, they sit and they watch a movie. Throughout the movie there is breaks where the lights come on, they’ll have ordinance workers that are going through and I’ll show everybody the first handshake.
Temple recording: The first token of the Oronic priesthood is given by clasping the right hands–
Mike: And it’s just literally four handshakes–I wouldn’t call them hand shakes, hand grips. The handshakes and passwords that are necessary, they believe, to enter Heaven.
Temple recording: To enable you to walk back the presence of the father.
Mike: They truly believe that they are angels guarding the Gates of Heaven.
Temple recording: Being enabled to give them the key words, the signs and tokens pertaining to the holy priesthood.
Mike: That will test you on your knowledge of these special handshakes and passwords.
Temple recording: And gain your eternal exaltation.
Mike: Apparently God in Mormonism is not all-knowing, because, you got to learn handshakes and passwords.
Three weeks before the presidential election in 2012, I posted a video on YouTube called behind the veil. Within a matter of days have releasing that video it had a million views. It turns out, when do you make videos of a ceremony that is too sacred to even talk about, it is the equivalent in Mormonism to drawing a picture of Muhammad sticking his head up his ass to Islam, I mean it was, what I did in Mormonism was beyond blasphemy. I really wasn’t anticipating a lot of hate, certainly not death threats, and I was sadly mistaken. [Laugh]. It’s one thing to piss off five million active cult members. It’s another thing to piss off a hundred and fifty million angry Republicans.
Let me see, let me find you some of my favorites, let’s see, um… “You have a slut mother and your dad is a gay.” [Laugh]. “If you don’t remove your videos in 48 hours I’m going to flag your channel.” Got another one, “I’m going to visit you and your dreams.” “Fuck you.” “Fuck your family.” “Your criminal conduct is stupid, you son of a bitch.” “I hate you, you big idiot.” “White power.” Okay, “You messed with us as a delinquent promise you will pay the consequences you damn bastard.” “I am gonna rape the slut of your harlot wife.” This one says, “You head!” I think he meant your head. And then there’s one, two, three, four videos of links to ISIS beheadings. I stopped counting the death threats at the first one hundred.
Interviewer: So why don’t these death threats make you stop?
Mike: Uh, I refuse to allow a few complete strangers to intimidate me into not doing the right thing because of threats. I mean, my attitude is this, you know, we’ve all gotta die sometime. In the meantime, while I am alive, I am going to do what I believe to be right. If I am wrong, then I will answer to God someday. But I am so certain I am not wrong, not only would I bet my life on it, I have bet the eternal souls of my children on it.
Is my intention to harm the church? I mean, you know, it goes back to that famous quote: J. Reuben Clark, a former Mormon leader and Apostle said, “If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed.” I was raised to is very aggressive in spreading the truth. The problem is is that what I was raised with wasn’t the truth. Now that I know the truth about Mormonism and Joseph Smith, that instinctively taught desire to spread the truth is still there.
Interviewer: Do you ever think about the fact that it’s, you know, some people might say you’re an asshole for recording, you know, their, their private life–
Interviewer:–and injecting yourself in.
Mike: I’ll tell you, I can understand, relate to, empathize, and appreciate Mormons who get very angry with me and feel like, man you’ve really crossed a line here dude. I totally get it. Totally get it, that’s why in most of my videos, not all of them, but most of my videos, I blur the faces of the people and the videos. If you don’t like my videos, don’t watch them. But don’t tell me that because it is sacred to you, I also must hold your ridiculous beliefs as sacred. I don’t demand that people respect what I respect, I simply ask the same from them. Your sacred cow is a delicious hamburger.
