1 September 15, 1998Dear Friends:
In your Letter from the Holy Spirit that you sent to our churches, dated August 22, 1998, there were strong accusations made against our Molokan brotherhood for being against God's "rituals", "holy days", "statutes" and "commandments" and for being against the "King of Spirits", namely, M. G. Rudometkin. It also stated that our "faith (our Molokan brotherhood's faith) is our death" [упование = "hope", but M.P. Lediaev translates this as "faith"]. These are very strong statements and accusations. I am sure that this letter will raise more than just eyebrows with people in our Molokan brotherhood. Speaking for myself, such accusations prompted me to sit down and write an open letter, as an individual, as one good friend to another and to mail it to all seven of the undersigned witnesses on the letter, to Preachers and to a few selected people.
In this response, I will give five reasons why I, as an individual, reject Rudometkin and his claims. At the same time, I would like to point out to you how and where Rudometkin is against "rituals", "holy days", and against the First Commandment in the Bible.
First of all, accusations should have been leveled against Rudometkin and not against the Molokan brotherhood.
Reason 1 -- God(A) Rudometkin claimed to be a god.
(B) God's instruction on how to deal with such a situation.
(C) What was the faith of our forefathers regarding the First Commandment?
[Throughout his reply, Lediaev gives a contemporary American-Christian point-of-view which is gaining popularity among American (and Australian) Jumpers who have been defending their "Christianity" in response to a large percentage of their community that has either left the Jumpers or declines to participate in the rituals, or attend services. Though the major obstacles are Russian literacy and old-world rituals, there is an obvious shift in the past 20 years to appear more Christian to attract people back to the flock. This new Ameican Jumper Christian theology differs significantly from that of the historic Molokans, and Jumpers. It appears to be an attempt to unite descendants of the sub-groups of Spiritual Christians (Molokan Constant, Jumper, Sabbatarian, Maksimist, Anabaptist) that immigrated to America by trying to consolidate them under one label: "Molokan", as Christian, Bible-centered people. But the details of redefining the use of Maksimisti rituals in wide-spread use by the American Jumpers has not been addressed, mainly because services are performed in Russian which few understand, and some dominant elders are afraid of change. See Lane for some historic background. Also Tenets and Principles of the True Spiritual Christian Russian Molokans, Since 1803, for a summary of early dogma.
In my comments, I invite the reader to further study our history and know the facts. Our "Molokan" -- Spiritual Christian -- heritage covers a very broad spectrum of beliefs and behaviors which changed over time and place, and should seem strange, or un-Christian, to you in America today, but were typical in their context -- times and places in history. We have a rich heritage of ideas, heros, rituals and thoughts to learn about, discuss, and maintain. Keep on Truckin', dude.]
(A) In Rudometkin's writings, he claims to be a god in the following way:"That's why I, Maksim, now called with this new name, King of Spirits and God of the believers throughout the world." (Spirit and Life, Book 9, Chapter 15, Verse 7)By making such a claim, Rudometkin is clearly against God's very first commandment. Friends, why make such an accusation against our brotherhood? Why not make the same accusation against Rudometkin? When God said "no other gods", He was not giving an opinion, He was giving a commandment.
(B) The following is God's instructions on how to deal with such a situation:"God spoke through him saying, "Thou shall not have ... other Gods..." To have another God is a "rebellion against the Lord your God." If anyone teaches to follow another God--kill him--even if he is a close member of your family. Any prophet that teaches to follow another God shall be put to death." (Deuteronomy 13:1-15)(C) What did our forefathers (Russian: predki) believe regarding one God?
Today we have two different kinds of forefathers (predki). One kind is based on Rudometkin's teaching, as we have it today in the book, Spirit and Life. The other forefathers (predki) are Bible-based. Far too often when our church speakers mention our forefathers in their church speeches, they do not differentiate between the two. The truth of the matter is that there are some very major differences in basic theology and doctrines which make these two different kinds of forefathers actually miles and miles apart from each other.
The Bible-based predki left us two lengthy books that spelled out what their faith was. It was written for member Molokans of their day and for future Molokans, as information on what it is to be a Molokan.
