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In September and October 1993, six noted Mormon intellectuals and feminists were expelled from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the LDS Church). The Salt Lake Tribune dubbed these individuals the "September Six", an alliterative name which was popularly referred to in the media.
Church Measures Against the September Six
Except for Lynne Kanavel Whitesides, all of the September Six were excommunicated. Whitesides was disfellowshipped, a less-severe sanction. According to LDS Church policy, this meant she could return to full fellowship without re-baptism. Excommunicated members may be rebaptized and enjoy full fellowship after repentance is demonstrated. However, as of 2004, four of the September Six are not members of the LDS church—the exceptions are Avraham Gileadi, who was rebaptized, and Whitesides, who is still a disfellowshipped member.
The September Six
While the LDS Church publicly announces when a person has been excommunicated, the church refuses to discuss details about why the person was excommunicated, even if details of the proceedings are made public by that person. The church's point of view is missing, therefore, as to why each of the September Six were excommunicated. Based on many of their own comments, and other sources, the following describes what is known about the individuals' reasons for excommunication and their current relationship to Mormonism.
- Lynne Kanavel Whitesides - feminist noted for speaking on the "Mother in Heaven." Whitesides was the first of the group to experience church discipline. She was disfellowshipped September 14.
- Whitesides has not returned to activity in the church again as of 2004. Reports state that she has pursued a personal spiritual growth by searching for a more feminine conception of God.
- Avraham Gileadi - Old Testament scholar. He authored a book about Isaiah and the last days. Details of why he was excommunicated on September 15 are not available.
- Gileadi, not considered a theological liberal like the others, has been re-baptized, and is an active member of the Church. He has since written Isaiah Decoded, a book sold by LDS-owned Deseret Book.
- Paul Toscano—Salt Lake City attorney who co-authored a controversial book, Strangers in Paradox: Explorations in Mormon Theology (1990), which questioned Church teachings, including its position on the gender of God (the book proposes that God might better be visualized as androgenous). He was excommunicated September 19.
- Toscano has stated that he lost his faith and said he feels remorse only for being so angry at the LDS Church. His wife and co-author Margaret Toscano was also excommunicated in November 2000.
- Maxine Hanks - feminist writer who edited the book Women and Authority: Re-emerging Mormon Feminism (1992). She was excommunicated September 19.
- Hanks has since pursued Gnosticism, and was ordained to the clergy in the Wasatch Gnostic Society in 1999. She has continued to be publicly critical of LDS leadership in her speaking and writing.
- Lavina Fielding Anderson—feminist writer who edited the book Sisters in Spirit: Mormon Women in Historical and Cultural Perspective (1992). She was excommunicated September 23.
- Anderson still attends LDS church services as a non-member. She continues to write on Mormon issues, including editing the multi-volume Case Reports of the Mormon Alliance, an ongoing collection of interviews with Mormons who believe they were unfairly disciplined by the Church for their unorthodox views and activities.
- D. Michael Quinn—Mormon revisionist historian. Among other studies, he documented LDS Church-sanctioned polygamy from 1890 until 1910, after the 1890 Manifesto when they officially abandoned the doctrine. He also authored the 1987 book, Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, which argues that early Mormon leaders were greatly influenced by occult beliefs and magic practices. He was excommunicated September 26.
- A few years after his excommunication, Quinn announced that he was gay. While Latter-day Saints are not currently excommunicated simply for being gay, they may be excommunicated if they are part of an intimate homosexual relationship. However, there is no evidence that sexuality was an issue in his excommunication.
- Quinn has since written several books critical of Mormon leaders, including his two-volume work, The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power and The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power. He also authored the 1996 book Same-Sex Dynamics Among Nineteenth-Century Americans: A Mormon Example, which argues that homosexuality was tolerated and even openly practiced among early Mormons.
- Despite his excommunication and critical writings, Quinn remains a believing Latter Day Saint, although he does not attend or formally belong to a church.
The excommunicated feminists challenged assumptions of a male-only priesthood in the Church. Because only priesthood holders may preside, this means only males can serve in general leadership positions, something feminists criticize. Feminists also challenged the all-male leadership by suggesting that women pray to their "Mother in Heaven" A Heavenly mother theoretically exists in Mormon theology—the 1845 hymn O My Father by Eliza R. Snow mentions her briefly—but there is no developed Mormon doctrine on the nature of a Heavenly Mother, and worship of her has never been prescribed by LDS leaders.
Quinn and Gileadi likewise seemed to challenge official church positions. At the least they published research without regard for official history or millennial doctrines respectively.
Toscano, on the other hand, directly attacked church leadership.
Several of the September Six including Quinn and Anderson claim that a handful of General Authorities, notably LDS apostle Boyd K. Packer, orchestrated the excommunications. Anecdotes from individuals who attended excommunication council hearings suggest that stake presidents received directives from above to discipline theologically liberal individuals and so-called Mormon intellectuals as a local decision. To some, the apparently synchronized buildup of warnings and councils over the summer of 1993 suggest that General Authorities conceived of and oversaw the disciplinary measures.
Very little sympathy was found for the September Six within the mainstream Mormon community. The event is not well remembered by most faithful and the church itself does not comment on it.
However, the event was very important to theologically "liberal," (that is, more heterodox) Mormons, especially those who embrace a more open view of feminism, homosexuality, and "social justice." To Mormon feminists, the event echoed the 1979 excommunication of feminist Sonia Johnson. It seemed to deliver a message about how the conservative Church views feminist critics within the Church.
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