CASE REPORTS OF THE
VOLUME 2, 1996
"The Kind of Experience That Changes You Forever"
Devery S. Anderson
THE FORUM FOR MORMON STUDIES
FIRST MEETING, MAY
THIRD MEETING, JULY
DEALINGS WITH ELDER
MOVING OUT OF THE STAKE,
Devery Scott Anderson, a convert to the Church with his parents and
brothers at age ten, grew up in Longview, Washington. He attended Ricks
College in Rexburg, Idaho, and Lower Columbia College in Longview,
majoring in history and social and behavioral sciences. He served in the
England London East Mission (1979-81) and married Kandy Grantham
Anderson, also a convert, in the Seattle Temple in 1984. Before he
finished his degree, he began working for Reynolds Aluminum in Longview,
where his responsibilities consisted of reducing aluminum from raw
materials through electrolysis and testing samples produced in the
At the time Deveryís ordeal began in 1992, he and Kandy were happy
and busy members of the Longview Second Ward in 1992 with a six-year-old
daughter, Mandy, and a newborn son, Tyler. Devery was a counselor in the
eldersí quorum presidency and a home teacher. Kandy was serving as
Primary secretary. Both of them greatly enjoyed the Church, were deeply
committed to the gospel, were fully orthodox in their practices and
family life, were tolerant and accepting of the members of their ward,
and had never had any disagreements with leaders or other members other
than the usual give-and-take of ordinary congregational life. In
addition to his calling, Devery did genealogical research and often took
family names when they went to the Portland Oregon Temple, an hourís
drive away. They enjoyed the temple and went as often as they could,
although temple attendance became more complicated for them after Tylerís
birth. For both of them, the temple was an important part of their
spiritual and personal lives.
Devery, whose interest in Mormon history had been aroused several
years earlier, enjoyed reading Dialogue and Sunstone
and talking about various articles with a few close friends. Although
Kandyís interests lay elsewhere, she was fully supportive. From these
discussions emerged the idea of forming a quarterly study group that
would bring in a knowledgeable guest speaker. In January 1991, Devery
took the first organizational steps that, unwittingly, put him on a
collision course with his stake president.
I was very enthusiastic about having a study group close to home. I
selected the name, the Forum for Mormon Studies, because I wanted to
emphasize that we were going to try to learn things. I made a list of
everyone in the ward whom I thought would have an interest in a study
group and mailed out fliers to them. I wanted to be sure that nobody got
the idea that this was an official program, so I was careful never to
pass out fliers at church except to a few people who had already
expressed interest or to talk about the group at church except to answer
a question in the hall or something like that. I asked Dialogue
for a list of subscribers in Washington and Oregon and invited those
within about a sixty-mile radius. Sometimes people drove two hours from
Tacoma and Seattle to attend, which made me feel goodóthat this group
was meeting their needs too.
The first meetings were held in our home; sometimes we rented a
conference room at a hotel for later meetings. Those attending usually
chipped in to pay the transportation costs of speakers from out of town,
and I usually made up any difference out of my own pocket.
I spoke at the first meeting, which was held in late January 1991.
About ten people were there for my presentation on the canonization of
the New Testament, a small but enthusiastic group. In February 1991,
Armand Mauss, a well-known Mormon sociologist who lives in Pullman,
Washington, and teaches at Washington State University, was the second
speaker. From that point on, we were more or less on a quarterly
schedule, depending on the availability of our speakers.
During January 1991 when I started advertising the first meeting, a
number of people told me, "Oh, the bishop was asking about
this." Since I saw Bishop Blaine Nyberg regularly, I found it funny
that he hadnít talked to me directly. I found it even stranger when
Bishop Nyberg called me in that same month "just to see how youíre
doing." We talked for about an hour in an odd, wandering
conversation that was neither a worthiness interview nor an exploration
of the study group or issues discussed there.
I didnít want anything I was doing to catch the bishopric or stake
presidency by surprise, so I always kept them on my mailing list. In
March 1992, during the second year of the Forumís activities, the
stake was divided and Terry T. Brandon, an executive with Longview Fibre
Company, became president of the Longview Washington Stake. He had never
attended any of the Forumís meetings nor had his counselors. I had
known President Brandon for more than twenty years, the entire time I
had been in the Church. In fact, President Brandon had ordained me to be
a deacon. I considered him an admirable person, hard-working and devoted
to the Church. Maybe he transferred too many of his "hard-charging
executive" characteristics to his calling as the stake president,
but I respected him and considered his testimony of the gospel above
Bishop Nyberg also did not attend any of the Forums. I was truly
shocked when I found out that he had asked Bob Daulton to attend the
first two meetings and report back to him. Or maybe Bob had
"volunteered" to attend the meetings and report back, and
Bishop Nyberg had agreed. Bob was a member of my ward and a little bit
of a scriptural hobbyist. I sort of got the impression that he saw the
Forum as his personal stage and wanted to teach the group himself. When
Armand Mauss came, Bob tried to interrupt and dominate the discussion.
Bob seemed somewhat resentful, and he didnít come back to any other
meetings. Months later he criticized Armandís presentation during a
sacrament meeting talk.
Bob wrote out his reports to Bishop Nyberg, who called me in again.
There were the letters on his desk with certain sentences underlined.
The conversation was perfectly friendly, but it ended with Bishop Nyberg
saying, "I wonít try to stop you, but Iím worried about people
getting their faith shaken." This approach, I feel, was perfectly
appropriate. He expressed his concerns in a way that made me think of it
from his point of view, but he also respected my agency. Itís the only
time we ever discussed the topic. Bishop Nyberg also asked me to speak
in sacrament meeting soon afterwards, and I interpreted the invitation
as a sign that he was basically comfortable with my activities and
But I was really upset about Bob. I considered his activities to be
an abuse of our hospitality because he had come into our home under
false pretenses. He sensed my displeasure and talked to me about it
after a priesthood meeting a couple of weeks later. Bob admitted,
"I should have told you the bishop asked me for a written
report," but he refused to admit that there was anything ethically
questionable about his masquerade. In my interview with the bishop,
however, he said heíd asked Bob to go to the meeting and report on it
but that the written report was Bobís idea.
I later learned that Daulton had sent a similar letter to the stake
president who had a bishop from another ward call in John Hays, a member
of his ward who had attended all of the group meetings. The bishop was
acting, reluctantly, at the stake presidentís request and told John:
"The stake president wanted me to call you inóso I called you in.
Letís talk about something else."
