THE MORMON CURTAIN
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The Strengthening Church Members Committee (SCMC) was formed by Ezra Taft Benson. It is a secret police organization within the LDS Church whose sole purpose is to track down dissidents and keep records on them. It is also to keep track of anyone who speaks out against the Church. This topic includes all surveillance conducted by the Mormon Church.
| In the late 1980s, the administration of Ezra Taft Benson formed what it called the Strengthening Church Members Committee (SCMC), to keep files on potential church dissidents and collect their published material for possible later use in church disciplinary proceedings. The existence of this committee was first publicized by an anti-Mormon ministry in 1991, when it was referred to in a memo dated July 19, 1990 leaked from the office of the church's Presiding Bishopric.
At the 1992 Sunstone Symposium, dissident Mormon scholar Lavina Fielding Anderson accused the Committee of being "an internal espionage system," which prompted BYU professor and moderate Mormon scholar Eugene England to "accuse that committee of undermining the Church," a charge for which he later publically apologized (Letter to the Editor, Sunstone, March 1993). The publicity concerning the statements of Anderson and England, however, prompted the church to officially acknowledge the existence of the Committee. ("Mormon Church keeps files on its dissenters," St. Petersburg Times, Aug. 15, 1992, at 6e.) The Church explained that the Committee "provides local church leadership with information designed to help them counsel with members who, however well-meaning, may hinder the progress of the church through public criticism." ("Secret Files," New York Times, Aug. 22, 1992).
The First Presidency also issued a statement on August 22, 1992, explaining its position that the Committee had precedent and was justified based on a reference to DandC (LDS) Sec. 123, written while Joseph Smith, Jr. was imprisoned in Liberty, Missouri, suggesting that a committee be formed to record and document acts of persecution against the church by the people of Missouri.
The full purpose of the SCMC is to track down and punish dissenters in the Mormon Church.
| Daniel C. Peterson Admits Being An "Agent" Of The Strengthening Church Members Committee |
Monday, Oct 16, 2006, at 08:37 AM
Original Author(s): Doctor Scratch
Topic: SURVEILLANCE (SCMC) -Link To MC Article-
| ↑ |
| A poster on FAIR brought up the Strengthening the Church Members Committee, apparently disquieted that such a thing even exists. During the course of the thread, most posters, notably Charity, tried to pooh-pooh away the OP's concerns, labeling them "conspiracy theory," and generally making fun of the whole thing. But what's interesting is that Prof. Peterson himself has actually functioned as an "agent" (his own word) for this committee:
Daniel Peterson wrote:
"[sic] .. was once sent out, a number of years ago, as a kind of "agent" of the Strengthening Church Members Committee. My mission? To try to help a member of the Church whose apostasy was threatening his marriage and causing anguish to his very active wife, children, and parents. (The wife and parents, and his stake president, has asked for help.) The weapons of choice? Talking with him for about four hours in Salt Lake City, in the presence of his wife and stake president, and recommending some readings."
Four hours? In a confined space? And he wants to claim that the SCMC is some kind of innocuous "newspaper clipping service"? He's got to be kidding. Further, his denials on the matter are of the "he doth protest too much" variety:
Daniel Peterson wrote:
"It's not much more than a (very) small clipping service. Trust me on this one. There is no spying or covert action. No trappings of "Mission Impossible." No non-Scientologist Tom Cruise.
It is worth pointing out that, even if he is correct and it's only "a (very) small clipping service" (and "service" seems an odd choice of words), the "operation" would still involve people combing through newspapers, journals, blogs, etc., etc., and this really doesn't seem like a very small task. It seems that Lavina Anderson was far closer to the mark when she labeled SCMC an "internal espionage" organization. In any case, DCP appears to be in "deeper" than some may have thought.
Some critics have severely overheated imaginations. "
| DandC 123 is not designated as a "revelation," but is a letter from JS while he was in Liberty Jail. Moreover, the language therein suggests something less than a "mandate." The first verse reads (bold mine for emphasis):
"And again, we would suggest for your consideration the propriety of all the saints gathering up a knowledge of all the facts, and suffereings and abuses put upon them by the people of this State."
In verse 4, which dicusses forming a "committee" (to which the Church cited when the SCMC was exposed back in 1992), the language is less than absolute:
"And perhaps a committee can be appointed to find out these things and to take statements and affidavits; and also to gather up the libelous publications that are afloat."
The context of DandC 123 makes it clear that the purpose was to seek redress for abuses suffered at the hands of Missourians, not to "mandate" that the Church now and forever gather up anti-Mormon info for a "testament" against its perceived enemies (or, more importantly, against those members who would dare to speak unorthodox ideas).
In addition, the three original members of the "committee" described in verse 4, Almon W. Babbitt, Erastus Snow, and Robert B. Thompson, have written that a primary purpose of the committee was to gather anti-Mormon claims in order to refut them in a church history to be compiled.
In its August 1992 statement explaining the recently exposed SCMC, the FP cited DandC 123 as authority for the SCMC. To do this takes the entire section out of context in two ways: First, it relates to info of abuses suffered by the saints in Missouri in order to seek redress from the federal government; Second, anti-Mormon info was collected by the three gentlemen of the committee in order to refut them in a church history compilation. DandC 123 was never intended to gather dirt on actual members who did not toe the party line, which is essentially the mission of today's SCMC. DandC 123 has been twisted and spun in a way that was never intended.
