077-083: “Understanding the September Six” — Paul Toscano Parts 1 – 7

October 31, 2007
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When the history of 20th century Mormonism is written, Paul Toscano will likely go down as one of the most controversial and divisive figures of that era. Paul is the husband of Margaret Toscano, and was excommunicated (along with 4 others and 1 disfellowshipment) during the infamous “September Six” incident in September of 1993.  This is Paul’s story — as told in his own words.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

I feel that interviews like this are essential within Mormonism for at least a few reasons:

  • For those interested in Mormon intellectualism — the series of events leading up to the September Six excommunications are absolutely fundamental.
  • History tends to repeat itself — and you never know if some from today’s bloggernacle risk a similar fate as the LDS intellectuals of the 1980s and 90s. Perhaps we can all learn some lessons from this interview, to help keep history from repeating itself yet again.
  • In my limited experience, I have found most of the Mormon intellectuals of the 1980s and 1990s to be honest, thoughtful folk, who were mainly just trying to make sense of that which is very difficult to reconcile at times — namely thought and faith within Mormonism — and were often quite sincere (and even naive) in their desires for church improvement.
  • I find these stories to be fascinating, and even inspiring, in their own right.
  • Generally speaking, I worry that the LDS Church may have damaged itself through these excommunications — regardless of the mistakes made by the “Six.” I sincerely hope that we can learn from our past decisions, and seek to not repeat them

I hope you enjoy. And a MAJOR thanks to Paul for taking the time to record his history.

 

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67 Responses to 077-083: “Understanding the September Six” — Paul Toscano Parts 1 – 7

  1. Paula
    October 31, 2007 at 9:40 pm

    John, should these be showing up in iTunes? I don’t find them there.

  2. Lunar Quaker
    October 31, 2007 at 10:30 pm

    Here are the links to all of the podcasts:

  3. Lunar Quaker
    October 31, 2007 at 10:34 pm

    Let’s try that again:

    Part 1

    Part 2

    Part 3

    Part 4

    Part 5

    Part 6

    Part 7

  4. November 1, 2007 at 12:45 am

    Paula — Is it working yet?

  5. Brent
    November 1, 2007 at 6:15 am

    John, great interview with Paul. I enjoyed this interview, and the candidness of his thoughts.

  6. David Westwood
    November 1, 2007 at 6:45 am

    All seven episodes were available through ZENcast on the evening of Oct. 31.

    This is a remarkable series. I’m grateful to John for providing the interviews, it was a very interesting exchange. I feel great sympathy for Br. Toscano and the pain he went through. I believe he was justified in raising the questions he did. I do not believe that raising issues related to women and the priesthood, the role of Jesus Christ, or the possible fallibility of leaders is deleterious to the church. Rather I feel legalism and fear of what John referred to as demystification are ultimately counterproductive and damaging to the community.

    Thanks John and Paul.

  7. Me
    November 1, 2007 at 11:18 am

    It worked for me. I just finished listening to them all and what an interview! Certainly a fascinating person and life. And while I can empathize with some of his views and feelings, is it any wonder that he was excommunicated? Perhaps it could have been avoided with a little more thought and effort on both sides, but he seems right now to be doing well emotionally in the situation he is in. I hope he finds faith again.

    Having studied many of the same doctrines and sources as he has, I come to very different conclusions on the nature of the Godhead and other doctrines, but, as Joseph stated: “I never thought it was right to call up a man and try him because he erred in doctrine, it looks too much like methodism and not like Latter day Saintism” (WJS, 183).

    But I do think he got closer to–and perhaps even went further past–the line that Joseph expressed than he thinks he did: “It is an eternal principle that has existed with God from all Eternity that that man who rises up to condemn others, finding fault with the Church, saying that they are out of the way while he himself is righteous, then know assuredly that that man is in the high road to apostacy and if he does not repent will apostatize as God lives” (WJS, 413).

    Again, great interview, John. And I love the interaction-style of this and other earlier interviews over the recent rising generation series.

  8. buckhntr
    November 1, 2007 at 11:19 am

    Will this be available in audio only as an mp3?

  9. Paula
    November 1, 2007 at 11:41 am

    Yep, Thank you!

  10. November 1, 2007 at 11:57 am

    Man, I wish there was a camera on you too, John. I can just imagine the look of exasperation on your face at some points in this interview!
    Thanks for putting this up, it’s extremely interesting to see his side of the story, which I really don’t think I could ever get anywhere else. Although I certainly disagree with a lot of what he says, I think the title of the podcast, “Understanding the September Six,” is very apropos–I feel like I understand a lot better where he’s coming from.

  11. Aaron
    November 1, 2007 at 8:37 pm

    Really great John. From a fully beleiving member perspective this was a fascinating look at this story.

    I hope you’re able to interview more the of the Sept. 6…

  12. mc
    November 2, 2007 at 2:06 pm

    I enjoyed listening to this series. Tks John.

    As a former convert I can relate very well to Paul’s viewpoint and the passion with which he expresses it. Frankly, he’s the first Mormon I’ve ever heard use the word “theology” and the word’s absence from Mormon culture has perplexed me for decades. [Say that word to your average practicing Mormon with a BYU degreee and enjoy the quizzed look of expression - priceless.] He hits upon the reason precisely: the church leadership and membership focus on the administration and legalistic aspects of the church giving virtually no thought to theology or their doctrine as doctrine separate from history. I agree with Paul that doing so creates a shallow faith and one that is incapable of lifting people up to a higher ground.

    Other Christian faiths talk a lot about theology because it is what motivates people. There’s not an alcoholic out there who was ever saved by teaching him that alcohol was bad for him. Hell, he knows that. What he needs is something larger than this life to lift him above his self-destructive behaviors. To a different degree that’s what we all need. Frequently the theology of faith is capable of doing that.

    I agree with Paul: The more Mormonism focuses on morality and obedience the less inspiring it is for most of those who participate. And to some such teaching is destructive and toxic.

  13. November 2, 2007 at 7:56 pm

    When is the next episode? I would like to see the rest of these.

  14. November 2, 2007 at 9:39 pm

    John – I found this interview fascinating. Thank you. For a Mormon who was just a young kid at the time of these excommunications, it really is fascinating to hear their stories in their own words.
    I am admittedly liberal, and have tended to think that ideas in and of themselves, aren’t necessarily dangerous. This interview, however, has somewhat disabused me of that notion.
    It is not that I think that Brother Toscano’s ideas are dangerous to me or others, but perhaps the greatest danger in ideas is the danger to which the bearer (and proclaimer) of such ideas exposed.
    And the danger in this case, doesn’t seem to have been an external one, but one that made Brother Toscano perhaps too forceful, perhaps too prideful.
    But on the positive side, I greatly appreciated his desire for an emphasis on the Savior and the notion of grace.
    Thanks for another fantastic interview.

  15. Brent
    November 3, 2007 at 3:36 am

    If you go to Youtube, and type in mormonstories, (all one word), it will bring up all the Toscano interviews, as well as many others. Interesting stuff.

  16. November 3, 2007 at 7:53 am

    They are all up. You should subscribe through iTunes, or you can access them here:

    http://feeds.feedburner.com/MormonStoriesPodcast

  17. Wayne :o)
    November 3, 2007 at 10:55 am

    Thanks John & Paul, really enjoyed the podcasts!

