THE SEPTEMBER SIX
'THE LDS CHURCH SANCTIONS SIX PROMINENT SCHOLARS'
Such was an example of the one of the headlines reporting the disciplinary action which covered newspapers throughout the Central Western States of the United States of America, and also reached as far as New York and Washington during the months of September and October 1993.
Relatively old news now - but still indicative of the mainstream Church's move to the restriction of scholarly and strong historical study for its membership.
Why the newspaper headlines? Well, the only reason that these individuals made headline news is that they were prominent scholars - many, many others, hundreds and thousands in fact, have received the same treatment by the mainstream Church, not just in Salt Lake, but throughout the world, but, because in the main, these were not well known, the press, and people in general have not heard of them.
The six prominent scholars mentioned above were as follows:-
1/ D.Michael Quinn -
Historian, and Former B.Y.U. Professor. He has written at least six articles for the "Ensign", and many for the Church owned journal - "B.Y.U. Studies". He is most well known for his extremely competent articles on Church sanctioned plural marriages after the manifesto of 1890.
2/ (person who asked to have their name removed from this page) -
Scholar. Noted for his excellent books on Isaiah and the last days.
3/ Paul Toscano -
Salt Lake Attorney. Also writer, together with his wife Margaret, of many articles, and a book entitled - "Strangers in Paradox." He spoke at the 1993 Sunstone Symposium and entitled his talk "All is Not Well in Zion: False Teachings of the True Church."
4/ Lavina Fielding Anderson -
Editor and writer of the Church published "Ensign"
magazine from 1973 - 1981, prolific author, and compiler of recent events in the Church that she calls "spiritual abuse".
5/ Maxine Hanks -
Ardent feminist and editor of a book called "Women and Authority: Re-emerging Mormon Feminism". She has written and spoken extensively on the subject of Heavenly Mother.
6/ Lynne Kanavel Whitesides -
President of the Mormon Women's Forum.
The writer has had an opportunity to talk to Margaret Toscano twice (the most recent being 28th March 1994) since these disciplinary councils took place, and reports now on the situation as it now stands.
Three of the above group felt it necessary to appeal their cases to a higher ecclesiastical court (council). These were: Lavina Fielding Anderson, Paul Toscano and Lynne Whitesides.
Lavina's appeal was unsuccessful; her Stake President visited her and informed her that he had received a letter from the Brethren stating as such, but the letter had instructed him that he wasn't to show Lavina the letter or allow her to have a copy.
Lavina is still attending Church regularly each week and is trying hard to be as active as she is allowed. She is currently writing two books, one being a background and history to the events described above, the other being a list of "case reports" of what she terms "ecclesiastical or spiritual abuse".
Lynne Whitesides appeal was also unsuccessful, (she was disfellowshipped for "conduct unbecoming the laws of the Church") and since her appeal she has been given a list of areas in which the Church feels she needs to repent and change her ways. Two of these rules are that she must agree not to discuss nor talk about Heavenly Mother, and also she must agree not to associate with any others who hold similar views to her own.
Paul Toscano felt strongly that there was legal and ecclesiastical prejudice concerning his Stake Disciplinary Council, as he was informed that Gordon B. Hinckley was involved in arranging that court and having him disciplined. Paul felt therefore unable to appeal to the Quorum of the Twelve, of which Brother Hinckley is a member, and also felt unable to appeal to the First Presidency for the same reason, in addition to knowing that President Benson is unable to physically or mentally understand the intricacies of the situation.
Paul therefore decided to take the advice of the Lord given in the Doctrine and Covenants and to appeal to the General Assembly. Needless to say, his appeal was unsuccessful and was told such by his Stake President. His reply, signed by President Hinckley, was similar to Lavina's, although his Stake President, against the wishes of the letter, decided to let Paul see the reply. The letter said that the Brethren have prayerfully considered his appeal, and have decided to uphold the decision of the Stake Court. They also hoped that he would repent and return to full fellowship, and also asked that he should not be shown the letter, nor be given a copy of it.
The Toscano's are currently not attending meetings at Church, but are strongly involved in a group called the "Mormon Alliance" and are as active as they can be. The are currently asking the Lord to reveal to them what they should do with their lives.
I am not sure what Maxine Hanks is doing at the moment.
Michael Quinn decided that it wasn't worth appealing and so has decided not to. He did not feel a desire even to attend his Disciplinary Council, but wrote a defense instead. In that defense he wrote:-
"I vowed I would never again participate in a process which was designed to punish me for being the messenger of unwanted historical evidence and to intimidate me from further work in Mormon history."
But he did reaffirm his faith that:-
"Jesus is the Christ, that Joseph Smith was God's prophet of the Restoration and that Ezra Taft Benson is the prophet, seer and revelator on the Earth today."
Michael is not attending meetings with the main body of the Church, but is still actively engaged in talking at group meetings outside the Church, and historical research.
In his research Quinn discovered that for a number of years after the 1890 Manifesto, which the Church claims was supposed to stop the practice of plural marriage, a number of prominent Church leaders and others were secretly given permission to take plural wives. Quinn pursued information concerning this subject but found that Church leaders would not allow him to examine some important documents in the First Presidency's vault. In his article, "On Being a Mormon Historian (and its Aftermath)", Michael Quinn wrote the following:-
"President Hinckley telephoned in June 1982 to say that he was sympathetic about a request I had written to obtain access to documents in the First Presidency's vault but that my request could not be granted...
