The September Six were six members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) who were excommunicated or disfellowshipped by the church in September 1993, for allegedly publishing scholarly work against Mormon doctrine or criticizing church doctrine or leadership. The term "September Six" was coined by The Salt Lake Tribune and the term was used in the media and subsequent discussion. The LDS Church's action was referred to by some as evidence of an anti-intellectual posture on the part of church leadership.
LDS Church measures against the September Six
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Except for Lynne Kanavel Whitesides, all of the September Six were excommunicated; Whitesides was disfellowshipped, a lesser sanction that does not formally expel one from church membership. To date, three of the September Six have retained or regained church membership: Avraham Gileadi and Maxine Hanks, who were rebaptized, and Lynne Whitesides, who remains a disfellowshipped member.
While the LDS Church sometimes announces when a prominent member has been excommunicated, the default policy is to refuse to publicly discuss details about the reasons for any excommunication, even if details of the proceedings are made public by that person. Such disciplinary proceedings are typically undertaken locally, initiated by leaders at the ward or stake level, but at least one of the September Six has suggested his excommunication was orchestrated by higher-ranking LDS Church leaders. Procedures pertaining to the organization of these disciplinary councils is found in the LDS Church's scriptural Doctrine and Covenants section 102, as well as in the church's administrative Handbook 1; when a member is summoned to these councils they are notified beforehand by their local church leaders.
The LDS Church later excommunicated sisters Janice Merrill Allred in 1995 and Margaret Merrill Toscano in 2000, writers who had collaborated with several of the September Six and were also involved in disciplinary actions during 1993.
Other than the summons sent to each of the six (specifying that their behavior was "contrary to the laws and order of the church"), the LDS Church's point of view is missing as to why each of the September Six was disciplined. Based on their own comments and other sources, the following brief bios offer some perspective regarding the six individuals' discipline and their current relationship to Mormonism.
Short biographies of the six individuals
Lynne Kanavel Whitesides is a Mormon feminist noted for speaking on the Mother in Heaven. Whitesides was the first of the group to experience church discipline. She was disfellowshipped September 14, 1993. Though technically still a member, Whitesides claims that she "burst" out of the church and her marriage in 1993, and now considers herself a practitioner of Native American philosophies.
Avraham Gileadi is a Hebrew scholar and literary analyst who is considered theologically conservative. Following his 1981 Ph.D. in Ancient Studies from Brigham Young University, he published a new interpretive translation of the Book of Isaiah in 1988, and a study of its eschatological prophesies in 1991. Mormon scholars including Hugh Nibley, Truman G. Madsen and Ellis Rasmussen praised his work, but his argument that the Isaiah prophesies pointed to a human "Davidic king" who would emerge in the last days, apart from Jesus Christ, was controversial, and his second book was pulled from the shelves by its publisher, LDS Church-owned Deseret Book. The reasons for his excommunication on September 15 are unclear. According to Margaret Toscano (whose husband was among the September Six and who would also later be excommunicated), Gileadi's "books interpreting Mormon scripture challenged the exclusive right of leaders to define doctrine", a characterization that Gileadi himself disputes. The church afterwards reversed its disciplinary action against him and expunged it from the church's records, meaning it was to be officially regarded as having never happened. Gileadi is currently an active member of the church. He has continued to write books on Isaiah, including The Literary Message of Isaiah (2002) and Isaiah Decoded: Ascending the Ladder to Heaven (2002).
Paul Toscano is a Salt Lake City attorney who co-authored, with Margaret Merrill Toscano, a controversial book, Strangers in Paradox: Explorations in Mormon Theology (1990), and, in 1992, co-founded The Mormon Alliance; he later wrote the book The Sanctity of Dissent (1994) and its sequel The Sacrament of Doubt (2007).
He was excommunicated from the church on September 19, 1993; the reasons for his excommunication, as reportedly given by church leaders, were apostasy and false teaching. According to Toscano, the actual reason was insubordination in refusing to curb his sharp criticism of LDS Church leaders' preference for legalism, ecclesiastical tyranny, white-washed Mormon history, and hierarchical authoritarianism that privilege the image of the corporate LDS Church above its commitment to its members, to the teachings and revelations of founder Joseph Smith, and to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
In 2007, Toscano wrote that he lost his faith "like losing your eyesight after an accident"; he regrets that LDS Church leaders have disregarded his criticisms of what he considers the church's growing anti-intellectualism, homophobia, misogyny, and elitism.
Toscano's wife Margaret faced her own disciplinary council for her doctrinal and feminist views and was excommunicated on November 30, 2000. Some view her excommunication as constituting a "seventh" member of the September Six, as she was summoned in 1993, but ecclesiastical focus shifted to her husband; Margaret's discipline was delayed until 2000. Margaret later wrote "The Missing Rib: The Forgotten Place of Queens and Priestesses in the Establishment of Zion", as well as the tenth chapter of Transforming the Faiths of our Fathers: Women who Changed American Religion (2004), edited by Ann Braude.
Maxine Hanks is a Mormon feminist theologian who compiled and edited the book Women and Authority: Re-emerging Mormon Feminism (1992). She was excommunicated on September 19 (along with fellow contributor D. Michael Quinn). In February 2012, Hanks was re-baptized as a member of the church.
Lavina Fielding Anderson
Lavina Fielding Anderson is a Mormon feminist writer who edited the books Sisters in Spirit: Mormon Women in Historical and Cultural Perspective (1992), and Lucy's Book, the definitive edition of the Lucy Mack Smith narrative. She is a former editor for the Ensign and served as editor for the Journal of Mormon History from 1991 until May 2009. She was excommunicated September 23.
Anderson continues to attend LDS Church services as a non-member. She writes on Mormon issues, including editing the multi-volume Case Reports of the Mormon Alliance, an ongoing collection of interviews with Mormons who believe they were unfairly disciplined by the church.
D. Michael Quinn
D. Michael Quinn is a Mormon historian. Among other studies, he documented LDS Church-sanctioned polygamy from 1890 until 1904, after the 1890 Manifesto when the church officially abandoned the practice. He also authored the 1987 book, Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, which argues that early Mormon leaders were greatly influenced by folk magic and superstitious beliefs including stone looking, charms, and divining rods. He was excommunicated September 26. Quinn had been summoned to a disciplinary council to answer charges of "of conduct unbecoming a member of the Church and apostasy", including "'very sensitive and highly confidential' matters that were not related to Michael's historical writings". Anderson has suggested that the "allusion to Michael's sexual orientation, which Michael had not yet made public, was unmistakable."
Quinn has since published several critical studies of Mormon hierarchy, including his two-volume work of The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power and The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power. He also authored the 1996 book Same-Sex Dynamics Among Nineteenth-Century Americans: A Mormon Example, which argues that homosexuality was not uncommon among early Mormons, and was not seen as a serious sin or transgression.
- Criticism of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
- Mormonism and history
- Strengthening Church Members Committee
- Ordain Women
- John Dehlin
- Janice Merrill Allred
- Mormon feminism
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- Waterman, Bryan and Kagel, Brian. The Lord's University: Freedom and Authority at BYU Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1998, pp. 258–301.
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