The other day I posted the astonishing account of the harassment a faithful Mormon couple received at the hands of LDS church leaders in response to a letter to the editor the husband had written to the Salt Lake Tribune. In that letter, he expressed his displeasure at the termination of a BYU professor for publishing an opinion piece in support of gay marriage and opposing the LDS church's involvement in efforts to pass federal legislation on the matter. One commenter here questioned the abbreviated version of the story written by the wife, and originally posted at postmormon.org. The husband has since posted a more complete account at the postmormon site. I find the story credible, and post it here so you can form your own opinion. What follows is the story told in his own words:
This is an account of the events leading up to, and my discipline following, an expression of principled dissent to the LDS Church’s political campaign to limit the rights of homosexually oriented citizens of the United States. I have written the account anonymously for a number of reasons, including the desire to protect the privacy of many of the individuals involved. Although it is an anonymous account I welcome correspondence and reactions via email at <>TabernacleDissent@hotmail.com
Growing Up in the Heart of Zion
I grew up just a ten minute walk from the headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. My father was a Jewish convert from New York City and my mother descended from Utah pioneers. Both of them attended BYU and served full time Missions.
When I was a boy my father was head of maintenance at the LDS Church’s Vault in Little Cottonwood Canyon. It was a job both he and I loved. I remember going to work with him occasionally on Saturdays to finish up some job or use the shop there to make an extra flashy pinewood derby car. I thought my Dad had the neatest job in the world.
When I was seven my father was falsely accused of stealing documents from the vault and selling them to enemies of the Church. The accusations were baseless, and were immediately disproved, but he was investigated for months. He was told that the Quorum of Twelve Apostles had ordered the investigation. He was threatened with immediate termination and excommunication if he revealed the nature of the charges to anyone, including his wife or bishop. Sadly, those conducting the investigation were not so silent. Rumors quickly spread that my father was an apostate and was going to be excommunicated.
My father eventually sought help from his bishop and also from the General Authority in charge of his department. That General Authority told him that he had been forbidden to speak with him. After months of struggle my father was eventually given a hearing before President Tanner in which he was cleared of all charges and promised there would be no further investigation or reprisals. Sadly this was not the case. My father was eventually forced from his employment with the Church by the same men who had baselessly accused him. Because he did not want to bring embarrassment to the Church he never insisted on a public apology so there was no official record of what had happened. Finding himself unable to resolve the matter privately he eventually gave up seeking for a resolution.
Despite the pain of these events I grew up attending church weekly and accepted a mission call to serve in the Germany, Dresden Mission. Upon returning home I determined to study music composition and performance at the University of Utah. I was also an avid student at the LDS institute. I took all the classes required in order to become a Seminary teacher and for a long time this was my career goal.
My wife and I have been members of the Orchestra at Temple Square since its inception in 1999. At the time we were both just finishing degrees in music. She was getting a masters degree in performance, and I was getting a bachelor of music composition degree. We were thrilled with the opportunity to play in a professional quality orchestra devoted to bringing the spirit of God into the minds and hearts of all who heard us.
Playing in the orchestra was no small sacrifice, especially for a husband and wife. Much of our income at the time came from lessons and gigs. In order to meet the orchestra schedule we often had to give up some of these and make do with a little less. Once we had children (we had our first in 1999 and now have three) we discovered that we used up all our babysitting time in order to play in the orchestra. Rather than go out on dates, we went to play.
A New Career
In 2002 I decided to return to school and pursue a graduate degree in social work. In my first year of studies it became obvious to me that at some point I would have a client who was homosexual and that I needed to decide how I was going to deal with that as a faithful member of the Church. Accordingly I read a great deal on the subject. However, the more I read, the more concerned I became. It seemed to me that the way the Church had typically handled this issue was harmful rather than helpful. I assumed this was due primarily to ignorance and not malice; as society has not been particularly kind on this issue either.
