A few days after the court, I started thinking about Bishop Hammond and the other men reading "My Controversy with the Church." I had not wanted to share it with them, I had given it to them under duress, and I felt violated. Because I did not want to talk to Bishop Hammond, I asked David if he would get it back for me. Bishop Hammond told David that he had read it and then given it to Keith Halls. David tried to get hold of Keith, but was unable to for a few days. When David finally reached him, Keith said that he had given the original back to Bishop Hammond but had "made a few copies." He agreed to give them to us when David requested them.
Bishop Hammond said that he had passed the original on to Paul MacKay. David angrily asked, "Why did you do that, when you knew Janice wanted it back?" Bishop Hammond said, "Since you didn't get it from Keith right away, I assumed you didn't care." Paul MacKay had gone on vacation, so it was a while before we were able to get it back from him.
It made me very angry that they had all read it so quickly. They seemed like prurient schoolboys who couldn't wait to get a glimpse of me undressed, quickly passing the revealing document from hand to hand. I felt that if Bishop Hammond had any consideration for my feelings he would have returned it without reading it. Long before I reluctantly gave it to him, I had told him that I didn't want to share some of the thoughts and feelings in it with him. He had maintained that he needed to see if it contained any apostate material. Since he had already excommunicated me, he did not need to know if it contained any apostate material.
Perhaps my reaction may seem excessive or inconsistent. I did give the speech publicly twice. It is true that both these audiences were sympathetic, but I had also given the Mormon Women's Forum Quarterly permission to publish it, which meant that I would be making it available to everyone.26 I realized that some who read it might criticize me and judge me more harshly than Bishop Hammond. In making it public, I accepted that possibility. I hoped that I would be able to turn hostile readers into sympathetic readers, but I recognized that I might also antagonize some people who previously supported me.
I told Bishop Hammond that I would have had no objection if he had attended one of the meetings to hear me speak. I was sincere; I would not have liked it, but I would not have been angry with him. In fact, I would have admired him for being willing to enter a forum whose purpose was to promote an open, free, and honest expression of divergent opinions. It was not simply that they read my speech that angered me; it was how they got it, and why they read it, and what it signified about the inequality in our relationship. They got it by coercion; they read it because they believed they had a right to read it, even against my wishes; and there was no reciprocity in our relationship. Bishop Hammond and the other men were eager to read what I had written, but would they ever share their own version of what happened? Would they ever share their own feelings and thoughts about it with me? Bishop Hammond believed that he had a right to read my paper because he needed to see if it violated the conditions. I had little doubt that he would use it to judge and excommunicate me. Although I did not really believe that refusing to give it to him would stop him from judging and excommunicating me, I did not want to help him. And I also did not want to share the thoughts and feelings in it. I had been honest and open about many things with him, and he had misjudged me and threatened to use the things I had shared against me. I had made myself vulnerable to him and he had trampled on things that were sacred to me. It was natural that I would want to protect myself. But finally I gave him my speech when it became apparent that giving it to him was a better defense than withholding it. Although the men who judged me probably excommunicated me without even reading it, they still believed that they had a right to read it because they still believed in their authority over me. They saw my excommunication, not as the end of their authority over me, but as the proof of it.
My anger that they read my paper against my will does not mean that I would never have been willing to share it with them. I would gladly share what I have written with anyone who accepts the premises of free and open discussion. But in publishing my story, I also offer it to those who do not. I risk being judged and condemned; I accept this risk because free and open discussion cannot exist without it. There is a sense in which I even want to share what I have written with Bishop Hammond and others who may judge and condemn. Wants exist on many different levels, and because I believe in the power of truth to change minds and change hearts and because I cannot judge who will be changed, I want to freely offer what I have found to be true, even to those who may judge and condemn.
Finally, this incident is a symbol to me of the violence of the court and, as such, it focuses my anger at the whole excommunication process and those who carried it out. My Church leaders tried again and again to get me to submit my judgment to them and other priesthood leaders, to get me to follow priesthood leaders unconditionally. I refused again and again because I believed that to do so would be a violation of my integrity and my relationship with God. I refused because I knew it would destroy me. They punished me as severely as they could. They believed it was their duty to dominate me. Excommunicating me should have satisfied them; it ended their "authority" over me and so should have ended their "duty" to control me. When they all eagerly and immediately read my speech, which they had obtained by coercion, which they had no duty to read, in what they knew was a violation of my will and feelings, they demonstrated not only a perceived duty to dominate, but the will, the desire, to dominate. It felt like rape.
I planned to appeal the bishop's action to the stake president and then to the First Presidency. (President Hunter had died in March and President Hinckley had been sustained at April general conference.) I had no real hope that the appeal would be granted, but I believed I had an obligation to exhaust all of the remedies provided by the Church itself to redress the wrong that had been done to me. I submitted an appeal to President Bacon to reconsider the judgment against me within the required thirty days.
On Sunday morning, 6 August, Bishop Hammond called to tell me that President Bacon wanted to meet with me after our block of meetings, about 12:15. I surmised that he would tell me he had rejected my appeal. If someone had asked me before this what the chances were that President Bacon would grant my appeal, I would have answered, "One in a million or less." But now I discovered with astonishment that I had hope; perhaps President Bacon had read my appeal and been persuaded by the reasonableness of what I had written; perhaps one of his counselors had been persuaded and had persuaded him. As I write this, it seems incredible that I would have entertained such a hope, but I did; and I can explain it only as the spontaneous welling up of my very deep belief in freedom and the power of truth.
As I sat in Relief Society that morning, the president announced that Michael Carter, President Bacon's executive secretary, had a letter from President Bacon to read. A wave of shock went over me. I fully expected him to announce my excommunication publicly. Months earlier, wondering if my excommunication would be announced in Church, I had checked the handbook to see what the directives were. It read:
Because of these instructions, I thought my excommunication might be announced. I hoped it wouldn't. Although the fact of my excommunication was certainly widely known27 and although I had felt that public discourse about my excommunication would be helpful, this would not be public discourse but public humiliation. Michael Carter, who was also my home teacher, prefaced his reading of President Bacon's letter by saying that President Bacon had expressed his sorrow to him about the contents of the letter. Michael himself looked sad; there were tears in his eyes and his voice was tremulous. Hoping that I could maintain my composure, I braced myself to hear my excommunication announced in my own Relief Society. Instead, President Bacon announced that he was being released as our stake president. He had been called as an Area Authority, a newly created office in which 117 men replaced the 284 former Regional Representatives.
After my relief that the announcement had not been about my excommunication faded, I wryly reflected that perhaps there was a connection after all. In November 1994, a woman who had been in the audience the first time I delivered "My Controversy with the Church" told me that a relative of President Bacon's was a personal friend. This relative had told her that President Bacon had been "bragging to his family that he will be made a General Authority because of the way he handled the Allred case." Although I had no way of knowing if this woman's report was true, I wondered if President Bacon had received his "reward." I briefly considered greeting him with a paraphrase of Sir Thomas Moore's words to Richard Rich, who had committed perjury to provide false evidence against More and had, in return, received the royal appointment over Ireland: "Why, President Bacon, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world—but for southern Utah?"28 But I doubted if he would understand the allusion.
Of course, it is possible that President Bacon's appointment as Area Authority was unrelated to his handling of my case; I do not have conclusive evidence to confirm my belief that he was rewarded for supporting the hierarchy. But 76.5 percent of the men named to this office had previously served as a Regional Representative; President Bacon had not;29 and shortly after being released from the stake presidency, both of President Bacon's counselors, James McDonald and Craig Hickman, were called to serve as mission presidents.
At 12:15 I met with President Bacon and his two counselors. President Bacon told me he was sure that I "anticipated" his decision concerning my appeal. After careful and prayerful consideration of the matter, he and his counselors had decided to sustain Bishop Hammond's decision. His manner was cold, more distant than it had been in any of our previous interviews. About this time Bishop Hammond joined us. We had not spoken since the night he excommunicated me. I asked President Bacon to forward my appeal to the First Presidency, and he said he would. He requested that I write a cover letter to include with the other documents, and I agreed to do so. The men all told me they loved me, and President Bacon said he hoped I would continue to counsel with Bishop Hammond. He said he had an official letter rejecting my appeal to him. He handed it to each counselor, asking them to sign it, which they did, then handed it to me. The meeting was over. The letter read:
My cover letter to accompany my appeal to the First Presidency read:
About a week after I sent this letter to President Bacon, President McDonald called and asked if he could meet with me in my home. President Bacon had asked him to take care of sending my appeal to the First Presidency and he wanted to talk to me about it. A professor of mathematical economics at BYU, Jim McDonald is a quiet, gentle, kind man. He had been present at only one of my interviews with President Bacon (21 August 1994) and had said very little; but after the first court in October 1994, he had called me several times to see how I was doing. Although he asked only about the automobile accident I had been involved in, I knew that he was also concerned about the court. I was surprised that President McDonald wanted to talk about my appeal, because I had assumed that they would simply add my cover letter to the packet of documents and forward it to the First Presidency. However, he told me that the materials I had given them had been lost or scattered, and he asked if I could prepare another packet for him to send to Salt Lake. Of course, I agreed. I quickly got the documents together and delivered them to his house. (See Appendix B.)
A few days later, President McDonald stopped by my house again and suggested I write my testimony as a preface to the appeal. He said that when he talked to me he had the impression that I was a very spiritual person and faithful member who loved the Church, but he didn't feel this when he read what I had written. I thanked him for his suggestion but reminded him that I had included my testimony in the "Defense of Janice M. Allred." However, I agreed that it might be helpful to start with my testimony, so I told him that I would make a copy of the statement from my defense to be used as a preface. I felt that President McDonald truly wanted to strengthen my appeal and would be genuinely glad if the First Presidency granted it to me, even though he himself had rejected it. As I talked to him on several occasions during the weeks that he was preparing to send my appeal to the First Presidency, I noticed that he did not want to consider the arguments I had made in my appeal or think carefully about the issues I had raised. Although I felt his genuine concern for me and my family, I doubted if he had formed an independent judgement about my case. It seemed that he would be very happy if I would just do what I was told so they wouldn't have to excommunicate me. David also had two conversations with him during this period, one at which I was present and one with Jim alone. He was the man who told David that I deserved to be excommunicated because I had a "bad attitude," meaning that I "refused to obey [my] bishop." When David asked him why he had signed the letter rejecting my appeal, he said that he felt Bishop Hammond was a good man who had tried hard to make the right decision and had sought the Spirit to help him. "I felt I should support his decision," he said.
But doesn't such an approach defeat the whole purpose of an appeal? The stake presidency was required to judge me, not Bishop Hammond. They should each have carefully examined the evidence I presented and considered all the arguments I made, and then made an independent judgement. If either of President Bacon's counselors disagreed with his decision, he should have considered their reasons before making his final decision. Anything less than this would violate the appeal process. I believe that President Bacon's previous involvement in my case, his obvious belief in my guilt, and his own written statement to me that he would "sustain [Bishop Hammond] in his decision," along with the evidence from President McDonald that my appeal was handled in a haphazard, sloppy manner and was approached without an understanding of the purpose of an appeal—all show that my appeal did not receive a fair hearing from the stake presidency.
I had one more contact with Bishop Hammond about this time. Late in September 1995, Lorie Winder Stromberg, the editor of the Mormon Women's Forum Quarterly, told me that she would like to give my Church leaders an opportunity to respond to "My Controversy with the Church." At that point, the article had been in the editing process since shortly after the Counterpoint Conference in November 1994. I agreed to contact President Bacon, Bishop Hammond, and Bishop Runia, although neither of us expected them to accept this invitation.
It was hard for me to contact them, but I agreed with Lorie that we owed them the opportunity to respond. I made contact with Bishop Hammond first. He said that he felt any comment from him would violate the confidentiality required of him. Since he had already read the article, he could have pointed out any blatant errors without giving a written response, but he didn't. Both President Bacon and Bishop Runia declined to give a response for the same reason, although they both expressed an interest in reading what I had written. I didn't offer to provide them with copies.
On 17 September 1995 President Carl Bacon was released as president of the Provo Edgemont Stake along with his counselors, James McDonald and Craig Hickman. David Rapier was sustained as the new stake president with Larry Wimmer and Lynn Davis as his counselors. We were present at this meeting and were happy to see Lynn Davis called to the stake presidency. He is a good friend of ours from our former ward. We did not know President Rapier, but President Wimmer had been Nephi's bishop in the Canyon Crest Single Adults Ward and we had met him once when we attended the ward to hear Nephi give a talk in sacrament meeting.
That afternoon Lynn Davis dropped by our house. He gave both David and me a big hug and said he wanted his first official act as a counselor in the stake presidency to be a visit to us to assure us of his love and concern for us. We were both very touched by this act of kindness.
On Sunday, 5 November, Lynn called and told me that the stake presidency had received a letter from the First Presidency regarding my appeal. They wanted to meet with me and David to tell us what the letter said and also to get to know us better. We set up an appointment for Tuesday, 7 November, at 9:00 p.m.
The stake presidency greeted us warmly and President Rapier and Larry Wimmer introduced themselves. We reminded President Wimmer that we had met him once as Nephi's bishop and he told us he'd been very impressed with Nephi, who had served as one of the ward clerks, and respected him very much. President Rapier asked President Davis to give an opening prayer. I remembered only one other meeting with our church leaders that had begun with prayer and then only because David had asked if he could offer one. President Davis's prayer was long and sincere. At one point he said that we would be discussing tender and delicate matters that were difficult and he asked for the Spirit of the Lord to be with us to help us communicate in love and understanding. This request was granted. Both David and I felt the Spirit very strongly in this meeting; we also felt that all three of the men were genuinely concerned about us and wanted to help us.
First President Rapier shared the message of the letter with us. He didn't read the letter to us; he didn't even have it with him, but he told us what it said. The First Presidency had received my appeal, and they wanted the stake presidency to communicate their love for us. They also wanted them to tell us that they were sustaining the bishop in his decision, but they hoped I would be able to work with my bishop and that there would be a positive result.
President Rapier said that they had received no communication at all from the outgoing stake presidency about me or my case, so they would like to get to know us better and find out what they could do to help us. One of them asked how we were getting along in our ward and I gave a long response to this question.
