Excerpts from A Mormon Story, installment 2
Stephen Stone, RA President
August 5, 2012

The possibility of electing a Mormon president of the United States should motivate diligent voters to inform themselves about the LDS church, whether Mitt Romney wins or loses.

If he wins, his religious views will offer valuable insight into his likely priorities, perspective, and performance as president. If he loses, the electorate will understand, at least in part, why.

Since much of the LDS church's public persona is the product of image-makers in the church's employ (many of whom are naturally inclined to exaggerate some facts and ignore others), it falls to inquisitive Americans to sort out the truth for themselves.

Complicating the task are widely-circulated perceptions of the church offered by outsiders who may or may not have an objective view.

Neither source is entirely reliable.

To understand the church accurately, voters need to look beyond the simplistic doctrinal and cultural clichés that surround the LDS religion and examine the deep-seated traditions at the heart of the institutional church.

The following excerpts from A Mormon Story are factually accurate, as well as vital to understanding the nature of Mormonism. They describe the unlawful, decade-long persecution and intimidation of the Stone family at the hands of LDS church leaders, for standing up for their God-given rights rather than obey men.

Why stay in the church?
To most observers, the outrageous abuse the Stones had suffered to this point would raise the obvious question: "Why not just leave the church and save yourself further grief?"

To Steve, however — someone who has always sought to be a peacemaker, as well as a problem-solver — running from the foolish, cruel actions of the church was not a feasible option. No matter how poorly he was treated, he felt a duty to God to hold a mirror up to the church so it would be forced to learn some things about itself — while also using all the avenues available to him within the church to bring the controversy to an end — as a real-life test (as opposed to the artificial measures favored by the church) to gauge the church's very integrity.

He couldn't do these kinds of things if he voluntarily left the church before the controversy had fully played out.

Steve was also confident, due to his faith in God, that he could handle any trial he might encounter, and he wasn't about to cower in the face of ungodly cowardice by church officials. He certainly wasn't about to let the church force him out over his political work.

So he and his family decided to remain on their previous course as politically-active church members, and see where it all headed.

Among other things, they chose to do so because the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — as the very name suggests — is as much the province of the members as of God himself, and Steve thus felt he had a "shareholder" interest in exerting his personal influence to correct serious church excesses and errors, just as any righteous leader in the church might feel. At the same time, in exercising his divinely-given right to influence the direction of the church, he felt God's support and guidance, since the church was as much God's as any member's.

At least, that's what's the name of the church signifies — and that's what its voting provisions, its lay nature, and its ultimate basis as defined in its official canon (all of which Steve was well-versed in) have long been in place to ensure.

As things continued to intensify, Steve would occasionally remind himself that since the church was as much his as any other human being's, by the grace of God he was not going to let authoritarian bullies in the church's lay leadership intimidate him into quitting, on the one hand, or giving in to their control, on the other.

Other considerations

There were other considerations that help explain why Steve and his family didn't simply pull up "stakes" and join another denomination.

First — and foremost — is the fact that although Steve has never adopted the unscriptural, cultish, or inordinately controlling norms and traditions of "Mormonism" (so much so that he's long not even thought of himself as a "Mormon," which he says denotes a "cultural" devotee of Mormon myths), he still believes in the most basic message of the church.

According to the Book of Mormon, called the "keystone" of LDS teachings along with the Bible, the church's basic message is that all persons must "come unto Christ" with their "whole souls" — sacrificing unto Him a "broken heart and a contrite spirit" — and be spiritually "born again," thus becoming "new creatures" by the power of the Holy Ghost, if they want to be saved.

Following rebirth, the Book of Mormon teaches that the convert's sole duty thereafter is to "rely alone upon the merits of Christ, who is the author and finisher of their faith" (see Moroni 6:4 and 2 Ne. 31:19), in harmony with the following simple, yet all-encompassing, precept:
    For behold, again I say unto you that if ye will enter by the way, and receive the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do. Behold this is the doctrine of Christ. . . . (2 Ne 32:5-6)
This saving message appears repeatedly throughout the Book of Mormon with clarity and emphasis. While the Bible teaches the same fundamental message, the Book of Mormon teaches it with such plainness it is undeniable to a sincere seeker of truth.

