Excerpts from A Mormon Story, installment 6
Stephen Stone, RA President
October 1, 2012

We continue with more excerpts from A Mormon Story — this time elaborating on the malicious threat of excommunication Steve was forced to endure for nearly a decade as result of his family's political work; the escalation of this threat as Steve and his family repeatedly refused to "support" those who maligned and threatened them; and the effect of the LDS church's un-American interference with the 2008 presidential campaign of Alan Keyes.

Aren't there laws against such intrusion into the political process by a tax-exempt organization?

Read on.

A constant threat of excommunication
In the months before the bishop left the ward, Steve drew up several documents to help the bishop appreciate the persecution the Stones had endured since it began in August 2000.

One of these, titled "A Constant Threat of Excommunication," described the profound effect the stake president's "standing threat" to excommunicate Steve had on his day-to-day life to that point in the controversy.

Before we look at that document, bear in mind that, under LDS tradition, an excommunicated member literally loses his salvation, unless he or she "repents" of the transgression that precipitated the extreme punishment. If the member refuses to repent, they are potentially "cast out" forever from what the scriptures call "eternal life."

Of course, Steve has never believed such nonsense — because the church's own canon of scripture undeniably teaches that salvation is not determined by any human being, no matter his office in any church, but only by God Himself, and because salvation is a free gift of God in consequence of a person's submission of their whole soul to Christ, their resultant receipt of spiritual "rebirth" and reconciliation with God on terms plainly spelled out in the scriptures, and their remaining faithful in bearing fruit acceptable to God thereafter, as a result of their conversion.

It follows that if indeed a person has come unto Christ and truly been "reborn" — that is, "baptized by fire and the Holy Ghost," thus becoming a "new creature," redeemed from their fallen condition to a state of "righteousness," having truly become an abode for the Holy Ghost and thereby naturally inclined to seek the guidance of the Spirit in all things, so they might please God in every detail of their life — that person, if so "converted," cannot experience a reversal of the "mighty change of heart" he or she experienced by the surrender of their will to Christ, or otherwise become "unconverted," provided their conversion was genuine in the first place, and therefore permanent and irreversible.

To suggest anything to the contrary is to reject the atonement of Jesus Christ, for which He gave His life to make efficacious.

Put another way — a person truly converted to Christ cannot be made unconverted by a tribunal of errant LDS leaders who themselves are unconverted to Christ, and who do not even know what conversion means.

That being the case, "excommunication" is more accurately a way by which overbearing, overly-protective church officials exercise control over others. It has no necessary bearing on an individual's salvation.

Most "Mormons" don't know this, and out of real fear of losing their membership in the LDS church, and therefore their salvation, they are willing to do whatever is required to be considered "members in good standing" in the church.

To them, excommunication would amount to suffering spiritual death at the hands of mere human beings — a doctrinal impossibility.

On the other hand, because excommunication is so deeply feared by most members, and so attached in Mormon culture to presumptions of extreme transgression, an excommunicated member is looked upon with discernable condescension and pathos as anathema — out of belief the unrepentant excommunicant might corrupt those around them.

Hence the term "excommunication," itself — which means, literally, "without communication"; ostracized.

In family-oriented Utah, such punishment for presumed extreme sin can tear families apart, including extended families. Indeed, when an LDS member is excommunicated, the entire family is in essence excommunicated, too, and this is intentional — to pressure the "transgressing" former member to give in to the demands of the church, or suffer hell on earth indefinitely in family relations.

LDS church discipline is, by design, a "family thing."

Thankfully, the Stones are a tight-knit family that is centered in reliance on God directly, and not on the church, or on church leaders. Such is the way of all truly converted persons, by the way, according to the scriptures, no matter the denomination they associate with.

In fact, willingness to rely solely on Christ is the chief measure of conversion.

Nonetheless, Steve's excommunication has made him feel estranged from many around him — even people who are unaware of his status in heavily-Mormon Utah, where LDS church membership is presumed of everybody, and where current church trends and traditions are easy topics for casual discussion, often leading to uncomfortable discussions. Steve usually avoids potential confrontation (or embarrassment) through his ready sense of humor — disarming those who pry.

Around those who are aware of his status, the pathetic looks Steve has received can be unsettling.

At extended family gatherings — where no one knows who's privy to what gossip — there's always the possibility of unintentional humiliation, so Steve keeps his attendance at such things to a minimum, to protect himself and his own close family from added destruction of their peace.

Again, all this is the way the church intends. The church relies on family pressure to rehabilitate those who "stray" and who are thus perceived to "harm" their family.