"People are friendly," I said. "They say `hello' to me, but it's difficult for me because I don't know where I stand. Most people in the ward have never talked to me about my excommunication, so I don't know how they feel about it." I mentioned that I had learned indirectly of a few negative reactions to me from ward members. I said that the most positive thing for me at church was being able to participate in the Sunday School class. "The teacher has been kind to me and encouraged me to make comments and so I do," I said. "But, of course, I don't know how the other class members regard my participation."
"Has the bishop given the Sunday School teacher any instructions?" President Wimmer asked.
"I don't know," I answered.
"Would it be helpful if he did?"
"Probably not," I replied, "Because even if Bishop Hammond said it was all right for me to participate, members of the ward wouldn't know it so they might still feel that it was inappropriate or wrong, or they might not want to hear what I have to say. The problem is that there's no public discourse about this. People have different perceptions of what ought to be happening, but there's no way of resolving or dealing with these differences."
"How can we make it better at church then?" President Davis asked.
"I don't know," I said.
President Davis responded to this with a lot of emotion. "We help people when they have accidents. We help people that have illness, cancer, and unemployment, and we should help you, too. You shouldn't be different. It's not like leprosy or something like that. You're children of God and we love you and your status in the Church shouldn't make any difference to us."
"Thank you," I said. "That's the kindest thing any Church authority has said to me during this whole time. It means a lot to me. I do participate as much as I can with my comments in Sunday School, but not having a Church calling makes it very hard to feel part of the ward; it limits your interactions with other ward members and makes it harder to get to know people. Really the most helpful thing for me is to have friendships with people in the ward. That's the best way for me to connect right now."
President Davis then asked David about his job situation in the ward. David hesitated and decided not to tell them that he felt disenfranchised in the ward, that Bishop Hammond had not trusted him to have a calling for over a year and a half. "Well," he said, "they asked me to be Scout committee chairman just last month. It's been a long time since I've had a job in the ward, but I understand why, in a ward as large as ours with as much talent and experience as many people in our ward have, I understand why they might not have anything for me to do."
One of them asked if they should talk to Bishop Hammond about our situation. David replied, "It may be hard for Bishop Hammond right now. He's under a lot of pressure. He has a ward with a lot of old people, and his nature is such that he really feels a desire and a strong motivation to take care of needy people. He's very diligent, but our situation is very hard for him, partly because of what he did."
President Rapier asked about my relationship with Bishop Hammond and I spent quite a long time talking about it. I told them that we had had no meetings in the six months since my excommunication and Bishop Hammond was making no effort to help me regain my membership, although bishops are supposed to work with excommunicated people if they want to come back into the Church. I said, "I don't blame him. I'm sure that he would require me to follow the conditions which he gave me during my probation, and I've explained to him very carefully why I can't. The process that he wants me to submit to would infringe severely on my agency and prevent me from doing the work I feel that God has called me to do. So we've reached an impasse. I don't want to be cynical and say it's a hopeless situation unless I get a new bishop who might see things differently, but that's how I feel."
President Rapier said that they had talked briefly to Bishop Hammond about me; Bishop Hammond had said that he respected me and loved me and my family and hoped he could be a good bishop to us.
I told them that Bishop Hammond had told me he loved me several times and I felt he was sincere. "But I view love differently than he does," I said. "I think that if you love someone you give her her agency, and you don't try to punish her because she's different than you. Bishop Hammond and I disagree on some fundamental issues, and we spent many hours trying to resolve them, but we weren't able to. We disagreed about whether or not I'm an apostate. Bishop Hammond said he felt that I was a good person and that my motivations were good and sincere, and he knew I had a testimony of Jesus Christ and the Restoration, but he believed he had to punish me because I had crossed some line. I didn't break any law of the Church. To me apostasy has to do with intentions. If my intentions were good, if I was trying to help the Church and increase faith in Jesus Christ, how could I be an apostate? I could never understand why Bishop Hammond thought he had to punish me. Maybe he had instructions from somewhere else."
I was looking at President Wimmer when I said this. He shook his head and said, "No, I don't think so." The other two men immediately agreed. I had the impression that they would have been very upset if I had pursued this subject any further.
David said that I had always tried to use my gifts to help people. He said that I had a lot of integrity and always tried to do what I thought was right. President Rapier commended me for this, then added, "You should always follow your conscience and be true to what you believe in."
I thought, "But that's what they excommunicated me for." I found out later that David had the same thought.
"Janice's gifts are understanding and teaching and it's hard for her not to be allowed to use those gifts in the Church," David continued. "It's very painful when our gifts aren't valued or received, when people don't want to know who we really are."
"Yes," I agreed, "and valuing the gift that the other person wants to give is essentially giving that person his agency. It's a matter of trust, and it really hurt me that Bishop Hammond wouldn't trust me; he wouldn't trust me to speak at my son's farewell and he wouldn't trust me to speak at Bryant's funeral. I told Bishop Hammond that I knew the difference between what was acceptable at Church and what was acceptable in other forums. `Look, bishop,' I said. `I've held these theological views that you call heretical for almost twenty years. During that time I've been a teacher in Primary and Relief Society; I have been in the Primary presidency; I've given many talks in sacrament meeting and there was never any problem. You can trust me to know what's appropriate.' But he wouldn't."
I told them that I didn't want them to think that I had any hard feelings against Bishop Hammond. "I know that this has been very difficult for him, that he's tried to do what he believes is right and that he has been very concerned about the welfare of our family. I'm not angry with him or bitter towards him. I'm not saying that I've never been angry with him because I do believe that he has treated me unjustly, but I've been able to resolve those feelings," I said. "And I've never had any desire to hurt him."
David affirmed this. "I probably know Janice better than anyone else on this earth, and I've never seen anger from her against the people who hurt her. She's been filled with the Spirit, filled with love, from the very beginning."
"I have felt the love of God throughout this whole experience," I said.
President Rapier leaned forward and with tears in his eyes said that he loved us, that God loved us, and that we were all children of God, that we were his brother and sister, and that was really important to him.
The meeting concluded with an inquiry about how our children were doing. President Wimmer asked about Nephi, and President Davis asked about several of our older children. David and I both felt that this was the best meeting that we'd had with our Church leaders in three years. They had acted as pastors trying to help us rather than as authorities trying to control us and that made all the difference.
Five months later in April 1996, as I was writing this account of my excommunication, I checked the General Handbook of Instructions to get the exact wording for the quotations about announcing the excommunication of apostates. While looking for the quotes, I read the entire section about fellowshipping members who have been disciplined. These words caught my attention:
I remembered how Bishop Hammond had told me in the second court that the handbook was revelation and it was his duty to follow exactly what it said. The handbook specifically directed him to work with me to regain my membership and to see that David received special encouragement and attention, yet he had done nothing that we were aware of to help us. When I pointed this out to David, he became angry and decided to talk with Lynn Davis about our feelings of alienation from the ward and Church, the difficulties we were experiencing in remaining active in the Church, and the hurt of feeling that, from our perspective, Bishop Hammond was doing nothing to help us.
In all fairness to Bishop Hammond I realized that he probably felt he had done everything he could to work with me during the probation and that I had been unwilling to work with him. I am sure that he felt that since I was still "unrepentant" that it would be both futile and painful to try to work with me. He probably believed that I wanted to be left alone. But did the difficulties of working with me excuse him from doing what the handbook directed him to do? He had relentlessly pursued his duty to find out if I was guilty of apostasy and then fulfilled his obligation to excommunicate me when he decided that I was, even though he knew I believed I was not guilty of apostasy, even though our meetings were painful for both of us, even though he knew that I would rather be left alone. Should he not have felt an equal obligation to work with me to regain my membership despite the difficulties?
The information concerning Church discipline in the handbook clearly indicates that excommunication is considered to be more a means of bringing about repentance than an instrument for ridding the Church of undesirable members. It clearly directs the bishop to continue to work with the excommunicated person. Although I believe that this view of excommunication is inconsistent with gospel principles and that it subverts the repentance process, Bishop Hammond has affirmed his obligation to follow the procedures outlined in the handbook. He excommunicated me with this understanding of excommunication, so he should follow through with what it requires.
I also felt that Bishop Hammond had been especially unkind in his treatment of David. He had done nothing to help David feel that he was needed or wanted in the ward. On the contrary, he cautioned him several times about making comments in Sunday School and priesthood classes, he told him that he did not trust him, and he had refused to give him a Church calling other than home teacher. Although Bishop Hammond had finally allowed him to be called as the ward's Scout troop committee chairman, it was at the urgent request of the Scoutmaster. The calling has few responsibilities and requires interaction with only a few people.
We explained some of these concerns and feelings to Lynn Davis a few days later. We both told him that we were not asking him to intervene with Bishop Hammond on our behalf, but we needed to talk to someone with Church authority who was sympathetic yet impartial, who could tell us whether these concerns were legitimate. We both felt ambivalent about whether we actually wanted Bishop Hammond to work with us, but we did feel hurt that he had been so diligent in pursuing his perceived duty to punish me but was neglecting his duty to help us. Lynn agreed that Bishop Hammond should be working with me to help me regain my membership and said that he felt he should do something about it.
About two weeks later on Sunday, 5 May, I received a call from Bishop Hammond's executive secretary. He said that Bishop Hammond would like to meet with me that evening at 5:00 and I agreed to go.
Bishop Hammond thanked me for coming. "I know you don't have to," he said.
"I've always been willing to talk to you," I reminded him.
"Yes, I know that," he said, "And I appreciate it." He began explaining why he had asked me to come. "I was wondering how you were doing and if there was anything I could do to help you and your family."
I suspected that Bishop Hammond had asked for this interview because Lynn Davis had talked to him about our concerns. It had been one year almost to the day since Bishop Hammond had excommunicated me and he had not contacted me even once. Then only two weeks after Lynn had told us that he would do something, Bishop Hammond suddenly wanted to talk to me, yet he was explaining his motivation as curiosity about my welfare and a desire to be helpful. I decided to ask him pointblank if Lynn had contacted him. I didn't want to be left guessing.
"Have you talked to Lynn Davis?" I asked him.
He looked at me, hesitated, and then said, "No, I was just feeling that I needed to talk to you, that maybe enough time had passed, and I would see if there was anything I could do to help you and your family." I was surprised by his answer, but I believed him so I didn't pursue the subject. He continued, "I know it has been difficult for you in the ward. I've waited this long to talk to you because I didn't want to open up old wounds or cause you any more pain. When I talked to you, I felt like I was hurting you; and I didn't want to do that anymore."
We talked about the meeting that David and I had had with the new stake presidency. I told Bishop Hammond that it had been a good meeting for both of us, that we felt they cared about us and were concerned about helping us. I mentioned that Lynn Davis was a personal friend and Larry Wimmer had been Nephi's bishop in our stake's single adult ward. Bishop Hammond said that Bishop Wimmer had called him several times during the disciplinary process and asked him what he could do to help Nephi. Bishop Hammond also said that President Rapier had contacted him shortly after our November meeting with the stake presidency. "He's basically operating from knowing nothing about you and your family and wants to help you," he said.
"Yes, we both felt that," I replied. "They asked us how we were getting along in the ward, if the ward could do anything else to help. I told them that my relationship with the ward is difficult for me because I don't know where I stand. Very few people in the ward have even acknowledged that anything bad happened."
This led to a long discussion of my relationship with ward members. "One thing that's very difficult for me is the judgment I feel," I told him. "You are respected and loved as the bishop. In regard to my excommunication, people believe that you tried really hard to do what was right, that you tried to follow the Spirit. They see you as a good person who also has the authority of a bishop so they can't believe that you could make a mistake about something as important as a person's membership in the Church. And so their seeing you as a good person means they see me as a bad person."
"Yes," he said, "that's true and I'm sorry, but it's on both sides. There are people who are angry with me and they still talk to me about it."
"And I'm sorry about that," I responded. "But isn't there a difference between having someone angry at you for doing something wrong and being judged to be a person unworthy to be a member of the Church?" I explained how hard it is to feel this kind of judgment and how, in some cases, I felt rejected as a friend.
Again he said, "I'm sorry. I know that's hard, but I don't know what to do about it." There were tears in his eyes as he said this. He started talking about the many problems experienced by people in the ward. He said that most ward members had so many problems of their own that they didn't think much about my excommunication. I told him I was aware of this. He continued, "A lot of time we read our own interpretation into people's actions, and we believe that our interpretation is the truth. I think you are doing this to a certain degree. We have to be careful about misinterpreting people's actions."
"I really try hard not to do that," I said. "I understand the problem, but, of course, we do have to interpret people's actions. I try to remember that my interpretation might be wrong; I try to be humble, but I'm sure I sometimes misjudge people. I want you to understand that I'm not angry towards the ward members. I don't blame them for not helping more. I do understand some of the reasons why they haven't. I'm not angry with them, but I am hurt because I wish they had done better. They could have done better. There's a difference between being hurt and being angry. Usually when we're angry we're hurt, too, but we don't have to be angry when we're hurt. I don't believe that anyone has deliberately hurt me, and no one is under any obligation to be my friend or be kind to me. I recognize that I probably wouldn't have done very well either. I haven't done very well in helping people with their problems and so I don't fault them, but I am hurt, and that's the truth."
"I recognize that," he said. "I see the hurt in your face. I hear it in your voice. I'm sorry. There's nothing I can do about it." His tone did not suggest exasperation or reproach but sorrow. My impression was that he was saying, "I would do something about it if I could, but I really don't know what to do." He paused, then continued, "I know that a lot of people care about you and David and they would like to show it but they don't know how. It's a very difficult position that you are in. I'm sure you're aware of that. Some people care about you but they disagree with you. My wife is one. They would like to have a friendship with you, but they really don't know how to do it considering the nature of the disagreement. You have to understand that we're not just talking about intellectual disagreement. People are very passionate about the kinds of things you talked about. People care a lot. The disagreement touches their basic beliefs, so it's something they're afraid to talk about. They don't want to talk about it with you. They don't know how to deal with it. Some people have asked me, `What can we do to help the Allreds?' and I've said to them, `You just have to show them that you love them and care for them. And don't talk about the problem or any of the issues or what happened.'"
