In the last Post, I made a fleeting reference to "Spiritual Stepford Wives."
Apparently I am showing my age and need to explain the reference.
The Stepford Wives (1975) is a movie based on a book with the following hook:
Something strange is happening in the town of Stepford. Where the men spend their nights doing something secret. And every woman acts like every man's dream of the "perfect" wife. Where a young woman watches the dream become a nightmare.
I don't want to spoil anything for the Millennials, but the gist is that the women of Stepford become docile, submissive specimens for their husbands. And the women turn out to be robots.
Anyway, the very same author wrote Rosemary's Baby, which may be more apropos of my thesis.
Now that we have that out of the way . . . if someone asks us if we're crazy, the answer is, Yes.
We are crazy enough to believe that we can become "one" ― equals, as brothers and sisters and children in Christ. A true family.
And does any of that require a hierarchy?
(That's French for "Hell no!")
(Pardon my French.)
Being crazy goes with the job description for anyone serious about building Zion. Remember the way people reacted when Jesus called himself the Bread of Life? They thought he was crazy bread, too.
The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat?
To the spiritually colorblind, it must sound crazy to speak of a technicolor world.
1. Objection One.
"Objection, your honor! Isn't a family a kind of hierarchy, with the parents in charge of their subservient children?"
I guess the nuclear family with little children is a kind of hierarchy.
But what about after the children grow up?
What is the family dynamic when all the children are adults and have become parents themselves?
For example, I am a middle child of six children. None of us get to dictate how the others live their lives.
My siblings and I no longer have to live the rules we were raised with (i.e., no dating until you're 16; no girlfriends until after your mission; no jumping on the trampoline on Sunday).
Our parents' authority is now uncontrolling, as it should be among adults.
Now, I have amazing parents and they even (from time to time) give good advice! But guess what? As adults, my siblings and I don't have to do anything they say.
So, just taking my own family as an example, there is no hierarchy; no one who gets to rule over anyone; no one that tells everybody when they have to go to bed or wake up.
So how do we function as a family when we are all self-governing? When no one is in charge of the group?
By persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness, and pure knowledge.
The only authority that matters is that which arises from mutual love, which is moral authority.
And guess what? Our family life hasn't fallen into anarchy. It is not chaos at family dinners. It is possible to have loving relationships ― even in a family ― where no one is in charge.
Would You Do Me the Honor?
2. Objection Two.
"Objection, your Honor! Aren't we supposed to honor our father and mother that our days may be long upon the land? Abandoning a hierarchical structure dishonors their place in the family. By analogy, church leaders are the parents of the flock and should be honored."
Yes, Moses told us to honor our parents.
And Jesus told us that:
He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
But the important thing is that a father (head of the family) was once (and always will be) a son himself; and his sons are fathers in their own right.
In other words, we share a dual identity: all fathers are also sons. All sons have the potential to become fathers. And there cannot be hierarchy in a circle.
(What did we think the "Holy Priesthood, after the Order of the Son of God" was all about?)
In the same way, a prophet is not a preferred status when everyone is a prophet. Like childhood and parenthood, we all share in prophethood.
Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!
Notice that he did not say "would God that all of the Lord's [elders] were prophets." This isn't a gender thing. All who belong to the "Lord's people" can be prophets!
A church hierarchy denies the reality that we are all sons and fathers, daughters and mothers, brothers and sisters.
Rather than trying to protect our slice of the pie, we should be seeking to enlarge the pie.
3. Objection Three.
"Objection your Honor! Isn't Christ a King? Isn't He the Sovereign Lord? You can't have a king without a kingdom, and you can't have a kingdom without a hierarchy."
Explain this: Jesus ― who was a King ― refused to be made a king.
We find the account in John chapter 6.
When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone.
Jesus had no desire to play king. He did not want the status that Babylon confers to its children. So He conspicuously avoided being "made a king." After all, his kingdom was not of this world.
Wouldn't it be wise to follow His example, rather than creating a spiritual kingdom where we elevate those with "keys" and require obsequious obedience?
