My Controversy with the LDS (Mormon) Church – part 2
The next morning (August 18) David called Bishop Hammond. Bishop Hammond told him that neither of us would be able to speak at our sons’ farewell-homecoming. “I don’t think it is appropriate for someone who is facing a disciplinary council to speak in sacrament meeting,” he said. “What about me?” David asked. “I thought it would look strange if you spoke and Janice didn’t,” he replied. David disagreed but was still rejected. David then asked him why he had not been given a job in the ward. I had wondered if the bishop had put him under some kind of ban. He admitted that after our May 22 meeting he had decided that David should not have a church position. That same morning Nephi returned from his mission.
On August 19, the Salt Lake Tribune ran Vern Anderson’s article about me on its front page. “LDS Mom Catches Hell for Writing About a Mother in Heaven” was the headline. I thought it was well written and accurate and I appreciated Vern’s sensitivity and thoroughness. That morning I delivered my paper, “Him Shall Ye Hear” at the symposium. Channel 4 was there to tape it, having been informed that the speech would be important. I did a short interview with Paul Murphy of Channel 4 after the speech and it ran on the evening news.
We didn’t get home from the symposium until 1:30 a.m. Sunday morning. Then my baby John woke up very upset with me since I’d been gone for three days and it took us two hours to get him back to sleep. Nephi was scheduled to report to the high council on his mission at 7 a.m. so we dragged ourselves out of bed and went with him. Walking back home, we found our cat dead in the road, just run over by a car. We were scheduled to meet with President Bacon at 9 o’clock.
David and I had been increasingly worried that President Bacon and Bishop Hammond were thinking of us as a unit and were regarding David as part of the problem. He is a very open, honest and warm person, much more talkative than I am, especially with people he doesn’t know well and he had taken a very active part in all our interviews. We are in substantive agreement on the issues we discussed so it was natural that out leaders should view us in that way, but it was unfair of them to punish him for his opinions and attitudes. President Bacon had always told me that I could believe whatever I wanted to, that publishing and disobedience were my problems. Now David had been forbidden to speak in a sacrament meeting and he was banned from holding a church position. Since he teaches at BYU any kind of action taken against him could jeopardize his job. We were quite concerned about this and decided that he should drop out of the interviews. However, he accompanied me to this meeting since he had been asked to come.
When we arrived, President Bacon, his two counselors, James McDonald and Craig Hickman, and Bishop Hammond were waiting for us. They asked if they could meet with us separately and we thought this was a good idea since we both felt they needed to start separating us in their minds. I went first and we talked a little over two hours. President Bacon began by filling his counselors in on the background. He got a lot of the details wrong and when I corrected him he became impatient and said the differences were negligible. The important thing was that I had disobeyed him. I pointed out that my version of the details in dispute showed that I had not disobeyed him. In any case, I argued, “I am not under any obligation to follow your counsel.” Since there is no church law against speaking publicly or publishing articles about God the Mother, it is unfair to punish me for something which is neither a law of the church nor a commandment of God,” I said. President Bacon told me that the brethren are very clear about this. I tried to find out if he had received any new instructions from the church hierarchy. He asked me, “What difference does that make? I’m your leader and you should do what I say. I represent Jesus Christ to you,” he told me. I replied, “I am also a servant of Jesus Christ.” He then asked me if it would make any difference to me if he told me which two apostles it came from. I said it wouldn’t because I had made my decision on the basis of my own judgment and spiritual feelings. I told him that I would always try to listen to the counsel of leaders and others with an open mind and heart but that finally I would do what I believed God wanted me to do. President Hickman said that since we can be deceived about spiritual feelings it is safer to follow our leaders. I told him that I realized I could be wrong in what I believed, but that I couldn’t go against my conscience simply because I might be wrong. I had to trust in Jesus, that he would show me my sins if I was willing to repent, that all was not lost if I made a mistake because his grace is sufficient to save me. To have faith in Jesus Christ means to be willing to trust in our own spiritual feelings. President Bacon told me I was rationalizing.
President Bacon wanted to know what my motives were in publishing and speaking. I told him that I don’t believe we can really know what are motive are. We should examine our motives and try to understand them, but we should also realize that some of them are beyond our conscious ability to grasp. Since it is very easy for us to think up good motives for what we want to do, we need to think about the act itself. Will it have good results? Will it help someone? I suppose that my reasons for writing and speaking are complex; I do want to do it and I do receive personal benefits from it, but not without a cost to me and my family. However, the reason I feel an obligation to write and speak is because I have benefited greatly from the writing and speaking of others and I feel that I should try to return some of what I have received.
