My excommunication from the Mormon Church
Guilty, as charged…
…but let me explain.
Since 1996, when the origins of this site first began, I have received numerous inquiries as to my status in the Mormon Church. Am I active? Have I had my name removed? Have I been excommunicated? Up until now (2000), I haven’t made those answers very public. But now that the book is closed and my formal affiliation with Mormonism has ended, I will provide more details surrounding my exodus and the church’s view of me.
I was an active, non-believer for just over a year beginning in 1995 and ending in October of 1996 (see my story on exmormon.org for a few more details) when my wife decided that she, too, wanted to leave the church. The day after our last Sunday of activity, I sent this email message to numerous internet friends.
Time passed and little happened in regard to my relationship with the church. Family and friends were all informed of our decision. Initially, they took things very badly, but time has helped to heal some of those wounds that differing religious views caused. Concerned friends and family members would occasionally send the missionaries over to try and reconvert us and the bishop or one of his counselors would pop in to invite us back on roughly an annual basis, but the church generally respected our wishes to not be hounded. We probably had intentional contact from the church about a half dozen times between late 1996 and 2000.
During this time the website grew and grew–from only a few pages and dozens of hits a day in 1996 to hundreds of pages and more than ten thousand hits a day in 2000. The site hosted the views of numerous people. A couple of those people were “called in” and coerced into having the things they had said removed from the internet on the threat of disciplinary action by the Mormon authorities. Due to family reasons, they capitulated. I assumed that I was never called in because the powers that be figured I couldn’t be persuaded by holding my family (who left the church with me) hostage. After all, some of the things I have said are far more apostate than the writings of those who had their pages and websites removed. To my knowledge, I was the first person excommunicated based solely on the content of a website.
Time went on and my interest in Mormonism began to wane. I spent less and less time updating and adding to the Mormon sections of the site. If something very interesting came along I would perhaps post it or comment on it. But by and large the site was moving toward examining science and methodology and more-or-less ignoring Mormonism. In 1999, the church became very active in the political world and this got me going, a bit anyway, on Mormonism again. So my interest was rekindled a bit and lds-mormon.com was born (for several other reasons, too, such as problems with the old california.com ISP and the ability to use perl scripts).
And that brings us up to the year 2000. On April 13, I was sitting at home watching an excellent PBS special called “Life Beyond Earth.” Just after witnessing the “Highway Through Time,” a demonstration that probably caused religious fundamentalists everywhere to cringe, I received, out of the blue, a phone call. It was more than a bit strange (and rude, too, I thought) to receive a phone call from a Mormon I didn’t know who wanted to chit chat at 10PM at night. Eventually, he got to his point. For the next part of the story you will want to read the email I sent to a few friends on April 17.
Although I was told at the meeting that I would soon hear back one way or the other, I heard nothing for a month. Then on May 15 as my wife, kids, and I were headed out the door for a “family night” at the bookstore I was issued a court summons by the stake executive secretary and a member of the high council. Unfortunately, or fortunately–depending on whose perspective we are talking about, while 16 men don suit and ties, leave their families, and gather on May 30th to excommunicate me for the crime of apostasy, a charge I freely admit I am guilty of, I spent the evening with my family at Pac-Bell Park watching the Giants and Phillies and showing my kids that both parents “are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children” in our house.
On June 6, 2000 I received this letter–thus ending the story.
“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.”
— (Joseph Smith in History of the Church 5:340)