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I saw the article today as well and thought, "I need to run home and post something about it." Way to beat me too the punch. The Toscano's are infamous for their lack of perception and yet an ability to rally support from witless members. The thought that the prophet needs correction and guidance from someone like a professor is strange. It doubts the essence of what a prophet really is. Hasn't she read section 28? If so, what is she thinking? Why even worry about a system of belief that fails by your own definition of right or wrong? Why not go off and find something that agrees with your own values? I see the problem being that to accept a prophet as a prophet means that he speaks for God, not for himself. So why not try to figure out why the prophet is saying what he is saying and then learn to apply it (John 7:17).
Talking with Dan Petersen (BYU prof and friend of Paul Toscano) he said that it was obvious where Paul was headed a long time before he was excommunicated as well. I do not know what the relationship is between Paul and Margaret, but their paths seem to lead in the same direction.

If you really want redress in the LDS Church, here is a guideline on how to obtain it:


The Toscanos have written some interesting things. Still they tend (IMO) to favor a view of criticism and feedback more akin to an academic institution for the church. In effect they want a more democratic church.

I too think this would be better addressed as a church governance issue. I am female and could not relate to what she was saying because I personally don't think power comes from position or recognition. I do, however, completely respect her for standing up for what she believes in. She seems to be motivated by a sincere desire to help other women empower themselves. I think it is very sad that we kick people like her out of the church. I don't agree with her conclusions-so what.
I do not agree with you, Mark, that section 28 applies to Prof. Tuscano. The way I see it she is making suggestions and giving us her opinion, but in no way trying to command anyone to do it her way. Even if she were attempting to command President Hinkley, or members of the church, it would not be the same as an apostle( i.e.Oliver Cowdery) commanding an incorrect teaching or doctrine.

Dave: You are a lawyer, Toscano is an English professor. Accordingly, she thinks of power in terms of stories and you think of power in terms of institutions. I have always found it facinating that literary intellectuals are often obsessed about the power dynamics created by stories. One can't help but thinking that it is an intellectual move made by an essentially powerless group in an attempt to convince themselves that what they do really is influential. (Cf. Shelly on poets as the unacknowledged legislators of mankind or Plato on the same topic.)

Oops! I shouldn't have said "English professor" as I think that she is actually a classicist. Literature professor might be a better label.

Nate, that seems like a terribly insightful thing to say. What many like Prof. Toscano say boils down to "they should be telling a different story." So, for example, if the LDS creation story had a part for Heavenly Mother, then they'd be happy. That seems terribly important to storytellers.

Not to demean the power of narrative, but I don't think that's really enough to make a dent in what is really an institutional shortcoming (if one views it as such). I suppose storytellers would characterize my institutional perspective as, "Oh, like another committee would solve anything." Hey, sometimes committees actually get something done!

The Toscanos can be downright mean and borderline blasphemous, as in their satirical hymnal.

I believe Toscano was excommunicated for apostasy, following this definition.

"A friend . . . wished to know whether we had said that we considered an honest difference of opinion between a member of the church and the authorities of the church was apostasy, as he said, we had been credited with having made a statement to this effect. We replied that we had not stated that an honest difference of opinion between a member of the church and the authorities constituted apostasy; for we could conceive of a man honestly differing in opinion from the authorities of the church and yet not be an apostate; but we could not conceive of a man publishing those differences of opinion, and seeking by arguments, sophistry and special pleading to enforce them upon the people to produce division and strife, and to place the acts and counsels of the authorities of the church, if possible, in a wrong light, and not be an apostate; for such conduct was apostasy as we understood the term. We further said that while a man might honestly differ in opinion from the authorities through a want of understanding, he had to be exceedingly careful how he acted in relation to such differences, or the adversary would take advantage of him and he would soon become imbued with the spirit of apostasy, and be found fighting against God and the authority which He had placed here to govern his church." (Deseret News editorial, George Q. Cannon, editor, impression of Nov. 3rd, 1869).

Paul and Margaret are married, and Margaret's sister is Janice Allred, who publicly advocated praying to Heavenly mother. That got a mention in General Conference.

"And now, speaking of prayer, I touch on another matter. Last April, I spoke to the regional representatives of the Church, as I have done for a number of years on each occasion when they have come for general conference. These are training meetings where the regional representatives get information that they may carry with them across the Church. There is nothing secret or hidden about what is done there.

However, recently I heard that someone had secured a copy of my talk, looking upon that as a singular accomplishment, as if it had been given in a secret and sinister manner, designed to keep it from the world. This is nonsense.

I am therefore on this occasion going to take the liberty of rereading that portion of the talk which pertains to a matter over which some few women of the Church appear to be greatly exercised. I give it to all, in this forum, because of the activities of a few who evidently are seeking to lead others in the paths which they are following. I speak of those who advocate the offering of prayers to our Mother in Heaven. I quote from that earlier address:

“This [practice] began in private prayer and is beginning to spread to prayers offered in some of our meetings.

