According to a good source in Utah's Mo Corridor, Mormon apostle Dallin H. Oaks offered to step down from the ranks of the Twelve over a well-publicized tiff between the two of us.
It happened after I outted him for lying to a reporter about Boyd K. Packer's behind-the-scenes involvement in the excommunication of Paul Toscano--who was a Salt Lake City attorney, an outspoken critic of the General Authorities, a firm advocate for women's rights and a member of the so-called "September Six."
Oaks had told me in a private meeting with fellow apostle Neal A. Maxwell held in the Church Administration Building in September 1993 that Packer had exceeded his ecclesiastical authority when he (Packer) contacted Toscano's stake president, Kerry Heinz, in a move to have Heinz excommunicate Toscano. Oaks told me that he (Oaks) was responsible for the portion of the official "Church Handbook of Instructions" dealing with matters of member discipline, not Packer. (Maxwell chimed in at that point, adding that he--Maxwell--had helped bring Oaks into the Quorum of the Twelve because of the need for Oaks's expertise in legal matters). Oaks lamented that Toscanco might end up suing the Mormon Church over violation of his (Toscano's) ecclesiastical rights.
Oaks, in exasperation with Packer, went on to utter this classic line to me about Packer, saying, "You can't stage manage a grizzly bear."
As I left the meeting with him and Maxwell, Oaks asked me to keep what we had talked about confidential. But all bets were off on that score when Oaks subsequently lied on the record to a newspaper reported about what Oaks had told me in private regarding Packer's underhanded actions.
When "Arizona Republic" reporter Paul Brinkley-Rogers asked Oaks in an on-the-record interview about rumors circulating that Packer had been involved in backstage direction of the excommunication of Toscano, Oaks said he was not aware of any such thing, adding that such claims went against everything that he knew about Packer. Reporter Brinkley-Rogers played me the tape of his interview with Oaks and when I heard Oaks lie in this regard, I was astounded. I told the reporter what Oaks had told me in private about Packer's out-of-bounds efforts to get Toscano excommunicated via the stake president--and how what Oaks said to me directly contradicted what he had falsely claimed to the reporter.
I subsequently contacted Oaks by fax and informed him that he had 24 hours to set the record straight, advising him that if he did not, I would publicly do it for him. Oaks called my home in Arizona from Salt Lake City but I was not there at the time (my young daugther answered, instead, and told Oaks that I was still at work). Oaks then proceeded to contact the reporter to whom he had given the misleading interview. He left a message with the reporter, who called him back through the LDS Church Office Building switchboard, reaching Oaks at his home. In that phone call, Oaks admitted to the reporter that he had not told the truth, but insisted that what he had told the reporter about Packer was not a lie; rather, he said, it had been a long interview and he had misspoken.
I listened to the tape of that phone call between the reporter and Oaks, since the reporter had made the recording and later allowed me to listen to it (I have the tape of that phone call--which the reporter eventually gave to me--from which I made a written transcription--which will be quoted later in this post).
I eventually decided to go public with what Oaks had actually said, via a guest column I authored for the "Salt Lake Tribune." I faxed Oaks again and explained that he had broken his trust with me by lying in public about what he had told me in private, that he had not come clean in his phone call he made to the reporter and that I therefore had decided that I not be a partner in his attempted cover-up.
My source (who had excellent contacts) informed me that in the wake of the exposure of Oaks's lies, Oaks offered to resign from the Quorum of the Twelve but was persuaded by fellow Quorumer Gordon B. Hinckley to stay the course.
Oaks stayed the course.
But I suspect that Oaks knew he had been caught flat-footed in his lies; otherwise, he would not have offered to resign in the first place. ______
Below are informative details on what my source later told me prompted Oaks to inform Hinckley that he was willing to walk the plank by leaving the Twelve. These particulars demonstrate how Toscano's outspoken support of independent thinking ended up exposing the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of Mormonism's highest leadership. They show how behind-the-scenes moves by LDS Inc.'s pyramid-perching leaders to discredit and discipline Toscano for his fiercely-individualistic views eventually led to the public disgracing of Apostles Dallin Oaks, along with Boyd K. Packer--men who, cloaked in Mormon Cult secrecy, had sought to have Toscano muzzled and humiliated, then lied on the record about their efforts to do so.
Oaks' and Packer's plottings against Toscano were ultimately unmasked within the larger context of the Mormon Church's 1993 crackdown on dissidents (notably, the so-called "September Six"). Oaks confessed his participation in the efforts to club and then conceal the ecclesiastical clubbing of Toscano in two private meetings I had with Oaks and his fellow apostle Neal Maxwell, in Maxwell's Church office during September 1993. In those confidential meetings, Oaks confessed to the actual circumstances surrounding the excommunication of Toscano, then expected me to cover for him after he lied in public about what we had privately talked in this regard.
In an on-the-record interview with "Arizona Republic" investigative reporter Paul Brinkley-Rogers, Oaks blatantly misrepresented the truth about Packer's involvement in the excommunication of Toscano who, among other things, had caught the scornful attention of Church apostles by suggesting that Church members need not perpetuate a Cult of Personality by standing up when General Authorities walked into the room.
Yet, Oaks had privately owned up that Packer had inappropriately injected himself into local Church action against Toscano--and, in the process, violated Church disciplinary procedures and opening the Church up to a possible lawsuit from Toscano. Referring to Packer as the source of these headaches, a frustrated Oaks told me, "You can't stage manage a grizzly bear." When subsequently asked by the media about rumors that Packer had worked behind the scenes to get Toscano excommunicated, Oaks claimed ignorance and denied that Packer could ever do such a thing. Had I remained silent in the face of these lies, I would have been an accessory to Oaks' falsifications. Oaks had demanded that I not talk about the conversations we had about the Toscano/Packer affair. Oaks had then prevaricated on the record about what we discussed. Finally, once the cat was out of the bag, Oaks had expected me to cover his keister by covering my mouth.
A question I posed to Oaks and Maxwell concerned reports that Packer had been behind the excommunication of Toscano. To understand the context of the question, it is necessary to review events at the time, as reported in the press.
Packer's suspected entanglement in the excommunication of Toscano became a subject of extensive media coverage in the fall of 1993. Toscano was excommunicated from the Mormon Church on September 19, 1993, "for writing and speaking publicly about Church doctrine, feminism, the state of the faith's leadership and other issues." At the stake high council disciplinary hearing that ultimately sealed his fate, attention was focused on a Sunstone symposium speech Toscano had recently delivered, entitled, "All Is Not Well in Zion: False Teachings of the True Church," in which Toscano was alleged to have made derogatory comments . . . about General Authorities." ("LDS Apostle Denies Ordering Dissident's Excommunication," by "Associated Press," 11 October 1993, sec, D, p. 1ff; and "Six Intellectuals Disciplined for Apostasy," in "Sunstone," November 1993, p. 66).
