My Controversy with the Church
Janice M. Allred- Nov. 4, 1994
September when the disfellowshipment and excommunications of six
Mormon scholars, feminists and intellectuals took place, my family
and I were in Mexico while my husband, David, was on a semester
sabbatical to do research. I had known that my friend, Lavina
Fielding Anderson, was in trouble for several months before
I left and my sister Margaret Toscano and her husband Paul
had also been undergoing interviews with their bishop and stake
presidents about their written and speaking. Not until we were leaving
did I learn that another friend, Lynne Whitesides, was in
trouble. She had just been summoned to a church court. It was several
weeks before we were able to make contact with our family and friends
again and I learned that Lynne had been disfellowshiped and Paul
and Lavina hand been excommunicated. I felt heartbroken and sick.
What did it mean that these people whom I loved and knew to be
good people who were deeply committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ
and faithful members of his church had been cast out of it? What
did it mean for the church, for them and for me? Lynne had been
disfellowshiped for the forthright feminist statements she had made
as president of the Mormon Women's Forum. I was her Vice President.
Paul had been excommunicated for his speech, "All is Not well in
Zion." I loved that speech and agreed with everything in it. Lavina
had been excommunicated for publishing an article in Dialogue which
documented cases of ecclesiastical abuse of intellectuals in the
church and for refusing to repudiate it and stop collecting more
stories of spiritual abuse. I was working with her in collecting
these stories and I was not planning on stopping either.
I later learned of the excommunications of Maxine Hanks, Michael
Quinn and [another scholar]. Again I was stunned. Maxine Hanks was
also a friend and I knew her to be a good person and ardent feminist.
I loved her book Women and Authority and felt that the church
would benefit if every member would read it. I also had a short
piece published in it. I knew and had read much of the work of Michael
Quinn and [another scholar]. I felt they were both scholars of integrity
and intelligence with a strong commitment to the church. I had learned
a lot from them and appreciated their contributions in church history
and scriptural studies. What did it mean that the church was calling
such people apostates, saying that they were dangerous and expendable.
One night in Mexico City in late September I dreamed that I received
my own invitation to a church court. It was a beautiful invitation
on exquisite white paper, engraved with white roses. The handwriting
was elegant, the language formal and polite. But on the inside of
the invitation there was a crudely drawn mimeographed map showing
the homes where all those who would attend my court lived: The stake
president, his counselors, and the twelve men who were members of
the high council. One of them was a Bro. Cannon, then on the high
council in our stake. Over the next year I came to understand the
symbolism this invitation had for me. Those who asked me to come
and be judged by them were polite and correct on the surface, but
underneath, where they lived, they were as crude and violent as
a military weapon.
Just over one year later my bishop handed me a long white envelope
with the anticipated summons in it. It was polite, but I felt like
I was being kicked in the stomach when I read it.
"The stake presidency is considering formal disciplinary
action against you, including the possibility of disfellowshipment
or excommunication, because you are reported to have been guilty
of apostasy. You are invited to attend a disciplinary council to
give your response... The disciplinary council will be held at 7:00
p.m. on October 12, 1994 at the Provo Edgemont Stake Center."
For many months I had known this moment was inevitable, yet this knowledge
had often seemed strange, bizarre, and unthinkable. I had known this
moment was inevitable when I recognized that my church leaders would
act in authoritarian, abusive ways because their understanding of
church government was authoritarian; I had hoped it might be avoided
when I saw them as caring human beings trying their best to listen
to the voice of the spirit. A good friend said to me, "It has always
been your choice, no matter what a bishop or stake president do." She meant I could have avoided it, and I could have if I had valued
my church membership above everything else and acted realistically
to protect it. But I put my relationship to Jesus Christ first; I
have a vision of his church as built on his gospel, characterized
by freedom and grace. I had acted according to that vision and had
defended myself according to that vision and now I was facing a church
court to see if I could keep my membership without violating my integrity.
A few weeks before I had been talking to my bishop and he said
to me that he wished we could settle this without everyone else
looking on. He felt that if it were only him and me we could work
something out. Who were all the people looking on? The general authorities?
The stake president and his counselors? My friends the dissidents?
Ward members? All the people who had read about it in the newspaper
or seen me on TV or heard me on the radio? Not only did each of
us have to struggle to define our own meaning in the situation we
found ourselves in, but we had to deal with the meanings that all
these other people found in it. Bishop Hammond was very distressed
because I had chosen to make my controversy with the church public.
Like me, he is a rather shy, introverted person. My decision to
talk publicly about my troubles had not been made lightly. One of
the problems I see in the church is its discouragement of open,
honest discussion. There is no forum where disagreements, dissent,
negative responses, doubts, questions and criticism are welcomed
or encouraged, but without them agreement, consent, positive responses,
beliefs, answers and creative insight become meaningless. I believe
that engaging in open discussion is a vital part of our truth seeking
and that loving relationships can only be built by telling the truth
about our feelings and experiences. It seems to me that the church
should help us in our search for truth and our learning to love
by encouraging open, honest discussion. Instead it increasingly
equates disagreement and criticism with disloyalty and reduces all
acceptable feeling to sentimentality. It was because of my belief
in the importance of free speech that I chose to make my story public.
The other issue involved in my case which I felt needed to be
make public was the abuse of ecclesiastical power. I believed that
my leader's threats to punish me if I didn't follow their counsel
were an abuse of their power.
My decision to tell my story and talk about the issues required
me to give a lot of time, energy and thought to talking to people
and I tried to make myself available to whoever wanted to talk to
me. Because I believe the process of dialogue calls us to open ourselves
to change, this meant that I had to question again and again my
interpretations, assumptions, motives and actions. As I tried to
understand the meaning my actions and situation had for other people
and to help them understand the way I saw them, I realized that
each of us create our own meanings- not from nothing, of course,
but from our experiences, our ways of thinking, our emotional needs
and other complex processes. Just as I told my leaders again and
again that I would choose according to my own best judgment and
what I believed the spirit of God inspired me to do, I told my friends
that I had to act according to my own understanding. I tried to
be open to exploring different ways of looking at the issues, but
finally I had to rely on my own understanding. Similarly, I do not
expect others to see the issues the same way I do or make the same
kinds of choices I did. We must each find our own way. During one
interview on e of the bishop's counselors said to me, "Do you want
every one to think the way you do?" My answer is, "No, I want everyone
to develop her own way of thinking and be willing to share it with
me, as I am willing to share mine with her."
As I tell the story of my controversy with the church it will
be necessary for me to describe the words and actions of some of
the people involved. Some of them I will name by name and others
I will not. I am recounting these events from my memory, notes of
conversations, and letters and with the help of the memories of
others involved. I will not try to judge other's motives or reasons,
although I may occasionally speculate about them. Please remember
that I am recounting this according to my understanding and others
involved have different viewpoints.
In May of 1992 I was trying to decide whether or not to submit
a proposal for a paper to the Sunstone Symposium to be held in August.
I had presented a paper at the symposium each summer since we had
moved to Provo in 1987 (except the summer that my eighth child was
born). I had an idea for a paper I wanted to work on, but, I was
pregnant with my ninth child due late in July and I was not feeling
very well. What finally caused me to decide to present a paper was
the anti-symposium statement issued by the First Presidency and
Quorum of the Twelve in 1991 after the August Symposium in Salt
Lake City. I wanted to make it clear that I supported the symposium.
Participating in the symposium had always been a positive experience
for me and I felt that the vitality of Mormon thought depended upon
such free and independent forums for the expression of varying viewpoints
about Mormon theology and experience. I finished writing, "Toward
a Mormon Theology of God the Mother" a few days before my baby was
born and I presented it at the symposium two weeks later.