But the important point is that Jesus refused to be made a king so that He might make us into kings and queens.
If Church leaders followed Christ's example, rather than being jealous of their authority and priestly prerogatives, they would spread it like loaves and fishes.
After all, if Jesus (the Father of heaven and earth) found no fault in Abraham being a Father to the faithful, too, why are we so tight fisted with titles?
Since when did we become mean girls terrorizing the lunch room?
I hear you . . . "Part 17, really? Does common consent deserve this kind of attention?"
Ah, come on. Things are just starting to get good!
Strange as it may sound, an accessory-after-the-fact may still be secondarily liable for a crime they did not commit.
At church, Billy pushes the pastor aside and steals Sister Samantha's purse filled with licorice and gold bullion. Brother Tom tries to tackle Billy before he can escape, but Billy kicks him in the neck, crushing Tom's wind pipe that will require reconstructive surgery.
You are there when Billy gets home. As his mother, you love him dearly. He throws you the gold and tells you to hide it before the police arrive. You put the gold in some butcher paper and stuff it into the freezer. When you hear the sirens of the police cars, you yell, "Billy, get out of here!"
The police ask you where Billy is. You answer, "I don't know." Have you seen him? "I won't say." Where's the gold? "Don't ask me."
Are you ― a devoted mother ― guilty (as an accessory after the fact) to felony assault and robbery?
Well, let's look at the legal definition of an accessory:
1. Knowing someone has committed a crime, he or she 2. Assists the criminal 3. With the intent to help the criminal avoid arrest or punishment.
(18 U.S. Code Sec. 3)
When Did We Become Complicit?
The world we were born into was not of our making. We inherited things the way they are.
But as we go through life, does there come a point where we become, ourselves, guilty? Do we reach a time when we stop being pilgrims in a strange land and become proud owners of a beachside condo?
What will it take to cleanse ourselves "from the blood of this wicked generation" (D&C 88:75)? If we go on, business-as-usual, ignoring the Lord's command to live by common consent while upholding the inequality and pride that inhere to hierarchies, can we ever qualify to become a Zion people?
So, if anyone is wondering why in the world we're on Part 17, it is because we do not want to become just another "accessory after the fact." Isn't it time we try things the Lord's way?
And we did magnify our office unto the Lord, taking upon us the responsibility, answering the sins of the people upon our own heads if we did not teach them the word of God with all diligence; wherefore, by laboring with our might their blood might not come upon our garments; otherwise their blood would come upon our garments, and we would not be found spotless at the last day.
For those who are not faint of heart, here we go: 1. The Lord told us, "And all things shall be done by common consent in the church" (D&C 26:2).
2. By definition, "common" means "a lack of privilege or special status; something shared by all members of a group."
3.Oddly, we seem to be going decidedly in the opposite direction, which has created some big problems for us:
(a) Are we divided by status? (b) Is the authority of leaders treated above that of the Holy Ghost's? (c) Has obedience to leaders substituted for the law of the gospel (which is to love one another)?
4. Are there any covenants made between leaders and lay members? Or just between believers, and between believers and God?
5. In choosing authoritarianism over common consent, have we forfeited spiritual initiative for lifeless conformity by creating a culture of "strongmen?"
6. Since Zion cannot be established without equality, does our hierarchy make building Zion impossible? Until we learn to live by common consent, "Zion cannot be built up unless it is by the principles of the law of the celestial kingdom" (D&C 105:5).
7. Are we practicing a form of spiritual communism (in which a religious ruling class dominates the body of Christ), causing us to quench the Spirit? What is the proper role for little-case-"s" shepherds when we already have a big-case-"S" Shepherd to follow? We all have the authority and gift of the Holy Ghost ― direct communication with a member of the Godhead!
8.Have "keys" conquered conscience ― resulting in a spiritual life that embraces secrecy, lying, double standards, prideful counsel, preferential treatment, control, priestcraft and unrighteous dominion . . . all of which, for some reason, we want to call good ?!!