My first practicum site was a residential adolescent treatment facility. Clients in the facility were usually admitted only if they were in severe danger of harming themselves. I was surprised to find that a large percentage of the clients there were struggling with issues of sexual orientation. The issue of how homosexual orientation is handled by the LDS Church has continued to bother me as I have gone on to become a fully licensed Clinical Social Worker. For those who wish to acquaint themselves with the issues a homosexual member of the LDS Church faces I suggest reading the book "Peculiar People: Mormons and Same-Sex Orientation" or looking at the resources offered on these websites: http://www.ldsresources.info/professionals/bradshaw.shtml or <>http://www.affirmation.org
I was very disheartened when the letter from the First Presidency urging us to write congress in support of the Federal Marriage Amendment was read from the pulpit. I have watched in the past few years with growing alarm as the LDS Church encouraged and funded laws opposing the rights of homosexual couples to define their own families. In specifically endorsing a piece of national legislation I felt that the leadership of my church had stepped far beyond the boundaries of what was appropriate.
I was also appalled at the way in which a successful and popular BYU professor (Jeffrey Nielson) was summarily dismissed for speaking his mind concerning this matter so in June 2006 I wrote several letters opposing the Federal Marriage Amendment and the dismissal of Jeffrey Nielson. The full text of these letters can be found at the conclusion of this document.
The Church’s Response
A response was not long in coming. I received a call from the Administrative Manager of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir asking if he and the Choir President could meet with me. They were to be in Provo that week on business and asked if we could meet at a local restaurant to discuss my concerns.
I was told that the Brethren (The First Presidency) were concerned about my letters and felt that perhaps an "enemy" had infiltrated the orchestra. The Administrative Manager knew my wife and I fairly well (we have been in the Orchestra at Temple Square since its inception) and said he had assured them that we were good people. Nevertheless Brother Watson (the assistant to the First Presidency who was assigned to handle the issue) had wanted to find out what was going on. They looked at my records and discovered that I had a new bishop. Fearing that he might not know me very well they decided to have the Choir President and Administrative Manager talk to me. Actually I knew my new Bishop quite well, and better than the old one. I later learned that the Choir President had called my Bishop to alert him to the presence of the letters before they ever set up the meeting with me.
I was also informed that the present administration (which I understood to mean President Hinckley) was marvelously forgiving to repentant people and that they had personally seen many things be forgiven that they thought would have cost someone their calling or job.
I was told that writing such letters was not a good idea and "looked like rebellion." The Administrative Manager said this sort of thing would cause me to be placed under "scrutiny." They spent some time asking me why I would write this and I spent the better part of an hour describing my background as a therapist and my very negative impression of the therapy for same gender attraction provided at LDS Family Services (I worked there as an intern).
It seemed to me that a great deal of the time they were looking for how far astray I was but I do give them credit for listening to my motivations. The Choir President appeared very upset and had the Administrative Manager do most of the talking. The Administrative Manager asked why I chose to write to newspapers instead of working through the Church. I explained that there did not seem to be any specific office or person to address my concerns to within the Church. I was informed that the Tribune was viewed as an "enemy" of the Church and that by publishing a letter critical of the leadership of the Church in the paper I had appeared to declare myself an enemy. I explained that I did not feel that I was an enemy and that was not my motivation. I merely wished to speak out about public injustices that were happening within the Church.
The Administrative Manager said he would return and report that I had not intended the letters to come across as attacks on the Church and that I was really a very sensitive person who was concerned about the issue. The Choir President still seemed very angry and when asked about this said he was thinking about an apostate grandson (this didn’t seem to me to be a very good sign). I was also told at this meeting that I was not to play with the Orchestra until this was resolved and that there was a potential that my membership could be in danger, particularly if I did not change course. I asked what I should do to resolve this and was not given a concrete answer. They were to report to the First Presidency and then proceed from there. The Administrative Manager promised to find out who I should address my concerns to in the future so that I could work on this issue within the Church rather than out in public. I was later informed by him that there were officials in the Church who dealt with this issue (I was not given names) and that they were aware of my concerns and did not need my input.
In parting the President of the Choir offered me his personal card and pointed out that it had his personal number with a direct line to his office on it that I could call should I want to talk.
