Excerpts from A Mormon Story, installment 7
October 15, 2012
Stephen Stone, RA President

The Stone family's degrading treatment at the hands of the LDS church bureaucracy continues with installment 7 of A Mormon Story, which reveals the obstinance — coupled with ignorant bigotry — with which the LDS church leadership continued to abuse the family and interfered with their political work, as well as the family's happiness.

Has anyone ever seen anything so nutty as what follows?

Read on.

Rubbing salt in the wound
As one of the dozen local church officials in the room when the stake president accused Steve and Ethan of apostasy for voting against their errant leaders, the last bishop felt compelled to mimic the president, and he leveled the same charge against them several weeks later.

Unlike the president, however, he made his accusation public.

He did so while conducting one of his perfunctory interviews following Steve and Ethan's negative votes during sustainings — votes cast for no other reason than to appeal for an end to the church's persecution.

After condemning the Stones for "voting against nice people in the ward" (when they again reiterated that they were voting only to express their view that the bishop and stake president lacked authority to preside — having not been properly sustained for lack of appropriate review), the bishop pronounced Steve and Ethan "apostates" for exercising their right to vote their conscience — parroting what he'd heard the stake president declare in November 2006.

He did so in an overflow part of the chapel, with dozens of people sitting just feet away on the other side of an accordion-style divider that offered no privacy.

This was where the bishop usually chose to interview family members after their votes — having done so a half-dozen times previously, in disregard for church guidelines that call for confidentiality.

This time, he condemned Steve and Ethan within earshot of several people sitting in the back pews waiting for the next meeting to start. He then walked off to his office, ignoring Steve's shocked protestations.

Feeling publicly slandered, Steve followed the bishop into his office and asked him if he appreciated what he had just done: openly accusing Steve and Ethan of apostasy.

With his door wide open, the bishop repeated his charge, and then walked out — reiterating his slanderous accusation as he walked past a group of onlookers.

As the bishop walked down the hall, Steve remained outside his office and — feeling the need to explain the humiliating spectacle to onlookers, including the bishop's wife and a few personal friends — described the nature of the ongoing controversy that had triggered the bishop's open slander, feeling he had no other choice if he was to protect himself from such public degradation.

He especially stressed to the bishop's wife that the man had violated the Stone family's lawful rights by perpetuating and escalating the church's interference with their political work — work church leaders used as a pretext for persecuting the family.

The stake president's ominous letter

A few days later, Steve received a letter from the stake president ominously threatening him with punishment for "disobeying the counsel" he'd received in the meeting of the local dozen.

The letter — dated January 23, 2007 — advised Steve to seek counseling to deal with his growing frustrations, or suffer the consequences.

Not one to miss a golden opportunity (to paraphrase a famous quip by Rahm Immanuel), Steve got on the phone the next day and called the church's two professional counseling centers: LDS Social Services and BYU's Comprehensive Clinic. In both instances, he asked to speak with the director — and succeeded in talking with either the head of the organization or someone else high up.

In both calls, Steve told the high-level church professional that he'd been asked by his stake president to seek counseling.

They asked why.

Steve told them he refused to quit working for Alan Keyes, and thereafter was harassed and intimidated by his stake president for "refusing to obey" his leaders.

Steve gave the two men on the other end of the conversation enough detail that they could appreciate the kind of hell the Stone family had endured for seven years (by that point) at the hands of the stake president.

Their response?

"You don't need counseling."

But do you know who they both agreed just might? They both concurred the stake president would do well to pay them a visit.

Ethan still "an apostate"?

A couple of months later — as Steve continued to lay the groundwork for Alan Keyes' presidential campaign under intolerable circumstances — DeeAnn was called by the bishop to serve as Primary Music Director (which would involve teaching songs to the ward's small children, something she did until 2000, when she was released in retaliation for standing with her husband as the problem with the church was unfolding).

Under church directives, a husband is normally interviewed with his wife when either is given a calling, so the bishop scheduled DeeAnn and Steve to meet with him. Steve agreed on condition that he be permitted not to comment — since he didn't want to get into a confrontation with the bishop.

DeeAnn and the bishop talked a few minutes — with the bishop asking if she felt worthy to accept the calling he proposed, and DeeAnn saying she did, but adding she thought the stake president might feel otherwise.

DeeAnn then turned to Steve, feeling constrained to do so, and asked if he had anything to say.

Steve said he didn't feel it was appropriate to expect DeeAnn to accept a calling under the circumstances that existed between the family and the church, and he said the church problem needed to be resolved in good faith first — so DeeAnn could serve wholeheartedly.

He then asked the bishop if he still felt Ethan was an "apostate," as he'd accused him of being earlier.

The man said, "Yes."

Steve asked why.

The man said, "Because the stake president said he is — for his voting."

Steve then emphasized that Ethan had the right to vote his conscience under the Law of Common Consent, and that so voting could not be considered "apostasy" under church doctrine, according to the standard works.

The bishop said he disagreed.

Steve then asked him if he understood that a charge of apostasy requires excommunication, under church rules — and then pressed the man to give some idea of when he and the stake president planned to convene a disciplinary against Ethan for that purpose.

He indicated he hadn't thought any of this through.

With that, Steve and DeeAnn left.

