This past Monday Kate Kelly was excommunicated from the LDS Church. She is the founder of Ordain Women (OW), a group that “aspires to create a space for Mormons to articulate issues of gender inequality they may be hesitant to raise alone. As a group [they] intend to put [them]selves in the public eye and call attention to the need for the ordination of Mormon women to the priesthood” (OW title page).
John Dehlin, the founder of mormonstories.org, also faces charges of apostasy and will face his “court of love” on Sunday (29 June) to decide what his membership status will be.
As I have strolled through social media since Kate Kelly’s excommunication I have noticed that many seem to be “high-fiving” themselves over the expulsion of this apparent heretic. People touting how wrong she is, feeling that her excommunication is proof that her cause and belief are false. Sharing the title of Mormon with such people causes me great shame. No one should rejoice in the expulsion of a child of God. She has committed no great crime, no murder. I understand that reasons for her excommunication are more for the organization she has created than the belief she proclaims. Not for the belief that women should be ordained to the priesthood, but instead due to the demonstrations and the teaching of that belief and her purported desire to amass a great following for herself and in so doing lead others astray. HERE is a First Presidency response and HERE is where a portion of the official excommunication letter can be found. While I share her belief that women will one day receive the priesthood (really people, it’s not that strange of an idea), clearly her methods have thus far been ineffective. I do not know what a better way is, but I hope that the momentum she has created, the dialogue she has opened, will continue. I heard that she plans to appeal the ruling against her and can only hope for the best. Hope that hearts will be moved to compassion and that she will be allowed to stay.
“In this Church there is an enormous amount of room—and scriptural commandment—for studying and learning, for comparing and considering, for discussion and awaiting further revelation. We all learn ‘line upon line, precept upon precept,’ with the goal being authentic religious faith informing genuine Christlike living. In this there is no place for coercion or manipulation, no place for intimidation or hypocrisy.”
– Jeffrey R. Holland, “A Prayer for the Children,” Ensign, May 2003
I know many that have announced their desire to leave the Church if the excommunications of Kate Kelly and John Dehlin are carried out. I add my voice to Kate’s: “The decision to force me outside my congregation and community is exceptionally painful. Today is a tragic day for my family and me as we process the many ways this will impact us, both in this life and in the eternities. I love the gospel and the courage of its people. Don’t leave. Stay, and make things better” (emphasis added). I will stay in the Church not in support of aforementioned actions or even in proclamation of its (the LDS Church’s) unquestionable veracity, but because if I leave, then who will ask the questions? Without the queer community in the Church, what motive will it have to accept us? Without the feminists who have the courage to stand for a belief, even in the face of excommunication, who will help end the sexism expressed all over the Church? I mean really people, a woman prayed in General Conference and it was a big deal. That is ridiculous! That should just be a normal thing! Why is it that only men are financial clerks? Or Sunday school presidents? What manly merit makes males more competent than females in those roles (and vice versa with Primary presidencies)? These are roles that require no priesthood and still women are excluded from them. But now I’m just getting side-tracked.
One day, I have faith that there will be a Conference talk such as THIS ONE, asking members to discount all previous statements that have promoted the unanswerable patriarchy of the Church (and gay/queer discrimination/prejudice as well).
And John Dehlin. I am so thankful for that man and the voice he has raised for Mormons of all belief levels (“…regardless of your circumstances, your personal history, or the strength of your testimony, there is room for you in this Church.”—President Dieter Uchtdorf). Many of his beliefs may be “unorthodox,” or rather not mainstream Mormon doctrine, but that should in no way be a reason to exclude him from the Church.
“I admire men and women who have developed the questing spirit, who are unafraid of new ideas as stepping stones to progress. We should, of course, respect the opinions of others, but we should also be unafraid to dissent–if we are informed. Thoughts and expressions compete in the marketplace of thought, and in that competition truth emerges triumphant. Only error fears freedom of expression… This free exchange of ideas is not to be deplored as long as men and women remain humble and teachable. Neither fear of consequence or any kind of coercion should ever be used to secure uniformity of thought in the church. People should express their problems and opinions and be unafraid to think without fear of ill consequences. … We must preserve freedom of the mind in the church and resist all efforts to suppress it.”
– Hugh B. Brown
Dehlin says, “In 2005 I started Mormon Stories Podcast as a way to model open, honest discussion of difficult Mormon issues, and to provide a place for struggling Mormons to work through these concerns.” His counsel is neither to stay in the Church nor to leave it, but to do whatever is best for each individual. Or in other words, that everybody is different and what works for one person might not work for another. Which to me just seems obvious. Why, then, is this being treated as such a radical viewpoint? Ironically, Dehlin reports that thousands of individuals have testified that Mormon Stories has helped them to stay in the Church.
For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness.
Questions are necessary in the Mormon Church. In every Church, organization, family, work, or anything else; if there are only blind followers, then it is too easy to lose your way. And there are many Church leaders who affirm this. Quotes such as THESE give me hope for Mormonism. Hope that change will come. That there are still many great and important things yet to be revealed (Article of Faith 9). In fact, I’m counting on it.
“[The Lord] doeth that which is good among the children of men; and he doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men; and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God”