The Book of Mormon also stresses that rebirth cannot be partial or pretended if the professed convert's offering of his soul is to be acceptable to Christ. It must be accompanied by "full purpose of heart"; it must be genuine and total. The Bible teaches such depth of conversion, likening it to the faith and sincerity of a little child (see Matt. 18:3-4) — but the Book of Mormon adds meaning to this standard of true conversion by repeating it over and over, in exquisite language, in a way that is impossible to ignore.

That is the central message of the LDS church — a message all but ignored in the church, and explained away by the sophistry of those who do not believe it is real or even possible.

To most Mormons, the doctrine of "rebirth" is redefined and gutted of its scriptural significance to mean an incremental process of "progression," rather than a miraculous, comprehensive, "mighty change of heart," as taught by the Book of Mormon — one that irreversibly alters a person's very nature and sets them firmly on the path to eternal life, establishing them immovably on the rock of Jesus Christ, from which they cannot fall if they are truly converted.

Such watered-down religion has no power to save — and is contrary to the clear teachings of both the Bible and the Book of Mormon.

It is because he appreciates the Book of Mormon's plain teachings regarding the need for salvation through "being born again" that Steve has been unwilling to voluntarily leave the church.

Additional considerations would include the fact that the LDS church is unusually family-oriented, and when someone leaves the church, they cause significant pain and difficulty for both immediate and extended family in all directions. Better to keep the family unit together as much as possible, Steve feels, and teach all within his influence to accept the saving "doctrine of Christ," as taught by both the Bible and the Book of Mormon, and thus be truly converted to the gospel.

Steve genuinely believes that no church can save — only Christ can save — and it will ultimately make little difference to God what denomination a person "belonged to" in life. In the judgment, all that will matter will be the quality of a person's conversion to Jesus Christ — that is, the quality of their heart and mind — and the way that person lived his or her life in the face of a million tests, temptations, challenges, and seeming contradictions.

There is also the fact that LDS culture has a deep, historic pioneer heritage, to which many American Mormons can trace their ancestry. The Stones have deep roots in that heritage, and their predecessors in the church were among the early settlers of the West. In fact, the great-grandfather of Steve's mother was Joseph Smith's bodyguard, Levi Roberts; and one of DeeAnn's pioneer ancestors was the keeper of Brigham Young's cattle, William George Davis.

These sorts of family and "genealogical" connections make leaving the church over needless persecution by ill-informed, errant leaders not necessarily a wise solution to presumably-temporary difficulty.

Above all, Steve and his family chose to stay in the church because they felt that's what God wanted them to do — just as they felt He led them to get involved in the national work of Alan Keyes.

Burned at the stake
Not willing to let the stake president's latest mischief go unchallenged, Steve again called the area authority he'd relied on before and protested this latest in a series of outrageous actions by the president.

Steve specifically asked if he might be given more than just three days to prepare his defense — especially since he had prior obligations (including a major meeting on Saturday of the state GOP Central Committee in far-away Ogden), and since he obviously had little time to contact and prepare any witnesses.

The area authority called the inept new presiding officer in the Area Presidency (cited earlier) — who knew little of the controversy — and the man denied Steve's request for additional time.

When the area authority called back to report this disappointing decision, he said he would come by the next day and deliver a letter written by the new presiding officer.

The letter — as it turned out — was signed by all three members of the Area Presidency. Dated January 31, 2002, it absolved the bishop and stake president of any misconduct — claiming, as its basis, that all members of the Stone family had been interviewed (an entirely false assertion), and as a result, it was determined there were no grounds for the family's charges.

The letter therefore "encouraged" Steve — in typical Mormon euphemistic style — to "cease making accusations" against his local leaders, and to "support" them.

It should be noted that Steve received this admonition belatedly, since he was already scheduled to be punished for ignoring the directive.

In addition to serious dishonesty and incompetence — and thus no basis — the letter showed incredible insensitivity to the long-suffering Stone family. It gave ill-motivated local leaders carte blanche to proceed to do whatever they pleased to the family, with impunity, including retaliate for being formally charged with wrongdoing.