They were all very upset by the AP article that had appeared in the Tribune. “This is bad news for the church,” President Bacon said pointing to the headline. This makes the church look bad. “What makes the Church look bad,” I told them, “is not that I published an article but that you are going to punish me for it. My paper was given to a small audience on a difficult topic and it was published in a journal with a limited circulation. If you had not decided to punish me this newspaper article would never have been written.” President Bacon said that it would never have been written if I’d obeyed him in the first place.
We also discussed the issue of confidentiality. They said that they regarded these meetings as sacred and they felt it was a violation of confidentiality for me to discuss them with anyone else. I pointed out that the rule of confidentiality in the priest-penitent relationship was to protect the penitent not the priest. I considered myself free to discuss these meetings and I intended to do so. I gave them permission to discuss them too, but they said they couldn’t because they considered them sacred. They said that they could not be as open and honest in these meetings if they thought that what they were saying would appear in the press. I told them that I would try to be truthful and fair in what I said about them, but that they should understand that I would speak and write about it.
Finally, they asked me to reconsider my decision, to pray about it, and repent. “If you say you’re sorry and are willing to be counseled by us, it will go better with you,” they told me. I told them that I would be willing to pray about it, but I had already done this many times and I doubted if it would change the way I felt.
As I left the building David came over to kiss me. I whispered, “Be careful. You can’t help me, but you can hurt yourself.”
When David came home an hour and a half later he seemed strangely cheerful. I realized later that his odd demeanor was a result of the abuse he had suffered which caused him to detach himself from his feelings. Three days later his anger surfaced and he was screaming at me and the children until we were able to work through his feelings. When he came home he said to me, “Well they want me to get you to repent and stop writing. I’m supposed to give you a blessing telling you to do what your priesthood leaders tell you.”
I had been washing the breakfast dishes. I stopped, looked at him, and said, “If you ever do that, we’re through!” Then I went into the other room, sat down on the couch, and cried. That was the first time that I’d cried in the whole, long ordeal. “They’re trying to destroy our marriage,” I sobbed. “They’re trying to make you into a bad patriarch like themselves. They would destroy our marriage to get me to submit to them.” David said that he had told them that he didn’t give blessings like that, that he tried to listen to what the spirit said to him. He also told them that he couldn’t control me and wouldn’t try. “She’s an adult; she makes her own decisions,” he said. “We don’t have that kind of a marriage.” But they didn’t want to accept his answers.
Implicit in the whole interview was the assumption that David either agreed with me and was encouraging me or he was not using his priesthood properly to control me. There was also the implied threat to him and his employment. We need to know what your feelings are. “Do we need to take action against you?” was what David was told at the beginning of his interview, the implication being that if he was on my side they would also need to take action against him.
At one point they asked him to take their loyalty oath: “If two apostles asked you not to publish something, would you do what they asked?” He said that he wouldn’t. He was glad that they did not ask him the general form of the question.
August 28 was the day of Joel’s missionary farewell and Nephi’s homecoming. We planned to hold a small open house afterword for some of our friends and family. Two hours before the sacrament meeting as we were working frantically to get everything ready, I got a call from Bishop Hammond. He wanted me and David to meet him in his office right then. “Can’t we wait until this evening?” I asked. “I’m really busy now.” “I need to talk to you right now,” he said. So David and I went over to his office. He said that he had been thinking about it and he realized that this was a special day for our family and he had decided to let us bear our testimonies about how we felt about our sons’ missions. That made me really angry. I told him that a testimony to me was about Jesus Christ. I had planned a talk about what Jesus has done for me in my mind but he had told me I wouldn’t be allowed to give it so I hadn’t prepared it. David said he would be willing to bear his testimony. I said that I would too but I would not sit on the stand and I would not have my name in the program as if I were a scheduled speaker. David said that it was probably too late to have our names in the program anyway. The bishop said it wasn’t and that he wanted us to sit on the stand and have our names in the program. We refused, but said we would each give a short testimony if there was time and he called us out of the audience. He didn’t. On September 15 I again met with Bishop Hammond. He wanted to know if I’d prayed and reconsidered my view as he and President Bacon had asked me to do. I said that I had, but my views had not changed and I didn’t think I had done anything that warranted church discipline. He said that my paper are damaging to people’s testimonies because I teach something different than the church. He saw himself as the defender of the faith. “There’s a line and I think you’ve crossed it,” he said. I asked him if he’d definitely decided to hold a court. He said that he had. “Then please do it as quickly as possible, because this waiting and uncertainty is very stressful for me,” I told him. He said that he had to check with President Bacon first but that he would try to hurry things along.
