RIP Rock Waterman – Apostate or Abinidi?

The excommunication of Rock Waterman is complete. Another Mormon pushed away, punished, and exiled from Mormonism for expressing his thoughts and exercising intellectual analysis. Some people call this border control or boundary maintenance. I call this an infringement on intellectual freedom of expression. Of course, there is no bill of rights when it comes to freedom of expression in a private institution like the LDS Church. Private clubs can set their own rules, but when the foundational documents invite all to come and partake, it seems counter-productive to exclude some who express their views.

A disciplinary council is where a group of volunteer ecclesiastical leaders gather together to judge a person who is accused of a serious offense. It is often referred to as a court of love. Rock said the only love in the room was the love he brought with him. He compared his excommunication experience, just as Paul Toscano once did, to being raped by a group of Care Bears. Rock’s wife described the scenario like a corporate firing: a dead feeling in the room followed by a series of charges, a moment to say something, and then the execution of said firing. Having been the victim of a corporate firing, I can relate to the deepest level of the deathly feeling of that room. I would likely go ape-nuts if I were to be called to a disciplinary council, so I can only imagine the gut-wrenching feeling of those who face up to it.

Back to the topic at hand: was Rock an apostate? Some would say that his refusal to follow every word of the living prophets constituted his apostasy. Others might say Rock appealed to a higher authority in his arguments. Some might say the situation is unfortunate, but a church can do as it pleases as a private institution (as long as it doesn’t cross federally protected lines). Others might say that the definition of apostasy is too broad and loosely applied.

It hurts to be part of a church that acts this way to those in dissent. I was so angry when John Dehlin and Kate Kelly were ex’d. I was enraged after reading about the September Six. Now, Rock Waterman has been handed the same fate. I cannot summarize all of Rock’s positions, but several ring true to me:

  • Getting married civilly should not carry a one-year ban from the temple sealing ordinance for those couples who wish to have family and friends of diverse faiths attend. There is no such ban in Europe where only civil marriages are acceptable, so the same should be worldwide. link
  • Tithing is based on one’s increase, not on one’s income. link
  • Corporate Church is not the same as the Church of Christ. link
  • Polygamy was a mistake and should be denounced. link
  • Word of Wisdom strictness may not be historically supported. link

John Dehlin calls Rock a “modern-day Abinidi” in his interview with Rock post-excommunication. I tend to agree. How about you?

Response to “Where’d Everybody Go?” by Pure Mormonism

Rock Waterman, author of the blog Pure Mormonism, is a name to be had for good and bad in the greater Mormon community. (His positions have been summarized nicely by John Dehlin here.) I can’t say I agree with Rock on everything, but he does make some points that are sound and resonate with me. Rock nailed a few points that require response in his latest article “Where’d Everybody Go?”:

I hear from members who are being threatened with discipline all the time, whether it’s a young mother admitting to giving her own child a blessing in her own home; or someone asking a simple question such as, “if the current President of the Church is said to be a prophet, seer, and revelator the same as Joseph Smith, why doesn’t he ever present revelations to the church the way Joseph Smith did?” (ref.)

To avoid repetition from my previous comments on prophecyless-prophets, let me focus on this point from Rock: the Mormon Church has set its heavy hand of top-down authority on its members, and through recent excommunication/discipline events (here, here, and here), it has established that variation from correlation is a bulls-eye for shaming and punishment. I believe this is in direct contradiction to what Joseph Smith had in mind, in Volume 5 of the History of the Church, when he said:

I did not like the old man being called up for erring in doctrine. It looks too much like the Methodist, and not like the Latter-day Saints. Methodists have creeds which a man must believe or be asked out of their church. I want the liberty of thinking and believing as I please. It feels so good not to be trammelled. It does not prove that a man is not a good man because he errs in doctrine. (ref)

How can Mormons in good conscious sit by and let their brothers and sisters get punished for that which Joseph Smith himself declared to be something which should not be done? Another reminder from Joseph Smith, this time from the Doctrine & Covenants:

We have learned by sad experience that it is the natureand disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion. (ref)

Enough with this. Priesthood leaders have overstepped their boundaries. And the D&C is very clear what happens when Priesthood leader cross the line:

…but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man. (ref.; emphasis added)