The LDS church, in response to the article published in the Salt Lake Tribune about Peter and Mary Danzig, issued a press release yesterday reiterating the church's strict zero tolerance policy for members who criticize church leaders. The full text of the press release appears after the jump. The gist is that the church did no wrong and that Danzig was wrong to send the letter and express his views on the subject. The doublespeak evident in the press release is interesting: members can question and dig and come to their own conclusions, but cannot express those views publicly if they differ from what church leaders think. At the same time, the church says members were free to write their senators and express their views on the marriage amendment, but that the church didn't tell them what those views had to be.
The press release also erroneously ascribes an error to the Tribune's reporting by wrongly stating that the article said Danzig suffered official church discipline. The article does not say that, but does use the generic term "discipline." Danzig lost his place in the orchestra, was summoned numerous times for interrogations by church leaders, and was told he would be excommunicated. For the church to say he wasn't "disciplined" is disingenuous.
It appears that people can leave the church, but the church can't leave people alone.
24 February 2008Church leaders are always saddened when an individual, whether through his or her actions or personal choices, decides to leave the Church. A welcoming hand of fellowship is always extended to those who wish to return at anytime.
Every organization, religious or secular, has to determine where its boundaries begin and where they end. The Apostle Paul said that the original Church was organized to help members to be “no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine.” (Ephesians 4:14)
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are encouraged to study, learn and ask questions in their quest for knowledge. Gordon B. Hinckley, 15th president of the Church said: “This Church came about as a result of intellectual curiosity. We believe in education … we expect them (Church members) to think. We expect them to investigate. We expect them to use their minds and dig deeply for knowledge in all fields.”
However, it is not acceptable when their digging and questioning leads to public opposition against doctrine Church leaders are obliged to uphold. That doesn’t mean that Church leaders don’t listen and consider opposing views. Quite the contrary. Local bishops and stake presidents (congregational leaders) love and are concerned about all members of the flock. This is the purpose of counseling provided by local Church leaders who know and care for each individual in their congregations.
Honest disagreements are not the same as public advocacy of positions contrary to those of the Church. When disagreements arise, the principle of the Church is that local leaders discuss these matters with members with love and concern. This was the case with Peter Danzig.
On 23 February 2008 The Salt Lake Tribune posted an article about Mr. Danzig who was a member of the Church’s Orchestra at Temple Square. According to the story, in June of 2006 Mr. Danzig published a letter-to-the-editor in the Tribune (and letters in other local newspapers) encouraging members to oppose Church leaders on the issue of same gender marriage.
In his Tribune letter-to-the-editor, Mr. Danzig said he “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." In reality Church leaders had asked members to write to their senators with their personal views regarding the federal amendment opposing same gender marriage, and did not request support or opposition to the amendment.
Initially Orchestra leaders met with Mr. Danzig to see if his public advocacy of this issue could be reconciled. Finding no resolution, they contacted the Office of the First Presidency, and were instructed to refer the matter to Mr. Danzig’s local Church leaders, as Church protocol requires. Mr. Danzig was asked to take a leave of absence from the orchestra until the matter had been resolved.
For more than a year and a half, Mr. Danzig counseled with his local bishop and stake president regarding same gender marriage and other Church doctrines. Unfortunately he was not able to reconcile his personal beliefs with the doctrine Church leaders are charged to maintain by divine mandate.
In December 2007, Mr. Danzig voluntarily withdrew his membership in the Church by his own formal written request. He was not officially disciplined by the Church as the Tribune article indicated.
The Church normally keeps this type of communication confidential. However, the Church felt compelled to defend its position when Mr. Danzig made this information public and because of the blatant, inappropriate editorializing by the Salt Lake Tribune in what was purported to be a news story.