September 18 was our stake conference. President Bacon gave a speech stressing the importance of following the brethren and denouncing apostasy and intellectual pride. To anyone who knew of my situation it was obvious that much of what he said was directed at me. He said that the latter-day prophets would never lead the people of the church astray. “There are those who do not believe this,” he continued, “those who drift away from the truth. Sorrow will come to them sooner or later. They will know afflictions and it will hurt their little children. Their sin is the sin of intellectual pride.”
He later bragged to me that several people had thanked him for his talk because they had been confused about the Allred affair and now they knew what to think about it. I told him that his remarks had hurt me. I said that I had no problem with him talking about the issue, but I felt it was unkind of him to attack my character and motives and say I was hurting my children. He said that he wasn’t just talking about me, but all apostates. He never apologized.
On September 25 Bishop Hammond called me to tell me nothing would be done until after conference. Then on Thursday, October 6, I met again with President Bacon and Bishop Hammond and we talked for three hours. Before the meeting Bishop Hammond told me that President Bacon was still open about whether or not a court would be held. That really disheartened me because I knew that they did not intend to just drop the whole thing. They wanted to get me to make some kind of concession or promise. I had told them as clearly as I could that I would follow my conscience and that I would not be controlled by them. Why wouldn’t they believe me?
During this meeting President Bacon brought up the issue of teaching false doctrine for the first time. Bishop Hammond had always been concerned about this issue, but President Bacon had always seemed to believe that my sin was disobedience. Now President Bacon was saying that the problem with my paper was that it contained false doctrine, although we’d had many discussions in which it had been assumed that the problem with the paper was that it was on a forbidden topic. Like Bishop Hammond, President Bacon did not want to get involved in a discussion about the doctrine; he simply wanted to declare it false. When I asked him how he knew that it was false he said that he had received a copy of the article from Salt Lake with certain parts underlined and those parts were the false doctrine. I told him that he couldn’t simply assume that. Perhaps those were the parts they particularly admired. He then stated in a very solemn manner that he knew what was false doctrine because of his position and priesthood. It was that simple for him. He did not have to think, study or ponder. His position made him infallible.
After about two hours of discussion in which I engaged them on every point, I finally grew discouraged realizing the hopelessness of ever getting them to understand my viewpoint and accepting it as one that could be held by a faithful church member. For about twenty minutes I said nothing letting them give me advice. Finally, President Bacon said, “At last I think we’re getting somewhere. I’m finally starting to feel a humble attitude from you.” It was clear. I was acceptable as long as I was silent.
“Where do we go from here?” I asked. “You tell us,” President Bacon said. “Well,” I said, “You should say we have talked to Janice Allred. She believes in Jesus Christ, she accepts the scriptures as the word of God, she loves the church and is committed to it, and she follows the commandments. We should just drop this whole procedure against her. She should be free to write and publish according to her own judgment.” They both stared at me as if they we thinking, “You have got to be kidding.” President Bacon said, “I couldn’t remain stake president one week if I didn’t do something about this.” He then said that he would decide whether to have a court or not. “I will have to judge you,” he told me. “I will have two counselors and twelve men to advise me, but the final decision will be mine.” I had realized for some time that President Bacon had not turned my case over to Bishop Hammond, that he was still involved in it, and that he wanted to do the court himself. So this announcement did not surprise me.
Just before he left President Bacon said to me, “Can I be very frank with you? I have this feeling in my heart, very strong, that I just want to defend you and protect you. I just want to defend Janice allred to the Brethren.” After he left I thought, “Poor President Bacon, can’t you understand what the spirit is telling you? You’ve been praying to know what to do about me and the spirit is trying to tell you but you’re unwilling to let the spirit work on your mind as well as your heart. The only way you can think of to protect me is by changing me.”
Two days later on Saturday, October 8, Bishop Hammond told me that President Bacon had decided to hold a stake disciplinary council on me and he would set the date the next day. He had asked Bishop Hammond to tell me not to partake of the sacrament the next day. He had also asked him to find out how many witnesses I planned to bring. I told him I had four and I asked him if it would be all right if my sister was with me during the court to give me support and help me remember what took place. He said he’d ask President Bacon.