| Found this reader response to an SLTrib "public forum letter"
Poster Ben Williams: 12/16/2007 8:21:00 PM
Daryl here's the sources for the stake out on Wallace
April 5, 1977 The Salt Lake Tribune reported: "Mormon dissident Douglas A. Wallace charged Monday that a Salt Lake City police officer, shot early Sunday was keeping surveillance on him in a nearby residence. "Acting Police Chief Edgar A. Bryan Jr. denied it. "He said his men were not keeping surveillance on Mr. Wallace, a excommunicated member of the Church...but he would not say what the stakeout's purpose was. “Officer David W. Olson remained in critical condition Monday at St. Mark's Hospital, where personnel said he suffered a severed spinal cord from a single shot in the neck. The policeman was shot accidentally by his partner,... Wallace was staying at the home of a friend, Dr. John W. Fitzgerald, 2177 Carriage Lane. (4600 South). "He was in Salt Lake City to try to make an appearance at the LDS World Conference last weekend. Attorneys for the church, however, obtained a temporary restraining order...which prevented the dissident from visiting Temple Square. "'I have not committed any crime, and I don't intend to commit any crime. I have been raised in the Mormon faith and I am a man of peace...This is not Russia; this is not Nazi Germany; there is no reason why I should be under surveillance of the police,' Mr. Wallace said."
6 April 1977 Salt Lake Tribune related: "Ex-Mormon Douglas Wallace, who claims the wounding of an undercover police officer was done while police held surveillance on him, Tuesday afternoon said he will subpoena various high ranking police and sheriff's deputies to establish the fact.... "Mr. Wallace said also, 'It is clear from the evidence that we have uncovered that I was under surveillance. The police department's denial of that simply compounds the wrong. Is this going to be Salt Lake's sequel to the Watergate scandal?'" (Salt Lake Tribune, April 6, 1977)
8 April 1977 With Mr. Wallace and his attorney pressing them hard, the police were finally forced to admit the truth about the matter: "Salt Lake City police officers admitted Thursday that the accidental wounding of an undercover officer occurred during surveillance of Mormon dissident Douglas A. Wallace.... "Reports released Thursday by both the county sheriff's office and the county attorney show that six officers were on stakeout around the John W. Fitzgerald home...where Mr. Wallace was staying. "The lawmen were paired up in three police vehicles and two of those were parked close together in opposite directions..." (Salt Lake Tribune, April 8, 1977)
18 Jan 1978 Letter to Editor of the Salt Lake Tribune, "I would also like to thank Spencer W. Kimball for his incorrect press release concerning the police involvement combined with the LDS church's efforts to restrict Douglas A. Wallace from the temple grounds, specifically the Tabernacle, on April 3, 1977. "His denial of these actions is wrong. Any man who can take such actions and still call himself a prophet deserves more than I to be confined to this wheelchair." David Olson (SLC Police officer who was accidentally shot and paralyzed while putting Douglas Wallace under surveillance by Mormon official pressure on the police force.
Detective David W. Olson joined the police department in October 1971 and was a combat veteran of the Vietnam war. Olson had served in the Patrol, K-9, and Special Investigations Division. He was known to his close friends as "Hagar".
In the early morning hours of April 3, 1977, Olsen, while in the performance of his duties was accidentally wounded. As a result of his injuries, he was unable to return to active duty and died on March 22, 1980.
| Yes I remember John W. Fitzgerald well. Of course, I had no idea of how admirable a man he truly was, nor his courage in taking a stance against the shameful racism of the church.
My memories are those of a grade schooler:
I remember his announcement about the death of JFK: I was in the second grade that year.
I also remember that he wrote poetry and one year a teacher (probably my six grade teacher Mrs. Britten) chose some of the "best" artists to illustrate a few of them. It must have been a kind of nature poem because I remember doing a coloured pencil drawing of a stream, waterfall and ferns.
Also in the 6th grade we had a debate with various teams drawn up discussing various important issues of the day like----whether it was ok for men to have long hair (!) This would have been around 1966 or 67, and my argument consisted mostly of holding up a picture of Jesus! Dr. Fitzgerald had come to our class for the debates and I remember him laughing uproariously at my "point;" I was surprised at his hearty laugh, since it wasn't usual in his role as school Principal/disciplinarian.
I owe wings and Cabbie email (I'm fine, just having a very intense period in my life right now: lots of changes going down), and had I actually been corresponding with them like I should have been I would have written about walking down to Morningside while I was in SLC a few months ago and sitting on the steps drinking a beer and thinking about Dr. Fitzgerald and many other Morningside denizens.
I also thought about him while driving past Carriage Lane many times while I was home (my grandmother was buried in the cemetary just south of there and after her death I went to her graveside nearly every day).
I wish I had known more about him while he was alive, I consider him to be one of the "people's heroes" of Utah history...
| I Purposely Went To Dr. Fitzgerald's Funeral to see if he'd returned to the church. He hadn't, and his papers--some of which were on display at the service--can be found in a collection at Utah State University. You can access a description of the contents (and some of the writings) on-line (try Google; I've got the URL somewhere on another hard drive, as does et in Utah).
Douglas Wallace was there at the service, as was another dissident who was a little dismayed that his family played down his apostacy (Sandra Tanner spoke to me of knowing "Fitzy" well at an Exmo Conference, as did Gerald who was still alive at the time); there were several references to his penchance for naps when they would visit, and my friend said he was just ducking arguments about the church, that when he visited him in the past, he was lively and animated.
I last saw him about five years before he died (in his 90's), and I regret not bringing up the subject of religion (we did discuss our mutual "editorial writing" in general terms, and he remembered who I was). I was doing some maintenance work at the Carriage Lane condos, and I recognized his voice so I said hello. The second day I was there, he asked me if I would carry some mail out to his mailbox, and he accidentaly dropped them. He was embarrassed that they were some Publisher's Clearing House entries and things like that, but it only made him all the more human an loveable to me . . .
Doug Wallace was permitted to speak right at the end of the service and praised Fitzgerald's courage; immediately after, a member of the family (and an obvious PH holder) invited Wallace to leave (somewhat politely, but I was saddened although not entirely shocked) saying he'd been allowed to have his say . . .
