Malcolm Jeppsen served as a Seventy from 1989-94, passing away in 2012. His daughter, Christine Jeppsen Clark talked to John Dehlin concerning her father’s role in the September Six excommunications in 1993. The Church has long maintained that excommunications are local decisions, but Church leaders at headquarters have been known to release stake presidents who don’t follow the desire of Church leaders. It was an interesting interview, and I wanted to transcribe some of the pertinent areas of Part 3 where Christine discussed her father’s central role in the controversy.
Christine stated that Malcolm was good friends with Boyd K. Packer, having attended school with him. Jeppsen was involved in some less controversial excommunications of polygamists in Manti, prior to turning his sights to the much more controversial September Six. She shared her own memories, and read from her father’s journal about that tumultuous time.
Approx. 24:00 Christine, “He was in North Utah Presidency, and also he was president of the South Utah Area. He thought it was unusual that while he was the chairman of the RNC Committee (Restoration of Blessings and Cancellation of Sealings Committee), which normally is a full-time job and they hadn’t ever given another assignment on top of that, he was asked if he would become involved as the area president of the South Utah Area at the same time with the admonition, the instructions that he was to [Christine is reading from his book] “clean up the apostate groups that were forming in southern Utah and eastern Utah.”
With that assignment, he says that one or two of the Twelve gave him some hints about how to go about taking care of these apostates so to speak. So he was armed with overhead slides, he says, and audiotapes of what has been said about following the prophet at the last General Conference, and he gathered all of the stake presidents and he told them, ‘there’s this problem that we’re having with people who are questioning the Brethren.’ They have the Brethren worried and we have got to do something about that. So he says that people can believe anything that they want and remain a member of the church, but they cannot teach false doctrine and do so as a church member.
So I always thought that was interesting because that’s what you’re being accused of, not so much you as Kate I guess. She’s being accused of teaching false doctrine, and I’d love to know if these people at this time were also just trying to explore issues in church history, or if they really were teaching false doctrine as much as questioning.”
26:20 John Dehlin, “Now I got the sense that some of these people in southern Utah were actually polygamists. It was like the Manti group, wasn’t it? And people who were trying to bring back polygamy, am I wrong there?”
Christine, “It seemed to be two different groups from what I can find out. The reason I say that is because I talked to a woman who was living in Manti during this period, and the reason we were friends and talking a lot—this was a couple of years ago because she also had an interest in the same things that I did, answering these very same questions. Because she had been wondering how this whole thing works as far as ‘how do you know who you’re listening to? How do you get answers to prayer and know that it’s the right source?’ That also was her obsession.
Because she had been asking those kinds of questions, she got lumped into that whole dissident classification along with Jim Harmston and others who were going back to fundamentalist Mormonism and yes starting their own polygamist groups. But I just thought it was so interesting that because she was faithfully questioning the same kinds of that things that Kate is. But wait, what about, is there more? Can we explore this? That’s what she was also doing and she apparently got on the same list with these others, more strident ones and had to explain why she wasn’t an apostate.”
John, “And so there’s this group with Jim Harmston, and it mentions a Jeff and a Ron Garff in southern Utah, then it also mentions a pilot in American Fork who had gained quite a following, and then it mentions Avraham Gileadi who is of the September Six. So it mentions kind of three different groups, or kind of areas, or regions or figures that your dad was sort of asked to deal with, right, as apostates?”
28:35 Christine, “Yeah, and the way he went about that was so interesting to me, and he told me about that at the time too. He, in fact I’ll just read it. He said,
I worked closely with the regional representatives there, and they reported to me weekly on the progress. I devised a form that indicated who was being worked with by whom, and what kind of progress was taking place.
