Expulsion from Mormonism: a journey of loyal dissent ~ by Chris Ralph

(Loyal, that is, to truth, truth being the fundamental of the gospel we once thought we had embraced as converts to the LDS church.)

Shortly before Easter I received a written invitation to meet with the local LDS Bishop and Stake President on Wednesday 25th April. I had not been attending church for three and a half years, and during that time had had just three fairly superficial exchanges with the bishop. Bishop Wiltshire is a caring, self-effacing man with little desire, I sense, to occupy that particular position of responsibility; he freely admits that he finds it challenging to deal with what he terms “intellectual matters”. By this he means the hard-to-explain anomalies in real LDS church history, which have caused me to re-evaluate my commitment to the church.

During the first of those visits Bishop Wiltshire rather apologetically explained that he was not prepared to discuss my concerns about LDS history, and felt he should warn me that if I shared whatever I had discovered with anyone outside of my immediate family, then I would likely be considered in apostasy, and might face church discipline. The second visit was really to interview my daughter, after which he briefly repeated his previous message to me. The third occasion followed our son’s tragic death in September 2010, when, as bishop, he dutifully dropped in to express his condolences. That period was a complete blur, and I only recall that he sat with us for a few minutes, not really knowing what to say.

So why, after so long, and so many missed opportunities to support us emotionally through our challenges and grief, did the local leadership now want me to go to see them? When I posed that question to them, I was answered that the purpose of the meeting would be to discuss “personal thoughts and feelings about… testimony, the Church and its teachings”. It appears that I had rattled a few cages by recently posting a Public Apology for having followed the LDS church’s racist teachings when I was a new convert to Mormonism.

I had been baptised in 1971, at the age of 18, but was not made aware of LDS racist issues until some while later. At that period of LDS history men of African descent were still denied the privileges of priesthood and of being sealed to their families in the Mormon temple, as members of all other races were. This was because Africans/”negroes” were depicted in LDS theology as bearing the mark of Cain, which indicated that they had been less valiant in the pre-existence, and were therefore spiritually inferior.

I had two black Zimbabwean friends, and when I enthusiastically tried to introduce them to the LDS missionaries in 1972 I was taken to one side by the Mission President, and advised that it would be better if they were not entertained as prospective converts, as they could never share in the eternal blessings that were mine to claim as a white man. For the first six or so years of my membership I accepted with unease this deeply racist stance, believing it must have a divine purpose of some sort. Then, in June 1978, the priesthood ban was removed by the church, to my relief, and the relief of most LDS members; however, the insidious dogma of spiritual inferiority took many more years for me to eradicate from my understanding. It was for this reason that earlier this year I drafted and signed my Public Apology to people of Black African descent. Others added their signature to mine, and sought to give it publicity among LDS and ex-LDS friends.

In a short time the Public Apology came to the attention of certain members of my local LDS congregation, in Yeovil, who were very critical of my actions, not, I believe, because they had any intention of justifying racism, but because the Apology inferred that the LDS church had been at fault, and that past church leaders had been uninspired. Their criticisms were accurate, if unwarranted, for I do indeed hold past leadership responsible for this abomination, and unequivocally declare that these were never God’s intended teachings.

So complaints having been made, it appears that at the meeting on 25th April, I shall be asked to say sorry for having said sorry! And, my intention is to tell Bishop Wiltshire, and Stake President Crew, “sorry, but I’m not going to say sorry for feeling as I do, or for expressing those feelings publicly as is my right”.

And then we shall encounter an impasse, and I anticipate that my LDS membership will be placed on the line. It seems likely, and perhaps inevitable that I shall be asked to appear before a disciplinary council, (church court), in due course, and will lose my LDS membership if I am not prepared to relent. Such a decision, if taken by President Crew, would, according to LDS theology, be extremely serious. It would spell the end of my eternal marriage contract to my wife of 32 years, Diana, (a faithful member since she joined in 1977), and would sever any eternal relationship I might enjoy with my children and my parents, and extended family members. The “sin” occasioning such extreme theological consequences would be that of exercising freedom of conscience and freedom of speech, which had reflected badly, though entirely honestly, on the LDS church’s historical position.

