Sunday, June 7, 2015

Mormons Love Apostasy

Apostasy. One of the worst things that a person can do in most religions. LDS Prophet, Brigham Young, once said: "I would say, let [apostates] alone severely. The man who will apostatize from the truth, forsake his God and his religion, is a traitor to everything there is in heaven, earth, and hell. There is no soundness, goodness, truth, or virtue in him; nothing but darkness and corruption, and down to hell he will go. This may grate on the delicate ears of some, and they may think it is a pretty hard sentence, still it is true (JOD 12:58)."

Set all of that harshness aside because, let's not deceive ourselves, Mormons love apostasy. The LDS church has added about 300,000 apostates to their membership rolls per year since the mid-1990's. They love apostates so much, the corporation instituted a policy change to add more spiritual soldiers into their conversion army so that they can add more apostates to their fold. Obviously, the only apostates they do not seem to appreciate are those who agitate, or leave, the herd.

In Islam, apostasy is generally recognized as the conscious abandonment of Islam (by a Muslim) in word or through deed. My apostasy of blogging occurred in 2011. Blogging for me was an outlet of therapy to vent my growing frustrations at the religion I was a part of at the time with an extremely limited audience. That online audience surprisingly grew from non-existence to a humbly small following and became problematic to my attempt at remaining a doubting but faithful Latter-day Saint.

My blog became the journalistic avenue that documented a small portion of my doubts which eventually led to my apostasy from Mormonism. I voluntarily resigned from the LDS church on July 4th, 2011.

In the midst of that journey, my brother-in-law shared a post with me from another blogger entitled: "Too Bad I Don't Like Beer."  A few days later, I re-posted the content in it's entirety and actually got commentary from the author. We corresponded. Turns out, he knew my mom from somewhere down the historical yellow brick road.

That man was Alan Rock Waterman. He was excommunicated for apostasy on June 3rd, 2015.



“What sins am I guilty of?”
“Apostasy.”
“No, apostasy is your judgment. What sins have I committed to make up this judgment?”
“Apostasy is the sin.”

I have watched and witnessed as a growing number of Mormon dissenters have been excommunicated for a variety of apostasy-related issues. And while those situations have brought a variety of angst-ridden emotions, this latest with Rock has been like hitting a gong that reverberated into my core.

As Rock was being told his verdict, that he was being excommunicated for apostasy, he asked the Stake President for the definition of apostasy. The stake president responded with the following, as defined by the LDS Church Handbook of Instructions: “Persist in teaching as Church doctrine information that is not Church doctrine after they have been corrected by their bishop or higher authority.”

To which Rock replied that in the one meeting he had with his bishop and the one with the stake president (which is a pretty loose definition of “frequent”), that he begged them for correction. “If there is something in there that you would correct, that you found undoctrinal, then I’d change it, I’d make the corrections.”

However, as is the case with most modern accusations of labeling and excommunications for apostasy, doctrinal truth is irrelevant. Obedient compliance is always at the heart of the issue.  

I recognized in Rock a similarity in his dissent that I had felt and experienced in mine. He just wanted someone to explain to him why he was wrong in terms that were not blatantly false, utterly hypocritical, ridiculously contradictory or able to be dispelled by the logic of an elementary school student.  As I did years ago.

My position was, as is Rock’s, that we echoed the words of the Book of Mormon character, Nephi: “I glory in plainness; I glory in truth; I glory in my Jesus, for he hath redeemed my soul from hell…For my soul delighteth in plainness; for after this manner doth the Lord God work among the children of men. For the Lord God giveth light unto the understanding; for he speaketh unto men according to their language, unto their understanding.

I do not believe Rock had any fantastic notion that he was leaving that meeting with his LDS membership in place. I think he knew that the outcome was predetermined and that nothing about this court of love was intended to save his soul, protect the innocent or safeguard the purity of the LDS Church. This was about protecting the brand and retaining a customer base from honest dialogue. 

Nothing he could share would convince those present that he was a believer.  This is where Rock's story differs from my own. I do not believe the foundational claims of Mormonism. Rock still does. Even after his excommunication, he believes that God exists, Jesus is the Christ and Savior of the world, Joseph Smith was/is a prophet and that the Book of Mormon was divinely inspired and the word of God.

Why then was he excommunicated?  Here’s something I’ve seen repeated in enough jurisdictions that I can call it a distinguishable dogmatic trait of modern Mormonism. When local LDS leaders lose their debates on doctrinal issues, the default fall-back accusatory question is always, "Do you sustain the leaders as Prophets, Seers and Revelators? Do you believe that ______ is the current Prophet of the Lord?"  

However, my reply to that has always been, "How do we as members discern between when a prophet speaks as a Prophet and when he speaks as a man?"

History has proven that the only reliable way has been to wait and see. If they were right, he spoke prophetically. If he was wrong (which has been more often the case), the response from leadership is that the Prophets, Seers and Revelators are still just fallible humans who are prone to make mistakes.

It was Rock’s response to that question, however, that got him into trouble. “
Certainly we should be willing to pay heed to the prophet of God when he is relaying a message directly from God.  That is, after all, what a prophet is for.  But when was the last time you remember that ever taking place?  Where are the revelations?”

Later on the same topic he added:  "The minute that Thomas Monson gets upon the stand and says, 'I have a message from the Lord that he wishes me to convey to you', I'll perk right up. I'll be listening. That's what I'm waiting for. But I haven't seen that happen. Stories and counsel and interesting stories about losing five dollars in your pair of pants and sending it to the laundry and when the pants come back that five dollars is still there because he prayed so hard for it; those are nice stories but they're not what we expect from a Prophet, Seer and Revelator. So if I'm to sustain men as prophets, seers and revelators, I'd expect to see a little bit of evidence that they have those gifts. Joseph Smith had that gift. Nobody today seems to follow in his footsteps although they claim the exact same authority." 

While I do not fault anyone for leaving Mormonism (or any religion) on the terms they choose, I believe many of those who have been excommunicated recently from the LDS Church had already walked away from some of the core foundational beliefs of Mormonism. They chose to force the organization to expel them.  I chose to voluntarily exit. Rock still believes in Mormonism and was unceremoniously removed from the corporation.

He was told that his membership had been revoked, his inquisitive inquiries into doctrinal matters remained unanswered and his eternal reward (as per LDS definition) was now forfeited...all in less time than I took to watch the latest Avengers movie.

For that, I empathize with his emotional journey.

Excommunicating someone for apostasy, or labeling someone an apostate, is rarely about the truth. It is about protecting the corporation, the brand and the customer base. I stand with Rock and echo the prophetic words of Orwell: “In a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” 

Peace be with you, Rock.


2 comments:

Terri McLain said...

I to have empathy for what Rock's experience. But these things I feel strongly about. His theological maturity will carry him through this period in his spiritual journey. He will experience a growth in his love of god that was previously impeded by small men of mortal character.
He will see the sun continue to shine.
He will see love continue to express itself.
He will experience joy in his life despite those who would like to take that from him.

God bless.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree that Rock was removed from the church with no chance of proving himself correct. Those above the stake president were obviously under command of the higher up "brethern" to silence this man. Reading his blogs I find nothing that he wrote to be in error---instead he points out historical and scriptual evidence that the church has changed from what was originally taught. I post this as anonymous because I don't wish to get pulled into one of those "courts of love." Sorry for what my church has done to Rock. In this case, it is the church that is in apostasy---not Rock. Maybe the wrong ones are being kicked out.