"But Bishop," I said, "this is the hard thing for me—that no one will talk about the problem. I'm willing to talk about it. I want to talk about it."
"Well, maybe they don't," he said. "Maybe that's the reason people don't talk to you. They're afraid they've got to talk about it. Maybe they're tired of it. I'm tired of it." He paused but I didn't respond so he continued. "And, of course, some people in the ward don't know you at all. They see you in church, but the only other thing they know about you is that you appeared on TV and on the front page of the newspaper publicly attacking the thing they care most about."
"I never attacked the Church," I thought. "The publicity was about the Church attacking me." Aloud I said, "The only thing I can do in the ward is make comments in the Sunday School class and so I do that. This is the only thing I can contribute and so I do it."
"That's fine," he said. "I know you do and I think that's fine." Bishop Hammond never attends the Sunday School class David and I attend, so I realized he must be getting information about my participation from someone.
"Several people have told me that they have appreciated what I've said in Sunday School," I continued. "No one has told me that they've been offended by what I've said. That doesn't mean they haven't been. I know that."
"Well, some people have come to me and talked about it," Bishop Hammond said. "It has been a concern to some people. Some people are angry when you talk. They don't think it's appropriate for an excommunicated person to talk in church, but I tell them, `She has my permission.'" This surprised me a little. I didn't know I had his permission, but I was glad he was saying this. Then I remembered that he had had a conversation with David after the first court in which they had talked about our making comments in Sunday School. Bishop Hammond had cautioned David about making controversial remarks but had said we could continue participating.
Now Bishop Hammond proceeded to caution me. He told me that I needed to be careful in what I said. He spent quite a bit of time talking about how difficult it is for some people when the class gets too intellectual. "I spend a long time just getting some people to come to church and then they get offended because a couple of people in the Sunday School class get off on a side topic and argue back and forth. You can't have the Spirit when you have contention."
"Disagreement isn't necessarily contention," I responded. "And no one has ever made any kind of comment on what I've said. No one has ever argued with me, and I've never argued with anyone."
"Well, I'm not saying you do," he said. "I'm just saying this is the kind of thing you should try to avoid. And you should also avoid talking about any of the issues you raised in your papers. That upsets people."
"There is one thing you could do for me," I said. "If someone comes to you and says they've been offended by something I've said or done, would you please encourage them to come to me and I would be glad to talk to them about it." He didn't respond so I added, "Some people have told me I'm intimidating, but that seems really strange to me. I'm actually a shy person."
"Yes, I know." He smiled, then added, "According to David, so am I."
"I think you are somewhat," I told him. He did not respond. I changed the subject. "Do you still think you made the right decision in excommunicating me?"
Without hesitation he replied, "Yes. I had to make a choice. Were you damaging people's testimonies? I am responsible for the members of the ward and any damage that you could do to other people outside our ward. People come to me troubled by what you've said. They're on a different level than you are, and you need to take that into consideration."
I didn't attempt to defend myself against the charge of damaging people's testimonies. I had done so many times and Bishop Hammond had never responded to any of the arguments I'd used to defend myself.
"We disagree on two really important things—the nature of the Godhead and the idea of following the prophet," he said.
"So you excommunicated me because I disagree with you?" I asked. I heard a trace of bitterness in my voice that surprised me.
"What you taught went against the doctrines of the Church," he stated emphatically. "You challenged the teaching that we should follow the prophet."
"Why should we follow the prophet?" I asked him.
He stared at me, his expression changing from conviction to confusion. He didn't answer; and after a few moments, he looked down. Finally he looked at me again but didn't say anything. His expression seemed to ask, "Why are you doing this to me?"
I helped him. "We should follow the prophet because he teaches us the word of God. He tells us what God wants us to know or do. Can you think of another reason we should follow the prophet?" Again he looked at me without responding. "I'm not trying to trick you or trap you," I said impatiently. "I mean, I can't think of any other reason we should follow the prophet."
"Well, yes," he admitted. "I believe that."
"I never told anyone not to follow the prophet," I continued. "I said we should have faith in God. We should follow what the Spirit tells us to do. We should obey God. And when the prophet teaches us the word of God, we should follow it. However, a prophet is a human being. He makes mistakes. You're a bishop. You know that everything you say as a bishop isn't the word of God." I paused but he didn't answer, so I prodded him. "You know that, don't you?"
"Well, yes," he admitted, when he saw that I expected a reply.
"Because you're a man. You're a human being and prophets and apostles are human beings, too. Everything they say isn't from God, and it's our responsibility to know for ourselves whether what they tell us is from God. And if we know that what they tell us is from God, then we should follow it as if God himself said it. It's a misperception to say that I taught that we shouldn't follow the prophet. I said we should follow the prophet when he speaks the word of God. What other reason could there be for following him?"
"Well, okay then," Bishop Hammond said seeming more sure of himself. "When Jesus was here on the earth, why did they have to follow him? They had the Holy Spirit, so why couldn't they just do what the Holy Spirit told them to do?"
"In the first place, according to the scriptures, they didn't have the gift of the Holy Ghost until after Jesus died.30 But most importantly, Jesus wasn't just another prophet. He is God. He's the one we're supposed to have faith in, the one we're supposed to obey, the one we're supposed to follow. He's the way; he's the truth and the light. And, speaking as a man, a human being, he taught people to pray to God, to obey God's commandments. As a rabbi, a teacher, he invited people to follow him, but he never told them they had to. He didn't treat his followers in a coercive way, but he taught them by love and persuasion. He didn't tell them that if they didn't do what he said that he was going to punish them or send them away or anything like that. When he said things like, `I am the way, the truth and the light,' he was not speaking as a prophet but as God."
This little speech seemed to exhaust this topic. After a few moments, I said, "I want to tell you what I'm going to be doing in the future, some of the projects I'm involved in now."
He looked surprised and said, "You know you're not under any obligation to tell me anything."
"I know," I said. "Maybe that's one reason I want to. Another reason is that some of it might be in the news and I want you to know about it from me. I'm the president of the Mormon Women's Forum." I had accepted this position in March. "Do you know what the Forum is?" I asked.
"Not really," he said, "But Larry Wimmer told me you were the president of it."
I explained a little about the Mormon Women's Forum, then I told him I was also a trustee of the Mormon Alliance. He knew a little about the Alliance because we had talked about it in the second court. I told him that our first volume of case reports would be coming out in a few months and that I had written one essay in it. Although I had not written any of the rest of it, I was the coeditor and responsible for its publication as a trustee and cochair of the Case Reports Committee. I told him that I was giving a sermon on faith and doubt at the Counterpoint conference in a few weeks and that probably he wouldn't find it objectionable. I would be presenting a paper at the Sunstone symposium on the problem of child sexual abuse in the Church and I had a book of essays accepted by a press. Last of all I told him that the second volume of the case reports would contain the story of my excommunication. It included "My Controversy with the Church" which I had expanded to include a lot of new material covering what happened after the first court up to the present. As I mentioned each of these items Bishop Hammond nodded his head and said, "Okay."
"It is difficult to write about your own life," I said, "because you have to write about the people that are in your life and you realize that they might not agree with the way you portray them. I wrote from my own point of view but I had to write about you and you have a different perspective on what happened. When you read about yourself, maybe you won't even recognize yourself and that's hard. But I tried to be fair. I tried to report what you said and did as accurately as I could. You read `My Controversy with the Church.'" I paused with an implicit invitation for him to comment on any inaccuracies.
"Yes," he said. "And it was hard. You can talk as much as you want to about telling people that you're speaking from your own perspective, but that's not how people read it. They read it, and they misinterpret what you're saying. I'm afraid that what you're writing is going to damage people's testimonies."
"Maybe people will misinterpret it," I said. "But I did the best I could. Did you find anything in the version you read that was inaccurate or wrong?"
Bishop Hammond only mentioned one thing. It was the same thing that he had brought up with David when he returned "My Controversy with the Church" to him after the May 1995 court. He had said, "I wish I had read this sooner and I could have set Janice's mind at rest on one thing. She seems to believe that I was in contact with General Authorities. But I wasn't. I was on my own."
Now he was making this point again. "I never talked to any General Authorities," he said. "I know what you said, that somebody said I talked to President Hinckley."
"No, wait a minute," I interrupted. "That's not what I wrote. I said that somebody gave me a message that they claimed originated at `the highest levels of the Church.' Later he said he had traced it to President Hinckley. However, I talked to him recently and he told me who gave him the message. I talked to this person and he told me that he did not talk to President Hinckley, so I corrected my account. However, he did say that he had talked to another General Authority who was `really high,' but he didn't tell me who it was. You've told me and you've told David that you didn't ever talk to any General Authorities. On the other hand, I have quite a bit of evidence that indicates you have. Two independent sources have told me of two different conversations with General Authorities on the highest levels—the First Presidency and/or Quorum of the Twelve. One of these stories I heard from the person who had the conversation himself; the other came secondhand but seems reliable. Neither of these sources said specifically that the General Authority had spoken to you, but they both indicated very clearly that the General Authority knew of my case, had a certain perspective on it, and was doing something to control it."
"You have to believe what seems right to you," said Bishop Hammond, "but I'm telling you, I was left alone on this."
"I really would like to believe that, but I have to weigh all the information I have."
"I know," he said. "You talk about `Salt Lake' and `the Brethren,' but I don't even know what that means. This is not the world I live in. I don't know anything about what goes on up there. I've never had any contact with them."
"It's hard to know what term to use," I said. "The two terms President Bacon used were `Salt Lake' and `the Brethren.' I personally do not like to use either of those terms. I prefer `General Authorities' or `church headquarters.' It's hard to know where something is coming from. You can only be as specific as your source. You have to use the term that the person who gives you the information uses."
"I don't know anything about that," he said.
I continued, "Because of my position in the Mormon Alliance and my involvement in other unofficial forums, I've heard many stories. I do get a lot of information about the Church and how things are done. I do hear a lot about `the Brethren,' and so I do see things from that perspective."
"I know," he replied. "And that was part of the problem. You have a different perspective than I do. You saw the whole thing as part of some bigger issue, some problem that you were trying to solve. But I never saw it that way. I was your bishop, and the way I saw it was that I was responsible for you. I still feel that if it had only been between you and me there might have been a different outcome."
"But it was never just between you and me," I responded with some heat. "It didn't come from you. You got involved because of President Bacon, and President Bacon got involved because the Church sent him some material. President Bacon himself told me on several occasions that he had had contact with `Salt Lake' and `two apostles.'"
"But I never had any contact with them," he insisted. "I was left on my own. The only person I ever talked to was President Bacon. I know that you say I always talked to President Bacon before I did anything, but he didn't tell me what to do. I didn't ask him. I went to him because he was my priesthood leader, and I told him what I was thinking and he told me his perspective. But he never told me what to do."
"But didn't you have a pretty good idea what President Bacon thought you should do?" I asked.
"You know," he said, "I didn't even know President Bacon. The first meeting I ever had with President Bacon was the meeting that we had with him when we were all together."
"May 22, 1994," I said.
"Yes, that was the first time I ever talked to President Bacon personally."
"If they hadn't sent any material to President Bacon, you would have thought of me as a faithful, active member of the ward who would accept any calling," I said.
"No," he objected, "that's not entirely true because you signed your name in the newspaper. [He was referring to the Olive Branch advertisement in the Salt Lake Tribune.] I knew about that. And people brought me stuff that you had written that they had concerns about."
"But that was after the publicity," I said. "They read it because of the publicity."
"People brought me things," he repeated. He seemed to believe that somehow he would have found out about my heretical writings even if Church headquarters had never been involved. Still, if people brought him things that I had published, the issue was public, not private, as I'd always maintained.
"But wasn't that after the publicity? You were my bishop only one month before our meeting with President Bacon, so wasn't that your first indication that there might be some problems with my writing? And President Bacon's information abut my writing came from Church headquarters, so ..."
"You know," Bishop Hammond interrupted, "there are some things that have happened that have made me angry. I know you've felt anger and David has felt anger, and I've felt anger. I try not to and I get past it, but I've felt anger." He seemed angry now even though his voice was calm.
"What about?" I asked quietly.
"Well," he looked at me and smiled shyly. "The publicity. And because you believe that General Authorities were involved when they weren't. And you said you felt betrayed. I tried to be open and honest; and if it had been just between you and me, we wouldn't have had this kind of problem."
"There was only one thing that I felt betrayed about, and I only used the word betrayed once, and that was in relation to the taping allegation at the first court," I said.31
He nodded his head slowly and said, "That's right."
I continued, "You never were honest with me about what exactly happened. We talked about it two times and each time you told me a slightly different story. I wrote you a letter in which I pleaded with you to tell me who the people were who contacted you so that I could talk to them and resolve the issue, but you never answered that letter. I did feel betrayed because you treated me like an enemy, like a dishonest, untrustworthy person, and you protected the people who accused me."
"Well," he said, "I didn't want to tell you who they were because I felt that you would talk about them and use their names. Basically, I wanted to protect them from the kind of thing that I was going through."
"Look," I told him, "the only names that I used in my story were names that were already public knowledge or names of family members and close friends who gave their permission. I used your name, but everyone knew who my bishop was. It was in the newspaper. I used the names of the men who were in the court or other ward positions. But this is public. For everyone else I used `a friend,' or `someone in the ward' or something like that or a pseudonym to refer to them. I didn't want to hurt or embarrass anyone. Besides, I have to be careful. There is the problem of liability and slander."
He said, "You're telling me this now, but I didn't know it then. I had to deal with a lot of people being angry with me and letters and publicity and things like that, and I wanted to protect them from that so that's why I didn't tell you who they were."
"You told me two different stories about what happened," I said.
"Nobody was trying to trap you," he assured me.
"Okay, then tell me what happened," I asked him. This time he told me a slightly different story than his two other accounts of the incident. It was hard to follow him because he wouldn't use names and he wouldn't say what they said. He said, "I got two telephone calls and they were from two different people and basically they misunderstood."
"What did they misunderstand?" I asked.
"The second person misunderstood the first person."
"Okay, what was the first telephone call?"
"The first call the person told me—and it wasn't like an accusation against you or anything like that—they told me that they had heard a rumor that you might be going to tape the court or they—you and your associates—might be going to tape the court. So I should be aware of this and take precautions."
