Update on MormonThink

I think it’s widely known now that the web site I wrote about is MormonThink.com, so I have restored the reference to that in my earlier post. The editor who has been summoned to a disciplinary council has provided the following update:

Status on MormonThink events, by MormonThinker

First, I am not speaking for all MT editors in this post. Other editors also have access to this account and may edit this post as needed.

Many are asking what is happening. Over the course of the 8 years MormonThink.com has been an online presence, there have been various levels of pressure exerted by LDS leaders on active, semi-active and less active members who contribute and edit articles posted on MT.

One example happened earlier this year when the past chief editor who’d remained completely anonymous due to still-attending with TBM family and close friends, received significant pressure from local ward & stake leaders to remove MT content or take the site down entirely.

This editor initially discussed MT content with his leaders, about our goal of promoting true church history over commonly-held beliefs and even how he was involved. He was willing to work with his stake president’s objections and he convinced the MT editorial board to take down the temple section as it greatly bothered some members. He also continued asking his stake president what was incorrect with the site. He offered to change it but his leader would never answer specifics, just labeling the site as ‘anti-Mormon’, anti-Joseph Smith and anti-church leadership. Ultimately, he decided to give up his editing duties to appease the church and turn them over to me, the current managing editor.

After this, however, with the temple material still unpublished they called him to disciplinary council for heresy, or as they call it these days ‘conduct unbecoming a member of the church’. Seeing the futility of attending such a pre-determined event, as the Stake President refused to discuss the material on the site and only wanted to focus on his involvement which he already determined was unacceptable, he quietly resigned. It is still a very private matter.

As new managing editor, I wrote articles about the beliefs of Mitt Romney, about parallels between his hiding financial information and the church refusing to disclose theirs, about the political history of the LDS church and how one might predict its manner of influence if Mitt were elected. I had returned to attending at church, where I had never met the local leadership, and I began a blog chronicling events around my return.

Last Sunday, after Sacrament, I was taken to the Stake President’s office and “interviewed” for 45 minutes by the three presidents and bishop. It was unclear how they found me just then, but other facts have come to light on this. They were particularly upset at us hiding our full identities and the messages recently posted at MT and on the blog. At the end, I was given a letter summoning me to disciplinary council for apostasy.

At this time, I have been contacted by the media, but no firm decision has been made at this moment about any action there.

I am trying to work with LDS leaders to open a dialogue about what at MT is factually, doctrinally and historically incorrect. We feel that working with the LDS church authorities, we can make an honest attempt to discuss openly issues of church history and policies that trouble many active members. Our philosophy is to present both sides accurately as possibly and let each member decide with full agency and free will what they believe.

As a concession, the blog was pulled off, the temple material rescinded and I am trying to work with the leaders to correct any MT content that might be inaccurate, as well as forestall action against me at church, since it can be a sensitive family issue for me as well.

We will try to keep you all informed as we can.

Thanks everyone for your support.

I should make it very clear that I have no problem with the church going after people who are using distortion and disinformation to attack the church, its beliefs, or its members. The simple dissemination of accurate information about the church does not constitute “anti-Mormon” activity, nor does it signal that a person is in a state of apostasy. What I have always appreciated about MormonThink is that it is scrupulously fair and accurate. As the update above notes, the first editor’s leaders could not point to a single item on the web site that is incorrect, so the accusation was made that the site was “‘anti-Mormon’, anti-Joseph Smith and anti-church leadership.” Again, if the truth is “anti-Mormon,” the LDS church has a big problem, and silencing individual members will not change that.

I used to wonder why the church hadn’t come after me, but i heard from a friend who works in the Church Office Building that he’d been in a meeting during which a few critical web sites were discussed, including mine. My friend tells me that the GAs in charge decided I was not a threat or a problem. I guess I’ll have to try harder.

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24 Responses to Update on MormonThink

  1. Odell Campbell says:

    Attempting to “negiotiate” with the LDS Church about truth claims is a complete waste of time. They, church leaders, want to silence truth when it contradicts their current position. Please see my comment in the previous post.

  2. james says:

    Good press for mormonthink.com if nothing else.

  3. GBSmith says:

    There was a pretty good discussion about MormonThink on StayLDS some time back with a lot of differing opinions on what the purpose of the site was and how it could be taken. I spent a fair amount of time on it and can’t argue about accuracy but feel it’s pretty disengenuous for the editors to say that they just want to put out the truth so that members and investigators will understand what the church is. I’m as dissafected and unbelieving as the next person but to me the focus of the site is expose the church’s claims as false and trying to say that believing members are doing this just for the sake of “truth” is a little hard to swallow. As long as the church isn’t trying to deprive a person of life, liberty, or property, it will do what it wants and if the editor feels disabused about something he didn’t believe anyway, he shouldn’t have stepped in the ring.

    • runtu says:

      By nature, publishing the truth involves exposing falsehoods. If the church is publishing falsehoods, members and investigators should be provided the truth. I have no problem with that, even if I thought their motives were disingenuous (I don’t).

      • GBSmith says:

        again I think the question is not what but why. Telling someone they’re ugly is one thing, the question is why would you do it.

      • runtu says:

        If you believe truth is important for church members and investigators to know, that doesn’t necessarily mean you are attacking the church. If I tell someone “you’re ugly” there’s rarely a good reason for that. But if someone is investigating a religion and is being provided incorrect information, I have no problem with someone providing the correct information, whatever their motive. The Tanners, for example, have provided a lot of information but always couched in polemical attacks on the church. I don’t see that on MormonThink.