With these and similar considerations in mind when discussing what it means — in real or imagined terms — to be "excommunicated," let's look at what Steve wrote for his bishop, in an effort to put into understandable language the incessant distraction posed by the stake president's heartless, unrestrained threat to Steve's membership.

If the reader thinks disfellowshipment might be a distraction to an undeserving LDS member, consider what excommunication is like. Knowing the one firsthand, Steve was not particularly anxious to experience the other.

Add to this the fact that the family's high-intensity political work relies heavily on the family's reputation and credibility, as well as their fully-focused creative talents, for its effectiveness, and it becomes clear that few things could destroy that endeavor more readily in Utah conservative circles than severe discipline from the LDS church — something Steve knows well.

The document shown the bishop

Being under a standing threat of excommunication for no definable reason over so many years took a constant toll on Steve and his family — diminishing their productivity, concentration, creativity, confidence, peace, health, and just about everything else most people take for granted.

To Steve, it was like spending every waking minute with the barrel of a shotgun taped to the back of his head, knowing that the obsessed person with his finger on the trigger was capable of blowing Steve's brains out — figuratively speaking — at any given moment, after tiring of tormenting Steve.

The fact that the man already tried to commit spiritual murder (a term in LDS scripture) — being forced to settle for disfellowshipping Steve only because the man lacked a clear basis for excommunicating him, having no credible grounds for punishing Steve at all — indicated he was capable of doing whatever he felt compelled to do to destroy Steve and his family.

The stake president was that compulsive, obsessed, and mentally disturbed.

In an effort to get across to his bishop the incessant burden the stake president's constant threat of excommunication imposed on him, Steve submitted to the bishop the following, in a document dated March 23, 2005, titled "A Constant Threat of Excommunication":
    For over four and a half years, I have lived under a constant threat of excommunication, maliciously and utterly without cause.

    This threat has been a constant source of distraction — because it is very real — and its cruelty is indescribable. For reasons that should be obvious to any faithful member of the Church, the threat is constantly on my mind.
    This arbitrary, incessant threat of excommunication — which exists both in writing and in verbal communication — has virtually destroyed our family's peace, as well as our family's high-intensity political livelihood.
Steve then recounted how the threat began on October 3, 2000, when the stake president told him he intended to convene a stake disciplinary council against Steve because he refused to "obey him."

From that point on — Steve emphasized — the president refused to rescind his threat, and he re-issued it several times, never giving a legitimate reason for doing so.

When Steve asked him, on one occasion, to explain why he had singled him out for discipline, he told Steve, "You won't obey your leaders" — a comment made in the context of Steve's employment.

Describing the president's repeated threat of ultimate discipline, Steve wrote:

At least twice, [the president] has attempted to make good on his threat.
    The first of these attempts occurred on November 25, 2001, when [the president] formally notified me in writing that I was to be tried for my membership in a disciplinary council scheduled for December 9, 2001, with the possibility of excommunication. That attempt was stopped by the First Presidency, in response to our family's formal filing of charges against [the president] and [the bishop], charges we were asked by Elder [deleted] to submit after we protested our leaders' plans.
    Note that at this time, I was charged with nothing, and had done nothing that could be identified as a transgression of Church law. Nor had I initiated any contact with these men for nearly a year (and since I hadn't heard otherwise, I assumed that [the president's] initial threat was over).
    Note further that this first of two outrageous attempts by my leaders to excommunicate me amounted to a direct, defiant challenge by them of the First Presidency — who in July 2001 had approved these two men to be tried FOR THEIR OWN MEMBERSHIP — in a pre-arranged procedure to be presided over by President Bruce Young of the stake presidency.
Steve continued —
    The second attempt to excommunicate me occurred shortly after [the president] and [the former bishop] lied to representatives of the Utah South Area Presidency in interviews conducted December 9, 2001. On this occasion, [the former president] and [the bishop] deliberately misled three Area Authority Seventies, who in turn misinformed the Area Presidency. This resulted in Elder [deleted's] shockingly untruthful letter of January 31, 2002, in which Elder [deleted] falsely claimed that all adult members of our family had been interviewed about our charges and that, as a result, our allegations were judged to be unfounded. As a direct consequence of this unjust letter, I was summarily disfellowshipped three days later — after my request for sufficient time to prepare a defense and gather witnesses was denied by both [the president] and Elder [deleted].

    A few days later, I was given a further threat of excommunication — in a letter dated February 6, 2002. In this letter, [the president] told me that if I refused to obey him in the choice of my livelihood, I would be subject to excommunication. Since I have never complied with that absurd demand, or any other stipulation in the letter, this formal threat still stands, in principle.