Mockery of church discipline

After getting only three hours of sleep, Steve appeared at his 7 a.m. disciplinary council on February 3, 2002, for what turned out to be a twelve-hour kangaroo court — full of lies, irregularities, repeated false witness, slander, malicious actions, violations of church law, arbitrary decisions, and other indefensible behavior.

Since it was Mormons' monthly "Fast Sunday," neither Steve nor his accompanying family members (other than diabetic Siena) had anything to eat during the entire ordeal.

The stake president began by reading to the assembled "high council" of a dozen men the January 31 letter by the newest member of the Area Presidency, which he said absolved him and the bishop of the Stone family's allegations and gave them a green light to proceed to discipline Steve.

He said the charge against Steve was "repeatedly acting in clear, open, and deliberate public opposition to the Church and its leaders" — a surprise to Steve, since he had been discreet in keeping the problem confidential. The only people he'd discussed the problem with were other local leaders assigned by the bishop or stake president to talk with him about it, or other leaders routinely assigned to visit the family and take inventory of their needs and concerns (members called "home teachers" and "visiting teachers"), to whom the family privately appealed for help in persuading the bishop and stake president to sit down with the family and resolve the controversy.

The only exception was an occasion when Steve's local "high priest" leadership called him in and pressed him to know what was bothering him. After being grilled intensely, he told them in a sentence or two what had been going on.

Contrast Steve's discreet confidentiality with the behavior of the bishop and stake president — who made the conflict between them and the family PUBLIC KNOWLEDGE by opening their office doors on several occasions so others could overhear their threats against Steve; who stood before Steve's congregation and blamed him by name for causing the problem at hand; and who acted through numerous other local officers in a way that ensured an ever-widening circle of members who were aware of the bishop and president's slanderous misrepresentations against the Stone family.

To support his charge of "open opposition to the church and its leaders," the president had his clerk interview some of the people who were aware of the problem and translate their statements into formal "testimonies" against Steve, which were read as though they were valid evidence authored by the persons named. Steve learned afterward from some of those interviewed that what they actually said was not what was reported by the overly-aggressive stake clerk, who embellished their words.

Under church rules, an accused member is entitled to confront his accusers in person at his disciplinary council. In Steve's case, none of his accusers (many of whom had since moved away) were present in person for Steve to confront. Instead, he was left to challenge their written words, most of which were obviously inaccurate or exaggerated.

Steve pointed this out, and categorically denied the deceptive testimonies falsely offered as evidence of his "open opposition to the church." The president responded by saying that it would be "unfair" for Steve to challenge these written accounts, since those named as authoring them were not available to be questioned.

By way of sheer volume and emphasis, however, the most dominating evidence in the council centered in eight documents that concerned a comment Steve made in a "Sunday School class" in January 1998 regarding the innocence of little children — a comment based on the church's indisputable official doctrine. The teacher of the class threatened Steve with punishment for his comment, and enlisted the bishop thereafter in persecuting Steve. The current controversy literally began with that needless dispute.

The eight lengthy documents (which were read into the record — along with a decade-old letter from a former stake official, a very secular economics professor at BYU who disliked Steve's scriptural economic philosophy) were introduced as evidence by the bishop, who thought they would show Steve to be an apostate, when in reality they proved the bishop to be — to anyone familiar with the church's official doctrine.

Additional false witness came from the spoken words of the bishop himself, who testified that members of the Stone family were guilty of "deceit" for bearing their "testimonies" of Christ on Fast Sunday when he happened not to be present at the meeting (due to health or other problems). Steve called the accusation false and mean-spirited, since the family had paid no attention to whether the bishop was present or not when they got up to speak — as all members were invited to do — but spoke from their heart about the saving principles of the gospel as they understood them.

Not only was his characterization of the family incorrect, but the bishop couldn't possibly even know the truth of what he was claiming, since he wasn't there to witness the alleged "deceit" he testified about.

This perjury by the bishop was a defining moment that epitomized the self-evident malice and dishonesty with which he had repeatedly treated the family from the outset of this needless problem.

A shameful sham

The final three hours of the meeting required the Stones to sit alone out in the hall, while the stake presidency and high council deliberated. The family was greatly disturbed to hear raucous laughter repeatedly emanate from the high council chambers.