    Keep up great work.

    Wayne :o)

  18. November 4, 2007 at 5:29 pm

    John,

    Thanks for posting my interviews. I listened to them all. I could not find any place where I uttered profanity, unless my one sotto voce reference to “crap” qualifies. Am I missing something?

  19. Wade Stoddard
    November 4, 2007 at 6:16 pm

    I didn’t really find any information on the events regarding the September Six, unless more are to follow. I was hoping for more dialogue as too what Paul thought and his reasons behind staying inactive. Thank you though Paul for sharing.

  20. N
    November 4, 2007 at 8:52 pm

    I listened to the entire interview on audio. Then I listened a second time. Then I went back today and listened to the interview with Margaret Toscano again. Ms. Toscano is a class act all the way.

    Mr. Toscano, on the other hand comes off as, despite his denial, staggeringly arrogant. This is notably underscored when you, John, pointed out in part 4 – what does it say about God and Jesus when no church has it right, only Paul Toscano and a couple of his friends? Toscano’s response is to basically to affirm that audacity.

    Sorry to say it John, but to quote Vizzini:

    “You fell victim to one of the classic blunders! The most famous is never get involved in a land war in Asia, but only slightly less well-known is this: never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line!”

    Spiritual death, at any rate. ;)

  21. November 4, 2007 at 10:54 pm

    thanks John for posting this interview. and thanks Paul for sharing your experiences and ideas.

  22. November 5, 2007 at 8:03 am

    I think John is referring to the frequent use of the words “Boyd K. Packer.”

    A joke! Just kidding! This won’t get through moderation, will it?

    If it does, John and Paul, I am thoroughly enjoying these. Have listened to the first three segments. Was shocked when one of the participants compared the Brethren to Osama bin Laden (you’ll have to guess which one, and you might bu surprised). :-)

  23. November 5, 2007 at 9:52 am

    Paul,

    MAJOR apologies (and mistake corrected). For some reason I remembered a few naughty words during the interview (and didn’t have a chance to review them during the editing process).

    Anyway, it’s all fixed — and again…my apologies.

  24. November 5, 2007 at 11:38 am

    Another great series. Thanks to John and to Paul.
    I feel the larger LDS community would be strengthened by more open discussion like these interviews. While I don’t agree with everything that either John or Paul said, I learned something from the exchange.

  25. mc
    November 6, 2007 at 3:54 pm

    I agree with Equality that the OBL comment by John was out of character and a cheap shot of sorts… but to be expected in the heat of discussion.

  26. November 6, 2007 at 5:09 pm

    What did I say? I don’t even remember! (Haven’t watched these since I recorded them months ago).

    I’m intrigued!!!

  27. Andrew A
    November 7, 2007 at 1:07 am

    I almost didn’t listen to these podcasts because Toscano has never appealed to me, but I ended up listening to all of them out of morbid curiosity. I have a few observations:

    1. The more I listened, the more I wondered why Church leaders felt a need to silence Toscano–not because his statements are benign–but because the more he is allowed to speak, the more apparent the contradictions, inconsistencies, false premises, and logical errors in his reasoning become.

    2. Listening to his ranting and the effect his attitude has had on his life (and his family’s) made me want to become an orthodox Mormon and stay as far away from criticizing church leaders as humanly possible. I can’t help wondering how his life might have turned out differently if he had heeded Elder Maxwell’s counsel to be meek. This interview made me want to become meek as a mouse.

    3. The understatement of the year is that Toscano and the Church were probably never a good fit. Like oil and water. He is far too independent-minded (that’s a euphemism) for a church as hierarchical and obedience-centered as the LDS Church. And yet I deeply wish he and the Church could make peace; I would welcome him to my ward with open arms (although I imagine I might sometimes want to use those arms to strangle him).

    4. I listened carefully and even rewinded the part where John asked Toscano (paraphrasing): “What does it tell us about God that he has obscured his nature to mankind such that the Catholics, Protestants, and Mormons all have it wrong, but Paul Toscano has it right.” John asked the question twice. Toscano failed to answer the question both times. I think Toscano should ponder that question very, very, very, very deeply.

    5. Although I find Toscano extremely abrasive and largely undeserving of serious attention, I cannot help sympathizing with and even liking him for reasons that completely elude me. I think I would really enjoy having a beer with him, if I drank beer.

    6. John, congrats to you on this interview. Rarely have I heard an interview where the interviewer asks virtually every question that pops into my head as I’m listening to the interviewee speak. This was your finest hour.

  28. November 7, 2007 at 9:42 am

    RE Andrew’s paraphrase, and John’s question in the podcast, to the effect that: “What does it tell us about God that he has obscured his nature to mankind such that the Catholics, Protestants, and Mormons all have it wrong, but Paul Toscano has it right.”

    Well, let’s hold on for a moment here. Isn’t that pretty much what Mormons say to the rest of the world every day? And what Martin Luther said? And John Calvin? And Joseph Smith? And Paul? And so forth? Is it really that impossible to think that God’s nature is widely misunderstood? In fact, if we believe that God exists, it must necessarily be true that His nature is widely misunderstood — since humans hold such a vast diversity of beliefs about His nature.

    But furthermore, I know for sure that there are at least some Mormons who hold Paul Toscano’s view of the Godhead, and indeed have done since long before Paul spoke or wrote on the issue. Also, on the central issue of the Jesus/Father relationship, many, many Christians in other traditions share this position — although it’s formally heresy and a violation of trinitarian creeds. So the position isn’t one of Paul Toscano against the world. Instead, Paul Toscano has been a particular voice representing a belief about the nature of God that many believers, some inside Mormonism and perhaps most outside, share.

    It’s far from clear, by the way, that this perspective is easily refuted by Mormon scripture. People think it is — but that’s because they’ve always read that scripture from the perspective of believing that the scripture says something else. If you try reading the scriptures from the perspective of allowing some a priori possibility that Jesus is the Father, the evidence is not particularly adverse. This is a theological point that requires more serious consideration than we’ve given it so far; many Mormon thinkers in the 20th and 21st centuries have simply been willing to assume that it’s obviously false, but it isn’t. I don’t think it’s the only position that fits with our scriptural texts, by any means, but it seems to me that it certainly belongs in the family of interpretations compatible with our canon.

  29. Andrew A
    November 7, 2007 at 10:29 am

    J Nelson (aka Roasted Tomatoes),

    After listening carefully to Toscano explain his conception of the Godhead for about an hour, I don’t think I was ever able to completely understand it. So if you do, you are definitely a better man than I.

    I’m going to refrain from a debate over whether the Church and Toscano’s claims about understanding the Godhead are an apt comparison. I don’t think that debate is going to go anywhere.

    I completely agree with you at all that “God’s nature is widely misunderstood.” In fact, my “take away” from that part of the interview was that it fascinates me God is so willing to allow so much ambiguity about something as essential as his/her/its nature. What are we to learn from that? That maybe understanding the precise nature of the Godhead is not so essential after all? That it all really all just comes down to becoming a loving person? . . . The nature of the Godhead may be ambiguous, but the injunction to love others, even our enemies, is not. Fascinating that Christ could have left no room for ambiguity about the Godhead in scripture, but instead chose to make our obligation to love crystal clear.

    P.S. I took the liberty of posting your real name because Toscano hates the use of pseudonyms on blogs.

