Whose Thing Is “The Church” (and What Exactly Can You Get Kicked Out Of)?

Yes, what else but home?
It all depends on what you mean by home. . . .
‘Home is the place where, when you have to go there,
They have to take you in.’
‘I should have called it
Something you somehow haven’t to deserve.”
–Robert Frost, “The Death of the Hired Man”

As a missionary, I used to tell investigators a story (I think it came from a Paul Dunn talk) about a Mormon general authority’s conversation with the leader of another denomination. The Mormon asked his counterpart, “Who is the head of your church in Dubuque, Iowa?” The other leader (of course) replied, “Why I am the head of our Church in Dubuque, Iowa. Who is the head of your church in Dubuque, Iowa?” The Mormon leader smiled beatifically and replied, “Jesus Christ.” The point of the story was really simple: our church (but not yours) is the Lord’s.

It was also on my mission that I discovered the practical limitations of this theory of ownership. It happened in Stockton, California, after a long day of tracting. We came back to our car to find a huge dent and a waiting police officer. He told us that our car had been hit by a garbage truck and that, though the city was responsible, we had to come in and file some paperwork. Somehow it ended up that our registration material did not list the correct owner of the car, so the officer had to look it up. We tried all sorts of different ownership configurations: “Mormon Church,” “LDS Church,” Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” “California Fresno Mission,” and even, because I was a confirmed smart-aleck, “Christ, J.” Nada. Finally, we heard the officer say “Bingo!” and read the correct information from a card: CORP-PRES-CHURCH—the Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

This was when I first learned that the Church, along with being the Kingdom of God on Earth, was also a corporate entity. Actually (I have sense discovered) it is at least three corporate entities: the Corporation of the President, which handles the bank accounts, the Corporation of the Presiding Bishop, which owns the buildings, and Intellectual Reserve Inc., which owns the copyrights and trademarks. Whenever I read about a high-profile act of boundary maintenance in the Church—the excommunication of a Kate Kelly, say, or a John Dehlin—I try to remember that the institution maintaining its boundaries is one of several different things that we mean by “the Church”–only some of which you can actually be kicked out of.

It is fairly easy, for example, to get kicked out of the organization that that owned my mission car—let’s call it “the ChurchTM.” The corporate entities related to the LDS Church own stuff like buildings, including temples, and can decide who gets to go into them and what they get to do. Authorized agents of the organization—bishops and stake presidents for example—can define the corporation’s relationship to its members using any criteria that they want to use, from disciplinary councils to cat entrails. It works pretty much the same way at Wal-Mart.

It does not follow that getting kicked out of “the Church” in this sense automatically affects one’s status in “the Church” as it exists in the mind of God. Once upon a time people thought that it did: excommunicates were “cast into outer darkness” and “handed over to the buffetings of Satan,” with the clear implication that ecclesiastical officials had the power to act in the name of God in ways that the latter had to recognize. Today’s ChurchTM wisely declines to claim this level of infallibility. Leaders at all levels can be, and have been, fallible. We know this, but acknowledging it has consequences–one of which is admitting that God does not have to disown, nor does Satan have to buffet, anyone on the basis of their affiliation with the guys who own the buildings.

Ultimately, people like me have very little input into the governance of either the ChurchTM or the Church in the Mind of God. But there is a third sense in which Latter-day Saints often talk about “the Church” that, I believe, we all have the power to affect. The Church in this sense refers to the community of saints formed by people who have made sacred spiritual commitments to each other. This “the Church” goes by several different names. Early Christians called it the ekklēsía, and some religious people today know it as “the Mystical Body of Christ.” Latter-day Saints usually call it Zion.

“The Church” in this sense not the type of thing that you can get kicked out of. The Body of Christ does not have an org chart. It does not come into being with articles of incorporation. It is defined solely by the covenants that we make with each other: to mourn together, to draw strength from one another, to bear each other’s burdens, and to jointly turn our weaknesses into strengths. Anybody who has a desire to build Zion is called to the work. Nobody who makes these commitments can be excommunicated for the simple reason that the commitments and the communion are the same thing.

I generally do not complain when an authorized agent severs the institutional connection between the ChurchTM and somebody that it sees—rightly or wrongly—as a critic. But neither do I confuse corporate brand management with the voice of God. Institutional decisions like these simply do not have anything to do with my own commitments to love, respect, and comfort my brothers and sisters. Institutional relationships—which are the only kinds of relationships that corporate entities can create and sever—are tragic parodies of genuine human connection, which requires hard work and commitment and never goes through a file marked CORP-PRES-CHURCH. It is the potential to form such deep human connections that makes us human, and it is the fact of our doing so that makes us saints.

