David Twede is a fifth-generation Mormon who has been a member of the church in good standing. His website, MormonThink, raised the ire of some Mormon elders: his bishop and three Mormon church leaders contacted Twede and told him to “cease and desist.” The creepy part is that Twede did not use his surname on his website or blog, specifically because he wished to avoid dealing with any upset coreligionists.
Jamie Reno at The Daily Beast reports:
Twede says his bishop, stake president, and two church executives brought him into Florida Mormon church offices in Orlando and interrogated him for nearly an hour about his writings, telling him, “Cease and desist, Brother Twede.” […] Twede says that during the interrogation he felt “attacked, cornered, and very anxious.”
The four church leaders verbally chastised him, he says, for hiding his identity on MormonThink and his personal blog in order to avoid discipline. Twede, who writes using only his first name, says they kept asking him why he didn’t identify himself online if he had nothing to hide. “I told them I hide my name precisely because of things like this,” he says. “I said, ‘Look how fast you got to me.’ I know a lot of members don’t want their life disturbed. In the Mormon church, if you’re not part of the uniform group, you are ostracized.” […] Twede took down his blog in an effort to compromise with church leaders and even pulled some material off MormonThink. But he says it apparently didn’t change their view that he is an apostate. […] The Encyclopedia of Mormonism defines an apostate as someone who has “seriously contravened or ignored cardinal Church teachings.” […]
Twede asked church leaders how they came up with his name so fast after posting the articles. They wouldn’t tell him, but he says he’s since been told by a church insider that a contributor to the pro-Mormon Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research, many of whose members are professors at Brigham Young University, alerted church officials in Salt Lake City, who apparently informed his local ecclesiastical leaders. “When they interrogated me, they denied that they were on a witch hunt, but they kept asking me, ‘Who are the other individuals you work with on MormonThink?’” he says. “They continued demanding that I tell them. But I didn’t.” […]
Twede insists the church shouldn’t be allowed to act in this manner and quietly get away with it. “This encourages them to continue with others using similar tactics,” he says. “We prefer they act responsibly with those that dissent. We believe this article will in fact halt disciplinary action against me. However, my feelings about being part of this organization are changing rapidly. Even if they proceed, it will not be considerably harmful to me anymore.”
MormonThink is not a website solely devoted to being critical of Mitt Romney, but it is a popular site with disgruntled current and former Mormons who want to discuss what they perceive to be serious problems with the official Mormon historical narrative and policies. Twede has not been shy about expressing some opinions and sharing some information that the Mormon church probably finds embarrassing or uncomfortable.
Some articles Twede has written include The God of Mitt Romney: Why Do Some Claim He’s Not Christian?, A History of LDS Politics: Will “President Mitt” be “advised” by his prophet? and an article on polygamy which included a mention of Mitt Romney. (Twede has a special page dedicated to Romney as well.)
Apparently the elders were particularly offended by those first two articles, one of which questions Romney’s Christian bona fides, and the other which discusses the infamous White Horse Prophecy and questions whether Romney would be able to put the needs of the country above the demands of the Mormon church. (Yes, Americans had a similar debate when JFK, a Catholic, was running for President; some were concerned that Kennedy would defer to the Pope’s opinions when making political decisions. By all accounts, and as far as we know, he never did.)
Twede has also posted inflammatory comments that probably raised Mormon hackles, such as one stating that Mormons did not allow African Americans to hold priesthood positions until the late 1970s:
From its founding in 1830 to 1978, a decade after the civil rights movement and assassination of Martin Luther King, the LDS church refused to allow male members of African descent to hold priesthood authority.
LDS prophet & president Heber J. Grant visited Germany and urged the members to remain in country, get along, and not cause trouble. Grant had also evacuated all non-German Mormon missionaries within a year. By the next year, German LDS leaders were known to support anti-Semitism. German LDS leader Arthur Zander was a fervent member of the Nazi Party, even to the extent of affixing notices to the LDS church door stating “Jews not welcome”.