  30. November 7, 2007 at 2:12 pm

    Andrew, no problem. My real name is no kind of secret. Although I might note that Nelson is actually the first half of my last name; my first name is just J.

    I can’t claim that I can fully reproduce all of the fine theological details of Paul’s views about the Godhead. But the central point seems pretty simple, doesn’t it: that Jesus is God the Father. If that’s the issue in question, I know that there have been some General Authorities during the last few decades who believe this, and there is at least one who still believes this today.

    I don’t really know what you mean about debating whether the church agrees with Paul Toscano’s ideas about God. The church doesn’t have a unified position on God, so it’s impossible to pin down half of that comparison, isn’t it?

  31. November 7, 2007 at 4:24 pm

    Frankly, he’s the first Mormon I’ve ever heard use the word “theology” and the word’s absence from Mormon culture has perplexed me for decades. [Say that word to your average practicing Mormon with a BYU degreee and enjoy the quizzed look of expression - priceless.]

    Umm. What? I heard the term “theology” all the time at BYU. Blake Ostler has a series of very well (and reasonably orthodox) books on theology published by Kofford. Lectures on Faith discuss theology (the word) at length. Parley P. Pratt’s famous book is called Key to Theology. I put the word in LDS.org’s search and there is hardly a paucity of hits.

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m not disputing your experiences. (Although I suspect there’s at least a little hyperbole in there) I just don’t see it’s absence in Mormonism. It seems to pop up fairly regularly. Toscano’s hardly the only person thinking about theology.

  32. November 7, 2007 at 4:29 pm

    If you try reading the scriptures from the perspective of allowing some a priori possibility that Jesus is the Father, the evidence is not particularly adverse.

    (Note: I’ve not finished listening to the podcast – so forgive me if I miss something obvious)

    I think it is formal LDS teaching that Jesus is the Father in some senses. By adoption if nothing else. However in terms of conflating the Father and Son I don’t see how you can argue this can be read in the scriptures. There’s 3 Ne 11 where they are shown to be separate, Stephen’s vision in the NT, and D&C 76, among others. It’s really hard to argue those away without difficulties.

  33. Andrew
    November 7, 2007 at 4:49 pm

    J/RT,

    Fair points; I’m really not looking for a debate. Toscano’s interview made me seriously question whether verbal jousting over doctrine is a worthwhile activity, and it helped me recall several scriptural injunctions from Christ to St. Paul that we not do it. (2 Tim. 2:23; Titus 3:9, Phil. 2:3,14; 3 Ne. 11:28, D&C 19:31.) One of the first things Christ said in 3 Ne. 11 was that He did not want any “disputations among you concerning the points of my doctrine, as there have hitherto been.”

    Toscano’s interview helped me realize that doctrinal disputes are simply not worth jeopardizing my relationships with people and organizations. That’s not to say a good-natured debated can’t be had, but all too often egos get in the way and feelings get hurt, and perhaps what the authors of scriptures are telling us is that such verbal strife isn’t worth the risk of jeopardizing our relationships.

    I got to know you and your wife a bit through your podcast with John, and I respect and like you both, although I may disagree with you half the time. (I’m neither a conservative nor liberal Mormon; somewhere in the middle I suppose.) And as unexpected as it may sound, Serenity Valley’s words about her experience with God’s love triggered something in me that helped me revisit a similar experience I’d had in my youth. So I guess in a strange and small way, I regard you and Serentiy as spiritual soul mates, even though you don’t know me.

    So that’s all a long way of saying I’d rather not debate with friends. Take care.

  34. November 7, 2007 at 9:02 pm

    John,

    I think you’re interviewing skills are getting better and better. And I loved your “Holy moly!” when he related his conversation with Elder Oaks.

    I’m surprised that I did not hear, and have not seen in these comments, any mention of “The Father and The Son: A Doctrinal Exposition by The First Presidency and The Twelve.” It may or may not represent the ultimate truth on the matter, but people should at least be aware of it.

  35. November 7, 2007 at 9:03 pm

    Andrew, excellent remarks indeed! I agree that debating these things is rarely helpful. Although I must confess that I’ve sometimes fallen prey to the temptation.

    Clark, we’ve had this conversation before, so I’ll try to be a bit clearer than I’ve been in the past. I think the texts you mention are certainly central to Mormon readings that distinguish between Jesus and the Father. Yet they are also quite comprehensible for Mormon readings that make no such distinction. Actually, parts of D&C 76 seem on their face to somewhat favor the second reading. Consider, for example, verse 1’s “the Lord is God, and beside him there is no Savior.” The rest of the section can be read in different ways, depending on the specific theology of the person who claims that Jesus is the Father. One reading claims that Father is another title for Jesus, or possibly one of Jesus’s two roles (Father/Son), and then the “right hand of” language becomes symbolic. Such a reading is of course bolstered by the explanation in the Book of Mormon that Father and Son are two titles for Jesus. Another reading sees the Father in this vision as the council of Gods from Abraham, in which Jesus would be the head God. And so forth.

    For 3 Nephi 11, that’s actually a very important text for people who see Jesus as identically the Father; for such Mormons, verses 32-36 spell out the roles associated with Jesus as Father and Jesus as Son while reaffirming the actual unity of the two roles.

    Similar readings apply to other proof texts for the view that Jesus and the Father are separate. These readings may seem problematic to you; they are not yours, clearly. Yet are they really more problematic than the need to read against the grain of the scriptures’ many statements that Jesus is the Eternal God, that Jesus and the Father are one, that Jesus is the Father, etc.? It seems ineluctable to me that both readings are genuinely Mormon and legitimate interpretations of the relevant texts.

  36. Kevin
    November 8, 2007 at 12:01 am

    John,

    An exceptional interview with a remarkable man. It’s not clear why this series feels so important to me but it does.

    Surely God has a deep, tender place in his heart for you and your family, Paul. You have my respect. While I either don’t understand or agree with all of your ideas I found myself genuinely liking you and wishing you well.

    I’ve always resonated to the verses in Isaiah where the Lord reveals that his ways are not our ways and that his thoughts are higher than our thoughts. That fact alone probably guarantees confusion about his identity. I like the possibility of a universe infinitely rich in things that wouldn’t make sense to us right now—and they still have meaning and value to the higher classes of eternal beings.

    To me it suggests a reason to imagine good things manifesting outside the bounds of logic, reason and tradition. It will be interesting to see how Jesus’ church during the Millenium differs from what we experience today.

  37. jayspec
    November 8, 2007 at 10:59 am

    I, too, found these interviews to be fasinating and I appreciate knowing where Paul has been coming from all these years because I never really understood. He had many wonderful experiences in his early days in the church that many members would give their eye teeth to have had.

    It seems to me that even though he joined the church and participated in it, he was never really a part of it from a theologically standpoint. He stated that he never really had a “spiritual” testimony only feeling “illuminated.” He differs with some of the most fundimental doctrines of the church, chooising to interprete some of Joseph Smith’s teaching very different than the church had historically. He seems to depend soley on his reasoning and intellect to establish the “truth” in his mind. I almost sense we has retained certain Catholic teachings and woven them into Mormon theology.

    I also find him arrogrant and unapologetic about his conclusions, as though he were the final authority. I enjoyed some of John’s amazement at what he was hearing!