    Finally, as I have mentioned several times to our current bishop, [the president] menacingly reiterated his original threat to my membership — both in person and in writing — immediately after my disfellowshipment was overturned by the First Presidency in May 2003.
Since the stake president had never withdrawn this renewed threat — or his initial and continuing threat — and since he had clearly shown himself capable of unprovoked and unrestrained interference with the Stone family's peace, Steve wrote that he had "every reason to believe that [the president's] threat of excommunication still [stood], at his arbitrary discretion."

Steve then noted in his words to the bishop —
    In addition, there is the issue of my continuing opposition to [the president], and to any action proposed by him in church meetings.
    Because of the president's unworthy conduct — and because he has never been properly sustained in view of our opposing votes as a family (which have yet to be fully and impartially investigated by appropriate Church authority), I have repeatedly voted against [the president] at every opportunity — now amounting to dozens of negative votes. At some point, it is reasonable to assume that [the president] will seek to end my repeated votes by taking action against me.
    The possibility of this, in fact, is very likely. . . . The only issue is WHEN, as my votes continue to mount. The more that time passes, the more likely it is that [the president] will at some point retaliate.
    Any suggestion, therefore, that I am not under a very real, constant, even mounting threat of excommunication is simply untrue. . . .
Steve ended by stressing that he cannot rightfully be punished for his continuing votes against the stake president, under the Law of Common Consent, and added,
    As long as I am a member of the Church in good standing, I have the right to answer those questions put to me [for a vote] as my conscience directs.

    Of course, [the president] has already shown himself to consider this process — and my rights — irrelevant. When he first sent me written notification that I was to be tried for my membership in November 2001, he did so just weeks after I voted against him the second time. There can be no question that my vote triggered his punitive response.

    After so many negative votes by me against [the president], the reasonable response by Church leaders would be to conduct a bona fide investigation of my reasons for so voting, at the hands of neutral officials who have not been party to any mischief the Church has caused us. Since all adult members of my family concur in our opposition to [the president], the Church cannot forever ignore our earnest votes.

    In the meantime, I have good reason to believe that [the president] may well still come after me again as I and my family continue to vote against him, as we feel duty-bound.
That final observation proved prophetic — in the form of those persons the president trained and prejudiced against the Stones, as we will see next.

Enter the last bishop

The family's supportive bishop was released on January 1, 2006, and replaced by a man who was an acolyte of the bishop who set in motion the persecution of the Stones.

The replacement bishop was also the last bishop of the ward — a membership unit presiding church authorities dismantled and assimilated into surrounding wards because of the man's disastrous tenure as bishop, which caused attendance and activity among the congregation virtually to dry up under his excessive authoritarianism, bureaucratic style, and indifference to his role as a bishop — a role the scriptures define as that of minister, not administrator, something he never understood.

So church headquarters shut the congregation down, concluding its serious problems were beyond remedy, and reassigned its members to nearby wards.

Bear in mind that during the supportive bishop's three-year tenure — following several years of obvious decline under his predecessor — the ward became a healthy congregation again, attendance doubled, and meetings focused on the saving doctrine of Jesus Christ. Under the last bishop, attendance and activity dropped below even that which existed under the initial bishop, as the ward fell into a spiritual malaise.

This is all true. The legacy of the first bishop in this controversy was the ultimate demise of the ward at the hands of a man he tutored and heavily influenced, a man who cared little for church doctrine or duty, or for his fellow church members. The last bishop's impersonal — even heartless — inattention to members' needs all but destroyed the ward.

At one point, several weeks into the man's tenure — after the man refused to give Steve more than fifteen minutes to explain the controversy between the church and the Stones (saying that's all the time he routinely gave anyone) — Steve took him aside in a hallway and told him, "Jesus is no bureaucrat."

It was through this disciple of the initial bishop that the threat to Steve's membership was constantly perpetuated, increasingly intensified, and ultimately fulfilled — in consequence of the stake president's influence. At Steve's excommunication, this classic yes man was presented as the disciplinary council's only witness against him.

(The reader might consider taking a break and watching the 1966 Best Picture A Man for All Seasons — paying special attention to John Hurt's memorable portrayal of the sycophantic personality and behavior of Richard Rich. The parallel with the deceitful bishop is uncanny. Was Steve on a par with the film's central character, Sir Thomas More? No. Was the bishop reminiscent of More's nemesis, Richard Rich? Yes.)

First interview by the last bishop

Not long after the last bishop was installed, he called the Stone family into his office following negative votes they had cast that day during routine sustainings. This occurred the last Sunday of January 2006.