I knew that I was taking a risk by choosing to write about God
the Mother. Pres. Hinckley had given his speech counseling members
not to pray to the Heavenly Mother in Sept. 1991 and I knew of several
women who had gotten in trouble for talking about her. However,
this was a topic I very much wanted to write about. My most fundamental
belief is that Jesus Christ is God. I believe that his gospel mandates
equality. He makes no distinction between male and female when he
asks us to have faith in him, repent of our sins, be baptized and
receive the Holy Ghost. In the atonement he makes himself equal
to every person. If female and male are equal then God must also
be female. I do not believe in a Godhead that does not include God
the Mother. I do not believe in a Godhead where one of the gods
is superior to the others and gives them commandments. To me the
clearest and most important teaching of the Book of Mormon is that
God himself will come down to earth, become a man, and redeem his
people, that Jesus Christ is both the Father and the Son. From these
ideas and a thorough analysis of the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine
and Covenants on the names of God I developed an interpretation
of the Godhead which I presented in my paper, "Toward a Mormon Theology
of God the Mother." In this interpretation the Eternal God is both
a man and a women, the Eternal Father and the Eternal Mother. The
Father becomes the Son, Jesus Christ, who redeems us from our sins
and the Mother becomes the Holy Ghost, who is with us to comfort
us and teach us the truth and sanctify for us. They both sacrifice
to be with us and they both play a vital part in our salvation and
they are both equally God.
I presented my paper and three months passed by. I decided that
the newly revealed Strengthening the Members Committee had let it
slip by. Then Sunday morning, November 8, my husband David and I
got a call asking us to meet with our stake president Carl Bacon.
My first thought was that the Committee had done their work and
President Bacon wanted to talk about my speech. Then I had another
thought. There were rumors that our bishop would soon be released.
Perhaps David would be called to the bishopric. That was the last
time I have thought or will probably ever think that either of us
would be called to a position of any prominence in the church. Pres.
Bacon said that he had been asked by Malcolm Jeppsen, our area president,
to investigate me because of a talk I had recently given on praying
to the Heavenly Mother. I told him that I had given a paper on God
the Mother, but I had not advocated praying to her. I did not, however,
tell him that I had given ideas that could be used to justify praying
to her. We talked about Sunstone. President Bacon had never heard
of it and I explained why I participated in it. In this meeting
President Bacon was very concerned that we might be offended by
his calling us in. He had delayed calling us in for over a week,
but now he had to report back. He was not sure about what Bro. Jeppsen
wanted him to do. Our bishop, Robert Lowe, was present at this meeting
but he didn't say a word. We left with the problem unresolved. President
Bacon would get back to us after talking to Br. Jeppsen, he told
Our next meeting was on December 17, over five weeks later. We
brought along a copy of my paper at President Bacon's request. President
Bacon had again been contacted by Brother Jeppsen to find out what
he had done about me. We talked about President Hinckley's talk
on not praying to the Mother in Heaven. In this meeting it became
apparent to me that making distinctions and appreciating subtleties
were not President Bacon's strong points. He believed that President
Hinckley's talk was a commandment to the Church to not talk about
or pray to the Mother in Heaven. I pointed out the President Hinckley
was clearly giving his own opinion since he discussed his reasoning
and research. Perhaps President Hinckley had been soft with the
sisters, but he really wanted to stop this thing, President Bacon
said as he struck his palm with his fist. President Bacon wondered
if I would be willing to make some kind of promise about not publishing
or speaking if I were asked. I pressed him for details about where
this directive came from and exactly what he wanted me to do. I
told him I would have to pray about any promises I might make. He
told us that two apostles were concerned about this matter. He said
that he would talk to us again when he knew more.
Our next meeting was on Jan. 27, 1993. President Bacon asked that
I not speak publicly or publish anything on God the Mother. I asked
him, "Who is this from?" and he answered. "Me and the Lord." I then
asked him if this was a request for ever and he said that it wasn't.
I told him that I didn't have any plans at that time to speak or
write about the Heavenly Mother, but that if I decided to do so
in the future I would tell him. President Bacon said that this was
acceptable to him.
David came to all of these interviews at President Bacon's request
and he and President Bacon did most of the talking.
In the summer of 1993 I learned that Dialogue was planning
a women's issue. One of the editors, a friend of mine, asked me
if I had anything they could use in it. I told her about my article
on God the Mother and she asked me if I would submit it. We were
getting ready to go to Mexico for the fall and I was very busy,
so I decided to submit it and postpone the difficult decision of
whether or not to publish it until after I knew whether or not it
would be accepted.
When we returned from Mexico in the middle of December I found
a letter from Dialogue accepting my article for the summer 1994
issue. I deliberated for some time about whether or not to let them
publish it and I also prayed about it. I really wanted to publish
it. It contains my deepest beliefs about God and an interpretation
of the Godhead which could lay a foundation for equality in the
church, which I believe is desperately needed. I knew that many
Mormon women and some men were deeply concerned about the topic.
My paper is an attempt to put the concept of the Mother God in a
Christian context and give it a scriptural foundation. I felt that
Dialogues's audience understands the premises of scholarship and
speculative theology and readers would either find it unpersuasive
or helpful. Since the article is based on the revelations in the
Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants and assumes that they
are from God I did not think it would challenge anyone's faith.
Indeed, I hoped it would strengthen faith in the richness, complexity
and harmony of these scriptures. I felt good about my decision and
was assured by the spirit that God was pleased with my efforts to
Although I realized that President Bacon would probably expect
me to confer with him before making such a decision I did not consider
myself under any obligation to do so. I thought I had made it clear
to him that I intended to act on my own responsibility. I knew that
he would tell me to not publish my article and that he would have
not reasons to offer except that the general authorities didn't
want me to. I intended to inform him that the article was being
published before it came out and I felt that that would fulfill
my promise. Perhaps I acted cowardly by not informing him when I
made the decision but I was trying to postpone the unpleasantness
as long as possible.
In January of 1994 David and I needed to renew our temple recommends.
We were told that our bishop, Scott Runia, wanted to talk to both
of us together first. While we were in Mexico we had been invited
to sign the Olive Branch, an ad that appeared in the Salt Lake Tribune
on behalf of church members being disciplined and suffering spiritual
abuse which called for "greater love, respect, harmony and understanding
between church members and leaders."
We had gladly signed it as we agreed with what it said and strongly
desired love and reconciliation. Bishop Runia told us that some
ward members had seen the ad and been quite disturbed by seeing
our names on it. We asked who they were so that we could talk to
them and help them understand our point of view, but the bishop
said he didn't think that he could tell us although he agreed with
me that people ought to go talk to whoever offends them rather than
complain to the bishop. We tried to convince him that there is a
place for scholarship and intellectuals in the church, but he seemed
to be uncomfortable with the term intellectual. Bishop Runia knew
that we were committed, faithful members of the church who would
serve in any way we were asked, so he couldn't understand why we
would sign an ad with a lot of dissenters protesting church actions.
We tried to help him understand our point of view and finally he
said that he would sign our recommends. But before he could we would
all have to meet with President Bacon. He told us that when people
had come to him with the ad he had gone to President Bacon to ask
his advice and President Bacon had said something like "oh, them
, we've had trouble with them before." He told Bishop Runia that
he would have to meet with us before Bishop Runia could sign our
A few days later we met with President Bacon and Bishop Runia.
After a long discussion they finally signed our recommends, but
it was clear that President Bacon now thought of us as dissenters
who had connections with those apostates who were giving the church
so much trouble in the press.
