Mormons ape Islam over apostasy
A COUPLE of years back, a Mormon bishop from Illinois got into hot water for coming out as an ardent supporter of gay rights. Death threats followed.
Life got weird fast for Kevin Kloosterman, above, who was reported here as saying:
Mormons of the more conservative variety called for me to be excommunicated. There was one extremist blog even wishing ‘apostates could be executed’ juxtaposed with my name, my wife’s name, our home address and work address for all to see as well as calling for ‘blood atonement’, which is primitive Mormon talk for execution.
Soon after, Kloosterman, a mental health therapist in Sycamore, Illinois, was excommunicated.
The church hierarchy, it appears from this report, has decided that dissent will not be tolerated, and those that deviate from its core doctrine – from either liberal or orthodox perspectives – can expect harsh treatment.
Take Denver Snuffer, for example, a lawyer in Utah who blogs and writes books about Mormonism. Snuffer, a conservative, revealed on his blog that he was excommunicated for apostasy last fall.
Rock Waterman, a retired innkeeper in California, is another conservative who was threatened with excommunication for creating a blog called Pure Mormonism, which attracts Mormons so orthodox that they believe their church is not sufficiently adhering to its own doctrines.
Last month, Waterman posted a combative challenge addressed to one of the Mormon Church’s top leaders:
Stop making up your own rules and try preaching the Gospel of Christ for a change.
Two days later, he said, he was summoned to a meeting with his bishop and told to either stop blogging or resign his church membership. If he did not resign he would face excommunication.
The latest prominent Mormons liberal Mormons who were threatened with excommunication are Kate Kelly, the founder of the Ordain Women movement, and John P Dehlin, creator of the Mormon Stories podcast and an advocate for gay Mormons.
From California to Virginia and states in between, more than a dozen Mormons interviewed in the past week said they had recently been informed by their bishops that they faced excommunication or risked losing permission to enter a temple because of comments they had made online about their faith and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
They claimed said their bishops had questioned them about specific posts they had made on their blogs, Twitter and Facebook, in the comment streams of websites or in conversations in chat rooms.
The kinds of comments that have attracted the scrutiny of bishops and stake presidents, who are regional supervisors, include support for the ordination of women; advocacy for same-sex marriage; serious doubts about church history or theology; and, as in Waterman’s case, protests that the church demands more in tithes than its doctrine requires.
But Michael Otterson, Managing Director of the church’s public affairs office, said:
There is no coordinated effort to tell local leaders to keep their members from blogging or discussing their questions online. On the contrary, church leaders have encouraged civil online dialogue and recognize that today it’s just part of how the world works.
However, he said, church leaders do grow concerned when discussion is used to recruit others for campaigns to change church doctrine or structure.
Mormons are such active bloggers and voluble writers that they have created a whole universe of sites, which they call the Bloggernacle, where they go to discuss their faith. The church cannot police them all or shut them down, but it can, in a Big Brother manner, demonstrate to members where it draws the boundaries of acceptability by scaring those who stray.
Said Kevin Kloosterman:
It feels scary to have all the words I say on Facebook and Twitter monitored.
Kloosterman was a bishop from 2007 to 2012. He hit the headlines after giving an emotional talk at a conference in Salt Lake City in 2011 apologising to gays rejected by their Mormon families. He also lobbied for same-sex marriage in his state. But there were no consequences until March of this year, when, at a meeting, his bishop cited a Twitter post Kloosterman congratulating the first gay couple to be married in Utah.
“Jesus would never do that,” the outraged bishop told Kloosterman, He then revoked Kloosterman’s “temple recommend,” denying him entrance to the temple, where important rituals like baptisms and marriages are held and where he and his wife used to go regularly for spiritual uplift. Kloosterman said:
It’s been devastating. I’m in shock still.
Some supporters of the Ordain Women movement who have posted profiles and pictures of themselves on the movement’s website have also recently had their temple recommends withdrawn or been removed from church volunteer positions, according to Kelly and Ordain Women leaders.
So assiduously is the church monitoring the Internet that even Mormons posting comments anonymously are being identified and threatened.
“Dana”, a member in the church’s Buena Vista stake in Virginia supports the ordination of women and same-sex marriage.
She said that soon after she posted comments anonymously in an online chat room, her bishop sent her emails quoting what she had written and questioning her about her beliefs. On June 1, she said, her bishop phoned and told her to stop posting or face a church disciplinary hearing. Instead, four days later, she and her family resigned their church membership.
As for Waterman, the blogger in California, he has refused to resign and is willing to face discipline. He declared:
I’m not trying to get the church to change. I’m trying to get the church to abide by its doctrine.