To listen to the audio, click here:
Tags: Feminism, Mormon, Mormons, Podcast, toscano, Women Stories
Audio versions coming soon?
Um, Why is this called Women in the LDS church if it’s Margaret Toscano? How’s that for a reaction to dissent?
Well, Matt, she was in the LDS church for many years, right?
[censored for rudeness]
Who says it not hard to believe and stay active? I’m having a helluva time. Have you studied church history at all? Maybe you should dig into the history books a little before you make such bold, universal statements. I’m not talking about correlated history either, mind you. I’m talking ACTUAL church history.
Seven, I’m sorry my friend but I can’t hear Christ saying the types of things you’re saying. He taught us to be concerned about the lost sheep and go after them–not to say we “couldn’t care less” about them.
And if you truly believe she is lost and will “reap sorrow and disappointment in the world to come,” don’t you feel a Christian obligation to help her? To help people like Margaret, the first step is to understand them. And to understand them, you first have to listen to them.
Perhaps you are taking issue with the fact that this “listening” is taking place in a semi-public forum, rather than in private, and I can see the merit in that position. However, I am personally thankful that I’ve heard Margaret’s story now because I feel like I’ll be in a better position to counsel and love people I meet who are in her situation.
Thank you for your eloquent words. May I ask how you would go about counseling and loving someone like Margaret? What do you think can and should be said or done that is different from se7en’s approach?
I’m not obsessed, I don’t believe. I find faithful folks interesting (Darius Gray, Margaret Young, the Bushmans, John Lynch, etc.) and folks who struggle with faith interesting.
I’ve tried really hard to retain a balance, fwiw.
The loving part of your question is easy. Treat her in a warm and loving way as you would anyone else. Listen to her. Don’t condemn or judge her. Extend a welcoming hand to her. Or even cheesy Mormon stuff like taking a plate of cookies over to her. The point would be to treat her in a non-judgmental way and show genuine concern for her.
As for the counseling part, that really only comes into play if she is seeking counsel. I wouldn’t presume to take it upon myself to counsel her. But if I were the Bishop in her ward and she wanted to discuss her desire to participate in the ward but felt she had challenges and sought my advice, I’d be happy to listen to her and give her counsel as I felt appropriate under the circumstances. It’s hard to say right now what that counsel would be without her presenting anything to me.
I just think we can’t write someone like Margaret off. I’ve gone back and read some of her stuff. She raises interesting questions. She cites former General Authorities to support her position. She obviously has had several genuine experiences being touched by the Spirit as a Mormon and with the Book of Mormon in particular. I believe her story about her experience with God’s love. I’d do my best to treat her like my sister.
I might also ask her if she ever thought about how her strident tone in reaction to being silenced didn’t just give her critics ammunition to discredit her argument. Listening to her story I found that the saddest part. She chose to marginalize herself out of (understandable, from her POV) anger. Anger does not have a lot of power in influencing others.
I’ve been reading some of the comments made about Margaret’s podcast and am wondering why you don’t use your real names and why you do not state with specificity and precision your objections to her remarks rather than engage in a form of character assassination by rushing to explain why Margaret is wrong without having first gone to the trouble to demonstrate that she is in fact wrong.
I’m glad se7en’s comments above were edited out for rudeness, apparently in response to Paul’s comments above.
And it is sweet to see the protective husband swooping in to defend his radical feminist wife.
My comment was not intended to protect my “radical feminist wife” (who is quite capable of protecting herself), but to raise two serious questions: (1) What is the purpose of the use by bloggers of pseudonyms? Is this useage traditional? or is it done out of fear? (I really don’t know.) And if it is done out of fear, fear of what? Reprisal? By whom? (2)What is the point of criticism that is merely an ad hominem attack by someone who has no personal knowledge of the person criticized? Wouldn’t it make more sense to prove that the object of criticism is wrong in her facts or wrongheaded in her opinions rather than merely to call that person names?
Paul, in answer to your first question:
Yes, the use of pseudonyms among bloggers is quite common. People have been using pseudonyms on the internet ever since the internet came into existence. As to why, I’m not exactly sure. I think for most people they think it is fun to have an alternative e-identity. Or some people may use pseudonyms for comedic purposes (which is my personal reason). Or some people may want to be able to share personal experiences but may also feel uncomfortable about it so they choose the privacy that a pseudonym provides.
There may also be LDS bloggers who use pseudonyms because they want the ability to criticize the establishment without fear of reprisal, which I am sure is something you can understand. For example, a BYU professor may want to ridicule beard cards on a blog without putting his job in jeopardy. So I think there are a lot of reasons people use pseudonyms on blogs, in chat rooms, or just about anywhere else on the internet.
As for the answer to your second question, I have no idea; that’s not my style. And with the exception of a couple comments that appear to have been rightly “censored for rudeness,” I did not see the “character assasination” that you referred to. In fact, I saw few people disagreeing with the content of Margaret’s arguments–with the exception of her blaming the Church for her guilt. Rather, it seems the few comments that critiqued Margaret’s interview addressed her tone and choice of fiery rhetoric, which seemed to rub a few people the wrong way, including myself.
I’m sorry if that disagreement with Margaret’s tone offends you or anyone else, but I think you would agree that critics who offer public criticism–especially criticism directed toward individuals who are loved and revered by many (e.g. prophets and apostles)–should be willing to receive some critiquing in return, so long as it is not just a rude ad-hominem of the type that has been censored above. Margaret has the right to make her views known publicly, and I am sure you agree that others have the right to publicly comment on whether they agree or disagree with her message and her approach.
I also think it’s only fair for us to walk the walk ourselves. Some of Margaret’s writing essentially calls the First Presidency and Apostles a bunch of sexist, racist, elitists. That’s not exactly language that steers clear of ad hominems.
Personally, I think it would be a good thing to have more Margarets out there in the Church, so long as they avoid strong rhetorical flare–which Margaret herself acknowledged in the interview. Oftentimes it’s not what you say but how you say it that counts most.
Non-Winter Meat Eater,
I can understand the use of pseudonyms for fun, but not as a shield from whose anonymity and relative safety one can launch criticisms or unreasoned opinions.
I’m not at all offended by criticism. I object to criticism of tone, and style, and such other irrelevancies, and prefer to criticism that deals with issues of substance.
For example, in your last post you implied that you objected to Margaret’s “tone and choice of fiery rhetoric.” Let me say that I do not think that Margaret’s rhetoric is at all “fiery.” The rhetoric of Isaiah or the lamentations of Jeremiah are fiery. Rhetoric is a matter of personal style, and even if “fiery” what difference does it make. What matters is whether the content is true or false, solid or weak, supportable or not.
Are church leaders racist, mysogynistic, homophobic, zenophobic, and elitist? People disagree. Some people find proof in their words and in the acts and omissions. Others see nothing in their words or acts or omissions to support such a criticism. But the point is not the rhetoric used but the content.
The fact that no non-whites or even southern Europeans have ever been called to the First Presidency or Council of the Twelve stands as evidence of racism, especially after years of barring black males from the priesthood before June of 1978. O
[continued post] On the other hand, believers may feel that this is evidence of the will of God.