Even though Twede posts critical commentary about the Mormon church, he still feels as if being a Mormon is an important part of his identity and his family culture, especially as he has long-established and deep roots in the church. He would thus prefer not to be excommunicated. Jessica Ravitz at CNN reports:
Twede says on his personal blog that he was handed a letter, which he has posted online. The letter, which spells his name incorrectly, requests that he appear before a disciplinary council on September 30. It states that he is being considered for disciplinary action “including the possibility of disfellowshipment or excommunication, because you are reported to have been in apostasy.”
The church’s actions around Twede, who recently returned to the church after a long hiatus, has nothing to do with his politics, LDS Church spokesman Michael Purdy said in a statement: “It is patently false for someone to suggest they face Church discipline for having questions or for expressing a political view. The Church is an advocate of individual choice. It is a core tenet of our faith. Church discipline becomes necessary only in those rare occasions when an individual’s actions cannot be ignored while they claim to be in good standing with the Church. Every organization, whether religious or secular, must be able to define where its boundaries begin and end.”
The New York Times reported that it was Twede’s public admission that he was trying to sway the beliefs of others at church that got him into trouble. The Salt Lake Tribune said it was his sharing of details about sacred LDS temple ceremonies – disclosures that faithful Mormons find offensive – that raised concerns.
The LDS Church is staying mum.
It is also possible that Twede ran afoul of Mormon elders by discussing Mormon interest in politics. Officially, the Mormon church insists it remains non-partisan, “politically neutral” and un-involved, and that it does not endorse candidates or political platforms, but ABC News has reported that the Mormon church was pressuring Nevada Mormons to “speak with one voice” during the upcoming presidential election.
“Any Mormon would understand exactly what’s being said there,” Dartmouth religion professor Randall Balmer pointed out. “This is very thinly coded language.”
You don’t have to be a Mormon, actually, to interpret that as a strong message to vote for Mitt Romney.
As far as the Mormons not taking a position on political issues, there is probably a nicer way to say ‘that’s bullshit,” but why mince words? I’m pretty sure I remember the Mormons going all out in 2008 to ensure that California’s Proposition 8 passed, going as far as to pressure Mormons who did not live in California to donate generously. Prop. 8 sought to define marriage as between a man and a woman only (an odd position for a church with a history of — and several break-away splinter Mormon groups still practicing — polygamy).
It’s probably not the possibility of the IRS yanking away their tax exempt status that worries the Mormons, because, as we have discussed previously at Addicting Info, the IRS is inexcusably lax about actually enforcing its rule that religious institutions should stay out of politics or risk losing their tax-exempt status. Instead, the Mormons are likely more concerned about making Mitt Romney’s religion a major issue in this election, and about any tarnishing of their image.
A commenter at ExMormon.org calling himself or herself wittyname offers:
Exposing the church, its policies and they way they go about suppressing the truth takes a huge amount of polish off the apple. This dents their clean-cut, all-American, we-play-by-the-straight-and-narrow-rules image. This makes them out to be calculating, shrewd, cold thugs who seek to silence all truth that might tarnish the narrative they want to stick to. If that isn’t cultish, I don’t know what is. People reading [Twede’s] articles will have the ugly truth about the church juxtaposed with the clean cut, nice missionaries. I believe it will begin to turn the tide of opinion.
For the record, I have never heard of a modern Catholic being raked over the coals by the church for speaking out about truth and/or needed change, I have not heard of this in nearly any religion.
Interestingly enough, Park Romney (Mitt’s second cousin) also has a page at MormonThink:
Park Romney is the second cousin of presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Like most of Mitt’s family and extended family, Park Romney was raised a member of the LDS Church. He was an active member for most of his life obtaining the office of High Priest in the Mormon faith. He requested that his name be removed from the records of the church in 2004 after coming to believe that the LDS Church is not what it claims to be. Park’s father and Mitt’s (late) father are 1st cousins. That makes Mitt and Park 2nd cousins. They share the great grandfather, Miles Park Romney, in common. Mitt’s line comes from Miles Park’s 1st wife. Park’s line comes from Miles Park’s 2nd wife.