Brother Of Jerry
Date: May 02, 2021 04:14PM
This is Jana Reiss' recent column about the Natalie Helfer excommunication. She does not approve, nor does she think it will redound to the church's benefit. (I've waited decades for a chance to work redound into a sentence :)https://religionnews.com/2021/04/22/mormon-excommunication-need-not-be-present-to-win/
I liked her riff complaining about the LDS Inc penchant toward euphemism, such as "withdrawal of membership" for excommunication. She prefers excommunication because it is literally the right word for being forbidden to take communion (sacrament, in Mormon parlance) or participate in community. It is literally being made an ex-communicant. So call it that.
From the column:
“They saw us as the enemy,” Spangler said. “We were five docile women standing there in our Sunday dress. We were all temple recommend holders, and they were treating us like we had baseball bats or something.”
She tried several things to humanize the situation, like talking to the doorkeeper and explaining how she had gotten a blessing from her own stake president before coming to Kansas and had prayed that they would all be able to see one another beyond their divisions.
Nothing got through to him. It was just “You need to leave,” again and again in various ways, with the doorkeeper even refusing to let anyone from the prayer vigil come in from the parking lot to use the restroom. The church called the police on the vigil attendees.
When Sonia Johnson was excommunicated in Virginia back around 1977 for her outspoken ERA support, her trial was held in Sterling, VA just before Christmas. It was cold. None of her supporters were allowed into the stake center to warm up or use the restroom. She wrote in her book Housewife to Heretic that there was a Unitarian church next door, and people there came down and opened the place up on that Friday night to let people in, and made coffee for those who would indulge in the evil drink, and hot chocolate for those who could not. You know, behave like Christians, or just plain civilized human beings.
Looks like Mormon leadership behavior has not improved in the ensuing 40-plus years. Sad.
Reiss goes on to point out that for an organization that is famously downright anal about proper procedure and paperwork (my. phrase, not hers) the LDS Church violated or severely bent a lot of their own rules about how membership courts (I refuse to call them courts of love) are to be conducted. That's worth a read.
From her conclusion:
I’ve stated before in this column that I find excommunication to be not only a theologically barbaric practice but also one of dubious utility. It doesn’t come from the example of Jesus. It also doesn’t work.
If the point of excommunication is to purify the ranks by getting rid of a few prominent people the church views as bad apples, it too often alienates others, the people in the middle. Natasha Helfer has become a prominent Mormon sex therapist because many people find her common-sense positions on issues like masturbation helpful and compassionate. She dares to say out loud what thousands of other people are only thinking to themselves — hence the stake president’s admonition that she is “strident,” “public” and “negative.” (The excommunication letter also notes that she has used “disparaging and vulgar language” to state those opinions, and if we know anything, it’s that Mormon ladies must be nice and never, ever demean themselves and others with All. The. Swears.)
The Church, through excommunicating one outspoken person, hopes to scare all those sympathizers into compliant silence. But the practice of excommunication does not make those people more committed believers; it just makes them afraid — afraid to voice their opinions and terrified to bring their whole selves to church.