The family had voted against a proposed action by the stake president, since they considered him unworthy of his calling, and thus unqualified to perform the duties of his office.

They also felt the president had not been properly "sustained" for a number of years, since their prior votes against him had never been properly investigated — and any action he proposed was therefore not legitimate, being out of harmony with the statutory order of the church. At least, they believed his right to serve as a stake president was subject to serious question in the absence of appropriate review.

This interview was the family's first with the ward's new bishop since his ordination four weeks earlier.

Visibly perturbed, the bishop sat on his desk in front of the Stones and asked their reason for voting against the individual the stake president proposed to call.

Steve responded that the family hadn't voted against any person at all, including the person proposed to be elevated to a new calling; they voted only against the president's action, per se — that is, his right to propose anything for a vote, since his right to do so was, in their minds, subject to doubt under the laws of the church.

Steve then proceeded to explain that, under church rules, two things occur when a vote is taken in a meeting: (1) a person professing authority stands before the members and makes a proposal, and (2) the members are asked to indicate whether or not they support the proposal (which can involve any number of things — including calling someone to a new position, or presenting a significant matter of church business).

He pointed out that the "church handbook" confirms these two dimensions of any vote taken in a church setting.

Unfortunately, the bishop was unwilling even to listen to this explanation — presuming already to know the basis for the family's votes, that basis being a desire to embarrass the person proposed to be called.

Given the bishop's closed-mindedness, Steve again stressed that the family was not voting against any person — only challenging the right of the stake president to preside over the stake, or to conduct stake business of any kind, since the laws of the church had been ignored on so many occasions previously when the family voted against him, leaving the man not properly sustained.

Again, the bishop refused to consider Steve's basis — saying a proposed vote did not concern matters of authority, only the calling of someone to a position. Steve pointed out that church law stipulated otherwise, in D&C 20:65 and D&C 42:11, which Steve attempted to cite, but the bishop cut him off and continued to insist the family was opposing the individual being called.

In this exchange, the bishop gave Steve little opportunity to express the above rationale — and Steve was forced to clarify these things while being repeatedly interrupted, belittled, insulted, and talked over.

As Steve protested such disrespectful treatment, he said the prior bishop had at least been willing to listen to the family, in a sincere effort to understand their concerns and grievances — whereas the new bishop was behaving closed-mindedly and with clear prejudice.

He told the new bishop he had no real understanding of what the family had endured for so many years at the hands of the church, and that it was unfair for him to presume to know the nature of the controversy at issue.

The bishop then said he'd been instructed by the stake president to shred all files in the bishop's office regarding the controversy — and that he had done so — saying he didn't want to know anything about it.

In making this statement, he revealed the reason for his antagonistic, obstinate behavior: the prompting of the stake president.

As members of the family appealed for him to be fair, the bishop opened his door and walked out.

Requirements of bishops

Such intense prejudice as that just described indicated this new — "last" — bishop had little interest in his main role as a "judge in Israel," which required him to be fair, just, and impartial in dealing with all members of his congregation, in accordance with the following instruction for bishops in LDS scripture:
    And to judge his people by the testimony of the just, . . . according to the laws of the kingdom. . . .
For verily I say unto you, my law shall be kept on this land.
    Let no man think he is ruler; but let God rule him that judgeth, . . . or, in other words, him that counseleth or sitteth upon the judgment seat. (D&C 58:18-21)
This instruction would require the bishop to adhere to the following admonitions of Jesus regarding godly judgment:
    Judge not [unrighteously], that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. (Matt. 7:1-2)

    [M]y judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me. (John 5:30)

    Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment. (John 7:24)

    Ye judge after the flesh; I judge no man. And yet if I judge, my judgment is true: for I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me. (John 8:15-16)
Judging righteously would also require the bishop to follow the "Law of Witnesses" — and thus open-mindedly consider the testimony of the Stone family and their independent witnesses — if he is to "judge his people by the testimony of the just," according to the following passage from Section 42 of the Doctrine & Covenants:
    [A]nd every word shall be established . . . by two witnesses of the church, and not of the enemy; but if there are more than two witnesses it is better. (D&C 42:80-83)
The shocking bigotry, refusal to listen, and dislike for the Stones that the bishop displayed in his first interview with them foreshadowed the cruelty with which he treated them throughout his four years as bishop, culminating in Steve's excommunication.

Since he "had no dog in this fight," his willingness to go along with the obsessive stake president in hurting the family — in violation of the laws of God — left them feeling like they had no bishop at all, and they decided to vote accordingly.

