Lavina Fielding Anderson was recently denied rebaptism into the Church of Jesus Christ of Later-day Saints. As background (from Jana Reiss):
Lavina Fielding Anderson was excommunicated from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1993. Her excommunication was caused by her shining a light on what she called “ecclesiastical abuse” in the church. It was documented in a long, well-researched article in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought that chronicled how intellectuals and feminists were being disciplined by Latter-day Saint leaders for various things they wrote and said.
Anderson was not excommunicated because the incidents she documented were false; she was excommunicated for bringing them to light. In church lingo, this was “conduct unbecoming a member.” Her sin was naming the incidents, and calling them abuse.
Post-excommunication, she continued to be active in her Ward. Recently, her bishop and stake president suggested that she be rebaptized. That request was turned down by the highest officials in the LDS Church: the First Presidency.
Robert Kirby in sltrib.com related this experience that he had with Anderson and her family:
On March 23 of last year, Lavina and I were honored with lifetime achievement awards by the Association for Mormon Letters at a dinner in Provo.
During the evening, Lavina noticed me taking some pills. She asked if I was OK. I admitted that I was taking Lortab because I had blown out my knee a few hours before and was trying to not scream whenever I moved.
When the event ended, Lavina refused to let me drive home. She took my keys and gave them to her son Christian. He drove me home while Lavina and her husband, Paul, followed. They went out of their way to help someone who tried to talk them out of it.
Here’s the sad part: Paul, who already wasn’t feeling well at the time, died later that evening of a heart attack. Lavina had spent some of the last hours with her husband making sure an incorrigible lout got home safely.
Excommunicated? Give me a break. That’s the kind of person I fully expect will make it to heaven.
I have only had one experience with Lavina. She edited a chapter that I had written for a book on Mormon transhumanism. She was very genial and made several very useful improvements to my draft. It was a pleasure working with her.
While the denial of Lavina’s rebaptism request is extremely disappointing, it is not the only problem here. The LDS leadership has consistently asserted that excommunications are orchestrated at the local level and not from SLC. This incident brings that assertion into question. Lavina was recommended for rebaptism by both her bishop and stake president. The LDS Church is much poorer for SLC’s decision.
Postscript: Lavina has a new book coming out next year. According to the Juvenile Instructor:
Lavina Fielding Anderson, Mercy without End: Toward a More Inclusive Church (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2020).
These eighteen essays span more than thirty years of Lavina Fielding Anderson’s concerns about and reflections on issues of inclusiveness in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, including her own excommunication for “apostasy” in 1993, followed by twenty-five years of continued attendance at weekly LDS ward meetings. Written with a taste for irony and an eye for documentation, the essays are timeless snapshots of sometimes controversial issues, beginning with official resistance to professionally researched Mormon history in the 1980s. They underscore unanswered questions about gender equality and repeatedly call attention to areas in which the church does not live up to its better self. Compassionately and responsibly, it calls Anderson’s beloved religion back to its holiest nature.