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January 13, 2008

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Larry P.

This heartbreaking.

He is just the sort of individual the Church needs. He is certainly the kind of man I would like to hang out with on Sunday.

Best wishes to TabernacleDissent and his family. I appreciate his courage.

Equality

Careful, Larry. Supporting the man who supported Jeff Nielsen might be considered spiritual sedition by your priesthood leaders. I wouldn't want you to get called in for questioning by the White Shirt Brigades or get summoned to a latter-day Star Chamber proceeding for your "opposition" to the Brethren. I agree with you. It is sad that the church continues to treat some of its best and brightest with contempt and disdain. We saw it with the September Six. We saw it with Darron Smith and Jeff Nielsen. We see it with this couple and with so many faithful gays and lesbians, and with so many of my friends in the DAMU. We can talk in intellectual terms about "correlation" or "dogmatism" but it is these flesh and blood stories that put a human face on these otherwise abstract ideas.

Mike

Thanks for your letter. I find inspiration in your act of conscience.

wry catcher

Excellent summary and letters. I'm so disturbed by the treatment TabernacleDissent's father also received, and the lingering impact it had on their family for years.

It's funny, as I was reading this, I kept thinking that TD should think about making a move to his religious heritage, to Judaism. Lo and behold, that's where he went. I think it's great.

There must be a mormon analogue to Godwin's Law, wherein things must eventually come to the point of comparison, not the Nazis, but with the Spanish Inquisition. In this case, the comparison is so easy, it's difficult to resist. In an era where people can no longer be burned at the stake or exiled at the whim of religious authorities, they can still be mentally and emotionally tortured, excommunicated, and banished from their "people." I'm glad TD used his freedom of conscience (and actual freedom of relgion) to resign and symbolically reject that illusory power of authority that was held over him and his family. That was eccliesiastical and hierachical abuse of the worst kind...two generations of it. I'm so glad TD has broken out of it. My best to he, his wife, and their family (including his parents).

dpc

On reading this account, I have to agree with Kodos (who commented on an earlier post) that some things don't seem to ring true, even if some parts do seem to be true. (Especially compared to, say, Lyndon Lambert's experience, which is 100% believable) I believe that the local leadership can make mistakes and that some people are disciplined when they shouldn't be. (I know of a case where a man was excommunicated for being homosexual and was later reinstated because it was not a valid grounds for excommunication). I also think that the General Authorities can also be mistaken.

That being said, and because I'm skeptical as it is with a lot of things, there are certain aspects of this account that raise red flags and are, to my mind, suspect. The whole account is unsubstantiated hearsay, but I'll give the writer the benefit of the doubt.

Where are the letters that were "published in *several* (not just the Salt Lake Tribune apparently) Utah newspapers"? Having written several "Letters to the Editor" in my life, I've only ever had one published. And yet Brother TabernacleDissent had *three* letters published in *several* newspapers. The third letter does not even appear to be publication-worthy because it is a plug for a website and not a response to a published article. All of this could be true, but I would want to know which newspapers these letters were published in and on what dates before I could determine the creditability of the account.

His father was falsely accused of stealing documents from the Church vault to sell to enemies of the church. Who knew that the head of maintenance at a church facility would be the target of a deliberate smear campaign by ominous, unnamed enemies who wanted to oust him from his job? And even though he was cleared of all charges, his dad lost his job because of the same unnamed enemies. It's a rather curious episode (and definitely a warning to any upstart janitor who may overstep his bounds). And there was conveniently no "Official Record" of the whole incident (because whenever someone is fired from a job, employers never take steps to record what happened in case of a potential lawsuit. This is especially true of huge religious corporate organizations headed by those with experience in business and law). Plus I wonder how the writer knows that there is no official record. Because his dad told him?

I also found it unusual that the writer and his Bishop, Stake President, et al. met at a hotel and not at a church building. This may belie my non-Utah upbringing, but usually meetings with the Bishop and/or Stake President and/or Presidents of the Choir tend to take place at the church behind closed doors. I can't say that I've ever heard of an Mormon ecclesiastical meeting at a hotel. Why would they rent a conference room in the state that probably has more LDS chapels per capita than any other? I'll admit it's possible, but it seems unlikely. For one thing, meeting at the church plays into the hands of the Bishop/Stake President because they are on 'their' territory. Assuming that they wanted to harass this individual about his views, why would they give up home-field advantage? And even assuming that the met halfway for convenience sake, you would think that people with connections to 'the Brethren' would be able to rustle up a key to a church building somewhere.

I could go on, but I don't want to keep boring everyone else. I just don't find it creditable. If you already think that the church is an irresponsible, abusive, manipulative, evil organization that crushes the tender spirits of its naive adherents, this story would be easily accepted as true. For those of us with more neutral feelings, although the story does not necessarily ring false, it certainly rings strange.

Equality

"The whole account is unsubstantiated hearsay,"

For an alleged lawyer, you don't seem to have a grasp on what hearsay is. This is a first-person account of what happened. The portions in which the person giving the account is quoting others would be hearsay insofar as they are offered for the truth of the propositions stated by those others. But most of the account is NOT hearsay at all, and it is flat-out wrong to characterize the entire account as "unsubstantiated hearsay."

"Where are the letters that were "published in *several* (not just the Salt Lake Tribune apparently) Utah newspapers"?"

Actually, you have twisted his words here, dpc. In one place, he said he wrote "several letters." In another place, he posted the letters that were published in "Utah newspapers." And then he gave us the text of the letters he wrote to the FP and the ones that were published in the newspapers. So, that's where they are.

The second letter that begins "As a member of the LDS church" was published June 14, 2006 in the Salt Lake Tribune. The Trib does not make its archives available for free but you can pay to see the published letter by visiting the Salt Lake Tribune site. You can also email the person who wrote the account at the address provided or send him or his wife a private message at the postmormon web site. I was provided with some additional information from the original poster, which enabled me to verify some of the details in the story. I do not provide that information here because I do not want to put their names out here (though she did give me permission to use their names). There is enough info here for anyone who really wants to dig and get their real names.

As for meetings between members and church leaders occurring somewhere other than a church building, I don't think it's at all uncommon or that unusual. Last fall, I met with my bishop at his place of business. To hone in on that as raising a red flag is ridiculous, in my opinion. And to characterize your own feelings toward the church as "neutral" is laughable to anyone who reads this blog regularly and has seen the comments you leave here. Be honest: you are no more neutral than I. You have essentially called these two people liars on nothing more than spurious assumptions. You might think about applying your sense of skepticism to the church leaders to whom you seem to be bending over backwards to give the benefit of the doubt.

