Thursday, October 4, 2012
When Will The Mormon Church Stop Labeling Historical Fact As "Anti-Mormon"?
A couple weeks ago, I reported on the pending excommunication of David Twede, managing editor of the website MormonThink. I am happy to say that his excommunication hearing for September 30th was postponed, although authorities reserve the right to re-schedule the hearing for a later date.
As with most of these situations, the details that emerged added a further complexity to the story. David was new to his role as managing editor; the previous editor, one of the founders of the site, was forced last month to resign his church membership under threat of pending excommunication. In support of David, this editor has decided to share his story on MormonThink. In his statement, he discloses a letter he wrote to the local stake president, stating his intention to resign rather than face excommunication. In this letter, he makes the following point
“You said that MT (MormonThink) is “anti-Mormon, anti-Joseph Smith and anti-LDS Leadership”. However, you never said it wasn’t true. The majority of the source material comes from the Church itself, so how can publishing true, historical facts be considered anti-Mormon?”
The official reasons for David’s excommunication hearing are murky. The letter that was delivered to David cite apostasy as the reason for his pending church court trial. David describes the interrogation by local leaders to be concerning articles he published between the dates of September 11th and 15th. One of these articles was a piece about Romney’s faith. Although Romney was never mentioned in the meeting between David Twede and local ecclesiastical leaders, the leader did state “I’m not a political man…”, indicative of the idea that the unspoken issue is likely connected to David Twede’s commentary on Romney’s faith. The reason cited for David’s excommunication was David’s e-mail to another member in the ward, where he provided links to Mormon history, one concerning the controversial subject of the Book of Abraham. However, although this was cited as a reason for disciplinary action, it should be noted that the link that David provided another member was written by the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research (FAIR). The person who identified David Twede and forwarded David's writing to Church headquarters was Scott Gordon, president of FAIR.
I have been watching this situation unfold, from David’s first post on September 11th detailing his experience at church; to his post labeled “The Hammer of Laban”, where he indicated he was facing an unidentified disciplinary action; to the removal of his personal blog; to the news discussed on ex-Mormon forums of his pending excommunication hearing; to the media coverage of the situation; to the post-ponement of the hearing.
Last month, I had a conversation with my mother about my reservations concerning the actions of church leaders. When I cited the September Six - and explained who they are – as a reason for my reservations, my mother told me that I couldn’t hold past actions against Church leaders. But here we are, twenty years after the September Six, and once again Mormon authorities seem quick to punish any members whose actions don’t conform to the standard script, provided that this punishment doesn’t lead to bad PR. Once again, the authorities seem loathe to confront the murky history of Mormonism.
MormonThink is a valuable resource, as the website provides information about Mormonism that is not discussed in church. There are so many aspects to Mormonism that I only learned about after leaving – their link with Freemasonry, the fact of Joseph’s multiple wives, the multiple versions of the First Vision. There are also many aspects of Mormon history that Mormon authorities downplay or ignore – the historical reasons for the priesthood ban on blacks, the teachings on blacks by previous authorities, the supposed translation of the Book of Abraham. MormonThink strives to discuss all of these issues. These are all issues that Mormons need to know; the decision to support a religious institution is one that should be made with full knowledge.
For now, the David Twede story is closed. The true test will come after the public eye is off the actions of Mormon authorities. When that happens, what will their actions reflect? Will the authorities continue to punish anyone that does not stick to the faith-promoting script? Or will they confront their history – all of it – in a manner that leads to a more tolerant, more human religion?
When will the Mormon Church stop labeling historical fact as anti-Mormon?