One book called Confession of Faith (1865), and the other called Summary of Dogmas, were both recently translated into the English language. I suggest that interested Molokans read them. They are inspiring and very informative regarding the faith of our early Molokan forefathers, in its purest form. [Copies at the UMCA Heritage Room and Bookstore, Hacienda Heights CA.]
Our Bible-base predki, according to the book Confession of Faith (1865), believed in one God only. The following is a quote from them:"This commandment requires us to recognize only one God and to worship Him only. Therefore this commandment prohibits us to offer Divine honor or pray to anything or anybody other than the one God."In the Summary of Dogmas, our forefathers made the following statement of their faith regarding one God:"Though we speak much we cannot reach the end, and the sum of our words is: 'He is the all.' To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the Only God, be honor and glory forever and ever."
Reason 2 -- Christ(A) Rudometkin claimed to be a new Christ.
(B) Jesus' warning against false Christs.
(C) Who did our early forefathers accept as Christ?
(A) In Rudometkin's writings, he claims to be a new Christ. Just as Jesus was the Messiah, Rudometkin claims, a number of times, that he also is a "Messiah". To cite only one passage:In the book, Spirit and Life, the attempt to duplicate a Christ-like mission is very subtle and skillfully alluded to by Rudometkin. The following are a few examples:"I (Maksim) am called by a new name today and forever in heaven and on earth, for I (Maksim) am Ulesar, King Ures, New Jewish Messiah. The Jews and all other races of the world shall worship me (Maksim)." (Spirit and Life, Book 10, Article 8, Verse 7, Page 498; see also Book 10, Article 31, Verse I and Book 13, Article 1, Verse 1, Page 574.)
The list of examples attempting to show similarities between Jesus Christ and Rudometkin goes on and on. Much can be said on this subject of Rudometkin equating himself with Jesus Christ, but I think the above examples are sufficient.
- Just as Jesus was the Lamb that was led to the slaughter, Rudometkin makes the same claim. To quote his own words: "Publicly they lead me (Maksim) as a lamb to the slaughter." (Spirit and Life, Book 9, Article 4, Verse 3, Page 452)
- Just as Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, saying, "Oh, my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will but as Thou wilt." (Matthew 26:39) Rudometkin also prays: "I (Maksim) beseech you my Father--pass this cup of death from me (Maksim) for it is extremely bitter to me (Maksim). I (Maksim) cannot drink it of my own free will, unless you, my Father, will it." (Spirit and Life, Book 9, Article 4, Verses 4-5, Page 453.)
- Just as Jesus was on the cross, Rudometkin claims to have done the same. (Spirit and Life: Book 10, Article 1, Verse XVI, Page 590; Book 13, Article 9, Verse 6, Page 583; Book l0, Article 24, Verse 2, Page 516.)
- Just as Jesus forgave sins, Rudometkin claims that under a "new covenant" (Rudometkin's new law), sins are only forgiven through him--Maksim. (Spirit and Life, Book 8, Article 1, Verse 14, Page 417.)
- Just as Jesus said he was a Shepherd, Rudometkin's claims are: He (Maksim) is a "King Ulia, the only Shepherd...." (Spirit and Life Book 12, Article 7, Verse 3, Page 564.)
"Messiah" is a Hebrew word. The same word translated into Greek is "Christos". In other words, Messiah and Christos are one and the same (John 1:42, 4:25). When Rudometkin said he is a Messiah, he is indeed claiming to be "Christ".
(B) Jesus' warning: Jesus Christ gave us a clear and strong warning about future "deceivers" such as Rudometkin."And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name saying I am the Christ and shall deceive many." (Matthew 24:4-5)The above prediction of Jesus Christ came to fulfillment among our Molokan people in the person of Rudometkin. We do have two Christs--one Christ of the Bible and another new Christ of the book, Spirit and Life
(C) Who did our early forefathers accept as Christ? In Confession Of Faith (1865), our early forefathers stated the following:"Consequently, Christ and the Holy Scriptures are the sole foundations upon which the true Christian Church is built. The commune of Christ or any community which does not have the teachings of Christ as its foundation is not a true church, because the true church is in on the one accord, and no one can establish another foundation other than the one established, who is Jesus Christ."In the book Summary of Dogmas, our early forefathers stated the following:"....there is one God, and there is one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus."Most [Some!] of our founding forefathers came out of the Doukhobors and the Khlysty, who had leaders that claimed themselves to be a God or a Christ. [Most came from Orthodox and Sabbatarians. See Miluikov. But Mike is right in that many sects preceeding the Doukhobors and Molokans refused inanimate icons in favor of the living image of God in another person. See "Ikonobortsi" (those who turn against icons) in Klibanov, History of Religious Sectarianism in Russia (1860s - 1917). There were many variations of this theology. Original Molokans "... view God highly abstractly as a supreme spiritual force, as the highest form of reason, which can reside in any person. ...but Christ does not appear to hold a very prominent place in their teaching. See Lane for more.] This was not acceptable to our founding forefathers then, nor would it have been acceptable to them today. The very reason the Molokan sect came into being was ..... rejection of other Gods and other Christs and accepting only one God, one Christ of the Bible. [Not mentioned here are two major reasons: (1) rejection of the Russian Orthodox Chruch (a felony), and (2) rejection of powerful government.]