The same evidence will be construed differently by different people. Some with faith may see their leaders as infallible. Others also with faith may not care that their leaders are flawed. Others also with faith may not believe that leaders can be trusted. Yet others with different levels of understanding and faith may feel that their leaders need criticism in order to understand the conditions in the church. Others may love their leaders and therefore refuse to say anything disrespectful or critical to them. Others may manifest their love in the form of criticism. Others may feel they must call their leaders to repentance, as did Samuel Lamanite, or Abinadi, or St. Paul to the leaders of the Jewish people. Some of these criticisms may be harsh in order that they will be heard.
I recognize that most Latter-day Saints do not think it is appropriate to criticize leaders of the Church, but that is usually because they have not endured abuses of power in an ecclesiastical setting.
The point is not whether criticism is uttered harshly or not, but whether or not it is true and whether it is uttered to make things worse or with the intent to make things better.
It is because some dissenters and critics have been damaged by abuses of power that they interpret some of the actions, sayings, and omissions of LDS Church leaders as evidence of racism, misogyny, or other forms of bigotry. Certainly, such critics may be wrong. But it is possible that their criticism is true and should be taken as merely a call to repentance from which no one is exempt.
You are certainly free to disagree with me that tone makes a difference in how a call to repentance is received. I tend to agree with these words from Joseph Smith.
“Nothing is so much calculated to lead people to forsake sin as to take them by the hand, and watch over them with tenderness. When persons manifest the least kindness and love to me, O what power it has over my mind, while the opposite course has a tendency to harrow up all the harsh feelings and depress the human mind.”
History of the Church, 5:23–24.
You argue that tone shouldn’t matter but that seems awfully naive to me. Of course it matters, we’re all human aren’t we? It matters in how effective you are at moving someone towards repentance/forgiveness/godhood. Sure, some may find their conscience convicted and change through the better, or may be coerced to change to avoid embarrassment, or just beaten into submission. Perhaps for the first reaction, it is a victory, but it’s a rare one. I see no victory in the others. One of the most profound and mind blowing things I have ever read tells us no power or authority CAN–be maintained by the priesthood only by the list of qualities I am sure you are familiar with.
Notice that I did not agree or disagree with the substance of Margaret’s message in my earlier comment. For anyone who has felt wronged, it is absolutely real to them and I don’t see the point in shooting down a description of someone’s experience. People will wrong us in life, even those whom we are sure should know better. It is inevitable. My question is if there is any power in forgiveness, compassion, and empathy. These are the parts of the spirit that I know have most effectively changed me from my selfish, obnoxious ways the most. Certainly some of the great men I admire the most have thought this way. Men like Martin Luther King, Jr, Ghandi, or Nelson Mandela.
What you do on the internet has a long half life that can come back to bite you. Handles may be used as a shield, but it is often a necessary one, not to protect from criticism, but from hate mail, stalkers, spam, obscenity laden diatribes, prejudice cutting off opportunities and a whole host of other things. I find your criticism of nicknames lacking in understanding of their purpose. Besides, it’s the issues that matter, right. Who cares who said the irrelevancies, just point out their diversion from the point if you feel that strongly about it. (I, of course, realize you did). Isn’t that the way to the reasoned discussion you are asking for?
I can’t imagine what you and Margaret have been through, and I do sympathize with your feelings. I agree with many of your points in substance.
However, there is something to consider about tone. I believe its likely that a General Authority, and especially most traditional believing LDS members, will feel immediately justified in tuning out and classifying you as a Korihor-type dissenter based upon the tone of your commentary. Yes, people *should* consider substance over style, but is it realistic? So if the goal is to affect change, I guess the question is how do you think change will occur?
If you believe that change will most effectively occur by a groundswell of dissent amongst the membership who *will* listen and *not* dismiss you out of hand as a Korihor (preaching to the choir?), then the harshness of the criticism is effective and/or irrelevant. Another perspective is that change can occur by penetrating the barriers of defensiveness and touching the hearts and minds of those who already have power to change things. To do this, tone and style is everything.
It is difficult to argue with a plea for a gentler tone, except to point out that I, at least, would have preferred a harsher critical tone from my critics over a softly-spoken excommunication. Aren’t soft words often a form of passive aggression that can do as much damage, at least to the soul, as actual aggression?
I am not arguing for disrespect or increased angry rhetoric. My point is, instead, that criticisms should not be accepted or rejected on the basis of the tone in which they are uttered (often as a result of frustration and hurt) but on the basis of their merit or lack of merit.
My experience is that people say they are tuning out because of tone, but they are in fact tuning out because the truth hurts.
Yest, what Joseph Smith said, as referenced by Doc, is certainly true. It is also true that we “rebuke betimes with sharpness.”
Showing forth an increase of love is difficult to do whether it follows a strong critical statement or an unwarranted excommunication.
An honest disagreement followed by mutual respect is the best model, but this is not my experience of Mormonism. My experience is that of questions ignored, concerns trivialized, and criticisms silenced, and critics demonized.
As I said before, criticism is not always the work of an enemy. It may be the best offering of a devoted friend.
The “tone” issue is, I think, a red herring at best. Read the New Testament again some time. What was Jesus’s tone with respect to the Pharisees? Yet the Pharisees were legitimate leaders of God’s church, and Jesus even acknowledges them as such. If we are to strive to be Christ-like, then it seems to me that we ought to at least consider his example of how to issue calls to repentance. Calling people whited sepulchers may not fly according to the Franklin-Covey philosophy of winning friends and motivating people, but it is the example of the Messiah.
Tone can make a message irritating to read, but substance is what really matters. If someone is right but rude, it seems to me that a wise person will sit at her feet and learn from her. If someone is wrong but polite, wisdom is to thank her and walk away.
For what it’s worth, I think that Margaret and Paul Toscano’s work on Mormon theological themes is among the most important writings on these topics. They’re basically the only people to date who have taken advantage of the intellectual and spiritual power of liberation/feminist theological ideas — especially the idea that mythic symbols ought to be available to serve the purposes of those out of power, and not only those with institutional power — for understanding Mormonism. Instead of an intellectual system mortgaged to the spiritual concerns and intellectual dilemmas of 18th-century European white men, or a model uncritically married to 19th-century New England, they offer a model of Mormon spiritual thought that interrogates the past to find answers to the questions and problems of the present. One need not agree with each and every answer they produce to admire the passion and creativity with which they execute this agenda.
Paul Toscano asked above about the use of pseudonyms. Some areas of the Mormon internet have a (now) decades-long tradition of pseudonyms, while others demand real names. For example, I write under my real name (J. Nelson-Seawright) at the website http://www.bycommonconsent.com, but I use my pseudonym in commenting at other sites because I still like it… I originally used it to allow me to write about Mormon themes online without muddling my Google record on professional themes; I didn’t want academic search committees to have to wade through pages of Mormon stuff in order to find my professional work.