9. How can we say we're on the "Covenant Path" when the laws of sacrifice, the gospel, and consecration can only be walked by living common consent? Is it possible we have strayed from the straight and narrow path because we are not living as equals?
10. Sadly, organized religions learned long ago how to become spiritual pirates, or Gaddianton Robbers wearing sheep's clothing, seeking for power, gain, and glory. Will a man rob God? Modern Giddianhis continue to use the profitable name of God in vain. Priestcraft is big business. What can we do to find the "pure religion" in all of this?
11. Rather than using priesthood keys and authority to make us "one" and "equal," have we instead used the priesthood to create a spiritual monarchy that has usurped the Seat of Christ? I mean, why do we need our very own line of succession as though we were British Royalty?
12. What does the current practice of sustaining leaders have to do with common consent, if anything? It appears it is either (1) unnecessary or (2) has brought the entire church under gross condemnation as practiced today (see, Part 10 for an in-depth discussion).
13. Monopolies are proven to stifle innovation and creativity. Spiritual monopolies, like Rome, tend to treat its members as objects rather than equals. What is the point of individual spiritual literacy if we are supposed to stick to what the leaders say? What is the point of spiritual intelligence if we are supposed to depend on leaders to tell us right from wrong rather than the light of Christ? What is the point of belonging to a group that does not require (or want) our input?
14.If the Church is on fire, whose responsibility is it to put out the flames? Like Captain Moroni, how are we supposed to "pull down power?" How are we supposed to cleanse "the inward vessel" of the Church? How are we supposed to hold leaders accountable to maintain "a true spirit of freedom?"
15. Finally, how can we create a more inclusive community in the Church through common consent, since members who are afraid to express their sincere beliefs for fear of reprisal, discipline, or even excommunication tend to lose their authentic selves and become Spiritual Stepford Wives . . .
. . . now, don't get me started on polygamy.
So You Think You Can Cast Out?
Would Samuel the Lamanite, if he were to appear in General Conference today, fare any better among us than he did among the Nephites? I mean, how long do you think it would take before Samuel's video feed goes blank?
** We are experiencing technical difficulties. The program will resume once its content contains the appropriate amount of flattery.
I am serious. I want to ask whether we can apply Samuel the Lamanite's words to the church today? Can we picture him standing on the wall in Salt Lake, crying:
Ye say: If our days had been in the days of our fathers of old, we would not have slain the prophets; we would not have stoned them, and cast them out.
Behold ye are worse than they; for as the Lord liveth, if a prophet come among you and declareth unto you the word of the Lord, which testifieth of your sins and iniquities, ye are angry with him, and cast him out and seek all manner of ways to destroy him; yea, you will say that he is a false prophet, and that he is a sinner, and of the devil, because he testifieth that your deeds are evil.
Hmm. Well, this ain't good news, folks. Because aren't we guilty of doing this? Calling people who speak God's truth as "apostates?"
Have we cast them out for telling us about our iniquities?
In the Church Handbook it defines "apostasy" as "repeatedly acting in clear and deliberate public opposition to the Church, its doctrine, its policies, or its leaders." (Handbook, 18.104.22.168)
I am concerned the Handbook's definition would improperly label men like Samuel the Lamanite, Abinadi and Ezekiel as "apostates." (And for heaven sakes, where is the scriptural justification for censoring truth when we claim to follow Jesus who IS the truth?)
And tell me who is going to call those in authority to repent if we reject the people sent by the Lord to do the job, like Amos? Remember how the leaders reacted to him? The priest Amaziah wanted to silence him and pled with King Jeroboam to get rid of him. Amaziah cast Amos out of the chapel and court.
And what was Amos's response? He just kept preaching, Amaziah-be-damned.
I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet's son; but I was an herdman, and a gatherer of sycomore fruit:
And the Lord took me as I followed the flock, and the Lord said unto me, Go, prophesy unto my people Israel.