In the intervening months, Steve and Ethan continued to vote against the right of the bishop and stake president to propose matters for a sustaining vote — and their votes were repeatedly ignored. This gave them little reason to attend church, since the main reason they went had long become to vote — in the hope of obtaining some kind of relief.

Also, as the Keyes campaign began increasingly to come together, they were both frequently on the road assisting Alan, and were thus often absent from the local ward.

As their work multiplied, the press of the campaign, and the deteriorating situation with their local leaders, persuaded them to avoid the distraction of encountering these insensitive men at church, so they would simply stay home — in order to keep their focus.

This pattern continued throughout most of the campaign, after Alan announced in September 2007.

Enamored of power

On one occasion when Steve was attending his ward during the presidential campaign — January 20, 2008 — the stake president invited the Stone family to meet with him in his office. He said he wanted to talk about the family's participation in the Iowa caucuses, held earlier that month.

The president sat on his desk and marveled "how great" it must have been to meet the various presidential candidates. His attitude and demeanor was one of undue fascination with ambitious, powerful individuals — not respect for our nation's political process.

The family agreed afterward that the president tried to flatter them by focusing on their association with famous figures. He didn't mention Alan Keyes.

He then asked Steve "what experiences" he had in the Iowa caucuses. Steve responded that the Iowa GOP refused to release the number of votes Keyes received in the balloting — as though he weren't running — and said this outcome was directly due to the stake president.

He said that because the president had frivolously threatened him and Ethan in November 2006 and January 2007 with excommunication (saying they were guilty of apostasy), and therefore forced Steve to spend weeks preparing a defense — including paperwork for a possible lawsuit against the president — the family was weeks behind when Keyes publicly announced.

As a result — Steve said — the Michigan GOP excluded Keyes from its ballot, claiming he was "three days too late in announcing," and in turn MSNBC excluded him from the televised Michigan debate, "because he wasn't on the Michigan ballot." The result was a chain of exclusions by other states and networks that virtually destroyed the Keyes campaign.

Steve stressed that the president's groundless threats coincided with Alan's initial decision to run (threats made November 12, 2006, the day after Alan indicated to close friends his intentions; and January 23, 2007 — in a letter — the day after Keyes formally asked Steve to oversee the campaign), and he said he was severely distracted in his work of setting up the campaign.

He noted that because the president threatened him and Ethan specifically for their votes against him and his actions, the president's threats amounted to apostasy on his part — since they had a divine right to vote against him under the Law of Common Consent.

Steve added he was still considering taking legal action against him for intimidation that was "imprisonable" under state statutes.

The president responded by ignoring what Steve told him and asked if there wasn't some positive thing the family experienced. Steve said, "You weren't listening."

He emphasized again that the man's interference with the family's work had severely damaged the Keyes campaign — saying it was illegal and wrong, and not something to take lightly, as the president was doing.

DeeAnn then confirmed the chain of actions set in motion by the stake president that disadvantaged Keyes that election, and the meeting ended.

The death of President Hinckley

Just before Alan Keyes publicly announced his split with the Republican Party in April 2008, the long-time president of the LDS church — Gordon B. Hinckley — passed away, leaving Thomas S. Monson to succeed him.

Because the Keyes 2008 campaign had suffered irreparable damage due to the meddling of the church over so many years — and due especially to the distracting threat of excommunication leveled by the stake president at Steve and Ethan just as the campaign was coming together under Steve's efforts (and reiterated by the president and bishop in the months afterward) — Steve could not let the leadership of the church change hands without registering his disgust with the church's unlawful intrusion into the family's work and political affairs.

He was especially disappointed in the First Presidency's October 8, 2002, recommendation — signed by all members of the presidency at the time, including Thomas S. Monson — that Steve be punished indefinitely for refusing to sustain those church leaders who had most harmed the family and its political endeavors, a letter based on a demonstrably false tradition at odds with the church's Law of Common Consent.

This change of the president of the church required Steve either to "sustain" the new man or vote against him. He chose the latter — feeling a duty to God, his family, and his country to do so.

He did so discretely — writing up a detailed letter of grievances against President Monson and sending it to the Office of the First Presidency during the April 2008 General Conference. He felt it was his duty to vote his conscience in the matter after so many years of mistreatment of his family by local and high church leaders acting with the express approval of the First Presidency.

He also did so aware that LDS scripture does not forbid or enjoin such voting by members in good standing against any church leader — no matter his office — and in fact (as already cited) makes provision for even the president of the church to be tried of his membership in the event of proven violation of the laws of the church.

As D&C 107:81-84 plainly states —
    There is not any person belonging to the church who is exempt from this council of the church.

    And inasmuch as a President of the High Priesthood shall transgress, he shall be had in remembrance before the common council of the church, who shall be assisted by twelve counselors of the High Priesthood;

    And their decision upon his head shall be an end of controversy concerning him.

    Thus, none shall be exempted from the justice and the laws of God, that all things may be done in order and in solemnity before him, according to truth and righteousness. (emphasis added)
So Steve took valuable time he needed to spend preparing for Alan's appearance at the Constitution Party Convention writing the above letter of grievances. He did so in the hope of ending — once and for all — the church's intolerable mistreatment of the Stones and interference with their political work, praying President Monson would be moved to put a stop to the mischief, in turn permitting the Stones, for the first time in nearly a decade, to focus their considerable energies on assisting Keyes without deliberate distraction from the church.