With the Mormon Church having recently disciplined the infamous "September Six" for activities relating to scholarship and feminism, speculation was rampant that Packer had been "behind the Church's recent crackdown on dissidents." That assessment proved to be well-founded. Five months earlier, Packer had warned a gathering of LDS bureaucrats that some Mormons "influenced by social and political unrest are being caught up and led away" by "the gay-lesbian movement, the feminist movement, as well as the ever-present challenge from the so-called scholars or intellectuals." ("Cartoonist Says Oaks Lied To Protect Fellow Apostle," Vern Anderson, "Associated Press," in "Salt Lake Tribune," 12 October 1993, sec. B, p. 1ff; and Boyd K. Packer, "Talk to the All-Church Coordinating Council," transcript, 18 May 1993, pp. 3, 4)
Packer, however, vehemently denied that he had been behind the banishment of Toscano. Specifically, he insisted he had not directed Toscano's stake president, Kerry Heinz, to convene a disciplinary council against him. While admitting to having met with Heinz to discuss Toscano, Packer assured the press, "We talked doctrine and philosophy. I absolutely did not instruct him to hold a disciplinary counsel and did not then, nor have I ever, directed any verdict. By Church policy, that is left entirely to local leaders. When he [Heinz] left, I did not know what he would do." ("Cracks in the Temple: Mormon Unity in Peril," by Paul Brinkley-Rogers, "The Arizona Republic," 10 October 1993, sec. A, p 1ff)
Packer further revealed to the Church-owned "Deseret News" that his decision to meet with Heinz had been made through a lower-ranking Church middleman. Contrary to Oaks' claim to me in our September 24th meeting that Packer had independently strayed outside approved channels of authority, Packer insisted that, in fact, he had been advised by "the Brethren" to meet with Toscano's stake president. Said Packer, "Even though General Authorities of the Church are free to contact or respond to local leaders on any subject, I felt there may be some sensitivity about his request. The Brethren felt I could not very well decline to see a stake president. I therefore consented." ("Packer Says He Was Concerned by Request for Meeting, But Apostles Endorsed It," by "Associated Press," in "Salt Lake Tribune," 17 October 1993, sec. B, p. 1ff)
Toscano was not persuaded by Packer's explanations. Reacting to Packer's admission of meeting with Heinz, Toscano said, "I knew all along that Boyd Packer was behind it. He's behind all this." ("Grandson of President Asks to be Removed from LDS Church Rolls," Jennifer Skordas, "Salt Lake Tribune," 11 October 1993, sec. D, p. 1ff)
In my meeting with Oaks and Maxwell, I specifically asked if Packer had, in fact, been involved behind the scenes in the excommunication process against Toscano. Oaks confirmed that Packer had. Oaks told me he was "distressed and astonished" over Packer's decision to meet with Heinz, even though he said Heinz was the one who had called Packer and asked "for the meeting." Oaks said it was "a mistake" on Packer's part to have agreed to meet with Heinz, the latter whom Oaks described as "an old seminary man." (Packer had come up with Heinz through the ranks of the Church education system). He told me that, by meeting with Heinz, Packer had gone outside the bounds of his assigned responsibility. Oaks said one of his own areas of expertise was in legal affairs. Maxwell noted that one reason Oaks had been brought into the Quorum of the Twelve was to help rewrite the manual on Church disciplinary procedure. Oaks expressed concern that Packer's involvement with Heinz might lead Toscano "to sue the Church" over violation of his ecclesiastical procedural rights.
In the end, Oaks, with a note of resignation in his voice, said of Packer, "You can't stage manage a grizzly bea
On the heels of my meetings with Oaks and Maxwell, I then accompanied "Arizona Republic" reporter Brinkley-Rogers to Salt Lake City in early October 1993 to assist him in making contacts with LDS leaders, spokesmen, educators and critics for a story on the recent purge of Church dissidents, notably, the "September Six." On October 1st, Brinkley-Rogers met for a prearranged, on-the-record, taped Q & A session with Oaks in his Salt Lake City Church office to discuss, among other things, recent Church action against the dissenters. I had not arranged the interview and did not join the reporter in it, as I did not think it would be appropriate for me to do so. Moreover, prior to the interview, I did not speak to Brinkley-Rogers about what Oaks and Maxwell had told me concerning the Packer/ Toscano matter in my meeting with them on September 24th.
At the conclusion of the interview, I picked Brinkley-Rogers up outside the Church Administration Building and asked how it went. He put the tape into the rental car cassette deck and pushed the "play" button. What I heard astounded--and angered--me. Much of what Oaks had dished up for public consumption directly contradicted what he had told me in private. I was immediately aware of the bind that Oaks had put me in. He had lied to a reporter about events which he had described to me in much different terms. I had no choice but to tell the reporter at that point that Oaks was attempting to pull a fast one on him.
So, there in a rental car in Salt Lake City, for the first time, I revealed what Oaks had shared with me in our September 24th meeting, pointing out the contradictions to what I had just heard on the tape. (see "Cracks in the temple: Mormon unity in peril," Paul Brinkley-Rogers, "Arizona Republic," 11 October 1993, sec. A, p. 1ff)
During the next five days, I privately struggled with how to publicly deal with Oaks' blatant dishonesties. I was torn between remaining quiet (thereby preserving a confidentiality agreement) or setting the record straight (thereby exposing Oaks' act of calculated deception). I spoke at length with my wife, friends, and colleagues--seeking advice and weighing my options. I wish I could say it was an easy decision--that I saw the road brightly ahead of me from the moment I was confronted with Oaks' deceit--but that was not the case. I was troubled and, frankly, even a bit frightened by the possible consequences of speaking out. I did not relish the prospect of being accused of breaking a promise; at the same time, I could not stand by silently, given what I knew. Most of all, I resented the fact that Oaks had put me in this position in the first place.
I finally decided to follow my gut--and my conscience. Oaks' misrepresentations--indeed, his out-and-out lies--prompted me to fax him a letter a few days after the interview. It read as follows:
"6 October 1993 Elder Dallin Oaks The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 47 East South Temple Salt Lake City, Utah 84150
"PERSONAL AND CONFIDENTIAL
"Dear Elder Oaks:
"I wish to share with you my concerns relative to our private conversation in the office of Elder Maxwell on September 24th, in relation to your subsequent comments to Arizona Republic reporter Paul Brinkley-Rogers on October 1st."
"In our September 24th meeting, I asked you if Kerry Heinz, Paul Toscano's stake president, had had any contact with, or received any instruction from, Elder Boyd K. Packer during the time leading up to Paul Toscano's excommunication. According to my notes taken during our discussion, you acknowledged that Elder Packer met with President Heinz prior to the rendering of judgment by the stake disciplinary council. You said that President Heinz was 'an old seminary man' and friend of Elder Packer during their days together in the Church seminary system and that President Heinz 'called and asked for a meeting' with Elder Packer."
"You told me that you were 'distressed and astonished' that Elder Packer met with President Heinz. Referring to Elder Packer, you observed that 'you can't stage manage a grizzly bear.' You opined that 'it was a mistake for Packer to meet with Heinz and a mistake for Heinz to ask for the meeting."
