ONTD Political

Mormons Want to Excommunicate Romney Critic

7:11 pm - 09/21/2012
After writing negative articles about the Republican candidate, the managing editor of MormonThink.com says he faces excommunication. Is the Church on a witch hunt? Jamie Reno reports.

David Twede, 47, a scientist, novelist, and fifth-generation Mormon, is managing editor of MormonThink.com, an online magazine produced largely by members of the Mormon Church that welcomes scholarly debate about the religion’s history from both critics and true believers.

A Mormon in good standing, Twede has never been disciplined by Latter Day Saints leadership. But it now appears his days as a Mormon may be numbered because of a series of articles he wrote this past week that were critical of Mitt Romney.

On Sunday, Twede says his bishop, stake president, and two church executives brought him into Florida Mormon church offices in Orlando and interrogated him for nearly an hour about his writings, telling him, "Cease and desist, Brother Twede."

Mormon leaders have scheduled an excommunication "for apostasy" on Sept. 30.
A spokesman for the church told The Daily Beast that the church would not be commenting for this story.

In an exclusive interview with The Daily Beast, Twede says that during the interrogation he felt “attacked, cornered, and very anxious."

The four church leaders verbally chastised him, he says, for hiding his identity on MormonThink and his personal blog in order to avoid discipline. Twede, who writes using only his first name, says they kept asking him why he didn’t identify himself online if he had nothing to hide.

“I told them I hide my name precisely because of things like this,” he says. “I said, ‘Look how fast you got to me.’ I know a lot of members don’t want their life disturbed. In the Mormon church, if you’re not part of the uniform group, you are ostracized.”

Twede asked church leaders how they came up with his name so fast after posting the articles. They wouldn't tell him, but he says he’s since been told by a church insider that a contributor to the pro-Mormon Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research, many of whose members are professors at Brigham Young University, alerted church officials in Salt Lake City, who apparently informed his local ecclesiastical leaders.

“When they interrogated me, they denied that they were on a witch hunt, but they kept asking me, ‘Who are the other individuals you work with on MormonThink?’” he says. “They continued demanding that I tell them. But I didn’t.”

Twede's situation was first publicly disclosed this week on an ex-Mormon online discussion site by Steve Benson, the Pulitzer Prize–winning editorial cartoonist for The Arizona Republic and grandson of former secretary of agriculture and Mormon prophet Ezra Taft Benson.

Benson, who left Mormonism in 1993, the same year he won the Pulitzer, is now a vocal critic of the church and is an active voice on the ex-Mormon sites.

“What you’re seeing with David is not atypical of what the church has done in the past, where local leadership becomes focused on riding into battle under the flag ‘out damn spot’ and ridding itself or perceived apostates,” Benson tells The Daily Beast. “I was under this kind of investigation when I left in '93. I didn’t want to give them the satisfaction of an excommunication. I no longer wanted to be a member of that organization.”

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.

“When they brought me into the office, they told me they were upset by the way I had portrayed myself,” he says. “They didn't like that I was writing a blog critical of the church, and they were upset by the fact that I was discussing the temple, which is connected to Mitt Romney in my article. I revealed things about the temple, and secrecy, and other things that they just don’t want anyone to talk about.”

Twede took down his blog in an effort to compromise with church leaders and even pulled some material off MormonThink. But he says it apparently didn’t change their view that he is an apostate, which means a person who renounces a religious or political belief or principle.

Word has already begun to spread about Twede’s possible excommunication among members and former members of the church. While Benson's post about Twede has been taken down from the Mormon chat room at Twede's request, “people are really angry about this,” Benson says. Supporters have planned a candlelight vigil in support of Twede outside the Orlando Temple on Saturday night.

Twede was initially reluctant to talk about it, but he decided that "the public should be aware of what is happening within the walls of the Mormon church to those that dissent during this ‘Mormon Moment'."

Twede insists the church shouldn’t be allowed to act in this manner and quietly get away. “This encourages them to continue with others using similar tactics,” he says. “We prefer they act responsibly with those that dissent.
We believe this article will in fact halt disciplinary action against me. However, my feelings about being part of this organization are changing rapidly. Even if they proceed, it will not be considerably harmful to me anymore.”

Twede, who is trained in physics and molecular biology and did his undergraduate work at Cal-Berkeley and his graduate work at the University of Michigan, works with lasers and light to analyze the makeup of material. He takes a similarly scientific, analytical approach to his editing job at MormonThink, which is billed as an “objective look at Mormonism.”

The online journal, which has been around for about eight years, offers a variety of posts about church history that are not necessarily being taught in the official curriculum but which, Twede says, “is accurate.”

Twede started contributing to MormonThink about four years ago and says he was recently asked to be managing editor when the former editor resigned after also being “confronted and pressured” by the Church leaders, according to Twede.

“Rather than go through the excommunication, he resigned for family reasons,” explains Twede, who notes that after the former editor resigned, LDS leaders kept it quiet. “They didn’t want anyone to know about MormonThink. They wanted him to take the site down.”

Twede was told that the blog site he occupied has now been taken over by someone else. "I think a Mormon apologist group is running it now,” he says. “If you see it, you’ll notice that it is critical of MormonThink.”