I've collected several good second and third-hand accounts (from law enforcement sources; one was Robert Kirby) about the shooting, and apparently a defective safety was the cause of the accident when one officer passed the holstered 9mm automatic to the other and it discharged (I'd always been curious about how that happened). Not the best example of gun safety, but a tragic event with no malice involved . . .
Kirby noted he thought the officers were responding to a suggestion from above that "these two should be watched" and said if it happened today the policeman's union would've raised a huge stink . . .
I dunno . . . I told the story to Will Bagley last month, and his remark was "And that was after Skousen [W. Cleon Skousen who was police chief for a short time during the 60's] left, right?" As I recollect, Dewey Fillis was Salt Lake Police Chief at the time . . .
BTW, Olson's death mentioned below was a suicide . . .
Nothing much to add unless there are some other Morningside alums who want to honk their horns as well...
| Excerpted from:
Material originally extracted from "The Changing World Of Mormonism", Jerald and Sandra Tanner; Moody Press, Chicago, 1981; Chapter 10.
Since 1976 the Mormon church was repeatedly embarrassed by one of its own members who became alienated over the anti-black doctrine and decided to take matters into his own hands. On April 3, 1976 the Salt Lake Tribune reported that Douglas A. Wallace "ordained a black into the priesthood Friday, saying he did so in an attempt to force a revision in Mormon doctrine about the Negro race.... Wallace said he has long been bothered by the Mormon Church's bias against blacks, and he feels the time has come to challenge it. He said often all that is required to change a policy is for someone to break out of tradition ... he hopes there are no recriminations against him for his action, such as excommunication."
On April 13, 1976 the Salt Lake Tribune revealed that "Douglas A. Wallace was excommunicated from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Sunday for ordaining a black man into the church's priesthood." After a confrontation with church personnel at an April conference session, Mr. Wallace was ejected from the Tabernacle. Later he was served with "a court order barring him from attending conference" (Ibid., October 4, 1976).
Although we did not agree with some of Mr. Wallace's ideas on religion, we did not consider him to be dangerous and we were rather surprised to notice the close surveillance the police kept him under when he walked along the public sidewalk outside of Temple Square. The fear of the threat Mr. Wallace presented to the church seems to have led to a tragic incident where a policeman was accidentally shot and permanently paralyzed. This occurred at the time of the church's conference held in April, 1977. The Salt Lake City police had placed a stakeout around a home where Wallace was staying and at 4:20 A.M. on a Sunday morning one of the policemen accidentally shot his partner. At first the police "denied" that they had Mr. Wallace under surveillance (see Salt Lake Tribune, April 5, 1977), but when Wallace pressed for an investigation the police were forced to admit the truth about the matter: "Salt Lake City police officers admitted Thursday that the accidental wounding of an undercover officer occurred during surveillance of Mormon dissident Douglas A. Wallace.... Reports released Thursday by both the county sheriff's office and the county attorney show that six officers were on stakeout around the John W. Fitzgerald home ... where Mr. Wallace was staying" (Salt Lake Tribune, April 8, 1977).
Douglas Wallace claimed that the Mormon church "was behind April police surveillance ... that led to the accidental shooting of a Salt Lake City police officer" (Ibid., September 17, 1977). Finally, David Olson, the disabled police officer, took exception to a press release issued by the church. In a letter to the editor of the Salt Lake Tribune, January 18, 1978, Mr. Olson attacked President "Spencer W. Kimball for his incorrect press release concerning the police involvement combined with the LDS church's efforts to restrict Douglas A. Wallace from the temple grounds, specifically the Tabernacle, on April 3, 1977. His denial of these actions is wrong. Any man who can take such actions and still call himself a prophet deserves more than I to be confined to this wheelchair."
Douglas Wallace filed lawsuits amounting to millions of dollars against the Mormon church, and although he was not able to prevail against the church in the courts, the publicity surrounding the suits caused the church no end of trouble. We feel that his actions and the embarrassment they caused the church played a part in bringing about the decision to have a new "revelation."
| For the first 18.5 years of my life, I lived at the same address. For the next 20 years thereafter, I probably had 20 addresses. During most of that time, I was diligent about getting in touch with my new ward right after - or sometimes even before - each relocation. If I knew my new address before a move, I often provided that to the clerk in the ward I was leaving. That made it easy for my records to catch up to me in short order, or sometimes even beat me to the new locale.
My most recent move was a different story. I had already reached my own conclusions, and had high hopes that my wife and children would take the same path. I had no motivation to share my new address with anyone at church. My wife wasn't necessarily averse to having the new ward know about us. In fact, she was generally thinking that she wanted to connect with them. Fortunately for me, she didn't know how the system works. She didn't provide the old ward with a specific street address for the home to which we were moving. She did give them the name of the city, but the missing degree of detail proved to be the critical difference.
I've been a branch president and an elders quorum president, so I have some experience with what the processes look like from an administrative standpoint. When a member moves out of a ward, the bishop and the clerk want to get the records out too. They send notice to church headquarters with the names and membership numbers of the members who have moved. If they know the exact address to which the member is moving, they provide that too. The functionaries at headquarters can then use the address to determine the new ward and send the records there.
If the clerk at the old ward doesn't have the members new address, he sends the records to church headquarters anyway. Sometimes, the records only spend a short amount of time there until the member gets in touch with his new ward and they, in turn, get in touch with church headquarters and request the records.
Sometimes, membership records arrive in Salt Lake City from the old ward with no forwarding address attached, and no subsequent request arrives from a new ward. Those records get sent to the "dead pile." I wouldn't expect the church to disclose any details about the number of records in the pile, but I suspect that when they boast about their total number of members, the number is quite a bit higher than just those who are assigned to wards or branches. There was an article a year or two ago in the Salt Lake Tribune that told how service missionaries spend countless hours trying to find these people.
