I Think I Was Just Informed of My Pending Excommunication.

When the local Mormon Stake President came to the door, I was half-hoping it was Carolyn, wanting to share a glass of Layer Cake Shiraz (that she had recommended) while our wives were at paddling practice. The kids were wrapping up dinner and Isaac and I were sitting on the couches enjoying warm conversation and cold beers.

I’ve always had a soft spot for Dr. Clayton. He delivered GameBoy over a decade and a half ago. He told a group of us LDS college students of his struggle with doubt during his med school days. He had always been kindly and soft-spoken.

He was standing outside in his jeans and Stanford sweatshirt. I invited him in, and CatGirl immediately left the room. We spent half an hour in pleasant conversation, catching up, making small talk with Isaac and GameBoy.

Finally, he got ready to leave, and asked if I could step outside for a moment. I don’t remember the exact words and sequence, but I’ll try to get this down the best I can. He told me of his long friendship with me. I told him, sincerely, of the fondness I had for him, but reminded him as long as he was still the official local representative of the church, that that impacted our relationship.

He then informed me that I had written something on my blog about the temple (this was as specific as he got) that was offensive to the sanctity of the temple and that I would be receiving an invitation to a council because my mishandling of these sacred things was not in keeping with the oaths I made and my position as a member of the LDS Church. (Yes, I’m still on the books.)

At this point, I said two things:

1. That the things he found sacred I saw as manipulative, coercive, and destructive to many people. I told him that I respected his experience, but that I would resist any attempt to censor the expression of those of us who found that it was a painful, problematic experience. (We own our temple experiences as much as any current or former Mormon, and the Church has no right to silence us.)

2. That I make it my policy to blog any interaction I have with Church officials. I told them that I had overcome much of my anger, and had recently wound down much of my criticism of the Church (with the exception of its Prop 8 involvement), but that if they wanted to pursue this, I would document the whole process publicly. My motivation here is primarily one of openness. I’m laying all of my cards on the table (Dr. Clayton is perhaps extending the same courtesy to me, with his visit).

This pretty much ended our conversation. He wished me and my family the best, and I saw him off.

I came inside and told Isaac, “I think I’m getting ex’d.” CatGirl, who was standing in the hallway, broke into a big smile and said, “Isn’t that what you wanted anyway?” We then went off to get ice cream (our original plan for the evening, not in celebration).

So, many of you may wonder how I feel about this.

  • This is the first time I’ve stood toe-to-toe with a Mormon leader and felt like his complete equal in every way. It’s liberating to not feel beholden to Church authority and priesthood power.
  • It was nice to have Isaac, of all my friends, to process this afterwards. He’s been close enough to the Church to see both the good and the damage it does, but distant enough to provide objective support.
  • I asked Isaac to help me make sure my motives are pure. At this point, I don’t feel angry or vindictive. I do feel a responsibility to fight censorship, and to speak out for all of us who have suffered under the Church. I explained to Isaac, “I started Mind on Fire as a cry out to others, when I felt isolated, and then it grew into a community that could embrace others who experienced similar anguish and marginalization.” I still feel that. I’m amazed at the response I got withing minutes of posting my first tweet. I am definitely not alone. Thank you. And I don’t want to abandon any of you.
  • That said, I do feel bad for everyone who is struggling and angry on my behalf, especially Jana. The Church may intend to cut me off, but they may lose Jana in the bargain.
  • Finally, I’m proud of my kids. GameBoy is bemused by the turn of events, and CatGirl is positively delighted.

Anyhow, the ball’s in the Church’s court, so to speak. I’m not sure what to expect at this point–I guess a letter in the mail later this week, if the Stake Presidency and the Stake High Council have already made up their minds. Maybe they’ll decide it’s not worth the hassle and will let me (relatively) quietly move on.

I’m ready for whatever. Bring it on.

154 Comments

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  1. Dang. Sorry I missed this 3 months ago. Saw the link from Jana’s blog and read this today. I take it the court hasn’t happened yet?

    This hard swing of the church this decade (which is getting stronger with Monson at the helm) is ironic because it is so much like the plan of Satan the church professes to be opposed to.

    In many ways I miss the church. I still visit on occaison (fortunately in a much better and diverse ward) and listen to talks – the disparity between the talks 50 years ago (such as those on classic byu speeches podcasts) and those today show a church that used to value its members’ intellect more.

  2. Dana Dahl

    The LDS temple rituals are a very complex and painful issue to work through for those of us who have been tricked into participating. I am late to this conversation and perhaps all that can be said has been said, but one comment seems to unify two very similar issues that I may have some validity in commenting.

    Anijen said this:

    Anijen // Sep 7, 2009 at 10:11 pm

    “I do not tolerate murder and neither does the church. It wasn’t a temple covenant that murdered the Fancher party but overzealous misguided fearful members. It had nothing to do with the Temple ceremony and the church did not sanction it. Strawman.”

    Perhaps what Anijen and many LDS do not see since they’re deeply entrenched on the inside is that it’s the mentality and blind obedience to such rituals as performed and coerced inside the LDS temple and culture that led to the willingness of otherwise sane men to line up 120 some men, women and children, deprive them of defense, and then shoot them in the head or back.

    The men who participated were otherwise GOOD LDS MEN who were told to DO YOUR DUTY by a man who believed he was following the lead of their prophet. Just as many LDS do now, they go through various rituals and agree to acts and oaths that they may not understand but in practicing them frequently, set themselves up for inevitable obedience to any dictate that the LDS church sends down the pipeline.

    This year that mandate is to fund and support bigotry and hatred toward the GLBT community. For many years it was a collective and institutionalized predudice against native Americans with the very twisted and messed up Indian Placement program. Prior to that it was against any women who dared express an idea that aligned with feminism.

    It’s exactly the kind of rituals practiced in the LDS temple that creates the very monstors that committed the henious act at Mountain Meadows.

    I live in a little town that was founded by John D. Lee. In some ways it’s the sweetest little Shangrila that one could ever wish to live in and in others I see the ease at which many of the locals could be incited to a similar riot.

    Small towns can be like that but small towns, Mormonism, ignorance, bigotry, blind obedience and irrational fear are what lead to so many of the witchhunts that plague our society and nation.

    The Mormons share a collective shame in the terrible act that was committed at Mountain meadows but the bigger question may be, could they be convinced again?

    John’s vlog brought back some terrible memories for me. I started going to the temple in 1984 and was tricked into participating in those death rituals. The initiatories (a sort of hazing where one is naked and old ladies graze your body with their hands) was even more humiliating.

    I went to six weeks of temple prep classes and never once were any of these freaky rituals mentioned. Nothing was taught in those classes that prepared me for the nauseating and frightening rituals performed in the temple. The social coercion to participate was the equivilant of being surrounded by a group of smiling Moonies that won’t let you leave until you drink the Koolaid.

    From the first perplexing time I went through till the last about 15 years later, I never once had a sensation in the temple that was not permeated by anger, fear, anxiety and frustration.

    That experience nearly made me suicidal many times in anticipation and the family and social pressure to continue was so great that I would sit for hours beforehand trying to psyche myself up for it. I felt guilt for every part of not feigning to love it as the other LDS members did.

    The LDS church is a cult in every sense of the word.

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