Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Ironic parallels with Paul Toscano

Posted: 7 December 2013 (Pearl Harbor Day)
Updated:  9 Dec 13

I had intended to post comments to my earlier post about Paul, but it soon became too complicated. So, here's a sequel:

Conversion of Paul

What struck me first (at ~20% into the Kindle version of Paul's e-book memoir) about the irony of our respective personal stories as fellow Mormon excommunicants, was Paul's reference to having received his "temple endowments" on July 17, 1965, because on that very date I had a life-changing epiphany.

Driving north from San Diego since early that July morning on California Highway 99, I was on an urgent errand, probably about the time Paul was moving from room to room in the Los Angeles Mormon temple, gaining new cultural experience and insights.

The second irony (at ~22%) was Paul's description of his pre-mission encounter with Apostle Harold B. Lee in October 1966 to discuss what for Paul was a critical theological question about Brigham Young's controversial Adam-God teaching. I had had two encounters with Apostle Lee just the year before, first in a May Day dream in 1965, where he was speaking as the Church President although in outer reality he was still down the line in seniority. The second encounter was in the flesh the following September at his Church offices. Lee's behavior toward me was similar to his behavior toward Paul (and in my dream!). As soon as I entered his office on that September 1965 day, Lee began by issuing orders before I'd even said a word. There had been no greeting, no handshake, not even a hint of kindness.

I had written him a letter a couple of months earlier seeking counsel on the issue of  "The Principle" or polygamy, where I naively disclosed a personal dilemma about it. He now declared that the Church had "repudiated" (his word) that practice. Although surprised and puzzled by his belligerent behavior, I told him at the time that I would obey his orders because I was committed to the order of the priesthood, but not because I believed him. To this he bellowed, "You'd BETTER believe it!...It's all of the Devil!" (Again, this was the attitude presented in my May Day dream four months earlier, which had somewhat prepared me for this encounter).

To be fair, as soon as Lee had delivered his threatening command, he abruptly changed his demeanor to a soft inquiry about Howard E. Salisbury, the man who had precipitated my above-mentioned urgent errand and whom I had also mentioned in my August letter. Having been an intimate friend of Lee's when Salisbury was a legendary faculty member of Rick's College, Salisbury had once been groomed by Lee to become a general authority. But then tragically he had been excommunicated and forced to resign his position at Rick's two years earlier in 1963 by Hugh B. Brown of the First Presidency (another close confident of Howard's) when it was discovered that Howard was gay.

"How is Howard?", Lee asked softly.

"He's having a hard time", I replied.

"You know, our intention is to save souls, not destroy them," Lee said simply and ended the meeting without further discussion of that or my issue.

To be continued as I continue reading Paul's story....

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Road to Exile: Memoir of a Mormon Excommunicant

Posted: Sunday, 1 December 2013
Updated: 9 Jan 14

Paul Toscano

Paul Toscano's new book Road to Exile: Memoir of a Mormon Excommunicant is a must read for thoughtful members of any ecclesiastical institution, especially Mormons. Paul tells the truth in a way that most Mormons or church-goers are not used to telling, let alone hearing. He writes with the skill of a journalist. It is witty, precise, thorough, candid, compassionate, fearless, and devastatingly naive.

The year before he was excommunicated as one of the "September Six" in 1993,  Paul called me from Salt Lake City, having learned from friends about my impending Mormon Church trial in Ventura, California in June 1992. That was how we met. He and fellow Mormon Lavina Fielding Anderson had founded The Mormon Alliance to give support to and seek justice for church members subjected to ecclesiastical abuse. He called me to give moral support if the judgment went against me or proved unfair. I will always feel grateful for that generous gesture and, as it would turn out to be for him, a significant risk.

Here is his preamble:
Excommunication, like revenge, is best served cold. Mine was—cold and quick on a clear autumn day. 
Excommunication! The word resonates like the bell of a gothic cathedral and seems as anachronistic as a rank of grinning gargoyles, as rebel monks, warrior popes, or heretics burning in a town square. It is a rite one might suppose had been relegated long ago to a footnote beyond the margins of modern life, a practice outdated as the related ritual of exorcism that serves the same end—the expulsion of the evil one.
On September 19, 1993, the evil one to be expelled was I. Yes I, who as a youth had hankered to be an apostle of Jesus, was on this day branded an apostate of the Church I had chosen and then served in my fashion for over 30 years. In that same month, five other Mormon writers, believers, and critics of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were also excommunicated in a leader-orchestrated purge that would leave us branded and stigmatized as the infamous Mormon "September Six." 
This memoir is the story of how I came to be numbered among them.
20 December 2013. 
Having just this morning finished my first reading of Paul's memoir, I would recommend that, after reading his preamble above, you might next read his epilogue. Especially if you are disinclined to read further as I suspect many, if not most, devout Mormons might feel.

I cannot help but admire Paul's honesty, integrity, courage and insights. And I consider myself fortunate to have been befriended by him.

9 January 2014.
For those who choose to read this memoir and take stock in dreams that tell a personal truth, I would urge you to pay special attention to three significant dreams which came to Paul shortly after his excommunication. They tell his truth in stark, powerful imagery and cannot be mistaken by anyone seriously interested in comprehending the truth of this story.