It’s been 30 years since six intellectuals were excommunicated all in the month of September from the LDS Church. News spread quickly and sent a chill in the academic community. Paul Toscano looks back on those events from 30 years ago, and tells what happened, why, and who was involved.
Intro To Sept Six
Paul: The September Six; September is referring to September of 1993. So that’s 30 years ago, coming up soon. And the six [people] are Lynne Whitesides, who was disfellowshipped on September 12 of 1993. She was supposed to be excommunicated, but her bishop couldn’t do it to her, but it wound up that she’s permanently disfellowshipped. So I don’t know the difference between that and excommunication. I think they’re probably very close. Avraham Gileadi, who does not like to think of himself as a member of the September Six for whatever reason. He was excommunicated on September the 15th, which was the following Wednesday. And then Maxine Hanks was excommunicated on Sunday, September the 19th in Salt Lake City, so happens on the same day. I was excommunicated in Cottonwood, which is a south of Salt Lake City in the Murray/Cottonwood area, and that was on the 19th. And then on the 23rd, which was I think, a Thursday If I recall, of September, it was Lavina Fielding Anderson was excommunicated, although she did not attend her High Council or her bishops court or whatever it was that they held on her. And then, on the 26th of September, which was a Sunday, Mike Quinn was excommunicated. Memory does not serve me as to where he was. I know that he could have been in Salt Lake. But I think he might have been in Rancho Cucamonga in California. That’s where he lived later and where he died last year. Well, it would be 2021 he died.
Boyd Packer’s Role in Sept Six
Paul 06:15 So that’s who the September Six are. And it was a purge. The Church says it wasn’t a purge. But there’s evidence that it was a purge. And it was, I think, orchestrated mostly by Boyd K. Packer, who’s no longer with us. He’s gone to his great reward.
GT 06:40 So we won’t be talking to him.
Paul 06:41 We won’t be able to talk to him, although the veil is thin. He may show up and defend himself. But the reason why he was able to do this being not in the First Presidency; he was in the Council of the Twelve. He was a senior member of the 12. But he wasn’t the senior member. It was because Ezra Benson was, I think he fell off his horse or something. And after that he was non compos mentis, and he was mostly comatose, or in and out of that. You can get a better picture of that, from going to Steve Benson’s website, if you look up Steve Benson September 6, or I can get that information to you. You can put it into the transcript, but he tells about how his grandfather was not functioning as president the church.
Paul 07:40 So when that happens, when a president is not functional, the way that church governance happens is that the counselors to the first presidency, first and second counselor to President Benson, who were then Gordon Hinckley and Thomas Monson in that order. And those two joined with the 12 apostles to create 14 people that become the apostolic interregnum. That is they as the Council of the First Presidency of the Council of the 12, they run the church. And that gives the members of the Council of the 12 a lot more say so because they’re actually functioning as in the First Presidency, so to speak, in this temporary situation. Because of that Boyd Packer was able to convince the others because he’s very convincing. And he bullied people.
Paul: About in October of 93. I had a law partner who was a very close to the Hinckleys and the leadership of the church, the Huntsmans. She told me that she was at a party right after I was excommunicated with some of the Hinckleys and the Huntsmans and some other people. And I don’t want to be that any more specific than that, which is specific enough. And, Gordon Hinckley was there with Marjorie, and he didn’t participate in the conversation, but he was listening to it. And his son said, “Well, if Paul and Margaret had been in our stake they’d never been excommunicated. Because they didn’t do anything that was apostate.” And Huntsman said that he was the stake president for Howard Hunter.
GT 10:09 Is this John Jr. or John Senior?
Paul 10:11 Senior.
GT 10:12 Okay. He recently passed away.
Paul 10:14 Yeah, so recently passed away. He was the stake president for Howard Hunter and Howard Hunter [was at the party.] He [Paul’s friend] told the story at this party. He said that Howard Hunter calls me up periodically to give him a blessing because he’s has such negative feelings and depression and general dark feelings whenever he’s around Boyd Packer. So, I derived from the stories that that I was told by my law partner who was present at the party, that the decision to excommunicate the people in September of 1993 was not a unanimous, revelatory decision of the leaders of the Church.
Lessons of Sept Six
GT 1:39:49 As you look back on these last 30 years, are there any lessons that you that you can take from this?
Paul 1:39:57 Yes, I’m not sure I can tick them off. One of the lessons that I know is true is that God loves people I don’t like. He tolerates a great deal, which is why people don’t like God. They hate him because he doesn’t interfere in Afghanistan. He doesn’t stop earthquakes or tsunamis. He doesn’t stop volcanoes. He doesn’t stop viruses. He lets people starve in Africa. He lets oligarchies take over Russia [and] America to a certain extent. He lets the CIA put Pinochet in power in Chile on September the 11th 1973. He does all these things or doesn’t interfere. And I understand why people get very angry and want to be become atheist because of it.