    Having said all that, I would enjoy sitting and having a conversation with him about Mormon doctrine far better than with a so-called faithful member of the church who equates canning tomatoes on the same level as attending the temple.

    I have a major problem with the term “intellectuals” to describe a group of people who wish to study the gospel in much more depth and usually seem to come to the conclusion that they have it right and the church has it wrong. In fact, I dispise the whole notion of it.

    There are many of us in the church who enjoy a deeping reading of the theology who don’t feel inclined to have to share it with the world.

    I look to these so-called intellectuals as “counter-apostles, who must teach their own brand of doctrine, even if it is mostly harmonious with the church.

    What surprises me they have not had a “alternative” general conference, like the alternative BYU graduation. Maybe that is what the Sunstone Symposium has been in the past, but not sure that is where Dan and John would see it going.

    Anyway, thanks to John and Paul for the interviews.

  38. November 8, 2007 at 11:08 am

    I have posted the You TUbe videos of the podcasts over at my blog, Equality Time, for anyone who wants to comment freely and engage in a more spirited discussion (that includes views expressed that may be more critical of the LDS Church than what John prefers to have expressed here at Mormon Stories). I do not queue comments, nor do I censor for content that is on topic (I censor only spam and extremely vulgar language or for revealing identities of those who wish to remain anonymous).

  39. David M
    November 8, 2007 at 5:06 pm

    What a tragic figure! Try typing “for when they are learned” in the scripture search field on the http://www.lds.org site. If anyone ever epitomized “for when they are learned they think they are wise” it would have to be Paul Toscano. I think he’s a well intentioned, bright, articulate, nice guy. That’s why he’s a tragic figure! It would be easy to dismiss him altogether if he were mean spirited, but like a sympathetic dramatic character in film he captures my interest.

    He strenuously insisted that he has lost his faith. Faith in what?, his Father/Son God? What motivates him to persist in his unique interpretation of scripture? Well it’s no longer faith apparently. Is it logic? Well as much as he disagrees he must concede that a logical case can be made for belief in a separate Father and Son. And what is logical about denying the most united relationship in the history of the world the language to express that unity? Are the scriptures supposed to add a disclaimer after every time they dare use the word “one”? If he persists because he cannot get past certain historical teachings, well how do you get past the First Vision, the first Article of Faith and on and on?

    And how can you call the Atonement “God’s dirty work”?? What, God the Father was oblivious, off getting a manicure? He ducked out of the hard part? The (arguably) most frequently quoted scripture in Christianity is John 3:16.
    (By the way you’ll find it under “In-N-Out Burgers” cups.) I’m tempted to write a book here, but alas I don’t have the time. It’s painful.

  40. November 8, 2007 at 10:31 pm

    I’m grateful to John Dehlin for recording my interview and making it available on the Internet. I appreciate the responses that have been posted, even those critical of me, my personality, and my ideas. It is bracing and healthy to engage one’s critics directly.

    Naturally, I think I’m right. It would be silly of me to advance ideas I believed were false. I admit I may be wrong. I must point out that my critics do not attempt to refute my ideas; they are mostly content to explain why I’m wrong (e.g., because I’m arrogant, or harsh, or rude, otherwise flawed), without ever bothering to show that I am, in fact, wrong. C.S. Lewis disparaged this technique by calling it “bulverism.”

    I don’t think a person is arrogant for thinking he or she is right. Both humble and unhumble people think they are right. As someone noted in this blog, Mormons are famous for thinking they are right and everybody else’s is wrong. This does not make Mormons arrogant. They are simply convinced of their point of view. My position is no different.

    Arrogance, in my view, is manifest most often as a refusal to change opinions in the face of good evidence or to think oneself superior to others based of one’s alleged noble birth, or wealth, or beauty, or class, or some other unmeritorious characteristic. My conversion to Mormonism from Catholicism suggests my willingness to change my mind and convert to a different point of view, and certainly I don’t believe I’m better than any one else.

    The principal lament I made in my interview is that Jesus is not worshipped as the Father. This is a strong charge, but I stick by it. The Book of Mormon was revealed, according to Moroni’s inscription on its very first page, “to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations” (Book of Mormon, frontispiece).

    The prophet Abinidai states: “I would that ye should understand that God himself shall come down among the children of men, and shall redeem his people” (Mosiah 15:1). It is worth rereading the wonderful words that follow (Mosiah 15:2-23) in which Abinidai reveals the mystery that in heaven Christ is the Father and on earth he is the Son.

    This notion is made clear to the Brother of Jared by the Lord himself in these words: “Behold, I am he who was prepared from the foundation of the world to redeem my people. Behold, I am Jesus Christ. I am the Father and the Son. In me shall all mankind have light, and that eternally, even they who shall believe on my name; and they shall become my sons and my daughters” (Ether 3:14). There are many other scriptures in this vein.

    I understand that many scriptures exist in which Christ the Son speaks to Christ the father. There are three reasons for this. On earth Jesus does not possess the fullness of the Father that he possesses in heaven. On earth Jesus is a Son, who gives us the example of our right relationship to God our Father. On earth Jesus speaks to Michael the Archangel (Adam) the father of all mortals, including Christ’s mortal body.
    I can think of no other passage the makes this notion implicitly than the passage found in the Pearl of Great Price, the Book of Moses. As you read this, try to imagine whether Enoch is addressing the Father or the Son or both in one person: “And again Enoch wept and cried unto the Lord, saying: When shall the earth rest? And Enoch beheld the Son of Man ascend up unto the Father’ and he called unto the Lord saying: Wilt thou not come again upon the earth? Forasmuch as thou art God and I know thee, and thou hast sworn unto me and commanded me that I should ask in the name of thine Only Begotten; thou hast made me, and given unto me a right to thy throne, and not of myself, but through thine own grace; wherefore, I ask thee if thou wilt not come again on the earth” (Moses 7: 58-59). Here is a conversation between a prophet and the Father and the Son, Jesus Christ. We know this because Enoch says to him: “for I ask thee if thou wilt not come again on the earth.” Enoch says to Christ,“thou art God,” and then he says, inexplicably it would seem, “thou hast sworn unto me and commanded me that I should ask in the name of thine Only Begotten.” The “Only Begotten” is a title for Jesus. If Enoch is addressing Jesus, why would Enoch make this strange third-person reference to “thine Only Begotten.” I think the reason is a mystery in plain view. Jesus is God the Father in Heaven, and he is God the Son on earth. This is the burden of Abindai’s discourse in Mosiah 15.

    I say all this to refute in part the idea asserted by some of you that I am illogical and impliedly have no good reasons for my view.

    But there is a more important point. My view of the godhead is not mine. It is borrowed directly from Mormon scripture. It is not inconsistent with Mormonism. Arguably, it is Mormonism. It may appear unfamiliar, but only to those who have not looked closely enough at the revelations to see their complexity or the elegance of Abinidai’s teaching.

    In Mormonism, the scriptures constitute the standard for judging doctrine. True, a prophet may introduce new scripture. But the opinions of LDS church leaders, even when they speak in conference, do not automatically become part of the standard works by which we assess doctrine.

