Per popular request, the following is the (tran)script of the speech that I gave at my Court of Love. At least, it is the document that I read from. It also is the last Chapter of my new book The Korihor Argument, which documents my journey out of Mormonism from my mission call in 1999 to my excommunication in 2013.
Delivered to the LDS Disciplinary Council for Joseph L. Rawlins in American Fork, Utah, Aug 10, 2013. The resulting decision after delivery of this testimony was Excommunication on the grounds of Apostasy and conduct unbecoming a Member of the Church.
Brethren, I want to thank you for the opportunity to say a few words on why we are here. Time is a precious thing these days and I know as you do that there’s little time as sacred as dinner time, so let’s get through this, ASAP.
Histories matter. Mine. Yours. The Church’s.
while serving in Peru I experienced some doubts that would eventually lead to the questions on my character here today.
No doubt, by my records, you know that I have been a Mormon all my life and grew up very active in the Church. I believed that the Atonement could wash away my sins. I prayed and wept bitterly for the sorrow that I had caused my Savior such pain. And I believed with all my heart that God’s Plan would work for me. And serving God on a mission was the most important thing in the world to me.
In 2001, while serving in Peru I experienced some doubts that would eventually lead to the questions on my character here today. I want to pause and say that I am very grateful to my father for having sent me on my mission, paid for it and encouraging me while I was there. We grew closer as father and son. He doesn’t remember all of that but he’s old and retired now. He’s upset that he spent so much to get me to Peru only to have me wind up here but if he’s forgiven me for twice voting for Obama, there’s hope yet for us.
I grew to love the people of Peru with a ferocity I feel still today. I didn’t love them as Mormons and Catholics, as converts and rejects. I just love them pure and simple. I miss them terribly.
Sometimes I tweet. Sometimes I Periscope. Follow me on Twitter. I promise that “follow” is just a Twitter thing. It’s not like we are going to run away to Waco to grow organic produce and collect assault weapons or anything.
For the purpose of why I am to be disciplined, it’s necessary that you understand how I came by my doubts and then the rest of my story will make much more sense.
I did not encounter them by reading literature contrary to the Church but by pondering the Doctrine and Covenants.
It is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance.
It’s a commandment to learn doctrine, even if it’s uncomfortable. The General Authorities say we should not treat the Church as a social club but should be diligent about studying the doctrines and pondering the Scriptures.
D&C 131:2-4, (Ramus, IL, May 16-17, 1843)
2 And in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage];
3 And if he does not, he cannot obtain it.
4 He may enter into the other, but that is the end of his kingdom; he cannot have an increase.
6 And as pertaining to the new and everlasting covenant, it was instituted for the fulness of my glory; and he that receiveth a fulness thereof must and shall abide the law, or he shall be damned, saith the Lord God.
Now “Damned” is such a loaded word these days. In this case, it even says that you can enter the Celestial Kingdom and yet be damned for not being married in the Temple. The Bible Dictionary sheds some light on this part of Church Doctrine.
BIBLE DICTIONARY: Damnation
“…Damnation is the opposite of salvation, and exists in varying degrees. All who do not obtain the fulness of celestial exaltation will to some degree be limited in their progress and privileges, and hence be damned to that extent.”
I’d like to point out that again in verse 6 of this section we read: “It is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance.”
no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory.
In the previous section, also given in Ramus only a few weeks before, we learn that knowledge we attain to in this life rises with us in the resurrection. What can be more “damning” than the sin of omission of knowing that there is more but not wanting to discover it for fear of what we will find?
Let’s go forward a few weeks back home to Nauvoo.
D&C 132: 3-4 (Nauvoo, IL, July 12, 1843)
3 Therefore, prepare thy heart to receive and obey the instructions which I am about to give unto you; for all those who have this law revealed unto them must obey the same.
4 For behold, I reveal unto you a new and an everlasting covenant; and if ye abide not that covenant, then are ye damned; for no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory.
If the first law of the Gospel is obedience, then a command like “all those who have this law revealed unto them must obey the same” is very serious.
16 Therefore, when they are out of the world they neither marry nor are given in marriage; but are appointed angels in heaven, which angels are ministering servants, to minister for those who are worthy of a far more, and an exceeding, and an eternal weight of glory.
17 For these angels did not abide my law; therefore, they cannot be enlarged, but remain separately and singly, without exaltation, in their saved condition, to all eternity; and from henceforth are not gods, but are angels of God forever and ever.