Roasted and Paul,
You’ve invoked this concept of calling Church leaders to repentance, but the examples you have cited in attempt to justify it do not apply to you. With all due respect, you are not Jesus, the prophet Samuel, the prophet Abinadi, or the apostle Paul. Christ, prophets, and apostles have authority to call us to repentance and choose how strong a tone they wish to use in doing so. But you do not have any authority to call Church leaders to repentance. Consider these remarks from Elder Faust’s April 1996 General Conference address:
From the beginning some from both inside and outside of the Church have sought to persuade members of the Church against following the inspired declarations of those who hold the keys of the kingdom of God on earth. Some of those seeking to mislead have done so claiming special endowments of intelligence or inspiration beyond the established order of the Church. As a warning against those so claiming special authority, the Lord made it clear “that it shall not be given to any one … to preach my gospel, or to build up my church, except he be ordained by some one who has authority, and it is known to the church that he has authority and has been regularly ordained by the heads of the church.” . . .
Early in the Church the Lord warned members, “Thou shalt not command him who is at thy head, and at the head of the church.” 14
Some have said, “My integrity will not permit me to yield my conscience to anyone.” A clear conscience is a very precious spiritual endowment when it is guided by the Holy Ghost. Ultimately, everyone has the responsibility of making their own moral decisions. However, the Prophet Joseph Smith stated that “it is contrary to the economy of God for any member of the Church … to receive instruction for those in authority, higher than themselves.” . . .
[I]ndividual members of the Church may receive revelation for their own callings and areas of responsibility and for their own families. They may not receive spiritual instruction for those higher in authority.
[T]hose who claim direct revelation from God for the Church outside the established order and channel of the priesthood are misguided. This also applies to any who follow them.
Sorry to be off topic. However, I did see that Paul Toscano wrote a couple of comments on this blog. Paul, I remember reading your excellent paper over a decade ago (time flies!) on the subject of love. I think it was entitled, “Choose Love, Not Power.” I would really enjoy reading it again. So if Paul Toscano reads this, would you mind contacting me? I can be reached via e-mail at: email@example.com. Thanks!
Paul and Roasted,
You’ve referred to this concept of calling Church leaders to repentance, but the examples you’ve cited in attempt to support that idea don’t apply to you. With all due respect, you are not Jesus, the prophet Samuel, the prophet Abinadi, or the apostle Paul. Prophets and apostles have authority to call others to repentance, and to choose how strong a tone to use in doing so. But you do not have any special calling or insight that entitles you to call Church leaders to repentance.
Consider Elder Faust’s comments on this issue in his General Conference address in April of 1996:
Early in the Church the Lord warned members, “Thou shalt not command him who is at thy head, and at the head of the church.” 14
Some have said, “My integrity will not permit me to yield my conscience to anyone.” A clear conscience is a very precious spiritual endowment when it is guided by the Holy Ghost. Ultimately, everyone has the responsibility of making their own moral decisions. However, the Prophet Joseph Smith stated that “it is contrary to the economy of God for any member of the Church … to receive instruction for those in authority, higher than themselves.” 15 . . .
NWME, oh, dear, I don’t really understand what you think I’ve said. I don’t think I have ever wanted to command a church leader, nor have I approved of anyone else doing so. But the scriptures are indeed full of spiritual messages coming to higher-ranking church leaders from lower-ranking individuals. There’s a grand difference between the kind of commanding that Faust is interested in and persuasion, love unfeigned, etc.
Sorry about the double-post folks. My post didn’t seem to come through the first time but it looks like it did after all.
Roasted, I was referring to these statements by Paul and you:
Paul: “Others may feel they must call their leaders to repentance, as did Samuel Lamanite, or Abinadi, or St. Paul to the leaders of the Jewish people. Some of these criticisms may be harsh in order that they will be heard.
I recognize that most Latter-day Saints do not think it is appropriate to criticize leaders of the Church, but that is usually because they have not endured abuses of power in an ecclesiastical setting.”
Roasted: “What was Jesus’s tone with respect to the Pharisees? Yet the Pharisees were legitimate leaders of God’s church, and Jesus even acknowledges them as such. If we are to strive to be Christ-like, then it seems to me that we ought to at least consider his example of how to issue calls to repentance.”
Roasted, I interpreted your comment as agreeing with Paul’s idea of calling Church leaders to repentance. I truly am sorry if I misinterpreted what you said. I have the utmost respect for you and Serenity Valley. We just may (or may not) disagree on this point.
The idea that leaders are above criticism and calls to repentance is entirely different from the idea that LDS members should not dictate to or receive revelations for church leaders. LDS members should not dictate to or receive revelations for their church leaders to prevent revelatory chaos from overwhelming the church, that is, the specter of people issuing competing authoritative revelations. But the notion that leaders are above criticism (and idea that current leaders truly believe) is anathema to a religious institution dedicated to truth and spirituality; it is an attempt to avoid responsibility, accountability, and understanding. It is a form of tyranny to forbid followers from complaining about leaders. Jesus did not insulate himself from his critiques. He said that the greatest of all is the servant of all. Also, the tone of criticism becomes kinder when the leaders are inclined to listen rather than ignore complaints.
“Trust not in the arm of flesh” is a good motto and applies in and out of the church with equal force.
Abinidai, St. Paul, Samuel the Lamanite were not acknowledged as legitimate authorities by those whom they criticized. It is only in retrospect that they are considered so. Jesus, upon his appearance to the Nephites, required the words of Samuel the Lamanite to be recorded in the Nephite record, because Samuel’s words had been relegated to the dust bin by those who thought he had no authority. But only God knows who has authority in the last analysis. Else why would the Doctrine & Covenants state that in the last days it would be revealed who are the true apostles and who are the false if all those called to the apostleship are automatically true? (D&C 64: 39: And aliars and hypocrites shall be proved by them, and they who are bnot capostles and prophets shall be dknown.) Section 112, warns that the last judgments will begin upon the heads of the Twelve Apostles who have professed to know Jesus but who have not known him. Why would this section contain such extremely harsh words if duly the called and ordained apostolic leaders of the LDS Church cannot err or would not be allowed by God to err?
Neither Margaret nor I ever claimed authority or revelations. Our ideas must stand or fall on their merit alone. We are open to critics. I’m not sure how the church is benefited by this idea that leaders are above criticism, especially since men with ecclesiastical authority can exercise unrighteous dominion—power without spirituality. The warning about this in Section 121 wouldn’t be necessary if it never can happen.
The view that God’s servants are above criticism is not supported in scripture. If God could rebuke a prophet through a jackass (Numbers 22:22-35), whose to say God cannot speaking through unauthorized critics of authorized leaders.
Well, I think there might be times and places when people are moved by God to call their leaders to repentance — not probably to command them to do specific things, but possibly sometimes as with Paul and Peter. Obviously, though, this isn’t an every day sort of thing, I guess. But I also do think that there’s a lot of room between raising ideas and calling to repentance, in terms of substance and purpose. Rhetoric is substantive, of course, but I think it’s unhelpful when we make it the sole dividing line.
