Mormon Tabernacle Choir
Choir member accused of taking pictures of nude boys
The Salt Lake Tribune
Officials from the Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints confirmed the arrest of an Orem man, a member
of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, who is accused of taking pictures of young boys
in the nude while on a camping trip in late July.
Police told KUTV Channel 2 the man took the pictures of four boys who range in age from 7 to 15 during a camp-out in Diamond Fork Canyon. He then ordered the boys not to tell their parents about the alleged photos, according to KUTV.
The LDS Church issued a statement regarding the arrest Monday night:
"The Church strongly condemns child abuse and will not tolerate such actions by anyone affiliated with our faith. Any member convicted of child abuse faces Church disciplinary action," wrote spokesman Dale Bills.
The man had become a choir member earlier this year, Bills said. He has been released from his position in the choir pending the outcome of the police investigation.
- Michael N. Westley
Former LDS Choir Member Case Moved to Federal Court
26 Oct 2006
A former member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir who was charged with sexual crimes involving underage boys will appear in federal court.
Robert Matthews, 51, of Orem, was charged in 4th District Court with four counts of sexual exploitation of a minor and three counts of lewdness involving a child, resulting in four felonies and three misdemeanors, regarding an incident that occurred in July.
On Oct. 16, 2006, John Easton, Matthews' attorney, filed the motion to dismiss Matthews' case in 4th District Court in Provo.
David Sturgill, deputy county attorney, moved that the court dismiss charges without prejudice in the information filed against Robert Matthews in the interest of justice, according to court documents.
The phrase "without prejudice" means that the case can be revisited at any time.
Judge Anthony Schofield signed the order to dismiss the case on Oct. 17.
The Salt Lake Tribune reported that a jury trial has been set to begin Dec. 18 before U.S. District Judge Paul Cassel.
LDS Church disciplines musician
By Peggy Fletcher Stack
The Salt Lake Tribune
Posted: 10:23 AM- ROSE PARK -- Peter Danzig did not set out to be a Mormon activist.
The gentle musician spent his life serving the church he loved. He went
on a mission, married in the temple, composed pieces for Mormon
pageants, and taught hymns to children. He and his wife, Mary, also a
returned missionary, were raising their three daughters in Levan, but
driving to Salt Lake City each week to play in the LDS Orchestra at
Temple Square - he on viola, she, the violin. Both believed their music
was their gift to God.
Danzig said nothing in 1993 when church officials charged six
well-known Mormon scholars and intellectuals with apostasy for their
writings or issues. He kept quiet when Brigham Young University fired
history professor Steven Epperson, a member of Danzig's Mormon
congregation, for serving the homeless rather than attending church.
But in 2006, Danzig finally felt compelled to protest. BYU adjunct
professor Jeffrey Nielsen lost his job for arguing in a The Salt Lake
Tribune column that the LDS Church was wrong to oppose gay marriage and
to enlist Mormon support for a constitutional amendment against it.
The dismissal appalled Danzig, who had explored the questions of
homosexuality while pursuing a graduate degree in clinical social work.
"I wish to express to Jeffery Nielson that I admire his courage and
that I stand with him," Danzig wrote in a letter The Tribune published
on June 14, 2006. "I was troubled that my church requested I violate my
own conscience to write in support of an amendment I feel is contrary
to the constitution and to the gospel of Christ."
What happened next is disheartening to many who believe the church
should allow its members to express divergent political and personal
views. While others wrote letters in support of
Nielsen withoutfacing discipline, Danzig endured months of grueling attacks on his motives and membership.
"There is room in the [LDS] Church for honest disagreement regarding
church positions," LDS Spokesman Scott Trotter said. "Disagreement on
doctrine only becomes an issue when a church member acts in open
opposition to the church or its leaders."
Deciding when a person is in "open opposition" varies among Mormon
bishops and stake presidents. Clearly, someone at the top thought
Danzig had crossed that line.
In his Tribune letter, Danzig mentioned he played in the orchestra,
which is open to Mormons in good standing. He wanted to make it clear
he was not a church opponent.
Within a week, LDS officials contacted Danzig with concerns about the
letter. They suspended him from the orchestra and for the next year, he
and, ultimately his wife, defended their loyalty, faith and actions. No
amount of persuasion or pleading could convince these ecclesiastical
leaders they meant well.