    The view of Christ as the eternal Father in heaven, and the Son of the Father on earth, is a concise and cohesive theological proposition. I understand that in Nauvoo Joseph Smith introduced doctrines that complicate this view, but I believe nothing in his later teachings alters the revelation of Jesus as Father in heaven and Son on earth. Even the First Vision, when read in its four permutations, supports the view that Christ appeared to Joseph Smith, and was introduced to him by the resurrected Adam, that is Michael the Archangel, the father of all mortals, including Jesus as a mortal. There are many statements in the last four discourses of Joseph Smith that support the view that Joseph continued to emphasize his original Christocentric views—particularly his discourse on Elias, Elijah, and Messiah. Joseph Smith provides the most consistent view of any church leader on the subject of the godhead. No teachings of subsequent church leaders compare with the luminous consistency of Joseph’s views, which alone can make sense of what appears to be the discrepancies in the godhead concepts advanced in (1) the Old Testament that depicts one God, (2) the Fifth Lecture on Faith that depicts two Gods, (3) the New Testament that depicts three Gods, (4) the 4 versions of the First Vision that depict variously Jesus alone, Jesus and an angel, Jesus and an undisclosed personage, and Jesus and the Father, (5) the Book of Mormon that presents Jesus as the Father and the Son, (6) the Doctrine and Covenants that depicts 1, 2, and 3 Gods, (7) the New Portage vision of the Heavenly Father, Mother and Son, and (7) the Pearl of Great Price that depicts a council of Gods.

    Near the end of his life, Joseph Smith clarified that the Messianic priesthood of the Son is greater than the patriarchal priesthood of the Father because the power of the Father is the power of creation, while the power of the Son is the power of salvation. Creation is joy and rejoicing. Salvation is fear and trembling. Creation is an act of exclusion. Salvation is an act of inclusion. To create the creator must separate himself from the creation. To save the savior must enter his creation.

    I cannot believe that a good God would send his Son to die on a cross. It is more believable to me that God himself would shoulder that burden himself and claim for himself alone that work of immortality and eternal life. For this reason, the priesthood is denominated the “Priesthood after the Order of the Son of God,” not the Priesthood after the Order of the Father; and the church is not called the Church of God the Father of Latter-day Apostles, but the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

    Of course I may be wrong. But I may be right. And again, this view is not inconsistent with Mormon scripture. It is merely complicated. Church leaders and members understandably prefer simplicity. I too like simplicity. But there is a difference between simplicity and simple-mindedness. The scriptures are not simple-minded, nor can they be reduced to platitudes.

    I regret I did not make this clearer in my interview. But the interview was unrehearsed, and I spoke extemporaneously.

    As for the remark made that my attitude is not spiritual because I emphasized illumination, well—what can I say? I do not trust spiritual feelings as much as I trust illumination, therefore, I do not emphasize them. I have seen, too often, that such feelings lead people to sorrow—but, frankly, so also does illumination.

    Though I see nothing much wrong with criticizing people’s ideas, I do not think it is wise to judge another’s life. That judgment is reserved to another person: THe Lord is the keeper of the gate and employs no servant there.

    Though I think doctrine is important, I do not believe it is necessary to be doctrinally correct in order to be saved. I don’t believe it is a sin to err in doctrine. I have never advanced my view to destroy testimonies or encourage schisms. I have never encouraged any LDS Church member to violate church rules, such as the rule prohibiting polygamy. However, I believe we have a right to exercise our own judgment on matters of consequence that are unsettled.

    I understand that my carping on the idea that the Son and the Father are the same person who through sacrifice brings to pass the immortality and eternal life of humankind can be taken as evidence of my secret ambition to be a church leader. I don’t have that ambition. I did once. But that was long ago. If I were ambitious, I would have achieved something by now in my life.

    In the last 163 years, church leaders have not reconciled the doctrine discrepancies about the godhead. They do not address this subject. Mainly, they bear testimony of their belief in God and Christ without explanation or exegesis. This is as it should be. It is perhaps a bad idea for church leaders to address doctrine of this nature because their authority would give too much weight to their opinions. It is better for this kind of idea to be advanced without authority by people like us. That way it can float about in the Mormon community without any requirement that anyone believe it. If it is false, it will be forgotten. If it is true, it cannot be repressed.

    I understand that church tradition runs contrary to this view of the godhead. I also understand that church members do not approve of anyone who disputes or critiques church leaders or their teachings. This is very strange, because Mormons unlike Catholics do not claim their leaders are infallible. To Catholics, the Pope says he is infallible, but Catholics do not believe him. To Mormons, the prophet claims he is not infallible, but Mormons do not believe him.

    I, however, do believe the prophet when he says that he is fallible. Because I do, some people think me arrogant. I accept the fallibility of all our leaders, but also accept their being men of good will. I do not dispute their claim to authority to manage the church and its resources. But I cannot accept their teachings as binding when they contradict or ignore the teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith or the Standard Works.

    I am not inclined by personality or training to abdicate my judgment to others, even leaders, without good cause.

    My purpose here is not to offend, but to be clear.

    Paul Toscano

  41. Doug G.
    November 8, 2007 at 11:38 pm

    I also enjoyed this series and the frank discussion with Paul. Like many have stated here, I can’t make myself except the trinity type doctrines that Paul Toscano seems to embrace. I think its fair to say, as John eluded to in the interview, during the New York and early Kirtland period Joseph and the other church leaders teaching good certainly be construed as believing in the trinity.

    I’m not asking for a heated debate about the trinity or arguments trying to explain how the statements in the Book of Mormon and can be interpreted either way. I’m just pointing out that even Joseph Smith, with the experiences he claimed to have, was still preaching trinity type doctrines until at least 1835. So if even he was still confused about the nature of God, perhaps we could cut Mr. Toscano a little slack…

    Just my two cents worth…

    Thanks,

  42. Doug G.
    November 8, 2007 at 11:44 pm

    I think its fair to say, as John eluded to in the interview, during the New York and early Kirtland period Joseph and the other church leaders teaching good certainly be construed as believing in the trinity.

    “good” should be “could” above

    Man I need to learn to proof read…Sorry

  43. Stephen Wellington
    November 9, 2007 at 9:53 am

    Cheers for the podcasts again John. You are a star. I found this interview fascinating. I found it both frustrating and inspiring….it was very human and on the whole I LOVED it. We need these stories to be kept alive for younger generations.

    keep up your stuff John. You are a star.

  44. Andrew A
    November 9, 2007 at 2:55 pm

    Paul,

    Thanks for your thoughtful post above. I respect that you opened yourself up in a lengthy interview with John, and opened yourself up to critiquing. I feel like I understand you and where you’re coming from much better. And despite my strong disagreement with some of what you said, I’d like to reiterate one of the comments I made above, which is that even those who strongly disagree with you can’t help but sympathize with you and like you (myself included). I also appreciate your insightful nuggets, such as your observation about Mormons not taking seriously enough our leaders’ statements that they are not infallible. Quite true. And I almost fell off my chair laughing over the Elk’s head quip.

    Learning about your background and early experiences in the Church helped me understand why it would be difficult for you to assimilate into our very hierarchical and deferential church culture. As I stated above in another post above, perhaps the lesson we should all learn is that the most important thing is for us is to develop sincere love for eachother, and not allow doctrinal disagreements to get in the way of that love. We can of course discuss doctrine and our differing points of view, but I think doing so in a loving manner requires us to soften our approach and avoid condemnatory language.

    Again, thanks for your honesty and insights. I wish you well.