Saved by honoring the covenants they make at Baptism, but damned because they fail to be married according to the Holy Spirit of Promise.
let mine handmaid forgive my servant Joseph his trespasses
51 Verily, I say unto you: A commandment I give unto mine handmaid, Emma Smith, your wife, whom I have given unto you, that she stay herself and partake not of that which I commanded you to offer unto her; for I did it, saith the Lord, to prove you all, as I did Abraham, and that I might require an offering at your hand, by covenant and sacrifice.
52 And let mine handmaid, Emma Smith, receive all those that have been given unto my servant Joseph, and who are virtuous and pure before me; and those who are not pure, and have said they were pure, shall be destroyed, saith the Lord God.
53 For I am the Lord thy God, and ye shall obey my voice; and I give unto my servant Joseph that he shall be made ruler over many things; for he hath been faithful over a few things, and from henceforth I will strengthen him.
54 And I command mine handmaid, Emma Smith, to abide and cleave unto my servant Joseph, and to none else. But if she will not abide this commandment she shall be destroyed, saith the Lord; for I am the Lord thy God, and will destroy her if she abide not in my law.
55 But if she will not abide this commandment, then shall my servant Joseph do all things for her, even as he hath said; and I will bless him and multiply him and give unto him an hundred-fold in this world, of fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, houses and lands, wives and children, and crowns of eternal lives in the eternal worlds.
56 And again, verily I say, let mine handmaid forgive my servant Joseph his trespasses; and then shall she be forgiven her trespasses, wherein she has trespassed against me; and I, the Lord thy God, will bless her, and multiply her, and make her heart to rejoice.
Richard Bushman, a faithful LDS historian, laments that most members of the Church still don’t think polygamy started until Brigham Young’s ministry
On my mission, it came to my mind how Joseph received the Word of Wisdom. How this same rebellious Emma got down on her hands and knees and scrubbed tobacco spittle off of the floor of her home above Newell K. Whitney’s General Store from where the School of the Prophets met. Brethren, is it not common in our doctrine to learn a little about the events surrounding revelations and how the Lord uses circumstances to usher in a new revelation?
So what are the events surrounding the New and Everlasting Covenant of Marriage?
Seven months prior to this revelation, Emma Smith, who is so roundly chided here, delivered a stillborn male child. He was her sixth to not survive infancy. Six months prior to that, in June of 1842, Eliza R. Snow – who lived in the Smith Mansion as the tutor to Emma’s surviving children – was sealed to Joseph Smith and lived as one of his wives. This is in his very journals and I checked it in the Joseph Smith papers online – it’s there and the Church knows it.
Eliza was not the first spirit-wife nor the last, though Richard Bushman, a faithful LDS historian, laments that most members of the Church still don’t think polygamy started until Brigham Young’s ministry.
Church lore goes much further into what happened to prompt this revelation, you’ve probably heard about a confrontation between Eliza and Emma when Emma discovered the prophet in her best friend’s embrace in the confines of her own home, prompting Joseph to explain that an Angel with a drawn sword had threatened to kill him if he put off practicing the New and Everlasting Covenant of Marriage. The details of this confrontation are mostly old pioneer stories, but they line up with the language here in Section 132.
we are not here so that I may judge the Church but so that the Church may judge me
The offense Emma must forgive Joseph for is quite apparently having hidden his marrying Eliza and others while Emma faithfully raised his children and even while she had been pregnant with children who died severely disfigured, premature and sickly. One can imagine what goes through Emma’s mind to find him taking other wives in secret? The offense that Emma commits against God would appear to be Eliza’s miscarriage from being thrown down a flight of stairs. Some records discuss the miscarriage and some not, but most agree there was a physical altercation and it’s an inconvenient question but Emma asking whether or not such a baby was really Joseph’s would explain whole verses dedicated to the subject that Eliza or any others who came to Joseph would be destroyed if they were impure…
All we know is what was recorded. But naturally, these events are not regarded on equal footing in the eyes of the Church as say: the brethren spitting chewing tobacco in Bishop Whitney’s store?
Brethren, as you know, we are not here so that I may judge the Church but so that the Church may judge me and I am satisfied with that. So I turn it back to me:
In 2006, after my first daughter was born, I was asked to meet with my Bishop in Arizona, Bishop Lambson. President Mitchell knows that I confessed, earlier this week, to intending to lie to the Bishop so that I could bless my daughter in sacrament meeting though it had been years since I left both practice and faith. This is not one of my proudest moments but I did resolve to lie to Bishop Lambson in order to keep my family together.
This, I thought, was what my wife wanted – for me to play the part, to go along and get along like so many do, in this Church or any church. Instead, she told me that she wanted me to be honest, that she would stand by me and not leave me. I’m a very fortunate man that she takes that vow so seriously.