Paul 1:41:03 But I think that unless we go, either directly or indirectly, through all the suffering people, through our empathy or even personally go through these terrible things, we will become or remain very arrogant. We will not have empathy unless we experience it for ourselves. Some people don’t have to experience very much bad to become good. But some people have to experience an awful lot of bad before they realize that they’re bad, and that they have to repent. It takes a horrible experience. But in the grand scheme of things, mortality is a short dark tunnel. And everybody goes through it. It’s a train that’s going through this tunnel is a train full of monsters. There are monsters on the train. They’re not always monsters. That’s the problem. Putin has been a monster now. He wasn’t always a monster. Hitler was a monster. He wasn’t always a monster. Oftentimes, monsters are made by just how they respond to the evil in the world. They become evil, fighting evil.
Hero & Pariah
GT 1:49:03 So, Paul, can you talk a little bit about–I think you’re both an ex-Mormon hero for some, and you’re a pariah, an ex-Mormon pariah for others. Because I know you call yourself an agnostic; it depends on the day of the week, whether you’re a believer or not. But you strike me, especially when we think about some other people, Sonia Johnson and John Dehlin and people like that, that have just gone away and said, “I don’t believe at all.” But you’re still a believer. Right?
Paul 1:49:40 I believe that Joseph Smith was a genuine mystic. And like mystics, he led a very conflicted life between his spiritual or life, his mystical experiences and the physical reality of his mortal existence. I think there was great conflict. I think that’s why he was told he would be known for Good and Evil. Because I think when he operated in the physical world and the political world in the real world of flesh and blood, he made mistakes and he cast a shadow. He did things that maybe he thought were right, but people are going to judge very severely. I don’t think that affects what he said about his mystical revelations. I don’t think if you read the Book of Mormon, not in its history. Margaret once did a study of what the Book of Mormon has to say about war. And if you just pull out of it just the war ideas, things related to war, it’s a wonderful anti-war text.
GT 1:51:04 As we look back on the last 30 years, I’d like to, for you to address two types of critics. Your orthodox Mormons/active Mormons, and then your ex-Mormon critics, let’s go with the Orthodox first.
Paul 1:51:22 Well, the orthodox critics are just saying, “You must have done something bad if Boyd Packer threw you out. I mean, he’s the apostle. You’re not. We follow. We obey. You didn’t obey. It’s Kerry Heinz telling us they are the parents. We’re the children. We obey, and they set the rules. What’s wrong with you? Well, my answer is that is that I didn’t get baptized in the name of the 12 apostles. I didn’t swear allegiance to them. I have days when I have a hard time believing in God. But at heart, it tips in favor of the existence of the Lord. And so I say, “Yes. I’m His creature, not their creature.” And they are no more His creature than I am. There’s Jesus and all the rest of us. There’s the Holy Ghost and all the rest of us. There’s not a hierarchy like the Council of 12 has. It’s not a seniority system. They’ve invented that. And it’s wrong. succession to the presidency should be by revelation. We should not progress by funerals. So, to the ex-[mormon]s who are not orthodox, the critics who had left the Church…
GT 1:52:59 They say, “Why do you continue to believe Paul?”
Paul 1:53:02 Because I’m not a scientific materialist. Because I don’t believe the universe is simply the one flat plane of molecules. Beneath the Periodic Chart is the standard model of subatomic particle, which is incomplete. And beneath that is the wave field theory. And beneath that, there have to be something that is like consciousness. I don’t believe that the brain produces mind. I believe that brain is more like a radio that’s getting a transmission from somewhere else, rather than like a tape recorder that is playing back something that’s inside of it. For that reason, I understand that mysticism is difficult. A mystic like Joseph Smith or somebody like Hildegard von Bingen is going to get all kinds of things coming through that when they try to present it, it’s going to look goofy.
Aftermath of Christensen Death
I was surprised to learn that Paul knew Steve Christensen, the first man killed by Mark Hofmann’s pipe bomb.
Paul: [Steve & Paul] had become friends. He told me in confidence that he was having a faith crisis. And I said, “Well, maybe there’s a historical basis for the Book of Mormon. It was a Book of Mormon faith crisis, because we can’t seem to find any adequate physical evidence of the historicity of the Book of Mormon.
GT 08:54 Well, I’m sure Mark was feeding him a lot of stuff that was causing that faith crisis too.
Paul 08:59 I believe that might be true. And I said, “Well, I have a story that is in the other direction. It may be helpful to you.”
Paul goes on to tell a story about some golden plates shown to some missionaries in England on a mission in the 1970s. At the time, Paul wasn’t aware if they were authentic or not. Steve had written the account down in his journal. Some Salt Lake Tribune reporters were given permission to read Steve’s journal after his death. The reporters called Paul, asking him about the story.
