The Bulwark

Ordain Women: Let’s Call a Spade a Spade

By Kristen Doe 

On June 11 Kate Kelly posted the formal letter from her bishop notifying her of the June 22 disciplinary council to evaluate her church membership. Unsurprisingly, in the ten days since her posting there have been a number of news articles clamoring to comment on the meaning and reaction to “dissent” in the LDS Church. The New York Times describes the LDS Church’s actions as being, “the first time since 1993, when the church ejected a handful of intellectuals known as the ‘September Six’, that it has moved so forcefully to quash such prominent and critical voices.” The Huffington Post quotes Kelly saying, “Disciplining arbitrarily and unfairly one person is not going to stop this movement.” The blogosphere too has started to ripple and Kelly has wasted no time including those reactions of support in her absentee letter to her bishopric. Kelly’s letter to her bishopric sounded off in a similar tune to Joanna Brooks’ memoir The Book of Mormon Girl, describing her lifelong membership in the LDS Church and framing her narrative as one of deep, intellectual questions amidst a backward church closed to ‘modern’ revelation that, if truly asked, would most certainly align itself with the goals of the group with which she presides, Ordain Women.

Ordain

Kelly’s letter to her bishopric is a snapshot of her perception of the LDS church and her relationship to it. She describes herself in the ward where her disciplinary council took place as unacknowledged by the bishopric and then goes on to relate pieces of the history of her membership in the church. She describes understanding gendered inequalities as a child when she was baptized in a ‘male’ jumpsuit; she describes herself as a questioner, inspired by the Young Women value integrity; she describes her mission and her marriage in the temple, and she urges the council to consider not only her role in this organization but the some thousand people their decision will affect. The history of her membership, much like Brooks’ memoir, claims normalcy in the church by emphasizing a laundry list of good behavior check marks much like a resume or college application. I have no doubt that the feelings related to these life events are deep and that many of the women who participate in Ordain Women, or even empathize with the cause have true deep feelings and questions about a number of facets of church doctrine, and I do not want to minimize those questions or the feelings associated with them. However, Kate Kelly did not have a disciplinary council for asking questions; she did not have a disciplinary council for discussing questions with local and area leadership, and she certainly did not have a disciplinary council because questions are prohibited in the LDS church.

Kate+Kelly+Mormon+Church+Holds+General+Conference+Oldao8Jg_YQlKate Kelly had a disciplinary council because “of her activities relating to Ordain Women, for openly, repeatedly and deliberately acting in public opposition to the Church and its leaders after having been counseled not to do so, for continuing to teach as doctrine information that is not doctrine after having been counseled regarding the doctrine of the priesthood, and for leading others to do the same.” This informal probation letter was given to her on May 22, 2014 and can be seen here. Kelly’s narrative as presented on her blog, comments to the media, and in her letter to her bishopric is one in which her questions are being taken as subversive, and therefore need to be either ignored or extinguished. She describes the disciplinary council as a reaction to her questions and her excommunication as a punishment to “thousands of Mormons who have questions and concerns with gender inequality in the church and want a place to voice those concerns in safety. You are punishing anyone with a question in their heart who wants to ask that question vocally, openly and publicly.” Despite the informal letter from Kelly’s local leaders listing the actions she has taken that warrant probation and now a disciplinary council, she continues to frame the narrative as one in which her questions are the reason for reactions from local leadership. This is not only misleading but pandering for a headline by liberal media willing to paint the church as removing critical voices from its membership. The New York Times and others readily obliged.

The juxtaposition between Kelly’s local leader’s description of her relationship to church membership, and Kelly’s description of her local leader’s reactions are not the same. In fact, Kelly’s narrative is one in which members should fear asking questions because of the silent threat of church discipline under mysteriously vague circumstances. The LDS church released to two statements this week, the first described how members’ actions (not questions) can cause concern from local leaders: “Sometimes members’ actions contradict Church doctrine and lead others astray. While uncommon, some members in effect choose to take themselves out of the Church by actively teaching and publicly attempting to change doctrine to comply with their personal beliefs.” This phraseology, “choose to take themselves out of the Church,” is incredibly clear when read with the definitions of how church discipline works. Although the individual actions of members that illicit church discipline vary, there is a process, and it is not vague; it is not decided by a singular person, and it is certainly not done without attempting to counsel with the individual. Additionally, the responses of church leadership are not determined by a laundry list of actions that require specific responses. Local church leadership counsels together and prayerfully determines consequences that will aid members in returning to full fellowship.

Kelly’s changing of the narrative is indicative of how Ordain Women and its affiliates have approached their campaign to change church doctrine: by creating situations where it would appear that asking questions is equivalent with apostasy, where being denied entrance to Priesthood meetings was synonymous with inequality, and recruiting others to have/voice doubts was a matter of strength and intelligence. This is not my narrative, nor is it the narrative of the church with which I am a member.

(1) The LDS church is a church of questions, so much so that we believe in modern revelation—for me, this is the most open-ended question there is (and of any church I know); and we believe in an open canon where prophets and apostles continue to instruct and guide.

(2) The LDS church claims its lineage, like other Christians, through the Abrahamic faith, and (as Valerie Cassler notes) the Old Testament is not known for equality of women. Yet, the LDS church is the only one that I know of where salvation is an individual endeavor and the highest degree of exaltation occurs only as married couples. True to the Faith describes the relationship of the Priesthood to the family as “the most important exercise of the Priesthood” that occurs “with his wife an equal partner” (125). Dallin H. Oaks in the most recent General Conference said, “we are not accustomed to speaking of women having the authority of the priesthood in their Church callings, but what other authority can it be?” There is certainly more to be said here but it is a different topic for a different day.

