Utah has the highest number of multi-level marketing (MLM) companies per capita in the nation, and many Mormons are heavily involved in MLM culture, according to Loren Israelsen, executive director of the Utah-based United Natural Products Alliance. “There are at least 15 major MLMs in Utah County alone, generating billions in annual revenue and making direct sales the second-biggest industry in Utah behind tourism.”
“It would be very difficult for doTERRA to experience the success it’s had in any other state” (Kirk Jowers, VP of corporate relations and European markets at doTERRA).
I recently lost thirty pounds on a weight loss program that a dear friend of mine from college has been promoting on her Facebook page. A mutual acquaintance of ours – “Sarah” (a pseudonym for the purposes of this article) – whom we both knew through the Baptist Student Union, introduced her to the diet several years ago. I am thrilled to be getting healthy again finally and was thinking about working for the company until I started to learn about its CEO and some elements of the faith-based sales training they are promoting.
The company I was thinking about working with is a subsidiary of a larger health food MLM whose CEO, Dan Chard, is associated with the LDS Church. At first, I was willing to look past this as boycotts are not helpful and end up just drawing more attention to the company. But then, as I started to get exposed to more of the sales training, I became very concerned with what I was associating myself with and the kind of message I would be sending as someone in a discernment ministry.
Why are Mormons so involved in the MLM culture, and what are some red flags to be aware of before joining an MLM company? Mormons tithe ten percent of their income to the LDS Church, so it would be important that Christians understand where their money is going and what they could be supporting by working for an MLM company.
The LDS former missionary network is probably one of the strongest reasons why MLMs are so successful within the Mormon religion. According to Ann Dalton, CEO of the beauty product direct-seller Perfectly Posh, “you get a lot of return missionaries who speak every language on the planet, then all of a sudden you have a sales force that’s very well connected.” 7 Furthermore, Kirk Jowers of doTERRA says, “We are able to run a global office out of Utah, with 1,900 employees communicating in, literally, more than 100 languages.”
The first recommended training I took with the company was with a nationally recognized author, coach, and speaker who touted the business model of Rick Warren and Saddleback Church. While much of what this coach shared was thought-provoking, I was concerned about his promotion of Rick Warren as a sound Bible teacher. I was also concerned with how this coach used the Parable of the Talents to convey a man-focused message rather than a God-focused message.
Within his discussion on the Parable of the Talents, this coach suggested that God wants us to multiply our talent – our money – by helping others become healthier. While this is a nice message, it is lifted from its context and is not the true message behind this parable.
II. Bethel Redding Kingdom Training
The final strike against my working with the company came when Sarah sent out a training invitation to go through Kris Vallotton’s book Basic Training for the Supernatural Ways of Royalty. Kris Vallotton is the Senior Associate Leader of Bethel Church in Redding, California, and co-founder of Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry (BSSM) and Moral Revolution.
Bethel Church, led by Pastor Bill Johnson, is a proponent of the Word of Faith/New Apostolic Reformation Movement and subscribes to the Kenosis heresy (Jesus took off His divine nature), New Age mysticism, and experience over doctrine. I knew Sarah from our time at the Baptist Student Union in the mid-1990s, and I am now disturbed by how far she has moved toward false doctrines. But the Southern Baptist Convention has shifted in the direction of false teachings, so perhaps it’s not so surprising after all. For example, Southern Baptist pastor Lynn Ridenhour openly preaches from both the Bible and the Book of Mormon as part of his “Building Bridges” concept and has been a featured speaker at the LDS school, Brigham Young University.
According to Berean Research, Kris Vallotton “not only teaches the false NAR [New Apostolic Reformation] Dominion Gospel that Jesus, ‘the Captain of the Host conquered the devil’ in Hell” he also teaches “that heaven wasn’t ‘just waiting for rescued souls to be redeemed, but for the crowning of the sons who were to be revealed.’” This is a summary of the manifest sons of God heresy which often quotes Romans 8 out of context.”
Furthermore, “Vallotton is promoting the Spirit of Adoption/Sonship heresy, which naturally leads people to believe the New Breed heresy. This heresy teaches how believers can manifest on earth as gods (or little Jesuses).”
“His Royal Army is spreading the King’s glory all over the earth as we take dominion of this planet back from the defeated one. […] Armed with the power of the Holy Spirit and commissioned to re-present the King’s Son, we are healing the sick, raising the dead, and displacing devils.” (Kris Vallotton)
Is the church called to help one another become healthier so that we can take dominion over the earth, or are we called to become healthier because our bodies are the temple of the Lord (1 Cor:3:16-17 and 1 Cor 6: 19-20)?
Ecumenism and the Mormon Church
It is unsurprising that a Mormon-run company is embracive of teachers such as Warren and Vallotton. Mormons appreciate the fact that Rick Warren considers them fellow Christians, and in fact, when USA Today asked him why Mormon leaders are involved in his pastoral training programs, Rick Warren reportedly said, “I’m not going to get into a debate over the non-essentials. I won’t try to change other denominations. Why be divisive?” Bethel Redding’s belief that we can become gods lines up well with the Mormon belief that there are many gods and that after you become a good Mormon, you have the potential to become a god.
By contrast, the Bible says there is only one God (Isa:43:10; 44:6, 8; 45:5), who has always been God (Psalm 90:2); and knows of no other gods (Is. 44:8). Scripture also says we do not become a god (Is. 43:10).18 I must implore all Christians to be in prayer before joining an MLM company and be very discerning about the training sessions and heresies to which you may be exposed. Charles Spurgeon once said, “discernment is not knowing the difference between right and wrong. It is knowing the difference between right and almost right.” Sometimes false teaching can be very subtle, so examine everything carefully and hold fast to that which is good (1 Thess 5:21).
For footnotes and full article: https://midwestoutreach.org/2022/07/07/mlm-gateway-to-spiritual-deception/