Strengthening Church Members Committee
The Strengthening Church Members Committee (SCMC) is a committee of general authorities of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) who monitor the publications of church members for possible criticism of local and general leaders of the church. If criticism is found, the committee may forward information to local church authorities, who may bring charges of apostasy, which can result in excommunication.
The existence of the committee became known in 1991, when a 1990 church memo from general authority Glenn L. Pace referencing the committee was published by an anti-Mormon ministry. The committee was one of the subjects discussed in the 1992 Sunstone Symposium in talks by Lavina Fielding Anderson and Eugene England (then a BYU professor) on August 6, 1992. Soon thereafter, the Salt Lake Tribune published news stories on the subject (Tribune, August 8, 1992 and August 15, 1992). England came to regret his impulsive comments and apologized to all parties individually.
In response to this public discourse, the LDS Church spokesman Don LeFevre acknowledged the existence of the committee. LeFevre said that the committee "receives complaints from church members about other members who have made statements that 'conceivably could do harm to the church'", then the committee will "pass the information along to the person's ecclesiastical leader." According to LeFevre, however, "the committee neither makes judgments nor imposes penalties." Discipline is "entirely up to the discretion of the local leaders."
The existence of the committee became national news. Speaking to the New York Times, LeFevre stated that the committee "provides local church leadership with information designed to help them counsel with members who, however well-meaning, may hinder the progress of the church through public criticism.". He denied that such referrals were intended to intimidate scholars. The First Presidency then issued a statement on August 22, 1992 defending the committee based on a 1839 letter from Joseph Smith, Jr. while he was in prison after a period of intense persecution (see 1838 Mormon War), now canonized by the church (D&C 123), that directed church leaders to establish a committee for "gathering up a knowledge of all the facts, and sufferings and abuses put on" church members, and the "names of all persons that have had a hand in their oppressions". The statement indicated that the members were then James E. Faust and Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
In 1993, apostle Dallin H. Oaks characterized the committee as a "clipping service" that "may have monitored speeches, writings and activities of those suspected of apostasy and passed on material to church officials".
According to Eugene England, BYU academic vice-president Stan Albrecht resigned in 1992 partly due to "difficulty carrying out university business because of complaints from BYU religion faculty about other faculty members' writings, made to the Strengthening Church Members Committee". England had known others affected by SCMC activities, some seeing their files, which in one case contained newspaper clippings about being a Young Democrat in college.
The committee is understood to still be in operation, and was mentioned during the 2004 church discipline of Grant H. Palmer in which it reportedly sent a dossier on Palmer to his stake president.
- (Sophfronia 1994)
- Quinn, D. Michael (1997). The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power. Salt Lake City: Signature Books. p. 311. ISBN 1-56085-060-4.
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- (Religious News Service 1992)
- (Steinfels 1992)
- (LDS Church 1992)
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- (Arizona Republic 1993)
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- "Grant Palmer Faces Church Discipline for Writing History". Signature Books. December 12, 2004. Archived from the original on March 6, 2005. Retrieved 2010-01-19.
- Sophfronia, Scott Gregory (June 13, 1994). "Saints Preserve Us: The Mormons are likely to choose another aged, ailing leader, but nevertheless their church is thriving". Time 143 (24).
- Religious News Service (August 13, 1992). "Mormon church said to be keeping files on dissenters". The Times-News (Hendersonville, North Carolina). pp. 5B.
- Steinfels, Peter (August 22, 1992). "Secret Files". New York Times.
- LDS Church (August 22, 1992). First Presidency Statement.
- Arizona Republic (November 1993).