Waiting and Wondering
I waited for a week or so for word on what had been decided. While I waited I sent a couple of emails to the two people who had interviewed me clarifying certain points of our conversation and expressing great anxiety about how to resolve this so I could resume playing. I offered to have them proofread any future letters of this nature, and offered to resign should I ever find it necessary to use the name of the Orchestra in such a letter again. I also expressed that I was extremely anxious about my membership status.
After getting no response by email or phone I decided to call the Administrative Manager and ask what had happened. He informed me that they had reported and that Brother Watson had told him "We do not stifle member’s voices" and that I did not need to worry that a church court would be held. He did however indicate that I could not yet resume playing and that I needed to wait until the matter was resolved. I asked what that entailed and he told me that my next phone call would be from the President of the Choir and that I would need to discuss that with him. He was not available at the time.
After another week of anxious waiting and a couple more emails asking for clarification I finally decided to use the number on the card and call the Choir President to talk to him about it directly. I asked him what I was to do to resolve this matter. He responded by telling me that "this conversation will now end."
Thinking I was going to be hung up on I quickly expressed that I was very confused about how I was supposed to fix this and asked why he wouldn’t talk to me. He responded by asking if I had been to talk to my Bishop yet. I replied that I was not aware that I was supposed to talk to my Bishop. He sounded flustered and had me hold while he put the Administrative Manager on the line with us. The Administrative Manager did most of the talking. He told me that it was a problem that I had chosen to oppose the brethren. Then he said he would be blunt and stated that "we have a word for opposing the brethren and that word is apostasy."
I indicated that I was confused about the information I had gotten. On the one hand it seemed as if Brother Watson, although not pleased had indicated that I was free to express my views on this matter, and on the other I was being told by the Administrative Manager that I was an apostate. The Administrative Manager sounded very angry that I suggested he had called me an apostate and said "if you are going to twist my words I am not going to be honest with you and try to help you."
I was very upset but politely thanked them for their time and hung up. In discussing this with my wife she suggested that maybe I had misunderstood them and they me. I called back and left a message on the Choir President’s voice mail apologizing for the tense tone of the conversation and explaining that my wife and I were very anxious about this matter and would like a meeting we could both attend where we could discuss what needed to be done to "resolve" this matter. I offered to drive to Salt Lake City anytime in the next week or so to meet with them in their offices.
A Meeting to "Resolve" the Issue
We received no response at all. We waited a few more days and eventually were contacted by our Bishop who explained that he had been asked by the President of the Choir to invite us to a meeting with him, the Administrative Manager, our Bishop, and Stake President to "resolve this issue" the next Wednesday at 6:00 P.M. at a hotel in Provo (approximately half way between us). We readily agreed. Later the time of the meeting was changed to 6:30 PM. As we arrived early to the meeting and all the other people invited were already in session I can only assume this was to give them a chance to confer with each other without us present.
At the meeting I was asked many questions about my views on homosexuality and why I chose to write such letters. The Choir President asked me to read my letter to the Tribune and asked how I could write such things. They were particularly upset by my use of the words "intellectual tyranny" I explained that by this I meant that it appeared to me that the Brethren had attempted to stifle opposing viewpoints through the use of punitive measures and asked if anyone at the meeting had a more gentle way to state this. I received no answer. I was told repeatedly that I was in "direct opposition to the Brethren."
At the outset of the meeting we were told that they cared deeply about us and were concerned about us and hence had decided to hold such a meeting. However, as the meeting progressed there were no kind words offered. My wife sobbed through most of the two hour ordeal and none of the men there offered her any words of kindness or solace. Not one of these men expressed any appreciation for our years of service in the Church or our service in the Orchestra at Temple Square. Not one of them spoke of hopes that we would soon return to perform with the orchestra. This meeting which had been stated to us to be held with the purpose of resolving this issue ended with President of the Choir turning the matter over to our local authorities who would counsel with me on the matter.
I cannot express how very unloving and punitive this meeting came across. My wife and I agreed that if this was what disciplinary councils felt like, it was a wonder anyone came back to Church at all after experiencing such an un-Christ-like and painful visit with those who ought to be their spiritual counselors. I should mention that following the meeting, our bishop, who was a personal friend indicated he thought the meeting had been a little harsh and that he thought we could soon come to some sort of resolution once we were counseling with him.
