Church Education System Politics & Administration

What happens when patriarchy, politics, priestcraft and power and mix with self-righteousness? Brown nosing, back stabbing and bedlam. Submit your story about life in the Church Education System here.

Another section, Seminary Teachers From Hell may also be of interest.

Power can corrupt men in the hierarchy of this church

01/23/2004 - by Richard Russell

The following is an example of how power can corrupt men in the hierarchy of this church. Actions such as this are NOT instituted at the local level by local leadership. Only those at the very top have the authority to impact a worthy member employed by the church in his place of employment and at the ecclesiastical level. Richard Russell has not just been fired, his ability to serve God has been unjustly limited with no explanation and without cause.

The actions taken against him have been accomplished in secret by shadowy figures who scurry from the light of exposure like roaches. These are not the works of Men of God, who follow the Savior. They are the corruptions of arrogance. The same arrogance that once stood before God and demanded "Wherefore give me thine honor." To These deeds our good and kind friend Richard has humbly bowed his head and answered -- "nevertheless, not my will but thine be done" and has so suffered these things to come upon him without reproach.

JANUARY 14, 2004

As of 1 December 2003, my employment of over 35 years with the Church Educational System was terminated and I began early retirement. Until 10 November 2003, I believed that I would enter retirement 21 months later than that. This came as a total surprise to me since my area leader had assured me only three months earlier that my plan was in accordance with CES needs.

I wish to give an account, as brief as I can make it, of the events that led to this circumstance. Some detail is necessary so I apologize for the length (5000 words). I mean to avoid where possible any hint of emotion, bitterness or attitude. I believe it is important to tell the truth to power. Since I will not use names of CES personnel, I need to explain what position titles mean in CES.

My file leader is the Institute Director. The next in the hierarchy is the Area Director. His file leader is the Zone Administrator who works from the Church Office Building. His supervisor is the Administrator of Seminaries and Institutes who reports to Elder Eyring, Commissioner of Education.


From: “Scott Turley”
Sent: Wednesday, November 21, 2001 10:39 PM
Subject: Your mormon-l writings

“Brother Russell,

“I’ve been lurking on Mormon-l archives for several months and have been alarmed to learn that you are a CES instructor, entrusted to teach the youth of the Church. Your public writings constantly criticize Church leaders, including the prophets. Are your CES leaders aware of your views? Perhaps, perhaps not. I fear for our youth. In good conscience I must make sure they are aware.”

I immediately responded with this reply:

Subject: Re: Your mormon-l writings
Date: Thu, 22 Nov 2001 08:45:17 -0700


My CES leaders have seen samples of my writings on Mormon-l. I have had conversations with them about some of it and many issues which we don’t discuss here. They are satisfied that I never speak of controversial subjects in class -- never! There has never -- NEVER -- been a complaint registered with my file leaders for stirring up contention or false or inappropriate doctrine with students since I arrived in SLC in 1976. I teach the Gospel Doctrine class in my ward (for the third time) and the HP group.

I have held such teaching positions, including teaching youth, intermittently for close to 20 years. I have been asked to address stake gatherings and stake courses of instruction. My temple recommend has never lapsed and I never lie in the interview.

They realize, as I have also assured my local priesthood leaders, that I defend the Church where it is defensible and where it is not, I try to keep quiet. I am not always successful. What you see is what leaks out. I voluntarily bring this up annually in my TR interview.

I do like to challenge assumptions and foolish traditions that are not supported by scripture or revealed true principle.

I would like to talk to you some time about some of your concerns. I have many free weekend minutes on my cell phone and could call you at your convenience. Call me at 801-***-**** if you would like to discuss what it is that most alarms you. I mean the specific details that make you fear for our youth. Before I have to explain myself to my leaders I would like to explain myself to you. You owe me that much. If you can be satisfied with my account, there will be no need to do your proposed end run.

It is against the principles of the gospel to take grievances with a fellow member to that member’s leaders. Unless you have evidence of grievous sin that I am covering up, your eagerness to make my employers aware of what you consider problematic is misdirected and inappropriate. You can only take them e-mail posts taken out of context. They are not experienced Internet users and do not understand the kind of casual, speculative, light-hearted and chaotic interchanges that happen here.