The next day I kept waiting for two priesthood holders to appear at my door with the summons but they didn’t come. Finally, about 5:00 in the afternoon, as I was finishing up in the ward nursery, I got a message to come to the bishop’s office. He gave me the letter there and told me that the court would be held on Wednesday night. He said that President Bacon had agreed to let my sister be present. Then he said, “I really don’t understand you. I don’t know why you’re doing what you’re doing, but I really respect your integrity. I appreciate it that you’ve always been very open and have always told me the truth.” I told him that I knew the whole thing had been very difficult for him, but I felt he had done his best to do what he believed was right. I also told him that I was glad that President Bacon would be holding the council instead of him. I didn’t tell him that I had prayed it would be so.
I called Margaret and Lavina to tell them I’d finally received the summons. (Lavina is the Relief Society president of the dissidents, the marginalized, the abused, and the cast out.) The Mormon Alliance released a press statement and Lavina started calling people to set things in motion for the vigil she had been organizing.
Monday night at 6:30 another letter from President Bacon was delivered to me. This one said that he had authorized Bishop Hammond to conduct the court and that he would “sustain him in his decision.”
On Wednesday afternoon Bishop Hammond called me to say that the court would be held in Bishop Runia’s office instead of his and that I couldn’t have Margaret come in with me. “Since there will only be four men instead of fifteen, you won’t need her as a support person,” he said. “But I also wanted her to be there to take notes or at least help me remember what happens,” I said. Bishop Hammond repeated that she could not come. “why don’t you think about it and let me know when we get there,” I said. Bishop Hammond also told me that one of his counselors and his clerk were out of town and he had chosen two men to replace them.
Lavina and her son Christian arrived about 3:00 pm to help us clean up the house and make dinner for us. Channel 13 came down to do an interview about 4:00 and then Channel 2 and Channel 4 showed up before they were finished. Lynne Whitesides came to help also. Somehow I finished all the interviews and we ate dinner. The Toscanos and a lot of other people arrived for the vigil and we walked over to the church. There were already quite a few people there. I hugged a few friends and then Margaret and I went into the building. There was no one in Bishop Runia’s office , but we met two men from the ward who said that the bishop had asked them to monitor the halls and make sure no one caused any trouble. They said that the court had been moved to the stake president’s office. Bishop Hammond told Margaret that she wouldn’t be allowed to stay and she went back outside.
Present in the court were Bishop Hammond, his counselor Gary Winterton, Keith Halls substituting for the other counselor and Paul McKay substituting for the clerk. Bishop Hammond first asked me, “Are you taping these proceedings?” I answered, “No.” Then he asked me if I had ever taped any of our interviews. I answered that I hadn’t.
Bishop Hammond said I was guilty of apostasy and Keith Halls presented the case. He said that I had repeatedly acted in clear, open and deliberate public opposition to the church or its leaders because I had disobeyed three bishops and one stake president. He then presented letters from Bishops Lowe and Runia and President Hickman to substantiate this claim. I told them that none of the bishops had ever told me not to publish my article and I had interpreted President Bacon’s request not to publish as counsel, not a commandment, because he had not said that I would be punished if I disobeyed and because he had no right to give me commandments which I must obey or be punished.
I had prepared a twelve page defense. I then read the first part which was an account of all that had happened. After that I called in my first two witnesses, a husband and wife, good friends from my former ward. They are well respected and have both served in leadership positions in the church. His profession requires intelligence and reasoning skills so they were good witnesses for me. The woman gave a character witness for me. She said that I was a seeker of truth and she believed I was a pure soul and that she admired my honesty and integrity. She told about our relationship and testified that I had taught her many things which had helped her. The man then also made a strong statement about my integrity. He told them, “If you force Janice to go against her integrity, it will destroy her. Please don’t do it.” He told them of his relationship to Sunstone. He’d served on the board for awhile and had subscribed for many years. He said that some of the articles were good, others were not, but that the audience for Sunstone is comprised of people who are already questioning and who have the critical skills to handle the kind of articles that appear in it. He said that my article was long and difficult and few people were likely to read it, but if they were going to say that people had been damaged by it, they would have to have actual witnesses. He then told them that they should weigh the small potential damage that my article might cause against the certain damage that disciplining me would cause me and my family and the church . “To your neighbors and church members it may seem that you are doing your duty,” he told them, “but to the outside world this looks like oppression and tyranny.”