Comments

  1. Well said, Michael.

    Further to your point, let us reflect on these verses from Section 10 of the Doctrine & Covenants:

    Behold, this is my doctrine—whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church.
    Whosoever declareth more or less than this, the same is not of me, but is against me; therefore he is not of my church.

  2. The legal organization of the Church (as you uses it in the first sense) is confusing and has changed over time and your post does not capture it fully. This doesn’t take away from your good comments about the Church in the third sense.

    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is currently a Utah unincorporated religious association. That is the legal organization that individuals are baptized members of, that bishops are bishops of and that President Monson is the president of.

    The Church was a corporation at one time. It was incorporated under the Utah Territorial Law in 1862, but that corporation was dissolved by the Edmunds-Tucker Act which was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1890. After renouncing polygamy the Church did not reincorporate, but continued on as an unincorporated religious association.

    At that time, Franklin S. Richards (general counsel for the church from 1879 to 1934) adopted a legal structure that separated the ownership of the Church’s property from the Church itself. Richards was first hired to represent the Church in sorting out which of Brigham Young’s property belonged to the Church and what belonged to Brigham’s (many) heirs. He was also involved in the disputes with the Federal government about which of the Church’s property was escheated to the Federal government under the anti-polygamy laws, so he was very focused on these issues.

    Richards’s structure was to have the property of the Church be owned by various “corporation sole”. This is an unusual type of corporation that was used by the Catholic Church to hold property. Thus two of three corporations you refer to: The Corporation of the President and the Corporation of the Presiding Bishop. (Intellectual Reserve, Inc. was formed in the 1960s to own intellectual property.) There are many other corporations sole, including many stake level corporations which own older stake centers, for example the Corporation of the President of the Oakland Stake, which owns the Oakland Interstake Center. Corporations sole don’t have owners or boards of directors, they simply consist of whoever holds the religious office at that time (President, Presiding Bishop or Stake President). It is however the Church (the unincorporated association) acting through its leadership structure of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve who decides who will hold those religious offices and thus who will own the property used by the Church.

    It is a mistake to confuse the asset holding corporations sole for the religious association that we are members of. As a practical (and legal) matter all of the officers of the church, from President to Apostle to Primary teacher, are officers of that unincorporated religious association. And Bishops and High Councils are the officers that have the right to excommunicate members from that religious association (provided they act in accordance with the policies and doctrines of that association).

    I don’t mean for this to take away from Michael’s points about the Church in his third sense, only to clarify what the Church in the first sense consists of.

  3. MJP, thanks for the clarifications. I guess that my deep legal experience as a missionary in Stockton filling out an insurance claim didn’t quite prepare me to explain all of the intricacies of the Church’s legal structure.

  4. We’ve certainly toned down the politically incorrect rhetoric, but I don’t think the Church has really gotten away from the idea that God sanctions its disciplinary actions with regard to the binding and loosing of priesthood-administered covenants–that’s kind of the whole point of “priesthood authority”. Individual commitments can, and should, remain in place; but they aren’t theologically equal to the covenant obligations we undertake through baptism which include loyalty not only to each other, but to God and certain absolute teachings about His nature and expectations of us.

    For better or for worse, changing the excommunicant’s relationship with the body of believers is by design a feature, not a bug, of the excommunication process.

  5. chinoblanco says:

    “Institutional decisions like these simply do not have anything to do with my own commitments to love, respect, and comfort my brothers and sisters.”

    Uhm, yes, they do.

    If someone bullies your sister, you don’t show your love and respect for her by pretending not to notice.

  6. Michael, thanks for this post. I like the idea of “the Mystical Body of Christ.”

    MJP’s clarifications were good. It is also good to remember that Church exists in other countries than USA too. The way church is organized under the law is different in different countries. Where I live, church is a registered religious organization similar to other churches.

  7. “It is defined solely by the covenants that we make with each other: to mourn together, to draw strength from one another, to bear each other’s burdens, and to jointly turn our weaknesses into strengths.” Membership in the “Body of Christ” or the Church doesn’t have anything to do with covenants that we make with “each other”. We covenant with God to do the things you mentioned.