In September 1991, Calvin George became bishop of my ward. Bishop
George, whom I considered to be a good friend, was always enthusiastic
and positive about the Forum in conversations with me, attended the
Forum once, and frequently told me that he planned to attend meetings. I
took this enthusiasm with a grain of salt, since he only came twiceóto
the October 1991 meeting where Edward L. Kimball spoke and two years
later when Sunstone editor Elbert Peck was the guest speaker.
In May 1992, I heard that President Brandon was banning study groups.
The Kelso Ward, also in Longview Washington Stake, had a study group for
approximately twelve years that was described by one participant as
"Gospel Doctrine class with refreshments." Thereís no way
you could call it a dangerous group. The participants would read a
chapter a month at home in books like Jesus the Christ,
then discuss it at the meeting. In May 1992, President Brandon told them
to stop meeting and they obeyed. Apparently he was motivated by a
meeting with the Regional Representative earlier that spring in which
several items were discussed, including the August 1991 statement by the
Council of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve warning
members of the Church against participating in "symposia." We
didnít have any symposia in our area, but we had these study groups;
and I guess President Brandon concluded that he would take the statement
a step further. So he decided that none would exist within the
boundaries of his stake. This is the background for the conflict between
President Brandon and me.
I took extensive notes on each of the meetings I had with President
Brandon. The narrative which follows, including direct quotations from
interviews, are from my notes. I want to stress that these are my
perceptions and my perspective. I sincerely believe that this negative
series of encounters with President Brandon represents only a small
moment in an over-all positive ministry.
President Brandonís executive secretary, Gordon L. Rich, made an
appointment for me to see him on 18 May 1992. At this point, Armand L.
Mauss (twice), Edward L. Kimball, and D. Michael Quinn had spoken at the
Forum to the apparent interest and pleasure of all who had attended, and
Lavina Fielding Anderson (no relation) was scheduled for October. I felt
that these gatherings were wonderful, meeting every expectation. The
first time I went to a Sunstone Symposium, I felt as if I had taken an
ice-cold drink of water after being thirsty for years. Contrary to
President Brandonís views (and those of others like him), I found my
faith strengthened and my love for the gospel increased at Sunstone. I
realized that I needed that renewal more than just once a year. Giving
up this source of personal learning after I knew about it would have
left a hurting void in my life. I was just getting used to having that
void filled, and it didnít seem fair to sacrifice something that was
so important to me spiritually because my stake president didnít have
the same needs and had no interest in trying to see why my needs were
Knowing about the order given in Kelso Ward, I thought through the
possibilities of receiving a similar order. Did I feel I could obey it?
If not, what reasons could I give? I had had always been obedient and
had never been put in a position where I felt I had to make a choice
between my conscience and the instructions of a priesthood leader. I
still wanted to be that way. But I felt keenly that I had a right to
sponsor the Forumóthat it was one of the "good causes" which
require neither permission nor commandment but which may exist in the
independent sector. So I went to the meeting with my mind made up but
with a lot of trepidation.
I was surprised to find Brandonís counselors present at the
meeting. It was clear that President Ed Ivey and President Bill Davis
were there strictly to support President Brandon. With a few
preliminaries, President Brandon reviewed the statement by the Regional
Representative and announced: "Therefore, as your priesthood
leaders, we are telling you to not to hold any more
The meeting that followed lasted about two hours and fifteen minutes.
The counselors, neither of whom had ever attended a Forum, seemed to vie
with each other to show support for President Brandon and joined freely
in the discussion, making it difficult for me to follow an argument
systematically because of the interruptions.
I told them: "I alone am responsible for my testimony. I know
what strengthens my testimony and helps it grow. Sunstone, Dialogue,
and study groups are wonderful supplements to our religion. They should
be just thatósupplements. They should not be our religion.1
I asserted my rights as a member, which the stake presidency was
unwilling to concede. So I asked, "What principle of the gospel am
I violating by holding these meetings?"
"The principle of obedience."
I rejoined, "Obedience isnít a principle in the abstract. We
are to be obedient to principles."
I also pointed out that people elsewhere in the Church were holding
study groups and no one I knew had been disciplined for holding them;
thus the demand was arbitrary. "For example, at least one bishop
and counselor in a stake presidency, to my certain knowledge, attend the
Society for Independent Mormon Studies (SIMS) in Seattle. Why am I being
chastised in Longview for something that leaders were enthusiastic about
"I canít account for the mistakes theyíre making up
north," said President Brandon. He compared any leader who would
attend a study group to certain bishops he knew who had been
"sucked into" joining the Aryan Nation.
The meeting, which began calmly, became more heated, as the night
wore on. All three of them reminded me repeatedly of President Brandonís
calling. His superior priesthood office, it was clear, should settle the
issue. After half an hourís insistence on this point, I began to
wonder if President Brandon saw any limits at all on his authority. I
suggested an analogy to illustrate my argument that some leadersí
requests are legitimate and some arenít. For instance, if President
Brandon were to visit my house, didnít like its color, and ordered me
to paint it green, would I be disobedient if I refused to do it?
President Brandon chuckled, but the first counselor, President Ivey,
interjected: "You may call this blind obedience; but President
Brandon is my priesthood leader. If he told me to paint my house green,
I would do it. That may be too simple for you, but thatís the way it
President Brandon picked up the point: "You know, the thing that
bothers me the most about this is that you arenít sustaining your
priesthood leaders." To convince me of the legitimacy of his
demand, Brandon cited the Old Testament. In Exodus 12, the children of
Israel were asked to put the blood of the paschal lamb on their door
frames at Passover. "A lot of them thought Moses was crazy,"
said President Brandon. "Youíre one of those who wouldnít have
done it, and you wouldnít have been protected from the angel of
I was a little upset that he judged me as being rebellious and
disobedientóit just didnít match my history or my lifestyleóbut I
again responded: "Once again, God is clearly the origin of
that commandment. It wasnít a case of Moses having one idea while
Aaron had another. And at least the order was consistently applied. The
whole people were supposed to do it." In other words, it was
"Church policy," not the whim of a local leader.
President Brandon counseled me to "research the scriptures on
obedience and you will see things my way." I already had and
reported that everything I could find talked about obedience to God.
Yes, occasionally they talked about obedience to the mouthpiece of the
Lord, but once again in circumstances that made it clear the prophet was
speaking under the direction of the Spirit. Armand Mauss, aware of the
situation, had researched the scriptures as well and called me with the
In support of Brandon, President Ivey insisted: "Unless thereís
something different in your heart, youíll accept whatever counsel he
gives you in the same spirit."
I protested, "Thatís just the point. There is something
different in my heart. I have some intellectual needs that you may not
have, but meeting them is important to me."