My Wife’s Dilemma
My wife left the meeting feeling that not only I but she was also unwelcome to play in the orchestra. She was feeling very hurt and determined not to call and ask if she was welcome to play for the time being. Her brother, who sings in the Tabernacle Choir was upset by this and determined to talk to the Choir President and Administrative Manager. During the course of his conversation with them (in which they divulged what should have been confidential details to him about our meeting) he discovered that they were unwilling to say whether or not she was considered welcome to play, stating only that it did seem she agreed with me in some points. My wife later asked the Bishop if he knew if she was allowed to play and he stated he saw no reason she should not be but would call the Choir President to inquire. We heard nothing for a couple of weeks. When she asked him about the matter again he indicated that he had immediately called and inquired and had been told that she was welcome to play. He asked The President of the Choir to contact her and let her know. He agreed that he would.
After finding out that my wife had not been contacted by the Choir our Bishop again called the Choir President and asked why this had not happened. He was told that the Administrative Manager had been asked to call and he would make sure this happened. The very next day we received an email from the Administrative Manager stating that he had been trying to call but the phone was always busy. He had reversed two of the numbers in our telephone number. It seemed strange to us that he has always been able to call us before, and only now had a wrong number. My wife called him and he stated that now that she had been "endorsed" by her Bishop she was of course welcome to play in the orchestra again. This felt like a slap in the face as she had never been unendorsed by her Bishop or anyone else.
Counseling with Local Authorities
After the matter was turned over to local authorities I was invited to a meeting with my Bishop. He and I talked for quite some time. He told me he felt I was choosing science over the statements of the Brethren. I indicated that I felt that it was not such a simple dichotomy. I pointed out how the Brethren had changed their stance on homosexuality and other issues over time, and how I felt that part of sustaining the Brethren was to point out when they were damaging or hurting those in their stewardship through their own ignorance on certain issues.
I was told that it appeared that I had only been studying the issue from the scientific side (despite the fact that I frequently cited the words of the prophets and scriptures on this issue during our conversation) and was asked as an assignment to study the scriptures and words of the prophets on homosexuality and meet with him the next week. I was also informed that I would not pass a temple recommend interview with my views as they stood.
I dutifully spent the next week studying approximately an hour each evening from the scriptures and the words of LDS general authorities on the subject. I found that there was not much in the way of scriptural support for the Church’s position, and I felt that even many of the official documents of the Church, such as the "Proclamation to the world" held significant room for a broader interpretation than I had realized. I went to my interview the next week with my personal views unchanged but feeling I had more support for them from the lack of official statements and scriptural support than I did before.
At this meeting I was informed that I needed to agree with some of the specifics of Elder Dallin H. Oaks talk "Same-Gender Attraction" given in 1995: Specifically that Homosexual orientation was not innate and that it was reversible. I informed my Bishop that this was not true in the experience of many individuals and that as such I could not support it. He informed me that he would need to turn the matter over to the Stake President and indicated that if I did not learn to moderate my views I would likely face a disciplinary court for acts of apostasy. I indicated that if such was the case I might rather resign and spare my family the embarrassment. He told me he had an appointment with the Stake President the next night and would discuss the case with him.
I later learned that the Stake President told him that two meetings was not sufficient counseling time before turning the matter over to him but I requested to work with the Stake President instead because the Bishop’s family and mine were close friends and I did not want this matter to come between us.
How the Matter Currently Stands
Despite the fact that the LDS Church clarified that members do not need to support the Federal Marriage Amendment and also softened their stance on the causes and duration of homosexual orientation in a recent statement from Elders Oaks and Wickman I remained barred from seeking a recommend or final resolution of this problem. Lacking any other grounds on which to declare me unworthy I was told that my letter to the Tribune was "mean" And that I "hurt the Brethren’s feelings" and need to apologize. The current stance is in stark contrast to the "apostasy" that I was accused of at the beginning. My wife and several friends have written to our area authority, Elder Merrill J. Bateman, expressing concern over how this was handled. He has declined to intervene in any way with the decisions of the local authorities. One letter sent by a sibling of my wife pled with him to at least listen to my father’s story and see if some apology could be offered to my family. In response my parents were called into their stake president’s office. They feel he had been asked to see what kind of trouble they were stirring up.