There are many modern day Amoses whom we have excommunicated for publicly fulfilling their divine commission (see Part 16 for just a few of them). Can you believe it! Does that seem backward?
Was it backwards when the Jewish leaders cast Jesus out of their synagogues?
Why do we persecute those who are sent by God to deliver a message of repentance? Is it time we update the Doctrine and Covenants to conform to the Church Handbook:
Say nothing but repentance unto this generation [except say nothing publicly about those who claim authority and who sit in the chief seats― for they are of the ninety and nine which need no repentance].
(D&C 11:9; Luke 15:7)
Can someone explain to me why we label people "false prophets" and "sinners" and "apostates" ― exactly as Samuel said ― when they're just doing what the Lord asked them to do?
But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues.
Those who participate in casting out people whom the Lord has sent, and who participate in the Strengthening the Church Members Committee, secretly seeking to dig a pit for their neighbor, are imbibing the same spirit as gripped the Jews in Jesus's day when they cried out:
A Public Service Announcement
Can common consent survive if people are not able to "publicly" express themselves and communicate the truth that burns like fire in their bones?
Here's the Readers Digest version of D&C 42:88-93:
If someone offends you privately, then attempt to resolve it privately;
If someone offends you openly, then deal with it publicly;
If someone offends in secret, rebuke them in secret;
If someone offends openly, rebuke them openly.
And thus shall yet conduct in all things.
(D&C 42:88-93, condensed)
Okay, so this is easy. Since the policies and practices of the church are public . . . they must be addressed publicly, right?
Then why are we muzzling those whom God has sent to call us to repent?
And while we're on the topic, how does calling attention to improper policies, incorrect doctrine, and unloving practices mean a person is "opposed" to the Church?
It shows the highest form of love for the Church when we declare the glad tidings of Christ's gospel ― which invariably includes shining a light on our religious traditions that fall short of His standard.
Story Idea for a Horror Film
A weird older couple (I am thinking . . . let's cast Kevin Bacon and Susan Sarandon) hire a young gardener to work around their orchard (how about Zendaya?).
"You can spray around the fruits and vegetables for insects; you can weed around the fence posts; but do not touch the trees," the couple say, in a whispery tone.
Zendaya looks over at the apple and plum trees, and the camera zooms in on the perplexed expression on her face.
"Umm. You sure?" she asks, wondering what crazy business the couple has going on. "Cause those trees need help, you know? They are filled with rot."
Kevin Bacon twists his face in sudden anger. "Don't say anything about that! That is none of your concern. Calling out the rot in the trees? What rot? There's no rot. You must be a hater!"
"I actually would like to help the trees so they produce some fruit, you know," Zendaya shrugs.
Susan Sarandon picks up an orchard twig and begins to hit Zendaya with it. "Enough with you and your criticism!" she cries, chasing Zendaya away.
The camera lingers on the rotting trees and begins to fade to black.
"I'm not criticizing anything or anyone," Zendaya weeps, scratches all over her face from Susan's stick. "I just pointed out the obvious fact that the trees have rot."
** Fini **
Executive credit: Teamsters and the Marketing Committee at Deseret Book.
(I don't know. Maybe it'll be an Indie film that will premiere at Sundance.)
Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.
Speaking Ill of the Lord's Anointed
Hold them horses. We've got to address the elephant in the room.
Someone out there may be thinking, "Tim, buddy, isn't it a sin to speak ill of the Lord's anointed?"
I am so glad you asked!
1. No Double Standard for Speaking Truth.
I wish we would stop carving out special privileges for people of rank and status.
What I am interested in are the principles of godliness that apply to everyone. Otherwise, there's a good chance we are dealing with malleable manmade rules (which are usually warped in favor of those with money and status).
a. We are all going to be judged for the words we speak (Alma 12:14).
b. Therefore, we are expected to speak only the truth, and to not lie. (2 Nephi 9:34).
c. Not only must we speak the truth, we must also "speak the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15).
d. The Gold Standard for speaking the truth, and only the truth, in love, was Christ (D&C 84:45).
e. We can discern when someone is speaking the truth when they speak as moved upon by the Holy Ghost.