As a result, a vital proposal the Keyes campaign was drafting for the convention never got completed in a timely manner, and the campaign submitted it on the run, with disastrous results.

Among the disastrous results was President Monson's rejection of Steve's entreaty for fairness, and his later refusal to overturn Steve's excommunication for his efforts to end this unnecessary controversy, a year and a half later.

Another wedding nightmare
With Alan Keyes' candidacy in the Republican primaries over, and his interest in the Constitution Party nullified by the shenanigans of its founder at its national convention, the Stones went back to a project they'd pretty much put on hold for a decade: finishing a home they started building years ago on their small farm in Utah.

They continued to maintain RenewAmerica, of course, but turned much of their time and attention to finishing their house, which they'd designed themselves.

The structure had long been framed (except for a few interior details) — but still needed to be wired, plumbed, ducted, insulated, and sheetrocked. The main floor also needed repair, due to weathering years earlier before the roof was completed.

We should point out that any spare time the Stones otherwise would have had over the years to spend on their home went to protecting themselves from the LDS church's unending harassment. Steve conservatively estimates the church's interference with their lives and work cost the family at least a thousand hours of productivity a year — often far more.

In addition to resuming construction of their farm home, they also revived their prior efforts — dating back to the late nineties — to sell their Provo home so they would have the funds to finish their uncompleted house.

To bring their "dream home" to fruition, they renewed its building permit — and also undertook with a Provo neighbor to combine their lots and subdivide them for development under one of the city's creative zoning options, so the Stones might finally sell their Provo home, which zoning limitations had made difficult to sell.

With their farm home significantly on its way to completion on a limited budget, they unfortunately ran into difficulty dealing with city officials over their Provo development plan — which they ultimately abandoned after considerable investment. Instead, they sold their Provo home for much less than its value — and after getting out of debt, used the remaining funds to buy up all the materials needed to finish their farm house.

The family finally moved in this summer — after getting final approvals.

The industrious, independent-minded Stones estimate their total cost of construction over the years — including their 11-acre farm — comes to a little more than $60,000.

That low figure is due to four things: (1) they designed, built, and finished the home entirely themselves as a "family project" (except for the siding, which they contracted out); (2) they worked for three years after buying their farm to get the zone changed, so they could build in the highly-unpopular 40-acre zone that existed at the time; (3) after suing the county (without an attorney) and getting an illegal frontage requirement rescinded, they sold off five acres of their original 16 (at farm-land prices) to give them the means to get their home started; and (4) they paid $1,000 for the right to help demolish a commercial structure built in the sixties, and this gave them a large quantity of select-grade 2 by 6's (many 20 feet long) with which to frame the entire exterior of the large home, enough 1- inch plywood to cover the main floor, plenty of 2 by 4's and plywood for building the concrete forms of the unusual foundation, numerous 4 by 6's for framing the solarium, and countless other useful materials.

On paper, the amount they received from the sale of the five-acre parcel came almost exactly to what they'd paid for both their 16-acre farm and their half-acre property in Provo — meaning they ultimately got both properties for free.

It's worth noting that the zone change Steve successfully pursued opened up development countywide — allowing farmers to regain property rights taken from them years earlier by the county without "just compensation," enabling their children to build homes nearby. Before the zone change, a farmer needed 80 acres in order to divide off just one "zoning lot" for a family member to build on. After the change — which created a five-acre zone in the unincorporated county — the farmer needed only 10 acres to do so.

The zone change also led to the creation of the third-largest city in the state (in terms of land mass): fast-growing Eagle Mountain, a major planned community between Salt Lake and Provo.

We cite these facts to flesh in the backdrop for the Stones' independent-minded political activism, and the material frustrations they felt as the LDS church persisted in interfering with them.

Abbey's engagement

As the family worked on selling their Provo home and finishing their farm house, Abbey announced that she and longtime family friend Andy McFadden were planning to get married in the temple on July 31, 2009. This announcement took place in mid-April.

Having vowed that the church's cruel destruction of the family's happiness at the time of Stefani and Chuck's wedding would not happen again, Steve undertook a sincere, heightened effort to persuade the church to drop its continuing abuse of the family — so family members might be permitted to attend the wedding.

As stressed earlier, the Stones were prevented from attending the temple wedding of Stefani and Chuck in April 2005 not for any unworthiness, but for their votes of opposition to those leaders who persisted in intimidating and harassing the family and damaging its political work.

Because they specifically refused to "sustain" the stake president, he refused to sign their "recommend" — even though their supportive bishop agreed to let them go, saying he considered them worthy.

This time around, Steve wanted to do everything possible to avoid such a demoralizing outcome.

Discreet website

Since local leaders, especially the "last" bishop, had been unwilling even to listen to the family's grievances against the church — and since correspondence with high church officials created a mountain of paperwork their staffers most likely just filed away — Steve decided several months earlier to put together a strictly private, confidential website intended to share vital facts, evidence, testimony, and documents with the First Presidency and presiding church authorities in a way they could access at their leisure, in the hope these readily-accessible resources might finally persuade someone among the "Brethren" to step in and end the church's incessant intrusion into the Stone family's lives and activities.

To Steve, who'd pursued every other ecclesiastical avenue in seeking resolution, this was worth a shot.

