Saturday, February 11, 2012

Recalling Second LDS Excommunication

Event: June 6, 1992;
Updated: February 11, 2012.

[On July 25, 1975, exactly ten years after the event that initiated my original conflict with the Mormon Church (a revelation on the Negro), I was re-baptized into the Church with the enthusiastic support of Stake President Ferren L. Christensen at my request. I had felt there was unfinished business to attend to. Now, almost 17 years later, I was facing another trial for membership, but this time able to stand in my own defense.]

This second excommunication was precipitated by my upraised hand in opposition to sustaining general and local Mormon authorities at an annual stake conference in January 1992 in Ventura, CA. I had raised my hand as the only way I could think of to call public attention to what I fervently believed had become an ill-advised official policy of intimidation of the LDS intellectual community, which I'd only recently become aware of. To me it was clearly a policy of "unrighteous dominion", an ecclesiastic term familiar to all Mormon priesthood holders. How dare I think this or presume to hold those in power to account?! To some of my closest LDS friends I had announced this intent so to vote at an upcoming annual conference of about 5,000 voting members. One of these friends advised that I risked excommunication. "Not so!" I retorted. Surely we had not sunk to the level of the Soviets, who used similar tactics against their dissidents.

Two years earlier (March 1990) I had delivered a paper titled The Values Crisis to the Sunstone West Symposium in Pasadena, California, which describes similarities and contrasts between Mormon and Soviet leadership attitudes and behavior. It was this paper that was used as primary evidence for the1992 excommunication decision by Ventura stake president and Ventura County deputy sheriff Richard C. Bryce.

The "disciplinary" event was a six-hour KGB-like interrogation. The proceedings were recorded by Rex Mitchell, one of my closest friends, who was allowed to sit with me from among the nearly two dozen people who came to the trial to offer moral support.  When Rex realized what was happening he began to secretly take notes. Of all those whom I could have chosen as a special witness, Rex was by far the most qualified to make a rigorous account. His report is now in the public record at the University of Utah special collections library archives.

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