"You further acknowledged that you later talked directly to Elder Packer and told him that you felt it was wrong and violated Church disciplinary procedure for Elder Packer to have been in contact with President Heinz. You said that Elder Packer had no authority or responsibility to participate in such contact and you told me that you strongly urged Elder Packer not to engage in such contact in the future. You added that you fully expected Paul Toscano 'to sue' the Church over this breach of procedural authority. "
"In contrast to what you told me in private, your public statements concerning the Toscano excommunication process and any participation of Elder Packer in it presented a far different picture. Mr. Brinkley-Rogers asked you: 'In the case of Toscano . . . do you have any evidence that Elder Packer [was] involved in any way in the decision-making process in the disciplining of [him]?"
"You responded: 'As for Elder Packer, Elder Packer does not have a specific responsibility for any area in the Church . . . So, if Elder Packer is having any conversation with Kerry Heinz, it is outside the normal channel. That's all I can say. I have no knowledge of whether he did. But if he, and if he gave a directed verdict or anything like that, that is contrary to policy, it is irregular and it's contrary to what I know of Elder Packer and the way he operates. Elder Packer is not the least bit inclined to shrink from saying things like in the talk you saw [to the All-Church Coordinating Council, 18 May 1993]. He is a forthright, plain-spoken man, but Elder Packer is far too sophisticated and sensitive a man to call a stake president and tell him what he has to do in a Church discipline case. I just don't believe that. What's possible is that a stake president might think he had heard such a thing; nobody can dismiss that possibility . . . that kind of slippage happens in communication. But Elder Packer has no, Elder [Loren C.] Dunn has a natural communications link, though an outdated one; Elder Packer does not. So, that's all I know about that at this point."
"Frankly, I find the differences between what you told me and what you told the press to be irreconcilable and ethically troubling. First, by couching your answer to the question of Elder Packer's conversation with President Heinz in the hypothetical, you falsely imply, it seems to me, that you do not know whether he did talk with President Heinz. Second, contrary to what you told me, you explicitly said to the reporter that, in fact, you were not aware if any conversations took place between Elder Packer and President Heinz. Third, your assertion that for Elder Packer to have talked with President Heinz goes against your knowledge of Elder Packer's modus operandi is contradicted by your admission to me that you knew that Elder Packer had talked to him and that you later talked with Elder Packer about it. Fourth, your blanket denial of knowing anything beyond what you told the reporter is completely undermined, I feel, by what you told me."
"In other words, you have told the truth in private about the Packer-Heinz meeting, while denying the truth in public."
"When you asked that I keep our conversation confidential, I assumed that anything you might subsequently say for the record on the matter would be at least honest, if not complete. However, what you said in public varies significantly from the facts as you laid them out to me. It appears that you have asked me not to publicly divulge our conversation in your hope that my initial agreement to remain silent would keep the accuracy of your public utterances from being challenged."
"I have concluded that to remain silent is unacceptable. It would be a cowardly and dishonest act. It would be analogous to having an individual come to me and say, 'Just between us, I killed my wife,' then turn around and tell the press that the next-door neighbor did it. I would have the clear moral obligation to set the record straight, since refusal to act would do violence to the truth and make me an accessory to the crime."
"I will not be a party to a cover-up. Your request for confidentiality, I believe, has been superceded by the fact that you have lied in public, contrary to the facts as you know them, and that your hope of confidentiality rests on maintaining the deception. It has been observed that 'a lie is like a blanket of snow. It may cover unpleasantness for a time but, sooner or later, must melt, exposing that which was hidden."
"To participate in this fraud would only serve to erode trust and destroy relationships."
"I would hope that you would feel it right to publicly set the record straight. Mr. Brinkley-Rogers' phone number is 602-271-8137. If you choose not to do so within the next 24 hours, I will have no choice but to undertake that obligation myself."
Hell hath no fury like a cover blown.
Oaks responded quickly, calling my home the same afternoon he received the fax, in an attempt to reach me. Our daughter, Audrey--six years old at the time--answered the phone, as Mary Ann simultaneously picked up the line on the other end and listened. "Is your father there?" asked Oaks, in a stern, angry voice. "No," Audrey replied meekly, "He's at work."
Oaks did not have my office phone number but he had the reporter's, since I had given it to him. (Oaks needed to do his explaining to the person he had lied to in the interview, not to me). Oaks left a message with Brinkley-Rogers, who returned the call that evening, reaching Oaks at home through the Church switchboard operator (CSO).
Below is the full transcript of the ensuing conversation between Oaks (O) and Brinkley-Rogers (BR), taped by Brinkley-Rogers (which he later allowed me to audio-copy and which copy is currently in my possession). It is reported here with permission of Brinkley-Rogers.
CSO (choir music in the background): "LDS Church Offices."
BR: "Yes, good evening. Uh, this is Paul Brinkley-Rogers calling from Phoenix."
BR: "Concerning Dallin Oaks' call. He asked me to call the switchboard."
CSO: "Yes. Just a moment, please, while I"--
BR: "Thank you. Thanks a lot."
CSO: "Go ahead, please."
BR: "Thank you."
O: "Hello, Mr. Brinkley-Rogers."
BR: "Good evening, Mr. Oaks. How are you?"
O: "Thanks for calling back."
BR: "Well, thanks for calling me."
O: "Let me put the robe on and go in another room, where I can be comfortable."
BR: "OK, sure."
O: "Thank you for calling back."
BR: "All right, sir."
O: "Somebody has called me a liar and I don't like to (inaudible) to that on a charge like that."
BR: "Oh, all right. How did that happen?"
O: "Uh, well, let me explain. I received a very disturbing letter from Steve Benson."
O: "He compares what I said to him in a confidential setting, relating to Church issues, with a transcript of the interview that I had with you"--
O: --"and accused me of lying."
O: "And I'm a truthful man and I care for my integrity and, uh, and I, I take no, uh, no little, uh, concern for something like this."
O: "Before I talk with you about it, let me ask you a question"--
O: --"so you'll understand why I need to ask that before I speak about this."
BR: "All right, sir."
O: "What I would like to know is the relationship between you and Steve Benson in this matter. Specifically, was Steve on a reconnaissance for you when he asked about two weeks ago for a Church interview and came into an interview, in an ecclesiastical setting, which is the occasion of this comparison?"
BR: "No, I, I had no idea that he even did that."
O: "I didn't think so."
O: "Uh, let me ask a follow-up question."
O: "Uh, is, are you involved in any kind of an effort that Steve is now making to extort information from me--and I use the word 'extort,' uh"--
O: --"to extort information from me in behalf of you?"
BR: "No. I'm not aware of any such thing."
O: "Now, he had, the reason I had to ask that is that he had the manuscript that was our interview."
O: "And he was comparing that with notes he'd made earlier when he had a conversation"--
BR: "Oh, I see. No, I played the tape for Steve of, uh, our interview, you know, after the interview and I noticed that he looked sort of surprised by it."
O: "OK, well, then, I, I take that at face value."
BR: "All right."
O: "And, and you, what I'm going to tell you why, I, uh, oh, why I was aroused by this."
O: "Now, I assume, as I told you at the time, that you're a professional journalist"--
O: "I assume, I take The Arizona Republic at, at face value. Uh, uh, it seems to me like it's been very professional and, and I deal with you in that light."