I surveyed 100+ Ex-Mormons who had to confront their spouse about their decision to leave the Church and the results of the survey were at once encouraging and a warning to other spouses harboring guarded doubts about the Church. Don’t hide that shit. Come clean to your spouse about your doubts, because the longer that you wait, the harder they will take it.
they are neither married nor given in marriage but are ministering angels of God and damned for it!
I told Bishop Lambson that I didn’t believe in God, anymore because I couldn’t believe in Joseph Smith, anymore. Of all the offenses that the Doctrine and Covenants say a man should be excommunicated for, adultery is at the top of the list. Does Joseph sneaking around for more than a year with women all over the Illinois countryside, marrying them in secret constitute adultery? D&C 132 says that the First Wife has to give her consent. Emma Hale Smith maintained until the day she died that there were no other women, even though Joseph’s own journals confess that he married many more. Men of stronger faith might be able to take that hit, but I couldn’t.
What’s more, I told the Bishop that it disturbed me that the scriptures we read here are very plain that people who escape as righteous souls from this life are damned. People who are mentally challenged, children, missionaries taken in the prime of their lives – damned through no fault of their own. Bishop Lambson told me that he knew that God had a plan for them. I responded that I knew what it was! It was Doctrine and Covenants 132! Joseph said it – they are neither married nor given in marriage but are ministering angels of God and damned for it!
could Joseph Smith survive a council like this one?
…Bishop Smith read to us the entirety of the Proclamation to the World Regarding the Family. I found it quite interesting that he made special emphasis on the first paragraph:
“WE, THE FIRST PRESIDENCY and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, solemnly proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.”
Some people have mentioned that my neighbors and I joked at my Court of Love about my political support for Barack Obama (this was right after the elections). Back in July, I predicted the Bernie Sanders surge.
An eternal principle that the family is the basic universal unit for the organization not only of humans, but of Gods. The whole premise of Exaltation depends on this heart-warming concept that we can only progress into the eternities as families, hence the Church gave undisclosed amounts of resources in time, money, organization and manpower to pass the colloquially-known “Proposition H8” in California. After all, the Proclamation does read:
“Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets…
WE CALL UPON responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.”
How quickly this Church condemns others for violating this fundamental unit of “a man and a woman”, today? But could Joseph Smith survive a council like this one?
What if there weren’t laws that put the FLDS Prophet Warren Jeffs behind bars, today? According to D&C 132, would the Brethren not have to change the Proclamation’s definition of marriage to “a man and a woman and a woman and a woman”?
that not this priesthood nor this Council nor this Church nor this God had power to define me as a sinner or a Saint.
Bishop Lambson had no answers for me. The Bishop is just a mortal man like you or I and he makes mistakes. He told me “You know what I think? I think you never had a testimony.”
Why? Because that is so much easier. Brethren, you and I have always been told that there’s only one reason why people leave the Church and that’s because they’re too prideful to quit breaking the rules. For three years after I stopped believing I didn’t drink, I didn’t have sex with women (or men, if you’re curious), I didn’t smoke, I swore only as occasionally as I ever did. I even attended meetings from time to time. I just didn’t believe in Joseph Smith, anymore.
Because I’m on a mission for me – a mission to tell every lost soul that I can find that there’s no God and no Church and no Priest who can give your life the meaning that you can find in yourself if you embrace your value not as a cog in the wheels of Zion but as a living, breathing conscious being who makes a difference.
But brethren, I never knew a God who wasn’t the Ahman or Elohim or Son-Ahman or Jehovah who appeared in a grove of trees to Joseph Smith in upstate New York. So my God was gone. No Savior. No plan. Just me and a cruel Universe that didn’t give two shrugs if I lived or died.
In those precious years, I learned to love myself not as a son of God but as a son of Glen. I learned to love being alive and embrace a reality that you only get one go on this rock and every chance that goes by to say “I love you” is a missed opportunity to do something good in the world. I found comfort in the idea that I controlled whether or not I was a good person and that not this priesthood nor this Council nor this Church nor this God had power to define me as a sinner or a Saint.
I’m just Joe. And I always have been. One man on a journey to love as fiercely as I can and to share with others that they can be free from the emotional pain of shame and guilt and prejudice.
Of all things I’ve done and will do in my life, brethren, that love is my great sin. Because I’m on a mission for me – a mission to tell every lost soul that I can find that there’s no God and no Church and no Priest who can give your life the meaning that you can find in yourself if you embrace your value not as a cog in the wheels of Zion but as a living, breathing conscious being who makes a difference.
