Excerpts from A Mormon Story, installment 4
September 2, 2012
Stephen Stone, RA President

As America continues to delude itself that widespread disrespect for God and His laws is less relevant to our nation's strength and well-being than "jobs," we continue our presentation of excerpts from A Mormon Story.

This latest installment centers in the LDS church's disregard for its own rules — particularly its "Law of Common Consent" — and the mischief this lawlessness has done to the Stone family, and to their work for RenewAmerica and Alan Keyes.

At the heart of this mischief is the profound authoritarian tradition — termed by one LDS leader the church's "unwritten order" — that has long pervaded the church, in contravention of its undisputed official canon.

Read on.

Your vote is worth nothing
Although the controversy between the Mormon church and the Stephen Stone family was precipitated by the family's work for Alan Keyes — work that led directly to Stephen's disfellowshipment, and eventually his excommunication — the controversy grew to unthinkable proportions as a result of church leaders' disregard for the family's rights under the church's own rules and doctrines.

The church's incompetent, self-protective bureaucracy contributed inordinately to the controversy by refusing to follow church law and protocol in dealing with this unusual problem — raising serious questions about the integrity of the church, as well as its commitment to the most basic principles of self-governance upon which America was founded.

Foremost among the rules and doctrines ignored by church leaders has been the so-called "Law of Common Consent" — with its God-ordained right to vote during church proceedings, and attendant right to have that vote taken seriously, in a timely and competent way.

Because the church repeatedly disregarded the family's rights under this law, Stephen has been repeatedly threatened, intimidated, and punished for doing nothing but express his disapproval of local leaders' abusive behavior by voting against them, when invited, as was his right under the Law of Common Consent — followed by appealing to the presiding Brethren for relief when his votes were ignored in disrespect for that law, as church leaders (at every level) escalated their threats and intimidation.

Let's take a brief look at this law, and its role in the escalating controversy.

"The Law of Common Consent"

In LDS scripture, the "Law of Common Consent" is vital to establishing and preserving order in the Mormon church. The Doctrine & Covenants says:
    And all things shall be done by common consent in the church. . . . (D&C 26:2, emphasis added)

    [and]

    For all things must be done in order, and by common consent in the church, by the prayer of faith. (D&C 28:13, emphasis added)
An example of the Law of Common Consent in practice appears in Section 20 of the Doctrine & Covenants:
    No person is to be ordained to any office in this church, where there is a regularly organized branch of the same, without the vote of that church. (D&C 20:65, emphasis added).
In another equally-important passage, the Doctrine & Covenants says,
    Again I say unto you, that it shall not be given to any one to go forth to preach my gospel, or to build up my church, except he be ordained by some one who has authority, and it is known to the church that he has authority and has been regularly ordained by the heads of the church. (D&C 42:11, emphasis added)
These passages of LDS scripture suggest — at minimum — the following rights, protections, and protocols for members:
  1. As a rule, members (at least those "in good standing") should be permitted the uninfringed right to vote on any proposition presented to them before it is adopted by the church, if "all things [are to] be done by common consent."

    If voting members are in any way intimidated, interfered with, or penalized for exercising their right to vote their conscience, the Law of Common Consent does not exist in reality, an intolerable breach of church law.

  2. For a member to have authority to act legitimately in a calling, that person must first be accepted by a "vote of the church" (that is, a vote of those over whom the person will preside), in which those voting have the right to accept or reject the proposal.

    This protocol is required at least where "there is a regularly organized branch of the church." (D&C 20:66 makes provision to bypass this protocol where a vote would be impossible for lack of existing organization.)

    Exactly how the vote is to be interpreted by church officials is not specified in the scriptural record. There is no mention of a required threshold a proposal must meet to be adopted. Presumably, therefore, a vote must be unanimous to pass — or in the least, all those voting against the measure must be consulted in good faith by those having authority to judge the merits of their negative vote, so any relevant facts might come to light.

    We can conclude that the Law of Common Consent is thus mainly a way for church authorities to screen all persons, and all proposals, before they are officially accepted — to keep the church pure and strong.

  3. No member can rightfully function in a calling without first being "ordained" (or formally set apart) for that role by a person who himself has been "regularly ordained" under the above protocols.

    This unbroken chain of recognized authority is needed if "all things [are to] be done in order, and by common consent in the church."
Unfortunately, the church's statutory protocols under the "Law of Common Consent" have never been followed in the case of the Stone family. Had these protocols been respected and followed by presiding authorities, the current controversy would not even exist.

As the previous narrative describes in part one, when church officials began increasingly to intrude into the lawful affairs and prerogatives of the family, the Stones — after appealing to church leaders to stop their interference — began voting against those who had most abused the family, and who continued to do so.

They did this for lack of any other recourse under church protocol (since members are expected to deal solely with local leaders, and not contact high church authorities). Yet at no time was their voting given impartial review by appropriate church representatives to determine its validity.

