Friday, April 15, 2016

Not all excommunications are alike....

With the announcement on Facebook that Letter to a CES Director (often simply called the CES Letter) author Jeremy Runnells will be summoned (for the third time) for a disciplinary council, the LDS Community is reminded of the councils of the September Six in the early 1990's, Margaret Toscano in 2000, Denver Snuffer in 2013, Kate Kelly in 2014, and John Dehlin in 2015 (perhaps the church wants to excommunicate one big name per year, I kid). While it is common as Hume pointed out in his Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding to associate ideas without carefully analyzing the difference, I will not make that mistake that it seems many are making.

Very few people want people driven from the church. Apart from being just a place of shared belief, the church is also a heritage for many. Most of those mentioned (with the notable exception of Snuffer) were raised in the LDS community and would prefer that their links to it not be severed. This is understandable. There are few relationships that last for long, and the LDS Church hopes that certain relationships can transcend this life. Some, if not most or all, of those mentioned had hoped that their viewpoint could transcend the line between disagreement and open rebellion. Fortunately, it did not.

There is a difference between fighting against something and disagreeing with something. I disagree with the church's policy on blacks until 1978; but I am not fighting against the church about it. Why? First, the Church has reversed the policy, so I and my ancestors can receive the blessings of the gospel. Second, I know that while the restriction was a racist one, it does not mean that those in the Church now are racists (or that everyone during the time of the ban was). Third, I realize that progress is like biological evolution; it takes a very long time and is a painful process. So while I understand there is a long way to go on this and other issues, I am confident we can get there (even if it is frustrating to watch). Fourth, most importantly I believe in the central doctrines of the Church, so the things that I criticize about the church are more synthetic than fundamental.

This is not the case for Mr. Runnells. Not only is he fighting against the church with no original arguments (see Brian Hales cite countering the letter here), he is also making a publicity stunt out of it. Also Runnells, like Kelly and Dehlin, is not a believer in any sense, which he acknowledges in his book. To put it simply, if Runnells is excommunicated, his life won't change at all; except he will be a little less famous.

To compare Runnells, Dehlin, and Kelly with the Septemeber Six and others is to commit the logical fallacy of false equivalence. Some of the September Six have come back to the Church and are active members (Avraham Gileadi and Maxine Hanks). Most of them were scholars who made original arguments and helped the Church in the long run (Gileadi, Toscano, Quinn). And all of them at the time of excommunication were believers. Runnells is none of these things.

No organization, especially a church, has a reason to keep someone around when it abundantly clear that they don't want to be. Certainly they should not keep people around who only want to use their image as a Church member to gain credibility they really do not have. If Runnells were a sincere person, he would resign and save himself and his leaders the hours dedicated to a formal hearing. However, since he is a prima donna, he will milk this for all he its worth.

A final note about something that has circulated for far too long, namely the council itself. Disciplinary councils are not the the Gulag or the Khemer Rouge; they are meetings to decipher sin and sincerity. No one is tortured, no is forced to go. Questions are asked, decisions are made, perhaps incorrect ones at times. But so far, everyone that I am aware of has come out with their life and safety intact; I cannot say that of the other two organisations.

There is my two cents. Feel free to comment.

2 comments:

  1. I really do like this post. I will have to back track and research what you have talked about. You realize that in Alabama, I am not going to know that much that makes the headlines in Utah. I certainly agree with your last paragraph. Maybe the ones being excommunicated really do believe in outer darkness and might worry?

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  2. I really do like this post. I will have to back track and research what you have talked about. You realize that in Alabama, I am not going to know that much that makes the headlines in Utah. I certainly agree with your last paragraph. Maybe the ones being excommunicated really do believe in outer darkness and might worry?

    ReplyDelete