In April 1994 my ward, the Edgemont 20th Ward, along with another
ward was divided so that a new ward was created from parts of the
two existing wards. My family was placed in the new ward called
Edgewood. As I realized that most of the people that I knew and
loved would remain in the 20th Ward I felt very sad, wondering if
I would have an opportunity to get to know the people in my new
ward after my article came out. Would they even want to know me
if I were disciplined? I had been serving in the nursery of the
20th Ward and a few weeks later I was called to serve in Edgewood's
During the evening on Sunday, May 15th, I received a telephone
call from Scott Runia, my former bishop. He told me that before
the ward division he had been asked by President Bacon to talk to
me about an article that I was planning on publishing. President
Bacon had just contacted him to see if he'd taken care of this and
he'd had to admit to him that he hadn't. Bishop Runia was obviously
embarrassed and he told me several times he was sorry that he'd "dropped the ball." I told Bishop Runia that I owed President Bacon
an explanation of what I'd done and that I would call him. Bishop
Runia said "No, let me report back to President Bacon and then I'll
call you again." He called back a few minutes later to say that
President Bacon wanted him to handle it and he then set up an appointment
for me to meet with him and my new bishop, Robert Hammond, in two
days. I realized, of course, that someone must have shown President
Bacon the page in the spring Dialogue which listed titles from the
upcoming issue. I immediately sent him a letter informing him of
my decision to publish my paper on God the Mother and apologized
for not telling him sooner.
At the appointed time I walked over to the church and knocked on
Bishop Runia's office. No one answered so I walked over to Bishop
Hammond's office and knocked on his door. Again there was no answer.
For fifteen minutes I walked between the two offices waiting for
someone to show up. Finally, I called David from the hall telephone
and asked him to see if he could find one of the bishops. He called
back a few minutes later and said he'd located Bishop Runia at a
neighbor's house. He'd said that Bishop Hammond was unable to meet
that night and he'd thought that he was going to call me. He apologized
profusely for the misunderstanding and said that he'd call me when
he got home. I went home and waited for an hour for him to call.
Finally I called him. He apologized again and wanted to set up another
appointment. I told him that this was quite upsetting to me and
asked him if we couldn't just talk right then on the phone. What
had President Bacon asked him to do? He said that President Bacon
was very upset because someone had told him I was going to publish
a paper I had promised not to publish. I told Bishop Runia that
there must me a misunderstanding because I hadn't promised to never
publish the article. President Bacon had asked me not to speak or
write on the topic of the article and I'd told him that I didn't
have any plans to do so at the time and that I would let him know
if I ever decided to. The Dialogue in which the article was to appear
was not yet out. I had written to President Bacon and he should
have received my letter by then telling him the article would be
published. "I feel that I have kept my promise." I told Bishop Runia.
"Well", he said, "President Bacon told me that I had to stop you
from publishing this article." "It's already at press," I told him.
"I couldn't stop it even if I wanted to," Bishop Runia then said
that he would tell President Bacon that I couldn't call it back
and that he shouldn't get upset with me because it was his fault
for not telling me sooner. Bishop Runia called me back later and
said that President Bacon wanted to talk to me and David on Sunday
at 11:00 am.
That Sunday, May 22, we met with President Bacon and both bishops.
The meeting lasted an hour and a half. Although President Bacon
had another appointment at 11:30, he completely forgot it. The first
thing that President Bacon told us was that he couldn't remember
who had told him that my article was going to be published. There
was some disagreement about what had happened in our previous meetings
and exactly what I had agreed to. President Bacon said that I had
disobeyed him by publishing my article. I maintained that I had
told him that I didn't have any plans to speak or publish about
the Heavenly Mother at that time and that I had not promised to
never publish my paper but had only agreed to inform him if I decided
to speak or publish on that subject later. I told him that I felt
I had kept my promise. He agreed that I had done what I said I would
but he felt that I had disobeyed him because I knew he didn't want
me to publish that article. While we were discussing this David
was trying to get President Bacon to tell us where the directive
to not publish the article came from. Finally President Bacon admitted
that he had been told by Salt Lake that my paper was never to be
published. When David tried to press him for more details he started
to get angry. He said that it didn't matter whether it came from
Salt Lake or him; he was my stake president and I should obey him.
He spent a long time talking about what it means to sustain the
brethren. For him it means doing whatever they ask and believing
whatever they say. At one point I felt I had to interrupt him to
tell him that my faith was in Jesus Christ, not the brethren, and
that since my primary connection to Jesus Christ was through the
Holy Spirit, I would always try to follow what I felt the spirit
inspired me to do, even if it contradicted what a leader said. President
Bacon said he was very troubled by this attitude, that this was
the sort of thing apostates say to justify going against the brethren.
Bishop Runia wanted to know if I would withdraw my article if I
could, now that I knew the directive was from Salt Lake. I said
that I couldn't say for sure but I probably wouldn't. I explained
why I decided to publish the article and that I honestly felt it
might help some people and was unlikely to harm anyone. Just before
the meeting broke up President Bacon asked Bishop Runia and Bishop
Hammond to share their feelings about our discussion. Bishop Runia
said that he felt I had been trying to do what I thought was right.
It hadn't been clear that the direction was from Salt Lake and there
was a misunderstanding about what I had promised to do. Since he
was to blame because it was now too late for me to stop publication,
he thought that they should drop the whole thing. Bishop Hammond
expressed his respect for our family. He said that he'd taught several
of our children in classes and he knew that we'd taught them the
scriptures in our home. He said that he was not very knowledgeable
about the scriptures but that he had a simple faith. I was thinking, "That is good. Faith is good," but then I realized that he was not
talking about faith in Jesus Christ. "I have to rely on what my
leaders tell me," he said. President Bacon said that I had disobeyed
him and would have to be punished. He and the two bishops would
discuss what they would do.
After this meeting I realized the futility of agreeing to any
limitations on my speaking and writing, I saw that when I did this
I implicitly accepted a leader's right to control me. I decided
that from then on I would not allow myself to be trapped by a promise
that implied I recognized any kind of obligation to obey a leader's
The Dialogue issue in which "Toward a Mormon Theology of God the
Mother" was published came out in late June. Bishop Hammond asked
David if we could meet with him on July 24 about my article. David
was late in returning from his home teaching so I went to the interview
by myself. Bishop Hammond told me he had received a copy of my article
from President Bacon and read it. He said that he must hold a disciplinary
council on me. I asked him why he had waited so long to tell me
this. It had been two months since President Bacon had told me I
must be punished. This had put me under a lot of stress. He apologized
and said that they had to wait until the article was published.
President Bacon had thought that maybe I wouldn't publish it. I
asked him if he saw the content of the article as the problem or
did he believe a court was necessary because I had gone against
President Bacon's counsel in publishing it. He said, "Both." I told
Bishop Hammond that this was a bad time for me to have a court.
He said, "I know. I'll try to put it off as long as possible." One
of my sons was leaving on a mission on August 31 and another was
returning on August 18. We had planned to hold a combined farewell-
homecoming meeting for them on August 28. I understood the bishop
to be saying that he would try to wait until after this event. I
then asked Bishop Hammond what ideas in the article bothered him.
He said that there was a lot of false doctrine in it, but he couldn't
discuss it until the disciplinary council. He told me that when
he had been made a bishop he had promised to defend the church and
keep its doctrines pure so it was necessary for him to hold a court
David arrived and Bishop Hammond again said that after talking
to President Bacon he had no choice but to hold a court on me. David
then pled passionately with him not to do it. He told him that he
should consider resigning rather than do it. Bishop Hammond said
that he had a responsibility to defend the church. "Against a mother
of nine!" David exclaimed. He told Bishop Hammond that it would
be in the press and he would receive a lot of pressure. "That is
your choice," he replied. "No, it isn't," David told him. "You don't
understand. Janice is well known in the Mormon intellectual community
and there are already many people who know about the pressure that
she is under. We don't have to tell anybody about it, They'll ask
us and we can't lie." David also told Bishop Hammond that holding
a court might cause polarization in the ward. "Janice is known and
respected by many people. They won't understand why you are doing
this." He then suggested that Bishop Hammond get President Bacon
to hold the court since he had been so involved in the case. "You
are a new bishop. It isn't fair to you that you have to deal with
this." Bishop Hammond replied that he felt it would be better for
me if he did it himself. Finally David got Bishop Hammond to agree
to set up one more meeting with President Bacon before he scheduled
a disciplinary council to see if it could possibly be avoided.