A shot in the dark, maybe — given the church hierarchy's amply-documented incompetence and dereliction throughout the matter — but one that at least offered the possibility of getting through to someone, nonetheless, who could help them end the "church problem."

With some editing, sprucing up, and fleshing in, the site could also possibly lead to resolving things in time for the family to attend Abbey's temple wedding, Steve was hoping.

As he'd always done, he was willing to give church authorities the "benefit of the doubt" regarding their basic decency and judgment — on the presumption they had at least some degree of common sense, human kindness, and spiritual sensibility, despite every indication to the contrary throughout the family's ordeal.

The longsuffering family's website was thus a compliment to the presiding Brethren — giving them a chance to make things right as Abbey's wedding loomed.

So Steve and Ethan took their initial website design and turned it, first, into a full-blown website full of vital and persuasive information that supported the family's claims against the church, and second, into a vehicle for earnestly persuading church leaders to resolve the conflict, so family members might be allowed to attend Abbey's marriage.

A fact arguing in favor of putting together such a comprehensive archive was that if the governing Brethren weren't interested in understanding the truth of the matter, at least an attorney or two might — as a last resort.

But that was not the website's purpose. Its purpose was solely to make readily available to high church leaders a multitude of documents and facts, so pursuing legal solutions would not be necessary.

Steve also wanted the site for use, on a limited basis, to help in alerting a few close family members of the enormity of the church's persecution of the Stones — which by extension included them as potential or real victims of the far-reaching effects of the church's mischief.

At least, Steve wanted them to understand the extreme difficulty the Stones were going through, and why, since some were concerned.

The website was in essence the Stone family's last realistic hope of getting things resolved — since the whole problem ultimately came down to "failure by church leaders to communicate," given their unwillingness to listen or work out an agreeable solution.

The site contained a statement of purpose; an explicit statement of the terms of use; an overview of the controversy; facts about the Stones' political activism, misrepresentations by the church that prolonged or aggravated the conflict; a discussion of violations of church policy at the heart of the controversy; a brief analysis of the implications of the church's own divine condemnation (according to its scriptural doctrine); a brief look at the church's official purpose; the current persecution the Stones were suffering at the hands of the church; and suggestions for ending the ordeal.

It also presented background information about the family; numerous photos of the family as they engaged in their political work; and a large number of supporting documents.

It was a lawyer's dream — should that purpose ultimately prove necessary — and an abusive church bureaucrat's worst nightmare.

To keep the site strictly private — so church officials could not dismiss it as evidence of "public opposition to the church," and cruelly punish the Stones for merely trying to communicate with them — the site stated in clear terms at the outset:
    This good-faith website is not meant for public viewing or dissemination — but is designed to be exclusively private and confidential. Internet search engines are blocked from indexing the site, and no unauthorized access is permitted.

    The sensitive information herein is intended only for the eyes of Church leaders who have a "need to know" — as well as close family members (and a few trusted friends) who similarly have a direct stake in seeing the matter resolved.
The site then plainly warned:
    This secure website is available by invitation only. All who visit the site agree, by their participation, to hold all information at the site in strictest confidence.

    No person is authorized to share, disseminate, publish, distribute, or otherwise publicize any content posted at the site, or to invite others to view the site, without the express permission of the webmaster — and doing so will be considered a violation of these terms of use, and could subject the violator to legal action.

    The family reserves all reasonable and lawful fair-use and authorship rights regarding the website's content.
Since "public" means, by definition, "open to all," or "exposed to general view," this deliberately confidential vehicle, designed solely for "inside communication," could hardly be mistaken for a public website by a reasonable person.

Yet the site was misrepresented by the church

From church leaders' paranoid mindset that perceives any valid criticism as harmful to the church — no matter how reasonable, responsible, verifiable, or sincere — the website's demonstrably private nature became irrelevant: the site was deemed public because it could conceivably be hacked into by someone who didn't even know it existed.

Such misplaced concern — rather than lead to resolution — led to Steve's excommunication for "going public" with the facts of the church's abuse of the family.

Without presenting any evidence to show the website was in fact "open to the public," the new stake president — trained by his predecessor to perpetuate the church's abuses toward the Stones — arbitrarily judged it public, on the strength of his say-so alone.

His allegation became its own proof — because he was a stake president called of God, he believed, and therefore automatically inspired of Him. He needed no factual evidence.

On that basis, Steve was expelled from the church — for trying sincerely to resolve the longstanding "church problem," so family members could attend Abbey's wedding.

Play by play
Here's how things played out.

By the time Abbey went to the ward's last bishop early in May 2009 to discuss the possibility of getting a temple recommend, she'd had only limited prior dealings with the man — who didn't even know her name when she met with him, even though she attended church regularly.

Still, things didn't look optimistic for her to get approved, since she'd voted many times with her family in the past.

The same dilemma faced other family members, some of whom had been interviewed by the bishop following their votes at church, including a few against him.

The Stones therefore arranged a good-faith meeting with the bishop — at DeeAnn's request — in an effort to talk things out, the first meeting of its kind between the family and the bishop, who'd refused to hear them out previously (saying the then-stake president told him to "ignore the Stones").

The meeting took place in the bishop's office.

After giving family members little opportunity to speak — particularly Steve, whom he cut off repeatedly at the beginning — the bishop said no member of the family who refused to "sustain" him would be allowed to attend the wedding, and he stuck to this prejudgment throughout the meeting — no matter any appeal to reason anyone raised. He put his position in virtually extortionary terms, saying repeatedly, "If you don't sustain me, you can't go."