"What about the second call?" I asked. "Was that the one during the court?"
"Yes," he said.
"You came back and you said that someone had told you that he had heard on Channel 13 that I was taping. Is this what he said?"
"That's probably what he said."
"Why did he say that?"
"He misunderstood the message."
"What message did he misunderstand?"
"Well, you know, that you were going to tape."
"Where did he get the message from? Was it from the first person?"
"It was like a rumor. You know, the gossip game. It goes around and people get different messages."
"But look," I objected. "If the second person got the message from the first person, how could he have gotten the thing about Channel 13 saying I was taping? Because if he got the message from the first person, Channel 13's news hadn't even been on yet."
"They misunderstood," he repeated.
"Where did they get the message from,?" I asked.
"Someone overheard something at the station."
"I talked to my friend ..." I began.
"She probably talked to a lot of people."
"No, she didn't. Why would she talk to a lot of people about secret plans?" I explained to him what Lavina had learned about the extent of the discussion about taping at Channel 2. There could not have been any leak or any rumor," I concluded.
"There must have been," he insisted.
"I've written my account of your questions about taping at the court, my discovery that someone lied to me, and all our discussions about it," I said, "and I don't see any reason to change what I wrote. However, if I had good information that the conclusions I drew were wrong, I would add the new information to what I have written and change my conclusions. It would be very helpful to me to be able to talk to these two people and find out what they said and why they said it. I wouldn't use their names."
Bishop Hammond again refused. Because he would not tell me their names, even though I clearly offered to protect them from public exposure, I can only conclude that he has other reasons for concealing their identity from me. It seems that Bishop Hammond prefers that I present an account of this whole affair which strongly suggests that he lied rather than telling me the truth about this incident. I didn't tell Bishop Hammond that I knew of other instances in which people perceived as dissenters were asked a question about taping, by all indications, at instructions from Church headquarters. I believe that Bishop Hammond refused to reveal the identities of the two people, if there were, in fact, two people, because doing so would reveal that he had, indeed, received instructions from Church headquarters. I also believe that someone did try to trap me. I don't see any other way to interpret the lie I was told and the way Bishop Hammond interrogated me during the court.
We concluded this interview with a short discussion about future interviews. Bishop Hammond said that as far as he could tell neither of us had changed our positions on any of the relevant issues, and I agreed with him. Although he didn't say so explicitly, I got the message that he didn't want to have any more meetings with me and he didn't intend to work with me to regain my membership unless I asked him and agreed to follow the conditions he had given me in my probation. He did say that if I needed any help from him or needed to discuss anything with him I should feel free to set up an appointment with him, but I received the distinct impression that he didn't intend to call me in again unless I requested it.
Again Bishop Hammond told me, as he often had before, that he respected me and wanted to be a good neighbor, but he added something he'd never said before. He said, "It can't be like it was before. It never can be." I thought, "So you finally learned that." He had told me many times that my being disciplined by the Church would not affect my friendships in the ward and neighborhood. I remember his telling me, "No matter what happens we'll still be your friends," as I sobbed in the high council room at the first court.
This meeting lasted about two and a half hours. Though I felt sad during most of the interview, on the whole I felt that our conversation was good. I didn't have the feeling of being attacked—that I had to defend myself—as I had had in other interviews. Now that the threat of punishment had been removed, there was a possibility of a dialogue between two people. However, Bishop Hammond still held power over my relationship with the Church and ward, which I cared about. Although he expressed his concern for me and showed that he cared in many ways, he still didn't care enough to try to understand my views or admit that he didn't have the right to judge me. So we were still far from a relationship of equality.
When I returned home, David told me that he had called Lynn Davis to find out if he had instigated my interview with Bishop Hammond. Lynn had told him that, the next night after our talk, he had told President Rapier the basic content of our discussion and mentioned our concern that Bishop Hammond was neglecting his duty in regard to us. He thought President Rapier would probably take some kind of action. It seemed reasonable to conclude that President Rapier had told Bishop Hammond that he needed to talk to me. I thought it was dishonest of Bishop Hammond to act as if the meeting had been his own idea, especially since my direct question about Lynn Davis was obviously an attempt to ascertain why he had asked for a meeting.
I was also troubled by his repeated assertions that he had never had any contact with any General Authorities. I wanted to believe him; it was very hard for me on an emotional level to believe that he was lying to me. But I had conclusive evidence that Church headquarters had been involved in my case from the beginning. I knew that President Bacon had been contacted by Church headquarters and had spoken to General Authorities. Was it possible that all contact had been through President Bacon? Certainly this would follow the order of priesthood protocol. However, I had one very good source which indicated that Bishop Hammond had had direct contact with General Authorities. This source told me that Bishop Hammond had been told to conceal this contact. I knew of cases where members had been told by their local leaders that General Authorities wanted them investigated but had asked the local leaders not to reveal these instructions. Bishop Hammond had told me that he would do whatever he was asked to by a General Authority, even if it went against his conscience.
The question of General Authority involvement in my case is important to me for several reasons. First, I simply want to know the truth. Second, it is difficult for me to have an open, honest relationship with Bishop Hammond when so many things indicate that he is concealing the source of many of his questions, concerns, and beliefs about me. What kind of information and counsel (if not explicit instructions) was Bishop Hammond given? Will Church headquarters continue sending my leaders copies of my speeches and publications even though I've been excommunicated? Third, knowing the truth about General Authority involvement is important to me because I need this information to understand the meaning and ramifications of my experience.
I do believe that covert General Authority involvement in cases such as mine is symptomatic of the evil that authoritarianism has brought into the Church. If General Authorities believe that they need to be involved in disciplining scholars and writers, why can't they be open and honest about it? Since they have absolute power in the Church, why don't they change the rules regarding discipline if they can't work within them? Behind-the-scenes, dishonest manipulation of local leaders poses unnecessary ethical dilemmas for these leaders, makes it very difficult for them to deal justly with their members, and makes it virtually impossible for them to arrive at an independent judgment concerning the charges against these members. The refusal of General Authorities to deal directly with members whose writings they find troubling makes it impossible for these members to understand exactly what they are being accused of and to resolve any differences with those they have offended. The method employed in handling cases such as mine encourages dishonesty between leaders and members and shows a contempt for truth and the processes for arriving at it.
As I pondered what Bishop Hammond had said to me about having no contact with General Authorities and the evidence I had that they had been involved, I prayed to be able to understand the truth. Two distinct impressions came into my mind: the face of the person who had told me Bishop Hammond had had direct contact with General Authorities and this individual's voice saying, "He was told to say he was on his own," and then Bishop Hammond looking at me and saying, "I was left on my own."
Four months later on Sunday, 22 September, David and I attended a Scout court of honor in our ward where two of our sons received awards. While we were eating refreshments afterwards, Bishop Hammond came up to us and asked how we were doing. He asked specifically about my feet. (I had had surgery on both of them, one early in 1995, the other early in 1996.) It made David angry that Bishop Hammond was asking about my feet, which had healed months earlier, while ignoring our deeper pain, which had not healed. As Bishop Hammond was edging away, David said, "I'm still angry with you, Bishop, because you excommunicated Janice a year and a half ago."
"I know," Bishop Hammond replied. He looked nervously around. We were standing in the corner at quite a distance from anyone else, but he seemed afraid that someone might overhear.
"You get a lot of praise from the ward about the good things you do and you need to hear about some of the pain you cause too," David went on. "You think you had the Spirit that night when you excommunicated Janice, but you didn't. She was the only one in the room that had the Spirit that night. The handbook says that you're supposed to be working with Janice and giving me some kind of support but you haven't done a thing to help us."
"I told Janice that I'd be happy to talk to you any time," Bishop Hammond said.
"I'm sorry, Bishop, but that doesn't do it." David's voice was getting louder while Bishop Hammond's was getting lower.
"I guess I do need to talk to you," he said.
"Well, how about now?" David asked. "I need to do something about resolving the anger I feel."
"Now is not an appropriate time and this is not an appropriate place," Bishop Hammond scolded. "You need to call my executive secretary and make an appointment."
"All right, then when? You tell me when," David said. Bishop Hammond was edging away, seemingly torn between his desire to get away and his fear that putting too much distance between us might cause David to speak even louder. As he finally walked away, David said to him, "What you did to Janice was like rape."
After Bishop Hammond was gone, David said to me, "I'm really not feeling that angry right now. That's why I was finally able to say those things to him—because I really have resolved most of my anger."
"It was probably a good thing to do," I responded, "but I do feel sorry for Bishop Hammond. It took him a year and a half to get up enough courage to walk across the room to engage in some polite conversation with us, and then you confront him with all that. I wonder if he'll ever dare to do it again?"
A few days later Bishop Hammond's executive secretary called to make an appointment for David to talk to Bishop Hammond. I was surprised because I thought he would wait for David to call him.
The night before David's appointment with Bishop Hammond we had dinner with our friends, Lynn and Lenore Davis. I had given them a copy of an earlier draft of this account of my excommunication several months before because I wanted their response to it. They had both been very sympathetic and supportive during the whole disciplinary process, and they are both intelligent, thoughtful, open-minded people. They are also very active, committed mainstream Mormons, and of course, Lynn is now in our stake presidency, so I felt that they could give me an idea about how my story would be received by people like themselves. Lenore had read my manuscript quickly, and we had spent several hours talking about it. Her main response had been concern for the alienation and judgment I had felt. She wanted to assure me of her love and friendship, and I appreciated that. She seemed uncomfortable talking about the issues I had discussed, so we talked mostly about how my excommunication had affected my personal relationships.
I hadn't had a chance to get Lynn's response to my story yet, so towards the end of the evening I brought the subject up. Since Lynn is a judge, I especially hoped he would comment on the legal aspects of my case. However, he did not seem to want to discuss what I had written. He mentioned only one thing: he was offended because I had written that Bishop Hammond had lied to me again. He said that he had known Bishop Hammond for many years and had associated with him in many different roles; he had always known Bishop Hammond to be honest. I asked Lynn what he was referring to and he said, "You know, where you said, `He lied to me. He lied to me.' I think you should take that out."
"I can't take it out," I replied, "because that's what I actually said. I didn't want to believe that Bishop Hammond lied to me. In fact, I didn't put the pieces together until Lavina drew the obvious conclusion: someone tried to trap me." I reminded him of the circumstances that had led up to my crying out, "He lied to me? He lied to me!" and then I pointed out that I had also written what we realized only a little later: that Bishop Hammond might not have known that the message he relayed was a lie.
After I finished this explanation, we started talking about how things were going in our ward. After some discussion, Lynn said, "When I talked to Bishop Hammond after our conversation last spring, I told him that he needed to have some definite steps for you to follow."
Startled, I interrupted, "But he told me he hadn't spoken to you! Do you remember when you talked to him?"
Lynn looked confused. "After our conversation," he said. "I don't remember exactly when." I didn't question him any further because I felt he would resist helping me find out if Bishop Hammond had lied to me. I wished I hadn't blurted out that Bishop Hammond had said he hadn't spoken to Lynn. Then I could have gotten the information I needed without distressing him.
David's interview with Bishop Hammond began at 6:30 the next evening and ended about 8:10. After he returned, we went for a walk and he told me about their conversation. Bishop Hammond had asked David what he wanted to talk about, and David had said it was up to Bishop Hammond. He was supposed to take the initiative. When Bishop Hammond didn't come up with anything, David asked him why he should be active in the Church since the last two years had been so painful. David couldn't remember Bishop Hammond's answer, but David told him why he had remained active. "It is because Janice has been really wonderful. The reason any of us are coming to Church is because the person you excommunicated has kept us coming. It's not been anything you've done or anyone else in the ward."
David asked Bishop Hammond why he had excommunicated me, and they spent a long time talking about this. Bishop Hammond said, "When you're told by a priesthood leader that what you're saying is not Church doctrine and you continue to teach it, then that's apostasy and that's what Janice did."
"This is not the gospel of Jesus Christ," David said. "Whoever taught you this taught you wrong." He told Bishop Hammond that I might not have been excommunicated if we'd had another bishop. Bishop Hammond disagreed and said that he had sought out many opinions and everyone had agreed that he needed to take action against me.
"I did not make this decision on my own," Bishop Hammond said. David said that he must not have talked to any scholars, and Bishop Hammond assured him that he had.
"But what you've done is against scholarship, and it's very chilling to the kind of honest inquiry that people need to make," David said. "Janice never taught her ideas as doctrine. She was always very careful. She never had any authority in the Church. She is a woman, so she never held a priesthood position. She has never worked outside the home and has never earned more than a few hundred dollars in her life. If she has any power it is only the natural power that God has given her."
David asked Bishop Hammond what he was trying to accomplish with my excommunication. "If you wanted to control Janice, then you have far less opportunity now."
"I never wanted to control Janice," Bishop Hammond said.
"Then what did you accomplish? All you did was cause me and my family immense pain. If you weren't trying to stop her or control her, then what were you trying to do?"
"I excommunicated her so that she could not say those things as a member of the Church," Bishop Hammond said.
David asked him why he was so sure he had made the right decision, and he said that I had appealed his decision and both the stake presidency and the First Presidency had sustained it.
At one point David told Bishop Hammond that I still had the Spirit.
"Is that supposed to surprise me?" Bishop Hammond asked.
"Well, excommunication does take away a person's baptism. An excommunicated person needs to be rebaptized and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost again, so some people believe that an excommunicated person cannot have the Spirit," David said. Bishop Hammond said that he wasn't committed to that position.
They also discussed David's participation in the ward. Bishop Hammond again said that David needed to curb his comments in Sunday School and priesthood. He didn't have any specific complaints, and David told him that he didn't think his comments were causing any problems. "There are many weeks that I say nothing or give only factual responses to specific questions of the teacher. I don't try to hijack the lesson. I don't want to cause a fuss and upset people." Bishop Hammond again told David that he did not trust him to serve in a Church calling.
"That is not fair," David said. "You asked me more than two years ago to trust you and I did and you violated my trust, but I still trust you as well as I can. But you won't trust me and that's not fair."
Bishop Hammond said that David was too angry and he felt he might teach false doctrine.