Finally, Steve was escorted back in and allowed to make a comprehensive statement. He did so — detailing what had been going on for the past year and a half to cause the Stone family to feel that they were being mistreated by representatives of the church.

Steve was then informed that he was, henceforth, disfellowshipped. The president then invited Steve to stay and partake of the "sacrament" — the main privilege of membership denied a disfellowshipped member. Steve told him that would, of course, be inappropriate, since he had just been disfellowshipped.

Steve sat stunned until nearly everyone had left the room. Having finally gotten to hear his side of the controversy in a cohesive manner, many of the high councilors acted ashamed as they walked past him (since they'd failed in their duty to ensure the meeting was fair). He shook no hands — with the exception of a sympathetic new high councilor (it was his first day on the job) who'd leaned over midway through the meeting and told Steve he wanted to help him, because the proceedings were clearly unfair.

The most unfair aspect of the fraudulent "disciplinary council" was that it blatantly violated Steve's right, under church law, to present his own defense during the consideration of evidence — rather than wait to make his case until after a decision had already been reached.

Steve was repeatedly told not to speak throughout the proceedings, and was resigned merely to dispute the endless false witness and slander offered as proof he was guilty of "repeatedly acting in clear, open, and deliberate public opposition to the Church and its leaders" — a catch-all phrase church leaders often use to punish and control members who are guilty of no obvious transgression.

To any fair-minded observer, it should be clear that without obvious, proven transgression by a member, church discipline is little more than a sham — one that discredits the church and its claim to God's authority to "bind in heaven what it binds on earth," something LDS scripture says must be accompanied by truth and righteousness to be valid (see D&C 82:10, 121:36, and 128:14).

This disturbing fact was revisited when Steve was later excommunicated over the same issues that led to his wrongful disfellowshipment.

The envelope, please

Several days after Steve's disfellowshipment, the family found a letter illegally placed in their mailbox without postage. It was from the stake president.

The message was a "letter of conditions" by which Steve might be reinstated to full fellowship — something the president was expected by standard protocol to provide anyone receiving serious discipline.

Such a letter following disciplinary action would inform the transgressor of what he or she needed to do to repent and return to fellowship. Because the letter would stipulate specifically what was required for repentance, the violation itself would be apparent — or at least implied — in the language of the letter.

The president's letter was therefore of great interest to the Stone family.

Containing mostly "boilerplate" language from the church's "Handbook of Instructions" — language addressed generically to any transgressor — the letter actually said very little. There were two notable exceptions.

The first was a stipulation that Steve and his family not talk about the church problem in the privacy of their home.

Since this stipulation was obviously unfair, intrusive, and unenforceable — even beyond the purview of any organization to require of a family — the requirement was moot. It meant nothing.

Not so the other stipulation, which centered in the family's work. The president's "letter of conditions" revealed that — despite appearances — the president disfellowshipped Steve solely for refusing to quit working for Alan Keyes.

Here's how the president revealed himself — in ways that are unmistakable.

"Meaningful employment"

Since church rules don't allow a person's lawful employment to serve as a basis for discipline, the Stone family's work for Alan Keyes came up only in passing during Steve's disciplinary council. The president carefully avoided the issue, even though it was the precipitating cause of the council.

Instead, the president focused on an all-encompassing charge of "opposition" to the church and its leaders — permitting him, in his mind, to punish Steve solely for disobeying church officials, no matter the object of the disobedience.

Unfortunately for the president, church protocol required him to be more specific in his letter of conditions — forcing his hand. A victim of his own deceit, the president proceeded to identify, in veiled words, the real cause of his punitive action against Steve.

After first citing "template" language from the "church handbook" in his letter to obfuscate his actions and intent, and after telling the family not to talk about him or the bishop in the privacy of their home, the president then stipulated what Steve specifically needed to do — as required by a letter of conditions — if Steve was to satisfy the president.

So he wrote, in words he thought vague enough to obscure his meaning beyond the family, that for Steve's disfellowshipment to be lifted, Steve must "seek meaningful employment," with a warning that refusal to do so would likely result in excommunication.