But the official consensus was clear: I had no "right" as a
human being or as a member of the Church to these "needs." I
should, as an act of obedience, "sacrifice" them, no matter
what they were. President Brandon acknowledged that, if he was wrong, he
would have to account for it one day, but my obligation was to obey him
anywayóand be blessed for it. For the next eight months, the real
issue was never again whether study groups were harmful or helpful, good
or bad, but only whether I had the right to refuse a direct order from a
priesthood leader, even though that order was neither a scriptural
commandment nor Church policy.
President Brandon stated that he had received complaints about the
meeting, that the Church "didnít like" study groups, and
that I should not hold any more. He made it clear that this was not a
suggestion but a requirement.
I felt knocked off balance by President Brandonís feeling that he
had a perfect right to make this demand. I also felt ganged up on
because there were three of them and only one of me. But to the best of
my ability, I tried to deal systematically and reasonably with their
So I tried to discuss the complaint that the Forum was damaging the
faith of attendees. One of the "complaints," as I pinned it
down, came from Daultonís solicited report. When I expressed
resentment that Daulton had come into my home, ostensibly as a guest,
but actually in search of negative information about me, President
Brandon didnít even take me seriously. He said there was nothing wrong
with that. The meetings were open to anyone, werenít they, so Bob
Daultonís motive for attending was legitimate.
Another of the complaints was from Lisa and Bryan Saunderson
(pseudonyms), who had told him that their faith had been
"shaken." I felt that Lisa and Bryan had always had a lot of
questions about the Church and usually took an intellectual approach in
classes and scriptural discussions. Lisa had particularly been troubled
over a long period of time by the Churchís attitudes and historical
practices involving polygamy. They were Dialogue subscribers,
came to all the meetings, and, by the time of this interview, were
telling me how much the Forum meetings were helping them. When I pinned
President Brandon down, he admitted that heíd heard about their
"shaken faith," not from them but from our former bishop,
Blaine Nyberg, who was now on the high council.
President Brandon dropped the Saundersons and said, third, that
"someone from the stake," whose name he refused to disclose,
told him that listening to Michael Quinnís presentation on
post-Manifesto and contemporary plural marriage had "shaken their
faith." I later contacted every person from the stake who attended
(only thirteen of the fifty present). To a person, each individual said,
"No, I enjoyed it. It helped me understand how to deal with complex
historical questions." They also praised Quinnís warm
appreciation of the Church and his lack of sensationalism. In sum,
President Brandonís "pastoral" concern about the shaken
faith of members boiled down to Daulton, who very possibly had an axe of
his own to grind, the Saundersons, whose current position he just plain
misrepresented, and an anonymous report that would fail to stand up to
investigation. These feeble examples made me wonder if he was making up
evidence; and after checking out the third report, I felt pretty sure of
At one point during this meeting, I offered a compromise. Since a
significant number of attendees came from the Portland area, forty-five
miles from the stake boundaries, I could hold the meetings in Portland.
President Brandon said no. He didnít want me organizing any more
meetings. Period. The location didnít matter. He expressed concern
that I "would be seen as a guru and the possibility that a
schismatic group would form." This opinion seemed totally
ludicrous. Who did he think I was?
The meeting had lasted more than two hours. I was literally
exhausted, both physically and emotionally. Finally, I gave up and gave
in. I said I would go along with President Brandonís demands for now,
but I insisted that we meet again soon. President Brandon agreed.
I left the meeting in a state of near-shock. The meeting had been a
dark experience. The mood has been so virulently adversarial that I told
Kandy it was "just hateful. There was so much anger and fear and
mistrust." Worse, by the time I reached home fifteen minutes away,
I felt that I had made a terrible mistake. Kandy had been waiting for
me, growing steadily more anxious and worried as the time had passed. I
told her what had happened and summarized how I felt: By agreeing to any
kind of cooperation, I had given legitimacy to unrighteous dominion and
left the door open for it to happen again and again. I felt more firmly
than ever before that I was right, but I was in turmoil. I drifted off
to an anxious and anguished sleep; but I woke up in the middle of the
night with a beautifully calm feeling that I should obey my conscience
and all would be well. I felt so calm that I slept like baby. This
feeling and its memory was a powerful comfort in the months to come.
On 7 June 1992, President Brandon and I met again at my request. The
counselors were not present. Brandon began the interview by chastising
me for speaking with the Saundersons. Angrily, President Brandon said,
"You know that everything that is said in here is confidential. It
isnít to go outside this room."
He then told me that Lisa Saunderson had met with him just a few days
before a ward conference to set him straight for saying that her faith
was weak or shaken. She told him that the group benefited her. "But
by the end of our interview, she was in tears," President Brandon
told me, "just hysterical. Sheís very unstable. She needs
counseling but wonít get it because youíre her guru, solving her
problem with Dialogue and Sunstone."
I cynically thought that if President Brandon had used the same
browbeating tactics on Lisa that he had on me, no wonder he had reduced
her to tears by the meetingís end. But more important than that, I was
flabbergasted and shocked that President Brandon would tell me
information that a member had related to him in an interview, especially
after his angry lecture on confidentiality. I wondered if President
Brandon would be equally free about discussing the subject of my own
interviews with others and thought the answer was probably yes.
Again, the lengthy meeting focused on obedience. President Brandon
quoted from several photocopied talks by General Authoritiesómainly
those of Elder Boyd K. Packerówhich he used to support his position.
He also read a letter that a friend of mine from outside the stake had
written to him, expressing support for me and the Forum. President
Brandon had written back a curt response, setting the friend straight,
and again focusing on obedience.
For this meeting, President Brandon had come up with another argument
against the Forum, other than their content and the "damage"
they were potentially causing to faith. Now he accused me of neglecting
my family, Church assignments, and personal scripture study by dabbling
in these intellectual interests.
I strongly denied that I neglected any of these duties, then pointed
out, "A study group isnít an all-or-nothing thing. Iím spending
two hours every quarter, which totals eight hours a year. How can that
be excessive?" I tried an analogy: "If I subscribed to Sports
Illustrated and organized a party to watch one televised game per
quarter, no one would say I was neglecting my family. If you can be
convinced of that, would you back off?"
President Brandon admitted, "That would help."
He also told me something, apparently unrelated, that deepened my
disquiet. The former stake president, Steven H. Pond had, nearly a year
and a half earlier, written me a letter that he had never sent.
President Pond had given a copy to Bishop Nyberg and left it in his own
files, where President Brandon had found it and showed it to his
counselors. "But I canít let you see it," he said.
"If President Pond had wanted you to see it, he would have sent it
to you." The letter, he said, touched on my intellectual interests
and was therefore evidence that I had a long-term "problem"
that my priesthood leaders could be legitimately concerned about. I felt
keenly the unfairness of the situation and resolved that I would get
this letter out of my file.