(3) The LDS church is not a government entity with which we campaign for doctrine that we think would be appropriate, or convenient, or enriching. It is not an entity that changes based the number of people that protest at General Conference. It is steadfast in its doctrine and open to questions and revelation all at the same time. This tightrope is one of depth and richness, where there is consistency and change all at once. Our history is rich with examples of this, again another topic perhaps for another day.

Kate Kelly is presenting a misleading facade that is not only teaching false doctrine, but is also presenting a narrative about the LDS church that is a disservice to its members as a whole. This is not about asking questions. This is about aggressively trying to give answers for the church as a whole under the guise of equality. Pretending that actions are innocent questions without an agenda opposing LDS church doctrine is a deception that members should be quick to recognize and quick to dismiss.

Kristen was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. She received her bachelors in Political Science at Brigham Young University and her masters in Political Theory at the University of Utah.

 

Comments (61)

  1. cougar crusader

    June 24, 2014 at 3:49 pm

    Finally an article that addresses the real issue at hand. we could argue all day long about whether kate kelley was justified in her actions or not, but truthfully that’s not real issue at hand. the real issue, and reason for her excommunication, is that she confronted and disregarded church leadership which she agreed to follow as a temple recommend holder. so similar is portions of the honor code at BYU-I. I doubt that you could ever argue that wearing shorts and flip flops violate any portion of church doctrine or commandments, but that’s not the point. when a student enrolls at BYU-I they agree to follow those rules (regardless of their stupidity) and when they choose to disregard those rules, they must face the consequences of their actions.

  2. Jami Hepworth

    June 24, 2014 at 3:51 pm

    Thank you for this, Kristen. This is absolutely refreshing to read after all the emotionally charged rhetoric I have seen coming from Ordain women sympathizers (and the Liberal media) over the last couple of weeks.

    While what Kate kelly has done with her chance in the spotlight has certainly been a disservice to its members as a whole, her attempt to “steady the ark” will ultimately have only been a disservice to herself. The church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints will continue to go forth and grow to fill the Earth just as God said it would. This too, shall pass. This common sense article helps the passing of this nonsense go a little bit faster – or at least to clarify some of the blatant lies that have been floating around facebook.

    I believe – and perhaps this is the biggest difference between kelly and Ordain Women advocates, and those of us who choose to align our actions within what the church dictates as necessary to keep membership – that this church is not merely a social organization, not merely a culture, but something much more significant and divinely organized and guided.

    If this church is really all the kelly has said in interviews that it is (i.e. comparable to an “abusive relationship”) Perhaps kelly might find more joy in another church with which she can be more “authentic?” Truly. Those have been popping up all over the place in recent years to suit the needs of individuals with their own doctrines and programs.

    I pray those who aren’t seeing the obvious spade as a spade will get a better prescription shortly. I pray that Kelly finds a path that brings her more fulfillment – hopefully within the church through repentance. but if not, To each their own.

  3. Brad M.

    June 24, 2014 at 5:33 pm

    Interesting article. I’d like to point out one challenge with the framework you’ve outlined at the end.

    The problem with “Point 1: The LDS Church is a place of questions” is that it is necessarily modified by “Point 3: The LDS Church is not a government entity with which we campaign for doctrine…” There are restrictions on who may ask questions and expect an answer, or at least, an answer that will be validated.

    But that’s Mormonism 101, right? Only the Prophet receives revelation for the Church. The challenge, though, is that sometimes, the ones with the right to ask questions and receive answers don’t provide much confidence that they are either a) asking them or b) that they even understand the present animating reasons for asking them in the first place. In other words, many don’t feel that church leadership cares about institutional inequities because none of them ever acknowledge that they exist in any meaningful way.

    This reasonable lack of confidence in church leadership to address certain difficulties, combined with lay members’—especially women— lack of standing to ask/receive answers to certain institutional questions, leaves those of us with real concerns with few options, none all that helpful. It’s suck it up or say something. And while i’m uncomfortable with OW’s tactics, I can’t deny that it is one of the few options for seeing to it that their concerns are *meaningfully* addressed.

    • AJ

      June 24, 2014 at 11:30 pm

      The two points do not change each other. You can ask questions about a set of laws, although the chance of changing a law is not likely. The question is to understand and edify. Has nothing to do with an intent to CHANGE the way the gospel has been organized.

      • Kalie

        June 25, 2014 at 12:04 pm

        Then what, pray tell, is the point of asking questions?

        • Kevin

          June 25, 2014 at 1:53 pm

          “To understand and edify.”

    • AL Aguayo

      June 25, 2014 at 9:22 am

      please refer to my post below. I answer you (and all with the same question) clearly.

  4. Russ shields

    June 24, 2014 at 5:41 pm

    Is this the same kristen doe that started the ordain pets movement at the byu?

  5. Finn McGowan

    June 24, 2014 at 11:24 pm

    “This is about aggressively trying to give answers for the church as a whole under the guise of equality.”

    Why “GUISE”?

    i wonder What would have happened if in 1976, black members requested/demanded the priesthood? would their equality have been delayed out of spite?

    • F0x

      June 25, 2014 at 2:52 am

      Hah, oh the ole ‘race’ card. The difference between that and this is simply doctrine. We don’t know why black members were not able to have the priesthood at first, but there is certainly no post resurrection scripture stating otherwise, nor prophet saying the contrary. The scriptures are however VERY clear about the set up of the church and use of the priesthood.