One of the most common and most effective ways they get people out of the dead pile is to get their Mormon relatives to rat them out. When I was an elders quorum president in a really fluid California ward, the ward clerk would often hand us cards that were requests from church headquarters. The cards would have the name of a member they were trying to locate, and the name of a relative of that member who lived in our ward. We were assigned to contact the local member - who was often an inactive or almost totally uknown member himself - and ask for a current address or other contact information for the member in question. Whenever such contact information was obtained, it was forwarded to Salt Lake City so that they could move another record out of the dead pile and make it some ward's problem.
A relative of mine had managed to drop off the Mormon radar screen for a few years. The clerk in his mother's ward asked her for his current address, which she happily provided. Within a few weeks, home teachers from the local ward were knocking on his door.
Common courtesy dictates that you don't give out a friend or relative's contact information without getting his or her permission to do so first. Most active Mormons, however, don't think twice about sharing this kind of information with "the church." Common courtesy be damned if they think it will save you from the same fate. If the Mormons managed to track you down after a move, chances are good that one of your close Mormon relatives ratted you out.
On our last move, we made it more than seven months before we heard from the local Mormons. Fortunately, it was long enough. By that time, our whole family had grown quite attached to our new Unitarian Universalist church community. I have since resigned. My wife and kids are still officially on the Mormon records, but I have to give the local ward some credit for generally leaving us alone.
I did have an idea to buy us more time, but ended up not needing to try it. Here's how it goes. When you're moving out of a ward, give the ward clerk a bogus forwarding address. Send them on a good, old-fashioned wild goose chase. A little research with the church's own ward/meeting locator on their website can help you identify a place that's really, really remote in relation to the closest ward or branch. An island off the coast of Maine with weekley ferry service only in the summer might be a good choice. Your records would be sent to the appropriate branch, which could be many miles from the address you gave. When the branch gets your records, they have to keep them until they verify that you don't live there, which could take months. From there, you go to the dead pile, which personal experience has taught me can be worth another several months.
| So I get a call this evening from a friend on the other side of the country telling me that she's seen my name and comments on Chad Hardey's excommunication/BYU diploma fiasco on Chad Hardey's website.
That's right, in the section called "academic record", which is comprised of news articles, excerpts from Chad's Facebook page, and other blogs, there in black and white is a comment I left on a certain blog (which was a very obscure one that had, at its most popular time, fewer than 200 readers a day) concerning BYU's propriety (or lack thereof) concerning Chad's excommunication and BYU's yanking his diploma.
FREAKY!!!!!!! How in the world did BYU get wind of a comment I left on a very obscure blog? Why would they take the time to print my comment (and yes, I used my real name as I do when I post here) and add it to Chad Hardey's "academic file". The Honor Code Office truly is Big Brother.
Who else has a large "academic" file with "evidence" collected by the (dis)Honor Code Office? So it is clear that BYU keeps these kind of CIA/KGB files on students...does the LDS Church keep the same kind of stuff?
WOW....can I just say WOW!
But, not surprising. The young woman who notified me of this startling (to me) find also informed me that she has drafted her resignation letter over this whole mess.
Take that, LDS Inc.!
| In the recent BBC TV programme 'The Mormon Candidate', Reporter Michael Sweeney gained two senior confirmations of the current existence of this secretive (oops...sacred) sub-organisation within the Mormon Church.
The two people directly asked about this secret Committee were Elder Jeffrey Holland and Senior Church PR Manager Michael Purdy. In both cases, their initial reaction was to deny knowledge of this Committee (known as 'lying'), but when pressed subsequently confirmed that it does exist (known as 'being caught out in a lie').
When asked about it's purpose and modus operandi Michael Purdy (after breaking eye contact, visibly shrinking in his chair and his face turning bright pink) stated that he didn't know anything about what it did.
Elder Holland on the other hand, had to be led to the answer that it's primary purpose was to protect the Saints against Polygamists. Sweeney picked up on that and followed up by asking what it's secondary purposes were. Cue Holland shifting uncomfortably in his seat and waffling for a short while. He then confirmed that it did also observe and monitor other people/members who might be a risk to the faith of the other members but that he didn't sit on the Committee and so didn't know the details of what it did.
So what did we learn for sure about this Committee?
1. It exists and operates today, right now.
2. It monitors members who it perceives as not towing the line to the extent their behaviour may affect others.
3. It is secretive and shadowy.
4. It's activities are such that senior Church leaders are uncomfortable talking about it and would be, initially, prepared to lie about it's existence and purpose.
We can also surmise that:
5. Tithing pays the wages of the people working full time for the Committee.
6. The Committee actively monitors online forums such as this one.
7. People like Grant Palmer and Michael Quinn have been victims of this Committee.
The one true Church of God on the earth today...yeah right...
| Outting The Mormon Church With Facts From Inside And Out: Strengthening The Truth About The Latter-Day Lies Being Spun About The "Strengthening The Members Committee" |
Thursday, Mar 29, 2012, at 12:13 PM
Original Author(s): Steve Benson
Topic: SURVEILLANCE (SCMC) -Link To MC Article-
| ↑ |
| Outting the Mormon Church with Facts from Inside and Out: Strengthening the Truth About the Latter-day Lies Being Spun About the "Strengthening the Members Committee" . . .
--The Latest Sophistry Being Spun by the Mormon Church on the "Strengthening the Members Committee"--
In a prevous thread, RfM poster "Stumbling" reviewed what Mormon apostle Jeffrey Holland and Mormon Church public relations director Michael Purdy said about the nature of the murky "Strengthening the Members Committee":
"In the recent BBC TV programm,'The Mormon Candidate,' reporter Michael Sweeney gained two senior confirmations of the current existence of this secretive (oops, sacred) sub-organization within the Mormon Church.