I didn't tell Bishop Hammond but one reason it was a bad time
for me to have a court was because I was working hard writing a
paper for the Sunstone Symposium that was to be held from August
17-20. The paper I was writing, titled "Him Shall Ye Hear: Prophets
and People in the Church of Jesus Christ" challenges the popular
Mormon belief that the Lord will not permit the prophet to lead
the church astray. I argue that this belief is antithetical to the
gospel of Jesus Christ and has no scriptural foundation. In doing
so I explore the following questions: What is prophecy? Who is a
prophet? Which prophet are we commanded to hear? What is the relationship
between the individual, Christ and his church? How is a true church
of Christ constituted and in what ways can it go astray? And what
do the scriptures prophesy about the church in the latter days?
On Wednesday August 17th I received a call from Vern Anderson
of the Associated Press. He had read my paper "Him Shall Ye Hear"
and wanted to do a story on it. He had learned that I was facing
a disciplinary council for my Dialogue article and wanted to include
this information as part of his story. He told me that he did not
want to make my situation in the church more difficult and he would
not do the article without my permission. I had wanted to wait until
I received the summons to the court before I talked to the press,
thinking that until it was actually scheduled there was hope that
I might avoid it. But Bishop Hammond had said that he would definitely
hold a court. I had written "Him Shall Ye Hear" because I believe
that the idea that the Lord will not permit the prophet to lead
the church astray is causing the church to become more and more
authoritarian and damaging people's spiritual growth. I had written
the article to get people to examine this idea critically. So I
told Vern to go ahead with his story and I would give him an interview.
That same afternoon I received a call from Bishop Hammond telling
me that he'd finally arranged a meeting for us with President Bacon
for the following Sunday morning. Although he had agreed to meet
with us, he had told Bishop Hammond to tell us that it wouldn't
make any difference. Bishop Hammond apologized for the delay but
President Bacon had been ill and had undergone surgery and was only
now well enough to meet with us. Bishop Hammond also wanted to confirm
that we would be holding our missionary farewell-homecoming on August
28 for our two sons, Joel and Nephi. Our daughter, Miriam, who is
13, had been asked to be the youth speaker. Bishop Hammond said
that he thought it would be good just to have the three children
speak. It would give the missionaries plenty of time. I told him
that David and I were also planning to give short talks. He replied
that he didn't think we should. "Why not?" I said. "David hasn't
done anything and I shouldn't be punished before I'm found guilty."
"Let me talk to Pres. Bacon about it." Bishop Hammond said.
The next morning (August 18) David called Bishop Hammond. Bishop
Hammond told him that neither of us would be able to speak at our
sons' farewell-homecoming. "I don't think it is appropriate for
someone who is facing a disciplinary council to speak in sacrament
meeting," he said. "What about me?" David asked. "I thought it would
look strange if you spoke and Janice didn't," he replied. David
disagreed but was still rejected. David then asked him why he had
not been given a job in the ward. I had wondered if the bishop had
put him under some kind of ban. He admitted that after our May 22
meeting he had decided that David should not have a church position.
That same morning Nephi returned from his mission.
On August 19, the Salt Lake Tribune ran Vern Anderson's
article about me on its front page. "LDS Mom Catches Hell for Writing
About a Mother in Heaven" was the headline. I thought it was well
written and accurate and I appreciated Vern's sensitivity and thoroughness.
That morning I delivered my paper, "Him Shall Ye Hear" at the symposium.
Channel 4 was there to tape it, having been informed that the speech
would be important. I did a short interview with Paul Murphy of
Channel 4 after the speech and it ran on the evening news.
We didn't get home from the symposium until 1:30 a.m. Sunday morning.
Then my baby John woke up very upset with me since I'd been gone
for three days and it took us two hours to get him back to sleep.
Nephi was scheduled to report to the high council on his mission
at 7 a.m. so we dragged ourselves out of bed and went with him.
Walking back home, we found our cat dead in the road, just run over
by a car. We were scheduled to meet with President Bacon at 9 o'clock.
David and I had been increasingly worried that President Bacon
and Bishop Hammond were thinking of us as a unit and were regarding
David as part of the problem. He is a very open, honest and warm
person, much more talkative than I am, especially with people he
doesn't know well and he had taken a very active part in all our
interviews. We are in substantive agreement on the issues we discussed
so it was natural that out leaders should view us in that way, but
it was unfair of them to punish him for his opinions and attitudes.
President Bacon had always told me that I could believe whatever
I wanted to, that publishing and disobedience were my problems.
Now David had been forbidden to speak in a sacrament meeting and
he was banned from holding a church position. Since he teaches at
BYU any kind of action taken against him could jeopardize his job.
We were quite concerned about this and decided that he should drop
out of the interviews. However, he accompanied me to this meeting
since he had been asked to come.
When we arrived, President Bacon, his two counselors, James McDonald
and Craig Hickman, and Bishop Hammond were waiting for us. They
asked if they could meet with us separately and we thought this
was a good idea since we both felt they needed to start separating
us in their minds. I went first and we talked a little over two
hours. President Bacon began by filling his counselors in on the
background. He got a lot of the details wrong and when I corrected
him he became impatient and said the differences were negligible.
The important thing was that I had disobeyed him. I pointed out
that my version of the details in dispute showed that I had not
disobeyed him. In any case, I argued, "I am not under any obligation
to follow your counsel." Since there is no church law against speaking
publicly or publishing articles about God the Mother, it is unfair
to punish me for something which is neither a law of the church
nor a commandment of God," I said. President Bacon told me that
the brethren are very clear about this. I tried to find out if he
had received any new instructions from the church hierarchy. He
asked me, "What difference does that make? I'm your leader and you
should do what I say. I represent Jesus Christ to you," he told
me. I replied, "I am also a servant of Jesus Christ." He then asked
me if it would make any difference to me if he told me which two
apostles it came from. I said it wouldn't because I had made my
decision on the basis of my own judgment and spiritual feelings.
I told him that I would always try to listen to the counsel of leaders
and others with an open mind and heart but that finally I would
do what I believed God wanted me to do. President Hickman said that
since we can be deceived about spiritual feelings it is safer to
follow our leaders. I told him that I realized I could be wrong
in what I believed, but that I couldn't go against my conscience
simply because I might be wrong. I had to trust in Jesus, that he
would show me my sins if I was willing to repent, that all was not
lost if I made a mistake because his grace is sufficient to save
me. To have faith in Jesus Christ means to be willing to trust in
our own spiritual feelings. President Bacon told me I was rationalizing.
President Bacon wanted to know what my motives were in publishing
and speaking. I told him that I don't believe we can really know
what are motive are. We should examine our motives and try to understand
them, but we should also realize that some of them are beyond our
conscious ability to grasp. Since it is very easy for us to think
up good motives for what we want to do, we need to think about the
act itself. Will it have good results? Will it help someone? I suppose
that my reasons for writing and speaking are complex; I do want
to do it and I do receive personal benefits from it, but not without
a cost to me and my family. However, the reason I feel an obligation
to write and speak is because I have benefited greatly from the
writing and speaking of others and I feel that I should try to return
some of what I have received.
