Today, I appealed my excommunication from the Mormon Church.
Dear President Nelson, President Oaks and President Eyring,
As you should know by now, the president of the Houston Texas South Stake recently called a disciplinary council to consider the status of my membership. On September 12, the verdict of excommunication was delivered.
The purpose of this letter is to present my appeal.
First, my stake president. He’s a good man, a friend. An important reason for my appeal is in consideration of my stake president’s welfare. If I don’t appeal, he will go down in history as the man who excommunicated the bishop who stood up to protect children. The verdict was made by him and only by him. Eventually, our interview policies will change. In the interim, when cases come forward of abuse, suicide and other serious consequences resulting from our dangerous protocol, my sensitive stake president could very well take it hard. He may hold himself accountable for abuse happening all around the world. That’s not fair. But the way it stands, he is all alone in responsibility for the excommunication.
With this appeal, you the First Presidency, will remove a huge burden from his shoulders. Whatever your decision, ownership of the verdict will be transferred to you. Whatever the consequences, they will be on your heads, not his.
Two charges were leveled against me.
- Encouraged others to vote opposed to Church leaders.
I have made a temple covenant to obey the law of God. Part of that law is the law of common consent. To me common consent is one of the most gorgeous principles of the latter-day restoration. You should know it well. Let me recap.
The Doctrine and Covenants contain the foundational revelations contingent with the restoration. Common Consent is referenced several times in very plain language. Here’s one.
D&C 28:13 states, “For all things must be done in order, and by common consent in the church.”
This law is also taught in the Bible and the Book of Mormon.
Common consent is further elucidated by this doctrinal statement found on lds.org:
“Not only are Church officers sustained by common consent, but this same principle operates for policies, major decisions, acceptance of new scripture, and other things that affect the lives of the Saints (see D&C 26:2).”
Under sworn oath to the United States Congress, President Joseph F. Smith explained how common consent is supposed to work in the church. Following is an excerpt of President Smith’s testimony as he is questioned by members of the Committee on Privileges and Elections. The Mr. Smith referenced below is President Joseph F. Smith, head of the Mormon Church at the time.
Mr TAYLER: What is the method in which a revelation is received and becomes binding upon the people?
Mr SMITH: I will say this, Mr. Chairman, that no revelation given through the head of the church ever becomes binding and authoritative upon the members of the church until it has been presented to the church and accepted by them. (Note: the interview policies of our youth have never been presented to the church nor accepted by them.)
Mr WORTHINGTON: What do you mean by being presented to the church?
Mr SMITH: Presented in conference.
Mr TAYLER: Do you mean by that that the church in conference may say to you “We deny that God has told you to tell us this?”
Mr SMITH: Yes, sir, they can. And it is not binding upon them as members of the church until they accept it.
Senator OVERMAN: Does it require a majority to accept or must it be the unanimous voice?
Mr SMITH: A majority.
Mr TAYLER: Then if you had a revelation and presented it to your people, all who did not accept it would thereby be unchurched?
Mr SMITH: Not necessarily. Our people are given the largest possible latitude for their convictions, and if a man rejects a message that I may give to him but is still moral and believes in the main principles of the gospel and desires to continue in his membership in the church, he is permitted to remain and he is not unchurched. It is only those who on rejecting a revelation rebel against the church and withdraw from the church at their own volition. (Note: I am still moral and believe in the main principles of the gospel. I have not withdrawn from the church on my own volition.)
Mr SMITH: I should like to say to the honorable gentlemen that the members of the Mormon Church are among the freest and most independent people of all the Christian denominations. They are not all united on every principle. Every man is entitled to his own opinion and his own views and his own conceptions of right and wrong so long as they do not come in conflict with the standard principles of the church. (Note: I love the statement that Mormons are among the freest of Christian denominations. Excommunicating me sends a strong message that our Church is among the most repressive of Christian denominations. I do not come in conflict with the standard principles of the church. I stand as a witness in support of our core principles. However, I do stand as a witness against a policy. One that is damaging our children. And a policy that has never been presented to the church in the approval process that President Smith is defending to the United States Congress)
If a man assumes to deny God and to become an infidel we withdraw fellowship from him. If a man commits adultery we withdraw fellowship from him. If men steal or lie or bear false witness against their neighbors or violate the cardinal principles of the Gospel, we withdraw our fellowship. The church withdraws its fellowship from that man and he ceases to be a member of the church. But so long as a man or a woman is honest and virtuous and believes in God and has a little faith in the church organization, we nurture and aid that person to continue faithfully as a member of the church, though he may not believe all that is revealed. (Note: According to a prophet’s sworn testimony, I do not qualify for excommunication.)
