The epitome of the LDS Church’s institutional problems? Those excommunications.

You may already know about the bootings of Kate Kelly and John Dehlin. Have you heard Carson and Marisa Calderwood’s story (above)? Or Rock Waterman’s? Photo courtesy Carson Calderwood

The LDS Church’s new gay policy is just the latest institutional action that has rocked the Mormon world even in the last couple of years, following the national attention on the church since Mitt Romney’s candidacy for president. It’s also not the only action that shook membership. A year-and-a-half ago, headlines ran about church excommunications and disciplinary actions across the country. Since, they’ve continued.

The dialogue below, via Twitter, outlines what’s gone on.

Person 1: Things have gotten crazy. I think there is the most apostasy right now since Kirtland — at least, there was in 2012, when the church’s historian admitted it — because the church and its leadership hasn’t been in such a bad place since then, either.

Person 2: I keep wondering if something bigger will happen among the membership. More of a schism. Or if it will remain subtle.

P1: I asked John Dehlin of the Mormon Stories podcast about this. He suggested that the media would no longer cover them because they are no longer news. I add that it’s because Dehlin and Ordain Women founder Kate Kelly’s were high-profile. I understand the media perspective of covering them if they are no longer news. But there have been more that have been even more heinous than the Dehlin and Kelly excommunications, but no coverage. So folks won’t even have a chance to re-evaluate their membership based upon the excommunications because we won’t know about them.

Would church leadership have encouraged the excommunications because they know that their publicity, when they were news, will cause questioning or critical members to be quiet, fearing their own membership?

P2: Really? That’s crazy. How do you hear about them?

P1: I heard about the excommunications from Mormon Stories. They were about the bootings of Carson and Marisa Calderwood and Rock Waterman.

Waterman largely reflected Denver Snuffer’s work, so if Snuffer’s excommunication was wrong, then Waterman’s is absolutely insane (I think it was).

The Calderwood’s is even crazier.

P2: I will look up the Calderwood’s. I’m familiar with Snuffer and Waterman. Both of them were improperly ex’d in my opinion.

P1: Carson and Marisa Calderwood were active in their Seattle ward until just six months before The Decision. And this was the apostasy, apparently: Carson just posted online (his blog or something) about historical realities about church origins. Marisa merely opined that Carson’s disciplinary action was heinous.

At the trial, the CURRENT elder’s quorum president argued his defense. He said that Carson actually helped people stay active. Dozens of people came to the chapel in their support. The church’s PR flaks came to the chapel to control them (if church leaders were worried, wouldn’t have they sent for police? Or people from the Strengthening the Members Committee, their version of the police? Anyway… I’m just joking, mostly).
 But around midnight, they were ex’d. Them, Waterman — IT’S F’ING INSANE!!!!!!!
Not that you need this, but here’s the link to the Calderwoods’ Mormon Stories podcast:
The media should have covered this. Peggy should have covered this. Thank goodness for Mormon Stories, even though Dehlin can be unfair to the church. And even if just one side is represented.
P2: I will listen to the episode.
P1: It was good to meet the Calderwood’s, Waterman and Snuffer — and Kelly and Dehlin — at the Sunstone Symposium.
It seemed like Rock is a little off his rocker, and wanted excommunication. I am assuming that at least Dehlin and Kelly did, too, because they basically said that in a panel. But doesn’t mean they should have (especially Rock).
I bet we see Kristy Money and/or Chelsea Shields go soon. Kristy already had her temple recommend removed for sitting on the Ordain Women board. Chelsea went public in telling a reporter that her TEDx talk criticizing the church on women could get her excommunicated. Even if she or whomever wants it, the fact that it happens just speaks to the cultish nature of the church.
P2: Interesting. … What if there were an anonymous blog? That chronicles some of this crazy stuff.
P1: There is this “anonymous bishop” blog:
P2: Interesting. I feel like that’s what would happen if I was somehow called as bishop.
P1: I mean, the Calderwoods, Snuffer and Waterman all got excommunicated (and several other disciplined at least last year, when media covered it: ). But then Peggy, who has reported on the church for years (some say in a biased way particularly on her blog), has never faced discipline, as she’s an active member. Or Doug Fabrizio. Or scholars like Richard Bushman, Armand Mauss and Philip Barlow. (Probably because it would be a PR nightmare to ex a journalist or scholar who must think very critically but remains faithful.)
P2: That’s true. They are probably on a whitelist as long as they stay “active.”
…but not excommunciated, even though the level of criticism was the same as Snuffer’s. So I just say it depends upon the person holding the stake president or bishop position.