The story rings true to those who have heard report after report of similar things happening. As I said before, this may not be happening universally, and may be strange to those of us who have had mostly positive experiences with our local leaders but it is happening enough that it does not deserve to be dismissed out of hand, in my opinion.

dpc

"For an alleged lawyer, you don't seem to have a grasp on what hearsay is."

I guess that when anyone disagrees with you, your modus operandi is to start out with a personal attack. It easier to dismiss my arguments that way, I guess. In a strictly legal sense, the whole document is hearsay. Anyone who thinks otherwise should consult the Federal Rules of Evidence Rule 801(c).

Anything that he attributes to be spoken by others is hearsay. Because most of what he writes pertains to what leaders said to him, I don't think it a mischaracterization to label the account hearsay, at least the parts that are germane to the discussion of whether the church squelches the viewpoints of its members.

"You have essentially called these two people liars on nothing more than spurious assumptions"

I haven't 'essentially' called anyone anything. I wasn't aware that not automatically accepting another's account unquestioningly as being bona fide truth translated into an accusation of lying. I've found that when people relate experiences, they tend to embellish certain parts and omit information that puts them into an unfavorable light. The account was strange, not because I thought they were lying, but because certain aspects of the experience that seemed unusual. However you feel about the writer and his experience, the whole incident involving his dad is bizarre and seems like an attempt to 'poison the well' at the outset. That and other issues make me question the writer's creditability, but it does not necessarily follow that I think they are lying. I think there is more to the story than what we get to hear. That's not an accusation of lying; that's seeking towards the truth.

The broader issue is to what extent private organizations should be obligated to allow different voices. Although Americans would love for free speech to be an aspect of every relationship that they have, I believe that the free speech only involves a relationship between the government and the citizenry. Free speech is not an aspect of private organizations. Deal with it. Send an email to the entire firm that clearly states that the senior partner in charge of your section is a moron who intellectually terrorizes his subordinates and see how 'tolerant' your management is and how welcoming it is of 'diverse viewpoints'. I pretty sure they wouldn't take several weeks or months to 'resolve the situation.'

I liken speech within organizations to the "Fiddler on the Roof". The dad can only be so tolerant and no more. (I believe he says, 'If I bend that far, I'll break!' when his youngest daughter ask to marry outside of their faith). If the church accepts every viewpoint, then ultimately it moves from being a church to being a social club. The flip-side of experiences like this is the mainstreaming of the Mormon church. Throw out the weird doctrines and folk beliefs and you end up losing everything that sets Mormons apart. Does that mean that the church is right all the time? Not at all. It could be completely wrong. But it has every right to be wrong. What could be more American than that?

Ominous Cloud

My hat goes off to DM for being able to maintain a loving outlook despite all of the garbage he has been put through.

This is just the problem with modern Christianity, the "If you're not with us you are against us mentality." This is how totalitarian states are created. In this case, instead of being threatened with bodily harm or disappearance, you are threatened with being cut off from your community and eternal damnation.

If these men were really called of God, they would have a giant red hand print on their face from receiving a "Celestial Pimp-Smack".

Equality

dpc,

In your original comment, you said you didn't believe that he had three letters published in newspapers. You also said you didn't believe that church leaders would meet with him somewhere other than a church building. In other words, in layman's terms, you accused him of lying. You also characterized the "whole account" as "unsubstantiated hearsay." In one breath you say you are not accusing him of lying; in the next, you say his story about his dad is "an attempt to 'poison the well' at the outset.'" In your first comment, you say in the beginning that you "give the writer the benefit of the doubt" and then you go on to question the writer's credibility on the story about his father, the letters to the editor, and the place where he met, which does not come off as giving the writer the benefit of the doubt to me.

In short, you have done more here than simply ask for additional information: you have directly challenged the veracity of material portions of the account and dismissed the "whole account" as "unsubstantiated hearsay." I agree that there is more to the story. I am sure the church leaders involved in it would probably tell their side of the story with a different spin--they are, after all, the masters of spin. You did more than simply say "there is more to the story." You questioned their credibility. When presented with additional information that directly related to one of your questions (re: the letter to the editor), you simply ignored it.

Now, you want to switch the subject with clearly distinguishable analogies to the corporate world. Guess what: members of a church are not employees of a company, the similarities of the LDS church to big corporations notwithstanding. And the parade of horribles you recite ("losing everything that sets Mormons apart") that would result from a church allowing its members the freedom to (gasp!) express their opinion on a political matter through a letter to the editor is just so absurd as to need no serious retort. That you apparently think the church is like the dad in Fiddler on the Roof--stretched to the breaking point of tolerance--because one of its members writes a letter to the editor is a sad commentary on the state of Mormonism today. Just my opinion. But, hey, this is my little corner of cyberspace, where I get to express my opinion freely, at least until the White Shirt Brigade shows up at my house with a summons to a court of love, which I understand may be coming, like the Spanish Inquisition, when I least expect it. I can only hope there will be soft cushions and a comfy chair.

Rebekah

dpc;
The first letter was published in The Daily Herald on June 6, 2006. The second letter was published in the Salt Lake Tribune as has already been mentioned and it is my understanding that it was reprinted in the Sanpete Messenger. The third letter was published in the Deseret News On Monday, June 19, 2006. You can verify this if you want to.
The meeting was held in a local hotel because we lived a distance from SLC and it was a half-way point for our local leaders and the orchestra leadership. (We have recently moved because these events have made it impossible for us to live in the community we called home and where we were well liked and respected).
There are many details missing from this account, but most of them only make the church look worse, not better. There are some very personal and painful events we chose not to discuss. I was shocked by what happened. I would not have believed it either if I had read about it 2 years ago. It went against everything I believed about the church. There are no missing details about sin.
As far as my FIL experience goes, I used to doubt I had the whole story. However, since then I have read the day by day account of his experience which lasted several months. I have also had verification from the bishop who defended him when he finally met with President Tanner. There are many more details to this story but none of them help the church. I can understand your doubts. You have no way of knowing all the details. However, if you do a little digging you can verify much of this story and you are welcome to ask questions.

dpc

"In short, you have done more here than simply ask for additional information: you have directly challenged the veracity of material portions of the account and dismissed the "whole account" as "unsubstantiated hearsay."