The result has been interminable suffering for the family, and profound damage to their chosen work in the American political process — suffering and damage that still persists today, and which has culminated in extreme hardship for the family.

Here's how things played out, due to such sustained violation of the Law of Common Consent — following the stake president's renewed threat to Steve's membership, issued just days after his disfellowshipment was set aside by the First Presidency for lack of grounds.

For the sake of time, we will highlight only the most important incidents and issues that occurred from April 2003 onward, after the stake president began again intimidating and interfering with the Stone family — keeping in mind that the church's intrusion proved an ever-present distraction to the family's work, diminishing its effectiveness and costing the Stones valuable time and effort.

Incompetent stake clerk

Since their final meeting with the Area President ended with his decision that the family had the right to proceed to have the stake president and former bishop tried for their membership, if the family wished to go ahead — in harmony with what the family was originally told on July 31, 2001 — the Stones met with the new bishop shortly after this meeting to bring formal charges against the former bishop.

The Stones reminded the bishop that he'd been specifically assigned by the Area President to try his predecessor.

In response, the new bishop called the stake clerk, to find out what he'd written down when the Area President made this assignment. Because the bishop was sitting to the left of the man, and behind him when he leaned forward and told the Stones of his decision, the bishop said he hadn't heard the man's words distinctly and wanted the clerk to clarify things.

The clerk read him what he wrote, saying the Area President left the decision of whether to proceed up to the bishop.

In actuality, the Stones heard the Area President clearly assign the new bishop to proceed with a disciplinary council against the former bishop — and any reference to "conditions" left the matter up to the family, as was the case back in July 2001. That is what the Stones, who distinctly heard the man's words, recorded afterward.

This discrepancy between the presiding authority's actual words and the clerk's written record — bearing in mind that the clerk was also off to the side and behind the Area President when the decision was issued — disappointed the family. Not only had the clerk gotten the new bishop's assignment technically incorrect, but he entirely omitted any reference to the Area President's decision to have the stake president tried, in accordance with whatever procedure the First Presidency might designate.

As a result of this discrepancy, the new bishop said he didn't recall the part about the stake president and couldn't vouch for its accuracy when the Stones mentioned it.

In any case, the lack of accuracy in the clerk's record was not an ultimate impediment to proceeding — but it considerably slowed down the process. Rather than proceed in a timely way to have the former bishop tried, the family was forced to focus on persuading the new bishop of the merits of the family's charges against his predecessor. This took considerable effort on the part of the Stones, in large measure because a vocal counselor of the bishop strongly opposed going ahead, challenging everything the Stones alleged, due to his authoritarian views, even ridiculing the Stones at one point.

Adding to the difficulty of convincing the bishop to try his predecessor was the fact the new bishop traveled frequently with BYU's athletic teams, since we was employed by the university as a physical trainer. As often as they could — sometimes literally on the run — the family met with the bishop and presented an ongoing body of evidence and testimony against the previous ward leader.

Eventually, the bishop agreed to proceed — after a number of starts and stops in the discussions leading up to this decision. Getting to this point consumed many months of the Stones' limited time. Had the clerk made an accurate record of the Area President's words at the outset, the considerable time this took could have been spared.

The stake president's meddling

The Stones have evidence the stake president deliberately obstructed the disciplining of the former bishop, as well as that of himself.

This occurred on a number of occasions, as the ensuing months became years, effectively destroying the family's opportunity to have their local leaders disciplined and their abusive behavior ended.

Under church rules, a stake president is in charge of all church discipline in his stake, and notwithstanding the Area President's approval to have both the president and former bishop tried for their membership, the president repeatedly sabotaged that decision. (This illustrates what happens when the Law of Common Consent — meant to ensure order — is ignored.)

On one occasion, with the Stone family sitting in front of him, the president told the bishop to drop any plans he had to discipline the former bishop.

On another occasion, the president refused to release to the bishop some one-of-a-kind documents he possessed that the family had requested for use as evidence, including the Brethren's July 2001 decision approving a stake disciplinary council for the president and former bishop — with a counselor in the stake presidency presiding — should the Stones wish to proceed.

On still another occasion, the president persuaded a high church authority to send a letter to Steve advising him to drop the Stone family's charges against the president and former bishop.

On yet another, the president said he wanted to show Steve a second letter from the same high church authority absolving the president of the family's charges — and when Steve sat down to review the letter with him, the president refused to let him see it, and instead threatened Steve.

At one crucial juncture, the president ordered the stake clerk to expunge from the record the Area President's decision approving the bishop to try the previous bishop — destroying vital evidence in what had already become an unnecessarily convoluted controversy.

Repeatedly, there were indications the new bishop was caught between the assignment he was given by the Area President to try the former bishop "if he saw the need," after investigating the Stones' charges, and the manipulative demands of the stake president — complicating the Stone family's efforts to see the Area President's approvals implemented.