This ends the quotes I’ll share from President Joseph F. Smith.
According to the law of common consent, members of the Church of Jesus Christ have the right and privilege to vote as their conscience dictates without punishment. Nowhere are we constrained from free speech. In order to exercise true consent, discussion should be encouraged and fostered. Including, making suggestions and recommendations to other members.
The charge that I’ve encouraged others to vote opposed to Church leaders is nonsensical on its face.
- In 1978 when the lifting of the racial ban was presented for a vote, what types of discussion were allowed? Was it ok for a member to encourage others to vote in approval? If so, was it also ok for someone opposed to voice their opinion and encourage others to vote in disapproval? Common consent is a farce if those who are voting can only discuss and make suggestions when they agree with what is being presented. Otherwise it’s a dictatorial system that flies in the face of the beauty of Christ’s injunction that all things MUST be done by common consent.
- Encouraged others to vote opposed to Church leaders? My encouragement has been for people to vote how they feel. If they approve…vote to sustain. If they disapprove…vote to oppose. My recommendation for members is to embrace common consent. I encourage all to live up to their temple covenant of obeying the law of God, which includes the law of common consent.
- Organized more than one public “action” that expressed opposition to the Church or its leaders.
This charge represents an uninformed interpretation. I have never organized actions to express opposition to the Church or its leaders. This is ridiculous. Every event was organized to express opposition to a POLICY. Not to a doctrine. Not to core principles. Not to our theology. I am not opposed to the church. Likewise I am not opposed to its leaders. In fact, I’m the biggest supporter of my Church that I know.
If you care about something you fight for it. If you love something you don’t tolerate what might destroy it. You are passionate to nurture and make it better. I don’t know of anyone who is fighting for our Church with more vigor than I am.
On the other hand, if I didn’t care, I’d ignore the Church’s deadly flaws. I’d turn a blind eye to its faults. Or I would simply desert it and walk away. By my actions, it should be plainly evident that am speaking up FOR my church and not against it.
At the council, for 15 minutes the stake president presented his evidence against me. Most of it was taken from my blog publications. Much was taken out of context. I believe that I’ve more than adequately addressed the evidence against me by addressing the two charges above.
However, there was one citation from the Deseret News that was presented as evidence. Tad Walsh wrote that I was encouraging members to leave the church. That’s a lie. Tad either made-up the quote out of whole cloth or he misheard. Nowhere have I told people that they should leave the church. You won’t find it quoted by any other news outlets. It’s not on my blog. Nor can it be found in any of the multitude of videos that I’ve published.
Let’s work together to make our Church better, especially for our children. I firmly believe that you have already received the revelation to eliminate one-on-one interviews and sexual questions to our children and youth. Several factors point in that direction.
For example, on July 27th, I received a phone call from Gifford Nielson, a member of the 1st Quorum of the Seventy. My 23 day fast had a planned start time of 7pm that evening. He called me early in the afternoon. Giff is a good friend and we had a great chat that lasted about 1 ½ hours. The main thrust of his call was to find a way to avert the hunger strike. We were not able to find an accommodation that was agreeable to both of us. His final offer was this, “Sam, if the apostles provided you with a letter stating that they are working on making changes, would you call off your action?”
I can’t see Giff being dishonest or disingenuous. He would have only offered a letter stating changes were being worked on if in fact they were really being worked on. I listened to every talk during the 8 hours of last Sunday’s General Conference. My hopes were high that the changes to which Elder Nielsen had alluded would be included in the major announcements all of us were anticipating.
My encouragement to you, dear First Presidency, is to release the changes now. Don’t wait until April’s conference to offer our children the full protections that they deserve.
This conference was historic. The change to a 2 hour schedule has been received with relish. When you announce God’s new protections for children, it will be received with much more than relish. You will go down in history as wise and beloved leaders. Members, bishoprics and children will embrace the new policies without reservation. They will rejoice. Those outside the Church will be impressed. They will witness the Church of Jesus Christ proactively putting on a strong protective mantle over our little ones.
Contrast this to what happens if you allow this excommunication to stand. The Church and its leaders will be viewed with revulsion by many outside the church. People will not respond well when they discover how we treat our children and what we do to members who speak up to protect them.
Do the right thing. Be on the right side of history. Reverse this excommunication.