A ministry opposed to Mormonism distributed 18,000 copies of a DVD to homes across the state on Sunday as part of a nationwide effort to persuade members to leave the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The distribution of 15,000 DVDs in Mesa, Gilbert and Tempe was timed for the last weekend before the church holds its General Conference in Salt Lake City on Saturday and Sunday, said Jim Robertson, executive director of Concerned Christians, an organization largely made up of former Mormons.
Another 2,000 copies of Jesus Christ/Joseph Smith were distributed in LDS-heavy Snowflake and Taylor, and 1,000 were distributed in Tucson.
"We've found this works very well. We need to step out in faith to do it," said Robertson, a former Mormon who founded the organization 35 years ago. "We're not against the Mormon people. If we hated the Mormons, we'd let them stew in their own juices."
But Don Evans, an LDS spokesman in Arizona, said Robertson is on a lifetime crusade to attack his church.
"It won't faze members of our church one iota," Evans said. "They're strong enough in their own beliefs. It's water off their backs."
Dave Udall, a Mesa attorney and former church spokesman, said Concerned Christians was denounced in the early 1980s by the National Conference of Christians and Jews and by the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai Brith after showing the film The God Makers at the Mesa Convention Center.
"I'm disappointed. We need tolerance in our community, and religious tolerance is one of those things we need to do," Udall said.
He said Concerned Christians pickets the annual Easter Pageant produced at the church's Arizona Temple in Mesa, handing out literature, but the LDS Church opposes religious conflict. The pageant begins tonight.
"The attitude of the church is there is freedom of religion," Evans said. "Our church would not go after another religion."
But Robertson said the DVD was produced in response to aggressive Mormon missionary work, saying, "they're stealing sheep" from other religions.
"I don't like the fact that they lie to people to get them into the church," he said. "They're not telling people what the church is all about until after they have them hook, line and sinker."
Utah-based Living Hope Ministries coordinated the nationwide distribution of the DVDs, Robertson said.
Bob Betts, Concerned Christians' office manager, said the DVD contrasts the teachings of Jesus Christ with those of Joseph Smith. He said about two dozen southeast Valley residents upset by the DVD called the ministry's office Monday morning to complain.
He said about 100 volunteers, mostly from churches, distributed the DVD but another 35,000 were not distributed because of a lack of manpower.
"The Mormons are madder than hornets," Betts said.
Evans said that Mormons believe in Jesus Christ but also believe that church founder Joseph Smith was a prophet.