Before the court, I had made two speaking commitments for November—one was the closing address for the Counterpoint Conference sponsored by the Mormon Women's Forum and another was to the B. H. Roberts Society. Several people asked me if I was going to give the talks as scheduled and sympathetically indicated that everyone would understand if I felt I couldn't do them—because of the way my life had already been disrupted—or if I felt I shouldn't do them, to show my bishop that I was making a good-faith effort to comply. I was surprised at the question. The entire conflict had been about my right to think, speak, write, and publish. I would not silence myself. I felt only an unwavering commitment to continue to represent my views as thoroughly and as clearly as possible.
But I had some questions about my ability to do so. Brain scans in late October showed an irregularity at the site of the brain tumor I'd had removed in 1985. It wasn't clear whether the tumor was growing again or whether improved diagnostic techniques were showing scar tissue which hadn't been detected before. The blurred vision persisted; when I was tired—and it seemed that I was always tired—it got worse. And just finding time to write was a problem. Originally I had been going to speak about equality and diversity at the Counterpoint Conference; but after the court, the conference organizers had urged me to speak about my experiences in being disciplined by the Church. I gladly agreed to this change since it was hard for me to think about anything else and I had very little time left.
I began writing this talk the week after the court, then I had to take most of the next week to write my open letter to Bishop Hammond. That left me only a week to write my Counterpoint talk, which I called "My Controversy with the Church."21 My writing time is always limited. I find it very difficult to write when the children are around, so I do most of my writing in the evenings at the BYU library when David or the older children can take care of things at home. I usually work until the library closes at midnight then continue working at home if I need more time. I stayed up until 3:00 a.m. quite a few nights and skipped a lot of meals in order to finish my speech; but even working at this exhausting schedule, I barely had time to print it out before we needed to drive to Salt Lake City.
The opening session was on Friday night, 4 November 1994, and I was scheduled to close the conference on Saturday night. We were spending the night in Salt Lake City with the Toscanos; Nephi, Ammon, and Miriam accompanied us. Not until we were sitting in our chairs during the opening speech did I realize how exhausted I was. It had been after three when I'd gone to bed the night before, and I hadn't had a thing to eat all day. I wondered if I would be able to keep myself upright for the rest of the evening. I did get something to eat after the session, a good night's sleep that night, and food the next day; but by the afternoon, I was beginning to feel exhausted again and I wasn't sure if I'd be able to give my speech. I had never felt like this before. I had always been able to push myself a little more and find enough strength somewhere to do what I had to do. My head hurt and my body felt heavy, too heavy to move. I felt as if it would be very easy just to leave it behind. In fact, I felt as if I were already outside it.
Just before the dinner break, I told David that I was feeling really tired and needed to lie down for a while. He quickly talked to a hotel clerk about my problem, and she gave me a room to rest in. Before he went downstairs to have dinner with our children and a few friends, I asked him to give me a blessing. In this blessing I was told that I had been borrowing too heavily from the future and that I needed to take better care of myself or I would shorten my days. But God knew of my desire to present the speech which I had worked so hard on, and he would give me the strength necessary. He would send angels to stand by me and hold me up. Later, as I walked to the room where I would deliver my speech and waited through the preliminaries, I did not feel much stronger; but as I stood up and began to speak I felt my strength returning. At one point early in the speech, I thought someone had walked up and was standing behind me, so I turned to see what he wanted. No one was visible. I realized that it was the angel I had been promised. The sense of gratitude and comfort was even more sustaining than the generous and loving response to the paper itself.
On 17 November, I was one of four panelists who addressed the B. H. Roberts Society before an audience of about two hundred. We were surprised to see so many, since it was a snowy night. Rod Decker, political reporter for KUTV, Jack Newell, a professor of higher education at the University of Utah, Lavina Fielding Anderson, and I spoke on "The Purge: A Year Later."
I spoke first, framing the
I systematically reviewed the chronology of the increasingly controlling actions taken by my ecclesiastical leaders since our first meeting over "Toward a Theology of God the Mother." I pointed out, "I doubt if either Bacon or Hammond were ever given any explicit instructions of what to do. However, in an authoritarian system, explicit instructions are not necessary. It is enough that lower-level leaders understand what higher ranking leaders want, what their concerns are, and what their counsel is." I summarized the evidence that General Authorities had been surreptitiously involved in my case, adding:
Lavina Fielding Anderson summarized events of the past year, including the disciplining of Lynne Kanavel Whitesides, Avraham Gileadi, Paul Toscano, Maxine Hanks, herself, D. Michael Quinn, David P. Wright, Michael Barrett, me, and the scheduling of a disciplinary council for Brent Metcalfe on December 4. (He was excommunicated for editing and writing an essay in New Approaches to the Book of Mormon [Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1993].) She also gave the more encouraging report of "Brad" whose stake president called him in over a Dialogue article and Sunstone speech but "responded fully" when Brad, who said he felt filled with love, did not respond with fear or anger and refused to answer the stake president's worthiness questions as not appropriate to the spirit of their meeting.
Rod Decker reviewed the dynamics of opposition and predicted that the hostilities would continue because "both sides want the pain. Both sides need the pain ... as a reaffirmation of the seriousness of their enterprise." Responding to my point about interference with local action, Rod commented:
He and the fourth speaker, Jack Newell, both recommended that people in conflict with the Church leave and put their energies elsewhere. Newell also commented: Church leaders "are not moved by appeals for reason, and we are not moved by appeals for obedience. I have always accepted the Church on its goodness, not its rightness."
During the question and answer session, which partially focused on the question of leaving, the two men, both of whom are members in name, acknowledged that they are no longer believers and are not active; in contrast, Lavina and I described ourselves as devout believers and active participants to the extent that we were allowed to be.22 It was an ironic juxtaposition.
I did not have any contact with Bishop Hammond for the rest of November. My Counterpoint speech was reported in the Provo Daily Herald and I thought that he had probably seen the article or been given a copy of it, along with a letter to the editor which I had written to correct some misleading statements in it.23 I suspected that he would believe that "My Controversy with the Church" violated the conditions and would want to question me about it. But again, there was only silence. Again, I surmised that David's warning about my health was holding him back.
On Sunday, November 27, Bishop Hammond saw David in the hall at Church and asked if he could talk to him during priesthood meeting. They talked for over an hour. Bishop Hammond wanted to know if I was well enough to meet with him again; David said he thought I was. Bishop Hammond said he needed to talk to me about my letter. There were some things that weren't clear to him. "I need to hear it from her own lips," he said. "I want to give her every possible chance." He also asked about my Counterpoint talk. "Can I get a copy of it?" David told him that he thought I would give him one, but he would have to ask me.
When David told me about this conversation, I was surprised at how upset I was. I thought I was emotionally prepared for whatever came and that I had foreseen what I truly felt was inevitable. But I was not ready for another court. What were the bishop's intentions? I wondered if he'd been given any instructions. I expected him to call every day, but it was over two weeks before I heard from him.
On Wednesday, 7 December, David flew to New York with our friend, Bryant Rossiter, who was in the last stages of a long fight with cancer. He was checking in to the Sloane-Kettering Institute to see if they could do anything to help him. Deborah Rossiter, also a dear friend, could not leave their five sons indefinitely, so David volunteered to accompany him and stay with him as long as he could. Before David left, he called Bishop Hammond to explain why we would miss our tithing settlement appointment.
Bishop Hammond asked, "Is Janice going to let me have a copy of her paper?"
David said, "You'll have to talk to Janice about it."
I had been considering his request. While I did not think anything in the paper violated the conditions, I suspected that there were several things Bishop Hammond might consider to be violations. Was I morally obligated to give him a copy? I had decided not to discuss my writings with him before publication. I reasoned that, as long as I did not believe that my work was apostate, I was under no obligation to discuss it with him, regardless of what I suspected his judgment would be. He had no more right to search my prepublished writings for "false doctrine" or "attacks" on the Church than he had to spy on other ward members to make sure they did not break any commandments. For the same reasons, I decided I would not give him copies of my publications or speeches I had given. Lavina quoted a saying current from her years as an associate editor at the Ensign relative to the Correlation Reading Committee: "If you hand someone a manuscript and ask, `Do you see any problems with this?' they'll think they're not doing their job until they find some." I felt the same way about Bishop Hammond's definition of his "job." However, I decided that if someone gave him a copy of a speech or a publication or a newspaper article quoting me (and he seemed to have a reliable supplier), I would discuss any specific problems he had with it at his request.
The principle upon which I made this decision was this: I should try to resolve any offense someone brought to my attention; but if I did not intend to offend, I was under no obligation to hand over my work to be scrutinized for possible offense.
Bishop Hammond had told David that, since I had written about him in the paper, I should give him a copy. I thought carefully about this. I had tried to be fair and truthful in my portrayal of him, restricting my account to what he had said and done and avoiding any judgments about him. I would have been willing to provide him with a copy of what I had written about him, but I didn't want to share my own thoughts and feelings with him. It made me sad to realize that I was more willing to share my thoughts and feelings with a large audience than with my own bishop because I truly did not trust him to try and understand me or to act fairly.
On Saturday, three days after David's conversation with the bishop, I gave "My Controversy with the Church" again, this time to a public meeting held in the Provo City Library sponsored by the Algie Ballif Forum. The meeting was well publicized with a photograph and a notice in the paper on Wednesday. Although the audience was small, it was sympathetic and supportive. After I finished speaking, there was a short question-and-answer session, then some people stayed to discuss the issues further. Since someone was providing Bishop Hammond with clippings, I expected him to learn about it if, for some reason, he missed seeing the notice himself.
On Tuesday morning, 13 December, Bishop Hammond called and asked me to meet with him that evening at 6:30. He was very busy with tithing settlement appointments, but he "really needed to talk to me." He would schedule forty-five minutes before his first appointment. I agreed, not only because I am committed to the process of dialogue in resolving problems, even when it seems hopeless, but also because I wanted to know where I stood with Bishop Hammond.
The main issue Bishop Hammond wanted to discuss was my open letter. This did not surprise me since I had guessed that he would probably consider it a refusal to abide by the conditions of my probation. The comments he had made to David in the hall a few weeks earlier confirmed this but also indicated he might be unsure how to interpret what I had written.
"I need to know what you meant by your letter," he said. "Sometimes I read it and I think, `I guess it's all right. She wants to cooperate.' But then I read it again and I think, `She doesn't intend to do anything I want her to.'" Basically Bishop Hammond wanted to find out what my "attitude" was; would I obey him or not? I have learned in talking to several men who have been bishops that "attitude" is something of a code word that means willingness to submit to the bishop's counsel. I do not know if this concept is explicitly taught during any training that bishops receive, but the idea seems to be commonly held. After my excommunication, one local Church leader told David that I deserved to be excommunicated because I had a "bad attitude." When David expressed surprise at this characterization of me, he explained, "She refused to do what her bishop told her."
I explained the ideas I had expressed in my letter, but I'm afraid Bishop Hammond remained confused about my attitude because we were really focused on different concerns. I was talking about my commitment to serve God and pursue truth; he was wondering about my willingness to follow his counsel so that I could remain in the Church.
He again brought up the review process that he insisted I cooperate with. He was upset that the media had characterized this demand as censorship. "I don't want to censor you," he protested. "What I had in mind is that I, or someone else, could be a resource for you. If you're really concerned about not crossing the line, about staying safe, we could review your articles for you." Again I explained why I couldn't work under such conditions.
"Are you going to publish "Him Shall Ye Hear?" he asked me.
"I'm not going to tell you about my publishing plans," I said.
"You were planning on publishing it before," he said.
"I'm not going to tell you about my publishing plans," I repeated.
He asked me for a copy of "My Controversy with the Church." I told him I had decided not to give it to him. "That's your privilege," he said. He had read the article about it in the Daily Herald and my letter to the editor, and he questioned me about a few things that troubled him. I responded to his concerns. He tried again to persuade me to give him a copy. "I just want to read it to see if you've violated the conditions of your probation," he said. "That's my responsibility."
"I don't think I violated the conditions," I said.
"Do you think I would think you did?"
"I couldn't promise that I wouldn't use something in it against you," he admitted.
It seemed like an extraordinarily honest statement. "I realize that," I replied. "Are you planning to take any additional action against me?"
"Not right now," he told me.
Bishop Hammond volunteered the information that President Bacon hadn't said anything to him about me "except to ask a couple of times if there were any new developments." He told me that he had given President Bacon copies of the defense I had presented at my court and the open letter. "I consider both documents possible breaches of the conditions," Bishop Hammond said. I wondered if he had he given President Bacon the documents to confirm his opinion and authorize any further action.
I changed the subject: "Is there any chance of my ever being taken off probation?"
"Yes," he said, visibly brightening, "that's a real possibility. If I have the feeling that you're working with me, making a real effort not to cross over the line, then after a few months or a year of that, I'll remove all the restrictions."
I felt very disheartened and thought, "Yes, you're saying, `Change your beliefs, be like me, and then I'll let you work in the nursery again.'"
I had planned to again question Bishop Hammond about his accusation that I was taping the disciplinary council. He hadn't answered my letter, and I felt that he owed me more information. However, when I glanced at my watch, I saw that we had already gone fifteen minutes into his tithing settlement appointments and called this to his attention. He said that there were other things he wanted to talk about but agreed that he needed to start his interviews. He thanked me for coming.