In other words, he showed me the form, this was back in the day. Well, like he said, eventually some 40-50 persons in the Manti area alone were excommunicated. About 100 persons were eventually guided back into the church’s folds. So the stake presidents and bishops were working with these people individually, one on one and sending dad weekly their progress which he kept track of on kind of an Excel sheet, and then they reported weekly what kind of progress ‘was taking place and what were the chances they could be turned around with proper guidance, and if not, what was their church membership disposition?’ What did the stake president think was actually going to happen to them. Would they be able to be brought back to the fold and leave their apostate ways?”
30:10 John, “And so just like now the church seems—And I don’t even know how much of this matters. The church seems to want to heavily emphasize in these cases like with me and Kate Kelly and others that all the decisions are made locally, that the church doesn’t direct.”
John, “And you know, I’ve spoken with my stake president, he says that he has been given full power, he’s not been directed on what to do or what decisions to make, and that may or may not be true. I take him at his word. But what your dad’s journal talks about is how closely these stake presidents were corresponding with their Area Authorities or the General Authorities above them. There certainly is considerable collaboration, and we would expect there to be collaboration, right?”
Christine, “Well absolutely. Again, knowing that my dad was so compliant and so obedient to the brethren, I don’t think there’s any question that that’s why he was assigned to this case. In fact he says that some of these people in Manti went and to the media, “told the tv audiences that I was behind a big purging of dissidents in the area” and he said at a football game in the Rice Stadium [at the University of Utah] “someone plastered leaflets all over the parked cars telling the audience to call the Office of the First Presidency and demand that Elder Malcolm Jeppsen be released. The flier was headed ‘your church membership is in jeopardy unless you get rid of this out of control general authority.’ But what he said after that, is critical to, I think, understand the situation with you and Kate. ‘That was so inane since I wasn’t doing anything that I wasn’t instructed by that very First Presidency to do.’
And it may be that in high profile cases such as yours and Kate’s, the brethren said, do what you feel is the Lord, you know, do as you feel inspired by the Savior. But there’s no way that they aren’t aware of it, there is no way they aren’t concerned about keeping the doctrine pure, which was my dad’s mantra from President Hinckley, and having unanimity of faith and comportment in the members which is not represented by these movements, like this, very much like this.”
32:55 John, “As we learned about Denver Snuffer’s case, my case, and Kate Kelly’s case, a mid-level general Authority that has been implicated in all three cases is L. Whitney Clayton…”
John, “…gentleman who with Elder Ballard we understand, were both very closely behind in Proposition 8 in California, Elder Clayton is an attorney from, I understand in southern California. He, according to Denver Snuffer, he directly instructed Denver Snuffer’s—well we have—Denver Snuffer says his former president wouldn’t take action. Denver Snuffer makes it sound almost as if his former stake president was released, and then when a new stake president was implemented, which is the guy Hunt is his name. He’s the CEO of Nuskin. He was the one who was put in, possibly by Elder Clayton, that’s when the excommunication ultimately happened against Denver Snuffer.
I know that in my case, I was working with President Jensen who was my stake president. He exonerated me and everything was fine. I know he had some interactions from Elder Clayton, but then my stake president was removed. A new one was put in, who’s Bryan King, and he told me that he was put in by Elder Clayton, and he’s the one who’s been taking action against me and we know that Kate Kelly, I think it was Ballard himself and Clayton who shows up in Kate Kelly’s stake a few weeks before Kate received her letter, and I think they even went on record in a meeting as saying that Ordain Women was an apostate group.
I’m not saying this is bad or good, this is just the way the Church seems to work. There are these mid-level general authorities who clearly have influence, who are assigned to deal with apostates just like your father was, and then while they very well may empower leaders to make their own decisions, there’s also clearly coordinating and corresponding regularly with local stake presidents getting feedback, and the point I try to make with my stake president, clearly wielding influence as to what ultimate decisions are made.”
Christine interrupts, “Absolutely.”
John, “Go ahead.”
Christine, “No go ahead. Finish your thought.”
John, “Oh, I was just going to say, what I think is—I don’t know if this is a bombshell, but I found it to be highly significant. I think we should read from your dad’s journal about what happened with Avraham Gileadi of the September Six.”