Further, I have copied this response to the list owner. It is a private list. You do not have her, nor do you have my permission to pass on what takes place here. She has been known to take legal action against those who transgress.

What do you hope to accomplish with this threat?

Richard C. Russell, SLC UTAH,
“There is never the last word, only the latest.”

We exchanged one or two more e-mails making no progress toward reconciliation and then my e-mails to him began to bounce. He had changed his address. I wondered where he had the time to read some 2000 posts per month, discover that I worked for the Church and find something offensive from me. I have since concluded that he was pointed to specific e-mails by someone on the list.

He wrote such things as: “Your true colors are certainly showing in your private notes to me. I’m rather shocked. This alarms me even more.”


December 20 2001, 2:30 P.M. I was summoned to a meeting with three CES administrators: two zone administrators and my area director.

The meeting was opened with prayer They praised my contribution to Church education over my career.

One of the Zone Administrators indicated two different persons whose privacy was being protected had sent them sample extracts from my posts on Mormon-l. (The speaker called it “Mormon One.”) They refused to identify them and when asked said they didn’t know. I asked point blank if one was named Scott Turley. They said it was not. They expressed some alarm at how denigrating one quoted statement was of Pres. Packer and how one was unsupportive of the Temple experience. The speaker indicated that he did not know anyone who had had a troubled first experience in the temple. I said I did and that my wife was one.

These are not malicious men. They were on my side, didn’t want to mar my career or see me terminated.

I explained the nature of private Internet discussion lists. It did not matter. I explained how important a safe haven for questions and doubts was. It did not matter. I explained the legal nature of lists. It did not matter. I explained that two statements out of tens of thousands was unfair. It did not matter. I explained how context was everything and they were not seeing that context. It did not matter. I explained that my participation had been positive on balance and my contributions overwhelmingly affirmed the Mormon experience. It did not matter. I explained the make-up of the list and how very active regulars who knew me and the give-and-take of the exchanges had not expressed alarm. It did not matter. I pointed out that the Boyd KKK Packer quip was not my own and was of ancient date, probably four years ago. They allowed that but it did not matter.

Much more transpired in the hour and twenty minutes we were together.

I expressed how the Packer quip was likely poor taste and could see how some would see it as failing to sustain our leaders. I even mentioned that one particular participant from Alaska was outspoken in his annoyance.

I asked what appropriate place there was for me to address questions and concerns. They said only with my file leaders in CES and that most CES people just filed them away on the “back burner.”

They announced that I would be put on formal probation. They presented a letter describing the conduct being censured and advice and admonishments to evaluate my speech. If nothing changed I would not receive a letter of appointment for the next academic year (Aug 2002- June 2003). Formal probation usually lasts one year, but this must be resolved in at least two sessions with my area director in the next six months. The probation would be rescinded a year from issuing it. They showed me the letter already composed and asked me to read it with them. I corrected a couple of factual details and changed the idea that my statements were unsupportive to the sense that they could be perceived as such. I was told that the revised copy would be sent to me which I would sign and return to them.

They were explicit that they were not censoring me or requiring that I stop participating or stifling expression. Just be mindful of who might take offense and what I say and how I say it. They emphasized that they were not on a witch hunt and did not monitor lists, claimed they didn’t know how.

I accepted the probation with eagerness which they likely took to be contrition. I rather saw it as prudent. They were about to leave when I asked that we close the meeting as it had begun, with a prayer. I was asked to say it. I mentioned Christmas, Christ’s gift of mercy and grace, and the good will in the room. This scenario ending the meeting would repeat itself exactly on 10 November 2003. See below.

My Area Director caught up to me at my car and said that I had handled myself extremely well in a difficult circumstance. He was confident we would be able to work it out between us and I said I trusted our relationship. All of these men have since been replaced by others.


The very next day, Turley, again sent me an e-mail.

From: “Scott”
To: “Richard”
Sent: Friday, December 21, 2001 1:25 PM

Subject: Article from

“This message was sent to you by Scott ( Do not reply to this message. To send a message to the sender, use the address on the above line.

“Note: I still can’t believe that you are a trusted CES teacher. How can this be? I don’t fear the threats from your friends. There is a greater threat to the testimonies of our youth. Mormon-l is a public list, open to the public to join and read your messages freely. Your dishonesty will be exposed.”