Ultimately the Stake President assigned me to write a letter of apology to the Brethren. I wrote two that were rejected. Finally I wrote one that the Stake President thought would do. He then told me that before I could be cleared on this matter I needed to mail it to him, the Brethren, the Orchestra President, and the Bishop. I was absolutely not (under any circumstances) to send it to the newspaper. As I pondered the letter I realized that it did not truly reflect how I feel about this and have chosen not to send it, even though this means I will remain unworthy of a temple recommend. I did not write the letter to the Tribune in an attempt to ruin the church. In hindsight I could have used some different language, but what I wrote expressed the feelings of my heart. I have seen the Church abuse too many, including my family, without anyone daring to speak out. It is important to me that the silence about this abuse end.
At the beginning of this account I referred briefly to the ordeal my family faced when my father was accused of stealing documents from the Church. He was accused of being an apostate. He was threatened with excommunication and the loss of his salvation. The men who did this said that they were acting on behalf of the Quorum of the Twelve. This was never contradicted by anyone in authority. When this came to President Tanner’s attention he was offered a private apology but no one ever cleared his name or told anyone he worked with that he was not an apostate, that the rumors generated were untrue and should be stopped. The men who did this were kept in their positions and were able to soon discontinue my father’s employment. Despite pleas for help no General Authority ever came to his aid. Repeated attempts to resolve this experience have always led to disaster. I am left with no reasonable explanation but that the Brethren do not care about what has happened to my family. My father never had the same confidence again. He tried to justify what happened by saying that God didn’t want him working for the Church and that the Brethren must have been inspired to ignore his plight. My mother suffered terribly from prolonged depression which took a toll on the whole family. While many of the problems my family faced may not have been directly caused by the abuse we suffered, I believe it robbed us of the ability we may have had to deal with those problems.
I was baptized in the midst of this experience. I remember thinking that I really wasn’t sure it was a good idea to get involved in a place that treated people like this, but I knew my parents would be devastated if I didn’t get baptized so I did it. My father has had to endure the awful rumors that were generated during this investigation his entire life because he did not want to bring embarrassment to the Church. In return it has been repeatedly demonstrated that they do not value him.
I was horrified to see Jeffrey Nielson lose his livelihood for speaking his conscience on an editorial page. For speaking his conscience a man lost his job. At least Jeffrey Nielson had the solace that his ordeal was public and he could receive sympathy and support from likeminded individuals. My family endured this ordeal in awful silence. After abusing my father for months, the men who perpetrated the injustice were left in a position to take his employment. Because I chose to speak out about what I viewed as a public injustice, I found myself unable to renew my temple recommend and play in the Orchestra at Temple Square. I was told I had committed an act of apostasy and may need to be sent to a disciplinary court. Those who have perpetrated abuse on my family were never sent to a church court. Had I written a hateful letter condemning individuals with a Homosexual orientation I would not be in the predicament I am now.
As I have pondered my own experience my mind has often gone back to the many injustices I have seen perpetrated by Church leaders who seem determined to silence the voice of members who have ethical questions or concerns about church policies and teachings. I am convinced that the Brethren do not care about suffering they occasion in such instances as long as they are not bothered by abuses occurring within their ranks. They may publicly preach a gospel of love and compassion, but their actions speak volumes.
These are the men in whom I have been asked to put my complete trust. I am not to oppose them in any way. Indeed, Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles recently stated that "It’s wrong to criticize the leaders of the Church, even if that criticism is true." I cannot ethically agree to such a statement. To do so would truly be to ignore the teachings and example of Christ, who constantly challenged those in authority to face the injustices they had perpetrated.