When Steve pointed out that family members had done nothing that could reasonably or justifiably bar them from attending the wedding, the bishop said "church policy" required him to deny the family entrance to the temple, because of the wording of the recommend question regarding the "sustaining" of leaders.

As Steve tried to explain some of the facts in the controversy that led the family to vote against certain leaders — stressing that the previous bishop concluded the family was telling the truth in their claims regarding those they'd voted against, and were therefore worthy to attend the temple — the bishop refused to listen, saying, incredibly, the family needed to "put this all behind [them]."

Steve reminded the man that he himself had recently threatened Ethan and him with excommunication — calling them "apostates" for voting their conscience in church meetings when invited to do so — and that this amounted to further harassment by church leaders, compounding years of persecution of the family. He asked the man how the family could be expected to "put this conflict behind [them] while still being threatened unjustly by the church."

The bishop had no answer — and repeated the mantra about sustaining him.

So obstinate was the bishop that after the meeting, he told Abbey's fiancé, Andy McFadden, that he would not issue Steve a recommend "even if he could answer all the questions correctly."

Knowing what they were up against in dealing with this hard-hearted, self-justifying man, Abbey arranged to have her "church records" sent to Andy's ward, and she and Andy obtained recommends from his bishop just before their marriage on July 31.

Behind-the-scenes maneuvering by the Area President's replacement

in 2008, the autocratic Area President who appeared to cater to every wish of the stake president, and who conspired with him to keep the Stones off balance, was made an "emeritus general authority" — an undoctrinal designation by which older, passed-over, church authorities are given lifetime financial security and few, if any, influential duties governing the church.

His replacement was a former CEO of Huntsman Chemical, the Huntsman family's multi-billion-dollar plastics enterprise, which reportedly made a fortune packaging McDonald's original Big Mac.

This nine-year church authority — according to the ward's last bishop — had contacted him and "inquired about the Stone family," not long after Steve invited the First Presidency in April to examine the family's detailed archive at the confidential website they created.

By all indications, this man — who'd been elevated to Senior President of the Seventy, but had charge of the Utah South Area and thus functioned as the Stones' new Area President — also contacted the new stake president and instructed him to induce the family to take down their good-faith, private website, which was offered solely to persuade church leaders to end their persecution of the family.

Informed this man had made behind-the-scenes overtures regarding the church controversy, but not knowing their nature, Steve wrote him a brief letter dated June 15, 2009, two weeks after the disturbing meeting the family had with the last bishop — describing the family's desire to attend Abbey's wedding, explaining briefly the appalling refusal of the bishop to let them go on the basis of their worthiness, and appealing to him for help in resolving the church controversy, so the family could attend.

Additionally, Steve told the President of the Seventy how their supportive prior bishop judged them worthy to attend the temple — notwithstanding their negative votes against abusive leaders — and also determined the family's charges against these errant leaders were valid, irrefutable, and true.

Steve ended the letter by inviting the man to read the information at the family's confidential website, and also suggested he sit down with the family and resolve the conflict.

The same day, Steve sent a similar, somewhat more detailed, letter to the new stake president — who possessed only limited understanding of the long-running church problem, and who'd been significantly prejudiced against the Stones by his mentor, the previous stake president, when he served a year as his counselor. Steve was aware of the new president's antagonism toward the family from two brief discussions Steve had with him months earlier.

Get into the harness

In response to Steve's introductory letter, the President of the Seventy apparently arranged to have the new stake president meet with Steve and DeeAnn. This fact was intimated by the stake president as they talked.

After an initial meeting in which the stake president asked only superficial questions and feigned genuine interest in the Stone family, Steve and DeeAnn met again with him several times before Abbey's wedding — which in the end he barred them from attending.

In the second of these meetings — which took place July 8, and in which Steve earnestly asked the president to help the family resolve the church conflict so they could attend the wedding — the president issued the Stones two "requests from the Brethren, if we're to make progress."

In doing so, he misrepresented the real nature of these "requests." In reality, they were demands — it turned out — and they were unattached to any interest by the church leadership in resolving the controversy.

But he made them appear otherwise — implicitly representing the "requests" as things church leaders would reciprocate regarding. As a show of good faith, the Stones complied immediately.

The presiding Brethren's "requests"?
  1. Take down the family's website.

  2. Refrain from writing presiding authorities (and instead submit all correspondence to them through the stake president).
The president gave Steve and DeeAnn to believe that if they did these two things, the church would be willing to consider letting them go to Abbey's wedding — as well as let Steve "ordain" his three sons to the Melchizedek priesthood, something they needed to possess in order to attend a temple wedding ceremony.

Regarding the family's second desired outcome — the ordination of their sons — it should be pointed out that the bishop of the sons' "singles" ward was waiting for Steve to be routinely approved to perform the ceremonies, so the sons could be advanced in the priesthood. Due to the preceding stake president's mischief, they had refused for years to be advanced — since that obsessive man was designated to preside over bearers of the high priesthood in his stake, and they didn't want to be under his influence.

