Posted: Sunday, 1 December 2013Updated: 9 Jan 14
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It is a rite one might suppose had been relegated long ago to a footnote beyond the margins of modern life, a practice outdated as the related ritual of exorcism that serves the same end—the expulsion of the evil one.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.