      The major thing here is that no, the priesthood is not some status symbol by which members climb some imaginary church hierarchy. If you don’t believe in the way the church works…stop going there is my best advice.

      • WHUT

        June 25, 2014 at 10:28 am

        Ok. A couple issues here…
        This is not a doctrinal issue.
        You may not be aware, bUt a SpokesPerson for the chUrch hesitantly admitted that there is no
        LDS Doctrine or scripture that points out that women cannot and will not hold the priesthood.
        However, if current prophets have not received Inspired guidance on the subject, I believe that must be honored, as they have stewardship and Power to seal on earTh and heaven. That being said, there should be no issue with a Group of people asking our prophets to seek revelation on the issue. And since they won’t directly acknowledge ow, it seems like that revelation hasn’t been sought out on their behaLf. And doN’t cite a PR director or the talk by Elder Oaks, Since they were very general and really just reiterated What the status quo is.

        The “race card” is drawn as a clear parallel. The Church has since issued a statement that the restraint on the priesthood for blacks was not doctrine and not of God but of men. How is this different if the spokesperson admitted there is no doctrine stating the opposite? The Revelation to lift the restriction came from seeking it. Half of the D&C comes from members seeking revelation from the prophet. Why can’t a revelation for women be sought out? So you can’T say there is a doctrinal issue with women and the priesthood in that regard.

        Claiming that women who want the priesthood for hierarchal power is very assumptive and offensive. Statements all over OW state otherwise. That’s an ignorant assumption.

        All this being said, my personal feeling is that OW’s approach and structure are a bit too i subordinate and distracting to the message. I don’t disagree that Kate Kelly should have been disciplined in some way, but I don’t agree either, and don’t think anyone had The right to form an opinion about it.

        • Eric

          June 25, 2014 at 4:15 pm

          Revelation can be sought out by the leaders of the church, and I believe it is done so on a regular basis. However, there is no question on what the current doctrine is.

        • Josh

          June 25, 2014 at 5:57 pm

          The spokesperson for the church was honestly not very good at what she was doing. There are scriptures that indicate that the priesthood is given to men, but it is true that it nowhere specifically states that the priesthood will never be given to women. I’ll leave that up to God to decide.

          In terms of the statement regarding ordination of people of African descent, it nowhere says that the policy was “not of God but of men.” It simply states that the reasons given by many Church leaders for the ban were not accepted as doctrine. There is a big difference.

      • Jane

        June 25, 2014 at 12:09 pm

        Please do not marginalize racial equality by dismissing it as “the old ‘race’ card.” Makes me sick.

        • Blues

          June 25, 2014 at 10:50 pm

          I didn’t get the impression that Fox was marginalizing racial equality, I think he was pointing out the fallacy of the argument presented. I hope you feel better soon.

    • Gerald L. King II

      June 25, 2014 at 8:28 am

      The funny thing about your comment, if I remember my church history correctly, the revelation to give black members the Priesthood was given in 1972.

      • Jane

        June 25, 2014 at 12:13 pm

        1978. Exactly 115 years after brigham young made the following statement: “Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so.”

      • Mike fauSett

        June 25, 2014 at 11:52 pm

        I believe it was in 1978 or 1979.

  6. Ali

    June 24, 2014 at 11:43 pm

    Well written, especially the last paragraph. She was not “faithfully asking questions”, she was setting herself up as a prophetess claiming she knows what is right for the church today and was actively disseminating information contrary to current doctrine.

    • Lucky

      June 26, 2014 at 12:24 am

      Listen, you don’t have to agree with her, but is the hyperbole really that necessary? Everything in the O.W. Mission statement pleads with the presidency to take the issue to the lord. She never claimed any revelation. She was never claiming to be a prophetess. She never taught any false doctrine. It’s over-the-top comments like yours that fuel the fire and inspire futher exageration.

  7. Charles

    June 25, 2014 at 1:09 am

    Women and men have equal power in the LDS church. Both are commanded to follow God. Both receive of everything.

    Whether men or women hold authority to officiate priesthood ordinances is ultimately up to God.

    The real question isn’t who holds it, because if it’s true, then it’s according to God’s will.

    The real question IS whether the authority is real, and whether people truly get healed when hands are laid upon their heads.

    On a personal note, my mom received a priesthood blessing to be healed 20 years ago. She’s not been healed, so — what does it matter who “received” the priesthood?

    According the Elder Oaks, the priesthood blessings rely upon authority, inspiration & guidance from the Holy Ghost, annointing, and ultimately the will of God. This to me holds equal “power” to any prayer asking for a miracle. Both men and women can pray. Miracles happen for people both inside and outside the lds faith.

    • Jane

      June 25, 2014 at 12:21 pm

      It has. Member are leaving the LDS Church in droves because of not only this, but the Church’s intolerance of homosexuality, its questionable distribution of tithing (Did you know the Church owns City Creek Center?) and its extremely controversial history. Thomas Monson is calling the movement to stop the exodus “The Great Rescue.” Not many people know about it.

      • Matt

        June 25, 2014 at 3:13 pm

        That was not built with tithing funds. Check your public records please.

      • Josh

        June 25, 2014 at 5:28 pm

        City creek wasn’t acquired or supported through tithing money

      • Dustin

        June 25, 2014 at 6:27 pm

        Jane, No tithing funds were used to Build City Creek. the lds Church has large ( and taxed) business divisions that are separate.