I appreciate the extended discussion and I think I may be close to exhausting my thoughts on these issues for the present time. Just a few parting thoughts:
1. I think your attempts to draw lines between calling Church leaders to repentance on the one hand, and issuing instructions or commands on the other, is a distinction without a difference. How is a call to repentance anything substantively different from attempting to instruct them that they should change course on Church-wide doctrines or policies? And I don’t see that disclaiming revelation or authority to receive guidance for the Church allows you to escape the Lord’s admonitions against attempting to instruct Church leaders.
2. Paul: it seems you attempt to blame your and Margaret’s strident tone on Church leaders’ alleged unwillingness to listen to your complaints. However, from what I can tell, your strident tone preceded, and seems to have caused, the subsequent disciplinary actions that were taken.
3. Paul: the examples of Abinadi, Samuel, and St. Paul don’t apply to you. None of those men were calling Christ’s prophets and apostles to repentance. St. Paul did share his differing views with his fellow apostle Peter from time to time, but that is expected among the Brethren in their decision-making. But I don’t see how an example of an apostle sharing differing views with an apostle proves that Joe Member is divinely authorized to call the prophets and apostles to repentance.
4. Paul: I don’t see how the D&C sections you cite support your position. In fact, they actually appear to be directed towards those who would attempt to usurp the function of an apostle or prophet but who lack authority–i.e. are false prophets and apostles.
5. Paul: I cannot tell whether you claim or disclaim divine direction to criticize Church leaders. On the one hand, you say “Neither Margaret nor I ever claimed authority or revelations,” but you then say “If God could rebuke a prophet through a jackass (Numbers 22:22-35), whose to say God cannot speaking through unauthorized critics of authorized leaders.” Do you or don’t you claim that God is speaking through you to correct the Brethren?
6. Lastly, tone IS important. There is an enormous difference between what I would call writings of “speculative theology,” and writings that harshly condemn Church leaders’ current teachings and policies. Margaret’s 1992 article about women and the priesthood is a pretty good example of what I would call “speculative theology”. It cites a number of quotes from Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, explores their possible meanings, and muses about how those meanings might be fully realized or implemented. I find this type of writing interesting, insightful, and relatively harmless. However, Margaret’s subsequent article from around 1994 (I forget the titles, sorry) has a completely different tone. It hurls hot-button buzz-words like “racist” and “sexist” and “elitist” at the Brethren. It is condemnatory. And frankly, I think it turns off a lot of people who might otherwise be inclined to listen (including me).
Every critic has to ask him/herself an important question: Do I want to achieve results or do I just want to make a stand? It’s the Pragmatist versus the Idealist. Do you want to maximize or minimize your audience and followers? Excuse the hyperbole, but every critic needs to decide whether they are going to be the Gandhi who achieves results, or the suicide bomber that makes a dramatic, yet ultimately self-defeating, statement of protest.
Non-Winter Meat Eater
1. There is no scriptural instruction from the Lord forbidding criticism of leaders. There is a commandment not to falsely accuse or slander or libel leaders (“evil speaking of the Lord’s anointed), but criticism itself is not forbidden by God; in fact, it is encouraged in all the scriptures in the D&C and Book of Mormon that require us to treat each other as equals–which indicates that calls to repentance and criticism are not a top down proposition, but a two-way street. Besides, how can leaders understand our problems and concerns if they do not hear our complaints? The first action of tyrants, dictators, and other despots is to stop the mouths of their critics. Satan’s plan is the way of compulsion. Why would the Lord take a page from Satan’s plan by forbidding his children from expressing their true opinions regarding the quality of church leadership? In heaven, people were allowed to criticize the Lord’s plan and his leadership? If the Lord allowed criticism of Him, why should the leaders not allow criticism of themselves?
2. The tone Margaret and I have taken is not strident, it is merely direct and not sentimental and treats leaders as equals instead of superiors. We were not excommunicated for strident tone, or even false doctrine, but for expressing personal views some of which were critical. The expression of personal views, even if wrong, does not constitute apostacy; and criticism of leaders does not constitute the open and deliberate opposition of the church and its leaders. Motives must be taken into account. Our motives were never taken into account. Our motives were never to harm the church or its leaders.
3. St. Paul was not recognized as an apostle by the other apostles until after the dispute at the Council of Jerusalem over the question of Gentile circumcision. Your idea is that the church is a strict class system and that members are in a lower class, unfit to participate fully in their religion. But the apostles and leaders are only to manage the church and its resources, not to occupy an upper class beyond criticism or reproach. This is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, not the Church of God the Father and the First Presidency/Council of the Twelve. Jesus is the vine, we are the branches. Leaders are “Saints” with special responsibilties. But those responsibilities do not include acting as intercessory priests. The Gospel of John, Chapter 17, makes it clear that Jesus alone is our intercessory priest; he is the keeper of the gate and employs not servant there. The leaders cannot determine who goes in and does not go into that gate. It is true that the apostles have the power to bind on earth and in heaven and loose on earth and in heaven, but the apostles do not have the power to bind on earth what Jesus has loosed, or loose on earth what Jesus has bound; nor can they unseal what Jesus has sealed.
4. No one I know is trying to usurp the authority of church leaders. It is not church doctrine that leaders are infallible. It is not chruch doctrine that ordained apostles are “true” apostles or that ordained apostles are not subject to judgment. The judgment comes from God, but the means by which it comes is not known (D&C 112). The criticisms offered by loyal critics of church leaders may be one means by which God’s warning is sounded, even if the critics themselves are unworthy and without any sense that they are instruments of God.
5. I do not claim divine authority and I do not deny it either because I simply don’t know. I do know that I am following my conscience and trying to raise warnings that I believe are helpful. Only God and possibly time will tell whether I am right or wrong. You want certainty. I cannot offer you that. When the Pharisees asked Jesus by what authority he spoke, he returned the question bback and asked them by what authority John the Baptist spoke? They did not answer him because they feared that if they said that John spoke by the authority of God, Jesus would have countered with the question, “Then why didn’t you follow John and get baptized?” But if they answered that they denied John’s authority, then they feared that the people would turn on them because the people considered John a prophet, even though he had no outward authority. So, the Pharisees answered Jesus by saying that they did not know by what authority John spoke. And Jesus answered and said that since they would not answer his question, he would not tell them by what authority he himself spoke. Authority can be feigned. The Spirit of God cannot. The Spirit and power of God are the ultimate authority, but they are never certain because they are always subjective. LDS people want the assurance of objective, outward authority in order to avoid risk of error in judgment. But we cannot have that kind of certainty, nor can we avoid judging what is true or false. That is our main purpose on earth. As a convert I had to judge by the Spirit if the Church was divinely authorized. The outward authority of church leaders was irrelevant to that judgment. Having made that judgment, I cannot now set aside that facutly. Converts more than those born in the covenant understand that we cannot simply abrogate spirital judgment to church leaders or depend on outward authority as a substitute for personal conviction and inspiration.