They were all very upset by the AP article that had appeared in
the Tribune. "This is bad news for the church," President Bacon
said pointing to the headline. This makes the church look bad. "What
makes the Church look bad," I told them, "is not that I published
an article but that you are going to punish me for it. My paper
was given to a small audience on a difficult topic and it was published
in a journal with a limited circulation. If you had not decided
to punish me this newspaper article would never have been written." President Bacon said that it would never have been written if I'd
obeyed him in the first place.
We also discussed the issue of confidentiality. They said that
they regarded these meetings as sacred and they felt it was a violation
of confidentiality for me to discuss them with anyone else. I pointed
out that the rule of confidentiality in the priest-penitent relationship
was to protect the penitent not the priest. I considered myself
free to discuss these meetings and I intended to do so. I gave them
permission to discuss them too, but they said they couldn't because
they considered them sacred. They said that they could not be as
open and honest in these meetings if they thought that what they
were saying would appear in the press. I told them that I would
try to be truthful and fair in what I said about them, but that
they should understand that I would speak and write about it.
Finally, they asked me to reconsider my decision, to pray about
it, and repent. "If you say you're sorry and are willing to be counseled
by us, it will go better with you," they told me. I told them that
I would be willing to pray about it, but I had already done this
many times and I doubted if it would change the way I felt.
As I left the building David came over to kiss me. I whispered, "Be careful. You can't help me, but you can hurt yourself."
When David came home an hour and a half later he seemed strangely
cheerful. I realized later that his odd demeanor was a result of
the abuse he had suffered which caused him to detach himself from
his feelings. Three days later his anger surfaced and he was screaming
at me and the children until we were able to work through his feelings.
When he came home he said to me, "Well they want me to get you to
repent and stop writing. I'm supposed to give you a blessing telling
you to do what your priesthood leaders tell you."
I had been washing the breakfast dishes. I stopped, looked at
him, and said, "If you ever do that, we're through!" Then I went
into the other room, sat down on the couch, and cried. That was
the first time that I'd cried in the whole, long ordeal. "They're
trying to destroy our marriage," I sobbed. "They're trying to make
you into a bad patriarch like themselves. They would destroy our
marriage to get me to submit to them." David said that he had told
them that he didn't give blessings like that, that he tried to listen
to what the spirit said to him. He also told them that he couldn't
control me and wouldn't try. "She's an adult; she makes her own
decisions," he said. "We don't have that kind of a marriage." But
they didn't want to accept his answers.
Implicit in the whole interview was the assumption that David
either agreed with me and was encouraging me or he was not using
his priesthood properly to control me. There was also the implied
threat to him and his employment. We need to know what your feelings
are. "Do we need to take action against you?" was what David was
told at the beginning of his interview, the implication being that
if he was on my side they would also need to take action against
At one point they asked him to take their loyalty oath: "If two
apostles asked you not to publish something, would you do what they
asked?" He said that he wouldn't. He was glad that they did not
ask him the general form of the question.
August 28 was the day of Joel's missionary farewell and Nephi's
homecoming. We planned to hold a small open house afterword for
some of our friends and family. Two hours before the sacrament meeting
as we were working frantically to get everything ready, I got a
call from Bishop Hammond. He wanted me and David to meet him in
his office right then. "Can't we wait until this evening?" I asked.
"I'm really busy now." "I need to talk to you right now," he said.
So David and I went over to his office. He said that he had been
thinking about it and he realized that this was a special day for
our family and he had decided to let us bear our testimonies about
how we felt about our sons' missions. That made me really angry.
I told him that a testimony to me was about Jesus Christ. I had
planned a talk about what Jesus has done for me in my mind but he
had told me I wouldn't be allowed to give it so I hadn't prepared
it. David said he would be willing to bear his testimony. I said
that I would too but I would not sit on the stand and I would not
have my name in the program as if I were a scheduled speaker. David
said that it was probably too late to have our names in the program
anyway. The bishop said it wasn't and that he wanted us to sit on
the stand and have our names in the program. We refused, but said
we would each give a short testimony if there was time and he called
us out of the audience. He didn't. On September 15 I again met with
Bishop Hammond. He wanted to know if I'd prayed and reconsidered
my view as he and President Bacon had asked me to do. I said that
I had, but my views had not changed and I didn't think I had done
anything that warranted church discipline. He said that my paper
are damaging to people's testimonies because I teach something different
than the church. He saw himself as the defender of the faith. "There's
a line and I think you've crossed it," he said. I asked him if he'd
definitely decided to hold a court. He said that he had. "Then please
do it as quickly as possible, because this waiting and uncertainty
is very stressful for me," I told him. He said that he had to check
with President Bacon first but that he would try to hurry things
September 18 was our stake conference. President Bacon gave a
speech stressing the importance of following the brethren and denouncing
apostasy and intellectual pride. To anyone who knew of my situation
it was obvious that much of what he said was directed at me. He
said that the latter-day prophets would never lead the people of
the church astray. "There are those who do not believe this," he
continued, "those who drift away from the truth. Sorrow will come
to them sooner or later. They will know afflictions and it will
hurt their little children. Their sin is the sin of intellectual
He later bragged to me that several people had thanked him for
his talk because they had been confused about the Allred affair
and now they knew what to think about it. I told him that his remarks
had hurt me. I said that I had no problem with him talking about
the issue, but I felt it was unkind of him to attack my character
and motives and say I was hurting my children. He said that he wasn't
just talking about me, but all apostates. He never apologized.
On September 25 Bishop Hammond called me to tell me nothing would
be done until after conference. Then on Thursday, October 6, I met
again with President Bacon and Bishop Hammond and we talked for
three hours. Before the meeting Bishop Hammond told me that President
Bacon was still open about whether or not a court would be held.
That really disheartened me because I knew that they did not intend
to just drop the whole thing. They wanted to get me to make some
kind of concession or promise. I had told them as clearly as I could
that I would follow my conscience and that I would not be controlled
by them. Why wouldn't they believe me?
During this meeting President Bacon brought up the issue of teaching
false doctrine for the first time. Bishop Hammond had always been
concerned about this issue, but President Bacon had always seemed
to believe that my sin was disobedience. Now President Bacon was
saying that the problem with my paper was that it contained false
doctrine, although we'd had many discussions in which it had been
assumed that the problem with the paper was that it was on a forbidden
topic. Like Bishop Hammond, President Bacon did not want to get
involved in a discussion about the doctrine; he simply wanted to
declare it false. When I asked him how he knew that it was false
he said that he had received a copy of the article from Salt Lake
with certain parts underlined and those parts were the false doctrine.
I told him that he couldn't simply assume that. Perhaps those were
the parts they particularly admired. He then stated in a very solemn
manner that he knew what was false doctrine because of his position
and priesthood. It was that simple for him. He did not have to think,
study or ponder. His position made him infallible.
After about two hours of discussion in which I engaged them on
every point, I finally grew discouraged realizing the hopelessness
of ever getting them to understand my viewpoint and accepting it
as one that could be held by a faithful church member. For about
twenty minutes I said nothing letting them give me advice. Finally,
President Bacon said, "At last I think we're getting somewhere.
I'm finally starting to feel a humble attitude from you." It was
clear. I was acceptable as long as I was silent.
"Where do we go from here?" I asked. "You tell us," President
Bacon said. "Well," I said, "You should say we have talked to Janice
Allred. She believes in Jesus Christ, she accepts the scriptures
as the word of God, she loves the church and is committed to it,
and she follows the commandments. We should just drop this whole
procedure against her. She should be free to write and publish according
to her own judgment." They both stared at me as if they we thinking,
"You have got to be kidding." President Bacon said, "I couldn't
remain stake president one week if I didn't do something about this."
He then said that he would decide whether to have a court or not.
"I will have to judge you," he told me. "I will have two counselors
and twelve men to advise me, but the final decision will be mine." I had realized for some time that President Bacon had not turned
my case over to Bishop Hammond, that he was still involved in it,
and that he wanted to do the court himself. So this announcement
did not surprise me.
