Interview with Dr. Todd Compton—Part 10
AMS: Welcome back to the Apostate Mormon Show. We are talking with Todd Compton. I’m Annie, your host. Lying for the Lord, I guess it’s done a lot… It’s extremely irritating to converts because, for me personally, I wasn’t raised in a situation, in a culture where I had to lie to cover up historical things.
TC: Um, hum.
AMS: I mean, French kids, the first thing they learn is that Napoleon was a thug, you know? (Laughs)
TC: Um, hum.
AMS: And, yet, he’s a revered leader of the country. So, I don’t understand this duplicity. It’s very hard for me to accept. I see it as Machiavellian, you know – trying to be deceitful and trying to be almost purposefully deceitful. But, you explain it well, and I understand that there are other reasons why…
TC: I think that there is this profound loyalty for Mormons that’s kind of like part of our culture. And you can see that loyalty as an admirable thing. But I think part of that loyalty, for some people, it negates… Because on a personal level they can’t deal with these problem issues. It negates their honesty sense in that particular area. But then you have someone like Juanita Brooks, and, you know, her loyalty to the Church, she expressed it by being completely honest about it – the problem areas.
TC: And so, obviously, I think that kind of loyalty is the more… You know, it’s the saner, it’s the more productive, it’s the healthier kind of loyalty.
AMS: Yea, but it doesn’t help that, if you express any doubts, or any historical concerns in the Church, you’re likely to be disciplined.
TC: Yea, you’re absolutely right, I think. Again, that’s a wrong path, to the extent the Church has taken it. And, again, I don’t see the Church as monolithic. I see… I’ve heard anecdotal accounts that when the September Seven were excommunicated, some General Authorities were very upset. They did not think it was right. Whereas, other General Authorities were behind the scenes, you know, trying to get them excommunicated.
TC: So, obviously, I support the General Authorities who aren’t going to try to force their kind of history by those kind of means.
AMS: Do you think there’s a chance someday they’ll excommunicate you?
AMS: Do you think that someday, there’s a chance they will excommunicate you?
TC: There’s always a chance…
AMS: Um, hum.
TC: You know, I hope it never happens. But, to me, you’ve just got to try to do the best you can, and try to be honest and loyal to your Church in your way, and hope for the best.
AMS: Do you consider yourself more of a “DNA” Mormon?
TC: Uh… yea… yea… that would describe me in a way.
AMS: I mean, it’s your heritage…
TC: Yea, uh huh.
AMS: It’s hard to turn your back on your heritage.
AMS: Although, the LDS Church asks converts to do it all the time.
TC: Yea. And so, what I do is I… kind of disagree with many elements of my heritage, but other elements of my heritage I like.
TC: But some people can’t do that. They have to take their heritage as one big package, and they can’t separate things.
AMS: Yea. Well, I talked about this interview to some people, and several of them asked me to ask you why… how you can still be in the Church, after what you know?
TC: (Laughs). Um… I think it’s largely because, as I say, I’m a liberal Mormon, and so, I can deal with problems in Church history because I’m liberal.
TC: And, you know, I have a very different perspective than many conservative Mormons. Bit it’s interesting. I think that many people leave the Church because they have a conservative perspective, and then run across evidence that obviously shoots that conservative perspective out of the water. And so, then they leave the Church. Bit it’s kind of like they’re leaving the Church on the basis of a conservative perspective. And I would like people to develop beyond that conservative perspective, so that they can deal with problems, and tragedy, and contradictions in Church history, and still have faith.
AMS: So, you don’t see it as even a slight, little bit dishonest, to be saying, “oh, I’m a Mormon.” Even though you say things that are pretty condemning of major Church leaders?
TC: Well, I hope it’s not dishonest, because I try to be an honest person.
AMS: Um, hum.
TC: Obviously, no one is completely honest.
TC: It’s just a struggle everyone has to struggle with. You know, I have some friends who I really highly respect, who have completely left the Church, and that’s the way they’ve dealt with it. And I entirely respect them… I think everyone is an individual.
AMS: Yea, we all have to deal with it the way we’re comfortable with.