I hope that you when you cross-examine, you do more than just ask for additional information from a witness. The writer raises serious allegations. I merely pointed out aspects that seemed odd. A rigorous examination of what someone says does not imply that they are lying. But it helps to reveal biases and complete the picture. I don't believe everything I hear or read. I question, I examine, I ask tough questions. Do you think that I only ask those questions here? You favor one interpretation of events. I offer differing interpretations. It doesn't mean that I'm right and you're wrong. But anyone who reads the exchanges gets (hopefully) a deeper understanding of the issues and recognizes that there are no easy answers or easy characterizations. My goal is not to convince, but to counterbalance. The ultimate decision comes down to the individual.

"Guess what: members of a church are not employees of a company, the similarities of the LDS church to big corporations notwithstanding."

But they are at-will participants in a private, social organization. The general will of the organization gets to set the ground rules by which its members will participate. Those who don't want to live by them are free to join other organizations that fit their particular viewpoint or to eschew membership in any private organization. It appears that the gentlemen and his wife decided to take that course of action.

"That you apparently think the church is like the dad in Fiddler on the Roof--stretched to the breaking point of tolerance--because one of its members writes a letter to the editor is a sad commentary on the state of Mormonism today."

Hardly.

"where I get to express my opinion freely"

I don't believe that Brother TabernacleDissent was forbidden from expressing his opinion. I don't recall any kind of restraint on him expressing anything at all. Nothing in his account, or his wife's account at any time indicated that he did not freely give his opinion on the matter. The church never called on him to make a public retraction of his very public inflammatory statement. In fact, it appeared that his Bishop and Stake President did the best they could, however wrong-headed they may have been, to keep him within the church. They met with him on numerous occasions. He was not subjected to any formal church discipline. He freely chose to disassociate himself from the church, with no apparent repercussions.

Or are you trying to argue that he has a unqualified 'right' to be a member of a volunteer orchestra?

dpc

Rebekah

"There are no missing details about sin."

Absent some very concrete evidence to the contrary, I very much doubt that personal worthiness played any kind of factor in your confrontation with church leaders or your decision to leave the church.

Rebekah

dpc;

"I don't believe that Brother TabernacleDissent was forbidden from expressing his opinion. I don't recall any kind of restraint on him expressing anything at all. Nothing in his account, or his wife's account at any time indicated that he did not freely give his opinion on the matter. The church never called on him to make a public retraction of his very public inflammatory statement"

My DH was not forbidden to express his opinion. However, when he was asked in a bishop's office what his opinion on homosexuality was and he responded that he thought that it was innate and generally not reversible in this life he was told that this opinion alone, which he had just shared privately with the bishop made him unworthy of a temple recommend. When this opinion did not change in one week he was threatened with formal disciplinary action. My husband was suspended from a calling he loved for expressing his opinion about the marriage ammendment publicly. It is certainly any private organizations right to choose what they will and will not accept, but it was very devestating to my family to learn that the organization we had committed everything to would turn on us the moment a differing opinion was expressed. I wish that I had known this long ago. It is also very painful when you have been taught that this is the only organization in the world that really matters and that it represents Jesus Christ on the earth. As far as my leaders go, my husband and I had to make every attempt to meet with them for 5 months with one exception. It seemed they wished we would just disappear. It was my husband and I that would make appointments to try to resolve this matter and there were requests for meetings which were ignored. We only met 6 times with anyone in more than a 5 month period. I do not think my local leaders are evil people. I would not wish to paint them as such. In fact we have intentionally not used any of their names because we believe they are good people. After many months we were somewhat able to resolve our feelings on a personal level with our BP and SP, but what I had found was that even people I thought I knew and trusted would turn on me if they thought I was a threat to the church. Past service,dedication and personal experiences were not enough when they felt like the church had been attacked. Why don't you e-mail my husband if you really want to know what happened to us?

TabernacleDissent/Shimon

I have little time, but did want to weigh in on this as it is my account. DCP, I am pleased that you are not willing to blindly believe anything you hear on the internet. Clearly some details of this story are astonishing and deeply disturbing, especially to those who love the LDS church.

I realize that I clearly speak with a bias. I tried in my story to keep my reporting somewhat factual and to make clear when I was speaking my own opinion. This was done in order to allow readers to evaluate what I was saying based on the facts. I was initially surprised to find out how inflammatory many members found my letter to the tribune to be. Part of the reason I shared the story of my father’s experience is to help readers understand that in my mind the letter was not inflammatory at all. I certainly could have justifiably said much worse given my experiences.

I realize that there are challenging and disturbing elements to this story that should not be taken at face value by nonbiased readers. It was for this reason that I provided an email address where you could reach me to ask questions or dialogue about my account. I would be honored to answer your questions about the veracity of this account in person if you would like to write me. Turnaround on emails might take a little time as much of my life is currently in transition but I would gladly converse via email and if the situation warranted it would also be willing to converse via phone.

As for meeting in a hotel and the earlier meeting in a restaurant… I was actually as surprised by this as you were. These two meetings were the only ones held with the Orchestra/Choir administration. The president of the Orchestra/Choir is a business man. It is my guess that on many occasions Orchestra/Choir officials likely meet with contacts in public places rather than in church buildings when conducting business away from their home offices. This is likely easier and more reliable than going through the process of contacting ward administration to make sure there is a meeting room available.

You stated “I don't believe that Brother TabernacleDissent was forbidden from expressing his opinion.” In my opinion this is true only in the sense that they had no ability to legally stop me from expressing my opinion. They did use almost every means available via church authority to suppress my expression. In case I did not make it clear in my account… I was told that if I chose to publicly release the account you read I would definitely be subjected to an official disciplinary council for acts of apostasy. I was also told I was not worthy to enter the Temple. For those who view the church as nothing more than a social organization, as you seem to suggest, then the threat of being excluded or thrown out might not seem something to fret about (although African Americans and Women fought dearly for the right not to be excluded from numerous social organizations). For those who view it as a religion and a way of life however, threats of this nature are serious business. I have never argued that the church does not have a right to do what it did. I do however have serious concerns about the morality of such behavior. The church as an institution holds a great deal of power over its member’s lives. For those who believe in it, it claims to hold the keys to their eternal salvation. For members who do not have an orthodox belief it still holds the keys to fully participating in family life cycle events and because of the cultural aspect of the church it also has some control over how family members view each other, especially if a member of an active family is seen as an apostate, or unworthy.