This, I think sets the scene for what may well become something of a saga over the coming weeks and months. I shall report further as the story develops.

16 thoughts on “Expulsion from Mormonism: a journey of loyal dissent ~ by Chris Ralph”

  1. “The “sin” occasioning such extreme theological consequences would be that of exercising freedom of conscience and freedom of speech, which had reflected badly, though entirely honestly, on the LDS church’s historical position.”

    This, of course, is not true. The LDS Church does not penalize the practice of free speech. Were it to do that it would be guilty of breaking the the US Constitution and would face serious legal consequences.

    What is really going on is that the LDS Church penalizes those members of its organization who publicly decry the actions, authority, and beliefs of the LDS Church. Ex-Mormons love to pretend that this is some kind of monstrous, conspiratorial, conniving, devilish, and controlling practice that comes from the cold-hearted leaders of the LDS Church in Salt Lake city, when in reality this is a practical and common sense measure that ought to be taken by any organization that seeks to protect its name, reputation, and integrity.

    Imagine for a moment that a member of the Republican party (sorry Bobby, I’m not terribly versed in UK politics) begins to denounce the platforms, leaders, and honesty of the Republican party. What do you expect might happen to them? If they are disciplined by the Republican it isn’t because they are practicing free speech, but it is because of they are choosing to practice their free speech. It makes absolutely perfect sense that they would kick a person like that out of their ranks. It isn’t an assault on freedom; you are free to join some other political party that you agree with.

    I know lots of LDS folks who believe that the priesthood ban was the result of misguided theology rooted in 19th century racism. They remain faithful believers in the LDS Church. Why? Because they do not actively slander LDS leaders and beliefs. They do not publicly condemn the LDS Church, and they do not seek to persuade other LDS members to believe in things that are contrary to LDS teachings. The LDS Church gives a very wide latitude for intellectual and spiritual dissent, but it (rightly) does not tolerate those who would actively and publicly seek to persuade others to disbelieve in the practices and beliefs of the organization.

    This isn’t a case of tyrannical oppression of free speech or conscious. It is a practical measure that any organization would be stupid to not take when faced with internal rebellion. Chris Ralph would likely be welcome to remain a member of the Church if he were to remove his public complaints against the Church, and stop trying to persuade other LDS to lose their testimonies.

    On the other hand, Chris Ralph clearly doesn’t believe in the doctrines of the LDS Church anymore, so I see no reason for him to be offended or upset if he is booted.

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      1. Hi journeyofloyaldissent (aka Ralph?).

        I don’t blame you for following what you feel is the truth. I think that is the right thing to do. My comments above were not meant in any way to accuse you of wrongdoing for your choice to follow your best interpretation of the truth instead of loyalty to a cause you feel is untrue. May God bless you in your future walk.

        I just hope we don’t have any silly ideas about the LDS Church suppressing freedom of thought, speech, or conscious. If their one thing that LDS theology emphasizes, it is “free agency”, or the ability to freely choose.

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    1. Dear James
      You are obviously an eloquent and experience LDS Apologist and know there is a thin line between strongly advising discretion in the anticipation of potential consequences and out rightly opposing free speech. It does however amount to the same thing, intimidation.
      From it’s earliest days the LDS church has never been shy to use this technique, Joseph Smith himself used to silence dissenters and to get his won way. Brigham Young certainly did.
      Time and again in recent years cases have come to light of child abuse, financial irregularity and other criminal behaviour that the churchs (both LDS and others) has attempted to keep internalised for matters of discretion. When both the perpetrator and the victim have been Mormons, especially Mormons of secular and theological rank, it has been revealed that all parties have been advise to keep quiet and then threatened with loosing their ‘good standing’ when they have refused.

