David Twede, a Mormon and a blogger, is allegedly facing threats of excommunication by church officials over some posts that are allegedly anti-LDS in nature. According to Reuters, the 47-year-old Florida resident encountered problems with the church after writing about its political involvement, being critical of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and publishing some unfavorable posts about the faith.
Twede is the managing editor of MormonThink.com, a web site that is designed ”to generate discussion about little-known topics of church history to those interested in increasing their knowledge about these kinds of interesting, historical Mormon issues.” However, some of these topics — and Twede’s take on them — have allegedly landed the blogger in hot water.
The Daily Beast has more about the purported content that has led to excommunication fears for the Mormon scientist, novelist and blogger:
In his role as managing editor of MormonThink, Twede wrote an article about Romney last month titled “The God of Mitt Romney: Why Do Some Claim He’s Not Christian?”
Then last week he posted several stories about the political history of LDS and how the church may or may not influence Romney, as well as a few blog posts that were tongue-in-cheek takes on the church. And that was apparently all it took for church leaders to intervene.
“They [his local LDS leaders] were upset by the fact that I was discussing the temple, which is connected to Mitt Romney in my article,” he told the outlet in an interview about the ordeal. “I revealed things about the temple, and secrecy, and other things that they just don’t want anyone to talk about.”
On Saturday, Twede also said that he was confronted over these sentiments and that he was told by church leaders that he may face disciplinary action during a recent meeting. Twede took to his blog on September 17 to describe the uncomfortable gathering the day before, during which he was informed that a disciplinary hearing will be held against him.
Here’s a portion of his description of the alleged events:
[The leaders] chatted about who I am and my membership history and then confronted me about my writings–the (formerly) prozac-ville blog and my editorial role at MormonThink.com. [...]
They gave me a letter stating a disciplinary council for “apostasy” is scheduled on September 30 at 7:30am. During our chat, the leaders persistently asked me about other contributors, why we kept secret our identities and implied that that I am an anti-christ. This was the first time I had ever met each of these leaders, and none of them knew mebefore by name or face, from what I know.
They denied that they are on—in their words—“a witch hunt” but they continued asking me to answer questions such as, “If people are truly interested in truth, as you say they are, then why would they hide their name or who they are?”
Twede went on to share his struggles on the blog in subsequent days surrounding whether or not he should approach media with his story. In the end, he has decided to do just that. However, before speaking with reporters, the blogger sent a letter to his local bishop and stake president. In it, he explained his standing and asked that the disciplinary meeting be halted (he also published this on his blog).
“By contacting you, my aim isn’t to defame or hurt the church irrevocably or incidentally. As managing editor of Mormonthink.com my goal, as it is for most of the board there, is to maintain a site of accurate, useful and objective information,” he wrote in the letter, going on to also admit fault. “However, some of what I wrote in my blog may have treated the church unfairly.”
Then, Twede highlighted some main points he wanted the church to consider before making its decision:
1) I have removed the blog. I do not plan to continue writing about my attendance or representing what happens at the Hunters Creek Ward in public.
2) I have removed direct quotes and other information about the temple ceremonies at Mormonthink.com.
3) I am asking that you reconsider the disciplinary council, at least temporarily, as a matter of courtesy. Given that the first time we ever met was when you called me in to discuss disciplinary action, it seems premature and abrupt on my part. It is also my understanding that it is typical LDS policy to work with individuals before submitting them to a court. For example, the recent letters (http://stevebloor.files.wordpress.com/2012/08/wpid-cr1.png ) church area authorities urge local leaders “to work patiently and lovingly with these members in a way that is most likely to address their concerns…”
4) I would like to have discussions with you as local church leaders about what at Mormonthink is untruthful and try to work with you to create a website that can present accurate, open, honest and noteworthy information that can aid member and non-member alike in exercising free will about what they believe.
Apparently, this didn’t resonate with leaders, seeing as Twede has continued to speak out to media about the dilemma. One of the more interesting posts surrounding the situation focuses upon the letter he received from the church. In it, his apostasy charge is announced. But — it’s noteworthy to point out that his name is misspelled and seemingly corrected with a pen (odd, considering the supposed official nature of the letter):
In his writings, Twede also contended that he’s unsure as to which content led to his potential excommunication. That being said, he suspects that his Romney-centric claims and statements may be at the root cause of the problems he’s encountering with the church.
As of Saturday, Twede was still contending that politics was likely at the center of his problems with the church. After highlighting some new developments in the story, he wrote:
I feel in my gut, that these excuses only strengthen the case that it was likely political. Before this, I had begun to question the motive, but I again feel stronger that this is probably a considerable factor. I think TheDailyBeast probably reflects what I initially and again most recently believe.
However, not everyone is sold on the idea that politics plays a role. In fact, the church has come out to deny this notion. Reuters has more:
The Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints declined to comment specifically on Twede or his blog, saying that disciplinary matters were confidential.
But in a statement, church spokesman Michael Purdy said it would be “patently false” to suggest a Mormon would face discipline for having questions about their faith or for expressing political views.
“The church is an advocate of individual choice. It is a core tenet of our faith.” Purdy said. “Church discipline becomes necessary only in those rare occasions when an individual’s actions cannot be ignored while they claim to be in good standing with the church.”
To better understand the potential cause of Twede’s discipline, TheBlaze reached out to David Buckner, LDS’s New York City stake president. In an e-mail response, Buckner shared his doubts about the political nature of any disciplinary action that may be taken.
“The likelihood of the blogger’s membership issue relating to politics in my experience and estimation be zero,” he wrote. “His reference to ‘apostasy’ as a reason is not something political, by definition.”
In a subsequent phone interview, Buckner explained that, in his experience, there are typically two reasons why someone’s membership in the church would be questioned. Either the individual becomes openly agressive to the faith, denouncing its central tenets. Or — he or she encourages others to engage in activities that compromise the integrity of the church.
“In other words, they’re encouraging people to open practices that are contrary to the faith,” Buckner explained.
Buckner explained that the process that one typically goes through when he or she faces membership questions is one that is based in repentance and restoration. Losing membership, he says, is an extreme rarity.
“[Twede] is publicly denouncing a couple of things,” Buckner said, based on his own reading of the blogger’s words. “It seems to indicate that he’s trying to joust with the media and the church and create an issue.”
As far as the apostasy claim goes, the Mormon leader claims he’s never seen or participated in a case in which a person has been excommunicated for apostasy, showcasing just how rare it is.
A New York Times article offers comments that confirm these suspicions:
Scott Gordon, president of the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research, an organization in Redding, Calif., that defends Mormon theology, said that he had forwarded materials posted by Mr. Twede to church officials in Salt Lake City.
“It has nothing to do with Romney,” Mr. Gordon said. “I know members very high up in the church who are voting for Obama.”
“It’s about him posting on a blog that he was actively in there trying to subvert people’s beliefs in the L.D.S. church,” Mr. Gordon said, using the shorthand for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Should Twede be penalized, he could be put on probation, excommunicated, exonerated or disfellowshipped. If he is, indeed, excommunicated, he can still attend church, but cannot receive the sacrament, speak at services or enter Mormon temples, Reuters reports.
In the end, though, there would purportedly be opportunities for him to come back into good standing. While the media have been quick to blame anti-Romney sentiment for his discipline, it seems the evidence would generally point against this notion. Still, not enough information about the case is currently known to make a definitive determination.