Cleon Skousen was a controversial figure in the 1950s and ‘60s. A little out of step with the times, he missed the McCarthy Era when Americans watched “I Led Three Lives” on Friday nights and envisioned Communist spies masquerading as patriotic Americans while trying to overthrow our government. By the time Skousen came out with his first book, The Naked Communist, everybody but the John Birch Society had tired of looking for clandestine Communists trying to convince suburban Americans we’d be better off with a Moscow standard of living. Skousen continued writing books and founded the Freeman Institute, but only a fringe group of Mormons paid attention to his politics. His reputation resurged in LDS circles during the ‘70s when he authored imaginative books on the Old Testament. Now, conspiracy theorist Glenn Beck has resurrected Skousen’s book, The 5,000 Year Leap, after thirty years of obscurity.
My first notice of Skousen was in 1960. He came to my college campus in Cedar City, Utah promoting The Naked Communist. He identified himself as a former FBI agent and electrified our student body with tales of top government officials who were either Communists or Communist dupes. He said his book kept disappearing from the shelves of public libraries. Obviously, a Communist conspiracy existed to prevent the American public from learning about the Communists in our midst. Our only chance to read The Naked Communist was to purchase one of the autographed copies Skousen had thoughtfully brought along.
By the 1970s Skousen turned his talents to religion and produced The First Two Thousand Years, basically a commentary on Genesis. The Gospel Doctrine teacher in my ward used it almost exclusively as a lesson manual for our class. Skousen claimed the Old Testament convincingly demonstrated that the pure Mormon gospel was practiced by the ancient Jews. I read his biblical references but usually couldn’t see the connection to his claims. I mentioned my difficulty to our Stake President’s wife. Sister Kay said she’d heard two General Authorities discussing Skousen’s books. One said, “When I read anything by Cleon Skousen, I put ‘CS’ by it.” The other said, “When I read anything by Cleon Skousen, I put ‘BS’ by it.”
Pretty odd to see Skousen’s book on the bestseller list after all these years. Using Skousen’s scholarship, Glenn Beck has progressed from using the “socialism” buzzword. Now America is under siege by full-blown Communists—spearheaded by the Rockefeller family who commissioned murals for the Rockefeller Center seventy or eighty years ago deliberately designed to turn any Americans viewing them into Marxist robots.
Are many of Beck’s fans aware of his and Skousen’s religion? I don’t watch Glenn Beck enough to know if he mentions his religious affiliation—close-ups of grown men weeping make me want to slap someone. But more importantly, will Beck’s creative “proofs” of a secret plot by President Obama to turn America into a communist state help Mitt Romney’s eternal quest for the Republican nomination for president?
Cleon Skousen never had enough of a national following to be a serious embarrassment to the LDS Church. Not so with Glenn Beck. I feel like I need to apologize for being related to the village idiot. Kind of like—“I know our last name’s the same, but we’re not all like that.”