Nov 1, 2015

Inside the Utah Church of Scientology

October 31, 2015

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Salt Lake City (ABC 4) The Church of Scientology. There has been so much written and reported, much of it negative. But what is the truth about the religion and what kind of impact does it have here in Utah?

Good 4 Utah's Randall Carlisle tries to answer those questions. For the first time ever, a local Scientology leader agreed to be interviewed and to talk candidly about what goes on inside.

Some of the basics. Their church is in the heart of Sugarhouse on 11th East near 19th South. It's open 7 days a week and anyone can walk in.

Valerie Kingdon describes herself as a member and what she calls public secretary of the church. She was selected by church leaders to meet with Carlisle inside a room at the church and she described what they do inside. "We have a variety of courses. We do counseling and we have Sunday services every Sunday at 11 o'clock and everybody is welcome."

She says they don't formally pray or sing during their Sunday services like you might see at other churches. Instead they select a topic from the writings of L. Ron Hubbard, founder of the religion, and discuss that in a group setting. She describes it as their sermon.

They also have what they call a mission building at 400 South, 353 East. Inside that building they do spiritual counseling. What they call and audit using a measuring device call an "e-reader." Kingdon describes how it works, "basically it is to locate areas of distress in sombody's life and basically help them handle that."

They say they have about 6,800 members locally and that the religion has been in Utah for almost 60 years.

The Scientologists have also purchased a vacant 43,000 square foot building on South Temple near 700 East. They are working on turning it into their main church in Salt Lake and hope to move in sometime next year.

Carlisle spent several hours talking to Scientology officials from Los Angeles as well as Salt Lake. He left with the understanding that Scientology is basically a blend of science and spirituality. Belief in an immortal spirit and improving that spirit here on earth using Scientology methods.

They say they don't dwell on concepts like heaven or hell or what happens when you die like many other religions do. Instead they focus on your spirit.

Kingdon offered this explanation. "Scientologists believe that there is a route that is personal to you and basically through studying the works of L. Ron Hubbard, you discover that route for yourself. You come to your own understanding of your own spiritual immortality.

She claims her beliefs don't contradict most other religions so a person can be a member of another church and still be a Scientologist. She says many of the members in Utah are also LDS, Scientology, she says, welcomes anyone from any religion.

Scientologists locally and around the world also respond to disaster situations around the world and also have an arm of the church called United for Human Rights, taking on issues like human trafficking.

We have just touched briefly on their beliefs and what they do. They have hours of videos and explanations on their website at

Like other religions, they perform marriages and baptisms, but they call those a naming ceremony. They say they don't have a ban on drinking alcohol as long as it's done in moderation. They are opposed to the use of psychotropic drugs, believing that Scientology methods can help relieve mental problems like depression.

We wondered if they are willing to share all this with ABC 4 and anyone else, why there is a perception of secrecy and mystery surrounding Scientology.

Kingdom says simply, "I have no idea Randall because we're open 7 days a week and anybody is welcome to come in and ask questions, talk to us, see what we do. We are a very open religion and we welcome anybody."

Their beliefs and their methods of doing things may be different than yours. There are probably those who read this who think we haven't covered negative things about Scientology and those who think we haven't had enough positive things to say. Carlisle says that's the essence of a fair story.

Bottom line, whatever you think about Scientology, it seems to work for millions of members in dozens of countries around the world.

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