Unless apostles pressure local leaders, as Russell M. Nelson reportedly did to Snuffer’s stake president. The “200 words or less” guy got disciplined for his whole website, not the post about the “Anonymous Bishop” blog. Still, insane.  And as for the whitelist, YES.

P2: That’s what scares me. Your local leaders really are luck of the draw. And there is definitely pressure from the top. But if your bishop and stake pres are cool, you will probably be OK unless you become super well-known.

P1: Right. I’m glad I wasn’t called in after I posted an Ordain Women profile. But I probably wasn’t because the bishop is ancient and probably barely knows how to use the Internet. And becoming super well-known is probably where the Brethren (LDS Church leadership) step in, too, given that Fabrizio said that M. Russell Ballard and other apostles spoke to the Kate Kelly situation and probably others in their annual leadership trainings with bishops and stake presidents. And that Nelson probably pressured Denver’s stake president.

P2: That “200 words” post is interesting. Was he disciplined even though he said he wasn’t a member? I didn’t understand that part.

P1: What is particularly insane about all of this is that you’d think the church would want to hold onto membership and not kick many out or make others upset since members have recently left in “droves” to a level unlike anything seen before, except the Kirtland era.

 That is according to a Reuters “special report,” perhaps defined that way because the church historian did not know that his “droves” statement was recorded. (He said it at Utah State University, by the way, and I was there. But I wasn’t the recorder! I never would have done anything like that three years ago, LOL.)
So a “special report,” maybe, because it was an unconventional story arising out of unique circumstances.
P2: I read one of the posts he linked to, the Truman show one. Do you know that the church has a collection of all the myths and folklore? So if someone contacts church headquarters they can confirm or deny if the story is verified. I would love to get ahold of that file.
P1: Do you know who at headquarters you need to ask for and talk to about verifying a story?
P2: Unfortunately, no. I met a couple on my mission that was assigned to maintain the file when they were serving on the Temple Square mission.
P1: The story from last year about disciplinary actions mentioned that people who posted an Ordain Women profile did face disciplinary action and were put on informal probation.
This is what is said in the Trib article about disciplinary action about the “200 Words or Less” blog: “Will Carter of Indio, Calif., was excommunicated in April after his blog, In 200 Words or Less, and conversations with fellow Mormons led his bishop to accuse him of apostasy. Carter said in an interview that he openly wondered how the church could better help those whose testimonies were rocked by information found on the internet and he openly spoke about one of Snuffer’s books, which he found ‘positively inspiring and truth-filled.’ His bishop’s idea, he said, ‘was for me to shut up, to not tell anybody.'”
P2: If the church doesn’t make room for doubters and critics, they will force most of them to simply leave. Unfortunately, how many leaders and active members probably want all unorthodox members to take a hike? Too many.

That’s interesting about the “200 words” dude.

P1: So it seems like Will Carter, the author, was a member. I don’t know why he would claim otherwise on his blog, unless he was saying something more about how he is a member no longer…

 …and there are not enough savvy people to take a middle ground stand, so I just see the problem continuing until there are critical thinkers who are out, blind faith people who are in, and the choice few thoughtful folks who understand that a middle ground can be taken.
And don’t know how the problem won’t continue because the leaders aren’t held accountable if the excommunications/disciplines are not made known to the public, unless Dehlin can catch all of them and his podcast grows in popularity. Because the media seems to be done covering them. I know that Peggy is because I emailed her twice about covering Waterman’s and the Calderwood’s, at least. She replied that she is not going to cover them. And I haven’t seen anything from Fabrizio on discipline, either, since last year.
P2: Interesting.
P1: I pleaded for Peggy to cover Waterman’s and the Calderwood’s. I emailed her twice about it. I was grateful for her response, but disappointed. So go Mormon Stories.
Another thing on the excommunications: Seems like L. Whitney Clayton was directly involved in the excommunications of Dehlin, Kelly and Snuffer, since he probably contacted each of their leaders directly.
 So he needs to go. Or the apostles need to not have a whipping boy. Or if Clayton’s efforts came through the Strengthening the Members Committee, then an overdue change is needed there in getting rid of it.
P2: Fascinating.

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