Of course, the only employment the family was then engaged in was working fulltime for Alan Keyes — something the president knew when the controversy began, and something he expressly confirmed just days before proceeding to punish Steve.

Foolishly, if the goal was to cover his actions, the president unwittingly provided the Stone family indisputable hard evidence that Steve was disfellowshipped specifically for refusing to quit his work for Alan Keyes. He cited no other significant conditions in the letter beyond the family's need to abandon their existing employment and find something more "meaningful" than working for Dr. Keyes.

The letter amounted to a still-warm "smoking gun."

It also amounted to clear evidence of serious violation of law by church officials, for their interference — sanctioned by the highest church authorities — with the Stones' political and employment rights.

Aside from the legal implications of the letter, the letter also dispelled any claim by the family's bishop that he merely "advised" the family to quit working for Alan Keyes — an obvious lie that amounted to perjury when the bishop asserted it before a tribunal of area authorities. "Advice" that is accompanied, first, by threats — and then by very real punishment — is not "advice," but compulsion, plain and simple.

"You won't obey your leaders"

After reading the president's "letter of conditions" — which obviously indicted the president and bishop for deceit, as well as unlawful behavior — Steve took his son Ethan to the president's house to discuss the letter.

Finding him home, Steve asked the president if the letter of conditions for reinstatement he wrote in fact constituted a letter of conditions for reinstatement — as it appeared to be.

The president denied it was, and said it was only "recommendations," even though the letter stated that if Steve refused to comply with them, he faced excommunication.

By now, it should be clear to any reader that the president enjoyed keeping Steve off balance and in the dark, and his words could never be taken as true on their face. It should also be clear that the president was rarely rational in his statements or behavior.

Regarding the president's denial that his letter of conditions amounted to actual terms for reinstatement — note that when the family and the president met together with the Area President a year later to discuss Steve's disfellowshipment, the president conceded what was obvious, after being pressed by Steve to admit it: the president's letter of conditions for reinstatement was in fact a letter of conditions for reinstatement.

What deviousness by a professed representative of Christ.

Knowing the president was lying in his home about something so undeniable — the nature and purpose of the president's letter — Steve asked him in that private conversation what "this whole controversy" that resulted in Steve's disfellowshipment was "all about."

Steve did so just after asking the president to define what "meaningful employment" was, and receiving an irrational answer about "digging ditches" — in contrast to the family's work for one of America's premier black leaders in the cause of preserving the republic.

The president's deadly-serious answer? "You won't obey your leaders."

Standing for something

At the annual ward conference that took place a few weeks later, all members of the Stone family — with the exception of Steve, who was no longer "in good standing" for his refusal to quit working for Alan Keyes — stood and cast votes against the bishop and stake president, when invited with the rest of the congregation to signify their approval or disapproval of these men.

Afterward, the family — including Steve — were interviewed by a counselor to the bishop, as well as the new high councilor who'd told Steve at his disciplinary council he wanted to help because the proceedings "weren't fair." After the interview, the high councilor promised to contact higher church authorities and pass on the Stones' account of their leaders' controlling, dishonest behavior. He later reported to the family that he was restrained from doing so by the stake president.

The significance of Steve's disfellowshipment
When a "Mormon" is disfellowshipped, the main punishment the person suffers, besides humiliation, is loss of the "sacrament" — that is, the "Lord's supper." The person is also prohibited from engaging in other routine activities such as attending the temple, "exercising priesthood," giving prayers in church meetings, etc. But the primary restriction is denial of the sacrament.

This loss is significant, since LDS scripture regards the sacrament as the central ritual of LDS worship.

The meaning of the sacrament

The Lord's supper is defined in the Book of Mormon as the means by which those converted to Jesus Christ "witness" to God that they "do always remember [Christ]" — which, if they can truthfully testify before God that they do, entitles them to "have [Christ's] Spirit to be with [them]." (See 3 Ne. 18:1-13.)

The sacrament thus has vital meaning to any true disciple who strives to live close enough to Jesus Christ to commune continually with His Spirit.

In LDS culture, the sacrament is widely viewed as a weekly opportunity to get momentarily closer to Christ by reflecting on His atonement during the ceremony — as well as a means by which members might "renew" their covenant of baptism (neither purpose being quite that emphasized in the Book of Mormon, but meaningful to Mormons nonetheless).