"The two people directly asked about this secret Committee were Elder Jeffrey Holland and Senior Church PR Manager Michael Purdy.
"In both cases, their initial reaction was to deny knowledge of this Committee (known as 'lying'), but when pressed subsequently confirmed that it does exist (known as 'being caught out in a lie').
"When asked about its purpose and modus operandi, Michael Purdy (after breaking eye contact, visibly shrinking in his chair and his face turning bright pink) stated that he didn't know anything about what it did.
"Elder Holland, on the other hand, had to be led to the answer that its primary purpose was to protect the Saints against Polygamists.
"Sweeney picked up on that and followed up by asking what its secondary purposes were.
"Cue Holland shifting uncomfortably in his seat and waffling for a short while.
"He then confirmed that it did also observe and monitor other people/members who might be a risk to the faith of the other members but that he didn't sit on the Committee and so didn't know the details of what it did.
"So what did we learn for sure about this Committee?
"1. It exists and operates today, right now.
"2. It monitors members who it perceives as not towing the line to the extent their behaviour may affect others.
"3. It is secretive and shadowy.
"4. It's activities are such that senior Church leaders are uncomfortable talking about it and would be, initially, prepared to lie about it's existence and purpose.
"We can also surmise that:
"5. Tithing pays the wages of the people working full time for the Committee.
"6. The Committee actively monitors online forums such as this one.
"7. People like Grant Palmer and Michael Quinn have been victims of this Committee."
("The Strengthening the Members Committee," posted by "Stumbling," on "Recovery from Mormonism" bulletin board, 28 March 2012, at: http://exmormon.org/phorum/read.php?2,456450,456450#msg-456450: for the full six-part BBC documentary, "The Mormon Candidate," see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2EVtPk...)
--What Mormon Apostle Dallin Oaks Privately Told Me About the "Strengthening the Members Committee"--
First, as background, Oaks had, in an on-the-record interview with reporter Paul Brinkley-Rogers of the "Arizona Republic" (the newspaper for which I work), described the "Strengthenng the Members Commmittee" as follows (recapped by "Sunstone" magazine):
" . . . [I]n the 'Arizona Republic,' Elder Oaks called the Committee's actions a 'clipping service.'
"'It's a way of keeping busy bishops informed,' he told the "News." 'But it is up to the bishop to handle it. Bishops don't report back.' He said the information comes with no instructions to take specific action. He compared it to his teaching judges how to be judges during his tenure as a Utah Supreme Court justice, but not telling them what verdict to reach."
(“News: Six Intellectual Disciplined for Apostacy,” in "Sunstone” magazine, November 1993, p. 69, at: https://www.sunstonemagazine.com/pdf/...)
But then Oaks proceeded to let the cat out of the bag:
"In addition, Oaks acknowledged that the 'Strengthening the Members Committee,' which some members liken to an intelligence agency but which Oaks calls a 'clipping service,' may have monitored speeches, writings and activities of those suspected of apostasy and passed on material to Church officials."
(“Mormon Inquisition?: LDS Leaders Move to Repress Rebellion,” in “Salt Lake City Messenger” #85, November 1993, at: http://www.utlm.org/newsletters/no85....)
I had my own questions, among other things, about the "Strengthening the Members Committee" so, at the invitation of LDS apostle Neal Maxwell, arrangements were made for me to chat with some of the guys at the top.
In September 1993, I met twice with Maxwell and his fellow Quorum colleague Dallin Oaks in the offices of the LDS Church Adminstration Building in downtown Salt Lake City. The conversations took place during the same month that the Mormon Church had publicly disciplined (through excommunication or disfellowship) a half-dozen outspoken LDS critics of the Mormon way of doing things--a group that quickly became known as the "September Six."
During the course of those close encounters, I asked Oaks and Maxwell several questions about Mormon Church history, doctrine, policy and practice. In preparation, I sent Maxwell (at his request) a list, broken into categories, of the subjects I wished to cover. Maxell, on his own, then shared the list with Oaks, whom Maxwell also then asked to participate in the meetings in order to assist Maxwell in answering the questions.
One of the category had the following capitalized heading:
"DOES THE CHURCH BELIEVE ANY GROUP OF MEMBERS IS EXPENDABLE? SHOULD THE CHURCH, AS HUGH B. BROWN ASKED, BE 'A MUSEUM FOR SAINTS OR A HOSPITAL FOR SINNERS?' AS EXAMPLES, SO-CALLED INTELLECTUALS AND SCHOLARS, FEMINISTS, GAYS AND LESBIANS HAVE RECENTLY BEEN ACCUSED OF LEADING THE CHURCH ASTRAY. THEIR PAINFUL AND PERSONAL EXPRESSIONS OF CONCERN AND NEED HAVE BEEN MINIMIZED BY SOME CHURCH AUTHORITIES."
Oaks responded by defining "apostasy."
He described it to me as "clear, deliberate and open opposition to the Church or its leaders." He said it involved "persisting in teaching as Church doctrine when corrected otherwise by Church leaders."
Oaks defended Mormon Church disciplinary action against apostates, arguing that "any organization has to draw the line. You can't ignore apostasy."
He added, however, that those accused of apostasy "can appeal." He said, "There are limits," but assured me that those limits "are clear and fair." Oaks insisted that "people can disagree in good faith." He said that "we don't want 'telephone justice'" (referring to the practice of a ranking Church leader picking up the phone and ordering a subordinate to take action against a member considered to be an apostate).
Oaks said, however, that a stake president can ask for a meeting with a General Authority and that the General Authority "can't turn him down." Oaks said the General Authorities can "relay information to local leaders" through the "Strengthening the Members Committee," but that "they don't tell them what should be done."