In follow-up meetings, it became increasingly clear — from the stake president's words and actions — that he never intended to improve the situation with the Stone family, including letting them attend Abbey's wedding or allowing Steve to advance his sons in the priesthood, despite assurances that "progress could be made" (typical Mormon euphemism-ese). Instead, it was evident he was acting merely as an agent of presiding authorities to control the Stones — and to punish them if they balked at the church's demands.

If they refused to get into the church's harness, he was authorized to retaliate.

A detailed letter of protest to the stake president

When it became obvious the president had a hidden agenda for their "meetings," Steve wrote an eleven-page letter to the stake president on July 12, 2009 — as Abbey's wedding fast approached — pointing out the self-serving, unjust character of the church's "requests," and seeking to clarify facts the president understood only partially.

By now, it was becoming apparent the Stones wouldn't be going to the marriage, no matter what they did short of "obeying" the arbitrary demands of church leaders regarding their private website — or their right to communicate with high church leaders in the face of deceitful behavior by local church officials going back years.

Such dishonorable leaders now included the new stake president, Steve was well aware by this time.

Seeking to put the controversy into simple, understandable terms for the benefit of the president — praying the man might be open to fact and reason — Steve began his letter with these words:
    As I stressed when we talked July 8, I wanted to think about the things you proposed. Our family has suffered so many years of cruel persecution by the Church for doing nothing definably wrong — persecution that seriously violates both Church and secular law — that we'd like to be assured the Church sincerely intends to end its persecution and avoid causing our family further distress.

    . . . [A]ny proposed resolution must [therefore] be genuine, as well as consistent with the standard works, as I've maintained repeatedly.
For the church's overtures to be sincere,
    There can be no "token" resolution that doesn't correct the causes of the conflict and thus truly end it; no "one-sided" resolution wherein our family makes concessions not matched by the Church; and certainly no attempt by the Church to cover up its cruel behavior toward our family and thus avoid accountability, while the Church continues its abusive, controlling behavior.

    . . . [C]onsidering what the Church has done to our family for so long with impunity, in violation of Church law and state and federal statutes, . . . the Church is in no position to suggest terms of reconciliation that amount to further mischief.
Why the website?

With that summary of "ground rules" (from the Stones' perspective) for resolving things, Steve then shared his sincere reservations about the church's request that the family disable their website — challenging the seeming rationale behind the request:
    You indicated that the Church's leadership would like our family to take down our confidential, private website . . . — and you hinted that doing so was required before the Church would cooperate in ending this controversy.

    As you may already be aware, we went ahead and complied with this request immediately as a gesture of good faith. But I have some questions and misgivings about this "condition" of reconciliation.
Steve was interested in why the church found the website offensive:

    Because everything posted at the website is true, and can be verified with ample evidence and witnesses, why would the Church want the site hidden from all persons, including members of our family and also the very Church leaders we are seeking to enlighten in this conflict in the interest of getting it resolved?

    The website is essential to making available to the Church the facts of its unlawful mistreatment of the Stone family. Without it, Church leaders are at a loss to understand with real clarity what the Church has done to us, and what is needed to correct it.

Indeed, taking down the website hindered the president's own efforts to seek resolution, Steve noted:

    That is true of you, as well. Now that the website is off-line (at least for the time being), you, yourself, have no direct access to its content. That handicaps you in dealing with us.

He then pointed out the obvious:
    There is, of course, the unavoidable implication in the Church's request that the Church seeks to avoid any accountability for its cruel, unlawful persecution of our family — persecution sanctioned by the highest Church authorities for most of the past decade. Why else would the Church want factual, reliable evidence of its wrongful behavior removed from the view of all persons?

    If that is the Church's motivation, it would be contrary to the laws of God, including the requirements of Section 121:34-40, . . . regarding the "covering of sin."
He followed this observation by stressing what would seem reasonable to any objective observer:
    If, on the other hand, the Church intends to conform to the laws of God, as well as merit the confidence of decent people, the Church has no reason to discourage the confidential, non-public presentation of the truth in this . . . matter in the interest of getting the matter resolved — a matter which at some point must result in a confession by the Church of its mistreatment of our family if reconciliation is to occur, according to the [Church's] standard works. (See D&C 42:88-89, D&C 64:12-14, Mosiah 26:34-37, and Moroni 6:7.)
As far as any "fear on the part of Church leaders" that
    "too many" people may be privately invited to view the website (realizing that the site exists only to inform the highest Church representatives of the truth in this matter, in the hope of ending the Church's cruel persecution of our family), consider these words [from] D&C 42:90:

      And if they brother or sister offend many, he or she shall be chastened before many. (emphasis added)

    Because the Church's interference with our family's political work not only damaged American voters' right to choose their president this last election, but similarly has damaged voters' opportunities in previous elections as well — an allegation we can prove with reliable facts and witnesses — we assert that the Church's highest leaders have "offended many," not just our family. According to Church law, this requires that the Church be "chastened before many."
Having thus made the point that the church's interference with America's political system warranted a public rebuke, in view of church scripture, Steve stressed that the church's integrity was at issue in its behavior toward the family:

    [Going public] is not something we intend to pursue — provided acceptable reconciliation can be reached in this matter. But the Church has no grounds for seeking to limit the number of those who view our website to zero. That's not right, nor reasonable. It's not just extremely controlling, but incredibly self-serving, given the Church's many years of unlawful behavior toward our family, behavior the Church appears intent on covering up.