        • Harold

          June 25, 2014 at 8:15 pm

          Doesn’t matter if tithing funds were used or not. All church funds should be considered sacred and go towards the churches mission.

        • Aaron

          June 25, 2014 at 11:53 pm

          And where did the start up funding for the church-owned businesses come from if not church funds??? City Creek Mall just brings up another question of accountability about the church’s use of monies it receives. Should a church be building commercial properties at the cost of billions when there are millions of people starving or without clan drinking water all around the world? What would Jesus do? I doubt he would say, “Build a mall.”

      • Matt

        June 25, 2014 at 8:04 pm

        The church did not use tithing funds though to build city creek mall. It was funded through the church’s real-estate.
        http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/City_Creek_Center
        http://m.deseretnews.com/article/660205772/Downtown-renovation-project.html

        • Jackson M.

          June 26, 2014 at 12:51 am

          Matt… the church’s for profit businesses were for the most part started with tithing dollars paid by members decades ago. The Church is not transparent with their finances, so there is no way of knowing these things with certainty. How do we know that some of our current tithing money isn’t going to fund future for profits? Most Churches provide their members with monthly, quarterly, or annual financial statements. Why wouldn’t the only true church be confident enough to do the same? City Creek is a shame. Imagine the good we could do in Africa with the billions the church uses to buy up malls, apartment complexes, and more land in Florida than Disney.

      • Rick

        June 25, 2014 at 8:24 pm

        Droves? Considering the ow women movement is only about 0.18% of the members, your statement about droves is inaccurate. Consider the membership numbers mentioned at each general conference. I See none of them less than previous years.

      • Craig

        June 26, 2014 at 12:53 am

        If you want to see people leave the church in droves, start ordaining women. To me, this would mean that either the whole theology of the church is made up or that the brethren have completely departed from it. Either way I (and many others I suspect) would either leave the church or at least feel like the church has left us.

  8. Janeese Stiles

    June 25, 2014 at 4:31 am

    I think it’s a common misconception, inside and out of the LDS church, that its members have a solid testimony all the time of every aspect of the church. But how is that testimony attained? The answer is really simple; prayerfully question everything. OW didn’t like the answer they got, so they went public with it thinking that they could coax church leaders into changing their minds. That’s not how it’s done, lady. Hopefully this “movement” doesn’t deter members or investigators from questioning.

  9. Gerald L. King II

    June 25, 2014 at 8:36 am

    Well said.

    It’s curious to note that this VERY subject is also being tackled by the Catholic Church. In 1994 the Pope released a statement, that was backed up by the Bible, that stated Women will never be ordained Priests. His statement essentially was law and since it was said in an official capacity will be Law. I’m not sure if His statement can be overruled.

    As of last month, the Vatican’s official position is that if any woman attempts to complete the final step of becoming an ordained Priest, there is a specific word for it which I do not recall, she will be excommunicated.

    One thing I always point out when I talk with others on this subject I do admit that there IS inequality in the LDS church. There will never be equality until Men can get pregnant and deliver a baby. There is only 1 other person in this World who can create life, God himself. Therefor a Woman should be held in the same respect as God. NOT worshiped, but respected.

    • LuckY

      June 26, 2014 at 12:29 am

      You had a fine comment up until you tried to conflate women holding the priesthood with ken having children. The analogy is seriously flawed. Holding the priesthood is a right or privilege, not a physical ability.

  10. AL Aguayo

    June 25, 2014 at 9:16 am

    I agree 100% of all said in this well explained and articulated article. i am a member of the church and active in it and I would have loved to read in this article the fact that this is not a church that humankind is the decisive force of its doctrines (mentioned in the last 2 paragraphs on this article), but is god himself (actually is jesus Christ himself, under the direction of the father) who determine what the doctrines will be in his church and how is it that we, mankind, will live them. the prophet is his mouth piece and not the brain piece behind the doctrine of this great church (as opposed to all the other religions in the world (every single one of them) where their leaders are the mouth & brain pieces, due to the lack of authority given to them directly from the lord himself… therefore they cannot have nor receive revelations given from and by god, but by the thoughts and feelings of their own affections and inclinations).
    Personal revelation is an individual/personal blessing and at the same time is a duty that will allow each individual to receive a real testimony of the doctrines explained to us, by the church, directly from the holy ghost to us.

    personal revelation is not (and i stress the fact that “it is not”) the medium for us to change the doctrine of the church under the premise that “I received a personal revelation therefore i can change the doctrine of the church” (nevertheless, we can read the story of someone who received personal revelation from the wrong source as it is explained in the book of mormon in ALma 30:42,53), but the reason why we receive and are entitle to receive personal revelation is to get a personal testimony of the truthfulness of this gospel and its doctrines, including the laws and rules of the priesthood, among others like : temple work, word of wisdom, tithing, etc.

  11. Memo Sanchez

    June 25, 2014 at 9:42 am

    The perception that had she be allowed to remain in the church would have destroyed the church is quite shallow.

  12. Brandon Marsh

    June 25, 2014 at 1:56 pm

    I Think it is important to understand that #1 and #3 above are not contradicting each other. We ask questions in the church to understand god’s will. “Ask and ye shall receive. seek and ye shall find. knock and it shall be opened to you.” we don’t ask questions to change his mind about things.
    If we believe in the omniscience of god and that he speaks through his servants the prophets then the questions that i need to be asking aren’t questions that will drive change in the church but rather change in my understanding of the doctrines of the gospel that will give me peace in my role therein. True doctrine, understood changes attitudes and behaviors. I would gladly sit down with anyone in Kate Kelly’s circumstances and try to teach the doctrine that would help them understand the roles of men and women in the Church, family, and God’s plan. I’ve asked and felt the peace that comes from having my questions answered.

