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Mormon Writer Disfellowshipped

Mormon Writer Disfellowshipped

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SANDY, Utah (AP) -- A longtime Mormon educator who wrote a book questioning the historical accuracy of church history was temporarily suspended from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at a hearing Sunday.

Grant Palmer, who published "An Insider's View of Mormon Origins," could have been excommunicated. His book questions whether founder Joseph Smith misrepresented his authority as a prophet and revised church scripture to his advantage.

Despite his questions about the church, Palmer, a fourth-generation Mormon, said he still loved it and wanted to remain a member because he believed in its fundamental message.

Palmer, 64, spoke extensively with reporters in the days preceding the hearing, but mostly declined comment afterward -- except to report that he had been disfellowshipped and was pleased with the decision.

"It's in my best interest not to say any more," said Palmer, who would not elaborate on whether church leaders forbade him from talking to reporters about the six-hour meeting, which was closed to the public.

A disfellowshipped member retains church membership but loses certain privileges, such as being able to go into the temple or serve a church calling.

The length of a disfellowshipment varies by case, and Palmer wouldn't comment more specifically on the punishment.

Church spokesman Dale Bills declined to comment on Palmer's punishment.

Among other things, Palmer's book suggests that Smith didn't actually translate the Book of Mormon, as LDS faithful believe, "by the gift and power of God" from an ancient set of golden plates. The book suggests Smith wrote it himself, leaning heavily on the King James Bible, emotional Methodist tent revivals, Masonry and other personal experiences in a highly superstitious era of American history.

Palmer has a master's degree in history from Brigham Young University, and has served for 34 years as an LDS director or educator in New Zealand, Utah and California.

He says his extensive background in history and church service, and a growing inability to reconcile glaring discrepancies between the two, drew him into the study.

There have been other books with similar ideas, many used by critics to discredit the faith. But they had been written about most extensively in scholarly books and articles. Mormon scholars said Palmer's work was damaging because of his long history as a church member and educator, which gives the arguments a measure of credibility.

Others questioned how Palmer could still be a true believer, as he professed, if he had so many doubts about Smith and the Book of Mormon.

Palmer's case is similar to six others in 1993 who faced disciplinary hearings for writing about Mormon history, feminism and new interpretations of theology. Five of the high-profile writers were excommunicated, and one was disfellowshipped.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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