Six Facing Censure Accuse Mormon Church of Purge

From Associated Press

Six Mormon scholars and feminists have recently been summoned to defend themselves against charges of apostasy--evidence, they say, of a church purge of those who are considered intellectual heretics.

In the past, the Mormon Church has moved against adulterers, bigamists and more recently, right-wing survivalists.

But the apparent move against those who publicly differ with church leaders on issues of doctrine, history and the role of women in the church is new, the accused say.


During a hearing Tuesday, Lynne Whitesides, president of the Mormon Women’s Forum, was temporarily stripped of the right to take communion and other church privileges.

D. Michael Quinn, a former professor at Brigham Young University who has written about admitting women to the Mormon priesthood, was also “disfellowshipped” in July. This week, he received notice that an excommunication hearing would be held Sept. 26.

The four others face disciplinary hearings over the next eight days. Quinn said he suspects that dozens of other feminists and intellectuals have been warned to toe the line.

Bruce Olsen, a Mormon spokesman, insisted that the hearings do not represent a concerted effort by the church’s central leadership. Instead, various local churches are moving to discipline members who have made public statements seemingly contrary to church teachings, Olsen said.

But Quinn and others see the guiding hand of Elder Boyd K. Packer, a senior member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, one of the church’s governing bodies. Packer recently identified feminists, gays and “so-called scholars” as the three dangers facing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Quinn, who predicted that he will be excommunicated, sees the wave of disciplinary proceedings as a response to the recent, rapid growth of the church. The church has about 8.5 million members around the world, compared to 4.4 million in 1979.


“The motivation I see is a drive for conformity that comes out of the concern, unease and fear they have of losing control,” Quinn said.

Whitesides organized a recent rally in support of fired BYU professors and suggested during a speech in August that Packer needs to revise his view of women.

The others summoned to appear before local disciplinary councils are Lavina Fielding Anderson, a historical researcher; Maxine Hanks, a feminist and editor of a book about women in the church; Paul Toscano, a Salt Lake lawyer and founder of the Mormon Alliance, a group that investigates cases of alleged spiritual abuse by authoritarian church leaders, and Avraham Gileadi, a scholar who has published books that raise questions about Mormon doctrine.

Hanks, a former missionary who edited a book about women in the church, said she was told she is considered an apostate because of public statements, writings and private comments, and because she is influencing other members.

Anderson said she believes she stands accused because of her refusal to apologize for writings and public comments against spiritual abuse. She said she will not stop attending church or following Mormon customs in her home if she is excommunicated.

“I’ve given it my whole life,” she said. “My life is Mormon, my values are Mormon and my heart is Mormon. I can’t guess, I have no way of knowing, how much it will hurt.”