BR: "All right, sir."
O: "And I assume that neither you nor The Republic want to be used in Steve's grievances against, and controversies with, his Church"--
O: --"that are rather considerable, uh, uh, controversy with his Church."
O: "I was trying to do, to deal with that in having a confidential interview with him."
O: "And now he, he has drawn in this letter to me, he's drawn these two things together"--
O: "And I'd rather deal with you separately"--
BR: "You mean this conversation with you, uh, compared"--
O: "His conversation with me"--
BR: --"compared with the tape?"
O: "Compared with the tape, and that's, uh, what I'd like to do, is deal separately with you."
O: "And I assume that you don't want to get involved with Steve's controversies with his Church."
O: "I assume that that's part of your professional approach to this and if I, if I can deal separately with you, independent of Steve Benson"--
O: --"then it's, then it's much easier for me to (inaudible) my problems."
BR: "All right, so let's go ahead on that basis."
O: "OK, good. Now, when (cough) I received this letter from Steve, which was, uh, a very accusatory letter"--
O: --"and, uh, I presume that you don't know about its contents"--
O: "But when I received this letter, which I did this afternoon about 5 o'clock"--
O: --"I got the transcript out and reviewed it very carefully, the transcript of my interview with you."
O: "When I did that, I saw one sentence in my interview with you--and only one sentence--that I would say overstated the truth."
O: "And that sentence I want to correct."
BR: "All right, sir. Fine."
O: "And I am sorry for it, but in a, in a, our, our interview was 60 minutes long and, you know, I was shooting from the hip (inaudible) along"--
O: --"and it was one of those things, which called to my attention, is inaccurate and I want to correct it."
BR: "All right."
O: "The, the, the only thing I can see that I want to correct."
BR: "OK, sir."
O: "And this is a, is a, uh, oh, about one-fourth of the circumstances that, uh, that, uh, Steve cites in his letter, because I looked, uh, I looked at the others and, and, uh, I think that, uh, I, I don't, uh, feel any necessity under my commitment to integrity to make any change in what I said."
O: "But in this one instance, I do."
O: "The sentence is, is toward the end of the interview."
O: "It is the, the last paragraph of the interview."
O: "I'm looking at the transcript that was made from the recording when made here."
O: "It's, uh, it's in this talk about the Kerry Heinz matter"--
BR: "All right."
O: "And the sentence is this, about having a conversation: 'So, if Elder Packer is having any conversation with Kerry Heinz'"--
O: --"'it is outside the normal channel'"--
O: --"'that's all I can say. I have not'–"my transcript says that. It must be 'no'"–'I have no knowledge of whether he did.'"
O: "That's the sentence that should be stricken."
O: "If you'd just strike out, 'I have no knowledge of whether he did'"--
O: --"then I'll stand by the transcript of things that I said to you, but that statement, 'I have no knowledge of whether he did'"--
O: --"was, uh, as I looked back on the transcript, I think that's inaccurate and I want to withdraw that."
BR: "All right. Now, um, I guess my question is, do, do you have knowledge that he did that, in that case?"
BR: "Is that what we're getting to here?"
O: "Let me just, uh, let me just say this"--
BR: "All right, sir."
O: "Uh (clears throat), when I met with Steve Benson"--
O: --"Uh, I was trying to help Steve Benson in a matter, a Church matter, that does not concern the subject of our interview."
O: "In the course of doing that, I spoke to him confidentially and in a privileged relationship"--
O: --"and, uh, I think his letter and the things he says in his letter, abuse that privileged relationship, uh, in a really, uh, well, I'll stop there."
O: "And, and I, uh, [Steve] also says some things in his letter which he may share with you, I don't know"--
O: "But he, he claims to have notes of things that I've said in the, in the conversation with him"--
O: "I don't affirm his notes."
O: "If he shows you a copy of his letter"--
O: --"I certainly don't affirm his notes"--
O: --"and I'm not either admitting or denying things that I, I was speaking there in a privileged relationship and I don't think that it's fair for Steve, uh, nor is it fair for me"--
O: --"to go into a privileged relationship"--
O: --"and for me to affirm or deny his notes, so I, I simply stand silent on what he claims took place"--
O: --"in a privileged conversation and, as a journalist, you'd understand the privilege."
O: "I think his notes are quite self-serving, but that's, that's simply my, my perspective."
O: "But what I am saying is that I just don't choose to go, uh, I don't choose to be–what's the word I'm looking for?–leveraged"--
O: --"into saying anything more than I said to you in the interview by Steve Benson's use of privileged information."
O: "So, to answer your question, I'd say that I just don't choose to affirm or deny."
O: "But I do wish to withdraw a sentence which, as I read it on the transcript, is inaccurate."
BR: "All right, sir."
O: "So, I, if you will do me the favor of striking out that, you do whatever you want with what remains."
BR: "All right, sir."
O: "And I'm glad to defend whatever remains, but I cannot defend that sentence."
BR: "All right. Well, it's clear to me."
O: "All right. And I appreciate that and I appreciate the opportunity of being able to speak to you as a, on a professional basis and I, I must tell you that I make this phone call because it distresses me when somebody claims that I lie."
BR: "All right. Well, all right."
O: "Because I don't do that."
BR: "OK, sir."
O: "Well, I appreciate the opportunity to visit with you and thank you for calling."
I was not immediately informed by the reporter of the details of the above conversation, being initially told only that Oaks had called to clarify the record. Assuming (as it turned out, naively) that Oaks had come completely clean, I faxed him a letter the next day, which read:
"7 October 1993 Elder Dallin Oaks The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 47 East South Temple Salt Lake City, Utah 84150
"PERSONAL AND CONFIDENTIAL: SECOND TRANSMISSION"
"Dear Elder Oaks:
"I want to personally thank you for calling the Arizona Republic reporter, Mr. Brinkley-Rogers, to clarify your earlier statements.
"May I emphasize that I came to you with no hidden agenda. My sincerity of motive, I believe, was evidenced by the fact that, given the problem I faced with reconciling your public and private comments, an opportunity was provided for you to set the record straight.
"Again, thank you.
I had spoken too soon.
When Brinkley-Rogers permitted me to listen to the full tape of the phone conversation between himself and Oaks, I realized I had been duped. Oaks had not come close to coming clean, as I had hoped and expected he would. His apology was cagey, hesitant, defensive and limited. He had lied by omission and commission, but somehow had talked himself into believing he had done the right thing. Moreover, Oaks' subsequent statements to the press in ensuing days were far from forthright. I was not about to sit by and let him get away with it. I went to the press, laid out the entire story and submitted my letter of resignation from the Mormon Church.
In the meantime, Oaks was dribbling out half-hearted confessions. Five days after the phone conversation with the "Arizona Republic" reporter, Oaks publicly admitted that he had not been truthful about his knowledge of Packer's involvement in the Toscano episode. In an "Associated Press" wire-story appearing October 12th in the "Salt Lake Tribune," veteran Utah reporter Vern Anderson wrote:
"Elder Oaks admitted late Monday he 'could not defend the truthfulness of one of the statements' about Packer, who is considered by many to be behind the Church's recent crackdown on dissidents . . .
