Saturday, February 11, 2012

Reflections on the First Excommunication

Event: Mother's Day 1966Updated: 15 April 2012

I didn't learn about it until the following month. It was on Mother's Day, 1966, during a phone conversation with Mother, who was concerned for my soul, that I first learned of the decision. I had called her on that day from the beach house in Laguna Beach despite the tension between us. While on the phone, I saw two men in dark suits approach the front door and knock. I opened the door while still on the phone to ask what they wanted, since I didn't recognize them. After determining my name, they handed me an official envelope and left without comment. I described this event to Mother as it was happening and opened the envelope after the men had left to read its contents aloud.

Talk about insensitive timing of all days to deliver such a letter!

It was the most terrible news she could have imagined: an official notification of my excommunication from the Mormon Church that had taken place on April 2, 1966, a month earlier. [Note: until her death in 2003, I think Mother, a life-long devout Mormon, believed my account of that event on that day was a ruse and that I had saved that letter to read to her on Mothers Day.]

Ironically, the Mormon leader who had taken charges out against me the previous month (the late Robert Perine), had been the bishop of the ward in which both mother and I lived. Mother was his private secretary. He had been one of my best friends and supporters until he called me to his office in March 1966. The last time I'd had personal contact with him was the previous summer (July 1965) while in crisis when I called all my friends and family for help. He was the only one who had already broken fast of more than 30 souls when I called to report the crisis was over. [Note: seven years later Perine would call me in Portland, Oregon to apologize for his action in March 1966, saying that three years to the date of his filing charges, he himself was excommunicated for exactly the charges he had brought against me. He said he now understood what he couldn't understand back then. We reconciled immediately.]

After the phone call to Mother and noting the excommunication date in the letter, I went to my dream journal to look for anything that might be connected and discovered a dream that came to me only hours after that decision. I was at a location hundreds of miles away.

[Note: the complete (unedited) dream may be found here.]

3 April 1966
CarmelCA 0515. 
... I am aware of lying face down, still naked, between two metal posts on some kind of altar. Many men are milling around, members of the LDS priesthood (in their temple robes), going about their business in preparation to experiment with me. I'm being groomed or prepared for something. 
 One of the men comes over to me, having recognized me, and asks, "How was Mazatlan?" (Up to this time everything had seemed impersonal.) I reply, "Oh, there were some complications and we haven't made it yet. It's still pending." Another brother (familiar face, reddish hair, one who curries favor with leaders) looks up a little surprised and asks if my first name is Gene. 
 I acknowledge this and then realize he now knows who I am and of the stake action taken against me. I watch him go over to Brother Kenner, the presiding authority, and whisper in his ear while looking and pointing at me. Brother Kenner looks up with an angry start at me and with a fierce look and quick gesture with his right arm motions me to get out immediately (like being put out of a baseball game). 
 Frightened, I get up and begin running away still naked and feeling like Cain fleeing. On my way out I hear angry voices behind me. Someone shouts, "I'll kill him! I'll kill him!" Then another voice, interrupting, but emphatic and calm, says "No. In this church nobody better be found killing one of these!" [It is the voice of Ferren L. Christensen]...  
 I awake deeply distressed. 

CREEI score: +?+??-//--?/+?-;   Pattern: Anticipatory-traumatic

Note 1: The entire dream plus a CDL (creative deep listening) processing of it will follow at a later date....

Note 2: The dream question "How was Mazatlan?" is key to the meaning of this dream. Mazatlan was the place where Lawrene (second wife) and I were planning to marry to satisfy Mormon law. Legality was the preoccupation of the Mormon ecclesiastics in the dream (as it is with ecclesiastics in general in the outer world). Notice also that the judgment by the presiding ecclesiastic was made on "hearsay" evidence without any concern to interact with me directly. Ironically, when this outer issue was resolved the next year, the first legal day we could marry was April 6, a significant date for Mormons [true birth date of Jesus, according to church founder Joseph Smith]. For me on reflection years later, it fulfilled the scripture: "...for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife." (3Ne22:1, Isa 54:1 KJV) Our son Michael was born on December 15, 1966.

Note 3: Ferren L. Christensen played a major role in my life after I returned from a clandestine military assignment in Berlin in 1956 and took residence in Capistrano Beach. This was in the jurisdiction of the Laguna Beach Ward where Ferren was its bishop. In summer 1957, a week or two before son Nick was born, Ferren introduced me to Church president David O. McKay during McKay's visit to the ward while vacationing at his Laguna Beach summer home. At church meetings before moving to UC Berkeley in fall 1958, Ferren would often and without notice call me out of the audience to sing extemporaneously to the congregation, a practice that I much enjoyed.

At the time of this dream (2 Apr 66) Ferren had become a counselor in the Newport Beach stake presidency that decided this excommunication. (In the meantime accusing bishop Robert Perine had been released as bishop and had become a member of the judging Newport Beach Stake High Council.)

In fall 1968 Ferren had become its stake president and granted my request for a re-hearing of the 1966 decision. At that time I stood before the high council and was invited back into the Church by its members. But I declined that invitation. Instead, I felt my purpose was to deliver the original document (revelation on the Negro) into Stake President Ferren L. Christensen's hands as the Church's official representative in the chain of command in the territory in which I then lived. After doing so, I left the area.

More than a decade later, after I returned to the Church and Ferren had been advanced to the office of Regional Representative for the Quorum of the Twelve, he would often invite me to accompany him to stake conferences to sing.

Note 4:  Ten years later I wrote a play based in part on the above dream plus two others in the meantime, entitled "The Defense of Cain". The first draft of the play was completed on June 8, 1978. Ironically, that very day the LDS Church hierarchy in Salt Lake City announced a major change of policy in which men of  all races, including the Negro race could now hold the Mormon priesthood.

Note 5: My last conversation with Ferren was on the phone in early 2007, shortly before his death. I had contacted him a few weeks earlier, after a silence of over 15 years, because of a transformative dream about his wife Glennie I'd just had (on November 18, 2006) that I wanted him to know about. At the end of this last conversation he asked me a curious question: "What do you think about the ecclesiastical system these days?"  I was surprised by his question because I had never thought much about it before then. However, reflecting on his intent in asking and revisiting my IDL interview of the above mentioned dream, I have given it a great deal of thought since! ...

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