TC: Yea, and so, um… I think we all have different paths, and we go through our own different lives and work through it.
AMS: Um, hum. Um, hum.
TC: And we end up in different ways.
AMS: Sure. Sure.
TC: Anyway, I hope that the way I’ve chosen, that… in the long run, that it can be constructive and can help.
TC: I kind of think of myself as being in the Church to try to help it. As well as… it contributes things to me in a lot of ways.
AMS: What are some of the things you would like to change in the Church? If you could?
TC: Oh, all kinds of things. I just did a paper in Sunstone in which I… gave the opinion that I think the most important change the Church needs to make is recognize that women have Priesthood.
TC: Or, give women Priesthood if you don’t think they have it. But, anyway, um… institutionalize Priesthood for women, and full equality for women in that way.
TC: That’s one of the major things.
AMS: That’s pretty heretical.
TC: Well, actually, there’s a lot of… there’s a lot of support for that in the scriptures, in Mormon scriptures and Mormon history. You know, the Mormon women in the 19th Century performed lots of rituals and ordinances that only men perform today. People don’t realize that. There’s some of that in my book. You know, of women performing ordinances and the spiritual power they had…
AMS: Oh, yea. Yup. Blessings and…
TC: …things that they don’t do today. Um, I think the Church needs to be completely honest about history, open up the archives completely. And, I think the Church needs to be less hierarchal. I think certain coercive institutionalized elements of the Church… I think that they should be made non-coercive. All kinds of… you know, things like that.
AMS: Yea, that would be a very nice church. All I wanted, really, when I was in my turmoil phase of leaving, was… the opportunity to bring things up. It’s completely impossible. People look at you like you’re a heretic, like, “you don’t belong here.” I’ve even had a member of the Bishopric come up to me and tell me that, “you know what? You need to teach the manual – what’s in the book, and nothing else.” But, what was in the book was so re-hashed.
TC: Yea. That’s another thing. I think the Church needs to develop a curriculum that isn’t… you know, isn’t boring, that is stimulating. I think that… I go to Sacrament Meeting. I like Sacrament Meetings, but I really have a hard time with Sunday School and Priesthood Meeting, because they use those manuals.
TC: They’re way oversimplified, and not stimulating. And you know, it’s interesting… In a different generation, under David O. McKay, they would have, like, real books for manuals. They would read books about… written by B.H. Roberts, or people like that.
AMS: With some depth.
TC: Yea, with some depth. Now, it’s like, they have these manuals that just have these little quotes, with no continuity, from Church leaders, on certain oversimplified subjects. So, that’s another way I would change the Church (laughs).
AMS: Yea. And it sounds like, in your heart, you’re very much a Christian. Um… sometimes Mormons strike me as… not Christian enough. Meaning, they don’t talk about Christ.
TC: Yea, Mormons are very individual. There are some who are… wonderful people, and there are others who are… jerks. (Laughs)
AMS: Yea, but I mean… What I meant is, you go to Sacrament Meeting on Easter, year after year after year, and one year they’re talking about tithing, and the next year they’re talking about Joseph Smith, and they’re talking about everything but Easter. Doesn’t that strike you as odd?
TC: Well, I agree with your main point, but on your specific example, I… I think people talk about Christ on Easter, in my experience. But, I think your main point is correct, that often we emphasize other things rather than the life of Christ and the example of Christ.
TC: You know, I think we bring Christ up a lot, we say, “oh, of course, we’re Christian.”
AMS: Well, yea, and they are, indeed, in my opinion.
TC: But, I think we don’t study Christ enough, or take Him seriously – what He taught, and what He did.
TC: So, we know the Book of Mormon better than the New Testament, sometimes.
TC: Or, we know the life of Joseph Smith better than the New Testament, sometimes.
AMS: We know the whitewashed life of Joseph Smith…
TC: Right, especially the life in the… the little autobiographical section in the Pearl of Great Price that’s been canonized.
AMS: Yea. That part, they know, but… that’s about it. Let’s take another quick break. This is the Apostate Mormon Show with Dr. Todd Compton. We’ll be right back in just a minute.