We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:
Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.
For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
(2 Peter 1:19-21)
f. All men and women are able to be moved upon by the Holy Ghost, and to speak the will of God ― not just the leaders.
And whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation.
Behold, this is the promise of the Lord unto you, O ye my servants.
g. There is no benefit in following counsel that does not meet the standard quoted above. In other words, we should heed only those words that are
(1) truthful; (2) loving; and (3) given by the Holy Ghost.
2. Speaking ill of anyone falsely is evil.
So it is NOT okay to speak ill of the Lord's anointed falsely (just like it would be a sin to speak falsely of anyone, period).
Was it a sin to tell the tale of the prophet Balaam's treachery?
No, because it was true.
Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
There's no "free pass" leaders get against having the truth spoken about them.
I mean, if Jesus said that all manner of blasphemy against Him would be forgiven (Matthew 12:31), how could we think that speaking truthfully about imperfect mortal leaders whom we honor could be wrong?
Remember, a leader who suppresses the truth is not of God, but is a tyrant.
3. What does D&C 121 say about all of this?
I suppose it's time we go right to the Source.
Cursed are all those that shall lift up the heel against mine anointed, saith the Lord, and cry they have sinned when they have not sinned before me, saith the Lord, but have done that which was meet in mine eyes, which I commanded them.
And those who swear falsely against my servants, that they might bring them into bondage and death --
Wo unto them, because they have offended my little ones.
(D&C 121:16, 18-19)
So it is clear the issue is not criticizing leadership; the problem is falsely accusing them of sins.
This has nothing to do with advocating for better policies and practices in the Church.
For example, everyone with an ounce of discernment knew that the 2015 policy excluding children of gay parents was not of God. It was an error that was subsequently corrected. So those who spoke out against the policy were showing loyalty to the Church by speaking the truth about the policy.
Personally, I do not know any of the Brethren. Over the years I've met several of them and have enjoyed our interaction, but I am not pen pals with any of them (if anyone running a "clipping service" is reading this, please DM me if they're interested). I don't have their cell phone numbers. I don't know the names of their children.
But I love them. I love what they could do if we unshackled ourselves from the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches.
It should be no surprise, then, that I can't ― and wouldn't ― accuse any of them of transgression. I am not gonna judge anybody ("judge not lest ye be judged"). I can say that none of the Brethren have ever offended me, either privately or publicly.
But I pray for them. I pray someday we will all work together to change Church policies and practices that are contrary to the gospel of Christ, which is His celestial law of love.
You'll notice I rarely speak about specific issues in this blog because we cannot fix the symptoms until we cure the disease. Everything I have written has been to first address the structural and institutional impediments that prevent us from establishing Zion (everyone say it together: "hierarchy").
Until we are equal the other stuff can't be fixed.
The disease ― the rot ― that has sickened the tree is turning the priesthood into an instrument of status rather than condescension; using priestcraft to accumulate the riches and praise of this world rather than making the hard decisions required by love.
Prophets don't need pensions because they don't live long enough to collect.
For those who have been reading my blog, it will come as no surprise that I am not a real political person. Sure, I have political opinions, but I care more about ideas than about political parties.
Why? Because while political parties disagree over policy and ideology, in practice they use the same tools to accomplish their desires. Therefore, the end result will not be distinguishable regardless of who's in charge because the means they employ are the same. They can argue between cremation vs. burial: but at the end of the day we're still arguing over the same corpse.
Personally, I do not believe our problems will be solved through political processes. I do not think government will be the means to bring about Zion.
We must search elsewhere for solutions as the world marches toward Cumorah.
Destruction shall come upon all those workers of darkness, according to the power of God, when they are fully ripe; therefore I desire that this people might not be destroyed.
Is Cancel Culture a Sign of "Ripening?"