President Brandon again cited the Old Testament example found in
Exodus. At the end, he again asked, "Will you sustain us as your
priesthood leaders in this and not hold any more meetings?"
I replied, "Iíll be glad to listen to your advice and your
concerns. Iíll be willing to consider moving the meetings out of the
stake boundaries. But I canít submit to a blanket prohibition."
"Then Iíll need your temple recommend," said President
I felt sick inside, but I obediently handed it over. President
Brandon said he would hold on to it for sixty days and schedule another
interview to see if my feelings had changed on the matter.
Our interview went more than an hour and a half and ended only when
President Brandon realized that he had kept his next appointment waiting
for half an hour.
When I returned home after the interview, I found Lisa Saunderson
visiting with Kandy. I told her what President Brandon had said and said
frankly, "Iím worried. He thinks youíre not getting the therapy
you need because of the study group. He says that you see me as your
"What?" she exclaimed. "That is ridiculous! Iíve
already started seeing an LDS Social Services counselor."
This episode further diminished my trust in President Brandonís
fairness and increased my worry that he might actually manufacture
On 22 July 1992, we met again at President Brandonís request. I had
earlier written President Pond asking that he authorize President
Brandon to give me the original letter and keep no copies. President
Brandon had called this meeting in part to tell me that President Pond
had made the request. "But I am keeping a copy for
myself," President Brandon said. He had me read President Pondís
unsent letter before we went any further. It was mainly advice from
President Pond, written after heíd seen my first flier announcing the
formation of the study group. He said that two of his personal heroes
had always been Eugene England and Reed Durham, but he basically
cautioned me about getting "too involved" with intellectual
Then President Brandon focused on the issue of obedience. Citing the
Old Testament again, he referred to Abrahamís willingness to sacrifice
Isaac. "Abraham was asked by his priesthood leader to do
something that he didnít understand" and his blind obedience was
righteous, said President Brandon.
Considerably alarmed by this parallel, I responded that "a
fallible human being who happens to be my priesthood leader canít be
compared to the infallible God speaking to a prophet. Youíre not
comparing yourself to God, are you?" President Brandon dropped the
point, without conceding it, and then referred to Joseph Smithís
asking members to do things that they didnít understand. I assumed he
was referring to the incident in which Joseph Smith asked Heber C.
Kimball to give him his wife, Vilate, then, when Kimball reluctantly
obeyed, said he was just testing him. Again, I expressed strong
exception to the parallel President Brandon was setting up.
I also confronted President Brandon about the discrepancies between
the accusations in the first meeting that membersí faith was being
"shaken" and what my own investigation had found. President
Brandon had admitted in our second meeting that no one had talked to him
except Lisa Saunderson, and then in a different context. He acted as
though what he was saying now was consistent with what he had told me
earlierówhich wasnít true.
This third meeting was also a long one. It was less heated, but we
were both entrenched in our positions. We didnít fight, but neither
one of us was budging on the issue. I again tried to bring perspective
and reasonableness to the discussion. I said that I felt I should be
putting my efforts into the eldersí quorum presidency instead of these
upsetting meetings with him. However, rather than pursuing this more
moderate perspective, President Brandon kept trying to parallel my
situation to scriptural examples in ways that I found very alarming.
I also proposed directly, "Why donít you come out to the
Forum? Stop getting these reports second and third hand." President
Brandon agreed that this would be a good idea and promised to attend the
upcoming meeting with Lavina Fielding Anderson in Octoberóprovided he
wasnít in Salt Lake City for general conference. (President Brandon
did not go to conference, but he did not attend the Forum either. He
never offered an explanation.)
When I offered to let him watch a videotape of Michael Quinnís
presentation, he agreed to do so. I dropped the tape and photocopies of
several articles from Dialogue and Sunstone at President
Brandonís house a few days later. I was anxious to see what he thought
and hoped he would stop feeling that the sessions were negative.
President Brandon never mentioned these materials to me again and
returned the tape three months later at our final meeting without
President Brandon assured me that he had been praying about
"your situation." One of his counselors felt I should be
released from my calling, he told me, but the idea had "never
crossed my mind." I couldnít honestly say that I felt reassured.
Obviously the idea had crossed his mind, since he was reporting
I felt pretty discouraged after this meeting and privately wrote my
conclusions: "Itís all boiled down to not sustaining priesthood
authority. Well, I can honestly say yes to Ďsustainingí them, but
submitting to unrighteous dominion is another matter. Unless President
Brandon has a change of heart, Iíll be going for the next ten years
without a recommend. I donít handle guilt very well. I keep trying to
find where Iím wrong, but Iíve never felt more at peace about
anything than I do about this. That gives me some comfort."
Soon after this meeting, I had lunch with President Pond. Though
careful not to say anything to contradict President Brandonís
position, President Pond seemed understanding of many of my points and
suggested naively that I tell President Brandon the same things I was
After almost four months of reflection, I wrote President Brandon in
November and said I wanted to appeal his confiscation of my temple
recommend to Elder Joe J. Christensen of the First Quorum of the
Seventy, then serving as president of the North America Northwest Area.
On Tuesday, 17 November 1992, the stake executive secretary called to
set up another appointment with President Brandon the next day. I was
somewhat wary going into the meeting, prepared to leave if the
counselors were present. But President Brandon was alone. The visit
started out with fifteen minutes of small talk, which seemed cordial.
However, knowing that it was anything but a social visit, I found the
President Brandon said he would "honor my request in arranging
something with the area president," but added, "By the way,
you canít appeal this action. The only thing you can appeal is a court
trial." President Pond, during our lunch, had told me that the
Churchís appeal procedure worked for any kind of discipline or problem
and advised me on the proper steps to take if I wanted to use it, so I
was surprised by this information and wondered who was right.
President Brandon had sent my letter to him on to Elder Christensen
with an accompanying letter in which President Brandon summarized the
situation from his perspective.
I was again surprised. I had not expected my request to be forwarded
to the area president. I had also not expected President Brandon to act
as the mediator and interpreter and was hardly comfortable with that
arrangement. So I was relieved when President Brandon said,
"President Christensen would like you to tell him everything from
your side. He didnít give me any indication of what he would decide.
Youíre to send it directly to him. I wonít see it."
I got the feeling that President Brandon had expected President
Christensen to agree with him that no appeal was possible and that he
should handle it. President Brandon seemed anxious and humbler now that
it would be taken to a higher authority, telling me several
times, "If he wants me to give you your recommend back I will, even
if I disagree. Iíll do what they tell me to do."