      I find your description of this practices as “monstrous, conspiratorial, conniving, devilish, and controlling” a not unfair summation especially in light of the admission that “the LDS Church penalizes those members of its organization who publicly decry the actions, authority, and beliefs of the LDS Church.”
      Of course they do and make no secret of it, it is the stick in ‘the carrot and Stick’ authoritarianism of SLC. Calling this “a practical and common sense measure that ought to be taken by any organization that seeks to protect its name, reputation, and integrity” Proves the point that the LDS Church operates in exactly the same way as a corporate entity and even uses the same form of language to justify itself.
      Of course the priesthood ban was the result of misguided theology rooted in 19th century racism, it is obvious that it was, Brigham Young was a palin and simple bigot, the problem of course being that he claimed to be a prophet of God and that he was the mouth piece of God and that these words were not him but God’s. This means for the life of the church up to and beyond 1979 the LDS taught that GOD IS A BIGOT too.
      Now to say that is not to actively slander LDS leaders and beliefs, it is to point out historical and theological facts.
      You say “The LDS Church gives a very wide latitude for intellectual and spiritual dissent, but it (rightly) does not tolerate those who would actively and publicly seek to persuade others to disbelieve in the practices and beliefs of the organization.”
      I say why? Are they so afraid of the truth that they actually believe it has to be suppressed because to tolerate such freedom of information would allow the truth to damage the testimonies of other members? Do they actually know how fragile most LDS testimonies actually are? OF course they do, and that is what they are afraid of.
      I dare say Chris would be welcomed back in to the arms of the church as a repentant sinner should he recant his truth, agree to toe the church official line of disinformation and ignorance. There is more joy in Salt Lake of one repenting sinner, I am sure than over a thousand willing converts.
      They make for better air time and print news in any of the many, many LDS owned media outlets for a start.

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      1. Hello H. Lions.

        In the interest of not letting this discussion run a hundred different directions all at once, I’m going to focus on only the aspect of your comments that are relevant to my earlier remarks. You and I will not agree on the origin and motive behind the LDS priesthood ban, so there is no use in debating that here.

        You said:

        ******
        “Time and again in recent years cases have come to light of child abuse, financial irregularity and other criminal behaviour that the churchs (both LDS and others) has attempted to keep internalised for matters of discretion. When both the perpetrator and the victim have been Mormons, especially Mormons of secular and theological rank, it has been revealed that all parties have been advise to keep quiet and then threatened with loosing their ‘good standing’ when they have refused.”
        ********

        My reply is to request some kind of documentation or reliable source for this claim. Latter-day Saints are sinners just like the rest of the world, but if you are insinuating that the LDS Church as an institution is protecting criminals that is quite an accusation and one you need to be careful about.

        You said:

        *******
        “Calling this “a practical and common sense measure that ought to be taken by any organization that seeks to protect its name, reputation, and integrity” Proves the point that the LDS Church operates in exactly the same way as a corporate entity and even uses the same form of language to justify itself.”
        ********

        I realize that it is very fashionable for those who are angry with the LDS Church to characterize it as a “corporation” with a heartless, well-oiled machine whose only interest is financial gain. Our interest is in preaching the gospel and strengthening believers. What do you think the proper action should be if one of our members is actively preaching against the church, and shows no interest in stopping? Are we supposed to just let them keep mocking, condemning, and trying to tear down our beliefs without any sort of response? Do you suppose we should allow them to continue to teach Sunday School lessons? Pass the sacrament? Attend the temple? Teach the youth?

        What would a non-LDS church do if an attendee began to actively campaign against the theology and history of that church and its leaders, and, say, teach that Mormonism is the true way instead? Would you expect that church to allow that individual to retain their platform in the church where they can influence others? Would you invite them to give a sermon to the congregation? Maybe you would, but it would be incredibly foolish. A church is not a place for open debate about the fundamental principles of the gospel. A church isn’t designed for that. A church is for a community of believers to come together and be supported by one another. If a person no longer self-identifies with that community, it makes incredible sense for them to leave the community.