I wonder if one of the "signs of the times" is the increased hostility in our civil discourse, which has recently taken a turn for the worse. We hear a lot about "cancel culture" these days.
Can common consent co-exist with cancel culture?
The idea of cancel culture is, as I understand it, that if someone (whether alive or dead) has (1) said, (2) supported, or (3) done anything that is offensive to modern sensibilities, regardless of how long ago it occurred, then that person is "fair game" to be targeted to lose their job, their place at the table, their voice . . . they become anathema.
But where does all this hostility come from? What is the cause of this societal shunning?
At that day the devil shall rage in the hearts of the children of men, and stir them up to anger.
(2 Nephi 28:20)
Is it at all shocking that in a day when the love of mankind grows cold, we are witnessing the fulfilment of Nephi's prophecy?
And they that make a man an offender for a word, and lay a snare for him that reproveth in the gate, and turn aside the just for a thing of naught.
(2 Nephi 27:32)
Common consent relies upon love and persuasion to bring unity.
But where is the love in cancel culture?
Common consent listens and seeks to understand others' viewpoints, drawing strength from diversity.
But where is the tolerance in cancel culture?
Common consent relies upon mercy and forgiveness because we are all imperfect.
But where is the chance to repent in cancel culture?
Common consent respects the innate human dignity of all people.
But where is the dignity in cancelling people?
Fascism by Another Name
What's in a name? That which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet.
(Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet)
Is cancel culture just another mask worn by Fascism?
According to Wikipedia, Fascism is a form of authoritarianism characterized by:
 dictatorial power;  forcible suppression of opposition; and  strong regimentation of society.
On the other hand, as the Disciple Mormon taught:
It was strictly contrary to the commands of God that there should be a law which should bring men on to unequal grounds.
There was no law against a man’s belief.
(Alma 30:7, 11)
The underlying problem is when we try to silence dissent and to suppress the expression of others' beliefs.
When You Wish Upon a Star
Here are some examples of "cancel culture" in just the past couple of weeks:
1. School district "cancelling" Dr. Seuss for "racial undertones."
6.Elder George P. Lee of the Seventy was excommunicated for discussing racism in the LDS hierarchy and for his advocacy of Native Americans. He voiced his concerns to the Twelve Apostles and First Presidency, which I have excerpted here:
Dear Brethren, after consulting with the Lord and with him guiding my thoughts and hand, may I please speak with you in the spirit of love via this letter, I hope and pray that you will listen with your heart and with the spirit.
Brethren, I feel a deep compassion for you and a grave concern for you...for the following reasons:
You are trying to discredit or downplay the role of Lamanites in these last days and downplay their role and importance in the building of the New Jerusalem.
Pride, arrogance and unrighteous dominion and control which encourages priesthood abuse, induces fear and produces forced obedience.
Love of power, status, position which creates a sense of worship for those in control and power.
Love of Money. You told me not to talk about poor nor pray for them. The well-to-do seem to get all the important assignments and callings...while neglecting the poor who need our help the most.
I have heard one or more of you declare that you can change anything Jesus has said or taught.
I thought some of you were my friends but I guess not because when the going got tough for me you ran from me and would have nothing to do with me, to protect your own position and selfish interests.
Why do you continue to ridicule me for my spiritual gifts?... You have spiritual gifts too but you don't see me ridiculing you for your special talents and gifts.
We need to be one. If we are not we are not worthy to be his disciples. We need to get our act together before the spirit of the Lord is grieved and before the Lord says amen to our priesthood and authority as he did the Nephites.
("The Lee Letters," Sunstone Magazine, August 1989, accessed at https://sunstonemagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/sbi/issues/072.pdf)
For these beliefs, Elder Lee was excommunicated on September 1, 1989.
Cancelling Scholars Since 1993 7. Lavina Fielding Anderson was one of the "September Six" excommunicated in 1993 after publishing an article in Dialogue Magazine that exposed the abusive practices of the "Strengthening Church Members Committee."