"Look, Bishop," David said, "if you do not call me to a position, I will still serve. There are many avenues where I can serve, but I need to serve the people in my congregation. I have many things to offer you and the ward. I have imagination and I know things that could really help you. Please consider my gifts. It is a terrible thing to have a gift that will not be received. You have made me into a `smoker.'"
David felt that Bishop Hammond did not give him any comfort, reconciliation, or counsel.
David also told me that Bishop Hammond mentioned that Lynn Davis had talked to him that very day about us. This surprised me. Lynn had said nothing about planning to talk to Bishop Hammond during our dinner the night before. I had been transcribing the notes I had made after my May 1996 interview with Bishop Hammond. These notes were a taped conversation I had had with David and one other person about the interview immediately afterward. In this conversation, David told me about his phone call to Lynn during my interview in which he had learned that Lynn had talked to President Rapier the day following our conversation. It seems he is a person who follows through quickly. Would he have waited over two weeks before contacting Bishop Hammond? I doubted it. And if Lynn had talked to Bishop Hammond soon after Bishop Hammond and I met, wouldn't Bishop Hammond have mentioned our interview to Lynn? If Lynn had talked to Bishop Hammond before our interview, then not only had Bishop Hammond lied to me, but he had also failed to follow his priesthood leader's counsel to work with me to regain my membership.
Since I had decided to add the account of my May interview with Bishop Hammond to this document, I wondered how I should handle this incident. It frustrated me that I had not questioned Bishop Hammond further. I wondered why, in our taped conversation, I hadn't asked David explicitly whether Lynn had talked to Bishop Hammond and I wondered why David hadn't volunteered this information. I asked him if he remembered whether he'd asked Lynn if he'd spoken to Bishop Hammond. He couldn't. I wondered why we'd both been so uninterested in finding out whether Lynn had spoken to Bishop Hammond. Then I realized it was because I'd believed Bishop Hammond when he told me he hadn't spoken to Lynn, so it was no longer a question for me. After Lynn told David that he'd spoken to President Rapier the night after our conversation, David probably concluded that this accounted for Bishop Hammond's setting up an interview with me and so hadn't questioned him any further.
I considered calling Lynn and asking him for more information about his talk with Bishop Hammond. Did he have an appointment book that would have the date of the meeting? Could he remember the approximate time frame? Had Bishop Hammond said he would talk to me or that he already had? If I asked Lynn, he might simply refuse to give me any information, and that would be fine. I would have fulfilled my obligation to present all the evidence I could obtain, and I would handle this incident the same way I had handled similar ones: write about what had happened as accurately as possible, bring in any other evidence that might help in understanding it, present my interpretation, and allow the reader to draw his or her own conclusions. If Lynn agreed to help me, hoping to prove that Bishop Hammond had not lied and he was able to prove this, then I would not write about my conversation with Lynn and Lenore at all and that would also be fine. However—and I considered this to be much more likely—if his information did show that Bishop Hammond had lied, I would be putting Lynn in a difficult position. I didn't want to do this, so I decided not to ask him.
As I was in the middle of writing about my 5 May interview with Bishop Hammond, our ward executive secretary called and said that Bishop Hammond would like to meet with me on Sunday, 13 October. This surprised me. I thought that he had decided not to have any more interviews with me unless I requested one. I knew that Lynn had spoken to him about David and me the previous Sunday after our Saturday night dinner conversation. Perhaps Lynn had again counseled Bishop Hammond to try to work with me to regain my membership. Or maybe Bishop Hammond wanted to talk to me about the paper I had presented two months earlier at the August Sunstone Symposium in Salt Lake City.
This paper, "Sacrificing the Children: Why The Church Won't Fight Child Sexual Abuse," was much more critical of the Church and its leaders than anything I had previously presented or published. The ideas for it had come to me in March 1996 as I was helping Lavina edit the Case Reports of the Mormon Alliance, Vol. 1, 1995, which we had decided to devote exclusively to the problem of child sexual abuse in the Church. I had spent a good part of the summer researching and writing my Sunstone speech. In it, I argued that child sexual abuse is essentially an abuse of power that violates the personhood and agency of the child. It is wrong, not because it is sexual, but because it is abusive. I showed that the authoritarianism of the institutional church with its hierarchical power structure and demands that members obey leaders gives arbitrary power to leaders and legitimizes ecclesiastical and spiritual abuse. My thesis was that we as a church cannot stop child sexual abuse as long as we believe in and support a power system which sacrifices the weak to the powerful. I ended my speech with a warning to leaders who abuse their power that was given to me by the Spirit.
My interview with Bishop Hammond was scheduled for 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, 13 October. I had to wait about ten minutes for Bishop Hammond to finish with another interview. The coming week was the Mount Timpanogos Temple dedication, and everyone who wanted to attend a session had to be interviewed. The two counselors were also interviewing, and I wondered why Bishop Hammond had scheduled our meeting at such a busy time. What could he want to talk about that was so urgent?
Bishop Hammond greeted me and apologized for keeping me waiting. I told him I was surprised he had asked to see me at such a busy time.
"Well, we're mostly finished with the temple interviews," he said. "You've let it be known that you want to talk to me, so I thought we should get together. I guess you've had a couple of conversations with Lynn Davis."
"Yes," I said.
"You know I talked to David last week, and I think it was a good talk. I hadn't realized that I needed to talk to him. He has a lot of anger that he needs to resolve, and I'm sorry that I didn't talk to him sooner. I guess I was thinking too much that this is between me and Janice, but I see now that it was really affecting David, too. I also talked to Lynn Davis last week. He says you want to work with me to regain your membership."
"I want to regain my membership," I said, "but I don't know if we can work together or not."
"One objection you made is that I never gave you a copy of the second list of conditions," he said, starting to rummage through a thick file on his desk. Why was he bringing this up now, I wondered. The only place I'd made this objection was in my appeal. I had given Lynn a copy of it. Maybe he'd pointed out this objection to Bishop Hammond. "Do you want a copy now?" he asked, still going through the papers.
"I don't think it would do me any good now," I said. "I pointed out in my appeal that it was unfair of you to hold me accountable for a list of conditions that you never gave me in writing. Probably the outcome would have been the same even if you had given me the list, but in an appeal you point out the injustices, and that was one of them."
He stopped rummaging and said, "Well, I can't find it now. This file is really thick."
"You should see mine," I said.
"I have more in my drawer. I have a copy of your latest speech—the one you gave at Sunstone."
"Where did you get it?" I asked.
"From somebody in the ward."
"Where did he get it?" When Bishop Hammond didn't answer I asked, "Do you know?"
"I think it was some place public. You gave out copies and he got one."
"I didn't give out very many copies. Certainly not to anyone in our ward."
"But they must have gotten passed around."
"It was on the Internet, I know." I was thinking aloud. "Someone I gave a copy to asked if he could post it and I gave him permission. That's probably where he got it."
"Yes, that must be it," he said.
"Why did he give it to you?" I asked.
"I asked for it," he said.
"Why did you ask for it?"
"I read in the newspaper that you had given it and you told me in our last interview that you were going to do it."
"Yes, that's right, I did."
"And I thought I should have a copy of it," he added.
"Why should you have a copy of it?" I asked.
"Because you say you want to work with me; and if we're going to be working together, I need to have these things." He paused and then said, "I read it."
We talked about my article for a few minutes and then he said, "It's scary talking to you. I worry about it because I'm afraid I'm going to do some of those bad things you say leaders do."
I was glad that my discussion of the abuse of power seemed to have affected him but a little disheartened that he didn't seem to have learned how to identify abuse.
"We're just talking," I said.
"But you do think I've done some of those kinds of things."
"Yes," I replied, "because you tried to control me through the power you have to restrict my privileges and to take away my membership; you tried to get me to stop writing about certain things or to write about them in different ways and when I refused to be controlled, you punished me even though I hadn't done anything to deserve it. But I didn't write about you in that speech."
"I know, but it seems that whenever I talk to you it gets put in print," he complained.
"I am writing about my excommunication and you're part of the story. I know that's hard for you."
"It's hard to talk to you because I know that what I say is going to show up in print or maybe even in the newspaper," he repeated.
I nodded, acknowledging the validity of his concern.
He returned to the topic of working with me to regain my membership. "I thought I should read the conditions to you again because I would expect you to follow them if you want to get your membership back," he said. I listened while he read them to me even though I knew them well enough to recite them to him.
"I haven't changed my position in regard to the conditions. It's complicated, as you know. I won't try to make my writing acceptable to you," I said.
"I haven't changed my position either. I really don't think we want to go over old things. I think I should tell you that I would consider your speech—the one you just gave at Sunstone—to be out of bounds, according to these conditions."
I nodded, suppressing an impulse to make a sarcastic remark. Considering the mildness of some of my statements which Bishop Hammond had told me he regarded as "criticism of the Church or its leaders," I would have had to have been an idiot not to have known that Bishop Hammond would find this speech, which criticized the Church for its failure to address the root cause of child sexual abuse, "out of bounds."
"I still don't understand exactly why you excommunicated me," I said.
"The Church guideline on publishing is very clear," he said. If your priesthood leader points out that what you're teaching goes against Church doctrine, then you need to agree not to publish or teach those ideas any more. If you continue teaching them, that's apostasy."
"I understand that rule very well," I said, "but it doesn't define apostasy. It goes beyond the definition of apostasy given in the handbook. It also goes against the gospel of Jesus Christ, and it doesn't recognize or respect the processes involved in finding truth. It gives way too much power to one person. A friend of mine who is a Catholic priest asked me about my excommunication. `What process does your church use to determine if someone is teaching false doctrine?' he asked me. I told him that we don't have a process. The bishop (or stake president) is the only judge, and he's not given any training or procedures or lists of doctrine to help him determine whether or not some teaching is false doctrine. `That's incredible!' my friend said. `That means that a bishop who's had no theological training, who may have had little experience in being a bishop, has the same authority to pronounce on doctrine that the Pope does in the Catholic Church.' The rule that you excommunicated me for breaking gives the priesthood leader arbitrary power. He can call someone an apostate simply because he disagrees with him about some doctrinal issue."
"All I can tell you is what I did. I didn't act arbitrarily because I would talk to my stake president. You know I did that, and President Bacon felt the same way I did—that what you taught was false doctrine."
"Just because you sought other opinions doesn't mean you weren't exercising arbitrary power," I argued. "The rule assumes that the priesthood leader is right. It's certainly possible that the member could be right on the doctrinal point and the leader could be wrong. There are no checks on the leader; there are no procedures for him to follow, and there is no established doctrine for him to refer to. But the worst thing about this rule is that it tries to control beliefs by institutional power."
"I think we need to have some limits," responded Bishop Hammond, "but you've always thought that there are no limits. You think you should be able to say whatever you want to without any consequences."
"No, I don't think that, and I've never said that," I objected. "I agree that there might be some ideas which clearly contradict the doctrine of Christ and it might be necessary to discipline someone who was teaching them in some way. But I think all heresy cases are extremely difficult and the best way to deal with false doctrine is by teaching true doctrine. I was always willing to defend what I had written, but you would never discuss it in any detail. You simply declared it false doctrine."
"We were under the impression that you were unwilling to work with us," he said.
"As I said, I was always willing to defend what I had written, to show that it was not false doctrine, but I was unwilling to submit myself to any kind of prior restraint. I refused to let my writing be edited or censored to make it orthodox or acceptable," I said.
"I never wanted to do that," Bishop Hammond said.
"Then what did you want? Could you explain to me very clearly what you would require me to do? What do I have to do in order to work with you to regain my membership?"
"Basically, I would want you to agree to have an attitude that if there is a problem with something, then we can go over it and you'll be willing to make changes to make it acceptable."
I spent a long time trying to get Bishop Hammond to be specific about what he required. "Are you saying then that I need to give you copies of everything I'm going to present or publish?"
"No, I'm not saying that."
"Then what do you mean?" I asked.
"If I get a copy of something or it comes to me and there are some objections, then we'll go over it and you'll be willing to work to get it within some kind of limits."
"Do you mean we could go over it after I've presented or published it?"
"Well, no," he said.
"I just want you to be willing to work with me. This is how I felt. If you really cared about your membership, we could point out areas of problems, and we could caution you. I didn't want to edit you or censor you. I just wanted to help you stay within the limits."
"Look," I said. "That's totally unnecessary. I can look at things realistically as well as idealistically. I know what the problem areas are. I knew that this paper I gave at Sunstone this year would be unacceptable to you or some other authorities. That's part of the problem with the authoritarian approach to truth. Which authority do I have to please? You're my bishop so you get to decide what's acceptable and what's out of bounds for me. But what if someone sends you something I've published that you've already approved of? That possibility is going to make you extremely cautious. My point is that I will not accept any kind of prior restraint. I'm not willing to engage in a process where I pretend that I'm willing to change whatever you find untrue, unacceptable, or out of bounds. I will not change my ideas to fit what you think is true, because I'm not writing about what you think is true; I'm writing about what I think is true! That's why I told you after the first court that I couldn't let you review my work. It would be dishonest."
"I know," he said. "You've always been very honest with me."
"I felt that the process you wanted me to submit to would just end up with threats. You would caution me about something, and I would want to publish it anyway, and you would say, `If you publish it, we're going to have a court.'"
"I never made any threats," Bishop Hammond said.
"Yes, you did," I said. "There's a threat right there in your second list." He started looking through his file again. "I remember that one of the statements said, `If you publish "Him Shall Ye Hear" it will be a violation of the conditions,'" I said. "And violating the conditions was cause for reconvening the court."
"It didn't say if you publish it `at all' but if you publish it `as it is,'" Bishop Hammond objected. He found the list and read it to me. He was right; but, of course, even with the qualification it was still a threat.
I said, "In our first meeting after the first court after you read that list to me, I asked you what I could do to make that paper acceptable to you so I could publish it. You told me that Keith Halls had brought you two pages of doctrinal errors that he found in it."
"I don't remember ever saying that."
"Well, I remember you saying that. I put it in my notes right after the interview."
"What we did is this," Bishop Hammond explained. "I had each of them read through your paper and we all wrote down questions we had and things we thought might be problems."
"You never showed them to me," I said.
"The reason we didn't was because we got the impression that you didn't want to work with us to make it acceptable," he said.