    • Lucky

      June 26, 2014 at 12:39 am

      But aren’t there certain questions that only can be answered through the prophet? Can you seek to have revelation for the church? So what does one do when their question is of that scale? Go back in time and imagine you had questions about why blacks couldn’t hold the priesthood. What then? Do you think the Lord would have answered that one? He didn’t for David O. McKay. It took Spencer W. kimball a long time before he received an answer. And do you think it had nothing to do with the pleading of the saints that he went to the Lord? The thousands of letters he received from members of the church pleading to change this doctrine? I refuse to believe that you have some special insight not contained in the scriptures and doctrine of the chUrch as to why women can’t hold the priesthood. I think a fair debate is the tactics of O.W. but to try and pretend we have answers to the questions they were asking is silly.

      • Brandon Marsh

        June 26, 2014 at 10:40 am

        You missed my point. True doctrine understood, changes attitudes and behavior. That means the questions I should be asking are questions that will help me understand the doctrines being taught by the prophets, the scriptures, and the Holy Ghost. I don’t claim to have “special insight not contained in the scriptures”. But I do claim to understand the doctrine taught by the scriptures and the Prophets. I do have answers to the question of why women can’t hold the priesthood.
        The problem with O.W. isn’t that they are asking questions. The problem is that they are asking the wrong questions. They aren’t asking questions that will help them understand doctrine. They are asking questions trying to change doctrine.

  13. Chris

    June 25, 2014 at 2:27 pm

    If you understand the plan of salvation then you know that we are all children of god and his plan for all of us – men and women – Is to inherit all that he has. Again, women and men can inherit all that heavenly father has if they follow his plan.

  14. Brad M.

    June 25, 2014 at 2:56 pm

    I think its important to note, first off, that my comment above made no allegation of “contradiction” or “conflict.” Rather, I used the word “challenge,” which is to say, that the framework is not problem-free. The problem I pointed to is that the emphasis on permitting “questioning” is a bit disingenuous in a system that doesn’t validate the reasons why individuals may reach answers that differ from the Church.

    The root of this problem is that Church leaders don’t acknowledge may of the concerns that individuals like Kelly raise. If concerned members had confidence that their concerns were both recognized and prayed about, it is very possible that this kind of activism would be unnecessary. Instead, because General Conference talks and Church Press Releases cast a rose-colored filter on church life/culture, those who feel otherwise determine that the only way their concerns may be meaningfully addressed is by making leaders aware.

    Be it known, I’m not on board with OW. I don’t like that I need to qualify that, but given the very conservative tenor of the response, I feel that my points may be immediately dismissed as “guilty by association.”

    Instead, it is only my intent to demonstrate that their is plenty of guilt to go around: Kelly and her organization perhaps took “open dialogue” too far into the realm of “activism,” but Church leaders, too, have not helped the situation by failing to credit and acknowledge concerns raised by smart, intelligent individuals (not limited to the OW crew — read any number of Mormon blogs in the bloggernacle for a sense of the intelligent, thoughtful concerns by faithful, active Saints).

    To be fair, the Church has *started* to do this by recent decisions of changing the missionary age and allowing women to pray in General Conference. But that perhaps underscores why the excommunication of Kate Kelly is so unfortunate: she has been cut off from a constructive dialogue that she has been a vital part of, whether the Church is willing to recognize it or not. That is sad. And that is, in part, why I am most troubled by the Monday’s decision.

  15. IASB

    June 25, 2014 at 3:05 pm

    Probably the saddest part of this otherwise-excellent article is the huffing and puffing going on in the comments section, as people snidely strain at gnats while unwittingly swallowing camels.

    Numbers 12: 1-15. Numbers 16:1-41. Isaiah 30:9-11. Ezekiel 12:23-25. Ezekiel 13:1-13. 2 Timothy 4:2-4. Jude 1:17-19. D&C 121:34-38. etc. etc. etc. Time and time again, we are warned.

  16. Brad M.

    June 25, 2014 at 3:12 pm

    One point that needs to be acknowledged: questions about the role of women in the church aren’t nearly as uncomplicated as many commenters above imply. Assuming that there is no unjust inequality in the Church simply because you yourself have never experienced it or because you can’t see any evidence of it is not good enough to dismiss those with concerns.

    We have to confront the reality that our own biases and upbringings affect how we see the world, and that the way we see it is not always more legitimate than the way others do. Because my Mormon experience as a white, educated, middle-to-upper class male (plus whatever other characteristics I have) is unmarred by feelings of inequality does not automatically mean that those who don’t have any of those characteristics won’t have a qualitatively different Mormon experience. Because of the real likelihood of inherent personal bias, we *must* be willing to at least listen to the concerns of others with an open mind.

    Otherwise, the impasse will only grow larger and this will become a Church culture held hostage by those who are most benefitted by it, rather than by all who desire fellowship within it and are willing to make *reasonable* sacrifices for that fellowship.

    Let’s at least come to the table and break bread together, rather than dismissively pronounce there’s no room at the inn.