“It was Eliza R. Snow who wrote the words: ‘Truth is reason; truth eternal / Tells me I’ve a mother there.’ (Hymns, 1985, no. 292.)

“It has been said that the Prophet Joseph Smith made no correction to what Sister Snow had written. Therefore, we have a Mother in Heaven. Therefore, [some assume] that we may appropriately pray to her.

“Logic and reason would certainly suggest that if we have a Father in Heaven, we have a Mother in Heaven. That doctrine rests well with me.

“However, in light of the instruction we have received from the Lord Himself, I regard it as inappropriate for anyone in the Church to pray to our Mother in Heaven.

“The Lord Jesus Christ set the pattern for our prayers. In the Sermon on the Mount, He declared:

‘After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.’ (Matt. 6:9; italics added here and in following references.)

“When the resurrected Lord appeared to the Nephites and taught them, He said: ‘After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.’ (3 Ne. 13:9.)

“While He was among them, He further taught them by example and precept concerning this practice. The record states that ‘He himself also knelt upon the earth; and behold he prayed unto the Father, and the things which he prayed cannot be written, and the multitude did bear record who heard him.’ (3 Ne. 17:15.)

“Furthermore, He said: ‘Pray in your families unto the Father, always in my name, that your wives and your children may be blessed.’ (3 Ne. 18:21.)

“On another occasion, ‘Jesus departed out of the midst of them, and went a little way off from them and bowed himself to the earth, and he said:

“ ‘Father, I thank thee that thou hast given the Holy Ghost unto these whom I have chosen; and it is because of their belief in me that I have chosen them out of the world.

“ ‘Father, I pray thee that thou wilt give the Holy Ghost unto all them that shall believe in their words.’ (3 Ne. 19:19–21.)

“And so I might continue with other specific instances from the scripture. Search as I have, I find nowhere in the standard works an account where Jesus prayed other than to His Father in Heaven or where He instructed the people to pray other than to His Father in Heaven.

“I have looked in vain for any instance where any President of the Church, from Joseph Smith to Ezra Taft Benson, has offered a prayer to ‘our Mother in Heaven.’

“I suppose those … who use this expression and who try to further its use are well-meaning, but they are misguided. The fact that we do not pray to our Mother in Heaven in no way belittles or denigrates her.”

That is the end of the quotation from the talk I gave earlier, to which I may add that none of us can add to or diminish the glory of her of whom we have no revealed knowledge." President Hinckley, Ensign, November 1991.

Thanks for two nice quotes, Ben. To me, it is surprising that a quote from 1869 sounds so tolerant and understanding: "[W]e could conceive of a man honestly differing in opinion from the authorities of the church and yet not be an apostate." Of course, if you want to shut down dialogue on a threatening issue, it's not hard to portray any public discussion of that issue as "arguments, sophistry and special pleading," regardless of how sincere, honest, or well-grounded is the difference of opinion. I think that at the present time there are some issues on which senior leaders recognize no room for honest differences of opinion, but that's just my view.

I'm familiar with some of the Toscano story. I now read the whole September Six episode in light of the more recent disciplinary actions against Murphy and Palmer. My view is that the senior leaders have come to the conclusion that the September Six events created more problems than they solved and that excommunicating dissenters is not an effective way to deal with dissent. I actually found Pres. Hinckley's remarks about the HM issue to be surprisingly mild, saying essentially that he didn't really care who you addressed your private prayers to as long as one didn't pray to HM in public meetings or encourage others to do so. It's difficult to see what all the fuss was about.

Dave: I think that one of the problems that the Toscanos and others (including, I am assuming, yourself) who wish to have more dissent within the Church is that their discussion of authority is couched almost exclusively in negative terms, specifying what sorts of authority are illegitimate. The problem is that at some point one must offer a positive account of authority, explaining where it comes from and why it matters. Most of the discussions that I have seen and read, however, talk as though the issue of authority in Mormonism is a red herring designed to distract us from the "real" discussion. That, I think, is a very real mistake on two fronts. First, rhetorically it guarantess marginalization, since in the absence of some positve account of authority, one is open the charge that the posture of faithful critique is a sham and that one's ultimate goal is the transformation of Mormonism along (philosophically) liberal lines without regard to notions of authority. Second, I think that it is an intellectual mistake in that I think that it is transparently obvious that authority is one of the organizing features of Mormonism and that any critique or discussion of Mormonism that does not deal with this reality is in a deep sense intellectually dishonest.

Nate, I don't think I really want to be lumped in with the Toscanos in terms of my persepctive on "dissent within the church." I think a proper discussion of that sensitive topic deserves its own post, which I'll put up tonight, perhaps using the nice George Q. Cannon quote supplied by Ben as a starting point.

" I think a proper discussion of that sensitive topic deserves its own post, which I'll put up tonight"

Looking forward to it. Sorry to lump you in with the Toscano's, your initial post just seemed a bit...er...huffy.

Yeah, what Nate said :)

Yes, my tone was kind of all over the map on that post. All things considered, I think Ben's quotes were better than my post.

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