But you and I know that there’s no room for conscientious objectors in God’s Army.
But you and I know that there’s no room for conscientious objectors in God’s Army.
So here’s your rap sheet:
All of the things you are about to hear are things I have knowingly done after having been endowed in the Temple. You six might write some of these down.
Since 2003, I drink alcohol with moderate frequency and I love it and never intend to give it up. I smoke only on occasion but that’s because it irritates my asthma.
I swear, including taking the Lord’s name in vain and I feel that anyone who takes offense to that does so in vain, also.
In 2003, I took off my garments for the last time. I didn’t dispose of them according to Church standards, I just walked to a dumpster and threw them away.
In October of 2005, I met the most beautiful creature in the world and she moved in with me from that point until now. Every day for three months between when we met and when we were married, we lived in sin. That fornication, my wife repented of with her Priesthood authorities. I never have and I doubt I ever will. I loved every minute of it.
I speak ill of the Lord’s Anointed, including Thomas S. Monson, who – it does pain me to say – has greatly disappointed me. As disappointing as that may be to you, I spare you of far worse that I have to say particularly of Boyd K. Packer, Richard G. Scott, and others. This pales by comparison of what I have learned and said about Prophets in history all the way back to Joseph Smith.
But most importantly: In my life, several members of the Church have come to me, surprised to learn of my disbelief. I do not evangelize or promote it. But when I’m asked, I tell, which is direct contradiction of what Elder Holland said in last year’s general conference:
“Don’t dwell on old issues or grievances… toward this true and living Church…We consume such precious emotional and spiritual capital clinging tenaciously to the memory …of an incident in Church history that proved no more or less than that mortals will always struggle to measure up to the immortal hopes placed before them. Even if one of those grievances did not originate with you, it can end with you.”
But someone has to admit they were wrong in order to begin that healing process.
A few weeks ago, Elder Hans Mattson, an Area Authority Seventy from Sweden confessed to the New York Times that his flock in Europe was having a hard time keeping its members because they Googled Church History and discovered some of these “incidents in Church History”…Even a visit from Elder L. Tom Perry of the Twelve could not dispel the doubts that leaders in Sweden suffered.
And why not! How many Apostles have we lost over time? How many Stake Presidents or High Councilors?
Does that history even matter?
Of course it does. Everything any of us has believed rises and falls on the question of whether or not Joseph Smith was a liar.
Dr. Richard Bushman says: “Since the rise of the Internet, more people have come across unsettling historical facts. Earlier it might have been plural marriage or blacks and the priesthood. There has always been something.”
Since then, the Church has launched more historical content on lds.org and encouraged Members of the Church to do their searches for Church History there instead of on search engines. But this still puts the gate’s guarding in the hands of the Church and discourages participation from the scholastic community who have a lot to contribute! But most importantly, it doesn’t constitute an admission of how implicit Church leaders have been in occluding the truth from Members of the Church and it makes no effort to educate the membership generally.
History matters, brethren. Being honest about it is responsible because it means having a little faith in your flock to practice Christian love and forgive. But someone has to admit they were wrong in order to begin that healing process and that’s a hard thing for a Church who claims that its leaders are the literal vicars of God.
“Not our Church. That doesn’t happen in our Church.”
Coming to associate with other people who have left the faith, you begin to see why Church leaders like Bishop Smith, here, warn us not to associate with people who leave the Church. Because they are bad influences? No.
Because it hurts to see this Church from the other side. Parents whose children don’t get to see their grandparents or cousins because Grandma and Grandpa are waiting for you to “come around”. I’m glad my girls have better grandparents than that.
Husbands and wives torn apart by divorce, not because anyone cheated or abused the other – but because a partner was told that because their spouse was unworthy, that they had lost their exaltation and the only way, according to D&C 132, to repair that damage is to leave your spouse and marry another.
I tell you this and you may say “Not our Church. That doesn’t happen in our Church.” But if you’re not associating with these people as I have done, then you’re not in the position to say so. Perhaps in your minds, they are all liars and sinners. WE are all liars and sinners. But in my experience, they’re just people whose pain is inflicted in the name of love. In the name of Christ.
“This was us. We did this and it was wrong. And we’re sorry.”
A man cannot be saved in ignorance. There’s a better term for that, now. It’s called “Cognitive Dissonance”… out-of-sight, out-of-mind! If we don’t talk about Blacks and the Priesthood, does that make it go away? More importantly: if we say “We’ve put that behind us now,” does that answer the question of whether or not Joseph and Brigham and almost a dozen of their successors were wrong? Does it address the question of whether or not a prophet can stand at the pulpit and say “Thus saith the Lord” and be WRONG? The Church says that we are accounted for our obedience to the most current doctrines, but that doesn’t mean our ancestors were taught something evil.