As I left his office, I walked past several people who were waiting for their appointments. I didn't know them, but they were looking at me so I smiled at them. No one smiled back or greeted me. I imagined that they were reproaching me for taking up so much of the bishop's time. Then I chided myself for such thoughts. How did I know what they were thinking? I was probably being overly sensitive, but it was hard not to be when I received so many indications that ward members really were thinking such things.
Bishop Hammond had told David that dealing with me had hampered his ability to handle ward problems because ward members perceived him as too busy with my case for them to approach. People with legitimate needs were being neglected had been the implication. One woman had apologized for asking for an interview: she knew he was very busy with the Allred case, but she really needed to talk to him. The December testimony meeting had been dominated by praise for his love and compassion and by expressions of gratitude for the many hours he spent helping ward members. The subtext I heard was that ward members supported the bishop and considered him to be long-suffering in his dealings with me, while they supposed that I had been inconsiderate in taking up so much of his time. Although I had admonished myself not to imagine that everyone was thinking of me, I continued to feel that my suppositions were well-founded.
In the next six weeks my problems with the Church were eclipsed by Christmas and then our grief as we watched Bryant die and mourned with Deborah. David was able to bring Bryant home for Christmas, but his condition had deteriorated so much that he had to be flown back on a private medical plane. We had hoped—even in the face of almost certain knowledge—for a miracle; but by the end of January, the only hope we had left was that Bryant would not have to suffer much longer. He had few coherent days since his return from New York, so Deborah was feeling very alone and vulnerable, exhausted from the strain of caring for him, and depleted by the emotional demands of their sons, who were undergoing their own turmoil.
Bryant died on Sunday, 5 February 1995. Deborah had begun planning his funeral a week earlier. She told me that she wanted Paul Toscano to give the sermon because Bryant had admired Paul's theological writings very much. They had been acquainted for many years and had grown even closer as Paul visited Bryant in the hospital many times. Deborah wanted the funeral to be what Bryant would want and she felt that Paul would be Bryant's choice. I agreed that Paul was the perfect choice but I told her I doubted if he would be allowed to speak since he was excommunicated.
"But a funeral isn't a Church meeting," she said. "Can't the family do whatever it wants?"
"I think a funeral is considered a Church meeting," I told her.
"Aren't nonmembers allowed to speak at funerals?" she asked.
"I think so," I replied, "But I don't think an excommunicated person is considered to be a nonmember." I told her I would find out from the handbook what the rules were. She told me that she would also like me to give a five-minute reminiscence about Bryant. I said, "I'll be glad to. But I'm afraid that I might not be allowed to speak either. I'm not supposed to speak in a Church meeting. But maybe since I would only be talking about Bryant and not discussing doctrine, they might let me. A person on probation isn't necessarily forbidden to speak in Church meetings. That was Bishop Hammond's decision and maybe he'll make an exception for Bryant's funeral. I'll ask him and I'm sure Scott Runia [Deborah's bishop and also ours, before the wards were divided] won't have any objection if Bishop Hammond gives me permission."
I called Lavina and she checked her copy of the General Handbook of Instructions on funerals and read it to me:
Nonmembers could participate—nonmember clergy could even conduct funeral services in a ward meetinghouse—as long as the service was "dignified and appropriate" (2-7).
I told Deborah what I had found out. "If you have Bishop Runia conduct, the only way they'll let Paul speak is if they decide they can consider him a nonmember," I told her. "But I think Bishop Hammond will give me permission if I ask him." Deborah had considered having a non-Church funeral if that were the only way she could carry out what she believed would be Bryant's wishes; but realizing that this would probably alienate and offend some ward and family members, she finally decided to have the funeral at the church and ask Bishop Runia to conduct.
"But I have to ask, at least, if they'll let Paul and you speak," she said. "If they say no, I'll get someone else, but I have to ask." She decided to write Bishop Runia a letter, and I told her I'd ask Bishop Hammond. This conversation took place on Friday, 3 February, two days before Bryant's death.
I intended to speak to Bishop Hammond that Sunday. Our ward had switched to the early schedule in January, and our meeting block began at 8:30 a.m. One "benefit" of public humiliation is that it facilitates the abandonment of conventional morality. Now that I was used to being a public spectacle, it no longer bothered me very much to arrive late to sacrament meeting. Since previously I had been the only person in our family who cared about punctuality, my backsliding meant that our family was usually among the last to arrive. Consequently that Sunday we were forced to parade up the aisle and sit on the second row, the only pew empty enough to accommodate all of us.
After the meeting, as I was gathering up the items the children had scattered at our feet, Bishop Hammond suddenly appeared, inquired about my health, and asked if I could meet with him that afternoon, between two and three o'clock. I agreed and he said he'd call me when he knew exactly when he was free. Although I was relieved that I would not have to contact him to ask him about speaking at the funeral, I also felt the usual tension grip me as I wondered what he wanted to talk about.
By 2:30 he hadn't called, and I was upset. I was feeling anxious about Bryant. David and I would have already gone over to the house—we knew Bryant was close to his last moments—but we were waiting for the bishop's call. At 2:50 I called Deborah to tell her we'd come over as soon as we could. Her father-in-law said she was with the nurse and to call back later. Then Bishop Hammond called and asked if I could come to his office at 3:30. Although I really wanted to go to see Bryant and Deborah instead, I agreed since I wanted to ask him about speaking at the funeral.
At 3:15 the phone rang again, and David answered it. It was Deborah. She told David that Bryant had just passed away. He repeated her words aloud, and I asked quickly, "Does Deborah want us to come over right now?" She said to come in a couple of hours, so I decided to keep my appointment with Bishop Hammond.
As I walked to the meetinghouse, I tried to remember how Bryant had looked before he became so ill, but I couldn't. After shaking my hand, thanking me for coming, and making polite inquiries about my family, Bishop Hammond asked if I was making any "progress."
I looked at him in some confusion. What kind of progress was I supposed to be making?
"This is supposed to be a period of probation," he explained. "You're supposed to be working toward some goal, making some progress toward full fellowship in the Church. What have you been doing toward that goal?"
It was hard to be interrogated as if I were a confirmed, blatant sinner reporting to a parole officer. "I come to Church every week," I said. "I bring my family. I live the principles of the gospel. I do what I can. You know that I would do more but you've restricted what I can do."
"But what about staying within the line?" he asked. "Are you willing to work with me?"
Again we discussed the review process he wanted me to follow. He accused me of being unwilling to accept criticism. I said that I was willing to have my work criticized but not to have it reviewed for conformity to someone's notion of orthodoxy. I explained again why I couldn't submit to the process he prescribed.
He had a pile of photocopied newspaper articles on his desk. "I don't know what's happened since the court except I've got all this stuff from the newspaper," he said, leafing through the pile of articles. "If I had to go by this stuff, I'd know exactly what to do; but since I know you, it makes it more difficult. Do you think you've kept the conditions?"
"According to my interpretation of them, I think I have," I responded. "You might not agree with me. I have given talks which are critical of Church policies, but I think I have kept within the bounds of what's acceptable for a Church member. You broadened the definition of apostasy. I haven't criticized the Church in the sense of trying to tear it down, but I have disagreed with some things, pointed out some problems." I was being very honest.
He was still concerned about "My Controversy with the Church." "Why won't you give it to me?" he asked.
"I didn't say anything bad about you, but there are some things in it that I don't want to share with you," I said.
"Frankly, that's why I want a copy of it," he pressed. "I think there are things in there that broke the conditions. You gave the speech publicly so there's no reason I can't have a copy of it. I could have sneaked around and got a copy but I've tried to be open with you."
I doubt whether he could have found a bootleg copy, since I think, if he could have, he already would have. The speech wasn't taped, and I gave copies only to two reporters and to a few close friends and family members.
"Someone" —he wouldn't say who— "told me that you've given a copy of it to Sunstone or Dialogue and they're going to print it."
"No," I answered, "that's not true." I had forgotten, in the give and take of the conversation, that I had decided to refuse to discuss publication plans with him. "They may have a copy but I didn't give it to them, and they certainly wouldn't publish it without my permission."
Bishop Hammond said, "I think there's enough information here to show that you have gone against the conditions or at least that you're not willing to work with me. You've never said anything about your views on women and the priesthood, but I know what they are. You've criticized Church leaders. You've talked about abusive treatment in general ways. You haven't accused me or President Bacon specifically, but you've done it in general ways."
I had the feeling that Bishop Hammond was trying to get me to agree that I had broken the conditions, that he wanted my permission to reconvene the court. I was not going to make it easier for him. I did not respond to these broad accusations. Instead, I told him there were a couple of things I wanted to talk about.
"Every week when I can't take the sacrament, it really hurts me because I feel I'm worthy. I want to know why you think I'm not."
"It's because you're not obedient," he rejoined. "You lack commitment. It's the same reason you're not worthy of a temple recommend."
"I see the sacrament as a symbol of my relationship with Jesus Christ," I said. "I believe in him, I trust in him, I look to him for my salvation, I try to repent of my sins. Why do you think I'm not worthy?"
"I know you think that what you've done is different from murder or adultery, but I feel differently about it," he said.
I was stunned. I couldn't answer. Anger welled up in me, and I felt a stab of pain in my heart; I wasn't sure whether the pain was for him or me. How could Bishop Hammond think I was the equivalent of a murderer or an adulterer because I could not, in good conscience, obey him? Hadn't he ever contemplated the nature of righteousness? Could he really believe that my relationship with Christ depended on compliance with his man-made rules?
He had spoken almost insolently, as if challenging me to contradict him. When I didn't respond, he continued in a gentler tone. "I know you think that what you've done is mostly good." Bishop Hammond may have been trying to soften his words. "But I think it's mostly harmful."
"Whom have I harmed?" I managed to ask.
"I know of members of one family who have left the Church because of the Mother in Heaven issue."
"Are you saying that they left because of what I wrote?" I asked.
"Well, I don't know ..."
"Because it seems to me that if anyone has left the Church because of this issue, it's because of the way the Church is or isn't dealing with it. I've told you that if anyone has any problems with what I've written or if I've offended anyone, I'd be happy to talk to them. Tell me who it is and I'll get in contact with them."
"I can't do that," he said. "I've told you that you can have whatever private explorations you want, but it's harmful to talk about these things in public. You think you can say anything you want without any responsibility or accountability."
"That's not true," I said. "I think very carefully about what I write. I don't claim to be speaking for anyone but myself. I've just told you that I'm willing to talk to anyone who has a problem with what I've said."
"It's impossible for you to speak to everyone who's been harmed by what you wrote," he said.
"Some people have told me that what I've written has helped them," I said. "I see a lot of people having problems with the Church. One thing I've tried to do in my writing is show that there's a broader range of views possible within Mormonism. I've tried to help people in their search for truth." Even as I tried once more to explain, I felt the weariness of despair, but I continued, "I've tried to help them have more faith in God."
"It looks like pride to me," Bishop Hammond said. "The problem I have with you is that you really seem to believe in what you're writing. You see yourself as somebody who is going to change the whole Church."
Again, I was stunned. Did he think that I would write about things I didn't really believe? Did he think I would jeopardize my membership over something of only academic importance? "I don't want to change anybody who doesn't want to be changed," I tried again. "But for those who see problems, I'm offering some ideas that might be helpful."
"If you see so many problems, maybe you should just go somewhere ..." he stopped and looked at me.
"There's nowhere else I want to go," I said.
He looked down at his desk. "I know," he said softly. After a few moments he said, "This is really comfortable for both of us."
"Comfortable?" I thought. Had I misheard him? What did he mean? He did not look very comfortable, and I certainly wasn't. The harshness of his accusations had left me in turmoil. "I don't want to think about it and you don't want to think about it, but I have a responsibility to act," he said with new briskness. Apparently he meant that it was comfortable for both of us to ignore my probation. Perhaps this was possible for him, but I certainly was not able to ignore it. "Probation is supposed to be about progress. Are you making any progress?"
This was where we had begun. I didn't answer. Again I felt that he was asking for my permission to excommunicate me. He wanted me to validate his perspective—to agree that I deserved excommunication.
"Is there anything else you want to discuss?" he asked.
I pulled myself together to ask once again about the alleged taping at the October court. At this point I had not yet received the information from my friend at the women's retreat, so I still believed that Bishop Hammond's accusations were somehow connected to my conversation with Lynne. "I'm still troubled about the fact that someone tried to trap me during the disciplinary council," I said. "You've been unwilling to explain what happened. Someone lied about me and tried to trap me. Why won't you tell me who it is? Why are you trying to protect him?"
"I'm not trying to protect him," Bishop Hammond said.
"Will you explain to me what happened?"
"What happened is that someone at the news station overheard that you were planning to tape and was concerned about it so he passed it on to Church headquarters and they passed it on to me."
"So this person contacted Church headquarters?" I asked. "Did you speak to someone from Church headquarters?"
"No, I shouldn't have said that," he said hastily. "I don't know what happened. They contacted someone in our stake."
"Why are they going through all these intermediate people?" I asked.
"They didn't know who to go to," Bishop Hammond said. "If I overheard something like that I wouldn't know who to go to. The person who told it to the person in our stake told it like a rumor. He said, `I hear she's planning to tape the session.'"
"Why didn't you ask me about it?"
"I didn't think you'd do it. I didn't hear about it until about five minutes before the court."
"You could have taken me aside and asked me about it. You didn't say you believed me until the fourth time you asked me. It looks to me as if you were trying to trap me."
