-- Aug 8, 1992.
An Associated Press story by Vern Anderson quotes church spokesman Don LeFevre's acknowledgement that the "Strengthening Church Members Committee" "provides local church leadership with information designed to help them counsel with members who may hinder the progress of the church through public criticism." It also reports the experience of Omar Kader of Washington, D.C., formerly of BYU's political science department. Kader says a BYU administrator told him that Nelson, then Kader's stake president, kept a file on his political activities as a Democrat in Provo in the late 1970s. Nelson "categorically denied keeping a file on Kader" and also denied "knowing Omar and Nancy Kader."
Nelson is director of the Evaluation Division, Church Correlation Department, which reports to Elder Boyd K. Packer, and was executive assistant to Ezra Taft Benson while Benson was president of the Quorum of the Twelve (1974-85). (1)
-- 8 Aug 1992
President Benson's administration encouraged a special church committee to monitor and maintain surveillance files on academics, intellectuals, and others assumed to be critics of the church. William O. Nelson, a veteran of Benson's abortive 1977 BYU spy ring, became the executive secretary of this "Strengthening the Members Committee."
Previously, maintaining such files on church members were usually ad hoc activities of the First Presidency's office, Presiding Bishopric Office, Mark E. Petersen's special committee, Correlation Committee, the Special Affairs Committee, and Ezra Taft Benson's office. Only the Church Security Department has had an on-going responsibility to maintain information files on "disloyal" or "potentially dangerous" Mormons and to conduct physical and photographic surveillance. Such intelligence gathering is conducted through what Church Security calls its "Confidential Services."
A man who served as assistant secretary in the First Presidency's office from 1974 to 1981 had never heard of this committee's existence during the Kimball presidency. (2)
-- Aug 13,1992
Due to publicity [regarding the Strengthening the Members Committee] including New York Times, Presidency issues statement on 13 Aug. defending organization of this apostle-directed committee as consistent with God's commandment to Joseph Smith to gather documentation about non-Mormons who mob and persecute LDS Church. Presidency lists Apostles James E. Faust and Russell M. Nelson as leading the committee. (3)
-- August 14, 1992
Mourns the death of his wife, Flora. (4)
-- Aug 14, 1992.
Peggy Fletcher Stack's Salt Lake Tribune article reporting the First Presidency statement [regard the Strengthening the Members Committee:] ... [Ross Peterson] described his own "grill[ing]" by his area presidency who "continually drew photocopied items out of a file and asked him about things he had written decades ago. The file was sitting on the churchmen's desk, but Mr. Peterson was not allowed to see its contents." "Files are a strange carryover from a paranoia that resembles McCarthyism," says Peterson. The article also cites unnamed "LDS Church employees" who tell the Tribune that William O. Nelson "shares President Benson's John Birch Society politics" and that "the church has kept files on outspoken members for decades. (1)
-- 26 Sep 1992
The First Presidency authorized the use of humanitarian relief funds to be sent to Somalia and other African nations in the grip of the drought of the century. In an initial response, one million pounds of food was shipped. (5)
-- 3-Oct 4, 1992.
Although not identifying specific issues, several general conference talks seem targeted at specific audiences. Possibly in response to right-wing survivalists, Elder M. Russell Ballard warns, "We must be careful not to . . . be caught up in extreme preparations" for the end of the world. President Gordon B. Hinckley, perhaps responding to right-wing beliefs of a "silenced" prophet, explains the "unique and tremendous system of redundancy and backup which the Lord has structured into His kingdom so that without interruption it may go forward, meeting any emergency that might arise and handling every contingency. . . . We have moved without hesitation when there is well-established policy. Where there is not . . . we have talked with the President and received his approval before taking action. Let it never be said that there has been any disposition to assume authority or to do anything or say anything which might be at variance with the wishes of him who has been put in his place by the Lord." Elder Boyd K. Packer adds: "There are some among us now who have not been regularly ordained by the heads of the Church who tell of impending political and economic chaos, the end of the world . . . . They are misleading members to gather to colonies or cults. Those deceivers say that the Brethren do not know what is going on in the world or that the Brethren approve of their teaching but do not wish to speak of it over the pulpit. Neither is true." ... (1)
-- 25 Oct 1992
Based on the instructions of a general authority in October 1992, stake presidents prepared a list of twenty warning signs of apostasy. Third on this list was "John Birch membership or leanings." (6)
-- Early November 1992 or earlier.