It reminds me of the movie Donnie Brasco where Al Pacino tells Johnny Depp that a “made guy” is always right. “Even when he’s wrong, he’s right!”
A memorial was erected by the Church to the families who survived the victims of the Mountain Meadows Massacre. But read President Hinckley’s dedication and it’s loving and sweet but there’s no admission in it. No responsibility or accountability for the roles that Brigham Young and George Albert Smith and others played in it.
What if we learned to say “This was us. We did this and it was wrong. And we’re sorry.” Wouldn’t the worst thing that could happen be that you trust the Christian hearts of your flock to forgive?
The Church is wrong on gender and sexuality, brethren.
The Church is wrong on gender and sexuality, brethren. The science is clear, where not once but twice the First Presidency has issued official statements and proclamations that gender and sexual attraction are assigned from before the womb, science shows that it is ambiguous for some time after and has nothing to do with souls and everything to do with chemistry and biology and discoveries as earth-shattering to this dogma as Copernicus saying that the Earth revolved around the Sun!
And when I think of all the men and women who I know who live with this product of biology as a part of who they are and must suppress it, must feel ashamed for it, must be punished for acting on it, warned against thinking about it, and shamed for feeling it, even encouraged to act in contrary to it, it breaks my heart. I’m not gay. But just as the “Blacks and the Priesthood”… an injustice on some of us is injustice on us all.
that one time there was a group of people who were persecuted because they violated the “a man and a woman” definition of a family – and they were called the Mormons
While preparing this pompous and prideful pontificating, brethren, I was asked by both parents, my wife and others “Do you really think that you’re going to convert 15 High Priests away from the Church?” or “Do you really think that anything that you say is going to change anything? That it will fall on anything but deaf ears?”
Of course not. I don’t doubt but that at least half of the people within the sound of my voice hear the words I say and dismiss them out-of-hand and that’s cool.
But the worth of souls is great and if I can convince one person on this council to hear the confession of a gay person and stop and consider if only for a moment that this person is being asked to struggle against who they are and that one time there was a group of people who were persecuted because THEY violated the “a man and a woman” definition of a family – and they were called the Mormons – Then I will consider it a success…
the problems that we face will persist and only responsible men like you who are on the inside can fix it.
Can I convince you that there are more reasons why people leave the Church than just their pride or because they read Leaving the Saints or Under the Banner of Heaven? That they leave for more reasons than just that “a member of the congregation offended me”? Can I make you pause and think in one Court of Love like this one “how will I live with myself if this doctrine changes as we know doctrine does?”? If I can at the very least put in your hearts and minds a seed that would drive you to encourage others to be honest about the Church’s history, I am satisfied.
I want to close with this. I know that what I have said here is hard and possibly not even appropriate for this forum. I apologize for that. But it needs to be said in every possible opportunity. People need to stand up and be counted.
Now you must judge me. Let’s not parse words. That’s what it is. I would encourage you to be bold and be honest when you judge me as when you judge yourselves.
President Mitchell, you said that you hope we can walk away from this afternoon as friends and neighbors. I have to admit: I like you. I tried not to. I think if I got to know any of you, I’d like you.
The word “quixotic” comes to my mind. It means to lance at some big, unsurmountable thing like Don Quixote lancing at the windmill he thinks is a giant.
My words here are quixotic and evaporate into the thin air and will one day be lost in the sands of time. But long after what is decided here is long forgotten, the problems that we face will persist and only responsible men like you who are on the inside can fix it.
In my eyes, I’ve done nothing wrong,
I wish with all my heart that a man could be saved in ignorance. I wish that I could have the bliss of thinking I will be with my Molly and Scarlett and Eloise forever. I wish I didn’t have to say words that hurt my parents so. I wish the way that I felt didn’t break my mother’s heart. But there are things I can’t change. I can’t change what this Church teaches. I can’t change what Joseph Smith did any more than you can. And I can’t put them out of my mind. The truth is – I can’t live as a Mormon and be at peace when I lie down at night and there’s no one but me and the back of my eyelids and I have to admit: this is not who I am.
I’m not big on Jesus, these days, so I won’t profane his name in your presence. But that is my testimony. In my eyes, I’ve done nothing wrong, but I know that in the eyes of Church, I cannot be redeemed with a rebellious heart and I leave that decision to your wisdom.