April 17, 2000
On Thursday night I received a phone call informing me that the stake president (notice the singular) would like to talk to me. As I haven’t been to a Mormon church in years, I had no delusions that I was being given a new calling. I said fine and scheduled an appointment for Sunday.
I arrived at the church I haven’t set foot in for more than 3 1/2 years with Galileo’s Daughter under my arm to read until the stake president was ready to see me. Ironically, the book deals, in part, with the details of Galileo’s trial before the office of the inquisition. After about 20 minutes of waiting I am informed that the stake president (notice, again, the singular) is ready to see me. I am escorted into his office and am surprised to see that I am not going to be talking to just the stake president as stated in the phone call. The entire stake presidency and the stake executive secretary are all going to be in attendance it turns out. So it is four on one–as if one on one wasn’t bad enough.
The stake president makes no casual conversation. His first sentence is something like, “Tell me about your testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.” To which I respond (note that this is all from memory so I’m paraphrasing and things aren’t exact although I’m trying to make them as accurate as possible), “I don’t have a testimony in the church at this point.” I later explained that I haven’t had a testimony since just prior to leaving the church as I previously explained to my bishop at the time my family and I left the church.
After my initial response he launched into a lecture on how “by their fruits ye shall know them.” His basic point was that Mormons who could rise to the level of stake president or general authority were all wonderful, honest, happy, successful people and those who left the church were miserable wretches who were destined for financial ruin. I sat in silence and disbelief. Disbelief that: a) he thought that after being out of the church for so long I would actually believe him and b) he thought I was mindless enough to buy such a shallow and false argument.
He asked if I valued my membership and what my close family and friends would think if I were excommunicated for apostasy for continuing to have my website. I replied that I placed no value on my membership and my family and friends were already well aware of my apostasy. These were not the answers I believe they were looking for. A member of the stake presidency later pleaded with me to remove the site. Since he couldn’t use the whip of excommunication to get me to do so he tried to reason that since I was no longer that interested in Mormonism there was no reason for my site’s continued existence.
I asked if there were any factual errors, misquotes, out of context discussions, or other material on the site that they found in need of clarification or correction in order to be honest and truthful. The answer was “no.” I then asked what they found offensive about the site. The only response was my critique of the “Proclamation on the Family“. The stake president said that I called President Hinckley a “senile, old, incompetent man” in my critique which can be considered apostasy. I interrupted him and said that his last sentence was completely untrue–that I don’t have any such vocabulary on that page or any other on the site. He admitted that he may have been putting words in my mouth (but still didn’t bother to apologize or retract his false statement). I found this very offensive–especially considering the fact that there were others in the room who probably hadn’t read the page and thought he was telling the truth or at least getting at the gist of the page–which to that point he certainly hadn’t.
He then got to the gist. In fact, he went well beyond the gist of what I was critiquing which, again, shocked me. He began to defend the Proclamation on the Family by providing an even more extreme version of it. His first sentence was, “men and women were not created by god to be equal” (and he wasn’t speaking of biology or anatomy). His last sentence in this discourse was, “men are to bring home the bacon and discipline the children and women are to stay at home and raise the children.” I couldn’t believe he had left the door so wide open for me. I stated that I believed that men should also play a significant part in raising their children. To my astonishment, he did not agree! Instead, he said something to the effect that he wasn’t going to convince me of his beliefs, and I wasn’t going to convince him of mine. (The ironic thing is that I was never even coming close to trying to convince him of my beliefs during the entire “get together.” No attempt was being made on my part. He, on the other hand, spent the bulk of his verbiage trying to convince me of the errors of my ways and the correctness of his.) Later, one of the members of the stake presidency distanced himself from the stake president’s view on fatherhood by stating that I must be a wonderful father and I should continue to teach my children to love their parents and to love their children when they have children. This issue of how fathers and mothers are to behave was the only specific point that the stake president brought up as to my site being apostate.
At this point (and I have skimmed over much of the discourse) we were about a half hour into things. The stake president had done 95%+ of the talking in rather bitter tones. A member of the presidency then asked me to discuss why I no longer believe and what the purpose of my site and life is. I was able to do most of the talking for the next 15-20 minutes before things were concluded.
Not to boast, but my being able to speak brought about a big change in the way the four of them viewed me. I tried to remain very positive about not only my approach to life but also the good things that do come out of the church–some of which are unfortunately not practiced or preached much anymore. By the end I think all four of them said at least once that they now liked me and/or wished me well. This is in vast contrast to the feelings I was getting from them early on. They even said that they may not bother to convene a formal court to excommunicate me even though this meeting was supposed to be just a warning before the court. I’m not sure if this change of heart regarding the possible idea of not exing me had to do more with the fact that exing me was only supposed to be a threat to whip me into shape and/or cause my family to be so horrified so as to get me back on track or if it had to do with the fact that my site’s intention is not to be anti-Mormon but to be pro-truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Anyone who has thoroughly gone through the site and my messages on the bulletin boards knows that I have gone out of my way to link to pro-LDS sites. I have also included many positive quotes and articles by or about Mormons and will continue to do so. Perhaps the potential reconsideration was a combination of both of the above mentioned items. In any event, I will soon get to find out whether they are going to excommunicate me or not.
A few other interesting tidbits…
The stake president said I was free to think whatever I like and be a “freethinker” so long as I am following the prophet. I didn’t bother to point out the inherent contradiction in such a statement and what an oxymoron it was as he didn’t pause to allow me to respond.
I found it incredibly ironic that even though my critiques of a literal reading/belief of the Bible, Book of Mormon, and Book of Abraham are far more extensive than anything I have stated on the site about the Proclamation on the Family, the church seems to only be concerned with–or at least primarily concerned with–the Proclamation on the Family. It has apparently become more important than all the other scriptures. I have a hard time believing they want to be known as the church that excommunicates those who publicly voice their opinion that the church should encourage–not discourage–nurturing fathers, but that is what it sounded like since they didn’t address any other specifics as to how I am considered an apostate.
I asked the stake president how he found the site and he stated that the Quorum of the 70 asked him to take care of the problem. He was unaware of me or the site before then. Back in 1993 when the September Six were disciplined Elder Dallin Oaks claimed that church members are not singled out at high levels for church discipline–that church discipline is something left to the local level. If that was ever the case, it isn’t now. Either that or the stake president goofed in divulging such information.
I was told by the stake president that there are two ways to make decisions. They are: to follow the prophet or to follow society. The stake president said that I was following society. I explained that decision making processes are more complex than he believes. One can gather facts and evidences, weigh possible outcomes of decisions, and then make the best choices based on analysis rather than just mindlessly following President Hinckley or “society” (whatever that means). One of the members of the presidency, apparently not getting my point, then asked if I thought they (he pointed to all four of them) were “deluded followers.” What a loaded question I thought! I should have responded by asking him when he stopped beating his wife, but instead I tried to take the high road so I spoke of the good in some church doctrines and didn’t bother to directly answer his question which was unanswerable based on having only met the four of them less than an hour before and not having heard more than about 5 words from some of them. Should they, or anyone else who thinks I may believe Mormons to be “deluded”, be reading this I hope they click on the “Thinking Mormons” link below.
In summary, it was a fun and exciting afternoon. 😉