Just before he left President Bacon said to me, "Can I be very
frank with you? I have this feeling in my heart, very strong, that
I just want to defend you and protect you. I just want to defend
Janice allred to the Brethren." After he left I thought, "Poor President
Bacon, can't you understand what the spirit is telling you? You've
been praying to know what to do about me and the spirit is trying
to tell you but you're unwilling to let the spirit work on your
mind as well as your heart. The only way you can think of to protect
me is by changing me."
Two days later on Saturday, October 8, Bishop Hammond told me
that President Bacon had decided to hold a stake disciplinary council
on me and he would set the date the next day. He had asked Bishop
Hammond to tell me not to partake of the sacrament the next day.
He had also asked him to find out how many witnesses I planned to
bring. I told him I had four and I asked him if it would be all
right if my sister was with me during the court to give me support
and help me remember what took place. He said he'd ask President
The next day I kept waiting for two priesthood holders to appear
at my door with the summons but they didn't come. Finally, about
5:00 in the afternoon, as I was finishing up in the ward nursery,
I got a message to come to the bishop's office. He gave me the letter
there and told me that the court would be held on Wednesday night.
He said that President Bacon had agreed to let my sister be present.
Then he said, "I really don't understand you. I don't know why you're
doing what you're doing, but I really respect your integrity. I
appreciate it that you've always been very open and have always
told me the truth." I told him that I knew the whole thing had been
very difficult for him, but I felt he had done his best to do what
he believed was right. I also told him that I was glad that President
Bacon would be holding the council instead of him. I didn't tell
him that I had prayed it would be so.
I called Margaret and Lavina to tell them I'd finally received
the summons. (Lavina is the Relief Society president of the dissidents,
the marginalized, the abused, and the cast out.) The Mormon Alliance
released a press statement and Lavina started calling people to
set things in motion for the vigil she had been organizing.
Monday night at 6:30 another letter from President Bacon was delivered
to me. This one said that he had authorized Bishop Hammond to conduct
the court and that he would "sustain him in his decision."
On Wednesday afternoon Bishop Hammond called me to say that the
court would be held in Bishop Runia's office instead of his and
that I couldn't have Margaret come in with me. "Since there will
only be four men instead of fifteen, you won't need her as a support
person," he said. "But I also wanted her to be there to take notes
or at least help me remember what happens," I said. Bishop Hammond
repeated that she could not come. "why don't you think about it
and let me know when we get there," I said. Bishop Hammond also
told me that one of his counselors and his clerk were out of town
and he had chosen two men to replace them.
Lavina and her son Christian arrived about 3:00 pm to help us
clean up the house and make dinner for us. Channel 13 came down
to do an interview about 4:00 and then Channel 2 and Channel 4 showed
up before they were finished. Lynne Whitesides came to help also.
Somehow I finished all the interviews and we ate dinner. The Toscanos
and a lot of other people arrived for the vigil and we walked over
to the church. There were already quite a few people there. I hugged
a few friends and then Margaret and I went into the building. There
was no one in Bishop Runia's office , but we met two men from the
ward who said that the bishop had asked them to monitor the halls
and make sure no one caused any trouble. They said that the court
had been moved to the stake president's office. Bishop Hammond told
Margaret that she wouldn't be allowed to stay and she went back
Present in the court were Bishop Hammond, his counselor Gary Winterton,
Keith Halls substituting for the other counselor and Paul McKay
substituting for the clerk. Bishop Hammond first asked me, "Are
you taping these proceedings?" I answered, "No." Then he asked me
if I had ever taped any of our interviews. I answered that I hadn't.
Bishop Hammond said I was guilty of apostasy and Keith Halls presented
the case. He said that I had repeatedly acted in clear, open and
deliberate public opposition to the church or its leaders because
I had disobeyed three bishops and one stake president. He then presented
letters from Bishops Lowe and Runia and President Hickman to substantiate
this claim. I told them that none of the bishops had ever told me
not to publish my article and I had interpreted President Bacon's
request not to publish as counsel, not a commandment, because he
had not said that I would be punished if I disobeyed and because
he had no right to give me commandments which I must obey or be
I had prepared a twelve page defense. I then read the first part
which was an account of all that had happened. After that I called
in my first two witnesses, a husband and wife, good friends from
my former ward. They are well respected and have both served in
leadership positions in the church. His profession requires intelligence
and reasoning skills so they were good witnesses for me. The woman
gave a character witness for me. She said that I was a seeker of
truth and she believed I was a pure soul and that she admired my
honesty and integrity. She told about our relationship and testified
that I had taught her many things which had helped her. The man
then also made a strong statement about my integrity. He told them, "If you force Janice to go against her integrity, it will destroy
her. Please don't do it." He told them of his relationship to Sunstone.
He'd served on the board for awhile and had subscribed for many
years. He said that some of the articles were good, others were
not, but that the audience for Sunstone is comprised of people who
are already questioning and who have the critical skills to handle
the kind of articles that appear in it. He said that my article
was long and difficult and few people were likely to read it, but
if they were going to say that people had been damaged by it, they
would have to have actual witnesses. He then told them that they
should weigh the small potential damage that my article might cause
against the certain damage that disciplining me would cause me and
my family and the church . "To your neighbors and church members
it may seem that you are doing your duty," he told them, "but to
the outside world this looks like oppression and tyranny."
My next witness was a friend I've known for many years. She talked
about my family and said that I'd done a good job raising my children
and teaching them the gospel. She talked about my church service
and testified that she'd read what I'd written and it had built
My last witness, a BYU professor, was unable to come but sent
a letter. In it he said that although he disagreed with the ideas
I expressed in my papers, he believed that I had every right to
After the witnesses spoke, I read the rest of my defense. First,
I defended myself against the charge of disobedience. I read:
"It should be noted that disobedience to church leaders
is not listed as a reason for church discipline in the bishop's
handbook. The church recognizes certain transgressions as serious
and requires local leaders to discipline members who commit them;
such transgressions include murder, rape, adultery, robbery and
others. This law is know by, and binding upon, all church members.
Bishops and stake presidents may counsel members concerning
their privates lives. Such counsel may be from their own wisdom
or it may be inspired by God. Members are not obligated by church
law to follow the advice and counsel of their leaders. They may
accept it or reject it and leaders do not have the right to compel
members to follow their counsel by imposing some kind of church
discipline upon them.
Sec 121 of the Doctrine and Covenants is very clear on this
"No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue
of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness
and meekness, and by love unfeigned;
By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge
the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile--" (D&C 121:41-42)
It is an abuse of priesthood power to "exercise control or dominion
or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men."
Sometimes the Lord commands one of his servants to deliver a
specific commandment to a person, but the prophet is never authorized
to compel that person to obey the commandment. The Lord reserves
judgment and punishment to himself.
The church may certainly punish those who transgress certain
commandments and do not repent, which it does, but these commandments
must be made known to the members along with the consequences
of disobeying them. The church must accept these laws and they
must be administered with justice and equity. In other wards,
church discipline must follow the rule of law and not be imposed
This is in accordance with the principles of free agency which
allows every person to freely choose.