"What you said to me was that the fundamental idea of the paper was so wrong that it couldn't be fixed. I certainly wasn't willing to change the fundamental idea, so I felt the whole process was hopeless. We can't work together because we have different goals. My goal is to look for the truth wherever it may lead me, and you want to make sure that what I teach is acceptable to the institutional church. You also threatened to excommunicate me at the first court if I published `Him Shall Ye Hear.' In fact, you threatened to excommunicate me if I didn't promise not to publish it."
"Maybe I did, but there was a lot of emotion that night. Maybe I went a little further than I should have."
"You did threaten me! And you told me in that same court that I couldn't disagree with any General Authority."
"I don't remember that."
This conversation was becoming extremely frustrating for me. Bishop Hammond seemed to want to think of himself as a reasonable, kind man who would never use his authority to censor, threaten, control, or punish anyone. But he had. "Look," I said. "I remember it, and I made notes shortly after it happened. You spent a long time trying to get me to agree to some kinds of restrictions on my writing. I offered to refrain from directly contradicting any statement by a General Authority, but you said that wasn't good enough. I would have to promise to not disagree with any of their ideas."
"I don't remember that," Bishop Hammond repeated. He seemed to be saying that they had been extremely patient and reasonable and had gone to great lengths to work with me, and I had been inflexible, unreasonable, and unwilling to work with them.
Later, in reflecting on this conversation, I realized why I had never been able to get Bishop Hammond to pin down exactly what he required of me. He would never explicitly spell out the details of the process he expected me to follow because doing so made it sound like censorship. Furthermore, he himself didn't believe that he could set up a program that would assure my orthodoxy. What he wanted from me was a fundamental change of attitude: a "repentance" that would be a mockery of repentance, a change that would be the antithesis of repentance. At one point in our conversation, I had said, "Suppose I didn't write anything or give any speeches for three years. Would you let me back in the Church?"
"No," he said, "because you might still write something that was not acceptable. I would have to know that you had changed your attitude. I wouldn't want to have to excommunicate you again. That would be really hard on me, and, of course, even harder on you." Bishop Hammond would not feel I was "safe," he would not trust me, unless I became an institutional person, content to follow my leaders without question, looking to the Church to provide me with my beliefs, my callings, and my self-worth. I would have to give up my integrity; I would have to stop loving truth; I would have to stop looking within myself to find what the Spirit called me to do; I would have to give up my faith in Jesus Christ and look to the institutional church to save me. Truly this would destroy me:
Having been redeemed by Christ, how could I go back into slavery?
We also briefly discussed the content of my paper, "Sacrificing the Children," or, rather, I discussed it. Bishop Hammond brought the topic up obliquely and I responded, but he never specified what he considered "out of bounds" in its content. Bishop Hammond said, "I wish that you could be more positive in your writing. It seems to me that the kinds of things you have written lately have been really full of anger. Of course, I can get angry about child abuse, too," he added hastily.
"Anger means that you see something is wrong," I said. "You see that somebody has hurt you or someone else. Anger itself is neither good nor bad. Of course, sometimes we get angry because we've misjudged someone, and we need to make careful judgments, but anger itself is simply our response to the judgment we make that someone has offended us or someone has hurt us or somebody else. I have been dealing with issues of abuse of all kinds in the Church. Because of my work in the Mormon Alliance I have heard many stories about abuse in the Church. I have talked to many people who have been badly hurt by the Church and it does make me angry. It makes me angry that these kinds of things are happening in a church that should be acting on gospel principles, in a church where members should act through love and care for each other."
I continued, "It wasn't easy writing that paper about child sexual abuse. It was really hard and very painful, but I felt that keeping silent about those problems would be like ignoring a suffering child. I did not want to be like a person who knows that a child is being abused and doesn't tell and doesn't help. The Church perceives any kind of criticism as an attack, and you've said yourself that my talking about problems in the Church is negative and that it puts me in opposition to the Church. In fact, that was one of the conditions you just read me—that any kind of criticism of the Church or its leaders would be considered a violation of the conditions. Abusive families tell their members not to talk about their problems. A father who has sexually abused his daughter warns her, `Don't tell anybody. If you do, you'll hurt the family; you'll betray us.' I don't view talking about problems that way. I view it as trying to help, not trying to destroy. I view it as necessary for healing. In my study of child sexual abuse, I learned that healing cannot take place until someone is willing to listen to the pain and anger of the person who has been abused. That was one thing I was trying to do in my paper. I also think I said some positive things about the power of love, truth, and forgiveness to heal the effects of abuse. Even when I am identifying horrible problems, I am trying to point a way to a solution, too. The purpose in all my writing is to help people to turn to Jesus Christ more fully and live the gospel more fully."
Toward the end of the interview, Bishop Hammond again brought up the reason for our meeting: to see if we could work together so that I could regain my membership. I was feeling frustrated because I hadn't been able to get Bishop Hammond to explain clearly what he required of me. I was also feeling discouraged because this meeting had confirmed what I already suspected: there was nothing I could do to regain my membership. I think Bishop Hammond was probably feeling confused. Why was I saying I wanted to work with him when, from his perspective, I was obviously violating the conditions he had set for my being a member of the Church? I suppose that he read me the conditions and then let me know that he had read my recent Sunstone speech in order to catch me in what seemed to him the hypocrisy of claiming I wanted to work with him after flagrantly violating the conditions. However, I believe that after talking to me he realized that I sincerely wanted to regain my membership and I also truly believed that my Sunstone speech was not apostate.
"You've been saying that you want to work with me and so I thought it was important for us to get together, but it seems that neither of us has changed our position," he said. His tone seemed to imply, So what are we doing here? "I guess you had dinner with Lynn Davis the other night."
"Yes," I said. I decided I needed to explain to Bishop Hammond exactly what I'd been saying about working with him. "Let me explain what I told Lynn," I began, but Bishop Hammond interrupted me. He told me he knew that Lynn and I had been friends for a long time. He spoke in general terms about his meeting with Lynn and said that it had been good for both of them to talk together. "I could have asked Lynn for things," he said, "because I know that you've given him things that you've written just to get his opinion. But I haven't done that." He seemed to be saying that he hadn't taken advantage of my friendship with Lynn to try to get information about me. The implication was that I had taken advantage of our friendship. Bishop Hammond said, "Oh, I'm sorry. I interrupted you."
"Let me explain what happened," I began again. "I haven't tried to use my friendship with Lynn to get him to put any kind of pressure on you. Last April I was writing about my excommunication. While checking the handbook for a quote I needed, I read the section about what a bishop is supposed to do after an excommunication. It said that the bishop should work with the excommunicated person to help him regain his membership and that they should meet together often. It also said that the bishop should meet with the spouse and see that he receives special encouragement and help."
"I don't remember that part," Bishop Hammond said.
"Look it up," I told him. "When I read this, I said to myself, `Bishop Hammond is not doing his duty. Of course, I know why. I'm sure he thinks it's hopeless. He thinks he did everything he could. He tried to work with me during the period of probation, but I refused to work with him. So he believes there's nothing he can do.' I knew that; nevertheless, I felt that if you had carried out your duty to help me regain my membership with the same zeal that you fulfilled what you saw as your duty to investigate and punish me, our relationship with the ward might have been different. This is what we told Lynn. We both told him that we weren't asking him to talk to you and that we didn't want him to put any pressure on you, but we needed to talk to him because we needed to get the perspective of someone in a position of Church authority. We needed to know if my case was being handled right. We needed to know if we were wrong in feeling neglected and not cared about. Lynn said he felt our concerns were valid and he would do something to see that you were made aware of them. We both told Lynn that we weren't asking him to intervene on our behalf, but he decided to."
"Yes," Bishop Hammond said, "and I was glad to talk to you after I had talked to Lynn."
So you did lie to me, I thought. Why? Why did you tell me in that meeting that you hadn't spoken to Lynn?
Bishop Hammond was continuing. "I didn't ask to meet with you before that because I thought it would be good to have some cooling-off time. I knew that the whole process had been really painful for you. Emotions had been really intense, and I'd hurt you a lot, so I didn't think you wanted to talk to me. I know it was harder for you than for me, but it was hard for me too. There are people who are angry with me because of what I did. It was hard for my wife and children too, especially after the publicity started." He told me that he'd always been very concerned about our family and had prayed for us often. He had thought a lot about how he could be a good bishop to our children. He had talked to the youth leaders and the teachers of our younger children to make sure that they were doing what they could to help them. He said that when he interviewed our older children, they didn't seem to want to talk about my excommunication so he didn't press it. "Your children are very respectful to me and I've never seen any unkindness or resentment in them," he said.
"I'm glad," I said. "That's how I want them to be. Although I haven't told them how to act, I'm glad they're being kind and respectful."
Bishop Hammond spoke with a lot of emotion about one incident. Just after the first court, Ammon had been called on to pray in priesthood meeting. "He prayed for the bishop and I was very touched by that."
Bishop Hammond changed the subject and at first I didn't understand the point he was trying to make. "Let's lay your court aside for a minute," he said. "I've had other courts and the results have been really good. We've been able to talk together and come to an understanding about what they'd done that was wrong and what they needed to do to repent and in some cases they've even asked for that."
"Do you mean excommunication?"
"Well, no, a court," he said. "Maybe you disagree with this."
"In fact, I do," I said. "I think the idea that excommunication is part of the repentance process is wrong. It ignores the power of the atonement. When a person repents, she's forgiven. She doesn't need to be punished." We talked about this idea for a while, and Bishop Hammond seemed to agree with me that a repentant person doesn't need to be excommunicated, although he didn't say so explicitly. By bringing up the other disciplinary cases he had dealt with, Bishop Hammond seemed to be saying that he did not neglect his duty to help members who'd been disciplined. He knew how to help members who repented and worked with him, but he had no idea how to work with me. "I don't know how to work with you because you really believe you haven't done anything wrong," he said.
"It feels hopeless to me," I said. I was feeling very sad when I said this, and I think Bishop Hammond noticed this.
"I understand," he said. "Sometimes I feel that way too. `What is it going to take?' I think. But don't give up. You don't know what's going to happen. You might change or maybe you'll have someone as a bishop later who's different than I am. I know it can never be the same as it was before, but maybe over time we can learn how to make you feel like you're welcome and you're wanted."
You could trust me, I thought. You could value and accept the gifts I have to give. Aloud I said, "I'm not the kind of person who gives up just because it's hopeless. I'll do what I can. I won't give up even if it is hopeless."
"Do you think it's worthwhile for us to have meetings?" he asked.
I had had no intention of saying what I did, but I suddenly understood what was required of me. I said, "I think we should because it's a way of acknowledging that we haven't given up. It's a way for me to say, `Yes. I want to be a member.' It's a way for me to work for the kind of church I believe in. It's a way for you to say,' Yes, I'll work with you even if we don't know how we're going to do it.' And so I think we should."
"Yes, you're right," he said. "How often do you think we should meet?"
"Maybe every two or three months," I suggested.
"Okay," he said. And that was the end of the interview. It had lasted about an hour and a half.
After this meeting I spent a long time thinking about the different ways and times that Bishop Hammond had been dishonest with me. I now had conclusive evidence that he had, in fact, lied to me on 5 May when he told me that he had not spoken to Lynn Davis before our interview. I was relieved to know the truth, but I felt sorry that Bishop Hammond felt he had to lie to me. I also felt bad that my trust had been violated so many times that I found it necessary to look for evidence of dishonesty. In thinking about what Bishop Hammond had said about how he'd gotten a copy of "Sacrificing the Children," I realized that certain parts of his explanation seemed improbable and that he'd probably lied to me about one thing. He had told me that he'd read about my speech in the newspaper, but I was aware of only one newspaper account about it and this article had appeared in the Ogden Standard Examiner. The Provo Daily Herald ran a story about the publication of the Case Reports, but it had not mentioned my speech. I consider it highly unlikely that Bishop Hammond subscribes to the Standard Examiner, so if he did read about my speech in the newspaper it was because someone gave or sent him a copy of the article in the Standard Examiner. It seems that there is something that Bishop Hammond does not want me to know about how he acquired my speech. How did he know which ward member to ask for a copy of it, and why didn't he know where this person got it? I suggested that the ward member might have gotten it off the Internet; but if he had, wouldn't he have told this to Bishop Hammond and why wouldn't Bishop Hammond have simply said so? Why didn't Bishop Hammond want to tell me the truth about where he'd gotten the article? Was the Strengthening Church Members Committee still sending things to my local leaders? Although I told Bishop Hammond about this committee and informed him that I knew they had given President Bacon a copy of "Toward a Mormon Theology of God the Mother," he always insisted that they did not "send things" to him. However, he did admit in the second court that "they send us things." Was Bishop Hammond's improbable story an attempt to cover up the activity of the Strengthening Church Members Committee and was this cover-up an attempt to conceal what he had always denied: that Church headquarters was involved in my case?
I have risked offending, annoying, or boring my readers with my meticulous recounting of all of the evidence that Bishop Hammond was dishonest on certain occasions about some incidents and circumstances. Since my evidence is often inconclusive, I feel it is important to explain all the complicated details of how I received it in order to be fair to Bishop Hammond and allow readers to draw their own conclusions. In presenting this evidence I have no desire to embarrass, judge, or hurt Bishop Hammond in any way, but it is impossible for me to tell my story truthfully or interpret its meaning without including this material. I do not think that Bishop Hammond is a dishonest person, and I do not believe that he wanted to lie to me. However, it seems to me that he was caught in a situation where he believed it was necessary to deceive me about certain things.
I have come to the conclusion that lying is an inherent part of an authoritarian system; the system demands lying from those who uphold it. Since truth is whatever the authorities say it is, the processes for arriving at truth are not respected or used. Since appearances and public image are extremely important, lying is necessary to protect them. Since obedience to leaders and rules is demanded, those who fail or refuse to meet the expectations and standards learn to lie to protect themselves. Since no criticism of the system or authorities is allowed, problems, failures, and mistakes must be dealt with in dishonest ways. Since authorities make their decisions without advice from or accountability to their followers, it is natural for them to feel that they do not need to be honest about their procedures, deliberations, or decisions with those beneath them in the hierarchy. And it is natural for these followers to conceal anything they feel their leaders would disapprove of since these leaders can overturn their decisions and interfere with their activities whenever they want to. Inasmuch as secrecy about the inner workings of the hierarchy is required, lying is necessary to maintain it.