  17. Elle powell

    June 25, 2014 at 5:17 pm

    I don’t like to give any attention to this subject, but I’d like to comment that I love to hear that others understand so well, what is wrong with this and how harmful this movement is to anyone without a firm testimony.

  18. Hilton

    June 25, 2014 at 6:57 pm

    Are you looking for an official statement of the Church about women and the priesthood, it’s here:

    Why don’t women hold the priesthood in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? How do Mormon women lead in the Church?
    Official Answer
    Gordon B. Hinckley, prior President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said:

    “Women do not hold the priesthood because the Lord has put it that way. It is part of His program. Women have a very prominent place in this Church. Men hold the priesthood offices of the Church. But women have a tremendous place in this Church. They have their own organization. It was started in 1842 by the Prophet Joseph Smith, called the Relief Society, because its initial purpose was to administer help to those in need. It has grown to be, I think, the largest women’s organization in the world… They have their own offices, their own presidency, their own board. That reaches down to the smallest unit of the Church everywhere in the world…

    “The men hold the priesthood, yes. But my wife is my companion. In this Church the man neither walks ahead of his wife nor behind his wife but at her side. They are co-equals in this life in a great enterprise.”

    http://www.mormon.org/faq/women-in-the-church

    • Heather

      June 26, 2014 at 12:03 pm

      Thank you! It frustrates me that people confuse asking a question with demanding an answer being given to support what you believe. People are referring back to blacks and the priesthood. People asked “why not” and prayed. They waited for revelation. They did not hold protests or classes to teach why their beliefs were correct. Kate had her question answered! There have been several lessons in church answering questions about the priesthood. There have been several statements in conference sessions about the role of the priesthood and why it is the way it is. The church believes in modern revelation through a prophet. organizing marches and sit-ins will not change the church. Only God can make changes. As a women in the church I do not feel lesser. I feel that I have just as much say as the men. Every member of the church is under the council of God. The church is a church of order, so god communicates through his prophet on down the line. The LDS church teaches that we have a heavenly mother that god loves and respects as his equal. Asking questions is not the problem, it is when you get an answer and decide that it is not what you wanted to hear so you keep asking hoping that the answer will change. Here is the kicker. Maybe in time it will. But Kate’s answer has been given. Now she just needs to be patient and continue to pray, not hold “classes” of her own that support her beliefs, which are contrary to the doctrine of the church.

  19. Harold

    June 25, 2014 at 8:18 pm

    Perhaps God’s real church, if there is one, isn’t a democracy, yet probably so much better. I believe its leaders would be participative like a parent, mentor, or coach that would encourage input from disciples while working around absolute truth. I see a God who fosters teamwork in order to reach a consensus, instead of merely being a dictator, expecting the same from leaders. I think God would allow room for dissent, negotiation, discussion, and persuasion in utilizing people’s talents, skills, and abilities for the purposes of blessing each other. God and his disciples could work together to seek out various alternatives for things, find the best solutions to problems, and set user-friendly policies and doctrines that enable most people to be happy about. The gospel, the way I see it, is about God and his disciples combining their efforts in setting standards and preferences as different needs come up and change over the span of time. Maybe Mormon leaders are shutting out God and people are beginning to wake up and see the truth.

  20. JimD

    June 25, 2014 at 8:46 pm

    I’m surprised OW complains about not being allowed to attend priesthood meetings. I have seen sisters occasionally attend priesthood and have heard of no prohibition against it. The only time I recall sisters being specifically denied attendance was for a special priesthood meeting held by Boyd K Packer some years ago in a regional conference. Everyone was all abuzz about the mysterious restriction. What was his topic? he denounced us males for not being more loving and patient with our wives, promised church discipline if abuse ever occurred, and sternly instructed us to go home and listen to our wives.

    • LuCky

      June 26, 2014 at 12:45 am

      Well, I mean, they weren’t allowed into the priesthood session of conference. I’m not sure what’s confusing about that. That’s great that you’ve seen women in a priesthood session of conference, but that was obviously not their experIence. Is there any debate there?

  21. Mike

    June 25, 2014 at 9:46 pm

    To me this situation is more simple than most the comments i have read. In efesians 4 we are told christ establishded one church. So, simply stated, either the church is true or not. There is no middle ground. It is either the true church or a lie. Every person is invited and encourage to pray ask heavenly father for that answer. If someone receives an answer yes, that means that the doctorines that are taught are truely given to us by god and no amount of petitioning is going to change those doctorines. If petitioning does change doctorine, it would no longer be God’s church.

  22. Aaron Young

    June 25, 2014 at 11:15 pm

    Thank you for this thoughtful article. However, I see a few points that could use some discussion.

    1. It is correct that Kate Kelly was not excommunicated solely for asking questions. She refused to take down her website as she was asked by the church, and for this she was removed from the church. However, her website is essentially the way she asked her questions, so in asking to remove it the church asked her to stop publicly asking questions. Any organization that punishes a person for publicly asking questions should be viewed with an appropriate amount of skepticism.

    2. It is true that in LDS theology a man must be sealed to a woman to be exalted. He cannot be exalted singly. However, when this doctrine was originally given to Joseph Smith in the Doctrine and Covenants the idea of a man being exalted was in the setting of a polygamous marriage to multiple females. Polygamy was the new and everlasting covenant. Even in exaltation there is an inequality between the sexes. It is only in modern times since the manifesto that the idea of a monogamous couple being exalted was the ideal and the norm.