To me, this shift in mood was conspicuous. Before, heíd always just
said: "This is how it is." But during this meeting he was much
less aggressive. He was using language like, "My opinion is . . . I
got the impression that you said . . . I may have been wrong, but I
thought . ..." At one point, he said, "Now, I like to
compare obedience to Moses crossing the Red Sea. I believe that it
happened literallyóI donít know if you do-- ..." It was a
refreshing willingness to acknowledge that I might have a different
opinion. I sensed in it a new spirit of love and tolerance.
However, at one point in the conversation where President Brandon
repeated his willingness to obey President Christensen, he then said
accusingly, "And thatís all right with you; but if it goes in the
opposite direction, you wonít be willing to do what they
say." Then, growing more combative, President Brandon charged,
"You have such hard feelings against Brethren."
Floored, I asked, "How can you say something like that?"
President Brandonís "evidence" was that I had expressed
reservations to him about some material in Bruce R. McConkieís Mormon
Doctrine and had also criticized some of the reasoning in a book by
Glenn Pace, then a Seventy, which had contained a chapter warning
against intellectuals. "If an intellectual said anything that
disagreed with the Brethren, youíd side with the intellectual,"
President Brandon accused.
I protested that neither book was scripture or Church doctrine and
that being a member didnít obligate me to agree with them just because
they were General Authorities. I explained, "If Iím reading an
article on Church history, I want to hear it from a historian. If I want
to hear a testimony of the divinity of Christ, Iíll go to someone whoís
been called to be a special witness of Christ. I donít agree with
everything I read in Sunstone and Dialogue. I listen and
make up my own mind. But I listen more carefully to people who have
facts and study and reason to back up what they say."
President Brandon backed down and said, in a more conciliatory tone,
"That helps me a lot. I got the impression you just didnít like
the Brethren. I took your recommend away because you werenít
sustaining the Brethren."
"Who do you mean by Ďthe Brethrení?" I asked, stunned
all over again.
"The General Authorities."
I felt disoriented. President Brandonís exact words during the
first meeting had been: "Will you sustain your priesthood leaders
in this by not holding any more meetings?" It was clear that he
meant "the stake presidency."
"Wait a minute," I queried. "Did you take my temple
recommend away because you felt I wasnít sustaining you or
because you thought I wasnít sustaining the General Authorities?"
President Brandon replied, "It was because I felt you werenít
sustaining the General Authorities."
So the grounds had shifted a third timeónot the Forumís content,
not damage to membersí faith, not my neglect of my duties, not
disobeying my stake president but now not sustaining the General
Authorities. I bore a firm testimony to President Brandon that I
accepted the General Authorities as prophets, seers, and revelators. I
also pointed out that this conclusion had never come up before this
Ignoring my point about the chronology, President Brandon expressed
approval of my testimony.
Again, I left the meeting with mixed feelings. On the one hand, I was
hopeful that involving another person would provide a different and more
reasonable perspective; but on the other hand, I was alarmed at the new
direction the conversation had taken. I felt that President Brandon had
a pattern of taking things I said and turning them into things I didnít
sayóeven changing things heíd said.
I thought carefully about the letter to President Christensen,
mentally reviewing the objections President Brandon had raised and
trying to guess whether President Christensen would have the same
objections. I did not want to appear either defensive or aggressive. I
wanted to express my feelings accurately and strongly. But how do you
talk to a General Authority? What had President Brandon already told
him? What kinds of rights did members have? Should I send President
Christensen the sheaves of notes I had taken about the meetings with
President Brandon? Should I ask for a face-to-face meeting?
I prepared draft after draft. On 29 December 1992, I wrote my final
version, beginning my letter by expressing appreciation for meeting
President Christensen in the Missionary Training Center in 1979 when I
arrived for training in July. President Christensen had been named to
head the MTC only a few weeks earlier. I had read his book, To Grow
in Spirit, and had found it helpful. I summarized the organization
of the Forum for Mormon Studies, the meetings that had been held, who
had spoken, and President Brandonís confiscation of my temple
recommend on 7 June 1992. I then continued:
What I would like to stress is that the [Forum] meetings do meet
some of the needs of me and people like me who love the Church, are
committed to it, but need more than just Sunday School class. I have
tried to protect the Church and myself by being careful to state that
the meetings are not sponsored or endorsed by any of the local wards
or stake. I have never tried to use a Church building to meet in, have
never advertised in church, nor proselyted amongst the general
membership for attendees. With the exception of a few close friends
who have expressed interest, the people on my mailing list are Dialogue
subscribers and already lean toward this type of study.
I mentioned the above because President Brandonís initial concern
was that the meetings might damage the faith of certain people. My
response is that I agree that discussing tough issues isnít for
everyone, but that there is a place for it. I donít believe that
Church is ever the place to discuss these things, but in settings where
people are free to either come or not come. Those who donít like them
shouldnít come. I donít think that a blanket prohibition is the
answer, nor that the stake president has the right to demand that.
Leonard Arrington, speaking in Dialogue about the contributions
the journal has made, touched on what I see as the same benefits of
independent gatherings like mine:
I know for a fact that Dialogue has kept many people in the
Church and in the culture who might otherwise have dropped out. I have
received many letters, even from bishops, stake presidents, and
General Authorities, who have expressed their gratitude for Dialogue
and indicated what it has meant to them or to someone they loved.
(Vol. 21:2, p. 137).
All I can say in defense of my activities is that I have seen the
good the meetings doóin my own life and in the lives of people who
have expressed themselves to me. I am not interested in creating
rebellion or apostasy, nor addressing "skeletons" in the
closet for its own sake. My desire is to improve knowledge of Church
history and gain a greater understanding of LDS culture and why the
Lord works through human weakness to bring about great things. That, I
believe, can build faith. I also believe that those who find such
independent gatherings helpful and a positive supplement to their
gospel study should be allowed to meet without any harassment.
President Brandon has also argued that such meetings become a
replacement for scripture study and Church duties. But the meetings
add up to about eight hours per year. I see them and independent
publications as supplements to gospel learning, not primary sources. I
still have plenty of time and energy to concentrate on the ten points
you suggest in your books. Iíve seen people, whether intellectuals,
or right-wing conservatives, go to extremes, but that is not me.
President Brandon and I have met on four occasions: 19 May, 7 June,
22 July, and 18 November of this year to discuss this. The first
meeting involved the entire stake presidency; the rest involved only
the two of us. I am sending you my notes from these meetings if you
feel they would be helpful. They are rather long and detailed but they
tell the story as I have seen it.
Although I discuss our various arguments in my notes, the whole
thing (until our last meeting) boiled down to the issue of obedience.