To any serious-minded, committed Christian — no matter their denomination — the sacrament of the Lord's supper has transcendent personal meaning that helps them stay true to their faith in Christ. It follows that nothing could be more devastating to a regular recipient of the sacrament than to be denied that privilege for no valid reason.

Prostitution of sacred things

In Steve's case, LDS church officials deliberately employed the sacred emblems of Christ's flesh and blood as tools of compulsion to coerce him and his family to give up their lawful rights. There's a word in the vernacular for such perversion of sacred things: prostitution.

Because the highest authorities of the church sanctioned local leaders' prostitution of things so sacred for such an ungodly purpose, the church itself is subject to valid questions regarding the legitimacy of its claim to be "Christian," let alone the only "true" church of God.

Such perversion of the symbols of Christ's redeeming sacrifice is of course the height of apostasy.

The church's 'Address to the World'
Now would be an appropriate time to examine the church's official position on members' right to choose their employment and their political pursuits, in light of the foregoing narrative.

In 1907, at a time when the church was under intense scrutiny over its reported continuation of polygamy in violation of law — and its reputation for being inordinately controlling, un-American, and unpatriotic — the church issued a landmark "Address to the World"3 to dispel the widespread criticism it was receiving.

At the center of the controversy was the U.S. Senate's refusal to seat Utah's first Mormon senator, apostle Reed Smoot, because he was a high leader in a religious organization widely believed to sanction the breaking of America's laws, and thought to disrespect America's most cherished institutions.

Issued just six weeks after the Senate voted to confirm Smoot, following four years of sensational public hearings that lampooned the church in the public mind, the Address was a serious attempt to salvage the church's long-disparaged public image.

Much of the indignant, lofty language of the Address — as might be expected from an organization weary of being constantly on the defensive — appears overstated, but that's not a significant criticism. On the whole, the Address amounts to a legitimate plea to the world to be fair and objective in assessing the church.

Taking for granted that the church published the Address in good faith, therefore — and sincerely intended to stand by its many assurances of fundamental decency, patriotism, and respect for law, as well as respect for the rights of its members — we have a serious incongruity. For, were the Address issued today, it would have to be considered fraudulent — intended to deflect and deceive, being deeply at odds with the truth in some of its most basic claims.

Very simply, the Address's favorable characterizations of the church institutionally, and its members culturally, are out of touch today with reality.

The disparity between what the church then professed to do in 1907 and what it does, and justifies, today is so pronounced, in fact, that the church has long shelved its "Address to the World" — rarely quoting from it and keeping it largely under wraps.

Yet at the time it was published, the Address was the single most important public relations statement in the church's history, and by its far-reaching significance still remains so, no matter its current de-emphasis in the church. The Address is no less important than the church's currently-emphasized "Proclamation to the World on the Family."

The fact that the 1907 "Address to the World" was adopted by unanimous vote in General Conference makes this position statement even more significant as a defining document of church commitment than the broadly-publicized "Proclamation on the Family," which has never been presented for a vote of the members. The Address is certainly no less important, and should be cited frequently by LDS teachers, leaders, and scholars in discussing what the church stands for, and stands behind.

Unfortunately, it is not given its due in Mormon lore. It has been all but cast aside.

Which we find symptomatic of the ever-controlling nature of the church's leadership in recent decades — culminating in the kind of unbelievable, but officially sanctioned and defended, mistreatment the Stone family has endured from all levels of the church leadership, as our narrative will increasingly bear out.

Were the church to remain true to its landmark 1907 "Address to the World," the long-running persecution of the Stone family for their employment and political choices would never have happened. Or if it happened, it would not still be going on as it is today. The Address wouldn't condone such treatment of a family over such silly things — were the Address still held up as central to LDS policy and guiding principle.