Nonetheless, by the time the bishop left the ward on January 1, 2006, he concluded that his predecessor in the bishopric was guilty as charged, and he told the family so — on at least four occasions during his last weeks as a "judge in Israel," as Mormon bishops are called.

A visit with the stake president's bishop

During one of the Stone family's early meetings with their bishop, Steve asked him if the Area President had yet informed him of the manner the First Presidency chose to have the stake president tried. The bishop said he was told that the president was assigned to be tried by his own bishop, and that the Stones needed to work through that low-level church official to arrange a disciplinary council.

This greatly frustrated the family, since the president's bishop was likely to be partial to the president, and unsympathetic toward the Stones.

That turned out to be the case.

Steve and Ethan soon met with the president's bishop to discuss the family's charges against the president and found him hostile toward them, as well as frivolous and insulting. He gave them no opportunity to explain their charges, saying he wasn't interested. Steve testified that the charges were true, and emphasized the family had ample witnesses and over a hundred documents of evidence to support their claims.

The bishop refused to listen, and made it obvious he was incapable of judging the matter impartially — as evidenced by a letter he wrote the family afterward indicating he had no serious intention of convening a disciplinary council.

The surprising resistance of the president's bishop suggested that the bishop — who soon afterward became one of the president's counselors in the stake presidency — had already been influenced by the president.

This is consistent with other indications the Stones saw — in the days and weeks following their April meeting with the Area President — that the stake president was successfully orchestrating his own escape from accountability. The Area President himself appeared to regret his April decision that the stake president merited a disciplinary council — a clear indication the stake president (to whom the presiding authority had been unduly friendly in the two hearings of those involved in the controversy) had talked the man out of allowing serious action to be taken against him.

The procedure of having the president's bishop — a close friend of the president who was understandably loyal to him — nominally assigned to investigate the Stones' charges and thereafter hold a disciplinary council for the president was an obvious sham intended to protect the president.

Among other things, it contradicted what the inept new member of the Area Presidency had earlier assured Steve: that any disciplinary council against the stake president would be held in a venue outside the stake, to ensure "impartiality," as required of disciplinary councils under church law (see D&C 102:16, 20).

Just as the stake president had done back in the fall of 2001 — shortly after he and the former bishop had been approved by the presiding Brethren to be tried for their membership — the man again lobbied his way out of well-deserved discipline by prevailing upon his file leaders to prejudge the matter, or at least prevent any possible chance the he would be forced to appear before an unbiased disciplinary council.

Months — then years — of compelling evidence

Knowing that the stake president was seemingly "untouchable" because of his behind-the-scenes manipulation of the situation — as he succeeded in persuading the Area President to let his stunning decision to have the stake president and former bishop tried for their membership simply fall apart for lack of cooperation by church officers — the Stones focused on persuading the new bishop that his assignment from the Area President took priority over the stake president's stonewalling and intransigence.

In so doing, their premise was that if they could make their case against the former bishop to the satisfaction of the new bishop, the stake president would implicitly be found culpable, unable to hide from discipline, and his mischief would end.

So for the sake of their important political work, and their desire to obtain some semblance of relief from the ongoing harassment they continued to suffer at the hands of the stake president and other church leaders, they provided the bishop a continuous stream of documents, testimony, appeals, and common-sense arguments in an effort to convince him that the former bishop was guilty of their charges against him — including his interference with their lawful political work, which precipitated the controversy.

Over many months, members of the family met with the bishop formally and informally to present evidence and make their case against his predecessor. On some occasions, the bishop was clearly becoming persuaded — no small feat for the Stone family, since the stake president directly and subtly sought to undercut their efforts behind the scenes, as was evidenced throughout.

At some point, the bishop finally brought the former bishop into his office to give him a chance to defend himself, and for whatever reason, the new bishop was satisfied that the man was telling the truth.

He therefore declared the process over — something he clearly did prematurely.

As Steve and other family members countered what the former bishop had told the new bishop — in ways that made it obvious the man had committed perjury, an excommunicable offense — the bishop resumed the task of gathering further evidence, including hearing two highly credible witnesses in the stake who testified in behalf of the Stones, and examining for himself the record at church headquarters in Salt Lake City of the 12-hour proceedings of Steve's disciplinary council, while he allowed the Stones to continue making their case.

He ultimately concluded the family had indeed "made their case" against the former bishop. He reached this judgment — in direct defiance of the stake president, who had insisted he drop the matter — during his last weeks as a bishop, in November and December 2005.

Because the president oversaw all discipline in the stake under church protocol, the bishop was otherwise powerless to enforce his findings.

There are many ways one could characterize the inherent contradictions and lack of checks and balances in such discipline of provable wrongdoing by church leaders, who obviously have been insulated from accountability throughout this controversy. But one of the most obvious would be official contempt for the church's Law of Common Consent, since that law is at the heart of the matter, and is meant to prevent such disorderly behavior.