Regarding the belief as to how many Gods or how many Christs to believe in, Paul the Apostle settles this with the following words:"... there is no God but one." For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth--as indeed there are many "gods" and many "lords"--yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. However, not all possess this knowledge...." (1 Corinthians 8:4-7)
Reason 3 -- Prophecies(A) Rudometkin's false prophecies.
(B) What does it say in the Bible about this matter and what to do about it?
Rudometkin lived at a time and place where the Russian sectarians expected the second-coming of Christ and the end of the world to occur at any hour. [The most documented was a second-coming in 1836 on Mount Zion before Rudometkin's time when the Jumpers formed in 1833. Rudometkin was probably influenced by the Harmonists who were denied passage beyond the Caucasus and focused on Mount Ararat. See Holidays of Molokan Sub-groups, footnote 1, also Berokoff, Molokans in America, Chapter 5, and Hoover and Petrov, Russians' Secret, Chapter 12.] It was in such an atmosphere that Rudometkin began to prophesy and set dates for the end of the world and the beginning of the thousand year Millennium. Rudometkin first prophesied that the Millennium would start in 1857. When the Millennium did not materialize, Rudometkin again prophesied that it would come in 1860. [He led groups to Mount Ararat. See Berokoff, Molokans in America, Chapters 1,5,9, and Addemdum XXX.] That year came and went, but again the kingdom was nowhere in sight. This kingdom was to be a time when Rudometkin would be a ruler for a thousand years. Rudometkin writes of himself, saying, "The King of Kings and Lord of Lords ... would set me (Rudometkin), your anointed, in Christ's stead as your king upon the earth for a thousand years and also enthrone all of my people (followers)." (Spirit and Life, Book 11, Chapter 16, Verses 1-15)
In other words, Rudometkin and his followers were to be the principal rulers for a thousand years. In 1860, it turned out that instead of beginning his Millennium rulership as predicted, Rudometkin began his sentence in Solovetski Monastery prison. Even though Rudometkin's initial predictions were not fulfilled, he was not discouraged from making further predictions. It seems that he was so determined to be a kingdom ruler, that he continued to predict that the Millennium would occur in the nineteenth century (Spirit and Life, Book 6:14:1-12). The nineteenth century has been gone for almost 100 years now, and yet none of these events have come to pass. So much for those predictions. As a prophet, Rudometkin was a failure, to say the least. These revelations, according to Rudometkin's own writing, were inspired by a "new Spirit". (Spirit and Life, Book 10, Chapter 5, Verse 4)
This "new Spirit" of Rudometkin's is obviously different from the Holy Spirit that was spoken about in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. They are in total disagreement on topics already mentioned here. Both Spirits cannot be right.
Rudometkin's prophecies mentioned above were not fulfilled. Why do some people regard him as a great prophet? I will never know.
The Bible gives us a clear guideline regarding false prophets. And that is "... .do not be afraid of them ... do not listen to them ... do not conceal them ... do not have pity on them ... stone them ... kill them." (Deuteronomy 13:1-11)
In the decades of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, our churches had a big rally for the Spirit and Life book and for Rudometkin. Such days are gone. God forbid that we should ever see them again.
Reason 4 -- Rituals(A) Rudometkin on Holy Days and Rituals.
