Some recent comments and emails have accused me of becoming increasingly hostile and angry about the LDS church. These accusations came as a response to my recent post that said the church’s press release about the hierarchy not being involved with discipline was “a lie.” I was not angry when I wrote that, and do not intend to insult anyone. It happens to be true, and since I am acquainted with the facts, I believe I have an obligation to disclose the truth. In the long run, the LDS church is benefited by the truth, even if they can’t see it now. So here are the facts:
In 2011 there were rumors circulating that I was to be excommunicated. My stake president at the time was a man of integrity and discretion. I am certain he was not the source of the rumors. But they were persistent and widespread. Strangers would ask me if I had been excommunicated yet. I got emails asking me if I knew the church was after me. Inside my own ward and stake, however, there was nothing threatened and no hint there was anything that would lead to a church court.
I was told by the stake president at the time that I had come to the attention of the Brethren. However, he said he defended me and explained to them he knew my heart was in the right place and I was a worthy church member. His last Sunday as stake president he spent the afternoon with me in the stake offices, told me there were some in the hierarchy who were angry at me, renewed my temple recommend so I wouldn’t be required to be interviewed again for two years, and said the new stake president would not know me but he would do what he could.
Elder Russell Nelson of the twelve heads the Strengthening the Members Committee. He came to my stake and called the new stake president.
A member of the Draper Temple Presidency resides in my ward. In April 2012, he was ready to be released from teaching the Temple Preparation class before the next group of prospective missionaries needed the class. He recommended that I be called. The bishop called me and I accepted the call.
On the Sunday I was to be sustained to teach the temple prep class, the newly called stake president attended our sacrament meeting. Before the meeting, when the bishop mentioned I was being sustained to teach the Temple Preparation class, President Hunt told him to hold off until he had the opportunity to first interview me.
After that sacrament meeting the bishop explained to me what happened, and asked me to begin the Temple Preparation class anyway, unofficially, in my home. I began to teach first one, then three of the priests in my ward to prepare them to go through the temple preliminary to their missions.
On Sunday, April 18, 2012 I had my first interview with President Hunt. He explained I had come to the attention of “downtown” and there had been complaints about me. He needed to meet me and report back. We talked for an hour-and-a-half that Sunday. He said he was “pleased with the interview and had no doubts that my intentions were good.” He ended the meeting by committing to read everything I’d written. In the interview I told him that although I had not been sustained, I was proceeding anyway with the Temple Preparation class and I didn’t want to do that without telling him. I was not going to be sneaky about it, and if he objected I would stop. He did not object.
Several people asked family members if I had “been excommunicated.” One person from Idaho called and asked me if the rumors were true. When I asked what rumors, he responded, that I was “being excommunicated.”
Shortly after that interview, my wife discovered and brought to my attention an on-line thread where someone purported to have inside information about me and my meeting with my stake president. I am certain President Hunt was not responsible for this leak. He has too much integrity to have done so, and I do not suspect him in the least. Therefore, the information must have originated from “downtown” with whomever was provoking the interviews. A copy of the post was cut-and-pasted into a blog post on April 26, 2012 and can be found here. The blog-site, LDS-Glo, where the post originally appeared has removed it and therefore the copy cut and put onto this blog is the only place it can be found.
I believed the leak came from the Strengthening the Members Committee over which Elder Russell M. Nelson presides. I have since been able to confirm this. I learned the person who leaked the information was been disciplined for doing so.
President Hunt and I had another meeting April 29th. During the meeting the phone rang in the office, and I was asked to step into the hallway for a moment. When invited back in, I was told that “one of the Seven Presidents had called” and he instructed that President Hunt was “to do nothing” while he and Elder Christofferson of the Twelve studied what I had written. The interview was over and I was free to go.
The seventy who called was Elder L. Whitney Clayton.
I heard nothing further for months. Then I was asked to a meet in November 2012. On November 4th the entire stake presidency met with me and informed me that “Apostles and a President of the Seventy” were pressuring them to act. They felt “a good spirit” from me but the book I’d written (Passing the Heavenly Gift) was “faith destroying.” It needed to be rewritten to conform to the church’s claims or be withdrawn from publication. These were men of discretion, and I do not believe any of them were the sources of rumors. None of them were in the stake presidency when the rumors began.