Despite the unpleasant interrogation this week, Twede says he does not want to ruin the public reputation of church leaders in Florida because he believes they are “acting as agents of HQ leadership in Salt Lake.”

by Jamie Reno, Sep 21, 2012 3:03 PM EDT

ennifer_jay 22nd-Sep-2012 05:28 am (UTC)
so for a minute I started reading the title and I got all excited because I thought it was saying, "Mormons want to Excommunicate Romney"

But then I finished reading.

ohmiya_sg 22nd-Sep-2012 06:03 am (UTC)
Same. :/
natyanayaki 22nd-Sep-2012 06:06 am (UTC)
Kind of unrelated, but I've been wondering lately if the Church was going to Excommunicate Sen. Reid.
baked_goldfish 22nd-Sep-2012 04:01 pm (UTC)
I think he's high profile enough to be safe. And I wonder if his status as a convert rather than someone born into it protects him too - would they want to send a message to prospective converts that they can take back your membership over disagreement?
hinoema 22nd-Sep-2012 10:05 am (UTC)
To me, this is yet another indication that Romney is jockeying for power by using people who are firmly convinced that doing so will result in tremendous power and benefit for them (the tea party types, the corporate right, the Mormon church, etc.), which he has no real intention of giving them. If he were elected and all of these factions realize they've essentially been used... it would be ugly, I imagine.
natyanayaki 23rd-Sep-2012 04:54 am (UTC)
I think he'd give the Mormon Church power, I think the Mormon Church feeds into his own lust for power (Mormon beliefs regarding the after life, for example)
sleeky 22nd-Sep-2012 10:50 am (UTC)
Yeah. I would never vote for a Mormon.
jettakd 22nd-Sep-2012 03:51 pm (UTC)
tabaqui 22nd-Sep-2012 12:58 pm (UTC)
That church and the way it controls the people in is just creepifying.
freuen 22nd-Sep-2012 02:21 pm (UTC)
I'll admit that this is just my perception and ~anecdata~, but I live in a fairly LDS heavy area and all of the younger members that I know are significantly more liberal than those over the age of 35 or so. It will be interesting to see what will happen when these young people start to become a larger portion of the church membership.
natyanayaki 23rd-Sep-2012 05:01 am (UTC)
Do you mean socially liberal? I think in a few years/decades, some ideas that are considered liberal now (gay marriage) will be considered "normal" if that makes sense.
sankaku_atama 22nd-Sep-2012 02:46 pm (UTC)
I can think of worse things than being excommunicated by a church. Like electing Romney into the Presidency, for one. Stepping on a hairball while getting a glass of water in the middle of the night, for another. But then, I'm not religious, so this sort of threat just kind of makes me go "huh? Really? Okay, then. Guess I'm out."
(no subject) - Anonymous - Expand
tinylegacies 22nd-Sep-2012 03:43 pm (UTC)
the idea of being a member of a church that disciplines members makes me cringe so hard
furrygreen 22nd-Sep-2012 03:55 pm (UTC)
Doesn't surprise me. They sort of hold excommunicate over the church members head as a way to what they want out of them (eg, most of the fighting against gay marriage in California came out of the pockets of Mormons who really didn't have a choice. They show up with a "we know you make this much so please donate this additional money" and the members more or less have to give it to them.) This threat is really good at keeping people in line.

I do remember the fun and glee of my old HS friends when they would relish being excommunicated by the church. You have to write them a letter and such. I'm probably on the books too but... I have this dream of getting into the Mormon temple *one day* just to see and you can't go in if you've been excommunicated (of course, you also need a Bishops approval but I could possibly swing that.)
ultraelectric 22nd-Sep-2012 04:03 pm (UTC)
Not really surprising, but this makes me wonder... if Romney were to become President (I don't really see that happening) I wonder what role the church would have, you know? I mean, they are trying to excommunicate someone for expressing their opinion, are they gonna go policing around and yell at people if they speak ill of their dear poster boy?
furrygreen 22nd-Sep-2012 04:49 pm (UTC)
It's more of validating their religion and having a decenter in their ranks, then Romney, per say. Any decenter that publicizes is usually excommunicated.

They consider themselves Christian but almost no one else does (in their opinion, at least.) They're like the Scientologists of the Christian faith. They're very image conscious. Hyper conscious, almost. They'll pay large sums of money to buy materials and things that could possibly look bad for the Church and they got that whole "persecuted" complex going.

When I moved here in my teens and it was pretty much out that I wasn't a Mormon, I was bemused about the volume of Mormon kids asking if people say really bad things about them in other states. Like, "is it true that people think we have horns", "do they say we have devil tails", "do they think we're Satanists?", etc. as well asking if I knew all the bad jokes about Mormons. It was weird.
kyra_neko_rei 22nd-Sep-2012 05:21 pm (UTC)
This sounds the tiniest bit like a tax exemption flapping its wings to start flying away.
jessyryan 22nd-Sep-2012 07:43 pm (UTC)
If only.
caerfrli 22nd-Sep-2012 08:27 pm (UTC)
I've been told the Mormon Church is very big on helping the poor and Romney's attitude toward them doesn't go over well but as Mormons are uncomfortable with confrontation, he gets away with it.
natyanayaki 23rd-Sep-2012 05:09 am (UTC)
I think the Church is really great at helping out it's members who need financial help, and Romney does pay a lot in tithes. I think it goes with the conservative ideal that the "Government" shouldn't get involved in helping the poor, but that private and religious organization should.
cyranothe2nd 23rd-Sep-2012 06:52 am (UTC)
After Prop 8, and now this, these fuckers should have their tax exempt status revoked.
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