In defending the existence of the "Strengthening the Members Committee," Oaks said there have been cases were bishops and stake presidents have been so "busy" that they "didn't read newspapers about crimes committed by their members." Oaks said that "Sunstone stuff" goes into "this kind of traffic." (roughly translated: reading and supporting "Sunstone" is a crime).
I asked Oaks if the General Authorities had issued any kind of instructions to stake presidents on how to deal with apostates.
Oaks said that there were three different area presidencies. I asked him if any of the Quorum of the Twelve had leaned on him to take action against apostates. He replied, "No, but we have been dealing with them (apostates) for a long time." He complained that "Sunstone" had become "shrill," "more pointed" and "more confrontational" and was "the straw that broke the camel's back."
In the end, Oaks said, in matters of personal belief, "you should act independently by the Spirit, based on your evidence." He argued that "people take themselves out of the Church long before action is taken" against them. Oaks described it as a "sift" that is "self-sifting."
--More Proof that Mormon Inc. is Lyin' About Its Spyin'--
Oaks's benign version of the "Strengthening the Members Committe (and the similiar spin offered up by Holland and Murphy) has been proven to be quite deceptive, as subsequently shown con by blogger "Mormon Heretic,"" who details how claims by Oaks and Company simply don't square with the facts:
"A few months ago, I received an advance copy of a new book by Philip Lindholm called 'Latter-day Dissent: At the Crossroads of Intellectual Inquiry and Ecclesiastical Authority.' . . .
"The most interesting topic to me (outside of the excommunications [of the September Six"] themselves) was learning about the 'Strengthening the Church [Members] Committee' (SCMC). I had never heard of it before. In describing it, ['September Six' member] Lynne Whitesides said on p. 6:
"'There is a "Strengthening Church Members Committee" that we didn’t know about at the time, a Gestapo-like group which press-clipped everything anyone said who might be considered an enemy of the Church, meaning one who disagreed with Church policy.'
"Footnote 4 on p. 181 further clarifies this:
"'According to Apostle Dallin H. Oaks, the "Strengthening Church Members Committee" is a "clipping service" that "pores over newspapers and other publications and identifies members accused of crimes, preaching false doctrine, criticizing leadership or other problems. That information is forwarded on to the person’s bishop or stake president, who is charged with helping them overcome problems and stay active in the Church.'
(quoted in 'News: Six Intellectuals Disciplined for Apostasy,' 'Sunstone' 92, November 1993, p. 69)
"The First Presidency further clarified the nature and history of the 'Strengthening Church Members Committee' when it stated, 'This committee serves as a resource to priesthood leaders throughout the world who may desire assistance on a wide variety of topics. It is a General Authority committee . . . . They work through established priesthood channels, and neither impose nor direct Church disciplinary action.' (quoted in 'News: Church Defends Keeping Files on Members,' in 'Sunstone' 88, August 1992, p. 63)
"Many of those called in for investigatory interviews or discipline have claimed that this Committee is responsible for compiling incriminating evidence against targeted members.
"Here is what Donald Jessee, former employee of LDS Church’s Public Affairs Department said when asked about the Committee. From pp. 217-220:
"Donald: 'It‘s a committee that seeks information that, in time, if the proper action is taken, does just that--it can strengthen Church members through proper discipline.'
"Philip: 'How so? Many excommunicants have claimed that it collected files on them in preparation for potential disciplinary courts.'
"Donald: 'They do it by caring about members of the Church. Discipline designed to help members who have gone astray. The Church from its beginning has gathered anti-Mormon literature and derogatory or false information about the Church. If the source of this information comes from Church members of record, then action is taken. The Church must be aware of its critics and enemies. Again, Church leaders must keep the Church morally clean and ethically straight.'
"Philip: 'Should academics avoid publishing research if it could be understood as contradicting the Church’s position on a given topic?'
"Donald: 'Members can publish whatever they want. There’s no censorship. It depends on the context and the person’s motives in doing what has been done. If a BYU professor, whose salary is paid with Church funds and who has signed an honor code of conduct to keep university rules, then publicly goes out and violates them, then that person is subject to discipline, but he or she is free to speak about any issue he or she wants to.'
"Philip: 'What about those topics not yet given much attention by Church leaders? Do members have free reign on those topics? Thomas Murphy was nearly excommunicated for doing genetic research that the Mormon Church had yet to conduct. How much freedom is one afforded on such controversial but relatively unaddressed topics? Mother in Heaven is another example of a controversial topic upon which people have published and been punished for doing so.'
"Donald: 'Well, in the case of Murphy, he says that because of DNA he has proven that the Book of Mormon is not true. How does he know? There were other groups of people here in America before Lehi arrived here….How could DNA prove or disprove the truthfulness of a book brought here under the hand of God?'…
"'I do not know anything regarding those who have been disciplined for publishing on the doctrine of a Mother in Heaven. Chances are they presented their ideas in a way that ran counter to true religion and to the Church and its teachings. Speculation on such matters can lead members astray and destroy faith in God the Father. Praying to a Mother in Heaven is not a true doctrine, no matter how it is defined or presented. It undermines faith in the true process of offering prayers, which is to pray to Heavenly Father in the name of Christ.
"'Members can believe anything they want. Church members may believe they have a Mother in Heaven, but to go out teaching that we ought to pray to her, or that we give details about her when both the prophets and the scriptures are silent–this violates the teachings of the Church…
"'If Church members go to their friends and start talking about practicing plural marriage, they are not in harmony with the Church. Yes, there are some things where common sense says, "Don’t discuss it in private or in public." Otherwise, hey, I’ve got the freedom to think anything I want, but I need to be careful that I’m not trying to represent the Church with my point of view or convince others that a certain doctrine or practice represents true religion or is what the issue or is what the Church teaches. As an individual, I can speculate all I want on any issue or topic as long as I keep to myself those matters that are not in harmony with truth and the Church and its teachings.