        The obvious practicality of this is so overwhelming that it is mind-boggling that some would accuse the LDS Church of suppressing free speech. I am free to say what I want, how I want, and to whom I want, but I am not allowed to come into your house against your will and do so. If you kicked someone out of your house because of the way they were talking about your wife, would they be justified in accusing you of suppressing “free speech”?

        You said:
        ************
        “Are they so afraid of the truth that they actually believe it has to be suppressed because to tolerate such freedom of information would allow the truth to damage the testimonies of other members? ”
        ***********

        Another common trope against the LDS Church. If the LDS Church were so set on hiding the truth and keeping information from the world and its own members, we wouldn’t have this massive and scholarly effort underway, being funded by the church, to publish every document from Joseph Smith’s ministry (the Joseph Smith Papers Project).

        But what do you want? Do you want us to include in our Sunday School manuals a lesson about how Brigham Young was an adulterating racist who ordered the execution in Mountain Meadows? Don’t be silly. Not only do we disagree with that position, it isn’t the sort of thing that church is meant for anyway. You have your platform, we have ours. We don’t harass Evangelical Christians for not having monthly lessons about the horrors and blasphemies of early Christian leaders.

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  2. Fourth paragraph, third sentence, should read, “If they are disciplined by the Republican it isn’t because they are practicing free speech, but it is because *of the way in which* they are choosing to practice their free speech.”

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    1. Okay it’s simple enough check the USA and Utah court records for the last twenty years or so you will find plenty of evidence

      Off the top of my head, there was the case of Jeremiah Scott. The LDS eventually on the advice of their lawyers paid $3,000,000.00 to settle out of court when the now adult Scott and his mother produced evidence that their bishop had covered up the abuse for years
      Then there is the Kerry Lewis/ Timur Dyke case where an LDS scoutmaster was protected by the church until his victim reached adult hood and prosecuted the church himself, again the church was fined $1.4 million
      Or the Peter Taylor/ Bruce Hatch Case where a bishop again covered up abuse for years relying on the loop hole in UTAH state law that allows clergy to LEGALLY WITHHOLD knowledge of child abuse as sacrosanct, the case was eventually settled in Washington courts where law says exactly the opposite and REQUIRES clergy to report child abuse. The church was fined $4.2 million.

      These and many other cases are matters of public record.

      On the second point that I raised your answer is a deliberate “Strawman” argument. Very few persons speaking out against the church remain active members while doing so, Chris actually states he was inactive when committing his ‘SIN’ of apologising to the world at large for being party to institutional racism.
      The church actively opposes anyone who speaks out against them. The LDS have tried to take “The Atheist Experience” an independently produced public access television show in Texas off the air by buying up their time slot months in advance. They have continually litigated against the Tanner family who are direct descendants of Brigham Young for year in order to stop them using personally owned family heirlooms and documentation to prove the sort of man Brigham Young actually was as opposed to the churches sanitised version of him.
      The church has made sure it owns and runs a media empire in the USA and Utah in their attempt to self aggrandise and sanitise themselves, so much for using their tithed income for the good of the poor and needy.

      “But what do you want? Do you want us to include in our Sunday School manuals a lesson about how Brigham Young was an adulterating racist who ordered the execution in Mountain Meadows?”

      Frankly YES!
      You see Brigham Young and Joseph Smith are not comparable to Torquemada or the Borgias or any of the other millions of Christian abominations who called themselves church leaders. These men Smith and Young claimed to be the founders of the one true church, to be acting directly on orders from God, to be living prophets, comparable to Abraham and St. Paul.
      Yet both men were steeped in Sin and Wickedness, un-repented wickedness. Historically proven evil.
      Yet the church of today turns it’s eyes away and say, no, it never happened, at least not like that.
      Sorry but yes it did, Young was a racist, murdering, adulterous, bigot. Smith was a convicted con man, a paedophile, an adulterer, a moral blackmailer, a liar and a thief.