In a follow-up email, President Hunt said one of the issues was my “witness of Christ” (meaning my unequivocal statement that the Lord had ministered to me). I responded by asking if that meant the church expected me to deny my witness, or merely not to speak of it again. I have never received a reply to that question.
I quit posting on my blog.
On December 9, 2012 I met with President Hunt again and he said he had “defended me with one of the Brethren” since our last meeting. He asked if I had stopped blogging because of our last meeting, and I said I had. We discussed a missionary from our stake who had returned home early from his mission and he asked if I would work with him. I said I would. I stopped at the young man’s house on my way home from the stake office and invited him to come to my house. I began that Sunday to meet with him weekly to address his issues. I thought the conflict was over and the church was going to leave me alone.
In February 2013 President Hunt informed me he continued to “be pressured by Apostles” to hold a disciplinary court. He wanted to talk. We met and he had copied and highlighted pages from the Church Handbook of Instructions about when a church court was “mandatory.” We talked about the language. It identified “repeated criticism of the church authorities” [that is a quote from my journal and may not be accurate as to the handbook’s actual language]. I explained that I hadn’t ever criticized them, much less repeatedly done so. I quoted President Packer with approval, and praised President Monson on my blog. The “criticism,” if there was anything of the sort, was quotes taken from diaries, journals, letters and talks given by the leaders themselves. The worst of the comments was made by President Heber J. Grant’s mother, recorded in his journal. If there was a problem, then it was how they talked about themselves. He suggested I put some statement on my blog to help deflect criticism. I asked him to draft something and I would edit it into my words and put it up. He also said the book I’d written was “faith destroying” to some readers. I said I had dozens, perhaps hundreds of letters and emails from those who were strengthened in their faith, who returned to activity, or who were going to leave the church but read the book and returned. I offered to let him read them. He said it was not necessary.
I distinguish between faith in Christ and faith in the church. It is essential to salvation that we have faith in Christ. Nowhere, however, do the scriptures ask or command us to have faith in the church. I believe everything I have written encourages faith in Christ. Whether it “destroys faith” in the church or not is irrelevant.
On February 22, I received an outline for a statement which I edited and put on my blog. He was not at all happy with the way it came out.
By March 5, 2013 I was losing hope this could be worked out. I recorded in my journal: “I do not think I will continue to fight the church’s effort to cast me out. The trends are all so distressing that I do not foresee any future… They do not want me… I do not intend to provoke them, but will not do anything to appease them.”
In May 2013, several bishops and stake presidents offered to call my stake president to defend me. I called President Hunt and asked if that was something he wanted me to initiate. He said he did. After two bishops had called and both reported back to me that the conversations with President Hunt did not go well, I became alarmed. I worried that President Hunt might be gathering information about them, as callers, rather than listening to something which may help my cause. I called the rest of those who had offered to defend me and told them not to call because it was not doing any good.
On May 25, 2013 President Hunt called, he had received further “training” and now believed he must hold a church disciplinary council.
June 2nd President Hunt gave all the members of the high council, along with several high priests in the stake, copies of Passing the Heavenly Gift to get their response to whether this was “faith destroying.”
My home teacher (who is a member of the high council) called me the first week of June to tell me the book was apostate and must be withdrawn or I would be excommunicated.
June 16th there was an email exchange between President Hunt and I where he put several questions to me about the priesthood. I asked to meet with the stake presidency and to be permitted to explain my views.
June 20th I went to the stake offices and, using the whiteboard in the high council room, I spent two hours using the board and the scriptures to explain to the three members of the stake presidency my understanding of the priesthood, its history, and the doctrine as I understand it. I bore my testimony, explained my conversion, and the meeting was filled with truth and light. Two of these brethren had tears in their eyes. They all took notes. It was a wonderful meeting. I told them – from my journal, “I have studied the Gospel intently for 40 years, and found it delicious. I told them I had enjoyed every minute of being a Latter-day Saint and hoped they did not end my membership. But if they did it would not concern me, because I know my standing before God.” I ended by asking them to pray and ask God if I was one of His saints. I knew He would vouch for me if they asked.