Struggling with constant distraction
From the moment the Stone family first began voting against their local leaders in an effort to put an end to the church's mischief — only to see a long sequence of strange outcomes that served to insulate church leaders from accountability — they continued to vote their conscience at every opportunity, when invited to do so.

To them, it was their only recourse if the abusive mistreatment was to end.

It was also their divine right, under the church's Law of Common Consent.

Under church protocol, any member who votes negatively during routine "sustainings" is entitled to be interviewed soon afterward by a presiding church officer above those they have voted against. A person voted against cannot, himself, rightfully control, or interfere with, that process.

This reasonable procedure is essential to ensuring the kind of objectivity and impartiality required by church law in matters of discipline.

In addition, under the church's Law of Witnesses (see Moroni 6:7, Deut. 19:15, and 2 Cor. 13:1), if there is more than one member voting negatively against an individual, all those so voting are entitled to give testimony to support and explain their vote.

It is not appropriate to interview only one negative voter and assume their testimony and evidence against a person are identical to that of others voting negatively, or sufficient alone for evaluation. To do so is a clear violation of the Law of Witnesses.

Furthermore, church protocol requires any interviewing of those who have voted negatively to be private: interviews cannot be conducted within earshot of onlookers, and they certainly cannot be conducted in the presence of those voted against.

This is vital to prevent intimidating witnesses or suppressing evidence and testimony.

Yet —

At no time has the Stone family ever been interviewed by an appropriate church authority following their negative votes against their abusive local leaders — with one exception.

On that rare occasion, when a presiding church authority who was visiting a stake conference actually took the time to interview the family after their negative votes, he insisted on talking only with Steve — and only briefly. Although the man's kindness was appreciated by the family, he could not possibly appreciate the validity of the family's grievances against their local leaders in so limited a setting, and nothing positive or encouraging came of the encounter.

The man did nothing to help the family resolve the long-running problem.

On all other occasions, those the family voted against had a direct hand in assigning those designated to do the interviewing.

Most of the time, this meant the stake president picked two of his loyal subordinates to do the interviewing, and the results were predictable — as the interviewers contended openly with the Stone family over the truth of their claims, or showed themselves to be entirely partial toward those voted against.

On several of these occasions, interviewers degradingly insulted members of the family, calling them apostates for not "supporting" their errant leaders. The shocking disrespect and presumptuousness of those assigned by the stake president prevented any kind of appropriate due process.

On one particular occasion, a visiting low-level "area authority" refused to meet with the family and allowed the stake president instead to hand-pick two contentious interviewers — who proceeded to berate the family out in the open in a corner of the building, offering the family no privacy and no opportunity to make headway in resolving the controversy.

On another occasion, after a visiting area authority — an influential protégé of Mitt Romney at both Bain Capital and the Salt Lake Winter Olympics — refused to meet with the family or give them any respect, one of the biased interviewers from a meeting months earlier stepped up and pulled Steve's hand from the man's shoulder as Steve looked the visiting church officer in the face and politely requested fairness.

Such was the typical response the family received from overly-protective, even hostile, local and higher church representatives following their votes.

That doesn't sound like what the church's Law of Common Consent — or for that matter, its Law of Witnesses — was meant to ensure, but it certainly is understandable as a natural consequence of failure to respect church protocol from the outset, in the interest of resolving needless controversy.

No matter the inevitability of such behavior in a church that gives little emphasis to preserving order by adhering faithfully to its own Law of Common Consent, and in which members are taught they have a duty to "sustain," and thus obey, their leaders as a requirement of membership, the effect of such lawless conduct and cultural disorder was constant distraction — not to mention repeated humiliation — for the Stone family, while they pressed forward with their work of trying to preserve the American republic, never losing faith in God or hope in His power and promises.

Gubernatorial race

During these frustrating distractions, members of the Stone family were invited into the local County Commission chambers by a man whose political career Steve had helped launch years earlier (by writing his initial literature) and were asked to help this longtime friend with his campaign for governor. The commissioner said he was impressed with the family's work for Alan Keyes and wanted Steve and Stefani to create his website and be on his campaign staff.

Although the family ultimately opted to run the campaign of another gubernatorial candidate (the most outspokenly conservative of nine running as Republicans), the man who initially sought their help joined hands with the winning candidate, Jon Huntsman, as his Lt. Governor, and upon the appointment of Gov. Huntsman by President Obama to be U.S. Ambassador to China, became Utah's current governor.

Under the most horrific circumstances imaginable for a family unwilling to sacrifice their basic liberties to be left alone by the LDS church, the Stones began working for their chosen candidate in October 2002 — while Steve was still disfellowshipped — until May 2004. They devoted considerable energy to this demanding effort, while also keeping up with RenewAmerica and various projects for Alan Keyes' chief of staff.