General authorities have taught that homosexuals should marry to solve their problem (President Kimball). Although the Church has recently reversed itself they offer no apology to the people who were seriously hurt by this. Indeed they are scarcely willing to admit that this counsel came from a prophet. At BYU Homosexual members were told to submit themselves to shock therapy to try to "cure" their homosexual orientation. Now the LDS Church says this sort of treatment is abusive, but they do not apologize. The Church taught that homosexuality was caused by selfishness (Boyd K Packer: "To the One"). They no longer include his talk on the official website, but he does not apologize for the pain his teachings caused many people. Indeed this talk is still being sold at Deseret Book and I can only assume that he is collecting the royalties. This Church refuses to apologize for the injustices they have committed, and then insists that I apologize for speaking honestly about my concerns.
My membership has been called into question, my favorite calling suspended, my family thrown into great distress and anxiety. I have been told "the ball is in my court" but I am unable to say the nice things I am supposed to. This isn’t for lack of trying. I have loved the Church and dedicated myself to serving it for many years. Still, I cannot say warm fuzzy things about the Brethren when my personal experience has been so awful.
In my own life I have tried to live up to the standards that the Church expects of their members. I served a full time mission and obtained an education that enables me to support my family. I married in the temple and have been active in the Church all my life. I have always paid my tithes and offerings. I follow the word of wisdom, obey the law of chastity, served in multiple callings even while attempting to complete graduate school. I have been a member of the Orchestra at Temple Square since its founding, and strive to teach the love of God through service to mankind, as demonstrated by Christ, to my children.
Where is the example from the Church of mercy and love? The meeting my wife and I were called to with Orchestra and local leaders was awful. None of them said anything compassionate to myself or my wife the whole time past a perfunctory "we love you" at the beginning. What happened to "showing forth an increase of love lest you be esteemed an enemy?" I feel very much like the Church is my enemy. I feel like I will never be accepted unless I can be happy, or at least compliant, with blind obedience. I feel I would be safer if I stayed far away from the Church. I do not feel safe here, cared for, or understood. The burden for being loved seems to hang on my ability to not say anything to make anyone upset. Why is there no burden on the Church to follow the teachings of Christ and right the wrongs which they have done or even if I am wrong, to "turn the other cheek," and to love your neighbor as yourself.
There exists within the Church little in the way of procedure or doctrine to shield members from spiritual abuse by leaders. This has disturbed me. Attempts to discuss this with local leaders have not yielded results, and discussions with other members of the Church have only heightened my concern. Among the faithful, questioning the wisdom of actions of the leaders is often seen as an act of "apostasy." For those who are not members of the Church this word may not carry much stigma, but it is akin to being declared a traitor to one’s country and kin.
I have talked with many members who keep quiet not out of love for the Church, but out of fear. Members fear that thoughtfully questioning their leaders will lead to ostracism or punitive actions. I must say that this does often seem to be the case. Those seeking to question policy or doctrine must do so with utmost care or the consequences can be disastrous. It has been my experience that members who speak out with candor and concern are often abused or punished.
Although I find this incredibly disturbing, it helps me to remember that all of us are human. Surely those who react with such force to any perceived criticism of our leaders feel justified in defending the faith they love. Often our strong faith leads to blindness in seeing from another’s perspective.
I wonder why there is no room for those of us in this Church whose thoughts differ. Is not the majesty of creation a testament to the diversity of thought that exists within the Creator? We are created in his image. Our thoughts, alone, are not his thoughts. Only together, when we see the spark of divinity within each mind and soul can we begin to approach the throne of the Creator and see his form as it manifests within each of us.
I hope that what seems to be the persecution of those of us who cannot agree with every teaching or policy will come to an end. Inasmuch as I have come across as a persecutor I ask forgiveness not for being a persecutor, but for failing to communicate clearly enough the true concerns of my heart. I hope that dialogue can replace dogma and love replace anger and judgment. It is easy to forget, when one is being hurt, abused, or oppressed, that the perpetrator of the injustice is just as wounded, or the crime would not be committed. Only when we begin to look for that which is divine in each other each other will we be able to find the image of the Creator.
Through all these difficulties I have been sustained by a growing connection to and love for Judaism, the faith of my father’s ancestors. It has been a valuable support to me in a time of deep sorrow and pain. I was particularly touched while reading in a Jewish prayer book these lines.