"There were two people," Bishop Hammond said. "The person who called during the court was another person. When I talked to him afterwards, he said he misunderstood."
"Nobody could have watched that program and thought they said I was planning to tape," I insisted. "I watched the videotape of it myself very carefully. Tell me who these people are. I could talk to them and we could clear this up. This really bothers me."
"I don't think it would be right for me to tell you who they are," he said. "But I could ask them if they would get in contact with you."
I refused to drop it. "I think it's really wrong that people are coming to you and making accusations against me but you refuse to tell me who they are. The scriptures tell you what to do. If someone offends you, you are supposed to go to him and tell him. If someone accuses me of an offense, you should send them to me or tell me who they are so I can go to them. I've made myself very public. Anyone who wants to feels free to attack me. I realize that I put myself in this position, but that doesn't make the attacks right."
"I've been made a figure of public criticism too," Bishop Hammond said. "I've received all these letters and anonymous threats, but I've never complained to you."
"I've never seen anything negative about you in the news or letters to the editor," I responded. "Some people have sent me copies of the letters they sent you. They all seemed polite to me and they were all signed. I certainly don't have any idea who might have sent you anonymous letters."
"Is there anything else you want to talk about?" Bishop Hammond asked.
"My friend Bryant just died," I said.
"Oh, I'm sorry," he said. Bishop Hammond knew Bryant and Deborah as he'd also been in their ward before the split. His wife was a close friend of Deborah's. "When did he die?"
"Deborah called just before I came over here," I said.
"If I'd known that I wouldn't have had this meeting."
"I know, but I didn't want to wait another month to find out what you wanted to talk about, and I have a question I need to ask you. Deborah wants me to speak at his funeral, just a five-minute reminiscence of Bryant with no doctrinal content. Would that be all right?" I asked.
"I understand that she also wants Paul Toscano to speak," he said. Apparently Bishop Runia had received Deborah's letter and talked to Bishop Hammond about it.
"Yes," I said. "She realizes that he might not be able to, but she wanted to ask."
Bishop Hammond seemed incensed by Deborah's request. "Funerals are supposed to bring families together," he said. He seemed to feel that Deborah was trying to make some kind of divisive statement by asking Paul and me to speak and he seemed to feel that it was my fault.
I tried to explain why Deborah wanted Paul to speak. "She will respect Bishop Runia's decision," I told him. "Will it be all right if I speak?"
"You should have refused," he said.
Once again I was stunned. "I love Deborah," I said. "I'm not going to tell her `no.' I told her I would ask you."
"So I have to go to the funeral and Deborah will be mad at me for not letting you speak!" he shot back.
"I'm sorry," I said. I was honestly bewildered by his reaction. Wasn't he thinking at all of Deborah and her wishes?
"I knew you were going to try to speak," he said. "Bishop Runia got Deborah's letter on Saturday and he called me to ask about you. My feeling was `No, you can't do it,' but since you've asked me, I'll think about it."
This surprised me. Did he really believe I'd try to speak at a Church meeting without asking him? I respected his ecclesiastical authority even when I didn't think he was using it wisely. Because I wouldn't grant him authority he didn't have, he seemed to think that I wouldn't acknowledge his office at all. Why did he think I was sitting across the desk from him at that moment?
President Bacon was recuperating from heart surgery, but Bishop Hammond said he would ask President McDonald.
David and I spent the rest of the evening with Deborah. Bishop Runia came by to offer his support and to see what the ward could do to help. I was sitting by her and he hesitantly brought up the funeral program; I got the feeling that he expected me to leave, but to me it was more important that Deborah wanted me there. He asked about everything but the speakers. Finally Deborah helped him out. "Do you have an answer for me about my letter?" she asked.
"I don't have to conduct," he said. "I want it to be what you want. I'll help you in any way I can, even if you have the funeral somewhere else." He was very sweet. I wanted to hug him.
"You're saying that Paul can't speak, aren't you?" Deborah said.
"I talked to President McDonald about it; and he said that since he's been excommunicated, he can't speak."
"What about Janice?" she asked.
He looked uncomfortable.
"I've asked Bishop Hammond for permission and he's thinking about it," I said.
"If Bishop Hammond says she can speak, then it's all right with me," Bishop Runia said.
Deborah told him she wanted to have the funeral at the church, she wanted him to conduct, and she would find someone else to give the sermon.
After we returned home, I got the message that Bishop Hammond had called. I called him back and he told me that we had to abide by the conditions that had been set up. A funeral was a Church meeting so I couldn't speak. He said we needed to talk some more and that he would call me in a couple of weeks. I was not surprised by his answer, but I was surprised by how much it hurt. When Deborah had first asked me to speak, I had thought that he would agree, if only for Deborah's sake. But after the interview that afternoon, I knew it was hopeless. Since there is no rule prohibiting a person on probation from speaking at Church meetings and since he had set the restriction himself, he could temporarily lift the restriction without breaking any rules. That would be the compassionate thing to do. Why did Bishop Hammond feel that it would be wrong for me to speak? Was I such a bad person that it would be harmful to Church members to listen to me speak no matter what subject I was discussing? Would allowing me to speak imply that I was acceptable, approved of?
To help Deborah feel better about the funeral, we held a memorial service at our house the night before to celebrate Bryant's life and mourn his death. We invited a few of Deborah's and Bryant's close friends and family members to come, bring some food, share a meal, and talk about Bryant. Paul gave the sermon he was not allowed to give at the funeral, I shared the reminiscences I would have given if I had not been forbidden, and others also spoke about their experiences with Bryant and their feelings for him, Deborah, and their boys. We sang a few hymns (including "Silent Night"—Billy Rossiter wanted to accompany us and that was the only hymn he could play) and felt comforted in God's love and the love of friends. The next morning, my sister Margaret Toscano gave the sermon at the funeral. David spoke about his friendship with Bryant and some of Bryant's spiritual experiences and ideas about God.
Bishop Hammond waited two months before attempting to contact me again. Then on 28 March 1995, while we were eating a late dinner, Brett Francis, Bishop Hammond's executive secretary, called and said the bishop wanted to talk to me that night. I hesitated. Quickly he said, "It's pretty late. How about next Tuesday?" I agreed.
I had hesitated because I had had surgery on my foot the day before and was still in a lot of pain. General conference was on Saturday and Sunday, and I was scheduled to be a panelist on the conference critique that the Mormon Alliance sponsored on the Monday right after conference. I wondered if this might be what he wanted to talk about.
Saturday and Sunday I listened intently to all of the conference sessions and took copious notes. I had given up trying to persuade my children to listen to conference; but possibly because I was so serious about it, they all congregated around the television during all the sessions, which stimulated some lively discussions as well as other lively behavior which had nothing to do with conference. The panel on Monday night was also lively and interesting.
On Tuesday night, 4 April, I had my interview with Bishop Hammond. He seemed surprised when I hopped into his office on crutches. "You always have another surprise for me," he said. He had a photocopy of a news article that had recently appeared in Sunstone reporting the disciplinary action taken against me in October.24 It quoted extensively from my defense and open letter. "I received this," he said, holding it up.
"Do you know where you got it from?" I asked. "Did it just come in the mail or what?"
"A friend of mine at BYU got it from a friend of his in Boston, and he gave me a copy because he thought I ought to know about it."
I smiled inwardly because I knew who had given it to him, but I didn't tell him. The Sunday before general conference, Craig Merrill (no relation to me), a ward clerk and a faculty member at BYU, had been sitting behind me in sacrament meeting. He leaned over and told me that he'd read the article about me in Sunstone. A friend of his in Boston had sent him a copy, he'd said.
Bishop Hammond said defensively, "I didn't get it from the Church." I thought that the Church might have also sent him a copy, but I didn't say anything.
"Did you know they were going to publish this?" he asked.
"Did you give them permission?"
"No, but they didn't need my permission. That's a news article and I made both those documents public."
"Did you ask them not to publish it?"
"No, I wouldn't do that. It was public; I made it public. They had a perfect right to publish it."
"After all the publicity was over, I thought you and I could come to some kind of understanding. You're not trying to abide by our understanding."
He seemed to believe that the reason I had refused to submit to him was to maintain my image as a dissenter. "I'm doing exactly what I said I would," I said. "I don't see what the problem is. You knew I had made those documents public."
"You don't think there's a problem with this?" He was astonished, and I was astonished at his astonishment. "I don't understand why it was public in the first place!"
I wondered how many times I had tried to explain how I saw the issue. Would trying once more do any good? "Because it's about an important issue that concerns all members, the freedoms they have as members of Christ's Church. It's about freedom of speech."
"This is not about freedom of speech!" He asked me if I had sustained President Hinckley in general conference. I said I had. Had I sustained him and President Bacon in ward conference? Yes. I got the impression that, if I hadn't, it might be an actionable offense.
"What do you mean by `sustain'?" he asked.
"I mean that I accept you as my ecclesiastical leader, that I accept that you've been chosen in the regularly appointed way. If you ask me to do something and I can accept it in good conscience, I'll do it. It doesn't mean that I'll do everything you ask or agree with everything you say."
He asked me again for the text of my Counterpoint talk. "You said last time that you thought I might think there were some things in it against the Church and its leaders," he said.
"I said that, not because I think there is anything apostate in it, but because I thought you might," I replied. "You surprise me by what you think is in opposition."
He looked surprised and then pleased that he had succeeded in surprising me. "How have I surprised you?" he asked.
"You surprised me by how bad you thought `Him Shall Ye Hear' was. You told me there were dozens of errors on every page."
"Well, it was because the main idea was so wrong."
"You surprised me by not letting me speak at Bryant's funeral."
He didn't say anything.
"You surprised me when you said I wasn't worthy to partake of the sacrament. You know I believe in Christ. I keep all the standards of the Church. I just don't understand it."
"In some areas, you've crossed the line. You've gone too far; you're going in dangerous ways."
"Do you feel that the restrictions you've put on me are a punishment?" I asked.
"No," he said.
"Then are you using them to control me?"
"No, I'm not trying to control you," he said. "I just feel that you've gone too far. You're not doing what you should; you're going outside the Church."
"Then you're using them to label me an unacceptable member?"
"No," he said. "That's your fault. There are other people in our ward who can't take the sacrament or go to the temple. Nobody knows it, because they haven't made it public. It's your fault if people think you are unacceptable." I had asked him these questions because I wanted to understand his reasons for imposing the restrictions and what he hoped to accomplish by them. But he seemed to be saying that they had no purpose or consequences. He seemed to believe that they were simply a natural result of my actions. Bishop Hammond's harsh accusations at our last interview and his refusal to let me speak at Bryant's funeral had left me feeling that he saw me as a bad person, unworthy of any privileges and probably dangerous to worthy members.
"I don't understand why you want me to come to church if you think I'm such a bad person," I said. I could hear the hurt in my voice.
"I don't really see you as a bad person."
"Then why can't I take the sacrament?" I asked.
"I've told you already."
"How do you see your responsibility as a bishop?" I asked him. "Caring for the flock or protecting the Church?"
"Well, I think I do both," he said. "It's my duty to protect the Church—not just the Church, but innocent members."
"Do you think they need protection from me?" I asked him. "Last night someone told me that she was still in the Church because of some of my writings. Do you have any examples of someone I've harmed or do you just think I'm a danger? Has someone left the Church because of me?"
"No, but you have confused and upset people. I know of several people."
"Being confused and upset isn't necessarily bad. Sometimes it's the first step in learning something new. But I have no desire to hurt anyone's faith. If you know someone who is confused or upset, why don't you tell them to come and talk to me?"
"I can't do that."
"They're afraid of you."
"Because they haven't studied as much. They have to take things on faith. You're a lot smarter."
"I've never put anybody down because they haven't studied as much."
"Well, okay. They just don't want to."
"What am I supposed to do about it then?"
"This is why you shouldn't have done it in the first place. If you put yourself out as an authority ... "
"I've never put myself out as an authority. I have no position, no degree. I'm simply trying to share what I've learned, not in a coercive way."
"You say you believe what you write. You're trying to get other people to believe it. What you're doing is harmful and I have to protect people. I'm also trying to help you and your family."
"I don't think you understand my needs, my family's needs, or the Church's needs," I said.
"I didn't ask for this authority," he said. "But now that I have it I have to do my duty."
"I've talked to several former bishops," I told him. "They've said that they can't believe what you're doing." He looked shocked. "Some bishops do exactly what you've done when Salt Lake sends them something and asks them to investigate someone. They punish him. Other bishops talk to the person and realize he has a testimony and lives Church standards so they drop it."
He said it was hard for him to have to deal with the pain he was causing me and my family. I accepted his sincerity, yet it seemed to me that he hadn't done anything to understand it or share it or especially to alleviate it. But perhaps he didn't understand how to do any of these things.
He asked me if I thought these talks were doing any good. "If you mean, `Are they changing the way either of us views the issues?', then, no, they're not doing any good," I said. "I think you should give up the idea of supervising my writing." I explained again why I couldn't submit to the process he required of me. He insisted again that it was necessary because I had not showed wisdom in my writing. His proof that I lacked judgment was the fact that I hadn't recognized the doctrinal defects of "Him Shall Ye Hear" and promised not to publish it.