You also stated “He freely chose to disassociate himself from the church, with no apparent repercussions.” I did leave the church but this was not without repercussions. I would ask you to consider what repercussions there would be in your life if you suddenly decided to resign your membership in the LDS church. Leaving the LDS church has been one of the most painful events of my life and this whole episode has been traumatic for both my immediate and extended family. While I feel I made the right choice, It has definitely not been without very painful and ongoing repercussions.

Please remember while discussing this story that there are very real people with very real pain behind it. I chose to keep the story somewhat anonymous for many reasons, one of which is that I did not feel it was fair to spread around the names of those involved who were acting on their own best knowledge and intentions. I tried to be as objective as I could in reporting the situation and asked the church officials involved to review what was written so that I could include their objections and viewpoint in the account. In my postscript I recounted what those objections were.

I wish you the best and hope that your journey within the LDS church continues to be satisfying.

Figaro

Thanks to TD and Rebekah for sharing this with us and giving these further details. I am outraged that things like this can happen--especially given your obvious faithful service. And to deny you the joy of playing your music!

Larry P.

TD's story is not about the ability to speak freely. It is about the ability to Think freely. TD's use of the term "intellectual tyranny" was sadly prophetic.

The question is this: Should members of the LDS Church be able to disagree with the Brethern on sensitive political issues without incurring Church discipline?

God help us if the answer is no.

dpc

Shimon said:

'You stated “I don't believe that Brother TabernacleDissent was forbidden from expressing his opinion.” In my opinion this is true only in the sense that they had no ability to legally stop me from expressing my opinion.'

This is just a weaselly way of saying that you were not forbidden from expressing your opinion. Even though some on this board may think that the Mormon church is some kind of quasi-governmental entity, it is not. And as much as people like Equality try to spin it, suppression of speech is something only a government can do. Church organizations do not have the police powers that governments do. The church cannot deprive you of your money or your liberty against your will. The government can. The church cannot summarily exclude you from its property; it can only ask you to not come onto the property. If it wants to exclude you against your will, it needs the involvement of law enforcement to issue citations for trespassing. If that fails to work as a deterrent, the church's only other recourse may be to obtain a restraining order granted by a court of competent jurisdiction.

'They did use almost every means available via church authority to suppress my expression.'

Yes, beware those firm slaps on the wrist. And I'm sure that when you met with your bishop and stake president you were forced to sit on comfy chairs.

"I have never argued that the church does not have a right to do what it did. I do however have serious concerns about the morality of such behavior."

All social groups exert some form of pressure on their constituents to observe the norms of the group. And in the case of the church, anything that you want to say, but don't, is a completely voluntary act on your part. Take my corporate analogy above I employed above. For all the complaints about suppression of free speech on here, I have never once heard anyone complain about how willing people are to prostitute themselves for corporate America and allow their companies to monitor their Internet access, e-mail and other daily activities. Some companies even go so far as to restrict the kinds of activities that their employees may engage in when not working! When was the last time you moved wards and the new bishop asked for a urine sample before he would let you attend? Corporate monitoring is far more restrictive and invasive than anything that the Mormon church does. Yet millions of people voluntarily submit to these sorts of things. People are fired for saying unflattering things about their bosses. That type of punishment is far worse than a stake president requesting that you voluntarily write a letter. Are the actions of those corporations immoral? I wonder if anyone on here would be willing to write a letter to the editor accusing their employer of intellectual tyranny?

While I was in law school, several students were disciplined for derogatory racial comments they made via computer in a conversation that they thought was private, solely because they were using the school's network (and violated the school's policy regarding it). Was this suppression of speech? I'm sure that it had a chilling effect on the speech of those determined to use the school's computer networks to make derogatory racial comments in the future.

What you and Equality are really arguing for is for consequence-free speech and there is no such thing in social organizations or social relationships. Even the government is allowed to put time, place and manner restrictions on speech. I could tell a friend that his girlfriend was overweight, ugly and only interested in him because of his money, something that may be 100% pure truth, but I would never say such a thing because of the social pressure not to. The friendship would be much more valuable than 'being authentic' to my true feelings. I ultimately have to respect my friend's choice, even though I may think he is blind to reality. Is my friend suppressing my speech because his reaction would be negative, even possibly to the point where he chooses to break our friendship? I get to choose what I want to say, but I don't get to choose how people respond to it.

Larry P said:

"Should members of the LDS Church be able to disagree with the Brethern [sic] on sensitive political issues without incurring Church discipline?"

Any member can disagree without incurring Church discipline. There are several issues over which I disagree with the Church and I have yet to be disciplined. There is a difference between disagreeing and waging a letter-writing campaign against it accusing it of intellectual tyranny.

Sister Mary Lisa

dpc ~

You wrote, "Yes, beware those firm slaps on the wrist. And I'm sure that when you met with your bishop and stake president you were forced to sit on comfy chairs."

Your "firm slaps on the wrist" example is weak when you consider the very real ramifications associated with a true believer in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints not being able to attend the temple. Please stop trying to make it seem lighter than it really is. We are talking about their extreme mental and emotional anguish over the perceived (and therefore very REAL to them) loss of eternal salvation with a loving Heavenly Father they believe in.

Please do not make light of that pain. It is torturous.


fh451

DPC - your arguments about the church's very limited ability to control/limit free speech sounds an awful lot like an advocation that the church really is nothing more than a social organization. Do you really not believe in the "saving ordinances," or that a person needs to be a member of the church in good standing in order to obtain the highest degree of glory in the afterlife? Or that the people involved in this situation didn't believe it either? If I didn't know better (and I guess I really don't), I'd say you're a closet unbeliever! Otherwise, yeah, why not just take your ball and go to some other court to play? After all, it's no big deal.

Also, your statements about the church not having government authority reinforces to me, once again, that I am REALLY glad that churches don't run our government!

dpc

fh451 said:

"your arguments about the church's very limited ability to control/limit free speech sounds an awful lot like an advocation that the church really is nothing more than a social organization."

and

"Do you really not believe in the "saving ordinances," or that a person needs to be a member of the church in good standing in order to obtain the highest degree of glory in the afterlife? Or that the people involved in this situation didn't believe it either? If I didn't know better (and I guess I really don't), I'd say you're a closet unbeliever!"