"Oaks told 'Arizona Republic' reporter Paul Brinkley-Rogers on Oct. 1 that he had 'no knowledge' of whether Packer had met with Kerry Heinz, the local ecclesiastical leader for Salt lake lawyer Paul Toscano, before Heinz excommunicated Toscano on Sept. 19. Toscano was cited by Heinz, his stake president, for criticizing Church leaders and acting contrary to the role and order of the Church.
"However, in a 'personal and confidential' letter to Oaks on Oct. 6, Benson reminded the apostle that in a private meeting Sept. 24, Oaks had told Benson he was 'distressed and astonished' that Packer had met with Heinz.
"He quoted Oaks as saying of Packer, 'You can't stage manage a grizzly bear,' and added that 'it was a mistake for Packer to meet with Heinz and a mistake for Heinz to ask for the meeting.'
"Benson also wrote that Oaks 'further acknowledged that you later talked directly to Elder Packer and told him that you felt it was wrong and violated Church disciplinary procedure for Elder Packer to have been in contact with President Heinz.'
"Benson said he was making his letter to Oaks public because he was fed up with Church leaders shading the truth. Last summer, he criticized the faith's hierarchy for claiming his 94-year-old grandfather was still involved in important Church decisions.
"In an interview Monday evening, Oaks declined to confirm or deny most of Benson's assertions about a pair of private interviews the Church prophet's grandson had in September with Oaks and Elder Neal Maxwell, another member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, a body that advises the Church's presidency.
"However, Oaks, a former Utah Supreme Court justice, acknowledged that his single statement to reporter Brinkley-Rogers about having no knowledge of the Packer-Heinz meeting was one 'I could not defend. It was not a truthful statement.'
"Benson's letter to Oaks had warned the apostle that unless he set the record straight, Benson would feel under no obligation to honor the promise of confidentiality he had earlier given Oaks and Maxwell.
"Oaks called the 'Republic's' reporter that night and retracted the 'I have no knowledge of whether he [Packer] did' statement. The Republic's story, minus the statement, appeared Sunday. It quoted Packer as admitting he had met with Heinz about Toscano's case, but he denied having pressured the stake president to excommunicate Toscano.
"Oaks did not retract other statements in the interview with Brinkley-Rogers that Benson had alleged--and Oaks denies--were false or deliberately misleading. Nevertheless, Benson faxed Oaks another letter Oct. 7 thanking him for having called Brinkley-Rogers to 'clarify your earlier statements.'
"Oaks said he had assumed by Benson's second letter that he was satisfied. He stressed that Benson at least three times had assured him and Maxwell that their meetings--initiated by a kindly letter to Benson from Maxwell–were confidential and would never be publicly discussed.
'I think that Steve Benson is just going to have to carry the responsibility for whatever he relates about a confidential meeting,' Oaks said.
"Benson said he felt acutely the moral dilemma of having promised confidentiality, but then having seen deliberate efforts to mislead the public about Packer's role in the Toscano affair. 'I had to decide to be a party to the cover-up or be faithful to my own convictions,' Benson said. 'I had to let Elder Oaks walk a plank of his own making.'
"Toscano, who is appealing his excommunication, said he loves the Church, but doesn't confuse it with 'individual leaders who are kind of running amok in a vacuum.'
"He said that if Ezra Taft Benson were capable of managing the Church today, his eldest grandson's plea would not have gone unheeded." ("Cartoonist Says Oaks Lied To Protect Fellow Apostle," by Vern Anderson, "Associated Press," in "Salt Lake Tribune," 12 October 1993, sec. B, p. 1ff)
By now the fireworks were lighting up the Temple Square skyline. Rather than agitate Oaks even more, however, I tried a softer, more conciliatory approach--even as I again chided him for refusing to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help him God.
In "an open letter" dated October 15, 1993, I wrote:
"Dear Elder Oaks:
"Given the events of recent days, I feel it important to communicate to you the reasons why I believed it necessary to speak openly about our conversations concerning the Packer-Heinz-Toscano affair.
"I understand your displeasure with the fact than an agreement of confidentiality was abrogated. I also understand your reasons for being upset that I went public after having expressed appreciation for your calling the press in an effort to clarify your earlier statements.
"Yet, even in your subsequent revision, you did not correct what I believe to have been other deliberate misrepresentations. I could not, therefore, in good conscience, let them remain unchallenged, when both you and I knew better. You were provided with an opportunity to set the record straight completely. You chose only to correct one of the three falsehoods. I do not consider myself responsible for your decisions not to be fully honest.
"As I noted in earlier correspondence, I feel you lost the benefit of confidentiality when you knowingly dissembled in public about what you told me in private. In so doing, I feel you violated the trust and faith between not only you and me, but between the Church leadership and the members at large. I therefore felt it my moral obligation to break the silence that otherwise would have served only to perpetuate falsehood and false faith.
"I have done so because I see so many people in the Church hurting under the crushing heel of ecclesiastical abuse. It is time to lift the heel and start to heal.
"The scriptures tell of another apostle--a man of God and servant of the Master who, because of weakness and pressure--also lied three times. Yet, he admitted his mistakes, repented of them and became not only one of the Lord's mightiest witnesses, but an example to the rest of us imperfect souls of what It means to be honest and true in Christ.
"You now have the opportunity to shine your light in the darkness and warm us all through your spiritual courage. Please use the purity of your spirit, intellect and testimony to help us heal together.
I didn't hear back from Oaks, except when I read what he was now saying to the press.
Oaks next went to the Church-owned Deseret News to air his grievances. On October 16, 1993, the following article appeared:
"Sitting in his office in the LDS Church administration building, Elder Dallin H. Oaks carefully reads a news report that says he admitted to 'falsely telling' a journalist he had no knowledge of an event involving the excommunication of a Church member.
"'Life isn't fair,' Elder Oaks said. 'Somebody said that time heals all wounds. But it's also true that time wounds all heels.' he added in jest.
"But in a serious tone, Elder Oaks, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Council of the Twelve, said he feels 'wounded' by an 'Associated Press' story that he said dwelled on his admission that he made a statement he couldn't defend, and downplayed his efforts to promptly correct his unintentional error.
"'It impugned my integrity and seriously distorted the account of the facts as it was presented,' Oaks said in an interview this week.
"The apostle said he didn't willfully mislead a news reporter. He explained that he had misspoken during an hour-long interview and when he was notified of that he called the reporter to retract a 'statement I could not defend.'
"The story was published four days later in the Arizona Republic newspaper, without the statement.
"Meanwhile, in Phoenix, Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Steve Benson expressed frustration over what he sees as high-ranking Church officials twisting the truth and deceiving members.
"'I'm tired of playing this little game,' he said in a phone interview from his office at the 'Arizona Republic.] 'The Church needs to respect its members . . . It wants to muzzle its members.'
"Benson, a sixth-generation Mormon and grandson of Church President Ezra Taft Benson, wants no longer to be a 'muzzled' member. On Sunday he announced he had requested his name be removed from the rolls of the Mormon Church. The next day, he disclosed to the 'Associated Press' details of confidential conversations and correspondence between him and Elder Oaks.