My next witness was a friend I’ve known for many years. She talked about my family and said that I’d done a good job raising my children and teaching them the gospel. She talked about my church service and testified that she’d read what I’d written and it had built her testimony.
My last witness, a BYU professor, was unable to come but sent a letter. In it he said that although he disagreed with the ideas I expressed in my papers, he believed that I had every right to express them.
After the witnesses spoke, I read the rest of my defense. First, I defended myself against the charge of disobedience. I read:
“It should be noted that disobedience to church leaders is not listed as a reason for church discipline in the bishop’s handbook. The church recognizes certain transgressions as serious and requires local leaders to discipline members who commit them; such transgressions include murder, rape, adultery, robbery and others. This law is know by, and binding upon, all church members.
Bishops and stake presidents may counsel members concerning their privates lives. Such counsel may be from their own wisdom or it may be inspired by God. Members are not obligated by church law to follow the advice and counsel of their leaders. They may accept it or reject it and leaders do not have the right to compel members to follow their counsel by imposing some kind of church discipline upon them.
Sec 121 of the Doctrine and Covenants is very clear on this point:
“No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;
By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile–” (D&C 121:41-42)
It is an abuse of priesthood power to “exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men.”
Sometimes the Lord commands one of his servants to deliver a specific commandment to a person, but the prophet is never authorized to compel that person to obey the commandment. The Lord reserves judgment and punishment to himself.
The church may certainly punish those who transgress certain commandments and do not repent, which it does, but these commandments must be made known to the members along with the consequences of disobeying them. The church must accept these laws and they must be administered with justice and equity. In other wards, church discipline must follow the rule of law and not be imposed arbitrarily.
This is in accordance with the principles of free agency which allows every person to freely choose.
No priesthood leader, no matter how great his authority, has the right to compel submission to his own opinions and desires or even to the word of God. It does not matter that some great and good men have done this. It is still wrong: the Lord has declared it. If the general authorities have received a revelation from God forbidding his people to discuss, ask questions about, or pray to God the Mother, then they should publish it and allow the people to exercise their God-given right to accept or reject it. If they have not, then they should stop the persecutions of those who are seeking more light and knowledge concerning her and those who wish to share the light and knowledge which they have received.
Therefore, I plead not guilty to the charge of disobedience, because there is no church law which requires us to obey the counsel of our leaders or suffer church discipline. Such a law would be contrary to the revelations of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Next I defended myself against the charge of apostasy. First I stated my religious beliefs and commitments, concluding with the statement, “I consider myself to be a follower and servant of Jesus Christ and a faithful member of his church.” I continued:
One definition of apostates given in the handbook is “members who . . . persist in teaching as church doctrine information that is not church doctrine after being corrected by their bishops or higher authority.” I assume that if I am being charged with apostasy because of the contents of my article, “Toward a Mormon Theology of God the Mother”, this definition of apostasy is being used. However, I specifically state in my article that the interpretation of the Godhead which I offer is not Church doctrine. Therefore, I am not guilty of apostasy according to this definition of apostasy.
However, some may still believe that espousing any ideas which are not church doctrine is apostasy so I will briefly address two important questions regarding this issue. The first is “What is Church doctrine?” and the second is “What liberties do church members have in regard to their religious beliefs?”…..
If we study the history of doctrine in Christianity we see a history of contention, with the church marred by schisms and oppression as the need of the individual to find her own truth clashes with the need of the institution to establish one doctrine.
Jesus addressed the problem of contention over doctrine in his church when he spoke to the Nephites after his resurrection. He told them that there should be no contention among them because the spirit of contention is not from him but from the devil. What is the spirit of contention? In the Book of Mormon contention is always about winning. The spirit of contention is of competition, pride, and enmity. Jesus is telling us that this spirit is never from him and we should never have it even when we find ourselves in disagreements with others in our pursuit of truth. It is possible to disagree with love and without trying to impose our opinions upon others.
In speaking to the Nephites one of the first things Jesus did was to set forth his doctrine in a very simple way.
Jesus said that his doctrine is the gospel of faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost.