  45. David M
    November 9, 2007 at 8:12 pm

    I promise you Paul that for every argument you make for the father and Son being the same person, I would have a ready rebuttal. Usually it’s just a matter of taking the literal side or the figurative side, or choosing that the reference being made is to the person or the role or the title. It’s the nature of language. I don’t believe that a conclusive case can be made from scripture for either side. I’m motivated to argue that they are separate people because it makes far more sense to me.

    My point is really that the churches “official” doctrine that the Father and Son are separate individuals is a valid one. It has been carefully thought through, not just by church leadership, but by millions of members. (Like me.) It has been. Just because someone hasn’t walked you through each argument point by point doesn’t mean those arguments aren’t there. You’ve got to admit that it sounds presumptuous for you to tell us what the Book of Mormon really teaches, and to imply that to not see it is likely the result of simple-mindedness.

    From my point of view, to persist in a hunch to the point that you separate yourself from church authority and association is simple-minded. And it is a hunch! You don’t know it and you can’t prove it. The idea makes sense to you and you feel illuminated by it. Fine. Muse over it. I’ve got a few hunches of my own that vary with the LDS masses. I agree with you that to err in doctrine is not a sin. So why stir it up? Church authorities have a stewardship. Let them perform it. They have their reasons for doing things, not all of which you are privy to.

    You’re like a nudist who shrugs his shoulders innocently and pretends not to understand why people resist the sight of God’s creation. You may just be missing something.

  46. Brenda
    November 15, 2007 at 7:44 pm

    Paul, I really enjoyed the podcasts! You delivered a lot of food for thought.

    I like history and I’ve read a host of biographies and autobiographies. One of the characteristics I most admire in an individual is the ability to change and evolve one’s own ideas and view of the world based on acquired experience and knowledge. For example, Marcus Borg, distinguished Jesus scholar, recently completely reframed his scholarship on Jesus based on his lifetime of experience studying, teaching, and contemplating the meaning of the life of Jesus. His book, Jesus: Uncovering the Life, Teachings, and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary, is amazing.

    I appreciate that you are willing to change your mind and evolve your ideas based on what you learn and that you invite challenges to your ideas as a means of encouraging dialog and even soliciting scrutiny of your own conclusions. I also share your frustration that this approach is not welcome within the framework of the Mormon religion. I wish it were.

    I have a copy of your book at home: The Sanctity of Dissent. Many of your ideas are based on the theology of Joseph Smith. I admit, I am one of those people who look at Smith’s 1830s theology and his 1840s theology and find myself perplexed, unable to reconcile the two to a satisfactory conclusion.

    My question for you is this: do you still honor the theology of Joseph Smith in the same ways that you did when you were developing the ideas that you shared vocally and published in your book?

    Thank you, Brenda

  47. November 17, 2007 at 10:50 pm

    Apparently, the emails of those who recently responded to my interview were inadvertently trapped in the elimbo of John Dehlin’s spam filtering system.

    I wish to just briefly respond to these recent postings:

    First, I did not intend to label any person simple-minded. My remark on this score was only to say that Mormon doctrine is complicated and is not simple-minded and cannot be readily simplified, as much as any of us might prefer to do so, myself included.

    Second, I understand that Joseph Smith taught that the Father and Son were separate beings with separate and individual bodies of flesh and bone and that the Holy Ghost was a separate person of spirit. I have no quarrell with this teaching, nor am I suggesting that this is not or should not be Mormon doctrine. It clearly is. But Joseph Smith also revealed, in the Book of Mormon and other places, that Jesus is the Father of heaven and earth as well as the Son of Man. These two seemingly contradictory teachings are not actually contradictions nor are they incompatible concepts. The first is a revelation of the distinct indentities of the members of the Godhead. The second is a revelation of the Supremacy of Jesus in that Godhead. As Brigham Young explained, the Father in the godhead is the archangel Michael-Adam; he is the father of the spirits of those individuals who are born on this earth; he is the Father of Jesus’ mortal body; he is the Father to whom Jesus prays when Jesus is on earth; he is the angel/Father who appeared with Jesus to Joseph Smith in the sacred grove. He is the “one like unto God” who contends with the devil for the right to come down to the earth (Abraham 2). He is the archangel who contends with the devil over the disposition of the body of Moses. He is the FAther because Jesus raised him to that status in a heavenly counsel before the world was created (see Joseph Smith’s October 1840 discourse on priesthood). This Father is a distinct personage from Jesus in the godhead. However, Jesus is the Eternal Father/Son, the creator of the universe, the light of the world, the Lord of Glory, from which the intelligences of all creatures are struck like sparks from his eternal blaze. Jesus is the sole and fully infinite deity in the Godhead. It is by his infinite power that the universe was created, and it is by his infinite power that the infinite atonement of the universe was worked out. He alone had power to create the universe, then lay down his sovereignty, become a mortal, die, and raise himself again from the dead (by the power of his own Fatherhood), and enter into a greater realm of glory.

    This is how I make sense of all the disparate statements about the godhead that can be found in the teachings, discourses, and revelations of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. I may be wrong, of course; but I have tried to understand these men and their writings and discourses; and this is the only picture I have come up with that makes sense of their teachings while not discarding or doing violence to any of their views.

    I am not upset that Church leaders do not teach all of this. I don’t think they should. I am upset, however, that the godhead is presented in a way that suggests that the Father (a superior deity) sent his Son (an inferior deity) to lay down his life to save the Father’s creation. This idea is a formula for power abuse, for the sacrifice of the weaker by the stronger to salvage the interests of the stronger. The Book of Mormon is clear. God himself–the eternal Father of Heaven and earth–came down himself and made the infinite atonement himself. He did not delegate that duty to anyone else. He so insists in the Pearl of Great Price where he emphasizes that this is his work and glory, not someone elses. It is in this act that God instantiates sacrifice as the mechanism of salvation and glorification rather than the accumulation of power and privilege.

    Third and finally, as I think should be clear from what I have hastily written here, even though I cannot be sure if these ideas about the Godhead are in fact true, I believe that they represent a fair and harmless interpretation of what Joseph Smith taught. So, in answer to Brenda’s question: Yes, I do continue to honor Joseph Smith as the most luminous of all the prophets and the sole authorization for Mormon doctrine.

    Paul Toscano

  48. Peepstone Joe
    November 18, 2007 at 5:38 pm

    “I am upset, however, that the godhead is presented in a way that suggests that the Father (a superior deity) sent his Son (an inferior deity) to lay down his life to save the Father’s creation.”

    Actually, the Church teaches that it is Christ who is chiefly responsible for the creation, not the Father. This is taught in the scriptures and is even found in the missionary discussions. So according to current mainstream orthodox LDS teachings, Jesus laid down His life for His creation.

  49. November 20, 2007 at 5:52 am

    Peepstone Joe,

    Thanks for your response. For me the question of the centrality of Christ as Father and Son in the godhead is only part of my larger concern regarding the teaching of the gospel in and by the LDS church.

    I do not take the position of evangelical and fundamentalist Protestants who think Mormons are not Christians. It is obvious the Mormons are indeed Christians.

    My concern, however, is that the modern LDS church focuses on obedience to church leaders rather than on spiritual rebirth, on salvation by works rather than on salvation by grace, on conformation to the expectations of church leaders rather than on transformation through justification, sanctification, and ultimately glorification.