Three separate lists begin to circulate in the Utah South Region. Apparently at least one, "Profile of the Splinter Group Members or Others with Troublesome Ideologies," was reportedly created by a stake president who had taken notes during a speech by Elder Jeppsen, added additional specifics to the list, and then circulated it among additional stake presidents, some of whom also added items. Harold Nicholl, one of six Sanpete County stake presidents, uses the first list "as a guide for excommunications." This list consists of twenty unnumbered points, including: "They follow the practice of home school. There is a preoccupation with the end of the world. . . . Many have John Birch membership or leanings. Many do not work and have no jobs. They study the mysteries, feeling that what is provided in our meetings today is superficial. They meet in study groups. They listen to . . . `Bo Gritz' tapes and others about such topics as Armageddon. They are inordinately preoccupied with food storage. They . . . teach that . . . the government is corrupt. . . . They feel that President Benson's counselors have muzzled the prophet. . . . They staunchly profess that they sustain the prophet and local leaders, but when asked to stop doing certain things . . . they tell you straight out they will have to take the matter to the Lord. . . . They read the books of Avraham Gileadi. . . . Many of these folks are on state welfare and others try to obtain Church welfare. . . . Plural marriage . . . continues to surface as a part of the belief structure of many. . . . Some have held prayer circles in full temple clothing outside the temple. . . . Some of these folks would linger in the celestial room of the Manti Temple for hours to teach one another." (1)
1 - Anderson, Lavina Fielding, "The LDS Intellectual Community and Church Leadership: A Contemporary Chronology," Dialogue, Vol.26, No.1
2 - "LDS Official Acknowledges Church Monitors Critics," Salt Lake Tribune (8 Aug. 1992): D-l; "LDS Leaders Say Scripture Supports Secret Files on Members," Salt Lake Tribune (14 Aug. 1992): B-l; "Secret Files," New York Times (22 Aug. 1992): 9. ; Michael Quinn interview on 5-6 September 1992 with Rodney P. Foster, assistant secretary in the First Presidency's office from 1974 to 1981, and member of the Temple Department at LDS headquarters from 1981 to 1989. These are referenced in in D. Michael Quinn, "Ezra Taft Benson and Mormon Political Conflicts", Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 26:2 (Summer 1992) and Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power Salt Lake City (Signature Books, 1994), Chapter 3
3 - Quinn, D. Michael, The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power, Appendix 5, Selected Chronology of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1848-1996, http://amzn.to/extensions-power
4 - Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson, Intellectual Reserve, Inc. (2014)
5 - Church News: Historical Chronology of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, http://www.ldschurchnewsarchive.com/articles/58765/Historical-chronology-of-The-Church-of-Jesus-Christ-of-Latter-day-Saints.html
6 - "Profile of the Splinter Group Members or Others with Troublesome Ideologies." This list was based on instructions to stake presidents by Second Quorum of Seventy member Malcolm S. Jeppsen in his "We Shall Not Be Led Astray," especially on page 8 of his computer print-out, 25 Oct. 1992 -- as referenced in D. Michael Quinn, "Ezra Taft Benson and Mormon Political Conflicts", Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 26:2 (Summer 1992) and Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power Salt Lake City (Signature Books, 1994), Chapter 3
LDS History Chronology: Ezra Taft Benson
Mormon History Timeline: the life of Ezra Taft Benson