David Twede, 47, a scientist, novelist, and fifth-generation Mormon, is managing editor of MormonThink.com, an online magazine produced largely by members of the Mormon Church that welcomes scholarly debate about the religion’s history from both critics and true believers.
A Mormon in good standing, Twede has never been disciplined by Latter Day Saints leadership. But it now appears his days as a Mormon may be numbered because of a series of articles he wrote this past week that were critical of Mitt Romney.
On Sunday, Twede says his bishop, stake president, and two church executives brought him into Florida Mormon church offices in Orlando and interrogated him for nearly an hour about his writings, telling him, "Cease and desist, Brother Twede."
In an exclusive interview with The Daily Beast, Twede says that during the interrogation he felt “attacked, cornered, and very anxious."
The four church leaders verbally chastised him, he says, for hiding his identity on MormonThink and his personal blog in order to avoid discipline. Twede, who writes using only his first name, says they kept asking him why he didn’t identify himself online if he had nothing to hide.
“I told them I hide my name precisely because of things like this,” he says. “I said, ‘Look how fast you got to me.’ I know a lot of members don’t want their life disturbed. In the Mormon church, if you’re not part of the uniform group, you are ostracized.”
“When they interrogated me, they denied that they were on a witch hunt, but they kept asking me, ‘Who are the other individuals you work with on MormonThink?’” he says. “They continued demanding that I tell them. But I didn’t.”
Twede's situation was first publicly disclosed this week on an ex-Mormon online discussion site by Steve Benson, the Pulitzer Prize–winning editorial cartoonist for The Arizona Republic and grandson of former secretary of agriculture and Mormon prophet Ezra Taft Benson.
Benson, who left Mormonism in 1993, the same year he won the Pulitzer, is now a vocal critic of the church and is an active voice on the ex-Mormon sites.
“What you’re seeing with David is not atypical of what the church has done in the past, where local leadership becomes focused on riding into battle under the flag ‘out damn spot’ and ridding itself or perceived apostates,” Benson tells The Daily Beast. “I was under this kind of investigation when I left in '93. I didn’t want to give them the satisfaction of an excommunication. I no longer wanted to be a member of that organization.”
Twede insists the church shouldn’t be allowed to act in this manner and quietly get away. “This encourages them to continue with others using similar tactics,” he says. “We prefer they act responsibly with those that dissent. We believe this article will in fact halt disciplinary action against me. However, my feelings about being part of this organization are changing rapidly. Even if they proceed, it will not be considerably harmful to me anymore.”Not even a critical word from Mitt Romney about all this, and he was just in Salt Lake a few days ago, but then I shouldn't be surprised:
Despite the unpleasant interrogation this week, Twede says he does not want to ruin the public reputation of church leaders in Florida because he believes they are “acting as agents of HQ leadership in Salt Lake.”
Yeah, just like a certain presidential candidate I know,...