    3. If Dalin H. Oaks said in a recent conference talk that in essence females in the church have priesthood authority in the fulfilling of their callings, then it is incongruent that Kate Kelly is then excommunicated for refusing to remove a web site that says females in the church should have the priesthood. Perhaps Sis. Kelly’s local leaders could have considered Elder Oaks’ talk. (Maybe they did, I admit I was not privy to any of the proceedings.). The article tries to side step this conundrum by deferring its discussion to another time.

    4. The LDS church is not a democracy as was correctly stated. Instead it claims to be lead by direct revelation. However, in the past strong pressure from outside groups have produced articles of revelation which allowed the church to conveniently comply with those same outside pressures. For example, the manifesto ending polygamy (or at least ending the no-secret practice of polygamy within the borders of the United States), and the 1978 revelation ending the church’s racial discrimination allowing all worthy males to receive the blessings of priesthood and temple regardless of race. This article tries to side step this issue as well.

  23. Barrand

    June 25, 2014 at 11:15 pm

    Someone clamoring for a leadership role, male or female, is seeking notoriety and not a chance for doing service. You do not strive for leadership.. And these OW gals, they must not of ever been a Relief Society president. who are in charge of welfare of the families in the ward (families being male and females.. any one in need)- They visit each home that is in need and personally designate what they need and how much. In the Ward council – relief society and young women presidents meet with the other leaders as equals to discuss the wards needs. – A husband and wife unit are equals and always has been. Again – when one clamors for a leadership position, they are doing it for the wrong reason and have been blinded by a not so godly source.

    • Lucky

      June 26, 2014 at 12:55 am

      Clamoring for leadership? Did you read something that I didn’t? I’m not aware of any O.W. member clamoring for leadership. You do realize the difference between Priesthood authority and Priesthood leadership, right?

  24. Jackson M.

    June 26, 2014 at 12:32 am

    Many Members like me tend to disagree with the way Kate Kelly protested during conference… but we also recognize the important issues that she is bringing up. One has to be somewhat blinded to think that there is no gender inequality in the church. I mean, it is only in the past year that they started allowing women to pray in General Conference. Many Bishops still believe that it is inappropriate for women to give the opening prayer in sacrament meeting.

    I imagine this is similar to what it must have been like in the 1970s. My father-in-law tells stories of speaking in favor of blacks getting the priesthood in 1975. He was laughed at and mocked in elders quorum. Byron Marchant and Douglas Wallace were both excommunicated for actively opposing the priesthood ban. We now know that they were in the right, as was Dr. Lowry Nelson. The Church was waaaay behind on that one.

    I’ve been an active member all of my life, but it has only been in the past few years that I’ve realized the church still has some real inequality issues today. The push for gender equality is an important matter that deserves attention. There are legitimate questions to be asked:

    Why does a woman covenant to obey her husband instead of being able to make the covenant directly with God? Why are women treated so unfairly when it comes to sealing ordinances (look at widows vs widowers)? Why can’t a woman confess her sins (which may include her most intimate and vulnerable emotions) to another woman instead of a man? Why are women who face disciplinary action judged by an all male panel? Why weren’t the general leaders of the Relief Society and Young Women’s consulted when the Proclamation to the Family was being drafted?… And why couldn’t they sign the document that definitively lays out a woman’s role in this life? Why are we still holding on to the eternal doctrine of polygamy? Why is the priesthood constantly preached as the male version of motherhood?… What ever happened to fatherhood? Why can a woman be excommunicated by 3 men (a bishopric), while a man with the priesthood has to be ex’d by 15 men (stake presidency and high council)? Why do our kids only memorize the names of male leaders of the church? Why is our theology (even in the Temple) void of any discussion of Heavenly Mother? Why in the temple sealing does a woman “give herself” to her husband… while the husband simply “receives” her?… Why doesn’t the husband give himself to her as well?

    The list goes on and on. I hope nobody feels like they need to go through and refute each question… I completely understand that most members do not view these as legitimate or important. But many of us ask these types of questions every Sunday.

    • UAV

      June 26, 2014 at 2:36 am

      A few mistakes in your logic here:

      First off, the Church was NOT waaay behind on the blacks receiving the priesthood. Individuals were ahead of the Church, which, if you understand the definition, is a form of apostasy.

      Secondly, your point regarding the temple covenant. If you have questions about why that covenant is made the way it is made, go back to the temple. Those questions are answered there for those who earnestly seek truth. Church disciplinary councils are led under the direction of the priesthood leader, who is the Bishop. He holds the priesthood keys.

      I don’t wish to go through each of your questions, but some of these occur as a matter of how God has set up His Church. You may say that man has set up this church, but at whose direction? God oversees the building up of His church. And currently President Thomas S. Monson, along with his First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, direct that work here on the earth. There may yet be progression in the way the work of the Church occurs–meaning that procedure may change–but this is in the Lord’s time, not man’s. All this clamoring reminds me of a verse from Jacob: “Wherefore, my brethren, seek not to counsel the Lord, but to take counsel from his hand.” Open discourse and questioning are essential to understanding and the formation of a testimony, but when you attempt to convince others to follow you where your personal insights have led you, you must take great care to not lead them away to what the Brethren have said is correct. Elder Oaks explicitly said, “But even though these presiding authorities hold and exercise all of the keys delegated to man in this dispensation, they are not free to alter the divinely decreed pattern that only men will hold offices in the priesthood.”