Among the Keyes-related projects they undertook during this time was an intense effort to counter the American judiciary's assault on displays of the Ten Commandments in public buildings, public prayers by elected officials, and other lawful expressions of respect for God in the public arena. Keyes gave numerous speeches throughout the country defending these rights, and the family spent significant time publicizing them, as well as covering the activism of other well-known figures at the center of the controversy like former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore.

Throughout this period, they also represented their gubernatorial candidate as his personal staff in the state legislature, where he served as a state senator.

For Steve, his still-unrescinded disfellowshipment sapped him of much of his ability to function effectively during this time, and he was frequently exasperated that he was forced to perform his duties while so profoundly handicapped.

The church's cruelty took a toll on the campaign itself — in essence stealing from the candidate the focus and energy of his otherwise highly capable staff. After Steve's disfellowshipment was thrown out midway through the gubernatorial race, the stake president's renewed threats and intrusion perpetuated, and in many ways compounded, the stressful persecution this compulsive man had engaged in from the beginning.

Knowing the church's presiding leadership sanctioned the president's abusive conduct, even protected it, made matters all the more insufferable for the Stones.

Nonetheless, the family gave it their all.

As the campaign got under way, members of the family traveled frequently throughout the state with the candidate, representing him at numerous meet-the-candidate events and debates. A half-dozen times, Steve filled in for the candidate — whose extensive literature and positions Steve had authored — at some of these events when the candidate was required to be at others.

On those occasions when he was required to give a speech, Steve shared the stage (and the microphone) with the other candidates. (Ironically, some people in the audience came up afterward and said they'd vote for Steve if he was the candidate instead of just a "surrogate.")

During these eighteen months of intense campaigning, the Stone family regularly worked 16 and 18 hour days, handling everything for the candidate's campaign — from creating signs and brochures, to keeping an ongoing photographic record, to writing speeches and strategy, to handling logistics and set-up at events, to maintaining a uniquely comprehensive, substantive, and appealing website, and everything else the campaign required, including organizing volunteers.

It soon became obvious that this production influenced the other candidates' message and presentation — since the Stone-based campaign was launched well ahead of the others. They all appeared to vie to be perceived as the "most conservative."

At one event near the end of the process (just before the state GOP convention), the mother of Jon Huntsman told members of the Stone family their candidate was "telling it like it is" in ways the other candidates greatly appreciated and applauded.

As was their plan from the beginning, the Stones arranged for Alan Keyes to come to Utah in behalf of their candidate, whom Keyes had officially endorsed — to introduce him at the state convention in Salt Lake, as well as to keynote a reception for the candidate the night before at the Riverwoods at Provo.

The state's media reported that Keyes "stole the show" at the state convention with his 4½-minute rousing speech in defense of the traditional family.

Following Keyes' speech, which drew a standing ovation, Keyes — along with Steve and Stefani — talked outside the convention center with Utah's next governor, Jon Huntsman, and his wife Mary Kaye. After the Huntsmans left, Keyes confided to Steve and Stefani two interesting insights: first, he said he believed the events on 9/11 were symbolic of the way the U.S. might collapse as a free republic — abruptly and shockingly after sufficient warnings from God; and second, he said he believed God had "raised the people and culture of Utah to help save the U.S." by virtue of their commitment to God, family, and country — particularly constitutional principle.

As a footnote — at a Tea Party rally in front of the state capitol in April 2010, Utah's soon-to-be freshman U.S. senator, Mike Lee, told Steve he vividly remembered Keyes' speech at the 2004 convention, which Lee attended as a delegate, and said he was deeply moved by Keyes' stirring message.

Independence Day "Family Freedom Fair"

In the spring of 2004, a conservative activist proposed to the Stones that they sponsor a family centered all-day event on Monday, July 5, a holiday that year since Independence Day fell on a Sunday.

On the strength of the activist's assurances that he would do much of the legwork in putting together the complex event — which was to involve numerous educational, creative, entertaining, and patriotic booths, along with a continuous live outdoor musical program and several food vendors — the Stones agreed to proceed, realizing the Fourth of July was fast approaching.

They felt a truly family-friendly Independence Day celebration would benefit the community, and they signed on despite the press on their time and the ongoing threats and interference they were forced to endure at the hands of the LDS church.

As plans progressed, the Stones decided to add workshops, presentations, and speeches on the main floor of the McKay Events Center, which they chose for the event, billed as Utah Valley's "Family Freedom Fair."

Before proceeding, however, because of the difficulty and expense of staging such a major event virtually at the last minute, the family first persuaded the head of the Provo Freedom Festival to publicize the event, and treat it as part of the Festival's many holiday activities.

After the family secured the McKay Center and lined up many of the event's participants, the Freedom Festival disappointingly backed out, leaving the Stones with added burdens on their energies and resources as they scrambled to make their ambitious, but worthy undertaking a success. Not long before this disappointment, the activist who originally promised to help with the extensive logistics also backed out, as did the producer of a popular northern Utah patriotic pageant, who was slated to provide a musical drama.