35:45 Christine, “Absolutely, that’s where I was going next.”
John, “So yeah, let’s talk about that next, because that is a bombshell I think. I think it’s a bombshell.”
Christine, “I think we need to. I think so too, and I think it needs to come out that this happened and why, and to understand, not even in a vindictive way; just to understand how the brethren work and how the system works, because it is a system. It’s an organization like any other, and the brethren are trying their best to administer a system and sometimes—since this system unlike any other organization claims that it is the Savior making the decision, inspiring like you said, the leaders on every level. Then we need to understand that’s what they think and let’s look now at this particular incident that to me was, like you said, shocking and yet important to understand.”
John, “I wouldn’t mind if you actually just slowly read from his journal starting on page 433 of your journal…”
Christine, “That’s what I was going to do.”
John, “…that the subtitle is ‘a widely known preistcrafter’, ok.
John, “Ok and this is talking about Avraham Gileadi who is one of the September Six.”
John, “Go ahead.”
Christine, “He tried to redact the names, he didn’t want to put Brother Gileadi’s name in this but he left a couple out.”
John, “Yeah, I know.”
Christine, “He forgot. It’s in there, obviously. But I thought it was so interesting that he said he was serving on the Correlation Committee of the Church at the time this issue came up.
Just an aside, he describes the Correlation Committee, which he loved. He loved the Correlation Committee where he said that some General Authorities kind of chafed and didn’t want to have to run their talks and so forth through the Correlation Committee, but he loved it. He said, ‘then I know that what I’m preaching is true,’ meaning I can be assured that it’s from the Savior. That was his view. He said the Correlation Committee looks at everything the Church publishes, even music it seems, or letters written by headquarters or anyone else, and so they were looking—this committee was looking at something produced, or wanting to be carried by Deseret Book by Brother Gileadi.”
38:39 John, “Let me read the background your dad wrote.”
John, “He said, ‘In October of this year, another challenge presented itself…”
Christine, “I’m kind of avoiding it.”
John, “…concerning a brother who lived in the Salem Stake. His stake president was President Randall Gibbs, an Oral Surgeon. The man had studied for a year in Jerusalem and then placed himself up as a ‘Jewish scholar.’”
Christine sighs, “oh, I was avoiding reading that because, my poor dad didn’t do his homework. He didn’t vet this very well, and he used to tell me this back in the day. In fact he says this on the next page. ‘He was far from being a Jewish scholar. His history was that of a rock singer,’ and he kept telling me that, he’s a rock singer Chris, and now he’s trying to pass himself off as a Jewish scholar, and I don’t know why he said that because Avraham studied in Jerusalem. He has a Ph.D. Hugh Nibley wrote the preface to some of his books. I don’t know where dad got this that he wasn’t…”
John, “He was not a fake scholar.”
Christine, “No! He wasn’t—somehow he got it into his head that he was passing himself off as a scholar when he really wasn’t. He was just a rock star. But again, now you’re talking about personality types and hearsay, rumor that informs decisions without being vetted and my dad ‘s not the first one to fall victim to that.
He says, ‘he changed his name while he was in Israel to make himself sound Jewish. He taught one quarter at BYU before they let him go. Now see! Ohhh!”
John, “That’s not true, right?”
Christine, “Well he was a graduate student at BYU!”
Christine, “So they let him go because he finished his degree! I mean you know what that’s like, so do I. You’re being paid, they’re paying you to be a graduate student, and then they stop, and so he just didn’t know that part.”
John, “And he wrote, ‘so he made big bucks teaching false doctrine to whomever would come to his seminars to the tune of $50. So your dad’s got this impression—maybe he was making big bucks, although it’s hard to imagine making big bucks in the Mormon circuits.”
Christine, “I know.”
John, “Ya know.”