    When someone is actively attempting to draw others away from the revealed truths taught by the Lord’s anointed servants, that person is no longer doing the things that you mentioned in any sense that the Savior would agree with. We also covenant to stand as a witness of God. Likewise, we covenant to not engage in evil speaking of the Lord’s anointed. John Dehlin and Kate Kelly are not guiltless in these regards.

    The Church membership records on Earth in reality parallel those in “the mind of God”. That’s why rebaptism is necessary upon re-entry to the Church. Baptism isn’t just a club ritual – it’s a preisthood ordinance instituted by God.

    You could argue that there is no way to know the will of God concerning those facing excommunication. However, you should also remember that the Holy Ghost reveals the will of the Lord.

    The Church has legal identities so that it can operate in a secular world. That doesn’t take away from the fact that the Church is literally God’s kingdom on the earth. It doesn’t take away from the fact that when one is excommunicated they lose the gift of the Holy Ghost and all temple blessings.

    So, in answer to your original question, whose thing is the Church? It is Jesus Christ’s church. He authorizes His servants to fast, pray and follow the Spirit in order to determine whose name should be blotted out. What are they getting kicked out of? Membership in God’s kingdom and access to the eternal blessings that were once theirs. However, they can come back if they choose. It will take a lot of humility though – which is something we all struggle with.

  8. John Mansfield says:

    There is a newer LDS meetinghouse in my stake (on 16th Street in Washington, D.C.) that sits on land purchased from a group of cloistered nuns. The nuns needed more room for novices to their order, so they moved out of the city to where they are now constructing stone buildings without structural wood or steel that would decay in only a couple centuries. Their main occupation is prayer, and they go to bed at 7:30 and get up at 3:30 for the first prayers of the day. In other words, they are an exceptionally unworldly group of women. And who exactly sold their old property to the LDS church and owns their current property? Dominican Nuns Inc.

  9. Thanks to MJP for his long and detailed explanation. A couple of minor points: I don’t think that Intellectual Reserve, Inc. and its as yet unnamed (in this thread) counterpart for holding non-religious use real property, Property Reserve, Inc. were in fact organized in the 1960s. I believe that those were formed in the 1990s after Elder Lance B. Wickman became general counsel to the church. The general counsel’s office since then has spent a lot of time (and money) trying to regularize the ownership of church property, which before then was held variously by Corporation of the President, Corporation of the Presiding Bishopric, or by local wards or stakes. Title to the old Brooklyn Ward chapel, for example, was initially held by the Brooklyn Ward Corporation–not by a corporation sole, since New York law does not provide for such entities.

    I had occasion to deal with the NY State Attorney General’s office, and they had a hard time wrapping their heads around the concept of the corporation sole–although they should have remembered from their law school days. They couldn’t believe that a single person–the person who from time to time occupied the office of the President or the Presiding Bishop of the Church–could act without any corporate governance. There were no shareholders, no directors, no trustees, no other officers. I finally helped them to see that the corporation sole was answerable to an unincorporated religious association–the Church–and that the governance structures in the church were what prevented the corporation sole from exercising unlimited discretion.

  10. john roberts says:

    Although corporations exist as legal entities, and own property, that is not the end of the chain of ownership. Corporations are not independent persons; they themselves are owned, and there are simple accounting tests to see who the owners are.

    If the corporation pays dividends, to whom are those dividends paid?

    If the corporation were to be dissolved, then, after the creditors were paid, to whom would the remaining assets be distributed?

  11. A well-written and timely post. Thank you Michael. I also find fascinating the discussion in the comments regarding legal structures used by the church.

    I wonder to what extent the meaning of “excommunication” has changed because of the internet/information age? The literal definition means to cut off communication with someone. That used to be the reality with many churches. To some extent it still remains in tight-knit communities such as the Amish. But not with us.

    I can’t help feeling that modern LDS excommunicants face a much kinder experience. John Dehlin will still interview and blog. Kate Kelly continues to run her website and organization. Denver Snuffer’s is touring and writing books. Michael Quinn’s book on church finances is eagerly (and patiently) awaited by many. None of these former members are really cut off from communication.

    In fact, despite formal penalties, some excommunicated members find ways to continue active participation and fellowship in their congregations. Consider Maxine Hanks (now rebaptized). Or Tom Christofferson – Elder Christofferson’s brother – who is in a committed same-sex relationship and yet is a very active and contributing member of his LDS congregation.

    To a significant extent, it seems that our modern church has both less power and less desire to cut someone off from the church body. Yes, excommunication can serve as signal to members that such people should not be listened to. But excommunication does not actually cut off someone from speaking. And speaking – what John calls “the Word” – is the process of creation.