Dear friends, the letter also stated that our people are against the Holy Days and Rituals (Russian: obriadi). I do not know where that Spirit gets its information. I do not know of one Molokan church or prestol here in the Los Angeles area, where I live, to be against Holy Days, Rituals, or anything of that sort.
The only conclusion I came to is that letter is from Rudometkin's "new Spirit" and not from the Holy Spirit that is spoken about in the Bible. The Holy Spirit of the Bible would not have made such untrue accusations. The following is what Rudometkin wrote against rituals:"Visible rituals and vestments (formal church garments) are for fallen Jews and deceived Gentiles." (Spirit and Life, Book 13, Chapter 4, Verse 16)Here is what Rudometkin wrote about weekly Holy Days:"Should not do any work on the Sabbath (Saturday) also the Day of Resurrection (Sunday) should be observed as one of the Holy Days." (Spirit and Life, Book 4, Chapter 12, Verses 10-11)That means that two days a week should be observed as Holy Days. [Historically there were "Saturday Molokans": Subbotniki, and "Sunday Molokans": Voskreseniki, then about 1833 came the "Jumpers": Pryguny. See Miluikov. Keep in mind that the writings attributed to Rudometkin probably came from a variety of sources among the sub-groups.] Regarding the annual Holy Days, Rudometkin writes:"We observe the Holy Days according to the Scriptures. As God commanded Moses and all Israel. And the Lord Himself with His Apostles observed the same Holy Days, as we do today." (Spirit and Life, Book 3, Chapter 6, Verse 7)After instructing his followers as above, Rudometkin, for some reason, contradicts himself and makes a 180-degree turnaround, and then says the following to his new church:"For this reason, my new sanctified church is called, in Spirit: Zion of the Holy God of Israel. In it today, there is no need for us to keep ritualistic dressed up holy days of any kind--Hebrew or Gentile." (Spirit and Life, Book 10, Chapter 10, Verse 8)If the above did not confuse you enough, Rudometkin changes his mind again, and does away with God's commandments regarding Holy Days, even though these are the same ones that he already instructed his followers to observe. He then informs them that he himself has started to observe all new Holy Days and he intended these all new Holy Days to be part of his new law, which was to be instituted for his followers of that day to observe:"... to all my dear ones, I will bring about a great rejoicing and proclaim all new Holy Days which I myself presently honor according to this new law, there will be no need for any high Holy Days or temporary Holy Days Е (Spirit and Life, Book 10, Chapter 14, Verses 1-6)
Reason 5 -- Editing Rudometkin's ManuscriptsMany years ago I became suspicious, due to the way the so-called Rudometkin writings appeared in today's Spirit and Life book. Namely, they came across to me, with good reason, as some portions having been "cooked up". Where and when did this "cooking" take place? To find the answer to that question, I needed a copy of Rudometkin's manuscripts that were brought to this country from Russia. For many years I tried to get hold of the copies without any success. When I gave up and lost all hope of ever seeing them, someone unexpectedly came along and gave me a copy of the manuscript. To put it mildly, I was very surprised and grateful.
What did the manuscripts indicate? First of all, the manuscripts for Books 1-3 were missing (for a good reason). Secondly, the manuscripts were not the original manuscripts of Rudometkin. Rudometkin wrote on loose pieces of paper, as letters, that were smuggled out of the monastery prison. [According to our oral history, these little pieces of paper were smuggled into America by ____ Tolmachoff, Rudometkin's niece, and brought to Arizona where the first transliterated book was published -- Book of the Morning Star, 1915. A photocopy of these original writings is on display in the UMCA Heritage Room, Hacienda Heights CA. The originals were kept in a safe in Glendale, Arizona, for many years.] The original writings of Rudometkin may have had a short lifespan. We read at least on one occasion where Rudometkin instructs his followers to make a copy of his letter, then hide the original letter."... and then read aloud completely, to all, in a loud voice. Raise your voice like a trumpet. After that, copy it to another plain paper. Then hide my original manuscript, under a rock, in the field, in an unknown place ..." (Spirit and Life, Book 1, Chapter 37, Verses 1-7)The copy of the manuscript that was given to me was not copies of loose papers, but were copies of handwritten bound books. Without having any access to the original manuscripts that were brought to this country, I cannot say whether they were transcribed into bound books here in the U.S.A., or in Russia. Wherever, or whoever transcribed them, did some heavy-duty editing, adding his or another person's material.