In a phone call, I reported this to my Area Director and said that I did not trust this person but I trusted him and our Zone Administrator. He said he would take care of it. I never heard from Turley again.

I have reason to believe that Scott Turley does not exist. Instead my correspondent was very likely a highly placed Church employee in another department whose last name is Turley, though Scott claimed he was not using his true surname.


The letter of probation specified the dates of two offending posts. I found them later and present them here. The context of the first was Time Magazine ’s web site asking for votes for person of the century. Pres. Hinckley’s votes were mounting and some thought it misguided.

Sent: Saturday, October 02, 1999 9:14 AM

Subject: Re: [mormon-l] GBH - Person of the Century

Someone wrote:

>> As **** has said, GBH isn’t even the most influential man of the >> century in the church, let alone the world.

To which another responded:

> But he is the most influential man in the Church today.

I then wrote:

“Ahead of Boyd KKK Packer?”

One particular participant took offense at my remark and protested, such that I wrote the following:

Date: Tue, 9 Nov 1999 22:03:47 -0700

Since I was the one who posted “Boyd KKK Packer” here I feel I probably owe Elder Packer an apology. Since it so deeply offended ****, I likewise apologize to him. I meant no offense. Also, you must understand me, that I didn’t say it to vilify or to be the least mean-spirited. I read the phrase on another list. It amused me. I have shared it with a few others who were likewise entertained by the absurdity of it. I am, perhaps, too light-hearted and see humor where others do not. I apologize for possible bad taste but not because I intended to offend anyone.

THE SECOND OFFENDING POST. Someone asked: on Sun Oct 28, 2001, “I keep hearing people say that something about going to the temple for the first time seems to drive people away from the Church. I don’t see it. Without mentioning anything that is not supposed to be mentioned outside the temple, can someone explain to me what it is that is supposed to be driving people away?”

I answered with tongue firmly in cheek: “The bizarre ritual, the outlandish clothing -- both unlike anything a Mormon experiences any where else no matter how active they are, the initially murky or at least overloading symbolism, the near fetish of secrecy, the length, the performance anxiety, the fearful Satanic threat, the nakedidity with strangers touching your bare skin, and the ominous “you will be taking upon yourselves some hellishly binding obligations which might be okay with your conscience or it might not, but you decide NOW if your conscience, your curiosity or your commitment to all those other people who came here with you will prevail.” When those obligations are articulated we aren’t sure we know what we have promised but there was a vow to obey your husband and there is one that obligates you to do future things you haven’t even heard about, yet. It raises way more questions than it satisfies.

“Other than that it is a glorious experience.

“For myself, I was fairly well versed in scripture and doctrine, I was going on a mission in 30 days, I am a 5th generation DNA Mormon from an active family that included apostles on both sides. There were already 12 missionaries out from my home ward and most of my friends were likewise preparing -- including all three of my closest friends.

“On the other hand, my wife was profoundly disturbed, confused and disheartened. There are some extenuating details though she, too, was raised in an active family.

“I believe that the preparation is woefully inadequate. We are superstitious about what we may tell people outside the precincts of the temple and err on the side of conservatism. This just raises their anxieties.”

My Area Director received a copy of this more complete account of both incidents about a month after probation was imposed. He told me in our single session together specified in the probation letter, that he thought he understood where I was coming from.

NOVEMBER 11, 2003

Today at 1:00 p.m. I was to have a second interview with CES administration to deal with the state of my CES probation and pending termination. This is to be a follow-up to the two hour session with them on Monday, November 10, 2003 from 4:30 to 6:15 p.m., where no decisions were made. However, I was in no condition to meet so the meeting was rescheduled for Monday, 17 November 2003 at 4:00 p.m.

Events leading up to this.

Probation was imposed Dec 2001, ostensibly for one year and for two specific infractions, namely inappropriate references in an e-mail discussion group in October 1999, to Elder Packer and to the LDS temple experience. Both were in jest but could have been construed to be non-supportive. There were no repeats of anything remotely like that since 1999.

The conditions of the probation were that no teaching contract would be offered to me for 2002-2003 if by June 2002 I had not satisfied my Area Director that my conduct was acceptable.

