A retired Mormon educator who wrote a book questioning whether the founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints misrepresented his authority as a prophet was suspended from the church Sunday.
Grant Palmer, 64, who wrote “An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins,” could have been excommunicated. Instead, he said the church “disfellowshipped” him at a hearing, which means he will retain his membership but lose certain privileges, such as being able to go into temples or serve in an official church capacity.
The length of a disfellowshipment varies by case, and Palmer wouldn’t comment more specifically on his punishment.
The fourth-generation Mormon said he was pleased with the decision, still loves the church and wants to remain a member because he believes in its fundamental message.
Church spokesman Dale Bills declined to comment on the case.
Palmer, who served as a church director and educator for 34 years and has a master’s degree in history from Brigham Young University, said his research stemmed from a growing inability to reconcile discrepancies between history and his church service.
In the book, Palmer suggests that church founder Joseph Smith revised church scripture to his advantage.
The book says Smith didn’t actually translate the Book of Mormon “by the gift and power of God” from an ancient set of golden plates, as the church’s followers believe. Palmer suggested Smith wrote it himself, leaning heavily on the King James Bible and personal experiences.
Mormon scholars said Palmer’s work was more damaging than other similar books because of his long history as a church member and educator. Others questioned how Palmer could still be a true believer, as he professed, if he had so many doubts.
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 members were excommunicated, and one was disfellowshipped.