      The church can deny this all that it wants, but truth will out.

      Yes, everyone makes mistakes, falls in to sin if you like, and is given the chance to repent, be forgiven and start again. Smith, Young and their successors did not do that they claimed divine sanction for their evil and still do.

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      1. Well, with that laundry list of items I’m not obviously at a disadvantage. Catholic apologist Karl Keating said it well:

        “It must be admitted they enjoy a certain tactical (if short-term) advantage in that they can get away with presenting bare-bones claims such as these; they wear out Catholicism’s defenders by inundating them with short remarks that demand long explanations.”

        Hopefully in the near future I can address some of the claims you’ve made, but not today. Time is short.

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  3. Dear Chris
    I was highly moved reading your story and would like to offer a few comments regarding the situation in which you find yourself.

    Firstly as an inactive member of the church, I would propose that you propose a counter venue on neutral ground for the meeting. should the members of the bishopric sincerely wish to talk to you they will agree, if they are not amenable to this they do not seriously wish to talk with you at all, they wish to intimidate you by baiting you in the lions den so to speak.

    Secondly, I assume your wife was in favour when you composed your apology for being party to the racist abominations of Brigham Young and will be with you as you face the consequences of your bravery and honesty. If she is not, then I think perhaps you and your good lady have more immediate concerns than the church and the possibility of the annulment of a celestial marriage and should put those first before dealing with matters of religion.
    If you are concerned the believe as I do that a marriage between a man and a woman is a meeting of minds and that given the possibility of an after life, those minds will choose to stay together forever regardless of the words of men and churches.
    I was married in a Mormon Church, by a Mormon bishop, it was a wonderful ceremony and a beautiful day, I regret not a moment of it nor the vows I made. However, when I grew increasingly horrified and disgusted by the LDS and in good conscience could not remain a member of the church, I discussed it with my wife and she took the time to listen, follow my reasons and make her own investigations. When we both choose to leave the church it was as two individuals doing it for our own reasons but together. It was in time my wife who insisted our names should be removed from the rolls as she could no longer stand the idea of being associated with the LDS.

    Your Bishop, failing you in time of need, is a disgrace I hope he can live with. It seems his visit to you at the time of the tragedy in your life was simple ‘lip service’ to his calling and office. It is not unusual my wife and a good friend of mine were both failed by the church in time of sickness, tragedy and need, but were both approached after recovery to make up their missed tithing.

    I hope you will come to an understanding that the LDS is not a religion, it is an international corporation that sells salvation as a product, markets comfort as a commodity and take joy in nothing else so much as ‘Lording’ in a literal sense, authority over its own membership.

    Other posters here have made the point that the church may simply be protecting itself as any organisation should from “undue” bad publicity and ‘inappropriate use’ of free speech.
    Think about that for a moment, the term in the secular world would be “Corporate Disloyalty” and can be used for dismissal. (KFC are know to do this, they monitor their employees face book pages and fire people who make adverse comments about the company in their own time.)
    The same poster compares the church to the Republican Party, pointing out that such behaviour would result I expulsion from the said party.
    The Church does not employ you, nor does it have the same status in a person’s life as a political allegiance. A political party makes know it’s policies and mandates its history and future plans. They do not like the LDS church, hide their history, lie about it, misrepresent themselves and then call those who tell the truth disloyal and traitorous. Even the republican party would not have the gaul to hold private Kangaroo courts and claim they have higher authority than the law of the land when it comes to their own members.

    And by the way think carefully about anyone who advises you that there is a discernable difference between “being against free speech” and being against “the way in which they are choosing to practice their free speech.”