Vote early, vote often
At a ward conference on February 19, 2006, members of the Stone family voted against the stake president and the initial bishop (who was now a stake high councilor) for conduct unbecoming members of the church, and against the latest bishop for shocking dereliction of duty.

Afterward, the stake president asked those who voted negatively to meet in his office.

He began by suggesting Steve "hears voices in his head" and needs counseling — something Steve has evidence the president apparently tells others, including presiding church authorities. He then apologized to the Stone children "for the way [their] father has been acting in front of his children" — by being "pompous" and "condescending," and "critical of church leaders," refusing to do obey "counsel."

He spent the meeting talking at — rather than interviewing — the family (in doing so, ignoring their rights following their negative vote). He focused on things he falsely claimed the new Area President said in his letters, twisting the man's words in ways already noted in the foregoing narrative.

He also claimed Steve intimidated the previous bishop into signing the September 2005 document affirming the truth of the Stones' basic allegations — a curious claim since Steve had no tangible or intangible means to "intimidate" him into anything, having no power over him beyond the power of persuasion. If Steve was accused of using verifiable fact and sound logic to persuade the supportive bishop, he would plead guilty to such "intimidation."

Throughout the meeting, the president refused to answer questions Steve put to him — such as whether he'd ever been approved to be tried for his membership — and he brushed off probing inquiries and comments from the Stone children.

Family members present — which included the three youngest, who are normally not invited to such meetings — said afterward Steve "scared the daylights out of the stake president," in whose eyes "they could see fear."

19-year-old Abbey told family members when she got home that she felt like slapping the president in the face for the untruthful, "evil" things he said about the family.

Other family members sensed the president was preparing to retaliate against Steve for his negative votes.

The family's only recourse

Believing they had — literally — no other option if they were to end the church's persecution than to exercise their God-given right to vote their conscience, when invited to do so, under the Law of Common Consent, the Stone family continued to vote at every opportunity against those who persisted in intimidating or abusing them.

As they predicted, their leaders used family members' rightful votes to justify heightening the controversy — entirely ignoring the intent of the Law of Common Consent, which is to ensure a periodic cleansing of the church, when negative votes are valid and when properly reviewed by church authorities.

In this case, the Law of Common Consent was used by local leaders to build a case against the Stone family of contrived "open opposition to the church and its leaders" — upon which local leaders could then take punitive action against them, to insulate themselves from any accountability.

Obviously, in the wrong hands — that is, the hands of those justly voted against, when allowed by those above them to investigate their own alleged wrongdoing — the Law of Common Consent can degenerate into a means of doing mischief, not positive good.

That's the crux of the controversy that began with church leaders' demand that the Stone family quit working for Alan Keyes, and that escalated every time the family voted — when asked — against their overbearing leaders.

That said, let's revisit the language of the church's 1907 "Address to the World," which contains an implicit caveat regarding such perversion of the Law of Common Consent.

Another look at the 1907 "Address to the World"

After saying, "We deny the existence of arbitrary power in the Church; and this because its government is moral government purely, and its forces are applied through kindness, reason, and persuasion," the 1907 Address to the World emphasizes:
    Government by the consent of the governed is the rule of the Church. Following is a summary of the word of the Lord, setting forth the principles on which the Church government is to be administered. (p. 8, emphasis added)
The Address then cites D&C 121:36-37, 41-42, stating —
    The rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness. That they may be conferred upon men, is true: but when they undertake to cover their sins, or gratify their pride, their vain ambition, or exercise control, or dominion, or compulsion, upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, amen to the priesthood, or the authority of that man.

    No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long suffering, by gentleness, and meekness, and by love unfeigned; by kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy and without guile. (p. 8-9)
Continuing, the Address explains (citing D&C 20:65):
    Nominations to Church office may be made by revelation; and the right of nomination is usually exercised by those holding high authority, but it is a law that no person is to be ordained to any office in the Church, where there is a regularly organized branch of the same, without the vote of its members. This law is operative as to all the officers of the Church, from the president down to the deacon.

