Several Mormon dissidents who aired complaints about their church (“Protesting Patriarchy,” View, May 16, 1993) were excommunicated or otherwise disciplined by church leaders later in the year.
During a span of 10 days in September, leaders in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints excommunicated Lavina Fielding Anderson, a sixth-generation Mormon who had been compiling a list of alleged “emotional abuses” by the church’s lay clergy; Paul Toscano, a Salt Lake City lawyer who formed the Mormon Alliance, which also investigates such alleged abuses; Maxine Hanks, author of “Women and Authority: Re-emerging Mormon Feminism;” Avrhami Gileadi, a conservative scholar; and Michael Quinn, Yale-educated scholar, who published data showing Mormon women have held the priesthood since 1843.
They may no longer receive church sacraments and their names have been removed from church rolls.
Lynne Kanavel Whitesides, president of the Mormon Women’s Forum, a feminist group, was “disfellowshipped,” meaning her church privileges were temporarily removed. Whitesides had organized a rally in support of outspoken Mormon academics who were denied tenure at the church-run Brigham Young University in Salt Lake City. Many have submitted appeals.
“It was absolutely a purge,” Whitesides says. “I think they were trying to let intellectuals and feminists know they would not tolerate certain ideas and they would certainly not tolerate debate.”
Mormon officials deny that the actions constituted a widespread purge. “Discipline in this church is viewed internally as a means of helping someone who has strayed. And it needn’t be permanent,” says Don LeFevre, a church spokesman. “Our policy is to welcome them back with open arms if they are willing to come back.”
Whitesides says that is “a nice sentiment, but I don’t believe it.”
She says she and others will continue to publish their work and ideas, and that the publicity has in fact brought them a wider audience: “There is a solid community out there that is open to the people disciplined by the church. Nothing has changed for us. Our lives are not worse; my life is much better. I’ve felt supported and cared for.”
Further, she says, other intellectuals are now showing interest in their movement and “donations are coming in like crazy.”