"The subsequent news story published locally in Tuesday's 'Salt Lake Tribune' was the latest episode in a saga surrounding recent disciplinary action taken against six prominent Mormon scholars and feminists. Five of them--one who was disfellowshipped and four who were excommunicated--said they were disciplined for apostasy and are victims of an orchestrated purge.
"Earlier this month, Elder Oaks spoke with an 'Arizona Republic' reporter about the recent string of disciplinary councils. During the interview, they discussed whether Elder Boyd K. Packer, also a member of the Council of the Twelve, talked with local stake president Kerry Heinz, who later presided over a disciplinary council that excommunicated Church critic Paul Toscano.
"In the interview, Elder Oaks said he had no knowledge of whether Elder Packer met with the stake president. According to the 'Arizona Republic' story, Elder Oaks also said that if Elder Packer told the stake president what action to take against a Church member, it would violate Church policy and 'be contrary to what I know about Elder Packer and the way he operates.'
"Benson claimed that Elder Oaks told him a different story during their confidential discussions held two weeks earlier. Benson would not say why he had a private talk with Elder Oaks. But he said that during their talk Elder Oaks disclosed that Elder Packer and Heinz were old friends who did get together at Heinz's request and that such a meeting was a mistake.
"Benson added that Elder Oaks referred to Elder Packer when saying, 'You can't stage manage a grizzly bear.'
"Oaks declined to discuss what Benson said took place in their private discussion. 'Even though I could defend myself by affirming or denying those things, I don't feel free' to do that without violating a pledge of confidentiality, he said.
"The dispute over what Elder Packer said in a meeting with Heinz has attracted news media attention because some of those disciplined and their supporters had claimed Elder Packer was personally conducting a crackdown on Church dissidents.
"In a statement issued Friday, Elder Packer said, 'In late June, President Kerry Heinz asked his regional representative if he could arrange an appointment with me. We had served together in the seminary program 35 years ago.'
"'Even though General Authorities of the Church are free to contact or respond to local leaders on any subject, I felt there may be some sensitivity about this request,' Elder Packer said. 'I, therefore, in a meeting of the Council of the Twelve Apostles raised the question of whether I should see him. The Brethren felt I could not very well decline to see a stake president.
"'I therefore consented but asked President Heinz if he would feel all right about his file leader, President Loren Dunn, being present. He readily agreed,' Elder Packer said. The meeting was held Sunday, July 11, 1993.
"'We talked doctrine and philosophy,' Elder Packer said. 'I absolutely did not instruct him to hold a disciplinary council and did not then, nor have I ever, directed any verdict. By Church policy that is left entirely to local leaders. When he left, I did not know what he would do.'
"In his interview with the 'Deseret News,' Benson said what Elder Oaks told him didn't square with what was said to the reporter. So he transmitted a confidential letter to Elder Oaks pointing that out. Benson said he also warned that if the apostle did not 'set the record straight' he would no longer feel obligated to keep their discussion confidential.
"After receiving the letter, Elder Oaks said, he reviewed the transcript of his interview with the reporter and found he couldn't defend his comment about having no knowledge of Packer meeting with Heinz.
"'How do you make a statement like that? I can't give any better explanation than the fact that I was talking a mile a minute and I just said something that on mature reflection I (concluded), 'I can't defend the truthfulness of that,' Elder Oaks said. But he let his other statements stand 'because I could defend those,' he said.
"While Elder Oaks said he was glad to correct his misstatement, he didn't like Benson's methods. 'He has taken a confidential meeting where he had repeatedly assured me that he would never speak of subjects we were discussing . . . and now he has written me a letter using that confidential meeting to pressure me. And I deeply resent that.'
"Benson said he had no hidden agenda to corner a Church authority. He said he wrote Elder Oaks before the story ran, thanking him for retracting a statement and explaining his intention was to give Elder Oaks a chance to set the record straight.
"But after later learning that Elder Oaks left intact the other comments that troubled Benson, Benson said he followed through on his threat to go public.
"In a followup letter transmitted Friday to Elder Oaks explaining why he decided to speak openly about their confidential conversations, Benson said, 'I feel you violated the trust and faith between not only you and me, but between the Church leadership and the members at large. I therefore felt it my moral obligation to break the silence that otherwise would have served only to perpetuate falsehood and false faith.'" ("Elder Oaks Says News Story 'Seriously Distorted' Facts, LDS Apostle Calls His Error Unintentional. ("Cartoonist Says Church Twists Truth," Matthew S. Brown, "The Deseret News," 16 October 1993, sec. A, p. 1ff)
Oaks next turned to the "Salt Lake Tribune" to further defend his honor. In a highly unusual commentary written for that newspaper, published on October 21, 1993, he declared:
"On October 12, 16, and 17, the 'Salt Lake Tribune' gave prominent and extensive coverage to wire-service stories on cartoonist Steve Benson's charges that I 'lied' to an 'Arizona Republic' reporter in an interview on current controversies over Church discipline. I have no desire to prolong this controversy, but feel it necessary to set the record straight on some important matters omitted or obscured in this attack upon my integrity.
"My dictionary defines lying as being 'deliberately untruthful' and a 'lie' as 'a false statement made with deliberate intent to deceive.' I did not 'lie' to the reporter and, contrary to the wire-service story printed in the October 16 'Tribune,' I did not 'admit' to 'falsely telling' the reporter something that was untrue.
"I withdrew one sentence I had spoken in a long interview, and I did so three days before the article was published because I realized when I saw the written transcript, that this single sentence was not 'truthful'(meaning 'accurate' or 'correct'). When a newspaper publishes something that it later realizes to have been incorrect, does it apologize to its readers for 'lying' or does it just print a correction? My statement to the reporter was corrected before it was published.
"The sequence and timing of various events is important.
"On Sept. 9 Elder Neal A. Maxwell and I met with Steve and Mary Ann Benson [my then-wife] for about two and one-half hours to discuss their questions. Because he was a newspaperman, we sought and he gave solemn assurances that our discussions would be confidential. We continue to honor that confidence.
"On Sept. 10, Steve Benson wrote us a letter expressing gratitude for 'being able to talk freely in an atmosphere of trust,' reaffirming his commitment to 'honor completely the confidentiality of our conversation, in not speaking, or even alluding to, for the record anything said by either of you,' and asking for another meeting to deal with 'some follow-up questions.'
"On Sept. 24, we met again with Steve Benson for about an hour and a half.
"On Oct. 1, a reporter for the 'Arizona Republic' interviewed me for about an hour on a wide variety of subjects pertaining to current controversies over Church discipline. Though Steve Benson works for this paper, he did not arrange this interview and was not included in it.
"At about 4:30 p.m. on October 6, I received a 'personal and confidential' letter from Steve Benson. Relying on his personal notes of our confidential conversations, he charged that I had 'lied in public' in my interview with the reporter and stated that unless I 'publicly set the record straight' by calling the reporter within 24 hours, he would do so himself.