In May 1984 my College Dean told me he had been instructed by "higher authority" to ask me not to publish a paper I had just presented to the Mormon Historical Association. It was a historical survey of the public activity of General Authorities in business corporations. The Dean apologized for having to make this request. I agreed not to publish my presentation and told no one about the incident.
In 1985, after "Dialogue" published my article "LDS Church Authority and New Plural Marriages, 1890 - 1904", three apostles gave orders for my Stake President to confiscate my temple recommend... I was told that three apostles believed I was guilty of "speaking evil of the Lord's anointed." The Stake President was also told to "take further action" against me if this did not "remedy the situation" of my writing controversial Mormon history... I told my Stake President that this was an obvious effort to intimidate me from doing history that might "offend the Brethren". The Stake President also saw this as a back-door effort to have me fired from BYU...
I find it one of the fundamental ironies of modern Mormonism that the General Authorities who praise free agency, also do their best to limit free agency's prerequisites - access to information, uninhibited inquiry, and freedom of expression."(Faithful History: Essays on Writing Mormon History. Edited by George D. Smith.1992. pps. 90-93,95.)
With reference to an address that Boyd K. Packer made in the Summer of 1981 (Packer's address printed in BYU Studies, Summer 1981) D. Michael Quinn made a momentous lecture at Brigham Young University on November 4th 1981. I feel that more than anything, this talk, impressive and often inspired, did a lot towards Quinn's reputation being tarnished in the eyes of the leaders of the Church.
"Newsweek" described the talk by Quinn as a "stirring defense of intellectual integrity. To close this article we quote from D. Michael Quinn's talk:-
"...General Authorities in recent years have criticised Mormon historians for re-publishing in part or whole out-of-print Church publications such as the 1830 Book of Mormon, the Journal of Discourses (edited and published for thirty-two years under the auspices of the First Presidency), and statements taken from former Church magazines published for the children, youth, and general membership of the Church. It is an odd situation when present General Authorities criticize historians for re-printing what previous General Authorities regarded not only as faith-promoting but as appropriate for Mormon youth and new converts.
...A more serious problem of Mormon history is involved in the implications of Boyd K. Packer's demand that historians demonstrate that "the hand of the Lord has been in every hour and every moment of the Church from its beginning to now." Every Mormon historian agrees with Ezra Taft Benson that "we must never forget that ours is a prophetic history," but there are serious problems in the assertion or implication that this prophetic history of Mormonism requires the "hand of the Lord" in every decision, statement and action of the prophets"
[Editor's comment: If this was so we would have no changes in the principles and doctrines of the Gospel - this is what the "Truth Seeker" has been trying to point out.]
"...Central to the apparent demands of Elders Benson and Packer is the view that the official acts and pronouncements of the prophets are always the express will of God. This is the Mormon equivalent of the Roman Catholic doctrine of papal infallibility...
Elder Packer is not advocating Paul's dictum of milk before meat, but he demands that Mormon historians provide only a Church history diet of milk to Latter-day Saints of whatever experience... a diet of milk alone will stunt the growth of, if not kill, any child.
...Why does the well-established and generally respected Mormon Church today need a protective, defensive, paranoid approach to its history that the actually embattled earlier Saints did not employ?
Ezra Taft Benson and Boyd K. Packer want Church history to be as elementary as possible and as defensive as possible. This is Accommodation History for consumption by the weakest of the conceivably weak Saints, for the vilest of the conceivably vile anti-Mormons, and for the most impressionable of the world's sycophants...
The Accommodation History advocated by Elders Benson and Packer and actually practised by some LDS writers is intended to protect the Saints, but actually disillusions them and makes them vulnerable... The tragic reality is that there have been occasions when Church leaders, teachers, and writers have not told the truth they knew about difficulties of the Mormon past, but have offered to the Saints instead a mixture of platitudes, half-truths, omissions, and plausible denials... A so called "faith promoting" Church history which conceals controversies and difficulties of the Mormon past actually undermines the faith of the Latter-day Saints who eventually learn about the problem from other sources... Historians have not created the problem areas of the Mormon past; they are trying to respond to them. Believing Mormon historians like myself seek to write candid Church history in a context of perspective in order to inoculate the Saints against the historical disease germs that apostates and anti-Mormons might thrust upon them.
(D. Michael Quinn. Talk before the Mormon Historical Association. Brigham Young University. 4th November 1981)
Whether you agree or disagree with Quinn's sentiments it doesn't really matter. What does matter is that he should have the right to express them. Remember what Joseph Smith said when somebody was being tried at a Church Court for their beliefs:-
"I did not like the old man being called up for erring in doctrine. It looks too much like the Methodist, and not like the Latter-day Saints. Methodists have creeds which a man must believe or be asked out of their Church. I WANT THE LIBERTY OF THINKING AND BELIEVING AS I PLEASE. It feels so good not to be trammelled. It does not prove a man is not a good man because he errs in doctrine." (History of the Church 5:340)
I refer back to the questions received by the editors of "Truth Seeker" in Vol.1:1 pps.16-19. with regards to the eternal welfare of those who have been excommunicated wrongfully - they will not lose their reward. The priesthood hasn't any power in unrighteousness.
To conclude, suffice it to say, that the "September Six" as some call them are all well and they are all as strong in their convictions as to the divinity of the restoration of the Gospel as ever, and have many hundreds of supporters and well wishers around them.
We send them our regards, and wish them success and happiness in the future.
Malcolm J. Vickery.