    I see the bloggernacle as in important part of this transformation. Whatever part of the body of Christ our blogs make up (I’ll go with liver), we actively communicate with, and about, former members, and thereby keep them in the fold.

  12. maustin66 says:

    Dave K., I think that you are absolutely correct here. In the 1930s, the names of members who had been excommunicated were published in the Improvement Era and sent into the homes of every member of the Church. When I was growing up in the 1970s, they would occasionally dismiss the children from Sacrament Meeting and announce the results of Church courts to the congregation. These were clear signals to the membership to shun excommunicants. Now, the Church only very rarely comments on the results of Church discipline. In almost every case, the publicity comes from the excommunicant him or herself. In less public cases (which is most of them) ward members have no idea who has been disfellowshipped or excommunicated–we are just responsible for loving whoever comes through the door.

  13. Beautifully written and I want it to be all true. But . . .
    The first sense of corporate church is more complicated (as others have pointed out).
    It doesn’t work “pretty much the same way” at Walmart. An easy example is the recent non-discrimination legislation in Utah. Generally speaking and with limits, religious organizations can discriminate in ways that commercial establishments can not.
    To the extent one believes that relationship to the Church and to God is defined by sacraments or ordinances, excommunication affects both.
    “Covenants that we make with each other” seems to me aspirational, not descriptive. Most Mormons most of the time talk about covenants with God, not with each other. But if you built the third sense of Church around desire rather than covenant (“Anybody who has a desire to build Zion”), I think that would be more fairly descriptive of the third sense of Church — the living presence of which I recognize and celebrate.

  14. Thanks to Mark B. and Niklas for the additional info on legal structures and to Michael for being such a good sport.

    Mark B.: when you were explaining the Church’s (the unincorporated association’s) governance structure to the New York State Attorney General’s office what did you tell them?

    A corporation typically has articles and bylaws. A religious association usually has written articles of association. What does the Church have by way of formal written governance documents? Even the Kingdom of God on Earth has to run according to its own internal rules.

    Does the Church have written Articles of Association? (I don’t know the answer.) Is the Doctrine and Covenants binding? Which sections? And the Handbook?

    Two examples:

    First, in General Conference the Managing Director of the Auditing Department gives the following report:
    “As directed by revelation in section 120 of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Council on the Disposition of the Tithes—composed of the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and the Presiding Bishopric—authorizes the expenditure of Church funds. Church entities disburse funds in accordance with approved budgets, policies, and procedures.”

    This gives the impression that section 120 provides a binding rule for the Church with regard to disposition of tithing. But a quick look at section 120 shows that there are a few steps between what is written there and the current practice. Where do the additional, updated rules come from? Who adopts them? Are they written down? Who can change them?

    Second,

    In John Dehlin’s appeal of his excommunication, Nadine Hansen and Kate Kelly argue that Section 102:27 provides an automatic right to a new hearing before the First Presidency not merely a right to an appeal. This seems like a correct reading of verse 27 in historical context, but doesn’t seem workable given the size of the current church.

    Does the Handbook trump the D & C? What if the Handbook doesn’t specifically address the issue? Can the First Presidency adopt the Handbook alone or does the Quorum of the Twelve need to approve it too? What about the Presiding Bishopric? Does the Handbook need to be adopted by common consent of the Church members to overrule the D & C?

    From the bigger picture, what is the role of unwritten tradition and what is the role of formally adopted rules in Church governance?

    All insights welcome.

  15. John Roberts: You are correct that as a practical matter the Church controls the assets that are owned by the various corporations sole. However, corporations sole and non-profit corporations don’t have “owners” the way for profit corporations do. When a corporation sole dissolves its assets (after payment of creditors) are distributed for charitable or religious purposes. See Utah Code 16-7-1 and 12. This is generally similar to the dissolution of a non-profit corporation.

  16. “The Body of Christ does not have an org chart.” Nicely said.

    I appreciate that the Zion form of the church is one a person can’t be kicked out of, and that it’s the form that really matters. I work hard to remind myself of that. It’s a difficult task, when The Church(TM) works so hard to present itself as the Church in the Mind of God. I disagree that The Church(TM) modestly, moderately, and wisely distances itself from claims of infallibility.

    What do I mean when I say The Church(TM) works hard to present itself as the Church in the Mind of God? The examples are at once too broad and too granular to name. One from my life this morning: I left a polite but not entirely gushing with praise comment on a Mormon Message video this morning at lds.org, which posted, but was taken down in less than an hour. A corporate entity that exercises such vigorous censorship of theological dialogue clearly doesn’t see itself as fallible.