Without Rudometkin's original writings, we will never know what exactly was edited in or edited out. We can tell, with certainty that Rudometkin did not write some of the passages. Other passages are less certain. Sometimes it is hard to tell where Rudometkin leaves off and someone else begins. Let me give you just one sure example of a passage that Rudometkin did not write. It is written in the second person:"O, our most honored and beloved brother, out of the midst of them all, the final principal hero and a king of the entire universe. For he is an eternal heir to the throne of the earthly kingdom of Christ for a thousand years. By name he is Maksim Gavrilovitch Rudometkin." (Spirit and Life, Book 9, Chapter 17, Verses 1-2)According to copies of manuscripts in my possession, material which was substantially damaging to Rudometkin's image was left out and not included in his writings as we read them today in the Spirit and Life book. Books 1-3 were added in as Rudometkin's writings. When I read them with care and attention, they seem to be different from his other books. They seem to have a different style, mode of expression, level of intellect and character.
This means that at least two other writers contributed their own material. It all adds up to a large portion not having been written by Rudometkin, but sold to us as a true, God-inspired writing of Rudometkin.
[Also scholar Dr. Stephen P. Dunn detected at least two distinct grammar styles in Rudometkin's section of the 1928 Spirit and Life. Dr Dunn suspected that parts of Uklein's rituals are in those sections. Ledieav suspects at least three different authors.]
Since seeing is believing, I suggest that anyone who is interested should get a copy of the manuscripts and examine them. Be warned, prepare yourself to be surprised, stunned and more.
There are suspicious telling clues that someone did some "cooking" with other authors of the Spirit and Life book. Manuscripts of all authors should be made available for study and verification for anyone who may wish to do so. For that purpose, copies should be deposited into the Molokan library [at the UMCA]. Molokans should have the right to examine them. After all, the Spirit and Life book has been shaping the faith of many.
Now stop and think. What right does anyone have to edit something in or edit something out if the manuscripts are truly God-inspired? Did God make mistakes in inspiring Rudometkin? Who was being corrected, God or Rudometkin?
Obviously, someone knew full well that Rudometkin's original writings were not God-inspired, nor were they fit to be read in churches in their original form. Someone engaged themselves in such a way as to give the final printed version some semblance, as if they were God-inspired. This was done knowingly and deliberately. Friends, in this matter, we have been fooled, we have been duped, we have been deceived.
In the past, our Molokan churches accepted the Spirit and Life book in its present printed form, believing and trusting that the book was solely written by its authors, without any alterations to their content. As to alterations, no disclosure was made to our brotherhood. In this matter they were in the dark. True facts were concealed from them. The manuscripts were not made available for verification and study purposes.
Some Molokan people have less faith in the Bible than they do in the Spirit and Life book. For this reason, some Presbyters use the Spirit and Life book as a preference over the Bible during the blessing ceremony. I do not believe they would use it if only true facts were made available to them. After all, truth and the spiritual welfare of their flock is their duty, and should be near and dear to their hearts.
If Rudometkin's original letters were available and published as they were in their original content, without deletions and additions, they would not have been on our prestol (front table in church) in the first place. About this I am certain.
In my younger days I used to have the Spirit and Life book on our living room table. After becoming aware of the situation, I took it off, sometimes replacing it with the book containing articles of the Molokan sect, put together by our early Bible-based Molokans. I hold them with respect and high esteem. They remind me of what our Molokan sect once was and what it should have been today.
NOTE: In this "Open Letter", with exception to only one reference, all other references from so-called Rudometkin writings are cited, without distinction, whether they are his or otherwise.
My thanks to those who did typing, correcting, etc. Great job! Spasi Gospods! [Russian: Thank God!]
Michael P. Lediaev
5912 S. Adele Avenue
Whittier CA 90606
[Two years after writing this reply, Lediaev reports that at least 100 copies have been circulated and not one American Jumper has criticized him. To his surprise, many pristoli have publiclly told him that they agree with his "Open Letter", though they would not risk writing and distributing it. So now that the ice is broken and melting, who will risk sticking their neck out next to contribute to this analysis about who we Molokans are, and/or should be, today in America? Let's dialog as the Society of Educated Molokans and Kudinov's Progressive Movement would.]