6. The words “sexist” “racist”, and “elitist,” are not offensive because of tone; they are offensive because of meaning. The question isn’t whether Margaret was harsh in employing those words (if in fact she did — but I’ll concede that simply because I cannot now remember). The question is whether she was right. Is the church is “sexist”, “racist,” and “elitist”? Yes, these are accusatory words. But the question is whether or not there are facts to support the accusation, and whether there is need to repent if such conditions exist in the church. I understand that the church’s teachings on the role of women are meant to be helpful, but can’t you see that they are also sexist because they are based on a gendered version of separate but equal? Can’t you see that since the days of Brigham Young right up to June of 1978, black males were discriminated against on the basis of race alone–which is the defintion of racist? Can’t you see that your own belief that leaders are above crictism but Margaret and I are not, is in fact elitist?
Your final unnumbered paragraph makes it sound like Margaret and I spoke out to “make a stand.” This is nonesense. We spoke out because we were convinced that the teachings Jesus and Joseph Smith were being ignored, that the church was more interested in its self-image than in maintaining loyalty to the revelations, and that a form of legalism and corporatism was increasing and diminishing the doctrines to the detriment of the Saints, and that it is becoming more and more difficult to distinguish the Restored Church from other Christian denominations. These concerns are both idealistic and pragmatic. Finally, Margaret and I are not anything like suicide bombers. We were willing to speak in our own names not in pseudonyms, to be public and not lob criticisms from the safety of anonymity, to stand up for what we believed, and to take the punishment for it (which is more Ghandi-like, I suppose, than it is like a suicide bomber). Your analogies are flawed, your references inapt. But it has been interesting discussing this with you. I pray God bless you.
Paul, as for Pseudonyms, My name is Matt Witten, a name I share with a popular author. I go by this pseudnym (Matt W.) for two reasons. 1.- I was getting multiple e-mails asking me if I was that author. I am not. 2.- Someone approached me at church and asked me for a blessing based on what I had written on my blog. This freaked me out enough that I cancelled my own blog.
Wikipedia says you have lost your faith. It does not seem that way here. (I am at work and have not watched any of the videos, in Comment #2 I was mainly just gripping that John Dehlin doesn’t seem interested at all in Mainstream Mormon Women…)
I’m definitely interested in mainstream Mormon women.
I get mixed up with Paul Toscano the University of Wyoming football legend of the past, Paul Toscano the scientologist, Paul Toscano the jockey (my cousin, I think), and Paul Toscano the rather famoush Chemistry professor. I have no problem being mixed up with these Paul Toscanos because they are either more important than I or held in better repute. I imagein, however, that none of these Paul Toscanos is happy to be confused with me and, hence, would be included to use pseudonyms–but they don’t. I have problems with the use of pseudonyms by individuals who want to lob verbal stink bombs at others from the relative safety of anonymity.
I really should re-read these posts before submitting them. In my last post “included” should read “inclined”; “imagein,” “imagine”; and “famoush,” “famous.
Does your wife know?
Paul, no worries, I make the same typos all the time. Drives me nuts.
Anyway, I don’t think anyone should lob verbal stink bombs. period. But I don’t think it should be required of anyone to hand out the name, address, p#, ssn, etc when they say something offensive. The best that can be done is banning jerks from a venue where they are not welcome. This banning can only be done by the people who control that venue. John Dehlin could ban me, or anyone else, if he wishes. I respect his efforts to allow all to be welcome, though it may make some, like yourself, or a few very conservative members I know, feel unwelcome sometimes.
And John, I laughed for a good 15 minutes at that, but could not think of anything clever enough to give in response. Crown yourself “cleverness” champion for the month.
I, myself, am not of fan of banning, shunning, or expulsion even when people become rude. I prize free speech even when the expressions made are vulgar. I certainly do not like the idea of censorship, even when that power lies in the hands of someone I admire, liked John Dehlin. The solution, I think, is for those with opinions to express them openly and without cowardice, and for those reading or listening to be much less thin-skinned.
The idea that the use of pseudonyms is inherently cowardly is just downright silly. I am not afraid that anybody will beat me up or toilet paper my house if I post my given name. There are a thousand legitimate reasons why someone would not want their given name plastered all over the internet. I can assure you that my use of pseudonyms has nothing whatsoever to do with being afraid of Paul Toscano, and it is humorous to read such a suggestion.
I do agree with one thing Paul said: people need to not be so thin skinned (see Paul’s original comment above).
The suggestion that there is something inherently cowardly about using a pseudonym on an internet blog is just downright silly. There are a thousand legitimate reasons why someone would not want to plaster their given name all over the internet; not everybody is consumed with the idea of creating a name for themselves. I am not afraid that anybody will try to beat me up or toilet paper my house if I post my given name alongside my comments.
However, I wholeheartedly agree that people–especially those who harshly condemn and criticize Church leaders–should be “much less thin-skinned” when people critique their public statements. Critics might also greatly benefit from practicing a little of what they preach, i.e., opening their minds to the possibility that they might actually be wrong, instead of just mischaracterizing and dismissing every criticism they receive as a mere “ad hominem” or “verbal stink bomb”. The whole Martyrdom routine gets real old real fast.
Mark Twain, should the same rules apply to those who harshly condemn and criticize those who criticize church leaders — including church leaders themselves? I think they should — or else we become respecters of persons.
Despite what you say, pseudonyms are often used by cowards, or people who do not want to stand accountable for their ideas and opinions. This is true even though pseudonyms have other, justifiable uses–such as protecting the innocent, avoiding brutality, and protecting assets. What is your reason for using a pseudonym?
Frankly, I have never heard until now that humility was a justification for pseudonymity? Do you think that people cannot make a public name for themselves under a pseudonym? Samuel Clemens made an international name for himself through his pseudonym, Mark Twain–the very pseudonym you have chosen for your internet persona. You could be accused not only of making a name for yourself as the internet “Mark Twain,” but of coat-tailing on the great writer, himself.
I agree, Mark, that the martyrdom thing gets old fast, particularly if you are not the martyr in question. We are mostly not much bothered when someone else’s ox gets gored.
However, I am not a martyr. I’m a critic. And I know perfectly well I may be wrong. But in what way am I wrong? You suggest in your post that I am publishing under my own name in order to make a name for myself. This is an ad hominem attack: it attempts to explain why I am wrong before going to the trouble to show that I am, in fact, wrong. “Oh, that Paul Toscano is just trying to make a name for himself, so we can just ignore what he says.” It is this that is nonesense, Mark.
Critics like me should, indeed, practice what we preach. But just exactly what is it that I have preached? No one need bother to find out if I can be dismissed as somebody just out to make a name for himself. What is it that I have actually said, in context, that is wrong or disagreeable that is not an arguable interpretation of scripture or that was not at sometime been taught by leaders, and often presidents, of the LDS Church?
The church should be a safe place for people to disagree about their religion. Disagreeing about doctrine should be encouragted. It is not our views of God that bind us together, but the ordinances that we have accepted that make us the children of Christ, a spiritual family. We should be able to tolerate each other’s divergent views with being threatened.