It seems to me that most of Bishop Hammond's dishonest statements were made either to conceal the involvement of General Authorities or their representatives in my case or to maintain secrecy about how the system operated. Bishop Hammond's denial of any General Authority involvement, his dishonest statements to support that denial, and his contradictory and false statements about the taping incident were all made to protect the hierarchy. I think Bishop Hammond lied about speaking to Lynn Davis for this same reason. Yet this lie seems both imprudent and unnecessary. Certainly Bishop Hammond knew that Lynn had spoken with David and me before speaking to him. Why didn't Bishop Hammond want me to know he had spoken to him? There was nothing improper about it. I think that Bishop Hammond has developed an instinctive reaction to conceal the workings of the Church hierarchy from me. He regards me as an enemy of the Church who is determined to publicize all its failings and mistakes and so he thinks he must protect the Church from me. This lie probably just popped out before he had a chance to consider whether it was prudent or necessary. The fact that he seems to have forgotten it supports this conclusion.
One of Bishop Hammond's lies, however, was not made to protect the system but to protect me. It was not made in compliance with the hierarchy but in defiance of it. I have not written about this incident up to this point because I wanted to protect Bishop Hammond out of gratitude for what he did for me. I decided to keep the information that Bishop Hammond divulged to me confidential because I felt that I owed it to him. But now I believe that I owe it to Bishop Hammond to tell this part of the story. I have written in detail about all our interactions and I have not withheld any other information which I believe is pertinent to understanding what happened. I have presented evidence that Bishop Hammond was dishonest with me about several subjects, and now I need to relate an incident which should help readers better understand the complexities of Bishop Hammond's character and motivations and make a fairer assessment of his dishonest statements.
Although some people may regard the statements he made to protect the hierarchy as "justified" or "good," others will see them as "unjustified" or "bad." These others, I hope, will see the lie Bishop Hammond told to protect me as "good." I suppose that which of these lies we regard as justified or good depends on whether we think that the Church needs to be protected from the members or the members need to be protected from the Church. No matter which view we take, I hope it will be clear that it is the authoritarian nature of the institutional church which gives rise to these lies. Although people can, of course, decide not to lie, the system demands lying, concealment, and hypocrisy.
On Saturday, 8 October 1994, Bishop Hammond asked me to come to his office. He told me that President Bacon had definitely decided to hold a stake disciplinary council and would set the date the next morning. He said that President Bacon had asked him to take my temple recommend from me and to tell me not to partake of the sacrament the next day. Bishop Hammond told me I should bring my recommend to church the following day. As I thought about this request, I felt it was very unfair. Why should I be punished before it was determined whether I was guilty? Of course, I know now that the purpose of church courts is not to determine the guilt or innocence of the member but to determine how repentant or submissive he is and what punishment he requires. Most bishops and stake presidents will not even hold a court unless they already believe the member is guilty. The fact that President Bacon felt he could impose restrictions on me before the court supports this conclusion.
The next day when Bishop Hammond asked me to come to his office to get the official summons to the disciplinary council, he asked me if I'd brought my recommend. I told him that I hadn't because I thought it was unfair to take it from me before I'd been judged guilty. However, I said that I wouldn't use it in the next few days before the court.
He looked down for a while and then he said, "Last May after our meeting with President Bacon, he told me that I should get your temple recommend. I knew that Joel would be going on his mission soon, and I thought that you should be able to go to the temple with him, so I didn't ask you for it. When President Bacon asked me if I'd gotten it from you, I said I had."
I thanked him and told him how much it had meant to both Joel and me to go to the temple together. Indeed, it had been a very spiritual experience for both of us. As we sat in the celestial room that day, I had been able to explain many of the things I have learned from the temple ceremony to Joel and offer him some of my interpretations of the endowment. This was very important to me and, I think, also to Joel. I am very grateful to Bishop Hammond for allowing me to go to the temple with Joel; at the same time I am angry with the Church for using access to the temple as a way of controlling members.
I do not remember whether I told Bishop Hammond that I would keep this information confidential. He didn't ask me to, and keeping it confidential was certainly not a condition, implied or stated, of his disclosure. He told me what he had done because he felt he needed to so that I wouldn't inadvertently let President Bacon know that he hadn't gotten my recommend. I decided to keep what he had told me confidential because I wanted to protect Bishop Hammond from President Bacon.
A day or two later, before the court, a reporter asked me if my priesthood leaders had taken my temple recommend. Because I didn't want to lie but I did want to protect Bishop Hammond, I told him what I'd just learned and asked him to keep it confidential, which he did. I also told a few close friends about this incident and asked them to keep it confidential, which they also did.
I alluded to this incident in the second court. Bishop Hammond was talking about the duty to keep the proceedings of the court confidential and he seemed to be implying that I made everything public. To remind him that I had kept two things confidential for his sake I said, "There were a couple of things that I said I would keep confidential and I have." Probably this was too strong in regard to Bishop Hammond's not following President Bacon's instructions. As I have said, I don't remember whether I told him I would keep this confidential. However, I did agree not to disclose some other information he gave me, which was the other item I alluded to in the second court. This information later became public, so I am no longer obliged to keep it confidential.
The time after the 21 August 1994 meeting in which I met with the stake presidency and Bishop Hammond was the best period in my relationship with Bishop Hammond. During this time he kept me informed about how my case was developing, particularly about the decisions President Bacon made. Although Bishop Hammond had told me in July that he would hold my court, it was evident to me that, after the publicity started in August, President Bacon again became very involved in my case and that he made the final decisions.
In our 15 September meeting Bishop Hammond said that he wanted to tell me something and he asked me to keep it confidential. I agreed and he told me that he felt President Bacon might decide to conduct the disciplinary council himself. This information did not surprise me, but it helped me understand the relationship between President Bacon and Bishop Hammond better. Later Bishop Hammond always insisted that President Bacon had never told him what to do; but during this period, he was obviously waiting for President Bacon to make the decisions. In this meeting, Bishop Hammond told me that he had definitely decided to hold a court and then he informed me confidentially that President Bacon might decide to do it himself. Then a few days later he told me that President Bacon was undecided about whether to hold a court. What about Bishop Hammond's decision to definitely hold a court? Would he change his mind if President Bacon told him to? Or was his definite decision to hold a court his own assessment of what President Bacon intended?
President Bacon did tell Bishop Hammond to take my temple recommend. If this was counsel and not a direct order, why did he lie when President Bacon asked him if he had it? Did he lie to protect me, believing that President Bacon would take away my recommend himself if he knew I still had it? Did he lie because he disliked confrontation? Did he lie to protect himself from President Bacon's displeasure that he had not followed his instructions? Was his lie the reflex response we all sometimes make to a superior when we are questioned about an assignment we haven't quite gotten around to doing but intend to finish really quickly before our boss finds out we haven't done it?
These two incidents show that Bishop Hammond believed that President Bacon expected him to follow orders, that he would interfere whenever he wanted to, and that he would reverse Bishop Hammond's decisions if he didn't agree with them. Bishop Hammond's lie to President Bacon and his request that I keep his speculation about President Bacon's future decision confidential show that he believed the best way to relate to President Bacon was not by honest discussion of differences, negotiation, and mutual respect for the other's right to make decisions for his own calling, but by hypocrisy, lying, and capitulation when necessary.
Bishop Hammond disobeyed his priesthood leader and then lied to avoid getting caught, but he doesn't consider himself an apostate. But because I said I would not obey him if what he asked me to do went against my conscience, he excommunicated me. Many Church members accept the idea that they should follow their leaders without question, yet they do not do everything they are asked to do. So why was I excommunicated for doing what everyone else does? Was it because I refused to support the lies and hypocrisy that hold the whole authoritarian system together?
On 26 January 1997 I had another two-hour interview with Bishop Hammond in accordance with our agreement to meet every two or three months. I will not give a detailed account of this interview since most of what we discussed has already been dealt with adequately in this account. However, I did learn several things which help to clarify, amplify, and document some of the issues I have dealt with and the conclusions I have reached.
Since several people have told me that they believed that my involvement with such organizations as the Mormon Women's Forum and the Mormon Alliance was a factor in my excommunication and since I was not certain about what effect this involvement might have had on Bishop Hammond's decision, I asked him. Although Bishop Hammond never questioned me about my involvement with either of these organizations in any of our interviews, I believe that he knew about it from the beginning and that it influenced his perception of me as a dissident. I assume that information about my position in and activities with the Mormon Alliance and Mormon Women's Forum is part of the file on me kept by the Strengthening Church Members Committee and I assume that this information was passed on to my local leaders.
In our meeting on 21 August 1994, President Bacon alluded to my membership in certain dissident groups several times, although I had never mentioned anything about them to him. I finally told him frankly about my position in both the Mormon Alliance and the Mormon Women's Forum, but none of the men present questioned me about my participation in these groups. Bishop Hammond was present in this interview, so I assumed he knew about my involvement with these groups. Of course, he might have forgotten what I told them and he might not have received any information on this subject from President Bacon or Church headquarters, but many times he said things that caused me to suspect that he was alluding to my participation in these groups, although until the second court he never asked me about it explicitly. Before my excommunication, I never brought the subject up because I had decided that, although I would answer my leaders' questions honestly, I would not volunteer any information about my speeches, publications, or activities with unofficial Mormon groups.
At the second court Bishop Hammond had a photocopy of the Mormon Alliance's newsletter, By Common Consent, which he used as evidence against me. He questioned me about some of the activities of the Alliance, and Paul MacKay accused me and my associates in these groups I belonged to of having an agenda to change the Church. Because Bishop Hammond had had the other pieces of evidence he used against me for several months and because he must have received the copy of By Common Consent shortly before the court, I had wondered if it was the precipitating cause of the second court.
After Bishop Hammond and I agreed to meet regularly, I decided to use these meetings to question Bishop Hammond about some of the questions I still had regarding my excommunication, so in our 26 January meeting, I brought up the subject of my involvement with the Mormon Alliance and the Mormon Women's Forum. In our 5 May 1996 meeting, I had told him a little about both these groups, but he hadn't asked me any questions or made any comments except to tell me that Larry Wimmer (the first counselor in the new stake presidency) had told him that I was the president of the Mormon Women's Forum.
Now I asked him specifically, "Did my involvement with the Mormon Alliance and the Mormon Women's Forum have anything to do with your decision to excommunicate me?"
"I didn't really know anything about them and I still don't," he said. "I know a little bit about the Mormon Alliance from your last talk."
"`Sacrificing the Children,'" I said. I reminded him that he had had a copy of the Mormon Alliance's newsletter at the second court and we had talked about it. He agreed that this was true and I explained the purposes of both organizations. He then told me that my involvement with these organizations had played no role in his decision to excommunicate me.
"The reason I asked is because you've said some things that have led me to believe that you had a perception of me as a dissident, based on my involvement with these groups and my participation in the Sunstone Symposium," I continued. "In our meeting in May, when I suggested that if the Strengthening Church Members Committee hadn't sent you things, you would have perceived of me as a dedicated, faithful member, you objected, saying that you knew I had signed the Olive Branch advertisement, so I have wondered if perhaps my involvement in these groups gave you a perception of me that might have influenced your decision."
He also denied this, then assured me that he had had no preconceptions about me before the first court. "I really didn't know very much about you," he said. "And neither did the other men and I thought this was positive. We didn't know anything about your past and we didn't have an agenda. We just looked at the information we had and we judged you on that basis."
He meant to assure me that the court had been fair, but I found his statement to be both dishonest and lacking in understanding about the requirements for a fair church court. Since we had had several interviews and conversations before the first court and since he had discussed my case with several people, as he subsequently told both David and me, how could he say he had no preconceptions about me? And why would he think this was positive? Surely the life and character of a person is relevant to the question of whether she is an apostate. But Bishop Hammond had declared the testimony of my witnesses about my life and character irrelevant at the first court and he had refused to allow any witness statements at my second court. Now he was saying that he and the other men who made up the court really didn't know very much about me. He was saying that my association with the Mormon Alliance played no role in his decision to excommunicate me, even though the document revealing my association with it and detailing some of our activities had been one of the major pieces of evidence against me at the court that excommunicated me and he and Paul MacKay had questioned me extensively about it.
As with other questions I have asked Bishop Hammond, I found that further discussion did not lead to clarification but to obfuscation. Instead of explaining problems and discrepancies, his answers revealed new ones. In questioning Bishop Hammond about his perception of my involvement with unofficial Mormon groups, I had not expected to uncover any injustices or dishonesty. I simply wanted to better understand Bishop Hammond's thoughts and feelings about his reasons for excommunicating me. But his dishonest responses alarmed me. Since he believed that he had a duty to review and judge all my speeches and publications, why didn't he ever try to get any information from me about my involvement in these organizations? Why did he want to conceal what he knew and believed about my activities with these groups from me? Was it because he feared that any discussion of this topic would lead me to inquire about the source of his information about these groups?
He also mentioned something else about the courts that surprised me. He said in two different contexts that there had been a year between the two courts and that he had wanted to have this year to help him distance himself from the intense feelings and pressures that surrounded the first court. The implication was that he wanted to regain his "impartiality" and that by allowing this "cooling-off" time he had acted fairly and charitably.
These comments surprised me because, in fact, there had been just less than seven months between the courts and Bishop Hammond had never said anything that even suggested that he wanted or planned a year's probation. On the contrary, he said many things that led me to believe that he might call a second court at any time and that he would definitely call one as soon as he believed he had evidence that I had broken the conditions of my probation. I asked him if something in particular had precipitated the second court and he replied, "Oh, nothing in particular. I can't remember for sure."
If he had wanted and planned to have a year between the courts, then why did he suddenly call a second court when less than seven months had elapsed without giving me any indication he was considering it and without finding out whether it was a convenient time for me, when he knew I was on crutches recovering from surgery, if "nothing in particular" caused him to think it was necessary? Was his forgetting of the actual time between the courts another instance of him rewriting history, something I had noticed him doing in our recent interviews? He seemed to be changing the facts to better fit his perception of himself as fair, honest, kind, and long-suffering in his treatment of me. I believe that he was telling me the truth about his desire to wait a year before convening another court but that he was unable to carry out this intention because of all the pressures he received (some of them, unintentionally, from me).