"'If I am a prominent or well thought of member of the Church, and I present a paper in the name of religious freedom that one might consider worshiping idols, I can expect Church discipline. That doctrine is contrary to true religion and the teachings of God. To bring up controversial topics in meetings such as sacrament meeting, Sunday School, priesthood meeting, Relief Society, etc., could raise questions and jeopardize one’s standing in the Church'
"Philip: 'Yet Janice Allred was excommunicated in 1995 for her insistence on publishing a clearly speculative paper entitled, 'Toward a Theology of God the Mother.' Why was she disciplined for asserting her opinion?'
"Donald: 'I believe I have already established the fact that I can’t comment on Church discipline, as that is confidential and would violate privacy issues. As a member of the church, I don’t know. I wasn’t involved there and don’t know the facts. Such a doctrine has not been revealed through a living prophet, and it is not appropriate to be a member of the Church and teach to others in any setting doctrines or practices that run counter to true religion and the Church and its teachings, such as practicing plural marriage or other theories that are not mainstream teachings of the living prophets.'
"Mormon Heretic" comments:
"I really thought Whiteside's 'Gestapo-like' comment was a wild exaggeration, but after hearing what Jessee had to say, I’m not so sure. According to 'Wikipedia':
"'The committee was formed during the administration of church President Ezra Taft Benson, soon after Benson became president in 1985.
"'The existence of the Committee became known in 1991, when a 1990 church memo from General Authority Glenn L. Pace referencing the committee was published by an anti-Mormon ministry. The Committee was one of the subjects discussed in the 1992 'Sunstone Symposium' in talks by Lavina Fielding Anderson and Eugene England (then a BYU professor) on August 6, 1992. Soon thereafter, the 'Salt Lake Tribune' published news stories on the subject ("Salt Lake Tribune' August 8, 1992 and August 15, 1992). England came to regret his impulsive comments and apologized to all parties individually
"'In response to this public discourse, the LDS Church spokesman Don LeFevre acknowledged the existence of the committee. LeFevre said that [if] the Committee “receives complaints from church members about other members who have made statements that "conceivably could do harm to the church," then the Committee will “pass the information along to the person’s ecclesiastical leader.” According to LeFevre, however, “the committee neither makes judgments nor imposes penalties.” Discipline is “entirely up to the discretion of the local leaders.”'
"After reading all this, I wonder how much the Apostles monitor blogs. I find it a little ironic that President Benson started it. He was quite a conspiracy theorist . . . . I keep hearing in different settings that the Church is much more open now, but I’m not so sure.
"For example, at a . . . conference at BYU, professor Ronald Esplin said this is one of the best environments to study Church history since the 'Camelot' era of the 1970s. However, discipline for intellectuals still seems to occur. The 'Wikipedia' article mentions that in 2004, the Committee put together a dossier on Grant Palmer, author of 'Insider’s View of Mormon Origins.' (Palmer was disfellowshipped).
"In the introduction, Lindholm notes on p. xii, that excommunications of academics has continued beyond the notorious 1993 'September Six':
"--In 1994, Professor David Wright of Brandeis University and editor Brent Metcalf were excommunicated for their scripture studies in 'New Approaches to the Book of Mormon: Explorations in Critical Methodology.'
"--In 1995, author Janice Allred was excommunicated for her writings about Mother in Heaven.
"--In 2000, Professor Margaret Toscano was excommunicated for her theological reflections, and
"--in 2002, Professor Thomas Murphy was nearly excommunicated for his anthropological work on Mormonism.
"--In addition, many other unnamed intellectuals were called into disciplinary interviews that did not result in excommunication.
"I know Simon Southerton resigned under pressure from the Church following his publication of information on DNA and the Book of Mormon. . . . I learned that John Dehlin, founder of 'Mormon Stories,' 'Mormon Matters,' and 'StayLDS' was summoned to a meeting with his Stake President. He said the meeting went well, and solicited comments to his website.
"From my point of view, it bears a lot of parallels with Lynne Whitesides experience in 1993. John has . . . been interviewed on ABC and other news organizations. Lynne was called in to talk to her bishop following an interview with Chris Vanocur on Channel 4, KTVX. Here’s what Lynne said on p. 4:
"'In May when my bishop called me to come in to talk, I thought, 'Wow, this is great. Maybe the system does work. Maybe this Church really is a place where I can get comfortable.' I was very excited. I left early from my feminism class up at teh University of Utah to meet with him. When I walked in, he was with his two counselors, all in suits, and I’m thinking, 'Wow, they really want me back at church. This is great!' I sat down, and Virgil Merrill, the bishop, said, 'Elder Loren C. Dunn has asked us to meet with you to see if we need to take any ecclesiastical action against you.'
"'I started to laugh and couldn’t stop. ”Give me a minute,” I said, “I thought you called me in here because you cared about me. Let me just have a quick moment to adjust.” Their faces…you could see that what I has said shocked them, but then we had a lovely talk. It was not confrontational at all; it was amazing. At the end, Virgil said he was going to tell Dunn that I was fine. So, when I received the summons letter I was shocked.
'"Philip: "Your bishop gave you no warning at all that you were going to be tried by a Church court?
"'Lynne: "No, nothing. When I found out, I called Lavinia [Fielding Anderson] immediately….We also wrote a letter to the bishop saying that if he went through with the Church court, then we were going to let the media know. Virgil wrote back saying that he wanted to hold it. He didn’t realize what he was getting into. He didn’t realize how much press coverage it was going to get. We heard through the grapevine, he was getting pressure from [Boyd K.] Packer and other leaders to excommunicate me."
"'Philip: "Can you elaborate on 'the grapevine'?