"I immediately studied the lengthy transcript of the Oct. 1 interview (16 pages single-spaced), received the previous day. I was distressed to find one statement to the reporter I could see was not accurate ('I have no knowledge of whether he did'). I am sure I did not speak that sentence with intent to deceive, but whether it was an inadvertence or a result of forgetfulness in the context of a long and far-reaching interview, I cannot be sure. But the important thing was that I could recognize that this sentence was not correct. (Three other statements challenged by Steve Benson required no correction.)
"That same evening (Oct. 1) I reached the reporter, advised him of the circumstances, and asked to withdraw the single sentence. He agreed.
"On Oct. 7, I received another 'personal and confidential' letter from Steve Benson thanking me for calling the reporter 'to clarify your earlier statements.' His letter did not even hint that he thought further clarifications were necessary.
"The 'Arizona Republic' article appeared on Oct. 10. It made no mention of the sentence I had withdrawn. There was also a separate story about Steve Benson and his wife seeking to have their names removed from the records of the Church.
"On Oct. 11, Steve Benson sent a copy of his 'personal and confidential' letters of Oct. 6 and 7 to the 'Associated Press' in Salt Lake City. He also gave TV and radio interviews on this subject.
"In summary, when I found that I could not defend the correctness of one brief sentence in a long interview, I immediately contacted the reporter and withdrew that sentence, doing so more than three days before the story was scheduled for publication. When the publication honored that correction and made no comment on it, Steve Benson accused me of lying in public and participating in a cover-up, and the wire-service coverage of this episode has inaccurately portrayed me as deliberately making false statements in public.
"My perception of this matter is simple. I have been the victim of double-decker deceit: 1. betrayal of promises of confidentiality, and 2. false accusation of lying.
"My heart goes out to all who have suffered from this painful sequence of events." ("Oaks: 'I've Been A Victim of Double-Decker Deceit," Dallin Oaks, "Salt Lake Tribune," 21 October 1993, sec. A, p. 19)
Faced with Oaks' full-court press aimed at damage control, I determined it was time to push back. Four days after Oaks' article appeared in the "Salt Lake Tribune," my own commentary followed in the same newspaper, giving a somewhat different perspective on events:
"Mormons are admonished to be honest. Unfortunately, Apostle Dallin Oaks chooses to deny important truths relating to Elder Boyd K. Packer's involvement in the excommunication of Paul Toscano.
"On Sept. 9 I met with Elders Oaks and Maxwell. In a Sept. 10 letter, I promised them I would not speak on the record about the contents of that meeting. I have kept that pledge.
"On Sept. 24, we met again and confidentially discussed the Toscano excommunication. Confidentiality agreements are valid only when the parties involved remind truthful, whether publicly or privately. Oaks broke that ground rule, thereby releasing me from any obligation of silence in the Toscano cover up. All else on that date has remained confidential.
"In that meeting, I asked Oaks if Kerry Heinz, Toscano's stake president, had any contact with Boyd K. Packer prior to Toscano's excommunication.
"According to my notes taken during the meeting, Oaks admitted that Heinz 'called and asked for a meeting' with Packer. Oaks said he was 'distressed and astonished' that Packer agreed to the meeting. Referring to Packer, he said, 'You can't stage manage a grizzly bear.' He said that 'it was a mistake for Packer to meet with Heinz and a mistake for Heinz to ask for the meeting.'
"(One wonders why the conflict between Oaks' surprise over the Packer-Heinz meeting and Packer's public statement that the Twelve authorized that meeting).
"Oaks said he later talked with Packer and told him he felt Packer had violated procedure by meeting with Heinz, noting that Packer had no authority or responsibility in this area. He said he strongly urged Packer to avoid future such meetings, adding the he expected Toscano 'to sue the Church.'
"On Oct. 1 an 'Arizona Republic' reporter asked Oaks if Packer was 'involved in any way' in the disciplining of Toscano.
"Oaks replied: '. . . If Elder Packer is having any conversation with Kerry Heinz, it s outside the normal channel . . . I have no knowledge of whether he did. But if he did, and if he gave a directed verdict . . . that is contrary to policy . . . and it's contrary to what I know of Elder Packer and the way he operates . . . So, that's all I know about that at this point.'
"Oaks' answer contained several clear-cut falsehoods which point to a larger pattern of deception.
"First, by couching the Packer-Heinz meeting hypothetically, he falsely implied personal ignorance of whether it occurred. Oaks left this on the record.
"Second, Oaks said he had no knowledge that Packer met with Heinz.
"Commendably, Oaks later retracted this statement.
"Third, Oaks claimed that if Packer met with Heinz, it ran contrary to Oaks' knowledge of how Packer operated. Oaks left this on the record.
"Finally, Oaks claimed he knew nothing more. He left this falsehood on the record.
"Upon hearing Oaks' attempted cover for Packer, I was dismayed and faxed Oaks a letter on Oct. 6, detailing what he told me on Sept. 24, juxtaposed against what he told the reporter on Oct. 1. I highlighted his false on-the-record statements, so that there could be no misunderstanding.
"I informed him that our confidentiality agreement was void and offered him 24 hours to set the record straight, advising him that if he did not, I would.
"It is critical to understand that Oaks did not initiate any corrections for the record. Only after receiving my Oct. 6 letter did he contact the reporter to issue a limited retraction.
"Initially, I was pleased to hear from the reporter that Oaks had corrected himself. On Oct. 7, I faxed him a second letter, thanking him for taking the opportunity to clarify his earlier statements.
"That thank-you note proved to be premature, because I was unaware at the time I wrote it that Oaks had not retracted all his falsehoods. Upon discovering that he had left most of them intact, I concluded he had been provided ample opportunity to set the record straight and had not.
"When Oaks chose to publicly dissemble, he violated my trust and that of the Church at large. May his heart go out, not only in love, but in reconciliation, to those who have suffered from this abuse of ecclesiastical power."
("Benson Replies, Charges Oaks With Dissembling," by Steve Benson, "Salt Lake Tribune," 25 October 1993, sec. A, p. 5
Oaks also took his "Battle of Wounded Me" to the Brigham Young University campus, where attention focused on keeping the hearts and minds of the rising generation in line.
The same day his defensive commentary ran in the "Salt Lake Tribune," it also appeared up in the Church-owned campus newspaper, the "Daily Universe." ("News Reports Distorted Facts, Elder Oaks Says," Dallin Oaks,"The Daily Universe," 25 October 1993, p. 3)
In the interest of equal time, I contacted the "Universe" and requested that my response to Oaks (the one also originally printed in the "Salt Lake Tribune") also be published in the B.Y.U. student newspaper. I was told by a "Universe" faculty adviser that Oaks' version of events had been published in the Universe at the direct request of the First Presidency. He further informed me that the school paper was already having problems "up the road" with the Church. He said that if The Universe printed my reply, "the General Authorities might shut us down."
It was becoming clear that if Church members were going to get the truth on this messy affair, they couldn't depend on the Church for help.
I turned to an off-campus, supposedly independent student publication, "Student Review," and spoke with its student editor, requesting that he publish a letter to the editor from me about the controversy. The editor replied that if the "Review" published my piece, it would be perceived as being a critic of the Church and "lose advertisers."