Whether or not the meetings are good or bad, harmful or beneficial
makes no difference. Since he has told me to stop having them, then
according to him, my only choice is to obey. If I do not, then Iím
not "sustaining" him. Since I told him I couldnít stop, he
sees me as not sustaining him. Conversely, I see him as
overstepping his bounds. I say that because I think I have a right to
be "anxiously engaged in a good cause." Let me also state
that Iím not one to say that a Church leader is out of bounds
whenever I disagree with them. Iím sure that I can think of other
things I donít agree with but will supportómissionary splits six
nights a week being one of them. But these are legitimate requests, as
they pertain to Church activities or policies, and are within the
bounds of those in authority to make these decisions. I donít see
President Brandon as having the right to tell me I canít invite
friends over to my home or a rented hall to discuss Mormon issues in a
formal setting. Iím not asking for his support, but [I am
asking] that he withdraw his objection and the resulting discipline.
In closing, Iíd like to mention something that happened in our
last meeting (on 18 November) that has confused me a great deal. On 7
June, when President Brandon took my temple recommend, his exact words
were: "Will you sustain us in this and not hold any more
meetings?" When I replied in the negative, he said, "Then Iíll
need your temple recommend." However, in our most recent meeting,
he shifted his reasons for taking my recommend, saying that it was
because he felt I had hard feelings toward the General Authorities.
This puzzled me, and so I asked again specifically if he took the
temple recommend because he felt I wasnít sustaining him or
[because I wasnít sustaining] the General Authorities. He said,
"It was because I felt you werenít sustaining the General
Authorities." This was never given as the reason before this last
interview. I then explained to him my feelings for the Brethren, and
he seemed very relieved.
I want you to know also that this whole thing has not caused me to
have bad feelings for President Brandon. I can honestly say that I
sustain him as my stake president and am happy that he is in this
position. I have known him for over twenty-two years. In fact, in 1972
he ordained me to the office of a deacon. He is a great man, and I
admire anyone who is willing to dedicate [his] time and energy to this
cause as he is doing. However, I truly believe he is exercising
unrighteous dominion in this matter. After sincere reflection and
prayer, I cannot sustain what he is attempting to do.
With 1993 approaching, it would mean more to me than anything to
have a happy, pleasant Church experience. 1992 has not been such. My
wife and I are converts who love the Church and have testimonies of
its truthfulness. We have a seven-year-old daughter whom we are trying
to prepare for baptism by reading the Book of Mormon with her and
teaching her the missionary discussions at her pace. I have been doing
genealogical research since I was thirteen and have done the temple
work for over seventy-two family members and have many more prepared
for ordinance work. We obviously love the temple and believe strongly
in the work performed there. Iím certainly willing to go and do more
than my fair share there. I long for that day to come again.
I appreciate your time and look forward to hearing from you. Your
willingness to hear me out means a great deal. I am sending you my
notes that you may know more fully the events as they have transpired.
They should be helpful to you.
Although President Brandon told me he would not be privy to our
correspondence, I feel this matter will be best resolved if we are all
completely open with our feelings. Consequently, I have sent both
President Brandon and my bishop a copy of this letter.
Devery Scott Anderson
President Christensen responded only a week later:
Thank you very much for your detailed letter and the explanation of
At Church Headquarters, we rely heavily on the perspective of the
stake president, who has the direct and awesome responsibility of
assisting with the spiritual welfare of all the members within the
stake. He is in a position to judge the impact of activities which
occur within the stake. There must be something that causes him
concern. I suggest that you be sure you become fully aware of what
those concerns are. I feel confident that it is not President Brandonís
intent to exercise "unrighteous dominion."
I like the statement that "it is a mighty thin pancake that
doesnít have two sides." Hopefully, you, Bishop George, and
President Brandon will be able to come to a meeting of the minds, and
that out of it all, testimonies and understanding may be increased
among all concerned.
May the Lordís choicest blessings continue to be with you, your
family, and your success as a worthy and responsible member of the
Sincerely your brother,
Joe J. Christensen
President Christensen had sent a copy to President Brandon but not to
I searched this letter in vain for any sign that President
Christensen had actually read my letter. The allusion to
"unrighteous dominion" was the only connection I saw.
President Christensen had not dealt with a single issue that I had
brought up. He hadnít even acknowledged that there was an issue
to bring up.
I felt confused and depressed. Was the invitation to include the
bishop in further discussions a good thing? Bishop George had always
been cheerful and warm to me, but he had been very careful not to
get involved. Except in an interview I myself had scheduled, he had
never asked me how I was doing, whether I was grieving or angry over the
confiscation of my temple recommend, whether he could help, or even
whether talking about it would do any good. When I asked if heíd
received a copy of my letter, he commented briefly that mine was well
written and to the point.
But more importantly, how would President Brandon interpret these
instructions? With a sinking feeling at the pit of my stomach, I
realized from the questions I was asking myself how much trust had
already been lost. How could I ever feel the same way about my Church
leaders or about the Church itself?
President Brandon did not contact me. On 10 January 1993, only a
couple of days after I received my copy of President Christensenís
letter, John Hays, an attorney, a high councilor, and a good friend for
years, telephoned me. He began the conversation by saying,
"President Brandon wanted me to talk to you for him. Theyíre
going to hold a court."
I gasped audibly.
"Just kidding," said John cheerfully. He thought it was
hilarious but it was several minutes before my heart slowed down.
Then John told me that, after the regularly scheduled high council
meeting the night before, President Brandon had pulled him aside and
told him, "Iíd like to show you a couple of letters about Devery."
John said, "I already know about them. I helped Devery edit his
and he read me the other."
"What do you think about this?" President Brandon asked.
John responded candidly: "Devery and I both felt that President
Christensen didnít really read his letter."
"Thatís not the case," rejoined President Brandon.
"He and his counselors read it and then took it to their higher-up
and he read it also. They called me. Elder Christensen wanted to know
more about Devery. He asked me if anybody was being led astray by
"What did you tell him?" asked John.
"I said, ĎOh, no. Nothing like that.í Then President
Christensen asked, ĎIs there any stuff going on that could be
damaging?í I told him no again."
John interpreted President Brandonís comments as a request for an
opinion and said frankly, "I can promise you that Devery has no
intentions of backing down."
President Brandon sighed: "I really donít want to
either." John had the impression that President Brandon was
concerned and that the situation had been weighing heavily on his mind.
Finally, he told John, "Suggest to Devery that he make an
appointment with Bishop George for a temple recommend. If he passes,
then tell him to make an appointment with the stake executive secretary
with meójust like a normal recommend renewal."