    The ecclesiastical government itself exists by the will of the people; elections are frequent, and the members are at liberty to vote as they choose. True, the elective principle here operates by popular acceptance, rather than through popular selection, but it is nonetheless real. Where the foregoing facts exist as to any system, it is not and cannot be [considered] arbitrary. (p. 9, emphasis added)
So there can be no question or confusion, the address then says,
    The Church officers, in the exercise of their functions, are answerable to the Church. No officer, however exalted his position, is exempt from this law. All decisions, rulings and conduct of officials are subject to investigation, correction, revision and final rejection by the general assembly of the priesthood of the Church, its final court of appeal. Even the President, its highest officer, is subject to these laws, and special provision is made for his trial, and, if necessary, his deposition. (p. 9, emphasis added)
This section of the Address — official policy adopted by unanimous vote of the members in April 1907 — ends with the following assertion:
    Where these facts exist in any administration of government, it cannot be justly classed as a tyranny, nor considered a menace to free institutions. (p. 9, emphasis added)
In other words, the church's claim that it is not a tyranny or a "menace to free institutions" hinges — more than on any other thing — on whether in reality members are permitted to vote against their leaders without interference, intimidation, or retaliation.

Where significant interference, intimidation, or retaliation for so voting exists, the church can indeed be considered a tyranny and a menace to a free society.

Let's be plain here: By what it has already done to the Stone family for their rightful votes when invited to express their conscience during sustainings, the LDS church has already proven itself un-American in principle, as well as in deed. The reader needs no more proof.

But wait until the reader sees how the church further amplified its abuse of the Stones' right to vote, destroying the 2008 presidential campaign of Alan Keyes, and decimating any remaining connection the family had with the church.

Condemned to spiritual death for exercising the right to vote

After months of repeatedly voting their conscience during routine sustainings — followed by hostile "interviews" at the hands of the last bishop, who would typically accuse the Stones of opposing those persons proposed to be called, when in fact family members were specifically challenging the bishop's and stake president's dubious right to preside, and they said so, since these men had not be "properly sustained" — Steve and Ethan were asked to come to the stake president's office in the fall of 2006.

The encounter took place a few months after Steve and Ellery participated in a widely-publicized "Minuteman" event at the U.S.-Mexican border near Tombstone, where they escorted Alan Keyes to a fence-raising project attended by Rep. Steve King of Iowa, co-founder of the Minuteman movement Chris Simcox, other national conservative leaders, and a large group of border-enforcement supporters. At this event, Steve had a chance to talk with Keyes about the possibility of another presidential run in 2008, and Alan said he was open to the idea — provided his finances were healthy enough and his family would not likely be made to suffer.

The border event was followed weeks later by an immigration-enforcement rally the Stones sponsored at the Provo City public library keynoted by Keyes and featuring speeches by several state candidates for national office, as well as coverage by the state's largest newspaper. Afterward, the family widely disseminated a professional video they'd arranged of Keyes' address.

In the stake chambers where Steve and Ethan were brought by the president stood about a dozen high councilors, clerks, and other local officers, including the family's illegitimate bishop.

Saying the Stones had "abused their privileges under the Law of Common Consent," the president declared Steve and Ethan guilty of "repeatedly acting in clear, open, and deliberate public opposition to the church and its leaders" — and thus apostasy — the penalty for which, according to the "church handbook," was excommunication.

Of course, this meeting was meant only to intimidate the Stones — it turned out later — since the president never followed through with his threat by convening a disciplinary council for the express purpose of cutting Steve and Ethan off from the church (no doubt fearing his own provable misconduct could become the focus of the Stones' defense and subsequent appeal).

Evidently, this compulsive man merely wanted to bully, and — to the extent possible — further torment the family.

After the meeting, a meeting in which Steve plainly told the president he had no valid basis to interfere with the family's rights under the Law of Common Consent — Steve took the president's first counselor, Bruce Young, aside in the empty stake offices and hit the concrete block wall near him with his fist as they talked, as he told him how incredibly exasperating such endless persecution was. This was the first, and only, time Steve had outwardly expressed such overflowing frustration with the president's unceasingly cruel designs.

Destruction of the Keyes 2008 presidential campaign
The inflammatory, unjust announcement by the president before a large group of stake leaders that Steve and Ethan were guilty of "open opposition to the church," and thus deserving of summary excommunication, came just one day after Alan Keyes decided to pursue the possibility of running again for president — a decision followed shortly afterward by a conference call to some of his closest advisers and associates in which he assigned Steve to spearhead the preliminary phase of his 2008 campaign, leading Steve eventually to become the campaign's CEO throughout the Republican primaries.

The timing of the stake president's meeting was thus more than a distraction. It ultimately served to ensure that the 2008 Keyes campaign never got off the ground — by tying up Steve's time for months with the task of preparing for a threatened disciplinary council that never came, as the president toyed with the Stones' lives and day-to-day work, knowing full well the imposition on their concentration he was creating.