"I think it's wrong for you to sit there in a position of authority and tell me I'm wrong and you're right simply on the basis of your position and authority," I said. "I've told you many times how I intend to make my decisions. I will think about them, pray about them, consider any advice I've been given, and then act according to my conscience as well as I'm able. I've always told you this, so why don't you believe me? You seem to feel that if you threaten me enough and punish me enough, I'll change my mind. But I won't."
"You've gone beyond taking risks. You're defying me," he said.
"I'm not defying you," I said. "I've done everything you asked me to that doesn't violate my conscience, that doesn't require me to go against who I am and what I feel God wants me to do. You've made it very clear that you consider certain things to be excommunicable offenses. I disagree with you. If I go ahead and do one of them it's because I believe it's the right thing for me to do. I wouldn't do it to defy you. I wouldn't do it to force you to excommunicate me. I hope you won't."
"I've had other courts where there has been a really good spirit," he told me. "The person has a good attitude; he's willing to repent and work with me. Under those circumstances, Church discipline can be a really spiritual experience. Probation is about making progress, getting somewhere. Are you making progress? It's wrong for me to keep you in limbo for five years."
"If the choice is between limbo and excommunication, I prefer limbo," I said.
As I left the building, a feeling of hopelessness enveloped me. It was unmistakably clear that Bishop Hammond thought he should excommunicate me. Less clear was why he was waiting. I felt that he would wait until he had what he considered clear proof that I had broken the conditions or until he got additional pressure to do something about me. My being on crutches might also cause Bishop Hammond to delay another court. Appearances were important to him, and he would probably consider how it might look on TV.
I asked myself why I continued to defend myself when I knew my excommunication was inevitable. "It's because you believe in freedom," I told myself. "It's because you believe in love and persuasion and long-suffering. It's because you believe it's the right thing to do. It would be wrong to excommunicate you. It would be an abuse of priesthood power and you have to try to help Bishop Hammond see that. You have to care about his soul."
But the contradictory voice I always carry objected: "Perhaps you are making it worse for him by attempting to overcome his blindness and prejudice. Perhaps it would be better for him if you let him sin in ignorance."
This voice sounded cynical. "No," I told it. "I have to give the power of love and truth every opportunity to prevail. I believe in freedom, so I won't judge Bishop Hammond."
On Sunday night, 7 May, I returned home late from a Mormon Alliance meeting. One of my young sons told me that a man had come twice to see me. He had something he wanted to give me, but he wouldn't leave it.
"Do you know who it was?" I asked him. He didn't. "Was it someone from the ward?" I asked. He wasn't sure. "Was he wearing a suit?" I asked, hoping to get some information that might indicate he wasn't bringing a summons to a court.
"No," my son said. "He was wearing regular clothes. He said he'd come back in the morning." Somehow this didn't reassure me.
The next morning around 7:30 the doorbell rang. I was getting dressed in my room upstairs. A man's voice asked for me and then I heard him say he could come back later. I panicked, thinking I would have to wait hours for him to come back. But my son said, "No, she's up. I'll get her."
Our front stairs are by the front door; and because of my foot surgery, I had quickly learned that the best way to go down the stairs was on my seat. I didn't want to do that in front of him, so I crutched around to the back stairs.
It was Brett Francis, the ward executive secretary. He looked sad. He said he had a letter from the bishop for me. "Thank you," I said. "I'm sorry you had to come three times."
After he left I read the letter:
I had fewer than thirty-six hours to prepare. Even if Brett had delivered the letter the night before, I would still have had only forty-eight hours. My presence was "invited" but not required. Did that mean it was not desired? I could submit a prepared statement instead. When did he think I'd have time to write it? And what charge was I defending myself against? The letter made it clear that Bishop Hammond had already decided that I had broken the conditions. He did not invite me to bring witnesses. Apparently he wanted to get this over as quickly as possible.
The next day was not a good day for me. My son Nephi was scheduled to have surgery on his jaws that morning and I was planning to spend the day at the hospital in Salt Lake City with him. My mother, who lives in Arizona, was also having surgery that day. I thought about calling Bishop Hammond and asking him to reschedule the court. But I didn't want to. I was hurt that he hadn't told me what he was planning to do, that he had made no effort to find out if the date was convenient for me. Since my presence wasn't required, he probably thought it didn't matter. I could attend the court, so I would.
I called my sister Margaret to tell her what had happened and then Lavina. She wanted to know if I wanted a vigil. I told her no, I didn't want to put my friends through another ordeal like that. She said that she would come anyway, and she would call the media and a few friends for me. I talked to two reporters and a few friends that day and tried to prepare myself mentally and spiritually.
I knew that I would be excommunicated the next day. Bishop Hammond would not have reconvened the court if he did not intend to excommunicate me. As his letter stated and as he had told me in our interviews, he believed that I had broken the conditions and that this constituted apostasy. Perhaps if I promised to submit to him, promised not to publish or speak without his permission, then he might leave me on probation.
But I had made my choice in the first court when Bishop Hammond had threatened me with excommunication if I did not promise to never publish "Him Shall Ye Hear." That essay is a declaration and defense of my belief that Jesus Christ is the way to salvation, that through faith in him and repentance we can receive the Holy Spirit, which puts us in direct contact with God. For me, to promise not to publish that essay in obedience to Church leaders would be equivalent to denying my testimony of Jesus Christ in word and in deed. That would be apostasy. More, it would be blasphemy. It would be following man instead of God; it would be putting my faith in the arm of flesh rather than in the arm of the Lord. It would be a confession that I trusted the Church, rather than the Lord, to save me, a confession that my membership in the Church was more important than my relationship with the Lord. I believe that we must seek to discover God within us and then be true to what we find.
"Him Shall Ye Hear" also discusses why we need a Church, a community of believers. God also speaks to us through other human beings and we need to look for God in them. I believe in the importance and the efficacy of the ordinances which the priesthood transmits, and I value my membership in the community of believers. But these things come through faith in Jesus Christ. My relationship to him is primary. Should I have more faith in the ordinances than in him who gave them? Should I value the approval of my fellow Saints more than I value the approval of Jesus Christ? How can we call ourselves followers of Jesus Christ if we demand that others follow our ideas of what is right? Should we not rather honor the relationship of each person with him?
After I had told Bishop Hammond that I would not promise to never publish "Him Shall Ye Hear," I had felt and seen my heart break and seen the white bird fly out of it. I had heard it cry, "I must be free." I had thought about the meaning of this vision many times since then. Jesus says that the sacrifice he requires of us is a broken heart and a contrite spirit. My heart broke as I sacrificed my membership in the Church and the approval and acceptance of many people. But breaking my heart for Jesus, sacrificing for him, had not broken my spirit. It freed the Holy Spirit within me, but the bird did not leave me; it hovered about me. A broken heart is an open heart and I had found myself more open to others, more open to share myself and to receive from others.
I had a great desire to forgive Bishop Hammond and the other men of the court as they pronounced the judgment of excommunication upon me, but I didn't know if I would be able to. That night as I prayed with David, I implored Jesus to grant me the blessing of being able to forgive those who judged me unrighteously while believing that they were doing God's work. After our prayers, I asked David to give me a blessing. This blessing gave me great comfort. The vision I had received in my first court along with this blessing and the impressions I received while praying showed me clearly that Jesus had accepted my sacrifice and would not leave me comfortless.
The next morning Nephi and I arose early and went to Salt Lake for his surgery. I brought a copy of the defense I had presented at the October court to review while I was waiting. I had decided to present parts of it again. The surgery took longer than anticipated and I found it hard to concentrate on preparing for the court. I tried to write a letter to Joel in Chile, but instead found myself simply sitting, lost in many thoughts. Because Sunday was Mother's Day, Joel would be permitted to call me and I would tell him about my excommunication. (But when he called on Sunday, he already knew. His mission president had told him on Thursday, assuring him that the "Brethren" sent him their love.)
While I was waiting, Lavina brought me some food and a transcript of what I had said in April at the Mormon Alliance post-conference critique. I thought Bishop Hammond might have been given a tape, and I wanted to be prepared to defend myself. The surgeon appeared and said that, because the surgery had been more complicated than he had thought it would be, Nephi would have to have his jaw wired shut for four weeks instead of two, as he had previously told us. He would be awake in forty-five minutes, and I could see him then. Someone would come and get me.
Almost two hours passed. No one came. Worried, I was gathering up my things and trying to figure out how to manage everything on crutches when Lavina reappeared. She went to find out what had happened to Nephi for me. The receptionist tried to tell her that Nephi had checked out. Lavina made her find him, appropriated a wheelchair in the corridor, and took me to his room. At first I didn't recognize Nephi; his face was so swollen. He was feeling pretty bad and wanted to sleep so I didn't stay long. I kissed him and told him not to worry about the court. I would be all right and his uncle Paul would stay with him that evening. It was getting late, and I needed to get back for the court.
I had planned to drive myself, using my left foot, but Lavina thought this was a bad idea. She drove me home after arranging for Lynne Whitesides to drive my car down separately. She fixed dinner for us, so I had a chance to be with the children for a while and rest a little. I couldn't eat much, but I read and explained the scriptures to the children as we do every night. David didn't get home from work until we were almost finished eating. Margaret and her daughters arrived; and other people were starting to show up so I hurriedly changed clothes just in time to do an interview with Channel 4 before going to the court.
Our house was very close to the church. Usually we just walked; but since I was on crutches, Margaret drove me in her van. Lavina and David walked with me as I hopped to the door. The first door we tried was, ironically, locked. Channel 13 got it on film. Again the court was being held in the stake president's office. Brett Francis had called to tell me that it would be held there since it was larger and more private than the bishop's office.
Brett and Craig Merrill, one of the ward clerks, were in the waiting area of the stake offices. They said that Bishop Hammond had asked them to monitor the halls during the court. While we were waiting for Bishop Hammond to call me in, Craig asked if I remembered his testimony from the previous Sunday. I did. He had said that although God has given us our freedom, he has also given us laws to follow, and that if we obey God's laws we will be happy. He had testified that he had found this to be true in his personal life. While listening to him, I had the distinct impression that his remarks were a response to my situation, but I had dismissed the thought as being too egotistical. But my impression had, in fact, been true. Craig told me that he had been reading and thinking about the parts of my defense that had been quoted in the Sunstone news report. He thought I had made some good points, but his Church membership was so important to him and had brought him so many blessings that he would never do anything to jeopardize it. He regarded any choice which would lead to excommunication as incorrect.
I responded that I had not broken any Church law which warranted my excommunication. I told him that I thought he was thinking too deterministically, that he seemed to think that the consequences of our actions were determined by some kind of natural law, but most of our choices involve our interactions with other people. They respond to what we say and do, so that the consequences of our choices are usually other people's choices. If I were excommunicated, it would not be the inevitable result of my choices; other people's choices were involved too.
Craig didn't respond directly. A few moments later, he asked, "I hope you don't mind that I brought up the topic?"
I said, "No. In fact, I want to talk to people about it. Most people in the ward simply ignore it. Thank you for your willingness to talk to me." Craig was the father who had thanked me for helping his little girl in the nursery the first Sunday after the first court.
The door to the stake president's office opened, and Keith Halls invited me in. David picked up my papers and the bottle of water someone had given me and carried them into the office for me. As we walked into the office, Bishop Hammond and his two counselors rose and offered their hands.
I said, "I'd better sit down first or I might fall over." I sat down and they all shook hands with me and then with David. As David started to sit down, Bishop Hammond said hesitantly, "We'd really like to have just Janice here for the questioning. You can stay while she gives her statement, but then we'd like you to leave."
David responded, "I'd really like to be with her. I'll just sit here and not say anything." I repeated his request, emphasizing that he had promised not to say anything. Finally I added, "And he promises not to yell at anybody."
They all laughed nervously, but Bishop Hammond insisted that David would have to leave. David had brought a pile of scientific papers with him. He'd told me that he needed them to help him stay calm. He had been nervously tracing and retracing a geometrical figure on one of the pages while we had been waiting for them to call us in. As we sat down, he began tracing it again. Without looking at the bishop he said, "Bishop, I'll do what you say even though I think you should let me stay with Janice."
Those attending the court were Bishop Hammond, Mark Dayton, his first counselor, Paul MacKay, who had been called as second counselor since my last court, and Keith Halls, a member of the stake high council. Mark Dayton had been out of town during the October court and Keith Halls had substituted for him. Although Paul MacKay had not been the second counselor when my first court was held, he had been present as the substitute for Brett Francis, who had also been out of town. Bishop Hammond said that he had asked Keith Halls to act as secretary in order to have as much continuity as possible. He asked for my consent to the constitution of the court, and I gave it. He then said that although the secretary usually did not participate in the proceedings but only recorded them, since Keith Halls had asked questions in the first council, he would like him to be able to ask questions again. He asked me if that would be all right. I said that it would.
Bishop Hammond then read the statement from the General Handbook of Instructions requiring confidentiality of all those involved in the disciplinary council: "Bishops, stake presidents, and counselors in a stake presidency have a solemn duty to keep confidential all information members give to them in confessions and interviews. The same duty of confidentiality applies to all who take part in Church disciplinary councils, including what is said in the presentation of evidence and deliberations. Confidential information must not be shared with anyone except authorized ecclesiastical leaders" (General Handbook of Instructions, March 1989, p. 10-2). He said that he and all the other men were under a solemn promise not to discuss anything that occurred in the council. "We will keep this promise," he said. "I hope that you will also keep the proceedings confidential, but I know you haven't in the past."