I suppose we actually have many names. I would hope that in the church we would feel safe to speak frankly, disagree, and even dissent in the names our parents’ gave us. But this has not been my experience. The fact that even those defending the church and its leaders use pseudonyms suggests to me, at least, that there are others who feel that it is not safe to speak publicly and frankly and even positively about Mormon matters that are controversial or contradictory to the views of church authorities.
Does it not strike anyone else as ironic that se7en’s comments above were censored? The podcast that spawned this discussion is about the censorship and silencing Margaret Toscano experienced while in the church. Her husband even says in the discussion thread here: “I, myself, am not of fan of banning, shunning, or expulsion even when people become rude.”
I have no idea what se7en said, but he must have been dropping the F-bomb right and left to deserve censorship. After all, silencing an individual for upsetting some members of the blogging community sounds a lot like censoring someone for upsetting some members of the LDS community…
Could someone please turn up the air conditioner in here?
After listening to the interview and then reading this thread, I’m really confused. Was this an interview of Margaret Toscano or Paul Toscano? How did Paul become the center of this whole discussion?
This thread is about Margaret’s interview and the critical responses to it. I interjected myslef into the discussion to raise the questions of (1) the appropriateness of critizing Margaret from the safety of pseudonymity and (2) of critizing her “tone” and “motive” rather than engaging her on the substantive issues she raised in that interview and elsewhere. My purpose was to draw attention to the critical processes used here and elsewhere on the internet and to contrast these approaches with the critical processes that Margaret and I and othes have employed in written and spoken presentations. I’m not sure the thread is about me at all. I think it is about these important issues. I’m not sure what is confusing you.
This discussion has caused me to read an excellent essay by Eugene England entitled “Obedience, Integrity, and the Paradox of Selfhood.” It bears directly on the issues discussed in this thread, and not enough positive words can be said about England’s insights and honesty. His essay provides several historical examples where individuals felt their positions were more correct than Church leaders’, and who received or were threatened with Church discipline.
I particularly liked England’s insights on our Modern-day Abrahamic Test–the denial of the priesthood to blacks until 1978. To me, England’s words are instructive of the approach we should take when we believe our Church leaders are in error, and that we hold the correct position:
“Those who failed the test, I believe, are those who thoughtlessly obeyed, even rationalizing the mystery away by finding some way to blame the blacks because of their supposed lineage or pre-existent mistakes. On the other hand, those also failed who emotionally opted for their own personal vision, rejected the authority of the Church and loyalty to their community, and blamed Brigham Young or the current Prophet or other supposedly racist Mormons, never themselves. My personal hero from that time is President Hugh B. Brown, who wrote the First Presidency message of 1969 that urged all Mormons to pray, and thus prepare, “that all of the blessings of the Gospel … become available to men of faith everywhere,”32 which could only mean when blacks would be given the priesthood. Neither of the groups I mentioned that failed the test—whether conservatives or liberals—took that suggestion [p.32] seriously, and thus they did not find a resolution of the paradox of obedience and integrity through their personal preparation nor did they help God prepare us to live the higher law of priesthood for all.”
Opps, I sent my last post before finishing my comment.
It seems to me that the Women and the Priesthood issue presents another modern-day Abrahamic Test for us Church members. It seems wise here to apply the lessons we should have learned from the Blacks and the Priesthood trial, i.e., we should neither invent convenient theological justifications for women not holding the priesthood, nor emotionally opt to elevate our own personal vision while rejecting the concept of Church authority and harshly condemning Church leaders and “sexists” and “elitists.”
I agree that blind obedience is as bad as being trapped in one’s own narrow vision of truth. Neither Margaret nor I have ever advocated either of these paths. Instead, we have advocated a third appraoch: to search the revelations and to attempt to understand and follow them.
There is nothing in the revelations that barred priesthood from blacks. Joseph Smith ordained at least one black man, Elijah Able. Those two facts alone should have been enough to convince church leaders that black males were entitled to priesthood at least from the beginning of this dispensation. It is arguable that from the day Jesus died and the veil of the temple was rent from top to bottom, the transmittal of priesthood by lineage was replaced by the transmittal of priesthood on the basis of faith and the first principles and ordinances of the gospel. When the privilege of priesthood to the house of Levi ended so did the prohibition of priesthood to any lineage as well.
There was never a justification for the denial of priesthood to blacks since the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is the message of the Epistle to the Hebrews.
The same is true of priesthood for women. In his speeches to the Relief Society given in 1842, Joseph Smith promised to make of the Relief Society a “kingdom of priests” or as another transcriber put it, “a kingodm of priestesses.” In the endowment ceremony women and men are both robed in the vestments of the priesthood and at the same juncture in the ceremony are simultaneously told that with the robe in the proper position they can officiate in all the ordinances of the Melchizedek Priesthood. These words are said to the women and to the men at the same time in the clear hearing of everybody present. If the instruction is true for men, it is true for women as well.
Also, since Jesus first appeared to women at his tomb and they were the first to see him in his glory and since the appearing of the resurrected Lord was then the chief qualification for the apostleship, women have been entitled to be apostles on an equal footing with men.
Joseph Smith publicly taught that the fullness of the priesthood is by an anointing on the head of the man and woman jointly. This is symbolically a reflection of the necessity of both the male and female principles in full and equal particiation in both the creation and the salvation of creation through the priesthood.
Section 132 promises that the male and female having received the final anointing shall pass by the angels and the gods to their exaltaiton and glory.
The point is that the revelations and promises regarding the fullness of the priesthood have never been withdrawn.
Eugene England and others spoke about blacks receiving the priesthood as if the church required a revelation for this to occur. But the revelation had already been given and the pattern had already been set in the days of Joseph Smith, and even from the time of Jesus Chrsit. There was no basis in the revelations to withhold the priesthood from blacks at any time. The same is true of women and the priesthood.
My criticism of the leaders on these points has not been that they have failed to get a revelation, but that they have failed to follow the revelations already given.
Unlike the revelation on plural marriage, the revelations on priesthood to all the faithful (e.g., Sections 76, 84 and 132) have never been put in abeyance by the Lord.
My criticism is that LDS church leaders do not have the authority to bind on earth what Christ has loosed, nor loose on earth what Christ has bound, nor set aside the revelations already given.
I recognize this is a serious criticism, but it is not based on any revelation to me, or on any presumption of authority. It is based on the revelations, on canonical statements, and on the teachings of Joseph Smith. What the Lords says is the law of the church and he excuses not himself.
This is a very different kind of criticism than saying that the brethren are sinful, or frauds, or too worldly, or uneducated. Neither Margaret nor I have ever said such things. Our criticism goes to the heart of what Mormonism is or should be doctrinally. Is it a religion of revelation? or a religion of convenience? Is it a religion that corrects the errors of Protestantism and Catholicism? or a religion that seeks to blend in with these in order to avoid persecution?
How can we trace our authority back to Joseph Smith and abandon his teachings? How can we believe in continuing revelation in a state of amnesia about what the Lord has said? How can we claim to be Latter-day Saints and yet ignore the revelations of Jospeh Smith?