Nonetheless, the family rounded up three dozen booth sponsors — ranging from children's music to conservative political organizations to homeschool curriculum publishers to puppet shows. Main floor workshops included patriotic writers, educators, performers, and recording artists, and a teenage "Constitution Bowl" contest.

As a special attraction, the Stones persuaded the Osmonds — Second Generation to perform several numbers, in addition to a panel discussion on the life and contributions of Ronald Reagan, a panel that included Reagan's national GOP chairman Dick Richards, former California Lt. Governor John Harmer, Utah Republican Party chairman Joe Cannon, and Alan Keyes.

Keyes delivered the keynote address that evening, sharing the program with national political activist Rev. Rick Scarborough, Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, and Alan Osmond of the original performing Osmonds.

To help publicize the event, which they were advertising through the state's conservative media, the Stones re-designed their float and entered it in the Provo Freedom Festival Parade, behind a large banner announcing Keyes' keynote address. The theme of the float was God-ordained marriage.

Difficult as it was to stage this multi-faceted event under unusually stressful circumstances, the Stones did as well as they could, and the event was a modest success.

Keyes-Obama U.S. Senate race

As the Stone family was immersed in a fundraising drive to make up a shortfall they experienced due to the limited success of their Family Freedom Fair, attended by many hundreds but not the thousands they expected, the Stones received word that Alan Keyes accepted an invitation from the Illinois Republican Party to be its nominee for the U.S. Senate against a little-known state senator named Barack Obama.

This was in early August 2004, just before Obama was catapulted by the media to stardom at the Democratic National Conventional on the basis of his well-received keynote speech, and less than three months before the election (following the resignation of the GOP's previous candidate over a scandal). At this point, Obama already had the endorsement of all the state's major media, as well as the support of the powerful Chicago Democratic machine.

Keyes told the media he chose to run against Obama because of the candidate's refusal to support the state's "Born Alive Infant Protection Act," which was designed to prevent the intentional killing of babies who survived botched abortions.

To be eligible to run (since he was from Maryland), Keyes took up a second residence in a nondescript upstairs tenement outside Chicago.

During the 87-day campaign, the Stone family created Keyes' website and maintained it daily — spending countless hours scouring the media for articles favorable (or at least fair) to Keyes, as well as reporting on the candidate's day-to-day speeches, events, appearances, and interviews, doing all this from the family's base in Utah as they were fed continual information by the campaign.

Daughter Stefani also kept them informed from the campaign's office in Chicago, where she worked throughout the race.

In their activities during the campaign, the family also did considerable research and fulfilled other needs to help keep the Keyes camp up to date, working directly under Keyes' chief of staff.

This period was extremely difficult for the family as they worked even harder and longer each day than usual to keep up with the considerable demands on their time, in a race that was severely stacked against Dr. Keyes from the moment he entered. Aggravating the entire process was the fact that the media rarely reported accurately anything Keyes said or did — exaggerating and distorting his words and deeds to make him appear foolish. Meanwhile, the media gave Obama a "free ride," as they say, behaving as his de facto communications arm, much as the media have arguably done throughout his presidency.

On election day, Keyes drew 27 percent against Obama's lion's share of the vote. Some have commented that had Keyes been able to challenge Obama from the beginning — rather than just at the end — he might have done quite well. Still, Obama's political machine in Illinois was not likely to lose, no matter the opponent, or the length of the race.

A side note:

During the last days of the campaign, Keyes' chief of staff asked the Stones to assist with a short video for use by the campaign, and as they were delivering the raw footage to their son-in-law in Eagle Mountain for editing, their small car hit a divider in a just-completed — but poorly designed — stretch of road in the dark, and they flew through the air, landing upright in the center of the island.

The accident totaled their car and injured DeeAnn. After an ambulance ride, she was treated at a nearby hospital by the brother of football great Steve Young — who like his brother Steve was at one time a quarterback at BYU, a fact that made the accident at least an interesting diversion, despite its unwelcome nature. The loss of the car and DeeAnn's minor, but painful injuries, took a lot out the family's exhausting efforts near the end the campaign.

To the Stones, of course, it was as though they didn't already have enough grief, given the challenges already described in this personal history.

The death of Terri Schiavo

Soon after the Keyes-Obama Senate race, Alan Keyes got immersed in the public debate over the value of the life of a severely handicapped woman named Terri Schiavo, who had been on a "feeding tube" in a hospice in Florida for several years.

Her husband — who was accused of causing her the serious brain injury that created her condition — wanted to pull her feeding tube and starve her to death, and he enlisted the legal skills of an attorney who was long-time advocate of euthanasia and a trustee of the hospice. In turn, they persuaded a corrupt local judge to condemn the woman to death, on the basis of "expert" testimony from euthanasia supporters who claimed she was "brain dead" — contradicting persuasive evidence to the contrary, including video of Terri responding to family members' kindnesses.