I said, "I have explained my views regarding confidentiality to you several times, but I will repeat them for the record: The purpose of the rule regarding confidentiality is to protect the member. This is true of all privileged relationships: therapist-client, priest-penitent, doctor-patient, attorney-client. The person providing the service is required to keep the information his client supplies him confidential to protect the privacy of the client. The client, however, is not required to keep what transpires between him and the provider confidential. Since it is about his life, he is free to discuss it. I am under no legal or moral obligation to keep these proceedings confidential. I have made it clear since our first meeting that I intended to talk about what happened and I have. There were a couple of things that I said I would keep confidential and I have."
Bishop Hammond then said that he wanted to confine the disciplinary council to what I had done since the October council. He believed that I had broken the conditions that were given to me and he wanted to ask me questions about some of the things I had done. He opened a folder on the desk and read the three conditions he had given me, which required me to meet with him often, to not oppose the doctrines of the Church as given in the scriptures or official statements of the First Presidency, and to refrain from opposing or criticizing the Church or its leaders. He then picked up another sheet and read some further conditions. I remembered that he had read this second list aloud to me when he had given me the conditions just after the October court. He had told me that the second list was to clarify the first so that there would be no misunderstanding about what he required of me. He had never given me a copy of this second list, I had been struggling with illness, and I had forgotten most of the points. I did remember that Bishop Hammond had attempted to spell out his interpretation of every point we had disputed concerning what constituted apostasy. The second list represented the authoritarian approach to solving difficult problems: whatever the authority says is right, is right.
The first item on the list was, "You will meet with your bishop as often as once a week in a relationship of love and trust." Another point stipulated that publishing "Him Shall Ye Hear" would constitute a violation of the condition forbidding me to oppose Church leaders. I was also told not to make a public criticism of any General Authority or anything any of them said. I think this list also contained something about Bishop Hammond's expectation that I would submit my writing to be reviewed for orthodoxy and acceptability before presenting it publicly or publishing it.
After reading this list, Bishop Hammond said that he had reviewed these things with me so that I would know how to respond to the questions he would ask me. He then questioned me briefly about several quotations from me in newspaper articles and three documents: my open letter, the speech I gave at Counterpoint, and the Sunstone news article about the October court.
He asked, "Have you violated the conditions in any of these?"
I responded, "That's a matter of interpretation and judgment."
Bishop Hammond took out several newspaper articles and read the titles: "Feminist Spurns LDS Restrictions," "Allred Says She Won't Comply," and "LDS Feminist Rejects Bishop's Conditions." "You said yourself that you wouldn't comply with the conditions," he concluded.
"Those aren't direct quotations from me. Those are the interpretations of the headline writers and reporters of what I said in my open letter to you," I pointed out.
Bishop Hammond admitted that he'd never been sure how to interpret my letter. "Sometimes I think it's okay, but then I read it again and it seems like what you're saying violates the conditions," he said.
Paul MacKay had been looking over a copy of my letter. "You say right here that you won't comply," he interjected and then read: "`Since you get to decide what opposes the doctrine of the Church, complying with this condition to your satisfaction would require me to accept close supervision and control of my writing and speaking which would seriously infringe upon my freedom of speech. I will not accept this.'"
"I also said that I have no intention of opposing the doctrine of the Church as given in the scriptures," I responded. "What is doctrine and what isn't is a matter of interpretation. My whole purpose in writing is to find the truth. I love the truth. I said that I refused to have my writing supervised or censored. That is not a violation of any condition."
Paul MacKay then said that I had also refused to comply with the condition requiring me to refrain from opposing and criticizing the Church and its leaders. "You say, `I claim and will use my right to disagree with ideas and dissent from policies and practices.' That's opposing the Church," he said.
I defended myself by arguing that Bishop Hammond had unfairly expanded the definition of apostasy concerning opposition given in the handbook. "The handbook defines an apostate as someone who `repeatedly acts in clear, open and deliberate public opposition to the Church or its leaders,'" I pointed out. "In my opinion, this means someone who wants to harm or destroy the Church. Whenever I have pointed out a problem, my purpose has been to help solve it. I have never made a personal attack on any leader or spoken of the Church in a derogatory way. You added the part about not criticizing the Church or its leaders," I said to Bishop Hammond. "What do you mean by criticism? If you mean pointing out any kind of problem, that is not the definition of apostasy. You're using a definition that goes beyond that in the handbook so that you can make it easier to define me as an apostate."
Bishop Hammond said that he was only trying to prevent misunderstandings, that I had said that I did not know I would be punished if I did certain things, so he wanted to make the definition of apostasy perfectly clear.
"But what really is apostasy?" I asked. "Why should you get to define it? An act isn't apostasy just because you disagree with it or because you think it should be called apostasy. Yes, I did argue that President Bacon hadn't told me that I would be punished if I published my article, but the more important point was that he had no right to punish me for publishing it."
At this point Keith Halls interrupted. "I'm supposed to write down your answer about whether you've broken the conditions or not. Was that `yes' or `no'?"
I answered, "I don't think a `yes' or `no' will suffice; but if I have to answer yes or no, I'll answer no because in my judgment I haven't broken the conditions."
Bishop Hammond then asked me for my statement. I told him that I had not had time to write a statement. "You gave me less than two days," I said. "Also I didn't know what charges you were going to be bringing against me. I think it is unfair that I have to defend myself without knowing what you think I did wrong." I added that I had brought the defense which I wrote for the last court and I would read parts of it since it constituted my defense against the general charge of apostasy. (See Appendix A.)
I had not decided beforehand what I would read. Silently I turned to God and asked for help. I felt a spirit of peace and love fill my heart, enabling me to speak with power and conviction. I skipped the whole first section which detailed the events leading up to my first court. I read almost the whole section answering the question, "Am I disobedient?" In this section, I argue that there is no Church law which requires members to obey the counsel of their leaders and that leaders do not have the right to compel obedience by imposing Church discipline upon them. The next section, entitled "Am I guilty of apostasy?," contains a paragraph which gives my testimony of Jesus Christ and his gospel and my belief that the scriptures contain the word of God, that Joseph Smith is a prophet who received revelations from God and power from Jesus Christ to establish his Church, and that the power of the priesthood continues in the Church today. I read all of this paragraph and the one following it which tells of my desire and efforts to follow Jesus Christ and my service in the Church and to my family.
My defense next addresses the question of whether I am guilty of apostasy because of teaching false doctrine. I read the part that argues that I was not guilty according to the handbook definition of apostasy for teaching false doctrine. Since I made it clear that my writings were my own interpretations and since I never claimed to be propounding Church doctrine, I was not guilty.
The next section of my defense attempts to answer the question, "How is Church doctrine defined?" I had included this section because Bishop Hammond had told me many times that, because my articles contained false doctrine which I believed and taught, I was guilty of apostasy for teaching false doctrine. Since this section is long and difficult, I summarized the main point. Jesus taught the Nephites what the doctrine of his Church is: it is that God commands all people to have faith in Jesus Christ, to repent, to be baptized, and to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (3 Ne. 11:32-33, 35). He told them that they should not attempt to establish more or less than this as doctrine because it would lead to contention. In Doctrine and Covenants 10:62-68, 33:11-13, 39:6, 76:50-52, Jesus repeated this definition of his doctrine. Contention is more than disagreement; it implies a struggle for preeminence. When we contend about doctrine, we attempt to have our ideas acknowledged or established as the final, undisputed truth. Jesus says that "contention is not of me," because his way is never to coerce but rather to influence by "persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; by kindness and pure knowledge" (D&C 121:41-42).
I read the last part of this section: "By having very few points of doctrine and giving space for a wide range of interpretation within these doctrines, Jesus establishes an inclusive Church which allows many beliefs" and welcomes "different people" with "different gifts" who are "at different stages in their spiritual journeys." These differences "need not lead to contention if members understand what Jesus taught about the doctrine of his Church." I explained that "Toward a Mormon Theology of God the Mother" is based on a detailed analysis of the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants. Although my interpretation of the Godhead is different from the official interpretation, it "is firmly based on the scriptures and offers a possible, well-supported interpretation of the nature of God which in no way contradicts the doctrine of Christ." I concluded: "My ideas may be untrue, but they fall within the range of possible interpretations allowed by the scripture."
I next read the entire section which addresses the question, "What liberties do Church members have in regard to their beliefs?" The main points are: (1) Freedom of belief cannot be separated from freedom of speech. (2) Since no one can believe anything by an act of will, it is futile as well as wrong to coerce belief. Love and persuasion are the righteous means to influence beliefs. (3) Using coercion to compel belief encourages lying and discourages the free exercise of thought and speech required for the pursuit of intellectual and spiritual development. (4) To assume, as the handbook does, that the Church leader is always right whenever there is a doctrinal disagreement between a member and a leader shows contempt for truth and the processes for understanding it. (5) Every person has the God-given right to think for himself or herself. (6) Every person has the right to teach false ideas as well as true ones. (7) The way to deal with false doctrine is not to punish those who teach it but to teach true doctrine.
I next reaffirmed my conviction that my faith in Jesus Christ requires me to follow my conscience. I acknowledged that I could be mistaken, "But I believe that if I put my trust in Jesus Christ and remain open to the criticism and counsel of others and am willing to repent when I see my sins and errors, ... his grace is sufficient to save me."
And finally, I reread my entire conclusion, affirming that I was not an apostate, that I was innocent of breaking any law of the Church, and that if they punished me, "it will be because I refused to give up my freedom to believe, speak, and act according to my conscience" which demands that I not "deny my testimony of Jesus Christ."
As I finished reading, I felt the power of the Spirit affirming the truth of what I had said. Silently, I thanked God for being with me. No one made any response to my statement or asked me any questions about it. Bishop Hammond waited until it was clear that I was through, then asked David to leave. Again David asked for permission to remain. "I want to stay," he said. "There's no reason why I shouldn't be here."
Bishop Hammond again insisted that David leave. Reluctantly, he did so. Out in the hall, Brett Francis said to him, "If my wife were in there, I would want to be with her."
After David left, I said, "You didn't invite me to bring witnesses as you did at the last court and you didn't give me time to ask anyone to prepare anything, but I brought the witness statements from the last court and I would like to read them."
Bishop Hammond said that the witness statements were unnecessary. "We want to confine the court to what has happened since the first one," he said. "We're not concerned about your character or whether you're a good person or not. We're here to determine whether you've broken the conditions."
Bishop Hammond's statement blatantly revealed the fundamental injustice of the court. The purpose of the court should have been to determine whether I was guilty or innocent of apostasy. Bishop Hammond equated breaking the conditions with being guilty of apostasy, yet, as I had pointed out in my open letter, the conditions Bishop Hammond imposed on me were broader than the definitions of apostasy given in the handbook. Since the conditions were Bishop Hammond's directives to me, not the law of the Church, his strategy of equating breaking the conditions with being guilty of apostasy amounted to defining apostasy as not following the counsel or directives of one's bishop. By this definition, anyone who refused a Church calling would be an apostate.
My character and motives were highly relevant to the question of whether I am an apostate. They were even relevant to the question of whether I had violated the conditions. By excluding character witnesses and testimony about my service to God and the Church and by refusing to consider my motives, Bishop Hammond made it almost impossible for the council to reach a just decision. I did not protest Bishop Hammond's decision to not allow witnesses, although I did protest it in my appeal. I had several reasons for acquiescing on this point. I had expected Bishop Hammond to refuse to allow me to read the witness statements. I remembered that, after hearing them in the October court, he had declared them irrelevant, and I doubted that he would change his mind on this point. I had brought them because I wanted to defend myself as best I could and give Bishop Hammond every chance to conduct a fair court, but it was obvious that they would make no difference in the judgment of the court, and I did not want to prolong the proceedings unnecessarily. If I had insisted, Bishop Hammond would probably have allowed me to read them; but I am not naturally inclined to assert my rights, so I did not protest his decision.
Bishop Hammond next proceeded to present his evidence that I had violated the conditions. His first piece of evidence was my speech at the Counterpoint Conference: "My Controversy with the Church." Bishop Hammond based his judgment on the only information he had about it: the report in the Daily Herald and my clarifying letter to the editor. After describing how the stake presidency tried to persuade David to control me by giving me a blessing telling me to obey my leaders, I stated that such a blessing would be an abuse of priesthood power. "Claiming we speak for God when our words are not really inspired by his spirit is what it means to take the Lord's name in vain," I wrote.
Bishop Hammond felt that in saying this I was criticizing my Church leaders, and he strongly suspected that I had criticized the Church or its leaders in other parts of the speech. He asked me if I had violated his conditions anywhere in the talk. I replied that that depended on how you interpreted the conditions and the talk. "I don't think I violated the conditions and giving the speech was certainly not an act of apostasy, " I said.
Bishop Hammond countered, "But refusing to give me a copy of your speech was a violation of the condition that we should meet together in a relationship of love and trust. You gave this speech twice in public, yet you refused to give a copy to me."
Paul MacKay then accused me of refusing in my open letter to comply with the condition of meeting regularly and counseling with my bishop. He read:
"I have three things to say about that," I said. "First, you know, Bishop Hammond, that I came every time you asked me to come. I never refused even though it was hard for me. I didn't initiate any meetings because they were just too difficult for me to want to meet with you. Second, I did not assert any of the rights I reserved in my letter. I never made you say what the meeting would be about or required you to communicate with me in writing. And third, I could not trust you to view my writing fairly because you were never willing to take my motives into consideration, to discuss the issues I raised, or to concede the possibility that there could be legitimate differences about doctrinal matters. Before the October court I gave you everything you asked for. I gave you `Him Shall Ye Hear.'"