"'Lynne: One of the bishopric counselors involved in my court was related to a reporter I knew. Both were at a barbecue once, and the counselor told the reporter, not thinking it would ever get back to me, that they were getting pressure from Church leaders to “do something” about Lynne Whitesides. Well, it did get back to me, and I knew this going into the trial."
"Mormon Heretic" concludes:
". . . Let me end with a quick summary of things the Church apparently doesn’t like us discussing:
"--Lynne Whitesides was disfellowshipped for “why I thought it was all right to pray to a female deity.”
"--Paul Toscano was excommunicated for defending his wife Margaret. Basically Margaret was the real target. To save her, Paul blasted Church leaders and was excommunicated for insubordination. . . .
"--Maxine Hanks was excommunicated for her book, 'Women and Authority.'
"--Lavina Fielding Anderson was excommunicated for documenting ecclesiastical abuse in the Church.
"--Michael Quinn was excommunicated for writing a chapter in Hanks book, 'Women and Authority,' and for a 'Sunstone' presentation in 1992 called '150 Years of Truth and Consequences in Mormon History.'
"--Janice Merrill Allred was excommunicated in 1995 for discussing God the Mother.
"--Margaret Merrill Toscano was excommunicated in 1995 for discussing God the Mother. (Note: Janice and Margaret are sisters.)
"--Thomas Murphy was 'nearly excommunicated in December 2002, proceedings halted indefinitely on February 23, 2003.' Murphy wrote about DNA and the Book of Mormon. 'Wikipedia' says, 'On February 23, 2003, Latimer informed Murphy that all disciplinary action was placed on permanent hold.' . . .
"Lindholm quotes Armaund Mauss in the introduction. Mauss is a retired Mormon sociologist from Washington State University. From page xxii:
"'Even the most careful and diplomatic comments will not be much appreciated by many Church leaders, perhaps by most Church leaders, whether general or local. We have to understand that much going in. Do not expect to appear on the short list for bishop or Relief Society president if you have been regularly commenting on local or general Church matters. If prominent Church positions are important to you, keep quiet. If you’re going to speak up, whether in oral or written media, first cultivate thick skin, then abandon your aspirations for important Church callings; you shouldn’t have them anyway. Finally, don’t whine when you’re passed over or looked upon with some suspicion.'
"Footnote 45 quotes Mauss as saying:
"'I have come to feel increasingly marginal to the Mormon community during my adult life, at least in a social and intellectual sense, despite my continuing and conscientious participation in church activity (including leadership) and despite my own deep personal faith in the religion itself.'
Lindholm goes on to say on p. xxiii that:
"'Mormonism is not alone in its desire to censor. Most Christian traditions–Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant alike–have a long history of disciplining vocal dissent, which is a practice supported by a rather strong biblical basis.. The LDS Church, however, is different in that its leaders actively discipline select members in order to sustain the appearance of doctrinal purity for the sake of the Church’s integrity and public image.'"
("Mormon Heretic: Stuff They Don’t Talk About in Sunday School," in "Book Review: 'Latter-day Dissent,'" at:
--Trust Me: The "Strengthening the Members Committee" is Really Just a "Clipping Service" That Doesn't Spy. I Know. I Worked for Them. (So Insists Mormon Apologist Daniel Peterson)--
Ironically, word leaked out about the actual undercover ops of the "Strengthening the Members Committee" on none other than FAIR's faithfully-fiction-fabricating website.
Here's the report:
"A poster on FAIR brought up the 'Strengthening the Church Members Committee,' apparently disquieted that such a thing even exists. During the course of the thread, most posters . . . tried to pooh-pooh away the [original post's] concerns, labeling them 'conspiracy theory,' and generally making fun of the whole thing.
"But what's interesting is that Prof. Peterson himself has actually functioned as an 'agent' (his own word) for this Committee:
"Daniel Peterson wrote:
"'[I] . . .was once sent out, a number of years ago, as a kind of "agent" of the "Strengthening Church Members Committee." My mission? To try to help a member of the Church whose apostasy was threatening his marriage and causing anguish to his very active wife, children, and parents. (The wife and parents, and his stake president, has asked for help). The weapons of choice? Talking with him for about four hours in Salt Lake City, in the presence of his wife and stake president, and recommending some readings.'
"Four hours? In a confined space? And he wants to claim that the SCMC is some kind of innocuous 'newspaper clipping service'? He's got to be kidding. Further, his denials on the matter are of the "he doth protest too much" variety:
"Daniel Peterson wrote:
"'It's not much more than a (very) small clipping service. Trust me on this one. There is no spying or covert action. No trappings of 'Mission Impossible.' No non-Scientologist Tom Cruise. Some critics have severely overheated imaginations."
("Daniel C. Peterson Admits Being An 'Agent' of the 'Strengthening Church Members Committee,]" quoted by "Contributor," under "Have Things Changed?," on "MormoN Dialogue and Discussion Board," 16 October 2006, at: http://www.mormondialogue.org/topic/4...)
Oaks, Holland, Purdy and Peterson are overheated liars.
| From some new comments by Denver Snuffer on his blog (wherein he posted a court of love invitation last week):
Third, my former Stake President defended me against complaints from the Strengthening the Members Committee. His last Sunday as Stake President eighteen months ago he called me in and we talked for several hours about the events that began years before his release. He had defended me continually during his presidency, but he explained there was going to be a new Pharaoh in Egypt who would not know Joseph (so to speak) and he couldn't vouch for what was coming. The new Stake President has investigated, delayed, discussed this with me, pushed back against downtown, been called in for "training," and received input from the top leadership in the church. He told me a great deal at the start about what was going on behind the scenes, which matched what the former Stake President had been telling me during his tenure. Those details are unimportant, and I have no intention of making them public. Right now, I don't think President Hunt thinks he has any other choice. He probably doesn't. That is fine.
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