Not wanting to go through the protracted "appeal" process he endured when he was disfellowshipped, Steve spent much of November and December 2006, and of January 2007, reviewing hundreds of existing documents and editing them — as well as writing new ones — as he gathered a persuasive defense against the stake president's expected attempt to excommunicate him and Ethan.

Under no circumstances did he want the Keyes campaign disrupted midstream by a time-consuming battle over the ongoing church problem. Better to preempt such untimely intrusion, Steve felt, by anticipating it — thereby cutting it short if it came as automatically mandated under church rules.

But Steve also wanted to protect Ethan — who stood with him when other family members had grown weary of what they considered a futile attempt to keep the church's persecution in check. He didn't want Ethan punished for courageously standing up to the stake president and the last bishop, and for doing nothing wrong under church rules, protocol, and law. Above all, he didn't want Ethan to suffer as he had at the hands of capricious high church leaders who'd already proven themselves incompetent, uncaring, and prone to manipulation by devious subordinates.

So he had an extra reason to fend off (and thereafter appeal) the president's expected excommunication of a working team.

The time Steve took preparing to defend his family against the most extreme form of church discipline imaginable was time he urgently needed to spend putting together the strategic plan, website, fundraising structure, and other critical elements of Keyes' imminent presidential effort. He was forced to juggle both pressing pursuits simultaneously.

Unprecedented pace for a presidential election

The impact of this loss of time would not normally be so devastating were it not for the fact that the 2008 presidential election set records for pushing the primary process significantly forward — forcing numerous candidates to enter earlier than usual, so as not to be left behind.

The 2012 election process, by contrast, has been more like that of earlier electoral cycles — with some candidates not even deciding whether to run until late September.

Not so the 2008 election. A handful of candidates either announced — or prepared to announce — far earlier than normal. Among Republicans, Mitt Romney got his campaign underway almost immediately after the November 2006 election, and Barack Obama did much the same thing among Democrats. This set off a media and candidate frenzy that pushed the primaries — and the deadlines to qualify for them — way ahead of schedule.

The GOP debates, as well, began earlier than expected — to keep up with the unprecedented pace of the election season.

By the time the Keyes campaign got off the ground as a "test-the-waters" effort — complete with a media presence, effective website, campaign committee, basic staff, fundraising capability, and reasonably clear plan, the GOP debates had already started, and a few candidates had already dropped out.

For his part, Keyes himself wanted to make sure a strong foundation was in place before announcing, since he'd already run twice before (in 1996 and 2000), and he expected the media and the GOP establishment to resist his entry into the race.

Furthermore, as Keyes had already told Steve at the "Minuteman" fence-erecting event near Tombstone in May 2006, he would run for president only if enough elements were in place that his family and his financial strength wouldn't be made to suffer — so he waited until he was satisfied that the time was right before entering the primaries in late summer, nine days after Fred Thompson's much-awaited announcement.

The ultimate factor that persuaded Keyes to announce, of course, was the quality of the other Republicans running. Keyes felt none were truly conservative — or informed — enough, even though many arguably had done their best to appear so by adopting, in some cases, the actual wording of Keyes' well-known positions. Before challenging them, however, he wanted to be certain he had sufficient grassroots support.

During the 2000 GOP primaries, Keyes was deemed by the media to have won the televised debates — due to his eloquence and principled appeal — and he became known by many as the party's leading voice for moral conservatism. It was on the basis of his impressive showing in the 2000 debates that MSNBC signed him on to his live political show barely a year later.

Unfortunately, Keyes' brief battle against Obama for the U.S. Senate in Illinois in 2004 diminished his star among Republicans, due to the caricature the hostile media created of his statements, positions, and commitments.

Even so, Obama said afterward that he was profoundly affected by Keyes' suggestion that Jesus Himself would not be inclined to support Obama due to his well-known support for abortion and opposition to the "Born Alive Infant Protection Act." He said Keyes got into his head.

But many in the Republican establishment appeared to believe such media fabrications as "Keyes calls Mary Cheney [the Vice President's lesbian daughter] a sinner" — a widely-circulated headline without any basis in fact that the AP ran endlessly in one version or another.

It was because of these considerations that Steve was hoping to get the 2008 Keyes campaign up and running in time for Alan to participate in the Republican debates, so he could influence the direction they would take.

He told Alan at the Tombstone event that America needed to hear his compelling arguments and oratory — as well as his insights into the character and positions of both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, expected to vie for the Democratic nomination. If Alan did well in the GOP debates, he could be a formidable force in the wide-open primaries, Steve believed.

