Steve Bloor: Former Mormon bishop critical of church accuses it of 'excommunication by the backdoor'

The 51-year-old podiatrist said he was told last week that his name had been removed from the church's records

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The Independent Online

A former Mormon bishop has accused the church of “excommunication by the backdoor” after it allegedly removed his name from its list of members following his criticism of some of its teachings.

Steve Bloor, who was raised as a member of the Mormon faith, otherwise known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS), stepped down as a clergyman in 2011 after becoming disillusioned with its record on issues such as homosexuality and the explanation of its origins in 1830s America.

The 51-year-old podiatrist, from Helston, Cornwall, said that despite his differences with the church he wanted to maintain his membership as part of his identity but was told last week that his name had been removed from its records.

Mr Bloor told The Independent that the action, which he only found about after a church official visited his parents, had been taken despite written statements from him that he wished to remain a member. He suspects that the move has been made to circumvent the LDS’s formal excommunication process.

An 1830, first edition of the Mormon scripture, 'Book of Mormon' (Getty)

The former bishop said: “Excommunication is the worst punishment that can be handed out within the Mormon faith - it’s reserved for the worst deeds and for a believing Mormon it is seen as a fate worse than death itself. And yet I believe this is effectively what has happened to me - it is excommunication by the backdoor because the church does not want the bad publicity.

“I have repeatedly said that I wished to maintain my membership and I was never informed of any formal proceedings that could lead to excommunication. And yet my name has been removed as a church member.

“I don’t think excommunication should have any place in a modern society. It is a medieval punishment. Mormonism is part of my identity and I don’t think the church should be able to eradicate it just because I have spoken publicly about my differences with its beliefs. The church wants to control people and silence free speech.”

Despite its status as one of the biggest and wealthiest Christian movements in the world, Mormonism remains a source of controversy due to its idiosyncratic origins based on the teachings of its founder, American farm hand Joseph Smith, and some of its historic teachings. Until 1978 it taught that blacks were cursed and barred them from becoming priests.

Adherents speak of the “24/7” nature of the faith, which also asks its members to donate ten per cent of their income to the church as a “tithe”. According to one estimate, the LDS has business and property assets worth $40bn (£26bn) worldwide. 

Mr Bloor spent seven years as the Mormon Bishop of Helston before becoming disillusioned with aspects of its teaching and stepping down from his role. He has since become an outspoken critic, setting up a petition calling on the church to formally apologise for its stance on black people and writing a popular blog. He also agreed to appear as a witness for a private prosecution against the church for an allegation of fraud which was later withdrawn.

Joseph Smith, founder of the Latter Day Saint movement (Getty)

He said: “When I decided to speak out I was told I would lose all my friends. It is a faith which doesn’t take over only your religious life but also your social life. You don’t have time for other friends. And I’m afraid what I was told has been proved true - of the over 300 Mormons I knew locally only one has contacted me in the last 12 months. It is the ultimate form of tribal shaming.”

The former clergyman, who describes himself as a non-believing Mormon, said he had been invited by church officials last month to an informal meeting to discuss his membership of the church. He said he was given no notice of a formal “Disciplinary Council”, the church body with the power to order an excommunication, and at no time indicated he was leaving the church.

But when he attempted to sign in on the LDS website last week he was denied access with a message reading “You have stated that you are not a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints”. Mr  Bloor said: “This is simply not true.”

The father-of-four has now written to the LDS headquarters in Salt Lake City asking for the removal of his name to be revoked.

The Church confirmed that it had removed Mr Bloor's status as a member but insisted it had correctly followed its procedures.

In a statement, it said: “Choosing one's own spiritual path is a God-given right. However, when a current member of the Church persists in publicly advocating teaching in direct opposition to Church tenets, the member will lose his or her membership.

”We can confirm there has been ample opportunity for Mr Bloor to discuss his concerns with local ministers and that, following internal Church procedures, Mr Bloor is no longer a member of the Church. He is availing himself of the opportunity to ask another Church body for a review.“