By having very few points of doctrine and giving space for a wide range of interpretations within these doctrines, Jesus establishes an inclusive church which allows many beliefs. There are obviously many religious questions which are not answered in the doctrine of Christ and many revelations have been given which touch upon these questions. Church members can and should explore these questions and ponder these revelations, but the Lord tells us not to try to establish other truths as his doctrine because this will inevitably lead to contention. Because different people have different experiences, different intellectual frameworks, and different gifts and are at different stages in their spiritual journeys, their understanding of the gospel, and the scriptures, their interpretations of religious truth will certainly differ. These different viewpoints need not lead to contention if members understand what Jesus taught about the doctrine of his church.
My article “Toward a Mormon Theology of God the Mother” gives an interpretation of the Godhead based on a detailed analysis of the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants. While this interpretation differs from the official interpretation offered by the Church, it does not in any way contradict any of the points of doctrine which Jesus established in his church. The standard which I try to use for judging all religious ideas is the gospel of Jesus Christ. If I believe that any idea is not consistent with his gospel, then I reject it. Since my article is firmly based on the scriptures and offers a possible, well-supported interpretation of the nature of God which in no way contradicts the doctrine of Christ, it is unfair and incorrect to call it false doctrine. My ideas may be untrue, but they fall within the range of possible interpretations allowed by the scripture.
I then addressed the question, “What liberties do church members have in regard to their beliefs?”
First, we should understand that freedom of belief cannot be separated from freedom of speech which includes the freedom to read, write, publish and meet with others to discuss and exchange ideas. We do not form our beliefs in isolation from others but in the dynamic experience of interacting with others through reading, listening, talking, and writing. We depend upon others to supply us with information and share their interpretations and insights with us. We also need to receive their responses to both our ideas and experiences. We need criticism from others in order to see the flaws in our reasoning, the gaps in our knowledge, and different ways of looking at our experiences.
It is also necessary to understand that no one can believe anything simply by an act of will. We believe what we do because of a complicated and largely unknown process in which our experiences, our way of thinking, our knowledge, our feelings, our emotional needs, our language, our culture and other unknown influences all play a part.
Thus it is futile as well as wrong to try to coerce belief, which is part of the meaning of Doctrine and Covenants 121: “No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood but only by persuasion, by long suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness and pure knowledge…”
These are the effective and righteous means to change or influence beliefs.
Using discipline or coercion to compel belief also encourages lying and discourages the free exercise of thought and speech required for the pursuit of truth and intellectual and spiritual development. If any form of coercion or punishment is used to control belief, some people will lie about their beliefs to avoid punishment for having the wrong beliefs and to reap the rewards of holding the correct beliefs.
Finally, as I have discussed, there is the problem of determining what is and what is not true doctrine. To assume, as the handbook does, that the bishop or stake president is always right when there is a doctrinal disagreement between a member and a leader is to show contempt for truth and the processes for understanding it. So how do we decide? Usually we do not need to or rather everyone should decide for himself. …
The way to deal with false doctrine is not to punish those who believe it but to teach true doctrine. …
I ended my defense by saying:
I am not an apostate. I believe in Jesus Christ and his doctrine. I have tried with all my heart to keep my covenants. I have not broken any law of the church but have tried to do my duty and fulfill my callings.
If you use this council to punish me you will punish an innocent person.
If you punish me it will be because I refused to lie.
If you punish me it will be because I refused to let you stand between me and God.
If you punish me it will be because I refused to bow to your authority by giving you my unconditional obedience.
If you punish me it will be because I refused to give up my freedom to believe, speak, and act according to my conscience.
If you punish me it will be because I refused to deny my testimony of Jesus Christ.
I am not your judge and I pray that God will be merciful to you. But if you punish me you will have to answer to Him for using your priesthood authority unrighteously.
Although I invited them to question me about my defense, they did not ask any questions or comment on anything I said.
While I was reading my defense, a little after ten o’clock, one of the hall monitors interrupted saying that there was an urgent phone call for Bishop Hammond. Bishop Hammond left and returned a few minutes later. Again he said to me, “I must ask you if you are taping these proceedings.” “No, I am not,” I replied. “Then I must tell you that we were informed beforehand that you were planning on taping these proceedings, so I must ask you again, “Are you taping these proceedings. “No, I am not,” I replied. “Then I must tell you that I have just received a message that Channel 13 has just announced on their news that you are taping these proceedings. So I’ll ask you again. Are you taping these proceedings?” “No, I am not,” I said. “But I’ll tell you what I know about taping. A friend of mine called me on Monday night and said that she’d been talking to someone on Channel 2 to see if they might be interested in secretly taping this meeting. They said they could do it. She wanted to know if I’d be interested. I told her I’d have to think about it and she should call me back. She called back an hour later and I told her that I didn’t think it was honest to tape someone without their knowledge and I didn’t want to do it. She said that was fine and Channel 2 wouldn’t do it anyway because of legal reasons.” Bishop Hammond said, “Okay, I believe you.”