Paul: What would this have to do with Mark Hofmann? The fact that this happened in England, and this was told to me, and I tell him, what has this to do with your investigation about Mark Hofmann?
They said, “Well, did you know that Mark Hofmann served is mission in England?
“No.” he said.
“Do you know that he served in Bath and took place in Bath? And there’s this story? He lived in Bath or near there.”
And I said, “No.” And I said, “But I’m beginning to see that there might be a connection.”
The plates were later ruled forgeries, but likely gave Mark some ideas. I asked Paul his thoughts on Mark Hofmann.
Sometimes, people do things so bad. Like the kid that killed the kids in Uvalde, Texas, you know, they shoot elementary school children. You have to ask yourself, do you know why? It’s like demonic possession. I mean, there seems to be no rational explanation for nothing. It is demonic possession. I’m just saying it. It’s outside a normal person’s frame of [reference.] People get angry. People get hurt. But why?
What? Why rain hell down on elementary school children and their parents?
GT 41:37 Right.
Paul 41:37 What’s the point? It is very confusing as to what Mark did and he was very angry. I mean, I’ll never forget the photograph of him showing some document Spencer Kimball, the president the church and Eldon Tanner is there, and Marion G. Romney is there, and in the background lurking as usual, is Boyd Packer. And they’re looking at this document and this was on the inside closet wall of his workshop down in the basement where he locked it up all the time. And I don’t think even his wife even went down there. But there was a closet. When they opened it this was on the inside of the closet door. And on it was this photograph from the newspaper was scribbled “Some prophet.” So he delighted in fooling people.
Paul 41:58 There’s a power in getting people. It’s almost it’s like a mental rape where you get in and you know you’ve subverted their belief structure. It’s extremely cruel.
What are your thoughts about Paul Toscano & the September Six? Are you surprised Paul is still a bit of a believer? Were you aware of his affiliation with Steve Christensen and the Hofmann bombings?
Any way you look at it BKP was a nasty piece of work. My husband’s parents, who were two years younger than him, knew him well in their small community and went to school with him. They both said that he was mean spirited, bossy and thought that he was an expert on everything. They also said that he easily took offense at the smallest perceived slight and that forgiveness was not in his nature. When he was called to the Q12 that destroyed my FIL’s testimony and my MIL said that while people from their town would publicly say how proud they were of BKP, among themselves they just couldn’t understand how God could’ve chosen such a person to help represent and run the church.
I never cared for him either starting from the time I first started watching General Conference as a child because his version of the gospel was so diametrically opposed to what I’d been taught about the good news of Christ’s gospel. But, as I grew older I realized that BKP enjoyed being cruel and inflicting his cruelty on anyone who held different views and beliefs than his. The September 6 issue is the perfect example of this behavior. He didn’t just disagree with these six individuals. He had to thoroughly and publicly shame them too. When he died many church members I know personally and I gave a sigh of relief that he wouldn’t ever become the prophet. Unfortunately, I feel the same way about DHO eventually becoming the prophet.
I thoroughly agree with Paul that seniority is THE absolute worst way to select a prophet or members of the Q12 for that matter. The person chosen as the prophet ought to be someone who in word and deed totally exemplifies their love and devotion to the Savior and His teachings and for the members of the church. They ought to look at this calling as an opportunity to serve as Jesus and His apostles did rather than to be worshipped and adored by the members. Ditto for all of the other GAs.. The church is not their personal fiefdom and we should never be seen as their unquestioning serfs and vassals.
That was fascinating – looking forward to part two.
Living out here in the hinterlands I hadn’t heard about the September Six until long after it occurred but have since been grateful for their honesty and openness. Something that can’t be said for senior church leadership unfortunately and that can be crushing.
I wonder if we will have another Sept. 6 era now that the Church has to operate in the age of instant communication and social media. Can you imagine the tweets and tik toks if the Q15 went after people? Conventional Wisdom would suggest that aggressive action against Progressives would be counterproductive at best. Would that stop a guy like Oaks or Bednar? One wonders.
They kind of had a more drawn out version when they excommunicated John Dehlin and Kate Kelly and Sam Young within a few months. They also exed some right-wingers like Julie Rowe, Robert Norman, Mike Stroud, so I don’t think anything is stopping them from repeating history.
Di, part 2 dealt with Paul’s involvement in the Hofmann case, which I posted above.
I’ve always loved Paul Toscano. I never did love BK Packer.
This was a great interview, the second part about Hofmann was fascinating. His suggestion that the murders were a result of the Church being on to him and wanting to expose him rather than buying time made a lot of sense. I was also very intrigued by the Fuchs artifacts story and would love to see those spurious artifacts and know more about their history.