Most of the people who read this website do not believe the truth claims of the Mormon church. Therefore, to give a valid, opposing viewpoint, I have to use arguments that do not rely on Mormonism's truth claims to establish an epistemological basis on which both sides can agree. If you do not believe that the Mormon church is a divinely-inspired organization, then any arguments that rely on such a belief would be dismissed out of hand. In other words, I'm not here to engage in a theological debate, so much as a philosophical and sociological debate.

Presumably, the reason that Equality posted this story was to develop the blog's theme that the Mormon church is a misguided, unintentionally-harmful organization at best, or an insidious, manipulative organization at worst. When you get past the histrionics and hurt feelings (which can occur anywhere and in any organization, whether you believe that organization to be divinely organized or not), I merely contrasted the actions of the Mormon church vis a vis suppression of speech to the actions of other non-religious entities.

A religious organization that claims to take the moral high ground should be held to a more rigorous standard; however, I do not believe that the particular standard should be perfection. I just hope that my comments give nuance and added meaning to the discussions here. Call it a dialectical method if you will. As I stated previously, my goal is not to convince, but to counterbalance. My own personal beliefs as the doctrines and claims of the Mormon church are irrelevant to such a goal.

Equality

dpc said:

"Most of the people who read this website do not believe the truth claims of the Mormon church."

I'm not so sure about that. Have you taken a survey of my readership? It's fair to say that most of those who comment here do not currently believe some or all of the foundational doctrines of Mormonism, but my readership may be more diverse than a perusal of the comments would suggest.

Equality

dpc: "When you get past the histrionics and hurt feelings"

And the callous condescension continues....

dpc

Equality:

In that case, perhaps a more apt statement should have been:

"Most of the people who *post comments on* this website do not believe the truth claims of the Mormon church."

"my readership may be more diverse than a perusal of the comments would suggest"

Agreed

fh451

DPC: "Call it a dialectical method if you will. As I stated previously, my goal is not to convince, but to counterbalance. My own personal beliefs as the doctrines and claims of the Mormon church are irrelevant to such a goal."

I call b*llsh*t. Your own personal beliefs are essential to such a goal, or you would have no motivation to bother providing said counterbalance. As a lawyer you may take such a position in a professional capacity that is at variance with your personal beliefs - after all, you are a hired gun and will make the argument necessary to win, or at least fairly represent your client. But on a blog with your personal discretionary time?

The very fact that you claim to believe in the LDS church and its truth claims, salvation providing ordinances, and connection to divinity of its leadership completely takes the wind out of the sails of your argument above. To claim it's just "dialectic method" when stating that the church has no more meaning to people than a chess club, but privately believe how essential it is to your life, is disengenuous at a minimum. I'm sorry, your argument loses its persuasion.

This is the same problem I have with people believing the Book of Mormon is an "inspired text," while denying it's historical accuracy or content. There is no more reason to believe the moral stories conveyed in the BofM if the events did not actually occur than the morallity portrayed in fairy tales.

Larry P.

DPC wrote: "There is a difference between disagreeing and waging a letter-writing campaign against it accusing it of intellectual tyranny."

Agreed. But TD was not forced out because of the letters. Read his story carefully. He was forced out because he would not recant his informed opinion on homosexuality and gay marriage.

Rebekah

DPC;
I have debated whether I should respond. I do not know if you realize that you come across to me as offensive and insensitive. Perhaps I come across the same way to you. If I do, I am sorry. Perhaps you are enjoying arguing your side of the issue and your objective is not to gain understanding of my point of view. If you enjoy a good argument, that is fair. However, from where I sit it is very frustrating. I am not looking for you to agree with my opinions, but I would appreciate it if you would carefully try to understand my situation before you make assumptions. Both my husband and I offered to converse with you and you have not contacted us. Why haven't you? Or do you just want to debate using your preconceived notions about our situation and who we are? If so, I will beg out of this conversation since you don't need my input.

You said; "This is just a weaselly way of saying that you were not forbidden from expressing your opinion. Even though some on this board may think that the Mormon church is some kind of quasi-governmental entity, it is not. And as much as people like Equality try to spin it, suppression of speech is something only a government can do. Church organizations do not have the police powers that governments do. The church cannot deprive you of your money or your liberty against your will. The government can. The church cannot summarily exclude you from its property; it can only ask you to not come onto the property."

I agree that the church cannot legally suppress speech. It is true they cannot deprive me of my money or liberty against my will. You are absolutely correct. However, when this experience happened to me I believed absolutely that the LDS Church was Jesus Christ's restored church. For a year into this I believed this. I believed the church held my salvation. I believed that removal from the church would curse my life. I had lived my entire life striving to live every commandment. I gave all that the church required of me in time and money as well as giving it my complete trust and my heart. I put the church above EVERYTHING else in my life, because I believed that all else could not stand without the gospel. More than anything I believed in Jesus Christ. I believed the gospel of compassion that he taught. I believed we were all children of a loving God with infinite value and potential. This last part is still what I believe.

When I first met with prieshood leaders I had complete confidence in them. While I had my private reservations about the Marriage Amendment, I questioned my husband's decision to voice this publicly. I did not want to in any way criticize or hurt the church. However, I knew my husband was a good man speaking from his convictions which I had seen him agonize over for a long time. I assumed that since my leaders knew my husband they would understand that he would not speak unless he believed he was doing the right thing. I thought that they would help him and I naively thought there was room to become upset in the church without being condemned.

You said; "Yes, beware those firm slaps on the wrist. And I'm sure that when you met with your bishop and stake president you were forced to sit on comfy chairs. "

This is one of the most insensitive statements you made. The first meeting I attended left me sobbing the rest of the night. You have no way of knowing this, but I have not generally been known for my hysterics (which you also alleged). What occured in that meeting was not in any way Christ-like. I never would have believed that this was how leaders of the church I loved would treat a person if I had not been there to see it with my own eyes. From there my husband was soon threatened with excommunication. This had tremendous ramifications for me as a believing Mormon and for my small children. There are incidents which occured with my children which I will not relate but I could not believe that Jesus Christ would inspire leaders to treat a 6 year old the way mine was treated. So this was no social club for me. This was my spiritual community and my salvation. It was my link to God. I really don't care what kind of chair they offered me. I would have accepted some compassion standing on my feet in the hot sun gladly.