    • Odell Campbell says:

      The LDS Church is exposing itself, yet again, as an institution afraid of truth and willing to coerce individuals to be silent.

  4. Heather says:

    I was threatened with excommunication for stuff I had on my blog. It was incredibly insulting to be bullied for telling the truth. But I guess that’s how the church responds when the truth comes out, threaten till they win.

    I wish Mormonthinker only the best…

  5. FireMountain says:

    I feel considerable sympathy for the people at MT, but I also find their choices a little contradictory. They publish information about the LDS church for the sake of “truth”, but don’t want any information about themselves to leak out lest it harm family relationships, etc. I am familiar with those reasons, but find them disingenuous. If one is genuinely committed to “truth” then one needs to not publicly pretend to belief in and loyalty to the church which one does not have.
    Fear is what the church has long used to control its members. People are silenced by it. If everyone stopped being afraid of what would happen if they openly spoke the truth, the bullying power of the church could be broken and a lot of people freed from its oppression.
    Those whose livelihood is at stake, like BYU professors, are understandably silent, but the rest of us need to be willing to find our courage and not be silenced.

  6. Allan says:

    I really have to agree. This web site certainly isn’t out there to strengthen members of the church or convert members to the church. MormonThink, and the Temple Ceremony page specifically, is what brought me out of the church. It was the church’s actions in 1990 that broke my testimony. It was my search on the internet that brought me to MT and confirmed that there was much more wrong that just the changed temple ceremony. I think it’s a great site, but it’s hard for me to swallow that they would expect the church to allow them to stay in good standing while publishing a site whose clear intent is to expose the falsehood and dishonesty of the church. It’s actually humorous that the authorities conducting the witch hunt can’t see the irony involved. I guess they have just closed their minds and insist that MT is full of lies. But whatever, we’ve all been down that path with the blindly faithful.

    The only power the church has is to discipline them, which is what they are doing. If they don’t believe but want to participate for social reasons they’re now caught between a rock and a hard place. Sucks to be them. Now they’re like a lot of the rest of us who actually have to deal with the consequences of our unbelief. And I don’t mean to be flippant. It really, really, really does suck. I don’t envy them. But it’s really not in the church’s best interest to let them have it both ways.

  7. FireMountain says:

    I still find it hilarious that even now ex-Mormons refer to the church’s punitive measures against those they consider a threat as “discipline”. That is the church’s term, folks. Let us, at least here, call it for what it is: PUNISHMENT–punishment for crossing a line, their line for what is acceptable behavior as a member-in-good-standing. The church will tolerate a lot of questionable behavior, but making the church even potentially look bad is not one of them.

    • runtu says:

      One of the definitions of discipline is punishment.

      • FireMountain says:

        In my dictionary it is 6th on the list of definitions. “Punishment” was not the original meaning of the term, which has its roots in the Latin word for “to learn”. Yes, punishment is a way to learn, hence the co-opting of the word. However, I think the use of “discipline” in this context is a misuse of a good word, and is a euphemism employed by abusive people to justify their abusive behavior.

  8. GBSmith says:

    There’s an interesting thread on http://www.staylds.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=3640 about this that you might want to check out.

  9. Morgana says:

    “If the truth is “anti-Mormon,” the LDS church has a big problem.” Well said. Interesting to note that an invitation to a Court of Love is not entirely based on member conduct or stated opinion, but on whether said member is deemed a threat to the organization. Well, if the ME is indeed ex’ed, I hope he takes his story far and wide.

  10. Odell Campbell says:

    @GBSmith. I checked out the “interesting” thread you started at staylds and didn’t really find it interesting.

  11. GBSmith says:

    Sorry you didn’t find it interesting but I just wanted to get some other viewpoints.

    • Odell Campbell says:

      I didn’t find anything new there, just LDS people stating the obvious, that while the information at MormonThink is accurate, it is presented in such a way as to lead people away from the Mormon church.

      • GBSmith says:

        I agree about people stating what seems to be obvious but at the same time it’s a different point of view than most here voice. The one thing that I appreciated from the posts there was the view that an all or nothing, black and white interpretation of things can be an inaccurate way of trying to weigh the truth and meaning of things. I know Pres Hinckley said that it was all true or all false and that seems to be the view at MormonThink but historical “facts” are never quite that cut and dried. Anyway, I appreciate the discussion.

      • runtu says:

        Let me be clear about something. I do not hold an all-or-nothing, black-or-white interpretation of things, especially not Mormonism. Joseph Smith was a complex and often contradictory personality. Dale Broadhurst once told me that he thought Joseph Smith was doing two things at once: trying to build the kingdom of God, and running a scam. That is as close to my view of Joseph Smith as anything I have ever heard. As for MormonThink, I believe their approach is not black and white but rather they are pointing out that the version of church history and doctrine that we were taught growing up is not necessarily the way things happened. We all know the sanitized version of Mormon history; MormonThink gives the other side. Yes, they give their thoughts on the subject, but from what I can see, it’s mostly expressing some disappointment and frustration that church leaders have not been forthcoming about the church’s origins. I share those feelings.

  12. GBSmith says:

    The last two posts by Orson and Ray Degraw on staylds about this pretty well sum up my feelings. I wish the editor(s) well but I doubt they’ll be able to have it both ways.

  13. [...] simply can’t resist excommunicating people. So guess what is all over the news? Mormon with outspoken blog posts on church says may face [...]

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