No priesthood leader, no matter how great his authority, has
the right to compel submission to his own opinions and desires
or even to the word of God. It does not matter that some great
and good men have done this. It is still wrong: the Lord has declared
it. If the general authorities have received a revelation from
God forbidding his people to discuss, ask questions about, or
pray to God the Mother, then they should publish it and allow
the people to exercise their God-given right to accept or reject
it. If they have not, then they should stop the persecutions of
those who are seeking more light and knowledge concerning her
and those who wish to share the light and knowledge which they
Therefore, I plead not guilty to the charge of disobedience,
because there is no church law which requires us to obey the counsel
of our leaders or suffer church discipline. Such a law would be
contrary to the revelations of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Next I defended myself against the charge of apostasy. First I stated
my religious beliefs and commitments, concluding with the statement, "I consider myself to be a follower and servant of Jesus Christ and
a faithful member of his church." I continued:
One definition of apostates given in the handbook is "members who . . . persist in teaching as church doctrine information
that is not church doctrine after being corrected by their bishops
or higher authority." I assume that if I am being charged with apostasy
because of the contents of my article, "Toward a Mormon Theology
of God the Mother", this definition of apostasy is being used. However,
I specifically state in my article that the interpretation of the
Godhead which I offer is not Church doctrine. Therefore, I am not
guilty of apostasy according to this definition of apostasy.
However, some may still believe that espousing any ideas which
are not church doctrine is apostasy so I will briefly address
two important questions regarding this issue. The first is "What
is Church doctrine?" and the second is "What liberties do church
members have in regard to their religious beliefs?".....
If we study the history of doctrine in Christianity we see a
history of contention, with the church marred by schisms and oppression
as the need of the individual to find her own truth clashes with
the need of the institution to establish one doctrine.
Jesus addressed the problem of contention over doctrine in his
church when he spoke to the Nephites after his resurrection. He
told them that there should be no contention among them because
the spirit of contention is not from him but from the devil. What
is the spirit of contention? In the Book of Mormon contention
is always about winning. The spirit of contention is of competition,
pride, and enmity. Jesus is telling us that this spirit is never
from him and we should never have it even when we find ourselves
in disagreements with others in our pursuit of truth. It is possible
to disagree with love and without trying to impose our opinions
In speaking to the Nephites one of the first things Jesus did
was to set forth his doctrine in a very simple way.
Jesus said that his doctrine is the gospel of faith in Jesus Christ,
repentance, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost.
By having very few points of doctrine and giving space
for a wide range of interpretations within these doctrines, Jesus
establishes an inclusive church which allows many beliefs. There
are obviously many religious questions which are not answered in
the doctrine of Christ and many revelations have been given which
touch upon these questions. Church members can and should explore
these questions and ponder these revelations, but the Lord tells
us not to try to establish other truths as his doctrine because
this will inevitably lead to contention. Because different people
have different experiences, different intellectual frameworks, and
different gifts and are at different stages in their spiritual journeys,
their understanding of the gospel, and the scriptures, their interpretations
of religious truth will certainly differ. These different viewpoints
need not lead to contention if members understand what Jesus taught
about the doctrine of his church.
My article "Toward a Mormon Theology of God the Mother" gives
an interpretation of the Godhead based on a detailed analysis
of the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants. While this
interpretation differs from the official interpretation offered
by the Church, it does not in any way contradict any of the points
of doctrine which Jesus established in his church. The standard
which I try to use for judging all religious ideas is the gospel
of Jesus Christ. If I believe that any idea is not consistent
with his gospel, then I reject it. Since my article is firmly
based on the scriptures and offers a possible, well-supported
interpretation of the nature of God which in no way contradicts
the doctrine of Christ, it is unfair and incorrect to call it
false doctrine. My ideas may be untrue, but they fall within the
range of possible interpretations allowed by the scripture.
I then addressed the question, "What liberties do church members have
in regard to their beliefs?"
First, we should understand that freedom of belief cannot
be separated from freedom of speech which includes the freedom to
read, write, publish and meet with others to discuss and exchange
ideas. We do not form our beliefs in isolation from others but in
the dynamic experience of interacting with others through reading,
listening, talking, and writing. We depend upon others to supply
us with information and share their interpretations and insights
with us. We also need to receive their responses to both our ideas
and experiences. We need criticism from others in order to see the
flaws in our reasoning, the gaps in our knowledge, and different
ways of looking at our experiences.
It is also necessary to understand that no one can believe anything
simply by an act of will. We believe what we do because of a complicated
and largely unknown process in which our experiences, our way
of thinking, our knowledge, our feelings, our emotional needs,
our language, our culture and other unknown influences all play
Thus it is futile as well as wrong to try to coerce belief,
which is part of the meaning of Doctrine and Covenants 121: "No
power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of
the priesthood but only by persuasion, by long suffering, by gentleness
and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness and pure knowledge..."
These are the effective and righteous means to change or influence
Using discipline or coercion to compel belief also encourages
lying and discourages the free exercise of thought and speech
required for the pursuit of truth and intellectual and spiritual
development. If any form of coercion or punishment is used to
control belief, some people will lie about their beliefs to avoid
punishment for having the wrong beliefs and to reap the rewards
of holding the correct beliefs.
Finally, as I have discussed, there is the problem of determining
what is and what is not true doctrine. To assume, as the handbook
does, that the bishop or stake president is always right when
there is a doctrinal disagreement between a member and a leader
is to show contempt for truth and the processes for understanding
it. So how do we decide? Usually we do not need to or rather everyone
should decide for himself. ...
The way to deal with false doctrine is not to punish those who
believe it but to teach true doctrine. ...
I ended my defense by saying:
I am not an apostate. I believe in Jesus Christ and his
doctrine. I have tried with all my heart to keep my covenants. I
have not broken any law of the church but have tried to do my duty
and fulfill my callings.
If you use this council to punish me you will punish an innocent
If you punish me it will be because I refused to lie.
If you punish me it will be because I refused to let you stand
between me and God.
If you punish me it will be because I refused to bow to your
authority by giving you my unconditional obedience.
If you punish me it will be because I refused to give up my freedom
to believe, speak, and act according to my conscience.
If you punish me it will be because I refused to deny my testimony
of Jesus Christ.
I am not your judge and I pray that God will be merciful to
you. But if you punish me you will have to answer to Him for using
your priesthood authority unrighteously.
Although I invited them to question me about my defense, they did
not ask any questions or comment on anything I said.
While I was reading my defense, a little after ten o'clock, one
of the hall monitors interrupted saying that there was an urgent
phone call for Bishop Hammond. Bishop Hammond left and returned
a few minutes later. Again he said to me, "I must ask you if you
are taping these proceedings." "No, I am not," I replied. "Then
I must tell you that we were informed beforehand that you were planning
on taping these proceedings, so I must ask you again, "Are you taping
these proceedings. "No, I am not," I replied. "Then I must tell
you that I have just received a message that Channel 13 has just
announced on their news that you are taping these proceedings. So
I'll ask you again. Are you taping these proceedings?" "No, I am
not," I said. "But I'll tell you what I know about taping. A friend
of mine called me on Monday night and said that she'd been talking
to someone on Channel 2 to see if they might be interested in secretly
taping this meeting. They said they could do it. She wanted to know
if I'd be interested. I told her I'd have to think about it and
she should call me back. She called back an hour later and I told
her that I didn't think it was honest to tape someone without their
knowledge and I didn't want to do it. She said that was fine and
Channel 2 wouldn't do it anyway because of legal reasons." Bishop
Hammond said, "Okay, I believe you."
After I finished reading my defense the bishop and his counselors
spent the next two and a half hours interrogating me about my beliefs,
trying to get me to repent, and trying to get me to agree to some
restrictions on my writing and speaking. One of the things that
made the court abusive, in my opinion, was the assumption by the
bishopric that they were right and I was wrong. I believe that this
assumption is built into the structure of the disciplinary council,
as its name implies. It is no longer a court where guilt or innocence
is determined, but a council whose purpose is to "save the souls
of transgressors by assisting members to repent" and determine what
punishment they deserve. I went into the court prepared to defend
myself and my ideas against the charge of apostasy, but they had
already decided I was guilty; their purpose was to change me, to
get me to see things their way, or at least not to speak of my way
of seeing things. But instead of using love and persuasion to change
me, they used the threat of punishment. Although they were courteous
and tried to be considerate of my feelings, it was very painful
for me to hear again and again that my beliefs were false doctrine
and my writings were damaging, harmful, and dangerous to people's
testimonies when these things had given me joy and caused my heart
to burn within me many times and I had only wanted to share them
We spent a long time trying to work out some kind of limitations
on my writing. I really tried to find something that I could do
that would be acceptable to them. Keith Halls suggested that I should
promise to never disagree with or contradict a general authority.