"President Bacon asked me for it," Bishop Hammond interrupted.
"In any case, you used that speech to decide I was an apostate. You used it to threaten me. How could I trust you when you had already used my words, not to understand me or my ideas, but to threaten and punish me? How could I trust you when you didn't trust me to speak at my son's farewell or Bryant's funeral?"
"It was a public speech so you should have given me a copy," Bishop Hammond said.
"Yes, it was a public speech," I replied. "You knew I was going to give it, and I gave it twice. The second time it was announced in the paper. If you wanted to hear it you could have come."
"I wouldn't put myself or you through that," he said.
"It would have been hard for me to have you in the audience, but I would have had no objection," I answered.
He looked at me in obvious disbelief, but I was sincere. Only a few people would have known him, and I certainly wouldn't have called anyone's attention to him.
Bishop Hammond then said I should have given him the speech because he needed it to judge me.
"Part of my defense has always been that there are different forums and different audiences with different standards and expectations," I responded. "I've never done anything unacceptable at Church. I've taught many lessons and given talks, and I've always received a positive response. People have thanked me for what I've said. It's possible that I may have offended someone, but no one ever told me if I did. My more scholarly and critical speeches and publications were always in a forum that expected that approach. If you want to have access to those kinds of speeches, then you'll have to go to those kinds of forums. I knew the Counterpoint audience would consist of people who accept divergent viewpoints and who value freedom of speech or they wouldn't be there. I knew that many people who cared about me would be there and I shared some of my innermost thoughts and feelings. I don't want to share those with you."
Bishop Hammond then asked me again if I would be willing to give them a copy of the speech.
"Look," I said, "that speech took an hour and a half to deliver. How can you use it in this council?"
Bishop Hammond insisted that he really wanted a copy.
I thought about it. I was sure that a lack of evidence would not stop them from excommunicating me. Bishop Hammond already believed that the speech contained violations of the conditions. "All right," I said. "David could go home and bring back a copy." One of them got up to call David; when he opened the door, David was already walking toward it. He had come to see if I needed anything. When David returned with the paper, Bishop Hammond put it down on the desk. He did not read it or refer to it. I don't know whether they used it in their deliberations.
After David left to get the paper, Bishop Hammond began questioning me about their next area of concern: the newspaper articles about me. Their contention was that this publicity damaged the Church and that talking to the press was equivalent to being in opposition to the Church.
Keith Halls said, "You know, you got a letter yesterday morning telling you about this council and today there's an article in the newspaper about it. There's no way the press could have gotten this information if you didn't call them. These kinds of articles damage the Church. Doesn't this show that you don't care if you damage the Church?"
I answered that I had always been very frank with the bishop about my intention to make my case public and to talk with reporters. And I had told him why. "What is happening to me is not simply a private matter," I said. "My article on the Mother in Heaven was called to President Bacon's attention by Church headquarters. That makes it a Church issue, to my way of thinking. And they've sent you other things."
"Yes, they send us things," Bishop Hammond said. "But what's wrong with that? You gave the speech. It's true that you said what's in it. We need the information to do our job."
This was the only time Bishop Hammond ever acknowledged to me that he'd received anything from the Strengthening Church Members Committee. Usually he told me that he'd gotten things from "someone in the stake." This may have been technically accurate since they probably came through President Bacon, but I was relieved to have Bishop Hammond confirm that he knew where they came from.
I continued, "Another reason I've made my case public is that the issues of freedom of speech and abuse of priesthood power concern every member. But there is no forum in the Church for members to discuss these problems. Talking to the media is one way of making these issues public."
"Then you admit you called the reporters," Bishop Hammond said.
"I didn't call them," I replied. "I called a friend and she called them."
"We don't see any difference."
"There's no difference in one way—which is that the news gets out and I agree to talk to reporters. I've never denied that. In fact, I told you beforehand that I intended to. But there is an important difference in another way. It's not me trying to get the media to publicize what happened. Initially, they did come to me. After our first meeting last May when President Bacon said that he would have to punish me for disobeying him, I got a call from a news reporter who was interested in writing a story. I told her that I hoped to avoid a court, so I wanted to wait until one was actually scheduled before I gave an interview."
"But she would never have known about it if you hadn't told someone," Bishop Hammond interrupted.
"Of course not," I said, "But I'm under no obligation to keep silent. I have friends who care about me and they asked me about it. I'm not going to lie to them. When Vern Anderson called me about my paper, `Him Shall Ye Hear,' even before I presented it, I was really surprised. I had no idea that Sunstone distributed the papers to the press before the symposium. Vern had read my paper and thought it was really powerful. He wanted to do a story on it. He told me that in talking to another reporter about it he'd learned that I was facing a possible court because of an article I'd written about the Mother in Heaven and he wanted to do the whole story. You had already told me that you intended to hold a court, Bishop Hammond. You said you had no choice. I had written the paper because I thought the ideas were important. So I felt I should disseminate them as widely as possible."
Mark Dayton spoke for the first time. "You're using the press for your own purposes," he said. "You're trying to change the Church. But how is going to the press going to help solve the problems you're concerned about?"
"People can't solve problems unless they have some knowledge about them," I said. "Once people have the problem called to their attention, they can think about it, become concerned about it, see similar situations in their own lives, and try to use whatever power they have righteously."
"But why should you try to make changes?" Mark asked. "Any changes made in the Church have to be made by the General Authorities. How are these things going to come to their attention?"
"They read newspapers," I said, "Or at least have someone read them for them. But you sound as if you think I have some sort of detailed, complicated plan to impose changes on the Church. That's simply not true. I talked to the press because I know that you can't solve problems if you don't talk about them. I don't know what the consequences of telling my story to the press will be. I hope they'll be good. So far the main result seems to be that a lot of people have become convinced that I'm a bad person. Look, you want to know if I've `gone to the media.' I have never initiated any interview. I've agreed to talk to anyone who has asked me. The only time I've called a reporter is to return a call or give him information I've promised him."
I then turned to Keith Halls. "There's an ironic twist to what you're saying. You say that I've damaged the Church by going to the media. But if the Church can be damaged by what I'm making public, doesn't that suggest that the Church is doing something wrong? If the Church wants to protect itself from being damaged in the press, why doesn't it stop doing what the public perceives as bad? Blaming me for the bad publicity is blaming the victim; it's blaming the messenger. Do you think the Church is doing something bad that it needs to cover up?"
"No, of course not," he responded.
"Then why does it damage the Church to have it reported?" I asked.
"The media twist things."
"What have you found to be inaccurate in these articles?"
"They give the wrong impression."
"The Church is a powerful institution," I said. "It tries to control all speech within its boundaries. Sometimes it needs to be called to account in a public forum that it can't control."
Bishop Hammond again brought up the point that I was responsible for the news articles about me. "The second time you gave your talk, the time you gave it at the library, there was advance publicity about it in the paper including your picture. Doesn't that prove that you gave it to them?" he asked.
I wasn't sure what point he was trying to make. Hadn't I explained the degree of my involvement adequately? "The organization sponsoring the talk gave the newspaper the article," I said. "They asked me for the photograph. I didn't volunteer it. I'm not promoting myself. If the media didn't perceive my case as important, there is no way I could interest them in it. It's not pleasant for me to appear on TV. But if someone asks me for an interview, I feel it is my duty to talk to him."
Bishop Hammond moved on to the third piece of evidence, the news report in Sunstone about the first court. He was very upset that it had quoted extensively from my defense statement and open letter. "You shouldn't have allowed Sunstone to publish them," he insisted.
"They didn't need my permission to publish them," I explained. "I gave both documents to the press. They were public."
"You could have tried to stop them," Bishop Hammond said. "Did you know they were going to publish them?"
"They told me they were going to quote extensively from both documents. I didn't object because I wanted them made public," I said.
"You handed out your defense even before you presented it," Bishop Hammond said accusingly.
"Why not?" I replied. "I wrote it. It was my version of what had happened, my defense of what I had done. I wrote it for the court, but not exclusively for the court. I wanted people to have copies of it. I wrote it for the press and for the public understanding."
Bishop Hammond seemed to feel that my defense was part of the sacred proceedings of the court which I had violated by making it public. He was equally upset that I had made my open letter public. "Even before I get the letter there's a reporter calling me about it," he complained.
"I'm sorry about that," I said, "But the letter wasn't just for you. It was to give my response to the decision of the council and my intentions regarding the conditions you imposed on me. I wrote it for the press and for everyone interested in my story as well as for you. That's what an open letter is. I'll tell you what happened. After writing it, I mailed it to you and then I gave it to a friend who faxed it to the media. Within a couple of hours, Sheila Sanchez of the Provo Herald called me for an interview. After I talked to her she said she was going to call you. I realized that you couldn't have received the letter yet, so I quickly made another copy and took it over to your house and gave it to your wife. But the reporter called you at work and you hadn't gotten it yet. I'm sorry, but there was no malicious intent."
Bishop Hammond felt that my defense and open letter contained criticism of the Church and its leaders, especially of him. He also believed that in publishing something he didn't want published or that he disapproved of, I was acting in opposition to him and opposing the Church because the things I published made the Church look bad.
The fourth and final piece of evidence Bishop Hammond had against me was a photocopy of By Common Consent, the newsletter of the Mormon Alliance. He was under the impression that I had written large portions of it. I told him I hadn't written any of it. He pointed out the article on spiritual abuse. "Didn't you write this?" he asked.
"No, I didn't write it," I said. "I agree with it but I didn't write it."
"What do you mean by spiritual abuse?" Bishop Hammond asked.
"The word abuse makes some people uncomfortable because they think of abuse as some kind of attack," I said, "But we define spiritual abuse as the unrighteous use of ecclesiastical power. When a priesthood leader or Church leader uses his power in a way that hurts a member or that goes beyond the power he really has, he is abusing the member and his power."
Paul MacKay suddenly launched into an unsupported attack on me and my associates. "You and your friends in these organizations you belong to have an agenda. Your agenda is to change the Church to make it the way you want it. The first thing you're going to do is change the doctrine of the Godhead. Then you're going to convince people they shouldn't follow the prophet unless they agree with what he says. I don't know what the other items on your agenda are, but you want to change the priesthood and take away the power of the bishop."
I was flabbergasted. Where had he come up with this? Did they think my writing was part of some conspiracy to overthrow the Church? I wondered if they'd gotten together and tried to figure out why speaking and writing were so important to me. Was this grandiose scenario what they'd come up with? Obviously they had a completely inaccurate perception of the organizations I was involved with.
"You perceive these groups as more organized than they really are," I said. "You don't `belong' to Sunstone. You attend the symposium or subscribe to the magazine. It doesn't have an agenda. Its purpose is to provide a forum for the discussion of Mormon issues. The purpose of the Mormon Alliance is to identify spiritual abuse, educate people about it, and try to prevent it. Its only agenda is that the Church should not abuse its members. The Mormon Alliance is not trying to take away bishops' power. We acknowledge that they have power. We acknowledge that the Church has rules, and we think the members should obey the rules. If members commit certain sins, they should be tried for them. We recognize that. We are saying that Church leaders should not abuse their power. They shouldn't intimidate or threaten members; they shouldn't coerce members into following their personal ideas or directives. Let me give you an example of spiritual abuse. A bishop refuses to give a temple recommend to any woman who doesn't attend Relief Society regularly. This actually happened in a ward I attended." I addressed Paul. "Do you consider that wrong?"
"Well, yes, I think so," he replied hesitantly.
"Well, that's what we mean by spiritual abuse. A Church leader uses his power in an unrighteous way."
Paul then said, "In our councils, when we do things, we try not to promote preferences but only principles." His point seemed to be that they didn't abuse their power. I didn't respond but I thought, "How then do you differentiate between preference and principle? I'm sure my former bishop thought it was a principle that women should attend Relief Society. Which principles do you prefer? Which apply in which situation? A lot of abuse is carried out in the name of principle."
"Do you feel you have been abused?" Paul asked me.
I did not want to accuse them, but I felt I had to speak the truth. "Yes, I do," I answered. "I know you've tried to do what you thought was right. You've been polite, considerate, and solicitous of my feelings, but you have punished me and taken away some spiritual privileges that are important to me. You've done this even though I haven't disobeyed any law of the Church and when I was within my rights as a member. You've used compulsion to try to get me to accept your opinions about what is right and to obey your counsel. It's been very difficult to be told again and again that my beliefs are false doctrines, especially when you're not willing to discuss them. You simply assume that I'm wrong and you're right."
Bishop Hammond took this opportunity to air one of his grievances. He had been offended by the statement in my open letter that he had been unwilling or unable to discuss the doctrinal issues. He pointed out that this statement had been quoted in the newspaper. "I think it was really unfair of you to say that," he said.
"But it was true," I replied with some heat. "You were never willing to discuss the issues my papers were about. I was trying to explain why I could no longer discuss my writing with you. I tried to state it fairly. You were unwilling or unable to discuss my ideas; you would only condemn them and threaten me."
"I'll freely admit I'm not a theologian," Bishop Hammond said. "I don't know the scriptures that well. In any doctrinal discussion you could run rings around me and beat me under the table. But I don't see that we need to discuss the doctrinal issues at all in either of your papers because it's so obvious that what you're saying goes against Church doctrine."
