A few weeks ago, Rock Waterman announced that he was pleased to be included in a list of top ten LDS Dissidents and Troublemakers. I read through the list of the top ten, wondering why John Dehlin was merely an honorable mention. I also wondered who Adrian Larsen was. I had never heard of him. The list that I saw appeared without any explanation. I noted that it includes some people of the past and present. I didn’t give it much thought until a blogging friend pointed out that *I* was also on the list as an honorable mention. Should I be proud or ashamed to be on this list?
I’d like to examine this list in more detail in order to answer the preceding question. It starts out at 10, sort of David Letterman style. You can read the list yourself, but I’d like to give you my opinions on some of the people listed.
10. Helmuth Hubener – Mormon youth executed by Nazis for creating anti-Nazi propaganda in Germany. Troublemaker? absolutely. Good guy? absolutely. Top 10? Perhaps, but not particularly influential, even in Nazi Germany. I probably wouldn’t put him here, although I admire him greatly.
9. Natasha Parker – She used to blog with us at Mormon Matters, and bills herself as The Mormon Therapist (she also is a sex therapist). She’s been pretty vocal about masturbation as being not a big deal, as well as advocating for gay/lesbians. Troublemaker? ok. Top 10? Absolutely not.
8. Orson Pratt – apostle, but hard to call a Dissident. He famously argued with Brigham Young over theology like the Adam-God doctrine and blood atonement. He was against the Black priesthood/temple ban and supported black voting in 1851! Well the church has basically adopted all of his positions, while jettisoning Brigham Young’s. Troublemaker? I suppose, but that’s a weird thing to call an apostle. Top 10? Perhaps, but I’m pretty sure I can think of others more noteworthy. If I left him on the list, it would stay toward the bottom.
7. Michael Quinn – One of the September Six. Excommunicated for publishing LDS history, despite his very fervent belief in the restoration. He is now a folk hero among the LDS historical community. I’m sure he is still hated by the Brethren. Dissident? yes. Top 10? yes, but I’d put him higher on the list.
6. Juanita Brooks – she is also somewhat of a folk hero now, and was really controversial for correcting the historical accounts of the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Her history of the event has been the standard for some fifty years. Church leaders weren’t happy with her and some apostles wanted her exed because of the accurate portrayal of events. David O. McKay told them to leave her alone. Top 10? yes.
5. Paul Toscano – another of the September Six. Exed for insubordination when defending his wife whom the apostles really wanted to excommunicate for her writings of Mother in Heaven. Dissident? perhaps. Top 10? No, his wife Margaret has a bigger reason to be here, not him.
4. Rock Waterman – I really like Rock a lot. He was excommunicated for apostasy last year because leaders misconstrued/intentionally misinterpreted his blog. In my mind, Rock was exed for insubordination. He is still very much a believing Mormon, and has simply been critical of church leaders for not following scripture. Dissident? sure. Top 10? If he is, he shouldn’t be this high.
3. Adrian Larsen – I’ve never heard of him, but apparently her is a follower of Denver Snuffer. Top 10? absolutely not.
2. Denver Snuffer – I’ve strongly defended Denver in the past. Denver has claimed to see angels and has started a movement that the LDS Church is in apostasy, but still feels that people should stay members of the LDS Church. I can see why the Brethren don’t like him. He was exed in 2013. Dissident? yes. Top 2? No way.
As you read the list in this order, I think you get the impression that these are a bunch of malcontents. I greatly respect all on the list, but I’m not so sure I want the troublemaker label. But that brings me to the top person on the list, and I think this changes perspectives.
1 – Joseph Smith. Dissident and troublemaker? Well, ok, but not in the same thought as the rest of the list. Controversial for things like the First vision, Polygamy, consecration. I’m not sure I’d call him a dissident, but OK. Here’s what the list writer said.
The founder of Mormonism, and translator of the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith belongs at the apex of this list for the reason that a fair number of his teachings are not welcome within present mainstream Mormon society. Some of his teachings have been causing backlash and resistance against the mainstream for a long time:
He then lists four reasons why Joseph was a troublemaker. (1) He taught people to engage in a conscience – based, individualist approach to Mormonism. (2) He taught that each person should be open to the idea of trying to achieve a face-to-face meeting with God during their mortal life. (3) He taught that the Word of Wisdom is exactly what it claims to be within the canon: a recommendation, and not to be used as a coercive or exclusionary metric of worthiness… (4) He publicly taught that monogamy was the only acceptable form of marital relationship…
Huh? This is why Joseph Smith is a dissident and troublemaker? I don’t think so. This is a weird list. Apparently the list came from a guest named Joe Murff. He posted 8 quotes from Mormon leaders on independent thinking on Jana Reiss’s Flunking Sainthood blog. Joe also describes Christ as a dissident.
It’s worth nothing that the ultimate religious dissenter of all time was Jesus of Nazareth. He openly defied the religious authorities of his time, and unleashed torrents of public
criticism upon them, while acknowledging that they did indeed “sit in the seat of Moses”. He seemed to be trying to communicate something like this to them: Hey guys, your
positions of influence are important, and you came to power through God’s will, but you aren’t honoring your offices very well. Your titles and offices don’t obligate anyone to
give you obedience or respect. Please repent and do better –a lot better. I’m willing to risk my life in trying to help you see the light, but I can’t force you to see it, –you have to
open your eyes.
The post is ok, I think independent thinking is a good thing. My bigger problem is with this list. It is the hard to see PDF document that lists the top 10 list I’ve reviewed here–it’s an obscure link at the end. (Click on the link in the second paragraph above for direct link to the PDF.) Joe also lists 50 Honorable Mention dissidents, which he describes as “the best and brightest individuals in Mormon society, one must look among those who have been labeled by the mainstream as apostates, traitors, doubters, and critics.” He introduces the list like this.
A more complete survey of Mormon dissent would involve at least a “Top 500” list, and probably closer to a “Top 5,000” list, because there are many individuals and groups who have attempted to impact Mormon culture in a positive way, and more than a few of them have lost their standing or reputation in the church as a result of their efforts. Below is an incomplete, first blush list intended to identify a rough cross section of who has been involved in recent years. The list is ordered alphabetically by first name.
I think it’s a weird list. I don’t agree with him on several people. He is limiting his Honorable Mention list to current, living people, though obviously didn’t limit himself to living people for his Top 10 list. I can think of lots of people on the list ahead of Rock Waterman and Adrian Larsen. Off the top of my head, here’s a list that took me about 10 seconds to come up with: lets talk just about apostates who didn’t join Brigham Young: Sidney Rigdon, James Strang, William Smith, John C. Bennett, Oliver Cowdery, William Law, Emma Smith, David Whitmer, Peter Whitmer….. to say nothing of Sonia Johnson, Mark Hoffman, Ron & Dan Lafferty….. Heck what about Ammon and Cliven Bundy?
Maybe I’ll have to do post of Infamous Mormons and ask for others who should/shouldn’t be on the list?
I guess I’m a little flattered to be on a list with the Richard & Claudia Bushman, Kristine Haglund, Greg Prince, Maxine Hanks, Neylan McBaine, Fiona & Terryl Givens, but I don’t think I’m anywhere near as influential to be on that list. How on earth did Kate Kelly and John Dehlin stay off the Top 10 and are merely Honorable Mentions?
Who would you add/remove from his top 10? Who are your honorable mentions? Am I really Top 50 material?