Just four days ago, my bishop and the stake executive secretary showed up at my doorstep to hand me this letter:
Dear Brother Waterman,
The stake presidency is considering formal disciplinary action in your behalf, including the possibility of disfellowshipment or excommunication, because you are reported to have participated in conduct unbecoming a member of the church, namely apostacy (sic).
You are invited to attend this disciplinary council to give your response and, if you wish, to provide witnesses and other evidence in your behalf.
The disciplinary council will be held on Wednesday Evening June 3, 2015 at 7:30 p.m. at the stake center at 2745 Eastern Ave. Sacramento, CA 95821.
President Douglas E. Hansen
Sacramento CA East Stake
There's quite a bit I could say about this upcoming adventure, but most of it has already been covered in this interview I gave immediately after receiving the summons:
As you'll see in the video interview with John Dehlin above, I have no earthly idea what the charges against me might be that could warrant such a drastic reaction. Certainly nothing I've written in this blog entails "participation in conduct unbecoming a member of the church." As Church spokespersons have repeatedly affirmed,
"Church leaders are not asking members not to blog, and they are not attacking the rights of honest explorers of faith to have these conversations in the so-called Bloggernacle." Church Spokeswoman Ally Isom on KUER radio, June 16thSo that's a relief. It can't be this blog that's gotten me into hot water with Church authorities. Then what is it, I wonder?
Well, I did participate recently in a family reunion of sorts. This was a gathering of fellow Mormon bloggers, Facebook friends, and online acquaintances where we had a chance to finally meet, visit together, and enjoy a potluck dinner. Saturday night there was even a dance at the local school gym.
To be honest, a lot of us grownups didn't dance; we pulled up chairs to visit with each other in the hallway. Mostly it was teenagers and little kids on the dance floor. But I did come running when I heard the Macarena playing, because that's pretty much the only coordinated dance I ever learned -taught to me by my son and the other two boys I drove to seminary every morning back when that dance was all the rage. So maybe it's just now coming out that dancing to the Macarena constitutes conduct unbecoming. It wouldn't surprise me. Wouldn't surprise you either if you ever saw the way I dance.
Anyway, Sunday morning we all gathered outside and had a testimony meeting and partook of the sacrament. That couldn't be it, either. If bearing testimony of Christ and partaking of His sacrament is considered by anyone to be conduct unbecoming a member of the church of Jesus Christ, then maybe I am in the wrong church, after all.
As I was wracking my brain trying to determine what possible conduct I might have been reported as participating in that could by any stretch of the imagination be considered "conduct unbecoming a member of the church," I got a phone call from someone in Idaho who may have hit on the answer.
Apparently I've been trafficking in pornography.
Yep. I think that sort of thing would qualify as Conduct Unbecoming.
Rock Waterman-Purveyor of Fine Filth
This caller, whom I had never heard from before, informed me that he had pulled up my Google Plus account and found a video on there featuring two naked men going at it with gusto -by which I mean there was no naked woman in the scene with them. The caller didn't believe I had anything to do with putting that video up on my Google Plus site (he was right), but wanted to let me know about it just the same. I thanked my new friend for alerting me to this shocker. (The video was immediately removed by the fine folks at Google once they were alerted to its existence.)
Google Plus is one of the many things I've signed up for at one time or another then promptly forgot about. Frankly, I don't even know what Google Plus is or what it's for. It means no more to me than the myriad other sites such as LinkdIn, Pinterast, Imgur, GoodReads, or any other site some pop-up ad invited me to sign up for and I responded with a shrug and a "why not?"
I have no idea what these things do either and I never bothered to find out. So I'm prepared to state unequivocally right here and now that I am not in the habit of posting disquieting images of confirmed bachelors frolicking naked on any social media to which I subscribe and never use.
This news I received from my new friend in Idaho did not catch me totally off guard, because something much like it has happened before. Some months ago I began receiving reports from friends claiming they were receiving pornographic pictures, videos, and songs with raunchy lyrics, all coming from my email account. I asked them to send them back to me so I could see what it was I was supposed to be sending out, and sure enough, it was some pretty rank stuff. I still don't know who or why anyone would hack into my account and send people naughty pictures reportedly from me, but there it was in front of my eyes, and attributed as having originally come from RockWaterman@gmail.com. Unless I'm an unwitting somnambulist with a darker side, I'm pretty certain I didn't send out those messages.