I wanted to kind of push the envelope on the power of discernment because most Mormons believe that their Bishops and their Stake Presidents and temple workers possess this otherworldly ability to discern whether or not somebody is telling them the truth or not. And I wanted to prove that they did not. I knew that my picture was in security book behind the temple recommend desk of virtually every temple in Utah, and probably every temple in California. So I had to change things up a little bit. I posted a post in a very large private Facebook group for ex Mormons. And my post said, “I’ve been talking with a reporter for a large and well known national magazine for an article that will receive widespread global coverage. I’m looking for a couple of comments from two or three men who meet the following criteria. Preferably be returned missionary. Must have received their endowments between 1984 to 1990. Must be single. Must have been an active temple worthy member within the past three years. Must still be on the membership rolls. If you meet the above criteria and wish to help with this article, either send me a private message or email me a NewNameNoah@yahoo.com. P.S. There’s a shitstorm a brewin’.” Essentially I was looking for the perfect person, I was looking for a man who was about my age, couldn’t have an ex Mormon I needed a, basically an inactive Mormon. But a non-believing Mormon. And when I found Chad, I knew he was perfect.
He was divorced, he had several children, one of whom was currently serving a mission for the church. He had gone inactive about a year, year-and-a-half before, he no longer believed in the church. He was fairly confident that the church had lost track of him and didn’t know where he was living. I said the truth is, there is no reporter. I want to borrow your identity. It’s got to be you, you are absolutely perfect. I was Chad ****** for three months.
The very first time I went back?
Mike in video: It’s April 10th, 2016.
Mike: April 10th. Obviously it was a Sunday.
Mike in video: Today is the first time I am going to attend–
Mike: I have it on video, there’s, there’s video of me driving to church. The video starts with me whistling I love to see the temple.
Mike in video: [Whistling]. I love to see the temple, I’m going there someday. I have disguised my face quite a bit, my appearance, I cut my hair, shaved my goatee that I have had for years. I’ll be wearing these significantly thicker glasses.
Mike: I was blind as a bat. Wearing those glasses, I couldn’t see a damn thing. So I literally had to wear the glasses when I was walking, like down on the bridge of my nose so that I could kind of see where I was going as I was walking. I showed up at church.
Mike in video: I’m looking for the stake president’s office.
Temple workers: You’re in the right place!
Mike: Told them I’d moved, I’d just moved here.
Mike in video: Well, I moved here from Logan, Utah.
Mike: And I was here taking care of my ninety-five year old grandmother had Alzheimer’s, and I would be here essentially until she passed away. I very, very quickly embedded myself into the ward. I was the guy that was always volunteering to, to give the posing prayer.
Mike in video: –grateful for the opportunity to uh, be here today and to learn of the Prophet of Abinadi and, we ask thee to, to bless us that we will all try and apply the principles that we’ve learned in this lesson in our daily lives and that will all learn that one person not only can make a difference, they usually do. And ask you to bless us to have the courage and the audacity to speak the truth as Abinadi did. Preferably without donning heavy disguises and facing criminal trespassing charges. We asked me to, to bless us to pour out the spirit upon those who listen and speak with our hearts, that we always blessed with the gift of tongues to be able to speak the language of love…
Mike: If they were asking for somebody to, to read a passage in class, I was volunteering. I introduced myself to a lot of people and really ingratiated myself into the ward. For months and months. It’s like I became intentionally schizophrenic. As soon as I left the house, I’m wearing the garments underneath my white shirt and pants and tie. My hair is done, I shaved my goatee off and all that. As I was driving to church I was literally talking out loud to myself, “Your name is Chad *******. You’ve got X number of kids.” I was talking out loud to myself so that if it just so happens that somebody who was a fellow missionary who served in my mission clear back in 1987 happened to be in the ward, and he came up to me and he said, “Norton! Mike, Mike Norton, oh my gosh!” I literally would not have turned around and responded because I had grilled it in my head, you are Chad.
Chad ******* had a daughter, Gretchen. I talked about my daughter, you know, “my” in quotation marks of course, air quotes. I talked about my daughter in church, and at one point, hired a budding amateur actress to play the role of my daughter Gretchen and attend church with me. That just kind of solidified the story of Chad Van Zen. Having another full grown adult show up and introduced herself as my daughter pretty much sealed the deal, if there was doubt before, that removed all doubt.
It was July 3rd 2016. I got there nice and early to ensure that I got the seat that I wanted, really the seat that I needed. I was setting a hidden camera up on the front row that was aimed up at the podium. I had a camera on me, I also had somebody that I had hired who is in the back of the room to record video as well. In order to prevent the Bishop from shutting my mic off, I literally handed him a note that said, “Trust me, I’m going somewhere with this.” So he’s naturally of course was going to give me more leeway than he might normally. The bishop got up and opened up the mic that anybody who wanted to get up and bear their testimony. I revealed to people that my daughter who mad all met left the church.
Mike in video: Well week after that talk, after that lesson by Warren I found out my oldest daughter had resigned from the church. It was shocking to say the least, I found out from her younger sister–
Mike: I was devastated, I was heartbroken.
Mike in video: it was very sad and disappointing to me. Today I’d like to talk a bit about forgiveness, apostasy, forgiving apostasy, and talk specifically about the reasons that my daughter gave for why she left the church. Because these are things that we should all be familiar with, and I sound like a broken record and I know cause sometimes I say you know it’s our job to educate our children and our grandchildren, because if we don’t, Google will. And if you want your kids finding out about Joseph Smith’s practice of polygamy–I’m shocked at how many people, members of the Church, lifelong members of the church have no idea that Joseph Smith was a polygamist, “What? How is this possible? This is crazy!” It’s people that don’t know their own religion. The church has released a series of essays, I believe there’s fourteen essays. They cover everything from–
Mike: if I got up and said, “You know what brothers and sisters, let me tell you something. There is no evidence for this, there is no evidence for that,” my bike would have been shut off by the bishop when I was bearing my testimony, so instead I just use a different approach. My daughter who I love more than life itself has left the church, this is why, and we’ve got to stop this from happening. We’ve got to educate our kids. These are the points that we need to educate our kids about.
Mike in video: The evidence is what led me to the truth. Archaeological evidence, genetic evidence, linguistic, zoological, mechanical… There’s nothing but faith in the spirit to back up the claims of the church. The church is not true, I’ve been fakin it for years. And uh, brothers and sisters I’ve got to tell you, I love you people… But I know this church is through. It’s not true.”
Mike: You can see everybody’s face, just an absolute look up shock like nobody knew what to say, you could have heard a pin drop in that room. When I left the chapel I was very happy. To finally have it over was just overwhelming relief. There was somebody there recording the aftermath. The stake president, the man who signed my temple recommend, he, Steve, got up and bore his testimony.
Steve: Now I just want to say a couple things about–
Mike: He assured the ward that I had had some medical issues–
Steve: –medical issues that have, uh, affected him.
Mike: I told him some far-fetched story about how I had had a brain aneurysm, that’s why I hadn’t paid tithing for a couple years.
Steve: I believe that some of the medical problems that he has experienced has had a profound influence on him.
Mike in video: Hi, is this Steve?
Mike: Before church was even out that day, I had called that man on the phone.
Mike in video: Steve how are ya? It’s, it’s ******** and I’m wondering if, uh, if you’ve heard the news yet about ******** and what the real story is.
Steve: Yeah I have. Pretty concerned, quite frankly.
Mike in video: Well you should be, I’m about to show the world that there is no power of discernment in uh, in ********* ward or the stake. You signed my temple recommend that allowed me to go into the temple and record the new temple movies, I mean I sat there in front of you and told you dozens of lies, and yet there was no power of discernment. The Lord should have told you, this man’s lying.
Mike: the man should have had the power of discernment, if he was who he said he was, the spirit should have told him before he ever handed me a temple recommend that I was until I said I was, but that man said in front of me in high priest group almost every single Sunday.
Steve: You know what’s interesting Ch***** is that–
Mike in video: Actually please, call me, call me Mike. My real name is Mike Norton.
Steve: Yes, ***** the, the thing is—
Mike in video: No, call me Mike, please.
Steve: Last week–
Mike in video: Steve, I don’t, Steve I don’t think you’re getting it. My name is not *****. My name is not ******. Where’s your power of discernment, Steve?
Steve: So what’s the purpose of your call?
Mike in video: The purpose of my call is just to let you know that, uh, I don’t know if, Steve if you just need to stop masturbating or what, but clearly you don’t have the spirit.
Mike: It’s not uncommon for Mormon Bishops and stake presidents to accuse somebody of having a, a problem with pornography or, or masturbation.