"It's not obvious at all," I replied. "That's your opinion. I've told you a number of times that my interpretation of the Godhead is based on the scriptures and it does not contradict what Jesus says the doctrine of his Church is, so how does it go against Church doctrine? You tell me that `Him Shall Ye Hear' contains false doctrine, but I don't think it does. You won't even say what you think the false doctrine is other than the main idea. I think that the idea that the prophet will never lead the Church astray is false doctrine. There is no scriptural basis for this idea. There is no revelation supporting it. It is antithetical to the gospel of Jesus Christ, and it contradicts the principle of free agency. There is no historical precedent for it. There's no reason at all for claiming that Church leaders can't or won't lead the Church astray except that some leaders said so."
"That's good enough for me," Bishop Hammond said.
"But that's circular reasoning," I pointed out. I doubted if it would daunt them to be shown that the only argument supporting one of their most cherished beliefs was based on a logical fallacy, but I went ahead. "You say that the reason Church leaders can't lead the Church astray is because they say they can't and what they say must be true because our leaders will never lead us astray, but that was the very point you were trying to prove."
"Logic isn't important. You have to have faith," Bishop Hammond affirmed.
"Faith in God, not faith in leaders," I objected.
"It's enough that our leaders have said it," he replied.
Keith Halls then solemnly declared, "For me also. Whatever they say is true. That's the doctrine of the Church and that's what I believe." The other two men indicated their agreement.
Bishop Hammond returned to the Mormon Alliance newsletter. He wanted to know about the panel I had been on which discussed general conference. What was its purpose?
"We talk about the addresses given in conference, their content, their themes, their implications," I said.
"Why do you do that?" Bishop Hammond asked.
"We take conference seriously," I replied. "We find it interesting to discuss what is said and what it means. We think that leaders should be accountable to members for what they teach; that means we need to discuss it."
"Members of the Church don't need to do that," Bishop Hammond said. The others nodded in agreement. Bishop Hammond pointed to the last page of the newsletter. "I see you have your name, phone number, and address here for people to contact," he said. "What's the purpose of this?" He was referring to the invitation for people to report cases of spiritual abuse to the Mormon Alliance.
"It's to help people who've experienced spiritual abuse," I explained, "to give them someone to talk to and help them resolve their problems. We're also collecting stories so we can publish them."
"What's the purpose of that?" Bishop Hammond asked.
"To show that these problems really do occur in the Church, that spiritual abuse is not just a hypothetical problem, to help members understand the things that are wrong and why they are wrong, and finally to prevent spiritual abuse from happening again."
"Why is that your place? Why do you think you have the right to change the Church?" Bishop Hammond demanded.
It was a rhetorical question so I didn't answer. We had discussed this issue before. If I had no right to change the Church, then I had no power in the Church, nothing to give the Church. "Everyone wants to change something about the Church," I had told Bishop Hammond earlier. "Can't you think of some way to improve it?" I'd asked him. "I'm not trying to coerce change, but I would like to improve the Church by love and persuasion, by pointing out righteous principles and helping others make changes."
Having presented his evidence, Bishop Hammond was now ready to sum up. I was guilty of apostasy because I had written in opposition to Church doctrine and opposed and criticized the Church and its leaders. I tried to bring him back to the definitions of apostasy given in the handbook.
"I am not guilty of apostasy for teaching false doctrine according to the definition given in the handbook," I said. "The handbook defines apostasy as teaching as Church doctrine that which is not Church doctrine. When I disagree with a generally accepted Church teaching, I always try to make it clear that I am offering my own interpretation. I say, `The Church teaches such-and-such, and here is another way of looking at it.'"
"But you believe what you write. You've told me you do," Bishop Hammond objected.
"Yes, but that doesn't make me an apostate," I said.
"You want other people to believe it too."
"In a broad sense, yes, of course, but I'm not trying to force people to believe it. I don't have any authority beyond the persuasiveness of the ideas themselves. I don't want them to believe something they don't really believe. I'm not trying to make them believe like me. I've received a lot of help from things I've read and I feel I owe something to others in return. If someone finds something I've written helpful, then I'm pleased."
"But if you persuade someone to believe the way you do then you've led them astray," Bishop Hammond said.
"You're assuming that it's not acceptable to hold certain beliefs in the Church," I said. "Doesn't that deny members freedom of belief?"
"I've never said you couldn't believe these things and stay in the Church," Bishop Hammond defended himself. "You just can't talk about them."
"Look," I answered, "you can't separate freedom of belief from freedom of speech. We don't form our ideas in isolation but in a context of many disparate things: our own ideas in dialogue with others' ideas, our understanding of the scriptures, our experiences and others' experiences that they share with us. If we can't express our ideas, then we can't use others' insights to help us correct our errors. If only certain beliefs are acceptable, if only certain beliefs are allowed to be expressed, it's very difficult to have other beliefs. If people feel that they will be punished if they express their beliefs, then they feel alienated and hypocritical in believing them. You can't say that you're allowing someone freedom of belief if you take away their freedom of speech. When you punish someone for expressing a divergent opinion, you infringe on his or her freedom of belief as well as speech."
Someone objected to my use of the word "punish" and insisted that they allowed me the freedom to believe anything I wanted. All of them expressed belief in the importance of freedom of belief and freedom of speech.
"If you believe in freedom of speech, why do you want to censor or edit what I write?" I asked Bishop Hammond.
"I've never told you I wanted to censor or edit what you write," Bishop Hammond said.
"I know you've never liked me to use those words," I replied, "But it seems to me that what you wanted me to do amounted to censorship."
"I wanted you to be safe, and it seemed to me that if you cared about your membership you would be glad to have someone point out potential problems," he said.
"But your views are so different from mine that it would be torture for us to try to come to an agreement. It would end with you threatening to punish me if I published something you didn't like."
"I didn't necessarily want to review your papers myself. I thought maybe you could get someone at BYU to go over them with you or even someone in our stake," he said.
"I wouldn't ask someone else to take the responsibility for my work," I said. "His judgment about what is acceptable might not match yours or that of the Strengthening Church Members Committee. No one would want to take the responsibility of guaranteeing the orthodoxy of what I say."
"I called FARMS and they said they would be glad to review your manuscripts," he told me.
"But it would be dishonest for me to ask someone to review my manuscripts for orthodoxy and acceptability unless I intended to change whatever they found unacceptable," I said. "But my concern isn't whether what I say might make someone in authority mad. It's whether it's true, whether it makes sense."
"If what you're doing is a scholarly endeavor, why don't you want a scholarly review?" Bishop Hammond asked.
"I don't have any objection to a scholarly review; I'm glad to have my work scrutinized for such things as sound evidence, cogent reasoning, and clarity. I accept criticism from editors, readers, family, and friends. The other reason why I don't think the process you've asked me to submit to would work is that I'm always working under time constraints. I don't like that and I try not to let it interfere with the quality of my work, but I'm usually not able to finish a paper until shortly before I deliver it. I don't like that—it's very stressful, but it's the best I can do. I finished my Counterpoint speech about an hour before we left to attend the conference. I'm always receptive to comments and criticism after I've delivered something, and, of course, anything I publish is reviewed by an editor."
"You've made that argument before," Bishop Hammond responded. "I just don't understand how you can let something like that put your membership at risk."
"I will not promise to do something I can't do. I would like to be able to finish my papers well in advance, but I know from experience that I won't," I said. "My writing is part of my personal search for truth. I don't know where it is going to lead me. I have to be free. It's my work and I have to do it my way. I can't in good faith enter into a process that requires me to submit my judgment to someone else. The honest exploration of ideas which I clearly represent as my own should not put my membership at risk. The process you require of me would severely infringe on my freedom of speech."
"You have freedom of speech," Bishop Hammond said, "But there are some ideas you can't express if you want to be a member of the Church."
I tried once more: "When you take away or restrict privileges for expressing certain beliefs, you are saying that certain ideas are not acceptable, that we can't express them as members of the Church. When you do this, you're pressuring and compelling people to believe a certain way. Your way. I can't see this as anything other than coercion. It doesn't mean that people can't resist your pressure. They can. I'm resisting it right now. We have differences of opinion; but because you have power you can stick a label of `true doctrine' on your ideas and `false doctrine' on my ideas without regard to the truth. It's not a matter of truth but of power."
Paul MacKay indignantly replied, "It's not a matter of power. It's a matter of love and pure motives."
I think he was saying that they were not trying to exercise power over me but rather that they were acting out of love and pure motives. I will not judge their motives, but it was clear to me that they were unwilling to admit how much power they really do have over the lives of ward members. They were also unwilling to consider the possibility that they might be abusing that power. Bishop Hammond had told me several times that he didn't ask for the position and power, and he said it as if that exonerated him for any misuse of it.
Bishop Hammond responded to my charge that he was abusing his power when he used his position to declare my ideas false by affirming the very misconception that caused him to abuse it. "I am a judge in Israel," he said. "I have to decide what is true doctrine and what is false doctrine. It is my responsibility to keep the doctrine of the Church pure." He seemed unaware that nowhere in the scriptures does Christ give Church leaders the responsibility of keeping doctrine pure or making pronouncements on Church doctrine. Jesus himself declared what his doctrine is and told his people that anyone who attempted to teach more or less than this as his doctrine was not of him. Every individual has the responsibility of judging between good and evil and discerning between truth and error for herself.
Our discussion of the charge that I was guilty of apostasy for teaching false doctrine kept foundering. I would return to my main defense—"But I didn't teach my ideas as Church doctrine. I always identified them as my own ideas"—and Bishop Hammond would counter with what seemed to me an irrelevant argument, "But you believe it and tried to persuade others to believe it." Apparently Bishop Hammond didn't understand my argument and I didn't understand his.
His argument seemed to be: You taught false doctrine in your article. Because you believe it yourself and because you tried to persuade others to believe it, you taught it as Church doctrine. I couldn't understand why Bishop Hammond thought this was a good argument. Finally I got it. I was pointing out that the Church has not always interpreted the Godhead the way it does now and that even now there is a range of opinions.
I said, "You're saying I'd do real damage to someone if I convinced him that this was a legitimate way of looking at the Godhead; but if the scriptures allow a range of opinions, then how does it harm him to accept an alternate interpretation?"
"Because then he's believing false doctrine," Bishop Hammond responded.
Suddenly it clicked. If I convinced someone that "false doctrine" was not demonstrably false after all but was an acceptable belief for Mormons, then I was teaching "false doctrine" as Church doctrine. Bishop Hammond did not make the distinction between "true doctrine" and "Church doctrine." He was also unwilling or unable to make the distinction between "Church doctrine" and "my understanding of Church doctrine."
Bishop Hammond returned to the charge that I had broken the condition requiring me to refrain from opposing or criticizing the Church or its leaders. The four pieces of evidence Bishop Hammond had presented—"My Controversy with the Church," the newspaper articles about me, the Sunstone news report, and my Mormon Alliance activities—constituted violations of this condition, in his view.
"None of these things is a case of opposition to the Church or its doctrine," I said. "Since our interpretations of these things differ, why do you have to punish me?"
Bishop Hammond declared, "I'm a judge in Israel." Picking up the General Handbook of Instructions, he exclaimed, "This is revelation from God, and I have to follow what it says."
"No, the handbook is not revelation," I said. "It's a text that requires interpretation. And your interpretation of what it says about apostasy is different from mine. All of this is a judgment call. You think I'm acting in opposition; I don't. You say that I've preached false doctrine. I say that I haven't because I haven't advanced my ideas as doctrine at all. I say they're my interpretations, my beliefs. So given this disagreement, why do you have to take any action at all?"
No one said anything for a few moments, then Bishop Hammond said, "That's all I have to bring up. Do any of you have something else you'd like to ask her?" he asked the other men.
Mark Dayton brought up an issue that we'd discussed extensively at the first court, unconditional obedience to leaders. He recounted the incident in the Book of Mormon where the people didn't want to practice the law of Moses because they had been given the law of Christ, but their prophet told them to keep the law of Moses until the coming of Christ.25 His point was that you should do what you're told even if you think you have superior reasoning or revelation. I didn't challenge his interpretation of this incident, but I did say that the text didn't say whether the people received a witness that their prophet's counsel was from God. "Certainly it does not say that they went against their own spiritual feelings in continuing to obey the law of Moses," I said. "My way, which I've always been frank about, is that I will listen to my leaders' counsel, think about it and pray about it, and then I will try to do what the spirit within me tells me to do."
Bishop Hammond then said something that surprised me. "You want your personal revelation, but you're denying it to others." My bewilderment must have shown in my face because he continued with a convoluted argument that didn't make sense to me, but seemed to be based on a coercive idea of revelation. The gist of his argument seemed to be that I based my papers on my revelation; and since I tried to get others to believe my ideas, I was denying them their own revelation.
"Yes, I've prayed about the ideas in my papers and I feel I've received many answers and inspiration and I've tried never to go against the answers I've received," I acknowledged. "But I rarely talk about my personal spiritual experiences in my papers, and I've never suggested that anyone should agree with my beliefs because I've had spiritual confirmation about them. I don't think anyone, even a prophet, should coerce other people with revelation. I do feel that I've had revelation that some ideas are true, but I've never used that as a reason why someone else should believe them. I base my arguments on theological reasoning or scriptural interpretation. Even if I told a close friend in a private conversation about a revelation, I wouldn't say, `So that's why you have to believe it too.' I talk about this principle in `Him Shall Ye Hear,' and I feel very strongly about it. I would never try to coerce someone into believing my revelations."