This prompted me to post an asseveration on my Facebook page some months ago, affirming that I do not traffic in such things, nor do I post, send, or convey such materials online or by mail, and that I never have.
Interestingly, just yesterday my wife was contacted by my brother, Karl, who informed her someone had likely hacked into her email account, as he had received some distasteful and uncharacteristic materials purporting to be from her. A year or two ago her Facebook account was closed after the folks at Facebook accused her of posting inappropriate material on her wall. (She hadn't. In fact, she hadn't so much as signed in on Facebook for over six months prior to that notification.)
So this is beginning to look like a family business.
The reason I bring this up here is because since I began blogging, I've gained a few determined enemies. One or two of these individuals despise me wholeheartedly and without reservation. My online interaction with a couple of these guys has at times given me pause, as they do not appear to be in tip-top health emotionally or mentally. Connie has expressed concern to me on more than one occasion that if these people lived anywhere near us they might try to assassinate me and think they were doing the Church a favor. I've dismissed her concerns, but really, who knows? There are all kinds of people out there, and at least two have zeroed in on me and proven both in private correspondence and public that they have an obsession with me some might label "unhealthy."
[Warning: After I wrote the following section, a couple of people have told me they found it disturbing. So do I. But Connie, whose intuition I trust, felt strongly prompted that if someone wished to destroy my reputation, it might be by an attempt to peg me as a pedophile who keeps child pornography on his hard drive. (I have no idea whether this stuff has been embedded in my computer or not) "What else could they possibly have to use against you?" she asked, "Face it Rock, there are people out there who would utterly destroy you if they could find a way." We felt it was important to pre-empt any method anyone might feasibly try to use to attack me on this front by getting ahead of this story. So some may wish to skip the next two paragraphs, as they are disturbing.]
One time I was led to a link purporting to lead to one of my blog posts, the one titled "Too Bad I Don't Like Beer." It's not unusual for me come across something I have written that has been re-posted on someone else's site, sometimes in distant countries and translated into foreign languages. Some of my posts have been translated into Japanese and Portuguese, so I'm always interested in taking a look when I hear of it.
At this particular time, however, when I clicked on the link, I saw something I wish I never had. You know how you hear about seeing something you can't un-see? Well, when I clicked on this link that, for all intents and purposes, should have taken me to one of my own blog posts, I was subjected to a page full of pictures showing naked young girls who looked to be between the ages of nine and twelve years old, all of whom were being ravaged by men whose heads and faces were deliberately kept out of frame. These children did not look happy to be where they were or doing what they were obviously forced to be doing. In the one photo that sticks in my mind, a tiny girl is staring unhappily into the camera while holding her arm next to a man's very large erect penis, demonstrating that the member next to her arm was larger than her own arm from elbow to wrist. I hesitate even to write about this disquieting affair, but I think it's necessary I do so for reasons I'll cover in a moment.
But first, here's why I bring all this up: Whether my accounts have been hacked by deliberate enemies or just random teenage pranksters, it wouldn't take much for some innocent member of my local congregation to receive an email purportedly from me, open it, and find it contains disconcerting content. If two of these innocent recipients were to believe these emails came from me, and report them to my local church authorities, that is all that is required for me to be brought up on charges of conduct unbecoming a member of the church.
Of course, the proper course for those members would have been to contact me first before running to the bishop. That is what is required under D&C section 42, verse 88 before involving local church authorities. And if the bishop or stake president were to have any concerns about such things, they are required by scripture to approach me privately first to learn if these concerns are warranted. Issuing a summons to a formal disciplinary hearing is jumping the gun quite a bit.
Nevertheless, for these reasons I think it would be wise to issue a formal Asseveration, so I hereby assert that I DO NOT traffic in pornography of any kind, I DO NOT download pornography, I DO NOT and HAVE NEVER sent any improper materials, videos, songs, or lyrics to anyone at any time, whether by email, postal mail, or personal delivery.
My hands are clean of such activity, so if you or anyone you know receives anything purporting to be from me that seems out of character, you may know of a surety that I had nothing to do with it. And that goes also for anything purporting to have come through the email or Facebook accounts of my wife, Connie.
Okay. Enough said about that.