  17. Wondering how far I agree with you — a long way, but perhaps not all the way. It’s entirely possible — I think I’ve seen valid examples — for someone to be invited out of the corporate church, who sincerely believes he belongs to Zion, and speaks and acts for what he believes is the good of Zion, who is so disruptive and destructive that the rest of Zion is excused from acting as though covenants were still in force in any meaningful sense. It seems somewhat like the BYU Library’s practice (former? current?) of turning up the lights at closing time and playing such loud and vigorous march music over the loudspeakers that no one can ignore the noise and go on reading. Sometimes two agendas cannot coexist in the same space, and in order for Zion to exist, disruptive forces have to be placed beyond the pale.

    Speaking to Emily U’s comment, without at all intending to say that she is such a disruptive force or that her comment was destructive, we’ve all seen commenters destroy a blog discussion and need to be removed for the good of the community. It isn’t a sign that blog owners claim infallibility, but a recognition that some kinds of discussion can shut down the desired conversation. Vigorous censorship is what created and sustains the peculiar community at Keepapitchinin, while the anything-goes, thirst-for-comment-numbers in other cases has destroyed more than one blog in the Bloggernacle.

    Offend Mike, check; offend Emily, check; offend BCC, check. Anybody else I can offend before I click “post”?

  18. Ardis, I am not nearly THAT easy to offend. Minimally, you would have to take the name of bacon in vain, or speak a kind word for bears, to really get my dander up.

  19. (Sort of a reply to Ardis, but can stand alone . . .) I would distinguish between disagreeing and disagreeable. At some point (your limit may be different than mine) removing the disagreeable is for the good of the community. (We have criminal laws for a reason.) However, it seems to me that removing the disagreeing is harmful to the community for a perceived benefit to the one.
    Also, since I find myself generally (maybe always) agreeing with or supportive of EmilyU’s comments, I read her example on lds.org as one of excluding the disagreeing, not the disagreeable.

  20. “A corporate entity that exercises such vigorous censorship of theological dialogue clearly doesn’t see itself as fallible.”

    EmilyU, in my experience, it is precisely the institutions who see themselves as fallible who most vigorously suppress dissent. Comment policing, boundary maintenance, and general dissent-suppression are usually (again, in my experience) signs of an institutional insecurity that constantly worries weather its critics might be right after all. The more secure an institution feels about the claims that it is making, the more willing it is to allow those claims to be challenged in forums that it controls.

    I realize that this is not quite what you were saying. And I agree that the Church(tm) often tries to present itself as the Truth(tm) until such time as it becomes clear that it can no longer do so–then it acknowledges its own fallibility and the humanity of its leaders, normally as part of the damage control. But beneath that somewhat schizophrenic public posturing, I think, lies an institution that is very sensitive to its public image for reasons that have more to do with insecurity than overconfidence.

  21. Do you really think insecurity is the root of commenting policing and boundary maintenance? The Salt Lake Tribune must be the most overconfident institution in the world, then — and the most Zion-like.

  22. Ardis, good point. On the other hand, though, how many people do you know who have ever been kicked out of Buddhism?

  23. My experience is too narrow to have known many, if any, Buddhists or their practices. Do they have boundaries? Initiations? Membership cards? Is Buddhism an institution, or something else?

  24. Well, it depends on the form, the community, etc. But, at least in some versions, the goal is not to rest until every sentient being in the universe achieves enlightenment. In those versions, at least, there is no such thing as excommunication.

  25. Michael, I find it a little ironic that you seem skeptical of corporations per se, and see the body of believers as a higher organization, unsullied by the corruption or secularity of corporations. (I may be misreading you; you didn’t say anything quite so explicit as that.)

    The irony lies in the fact that the church uses corporations precisely because the church exists in human society, where it’s necessary to organize and keep records and own property and do all of the other things that organizations have to do. Etymologically, the word “corporation” means “persons united in a body for some purpose.” Corporations are essentially just groups of people formally and legally organized.*

    We all know plenty of instances of corporate corruption, both by for-profit and non-profit corporate entities. But I think that there’s a tendency to demonize the concept of corporation itself, as if corporations corrupt humans and not vice versa. (I could say the same thing about the word “politics,” another word that simply refers to people in groups.)