The truth and wisdom of England’s counsel speaks for itself. It seems unwise to create semantic distinctions in attempt to carve out an exception to that wise counsel to argue it doesn’t apply to you. Of course, that is your decision to make.
Eugene’s statement was prudent. He always felt the Church was as important as the gospel. I always expressed to him my grave doubts about this proposition. I certaintly do not think its truth or wisdom speak for themselves, though they may do so to you. Putting the church before the Lord or his gospel seems to me to be a formula for apostasy.
Paul, I credit you with having enough intelligence to recognize that the dichotomy you present is false. It is never a question of putting the Church before the Lord or his gospel because, as you correctly pointed out in an earlier comment, we cannot have 100% certainty that our own views are correct. Accordingly, the real question is whether we defer to Church leaders’ beliefs about what the Lord wants them to do and teach, or insist upon our own beliefs about what the Lord wants them to be doing and teaching.
In the Eugene England essay I referenced, the historical figures who courageously confronted the same dilemma ultimately had the humility to recognize there was a possibility they might be wrong–even though they thought their views were so solid that it was an infinitesimally small possibility. The humble recognition that the Church leaders might possibly be right led to their wise decision to not reject the concept of Church authority altogether and insist upon their own views at all costs.
I agree that the question is whether we defer to Church leaders’ beliefs about what the Lord wants them to do. I think we should defer to leaders when it comes to the management of the Church and its resources, for this is their stewardship which they are required to discharge “not as Lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:3).
I disagree that we must or should capitulate to our leaders when it comes to the gospel of Jesus Christ and its teachings and to the revelations of the Restoration. Yes, they can set the curriculum. But we should not simply acquiesce to perceived error. It is for this reason that I wrote a contradiction to Elder Russel Nelson’s April 2003 Ensign article “Divine Love,” in which he wrongly asserted that God’s love was conditional. The leaders may change the boundaries of stakes and wards, but they may not change the gospel.
I am not insisting on my own beliefs, here; but the tried and true teaching of every Standard Work.
I understand that it is important to be humble. I do recognize that Church leaders may be right. The question is, do church leaders have the humility to admit when they may be wrong and that someone of lesser authority may be right.
Can you name an instance when a general authority admitted being wrong? I can only think of one: Bruce McConkie’s admission that he was wrong about the blacks and the priesthood. He said, “I was wrong. But so were you.” The last phrase undercuts his statement. He could only admit he was wrong if everyone else was, too. He could not admit that someone else was right while he was wrong. Humility is a two-way street.
I do not reject the concept of Church authority or of priesthood authority. I reject the concept of unlimited Church and priesthood authority–in short, of unrighteous dominion.
I do not know who you mean by the “historical figures who courageously confronged the same dilemma” and “ultimately had the himilty to recognize there was a possibility they might be wrong–even though they thought their views were so solid that it ws an infinitesimall small possibility.” Who are this people? Were they truly being humble? Or were they being cowardly? What is there to admire in a person who will not stand up for what he or she believes is right?
Such people know that they might be wrong. But the possibility of being wrong is always present. Paul may have been wrong to argue with Peter? Lincoln might have been wrong to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. Joseph Smith may have been wrong to go back to Carthage jail. There is always a possibility that one may be wrong. But should individuals refrain from acting according to their conscience because there exist the possibilty that they might be wrong? If this policy had been followed, there would have been not American Revolution, no Restoration of the gospel.
You must really stop ascribing to people you disagree with bad motives or flaws such as inhumility. Again, you are explaining why a person is wrong, without demonstrating that, in fact, that person is wrong.
Pardon all the typos in my last post–I was racing to finish before an appointment.
I found Paul’s following statement to be quite interesting:
“The leaders may change the boundaries of stakes and wards, but they may not change the gospel.”
This statement uses the blanket term “the gospel” to equate a doctrine (or teaching) of the gospel with the gospel itself. My understanding of THE gospel is that it is the good news of Christ’s atonement, period.
However, even more interesting to me, this statement shows a very limited understanding of the importance of the restoration and the role of prophets. The fact that we have prophets means that change is in the program; it’s part of what God has in store for us. Otherwise, we could simply follow the example of other Christian denominations and rely solely on what HAS been written, or what WAS revealed in the past. Don’t we believe that God “does now reveal… [and] that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God”?
The unwillingness of the Saints to adjust to changes in doctrine and practice was just as prevalent in Joseph Smith’s day as it is in ours. I believe it is with this in mind that Joseph said: “I have tried for a number of years to get the minds of the Saints prepared to receive the things of God; but we frequently see some of them, after suffering all they have for the work of God, will fly to pieces like glass as soon as anything comes that is contrary to their traditions: they cannot stand the fire at all. How many will be able to abide a celestial law, and go through and receive their exaltation, I am unable to say, as many are called, but few are chosen.” (TPJS 331)
Prophets without authority to change doctrines of the gospel? I certainly hope not.
The two persons referenced in England’s article were B.H. Roberts and another gentleman whose first name I cannot recall, but his last name was Savage, I believe. Both Roberts and Savage had good reasons to believe they were right and that priesthood leaders were wrong, but chose to defer to priesthood authority. England’s essay is worth re-reading.
Of course, the example of B.H. Roberts probably won’t mean much to you because you obviously reject the idea that living prophets and apostles have been called of God to provide authoritative interpretations of scripture, and you certainly feel entitled to reject their words when they conflict with your own unique interpretations of scripture. For those of us who have received a witness from the Holy Spirit that the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles have that authority, it is difficult to understand your position.
You are certainly not the first nor the last person to prefer his personal interpretation of the words of dead prophets and apostles over the words of living prophets and apostles. Regardless, best of luck to you in finding your way.
Non-Winter Meat Easter,
Thanks, and best regards.
I’ve always appreciated the talk “Beware of Pride” given by President Benson in April 1989 because I thought that it applied to all of us in some way. While I try not to judge others, I can’t help but think this part applies to both Margaret and Paul.
“Pride is a sin that can readily be seen in others but is rarely admitted in ourselves. Most of us consider pride to be a sin of those on the top, such as the rich and the learned, looking down at the rest of us. (See 2 Ne. 9:42.) There is, however, a far more common ailment among us—and that is pride from the bottom looking up. It is manifest in so many ways, such as faultfinding, gossiping, backbiting, murmuring, living beyond our means, envying, coveting, withholding gratitude and praise that might lift another, and being unforgiving and jealous.”
As I listened to Margaret’s interviews and Paul’s responses here, it seems to apply in their thinking that Church Leader must listen to them. There does not seem to be any room that they might be wrong in both their thinking and the way they interpret the actions of others, particularly Church Leaders. They are the victims with the magic answers and they are not listened to because of a great conspiracy against them and their small group.
Now I realize that this will be dismissed and dis-credited, but this is the imression that I have and that I think many people share. You might what to think about it.
Pride is a sin, usually manifest in a refusal to listen not to those at the top, but to those at the bottom. Pride is measured not so much by who we treat those above us but how we treat those below us.