    The reason I was excommunicated was becaue I criticized authoritarianism in the LDS church. In my view, priesthood authority was not restored to provide a leadership chain of command by which leaders can manage the saints. Rather, the priesthood was restored so that the fullness of the ordinances could be administered through which the spirit of God could be conferred and endowed upon individual members so they could be born again into the spiritual family of Jesus Christ and mature in the fruits and gifts of the spirit, and in due course be raised to joint heirship with Christ.

    This difference in perception of the gospel is stark. The predominant LDS view of the gospel is legalistic and emphasizes outward conformity; the scriptural view emphasizes inward spiritual transformation. I understand that the scriptures require obedience. But the obedience required is to the ordinances and to the spirit, not to a priesthood chain of command. The teaching of scripture is that the spirit of God rather than church authorities will lead the reborn into all truth.

    Obviously, this means that the church itself must tolerate a membership at various levels of spiritual maturity and doctrinal understanding, which is why erring in doctrine should not be a basis for excommunication unless it is coupled with an act or pattern of action that can be shown to pose an immediate danger to the physical lives or property of the church or its members.

    Doctrinal disagreement and even conflict does not pose this immediate danger. It is necessary to the exercise of free agency. It is part of spiritual maturation, and should not be a basis for marginalizing or excluding members.

    I say this to clarify what may be foggy in my prior posts. My concerns about the centrality of Christ as Father and Son in the godhead is part of my larger and more serious concern that a gospel of legalism is too often presented in LDS discourse over a gospel of spiritual regeneration.
    This preference for legalism is manifest whenever church leaders insist on measurable obedience to the outward commandments of the church rather than on the less measurable development of inward spirituality through regeneration and spiritual growth.

    My complaint has never been that the church is untrue or that church leaders are unauthorized. My complaint, which I have maintained for nearly thirty years, is that priesthood authority is too often employed in the church to promote a legalistic interpretation of the gospel and a concomitant deemphasis on Jesus Christ. It is this criticism, I believe, that was the true basis for my excommunication.

  50. Peepstone Joe
    November 26, 2007 at 2:23 pm

    Paul,
    I understand and respect your response. You did fail to respond to my post, though.

  51. November 27, 2007 at 11:41 pm

    Peepstone Joe,

    In response to your post #48, though the church may teach that Jesus takes a principal role in the creation and is the savior of it, it also stresses that the Father and the Son are two separate beings and that Jesus, as the second person of the godhead, is subordinate to the Father. The church does not teach that Joseph Smikth revealed a number of different and even contradictory godhead concepts including the doctrine of Mosiah 15 that the Father and the Son are the same person, namely, Jesus Christ. These various godhead concepts rather than being left open to consideration and reflection have been discarded in the interest of closure and certainty (which I believe is unjustified) and replaced by the current dominant view of the godhead as a patriarchal hierarchy, which unfortunately can be and has been used to fortify authoritarianism.

  52. Peepstone Joe
    November 28, 2007 at 12:16 pm

    Paul,
    Thanks again for responding. I do understand what you’re saying. However, from your interview (and what you have written on this blog), it sounded like one of your chief complaints about Christ being regarded chiefly as “Son” (and “subordinate” to the Father – another point worth arguing about) was that He unfairly was required to lay down His life for the creation of another. This is simply untrue according to current mainstream orthodox LDS teachings. Christ willingly and voluntarily laid down His life for His creation. So what’s unfair about that?

  53. November 29, 2007 at 10:48 pm

    Peepstone(I hope you don’t mind me calling you just Peepstone),

    I understand that in Mormon theology, Jesus is said to have voluntarily made an infinite atonement. I am not saying he was forced to do this. I am saying what Abinadi said: that “God himself” would sacrifice himself to redeem his creation. Abinadi, specifically, and the Book of Mormon, generally, teach that the Being who made this sacrifice was the Supreme Being: Jesus Christ, the Father and the Son.

    The reason I stress this point, is that it represents a model for us that put love above power. Out of love, God relinquished power to empower his creatures.

    The other model (that God the Father did not sacrifice, but that God the Son, a separate and subordinate deity did sacrifice voluntarily) establishes a model that reinforces power over love. It implies that no sacrifice is required of the highest power to empower others. This is a very dangerous model that contradicts the teaching of Jesus that the greatest of all is the servant of all, and he that looseth his life shall find it.

    For me, possibly the most attractive premise of Christianity is that God loved us so much that he did not insulate himself from the suffering of this world, but set aside his sovereignty and his glory to enter into his creation, assuming the aspect of his children and bearing in his own person the full weight of responsibility for the sins of the world such that, as Isaiah says, we are engraved on the palms of his hands and it is with his stripes that we are healed.

    This teaching make sense to me only if it is the highest deity that descends below all things that he may be in and through all things.

  54. Paul
    November 30, 2007 at 9:05 am

    I just want to convey an expression of kind wishes to Paul Toscano.
    I listened, and watched, with great interest, Paul, to your seven part interview on the Mormon Stories podcast. I have fond memories of you when we served our missions at the same time in Italy. Although we were never companions and never had any personal interaction with one another that I can recall, I do however have vivid memories of your abilities as a wonderful speaker that conveyed a great love for the Prophet Joseph Smith and for our Savior Jesus Christ. I cannot speak for the Saviour Jesus the Christ, but I can speak for myself in the spirit of Christ and that spirit is, of course, the spirit of love. Whomever or Whatever God is, He is first and foremost ‘Love.’ Of course you know this, but I just want to share my feelings with you that whatever is or is not, or whatever is perceived as being in your life, either by yourself or others at this time, that our God, be it the Father, the Son, the Holy Ghost, or all three (who are really One in the way in which it really matters) love(s) you. I cannot help but feel that way towards you. Maybe there are real scoundrels, real deceivers who are really hell bent to destroy and cripple anything that is trying to stand for what is good, but that is not you. I would like to think that I know, or perceive something ‘of’ you, Paul. I hope this is not taken as a pretentious assessment, but rather one that is simply a sentiment of the heart.
    I recall making the long journey to the Salt Lake temple a few months after returning home from my mission in Italy. I was so excited with the prospect of going again after an absence of almost three years. When I was in one part of the temple I approached a gentleman who was dressed in a white suit and who impressed me as someone who was an authority. I simply wanted to know what this or that meant, e.g., the epaulets on the robes, etc. and glancing briefly at the name displayed on his jacket referred to him as Brother Bell. As soon as I addressed him as such, a woman standing near by snapped at me with the most malevolent tone of voice, and glare exclaiming, “That’s PRESIDENT Bell!” I remember being taken aback and somewhat flustered and just stammered saying, “Oh,” or something similar, and I remember the smirk on the fellow’s face when she rebuked me. I was very dismayed over this, left the temple and didn’t go back again on that trip, feeling wounded and confused. But this is what I want to say. Some time later I thought that I should have stood my ground with that woman, and ‘President’ Bell, and stated very meekly in return, “Oh, now that he’s a president, does that mean he’s not my brother any more?” The point I want to make is that I have had many similar experiences, and even far worse than that one throughout my more than fifty years as a member of the LDS church (having been a Catholic as a young boy). I don’t know what sustained me all those years while undergoing these types of troubling experiences, but I know now, being older or ‘longer in the tooth,’ that my level of tolerance for this sort of nonsense has diminished, and the only thing that IS keeping me going at the present time is having a clearer, more mature Christian understanding or focus to love those who don’t love you or treat you as they themselves would perhaps like to be treated.
    I trust, Paul, that in spite of this terrible experience of excommunication, which you have suffered, or are still suffering from, that you are up to the challenge to love those who have or still do denounce you as someone unworthy of your just rewards of having lived an honorable life. I have this strong conviction that God will assess the greatness of a man or woman based on the intentions of his or her heart more than any other factor. I have this conviction that many are called, but few are chosen, and those who think they are ‘in’ will one day be on the ‘out’ if they do not change their current thinking and ways. “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall inherit the earth.” It is far better to be a brother than a ‘president,’ and it seems as though being a ‘president’ in the LDS church is an impediment, or certainly presents itself as a great challenge to being a humble, loving person. You are still a ‘brother’ in Christ to everyone in the whole, wide world whether you, or they are a member of the LDS church, or not a member. God has not and never will ‘excommunicate’ you, Paul; only mere, misguided mortals do that. Only you can ‘excommunicate’ yourself from Christ’s true church — the one which resides in a person’s heart, which includes yours, I am sure.