    The very integrity of the Church is at stake here. What does the Church hope to gain by requiring us to remove our truthful, reasonable, dignified [and strictly private] website as a condition of ending its mistreatment of our family?

Open opposition?

With the church obviously in no position to dictate the family's options — or avoid all accountability for its mistreatment of the Stones — after so many years of indefensible interference with their lives and work, Steve addressed the charge of "open opposition to the church" that the family had been repeatedly accused of, and which the president now alleged for the first time.

Steve wrote,
    You suggested at one point that while the website was up, it amounted to "open opposition to the Church."

    You undoubtedly had in mind the Church's official statement defining apostasy as "repeatedly act[ing] in clear, open, and deliberate public opposition to the Church or its leaders" (2006 Church Handbook, p. 110).

    Here we have a profound irony that reveals a degree of bad faith on the part of the Church:

    The Church initiated this cruel conflict, acting in "open opposition to our family" and actively destroying our political and vocational work; perpetuated this opposition against us for nine years without ceasing, despite our family's repeated requests for relief; condoned the opposition at the highest levels of authority, including the First Presidency; and even now continues to behave in a controlling, threatening manner that can reasonably be considered further opposition to us and our work.

    As I've said many times throughout this unconscionable persecution, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been the single biggest source of opposition to our family's lawful political endeavors.
Steve elaborated:
    This opposition by the Church has been open and public from the outset — due to the Church's insensitive behavior. On October 3, 2000, for example, President [deleted] opened his office door and allowed numerous onlookers to hear him threaten me with excommunication for several minutes (causing one zealous bishop to offer loudly to "throw [me] out." A few months later, after members of our family voted against [the president] in ward conference for his increasingly cruel behavior toward us, he stood before the congregation, named me by name, and said I had caused the controversy at issue. . . .

    The prior bishop also did similar things that made public his own persecution of our family. (The above misconduct by ward and stake leaders is substantiated in detail in documents at our family's website.)

    Thus, the Church cannot claim any right to accuse our family of "open opposition to the Church."
Steve then said,
    Certainly, OUR WEBSITE cannot be accurately characterized as constituting such "open opposition." As you would be able to verify if the site were still up, the site is private and confidential — available by invitation only to a small number of Church leaders and family members — and anyone who shares its contents with others without express authorization from our family is subject to legal action, as the site itself cautions.

    Furthermore, this private, confidential website is merely an accurate, dignified, reasonable description of the suffering our family has endured at the hands of the Church for nine years — suffering caused by the Church's illegal behavior — and it offers reliable evidence to prove this allegation, all in the interest of encouraging the Church to put an end to this unnecessary conflict. The sole reason we created the site was to persuade Church leaders to end their intrusive, cruel persecution of our family.

    That's "open opposition"?
Steve added,
    Note that even suggesting such a thing — under the circumstances — amounts to further threatening behavior toward us by the Church (since "open opposition" necessitates automatic Church discipline against us), hardly an indication of decency and good faith on the part of the Church.
No contact?

Because Steve's July 12 letter — written in response to the church's ill-motivated demands — is so definitive and compelling in summing up the "church problem," we present more excerpts from it, so the reader might more fully appreciate both the controversy itself and the lengths to which Steve went to clear things up so his family might still attend Abbey's wedding.

Touching on church authorities' "request" that the family have no further contact with the presiding Brethren, Steve wrote the stake president:
    You indicated in our July 8 meeting that the highest authorities of the Church would prefer that our family no longer send letters or appeals to them, but would like us to deal exclusively with you as our stake president, and that you would forward to them any significant documents we wish these Church officials to see.

    I told you I had no problem with that arrangement — since it reflects normal Church protocol — and I added that I would have preferred such an arrangement all along, but that President [deleted's] deceitful behavior made that impossible.
Steve then noted that because of the earlier stake president's outright violation of Church law (as well as the Church Handbook) following the family's initial votes against him, the family was forced to submit a 110-page grievance to the Area President in May 2001, "if our votes against the president were to be counted and properly reviewed."

He added parenthetically that the Area President later told the family "he agreed with our assertion that we had the right to have our votes against [the stake president] reviewed by Church authorities above the stake president."

As a result of the family's 110-page complaint,
    [the president] and his accomplice Bishop [deleted] were approved by Church authorities in July 2001 to be tried for their membership, with Bruce Young of the stake presidency designated to preside. Our family was told this on July 31, 2001, in person by [the president] and [the bishop], themselves, who said this was the decision of the First Presidency.
Thus, "from the outset, and throughout this conflict," Steve said,
    our family has literally had no choice but to go over [the president's] head and communicate directly with the Area President, the Office of the Seventy, and the First Presidency, because [the president] was the object of our complaints, and because he had proven himself to be malicious and deceitful in our dealings with him.

    "Standard Church protocol" . . . must yield to the real needs of real people in real life, if the scriptures are to be believed.

    This was especially true during my appeal of my groundless disfellowshipment. According to the standard works, I had the right to appeal that unjust action directly with the First Presidency, which I proceeded to do. (See D&C 102:27.)
Yet — the First Presidency ultimately ignored Steve's right to appeal that unjust action, he noted, saying,
    Let me point out, however, that my divinely-appointed right to appeal directly to the First Presidency was violated in January 2003 when the Secretary to the First Presidency . . . sent me a shocking letter — before I had the opportunity to submit my full appeal regarding that difficult case — advising me that I was no longer to send any documents to the Office of the First Presidency, and that I was to deal solely with [the stake president] in appealing my disfellowshipment.