After I finished reading my defense the bishop and his counselors spent the next two and a half hours interrogating me about my beliefs, trying to get me to repent, and trying to get me to agree to some restrictions on my writing and speaking. One of the things that made the court abusive, in my opinion, was the assumption by the bishopric that they were right and I was wrong. I believe that this assumption is built into the structure of the disciplinary council, as its name implies. It is no longer a court where guilt or innocence is determined, but a council whose purpose is to “save the souls of transgressors by assisting members to repent” and determine what punishment they deserve. I went into the court prepared to defend myself and my ideas against the charge of apostasy, but they had already decided I was guilty; their purpose was to change me, to get me to see things their way, or at least not to speak of my way of seeing things. But instead of using love and persuasion to change me, they used the threat of punishment. Although they were courteous and tried to be considerate of my feelings, it was very painful for me to hear again and again that my beliefs were false doctrine and my writings were damaging, harmful, and dangerous to people’s testimonies when these things had given me joy and caused my heart to burn within me many times and I had only wanted to share them with others.
We spent a long time trying to work out some kind of limitations on my writing. I really tried to find something that I could do that would be acceptable to them. Keith Halls suggested that I should promise to never disagree with or contradict a general authority. I said that I couldn’t do that but I could agree to not disagree with them directly. That wasn’t acceptable to them.
During this time they asked me one question dozens of times in various different ways. The question was, “If you were asked to do something by a prophet or any church leader would you do it even if it went against your conscience?” Every time I answered that I would think about it and pray about it and then act according to what my best judgment and the spirit told me to do. I had told them this many times in all the interviews we had had. I had never given any other answer to this question. As it got later and later I kept thinking, “Why won’t they believe me? What do I have to do to convince them that I will not be controlled by them.”
Bishop Hammond kept saying, “Janice, I have to have something form you.” But he wouldn’t accept what I could offer. They kept telling me that my membership was at stake. Finally as we were talking about my paper “Him Shall Ye Hear”, Bishop Hammond told me that if I did not promise to never publish the paper, he would excommunicate me. I considered this. Was publishing this paper really worth my membership? Then I thought, “But this paper is my testimony that we must follow Jesus and do what the spirit tells us. I have to publish it if I can. I have to do what I think is right.”
“Promise not to publish it,” Bishop Hammond said. “I can’t do it.” I said. “I would rather die. I love the church I know that they’ll reject me, but I have to be free.”
As I said this I felt my heart break. I saw a white bird fly out. It said, “I must be free.” Then I began sobbing and I left the room and went and set down in the room next to the room we were in, where I continued to sob.
The effect of my crying on the men was remarkable. One of them came in to see if I was all right. I said that I was, but they thought they should go get David anyway. Then the bishop came in and said he was sorry if he’d been too harsh, but he’d had to say what he did. “I have integrity, too,” he said. “But no matter what happens we’ll still be your friends.”
While I waited for David I thought about my heart breaking and the white bird, the dove, the spirit of God that must be free, my spirit that must be free, free to fly to God in my own way. I wondered if Jesus had accepted my sacrifice, my broken heart, if he would heal it or if it would always be broken like the wounds in his hands.
I looked at my watch. It was one in the morning. Then David came and they started their deliberations. I told David some of what had happened. Then I started crying again. “I tried, I really tried,” I told him, “but I have to be free. I can’t submit my conscience and my judgment to those men.” “I know,” he said. “They are going to excommunicate me,” I told him. “It’s all right,” he said.
We wanted to go see the people who were still waiting, but the hall monitors wouldn’t let us. After awhile some of them started to drift over where we were, then about two o’clock David went and brought the rest of them over. I hugged everyone. I needed to feel their love. I told Lynne and Lavina as they walked with me to get a drink, “Well, my friends, I’ll probably be joining you.”
