Last Saturday at 10 a.m. Chris Nemelka began his symposium in the main auditorium of the Salt Lake City library building. Billed as an opportunity for skeptics to confound the LDS Church critic, the first two hours, at least, were the Chris Nemelka show.---
In this week's issue, I previewed the symposium, which Nemelka had organized with some of his most committed supporters, to provide critics of his purported translation of the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon the opportunity to confront him.
Nemelka promised to address his concerns about a CW January 2011 cover feature on him and his most high profile convert, Ida Smith, called 'Sealed Fate.' In the first two hours, while Nemelka held up my story several times to the audience - the issue much decorated with yellow stickers apparently representing questions by his attorney Rod Vessels - he chose after some dithering not to go into it. Rather, he imposed a lengthy monologue upon the 50 to 70 people in attendance which focused, to some degree, on comparisons between himself and Jesus Christ.
You can read Nemelka's version of the day at his personal journal.
He noted early in the proceedings that 'Sealed Fate' had "got the ball rolling" as far as public interest was concerned, and that he had "manipulated" me, as he had deceived others. With a dramatic flourish, he then pulled off the band holding his long hair in a pony tail and let it fall around his shoulders, joking as to whether it was a "Jesus look" or one resembling the 1970s romantic fiction book cover icon, Fabio.
He told the audience he had been chosen as the messenger for immortal beings including the Three Nephites and John the Revelator, who wrote the Book of Revelations, because of his personality and delivery. "There's no truth in religion," he said. "The only thing that matters is how you treat your fellow man." His message was "all about equalizing humanity."
While he derided The Bible, as well as the LDS Church, he said, despite in several conversations with this reporter complaining about death threats following 'Sealed Fate,' that he did not fear for his life, "not one single bit."
He wasn't trying to sell books he had written with the help of those who "oversee the work," a few of which he had stacked beside him on the table. His followers, such as Ida Smith, and it seemed a good half of those gathered in the auditorium, reacted with astonishment when he predicted that the LDS Church would one day soon take references to Lucifer out of the Book of Mormon.
His message and that of Christ's was essentially the same. "I talk like the man Jesus talks," he said. The only difference was he was being videoed by his close supporter, John Roh, so that there was a record of what he had said - a benefit, he noted, Christ had been unable to avail himself of.
Nemelka wished his critics could confound him, but predicted they would be unable to trip him up.
One critic, Chris Hansen, spoke up, in the first two hours. Hansen asked why Nemelka had signed up for the auditorium under the name of his charity, World United Fund [WUF], rather than under his own name. The library official responsible for the auditorium knew "nothing about" what Nemelka was doing, Hansen said. Rather than answer his question, Nemelka asked Hansen if he had called him a felon in conversation with others.
I left when Nemelka broke for lunch. Hansen said he would stay to confront the man who wants to write a column for CW called 'Ask a prophet.'
"I am standing up for what I believe in," Hansen said, "even if [Nemelka] slaps me down."