John and I discussed the situation. We speculated on the conversation
with President Christensen that President Brandon had reported. In a
way, I felt, I could take heart. "President Christensen couldnít
have encouraged President Brandon too seriously or else he wouldnít be
even this conciliatory," I argued. But I was upset that Elder
Christensen had dealt with the matter through President Brandon rather
than contacting me directly.
Still, the bottom line was wariness and the continuing sense of
mistrust. "Iím not getting my hopes up," I recorded
privately. "President Brandon may think that if heís sitting
there with the pen in his hand and says, ĎNow, about this study group
...í, I may cave in. I just donít even want to be in that position.
I usually like to evaluate myself before going in for my temple
recommend. Itís been part of my spiritual preparation for a long time.
Before, when Iíve asked myself the questions, thereís never been any
discrepancy between the way I feel about the answers and the way I
imagine my priesthood leader feeling. And now thereís this horrible
split. I would think I was worthy, but my priesthood leader wouldnít.
It makes me realize how discouraged I am. I hadnít realized how
heavily oppressed I have been by this whole thing. Whatís the
incentive in being righteous if nothing I can do will let me go to the
temple? It just hurts too much to even think about. Even though Iíve
had a lot of questions over the years, this is the first time Iíve
felt like an inside-outsider. On the surface, everything looks the same.
Weíre trying to keep commandments. Our family life is the same. But
things are different inside for me."
Slowly, giving myself plenty of time to consider the options, I
decided I would not initiate the temple recommend procedure. "The
temple has always been part of my personal spirituality," I
recorded. "Now thereís this political barrier that has dropped
across the way. Even if itís lifted, it could drop again at any time.
The templeís been taken away from me. It belongs to Ďthem,í not to
me any more. I donít want to go back until I feel I can handle that
emotionally. I think it will just hurt too much."
I had another reason: I had reported my experience to Lavina Fielding
Anderson as part of the pattern of stressful tensions between the Church
and its scholars and intellectuals, and my account, with my permission,
was scheduled to appear in the spring 1993 issue of Dialogue: A
Journal of Mormon Thought.2 I did not
want to invest in the emotional work of regaining my temple recommend if
President Brandon, seeing the article, lost his temper and confiscated
In my more philosophical moments, I could look at the conflict as a
learning experience for President Brandon, too. He just liked to run
things in a high-handed way. One of my friends was the executive
secretary of another bishop in Longview Stake when President Brandon was
also a bishop. He said that his bishop, who was "the most laid-back
guy in the world," had somehow irritated Bishop Brandon, who had
reacted by losing his temper and just screaming in this bishopís face.
So being domineering is a problem heís had for a long time. Maybe this
experience is having a small effect on President Brandon to help him
learn that he canít be in control of everything and everybody all of
the time. The story was also comforting to me in that it provided a sort
of reality check about who was being reasonable and who was being
In early 1993 the elders quorum presidency was released. I was asked
to substitute-teach the Gospel Doctrine class for a teacher who was away
on numerous weekends. The class seemed lively and interested when I
taught the first lesson in the Doctrine and Covenants about how the Lord
gives revelations in the language people are accustomed to. I passed
around my facsimile copy of the Book of Commandments; most class members
had never seen one before.
In January 1993, I sent President Brandon and Bishop George a
schedule of the 1993 Forum for Mormon Issues, which announced as
speakers John Sorensen, James B. Allen, and Elbert Peck. Bishop George
was again enthusiastic and said heíd "like to come to some of
them." There was no response from President Brandon. I was not
trying to be provocative, but I wanted to separate the issue of the
study group from the issue of my temple recommend. A few days later,
President Joe J. Christensen attended the stake conference.
I recognize that I might have been hypersensitive but I received
mixed messages from the conference. President Christensen was actually
one of the speakers I enjoyed most. "I donít know if you know
what intellectuals are saying about Joseph Smith," he began, and I
braced myself, but he then quoted Harold Bloomís praise of Joseph
Smith as a "religious genius" in his recently published The
New American Religion. Christensen also made a strong statement in
support of gaining knowledge. He impressed me as being really open and
understanding, not dogmatic.
On the negative side, the stake executive secretary, Gordon L. Rich,
who was a founder of the other study group that had been meeting for
twelve years and a former bishop of mine, was being released. Asked to
speak, he said: "I want you to know that the stake presidency is
called of God and loves each one of you very much. Sure they make
mistakes, but if youíll follow Brethren, youíll be doing what the
Savior would have you do." I was unable to think of any scriptures
to back that position up. Since he was aware of my situation with
President Brandon, I was sure the counsel was directed towards me.
Furthermore, it seemed that President Brandon was trying to avoid me.
He was shaking hands with people; and at one point right after
leadership meeting, I was standing in a circle with Bishop George and
his first counselor. President Brandon shook their hands but not mine.
Later, right before the next meeting started, I was sitting on the end
of the row in the chapel. President Brandon was going down the aisle
shaking hands with everybody, but he quit the row before mine and went
back to the stand.
Elder Christensen was thronged after every meeting, and I made no
effort to introduce myself or try to get more details about my
That was in March 1993. I remained in the Longview Washington Stake
for another year and a half before we moved away. I served for six
months as a counselor in the Young Menís Presidency; but after I was
released, I spent the remaining eleven months in the ward without a
calling. Bishop George and one of his counselors assured me several
times that one was forthcoming. Kandy maintained her calling as the
Primary secretary during this time, and I was keenly aware of being
isolated from the "normal" life of the ward by my lack.
I wasnít aspiring to any certain calling, nor did I want one for
the sake of prestige. But I wanted to serve, and I was used to having
callings that fulfilled that need. Also, in a typical Mormon ward where
organizations are chronically shorthanded, to have someone who is active
and pretty conspicuously eligible for a callingóbut who doesnít have
oneómakes a guy conspicuous. It doesnít mean youíre paranoid when
that happens and you assume that thereís some negative discussion
about you going on behind closed doors. It erodes your self-esteem and
increases the feeling that youíre expendable. It got harder and harder
to go to church for both of us.
Fortunately, the "Dialoguers" within the ward always had
something positive and supportive to say, and that helped more than
anyone will ever know. I baptized Mandy near her birthday in December
1985. The question of my worthiness didnít even come up with Bishop
George. The Forum continued to meet but more sporadically. In March
1994, Michael Quinn returned for a discussion on the Mormon hierarchy,
and Armand Mauss returned for a third time on Motherís Day. Between
these two forums, my mother, Cecile Anderson, died six days after her
sixty-third birthday on 30 March. The meeting with Armand Mauss was our
President Brandon and I said "hello" to each other at the
April 1993 priesthood session of general conference, and thirteen months
later shook hands after a Longview Second Ward sacrament meeting. That
was all the contact we had during this time period. It was also all I
wanted. Part of me still hoped that he would just pick up the phone,
apologize, and tell me I could have my temple recommend back; but part
of me also knew that he was determined to maintain his authority.