Prayers For Wednesday
If you've already watched the video interview above, you can probably tell that I'm ready for this disciplinary hearing and looking forward to clearing things up. I'm comfortable with the procedural law as the scriptures direct for these situations, so I'm confident I can make certain God's law is paramount in that venue, and not man's. Members of Christ's church can be held to answer only for transgressions, and I am not aware of any actual sins or transgressions I might be guilty of that would warrant such a hearing. As regular readers know, I'm a stickler for accuracy, so if this charge of misconduct has anything to do with my blog, I will be interested to know what errors of fact or doctrine I stand accused of promulgating, and if those accusations have merit I am prepared to correct my errors.
I see this as an opportunity to clear up misconceptions some people have -notably people who are not very familiar with me or my writings. Normally in a hearing of this type, the members of the stake high council will have no idea of the controversy going in; all they will know about me is whatever the witnesses against me have to say, and I will have the responsibility of defending myself by correcting whatever misinformation is presented.
In my previous conversations with both my bishop and my stake president, they expressed concern that my blog may be leading people out of the church. Regular readers know that's nonsense, of course, and in the past few days I've received testimonials from readers affirming that my blog has had the opposite effect; that it has assisted many in giving them reasons to stay. Anyone reading these words who would like to add their own short statement of support can do so in the comment section below. I will then print it up and present them in my defense.
Please add your prayers for me and Connie these next few days, and especially on Wednesday evening. Pray that I will be lucid (if you watch the video you can tell I'm anything but), and that I will speak straightforward with power and confidence. (In other words, I'd prefer not to stammer and ramble as I often do. Again, see the video above.)
If my membership is being tried because this blog offends someone in leadership, one might wonder why anyone in the Church hierarchy would wish to silence a voice that embraces the Book of Mormon, venerates Joseph Smith as a prophet, and bears testimony of Christ. In answer, I would simply say I have learned that putting the doctrines of Christ ahead of the doctrines of men will sometimes earn you the ire of some of those men. Throughout history, men who think they speak for God are often overcome with pride to the point they are unable to recognize their own faults and shortcomings while they are busy focusing on yours. As someone posted yesterday on the New Order Mormon Forum:
"I think the more cogent issue is the authority issue. Denying the Corporate Church its claimed celestial mandate, accompanying authority, and requisite demand/acquiescence of obedience is a far more threatening issue than a bunch of folks getting together for a chat or a new baptism or sacrament.
"Challenging the Divine Authority of the Church attacks its essential power-base. A lot of folks want to make this sort of thing about a "loss of revenue" for the Church by reduced tithes but in the end it's about who talks to and speaks for and acts as the Lord in this world. Remember, the Stake President is God in a Court of Love. He can strip you of your spouse and family for all eternity. That mortal, flawed and imperfect man acts as the Lord does on the last day--and will do that which he "feels" is the will of the Lord--ignoring the idea that he has pride, lust, love, sin, prejudice and humanity that taints his vision.
"It's that simple. If your conduit to the Lord doesn't run through the Church and only the Church you're going to find yourself in a bind with the Church.
"Not so much with the Lord, in my opinion."Thank you all for your support all these years. I have been asked if I would stop blogging if I am excommunicated from the Church, and submit to the authority of my priesthood leaders and do as I am told.
Come on now. I would hope you've come to know me better than that.
Related Post: Who Is Changing The Doctrine?
A Few Quick Announcements:
In previous posts I have recommended The Parallel Doctrine & Covenants as one of the most useful books I own. This is the only way I read the D&C anymore because when I read it I want to know I'm reading the most accurate versions of Joseph Smith's revelations extant. Right now the publisher, Signature Books, is clearing out all remaining copies at only $25.00 each. This book is normally fifty bucks, and when they're gone they will likely go for more (right now Amazon has a used copy listed for $102.00).
These books are available only through Signature Books.com or through the author at his Salt Lake City store, Benchmark Books. You can't get them at this price from Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Believe me, you need this book.
Also at an incredibly reduced price are Dan Vogel's Early Mormon Documents. There are five volumes in all, normally $45.00 per volume, but now going out the door for $23.00 each. These are incredible research resources, as well as making fascinating reading. I own two volumes myself, and if I haven't shot myself in the foot by encouraging you folks to buy out the rest of the inventory, I hope to eventually own the other three. These books are available from the sources linked to above, as well as on Amazon.