I am a Jew because the faith of Israel demands no abdication of my mind.
I am a Jew because the faith of Israel demands every possible sacrifice of my soul.
I am a Jew because in all places where there are tears and suffering the Jew weeps.
I am a Jew because in every age when the cry of despair is heard the Jew hopes.
This so aptly described the religion I feel in my heart that I began to wonder if I might be worshiping in the wrong place.
I still feel in my heart the call to serve God. It seems that because of my personal convictions I will not be able to do that in the LDS Church. I wondered for some time if I should have my name removed so that I could go forward in my spiritual journey unencumbered with the specter of hypocrisy or dual allegiance. I hesitated only because this would be very painful for my wife and family.
I imagine that, like me, the leaders I have interacted with have a desire to serve God. Although we may disagree on the particulars of this, I think that we have at least this same deep desire in common. I have been blessed to see their hearts soften from the initial hard stance they took, and hope that someday they will be able to understand my point of view. I suppose they probably feel the same about me. I pray for them regularly and hope that they find joy in their service. I would like to find joy in serving God as well, and think that perhaps I can do this best as a Jew. I imagine the Church will roll along nicely without me. I hope that on their way they can be a little kinder and gentler to the next soul in their path.
After writing this account I shared it with my Bishop and Stake President and offered them the opportunity to correct any inaccuracies in the account. My Bishop stated that he felt the Church had never actually requested its members contact their senators in support of the Marriage Amendment, but only to "express" themselves to their representatives on this matter. The Stake President offered no corrections or emendations. Both of them indicated that if I chose to share this account outside of my family I would be subjected to a disciplinary council. Rather than submit to a disciplinary council I decided to resign from the church. I have included my letter of resignation at the end of this document. I also sent the pertinent portions of this account to the Orchestra President and Administrative Manager requesting they let me know if they disagreed with my account of the events they were involved in. I received no answer.
This letter was sent to the Quorum of 12 Apostles and the First Presidency.
Let me begin by thanking you for your service to your fellow beings and to God. I have been inspired and uplifted by many of your sermons and been blessed in many ways by your example. The issue at hand is one that I care about deeply. Having worked as a substance abuse and mental health counselor I have seen firsthand the damage that is caused when one group of people attempt to force the values of their religion on others for whom those values do not fit.
I am deeply disturbed that you have chosen to add the official voice of the Church in support of the Federal Marriage Amendment. If this amendment were passed it would restrict the right of a minority of our population to the "pursuit of happiness" by denying them the right to set up a legally defined family with those they love.
From its very conception our nation was founded on the idea that "all Men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness." These rights were held, in the first foundation document of our fledgling nation to be "self-evident." Sadly however "we the people" have too often trampled on this fundamental principle. Initially only white men were held to be created equal. It took courage and dedication to win those same rights, first for men of other races, and later for women. Indeed, even in our church the struggle to ensure that those rights are protected from infringement is ongoing, as was indicated by President Hinckley’s remarks regarding racism at the last General Conference Priesthood session.
I realize that there is currently a heated debate surrounding same gender marriages. One thing however is clear. Our country is founded on the rights of an individual to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." How can we uphold that singular and profound purpose when we begin to restrict the rights of a minority out of fear, or religious conviction that they do not share? In marrying, if they so wish, they are not harming others. In areas where same gender marriages are permitted no societal upheaval has presented itself. Objective data do not support that any harm will come to those who do not approve of such practices if same gender marriages are allowed.
Not only has the church added its voice to the political debate, but in a recent letter to members from the First Presidency, you have asked us to contact our representatives requesting they support this legislation. I have indeed contacted my legislators to "express my views" and I felt I owed you the same courtesy. I hope that as more members who are educated and acquainted with this issue decide they can no longer sit in silence as the rights of their fellow beings are trampled you brethren will also soften your stance.
This church professes to believe that "We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may." Brethren I urge you to reconsider this fight against the freedom of a minority population to live and worship in a way that their conscience dictates. The following three letters were published in several Utah newspapers.
