Dawn Tracy publishes an article in the Provo Daily Herald reporting that she talked to fourteen Mormon writers in four states who "had been questioned" by local ecclesiastical leaders. All had contributed to Dialogue, Sunstone, or the Seventh East Press. Roy Doxey, former BYU dean of religious education, says that Apostle Mark E. Petersen "ordered the investigations." Elder Petersen, whose assignment has long been the investigation and suppression of fundamentalist Mormons, has apparently expanded his mandate to include other individuals whom he defines as enemies of the church. In 1962 he told a conference of seminary and Institute faculty, "In teaching the gospel there is no academic freedom. . . . There is only fundamental orthodox doctrine and truth."
Three of the writers who were investigated are faculty members at BYU. Jack Newell, co-editor of Dialogue, comments, "We are gravely concerned that the faith of any Latter-day Saint would be questioned including the basis of his or her commitment to legitimate scholarship and the free exchange of ideas."
Scott Faulring's stake president chastised him for his writings but admitted he had never read the offending articles. This stake president also "warned him to be cautious in his writing" and refused to tell him "who asked him to talk to me," said Faulring. Gary James Bergera of Provo, also interviewed, commented: "My stake president told me that if the prophet told me to do something wrong, I would be blessed if I obeyed. . . . He said what I had written was anti-Mormon because it wasn't uplifting." The stake president, Penrod Glazier, singled out an article about Jerald and Sandra Tanner published in Seventh East Press and a news story Gary had co-authored on an anti-Mormon conference in Alta published in Sunstone Review. According to Bergera, the stake president "said it was clear in the article that I didn't support the Tanners. . . . But because I interviewed them I came close to supporting them." Bergera's stake president denies that he is acting on orders from anyone else but several years later confirms to another stake president that he was asked to "watch over" Bergera by Elder Mark E. Petersen. Other writers questioned are Armand Mauss, Thomas G. Alexander, David John Buerger, Lester Bush, Edward A. Ashment, Jeff Keller, and Richard Sherlock. Carlos Whiting, a Mormon writer from Silver Spring, Maryland, is quoted as saying the writers who were interviewed are upset and adds, "Anti- intellectualism being manifest in the church is contrary to basic doctrine. . . . More serious, however, seems to be the inept approach of the various leaders involved in the inquiries."
J. D. Williams denounces the proceedings as "an inquisition" and adds, "Passing ecclesiastical judgment on writers who have conducted serious, historical research is a denial of everything the church stands for." When Peggy Fletcher learns that her bishop also received a call, she goes to a "high church official to complain. It was later learned on good authority, she said, that the Council of Twelve Apostles was asked to lay off and, indeed, the calls abruptly ended."
During this same period, Maxine Hanks, a returned missionary who is working on Seventh East Press and teaching Sunday classes at the Mission Training Center, is released with no reason being given. When she insists on meeting with her supervisor, he denies that her release has anything to do with the Seventh East Press. "It wasn't that you weren't good enough or smart enough--and it wasn't that you weren't pretty enough," she remembers him saying. "If I had to give a reason, I would say that you are perhaps a little too intelligent for the elders. You are perhaps a little too intellectual." He will not discuss the possibility of a revised approach or reengaging her to teach.
These episodes are not without their comic side. Linda King Newell is under ecclesiastical investigation both for her prize- winning and controversial biography of Emma Hale Smith, co- authored with Valeen Tippetts Avery (New York: Doubleday, 1984) and for her co-editorship of Dialogue. She is at the time serving in her ward's Relief Society presidency while Jack is serving in the bishopric. An unnamed man, identifying himself as "the director of correlation," calls the other counselor in the bishopric, asks whether Linda has a temple recommend, and, upon being informed that she does, asks someone in the background to "hand me the file on Linda Newell." After a few more questions about Linda's worthiness, the caller terminates the conversation. The following Sunday the counselor takes Linda aside and asks, "Now, which general board have you been called to?" Peggy Fletcher's bishop reportedly assumes that the call to him is also for clearance for a general board calling and recommends her in enthusiastic terms.
Ron Priddis learns from a relative as early as 1976 that Elder Petersen "has a file" on him. But these episodes, known collectively as the Petersen Inquisition or the Petersen Witch Hunt, are important for establishing (1) that files are being kept systematically on writers for independent LDS publications and (2) that others besides Petersen are involved in creating and maintaining these files.
[Anderson, Lavina Fielding, "The LDS Intellectual Community and Church Leadership: A Contemporary Chronology," Dialogue, Vol.26, No.1]
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