At 2:30 I was called back to hear the decision. They told me that they were putting me on formal probation. That meant that I was still a member and nothing was marked on my membership record but I would have some conditions and restrictions placed on me. The restrictions were that I was not to partake of the sacrament, hold a temple recommend, or speak or pray in church. However, I would still be allowed to serve in the nursery. Within two weeks they would inform me of some conditions that they would place me under. If I didn’t obey these conditions then another disciplinary council would be held. They asked me if I would obey the restrictions and conditions. I said that I would obey the restrictions, but I couldn’t promise to obey the conditions until I knew what they were.
As we left the room I felt sick. I knew the conditions would require me to do what I had already refused to do, to submit my writing and speaking to their judgment. Why wouldn’t they accept my decision?” I thought. “Did they think because I cried that I would change my mind. Couldn’t they see that it meant that I wouldn’t. How can they make me do this again?”
After telling everyone about the decision, I did a short interview for Channel 4. Then I walked home with Rebecca and Ammon, two of my children. It was 3:30 am. I asked them if they’d seen the news on Channel 13. They said they had. “What did they say about me taping the court proceedings?” I asked them. They were astonished. “Nothing,” they said. Then I told them about the taping questions and what I’d said. Lavina joined us and I repeated the story. When I told the part about the bishop saying that Channel 13 announced that I was taping the proceedings, Lavina said, “Janice, that is absolutely not true. Shauna couldn’t have said it because it is not true, and Shauna wouldn’t have said it, even if it were true, on the air during a live broadcast because it would be unprofessional.” When she said that it struck me that the bishop had lied to me. “He lied to me? He lied to me,” I said again and again. I couldn’t believe it. Then Lavina shook my arm and said, “He was setting you up, Janice. He was trying to trap you.” Later she said that maybe the bishop didn’t know it was a lie, but someone was trying to trap me. I felt betrayed- betrayed by lies and betrayed by a decision that refused to acknowledge my integrity and responsibility. It was 4:30 a.m. when we got to bed and I lay there for three hours before I fell asleep.
Two weeks later Bishop Hammond gave me the conditions and one more restriction- I could no longer hold a church position. As I had suspected the conditions required me to submit my writing and speaking to supervision and censorship. Bishop Hammond specifically told me that if I published “Him Shall Ye Hear” he would consider it a violation of the conditions.
I wrote an open letter to Bishop Hammond in which I informed him of some objections I had to the action taken against me and let him know what my intentions were in regard to the conditions.
In this letter I wrote, “[I]t is unfair for you to place me on formal probation and then impose all the restrictions on me which are imposed for disfellowshipment…I feel that you decided to impose formal probation on me to make your actions seem less harsh. However, its effect on my live is exactly the same as being disfellowshiped.”
One of the conditions stated, “You are asked to not publish or speak in opposition to the doctrine of the Church as contained in the four standard works or official statements of the First Presidency. In regard to this I wrote:
Since you get to decide what opposes the doctrine of the Church, complying with this condition to your satisfaction would require me to accept close supervision and control of my writing and speaking which would seriously infringe upon my freedom of speech. I will not accept this….
I have no intention of speaking or publishing in opposition to the doctrine of the Church as contained in the four standard works or official statements of the First Presidency. However, I can only speak and write according to my own understanding and judgment and I acknowledge that I make mistakes and fall short of what I hope to achieve. I do not regard anything I have written or hope to write as any kind of final truth, but by speaking and writing and listening and reading I hope to continually discover and learn new truths.
Another condition stated, “You should refrain from clear and open opposition and criticism of the church or its leaders.” Concerning this I wrote:
I am not in opposition to the Church or its leaders. I claim and will use my right to disagree with ideas and dissent from policies and practices. I will try to do this for the purpose of building, not destroying the Church.
Concerning my intentions in regard to probation I wrote:
I will follow the restrictions which you have imposed on me. Although I consider myself worthy of partaking of the sacrament and serving in the temple and I would gladly serve in a Church position or pray or speak in Church, I recognize your right as my ecclesiastical leader to forbid me to do these things…
Now I must set some limits as to what I am able to do. I am no longer able physically and emotionally to defend myself and my ideas in an unequal arena where you have the power to judge and punish but are unwilling or unable to engage in an honest and open discussion of the ideas and issues…
In regard to the conditions, I have always been willing to talk to you and have listened carefully to whatever counsel you have given me. However, as I have always told you, I believe that I am responsible to God and myself for what I do and I will always try to do what I believe is right according to my best judgment and the light I am able to receive from God. I do not recognize your authority or the authority of any other person over my own conscience in making my personal decisions.