The following three letters were published in Utah newspapers.
Congress is debating the federal marriage amendment.
If this amendment were passed it would restrict the right of a minority to set up a legally defined family with those they love.
From its conception our nation was founded on the idea that "all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
These rights were held in the first foundation document of our fledgling nation to be "self-evident." Sadly, however, "we the people" have too often trampled on this fundamental principle.
Initially only white men were found to be created equal. It took courage and dedication to win those same rights, first for men of other races, and later for women. Indeed, the struggle to ensure that those rights are protected from infringement is ongoing.
How can we uphold that singular and profound purpose when we begin to restrict the rights of a minority out of fear or religious conviction that they do not share?
Support the principles that have guided our nation since its inception by opposing the amendment on marriage.
As a member of the LDS church, returned missionary, and member of the Orchestra at Temple Square I am appalled at the intellectual tyranny that our leadership has exercised through the summary dismissal of Jeffery Nielson from his teaching position at BYU for speaking his mind in an op-ed published June 4 in the Tribune.
I was troubled that my church requested I violate my own conscience to write in support of an amendment I feel is contrary to the constitution and to the Gospel of Christ. I am even more discouraged to see how they deal with an honest difference of opinion.
I wish to express to Jeffery Nielson that I admire his courage and that I stand with him. I hope that rank and file members of the church as well as members of the lay clergy who also find this troubling will have the courage to step forward and let themselves be known. To do anything else would be to hide in the shadow of an injustice.
The Safe Space Coalition (<>www.ldssafespace.org) is an initiative that "works to ensure safety and respect for gay and lesbian Latter-day Saints." They have plans to send flowers and noncombative letters of support for the creation of more safe space in the LDS Church.
Stop by the Web site. Send a flower to a religious leader.
This is my letter of resignation from the LDS Church.
I am hereby resigning from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and withdrawing my consent to be treated as a member. This action has not been undertaken without some trepidation and pain on my part, but I feel the time has come that it is necessary. Throughout my life I have loved the LDS church, and for years donated professional services, most of my discretionary time, and more than ten percent of my income to this organization. However, I can no longer lend support to an organization that in my opinion institutionalizes abuse of authority by attempting to force victims into silence with threats of disciplinary action.
I had hoped to find, when I first began researching some of the problems I noticed, that they were but a few isolated incidences of human error in an organization truly run by God. Instead I found that the culture and hierarchy in this organization have created a web of endemic abuse that seems to be irreparable. My deepest concern is that members who speak out about abuses in the LDS church are often subjected to such abuses themselves, simply for speaking out. If we cannot face the truth about our own weaknesses then there is no hope that they will ever be overcome. My faith in the divine leadership has been shattered by my own relationship with God, which has taught me that each piece of God’s creation is of infinite worth. While this church has much to offer, the repeated disregard of the harm that is sometimes inflicted on its members makes it something less than the "one true church."
There is much about the LDS church and religion that is praiseworthy and I have loved it deeply for most of my life. I feel a great sorrow that the path that has been shown me by my truest self and my relationship with divinity is now parting ways with the church. I had hoped early on to be of service in healing the pain that had been caused by unwitting abuses in the church. I still hope that someday the leaders of this church (such as yourself) will be blessed with the ability to see the harm that is being inflicted on innocent souls and the willingness to openly confront and stop such harm where possible. In the meantime, I cannot sit silently as a member of this church and watch such harm being done without speaking. As this seems to be a condition of my good standing in the church, I have chosen to resign rather than submit to a disciplinary hearing.
I am blessed to have a deep connection to another spiritual path. As the water has drained out of the well of Mormonism for me, I have found solace in drinking deeply of the waters of Judaism, my father’s ancestral religion. I have found there a freedom I had never imagined for myself in Mormonism. The work of atonement that I dream of participating in there has not yet revealed boundaries such as the ones I have found in the LDS church.
It is with the deepest sorrow that I must now relinquish my ties to an organization that helped form me from my earliest years to follow the religion I feel in my heart. I wish to thank you for all the good that I have received at the hands of this church and wish you well in your future endeavors.