Terri's family fought a highly-publicized battle to block the judge's order to remove her feeding tube, and lost their fight on March 31, 2005, when Terri died a horrible death after two weeks of deliberate starvation and dehydration by hospice caregivers.

There was evidence she knew what was happening.

Believing this landmark case would set a precedent that spawned future incidents of forced euthanasia, Keyes, his chief of staff, and the Stone family spent countless hours seeking to preserve Terri's life — attracting substantial attention to their efforts. They worked tenaciously to counter the liberal media's campaign to portray Terri as a virtual vegetable who didn't deserve to live.

Terri's death left the Stones devastated, since they'd sacrificed extensive time and effort in her behalf, working with a legal representative of her family in doing so. They wished they could have done more to make a difference in the contentious — and heartless — public debate.

Barred from Stefani's wedding
As DeeAnn struggled throughout the above political work with the excruciating pain of stress-induced shingles — which she contracted just weeks after the stake president revived his obsessive threat to Steve's membership in May 2003 — a condition aggravated by the family's one-car accident; and as the family struggled with the depression and shame of watching America's judicial system kill a helpless handicapped woman, DeeAnn was looking forward to participating in the April 2005 wedding of her daughter Stefani to a career Air Force officer she met through the family's work for Alan Keyes.

DeeAnn was anxious to have some semblance of peace, and some degree of happiness for her family, on this special occasion.

Adding shocking insult, however, to already considerable injury, the church barred her and other family members from attending the couple's temple wedding.

The reason?

The family refused to "sustain" their abusive leaders when routinely asked to express their view of these men during periodic church voting, something they did solely in the hope of ending the abuse, as it was their only recourse.

Under the church's rules for attending temples, members are required to "sustain" all "general and local authorities" of the church, including bishops and stake presidents, in order to be considered "worthy" to enter these buildings where marriages "for eternity" and other ceremonies are performed.

If a member votes against a church leader, or simply refuses to vote in favor of a leader (that is, abstains from voting) — no matter the reason — the member can be denied a "temple recommend" and thus be barred from the temple, until he or she is willing to ignore their conscience, as well as their understanding of God's will, and vote to sustain that leader.

This ironically-labeled "temple worthiness" policy has no basis in church law or doctrine. In fact, it indisputably violates both, plainly disrespecting God's commandments as published in the LDS canon.

Interestingly, Stefani and her fiancé Chuck were granted recommends by their leaders in Alexandria, Virginia — allowing them to get married in the temple — even though they mentioned in their recommend interviews that they couldn't sustain the Stone family's leaders in Utah because of these men's mistreatment of the family. Their local leaders shrugged off this technical violation of church policy regarding sustaining, and gave them recommends.

Not so the Stones' stake president.

He gathered family members together in the bishop's office days before the wedding and told them he refused to let them attend because they refused to sustain him.

Without the president's approval, they couldn't go — even though the bishop told the family he considered them worthy and would sign their recommends.

Such cruelty by a man who has repeatedly tormented the Stone family since August 2000, deliberately causing them indescribable pain and suffering on the special occasion of daughter Stefani's wedding, would under the circumstances offer further grounds for NOT sustaining him, of course — not the reverse.

How could the man expect the family to give in to such outright extortion and willingly "support" him? As should be abundantly clear, the man was wholly unworthy of his office — at least the Stones believed him to be.

Despite the self-evident meanness of doing so, the president invoked the carefully-worded language of the recommend interview — which requires members to "sustain" their leaders in order to attend the temple, in contravention of church law — and denied the Stones temple recommends, saying the First Presidency had set the rules and he was just enforcing them.

Clever deception by the president

To prevent the kind of heartless insensitivity that ultimately kept them from attending Stefani and Chuck's temple wedding for no valid reason, the Stone family worked especially hard during the months before the wedding to resolve the longstanding controversy, now almost five years old.

They felt the best way to ensure their opportunity to attend was to prove their charges against the previous bishop. Such an outcome would vindicate their votes against their leaders — including the stake president — and make it all but impossible for presiding authorities to claim they were "unworthy" to attend the temple.

In the weeks leading up to the wedding, the family therefore redoubled their efforts to prove to the bishop their case against his predecessor. As the wedding approached, the bishop conceded their allegations against the man were valid and unassailable, and he supported their desire to go to the temple.

He made it clear he could not, in good conscience, justify barring the family from Stefani and Chuck's wedding.

It is important to note that just after the president told the Stones they were unworthy to attend the temple because they disapproved of his egregious mistreatment of the family, the president read them and the bishop a letter he claimed was from "the Brethren," which said "no basis exists on which to discipline [the former bishop] or [the stake president]" — and he instructed the bishop to drop the matter, saying, "This matter is closed."