Now, just for the record I would like to say that I actually like my bishop and stake president a lot. There were times I was really angry, however associations I had with my bishop before this experience made me certain he was a good person. I was shocked to discover that my leaders believed that when defending what they believed to be the truth they did not need to conduct themselves in a christ-like manner. My leaders made the same exact argument that have that the church can do whatever it wants and that corporations do stuff like this all the time. I responded that I didn't think this was a corporation, but the representative of the Lord Jesus Christ on the earth. I told them I didn't think Jesus would handle this situation this way. They never said anything when I brought this up. I personally believe that you cannot do Christ's work when you conduct it in a manner in direct opposition to example he set. Eventually this realization led to my disbelief in the church.

So, the church can do whatever it wants. But, I think if they have not intention of conducting themselves in a christ-like way people should be warned so they don't go through the hell that my family went through. I do not expect perfection. I need people's mercy too. I know I have hurt people. I can honestly say though that when I am aware that I have hurt someone I do my best to make it right. What became abundantly clear to me is that the church does not strive to follow Christ's model in interacting with people. They choose a corporate mindset. This seems to work for you so there is no reason you should have a problem with the church. I think the church has a different view of what it is to be a Christian than I do, and they are absolutely entitled to it, but what happened to my family was abusive and people should be warned about abuse. I would be happy to discuss this with you if you would like. I once thought much like you. I now regret this very much. You are an intelligent and articulate. I would suggest that when responding to situations in which people feel betrayed by what they believed to be God's representative it might also be useful to consider these ramifications and use your heart. I do not mean to suggest you need be illogical, but it might be useful to consider the emotional ramifications that such an experience would have since most people's spirituality is very much tied into their emotional well-being.

dpc

fh451 said:

"The very fact that you claim to believe in the LDS church and its truth claims, salvation providing ordinances, and connection to divinity of its leadership completely takes the wind out of the sails of your argument above. To claim it's just "dialectic method" when stating that the church has no more meaning to people than a chess club, but privately believe how essential it is to your life, is disengenuous [sic] at a minimum. I'm sorry, your argument loses its persuasion."

I disagree. Assuming arguendo, that your statement is correct, taking its logic to an extreme would mean that it would be impermissible for any one to argue, say, a position of extreme skepticism without defeating their entire argument. This is simply not the case. One of the most influential philosophers, David Hume, wrote from a position of extreme skepticism and many of his ideas have yet to be refuted. Whether he personally believed them has (or had) no impact on the validity of the questions and ideas he raised. For example, in a strictly logical sense, there is absolutely no reason to believe that the sun will rise tomorrow or that the sky will be blue. But nobody lives their life as though the sun *won't* rise tomorrow. Some writers (Soren Kierkegaard comes to mind) take extreme positions (usually highly idealistic) that most likely do not (or more properly, *could* not) reflect their own personal religious practices.


SillyNut

Oh god, come on. DPC isn't even Mormon. He's out there playing some freakin' mind game with ex-Mo's and the DAMU so he can blog and write about us. No, he doesn't believe any of the Mormon beliefs are essential because HE'S NOT A MORMON. He's an arrogant prick who thinks he's smarter than everyone else and doesn't seem to mind inflicting pain to inflate his ego some more.

SillyNut

Alright, it's been suggested that I am wrong and DPC is a Mormon. Could be. I'm willing to admit the possibility that I am wrong. So let's settle it the easy way.

DPC, what religion are you? As in, are you LDS? Are you a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

fh451

DPC wrote: "I disagree. Assuming arguendo, that your statement is correct, taking its logic to an extreme would mean that it would be impermissible for any one to argue, say, a position of extreme skepticism without defeating their entire argument. This is simply not the case."
I'm not saying it defeats your entire argument, just that it loses its forcefulness in convincing someone when you do not hold the position you are arguing. After all, I'm assuming your purpose here is to be "convincing" to someone reading this board. It certainly is possible to argue for any position as a hypothetical exercise, and present a logically powerful, even convincing, case. But in this particular instance, you are arguing that the person in question really did not have their free speech impinged upon because the church does not exercise government-like power and control. However, this ignores the social impact, not to mention the "eternal consequences," that devout followers really believe will happen to them if they are expelled from the group. These consequences, as Rebekah says above, are very real and may even be terrifying. I would expect that an allegedly true believer like yourself would understand that, but you appear to be intentionally ignoring it to make a point that is favorable to the church. If you were an outsider, I could understand the oversite - after all, what's the big deal? It's just church! But as an "insider," I would expect better - you should know it's not just a social organization for those who take it literally. However, after reading your blog, maybe I understand your mind set a little better; perhaps for you, it really is "just a church group." That understanding varies significantly with how I (and from what I've read, many other members) perceived the church while I was in it.

fh451

dpc

Sillynut:

Let me lower the foil of 'dpc' and reveal myself a little bit more.

Although I would define myself as Mormon, I wouldn't categorize myself as Post-Mormon, Ex-Mormon, TBM Mormon or NOM. I wrote a post on my blog called "Against Acronym Mormonism". I meant to follow it up with a series of posts called "Against TBM Mormonism"; "Against Post-Mormonism" and "Against New Order Mormonism", but like a lot of things, I just never got around to finishing them (and probably never will at the rate I'm going). What I had wanted to say in those posts is that all of those people who identify themselves as such (or fit into those categories) ignore the basic truths that unite us all as Mormons. Your post on the primary songs shows that. I can have a dialogue with you, a complete stranger, and yet we probably have a lot in common. Doesn't that strike anyone as being odd? In some ways, culturally-speaking, Mormonism is the new Judaism.

Another reason that I think the distinctions are meaningless is because of the readings I have done in philosophy. The more I read, the less I know and the less I feel confident of what I know. I don't view this as a negative thing. Someone once asked Mao Zedong what the impact of the French Revolution of 1789 was. He responded, "We don't know yet". That's how I feel about the truth claims of the Mormon church. If someone were to ask me if the church was true, I'd have to honestly respond, 'I don't know yet. I don't have enough information to form an answer." I may hope that certain Mormon teachings are true. I may have seen a positive impact from following those teachings in my life and in the lives of others. I may have experienced what I perceive to be spiritual or religious experiences, but I doubt that *I* will ever know that the church is true. I don't think there will ever be a point in my life where I can say, "I used to know it was all true, but then it all collapsed when I found out about xyz." Is the church a divine organization? It very well may be, but until I know for sure, I don't see anything wrong with characterizing it as a social organization, full of fallible people making mistakes that ultimately hurt others. It's unfortunate. I wish it didn't happen. But I think it a little overwrought to highlight injustices that are far less graver than some of the injustices that I have encountered in my life and in my profession. Rebekah and Shimon talked about the fear of uncertainty they encountered in their dealings with their church leaders. No one should have to go through that.