Ultimately, the Danzigs moved out of their Levan house and, in
December, resigned their membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints rather than face excommunication.
"Part of the reason for writing the letter was to find out if there was
room for personal conscience in this church. I was very hopeful," Peter
Danzig said. "But now I know there is none. This has been a painful
journey for me."
Set in motion: It began with a call from Michael Watson, secretary to
the church's governing First Presidency, to Barry Anderson, orchestra
administrator, and Mac Christensen, president of the Tabernacle Choir,
which is associated with the orchestra. Danzig said Anderson told him
Watson wondered whether "an enemy had infiltrated the orchestra."
Eventually, the Danzigs' bishop and stake president in Levan got involved.
All of the leaders declined to comment or offer any written accounts of their actions.
"Communications of this nature between church leaders and members are considered confidential," Trotter said.
Danzig wrote an outline of his version of events and sent it to several
of the leaders, offering to correct anything they thought was
inaccurate. He received no reply from the orchestra or choir reps, but
local leaders said if he published any part of his outline, they would
hold a disciplinary hearing.
"In hindsight I could have used some different language, but what I
wrote expressed the feelings of my heart," he said. "I have seen the
church abuse too many, including my family, without anyone daring to
speak out. It is important to me that the silence about this abuse end."
Initially, Mary Danzig thought it was all a big misunderstanding. But
soon, her own devotion to the church came into question. She, too, felt
unwelcome in the orchestra. Her parents wrote letters to church
authorities, begging for an audience or at least some understanding.
They were unsuccessful.
"I felt like my world had come crashing down when Peter told me he
might be excommunicated," said Mary Danzig, at the time a member of the
Primary Presidency in her ward. "What would happen to my family in the
eternities, in our community, in our extended family? I found myself
coming completely unglued every Sunday. I spent a great deal of time
hiding in the bathroom crying with my little girls."
Shifting approaches: Between June 2006 and December 2007, the LDS
Church came out with several statements acknowledging homosexuality may
be inborn and difficult to change, even with much effort and prayer. It
was exactly the position Danzig had been defending.
Many committed Mormons, including philosophers, psychologists and some
politicians, disagree with the church on the Federal Marriage
Amendment, said Nielsen, who now teaches at Utah Valley State College
and Westminster College. Several members wrote letters to The Tribune
defending Nielsen and sharing his view. He is unaware of disciplinary
action taken against any of those letter writers.
Nielsen could no longer teach "gospel doctrine" in adult Sunday school
and has not been called to any other position in his Orem ward, but has
suffered no other ecclesiastical consequences.
Bill Bradshaw, a recently retired BYU professor of microbiology, has
given several public addresses about the science of homosexuality,
detailing published evidence that argues strongly for a biological
origin. He is also the chairman, with his wife, Marge Bradshaw, of
Family Fellowship, a support group for the LDS families with gay and
After a relative complained to their bishop, the man invited the Bradshaws in for a discussion.
"Our bishop responded very favorably to the conversation," Bradshaw said. "He was very sympathetic."
Bradshaw doesn't entirely blame the Mormon leaders for what happened to
the Danzigs. Human interactions like this are too complicated.
But he does feel an overwhelming sadness.
"Now I can't sit in church next to Peter and Mary and their kids and I
can't sit next to gay members of the church, whom they were defending,"
Bradshaw said. "The bottom line is I don't have the fellowship of
loving people and that's a hurt for me."
As a member of the LDS Church, returned missionary and member of the Orchestra at Temple Square, I am appalled at the intellectual tyranny that our leadership has exercised through the summary dismissal of Jeffrey Nielsen from his teaching position at Brigham Young University for speaking his mind in an op-ed published June 4 in The Tribune. I was troubled that my church requested that I violate my own conscience to write in support of an amendment (marriage) I feel is contrary to the Constitution and to the gospel of Christ.
I am even more discouraged to see how they deal with an honest difference of opinion.
I wish to express to Jeffrey Nielsen that I admire his courage and that
I stand with him. I hope that rank-and-file members of the church as
well as members of the lay clergy who also find this troubling will
have the courage to step forward and let themselves be known. To do
anything else would be to hide in the shadow of an injustice.
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