    [The Secretary] wrote:

      Jurisdiction for any disciplinary action against you, or for remedying the original decision, has been reposed in your stake president. Therefore, you should continue to work with him.

      Because of this decision by the Brethren, the Office of the First Presidency will not respond to future correspondence from you on this matter. (January 17, 2003, letter, emphasis added)
"From then on," Steve wrote in his letter,
    I determined that I was not dealing with persons of good faith at the highest levels of the Church, because of the cruel significance of Brother [deleted's] letter — which not only delegated resolution of my wrongful disfellowshipment to the man most responsible for it (who had already been approved to be tried for his own membership as a result of our complaint against him), but which also informed me that I was no longer welcome to communicate directly with the Office of the First Presidency in submitting my appeal.

    Both of these unjust decisions violated Church law, as though the standard works were irrelevant. (emphasis added)
Steve then pointed out that —
    Were it not for a meeting our daughter Stefani had already arranged between [the Area President] and our family before we received the above letter, I would likely still be disfellowshipped — or worse, I would be excommunicated — as a result of [the stake president's] cruel, malicious misconduct.

    Fortunately for our family, [the Area President] met three times with us, and his efforts persuaded the First Presidency to overturn my disfellowshipment. This occurred because of our family's refusal to "work with" [the stake president] as the First Presidency unjustly directed us to do.
Official sanction of mischief by the First Presidency

Steve went on in his letter to the stake president to underscore one of the most shocking facts of the entire church controversy: the First Presidency's official, written approval of the continuing mischief of the previous stake president:

    These implications of [the Secretary to the First Presidency's] letter were disturbing enough. But the letter also indicated that the First Presidency officially condoned the cruel, unlawful actions of President [deleted].

    That letter — and subsequent actions by the First Presidency confirming its unjust, unlawful position — thus made the First Presidency COMPLICIT in the Church's interference with our family's political work and choice of employment. This matter no longer centered in the reprehensible behavior of an errant stake president and bishop, alone, or a handful of insensitive general authorities. From then on, THE CHURCH ITSELF became officially involved in our family's persecution, persecution directly sanctioned by the First Presidency in writing.

Steve then said,
    Given the above realities in this difficult matter, I am not inclined to refrain from communicating directly with the Office of the First Presidency, or with other high Church authorities, in seeking to bring this unnecessary, degrading conflict to an end. If I see the need, I will of course communicate directly with them — because they are ultimately responsible for the cruel persecution our family continues to suffer. They cannot justifiably ignore our family's pleas directly for relief that they alone have the authority to grant.
And he noted:
    . . . Our family's rights under [Church] rules continue to receive short shrift from the Church — including the Office of the First Presidency. The standard works indisputably guarantee my right to deal directly with those who have harmed and mistreated our family. (See D&C 42:88-93.)
The stake president's arbitrary discretion

Steve followed up the foregoing by pointing to the stake president's failure to forward the family's correspondence to the presiding Brethren.

Steve wrote,
    A final thought on the subject of contacting Church authorities —

    As we were leaving, I asked you if you intended to send to [the President of the Seventy] . . . the document I gave you that evening. I was surprised by your answer. You said you would consider doing so, but couldn't guarantee it. That response leaves me no choice but to send documents of my choosing directly to the highest authorities of the Church.
Then he said:
    If you are to be the conduit for communication, you do not have my permission to pick and choose what you will send to the Church's leaders. Such discretion on your part requires me to lobby directly for our family's interests in resolving this outrageous conflict. I am not agreeable to your withholding from Church authorities any of our family's earnest documents.
The letter's closing thoughts

In closing, Steve raised the family's desire to have their three sons advanced in the priesthood, in the hope they might be allowed to attend Abbey's wedding. As their father, Steve wanted to have the privilege of ordaining them, as is customary for fathers, and as was also his sons' wish, yet the president was resistant.

Steve reminded him of his response: "You said you needed to 'think about it,'" even though at the time, Steve was considered a "member in good standing," and would normally be approved to perform the ordination.

Steve said the president's hesitancy to permit him to ordain his sons — and ultimate refusal to allow him to do so — suggested unnecessary bad faith on the part of the church, at a time the family was sincerely trying to resolve things with church leaders.

Why else would the man make an issue of something that hadn't even been raised before, as though he were straining to find fault, Steve felt.

Steve also told the president that, since the family had taken down its website and allowed the president to be the conduit for communication between the Stones and the Brethren, he couldn't understand why church officials wouldn't reciprocate in good faith by approving the family to attend Abbey's wedding strictly on the basis of personal worthiness — since the false issue of their votes couldn't be defended on the basis of church doctrine or law.

As it turned out, the president's meetings with the Stones to "resolve things" before Abbey's wedding were not only condescending and insincere, but one-sided — intended all along to manipulate the Stones into "sustaining" — that is, "obeying" — their leaders, an ungodly, undoctrinal objective.

So there we have it: in just one of many letters he submitted to church leaders in the lead-up to Abbey's unjustly exclusionary temple wedding, Steve succinctly recapped the deceitful machinations behind his excommunication — coming up soon.
 


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