Recognizing the letter's wording to be from a personal letter he received a year earlier from a church attorney who had interviewed the family — a man with no ecclesiastical duties or authority — Steve told the president he had misrepresented what he was reading, and said it was not a directive from church authorities at all. He then added, "President, have you ever been approved to be tried for your membership?"

The president got up indignantly and walked out the door.

As it turned out, when the president misrepresented the letter's origin to the bishop, he also deliberately omitted the part that emphasized the bishop's authority to make a decision or take action in the matter — since reading that would part would prevent him from telling the bishop to drop the matter.

This deception was just another example in the president's long history of perjury and dishonesty toward other church leaders, and of cruelty toward the Stones.

When Steve first called the attorney a year earlier after the above letter — addressed to Steve — arrived, the attorney told Steve on the phone that, in his judgment, the family's bishop was entitled to try his predecessor as assigned, and that if the bishop were to find the man guilty, that outcome would dramatically change the Church's position in this dispute.

We should emphasize — parenthetically — that the attorney's letter contains language conceding that the church took disciplinary action against Steve specifically for his political employment, and it attempts to justify that unlawful interference by falsely claiming the Stones were "unpaid."

Another smoking gun.

Urgent appeal to the First Presidency

With the approval of the family's supportive bishop, Steve contacted the Assistant Secretary to the First Presidency — the same man he had dealt with before — and asked him what could be done to enable the family to attend Stefani and Chuck's temple wedding.

This conversation took place April 6, 2005.

Steve told him the family's bishop had approved family members to attend the temple, saying they were worthy, but the stake president overruled him and wouldn't let them go because of their votes against the president. He asked the secretary to pass this information on to the First Presidency, and request that they consider allowing the family to attend the wedding out of simple fairness, on the strength of their bishop's support.

Steve added that the bishop considered the family's votes against their local leaders fully "valid," and told him the bishop would confirm this if the Assistant Secretary were to call him — a fact the bishop wanted Steve to assure the man.

He also said the bishop affirmed the family's "divine right," under the Law of Common Consent, to refuse to sustain those leaders who had severely mistreated them, and said the bishop told him it was "inappropriate" to punish the family for voting against these men.

This led to a 45-minute conversation in which the secretary revealed his lack of understanding of the issues in the controversy — culminating in the secretary's surprising assertion that "The First Presidency can do whatever it wants."

Steve reminded this influential employee of church headquarters that LDS doctrine plainly teaches otherwise, and pointed out that D&C 107:81-84 stresses that that no one in the church is above the laws and statutes of the church's canon in the "standard works" — including the First Presidency.

Steve said the notion that the "First Presidency can do whatever it wants" is an affront to God, and rather than foster order, fosters disorder, confusion, and lawlessness. He then suggested the man become more knowledgeable about the church's official canon — so he might be of greater help to the church's governing leadership.

In the course of the conversation, Steve noted that the president and former bishop had twice been approved "by the Brethren" to be tried for their membership. The secretary flatly denied this verifiable fact, saying, "You're wrong, Brother Stone. It never happened."

Steve described some of the details supporting this claim, and the secretary again denied what the family can readily prove through reliable witnesses, accusing Steve of making up this pivotal information. Steve concluded afterward that the man was either covering up, or simply ignorant — but either way, he was seriously incompetent.

He was also dishonest, and thus unreliable as a representative of the Brethren (wait till the reader hears what the man did several months later) — since if he in fact knew the truth of what had actually occurred regarding "high-up" approval of the local leaders for disciplinary councils, and denied that truth, he was deliberately bearing false witness.

If, on the other hand, he was simply ignorant of what had occurred, he was likewise bearing false witness — since he falsely claimed something he did not know. That's seriously dishonest, as well as callous, considering the implications for the Stones.

Either way, again, he was incompetent to deal with so difficult a matter.

Steve checked back a day or two later and asked the Assistant Secretary if he had passed on his and the bishop's request to the First Presidency that the family be permitted to go to Stefani and Chuck's wedding. He said, "No."

Indescribable anguish

On April 9, 2005, Stefani and Chuck were married in the Salt Lake Temple, while the Stone family sat waiting for hours in an out-of-the-way corner of the church's "Visitor's Center" on Temple Square.

It was one of the most painful days in the life of the Stone family — who were denied recommends for no unworthiness on their part.

As is well known, the church places great emphasis on the importance of families, and on "eternal" principles, but in the Stone family's case, the church all but destroyed a very sacred occasion that was meant to emphasize these very values. The contradiction was deeply hurtful to everyone in the family, including Stefani and Chuck.

It revealed the church was more concerned with controlling members than ensuring their eternal happiness.

That day, Steve resolved that he would never again let the church do such a thing to his family, if he had anything to say about it. This deeply-felt commitment led to his eventual excommunication — which was triggered by his sincere efforts to persuade new local leadership to allow the family to attend the temple wedding of another daughter, Abbey, in 2009.
 


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