Imagine, on the other hand, the fear and uncertainty if you were an illegal immigrant for the past twenty years, unable to change your status because of the restrictive immigration laws currently in effect (and even if you found a way to do so, in order to become legal, you would have to leave and wait for ten years before you could legally return), and living in fear of the police, immigration officials and vindictive neighbors who, on discovering your legal status, might have you deported to a country that you haven't lived in the last twenty years. You live in fear of robbers (who specifically target people like you) who may steal your hard earned money because you can't deposit any of it in a bank because you can't get a driver's license or identification card. Imagine not being able to see your family in that time because they can't get a visa to visit you and you can't risk going back across the border because, chances are, you won't be coming back. Your children have never met (and most likely will never get to meet, until they are much older) their grandparents. Imagine employers who treat you like garbage because they can and there is nothing you can do about it because every day you live in fear that you could lose your job and have no social security or unemployment benefits to fall back on. I honestly don't know how people can live this kind of life.

And so, after having met several people who fall into the situation I stated above, I may come across as an arrogant prick with no feelings when I comment on what I perceive to be (comparatively, at least, and I don't intend it as a slight) a simple disagreement over a political issue that will ultimately have a limited effect on anyone.

Sister Mary Lisa

dpc ~

Again you fail to acknowledge the eternal ramifications the church's actions had on Rebekah and Shimon. This was not a "simple disagreement over a political issue" with a "limited effect" on anyone. To them, this had eternal ramifications for them and their children. You know full well the far-reaching ramifications of being denied access to the temple ordinances.

Very interesting that you don't acknowledge that once again. The illegal immigrants story is touching, but really has no similarity to the situation we are discussing here.

fh451

DPC, thanks for your commentary. What you've said now makes a lot more sense to me (and reading your blog was quite enlightening), even though I still disagree to a significant extent :-). I guess I don't really understand why you spend time on this board (or any other Acrynym Mormon board) then, other than perhaps sociological/anthropological observation. But, to each their own.

Peace,

fh451

SillyNut

DPC,

You know, I have had people tell me that my life is so much better than.... a girl child in China, an Arab in Russia, a Kurd in Iraq, a Cuban, etc. And they are right. COMPARATIVELY my life may be better in a lot of respects. The kicker is, I don't know it because I never will be any of those. I am me. I have my life. And I judge my life based on my life experiences. I compare what I am going through in life based on what I know.

So yes, I may have a better life than any number of other people, but that DOES NOT NEGATE what I am going through, or what anyone else is going through. Saying that this incident isn't as bad as being an illegal.... You know what? NO ONE has a way of actually being able to say that with any authority. How would the illegal feel if they were booted out of the Catholic Church and damned to hell by the Pope? Which would they rather keep? Their Catholicism or their life here?

The problem has been the feeling that you are negating what these people have gone through. You can say, "yes, it's bad. I'm sorry for you. There is so much bad in the world." They're very new at this. They didn't get the time to digest and decide to leave. They were forced out. If they now realize the church is a load of crap then say something like, "That must have been so awful for you as a believer. Hopefully it helps now that you believe the church is not divine. Now you can view it as a difference in politics, etc and so forth."

People, all people, want validation. Even you. Doesn't matter if YOU don't think it's as bad as..... They think it's bad. Validate their pain. Then spin it however you want.

Kullervo

I don't think it's unreasonable to be suspicious of a single anecdote, but when you start to add enough of them together, it can look an awful lot like a pattern.

SWM

OK...so you'll sacrifice your own and your families salvation because of your sympathy towards queers??? Its not such a grey area you know. You don't even have to go into mormon theology at all. The bible condemns it all over the place. I found out recently that one of my old mission companions is gay....can't wait to find out that he has aids!!!!

SML

SWM ~

Your comments are completely distasteful and disturbing on so many levels. You need to read up on the plan of salvation immediately if you think that harboring an attitude like yours toward ANYONE is going to get you what you are so afraid gay sympathizers are sacrificing.

Wow.

belaja

SWM, maybe you should make that comment to Jesus. Yeah. Maybe you should pray in the name of Jesus and ask that your former mission companion gets AIDS. I think Jesus would like you using his name in such a holy cause. I think Jesus just feels warm and fuzzy all over knowing that someone who went about the world for two years with Jesus' name splashed across his chest and claiming to represent him with full authority is harboring such thoughts and feelings and then publicly states that he wants his brother to get AIDS, that he wants Jesus' own brother to GET AIDS!!!

I'm sure Jesus, as your advocate with the Father, will bump you to the front of the advocacy queue because I am sure he JUST SO PROUD of how deeply you have internalized and live out his message.

Good on you, bro!

JAMiles

I've never understood the logic behind excommunicating someone for "aspotasy." I mean, let's be honest, if you were an inactive member of the church and had written the exact same letter, I'm betting that you wouldn't have heard a thing about it. It drives me nuts to hear about people being driven out of the church because they disagree with a political position the church has taken.

I'm sorry to hear about what happened to you. I hope your voice will reduce the chance of this happening to someone else in the future.

Sam K

As an attorney I did (and still have) serious concerns not only with a federal marriage amendment but states amending their constitutions. When the Church decided it was a moral issue on which the Church could not only take a position but undertake efforts to mobilize memberships not only as to writing campaigns but walking their local voting districts, I became even more troubled. Much along the same lines as Bruder Danzig (I likewise served a mission in a German mission) I found there to be an appearance of a double standard, the Church seeking to support a position which is based upon its theology regarding homosexuals but in doing so, supporting a law which would infringe the rights of others whose personal religious beliefs are not the same as the Church.
Fortunately my temple recommend interview during that time frame was with a counselor of my bishopric, not my bishop. We discussed at some length my personal concerns about the Church's actions and in the end that counseler (who has been our current bishop for some 5 years) simply saying that it was clear to him I had given this matter deep and serious thought and he saw nothing reflecting me unworthy to hold a temple recommend.
Needless to say, events such as the September Six, the Danzigs and others does give me cause to think the history of the Spanish Inquisition is being repeated...