Christine, “I don’t really understand this part of it like—but at any rate, but dad wasn’t the only one that thought that he was ‘a priestcrafter.’ You’ve got to go back to the paragraph before. Here his book, The Last Days, is now being vetted or passed through the Correlation Committee that dad was on. ‘The chapter was obvious false doctrine.’ Oh, is he talking about a specific chapter?”
John, “The Ensign was going to run in the Ensign.”
Christine, “Oh the Ensign, there it is.”
John, “They were going to run a chapter of Gileadi’s book in the Ensign.”
Christine, “Yeah, his book in the Ensign because it was immensely popular as an article in the magazine. That’s how it got to the Correlation Committee. ‘The chapter was obvious false doctrine.’ Now I have that book, I‘ve looked at that chapter, and it’s talking about the last days in terms of, what’s it called, ancient Hebraic traditions. What’s it called? Cabbalism.
In other words, how the Jews traditions informed their scriptures, and so forth. It’s actually really interesting, but to this Correlation Committee, not just dad, it was obvious false doctrine. ‘We disapproved it and even contacted the members of the Twelve whose responsibility was Deseret Book and they agreed it was false doctrine.’ So it’s not just my dad. False doctrine in what context, I am not sure but it doesn’t matter because the brethren disapproved it.”
John, “What’s interesting about the parallel between September 1993 and now is that just as they’ve gone after some progressives like Kate and myself, they’ve also gone after some very orthodox and some would say fundamentalist members like Denver Snuffer, Rock Waterman and others.”
John, “So with somewhat of a purge, they’re making sure to purge both sides of the ideological spectrum, right? The progressives and the too conservatives, right? And that’s what they were doing with Gileadi.”
John, “Because Gileadi was a true believer.”
John, “He was all about the Second Coming and the Signs of the Times in Isaiah and he was just trying to talk about, the end is coming.”
Christine, “Right, not unlike Denver where he just saw the signs that we need to pay attention to. Yeah.”
John, “Ok, so let’s—do you want to read, or do you want me to read the start of…”
Christine, “I will read.”
John, “because this is the big part right here.”
Christine, “This is the big part. I have it starred and underlined because to me this was extremely significant in light of what you’re talking about.”
John, “Yeah because at the time, as the September Six unfolded, as I understand it, the Church was on record saying that these were local decisions, I think it was Elder Oaks and Elder Packer who insisted that these were local decisions, right?”
44:10 Christine, “I believe so.”
John, “And that this was not something that was coordinated from above. But here’s how your dad…”
Christine, “That was not true.”
John, “So here’s your dad saying how he was involved as the mid-level, sort of potentially, you know L. Whitney Clayton of his time, right?”
Christine, “Exactly. So dad says, ‘his stake president was not interested in doing much about the problem,’ the problem being…
John interrupts, “Gileadi, excommunicating him.”
Christine, “Exactly. Being a priestcrafter, whatever that definition was at the Correlation Committee level, they did not approve of what he was doing.”
Christine, “And he was apparently persisting in doing it. They took his book off the shelves of Deseret Book, by the way.”
Christine, “’I prodded him two times, and actually gave him a copy of the report from the Correlation Committee outlining Gileadi’s false doctrines that he was teaching.’ And again this wasn’t just my dad. ‘On his third visit to my office, he…’ this stake president, did he say who it was?”
John, “He did. He wrote it earlier, yeah.”
Christine, “Oh, President Randall Gibbs.”
Christine continues reading from the journal, “’thanked me for my counsel and was leaving when I put my arm around him and said, “We’re short on counsel in this office, but long on direction. I’m directing you to take action to correct or else excommunicate this man. He cannot be allowed to be teaching what he is teaching and remain a member of the church.” Still nothing happened.’ Yeah that’s end-quote of what he told President Gibbs. And so President Gibbs apparently was getting personal revelation within his calling that Brother Gileadi was not—didn’t deserve excommunication, whatever his communication was, his interaction with Brother Gileadi, it wasn’t the same as my dad’s. However, next paragraph.
‘Still nothing happened, so he, meaning President Gibbs was released as a stake president. Ok.”
