Conversation With The Excommunicated

John Dehlin’s Mormon Stories recently posted an interview with excommunicated member Paul Toscano. I found Mr. Toscano to be intelligent, belligerent, funny, maddening, contradictory, sarcastic, interesting, and entertaining. I’ve posted a number of segments from the interview and they are definitely worth the listen.

Kullervo has stated several times on the blog that Mormon doctrine is actually very loose. Every one thinks that it is strict and that it’s their own personal interpretation that IS what the church teaches. If someone happens to disagree, it will just be a matter of time until everyone comes around to accepting their viewpoint as the one, true teaching. This viewpoint of Mormon doctrine is perfectly illustrated in Paul Toscano. He is utterly convinced that he is the one who has got it right on issues that the larger church body clearly doesn’t agree.

My favorite part of the interview was his take on his excommunication. He was told that he was being excommunicated for threatening and weakening other people’s testimonies. “They said ‘You’re damaging people’s testimonies’. And I said ‘Show me who has lost their testimony as a result of anything I’ve said, and if it comes to taking a body count, I’ll put my lost testimonies up against Boyd Packer’s any day of the week.’ “(Tim’s paraphrase). His sheer bravado just made me laugh.

If you want to hear the whole interview go to Mormon Stories.

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

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8 thoughts on “Conversation With The Excommunicated

  1. It would be interesting to know just what people get ex-ed for typically. My sense is that most of them happen for sex stuff, but that’s just me. It seems that false-doctrine ex-ings are relatively rare. Not implying anything about Paul, of course.

    What’s the background on Paul anyway? Professor? Author? Random dude who got mouthy in Sacrament Meeting? I’m sure it’s in the interview, but I won’t get to it until later.

  2. Seth, I think that your sense of most people getting ex-ed for sex stuff isn’t just you. I think that’s a common though. Especially since if you go inactive everyone assumes (or says to your face) that you must be committing adultery.

  3. I didn’t say going inactive. I was only talking about people who end up in disciplinary councils.

    And yes, sex stuff being as prevalent as it is in society, I’d imagine a hefty chunk of ex-ings are devoted to sexual misconduct, if not most of them. Things just aren’t as clear cut on any other excommunicable offense.

  4. My sense is that ex-communications are relatively rare. My father is a Mission president and former stake president and it takes quite a bit to get ex-ed lately, depends heavily on the context and on the stake president.

    I know a sure fire way of getting ex-ed is to be in-your-face proponent of certain controversial doctrines (especially polygamy, priesthood for women, etc.) Toscano and his wife were those type of intellectuals. They argued that Joseph Smith taught women hold the priesthood in a way that the church now doesn’t recognize. He is a lawyer in SLC.

    I think doctrinal excommunications are rare because it is easier just to go inactive and leave the church if you don’t follow the party line on certain things you just stop going to the 3 hours of boring meetings and slip into inactivity. But if you are a active member who wants to actively teach and publish your dissent you may become a casualty. As Dallin Oaks said on the PBS Mormon Documentary, “Its not OK to criticize the Church leadership openly, even when they are wrong.”

    I think its also a largely political thing, it depends on where you are making waves. Excommunication seems to be primarily a method of bringing people back to strong membership in the church and is usually the “nuclear option” i.e. forcing someone through a process of humility in order to come back into good standing. This sort of option is not used on convicts who are members who may have “worse” offense than the elders quorum president that sleeps with mia maid (teenger).

    My uncle was the branch presidency in in the Utah State Prision branch and saw different attitudes towards excommunication. He said that excommunication was generally seen as a tool to bring those who would make the effort to come back to the church after they are excommunicated rather than to “cleanse the church” of the sinner.

  5. That’s interesting ilmarien,

    My dad served as “chaplain” for the local county jail in our small southern Utah town where I grew up. He said that at one point he was actually proselyting some of the inmates with an aim of getting them eventually baptized. He was having a bit of success too.

    Then one of the Seventy got wind of the project and put a stop to it explaining that you did not go about offering such people baptism until they had resolved their “debt to society.” So the Gospel lessons continued, but efforts to proselyte ceased. Interesting that the thinking on excommunication seems to be similar.

    I remember in the PBS interview how Margaret Toscano related her disciplinary council story where the local Church leadership voted to excommunicate her. She related being upset and unnerved by how each of the men then smiled at her and shook her hand as they filed out. She just found it creepy how these men could do something so painful to her and then act all friendly about it.

    I can see her point. But as ilmarien said, LDS leadership doesn’t really view excommunication as the end of the story. They see it as a step forward towards repentance. I imagine the men at Toscano’s disciplinary council fully expected to see her back in full fellowship before long – perhaps temporary pain before the anticipated healing.

    That’s not to say they didn’t still handle the thing insensitively. But what else is new with guys?

  6. I enjoyed Dehlin’s interviews with Paul Toscano. I laugh a few times at how in your face he is. He kept blaming it on the fact that he is a second generation Sicilian (I kept having flashbacks to Princes Bride:).

    I’m not at all surprised that he got excommunicated because he just doesn’t back down for anyone. Personally, I found that kind of nice. It’s just a personality trait that some people have. I think it’s sad that he has lost so much of his faith (he said he doesn’t have faith anymore). On some levels I really admired and sympathized with him.

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