"You're too late"

Because the Keyes campaign got off to a late start — directly the result of the church's distracting interference with the energies and focus of the Stone family, loss that amounted to thousands of hours of lost productivity over many years, and to several hundred hours of lost time right after the stake president threatened Steve and Ethan with excommunication in November 2006 — Keyes held off announcing until he felt it was providential to do so. By that time — September 13, 2007 — Michigan had pushed its qualifying deadline ahead of schedule, and Keyes missed by three days (GOP officials claimed) the opportunity to appear on the state's primary ballot.

In turn, because Keyes missed that deadline, MSNBC refused to allow Keyes to participate in the vital Michigan debate — which would have been his first debate opportunity since announcing in mid-September.

Michigan's action induced Florida and a few other states (with urging from the sponsoring media) to take similar measures to keep Alan out of the remaining debates.

For all intents and purposes, Keyes lost the chance to be a credible, viable candidate by three days. This all but destroyed his presidential campaign.

When the first test of the primaries took place in the Iowa caucuses, Keyes — along with Steve, Ethan, and Callan, as well as numerous other supporters — had nonetheless worked hard to get his message out and get a foot in the door, so to speak, in the rest of the primaries. Keyes was even allowed — miraculously — to be in the nationally-televised Iowa debate.

Shockingly, the Iowa Republican Party refused to announce Alan's vote total from the caucuses, saying he was "too late" to participate — even though he qualified under state and party statutes to be on the ballot, and was in the Des Moines Register debate.

As it turned out, Alan got more than twice the votes of conservative candidate Duncan Hunter, the well-respected chairman of the House Armed Services Committee — yet the media reported he received literally none, causing the voting public to assume Alan had dropped out.

In protest, Alan had Steve fly to Washington, D.C., a few days later to meet with National Republican Chairman Mike Duncan and ask for fair and objective treatment of the Keyes' effort. Mr. Duncan was unsympathetic and blamed the problem on the Iowa party leadership, who violated their state's rules.

Alan continued in the primaries until they were nearly over — spending a full month campaigning in his former home state of Texas at one point, along with the members of the Stone family — and the Stones succeeded in getting him on most of the GOP ballots, at considerable cost to the campaign. In mid-April, however, Keyes announced he was leaving the Republican Party because of its unfair and unrepresentative election practices. He's been an independent ever since.

Parting of the ways

After seeking the nomination of the Constitution Party — whose founder invited Alan to attend its convention in Kansas City, then misrepresented him as a "Neocon" in a 40-minute harangue before a largely libertarian ballroom full of delegates, who chose Chuck Baldwin — Keyes joined a fledgling offshoot of the American Independent Party, which was founded in the late sixties by Alabama Governor George Wallace.

(We might note that, although no longer affiliated with this group, Keyes remains today an independent who supports the platform of the GOP, and Republican candidates who endorse it, but not the "establishment" leadership of the party, whom he considers unrepresentative elites out of harmony with their own platform.)

Keyes' flirtation with the above vestige of George Wallace's original AIP soon strained the relationship between Keyes and the Stone family, who remained staunch Republicans and had little interest in supporting what was to them an insignificant third party.

As a result, Keyes ended, for a time, his longstanding close relationship with the Stones and RenewAmerica. Things are now back to normal — as the Stones are again doing web-related projects for Keyes and his chief of staff, as well as fully utilizing RenewAmerica to support and publicize Alan's work.

Unfortunately, the unfair treatment Keyes received from the GOP in 2008 that caused him to part ways with the party (and for a time, with the Stones) took a significant financial toll on both the Stone family — who were strong enough at one point to underwrite the initial phase of Alan's 2008 campaign — and Alan himself, who spent a considerable amount of his own funds on his candidacy, which succeeded in raising a respectable amount of money through donations, despite a lack of public awareness, but not enough for the campaign to afford broad-based advertising.

Hence the untimely demise of the campaign for lack of publicity, due in great measure to a lack of funding.

For his part, Steve was expecting the campaign's financial viability to result mainly from Keyes' participation in the nationally-televised GOP debates — which Alan was barred from unexpectedly (with the exception of the Iowa debate and a Tavis Smiley PBS debate).

In the aftermath of the disastrous outcome of the 2008 campaign, both the Keyes and Stone families have slowly recovered much of their previous financial strength, despite hard times exacerbated by the nation's struggling economy.

Did the LDS church have a hand — directly or indirectly — in the hardship that afflicted the 2008 Keyes campaign, and in turn the Stone and Keyes families in the aftermath? You be the judge, in view of the foregoing and following narrative — which describes not only the church's interference with the Stones' work for Keyes just before and during the 2008 campaign, but in the years leading up to it.

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