  55. December 1, 2007 at 5:26 pm

    Paul (of post #54):

    Thanks for your kind words.

  56. Peepstone Joe
    December 2, 2007 at 3:09 pm

    Paul (Toscano):
    I’d be interested to know how you view:
    A. The Godhead: do you view the Godhead as being composed of TWO persons (i.e. Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost), or do you not view the Holy Ghost as a person?
    B. I’m sure you’ve read the 1916 First Presidency publication titled “The Father and the Son:
    A Doctrinal Exposition by The First Presidency and The Twelve.” What do you think of these explanations and reconciliations of Christ’s role as both Father and Son?

  57. December 2, 2007 at 6:13 pm

    Peepstone,

    I happen to be in the middle of a paper I’m preparing for Sunstone (Spring?) entitled “Of Gods and Monotheists,” in which I will address this problem. My belief is that Joseph Smith had a developing view of the godhead. It was progressive in that he was composing a picture of deity over the course of his life. I do not think he finished. I think, for the sake of simplicity and certainty, the Church had to bring closure to this compositional effort, thus the First Presidency 1916 statement, and the many conflicting statements from various general authorities over the years. I hope to propose an interpretation of the godhead that honors the various concepts introduced by Joseph Smith without discarding or diminishing the value of any. This has proved to be quite engageing, and I’m not sure that I will succeed.

  58. Peepstone Joe
    December 3, 2007 at 1:39 pm

    Thanks for answering my questions. I look forward to reading your essay.

  59. Dude
    December 5, 2007 at 2:50 am

    Out of curiosity, are you the Paul Toscano appears as a guest host on the Stockwell show on KTKK?

  60. December 5, 2007 at 6:50 am

    Dude,

    Yes. I appear as a co-host on Jack Stockwell’s radio show nearly every Friday morning between 7 – 9 am. I will be unable to attend on December 7, because I am scheduled to argue a case before the Bankruptcy Appellate Panel of the 10th Circuit.

    • Ty
      June 3, 2012 at 2:19 am

      “I am upset, however, that the godhead is presented in a way that suggests that the Father (a superior deity) sent his Son (an inferior deity) to lay down his life to save the Father’s creation. This idea is a formula for power abuse, for the sacrifice of the weaker by the stronger to salvage the interests of the stronger. The Book of Mormon is clear. God himself–the eternal Father of Heaven and earth–came down himself and made the infinite atonement himself.”

      I had this same thought a few weeks ago. In 2012 I attended a singles conference in which a president of the 70 said something like ‘The church has been trying to focus on the ‘Father.’ Jesus is important, but sometimes I think we neglect the Father.’

      I thought to myself, this dude doesn’t understand… has he never read the book of mormon??? I thought you couldn’t focus on Jesus without learning about the Father… isn’t that the whole point of the gospel???

      This series of interviews is awesome. Thank you Paul and John. And there’s even some great humor at the end… when people sign on and arrogantly tell Paul that he is arrogant.

      I’m so happy that the Lord knows his sheep because members of the church don’t have a clue sometimes.

  61. Dude
    December 5, 2007 at 5:45 pm

    After reading stuff you have written, I now understand better the background of some of the things you say on Jack’s show. Thanks.

  62. W.
    December 13, 2007 at 9:10 pm

    Out of all of this bickering and misunderstanding over such a simple plan and such a simple doctrine. Men left to their own interpretations and I assume I could be “interpreting” incorrectly. For me it is as night and day. Joseph Smith saw GOD the FATHER and his SON JESUS CHRIST. Nothing more need to be argued on this point, the Holy Ghost has made this clear to me…so sad to see this distinct doctorine discussed as above. I cannot bring myself to believe in a monotheistic nature of God. For me the FATHER, SON relationship as it is here on earth is far to logical to follow other incorrect doctines…again I guess it could be perspective or it could be a man that has had the truth made known not by scholastics but by something far more powerful. I hope many of you learned men would kneel and ask.

  63. Mike
    January 12, 2008 at 2:13 pm

    I loved this interview. It was very human and humanizing.

    Thanks to both of you, Paul and John.

  64. LA from California
    January 13, 2008 at 3:31 pm

    I felt enlightened by Paul’s teachings
    of Jesus and the Godhead. I am in absolute agreement with his views on the harmful outcome of only giving “milk” to the church. His warnings to the brethren were almost prophetic as we now see the numbers of members becoming disillusioned with the church today. It brought to my mind the warnings from David Whitmer on the Patriarchal hierarchy. It may be too late for the church to correct the damage done to my generation. It seems to be monthly that I hear from family or friends of another devout member leaving the church when they learn church history. Had my testimony been firmly grounded on the foundation of Jesus Christ as my God and Father, I believe I would have been better equipped to deal with the nadir of my spiritual journey.

    The Godhead teachings in Mormonism never made sense from the time it was taught to me as a young child. I had what I considered to be “illuminations” in my life on the nature of God and they parallel Paul’s beliefs. He is the kind of Sunday School teacher and leader our church needed to prepare the LDS for what we are experiencing today. It’s a tragedy he was excommunicated.

    Paul is bold and may be abrasive to some but what I loved was his authenticity. Some may call him arrogant for promoting truth, or his beliefs as an aberration. I only saw a
    man who sincerely wanted to help the church focus on what is essential for our spiritual growth.
    Those who believe faith is defined by certainty are the arrogant ones.

    I hope to see more podcasts with Paul in the future. I had many questions that arose during the interview.

    Like Paul, I didn’t become a Mormon to run across the cultural hall with a spoon and an egg in my mouth.

  65. Jennifer
    June 5, 2012 at 5:38 pm

    I have only just recently discovered Mormon Stories. Paul Toscano is my new hero. What an interesting, authentic, and vibrant personality with a fascinating story to tell. Thanks to both John and Paul for a fun and even inspiring, in its unique way, interview.

  66. Vickie Ottley
    September 19, 2012 at 10:18 pm

    Thank you so much for this interview. I am deeply saddened by the excommunication and attempt to silence Paul Toscano. I also have just discovered Mormon Stories and believe me, I have a lot of listening ahead of me!

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