Still holding out hope, however, I faxed a cover letter, along with the letter to the editor, to "Student Review," wishing for a change of heart. The cover letter read:
"October 29, 1993 TO: Brian Waterman FROM: Steve Benson RE: publishing the attached letter in Student Review
"Thanks for the opportunity to talk with you yesterday. I appreciated your explanation of the current situation with Student Review. I sincerely hope that arrangements can be made to publish my letter in your paper.
"It would be unfortunate if the letter is killed for fear that your publication would somehow be considered 'anti-Church' or that it would be bad for business. Truth is ultimately our best defense and the best way of doing business. Shying away from forthrightly informing readers on matters of public importance only guarantees that wrongs will be perpetrated and, in the long run, serves only to hurt the Church.
"I would not object to having Elder Oaks' version of the events printed alongside my letter. In fact, that format might provide the best opportunity for readers to determine for themselves the facts of the case.
"Thanks for your consideration.
The accompanying letter to the editor read, in part, as follows:
"On October 25, the 'Daily Universe,' reportedly acting on a request from the office of the First Presidency, published an article by Elder Dallin Oaks, claiming recent news reports had falsely accused him of lying about Elder Boyd K. Packer's involvement in the excommunication of Paul Toscano and alleging that I had broken a confidence in making that charge.
"In the interest of fairness and accuracy, I requested that The Universe provide me an opportunity to reply. That request was denied.
"The reason given by 'Universe' staff was that opinions contrary to that of Elder Oaks would not see print, because of expected opposition from Salt Lake. Fear was expressed that if the Universe published contrary to the wishes of the Brethren, it might be shut down.
"Given these unfortunate circumstances, I approached 'Student Review,' hoping that fuller access to the facts would allow readers to make informed and intelligent judgments.
"Those facts are as follows [the letter then covered ground already noted above, with these additional observations]:
"On Oct. 1, Elder Oaks gave a carefully-worded, tape-recorded interview to the 'Arizona Republic,' where he was asked if Elder Packer was 'involved in any way' in the disciplining of Paul Toscano.
"Elder Oaks now admits that one of his answers to the reporter was untrue but blames it on 'inadvertence' or 'forgetfulness.' He insists that other challenged statements he made 'required no correction.'
"These explanations are simply not persuasive. Four of his on-the-record answers are quoted below, paired with contrary facts he provided me in the Sept. 24 meeting, during which I took notes. Examined together, they point to a deliberate pattern of deception.
"First, by framing his answer in the hypothetical, Elder Oaks falsely implied that he did not know whether Elder Packer had talked with Paul Toscano's stake president, Kerry Heinz. He told the reporter, 'If Elder Packer is having any conversation with Kerry Heinz, it is outside the normal channel.'
"In truth, Elder Oaks acknowledged to me that they had met, saying President Heinz 'called and asked for a meeting' with Elder Packer.
"Second, Elder Oaks falsely claimed ignorance of whether Elder Packer conversed with President Heinz. He told the reporter, 'I have no knowledge of whether he did.'
"In reality, Elder Oaks did know the discussion took place--as evidenced by the fact that he later retracted this statement.
"Third, Elder Oaks misleadingly insisted that for Elder Packer to have had contact with President Heinz ran counter to Elder Oaks' personal knowledge of both Elder Packer and his approach. He told the reporter, 'If he did . . . it's contrary to what I know of Elder Packer and the way he operates.'
"In actuality, Elder Oaks knew how Elder Packer operated and did not like what he saw. Speaking of Elder Packer, he told me, 'You can't stage manage a grizzly bear.' He said he was 'distressed and astonished' that Elder Packer met with President Heinz, noting 'it was a mistake for Packer to meet with Heinz and a mistake for Heinz to ask for the meeting.'
"(Elder Oaks may want to explain the contradiction between his claim of being surprised by the Packer-Heinz meeting and Elder Packer's claim that the Twelve gave prior approval for that meeting).
"Elder Oaks also told me he later spoke directly with Elder Packer, advising him that Elder Packer's meeting with President Heinz violated disciplinary procedure and that Elder Packer had no authority or responsibility in this area. He said he strongly urged Elder Packer to avoid such meetings in the future and admitted he expected Paul Toscano 'to sue the Church' (This also contradicts Elder Packer's claim of prior approval).
"Fourth, Elder Oaks summarized his knowledge of the Packer-Heinz-Toscano case by once again falsely pleading ignorance. He told the reporter, 'So, that's all I know about that at this point.'
"As he admitted earlier to me, he clearly knew more . . .
"In conclusion, while Elder Oaks portrays himself as an innocent victim in this regrettable affair, he has (1) admitted privately the facts concerning the Packer-Heinz-Toscano case, (2) falsified publicly about those facts, (3) retracted one of his untrue statements under threat of exposure and (4) refused to disclaim other statements of his that are demonstrably untrue.
"This dispute has been a painful one. It could, and should have been avoided if Elder Oaks had originally told the truth . . .
The letter was not published.
Finally, I turned to Provo's community newspaper, the "Daily Herald," hoping for a sympathetic ear. To the credit of its editor (who happened to be Catholic), the paper published the letter to the editor that "Student Review" would not touch, along with the following "Editor's note":
"News stories earlier this month dealt with the resignation from the LDS Church of 'Arizona Republic' political cartoonist Steve Benson. Benson is a grandson of LDS Church President Ezra Taft Benson.
"Following Benson's resignation from the LDS Church, he made charges that LDS Apostle Dallin H. Oaks was less than truthful in some statements made concerning Apostle Boyd K. Packer's involvement in the excommunication of Mormon dissenter Paul Toscano. There were several 'Associated Press' wire stories detailing Benson's allegations and responses from Oaks.
"On Saturday, the Daily Herald printed, on the front page, the complete text of a letter from Oaks explaining his position and actions on the matters. On Sunday, Benson called this paper's managing editor at his home and requested the opportunity to respond to Oaks' letter. Benson's response follows."
("Benson Responds to Oaks' :etter," by Steve Benson, "The Daily Herald," 26 October 1993, sec. A, p. 1ff)
The above is an extensive account of events involving the Toscano-Packer-Heinz-Oaks affair. If only Oaks had told the truth, it would have been a lot shorter.
Mark Twain once observed, "Truth is the most valuable thing we have. Let us economize it." Twain's words would be an appropriate replacement for the Mormon motto: "The glory of God is intelligence."
Dallin H. Oaks apparently had such a guilty conscience over his dishonest concduct that he privately offered up to fellow Quorumer Gordon B Hinckley his resignation from the Quorum of the Twelve.
Hinckley did what Mormon "prophets" have historically done: He covered for their top-down lies by telling Oaks to stay on.
^ Wrote: ------------------------------------------------------- > Dallin H. Oaks apparently had such a guilty > conscience over his dishonest concduct that he > privately offered up to fellow Quorumer Gordon B > Hinckley his resignation from the Quorum of the > Twelve.
I bet he wasn't offering an apology with his resignation.