Lavina is one of the kindest people I know, having helped me years ago edit a project I was working on. She recently published an amazing account of her experiences, Mercy Without End: Toward a More Inclusive Church (2020).
Lavina's article, "The LDS Intellectual Community and Church Leadership," published in 1993, is a must-read for anyone who desires to understand the tension between authority and conscience, obedience and love (see, link, below).
In her article, she states that "the pattern of ecclesiastical intervention, directiveness, and oppression has intensified."
I would add my opinion that, since the time her article was written almost 30 years ago, things have improved somewhat for members thanks to the internet and online social networks, but the institutional response to these trends has only proven her point.
14 August 1992.
Peggy Fletcher Stack's Salt Lake Tribune article reporting the First Presidency statement begins: "Mormon Church leaders say they have a scriptural mandate to keep secret files on outspoken members." Ross Peterson is quoted as saying that the statement "is 'stretching the scriptural justification. Comparing Sunstone and Dialogue folks to people who were shooting Mormons in 1839 Missouri is unfair.'"
He described his own "grill[ing]" by his area presidency who "continually drew photocopied items out of a file and asked him about things he had written decades ago. The file was sitting on the churchmen's desk, but Mr. Peterson was not allowed to see its contents."
"Files are a strange carryover from a paranoia that resembles McCarthyism," says Peterson.
The article also cites unnamed "LDS Church employees" who tell the Tribune that William O. Nelson "shares President Benson's John Birch Society politics" and that "the church has kept files on outspoken members for decades. In the late 1970s a church librarian, Tom Truitt, told researchers in the LDS historical department that he was 'on a special assignment from the brethren' to read all LDS historical articles, underline 'objectionable parts' and send them on to the 'brethren.' His clipping system was influential in having the one-volume history of the LDS church, Story of the Latter-day Saints, removed from the shelves at Deseret Book stores and dropped from the reading list at LDS institutes."
Linda Newell points out, "It's one thing to know who your enemies are. But it's quite another thing to label as an enemy church members who love the church, who work in the church, who pay their tithing, who go to the temple, and who only want to help the church."
16 September 1992.
Elders James E. Faust and Russell M. Nelson, in response to my August letter requesting to see my file, respond that they regard the files not "as secret but confidential." My second letter acknowledges the distinction and again requests to see it. As of mid-January 1993, there has been no response.
I am dismayed when the organization that teaches me to honor the truth and to act with integrity seems to violate those very principles in its behavior.
I am bewildered and grieved when my church talks honorably from one script and acts ignobly from another. Some of the incidents I have mentioned make me cry out with James: "My brethren, these things ought not so to be" (James 3:10).
(Lavina Fielding Anderson, "The LDS Intellectual Community and Church Leadership: A Contemporary Chronology," Dialogue, Spring 1993, accessed at https://www.dialoguejournal.com/wp-content/uploads/sbi/articles/Dialogue_V26N01_23.pdf)
For these beliefs, Lavina Fielding Anderson was excommunicated in September 1993.
"A-posta-sy" al dente
So what's the big deal? Shouldn't we be able to kick critics to the curb? After all, isn't it our moral duty to defend the Church?
Well, nuking our critics is NOT defending the Church ― it is seriously injuring the Church when we deny the fundamental freedoms Christ pledged with His blood, including:
* Integrity of belief * Unity from love * Authentic expression * Sanctity of conscience
Notice that Elder Lee and Lavina Fielding Smith were excommunicated for expressing their sincere beliefs. Since when did that become a "sin?" Since when did we label people expressing their honest feelings as "apostates?"
Who Sustains Who?
Pretend something like this happened:
A member of the bishopric calls us to serve as the Cub Scout Den Leader. We go to the Primary President and share our vision for the cub scout program, and all of the fun activities we are planning.
She says, 'Oh, you can't do that.'
We ask 'why not?' and she says she will talk to the bishop to see what he thinks [this is the equivalent of "let-me-talk-to-my-manager and see if I can swing this sweet deal for you . . . oh, sorry, he says this is the last model in stock."]