The Address's assurances

The most noteworthy assurance of the church's 1907 "Address to the World" is a bold claim that the church welcomes "enlightened" scrutiny of its doctrines and fundamental character, and thus is open to honest, good-faith investigation of all aspects of the church. The Address says unequivocally:
    [T]he charge that the Church . . . shuns enlightened investigation is contrary to reason and fact. Deceit and fraud in the perpetuation of any religion must end in failure. . . . Enlightened investigation is the very means through which the Church hopes to promote belief in her principles and extend the beneficent influence of her institutions. From the beginning, enlightened investigation has been the one thing she has sought. (p. 5, emphasis added).
For this bold invitation to truth-based investigation of the church to be meaningful and genuine — not just rhetorical — the church would need, of course, to institute internal policies that not only encourage it, but prevent punishing or discouraging any sincere truth-seeker who might wish to conduct a fair-minded examination of the church and submit their findings to a candid world.

Yet, a member of the church today who might undertake just such an examination and publish it widely risks excommunication for "apostasy," no matter the truth of his or her findings.

By any reasonable standard, if what is published is true — and is not privileged communication — its writer should be protected by the church, even encouraged, under the clear sentiments of its 1907 Address, in the interest of promoting the "enlightened investigation" the Address categorically invites.

Instead, any member who goes public with truth about the church that is significantly unflattering — bearing in mind that the church, like any institution, is prone to error, excess, and self-contradiction — is likely to be censured, even cut off from the church, by overly-sensitive church officials.

Not long ago, a high church authority summed up this defensive posture among church leaders when he said during a PBS broadcast spotlighting the church that "it's wrong to criticize leaders of the church, even if the criticism is true."

Since criticism of the church is unavoidably (or at least implicitly) criticism of its leaders, such an extreme notion — one without a basis in doctrine — would proscribe all honest assessment of the church by those who know it best: its members. (It would also prohibit all negative votes by members during "sustainings" — depriving them of their divine right to hold their leaders to account. More on that later.)

Such insulation of a virtual ruling class in the church from honest, open criticism repudiates, and makes fraudulent, the church's "Address to the World."

Certainly it discourages the kind of "enlightened investigation" — in terms both positive and negative — the church said in its Address was "the one thing [it] has sought" of those genuinely interested in understanding the church.

The church's oversensitivity to valid, honest criticism — well documented by many in and out of the church — reveals an inordinate desire by church authorities to "manage the church's image," or otherwise cover their personal or institutional sins — something absolutely prohibited by LDS doctrine. Christ is a God of Truth, not an advertising executive, and all who follow Him eschew mind control, manipulation, and illusion in favor of reality — in harmony with the refrain of a hymn adopted by Mormons: "Do what is right, let the consequence follow."

No matter the reason for the church's paranoia toward truthful criticism, the fact remains: any attempt to stifle truth-based examination of the church violates its official policy as published in its 1907 "Address to the World."

That said, let's look at two plain assurances in the Address that concern members' employment and political rights.

Choice of employment

One of the accusations the church seeks to dispel in its "Address to the World" is the belief that the church is a "menace to free institutions" — due to the perception that church leaders exercise "arbitrary power" over members.

To counter this perception, the Address assures the world:
    The charge that the Church . . . dictates its members in their industrial activities and relations, and aims at absolute domination in temporal affairs — all this we emphatically deny. That the church claims the right to counsel her members in temporal as well as spiritual matters is admitted. . . . [But] this has been done without the exercise of arbitrary power. . . .

    We deny the existence of arbitrary power in the Church; and this because its government is moral government purely, and its forces are applied through kindness, reason, and persuasion.

    . . . Church government . . . operates upon the principle of free will. . . . (pp. 8, 10, emphasis added)
What this assurance means is that the church's claim that it is not a menace to a free society (as the church was widely considered in 1907) hinges directly on whether the church interferes with members' choice of employment, the church itself concedes. That is the central context in which the existence of "arbitrary power" in the church is raised. (See pages 8 and 9 of the Address.)

In the case of the Stone family, who have been punished by local church leaders — with the express approval of high church authorities — for refusing to abandon their lawful employment, the church has not only exercised the kind of arbitrary power that gave the church the reputation of being a "menace" years ago, but has shown itself today still to be the kind of menace once widely thought.

At least the Stones would say so — given the long-running persecution they've suffered for more than a decade from all levels of the church hierarchy for refusing to quit working for Alan Keyes.