I said that I couldn't do that but I could agree to not disagree
with them directly. That wasn't acceptable to them.
During this time they asked me one question dozens of times in
various different ways. The question was, "If you were asked to
do something by a prophet or any church leader would you do it even
if it went against your conscience?" Every time I answered that
I would think about it and pray about it and then act according
to what my best judgment and the spirit told me to do. I had told
them this many times in all the interviews we had had. I had never
given any other answer to this question. As it got later and later
I kept thinking, "Why won't they believe me? What do I have to do
to convince them that I will not be controlled by them."
Bishop Hammond kept saying, "Janice, I have to have something form
you." But he wouldn't accept what I could offer. They kept telling
me that my membership was at stake. Finally as we were talking about
my paper "Him Shall Ye Hear", Bishop Hammond told me that if I did
not promise to never publish the paper, he would excommunicate me.
I considered this. Was publishing this paper really worth my membership?
Then I thought, "But this paper is my testimony that we must follow
Jesus and do what the spirit tells us. I have to publish it if I
can. I have to do what I think is right."
"Promise not to publish it," Bishop Hammond said. "I can't do it."
I said. "I would rather die. I love the church I know that they'll
reject me, but I have to be free."
As I said this I felt my heart break. I saw a white bird fly out.
It said, "I must be free." Then I began sobbing and I left the room
and went and set down in the room next to the room we were in, where
I continued to sob.
The effect of my crying on the men was remarkable. One of them
came in to see if I was all right. I said that I was, but they thought
they should go get David anyway. Then the bishop came in and said
he was sorry if he'd been too harsh, but he'd had to say what he
did. "I have integrity, too," he said. "But no matter what happens
we'll still be your friends."
While I waited for David I thought about my heart breaking and
the white bird, the dove, the spirit of God that must be free, my
spirit that must be free, free to fly to God in my own way. I wondered
if Jesus had accepted my sacrifice, my broken heart, if he would
heal it or if it would always be broken like the wounds in his hands.
I looked at my watch. It was one in the morning. Then David came
and they started their deliberations. I told David some of what
had happened. Then I started crying again. "I tried, I really tried,"
I told him, "but I have to be free. I can't submit my conscience
and my judgment to those men." "I know," he said. "They are going
to excommunicate me," I told him. "It's all right," he said.
We wanted to go see the people who were still waiting, but the
hall monitors wouldn't let us. After awhile some of them started
to drift over where we were, then about two o'clock David went and
brought the rest of them over. I hugged everyone. I needed to feel
their love. I told Lynne and Lavina as they walked with me to get
a drink, "Well, my friends, I'll probably be joining you."
At 2:30 I was called back to hear the decision. They told me that
they were putting me on formal probation. That meant that I was
still a member and nothing was marked on my membership record but
I would have some conditions and restrictions placed on me. The
restrictions were that I was not to partake of the sacrament, hold
a temple recommend, or speak or pray in church. However, I would
still be allowed to serve in the nursery. Within two weeks they
would inform me of some conditions that they would place me under.
If I didn't obey these conditions then another disciplinary council
would be held. They asked me if I would obey the restrictions and
conditions. I said that I would obey the restrictions, but I couldn't
promise to obey the conditions until I knew what they were.
As we left the room I felt sick. I knew the conditions would require
me to do what I had already refused to do, to submit my writing
and speaking to their judgment. Why wouldn't they accept my decision?"
I thought. "Did they think because I cried that I would change my
mind. Couldn't they see that it meant that I wouldn't. How can they
make me do this again?"
After telling everyone about the decision, I did a short interview
for Channel 4. Then I walked home with Rebecca and Ammon, two of
my children. It was 3:30 am. I asked them if they'd seen the news
on Channel 13. They said they had. "What did they say about me taping
the court proceedings?" I asked them. They were astonished. "Nothing,"
they said. Then I told them about the taping questions and what
I'd said. Lavina joined us and I repeated the story. When I told
the part about the bishop saying that Channel 13 announced that
I was taping the proceedings, Lavina said, "Janice, that is absolutely
not true. Shauna couldn't have said it because it is not true, and
Shauna wouldn't have said it, even if it were true, on the air during
a live broadcast because it would be unprofessional." When she said
that it struck me that the bishop had lied to me. "He lied to me?
He lied to me," I said again and again. I couldn't believe it. Then
Lavina shook my arm and said, "He was setting you up, Janice. He
was trying to trap you." Later she said that maybe the bishop didn't
know it was a lie, but someone was trying to trap me. I felt betrayed-
betrayed by lies and betrayed by a decision that refused to acknowledge
my integrity and responsibility. It was 4:30 a.m. when we got to
bed and I lay there for three hours before I fell asleep.
Two weeks later Bishop Hammond gave me the conditions and one
more restriction- I could no longer hold a church position. As I
had suspected the conditions required me to submit my writing and
speaking to supervision and censorship. Bishop Hammond specifically
told me that if I published "Him Shall Ye Hear" he would consider
it a violation of the conditions.
I wrote an open letter to Bishop Hammond in which I informed him
of some objections I had to the action taken against me and let
him know what my intentions were in regard to the conditions.
In this letter I wrote, "[I]t is unfair for you to place me on
formal probation and then impose all the restrictions on me which
are imposed for disfellowshipment...I feel that you decided to impose
formal probation on me to make your actions seem less harsh. However,
its effect on my live is exactly the same as being disfellowshiped."
One of the conditions stated, "You are asked to not publish or
speak in opposition to the doctrine of the Church as contained in
the four standard works or official statements of the First Presidency.
In regard to this I wrote:
Since you get to decide what opposes the doctrine of
the Church, complying with this condition to your satisfaction would
require me to accept close supervision and control of my writing
and speaking which would seriously infringe upon my freedom of speech.
I will not accept this....
I have no intention of speaking or publishing in opposition
to the doctrine of the Church as contained in the four standard
works or official statements of the First Presidency. However,
I can only speak and write according to my own understanding and
judgment and I acknowledge that I make mistakes and fall short
of what I hope to achieve. I do not regard anything I have written
or hope to write as any kind of final truth, but by speaking and
writing and listening and reading I hope to continually discover
and learn new truths.
Another condition stated, "You should refrain from clear and open
opposition and criticism of the church or its leaders." Concerning
this I wrote:
I am not in opposition to the Church or its leaders.
I claim and will use my right to disagree with ideas and dissent
from policies and practices. I will try to do this for the purpose
of building, not destroying the Church.
Concerning my intentions in regard to probation I wrote:
I will follow the restrictions which you have imposed
on me. Although I consider myself worthy of partaking of the sacrament
and serving in the temple and I would gladly serve in a Church position
or pray or speak in Church, I recognize your right as my ecclesiastical
leader to forbid me to do these things...
Now I must set some limits as to what I am able to do. I am
no longer able physically and emotionally to defend myself and
my ideas in an unequal arena where you have the power to judge
and punish but are unwilling or unable to engage in an honest
and open discussion of the ideas and issues...
In regard to the conditions, I have always been willing to talk
to you and have listened carefully to whatever counsel you have
given me. However, as I have always told you, I believe that I
am responsible to God and myself for what I do and I will always
try to do what I believe is right according to my best judgment
and the light I am able to receive from God. I do not recognize
your authority or the authority of any other person over my own
conscience in making my personal decisions.