John, “In other words, very causal.”
John, “We released him because he was not doing what your dad wanted him to do.”
Christine, “Excommunicate. It’s not just my dad though. This is the brethren.”
John, “Right. Yeah! Probably Elder Packer, right?”
Christine, “I wouldn’t be surprised.”
John, “Yeah, because Packer’s thumbprints were on the other September Six as well.”
Christine agrees, “Mmm Hmmm. And dad told me in the day, when this was all happening, the brethren have their hands full with things that are going on at BYU and dissidents and apostates they are that they’re handling, but this was in his area, therefore he was the one to deal directly with this.”
John, “Right, ok, keep going.”
Christine, “So he says, ‘the new one’, the new stake president, ‘called was a professor at BYU by the name of Leon Otten. He was appraised of the problem and he moved to correct it quickly. I gave him permission to use his Regional Representative in any fashion he wanted to cross boundaries of responsibility and gather whatever evidence he felt he needed.’ [Christine sighs]
So, I don’t know how much we want to get into how it all went down, because he’s quite detailed in…”
John, “I think it’s kind of crazy! I mean I..”
Christine, “I know, I don’t know how much time you want to take on why dad knows that the Lord’s hand is involved, how he, the signs that come to him that tell him he’s on the right track. I don’t know, do you want to read the whole thing?”
John, “Well whatever you think is interesting.”
Christine, “hmmm. Well and given that this is Brother Gileadi’s personal story that he’s probably never heard, I don’t know how much I want to go into it.”
John, “Yeah, so I guess we can say he was excommunicated, right?”
Christine, “Yeah, I think so. Dad felt strongly and gives a lot of detail which probably we should share with Brother Gileadi, but yeah…”
John, “Yeah, it’s crazy stuff.”
Christine, “Yeah, it’s crazy stuff, but crazy in the sense of signs that showed dad that he’s on the right track, and show President Otten that this is what the Lord wants them to do, and that again goes back to how do you know that you’re really being led by the Savior? Or some other influence on you? [Christine sighs] Yeah that’s a question that everyone needs to answer for themselves. We can read the next to last one I think, the last paragraph.”
Christine, “’The brother was excommunicated,’ because he forgot that he hadn’t redacted the name.”
John, “Ok, what do you mean by that? Oh right, right. Gileadi.”
Christine, “He thinks that he hasn’t said the name, even though he needed an editor for this book. This book by the way is 600 pages long.”
Christine, “It’s a huge tome, very lovingly put together and crafted.”
John, “But he does mention Gileadi previously, so yeah.”
Christine, “Yes he does. He forgot to take it out.”
John, “The brother was excommunicated.”
Christine, “Gileadi basically ‘was excommunicated and immediately the next day other dissidents who heard about it came to him wanting to sign on to a full page ad in the [Salt Lake] Tribune blasting what they were calling religious freedom. He would have none of it, telling him that he had made a mistake but he still loved the church immensely and would stop his seminars, etc. and do whatever he needed to do to get his membership restored. This he was faithful in doing and in about 18 months he was re-baptized into the church. I sent him a letter of congratulations when that happened, and I called it to the attention of the First Presidency.’
If you go on Brother Gileadi’s personal website right now, he keeps saying, ‘I am not a part of the September Six. Don’t include me with what is going on’, and he says on his website, ‘this excommunication has now been deemed to be a mistake. It has been expunged from my church records.’
Unfortunately we see my father as a well-meaining individual who thought he was acting with the approval and at the impetus of the Savior, along with General Authorities who were encouraging him, and yet it seems to have been not the Savior, and I’m sorry that it caused so much pain and grief to Brother Gileadi, but I think you could find other examples of this in the history of our church, well-meaning men who thought that they were being inspired by the Savior, but it’s apparently not that easy to determine what is the Savior and what is the source of some other information, and this is a classic example of that.”
I think this clearly shows apostles are intimately involved in excommunications of many members. Comments?