Given the facts in the Stones' case — not just at this point in the controversy, but from years of abuse that continue even now — the "Address to the World" would seem fraudulent regarding its denial of "arbitrary power."

Very clearly, the church hasn't lived up to its professed respect for the rights of its members in something so basic as choice of employment, as the Stones can attest. And the reader can be assured that the church's controlling behavior toward the Stones is not an isolated incident. Church leaders are given to believe that they know God's will by virtue of their callings — and this undoctrinal notion is a prescription for dictatorial behavior by leaders throughout the church, given the tendencies of human nature.

Individual political rights

After attempting to defuse criticism that it interferes with members' employment, the 1907 Address gives particular emphasis to dispelling the belief that the church controls members' political choices.

Declaring that "unquestionably, the 'Mormon' people [are] patriotic and loyal" (p. 11), the Address states,
    The overthrow of earthly governments; the union of church and state; domination of the state by the church; ecclesiastical interference with political freedom and rights of the citizen — all such things are contrary to the principles and policy of the Church, and directly at variance with the oft repeated declarations of its chief presiding authorities and of the Church itself. . . . (p. 13)
The Address then asserts,
    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints holds to the doctrine of . . . the noninterference of Church authority in political matters; and the absolute freedom and independence of the individual in the performance of his political duties. If, at any time, there has been conduct at variance with this doctrine, it has been in violation of the well settled principles and policy of the Church.

    We declare that from principle and policy, we favor . . . the absolute freedom of the individual from the domination of ecclesiastical authority in political affairs. (p. 14, emphasis added)
Nothing could be more clear on its face. The problem lies in the assurance's apparently fraudulent nature, if it is assumed to be relevant today. By repeatedly intimidating, punishing, and harassing the Stone family for their refusal to quit their lawful political work — and thereafter ignoring their pleas for an end to this ongoing abuse, expressed countless times through normal church procedure and protocol — the Church has blatantly violated its professed policy regarding members' "absolute freedom" to exercise their political rights, as though the policy didn't even exist.

As the record shows, the church has done so with reckless disregard for the God-given freedom of the Stones, and for the foundations of the American republic.

Because this behavior by the Church, in direct violation of its 1907 Address, has been unremitting in the face of earnest protestations by the family for more than a decade, it's reasonable to conclude that the Church's "oft repeated declarations" of non-interference with members' political rights are for public relations only, not meant to constrain Church leaders from interfering with those rights.

Furthermore, because the Church's threatening behavior severely damaged the 2008 presidential campaign of Alan Keyes, as we will show — effectively depriving American citizens of the opportunity to vote for this articulate conservative candidate — and because the Church has damaged the family's work in behalf of other candidates, the Church can justly be considered a threat to America's political institutions, as well as a violator of federal and state laws protecting citizens from such intrusion into their most basic rights as Americans.

Is the church "disloyal" to the most vital principles of the American republic? Yes — as we shall see in its increasingly abusive treatment of the Stones, emanating from the highest levels, and the effect of this abuse on their respected political work — work that triggered the harassment.

For the church to counter, as it does in its "Address to the World," that "If, at any time, there has been conduct at variance with this doctrine, it has been in violation of the well settled principles and policy of the Church," such words amount to empty rhetoric when the church utterly disregards the continual appeals for relief expressed by those whose rights are being abused. In the case of the Stones, the family has now suffered over eleven years of destructive abuse at the hands of the church, and the abuse continues!

When allegations of serious error by church leaders are repeatedly ignored, even punished — on the pretext that "it's wrong to criticize leaders of the church, even if the criticism is true" — the church cannot credibly claim to stand behind its lofty assurances regarding the political rights of its members.

The modern LDS church appears to view the 1907 Address as merely a strategic attempt at "damage control" necessitated by its early image — not a definitive statement of actual fact, or of genuine policy. The Church has shown that it actually has no policy of ensuring members' "absolute freedom . . . from domination of ecclesiastical authority in political affairs." It has only century-old, presumably fraudulent words claiming such.

This fact leaves the church open to valid claims that it is un-American for its cult-like control of its members — the same charge that existed when the 1907 "Address to the World" was issued, and the same tradition that still governs the church today.

They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. —Isaiah 40:31