I received a letter of appointment for 2002-2003 so concluded that I was in compliance.

The Area Director was replaced by a new man the summer of 2002. When I contacted him about the state of my probation he indicated that his predecessor had briefed him on the case and mentioned that it was minor and would not pose a problem.He assured me that was the case in his view as well.

I have had two performance evaluations (class observation) by the Area Directors since being on probation which mentioned no problems.

When the anniversary of the probation arrived, I was not contacted until a month later by the new Zone Administrator who informed me after an interview that probation would not be lifted at that time.

I immediately left the e-mail discussion list on which the original infraction had been made and informed my file leader of that.

I noted in that correspondence (February 2003) with my Area Director that this new development was puzzling for the following reasons (quoting from my letter to him documenting our phone conversation).

“I then asked if I could be very candid. He said he would welcome that. I said that it appeared unprofessional to leave out five elements that were in the first letter which imposed probation, namely, 1) what the infraction was this time, 2) what the term is, 3) what I can do to satisfy the probation, 4) what will constitute a new infraction and 5) what the consequences might be for a new infraction.” I have since added a sixth, namely, what will constitute a review of the case.

“He agreed with my assessment for the same reasons and said he would continue to look into the matter.”

No response was forthcoming from any level of CES administration in spite of a follow-up call in June 2003 to the Area Director.

On Thursday, November 6, 2003, I had an annual placement interview with the Area Director who announced that he had been instructed to begin the process to lift probation. We spoke for an hour with my responding to specific questions he had been given. He called me the next day to inform me that a meeting was scheduled for Monday November 10, 2003, see above.

Instead of a hearing to lift probation, I was confronted by the Zone Administrator, the Director of Human Resources and my Area Director with more concerns about my suitability as a classroom teacher in CES. One voiced concern was that I was too intellectual and not spiritual enough, and, therefore, not teaching the correlated doctrine of the Church. I wondered why that had not been brought to my attention before. I also asked why performance evaluations had not addressed it. I further invited all three to attend my class to see first hand if their fears were justified. I was asked if I would be comfortable having any general authority in my class, which I emphatically affirmed.

The Zone Administrator acknowledged that I had asked a good question about why these specific concerns had not been raised before.

I expressed dismay at the out of proportion response to a situation that did not seem to warrant it and that this move would devastate my family financially.

The only specific charge of a current infraction that I could elicit from those present was from a letter by a student in my class who complained that I had not supported Elder Packer’s Debtor account of the atonement of Jesus Christ. The class is Doctrines of the Atonement. I had heard the contents of the letter when my Institute Director spoke to me about it. I satisfied him that this came as a great surprise to me but that I could see how I might have been misunderstood. He seemed satisfied that the matter had been dealt with adequately. I addressed the issue many times in class thereafter and made sure students understood that no model of the atonement is adequate, each is limited, each is insufficient to describe the atonement which is too big for a model. The class has nearly 100% attendance. If they had complaints about the content of my lessons, they would have voted with their feet, it seems to me.


In answer to this during the meeting, I offered this example of how I was seeing the principle I tried to teach my students: You are at the Grand Canyon North Rim and take a picture at noon on a sunny day. You then travel to the South Rim, arrive at sundown, and take a photo. Do those two photos contradict each other? No. They complement one another while capturing important aspects of an enormous natural wonder.

In thinking about this some more, I think that a scriptural treatment is in order. Two Book of Mormon passages will suffice.

2 Nephi 9:7 (“infinite atonement” -- thus it cannot be captured by a single limited model) 7 Wherefore, it must needs be an infinite atonement—save it should be an infinite atonement this corruption could not put on incorruption. Wherefore, the first judgment which came upon man must needs have remained to an endless duration. And if so, this flesh must have laid down to rot and to crumble to its mother earth, to rise no more.

Alma 7:12 (“infirmities” would imply that there are some aspects of the atonement that do not entail “debt”) 12 And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.

The Zone Administrator read a letter of termination to be effective today, November 11, 2003, but later said he felt that he could not then issue it, but wanted to reconvene for further discussion after we had some time to think about it. At any rate, I was never to return to class. This abruptly just seven class periods short of the end of the semester. In all the meetings, this one and three subsequent to it, there was never a hint of sympathy only cold, cheerless matter-of-fact distance and no indication that three and half decades of service meant anything or that they valued me as a person.

