On April 21, 2021, we lost an amazing historian, Michael Quinn. As we end 2021, I wanted to look back at those we lost. This interview was recorded Nov 3, 2017 and I wanted to share some of the highlights of the interview.
GT: I know in the 1980s you wrote a chapter, I believe it was in Maxine Hanks’ book. Is that right?
Michael: Yes, it was actually 1992 that it came out. It was called “Mormon Women Have Had the Priesthood Since 1843.” And that caused a certain amount of controversy.
GT: Yeah. Could you, could you tell us a little bit more about that?
Michael: Maxine was excommunicated. I was excommunicated, and she was specifically told that she was excommunicated because of her book and I was told–I was given a list of three items showing my apostasy, a list provided by the stake president and the first item on the list was that essay.
GT: Okay. So you’re one of the, I guess infamous September Six, right?
Michael: That’s correct.
GT: So, the one thing that I think would strike most people is a little bit odd, I know I listened to your Radio West interview earlier this week and you mentioned that you’re still a believing Mormon. So, some people might think, well, if you’re excommunicated, why would you still believe in a church that would excommunicate you?
Michael: Well, I’m a seventh generation Mormon. Nothing can take that away from me, but even, you know, there are many–well my children are eighth generation Mormons and they talk about Mormons in the third person. They couldn’t care less about the church. So, the fact that I’m an ancestral Mormon doesn’t determine my faith. My faith is very basic. But it’s basic in a way that I think many current members of the church might not understand. In many ways, I’m a 19th-century Mormon believer. I believe in Joseph Smith meeting with angels and translating the Book of Mormon by the gift and power of God, which at that time was a seer stone. And I believe that the leaders of the church from Joseph Smith to the current president of the church have the calling of divine prophets, seers, and revelators who have the right to receive God’s revelations.
Michael: But they don’t always do so. And sometimes they are too passive in my view, and don’t seek those revelations in a direct way. But in my view, they have the right and the obligation to receive those revelations. I don’t agree with all the policies of the church and some of them I strongly disagree with and to that extent, although I did not seek excommunication, excommunication freed me from having to defend policies I thoroughly disagree with and that continues until today. So I maintain my faith in a private way. I am in some ways, like a Latter-day Saint, medieval mystic. I have had this feeling even since childhood that it’s just you and me, Lord against the world and a God. And my relationship with him was always preeminent. But the reason I always loved going to sacrament meeting on it and as I grew up Sunday school was that the communion was served each at each of those opening services.
Michael: And that was always very important to me. And that’s one of the things that I miss deeply, as well as the temple. I used to be a temple worker in a variety of ways. I was a temple worker when I was a missionary. I was a temple worker while I was at BYU, a scheduled worker, and so the loss of taking the sacrament every Sunday at least once, and participating weekly as I used to in the temple ceremonies, that has been a deep loss. It’s one that I miss all the time. But because I’m kind of this mystic, I’m okay and I don’t worry about my relationship with God, but I’m no longer a member of the Church of record, but I’m still—no one can prevent me from believing what I believe.
GT: So, you still call yourself a Mormon I guess?
Michael: I do, but not a Latter-day Saint in the sense that I’m not a part of the LDS church. So, if people are attuned enough with the preferred language to ask if I’m LDS, I’ll say I’m not a member, but I am a Mormon believer.
GT: Could the church be accused of serving God and Mammon though, with some of these businesses?
Michael: The accusation is there, but typically it comes from people who don’t recognize that the church makes no distinction between God and Mammon. The church is a money-making operation, but it plows the money into the building of the Kingdom of God on earth, which is a Mormon phrase that most members, even disaffected ones, will recognize. A member of the church, whether former member or current member in good faith, may feel uncomfortable with this huge portfolio that involves billions of dollars a day in transactions over the computer with only one of its investment houses.
Michael: It may be [that] members of the church and devout members and certainly ex-members of the church are uncomfortable, or may be uncomfortable with the commercial real estate that produces and the commercial investments in mines and oil, for a variety of reasons, not the least of which would be fossil fuels. For people who are concerned about that. And the Church has heavily invested in fossil fuels. Nonetheless, it’s a part of building the Kingdom of God.
What are your thoughts of Michael Quinn? Check out our conversation….
Check out our entire conversation with Michael.