July 8, 2013 I met again for three hours with the stake presidency and was told I was in peril if I did not withdraw Passing the Heavenly Gift from publication. They asked when the Lord had visited me. If I was awake. If He had touched me. If angels had visited me. If I tested them. Whether I thought the church’s leaders had priesthood. Whether they held sealing keys. If I realized I was pitting myself against the institution of the church. And that “all 20 people who had read the book” in the stake thought it should be condemned. My journal records: “Essentially either I will put the book out of print or I will be thrown out of the church.” I explained that I never intended to create faith in the church, because nowhere in scriptures does it tell us to have faith in the church. That everything I had written or taught was instead intended to cause faith in Christ. I asked to be shown where anything I had done would undermine faith in Christ. Therefore I rejected the complaint that I undermined faith.
August 22, 2013 I received a summons delivered to my door by two of the stake clerks, including a neighbor who lives on my street. On August 28, 2013 a copy of the summons letter was put on the blog so that anyone who would be concerned about reading anything written by someone under threat of church discipline would be aware of my status. I concluded that I should not hide the truth, and mislead anyone about my status.
In emails between the time of the notice and the time of the court, I confirmed with President Hunt that I would be bringing my family. One of my daughters was not able to come home from college that weekend. She was the only one who would not be attending. All the others would be driving home, some from out-of-state, to be with me during the court.
On September 8th the church disciplinary council was held. My journal has pages of entries from throughout the day. When the time arrived, my family and I went to the stake offices. After an hour of discussion, President Hunt refused to permit my family to witness the court. We all tried to persuade him to let us in. He refused. During the hour spent trying to change his mind, I asserted I was worthy of a temple recommend and he agreed. He said the decision to discipline me was “his alone” to make. In response to that I reminded him that we were interrupted by a phone call from one of the Presidents of the Seventy and he was instructed “to stand down. That he then did ‘stand down.’ And that if he really believed I was worthy of discipline he would never have stood down, but would have acted then.” Therefore, this was not his doing, but the doing of those in the hierarchy. He agreed he had been called, and that he had stood down when told to do so, but that he would be the one responsible for making the decision. I told him the decision had already been made, and not by him.
I reminded him that in emails beforehand I had been clear that my family was coming. I did not want them to be unaware of what happened behind closed doors. There would be rumors that this had to do with something other than the book, and therefore I wanted them to see and hear and witness what happened. He said that was a reasonable concern and he said to everyone of us that “this only has to do with a book.” One of my daughters responded, almost to herself but loud enough we all heard her: “A book! A book! Are you serious?” Later, all of my children said they thought President Hunt “looked sheepish and ashamed” at this remark. Because my family could not attend, we left without knowing if the court would proceed or be reconvened at another date. As we drove home all of my family said they felt sorry for President Hunt. I agreed. I thought he was put on the spot and doing something he very much did not want to do.
September 10th at 10:30 a.m. as my wife and I were driving to Boise, I received a call from President Hunt. With his permission, I put the call on speaker. He told me I had been excommunicated and I would receive a letter informing me of the decision.
I wrote a few posts about this at the time of the events. President Hunt told me he had only one complaint about what I’d written. He thought I should have made it clear that this was his decision to make. Therefore, I’ve included that in this post several times.
It is true that church discipline must be taken at the stake level. However, in my case, NOTHING would have been done without the constant pressure from the hierarchy. Repeatedly the stake president and stake presidency were satisfied. Then the hierarchy would “train” them and the relentless pressure resulted in the outcome the hierarchy demanded.
So when I say the recent press release is a “lie,” it is not to belittle anyone or to merely name-call. If the hierarchy wants to be involved then they should take credit for their behavior. They shouldn’t lie about it.
Both bishops who called to defend me were subsequently interviewed and one of them has been released. Elder Whitney Clayton was responsible for the interview of the bishop who was released. I believe he was also involved with pressuring the stake president in the other case, as well. I am glad I did not have others call President Hunt.
There are two members of the seventy who, following my excommunication, have discussed in private the topic of my excommunication with others. One of these men serves on the Strengthening the Members Committee. The content of those discussions has been passed along to me by friends. It is clear the hierarchy was directly involved and the moving force behind my excommunication. It is also clear that only a stake president can deliver the verdict. The fact that President Hunt was a critical, even necessary participant does not change the fact that the hierarchy had a moving role and overall responsibility for securing my excommunication.
I am not angry with President Hunt and have no animus toward him, the other members of the stake presidency, or the high council. One of the high council is my home teacher and my friend. He is welcome in my home. The facts of my case are plain, and in stating them I am not disparaging anyone.