      People may engage in civil discussion regarding equality between the sexes in the church. Bu they must not try to “get ahead” of the Prophet or the Church. To do so is to say that they know better than God. And to openly protest and publicize actions taken against you in a Church disciplinary court smacks of a cause that is secular and not spiritual. While Kate Kelly may be inspired by something she feels is spiritually significant, she has opened the doors to an unholy approach where the fires of media and public opinion hold sway rather than the Spirit. Regardless of what her website says or how she has stated her opinions, if her priesthood leaders have asked her to stop and she has not, that goes directly against the qualifications for a temple recommend as to whether she supports and follows her priesthood leaders.

  25. CLAUDIA

    June 26, 2014 at 1:12 am

    I failed to include the link to the LA Times article: http://www.latimes.com/nation/nationnow/la-na-mormon-excommunication-women-clergy-20140624-story.html (assuming the moderator will even allow my comment as it does not align with the opinion article. For the record, Yes, I am a member . Yet I do feel excommunication was extreme. Her actions do not comply with the teachings, she may be leading others “Astray”, yet those are who did not believe in the first place. By excommunicating her, they added fuel to the flame – yet I suppose taking a stance.

  26. Benjamin

    June 26, 2014 at 3:06 am

    When nephi heard laman and lemuel arguing about the interpretation of Lehi’s vision of the tree of life he asked them point blank “have ye inquired of the Lord?” Their response was “the Lord maketh no such thing known unto us.” This is right after Nephi had prayed to understand the vision for himself and was show everything his father saw and more, because he honestly sought light and knowledge. We are asked by our leaders to go home after conference and seek confirmation by the spirit that what we heard was true. Has kate kelly done this? no. at least she hasn’t prayed with a sincere heart to understand, otherwise there would be no need to ask church leadership because she would receive her own revelation as to why the lord has structured priesthood the way he did from the foundation of the world. The mysteries of god are open to everyone who sincerely wants to understand. Ammon says “he that repenteth and excerciseth faith, and bringeth forth good works, and prayeth continually without ceasing–unto such it is given to know the mysteries of God:” it’s so plain to see from her behavior and from her words that Kelly is not seeking the truth, rather she’s seeking her own agenda, popularity, and the praise of the world. If you want to know why women are not ordained, do as ammon says and the lord will send a personal witness in a way that is plain and easy to understand specifically for the individual who inquires of him in faith, nothing wavering. Moroni promises “by the power of the holy ghost, ye may know the truth of all things.

  27. Adam

    June 26, 2014 at 8:57 am

    Gospel Extremism
    Another sign of spiritual immaturity and sometimes apostasy is when one focuses on certain gospel principles or pursues “gospel hobbies” with excess zeal. Almost any virtue taken to excess can become a vice.

    Certain members have wanted to add substantially to various doctrines. An example might be when one advocates additions to the Word of Wisdom that are not authorized by the Brethren and proselytes others to adopt these interpretations. If we turn a health law or any other principle into a form of religious fanaticism, we are looking beyond the mark.

    Some who are not authorized want to speak for the Brethren and imply that their message contains the “meat” the Brethren would teach if they were not constrained to teach only the “milk.” Others want to counsel the Brethren and are critical of all teachings that do not comply with their version of what should be taught.

    The Lord said regarding important doctrine, “Whosoever declareth more or less than this, the same is not of me” (D&C 10:68) and “That which is more or less than this cometh of evil” (D&C 124:120). We are looking beyond the mark when we elevate any one principle, no matter how worthwhile it may be, to a prominence that lessens our commitment to other equally important principles or when we take a position that is contrary to the teachings of the Brethren.

    -Quentin L Cook
    Quorum of the 12
    Ensign March 2003

  28. Leon

    June 26, 2014 at 8:59 am

    Very good read. All the comments are very impressive. I particularly appreciate that the comments do not appear to attack the writer or others, very different than many of the other articles I’ve read. My only question is – Do we know without a doubt that the first presidency isn’t prayerfully seeking answers to many questions? and is it up to me to demand to know what they are praying about? I’ll pray for my answers and will continue to sustain my leaders. May God bless us all.

  29. D

    June 26, 2014 at 12:07 pm

    I find it humorous how she complains about her baptism in a “male” jumpsuit. Doesn’t she know that they are unisex? I was baptized in a dress, and had to be submerged a second time because the hem floated to the top. slightly inconvenient, yes. Did it matter? No.
    at the end of the day, it is a choice that we make to keep our baptismal/temple covenants, which isn’t to petition contrary to the teachings of the church. To use the guise of equality is conniving and Dishonest. I am female, and I get to teach, pray, participate, etc. as much as the men do. The priesthood is not something one gender gets over the other. It can only be used to serve others, not benefit one’s self.
    She knew the consequences yet proceeded with her behavior to fight against the church. It is not a democracy to pacify whatever is trendy or cool or convenient. God is an unchanging. He does not change his commandments because some people may find them hard to follow.

  30. Doug M.

    June 26, 2014 at 12:19 pm

    This….. you disagree with the message so you attempt to effectively kill the messenger.

    The bottom line truth is that the LDS church general authorities crush any legitimate questioning of church doctrine by intimidation, disfellowship, and excommunication. the mormon church is a sad example of christianity.

    As Aaron Young who posted up above pointed out.

    1. It is correct that Kate Kelly was not excommunicated solely for asking questions. She refused to take down her website as she was asked by the church, and for this she was removed from the church. However, her website is essentially the way she asked her questions, so in asking to remove it the church asked her to stop publicly asking questions. Any organization that punishes a person for publicly asking questions should be viewed with an appropriate amount of skepticism.

The comments are now closed.