    The Church (any church) is supposed to exist for the sole (or Soul if you like) purpose of spiritually benefiting and saving their neighbours from the evils of the world.

    To Paraphrase Jesus “The Church is for the benefit of mankind, mankind does not exist for the benefit of the Church.”

    Do not worry about these worldly, self-effacing, vainglorious people you and your family are better off without them. They have done you no good; they have hypocritically lead you in to evil and then chastised you for repenting for it. They have abandoned you in times of need and yet expected you to put them before your own family.

    Cut them off from you life like a diseased branch from a healthy tree and moved on with your life. If the diseased branch then claims to have amputated itself from an inappropriate tree, take that sort of comment for the type of nonsense that it is.

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    1. Thank you H. It would be good to discuss some of this privately. Please contact me via Bobby if you feel inclined.

      As regards the bishop, I must defend his personal reputation as a man. He is by nature a good, kind, sensitive person, restricted in his capacity by severe family health issues. It is not his fault he is called to that office at this time. He is just a puppet after all. I look back on the role he has been asked to play in our lives, and I feel genuinely sorry for him. He also readily admits that he is intmidated by my postgrad studies in LDS history.When our son died, what could he say or do? He knew he was powerless tochange anything which mattered in that moment. If there was a fault, it was overlooking us in the long months of mourning which followed. It would have been nice to share and discuss our sense of loss with him, but I’m sure he had many other pressing things to do, and of course, out of sight and out of mind. I shall not be his accuser for it.

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  4. James, I feel I have to wade in here and defend Chris. Here is a link to the petition, which I myself signed in good conscience. I’m not active, but I know that active members have signed it and many more have agreed with its sentiments even if they have not been prepared to publicly put their name to it. Those active members also include those who hold positions of authority within the church. Have you read the petition?

    I’ll link to it for you, and then perhaps you can judge for yourself whether Chris is being disloyal to the church.

    http://www.petitionbuzz.com/petitions/apology

    If you read the apology you will see that Chris limits his criticism to the teachings that were racist in nature. I don’t think you will find many apologists that would disagree with Chris. The church itself has now gone from ‘we know’ to ‘we don’t know’ in terms of the reasoning behind the policy of banning those of colour from the priesthood. They have also stated in the newsroom article that people of all races were always welcome in the church. This is a patently untrue.

    Would you be having Max Mueller also held up for discipline in a church court for stating that the churches policy of ‘sweeping its problems under the carpet’, just ends up with a ‘bumpy carpet’?

    Would you have the Randy Bott held up for discipline for teaching the ‘false doctrine’ of stating that the negro wasn’t ready for the priesthood?

    It’s a minefield for sure, and I very much doubt that the church has any ground for disciplining Chris for this apology..

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  5. The Zune concentrates on being a Portable Media Player. Not a web browser. Not a game machine. Maybe in the future it’ll do even better in those areas, but for now it’s a fantastic way to organize and listen to your music and videos, and is without peer in that regard. The iPod’s strengths are its web browsing and apps. If those sound more compelling, perhaps it is your best choice

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  6. The “racism” of the LDS church being brought up in every single complaining article and following comments is so old and ridiculous.
    Every little negative thing is nit picked to death over and over and over ad nauseam. It is the same list of complaints that have been addressed. Ex members and critics will not let it go. The Catholic church claims they are the true church. No one, not critics or ex Catholics continually bring up the Catholic sordid past and all the revolting things still happening in that church. Hhmm
    No one who calls themselves Christians or a moral Atheist calls out other Christian churches who practice racism today, dupe people out of their money, call into question the money that Preachers and Ministers make from duping people and living extravagantly, and so forth, and these churches leaders claim their church is the only true way to return to God. And a good portion of Ministers and Preachers are running drug and prostitution rings, having affairs with their married
    congregants, cheating on taxes, are closet homosexuals while condemning homosexuality, raping teen girls and boys and so much more bad stuff.

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