At 2:00 p.m. today The Zone Administrator called and offered a full retirement package for 35 years of service -- nothing lacking except it was 21 months short of the projected date and I am not prepared financially for this.


That was then. I looked for legal counsel but didn’t want trigger happy Mormon haters. My search was difficult. I told them that they had professional legal advice and I felt like I needed it, too. Yesterday they informed me I have until this afternoon, 25 November, to make my decision or lose medical benefits and the CES perks to church retirement. They also said there was no room for negotiation so mediation was useless. They were right. Five prospective attorneys turned my case down explaining that I am an “at will” employee. The letter of appointment can be ended by either party for any reason.

I phoned the director of CES Human Relations at 3:00 p.m. asking that he begin processing the paper work for retirement effective 1 Dec. It was to be finalized (signed) the second week of December. I received 29 November the final paycheck.

When searching for legal counsel, I asked my Institute Director to provide me with two letters, a copy of the student’s letter to him and a letter from him explaining how he handled the complaint and the outcome. The envelope I picked up contained the student letter and a post-it note saying that he was sorry, but anything he wrote had to be approved by the Area Director and Zone Administrator.

I am aware of two other CES teachers who were summarily dismissed in the past year and not given reasons. They were not vested so received little in the way of separation benefits.

This premature action caused me damage to the tune of about $160,000 over the next 20 years. It’s a complex picture but I think the figure is close to accurate.

NOVEMBER 30, 2003

Today I was asked to visit with the bishop after church. He was very uncomfortable. He had to tell me that I was not to teach anything in the ward in any organization for an indefinite period. I was released from being Gospel Doctrine teacher in September and was offered the job of teaching the 11-year-old Scouts, but I was no longer suited to that (by my informing him of my medical conditions). Three weeks later I was asked to be in the Sunday School presidency. I have been teaching the high priest’s group one Sunday a month for at least three years.

I will no longer teach in high priests. He said there were “concerns” about my using outside teaching resources ( inappropriate examples and, of course, the infraction of using the New International Version of the Bible in class. I quit doing that when he asked me to in connection with the book of Isaiah a year and a half ago. In August I used two verses from it to help with a mangled KJV translation. The concerns were not specific and never mentioned before now. He said that some comments from class members had reached him. I reminded him of the sister from the ward that meets before us which adjourns right at about our Sunday school time who stays just to hear my lessons. He said he’d never seen anything like that before. I mentioned the lesson two weeks ago in HP group where several (about 5 and there were only 7 in attendance) thanked me afterward. One called me twice to thank me for it and how meaningful it had been for him and just the thing he had needed. (He lost his wife two months ago.) The bishop noted that the HP group leader was much distressed to lose me.

I called his announcement “teaching probation” and told him it sure uncomplicates my life. When I asked if while doing my duties in the SS presidency there was an emergency call for an on the spot substitute I was to just tell them I couldn’t do it, he affirmed that to be the case.

I looked him in the eye and said, “This is not your idea, is it?” He broke the eye contact and said he had discussed it with the Stake President. I said, “No, it was higher than that.” He just clammed up and I said, “Just as I suspected. Whatever floats your boat bishop, you do what you have to do.” He was still very uncomfortable.

On January 17 and 18 2004, President Packer is the visiting authority to my stake accompanied by the area authority seventy who also happens to be the Administrator of Seminaries and Institutes.


Today, January 14, 2004, I finally received a partial payment of two months pension. The rest will come February 1 and bring me up to date. With that, I felt a conclusion to the matter and my new status established. I can now release my story.

This report is copyrighted 2004 by Richard Russell. You have permission if you wish to pass it on.


It saddens me to see such unfair and unjust treatment to men like you Richard. I feel that the church has no authority over topics that you have mentioned. It is clear that CES and the church overreacted and did not fully understand what you did. I have always believed that we ultimately answer to God, not our leaders or supervisors. They are there to help us reconcile to our Lord. They are to judge righteous judgement. Again, I am sorry to see what has happened to you. May God bless you. I believe that he will honor your righteousness. - 11/20/2004 - anon

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