The Primary President never gets back to us for several weeks. Finally, we call her. "Oh, I forgot. I'll ask him." She texts us back, "The bishopric said you can't do that."
Primary President: "It is not in the budget and we've never done it before."
"Okay," we say, "Well, actually we do have it in the Cub Scout budget, so that's not a problem. Why does it matter if we've never done it before?"
"You can't do it, sorry."
We respond: "But I was called to this calling. The bishop chose meto help these boys. I have prayed and fasted and felt the Holy Ghost inspire me with these ideas. Why won't you sustain me in my calling?"
Primary President: "You have to sustain our decision because we were called to be the leaders, not you, which means God wants us to be in charge and call the shots. We have the final word. You are supposed to echo what we say, and do what we tell you to do. If you can't do your calling as instructed, then we'll release you."
Cancelling Prophets Since 1981
8. Eugene England, an English professor at Brigham Young University, drew the ire of Elder Bruce R. McConkie for his paper called, "The Perfection and Progression of God: Two Spheres of Existence and Two Modes of Discourse."
Well, Elder McConkie wrote a letter to Brother England, and what a letter it was! Here are some excerpts from Elder McConkie's response to Eugene England, dated February 19, 1981 (see, link below).
Bruce R. McConkie Letter excerpts:
Now may I say something for your guidance and enlightenment. If what I am about to say should be taken out of context and published in Dialogue or elsewhere, it would give an entirely erroneous impression and would not properly present the facts.
Nonetheless, as Joseph Smith so pointedly taught, a prophet is not always a prophet, only when he is acting as such. Prophets are men and they make mistakes. Sometimes they err in doctrine. . . . Sometimes a prophet gives personal views which are not endorsed and approved by the Lord.
Yes, President [Brigham] Young did teach that Adam was the father of our spirits, and all the related things that the cultists ascribe to him. This, however, is not true. He expressed views that are out of harmony with the gospel. . . . What [Brigham Young] did is not a pattern for any of us. If we choose to believe and teach the false portions of his doctrines, we are making an election that will damn us.
Wise gospel students do not build their philosophies of life on quotations of individuals, even though those quotations come from presidents of the Church.
It is not your province to set in order the Church or to determine what its doctrines shall be. . . . This means, among other things, that it is my province to teach to the Church what the doctrine is. It is your province to echo what I say or to remain silent. You do not have a divine commission to correct me or any of the Brethren. . . . If I lead the Church astray, that is my responsibility.
If [the heads of the Church] err then be silent on the point and leave the event in the hands of the Lord.
Perhaps I should tell you what one of the very astute and alert General Authorities said to me when I chanced to mention to him the subject of your letter to me. He said: "Oh dear, haven't we rescued him enough times already?"
(Bruce R. McConkie to Eugene England, accessed at http://www.eugeneengland.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/BRM-to-EE-Feb-80-Combined.pdf)
Well, I guess it is safe to say that Elder McConkie wasn't a big fan of common consent.
And viola! Eugene England was effectively "cancelled" for his beliefs.
Shall We Go On?
Incredibly, the fight for freedom of belief is ongoing in the Church (whatever happened to Article of Faith 11? Did I miss the Press Release saying we had repealed it?).
Shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, brethren; and on, on to the victory!
Let your hearts rejoice, and be exceedingly glad. Let the earth break forth into singing. Let the dead speak forth anthems of eternal praise to the King Immanuel, who hath ordained, before the world was, that which would enable us to redeem them out of their prison; for the prisoners shall go free.
Isn't it alarming that the Church cancels people for expressing their sincere beliefs?
So we're not talking about people who have sinned; these are regular bloggers, podcasters, scholars . . . just normal members of the Church . . . like Rock Waterman, Paul Toscano, Rob Smith, Randy Bott, John Dehlin . . . and on and on and on and on.
So next time you hear about "cancel culture," remember, we've been perfecting cancel culture as part of our religion for a long time.