Tony Collette

Dear Peter and Mary,

After reading your account of your experiences, and your responses to posts here, and feeling your deep hurt and disappointment, I felt an overwhelming urge to give you both a great big hug!

Peter, thank you so much for standing up for the truth as you saw and experienced it regarding the gay issue, and the Church's response to it. I think the gay issue is the perfect way for God to test the depth and genuineness of someone's profession of Christianity. For those who believe gay people are their enemy, how do they treat them? Some folks are passing the test, some aren't.

Back in the 90s, I was approached by the editors of the Mormon Alliance to write a "documentary history" of a gay Mormon. Documentary Histories are pretty big in the Church, but at the time, no one had written one from a gay perspective. That history was published in softcover format as Chapter 9 of "Case Reports of the Mormon Alliance," and the text is available online at: http://mormonalliance.org/casereports/volume3/part2/v3p2c09.htm

It's full of personal stories of life as someone growing up gay in the Mormon Church, going through Church disciplinary action, and my encounters with GAs, including Boyd K Packer. It was written about events many years ago, while I was still -- more or less -- a believer in the Church. I am no longer an active member, and I don't believe Church doctrine beyond the core of Christianity at its center. On the other hand, I recently recommended to an acquaintance that he join the church since it seemed like the best thing for him and his family.

I am deeply troubled by the abusive response you experienced when refusing to recant your understanding of the gay issue from a professional and personal standpoint. Your losses have not been in vain. There are hundreds of thousands of gay Mormons, just trying to figure life out, living one day at a time, thankful for people like you -- who call a spade a spade, who speak the truth as they see, and who don't back down when threatened. Perhaps in an incremental way, you have made the Church a safer place for gay people to be. Although it may not be your spiritual home at the moment, you've done a great service to the members of the Church who just happen to be attracted to members of the same sex. Thanks for your bravery, your honesty, and your stoutness of soul.

Tony Collette
tony@tonycollette.com

Barry

This brother, we are all spiritual brothers and sisiters, is very passionate with his beliefs. I hope he recieves the answers he seeks. Also, I am sorry that he has not forgiven those who abused him and his family, which Christ has said we must do.

In Doctrine and Covenants it is simply said:

D&C 3:2 "For God doth not walk in crooked paths, neither doth he turn to the right hand nor to the left, neither doth he vary from that which he hath said, therefore his paths are straight, and his course is one eternal round."

I applaud this brother's actions on the personal convictions he holds, but he and Sherem were mislead by those who know better and apparently wanted them to suffer needlessly. Even the most humble servants can be decieved.

Yes, the brethern may make a mistake. And as a result I am sure God holds them to a higher standard of accountability and will punish them accordingly. I will never consider it my position to judge, oppose or question the words of the brethern knowing God will be the judge. The Holy Spirit testifies to you and me the truth regarding all things. I doubt that any of us will ever recieve different inspiration regarding our questions/concerns if we ask the same sincere questions of God.

This brother and sister deserve our sincere compassion and understanding.

Peace is my wish, which I leave with you.

Capt Jack

SWM:

"OK...so you'll sacrifice your own and your families salvation because of your sympathy towards queers??? Its not such a grey area you know. You don't even have to go into mormon theology at all. The bible condemns it all over the place. I found out recently that one of my old mission companions is gay....can't wait to find out that he has aids!!!!"

I know I did--that is, I "sacrificed by salvation" because of my "sympathy for queers". Fact is, any god who is the bigoted jerk the Mormon God is doesn't offer a salvation I want any part of.

As far as the Bible, I'm glad to hear you let Bronze-Age bullshit govern your life. Tell me though, if you would, do you let menstruating women sit on your couch? Do you eat shellfish? What about pork? If your kids mouth off, do you take them out back and stone them to death?

Finally, congratulations on your wishing deadly disease on a former missionary companion. Such a Christ-like attitude. Fantastic representative of Jesus you must have made. And make, seeing as how every Sunday you worship in a chapel with the letters in words "Jesus Christ" blown up nearly twice as large as those found in the rest of the church's name.

K8

SWM: Hmmm. . . not really quite feeling the love of Christ there. In fact, I'm getting a hate vibe. I can't help but think you are either horribly confused in your interpretation of Christ's love, or really, really stupid.

Wait, a third possibility has occurred to me - you are a disciple of Utah State Representative Chris Butters and adhere to his constant agenda of bigoted and rascist hate. While he likes to claim his views and subsequent nutjob, psychotic, tax dollar wasting bills are "church" supported, he and his pitbull girlfriend, Gayle Ruzieka could be in for a rude awakening come November.

Neither you nor any other person, living or dead, has any right to judge how anyone else lives. You cannot decide what happens as they live, nor will you have one iota of say in what happens to them after they die. However, I can't help but believe that your toxic beliefs will most certainly hasten your own physical death - to follow the spiritual one that has very apparently already occurred.

Really

dpc-You should really increase your billable hours and stop the drivel!

Brian

Let us, like Him, hold up one shoe and let the other be upon our foot, for this is His sign, that all who follow Him shall do likewise. The shoe is a sign that we must gather shoes together in abundance!

Guen

Dear Peter and Mary,

Thank you for your courage. I am deeply troubled by your experience. As members, we must be free to express our opinions. It appears that you have been treated as pariahs for supporting our gay brothers and sisters. This is shameful. I wish I knew to whom I could complain.

ex-mo

Mormonism is a dangerous cult. Anyone who has survived to leave the LDS Corp is better off.

fh451

Guen said: ". It appears that you have been treated as pariahs for supporting our gay brothers and sisters. This is shameful. I wish I knew to whom I could complain."

This last sentance says, I think, a huge amount about what is wrong with the LDS organization. There really is no one to whom you can complain, or if you do, you end up like Peter and Mary. The top-down structure makes it so that the common member really has no voice. The accountability is also only top down. If you really believe Jesus is at the head, then Jesus must be responsible for the treatment Peter and Mary received, and approves of the fact that there's no redress mechanism for them.

Jenn

Thanks for this post. I'm inspired by those who speak out according to their conscience. I find it highly ironic that a religion that purports that its followers have the right to personal revelation and are encouraged to study matters out in their minds are silenced when those answers aren't acceptable to the "leaders". I commend the Danzigs for their bravery to speak out.

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