Bishop Hammond did not respond. I couldn't tell if he was satisfied with my explanation. Then he asked again if there was anything else the other men wanted to bring up. None of them had any further questions, so he asked me if I had anything else to say.
Realizing that this would be my final defense, I said that I did. "One reason that cases like mine are handled by local leaders is that presumably they know the person and his or her testimony and service in the Church and can thus make a better judgment of character and motive. These things are fundamental in judging a charge of apostasy. You know that I believe in Jesus Christ. My two papers that you have read attest of this. You know that I try to be truthful and honest and try to follow what I believe is right. If I didn't, I wouldn't be here. You know I've always been faithful in carrying out my responsibilities in the Church. I've told you what my motives are. I recognize that motives are complex, but my conscious purpose in writing and speaking was to help people understand the doctrine of Christ. I love the Church. I believe in the Book of Mormon. I believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet. I want to be a member of the Church. You know all of this about me. You've charged me with teaching false doctrine and opposing the Church, but you haven't proven that the ideas I've presented are false or that I'm in opposition to the Church. To know whether or not I'm in opposition to the Church, you have to know my motives. Opposition is based on motives. To be an apostate I have to desire to hurt or destroy the Church, but my motive in writing was to help the Church. You may believe that I have hurt the Church or damaged people's testimonies; but if my motive was to help, then it's wrong to say I'm in opposition to the Church."
"No," Bishop Hammond declared, "the important thing is outcome. If you've really damaged people's testimonies and hurt the Church, that's what's important."
"You keep saying that I've damaged people's testimonies, but you've never given me even one example!" I exclaimed. "If I've hurt people, why aren't they here to testify of it? You don't know what the outcome of my work is. You don't have all the evidence. You can't see into the future. The outcome doesn't even exist yet. Just because people may be confused doesn't mean they're damaged. I could have brought people to this court who would have testified that my writing has helped them stay in the Church."
Bishop Hammond simply repeated that he thought what I had done was damaging to people's testimonies. I didn't point it out, but this whole line of argument was irrelevant because damaging people's testimonies is not a definition of apostasy. Are Church leaders willing to stand trial for all the testimonies they have damaged?
I continued my final plea for exoneration. "Believing what you do about what it would mean to excommunicate me—that it would invalidate my baptismal covenant, that it would take away the sealing with my husband and children, that it would mean that I couldn't participate or serve in the Church or be with my children at important times in their lives—believing all this, how could you do this to me? You know of my belief in God and my desire and efforts to do what is right. How can you punish me in this way just because you think I have broken these rules, these rules which are not from God but which you made up?"
Bishop Hammond was obviously angry with me. Up to this point he had usually spoken quietly and slowly. Now he spoke quickly, with more energy, and there was a hard edge to his voice. "You have to take some of the responsibility. You can't lay it all on us. You knew you were going over the line. You knew you were doing what we didn't want you to do. We told you what the consequences would be."
I didn't respond. It seemed so hopeless. I just didn't have the energy to point out one more time that they had drawn the line, that it could be drawn in another way, or that, better yet, it didn't have to be drawn at all. Later, in explaining this to my children, I compared the bishop to a terrorist who says, "If you don't do such-and-such, I'll shoot you; and if I shoot you, it will be your fault because I told you what the consequences would be," or "If you don't give into my demands, I'll blow up the building and it will be your fault."
"Do you have anything else to say?" Bishop Hammond asked me.
"No," I replied.
Before I left the room he said that they wouldn't make a decision unless it was unanimous and unless they had a confirmation of the Spirit that it was right.
David was in the waiting room, so I sat by him and we talked for about half an hour. I told him a little of what had happened—that it was hopeless. I felt that they had already decided before the court that I had broken Bishop Hammond's conditions, that I was an apostate. Some things Paul MacKay had said made me believe that they had discussed my case at length. He had said things like, "This is our approach," and "This is how we look at what you've done in terms of your opposition to the Church," and "We're doing it according to the handbook." After awhile someone came out of the stake president's office and asked us to go somewhere else. They didn't want us to overhear their deliberations. Their concern was unjustified because we hadn't heard a thing although we were speaking very quietly or just sitting there holding hands. Were they afraid we might hear the telephone ring?
We went into the foyer where quite few people had gathered while I was in the court. Besides David, my children, Margaret and her four daughters (Paul was with Nephi), and Lavina, another ten or twelve friends had come to be with me. I found out later that others would have come if they'd known the court was taking place. I was very touched by their concern. My friends gathered around me and held my hands. I told them some of what had happened in the court and my interpretation of it.
Then about 11:00 p.m. I was summoned back to hear the court's decision. Once again, the bishop and his counselors had spent about two hours in deliberation. I had not expected them to take so long. They let David come with me.
They were all sitting in the same chairs they had been in during the court. Every one of them looked devastated. Their faces were averted and downcast. No one looked at me. Bishop Hammond read a statement. "It is the decision of this disciplinary council that you be excommunicated from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."
The words pierced my heart, but then a warm sensation, beginning in my breast, suffused my entire body, filling me and surrounding me with a perfect spirit of peace and love. God had comforted me and granted me my desire. Through the power of his spirit, I was able to forgive and love the men who had unrighteously judged me and whose judgment would cause many others to similarly judge me. I saw them as lost sheep who had been led astray; I wanted to gather them into the fold of God's love where they could be healed of their blindness and soothed of their fear.
"You are no longer a member of the Church," Bishop Hammond read and then went on to read all the restrictions on an excommunicated person. When he finished he said, looking at me for the first time, "I would like your permission to keep your membership record; and if you move, to pass it on with the records of the rest of your family."
"I will be happy to have you do that because my family will be in your ward." I spoke quite calmly and sincerely. "I plan on attending church with them, and I hope I will be welcome."
"Yes, you will be welcome," Bishop Hammond said. "One of the things I've given a lot of thought to during this time of thinking about excommunicating you is how I can continue to serve your family. I want to help your children. I want to be a good bishop to them. I've really thought and thought about how I can do that. We think you're a good neighbor, a good person. We don't think you're a bad person. You have a lot of integrity. We recognize your desire to do what is right and follow your principles. We want you to know that we love you and welcome you to come to church and we'll help you in any way we can."
If I had not been so filled with the Spirit, these words would have angered me; but because I had moved from anger to forgiveness, they simply grieved me. Didn't they understand the meaning of excommunication—that if it were a just judgment ratified by the Holy Spirit, it would invalidate my baptism and take away the gift of the Holy Ghost? That it would send a person to hell? If they thought I was a good person with integrity and the desire to do what is right, how could they sentence me to hell?
I told them that I forgave them. "I won't say that I haven't felt any anger or hurt at what's been done, because I have," I added. "Your judgment over this last seven months has hurt me; not to be able to partake of the sacrament has hurt me. I believe that your judgment is unjust, but I have no desire to hurt you. I know that you've tried to do what is right according to your understanding and according to your ability to receive revelation. I forgive you and I love you."
They told David that they loved him too. He did not answer; and for a person as responsive as David, his silence was a powerful message. I could tell by the look on his face that he wanted to punch them. He told me later that he had thought, "They're talking about love, but it doesn't seem like love to me. It's only words. The only person in this room who is radiating love is Janice."
I had felt the same way many times, since the stake president and bishop often repeated that they loved me. I had often reflected that, since they would treat me the same way if they hated me, I didn't see any difference. It was as if they had said to David, "We've just raped and killed your wife, but we did it because we love you both. We hope you don't mind."
As David and I entered the foyer, it became very quiet. No one moved. "Excommunication," I said. Unlike the first court, there was no immediate response. People seemed frozen. Some of them started to cry quietly. Then people started coming up and embracing me. I felt a lot of love, and I wanted to comfort them. It was very quiet, and I heard Margaret cry out, "I don't feel like hugging anyone. I want to hit someone. I'm so angry." She burst into tears and sobbed, "I hate them. I hate them. I hate them all!" She pushed through the double glass doors, still weeping. The hall monitors didn't ask us to leave this time, but there was nothing else to say or do. In a few minutes, everyone quietly left.
Margaret drove up in her minivan; and most of the children climbed in while I was maneuvering myself and my crutches inside. As we drove home, I thanked Margaret for being angry. They had done an evil thing and it was right to be angry. Margaret and I are very close, and I felt she was experiencing for me what I couldn't experience myself that night. Anger is part of forgiveness and hate is not antithetical to love. Being finite and desiring to forgive that night, I could not experience the anger and hate at the same time, but I knew they were subsumed in what I felt. The hatred Margaret felt was not for them personally—she didn't even know them—but for the self-righteousness, obsession with rules and obedience, authoritarianism, blindness, and fear which caused them to bring so much suffering upon others. She knew the pain of excommunication; she had experienced it with Paul.
In anger there is a judgment that someone did something wrong. Like Margaret, I have that judgment. Anger also possesses an energy to right the wrong. Part of the reason I was able to give up my anger that night was that I had done everything I could to help them understand what they were doing and make a different decision. I had explained the principles I saw at the heart of the gospel as clearly as I could. I had tried to understand them and respect the good I saw. I had come with love and a true desire to open up my heart and help them understand things in a different way, but they were too full of fear and prejudice to have the faith to bridge the stark contrast between their worldview and mine.
Though my anger reflects my judgment that they did an evil thing, my forgiveness means that I do not judge them. I recognize my own sins. I acknowledge that the four men who judged me unrighteously are more than this evil deed. They live in freedom, and the desires of their hearts are not known to me. The Lord tells us that to forgive we must say in our hearts, "Let God judge between me and thee and reward thee according to thy deeds" (D&C 64:11). I will say the first part—"Let God judge between me and thee"—but I choose not to ask God to reward them according to their deeds. I do not want them to be punished and I have no desire to hurt them, but I do want them to understand clearly the nature of their sin. Of course, this would cause them pain, a pain that, in fact, is greater than any other pain, but it is the only way to redemption. I hope that it will be a pain that leads to redemption. I hope that they will repent and have faith in Jesus Christ and, through his love, have their sins washed away.
When we got home, a few of us sat in our living room for a while. Some of my children gathered around me, sitting on my lap and leaning against me. They were very hurt by the judgment against me. I told them that I knew that God still loved me and them. "Jesus has made it known to me very clearly that I am acceptable to him," I told them. "I am still part of his Church."
The next night nine-year-old Jared came and flung himself onto my lap. He was angry. "They excommunicated you for your whole life," he said. "You can't be in Church things for your whole life. You can't go to the temple for your whole life."
"It is hard," I told him. "They did a very bad thing, but I know that God loves us and he'll take care of us and we'll find a way to live with it."21American Puritan literature and sermons frequently used "God hath a controversy with this people" as a structuring phrase in exhortation and argumentation. It appears variously in Jeremiah 25:31: "The Lord hath a controversy with the nations"; Hosea 4:1: "The Lord hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land"; Hosea 12:2: "The Lord hath also a controversy with Judah"; and Micah 6:2: "The Lord hath a controversy with his people."
22"The Purge: A Year Later," B. H. Roberts Society, 17 Nov. 1994, University of Utah, 7:30 - 9:30 p.m. Panel: Fred Voros, moderator, Janice Allred, Lavina Fielding Anderson, Rod Decker, and L. Jackson Newell, audiotape in Anderson's possession; see also "Panel Weighs Free Speech, LDS Church," Deseret News, 18 November 1994, B-3; Sheila Sanchez, "Panel Members Claim Purge Continues," Provo Daily Herald, 21 Nov. 1994; the Salt Lake Tribune did not cover this meeting.
23The reporter, who was working from my written text since she had to file her story before Saturday night, had misunderstood my reaction to David when he told about the stake presidency's instruction to give me a blessing ordering me to obey them. The story read: "Her reaction to his comment was to threaten her husband with ending their marriage." Sheila Sanchez, "Women's Concerns Aired at Counterpoint Conference," (Provo) Daily Herald, 6 Nov. 1995. I had added a clarifying sentence in my oral presentation. In my letter to the editor, I tried to describe the conference so that it did not sound as if it focused only on controversial topics and to balance some of the statements I had made, which were correctly quoted, with omitted statements that I hoped would reflect the compassion and respect I felt for the Church and its leaders. But I was most concerned about the idea that I had threatened to end our marriage. I wrote: "It was not my husband's idea to give me such a blessing and I did not threaten to end our marriage. ... David did not think I was saying this. ... Our Church leaders were trying to get him to control me by abusing his priesthood. I was saying that if he ever did this, it would violate the love, trust, equality, and mutual respect that have always characterized our marriage. I did not believe that he would do this and he assured me that he would not. He has given me many blessings, and he has never said anything that he did not believe came from the spirit of God." "Allred Clarifies Report" (letter), (Provo) Daily Herald, 11 Nov. 1994.
24"Mormon Feminist Disciplined," Sunstone 18, no. 1 (April 1995): 80-84.
25"And there were no contentions, save it were a few that began to preach, endeavoring to prove by the scriptures that it was no more expedient to observe the law of Moses. Now in this thing they did err, having not understood the scriptures.
"But it came to pass that they soon became converted, and were convinced of the error which they were in, for it was made known unto them that the law was not yet fulfilled, and that it must be fulfilled in every whit" (3 Ne. 1:24-25).