Your comment is an ad hominent attack on our motives and character, which you cannot know nor should you judge. You avoid demonstrating that we are wrong by jumping to the conclusion that we are wrong because we are sinful.
This kind of judgment is no less a sin than pride.
WE have not dismissed church leaders, they dismissed us. We did not excommunicate them, they exommunicated us. We did not attempt to silence them, they attempted to silence us. We did not exericse compulsory means, that we done to us.
This is not that Catholic Church. Our leaders are not infallible. If they were, why would the Lord have said what he did in Section 112?
Neither of us desires to lead. It is not a judgment on a leader’s character to diagree with him or think he is wrong. It is not a sin to err in doctrine. Leaders err as much as members. We have a right to openly discuss these things. Disagreement is not faultfinding, gossiping, backbiting, etc. It is merely a difference of opinion on open questions or on the interpretation of doctrine.
I have never understood how we have come to believe that our faith eliminates our right to think, question authority, and participate in our religion as adults.
Sorry, Paul, not buying it. You are playing victim again. You must take responsibility for what you have said and done. I wasn’t attacking you or Margaret personally and I quoted President Benson based on what I have seen, read and heard from the two of you. I have said nothing about your personal lives. Just as you are free to draw your conclusions about Church history and belief based on your research, I am also able to draw my own conclusions based on what you have said and written.
You positively have a right to discuss anything you like with regard to church doctrine, the leadership, the policies and procedures, etc. A lot of us do it all the time. What you can’t do is preach to the Church in general that you are right and the Church and its Leaders are wrong and That Church Leader MUST listen to you! They don’t have to!
You paid a very high and unfortunate price for not stopping that kind of activity when you were asked to.
I don’t know anywhere within Church Doctrine tells anyone to stop thinking and not question. in fact, it is encouraged. While some folks act like sheep and just follow blindly, many do not. They question, they ponder and sometimes, they don’t believe what is taught. And it is ok.
I seems as though there is only one way for you to view this whole thing, your way. The fact that Church Leaders rejected your unique wisdom and knowledge is something you cannot get past.
Certain of your points are well-taken, others are not.
I do not think of myself as a victim and am not playing victim. Margaret and I spoke our ideas in our own names. I have never hidden behind a pseudonym. We took reponsibility for our statements with the understanding that we would be excommunicated. I don’t think we have evaded responsibility.
Certainly, you can draw your own conclusions about about what we have written, but I think drawing conclusions about our characters is beside the point. Perhaps you have not done this, I was not able to tell from your post.
I agree that we have the right to question, etc. And we have the right to speak those ideas publicly. This is America. As my friend, Fred, says: “Baptism washes away our sins, not our rights.” The idea of preaching to the church is vouchsafed in the Doctrine and Covenants which encourages us to “cry repentance,” and to “speak as moved upon by the Holy Ghost.” Leaders are not exempt for repentance.
LDS Church leaders certainly do not have to listed to me or anyone else. But it is poor leadership that doesn’t listen. Jesus said, “As you have done it unto the least of these, ye have done it unto me.”
As for stopping “that kind of activity” when we were asked to, let me say that church authorities do not have the authority to silence members; they may of course control what is said in church meetings, but we have our free agency to speak. We said nothing disloyal to th leaders. We did not at first criticize them. We raised points for discussion in our books. It is still unclear what false teachings we uttered and what criticism we stated that deserved excommunication. If you know, tell me. It is true that I uttered more severe criticsm after being excommunicated. Margaret, I think, did not, although she continued to speak about various open questions of doctrine.
I do not have only one way of viewing doctrine. I have one way of viewing criticism–that it should be directed to ideas and no to personalities, generally speaking.
The leaders did not reject my wisdom, they rejected me. Many of the things I said, if not most, are ideas that come from them.
The question is whether we have advanced ideas that are wrong. I can’t see that we have, since most of the ideas we advanced in our writings were ideas advanced by Joseph Smith and his loyal followers. Our main point is that we should not have amnesia about these teachings nor be ashamed of them, but learn to see how they are consistent with the teachings of Jesus.
Paul, I don’t know you and have never met you, so judging you on that basis is not an option for me. In fact, I know folks that know you and Margaret and they tell me you are nice people and I believe them. I even have your book “Strangers in Paradox.” While I didn’t agree with a lot of it, I enjoyed reading it and I learned some things from it. Which means I even contributed a few bucks to the Toscano household. :0) I guess I was taken aback while listening to Margaret’s interviews and hearing how much anger is there. Against the Church and Church Leaders. I realize that no one is perfect and everyone makes mistakes, but I think that you have have to be willing to accept the consequences of your actions if Church leaders deemed what you wrote and what you spoke was apostacy.
There is no way around the fact that those men are in control. Many of us believe there are put there by God to run the Church at this time and they do it the best way they know how. The fact that we are still talking about the fact that a mere 6 or 8 people were removed from the Church 14 years ago is a testimony to the rarity of the circumstance.
I very much appreciate your kind remarks; and I thank you for buying our book (I was wondering who it was).
I think Margaret and I are angry about conditions in the Church; however, I’m not sure our anger is directed at the Church in general or at any leaders in particular. Our anger, which is largely a manifestation of frustration, is directed at Church policies, some practices, and some specific ideas that I shall call “wrongheaded.”
I agree with you that no one is perfect. We certainly are not, nor have ever claimed to be.
We have accepted the consequences of our sayings and writings. The problem is, however, that we were not branded apostates for the things we said. Not one shred of evidence or testimony was brought against me or Margaret in our separate discilinary councils against any particular teaching or doctrine. We were excommunicated because we would not be silent. There was never any accusation that we had taught false doctrine.
I agree that the leaders should run the church. But they should run it according to the revelations.
Our disciplinary councils were not so conducted. Nor was the intervention of Elder Packer in our excommunications authorized by scripture.
Leaders do not have unlimited authority. They can not rewrite the rules revealed by God. At least, I don’t think so.
You may be right. Excommunications are rather rare, at least for the reasons Margaret and I were excommunicated. I’m not sure that it matters much to us that we are a rarity if the excommunications were unjustified and contrary to the letter of the law, if not the Spirit.
But I do not mean to irritate you. I would not have excommunicated someone else with whom I disagreed without a very substantial showing that immediate and palpable harm was being caused by that person’s expression of opinion. This never occurred in our cases.
I would agree with you that sometimes the “level of paranoia” with regards to a member’s actions or words might be a bit high. I always thought, for example, that the USSR’s problem was that they were too paranoid that their citizen would rise up against them while here in the US, the governement knew the people were always too apathetic to do so.
Most of the time, it is better for all parties to just let it go. I’m sorry that in your cases, they did not. Not sure who that really benefited in the long run. I think, though, that there are more than few folks that think the Church probably did the right thing to you two.
A Thoughtful Faith Podcast
Mormon Matters Podcast
Gay Mormon Stories
Mormon Mental Health
Mormon Stories Germany
Open Stories Foundation