The non-specific “conduct in violation of the law and order of the Church” charge was given as the reason on paper for the excommunications of Wallace Brown, Jeff and Brian Watts, Paul Knightley, John Mitchell, Stuart Olmstead, and myself. In actuality, Sydney LDS authorities had overstepped their boundaries — expected unquestioning obedience — and overreacted when they were faced with objections to their behavior. They responded the only way they knew how, by taking punitive action against the members involved.
A number of Mormons in Bankstown and Hurstville wards were familiar with the details of the seven excommunications — and did nothing — along with other members who did not want to know the facts. In spite of the tendency to look the other way, around the time of my exodus from the LDS Church, in early 1976, roughly 30 Mormons left the Church because of the excommunciations and the sustaining “right or wrong” requirement.
Death to the “Ark-steadiers”
Two years after I moved to Salt Lake City, Wallace Brown died in Sydney, in July 1986. After I received the news of his death, I met with Mormon bishop, Larry Shaw, at his home in Salt Lake City. I notified Shaw of Brown’s death and informed him that Brown had been unjustly excommunicated from the LDS Church in 1975. I also advised Shaw I intended to publish an account of my LDS experiences — as a tribute to Wallace Brown.
Shaw compared the LDS Church to the legendary Ark of the Covenant, built in the time of Moses. He flatly stated that God had killed Uzzah, as recorded in the Old Testatment book of 2 Samuel 6:6-7, because Uzzah had tried to steady the Ark of the Covenant when he was not authorized to do so. God would also strike me down, predicted Shaw, if I committed any action (such as publications) which could harm the LDS Church.
The present-day Mormon interpretation of the story of Uzzah is applied to the relationship between members and the LDS Church. Members are instructed they should not correct Church leaders or Church policies, despite any good intentions. Mormons are taught the leaders of the Church are in charge and it is not their place to correct them.
On September 11, 1986, I sent a letter to the First Presidency, the highest-ranking governing body of the LDS Church, advising them I wanted my name cleared of any wrongdoing implied on Mormon records. I requested Church records show I was no longer a member of the LDS Church because I requested this and for no other reason. I objected to the sustaining “right or wrong” mandate imposed by Sydney Church officials.
At my Salt Lake City home, in August 1987, Paul Mecham, stake president of Salt Lake Granite Stake, showed me a letter, dated December 1, 1986, from the First Presidency, affirming my excommunication from the LDS Church. The letter had been signed by each member of the First Presidency, Ezra Taft Benson and Gordon B. Hinckley, both now deceased, and Thomas S. Monson, current Church president and “living prophet.”
Thomas S. Monson, and other LDS higher-ups at Church headquarters in Salt Lake City, who were flooded during the 1970s with appeals of concern regarding the abuse of power by Sydney LDS leaders, were complicit in backing blind obedience. Without exception, they rejected all pleas for help and “rubber-stamped” the Sydney excommunications.
Former LDS bishop, Larry Shaw, resurfaced when he phoned me from Atlanta, Georgia, on February 27, 2012. At the time, my research discoveries on the proxy baptisms of well-known Holocaust victims, such as Simon Wiesenthal’s parents and Anne Frank, were receiving extensive media coverage and would prompt Mormon officials to make technological changes that would block my access to their database of proxy rites.
During the hour-long phone call, Shaw attempted to pressure me back into the LDS Church through forceful persuasion. He refused to accept my complete renunciation of Mormonism. I interpreted his call as personal harassment because of the work I had done to uncover posthumous rites for non-Mormons, which had damaged the reputation of the LDS Church. Shaw asked me about my health, three times, and implied that I might soon be going to the other side because of my age. He had called to silence me as a dissenter.