    Like other commentators, I don’t mean this to detract from your very good general point about the mourning with those who mourn and seeing others as our brothers and sisters. I agree that there is tension, if not conflict, between legal rigidity and religious inclusivity.

    *I understand that the legal concept is more nuanced than this; that a single person can form a corporation; that corporations themselves are supposed to have certain characteristics of personhood, etc. That all goes beyond the point that I’m trying to make about corporations not being inherently counter to the ideals of religion.

  26. John Mansfield says:

    Well, Mark Oppenheimer’s NY Times reporting on Eido Shimano Roshi made a splash a couple years ago. In keeping with the theme above, he’s still a Buddhist, I suppose, but the corporate bodies of Buddhist teaching he previously worked through have severed connection with him.

  27. ” A corporate entity that exercises such vigorous censorship of theological dialogue clearly doesn’t see itself as fallible.”

    That’s not the point at all. They see the Word as a living thing and do what is necessary to protect it — albeit, perhaps, a little over-zealous at times. (But that goes with the territory — much like an over-protective parent)

  28. Michael, thanks for your reply. I totally agree that the Church is more insecure than overconfident. But I don’t think insecurity = acknowledgement of fallibility. I bet we’ve all met insecure people who think they’re always right, or at least never admit they’re wrong. I don’t expect the Church to engage with every criticism, but I wish there were more humility about the things we know we don’t know…

    Ardis, I get what you are saying, I’d just venture that on lds.org the “desired conversation” is nothing but cheerleading. It’s not a conversation at all, and that’s frustrating. Especially when our leaders tell us to use the “proper channels” for communication. For most of us there is *no* channel for communicating with the corporate church. It feels like a comment-card box at a restaurant that empties straight into the trash.

  29. And christiankimball, thanks for your kind words.

  30. Original response posted here:
    https://alotlikelaman.wordpress.com/2015/03/13/response-to-whose-thing-is-the-church-by-common-consent/

    Michael Austin of By Common Consent narrates his dissection of “The Church” (here) and arrives that there are three corporate entities for the Mormon Church, and one spiritual entity that he calls ‘Zion’ or the collective covenant-making people. Austin points out that one can get kicked out of the membership of the corporate entity, but one’s membership in Zion is irrevocable. I disagree.

    I’ve heard it said by both John Dehlin and Kate Kelly that ‘you can take me our of Mormonism, but you can’t take the Mormon out of me.’ This could be confused as support to Austin’s point, but it’s clear much of Mormonism is how we think, perceive, act, and live. But consider what Austin is arguing:

    “[The Church] is defined solely by the covenants that we make with each other: to mourn together, to draw strength from one another, to bear each other’s burdens, and to jointly turn our weaknesses into strengths… Institutional decisions like these simply do not have anything to do with my own commitments to love, respect, and comfort my brothers and sisters.” Reference

    To put it in a different light, I suppose Austin could have ignored institutional decisions by the US Government and sat at the back of the bus mourning with African Americans who were punished by a poor system. I argue that bearing each other’s burdens means when Rosa Parks takes a seat up front, we plop down right next to her. John and Kate don’t need a pat on the back. Their movements needs more butts in the seats. Austin’s approach is very Pilate-esque by washing his hands of the decisions of the institution knowing that he is incapable of change due to his “very little input into the governance” of The Church. I reject that hand washing and label it as weak.

    Back to The Church. When the institution picks on individuals, who stands up for individual? Other individuals. This is especially true given Austins point that “neither do I confuse corporate brand management with the voice of God.” If you disagree with brand management, then it’s your duty to let the brand managers know of your displeasure. Did John Dehlin find comfort from his ward? If he did, why did he ask not to be visited? Who was there to mourn with him except those who bore his burden by championing his cause?

    Austin may wash his hands of John Dehlin’s excommunication, but the blood stains of inaction are still visible.

  31. *quick off topic historical note*
    Rosa Parks did not sit in the front of the bus. She was sitting in the colored section of the bus and was asked to move back after the white section was filled. She also wasn’t the first to refuse to move. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosa_Parks

    If you’re going to use her example as an analogy to yours, at least know the facts first.

  32. I accept your historical critique and have edited the article in my blog. (http://goo.gl/kmXTB3)

  33. Returning and reporting. I went to the lds.org today to find the Mormon Message video I referred to above, and they changed the title! No longer called “Happiness is the sum of obedience,” it’s now called “Obedience to the ten commandments,” and the objectionable subtitle “Do you understand God’s equation for happiness” is nowhere to be found.

    I’m stunned.