I recall before my mission as a student at BYU, Michael Quinn twice received the Karl G. Maeser teaching award, the highest honor BYU bestows on it professors. (I’m struggling to find a reference to confirm this–if you have one please confirm.) His likeness hung on the third floor of the HBLL Library with the other recipients. Quinn’s lecture on the Mountain Meadow Massacre was well known among academically minded students and professors, and was, I believe, the start of his problems with the correlated church.
I did not serve a mission at 19. I was 21 and Junior at BYU when I left on my mission. When I returned, the September Six happened later that fall, and I recall the impact it had on my free thinking professors. Not long after that, I remember noticing that Quinn’s portraits were removed from the HBLL row of Maeser teaching award recipients. That had a lasting imprint on me. I remember thinking the church is cowardly to have removed his portraits. That has stuck with me ever since.
I also recall reading in Prince’s category killing biography of David O. McKay that McKay blocked the excommunication of Sterling McMurrin at Packer’s hands. After McKay passed, Packer was finally able to turn the wheels that would lead to McMurrin’s excommunication. Packer was awful, and I hope history paints him as he was, an awful, tyrannical antichrist.
Finished part two and loved hearing his insights on the Hoffman case. I read the book by Linda Sillitoe and Allen Roberts many years ago but had forgotten some of the details – especially the story of the forged artifacts procured in Bath.
@BigSky – you’ve prompted me to get back to the book on David O’McKay. I really enjoyed the biography Prince did on Leonard Arrington and expect this will be equally as good and illuminating.
“I also recall reading in Prince’s category killing biography of David O. McKay that McKay blocked the excommunication of Sterling McMurrin at Packer’s hands.”
This is impossible, because Packer wasn’t called to be an apostle until April of 1970, following McKay’s death in Jan 1970. I think you have Packer confused for Alvin Dyer, Joseph Fielding Smith, Harold B Lee, Mark Peterson, or someone like that. I know it’s easy to pile on Packer, but you can’t blame him for anything that happened to McMurrin. I remember hearing a similar story, but it seems to me it was Joseph Fielding Smith. I’ll have to check my book though to be sure.
Yes the Prince biography on McKay is outstanding. I expect Matt Harris’ book on the priesthood ban will surpass Prince on the topic of the priesthood ban. Hopefully it comes out later this year.
@Rick B. Thanks for the correction. I may be guilty of conflating Packer’s actions. I will go back to Prince’s book as well to get my facts straight. And I should soften my tone on Packer and assert he too often engaged in what I would define as unchristian behavior. Calling him an antichrist is too strong.
I can’t wait for Harris’ book to come out. He is an outstanding historian and his book on Benson is also remarkable.
The September Six had a very chilling effect on me. I felt that I would join their ranks as I was sternly chastised by my priesthood leaders up to and including the First Presidency for translating the Book of Mormon into Hebrew among several other matters. I find fear-based rigid dogma and stern authoritarianism to be a wedge that separates me from God. I also embrace mind, body, spirit healing modalities of various kinds. Yes, I am into woo woo. I tried to reach out to President Boyd K. Packer on the other side of the veil. I have an audio link at: https://scmcfriends.wordpress.com/2023/01/17/channeling-president-boyd-k-packer/ My takeaway is that the we need to have compassion for President Packer and pray for his soul. We need to be forgiving, especially me.
@tomirvine999, I’d pay big money to see the spirit of Boyd K. Packer shows up at a seance.
My Prince biography of David O. McKay is packed away (I recently moved). But other research would suggest that Joseph Fielding Smith and Harold B. Lee–and possibly others–advocated for McMurrin’s excommunication during McKay’s presidency, an excommunication that would never occur. McKay evidently told McMurrin he would stand as a witness for him at trial, if one were to be held. Apparently the others backed off. There is an excellent interview with McMurrin conducted by Blake Ostler in 1981, featured in Dialogue, that highlights McMurrin’s strong differences with Boyd K. Packer, but I can find no evidence of them coming into direct conflict.
It is clear to me McMurrin was as critical of the church as the September Six, but for some reason, in the end, he was left alone. McMurrin carried the weight of having had a highly distinguished political, academic and corporate career, and perhaps that had something to do with it. Or, it could be that McMurrin hit his apex as a Mormon iconoclast in earlier times. He would pass away less than three years after the September Six were excommunicated. Murrin was not a Packer contemporary whereas the September Six where. While I am a consumer of church history, I am by no means a historian. I’m sure there is history written somewhere that would bring more clarity to these questions.
Again, thanks for the correction. It compelled me to carve out a couple of hours this evening to work to straighten out my flawed memory.
Because I use an alias here I won’t divulge my connection to Paul Toscano but I only recently read his “Road to Exile” – it was truly heartbreaking.