Kandy and I thought seriously about moving; but my job, Mandyís
school, our friends, and the presence of our families in town all worked
against it. Then two events at Reynolds Aluminum made a move away seem
easier. The company had long offered a program of partial tuition
subsidy for employees who wanted to further their educationóand it
didnít need to be in a work-related major. In summer 1993, the company
announced the lay-off of 125 people. I was scheduled for lay-off in the
fall. Why not take advantage of the education programówhich would
still be available to me as a union benefit through the government and
go back to school? I could have remained in Longview and completed my
education at a near-by university; but by that point, I felt I had to
get out of Longview. Being there was squeezing the life out of me. I
wanted to serve in the Church and just be myself; but because of the
conflict with President Brandon, I learned that I couldnít do it in
Longview. I felt branded. I knew I was teetering on the brink of going
So I decided to move to Salt Lake City and finish my history degree
at the University of Utah. Kandy was willing to sell our home and make
the move, too. During the summer of 1994, I wrote to President Brandon
in an attempt to bury the hatchet and get some closure on the situation
before the move. It didnít help at all. In fact, it seemed to set
President Brandon off all over again. He called me in for another
meeting after my first letter, but I refused. And I think that was the
smartest decision I ever made in my life. He fired off a letter to me,
which I answered; but judging by the tone of our letters, we would have
just fought if Iíd met with him. I just couldnít face a repeat of
I was grateful for one concession. I asked President Brandon to
destroy his file on me. President Brandon responded that he would and
would shred the recent letters also. I promised to keep the content of
President Brandonís recent letters to me confidential. I destroyed
them before the move.
We moved to Salt Lake City in September 1994. The move brought both
good changes and bad to the family. I enjoyed my studies, served as a
stake missionary, and began research on a biography of Willard Richards.
I felt a renewed love for the gospel and for the Church and felt more
optimism about the future. We had another baby, Jordan Spencer, born in
November 1994. I could tell that there was a new reserve somewhere deep
inside though. I didnít try to renew my temple recommend; Kandyís
had lapsed, of course. She didnít renew hers either.
I could see Kandy growing, too. She had been given up for adoption at
birth and had been adopted by a family in which she had been sexually
abused by an older brother. She did not seem traumatized by it,
apparently accepting it as just one of those bad things that happen to
some people, but Iíd always been concerned about how anxious to please
she was and how hesitant she was to make independent decisions. Now,
through a series of very fortuitous events, she found her birth-mother
in California on 30 August 1994, the day before we left for Utah. They
promptly established an affectionate and affirming relationship. I
thought that was great.
But in late 1995, I was caught completely off guard when Kandy
announced that she wanted a divorce. The issues were not related to the
Church or to my intellectual interests. We have not yet finalized the
decision about a divorce, but weíre still (winter 1997) separated.
Mandy lives with me, and the two boys live with Kandy. We see each other
frequently, and we still have a friendly and helpful relationship.
During the emotional and physical disruption caused by this decision, we
stopped going to church but are now both attending church regularly in
our respective wards and taking the children.
Change came to President Brandonís life, too. His wife died of
cancer in January 1996. Within six weeks he was dating; he had remarried
by June, scandalizing some members of the stake, according to reports
from friends still in the area. There is also some speculation that he
remarried quickly so that he wouldnít be released as stake president.
I donít know. Iím sorry for his wifeís death, wish him well in his
new marriage, but mostly just feel relieved that I donít have to deal
Iím very grateful that Kandy was supportive of me during the ordeal
with President Brandon. In thinking back on the whole experience, I have
to call it a trial of my faith. Publishing this account lets me put
closure on this whole ordealósomething that a simple apology from
President Brandon would have accomplished at any point. As it is, I have
had to struggle with many difficult feelings over a long period of time.
The thing that has bothered me the most about this ordeal is the
total lack of respect that President Brandon and his counselors showed
me. They had made up their minds to demand that my study group be shut
down. They made this demand without ever having attended any of the
meetings themselves. They were not interested in hearing my reasons for
holding it. They branded my individual search for truth as illegitimate
and werenít interested in finding out why I felt that it was not only
a legitimate quest, but a necessary one for me and others. The only
thing they were interested in or concerned with was that I obey them,
and the only reason they had for demanding my obedience was that they were
my priesthood leaders.
Since this time, I have talked with many friends, some of whom have
served in bishoprics and stake presidencies. They have helped me realize
that President Brandonís tactics are the exception to the rule and
that most stake presidents would not even have brought the subject up,
let alone acted in such an authoritarian way. These assurances give me
hope, but my feelings of distrust for authority still linger.
Something has changed inside me forever. I have mixed feelings about
that. First, I regret the loss of that innocent trust. Second, I realize
that having learned in such a painful way that some people will abuse
authority probably is valuable in making me less vulnerable. Third, I
feel very keenly the responsibility not to betray the trust of those who
depend on me in my various roles as a father, husband, student,
employee, Church member, and friend. And fourth, I believe I have a
responsibility to try and see the good in even flawed leaders and accept
their humanness with patience and compassion.
In one of his last letters to me, written a year after our move to
Salt Lake City, President Brandon told me I had no integrity. On the
contrary, the fact that I stood up to him, despite my training in
obedience and despite my fear, tells me that I do have integrity.
I chose my conscience over conformity, and I will always do so. If
nothing else, Iíve learned the value of Shakespeareís statement:
"To thine own self be true." Despite all of the pain that
followed from my decision, the continual peace of mind and the inner
assurance that I was doing the right thing have been worth it.
Endnotes: (Click on the Back button to
return to the reference.)
at the Pacific Northwest Sunstone Symposium in 1993, I acknowledged that
Elbert Peck was the source of this idea. I also added what I strongly
felt: "Our leaders need to know the strength of our testimonies,
and we need to share that with them; but we also need to state what our
rights are and defend them."
Lavina Fielding Anderson, "The LDS Intellectual Community and
Church Leadership: A Contemporary Chronology." Dialogue: A
Journal of Mormon Thought 26, no. 1 (Spring 1993): 7-64. This essay,
winner of the Lowell L. Bennion Prize for Essays in Gospel Living for
1993, reports my experience on pp. 34, 57. President Brandon found out
about it from his second counselor, Bill Davis, who found out from
Bishop Nyberg, who was told that his name appeared in that issue. Davis
asked John Hays if he could borrow the issue from him and lent it to
President Brandon. In a later letter to me, Brandon said the article was
full of "priesthood bashing."