Mike in video: Why don’t you have a spirit? Do you have a problem with pornography? Is that it?
Steve: I’m not going to have this conversation with you.
Mike: I gave him a taste of his own medicine.
Steve: So the purpose of your call is basically–
Mike in video: To rub it–the purpose of my call it’s just a rub salt in the wound, and let you know that you need to stop masturbating because clearly you don’t have the spirit or the power of discernment, Steve. The purpose of this call is to blatantly mock–oh yeah, you go hang up, you pussy.
Mike: I’ve become kind of infamous in the ex-Mormon community for my videos. If you say the name New Name Noah and you’re ex-Mormon, there’s a good chance you probably know who I am. The main issue that a very small handful of ex-Mormons have with me, they think that I am pushing some members of Mormonism deeper into Mormonism, that they double down on their face because I am this mean old anti-mormon. In some cases that’s true. Some Mormons that see what I do, the persecution complex kids in, their attitude is “Oh, the church must be true because look what this man is doing!” There’s always going to be people that are going to have their testimony strengthened because of the mean old anti-mormon is out there. I just don’t care. There’s 7.6 billion prospective converts to this cult that I’m more focused on.
Back in 2012, we see the lifetime ban that has since been kind of lifted but not really from exmormon.org, the oldest ex-Mormon website on the internet. Eric what’s-his-face the owner of exmormon.org said no no, we’re not going to allow those videos. I’m like, “What, are you fucking kidding me? I just recorded the endowment ceremony on video, and you’re not going to allow it to be posted here?” I got pissy and I called him a coward. He then took the step further and said you literally can’t even mention my name on the website, so my name, both Mike Norton and New Name Noah were banned words that were built into their filter that literally prevented you from posting it on their website.
I think that militant is a very very poor choice of words to describe me. But I do is more along the lines of guerilla videography. I’m a guerilla filmmaker I suppose, and sometime you gotta get in the trenches, you gotta camouflage yourself in so that you can get a point of view that nobody would get otherwise. Life is too short to live a life of lies and to not pursue the truth.
Interviewer: So, uh, tell us what has happened to you was recently.
Mike: June 29th 2018! It was my fiftieth birthday. I went to Utah and I was traveling down the state recording primarily in front of about a dozen different temples. On my fiftieth birthday, I want to do something big, and my plan was to raise $50,000 so that I could and enlighten the world. I was recording with some friends out on the sidewalk in front of the building, but I didn’t like the fence in the way. We just stepped around the fence, so we just recorded ninety seconds worth of footage, and right before we were about to set off the property, a guy jumps out of nowhere, grabbed me by the arm, and says, “Mr. Norton!”
Mike in video: So I’m here with Preston Grey from church security. Preston has detained me, uh, on the property of the Jordan River Temple.
Mike: Oh, they all know my name. I am Public Enemy Number One to the Mormon church.
Security Officer 1: I’ve always wanted to meet you.
Mike in video: Oh, well now you have! Today is my birthday, too. Fifty years old today.
Mike: I am their worst nightmare. I don’t care about repercussions.
Security Officer 2: Okay, just turn around from us, you are under arrest.
Mike in video: Sure, sure.
Security Officer 2: Put your hands behind your back.
Security Officer 1: Put your hands behind your back.
Mike: They had three police officers show up, took me to jail and I sat in jail for five hours.
Security Officer 2: Yeah, but isn’t it kind of like going into somebody’s house and recording what they’re doing when you’re told not to?
Mike in video: Because, what people do inside their house, they don’t claim–
Mike: It just made me more determined than ever. One of the security guy said to me, “He’s done. Globally, globally he’s done.” And it just made me laugh because honestly what was going through my head at the time was, you have no fucking clue how I’m just getting started globally. I’m just getting warmed up. Literally, I laughed, “I’m done globally? No. I’m just getting started.”
Nick: That’s it for Love and Radio. This episode was produced by Noam Osband along with Julia DeWitt and Steven Jackson. Love and Radio is produced by Julia DeWitt and Steven Jackson. We are a production of Radiotopia, whose executive producer is Julie Shapiro. Thanks for listening.