Bishop Hammond also wanted to assure me that the appeals process was fair. Both David and Lynn Davis had talked to him about the importance of each leader examining the evidence and coming to an independent judgment. This issue is important to Bishop Hammond, not only because he wants to convince me that he made the right decision, but also because the fact that both the stake presidency and the First Presidency sustained his decision is one of the main reasons, if not the main reason, that he believes his decision was right. He has expressed this belief to both David and me recently.
"I know you think that the appeal process isn't fair, that we just support one another," he told me.
"That's what all the evidence I have suggests," I said. "Not just in my own case but also in all the others I know about." I reminded him that in his letter informing me of the change of venue of the first court President Bacon had stated that he would sustain whatever decision Bishop Hammond reached. Bishop Hammond responded that this statement did not mean that President Bacon did not make an independent judgment. Of course, I believe that President Bacon sincerely believed that I deserved to be excommunicated. What I don't believe is that he understood the importance of an independent judgment or that he encouraged his counselors to make one.
Bishop Hammond spent a long time assuring me that each of the men involved in judging my appeal had examined the evidence I submitted carefully and had not been influenced at all by any pressure to support each other's decisions. He said that he himself had told the stake presidency that he didn't want them to simply sustain his decision, but that they should make an independent judgment. To further support this claim he divulged some information that I found shocking. He said that, after I had given him my appeal, he had read it and then written his responses to the objections I had made and added this material to my appeal. The appeal process requires that the disciplined person submit his appeal to the leader who disciplined him; this leader is supposed to forward this material to the next level of the appeal along with the Report of Church Disciplinary Action (an official form that the presiding officer of the court is required to send to the First Presidency's office) and any other relevant documents.
When I was informed of this requirement, I immediately recognized that it was unfair because it affords bishops and stake presidents the opportunity to alter the contents of a member's appeal. I did not think Bishop Hammond would do this, but I saw this requirement as more evidence that the Church's court procedures assume that leaders are just and knowledgeable and will never abuse their power.
I am not accusing Bishop Hammond of altering the contents of my appeal. I do not think he did. But I do consider it a breach of confidentiality that he opened my appeal and read it. I gave it to him in a sealed envelope and I expected him to pass it on to President Bacon unopened. I also consider it grossly unfair that he had the opportunity to review and respond to my arguments while I had no opportunity to review or respond to the material he sent to the stake presidency or the responses he made to my appeal. I find it appalling that Bishop Hammond saw nothing wrong with what he did and, apparently, neither did any of the stake presidency.
For several days after our meeting, I could not understand why Bishop Hammond divulged this information to me as a defense of the fairness of the appeal process. Finally a possibility occurred to me: Bishop Hammond was saying that the fact that he read my appeal and went to the trouble to respond to my objections meant that he took it seriously and expected the stake presidency to examine it and judge it on its own merits. On further reflection, I also wonder if President McDonald requested that I resubmit my appeal to him so that he could forward it to the First Presidency, not because it had been "lost," but because he wanted to make sure it was complete and unaltered.
Bishop Hammond knows that I believe he was influenced by President Bacon and other Church leaders, especially before and during the first court. After arguing that the stake presidency had formed independent judgments about my appeal, he proceeded to try to convince me that he also had always acted independently. I listened to him talk about his relationship with President Bacon for several minutes before I responded.
"You perceive President Bacon as having been much more involved than he was," he said. "You seem to believe that I was having a lot of long conversations with President Bacon and he was telling me what to do. That wasn't the case."
"No," I responded. "That wasn't what I perceived. I didn't think you were having a lot of long conversations with him. I perceived that you felt you were in some way answerable to President Bacon about what you did with me."
"No, no," he said. "He didn't tell me what to do."
"I realized—and you told me yourself—that President Bacon might decide to hold the court himself and your actions all seemed to be contingent on what President Bacon would do," I said.
"Yes, there was some question about who would do the court," he said. "So there was that kind of back and forth."
"Did you believe that President Bacon would honor the decisions you made or did you feel that he might override them?" I asked. He looked at me blankly so I continued. "For instance if President Bacon had said to you, `I've decided not to hold a court on Janice Allred because I don't think it's necessary,' would you then not have held a court either? Or would you have felt free to make a different decision than President Bacon?"
He continued to look at me uncomprehendingly and then he said, "I don't understand the question." I reframed it and he said that he had never given such a possibility any thought, so he didn't know what he would do. "But I might have gone ahead and held a court because I would have read your papers and you would have done things and I would probably have decided it was necessary."
I decided to remind Bishop Hammond of the one time I knew for sure that President Bacon had told him what to do and Bishop Hammond's actions had shown that he did not feel free to openly oppose him. I thought that if I reminded him of this incident he would speak more honestly about his relationship with President Bacon.
"You told me that after our first meeting together President Bacon asked you to take my temple recommend and you didn't do it. You also told me that you told President Bacon you had it. So it seems to me that you did not feel free to tell him that you disagreed with his decision and would not carry out his request."
Bishop Hammond said, "No, I didn't tell President Bacon that I had it. I don't think he even asked me if I had it. He might have asked me right before the court and I might have told him that I hadn't gotten it right away."
"I remember exactly what you told me," I said, "Perhaps not the exact words, but I could not have mistaken your meaning." I reminded him of the circumstances and then continued: "When I came to your office that Sunday and you asked me for my recommend, I told you I hadn't brought it because I thought it was unfair to take it away before I was actually judged guilty of apostasy. You told me that President Bacon had asked you to get my temple recommend after our first meeting in May. You told me why and I appreciated it. I thought it was kind of you. And then you said, `When President Bacon asked me if I had gotten it, I said I had it.'"
We talked a little more about this incident, but Bishop Hammond never admitted that he had lied to President Bacon.
Not only do I remember exactly what Bishop Hammond said, I also remember how he looked when he said it. He had spoken softly without looking at me, and then he had raised his eyes and looked into mine. I interpreted that look as a plea, and it said to me, "Please protect me. Don't let President Bacon find out that I lied to him." I had resolved to protect him and I honored that resolve. There was no reason for Bishop Hammond to tell me what he did if he was not asking me to protect him.
Bishop Hammond's denial of his lie troubled me. Thinking about it both raised me to a new level of disillusionment and revealed another deeper layer of truth to me. When I first began my ordeal of Church discipline, I believed that a major issue confronting individuals in authoritarian systems is the resolution of conflicts of individual conscience with the demands of the institution. Later, after talking with many people, I realized that a more fundamental problem for people enmeshed in such systems is developing a conscience which is able to oppose, even internally, the ideas or demands of the system. A few months ago, I wrote that I believed Bishop Hammond was basically an honest man but that he found himself caught in a situation that he believed demanded that he deceive me about certain things. Now I must reexamine this assertion. I see now that the greatest challenge for people enmeshed in authoritarian systems is not to find the courage to tell the truth when the system rewards deception and punishes truth-telling, although this is important, but rather to find the courage to seek the truth, to know it, and to love it.
I need to record one more thing that Bishop Hammond told me in this interview. He told me for the first time that the Spirit told him that he should excommunicate me. However, I believe that the Spirit told me many times that she was pleased with my efforts to serve God, that God was pleased with the very things that Bishop Hammond found apostate. The Spirit told me that I was fully accepted by Jesus Christ no matter what my Church leaders decided to do to me, and I often felt the inspiration of the Spirit as I wrote the words that Bishop Hammond declared were false doctrine. I have recorded some of my spiritual experiences in this account because I believe that it is important for me to be honest about everything that affected my decisions, and I also believe that we can help each other by sharing such experiences.
Of course, there is a conflict between what Bishop Hammond said the Spirit told him and what I claim the Spirit told me. How can we judge in a situation where two people claim opposing revelations? It is impossible for me to deal with all the complexities of this question here, but I will make a few observations. The Spirit that speaks to the mind and the heart is difficult to separate from our own thoughts and feelings; indeed, I believe the Spirit speaks most powerfully when it enhances our own abilities. The Spirit is limited by our own desire and ability to receive and understand the truth. Fear, defensiveness, and an unwillingness to give up our cherished opinions can hamper the Spirit's communication with our minds and hearts. It is very easy to mistake some very powerful feelings for the voice of the Spirit, particularly feelings that seem to overwhelm us. Thus it is not surprising that people claim conflicting inspiration.
Because the Spirit speaks to the mind and heart its workings do not constitute evidence, because evidence must be objective (in the sense that it is public or available to anyone to examine). Of course, inspiration can provide ideas which can become evidence but they must be judged on their own merits and not given special status as revelation simply because someone claims they are inspired. Of course, some religious communities do give special status to their scriptures, texts which they have agreed to accept as inspired writings, partly because many of their members feel inspired by these scriptures. I am not arguing that this is an erroneous or harmful practice. My point is simply that a claim of inspiration is a private claim. To me the voice of the Spirit is a clarity of thought, a sudden understanding, a radiating love, an abiding peace, an encompassing fire. But to another person my claim that the Spirit has spoken to me should simply be my testimony that I believe deeply what I declare, that I have sought to know the mind and will of God, and that I believe God has spoken to me. Of course, another person may receive a spiritual confirmation that the Spirit is speaking through me or that what I say is true.
The claim to inspiration can certainly be abused. It can be an attempt to get others to accept our beliefs uncritically. It can be an attempt to coerce someone else to obey us. Many Mormons believe that their leaders, especially General Authorities, always speak with inspiration when acting in their office, even when they do not specifically claim to. This belief makes it very easy for leaders to abuse their authority. The Spirit of God is not authoritarian but radically egalitarian; and using it to coerce, dominate, or control others is a perversion of its power and authority.
I have included Bishop Hammond's statement that he was inspired by the Spirit to excommunicate me as his testimony that he tried to receive inspiration in making his decision and that he believes he did receive inspiration to act as he did. For some Church members, that statement will be proof that I deserved to be excommunicated. Many Mormons find it impossible to believe that a bishop who sincerely tries to be guided by the Spirit could make a mistake in something as serious as excommunication. However, a Church court is not supposed to be based on discerning the Spirit but on examining evidence. Joseph Smith said, "No person through the discerning of spirits can bring a charge against another, they must be proven guilty by positive evidence or they stand clear."32 This does not mean that bishops and stake presidents should not seek the guidance of the Spirit in examining the evidence and understanding the principles involved or the confirmation of the Spirit concerning the decision they make. Nevertheless, the court should confine itself to examining the evidence in the light of Church law according to just and fair principles, and the men in the court should not use their spiritual feelings as evidence.
Many Church members believe that, since only the bishop or the stake president has stewardship over the membership of the people in his jurisdiction, no one else has the right to inspiration concerning Church discipline and consequently members should not attempt to make any kind of judgment about the justice of any disciplinary action. But since a court is supposed to judge on the basis of evidence, not on the operations of the Spirit and since it is given only the responsibility of determining whether the person on trial is guilty of the charges against him or her (and how he or she should be disciplined if found guilty), not the status of his or her soul, there is nothing wrong with someone forming an opinion about the decision of a Church court if he has access to adequate evidence.
I assume that anyone reading this account will form an opinion about the justice of the disciplinary action taken against me. Of course, my publication of this account is an implied invitation to do so. I have included these remarks to make it clear that members have the right to form opinions about such matters and to argue against the idea that it is somehow more righteous to defer all such judgments to Church authorities. Church members need to think seriously about the issues surrounding Church discipline, and it is very difficult to do so without examining actual cases. I have found that these issues touch the very foundation of Church community. I offer my experiences to help people think more clearly about these issues and to work for a more loving, tolerant, and egalitarian church community.
27There had, of course, been extensive press coverage about the decision. Peggy Fletcher Stack, "LDS Church Excommunicates Feminist Author," Salt Lake Tribune, 11 May 1995, B-1, B-3, quoted my statement: "`I feel sorrow at the loss of my membership. I am sad that Church leaders are unwilling to recognize the need for tolerance and the discussion of ideas without fear of punishment.'" Sheila Sanchez, "Provo Woman Is Stripped of Her Membership in the LDS Church," (Provo) Daily Herald, 10 May 1995, B-1, B-2, quoted my statement: "`It's been very difficult to live with this kind of thing hanging over my head, never knowing where I stand.' ... While Allred said she recognized the authority of Church leaders to carry out their ecclesiastical duties, `I don't accept their authority over my own spiritual feelings and judgment in making my personal decisions.'" The Associated Press also filed a report which ran, for example, as "Mormon Church Excommunicates Feminist," (Ogden) Standard-Examiner, 10 May 1995, B-1, B-2 and "LDS Excommunicate Feminist; Appeal Planned," Deseret News, 11-12 May 1995, B-10. This article noted that I was the first "high-profile Mormon writer disciplined since Hinckley became Church president on 12 March." See also Margreta Sundelin, "Feminist Author Plans to Appeal Excommunication," (BYU) Daily Universe, 11 May 1995, 14.
A week later on 18 May 1995, President Hinckley, in an interview with KUTV news anchor Phil Riesen, responded to a question about dissidents by minimizing the problem as he had done earlier: "`Really, this is a really minor thing. A little handful who over a period of some years now have been excommunicated in comparison with the tremendous growth that's going on. ... We're talking of five, six, seven, eight cases in a church of 9 million people, and really it's minuscule.'" He then added, as an apparent afterthought, "`For those people who are dealt with, it is a major thing, of course—and I don't want to minimize it. ... We regard it with seriousness—with great seriousness. We value every member of this church, active or inactive. They're always welcome to come back. They'll find many to welcome them with great warmth and love and affection.'" Associated Press, "Church President: Dissidents Represent Only Minor Problem," (Ogden) Standard-Examiner, 18 May 1995.
28Robert Bolt, A Man for All Seasons (New York: Vintage Books, 1962), 92.
29"First Presidency Names Area Authorities," Church News, 5 August 1995, 3, 7-10.
30Jesus explained this principle clearly twice during the Last Supper: "These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you" (John 14:25-26); and "But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me" (John 15:26).
31I had used the word betrayed in describing my feelings about the decision of the first court, but I forgot that at this time.
32Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 214.