The following excerpts are from an article published in the Salt Lake Tribune on February 24th, 2008:
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 speeches about LDS 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 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 without facing discipline, Danzig endured months of grueling attacks on his motives and membership.
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.”
Peter Danzig’s letter to the editor of The Tribune published June 14, 2006:
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.
The full article can be found here: